Darting out of the parking lot in a panic, Amelia felt overwhelmed by the constant rush she felt lately. No time for lollygagging. The 9 to 5 monotony brought with it a severe headache. Must. Get. Tylenol. Cars around her were moving at a snail’s pace, consequently making the drive more annoying than usual. As soon as she saw some available space in the right lane, the driver thrust her foot on the gas pedal and floored it. Maneuvering through the familiar route, she managed to avoid the men in blue. Who has time for another speeding ticket? Four songs and six commercials later Amelia pulled up to her second job. Moving her hand, she slid the gear shift into park. “He was working through college on my grandpa’s farm…” blared through the speakers as the ignition noise subsided. Deana Carter’s twang temporarily interrupted the chaotic mess she called life. Briefly, Amelia’s head pain subsided as she traveled back in time when things were much simpler, and she could afford to blow off work by heading to the beach with her girlfriends. Closing her eyes, those old feelings came rushing back like waves at high tide. Oh, how she longed for days gone by when she need only think about herself. Reminiscing about those summers of tan legs, flip flops and sitting around the campfires at night, her eyes leaked slightly as she traveled back in time. Continuing her impromptu lip sync concert, tasting the salt on her lips as she mouthed those familiar words. her shiny new red Dodge Durango transformed into a stage. She and Dan had splurged on the high-end SUV to fit their growing family. Unfortunately, the payments only added more stress. Caught up in her own little world, transfixed on the song, the flooding emotions, she belted out, “Like Strawberry Wiiiiiiiiine…” The cracking of her own voice awakened her from her stupor. “Oh crap!” Fumbling for her cell phone, she realized it was 5:57. As she opened the car door, the tunes halted and abruptly concluded her mini beach vacation. Grabbing her purse, she ran inside. Smiling, she mumbled a few incoherent things to the people she passed in the halls. Throwing on her apron, Amelia quickly took her place in the kitchen. Glancing at the menu board, trying to make out the food she was supposed to serve, Amelia deciphered that tonight’s cuisine consisted of: enchiladas, rice, beans, and guacamole. Studying the kitchen, one might believe the contents were a collaboration of Rachel Ray, Ikea and the Container Store. Magnetized and alphabetized spice racks enabled food handlers the ability to have more efficient cooking times and eliminate stress. Every gadget imaginable on display, this was truly a cook’s paradise. Immediately, Amelia set the convection oven to 425* and went to work browning the gargantuan pot of ground beef before her. Simultaneously, she placed the brick of cheddar into the food processor, delighting herself as the yellow mountain grew. Quickly, she tasted a few shreds, just like her grandma used to allow when they cooked together. Jalapenos, onions, garlic, tomatoes and cilantro were chopped and simmering on the stove. As soon as the onions were translucent, Amelia added a teaspoon of cumin, a dash of oregano, some chili powder and a cup of water. The smell was intoxicating. Fresh Mexican food to always tends to open those nasal passages and awaken one’s senses. Turning down the heat, she covered the pot and let the sauce simmer. A man in a business suit saunters into the kitchen and smiles at Amelia. “Wow! You’ve outdone yourself! My mouth is watering already. How long before we can serve the troops?” His voice echoing in the large room. “You do realize you’re in my kitchen, right?”, laughing half-heartedly, she continues, “You can’t rush perfection. I’ll let you know when it’s closer to being ready. Can you have Jessica prepare the outdoor dining area? There is a nice breeze outside and I think everyone would enjoy the fresh air.” “Of course. Wait, is she the tall one, with the blonde hair?”, he asked with a wink. Amelia chuckled. “No. Jessica is the scrawny red head that walks around cleaning up behind everyone.” Removing the savory beef from the stove and taking out an oversized bag of corn tortillas, Amelia checks the stove settings to ensure it is turned off. The temperature was rising rapidly with all the commotion in the kitchen. Carefully dipping the tortillas in warm water, individually spooning on a heap of meat and then rolling each enchilada by hand, Amelia quickly filled three large baking pans with the specialty her grandmother had taught her. Feeling guilty that she hadn’t yet passed on this tradition to her own children, Amelia wondered when or if there would ever be enough time. Sighing, she justified that time just wasn’t a surplus commodity. An upheaval of sorts occurred outside the kitchen window. While setting the outside tables to accommodate the dinner crowd, Jessica began screaming and flung open the kitchen door. Soaking wet and crying, she was distraught. Wanting nothing more than to please her boss, Jessica surmised she had failed in this attempt, just as she always did. Preparing the outdoor patio proved to be too much. Sprinklers soaked the entire dining area, consequently, the dishes would all have to be washed. Realizing, there wasn’t enough time for such, Jessica sobbed. Rolling her eyes, boss lady was more than a little irritated by Jessica, but she continued working on the enchiladas pretending not to notice. Never one to understand people who got emotional over the slightest thing, Amelia focused on what she could control, the food. Uncovering the pot that had been simmering on the stove, the scent of the sauce wafted through the air. People were gathering outside the kitchen door in anticipation. Amelia poured the sauce over the rolled enchiladas and topped it off with the cheese she had grated. The suited man passed the kitchen. Yelling to him, Amelia said, “I’ll be ready to start serving in about twelve minutes.” People standing near the hall groaned in protest. The chef popped the pans into the oven, set the timer for ten minutes and placed a pot on the stove. Filling the pot 1/3 full of rice, the cook added chicken broth, tomatoes and ran water up to her second knuckle, utilizing another trick she learned from her grandmother. Ten more minutes to show time. Luckily, the sous chef had already prepared the beans and guacamole earlier in the day, leaving only the rice for Amelia to tend to. Amelia called to Jessica, “Just go to the linen closet and grab the box of paper/plastic items. We will be serving dinner picnic style tonight in the main dining room.” Smiling, the young girl was relieved. Once again, her superior took care of things, just as she always did. Jessica idolized Amelia; if only the chef wasn’t so busy all the time, Jessica might ask her to teach her what she knows about cooking. Recruiting help from some of the other worker bees, Jessica and the team quickly set the table for a picnic in the main dining room. Removing the rice from the stove, Amelia let it set for a few minutes before fluffing it with a fork and placing it into a serving bowl. The oven dinged, and dinner was finally ready! Seated at the end of the table pouring two glasses of wine, was the suited man. Taking her place next to him, Amelia sat down to partake in the feast with the brood. Finally, everyone could enjoy the fruits of her labors. No sooner than group took a seat, a young boy shrieked, “Ewwwww. Yuuuuuuck! There are onions in this food! I am not eating it.” Instantaneously, the air was heard circulating in the room as all else grew quiet. Looking around, everyone was waiting, wondering and anticipating how Amelia would react to the young man’s opinion. With gritted teeth, Amelia forced a smile and said, “Henry, Mommy is sorry you don’t like the enchiladas. If you’ll go write on the menu board what you’d like tomorrow for dinner, I’ll be happy to try my best to accommodate your desires.” Everyone exhaled simultaneously. Taking a deep breath, Amelia slowly sipped from her glass of strawberry wine.

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