It was starting to rain. She could hear the pattering against the roofline gutters above their second-floor bedroom window. She slid out of bed quietly so as not to wake Evan and slid the window down. The bedside table clock read 4:30 a.m. She had not slept and yet did not feel tired. Making great love could do that to her. It aroused her like caffeine to wakefulness. There seemed little point going back to bed now. The children would be up in just an hour and a half. She swirled a wrap over her long strappy black nightgown and padded in bare feet along the carpeted hall to the children's bedrooms. She could see into all three of their bedrooms from this place in the hall. Their arms fell to either side and their mouths hung open, in full abandonment to the home they knew as safe. She had told them they could not eat any more candy when they got home from trick-or-treating, and she smiled now to notice her musketeers had listened only partly. Clearly they had later discussed a plan, as they did when one was needed. They had each placed their buckets below them on the floor, where they could reach for them instantly in the morning, when they had not yet been told they could not eat candy. The buckets were in the kitchen when she put them to bed.
They did that sometimes, crept around together after bedtime, thinking no one knew. Most times she did know, but she let them do it anyway. It was the innocent stuff of childhood. She loved hearing them giggling and noisily trying to tiptoe, as much as she loved their bedtime ritual. Every night of their talking lives she and they had sat up in her and Evan's bed and after reading them a story they would each tell the best part of their day. When it came to Charlie's turn those nights he would stand bolt upright on the bed, often still naked after his bath, and wave his plastic sword. His favorite toy was his little brown sword. It stayed in his hand through bathtimes and sleep (the one time she tried slipping it from his sleeping grip he woke instantly), and when he ate or went to the bathroom he laid it carefully beside him, watching narrowly lest someone try to take it. Last night the best part to all the boys' days was the same: Daddy taking them trick-or-treating.
From The Summer Kitchen by Karen Weinreb. Copyright © 2009 Karen Weinreb. Available wherever books are sold. All rights reserved.