Tim and Emily Steal a Recipe

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic
After his Aunt Geneva's funeral, Tim realizes that his cousin, Louise, has stolen something very important to him. Now, he and his fiancée have to get it back.

Submitted: August 15, 2016

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Submitted: August 15, 2016

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Louise had the nerve to serve the chocolate chip cookies after his aunt’s funeral, and Tim could not believe it.

“I cannot believe it,” he said, eating one, “I cannot believe it.”

They were amazing, of course, just as he remembered them: warm, fluffy but firm, perfectly sweet, and the chocolate just slightly melting within. Simple and wonderful. It was more than Tim could take. He sulked, and he paced, and he took another bite.

It had been a perfect day for a funeral, birds chirping, a spattering of clouds. A dry day too, and so no one was able to track mud inside. Not that Tim thought they even could. There was something about Louise’s house that looked like it repelled dirt. The entire living room was sterile, and so was the gathering inside. There was no conversation beyond formalities, – that would be impolite – there was no music, – that would be insensitive – and the guests took special care not to speak a word of the deceased – that would cause indigestion. But Louise did serve the cookies. Tim couldn’t help but wonder if she had done it on purpose.

He spotted Emily ambling over. She was dressed in her mourning black and beaming.

“Guess what?” she mouthed.

“What.”

“See that man over there? In the bowtie?”

Tim nodded.

“Well, he said the ring looks dazzling!” She held it out in front of him and wiggled her fingers for maybe the eighth time that week. “Dazzling” was her favorite word.

“That’s wonderful.” Another bite.

This threw Emily off. Usually, Tim loved to hear about her ring. “Tim, honey? What’s wrong?”

Tim looked as if he was about to say something loud and accusatory, but instead he simply gestured to the platter of chocolate chip cookies on the table.

“Try one,” he said, grating his jaw.

“Are you alright?”

“Trust me, Emily, just try one.”

She stared at him, reached for a cookie, and carefully began to chew. Tim waited.

Emily put a hand to her mouth. “Oh my god.” She chewed some more. “Oh my god. These… these are…”

“Magnificent,” Tim finished.

Emily nodded again, eyes almost aglaze, still chewing.

Tim spoke, and began to get worked up as he did. “I bet you’ve never tasted anything like that cookie in your life. Isn’t it amazing? It’s like Mozart is using your mouth as a concert hall. It’s like every cookie you have ever had before this was just a cheap carbon copy of the absolute miracle crumbling on your tongue right now.”

“Tim, your aunt has died. Calm down.” Emily looked around to see if anyone had heard him. No one had. “But, yes,” she added, “That is exactly what it’s like.” And she put the rest of the cookie in her mouth, closed her eyes, and savored to the last crumb.

Tim looked into the crowd. There was Louise, looking striking in her funeral dress and walking around to her guests, accepting their condolences and offering chocolate chip cookies to the bereaved.

“I cannot believe her!”

“Honey, I still don’t understand… you’re upset?” She took another cookie off the table and shoved it into her mouth.

Tim exhaled through his nose like a peeved rhino. And he began to whisper, “Emily, what you just ate wasn’t simply a great batch of chocolate chip cookies. They are much, much more, than that. They are the original chocolate chip cookies, baked from the first, and the very best, chocolate chip cookie recipe in existence. The one and only copy is nothing short of a sacred text. And it happens to be a secret family heirloom that goes back generations.”

“What?”

“It’s true.”

“That’s ridiculous.”

“I wouldn’t tell you this if we weren’t getting married.”

Emily thought for a minute, then gasped and swatted him on the shoulder. “You kept a secret from me?”

“I had to! This is big, Emily, bigger than either of us. You tasted them yourself. The world isn’t ready for them. If the recipe got out… things would get out of control.”

She frowned. “Fine, so why haven’t I had these before?”

Tim pointed to a large photo on the wall framed by flowers. It displayed a stern woman with a gray bun and truly impeccable posture. “You have Aunt Geneva to blame for that,” he said. “When my grandmother passed away, the recipe went to my mother – she was the oldest of the siblings and that was tradition.” He took another cookie off the table. “I grew up with these cookies.” He pointed to it for reference. “We had a batch every Sunday evening, maybe around some TV or a board game. They breathed warmth into our house, brought us together. It’s impossible to have a bad day after eating one of those…” Tim seemed lost for a moment, wrapped in memory, but his brow furrowed and he regained himself.

“One day, when I was nine, Aunt Geneva and Louise came to visit. They were awful. Condescending, critical, impossible to please. Louise was an absolute terror. I had gotten a toy truck for Christmas that year, a bit of an antique. I played with it every day and wouldn’t let anyone else touch it. Louise wanted a turn, and I said no. She told her mother, who told my mother, and she sat me down and convinced me to lend it to her for a while. I still remember the smug look on Louise’s face when I gave her the truck. Fifteen minutes later, she comes back with it, broken, and I cried. So my mom made us all a batch of the cookies to smooth it over. And it worked!” He waved the cookie around like he was trying to bat a fly. “The cookies are magic, honestly. I actually lent her another toy of mine that very same night. But in the morning, when we woke up, Geneva and Louise were gone, and the recipe was gone with them.”

“You’re kidding!”

“I am not. They stole it. In fact, I think Geneva got Louise to break my truck on purpose to lure my mom into cooking a batch and revealing where she kept the recipe.”

Emily was shaking her head. “There’s no way.”

“You didn’t see the look on Louise’s face when she got the truck. I swear, I will never forget it.”

“Didn’t you try and get it back?”

“Couldn’t. Geneva and Louise disappeared, completely, moved across the country and didn’t leave a number. Never heard from them again until Louise contacted me about Geneva’s death. Don’t know how she found me. Facebook, I guess.”

Emily nodded, now on her third cookie. There was a chocolate smudge on the corner of her lip. “Okay,” she said, “assume this recipe actually is what you think it is… why didn’t you just write another copy? Didn’t your mother know it by heart?”

Tim shook his head. “It doesn’t work like that. You tasted them yourself. The normal rules of cooking don’t apply to these cookies. The magic isn’t from the ingredients; it’s from the recipe itself. To cook them from any other source would be… It would be profane. Sacrilege.”

Tim went silent as if that had explained things. Emily still did not understand, but she thought it better to just enjoy another cookie. She could not help but notice that none of the guests looked particularly miffed at the passing of Aunt Geneva. In fact, some of them even looked delighted. But then again, she thought, chewing, maybe that was just the cookies.

 Emily examined the funeral portrait on the wall. Then she looked at Louise. And then she looked back again. There was a definite resemblance between the two, an elusive display of complete control. The expression on Geneva’s face looked as if it had been mastered over years of diligent practice. And Louise was… flawless. Every social interaction she made as a hostess displayed the appropriate emotion at the appropriate time in the appropriate dose. She was composed when it suited her and she grieved when she needed to. It was sharp. Emily could absolutely imagine the two of them stealing something so loved…

“Tim?”

“Yes?”

“Why did we come here?”

“Hm?”

“We drove across the country to go to the funeral of a distant aunt you hardly know.”

“…Emily, Geneva was my mother’s sister.”

“But you hate her. You might as well have said so yourself. The last time you saw her, she…” – Emily stopped, thought, and dropped her voice to a harsh whisper – “You want the recipe back!

“That’s… ridiculous.”

“Tim!” A long, manicured finger pointed straight into his sternum. With it, came, “You are not going to steal from a woman at her mother’s funeral!”

Shhh! Not so loud!”

Both adjusted their clothes and gave a quick scan to see if anyone was listening in. No one. They were safe. Faces flushed, they continued.

“It is not stealing,” said Tim, calmly, “the recipe is mine by right.”

“You don’t even know if she has the recipe. You don’t even know if the recipe is real!”

“Oh? Don’t I? Try another cookie, I dare you, and tell me that I don’t know – ”

Louise was suddenly standing directly between them. She had appeared so suddenly, in fact, that it felt less as if she had walked over and more as if she had been summoned by some curse. She smiled at them. “Thank you so much for coming,” she said, “it’s such a comfort to have family here.” She then put a pale hand on Tim’s arm, and Emily thought she saw him shiver, just a little.

“So sorry for your loss,” he said.

“We really are,” Emily added.

Louise choked up, just enough, and then nodded her head up and down and put herself together, all in under four seconds. It was masterful. And then, “How are you finding things? Good?”

“Of course, your home is lovely, just lovely.” Emily wasn’t sure how much she was permitted to smile after a funeral, so instead she made a face that looked like she smelled rotting fruit.

Louise beamed. “Thank you, that means a lot to me, especially right now.”

There was silence. Emily could not fathom why she was the one making conversation and not Tim. Tim, meanwhile, was staring avidly at his shoes.

Louise piped up, “I’m so sorry, but you’ve got something… Chocolate, I think, on your lip?”

“Oh!” Emily brought her hand to her mouth to wipe it away. Louise glimpsed the ring on her finger.

“Excuse me, could I…?” she said, and motioned towards it.

“Of course,” Emily replied. She held out her ring for Louise and flashed a smile to Tim.

“Oh this is just adorable! A single diamond, so… simple. It fits you, really. Good choice, Tim.”

Louise then turned over her own hand to reveal an absolute monster of jewelry. The stones on her ring looked like three regular sized diamonds were trying to eat each other while seven glittering sapphires watched from the sidelines.

“My fiancé got me this little thing, isn’t it just dazzling?”

Emily did not seem dazzled at all. “Yes,” she replied, “dazzling.”

Louise put her hand over her heart and, sighing, said, “I’m a lucky woman.”

There was a pause. Each of the three was waiting for either of the other two to say anything at all.

“Well,” said Louise, finally, “got to keep moving, help yourself to the cookies!”

Tim looked at Emily. Emily looked at Tim.

“You were saying?” he said.

"Forget what I said,” Emily snapped, “we are going to steal that recipe if we have to tear her house apart.”

"Right!”

"So what’s the plan?”

“Well, here’s what I was thinking. She made these today, didn’t she? So the recipe is likely still in the kitchen.”

Emily smiled. “Most likely.”

“So, you stand outside the door, make sure Louise keeps her distance, and I’ll go look for it.”

“You will not look for the recipe,” said Emily, “you will find it. And at our dazzling wedding, we will eat chocolate chip cookies and Louise will not be invited.”

Tim looked at her like he had not looked at her for months. “I love you,” he said.

“I love you too, now get going!” And she shooed him away.

Tim scampered off on a mission. He soon realized that scampering made him look conspicuously like he was on a mission, so he quickly slowed to a smooth walk, almost a glide. It pleased him. If only someone at the gathering knew that he was on a mission, he thought, they would think he looked really suave, gliding along as if he had never been on a mission in his life. If only they knew.

He soon glided all the way into the cleanest kitchen he had ever seen in his life. Everything shined. It didn’t just look spotless; it looked brand new, like it had just been photographed for a catalogue. There was not a pan out of place. The dishes on the drying rack even looked decorative. He almost lost hope. There was no way Louise had ever cooked in this kitchen, much less cooked the world’s first-ever-and-greatest-of-all-time chocolate chip cookies less than two hours ago. But then he remembered the expression on Louise’s face as she took his toy truck, and he peacefully accepted that, whatever Louise and Geneva were, they were not human. Somehow that thought made the kitchen make sense. He was a man on a mission. Now, to find a recipe…

Emily, meanwhile, was spending half her effort watching Louise and the other half attempting to look like she was doing something else. However, she could not decide what that something ought to be. She looked at Louise, and then checked her phone, and then looked at Louise, and then stared at a potted plant, and then looked at Louise, and then pretended to look for the bathroom, and then looked at Louise again one more time, and then realized she was utterly exhausted and decided it was a better idea to just stand by the kitchen and, oh, she didn’t know, just trip her or something if Louise came close.

Emily began to examine the coffee table next to her. It was exquisitely clean, of course, with a dainty cover and an old fashioned Roman-numeraled clock, which, of course, had the correct time down to the second. She checked. Also on the table was a set of her business cards. Bored, she took a look. In perfect, golden, flowery cursive, it read, “Louise Anderson: Designer, Chef, and Lover of All Things Beautiful.” Emily actually gagged, and suddenly, as if that were her signal, there was Louise.

“I did the penmanship myself, you know,” she offered.

“Oh, did you?”

“Do you like it?”

“It’s…” and she said the word through her teeth, “dazzling.”

“Oh you are just the sweetest!”

Emily didn’t reply.

“Help yourself to a card! I’ve left plenty around.”

Emily nodded, and Louise made a step towards the kitchen door –

“Wait!” cried Emily.

“Yes?”

“You… can’t go in there.”

“I’m sorry?”

“No, because… you need to tell me… about your home!”

“Well,” Louise smiled, “there is nothing I would love more, but I need to get another batch of cookies first. They are just flying off the table! If you could wait here...” Louise turned away –

“Wait!

Louise stared at her expectantly, and Emily simply blurted, “I need to throw up! Where’s the bathroom!”

The hostess took a sharp breath in, and her eyes flared. “Down the hall first on the left, do not even look at the furniture on your way.”

Emily was silent and still. They stared at each other. Without breaking eye contact, Louise began to open the kitchen door –

“Take me there! I need you to. I… get lost easily.”

Louise turned to Emily, and searched her with her eyes.

“What is going on here?”

Emily didn’t have an answer. Louise turned away and strode into the kitchen with force. Defeated, Emily followed.

Inside was Tim, holding a brown scrap of paper in one hand, and a large, ornate cookbook in the other. In the same infuriatingly perfect, gold-leaf cursive as the business card, it read “Lunches From Louise” To Emily’s surprise, Tim didn’t look at all shocked to see them come in. If anything, he looked hurt.

“Louise,” he said, “what have you done?”

“Oh!” she replied, “You found my cookbook! Do you like it?”

He repeated, with vigor, “What have you done?”

“Well, see the cover design? That’s my own work! All the recipes, too, are written in my own handwriting. I’ve been working on it for years now, and the publisher says they want it to print it just like that, go for a real authentic feel. I’m sending it off to them tomorrow. What do you think?”

“The cookie recipe…”

“You mean my Old World Artisanal Originals? They’re the highlight of the book.” Louise flashed them a greedy smile. “The word of mouth around those might just make me a millionaire.”

Tim was speechless. Louise looked to Tim, and then to Emily, and then to the paper in Tim’s hand, and then she began to speak with the pace of a shock victim.

“Is… that what all this was about?” Her eyes darted between them. “The cookie recipe?”

Emily was frozen. Tim rubbed the brown piece of paper between his fingers.

“That...” said Louise, “is so… remarkably… sad. It’s just pathetic! You came to my mother’s funeral just to steal a scrap of paper you haven’t seen since you were nine!”

“It’s not yours.”

“Oh, Tim, you haven’t seen it in twenty years. Give it up.”

Tim saw a smug grin then that he had seen just once, twenty years ago. His grip tightened.

“Actually,” the face said, “here, take the stupid thing, if it honestly means that much to you. I’ve got a better copy, and soon, every decent household in the country will have one too.”

Then she laughed. It was piercingly shrill. “I’ll even add you to the acknowledgements!”

Tim’s face flushed a deep, ruddy red. Louise almost doubled over, and the three stood like that for a while.

Emily spoke in a careful, quiet voice, just above a whisper. “Let’s go home, honey.”

He put down the cookbook and Emily reached out to grab his free hand. Louise was still laughing as they left the kitchen, recipe still in hand. They walked to their car in silence.

When they got inside, Tim breathed deeply. Emily laid her head on his shoulder and rubbed his chest. He looked at her, unfolded the paper, and held it against the steering wheel. They read it together.

Then, Tim began to shake. And he began to giggle. Soon was laughing, loudly, and whooping, and hooting, and pumping his fists, and screaming, “We did it! I can’t believe we did it!” Emily had absolutely no idea what to think. She had been bracing herself to comfort him all the way home. She was not ready for this.

Tim turned to her with a smile that promised the world. “I cannot believe it!” he said. “The recipe is actually ours! It’s finally back where it belongs.”

“Honey, you aren’t upset?”

“Upset? Why would I be upset?” Tim looked genuinely surprised at her question.

“The cookbook. I’m sorry. I thought you would be upset.”

In a single moment, his smile transformed from joyous to devilish. “That certainly would be upsetting… if her cookbook had the recipe inside.”

“What do you mean?”

“I may have… altered it before she came in. Just enough. She writes the recipes in pencil! It was too much to resist. An extra cup here, a bit less sugar there. I even added half a cup of nutmeg. The cookies it makes will be terrible.” He let out an ecstatic whoop. “Honestly, who would want to eat a chocolate chip cookie with nutmeg?”

“Won’t she notice?”

Tim shook his head and grinned. “I’ve never told you? Perfect penmanship runs in the family.”

He began to laugh again, and now, Emily joined in. Tim put the key in the ignition and knocked the car into drive.

“I think we should celebrate tonight,” Emily said, “with a magical batch of chocolate chip cookies.”

“That,” Tim replied, “would be dazzling.”

Emily beamed at him. Tim beamed back. They squeezed hands and drove home.


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