She was fading fast. She had finally built her momentum up, and now, was crashing like the stock market in the 20’s. Deb sniffled as she rolled over folding further into her couch. She kicked her feet out from underneath her fuzzy blanket, quickly wrapping one of them right back up. She hit enter, reminding her internet that she was still watching. Whether or not she was all there was irrelevant.
Deb had finally gotten her life back to almost normal after years of a permanently uphill both ways kind of trek. Theo had been dead for three years. The investigation had been closed for two years and six months. The media coverage had been over for two year years. Deb’s grief had subsided drastically over the past year. She had finished her MBA and had started her new job, in her new town, with some new work clothes and even some new workout clothes for her new hobby, running. Deb had just been getting into the swing of things at work and with her running when she was hit with the flu.
Now she was laying on her couch, barely watching tv thinking of Theo’s magical soup. It wasn’t really magical, except for the fact that it was. If there was one thing that boy did better than her it was his magical soup. Deb had an interest in using different herbs and plants for calming and sleep. She played around with a few different recipes to mend her friends’ broken hearts and things like that, but there was nothing she had researched or made (at least that didn’t put her hobby into full on witchcraft) that healed her up like Theo’s soup. She had even watched him make it once, only to find that no matter what she did it never compared to his.
Deb found a lot that didn’t compare to Theo. But it wasn’t only good things. It was everything. She had been talking to one of her new girlfriends whose boyfriend had cheated on her. Not only was he so bad at it that she knew beforehand what was up, it only took her five minutes of any type of effort to pull her proof together. Deb occasionally had sneaking suspicions about Theo, but had never been able to prove it. Even in his final goodbye email to her, not knowing he was moments from death, had only apologized for giving her reason to doubt him. Deb remembered the day Theo wrote that email. How he watched the snooty, basic blonde on her phone. Deb had at first felt envious of how intensely Theo looked at the girl. Then she felt almost a pang of pity for her. He hadn’t been looking at her longingly, but with judgement. With disdain hiding behind a serious face. A face intent on his writing. You could see a glimmer of his true feelings in his eyes.
It was the way he looked at Alex, with that same glimmer, that drove a cold sweat through Deb’s heart. At his funeral, Alex didn’t hide the truth nearly as well as Theo would have been able to. It was a strange moment filled with longing and repulsion, guilt and freedom, knowing and confusion that got Deb through the wake. Alex had been the one who accidentally killed him with the cafe’s special caramel swirl, chocolate chunk brownie made with peanut oil. It was one of Emuphant’s fall and winter specials. It paired nicely with their cinnamon apple latte or the peppermint cocoa latte depending on the season. Alex had been unwilling, on top of unable to speak to or prove their physical relationship, so the whole thing had been chalked up to an awful accident.
Alex should have been as careful as Theo. As careful as Deb had been. Things might have ended differently. But all in all Deb was okay with how things ended for Theo, for Alex, for Emuphant, and mostly for herself. Deb sold the brownie recipe to the cafe, along with several alternate versions sans peanut butter oil for enough money to pay off her master’s program. Alex had felt so awful she covered the bulk of Deb’s shifts when she needed to grieve or go to the precinct, or meet with the lawyers, and when she was packing up her old life preparing for her new one. Anton heard about the news and brought Deb the pizza and the ring the very next day. The pizza was delicious, Anton had been quite comforting, and the ring was now Deb’s insurance policy locked up in her safe.
Deb looked up at the TV and chuckled herself into a coughing fit. The contestants on her cooking competition were having a pizza cook off. There is a strong argument to be made that there are no such things as coincidences. Deb couldn’t scream over her coughing. She blinked as she struggled to regain her composure. There had been a figure, the reflection of a figure in the tv, standing in the fire of the pizza oven. Deb finally calmed herself and managed to look out over the blankets and her shoulders to confirm there was no one there. Deb felt her stomach, the way her aunt had always taught her to, she definitely had a fever. She could barely hold her eyes open any longer. Maybe when she woke up she would order a pizza or maybe some Chinese food – either way there was something comforting she liked with a large side of yummy soup. It wouldn’t be Theo’s magical soup. It wouldn’t break her fever or heal her illness, but it would be good enough.