Marion beat the chocolate batter with great vigor, counting the strokes under her breath. At 39, a thin wail interrupted her work, and she set the bowl which had been tucked into the crook of her left arm back down on the baker’s table and washed and dried her hands.
Alicia was growing more insistent in her cries, but Marion was not hurrying. All in good time.
She headed out of the kitchen and spied Lucien, surrounded by his Brio train set, fixedly looking at the bowl Marion had just set down. Marion squatted down to be eye-level with her son, and smiled at him, gathering his attention to her like metal to magnets. Lucien toothily grinned back at his mother.
“Hey, bud,” she said, ruffling his hair. “This is quite a set-up you have going here.” She moved one of the engine’s along the track slowly.
“Baby crying,” Lucien looked over his shoulder down the hall and back at his mom.
“I know,” Marion replied. “I’m going to get her right now. You keep an eye on that bowl of chocolate brownie batter and make sure the cat doesn’t hop up on the counter, okay? You can help me finish making them after I nurse your sister.”
“Okay,” Lucien replied, a somewhat crafty gleam beginning to sparkle in his eye.
Marion cocked her head at her son. “You stay out of it, too,” she said, and then stood up, heading down the hall to where Alicia’s cries had moved from insistent to angry.
“There, there, baby girl,” Marion called down the hall as she paused to grab a lemonade. “Mama’s coming, I’m on my way!”
Lucien turned around and craned his head to see more clearly down the hallway. He could hear his mother’s voice, high-pitched and sing-song as she comforted Alicia.
His dad told him most nights during bedtime stories that someday he would be happy to have a baby sister, that soon she could be able to play with him. Every once in a while, Lucien thought having a baby sister was kind of interesting – but mostly, it was just a nuisance, and took his parent’s time and attention.
Lucien quietly stood up and walked over to where the bowl of batter sat, spoon resting against the lip of the bowl. Lucien was sure he could smell the scent of chocolate drifting along the counter and down to his nose. He could hear it calling him . . . his mouth watered . . . his fingers twitched . . . and decision firmed.
He found the little step stool he used to reach the sink to wash his hands before meals and quietly picked it up from the cabinet door in front of the sink, and ever so softly set it down in front of the baker’s table, and stepped up.
Better! He could almost see over the top of the bowl to the batter inside.
Lucien hopped down with a thud and paused guiltily, but heard only his mother’s voice singing gentle songs about wind whispering through trees, and flowers waving in the breeze, and sunshine making all life grow day to day. He strained mightily at the heavy phone book sitting on the table and finally managed to slide it into his arms and staggered back to the step stool where he put in on the top step and clambered up again.
Now, he could see the chocolate batter, swirled and mostly mixed, and oh, so inviting. Lucien put one hand on the bowl to hold it still and with the other he moved the spoon as best he could through the thick batter.
Lucien decided to try both hands, and that seemed to help, but now the bowl wouldn’t stay still. With every movement of the spoon it wobbled a little farther from Lucien. Frowning, he let go of the spoon and pulled the bowl closer, managing to dip his fingers into chocolate batter.
Delighted, Lucien licked the chocolate from his fingers, smearing some across his lips and chin, savoring the taste — and then he heard his mother’s voice calling down the hall, “Lucien?”
He froze guiltily, and then climbed off his step stool and tiptoed through the kitchen to peer down the hallway. There was a pause and then she called louder, “Lucien!”
He padded in his stocking feet down the hall and looked in on his mom and baby sister. Alicia was wrapped in a soft rainbow striped blanket, eyes half open looking up at Mom. One hand rested on the side of his mother’s breast as Alicia busily nursed.
Lucien looked up at his mom, who gently smiled at him while she slowly rocked back and forth in her rocking chair.
“So, how was the chocolate, son? Any left for our brownies?”