We ended up just making scrambled eggs for breakfast. As I was tossing the eggs in the pan, occasionally tossing in pinches of salt, pepper, and cayenne, Alek asked, "So. This whole situation is kind of unfair."
"What?" I asked, concentrating on not letting the eggs get over cooked. "Oh! Go get two bowls now!"
He opened a cabinet to reveal wine glasses, and then another for pots, and another for plastic containers. "One down and to the right," I told him, and he obeyed, taking out two ceramic white bowls from the cabinet and setting them beside me. I quickly flicked off the stove and slid the eggs equally into the two bowls. "What were you saying?" I asked as I slid open a drawer and picked out two forks and handed him one.
"Well, you know everything about me, and I know nothing about you," Alek said.
"You know about my mom and my dad and that I like photography."
"Not really. I only know a couple facts."
I looked at him through narrow eyes as we sat down on wooden chairs in the kitchen bar. "It's kind of personal."
He, in return, gave me a steel-eyed look. "And you don't know insanely personal things about me?"
I blew out a sigh. "Fine. I like ice cream."
"I guess we can start there," Alek grinned, pleased I didn't put up much of a fight. "Favorite color?"
"Turquoise, all the way." I already knew Alek's was dark blue.
"Favorite pizza topping?"
"Olives," I said immediately.
"Great minds think alike," Alek put up a hand for a high-five.
Thirty minutes passed with him shooting question after question at me with no mercy. Later, he finally asked the first deep question as we were putting out bowls and forks in the dishwasher. "So, what happened with your mom and dad?"
"It's a long story," I deadpanned.
He spread his arms wide. "I have nothing but time."
"Fine," I sighed. "I guess it's only fair. My mom is an alcoholic, has been since my dad left when I was two. She used to go to AA meetings, but that only lasted so long. I used to… I used to really care, you know? I wanted her to get better, so we could do normal things, like go to the zoo and crap. After fourteen years of it, though, I really couldn't give a damn anymore. She can screw up her own life, but not mine, you know?" I gauged his reaction through a sideways glance.
"And your dad?" was all he finally said.
"He tries to get in touch every now and then again, but I don't care. I don't need either of them."
"You can't just distance yourself from your family, Ellie," he said softly.
"Trust me. It's better this way."
"You may not like it, but you need them."
"What are you, my shrink?" I demanded. "I didn't tell you this so you could judge me."
"I'm not- I'm trying to help you!" he protested. "You're all alone."
"No, I'm not," I argued. "I have Ms. Winnifred." At his raised eyebrow, I continued, "my neighbor."
"Right," he scoffed. "Neighbor."
"She's like my adopted grandmother. She was the one who… who…," I suddenly stopped. "Nevermind."
"What did she do?"
"Drop it! It's personal!" I shouted.
"And now you know how it feels. You know all of my secrets, all the things I try to hide. Isn't this fair?" His gorgeous pale blue eyes were blazing.
"I don't think I can tell you without you… looking at me differently."
"I promise I won't," he promised.
"I… I just got out of rehab a few months ag-"
I was cut off because the doorbell suddenly rang, and I rushed to get it, as a way out of this conversation. I opened it to reveal none other than Ms. Winnifred, tottering around in a yellow sundress with peaches on the sleeves, grey socks and black Mary Janes. Her glasses were perched on her nose and made her eyes look huge, like looking through a magnifying glass. "Hello Ms. Winnifred! We were actually just talking about you- all good stuff, don't worry."
Ms. Winnifred beamed up at me. "Oh, good. Would I be bothering you if I asked for an egg and a cup of sugar? I need to bake a cake for my daughter, and I ran out of ingredients."
"Of course not," I told her warmly. "Here, come inside." She followed me inside, as I helped her up over the step into the house. I pointed to Alek, who looked like a gorgeous god lounging by the sofa in the living room. "That's Alek. He's, erm, staying with me temporarily because… his family is on vacation and we're family friends." Alek nodded with a smile, catching on to the plan.
"Can you believe it?" he said conversationally, dazzling Ms. Winnifred with a perfect smile. "Going to travel Europe and leaving me here in California!"
Ms. Winnifred just winked and said, "I'm sure you'll find Ellie just as much fun as Europe." I blushed and left the room to go to the kitchen, leaving Alek and Ms. Winnifred alone in the room. If any old lady could handle Alek's charm, it would be her.
I watched as Ellie walked out of the room, my eyes trailing her long, hourglass figure and silky blonde hair. I remembered the way her lips had felt against mine, her slender body in my lap…
Stop it. Cut it out now.
"What were you guys saying about me?" Ms. Winnifred asked curiously.
An idea popped into my head, and I felt my lips tug up into a mischievous smile. "Actually, we were just talking about her rehab," I said, just soft enough for Ellie not to be able to hear from the kitchen.
"Ah," Ms. Winnifred said. "It's a surprise that she told you. You guys must be very close."
We were last night….
"Yes," I flashed her a smile. "She's really grateful for you."
"Yes, well," Ms. Winnifred beamed. "If it wasn't for me, her anorexia might have gotten very out of control."
"Anorexia?" I repeated sharply.
Ms. Winnifred looked suspicious. "Yes…"
"Sorry. I thought you said something else."
"Oh." She bought it. "Yes. As you probably know, she had to go to the ER a couple times when she passed out from it."
"Yeah, she told me about that." What? Why would Ellie possibly, possibly turn anorexic? She was so perfect! She was absolutely, completely, breathtakingly gorgeous.
"Well, all that matters is that she's better now."
"Better at what?" Ellie appeared in the doorway, a pink pack of sugar and an egg in a plastic baggy in her hands. She suspiciously looked at me.
Oh, God. Don't tell her.
Ms. Winnifred beamed at Ellie. "Oh thanks, dearie," she said as she took the ingredients and gave Ellie a kiss on her cheek.
Don't tell her.
I tried to somehow telepathically transmit the urgency not to tell Ellie through intensely staring at Ms. Winnifred.
"Why," she said, "I was just telling Alek about your anorexia."