Dragging out the heavy oven baking tray, Rick stared at the bubbling cheese and tomato mass. Sliding it on top of the counter, he released one hand from the gloves and turned off the oven. The small kitchen was filled with heat and the smell of lasagne Feeling proud that he’d not burnt it, he began to cut it into squares and place it on the four plates which already had some side veg and garlic bread on them.
‘Food’s ready!’ he called, aiming his words through the kitchen door.
‘Can we eat in here? The Simpsons are on!’ Katlin’s voice called back.
Dropping off the oven gloves, Rick walked into the hallway and into the living room. There his three children were sat on the floor around the TV screen. Katlin the eldest at ten and the twins, Ryder and Reyes aged six. For once they were all being quiet and calm.
‘We should eat at the table,’ Rick stated.
‘Please, just this once?’ Katlin said over her shoulder, ‘we won’t tell mum.’
Rick crossed the floor and turned the TV off. ‘No. Now come on.’
With a lot of moaning and sighing, he got the kids to the dining room table and sat down. He brought in the food, made sure they had glasses of water then conducted the meal pray, ‘Dear, Lord bless this meal we are about to eat and make us truly thankful for it. Also look after mummy and baby Keandra. Amen.’
‘Amen!’ the children echoed, then began eating.
‘This is nana’s lasagne, isn’t it?’ Katlin asked.
Rick paused in bringing a sliced carrot to his mouth, ‘It’s fine. I just reheated it and put some more cheese on it.’
Katlin shrugged her small shoulders and speared a gooey piece on her folk.
‘It’s good!’ one of the twins yelled.
Rick eyed them and had to give them a hand in slicing up the food into smaller chunks. The twins laughed and ate messily. He left them to it and started on his own plate.
‘Can we go and see mum tomorrow, after school?’ Katlin cut in, her voice soft and quiet.
‘Maybe,’ Rick replied. He’d long ago given up on trying to make any promises about that to them. Also, he and his wife had agreed that they didn’t really want the children seeing her or the baby like that.
‘When she coming home?’
‘I wanna hug the baby!’
The twins said together. Rick smiled at them, their eager faces were already stained orange and some had even transferred to their hands. ‘Soon, she’ll be back and then we can all hug the baby. Won’t that be nice?’
Ryder nodded and Reyes became districted trying to scoop up some peas. The twins carried on eating, though they were aware of the growing tension at the table. Katlin was too quiet and they recognized her thinking face. Whilst, they didn’t fully understand what had happened and why mummy and the new baby had to stay in hospital, they knew that Katlin and daddy were keeping things from them. However, they weren’t bothered as long as it didn’t greatly affect things.
‘We’ll talk about it later, Kat, okay?’ Rick suggested.
Katlin nodded and carried on eating. She poked the runner beans to the side of the plate and eat the rest of the veg. Thinking carefully, she thought about how best to get her dad to take her to see mum. She felt the twins watching her and decided not to push now, but maybe at her bedtime or first thing in the morning. She didn’t really care about the new baby, it wasn’t exciting to her, but she missed her mum and just wanted her to be well and back home.
‘If you eat all the veggies you can have ice cream,’ Rick was telling the twins.
They giggled and nodded with mouths stuffed.
‘Kat’s not eating them all!’ Ryder pointed out.
‘She won’t get any ice cream then.’
‘I’ll eat her’s!” Reyes shouted.
‘No, I will!’ his brother yelled back.
‘Stop it, boys. That’s not how to behave. Now come on, settled down,’ Rick said firmly and tried to get them back into finished off their meals.
‘I’m not hungry,’ Katlin said suddenly and pushed her plate away. She got up and left the table, before Rick, who was now struggling with the twins could call after her. By the sounds of her movements though, he guessed she had gone to room. Deciding it wasn’t worth the effort dealing with her, he turned his full attention to the twins.
Katlin curled on to her bed, pulling the framed photo of her mum and herself as a baby into the bed with her. She pressed her face into the pillow and took a few deep breaths. She tried not to cry, but the tears came anyway. Franticly, she wiped them away. Calming herself, she pulled over her school bag, which she had put on the end of her bed when she’d come home and dug out her pencil case and homework books.
The minutes passed by, until there was a knock on her door and Rick entered with a bowl and spoon. He gave them to her and sat down on the bed next to her. Katlin thanked him and began eating the ice cream.
‘We’ll go and see her tomorrow. Okay? Just us,’ he said to her.
Katlin smiled and hugged him.