Of all the things Lena wanted to try, as part of learning to be a normal girl raised in a normal family, one of them was baking. Back in Ravenwood Manor, hardly anyone baked or cooked for that matter. There was never a need to, and well everyone had better things to do than to be in the kitchen, things like preventing darkness from taking over the world, figuring out what to do after what she did on her seventeenth birthday. She was in a better mood now that Uncle Macon was back, though changed. But for one day, and one day only, she just wanted to feel like a normal girl baking in a kitchen.
That was how Ethan found himself with Lena at the grocery store, shopping for ingredients. She was looking at a list, scrawled in black Sharpie. He caught a few ingredients, molasses, brown sugar, ground ginger, butter, baking powder."Tell me what we're doing again, Lena?" He asked her, still finding it difficult to believe what she had requested of him.
"We're baking gingerbread cookies," she replied, giving him the same answer when she first approached after school the day before, a smile on her face and an excited look in her eyes as she had told him of her plans to bake at his house with Amma supervising. She had looked up the recipe in a cookbook in the school library, since there wasn't any at her house to start with. It looked simple enough, she had convinced herself it was a fairly good idea to bake.
"Are you sure about this?" Ethan was not sure whether he was supposed to be supporting her decision or to gently tell her that he didn't think this was a good idea.
What's wrong, Ethan? she Kelted to him.
Nothing, I find it difficult to believe that you actually want to bake something.
We don't do that in Ravenwood Manor and I've seen Amma baking so many times. All her pies, I just wanted to try it out.
Ethan hesitated before replying her, Alright then. Have you gotten everything you need?
Her answer was a kiss on his cheek before she headed towards to the counter, with him following behind her.
When they reached Ethan's house, Amma was just coming out from her room. "Where 'ave you been, Ethan? Hello Lena."
"Grocery store, Amma. Lena wants to bake at our place. Can she use the oven?" He realized he had forgotten to ask Amma the night before. You didn't ask her?
I didn't think she wouldn't allow, he replied Lena.
"As long you two don't make a mess. I ain't cleaning up after you two." The sides of Amma's mouth curled up slightly.
"Thank you, Amma."
Lena placed all the ingredients on the table top and grabbed a pan from the table top. Pulling out a piece of paper from her pocket, she read out, "Warm molasses in a saucepan or microwave, but do not boil. Remove from heat and stir in butter until melted. Let cool." Amma appeared at the door of the kitchen. "You two need help heatin' up whatever is in the pan?"
Ethan had a relieved expression on his face. He didn't know anything about baking, or even switching on the stove. The kitchen was Amma's domain. She did whatever she did best in there and all Ethan had to do, according to Amma, was to finish his food like a good Southern boy. Lena nodded and Amma went over to help her, with Ethan still standing at the corner of the kitchen, a little lost.
"Whatchu standin' there for, Ethan Wate? Get a bowl from that cupboard over there"
"Yes, Amma," Ethan muttered, reaching over to look at the paper with the bowl in hand. He looked around, flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, and brown sugar and an egg. He read the labels on each bottle carefully to make sure he got the right ingredients.
"Whychu takin' so long, Ethan?" Amma's voice startled him a little. He grabbed whichever ingredients he could identify and brought them to Amma. She looked at the bemused expression on his face and laughed. "Tis' why I don't let you cook!" Amma said, as she added the correct ingredients into the bowl and mixed them thoroughly before passing it to Lena, who was ready at the stove with the warm molasses. Ethan could feel the temperature in the kitchen rising, and he wasn't sure whether it was the heat of the summer that was getting to him, causing the perspiration on his back to stick to his clothes, or whether it was the embarrassment. It felt as if he was wading in something thick, like the molasses in the pan.
"Do you still need my help, Lena?" He felt unnecessary now that Amma was helping Lena. She shook her head and he took that as a signal to leave the kitchen. Walking to his room, he grabbed a change of clothes and took a shower, hoping to erase the uneasy feeling of prickling heat on his back. He never liked summer in Gatlin, another reason why he had always wanted to get out of this small town, other than the fact that everyone seemed to know everything about everyone.
By the time he came down, the cookies were already in the oven. Lena stood next to Amma, laughing at something Amma said. Her laughter was something that still took his breath away. It wasn't like the false laughter of those girls in school. It was genuine, it was a quiet sort of laughter, but more importantly, it was Lena. He had missed hearing her laugh the whole time after Macon had supposedly died and when she distanced herself from him. He was glad to have her back with him, though he could still feel something heavy hanging in the air above them, above Gatlin.
Lena turned to look at his direction as he walked in, hair wet from his shower. She gave him a small smile, Kelting him at the same time. You clean up nice.
Thanks. Sorry I couldn't be of any help.
It's okay. Amma was amazing. I don't think two batches of cookies would have made it into the oven if it weren't for her.
"How did you find baking?" Ethan spoke out this time, not wanting to exclude Amma too much.
"Different," Lena replied. She did not really know how to describe the whole process, other than it was very different from what her family did in their free time. "But interesting." Moving over to Ethan's side, her hands found his and he laced his fingers in hers, squeezing them slightly. "Thank you, Amma, for letting me use your kitchen. I hope I didn't give you too much trouble." She said politely.
"As long as yer clean up after," she said as she left the kitchen, leaving Ethan and Lena alone in the kitchen.
"And I thought she wouldn't leave," he whispered in her ear. She laughed in response as he pressed his lips to her temple. "I'm sure the cookies will be good. You should bring them back home for your family to try."
"I don't know if they'll like it, Ethan. What if they don't?"
"Then I'll eat all of them for you," he promised her. "But don't worry, I think they would." He rubbed circles on her wrist, trying to reassure her. "So, now we'll just wait."