The lunch gong sounds. I clean and put away my tools, wash up, and head for the dining room. The teen orchestra tune their instruments as I wait in line with Merilee. We will have a concert today!
Cheyenne waves from across the room and gives a big OK with her thumb and forefinger. She is grinning, excited about her students’ progress and the music they are about to play.
“Show off!” I mouth.
Lunch is a spread of salads and a choice of vegetable or beef ragout over the Kaiser rolls Janine made this morning. The spicy ragout looks and smells delicious, and my salivary glands kick in. I wink at Cheyenne, who winks back as she steps to her place in front of the mini orchestra and raises her baton.
Strains of Mozart drift through the room. A hush settles as Little Tracey begins a solo on her harp. I step to the water bucket and ladle another mug of fresh spring water pumped to the kitchen–and all our cottages–by two of the few motors in constant use in Ordinary. Back at the table, I dig in. Fresh mint in the apple pear salad crunches slightly under my teeth. Mm mm.
My table mates chat amiably, then hush suddenly at a particularly sweet violin solo. Heavenly.
Finished with her day’s work, Janine wheels her chair by our table before leaving for her free afternoon.
”Great lunch, Janine,” Merilee purrs. “Do I detect a hint of nutmeg in the ragout?”
“Secret out!” Janine smiles. “I love cooking for your delicate taste buds, Mer.”
Merilee pats her tummy and grins before taking another hearty mouthful, and Janine turns to me.
“May I drop by later today,” she asks. “I finished the tapestry.”
That’s the surprise she mentioned at breakfast this morning! Loved far beyond Ordinary, Janine’s hand-woven tapestries–laced with twigs, flowers, leaves, even stones–grace many a community center and far more homes. Months ago, at her suggestion, I agreed eagerly to an exchange. She would weave a tapestry for the wall facing our front garden windows. In exchange, she may choose from any of my paintings for her home.
“Oh, yes! I can’t wait to see it!” I pause then, subdued. “Janine. I need to apologize for my anger yesterday. Please forgive me. And please, how may I make amends?”
Yesterday, Janine had spoken sharply to a child who had run through the kitchen just as she was lifting a steaming kettle of apricot preserves from the stove to the counter. The child knocked against Janine’s chair and narrowly escaped causing a spill that would have scalded them both.
Empathizing with the child, who knew immediately what she had done and was clearly horrified, I took her part, not realizing how shaken Janine was.
It is easy to forget that much of Janine’s strength comes from her will and her careful attention to every movement. As physically strong as she is, her body does not respond to an emergency as quickly as yours or mine.
“Oh for Pete’s sake, Rose,” she says now, hands on her hips. “A little spat never hurt anyone. If I didn’t see some passion in you now and then, I’d think you weren’t human! Amends? Promise me you’ll always speak your mind. I count on you for that.”
Embarrassed at the tears in my eyes, I reach to hug her. Her hair smells of rosemary and lavender, and her cheek is soft. Lifting her chin to signal a wave, she spins the wheels of her chair and rolls from the room.