Daniel was late. Again. No explanatory phone call. Again.
“I don’t believe this,” I muttered. I blew a strand of hair out of my face and turned from my post at the kitchen window. I was just in time to see my four-year-old, Bianca, about to clock her two-year-old brother over the head with a plastic dump truck.
“Stop this instant!” I shrieked.
Bianca froze mid-clonk and turned her angelic face to me. “But Mommy, he started it.”
Peter ran to me and wrapped his chubby arms around my leg. “I want ba-sghetti, Mama.”
“I know, Baby.” I bent down and patted the ringlets on my sweet little boy’s head. “I guess your Daddy’s just going to get a cold dinner. Maybe that will teach him to be on time.”
Two sets of solemn eyes peered up at me.
“Bianca, you and Peter get washed up for dinner,” I ordered.
I pulled dishes out of the cupboard and clattered them around the table. Why was I always the one rushing straight from work to the daycare and then home to throw dinner together? Why couldn’t Daniel help out more? Why did it always seem he was more apt to stay late after work swapping stories with the guys than to come home and be with his family?
Well, I’m not ruining any more dinners on your account, Daniel, I promised silently.
I sailed potholders and pots into place and served up two small plates.
Bianca and Peter rushed back in. I placed Peter in his high chair and asked Bianca to say the grace. We sat on either side of Peter and folded our hands.
“God bless Mommy and Daddy and me and Peter,” prayed Bianca. “And please help Daddy not to be late any more so Mommy doesn’t get mad.”
“Amen,” said Peter, dipping both hands in his food.
“Mommy’s not mad,” I told Bianca.
“You sound mad,” she said, twirling a large forkful of spaghetti into her mouth.
“Mommy’s just tired and irritated,” I said.
I sighed. “Irritated is when you love somebody, but you wish they didn’t do something that really bugs you.” My conscience cringed. Was I going to damage her psyche by talking about her father this way?
Bianca nodded thoughtfully. “Peter makes me ir-rated, too,” she said. “Specially when he doesn’t share.”
Peter was too busy slurping down noodles to pay any attention to the conversation. I placed some peas on his plate and filled my own plate with food.
Daniel really was a good man, I told myself. He worked hard to support our family as a factory foreman. Even so, my part-time job was necessary to help us get ahead on our house payments and cover health insurance for the kids. My State job provided health care coverage for the whole family and subsidized a good portion of the premiums. When we did the math, even with the astronomical cost of daycare, it made sense for me to work. Just like it made sense for me to continue doing all the housework and all the cooking and picking up the kids. And never even a word of appreciation.
I took a deep breath and closed my eyes briefly. Forgive me, Lord, and help me be grateful for all the blessings you’ve showered me with.
“Watcha doing, Mommy?” asked Bianca.
Speaking of blessings. I opened my eyes. “Nothing. Eat your peas.”
There was a thud on the front porch and the doorknob rattled.
“Daddy!” crowed the kids.
“Finish your supper,” I told them.
My back was to the hallway, so I couldn’t see Daniel’s approach, but I followed the progress of his thudding footsteps. I never understood how anyone could walk that hard without jarring his skeleton loose.
“Where were you?” I asked without turning.
“Ooh, can I have one?” asked Bianca.
“No,” said Daniel. “These are for Mommy.”
I turned to see Daniel holding out an enormous bouquet of daisies. He handed them to me and kissed my cheek. He bent to ruffle Peter’s hair and tickled Bianca, producing squeals of glee.
“What’s the occasion?” I asked as he took his seat and pulled the spaghetti pot over.
“I’ve noticed how hard you’ve been working lately to keep our lives running smoothly,” he said, “and I want you to know how much I appreciate it.”
He smiled and his brown eyes sparkled at me. “Thanks, Babe.”
I smiled back and buried my nose in my flowers.
Author's Note: This is fiction.
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