I arrive at the house bright and early Monday morning, just as she is walking out the door with all three dogs leashed up for their walk.

“Oh, Hi! Go ahead in and make yourself at home. Help yourself to a latte…”

She smiles brightly, heading down the sidewalk as I unload my carefully packed supplies and equipment. I spent hours preparing for the day because I want everything to be just perfect. I like her. I want to please her.

Again, she has classic alternative rock playing throughout the house as I make my way across the cool, marble floors to the brand new kitchen. I absolutely love fresh, clean appliances, and smooth polished countertops. I can’t wait to get started and set up quickly, preheating the oven, getting my knives and board ready for work.

I wonder if she will be leaving for the morning or hanging around while I cook today. Sometimes I enjoy the company if the client is cool. I notice the bottles of red lined up on the counter and several white varietals in the fridge. She has great taste, that’s for sure.

I picture the two of us curled up on the sofa after lunch… like best girlfriends, balancing globes of the finest, thinnest German glass between our fingers, filled with blood red Zinfandel. Maybe we are half watching a movie or just talking…with an ever-present tension flowing like static electricity in the space between our bodies.

I imagine a warm, velvet buzz that allows me to tentatively bridge the gap and move close enough to smell the heat of her skin. To breathe her air as I take a risk, moving my face closer to hers as she speaks…waiting for the perfect pause.

“Find everything okay?”

I look up, a bit flushed, a bit sheepish at my secret thoughts, startled by her return.

The dogs circle at my feet, waiting for a morsel from the cutting board as I chop onions and garlic.

“Yes, everything’s perfect, Lauren.”

I smile at her and turn back toward my task.

“Great! You’re all set then. I’m going in my office for a while. Just let me know if you need anything.”

I  hear her making phone calls most of the morning. It sounds like she is lining up builders or contractors for a job. There is talk of licensing and insurance, permits, etcetera.  She sounds friendly but no-nonsense. Assertive.

“Oh. My. God. It smells so good in here!”

She appears at the doorway, barefoot, holding a pair of black suede half-boots. She is wearing dark wash jeans and a creamy cashmere tunic, her honey brown bob freshly fluffed with a bit of  product. Her scent is clean. Botanical.

I ladle a fragrant curry from the pot to cool, pausing to look up and receive the pleased expression on her face.

“The pumpkin muffins are cool enough if you want to try one…”

“Oh, thanks, but I am going out for lunch with a friend. She’ll be here any minute.”

 The doorbell rings and the dogs suddenly take off toward the foyer, yelping excitedly.

“What’s that smell?”

She steps inside, wearing  skinny jeans and a plain white t-shirt with sneakers, ginger-blonde hair cropped in a boyish style, like Ellen Degeneres. She looks impatiently toward the kitchen and back at Lauren.

“I told you to be ready…”

“I want you to meet  Brooke, my new chef.”

To be continued…