Let me get this straight. Barbra said. You two have been running all over this town for the last month, breaking laws and bones and everything else, trying to track down Louisas killer?
Yup. Fry nodded.
Well doesnt that take the cake? And here I thought you were a waitress and she was a chef. Are you nuts?! You could have gotten killed!
We were careful! Fry half-truthed. Besides, we figured it out in the end.
Not by anything but dumb, and I mean d-u-m-b luck. Im going to give her a piece of my mind. And you! Barbra pointed at Andre. You ought to have known better. Wait, what am I saying? Youve worked for her way too long to have anything like free will left in that hulk of a body.
They were standing out behind the restaurant waiting for French to join them. The restaurant was closed for a few days until the media circus was over and life could get back to the usual unnormal that theyd all become accustomed to.
Jay had been taken into custody and French had informed Julia and Mitchell that shed have to decline their generous offer. There was enough ammunition in that black box to put them both away for a good long time if they got anymore stupid ideas about trying to turn her into a cafeteria queen. There was nothing more abhorrent to her than the thought of high volume haute cuisine. She had to give Julia points for originality, if nothing else.
Julia hadnt replied to any of her calls or faxes. Shed gone into a rage as soon as shed heard what had happened with Jay.
On one level French felt sorry for them both. They shared a strong bond and ones suffering was deeply felt by the other. On every other level French had no pity for Julia. Julia couldnt have cared less that her husband had killed Louisa, as she hadnt cared about Giselles suicide years earlier. Other people were no more than decoration for her, filler for her hotel rooms. French may have had sympathy for that kind of driven perspective at one time, but she was beginning to see things differently.
French understood Jay a whole lot better. Too bad hed lost his grasp on the facts and figures of life. French wondered how it would have turned out if Louisa had approached Julia instead of her unstable spouse. Shed probably be alive. Julia, like Mitchell, knew a good resource when she saw one. She also knew how to manage one. French knew this from experience. Julia probably would have bought Louisa off and considered the information shed gathered as a resume of sorts. Mitchell had.
When Louisa approached him with information about one of his mothers affairs, hed put her on payroll. He asked her to look into his silent partner, Julias, doings. And while he thought he had her in his pocket, she was picking it clean. With a little help...
Delilah Truet. It took French a while to figure out that Louisa had to have some inside help that had direct access to Mitchell. That meant having access to Mitchells bed. That brought her around to the idea of Delilah, one of Mitchells better attempts at making her jealous. Delilah wasnt a stunning beauty, nor did she have the brain of a genius. But the woman could do things with her body that were this side of criminal. French had enjoyed that, when Mitchell was busy elsewhere. What neither of them knew was that Delilah had a friend in town who had an itch for information, Louisa. This town was too small by half.
French couldnt believe that the fool had been using the information shed gathered for social climbing. That was like trying to use a nuclear missle to pick something out of your teeth. Not the smartest strategy.
French had gathered all of this from the e-mails, faxes, and phone messages Mitchell had been leaving her. The sap. Did he honestly think shed buy his, Ive turned over a new leaf. Give me a chance. routine? He was cracked. He was also off the island, which was how shed wanted it all along. Mother Redmond and the brood had left as the press began to show up. What a lucky coincidence for them all.
Now all French had to do was dodge the scandal hungry press and figure out how she was going to get Fry alone for ten minutes. Since all hell had broken loose theyd barely had any time to themselves. This afternoon wasnt looking promising, because they were all going over to Joe and Harriets for a hideout barbeque. French hoped nobody minded her borrowing Fry for part of it.
The crew milled around the back yard, chatting and eating, but mostly listening to Frys account of her encounter with the overstressed Senator.
So how come Andre drank the tea and you didnt? Chilli asked.
I was trying to convince the Senator to come with us, Andre was being polite. By the time I got around to accepting his offer of tea it was too late, Andre had emptied his cup. When I got a whiff of it I smelled something medicinal. I discreetly emptied my cup beneath the cushion of my chair. Earl Gray has a strong aroma, but its a smoky, flowery strong.
Its the Bergamot. French explained.
Exactly! Fry said.
Ive said all along. Youre a natural.
You have not. You say Im annoying and a lot of other things, but I cant remember you saying that.
Youre only literal when it suits you. French noted.
Fry responded in the mature fashion by sticking her tongue out.
Watch it with that. Its a valuable asset.
Oh gross. Would you two cut it out? Barbra protested. She didnt need to hear that kind of talk, not with Michael on shift tonight.
Get your mind out of the gutter. French said. I mean it. Fry has a talent right there. And shes got what it takes. French added.
I thought I had to have all kinds of training and be all kinds of obsessed with food. Fry said.
You do. And you have been training.
Have not. Ive been working in that restaurant non-stop and chasing bad guys. Okay, being chased by bad guys. So when have I had time for this training?
Tell me a little something about the chicken on Thursdays menu.
The Poulet au Vatel. You named it after the guy who fell on his own sword because his fish delivery was late.
Yeah, yeah, what else?
You called him a sap and said the idiot should have killed his purveyor instead, but I think its a romantic story.
You would. But wasnt there something other than the history that caught your attention?
Oh, you mean like how much I loved it? You narcissist. Those berries were so cute in the garnish.
Whatever. Why didnt I use a rasperry sauce with it, or more berries, or add a...
Fry cut her off. It wouldnt have worked with the wines if youd pushed the acidity. Its a risky dish as it is with the wines youve got.
You think so do you? This was the downside to giving people information French thought, sooner or later theyd get fresh.
Thats you all over though, youre a risk taking kind of gal. You live on the edge.
Sure I do. Its a 500 year old recipe, cant get more risky than that. French rolled her eyes.
But you did that wild thing with the grains and truffles. It was a beautiful plate. Fry sighed. The colors and textures were sublime together.
There you have it. Ive been training you. French folded her arms and gave Fry a smug smile.
Training me to what? Worship your food?
To recognize your own gift for a start. But more importantly, to give you a comprehensive undenrstanding of the flavors and foods you can experience in such freakish detail. You can go somewhere with that.
You sneak! You had an ulterior motive the whole time!
What did you think I was doing? Playing footsie? French became aware of several pairs of eyes looking everywhere but at them. It felt like being at work. Is that what you all thought?
Barbra spoke for the group. Well it had occurred to us that you may have been trying to get to her through your cooking. Everyone knows Frys a pushover for a good meal. Several heads nodded in agreement.
Hey! I am not. Besides, its kind of a romantic idea, that shed try to seduce my tastebuds. Bent, but romantic.
It is not and I was only preparing you. For the business, I mean. Its a dog eat dog world out there. Youre going to need a boost up. Youre kind of old to be starting out.
Ive told you before. Listen carefully this time. Im not interested. I appreciate your efforts on my behalf, but its a no go chef. Its not going to happen. Fry looked around the table at her coworkers. Come on you guys, tell her. I cant get through. Its like shes dense or something!
Fry took in the blank faces looking back at her. Monica, who was sitting next to Andre, was the only one to give her a sympathetic smile. Oh come on! You guys have to know that Im not cut out for this life. Im a non-profit, social sector kind of gal. You know that.
Save it for your socialist friends Fry. We know the truth. French would not be convinced otherwise. Shed seen the look in Frys eyes. Seen the excitement, seen the fire. It was a foregone conclusion. It always was for French, when food was involved.
What you know youve only convinced yourself. Youre deluded. Wonderfully deluded, but deluded nonetheless. Fry leaned over and kissed her.
The group broke up, not wanting to have to deal with the couples overwhelming need to express and not express their feelings for each other. Whatever French and Fry considered themselves, the rest of the crew considered them an item. No one liked watching a newly itemed couple do their thing. It made the cynics feel more alienated and the romatics feel more melancholy. And Barbra, she had her own problem.
The Bachanal gathering grew over the course of the afternoon as word of a party spread through the restaurant grapevine. It was impossible to try to throw a small barbecue in that community. Every off shift, getting off shift and soon to be off shift lackey could sniff out a party miles away. The only upside to this annoying problem was that food and alcohol were rarely in short supply. By early evening, Joe and Harriets front yard looked like a parking lot.
The back yard was brimming with people, many Joe and Harriet had never set eyes on. This was fine with Joe who liked a good party, but Harriet had another opinion. She chose to keep it to herself as this was a celebration of sorts. Her sister-not-in-law having survived a close brush with death and having helped solve a murder. Harriet loved Violet like her own sister. She may have wished she was less prone to rescuing women who were in dire need of a kick in the ass, but you couldnt have everything. Violet was damn near perfect as it was.
French stood on the deck in the back, leaning on a railing and looking out over a small field of corn. She watched Andre and Monica pointing into trees and bushes for a while before losing interest. She watched Sonny handing Milo beer after beer and shoving him in Jacquelines direction. She wondered how much he had riding on the bet Miguel had told her about. Milo, who was thoroughly toasted, still couldnt muster the courage to approach his love. Jacqueline, a woman who swore shed never date below the station of sous chef had actually considered dating Milo. Until shed found out about the bet too. She was enjoying every turn of Milos stomach and would continue to do so for weeks to come.
French lost interest in that spectacle as well and started to look for Fry again. Shed found herself watching her a lot. The chef had been with many beautiful people, they came with the territory shed worked so hard to inhabit. But she couldnt remember one shed been so interested in watching for no reason at all. French usually had a reason for doing things. Not having one was another new experience, but she was pretty sure she could live with this one.
Shed talked more than she wanted to and was about ready to call it quits, with or without Fry. Fry it turned out was a socialist butterfly. French hoped someone was reminding her to take a breath between conversations. Barbra walked up and gave French a look.
You planning to get drunk and chew me out again? French wanted to know.
I dont need to be drunk to tell you off. I cant believe you two! Youre lucky no one shot either one of you. Id really have given it to you then.
Why Barbra, I do believe you care.
Not for you I dont. Its Fry who I worry about. You can take care of yourself.
Youre just mad because you like me and you dont want to admit it. Youre chicken.
Youre so full of yourself its a wonder you bother with us mere mortals at all.
Dont pull that juvenile routine on me. It may work with Fry, but Im immune. I do not like you.
Do so. Chicken.
Fine, alright. You have your moments. Not many, but Im willing to admit that maybe sometimes, and probably by accident, youre almost bearable.
French gave Barbra a sparkling smile. You too. Now wheres that waitress?
I saw her at one of the tables chatting.
I think Im going to say my good byes. Getting a bit crowded here for my tastes.
Party pooper. If you stick around Ill probably get drunk, then we can really see whos chicken.
As entertaining and attractive as that offer sounds, Im going to pass.
Youre right, Fry will probably be more fun. Maybe Ill surprise Michael and not have a hangover tomorrow. Chase his little firemans butt all over the place.
Did I need to know that? French asked.
Dont you even start with me! Go get your waitress.
Dil wasnt who French wanted to run into then, or ever. So she chatted with him briefly, ensured him that shed put a word in for him at the bureau, gave him the secret handshake, and moved on.
Apparently everyone had been invited to this party, because she was waylaid a moment later by two doughy eyed young women. Skyler and Alyssa.
I thought Mother Redmond took all of you off the island in the exodus? What are you doing here? She asked Skyler who had a firm grasp on Alyssas hand. They were both all smiles.
Im staying with Violet for the rest of the summer. Didnt she tell you?
No. Since when?
About ten minutes ago. She says they have a small apartment in their house for people who need a place temporarily.
What about Audrey? I thought she was the needy person in residence.
No, Audrey finished her internship at the restaurant and moved in with her boyfriend.
Shes doing her thesis on the effects of concensus environments on rehabilitation. But shes done now, so I guess its free.
French didnt know how she felt about Skyler being so close to home, so to speak. Yet another reason theyd just have to spend more time at her own place.
Eventually, she spotted Fry across the lawn talking to a woman she would have preferred to avoid. She considered waiting out the conversation, but then it occurred to her that maybe Frys shooting the breeze with one of her one night stands wasnt the best strategy for getting any later. She moseyed over to join them.
Isnt that true French? Fry included her in the conversation immediately.
I was telling Michelle how Diane had pinned you to that counter, and if it hadnt been two against one, you never would have gotten away.
French stared at Fry in wonderment. Was that really how she remembered that night?
Like I was saying. Diane is one tough woman. Fry smiled at Michelle.
Diane chose that moment to walk up. She was motivated to join the group in no small part by seeing French within a miles radius of Michelle.
Diane was barely able to get out a get your eyes off my girlfriend kind of gruff hello, when she was seized by Michelle and dragged off.
Mind explaining that? French nodded toward the two as they made their way through the crowd.
Its simple. Michelle has a thing for tough women. You are the toughest woman shes ever met. Tough in a streamlined, dangerous kind of way. She obviously loves Diane, but still thought you were top dog. I fibbed on Dianes behalf. I think Diane is plenty tough, so I dont see why Michelle should be so fixated on you.
Not that I mind you undermining me in public the least bit, but didnt you exaggerate just a little there. You didnt lift a finger to get Diane off me. Its not that being considered tough was Frenchs number one priority, but admitting she may have needed help was way down on the list.
Oh please, if I hadnt motivated you off that counter, Diane would still have you pinned to it. You were brooding up a storm. And youre sweet. Fry stood on tiptoe and kissed French on the cheek. I know that couldnt have been easy for you, but I think you know it was a nice thing to do.
If you say so. French wasnt sure, but if Fry thought so, chances were she was right. I was thinking of heading home. Want to join me?
But its so early. Fry protested.
Oh! Right. Sounds like a plan.
You sure? I wouldnt want to interrupt your social schedule.
No, no. I think I can fit you in. Lets go find Joe and Harriet and tell them goodbye.
I dont know. Last two times I talked to Joe, he wanted to arm wrestle again. I thought the first few times I beat him should have settled the matter.
Oh, itll never be settled. Hes an eternal optomist. Youll never convince him that you can beat him every time.
They decided to walk back to Comstock. It was more of a hike, but they were both in the mood for fresh air and it gave them an opportunity to talk. Well, it gave Fry an opprtunity to talk, French felt like she was along for company. Until the questions started.
All I know about your past is the bad stuff. Cant you share a little positive personal information with me? That isnt kitchen related. Fry was quick to stipulate. Just a smidge?
If youre going to get restrictive, there isnt much to tell.
Liar! Theres plenty. What was your childhood like? Whered you go to school? Do you have any brothers or sisters? Do you...
French lifted her hand to stem the flood. Slow down, youre going to hurt yourself. Besides, I cant answer them all at once.
You could start with one.
Hows this? You ask me one question a day for the rest of the summer.
Just one a day?
One. About me.
Really? Anything I want?
I didnt say Id answer it, but you can ask it. Im not big on the self reflection thing, but Ill do my best.
Can I ask you one now? You know, to do a trial run.
French began to regret her spur of the moment decision. I guess.
Its a selfish place to start. But now that all of the excitement has died down Ive been wondering what it is youll do? Id like to ask how you feel about us.
French had been hoping for something along the lines of, Did you have a dog when you were a kid? But hoping rarely got you any decent result. She leaned down and gave Fry a gentle kiss. It wasnt meant in lieu of an answer, it was the best way she could think of to describe her feelings.
Well, Id guessed that part. Fry smiled and kept her eyes closed for a minute. French had a way with a kiss that shouldnt be hastened or rushed. You should savor it.
Thats how I feel. Id enjoy spending the rest of the summer showing you. If you could fit me into your schedule. Now that the Louisa thing is over, youve probably got some other hard case to pester or a convict to marry or something equally pressing.
Youve got the most adorable avoidance issue. I think it might keep me busy for a while. Fry was flooded with joy and relief. She leaped at French who caught her in her arms and held on for all she was worth.
On a cool morning in the week following Labor Day, Barbra and French stood outside the restaurant looking at the quiet and shuttered building. Fry had taken off for school two days before and the crew had gone on to their next gigs.
French had purchased two cell phones. She gave one to Fry and kept the other for herself. It was a strangely intimate gesture that had brought Fry to tears. French had already spent a good deal of time making her fall plans while chatting to Fry on the little thing.
Fry called her any number of times a day to see if she was really coming to visit and was she missing her and would they still not be dating next week and why was French going to leave the island and spend a season being annoyed by a Frenchman?
On Sutters Wharf, the birds flew over head, the stays clanked quietly on the masts in the harbor and French sighed. Shed never felt this way about leaving at the end of a season. She didnt like it, but then, maybe it meant shed been having a good time. She thanked Barbra for coming over and helping out with the closing.
So this is it? You going to do it again next summer? Barbra asked.
You looking for a job?
Maybe, that depends.
On what? French wanted to know.
You think youll be able to get her back here by then?
You can count on it.
Im in then. Barbra agreed.
Im looking forward to it. And she was.
Note: Because I don't know how to leave well enough alone...
This has been a long, strange trip that's been a blast the whole way through. I started writing the story last May and started posting it right around the New Year. I haven't written anything but journal entries for over a decade and was surprised when the little scene that I intended to write blossomed into this. It's been real.
Big thanks go to Ume, my beta babe. She's never understood the whole fanfiction/Xena thing, so she gets extra points for being a trooper. Not to mention the points she got for helping me sound semi-literate. Jeanette Winterson, I'm not.
And thanks to y'all for surfin' in and reading my offering. Now go forth and do good. Or blow a minute and e-mail me. I'm probably going to fall into one of those post-creative expression funk things if you don't. No pressure. In any case, take care.