Chapter Five: The Kitchen Ordeal
“Yo, _____! Time to get up!”
_____ moaned and cracked one eye open. When she saw Alfred standing over her bedside, she moaned again and turned around, her back to him. “Go away,” she grumbled in a sleepy, muffled voice.
Alfred scoffed. “C’mon, _____. It’s past noon. Everyone else is up.”
_____ only pulled the covers over her head.
“C’mon, _____. Don’t make me get the water bucket––”
“I’m up!” She sprang up into a sitting position on the bed. She gave Alfred a disapproving look. “I hate you so much.”
He laughed. “Yep! Now get dressed!” He tossed one of _____’s bras at her, which made her glare daggers at him. “We’ve got a long day ahead of us.”
_____ rolled her eyes as Alfred left the room. She looked at the closed door. “I really do hate you right now, y’know,” she said quietly. She sighed and rubbed her face, then climbed out of bed to get dressed.
“Bonjour, ma chère,” said Francis as _____ entered the kitchen. “Did you enjoy your rest?”
_____ raised an eyebrow at Francis, then quickly turned her attention to Arthur when she noticed that he was tied down to a chair at the dining table. She stood silent for a moment looking at him, but then turned back to Francis at the stove. “What are you making?”
“Just some soup,” he replied. “I can’t use the other cooking utensils, since Monsieur I-Can-Cook-Better-Than-All-Of-You contaminated them all. So now I am left with only a humble pot and wooden spoon to make a masterpiece.”
“‘Kay,” _____ said curtly, and she turned around and stepped beside Arthur. “You gonna promise not to cook anymore?” she said, her arms crossed and her weight shifted onto one foot.
He grunted, which was enough for _____. She then commenced to untying the Brit, who jumped up from the chair as soon as he was free and stalked into the living room.
_____ sighed. “Good Lord. Why is it that people that can’t cook are the ones who take the most pride in their ‘cooking skills’?” She glanced at Francis. “Well, then again, the ones who can are pretty boastful sometimes.”
Francis smirked. “Proud to be able to cook, ma chère~!”
_____ pursed her lips. She turned to sit at the table when something in the pantry caught her eye. She walked over to the pantry and looked inside, spotting something that made her smile. “Francis?”
She pointed to the item. “Is this what I think it is?”
“Hm?” He put the wooden spoon down on the counter and went to the pantry. He smiled. “What do you think it is, ma chère?”
He nodded. “Oui. Alfred got them a while ago. He’s lucky he found them, too. They don’t usually sell that around here.”
Her smile widened greatly. “C-Can. . . Can I cook this. . . ?” She made a “puppy” face at him.
Francis laughed. “You like them, don’t you?”
_____ nodded. “Oh, yes.”
He pat her head. “Oui, ma chère. You can cook them.”
She pumped her fist in the air. “Yes!” She took the large bag of okra and set them down on the counter beside the stove. “I’ll cook them tonight, ‘kay?”
_____ sat on the couch beside Alfred and Arthur, watching TV. Francis sat in the recliner by the couch, and Ivan and Yao sat on the floor. They had all run out of options for what to do.
_____ looked up at the wall clock and stood up from her seat between the two brothers. “Guess I should get started on that okra. Francis, will you help?”
Francis stood up. “Of course, ma chère.”
“Is it still on the counter where I left it?”
“It should be.”
“You mean you were going to cook that awful green stuff?” interjected Arthur.
_____ immediately turned to look at him. “Yeah. Why?”
Arthur blinked. “Good Lord, you Americans are mad. Why would you eat that? It looks positively repulsive!”
“Well, excuse me for liking it! In fact, I’m going to be gracious and share the okra with you when I’m done cooking it.”
Arthur looked away, his bushy eyebrows slightly raised. “You can’t cook them now,” he mumbled.
_____ blinked, her brows furrowing. “Why not?” Suddenly, before she let Arthur respond, she darted out of the living room into the kitchen. There, in the trash can in the corner, was the bag of okra, mingling with the foul contents of the rest of the receptacle. Her shoulders and jaw dropped, her eyes focused on the bag of okra that was ruined before it could even be used.
Francis came in and saw, letting out a frustrated, “Oh, mon Dieu, Arthur.”
“What?!” he said as he and the others walked into the kitchen. “They were just sitting on the counter, smelling up the kitchen and taking up space!”
_____ clenched her fists. She spun around and stepped toward him, striking his face with the back of her hand. “You bastard! Do you even realize what you did?! I needed that! I was gonna cook that! I was finally gonna do something worthwhile here! That was the only thing good I’d gotten on this damn trip! Damn you!”
Silence enveloped the room, and _____ stormed out of the kitchen and up the stairs to her room, slamming the door behind her when she went in.
Arthur rubbed her cheek. “Damn. She slaps harder than I thought she would. What’s her problem, anyway?”
“Yeah,” agreed Yao, “why did suddenly get so mad like that?”
“Guess we’ll never know,” said Ivan.
“I know,” said Alfred quietly. “About three months ago, her brother committed suicide.”
“Ai-ya. . .”
“Mon Dieu. That’s awful.”
“Yeah. And the morning before he died, they got into a fight. And now _____ pretty much blames herself for the whole thing.”
“But it’s not her fault!” said Yao. “_____ didn’t know that he was going to do that!”
Alfred stepped toward the door. “I’ll go talk to her––”
“No.” Arthur grabbed his brother’s shoulder and walked past him. “I’ll talk to her.”
Francis glared at him. “I think you’ve caused enough trouble for today, mon ami.”
“I know,” he replied. “Now I’m going to make it right.” With that, he walked out of the kitchen and up the stairs to _____’s room. Being the gentleman that he is, he softly knocked on the door.
“Go away,” said _____ from the other side. “I don’t wanna talk.”
“_____,” said Arthur, “I’m sorry for throwing that okra away. Will you let me in? I really need to talk to you.”
After a moment, the door opened slowly. “What?” she said.
Arthur immediately pushed the door open and wrapped _____ in his arms. “I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I’m so sorry. . .”
“Dammit. He told you, didn’t he?”
“. . .Yes.”
_____ sighed, pulling away and sitting on the bed. “Don’t say you’re sorry when it’s not your fault.”
“It’s not your fault either, _____.”
She let out a loud, humorless laugh.
“It’s not your fault, _____.”
The two looked in the doorway to see Alfred leaning on the frame.
_____ groaned. “Really? Is this really necessary, guys?”
“Yeah,” said Alfred.
“It is very necessary,” agreed Arthur.
_____ jumped up from her seat on the bed. “Dammit, get the hell off my back, will you?! I’m tired of everyone acting like this! They all act the same and say the same crap over and over! Why can’t everyone just leave me the hell alone, like I’m supposed to be?!”
The two brothers blinked, and the room was quiet for a moment.
“‘Supposed to be’?” repeated Alfred. “_____, do you think you’re. . .”
She fell back onto her seat on the bed, staring at the floor. “It’s my fault he’s dead. I don’t need––I don’t deserve to have everyone’s sympathy. I wouldn’t want it, anyway. But. . .I need to be punished. . .somehow. . .”
Alfred’s eyes softened as he looked at his best friend. “_____. . .”
“For God’s sake, _____,” snapped Arthur, “do you really think his death was your fault? You two had an argument! He got angry! You were both angry! You had no idea he was going to something like that! So what ever in your right mind made you think it was your fault?!”
_____ stared at him, speechless. Then, very slowly, a tear ran down her cheek. Arthur quickly sat near her and held her close to him as she began to cry. Alfred sat next them and rubbed her back.
“Bless you, _____,” said Arthur. “This is is the first time you’ve cried since he left, isn’t it?”
“Oh, so nice of you three to join us,” said Francis as _____, Alfred, and Arthur all took their seats at the dining table.
Alfred smirked. “Yeah, well. Stuff happens. What’s for dinner?”
“My cooking,” said Yao, a smirk on his face.
The six of them sat and ate dinner, none of them discussing the previous affair.