Faith’s eyes widened a moment, and her breath seemed to escape her; she sat on the bed, staring back at Butch, until she regained her composure. She swallowed — “It was a hunting accident. She was walking in the woods. Alone. She was struck by a bullet in her back; the police never found out who fired the shot.”
“I know.” It was a familiar story, one Butch had heard several times over the years. “Is there more?”
His stepmother shook her head slowly. But as she began to mouth the word no, she stopped herself, clasped the top of his hand again. “I know what you’re thinking. But your father never beat Polly — your brothers and sisters would have told me by now, if he had. Please, Butch — don’t ever think your father would have done anything intentionally, to harm your mother.”
Butch felt the ice pack against his hip; he picked it up, began to rise from the bed, only to be gently pushed back by his stepmother. “I’ll take care of this,” taking the ice pack from his hands. “You get some rest.”
“OK.” She took two steps towards the door — “Momma?”
As she turned back towards Butch, Faith looked tired, but peaceful. “Yes?”
“I love you.”
Eyes brimming with tears, Faith took a step towards the bed, then knelled down until her face was level with Butch’s. She clasped him by the shoulders, drawing his body towards her, then pressed her lips on his forehead. Feeling her grip loosen, Butch drew back; her face was radiant, a rivulet of tears streaming down both cheeks.
“My sweet boy.” And then she drew him close again, kissing him again, this time on the lips instead of forehead. Surprised (he had never seen Faith kiss anyone on the lips, not even his father), Butch remained motionless on the bed as his stepmother rose swiftly and, without looking back once, left the bedroom, closing the door behind her.
End of “An Old Recipe”