“She was old,” Lily’s mother said, and tried to put her arm around her in comfort, but Lily jerked away.
I wish your stupid boyfriend would leave her alone, Lily thought as she watched him firmly grip the dead chicken by her neck and carry her over to them.
“So I’m guessing this is on the dinner menu tonight?” He laughed at Lily’s gasp.
She grabbed Marguerite from him and cradled her. “No! She’s gonna have a burial.” She didn’t add, you bastard, but her mother heard it in her tone.
“Watch your mouth, young lady,” she warned.
But Lily didn’t have anything more to say and ran off to plan Marguerite’s funeral.
As a small child Lily’s family could not get her to eat anything more complicated than a peanut butter sandwich. She never liked the taste of meat and as she grew and collected beloved pets, she unequivocally refused such fare. Especially chicken.
Her father was to blame for that quirk. When she was six years old and stayed at his place for their bi-weekly visits, her father entertained her with bedtime stories about the year he lived in Rome, including one where he and his roommate, Sam, were cooking a pasta dinner for an Italian friend. They didn’t have a proper kitchen, so they boiled water on a hotplate. When Sam strained the pasta over the toilet bowl, the downstairs buzzer startled him, and he let go of the colander.
Her father opened the door ready to confess that dinner was ruined, but was interrupted by Sam, who came to the table carrying a platter of spaghetti topped with spicy tomato sauce and pecorino cheese.
“Ciao, Marco,” Sam said to the guest. “Buon appetite!”
It was early evening, and Lily returned to the house to find her mother’s boyfriend drinking beer in the TV room. Oh, it’s Tuesday, Lily remembered. On those nights her mother worked as a volunteer in the hospital’s emergency room and always arranged for someone to watch her daughter. It was his turn, then.
Lily stared at him and thought about her father, gone into dust for three years now. She walked over and touched his arm.
“How about some dinner?”
He looked up at her with narrowed eyes, unused to such familiarity. She gave him a tight forced smile. He relaxed. “Yeah? Well, sure kid, thanks.”
Before Lily reached the kitchen he called out, “But I don’t want any peanut butter sandwiches, are we clear?”
She glanced at him. “Sure. That’s just for me. I can cook some things.”
“Great, kid. What’s on the menu?”
“Spaghetti and sauce. It’s from a special family recipe.”
Lily sat on her bed later that night and arranged her stuffed animals. She hummed and laughed at her thoughts. Her strike against the enemy would be considered infantile in some older cliques at her school, but she was only twelve years old and this was enough for her tonight.