Lisa crimped the crust tightly on the edge of the cherry pie. Since the quarantine had started she had cooked a lot. It had been a goal to learn how. She always told herself she’d learn when she had a family to cook for. The only other living being in her condo was her old English sheepdog Rufus, who was enjoying her cooking journey as much as she was. Lisa put the small pie into the oven and opened the lid on the large pot on the stove. She had found a recipe for white bean soup online and had made it for dinner. The condo smelled of the fresh bread she had baked on her lunch break to go with the soup. The scent of rosemary and garlic wafted from the pot as stirred the soup
In week three of quarantine, she decided rain or shine that she’d eat dinner on her patio. She lived on the third story and her balcony was covered by the balcony above her. Two weeks had passed of dinners out on the balcony and she now had it down to a science. She had even strung up white Christmas lights to lights and made an attempt to make the space feel more intimate. It brought her outside each night and she found it raised her spirits.
Lisa put the cheery yellow table cloth on the small dinner table outside. She returned with a bowl, and cutlery and set them out. She finally put half of the soup in a tureen, that she had impulse bought after deciding to learn how to make soup during the quarantine. The last thing she brought out after the soup was a few slices of the hearty, fresh bread. Lisa sat and spread the cloth napkin across her lap as Rufus let out a pathetic whine. Lisa rolled her eyes before she stood up and let Rufus out onto the patio with her. Sitting back down, she ladled a bowl of soup into her bowl. The steam came off of the top in swirls. Rufus whined again and then curled up next to her at her feet. Lisa tucked her feet under the dog to keep them warm. The evening was chillier than she had thought. She decided Rufus would be rewarded for his warmth by a slice of the fresh bread when she was done. She took a bite of the creamy, hot soup as she watched the sun begin to set. Orange and magenta streaked across the sky and the beauty of it cheered her.
As she sat and ate her soup she noticed the light turn on inside the condo next to her. She had noticed that someone had moved in. Each night she wondered if she would get a peek of her new neighbor, but they had yet to reveal themselves. She had kept to the strict stay at home order and only left her apartment to walk Rufus across the street to the park. Normally she’d expect to run into her new neighbors at this point, but life was different now. As she ate she thought she saw a shadow move in front of the window. Intrigued she leaned forward to see if she could get a better glimpse.
Her long chestnut hair dangled in her bowl of soup. When she leant back in her chair, defeated that she had not gotten a good look at her new neighbor, the soup splattered onto her blouse from her hair. She dipped her napkin into the water glass and dabbed at the soup spatter, grateful it was white. Rufus looked up at her. Taking pity on her dining partner she broke one of the pieces of bread in half and put one half down for him. He sniffed the bread and then looked towards the neighbor’s condo. Lisa watched his ears perk up before she heard the lock on the door of the neighbors door to their balcony. Rufus stood as the door opened.
A man stepped out in a blue button-down shirt, his sleeves rolled up, jeans and barefooted. Lisa couldn’t help but stare, he was gorgeous with his sandy blonde hair and sharp jaw. He was well built and Lisa licked her lips, not sure what was yummier, the soup or the man standing on the balcony next to hers. Rufus stood and growled. The man turned at the noise of the dog.
“Sorry, I didn’t see you out here tonight. I didn’t mean to disturb you,” the man said as he backed towards his door.
“You aren’t disturbing me,” she said as she turned to her dog, “Rufus stop that.”
The dog laid back down and sulked.
“Are you sure? I’ve tried to come out after you’ve finished your dinner. I know these balconies are close together.”
“You aren’t bothering me at all.” Lisa got up from the table and walked a little closer, but still kept a safe distance. Rufus’ head picked up as he watched her move closer. She reached out her hand to shake his and instantly withdrew it, remembering that was not a good idea during a pandemic.
“Oh sorry, I forgot, no contact. I’m Lisa,” she waved.
“Hi Lisa,” he waved,”My name is Harry. It’s nice to meet you neighbor.”
“You too. Sorry I didn’t know you had been waiting for me to finish dinner out here. I can go in and give you some space.”
“No way. Please finish, I barged in on your dinner.”
“We can both be out here. We are distanced far enough apart, for health guidelines. I don’t mind if you don’t.”
“Are you sure? The fresh air is nice after being inside all day.”
“It is, isn’t it,” confirmed as she sat back down at the table.
Harry leaned against the railing as he looked to the west towards the last sliver of daylight. The loss of the last of the sunlight turned the air chillier. Lisa pulled the blanket she had draped over the chair around her. Almost simultaneously Harry cupped his hands and blew into them.
“It’s cold tonight,” Rachel said unsure of wether to make conversation or not.
“It is. It’s supposed to be in the 40’s tonight. I am still getting used to the weather here. I’m from Alabama. We don’t do cold like this where I’m from. I moved up here for work.”
“Well, Indy is nice. It’s normally warmer than this. Cold weather and a quarantine, welcome to town, ouch,” Lisa joked.
Harry laughed and Lisa felt it in her knees. She didn’t know how it was possible for him to be even more handsome, but his smile softened his masculine face. That smile with his perfect teeth almost took her breath away.”
“I am going to guess you’re a chef? The smells coming out of your condo always smell amazing.”
Lisa laughed. “No way. I decided to learn how to cook during the quarantine. Prior to this, I could make scrambled eggs, and a few other things, but I wasn’t very good at it.” She laughed.
“Well it always smells really nice.”
“Oh my gosh, where are my manners? Would you like some? It’s white bean soup, it turned out pretty good.”
“No, I’m good,” he said as he put his hands out to signal no.
“Are you sure, I have more than I can eat. I read that you’re not supposed to reduce a recipe the first time you make it. So I’ll have bean soup for days.”
Harry laughed, “Are you sure you don’t mind?”
“Not at all, I’m happy to share. I’m not ill, and I haven’t had contact with anyone else since quarantine started. You could always microwave it just to be safe though.”
“I trust you.”
“Let me run in and get a bowl,” Lisa stood and walked in to get one before Harry could stop her. She returned a minute later with a bowl, spoon and cloth napkin for him in her hand. As she stepped out onto the porch, she saw that Harry had brought out a chair and a t.v. table along with a indoor floor lamp. He came back out with a glass of white wine in his hand.
“Can I offer you a glass of wine to go with your soup,” he offered?
Normally, she would have never accepted a glass of wine from a man she didn’t know. It did sound nice with the wine, so she poured her water into the planter and set it back down onto the table as she dished him a bowl of soup. She set a piece of bread on the wide rim of the bowl and carried it along with the napkin, spoon and her empty glass over. She held out the bowl and he took it setting it down on the small tray. He held up his finger and went inside to fetch the bottle of wine. He held it out for her to see and she nodded and he poured her a glass of wine.
“Thank you. I was just thinking this dinner needed wine.” she said as she sipped it on her way back to her seat.
As she sat, Harry raised his glass and she raised hers. That night they talked over dinner and it dawned on Lisa that this felt more like a first date. She learned that he had moved to Indy for work, as a financial manager for a manufacturing company. She also learned that he was single, had never been married, and had moved up three days before the quarantine had started. She shared that she had moved to Indy for work as well, she was originally from Chicago. She had lived in Indy for three years and had grown to really like the city. She was single as well. They moved on to talking about their hobbies and found they had a lot in common. They both liked to be active, play tennis, and golf as well as read.
The timer for the cherry pie she had put in the oven went off, interrupting their conversation. As she went inside she couldn’t believe how much she found herself really liking Harry. She brought the small pie out onto the table on the balcony to cool.
“Is that a cherry pie,” he asked?
“It is, I sure hope you’ll have some. I can’t promise it will be as good as the soup. I’ve never made it before.”
“Dinner and dessert, this is a treat! Would you like another glass of wine? I’m going to get one for myself.”
“Okay, as long as you don’t mind sharing.”
Harry refilled her glass and they both had a slice of the warm cherry pie. It was delicious, the perfect balance of sweet and tart. They sat and talked long after dessert. It was now properly cold but neither of them wanted to say goodnight. Lisa tried to hide that she was shivering, even with Rufus at her feet and the blanket pulled around her. They talked well into the night, laughing and getting to know each other. As Rufus began to whine, Lisa took the hint that he needed to be walked again. She stood and began to clean up dinner, sad that their night was coming to an end.
“If it’s okay, I’ll wash your bowl and spoon just to be on the safe side. I haven’t had contact with anyone but I’d hate to get you sick,” he said.
“Okay. You know where I live to return it. I’m not worried about it,” Lisa joked.
“Thank you again for a lovely dinner. It was a nice treat. I really enjoyed getting to know you. Thank you for sharing your dinner with me.”
“Well thank you for joining me. I enjoyed having someone to dine with and I’m glad I finally got to meet you.”
“It was nice to have a conversation. I’ll be honest I only know how to cook like three things, so I’ve pretty much been eating, PB&J sandwiches, scrambled eggs and cereal since this started.”
“I always cook too much, so you’re welcome to join me anytime.”
“Thanks, that’s a kind offer. I had a really nice time tonight. Good night Lisa.”
That night as Lisa lay in bed she thought of Harry next door. She hadn’t dated since her last boyfriend and that had been almost eight months ago. She thought about how well she and Harry had hit it off. She fell asleep wondering if he’d join her the next night.
As she walked past her patio doors the next morning with a cup of coffee in her hands she noticed the bowl Harry had washed sitting on her table with a small bouquet of tulips sitting next to the bowl and a handwritten note. Lisa walked out onto the porch and set her mug down as she picked up the note.
Thank you again for a delicious dinner. It was to meet you last night. I’d love to have dinner again sometime. The flowers are to say thank you. I picked them from the park across the street. (Shhhh don’t tell anyone). I would have bought some properly but the shops aren’t open.
Lisa picked up the tulips, her bowl , the note, and her coffee and brought them back inside. She put the tulips in water and thought about what to cook for dinner that night. She finally decided on chicken skewers with a satay sauce and jasmine rice. The recipe seemed simple enough. All-day she wondered if Harry would join her and found it difficult to focus on her work.
Around three in the afternoon, she slipped a note onto Harry’s balcony. She put it on the tv tray he had left from the night before and put a small flower pot from her balcony on top of it so it wouldn’t blow away.
Thank you for the beautiful tulips. I should let you know I work for the Indy parks department, just kidding. I won’t tell anyone you picked the tulips from a public park. I am making chicken satay skewers with jasmine rice, and a veggies tonight. I’ll have plenty if you’d like some.
That night as Lisa set the table on the porch she noticed that note was gone. She turned on her Christmas lights as she heard Harry’s door open. Rufus picked up his head and growled half-heartedly.
“Well fancy meeting you here, at my new favorite Indian food restaurant,” Harry joked.
Lisa laughed,” I see you got my note then. Would you like to join me, I have plenty of food.”
“I’d love to, but at least let me pay you for it. Dinner two nights in a row.”
“Nope. It’s my treat.”
“I must contribute somehow, I don’t want to take advantage. I know, how about I provide the alcohol. Wine? Beer?”
“Alright, your pick.”
Harry returned with two bottles of beer and set one on the porch railing for Lisa. She got up and retrieved it, leaving a helping of dinner on the railing for him in return. She and Harry talked well past dinner and into the early hours of the morning that night.
Each night of quarantine they ate dinner together. They both counted down the hours until dinner, and over time, they found waiting for dinner a stretch too far. They began to have lunch together too. Lisa fell in love with Harry over the meals she had learned to cook as she shared them with him. He had fallen equally for her. On the last night of quarantine, she finished dressing the salad and set it out on the table, where she found Harry already waiting for her. As she began to plate the food for both of them, Harry climbed over the railings of both balconies. It was the first time had left his balcony. Both of them had wanted to, desperately but they had stuck to the social distancing guidelines. Lisa turned to see Harry standing next to her. She sucked in her breath, surprised and excited at the same time. She handed him a plate of roasted chicken, wilted greens and sauteed potatoes. He took the plate from her and set it down on the table, instead much preferring to hold her. He pulled her into his arms.
“I’ve been waiting what feels like a lifetime to do this,” he said.
He leant down and kissed Lisa, and she felt it though her whole body. She wrapped her arms around his neck, takinging all of him in, the feel of his firm body, the smell of his cologne, the taste of his mouth. It felt like heaven.