Etienne had paid close attention to creating a perfect, enchanting setting on the balcony for dinner. On the way, he whispered to me, “I’m approaching this with trepidation and fear.”
Light piano music played. Chunky candles in hurricane lamps glowed. Gentle woodsy incense scented soft breezes. A round table set for five, held an abundant flower arrangement of birds of paradise and exotic tropical leaves. Crystal glasses, bone china and silver utensils meticulously spaced covered the lace tablecloth.
I whispered back to him, “It’s fabulous! No need to worry.”
As he passed around huge, frosty, blue-rimmed glasses of superb margaritas, Marlene said, “I just love casual outdoor dining!”
Your amazing son knocked himself out, lady! I clenched my fists. Hold back, Sylvia!
Casual? Look at this setting! Your amazing son knocked himself out, lady! I clenched my fists. Hold back, Sylvia!
The maid served chilled avocado soup topped with crabmeat and a basket of sliced baguettes. They were delicious.
Marlene said, “Clever you, serving food prepared ahead of time. You can always correct mistakes when things go wrong.”
I felt like flinging a spoon full of soup across the table at her perfect flip.
Etienne kept his head down. Poor boy!
Antoine said, tasting the soup, “Il est excellent! And such a crispy baguette! You must have a first class bakery here and a splendid caterer.”
Etienne looked up, “I have a surprise for both of you. I prepared the whole meal. I thought you knew that.”
Marlene gave a little dismissive laugh. “I always assumed you ate out of cans all those years you spent playing artist!”
“Mama,” Etienne said, putting his spoon down. “I was not playing an artist, I was an artist.”
I loved the edge in his voice. Yeah! Etienne!
Now it was my turn. Looking Marlene in the eye, I said, “You must know Scorpion was unique, one-of-a-kind. The tattoos, the body rings, the crazy hair were just surface. Underneath, he’s an astonishing talent.”
Take that, Marlene!
The atmosphere was chilling up like the soup.
Marlene was flustered. “Yes, yes …… of course,” she said, frantically dabbing at her mouth with the napkin. “And while I think of it, the report you submitted to the board was insightful and explored new and innovative ideas. How ever do you know so much about my company?”
He sat up authoritatively with a Cheshire grin and I saw another personality entirely.
Etienne said, “Often, after school, I would visit the factory where your office is. You were always too busy with meetings to see me so your managers gave me tours. Over the years, I learned about the workings of everything through them. It was fascinating. It would have been fun to learn from you but you never had the time.”
Bull’s eye, Etienne! Take that, Dragon Lady of Drugs!
Etienne turned to Antoine. “And about my cooking, on Saturdays, I went to the restaurant longing for you to show me how to cook but you always shooed me out of the way. Remember, Papa?”
Antoine made a helpless gesture with his hands. “I was always busy working toward my next Michelin star. I had no time for a small boy.”
“Well, no matter,” Etienne said, sniffing and throwing his napkin down, “your sous chefs taught me the basics. The rest I learned by trial and error.” He stood. “Now it’s time to cook the steaks.” He laid them on the grill. “I love the smell of burning wood. Cooking food in front of guests is a challenge that excites me.” Expertly he turned the meat. “I’ve prepared a bright salad of heirloom tomatoes, mixed with bits of watermelon, ricotta salata and basil. I’ve paired the meal with chilled Domaine Andre Dezat et Fils 2013 Sancerre Loire. It’s well structured and emphasizes the tannin and oak. Do you approve, Papa?”
It was Etienne’s Ha! Ha! moment. You, go, boy!
Antoine smiled and said, “It’s a confident chef that serves the right red chilled to the correct temperature and to cook in front of guests. Bravo, my son!”
I added, “Not only is Etienne brilliant with food and wine, he is also an excellent and sensitive artist. Mr. Francis shows only the best in his gallery. I’m sure Etienne will be just as brilliant a star representing your drug company.”
Time to bring out the steak knives, Marlene? Or have you been carved up enough?
Max chimed in, “I must say, you have an amazing son, a unique and wonderful person!”
My Max! You’re such a tap dancer! Bless you!
Antoine and Marlene looked at each other, their mouths open. I could see thought bubbles over their heads: “How did we miss this?”
The bull was in the ring. The matador twirled his cape. Etienne, ole!