staff feature: Jordan Millsaps
Jessica tapped her foot, checking her watch for the eighth time in the last ten minutes. It was 6:03 p.m., and there was no sign of the blind date with whom she had agreed to attend a cooking class, despite her better judgment. Not exactly her idea of a good time, since she was more a fan of eating than cooking, but here she was.
Pursing her lips, she weighed her options. She could keep waiting in the lobby of the trade school hosting the class, tuck her tail and go home, or march inside and attend the class she’d already paid for. She opted for the most frugal choice that also gave her the best shot at a decent dinner.
The instructor was introducing herself as Jessica slid in through the door in the back of the room, scanning the stations for an opening she could slip into quietly.
“Come in, come in,” the instructor called, welcoming her with a smile and a wave. She beckoned Jessica forward. “There’s a gentleman right here in the front in need of a partner.”
Cheeks heating, Jessica strode forward with fake confidence, all hopes of anonymity vanishing as conversations ceased and every eye turned toward her. She didn’t even spare a glance at her partner as she took her spot, stowing her purse beside her stool and reaching for the white apron folded on the stainless work counter before her.
“Alright, if everyone is here and ready, let’s begin. Please pick up the recipe cards in front of you and get started on step one. I will be moving around to check on everyone and assist as needed.”
Jessica tugged the bow on her apron tight and reached for the card. Honey soy salmon with broccoli and rice. Her stomach growled approvingly.
“Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?”
Smiling, she spun on her stool to answer and nearly tumbled onto the tiled floor. How had she not noticed that she was sitting next to a Calvin Klein model? Tall, dark hair, chiseled jaw, golden brown eyes…
Oh no, she was staring. Like, super obviously staring. Suddenly she felt overheated in the cream-colored sweater that had felt so cozy when she’d put it on.
“I’m Chandler,” he said, putting her at ease as he extended his hand with a friendly smile. “Have you ever been to a cooking class before?”
“No, this is my first one. I’m actually not much of a cook. I can make spaghetti with jarred sauce and frozen garlic bread for special occasions, but mostly I eat sandwiches and take-out.”
Chandler laughed, the deep tone warming her. Her stomach rumbled again, and he gestured to the pile of supplies in front of them. “Sounds like we’d better get started. Do you want to…” He referenced the recipe card. “Cook the rice or prep the broccoli?”
“Broccoli, please.” She was pretty sure she could handle that. As she rinsed the broccoli, she surreptitiously watched Chandler confidently measure water and rice, setting them to simmer on the glass-topped stove in their island.
“It looks like you’re no stranger to a kitchen,” she observed as he whisked honey, soy sauce, and garlic powder in a small bowl, foregoing the measuring spoons and adding the ingredients free hand. She used the provided paring knife to carefully separate the florets from the stems, a small pile of broccoli growing before her.
“I like to cook,” he replied. “But it’s not as much fun alone, so I come here a few times a month. Did you know you can buy a membership instead of paying for individual classes? They invented that plan because of me.”
“Really?” It seemed to Jessica that inviting a friend to a restaurant would be a lot easier.
“Yep. So why are you here? Just wanted to learn how to cook?”
“Not exactly.” She huffed out a sigh as she loaded the broccoli into the steamer basket he held out to her. “My mom has been pressuring me to date more, so I agreed to a blind date with some guy who didn’t show up. Why do people do that? I can hardly think of anything ruder than saying you’re going to meet someone and then leave them hanging. I mean, putting yourself out there is hard enough without wondering if the person will even show up, am I right? I stood out in that lobby for fifteen minutes waiting on nobody.”
She forced a laugh and looked at Chandler, hoping he hadn’t been put off by her mini-rant. His mouth was pinched, and he rubbed his palms on his jeans in a nervous gesture. “What was your date’s name?”
“Quentin,” she answered, brows furrowing. “He’s the son of my mom’s friend from church. Why?”
“That’s, um…that’s me.”
“You said your name was Chandler!” She tilted her head quizzically. Could she be any more confused right now?
“Middle name. My mom insists on calling me Quentin after my grandfather, but I’ve always preferred Chandler.”
Oh. Okay then. “So…you didn’t stand me up?”
“No! I thought we were supposed to meet inside the classroom. My mom just told me your name, that you had long blonde hair, and that you would meet me here for the six o’clock class.”
Jessica rubbed her forehead, thoroughly chagrined as she realized she’d never even introduced herself. “I’m sorry for exploding on you like that. And also that I got a haircut yesterday.”
He chuckled kindly. “Don’t be sorry. You’re right, dating is hard, and blind-dates are the worst.”
“They really are! Let’s start over. Hi, I’m Jessica.”
“Hi, Jessica, nice to meet you. Are you hungry?” He pushed a package of fresh salmon toward her with a mischievous grin and reached for a skillet. “I hear the salmon here is delicious, you just have to cook it first.”
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