Ella poked through the items on the sale table at the Assembly of God charity drive. Her fingers came to rest finally on an old yellow cookbook. Smiling at the title, ‘Recipes from Yesteryear,’ she nudged her sister.
“Look, Evelyn… remember?”
Evelyn did. “It’s Mama’s old recipe book!”
“No, not hers, but one just like it.” Ella flipped through the pages. “Here’s the recipe for Mama’s mayonnaise cake. Maybe I’ll buy this book and make us one of them cakes again.”
The elderly sisters continued talking, not noticing the young black man standing across the room. He, however, noticed them.
Glancing periodically at the cookbook laying on the counter, Ella measured out the ingredients for Mama’s cake. When she heard the knock on the door, she hastily rubbed her flour-stained hands on her apron.
The young black man smiled uncertainly, and twisted the baseball cap in his hands. Ella could see he was nervous, but there was something warm and caring in his eyes. Unafraid, she opened the door.
“Can I help you?”
“Well, ma’am, maybe you can… I served time with your grandson…”
Ella took a step backward, and raised a white-dusted hand to her throat. “Moody? You know my Moody?”
She stifled a sob. “You know where he is? I’ve been worried to death about that boy! Police came by here after he went running, thought I was hiding him, but I ain’t seen him.”
“He’s fine, ma’am.”
“Please, come in,” she said, quickly pulling him inside. “You look like you could use a cold drink. What’s your name, son?”
The young man hesitated, and then came to a decision. “Call me Gabe… It’s a good name. Belonged to a man who taught me about miracles and folks getting second chances.”
Eyes bright, Gabe looked eagerly around Ella’s kitchen, and caught her watching him. “I sure like your kitchen. It’s a lovin’ place.”
Ella nodded. “It where I spend most of my time.”
“Yes, ma’am… Moody told me about those apple pies you used to make, the sweet tea… the way this kitchen always smelled of cinnamon and spice. He missed this old kitchen.” He smiled at Ella, his eyes shining. “Most of all, he missed you, ma’am.”
“My poor Moody,” said Ella, her voice muffled. “He wasn’t bad, not down deep. His Daddy – that was the problem. Tore his son down every chance he got. But Moody – well, that boy made some bad mistakes, but he wasn’t bad.” Tearfully, Ella turned away. “Sorry, Gabe, I need a minute.”
With Ella gone, Gabe took a crinkled paper from his pocket and slipped it between the pages of the cookbook.
When she returned, the young man was gone.
Later she saw the paper sticking out from the cookbook’s pages…
Granny Ella, don’t worry about me.
I got a second chance. I aim to make the most of it.
I ain’t bad, Granny. You’ll see.
Ella sat down on a kitchen chair and cried.
Author’s Note: This story is a sequel to the Week 17 Flash Fiction Challenge, “Miracle Night.” If you’d like to know more about Moody, the link to that story is here.
This week’s story is written in response to a challenge to write no more than 500 words about a woman who purchases a cookbook at a charity book sale and discovers a note tucked in the pages. You can check out these weekly flash fiction challenges at Thain in Vain.