Sunday, 8 March 2015

Orange Sky: Part Twelve

[Parts 1-11 are here. Thank you for reading Xo]

“It’s snowing!” Alexander says, bounding over to the bed. “James! James! Wake up! It’s snowing!!”

James opens one eye. Alexander’s excited face stares back at him.

“It’s snowing?” he asks sleepily. Alexander nods.

“Uh-huh! Come see!”

Alexander grabs James by the hand and virtually drags him over to window.

“See?! It’s snowing!”

James half laughs and half yawns. “We’re at the snow, kid,” he says, pulling his hair into a messy bun. “It tends to snow here.”

“Can we go ice-skating??” Alexander asks, pressing his face up against the glass. “Can we can we can we?”

James peers outside. It’s snowing quite heavily. “When the snow eases up a little,” he says, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. “It’s not safe to go right now.”

Alexander’s face falls.

“Oh it’s okay, buddy,” James says, yawning again. “It’s only six am. The sun hasn’t even fully risen yet. I’m sure we’ll be able to go later today.”

Alexander turns to him. “Do you promise?”

“I promise we will try,” James says, ruffling Alexander’s hair. “But we can’t go out if it’s not safe. You understand that, don’t you?”

Alexander nods. He looks happier. “Yes,” he says, looking out the window again. “I understand. What can we do while we wait for the snow to stop?”

James thinks for a moment, then smiles. “I saw an oven in the kitchen. There’s a twenty-four hour store right around the corner. It’s not too far to walk, even if it is snowing. How about we make some cupcakes?”

Alexander turns to him. “You know how to make cupcakes?”

James chuckles. “No. Not really. But we can learn together.”

“We can ask Google,” Alexander says.

James laughs. “Yeah. We’ll definitely have to ask Google.”

An hour later, they are back in the kitchen armed with groceries.

“Right,” James says. “We need a bowl.”

Alexander gets a cereal bowl out of the cupboard. 

James laughs. “No, a big bowl, to mix the batter.”

“There isn’t a big one,” Alexander says. “There’s only this one.”

“Ah,” James says, scratching his head. “Seems I forgot to check if we had the equipment we need.”

“Oh,” Alexander says sadly. “So we can’t make cupcakes.”

James frowns and looks around the kitchen. “Yes we can,” he says pulling a large pot out of the cupboard. “We just have to get a little creative.”

Alexander giggles.

“Okay!” James says, pretending to put on a chef’s hat. “What does Google say we have to do first?”

“Whip together the vegan butter and the sugar,” Alexander says, reading from James’ phone. “Until it is light and creamy.”

“Right,” James says, measuring out a rough estimate of the required amount into the pot. They don’t have kitchen scales, either. “Looks like I’m going to have to use some muscle power.”

Alexander giggles again and James begins to stir. He clears his throat.

“So buddy, I wanted to ask you…How are you feeling today?”

Alexander frowns and puts his hand on his forehead, feeling his temperature. “I’m not sick,” he says. “I can play in the snow, can’t I?”

James nods, working on softening the butter. “Of course. That’s not what I meant. I mean…” He looks for the right words.

“Oh,” Alexander says. “You mean in my head. Like Dr Tate.”

James stiffens at the mention of the name. “Yes,” he says, directing the surge of rage he feels into vigorously mixing the butter and sugar. “In your head. Have you been…Have you been feeling scared?”

Alexander picks up the rainbow cupcake wrappers and starts to separate them.

“Sometimes,” he admits. “But then I wake up and you’re there and I’m not scared anymore.”

“So you’re only scared in your sleep?” James tries to keep his tone light. Conversational.

“Mostly,” Alexander says. “When I have bad dreams.”

“What about when you don’t have bad dreams?” James asks. “What scares you when you are awake?”

Alexander doesn’t answer. James doesn’t push him.

“What’s next, Chef Google?” he asks, changing the subject. 

Alexander picks up James’ phone and reads the screen.

“Add the va…van…vanilla expense and the flour.”

“Essence,” James says, reaching for it. “It’s essence, not expense. Do you want to do this part?”

Alexander nods enthusiastically and takes the pot. James helps him add the right amounts of flour and vanilla.

“Sometimes people scare me,” Alexander says suddenly, mixing the batter. “Scary people with big voices like those men last night. They made me…They made me remember.” He lowers his head and stares into the pot.

James feels like he’s been stabbed in the chest. He tries not to let it show. “What helps you not feel scared?” he asks, still trying to keep it conversational.

“You do,” Alexander answers without hesitating.

James swallows against the lump in his throat. “What else?”

Alexander thinks for a minute. “Astro, sometimes. My necklace. Uncle Michael. But…”

“But what?” James asks gently.

Alexander stops mixing and looks up at him. He chews the inside of his cheek. “I get scared when you go,” he says in a small voice. “I don’t like it when I’m not with you.”

He resumes mixing the batter. James watches his hands work.

“Yeah,” he says quietly. “Neither do I.”

“Morning,” Michael says, stretching his arms above his head as he limps into the kitchen. “You making pancakes?”

Alexander shakes his head. “We’re making cupcakes! Do you want to help?”

Michael sits down at the bench and rubs his thigh.

“Nah,” he says, dipping his finger into the batter. “I’ll just reap the rewards.” He licks his finger.

“Gross,” Alexander and James say at the same time.

James laughs. “I remember not so long ago you were doing that, Alexander.”

Alexander shrugs. “I was little then. I’m bigger now.”

James smiles, but the words sting.

Yeah buddy, he think, adding almond milk to the batter while Alexander stirs. You’ve had to grow up a lot.

Forty-five minutes later the cupcakes come out of the oven, lopsided and slightly burnt. James pokes one with his finger.

“Sorry, buddy…” he says, shaking his head. “We tried.”

Alexander stares at them and reaches for one.

“Wait,” James says. “They’ll be hot.”

He puts them on a plate to let them cool while he makes the frosting. When the frosting is ready and the cupcakes are cool enough to touch, he frosts ones and opens a packet of sprinkles.

“You do the honours,” he says to Alexander. Alexander takes a generous pinch of sprinkles and puts them on the cupcake.

“Can I eat it?” he asks James, turning to him. James looks warily at the cupcake.

“I’m not sure that it will taste good…But sure. You can eat it.”

Alexander pulls back the wrapper and takes a bite. Both James and Michael watch him, expecting him to spit it out. He doesn’t.

“You know what I think?” he asks, taking another enormous bite. “I think these are the best cupcakes in the world.” He finishes it and grins at James. There’s frosting on his cheek.

“Can I have another one?”

James laughs and frosts another one, handing it to Alexander to put on the sprinkles.

“Sure buddy,” he says, laughing. “But just one more. I’m not sure all those extra sprinkles you’re putting on are too good for your teeth.”

“Oh!” Alexander exclaims, jumping down off the stool and racing out of the kitchen. Michael looks at James.

“Where is he going?”

James leans over the bench to see. “Into my bedroom,” he says, handing Michael a cupcake. “He’s probably going to check…” James’ face falls. “Oh no.”

“What?” Michael asks, tentatively licking the frosting.

“He lost a tooth yesterday,” James says. “With everything that happened, I…”

“FIVE WHOLE DOLLARS!” Alexander yells, running back into the room waving a note in the air. “That’s the most money she’s ever given me!”

James looks at Michael. He smiles and takes a bite of his cupcake.

“You were right, James!” Alexander says giddily. “The tooth fairy did find me!”

“Yeah,” James says, smiling at Michael. “That tooth fairy is pretty incredible.”