I love to cook. I can spend hours in the kitchen chopping, dicing, and stirring. So, it makes sense that one of my most prized possessions is my old cast iron pot. I’ve made more gumbos in that pot than I can count. Every now and then, though, you have to season your pot to keep clean and free of rust. It doesn’t take much effort, just a little time.
Emily, one of my characters in Crossroads, had to season her pot in one chapter. While she’s working, she’s thinking about how that pot reflects what’s going on in her life. She realizes that the people in her life are “seasoning” her life. I think it might be one of my favorite chapters. It involves cooking, friends, and another of my favorite characters, Ryder.
It also reflects my life now as well. I’m “seasoning my pot” now. I’ve made a move recently to a place I love, South Louisiana. I’m surrounded by good friends, good times, and good food. Life doesn’t get much better than that. :)
Here’s Emily “seasoning” her pot….
Emily rubbed cooking oil along the inside of Ruby’s cast iron pot. She had cleaned out the rust, and it was time to finish “seasoning” it. The oven was preheated, and the pot wiped down with oil. All she had to do was let it sit in the oven for three hours. She would check on it periodically and put on more oil.
The pot made her think of Ruby, of all the meals she had cooked with her. It was time to cook a gumbo. Joey’s seafood gumbo had been great, but she was craving a chicken and sausage gumbo. She would make it from scratch, roux and all. Cooking was good for the soul, her grandmother had always said. Emily’s soul definitely needed some soothing. Today, it felt battered and broken.
After sliding the pot in the oven, Emily poured a glass of wine. Not one of the best brands, but when living on a tight budget, one could not be choosy. She flinched a little at the taste, added some lemon lime soda, and then tried again. Much better, she thought.
She remembered making her first roux with her grandmother. She had been impatient with all the stirring. She started to complain.
“That stirring is good for you, cher. You ain’t got nothing to do but think and stir. You know how many problems I’ve solved by making a roux? Most problems can be solved in the time it takes a roux if you just put your mind to it. And if you can’t solve it, maybe you need to spend some time prayin’ about it.”
Emily sipped some more wine. Maybe if she’d had taken time to cook a roux, she’d have solved more of her problems. More time? She snorted. When would she have found more time?
Feeling a little cooped up, she decided to enjoy some “porch time”. She grabbed a southern cooking magazine and her wine and headed outside. After corralling Oscar inside, she settled into the comfortable Adirondack styled chair. She propped her feet up on the railing and settled in to relax.
Eddie would’ve complained. “What do you think you’re doing? he would’ve asked. Never would he have actually thought about helping her with the cooking or the cleaning. Even when he had lost his job, he still felt like it was beneath him to help with what he considered “woman’s work”. He was content to lie on the sofa, drink, belch, and not do a damn thing.
She remembered a time when she had spent the whole morning trying to bring some semblance of order to the house. A wasted effort, she knew, but had tried anyway. Eddie had woken up from his stupor, stumbled around a bit, and grabbed a beer from the fridge. Moments later, he had passed back out on the sofa. His beer bottle had overturned, spilling dull brown beer over the sparkling clean floor she had just mopped.
Emily shook her head at her own stupidity. How had she lasted as long as she did?
Too long. But not anymore.
She took a sip of her wine and opened her magazine. She just scanned the pages. She dog-eared a few recipes she would like to look at again later. She needed to figure out what to do for dinner. Maybe she would make a simple tray of cheese and summer sausage. After dinner, she’d take Oscar for a walk down the beach. Maybe she’d take her bottle of wine too. She’d let him run and she’d drink her wine and sink her feet in the sand. She smiled at the thought.
Emily’s phone beeped. Great, it’s Eddie again, she thought. She looked at the phone and was pleasantly surprised to see she had received a text message from Carly.
“What’s up? Wanna drink?” the text read.
“Can‘t tonight, I just started seasoning a pot.”
“K. Cool. How about I come over?” Carly asked.
“C‘mon.” Emily responded.
“Be there in ten. Whatcha drinkin?”
“I’ll bring a bottle! Girl’s night! C ya in 10.”
Emily smiled and set her phone down on the chair. That was definitely better than the text she expected from Eddie. Emily set the magazine down and stared off at the gulf. How nice it would be to actually have a friend to talk to. To laugh with. To just hang out with.
Soon, Carly was climbing the wooden step she had a bottle of wine tucked under one arm.
“It’s goin’.” Emily said. “You?”
“Been a long day. The regulars were wound up today. They get restless when they can’t go out and play. But they’re a fun group. I love them. ”
“Ahhh. I see.” Emily said as she got up to get a glass of wine for Carly.
She returned later she handed Carly a glass of wine.
Carly took a sip and leaned back in the chair, “Man, it feels good to sit down.”
“I bet. Looks like you work a lot of hours.”
“I do. But I like it. It’s fun and it keeps me out of trouble. Most of the time.”
Emily grinned; she could just about imagine. Carly had a vivacious attitude and personality that made Emily half-envious. Outgoing was not a word she had ever used to describe herself.
“Are you cooking something? Wish I could cook. I just don’t have the patience. I even tried stuff from that Homemade in Half an Hour Show. Hell, I didn’t even know what she was talking about half the time. The first time I tried a recipe from that show it took me two hours! And the mess! Joey glared at me for days. Sammy won‘t even eat my cooking.”
Emily laughed. “It‘s really not that hard. So, where‘s Sammy?”
“She went home with Joey today. I think she’d had enough social time. She was ready to curl up in her quiet bed and take a good nap. She may come back with him when he comes back later. It’s his turn to close up.”
Carly exhaled a deep breath then continued, “I needed a night off. But, I don’t know if I want to go home and sleep or go out.”
“Where do you go here when you go out?” Emily asked. This town had never been a hotbed of nightlife.
“Mostly the bar.” Carly laughed. “Not much of a choice here in town. We go to the Wild Wahoo. And sometimes to Jimmy’s just across the parish line. Occasionally, Joey, Noah, and I will take a night off and go to New Orleans. It’s been a while since we did that though. We are going to a Saints game soon. You should go!” Carly said.
“I might do that.” Emily found herself saying.
“We’ve all been busy getting this bar going. It’s about time, especially since we’ve been able to get into a routine and have good workers. But, it’s about time we took a little R&R.” When Carly drained her glass, Emily got up to get some refills.
When she got back, Carly had kicked off her flip-flops and was leaning back. She had propped her feet on the wooden ledge. The glittery purple polish on her toes contrasted the weathered gray wood.
“Ahh….I gotta do this more often.” Carly said, taking another sip. “Of course, I tell myself that all the time, and never seem to do it. So, Em.” Carly said, shortening her name the way Noah had, “What’s going on with you, with your love life?”
Emily was unsure how to answer that, “It’s complicated.”
“Aren’t they all?”
“And you?” Emily asked, diverting the attention.
“Nothing. I work too much, and I’ve given up on Prince Charming riding his white boat into our marina. Trying the online dating thing. Still not a lot of luck there either.”
“I’ve never done that. Must be interesting.” Emily said.
“You’re telling me. I could entertain you with stories about it all night. In fact, I’m writing a book on it right now. At this rate, I’m going to be that old lady with all the cats. And I don’t like cats.”
Emily laughed, “I’m sure you’ll be allright. It may be me that needs to start collecting cats. Although I’m not quite sure how Oscar would feel about that.”
“It’s so cool that you’re back. “ Carly said. “I know Noah, and Daniel and everyone else is glad to see you too. “
“I like Daniel.” Emily said. “It’s like having another Pops.”
“He is awesome.” Carly said. “He’s always listening to the million problems of my love life. And he‘s editing the book I‘m working on.”
“Is that right?”
“Yeah, he used to be in journalism. He’s good. And he keeps me writing.”
“Have you always wanted to write?” Emily asked Carly.
“Always. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. I stopped for awhile, after…” Carly paused for a minute. Then she said, “Well, then I met Ryder and he inspired me to start again.”
“Ryder?” Emily asked. She had to hear this.
“Yes. I was down in the dumps one night and Ryder wrote a poem for me on a bar napkin. He’s a poet. Inspired, I went home that night and wrote a poem in response. I’ve been writing ever since. It’s one of the reasons I love him so much. I’ve told him many times that my first book will be dedicated to him.”
“I hope you get published, and then I can say I know an author.” Emily said.
“We’ll see. It’s a lot of work and some luck, I think. But the bar gives me a more flexible schedule and my dating life gives me plenty of material.” Carly laughed and finished off her glass. Emily went to go grab the rest of their bottle of wine.
Moments later, Emily was back out on the porch. She had checked on her pot while she was in there. Emily tried to remember the last time she had enjoyed a “girl’s night”. She couldn’t. She’d never made friends easily. Had always been quiet and shy. Eddie had never encouraged friends either. And her recent schedule left her no time for herself, much less friends.
Carly said, “It’s a beautiful night tonight. Be a great night to be out on the water.”
“I agree.” Emily said.
“One of these days we’ll have to get Noah to take us out on the boat. It’s been awhile since I’ve done that. We’ll have Joey cook, Noah can drive the boat, and we’ll drink and lay in the sun like slugs.”
“Sounds good to me.” And it did. She stretched lazily. She could get used to this new life very easily. Never had she been allowed this freedom to do as she pleased and not worry about anyone but herself.
“We’ll do it on a Sunday. Bar’s closed on Sunday. While we lay out like slugs, the guys can watch football. We’ll eat all day and watch the games.”
“Just let me know. It’s not like my schedule is full these days.”
Carly stood up, “Mind if I use the restroom?”
“That’s a beautiful blanket on your sofa.” Carly said when she returned.
“Thanks, it was my mother’s. My grandmother made it.”
“You miss them.” Carly said. “I miss Ben too.” Carly’s usually sunny face clouded for a moment, and then she shook it off, “But, let’s not dwell on the sad stuff. Let’s think about good stuff.”
“Like?” Emily prodded.
“Sitting outside, enjoying some fresh air and good company?” she asked.
“I’ll definitely drink to that.” Emily said as they clinked their glasses together.
The sun was just beginning to set. The sun was a light pink orb against a blue grey sky. Noah and Sadie walked along the beach. He spotted them on the porch and waved as he came over.
“What’s up?” he said when he got to the porch railing. He stood at the base of the stairs, not coming up yet.
“Enjoying a few drinks and some good weather. You?” Carly asked.
“Just getting off work and walking Sadie.”
“I see that. Want a drink?” Carly gestured to her glass.
He wrinkled up his nose. “Wine? Ewww. No thanks.”
“Go grab some beer then and come join us.”
He thought for a moment then nodded, “I think I will. Sounds so much better than just watching some TV by myself.” He walked off down the beach.
“So,” Carly said, “Noah’s single.”
Emily grinned, “Yes. He is.” Her grin disappeared as she turned the ring on her finger, “But, I’m not.”
Carly noticed her turn the ring, “Married, huh?”
“I take it not happily, since obviously he’s not here. And you’ve not talked about him once since you’ve been here.”
“Yes. It does.”
“Noah’s still single though.” Carly said. “And, I know he’s my brother and all, but he’s not bad to look at. And he sure could use a good woman in his life.”
Emily grinned, “No, he definitely is not bad to look at.”
“Just something to think about.” Carly said. “And you guys kinda grew up together. You should have all kinds of stuff in common.”
Like she hadn’t already thought about that, Emily thought.
Noah reappeared with a six-pack in his hand. He put the beer on the railing and grabbed a bottle out.
“Don’t just stand there,” Carly said, “Come on up.”
He took a seat on the steps, not coming up onto the porch all the way.
“So, girls. What’s up?”
Carly answered, “I was just getting off work and heading home when I sent Em a text. She said she was here so I thought I’d come say hey.”
Noah nodded at the wine bottle between them, “And have a few.”
“Of course.” Carly said.
“How was work?” Noah asked Carly.
“Same as usual.”
“I don’t know how you do it.,” he said. “I couldn’t be around people all day like that. And be friendly anyway.”
He turned to Emily, “And you? How was your day?”
“It was good actually,” she said with a smile, remembering that morning. He smiled back, showing his dimples.
Sadie, finished with her business, came to meet Noah. After a quick look at him, she sauntered up on the porch. The huge dog took up the remaining space on the small porch. She greeted each person with a sloppy lick, and then went down to lie at Noah’s feet. Her ears perked up when she heard Oscar paw at the door.
“Won’t you let him out?” Noah said.
“I told you, he is crazy. If I let him out, who knows where he’ll go.” Emily protested.
“He’ll listen.” Noah said.
“Okay, but you get to chase him.” Emily said.
“Em, that’s what Noah used to do.” Carly said.
“Chase dogs?” Emily said skeptically.
“No, he worked with the military dogs in the Marines. Sadie was one of his working dogs.”
“Seriously?” Emily said.
“Yeah. He doesn’t like to talk about it too much.”
“So, Carly talks for me apparently.” Noah said, flashing Carly a look. Chastised, Carly looked away.
Emily, glad for the distraction, opened the door for Oscar and he immediately started to shoot out. Noah was fast though and had his collar grabbed before he could get far. After a few simple and soft commands, Noah had the dog sitting and staying. Having Sadie close by helped, Emily was sure. Oscar didn’t seem to want to go too far from her.
Noah finished off his beer and grabbed another one, “So, what do you ladies have planned for this evening?”
“You’re lookin’ at it.” Carly answered.
Emily simply rolled her shoulders. She had no clue what her plans were. Apparently, she was hanging out with Carly and Noah and living in the moment for a change.
Noah noted the magazine that was still resting on the arm of her chair, “Let me guess, my sister decided to come over here and make herself at home.”
“I texted first.” Carly protested.
Emily smiled, “Actually, I’m enjoying it.”
“See?” Carly said to Noah. She gestured to the empty wine bottle, “We’re out again. I’m going to sneak over and grab another. I’ll be right back. You two don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”
Noah gave Emily a wink as Carly left. “My sister is the classic social butterfly.”
“Not so much. I enjoy my solitude. A cold beer with good friends.” he used his beer to point to the two of them. “This is my idea of a good time. Not much into the bar scene. Too crowded. ”
“But, aren’t you part owner of a bar?”
“That’s more Carly’s thing. I just supported her. She’s had it pretty rough the last few years. We both have.”
He didn’t offer any more information and Emily didn’t ask. They drank in silence, watching as Carly came back over.
“I cleaned the shrimp and crabs this afternoon. Do you want me to bring you some?”
“Sure. I’ll cook something.”
“Cook?” Carly asked as she walked up with a bottle of wine under one arm.
“Yeah, we have some shrimp and crabs from our trip.” Noah said.
“Why don’t we cook them up tonight?” Carly suggested.
“We?” Noah asked, raising a dark eyebrow at his sister.
“Okay, I’ll just provide moral support. And drinks.” Carly smiled. “I’ll call Joey; we’ll make a night of it. And he can cook too.”
She picked up her phone to call Joey. After a quick conversation, she hung up. “He’s coming. I’m gonna grab some beer from the bar. I’ll meet ya’ll back over here. You want wine or beer?”
“Whatever you bring is fine.” Emily said.
“Cool.” Carly said. She slipped on her flip-flops and was gone.
“Any idea what you want to cook?” Noah asked her.
“Shrimp and crab obviously.” Emily said.
Noah grinned. “Obviously. How about grilling the shrimp? There’s a built in pit right over there. Joey does this thing where he wraps the shrimp in bacon with some pepper jack cheese. It’s really quite good.”
“That sounds awesome.”
“Well, I’ll wait for him, and we’ll run to the store to pick up whatever we need. What about the crab? Any ideas?”
“How about a crab dip? We’ll keep it simple.”
“Perfect.” he said, “Just make me a list and we’ll pick it up.”
Carly walked up, Ryder beside her. “I found a straggler.” Carly said.
Ryder grinned, “Never turn down a meal from a pretty female. It’s a rule.”
Noah said, “You would if you’d eaten Carly’s cooking.”
“Yeah, but Carly’s not cooking. I know better than that.”
Carly grinned devilishly, “So, Emily, tell Ryder what you’re doing.”
“What do you mean?”
“When I sent you that text earlier. What did you say you were doing?”
“Seasoning my pot?” Emily asked.
“Yes, Ryder. Emily is seasoning her pot today.”
Emily groaned inwardly.
“Is that right?” Ryder asked her. “I bet I can help with that. I have just enough heat to season a pot.”
Emily shook her head, “Ryder, you‘re about to talk yourself out of a free meal.”
Ryder took his black cowboy hat off and put it on Emily’s head, “I think I’m beginning to like you, Miss Emily.”
Soon, they made lists, the guys went to the store, Carly had poured more drinks, and the guys were crowded around the bbq pit, drinking beer and talking football. Emily had fixed the crab dip, and it was bubbling in the oven along with her seasoning pot.
Emily had sent Glinda a text, and she was on her way, with Daniel.
It was becoming a party.
Emily sipped her wine silently, just taking it all in. She kept one eye on Oscar who, unbelievably, was actually behaving himself. Sadie was a good influence on him. She kept him exercised and in check.
Carly got up to go turn the radio on in Joey’s Jeep. “What are we in the mood for tonight, guys?”
“Anything but country.” Noah said.
“How about some 80’s?” Carly asked.
“Fine. Stick to rock though. No Belinda Carlisle for me. No cheese, please.” Noah said, and Joey nodded.
Emily smiled. They had such a comfortable relationship borne from years of togetherness. They were solid, knew each other in and out, and knew that no matter what, they were there for each other. She felt a small pang of envy in her stomach. She had been gone too long to cultivate that kind of friendship with them.
Carly adjusted the radio to an 80’s station and soft music started drifting over to the small circle of chairs they had placed around the fire pit. Later, they would light a fire, Noah had promised as he had placed some firewood down earlier.
Carly and Emily propped their feet up on the rock edged fire pit and sipped their drinks. They watched as Noah and Ryder began setting up chairs and tables they had brought.
“Should we help?” Emily asked.
“Nah. They got that.” Carly said. “It’s our job to sit here and relax.”
“I can handle that.” Emily said.
Carly slid the sunglasses that usually held her blonde hair back down on her nose. “Man, it’s been too long since we did this. I can’t tell you the last time I sat and relaxed. You being here is already a good thing.”
Emily smiled, “Thanks, I guess.”
Glinda and Daniel walked up. Glinda had a bowl in her hands, and Daniel had a bag of French bread.
“Where should we put this, pretty ladies?” Daniel asked.
Carly pointed to the group of guys, “I think they’re putting all the food over there.”
“Have a seat, Glinda, and I’ll take this over there.” Daniel said.
Glinda joined Carly and Emily. “Want a drink?” Carly asked her.
“I’ll take a glass of wine.” she said.
Emily went and grabbed a glass and brought the wine bottle back with her.
“Here you go, Glinda.” Emily said.
Emily leaned back into the chair and sipped her drink.
Ryder walked over to them, a bowl in his hands. He slid into the seat with Emily, sitting on her lap. Emily looked at Carly, who just rolled her eyes.
“Look what I got, Miss Emily. Some potato salad. Wanna get naked?”
Emily shook her head, but laughed when she saw the devilish glint in his eyes.
“Sure?” he asked, grinning.
He sighed dramatically and unfolded his tall body from the seat. He went and set on the chair of Glinda’s seat. “What about you?”
Glinda slapped him on the arm, “If I were about twenty years younger, you’d be in trouble, young man. I’d wear you out! Now, go on and either eat that potato salad or put it up. There will be no wasting food.”
“Yes, ma’am.” he said, and tipped his hat at the women before he rejoined the guys.
Emily checked the time on her phone. She needed to check the crab dip, and put another coat of oil on the pot.
“I’ll be right back,” she told Glinda and Carly.
Emily pulled the hot pot out of the stove and put it safely on a folded dishtowel. She coated a big wad of paper towels with cooking oil.
She looked out the window as she worked. She looked out at Glinda and Carly visiting. Glinda was laughing at something Carly was saying. The guys were still standing around the BBQ pit. Her eyes caught Noah’s and he smiled at her.
She smiled back. Her life was so much better with these people in it. They were her “seasoning.” They added spice, comfort, and love to her life.
She finished up in the kitchen and headed back outside.
“Emily.” Noah called as she walked down the steps. “Come try this shrimp.”
Emily joined the guys at the pit. Noah had a bacon-wrapped shrimp in his hand that he held out to her as she walked up. He held it up to her lips. She hesitated for a moment, and then remembered her promise to herself. She would not turn away.
He popped the shrimp in her mouth. She closed her eyes in rapture. It was heavenly. The bacon, the cheese, the salty shrimp.
“That is incredible.” Emily said to Joey.
“Thanks.” Joey said, smiling.
“Emily!” Carly called and jogged up, Emily‘s phone in her hand. “You’re phone is ringing.”
Emily froze. It was Eddie. She reached out to grab the phone. Carly’s hand slipped, accidentally answering the phone.
“Emily?” She heard Eddie’s voice.
“Who’s that?” Ryder asked, looking at Carly.
“Who is that?” Eddie yelled. “Are you with a man?”
Emily was scrambling to hang up the phone, her hands shaking.
“YOU’RE SUCH A WHORE!” Eddie yelled.
Emily dropped the phone, and was bending down to pick it up, but Ryder beat her to it.
“What did you just say?”
“Oh…Is that right?”
Emily’s stomach was in knots as she listened to the conversation.
“Well, I’ll tell you what. We don’t talk to women like that.”
Emily watched as Ryder’s eyes flashed. “My name is Ryder. R-Y-D-E-R. And I’m right here in Bon Chance, Louisiana. You come right on down. I‘ll be glad to continue this conversation.” He hung up the phone and handed it to Emily.
Emily’s stomach rolled. She was speechless. She felt Noah’s presence beside her. His hand was on her elbow.
“C’mon, Em. Let’s take a walk. Let’s go get some air.”
Emily let Noah lead her away. She heard the group talking as she left.
“Oh my God.” said Carly, “I didn’t mean to answer the phone.”
“What a dick.” said Ryder. “I hope he shows up here.”
“Poor girl.” said Joey.
Their pity and concern made Emily feel worse.
Noah led her a little ways down the beach. Out of sight and hearing from the group.
“Lean over.” he said. “Put your hands on your knees.”
She looked at him questioningly.
“Trust me.,” he said.
She did as he instructed.
“Now. Close your eyes. Breathe in. Breathe out,” he said. “Say it to yourself as you do it. Breathe in. Breathe out.”
He crouched down beside her, and placed a hand on her shoulder.
“Breathe in. Breathe out.”
It worked. Slowly, Emily felt the tension leave her body. Her breathing regulated. She opened her eyes.
“Now, sit down.” he said.
Emily was glad to do it. Her legs still felt shaky. Noah sat down beside her. He didn’t touch her though. He let her keep her distance.
Emily put her elbows on her knees and her face in her hands. She stared at the sand. At her feet. At anything but Noah.
“Why?” she asked.
Noah said nothing. Didn’t ask “why what?” He just sat there.
“I was just standing there in my house. I was looking at all of ya’ll. And I was happy. For the first time in months. I was happy. I forgot what happy even felt like.”
She lifted up her face to look at him.
“How sad is that? How sad is that someone forgets what happy is?” Emily felt tears well up. “He ruined it. He ruined my perfectly happy day. He humiliated me. I am so embarrassed.”
“Why, Emily?” he asked.
“Why?” she asked.
“Why are you embarrassed? You did not do anything wrong.”
“But, nothing. That’s his bad behavior. That has nothing to do with you.” Noah said. “You can’t control that.”
“But, it’s my fault.”
“No, Emily. It’s not. As far as I can tell, you did absolutely the right thing by coming home. You don’t deserve to be treated like that.”
She gave him a shaky smile. “You are right.”
“Yes. I am.” he smiled back. “You okay?”
“I will be,” she said.
“Yes. You will.” he reached out then and pulled her close. Emily rested her head on his shoulder for a second, and closed her eyes. She took a deep breath, and knew that he was right. She would be okay.
The rest of the group had gathered around the fire pit when they returned. Someone had gone ahead and built a fire.
“You just went out two nights ago.” Joey was saying to Carly.
“That was a date, Joey,” she said. “That was not relaxing. I spent the night trying to get rid of a troll. I really have to remember to check height next time. It was not fun having a conversation with a man who was eye level with my boobs. I don’t think he remembers a word I said.”
A shadow flashed on Joey’s face, and then he looked up to see Noah and Emily walking up.
“Hey, ya’ll! We were waiting on you guys to eat. The food’s all ready.”
“The crab dip!” Emily exclaimed. She had forgotten about it.
“I got it, cher.” Glinda said.
“And I took care of your pot.” Ryder grinned. “Looks to me like it needs some more seasoning. It’s not hot enough. It needs some spice.”
Emily smiled. “My pot is fine.”
She looked at the group of them, and looked at Noah. “It’s seasoned perfectly.”
After they had finished, Joey asked, “S’mores anyone?”
Glinda yawned, “I think I’ll pass, but thank you. I think I’ll be heading back up the house.” Daniel nodded also.
“I’d love some S‘mores.” Emily said after Daniel and Glinda had said their goodbyes. She hadn’t had S’mores since she was a kid and her grandparents had taken her camping. They had stayed up making wishes on falling stars and stuffing themselves with chocolate and marshmallows. She remembered one particular wish when she was sixteen. She had wished that Noah Devereaux would kiss her. She smiled. She looked up at the stars and again wished that Noah Devereaux would kiss her. Damn the consequences.
Interrupting her thoughts, Joey tossed her the bag of marshmallows. Noah handed her a weathered stick with a point whittled at the end. She scooted her chair closer to the fire so she could reach. Noah reached for the bag and soon all of them were cooking their marshmallows in relative silence.
“Damnit!” Carly said, shaking out the burning mass on the end of her stick.
“Seriously, Carly?” Joey said. “How do you mess up s’mores?” He grabbed her stick, “Here let me do it.”
She snatched it back, “I can do it.”
Emily glanced at Noah, who only shook his head at her and sipped his beer. Oscar and Sadie, done with their beach inspection and finding all satisfactory, came back to the fire and settled in between Noah and Emily. Oscar sniffed at the stick with the marshmallow on it, but finding it lacking, laid his head down.
Carly and Joey finished their argument and settled back into their seats. Carly stubbornly ate her burnt s’more while Joey laughed at her. “I told you to let me do it.”
She gave him an evil look and finished her s’more. She licked the gooey marshmallow off her fingers then looked at the group, “So, how bout we all do a bar crawl? We’re all off. What do you think?”
Noah said, “Why do we have to do anything? Let’s just relax for now.”
“Okay.” Carly said. “But, soon. We need to take Emily out and show her the sights.”
“We will.” promised Noah.
The rest of the night passed uneventfully. Ryder left early. It was ladies night at Jimmy’s. And they had a live band. So, that just left the four of them. Soon, lulled by the fire, the food, and the company, Emily found herself stifling a yawn.
“It is getting late.” Noah said. “I think I’m about ready to turn in myself. Joey? You want to help me get this stuff cleaned up?”
The four of them made quick work of the mess, and soon Carly and Joey were hugging Emily bye. Noah walked Emily up the stairs to her door. Stopping in front of the door, Emily stopped and looked up at the stars. She wished Noah Deveraux would kiss her.
“Noah?” Emily said. “Thank you.”
“You’re very welcome.”
Emily looked up into his eyes. Emily saw his eyes darken in the pale light of the moon. He leaned over.
Emily flinched and turned away. Noah took a step back. She could see the confusion in his eyes.
“Noah, Noah. I’m sorry.”
A sad smile flickered across his lips. “It’s okay, Emily. Good night.”
Emily watched as he whistled for Sadie, then climbed in his truck and drove away.