I wake to the sound of Anita's laughter, and a pair of white slippers outside the guestroom door.
But, wait. Let me back up.
This past weekend, I was invited to Seattle's Book Larder, where my friend Dana is the Culinary Director. I was thrilled, as I'd heard such good things about this charming new shop, with its bright blue walls and its cookbooks galore. When I arrive, I want to live here, set up house in the store, and never leave.
But I'm not here to live; I'm here to speak. And I start to doubt. Who will come to this signing? Will five people? Will ten?
Thirty minutes before the event, the store's staff starts setting out chairs. First, a smattering. Then a few more. Soon, the space is filled with 20, 25 chairs, and with each unfolding of a new one, my heart dips further into its pocket. I don't want that chair to sit empty. Or that one. I don't want them all to sit empty, for god's sake. I don't want to let these folks down.
But then, somehow, the door hinges open, and people arrive. All the chairs fill. Latecomers stand in the back, and on the sides. Who are these people? And why are they here on a sunny spring Sunday?
Thank you for coming, says Lara, the owner.
And so it begins.
When it's all over, and we sell out of books (happy!), and I give final thanks, and I say my goodbyes, I arrive at Anita's. She feeds me pie, filled with sweet nectarines, topped with tender pastry stars. Her friend Libby hands me a cocktail, something cool, with gin and berry syrup. I sip it slowly, until the ice clinks alone.
A few hours later, I want to take Anita out. A proper dinner, to thank her for putting me up. But she reads my face; she sees my tired eyes. Sit, she says. So I do, on a tall chair in her kitchen.
She cooks for me, this friend from my past, and my present. Potatoes with hard-cooked egg, a bowl of bright greens, couscous with apple, and roasted mushrooms.
Exactly what I need.
She makes me exactly what I need.