Missy met Daniel at a park while escaping a Frisbee flung at her head. Daniel fled to her side to apologize. His best friend, Ace, had lobbed it in her direction by accident. Missy glanced over Daniel’s shoulder to see this friend, in his bare-chested attire, waving at them. But Daniel was in no hurry. He had a gentleness about him, with his dark hair and olive skin. Missy wanted to touch him as soon as possible.
They were in each other’s pants days later. The shine of her auburn hair and blue eyes radiated heat. With their sexual energy barely contained, risky exploits followed. It was Daniel who nicknamed her Missy, short for Melissa, as he nibbled at her ear, pressing her hands against the wall in the hallway of his parents’ house with them only a room away sipping tea. ”I need to taste you, Missy,” he said, dropping her pants to the floor. “Missy” stuck after that.
When Daniel wasn’t with Missy, he spent time with Ace, and it wasn’t long before the three of them hung together. Missy thought “Ace” was a nickname too, but never asked. The truth was that you rarely asked questions of Ace. He was the abrasive sort, presenting his side, the only side, of an argument on the topic of the day. If you spoke, you hedged your bets on whether you’d offend or that your remark would be offensive enough.
Driving with him in his car in a simple jaunt across town was a death wish, his wide-set eyes on bold display. Ace weaved in and out of cars, flying down hills, speeding through busy intersections, a jolly good time. Signal lights were hit or miss; accidents with daydreaming pedestrians, near misses.
This wild side of his was held in check by a more cultured, tempered Ace, most noticeable when he worked in the kitchen. He cooked only with the finest ingredients, but he always referred to his meals as homey suppers. Missy’s mouth watered when she thought of his artichoke olive dip. When his girlfriend, Olivia, entered the picture for four solid months, his chivalrous side made an entrance as well. His Cioppino transported Olivia to an exotic Italian sea village, at least that’s what Ace reported to Daniel the next morning.
All was going swimmingly, until one evening, Olivia didn’t feel well and, apparently, never recuperated. Their relationship fell flat, and Ace deflated; his invitations to dinner all but vanished.
Wanting to return the favor, Missy invited Ace to dinner, confessing that her cooking skills could never match his. She made a strong effort with Hot and Sour Soup and Mongolian Beef, with rice noodles that exploded into threaded balls. Ace, with a beer in his hand, relaxed.
As Ace ate his soup, he got quieter with each bite. A few times he remarked that he liked the flavor and discussed his broth-making process.
“Missy just used cans,” Daniel said.
His eating slowed, and his speech diminished to one syllable words, before resting his spoon beside his bowl altogether, aghast that she did not slave over real broth.
He dismissed the main dish as well. Ace claimed that too many competing flavors assaulted his taste buds. Nothing could salvage this abysmal culinary fail.
Weeks later, Ace invited them over. He apologized for his previous behavior, and their reunion was off to the right start. The summer had just begun, and the mood was light. Ace slipped out of the kitchen, and the pantry door hung open, inviting entrance. Daniel pulled Missy into the pantry. They fumbled, adjusting to their small enclosure. Daniel buried his head in her bosom. Missy knocked over a box of cereal as she raised her arms to pull off her shirt.
“What are we doing?” Missy said.
“Who cares?” Daniel locked the door and shut off the light.
They giggled, their bodies finding each other in the darkness; her delicate hip bone and the hollow of her rib cage pressed into the grooves of lanky limbs, and they slid to the floor. He thrust into her, as a hot pan sizzled in the kitchen. Missy held back her moans of delight. They heard footsteps and froze. A jiggling of the door, a pause, and then quietly they finished.
Missy freshened up and joined Daniel and Ace at the table, a plate of steaming food placed before them. Missy took the empty chair, her face aglow. She saw Daniel’s hair feathered with flour and touched her own head to tip him off. Ace watched and snickered. He knew, and they knew that he knew. It was laughable to hide the evidence.
“This fish is the perfect flakiness,” Daniel said.
“I’m glad you approve,” Ace nodded.
“You never disappoint,” Daniel said.
“I am here to serve,” Ace said, piercing a piece of asparagus. “Your satisfaction is always of the utmost importance.”
“How generous of you.” Daniel could think of nothing else to say.
“Chez Ace. Mi casa es su casa.”
“How trilingual of you.” Daniel kicked Missy’s foot under the table.
Missy blurted out, “Oh, it’s so good, Ace. I’m famished.”
“You must have worked up quite an appetite,” Ace said, waving his fork, gesturing to random spots in the room, and finally marking the door of the pantry.
Daniel and Missy smiled, trying to gauge the reaction Ace wanted.
“A romp in the pantry,” Ace blurted out. “Nice.”
Daniel cleared his throat, “Just checking out the spices.”
“What did you think?” Ace glanced at Missy.
“Very spicy,” Daniel said, laughing.
“I can hear you,” Missy said, her face reddening.
Ace sighed. “I think it’s wonderful to express yourself. I wouldn’t want anything else for my guests.”
“It would be rude, otherwise,” Daniel played along.
“It would be rude,” Ace said. He dropped his utensils on his plate. Ace raised his glass, “A toast,” and nodded to them. “To rudeness.”
“To rudeness,” and they clinked their foamy pints.
Missy stopped chewing.
“And now I need to clean my safe haven, my shrine to the cooking gods. The pantry is like my man cave. Do you think it needs a mop?”
Daniel and Missy were mute.
“It needs to be sterilized,” Ace said matter-of-factly.
“Sterilized, because of the fizzy lifting drinks,” Daniel said.
“What would Wonka do?” Ace belted out a laugh, thumping Daniel on the back as they rose from their chairs.
Missy still chewed, as Ace glared at her every time he returned to pick up a dish to clear the table. She inhaled her last two bites and hurried her plate to the counter.
The air hung as heavy as the food in their stomachs. Daniel would have liked to duck out for the evening, instead he met Ace’s request for a tidying up of the pantry with enthusiasm. At least it was a diversion from the rude talk.
Ace hurriedly supplied cleansers, a mop and bucket, and rags. “Well, don’t just stand there.”
Daniel stumbled with the bucket and mop, slopping water all over the floor, creating a bigger mess than the invisible one before him. Ace scooted them into the pantry.
Missy panted. “I’m feeling claustrophobic.”
Ace left them, looking past them as if invisible, and locked the door behind him.
“What a psycho,” Missy whispered.
Daniel applied a quick mop; Missy made sure all the containers lined up, shifting them in nano increments.
Seconds later. “We’re done,” they yelled.
They heard the water running, Ace washing pans, running the dishwasher, talking on the phone. He played music, too. All the while, they pounded on the door.
Finally, Ace knocked on the pantry door. “One more thing,” he said. “Remove your clothes and put these on.” He cracked the door and dispensed two pieces of black cloth.
Daniel stretched it between his fingers. Panty? Thong?
“It’s a blindfold,” Missy said. “He’s a sick bastard.”
“Come out sans clothing, wearing the blindfold, and you can leave.”
Daniel convinced her to play his stupid game, and get on with their lives. It was just naked bodies.
“What if he’s a murderer,” she cried.
Daniel looked for something to jimmy the lock, and that could double as a weapon, all the while bouncing around like a jumping bean.
“I have to piss,” he said, holding on the wall.
He begged Missy to hurry, and then urinated in the corner, turning the flour golden.
They stripped. Missy folded each item of her clothing, wanting to hide them inside of her. They banged on the door again. “We’re ready. We’re naked.”
“Do you have your blindfolds on?” They didn’t. They put them on.
“Yes,” they said.
“Hand me your clothes now.”
Ace stuck his head through the door, and they shoved clothes in his face. The door slammed and was then unlocked. They walked out to the sound of Ace cracking open a beer across the room. Their audience of one.
As they walked past him, he clapped, and then put a set of keys in Daniel’s hand. Daniel clutched the keys, then hesitated, wanting to beat the living hell out of his friend, his best friend.
But Missy sobbed and that was it. They ripped their blindfolds off and rushed to the car.
Daniel drove away and hollered, “I pissed in his pantry.”