The empty kitchen made me frown. Muffins were all that sounded good to me, and I had no desire to wander out of the Complex. True, I could have one of my humans bring some to the lobby, or I could go see the healing girl that would be my personal chef. However, I had given my mortals the day off, allowing them to explore and enjoy the city. Having them on call every single day was cruel. There was talk amongst them about alternating schedules.
With that in mind, I knew there was one floor I could go to. My favorite cooking goddess had to have muffin ingredients. Perhaps with enough pleading, Hestia would make some for me. She had cooked for me before, after all. But after a full minute of knocking and even banging on her door, it was clear she wasn’t home.
My gaze flitted to one side and then the other before I decided to use some questionable skills I had picked up in my time away with mortals. They were both good and bad influences. I was going to find what I wanted for muffins, and I wouldn’t let something as simple as a locked door prevent me from reaching them.
As I entered Hestia’s home, my heart nearly stopped. The nerdy paraphernalia was perfect. I thought I would be alone in my love of human media upon my return, especially things considered nerdy. But there it was, a large model of the Battlestar Galactica from the 2003 series. How did she learn of my secret passion? That, with the large bust of Thor from the God of War game universe, was enough to make me wonder if I could take Hestia for a wife if my husband rebuked me. Even if Thor had only been partially painted, I was still incredibly jealous. A small part of me was itching to grab the small painting kit beside it and help her finish it. No, that wasn’t my reason for coming here. I needed muffins.
After a few more moments of nerd glee, I found my way to the kitchen in search of my muffins. Did I accidentally open the bedroom door next to the hearth? Yes, I did. I didn’t visit kitchens often, but hers was a place of wonder. It was huge, and it drew me to the lit brick oven in the center of the room. There was a pit for cooking over an open fire, and above the flames was a large cut of brisket. My mouth watered as I watched the fat run down the side. It was hanging across a cast iron rod that was supported by more rods with square slots that allowed the chef to adjust the height of the meat.
As the fat dripped into the fire, the flames would flare to kiss the meat. It hypnotised me for a few moments.
Around the center brick oven, there were four cooking stations, the counters made from a light grey granite. The kitchen was equipped with all a chef would want. Mixers, cast-iron pans, food processors, and sharp knives, each had their place. The back wall had several restaurant-sized refrigerators that framed a sliding door. Through the open door, I could see a large pantry filled with non-perishable food from around the world.
The tentative knock at the door drew me from my exploration. “Come in!” I called. Hopefully, whoever it was wouldn’t make me leave. I’d just started breaking eggs after turning the oven up as high as it would go. Breaking eggs was fun, I liked how it felt as I crushed them into the bowl. It was therapeutic in a way.
“Hello? Where are you?” I heard, accompanied by the sound of footsteps.
A laugh escaped me before I called back to her. “The kitchen! Do you know how to make muffins?” I took handfuls of flour and threw it into the bowl, smacking it with a spoon and pouting as the white powder floated into the air. As the other woman entered, I couldn’t help but smile“Muffins? Yes, I know how to make muffins,” my savior replied with a nod. “What kind are you making?”
That made me pause, and I looked through the options I had dug out. “Strawberry with cream cheese?” I said with a shrug and shoved the two options forward. “I seem to have issues with my batter.”
When the woman’s eyes widened, I bit back another laugh. “Well, okay, first, let’s get the shells out of your wet mix.” I stepped back and watched her put her hand into the bowl, fishing out broken eggshells. “Grab some measuring cups, and then you can start cutting the strawberries.”
I’d happily let her fix the mix I had been working on. “Okay, cut the strawberries.” I grabbed the strawberries, setting them on what I assumed was a cutting board. I gripped a large knife tight and began chopping, bringing the blade down fast and hard. I realized my method looked more like those horror movies I had enjoyed than something from a cooking channel. It was almost as if I was trying to murder the strawberries or break the counter in two.
I could practically feel the stranger staring at me. “Uh, so I wanted to talk about something that happened if that’s okay?” The strawberries she’d told me to chop resembled a mashed-up pile of jam. “Can you measure out one teaspoon of baking soda and one teaspoon of baking powder and put them in a bowl?” With that, she began whisking eggs with vanilla and milk.
With a smile, I set the knife aside, letting the poor strawberries be done with my cruel torture. “Of course.” I looked around the kitchen. “A teaspoon?” I reached for a silver spoon I’d seen Hestia use for her tea. Perhaps the stranger hadn’t realized that the of course was a delayed reaction to her question, but I’d get back to it. I hoped. She seemed so nervous. It was sort of cute.
The stranger smiled and shook her head at me. “No, the measuring spoon should probably be nearby,” she told me as she measured flour into a bowl. “When you find it, add it to this bowl, then add to the mixer. I’ll find the muffin tray.”
In my search, I began throwing things out of drawers, looking for something that said teaspoon. There were some strangely shaped and sized spoons labeled with tsp and fractions, but nothing said teaspoon on it. “Do you know where they might be?” In our preoccupation in making the batter, neither of us had realized that the oven had begun smoking.
It wasn’t until I saw her eyes widen in shock and horror that I realized something was wrong. “Wait a minute, what’s going on here?” I watched her turn to the oven, her face paling to nearly pure white. I wondered if a goddess could faint. But she just remained frozen, staring at the oven.
Alarms went off as the smoke reached the detectors. Lights flashed white and red as a male voice said, “Warning, fire detected. Halon discharges in ten seconds.”
That was all I needed to hear. “Fire! Darling, you have no sense of self-preservation. Now would be a great time to escape. Hestia is on her way, I assure you.” I pointed at the door, realizing we were wasting time. “We should really leave. Now.” With that, I ran for the door.
“I thought this was your kitchen?”
I frowned at that. “Have you met Hestia? I promise this is not my kitchen. I just wanted a pan of muffins!” I nearly dove for the door, but it was too late. Liquid sprayed out of the wall, tracking only me, it seemed, covering me in sea green foam. Cursing, I wiped it off and threw it at the floor, but it had dyed my skin. Perfect. “I know I missed my hair being this color, but this is ridiculous!” I realized that the stranger wasn’t with me. With a sigh, I went back in, hurrying over to her and grabbing for her arm. I missed, but it was enough to make her move, at least. “Would you like to face Hestia’s wrath for trying to burn down her kitchen? We should leave! Now!” I repeated. Her frozen panic was exasperating.
“Oh my gods, I thought you were her! Now I’m an accomplice in arson?” Khione turned to race toward the door.
That made me laugh, a soft laugh, though. “I would be Aphrodite, and you must be new. Nice to meet you, new.” I ran for the door with her and flung it open but stopped short. Hestia and Amphitrite were standing in the hall, and I knew I was in trouble. “That would be Hestia…with my best friend.”