I laid on the sofa with Gigi, falling asleep to the sounds of horror movie screams.
But no matter how comfortable I got, resting against my supermodel-thin friend, my mind would not let me drift off to a world of nightmares. Because any thought would be better than mentally obsessing over what my parents were doing.
Especially during the one scene of the movie when one character has to make the choice of how much blood they’re willing to spill for their spouse. It made me think about what my parents would do. My dad would gladly give his life to save his wife. But my mom, not so much. She would probably find a way to prolong my Dad’s suffering to allow herself to escape.
But realistically, they were both in bed, at their off-campus hotel. I knew my father, with his larger muscular frame, slept with Mother’s small slender body in his arms, holding her close. Maybe Mother would confront him about his trip to Sweden.
“I’m not an idiot, Remy. I know you’re sick. Why did you tell my mother to lie to me about why you went to Sweden?” she would ask in her usual whiney tone.
“I’m sorry my love, I didn’t want to worry you,” my father would reply in a monotone.
“Well, you failed! How bad is it? I have the right to know.”
Yeah right. If I didn’t have a right to know about my father’s terminal illness, then my mother sure as hell didn’t either. She probably hadn’t even slept in the same bed as him for years.
I leaned my head on Gigi’s shoulder, taking a sniff of her freshly washed beach-blonde hair. “I swear my mom always kept my dad away on work trips, especially after I was born. She wanted to work him to death, so she’d have more time to abuse me.”
Gigi nodded. “She wanted to mold you into her miniature doll clone, just in case she fails to create a robot that can cook as good as you.” Gigi turned, nuzzling her face to my neck.
“Are you smelling my hair?”
“You have your Dad’s hair, all the way down to the seafood smell.”
“My mom would totally agree.”
“I’m surprised she never tried to bleach your hair.”
I leaned in close, resting my head to her chest like a baby bird waiting for popcorn. “Do you think she ever loved my dad?”
Gigi dropped a single fluffy perfect kernel in my mouth.”I think you’re the only Fifteen-year-old who worries about such things.”
“My parents had been married for 15 years but best friends even longer, maybe part of me wants to know how that even happened.”
Gigi shrugged. “Your mom has her moments. “What about the last time he was sick?”
“What do you mean?” I asked, sitting up and taking control of the popcorn bowl.
“All of the old class were supposed to fly to Japan for Principal Yukihira’s father’s memorial but your dad was too sick.”
“I knew about that. What’s your point?”
“My dad heard from Ali. She was crying so hard, he swore he was hallucinating.”
“My mom confided with your Dad?”
“Does that surprise you?”
“I guess not,” I said leaning back to back. “When did he have a chance to tell you that?”
“Last time he visited, when he took me out to dinner at that totally posh place.”
“What else did he say?”
“Ali called her mother begging her to send for a doctor. I mean I can’t be sure of the level of emotion in her voice but my dad says she was actually crying. it was actually kind of weird.”
“So you think my parents love each other?”
“I think their relationship is the stuff of legends,” Gigi giggled as she made a grab for the popcorn bowl. “Kinda like you and Jamie.”
“He’ll be here tomorrow,” I said, unable to hide my joy. He’s going to help me work on ideas for our matchup, so you’d better be gone. Jamie was my best male friend, although I had to admit, I took sick pleasure in watching him squirm when I called him my boyfriend.
“Are you saying I don’t get to see the moment when your dad meets your boyfriend?”
“I’ll be sure to save Jamie’s remains. Maybe we can have him stuffed and put in the rec room.” I knew my Dad would have a problem with Jamie. But not for the reasons one would expect. I mean, there were about a million reasons why my father would hate Jamie- even I hated Jamie when I first met him.
I fell asleep on the sofa, not even bothering to go back to my room. I was already dressed for tomorrow and neither of my male best friends would care if I showered. I awoke awake and refreshed, to the alarm of my cell phone.
“Call-in, Baby” my voice rapped over a techno beat. “Call-in. Baby Love love love.”
I slapped at the table where I assumed my phone to be. “Why the fuck is that still my ringtone?”
“Yo Lane-a!” A large Asian boy with his hair in braids sat on my legs.
If that wasn’t bad enough, the sunlight cut through the nearby window, shining straight into my eyes. “Jamie, baby, what the fuck?” Jamie was 6’2″ and a good hundred pounds heavier than me, so although I loved his ghetto rocker style, I would have rather been awoken in a more romantic way. Maybe that was my mom’s genetics talking.
And then he started to beat-box. “Boom-bach-cu boom. boom-bach-cu boom.” His big tatted fingers took me by the hand and lead me to the prep kitchen for our reserved time. “This is ten percent luck, twenty percent skill. Fifteen percent concentrated power of will- take it, Elena!”
I pulled out a set of measuring spoons and started to play percussion on various pots and pans. “Five percent pleasure, fifty percent pain, And a hundred percent reason to remember the name.” I ended with a baton twirl, followed by juggling the spoons for all of ten seconds. “You know, Remy Moceanu, he doesn’t need his name up in lights-”
“He’s got skills from the fire and the blade of the knife.” Jamie shot me finger guns, to continue the rap about my dad.
I couldn’t help but smile. “Who the hell is he anyway? He never really talks much. Never concerned with status, but still leaving them star struck. Humbled through opportunities given despite the fact, that many misjudge him because he makes a living from writing raps.”
“Spitting fire from hand and acid from his throat but what ends up on the plate is beyond reproach.” Jamie suddenly went quiet, as the heavy wooden door opened with a loud screech.
I turned to see my Dad. He was standing tall in a dark-blue suit, engaging in a slow clap.
“Daddy, you made it!” I screamed, jumping into his arms like a four-year-old.
“Would you care to introduce me to the professional wrestler or perhaps hip-hop star, sitting on the table?”
Jamie jumped up, dusting himself off. It was kinda adorable how he was trying his best to look professional. “Oh my God! It’s really you!”
“Do you two always rap about people who are late for meetings?” Remy asked, tilting his head in a comical fashion.
“Daddy!” I couldn’t help but blush. Had my father been standing outside the door waiting to make an entrance?
“Nah man,” Jamie said as walked towards dad, with his hand outstretched for a proper handshake, “we here at the southside dorms like to sing the praises of all the heroes of the 92nd class, if it wasn’t for what your crew did, this school would be a jacked-up place.”
My father shot us a look; it was not one of pride, but rather one of disbelief. “You serious?”
This needed a little bit of explanation. Way back when Principal Samuel Yukihira rocked the school. He was a kid from the streets, the son of infamous rebel alumni who left the school as a sophomore because the strict curriculum was destroying his soul. Sammy was a second-gen wild child.
And his graduating class (including my mom, dad, aunt Erica, uncle Akira, Gigi’s dad, and a few others)revolutionized the way the school was run, creating a culture of creativity and acceptance.
They were truly the greatest generation ever to pass through the institute. And yet my dad did not shake Jamie’s hand. “Daddy, this is Jamie- my boyfriend.”
“Jamie Mimasaka, it’s an honor, sir.” Jamie changed his stance, switching to a bow.
“Boyfriend?” Remy said with a raised eyebrow. My father was a tall man when standing straight and confident (when my mother wasn’t present) he was at least 6’2″. but at that moment he looked closer to 6’7″, towering over Jamie with an intimating glare.
“Don’t worry daddy,” I said giving him a kiss on the cheek. “No one at this school has time to have sex.”
“Got that right,” Jamie muttered, pulling back his hand.
Yes, we had sex. Actually thinking about it, my having sex was a lot worse than my dad lying about cancer; a secret’s a secret.
Remy furrowed his brow, “Are we still on the topic of sex with my daughter?”
“Nah, man,” Jamie said, shaking his head nervously. “I mean, I’m probably going to fail out like my dad did.”
“Your Dad?” Remy asked with renewed interest. “Who was your father?” My dad asked, the question in an innocent tone, but his expression revealed that he already knew would not like the answer.
“Slate Mimasaka, kind of a legend for all the wrong reasons. But rest assured I’m nothing like him.”
Remy scoffed. “Slate Mimasaka, I believe he was a few years ahead of my wife and me.”
I chuckled sweetly, making sure to get between the two men. “I really wish you didn’t say that Jamie, baby.” Slate Mimasaka was an alumnus who had quite a reputation. He was been two years older than dad and long story short, he was a cocky bully for hire. And until Sammy came along, he made everyone’s lives a living hell. “Jamie’s cool, Dad. Anyway let’s get started; I already know the pizza Giovanna is going to make.”
“You do?” my father asked, taking a seat with his suitcase of what was hopefully filled with helpful tools.
“Yeah, man,” Jamie said, “G is the most outspoken vegan at the Academy.”
That caused my father to smile and then laugh. “Oh her traditional Italian father must be so proud.”
“Excuse me?” His sarcasm was a little offensive. Yes, vegan cooking was a new concept at the academy. It was to the point where very few instructors embraced or even accepted the option.
And of course, Jamie was laughing with him. “G doesn’t even use pasta!
She uses that spiral, pencil-sharpener thing that skins carrots and zucchini!”
I threw up my hands in frustration. “You two are a bunch of Neanderthals! Giovanna’s cooking is amazing. Everything she makes is light and fresh.” A light bulb went off in my head. “So my pizza should be bold and savory with bacon or foie gras!”
“-With Limburger!” Jamie added.
“No! I am not putting your mom’s chemically designed Limburger cheese on my pizza!”
“It pairs well with bacon and onions,” he added.
“No it does not,” I said with a groan, “and it smells like a men’s locker room!”
“Jamie, who is your mother?” My father put his hand over his face, already knowing the answer.
“Nana Sadatsuka, my mom was a big influence on me. She’s the cook I want to grow up to be.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of.” Jamie’s mother was another alumni. She too left school early, but not for any behavior related offenses. Through her time at the academy she discovered that cooking was not her passion: food science was, but not the way one would think. She was heavy into the use of chemical preservation; the more bizarre the better.
Unlike my grandparents’ company, which specialized in visually beautiful food science, in the form of sculpture, heating, freezing, drying, etc. Nana’s billion-dollar company specialized in fermentation and long term preservation (the weirder and grosser the better.) This resulted in several lines of canned food that drunks enjoy eating on a dare and will likely survive the death of the Sun.
“Nana Sadatsuka married Slate Mimasaka?” my father was laughing harder then I had ever seen.
“My parents, they were not ‘married’, in the traditional sense.” Jamie’s voice wavered. He loved his mother, but he was the result of what was pretty much one-night stand. “But back to cheese, at least my mom’s preserved Limburger is an actual dairy-based cheese, unlike the crap G uses.”
“Nutritional yeast tastes great!” I shouted. “and what your mother makes barely qualifies as cheese.”
“What’s nutritional yeast?” my father asked, opening his suitcase.
“You never worked with nutritional yeast? Not even in Grandpa’s lab?” I asked, reaching for the container in the public use pantry. “The flavor is a cross between cheddar and almonds.”
My dad looked at the jar filled with yellow-orange powder. “When it comes to my role in your grandparent’s company, I’ve been relegated to sales. I actually can’t remember the last time I was even allowed in the lab kitchen.” The way he spoke was strange; like it was all a joke as if my dad wasn’t ever meant for anything more then an office job. With a nearby spoon, he took a taste from the jar. “It does have a nutty flavor, I wonder what would taste like toasted.”
“Toasted?” I asked, “like in a pan or…?”
“Instead of using the dorm stove, he took out a camping stove, turning the flame down as small as possible. he then took out a small pan, the kind marketed as a single egg ‘snack maker.’ He put a few spoonfuls in a plan on low heat, cooking it until the nutty aroma filled the room. “It has a breadcrumb quality,” he declared to no one in particular. with a spoon he gave it a taste. “It even has a nutty, toasted sourdough like flavor. and what to breadcrumbs pair well with?”
“Oysters!” I said excitedly. “I can do oysters Rockefeller pizza!”
Jamie stuck his pinky fingers in the heated pan, licking it to taste the powder, like a curious small child. “Who toasts nutritional yeast?”
“My dad, Remy Moceanu, the rock star chef,” I said skipping around the kitchen, gathering bowls and mixers. “Come on Jamie, help me prep my dough!”
My father took out a notebook, a black wire-bound book, like something sold in the school supply section. I assumed he was taking notes, for later suggestions. But I just had to ask. “Is that your diary, Dad?”
I was joking but seeing his deadpan face was too much fun. “Did mommy buy it for you?”
Jamie laughed, nearly dropping the dough attachment that he was trying to put on the mixer.
my father just smiled. “Dear Elena, my angel, by the time you read this I will be long gone from this world. Please do not marry Jamie.”
I forced a laugh since Jamie was giving me a pouty lower lip. “Back to my pizza; I think we should do a grilled crust, using the flat top. I mean the bbq would be more ideal but I think I’d have to request that ahead of time.”
“Sounds good to me,” Jamie replied. “That would give you more crust options.”
My dad was still chuckling as he brushed a loose lock of hair from his eyes. “I’m not going to say I disapprove, hell I might be completely wrong. Just always stay true to your soul. And for the love of all that is holy do not eat anything inspired by Nana Sadatsuka cooking.”
“You don’t have to tell me twice,” I said with a smirk. “I have my standards.” I pulled down whole wheat flour, self-rising flour, bread flour, and even and cake flour. There were a few different dough styles I wanted to try.
“I’m only kidding,” my dad said as he closed his notebook. “As far as your relationship is concerned, I have no right to intrude on your joy.”
“You have every right,” I said leaning over the counter for a kiss. “You’re my daddy and my best friend. Now help me grab a package of frozen oysters.”
“Canned might be better,” my dad suggested. “Isn’t that right, Jamie?”
Jamie smiled and bowed his head. “I have some great suggestions, actually. My mother partnered with local fish farms to create her own series of preserved seafood.”
“All of which should not be eaten on its own,” I added. “And Oysters Rockefeller needs to stand out without the taste of brine.”
“Our you could incorporate the brine into the herb-butter sauce,” Jamie said, sliding a can in my direction.
“Shit!” I screamed as I narrowly knocking one of my batters to the floor.
That started a discussion on seafood, my father’s passion, and something that Jamie knew quite a bit about. The variation in flavor between regional varieties of species, from Japanese canned tuna to sushi-grade squid.
This, along with playing melodies on my flatbread dough, was truly the definition of fun.
For a few moments, I was a little kid again, cooking hanging out, almost like my dad wasn’t holding a massive secret from me.
No, I couldn’t focus on that. Experimenting with flour, raising agents, and even eggs and milk, I created ten different ‘dough ball-like’ things that I cooked on the grill, in a pan, and even deep-fried a few. The ones that started out as a liquid quickly became crispy. But nothing was quite as good as the one with cake flour and egg whites. But that tasted all kinds of nasty when paired with seafood. Jamie and my Dad seemed to like the plain dough made of yogurt and self-rising flour.
Jamie brought down his laptop and we all listened to music while talking about-
Screw it, I’d figure shit out eventually.
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