Annette couldn’t believe what she saw in the neighbours’ kitchen.
Not that she was spying, technically.
Her kitchen window looked directly across the neighbours’ back yard and into the back of their kitchen.
Was it her fault if she happened to look up every now and then?
No. Just as she couldn’t help the perfect view she had of their white, gleaming, modern kitchen. It was so bright in there that it was easy to see all the goings on.
She didn’t spend her time looking across the way, though. In fact, sometimes in the evenings when the house was dark and only lit by the lights deep inside itself, she had looked up from her window and seen a naked form passing by one of the upstairs windows. On those occasions, she certainly did not spy. She looked away. Respectfully.
But, as Annette was partially retired and working from home anyway, she did often find herself in her kitchen, doing odd jobs, and catching sight of the neighbours and their daytime kitchen activities. She couldn’t help but see.
On this particular Sunday afternoon, then, Annette could be forgiven for staring unabashedly into the neighbours’ house when she had initially, quite by accident, glimpsed a most unusual and disturbing sight.
It wasn’t as though Stephen always cooked in an apron. Certainly not his wife’s frilly 1950s-style housewife apron.
But jam making was a messy business and it was the only apron in the house.
The apron was white with emerald-green frills all the way around it. It tied at the waist and around the back of the neck with matching emerald ties. The apron itself was white with a panoply of blue and brown and gold leaves spread across it. The lower half, the skirt one could call it, had a large and spacious pocket.
Stephen wasn’t sure what a chef was supposed to hold in the pocket but he had put it to good use on this particular day.
Stephen was a tall man, almost 6 foot five, with a distinguished, Nordic stateliness about his face. Some might call him severe if they knew him only from his high-powered career. Today, his bright blue eyes, which deepened in colour when he laughed, were clear and focused on the task at hand.
Stephen consulted the marmalade recipe on his iPad, and continued to add and stir ingredients in a large stainless steel pot on his impeccably clean induction stove.
When everything was simmering nicely and the recipe indicated it should continue to do so unaided for a good stretch of time, he consulted his iPad again, switching screens to check the relevant instructions.
Not bothering to remove the apron, Stephen pulled a collection of allen keys out of its pocket and, moving his iPad further down the counter to where he was going to be working, turned toward the window at the back of the house.
It was light here and was, therefore, the perfect place to perform this next task. He would be able to see clearly.
Bending down to the floor at the end of the counter, he picked up the heavy rifle and set in on the surface, just to the side of the simmering jam. Its titanium barrel and camouflage-green butt stood out jarringly against the clean white of the room.
He consulted the iPad once more, and then began to loosen the trigger with one of the allen keys.
Replacing a trigger on a rifle was a rather complicated business. Time passed quickly as Stephen worked and before he knew it, the timer on the stove sounded.
Stephen was now caught between needing to stir the marmalade and having to hold the new trigger in place, the latter being only partially screwed in.
It was as he was stirring the jam with his left hand and holding the allen key against the trigger with his right hand, clad in a frilly apron, that his neighbour happened to look out of her window and see this most extraordinary sight.
Stephen did not notice the form standing in the window across the garden, nor did he hear her startled screech.
Annette stood transfixed for a minute or so, watching Stephen as he stirred something in a pot on the stove with one hand, while his other hand fiddled with a large, menacing looking gun.
Without taking her eyes off the scene, she reached blindly for the phone which hung on the wall to the right of the window.
When the voice on the other end of the phone answered, “Hello, 911, what is your emergency?” Annette replied, “There is a man in the house across from me. He has a gun and he’s cooking something and he’s wearing an apron.”
The operator stifled a giggle and managed to take down and convey the pertinent information before collapsing in a fit of laughter. This was one call she would remember for some time.
The marmalade was cooling on racks along the counter when Stephen’s doorbell rang. He was rather surprised to find four police officers standing on his front doorstep, though perhaps not as surprised as they were to see a somewhat forbidding man in a frilly apron standing before them.
They explained why they were there and asked if he did, in fact, have a gun in the kitchen.
The rifle sat on the counter, its new trigger now installed.
Stephen showed them in, explained what he had been doing, and showed them his gun permit and licence.
When Annette next looked out her window and peered into Stephen’s kitchen, she was appalled. Her neighbour was handing the four police officers slices of baguette slathered in freshly made marmalade, as they all stood around the rifle smiling and nodding appreciatively.