Authors: Lorhainne Eckhart
See you at lunch.” And then he was gone out the back, past the whitewashed, dated paneling that filled the narrow hall, pulling the back door closed behind him. Emily couldn’t believe it. She stood there holding a quiet child who had no interest in her. He should have been big eyed, maybe even scared of the stranger holding him. The only interest he had was the box of crackers.
Mama.” Katy tugged on her jeans then shoved her thumb in her mouth and reached her arms up. “Oh Katy bug, I can’t hold you both.” Emily squatted down and sat Trevor on the floor. When she tried to stand with the cracker box, Trevor screeched, “na, na, na.” Holy crap was he loud.
Here you go, no need to act like that. Use your words.” Emily handed him the box of crackers. Again, he wouldn’t look at her. For a minute, she worried he’d choke he was cramming them in his mouth so fast. Katy tapped her leg and pointed to the box. Of course, she wanted some. “Katy, how about a banana instead? She dropped her bag on the sticky cluttered table, and pulled out a banana leaving Katy’s box of organic rice crackers out of site. She slid out a wooden chair and sat Katy down. “I should have brought your booster seat. I knew I forgot something.” Emily slipped off her coat and rolled up her sleeves, scanning the rectangular, neglected kitchen filled with unfinished food, a sink overflowing with cups, dishes and slimy, dirty dishwater. The large white propane stove was grease covered and littered with dirty pots. She shot a harried glance at the back door, where Brad escaped. So he’s not infallible; that thought put them on even ground.
She’d made good time. As she glanced at the clock it only took two hours to scrub every pot, load the dishwasher, running it twice, but that was after she’d soaked and scraped off the dried food.
Did he have to dirty every dish in the house?
Trevor was a different story; she’d never seen a child so happy to play alone. Katy tried twice to share her dolly and even picked up one of his toy cars and played beside him on the carpet. He’d ignored her, until she’d picked up the green car he lined up in straight line across the coffee table. He screamed a high pitched, shrill cry as if he’d been hurt; Katy of course, starting crying and dropped the car. Trevor, without looking at her, grabbed the car and put back in its specific spot, in line. Except now, he was making a “whop, whop” sound. Emily hugged Katy and took her in the kitchen, then set her up with her Dolly away from Trevor. Emily asked Trevor what was wrong and asked him not to scream but to use his words. He ignored her. She’d need to talk to Brad; this seemed odd for a child to act this way. Maybe he had abandonment issues. And she pondered that while she cleaned and searched the sparse pantry for something edible to feed everyone for lunch.
* * * *
Emily was stirring the soup on the stove when someone knocked on the front door. She turned off the propane, and hurried to the door, glancing at Trevor and Katy watching
on the big screen TV; actually Katy sat on the sofa and watched, Trevor was bouncing on both feet two inches from the TV screen.
Emily opened the door to a short guy wearing a brown hat. “Delivery for Brad Friessen.”
He’s out back, do you need a signature?”
Yes, ma’am, but you can sign for him if you swear he lives here and you’ll give it to him.” The guy chomped on a piece of gum and grinned. Guess that was his sense of humor.
Emily signed for the package and closed the door. A loud crash and what sounded like glass shattering echoed from the kitchen.
Oh shit!” Emily dropped the box and hustled across the worn wooden floor. Katy stood in the archway wide eyed.
Mama, Trevor bad.” Katy pointed to the tiny little dark haired boy wearing blue cotton pants and a striped T-shirt, barefoot, sitting in an orange, sticky puddle beside an open fridge door. The lower plastic side bar stuck out like a sore thumb and dangled to the floor. Jars and containers scattered the floor. Chunks of glass and pickles surrounded Trevor. “Trevor don’t move.”
What the hell’s going on in here?” The back door clattered and Brad stomped into the kitchen, brushed past Emily, bent over and picked up his wet boy, moving him out of the mess.
Stay there.” His deep, smoky voice was sharp as he cast an accusatory glance at Emily.
Weren’t you watching him, how in the hell did this happen?”
Trevor tried to step into the puddle of orange juice, flapping his arms and yelling “da, da, da.” Over and over.
Dammit, you’re going to cut yourself.” Brad picked up Trevor and moved him over by Katy who stood quiet and unsure in the doorway. Big pools filled Katy’s eyes. She looked ready to cry.
Brad a delivery guy brought you a package, I signed for it. Trevor was in front of the TV. I just turned my back for a second.”
The cream-colored walls seemed to vibrate as the tension thickened the air. Katy burst into tears and Brad ran his large callused fingers, the hands of a working man, through his hair, irritated. He ground his teeth with his tight, strong jaw. His Adam’s apple bobbed. Then he sighed and threw his hands in the air, as Emily picked up Katy.
He let out a weary laugh and something softened as those magnificent eyes connected with her.
Well let’s clean this up.” Brad reached for a roll of paper towel on a shelf at the back door. He ripped off sheets and dropped them onto the puddled juice.
Emily kissed the top of Katy’s head and wiped her tears. “Watch
and let me clean up this mess. I’ll come and get you.” Katy clung when Emily tried to get her to sit on the sofa. But she appeased her with her dolly and was able to slip away. Trevor was a different story. He was making a “whop, whop” noise as he swayed back and forth just inches from the chunks of glass Brad scrambled to pick-up.
Why don’t I take Trevor and get him cleaned up.” She didn’t wait for a reply but squatted down in front of the child. He was whimpering in his juice-covered pants, making a different noise now, “whee, whee, whee” over and over again, as he played with his fingers. “Actually, Brad I don’t know where his room is. If you could point the way to the bathroom and his room, I’ll get him changed into some clean clothes.”
It took Emily a moment to realize Brad stopped cleaning up the mess and was watching her with a look that resembled confusion, or maybe he didn’t understand what she’d asked. Then he dumped a wad of soggy paper towels into a black garbage bag, and stood to his full height. He gestured toward the back of the kitchen, where there were a set of stairs by the back door.
Just up those stairs, first door on your right is the bathroom, Trevor’s room’s beside it on the left.”
Emily hesitated in front of the boy. Not in fear, but wondered what his reaction would be toward her. She could feel the heat from his father burning into her back. Clearly, she was center stage.
Come Trevor let’s get you cleaned up.” She waited, holding her breath for him to freak out. She didn’t want that to happen in front of Brad, she was nervous enough as it was. Trevor was still agitated and he whimpered when Emily reached under his arms and picked him up. Trevor wouldn’t look at her but he did wrap his tiny baby-fat little arms around her neck and his wet legs around her waist. Okay so far so good. Emily stopped in the archway. “Katy, come with Mommy.”
Emily walked with a sureness up the wooden stairs, Katy right behind her.
Emily sat Trevor on the long discolored marble counter beside the bathroom sink. Katy perched on a small stool by the toilet. The bathroom was a large, modern bathroom with a soaker tub, lots of cupboards and room for dressing. Emily reached for a burgundy washcloth from one of the cupboards and turned on the tap until the water warmed. She soaked the terry cloth, wrung it out, grabbing Trevor’s leg every time he squirmed, and gently wiped his hands, and then his face. “Okay Trevor, stand-up. Let’s get you out of these wet clothes.”
Katy, her two-year-old bright-eyed angel, looked up. Trevor didn’t, instead he jammed the edge of the washcloth in his mouth and chewed. Those pale blue eyes held no recognition to her or anything she said. They appeared glassy unresponsive. “What’s wrong with you, Trevor?” Emily snapped her fingers. He didn’t even flinch, much less look up.
Lift your arms.” She helped him to stand on the counter but then he reached fitfully for the damp washcloth she pulled from his mouth. And he shrieked. Emily pulled off his shirt and gave it back. He shoved it back in his mouth. Content for the moment suckling away, Emily hurried, cleaning him up.
She carried Trevor the a way a mother does, resting on her hip, across the carpeted hall to a child’s large bedroom which held a toddler’s racing car bed and nightstand with a horsey lamp. There was also a tall mahogany, six-drawer highboy and a toy shelf filled with cars, stuffed toys and children’s books. Emily rummaged through the top two drawers until she found another long sleeve, dark blue cotton shirt with matching sweatpants and a pair of socks. She had no trouble pulling the shirt over his head and helping him to step into his pants; he was so focused on chewing on that rag. But when she tried to put on the white cotton socks, he threw the washcloth at Emily and whined a high pitch squeal as he pushed away her hands, kicking his feet against her legs. “Okay, so socks are not going to happen today. We’ll leave those for now.” Maybe that was why he’d been barefoot.
He calmed down when Emily put the socks back in the drawer. Trevor raced for the discarded washcloth again jamming it in his mouth. “I’m not going to fight with you, Trevor. Keep the washcloth for now. Come on, Katy. Let’s go downstairs. This time she carried Katy and held Trevor’s hand down the back steps to the kitchen. Trevor never looked up, the way you expect a child to do with a tiny smile or fleeting look connecting in that personal way of non-verbal communication. Trevor focused on the spindle railing and his hand as he dragged it over each groove all the way to the bottom step.
The screen door squealed and slapped against the wood frame. A stocky man about medium height wearing a green plaid loggers coat stalked in. Dirt caked his cowboy boots. He yanked down the brim of his black baseball cap, tufts of dark hair sticking out, and wore what must have been several days’ worth of black stubble on his round cheeks. “Hey boss, what do you want to do about the spring hay? You still want to order more from Harley? We can’t wait much longer. We only got enough for another few days.”
Ah crap.” Brad glanced over his shoulder but didn’t get up from where he was crouched down in form fitting jeans, showcasing the perfect set of buns, before an open fridge. He snapped the lower bar back. The floor was now clean and a black garbage bag tucked against the cupboard. Trevor pulled his hand free and raced past the other man. “Eeegg, eeegg,” he screamed over and over, gesturing wildly to the fridge.
Brad shut the door and Trevor slapped the shiny white door again and again.
Brad suddenly appeared tired as he let out a heavy sigh. “What do you want? Is it juice?” The thick tension buckled the air in this large square kitchen. Trying to figure out what this child wanted was exhausting and Emily just stared.
The strange man, who now stood beside Emily, rested his large, dirty hands on his hips.
Brad ignored both of them and grabbed Trevor’s arm, “Come here.” He pulled open the fridge door and Trevor practically dove in for the carton of eggs. His dad lifted him with one arm and pulled him out, closing the door. “No way, how about a cookie?”
Brad, lunch is almost ready. I just need to reheat the soup. Everything was ready before your box came. Oh sorry, I dropped it by the door.” Brad put Trevor down and he once again raced to the fridge and tried to pull it open, screeching at the top of his lungs. This kid was out of control. Brad scooped Trevor up and took a box of chocolate chip cookies out of the cupboard. Jackpot! Trevor stopped flailing and screaming, long enough to greedily cram a cookie into his mouth.
Uh sorry, at least he’s quiet and you can get lunch out.”
Emily firmed her lips and crossed her arms. He gave in to this kid, talk about reinforcing bad behavior. But now wasn’t the time. She hurried the stove and flicked on the burner, heating up the pot of soup.
Brad ignored her and spoke with the large man in the kitchen. “Emily how long until lunch is ready?”
She didn’t turn around. “Five minutes.”
Three days after that hellish first day, Emily moved into Brad’s house.
She slid closed the glass closet door in her new bedroom—the one beside the main bathroom, which was beside Brad’s master bedroom at the top of the stairs. Katy had fallen asleep across her Irish green duvet on her small double bed, clutching her Dora doll and her faded blue baby blanket.
Just this morning Emily discovered this house was built by his Brad’s grandfather in the 40’s. This three thousand square foot, two story home boasted five large bedrooms. Emily’s room was freshly painted an off white, with light beige carpeting and a large picture window overlooking the horse paddock and pasture with a lovely view of the distant mountains. Trevor’s room was across the hall. Katy’s was right beside Trevor’s, which left one large bedroom at the end of the hall filled with boxes and furnishings.