Chapter Ten

Chapter Ten

A Chapter by Ocularfracture
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Sunny decides to enroll the both of them in an upcoming language class. Remy requests that she teach him how to make her vegetable stew.

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The relief that had come when I woke up and everything was still okay, I can’t even describe. I was still having a bit of trouble coming to terms with everything that had happened, but at least it was a good thing. I spent a few days getting used to my new phone and text messaging Sunny in the small cracks of time when business was slow. I had to admit, the phone was really cool, and now that I could use the internet, I was able to do things I hadn’t done since I was a teenager living with my parents, such as hanging out on anime forums and finding out about some of the stuff that wasn’t even in English yet.

It was all very exciting to me.

By the time September was coming to a close, Sunny and I were practically living together. We took turns sleeping over, and every day after work, we had a cup of coffee together, chit chatting about our day.

Everything was so nice. I wasn’t even thinking about Abby anymore, and whatever injuries that my heart had sustained from that situation had been fully healed by Sunny. I felt better than ever.

One chilly afternoon as the cold, autumn rain poured down outside, Sunny and I sat cuddled together in her huge, bowl-shaped chair, Sunny on her laptop and me playing around on my cool, new phone.

I couldn’t remember a time when I had been more comfortable, and as I scrolled through pages of nerds whining about all the anime series which would never be translated, Sunny gasped, suddenly, turning to me.

“Let’s enroll in the fall Japanese class!” she said, breathlessly. I frowned tapping my fingers against the back of my phone.

“How much does it cost?” I asked.

“It’s not too bad. Only a couple hundred. It starts in, like, a week, so we have to register fast. There’s only three slots open.”

Only a couple hundred?” I wheezed. “That’s, like, an entire week’s pay for me. I can’t afford that.”

“I can,” said Sunny, running her fingers through my messy hair. “And I wouldn’t want to go without you, so why don’t you just let me pay for the both of us? Then we can learn Japanese together and no one will understand us when we talk trash about them!”

I laughed slightly, but still felt unsure.

“I really can’t just have you pay for everything,” I told her. “It feels stupid. I’m the man, I should be sponsoring you.”

“Just because society says so?” Sunny laid back a bit, letting her head rest on my chest. “Who cares what society thinks? They used to say that women shouldn’t wear pants, or work, but look at things now! Gender shouldn’t determine what a person does or should do. So, would you please let me get you into Japanese class?”

I just shrugged, rubbing my hands together and cracking my knuckles slightly.

“I’m gonna do it,” Sunny said, typing something on her keyboard. “Let’s see here…”

She hummed and drummed, apparently filling out some sort of form, while I remained rigid, burying myself in my reading. Even if I disagreed with something that Sunny said or wanted, she had this way of making me fall silent, unable to find the proper words to argue my case.

I felt really lame not being able to pay for anything more expensive than twenty bucks or so, and I was afraid that soon, she’d be offering to pay my rent, or something equally insane.

She continued clacking away on her keyboard, every few minutes asking me for information that I was reluctant to give. It wasn’t because I didn’t trust her, of course. I would have trusted Sunny with my life, but I had always been reluctant to accept anything resembling charity, and Sunny had done more for me than I had ever done or probably would be able to do for her.

“There!” she said, turning to me with a satisfied smile. “We’re all set to go! Are you excited?”

I chewed my lip.

“I think so,” I said. “I just feel crappy that you had to pay for it.”

“I didn’t have to, I wanted to! I’m so excited about it.”

“What days will it be?” I asked. “I’m probably going to have to ask for those days off from now on.”

“It’s on Tuesdays and Thursdays,” said Sunny. “But it starts at 6 in the evening, so you won’t have to do that. We can go straight there when you get off work.”

“Oh, really?” I allowed myself to smile a bit. “That’s great!”

“Yeah, I know! Let’s go get some dinner to celebrate, shall we?”

My smile faded fast. There was no way I was going to let her buy me dinner after she had just dropped a fat wad of dough on my Japanese class.

“No,” I said. “Um... You know what I’m in the mood for?”

Sunny shook her head, smiling gently at me.

“I could really go for some of that vegetable stew of yours. Will you make me some?”

Sunny smiled even wider, her cheeks slightly pink.

“You’d really rather have my cooking than, say, some sushi?” she asked.

“Oh yes!” I said. “I’ve been craving it ever since the first time you made it. Can you teach me how to cook it?”

Sunny stood, extending a hand to help me up, her smile bigger than I had ever seen it.

“Absolutely,” she said, leading me into the kitchen. “Why don’t you get some veggies out of the fridge while I look for the stock ingredients?”

I nodded, opening the huge refrigerator and peering inside.

“We’ll need mushrooms…” Sunny called, as I grabbed the package of chopped mushrooms off the middle shelf. “Also, celery… carrots… cauliflower…” She continued listing her ingredients until I had thoroughly raided her fridge, setting the vegetables down on her enormous, shiny counter.

She pulled a large stock pot out of a cupboard above the stove and placed it on the burner, smiling.

“Ready to brew your first potion?” she asked with a grin.

I nodded, relieved that I had managed to talk her out of buying me dinner.

“Good. Start by measuring about twelve cups of water into the pot.” She handed me a large, metal measuring cup with the numbers printed in black on the inside. Doing as I was told, I brought the cup to the sink where I measured the water, pouring it into the pot until it was about a third of the way full.

“Thank you much,” said Sunny as she switched the burner on. “Now, we’ll put a few bouillon cubes in here, first of all.”

I watched as she picked up something tiny, wrapped in a shiny gold foil, which she removed, revealing a dark hunk of condensed broth. She dropped it into the pot, following it with two more.

“Hey, could you open these, please?” Sunny indicated a couple cans of organic tomato soup that were sitting on the counter. “The can opener is in that drawer on your right.”

Pulling it open, I extracted the can opener, and then got to work on the cans of soup.

“When you’ve got them open, just pour them into the pot, okay?”

I nodded, fighting with the cans as Sunny crossed the room and pulled a few small jars from a cabinet.

After what seemed to me like hours, I had the tops of the cans removed, their jagged edges threatening to chop me open if I handled them wrong. I tossed them into the trash before turning back to Sunny, who was shaking some sort of herb into the pot.

“Oregano,” she smiled. “Gives it a little something special. And here, we have some parsley.” She shook a different jar and I watched as dried, green flakes snowed down into the pot, floating on top of the liquid. Sunny added some salt, some pepper, and some garlic powder, all as I watched.

“Don’t you measure anything?” I asked her.

Sunny shook her head.

“It’s not like there’s any perfect amount of an herb,” she said. “Just a dash of this and a pinch of that is all it takes. Now all that’s left is my secret ingredient. Want to guess what it is?”

I shrugged.

“Sugar and spice and everything nice?”

Sunny laughed, shaking her head.

“You’re never going to guess!” she said. “And you won’t believe me when I do tell you!”

I raised an eyebrow, my stomach feeling slightly uneasy.

“What, is it something gross?” I asked. “What is it, spider legs? Beetle guts? Do I even want to know?”

Sunny laughed again, kissing me on the cheek.

“My secret ingredient is…” From behind her back, she produced a small, plastic jar filled with something that resembled salt. “Monosodium Glutamate,” she whispered. “Otherwise known as MSG.

My eyes widened as my jaw fell off, Sunny’s expression transforming into a look of amusement.

“Isn’t that… Like… bad?” I sputtered.

“I knew you wouldn’t believe me! And to answer your question: no, it’s not bad.” She shook a generous amount into the pot before taking my hand and sprinkling a bit into my palm.

“Taste,” she commanded. I remained rigid, unsure if I should obey. “Just taste it,” said Sunny. “Look.”

She held out her own palm, sprinkling a bit of the white, crystalized substance into it before licking it off.

Cautiously, I raised my hand to my mouth, sticking out my tongue and collecting a few crystals on the tip.

The flavor that I experienced was nothing like I had expected. It was a strong, hearty flavor, almost meaty. I took another taste, mulling it around in my mouth.

“Are you familiar with the word ‘umami?’” Sunny asked, gazing at me with a satisfied smirk. I shook my head.

“It’s Japanese,” she told me. “There’s no real translation for it, but the best anyone’s come up with is ‘savory.’ You know how our tongues can supposedly pick up on four different tastes, right? Sweet, sour, salty, and bitter? Well, there’s also another taste: umami, or savory. It’s a meaty kind of taste, wouldn’t you say?”

I nodded, still slightly confused.

“Well you see,” Sunny continued. “MSG is simply a flavor enhancer for making things have a more savory taste. I don’t really know where the idea came from that it was some sort of horrible addictive stimulant, but it’s actually an amino acid, extracted from vegetables- particularly corn. And you know how people always reject Asian food because they use it a lot? Well check this out.”

She held the jar up to my face where I could see the words “Made in the U.S.A.” printed very clearly on its front.

“People love to fear things they don’t understand, but in all truth, there isn’t really anything dangerous about MSG. Of course, like anything, it can be lethal in extremely high doses, but you’d have to go out of your way to consume that much. It’s just the same with caffeine. And unless you consider deliciousness to be addictive, then there’s really nothing addictive about it.”

I nodded slowly, letting her words sink in.

“That’s interesting,” I said, finally. “How did you find this out?”

“I just studied up on it, is all. That’s more than the average person seems willing to do. They’d rather be irrationally afraid of something, instead of just learning the truth about it. But you tried my stew and liked it, didn’t you? It’s a good way of making something taste meaty without actually using animal products.”

I nodded again, impressed by Sunny’s knowledge.

“Let’s cut up some veggies!” she said, suddenly, pulling a plastic cutting mat from a drawer near the stove. “Can you grab a knife out of the butcher block, please? The little paring knife should work just fine.”

I took the knife from the slot marked “parer,” and handed it to Sunny, who already had a stalk of celery laid out on her mat.

With all the ease and elegance of an experienced Parisian chef, she began to chop the stalk, tossing the ends into the trash. In just a few short minutes, she had the entire bushel chopped to perfection, and she smiled as she tipped the contents of the mat into the pot, which was now simmering happily.

She took care of the cauliflower and carrots just as quickly, and as the pot began to steam, my stomach growled loudly in anticipation.

I helped Sunny by washing the cutting mat and the knife she had used. Meanwhile, she stood at the counter, juicing some oranges and a few peaches.

“We’re going to have a good dinner,” she informed me. “Thanks for all your help.”

I flashed her what I’d hoped was a dazzling smile, and she giggled pleasantly.

Before long, Sunny had her painted wooden dinner tray on the counter and was placing cups and bowls onto it.

“I hope you’re hungry,” she said over the loud grumbling of my stomach as it begged for food.

“Not in the slightest,” I joked. Sunny lifted the lid of the stock pot, releasing fat clouds of delicious steam which teased my nose and caused me to salivate. Reaching in with a rather large ladle, she began to dish up our portions, filling the green, Asian bowls to the brim before sticking a spoon in each.

“Grab the tray and bring it to the table, if you will,” she said. “I’ll grab the juice pitcher from the fridge.”

The tray had two handles cut into the sides, which I stuck my fingers through, heaving the tray out to the table under the stained glass lamp.

I took my seat and was joined a moment later by Sunny, who collected the glasses, filling them with her tantalizing, hand-squeezed juice blend.

“To Japanese class,” she said, raising her glass. I smiled and clinked the tops together before bringing the cup to my mouth and trying the juice.

“Woah,” I cried, with juice still in my mouth, trying not to choke. “This is really good!”

“Isn’t it?” Sunny asked. “It’s one of my favourite things to make. I think the peach and the orange really compliment each other. Sometime I’ll make you my strawberry banana drink. It’s kind of a breakfast thing, but it’s super delicious.”

Grinning, I dug into my stew, noticing the flavor of the MSG for the first time.

“This is good stuff,” I said. “Did you come up with the recipe yourself?”

“Oh, yeah. I’ve come up with many recipes over the years as I’ve tried to experiment with different things. Wait until you try my vegetarian lasagna. It’s to die for.”

I sighed contentedly as I finished my meal in silence. Sunny really was the best. I couldn’t wait to introduce her to my mother. Mom had always said that my dream girl would appear to me as a chef, seducing me with her fabulous cooking skills.

“The fastest way to a man’s heart is through his stomach,” she’d said.  “How do you think I convinced your father to marry me?”

I couldn’t help but laugh to myself as I remembered this.

“What’s so funny?” Sunny sat back in her chair, patting her full, satiated stomach.

“Just something my mom once said,” I told her. “She said, ‘the fastest way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.’ Isn’t that funny?”

She giggled, refilling her glass.

“Funny,” she said. “But so true. I have wooed you with my cooking, have I not?”

Blushing, I nodded.

“So when do I get to meet your family, anyway? Is it just you and your mom? Do you have any brothers or sisters?”

“Mom and dad,” I said. “And then my brother, Floyd. Well… Half-brother, anyway. His dad walked out on my mom when he was a little kid. And then she got remarried to my dad and they had me.”

“I see,” said Sunny. “And are you close with your brother at all?”

“Yeah, I think so. I don’t really think of him as a half-brother, you know. My dad treats him with all the same love and kindness that I get from him, and we still have the same mom. Just different last names, is all.  What about you?” I asked. “Any siblings?”

Sunny stretched, yawning slightly.

“Nope, it’s just me,” she said. “Just me and my mom and dad. So you never answered my question! When do I get to meet them?”

I shrugged, honestly.

“One of these days,” I said. “My family is kind of bad at keeping plans. You have to set the date weeks, sometimes even months in advance if you want them to show up.”

Sunny laughed rather loudly.

“My parents are the exact opposite,” she said. “They are extremely prompt. If they ask you to meet them at 11:17, you better be there at exactly 11:17, because you can bet that they will be. And if you keep them waiting even a minute, they start to wonder if you’re going to show up at all.”

I grimaced.

“They’re not going to like me, are they?”

“What makes you say that?” she asked. I shrugged, twiddling my thumbs.

“I just got the impression that they were really strict, or something.”

“Only where punctuality is concerned,” Sunny laughed. “They’re very accepting of a person’s individuality, and they don’t judge.”

“Well, that’s a relief. So when do I meet them?”

Sunny’s smile faded away and was replaced with a strange look that I couldn’t read.

“I’ll figure something out,” she said. “Do you want more stew, or should we take care of the dishes now?”

“I’m pretty full,” I admitted. “But are you okay?”

“Yes, of course. Why do you ask?”

I shrugged as she collected the dishes onto the tray.

“Never mind,” I said. “Let’s clean those dishes, shall we?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



© 2012 Ocularfracture


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Added on June 14, 2012
Last Updated on June 14, 2012
Tags: Remy, Clover, Sunny, Skye, Japanese, School, College, Class, Vegetable, Vegetarian, Stew, Soup, MSG, Monosodium Glutamate, controversy


Author

Ocularfracture
Ocularfracture

Bennington, NE



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I've been writing since I learned how. I'm not saying that 5-year-old work was any good. All's I'm sayin' is that the passion has been there as far back as I can remember. My mother always read me sto.. more..

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