"If anyone's interested in making up for last week, I'm willing to reschedule the class," Mel said as she stood in the front of the room with the ingredients of the night's lesson spread out before her. "If not I have the recipe available at the back of the room."
She scanned the room again hoping to find Yancy's tall form in the crowd, but so far she was a no show. After calling her a few times during the week to try and get in touch with her about their botched outing, she still hadn't gotten a return call. If there was any doubts as to whether Yancy was still upset with her, the fact that she wasn't there confirmed them for her.
"Tonight we're making something different with more of an international flare so you can impress your friends the next time you have them over for dinner.
"If you have any friends that is," Yancy joked from the back of the room.
Mel whipped her head up so fast she had to hang on to the counter. "We'll go on the assumption that most of us do." She pointed at Yancy then crooked her finger to make her step forward. "And since you spoke up first you can help me out tonight. We're making Cuban picadillo with plantain casserole everyone, so let's get started."
It didn't take long to put the dish together so the class broke off into groups to talk while it cooked. At the front Mel just stared at Yancy for awhile not saying anything.
"Something you're just dying to say?" Yancy asked.
"Why didn't you call me back?"
When Yancy smiled it made Mel sigh. "Considering you think I'm a self-centered egotist, why would I?"
"I didn't say that."
"What conversation were you involved in?"
"What was it you said about people who answer every question with a question? What are you hiding, Dr. Yancy?"
Yancy put her hand on her chest and opened her eyes as wide as she could. "Me trying to hide something?"
"It's worse than I thought. You like me and you don't want me to know it." Mel had her hand captured by one of Yancy's before she could slap her across the stomach.
When Yancy bent down and whispered in Mel's ear, she didn't miss the way it made Mel shiver. "Even if I like you, I'd be sadly disappointed."
Mel swallowed hard when she looked into Yancy's light gray eyes. "Why would you think that?" She answered in a whisper then glanced to where Yancy was pointing discreetly.
The sight at the end of Yancy's finger was of a male student who had his pants hitched just a little too far up, his shirt appeared to be polyester and he was valiantly trying to start a conversation with the woman closest to him. From the set of her shoulders and the way her eyes were glued to her pot lid both Mel and Yancy could tell she wasn't buying.
"I'd think you'd be more interested in lover boy over there."
The shiver Mel experienced this time had nothing to do with pleasure. "I'm sure he's okay, but why would you think I'm interested in him?"
"He obviously hasn't gotten through life on his looks, or so I'm speculating."
This time Yancy wasn't able to catch Mel's hand before it connected with her stomach. "Not funny and dead wrong."
"So you're superficial and really are interested in looks?"
"You must not date much," Mel said as she stirred her dish and directed everyone to do the same. "Am I right?"
"Lots of first dates, not a whole lot of second ones."
"A player... I see I was somewhat right about you. Are you on call tonight?"
"No, and I didn't see your car in the parking lot when I came in. Need a ride?"
Instead of answering, Mel went back to teaching her class, taking her time as she layered the fried plantains in the pan followed by the picadillo. Since the course promised quick and easy it didn't take long before they were tasting the final product. After the students finished asking their questions, Mel was alone with Yancy again.
"Tell me why you didn't call me back."
"The truth is I was embarrassed." Yancy took another bite of casserole as if to delay saying anything else.
"Embarrassed about what exactly?" Mel stepped closer. "Like you said it was me who screwed up last week by being rude and totally off base with my assumptions."
"Embarrassed about what exactly? You're kidding right?" Using her fork as an imaginary pen, Yancy started ticking off her list. "You're the head chef at Jacqueline's. Jacqueline Brendan, your grandmother, owns six of the top ten restaurants in the city according to the Zagat Guide. And the reason you were given the kitchen at Jacqueline's was because you won some international competition on your first try."
"How do you know all that?"
"I Googled you."
Mel bent over she was laughing so hard because she just knew Yancy wasn't kidding. "Tomorrow night at seven I want you to come to the restaurant so you can have dinner with me. I want to properly apologize and show you I'm not a total social nincompoop. And try your best to leave your phone at home."
"How about tonight?"
"I do need a ride home, so if you'd be so kind, you're going to drop me at my door, then say goodnight and go merrily on your way."
Yancy helped her on with her coat and carried her bag for her. "How about a drink first then we renegotiate the drop off at your front door?" The long pause on Mel's part made Yancy think she'd get her way.
"A malt and that's it."
"No kiss goodnight?"
"The Google search I did on you was rather informative as well, so no." Mel laughed at the shocked expression on Yancy's face but there was no way she was giving in so quickly after her talk with Shelia and her limited but insightful accounting of the rumors about Yancy flying around the hospital when she was a patient.
"You'd make an interesting--"
"You weren't going to say patient were you?" Mel asked with her hands on her hips. She'd stopped so short that Yancy slammed into her back.
"Of course not."
"No analyzing me, so consider yourself warned."
Yancy reached over Mel's head and pushed the door open. "Is that because there's nothing mentally wrong with you, or is it because you're bonkers and you're afraid I'll have you committed?"
"I'd like to think it's because you're interested in something else."
"Then in this case it's you who read my mind because I am."
The fists didn't drop as Mel looked at Yancy skeptically. "What?"
"It's true that you obviously have a great mind but your butt is a thing of beauty." A gust of wind blew the door closed when Yancy let go and pressed her hand to Mel's cheek. "I'm sorry, sometimes I don't know when to quit."
"No need to apologize. I figured that might be something you were interested in when I realized you don't like cucumbers." The weather had chilled Yancy's fingers, but Mel was sure they'd warm up quickly if her blush was as bad as it felt in her ears.
"I didn't think you'd seen that."
Mel snorted as she pinched Yancy. "I did, Ms. Roving Eyes."
"What are you hoping for here then?"
Mel leaned into Yancy's hand and in her gut she knew this wasn't a question Yancy asked often if she'd asked it at all. "You want to cut a deal with me?"
"Does it involve me eating cucumbers?" The joke made Mel shake her head and laugh. Before Yancy had the chance to pull away Mel brought her head down and kissed her lightly on the cheek. "I thought you said no goodnight kiss."
"You owe me a malt so this isn't goodnight, and I promise no cucumbers. What I want from you is that you take some of that advice you probably dish out, and take it one day at a time."
"I'm willing to do that." She opened the door again wanting to sit and just talk with Mel all night. "But why me? You obviously found out a little bit about me, and I can't imagine it was very flattering."
"My grandmother will be happy because I decided to take her advice this time with no argument. I'm going with my gut when it comes to you."
"What's your gut telling you?"
Mel reached for Yancy's hand and led her outside to the car. "You're a dog, Dr. Yancy, but usually if you give a dog a chance it'll prove itself in the loyalty department."
"And you say I have an interesting way of putting things."
How's it going, Charlotte?" Yancy asked her patient the next morning as they walked through the gardens of the hospital. The weather had turned colder but since the sun was out, Charlotte had asked to go out, her new red hat helping to keep her thoughts in her head as well as keeping her warm.
"You were right about those pills. The Martians have visited a couple of times since I saw you last, but my memories of Harvey are so strong I didn't want to bother you."
Taking smaller and slower steps to accommodate Charlotte's petite frame, Yancy put her hand over Charlotte's where it rested in the crook of her elbow. "You're never a bother so please give me a call whenever you feel the need. As for your visitors, did they have any new messages for you?"
"Just two but one thing didn't make sense to me."
"We'll get to that in a minute, but I want to ask you something first. Did you tell your daughter about the visits?" Yancy led her to a bench under one of the old oaks on the property. From her pocket she pulled out a bag of peanuts and handed them to Charlotte so she could feed the squirrels. Within minutes she had a crowd begging for a treat.
"Not since we had our deal. I love her but she doesn't understand."
Yancy nodded as she handed Charlotte another bag knowing the first one wasn't going to last long. "Do you want to stay here for a few more days?"
"I want to stay here as long as you want me to, but after that I don't want to go home."
"Where would you like to go?"
"My sister said I could stay in her guesthouse. I'd rather do that so I can sit in peace and talk to whomever I want."
There was something about this woman that touched Yancy so if it was safe she was going to try to do everything to give Charlotte what she wanted. "You certainly deserve that. So tell me what your visitors told you."
"First they said that they believe the president is still smoking pot, but they didn't have definite proof."
The comment made Yancy laugh, and wished these insightful aliens would start visiting her too. "What else did they say?"
"They had a message for you." Charlotte threw her last peanut out then turned and held Yancy's hand. "They said for you to ask for your eggs over easy."
"My eggs over easy? Did they say why?"
"Something about it being the secret to your happiness. I'm sorry they didn't say more because that's the one I didn't understand."
"That okay, I don't understand it either. Do you mind if I take a look at your sister's place just to make sure you'll be all right?"
"We could go now," Charlotte said clapping her hands together.
Listening to Charlotte's directions they ended up in front of one of the nicest houses in the uptown area. If there was any doubt to Charlotte's lucidity the welcoming house staff put them to rest. In less than an hour Yancy had been introduced to the whole staff, and Charlotte had shown her the spacious guesthouse, as well as her and Harvey's wedding album. The only one not home was Charlotte's sister, but it was plain that the woman had gone through great lengths to make Charlotte feel welcome.
"Looks like you're going to be fine, Charlotte, so just tell me when you want to leave the hospital. I'll still see you once a week, but I have a feeling you'll be happy here."
"Today would be good, and you don't have to worry about me. My little sister said she'd take good care of me. Besides, you need to work on deciphering the message I gave you." Charlotte opened her arms and smiled when Yancy didn't hesitate to hug her. "And you deserve to be happy so I hope you figure it out quickly."
Yancy made sure Charlotte's seatbelt was on before closing the car door smiling at her generous nature. On the way to the driver's side Yancy's phone started ringing and she was surprised to see Mel's name on her caller i.d. "Did you put a toothbrush in my medicine cabinet too?" she joked, considering the only way the name was in her phone's memory was because Mel put it there some time the night before.
"I just wanted to see if you'd screen your calls if you knew it was me." The bar at Jacqueline's was empty because of the early hour, so Mel was enjoying the quiet while she waited for her bookkeeper.
"Did I pass my first test then?"
"When a nurse stands in front of you in only a garter belt and all you do is walk way, then you'll pass your fist test, Dr. Yancy." She waved to her bookkeeper then put her hand up to put him off for a few more minutes. "I didn't scare you off last night did I?"
"Not yet. Are we still on for tonight?"
"It'll be a different kind of date, but we sure are. So get back to work, doc, so you can get out in time."
"See you at seven then."
After dropping Charlotte off at the hospital with her discharge papers, and calling Andy to apologize for standing her up, Yancy decided to take the rest of the day off. For the first time in her life she wanted to do everything she could to impress a girl enough so that the next date would be a given.
"Welcome back, Dr. Yancy," the hostess said when she spotted Yancy coming in with a large bouquet of yellow roses. "Mel said she was expecting you, and she's going to love those."
"I hope so since I don't usually buy flowers unless there's been a death."
"Would you like a drink? If you have a seat at the bar I'll go back and let Mel know you're here."
As Gail stepped into the kitchen, the back door opened and Jacqueline walked in. It seemed surreal since the kitchen was going full throttle for the overbooked Thursday night, but for a split second everything came to a halt. Before Mel could say anything one of her crew came over with a set of spoons for Jacqueline to do her usual tasting.
"I'd say you aren't happy to see me, but you've set a beautiful table," Jacqueline said referring to the chef's table as she started taking her gloves off.
The table was set for two and Mel had come in early to start some things so she could sit and enjoy it once Yancy arrived. "Gran, what are you doing here?" Mel asked them then snapped her mouth shut appalled at how she imagined that sounded.
"I was coming for visit, but I have a feeling I'm interrupting something."
"Mel?" Gail pointed in the direction of the bar.
"You're not in the way, Gran, so have a seat." She pointed to one of the waiters, "Freddie, set another place please, and Gail could you get Yancy for me."
"Yancy who?" Jacqueline asked as the waiter laid her napkin on her lap.
"My date for tonight so please try and behave."
"If it was your mother you'd have a reason to worry, but she's with you father in Florida enjoying the fruits of our labor."
"He was about to have a heart attack from the stress, Gran, and I don't want to get into that argument with you right now."
"I can come back later if you want to duke it out, but if there's going to be a food fight I'm staying," Yancy said from the door. She handed the roses over when Mel came closer and kissed her on the cheek. "Want to reschedule?"
"Not unless you do, but I didn't plan this so don't feel obligated."
"Are you kidding me, lady? I bought flowers and a new shirt so you owe me dinner. Just tell me who I'm having dinner with."
Taking a deep breath to settle her nerves, Mel pulled Yancy into the kitchen. "Gran, this is Yancy Allemond." She reached for Yancy's left hand as Jacqueline stood up. "Yancy, I'd like to introduce you to Jacqueline Brendan, my grandmother."
"Ma'am, it's a pleasure," Yancy held out her hand and reluctantly let Mel go when Jacqueline pulled her forward and into the chair next to hers. "Mel's spoken so fondly of you."
"Please, if you're in Melody's kitchen then she likes you, so no need to butter me up."
Looking at Mel as she answered, Yancy smiled and it made the skin around her eyes crinkle. "A woman who doesn't mince words, I like that."
"Only garlic and nuts need to be minced," Mel said as she smiled back. "That's what Gran always says." She accepted the flowers back from one of the staff after they'd put them in water for her and placed them at the center of the table. "I believe I promised to feed you," she said to Yancy. "Will you be okay?"
"You promised different, and having your grandmother here certainly is that." Yancy rested her hand over Mel's where she'd rested it on the table. "I'm kidding and I promise it'll be fine."
"Why are you here, Yancy?" Jacqueline asked as soon as Mel stepped away. She spoke softly since they were as alone as they were going to get.
"I'm having dinner."
"Nuts and garlic, remember what Mel just said, so don't try to bullshit me." She nodded to the waiter who put down the soup bowls.
"I took cooking lessons as a way to break out of my normal routine, and as a promise to myself."
"There's something so wrong with your life that you need to change it?"
The soup looked so good she tried a spoonful before she went on. "Change doesn't just come about because something's wrong, Mrs. Brendan. It is imperative to learn new things to make us grow. If not, what's the point?"
"How lucky for you to have found not only a good teacher but such an affluent one," Jacqueline said before taking a taste of soup herself. Yancy's laughter wasn't what she was expecting.
"You think I'm after her money?" She kept her voice low but couldn't help but let an incredulous tone bleed into her question.
"You wouldn't be the first."
"If that's what you're worried about you can sit back and enjoy you soup. I like Mel because she's not afraid to kick my ass when she thinks I need it, and she's only known me three weeks. She's only spoken directly to me for one of the three, and she was quite frank about laying down a firm set of ground rules. So give Mel some credit. She's quite capable of taking care of herself and her bank account."
The soup dishes were cleared away and Mel walked the next course over herself. "How was it?"
"Spectacular," Yancy said accepting the salad Mel handed her.
"Good, start on our house salad with our house dressing and I'll be able to sit down with you two for the next course." She turned when she was about three feet from the table and said, "And I promise--no cucumbers."
Yancy laughed and shook her head as she picked up her fork and took her first bite. The combination of different greens Mel's staff had put together was delicious but there was something slightly off that was causing a tingling in her mouth. Without trying to be rude Yancy started turning over lettuce trying to find the only thing she could think it could be.
"Problem?" Jacqueline asked.
"No, just curious as to what they put in here," Yancy took another bite to put Jacqueline's fears to rest. It was like eating ants but it was strange because the only thing that caused this reaction was the one thing she couldn't find in the plate.
"Are you sure you're all right?"
Yancy pulled at her collar and tried to drink some water, which mostly dribbled down her new shirt as her mouth started to go numb. She clutched at her belt until she found her phone and pressed her speed dial for Andy. Jacqueline had to take the phone from her when Yancy's speech was slurred and her tongue appeared not to fit in her mouth.
"She said no ambulance, and back door," Jacqueline repeated what Yancy was muttering.
"What's wrong?" Mel asked in a panic.
With each passing minute Yancy's tongue got bigger and she drooled more. "Andy tell you," she was able to get out so they'd understand.
"Who's Andy?" Jacqueline asked just as the back doors of the restaurant burst open.
The young woman with jet black hair didn't ask questions, just scanned the room, found Yancy and stuck a syringe into her. "Breathe, Yance, breathe for me." Andy shook her head as she searched for what had set off Yancy's bizarre food allergy. The salad had to be the culprit so she took a bite. "My God, this is delicious. Is it cilantro in the vinaigrette?"
"It's an effusion of cilantro, kiwi, balsamic vinegar and virgin olive oil," Mel answered, thinking it was strange conversation to be having considering what was going on.
"Cilantro and kiwi, Yance? Either the girl is trying to kill you or you didn't mention this rather entertaining side effect when you eat those particular items," Andy scolded as she kept an eye and her hand on Yancy's chest.
"She's allergic to cilantro and kiwi?" Mel asked.
"She is, and she's going to have to cut the evening short for a little trip to the emergency room I'm afraid." Andy stood up as Peter came in. "A little help here, babe."
"Sorry," Yancy got out as Peter and Andy practically dragged her through the door. The injections Andy had given her had drained the color from her face and the energy from her body.
"Here, Mel," Jacqueline handed over Mel's purse. "Get going and I'll take care of things here. I asked, they're headed to Tulane."
Two hours later Andy jotted some notes in Yancy's chart and smiled at how Mel was fast asleep on the stool with her head on the bed next to Yancy's hand. "You should've known after the first bite," she whispered.
"Sorry, Andy, but I didn't want to hurt her feelings."
"Either you're an idiot or you're in love, I haven't decided yet."
"People don't fall in love in a week." Yancy could feel Mel's breath on the back of her hand every time she exhaled, and Mel's hand felt really good on her forearm since she'd fallen asleep wanting to touch Yancy's skin.
"One of these days the brilliant but clueless Dr. Yancy will have to figure something out."
"Not to eat cilantro?"
"No, that people who belong together fall in love overnight all the time, and, Dr. Yancy, not even you are immune to that."
Their conversation was low but it still stirred Mel. "Are you all right?" she asked as soon as she was coherent.
"It's a little strange but the allergy medicine makes her heart beat erratically so I didn't have a choice but to bring her in," Andy said.
"What exactly are you allergic to again?" The way she was intently staring at Yancy was a clue to the fact that she didn't want the answer sugarcoated.
"Cilantro and kiwi."
"I thought that was right. Cilantro is one of the most distinctive flavors I cook with."
Yancy stared blankly at her, but blamed her lack of understanding on the loop the night had thrown her for. "Ah, true," Yancy took a stab at the conversation, making Andy hold the folder up to her mouth to try and cover up the snort that escaped.
"You're a complete idiot," Mel raised her voice as she came up off her stool. "Why in the hell didn't you tell me?"
"It's not really something that comes up in normal conversation."
Mel took a deep breath and glanced at Andy. "Will I kill her if I slap her on the head?"
"What did I do?" Yancy asked.
"You ate something that could've killed you, that's what," Mel's voice rose a little higher. "Why'd you do that?"
"I felt bad since you went through all that trouble. It was worth a little discomfort on my part not to be rude."
"Honey, your tongue swelling to ten times its normal size is not a little discomfort." The way Mel sunk back down to her seat made it seem like the air had been let out of her sails.
The use of the endearment put a smile on Yancy's face that Andy echoed because of what she was seeing. "Now that you have the use of your mouth back, would you like to introduce us?" Andy asked. Yancy did as she was told then cocked her head toward the door when Mel wasn't looking. "Finish the drip then I'm taking you home, so don't even think about trying to make a run for it."
"Whatever you want," Yancy agreed just to get Andy out quicker. "I'm really sorry for ruining your night," she said to Mel.
"You're washing dishes for me if my grandmother scares away any of my staff."
"I'll be happy to." Yancy sat up and opened the drawer of the cabinet next to the bed and pulled out a Band-Aid.
"What are you doing?"
The IV catheter came out smoothly and Yancy tore the Band-Aid package open with her teeth. "I'm checking myself out."
"Andy said you had to finish that," she pointed to the bag hanging over the bed.
"That's more of a suggestion like, try the fish it's really good," she swung her legs over and scanned the room for her clothes.
"You're not leaving."
"I promise it's all right. If you remember I'm a Dr. Allemond too. I actually had to attend medical school before they allowed me to move on to head shrinking school." Her clothes were in the small closet by the door and Yancy didn't waste any time stripping off the hospital gown.
The sight of Yancy standing there in her underwear knocked the fight right out of Mel. Yancy might have been a sweet idiot in her opinion, but she was also a well proportioned one.
"Why are you wearing underwear with hearts on them?"
"Andy buys them for me on Valentine's Day every year," Yancy hopped around trying to get her clothes on as if realizing just how uncovered she was.
"I didn't realize you were so close."
"Eww," Yancy experienced a full body shiver that made Mel laugh. "She fell in love with my practice partner Peter and she feels sorry for me because I never have a Valentine. It's her favorite day of the year, so much so that she picked it as her wedding day. Corny I know but that's Andy."
"Are you saying you have no romantic notions, Dr. Yancy?"
"You'll have to keep going out with me to find out. How about dinner tomorrow night?" She tucked her shirt in then wrote out her discharge papers.
"Tomorrow's Friday and I have a full house until closing."
"Then I'll have to think of something else." With a quick peek to make sure no one would stop their leaving, Yancy pointed Mel toward the exit. "Did you drive?"
Mel had parked illegally close to the emergency room, but her car was untouched by the constantly hovering security guards. "Can I ask you something?"
"Why you what?" Yancy was as confused as her question sounded.
"Never mind." The way Mel shrugged made Yancy think she was hiding something.
"You don't have to be afraid of any answer that I give you. If you want to know something then just ask and I swear I'll be honest."
"Compared to the women fawning over you in there, I'm kind of plain. So why me?"
"I remember asking you the same thing, so I wouldn't think you'd be unsure of yourself. The real question you should ask is why not you? And you're anything but plain. You're not only beautiful, but you're unique."
Mel slapped her again then started the car. "Buttering me up still won't get you a date tomorrow."
"Ah, a challenge. I do love those."
"If this woman sends her food back one more time I'm going to spit in it," the waitress said as she handed the plate back to Mel.
"What's wrong this time?"
"It's got crabmeat in it."
"Of course it's got crabmeat in it," Mel hissed. "It's fish with lump crabmeat like it says on tonight's menu. Did she think we were kidding about that?"
"I didn't say she wasn't crazy, I'm just passing on what she said."
The word crazy made Mel think of Yancy, and the list of reasons she'd come up with as to why she hadn't called. Leading the reasons was death by cilantro, but she figured one mad rush to the emergency room was enough for the week for Yancy to chance doing something else to jeopardize her health.
Mel grilled another piece of fish and served it without any extras. "Make sure she knows it's fish and not chicken that we describe on the menu as fish with crabmeat."
"Just think, she's the last one and it's not quite midnight," the waitress joked on her way out.
"It's a good thing because I don't feel like cooking another thing."
"Have a good one, Mel," her second chef told her as she headed for the back door.
"See you guys tomorrow." On the weekends she parked in the loading dock since there were no deliveries brought in, but tonight in addition to her Honda she found Yancy sitting on her hood in a pair of old jeans.
"Hey there, Chef Brendan, how are you feeling tonight?"
She closed the door not wanting an audience then leaned against it wanting to just enjoy the view. "I'm guessing I should be asking you that question, Dr. Yancy."
"I'm great. Anything that was wrong with me was cured by fifteen hours of sleep, but now I have a dilemma." She spread her arms out then let them drop to her thighs.
"Actually I have two dilemmas, or is that dilemi?" she joked. "I'm wide awake for one, and I was sitting at home missing you."
"Since you're here I'd think that would take care of the second problem," Mel said sounding inordinately pleased with Yancy's proclamation.
"True, but now that I see you I just realized I have one more thing I should really be upset about."
Mel didn't move from the door but her eyes followed Yancy the whole way up the stairs. "Anything I can do to make that better?"
"Maybe," Yancy stopped about five feet from her and cocked her head to the side. "You see last night, I was really looking forward to spending time with you, but there was something I was really looking forward to and my idiotic actions robbed me of the chance."
"What, the entrée?"
"I'm sure it was fabulous, but no." She closed the gap by a foot.
"Lord knows I fell for your desserts before I met you, but no." Another foot between them disappeared.
"The stimulating conversation?"
"You are stimulating all right, but wrong again." One step closer left them a foot apart.
The cold steel of the door bit into Mel's hands when she pressed harder into it to keep from reaching out and touching Yancy. "I give up then, what are you upset about?"
"The goodnight kiss I missed out on." Yancy put her hands on either side of Mel's head.
"It must have not been memorable then because I did give you one when I dropped you off."
"Then it must be that I'm upset about the fact I haven't gotten to kiss you again." Not thinking she'd be rebuffed Yancy lowered her head and stopped right before her lips reached Mel's. She got the reaction she was hoping for when Mel reached up and pulled her the rest of the way down.
"I can see your point," Mel went back and kissed her again. "That is something worth getting upset over."
"How tired are you?"
"Actually you're like a vitamin shot, so I can go on for a little while longer."
"Good, I know just the way to relax you before you retire for the night."
They took Yancy's car down to Lake Pontchartrain, and held hands as they walked up the levee and down the other side until they were close to the water. Yancy had brought a blanket and thermos with her and Mel was content to sit and put her head on Yancy's shoulder after she was handed a mug of hot chocolate.
"You were right about something you told me," Mel said after they'd been sitting there for awhile.
"Sometimes being in the dark is the nicest place to be," she lifted her head and could just make out Yancy's face from the little sliver of moon there was out that night. Even though the city was right behind them she felt totally alone with Yancy and it was the nicest thing that had happened to her in a long time.
"Who knew learning how to cook would be so life changing," Yancy said before kissing her again.
"The question that remains is how many semesters are you in for?"
Before Yancy could answer a seemingly disoriented gull flew right toward her opposite side and embedded its beak into her shoulder. The sudden stabbing pain made her howl and knock Mel out of the way to get the thing away from her. In the sudden commotion, Yancy jumped and started swatting the bird as it headed toward Mel. In the excitement she tripped over her feet, falling and landing on her back. As soon as she landed, the pain in her shoulder was replaced by the pain of hitting her head on a rock as she landed.
"I hate to say this, but I think we need to make another trip to the emergency room," Yancy said as she ran her hand along the back of her head. When her hand came back wet and sticky it made her breathing deepen.
"Oh Jesus, what happened to your head?" Even in the dark Mel could see the blood staining Yancy's hair and the back of her LSU sweat shirt.
"I hit a rock, and the rock won."
When they got back to the car, Mel hanging on to Yancy the whole way since she was dizzy from the fall, Yancy handed over the keys to her car. "You're letting me drive?"
"I don't want to get us in an accident so yes. Just keep in mind the three years it took me to get this car to look like this," she joked.
The powerful engine was too much for Mel to pass up and she sped her way to the hospital. Since the car had parking tags given to the doctors on staff, she was able to park right in the front. She ran around to help Yancy out and flagged down one of the orderlies to get a wheelchair not wanting Yancy to fall again.
Two of the nurses came in and cleaned both wounds and called for Andy who happened to be there seeing one of her patients. From the appearance of her head wound, it was going to need just a couple of stitches to keep it closed.
"When I said it wouldn't kill her if you hit her on the head, I'd have thought you'd have been gentler in your approach," Andy said to Mel when she walked in. "I don't know about this one, Yance," she joked as she prepared to start suturing.
"Take a girl out to look at the stars and get attacked by a rabid seagull. I could write a book I tell you." Yancy reached over to Mel who was sitting next to her and took hold of her hand. "Maybe it's the Martians."
"What did you say?" Mel asked.
"Nothing, just forget I said anything. What I need to be concentrating on is planning a date where we don't end the evening with my sister administering some sort of medical assistance."
Andy finished up on the back of her head and came around to examine her shoulder. "I don't mind really, remember we have a wedding to pay for," Andy kept up her teasing. "Do you have a date for next weekend yet?" She smiled sweetly at Yancy and squeezed the wound gently to remind Yancy to be nice.
"What's next weekend?" Mel asked sounding like a woman who if Yancy was willing to ask someone else out on a date there would be more mending to do on Yancy's body once she got through with her.
"Andy and Peter's engagement party his parents are throwing them, and I haven't had a chance to ask you. Are you free next weekend? I know Saturdays are probably not good for you, but I thought you might like to go with me."
"I'll work something out because I'd love to go with you," Mel said pretty much sealing their fate to another trip to the hospital.
"What happened to you this week, Dr. Yancy?" Charlotte asked as she poured two cups of tea. She'd convinced Yancy to start having their sessions in her sister's garden near the pool and Yancy had agreed finding it a nice respite from the hospital and her office. The reason she'd asked the question this week was because Yancy was on crutches. They'd been meeting here for four weeks and every week Yancy came with some new injury.
"I fell over a horse trough in the French Quarter and sprained my ankle."
"I'm not going to ask but that's quite a list of injuries you've accumulated."
Yancy picked up her cup and nodded. "I've gotten more stitches, and been wrapped up more in the last month than I did growing up."
"Are you having fun though?"
The weather had turned colder making it a little uncomfortable to be outside, but the garden was still full of color from the blooming camellias Yancy noticed behind Charlotte's head. And the relaxed atmosphere seemed to put Charlotte in the mood to chat more openly. "These sessions are supposed to be a time we set aside to talk about you."
"Oh phooey, I'm an old woman who has nothing interesting to say that I need an hour a week to do it in. I'm taking my pills, haven't disinherited by daughter for thinking I'm crazy, and I talk to Martians. Hardly worth your drive over here if you ask me, so I like hearing about you because I worry about you and you're my friend. Aside from my sister and my great niece I don't feel like I have too many of those."
"Does it help that as your doctor I can honestly tell you that you're one of the sanest people I know?"
"You should get married and have children, Dr. Yancy. I think you'd make a wonderful spouse." Charlotte stood up and held out her hand after Yancy had drained her cup.
After walking the gardens for weeks, Yancy was still amazed that someone had been able to amass such a large parcel of land in the middle of Uptown New Orleans. If she had to guess the yard of the grand old mansion took up an entire city block. Aside from a menagerie of plants and trees, the yard held two guest houses one of which Charlotte was living in.
"Why do you think so?"
"When I met Harvey, the man was a clumsy fool. Ended up breaking four bones in the first five months of our relationship, but he kept coming back for more. Sound like anyone you know?" She squeezed Yancy's arm and laughed. "Turned out that every fall he took threw him further in love with me. You have the same look he did, and I already know about your good heart, so it's a given that whoever this lucky girl is, she'd be a fool to let you get away."
"How'd you know it was a lucky girl?" Yancy asked while thinking she was going to have to start bringing her checkbook to pay Charlotte for her time.
"You have your bust of Freud, and I have my little men from outer space. They tell me all I need to know."
"That's your reason for me getting married, but why do you think I should have kids?"
The long sigh Charlotte let out made Yancy realize she'd be making this weekly outing for some time to come. "Because they will prove to you just how mentally strong you are. If they don't drive you nuts when they're small, then they'll drive you to drink when you're old."
"Give it time, and I'm sure she'll come around. After all my talks with your daughter I do believe that she has your best interests at heart. She just needs to learn to not be so set in her ways and give allowances for certain things."
"Like what, accepting the fact that I'm nuts because I talk to Martians?"
"I was thinking more along the line of her having faith in you, and accepting what you're saying on that same faith. Like I keep telling you, I can't prove you're talking to Martians, but I can't prove you're not. What I am worried about is your overall well being and that you're as comfortable and happy as possible." She waved her arm around the garden. "And from the looks of this place, you're doing pretty good. When am going to meet your sister?"
"Do you need to?" Charlotte stopped suddenly pulling them both to a stop.
"Not necessarily but since she's taken over your care I thought she might have some questions for me. If she's taking good care of you though, and you don't want us to meet, then we don't necessarily have to."
"It's just that she's a busy woman and I don't want to be a bother."
"Does she give you that impression?" Yancy turned them around to head back to the guesthouse Charlotte was staying in.
"Heck no. She comes down every morning and every afternoon to have a chat. It's just like old times."
"Well you just call me if you need me and I'll see you next week."
Charlotte squeezed Yancy's hand and smiled when she leaned over and opened the door for her. "You take care of yourself and have fun with your girl."
"Thanks, I'll try and pay attention to keep my bones intact," Yancy joked.
Yancy let out a curse when she tripped over one of her crutches and hit the side of her car when her cell phone went off. "I should've known it was you, menace." She tried to bleed the pain out of her voice since her ankle was now throbbing again.
"How's your foot?"
"About the same as the last time you asked me an hour ago. Stop feeling guilty, Mel. It's not like you knocked me over the horse trough on purpose." Very carefully she eased into the car after putting her crutches in the backseat. "You didn't by chance knock me down on purpose did you?"
"Stop joking about that, I feel horrible enough as it is."
The sounds of yelling and pots being moved around meant Mel was at work already. "If I'd been paying attention, I would've caught you when you jumped off the carriage, I'm just glad I broke your fall. What's on the menu tonight and do you need any advice?"
"You just completed one cooking class you're ready to give advice?"
"Considering my fantastic teacher, I feel comfortable answering yes to that," Yancy kept up her teasing.
"What do you want if you're buttering me up this much?"
"I want plenty of things believe me, but we actually have to make it through a date without getting hurt before we can get to that." The beautiful homes of the uptown area gave way to the buildings of the warehouse district as Yancy maneuvered downtown. "Are you busy?"
"I'm cooking but I want you here like you promised me."
"Don't worry, I'm hungry and I'm close."
"Just like I like you, Dr. Yancy," Mel said before the line went dead.
"Do you have everything?" Peter asked two weeks later during their walk through the grocery.
"I've got everything you put on the neatly typed list you gave me, yes."
"Do you think it's weird that I'm getting married tomorrow and I'm at the grocery?" He just went through the motions of taking whatever Yancy handed him and putting it in his cart, but she seriously doubted he was all there.
"No," Yancy started ticking off things from the list Mel had given her at lunch. The accidents during their dates had gotten better in that they didn't require a visit to Andy afterward, but they were still happening. It didn't prevent them from having lunch together everyday and Mel from coming over on her days off and cooking her dinner. All that time together and having given up sex meant that Yancy had gotten to know Mel better than any other woman in her life aside from Andy.
"Not any weirder than the fact you're getting married on a Wednesday. Maybe I'm just used to going to weddings where they give me the weekend to recover from all the fun I've had."
"So did you get everything?" He asked again as if their talk had just started.
"Come along, big boy, and let's get you home and into bed so your brain will come back from wherever it's run off to."
Yancy brought him home and picked him up the next day so she could help him get dressed. Peter's severe attack of nerves was making him have trouble with things like buttons and stringing words together so Yancy was glad she was there for him. In a generous move, Mel offered to do the same for Andy considering Yancy couldn't be in two places at once.
The ceremony was beautiful with Yancy giving away the bride then standing up for Peter as his best woman. Every so often Yancy's eyes would stray from the couple to Mel. As her feelings for Mel grew, she could see herself taking the leap Andy and Peter had embarked on.
"I now pronounce you man and wife," the priest said shaking Yancy from her thoughts.
"They make a great couple," Mel told Yancy as they danced at the reception.
"He's a lucky guy, but then again so is Andy. I've known Peter since med school, and while he can't grocery shop by himself to save his life, he's deeply in love with my sister."
Mel lifted her head from Yancy's shoulder and peered up at her. "How about you, Dr. Yancy? Are you the marrying kind?"
"Had you asked me that a few months ago I would've had no problem saying no."
"But now?" The music stopped and the band's lead singer made an announcement about something that neither of them heard.
"Now I see it's not something to fear, but instead something I need." Yancy answered softly right before Andy's bouquet landed between them and Mel reached for it before it hit the ground. "It's a good thing too, huh?" Yancy joked as the rest of the guests applauded while she kissed the girl.
Jacqueline's driver had brought Mel to the church so she gladly followed Yancy to her car when their urge to be alone was greater than their urge to stay and have fun at the reception. "We're closer to my place, so would you like to come over for a drink?"
Their short drive was quiet except for Mel's directions. Yancy didn't say anything but the streets were very familiar. When Mel pointed to the drive they needed to pull into, Yancy stopped in front of the house first and waited for Mel to make eye contact with her.
"Is there a problem?" Mel asked.
"You live here?" She pointed to the large house.
"Gran actually lives in the big monstrosity with my grandfather, and us peons live out back. Why?"
"Do you know Charlotte?" It was a stupid question but this was just too bizarre.
"Of course, she's my great aunt. Aunt Charlotte is Gran's older sister." Mel reached over and put her hand on Yancy's cheek. "How do you know... wait... you're the wonderful doctor she keeps going on about. Aren't you?"
"You all aren't interested in who she's seeing?"
"Of course we are, but she's close to seventy-one-years old and she told us her head was her business. Just like the person helping her with the wiring was her business so we decided not to push."
"Sounds like Charlotte."
Mel laughed at the assessment. "That's not a problem is it?"
The gate opened when Yancy punched in the code she used every week, then came around, opened Mel's door and scooped her out of the car. She stepped carefully through the garden in the moonlight, but never let go of Mel until she reached the door of the second guesthouse across the courtyard from the one Charlotte occupied.
"I'm experiencing only one problem right now," Yancy said as she placed Mel on her feet.
"Anything I can do to help? Or better yet, maybe I should ask what it is?"
"I think I might rupture something if I have to go another minute without touching you."
Even though all Yancy wanted to do was start unbuttoning the black dress Mel had on she took her time and looked around the room they were in. There were a multitude of what appeared to be family photos scattered among the hundreds of books on the shelves along the walls. The furniture was a deep brown leather, that looked comfortable, especially the one chair close to the large bay window that had a commanding view of the gardens. Next to the chair was a stack of old, well used cookbooks with papers sticking out the sides as if marking pages.
"What do you think now, Chef Brendan?" Yancy closed the door and locked it.
"Think about what?" The bouquet Andy had carried was beautiful but Mel dropped it on the coffee table freeing her hands to put them on Yancy's chest.
"That first night we went out you had a definite opinion of me, so what do you think now?" Before Mel could reach anything interesting, Yancy grabbed her gently by the wrist and reversed their positions so Mel was pressed against the door. "Surely you've had a chance to revise your initial findings."
"It might require more research but I think I was wrong about you, but not completely," Mel got out before she moaned as Yancy kissed along her neck.
"Decided that have you?" Yancy held both of Mel's hands with one of hers so she could lower one of her dress straps.
"I was wrong about you being an egotist, but I wasn't wrong about the good looks," Mel pulled one of her hands free so she could run her fingers through Yancy's hair. "That I was dead on right about. You're so beautiful it makes me crave looking at you."
"Crave? I don't think anyone has ever told me that before, so thank you." Yancy lowered the other strap and placed a kiss on the naked shoulder. "And I think you're wrong about that. Compared to you I'm marginally attractive. The real beauty in the room is also the most talented in the kitchen."
"You are good, Dr. Yancy. Such a charmer wrapped in such a delicious package, but you don't have to try so hard. This isn't our first date and I'm so looking forward to more than just a good night kiss."
The zipper of Mel's dress filled the silence as she reached back and lowered it herself. Her bra came next, followed by the black panties. As soon as the dress had hit the floor Yancy had let go of her.
The guest house had the living room they were standing in, a small kitchen and dining area, and a small sunroom in the back. Even though Yancy had seen a glimpse of every room when she came in her eyes were now glued to the spiral staircase at the back of the room. Mel had her foot on the first step and she appeared to be enjoying the way Yancy's eyes roamed over her nakedness.
"Do you think you can make it up the stairs without killing yourself?" Mel asked as she moved to the next step. "I really need you in one piece and Andy's most probably starting her honeymoon by now."
Yancy's suit jacket hit the ground adding to the pile of clothing on the floor, but before she could unfasten the first button Mel crooked her finger at her. "Leave the shirt?"
"For the moment," Mel reached for her hand then started up the stairs. At the top was a loft bedroom with almost a tree house feel to it because of the windows and sky lights. When Mel opened her mouth to say something else Yancy kissed her.
Slowly she ran her hands from Mel's shoulders down her back until she reached the butt she'd admired from the first day of class. When she squeezed, Mel ran her foot up her leg almost as an encouragement for Yancy to keep going. As the kiss deepened, Mel's feet came off the ground and wrapped around Yancy's waist.
Without breaking their kiss, Yancy turned and sat on the bed so she could move her hands more freely without dropping Mel on the floor. They both moaned when Yancy ran her fingers up Mel's sex finding the abundant evidence of just how turned on she was.
"Wait," Mel grabbed her by the wrist sure that if those magic fingers reached her throbbing clitoris it would be over too quickly.
"Wait?" Yancy sat back and put her hands on the bed in an effort to control herself from touching Mel. "Is something wrong?"
"Nothing's wrong, honey," Mel reassured her by framing Yancy's face with her hands. "I just have something for you and I wanted to give it to you."
The walk across the room made Mel feel self-conscious but one glance at the bed boosted her ego considering the way Yancy's eyes stayed glued to her the whole time. Finally having Yancy here was something she'd been fantasizing about, but the reality was more intense than she'd imagined.
After all the time they'd spent together, Mel knew just how good Yancy was at making you feel like the center of her universe, but it wasn't some come on or play acting. Mel was sure it had something to do with her profession, but whatever it was, it didn't matter. She rather enjoyed being the focus of Dr. Yancy's attention, because right now, the intensity of her stare was making her nipples painfully hard.
"Can I convince you to look for whatever it is later so you can come back and sit on my lap?"
Mel walked out of her closet with her hands behind her back and a smile. "Only if you answer one important question for me." She was teasing and about to bring her hands forward when something stopped her when Yancy cocked her head to the side.
When heartbeats passed and Yancy said nothing else Mel took another step closer. "Yes... what?" she asked sounding confused.
"I love you."
"You love me?" The usually oh so confident Dr. Yancy now looked like the proverbial deer caught in the headlights at Mel's question. It made her ache to have put such doubt in the one moment she'd been waiting on for what seemed like forever.
Before Mel could reverse the mood, Yancy tried damage control. "I know you might not be ready for that so I'm sorry."
"You don't love me then? If you don't I'm not sure I want to ask you my question then."
Yancy blinked as if realizing she'd revealed her feelings without having to, but from the size of her smile it also appeared as if she felt good about it. "I adore you, but more importantly I love you so ask away."
When Mel brought her hands forward what was in them solidified the fact that she not only wanted the same things as Yancy but that she was able to read between the lines of the conversations they'd had so far. As much as Yancy loved her sister, there was a void in her life that only a committed partner could fill.
"Would you be my Valentine?" Mel asked as she handed her a pair of boxers with hearts all over them wrapped with a red bow. "You can only answer yes," she gave into Yancy's wish and sat back down on her lap, "if you love me."
"Thank you and so you don't think it's all one sided, I love you too. The other thing is I only want you wearing the underwear I pick out for you from now on, but don't worry, I've already informed Andy of that as well."
Mel would have kept up her teasing, but the teasing Yancy was now doing after putting her gift down next to her was driving Mel's passions more than her thought process. Yancy had spread her legs just far enough so that she could run her fingers through her wetness stopping just where Mel most wanted Yancy, but only long enough to make her want to start begging.
"If you really love me you'd go inside," Mel was finally able to pant out. It felt like she would just shatter apart if Yancy didn't finish what she'd started.
The plea only made Yancy slow down even more. That meant every pass over her
stone hard clitoris was longer but not nearly long enough to bring the relief Mel wanted. "I do love you, and I want to make it last long enough so that you'll know it."
Mel let out a moan and dug her fingers into Yancy's shoulder at the declaration. For some unexplained reason the thought of Cream of Crabmeat soup popped into her head and her grandmother's thoughts on what could be better.
The wetter she got, the faster Yancy started to go, with each pass her fingers delving deeper to the place Mel wanted her and the walls of her sex clutching at her like they wanted Yancy to stay and fill up the want and sate her desire. It was as if every cell in her body came alive but she narrowed her focus down to just a precious few things--how the fabric of Yancy's shirt felt under her hands, how beautiful Yancy's eyes looked as she tried to focus on her face, and the sound of her own breathing raging in her ears as she tried to make the moment last. And that she did.
The orgasm though couldn't be held back anymore and she reached down for Yancy's wrist again, but this time stopping her was the last thing on her mind. What she wanted was for Yancy to just stop a minute so she could enjoy the fullness of having Yancy coming home to where she belonged. While New Year's resolutions may have brought them together, it was with her that Yancy belonged. Mel's new resolution was to do everything she could to build a home for them so that Yancy never left. As the spasms ended she'd found her answer to what was better than Cream of Crabmeat soup, and Yancy was that hands down.
"What's the smile for?" Yancy asked.
"If you have to ask that, then obviously the women who came before me weren't very articulate when it came to telling you just how fabulous you are."
Yancy's laugh shook her but Mel was glad to see that she was smart enough not to move her hand. "Thank you, and if it's all the same, I'd rather not talk about anyone who came before you."
"You're right because there's never going to be anyone who comes after me. There's one thing you should remember above all else, Dr. Yancy." Mel let go of her wrist and started to unfasten the buttons of Yancy's shirt.
"That once you declare that you love someone then you have to commit?" Yancy got through most of the question but hissed when she got to the word commit when Mel pinched her nipple between her fingers.
"That's a given, but no."
"That the first thing you purchase when you become a chef is a really good and sharp set of knifes. A set of knives I know how to use well, so if you don't want me to bone you in less than five minutes, you'll just go ahead and agree that there'll never be anyone after me," Mel joked.
"Good thing that's my plan then." The rest of the night Yancy found the reward of sticking to her resolutions and for taking a chance with her heart.
Yancy woke up alone the next morning relaxed in the knowledge that she didn't have to work for the rest of the week, but a little put off that Mel had wandered off. The upset lasted about a second when the smell of bread baking made its way up the stairs.
"I hope you brought some of whatever's in the oven with you," she said as she heard the footsteps on the stairs. When she peered over her shoulder she smiled at how cute Mel appeared in a big terrycloth robe with her hair in complete disarray.
"If you're like me it's coffee first then breakfast," Mel put the coffee cup down on the nightstand and stripped off the robe before stretching out along Yancy's back.
"Sounds like caffeine is an addiction we share then," Yancy sighed when Mel kissed her shoulder. "I'm not a big breakfast eater but after last night I think I might have to eat something before you get any further than what you're doing right now."
"That's why I brought you coffee in bed."
"Because you thought I couldn't get out of bed without it?"
Mel's fingers trailed down Yancy's body until she reached her butt then she stopped and caressed before pinching as hard as she could. "Considering I could barely walk this morning I'm not buying what you're selling, honey. I brought you coffee in bed because that's all you're getting while you're lying down. My family doesn't eat in bed no matter what, it's not proper."
"Considering what we did in this bed last night I beg to differ," Yancy laughed when Mel blushed so deeply it disappeared both into her hairline and down her chest as far as she could see.
"God, my grandmother is going to have a field day with you and what you can do to me."
Yancy turned around and took Mel into her arms. "Your grandmother is not going to have an ally against you, my love, but more of an ally who's going to protect you at every turn. Just because I can tease you doesn't mean anyone else can. So tell me why you brought me coffee in bed."
"To entice you to come downstairs and tell me how you want your eggs." Mel squealed when Yancy scooped her up and stood. Whatever she'd said it earned her a kiss and a very playful Yancy. "What was that for, so I can do it again?"
"It's the joy of having something proven to me."
"It's just eggs, honey."
Yancy put her down and helped her with her robe before bending down to get her pants. "I want them over easy, and because I do, it means that Martians really do exist."
"This I can't wait to hear." Mel said as she helped Yancy on with her shirt. "I'd say you're crazy but I figure your fellow doctors would have weeded you out by now if you were." They both heard the door from downstairs open and close and someone yell out good morning. "I hope we don't reek of sex."
"Is Charlotte a regular in the mornings?"
"She usually has breakfast with me after she has coffee with Gran, but if you mind, I'll tell her to come by tomorrow morning."
Mel fell into her when Yancy pulled her forward into a hug. "Of course I don't mind, and I'll let her explain what I'm talking about if she doesn't mind, but I'll give you a hint. A wise woman once told me that the secret to my future happiness lay in how I took my eggs. She was right; I like them over easy, but what she didn't mention was that the secret wasn't in the way I took my eggs."
Yancy shook her head as she kissed Mel's forehead. "No, it wasn't. The secret is who I was lucky enough to get to fix the eggs for me. Since it's you that not only makes me lucky, it makes me glad I waited to fall in love."
"It's as simple as that?"
"It's as simple as making crème brule, or so I've been told," Yancy teased her before taking her hand and leading her down the stairs and into their future.
Comments to: email@example.com
Ali Vali is the author of The Devil Inside, Carly's Sound, The Devil Unleashed, and the upcoming Second Season. For more information please visit Bold Strokes Books at www.boldstrokesbooks.com.
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