Everything was weird. They hadn’t caught the bad guys, but all of a sudden Mom wanted him back. She wouldn’t tell him why either, but she’d glance at Drew every time Ben asked. Ben wasn’t sure if he liked Drew for making Mom take him back, or if he was still mad at him for, well, not for making him go but…..
Plus there was something going on between Vin and Miranda. Maybe there was something going on there before and Ben just didn’t notice it until now. But it felt weird knowing they were together.
It was the same old living room, and same old bedroom, though he found an earring under his bed. He didn’t even want to know what that was about. Everything looked the same, but nothing felt the same.
Before, it had felt safe.
Ben wandered into the kitchen and instead of Mom, there was Miranda. She had Mom’s recipe file. Ben got the feeling she wasn’t supposed to have it because she jumped, and tried to hide it when he walked in.
“Hey,” he said in place of “hi.” “What are you doing?”
Miranda straightened. Her fingers messed with the cards in the file. “What does it look like?” Before he could answer, she answered for him. “I’m cooking.”
“Oh. That’s right. Everyone has a night assigned for being the cook. Except me. I never got a night.”
“You want one?”
Ben shrugged. He’d never done much cooking, but then neither did Miranda. Maybe he could do as good a job. At least with her looking through the file, she must not be ordering pizza. He was thoroughly sick and tired of pizza.
“I don’t know yet. I haven’t decided.”
The two of them leaned over the file.
“Chutney? Apple butter? Elk Stroganoff? What is this?” Ben pulled out a card and held it up. “Some kind of pie that takes bushels of apples? Do they mean bushels like the bushel baskets? Cause I’m pretty sure that won’t fit in one pie.” Ben tried to remember what they’d said about bushels in math class. It wasn’t that long ago, but he couldn’t see clear, and maybe never had understood all that well. “And what is ‘suet’ anyway?”
“Those are family recipes.” Miranda said, like Ben hadn’t already figured that out. “I don’t think she uses the ones in the section at the back much. We should leave them alone.”
“Huh,” Ben snorted, thinking about the time Miranda threw the whole file box into the toilet. He didn’t say anything, but he slid her a side-long look. “Are those water stains?”
“Maybe.” She cut him a sharp look. “Oh, look. So this is what she uses to make that muffin batter .” She waved a card like it was a flag, the kind sailers used to talk between ships.
“Is that what we’re making?”
“Sure.” Miranda shoved the card back in the file box. “There’s some batter in the fridge right now. So we’ll have muffins, and…. Um…” She bit her lip and looked at another card.
“Do we have any steak thawed? Or did we already go through the side of beef Mom ordered last fall.”
“There’s meat left, but I’m getting tired of steak. How about chicken?”
“Oh yeah! I love cranberry chicken!”
“Cranberry chicken?” Miranda pulled her chin back, one lip lifted. It made her look like a dork. Ben grinned. He liked that she didn’t mind looking like a dork.
“It’s in here somewhere.” Ben grabbed out a bunch of cards. He found it pretty quick. It was something Mom used to make a lot before all these stupid grown ups moved in. “Here it is.” He handed it to Miranda.
“This doesn’t look too hard.” She did the lip-biting thing while she read it. “All right. So we need a pan, and some cranberry juice concentrate, and… do we have chicken?”
“I don’t know.” Ben shrugged. After a minute with her looking at him like he could pull a chicken out of the air, he poked around in the fridge, then the freezer. “Here’s some.”
“Score!” She said with a grin.
The two of them worked good together. They got the stuff put in the oven, and he was pretty sure they did it right, even if they didn’t stop to brown the onions and everything started out frozen. When she closed the oven with a thud, he leaned against the counter and crossed his arms over his chest.
“Why’d you do it, anyway,” he asked.
“Throw Mom’s recipe file in the toilet.” He watched her real close, waiting to see if she’d treat him like a grown up, or ruffle his hair and walk away. If she ruffled his hair, he’d put her ear ring somewhere she wouldn’t like, maybe the chandelier in the dining room, or hanging off the tree in the front yard.
“She told you about that, huh?” She didn’t look at him at first, just stared at the little glass window in the oven. Then she straightened up and looked at him square. “It was the only thing I could do that would hurt her as bad as she hurt me.”
“What did she do to you?” He joined her, looking at their chicken cook as if that could make it cook faster.
“She told me if I made her choose, she’d choose your father over me.” Miranda blinked a couple of times.
“Ouch.” Ben knew exactly how she felt. He patted her on the shoulder, knowing it wasn’t enough to make up for a hurt that could last a long, long time.
“What’s going on in here?” Mom’s voice came from right behind them.
Ben almost jumped out of his skin. Recipe cards were scattered all over the counter. They couldn’t possibly get them all back in the box, and hide the box, fast enough. When Mom saw she’d have a cow!