Where You Go
Chapter 9

Copyright© 2011 by Robert McKay

After ordering the rings I headed on home, my mood better than it had been. Doing things for my family always helps – though I frequently don't realize that till I see it with 20/20 hindsight.

When I got there Cecelia was cooking – which wasn't a bit unusual. I left my hat on the rack and headed for the kitchen, sniffing as I went. "It smells Mexican," I said, as I kissed her on the cheek.

"It is not, perhaps, literally Mexican, but it is in that vein. There are enchiladas in the oven, and there are fresh tortillas under that foil – which I will thank you not to touch, you silly boy!" That last was as I was reaching – I can eat Cecelia's homemade tortillas all day every day.

I leaned against the counter by the sink and folded my arms. "You oughta start a restaurant, C. You cook good, and you like to do it, and people would pay good money to eat your cooking."

"You've told me that before," she said.

"Yeah, 'cause it's true."

"And it is also true that while I do enjoy cooking, and love to cook for my family, I have no desire at all to do so as a pecuniary enterprise. I not only have more money than I shall ever need, but I find that the idea of operating an eating establishment has no attraction for me; it would quickly become mere drudgery."

"Yeah, that would be bad. But people would line up around the block."

"I do not doubt that. But it is entirely beside the point. In the meantime, go wash your hands, and see to it that Darlia does the same. It will be no more than 15 minutes before supper is on the table."

Cecelia seldom gives orders, but in the kitchen her word is law – for good reason; I can't cook much of anything. I rolled off the counter and went down the hall. I knocked on Darlia's door, which was ajar, and went in at her invitation. She was kneeling on the floor in her TOMBOY IN TRAINING t-shirt – playing with her dolls. I don't know if it's just her, or if it's girls in general, but she can run in the grass and kick a ball and play in the mud and get sweaty just like a boy, and then put on a frilly dress and sit primly in her seat, without any contradiction in her mind or in the image she projects. Maybe it's just our culture, and maybe it ought to be different, but a boy her age who played house, and then went out and hit a homer in the park, would get odd looks from everyone; when a girl does the same thing there is much less eyebrow raising.

She looked up at me, her eyes – black eyes she inherited from Cecelia – shining with the fun she was having. "Yes, Daddy?"

"Your mom says supper's almost ready and you oughta wash your hands now."

"Okay, Daddy." She left her dolls where they were, and went past me and turned left out the door, going to her bathroom. Sometimes she's neat and clean – and sometimes she's as sloppy as an old bachelor. I left the dolls on the floor; if she didn't pick 'em up on her own later I'd make sure she did it.

I went out the door myself, and went into our bedroom and on through it to the bathroom. I washed my hands there, and dried them on the towel by the sink. Cecelia favors thick white terrycloth towels, which suits me just fine. We neither of us mind colors or patterns, but we like even better being able to get dry. And if it's necessary to wrap up in a towel – not a common thing in our house – a big towel is better than a smaller but prettier one. Of course there are big pretty towels, and anyway a hand towel isn't going to help much in a wrap-up situation no matter how white and thick it is.

By the time I got back to the living room Cecelia was setting a platter on the table. She'd carefully lifted the enchiladas out of the glass pan she'd baked them in, and I could see a container of shredded cheese sitting handy for those who wanted to sprinkle it on top. My La Victoria green taco sauce was sitting by my plate, and a bottle of Coke. Darlia's plate had a glass of milk by it, and Cecelia's had a cup with steam rising from it; she drinks coffee like a Scot drinks whisky ... at least, like Scots allegedly drink whisky. I can't stand the taste of coffee myself, and even in my drinking days I never cared much for whisky.

I leaned on the dining room wall next to the bay window, watching. Cecelia was wearing one of her few sleeveless blouses, this one a light tan that set off the darker tone of her skin. Her arms gleamed in the light from the fixture over the table, the individual muscles showing clearly. She had tied back her hair in its usual short ponytail, using a white ribbon that hung down to her shoulder blades. She had on a pair of old jeans that had faded to a baby blue, and her feet were bare, making no sound on the wood floor. She caught me looking at her and straightened up from her work.

"Do you like what you see?" she asked.

I smiled at her in pure joy. "Mi amor, I have liked what I see for years now, and I'm not about to quit."

She smiled back. "And yet as I recall the first time you saw me you were less than pleased with my appearance."

"Ah, but then I didn't know you."

She looked at me for a moment, no longer smiling, but with the serenity that comes to her when she's being happily serious. "And knowing me makes all the difference. I cannot, Darvin, yet grasp your denomination of me as 'beautiful, ' but I believe I am finally coming to understand something of why you call me so."

"I got no doubt you understand me a lot better than I understand you. But that's fine – just being with you is all I ask."

"Then, kind sir, you have what you ask. And I must confess that I too am content to be with you; there may be better and greater joys in this world, but I cannot conceive of them."

I had a lot to say, but no words to say it with. I walked around the table and hugged her as hard as I could, and felt her fingers twining in the fabric of my shirt and pulling me against her.

We ate our supper, and for dessert Cecelia brought out pecan praline ice cream – one of my favorites. One of the few things she doesn't make herself is ice cream, but she sure knows how to buy it. If I'd known it was coming I might have eaten less supper, but I didn't, and so I had to settle for a simple bowl rather than trying to scarf down the whole container.

After supper I helped Cecelia with the dishes while Darlia got her bath. Now that Darlia's getting big Cecelia doesn't get into the tub with her as often as she used to, and Darlia doesn't seem to miss it. Kids grow up – way too fast, it seems to me, though Darlia's my only experience with raising children – and as they do, not only do our reactions to them change to fit their greater maturity, but their reactions and demands change too. Where once Darlia loved to lean back against Cecelia and soak, now she is coming to prefer bathing by herself. That doesn't bother either me or my wife; it's only right that our daughter should become more independent, and that such innocent intimacies come to an end.

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