Maddy had read a short story about it in some magazine, although now she couldn't recall which one. What she did remember was that you had to bake two pies – one with, and one without. She baked them both on the middle rack, placing the one for herself on the right side, nudging it gently into the oven. Then she wound the timer, and wiped the flecks of flour off her palms.
She made the phone call with the cell phone her daughter had given her over the holidays. "For emergencies," her daughter had said, but by that week's end, Maddy had discovered that she liked being able to make a call while she was in town; she had even used it to call Dr. Keller when she was held up in traffic and running late to her appointment. Now, in the brightly lit hallway just outside of the kitchen, she dialed John's number.
"Still coming at three?" she asked, and then, "No, no. No need. Just bring yourself."
At a quarter to three, Maddy pulled the pies out of the oven. They looked identical: both golden brown, both stained dark purple in a few places where the filling had seeped through. She set two plates on the counter, reminding herself that hers would be the one on the right. Not a good time for forgetfulness, she thought.
John, predictably, was late. And he had in his hands a small container of cookies, even though she had told him to bring nothing.
"I baked a pie," said Maddy in protest, but John was already in the kitchen.
"Two pies, I see!" he said. "I'll put the cookies out on a plate, if you don't mind." She couldn't stop him; he was already setting them out on a platter, placing the chocolate chip cookies on one side and the oatmeal cookies on the other.
"Taste the pie," said Maddy. She was suddenly holding a forkful of it up to his mouth, cupping her other hand under it. Behind her, on the counter, the pie on the left was steaming from the place she had dug into.
"Not yet," said John.
"Go on. Taste it," said Maddy. And be done with it.
But he looked hesitant. He looked nervous. He looked as though he knew. He broke off an edge of one of the oatmeal cookies, and held it out to her.
"Only if you try a cookie first," he said.
"Fine," she said, "But I want a chocolate chip one."
"Suit yourself," said John. "But I want a bite of the other pie."