“I don’t get it, man. What do you guys have against California?” Kristy threw her head back, drawing in another swallow from her Aperol Spritz.
“Whoa….whoa….I’m not looking to put down the whole state. I just said I don’t dig pineapple on my pizza.” Their old friend and former co-worker, Eddie Gutierrez, raised his hands in surrender, pressing his broad back against the club chair that Zoey had dragged in from the living room—The girls had enough room and seating for five at their modest dinette, but Kristy’s unannounced (and abrupt) arrival made it one too many.
“Don’t knock it til’ you try it,” Kristy said. “That’s all I’m saying, dude.”
Zoey stifled an eye roll. She glanced up at Abigail who flitted about the room cloaked in a sparkly pink apron, refilling water glasses. The hostess with the mostest was in her element. Zoey hovered over her stemless wine glass, trying to gauge her dinner guests’ reaction to Kristy’s antics. Her tipsy old friend had never quite learned the nuance of a respectable indoor voice.
“Fruit does not belong on pizza. End of story,” Eddie said.
Their other guests, Mary Hughes and Trisha Gold, were still at the agency working as admins; it brought them great pleasure to dish all the scandalous gossip to Abigail and Zoey. From the not-so-secret office dalliances to the unceremonious, public firings of some key players within the organization, Mary and Trisha had all their bases covered with juicy good news.
Naturally, Eddie, as the only male in attendance was the only one engaging Kristy. She had a way of drawing in unsuspecting men intrigued by her off-beat, quirky topics of conversation and guileless bright eyes. Zoey had observed her schtick since their college days.
“What’s more yummy than pizza? Nothing. And throw on some fresh pineapple—what could be better?” Kristy said, her voice pitching to a squeak on the last word.
Zoey watched as the last of the blush liquid disappeared from Kristy’s ballooned wine glass. She took a furtive glance at Abigail, hoping she wouldn’t be foolish enough to replenish Kristy’s cocktail quite so readily.
“You kidding? A lot of things are better. It’s not an ideal pairing. Just because you have two great tasting foods doesn’t mean they belong together. I prefer my pineapple after my meal. Or with breakfast. Or on the beach. Not sliced on top of melted cheese over tomato sauce and bread!” Eddie said, tenting a large hand over his mouth to stifle a belch.
He raised his beer stein for another sip. Zoey lost track and wasn’t sure if he was on his second or third, but she noticed his hauntingly dark eyes were starting to become as dewy as his slicked black hair. Poor Eddie hadn’t been out in awhile. His wife just had given birth to their third baby and his free time was as limited as his budget. The man was socially starved and Zoey wouldn’t begrudge the guy a fun night out—no matter how fast the beer seemed to be creeping up on him.
All of a sudden, Diamonds and Pearls by Prince began blaring from underneath the table.
“Z! Remember this one!?” Kristy said, licking the rim of her now-empty glass and nearly bouncing in her seat.
“That’s me! Sorry,” Eddie said, removing his phone from his pocket. He pushed himself back from the table, raised the phone to his ear, and headed toward the living room. “Hey, honey…..”
Back when Abigail and Zoey still worked for the agency, Eddie maintained the company web site and on-line promotions. For years, his skills and talents were over utilized as he remained grossly undervalued. He was the quintessential overworked and underpaid employee who fell through the cracks of the corporate abyss. The higher ups had no problem dumping a list of responsibilities on Eddie. They saddled him with a staff to manage, but never offered a formal promotion, change in job title, or salary to match his level of output. Ultimately, the mistreatment and lack of recognition for their friend’s hard work was a large part of the decision for the girls to vacate their positions. A year earlier, Eddie did finally get his well-earned promotion and salary hike the day he tried to give his two-weeks notice. Interesting, how quickly people will come to appreciate you when you finally stand up and speak.
“Can you believe that guy?” Kristy said. Her eyes landed on each of the other four women in the room. “Okay….just raise your hand if you think pineapple doesn’t belong on pizza.”
Much to Zoey’s delight, Mary and Trisha tuned Kristy right out and dove straight back into the office scandals.
“Anyway, the new CFO, we called him Doofus, was escorted from the building. He wasn’t permitted to touch his computer. And he had to clear his personal belonging from his desk with security standing over him. It was crazy,” Mary said.
“It was like that awkward scene from Jerry Maguire when Tom Cruise is leaving the office and everyone is just staring at him,” Trisha said.
“Yep. Only this time, there was no Renee Zellweger to soften the blow,” Mary said.
“I love that movie!” Kristy was bursting from her seat and reaching for the opened bottle of chardonnay.
“How embarrassing for him,” Zoey said, stacking the soiled dinner dishes.
“From what you guys told us, he was a real hard ass,” Abigail said, swiping crumbs from the table cloth.
“You had me at hello….That was my favorite line in the movie,” Kristy said wistfully to no one.
“Yeah, he was a total prick,” Mary said.
“Who was a total prick?” Eddie had returned from the living room.
“Our former CFO,” Trisha said.
“Ah, yes…” Eddie took his seat. “Doofus. What a great nickname.”
“Is everything okay at home?” Zoey asked.
Eddie gave a thumbs up.
“You complete me….” Kristy said, placing her hand over her heart.
And just like that, before their very eyes, Kristy had transformed into that senile aunt at a holiday gathering who is perched at the table, blathering on about nothing of consequence to no one in particular. Mary and Trisha huddled up to resume their gossip-giggle fest. Eddie had his arms crossed in front of his chest and was surreptitiously giving Kristy the side-eye—this tickled Zoey thoroughly.
“Everyone make yourself at home. We’ll be back with dessert.” Abigail ushered Zoey into the kitchen.
Zoey’s stomach knotted as she picked up one of the scones from the cookie sheet and watched it crumble into hundreds of little parts through her fingers. She gave Abigail the I-know-I-blew-it-there-is-no-way-we-can-serve-these look and Abigail shot back with the yes-we-both-knew-you-would-and-there-is-no-way-in-hell-I-would-serve-those face. Abigail removed a stack of small bowls from the cupboard and slid a tub of chocolate ice cream from the freezer. Zoey couldn’t help but feel pained.
“Don’t give me that look,” Abigail said. “Every good chef always has a back-up plan.”
Zoey just blinked back in silence.
“You stick to the writing. I’ll stick to the cooking.” Abigail patted her on the head like a puppy. “Hey! Did you see how everyone devoured those lasagna rolls?”
“What is that sound?” Zoey’s attention was being drawn back to the dining room.
“We don’t even have left overs. Can you believe that?” Abigail could not stop crowing over her fabulous meal.
“Is that…. Bruce Springsteen?” Zoey said.
Zoey headed back to her guests. Abigail trailed with the ice cream and bowls.
Eddie, Mary, and Trisha were now all collectively looking at Kristy as if Mork from Ork had just landed from outer space and was holding court. She had her iPad positioned on the center of the table and was blaring the song Secret Garden.
“Z! Remember this song from the movie?” Kristy was swaying side to side and singing over Springsteen; It was an excruciating sound.
“What are those?” Abigail pointed to a bag of Trader Joe’s corn chips in front of Kristy.
“Try one! These are sooooo addictive.” Kristy shoved the opened bag in Abigail’s face who raised a hand and turned away.
The music was so loud, they couldn’t hear one another against the backdrop of Kristy’s “singing.”
Zoey could almost smell the smoke pouring from Abigail’s ears.
“Where did you find this person?” she said to Zoey.
“I didn’t. You did. Outside of Duane Reade. Remember?”
Abigail and Zoey stood by the front door bidding their guests adieu.
“That was a lot of fun!”
“We have to do this again!”
Kristy hoisted her Trader Joe’s bag onto her shoulder. “You guys are the best!”
“Don’t forget these.” Abigail rolled up the open bag of corn chips and handed it over—only Zoey was trained enough to detect the disdain from her roommate’s curling top lip.
“Call me?” Kristy widened her eyes; It wasn’t a request as much as a plea.
“Yes, of course. Have a safe trip back to Cali.”
Zoey closed the front door. For a moment, she paused to take in the relief that Kristy and her ruckus was once again on the other side. Back to her own Kristy-life in her own Kristy-world. She wondered how a woman so totally unaware of how she was being perceived by others managed to safely navigate the stormy and ever-shifting tides of life.
“Oh, come on!” Abigail’s voice broke her reverie.
Zoey headed back to the kitchen.
“What is it?”
“This!” Abigail was holding up a large California pizza. “That dodo bird forgot to take her stupid frickin’ pizza.”
“No big deal. I’ll send it to Eddie as a gag.” Abigail smiled.
“It is a big deal,” Zoey said.
“She does this.”
“Purposefully leaves something behind so that—“
Zoey was cut off by the doorbell.
Abigail gave Zoey the don’t-tell-me-that-is-her look and Zoey shot back with yes-it’s-her-and-I’m-not-answering-it face.
Abigail’s Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna Rolls
• 1 Package Lasagna Noodles
• 1 Jar Marinara
• 1 Cup Ricotta Cheese
• 1/2 Cup Parmesan Cheese
• 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
• 1 Cup Mushrooms, sliced (preferably, wild)
• 1 Small Onion, Diced
• 4 Cups Baby Spinach
• 1 Garlic Clove, Minced
• Salt & Pepper
Step 1 – Bring a pot of water to a boil, add the lasagna noodles and cook until al dente
Step 2 – In a large skillet heat the olive oil before adding the onions, cook until they are translucent
Step 3 – Add the mushrooms and garlic to the onions and cook down for about 8 minutes
Step 4 – Add the spinach to the mushroom mixture and cover with a glass lid, let the spinach wilt for about 4 minutes before turning off the heat
Step 5 – Cream together the Ricotta and Parmesan cheese
Step 6 – Add the Mushroom and Spinach mixture to the cheese and mix well
Step 7 – Lay your noodles flat on a clean kitchen towel and spread the cheese mixture over each noodle before rolling up
Step 8 – Place the lasagna rolls in a greased 9×13 pan and cover with Marinara and more Parmesan cheese
Step 9 – Bake for 25 minutes and Enjoy!
Zoey’s Botched Batch of Blueberry Scones
• 4 cups all-purpose flour
• 6 tablespoons sugar
• 4-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons cold butter
• 2 large eggs
• 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk, divided
• 1-1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt; cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. In a bowl, whisk eggs and 3/4 cup milk; add to dry ingredients just until moistened.
(*Zoey’s Note: Bubbles are NOT your friend. Do NOT overmix)
Turn onto a lightly floured surface; gently knead in the blueberries. Divide the dough in half. Pat each portion into an 8-in. circle; cut each into eight wedges. Place on greased baking sheets. Brush with remaining milk. Bake at 375° for 15-20 minutes or until tops are golden brown.
Serve warm. Yield: 16 scones.
Kristy’s Aperol Spritz
• 4 1/4 ounces brut Prosecco
• 2 1/2 ounces Aperol
• 3/4 ounce club soda
• 1 lime wheel for garnish
Fill a Collins glass or champagne flute with ice. (*Kristy’s Note: She prefers a balloon wine glass*) Pour the prosecco over, then add Aperol and club soda. Garnish with lime wheel.