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The Last Leg

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I stored Jay in joint size pieces in my large freezer at the back of the lean-to – the one we had built with the kitchen extension.

I’ve been busy over the last few months: chopping, grinding and tending to my extended vegetable garden.

This last leg – Jay’s last leg, is for this special meal I’ve got planned for Fiona tonight. It’s her favourite dish, see – lasagna. I found it in a book of recipes she gave me a couple of Christmases ago.

Now let me see, ‘Two and a half pounds of ground beef’.

I ain’t got no scales, but I’ve been cooking long enough to know what two pounds of meat look like. Being in the freezer’s made it easier to peel the skin off.

I’ve tenderised and grounded the meat – the old fashioned way. The chopped onions burn my eyes. I quickly drop them in the oily pan with the crushed garlic and ‘add the minced meat, to brown’.

The sizzling mixture of spices and seasoning take over the kitchen. They’ll help give the mince that special kick and really add some flavour. This leg won’t be climbing into bed with anyone, I tell myself – not unless it’s in their stomach. Ha-ha.

‘Now stir in the chopped tomatoes and tomato sauce.’ That’s it. Add the ‘quarter cup of chopped parsley,’ fresh from my vegetable garden – the bit where I’ve buried his eyes.

I know the thirty minutes the recipe says won’t be enough to cook that tired old leg, so I’ll just give it a little longer.

More than eighteen years of my life I gave him. And I did so love him. But when a man doesn’t come home every night cos your bed ain’t got the calling it used to, you’ve got to sharpen your tools, start digging around. It didn’t take me long to find out whose bed he was finding warmer than mine and that was just too much to bear.

‘Heat until bubbling, stirring occasionally’.

Me and Fiona was close. Close enough for me to drop in on her and pick up a few clues, like Jay’s special scent all over her duvet cover, and his washed underpants in amongst the clothes in her laundry basket. I knew she was up to something even before those discoveries. I’m smart. Always have been.

‘Reduce heat and simmer…should be like soup’.

Oooo. Smell that. My simmering stew. You’d never know. Would you?

Now let me see. ‘Mix cottage cheese and parmesan cheese’ into a bowl with ‘two table spoons of parsley flakes…salt…pepper…Italian seasoning’. Oops, don’t forget the ‘pinch of sugar’.

My sheets of noodles ‘re ready − I’ll just get the dish. Oh shit, sounds like she’s here already.

Fiona has a bottle of wine in her hand.

“Come in. Come in, Fi. Take your coat off. Make yourself at home.”  She

gives me a warm hug. I smell the layers of foundation she always piles on her face. We part and she hands me the bottle.

“Oh, thanks. You know you didn’t have to.”

She tilts her face up into the air and her narrow nostrils open slightly. She says something smells nice and wants to know what it is.

“Your favourite,” I say, noticing the blonde streaks she’s had added to her hair.

A smile spreads over her coloured lips. “Lasagna!” we both say together, like we’re singing the chorus of a song on a girl’s night out.

I look at her straight white teeth. Her dimples that add sparkle to her face.

“I’m in the kitchen,” I say, hanging her coat on the banister, and let her lead the way. Her jeans, as usual, hug her size fourteen body tightly, and I feel untidy, with my tracksuit bottoms and baggy tee shirt, smelling of well – lasagna.

She offers to help.

“Oh, no. That’s okay,” I start saying. “Well, maybe you can make the salad.”

She says she’ll make her special dressing – the one she knows I’m fond of.

I open the bottle of wine. It’s red. I pour her a drink without asking cos I know she’ll never refuse it. It’s juice for me. I never drink – not anymore. I let her sip her wine while I get the salad things out of the fridge. She stands opposite me at our breakfast bar and watches as I layer the baking dish with stew, noodles and a sprinkling of cheese.

She’s wearing a pale purple top, with a knot at the cleavage. I notice the top of her boobs ‘re all exposed. She wants to know how I’m coping. We haven’t seen much of each other for a while – since Jay’s disappearance. I pretend not to notice her taking large sips of her wine in between chopping up the yellow and green peppers.

I put the dish in the oven and reduce the temperature by four degrees, then sit watching her mix her special dressing with vinegar wine, olive oil, black pepper and garlic.

When she’s finished, I suggest we move to the comfy seats in the front room. She swings off her stool and follows me.

“So what ‘ave you been up to then? It’s been a while, eh?”

She says she’s been okay, but very busy. Joined a gym, started swimming too and that I should come with her one day, as a guest. My eyes fall on her neatly polished toe-nails.

“It’s good to take care of yourself,” I tell her.

She lies and tells me I look well, and that I must miss Jay.

“Of course”, I tell her, “always wondering about him,” and get a quick flash of his drunken body falling to the side of the bath after the third bounce of my Perspex rolling pin against his head.

She says she’s sure he’ll be in touch one day. I agree then excuse myself to go check on the oven.

“Ready to eat?” I call from the kitchen, and she appears offering her help again. I suggest she gets the bread, plates and cutlery while I put the hot dish on the table and get the salad out of the fridge.

We sit opposite each other at the table and I start to butter my bread while Fiona picks up the large serving spoon and digs deep into the steamy dish. Some of the sauce spills onto her fingers as she puts a portion on my plate.

“Not so keen on meat anymore,” I tell her and see me bent over in the bathroom, washing splashes of blood off the tiles.

The strong scent of the cooked meat, seasonings and melted cheeses escape into the air around our noses. She says it smells really great − the flavour rich. I smile, “Mmm,” I say and pick up some salad.

I watch her slide her fork laden with lasagna into her mouth and chew away at Jay’s leg. Munching on a slice of sweet pepper, I look at Fiona’s mouth opening and shutting and the movements of her jaws as they bite down on the flesh of the man we both once had and I think about the days and nights I’ve spent imagining him and her wrapped in each other’s arms, laughing at me.

There’s a knock, then a ring from my front doorbell. We stop and look at each other.

“Think it’s for me,” Fiona says dropping her cutlery on her plate and wiping the greasy purple lipstick from her mouth with a piece of kitchen paper. “It’ll be Mic, my fiancé,” she says, her eyes bright with excitement. “I asked him to pick me up from here. Didn’t think you’d mind.”

I get up to follow her and met them in the hallway.

“Mic,” Fiona says, opening her hand in my direction, “Meet Les – my dearest and best friend.”

The smell of the aftershave, I’d brought Jay back from Dubai − his special scent, almost knocks me out in the hallway.

 

Bio: I have been writing seriously for the last ten years and have written a novel and a number of short stories. I am currently working on my second novel. None of my stories have been published.

 

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