Eugene closed the oven door and faced his wife. “I hope I got all the pits out, or the boys will break their teeth on my cherry tarts.”
Samantha didn’t smile.
It was pouring rain and though the weather forecaster hadn’t suggested building an ark, her longed-for vacation at the lake seemed like a fading vision. A swampy muck of floodwaters hardly encouraged suntan-by-the-shore-eat-drink-and-dance-dreams.
With his hands on her shoulders, Eugene tried for a half-caress-half-shake. “I was only kidding. No deep metaphor of the state of the universe.”
Like a rusty robot, Samantha rotated to the French doors off the kitchen. The hanging plants sparkled with raindrops while a pair of red slippers she’d left by her favorite chair appeared as droopy as her spirits. “Summer will end, and I’ll be as exhausted as ever.”
Eugene didn’t know what to say. Cherry tarts seemed inconsequential. Like war humor—it just wouldn’t work as planned. Some things weren’t funny.
Devon, their six-foot-three and two hundred pound son, loomed into the room. His shadow entered first. He stopped, glanced from one parent to the next, and then shuffled his feet—indecision warring with better judgment. “Hey, just to let you know, I got the job. They want me to start next week. So—”
Though his heart soared with pride, Eugene’s stomach plummeted. Not for a minute could he glance at his wife and deal with her emotional mash-up. No, he’d go it alone. He threw his arms wide and embarrassed the hell out of his eldest with the tightest bear hug he’d given since Devon fell out of the treehouse at four and managed to walk away unscathed.
Doing a darn good impression of a startled linebacker with no ball in sight, Devon let himself be hugged. Then he hugged back.
Samantha stayed on the sidelines. Silent. Stoic. It took a full two and a half minutes before her composure crumbled, and she charged into the hug. Her muffled, “I can’t believe you’ll be leaving us…I’m so proud, but I can’t believe…” reverberated against the men’s You-Know-What-I-Mean eye lock.
Eugene pulled back and sniffed, fear reverberating through his body. “The tarts!” A quick U-turn.
Samantha tossed him the oven mitts.
Their youngest son, Kris sauntered in with the grace of a gangling teen that has outgrown every bit of his summer clothing. “Hey! You hear about Devon?” His gaze shifted from his mom to his brother. “I’ll get your room, right. It’s bigger than mine and besides, you can sleep on the couch if you ever come to visit.”
Samantha slapped her little boy’s arm and pooh-pooed the very idea. “Wait till he’s out of the house before any formal take over.” She leaned in and stage-whispered. “I have a whole house re-do that’ll cost a fortune, and I don’t want your dad to suffer cardiac arrest before I get a good contractor set up.”
Eugene waved a succulent, cherry popover before his wife’s face. “No goodies until you behave.”
Lightning flashed and thunder rolled over the celestial landscape.
Not to be held back by the threat of burned fingers or tongue, Kris attacked the hot cookie tray with the gusto of a starved rhinoceros.
Devon lowered his gaze.
Samantha accepted her husband’s offering and held it out to her eldest. “You first, Sweetie. The man of the hour.”
Eugene wrapped his arm around his wife and together they watched their sons partake of his latest culinary delight. He tipped his head, touching hers. “So the lake is out—but a cave tour would be pretty cool. Literally and figuratively.”
Samantha shrugged, her gaze wandering the room and out the door. Soothing drops fell in a steady rhythm while the fields and trees glowed, revitalized. “After we see Devon off…No hurry.”
While Eugene scrubbed the cookie trays, his wife chatted on the phone, spreading good news along the family gossip chain. A send-off party with matching luggage was in the works.
Once he slid the trays into place, Eugene eyed the last popover. He hadn’t even had one yet. He refilled his coffee cup, pulled out a chair, and plunked down for a well-earned respite. He took a bite. Wow! Better than he realized. He chewed and savored, and finally licked the last crumbs from his fingers. Not one pit.
With a sigh of contentment, he returned to the sink, washed his cup, and reset the coffee machine. He poured the spent grounds into the compost container and froze. There was Devon’s napkin with the red insignia of his new company—his mom had forgotten which job he had applied for. There, on the napkin, lay a cherry pit.
The silent accusation stared at him. He hadn’t gotten them all. Devon had never said a word. Eugene glanced at his wife. Did she know?
Samantha caught his gaze and frowned.
What should he do? Pretend it didn’t exist?
Samantha hung up and sauntered over. Wrapping her arm around her husband, she nuzzled his neck. “Say, how about we celebrate our successful launching of son number one into the world tonight?”
Eugene held up the cherry pit pinched in his fingers. “I missed one.” Blinking back ridiculous tears he fought the hammer blows pummeling his heart. “He could’ve broken his tooth and then—”
Samantha nudged her husband aside and practically sat in his lap, her arm still around his neck. “There are always cherry pits, honey. We’ll never get them all. Or stop rainy-day blues. Some things aren’t possible.”
Eugene nodded. She was right. But still, his heart ached. Damn cherry pit.
Footsteps approached, and Samantha practically fell on the floor in her haste to get on her feet. She stroked her husband’s cheek and then patted Devon’s arm as she headed out of the room.
Devon leaned in the kitchen doorway. “Hey, dad, before I go…just wondering…”
Eugene climbed to his feet and met his son’s bashful gaze. “Yeah?”
“Could you give me the recipe for your cherry tarts?”
Eugene smiled. He didn’t have to ask if his son wanted them with or without the pits.
They both knew.
Books by A. K. Frailey
Historical Fiction & Science Fiction Blend Novels
OldEarth ARAM Encounter https://amzn.to/2KLhlsN
OldEarth Ishtar Encounter https://amzn.to/2OAkDQF
OldEarth Neb Encounter https://amzn.to/3iGqGlQ
OldEarth Georgios Encounter https://amzn.to/3v7w8oI
OldEarth Melchior Encounter (In Production)
Science Fiction Novels
Last of Her Kind http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg
Newearth: Justine Awakens http://amzn.to/2pq0vWN
It Might Have Been—And Other Short Stories https://amzn.to/2XXdDDz
Encounter Science Fiction Short Stories & Novella https://amzn.to/3dq6q5l
My Road Goes Ever On—Spiritual Being, Human Journey https://amzn.to/2KvF3Ll
The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings https://amzn.to/3rtAy6S
The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5