“You never get them pieces to fit where they was before.”
Late Thanksgiving night, Jamie and Noreen were in bed, but Joellen was too restless to sleep. She put on a thick robe and made her way to Alva’s kitchen on the first floor. Bugs was asleep in the hallway by the front door where Alva had placed a rug for him. He thumped his tail and cocked his ears when Joellen came down the stairs. The kitchen light was on. Joellen could hear someone humming. Snow piled against the window panes. Street lights were shrouded arcs within a rush of white. Joellen pushed at the door.
Alva stood at the sink. In her hands she held a bowl of peeled, sliced apples. She looked up as Joellen came through the doorway. Smiling, she stopped humming and lifted the bowl to place it on the counter.
“Apple pies,” she said matter-of-factly, “for the weekend.”
She picked up a lemon, halved and pitted, and squeezed juice over the apples, shaking the last drops vigorously.
“Aintchoo tired after all this movin’ out and movin’ in?” Alva turned to Joellen. She took the bowl and placed it on the table. Joellen noticed three pie plates then, prepared with dough stretched, neatly draped over the glass edges like small curtains. A stubby knife was ready on the table for the final trimming.
“Can I help you?” Joellen asked. “I feel you’ve done so much for us. Been so kind, taking us in.”
“Course you can,” Alva said. “Here, take and spread these apples real generous in them plates.”
The two women set about the work that women do. That they were both so well adapted for.
“Seem like you got a lot on your mind right about now,” Alva said quietly. “Can’t sleep no way?”
“No. Not since I left North Carolina. I’ve been kind of edgy all the time,” Joellen said. “And now someone’s coming to see me tomorrow and I don’t know what to tell the children or how to take care of them overnight while I’ll be away.”
“Seem to me sometimes the grownups, they don’t have to tell the children things that children can’t understand yet. Seems to me,” Alva said.
“I suppose you’re right,” said Joellen. “Still they know something’s wrong. I think it might be better to explain it. But I don’t really know how.”
Alva hummed a little as they worked with the apples.
“Honey, when you got troubles, don’t do no good to spread the news beyond where it’s got to go. Take your time. Let them children figure things out in their own way. And when things settle into they rightful way, well, that’s time enough to make your statement. Ain’t no way things going to right themselves all at once. When things come apart, takes a long time to put them back together and you never get them pieces to fit where they was before,” Alva said.
The two women spread the rest of the crust on top and went about trimming and fluting the edges. The pies were finished.
Alva finally spoke again, “And those children of yours, nice as they can be, why they can stay here with me overnight. We’ll have us a good time. And Marv and Bugs will be here. And Kitty, too. So don’t you worry none about them children of yours. You just go on and do what you think you need to do.”