“Maggie, which should I wear? This pants outfit or the dress?”
“Traveling in a dress? Not too comfortable, I’d say,” Maggie replied, as she dusted the lampshades in Mr. and Mrs. Roberts’ bedroom.
“You’re so right. I’m nervous about this trip. We’ve never been away from Penn for three weeks.”
“We’ll watch over him.”
“I’m sure you’ll take good care of him.”
“He’s a teen. Good lad, but rebellious. He’ll get over it.”
“I hope so. Pants outfit it is.”
Maggie packed Anne’s clothes in a chic, tiger-striped suitcase. The women chatted, comparing notes, piecing together the tidbits Penn shared about his life and his feelings.
“John says he saw Penn talking to the same redheaded girl three afternoons in a row, when he picked him up. Said her name's Emma,” Maggie said, folding a blue nightie.
“Emma, huh?” Anne smiled.
“He’s gonna be a real ladykiller. Such a handsome boy.”
“And sweet, too. Don’t you think?” Anne brushed her hair, then handed the brush to Maggie.
“At least he was until he hit puberty. I’m hoping he’ll return to the child I adore, and soon,” Anne said, grinning.
When the bags were packed, Maggie retreated to the kitchen to tend the special dinner she was preparing. Roast duck and pan roasted potatoes, a family ritual meal before his parents took a trip.
Penn breezed in with John after school. He opened the fridge.
“Your plate is on the table,” Maggie said. “Now don’t be gettin’ in my way.”
Penn picked up the plate with a grilled cheese sandwich, carrot sticks and two homemade, chocolate chip cookies. He grabbed the glass of milk with his other hand.
The dinner went off perfectly. The Roberts’ were leaving at six the next morning in a private plane bound for Central America. John was up at five, sipping coffee. At five thirty, he left to bring the car around.
“Have a safe trip,” Maggie said, when Anne gave her a hug.
A sleepy Penn yawned and scratched his chin as he joined them. There were hugs, kisses and promises made all around before they left the apartment. Maggie and Penn went back to sleep. The alarm went off at eight as usual. When John returned from dropping Penn at school, Maggie had made Eggs Benedict.
“Quiet day,” John said, sipping his coffee.
“Got some cleaning to catch up on.”
“Can I help?”
“Finish that book you’ve been readin’. I can manage.”
He helped clear the table and shooed her away from the dishes. As she gathered her cleaning things, the phone rang.
John answered it. “Roberts residence.”
Maggie glanced up, but stopped what she was doing when she saw his face turn pale.
“Right. Thank you.” His voice was almost a whisper.
“What? What?” Maggie stopped moving.“Their plane’s gone down.”