Dipping warm, buttered bread into a bowl of homemade chicken soup – how can such a simple act bring such great pleasure?

“This is wonderful TJ,” Karl says around a dripping spoonful of broth. “I should have you two over for dinner every night.”

“Oh, it’s nothing,” she replies with a poor attempt to conceal her pleasure. “Just a little something my mother taught me a lifetime ago; I’m surprised I remembered it, to be honest.”

We’re sitting at Karl’s small square kitchen table with Mozart serenading us from the stereo in the next room. It’s a meal deserving a fine wine as a companion but we’re all sipping water – two of us out of fear of a slippery slope, one out of support.

“That sweater suits you J, and it’s a pretty good fit,” Karl tells me. “After dinner we’ll go through my closet and see what else works for you.”

“You’ve already done too much for me, I can’t -”

“I haven’t done nearly enough,” he interrupts softly, shaking his head. “I’ve got too many things in there anyway, I hardly wear half of it.”

I shift uncomfortably in my chair and take another bite of bread. I’m not sure why I can accept charity from strangers but not friends; maybe it’s the intimacy of it that upsets me. Rather than reply I look around his home again.

It’s a good size for two people, a bit cramped with three. There are a few paintings by local artists on the wall, some postcards stuck on the fridge with a random sampling of ceramic animals and comfortable, well-worn chairs and recliners scattered around the kitchen and living room.

I feel out of place in a proper home but I could get used to hot showers and working plumbing. Maybe getting a place with TJ wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world. I’ll have to talk to Karl about my money situation later, when we’re alone.

“You’ve got a lovely place here,” TJ says. “Could use a woman’s touch though, if you don’t mind me saying so. You got any prospects lined up?” Ah TJ, Queen of Subtlety.

“Work is taking up too much of my time and energy to even think about dating,” he says with a sad smile. “But we’re trying to find room in the budget to hire me an assistant; even a part-time one would make an incredible difference.”

“That’s great,” I say, my eyes flicking involuntarily in TJ’s direction. “What sort of work would you want them to do?”

“Oh, mostly office work – it’s ridiculous how much of my day is spent faxing and photocopying and filing.”

“Well isn’t that something,” I say while looking at TJ. “It looks like you’ve got an ideal candidate right here in your kitchen!” TJ blushes and takes another spoonful of soup, keeping her eyes on the table directly in front of her.

“Is that right? Well the money isn’t guaranteed to be found for the position but if it does you’ll be the first to know,” he tells the top of her head. She looks up and flashes him a quick smile before returning to her soup.

We finish the meal in happy silence, three people enjoying the peace and warmth of a good meal with good friends. It feels like my life is turning an important corner; I can’t see what lies ahead just yet but I’m not afraid of whatever is waiting for me. Something suspiciously similar to hope is growing inside me.

What a lovely, encouraging evening. It’s almost enough to make me forget that I’ll be spending tomorrow dealing with Tommy.

The End

11 comments about this story Feed