“You want me to what?” Francine turned her aristocratic profile to Amanda and refused to look her friend in the eye. “No way. That is just…no..no, I won’t do it.”
Amanda Stetson looked at the tall blonde, standing so obviously out of place in her Arlington kitchen. The more domesticated brunette sighed and wondered yet again why she had agreed to help in this particular endeavor. Why on earth had she agreed to this hare-brained scheme? She should have known that Francine wasn’t serious. She should have just said no. But how, when you had just so recently found true happiness yourself, did you refuse to help a friend in her own quest for happiness.
She looked once more at her friend. Once, she would have thought that was not exactly what she would call Francine but, now, well, friend wasn’t that strong a word. She recalled how, just two days ago, Francine had come to her in a near panic. She had burst into the Q Bureau, checked for Lee, then locked the door and approached Amanda’s desk.
“Francine, what on earth is after you? Is something wrong? Is it Lee? What’s going on?” Amanda jumped up from her desk and began to head for the door. If Lee was in trouble, she was going to help him.
“No, no, Amanda wait. It isn’t Lee. It isn’t anything like that. It’s far, far, worse.” Francine heaved a huge sigh and fiddled with the file in her arms.
“Worse? Oh my gosh, my boys? Mother? What? Francine, talk to me!” She stood her ground in front of the blonde agent and waited for the other shoe to drop.
Francine dropped her file onto Scarecrow’s desk, squared her shoulders, drew in a huge breath, and blurted it out, “I need your help. I need you to give me cooking lessons.”
Silence. A minute, then two, Amanda stared at the woman before her and attempted to assimilate the words she had just uttered. “You want me? Me? To give you cooking lessons?…..Get out. Get out.” She watched with immense satisfaction as Francine’s jaw dropped to the floor. She was speechless with shock! “I don’t know what kind of sick joke this is, but I am not falling for it. Not this time.” Amanda crossed to the door, turned the lock and held the door open for the other’s exit.
Francine stood, slack-jawed, and refused to move. Slowly she shook off her amazement at Amanda’s outburst. “No, Amanda, I’m serious. I need your help! Tate is coming for dinner this Friday and he wants good, old-fashioned, home cooked food. I have no idea how to cook anything that boring and I need you to teach me.”
“Tate? As in Tate Richmond, from the justice department? I thought you were breaking it off with him last week? You said he was plebian, and far too normal for you.”
“Well.” Francine swallowed hard and her face took on a dreamy look. “I was, but when I tried to tell him it was over, he sort of swept me up against him and kissed me like I’ve never been kissed before. The room spun and when he put me down, I forgot that I was breaking up and asked him to dinner instead. I think, well, I think that I may really like him, Amanda. I really want him to be impressed with this meal.”
“Francine, I’m surprised at you. Stooping to trickery to reel this man in. What is going to happen when he comes back for more? He’s gonna know that you don’t really know how to cook normal food.”
“Well, you see, I intend for him to be so besotted by that time, that he won’t care!”
The discussion had continued for several minutes, ending with Amanda agreeing to this idiotic idea. Now here she was, with Francine, in her cashmere sweater and linen slacks, and Amanda’s kiss the cook apron! She shook her head at the obstinate look on Francine’s face. She decided that the only way to get her to finish what she had started was a little emotional blackmail.
“Well, okay, but don’t blame me when Tate runs for the door after tasting your meal. There is only one right way to do this. You have to just roll up your sleeves and do it, Francine.”
“Amanda, this is the most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen, much less been expected to touch!” Francine gestured wildly at he large mixing bowl on the counter in front of her. “Now, I’ve chopped onions, totally ruining my mascara with the tears, I’ve ground black pepper until I sneezed! I even peeled potatoes! But I draw the line at this!”
“Okay, fine. I’m sure Tate will understand. Besides, I hear that little redhead over at the Justice Department makes a mean lasagna casserole. I’m sure he won’t go hungry.” Amanda shrugged her slim shoulders and arched her eyebrows in defeat.
“Oh no, no way. That little tramp, Paula isn’t going to take my man! Not with some faux Italian, over spiced, over indulgent casserole! I can do this and I will do this better than even his own mother!”
With those words, she pushed up her sleeves, grasped the mixing bowl firmly in one hand and plunged the other hand into the cold, sticky, oniony, ground beef and mixed like a housewife!
Francine Desmond, secret agent and prep school debutante, turned out the best meatloaf Tate Richmond had ever tasted!
Disclaimer: They don’t belong to me, but to Warner Brother’s and Shoot the Moon productions. Life just isn’t fair, is it? (Sigh)
Symbols ~~~ denote flashbacks
Symbols ~~~ denote flashbacks