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“Beef enchiladas and chicken enchiladas . . . there are no vegetarians in your family, I take it?”

Carlos opened the oven again and took the sheet pans of vegetables out.

“God, no. They would probably all flip out if I brought over vegetarian enchiladas. Which is a shame, because I make some really good ones with cheese and onions in the same kind of red chile sauce we’re making now. I just save those for parties with my friends instead of my family; even my carnivore friends happily eat them.”

She rubbed her fingernail against a stubborn seed to loosen it from the pepper.

“That sounds delicious. I’d eat those in a second.”

Carlos tipped all of the vegetables into a big pitcher.

“Excellent, you might just get the opportunity some time.”

He stuck a bunch of cilantro leaves and a handheld blender inside the pitcher, and in about thirty seconds the roasted vegetables had become a fragrant olive-green sauce.

“See?” He turned to her for the first time in a while. “Now the tomatillo sauce is all . . . oh my God, what are you doing?”

She stopped, just as she’d pulled the stem off another dried chili.

“What? Isn’t this what you told me to do?”

She had no idea why he was looking at her with that appalled look on his face.

He crossed the kitchen and picked up a box that had been sitting next to the bags of chilies.

“Gloves! Nik! Holy shit, you’ve been touching all of those chilies with your bare hands. Did I forget to tell you to put gloves on? Oh no.”

She had no idea what he was talking about.

“What do gloves have to do with anything?”

He took her by the waist and pulled her over to the sink.

“You were touching dried hot chilies—and their seeds—with your bare hands. Your fingers are going to be on fire soon.” He turned on the water and handed her the bottle of dish soap.



She poured the soap over her hands and scrubbed them with his sponge.

“I’m going to say something I don’t normally say out loud, and especially not to men. I am an idiot.”

He laughed but still looked concerned.

“I refuse to agree with that statement on the grounds that it may cause you to murder me.”

She laughed.

“No, it’s not your fault.” She felt really stupid. “The box was sitting right there. I should have paid attention.” She wiggled her nose. “It’s okay. You don’t have to stand over me and supervise my hand washing. Move on to your next task.”

He picked up the box of surgical gloves and pulled a pair on.

“Okay, just keep washing your hands for a few more minutes while I work on these chilies.”

She nodded. She reached up to scratch her nose, but caught herself just in time.

For the next few minutes he pulled the chilies open—taking a lot less care to remove all of the seeds than she had—while she scrubbed her hands. Finally, she turned off the water and turned to him.

“I think my hands are all right. But the thing is that my nose . . .”

He dropped a dried chili into the pot, with his latex-encased hands, and picked up another.

“Okay great, we must have caught it in time. Pull some gloves on and let’s go.”

She couldn’t stand it anymore.

“I will in one second, but the thing is that my nose is on fire.”

He dropped the chili and turned to her.

“What did you say?”

She grabbed his hand. It was getting worse by the second.

“My nose is on fire! My face! My face is on fire!”

He slowly looked up at her. Her face felt like it was bright red. How had it gotten so hot so fast? She wanted to submerge her head in a cold bathtub. Or a lake. Or maybe the ocean would help. No, too much salt.

“Your face. Oh shit. You touched your face, didn’t you?”

She threw her hands in the air.

“Who cares, what does it matter? I mean, I guess I did, but I don’t remember doing it, but also it’s kind of moot right now because my face is on fire! What do we do to make this stop?”

She knew she wasn’t being rational, but she didn’t care. Because her face was on fire and getting hotter by the second.

Carlos opened the fridge and muttered to himself as he looked through it.

“Milk is good for capsaicin burns, but it’s not like you can sit there with your nose in a bowl of milk, hmmmm.”

He was being altogether too calm about this. What the fuck was he talking about, “capsaicin.” This was not the time for fancy medical words. Had he not noticed that her FACE WAS ON FIRE?


“Sorry, sorry. What about this?” He took a tub of sour cream out of the fridge.

She took it from him.

“What do you mean ‘what about this?’ What’s this going to do?” Why the hell was she even asking questions? She would literally do anything right now to make this stop.

He took the lid off of the tub of sour cream.

“Put it all over your face.”

She narrowed her eyes at him, but scooped a big dollop out of the tub with her fingers anyway.

“Are you sure about this?”

He nodded.

“Of course I’m sure; I’m a doctor, aren’t I? Smear a big layer of sour cream everywhere it hurts.”

How the hell had she gotten herself here? This morning, she was waking up in her nice, normal bed in her nice, normal apartment in Silver Lake, and just a few hours later, a man was standing in front of her ordering her to smear sour cream all over her face. And the worst part was, she was going to do it.

“Fine, but if this doesn’t work, I’m going to kill you and bury your body far, far away.”

He nodded.

“You have my permission.”

She patted the sour cream all over her nostrils, cheeks, and upper lip. It felt so soothing that she immediately applied more.

“There,” he said. “Does that feel better?”

She dug her fingers back into the tub for more.

“God, yes. I’m not sure if it feels better because it’s cold or if there’s more to it, but I don’t care right now—all that matters is that it feels better. Put the rest back in the fridge so that if it’s the cold, I can put more on when this stuff warms up.” She took a deep breath as the heat finally started to recede. “Please. I meant to say please, right there.”

He grinned and put the tub back in the fridge. She turned to the sink and washed her hands to get the sour cream off, and then immediately took two surgical gloves from the box and put them on. After this experience, she wanted to wear them everywhere. She could be like one of those never nudes, except just for her hands. Who knew when hot chilies could attack you? Better to be prepared. People might think she was a lunatic, but those would just be uninformed people who had never experienced what she’d just experienced.

Carlos put his arm around her.

“Are you feeling better?” he asked. “It seems like the sour cream is helping?”

She turned to face him.

“Yeah, I think so. I feel like I’m cooling—”

Carlos burst out laughing.

“You . . . oh my god . . . the . . . your face!”

He was laughing so hard he bent over. She put her gloved hands on her hips while she waited for him to calm down from laughing at, not with, her. It wasn’t her fault that his fucking chilies set her face on fire.

“It’s just . . . you just . . .” He was laughing too hard to talk. Finally, he grabbed her by the hand and pulled her out of the kitchen and into the hallway that led to his bedroom.

“Where are you taking me? Are you trying to take me to bed?” She gestured to her face, which she knew from experience was set in a death glare. “Does this look like my ‘I want to have sex’ face?”

He stopped in the hallway and doubled over again, before he pulled himself together and dragged her into the bathroom.

“That! Look at that!” He pushed her in front of the mirror.

She’d been so distracted by gratitude for her face feeling better, that she’d sort of forgotten that she had smeared sour cream all over her face.


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