January 17th, 2015
“Cassie Joy, what did I tell you about having dessert before dinner?” My mother scolded coming into the kitchen leaving the kitchen door swaying behind her.
Traditionally, I held up the fork in my hands pointing it at her. “To cut a slice for you?” I joked, which only earned me narrow eyes as her nose twitched upwards to keep from laughing.
“You’re ruining your dinner.” She said barely catching her laughter behind her irritation.
I didn’t live to tease my mother.
Really, I didn’t.
I wasn’t one of those daughters who went out of her way to give her more grief. When I was a teenager I never stayed out late, and always came home thirty minutes before curfew. Never left her worrying or wondering.
Couldn’t she let me have this one thing?
Couldn’t she not have me hiding my food habit and have my coffee cake without scolding me?
Of course not. She was my mother. Her instant internal motherly advice meter kicked in to let me know her opinions and disapproval.
On the meter cake before dinner entered the red zone.
I told myself before coming to dinner, I wouldn’t eat dessert — but then something happened — something so unlike my dad that I had to escape the living room for the coffee cake I made for dessert.
My dad, the man who grunts when meeting a man in my life is out in the living room having actual conversation with my boyfriend. The scene is like one of those never before seen clips on a television show. But not only that, Austin and my dad were watching Sleepless in Seattle. My father, a sucker for romantic comedies and M*A*S*H reruns was watching a movie with my boyfriend. One of his favorite movies.
I was shocked as all heck.
So, of course my rule was broken. The hierarchy of cake lead me to the island in the kitchen.
After my first blog post, which by the way my parents read, they understood why I never came home from college. They would come visit me, but coming home always meant valid excuses. Papers, midterms, finals. Holidays were especially hard, but luckily they went on cruises and visited family.
A lengthy explanation, three slices of cake later, they came to grips with L and I, my leave of absence from my childhood home, and my blog.
“Cassie, Austin seems like a really good guy.” My mother shuffled around the kitchen ignoring eye contact with me.
“He is.” I talk over the bite of cake in my mouth. Everything about him is great, except for two things. He doesn’t approve of my dessert before dinner rule, and he leaves his dirty socks on the open cabinet door in the bathroom. It’s such an odd habit that I have crashed into twice since staying at his apartment. There is nothing worse than running into an open cabinet in the middle of the night to use the restroom, only find said open cabinet airing out two pairs of dirty socks.
“I know you haven’t been dating long.” She states opening the oven to bast the spatchcock chicken. “And this is the first time we are meeting him.” She talks into the oven and I roll my eyes at her little comment. Ever since L, I haven’t brought home guy home. Not from college or after.
“But you guys have perfect chemistry.” Closing the oven, she turns to me placing each of her warm hands on each side of my face. Her eyes soften, melting my heart from being away from home for so long.
Forbidding myself to come back. All the memories of one Summer screwed with my mental perception.
“I want you to be happy. You look happy Cassie. That’s all that matters to me.” Her brown eyes mist with fresh tears.
“I am happy mom.” I said with such conviction, I almost believed it myself. I was happy with my job, creating my own stability and my blog.
Breaking the lying tension building inside me, “Want some cake?” My eyes motion to the cake pan on the counter.
Hesitating for a second, “Sure.” Her warm smile widens.
Cutting her a slice, I smile handing over a plate. We chatted aimlessly about everything except my first blog post five months ago. To say my parents were hurt that I didn’t confide in them about L was an understate. The summer of L, I convinced them we were just friends, which was the truth before he kissed me. Before that summer, I told them everything, not hiding a single thing. I learned they eventually were going to find out and sometimes a girl needed her parents perspective.
The kitchen door swung open, my father entered with Austin in tow. My father grinned at the sight of my mother and I eating cake while standing at the counter. Austin gazed over my dad’s shoulder, his ash blonde hair askew on his head. Pushing the rims of his black-framed specs higher on his nose he inspected the scene, disapprovingly.
I wish he wouldn’t do that. I disapproved of his socks laid out on the bathroom cabinet, but I didn’t give him incredulous disapproving eyeballs.
That’s right, eyeballs. Austin’s eyes were the gateway of his emotions, speaking volumes when his brain shut down communication.
Eyeballs, never letting me down since… well for months.
His green eyes, considerate and attractive never shut off. They were my tell to whatever his brain was thinking. Squinting when he approved, normally someone’s opposite when they were upset or agitated. Bursting wide as a large marble when he laughed instead of when he was in shock. I kind of liked to think his brain did eye tells ass backwards.
“Oh come on you two, come have some cake before dinner. Today, Rick our daughter is home. We’re celebrating her way.” Patting my shoulder, Austin and my dad cane further into the kitchen as my mom cut them each a slice, passing it around.
Austin doesn’t protest taking his slice standing by my side. His shoulder brushes mine, and I felt nothing.
Not a tingle.
Not a sensation.
No swarm of butterflies.
Austin is a great guy. I mean, great. He is charming, funny, and knows more about computers than anyone I knew. That is how we met. My computer decided one day to terminate our technological relationship by dying. After mourning the loss of my favorite inanimate object, I ran to the Tech Hut where Austin sold me my computer. By the end of the transaction, not only had he made commission, but he got my phone number.
Four months and counting, conjuring the butterflies that fled my stomach was futile. The tingles are no longer there. Emptiness sat in the pit of my stomach acidic and wretched.
What is wrong with me?
Austin’s tall and lanky, arms thin sticks only exercising when he worked a keyboard. But underneath his collared grey shirt was a Superman in hiding. His muscles budded from his abdomen like a flower barely blooming, and his kind green eyes always had an extra amount of happiness even when he wasn’t smiling. A jawline oddly shaped oval and elongated, wasn’t chiseled to perfection. But I didn’t really fall for his looks. I fell for his personality.
Quick witted and charming.
Smart and genuinely nice.
How we got along so easily and conversation flowed effortlessly. We were more like friends than a couple. We didn’t go out, which I didn’t mind. We stayed in, but it was how we stayed in that bothered me. We were like a married couple. He’d read and I’d write in my notebook. We didn’t touch until we hit the bed. There was no magic unless the sheets were involved. Our whole intimate relationship was sad.
When I made an effort to bring food into the bed, Austin fidgeted complaining the bed would get messy. When I tried to get him to have sex on my kitchen table, he gently turned me down offering me the bedroom as a first, but always second choice.
“Rick, why don’t you help me set the table?” My mom asked my dad although she was looking at me knowing my thoughts by looking at my face.
The guilt inside riddled higher. Sometimes, I didn’t know why I made decisions, like bringing a guy home when I didn’t have feelings for him anymore. Apart of me wanted my parents to see I wasn’t lonely. That their only daughter could have a great relationship with a great guy.
All smoke and mirrors if you ask me.
“Sure.” Chuckling, my dad follows her out of the kitchen giving us a stern look before leaving. Putting the last basting on the chicken, my mom scatters away.
“You look beautiful, Cassie.” Austin whispers afraid my parents might hear.
Warmly, I smiled up at him.
Everyday, three times a day, Austin told me I was beautiful. He was over complimentary in threes. Cooked meals always got three compliments. Something I shared with him about my day got three compliments. After sex, three compliments. Everything in threes. Another flaw in his belt. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed compliments, but I didn’t like them handed out like continuous freebies.
Bending down he kisses the top of my head, I wrap my arms around his torso wanting to feel something besides his comfort and warmth.
“Thank you, Austin.” The words sounded convincing, but they were a hurtful lie. Inside I didn’t match his words. I felt ugly and treacherous to the man standing in front of me. My heart scattering away as if it were dust in a wind gust so strong it vanished within seconds.
“I have been thinking and I know this is a way off, but Valentine’s week I am heading to Vegas for a technology convention. I was wondering if you wanted to go. On actual Valentine’s day, we could do something romantic in the city of sin, and on the other days you can pamper yourself, massages, poolside escapades, mani pedi, and maybe win a little money.”
His offer would have meant more to me than anything if I wasn’t feeling so darn treacherous.I hated feeling this way. I never cared much for Valentine’s day, besides the chocolate clearance days after. Actually having a guy to celebrate the day with who likes me messed with my gut.
“I have to ask for time off, but I can’t make promises since I am only a few months in.” A few months back, I started working for a non-profit as a low level social worker for underage kids. Our goal was to provide these kids with stability when their life didn’t give them the option. The pay was decent, but gradually helping these kids meant giving back in ways money couldn’t compare with.
Running his long fingers down my back, he continues to whisper, “If you can’t get time off that is okay, but if you can that would be amazing. We will just spend the week after as Valentine’s day late bloomers.” He adds kissing my forehead. “Tonight, my place or yours?” His long fingers reach under my chin lifting it to his face.
“Mine.” Really, it didn’t matter. His worn socks would still be on my bathroom cabinet door. Bending down his lips meet mine in a slow tender kiss. The empty feeling lingered inside me as I kissed him back eager and attentive, giving more when all I really wanted was to give less.
Dinner went smoothly as expected. Austin insisted on helping with the dishes. He and my mom were suds deep into conversation about Austin looking at her computer to fix something or rather. I really wasn’t paying attention, my mind was scattered with clouded thoughts of how I was going to end it with Austin.
All I wanted to do was avoid the conversation, “I’m sorry, I’m breaking up with you.” Emailing him was worse than saying it to his face.
Volunteering to take out the trash, Arizona’s mildly balmy weather chilled down from the day’s unexpected low grade January heat wave. Discarding the trash bag in the bin already curbside, my eyes follow the dark sky moderately filled with even darker clouds. The moon hung innocently low and bright yellow catching my eye just as a cloud in the shape of a dementor slowly crept across pulling the beauty away from eyes view.
A loud thud nearby jerked my head in the direction of the loud noise. Suffocating me, my lungs lost the concept of breathing. Widening my hazel eyes, L stood next door studying me.
I would like to think I didn’t look the same as I did when we were friends all those years ago, but I had changed. Not just with maturity, but my features were more curvaceous and feminine. Gaining the freshman fifteen was the best thing since the last fifteen minutes of Lost. While some people hated the ending, personally I loved it.
Ending college fifteen pounds heavier made my hips have an hourglass figure foregoing my boyish figure from before. Although my hair, the same color, a deep amber honey, sat above my shoulders comfortably, I learned to style tresses and straighten rather than sporting a ponytail.
Yet, seeing him standing a couple feet away watching him in the darkness, L was the dementor sucking the very life out of my body just like he did that summer.
Being on the inside made him more rugged. His shoulders broader, tight annexed torso with muscles stretching his tank top, and a long jagged scar extended from the top of his shoulder stopping at the crease in his elbow. His hair four inches longer scattered in all directions like he anxiously or tirelessly pulled his fingers through it.
He moved towards me only to stop himself, lightly his brow furrowed abruptly irradiated.
Planting the balls of my feet deeper in my shoes, a twinge of regret burst throughout my body. I didn’t rush to him knowing fully well he wasn’t capable of crossing the imaginary line between our houses. And I wasn’t about to have a welcome home conversation with him.
My mother called to tell me during my junior year in college, L had come home for a weekend to visit his friend and was arrested for grand theft auto. From what she told me, he was cruising around in a fancy sports car the owner reported stolen only days prior. An officer passing by ran the plates pulling them over, L was arrested while his friend by miracle fled the scene. Sadly, it didn’t matter if he had no priors, the car was stolen from a wealthy man who sought punishment. L spent three years in jail and had one year of house arrest for driving a car he didn’t know was stolen. His wife divorced him his first year inside, and all L has left are his parents and an unwanted background that would chase him for life.
As much as I wanted to talk to him, my lungs still hadn’t recuperated as my heart wildly hammered against my rib cage waiting for the signal to break free and slap him in the face.
Opening his mouth, he chomps it closed welcoming our silence once again. I welcomed the silence. I didn’t even know what to say to him. Apologize for the shitty years? Hug him?
I wanted so badly to hug him. Comfort him. Wrap my arms around his warmth, engulfing me as I search for his familiar scent, and equally familiar touch. My heart hurt, my hands balled into fists. Could the small words make everything easier between us and vanish the insecurities that had been plaguing me since summer?
“Babe, you coming back inside.” Austin called from the front door.
I was in a pickle. The majority of my mind said no, I wasn’t done looking at L. A small part said yes, I was returning inside to Austin.
He was safe. Secure. Consistent. And I was on the verge of breaking up with him.
Turning towards the front door Austin waited for my reply. By the time I turned back to L, he vanished. All I heard were his slippers scraping against the cement like a chain heavily weighing him down. Weighing me down.
Pickled vs. Stuck in a pickle
One of the best things about pickling food is the fermentation process giving you a healthy gut. All that good bacteria can boost your probiotic content by adding anything pickled to your meal. A rule of thumb, fermenting and pickling are best when done homemade.
Now that I got that rule out, to say I love pickling is an understatement, but being stuck in the unwanted pickle of life isn’t as good. You see, being stuck in life’s unwanted pickles leaves me feeling drained and boost-less. While eating fermented food gives my body the extra boost it needs, it is also important to not indulge on too many sweets to knock your good bacteria. Note, I like to call this the bounce effect.
When you’re stuck in a pickle your body gets filled with so much negative bacteria it can affect our health. Emotionally and psychically. For the past two weeks, I have been stuck. My body is lagging, my emotions running wild, and I am psychically drained.
Austin broke up with me.
I knew it was coming. I saw it coming. I welcomed it. But it still hurts and I hurt him. Somewhere out there is a woman waiting for Austin. Someone who isn’t stuck in the pickle of love for another man. A man who doesn’t even know I love him. Or that I miss him, or his damn delicious chocolate cake.
In short, I saw L. We didn’t share a word. Our looks spoke volumes, and my heart is still repairing itself both from Austin and L. That is the worst type of pickle to be in. Cakeless, loveless, and man-friendless.
So, in order to restore good gut balance, and wean myself off of sweets from mourning my breakup and Candida overload, I have spent last next two days canning. Radishes, jalapeños, cabbage, peaches, and peppers. And new pickles! Their crunch and mild bitterness tastes way better than puke green lifeless pickles.
All of these are marginally healthier than all the Valentine’s Day candy on the shelves I won’t be getting this year. (Insert my own pity party) Instead, I am filling my pantry shelves with pickled goods creating an acid/salt combo with soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K.
Canning doesn’t have to be a long process, nowadays you can give something a quick can. For instance, radishes are one of my favorites. My two favorites to add them to are shrimp and asada tacos. You can even add them on top of enchiladas enhancing the sauce with an extra pickled pop!
You probably have everything you need in your kitchen to assist you with an added flavorful boost to any meal. Quick canning saves time and helps enhance the flavor of your meal by ten. Not to forget, added good bacteria. That is the most important thing our body needs, good bacteria to help us function like a well oiled car. But not too much or it can overload your body.
Basically, if you eat like crap, you feel like crap. If you fall in love half hearted, you get dumped intentionally.
Recipe: (This is for half of a bunch of radishes. If you use the whole bunch, the liquid ratio should be 1/2 c each of vinegar and water)
One bunch of radishes
A small mason jar – washed and sanitized
1/4 cup of white vinegar, apple cider, or rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup of water
1 tsp dried chili flakes (or preferred taste)
Additions: peppercorns, mustard seeds, salt, pepper, or coriander seeds. Also, if you want added spice you can add a few rounds of chopped jalapeños.
Slice radishes into either sticks or rounds and desired thickness. Placing radishes in a mason jar, add spices of choice. I normally add a small pinch of kosher salt and chili flakes. Top it off vinegar and water. Close lid and give a little shake. Store in refrigerator for four hours before using.
Can keep up to one week.
Suggestions: These radishes are delicious on anything, salads, burgers, tacos, as a side dish on your plate. Once I make them, they go quickly, so one week for me is null and void. But I don’t cut a full bunch. Half of the bunch gets pickled and the other half gets roasted. For a dollar, that is a two in one combo.
Much love from Food vs. Men,
Continue to Chapter 3 for more of Cassie and Landen!
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