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Kate Gloss was cool and collected, the spitting image of the modern mom. Her crisp pink apron hung easily on her slender waist, her new stilettos gracefully gliding along the linoleum tiles as she entered the set, and her fragile hands rested effortlessly on the spotless countertops. Short honey blonde hair hung around her face, gently touching her toned shoulders.
Kate was the kind of mom twenty-something newly weds imagined they would be; the kind of mom who was independent and strong, and practically stepping out of a better homes magazine. Yes, Kate was the American dream. She was young and pretty with two cute toddlers, a promising career while still maintaining her glamorous social life. The only exception to her almost perfect life was a non existent husband. Richard had died four years earlier in a terrible car crash, just when she was pregnant with her second child. His death had been so hard for her, almost as hard as having to listen to dozens of people saying, “I’m so sorry, is there anything I can do?” They would always ask when they heard about her husband. She hated when people pretended to care, their fake sympathy was often more depressing than the actual accident.
So, she had been left alone in a house that was far too big and two demanding toddlers with no one to help her but a few book club friends and a long line of babysitters that had been replaced more often than Kate’s always-fresh manicure. It was then, a few months after her husband’s death that she finally started to think about what she wanted to do with her life. Money was never an issue, she had always live comfortably and now she had even inherited a large sum of money. She had gone to a decent college because of her parent’s generous donations and gotten mediocre grades, but never had any real interests. She went though school discarding boyfriends and always looking forward to the next sorority mixer. When she met Richard, she no longer had to think about her future, he would always be there to provide for her, she thought.
And now here she was, four years later, standing in the state-of-the art kitchen studio where she would be filming her very own live cooking show, Kate’s Kitchen. Today was her first show and she knew her recipes down cold. After hours of practicing her gourmet roasted chicken dinner in the demo kitchen, her hands were adept to the steady chopping, the rhythm of tossing vegetables in the skillet, and she had memorized every casual joke the producers instructed her to make.
“We’re on in two,” the director roared above the shuffling crowd of producers, Teleprompters, and camera men.
This is it, Kate told herself as she heavily inhaled the thick, anxious air. She thought of her deceased husband, she though of her high society friends that would be sitting on their suede couches as they waited for Kate’s show to go on the air. In two minutes, millions of moms would be tuning into her hot new show, envying her shiny blonde hair and perfect roast chicken. What will they think? Will they look at me as the ideal American mom? Will they like my food, my freshly painted tips? She asked herself, what would Richard think if he could see me now? Would he be proud of my accomplishments?
But she didn’t have time for these unanswered questions now; the clock clicked away feverishly and it was all that she could do to stop herself from fainting. Her dainty insides started to flutter, but if she was nervous, she didn’t show it.
The director made a corny gesture to signal to see if Kate was ready, and she replied with an excited thumbs-up. She was finally ready. Kate stepped onto center stage, a perfect TV smile plastered on her face that would remain there for the next hour. She pleasantly greeted her imaginary audience, absentmindedly shuffling through each line in her head.
“Welcome to Kate’s Kitchen, where anyone can cook,” She beamed, a little too enthusiastically. “Today we will be making a delicious herb encrusted roast chicken dinner, and trust me, it will be fantastic!” Kate herself, was even a little surprised at how cheesy her lines.
As she continued making her meal, still conversing with her viewers about ingredients, cooking techniques and whatnot, she smiled, proud of where she was now. She no longer had to be burdened by her husband’s death, the pain always weighing her down and holding her back like an electric fence. She had finally done something on her own and no one could take that away. The show was all hers, from the Viking double range to the fluorescent lights adjusted specifically for her skin tone. Her life was now full and busy, rushing from hair salon to meeting, from charity dinner to cocktail party. One part of her actually regretted having kids, the demanding lives of toddlers just slowed her down.
At the Gloss’s Estate in Greenwich, Maria slumped into the overprice sofa, starring blankly into the mammoth flat screen. Maria was the new nana, and was still getting used to the new environment. Kate, for once left careful instructions for Maria to watch her new cooking show with the kids, James and Molly. Though Maria wasn’t great at English, she could almost instantly get the general idea of the show and tuned it out after a few minutes.
Sitting on the floor, the two toddlers weren’t very interested in learning how to make gourmet roast chicken either. James was rolling his toy trucks across the carpet and Molly seemed to be creating a Barbie fashion show of sorts. They weren’t bad kids. Except for the occasional squabble or tantrum, they were usually quite mellow and well behaved.
“Do you want me to make you a snack?” Maria coed in a thick Spanish accent as tenderly brushed Molly’s cheek.
Molly replied with a sound that might have been “Chya,” or “Gough,” but Maria took it as a yes and shuffled into the kitchen. Though Maria had only been working for Kate Gloss for about three months, the kids had grown attached to her. Underneath her broken English and rough, hardworking hands, there was something genuine and real about her soothing lullaby and a comfort in her abundant hug. No, she was no a preppy Connecticut mom, but yes, she was there for them, something that there real mom could never provide. She was the one who had driven Molly to her first day of preschool, and who ate dinner with them every night.
Kate had forked over the hefty tuition for private school and provided them with a home, but it was already apparent to James and Molly that she was never around. They resented the fact that she was always doing things for herself: HER career, HER party, HER vacation. Weren’t they enough for her?
Back at the set, Kate ran her knife through an onion, instructing her audience to sauté them in a pan of sizzling oil until golden brown. She crossed to the other side of the kitchen where she began getting her ingredients for a caprese salad. While cutting thin slices of fresh mozzarella cheese, she though, I must be the coolest mom in Connecticut. She carefully arranged the white slices on a plate and moved onto cutting the crimson tomato, forgetting that she should have stirred the sizzling onions before continuing. She noticed a burly camera man signaling something to her frantically, but she disregarded him completely. This was HER show, after all.
James was the first to notice it. Him and his sisters were still sitting on the toy laden floor, but now they were actually watching their moms show intently. Maria’s feet still padded in the nearby kitchen, and they could still hear the thump of the knife on the cutting board as she sliced apples. She hadn’t seen it; the Kitchen was out of sight of the TV.
As the kids had been watching Kate’s show, James had seen a fleeting spark on the far side of the kitchen, along with thousands of other Americans. But it was nothing, right. An instant later, the flame reappeared and quickly engulfed the oily pan. The fire seemed to spread almost instantly, and by now, viewers could hear frantic yelling from back stage workers. One rough voice even yelled, “Turn it off, turn it off, Get this thing off the air!”
But Kate, unfortunately seemed to catch on slower that the others. She was still in her own world, still slicing a tomato, as though her life depended on it. She didn’t realize the danger, the panic, which everyone else detected automatically. Her life was finally catching up to her.
Kate Gloss finally looked up and saw the flames approaching. Her perfect TV smile vanished, replaced by a look of horror, the most naked and hopeless expression that would ever cross her face. And her last moments, alone in the crowded studio, she tried with every cell in her body to save herself. She dived from the approaching flame and threw herself out of the view of the camera. But her efforts failed, and a few moments later, the last sound was a frantic, high pitched scream before the screen went blank.