Written / Cooking On High


Chapter 38

An hour into the afternoon shift the next day Fry realized they were making people uncomfortable. Chili could barely look her in the eye, Jacqueline was furious, Miguel was rearranging the napkins in the dining room upstairs for the sixth time and telling Barbra that there were grease spots on the immaculate carpeting in the hallway.

She got the hint. The next time she was with French she mentioned her observations.

“Miguel’s always been an obsessive compulsive pain in the ass. The rest of them can shove it.”

“But I don’t want to make everyone uncomfortable.”

“Fry, they’re used to me acting like this. It’s one of the things that makes me so popular.”

“So I’ve heard. But I’d like to try to consider how they feel.”

“You can’t be serious. You’re telling me that I not only have to be sensitive to your feelings about sex, but I have to consider theirs as well? You didn’t tell me you were into kink.”

“I’m just saying that maybe we should be a little more discrete. Maybe stay out of the hallway and the break room. That’s all. I thought poor Juan was going to have a heart attack when he walked back there this morning.”

“Serves him right, dirty old man. I think he’s got a thing for you.”

“He’s married!”

“So? That makes him what? Dead? Besides, his wife lives in Ecuador, or El Salvador or wherever.”

“Guatemala. And it does matter. He’s very sweet and I don’t think he’s got a thing for me at all.”

“Well, he may not, but the rest of the kitchen does.”

“Stop it, they do not!” Fry batted French’s arm.

“Do so. Chili’s been shooting daggers at me since yesterday. When he doesn’t think I’m looking.”

“Well okay, maybe Chili has a small crush on me. But you’re such a liar. This entire restaurant lusts after you and you get all bent out of shape because one guy likes me.”

“Hey, who’s bent? I was just making an observation.”

“You were not, I saw the look you gave him yesterday when he was talking to me. I thought you were going to slug him when he asked if I was going to the Dance Bar Friday night.”

“He was socializing during a rush.”

“He’s perfectly capable of handing me the salad as he asks a question. Besides, you’re one to talk. What about that guy who was in here yesterday? Mr. Nudge Nudge Wink Wink, ‘wasn’t that a good time last summer’? I thought he was going to faint from dehydration the way he was drooling over you. That couldn’t have been sanitary.” And Fry couldn’t help but notice that the man was an excellent specimen of his breed. His sleek, tight fitting outfit displayed a muscled physique. Too muscled for Fry’s liking. She noticed that his breasts were larger than hers. This was an attribute she’d come to understand was very important to the chef.

“Oh please. If you start down that road we’ll be sitting here for weeks, maybe months.”

Fry gave her a look. That was something they hadn’t gotten around to discussing. With one thing and another.

“Let’s ease off for everybody’s sake. In there, I mean.” Fry leaned over and picked up her shirt that French had draped neatly over the arm of the couch.

“If you insist. But I’m not making any promises if you go tying your apron strings all sexy again.” French looked around for her bra. She’d felt it come off, but hadn’t seen where it landed. She’d considerately stacked all of Fry’s clothes in a pile.

“What is it with you and knots? Is that why you make us wear these ties and not clip-ons?” Fry slipped on her vest and buttoned it.

“It’s called authenticity.” French found her bra slung over the doorknob to the bathroom.

“It’s called an inconvenience. Who’s going to know if I’m wearing a clip on or not?”

“I will. Besides,” French grasped Fry by the tie and pulled her over. “It makes a great handle.” She kissed her and let her go. Now where had her hair tie gone to?


French approached the planning of a party in much the same way a general strategized a battle. And in this case, the two things had more in common than they usually might. Most hosts might worry about seating a guest near someone who might bore or offend them, French had to consider which guests were more likely to try to kill the other.

Not that the guest list was long. There were five people on it.

French had spent some time researching the names she’d seen in the documents in the box. She could have saved herself some time by looking up the names of the committee members responsible for the Darzley/ Fitch gambling bill. She would have gotten to the punch line that much sooner.

Louisa turned out to be one smart number. The evidence she’d compiled was solid. The place she’d run into trouble with it was in putting it to use. That’s where her talents had run their course.

Gathering that kind of information was one thing. Using it effectively - that was a skill unto its own. Too bad Louisa didn’t have the sense to stick to her strengths or her own diet.

French had a hunch who’d murdered Louisa, but hey, why not kill two birds with one stone? She had some people to get off of her back, her restaurant, and if possible, her island.

She sent the invitations out to the printer for engraving. They read:

Join me for an evening of fine dining and stimulating conversation.
The menu will include the most exquisite black box.
And wouldn’t you all like to know what’s inside?
Your attendance is strongly advised.


She told Fry her plan and set to work. All she had to do between now and the date, three days hence, was figure out how she was going to pull it off.

That may have been easier if she didn’t want to spend the rest of her time trying to get her favorite waitress horizontal, or whatever. French wasn’t picky when it came right down to it.

She’d decided that Fry was her favorite waitress during her lunch break the day before. Fry gave food service a whole new meaning. Who knew that that little socialist would be such a willing convert to all things French? She thought Fry would be a whole lot more complicated to deal with once they were having sex, not less so. Urge or not, she’d have made a move on her ages ago had she known the result.

The questions were still there, but they were generally focused around pleasurable subject matter. That was fine with French. Especially when she benefitted directly. And when Fry started moving into areas less to French’s liking, she was able to redirect her attentions without too much difficulty. Fry was a pleasure hound.

She wondered exactly how far she could push it. Fry couldn’t stay in the clouds forever, or could she? Would French want her to? She wasn’t ready to test the theory yet, she was catching up on months of celibacy.

Fry was perfectly happy where she was. Well, not technically right where she was, in the bar being lectured by Barbra. But in general she was pretty darned happy.

“I don’t want to burst your bubble, but you need to start getting a grip. I don’t think you’ve got a very clear picture of what’s going on around here at the moment.” Barbra looked at Fry who was nodding and smiling back at her. For all of the disappearing she’d been doing, her work wasn’t suffering from it. The people who she served seemed to get happier in direct proportion to Fry. It was weird, but her mood was infectious. Her customers would have waited forever for her to finish with the chef out back, as long as they didn’t know what she was doing, or who.

Barbra didn’t give a damn about the restaurant. She was worried about Fry and what was going to happen when French started seeing other people. Because she always did. Barbra wanted Fry to have at least one foot on the earth when it happened.

Barbra had to admit to being surprised by French. She really did seem to like Fry a lot. And while Barbra still didn’t like the chef all that much, she’d also admit that she wasn’t being a total ass to Fry. Not yet anyway.

Could French have changed that much? It was something that intrigued Barbra. Not that there weren’t a lot of intriguing things to observe at Bachanal, but at the end of the day, French was still the main attraction. For all of the woman’s faults, she was fascinating. Too bad she was so screwed up. She could have been a halfway decent person to know, instead of a dangerous curiosity, best kept at arms length.

She took a breath and tried one last time, for Fry’s sake. “Look kid, I just want you to have your eyes open here. That woman is a wolf, know what that means?”

“Yes. She’s wild.”

“As in untamed. As in, not monogamous. As in, sleeps around and oh my god you had better be having safe sex with her or you are crazier than anyone on this island ever thought! But you also need to know that she’s going to roam sooner or later. Probably sooner and I just wanted you to keep it in mind. I don’t think you guys are doing a whole lot of talking back there.”

Fry blushed three shades of red, each deeper than the last. “Ummm... we’re um, not talking a lot, no. Well, not that kind of talking. And yes, we’re being safe. I’ve done this kind of thing before you know. It’s just that I find it hard to concentrate when she touches me...”

“Too much information, too much! Stick to the basics here, we’re at work.”

“But it’s true. I go in there with the intention of checking in, finding out how she’s feeling about everything, and I leave and we haven’t said a word about it. She’s like a magician.”

“And you’re too easy.” Fry blushed again and Barbra continued. “I’m sorry, but it’s true. Don’t be such a pushover.”

“I am not a pushover!”

“Sure sound like one to me. Have you asked her if you’re dating yet? Has she asked you?”

“French isn’t the dating kind of woman.”

“And you’re okay with that?”

“Sure, why shouldn’t I be?”

“I don’t know, why don’t you ask one or two of the people I know who’ve slept with her? They might have some input. Of course, once you get them started it may be hard to stop them.”

Fry’s head was beginning to ache. She knew what Barbra was getting at. “I appreciate what your saying, but we’re just having fun. I know she’s not going to stick around for the long haul, I’m trying accept that and let it be whatever it is.”

“As long as that ‘is’ doesn’t mind sharing the bed with some other ‘is’s I guess you’re okay then.” Barbra pushed off the bar and walked out to her post. Fry was going to have to figure it out for herself. She hoped she didn’t have to get too hurt in the process.


French had decided to forego sleeping in the restaurant for a night. She couldn’t stand the thought of that couch again and if someone was going to torch the damned place, at least she’d be having a good time while it burned. Besides, she’d hired a security agency. Fry was right, you couldn’t do everything by yourself. Not if you wanted to keep up with the woman in question.

She walked home and waited for Fry. She didn’t usually have people over to her place. It would be kind of different.

There was a knock on the door and surprise, surprise if it wasn’t her favorite waitress with a basket of fresh strawberries.

“For me?”

“For us.” Fry slipped past the chef’s grasping hands and headed for the kitchen.

French sensed something was up and followed.

“For breakfast?”

“For now. Sit.”

“For later, come here.” French walked over and pulled Fry in. She felt something cool press into her stomach. She looked down, it was a small bottle. “What’s that?”

“Fresh cream.” Fry watched French’s nose twitch.

“Where’d you get it?”

“Not telling. Not until after we have a little chat.” Fry watched French’s expression closely. Her eyes had narrowed and Fry guessed that French was trying to figure out a way to get everything she wanted all on her own terms. It was taking her a moment to prioritize which she’d go after first.

“We’ll chat later.” French, having made a difficult decision, was ready to proceed.

“I’m glad to know that I won out over the cream.” Fry said as she pushed French away. She sidestepped around the island next to French’s refrigerator and scooted to the opposite side. Having a solid obstruction between them was probably the safest bet. “But I think it’s time we started talking. About us.”

French was trying to look casual, as if Fry hadn’t just said the ‘u’ word. She also tried to look like she wasn’t interested in getting around that counter and removing the cutoffs and sweater Fry had on. “Sure, shoot.” French started to clean her nails, as indifferently as you might do that kind of thing.

“Okay then.” Fry wasn’t fooled. Every time French began to clean her nails her mind seemed to go into overdrive. Fry had fallen for it more than once already and approached her in what she thought was an indifferent state of mind for the chef. It wasn’t. “And for the record, I’m on to the nail thing.”

“What nail thing?”

“Whenever you scheme, you get this totally indifferent relaxed thing going. It may look like you don’t have a care in the world, but I’ve figured out otherwise. Where do you keep the bowls?”

“What for?”

“Berries and cream, what else?”

If she was going to be made to suffer the more mundane aspects of short-term monogamous sex, French couldn’t think of a better way to do it. “Cabinet, over the knife rack.”

They sat at the table in the kitchen enjoying the fresh fruit and rich cream.

“Not bad for peasant food.” French remarked.

“Are you calling me a peasant?”

“No. Do you want me to?”

“No, Fry’s bad enough.”

“What’s wrong with ‘Fry’? It suits you.” French was hurt, she’d come to think of it as an apt nickname.

“It’s not my name for one thing. But I guess it’s not so bad since you stopped saying it with that sneer in your voice.”

French looked at her fruit. Not the fruit exactly, but she didn’t feel like looking at Fry then. It wasn’t easy to hear such a sparkling example of what an incredible bitch you could be. “Sorry. You don’t want me to call you Violet do you?”

Fry sighed. French failed miserably on the finer points of sensitivity, but she was trying. “No.”


“I want to tell you something, but I’m not sure how to say it.” Fry said.

This was news to French, Fry didn’t usually have trouble in the saying department. Where were the questions? Like, ‘How long will this last?’, ‘Are you going to start seeing other people?’, and the dreaded, ‘Should I leave a towel here or something?’

“I know your style is different than mine and if you want to sleep with other people, that’s okay.” Fry said. It wasn’t easy, but she said it.

French perked up. This wasn’t the kind of thing she’d expected at all. She should never have underestimated Fry. She smiled. “Well, I’ve never been much for monogamy.”

“I know. And I’ve really enjoyed being with you.” Fry gave her a small smile. “But I’m not into non-monogamous sex. It’s not for me. So if you’d like to, you know... I’d appreciate you letting me know.”

French knew there was a catch hidden in there somewhere. “Let you know what?”

“That you want to renegotiate. Move on. We could try having a non-physical friendship again. I meant it, I do really like being with you French, and if I can’t have sex with you, I’d still like to try to maintain our relationship on a friendship basis.”

Well, that sounded like crap to French’s ears. “You mean that if, say, I want to have sex with someone else, I’m free and clear and that’s fine with you, but then you’re off limits?”

“I said it was okay, as in I understand that not everybody wants the same kind of thing that I want from a relationship. I didn’t say it was fine. Of course, I’d be unhappy. And no, I wouldn’t continue a sexual relationship with you.”

“I’ve heard about this kind of thing. It’s some kind of passive-aggressive trick or maybe a reverse psychology thing.” And it must have been, because all of a sudden she was getting pissed at herself on Fry’s behalf. What was with that? She hadn’t even considered having sex with anyone else yet. She’d been too busy.

“I’m not trying to manipulate you. I’m letting you know what works for me. Okay?” Fry tried to explain. She’d known it wouldn’t be an easy conversation. Her heart was pounding.

“Fine, I’ll keep it in mind. Besides, since I’m breaking myself back in after a long hiatus, maybe sticking with you for a while is a good idea. I’m emotionally raw as you’ve said. Maybe consistency is the way to go for now. Maybe you’re just the thing I need. You’re solid stock and all of your parts work. You can keep up with me which is always a plus. You’re not bad to look at, in a girl next door trying to get into my pants kind of way. Maybe I’ll see how it goes.”

“You know I’m going to make you pay for all of those comments later don’t you?”

“I figured as much.”

“Anything you want to add? Any deeply felt, sensitive comments about the last few days?” French gave her a blank look. “Alright then, I’m sure that’s probably all you can bear for one night. Thanks for listening.”

French knew a challenge when it was laid before her. It may not have been intentional on Fry’s part, but French took it that way. Fry hadn’t been pushing her, had let her pretty much have free reign the last few days. Of course, French put that down to her own powers of persuasion and the fact that Fry would roll over if you promised her a biscuit. But Fry had inferred that French was incapable of doing something. And her instinctive competitive response was that it wasn’t that she couldn’t, she just didn’t want to.

And then she considered why. As long as they didn’t talk, she didn’t have to consider Fry’s feelings. Well, she did, but not in any deeply meaningful, long-term sort of way. A way, she was reluctant to admit, she didn’t think she was fully equipped to handle. But she could sure as hell give it a try. There was Fry, putting it on the table, not being a sap. She didn’t seem to have any illusions about French in the fidelity department. She’d better not given her stunning track record.

Fry had guts damn it. French respected that. As long as she wasn’t doing the suffocating, clinging thing, French would make an effort to keep Fry posted. It all came back to what Barbra had said. The world did not revolve around her, and if she cared, she had to make an effort.

Fry hadn’t expected to still be seated in her chair a full minute after she’d spoken. French hadn’t launched across the table and grabbed her. She was moving the berries around that were left in her bowl contemplatively.

Continued in Chapter 39.

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