“She was barely in the clearing before she started to cry and yell at him.” Maren raised her eyebrows, looked at Kallie across the kitchen, then behind her at Arisha.
Hands thick with sticky, yellow dough, Arisha glanced at Kallie too. Then she turned back to Maren with a dull blink. “We were there.”
“I know!” Maren threw her hands in the air and returned to her tools, reordering them on the table for easy use. She put the hammer on the left, then awl, wedge, and driver to right, their sharp points on a thick cloth to protect Arisha’s table. “Everyone was there! The whole picnic was laid out, and Dennie was getting ready to light the bonfire, and then… Just her. All you could hear was her. They’re not even trying to hide it.”
“How are they supposed to?” Arisha asked. “He’s leaving next week with The Tern.”
“Ships come back with their crew, don’t they?” Maren asked. “Or, is Kallie not sitting here?”
Arisha snorted. Kallie took another bite of the spiced potatoes in the bowl in her hand.
Bending down, Maren turned toward the cupboards. They squeaked as she opened and shut the closest set, testing the doors for where the hinges were loose. Then she reached behind her for driver. Her fingers missed it by an inch, and she searched from side to side. Kallie slid off her seat and pushed it toward her.
Maren flashed her a grateful smile. Then she tested the screws on each hinge. “I’m not saying I want them to pretend that everything’s all right,” she said, voice echoing in the cupboard. “Although, I think it should have been easy enough. You can pretend anything for six days, and there’s plenty of things they could say happened with an ocean between them. No one would have batted an eye if they called off the engagement when he came back.”
Kallie blinked at the top of her aunt’s head, and swallowed her next bite. “You wanted her to pretend she was still tied to him for six months?”
“No!” Maren assured her. “No, I’m just saying. When I was younger, we kept our business to ourselves. Now, the whole town is part of the mess, because we’ve listened to her going on and on about how badly she still needs him. How she thinks he’s a liar and that he owes her better. How he’s a coward and she can’t stand that he’s running away. It’s uncomfortable!”
Arisha looked down at her dully. “He’s leaving her,” she said. “She has reason and right to be angry.”
“I would be,” Maren agreed. “But I’d at least hold onto my dignity.”
“Her heart’s just been broken,” Arisha said. “Let her grieve.” She met Kallie’s eye, shook her head, and went back to tearing the dough into rolls.
Maren shook her head. “I’m surprised he’s not running faster! The Kedmark is leaving tomorrow.” She looked up at Kallie and waved the driver at her. “And then you wouldn’t have to deal with this mess on The Tern.”
Kallie chewed, and swallowed. “Well, that would be silly. Since he’s leaving her for me.”
Slowly, she peered over the door. Her gaze was suddenly blank. Her mouth hung slightly open.
Arisha dropped the first roll onto the baking pan.
Kallie took another bite.
“How long…” Maren began.
“Years,” Kallie said. “It’s always been a mess. I kept shipping out at all the wrong times.”
“So, we hurt her,” Kallie said firmly. “I’m not about to make any demands about how she reacts. I can’t find anything to blame her for.”
Maren blinked again. Hesitantly, she tucked herself back into her work. The driver scraped in the hinges, and the wood whined where she tightened the door. Kallie listened, both hands wrapped around her bowl. She watched her mother’s shoulders as she molded the next roll. And the next.
“Aunt Maren?” Kallie said at last.
“The next time you talk about all this, make sure you tell my bit of it.” Kallie met Maren’s eye when she lifted her head, surprised again. “Times have changed, you know. We like to shout about our business now.”