8 a.m. and she’s hiding in the laundry room, leaning against the tumbling dryer, sketchbook in hand, trying not to upset the leaning tower of dirty clothes to her left.
She can hear them outside. Laughing, stalking, trying to find her. They want her to make ice cream sandwiches for breakfast. And play tag, and tell them stories, and…
“Honey? Have you seen—”
…Find their old baseball uniforms so they can relive the highlights of their youth.
Something scratches at the door; the faulty latch clicks and it swings open. The baby looks in, smiles, then toddles by, wearing nothing but a diaper with a tulip (from the birthday bouquet her mother sent) stuffed down the back of it.
Three weeks, she thinks. Three weeks and it’ll be over. Summer will end. Hopefully, before I end them.
“How many times have I told you to not use your baby brother as a flower pot?” Three sets of giggles flee down the hall.
“There you are!” James pokes his head in. “Have you—“
Ripping open the dryer, she pulls out his uniform. He looks at her once, steals a kiss, the uniform and promises to be home by 1:00.
She can’t promise, she thinks, opening the washer to find the clothes wrung out and stained purple, that home will still be here.
A quick fish through the damp laundry reveals a small, now empty, pot of Permanent Mauve oil paint.
“Three weeks,” she says.
It’s fast become a mantra.