At just before 7:00 that Friday, the day after we had our confrontation, my Dad opened the door to the apartment and quietly, almost on tip-toe, walked in. He saw me, held up his hand, not a wave, just a signal, then put it over his mouth, palm out toward me, telling me secretly not to make a sound. He closed the door behind him without even letting the latch click into place. I watched him start to cross the dining room, heading toward the bedroom hallway when she stepped out of the kitchen, her yellow apron held in both hands as she dried her fingers. She watched his retreating back for about six seconds. Then she started in on him.
"You forgot about them, didnít you?" she asked him, "You totally forgot until it was almsot too late that you agreed to having ten people for dinner tonight."
He turned sheepishly to face her, his eyes cast slightly down, but not past her waitline, I noticed.
"I did forget, yes, dear." He paused, looked up, smiled his sweetest smile. "But I remembered in time to get home with time to spare."
"What else did you remember?" she said.
"What else should I have remembered?" he asked her. It was clear that he had no idea where she was going with this inquisition.
"We talked about this last night, Bill," she said.
"And I guess I forgot something, didnít I?"
"I guess you did. Yes." She had dropped the hem of her apron now and stood with her fists pressed into her hips. "Donít take off your coat, youíre going out again."
"What am I doing?" he said. "Once Iím outside, where am I going and what am I doing?"
"Well, if you want any dessert, you better go back to Mullensí and get the cake I ordered."
"Cake? You didnít bake one?"
"Not for twelve people. No."
You said, ten people, I thought to myself, but I never said it aloud.
"A special occasion cake?" Dad asked her.
"Oh, boy. You really did forget everything we discussed." She had that totally disgusted look on her face now. I was getting worried, but then I heard the girls coming down the hallway toward us. Roberta, my little sister was first, as always and Jackie was just a step or two behind her.
"Jackie," my mother said instantly. "Go to Mullensí and get the cake, please."
"Iíll do it," my Dad said, almost petulantly.
"Jackie will get the cake. She at least knows what to look for, what to expect. How would you know if you were getting the right one?"
"Whatís the occasion, Juney?" He almost sounded angry now, but not quite, not yet. "Just remind me and Iíll get the right cake." He turned to Jackie. "You and your sister go back to your room and play. Iíll do what I must."
Jackie stayed exactly where she was. She wouldnít move until told what to do by the only real authority figure in the house. Roberta came over to the couch and flopped down next to me. It was a good place from which to watch.
When she came out of the kitchen again, she handed Dad a piece of paper. He unfolded it and looked at it. I could see the recognition in his face, in his eyes and mouth mostly, but also in his chin. He looked up at her and Jackie took a step forward toward them. Her movement caught Dadís eye and diverted his attention.
"I told you Iíd take care of this, Jackie."
"Is that all right with you?" Jackie asked her.
"Your father can deal with this, I think." She turned back to him. "You can find Mullensí all right, canít you and bring back the cake? Itís already paid for, so just get it and get it back here safely. Twelve adults will be happy if you do."
Thatís when it hit him. He looked at her without speaking, but his face was registering a question, just like mine always did before I asked him one.
"I thought you said ten people for dinner."
"I did." Her tone sang defiance.
"Now itís twelve?"
"Of course, Bill." She crossed her arms over her chest. She had really nice breasts, as Iíd heard my fatherís pals say often, and her arms were really high up, under her chin. "Ten guests and you and me. Thatís twelve."
"I thought there were eight guests and you and me made it ten."
"Well, okay then," he said. "I didnít realize it was as a big a party as that."
"Go get the sheet cake, please."
"Yes, Maíam, sheet cake for twelve."
"No," she said, "the sheet cake will feed sixteen people."
"I thought you said twelve."
"Twelve adults and three kids. We have children, Bill, remember?"
"I know that," he said. "I just didnít know we were giving them cake, too."
"Well, they live here and theyíll be here, so of course they should have their cake, too."
"Okay, then," Dad replied, acknowledging her position on this. "Now thatís only fifteen people, and with Roberta, really only fourteen and a half."
"Stop counting heads and cake, Bill," she said. "Just go get it."
"But what happens to the other piece and a half?"
"Bill," she said with a warning note in her voice. This was really unusual. Iíd never heard Dad question her like this before. I didnít quite understand what it was all about, but it was fascinating. It wasnít as though he hadnít agreed with her pronouncements, but he was actually asking the Ďwhyí question, over and over. This was so totally new for me, so completely strange. Even Jackie was silently listening and watching them. Even Jackie.
"June, I donít mind spending the extra money for a sixteen-piece cake, I donít. I just think we should have some idea about what happens to that left-o ver section."
"Go get the cake!" she shouted at him. "Just go get it now."
She turned away from him, and he reached out for her receding back. He touched her lightly on the shoulder and she shrugged him off as she retreated into the galley kitchen in the apartment. I was sure I saw a smile on his lips as he stood there, deciding whether or not to follow her. Jackie nudged me and I elbowed her back. I wasnít taking my eyes off my Dad. Not now.
"Okay, then," he said. "Iím off to Mullensí for a sheet cake and a little leftover piece."
"Good!" she shouted at him from the kitchen. "Hurry back. Theyíll be here any minute."
"Yes, indeedy, Maíam," he called back to her as he opened the door again and moved out into the buildingís hallway.
Just before he finished his exit, he suddenly leaned back in, his head bent all the way back so he could look at us on the couch. Then he winked and before we could say or do anything, his head was gone like the rest of him and the door had slammed shut behind him.