"This is one of my boyfriend's
favorite dishes," Nicole Vitarelli said, smiling at the camera.
Yeah, my imaginary
boyfriend, she thought.
"And you can see how
beautiful the Chicken Cordon Bleu looks when it's finished," she continued.
One of the cameras moved in to get a close-up of the main course. "That wasn't
too hard, was it? And it's so delicious."
She automatically added
a scoop of lemon rice to the plate, then spooned on some plain green peas.
"And here's how the whole meal looks together." She brought the dishes over to
the table which was already set with fine china and sparkling crystal goblets.
She kept her hands steady as she proceeded to light two red candles on the
table. "Now, you're all ready for your romantic dinner! Enjoy it, and please
join me in two weeks for another episode of 'A Taste of Romance!' I'll be
sharing my grandmother's secret recipe for lasagna!" She continued to smile as
the cameraman slowly backed up and got a wide shot of her with the food in the
"Cut. Very good,
Nicole, I think that's it."
Nicole relaxed her
smile and posture. As much as she enjoyed taping the show, it was always a
relief when it was over and she didn't have to perform and be quite so perky.
She sat on the kitchen stool as Irene Abrahams, the show's producer, came
The two camera people
backed up, and someone switched off the brightest lights and put on the regular
lights in the studio. She immediately felt the change in temperature as the
Taping this show had
gone pretty smoothly and they hadn't had to do more than a couple of retakes.
Nicole smiled at Irene as she approached, satisfied that this episode of her
show would be easy to edit.
As she got a look at
Irene's face, however, she felt a twinge. Irene looked perturbed. The
curly-haired woman was in her fifties and usually wore a happy expression. But
today her expression was different.
"Nicole, do you have a
minute?" Irene asked.
"Of course," Nicole
"C'mon over to my
Nicole followed Irene,
wondering what this was about. Her show had been well-received since it aired
almost six months ago. She didn't think it would be cancelled. Then what?
Were they going to change the time it aired?
She'd first met her
producer when Irene took the Italian Cooking class Nicole taught one night a
week at her community Adult School. After the six week class ended, Irene, a
producer at the local Cable TV station, had told Nicole they were going to try
doing a few cooking shows on a rotating basis. "They're so popular now," she'd
said, "and our executive producer wants to try something new. We have advertisers
already interested in the idea."
Irene had said that
they wanted to do one of the shows on "Romantic Dinners." Her boss, Thomas
Clarkson, the executive producer, had asked her to find a young, attractive,
enthusiastic woman who knew how to cook to host the show. "I immediately
thought of you!" Irene had said.
Nicole had auditioned
and been accepted, and the show, which aired every other week, had quickly
become a success. Over the last few months she'd gotten friendly with Irene.
As she slid into the chair by Irene's desk, Nicole now wondered what was on the
producer's mind. She took a deep breath. Even in here, she could smell the
delectable Chicken Cordon Bleu with its ham and swiss cheese filling.
Irene sat down, a
slight frown marring her otherwise pleasant face. She glanced out the window.
The September evening was warm, and the windows were closed to let the air
conditioned air circulate. There were starkly beautiful pink streaks in the
sky as the sun moved towards sunset.
"What's up?" Nicole
asked lightly, trying to ignore the strange sensation in her stomach. What was
Irene sighed, and
looked at Nicole. "I guess this is.kind of my fault. You know how I suggested
a few months ago that you mention your boyfriend once or twice on each show?
Since it's about romantic dinners?"
"Yes." Nicole said
slowly. She had complied, although Irene knew she wasn't dating anyone special
right now. And hadn't dated anyone special for a long time. Her boyfriend was
"Well." Irene sighed
again. "Thomas wants your boyfriend to put in a guest appearance on the show."
Nicole felt her stomach
plunge to the floor. "He what?" She stared at Irene as astonishment and
consternation swept through her. "But I don't have-"
"--a boyfriend. I
know," Irene said. She met Nicole's look straight on, her face flushing
guiltily. "And I feel bad. Your 'boyfriend' was my idea. But--you're going
to have to come up with one, fast."
Where was she going
to find a boyfriend?