Itâs a six-hour trip back to Virginia, and Iâm asleep for most of it. Itâs dark out by the time we pull into the school parking lot, and I see Daddyâs car parked up front. Weâve all had our own cars and been driving ourselves around for so long, but pulling into the school parking lot and seeing all the parents waiting there for us feels like being in elementary school again, like coming back from a field trip. Itâs a nice feeling. On the way home, we pick up a pizza and Ms. Rothschild comes over and she and Daddy and Kitty and I eat it in front of the
After, I unpack, do the bit of homework I have left, talk to Peter on the phone, and then get ready for bed. But I end up tossing and turning for what feels like eternity. Maybe itâs all the sleep I got on the bus, or maybe itâs the fact that any day now, Iâll hear from
. Either way, I canât sleep, so I creep downstairs and start opening drawers.
What could I bake this time of night that wouldnât involve waiting for butter to soften? Itâs a perpetual question in my life. Ms. Rothschild says we should just leave butter out in a dish like she does, but we arenât a leave-the-butter-out family, we are a butter-in-the-refrigerator family. Besides, it messes with the chemistry if the butter is too soft, and in Virginia in the spring and summertime, butter melts quick.
I suppose I could finally try baking the cinnamon roll brownies Iâve been playing around with in my head. Katharine Hepburnâs brownie recipe plus a dash of cinnamon plus cinnamon cream cheese swirl on top.
Iâm melting chocolate in a double boiler and already regretting starting this project so late when Daddy pads into the kitchen in the tartan robe Margot gave him for Christmas this past year. âYou canât sleep either, huh?â he says.
âIâm trying out a new recipe. I think I might call them cinnabrownies. Or sin brownies.â
âGood luck waking up tomorrow,â Daddy says, rubbing the back of his neck.
I yawn. âYou know, I was thinking maybe youâd call in for me and Iâd sleep in a little and then you and I could have a nice, relaxing father-daughter breakfast together. I could make mushroom omelets.â
He laughs. âNice try.â He nudges me toward the stairs. âIâll finish up the sin brownies or whatever theyâre called. You go to bed.â
I yawn again. âCan I trust you to do a cream cheese swirl?â Daddy looks alarmed and I say, âForget it. Iâll finish making the batter and bake them tomorrow.â
âIâll help,â he says.
âIâm pretty much done.â
âI donât mind.â
âOkay then. Can you measure me out a quarter cup of flour?â
Daddy nods and gets out the measuring cup.
âThatâs the liquid measuring cup. We need the dry measuring cups so you can level off the flour.â He goes back to the cupboard, and switches them out. I watch as he scoops flour and then carefully takes a butter knife to the top. âVery good.â
âI learn from the best,â he says.
I cock my head at him. âWhy are you still awake, Daddy?â
âAh. I guess I have a lot on my mind.â He puts the top back on the flour canister and then stops and hesitates before asking, âHow do you feel about Trina? You like her, right?â
I take the pot of chocolate off the heat. âI like her a lot. I think I might even love her. Do
This time Daddy doesnât hesitate at all. âI do.â
âWell, good,â I say. âIâm glad.â
He looks relieved. âGood,â he says back. Then he says it again. âGood.â
Things must be pretty serious if heâs asking me such a question. I wonder if heâs thinking of asking her to move in. Before I can ask, he says, âNo one will ever take the place of your mom. You know that, donât you?â
âOf course I do.â I lick the chocolate spoon with the tip of my tongue. Itâs hot, too hot. Itâs good that he should love again, that he should have someone, a real partner. Heâs been alone so long it felt like the normal thing, but this is a better thing. And heâs happy, anyone can see it. Now that Ms. Rothschildâs here, I canât picture her not here. âIâm glad for you, Daddy.â