It was a day specially set aside for giving thanks, so Jonah spent the morning up in their patio garden, thanking each plant, individually, for “breathing in bad stuff, and breathing out good stuff!” He liked people just fine, and he’d even made a few friends at school, but he thought that he liked plants best of all.
Kiana had invited nearly all of her friends, but only two of them actually made it up to the apartment. The others all got side-tracked by the sights of city and enticing scents wafting from the food stalls in the plaza.
Kiana waited as long as she could before serving the meal.
“Might as well dive in,” she said, at last, “before it gets cold.”
“The more for us, right?” said her friends.
“This is the best supper ever,” said Jonah. “I’m so glad your friends didn’t show up! More for us!”
“I didn’t realize tofu could be so good,” said one of her friends.
“As long as you don’t look at it, right?” said the other.
After the guests left and the dishes were washed, Jonah practiced the violin, wondering if it really was OK for him to eat food made out of plants. If he and Kiana chose not to eat meat because they didn’t want to eat mammals, birds, and fish, because they liked them better alive, well, what about plants?
You don’t have to kill a soy plant to get soybeans, he realized. Just carrots. Onions. Beets. Maybe he’d just stick to those crops you could harvest without having to kill the plant. And if you treated them well, and took good care of them, it should be OK, right? He’d ask Kiana tomorrow.
The next morning, in a kitchen over-run with gnomes, Kiana scrambled up eggs. She wasn’t really a vegetarian, not like Case had been, and her choices were mostly just personal preference, and she liked eating eggs on occasion.
“You can eat an egg without killing the chicken,” said Jonah while he watched her cook, “like soybeans and kale. Eat ’em without killing.”
“But eggs hatch into chicks,” Kiana said.
“Not all of them,” said Jonah. “We learned it at school. Just buy the ones that don’t.”
“I guess you’re right,” Kiana agreed. “I never buy the fertile eggs.” She couldn’t stand those little drops of blood in the yolk that fertile eggs sometimes had.
While Jonah was at school, she took a jog through their district. It seemed everyone was out enjoying the late autumn sun.
She wanted to get Jonah a present, not for any special reason, just because. Just because he was an awesome boy, and her life was so much brighter with him in it.
He’d been talking about joining scouts, so maybe she’d get him the scout manual, a Swiss army knife, and those bandana-holder-things for his neckerchief.
“They’re called neckerchief slides,” said one of her friends that she ran into on her jog. “And you can buy them down at the Navy Supply store on 4th.”
“Oh, thanks!” Kiana said, and off she went, jogging down to 4th.
“I got you something you’ve been asking for,” she said to Jonah before he tucked in for bed that night.
“For me? Really? You mean if I ask for something, I might get it?” That was a new concept for him.
“Sometimes,” she replied.
He was thrilled, but also a little bit nervous.
“What does this mean?” he asked. He halfway thought it might mean that Kiana was going away. Or maybe he was. He wasn’t used to nice things not having bad consequences, not yet, at least.
“Well,” Kiana replied, “you’ve been talking about wanting to join the Scouts, and it seems to me like this is a good time for it.”
“I can be a scout?”
“Yeah,” Kiana said. “I think you’re scouting material. What do you think?”
“I am so ready.”
While Jonah was putting away the manual, Swiss army knife, and neckerchief slide, it struck Kiana–another milestone that Case wasn’t here to see.
She didn’t think she’d ever get used to having to experience important moments without him. It hit her like that, sometimes–right in the middle of the happiest moment, there it was, this cliff of grief, and it was all she could do to keep from tumbling headlong off it.
“Ready for bed!” Jonah said, coming up behind her.
He stopped when he saw her face. She could never hide her grief from him.
“Sad again?” he said. “Do you miss your dad? Can I make it better?”
“Oh, Jonah,” she said, “you always make it better!”
And it was true. He did. Being happier meant she could become sadder, sometimes, too, but it rarely stuck anymore. Not with Jonah’s little arms ready to wrap around her when she felt her most bereft.