The Covington Witches
Imara Covington has always known that she comes from a family of strong women. Only after an unexpected journey to the quaint town of Edenton, North Carolina, do the family secrets begin to unravel. Once she thought of her family as her safety net and her home as a haven, but now Imara is forced to confront the long buried secrets that are at the center of her family's strength.
“No, no no no no not today.” Imara ran to the oven from the far end of the kitchen holding the phone against her ear.
“Well, I told her that I don’t want to go to church with her but she never listens to anything I say anyway.”
Imara nodded her head as though her cousin Sabrina could see her. “Uh huh,” she said, to let Sabrina know she was still paying attention.
Reaching the double oven, she pulled it open and was greeted by the aroma of crispy cheese on her baked ziti. “Shit,” she muttered under her breath, imagining the dramatics she would have to deal with if she tried to serve the dish at the event this afternoon.
“Sweetie, I’m going to have to call you back. I’ve got a little problem to take care of right now, okay?”
Sabrina chuckled. “Sweetie is my mom, but okay, I’ll let you go. Are you sure everything is okay? Anything on fire?” She laughed in the interim while waiting for Imara to hear what she actually said. It was amusing to think that Imara could have actually set anything on fire or created anything less than delicious in her catering kitchen. Everyone in the family relied on Imara for her beautiful cakes and pies during holidays, always beautifully yet simply, decorated with that extra little something in every bite.
The corner of Imara’s mouth turned up in a reasonable facsimile of a smile at her cousin’s quip. She massaged her left eyebrow with one hand while gesturing towards the large tray of ziti on the counter with the other. “No, nothing’s on fire, very funny. A little crispy around the edges maybe, but no flames. Still, I better go, I may have to whip up another tray of ziti for the Baker party tonight though.”
“Okay, but can we expect you at the house tomorrow for dinner?”
They both laughed, knowing what Imara’s answer would be.
“No, I’m going to pass, I have some reading I want to do tomorrow night.”
“Okay, but you are the only woman I know who makes a date with herself to read. Bye.”
Imara placed the phone on the shelf below the stainless steel countertop and turned her attention to the ziti. Who had baked ziti in the middle of summer anyway? Ms. Baker loved ordering off menu, thinking with her stomach rather than her head, even when it meant serving her guests a heavy pasta dish in the heat of August.
“Huh, that’s funny, I thought it was more burnt than that,” she said aloud. The ziti that she thought was too browned and crispy around the edges when she’d removed it from the oven looked practically perfect now.
“Talking to yourself is the first sign.”
Her cousin Marla sashayed into the industrial kitchen, hanging her floppy tote bag on the hook by the door. Walking over to the sink to wash her hands, she glanced over at Imara, raising her right eyebrow.
“What’s wrong now? Did the crazy Ms. Baker call and change her mind? Are we supposed to have dinner for 40 now?”
“No, nothing like that. I thought I’d burnt the ziti, but its fine.”
“Of course it’s fine. When do you ever cook anything that isn’t fine?”
Shaking her head at her cousin, who she thought suffered from a severe case of perfectionism, Marla moved to the refrigerator to pull out some Parmesan.
“I don’t need Parmesan for this.” Imara said, looking up from the list of things she had to check off for the party.
“You may not need it, but I do; I’m starving!” Marla broke off a chunk from the block, haphazardly re-wrapped the larger block and placed it back in the refrigerator. Imara thought, I’ll re-wrap that when she leaves the kitchen; it’s going to dry out otherwise.
Walking towards the doorway, Marla slung her huge bag over her shoulder and said, “Chop, chop, time’s a ticking. Let’s get a move on, otherwise you’re going to be late. Ms. Baker would love to call me to get something off her bill because you were five minutes later than the agreed upon time.”
“I know,” she said. Imara found Ms. Baker extremely unpleasant to deal with but her company had events often, so she had to grin and bear her antics, even if it killed her.
Imara finished the inventory for the guys to begin loading up the van, and placed the clipboard next to the stack of glassware. She pulled off her apron and dropped it into the hamper that was located in the alcove by the door. Imara picked up her iPhone and walked out of the kitchen after taking one last look around to make sure she hadn’t forgotten anything. She was hungry but didn’t have time to eat anything now. Imara knew she’d have to grab something when she got upstairs otherwise she’d be hungry and angry or hangry as Marla called it, by the end of the evening. Oh, the Parmesan. Imara walked back to the refrigerator and pulled out the cheese, and carefully re-wrapped it. It smelled delicious but she wanted something crunchy, and crisp to nosh, something that hopefully would stave off the headache that was threatening to develop.
She walked to the office down the hall and leaned in. Imara was always struck by the contrast between the pristine kitchen, her domain, and the office that looked like a hurricane had hit it, which was Marla’s domain.
Marla sat behind a desk that had piles of papers, which were topped with books, which had various office supplies perched on top of them, all creating a precarious mountain that looked as if it were just waiting to topple at any moment. Leaning back in her chair, she looked up from her iPad as she heard Imara approach.
“I will never understand how you can work like this, it’s a mess. Actually, it’s worse than a mess, it looks like a lunatic asylum.”
“Uh huh, well you worry about you, I’ll do me. Now, get out of here and go change please.”
Once Imara left, Marla turned back to her iPad and the calendar for next week’s events. They had two dinner clients scheduled for Monday, one breakfast meeting on Tuesday and a full sit-down dinner with bartending and waitstaff scheduled for Friday. She knew she would be exhausted by Saturday, but the business was doing so well lately, who was she to complain? Her cousin was getting some repeat clients and word of mouth was spreading in the community. Their catering business was professionally run and the food was always generously portioned and delicious, so business was booming.
The electric and gas bills had come in the other day. Now, where were they? Marla knew that if she started moving things from one pile to the other she could have a mess on her hands, if everything started to slide. She wanted to get out of here and get home so as she looked out of the door of the office, to see if anyone was around, she mouthed a few words. If anyone had been looking her way, it would have appeared as if she was saying a little prayer, especially when she closed her eyes briefly and dipped her head. When she opened her eyes, on top of the pile of paper to her left she spied the two pieces of mail she’d been searching for all along. “Ah, so that’s where you were hiding,” she said as she took her seat. Sitting down, she brought up the calendar once again and entered the due dates for each of the bills, humming tunelessly to herself.
She noticed the time and picked up her phone to give her cousin Chike a call.
“Do you plan on getting here anytime soon or should I tell Ms. Baker that she should start screaming now?” Marla said as she heard the gruff “Hello,” more statement than question, on the other end of the line.
“Marla, leave me alone. I’m on my way now.”
“Fine. Bite my head off. I’m just trying to keep everything running smoothly around here.” Marla ended the call, rolling her eyes.
Marla heard the garage door opening in the back of the warehouse on the kitchen side and breathed a sigh of relief. Chike got on her last nerve but he was a good guy and worked hard. It couldn’t have been easy as the only male cousin in their generation. And any man that could put up with the crazy females in their family had to be a saint. Or something.