by Eva Rivers

The aubergines, the sauce, the prosciutto and the grated parmesan are ready and all she has to do now is assemble the ingredients. She takes the earthenware dish and spreads a layer of the rich tomato sauce. Then a layer of lightly fried aubergines and then some cheese. Another of the rich tomato sauce. Then aubergines, cheese and this time she sprinkles in small strips of prosciutto. And so on until the dish is brimming and the sauce dribbles over the edge.

Parmigiana had been their weekend treat and they always prepared it together. Each would take charge of a layer. And at the lightest brushing of fingers she’d feel a thrill deep inside. While it baked, they would open a bottle of red, a good one, and have a glass. Now, she places the dish in the oven and in the forty minutes it will take to bake she has two glasses. She reads a magazine to pass the time and just as she’s about to finish an article on the carbon footprint of the avocado, a question interrupts her concentration. The oven bell saves her and she darts over excited that dinner is ready.

They became friends at a cookery class in Tuscany. She was on an exchange and he was pursuing dreams and desires. When she arrived, worn thin from the heat, he was already in his apron and flouring the bench. In her opinion, he was always the better cook. Adventurous. Versatile. The sort who could make something out of nothing.

‘Just taste this,’ he’d say.

‘It’s delicious,’ she’d say.

Cooking led to love. And love led to a whole new life.

She spoons a large dollop of parmigiana onto her plate concentrating hard so that the question will stop nagging her. The warm Mediterranean scents rise and she picks up her fork. Does he cook parmigiana with her? Or do they have their own dish? A dish that they prepare together at weekends. She throws down the fork and takes a sip of wine. Then another. Now the parmigiana doesn’t look quite so appealing. His was never this oily. And she no longer feels hungry. But at least she has dinner for the rest of the week. Next time she won’t make such a large quantity.

Eva Rivers writes short stories and flash fiction about the ways in which life affects ordinary people. Her fiction has appeared in Sick Lit, Penny Shorts, 101 Words, The Drabble,  Fictive Dream, Firefly Magazine, Storgy and Scribble Magazine.  She lives and works in London. Twitter @MsEvarivers