"Ready for another gourmet lunch?" Jake's pleasant voice called from the Nest's kitchen. Frank had to admit that Jake's new hobby was quite beneficial: the delicious smells emanating from the oven whetted Frank's appetite, and he found he couldn't keep his mouth from watering.
"Is it ready?" Monica's voice called from where she was hanging upside down on what she called a 'backstretcher' and what Alex called a 'blood runner to the head." Frank could see Monica and made a mental note to move her new equipment to a more congenial location.
"Now? Damn, Jake, you're going to spoil us all," called Alex from where she was sitting at the computer next to Cody. Frank couldn't see Cody but he knew Cody was surfing Ebay's antiques section again. Alex wanted to purchase something unusual for her condo and had requested Cody's adept assistance.
"Frank? You gonna join us for lunch?" Alex called. He heard her stand up and her chair scrape back. Heels clunked across the floor as Frank pretended to be busy reading his online version of the Wall Street Journal.
Frank felt a smirk play across his face. No one was in his office to witness it. His afternoon plans were to begin preparations for the boeuf bourguignon. His mother's Danita's recipe called for three and a half hours of cooking time; he'd already prepared meat and had left the meat to marinate in the burgundy and cognac wines (his mother's addition to the recipe).
Alex now popped her blonde head into his office.
"Hmm? Oh, yes. Something about lunch."
"Yeah. Jake's cooking for us again."
"I'll be able to stay for a while. What's on the menu?"
"Rice, lamb and lentil soup, lime broiled chicken, seasoned string beans, stuffed potatoes and for dessert, another delicacy: Julia Child's three-chocolate bombe. Hey, where are you going?" she belatedly asked of Frank, who smirked again at her.
"Oops. Sorry," she said.
"I will be taking the afternoon off. Personal business," he commented. "But I'll be able to take a bowl of soup and some of that sour dough bread you forgot to mention."
"Ooops. Sorry. I'm so used to the smell by now. Jake's learning how to use the bread making machine," Alex replied as she withdrew her lanky body from the doorframe and went towards the kitchen.
Frank closed his online session, then stood to follow Alex to the kitchen. As he walked across his office, the cuffs of his dark grey wool slacks brushing against his shoe tops, the quirks of the nest's acoustics became clearer to Frank.
"This must be called the Donovan Effect," Cody's voice said, and Frank paused his steps to listen further.
"Donovan effect?" Monica's voice asked.
"Yeah, he changes office procedures just enough to let us know he's not so aloof and makes us feel better about him," Cody said.
"I think it's nice he's allowing Jake to cook us lunch. We all have to pitch in a pay for the groceries," Alex commented.
"He did take a drink with us," Monica's voice was just a bit defensive. Frank smiled to himself and adjusted his bluish grey cashmere turtleneck sweater.
"Glenfiddich," Alex said, her voice sounded full of smiles. "He was drinking blended whisky before."
"Before you enlightened him?" Cody's voice came back, a bit fainter and Frank realized the three were nearing the kitchen.
"Yeah," came Alex's satisfied reply. Frank
nearly chuckled out loud as he restarted his walk to his office door towards
"Frank?" Jake asked. "You sure you don't wanna stay for the rest of the meal?"
Frank nodded and put down his spoon. "I have other plans. Personal." His clipped tones indicated he wasn't going to announce anything further about his plans. "But I will take a loaf of your sour dough bread home. It is Friday."
Monica couldn't help but smiling. She thought she knew why Frank was taking off this afternoon--she had her suspicions and those suspicions tended towards the amorous: she thought he had a lady on the side.
She also knew he needed the time off desperately and each member of the team had had their own personal holidays. Cody and Monica had taken their holiday, strictly as friends, in the steamy city of N'awlins, trawling through the French Quarter, dining on crawfish and red beans.
Alex had opted for Anguilla where she had lain on the nearly deserted beaches, soaking up the sun before returning very tanned from using her entire bottle of dark tanning oil.
Jake, thinking back on his only trip outside the States, had thought long and hard, then opted for an Iceland trip--where he'd been pampered in the spas, had enjoyed surprisingly good Iceland gourmet food, although he'd been very glad he'd missed the winter buffet festival of Thorri, the Thorrablot, where one of the main food dishes comprised of shark buried in the ground for months, then dug up, cut up in to chunks and served raw and rotten.
Upon his return, Jake hadn't been sure about his Iceland spa experience; it had been the first time he'd been inside a spa. But upon seeing more than a few well-known male personalities at the spa, he'd had less reservations and had found he'd enjoyed the experience. Now, he was urging the rest of the team to take a stopover to Iceland the next time they went to Europe. "Or just take a quick weekend trip. It's worth it," he told the team.
"You sure? You ate two helpings of my beef in red wine and truffle sauce on Tuesday," he now said. In addition to his Iceland spa experience, Jake had been shopping in Reychavik and had brought back some rather nice outfits. Today he was sporting a rather thick cable turtleneck in a pale robin's egg blue. Worn over jeans and pair of boots, Jake looked comfortable.
"That was a good meal, Jake. And this soup is just as good," Alex put in around a mouthful of lentil soup with rice and lamb. She was referring to the meal Jake had prepared on Tuesday. She was dressed in a black sweater and jeans. Monica had opted for an orange sweater and jeans, while Cody sported jeans, a long sleeved turtleneck and a leather bomber jacket.
"Mmmmmmm," Monica and Cody both said as they each dipped a slice of toasted sour dough bread into their large ceramic bowls of lentil soup.
"I'm sure. Thank you," Frank responded, pushing back his chair and standing up. Jake made to stand up but Frank motioned for him to remain seated. Jake nodded and took another slice of lightly toasted sour dough bread. Following Monica's example, he dipped his slice into his bowl of soup.
Frank walked over to the counter where three more loaves of Jake's sour dough bread were lying. Taking a plastic bag, he slipped one of the large bread loaves into the bag and tied it off.
Turning around, he caught his team's eyes flicking away. They had been watching him. "It's good bread, Jake. You've improved since you started baking cookies," he told Jake who began to start, but his surprise well.
"No hazelnut coffee?" Frank asked, raising his eyebrows just a bit.
"If someone wants it, yes. I also have
licorice tea for an after-meal drink," Jake replied as Frank nodded to
him and then to the rest of the team before leaving the kitchen.
"Think he's got a lady on the side and the bread was just a cover?" Alex whispered. "He's acting like a man's whose got a surreptious date."
"Hmmmm, possibly," Monica responded, just as softly.
"He's a man, he's got a man's instincts," Jake said, taking the platter of lime-broiled chicken from the rolling serving tray.
"It's the Donovan Effect," Cody now commented again. "He changes his behavior to make us comfortable."
"He did take a drink with us," Monica defended her boss again, then smirked because she found herself repeating her earlier words. She tugged on the collar of her sweater.
"The Donovan Effect? Is that what you named it?" Jake asked Cody.
"Good name," Jake commented.
"Hey, this is good chicken!" Alex said, wiping her mouth with her napkin.
"Taste of the Islands," Jake replied and
bit into a piece of the lime-broiled chicken.
Walking on his soft-soled shoes across the office to his office, Frank smiled at his team's comments. If only his team knew of the acoustics of the nest, they might censor their own conversations.
But his mind was on other things.
Reaching his office, he put down the bag containing Jake's sour dough bread. Picking up his wool coat, he put it on, then wrapped a plaid scarf around his neck. Taking up the loaf of sour dough bread, he took a look around his office, then stepped out and closed the door.
Clinking sounds from the kitchen indicated that his team was enjoying a rather good lunch, courtesy of Jake, although the team, himself included, chipped in to buy the groceries for the lunches.
And, he had to admit to himself as he walked across the near-silent office, he'd picked up a thing or two from Jake.
Along with the licorice tea (really, a dessert tea), Jake had picked up Frank's habit of drinking hazelnut coffee with half and half ("Milk makes the hazelnut too thin and cream makes the hazelnut too thick," Jake had informed Frank after bringing in a large mug of hazelnut coffee one morning).
For his part, Frank had picked up Jake's interest in gourmet cooking. Having some free time to himself, and finding himself in need of a creative outlet, Frank had tried a few simple appetizer dishes. Upon seeing the results, Frank had decided to try more intricate dishes, resulting in his Lady's praises.
Naturally, the psychologist in him argued, his Lady's praises encouraged him to experiment more, and as a natural outcrop of his new-found ability, Frank decided to encourage Jake's interest in gourmet cooking. Knowing Jake lived alone, Frank had encouraged his team to chip in for the groceries and Jake would whip the team up a gourmet meal once or twice a week.
The results were excellent: both with the food and with the camaraderie of the team. "The Donovan Effect", as Cody referred to Frank's changed attitude, was merely a reflection of Frank's attempt at getting his team used to Frank's way of running the unit, rather than the way Keller had run the unit.
And Frank made it a point to join his team
for one of Jake's gourmet lunches at least once a week and the team was
responding to Frank's presence encouragingly.
"Mmmm, that feels good."
"I thought you'd like it, m'Lady."
"Rub some here."
"Ohhhh. Make sure you run some here, and here and then use the water massage to get it all over here."
"You like that?"
"Oh, yes, I do."
"You said that on our wedding day."
"And I'll say it again: I do. Rub some here, and here, and here."
"Hey watch it mister!" a male voice shouted and interrupted Frank's thoughts. He looked around and saw that he wasn't the focal point of the male's voice. He also wasn't in the steaming shower.
A screech of tires and honking horns filled the intersection. Frank stopped his BMW Z20. He started to unbuckle the seat buckle, but saw that the traffic had started again. Putting his car back into gear, he put his foot onto the gas pedal.
Reaching his home shortly thereafter, Frank took another look at the unscathed tree in his front yard. This was the tree upon which he'd thought two lives had ended. Was there anything he could do, landscaping perhaps, which could prevent something like that from happening in the future?
He studied his front lawn. He could put a strong wood fence with a ditch just behind it, to catch the car. Or he could build up a small earthen berm. But these things he would think about later.
Pulling the car into the garage, he shut off the engine and sat in his BMW for a moment as the garage door shut, gathering his thoughts.
He was much in need of his Lady. Up until now, when his Lady had been away for a few days, Frank hadn't thought how much he'd come to rely on her. She was his other half, his grounded half, she was opposite, yet so much a part of himself
Getting out of his car, he shut and locked the door. Going across to the door, he turned the house alarm off then opened the door and went into the small foyer he had constructed.
Like the larger foyer opening off the front door, this foyer was a minature replica. Dark, rich wood panelled the walls, a large mirror hung on the left wall and along the right wall, a dark mahogany coat rack stood next to a bookcase--Frank and his Lady loved their books and were always hanging around flea markets in the hopes of finding that one rare first edition. Autographed, of course.
Taking off his scarf and hanging it upon the coat rack, Frank thought his Lady had the better chance of finding that once in a lifetime rare first edition when she was in New York. The 26th Street flea market was in session every week, and every week someone purchased a treasure.
Frank next took off his dark grey wool coat and hung it on the coat rack. Glancing at his home security system, he ensured himself he was the only one in the Donovan residence, he opened the door leading into the small anteroom to the kitchen.
He didn't have another word for the small room: the small foyer lead into this small anteroom, which lead into the kitchen. It was too small to be called a family room but the Donovan kids had recently begun to refer to it as 'the reading room.'
The anteroom was, like good sized portions of the Donovan house, panelled in dark mahogany and also lined with bookcases. This room's bookcases, however, were also filled with children's books, for the Donovan children enjoyed reading as their parents cooked up dinner or a snack in the kitchen.
Frank stopped for a moment and ran his fingers lightly over the selection of titles in the bookcases: DuMaurier, Proust, Alice Walker, Willa Cather, War and Peace, Jane Eyre, Euroda Welty, Ayn Rand, Maurice Sendek, Seuss, The Three Investigators, Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys.
Going into the kitchen, he opened the refrigerator and took out the bowl of meat marinading in the burgundy and cognac wines and set it on the counter. Taking out the other ingredients for the boeuf bourguignon, he placed them on the counter and began his preparation of the French dish his mother loved.
"Darling! Did you miss me?"
"What are you doing? I seem to hear chopping sounds."
"Making your dinner, m'Lady."
"What are you making me?"
"You will see when you arrive in Chicago."
"Wait! You're making me dinner at the office?"
"No, I went home early."
"Must have surprised your team."
"I think so. They're calling it the Donovan Effect."
"The Donovan Effect? What does Cody mean by that?"
(Frank chuckles as he chops the mushrooms) "How did you know it was Cody who said that?"
"He'd been trying to get you to have a drink with him for months. Seems like he'd be a bit abrasive."
"Well, you're right. Cody means that by my changing the office procedures, I'm making the team more comfortable about me and lets them know I'm not so aloof."
"You're not aloof with me."
"I know that. I keep my personal life and private lives as separate as possible."
"It's a good thing you do that. Makes me feel more comfortable."
"A man's measure is judged by the way he takes care of his family."
"And you take care of all of us very well. Sometimes I worry I'll lose you."
"Why would you worry about that?" (Frank's brow has furrowed and he has finished chopping the mushrooms and is now finely slicing the garlic)
"I don't know. I guess I feel so, so like I'm not entitled to have you. I don't know how else to explain it."
"Are you worried I'll die?" (Frank knows his Lady has asked the question about his premature death before, but he asks again as he knows this must bother his Lady, for she keeps alluding to the subject--an indication she is really bothered about it)
"Not as much as I used to. I know you'll do everything you can to get out alive and I know you'd give your life to save mine and the kids."
"But you're still worried."
"Yes. Basically, I'm married to a cop. And a cop's wife constantly worries that her man won't be walking in the front door. Think of the police memorial in Washington DC."
"Cop, yes. Dead man, no." (Frank has now switched to slicing onions. His eyes water from slicing the two medium onions. He sniffs involuntarily.)
"Why are you crying, honey? Are you okay?"
(Frank thought for a moment as how to best respond. He knows his Lady will understand immediately when he presents her with his mother's recipe for boeuf bourguignon and she tastes the onions. He decides to go with the truth.) "I'm chopping onions."
"I hate chopping onions. I saw a vegetable chopper on the tv the other day. Think we should get it?"
"I am beginning to think that would be a good idea." (Frank is grateful that the onions only needed to be coarsely chopped and he has switched to chopping carrots)
"Anything would help, although I'd like to be there to kiss those tears of yours away."
(Frank smiles through his drying tears). "You'll be able to kiss me in a few short hours."
"Will the dinner be done by then?"
"Almost. I've timed it so it's to be done about an hour after you get home." (Actually, Frank will put the potatoes in the oven just before he leaves, which will take about an hour to bake.)
"Just enough time for that crannie, what did you call it? And the whisky."
(Frank smiled to himself again. He's not upset his Lady had misunderstood cranachan. Frank himself called it 'cranadan' for about a week after Jake had made it, until the name cranachan stuck in his memory. Actually he'd had to make up a rhyme to remember it, much like mother Danita had taught him to remember things years ago, when he was a child: "there is nothing better than / a large serving of cranadan," he now thought.)
"Cranachan. It's called cranachan. The fruit parfait has toasted oatmeal, honey, fresh double cream, whisky, and raspberries. Very simple fruit appetizer."
"I do like raspberries. What about the cherries?"
"Those are in the clootie dumplings, which reminds me, I need to take them out of the refrigerator."
(Frank has moved onto the shallots, which he is finely chopping)
"Oh, please! Tell me what's for dinner?" she pleads.
(Frank chuckles) "Not until you get home, young lady."
(Frank decided to change the subject. He knows his Lady is keen on discovering what new gourmet dish Frank is whipping up for this evening's dinner.) "How was Shelters of Stone?"
"Marvelous! Like all of Auel's other books, she really knows how to re-create the world of Ayla and Jondalar."
"You read it for the romance scenes."
"I did not! Auel's an excellent writer. She researches well and her descriptions..."
"Of Ayla and Jondalar getting intimate are really exciting."
"Frank! Sex was a natural part of the world back then. Just as sex is a natural part of the world today."
"Mm hmmm. I've heard otherwise. Auel's books have been banned in some high schools for 'lewdness'.
"It's a well written book. Great characters, wonderful description of the world 25,00 years ago."
"Isn't there some prejudice in there?"
"Yes. Because Ayla was raised with a group of Neanderthals--the Clan--and her background caused a lot of discomfort for her and for Jondalar when Ayla finally met up with other Cro-Magnons."
"And people then didn't like the Neanderthals?" (Frank has yet to read any of Auel's book but he hears of them from his Lady)
"No. At the time the book is set, it's the cusp of the rise of the Cro-Magnons who were displacing the Neanderthals. The cranial features of the Neanderthals may have caused some dissention amongst the Cro-Magnons. How that dissention asserted itself, I don't understand, as there is skeletal evidence suggesting the two groups intermarried. And with Europe's human population scattered and human settlements were few and far in between, any contact with humans should have been welcome."
"Mmmm, hmm. And was she accepted by Jondalar's people?"
"Eventually. There was some arguments over her background, but Ayla, as usual, won the Zeladonii over. There is evidence, however, that Cro-Magnons displaced the native Neanderthals in many places--perhaps the hunting was better, or the fishing."
(Frank is now placing the ingredients into the bottom of a two-quart casserole) "I see. The superior technology displaced inferior?"
"That's one possible reason. No one is exactly sure why the Neanderthals died out. The skelelal evidence of intermarriage wins many people over and the theory is that the Neanderthals were simply absorbed into the Cro-Magnon population via mixed-race babies."
"Auel presents this theory in The Clan of the Cave Bear when Creb tells of his vision that Ayla's son Durc is the only child of the Clan, because Durc is the key to the Clan's survival. That although the Clan was destined to die out, and Creb saw this, the Clan would continue to live on through Durc, and through other mixed-race children like him."
(Frank smiles at his Lady's explanation) "What's the other theories?"
"Not so good. One is that the Cro-Magnons virtually pushed the Neanderthals to the more undesirable areas of post-Ice Age Europe and resulting from lack of food, the Neanderthals starved to death."
(Something in her voice tells Frank that there is more to her explanation). "Or?"
"Or that the Neanderthals died out because they were adapted to live in a cold climate and when the Ice Age ended, they simply couldn't adapt their nutritional needs to the smaller sized animals."
"Mammoths, giant deer, aurochs."
"Yes. Oversized animals would have provided the large quantities of meat necessary to meet the caloric requirements of a compact, though large, muscled body. And a dozen or so men would need large amounts of animal meat to see them throughout one winter."
"How much meat per man?"
"That's rather subjective. But thinking on the amount an Olympian needs to consume--about six to seven thousand calories per day--and you can get an idea of how much would be needed."
"Several dozen animals just to see a man through the winter?"
"More like a hundred or so of the smaller of the large animals. Three or four good sized mammoths would provide the meat for an entire group to last throughout the winter."
"But not the summer?"
"That's another thing. Large quantities of fish would have been needed, as well as emmer wheat, edible tubers, leaves, cambium."
"The sweet inner bark of certain trees. It's quite good when you are lost in the woods without anything to eat. The sap will keep you alive, for a while."
"I'll make a note to send the team on a survival trek and let them eat cambium."
"You won't go yourself?"
"Had enough of survival in my life. Already know about it."
"You didn't know about cambium."
"That's an arcane subject, dear."
(Frank smiled again. He has finished arranging the boeuf bourguignon in the casserole dish and as his mother's recipe is for a stove-top version, Frank turned on a burner to high heat, reminding himself that when the liquid begins to bubble, he needs to cover the casserole dish and turn the heat lower. He reminds himself that he needs to take the casserole dish off the burner and put on the back burner to warm just before he leaves to pick up his Lady at the train station.)
"It's vital! Too many people get lost in the woods and starve before they're found. Like those two kids who were stranded up in Alaska by a nefarious bastard and they ended up walking around for a few weeks in the bitter cold. Ended up with frostbite and extreme hunger. The girl had wanted to kill her male friend's dog for food."
(Frank nodded as he remembered the tv movie. He can't remember the name of the movie.) "Why didn't they clear some undergrowth and build a fire? Surely the forest rangers would have noticed a fire in the middle of winter."
"Well, there's two lines of thought on doing that, dear. One is that in the middle of winter, there's no dry wood available and the melting snow would preclude a fire."
"And the other thought?"
"The other line of thinking is that there are, in the higher altitudes, stands of pine, and the lowest pine branches remain virtually dry even in the wettest conditions. Auel makes use of that theory in her fourth book, The Plains of Passage."
(Frank chuckles) "Could you quote me a page number so I could go look it up?"
"Frank! Stop teasing me!" (his Lady laughs and causes Frank to give a good natured laugh and Frank raised his arm, scaring a sparrow which had landed on the kitchen windowsill and was looking in the closed window. Frank notices and goes over to the loaf of sour dough bread and taking it out, he breaks off a small chunk. The sparrow, having been fed bread (and french fries) by humans before, knows it is about to get a free feed and so hovers around the windowsill, flapping his wings. Frank goes to the window, and opens it with one hand.)
"Couldn't they rub two sticks together?" (The sparrow is hovering just outside the window as Frank throws the small chunk of sour dough bread out the window. The sparrow divebombs the bread and begins to tear at it hungrily. Frank laughs again--heartily.)
"...would be possible. Frank, dahling! What are you laughing at?"
"Just feeding a stray sparrow which has landed on the windowsill."
"Jake's Sour Dough bread."
"Ah. His secret recipe."
"His very good recipe. Better than my mother made."
"Now that's a tall order to fill, Frank Donovan!"
"He's done it, somehow. Don't know how, but the bread just tastes different from my mother's recipe. I brought home a loaf so I could compare it to the loaf I made from my mother's recipe."
(Frank doesn't know that Jake has used sour goat's milk, although Jake has considered telling Frank this.)
"Worse? No, you said better than your mothers."
(Frank hears the 1/2 bottle of burgundy and cognac bubbling and he goes over to the stove and turns the heat down lower, then covers the casserole dish.)
"I guess I'll have to wait a few hours and taste it for myself."
"I'll put out some cheese."
"Cheddar and roquefort?"
"That I will."
(Frank made a note to himself to run to the gourmet convenience store a dozen streets over. He's rather pleased with the new, albeit smallish, convenience store: it stocked a lot of gourmet foods, both prepared meals and the ingredients to make one's own gourmet meal. The neighborhood children tended to avoid hanging around the store, mainly because it served a largely adult clientele, but mostly because the store didn't have such food items as their budgets could purchase, save for a single soda or two.)
"Mmmm, I'm wishing I'd skipped lunch. Craniehan, cheddar, roquefort and Jake's Sour Dough bread."
"Cranachan. And lunch was?"
"Chicken salad, chef salad, fruit and bread."
"If you hadn't eaten, your blood sugar would have dropped. Then you would have either fainted or turned a temper tantrum."
"I prefer the fainting, thank you."
"Is that better than becoming argumentative?"
"Yes. Much preferable. The symptoms of low blood sugar don't always present the textbook way that doctors prefer."
"So fainting is your body's preferred method."
"Fainting is my preferred method of my body letting me know I need to eat. At least people know what to do when someone faints. With the argumentativeness, people just think I'm evil-tempered or that I'll hurt them by being off on a bender. And, to make matters worse, I don't always realize that I need to eat when I start arguing with people."
"Given those circumstances, I'd probably prefer fainting as well."
"But lunch is over with, and I'm back in my small cabin, stretched out on the bed and talking to you."
"They didn't put the bed up for the day?"
"They did, but I took it down again, although I won't be using it tonight."
"Yes, I'll be in our bed."
"Elsewhere? Oh, Frank! By the fireplace? Could we have a campout by the fireplace?"
(Frank smiles hugely. He has paused in his cooking activities and is watching the sparrow finish his small chunk of Jake's bread.) "If you want."
"I'll consider it."
"We shall see."
(Lady D's voice has gone sultry and she's trying to get his attention)
"Frank? Could we pretty please camp out by the fireplace?"
(Frank strokes his bearded chin. He had already made plans to camp out by the fireplace but his Lady didn't know that). "That's a strong possiblity."
(He's going to hold out for something that he wants from his Lady; something he won't admit to the rest of his team under any circumstances, and like the gourmet cooking, he got the idea from Jake.)
"If I throw in a pedicure for you?"
"I am not."
"I was going offer both a pedicure and a manicure."
"You can still offer both."
"Only if you ask me, later on."
"I'll do that, later on."
(Lady D chuckles then her chuckle goes suddenly soft in Frank's ear) "Honey? Can you hear me?"
"Barely. You're fading in and out."
(Lady D's voice is louder) "I wish Cody could rig us up something to stop this static!"
(Frank talks louder) "I'll have him look into it. But you're going out of range. We need to get a nationwide carrier."
"That's for sure. What's the one we want? The one by Sprint?"
"I'll look into it this afternoon."
"Good deal. See you soon!"
"Love...!" (but Lady D's voice has faded out.)
Frank clicked off the cell phone and removed the headset from his ear. He put the headset down on the counter.
The sparrow was on the windowsill, obviously hoping for another handout. Frank broke off another small chunk and tossed it through the still-open window. The sparrow dived for the bread again.
"You like that bread don't you? Tastes better than my mother's," Frank told the small bird, who was momentarily startled by a larger bird--a crow--which landed on the ground near the sparrow. The tiny bird took his bread in his beak and flew off, leaving the crow confused.
Frank broke off another small chunk of bread and threw it to the crow, who gobbled it down before flapping his wings and flying off.
"I really must get Jake's recipe," Frank said to the departing crow. "It's really good sour dough bread." He shut the window, locked it, then he went into the small anteroom--the kids' reading room--and walked to the stereo system. Flipping on the stereo, the strains of Herb Alpert's Spanish Fly start filling the small room. Humming along to the trumpeter's 60's hit, Frank went back into the kitchen.
Spying some clothing lying on top of the trash can, waiting to be thrown out, Frank went over and picked up his daughter's favorite white long shirt. Olivia had a predilection towards wearing long shirts, and her favorite color at this time was white, much to Frank's relief, for just a few months ago, Olivia's favorite color had been a rather unusual shade of a bright apple green--very difficult to match..
Olivia's shirt was stained with chocolate. His Lady had tried to get the stain out but an ugly, rather large brown stain ran down the front of the shirt in a wide stripe.
Frank chuckled as he carried the shirt to the sink. Taking the sink stopper and plugging the drain, he next took a bottle of water softener and poured a few cupfuls into the sink. Still humming to Spanish Fly, Frank rubbed water softener on the chocolate stain for a minute, then rinsed the shirt well.
He smiled hugely when he saw that his mother's
trick of using water softening to get chocolate stains out worked well
and that Olivia's favorite white shirt would be hanging in her closet.
"Oh! This smells delicious!" Lady Donovan commented as she took off her dark grey wool coat. Underneath, she wore a dark green knee length wool dress, the color complimenting her dark hair and taupe shaded grey eyes. Her small feet were shod in new Guccis: short heeled black leather. Her wide mouth was rouged with a dark red matte lipstick that Frank found rather nice. He also thought the lipstick was a new shade for his Lady.
Frank took his Lady's coat and hung it on the coat rack. Lady also took off her scarf--a matching plaid to Frank's--and Frank took it from her, kissed her, then put the scarf on the table.
"What does my Lady want to do now?" Frank asked, smiling, as he held his Lady in his arms. He was hoping she was feeling a bit more loved since she had hung up the phone.
The couple had enjoyed a nice drive home from the train station, with Lady phoning their kids to tell them she was home.
The kids, each in turn, had said "hello, mummy! Glad you're home. We've missed you and we've been having lots of fun. Games and movies and such. Bye mummy! We must be going to Shabbat services now! Love you! Bye!"
Lady had pouted as she turned off the cell phone but Frank had leaned over and planted a kiss on her matte colored lips. "Better?" he had asked.
"A bit. They don't seem to have missed me much."
"They did, but they had fun," Frank had said and for the rest of the drive home, Lady had filled the short drive home with details about her business trip. "Oh, the Rockies are so beautiful in Montana! I can't believe there's a toxic open pit mine that in less than twenty years will overflow with water and poison Butte!"
Frank's mind came back to the present as he heard his Lady saying, "You know what I want."
"That I do. But first, I must attend to the potatoes," he said in crisp tones, reminiscent of a military man. The two entered the kitchen.
"You weren't afraid to leave them in the oven? That something wouldn't burn?"
As Frank went to the oven, Lady Donovan looked over the sideboard loaded with food. "Is this the cranachan?" she asked, pointing to the tall parfait glasses filled with the whipped fresh cream and raspberries.
Frank glanced at the sideboard while taking the potatoes out of the oven. "Yes. It should be served at room temperature."
Lady dipped her finger into the fluffy mound of whipped cream, honey and whisky, then put her finger into her mouth. "Ooohhhhhhhh, yes! This is good." She took a stray raspberry off the top of one of the parfait glasses and popped it into her mouth.
Frank walked over with a large platter. "Good, eh? Jake likes his version better."
"Undoubtedly. Ohh! Those potatoes smell wonderful!" Lady took her finger and scooped up a larger portion of the cranachan then held her finger in the air enticingly. Frank smiled at her and opened his mouth to laugh. Lady popped her wipped-cream-with-honey-and-whisky covered finger into Frank's mouth.
Frank smiled around his Lady's finger. She extracted her finger and asked, "Good?" Frank swallowed the fingerful of cream.
"Yes. And these are three cheese stuffed potatoes." He held the platter up for her inspection.
"Cheddar, roquefort and?"
"Monterey," Frank said and placed the platter onto the sideboard. He kissed his Lady, then extracted himself from her arms and went back to the oven. Lady watched him pull a covered dish from the warmer burner on the back of their rather expensive chef stove--the appliance had cost $7200 and Lady had emitted quite the shocked, though pleased, squeal when Frank had presented her with his gift to her. Frank had insisted the Donovan household possess a proper stove for his excursions into the culinary world.
Lady pouted. "You don't love me." She tilted the toes of her right foot towards the floor and described a circle on the dark wood floor.
"Of course I love you, m'Lady," Frank said, his back still turned. He took the cover off the casserole dish.
"Ohhhhh, boeuf bourguignon! Frank, you didn't! Your mother's recipe?"
"But I did. And yes," he said, turning to face his Lady and carried the steaming French dish over to the sideboard. Steam rose off the bubbling liquid.
"Let's eat now!" Lady said as Frank put the casserole dish onto the sideboard. He took his forefinger and wiped a smear of whipped cream off his Lady's cheek. She smiled and hugged Frank, running her hands up and down Frank's back. "Did I tell you that you have the most exquisite taste in clothes? I really don't know how you do it, darling. Mixing this color with that color and blending your fabrics so well! I'm so uncoordinated."
Frank stroked his Lady's hair gently. "Instinct? Innate knowledge? Anything is possible."
"Your mother didn't have that trait. She tended to wear dark colors all the time."
"That she did."
"Was that the wartime clothing rations that made her so uncoordinated?"
"I never thought of it like that, but I don't think so. My mother did tend to prefer to wear earth tones."
"Dark earth tones."
"That she did," Frank said and extracted himself from his Lady's arms. "Champagne?"
"I thought we were having whisky!"
"Only in the cranachan," he replied as he took a large napkin off Tiffany's "Rock Cut" ice bucket.
"Yes, presenting Dom," Frank said quietly as he popped the cork off the champagne. The bubbly came over the rim of the bottle and fizzed--"happily," Frank crazily thought--down the side of the bottle. He filled two fluted champagne glasses--again from Tiffany's (a wedding present)--and held out one glass to his Lady.
She took the profferred glass carefully in her manicured fingers and sipped, smiling at Frank over the rim of the crystal.
"Mmmm. Love you," she said when she had swallowed her mouthful of the Dom. "But I don't think you'll give me what I want." She pouted again. "Can we have the cranachan for dessert? I'd love to pop raspberries into your mouth. We can have the chocolate souffle later."
"Of course. You are fetching when you pout."
"Mmmm. Maybe. I do need some convincing."
"But I do have a surprise for you." Frank's eyes glittered mischievously.
"Again, but I did. Shall we prepare trays and dine Japanese style in front of the fireplace?"
"You remembered our Tokyo trip during our first year of marriage," she said softly, her eyes glistening. "How we went in the winter and took a train trip across Japan," her eyes grew misty as she remembered that trip. She'd been terrified of the plane flight, but had slept during most of it. Frank had surprised her upon their arrival with tickets for a train trip.
"Reminding you, perhaps, of the tiny village where we stopped off to see Mount Fuji topped with snow?" Frank asked as he pulled other large napkins off two lacquered Japanese serving trays. He took up a crystal plate (Tiffany's Rock Cut crystal set claimed an honored place in the Donovan residence), and handed it to his Lady. He took the other plate and served himself.
"Yes. That was a a good part of the trip. The fireplace, the snow on Mount Fuji."
Lady smiled. "And you. I'm glad that I decided to take the Tokyo trip with you."
"Took some convincing," Frank replied as he placed a cheese turnover onto his plate.
Lady nodded as she took one of the two stuffed potatoes and placed the steaming root vegetable onto her crystal plate. "Yes, it did. I'm glad you convinced me and that I didn't let my fear of flying stop me from having a great vacation."
She took up the silver ladle from beside the steaming casserole dish. Lading up some of the boeuf bourguignon, she carefully tilted the ladle over her plate. The thinly sliced beef and chopped vegetables thick with liquid dropped onto her plate. Glancing at Frank, she said, "I know that overcoming one's fears makes for a healthier life. Besides, I don't want our kids to go through life wondering why their mother refused to go on vacation with them."
Frank nodded. "I know it was hard to fly over the Pacific," as he took the other stuffed potato and placed it on his plate.
Lady's slender boned hand hovered over the cheese turnover. "What's this, dear?" She wanted to forget the plane flight to Tokyo and focus on her upcoming evening with her husband. Frank glanced at her.
"Swiss cheese in crust. It's a Craig Claiborne recipe."
"Now he was a connoisseur of food. He died, you know," Lady said as she took one of the cheese turnovers and placed it on her plate.
Frank was ladling the boeuf bourguignon onto his plate. He nodded. "I read the New York Times article."
"Not the Wall Street Journal article?" Lady asked as she held her full crystal plate up for Frank's inspection. He smiled at her.
"WSJ's article as well, m'Lady."
The couple set their plates onto the lacquered serving trays.
"Don't forget the cranachan," Lady said. "I want to feed you raspberries." Frank smiled and set a parfait glass of cranachan on his serving tray and his Lady mirrored his action. They went into the sunken living room.
"Oh Frank! This is lovely! Where did you find those tables?" Lady asked as they each set their serving tray down onto one of the two, low dark magoghany tables placed in front of the fireplace.
"Mmm hmmm. Where?"
"Pout for me again."
Frank smiled and said, "Truthfully, it was Cody who found the tables while browsing on the internet."
Lady raised her eyebrows in imitation of Frank's well known gesture. "From a catalog?"
Frank shook his head, and went to the gas fireplace. Kneeling, he flipped the switch and watched as the clean gas flame rose about a foot over the remarkably true to life 'logs'. "From an antique seller in Tokyo."
"These are authentic? Are you sure?" Lady asked, kneeling on the cushions Frank had placed around the tables earlier in the grey Chicago afternoon.
"Yes. Authentic. From an Ebay seller."
"These were on Ebay? They're lovely!" Lady said as she ran her finger over the lustrous dark wood. And the tables were lovely. Rising just eleven inches off the floor, each of the two table's four legs were intricately carved with dragon heads and lotuses.
"Just as my Lady is lovely," Frank said. "I'll go get our champagne glasses." He left the room and returned shortly carrying their champagne glasses.
Lady pitched her voice low and sultry. "Thought you'd never get back."
"It was a dangerous trip indeed," Frank agreed. "The hazards I had to endure, the fierce natives shaking spears at me as I fought my way through the furniture, dodging the chairs, avoiding the wrath of the sideboard's corners," he intoned seriously, but his dark brown eyes held a twinkle.
Lady's silvery laugh filled the living room as Frank handed his Lady her champagne glass. The gas-flame fireplace (straight out of Pottery Barn) burned merrily. He kneeled carefully on the plush black velvet floor cushion opposite his Lady, balancing his champagne glass in his hand.
Lifting his glass in the air, he said, "A toast to m'Lady. Health and happiness to us and to our children."
"Hear," Lady said, raising her own champagne
glass and the couple sipped their champagne.
Later, after their early meal, Frank was lying with his head across his Lady's lap. She had kicked off her short heeled Guccis, and she was feeding him raspberries from her parfait glass of cranachan. One by one she placed the raspberries into Frank's mouth.
"Did I ever tell you you have the nicest teeth?" she asked of her husband, running her forefinger down the front of the bluish grey cashmere sweater Frank wore.
"Don't think so. May I have another?" he asked, crossing his ankles. His own feet were also shod in black leather Guccis. Lady nodded, ran her finger down Frank's thigh, clad in dark grey wool pants.
"But of course!" Lady said as she popped a raspberry into Frank's mouth. "You are on a dark grey wool kick today, aren't you?"
Frank nodded in response.
"You want me to slip your shoes off?" Lady asked and again Frank nodded, smiling at her.
She reached over to untie his Guccis.
"Mmmmm. Is that Charlie I detect?" Frank asked as first one, then the other Gucci came off Frank's sock clad feet.
"Yes. I found a sample size tucked into my luggage. Wonder who did that?" she asked innocently as she straightened up and smoothed Frank's hair from his forehead. She leaned over and kissed his forehead.
"Yes. Wonder who did that?" he asked of her.
"I never really liked Charlie before. I always associated the scent with those rad ads from the 70's. I was a teenager then, and went au naturel with my scents."
"Meaning you used the milk and honey shampoos?"
Lady chuckled. "Yes. I wanted the Farrah look. Had the hairstyle too. And the color. Worst thing I ever did to my hair. I bleached it so much, I had to cut it all off by 1979. Tomboy cut."
Frank levelled a look at his Lady. "That type of cut wouldn't suit your features."
"Tell me. My hair was no longer than an inch and a half at the most. Took me years to grow it out again."
"The results were worth it."
"But now I have to color it," Lady pouted her lips again.
"I think the silver streaks at your temples are lovely," Frank said softly, as he reached up and ran his finger down his Lady's cheeks.
"I'd rather not have the silver streaks," Lady said again, still pouting.
Frank smiled. "But they match my own streaks."
Lady looked doubtful. She picked up another stray raspberry from her parfait glass of cranachan and slipped it past Frank's slightly parted lips. "We can be twins?"
"That we can," replied Frank when he was able to talk after swallowing the proffered raspberry. The gas flame highlighted the silver streaks at Frank's temples. Lady ran her fingers over the silver streaks.
"Well, when you put it that way, I guess it wouldn't be so bad," Lady agreed and pouted again. "Still, I wish I didn't have to go grey."
"I could dye my own hair," Frank suggested as he allowed his Lady to stroke her fingers over his silvering temple.
Lady ran her forefinger lightly down Frank's neck. Upon reaching the edge of the turtleneck sweater, she dipped her finger between the sweater and the fabric and ran her finger around the edge of the fabric.
"Mmmm. You've never done that before," Frank murmurred, closing his eyes and tilting his head back.
"Yes. You've got a light touch."
Lady bent her head down and kissed Frank. "Mmmmm," she said.
The cell phone buzzed. Lady popped her head up and glared daggers towards the kitchen. Her mood was souring.
"I'll get that," Frank suggested and first sat up, then got up and went out into the kitchen.
"Kids!" Frank's voice floated back and Lady's sour mood improved instantly. She jumped up from the floor cushions, and her nylon feet padded quickly over the thick cream carpet and into the kitchen.
"I wanna talk!" she chirped at Frank who was nodding and smiling. "Olivia?" she mouthed at Frank, who smiled wider and gave a thumbs up gesture.
"Yes. I know the prayers," he told his daughter. "Do you want to talk to mummy?"
Squeals erupted from the earpiece of the cell phone. Frank handed the phone to his wife. "Olivia! Uh, huh! That's great darling! I'm so glad you remembered the words in Hebrew," she paused. "Yes, yes, you're learning Hebrew quite nicely, dear. You're quite articulate!" she paused again to listen to her daughter. Frank smiled at his wife and, deciding to brew some after dinner tea, he went over to the stove and popped the teapot onto the burner.
"Sweetie! Slow down, please. I'm a slow learner of languages. Monolinguistic. What's that? Oh, Maw. No. Linguistic. It's my own made-up word, sweetie. It means that I only speak one language well. Yes. English."
Frank smiled as he made the preparations for licorice tea. He was silently cursing the gourmet convenience store for not stocking the licorice tea in loose form, for he had learned the English way of "making a proper cup of tea" as his mother Danita often intoned in her later years to her many visitors, both foreign and English born.
He continued to listen to his Lady's side of the conversation with Olivia and wondered with one side of his mind what his daughter was asking to prompt his Lady's happy responses. The other side reflected upon his mother: her eyes which so matched his own, and smoky dark looks had won her, in her post-war youth, many an admirer.
"Mmm, hmmm. And you'll do what?" Lady inquired into the cell phone's mouthpiece. "And then what? Mmmm hmmm. Well, I hope you have a wonderful time tonight dear. Me too. Why not?" Lady's lips pouted. "He does? What did he eat? Oh, dear!"
Frank glanced up at his Lady's last words. He motioned for her attention. "What's wrong?" he mouthed.
"He ate some bad chicken," Lady mouthed back. Into the mouthpiece, she said, "He has?"
Lady looked at Frank. He mouthed "Pepto bismol."
Lady nodded, her dark, shoulder length hair swinging. "Sweetie? He'll be fine. Sweetie? Sweetie? Yes, does the Temple have pepto bismol? Yes," she chuckled. "Yes. That's the thick pink stuff mummy has in her bathroom cabinet. Okay, I'll wait."
She smiled at Frank and smiled back then said softly, "I'll get the pepto and you get the car keys." Lady nodded. Frank left the kitchen.
"No? Sweetie, mummy and daddy will drop by the Temple and bring our bottle. Yes, yes, dear. We'll be there inside of ten minutes. Now don't worry, sweetie. Yes, love you too. Bye." Lady clicked off the cell phone and went over to the stove to turn off the burner.
Coming back into the kitchen, the new bottle of pepto bismol in his hand, Frank said, "Ready?"
"Let's go," as the two went into the small foyer off the garage and put on their outer winter gear. Taking the car keys from the key rack, he heard his Lady moan.
"We forgot our shoes!" and Frank looked down. Sure enough, his feet were clad only in his black cashmere blend socks.
"I'll get them," Lady volunteered and Frank nodded. Sitting down on a small stool next to the bookcase, Frank awaited his Lady's return.
"Those shoes suit you admirably," he said as Lady handed him first one, then the other Gucci.
"You do know how to pick out my shoes," she said as Frank slipped his shoes on. "Let's go see our kids. Then we can come back, and you know."
Frank raised his eyebrows,, then leaned down slightly to kiss his Lady on her lips.
"Let's go see our kids," he agreed, and
the two Donovan adults went out into the garage and got into Frank's black
late-model BMW Z20.
Much later, snuggled in their bed under the sapphire colored silk sheets, Lady gave a small sigh as she ran her hand over Frank's bare chest. She ran her foot up and down Frank's right calf. He smiled appreciatively.
"Now that was what I call dessert!" she whispered into his ear.
"I'm learning to cook rather well, aren't I?" Frank asked rather seriously and Lady playfully gave a light slap on Frank's chest. "Owww!" he said, feigning a severely pained look on his face.
"Want me to make it better?" Lady asked, her voice again low and sultry.
"But of course," as he turned and took his Lady into his arms. "Mi amour, enchante," Frank whispered as the couple danced the age old dance of love under the silken sheets.
The small sparrow roused himself from his sleep. He had liked the bread the male human in this house had fed him and the sparrow had decided to avail himself of the house's rather spacious arborial accomodations in the front yard.
He was perched on a branch overlooking
the Donovan master bedroom. A star peered down on the sparrow as he watched
for a short while the scene inside the Donovans room. He snugged his head
down into his neck again and was soon fast asleep.
"Jake, you know you need to invest in a restaurant!" Monica said as she helped herself to another heaping serving chili.
"Yeah, Jake. Even your chili is better than what they serve down in Texas," Cody agreed as he too served himself another bowl. He made his way back to the couch and sat down carefully.
"Nothing like chili on a cold night," Alex agreed as she took up a slice of bread. Buttering it, she asked, "Wonder what Frank's doing?"
Monica giggled. "He's probably holed up somewhere, nursing a whisky."
"We're holed up here, in Jake's apartment. He could have come down for another drink," Cody complained as he popped open a beer. The dark lager headed nicely and the white foam bubbled over the bottle's rim. Pouring the lager into a tall pilsner glass, Cody picked up the lager and sipped.
"Now, what do you think he's doing? Really?" Jake asked, looking around at the team scattered in his living room. On the tv screen, scenes from Austin Powers were showing. "He's doing man stuff. He has normal instincts you know."
"Frank? Normal instincts?" Alex inquired, the piece of buttered bread halfway to her mouth.
"That's the Donovan Effect again," Cody said and the rest of the team groaned in unison.
"Not again!" Monica said, rolling her eyes.
"Yes, again!" Cody insisted.
Jake and Alex chuckled. Jake too helped
himself to another bowl of chili and sat down to watch the rest of the
Austin Powers movie.