From the fridge she grabs a basket of mushrooms, six giant shiitakes. She snatches a handful of thyme and a few heads of garlic from the shelf. Her hands full, she wraps her elbow around a huge carton of heavy cream, hugging it close to her as she leaves the fridge and kicks the door shut behind her.
She sharpens her best knife, not her favorite butcher's knife, but her chopping knife, and gives the garlic cloves a whack with the flat side. She pulls the peels away and begins chopping, the aroma of fresh garlic making its familiar way up to her nostrils. She scrapes the garlic from the board and into a pan with bubbling butter. Next she moves to the thyme, stripping the leaves from the stems and giving them a chop as well. She reaches for pasta dough, picking a freshly chilled spinach dough and running it through the press. She tosses the strips of pappardelle into a pot of boiling water and gives it a stir to separate the noodles. She returns to her pan of garlic, stirring that as well, the pieces beginning to brown and pop with a rich aroma. She slices her mushrooms, delicately thin, and adds them to the garlic, letting them wilt just barely. A splash of white wine deglazes the pan, producing a satisfying hiss and a light blue flame that lingers for a moment. Ann gives the burner a little more gas, and the flame in the pan lights up even more, barely grazing her face with intense heat. A generous amount of heavy cream puts out the flame, and she watches as the yellow butter, slivers of mushroom, and bits of herbs swirl together in creamy perfection.
Suddenly, without a hint of warning, the top of her head feels hot, hotter than the pan in front of her. She throws a flaming chef hat across the room and into the sink, then reaches for her hair which, too, is in flames. Desperately flapping a dish towel at her head she rushes towards the sink, but stubs her toe on a drain and sends herself- on fire- flailing through the air towards the tiled floor where she-
Wakes up, hyperventilating, feverish, and sweaty. Ann reaches to her head, making sure all her hair is still there. The sheets next to her are damp from her own sweat. She gets out of bed and walks to her bathroom sink, bracing herself on the counter, still out of breath from her nightmare. She decides to take a shower, leaving the water cold to reassure herself that she is no longer on fire.
After her rude awakening, she decides to take the truck the next town over to stock up on spices and olive oil while it's still early. She heads down her usual route, East on Main Street towards the highway entrance, when a woman steps off the sidewalk and into the middle of the street- in front of the truck. Ann slams on the brakes, but can't stop her momentum in time. She hits the woman who stepped into the street. In utter shock, she pulls over and gets out...