She's on the couch, with nothing but the chirping of the fridge to keep her company. The blanket feels soft under her hands and warms her. Any minute now. Thirty more ticks of the clock on the wall. A low thud from outside the door, then a jingle and a scrape. She smiles. Within the same moment, the front door opens with a mechanical click and he pushes it inward, bumping against it with the crate. A cold breeze of air reaches her cheeks and forehead, but it's cut off as he taps the leather of his shoe on the wood, forcing the door shut with a satisfying thump.
About twenty steps to the kitchen, the milk bottles clinking in the crate. It must be heavy, because once he puts the crate down, he walks faster back to the wardrobe. A jingling as the cloth hangers collide, twice, thrice, like bells. His socks are almost silent as he comes to the couch to gently kiss her head.
Then he's off to the kitchen again, unpacking. He's rustling with the plastic wrapped items, the fridge door opening with a little sucking resistance and closing with a plop, multiple times until he has put all the items away. A moment of silence, she imagines his fingers tap-dancing over his phone. The soft slide of the drawer, metal ringing, followed by a metallic scraping as he sharpens the knives, two times two on each side. Then the hiss of the tap and water splashing around. She can tell it's cold water by the sound. Another thump as he sits the cutting board down on the counter. Now she is paying extra attention. What will he cook?
It starts with a rustle, then one single chop. An onion, she thinks, and smiles. Yes, careful cross cuts and then about ten cuts to dice, slowly, carefully. A click as he switches the water kettle on. Then two juicy slaps: flat side of the knife against garlic gloves.
Now the knife is louder against the board, takes more strength to cut, and the cuts are a bit like ripping paper. Potatoes? No, the knife hits the board in shorter intervals and it's crisper than a potato. Most likely carrots. She hears him chewing - carrots.
The next sounds are drowned out by the water boiler which slathers a thick layer of noise over everything for a few minutes, like a downpour of heavy rain on a thin metal roof. He pours the water into something metallic, so it seems he is boiling tomatoes to peel their skin, otherwise he’d boil the water in the pot directly.
More chopping. This time, short chop chop chops, go on rather long, and the blade is really loud, cutting with ease and hitting the board heavily. Her guess of spring onions is confirmed by a very faint, slightly pungent smell.
Glass clinking, then a very faint tinny metal scrape, followed by a chugging - that’s the oil bottle, being taken out, opened, poured in the pan. A click as he turns on the stove and it starts to heat. Silence as he waits, interrupted only by the electric clicks of the ceramic field. Then, suddenly, a meaty squish, followed by an immediate sizzle as he puts the ground meat in the hot oil - metal on wood scrape when he adds the onions. Now comes the part that she absolutely hates: the ventilation with its hurtful frequency, a senseless droning, almost as bad as the vacuum cleaner. She buries deeper into the couch, covering her ears. He knows she doesn’t like it, so he tries to keep it off for as long as possible. If he does, she can smell the burnt food flavors in his hair at night.
Slowly, the smells take over and color the air: onions in oil, orange chili, red paprika fill the air. Hints of green basil, and thyme. They linger even when the sauce is a low gurgle below the lid, the vent is off again. While the sauce cooks, she falls back into a slumber with a smile on her face. His kiss wakes her. She gets up, three steps around the couch to the table, feeling the wood of the chair under her fingers. He carries the pots from the kitchen, walking twice, carefully and slowly. The pasta makes a funny wet squishy sound, then a splash for the sauce. A low scrape for the parmesan on the grater knife. Her head fills with the smells of the sea and the Italian summer, the warm sun on her face.
The fork dances on the ceramic as they begin to eat.