By Elizabeth Smith
The Pensieve Editor’s Note: This story is the second part of a series of stories. The first part is “The Classified”.
“Are they ready yet?” Annabel asked.
“Not quite, sweetie,” Jade answered as she scrubbed a mixing bowl.
She gazed out the window in front of the sink to the neatly trimmed grass and the apple tree in full blossom. This is truly a lovely home, she thought. She blinked; the afternoon sun aggravated her headache. Jade turned to the man beside her.
“How long have you lived here?”
She handed him the clean bowl. He dried it with a cloth.
“Moved in right before Annabel was born. Four years, more or less.”
He glanced at her sideways, and their eyes met briefly. Brett slipped a grin and touched the small of her back.
The doorbell rang. Brett excused himself.
Little Lief slapped the high chair tray as Annabel presented him with a small stuffed elephant. Well, at least he’s happy this morning, Jade thought. She rubbed her eyes. Lief hardly slept at all that previous night. She watched as the baby clumsily shoved the ear of Annabel's elephant into his mouth. Jade sighed and wiped a spoon. Teething, maybe?
The timer beeped. Annabel’s straw hair whipped as she turned toward the oven.
“Cookie time!” She said as she skipped across the kitchen tile.
“Woah, not so fast. Stay back while I get them out.”
Jade scraped the cookies from the tray onto a platter Brett said was the official “cookie plate” in the house. It was white, and the rim was scalloped. Dainty daffodils lined the edge. The aesthetic charm was so unlike the man of the house, with his get-it-done mindset. In the few months since Jade met him, she had yet to see Brett spend money or time on anything superficial, like a colorful polo or a new satchel for work, although she wished he would. At least he let me cut his hair, she thought. His unruly curls had grown so unflattering as they flopped across his forehead.
Annabel sneaked her hand toward a cookie.
“Hold up!” Jade laughed. “We oughtta wait for your dad.”
The woman looked around the kitchen for a suitable high spot. The high corner shelf was already lined with glass vases. Not wanting to intrude on her first visit to Brett’s home, Jade avoided the cupboards. On top of the fridge looked promising. The only thing there was a box of jars touching the wall.
Annabel slouched on her way across the room, where she sat upside down on the leather couch, her long hair touching the floor. Jade scrubbed the baking sheet.
“Are you going to be my mommy?”
Jade’s hand slipped, and the soapy tray clanged in the sink. She looked tiredly at Annabel, who was now balancing on the arm of a chair to begin her apish climb along each piece of furniture. The baby fussed. Unsure how to tame the baboon on the coffee table, Jade opted to soothe her son first. She pulled him out of the chair and held him at her hip. Clearly he needed milk.
The front door closed. “Sorry about—” Brett started. He saw how the platter was placed precariously, how Jade reached for the refrigerator door with her free hand. The woman gasped as the cookies and porcelain shards scattered across the kitchen floor. Lief shrieked, and Jade carefully tread to the high chair to set him back down. She snatched a broom by the cupboard and began to sweep.
“Don’t toss it out!” Brett said as Jade’s dustpan hovered over the trash bin.
She stared blankly. She had never seen him sentimental over anything or anyone, except his daughter.
She placed the bits into the clean mixing bowl. Most pieces were tiny, hardly the size of a fingernail. Gluing them together seemed impossible, yet Brett silently gathered each fragment, as if he were counting seashells at the beach.
The baby was truly in fits. Jade grabbed the milk from the open refrigerator and closed the door. Soon, the abrasive cries were replaced with the clicking noise of the bottle’s synthetic nipple.
Jade noticed a large piece of the plate underneath the chair and picked it up. There was a swoop of green letters on one side: R Sorenson. Jade ran her hand through her smooth curls. A weary shame came over her.
Brett had mentioned his late wife was an artist. Jade stood with the fragment in her palm. She looked at Brett making a final sweep; then her eyes met the cool green stare of Annabel, who was crouched on the coffee table, ready to leap.