It seemed to Kit that they'd picked the hottest possible day of 1947 to do the tomatoes. Isn't that always how it goes, she thought crankily. Still, she wasn't having an entirely miserable time, and the electric fans humming merrily away were doing their best to dispel the oppressive heat.
"Come on, girls! Waste not, want not!" Aunt Millie urged, her enthusiasm undimmed by age or the heat. She'd come to town for Charlie and Doreen's wedding, and then decided to stay for a month, and finally moved in permanently. Dad worried about her living all on her own, and though she'd never admit she was growing older, she did move more slowly. And Mother was always happy to have an extra pair of hands around the house. Why, today was practically a family reunion in the kitchen, with all of the women bedecked in aprons in the sweltering kitchen, and Charlie in the next room, banging away at the piano for their entertainment.
"Come outside with me," Doreen whispered in Kit's ear. "I'm perishing for a cold Coke."
"We'd better get out of here before she starts quoting Macbeth," Kit agreed. The girls slipped outside with cool glass bottles from the icebox.
"She's practically a museum piece," Doreen declared with obvious affection. Kit loved her sister-in-law, who despite her fashionable ways was game for just about anything. Today her carefully permed hair was bedraggled and she'd eaten off all of her lipstick, but her eyes were laughing. "Cheers," Doreen said as they sat down together on the stoop, clinking the neck of her bottle against Kit's. "I had no idea tomatoes were so much work. Can't you just go to the supermarket and pick up a can?"
"It's worth it," Kit defended. "Wait until winter - it's like they're fresh from the garden. You can't get that from a can."
"I sure hope so."
"If you had known that canning tomatoes in the heat of summer with Shakespeare-quoting relatives was part and parcel of marrying Charlie," Kit inquired, "would you have done it anyway?"
"Absolutely." Doreen leaned back and closed her eyes in the summer sunshine. Suddenly she opened them again and looked at Kit. "Hey, kiddo," she said. "So, your brother and I are thinking about taking the show on the road."
"Oh, yeah?" Kit perked up. "What did you have in mind?"
"You know, there's great jazz clubs in St. Louis," Doreen explained. "Bob Peck can get us in. Maybe even New York." Kit whistled. "Just for a year or so, and then it's time to settle down and start having babies."
"I think it's a great idea," Kit said. "Be sure and send lots of postcards, won't you?"
"Sure thing." Doreen laughed. "You know, I grew up on a tobacco farm outside of Portsmouth. The most exciting event in our lives was the '37 flood. I think I'd like to see the world a little bit."
"I don't blame you," Kit said, "and now's a good time to do it."
"We've even got a name for the act," Doreen continued. "We're calling ourselves C and D."
"'C and D,'" Kit repeated. "I like it. Rolls right off the tongue."
"So anyway," Doreen said, "I just wanted to thank you."
"Thank me?" Kit was puzzled. "What on earth for?"
"For, well, pushing Charlie out the door after he got home." Doreen was suddenly emotional. "I'm just crazy about your brother."
"I'd noticed," Kit said dryly, but she was a little embarrassed. "I really didn't do anything."
"Charlie told me about the baseball game," Doreen said slyly, watching Kit squirm. "What I wouldn't give for a photograph of your oh-so-fashionable ensemble."
"He told you about that?" Kit squealed, red-faced. "I'll kill him. I'll take that leg off and beat him with it."
Doreen laughed triumphantly. "You're really something."
"Oh well," Kit said with a sigh, "I guess I did what had to be done. And I'm glad I did, even if I'll never live it down."
"Mm." Doreen held the sweating glass bottle against her face. "Hey, look!"
A cab was coming down the street, and the girls rose in anticipation as it pulled into the Kittredges' driveway. A hatless young man sprang from the back seat, crossed the lawn, and without a word swung Kit's entire body in the air in the most animated of embraces.
"Heavens," said Kit when she'd regained her footing, feeling very Aunt-Millie-like. "What on earth is going on?"
"It's here!" Stirling exclaimed. "The advance copies were delivered to my office." He held up a finger. "Wait here."
"Well, where do you think I'm going to go?" Kit shared an eye roll with Doreen as Stirling retrieved a brown paper parcel from the cab. "Wait, you haven't opened it yet?"
"I thought we should do it together," Stirling said with a grin. His fingers were trembling so much, he couldn't get the string unknotted it and finally resorted to tearing at it with his teeth. All three of them gasped in astonishment when the contents were finally revealed.
"'The Disappointed Princess' by Margaret Howard," Kit read aloud. "See? They managed to get my name right. Illustrated by Stirling Howard."
Doreen peeked. "Oh, you two, it's beautiful! Let me go and get Charlie and everyone - they'll want to see this."
Stirling peeked over his wife's shoulder as she flipped through the glossy pages. Too soon, it was over. "Well, what do you think, Mrs. Howard?" he said in her ear. "Don't we do good work together?"
Kit's hand went to her waist - or, rather, where her waist used to be. "I certainly hope so," she said with great seriousness.