She had waited all day for this: the dinner she indulged herself in when her roommate was out of town, something she could make just for herself. Broiled chicken and grape tomatoes over zucchini "noodles." The girls traded nights cooking, and Charlie's roommate wasn't all that fond of zucchini or tomatoes.
Charlie slid over to the fridge and pulled out a pitcher of fresh iced tea and the mozzarella she'd shredded earlier. She loved having the place to herself. As the tomatoes sizzled and caramelized in the oven, she prepped the zucchini and tossed it with olive oil, garlic salt, and basil. She shimmied and sang along to the radio, humming when she had to concentrate on the meal she was creating. She'd already splashed tea on the counter, she didn't want to add an oil spill to the works.
The timer rang. She opened the oven with her worn oven mitts and pulled the glass dish out, holding it away from her body as the tomatoes continued to pop and splash tiny drops of olive oil. Charlie placed it on the stove and spooned some of the juices into her bowl of zoodles, then topped the chicken with cheese and set it aside. The deep red and yellow liquids swirled prettily among the dark and light green strips of zucchini. Like summer in a bowl, she thought. Charlie chose a plain white dish from the cabinet below their toaster oven--the kitchen lacked upper cabinets of any sort, a fact both girls had loved when they took their first tour, but now lamented. It felt strange to store one's dinner plates mere inches above the kitchen floor.
After the chicken cooled a bit, she plated her meal and settled in the dining table with a novel. The evening sun shone through the blinds, providing the perfect light for reading. A warm breeze shifted the panels every now and then.
Charlie was halfway through her dinner when her phone buzzed with a new text message. Charlie continued reading as she picked up the phone. It would vibrate again in two minutes and the noise scared her puppy. She couldn't stop in the middle of this scene.
Are you busy?
It was Charlie's college friend, Meg, who was in town visiting her sister. They had had some huge argument the day before, and Meg hadn't wanted to talk about it. Charlie had a feeling Meg was ready for some girl time.
Nope, what's up? She replied, taking another big scoop of zoodles. Maybe she'll want to grab coffee tonight, she thought.
Can you meet me for dinner? I have to get out of here.
Charlie looked at her half-eaten dinner. The chicken was diced, zoodles already twirled around her fork for the next bite. She sighed, then shrugged and got up to grab a plastic container.
Yep. Where? Just need ten minutes to let the dog out and get changed.
I just need to get out, I don't care where.
Meet me at Sandy's? I could use a good milkshake.
Sure. Be there soon.
Charlie let her dog out the back door to run a few laps while she cleaned up. She piled the dishes in the sink--with Emily out of town, she could leave the mess for a couple hours--and packed up the remains of her dinner.
Sandy's opened over 50 years ago, but because the owners loved decorating, it never felt stuck in time. The family renovated at least every five years, probably far more frequently than the business required. Charlie loved that they didn't necessarily follow trends, either. They just simply mixed things up.
She found Meg sitting at a booth along the back wall, close to the double-doors for the kitchen entry. The latest renovation swapped out stainless steel doors, with submarine windows, for wooden doors painted the color of a late summer meadow. These doors had no windows. Charlie wondered how many servers ran into one another coming and going.
Meg had already ordered a basket of fries for the table. She gestured at them as Charlie sat down.
"I meant to share these with you...but as you can see, they're nearly gone. Sorry!"
"That's fine, I'm not all that hungry yet. I think I'll just get something light. Maybe a salad." She slid her bag off her shoulder and onto one of the new coat hooks that lined the walls, a rather convenient addition.
"A salad? Ugh."
"I know," Charlie laughed, "but I did have a pretty big snack late this afternoon."
The waitress returned and took their drink order--two unsweetened iced teas--and promised to return in a minute for their dinner order.
"So, how are things with your sister?" Charlie asked.