The Lucky Charm
Tammie patiently waited for the timer to reach zero. Although the cookies only took 10 minutes to bake, the timer seemed to goad her as the smells of cinnamon and ginger danced around her kitchen. Despite not remembering her mother, she always felt closest to her memory when baking, as if channeling her spirit while elbow-deep in ingredients.
The oven timer finally chimed and she slipped on the oven mitts. Ginger Snaps required precise timing, without which they would either come out with their undersides too dark, or with textures more resembling Ginger Chews. The Snaps had always been Hank’s favourite, ever since he’d first met her. They’d been the first thing he’d announced to Jackie and Tom when initially introducing them to her and they had become somewhat of a family favourite.
She grabbed the tray and set them down on the cooling rack. As Tammie bent down to smell them, her pendant clanged against the metal rack. She reached for it, cupping the part-bracelet in her fingers, as if her mother’s soul had come to check on her.
“I’m baking again, Mama,” she whispered into the silent kitchen. The wall clock’s ticking was the only sound as Tammie clutched the pendant, the 2 tiny letters caught between her fingers. As if to tap her on the shoulder, her cell phone vibrated on the kitchen counter.
Tammie let go of the pendant and grabbed her phone to check the message. It was from Jackie, her sister-in-law.
Pizza tonight? I have a guest.
She smiled as their previous pizza night flashed in her mind. Jackie was a stewardess with Qantas and had a habit of inviting friends and colleagues over for their weekly get-togethers. Friday nights had become customary catch-ups for the four of them. Hank and Tom had always been close, the brothers even working together in their plumbing business. But it was during those Friday night catch-ups that everyone let their hair down, bonding the way a family should.
Jackie had always been one to invite other people. The previous Friday night, she’d asked one of the pilots to join them. He’d been contemplating a career change, a sudden urge to pursue comedy cropping up in his middle age. Tammie had been taken by the man’s wife, a supportive woman who spoke nothing but praise for him. He didn’t disappoint when he performed a routine for them, the 5 guests watching on with tears streaming down their faces.
If Tammie was planning to bring someone as amusing as Captain Townsend to Pizza Night, she would welcome them with open arms. Especially since her and Hank had been struggling to come to terms with their loss.
They had fallen pregnant the previous summer and had been excited to learn of their daughter’s imminent arrival. Tammie recalled the glint of pride and excitement she’d seen in Hank’s eyes every day since they’d discovered the news. He’d always rub her belly, whispering to his ‘princess’ when leaving for work.
But a routine checkup just 3 months shy of their baby’s due date had brought their world crumbling down around them. There had been no heartbeat, the doctor and nurses sympathetic with the news. Hank had been so incredibly supportive, especially during the birthing. Despite having delivered a stillborn baby, Tammy and Hank still spent time with their little girl before laying her to rest for the first and final time.
The previous few month had not been easy on them, Tammie struggling through each day without family. Whilst there had been foster parents, none felt like home to her, eventually finding her own place in the world when she was just 16. It wasn’t until she finally met Hank and his family that Tammie felt a connection to anyone. Jackie and Tom had been incredibly welcoming to her and had opened their own home and hearts to her.
If Jackie was planning to bring a dinner guest, she would need to prepare the living room for the evening. If the night was just the 4 of them, the dining room often sufficed. Pizza was normally straight from the box while everyone chatted about their week. Once the food was finished, the boxes were removed, replaced with either boardgames or a deck of cards. The evening would continue long into the night as the couples engaged in their weekly games.
But whenever Tammie knew Jackie to be bringing a guest, she cleared space in the living room, the setting more convenient with the extra seating.
Hank arrived home a little after 6, Tom just a few minutes behind him. Tom would always come directly after work, borrowing a set of clothes from his brother if he needed it. They were still washing up when the doorbell rang.
“I’ll get it,” Tom called from the bathroom.
Tammie was boiling the kettle when Jackie came into the kitchen. And as the dinner guest finally came into the light, the part-bracelet pendant hanging from her neck was all Tammie could see, the letters L and Y matching her own M and I. The woman froze, her face shocked, matching Tammies, each eyeing the other’s face. And then, as if to confirm it to herself, the woman spoke a single word.