Shannon here: Pat Jeanne Davis shares her romantic short story, a recipe for Chicken Curry, & a chance to win an autographed copy of her debut historical romance, When Valleys Bloom Again. U.S. only. Deadline: Nov 23rd, 11:59 pm central time. Here’s Pat:
To The Rescue – A Short Story by Pat Jeanne Davis:
Laura closed the door behind the delivery man and stared at the flat-packed three-drawer unit. She doubted she’d be able to even get the furniture out of the box. It’d taken forever to find a piece online for that corner under the stairs, and she’d been thrilled when she discovered this. Now she realized she’d been so intent on checking the dimensions on the company’s website that she’d missed the words, “Some assembly required.” In this case, much assembly required.
Her husband always said this kind of task was his work and had nothing to do with her. She could hear Paul’s voice inside her head. “How do you think you’re going to put that together?” He never came right out and told her that she was helpless, but he certainly didn’t instil her with confidence.
According to Paul, her job was to learn to cook. But even when she’d slowly and carefully followed a new recipe—thinking her life depended on it—she felt as if she was diving into shark-infested waters. Would she ever enjoy cooking? Not that it mattered any more. When he bailed out of their marriage, he’d effectively dumped everything on her shoulders. She winced and attempted to force the painful memories from her mind.
Laura twisted her long hair in her fingers trying to figure out the return directions—obviously written to keep returns to a minimum—when she jumped. It sounded like someone was trying to knock the door down.
Her new neighbor’s hammering carried through the thin wall that separated them. Could she ask Josh to make sense of the instructions? Who knows, maybe he’d turn out to be a DIY enthusiast. He seemed friendly when he introduced himself after moving in a month ago, even offering to mow the grass on their adjoining back lawn.
When the hammering stopped, she went around and rang his doorbell.
It’s unlocked.” His voice came from somewhere in the back.
She turned the handle and stepped inside. “Josh?”
“Keep walking,” he shouted.
Laura entered the kitchen. “I heard the hammering and . . .” She gasped. Josh held the weight of a cupboard on his shoulders as it hung off the wall.
His warm brown eyes pleaded for help. “I don’t know what I’d have done if you hadn’t heard me holler.”
“But . . .” Laura started to remove the contents that threatened to spill onto the floor. Then she took some of the cabinet’s weight from him and stared in astonishment at the gaping holes in the plaster where the fixings had been. “Talk about poor workmanship.”
“You don’t say.”
The instructions for installation fell from the back of the cabinet. A sheepish grin spread across his face as they lowered the empty cupboard onto the floor.
“I don’t know much about DIY, but something this heavy needs plugs in the wall before you put the screws in.” Laura turned to face him, frowning. “Who put this up?”
He blushed. “It seems I know even less about installing cabinets than you.”
It dawned on her that Josh probably didn’t know those directions were there for him to follow.
He wiped his forehead with the back of his hand and chuckled. “Where do I get those plug things anyway?”
“They would’ve been with the screws that came with this cupboard.” She bit back a smile, certain he wasn’t going to be much help in putting her unit together. There was only one person who was going to do it. That was her. But she’d need assistance in moving the piece into that tight spot.
Josh shifted his feet. “I’d like to do something in return for coming to my rescue.”
She met his gaze. “Er, can you help me move furniture?”
He gave a hearty laugh, revealing beautiful white teeth. “You still trust me?”
Laura laughed along. “Those strong arms of yours will do nicely.”
“Just let me know when you want me.”
She took in his strong jaw and tousled dark hair and her heartbeat picked up. “Thank you. I’ll come round next week when the piece is ready.”
During the week, Laura pulled out the assembling instructions and took a deep breath. Then as though following a dreaded new recipe, she slowly and carefully read the directions and realized only the tools and materials were different. She found pliers and a screwdriver and before long she was looking at a usable unit. She’d done it. Her piece looked every bit as good as it had on the company’s website. She could come to enjoy assembling furniture.
Her confidence boosted by this new found skill, Laura went over to Josh’s house with the plugs he’d need.
When he opened the door, the aroma of herbs and spices mingling together filled the air. She smiled. “Sorry if I’m interrupting your meal.” She handed him the plugs.
He winked. “Have dinner with me.” His eyes fixed on hers.“It’s the least I can do.”
She studied his intent expression. “Sounds good.” Her casual tone masked the excitement she felt in anticipation of spending the evening with him.
“You cook?” she said, breathing in the scent of turmeric, cumin, ginger and cloves.
“Yep. Mom had a restaurant and taught me all I know. Do you like chicken curry?”
“One of my favorite meals.” She laughed. “Tell you what. You show me how to make that curry dish, and I’ll help you put up that cabinet of yours.”
He grinned. “It’s a deal. But only after we move your unit into place.”
Later, they sat on his deck under a starry sky and talked for hours. For someone who thought she’d never fall in love again, Laura felt herself being won over by Josh. Of course, his cooking had also found a way into her heart. After this evening, her side of their party wall would be a lonely place.
First Appeared in Splickety Magazine
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp fennel seeds, crushed in a small bag
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp ground mustard
1/4 tsp ground cloves
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped (1 cup)
4 garlic cloves, minced (1 1/2 Tbsp)
1 Tbsp peeled and minced fresh ginger
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
3/4 cup drained canned diced tomatoes or peeled, seeded, diced fresh tomatoes
Cayenne pepper, to taste
1 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, diced into 1 1/4-inch cubes
1 tsp cornstarch mixed with 2 tsp water (optional)
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
In a small mixing bowl whisk together all of the spices in the spice blend, set aside.
Heat olive oil in a 12-inch non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.
Add in onion and saute until slightly golden brown, about 4 – 6 minutes.
Add in garlic and ginger, saute 30 seconds more then add in spice blend and saute 30 seconds.
Pour in chicken broth and tomatoes and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer 5 minutes.
Pour mixture into a blender then cover with lid and remove lid insert, cover opening with a clean folded kitchen towel.
Blend mixture until well pureed and smooth then return to skillet and heat skillet over medium-high heat.
Season sauce with salt and cayenne pepper (start with about 1/2 tsp salt and a few dashes cayenne then add more to taste) then add in chicken.
Bring to a simmer then reduce heat to medium-low, cover skillet with lid and simmer until chicken has cooked through, stirring occasionally, about 8 – 12 minutes.
During the last minute of cooking stir in the cornstarch and water slurry if desired, to thicken sauce slightly (or if needed thin with a little chicken broth).
Stir in cream then serve warm with cilantro over basmati rice.
About Pat: Pat Jeanne Davis lives in Philadelphia, Pa with her British-born husband, John. They have two grown sons. She enjoys flower gardening, genealogy research and traveling with her husband. Pat has published essays, short stories and articles online and in print. She has a keen interest in twentieth-century American and British history, particularly the period of World War II. Pat’s father-in-law served in the British Eighth Army during the war. When Valleys Bloom Again is her debut historical romance set in that era. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers and the Historical Novel Society. Pat loves to hear from her readers. Subscribe to her newsletter at Pat’s Website. Learn more and connect:
About the book – When Valleys Bloom Again:
A Wartime Romance Set On Two Continents
As war approaches in 1939 Abby Stapleton’s safety is under threat. Her father, a British diplomat, insists she go back to America until the danger passes. Abby vows to return to her home in London—but where is home? With her family facing mortal danger so far away and feeling herself isolated, she finds it hard to pray or read the Bible. Did she leave God behind in war-torn London too? Abby becomes friendly with Jim, a gardener on her uncle’s estate.
Jim can’t get Abby out of his mind. Did she have a sweetheart in England? Was it foolish to think she’d consider him? He curses his poverty and the disgrace of his father’s desertion and drunkenness haunts him. Can he learn to believe in love for a lifetime and to hope for a happy marriage?
Abby couldn’t know the war would last a long time, nor that she would fall in love with Jim—soon to be drafted by the U.S. Army—or that she’d have to confront Henri, a rejected suitor, determined by his lies to ruin her reputation and destroy her faith in God’s providence. Will she discover the true meaning of home and find happiness with Jim?
Can’t wait for the drawing or worried you won’t win? Get your copy now!
Question for Readers: Do you enjoy preparing a family meal with someone else during the holidays or would you rather do this by yourself?
Come back Nov 15th for Linda Shenton Matchett!