As he put the shopping bags on the counter; he let out a deep breath. After taking off and hanging his coat up; put the shopping away whilst humming tunelessly.
I remember the day we met. It was a rainy, cold day in Manchester.
Smiling at the thought, he cracked two eggs into a bowl and whisked them together with a little salt and pepper. He washed and dried the cod fillets he had got from the fishmongers. The owner knew his wife, she was well known everywhere.
I remember it like watching a video… er- DVD, it’s still so clear. The train pulled up and I got off. She came rushing over all red faced I figured from running. Blonde shoulder length curls and a black corduroy jacket on, with badges on the lapels. All frowns and smiles. Turned out the redness was a suntan. Not my sort normally.
He laughed quietly. And what exactly was his sort? Dredging the fish through plain flour, he dipped the fillets in the egg before rolling them in Matzo meal. She loved her ‘posh fish and chips’ as she called it. It was quite a simple meal really, although white wine and mushroom sauce with fried fish and roasted potatoes, wasn’t really the same fayre proffered by the chippy round the corner. The fish was his grandmother’s recipe.
Placing the battered fish in the fridge, he prepared the potatoes.
Manchester is such a grim place normally, but walking round with her for hours, absolutely aimlessly, made it so much brighter. A totally different world. It was strange, we’d finish each other sentences, mimic the same moves in perfect harmony. It was like we were the same person.
He washed the peeled potatoes, removing a pan with oil in which had been heating in the oven; he gently lowered them in after drying. She always threw them in on purpose, making oil splash up and laughing like a maniac. He smiled to himself as he put the tray in the oven after liberally sprinkling them with black pepper and rock salt, brought home from a holiday in Cornwall.
We didn’t stop walking for hours. Neither us of really cared where we were going, we were so completely engrossed in talking to each other. We stopped for coffee; a plastic place of pinks and pastels in the Arndale Centre. The coffee was terrible but the company made it taste like the best Champagne.
When it really hit me was a day or so later. We went back to hers by train, I was going to spend the weekend there. We both needed a laugh desperately. Our lives were pretty desperate. We were exhausted from all that walking and almost collapsed waiting for a taxi. We ate pizza half-heartedly that night.
As the potatoes cooked away in the warmth of the oven, he prepared the mushrooms, shallots and garlic for the sauce. Slicing them all thinly, he set them to one side and heated up a frying pan. With a little olive oil and a truly decadent amount of butter, he gently shallow fried the fish.
He ripped off a sheet of foil and put it over a warm plate with the cooked fish on. Sliding it into the oven, he added a little more butter to the same pan and sauté’d the onions until soft and translucent. As they were almost done, he sprinkled in the slices of button mushroom and garlic until they too were flavour-some and ready.
The day it got me the most was a couple of days later. We were in the town centre, it was bloody grim; wet and miserable. Steam rising off people as they went into shops. She met a friend in the street and I stood back observing them. I’m an outsider, not my place to intrude. She was radiant, she lit up the street. Never seen anything like it ever from anyone else.
After that I confessed to her. I love her. Did from the moment we met. Even with that red face.
Chuckling, he poured a liberal amount of dry, white wine over the cooked vegetables. Turning the heat up, steam rose as it evaporated slowly. The double cream came out of the tub in gloops, hissing as it hit the pan. Mixing the ingredients together gently, with more black pepper; he got the plates out ready for serving.
It was her birthday.
“Come and get it!”
It’s her birthday, that woman I adore. Here she comes, I can hear her stomping down the stairs. How does someone so small make so much noise?
©DJA for CMA 2016