In The Deep Mid winter part two

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Chapter 7

Alison's eyes moved slowly around the kitchen. A more cosier inviting place it was hard to imagine. From the solid flagstone floor to the warmth of the range it was perfect. Old, in the form of the beautiful Welsh dresser, mingled in perfect harmony with the new of the kitchen units. Blue gingham curtains which should have been twee framed the windows perfectly and pots of herbs stood on the window sills. The centre of the kitchen was dominated by a huge old pine table, which should be the place for a family to gather around, except John seemed to have no family. He seemed to live completely alone.

She watched him as he moved around the kitchen with an easy familiarity preparing food. This had been a surprise, she'd not expected him to know a skillet from a toaster, yet here he was working with the practiced ease of a chef.

He'd insisted that she rested while he dished up the tea. She'd smiled, this was evidence that she was in the north; down in Bath they'd have pretentiously called this meal supper. She'd agreed to rest but here at the table not on the sofa, she'd been alone too much in the last twenty-four hours and it gave her too much time to think.

He turned suddenly and caught her staring at him.

"What?" he asked warily, as he placed cutlery on the table.

"You are a surprising man John Standring I'd never have guessed you'd know your way round the kitchen."

His eyes slid down to look at the floor. Embarrassed at her words he turned away. Alison sighed, he certainly wasn't used to compliments and it seemed he had no idea how to deal with them. Alison sensed that few people if any gave John any praise. Had it always been that way she wondered?

"So what's for tea then Jamie, or is it Nigella?" She teased, hoping to lighten the atmosphere.

He turned back to face her and caught her cheeky grin.

"It's a rare Northern delicacy; I thought you might like to try it?" He said carefully keeping his face neutral.

"Really a rare delicacy, what is it?" Alison asked intrigued.

"Tripe and onions."

"Tripe, I've heard of that but have no idea what it is and I have to say the name isn't inspiring."

"It's lining of a cow's stomach." 

Alison was horrified.

"You're joking right?"

John's face fell and he looked crestfallen.

"No it's really popular and nourishing"

"Stomach lining!"

"Aye I poached it in a little milk with some garlic and Wensleydale cheese. I thought we'd have carrots and asparagus and mash potatoes with it."

He looked so hurt, but there was no way she could eat the lining of a cow's stomach.

"John I'm sorry, I'm sure you've gone to a lot of trouble but there is no way I can eat stomach lining. I just can't. I'll just have the vegetables." Alison felt terrible.

John turned away silently and began to strain the vegetables placing them on the table. Alison couldn't meet his eyes he'd gone to so much trouble and here she was refusing to even try it.

He reached into the oven

"Well seeing as how you don't fancy tripe it's a good job I made cottage pie," he said, placing the dish on the table. He sat grinning like the Cheshire cat.

The next thing he knew a tea towel hit him squarely in the face.

"You sod, I really believed you. Here I was thinking that I'd really offended you."

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