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I’d been stirring the pot of my so-called strawberry jam for a good ten minutes now and it still wasn’t thickening like the recipe said it was supposed to. I didn’t know what I was doing wrong but I was quickly becoming fed up and quitting all together. I’m sure Niska wouldn’t mind some strawberry soup.
As soon as I’d gotten home yesterday after I’d given Niska one of the crates of strawberries my Nana bought, I begged my grandmother to give me the other two crates. She had given me a curious look but hadn’t made a comment about my sudden interest in strawberries.
I growled in frustration when I scooped some of the “jam” to test it viscosity and it was still watery.
“Growling at it into submission is not going to make it do what you want it to,” PapPap said patting me on the back and peering into the sauce pan. “What is that? Tomato soup?”
The look of annoyance I flashed at him made him erupt in laughter. “I know it’s strawberry jam, kiddo, I saw you chopping up the strawberries. Though,” he said looking amused, “from the way you were cutting those things, I wouldn’t doubt that your blood is mixed up in there.”
I scoffed, “Even if my blood was in there, it would’ve evaporated. It’s simple science, PapPap.”
“How do you expect your blood to have evaporated when there’s still a lakes worth of water in it?”
I couldn’t help but chuckle at my grandfather’s sassy and smart mouthed nature.
“Hey there it is,” PapPap cheered, tousling my hair. “You’ve been scowling so much I thought you’ve forgotten how to smile.”
“I just really want this to work out,” I sighed, solemnly looking into the pot . Maybe if I stared at the pot with puppy dog eyes as opposed to glaring at it, it’ll take pity on me and thicken.
PapPap left my side to rummage through the fridge and cupboards to pull out various snacks to munch on. “It’s late PapPap, you shouldn’t be eating those.”
PapPap was approaching seventy years old, though admittedly, he was quite fit for his age, he cared very little about things like his cholesterol and sugar or salt intake. In fact, Nana was quite fit for her age as well. Her being seventy-three doesn’t stop her from believing she has the body of a twenty year old. She always moving and dancing about and playing sports at the local gym. Sometimes, PapPap joins her at the gym. Anyone would think it’s good for PapPap to go to the gym but after every trip he always congratulates himself for being active by buying himself a huge chocolate bar from the local Costco. I love my grandparents so much and I want them to stay as happy, healthy and as fit as long as they can, but it is exceedingly difficult when my grandfather has a sweeter tooth than a five year old and my grandmother thinks she’s Michelle Quan, Mike Tyson and Tony Hawk.
“So who’s this lovely lady with a strawberry fetish you’re cooking up a storm for?”
“Just someone at work, she mentioned she loved strawberries a lot and we have a bunch and I didn’t want them to go to waste.”
PapPap had the decency to ignore the fact that the strawberries were fresh and perfectly fine.
“Are you sure this is a good idea?” he asked after about two minutes of silence, voice soft and tender. “Don’t you think it’s too soon. You’ve been working there less than a week.”
“Nothing is going on,” I said sharply. I closed my eyes and took a deep slow breath. “I’m sorry,” I apologized feeling embarrassed. “I’m fine, PapPap. I’m just doing something nice for a co-worker.”
I risked looking at PapPap, scared to see the disappointment in his face, but, unsurprisingly, I couldn’t see his face because it was inside a bag of potato chips, trying to catch the last crumbs from the bag. When he finally put the bag down and saw me watching him and shrugged.
“I’m sorry,” I said again because I truly did feel bad and I wanted him to know that. The last people I needed to be angry at were my grandparents. They were just looking out for me and I couldn’t snap at them every time they mentioned a delicate subject.
PapPap gave me a soft smile that reached his dark brown eyes. “It’s okay, Idris.” He threw the empty bag of chips into the trash can and grabbed a hard candy from his candy jar. I opened my mouth to tell him to not eat that, when he cut me off before I could even start. “I’m old and old people love hard candy, leave me alone.” He turned around to leave the kitchen and head upstairs to bed. “Hurry up and try to get some sleep.” There was silence for about five seconds before he yelled again. “And turn the heat up on the stove. It’s still on low.”
Something was wrong. I didn’t know what it was but I could feel it. My body felt too good, it wasn’t screaming at me to get more sleep, it was happy and well rested. Too well rested. That could only mean one thing, I’d overslept.
I shot up and scrambled for my phone by my bedside table. I pressed on the power button to look at the time only, it wasn’t turning on. There’s no reason for this to be happening I charged it overnight, I thought as I tried to figure out what was wrong with it. I looked at the outlet where I’d plugged my charger to come to the realization that I actually hadn’t plugged it in properly.
With cellphone in hand I dashed out of my room and downstairs to find my grandparents enjoying their breakfast.
“Is everything alright,” Nana asked, watching me with wide eyes.
“No, everything’s not alright,” I said freaking out. I looked at the stove to see that I had overslept by half an hour. It wouldn’t seem like much or a huge deal to some people, but it was a huge deal to me. I had a schedule dammit, a clear concise schedule. Everything had to be done at a certain time or it would ruin the flow of the entire day.
“Idris, what’s wrong?” Nana pressed sternly.
“I overslept and now it ruins everything.” I didn’t know what to do with myself, I could barely think. I had a routine and I didn’t even know where to start. “My phone is completely dead,” I added holding up my phone to show them. “How am I going to keep track of time?”
“Idris, it’s okay,” PapPap said getting up from his chair and grabbing my phone out of my hand. “I have a portable charger you can take to work with you.”
“How do you know what a portable charger is?”
“One of the teenagers at the electronics store suggested I buy one since I always forget to charge my phone and it’s always dying.”
“It’s almost 7:45, I’m usually showered and ready to eat breakfast by that time.”
Nana pushed me out of the kitchen and up the stairs. “It’s only 7:35, go take a quick shower and come back by 7:45.” I opened my mouth to ask her how I’d know if it was 7:45 and as if she was telepathic she said, “I’ll come knock on the bathroom door to let you know when it’s time.”
“And I’ll make your breakfast,” PapPap offered.
I looked at Nana with a pleading look, both of us remembering the cooking disaster from 2005.
“I’ll do it,” Nana laughed.
I quickly hurried up and took a shower while also rinsing my mouth with mouthwash. It was a disaster but I was out of there in less than ten minutes.
True to their word, there was a plate of breakfast for me when I got back into the kitchen.
PapPap slid me my phone with the portable charger attached.
“Thank you both so much,” I said before I began to eat. “I owe you both a night out together. Dinner and a movie.”
“How nice, all three of us going out together, Nana cheered.”
“No no,” I said shaking my head. “Just you two. You deserve a night out with each other. You don’t need your grandson tagging along.”
They both insisted that it was no problem but I wanted to do something nice for them and this was the least I could do. After all, they saved me from a mental breakdown and a heck of a lot more.
Though I had only started working at the precinct this week, it had become a routine of mine to stop by Niamh at the front desk and start up a conversation with her. She was rapidly becoming one of my favourite people not only at work but in town. She was kind, patient and had an incredible sense of humour.
I liked talking to her so much that I had fitted a ten minute “Talking with Niamh,” schedule into my daily agenda.
“Well what do we have here?” she asked pointing at the two medium sized mason jars I carried.
“Just some jam,” I explained.
Luckily, she didn’t pester me too much about why I was bringing jam into work.
We were in a very passionate conversation about romantic movies when my “start work” alarm went off.
“Well enjoy your day ‘Mr.I-think-Ghost-is-better-than-Dirty-Dancing.’” Niamh said waving me away.
“We aren’t done here,” I called as I made my way to the break room to get myself a cup of coffee.
Niska and her fiancé, who I found out was named Logan, were in the break room when I got there. There were a few other officers scattered around but I didn’t really know them well.
The couple were seated and huddled together at a small round table. They hadn’t noticed that I had walked in, nor did they notice when I stood in front of their table until I cleared my throat.
“Morning guys,” I said cheerfully. I gently put the two jars onto the table in front of Niska and said, “My grandmother bought a lot of strawberries the other day and we didn’t want them to spoil so…” I made a ta-da motion at the jars. “For you.”
“Wow,” Niska breathed as she slid both jars closer to herself, her eyes fixated on them.
Logan snatched one of the jars, popped it open, stuck his index finger in it and ate the jam right off his finger. He obnoxiously smacked his lips and gave me wink. He turned his face to grin at Niska only to find her glaring at him. He quietly and quickly closed the lid of the jar and gave it back to Niska, looking apologetic. He kissed Niska’s forehead, got up and came over to me. He faced away from Niska and put his mouth close to my ear to whisper, “she doesn’t need anything from you. I can give her everything she needs.” He pulled away, presented a tight smile, slapped my shoulder twice and walked away.
Niska was looking at us with watchful eyes. I took Logan’s vacant seat but pushed it a bit further away from Niska so she wouldn’t feel uncomfortable from the closeness and sat in it.
“Please thank your grandmother for these. I really love it.”
“Oh,” I blushed. “I actually made those myself.” I scratched the back of my head in mild embarrassment.
“Oh,” Niska sighed. “Well then, thank you. I really appreciate it.”
We were both quiet. Niska staring at the jars and nothing else, whilst I just gazed at her sheer beauty. She had her hair in a loose ponytail today. I could smell her perfume. It smelt like a lovely mix between citrus and vanilla, kind of like an orangesicle. Her makeup was done a bit more than usual but it didn’t take away from her raw natural beauty, only emphasizing it.
She turned towards me and she must’ve seen something in my eyes that she didn’t like because her face turned hostile and she quickly stood up, her chair loudly scraping on the floor. “I’m going to put these in my locker,” she said voice clipped. “I’ll meet you at our desks. We have more paperwork today.” With that, she turned around and left.
We do a whole lot of paperwork for cops who don’t get a lot of action.
After hours of mindless paperwork, Niska and I decided to take a quick break and go out for lunch.
We were sitting down in the cruiser, outside a local taco place, when there were loud consistent knocks on my side of the window. A woman stood outside looking frantic with tears falling from her eyes. Her face was red and her hair looked wild as if she had been pulling at it. I quickly got out of the car, forgetting my lunch, Niska briskly following my lead.
“My son,” the woman cried, her words mumbled by her sobs. “I can’t find him. He was there a second ago, I looked away and he was gone. Help me please.” She grabbed my arm and yanked me to follow her.
“Ma’am,” I said in a cautious voice. “Please remain calm. We will find your son. You just need to tell us what he looks like so we can have our other officers keep an eye out for him.”
The woman put the heels of her hands to her temples and closed her eyes, a tear falling when she did. “He…he has red hair. It’s short. He’s eight years old. He’s wearing a Spiderman shirt with blue jeans.”
Niska relayed everything the woman said into the radio on her shoulder to alert the station.
“I don’t know what more to say,” the woman wept. “Please just help me find him!”
The mother agreed to get in the cruiser so the three of us could drive around and look from him. We constantly got updates from the other officers on their search efforts and the areas they’d already checked.
Almost an hour into our search, we were driving by a park when I saw a figure with red hair hunched over by a large willow tree.
“There he is,” I shouted quickly getting out of the cruiser and running towards me. All throughout my life, I took pride in being the fastest runner I knew but it seemed that a mother in desperate need to find her son was a far faster runner than I was.
The woman fell to her knees in front of her son and pulled him close to her body.
“I’m sorry,” her son immediately cried into her neck. “I didn’t mean it, mom. I’m so sorry.”
The woman petted her son’s head and shushed him. I could tell that she wanted to cry but she was putting on a brave face for her son’s sake.
Niska got down to her knees and put her hands on the backs of both mother and son. “It’s okay, you’re safe,” she told both of them. “Everything is okay.”
After everyone was cooled down and emotions weren’t everywhere, we questioned the kid on what happened but all he said was that he was sorry, that he didn’t mean to be a bad son. His mother explained that before he went missing, they had an argument, nothing major, something about her not wanting him to go to his friend’s house and to do his homework instead and in the heat of the argument, her son yelled that he hated her.
After making sure both of them were okay, I noticed that Niska kept wincing and rubbing the left side of her chest.
“Come on,” she said. “Let’s head back to the precinct to finish up some work. It’s going to rain soon.”
I looked up at the clear bright blue sky and gave Niska a skeptical look but followed her with complaint.
About a half hour after getting back to the station, a small group of officers who we saw outside smoking, rushed back inside…. wet.
“It’s raining hard out,” one of them commented as they walked by.
I dared to look at Niska to see what her reaction was but she kept her head down, a small “I told you so,” smile on her lips.
“How’d you know?” I asked, raising an eyebrow.
She shrugged and said it was just a hunch.
“Hey Officer Murakami?” a beautiful blonde woman said.
“Please, call me Idris,” I immediately said turning my attention towards her.
“Okay,” she breathed. She must’ve been one of the officers smoking outside because she was wet from the rain and I could smell the cigarette from her breath and uniform. She kept one hand on her belt and extended the other. I quickly shook her hand. Her grip was firm. “A bunch of us are going out for drinks and we were wondering if you’d like to join us? We’d all really like to get to know you.” She flashed me a bright smile and rocked on her balls of her feet in anticipation for my answer.
“Yes,” I said smiling back at her. “I’d really like that. Is this kind of like an ice breaker initiation thing?” I joked making a face.
“Oh God,” she said laughing at the face I made. “Yeah you could say that.” She tilted her head down and looked up at me through her lashes. “So, I’ll see you there?” she asked pushing some loose hair behind her ear.
“Yeah,” I answered.
When she left I looked at Niska to ask if she was going to go as well, but she harshly said no and continued to ignore me in favour to do paperwork for other officers.
Just when I thought Niska and I were starting to get along, she’d push me away.
But I wasn’t raised to be a quitter.
Thank you so much for reading!! What's your favourite romantic and rom-com movie? My favourite rom-com is The Proposal and my favourite romantic movie is probably A Walk to Remember.
And yes, I think Ghost is better than Dirty Dancing.