Just at the point where I am about to get up to find myself breakfast, Dad speaks again, his paper already folded into a neat square at his feet. This surprises me, because I almost never miss a trick when it comes to listening. “Fancy pancakes?” he asks, his fingers tracing patterns up my spine. I shiver, because it tickles, and let him pull me off the armchair and lead me into the kitchen. The fact that I don’t
have to verbally agree to pancakes, that he just knows that’s what’s on my
agenda only makes me love him more.
A while later, I am perched at the breakfast counter pouring syrup modestly over my stack of pancakes. Dad always makes too many (he says he has the appetite of a buffalo but he doesn’t, he just likes to put the leftover ones in the fridge so he can eat them on the bus to work on Mondays). I am almost ready to gobble them up when he hands me a jug: I take it from him, letting my fingers read the stripes that used to be blue and white but might have faded since I was ten. From the inside of the jug rise all the scents of Germany as I imagine it to be at Christmas, the markets
spreading themselves up and down the streets like chestnut jam over crepes.
Cinnamon is one of my favourite flavours, and it teases me by floating up
nonchalantly from its container as if it doesn’t particularly care whether I consume
it or not.
That’s another thing I should mention about me not being able to do what I can’t. When I started to assign human characteristics to inanimate objects I can’t remember, but it serves as a slice of gentle humour each time I need cheering up. Felicity used to tease me about it before she got bored, and whilst Verity doesn’t understand why I do it she doesn’t mock. Harrison finds it funny, and often links my arm through his when he thinks nobody else is looking and whispers that if I was ready he’d build us a forever to live inside.
"Pancakes smell lush, Zara," she whispers, kissing the top of my head. For a moment I say nothing because I am savouring the memory of the cinnamon, but after a second I can't deny her affection any longer.
"Didn't make them myself," I admit, though I know she already knows it. "Dad did."
"Take the credit while you can," she advises, "before long Dad will be claiming all that cello playing you do every day as his own."
I laugh, and so does Dad, but I hear him run up to Mum and kiss her cheek. I like that they still show each other how they're love was never threatened when what happened to me tested us all. I like that they didn't squandor it on cheap nights out and trips to Paris. More than anything I love that they don't love each other any less than they did when they were younger.
"Too right," threatens Dad. "If you don't become famous one day soon, I'll steal your
demo while you're sleeping and send it off in my name."
"Cheeky," I chastise, though my heart is full of too much love for him to really be truthful about my condemnations. "You should be proud, and that should be enough to let me have the glory for a while."
They both laugh, because they enjoy it when I return to my usual self and take off the mask of bitterness I occasionally wear just for the sake of it. "Don't you worry, kiddo," whispers Dad, squeezing my hand. "I wouldn't take your music off you if it
was the last thing I did."
This somehow makes me sad. I can't figure out why, so I fumble in front of me and occupy my mind by pouring lavish helpings of cinnamon butter on my turning cold pancakes. The day has started well, and I am confused as to why I feel like something ominous impends.