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"The Way to a Man's Heart" by Elizabeth Dearl

Twist #296 - April 2015

Originally appeared Feb. 1999

(Page 1 of 3)

Isprinkled the chicken with Fred's favorite lemon seasoning and slid it into the oven. There. I was feeling smugly organized until I glimpsed my reflection in a polished copper pot. My hair was a disaster and I had flour all over my dress. My lipstick (which I'm unaccustomed to wearing) had been thoroughly bitten off, leaving a bright red rim around my mouth, which made me look like a vampire who'd just indulged in a snack. On top of that, I still hadn't wrapped Fred's gift, and he'd be here in less than two hours.

"Weee-hooo!" Oh, no. Emma. She makes that peculiar noise in lieu of knocking. I suppose it's her version of yoo-hoo, but it's most annoying.

"Come on in!" I called out, grabbing a paper napkin to scrub off the remaining lipstick. I couldn't take any teasing from Emma today. Not when it might turn out to be the most important day of my life.

Her painted-on eyebrows rose as she bustled through the door and caught sight of me. "Let me guess. Your can of talcum powder exploded."

"It's flour," I said, swiping uselessly at my dress with a dish towel. "I was baking bread." She helped herself to a cup of coffee and plunked down at the table. I cast a frantic glance at the clock. How was I going to get rid of her?

Emma sniffed the air. "Mmm. Lemon chicken? That's Fred's favorite." She smirked at me over the rim of her coffee cup.

"Is it?" I busied myself sponging the counter, refusing to meet her eyes. "I ran into Jane at the market. She said she'd left Fred at home, and that he was getting all gussied up." Fred is Jane's brother, who had recently come to stay with her. I'd met him the month before when it was Jane's turn to host our weekly poker game. I know, I know... most elderly ladies prefer bridge or mahjong, but Emma talked us all into poker. She says it's more stimulating. I suspect her real motive lies in the fact that she almost always wins. A nice supplement to her Social Security income, though it tends to leave the rest of us strapped for cash.