Scarborough Fair

by Jane Davitt




Salt, pepper, a jar of pale yellow oregano (yellow? Oh God, where's the trash can?), and a tin of --

"Jim!"

"What, Sandburg? And get out of my cupboards."

"You have garlic powder in here!"

"So? You're not a vampire, are you?"

Jim thinks he's funny. Sometimes, yes, but usually when he's not trying too hard. I ignored the joke and waved the tin at him. "Fresh garlic, man. Cloves of it, all smooth and slick under the papery skin, before you crush them juicy…That's what you cook with, not this, this dust." I pointed at the cupboard: J'accuse! "And where's the rest of it? Where are you hiding the spices? How do you expect me to cook you something nice when you don't even have cumin?"

"Take a breath," he advised and gave me one of those amused-by-the-hippy smiles that are maddeningly clueless about what I really am. "If you mean stuff like parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme --"

"Yeah, I love that song too, but that's the tip of the iceberg."

His smile faded. "Carolyn took most of the kitchen supplies when she moved out and I just never got around to replacing it." He frowned. "Cumin? I don't think we had that one. We didn't really cook much; no time."

I'd seen his library of take-out menus. Impressive.

"I want to make you a curry," I said. "No, don't screw your face up --" Sometimes, it was like coaxing a toddler to eat strained carrots getting Jim to listen to me. "I know you can't handle hot without an effort, but there's no reason why you can't get the taste. Indian cooking isn't about burning your mouth; it's about flavor."

"I'm not sure about this," he said, his voice a rumble of suspicion -- and just a little bit of longing, maybe? I'd only been with him a week or two and I'd seen how bland his diet was.

"Well, I am," I said firmly. "Give me some money --"

"Oh, they're reassuring words from a man I just met."

"Then come with me and pay for it yourself, but we're hitting the market, man. If I'm staying here, I need the basics, and --" Something in his face stopped me.

Shit. A week, I'd said, and we were well past that. In a few days, I'd gotten used to being here. Not used to the spectacular view from the windows (or closer to home when Jim forgot I was there and walked into the kitchen stark naked, idly scratching a perfect butt and smirking when I blushed). And not used to sleeping with the muted sounds of a bed creaking overhead or Jim snoring now and then -- but used to having a home that wasn't freezing cold and all echoing space and dust.

The loft was cozy and I was burrowed in snug and warm in my cupboard of a room.

I licked my lips nervously. "You want me to go?"

"Do I?" His face gave nothing away.

"It's been over a week."

"Yes, it has."

"I can -- I haven't been looking -- I mean, I haven't found anywhere yet, but I can ask around…"

I think, looking back, he just wanted me to ask. Jim doesn't like being taken advantage of and I had a bad habit of assuming people would help me in exchange for a smile and some Sandburgian charm. Once I'd handed him an opening to be magnanimous he came through in style.

"I don't want you to move out. I want you to go to a supermarket and buy what you need for this meal of yours, since you'll give me no peace until you've cooked it, and no, I'm not coming with you. Here's fifty; that should buy you the whole damn album, not just one song."

Another joke. I smiled at that one, a pained smile that hid the jubilation and relief. "A supermarket? Jim, you can't get really fresh, organic herbs from there."

And as he began to explain to me just how much he didn't want anything organic anywhere near him -- man, I had some serious re-educating on my hands -- I pocketed his money and planned out a shopping list. There was this little place downtown run by a friend of Naomi's --


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