The small galley kitchen was filled with the aroma of blackberries bubbling on the stove. Sylvie stirred the berries and inhaled the smell of her grandmother’s recipe; the steam from the pan lifting her long, honey brown bangs. The pie had to be perfect.
Just like her grandmother taught her, Sylvie put in a generous pinch of cinnamon while casting her spell. This, her grandma Lu told her, was key to the love potion.
Sylvie’s phone beeped with a message.
“Sorry, running late,” her boyfriend, Todd texted.
Sylvie just smiled as she turned off the stove. Her plan was in motion.
The little apartment was tidy with mementos of her grandmother everywhere. The lace doily that she’d crocheted, her China shoes displayed on the shelf, and Sylvie’s favorite photograph with her grandma in the kitchen baking.
Grandma Lu had been good at many things, but her baking was where she excelled. Everyone knew Grandma Lu had a magic touch, which she’d passed down to Sylvie.
While the pie was baking, Sylvie set the table for four using her grandma’s Haviland China. It was a dinner she planned to never forget.
This evening they were celebrating Todd’s new job, which would take him across the country. Sylvie couldn’t let that happen. They’d only been dating six months and were in no way ready for a move like this. If Sylvie didn’t do something now, he’d leave without her. She knew he was the one for her by their second date, and she couldn’t lose him.
By the time the pie was cooling, Sylvie put the baked ziti, Todd’s favorite, in the oven. Freshening up, she fluffed her hair and touched up her lipstick. “Now or never,” she told her reflection.
Piper and Alan arrived first. Alan had been after her best friend for years, and finally she’d relented, and they’d been a couple ever since.
Sylvie thought Piper could do better. Alan was very opinionated and quite satisfied at his entry level job. With his carefree attitude, he would never move up, but Piper was smitten anyway.
“It smells delicious in here,” Piper said, giving Sylvie a hug.
“It’s a celebration!” Sylvie reminded them.
“Todd’s new job,” Alan nodded. “At lease someone is getting out of this town.”
Sylvie rolled her eyes at Alan behind his back. Just another reason she didn’t care for the guy.
“Where’s ‘ole Todd anyway? Late as usual?” he added, in a loud voice.
“He’s on his way,” Sylvie said, mustering patience.
“Wow! That looks amazing,” Alan said, bending over the pie and taking a big whiff.
“That’s for Todd,” Sylvie announced right away. “It’s his favorite. I made it especially for him,” she smiled, praying the magic would work for her, like it did her grandmother.
“Bummer,” Todd said, frowning, still hovering over the pie.
“I have strawberry sorbet for tonight,” Sylvie mentioned, willing him to get away from the pie. “And baked ziti.”
“Sounds great, doesn’t it?” Piper said, giving her boyfriend a look.
Alan just shrugged his shoulders.
“So, when does he start the new job?” Piper asked, knowing Sylvie was worried about where the relationship was going.
“Six weeks,” Sylvie told her, with a deep sigh. “Here, have some veggies and dip,” she offered.
Piper helped herself but Alan screwed up his face at it.
Ten minutes later, Todd arrived full of apologies.
“Sorry. Work got crazy at the last minute, but I put in my last day,” he smiled.
“Your last day already?” Sylvie asked, alarmed.
“Yeah, I have a ton to do before I leave.”
Sylvie wanted to be a supportive girlfriend, but so far Todd hadn’t said anything about their relationship. She knew how important this job was to him though, so she followed along hoping he’d bring it up, and at least give thought to a long-distance thing. Now more than ever it was imperative that her plan worked.
“Dinner is ready,” Sylvie announced, a few minutes later, setting the salad on the table with the garlic bread and ziti.
“Wow! This looks wonderful,” Todd said, as he sat down. “I’m starved.”
“Well good, because I made all your favorites,” Sylvie told him.
Todd smiled not quite meeting her eyes.
Alan heaped the ziti on his plate before the rest of them had barely sat down. Sylvie bit her lip to keep from a snarky comment. She wanted this dinner party to be amazing so Todd would see what he’d be giving up.
“Did you hear the latest from the Whitehouse?” Alan spoke up, with a mouthful of food.
“We don’t need to discuss politics tonight,” Sylvie rushed in to say.
“Please, anything but politics,” Piper added.
“What?!” Alan asked, when Piper gave him a look.
“Have some bread,” Piper said, instead.
“I can help you pack, if you need,” Sylvie offered Todd.
“Thanks for the offer, but I’ll have plenty of time now,” he answered. “Dinner is delicious,” he said, changing the subject.
“Thanks,” Sylvie said, softly, looking down at her plate. Todd was acting aloof.
Conversation stalled for a few moments then Todd started telling them about his new job. He was so animated, Sylvie felt like she’d lost him already.
This dinner wasn’t going the way she’d planned.
Once the table was cleared, Sylvie put on music encouraging them to move into the living room. It was getting late, and she wanted to end the night on a good note.
While she and Piper put the leftovers away the guys moved to the other room, but when Sylvie brought out the sorbet, she noticed Todd sitting in the recliner instead of the loveseat. Now she was sure he was avoiding her. Piper and Alan sat on the couch so there was only the loveseat left, which is where she and Todd normally sat.
The conversation stilted again when Todd’s phone beeped.
“Excuse me,” he said, setting down his dessert.
“Oh my God,” Todd said, getting up. “They want me to fly out tonight,” he said, looking astonished, yet energized at the same time.
“Who?” Sylvie asked, hopping up too.
“My new job. There’s a meeting tomorrow – they really want me to be there. I’m sorry. I have to go.”
Panic rose in Sylvie. This was happening too fast. “Wait! Wait!” she said, running into the kitchen. “I made this for you,” she said, coming back out with the pie.
Todd was already at the door. “I’ll call you.”
“Here,” she said, thrusting the pie at him.
“I can’t, Sylvie. It will go to waste. I have to leave.”
“I’ll take it,” Alan said, suddenly by her side.
“It’s for Todd,” she said, holding it away from him. “Please take it,” she said to Todd. “It’s your favorite. My grandmother’s special recipe.”
“Sorry, gotta run,” Todd said, giving her a chaste kiss on the cheek. “You enjoy it, Alan.”
Before she knew it, Alan had plucked the pie from her hands. It would have caused a seen if she’d tried to take it back.
“Don’t mind if I do,” he said, with a triumphant grin on his face.
“It was a great dinner,” Piper said, sensing the tension. “Call me tomorrow, ‘kay?”
As Sylvie got ready for bed that night, she wondered how the evening had gotten so terribly out of hand. But it wasn’t until she turned out the lights that she remembered she’d been rather vague about her intention. As the secret ingredient was sprinkled into the pie, Sylvie’s spell was that the man eating this pie would fall in love with her.
“Oh, no!” She sat up in bed. “Alan!”