I ended up firing Aude for her little stunt. Her craziness validated my reasons for not fucking around with employees. It sucked because she was a great manager. I was going to have to promote one of the girls or find a new manager externally, which I hated. The promotion would be good for one of the girls, but I hated training new managers. I was very anal in the way I liked things done and I was going to have to trust someone enough to give them the keys to the kingdom so to speak.
I would think about that later though.
Josie was in her room doing whatever it was eight-year-olds did. I had the ingredients set out on the counter, waiting for Sookie to show up, which was supposed to be at any moment. I went to the fridge to grab a beer when the doorbell rang. Josie came barreling down the stairs screaming that she would get the door.
“You know the rule,” I said from behind her. If she couldn’t see through the peephole, she couldn’t answer the door.
“It’s a lame rule,” she told me.
“That doesn’t mean it’s still not a rule,” I replied. When we got to the door I led by example and checked the peephole. “You want me to lift you up to look?” I asked.
“No, I want to be taller so I can look myself.” She had a step stool she could have used but never thought to think of it.
“You’re getting there, princess,” I said as I opened the door for Sookie. Sookie and Josie met in passing when Felicia brought her by the café for lunch the week before. “Hey,” I greeted Sookie.
“Hi, Sookie,” Josie said. Dimples came running in too, to greet her.
“Hi,” Sookie replied. She held out a bag to Jo and added, “A big bird told me you like Princess Elsa and since you’re helping me learn how to cook…”
“Oooh! What is it? Daddy can I open it?” Josie loved presents as much as any eight-year-old.
“Of course you can,” I answered. I looked up at Sookie and added, “You didn’t have to do that, but thank you.”
“Oh I have one for you too.” Sookie handed me my own bag.
“Uh… thanks…” I didn’t remember the last time I received a present. I shook my head as I opened it up. A plain white… apron? I looked over and saw Josie had one too that was light blue with sequins and crystals sewn on.
“Olaf,” Sookie said like it was obvious. “Because we can’t forget the butt.”
I laughed and said, “It’s cute, Sookie. Where’s your apron?” I knew it had something to do with my tattoo on my ass. Her reaction when she found out about it gave me the feeling she liked my ass.
Josie pulled hers over her head and spun around.
“It’s so pretty, Sookie! I love it,” my daughter beamed.
“Good. I’m glad it’s not too long,” Sookie replied. She pulled one more apron from her bag modeled after Anna’s character. It was black with flowers stitched on it.
“That looks just like Anna’s dress,” Josie said.
“You think? I sewed it all by myself.”
“Uh huh. I sewed your apron too. I can’t cook but I can sew,” Sookie said.
“Cool! Can you make me a Belle apron next? Oooh and an Ariel one too?”
“Princess, Sookie isn’t your own personal seamstress,” I told Josie.
Josie pouted while Sookie said, “Maybe we can make a trade for them, but it’s up to your dad.”
“You girls are on your own,” I chuckled. “As long as you’re not taking her to Centerfolds I don’t care what you trade.”
“What’s Centerfolds?” Jo asked.
“An adult place that you’re not allowed in. I wouldn’t want Sookie to try to break the law and sneak you in,” I said as I leaned down to kiss Josie’s forehead.
“But I could find you a girlfriend there maybe,” my daughter generously offered.
“No, I don’t want a girlfriend I can get there, plus I thought we were off the girlfriend talk. I got you a puppy,” I reminded her.
“But the puppy is for me, not you,” she reasoned. “You’re still grumpy.”
“No I’m not,” I replied. “Come on, let’s get in the kitchen.” I wanted Jo off the girlfriend subject.
“It’s okay, Jo. I think your dad needs a girlfriend too,” Sookie chimed in and followed us up to the kitchen.
“I don’t see you offering to fill the position,” I muttered as I walked away from the girls.
“I work for you. I’m not eligible,” Sookie said. Apparently she has bionic mom ears.
“I could fire you,” I winked as we walked into the kitchen. I liked Sookie a lot but I didn’t want to be in a relationship with her. We were becoming good friends, and as an employee it wouldn’t be good to date. We all knew that never worked out good for me. According to Sookie, and Mel, my dick made bitches crazy – their words, not mine.
“Yeah, fire her,” Jo said.
“Nope. She’s good at her job, plus she has a date tomorrow,” I responded.
“Nope.” Someone else beat me to the punch. I really was happy for her. She needed to see what was out there. If this guy she was going on the date with was a tool, then she learned a lesson and got some good dating experience under her belt. If he was a good guy and it worked out I would be happy for her. She deserved it. “She met a nice man at the airport she’s going to have dinner with.” I gave Sookie a smile as I pulled my Olaf apron over my head.
“Just don’t marry him right away,” Josie advised Sookie.
“I won’t,” Sookie laughed.
“Okay, are you ladies ready for spaghetti making 101?” I asked. I contemplated doing fresh pasta, but I wanted to take baby steps with Sookie. We’d get there one day.
“Ready as I’ll ever be.” Sookie went to the sink to wash her hands once she had her Princess Anna apron tied on.
“I’m basically here to help,” I told her. “I won’t be doing any cooking today. Have you ever cooked anything?”
“Uh tea? Maybe toast once? I think I burned it,” Sookie admitted. Josie shook her head disapprovingly.
“Okay,” I nodded. I had a lot more work than I thought. It would be fine. She was a quick learner. “See the big pot on the stove with the lid? I want you to take that to the stove and fill it with water.”
“You get water at your stove?” Sookie looked surprised.
“See that?” I pointed to faucet coming from the wall behind the stove. I had a range on the island too. “There’s a nozzle on there you can use to fill a pot. You can take the pot to the sink if you want, though.”
“No, the wall thing is good. I just didn’t know you could do that,” she said.
“It’s fancy, I know,” I chuckled. When Sookie walked over I moved with her so I could watch to see how much water she put in the pot. It was a pasta pot so there was an insert to pull the pasta from the water when it was done.
Sookie turned on the faucet and hummed to herself while she waited for the pot to fill. It was cute. She was cute, but again, she was off limits. Much to Josie’s dismay.
“That’s enough,” I told her. She reached up to turn the water off and I showed her how far to turn the knob for the heat. “Next we’re going to prep everything. Do you feel better about cutting things?” I asked. “Jo will be on can duty to get the tomato sauce out.”
“I’m not going to get better if I don’t practice, right? It’s not like this is some magical Harry Potter kitchen where I can spell the utensils to work, is it?”
“Daddy, can we get one of those in your next house?” Josie asked me.
“A Harry Potter kitchen?” I asked. I’d give my baby girl just about anything she wanted but I didn’t think I could conjure a magical kitchen.
“Yeah! It would be like in Beauty and the Beast during ‘Be Our Guest’,” Josie explained. “Don’t believe me, ask zee dishes!” she sang in a silly French accent. She started to giggle and added, “You’re grumpy like Cogsworth.”
“I am not grumpy,” I chuckled. “I’ll see what I can do about magic dishes.” I stepped up behind Sookie without thinking and took her hand. I used my other hand help her position the knife properly. It was the way I helped Josie cut things before I felt she had enough control to do it on her own. “We’re starting with the onion. I’ll show you how to start but you’ll finish on your own.”
“Fair enough.” Sookie didn’t complain about me being so close or my hand being on hers so I left it there.
We worked through the onion with minimal tears. I let her hand go after a moment and took a step back. I instantly missed her heat against my chest. I shook that off and had Josie grab the bell pepper to give to Sookie. I walked her through dicing it like the onion. The garlic was going to be different. I wanted to make it into a paste so she paid close attention and followed my direction step by step to make a semi-perfect garlic paste.
“Josie, can you show Sookie what herbs we put in the sauce?” I wanted to have it all lined up and ready to put together. Making spaghetti from scratch wasn’t a quick process but Jo and I had done it several times. It was one of her favorite dishes.
“Uh huh,” Josie agreed. I had a little herb garden growing outside so Josie went out to get them, leaving Sookie and me alone for a few minutes.
“She’s a cute kid,” Sookie told me.
“Thanks,” I smiled. “She gets none of it from me, but you’ve already informed me she was lucky about that.”
“You’re lucky. My brother’s kids are little assholes.”
“Is your brother an asshole?” It was all in how you raised them. I spoiled Josie, but I also stuck to it when I punished her. There was a balance I had to maintain which could be tough, but necessary.
“My brother is… lazy. I think that’s his biggest problem. He’s spoiled by the money we grew up with and the fact that he doesn’t really have to do much work within the family business to earn his paycheck. He’s the bosses son so he gets away with taking extra vacation time and having ‘business meetings’ on golf courses or at strip clubs. He married the girl our parents picked for him and didn’t complain about it. She’s squeezed out three kids in five years,” Sookie told me. “I’m not convinced that he knows his kids’ birthdays, if I’m being honest.”
“That’s pretty sad,” I replied. “I could’ve been that guy. My parents allowed me to do what I wanted and would’ve supported me financially. I couldn’t do it, though. I have too much drive. Which is something I see in you,” I told her.
“Mostly I don’t want to be their puppet,” Sookie shrugged. “It’s not for me. Jason’s comfortable with that life. I guess that’s fine for him, but it’s not fine for me.”
“That’s good. Do you want Italian sausage or beef spaghetti?” Josie preferred the sweet Italian sausage.
“Either is fine,” she answered.
I walked over to pull the sausage out of the fridge. “You thirsty?” I asked. “I have water, juice, wine, beer, milk…”
“I’ll have whatever you’re having,” she replied.
I pulled out the merlot, since it was going in the sauce anyway, along with the apple juice for Josie. She came bouncing back in with a fist full of herbs as I poured our drinks. She looked adorable in her little apron. I took a look at Sookie and my smile widened. Making us all matching aprons was extremely thoughtful. She didn’t have to do it and the fact that she thought about my daughter went a long way with me. It was part of the reason I was so willing to help her. She didn’t take it for granted and made sure I knew she appreciated it.
“Okay, ready to turn up the heat?” I asked. Josie started cleaning the basil and Sookie had successfully diced all of the veggies. It was time to start cooking.
“Let’s do it,” she nodded.
“See that pot?” I pointed to the Dutch oven I had on the stove. We were going to make quite a bit. Sookie nodded so I told her, “Turn that on medium heat. Josie, can you please get the olive oil for Sookie and show her how much to add?”
“Sure.” Josie went to the pantry to retrieve the oil. “Sookie, how come you don’t know how to cook?”
“Because my mom never taught me,” Sookie answered. “We always had someone to cook for us when I was a kid, so I didn’t need to learn.”
“Like Gramma Karin, right Daddy?”
“Yep,” I confirmed. My mother couldn’t cook to save her life. She was a good mom when she was around but when I was a kid she was working so much I rarely got to see her.
“My mommy cooks pretty good but not Jennifer,” Josie said with a scrunched up nose. “She puts too many peas in her tuna noodles.”
Sookie smiled, fighting a laugh.
I wasn’t sure what tuna noodles were but it sounded gross. Josie wasn’t a huge fan of peas either. “Not everyone can be as good as Dad,” I teased, reaching over to give Josie a little tickle on the back of her neck.
She squirmed and said, “Mel’s better.”
“We both know that’s a lie, princess.” I turned to Sookie and said, “If you think I spoil her I have nothing on Mel. She has him wrapped around her little finger.”
“Oh yeah?” Sookie looked down at Josie. “What does Mel make that’s so yummy?”
“Everything. And he doesn’t make me eat veggies,” she replied, making Sookie laugh.
“But veggies are so yummy. My favorite is cauliflower because you can smash it up and it tastes like mashed potatoes.”
“Yep. Ask your dad. I’m sure he can make them for you sometime.”
“I can,” I nodded. I hadn’t made it in a while. I’d made her cauliflower rice a few weeks prior and she had no clue.
“Can we have that tomorrow night?” Josie asked. She never asked for veggies. Ever.
“Yeah…” I looked at Sookie who was smiling. Josie liked her. A lot. I walked past Sookie and scooted the cutting board with all the veggies closer. “Stop flirting with my daughter and get to cookin’,” I teased.
“I’m not flirting; I’m having a conversation,” Sookie stuck her tongue out at me.
Ugh. I wanted to catch it between my lips and suck on it… Not in front of the kid.
“You can converse and cook,” I winked. I had to stop myself from smacking her ass.
“Okay, Sookie, watch me. You need this much oil,” Josie said before she started to pour some into the pot. Sookie watched my daughter and paid close attention to what she was saying.
A strange sense of pride warmed me as I watched my daughter teach Sookie the things I’d been teaching her. I stepped up a little closer so Sookie had Josie on one side while I stood closely behind her. She smelled nice. I shook my head a little and handed Sookie my favorite wooden cooking spoon. I held her hand like I did with the onion and helped her push the veggies around the bottom of the Dutch oven.
“When the onions are translucent we add the sauce,” I told her.
“Okay,” she nodded.
Dimples started to whimper over by the door, letting everyone know he wanted to go outside.
“Take him out, Jo,” I said. She knew the drill. I was going to get him a doggie door, but I hadn’t yet.
“Okay.” She jumped down from her little step stool and ran for the patio doors. “Come on, Dimples.”
With Josie gone I had to stop myself from rubbing against Sookie. I was standing close enough that I could feel her warmth. I reminded myself ten times she was an employee, and she had a date with another man.
“Now is a good time to add the tomato sauce,” I told her quietly.
Again she nodded and reached over to grab it off the counter.
“Just dump it in the pot?”
“Mmhmm, and then stir it around. We’re going to bring it to a bubble and then turn the heat down. While that’s simmering we can start on the meat.”
“Alright,” she nodded. Sookie added the sauce to the pot and stirred carefully so she didn’t get splattered.
“Thank you, Sookie,” I said out of the blue as I took a step back.
“What for?” Sookie looked back to face me.
“Being so good with Josie and bringing her an apron. A lot of people don’t think to include her.”
“Really? That’s bogus. You’re kind of a package deal, aren’t you? Besides, it was fun making these. I’m happy she likes hers.”
“We are definitely a package deal,” I chuckled and took a sip of my wine. “I just hope you know you’ve made a friend for life with that one. She never asks me to make her veggies.”
“Well maybe she’s evolving,” Sookie said with a smile. She picked up her wine and took a sip.
“Or she likes the pretty blonde telling her how good it is,” I replied. Kids were impressionable and Sookie was making a great impression.
“Then I’m glad I’m influencing her the right way.”
I nodded as Josie came back in to tell me Dimples did his business. She washed her hands and then hopped right back up on her stool. I stood back to let the girls cook. I only interjected when I was needed. I liked Sookie and it was clear that Jo liked having her around. She was definitely a girl I would like to date, but it wasn’t right for us. Plus, I didn’t know if she was attracted to me. I was older and stuck in my ways. She didn’t need that. She needed someone her age that could give her everything her heart desired. I knew that wasn’t anything material. She needed love, friendship, and equality. Something she hadn’t gotten a whole lot of.