As I slave over my hot stove in the suppressible heat, I feel happy. Yes, it's stinking hot outside, and my husband never cooks, but I like helping my elderly neighbour.
Which is why I'm sweating while cooking in the house instead of swimming at the beach.
You see, my neighbour, Kate Milford, is very old and can't do much anymore.
She doesn't have anyone to help her in the house because she can't afford it, so I make her meals and clean her little bungalow when needed.
She insists on paying me, but I do it out of the kindness of my heart. Kate reminds me of my own mother, who passed away a few years ago. And, she's like the grandma my kids never had, with my husband's family cutting ties with him and my mother in heaven.
So I almost feel obliged to lend Miss Milford a helping hand.
I'm making my favourite dish, spaghetti and meatballs with a serving of Caesar salad on the side.
I've learned that Miss Kate enjoys it too, so it's the meal I make most frequently for her.
My daughter, Lexi, comes bouncing into the kitchen.
She's a sweet little girl, always full of energy. Her birthday's soon, and even though we don't have much money, I want to do something special for her.
Anyhow, she deserves it. She's always so polite and kind and adorable, and she's always trying to help me with anything, like bills, work, and making things.
So I think my darling Lexi needs some presents in her life.
"Mommy, Daddy says to come outside and take a break," Lexi tells me.
I shake my head. "Sorry pumpkin, but Kate needs to get some food into her, she's wasting away."
Lexi nods, says, "Okay!" and bounces back out again.
I sit down on a stool with a sigh.
Everything's always so hard, trying to make ends meet, working overtime when I shouldn't have too, and making meals and cleaning house for my neighbour on top of that.
But Kate's so sweet, and I want to help her.
So I don't say a word and carry my heavy burden.
I turn my attention back to my spaghetti noodles as the water begins to boil.
I get off the stool and stir the pasta with a wooden fork, then turn the heat down.
I walk over to my pantry and start to gather the ingredients for my homemade pasta sauce.
Tomatoes, garlic, water, parsley.
I know the recipe by heart now.
My grandmother originally made it, and it's been passed down in the family ever since.
I've made the sauce with my grandma, and my mother, and now I make it, occasionally with help from Lexi.
I'm proud to carry on the, what you might call a tradition, but to me it's a way of honouring my family members.
I mix the ingredients together in a large bowl, then set it in the microwave.
I press the buttons 1, 5, and zero twice, then push Start.
It feels soothing to hear the humming noise of the microwave as it heats my tomato sauce, like an old friend greeting me.
I get comfortable on my stool with my favourite book while I wait for the microwave to make that familiar beep, signifying that it's done.
My book, Oliver Twist, is a classic, and one of my favourites.
I suppose it says something about my character, something that makes me who I am, but I'm not sure what that something is yet.
When the microwave finally beeps, I set my book aside and tend to the spaghetti sauce.
Once the sauce is sitting on the counter, ready to be used, I check the noodles.
They look limp and loose. Perfect.
I pour the spaghetti into the strainer sitting in the sink, to drain all the water.
Water's swirling down the drain like a tornado being sucked up.
The comparison makes me edgy, because of the tornado that touched down in our city, not too long ago.
My family was fortunate not to be hurt too badly, because we wouldn't be able to take much damage before crumbling.
It's not that we're delicate, oh no. It's the fact that we wouldn't have anything to stand on. If our house is gone, our future is snuffed out.
I put the noodles back into the pot, then dump the sauce in and mix both components together.
I let that sit in the warming cupboard while I prepare the meatballs.
I've already made the meatballs, two days ago, but I need to cook them and add some of the seasonings.
I grab the oregano from the spice shelf and sprinkle some over the raw meat.
Having seasoned the meatballs thoroughly, I take them outside and put them on the barbecue.
I pick my book up again and continue from where I left off as the raw meatballs cook.
Once they're done, I take them back inside and the now-cooked meatballs join the mixture of spaghetti and sauce.
I put the finished product in a microwaveable container, then put the container in the microwave to warm the food up before I take it over to Kate Milford.
The microwave beeps, and I take the take-out container, one from the Thai place down the street, out of the microwave.
I put my sandals on and take my keys off the hook, planning on checking the mail while I'm out of the house.
Walking down the driveway, I notice the paper lying at the end.
I go down to get it and see the face of a girl.
With a shock, I realize who she is.
I had seen her at the grocery store last week, having an argument with who I assumed was her mother in the freezer aisle.
It had looked pretty intense, and I didn't want to interrupt.
But now I recognized her face.
The paper said she was missing, probably a kidnapping.
I feel bad for her. She had seemed so nice, and I shudder to think of what might've happened to her.
I walk out to the mailbox and open our box with the mail key.
That wasn't a huge surprise. We rarely got mail, and this was nothing new.
But I still hoped people would want to see us, talk to my family.
I guess that's life.
Sometimes people want to see you.
And sometimes they don't.