Chapter 5 – Time in the Kitchen
Remnants of the Scripts
To still not understand life’s meaning
The price paid might have been excessive
Maeve moved inside as Conor made his way downstairs and entered the kitchen, his vest tucked under his arm.
“Happy birthday, Passion Flower.” He gave her a knowing tap on her behind.
“Mornin’, sleepyhead.” She playfully hopped out of his reach and placed the kettle on the burner directly over the firebox. “You sleep well?”
“I did.” He put on his vest and gave it a brush. “But I figured you were lonely down here by yourself.”
She opened the small door at the front of the stove and gave the contents a few choice digs with the poker. The coals, hidden below a shroud of ash, flickered and tossed off sparks, indicating they had been asleep but not inert. She reached for a piece of split birch and placed it rind side down on the smoldering coals—the fire caught and the flames engulfed the junk of birch in moments. She added two more junks of wood, closed the door, and returned the poker to a middle burner away from the heat.
“Well…maybe not lonely but certainly hungry.” She gave the kettle a shake to check for ample water and placed it over the firebox. “Would you like some breakfast, Druid?”
“Maybe,” Conor answered quickly, anticipating what was coming next.
“Oh good, make some for me too.” A big grin spread across her face. “Today’s my birthday, you know.”
“All righty. But it’ll still cost ya.”
“I pay that cost, whether I get breakfast or not.” Maeve pushed the curtains all the way back from each side of the windows.
“That’s not the story you told last night.” Conor sat to put on his boots.
Maeve gave him a bump with her hip as she passed by. “Maybe I was tired.”
Conor recovered quickly from the misdirection, and put on his second boot. “Well, you sit and rest some more. I’ll get the eggs.” Conor headed out to the henhouse.
She prepared the tea. The teas were also locally cultivated in the cove’s greenhouses—more a hobby than a part of the economy; still, the depth of variety and flavor was known outside the community.
Conor was the primary chef in their partnership. He much enjoyed the ritual of preparation, presentation, and consumption; she much enjoyed his attention as he prepared the food. He introduced ritual to most of his endeavors, which gave Maeve good reason to refer to him as her old Druid, though he was only one year older than she.
He returned with eight eggs. “Fresh as a boy on his second date.” He placed the eggs on the counter. “Sorry I took so long. I figured since I was out there I might as well feed the little critters. Just so you know, you woke up so early, even the rooster complained to me about all the early stomping about.”
Maeve filled the two mugs and handed him his tea, returning to sit at the kitchen table to enjoy both the aroma of her tea and the ambience of the moment while he continued with the preparation of breakfast. “I seem to remember hearing lots of snoring when I departed.”
Conor offered up a grin and readied a saucepan in preparation for a couple of boiled eggs. “I had good reason to sleep soundly.” He placed the last of the cloudberry jam and two slices of bread in front of her. Entering the ritual, he ran his fingers through her hair and kissed the top of her head. Next he offered a small back rub as the eggs made their way to soft-boiled. Each had their own eggcup—hers a flower basket, his a hawk with not quite its entire head providing a place to hold the egg. He cut the top of each egg and set the plates down. He offered a kiss and sat to join her on the other side of the table.
They ate in silence, another aspect of the ceremony, allowing themselves to enjoy the meal and make their time together stretch with the silence—a quiet retreat from the activity of the day to come.
This morning, however, Maeve kept glancing at him as he ate, wanting to speak, but mindful of their resolve to honor these moments. She noted the grin on his face, aware he had not missed her impatience. She barely waited as he took the last scoop of egg. “Are you sure it has to be you? Should they identify you, they’ll kill you.”
Conor placed his empty egg spoon on his plate and pushed them back. “They won’t. That was long ago. We’ve been through this. No one else knows how to get there or negotiate with Gaters. I have the best chance.”
“I wish there was another way, but there’s not.” He got up from the table and moved toward the stove. “I’m sorry. I’m being a little abrupt.” He returned and poured them each a second mug.
“It’s okay.” Maeve put her arms around him. “I love my home and I love you.”
“You love me making you breakfast.”
“That too. I don’t want anything to change.”
Conor did not sit down. “Our lives have forever been about change. What happened to you—your father being killed, your mother dying, you finding me somewhere in the middle of all my troubles.”
Maeve moved to the stove and tested the heat on the poker with a quick touch of her hand. She took the poker from the middle burner and placed it on an outside burner, giving her hand a little shake. “I know. But this is our own choice and not beyond our control.”
“There is always a choice,” Conor spoke slowly. “Sometimes the connection is not so obvious.”
Maeve bowed her head. “I know I’m responsible for my father’s death, I—”
“Not what I meant,” he interrupted. “You might well blame yourself for your father’s death. But you ignore he did what he thought he had to do. He decided, not you.” Conor reached out and touched her face. “He would never allow you to take the blame for what he was compelled to do. That would be a mockery of his free will.”
“My Druid speaks.”
“You know I’m right.”
She replied in a whisper, “I know I love you and you’re heading into extreme danger.”
“If I don’t get what we need, the future of North Face Cove is bleak, if not over.”
“I know, I know. But we still have fishing.”
Conor shook his head. “Fishing alone will not take care of us, trade would be nonexistent. A slower process to the same end.”
“You know too much, Druid. It would be better than dying.”
“The outcome might well result in many of us dying.” Conor paused before continuing, giving a moment for the old cuckoo clock to announce the hour. “Options were examined. You know, as well as I do, this is the only viable one.”
She put her hands on his chest. “Yes, I was merely exploring a selfish notion. You know I supported your decision at the meeting.” Her voice dropped to a whisper once again. “More so, I was the one who suggested it.”
He took her hands in his. “Thank you.”
She moved to the sink, took a small ribbon from the cabinet above, and tied back her hair. “Time to exercise the pack. I’ll bring the rest of the eggs down to the store on my way.”
Conor nodded his approval and moved the morning dishes to where he would wash them—a part of his morning chores.
The community store represented a bartering house and trade center rather than a traditional place to purchase anything. The greenhouses required the bulk of electrical energy, and ran on solar energy collected and stored in the cells. Other than the greenhouses, the store was the only place with sustained electricity—the difference being the store electricity resulted from the large wind energy collector on the hilltop overlooking the ocean. The cone shaped collector was almost impossible to be seen as it sculpted itself into the outer hillside, silent and nonintrusive to the view or the ecosystem.
Any goods needing freezing were kept at the store. The store contained one central cooler with limited yet sufficient capacity to serve the needs of everyone. Folks in the community would bring what excess they had; some would drop off items of food, clothing, tools, and other supplies. The same folks would then take what was needed, as needed.
“Don’t forget, I fed the hens. And I’ll take care of the other critters. You take care of your pack.” He placed his hands gently on her face and kissed her tenderly on the forehead. “Don’t forget, breakfast is going to cost you.”
“I feel a headache coming on.” She looked back to ensure he’d registered the tease, his smile prompting one from her as she headed outside.
She treasured their time together. They were friends, partners, and lovers. She often wondered if their lives together had been preordained. They understood each other so well; one of them would start a sentence and the other would finish. They might sit and talk for hours, or at other times they’d sit in silence and enjoy a supreme peace and comfort from being near each other.
She and Conor had grown up worlds apart. Their experiences had formed them into very different individuals, independent and capable; but one was a lioness—a protector of the pride— the other a lone gray wolf.
Their differences gave each the ability to compare and contrast their character and their humanity; still, accepting those differences gave strength to the partnership—a partnership centered on caring and understanding, on love and trust.
She had lost many close friends and family. Such loss was of course unbearable. The loss of Conor would be without measure.