“Trina, what can I get you to drink?” Daddy asks her.
“I’ll have whatever’s open,” she says.
“I don’t have anything open, but I’m happy to open whatever you like—”
“Ms. Rothschild likes pinot grigio,” Kitty says. “With an ice cube.”
She turns even redder. “God, Kitty, I’m not a lush!” She turns to us and says, “I’ll have a small glass after work, but not every night.”
Daddy laughs. “I’ll put some white wine in the freezer. It’ll get cold soon.”
Kitty looks pleased as punch, and when Daddy and Ms. Rothschild go into the living room, I grab her by the collar and whisper, “What are you up to?”
“Nothing,” she says, trying to squirm away.
“Is this a setup?” I hiss.
“So what if it is? They’d be a good match.”
Huh! “What makes you say that?”
Kitty ticks off her fingers. “She loves animals, she’s hot, she makes her own money, and I like her.”
Hmm. All of that does sound good. Plus she lives across the street, which is convenient.
“Do you think Ms. Rothschild watches documentaries?”
“Who cares about dusty old documentaries? He can watch them with you or Margot. The important thing is chemistry.” Kitty tries to jerk loose from my grip. “Let go of me so I can see if they have any!”
I release her collar. “No, don’t go in yet.” Kitty huffs and flounces away and I say meaningfully, “Let’s let it simmer for a minute.”
She stops short and then gives me an appreciative nod. “Let’s let it simmer,” she repeats, savoring the words.
Kitty is sawing her way through a piece of white meat, the only kind she’ll eat—she likes it sliced thin like deli meat, and Daddy tries but it always ends up kind of shredded and sad-looking. I think maybe I’ll get him an electric carving knife for this birthday. Personally, I like the thigh. I honestly don’t know why anyone would bother eating anything but thigh if they had the choice.
When Ms. Rothschild shakes some hot sauce on her chicken, Kitty’s eyes glow like a lightning bug. I make note of the way Ms. Rothschild laughs at Daddy’s corny jokes with sincerity. I also appreciate the way she goes wild for my snickerdoodles. I threw some frozen ones in the oven when Daddy put the coffee on.
“I love how this cookie is crunchy but also soft. You’re telling me you made this from scratch?”
“Always,” I tell her.
“Well, give me the recipe, girl.” Then she laughs. “Wait, don’t bother. I know my strengths, and baking is not one of them.”
“We’ll share with you anytime—we always have lots of cakes and cookies,” Kitty says, which is rich coming from her, because it’s not like Kitty ever helps. She only shows up for the fun parts, the decorating and eating.
I sneak a look at Daddy, who is placidly sipping his coffee. I sigh. He’s completely oblivious.
We all do the washing up and wrapping up of leftovers together, and it feels very natural. Without anyone telling her, Ms. Rothschild knows to hand-wash the wineglasses and not put them in the dishwasher, and on the first try she finds the aluminum foil and plastic wrap drawer. Which might say more about Margot’s organizational skills than Ms. Rothschild’s intuition, but still. I think I could see her fitting in with us pretty seamlessly. And, as I said, she does live across the street, which is convenient. People say absence makes the heart grow fonder, but I think they’re wrong: Proximity makes the heart grow fonder.
As soon as Ms. Rothschild’s gone home and Daddy’s in his study, Kitty pounces on me in my room, where I’m setting out school clothes. Navy sweater with a fox on it that I’ve been saving for a rainy day, mustard-yellow skirt, knee socks.
“Well?” she demands. She has Jamie Fox-Pickle in her arms.
“I like the way she started Saran-wrapping things; that was some good initiative,” I say, pinning a tortoiseshell bow in my hair and checking it out in the mirror. “She also complimented my snickerdoodles a lot, which I appreciated. But I don’t know if I necessarily saw any sparks with Daddy. I mean, did you think he seemed interested?”
“I think he could be if she gave him a chance. She was dating a guy from her office, but it didn’t work out because he reminded her of her ex-husband.”
I raise my eyebrows. “It sounds like you guys have had some serious talks.”
Proudly Kitty says, “She doesn’t treat me like a little kid.”
If Kitty’s that crazy about her, that says a lot. “Well, she might not be Daddy’s type, but if we keep throwing them together, who knows?”
“What do you mean she might not be Daddy’s type?”
“Her style seems really different than Mommy’s. Doesn’t she smoke? Daddy hates that.”
“She’s trying to quit. She’s got an electronic cigarette now.”
“Let’s keep inviting her to things and see what happens,” I say, picking up my hairbrush. “Hey, do you think if you watched a video, you could give me a little side cornrow?”
“I could give it a shot,” Kitty says. “Curl the ends first and then check with me after I watch my shows.”
THE NEXT TIME MARGOT AND I video-chat, I break the news to her. She’s sitting at her desk, wearing a Fair Isle sweater, light blue and hunter green, and her hair is wet. She has a Saint Andrews mug she’s drinking tea out of. “That’s a cute sweater,” I say, nestling my laptop on my thighs and getting cozy against my pillows. “So guess who Kitty’s been trying to set Daddy up with.”
Margot practically chokes on her tea. “From across the street? You’ve got to be kidding me. That’s literally the craziest thing I ever heard.”
“Really? You think so?”
“Yes! Don’t you?”
“I don’t know. Kitty’s been spending a lot of time with her because she’s teaching her how to train Jamie. She seems pretty nice.”
“I mean, sure, she’s nice, but she wears so much makeup and she’s always spilling hot coffee all over her cleavage and shrieking like a banshee. Remember how she and her ex-husband used to get into those screaming matches in their yard?” Margot shudders. “What would she and Daddy even have to talk about? She’s like a Real Housewife of Charlottesville. Except she’s divorced.”