Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Cooking or Baking (01/04/07)
TITLE: The Vortex
By Amy Michelle Wiley
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“You have two minutes to start talking.” The man’s voice fit the scene. Dark as the room.
Tom opened his mouth. Nothing came out. He tried again. “I just wanted a cook for the restaurant.” His voice was a pathetic squeak.
“When did you first meet her?” The man paced. His uniform rustled like it had been starched.
“Nine months ago. Tamara brought in a resume personally.” He hated the way his voice betrayed him when he spoke her name. “She had good credentials, so I hired her right away.”
The man’s steps landed hard on the floor, beating in sync with the fan. Tom continued, “We all fell I love with her--er, with her cooking, I mean. Chicken Florentine, salmon with just the perfect touch of lemon and basil, sole with artichoke hearts. She baked crème puffs every week. Sometimes she made chocolate ones, just for me.”
A thump made Tom jump. The man’s voice was low. Threatening. “What was the nature of your relationship with Tamara Masterson?”
“N-nature?” There was the squeak again. Tom looked into the dark recesses of the room and wondered what jail was like.
“Were you seeing each other?”
“Well, yes, I guess you would say that.” He could smell cookies baking, see the dust of flour on her cheek, the smudge of chocolate on her lip. And her eyes. As deep and rich as hot chocolate.
“When did you last see Tamara?”
The future hung there, close enough to touch in that square room.
“I, I just wanted to cook her dinner. She was always cooking for me and I just wanted to do something nice for her.” He was talking too fast. “Just give her a break for once. Let her sit back and relax.”
The man leaned down, his sour breath right in Tom’s face, each word a physical punch. “When did you see her last?”
“She was in the bathroom. Slumped on the floor.” It killed him. Killed him to say the words. To know the truth.
“Did you poison Tamara Masterson?”
The world turned into a hurricane, churning around him, sucking him into a black vortex. Was she dead? Had he killed the woman he loved?
The door flew open, light blinding him. A woman in white stood before Tom. Judgment.
“Food poisoning. E-coli. We gave her antibiotics. She’ll be fine.” The woman turned to leave as quickly as she had come. “You can see her now.”
It was a good thing Tom was sitting down. His body was a noodle. It was all he could do to draw air into his lungs.
The man sat down with a thump. His voice was low. “What did you want? What did you want with June Masterson?”
Somewhere Tom found his voice. Somewhere in the depths of his heart. “To marry her, sir. I want to marry your daughter.”
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