Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” -Continued – Part Five
Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” -Continued
She loved to shop and it didn’t matter for what. However, this shopping excursion was joyful in a special way. It was all to bring pleasure to a new friend.
Marlee had promised Dennis Thayer a Sunday breakfast, but she decided that a brunch would be better, more civilized. So, here she was, going up and down the aisles at Cala Foods, the only true supermarket on Haight Street.
The menu she had settled on would be: a fruit cup, orange juice, Eggs Benedict, asparagus and affordable champagne. “Hey, if you’re going to do it, do it right” she mumbled to herself as she perused the wine aisle.
It had taken three days of Mall crawling to get the comfortable furniture and accessories that gave her an apartment that would let her prepare and serve her brunch. It would be hard to make a decent hollandaise when you didn’t have so much as a wooden spoon to your name. Now her kitchen, while still short on counter space, sported a clean, hi-tech look.
“God bless Sears and in Kitchen-Aid we trust.”
Her credit cards were melted around the edges from creating her new home, but, at least, money was not an issue. Phillip and MetLife had done a lot of business. She was far from rich, but Kraft Macaroni and Cheese would be on the menu only by choice.
A full refrigerator always made Marlee feel secure and safe from just about anything.
“If you have a roof over your head and food in the ice-box nothing can hurt you” – So said her Nana Antonia, a child of the Great Depression. One look at her shopping cart and Marlee knew that she was safe for at least a week.
The next morning she was up early, dusting, rearranging and even primping a bit, anxious to play hostess.
She hadn’t cooked for anyone in a long time. After Phillip’s death Marlee moved back in with her parents where she and her mother slipped back into their earlier roles. Marlee was no longer an independent woman. She was a daughter in her parent’s home.
But now, here in San Francisco, a continent away, in her own apartment, she was herself again. She was again – period.
Finally, everything was ready to go. She wouldn’t finish the cooking until Dennis arrived.
“Oh, my God. When is he coming? We never set a specific time.” She looked at her watch. It was almost 10:45. She couldn’t wait any longer. She nervously tapped her toe on the new area rug from Pier 1, and then she remembered what Dennis had said. She grabbed the sponge mop from the closet, went into the parlor and gave three sharp raps on the ceiling with the mop handle. The glass lighting fixture rattled. She tried three more taps, but with a little less vigor. Sweeping up fallen plaster was not the way to kick off a Sunday brunch. From up above she heard a muffled voice yelling something and three quick taps on the floor.
Hearing his acknowledgment of her signal Marlee returned to the kitchen to pour the orange juice and get the champagne glasses from the dish rack. She held one up to the light to check for spots.
“Miss Marlee, you have really got to check your door locks.” Dennis was peeking around the corner of the kitchen doorway.
Marlee jumped in surprise and a champagne glass went flying toward the ceiling. She grabbed at it and only managed to knock it higher still. Her guest moved into the room and deftly plucked it from the air.
“He makes the catch and the crowd goes wild!”
“Jesus H. Christ, Dennis, you scared me half to death. How did you…?”
“Your door was open. I knocked and it just swung open.”
Marlee leaned back against the sink still trying to get her heart back into her chest.
“Everything’s OK, girl.” He held up the champagne glass. “Why don’t you fill this with something for me while I show you what I brought?” He stepped back into her hallway while Marlee wrestled the cork out of the chilled bottle with barely a whisper of protest from the champagne. As she started to pour the Napa Valley bubbly, he reappeared holding a small bouquet of red and white tulips.
“Ta-Da! I brought flowers. I figured that you’d already have some, but you can never have enough beauty in your life, I always say.” She took the tulips with her left hand as she held out a glass, filled to overflowing. He moved closer and sipped at the champagne while she still had it in her hand. He put his hand on hers to steady the glass. “Mmm, very nice. Thanks. Every day should start with champagne and tulips.”
Marlee smiled even though she felt a bit awkward about his touch. “I can’t argue with that,” she said. He took the glass from her hand.
“I’m glad you brought the flowers. I totally forgot. I’ve been so busy this week.”
Dennis retreated a couple of steps and set his empty glass on the stove.
“Well then, it’s a good thing I picked them up. And…I’ve got something else for you, a little housewarming gift.”
“Oh, Dennis, you shouldn’t have. What is it?” His enthusiasm was contagious.
He turned his back to her, reached into his shirt and spun back around holding up a small hardcover edition of Walt Whitman’s “Leaves Of Grass.”
I just thought you might like it. It’s one of my favorites, always has been.” He held it out to her and gave her a small, but courtly bow.
“Thank you, Dennis. It’s a favorite of mine too. I had a copy, but I guess I lost it in the move.”
“Movers – they’ll steal you blind. Refill?” He held up his empty glass and in a very bad English accent asked, “Could I have some more, please?”
While Marlee began assembling the food, Dennis put the flowers into a glass wine carafe that Marlee had picked up for just that purpose. He set them in the middle of her round, butcher-block dining room table. The red cloth napkins matched well with the tulips. He squinted at the table and picked up one of the knives, giving it a quick heft as he examined the design. “K Mart or Target? Oh, Miss Marlee, you need lessons.”
“What’s that?” Marlee was behind him holding two steaming plates. He took the plates and set them by the napkins. “I was just saying how lovely your table setting looks. Really quite elegant. Your flatware is to die for.”
It was a pleasant little brunch, as brunches go. The food was tasty. The champagne bubbles tickled the palate just right and the conversation wandered from topic to topic. Eventually it took on a more personal tone. Dennis drank steadily as they exchanged bits and pieces of their histories.
Marlee gave him the basic facts about what brought her to San Francisco.