There were footsteps coming down the stairs. I leaned backwards in my chair so I could catch a glimpse of who was coming. Eventually, I saw Marie get to the bottom of the stairs. She was wearing her usual morning outfit: a long robe, gloves, socks, and a scarf. Only the skin on her face and some of her neck was visible. She doesn't like touching or being touched. She has good reasons for that.
I quickly ran over to the refrigerator and grabbed the bowl. It held two scoops of vanilla ice cream and a spoon. Sitting back in my chair at the kitchen table, I got rid of the news page and made sure that the Sunday comics section was spread out in front of me. Then I dug some ice cream into the spoon and held it up -- just off to the side -- as if I were about to stick it into my mouth.
In the hallway, the soft footsteps were getting louder. I could hear her robe rustling against her body.
I looked at her. Trying to look like I was surprised.
"Hi, Marie. What's wrong?"
She stormed over to me. The spoon was grabbed out of my hand and thrown into the bowl of ice cream. Then the bowl was whisked away and dropped in the sink with a crash.
"How often do you have ice cream for breakfast?" she asked in a really angry voice.
"Well, not often. Maybe two or three times a week... Ow!"
She had rapped me in the center of my forhead with her gloved knuckles. It wasn't really that hard. If you know anything about Marie, then you know that she's tough as nails, but that there isn't a mean bone in her body. She was just letting me know that she didn't approve of what I was doing-- and that she was in charge now.
While I rubbed my forehead and grumbled, she got busy. A glass of milk slammed onto the table in front of me.
"Look, Marie, you can't... Ow!"
That spot on my forehead was getting a little tender.
"Your choices are drink or die," she said firmly as she started pulling stuff out of the refrigerator.
"Dang it, Marie, if you keep hitting me in that same spot, I'll get a tumor or something," I groused as I started drinking. I was too young for the other option.
She pulled off her gloves and her scarf. Otherwise, they would be in the way. As Marie read the label on a package, she absent-mindedly stood first on one foot, then on the other, pulling her socks off with her toes and then kicking them into a corner.
That made me a little homesick. My little sister Mary does the exact same thing. And she always gets in trouble with Mom for leaving her socks in odd places. I miss her a lot.
Water was heating as Marie began mixed something in a bowl.
I'm probably a long way from being the first guy to notice this. But Marie's really pretty. Even first thing in the morning, with her hair messy, wearing a beat-up robe, and stomping around the kitchen shooting me angry looks and ready to put another dent in my forehead for any reason at all. Heck, maybe that's when she's the prettiest.
Marie got to cutting, measuring, and stirring. Her accent was suddenly a bit thicker as she growled words at me. She absent-mindedly called me "Sugar", which was something I hadn't heard her do before. I think that meant that a part of her was back home. A part of me was home, too. On Sunday morning, Mom would cook breakfast for Dad, Andy and me, while Mary usually snuggled in for a little more sleep.
It took a while, but breakfast finally hit the table. Biscuits and gravy, grits with butter, and eggs scrambled with peppers. It was straight from Mississippi.
Marie made a few blood-thirsty threats about eating it all. She also said I had to stay away from sweets for the rest of the day.
I ate while she sat across the table, sipping coffee, looking off somewhere far away. I've never asked Marie about home. But she sometimes calls herself "Rogue". I don't think that's a good sign.
When I got done, her head was still back home, and she automatically reached for my plate so she could wash it. But I snatched it away. Hey, fair is fair. As I cleaned up, Marie finished her coffee and read the paper.
I was putting away the last dish, when she suddenly looked up at me. Marie is a really smart girl. Not book-smart like Kitty, but figure-it-out smart instead.
"Mike, did you just trick me?" she asked in a dangerous tone.
I refilled her coffee cup. Dad says that when a girl you like is mad at you, you should kiss her butt a little -- and sometimes a lot. It's a sure-fire way to calm women down.
"Suppose I say 'yes'," I said a little nervously, "Will you do something to me that hurts a lot?"
But Marie was smiling now. Laughing instead of angry.
"Why, you little..." she said, shaking her head.
"Tell you what," I suggested. "Kitty usually gets up about this time every day. Hide in the next room and listen. I'll bet I can get pancakes out of her. But I sure hope she doesn't hit as much as you do."