TV celebrity chef and cookbook author Adam de Leon walked away from his lover when Jason's drug addiction spiraled out of control. Adam also abandoned his renowned restaurant in San Francisco to start a small bistro in the Sierra Foothills.
Five years later Adam is battling the conservative leaders of Stone Acres, California, to open a new restaurant in the historic Old Town area when Jason turns up on his doorstep -- a recovered Jason, now going by the name David and claiming he's overcome his addictions. What's more, he begs Adam to take him back and says he's ready for their happily ever after.
Adam has enough on his plate with problems plaguing the opening of his restaurant. Now he's having a hard time deciding which to follow -- his head or his heart.
"I came by to see how you were. I'm up at Tahoe, helping out Donnie Ray. He's supposed to be catering a celebrity wedding." Jason wasn't bragging, just shooting the shit like we'd done when we were in the Bay Area, as if we'd been doing it all along. He waited for me to comment about him working for my replacement on the celebrity-chef circuit, but I wasn't going there. He could tell me why he was here and then walk away as far as I was concerned.
"I also wanted to give you this." He reached into his pocket and pulled out an envelope. When I didn't take it, he put it on the table. "It's for you, with a list of things you might want to do with it."
Money. It had to be money. He'd taken enough of our cash and sold enough of our shit that he probably thought he owed me. Once upon a time, I would have agreed with him. Not anymore. I finally figured out the money was my tuition for life lessons. I barely graduated from high school, didn't go to college, but went right into a kitchen and worked for a cook whose brother was a chef and never looked back at formal education. The money Pretty Boy had thrown away was the cash I would have spent at the Culinary Institute or some other hotshot school.
I pushed the envelope back. "Keep it. I don't want it. You got anything else you need to say?"
"God, I miss you," he whispered. A fond look shone across his face. I remembered this look only too well. It'd brought me to my knees often enough in the past.
"Yeah, at first I missed you too," I said. "You'll get over it. I did."
He chuckled. "I hope not." He picked up the envelope and put it down closer to me. "Please read this and figure out what you want to do. It's not a whole lot to ask. Then you can tear it all up, okay? But maybe it will change your mind."
He looked around the kitchen. LJ cleaning up and the tap water were the only noises for a few minutes.
"If I make a reservation, will you serve me?" Jason was now staring out the window, not looking at me.
"Sure. Next season. We're closing here." At least it'd give me time to readjust from seeing him again. "If you pay for your meal, you're welcome to eat here."
He winced. "Yeah, I can pay. I have money. Lots of money. I'm thinking about buying a home. I'm ready to settle down. You know, become an adult." He laughed and winced again. "I help people now. I don't ask for much."
His sad eyes suddenly found mine. "I'm sorry. I'm really, really sorry. I know there's nothing I can do to make up for what I put you through. But I want you to know I apologize. From the bottom of my heart."
Well, fuck. His sincerity washed over me as gently as his words. My heart bled for both of our younger selves. We'd been two naïve kids poleaxed by the city and the decadence and the freedom and our youthful sense of invulnerability. It was a wonder neither of us had ended up with serious STDs or even AIDS. We were idiots and gullible and, most of all, lucky.
"Nothing to apologize for," I admitted. "I was as fucking boneheaded as you were. But I loved cooking more than all the rest of the temptations."
He was shaking his head. "No, no. Animals treat each other better than I treated you. I know. I don't ask for forgiveness. I just want you to know --"
He stopped and put his hand over his mouth as if afraid he'd blurt something out.
"Want me to know?"
"Nothing, just ... I'm sorry. So sorry."
He got up, shook himself, and headed for the steps.
"Thanks for stopping by," I told Jason at the door after we'd scaled the stairs.
"I'll be in touch if it's okay." He stood looking like he didn't want to leave. Finally, he shook his head. "I'll be in touch." Then his old charming smile curled around his lips and beamed from his eyes. "I can't wait to eat your food again."