The frame slipped from her hand, spun in the air, smacked the shelf, and tumbled to the ground with a smack. The high-pitched sound of glass shattering reverberated through the living room, and in her head. Carefully, Candy reached down and picked up the frame amongst the sharp glass shards, and turned it over. There, looking back at her almost accusingly, was Easter's sharp, exquisite, mysterious face.
Candy felt her stomach form into a knot. Had it really been an accident? Maybe her subconscious was playing games with her.
She went to the cleaning closet to fetch the dustpan and swept up the broken glass. As she deposited the shards into the bin, she tossed the photo with it. There are enough photos of Easter in here, anyways, Candy reasoned without thinking twice.
She returned to the mantel where she'd been dusting off the photo frames, sculptures and trinkets she'd laid out with Kevin a few weeks back. Candy looked around the house and admired her work. She was proud of how she'd helped transform Kevin's house in the few short weeks she'd been staying there. Each day, she'd taken a new task upon herself, using her keen design eye to make the various decorative touches visually appealing and as comfortable as possible.
Her most recent addition was the reading nook. She'd reused an old frame Kevin hadn't filled and had an inspirational quote printed out for it. It hung just above a comfy reading chair, in front of which sat a fluffy ottoman footrest. There was a side table with a leafy green plant, and a few floor plants on the other side of the chair too. Candy had incorporated one of Kevin's beautiful bronze floor lamps to hang over the reading chair. It was similar to a space Elena had helped her create in her own bedroom; Candy had modeled this one to be more grown up and to suit the eclectic style of Kevin's house.
Candy used to think of Easter when she was decorating, wondering to herself what the woman of the house would think of this or that, if she would approve, how she would have done it differently. But that wonderment had faded recently. Having decorated this house from the ground up, Candy had formed a sense of ownership over its contents, though she acknowledged on a more realistic level that she ought not to--nothing here was hers, after all, particularly not its male occupant.
She turned her attention to the dining table, which she'd set with bronze and gold placemats, fine copper cutlery, and silk mahogany-colored napkins she'd found in a box labeled "casual dinnerware." Candy had wondered, if this were considered casual in Avesta, what exactly the fancy dinnerware would look like.
Candy had done her research on Avesta. There wasn't much information available online, but she'd managed to find a recipe site with authentic Avestan dishes. That particular night, she'd prepared a bona fide homegrown feast for Kevin. She knew that he was feeling down being apart from his family--he was still having trouble getting the paperwork processed for their passports--and she figured a taste of home might perk him up. She'd used the exquisite copper bowls she'd found to hold the spiced yogurt, chopped cucumber salad, pickles, and other Avestan side dishes she'd prepared.
The timer in the kitchen went off. Candy wiped her hands on the frilly, embroidered apron she'd found amongst the kitchenware, and made her way to the kitchen. Using oven mitts this time, she opened the oven door and checked on the roasted lamb. It smelled divine. The lamb had turned a lovely golden brown, with the skin nice and crispy, just as the recipe had called for. She removed the tray, placed it on the windowsill and opened the window for it to cool. She turned to the stove where her pot of rice was cooking, stirring it to fluff it up, and adding a touch of saffron to the pot. After a few more minutes, the stained yellow rice was ready. She dished it out onto a serving platter and sprinkled it with pomegranate seeds, giving it the appearance of having been decked with glistening red rubies. With both hands, Candy carried the beautiful platter of rice out to the dining table. Next, she returned to the kitchen to fetch the exotically spiced lamb, which she carried out to place in the center of the table.
Candy stepped back to admire her work. The table was set just like she'd seen pictured on the website. She'd managed to incorporate the Avestan artisan tableware and give it her own unique design touch. She nodded in satisfaction and turned to go wash her hands.
Kevin was in his office next door, standing with his hands in his pockets, looking out the window at the setting sun. Or was he staring off into the distance? She couldn't tell. He didn't notice her come in. She walked in behind him and tickled his side. His head shook him back to reality, and he looked at her with a smile.
His nose began to twitch, as he likely suddenly became aware of the delicious smells from the dining area. "My goodness Candy, what delights have you prepared tonight? It smells amazing! And...familiar! Like home, really."
Candy smiled proudly, "Yes, I've cooked you an authentic Avestan meal for dinner. I thought it would make you feel better to have a taste of home. I know you're really missing your family."
Kevin shook his head and smiled at her, "That is so very thoughtful of you, Candy. Thank you so much. How ever did you manage to find recipes?"
"The Google Gods helped me," she replied simply.
He returned his gaze to the setting sun. "You're right, my mind really has been elsewhere. I'm sorry, Candy. I guess I haven't been much fun to be around."
"Don't be silly, you!" She smacked him playfully on the arm. "It's not your job to entertain me. I'm just grateful to have a place to stay that's away from my insane family, for now."
He nodded, barely listening--his mind elsewhere once again. Then he shook his head quickly and looked her in the eyes apologetically. "Sorry, I need to focus on the moment and stop worrying about all this. Worrying doesn't get you anywhere, my mother used to always say. I'm starving! Is dinner ready?"
"It is! I came in to get you."
When they walked into the dining room, Kevin's jaw dropped. "But...this is...I mean--Candy! You did all this!? How did you...wow. Just wow."
Candy laughed. "I'm glad you like it."
"Like it? I'm in awe. Easter doesn't even set the table or prepare dinners like this!"
Candy felt a special sense of pride at that statement. But she swallowed her smile and kept it to herself.
They sat down to dinner. Candy brought out two glasses and a pitcher of water laced with pomegranate, basil, and orange slices. She handed Kevin the handle of the carving knife. "Would you like to do the honors?" She asked him.
"Gladly, thanks," he took the knife from her, and flipped it in the air, catching it once again easily in the same hand. He was clearly used to being the meat carver of the family.
The knife slipped through the meat like butter. "It's cooked to perfection."
"I learned how to use a meat thermometer! Those things are handy!"
Kevin offered a few slices to Candy, which he passed onto her plate with the large serving fork, and took a few for himself. He sat down, and placed his napkin on his lap, picking up his knife and fork.
"Bon appetit," he said, smiling with what appeared to be genuine happiness.
"Bon appetit," Candy smiled back.
They dug in, helping themselves to the spiced yogurt, the pickles, the sweet potato and date casserole, the stuffed chilis with raisins, and fresh salads drizzled with lemon and herb dressings and balsamic vinaigrettes.
"I can't get over how good this is, Candy. And I have to say, you've not only done an amazing job on dinner tonight, but you've been such a huge help making this house beautiful. I love what you've done. And I know Easter and the kids will be impressed too," he said with a wink. "I'm so lucky to have you around. It's like you're becoming my second wife! If you're not careful, I'll have no choice but to marry you!"
They both laughed, but Candy wondered, deep down, if there was any sincerity to what Kevin had said. Did Kevin really think of her like that, or could he just tell that she'd developed a silly crush on him and was he just stroking her ego?
She couldn't tell. But she could hope.