Well, Elaina is about to find out something about Robert. Probably not too surprising. But maybe he’ll surprise her with a very different kind of skill?
Annie was not lovely. She was actually very plain. That’s exactly why I picked her. I was tired of pretty faces and thought a plain one would be good change. Maybe it wasn’t a pretty face I would fall for. Sadly, she was just as plain in her thinking and interests. I don’t think I’ve ever been so bored before. And into the ground went the ___ in her honor.
Robert shrugged apologetically as Elaina stared disbelievingly at the potatoes he had attempted to dice. He gestured to the lumpy mess with his knife. “What? I didn’t say I was good at it.”
Elaina quickly stepped away and held her hands up. “Put that thing down!”
Startled, he glanced down at his hands and abruptly released the waving knife. It clattered to the counter beside a hunk of potato. “Sorry. It’s been awhile since I’ve touched a chef knife.”
Elaina tutted and shook her head as she moved forward with a small trashcan. With quick movements, she swept the ruined potatoes into it.
“Mother didn’t approve of my cooking. I had to beg the cook to teach me the basics.”
“I’m sorry to tell you you didn’t learn the basics. I don’t even know what you were trying to do! I asked you to peel the potatoes, Robert.”
He looked down at the now empty cutting board. “Well…”
Elaina shook her head and pointed him to a stool standing in one corner of the vast, spotless kitchen. “Never mind. I will prepare dinner myself. After all, it’s only for three people and the chicken has already been dressed. This will be easy for me to do alone.”
“No,” he protested. “I can help.”
She made a shooing motion. “No, you can not. I forbid you from touching anything else in this kitchen. Peeling the potatoes was the easiest task I could have given you. Instead, why don’t you entertain me with some of the fairy tale versions your mother used to tell you.”
“Oh, that I can do,” he said, oddly relieved she hadn’t agreed with him. He was embarrassed by just how long it had been since he’d been fourteen and thinking he could impress a girl with his cooking skills.
She nodded once, crisply, but not dismissively, and turned away from him, leaving him to wander off to retrieve the stool while she fetched more potatoes.
Elaina’s movements were quick and precise in the kitchen, he mused as he carried the stool over to where she was peeling a fresh batch of potatoes. He wasn’t completely sure of what she was doing with them, but he somehow had more faith in her cooking skills than his own.
“I don’t like being stared out,” she said softly, knocking him out of his head. “If you don’t mind, could you start a story, please?”
“Sure,” he said, shifting slightly to settle himself more comfortably. “I’ll start with the one my mother told me the most often. I’m not quite the storyteller she is, but I think I can tell it well enough.”
Elaina glanced over at him with a small, but teasing smile. “So what are you good at? Obviously not cooking or storytelling.”
He gave a sharp, embarrassed laugh and looked down at his knees. “Maybe one day I’ll show you.”
For a moment, the kitchen was only filled by the sound of Elaina’s quick chops as she cubed the potatoes. Robert sat still for a moment, willing his mind back to his childhood, to when his mother used to perch on the edge of his bed and tell him stories in soft, lilting tones. It was only then that her edges softened, her eyes sparkled as they looked beyond him, and her cheeks flushed. It was only then that she ever really appeared human to him. Hypnotized by Elaina’s rhythmic chops, he gave her his favorite bed time story.