Patty stood at the kitchen sink. She looked out the window as she’d done a dozen days before this and a dozen years before that. She saw a backyard full of children, ranging in sizes and ages. A couple worked on a snowman. A few more threw snowballs at one another. Children ran around and around, stopping once in a while to giggle and make faces. One little boy sat alone, curled up into a tight little ball. This is the one that she sought out. This is the one that captured her attention.
“Caleb, Honey, come here please,” Patty called out the door. She watched as he reluctantly unfurled himself and trudged through the yard. The others paid no attention as he walked right into the middle of their games. It was as though he were invisible. A nothing. A nobody.
The boy met the older woman at the door. “Caleb, you are going to help me cook.” Patty took off his stocking cap. She licked her finger and wiped a smudge off his pudgy cheek. “Take off your coat and wash your hands.”
Patty watched the boy do as she bid. She remembered when he was brought to their door, only a little bitty thing. It was three years to the day. Patty wondered if that fact lay dormant in his young mind or if he were aware of it. Ever since he was dropped off by the social worker, no one could get him to utter a sound.
Sealed court documents and a little boy that refused to talk kept everyone in the dark as to what was going on in his mind. Try as she might, Caleb held her off, although, out of all the workers, Patty was the one that he seemed to favor the most.
“Hands washed? Let me see?” Patty gave him a once over. She checked both the front and the back of his hands. She even checked his ears and tickled the back of his neck. He squirmed and smiled. Caleb craved that close personal contact that Patty lavished on him, yet he held it off at the same time.
“Every Christmas Eve we have something really special. You know what that is, right?” Caleb’s eyes twinkled but his mouth refused to make a noise.
Patty lifted up a big ball of dough and separated it into two pieces and laid it on the counter. “Homemade noodles. I’m famous for them, you know. And every year for the past three years you’ve sat in that very spot and watched me. Today, young man, I am going to let you make them with me. Think you are up to that task?”
Patty began to roll out her ball of dough adding a bit of flour once in a while. “It’s a secret. Only you and I know, right?”
Caleb nodded his head as he watched Patty’s hands move back and forth with the pin across the dough. He then picked up a smaller rolling pin and his own dough ball. He grabbed hold of the handles and put his whole body into the task.
When the dough was thin enough, Patty began to roll it up length-wise. Caleb did the same. When finished, they took a knife and cut the rolls into thin pieces. Patty smiled as she watched Caleb work. His tongue stuck out just a bit and to the side as he concentrated on this task.
The pair picked up a sliced piece of dough and held it high in the air. “Okay, 1… 2.” At three they both let go of one end of the roll and the noodle fell to the counter into one long thin strip. Caleb giggled. The sound surprised them both but Patty pretended that nothing was amiss.
Both absorbed in their own thoughts, the boy and woman finished the rest of the strips and then laid them out to dry. Patty would place them into bubbling broth much later. They surveyed their work and were pleased at what they had accomplished.
The silence was shattered by Caleb, “Mmmiss Patty?”
Patty took a wet rag and wiped Caleb’s hands clean of the sticky dough. “Yes, dear?”
Caleb’s deep blue eyes dripped salty tears. He opened his mouth. Nothing came out. His head fell to his chest.
Patty’s heart jumped and she felt such deep pangs. She gathered him into her arms and held him close.
Caleb tried again. “I… I love you,” he whispered.
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