OnionsMature

Larry's bad mood lasted all day. It was getting annoying; especially since Carla showed up in her normal foul mood. Several times during the day I tried to get him to tell me what was wrong but he wouldn't answer. It was making work a little depressing.

"Well, Artemis should be here soon," I said when seven drew closer.

Carla turned to me. "Artemis? As in Artemis Kilgore?" she demanded and I nodded. "Don't tell me he's dating you, too?"

"What do you mean by too?"

She rolled her eyes and slammed the pastry tray down on the counter. "Don't be stupid Deidre. He always has at least three girls at once."

"Carla," Larry said firmly and she snorted.

"You are dating him, aren't you? So that's why you suddenly look like a normal person."

"Carla, that's enough," Larry said in a warning voice.

"Whatever," she muttered and went into the back.

I bit my lower lip. "Is that true?" I whispered to Larry. Before he could answer, Artemis' car pulled up. "See you tomorrow."

"Deidre?" he said and I turned. "Be careful."

I smiled. "I always am, Larry."

He muttered something I didn't catch as I opened the door. I got in the car and Artemis smiled at me.

"I know you said you don't normally cook here, but do you know how to cook?" he asked, pulling out into the street.

"No, I don't."

"I can teach you. Mom is working late and apparently your mom has to work until close again."

I shrugged. "Sure."

He looked at me when we got to a red light. I kept my gaze fixed out the window, trying not to think about what Carla said.

"Hey," he said. "Look at me." I did reluctantly. He was frowning. "What's wrong?"

The light turned green and he pressed gently on the gas in case of ice.

"Just a long day," I said. "What are we cooking?"

"Spaghetti," he answered, sounding excited again.

When we got to the house, he took my coat for me. He jogged to the kitchen and I smiled. His enthusiasm was adorable as he got out some ingredients from the fridge and cabinets.

"Where's the sauce?" I asked, looking at everything he had laid out.

"We're making it ourselves," he said simply.

"Oh. I'm only used to the canned and jarred stuff."

"This is much better."

I chuckled. "You really like to cook, don't you?"

He nodded, washing his hands and motioning for me to do the same. "It's one of the few things I can do around here."

He dug around in his bag and I just noticed he was dressed in business clothes. He was in a pair of black slacks, black dress shoes, and a white button up shirt. I was confused. I thought his mom wouldn't let him in the office.

"Do I have something on my shirt?" he asked and I realized I had been caught.

"No," I said quickly and he shrugged, holding a small device. "You're going to cook spaghetti in a white business shirt?"

"That's where these come in, my dear," he said cheerfully and pulled out two red aprons.

While I tied mine on, he plugged the device into a radio. Immediately, techno music started playing.

"What is that?" I asked, gesturing at the device.

"The Glitch Mob," he answered.

"No. The thing you plugged into the radio."

He stared for a second and I blushed. "Sorry. I forgot. It's an iPod."

My jaw dropped and I walked over to it. "I heard of these! The TV at the kitchen would show commercials and...." I trailed off, avoiding his eyes. "Please don't look at me like that."

"Like what?"

"In pity," I muttered, pulling on my apron. "I'm so tired of that look."

"Sorry," he said quickly.

"So, what's first?"

"Chopping!" he proclaimed and got out two cutting boards. He handed me a very sharp looking knife and I stared at it doubtfully. "Do you want to chop the onion, tomato, or garlic?"

"You should probably show me how to use this weapon first," I said and he laughed.

"Right. We'll start with the onion. It's the easiest even though it'll make your eyes water."

He took an onion out of the pantry, tapping his foot to the beat of the music. He chopped off the ends then cut it in half.

"Okay, first thing you have to do is hold the knife correctly," he said and stood behind me. I blushed as he reached around me. He curled my fingers around the knife handle. "There you go." His breath brushed past my ear and I tried not to shiver. "Now, make sure you keep your fingers out of the way. You don't want to cut them."

I laughed nervously. "The spaghetti should be red from sauce, not blood."

He laughed. "Exactly."

Once I had gotten the basics, he left me to cut the onion. At one point, my eye itched and I scratched.

"Holy shit!" I screamed and he jumped.

"What's wrong?" he asked as I ran for the sink. "What happened?"

"My eye itched," I said, trying to rub water in it. "Damn it!" Artemis was bent double laughing. "Shut up and help me!"

Still laughing, he did. "Wash your hands first, dork." He waited until I was done. "Now you can splash water in your eyes."

I did for about five minutes until it was better. "What happened?" I asked, my eyes still watering.

"You had onion juice on your hand," he said, failing at hiding his smirk. "You need to be careful. That shit can burn."

I glared at him. "You don't say. Thanks for the warning."

"Hey! It's a rookie fact!"

I just shook my head, a small smile on my face, as I finished chopping up the onion. For the rest of the time, I mostly watched him instruct. The radio changed to a different band.

"ItaloBrothers," he said when I asked. "They haven't quite made it to the States yet."

"They sound good," I said.

"I like them," he nodded, putting the ground beef in a pot to brown.

"Well, obviously," I teased. "We are listening to their music."

"Okay, Mrs. Onion Juice," he teased back.

The front door opened around the time I was straining the noodles.

"I smell spaghetti," Evelyn sang and she and my mom came in.

"Yep," he said happily. "Can you make your garlic butter for the bread?"

"I would love to," she said and I made to duck out of the kitchen.

"Oh no you don't," Artemis said, pulling me back by my apron. "You're going to mince teh garlic for my mom."

I groaned. "Do I have to?"

"Yes, you do," Evelyn grinned. "I have to cup the bread up."

I sighed heavily. My mom stood on the other side of the kitchen counter, smiling at me.

"Learning how to cook, huh?" she asked.

"And failing!" I cried. "I hate onions!"

"Why?" Evelyn asked.

"They're the spawn of Satan," I grumbled, letting Artemis show me how to peel the garlic.

"She didn't realize that you shouldn't rub your eyes when you're chopping onions," Artemis said, smirking.

"Careful or I'll stab you," I snapped as Evelyn and my mom started laughing.

-

Dinner wasn't ready until well after 10. It was mostly my fault. I was so nervous about chopping the garlic that it went painstakingly slow. The garlic was super small, though, and I didn't want to risk cutting myself. I definitely made sure my hands stayed away from my face until I washed them.

After dinner - it really was good with homemade sauce - I felt exhausted. I said good night to everyone and dragged myself to bed. I curled up after changing into my pajamas. As I slept, though, I had another nightmare.

The room was full of people. All the cots were taken. Mom and I took the heavy blankets we were given to a spot against the wall. It was just too cold for the van tonight. I thought it was all a dream until the man's hands closed around my throat. I gasped for air, trying to call out for my mom. She was fast asleep, though, tired from work, and couldn't hear me. I struggled, scratching at his hands. Another man came up and I slapped him as hard as I could.

"Ow!" someone shouted. I sat up and my forehead collided with someone else's. "Fuck!"

I rubbed my forehead and looked around, my heart pounding.

"Artemis?" I gasped, trying to get my heart to calm down.

"Jeez," he breathed.

"What are you doing in here?" I panted.

"You were screaming. Are you all right?"

"Just a nightmare," I said.

He sat on the side of my bed. "You wanna talk about it?" he asked. I stared at him. "Whenever I had a nightmare, my dad would come in and had me tell him. It always made me feel better."

I sighed and pulled my knees to my chest. I wrapped my arms around my legs.

"Remember how I told you about the time my mom kicked a guy's ass for trying to touch me?" He nodded. "That's all it was. A memory."

"Are there a lot like that?"

I looked out the window. "Yeah."

"I thought you said your mom never hurt anyone again."

I rested my chin on my knees. "That's because she didn't know about the other times."

"Deidre," he whispered.

"I really should get back to sleep," I muttered. "Can you take me to work in the morning?"

"Yeah," he said. "Yeah, of course I will. Good night."

"Night, I said and turned my back on him, shutting my eyes tightly.

The End

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