I was never much of a cook. But after I married Bill, I had to learn. Originally, we agreed he would do the coking, and I would help with clean-up. But three months after we were married, he suffered the first of two strokes that paralyzed his left side, and he was never able to cook again. The following excerpt from My Ideal Partner details my ill-fated attempt at preparing oatmeal under Bill’s guidance.
Following his instructions, I poured a generous amount of oatmeal into a saucepan and added enough milk to cover it. “How long do I cook it?” I asked after I placed the pan on the stove and turned the heat to medium.
“I don’t know. Till it’s done.”
When Bill did the cooking, he had a sixth sense that told him when food was cooked, I thought as I stirred the pan’s contents. A few minutes later, when it seemed to be done, he said, “Ooh, I gotta pee. Oh, it’s too late. I wet my pants.”
With a sigh of resignation, I turned off the stove and took Bill into the bathroom. It took another fifteen minutes to remove his soiled jeans and underwear and replace them with clean ones. After I settled him back at the kitchen table and returned to the stove, I discovered that the oatmeal had congealed to the consistency of cement.
I added more milk, turned on the heat, stirred vigorously, and served it up a few minutes later. It didn’t taste very good, even with added sugar, but we were too hungry to care. We ate in silence. Finally, I said, “Honey, maybe you should have married a woman who can cook.”
“Come here, woman.” This was what he said when he wanted to hold me, and I wasn’t within reach. I got up and walked around to his right side, and after we embraced, he said, “You’ll learn, sweetie. I love you.”
This inspired a scene from The Red Dress in which my main character Eve’s attempt at making oatmeal has similar results.
She poured two and a half cups of oatmeal into a saucepan, covered it with four and a half cups of milk, and turned on the stove burner to medium heat. As she was stirring the mixture, her cell rang.
The caller was Charlene. Oh, great, Eve thought, but she couldn’t send her to voicemail. Charlene didn’t always have the strength to talk. Thinking she could let the mixture simmer for a few minutes without stirring it while they chatted, she answered the call.
“Hi, did I get you at a bad time?” asked Charlene in her usual raspy voice.
“Not really. I’m making oatmeal.”
“Oh, God, remember the stuff they served at CU that passed for oatmeal?”
Eve laughed. “The problem there was that they made it with water. I make it with milk, the way my mother did.”
“Oh, yeah. My mom did it that way, too. You have to keep stirring it, though. Otherwise, it’ll turn into cement.”
“I know, but I wasn’t sure when you’d be strong enough to talk again.”
“I hear you. It seems that lately, the times when I’m strong are getting few and far between. By the way, Brenda and I are getting excited about seeing you and Ashley. My husband, Jon, is also anxious to meet you. There’s plenty of room, so if you all wanted to stay here, you could. And we have a swimming pool.”
Eve chuckled. “Greg and the kids just might take you up on that. Of course, Greg will want to see his family. They’re in Pasadena.”
“Oh, yeah. That’s not far from Valley Village, where we live.”
They chatted a while longer. As Eve was putting her phone away, the kids trooped into the kitchen.
“Ugh! What’s that you’re making?” Julie said, pointing to the congealed mixture on the stove.
Eve sighed. “It’s oatmeal. I’m sorry. I got tied up on the phone.”
“With Charlene?” asked Ashley as Eve poured more milk into the saucepan and stirred.
“Yes, Charlene. They want all of us to stay with them when we go there next week. They have a swimming pool.”
“Cool!” said Thomas.
“Maybe we should have leftover meatloaf for breakfast,” said Julie. “Dad says it’s pretty good.”
“It is good,” said Ashley, “but not for breakfast. Yuck!”
“Ashley’s right,” said Eve, continuing to stir the mixture. “It’s getting better, now, so all is not lost. Ashley, get me the cinnamon out of the cupboard above the microwave, will you?”
Who is Charlene? Why is she not always strong enough to talk on the phone, and why is she inviting Eve’s family to California? Read The Red Dress and find out.
By the way, from July 1st through 31st, you can download My Ideal Partner and The Red Dress absolutely free from Smashwords as part of its annual summer/winter sale. Click here to visit my Smashwords author page.
Also, for those of you who use the National Library Services for the Blind and Print Disabled, The Red Dress is available for download from their site here. Thank you for reading.
Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books
When Eve went to her high school senior prom, she wore a red dress that her mother had made for her. That night, after dancing with the boy of her dreams, she caught him in the act with her best friend. Months later, Eve, a freshman in college, is bullied into giving the dress to her roommate. After her mother finds out, their relationship is never the same again.
Twenty-five years later, Eve, a bestselling author, is happily married with three children. Although her mother suffers from dementia, she still remembers, and Eve still harbors the guilt for giving the dress away. When she receives a Facebook friend request from her old college roommate and an invitation to her twenty-five-year high school class reunion, then meets her former best friend by chance, she must confront the past in order to face the future.