“To us, family means putting your arms around each other and being there.”
Ashley stared at the kettle, aware that it wouldn’t boil any faster, aware that he’d probably jump once the whistle sounded, as always. The ‘ultimate puzzle’ seemed similar, with pressure building, things warming up, and only a matter of time before-.
Looking out of his kitchen window, he saw Evan at the door, groceries in hand, knocking the door again with what must have been his foot. Christina was right behind him, with some totes slung on her shoulder.
“Never let her drive,” Evan said, walking past Ashley to take over the kitchen. “I hope you don’t mind if we’re early.”
“You don’t have a choice anyway,” Christina said, giving Ashley one of the totes. “The kids were excited to find those, so they’re yours to keep. Good news, you may, or may not have a short book report due for them the next time they’re by.”
“That reminds me, Mama wants you over at the house tomorrow for supper. No arguments.” Evan took the kettle off the burner. “Are you going to be able to solve this before I go back east or should I extend my vacation?”
Ashley’s shoulders dropped. “I wish you were stationed to a branch out here, closer to home.”
The older man laughed. “Ah, wasn’t it both of us luring you home and reminding you that all was not lost? Seriously, do you see a light at the end of this, or…?”
He shrugged. “I don’t know. It’s like a Russian nesting doll combined with an impossible cube puzzle within an Escher painting. Just when I think it’ll make sense, I feel like I have to step back and try again.”
“Maybe it’s time to simply step back,” Christina suggested.
“Because I already know the answer,” he asked.
She pulled Ashley in for a hug. “Because you already have an answer to the most important question.”