We had been staring at each other, and we always seemed to bump into one another, even though I had made the extra effort to avoid the encounter. So, finally I said,”We can’t keep looking at each other like this, we’ve got to do something.” Luckily, my feelings were reciprocated. Thus, began the inevitable affair, mostly done in the kitchen, but at the end of the day we ended up on the couch.
I was talking about the apples, of course. What did you think? They were still at a surplus in the house, so I had to do something about them rather than just staring at them. And the couch? I was watching TV while enjoying the tart, with a cup of tea.
Apple Rose Tarts
I’m glad I was able to make something pretty out of the rest of the apples. And they tasted scrumptious, too. These tarts will be served at Thanksgiving this year. We’re expecting company. This is a highly, highly recommended recipe, y’all! My best recipe to date, I think. Who agrees?
The caramel sauce
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 stick of butter
1/2 cup cream or half & half
1 tsp vanilla extract
1. In a deep saucepan, on medium-high heat, melt butter, then add sugar. Stir to combine and keep stirring until sugar has melted and the mixture is smooth.
2. Slowly add cream or half & half, while continuing to stir. Be careful, the liquid mixture might splatter a little.
3. Let it come to a boil and then remove from the heat, stir in vanilla extract. Set aside.
The pastry crust
Follow the pastry recipe and steps 1-3 of my Tomato Bacon Tart.
The apple roses
4 large apples, peeled and thinly sliced (about 5 cups)
3 tbsp sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
1. Mix apple slices and the sugar thoroughly and let the apples macerate for 1 hour, or until apple slices lose their rigidity and become soft and pliable.
2. If using, you can sprinkle the cinnamon either now, or once roses are formed.
3. To make the apple roses, follow my directions on how to make peach roses.
Putting it together
1. Transfer the roses into the pre-baked tart shells, spread petals apart a little, add more slices if needed.
2. Drizzle about a tablespoon of caramel sauce over the apples. Dot with some butter.
3. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 375° F. Drizzle more caramel sauce before serving, if you like.
A Love Affair
They would accidentally bump into each other from time to time, outside of class. If someone was arranging that to happen, it wasn’t Sean. Like that one time in downtown, the first time actually, that they had the chance to be together alone.
Sean had gone to meet a couple of old friends from Manhattan, who happened to be in town for the night. They had dinner at the popular Pachamama’s. Directly outside the restaurant was the Downtown stop for the University bus. It was the furthest away from campus that the bus would have taken you. The last pick-up was just before 8 p.m.
So, he was astonished to find her sitting on the bench, as if waiting for the bus, when he walked out of the restaurant with his buddy Mark and Mark’s girlfriend Lily. It was a little after 9, but the street light shone directly above her, so he recognized her instantly.
“Mindy, what are you doing here? The bus is no longer running at this time.”
“I know, I missed it. Lost track of time. I was just thinking maybe I should call a cab, but I think I’m just going to walk.”
“Wait, where do you live?”
“That’s a long walk. I could give you a ride, it’s on my way.”
I was hoping you would, Mindy thought.
He said goodbye to his friends and motioned for her to walk the other way to get to his car. Sean was surprised to find she was easy to talk to. She displayed none of the constraint of a young person. But he was taken aback more by his own reaction to her presence. He had wanted that car ride to last a little longer. No, a lot longer.
It wasn’t hard to fall for Mindy. She wasn’t just the best student he had in his Visual Communications class, but the prettiest one, too. Still, he had no business getting involved. For one thing, it was against some kind of an unwritten ethics rule for an instructor to have a relationship with a student.
Secondly, there was Sarah in Manhattan, who had been spending time with his parents whenever he couldn’t make it home for the weekends.
They weren’t engaged formally. It was just understood that he would marry her. After all, she was wearing his graduation ring around her neck. He never felt any pressure from her, and generally, he was happy with the relationship.
Sarah was sweet, understanding, smart, pretty, and she had the softest voice in the world. Sean loved to hear her speak. Sometimes at night he would call her. There was really nothing to talk about; he just wanted to hear her.
But his mind had been preoccupied lately. Mindy seemed to pop up every now and then, out of the blue. He had no reason to be thinking about her. There was nothing to precipitate such a thought. Yet, there she was. He was reliving the last conversation he had with her.
It was after class. She had stayed behind to ask for clarification on one of the assignments he gave.
“Sean, I wonder if you could explain the visual literacy part again. I wasn’t sure what is acceptable.”
She was smiling. He had smiled back, looked at her for a moment, then said,” I have to be at Smith Hall in a few minutes. If you would walk with me, I could explain.”
They walked together. He started explaining, but it was clear that a brief explanation was all that was needed. But they both didn’t want the walk to be over. They were only half-way to Smith Hall. He had wanted to keep talking to her. So he made small talk.
“Where is your next class?”
“Um, I have another one in an hour at Blake Hall.”
Nobody said good-bye. She had kept walking along with him. And then she said, “Do you want to check out the Nature & Culture Seminar on Friday?”
He remembered how he felt at that moment. Excited, happy, and apprehensive at the same time. He was going to spend an entire evening with her. What would his colleagues think? But they wouldn’t think of anything, surely. Faculty members attend forums and seminars all the time with their students. Just not as a couple. A couple? How his mind jumped too much ahead!
They became a couple by the end of the semester. He took a sabbatical for the next while they saw each other, but he never went back. He found a job instead at Brady College, while Mindy completed her senior year.
Sarah came to visit, and awkwardly he tried to explain why it wasn’t a good idea for her to stay in his apartment. It pained him to see her questioning eyes. He took her to have brunch at The Brewery, and it was apparent to her that his heart was not in the relationship anymore. She never asked for an explanation. She kissed him goodbye lightly on the lips, but held her body away from his. A month later, his graduation ring came in a priority mail box.
There were a few times, as late even as he and Mindy celebrated their 25th anniversary, when a thought entered his mind how his life would have been had he married Sarah, instead. He had no doubt he would have been happy. Sarah would have made him happy, but forever he would have thought about Mindy. His regret would have been deeper had he not been with Mindy.
Life with Mindy had been mostly happy, after a few trying first years. Theirs was a passionate kind of love. Jealousy and doubt sometimes crept into that kind of relationship. She was such a carefree soul, she sometimes didn’t realize the powerful effects she had on people, especially those of the opposite sex.
He felt much more as a protector at times than a lover, and he wondered if she had felt tethered to him too early, out of obligation. But for the most part, however, they had a stable, happy marriage.
The last four years had been very hard, since the cancer diagnosis. He knew he was dying, but he wanted to hang on as long as he could. That made him needy, much more than he liked. She was patient with him most days, but there were times when she spent the whole day away from home. He felt because she wanted to be free of him. It wasn’t rational thinking, of course. She was after all still working full-time; she had obligations other than him.
He saw his buddy Mark sitting in the corner of the room. He called out to his wife, “Honey, Mark came to see us. Can you get him something to drink? He likes Ovaltine. Do we have Ovaltine?”
Why is Mindy crying? Why are his children crying? It’s not proper to cry in front of guests. Thank goodness it’s Mark. He’s practically family. Except he hasn’t seen him in the last couple of decades. He remembers vaguely a story about a horrendous traffic accident. Was Mark in it? He couldn’t have been; he’s sitting right in front of him.
Sarah is in front of him now. Sarah! She has not changed at all, still a 27-year-old after four decades. Sarah with her sweet voice, that used to help him fall sleep. He had always wanted to explain.
“Sarah…, you came to see me…., forgive me.”
“There’s nothing to forgive, Sean. You will always be my best friend, my brother. Safe travels, dear.”
His daughter Liv was wiping her tears.
“Daddy, it’s Liv, not Sa…”
“Hush, Liv, don’t bother your dad,” her mom admonished.
Mindy is whispering in his ear now,”Go, my darling, Sarah has long forgiven you. She has forgiven me as well. You have given me the happiest days of my life. My memories will keep me alive. I’m ready to say good-bye, if you are. Go now, darling…I will always love you!”
The fog is coming into the room, there must a storm outside, Sean thought. It’s as if he’s looking through a thick screen. He sees the faces of his wife, his sisters, and his children through the fog. Then he sees his parents, smiling, beckoning him to come to them. He’s five years old again, happy, skipping to greet them. How he’s missed them, his mama and papa. He’s going home with them.
Dedicated to the memory of my dad, who passed away today, four years ago. His and Mom’s was a love story not unlike the fiction above. One day, some day, I’ll get the real scoop on their “forbidden” love, instead of the snippets I gather here and there from my gossiping aunties.
A man of many talents, my dad was very good with his hands, particularly when it came to working on projects that required minute details and precision. I inherited that skill from him. The apple slices for the tarts were all hand-cut. I rarely require a mandolin for such a task.
An homage to my dad