"No, I'm not obsessed." There was silence in the room, except for the clink of Gino's fork hitting the china plate. He didn't understand. No one did. My love of cooking also helped soothe the grief of losing my husband, at least temporarily. Dylan had passed away a little over a month ago in a tragic car accident that would probably give me nightmares for the rest of my life.
This wasn't supposed to happen to us. We'd been young, in love, and trying to have a baby. Dylan and I were married for almost six wonderful years. Although by no means rich, we'd lived comfortably enough. Dylan had been employed as an accountant for a large healthcare firm, We Care, in Albany. As a certified CPA, he'd prepared taxes privately for several clients outside the firm as well. To add to our modest income, a couple of months before Dylan's death I'd begun working as a cook for the Sunnyside Up Café. Back then, my main goal in life—besides starting a family—had been to run my own restaurant someday.
Dylan had been extremely supportive of my passion.
He'd always teased that he couldn't wait to quit his job and call me "boss," serving as my maître d'. Kidding aside, I knew he'd been as excited about the venture as I was. Still, we didn't have anywhere near the funds necessary to make it happen. Since we'd bought the house only two years ago we'd been trying to put money away every month, but there were times when real life intervened. A new roof and hot water tank had helped derail the savings process for a few months. We remained hopeful that it would happen within the next few years.
Five weeks ago, my dream had been replaced by a nightmare. My new goal in life was to simply make it through a day without crying, and my restaurant ownership dreams had been put aside indefinitely.
After the accident, I'd asked my mother to call Sunnyside and tell them I wouldn't be returning. I'd only been there for a few months and it wasn't fair to leave them hanging, although they'd been very supportive of my situation.
Even selling the house had crossed my mind a few times in the last couple of weeks. The first time the real estate agent showed us the light-blue Cape Cod, Dylan and I both instantly fell in love with its charm. Although only about fourteen hundred square feet, it was perfect for us, with its large bay window, hardwood floors, and steepled roof.
Now, however, it was difficult to stay here alone. There were memories of Dylan everywhere I looked, such as the empty window boxes built into the white shutters where we'd planted annuals together every spring. I missed so many things about him—his deep throated chuckle, the way he held me in his strong arms on lazy Sunday mornings in bed, and the long walks we'd take, hand in hand, after dinner on picturesque autumn days, much like this one. Early November in Harvest Park, although chilly, was the perfect time of year to watch multicolored leaves fall from the trees.
The house was an ideal home for a young married couple and even had the classic white picket fence in the backyard. The only things missing were the standard two-point-five kids and dog, which I'd mistakenly thought we had plenty of time for.
Luigi squawked from the floor and stared up at me expectantly. A spoiled tuxedo kitty, he was looking for his share of lunch too. I cut up a small piece of sausage and set it on a paper plate in front of him.
"That cat eats better than most people do," Gino commented. He took another bite of the pasta and groaned with pleasure. "Amazing as always."
This was the therapy I needed. "Thanks."
He watched me closely as I stood on the other side of the counter. "Aren't you going to eat?"
I shrugged and fiddled with the newspaper. "I'm not hungry."
"Tess." His voice was gentle. "Maybe it's time you went back to work. I'm sure you could get another job as a cook easily enough."
I stared down at my hands. "I don't know. I guess I'm afraid that I might break down in front of someone." My voice trembled. No, I wasn't going to do this now. I could—and would—make it through one day without bursting into tears. Dylan wouldn't have wanted me to carry on like this. Gino rose from his chair and walked around the counter. He took my hand and led me into the combination living and dining room. "Come on. I need to talk to you about something."