The Best Breakfast You'll Ever Have
AKA "The Hare-Brain and The Bookworm"
I pry apart a blurry crusted eye.
The entire room is sideways and out of focus. A thin layer of sleep coats my eyes and I peer through the film at the snoring man beside me. Black tentacles of hair spread out over the white pillow and grasp towards the bed beneath. His mouth, usually open with laughter or boisterous speech, opens and closes with the rise and fall of his chest. The sound in the room is thunderous. The stuff of nightmares. The kind of sound that would make you freeze at the start of a dark hall and then scurry back into your room towards the light-and it's coming from his throat.
I elbow him in the ribs. The sound turns into a grunt, a long snort and then ceases.
“Wha--” confused hazel eyes blink open rapidly and his head turns. His eyes skewer me and pin me to the bed with a scrutinizing look. “What is it?” The tentacle haired, monstrous sounding man beside me asks. He sits up blinking and stretches his arms to the ceiling.
It takes everything in me to part my very dry lips. I'm parched and drained.
It was my fault for staying up at all hours of the night, feasting on a banquet of words, as I turned soft pages between my fingertips, and strained my eyes by the light of the TV. I had kept this up all night until I had gloriously gorged myself and had my fill- at 4:00 a.m.
“Breakfast.” I choke out the word. I sound like a croaking dying woman.
He stares at me and then his eyes slowly fill with acknowledgement as he takes in my crazy hair, my red eyes, and my parched dry lips.
“Up reading again huh?” He asks. There's humor there but also accusation. He sighs and his eyes wrests away from my sleep smacked face to take refuge among the pictures on the walls. Pictures of me when I looked like a real human being.
I wasn’t unaware of how I looked.
I'm not one of those girls who can stay up all night and look flawless in the morning. There were probably bags under my eyes, my lips chapped, and hair that could rival medusa. I could probably turn men to stone too, if not simply from the straight up shock at the haggard sight I made.
I don't answer, I didn’t need to, we both know the answer to his question.
Neither of us can say why I'm always driven to make such bad decisions in my life.
I blame it on my love of the thrill perhaps, of living life balanced on the edge of propriety and completely unacceptable social behavior, but mostly it's my love of books.
It's perfectly normal for someone to grab a novel, curl up with a glass of wine, and read for a good hour or two. They’d stretch, then bookmark or, dare I even say it, ear mark their page (and for those of you who do this I say you are even more daring than I), and then they’d place their book down lovingly on the coffee table and walk away.
How I wish I was one of the normal people. Perhaps then I’d wake up looking refreshed and beautiful. Instead of wraith-like and rundown. Am I exaggerating? Possibly, but not probably.
Unlike a normal person, when I grab a novel and curl up with a glass of wine, hours pass. I’m 300 pages into a daring quest to save a fantasy world, I’m a stolen princess captured by a cruel king, I’m stowing away on a private ship bound for uncharted waters, and i’m dreadfully soul-stirringly tired when I manage to unfurl my stiff bones who knows how long after.
Most of the time I feel a sense of contentment at finding out how my journey ends. Sometimes I feel weepy from either joy or despair, depending on how things unfold along the way. Thankfully most authors aren’t in the habit of killing off their protagonist, so I usually live to see another day.
But none of the feelings compare to the very real ache in my belly as I open my mouth to once again wheeze out a harsh, grating, sound that I hope resembles a word.
My hand snakes out from under my shelter of blankets and it slithers like a python towards the man beside me. My eyes are wide, imploring: please eggs, my precious.
He scrambles up away from me and I’m too tired to contort my features to reflect the hurt I feel. I knew I looked terrible but frightening?
He stands and chuckles nervously, all wringing hands and large shifty eyes. Anything to not look at the dried out skin sack of bones with the wide eyes and grasping hands. “Uh eggs?”
My mouth salivates at the thought of the warm, buttery, scrambled pieces of chicken embryo flaking apart against my tongue. My eyes shine with desire. A long thin tongue snakes out of my mouth and I lick my lips.
“Yess,” the word comes out a hiss. It stands stuck in the silence between us and both of us are frozen by the way the word crawls from my parted lips.
He’s nervous now. I can tell by the way his eyes slide along the floor, the walls, the ceiling, anywhere but my face, and towards the door. “Right then,” he says and nods once. He begins throwing on clothes haphazardly. Thunks and muttered curses rising up from where he lumbers about the room wrestling with socks and zippers. He glares at the corner of the dresser and rubs his smarting shin.
Dressed and no longer in pain, he slowly shuffles toward me and closes his eyes. He drops his head quickly to place a light feathered kiss on my forehead. I think I purr, or maybe growl, in contentment and he’s backtracking quickly and scurrying for the door. “Be back soon.” He says. Another hiss in agreement is his only answer and then the door closes and I'm alone.
My weary eyeball rotates in my skull and focuses on the clock on the nightstand. 9:00 a.m. I figure he’ll be back in a few minutes so my eyelids flutter down, like shutters over the bloodshot windows of my soul, and within moments I’m fast asleep.
I awaken momentarily. Blinking disoriented eyes as I try to focus my gaze. A second ago I was racing for my life against a poacher in a jungle. But now I'm in my bedroom, sprawled under the blanket, a tangle of limbs and messy hair. The clock on my nightstand says 11:30. I sniff and glance around the room but no sign or scent of breakfast assaults my senses. On weak limbs I slide across the bed until I’m able to reach my phone on the nightstand.
‘Breakfast?’ I type. I wait a few moments and then through the hunger pains in my stomach I remember where my priorities should lie. ‘Are you okay?’
I lay back against the pillows staring at the phone in my hand as my eyes slowly drift close. I force them open even as my heart starts thumping wildly in my chest trying desperately to dope me with adrenaline, but even that is a losing battle, and the phone slides from my fingertips as I surrender to the friend I see oh so rarely, sleep.
I’m shaken awake suddenly. I feel like a rag doll. My shoulders are wrenched back and forth and my head flops side to side.
“What the hell.” My voice comes out harsh, stilted. And my eyes snap open. I glare at the smiling face before me.
He’s standing there hand on my shoulder and a package tucked under his arm.
“Hey, you will not believe what happened.” His voice is exhausted, thrilled, rushed, like someone who couldn’t get the words out fast enough, they burst out his mouth like water from the bathroom faucet.
I shrug out of his grip and hunch over. My spine curls over itself as I pulls my knees up to my chest and wrap them in my arms. I eye the suspicious brown package under his arm ravenously. I resist the urge to lick my lips and instead tuck a curl behind my ear and sniff primly.
“Yes, what is it?” My voice has lost the scary Gollum-like quality it had before and I undoubtedly look better. The look in his eyes says he’s relieved.
“I was on the way to get you breakfast. When I got there I realized I had left my wallet. So I started to trek home, you know. But on the way back home I realized I had left my house key on the counter of the shop, so I had to go back. Well anyway by the time I walked back to get my house key and then headed back home it was too late and they had stopped serving breakfast.” He pauses here and takes a long deep replenishing breath. Sometime during his ramblings he's taken to pacing the room. I watch with curious wide eyes (that rebelliously kept sliding to the breakfast I knew was tucked so preciously under his arm).
He shakes his head and smiles brightly at me. “So anyway I had to find somewhere else to go. And so there I was, waiting at the crosswalk when an old woman turns to me and asks why I look so frustrated. I told her the story and you will not believe what happened!” He pauses, presumably for dramatic effect this time. His voice has progressively risen, his grin widening, and he's talking and gesturing with his hand wildly. “I shit you not, this lady reached into her bag and pulled out this package and said it's the best breakfast you’ll ever have. It only cost me $20.”
He's finally finished now, beaming smugly. He thrusts the package out in front of him like it's a diamond engagement ring and I half expect him to drop to a knee with a flourish. I eye it wearily as my stomach spasms with hunger.
“So let me get this straight, you got this mysterious package from a woman at a bus stop for $20. And you expect me to eat it?”
The smile on his face withers at my tone. He shifts his weight to the back of his heels. “Well I mean when you put it like that..she looked like such a nice woman.” He insists.
I sigh, at this point I'm nearly hungry enough to eat the box it came in. At least inside there's a promise of something edible. I hold out my hand. “Alright let’s see.”
He hands it over, lips thinning as the smile creeps back up his face.
I hold the tiny package in my hand wearily. I shake it but it's light. I hold it to my ear. There's no ticking.
We are both holding our breaths now as I pull back the brown masking paper. Underneath is a small brown paper box. We glance at each other, the moment of truth, my hunger is a distant rumbling in my stomach as my curiosity rises to the forefront.
I suck in a deep breath and then rip the top off the box in a quick flurry of motion.
Eyes drop to the contents of the box and mouths drop open.
I feel the tell-tale sign of tears forming behind my eyes.
My hands curl around the item in the box and I lift it up.
Thick, dense, and square, the cookbook’s shiny cover seemed to mock me.
‘The Best Breakfast You’ll Ever Have’.