Welcome to the Hotel Illness

A love story for the real world

2/17/03 @ 8:40 AM                                                                                                 T-8

Jason finished mixing the dough and washed his hands.  He appraised the situation and decided the dough needed another sprinkling of chocolate chips.  That would be milk chocolate chips, none of that semi-sweet stuff.   Real milk chocolate was the key, as far as he was concerned, to really good cookies.  Milk chocolate and the right sheet.  For cookies, nothing but shiny will do.  Dark, glass, or overlarge pans almost guaranteed the cookies will end up browning too quickly and becoming brittle little rocks instead of chewy enchantments.  There was nothing like a good stainless steel cookie sheet

Spooning out the dough, he began to speculate what Amy's response would be.  How would he respond to a plate of cookies left anonymously outside his door?  He didn't think he was quite jaded enough to be suspicious, but then again, he wasn't sure.  A lot of how she reacted would rely on what was going on in her life, which admittedly, he knew almost nothing about.  She lived in a little stone looking cottage two houses down and across the street from his.  She drove a white Golf convertible, and spent most of the evening daylight tending the rose bushes that circled the cottage like exterior wainscoting.  The last few hundred yards of his drive home from work had become the best part of his day.  The previous Monday had been the cliche' of Mondays.  He was sure it had been a Monday like that one that had initially garnered Mondays their infamy.

He had just turned on to Mulberry St. after eight and a half hours of reprimanding salesmen who promised the world, encouraging engineers who were adamant that it couldn't be delivered, and soothing customers who expected it, when he saw her.  Her blonde hair pulled back into a ponytail and kneeling with clippers in hand at the island of a rose bush next to her mailbox.   There was something about the scene that caught his attention.  Even in old Levi's and an Ohio State sweatshirt she was stunning, but that wasn't it.  At least not all of it.  There was something about the slow, casual, but precise movements of her hands mixed with the calm of the early evening street that struck him.  After the day he'd had, she looked like the epitome of serenity.  Without being aware of it, he'd taken his foot of the gas and was merely idling down the street as he watched her.  He had been so taken with the peacefulness exuding from her quiet work that he hadn't even realize he was staring.  That is, until she looked up.  And smiled.  Her smiled jerked him out of his trance, but elicited a smile from himself as well.   When your that busted, you might as well play it out, he thought.   So he rolled down his window and slowed to a stop.

"Those are beautiful.  What's your secret?"

"Ah, no secret really.  Just water, sun, and keeping all the dead stuff trimmed away."

No magic potions, huh?"

She laughed.  And God, what a laugh.  "No.  Actually, I do it more for me than for the roses - it keeps me sane." She laughed again, a smaller laugh, but every bit as rapturous.  "I'm Amy, by the way."

"Jason," he offered.  Well, looks like you're doing something right."  He smiled, and tried to think of something else to say.

"Do you live around here?" she asked.

"A couple of houses up" He pointed to his own little house.

"Oh, the one with the deck?  I love that."

He blushed a 'thanks', and, sensing an awkward silence on the rise, he waved bye and slid on down the street to his driveway.

So he'd decided to bake her a little anonymous thank you for unknowingly lifting his spirits with her friendliness.  He spooned out the last dollop of dough, slid the sheet into the oven, and set the timer.  After several failed attempts at reading the paper, he settled into pondering the various outcomes of the situation.  He wanted it to be anonymous, but if she happened to figure out who left them . . . well, that just might be an added bonus.  But then, he didn't even know if she was already seeing someone.  He thought about the best way to leave them without her little scottie sensing his presence and raising ten kinds of hell.  He decided early morning would be best.   Less chance some critter would find the cookies before she did, and then he could just head on in to work and catch up on some things before the world started abusing his patience over the phone.  He dug out an old sketch pad and tried to compose a short note.  After switching from pen to pencil and amassing a pile of crumpled sheets at his feet, he finally managed to write something acceptable, and more importantly, legible.

Because you smiled

Because you spoke

Because you laughed

Just because

He folded the paper in half and taped it to the plastic wrap that covered the cookies.

The next morning before daylight, he carried the tray of cookies up the street, and placed it with slightly shaking hands on her doorstep.  At the office, he submerged himself in work to keep from driving himself crazy thinking about what might or might not happen.  But, sometime after lunch he was overcome with a horrendous thought.   What if something was wrong with the cookies?  He hadn't tasted them.  They should be ok, but what if . . .   She wasn't outside when he came home that day.   Or the next.  Paranoia was really starting to get the better of him.  He had to go to Jersey the next week in order to ensure continued business with customers that, personally he would like to see go by the wayside.  That week passed slowly and when he finally returned, was dismayed to see that fall was beginning to set in.   Two weeks went by, and still he hadn't seen her.  The tray was gone, but he didn't know if the cookies had turned out ok, or if she had even found them or if some stray dog had carried them away.  And that felt worse than any of the other outcomes his insecurity had cultivated.

Uncertainty is always the hardest thing to deal with.


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