A Watched Pot Never Boils

John watched from the front door as his Dad opened the car’s passenger door for Rose’s Mom. Seeing his Dad on a date was so surreal. It wasn’t that he disapproved, it was just that he never even considered it. He curled his fingers in a small wave to his guardian, who silently waved back before sliding into the driver’s seat. The car rolled out of the driveway and out of sight.

John’s eyes shifted to the young girl sharing space on the welcome mat with him. Rose was looking out past the driveway with disinterest, arms crossed over her chest.

“Well,” John motioned for Rose to enter the house, “I guess you can come on in and put your stuff down.”

Rose had been invited by Dad to stay with John while he and Mom went out for dinner and a show. It was the first time she had come to John’s house since the Homestuck incident, if you considered adventures in virtual and paradox worlds to be in the same category as everyday house visits.

Rose considered this an altogether different experience. As she walked inside she observed the room closely, taking in the surroundings from an perspective she had never seen them in before.

John followed her into the living room, “You know your way around, I guess. Just set your stuff anywhere and have a seat.”

She placed her bag on the floor and took a seat on the couch. “So. What do you have planned for us to pass the time this evening?”

“I was thinking we could watch a movie later but… well, um, I’m a little hungry. I thought we could eat first.”

Rose agreed. “My Mother left me with twenty dollars, so we could order a pizza if we can decide on a topping…”

“No need,” interrupted John. “Our kitchen is full, we can just cook something.”

Rose looked at him in surprise, “Do you… know how to cook?”

“Of course! Don’t you?”

“No, actually,” she admitted.

“That’s surprising. I though you would know how. I mean, I thought your Mom would have taught you. She seems like the type to be a really good cook.”

“Yes, well,” Rose responded with a cold bitterness, “Mom always had food perfectly cooked and served for me promptly every dinner. She would never allow me to be bothered with the task of cooking. How… loving of her.”

“Umm… yeah.” John didn’t understand the relationship Rose and her Mom had at all. “Well, my Dad taught me, so I like to cook when I can. But I don’t always get the chance because he takes up so much of the kitchen baking those…” he cringed, “horrible cakes.”

Rose raised an eyebrow, but decided not to comment. “I’m be delighted to try your cooking, John. I’m sure it’s delicious.”

Our cooking,” he corrected. “Come on, I’ll teach you how to make something. It’ll be fun!” He pulled her enthusiasticly into the kitchen.

“What do you want to make?” John asked, opening the refrigerator and pulling out two grape sodas. He handed one to Rose and tapped on the top of his own can before lifting the tab with a click.

“Oh, whatever you want,” she responded. “Can I have a glass for this?”

John opened the cupboard and selected the fanciest glass he had. He filled it with ice and passed it her way. “I was thinking we could make chicken noodle soup.”

She poured her juice into the glass. “That sounds good to me. What can I help with?”

“Get some garlic, thyme, bay leaf, noodles, and a can of chicken broth from the pantry,” he directed. “I’ll get the rest from the fridge.”

Rose opened the pantry browsed its shelves. Chocolate cake mix, confetti cake mix, yellow cake mix, white icing, chocolate icing, poppy seed cake mix, flour, sugar, powdered sugar, brown sugar… more confetti cake mix!

“Have you got everything yet?” John asked.

“Are you sure you directed me to the pantry? I think I might have accidentally stumbled into a bakery.”

“No, the stuff is in there. Look behind the carrot cake mix.”

Rose pushed a few boxes aside to reveal a package of noodles and some cans of broth. She gathered them up in her arms. Then she grabbed the spices John had asked for from the small shelf on the door of the pantry, finding the thyme between the red and blue sprinkles.

John got out the cutting board and began to chop the celery, carrots, and green onion he had gathered from the refrigerator. When Rose placed the other ingredients on the table he turned and handed her the knife. “Could you finish chopping these?”

Rose reluctantly took the knife and stood over the vegetables. She carefully held the ends as she pressed down with the blade. Crack! The smell of fresh carrot was sweet in her nostrils. She smiled and started another cut. Crack! This time the knife sliced into the green onion. The new sent pinched in her nose.

John turned on the stove and set a large pot on the burner before pouring in the can of broth. He turned back to Rose, who had just finished chopping. “Okay, so dump those in the broth, and we’ll let them simmer for a while.”

Rose did as instructed and John picked up the spices, shaking them into the pot with a flourish. He finished and leaned against the counter. Now they would just have to wait. He looked up at Rose, who was standing in the middle of room looking absentmindedly out the window. She swirled the juice in her glass before taking a drink.

John smiled mischievously and picked up a can of Pringles from the counter. “It’s going to take a while for the vegetables to soften. If you’re hungry now you can eat some of these. They’re cheddar flavor.”

He offered the can to Rose. She eyed it suspiciously and took another drink. “I think I can wait.”

After a few minutes John handed the package of noodles to Rose. “I think you can add the these now.”

She took the noodles and dumped them in the broth. They fell with a plop into the soup, which was starting to smell delicious. John picked up a wooden spoon and started to stir. “You want to taste it?” he asked, pointing the end of the spoon in her face.

She grabbed the spoon’s handle and cautiously sipped the bit of broth at the end. It was fantastic! “You really seasoned this well.”

“Sometimes when I cook,” John said absentmindedly, “I like to pretend that I’m the chef in that movie with the mouse.” He watched the noodles swirl in the pot as he stirred it.

“Ratatouille?” Rose asked.

John looked up at her in confusion. “What? Oh! Oh, no. I was talking about Mouse Hunt.”

Rose failed miserably at her attempt to keep the corners of her lips from turning into a smile. She placed a reassuring hand on John’s shoulder. “Your taste in movies is truly unique.”

John snapped his attention back to his pasta. “Nathan Lane is so funny,” he noted. He chuckled to himself at the thought of it.

It wasn’t long before the noodles had cooked and the soup was finished. Rose believed it was the best soup she had ever tasted. John scribbled down his recipe and poured the leftovers into a container so that she could take it home.

“What do you want to do now?” he asked while washing the dishes.

“Whatever you want to do is fine with me,” Rose responded, flipping through the pages of her Grimoire.

John’s eyes sparkled behind his glasses.

About an hour later the two kids were slouched on the couch, right in the middle of watching Shaquille O’Neal use magical powers to win a bicycle race against a young boy. John was grinning from ear to ear.

“John, try to contain your excitement and pass me the chips, please.”

He handed her a can of Pringles. She reached over without looking and absentmindedly opened the container. Rose jumped back as an explosion of confetti burst into her face.

Mom and Dad opened the door and paused at the scene before them. John was on the floor, holding his sides as he laughed uncontrollably and Rose stood above him, angerly throwing handfulls of the spilled confetti at him.

The two parents looked at each other and quietly exited the room.

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