Excerpt from The Summer Kitchen
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.
"It's very late, boys..."
"Please, please," Charlie and Nicholas had together chimed.
All three of them then started jumping up and down on the bed.
Clearly they were still on a sugar high.
"Ah-h hah, yeah, yeah, ah-hah, yeah, yeah," they chimed in chorus.
It was their invented chant like a rain dance to bring on something they wanted.
She and Evan laughed; the boys knew they had won. They scampered back under the covers, so that all five of them again rested in a line along the headboard.
"Your mother was the most angelic thing I'd ever seen." Evan looked over at her. He was grinning. He loved telling the story. She felt herself blush slightly.
"She was in her final year of the two-year analyst-training program at Morgan Stanley, where we both worked at the time."
"Your daddy was much more senior than me; he was an associate investment banker then. I was still in the training program fresh out of college. He'd even been to graduate school. Do you remember what an M.B.A. is?"
"Who's telling this story?" Evan put on a mock face of indignation.
"We want Daddy to tell it!" Nicholas shouted. "He tells the best stories."
"Okay, okay." She smiled.
"Your mother was stepping out of the elevator one morning with a take-out coffee from this café down on the ground floor. I was so entranced I just followed her back to her desk, to see where she sat. The next morning I went down to the café and described your mother to the owner and asked was she a regular and how she took her coffee. Well, this guy just smiled at me and you know what he said?"
"I know," Thomas announced proudly. "He said, 'Join the line, buddy.'"
"That's right, Tom."
"Wow, one hundred dollars!" Nicholas marveled. He never got over how much money it seemed. It took him a year to make just eight dollars by searching the floors around the drink machines at the tennis club for dropped coins. And he had to suffer his mother all the while nagging him to please, please get off the floor.
"That's the way the real world works, little buddies. You've got to have money to be in the game."
"All right, all right, your mother's getting cross with me now. So I stood in front of her desk and handed her coffee to her and asked would she join me for dinner. She seemed a bit shocked at first, and then she regained her composure and said with the most beautiful smile, 'Hi, my name's Nora. And you are?'"
"I know what you said then, Dad," Thomas said in a rush to beat his father to it. "You said to Mom, 'I'm your future husband.'"
"That's right, little buddies. It had seemed to me when she stepped out of that elevator that first day like she was a delicate little bunny rabbit popping its head out of the burrow, and I was damned—"
"There was no way I was going to let any of the foxes out there snare her."
"So you snared me yourself!" Nora laughed, and although she made fun of him, she was recalling how her first reaction to him had been similarly overwhelming, and not just because of the way he looked, or because of his charm and dynamism. Though she had never resolved the question of whether certain souls were fated to join for some higher purpose, the elation Evan effected in her being had brought her then closer to an answer.
The rain had begun lashing. An inspired wind was making miniature twisters of sodden fallen leaves. She would have liked more toast, but she dusted her fingers over the sink and started through the rooms to check the windows. She thought she heard car doors closing out front, but it must have been claps of thunder or a tree branch knocking at the roof. A window in the laundry had been left open and she slipped on a circle of rainwater on the floor. She steadied herself against the wall, but felt shaken for a moment. She closed the window and threw some towels over the puddle and thought about warming milk and going back to bed for a while. But the telephone rang and she went back into the kitchen to answer it. She presumed it was Evan's car service confirming a car en route; she would need to make Evan a coffee and get him under the shower. But when she put the phone to her ear she heard only a dial tone. She idly took a bite of cold toast, expecting whomever it had been to ring back momentarily. Then the ringing sounded again, only it was not the telephone at all. It was the doorbell; Evan's car must be in the drive.
She pulled her wrap tighter and opened the door. A scattering of raindrops blew into her face. She started to hold out the bag of Kit Kats, but something was wrong. There were no children. The adults—men, all of them, she realized now, some half dozen—all wore the same costume: windbreakers over polyester suits. One had his jacket open.
She saw a gun in a holster. Everything about them seemed too real. She clutched her wrap tighter. The metallic taste of fear sat heavy in the back of her throat. She inched back inside the door. The men all stayed where they were. She noticed how tall and broad the man in front of them all was. It crossed her mind that he could snap her like a twig. She drew back further and, without moving her eyes, screamed in a shaky voice, "Evan!"
"We have a warrant here for your husband's arrest."
She heard the words but did not understand them.
"We're FBI, ma'am."
The light outside was turning yellow.
"Where's your husband?"
Her hand hurt from gripping the doorknob so tightly.
"Ma'am, step to the side. Where's your husband?"
He stepped forward so that there was only a sliver of space between them. He smelled of cigarettes and damp wool and something minty that was the gum she now noticed he was chewing; she could even hear it squelching between his teeth, the workings of his jaw purposely exaggerated and intimidating.
A sense of outrage brought her up abruptly.
"Get off my porch. My husband's done nothing wrong."
The man pushed past into the foyer. More men in suits followed.
"Evan!" she screamed again. The voice seemed to come from somewhere outside her now. Then, to the men, "Get out of my house."
Eyes looked up the stairs. She followed them. Evan stood at the top in his bathrobe. She half registered Beatriz standing in her nightdress on the landing a long way over to Evan's right. Beatriz had stayed over in her old room. They had arrived home too late last night for her to drive home.
"Evan! Tell these men they are mistaken, tell them to leave, Evan, tell them to get out of our house."
Evan said nothing.
Still he said nothing.
She saw Evan's face really for the first time then. It was ashen, his eyes almost absent. Why, he is sick! she thought, and she moved to go up to him. But she stopped when Evan said very quietly to the man beside her, "Just let me dress." This was not the Evan she knew when his wife was in danger. He had instinctively always jumped through fire to protect her. He would jump through fire to protect her from needing to be protected. She started to say something, but no words came out. Evan was looking at the men. He seemed unaware that anyone but they were in the room. All at once Charlie appeared, rubbing his eyes next to Beatriz and asking for Mommy. A new panic rose; the children could not see this. But Beatriz instinctively thrust her body between him and the scene. She pushed Charlie's face into her ghostly nightdress and shuffled him away.
"Evan Banks, you're under arrest."
"No!" she yelled, grabbing at the sleeve of the man in charge. "You're wrong, you're wrong. Evan, tell him he's wrong. Tell him, Evan!"
The suit brushed her off like a fly.
Why wasn't Evan saying anything?
One of the suits had climbed the stairs and was leading Evan by the elbow back toward the bedroom. He wedged his hands under his armpits at the door and watched as Evan disappeared into the room. The suits in the foyer looked around, oblivious to the muddied rainwater spreading out from their feet. One on her right rested his hand on his Glock. "Nice place," he said, not bothering to look at her. "Bet he had to steal a lot to afford this!" She looked away from him. Evan emerged in jeans, a blue sweater, his olive rain jacket, and those boots he wore when they went hiking. His lips were tight. He had not combed his hair. It stuck up like a crest at the back. The suit outside the door patted him down. Her hand clutched her throat. Words that would no longer come were tearing at it from the inside. On the way down the stairs Evan looked at the carpet. It was then she registered that none of this seemed a surprise to him. At the bottom of the stairs, the head suit told Evan to put his wrists behind his back. A pair of handcuffs snapped around them. The wrists were her husband's. Just hours ago they were wrapped around her in bed.
A suit started to lead Evan out. Evan raised his head and looked at her, terror and sadness in his eyes. He did not take his eyes off her. Tears streamed down her face.
He said defeatedly, "Call my criminal attorney, Jarvis Finch. His number's in my cell phone."
He had a criminal attorney? She bit her bottom lip.
And then Evan was pushed so roughly toward the door that he stumbled.
He looked back for a moment and said, "I love you, Nora."
The suits then formed a tight semicircle behind him and stepped off the porch.
She started to follow them out.
"Stay inside, ma'am." The head suit was looking back at her. Her arms were now wrapped about her body to hold herself up. Her nightgown flapped like sails behind her in the wind. He then smirked as he added, "Don't worry, we'll have him back to you in twenty years."