Marty briefly swam backwards and then put her facemask on and began to snorkel above the atoll to gather some King's Thistle. As she swam from one spot to another she happened to hitch her one fin on a small ledge and leaned herself against the coral with her head barely above the water so she could pick the thistle that grew on a small plateau. Within an instant the ledge broke off and her leg slipped down into a crevice while she struck her head against the coral, giving her a good knock. Her snorkel was only inches from the top of the water as her lower limb was lodged in the crevice. She slowly ran out of breadth and began to struggle. Her mind raced of a vision of a convulcing naked woman in a bathtub. Marty sensed tradgedy.
John looked over where Marty was only a minute ago and took notice of the color change in the water and then immediately dove in after her.
The Hawaiian sun glared down on the Pearl and Hermes Atoll. On the deck of My Cherry II, Marty was flat on her back, wet from seawater and motionless. John rolled Marty to the side while all eyes on deck watched in fear. He swatted her back, hoping she would eject the water from her lungs. Having no success, he repeated the process and this time prevailed as seawater gushed from Marty’s mouth. John and her fellow yatchmates all blew a sigh of relief as she took in a truncated breath and hobbled to her feet. She swayed in place, then sat down with the help of John and Fat Freddie and wiped her mouth with a towel. John dabbed Marty's forehead and face with the towel and then proceeded to pat Marty's scraped bloody knee as Marty "oohed" a little, smiled with her sparkling eyes and said, "Who's hungry? I could eat a cow."
John just shook his head and said to himself, that's Marty.
Later that evening, Marty, in black silk lingerie and a bandaged knee, was in bed with her back propped up on the headboard. She riffled through some travel magazines, full of spirited energy. John stepped out of the shower, one towel around his waist, another used to dry his head.
"John," she said, "I think I'd like to open up another Pearl."
"Where are you thinking?" John asked with keen interest.
"The French Riviera," Marty replied.
"I know you're having a good year, but that's practically clear across the world."
"There're plenty of wealthy people there, and it's classy. Think of Monaco, Cannes, Provence, Nice and even St. Tropez," Marty iterated.
"You realize the expense factor in places like that?" John asked almost rhetorically.
"I'll look at the capital costs and see what the return on investment will be," Marty replied. "There's always risk."
"When are you thinking of doing this?"
"I'd like to go this weekend. Spend a week. Do some preliminary investigating."
"Family or no?" John asked casually.
"This time, I'd like to go by myself. More mobile?" Marty stated as if she were asking for John's approval.
"Sure. We'll be here when you get back." But John felt Marty was starting to get a little itchy. Between the restaurant and the perfume shop, she kept busy enough. Yet he knew Marty was a big girl and could handle it. Sure, she had been impetuous at times, but one thing was certain, she had a good business sense.
"Thank you, John," Marty said, lovingly smooth.
John shut the light, slipped his towel off and then eased into bed. Marty dropped the magazine and they kissed. She softly spoke in his ear, "I just want to thank you for saving me this afternoon. I love you."
"What else was I to do? But are you happy with me and your life here in Maui?"
Marty smiled with her eyes and then kissed John on the shoulder as he slowly mounted her. And although they made passionate love within the whispers of the Pearl and Hermes Atoll, as romantic a place for intimacy as anyone could find, there was a slow drifting of Marty's spirit. She was mostly unaware of it at the time, though she did sense a slight detachment.
The following morning Marty was awoken by a cool breeze. She got up, draped herself with a cotton robe, sauntered into the galley and helped herself to a cup of coffee. She stepped up top where John was already up on deck seated at a table reading Salt by Patricia Highsmith. He had already been awake for almost an hour and was on his third cup of coffee. Marty made her way towards John and brushed up against his shoulder, stood beside him and stared out towards the atoll as John stroked her arm. "A little cool this morning," Marty commented as she tried to rub the chill off her arms.
"Yeah," John said nonchalantly as he continued reading.
"I guess everyone is still asleep?" Marty said, thinking she might go back to bed herself.
"I'd like to head back after breakfast. Are you good with that?" John asked.
"What's the matter, John? Are you upset I want to take a trip to France by myself?" Marty responded.
"Are you bored? Is that why you have to go running off on some new adventure?" John shot back.
"Don't you care about what happens to my business? That I am trying so hard to develop and grow? It needs to move forward. One small shop will only be one small shop. The brand, my brand, needs to prosper. Of anyone, you should understand that with your pepper company."
"I sold my shares back to my family. Remember? I did that for you when we moved to Hawaii," John responded. "Why can't you keep it simple? You have it good right now."
"I'm just taking a look. No harm in that. Nothing has changed yet. I promise to talk about it when I get back and not make any decisions until we do so," Marty said in an attempt to appease John's fears, yet something – some yearning – was tugging at her to go. To explore. Just then, she heard Little Jackie's voice. He hobbled along the deck and giggled the words, "Mommy, Mommy." When he reached Marty, she picked him up and hugged him. Monique followed in tow with a cup of coffee in one hand and the coffee pot in the other.
John closed the book, eased it on the table, stood up next to his second family and said, "Good morning, buddy" while smiling at Monique. John picked up Little Jackie and bubbled his lips at his son. Little Jackie giggled in delight.
Several days later, back in town between making final travel arrangements and purchasing necessary goods, like a few new outfits, Marty stopped by The Pearl to check in. The store was moderately busy. All was good, except for when the store manager told Marty that a Paul Cooz had been in to see her. Cooz had said that it was urgent that he speak with her. Marty did not welcome the news. Why is it when you are beginning to steer in one direction, someone comes along pulling you in the other? she thought. Why was this Paul Cooz pecking at her? What happened in California with the chef killings was all settled. And she wanted to be rid of any connections to that part of her past. But how could she be with John's ex-wife, the mother of his children, still in prison for murder? And although Fat Freddie and Christina, John's children, were discreet when speaking of their mother, Marty knew what they were inferring.
As Marty left The Pearl to make her way over to her restaurant, Paul Cooz stepped up beside her and said, "Ms. Kittering."
Marty stopped in her tracks. "First of all, it's Kittering-Abruzzo. Mrs. Kittering-Abruzzo. And secondly, what is this all about? I'm terribly busy at the moment."
"You are good," Cooz said almost reluctantly, sensing that Marty must have truly lost part of her memory in that car accident by the way she was looking at him, barely acknowledging who he was. He didn't even detect any fear from her, only annoyance. He had found proof, though, that she had killed her baking professor (and the others?) with arsenic. Several nights ago he had broken into The Pearl and found the receipt for rat poison and the recipe for peach scones. Yet was she still that same person today as when she committed premeditated murder – not once, but possibly several times? She sure had motive, means and opportunity.
"So were you the one that broke into The Pearl the other night? We had to get the alarm system repaired. I'm not a lawyer-type person, but if you prefer?" Marty said.
Cooz was unfazed by the threat, but he started to feel a sense of remorse. Was it that he was intoxicated by Marty's beauty, her scent or the combination of the woman and being on a tropical island, inundated by even more beauty? Whatever it was, he changed tack, gave his apologies and walked off in the opposite direction. Marty continued on with much on her mind. She was excited about her trip, thinking she needed to brush up on her French. Yet the buried bones of the not-too-distant past had surfaced.
Marty looked sharp with her shoulder-length, raven-colored hair, warm, glowing tan and the steel-blue linen outfit, which impeccably matched her clear blue sparkling eyes. She flew first class on Bon Vi Airlines via JFK out of Honolulu. The flight from JFK to Nice, France, was direct. In total, the trip would take a full day of travel time, so she brought with her in her carry-on bag a cream plush jog set so she could be comfortable and also purchased the seat next to her. The stewardess, an attractive, thin, young Parisian woman named Giselle with long chestnut hair, which she kept in a braid, was very attentive to all of Marty's needs. Marty, in turn, gave her a small bottle of her perfume as a gratuity. Giselle was truly gracious and thankful.
"This is so wonderful. Thank you so much, Mrs. Kittering-Abruzzo," the stewardess said with a blushed face.
"You can call me Marty. And you are very welcome. It's my own brand. I actually made it myself. It's called Dominika," Marty continued as the stewardess opened the fine blue linen box and the bottle to take a sniff of the scent.
"It's so wonderful. I don't know how to thank you," she said.
"You already have, Giselle, with your attention," Marty replied. But what Marty didn't realize is that the stewardess interpreted the gift as a pass, and this excited Giselle to the point where she had to take a private moment in the restroom to masturbate.
After a meal of cod with lemon sauce, parsleyed potatoes and a small summer salad of greens, roasted beets and goat cheese, a small strawberry tart and a glass of French Chablis, Marty decided to take a nap. It was easy, since there was no sunlight. Giselle brought Marty a blanket and two pillows for her comfort, wishing she could bed down with Marty, noticing especially how the tanned flesh of her breast glistened in the overhead light. Giselle was captivated by Marty as she helped tuck her in while stealing a waft of her scent.
Marty dreamed of Dominika. Although she had only spent a few brief moments with her those dozen years ago, the imprint Dominika made on Marty was indelible and sublime. Of course, Marty named her premier perfume after her. And from time to time, she would dream of Dominika, dreams that tortured her mind with desire.
Marty tossed about as she dreamed of being strung up while Dominika, her torturer, whipped her exposed buttocks till the flesh was raw. She then felt the handle of the whip press against her vagina and Dominika's warm breath against the side of her face as she tormented Marty into submission. And submission it was, for it was the first time Marty climaxed by the actions of another woman. Marty was dominated. She moaned in her sleep. Waking abruptly, she realized her vagina was soaking wet. All the while, Giselle watched Marty from her station lustfully.
Marty could feel the wetness of her pussy without even touching it. She felt embarrassed and knew she had to change her clothing. What to do? She thought and called Giselle for a bottled water. Giselle brought her the water. She drank a few sips and then intentionally spilled the water on her lap. Marty quietly called out again for Giselle, who immediately came to Marty's side. "I'm so clumsy," Marty said softly, almost seductively. "I spilt the water on myself."
"No problem. I will take care of it, Marty," Giselle said and retrieved a cloth towel as Marty peeled back the blanket from her body. Her sexual scent permeated the air. Marty stood up as Giselle stepped towards her, and began to rub Marty's wet pants by her thigh, brushing up against Marty's pussy. Marty pulled back and said angrily, "What are you doing?"
"I thought..." Giselle said quietly so as not to disturb the other sleeping travelers.
"You thought what?" Marty questioned her and stepped towards the restroom with her carry-on bag, leaving Giselle, who was thoroughly embarrassed, to clean up the mess Marty had made.
Marty arrived in Nice to an unanticipated thunderstorm that lasted throughout the day. It was early June, and she expected Nice to be in its off-season, when tourists from the north seek the warm golden beaches of the Cote d'Azur. The town was bustling with activity and tents were being set up along the waterfront, despite the downpour. The cab carrying Marty pulled up to Le Grande Palais Hotel underneath the overhang. She stepped inside the lobby with a valet and her Armand luggage following. The five-star hotel’s accommodations were impeccable. And with Vivaldi playing softly in the background, Marty quickly forgot about the rain.
The concierge, a tall, fit, dark-haired man with a thin beard, outfitted in a blue hotel uniform piped in gold, welcomed Marty. "Bienvenue a Le Grand Palais."
"Merci," Marty replied.
"Comment a ete ton voyage?" the concierge asked.
"Good, thank you," Marty replied.
The concierge continued, "What is your name? I'll check your reservations for you."
"Martha Kittering-Abruzzo," she replied.
"Yes, we have you for four days. Are you here for the Goliathman Competition?" the concierge asked.
Marty let out a small chuckle. "No, here on business. Restaurants," not wanting to make her intentions known yet. Best to be a little cautious, especially with the concierge networking world.
"So, you must be here for the Vatel Toque Awards?" the concierge continued.
"No, but that sounds interesting," Marty said.
"It's a very tight affair, but I think I can manage a ticket." The concierge looked at Marty with wider eyes and a smile, prompting Marty for a gratuity.
"Yes, of course. That would be fantastic," Marty said while she shuffled through her money purse.
The concierge opened a drawer at his stand, pulled out an envelope, looked at the invitation for the award ceremony and handed it to Marty. "Here we go."
Marty, in turn, coolly handed the concierge three crisp new one-hundred-dollar bills. "I'm sorry, I didn't quite get your name," Marty said.
The concierge nodded and said, "Ben. I prefer Ben."
Marty smiled and said, "Merci beaucoup, Ben."
The following morning, Marty took breakfast at a local cafe along the water. It was pleasant out, sunny with a slight cool breeze, a remnant from the previous day's storm. She was seated by a young, blonde-haired waitress, who was cute and friendly. Marty looked around. She happened to be the early bird. The waitress handed Marty a short breakfast menu. Marty requested a café, and the waitress sauntered off.
As Marty sat quietly, she took in several breaths of the sea air. It was different from Hawaii, a little briny and sweet at the same time, with a wash of minerals. She remembered taking a drive to Nice many years ago when she visited her grandparents. What lingered in her mind was coconut suntan lotion, cigarettes and wine. Lots and lots of wine. The waitress came back with her café and Marty ordered a pain au chocolat. She wasn't that hungry, especially after eating the large Nicoise salad the previous night in her bedroom suite that overlooked the sea. She was so mesmerized by the view. It was truly like a Cezanne painting with palette variations of blue that ranged from a sapphire to a pantone to a baby blue. She then drifted for a moment, calmed by the low hum of a couple that walked along the beach in quiet conversation.
Marty peered into her coffee. It was the color of Pinot, black, and it smelled strong. She slipped in a dash of double cream that had the hue of daybreak yellow, took a sip and was highly delighted. The waitress brought over her pastry, topped off Marty's café and stepped towards several tourists who were waiting to be seated. Marty broke open the pain au choloat and took in the aroma. What would life be without butter? she mused. There was an assortment of jams on the table. Marty spread some orange marmalade onto the pastry. Like gilding the lily, but Marty didn't care. That's what she was there for. Opulence – and she was going to cater to that with her perfumes.
Marty did her homework. The French Riviera had more billionaires per capita than anywhere in the world. But setting up shop would not come without cost. Rents would be hefty, and that didn't include the extra expense of tenant improvements, let alone the local fees, taxes and add-ons. Rent first, she speculated, and then buy a storefront. Why have someone else's monster on your back? The waitress came back to the table, placed the check down, smiled and walked way. Marty laughed to herself since the waitress had not said one word to her. But that didn't matter. Marty paid the check and left a tip five times the total.
She took a quick stroll along the beach after her light breakfast and then walked along the local streets to get a flavor of Nice. There seemed to be many athletically fit people walking about and lots of racing bikes. She realized this was because of the Goliathman Competition. She observed the interaction between the tourists and the local businesspeople the best she could. Although it was technically the off-season, there appeared plenty of commerce to be had, considering the influx of people for the competition and, of course, the Vatel Toque Awards ceremony to be held later that night.
Marty was excited by all the various boutiques and little shops that offered everything from olives to gloves to herbs, such as lavender and herbes de Provence, to a variety of pastry shops, a chocolatier and a boutique de bonbons. But she was much more interested in the perfumeries. There was one in particular that caught her eye. A small shop, but beautifully and simply decorated. Their emphasis was on custom perfume, designed to suit any customer willing to pay for the extravagance. It was by appointment only, so Marty passed for the moment. She continued on her little journey through Nice.
There were the more internationally recognized stores such as Nathan Broussard, which made finely crafted handbags, shoes and assorted accessories that you would find in Milan, Paris, New York and San Francisco. Then, of course, there were the shoe stores from Italy, Bugaccio and Panelli and the one store Marty liked the most, Fa Fa's, where she stopped in to purchase two pairs of shoes, one dress and one casual. There were plenty of clothing stores, but Marty avoided them in fear she would turn her trip to Nice into a shopping spree.
Marty really couldn't resist the food places like the one that offered pasta and ravioli. One particular establishment, a charcuterie, had beautiful sausages and dried cured meats from all over Europe. A glacier had homemade gelatos, frozen creams and sorbets. Marty did stop there, even though it wasn't even lunchtime, to try the gooseberry Chenin Blanc sorbet. Where else in the world could you get such creations in one location? she panted. As she savored what felt like she was eating the berry right off the bush, she gestured to the young woman behind the counter and said, "It's so fresh." The woman gave a genuine smile and nod in return.
There was plenty more for Marty to take in. She could only imagine the hustle and bustle of commerce during the tourist season, especially with all the beachwear and sport-related stores. The best way to gauge how things actually are is not just through observation, but conversing with the local businesspeople. Perhaps tomorrow, she thought, she would put on her business face and tackle the city. Maybe even make a visit to the local chambre de commerce.
Marty did make one more stop at a cheesery called C'est Fromage, where she brought back to the hotel enough to hold her over till the evening when there would be plenty of food at the Valet Toque Awards. It was just too tempting not to try some of the local olives, tapenade, Camembert and sausages. She also grabbed a baguette and a bottle of Provencal rosé just for good measure.
After the snack she prepared for herself and a glass and a half of the wine, Marty, content, took a little catnap. When she woke, she felt good and rested, but still a bit hungry, so she nibbled on the bread and downed a bottled water to stave off the pangs. She stepped out on the balcony and breathed in the sea air. It was nice. It was still light out, and Marty decided to call John. They spoke for twenty minutes, exchanged updates, and all was well. She told him that she would call in the morning, his time. After they said their goodbyes and expressed their love, John put the phone up to Little Jackie’s ear. Marty said, "It's Mommy, Jackie." He giggled and asked when she was coming home. Marty blew a few kisses through the phone and said, "I miss you." She eventually hung up after a little more mommy talk.
Marty arrived via a brief cab ride to a destination overlooking Nice known as La Colline du Chateau, locally referred to as the castle, where the Vatel Toque Awards were being held. Spread over several hectares, the grounds of the castle were an expanse of lush greenery, paths, structures and even a waterfall with spectacular views of the sea and the town below. Marty waited in the parking lot next to a sign that read: Wait for the choo choo train to be escorted to the Vatel Toque Awards...Merci! A mock train that looked like something you would see at a theme park, with six passenger cars, pulled up to the sign. There was one passenger, a woman in a black and white formalwear, who stepped off the train and approached Marty. She was checking invitations. Marty was told she was the first guest to arrive.
It was dusk. Marty was dressed in a coral silk satin couture dress that went down to her calves. It was a sleeveless, v-neck with spaghetti straps and a slit on the left leg. She also wore her new Fa Fa's pumps in a darker shade of coral, and a matching handbag. As a guest at the hotel, a Londoner, remarked to her husband upon observing Marty all dressed up, "What a resplendent looking woman."
They waited five minutes. As the train departed, a man in a Peugeot came barreling into the parking lot blowing his horn. He came to a screeching halt, got out of his car and began yelling, "Attendez, attendez, s'il vous plait!" The man, short, balding and round, in a black tuxedo, ran towards the train. It stopped. The man hopped on, a bit out of breath, incessantly saying, "Merci, merci, merci." He handed the woman in formalwear his invitation and then sat down right next to Marty, squeezing her against the side of the car. The man, huffing, patted the sweat off his face and brow with a tissue. He turned to Marty, said, "Allo" and kissed her on the cheeks three times, right, then left, then right again, actually kissing the air while touching cheek to cheek. Marty had almost forgotten about the custom so common in Southern France.
She smiled and said, "Hello."
The man, his interest piqued, said, "Ah, Américain!"
"Yes," Marty said.
"Beautiful. Absolument. What are you doing here alone?" he asked inquisitively.
Marty smiled and then said, "Nothing at the moment."
"Yes, my advantage. Are you meeting your lover?"
"No, I'm here by myself," Marty responded awkwardly.
"Oh, I see." And as they passed the castle upon the hill, the man pointed to it with enthusiasm and said, "Look, the Colline du Chateau."
The castle was lit up, a pink Baroque structure that spoke of French history.
"It's a little gaudy," Marty said flippantly and realized that it was the style of the era. Seventeenth-century, a time of lots of makeup, wigs and costumes for both men and women. But so, too, was death by guillotine a century later the style of the era.
"Not the finest piece of vanity, although it survived Louis XIV’s fit of rage when he sacked most of the fortress," the man said.
"Don't get me wrong, it's wonderful. I'm so excited to be here," Marty said apologetically, yet with a spark in her eyes. She loved fine cuisine.
They finally arrived at their destination. It was a beautiful grassy area, rectangular in shape, that stretched for several hectares, leading up to a white neoclassical building that had blue, white and red lights beaming onto to the front facade, emblematic of the French flag. A large open-air tent housed the award ceremony, which looked like it would seat less than eighty guests. Smaller tables that seated five were elaborately set up for the formal occasion, complete with candelabras.
Marty walked around for a moment as a contemporary jazz band began to play. At the far end and just outside the tent, Marty observed the goings on in a makeshift yet professional kitchen. There must have been more than a dozen cooks, most of whom looked like seasoned chefs, at various stations, particularly the garde manger area, where at least five cooks were preparing plates of cold appetizers. A kitchen coordinator took the time to describe the components of the plate: stuffed quail eggs on a bed of pickled onions, butterflied shrimp with creamy tarragon dill remoulade, a chevre ball topped with a pine nut biscuit mounted on a tart cherry compote and tuile-shaped, Bayonne-ham wrapped sun-dried fragrant pears.
What caught Marty's eye were the smaller plates of tomato essence gelle encasing a variety of tomato seed segments, fresh dill, tarragon, basil, garlic and dill flower buds topped with some shreds of mozzarella. A variety of sliced heirloom tomatoes and droplets of reduced white balsamic vinegar and olive oil and a quenelle of tomato essence sorbet finished the dish. Marty was thrilled, thanked the coordinator, then walked back towards the front, near where the award presentations were to be held, and took a seat.
On the table at each place setting was a menu scripted in gold. It consisted of appetizers, salad, entree and desserts, which Marty felt was tastefully done. A female server stopped by the table carrying a bottle of wine and asked Marty if she would like a glass of red – a Chateau Perdue. "Yes, indeed," Marty said with a gleaming smile. She swirled the glass, caught a quick waft and then sipped. It was deep in tannins – wooly and bold with black cherry and licorice notes that floated on her tongue. "Wow," she mused, "this is stellar." Slowly and continuously the guests arrived, and the chatter increased as the wine flowed like water.
The first guests to sit at Marty's table were a couple. The man was in his early 40s, tall, thin, with curly, dirty blond hair that fell past his shoulders. He was dressed in a white tuxedo a là the 1960s. The woman, who was tall and pretty, was younger by fifteen years. She had platinum blonde hair and wore a black satin dress and black pumps. The man sat next to Marty, and all were immediately poured wine by the waitress. The man raised his glass in a toast to Marty and then consumed the wine with fervor. He quickly called the waitress over and had her leave the bottle of wine and requested another bottle. He looked over at Marty and said in French, "Why wait for the wine?"
Marty said in her native tongue, "I agree."
The man said, "American, hah?"
Marty coyly responded, “French?"
"Funny. I'm Didier Gaston. Chef Didier," he said and then gestured towards his date. "And this is my lover, Janine Remy." Marty stuck her arm across the table towards the woman and then paused.
"Are you any relation to Martin Remy?" Marty asked.
"He was my great uncle," Janine said and stared Marty in the eyes. "Is that you, Marty?"
Marty laughed, " Janine, oh my god." They both got up out of their seats, hugged and kissed each other, smiling in disbelief.
Didier shook his head and laughed, "In all the gin joints." And then drank some more wine.
Janine said approvingly as she gazed upon Marty, "You look great." And then said to Didier, "She's my third cousin. My grandfather and her grandfather were brothers."
"What do they say? It's a small world," Didier remarked.
Marty and Janine took their seats. Marty stuck out her hand at Didier and said, "I'm Marty Kittering-Abruzzo."
"Nice to meet you, cuz," Didier said coyly.
Marty smiled at Janine and said, "You're so beautiful. When was the last time we saw each other?"
"When you came to Provence twenty years ago," Janine replied.
"I can't believe it," Marty smiled as if had she smoked some marijuana and begun to feel the effects.
The cold and hot appetizers were served and eaten with much enjoyment, particularly the brie and black truffle in puff pastry. All were accompanied by Champagne. Not long after, another couple arrived at the table to take the two other seats. Lorraine Lacroix, a tall buxom woman in her early 30s with long flowing auburn hair, wearing a very tight-fitting blackish-maroon knit dress and black stiletto pumps, held the hand of Sookie, a more diminutive Japanese-French woman in her mid-20s with shaggy black hair and black almond eyes. She wore a jade-green strapless silk dress, green Candies sandals and had a Japanese love character tattooed on her upper back.
As soon as they took their seat, Didier took notice of them, rolled his eyes and said underneath his breath, "Great." Lorraine introduced herself to Marty and Janine, shook their hands and nodded at Didier. She then introduced Sookie. "This is Sookie."
Didier leaned into Marty's ear and said, "The lover."
Sookie quipped, "Merde!" And then politely smiled at Janine and Marty.
Lorraine said nonchalantly, "Yes, the lover."
"Tell them, tell them," Sookie proudly moaned.
"What – that I am the chef/owner of the Blue Soul Restaurant and that's why we are here? I may be getting an award." Janine and Marty were both intrigued.
"Huh," Didier sighed. "More like soulless," he mocked, making quotation marks with his fingers.
"And what, you just happen to put bubbles on your food, and you are famous?" Sookie whined at Didier.
"Those bubbles are extractions of essence revolving in a world of complement to the dish." He looked at Marty while using his hands, fingertips and eyes to explain his creative genius. "I take an emulsion of fresh garlic, thyme and parsley and make a foam, which I nape over a lovely seared sea bass, for instance. It elevates your palette to another world. It's ethereal." Marty nodded her head as she appreciated the methodology. "Bouchon cooking is good when you're in Lyon," Didier continued.
Sookie waved him away, "Ah."
"Ratatouille and roasted lamb are what you get at your grandmother's," Didier said emphatically. "And how much goose fat can a person eat?" he asked rhetorically. Sookie just looked upward and shook her head in disapproval.
The dinner portion of the evening continued with a bisque of crab and morels garnished with a crab claw; then a mache and endive salad tossed with a chervil vinaigrette; and then onto the main course, a saddle of lamb glazed with a port demi-glace accompanied with a fig shallot relish served along with a spinach souffle, a minted herb couscous with dried apricots and almonds, and three turned carrots with a sprig of thyme and a stem of fresh currants as a garnish. And as the wine consumption became extraordinary, the hubris became more pronounced, and the tongues became looser while the jazz played coolly. Then Lorraine inadvertently dropped her napkin and bent over to pick it up. While she did, her backside became exposed. Didier took notice and stuck his tongue between his index and middle fingers as he looked Sookie in the eyes.
She whispered back, "Cochon." Didier just smiled.
After the dessert of raspberry mille-feuille with crème anglaise, dotted with nectarine coulis, inside a chocolate oak leaf cup and two mini-chocolate Bénédictine truffles rolled in gold leaf dust, the music slowed to a halt and the man Marty shared a ride earlier on the choo choo train took the podium. Several guests clapped in applause. "Hello, I am Master Chef Daniel Minot."