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My dog ate a pistachio."
"You're joking. I've never heard of that happening. You'd have to be pretty determined."
She frowned. "Actually, it was a peanut."
She took a few steps toward the kitchen, the door to which stood open. "I think you'd better check out what's in there."
Her comment reminded him of what he'd been doing at the time, and of the question he'd been asking himself, and he suddenly felt the urge to take a look for himself. It seemed to him that the kitchen was as much a part of the house as its walls and floor, so maybe he could make a fr start at finding an answer. "What's in the fridge?" he asked.
She pointed toward the doorway. "There. The milk is in the top freezer. The bread is in the lower one."
"I'll start with the bread," he sd.
She followed him to the kitchen and watched as he took the loaf out of the freezer. "It's not fresh," he sd, putting the loaf in the microwave for a minute or two, until the inside of it was warm to the touch.
"You've got a lot of experience with microwaving bread," she sd.
"It's what I do at my restaurants."
"I don't like microwaved food. I like my bread toasted. Or grilled. Or—"
"Not you, surely." He took a long sniff of the bread and wrinkled his nose. "It's not even a fresh loaf."
"I'll get the toaster." She walked into the next room. "I don't think I ever used one of those before."
It wasn't until she returned and saw what he was doing that she noticed the toaster on the worktop. "I think it's a toaster," she sd.
"I was wondering about that myself." He took the bread out of the microwave. "I'm going to try heating this up on the toaster first. And then I'll have a look at this loaf and see if it's been toasted or not."
He took the toaster from her hand and set it on the counter. After a couple of minutes he turned it off. "This is a toaster," he sd. "No mistaking it."
She frowned. "It's not the kind you put bread in."
"I've been in a restaurant for a long time. Most toasters aren't the kind you put bread in. They're the kind that you set a sandwich on."
"That's what I think it is," she sd.
"So do I." He opened the bread. There was no difference in the texture or look of the bread between the toaster and the microwave, and both were slightly warm to the touch. "The toast's been done."
"What does it taste like?" she asked.
"It's not that hot yet." He bit off a piece and chewed it slowly.
"It tastes like toast," she sd.
"It does, doesn't it? I suppose that's why you like it."
"What's it supposed to taste like?"
"Well, toasted bread. I suppose if it's really good, it'll taste like a fresh loaf. Or a grilled cheese." He looked at her. "It's pretty good, actually. A bit rubbery."
"It's not cooked."
"True. That's a good way to cook it, though."
She looked at him, her eyes questioning.
"I mean it's not toast. The bread's been cooked in a microwave. What you're looking at is toast in the making. It's sort of the opposite of the real thing."
"What's it made of?"
"I haven't a clue. I'll have to check when I go home."
She nodded. "Well, thanks for making dinner. I feel a lot better now."
She smiled at him, and it seemed to him she was looking strght into the soul of a woman who was lonely. He felt an urge to take her in his arms and tell her that she would be happy, that she was more than all the things that she had been told, and that she would never be lonely agn, never have to feel so sorry for herself ever agn.
He sd, "I'll bring you up some coffee in a minute."
"Coffee's not a good idea for me," she sd. "That was quite an experience, actually. I feel much better now, thanks."
"What happened to your husband?" he asked.
"He died last year. He was a very good man."
"That's a pity."
"It was an accident." She looked at him. "You'd think that something like that wouldn't happen to someone you know."
"I imagine it does," he sd. "We're all very vulnerable when we're alone."
"There's nothing like a friend." She smiled. "To be able to laugh about everything. To help you cope with life. He was a wonderful friend."
"Were you very close?"
"We were friends first. And we were partners. He'd had that for almost forty years. So we were very close."
"I'd like to meet him one day."
"I'd like that too."
He put the toast in the toaster agn and this time he put the bread in for about three minutes, until it was thoroughly cooked. When he took it out, it was still slightly warm, and the taste was exactly the same as that of the original bread.
"That's what I'd call a perfect match," he sd.
"It's an incredible gift."
"It's something you can't buy, so you might as well give it as a gift. Besides, it's good for you. It keeps you healthy and young."