After I finish helping Alexandria to pack up her stuff, we step inside my place while chatting and laughing. The smell of something delicious emanating from the kitchen hits us and stops us cold in our tracks.
“Wow Dr. Blay, you didn’t tell me you had cooked something for us? If I knew I wouldn’t have eaten before coming here,” she says and begins to walk forward but I grab her arm and pull her back.
“I didn’t cook anything. I can barely tell a frying pan from a spatula, not to mention all the numerous spoons and forks,” I say almost in a whisper-shout. “Someone must have broken in.” I signal for us to sneak towards the kitchen.
“What do you mean someone broke in?” she says. “Why would they break in and prepare dinner? That sounds incredibly weird and besides, the security systems here are unbreachable so it seems unlikely that someone would be able to...” She was rambling on too much so I cover her mouth with my hand and tell her to be quiet as she shoves my hand away and fixes her lipstick which I smudged rather comically.
I make a signal to her that I’m going to check out the kitchen alone and she nods so I start to sneak cautiously around the wall but as I stop, I feel a bump on my arm.
“I said I was going it alone,” I whisper to her.
“Just keep moving,” she says a bit too loudly for my liking as I cover her mouth but the clanking of pots stops and we both freeze. We stand there in silence as I hold my breath and wait for the sounds of cooking to start again.
It takes a few seconds of tense silence for the sounds of cooking to start again but once they do, I release the breath I’d been holding in relief. I release my grip on Alex and she smacks me as I give her a look like she should have known better but she just sticks her tongue out at me. I ignore her immaturity and keep hugging the wall as I keep moving along the side of it and reach the end of the wall with the kitchen on the other side. At the end of the wall, I do a quick check to see where the intruder is and they seem to be by the sink washing something because I can hear the open tap. I draw my head back and take a deep breath in order to calm myself down. I look back at Alex and she is just standing there staring at me with arms folded and a frown on her face. I look away from her and refocus on the mission at hand.
I manoeuvre around the wall, sneak to the counter by the wall and soundlessly pick up a rolling pin. I raise it above my head and get ready to strike the intruder. I begin to sneak up behind the intruder who is washing something in the sink with their back turned to me. Thank God I decided to wear sneakers today else sneaking on these tiled floors would have been mission impossible.
The intruder appears to be a woman and quite a thick one at that. I think I can take her in a fight, unless she sits on me that is. I might have to knock her out as soon as possible just to be sure. As I reach behind her ready to strike with the rolling pin I have suspended over my head, the intruder suddenly turns and I recognise that round face as the rolling pin drops limply to my side. I almost just whammed my sweet aunt over the head with a rolling pin.
“Iggy!” the supposed assailant exclaims and throws her arms around me.
“Aunt Rachel it’s you?” I say as her arms engulf me and my racing heart calms down. “You got us worried that an intruder might have gotten in.”
“An intruder, get past the security in this place? That’s impossible,” she says as she releases me.
“That’s what I told him,” Alex who I now realise is standing behind me says glumly.
“Alexandria, is that you?” she says as she looks past me and goes over to hug Alex. They must know each other already.
“Hi Rachel,” she says as they hug then separate.
“Wow Alex, you’ve grown so big,” she says she eyes her up and down.
“Oh come on, you saw me just last week,” she says. “I still look the same.”
“I know but I still can’t believe how much you’ve grown,” she says as she pinches her cheeks and she smiles awkwardly.
“So what are you doing here?” I ask the obvious question I should have started out with.
“Well I just got off work and realised that I haven’t paid you a proper visit yet...”
“Yeah?” I ask.
“Yes,” she continues. “So I went down to the hospital and asked Dr. Alfred for your room number and when I told him that I’m your aunt he gladly gave me the spare key to your room,” she says as we walk back out into the corridor. “I also wanted to surprise you by making a surprise visit but you were delaying a bit so I started on dinner.”
“That’s very sweet of you,” I say. “We’ll be sure to taste your delicious food after we’re done.” We start to move toward my room.
“Erm, excuse my asking but, done with what exactly?” she asks with a mischievous smile on her face as she keeps looking from me to Alex and then back to me. It takes a while for me to read the signal she’s sending subliminally but I soon get it loud and clear when Alex starts blushing.
“Eeew! No! No! Not that Aunt Rachel! Get your mind out of the gutter, gosh!” I say in outrage as she raises her arms up to her chest while still smiling. “Alex is just helping me pack for a trip we are leaving on soon! Gosh!”
“Oh okay calm down,” she says with a snicker. “Wow a trip? That sounds interesting. Where to?”
“We are going outside the Un...” I was about to complete my sentence but Alexandria quickly cups my mouth with her hand and whispers into my ear.
“Can I speak to you, over there, Dr. Blay?” she says as she signals with her head toward a corner purposely out of the reach of my Aunt’s hearing.
“What about?” I ask intentionally to rile her up but the look she gives me is so piercing that I succumb immediately and step aside.
“Do you really think you should be talking about the mission to people who aren’t directly involved with it?” she whispers to me as she signals to Aunt Rachel who is staring into space while twirling a spatula on her finger.
“Oh come on Alex, this is my Aunt Rachel not some government spy or something,” I say. “And besides, does that woman look in any way threatening to you?”
We both stare at her as she spills some tomato sauce on her shirt then she uses her tongue to lick it off. She then starts rubbing another stain that was left with her apron and when she spots us staring at her, she waves at us with a big, toothy smile and drops the spatula to the floor, creating a giant stain on the white tiled floor. Thank God there’s no carpet there.
“Granted,” she says. “But Alfie has always had a ‘thing’ about privacy and I’m just a bit worried he might flip if he hears that word has gotten out about our mission.”
“Good point,” I say as I think for a moment. “Don’t worry, I’ll keep talk about the mission on a need to know basis from now on.”
“Good,” she says as we break our huddle and walk back to where Aunt Rachel is wiping the stain off the floor with her apron.
“Sorry about that Aunt Rachel,” I say as we crouch down and help her wipe off the stain. “We had something really...urgent to discuss.”
“Don’t sweat it Iggy,” she says. “If your trip is confidential, I can respect that. I used to work with Dr. Alfred; I know how he is about his secrets. You wouldn’t believe how much hair he lost when I let out a few minor secrets when I used to be his secretary. He used to pull it out like grass,” she says and mimics pulling out her own hair. We burst into laughter at my Aunt’s antics.
“I was wondering what happened to all his hair,” Alex says.
“Yeah, he used to have such nice blonde hair but I’m sure I caused the loss of almost half of it,” she replies as we laugh again.
“Wow that’s something...” I say as the laughter simmers down. “Aunt Rachel we are going to my room to pack my stuff now,” We turn to enter my room but she stops us.
“Wait, isn’t there something that I can help with?” she asks with wide, hopeful eyes. “It doesn’t mean that because I can’t know details that I can’t at least help you get packed for it, right?”
“Hmmm, well I guess you could help us to pack if you want to?” I say.
“Oh yes,” she says excitedly. “Let me just turn down the stew and join you guys.” She disappears into the kitchen. We are left there staring awkwardly at each other.
“Okay, let’s go,” Aunt Rachel says when she appears out of the kitchen. She puts her arms through ours as we walk to my room.
“So, Alexandria,” I hear Aunt Rachel’s voice and immediately become nervous. No one has spoken since we entered my room. “How is your work going nowadays, you know, the inventing and stuff?”
“Oh, well it’s going good,” she at least makes an effort to answer.
“That’s good,” she says. “You work with mechanics right?”
“Well I have a microwave oven I bought a few weeks ago that is acting a bit...wonky.”
“Wonky? In what way?” she says as she looks her in the eye since this is her passion they’re talking about.
“Wonky as in it works fine for a few minutes but anything longer than that and the thing goes off for a minimum of one hour each time.”
“Wow, that is wonky,” she says. “But I’m pretty sure I know what’s wrong with it.”
“And that is?”
“The thermostat, it’s faulty and heats up too quickly.”
“Is that so?” she says as if she knows what a thermostat is and Alex nods. “Could you do me a huge favour and take a look at it for me?”
“Sure I can,” she says. “Where is it?”
“It’s at my place. Maybe we can pass there after we are done here?”
“Sure, no problem.”
Even though Aunt Rachel cannot see this, I intentionally smile at her gratefully for what she just did. She saw the awkwardness that was developing in the room and made a brilliant attempt to eradicate it. I owe her big time for that.
“Okay, I think we are done here,” I say after the last article of clothing enters the suitcase and we all get up and stretch, well Alex and I do at least.
“Why are you guys stretching like you just run a 5k?” Aunt Rachel says.
“We’ve been folding for hours now, Aunt Rachel” I say as I plop back onto the bed.
She nods slowly. “So who’s hungry?”
“I am,” I say as I sit up at the mere mention of food.
“Okay. What about you Alexandria? Are you hungry?”
“I could eat.”
“Good, be right back,” she says as she walks toward the door.
“Wait, should we come to the table or...”
“Oh no, relax, you guys must be tired. I’ll bring it in here.” We are here in silence as I lie on my bed and stare at the ceiling while Alex looks through my TV playlist. After a few minutes, Aunt Rachel returns with many bowls of food and we get up to help her.
“Wow Aunt Rachel, what is all this?” I say as we set the food on my bed and stare at it almost in awe.
“Oh, it was something I just threw together,” she says.
“Well if this is something you just ‘threw together’ then I have to come over more often on days you actually try to impress,” Alex says and we burst into laughter and sit on my bed to eat.
The incredible dish consists of a main course of lasagne and meatballs, some salad and some chicken wings. This is all so incredible since I never realised I had the ingredients to prepare a meal like this in my home. I need to enter that kitchen more often.
After we finish having dinner on my bed, I walk over to Aunt Rachel and give her a big hug, thanking her for her help and the awesome meal and do the same for Alex.
“You are always welcome Iggy,” she says as we separate from the hug and we all walk out of my room and toward the front door. “Come on Alexandria, let’s go so that I can show you my house,” she says they leave through the front door. “Bye Iggy.”
“Bye Aunt Rachel,” I say. “Don’t be a stranger.”
“Oh I won’t,” she says as the door slides behind her and Alex as they wave at me.
I glance at my clock and see that it’s already 5:44pm. Even though I just ate, I’m still feeling a bit peckish so I enter the kitchen and rustle up some chips and a soda and plop down before the TV to watch something to take my mind off the mission tomorrow.
After that sugar-ridden snack, I manage to turn in at around 7:20pm after a couple of hours before the TV just to make sure that I get a good night’s rest ahead of the big day tomorrow.