(A/N: when did I write this!? Like seriously? This version still doesn’t work the way I want it to for this story, but it’s something, I suppose.)
I suppose Vicky has always been my favorite child. A father never really lets go of the love for his firstborn, even if she does end up being the black sheep in the family. She just reminds me so much of her mother, always thinking with her heart first. And like her mother, she never quite took to photography like the other two did. As a child, she suffered through many lessons on camera mechanics and composition and lighting before I finally let it go and moved on to Lewis. But she’s still my favorite child.
I’ve never seen her so at home as she is in the kitchen. I realize this as I watch her calmly flaming a crème brulée behind the counter at her restaurant. This is the first time I’ve made it out to San Francisco since she finished culinary school, but not the first time she’s cooked for me. We had a prime rib roast this past Christmas dinner that was so delicious that Melanie literally started drooling when I mentioned it at New Year’s. Even in our kitchen at home, Vicky looks so at ease—calm, precise, measured. No hint of the sorority girl I worried about while she was in college. I’m not sure what changed, but I suspect it was meeting Nick, then a first year medical student, now her husband. He’s a sensible fellow, just the kind of man you’d like your favorite daughter to marry.
Vicky deftly wipes a drop of raspberry sauce from the clean white border of the dessert plate and slides it onto the counter in front of me. “For your sweet tooth,” she tells me, winking with a hint of sass. I think back to countless midnight ice cream dates in the kitchen at home—plenty of bad grades and secret boyfriends were confessed over a pint of Cherry Garcia. She switched me to sugar-free sorbet when the doctor started worrying about my weight (he tells me to stay off my bad knee then worries when I gain weight, go figure), but we still have our secret meetings in the kitchen at night. There’s less confessing now and more worrying. She worries about the restaurant, about starting a family, and occasionally about Melanie. Watching her move through these stages of life, to see her become the capable adult I knew she would be, sends me back through my own experiences and my own worries when I was her age. It will always be this way, but how much more wisdom do I have left to impart?
I pick up my spoon and crack the caramel top. It looks exactly as delectable as the framed review in the front window—the near cylinder of custard sitting on a crisscross of raspberry and chocolate drizzle with a mint leaf and a raspberry settled artistically in the corner. Maybe those lessons on composition did leave an impression after all. And Nick tells me that Vicky started taking photos of the food for the restaurant’s website. They could have hired someone, but apparently she shrugged, picked up a camera, and poof—just like that, they had excellent photos for the website. What can I say, it’s in her genes. It might’ve taken her a little longer than the other two, but she came around. Even so, I know as I watch her add a dash of seasoning to a pan of mussels that she’d never leave the kitchen. Photography will always be just a hobby for her, never the life it was for me.