For breakfast we eat mango in slices. J eats the peel. We arrange small red strawberries on silver plates, fry egg yolks left over from birthday pavlova. When M sees J’s breakfast arranged in a circle, she says it looks British, though can’t explain why. We slice thin pieces of spelt bread, tucked away from Olerai, spread with dark acacia honey.
The girls wake up early, ride bikes down the gravelly back road to Joccoa’s house. They return a few minutes later, friend in tow, and begin setting up their school. It is called Tree Academy and involves all of our art supplies, lined up in careful colourful rows. They haul coffee tables and easels to the living room, make name tags, practice math.
Phil ties the neon orange laces of his soccer cleats, fills his water bottle, smiles at the cloudy sky. He is eager to get to his soccer game, nearly skips away down the sidewalk.
After supper we push bikes up the hill. Phil borrows a trail-a-bike from neighbours and the girls take turns riding on the back while Phil drives too fast through the parking lot, over speed bumps. They wobble, shriek, laugh with nervousness. P can’t reach the peddles, grips the handlebars with fierceness. The full moon grows like a nearing headlight, appears and disappears behind clouds as the sky turns black. M climbs to the top of the basketball hoop, leans back and waves to make me nervous. Her sisters clamber up too, giggly monkeys, pretend they’re the VonTrapp children.
At home, they squeeze into the bath tub, scrub dirt from their foreheads and feet. P makes soup in a cupcake lining and bows as she serves it to me. I sit on the toilet and read Hoot. Water splashes on the floor as J makes explosions with a small shampoo tube.
Our friends come over late in the evening. We eat popcorn and drink Ouzo straight from Greece. I hear noise down the hall and when I open the bedroom door, the girls are running in circles, the overhead light on. “We are having a party, just like you. A tag party.” I tell them to turn the light off eventually, close the door on their secret festivities.
At the farewell party for Sam and Melody, Alan and Wes sing a song about bread and wine, sound better than professionals. I cry my way through a speech while Phil makes jokes about taking off his shirt to give me time to pull myself together. We laugh, cry some more, drink Tilia and eat dates dipped in chocolate. Phil and I walk home in the dark, hear bats above us, feel the cool air on our tear-streaked cheeks.
M has been home alone all afternoon. When we return she announces that she has a special dance for us, just needs to change. She comes back in a green flowered dress, white ballet shoes. This is the Springtime Dance of the Flower Fairies. She spins and kicks, the only sound the sliding of leather on the cool tile.
I scold the girls for spreading chocolate on their chocolate chip muffins, then wish I hadn’t. Wish I had asked to join them.