So, uh, where should I…?” I told up the pizza boxes as I trail off.
“Oh, right. Kitchen table’s fine.”
“I’ll show you!” Madison announces, as if I don’t know where it is, but I let her lead me there anyway. Kennedy shuts the door and follows behind us. I set the boxes on the table, and Madison doesn’t hesitate, popping the top one open. She makes a face, looking horrified. “Gross!”
“What in the world are you—?” Kennedy laughs as she glances at the pizza. “Ham and pineapple.”
“Why is that fruit on the pizza?” Madison asks.
“Because it’s good,” Kennedy says, snatching the top box away before opening the other one. “There, that one’s for you.”
Madison shrugs it off, grabbing a slice of cheese pizza, eating straight from the box. I’m gathering this is normal, since Kennedy sits down beside her to do the same.
“You remembered,” she says plucking a piece of pineapple off a slice of pizza and popping it in her mouth.
“Of course,” I say, grabbing a slice of cheese from the box Madison is hoarding. “Pretty sure I’m scarred for life because of it. Not something I can forget.”
She laughs, the sound soft, as she gives me one of the most genuine smiles I’ve seen in a while. It fades as she averts her gaze, but goddamn it, it happened.
“You shoulda gots the breads,” Madison says, standing on her chair as she leans closer, vying for my attention like she’s afraid I might not see her. “And the chickens!”
“Ah, didn’t know you liked those,” I tell her, “or I would’ve gotten them.”
“Next time,” she says, just like that, no question about it.
“Next time,” I say.
“And soda, too,” she says.
“No soda,” Kennedy chimes in.
Madison glances at her mother before leaning even closer, damn near right up on me, whisper-shouting, “Soda.”
“I’m not so sure your mom will like that,” I say.
“It’s okay,” Madison says. “She tells Grandpa no soda, too, but he lets me have it.”
“That’s because you emotionally blackmail him,” Kennedy says.
“Nuh-uh!” Madison says, looking at her mother. “I don’t blackmail him!”
Kennedy scoffs. “How do you know? You don’t even know what that means.”
“So?” Madison says. “I don’t mail him nothing!”
“You give him those sad puppy-dog eyes,” Kennedy says, grabbing Madison by the chin, squeezing her chubby cheeks. “And you tell him you’ll love him ‘the mostest’ if he gives you some Coca-Cola to drink.”
“ ‘Cuz I will,” Madison says.
“That’s emotional blackmail.”
“Oh.” Madison makes a face, turning to me when her mother lets go of her. “How ‘bout root beer?”
“I’m afraid not,” I tell her. “Sorry.”
Madison scowls, hopping down from the table to grab a juice box from the refrigerator.
J.M. Darhower (Ghosted)