H

uvy pulled three cucumbers out of the vegetable drawer and handed them to Atara.

“Peel and cut,” she said.

Atara pouted. “I don’t see why we have to start making dinner the second we come home from school. Besides, I’m sure Mommy is coming back any second.”

Huvy wasn’t so sure. From years of experience, she knew that if she came home to an empty house, or to a babysitter watching the boys, it was a safe bet that Mommy was going to breeze in an hour later, not having thought of supper.

It wasn’t that Mommy was irresponsible or that she didn’t care. She just tended to get swept away in whatever she was doing at the moment. That’s what made her so fun and exciting. And Huvy really didn’t mind picking up the pieces.

The meatballs were already simmering when Rina came in. She was carrying five shopping bags — including, from the look of the boxes, two pairs of shoes — and her smile was so falsely bright that Huvy was instantly suspicious.

“Hi, girls, so sorry I’m late. Mmm, meatballs, thanks so much, Huvale. You paid the babysitter before she left?”

Huvy nodded, while Atara ran up to Rina. “Mommy, where were you? You didn’t even tell us you’d be out!”

Huvy frowned at Atara. Why did she have to go making Mommy feel guilty when it was clear something was bothering her? She didn’t know what was wrong, but spontaneous shopping sprees were a dead giveaway with her mother.

Atara noticed the frown. “What?” she demanded.

“Mommy doesn’t owe you any explanations,” Huvy said quietly.

Rina tousled Atara’s hair. “I had a meeting with someone and afterward I decided to pick up a few things I needed.” She tilted her head self-consciously. “Well, maybe not needed.” She laughed.

Atara ran over to the bags. “Oooh, let me see what you bought!”

She began pulling out clothing while Huvy remained standing in her place, staring at her mother.

“Who’d you meet with?” she asked.

Atara looked up. “Mommy doesn’t owe you any explanations,” she sang.

Rina looked momentarily uncomfortable, but after a pause, said brightly, “I met with a film producer I was thinking of hiring.” Her voice got a notch perkier, even as her face darkened. “But she turned me down. Funny, huh?”

“Why?” asked Huvy.

“She’s crazy!” Atara declared, wrapping her arms around Rina. “Why would she turn down such a cool job?”

Rina shrugged and said, too casually. “She seemed to think that I hadn’t thought this through. That I wasn’t really serious.” Her face darkened even more, and though her mother’s tone was determinedly lighthearted, Huvy’s heart lurched in sympathy.

“What made her think that?” she asked.

Rina sat down on the couch and started absentmindedly folding the shirts Atara had pulled out. “Because I didn’t have any ideas for a story line.” She pressed down on the shirt in her hand with her thumb. “I thought I should take care of the technical parts first, since that’s where my lack of knowledge is. Coming up with ideas, with plots for shows — well, I do that all the time!” Her lips were pursed tightly together. (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 599)