Friday, January 30, 2009

The Beloved Pie

"It’s a what?"

"A Beloved Pie."

Marcie Rannick studied the round, delicious smelling dessert currently occupying the center area on her kitchen table. "Looks like pecan to me."

Aunt Ruth chuckled. "It does have pecans in it, but it also has a secret ingredient."

"What’s that?"

"Well, if I told you it wouldn’t be a secret now, would it?"

Her tall, exquisitely dressed aunt pulled a knife, forks, and two dessert plates out of Marcie’s cabinets and set to dishing out the pie.

A deep, uneasy suspicion twirled inside her as she poked a fork at the dessert in front of her.

Don’t you dare tell me you’re counting calories or something. You’re too dang thin as it is." Aunt Ruth gave her a narrow-eyed glare.

That was debatable, but she knew better than to argue with her mother’s beloved sister. "What’s the catch?"

"Catch? What are you talking about?"

Marcie studied a face that was looking just a little too innocent. "You know exactly what I mean. What are you up to?"

Her aunt sat in one of the chairs and indicated for Marcie to occupy the other. "Can I not bring my favorite niece a pie?"

"I’m your only niece, and absolutely. I love your cooking. I just have a feeling there’s something strange going on."

Aunt Ruth shoved a dish closer to Marcie. "Go on, see if you like it."

Ulterior motive or not, Ruth O’Brian’s cooking was to die for. Marcie took a bite of the confection—and all but did the Meg Ryan café scene. "It’s wonderful!"

"Thank you." Aunt Ruth took a bite of her own slice. A smug grin pulling at her beautiful face.

Marcie at the pie, figuring that her aunt was probably trying to fatten her up or something. She’d stop at one piece, no matter what.

They finished eating the slices, and Marcie quickly put her dish and fork in the sink. "That was wonderful." When she turned, she was surprised to see her aunt putting the remainder of the pie back into the carrying container. Well good, now she wouldn’t have to argue about eating another slice. She could give the rest of the pie to old Mr. Martian down stairs.

But Aunt Ruth took the pie with her as she headed toward the door. Relieved, but wondering what the older woman was up to, Marcie walked her to the door. "Thank you so much, Aunt Ruth."

The older woman’s smile held a touch of mischievousness. "You’ll have to pay me back by inviting me to the wedding."

Well, that explained things. Her aunt had gone over the edge. "Um…I’m not even dating seriously right now. But, of course, if I did decide to get married—"

"The pie will lead you to your future beloved."

"It’ll what?"

Aunt Ruth laughed a musical, happy tune. "It’s a Beloved Pie, I told you. You’ll dream of your beloved tonight, then you’ll meet him within the next twenty-four hours. You’ll be drawn together and move quickly toward marriage." With that she turned and headed out the door.

"But you ate a piece."

This time a grin pulled at her aunt’s face. "If you’re already with your beloved, it just makes things more…well…interesting. Your uncle loves it when I eat a slice. Just can’t eat ‘em very often. We’re not as young as we once were." With that she turned and headed toward her Toyota. "Gotta go, I promised my hairdresser that I’d bring her some.

The little brown car headed down the road, and Marcie stood and watched it go. "How very strange," she muttered, then turned and headed back inside.

***

The next morning Marcie woke with a smile on her face. Vivid dreams had made her night the most interesting one she’d ever had. "Amazing, that power of suggestion thing," she told her image in the bathroom mirror. Then she laughed. She’d dreamed of a man all right, but not a tall, dark, and handsome fellow as she would have thought. This dude was red-headed, and average height. He was good looking, though not classically handsome, but he did have the most amazing blue eyes she’d ever seen on a man. And the things he’d done to her in those dreams—both to her body and to her heart. She felt half in love with this man who wasn’t even real.

"I’m going to get Aunt Ruth back for this," she muttered, as she got into her Lexus and headed to the office where she worked as a psychologist.

She was just getting ready to leave for lunch, when Betty, her secretary, peeked in her office door. "Sorry to bother you, but there’s a man here to see you. I told him he needed an appointment, but he's insisting."

Marcie bit back the frustrated desire to snap at Betty. "Please tell this person that he will need to make—"

A head stuck in the door near where Betty was standing. "I’m really sorry, but I need to see you now. It’ll only take a couple of minutes. I promise."

Marcie felt her back bump the back of her chair as her body went limp. It was HIM, the man from her weird dreams. "Let him in, Betty," she heard herself saying. She seriously wanted to meet this person and try to figure out why she'd dreamed about him in such vivid fashion.

"I’m really sorry to bother you." He took the few steps toward her desk and held out his hand. "I’m Steve Malone."

Her hand moved to shake his, and a visible spark shot from the point of contact. She pulled her hand back and rubbed the spot that was still stinging slightly.

"I’m so sorry about that," he said. "I must have picked up static electricity from your carpet."

"Can you tell me what it is you need?"

Steve looked sort of blank for a moment, then she saw his throat move in a convulsive swallow. "I think I’m going crazy."

With effort, Marcie pulled herself out of the stupor she seemed to have fallen into. "Are you having thoughts of hurting yourself or someone else?"

He blinked, as if he was pulling out of his own stupor. "No, nothing like that."

Clearly she’d seen this man somewhere and had transferred his face into her dreams. "Why don’t you speak with Betty and we’ll set you up with an appointment—"

"I dreamed about you last night. Several dreams, actually. And I’ve never seen you before in my life."

Okay, this was getting seriously weird. "I’m sorry, Mr. Malone, but I’m really not sure if I can help you."

He closed his eyes for a moment before he met her gaze again. "I saw your picture in the newspaper this morning, and I had to come and talk to you."

The article where she had chaired the comittee to build a new psychology center at a local hospital. "I appreciate that you support our efforts—"

"No, that's not what I mean. I HAD to come and talk to you, and not about the center. This was an obsession. I tried to go to work, but I found myself driving down this street. Then I found myself in your building. I didn’t even know where your office was, but I was in the lobby and saw your name. Then I felt I had to come up here." He put a hand on his forehead as if he was suffering the mother of all migraines. "I’m so sorry, this is ridiculous." He turned and started toward the door.

"Have you had lunch?"

He looked at her as if he couldn’t believe she’d said that. "No."

"Let’s go." She grabbed her purse. "I’ll bet you like Italian."

His eyes narrowed and he leaned slightly toward her, as if trying to see if she were a figment of his imagination. "How did you know that?"

"Because we were having lasagna in my dream," she told him.

"At Poe’s." A smile pulled at his full lips, and she realized he was the handsomest man she’d ever seen.

"What do you do for a living, Steve?"

"I’m a pediatrician."

She grinned. "Mom’s gonna be thrilled, she always said she wanted me to marry a doctor."

Oddly, her words didn’t seem to surprise him at all.

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