Neat, Love Melissa Fitzgerald
Without Violets Douglas Russo
The door swings open. His face appears, knotted, brows furrowed, but smiling, too. “Did you bring the stuff?” The stuff…what stuff? Panicking. I’m pan-ic-king. I forgot the stuff. He looks up and down, smiling uncertainly. Cute, so obnoxiously cute. “We’re baking cookies, right?” Right. He was right. “Yes, I have the stuff. In my backpack. See?” I turn around to reveal said backpack to him. He nods. We shuffle into the kitchen. It’s neat as a pin (whatever that means). Clean counters. Empty sink. Shiny handles. The faucet has a drip, though. One solitary drip after drip after drip after drip, real delicate, though, elegant—like a swan sobbing. I’m the only thing out of place. But no time for that. Stir the dough. Sift the flour. Turn on the oven. Melt the butter. Make perfectly-proportioned dainty scoops of cookie dough so boy thinks I am dainty too. Pam the pan. Lick the spoon (No, don’t. Because that’s unsanitary and very not dainty-like). Put on the timer. Lick the spoon—no, damn it. Oh, but it’s all wrong. The butter’s burnt and the flour’s chunky and the pan refuses to be Pam-ed properly and the words I need to say but can’t are stuck in my throat alongside the multitudes of uneven balls of cookie dough I cannot. stop. eating. “Is something wrong?” he asks as I’m reaching for another ball. Yes. “No. Did you set the timer?” “You’re just being really quiet. Like you’re not even there.” “I’m… tired.” It was the truth (sort of). “Did you set the timer?” He throws his hands up, all exasperated and dramatic. “I don’t get you. I thought you were all excited to bake—you know we don’t have to bake cookies. I like cookies as much as the next guy but I’m not some sort of cookie dictator. We could do something else—a movie, go out to dinner…” He runs his fingers through his hair, thinking all cutely (damn it). “…Have a cookie-dough eating contest and the loser is the one who vomits and the winner didn’t vomit so that’s winning enough…” He goes on like this, all rambling and adorable but for the sake of time, here is the point. “The point is we don’t have to make these—if that is what is bothering you. If not—” “I’m in love with you.” It surprises me, too. I had a speech, a big flowery one. I was going to get on my knees, maybe throw in a few tears for good measure. Real corny, passionate stuff, lots of hyperboles and end-of-our-day declarations. But instead that is what I say and this, this, is what he says. “Oh.” Oh. I’m plotting ways to kill him when he takes me in his arms and kisses me and won’t stop kissing me and whispering “Iloveyoutoo. Iloveyoutoo” like he’s running out of breath. It’s all so cheesy and so full of emotion I kind of want to run out of the kitchen but I don’t. I stuff the panic in my backpack and just stand there and take all the love I can. We stay like that until all the cookies are burnt to embers and we bake a new batch.