The Days Before - Part 5


When Gotz comes back on the twelfth day, he brings a few extra things with him.

"We aren't doing the cabinets, remember?" Elli says crossly, eyeing the beautiful light oak cabinet doors and stylish brushed silver handles with fiercely restrained longing.

"Change of plans," he grunts, dumping the parts unceremoniously on the waiting bench without turning.

"The doctor didn't mention it."

"That's because I didn't mention it to him."

"He won't be happy." Well, actually, Claire won't be happy, but it's the same thing.

He straightens up, and sighs, and finally turns.

"Call it a volume discount. Had to order the lumber and parts a couple weeks ago so they'd get here in time, and they don't take returns. I don't need 'em cluttering up the workshop, so you might as well get your cabinets."

Elli eyes him, the picture of stern disapproval.

"I'd prefer to pay you for them."

"And I'd prefer to be fishing today," he shrugs. "Just take a free gift, will you?"

She fights valiantly with herself for a few minutes, wrestling down the temptation to unleash all her stress on him again because he's convenient and just yell until her throat is sore. Then she has to wrestle down the uneasy sensation that she's just accepting the cabinets because she really, really loves the handles he picked out, and she's just selfish underneath all her attempts to be a good girl.

And finally, she has to wrestle out a smile and a civil thank-you before he starts thinking she's crazy.

Then, after all that, she turns to find him gone.

Once she's finished glaring fiercely at the staircase, she wanders over to the pile of lumber, attempting indifference, and examines the cabinet doors.

They're even nicer than they were in the picture, and even though she's fighting with pretty much everyone she knows right now, Claire and the doctor and Gotz and even Karen and Popuri, because sometimes she takes out her stress on the wrong people and Grandma isn't always around to slap her hand gently in reminder, she can't help a sense of pure, hostess-ey satisfaction at how nice the kitchen will look. She'll repaint, too, once the wedding is over, a nice springy green, and make some white lace curtains, and the light wood will look so pretty.

She's just reluctantly resolved to bring her examination to a close, when a little slip of paper taped to the back of one plank catches her eye.

An invoice.

Dated foryesterday, not two weeks ago.

And so, with a cozy feeling of warmth and contentment not brought about entirely by dreams of redecorating, Elli wanders back to her desk and flits absently through the day's work.