There was no deduction required. Despite her best efforts to teach him table manners, he was still a messy eater – jam was smeared around his mouth. His chubby fingers were flecked with crumbs and cream. He tried to slink past her and run to the bathroom, but Rinko did not give her four-year-old son the opportunity: descending like a hawk, she swept him up and placed him on the counter. He frowned and wriggled his shoulders.
She washed Ryoma's face and hands. "What happened?" she asked. The boy lowered his head, avoiding her face. She flicked his chin so that their eyes met.
"I don't know," he mumbled.
"Are you sure?"
He shook his head and returned his gaze to the floor.
Rinko dried her hands while Ryoma tapped his heels against the drawers. He would retain the habit, and years later would sit alone on deserted walls. The woman surveyed her son once more. They both knew precisely what had happened, but Echizen Rinko did not accuse. It was essential that she set a precedent.
"Do you know what Mommy's job is?" The boy shrugged, so she explained, "I'm an attorney. That means I help people who have been hurt by lies. What happens when people lie?"
"You just said." Ryoma glanced up, frowning. His lips quivered. "It hurts."
"Exactly." The woman nodded. "If we lie, we'll hurt each other's feelings. That's why we have to tell the truth."
A silence stretched between them. Rinko focused on the taps and dishes, giving her son the time to decide what to do. After a minute, his left hand reached for her sleeve – he pulled once, sharply.
"Mommy… I ate the cupcake. I'm sorry."
She hid her smile and patted the boy's head. "That's alright," she said softly. "You won't be able to eat lunch if your tummy's full with desert. Listen to me next time, alright?"
She lifted him and balanced him on her hip. He rested his head on her shoulder. He smelt citrusy. They stood in front of the window, and as Rinko stared at the grand trees and flowering bushes of their garden, her heart ached with a rush of love. She was so grateful for the child whose arms were wrapped around her: a gift, a blessing.