Chapter Three: Water
Fionula ran the water into the kettle, the filter making a soft high-pitched whine as it worked. It was an extra unit she’d had from her last apartment and she’d given it to Kirby for his new place.
“Hey,” Kirby greeted, wandering into the kitchen and sitting down on one of the only chairs that didn’t have boxes or packing material stacked on it.
“Hi there. How ‘ya feeling?” she asked brightly, noting he didn’t look very good. More like depressed and mopey. She never really liked Sara, and this was just another black mark against Kirby’s ex-girlfriend.
He sighed and looked out the window. “Okay, I guess.”
She set the kettle on the stove and lit the gas. She bent to rummage in the canvas sack she’d lugged over and pulled out the smaller bag of produce and set it in the sink. She set the pork roast, still chilly from the freezer, on the counter. Finally finding the tea buried under the net bag of potatoes, she fished it out and plumped the cardboard box back up.
“Well, cheer up, Kirby. I brought pork roast and vegies, and tea. And then you can have a bubble bath and ice cream.”
He actually laughed at that, she was pleased to note.
“A bubble bath?” he scoffed. “Come on, Fionula. I’m not a chick.”
She turned around and put her hands on her hips. “Armand said to come over and cheer you up, so I’m going to do that. Besides. I’m gay, so whatever you have,” she waved her hand negligently toward his lap, “doesn’t interest me. So your virtue is safe with me.”
He stared at her, nonplussed.
She pulled her other bag closer and pulled out the bubble bath, followed by two glass container candles, a plastic bag with a pint of Zanzibar Chocolate ice cream, and her copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. “I’ll even read to you.”
He pulled the bag of ice cream closer half-heartedly and peeked inside. “There’s a cow on your ice cream.”
“Yeah?” she retorted. “That just shows it’s made with real cow juice.” She yanked it away and stuffed it unceremoniously in the freezer. “Show respect, that’s Zanzibar Chocolate.”
“‘Cow juice?’” he echoed faintly. “Ew?”
She snorted. “Then don’t complain,” she said in a reasonable tone of voice.
He smiled but it faded too quickly. She surveyed her supplies. She pulled out the greens and set them in the sink and washed the apples. She looked over her shoulder at him. “You want to help me wash these greens?”
He shrugged. “Yeah, sure, why not.”
They spent the next thirty minutes preparing dinner. He seemed to forget some of his melancholia in the routine and helped her position the pork on top of the chopped apples. She doused it with hard apple cider and put it in the oven.
“Okay. Now I’ll go start the bath.”
“Fionula, come on. I don’t need –”
“Shush. Come on.”
He groaned but got up and followed her. She started the water and he adjusted the temperature. She let the tub fill with bubble bath, the sharp scent of lavender filling the small space.
“Hey! This doesn’t smell half bad!” he blurted.
“You know what I mean, Fionula. It’s not all girly and whatever.”
“Kirby, that’s not an improvement,” she said, laughing. “I could have brought bubble gum. Or baby-fresh scent.”
He grimaced. “Ew.”
“Okay. You get in the tub and I’ll come back in and read to you, k? Oh! I’ll get the ice cream.”
“Before dinner?” he asked, actually smiling.
“Of course! ‘Life’s short, eat desert first,’” she quoted. She closed the door on him before he could think of a response.
It didn’t take him long to get ready and he did seem a lot more relaxed once he was actually in the water. She handed him a bath pillow with a big silly pink bow on it. “It’s a housewarming present,” she told him.
He smiled. “Thanks!” He seemed to really mean it. She put the bow on the counter and he blew the pillow up, then sat back with a sigh.
“Okay.” She settled herself on the toilet, using a towel as a pillow. “Hänsel and Grethel.”
“I know this one!” He sounded pleased.
“Bet you don’t,” she countered, meeting his gaze. “Have you read the originals?”
He looked perplexed. “The original what?”
“Grimm’s Fairy Tales aren’t kids’ stories, really. They’re folk tales that were changed for children, made lighter. The originals are really dark and, well, grim.”
She read him the story and by the end, he seemed really engrossed. She went to check on the pork and came back to find him looking through the book. “Hey!”
He smiled and handed it back. “This one,” he requested, pointing.
“Brother and Sister, huh? Okay.”
By the time the bath was over and dinner was ready, the dull melancholy look had left Kirby’s eyes. She even got him to laugh a couple times during dinner.
As she put her coat on to leave, she looked at him. “Here,” she handed over the book, “you can read some more if you want.”
“Thanks!” He looked down at the cover and then met her eyes. “Thanks, Fionula. Really. I had a good time tonight.”
“I told you,” she said firmly. “It’s the Zanzibar Chocolate.”
“Right.” He shook his head and hugged her. He waited by his front door until the elevator came and then waved at her as she got on.
She hitched her bags a little higher and smiled to herself. It worked every time. Zanzibar Chocolate and a bath could cure anything.