The smell awoke Kenny. He got groggily out of bed, the clock on his nightstand showing well past 3 am. His boyfriend was still asleep.
“What the fuck is she doing…” Kenny muttered. He rubbed the sleep from his eyes and quietly opened and closed the bedroom door.
The bustle became obvious then: the sound of splashing, the oven door being aggressively handled.
He padded down the steps, then turned the corner to the kitchen.
Henriette was there, moving in a frantic dance. She had two red oven mitts on her hands and was lightly dusted with flour. On her face, only the brown of her nose and the bottom of her chin weren’t coated.
“Oh, hey Kenny!” she said, not letting up for a moment. She slammed shut the oven and grabbed the rolling pin.
“You’re making an awful lot of pies there,” Kenny said.
Across the kitchen table and several countertops were a bevy of steaming pies, each slightly discolored.
“Well, we ran out last time,” Henriette replied, “and I didn’t want to disappoint the children again.”
Kenny pursed his lips. “Yeah, okay. I’m going to take a piss now.”
“Didn’t need to know that,” she replied, instantly going back to her task.
Heart hammering, Kenny walked out of the room. He froze when her voice called out.
“Can you help me when you get back? Don’t forget to wash your hands.”
“Yeah, of course,” Kenny said. He ducked into the bathroom, pulling out his phone. The news reports were coming in.
“The children are back,” he whispered.
As if summoned by the words, he heard a commotion outside the wall.
Laughing. The crackling of bones adjusting. A slurping tune that matched a song he’d only heard once before—and wished he’d never hear again.