When Françoise returned home she didn't bother to call them a second time. The night before she'd called to let her family know she was coming home safe and unscathed. Irene had chatted her ear off for twenty minutes before Albert sent her up to bed.
Gilmore and Ivan opted not to come into the house and dropped her off a block down from the house. She walked the distance to her house enjoying the familiarity of her home.
When she got to the villa she heard laughter from inside, two voices were mingled in a harmonious trill of joyful giggling. She smiled to herself. This is the sound of happiness. She climbed up the steps and opened the front door.
The scene that greeted her eyes was not exactly what she expected. The living room was a mess. Dirty dishes sat on the coffee table, books were stacked in one corner like a fort, a few volumes had toppled and the couch had been pulled to the other side of the room. Loose papers had exploded like a bomb all over the place. A familiar yellow scarf was draped over the impressive book fortress. Some blocks had been set up as a town that had been reduced to rubble. Dolls were scattered around the smashed town , the positions they were in reminded Fran of people running for their lives. All of the breakable trinkets that usually sat on the shelves or table were in the other room. Several picture frames were crooked on their nails.
Objects were flying across this disaster zone. Stuffed animals were flung from the guilty parties at work here. Irene was behind the book stronghold wearing her father's scarf. Albert used the couch as a blockade at the other end of the room. The stuffed animals were being used as projectiles, and to Fran's dismay her daughter was making explosion noises as her fluffy missiles collided with the wall or the couch.
Both were oblivious to Francoise's entrance. And I walk in to find this.
Albert popped up at the wrong moment and a pink bird with a yellow scarf and infamous wild red feathers on it's head made contact with his face. He made a mock expression of pain and gasped out a fake dying breath before falling behind the couch. Irene jumped up and down triumphantly the scarf catching on books and scattering them.
"I WIN!" The girl exclaimed. Albert poked his head up laughing.
"You got me fair and square," he grinned. They both came out of their forts.
At about this time an ominous dark tension in the air made them both look at the open door just before it was slammed shut. One of the pictures shook and fell the glass shattering next to her. "MY GOD ALBERT WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?" His wife demanded.
The German looked around and bit his lower lip. "Oh, we made quite a mess," he commented taking in the destruction of the living room silently. "Guess we got carried away."
"Carried away?" Fran snapped. "What were two playing?" She asked, her voice turned disgustingly sweet and threatening. Albert recognized her tone as a prelude to a scolding.
Both remained silent. Neither one wanted to answer her question. They stood in the center of the room, eyes down. Albert tapped a block with the toe of his shoe trying to choose his words wisely. Irene held back an urge to hug Fran and looked at her destroyed block village.
"Could it be you two were having a stuffed animal war in my living room?" She questioned sharply. Two sets of eyes met hers and two white haired heads nodded ever so slightly. Françoise sighed. She was trying to reign in her anger for her daughter's sake. She was only seven after all. But Albert, he knew better and she would definitely have some words with him.
"I'm sorry," Albert whispered. He was catching on now. The word 'war' had been emphasized by his wife.
"Sorry?" She repeated. "What on Earth were you thinking? Of all the things I expected to come home to you playing war with our daughter was the least of all. You know better. I'm just appalled with the both of you, and what was that little fake death? Do you think people dying in a battle is funny? How insulting to our fallen friends and enemies." She took a moment to calm herself glaring at the battlefield in her house.
"I," Albert began, but Fran cut him off.
"Clean this mess up both of you. And then I want to talk to you two in the kitchen." She walked past them. "And to think I invited Dr. Gilmore and Ivan to come in for lunch," she mumbled to herself.
Albert and Irene fell to the task of cleaning up immediately. Irene ran around the room picking up toys and taking them up the stairs to her room. Albert cleaned up the broken frame and put the couch back where it belonged. They both dismantled the book fortress returning the books to the shelves. Albert straightened up the frames lastly and then the two walked into the kitchen.
Fran was seated at the breakfast counter sipping on a cup of tea. She ignored them for a minute enjoying her tea as she gathered up her thoughts. "Irene take that scarf off."
The girl pulled the yellow silk over her head and handed it to her father.
"Now," Fran began in an even tone. "Both of you knew better than to play a game that mimicked war." She sipped her tea letting her first words sink in. "So how did it start?" She asked. Her eyes fell on her husband, she wanted to hear the explanation from him.
"We were building a city in the living room, with the blocks and the books. I tossed her one of her birds and it hit her in the head, before I knew it she was throwing everything she had at me. I ducked behind the couch and she built up the books around her. The next thing we know we're chucking her stuffed animals at each other in a full out battle." It was apparent that despite his genuine regret at the game he thought it was somewhat amusing.
"That's what started it? You know I don't like anyone throwing things in this house." Her voice was disappointed. "I expect that this won't ever happen again. And as punishment you both don't get dessert tonight."
"No dessert?" The two asked in unison. Fran nodded.
"I know I deserve it," Albert sighed. "I should have stopped it before it started."
Irene looked at her mother almost ready to cry, "I'm sorry mommy," she whispered, "I won't play war ever again, I promise." Her eyes spilled over with tears. Fran went and picked up the girl.
"Sh," she soothed. "Besides, it's all Daddy's fault anyway." She hugged the girl tightly, "But please promise you won't ever play war again. War isn't a game, do you understand?" She felt Irene's head move up and down against her shoulder.
Fran looked at Albert. "I really don't understand why you would teach her to play games like that. I expect you'll think about what you teach our daughter from now on?"
"Of course." He replied. "It was poor judgment on my part." He rubbed the back of his neck.
"Now that that's settled how about a welcome home kiss?" Fran asked smiling.
Albert answered by bringing his lips to hers. Irene broke the two apart and looked at Fran.
"I missed you so much mommy." The girl announced. Her parents shared a laugh as they went back into the cleaned up living room.