Don't Try Any of This

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Chapter 3

Monday starts out differently than Sunday. It’s 8 again, but now I’m in my white cooking outfit, ready for a half-day of learning to be a pastry chef, standing for the morning line-up in the gleaming stainless steel kitchen of the culinary school. My afternoon and early evening at Chantal’s is a not quite distant, though fond, memory, not diminished by the moment, before the evening was done, when Roger surreptitiously slipped me his phone number on a scrap of paper. I wonder if the fellow knows what he’d be getting himself into with me. I’m sure not.

Anyway, here I am, ready for yet another side of my existence. There was a TV show once, I think back in the 1950s, called I Led Three Lives. Heh. That dude had nothing on me. If I had only three lives to live I might be able to make sense of it all. No such luck.

Sid had to pull some strings to get me into this school. They don’t take students under 18, but he made it seem like I was some sort of prodigy and would have my own three-star Michelin restaurant by the time I was 18. Or at least two-star. Right. Well, I am pretty good, I won’t deny it, but who knows what else Sid said or did, or what it cost him, or who owed him what favor, to get me in. Whatever, he did, and here I am, in culinary school in the heart of Montparnasse, dressed all in white like the Pillsbury dough boy at 8 on a Monday morning.

Our instructor is a bit gruff, as one expects an accomplished chef to be. Gruff might be an understatement. He can be kind of a bear when he’s in his moods. But he’s taken a liking to me. That’s pretty obvious to all the other students, most of whom aren’t too crazy about the idea and even less about me being so young there in the class. But I’ve done my best to ingratiate myself to chef and it’s too bad if they don’t like it. I mean, we’re getting ready for the real world, aren’t we? So suck it up, boys and girls.

There are half a dozen of us in the class, and we’re busy learning how to make fruit tarts and macarons and stuff with pâte à choux and puff pastry and fancy-ass gateaux and cookies and all sorts of other things. And also learning how to pair different desserts with various wines and liqueurs. It’s pretty neat, actually, and I’m learning a lot. It’s probably the best thing Sid ever did for me, putting me in this school, other than letting me run away with him in the first place.

Some days we watch demonstrations, and then on the other days we get to practice making what we saw in the demos. And every now and then we go out in the field to see what some of the city’s better restaurants and pâtisseries are doing. Those are fun days, though I’m always left with my mouth watering looking at all the yummy goodies.

That’s one thing about French women. I don’t get it. They can sit and eat these enormous creamy pastries, but they never seem to get fat. I think it must be genetic. Me, I don’t have that problem, I always stay so small, but most American women would mutate into cows eating things like that.

Anyway, today is a demonstration day, and chef launches into a fury of eggs and butter and flour and stirring and whipping and gesticulating, all while explaining what he’s doing in English that is so heavily accented I can barely understand what he’s saying. It’s kind of funny, really, looking around the kitchen at the furrowed brows and confused looks. I’m not the only one who can’t understand him, and the others have the same problem, regardless what country they’re from, what their native language is. Luckily we also get the demos in written form, in both French and English, so we can figure things out later and then practice what we’ve learned.

The morning passes pretty quickly and it’s past noon when my mind wanders into the later afternoon, back to Chantal’s. I wonder who’ll be there this afternoon, who’ll want to sit with me, drink in my naked body with the kir royales as I play those tunes, and if they’ll be as well behaved as Roger. If I’ll get another scrap of paper with another phone number scrawled on it shoved into my hand.

My favorite was a phone number written on a 100 euro note. That one I saved. The number, I mean. I spent the euros. I’m a romantic, sure, but not that much of a romantic. Not a hundred euros romantic. I haven’t called the man, who wasn’t bad looking, really, and I haven’t seen him back since. He was from Italy. If I ever need to get away, if Sid gets to be too much, that’s a number I might need. I don’t think I’d mind going to Italy. And at the rate things are going with Sid, that day could come sooner than later. Before I never would have thought to leave Sid. Now, well, I don’t know. Maybe. Nothing is so clear cut any more like it used to be.

Anyway, finally the day’s lesson is over and we all pick up our stuff and head for the door. But chef calls me over before I reach it.

“Rosie” – he says it with that same French breathiness, “Hrozie,” like when Roger said my name – “I need you to help me with something” – it comes out “somezing” – “in the cooler, s’il vous plaît.”

Okay, odd request, but who am I to argue?

I follow chef into the walk-in cooler, just off the kitchen, and no sooner is the door closed than he turns around and plants both arms on either side of my head, his hands on the cooler walls, trapping me in place.

“Rosie, you are a very special student, and you have a very bright future in this business.”

I’m struggling to decipher his accent, but whatever he’s saying, yadda-yadda, it doesn’t require trapping me as he has. That’s a different message. No simultaneous translation needed.

I don’t have a lover, father thing with chef like the lover, mother thing I have with Chantal. I’ve worked at ingratiating myself to him, sure, but that’s been more of a professional thing, a way to get on his good side. I can’t say I’ve had the hots for chef, but I can’t say I didn’t, either. Just never really thought about it, which is kind of not like me.

Seems chef has, though. It’s taken him five weeks to get around to it, and I must be a tasty little pastry to him as he plants his lips on mine. It comes as something of a surprise, or it would, if anything much surprised me anymore. Which it doesn’t. I guess I should have seen it coming, chef being as nice to me as he’s been. He being the middle-aged authority figure, me being the little bright-eyed waif of a student. Like I said, we’re getting ready for the real world, and I suppose this is as much a part of the real world as anything.

The cooler isn’t what you might consider a suitable place for a conjugal interlude, but when you’re a chef putting the make on a young culinary student, it’s as good a place as any. Better than some of the places I’ve done the deed, thanks to Sid. It’s a good thing chef likes doing it standing up, doggie style, since as it turns out that’s what works best in a walk-in.

Now before you get the idea that I’m some sort of nymphomaniac and all I do is fuck and tease men and let Sid and his friends have their way with me, not that I have much choice about that, let me say that these things seem to find me more than me going looking for them. Do I like sex? Sure I do. Don’t most teenagers? Not that I’m your typical teenager, I’ll be first to admit. But I can appreciate a good screw, when it comes.

When you’re a teenager sex hasn’t gotten all tangled up with marriage and having kids and being responsible and car pools and cheating and do we do it with the lights on or the lights off, and all the rest of it that really doesn’t have anything to do with sex, with just the act and the feel-good part of it, but people think it does. And then things like today happen. I’m just minding my sweet business, figuring out how to make some new pastry item, and someone like chef comes along and lures me into the walk-in for a little toss among the mushrooms and Brussels sprouts and fillets. Do you think I’m going to say no? Well, sometimes I might. Really I might. Like I do at Chantal’s. Today just isn’t one of those times.

Anyway, that was our practice session for the day. Somehow I have the feeling we’re going to have more practice sessions like this one, chef and me, whipping up some new confections in the cooler. I don’t think they’re in the official curriculum, but I have to say it was a pretty good lesson. I wonder if we’ll be tutoyer-ing now. I suppose not. At least not outside the cooler. That would be too obvious.

It hasn’t been too bad for a Monday, and I still have Chantal’s to look forward to.

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