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Layla Labda and her husband Samuel lived on the upper floor of a triplex that they’d purchased in nineteen seventy-three. Their divorced son George who was well into his fifties, lived on the second floor with his dog, Jolie.
Joshua, a writer originally from Newcastle, rented the basement apartment from the Labda family.
Layla treated Joshua as if he were her second son. Since Joshua worked from home, Layla often brought him leftovers on her antique fine china and ornate silverware.
While Joshua truly appreciated the food, he was so involved in his writing that he often forgot to return Layla’s precious dishes and cutlery. Subsequently, Layla’s unique flatware had collected in a large pile on the counter of his tiny kitchen.
Whenever Joshua’s girlfriend Marie visited his flat, she berated him for his inconsiderate stockpiling tendencies, and took it upon herself to return the beautiful dishes and cutlery upstairs to Layla.
“Thank you, Marie, it’s very kind of you to return these to me, but I don’t mind at all if Joshua keeps my dishes lying around, my son George does the same thing. The dishes and cutlery always turn up in my kitchen drawers eventually,” Layla repeatedly assured Marie.
Before Marie officially moved in with Joshua, the couple were invited for a celebratory dinner upstairs at Layla and Samuel’s.
Seated across from her at the table, Marie observed the elderly hostess.
Layla was an octogenarian, and at just under five feet tall, she appeared visibly frail, but deceptively, she had tons of stamina. Layla admitted to her guests that she’d spent twelve hours preparing the feast that was spread out before them. “I prepared everything with love!” she said. Samuel picked up his wife’s hand and kissed it.
The Labda’s dining room table was covered from end to end with traditional Lebanese dishes, each item prepared from scratch.
Throughout dinner, (with his golden retriever by his side), George repeatedly filled everyone’s glasses without anyone ever being the wiser. Thanks to his magician like abilities, by the end of the evening, Marie was drunk.
“I could have sworn I only had one glass,” Marie said, shocked by her dizziness upon rising from the table.
George, Joshua, Layla and Samuel all laughed.
Before leaving, Joshua and Marie thanked Layla for her hospitality and for the tremendous effort she’d put into preparing the delicious feast.
“I love you both,” was Layla’s reply.
“I’m so impressed by her cooking talent,” Marie told Josh as they descended the stairs to his apartment.
“Maybe you should ask her for some of her recipes. If you can read, you can cook!” Joshua said.
While they were relaxing in front of the television after a long day of moving Marie’s belongings into the basement apartment, the couple heard a loud thud, followed by some whimpering noises coming from upstairs. Assuming it was just George playing with Jolie, the couple thought nothing of the racket.
The following morning, discreetly peeping through the horizontal blinds of their basement window, Marie and Joshua saw a procession of people attired in black clothing entering the triplex. From the snippets of conversations that they overheard, the couple gathered that Layla had died. Those whimpering noises and the thud they’d heard, had likely come from poor, sweet Layla.
After the funeral, George informed Joshua and Marie that they would have to move out. Samuel was moving into a retirement home and George was selling the triplex.
Marie couldn’t help but feel that Layla’s death was a bad omen for her relationship with Joshua, since it had occurred on the first night that she’d moved in with him. Shortly after the couple moved out, Marie and Joshua parted ways.
Many years later, as Marie was about to serve her husband and children a dinner of kebbe and tabouli, (both of which were Layla’s recipes), she happened to find an ornate silver serving spoon buried at the back of her cutlery drawer. She immediately recognized it as having belonged to Layla.
How on earth did that wind up here? Marie wondered.
Electing to view the mysterious discovery as a sign from Layla from the beyond, Marie knew that her family’s dinners from that night on would taste infinitely better, having been made, and served, with love from both herself and Layla.