It’s a six-hour trip back to Virginia, and I’m asleep for most of it. It’s dark out by the time we pull into the school parking lot, and I see Daddy’s car parked up front. We’ve all had our own cars and been driving ourselves around for so long, but pulling into the school parking lot and seeing all the parents waiting there for us feels like being in elementary school again, like coming back from a field trip. It’s a nice feeling. On the way home, we pick up a pizza and Ms. Rothschild comes over and she and Daddy and Kitty and I eat it in front of the

TV


.

After, I unpack, do the bit of homework I have left, talk to Peter on the phone, and then get ready for bed. But I end up tossing and turning for what feels like eternity. Maybe it’s all the sleep I got on the bus, or maybe it’s the fact that any day now, I’ll hear from

UVA

. Either way, I can’t sleep, so I creep downstairs and start opening drawers.

What could I bake this time of night that wouldn’t involve waiting for butter to soften? It’s a perpetual question in my life. Ms. Rothschild says we should just leave butter out in a dish like she does, but we aren’t a leave-the-butter-out family, we are a butter-in-the-refrigerator family. Besides, it messes with the chemistry if the butter is too soft, and in Virginia in the spring and summertime, butter melts quick.

I suppose I could finally try baking the cinnamon roll brownies I’ve been playing around with in my head. Katharine Hepburn’s brownie recipe plus a dash of cinnamon plus cinnamon cream cheese swirl on top.

I’m melting chocolate in a double boiler and already regretting starting this project so late when Daddy pads into the kitchen in the tartan robe Margot gave him for Christmas this past year. “You can’t sleep either, huh?” he says.

“I’m trying out a new recipe. I think I might call them cinnabrownies. Or sin brownies.”

“Good luck waking up tomorrow,” Daddy says, rubbing the back of his neck.

I yawn. “You know, I was thinking maybe you’d call in for me and I’d sleep in a little and then you and I could have a nice, relaxing father-daughter breakfast together. I could make mushroom omelets.”

He laughs. “Nice try.” He nudges me toward the stairs. “I’ll finish up the sin brownies or whatever they’re called. You go to bed.”

I yawn again. “Can I trust you to do a cream cheese swirl?” Daddy looks alarmed and I say, “Forget it. I’ll finish making the batter and bake them tomorrow.”


“I’ll help,” he says.

“I’m pretty much done.”

“I don’t mind.”

“Okay then. Can you measure me out a quarter cup of flour?”

Daddy nods and gets out the measuring cup.

“That’s the liquid measuring cup. We need the dry measuring cups so you can level off the flour.” He goes back to the cupboard, and switches them out. I watch as he scoops flour and then carefully takes a butter knife to the top. “Very good.”

“I learn from the best,” he says.

I cock my head at him. “Why are you still awake, Daddy?”

“Ah. I guess I have a lot on my mind.” He puts the top back on the flour canister and then stops and hesitates before asking, “How do you feel about Trina? You like her, right?”

I take the pot of chocolate off the heat. “I like her a lot. I think I might even love her. Do

you

love her?”

This time Daddy doesn’t hesitate at all. “I do.”

“Well, good,” I say. “I’m glad.”

He looks relieved. “Good,” he says back. Then he says it again. “Good.”

Things must be pretty serious if he’s asking me such a question. I wonder if he’s thinking of asking her to move in. Before I can ask, he says, “No one will ever take the place of your mom. You know that, don’t you?”

“Of course I do.” I lick the chocolate spoon with the tip of my tongue. It’s hot, too hot. It’s good that he should love again, that he should have someone, a real partner. He’s been alone so long it felt like the normal thing, but this is a better thing. And he’s happy, anyone can see it. Now that Ms. Rothschild’s here, I can’t picture her not here. “I’m glad for you, Daddy.”

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