A recipe and excerpt!
Uncorking the bottle of white wine, Gwen set it aside and pulled out four wine glasses. Andi and Luke were joining her and Devon for dinner at her house in less than half an hour. Devon called earlier, letting her know his depositions had run long and he would be late, so Gwen helped herself to the first drink. The scent of freshly baked rolls filled her nose and she was glad it overpowered the cleaning supplies she used to clean the place. After getting home, Gwen instinctively switched to cleaning mode, though if anyone stepped in off the street they would think the house was hardly lived in prior to cleaning.
Truth be told, the majority of Gwen’s time the last few days was spent at Devon’s house in West Des Moines. Since seeing Jeremy on Wednesday, she didn’t want to be anywhere near him. “He deliberately ignored me,” she sputtered, chopping the green pepper on the cutting board. His new hair style threw her off guard at first glance. The last time his hair was that short had been the summer of their freshman year in high school.
Gwen stabbed a red pepper and pushed aside the memory. She didn’t want to think about Jeremy; about his soft caress and easy smile. “And now his damned short hair.” She sliced the pepper quickly and grabbed a cucumber. “I wonder what it feels like,” she pondered then shut that down quickly. “I don’t care.” She knew she did anyways. More than she would ever admit. He was dating the receptionist and apparently Melanie too. “They can each run their slimy hands through his stupid, short hair all they want. See if I care.” Try as she did, that thought made her insanely envious to know some other girl was spending so much time with Jeremy. “Or more than just time.” She grabbed an onion next. “What a player he is,” she muttered.
The more she diced the onion, the more she thought about Jeremy. His behavior during the last week was unheard of for him. During their fights in the past, he would still reach out to her and attempt to talk, but he failed to do a single thing this time around. “Glad to know I’m only good for a lay,” she mumbled and felt a pang of pain shoot through her body. Her endless headache resumed and she swore it had to do with her decision to go with Devon to the concert. Ever since that night, she suffered from a constant, dull, aching headache that no amount of pain meds made disappear. She turned back to the onion. If she knew that having sex was all Jeremy wanted from their friendship, she would have given it to him long ago just to spare herself the agony now. She felt tears well in her eyes and couldn’t decide if it was from the onion or Jeremy.
“Gwen?” Andi’s voice drifted to her, but she ignored it. “Gwen, you’re bleeding!” Andi yelped coming into the kitchen.
Dropping the knife, Gwen lowered her eyes. Sure enough, her finger was oozing blood. “Crap!” She grabbed a towel and wrapped it around her finger. She noticed the pool of blood on the cutting board and the once-white onion was now turning pink.
“What in the world happened?” Andi asked, taking over for Gwen and applying pressure to the wound. “Didn’t you feel that?”
“Apparently not,” she replied, leaning against the counter. She felt dizzy seeing her own blood. “I think I need to sit down.” She fumbled her way to the barstool with Andi’s guidance.
“Are you okay? You look pale.” Luke reported, coming to her aid when she missed the stool. He poured a glass of water and set it in front of her. “Try to not think about it. It only makes it worse.”
Gwen nodded, but didn’t see how she wouldn’t think about her bleeding finger. She was never good with blood. The one time she attempted to donate blood resulted in her fainting. “I’ll be fine.” She pushed Andi’s hand off, ignored the water, and went for her glass of wine.
“I’ll finish dicing the vegetables,” Luke offered and Gwen nodded her thanks.
She felt Andi’s probing eyes on her and when she looked up, she wasn’t disappointed. Luke turned the radio on and began humming away to the country ballad. “Let’s chat before Devon gets here,” Andi suggested, moving them into the living room. Despite the open concept, Luke’s noisy humming coinciding with the radio would drown out their conversation without a problem.
Gwen focused her attention on her still gushing finger. She definitely didn’t want to talk to Andi about Devon or Jeremy, but judging from Andi’s tone, she did. She let out a breath as Andi began.
“So, I saw Jeremy the other night at The Loft. He was with a cute blonde. And his hair is short. Like high school short.” She paused for a response, but Gwen refused to give one. They both knew Gwen preferred his hair shaggy, and Gwen resisted the temptation to make a snide remark. “Come on, Gwen, do something. Blink. Act furious. I don’t care, just react. I know you want to.”
Gwen shrugged. “Nothing to react to. He’s a grown man who makes his own decisions. Obviously he was playing me for years and only wanted one thing from me. Once he got it, he stopped talking to me. Simple as that.”
Andi shook her head. “No, it’s not simple. It’s the absolute opposite of simple. And he definitely didn’t just want to bang you.”
“How do you know that?” Gwen asked angrily. “He chopped his hair, something I always liked about him, ignored me after we did it, and started dating at least two girls at once.” She crossed her legs. “Sounds like one of Jake’s typical ‘Hang, bang, thank you sweet thang’ to me.”
“Actually, three girls,” Andi admitted, lowering her eyes to her hot pink heels.
“Of course it is three. He’s a player. I can’t believe I ever thought differently.” Gwen fumed.
“He is just acting out,” Andi explained. “He’s confused. Hurt, even, that you went out with Devon and that you are clearly doing so well.”
“That’s not my fault,” Gwen snapped. “Sleeping with Jeremy was obviously a mistake. He knows it. I know it. We’re both moving on.”
“He may act like he’s moving on, but he’s not,” Andi advised. “The two of you meant something and now you’re both hurting. It’s sad, really.”
“What are you talking about? You’re the one who set me up with Devon. How are you on team Jeremy now?” Gwen’s finger throbbed.
She felt the room spin when Andi said, “Jeremy and I talked on Sunday, Gwen. He doesn’t want to cut you off, but when he saw you and Devon, I told him to stop trying.” Andi placed a hand on Gwen’s leg, but she shrugged it off. “He needs to get over you. He can’t do that if he’s constantly reminded of you everywhere he goes. He deserves happiness too.”
Maybe it was the concern in Andi’s eyes or the continuous loss of blood that made Gwen finally agree. It was never a secret that Jeremy had a crush on her, but the fact that she liked him for so many years was well hidden. They both needed to forget, but it was so much easier said than done. “I guess you’re right.”
Andi gave her a side hug. “I knew you would come around. Luke wasn’t so sure, but it’s for the best. Now you can focus on Devon.”
A knock on the door beckoned Andi away, leaving Gwen alone. She slouched back in the couch and rolled her neck, trying to alleviate some stress. It wasn’t helping. Was she really ready to pack up shop and ignore all that was between her and Jeremy? She didn’t know, but for her own sake she was going to try.
Cucumber Pasta Salad
8 oz. bow tie pasta
1 cucumber, thinly sliced
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 green pepper, thinly sliced
1 red pepper, thinly sliced
1 ½ teaspoons dried dill
3/4 cup white vinegar
1 cup white sugar
1 cup water
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon mustard
Dash of salt and black pepper
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook the pasta at a boil, stirring often, until cooked, roughly 12 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water until pasta is cool.
Gently cook onion and peppers in pan until tender, yet still crunchy. Roughly 2-3 minutes.
Stir pasta, cucumber, onion, peppers, and dill in a salad bowl. Whisk vinegar, sugar, water, vegetable oil, mustard, salt, and pepper in separate bowl until sugar and salt are dissolved. Pour dressing over the pasta mixture and lightly toss to coat. Chill for at least 2 hours before serving.