Thursday, December 13, 2012
The Way of the World
Mick watched Dorothy make the sauce, using ingredients and methods he’d never seen before. She explained as she went along, telling him about her family and her mother’s recipe.
“My mom’s family was from Italy, northern Italy, near Venice. My grandmother and grandfather fled Italy in 1940 after they were married. Her family were all dead, killed under the fascist regime lead by Mussolini. Grandpa’s remaining brothers eventually came to America after the war but they had lost everything. Grandma and Grandpa both worked their way here, on a ship. I think the conditions on board were horrific but neither of them ever complained; they were just thankful to be able to get here.”
“I was stationed in Italy, during WWII, Dorothy. It was beautiful, even during the war and the people were very welcoming to us. I can’t tell you how many families shared whatever they had for their dinner’s with us. I’ll never forget them or their generosity of spirit.”
“Yes, to Italians, everyone is family. They do share a joy for life, for people, and for food. I know that grandma was sorry to leave her home but she created her own family right here in America, in the neighborhood where they lived. Over in West Adams by the way, where you grew up.”
“Is that where your mom was born?”
“Well, yes. In a hospital but she grew up in West Adams. Mom was born in 1942.”
“The year I went to war. This is amazing. What was the family name, Dorothy.”
“Pirelli. They lived on Elmhurst Avenue, past Miller’s Grove. They both died in the seventies so my memories of them are sort of spotty. But mama knew all the stories and also learned how to cook all the traditional family foods. You know, Italy is much like the States, every region has its own particular tastes and specialties. I make northern Italian style lasagna, which is different from the southern versions that are much more well known here in America. This recipe is made with a tomato based sauce, which is a bit unusual for Northern Italian cooking. It’s a farming region so fresh produce is plentiful. Most recipes feature lots of vegetable and because they are right near the Adriatic Sea seafood or frutti di mare is a very common ingredient as well.”
As she spoke she finely grated some carrot to add to the sauce and Mick was surprised by the addition. She’d used fresh roma tomatoes from his garden plus some fresh basil, putting they through a food mill to begin with after she’d seeded the tomatoes. She had also added large garlic cloves that she’d simply cut in half to the simmering mixture.
“Why the carrot and why didn’t you chop or mince the garlic?”
“The carrot gives it a bit of sweetness and the garlic will flavor it but will be pulled out before it’s served.” Nest she added a small pork bone that she’d gotten from the butcher as it simmered. At his questioning look she added, “The pork bone cuts a bit of acidity from the sauce. I’ll pull it out later as well.”
As she finished adding other ingredients and the sauce simmered he thought it looked deceptively simple but the aroma of it was definitely a complex blend of scents. While the sauce was simmering she browned some ground sirloin to go into it later on. “Mama almost never added meat to the lasagna but I find that we American’s tend to like it in there,” she laughed.
“I definitely wish I could taste this,” he told her as he inhaled deeply.
“Can you not taste anything, Mick? Like you can’t even taste general things, like sweet or salty?”
“No, I can’t. If Beth has eaten chocolate or popcorn, I can taste, hm, maybe an echo of it on her lips. But not outright, no.”
Dorothy thought that was really sad and then considered that Clark would be in the same situation. He loved her lasagna and for a moment she bit her lip to keep from tearing up at the thought. She was lost in thought when Beth opened the front door a minute later and jumped a bit at the sound.
Mick was chopping vegetables from his garden to add to the store bought greens for the salad to go with dinner. He put down his knife and went to greet his wife, pulling her tightly to him as his lips captured hers in a delicious kiss.
“Hi,” he said, smiling at her.
“Hi yourself.” She kissed him again and then stood on tiptoes to peek over his shoulder. “Oh wow, it smells so good in here! Mick, are you watching so you know how to do this?”
He chuckled and said, “Well, I’m watching but I’m not sure I could do it.” He took the bag she was carrying which had a couple of loaves of fresh Italian bread in them and Spumoni ice cream for dessert.
Beth shrugged out of her jacket and headed over to give her mom a kiss on the cheek. “How are you feeling, Mom?”
“Really good and guess what?”
“I don’t know!”
Dorothy grinned and said, “I now know that we’re having a boy and a girl!”
“So they finally got a clear picture of the little shy one, huh?”
“No. Actually, Vaygar told me. He said that Alexander apparently protects his sister when people get too close.”
“Vaygar? He’s here now?”
“Yes, this morning but really, he’s a pain in the neck. Tried to tell me that I couldn’t go to my doctor’s appointment! How dare he?”
Beth saw Mick leaning against the counter behind her mother and he had a very wide smile on his face. There must be more to this story and she couldn’t wait to hear it.
“Bethy, could you make the almond sauce for the ice cream, please?”
“Sure, Mom. Is that all I can do?”
“Yes, for now. You remember how don’t you?”
“Yep, just let me go and wash up first, okay?”
Dorothy nodded as she waited for the huge pot of water to boil so she could put the noodles in to cook. She’d bought pre-made noodles from the store; while they weren’t as good as homemade she knew that she didn’t have the stamina right now to make them from scratch.
A couple of minutes later Beth was back dressed in jeans and a deep blue sweater that Mick had bought her. It brought out the blue in her eyes and he loved to see her in it. He watched as she stirred together the almond sauce over the stove and lifted his nose to scent it as well. Altogether this meal smelled delicious.
A half an hour later Mick watched as Dorothy built the last layer of the 12 layer dish. She’d been smart to grab her lasagna dish from her house because he didn’t have anything nearly deep enough to hold it all.
As much as watching her make the sauce was interesting, watching her build it was also intriguing. American lasagna typically had lots of ricotta cheese layered in it and she only put one layer in hers, telling him that typically in northern Italy you might not find any. “They like the flavor of good olive oil in their lasagna, as opposed to all the cheese.” She’d used lots of fresh mozzarella, the kind that is very soft and came in little balls. Mick had never seen it before and discovered it wasn’t waxy at all like the normal cheese he’d seen.
He picked the heavy pan up and slid it into the oven; it had a good hour to bake and they all sat back to relax for a bit.
Dorothy curled up in one of the arm chairs and within a couple of minutes Beth noticed that she was sleeping. As she draped the afghan over her mom she realized that her mom was finally getting back some of her color; since Clark had been attacked she been very pale but the shock seemed to be wearing off and she was adapting well.
On the couch Beth snuggled into the crook of Mick’s arm and he told her about the encounter with Vaygar that morning. She was surprised when he told her about her mom’s angry reaction.
She grinned and said, “He really stuck a chord in her; she hardly ever gets mad like that!”
“Tell me about it. I’ve never seen her that mad. Actually, he was pretty nice but I think he just came on a bit too strong for her. He’s worried about her obviously and just tried to sort of take over. Never a good thing where Turner women are concerned!” He chuckled, his eyes sparkling as he watched her.
“Just remember that, buddy!” She laughed softly, trying not to wake her mom. “I hope he’ll back up the bus a notch or two though; it will make things simpler.”
“I think he got the idea. I called my friend Craig Martinez in Santa Fe earlier. He’s a PI I met at a conference a couple of years ago. He’s going to take a trip down to Bernalillo to see if he can lay eyes on Vinton McCullough, or his property anyway, if he’s here.”
“Do you really think this guy had something to do with dad’s attack?”
She was skeptical, he could tell but then so was he. “I don’t know, Beth. His car was here and he wouldn’t stop to talk to Brody. That makes us suspicious, but he might not have ever heard Brody for all we know. He could have been lost and looking for an address or something. We need to get eyes on him and actually talk to him to see what was going on.”
She nodded, agreeing with what he said. “Nothing else has happened though; I assume the house was okay today?”
“Yes, nothing out of place and no one else had been in there. It all might have been random, who knows? Except my gut tells me it isn’t.”
“Mine too, Mick.” She moved over onto his lap and melted against him, loving the feel of his body against hers. It wasn’t a sexual feeling really, just the comfort of his being, of feeling safe and loved. For a few minutes that was all that mattered to either of them.
A few minutes later they heard the elevator and stood up and headed to the door. They both recognized Lani and Josef’s scents and Beth also identified Henry. They opened the door, smiling at their guests and welcoming them. Dorothy woke up then and stood, happy to see them as well.
“Lani, how are you feeling, honey?” she said as she gave the young woman a hug.
“Good. Is that grandma Grace’s lasagna I smell?” At Dorothy’s nod she added, “Ooh, I can’t wait!”
Beth smiled and gave first Josef and then Henry each a kiss on the cheek. “Henry, may I take your jacket?” She noticed he was dressed in gray slacks and a nice button down shirt, a little dressier than he normally wore.
“Yes, here you go,” he said as he slid the jacket off. “And I have to agree with Lani, it smells wonderful in here! I don’t get too many home-cooked meals, like this anyway.”
Josef handed Mick a couple of bottles of wine and Mick’s eyebrows rose in surprise as he spied the labels. “Nice!” he declared, grinning at Josef who just shrugged. “Getting soft, Josef?” he said in vamp tones.
“I wouldn’t count on it. They were just collecting dust!” he countered.
Beth added her smile to Mick’s and invited everyone to sit down. The timer went off on the oven and Dorothy went to check it. She nodded approvingly at the golden goodness that she saw and asked Mick to pull it out of the oven. “It needs to rest for about 20 minutes so we have time to get the bread in and get the table set.”
Lani got busy on the table, setting if for dinner. It was fairly large but with 7 people around it, it might be a bit cramped. Mick helped to gather chairs and few minutes later the vamps heard the elevator and Beth headed to the door and saw Luka approaching it.
He ran a finger around his collar, a nervous gesture which sort of puzzled her for a moment but then she realized this was the first time he’d been to the loft since he and Carl had taken Mick in for questioning, so many months ago. No doubt it was uncomfortable for him to think of and she resolved to help him feel at ease.
“Luka, welcome,” she said wearing a big smile. “I’m so glad you came. Please come in. Looks like dinner will be in about 15 minutes. Mick’s manning the bar so drink orders go to him.” She led him farther into the room and heard his heartbeat skip a couple of times. He was still a little unsure of being around vampires she thought.
“Luka, what can I get you?” Mick said as he poured a scotch for Josef.
“I’ll have a scotch too I guess. That will be fine,” he said as he walked across the room.
Henry saw how uncomfortable his friend was and went to stand next to him. “Luka, good to see you. How are you?”
Luka smiled at Henry, suddenly a bit more at ease. Henry was certainly much more comfortable around the vamps then he was and he decided to just chat for a moment to help him relax a bit.
Luka and Henry had formed a strong friendship during their captivity and now that Luka was volunteering a good deal of his free time at the church that bond had become stronger still. He respected and admired Henry’s dedication to the homeless population and since being held captive with some of them they weren’t just folks to be over-looked anymore. He now saw them as individuals, each with a unique set of needs and problems. He knew that he had helped some of them and he’d never felt happier with himself.
Now if he could only learn to feel the same ease with the vamps. He watched Carl with curiosity each day; the way that he eagerly embraced his future, the future that would include becoming a vampire. He had big plans, big dreams about it all too. Marrying Cami, continuing to work for LAPD as well as for Heroku, Cami’s father, of a sort.
Big plans, plans that made Carl feel on top of the world. Luka was happy for Carl that he had found a woman that he loved so much and a future that excited him. But he also felt a bitter twist of pain in his own gut that he’d never found ‘the one’, never found that spark, the magic. Hell, he doubted that it even existed for him.
He saw the lasagna sitting on the kitchen counter and wandered over to it and sniffed appreciatively. “That smells really good. Like something my Italian mama would have made,” he observed.
“You’re Italian, Luka?” Dorothy asked as she poured dressing over the salad and tossed it.
“Yes, I am. Last name is Fiorentino,” he laughed. “Can’t get much more Italian than that!”
“Pirelli! Or at least my mother’s family.”
They discussed Italy and family and by the time they were ready to eat Luka was feeling very comfortable. Mick picked up the lasagna and carried it to the table as Josef poured wine for those imbibing. Lani and Dorothy were having juice with their meals but neither cared that they were missing out on the wine, the company was good and the food better.
Much of the talk around the table centered on the renovations that were going to be done to the church. It was obvious that Henry was very enthused about it and also that he took a certain pride in how the project was being handled.
“We’ve already had several of our people, who have related experience offer to pick up a paint brush or move things around, anything that they can do to help. It’s helping the homeless community come together. We’ve figured out how to reconfigure space and come up with an additional 30 beds! And some of the best news? Clark told me right before I came here that he’d managed to get someone to provide a brand new heating and cooling system for the church! Isn’t he amazing?”
Mick happened to glance at Josef and saw how the elder vamps fingers tightened around the stem of his wine glass as he looked around the room, trying to look as if he didn’t care. Mick smiled to himself, knowing easily exactly who it was that had donated the new system.
It was actually an amazing discovery. Not that Josef wasn’t often very generous, even if he protested on the surface of things but this church project was completely different for him to be involved in. It didn’t have anything to do with future returns or opportunities; it was only about the mutual good it would do for Henrys group of homeless people, the community as a whole in fact. Clarks company secured the necessary permits and provided the labor but the donations for the project were all being kept strictly confidential, including the sizable chunk that Mick and Beth had donated as well as what was sure to be a much larger contribution from Josef. The new heating and cooling system was the single most expensive item needed and now it was covered and Josef looked decidedly uncomfortable about it.
Yep, he was the anonymous benefactor for sure. Mick felt a great deal of gratitude and pride for his friend.
“Henry, I know the church functions as a…mission, of sorts but does it also function as a regular church, like with normal services I mean?” Josef asked.
“Yes, we do have services on Sundays for our people. We are a non-denominational church, in other words we are not part of any particular belief structure or guidance from a church diocese. Which is why we don’t have funding from those groups either. The building is leased from the city for a small stipend, yearly. In return for that we maintain it as best we can and provide an open door policy for those needing help, housing, meals, things like that.”
“This city? Being that generous? Seems a bit unusual,” Josef remarked.
“Just a bit of luck I guess. Maybe someone working behind the scene that had a guilty conscience, who knows? But I’ll take it. As far as daily functions, we have several endowments and grants from various agencies that provide help with expenses.”
The table talk turned to babies and the news that Dorothy and Clark were having a boy and a girl. Lani was thrilled with the news. “So, Beth, you get a brother and a sister! You’re going to be a great big sister. And our baby will have a couple of cousins, sort of,” she said, smiling at Josef and resting her hand on her stomach.
“I hear you had a craving for pistachio fudge ice cream last night and Josef had to go find some,” Beth teased.
“Well, yes he did and then I had fallen asleep before he got back.” She smiled a bit but it was apparent that she felt bad about it.
“Yes, all true. Of course, I was gone for nearly 3 hours, looking for an unusual flavor of ice cream that apparently only one place in town sells. And of course that place wasn’t open at 3 am. But rest assured, Sweetness, you now have a freezer full of that green stuff downstairs.” The smile he gave her was indulgent but there was a bit on an edge to his words. It apparently hadn’t been much fun scouring the city for the ice cream.
“Well, you know, after seeing that mess of chocolaty goop in the bowl that was on the nightstand this morning I’m not sure I’ll ever want it again. He poured a whole jar of hot fudge sauce over some pistachio ice cream! It looked pretty sickening this morning.” She patted his hand and added, “I’m sorry, Josef.” But her smile told him how much she appreciated the gesture and also how much she loved him.
Josef only laughed, something that amazed both Mick and Beth. He didn’t even seem irritated about it all; his indulgence for Lani was very apparent. He would have bought her the moon if she’d only ask.
“Lani, maybe after the baby is born you two can get married in Henry’s church. You do weddings there, Henry?” Dorothy asked. Yes, she wanted to push a bit and see what happened.
Henry looked stunned for a moment. “I - well of course we could although I never have done one there.” He looked back and forth between Lani and Josef, apparently upset about the request. “Forgive me, but you two aren’t already married?”
A blush swept over Lani’s face and Josef reached up and brushed a stray strand of hair away from her face when she hung her head a bit. “No, not yet. The love of my life, my very long life I might add wants to wait until after our child is born.”
There wasn’t any rancor in his words but an underlying layer of pain was easy to hear, even to the humans. He didn’t want to wait, but she did?
That wasn’t typical, in Henry’s experience.
“Lani, may I be so impertinent as to ask why? It’s not a difficult thing to do, get married I mean.” Henry’s words were spoken reassuringly and without any intent to hurt her but she suddenly felt ashamed of herself and extremely embarrassed. She stood up and headed out to the balcony without saying a word.
Josef started to rise and Beth shook her head. “Give her a bit of time, Josef. Come on, you know that by now.”
“She needs me. I shouldn’t have said what I did. It’s her decision and I have to live with it. For now.”
“I apologize, Josef. I never meant to embarrass her it’s just - most women aren’t the ones who hold back in these situations. Let me talk to her, please. I need to express how sorry I am for saying something that caused her pain.”
Josef debated for a moment on Henry’s offer. He liked the young man and knew that his words hadn’t been intended to cause Lani any shame.
Dorothy looked out towards the doors to the balcony as she thought about what had happened. Lani had turned a corner; she did want to get married now. She was very easy to read to someone that had been reading her most of her life. She just didn’t know how to get out of the corner she’d backed herself into.
“Josef, I think it’s a very good idea for Henry to go and talk to her. Let him.” She smiled at the man whose sherry brown eyes were full of pain and indecision. She nodded and felt relief when she saw him nod in return.
“Up the stairs and out the doors, Henry,” Mick said.
As Henry ascended the stairs he didn’t know how he was going to do it but he was going to convince that young woman that she needed to marry Josef Kostan. That baby needed a name and all the love it could get and Josef apparently had much love to give and share.
Yes, she needed to marry him. And soon.
To be continued…
Posted by Hope at 10:37 AM