“It is the best!” screamed Martha.
“Jacob hates it!” retorted Susan.
“Susan, you cook the most delicious ‘Grilled Cheese’ with mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables,” Martha repeated.
“It tastes great.”
“Make sure you include your recipe for ‘Grilled Cheese’ in next month’s kindergarten edition magazine!” added Martha.
Susan was a big fan of cooking. While she was a child, she used to play with whisks and spatulas. She used to watch cooking shows and pretend she was hosting one.
“A hint of butter and some love…” she would speak as part of her script as a MasterChef, stirring an empty pan.
She used to watch her mom in the kitchen; whisking batters, blending ingredients, tossing vegetables, mixing marinades, and so on. When she was three years old, she used to whisk eggs and whip cream to soft peaks for desserts. Also, she was great at putting together a great salad but what she churned out herself was the perfect Grilled Cheese, soft from the inside and crispy from the outside! However, Martha was different. She was oblivious to cooking and enjoyed it that way.
Martha and Susan were arguing about Susan’s specialty all morning. Susan was eight and Martha nine.
“Jacob and James are coming home tomorrow, let’s make grilled cheese and pasta and we’ll call for doughnuts. The boys would love it,” said Martha, convincingly. That night Martha, Mom, Susan and Dad sat for dinner.
“So, girls I hear you have friends coming over tomorrow. What is the occasion?” asked Dad, inquisitively.
“The girls are celebrating Valentine’s Day,” chimed in Mom.
“Yeah, but it’s June!” Dad sounded perplexed.
“Dad, Jacob and James weren’t in town that time, so we decided to celebrate Valentine’s Day during the summer break.”
Without saying a word, Dad took the next bite of the rice in his plate. Dinner time with the family was always interesting but this was phenomenal. That night, the girls sat with their parents deciding on their clothes and menu. The four of them sat together in the living room jotting down lists.
“Did you decide the games you are going to play?” Dad asked!
“Who plays games at our age?” asked Susan, based on eight years of juvenile experience.
“Infact, we want to make sure tomorrow that they aren’t playing games with us,” said Martha, flipping through the recipe book.
Both the parents were baffled, yet they laughed through this! Finally, they returned to their bedrooms awaiting a monumental celebration ahead.
Twirling her golden curls around her finger, Martha asked Susan, “Do you think I should wear my red strappy dress or little black dress?”
“Well, I was thinking I would wear my silver sequin top with my black skirt that we got from Milan last year,” she paused for a moment, “and Mom can do up my hair in a braid.”
“Awesome!” she said “but I shall let them loose,” said Martha.
“Wear your strappy dress, but the lavender one,” suggested Susan.
The girls were relieved because their attire was in place. Meanwhile, Mom and Dad were restless in their bedroom like fish out of water.
“Josie, what are these two upto?”
“Will, take it easy. They are too young!”
“Maybe I am too old.”
He turned around and drifted off to sleep. Josie put her arm around his waist as she fell into a deep sleep.
The next morning, everything carried on as usual. Josie was in the kitchen, preparing everyone's breakfast. The eggs were jumping in the pan of boiling hot water, and the slices of bread were hopping in and out of the toaster. The fragrance of the brewing coffee filled the air. The colorful berries and watermelon filled up the glistening bowls. Josie arranged white China on the kitchen table along with mugs and large tumblers for the girls.
“Martha! Susan! Come down girls, breakfast is ready.” Josie hollered from the kitchen.
The girls were fast asleep in bed, tucked in, tired, yet relieved from the previous night’s discussion.
Will tiptoed into their room, watching his little blossoms, asleep. He sat motionless, transfixed by how were growing.
“Wake up! Love you, Martha.”
“Wake up! Love you, Susan.”
They stirred a little in bed while Will kept waking them up, gently.
Suddenly, something happened and the two of them sprung up. Both hugged their dad, brushed their teeth, tied up their locks and rushed downstairs. Dad ran behind them and the three of them sat at the table. Josie poured some coffee into two mugs, buttered four slices of bread, peeled the eggs and served everyone. The fruit was served separately in bowls.
“Here’s your chocolate shake with less sugar, Martha,” said Mum.
Susan looked at her mother, questioningly.
“Here’s your chocolate shake with extra chocolate, Susan.”
The four of them ate happily.
“Why did the two of you rush down, leaving me behind?” asked Dad.
“James and Jacob are coming; we need to prepare,” Martha spoke aloud.
“Susan needs to cook her specialty, grilled cheese!” Martha insisted while Susan looked reluctant.
“Alright! But Jacob doesn’t eat it, don’t want to upset him.”
“But James loves it, so don’t want to upset him either!” added Martha.
Josie and Will couldn’t believe what was happening. Two little girls, two little boys, Valentine’s Day in June… Was everything alright? The girls gobbled the toast and egg and gulped down their shakes. They never took less than an hour to finish breakfast, but today was a miracle. Now they were at work…
Martha and Mom cleaned the larger table where the guests ate. The covers of the table were changed and the gold placemats were neatly arranged along with delicate tableware. The golden cutlery glowed brighter than the sun. Right at the center of the table, an enormous flower vase was arranged with the finest blooms plucked from the neighbor’s backyard. The white napkins with a dainty floral print were folded perfectly and kept straight on the plates. The wine goblets sparkled, ready to be filled with Berry Blast Soda, another specialty to be made at home.
The plastic pools were inflated and filled with water in the backyard. Fresh towels, sunscreen lotions, and cartons of juice were arranged.
"What's happening in the backyard?" Will was curious.
"In case the boys felt like swimming..." said Susan. Both Will and Josie were startled.
“What is all this happening?” whispered Will in Josie’s ear.
“Are they okay?" he asked again.
“They are in love!” laughed Josie.
Will was losing his balance at the mention of ‘L-O-V-E.’
Meanwhile, Susan was frantic in the kitchen.
“Mom, where are the tomatoes?”
“The boiled potatoes?”
“I can’t find anything…” she yelled.
Mother marched into the kitchen and turned her daughter around.
“Everything is done. I cooked early this morning.” She smiled and asked her to go get ready.
"By the way, I also ordered ice cream. The doughnuts would be arriving shortly.”
Susan embraced her mother.
“You are the most caring mother!” she said. Only an hour was left for the boys to come in.
Susan left the kitchen and was heading to the bathroom. Just then she remembered something. She dashed like a bullet.
“Martha…Mom…Dad… where is the cheese?” Worried, she said, “I haven’t made that yet.”
Suddenly, the excitement diminished and Martha almost fainted thinking about what James would eat. It seemed like a tsunami hit their lives.
“I will just get the cheese out of the fridge. Don’t worry,” Mom said. Martha and Susan waited in the kitchen. Dad was finally ready for work.
“See you girls, Happy Valentine's Day," he said as he left, closing the door behind him.
The girls waited for mom to arrive with a block of cheese.
“Mom where is the cheese?” she asked fearfully. Susan’s entire body was cringing nervously.
Josie had literally dived into the fridge, with most of her inside it.
“There is no cheese,” she screamed from inside.
“There is no… cheese?” Martha screamed!
“Oh! My poor Jacob will starve.”
Susan hit Martha with the spatula lying on the slab, instructing her to keep quiet. Just forty minutes remained for the boys to arrive.
“I am sorry girls; I don’t know how I forgot to order the cheese.”
“Mom, call up the store and ask him to deliver it now before Martha gets admitted to the hospital. We need to save Martha. It is critical.”
Understanding the gravity of the situation, Josie called the shop. It kept ringing, but finally, Mr. Wilson answered.
“Wilson’s Will Deliver, how may I help you?” said Mr. Wilson in a raspy voice.
“Josie here, I need a large block of cheese in the next five minutes,” Mother pleaded with desperation.
“Sure, we have a discount on …” Mother didn’t allow him to complete the sentence.
“It’s urgent, just cheese please.”
“…but I was saying, we have five Berry Blast cans free with the cheese”
“Send it please!”
Josie disconnected the call, stifling the chance for any further conversation with Mr. Wilson who loved chatting away. The three of them prepared the marinade.
“Girls, why don’t you get ready? I will make the cheese as Susan does,” she promised, firmly.
“What if James doesn’t like it?”
Susan dragged her out of the kitchen and shoved her into the bathroom. Twenty minutes were left and there was no sign of the cheese. In the meantime, Susan prayed for a miracle.
Martha, came out of the dressing room all dressed. Her hair was loose and her lavender dress made her look like a fresh bloom from the early spring. She slipped into her silver ballerina shoes and looked stunning.
“James will not eat the cheese; he would be so busy looking at you. You look wonderful!” Susan hugged her.
“Has Mr. Wilson sent the cheese?” Martha blurted.
Susan went in angrily. She slammed the bathroom door.
“You are mad!” she shouted from there.
Just then the doorbell rang. Martha peeped from the window. She was relieved to see Old Mr. Wilson walk in slowly, swinging the packet of cheese.
“Susan, the cheese is here!” Martha squealed with delight.
“Come out MasterChef and create magic!”
Susan had stopped responding to her. She thought Martha was possessed.
While Susan got ready at her own pace, Martha’s impatience heightened. Susan walked out, and Martha was unable to stop staring at her. Her lithe figure was beautifully accentuated by silver sequins and a black skirt that glinted like stars. A pair of strappy black sandals completed her look.
"Let's do the cheese," she said angrily to Martha.
When they reached the kitchen, mom was working like a robot. All Susan had to do was slice the cheese, dip it in the marinade and place it on the wire rack. She thought mom had made a great marinade. The consistency was just right and so was the taste. Only five or ten minutes remained for the guests to arrive. Susan wore her apron, carefully dipped the slices of cheese into the marinade, and placed them on the wire rack. The eight large slices were finally in the oven and Martha began to look normal. Her diminished trauma restored the color of her face. Ultimately, the doorbell rang. The girls shrieked in excitement. They hurried to open the door.
“Devour Doughnuts! This is your delivery boy, Dennis.”
“Thanks, Dennis! But we thought it was someone else.”
She handed over the money and closed the door. She arranged the doughnuts on a flat basket lined with beautiful paper.
Susan and Martha sat on the lawn. Under the shade of swaying trees, they waited for Jacob and James to arrive. There were bright yellow and crimson blooms adorning the garden, making it look flawless. There was a screech of a black limousine outside their residence at that moment. Astonished, they stared. A chauffeur emerged from the car and opened the door. In walked two black-clad boys, their hair spiked and smothered with gel. They gaped at the sight of figures just three feet tall. The two were James and Jacob. “Happy Valentine’s Day, Martha,” said James, giving her a tiny box with a matching teal ribbon that sealed it. It looked gorgeous.
“Thank you,” she whispered.
Jacob hugged Susan and handed her a long rectangular box.
“What is this?” she asked.
He smiled and said, “a little something for you.”
The boys greeted Josie and handed her a bouquet of flowers along with a bottle of Cola.
The four of them sat at the table. Mother served the four of them fresh plum juice and crackers. The strong fragrance of their Citrus colognes overpowered the softness of the British Rose, that the girls wore.
“Susan, you look gorgeous, “said Jacob.
Unable to hide her smile, she whispered, “Thank you.”
An hour had passed, and it was almost time for lunch. Both the girls along with their mother made the boys comfortable at the dining table and headed into the kitchen. Martha and Susan started heating the pasta, laying out the veggies on an enormous platter, filling the water jug, and arranging the pitcher of the berry cooler on the large tray. They opened the oven to pull out the wire rack with the grilled cheese. A cloud of smoke billowed from the oven, paralyzing the three of them in horror.
“What have you done Susan?” screamed Martha, in horror.
“What have I done?” yelled Susan
“Let’s fix it,” said Mother.
Nothing could be done to fix the burnt cheese slices. There was a crestfallen expression on the faces of all three of them. The girls were weeping and the boys sat hungrily at the table. Quickly, mother arranged all that was ready on a vast tray and carried it to the table. The girls followed behind meekly. James and Jacob looked at the tray, but not with much interest.
“So, James,” said Mother, “How are Mom and Dad?” She served the pasta carefully and added some steamed vegetables on the side. The plate looked beautiful and vibrant.
“Thanks, Ms. Josie, Mum and Dad are fine.” He answered, taking the first bite of pasta. The girls nervously observed whatever was going on.
“Jacob, how about school?”
“School is great, James was unwell so he didn’t attend the whole of last week.”
“I am sorry to hear that,” said Josie
“Mom, he developed some allergies," added Martha.
By then, Jacob had also started eating his meal. Martha and Susan served the Berry Blast and then ate with the boys. Mother sat with them, hoping the girls weren’t dismayed. Soon, everything seemed fine!
“Can I have some more pasta?" asked James.
Immediately, Martha jumped from her seat and assisted her mother in serving James. She was relieved that James ate well. The four of them laughed and devoured the meal.
“Thanks for the wonderful meal, Aunt Josie,” said James.
“Indeed, the pasta was just fabulous,” added Jacob.
Both girls looked at their mother, feeling proud of her effort. The table was cleared and laid again for dessert. The dessert bowls were topped with ice cream and the doughnuts were served. The girls had forgotten about the burnt cheese. They sat in silence for a moment.
“I am glad the meal was light with no cheese,” said James, "and I would avoid ice cream.”
Josie, Martha, and Susan looked at each other, bewildered.
“My test reports came in last night. I was tested for various allergies. It turns out to be that cheese, milk, and eggs don’t suit me as much.”
When the three of them heard what James said, they smiled.
“Thank God!” said Martha, delightfully.
… the party continued till Will laughed his gut out hearing the entire day’s happenings.