In the window overlooking the patio, the curtains rustle. Dad’s arm tenses around me; I know he saw it too. Someone – one of Kat’s parents – watching us, maybe, studying the words forming on our lips.
But when we make our way into the kitchen, it’s empty, silent except for the hum of the fridge. The floor tiles are gleaming white, not a trace of the mess that was there earlier.
The house in Oxford was beautiful in the morning. A long rectangle of sunlight cut into my bedroom and rested on the duvet. The Islip canvas in the guestroom was a river in motion and Ana had placed it behind the bed, facing the window, so that it was hard to tell what was the effect of the pain and what was the real light in the room. I kicked off the cover and stretched into the warm day. For a moment I imagined the house was mine, and empty. I would take a book from the study and spend the morning in the garden. There would be no need to talk to anybody all day.
I flipped through the book and landed on page 163. When I wake, and think about the previous night, it’s impossible to believe that it was anything but my imagination. Maybe I turned off the lamp myself, without realising, as I descended into sleep? I walk through the house again, checking the windows and doors for the slightest trace that someone had somehow managed to get it. But there’s nothing out of the ordinary.
I was fourteen when Joel and Edwin left for university. Miserable at school, short-tempered with Danny at home, I began to dream of Joel returning and declaring he’d fallen love with me. I longed to leave the sneers of my classmates behind, and marry Joel, and live happily ever after with him at Summerbourne.
How I miss the days when love seemed so obvious and simple.
My fledgling romantic hopes were crushed a couple of weeks before my fifteenth birthday. I don’t relish revisiting that memory now, but it occurs to me for the first time that something Joel said that day might be linked in some way to what happened when Danny and I were born.
A minute later we’re back in the foyer, me watching as Charlie presses his formidable stomach against the floor. In his hand is a penshaped magnet stick, the end of which he lowers through the grate.
“I’m so sorry for this,” I say.
Charlie wiggles the stick. “Happens all the time. These grates are notorious. I think of them as monsters. They’ll eat up anything that comes their way.”
The comparison is apt. The longer I look at the heating vent, the more it resembles a dark maw just waiting to be fed.
“Baking is a science, as rigorous as chemistry or physics. There are rules that must be followed. Too much of one thing and not enough of another can lead to ruin. I find comfort in this. Outside, the world is an unruly place where men prowl with sharpened knives. In baking, there is only order.”
Friday’s Page 69 ~ The Recovery of Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel
Sometimes I wonder whether Alex and I had anything besides a hometown in common anymore. We had been so compatible when we were little: making rollercoaster rides out of odd stuff around the house, pretending the living-room carpet was lava, hosting dog pageants with Alex’s Puppy In My Pocket toys. Friendships were easier when you were a kid.