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Caramel Apples

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Gabe jumped as a tray of runny brown liquid landed with unnecessary force on the table in front of him, speckling his face and the newspaper he’d been reading with brown spots. “Nate!” he squawked.

“Relax, it’s caramel sauce,” Nathan said already back at the stove, dumping brown sugar into a pot.

Gabe hesitantly tested the liquid and was met with a sweet, mellow taste. “Shouldn’t this be thicker?”

“Yep.” Nathan moved on to a bottle of corn syrup, squeezing half the bottle into the pot, tilting his head critically and the adding the rest of the bottle.

“Uh Nate…shouldn’t you be following a recipe?”

“Nope.”

Gabe frowned, noticing the rising tension in Nathan’s posture. “Do you want a hand?”

“Nope.” He was stirring too vigorously and the pot tipped, thick syrup oozing out onto the burner. “Shit!” Nathan flicked the burner off and grabbed the wash rag, trying to scoop the sticky mess off before it could burn.

Gabe knew that was a lost cause, Nathan was just going to end up burning himself, and intervened, the kitchen already full of the stench of burning sugar. “Let it cool and then we’ll clean it up,” he said tugging Nathan away from the stove. “What’s this about?”

Nathan looked away, fidgeting with the corner of the wash rag. “My grandma used to make the best caramel apples. I was trying to figure out what she put in them.”

Gabe frowned. “So call her and ask what her recipe was.”

“I can’t.” Nathan stared at the floor. “She died. Last week.”

Gabe swore and put an arm around Nathan’s shoulder. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

Nathan shrugged and looked up, blinking rapidly. “I thought making caramel apples might be a nice tribute to her,” he mumbled, avoiding Gabe’s question.

“I’m sure she’d appreciate the thought even if it’s not her recipe.” Gabe squeezed Nathan’s shoulder.

“Yeah.”

“And if that doesn’t work my mom is a chef, she could probably help.”

Nathan huffed out a small laugh. “You’re right. I should just pick a recipe, she’d understand.”

Gabe looked over at the mess on the stove and shook his head. “Come on. Maybe if you talk it over with someone you’ll remember something that will help.” He led the way into the living room and the two of them curled up on the couch together.