“Hey family,” Sandy called out as she bumped the front door closed with her butt. “I’m home!”
She kicked off her snowy boots then went into the kitchen, her arms loaded with a couple of grocery bags, her purse and a big trendy bag from the drug store gift shop in town.
“Whadja bring us, Mom?” asked seven-year-old Cory as he landed into his mother’s packages with all the grace and finesse of a station wagon. She barely had a chance to put the bags down before Cory was pulling everything out.
“Wait a minute, will ya?” she begged. “Let me get my coat off for chrissakes.”
Cory ignored his mother, studiously pitching food he didn’t like onto the kitchen floor. Gwennie, his four-year-old sister, heard the commotion and came out to investigate.
“Whatzat?” she asked, holding up a zucchini.
Sandy told her, then took it from her and put it in the fridge.
“Whatzat?” she asked.
“Soy sauce. Pass it to me, Gwennie, will you please? Cory, where’s your father?”
“In the bathroom.”
“It’s barbecue sauce. And that’s eggplant. Cory, be careful what you’re doing. There’s eggs in there.”
Sandy hung her coat on top of two other coats and a pair of ski pants and some soggy mittens, all of which occupied one peg on the rack on the kitchen wall. She picked up Cory’s book bag and Gwennie’s backpack, both abandoned on the wet floor, and draped them over a chair.
She turned around to finish unpacking groceries and her husband of 14 years stood amidst the chaos, looking at her.
“Hi,” she said. “Have a good day off?
Rick nodded. “Yeah, it was ok. Nothing spectacular. Got some stuff done. You? How was work?”
She shrugged. “You know, same old, same old. But hey, I got some cool stuff at the drug store.”
It was a few days after Christmas and most of the stores still had boxing day sales going on. Sandy had got a bunch of bargains and she could hardly wait to show them off.
“Hey Mom, what’s this? Cory was into the big trendy bag and had pulled out a small box.
“Oh yeah!” Sandy brightened. “This is so cool! Marilyn at work? She collects salt and pepper shakers just like me and she went to Mexico over the holidays and she picked me up a pair. Wait ’till you see them, they are so cute! Here, Cory, pass them to me, will you? Careful, they’re very breakable. Thanks sweetie. Good job.”
She opened the box, unwrapped a couple layers of tissue paper and held out a Mexican bandito pepper shaker made of terra cotta, sort of in the shape of a bowling pin, only with a sombrero on top. It was painted in bright, sparkling colours: emerald pants and a purple poncho.
Cory’s eyes popped open and he thrust his wiggling fingers towards it. “Can I hold it, Mommy, can I hold it, please? Please?”
“Be careful,” Sandy said, passing it to him. “Just settle down and be careful.”
Gwennie watched her brother, a smile lighting her own small features.
Sandy pulled out the other shaker, a senorita, dressed even more colourfully than her dashing husband.
“Oh!” said Gwennie, reaching her own hands up for the shaker.
“Be very careful, Gwennie,” Sandy said.
As she was about to take it from her mother, Cory reached over and snatched it from his baby sister, who immediately started to wail.
“Cor, jesus, give your sister back the salt shaker,” growled Rick. “I am so sick of this shit.”
Sandy swung Gwennie up into her arms for a hug, while Rick cursed out his son and Cory, oblivious to what was going on around him, started putting the shakers together like they were kissing.
“Look Mom,” Cory said happily, “they’re kissing! Just like Daddy was kissing that lady in the driveway today!”
Sandy said “Wha?” and looked at Rick, the man she trusted more than herself, her partner, her soul mate, her best friend.
Her husband lowered his head and stared at the groceries strewn all over the floor.
Sandy felt the blood drain from her body. Her knees went rubbery. She put Gwennie down, almost dropping her, and sagged against the kitchen counter.
She stared at her husband, beseeching him to straighten this out.
He kept his head lowered. And said the one word that wouldn’t be making any of this better, any time soon.
“Sorry,” he said.