Sort of a companion piece to Hal’s heartbreaking Something Good, Gone. Kait has boy issues, yes. But bad breakups seem to drag a lot of other cranky issues right along with them, like anchors dragging on a boat. Heh, and I just realized that Hal ended up cheating on Kait with a woman whose name is really close to that of Kait’s mom. WHOOPS.
Eggs first. Kaithin taps them against the clean table, not against the bowl. They slide into her mixing bowl one by one. She stirs them until her elbow aches and the eggs are stiff and peaking, then adds the honey in a long, amber ribbon. She stirs the whole mess until it’s light and fluffy and golden like sunshine. The flour goes in last, folded gently so the air-filled eggs and honey don’t lose their puffy lightness. The hearth already roars high. The batter fills two pans. They slide into the well-seasoned oven over the hearth with ease.
“Sweetpea, let me just fix you up a little. Leecher Birchtree makes the best potions to lighten freckles, and a rinse that’ll bring the gold to your hair. Then you’ll have all the boys to choose from!” Carolanne Brewer holds a younger Kaithin’s chin. In the background, this year’s “uncle” laughs, not kindly, as he eats the good food the women made. Carolanne looks over her shoulder at him, just so. It’s one of her best poses. Her dressing-gown slips open just enough to tantalize. Carolanne pats Kaithin’s cheek and says, “Muffin? Play outside.”
She cut her hair the first night. It’s a short, jagged look, all those little waves gone from where her hair was beginning to brush against her shoulders. She looks like a skinny, plucked chicken. Nidhil’s face, when she saw it…Kait smiles without a hint of humor to it. It will grow back, Nidhil assured her, while trying to style the short, ashy hair this way, then that. “I don’t care,” Kait answered dully.
“Sweet pea! Do you know Mr. Carver? Such a darling man. He’s …well. He’s going to watch the house for us while we’re out with the caravan. Barry Carver, dear. He’s got a trade, and he’s very strong, and maybe you’ll have someone strong with a trade someday, if you just start listening to your mother. Why are your stays so flat? I gave you those cloths for a reason! Oh, stop scowling. You’re always scowling and squinting, like a scared little mouse.”
She thinks of Hal holding her hand, but it’s not her hand he wants to hold. It’s Coroline’s. She thinks of resting with her head on Hal’s leg, and how Coroline covered her eyes so she wouldn’t see them kiss. Guess she got over that. Hal’s hand on Kait’s hair, his arms around her, his weight creaking in their little bed while they learned together everything he turned right around and gave to her like it meant nothing. Like Kait meant nothing. Like it was all nothing.
Did you like him, sweetling? Robby Weaver? Oh…Kaithin. Look at him. He’ll have his father’s business soon enough, and he’s ever so handsome, and… Kaithin, you make your mother worry. You don’t follow a word of my advice. Even Uncle Kendall says you could be a charming little mouse if you just fixed yourself up the tiniest bit! Robby Weaver’s stepping out with that Stabler girl. She uses the hair rinses her mother gives her. Do you need me to show you how to walk again?
The cakes are burning. She can smell them, honey and egg and acrid smoke. Let them. She doesn’t pull them out of the oven until they’re entirely black on the top. The shriveled, dark remnants make a dull thud when she taps her spoon against them. She tosses the cake pans aside with a clatter.
Rosemead says, “…if you let that stupid little boy define who you are as a woman, I will be VERY disappointed in you.“ Desmira says, “If you want my cane to knock him all the way back to Trestlebridge, I’ll do it.“ Nidhil offers more rinses for her stupid hair. Above it all, Carolanne says, “It’s simple. Say no once in a while to keep him pleading. Give him surprises now and again so he’s grateful. Feed him. If you do it right, he stays. If you don’t, he finds better.“
“He found better,” Kaithin whispers aloud. Her shoulders droop. She reaches beneath the worktable for more eggs and more honey. She feels none of it in her hands.