The Impossible Vastness Of Us
“You guess? Was it really that bad?”
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
She looked hurt by my curtness so I changed the subject. “How goes the wedding plans?”
And just like that she lit up again as she told me all about the wedding planner she’d met with, the venue they’d by some miracle managed to book on such late notice, the flowers they were considering, the colors...
Unfortunately, I had to listen to it all over again at dinner later that evening.
When she’d finally run out of steam, Theo smiled indulgently at her and then turned to me. “So now that we know your mother had a wonderful day, how was yours, India?”
Like the previous nights, we sat around the informal dining table, the four of us, pretending that we were all comfortable in one other’s company.
“It was good,” I lied.
“Did you show India around, Eloise? Introduce her to everyone?”
“Of course, Daddy.” It was Eloise’s turn to lie.
I noted the way her fingers tightened around her fork so hard her knuckles went white.
It gave me pleasure knowing she was waiting for me to out her for not doing her daughterly duties.
I let the moment pass and watched her hand relax.
“Are you liking your classes?” Theo said.
“So far.” I looked over at Eloise. I wanted her to know that maybe I didn’t need her, after all. “And Mr. Franklin, my Modern European History teacher, is the head faculty member on the paper. He asked me to send some old articles to him. Kind of like an interview for a spot on the paper.”
Hayley and Theo looked delighted. Hayley actually wore a look of pride as she said, “Well, that’s wonderful.”
“First the paper and then the theater,” Theo said, his attention now on his daughter. “Eloise, did you ask about a job for India behind the scenes?”
“No, Daddy. Not yet.”
He frowned. “India has already missed out on the first few weeks of school. Time is of the essence. I’d like you to try harder tomorrow.”
She blushed at his admonishment. “Yes, Daddy.”
The rest of the dinner conversation was carried by Hayley and Theo and it mostly covered the wedding and Hayley asking for my soon-to-be stepdad’s opinion on flowers and themes and crap I’m sure he really wasn’t that interested in.
I was happy to be excused from the table once I’d finished my dessert but I refused to completely give in to my new life. I found myself grabbing up my plate before Theo’s staff could, ignoring him as he called out to me that “Janelle will do that!”
Instead I took my dirty plate and glass into the kitchen and then promptly stopped short at the sight before me. Gretchen was scraping a huge chunk of leftover meat loaf into the trash. An oven dish half-filled with potato dauphinoise was sitting on the counter, ready to be thrown out, too.
My skin tingled unpleasantly as I felt an immediate cold sweat prickle my face, my palms and under my arms. My heart was hammering way too hard in my chest. “What are you doing?” I said shakily, taking a step toward her.
Gretchen looked up in surprise. “Clearing up.”
“Stop.” I hurried over and looked down into the trash can. My chest tightened at the sight of the food inside it. “You just threw away half a meat loaf!”
“Miss, leave your plate and glass. I’ll clean it up,” Gretchen said tetchily as she reached for the potatoes.
“No!” I grabbed ahold of the other end of the dish and her eyes grew round with surprise. “You can’t just throw perfectly good food out!”
“Miss, please let go of the potatoes.”
“Miss, please.” Her face grew pale.
“What is going on in here?” I heard Theo’s authoritative voice behind us.
My grip on the dish tightened.
“Sir, I’m just trying to clear up the waste and Miss Maxwell got very upset.”
“India.” A hand curled around my wrist and I followed it up to Hayley’s concerned face.
“It’s not waste,” I whispered. “It’s perfectly fine leftovers.”
I saw the pain in Hayley’s eyes at my words and she reached up to brush my cheek with her fingertips. “Sweetie,” she whispered back.
“We can’t just throw it out.”
“I know.” She nodded and looked over my shoulder. “Darling, India’s right. We should be keeping the leftovers or giving them to a local shelter. It’s a lot of food to throw away.”
I felt the warmth of Theo’s presence as he stepped up beside us and peered into the trash can. “Do you throw out this much food every day?”
Gretchen swallowed hard. “Not every day, sir. Sometimes.”
“Well, it does seem like a lot. India and Hayley are right. You and the staff will share the leftovers between you from now on, is that understood?”
“Yes, sir.” Gretchen slumped with relief, I imagine because Theo hadn’t given her any more crap about it.
As for me, my heartbeat began to slow but I still wasn’t completely reassured. “You will use the leftovers, right?”
I could tell she thought I was nuts but still she answered soothingly, “Yes, miss. I have a teenage son who eats me out of house and home. The leftovers will be welcome.”
The tension drained out of me. “Good.” I sucked in a huge breath of air. “Thanks.”
She gently tugged on the oven dish and I let it go, stepping back.
“I must say, India, I find your attitude quite refreshing.” Theo gave me an affectionate smile.
My return smile was tremulous.
He thought I was being socially and economically conscious. He had no idea about my issues with food.