by Eliza West
Rated: E · Short Story · Comedy · #2286722
Short story about accepting help... and opening a jar of tomato sauce.
|Ambrose’s and Fitz’s plane from Chicago to London had touched down. It was 9 in the morning, but for Fitz, it was 3 a.m. So while Ambrose drove around and sorted things out, his little brother slept. It was only a month since his brain surgery. Most of what he did was sleep. |
After some hours, Fitz awoke. Walnut furniture and blue drapes set the tone of the room. Cars honked their horns from out the window. Big Ben chimed, and the London Eye peeked out from the trees. Lots of trees with crisp green leaves.
The aroma of carrots and bacon floated into the room just then. He sniffed and sighed. A lazy smile bloomed on his lips.
“Ambrose must be cooking.” He stretched languorously when his phone caught his eye. There was a text from his brother from 10 a.m.
Fitz snickered. “What does that mean?” He sat and thought for a moment. It was one in the afternoon. Did Ambrose have work today?
Fitz ran his hand through his unruly blonde curls, fingers grazing the shaved parts that revealed his surgical scars. He jumped out of bed and wandered downstairs.
“Ambrose— wow.” It was some house. Lots of windows and antique furniture that looked brand new caught his eye. Lots of — well, space. It must’ve been a remodeled Victorian Era property. But Ambrose didn’t have that kind of money, did he?
Nice house, Fitz texted.
Grandparents from mother’s side.
They’re out of the country at the moment.
Fitz felt both more enlightened and confused. If Ambrose was at home, then why did he text? Unless — unless Ambrose wasn’t home. Which mean—
Who was in the kitchen, listening to pop music?
He shuffled into the kitchen with his neck stretched out like a turtle. Whoever was in there had better have an explanation—
Fitz froze at the threshold to find a girl in her late 20s dancing with a wooden spoon as a microphone. Her short black hair framed her chin as she shifted her feet to the slow pop that talked about writing a best friend song or something. Meanwhile, white rice boiled on the stove with a pan of carrots. The bacon had just finished sauteeing. Who is she? Fitz didn’t like new people. Or — any people for that matter.
She jumped with a yelp before laughing. “I’m sorry. I was just—”
“Dancing. I know.” Fitz scratched his head.
She lowered the volume of the music on her phone. “I’m Yoko. Your brother hired me for your physical therapy?” Yoko pushed her
round glasses up.
Fitz pursed his lips. “He must have.”
“Lunch is ready.”
“Who are you?”
“I told you.”
“Yes. You’re a 20-something Japanese exchange student studying English literature at King’s College after getting her license in physical therapy with her bad music taste intact. Why my brother thinks I need someone to look after me is above my understanding.” Fitz rolled his eyes. He expected her to be shocked, but she just laughed again.
“Cute. Ambrose said you’d say that. Oh, and I’m not an exchange student. I’m from Surrey. The accent should’ve told you something, but you are still recovering.”
“I don’t like you.” He narrowed my eyes.
“He said you’d said that too.”
“Ugh! I’m going to wash up.” He rubbed my face.
“Okay,” she said, plating the food.
Why? I texted Ambrose on my way up.
Because I can’t watch you 24/7
I am perfectly capable of surviving without a babysitter
Physical therapist ;)
I’m going to—
Something. I’ll think about it.
Behave. See you at dinner.
Fitz scowled at the phone. After Fitz had a shower and a change of clothes, Yoko and he sat across from each other. She picked at lunch while participating in a one-sided staring contest. Fitz was the person staring.
“I don’t need help.”
“Sure you don’t.” She glanced up at him. Yoko wasn’t smiling per se, but she had smirky eyes that took no crap. Somehow it
made Fitz respect her a little, and of course, that made him like her less. She was here to ‘watch him.
“Then why are you here?”
“In case.” She shrugged.
“‘In case’ my butt.” He narrowed his eyes.
“Okay. Tell you what. If you can open this jar of tomato sauce with your hands, no knife or anything, I’ll leave.” Yoko put a jar of
basil tomato sauce in front of Fitz. She raised her eyebrows. “If you don’t, I stay, and you let me do my job.”
“Pfft. Prepare to walk out the door.” Fitz grabbed the jar, giving it a jerk. He had this. The cap budged a millimeter. Aha. He
swiveled his wrist, for a good minute. It didn’t open. Oh, great. “Dash it!” Fitz set the jar down with some force. “Did I mention I don’t like you?”
“Only because you can’t intimidate me. My mother is scarier than you.”
She was right. Fitz couldn’t run her out of here. At least not with mild tactics.
“You going to eat?”
He huffed, picking up his fork. Lunch tasted great, but he couldn’t give Yoko the satisfaction he enjoyed any second with her here. It was war, after all.
Afterward, she washed the dishes and lay on the couch reading Dickens. She took notes on her laptop for homework. Fitz merely paced the living room. She glanced up once or twice but said nothing. Probably she knew that he’d eventually get out of breath and crash on the couch opposite her. And that is what happened.
“You done?” She said without looking up from her book.
“Trying to annoy you? Not even close. Just taking a break.”
“Good because that pacing got you warmed up for your exercises.”
And so the day went on. She was annoyingly unbothered, and Fitz was just annoying. After his PT, he felt tired out again. He tried to get a rise out of her by groaning at intervals, but she still sat on the couch, flipping the pages of her book and sipping tea. Then her phone rang, and she picked up the phone.
“He what? When?” She sat up, eyes alert. “No, no, I’m just at work… St. Mary’s? Okay, I’m on my way.”
“What’s going on?”
“My boyfriend. He’s in the hospital.”
“Tell Ambrose I had to go. Family emergency.” She packed up her things and left within 20 seconds. Fitz stared at the wall as the door thumped, shocked that she’d left.
Later in the afternoon, he was hungry again. There were no leftovers, which meant he needed to cook something. It was also quiet. Too quiet. He huffed. And he wasn’t strong enough to play the piano. Maybe wishing she’d left hadn’t been the best idea. Now he was bored. And alone.
The easiest thing he could make without much trouble was pasta. But he couldn’t even open the stupid jar of tomato sauce. He sighed before giving up and eating the pasta another way.
Around eight, Fitz dozed on the couch with the pasta sauce jar in his arms. He stirred when he heard Ambrose turning in the key to the front door. The younger moaned into the cushions. “Ambrose. You’re home. Finally.”
“Yes. Clever deduction.” Ambrose smiled as he removed his coat and set his keys on the table. “Looks like you’ve survived the day without me. Where’s Yoko?”
“Chased her out.”
“Really?” Ambrose raised an eyebrow.
“Kidding. Yoko had an emergency.” Fitz grinned.
The elder chuckled. “What are you doing with that jar of tomato sauce?”
“I was... I was trying to open it.” Fitz pouted at the jar.
“Ah. For how long?”
“An hour. I made pasta, but I couldn’t open the jar. So I ate it plain.”
“That sounds interesting.”
“Then I tried opening the jar some more, but I dozed off.”
“I see. Busy day. May I?”
“Oh, you can fly to Venus if you want. That’s the air pressure it’ll take to–”
Pop! Ambrose had given the jar’s cap a simple twist. He smirked as he held the open jar.
Fitz opened his mouth for a few seconds before snapping it shut. “I loosened it for you.” Fitz narrowed his eyes.
“For an hour. I know,” Ambrose said with mock sincerity.
“Ambrose. You’re mocking me.”
Ambrose chuckled. “Yes, but it looks like you’re still in recovery. Which is why you need Ms. Yokomoto to help you with your physical therapy.”
“She’s mean,” Fitz whined.
Ambrose rolled his eyes. “She’s allergic to your childish wiles.”
“Ha! I turned 18 a few months ago, meaning I'm no longer a child.”
“Maturity doesn’t have a fixed send-by date.”
“Ugh.” Fitz quirked his lips.
“Well, you want to eat, or is this all for me?”
“Of course not! I will eat the fruits of my labor.”
“Or my labor, rather.”
“I loosened that jar for you.”
“And I’m the Queen of England.”
Fitz crossed his arms. “Fine. I will eat the fruits of our labor.” Fitz harrumphed.
Ambrose shook his head fondly. “Right. Did you do anything else today besides annoy your physical therapist?”
“I slept. I exercised. It was boring. And there was no one to open the jar.” He wrinkled his nose.
Ambrose huffed in amusement. “So what you’re saying is you’d rather have someone around… to open the jar of tomato sauce for you.”
Fitz laughed. “I suppose. I’m just not used to it coming from other people.”
“Welcome to being a living, breathing human being. If you always push people away, how can you expect people to be around?”
“Pfft. True." I sighed.
London. It was a new city. Fitz’s friends were still in Chicago, which meant he’d need to abide by actually getting to know people again. Abysmal. However. Ambrose was right. If he kept closing doors to new relationships, he’d get nowhere. And if he left the door open for a while, then maybe he’d have someone to open the jar of tomato sauce. And wasn’t that a part of life? He chuckled. Maybe one day he could open the jar himself — or for someone else. “Ugh.” These metaphors were making his brain hurt. He needed to get out more.
While Fitz didn’t act on that thought immediately, when Yoko stopped by the next day, he decided to do something different.
Fitz awoke earlier, just as Ambrose left for work. A few minutes later, Yoko got her key out to open the door, but Fitz opened it before she did.
“Oh. Hello, again.” Despite her emergency yesterday, she seemed as chipper as before.
“Hi. Come in.” Fitz gestured toward the inside of the house with a smile.
“This may be none of my business, but how is your boyfriend?”
She furrowed her brow, catching Fitz’s difference in behavior. “He broke his ankle indoor rock climbing. He’ll be fine. It wasn’t a big fall. His mother insists on taking care of him.”
“Which is why you’re here.”
“Yep.” She shrugged, heading for the kitchen. She brought two stalks of broccoli from the fridge and chopped them up with a speed that showed proficiency in her knife skills.
Wow. Don’t mess with Yoko, Fitz thought. “By the way, I apologize for yesterday. I behaved like a child, and that’s not how I normally am. I just— all these adjustments — I don’t like change. And that is more my problem than yours and no excuse for acting—”
“Like a five-year-old?”
“Yes.” I quirked my lips.
“That’s what your brother said.” She smirked.
Fitz threw my arms in the air with a laugh. “Did my brother tell you everything about me?”
“Nope. It’s just fun to tease you.”
He snorted. “Okay. Fair enough.”
After cleaning the cutting board with paper towels, Yoko threw them in the trash, catching a glimpse of yesterday’s refuse. “Ah. You made pasta. Did you open the jar?” She raised an eyebrow.
Fitz smiled sheepishly. “No. My brother did.”
“Hmm.” She nodded knowingly.
Fitz chuckled, taking a seat at the kitchen island.
Yes, maybe having someone open the jar of tomato sauce wasn’t too bad. It was hard and felt awkward, but if no one opened the jar of tomato sauce, the sauce wouldn’t go anywhere. One would just be eating plain pasta.
And he knew how bland that was.
Turns out pasta’s better served with the sauce.