“Jack? Everything all right?”
He looked up at his dad’s voice, blinking. His shoulders ached, but it was from sitting hunched over the workbench. A good sort of ache, one that signified something accomplished.
“I don’t know, Dad,” he said, finishing up the last of the highlights to the interwoven ivy leaves.
“You’re going to ruin your eyes, painting like that.” Jack’s dad flipped the switch, and the overhead fluorescent bulbs flickered to life, the harsh, white light drowning out the fitful orange-yellow of the lantern beside Jack’s project on the workbench.
Jack blinked in the sudden glare.
“It looks good,” Jack’s father said, folding his arms.
“Thanks. Do you think she’ll like it?”
“Jack, you could give that girl a handful of weeds — stickers and all — and she’d probably treat it like the biggest bouquet of roses ever.”
Jack laughed. “Charlotte says she’s crazy.”
“Your sister has been known to come up with a kernel or two of wisdom every now and then.”
“You don’t think she’s crazy, do you?”
“If she is, she gets it from your mother’s side.”
Jack glowered up at his dad. “Not Charlotte! Beth.”
Bill shrugged. “Well, she is female.”
“So… you’re saying that all girls are crazy?”
“If you tell your mother I said that, I’ll deny it.”
Jack sighed. The headache fluttered around behind his eyes.
“Another headache, Champ?”
“A normal one. Just stress. No spots. No ringing. My coordination is just fine.” Jack gestured to the last of his work on the project.
“She’s acting weird again,” he said after a pause.
“I thought that was normal for her?”
“She was normal till Hannah took our picture—”
“Yes, she showed me. Remarkable.”
“— And then Beth got all…. I don’t know. She just got up and left.”
Jack shrugged. “It’s just… now I don’t think she’ll even want this.” He waved a hand at the workbench.
“She just left?”
“Well, she thanked Mom for the cookies. Said she’d see me in the morning, and then left.”
“I suppose you’ll have to see what happens in the morning, then. Now come on, dinner’s on the table.”
Jack leaned over and blew out the lantern, closing the door carefully after his dad had turned out the lights.