Saved By a Cookie
It started by accident. Or maybe a better way of putting it—it began with an accident.
I was in the kitchen baking molasses cookies when the front door closed with a bang that shook the house. The kitchen window rattled, scaring the dickens out of our cat dozing on the windowsill. She jumped, and so did I.
“Harriett Alanson Howell!”
“Oh, no,” I gasped.
Everybody called me Hattie. My God-given name crossed my mother’s lips only on my birthday, or if I was in trouble.
It wasn’t my birthday.
She was mad, and I knew why—Arthur Phelps. He must’ve told his mother what happened at school yesterday, and she bent Momma’s ear trying to blame it on me.
“I’m in the kitchen, Momma!” Thinking fast, I figured under the circumstances it was best to meet her halfway. I damped down the wood cookstove, took a deep breath, and scooped up a cookie. “Coming, Momma!”
Bolting out of the kitchen, I startled our poor cat for a second time. She darted in front of me, kicking up the parlor rug. I tripped and tumbled headfirst into my mother. Fortunately, she caught me before I hit the floor. But as I tried to right myself, my shoe got caught on the ragged hem of my old work dress and I couldn’t stand up. Kicking my foot free, I mumbled, “Sorry, Momma. I was just coming to see what you wanted.”
“I’ll give you sorry. Didn’t I tell you hitting boys was not proper behavior for a young lady?” she scolded, wagging her finger. “You’re almost fourteen years old, and it’s about time you started acting your age.”
“Honest, I didn’t hit him. It was an accident. He snatched my slate, and when I pulled it back, it smacked him upside the head. Miss Clark saw the whole thing and didn’t get mad. That’s the God’s-honest truth.”
I glanced down at the broken cookie still in my hand. “Cookie, Momma?”
“Now, don’t you start. I’m serious. It’s not proper. I can’t have mothers coming to the house complaining about my daughter’s unladylike behavior. It’s embarrassing. And wipe that flour off your nose.”
I dabbed at my nose with my dress sleeve. “I didn’t mean to cause you any trouble. I’ll apologize tomorrow at school. Honest, it wasn’t my fault.”
She took a bite of the cookie. “I believe you, dear. Now, see that it doesn’t happen again. You hear?”
“I promise. Cross my heart.”
It was all I could do to keep from giggling out loud. Biting my lip hard, I turned and scooted into the kitchen. Saved by a cookie!
Before Miss Clark rang the bell the following day, I walked up to Arthur. “Sorry you got hit on the head,” I said, trying my best not to stare at the welt over his eye. It was hard to miss.
“I’m sure sorry, Hattie. I hope you didn’t get in trouble because my momma came to your house. I begged her not to go, but she was pretty upset.”
“Apology accepted. Here, I made these for you,” I said, handing him a plate of cookies. As he reached for it, I pulled it back. “Arthur, don’t ever mess with my drawings again. Promise?”
“Sure thing. Don’t worry about that,” he said, taking a handful of cookies from the plate.
“Good. I hope you like them.”
I was relieved that my apology and the cookies had fixed things up between us. I was about to ask him how his head was doing when the bell rang.
“Thanks for the cookies,” he mumbled as he ran to his seat.
Well, it seemed that my eyes suddenly got a mind of their own, because they followed him as he crossed the room. Then my eyes must have told my heart to join in, because it fluttered something fierce against my dress. Arthur and I had known each other for a long time. He wasn’t much to look at, to be honest. Hair cut crooked, sticking straight up in the back. Gangly legs and arms that moved every which way when he walked. Something changed in me as I stood there with the empty cookie plate in my hands.
Little did I know, something had changed in him too.