Two

7.9K 246 204
                                                  

"Oh my goodness, what smells so good in here?"

Oops! This image does not follow our content guidelines. To continue publishing, please remove it or upload a different image.

"Oh my goodness, what smells so good in here?"

I lift my gaze from the cucumber I'm cutting up for the salad and inevitably smile as I see the wide grin on my aunt's face when she enters the kitchen, where I've been working for the past hour to make lunch.

"I already know we're in for a real treat," she says. She stands on the other side of the kitchen isle and takes a piece of the vegetable. "What are we having?"

"Pesto and Parmesan Chicken," I answer. "It's in the oven and almost ready. And the cookies for later are cooling on that rack over there." I point behind me to the chocolate chip cookies I made earlier.

"Ah, Kaitlyn, you spoil me. I'm inclined to stay home after all and have you cook for me all summer."

"No, Aunt Jannie," I laugh. "You will go on your wildlife trip, and I will enjoy the peace and quiet here—and do some sightseeing."

She chuckles. "About time, I'd say. How many times have you visited me? And you still haven't been to Coney Island or the Statue of Liberty."

I chuckle. "Yeah, I know. It's on my list."

Jannie walks over to the rack with the cookies and takes one. "Hmmm," she murmurs after she's taken a bite. "Delicious! You're such an awesome cook and baker. I seriously can't believe how you're still single."

I shrug. "I just haven't found the one who's worthy of my awesome food."

She winks at me. "That guy's gonna be one lucky bastard."

I laugh out loud. "Oh, I don't know about that. But that Nan lived with us all my life sure had its perks. I learned everything I know from her."

"Yeah," Aunt Jannie agrees. "Mom is a great cook. You certainly inherited her talent." Even though she smiles when she says it, I see the sadness in her eyes. This is a sensitive topic; I know that. My family is very close; my dad and my aunt are twins and at fifty-one the youngest of five kids. My whole family lives in the same town in rural North Carolina, and I grew up in the same house my grandparents live in.

Aunt Jannie is the only exception. She never married and never had kids. She was the first to move to another state, and she was the first to choose a job that my grandparents considered unsteady and unpredictable—she picked a career in wildlife photography. It caused a little bit of an outrage, and for many years, she was the black sheep of the family.

I was one of the few people who kept in close touch with her. But with time, my grandparents—and the rest of the family—came to accept her life choices. They still don't talk a lot, but they are on good terms. It probably helped that Aunt Jannie is excellent at what she does, and she's very successful too. This summer, she's going on a two-and-a-half month long wildlife tour throughout South America.

"Jannie?" a voice coming from the front door interrupts us.

"Kitchen!" my aunt yells back, and a moment later, Philip walks in. He's my aunt's next-door neighbor, and I've met him a couple of times when I visited Jannie. He's a middle-aged guy who comes to see my aunt quite often. I've always suspected him to have a crush on her, which she secretly returns, but she, of course, denies it.

Unexpected⁵ | Excerpt OnlyWhere stories live. Discover now