Maggie took a deep breath and glanced at the other woman out of the corner of her eye.
Sarah clearly enjoyed teaching. She was patient as anything, showing Ruth how to drain off the water and save the starch from the bottom of the bowl. “How’s it looking, Maggie?” she asked.
“Better,” Maggie said.
Sarah sniffed the air. Concern crossed her face. “Is that the vegetable oil? Or the schmaltz?”
Maggie looked over at the pans of hot fat. Sarah had asked her to turn the dials to medium low a few minutes ago.
But the pan with the chicken fat was already smoking. “The schmaltz.”
“How high did you put the flames?” Sarah asked.
“I turned it a fraction to the right.”
Sarah shook her head. “It’s a weird stove. Like a barbecue. When you turn it on, it starts on high. You have to keep turning to get it lower.” She went over to the stove, turned the knob off, and shifted the smoking, cast iron pan to the back burner. “We’ll have to start over.”
“I’m so sorry,” Maggie said. “I should have done a visual check on the flame.”
Face scrunched, Asher’s mom shrugged. “Nothing we can do about it now. That was the last of the schmaltz, but Kento can go check at the deli around the corner, see if they have any left.”
Right, just what Asher’s dad needed, to be running errands after he got home from a double shift at the hospital. Whenever Maggie finished a long day at the clinic or had emergency overnight patients, the last thing she wanted to do was go out again. She shook her head. “I’ll go get it. I could use the fresh air.”
“Thanks. Two lefts and a right,” Sarah said. “You can’t miss it.”
Maggie went to the front door and started bundling up. As she bent over and pulled on her winter boots, the motion put her at eye level with the framed family pictures in their place of honor on the long, narrow table in the foyer. One in particular—two men, under a chuppah, all the love in the world lighting their eyes, made her heart pang. She attended synagogue with Asher and Ruth—the one in Bozeman welcomed everyone within their walls—and she’d always support them and join in where it was respectful, but she didn’t plan on converting, not yet, anyway.
She tied her boot laces, fighting the doubt running through her. Was she somehow shortchanging him? It hadn’t seemed like a problem at home in Montana, but it was harder not to ask the question when she was in his parents’ house.
He walked toward her, confident steps on the hardwood he’d probably been walking on since he was a kid.
“Do you want company for your walk?” He drew her against his muscular chest. Instead of the usual fabric softener, he smelled like his new vanilla-bourbon cologne.
She snuggled in, grabbing his arms and creating a biceps cocoon over her chest. “I like that scent on you. It’s warm, sexy.” His mom had given it to him when they’d exchanged gifts yesterday.
“It covers the overheated oil smell,” he joked.
She swallowed, throat tight. She forced a smile. That was tight, too. And her shoulders, and her back… Hopefully the walk would help. “Too soon.”
“Maggie. Do you know how many times my brothers and I have burned something in the kitchen?”
But she has to love you…
“I know,” she said, scooting away from his embrace to button her coat and wrap her scarf around her neck. She kissed his cheek. “It’s fixable. You stay here with Ruth and your parents. I’ll be back in a flash.”
Back to put things to right, and salvage what was supposed to be a special family moment.