Kate’s breakfast table was crowded and lively, even with Eugene and his wife still away at her family’s house in Iowa. Jimmy and his wife, Gladys, sat side by side, and Paul sat across from them. Frankie was in his high chair with Ursula next to him, feeding him oatmeal. And Kate and Jessica were still bringing plates of food to the table – eggs, fried potatoes, sausages, and toast.
Though the farmyard outside was white with snow, inside was warm and full of the robust scents of coffee and a farmhouse breakfast.
Jimmy and Jessica had been verbally sparring and neither was prepared to give up any ground.
“I’m just saying that nobody likes to be set up,” said Jimmy.
“Especially those two,” added Paul, with an exaggerated shiver, and speared another sausage.
“I’m not setting them up. I just think they might enjoy each other’s company. A bit. Maybe. From time to time.” Jessica looked to Kate for help. “Mom?”
Kate gave it some thought, and then shook her head. “Try as I might, I can’t see it, either. I’m afraid you’re outnumbered on this one. And that’s without Eugene here,” she added with a laugh. “We all know how he’d vote.”
Jessica put a fist on her hip and looked out at the happy eaters. “Where’s your imagination?” She turned to her sister. “Ursula?”
Ursula used the spoon to wipe oatmeal from Frankie’s chin. He banged his hands on the tray top, laughed when he got everyone’s attention, and banged on it again.
“It’s a lovely thought, Jessica. And of course, it would be nice. But –” She thought of the incident that had happened just after Christmas. She had never told anyone about it. “I think Mr. Creight is still too raw from the pain of losing Jeremy. I wouldn’t want to burden him with anything right now.”
“Burden!” Jessica sat down and gave an emphatic scoot of her chair forward. “Companionship is not a burden.” She reached for a piece of toast and began buttering it.
“Unless it’s forced on you,” said Jimmy.
Jessica was about to defend herself again but changed her mind. “Clem will help me. At least with Mrs. Fletcher.”
Jimmy winced as if in pain. “Just the idea of those two.”
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