“Mom working late again?” a deep voice startled them. Petra whirled around.
“Mr. Buchard. Hi.”
“Please call me Fraser. That Mr, stuff is a bit creepy.”
Petra and Shane looked at each other with puzzled expressions. Weird guy for an adult. Fraser was still dressed in his RCMP uniform and was leading his bike around to his side of the fourplex. His clean cut, utility persona seemed like a facade. Like he just did it for the job. Still, it really worked for him Petra thought. Stereotypically tall dark and hansome. She smiled sheepishly.
”Why don’t you guys give me a couple of minutes to change and I’ll come over and make you something.” Fraser leaned his bike against the side of the house and unbuckled his helmet.
“Oh no, we’ll be fine.” Petra put her arm around her little brother but he shrugged it off. Fraser peered into her unsteady eyes, “yeah right. All I have smelled coming from your place is mac and cheese and romin. I’m sure I can put together something better than that. Be right back”
When Fraser had disappeared Shane turned to his sister, “What’s Romin?” he asked.
“Dunno. I think he means Ichiban.”
Sure enough in less than ten minutes Fraser was in kakis and a black t-shirt rummaging through their fridge, “ What have we got to work with here? Does your Mom own a wok?”
“I’ll take that as a no.”
Fraser rummaged through the cupboards and seemed satisfied with what he found. In moments he had the smell of teriyaki stir fry wafting through the house. Petra was just setting the table when her mother walked in the door.
“What is that smell?” she asked as Fraser came into the dining room wearing a towel apron and a paper chef hat that Shane had made him.
“Oh, good evening Ruby, I hope you don’t mind...”
“I guess not...” Ruby seemed to have nothing more to say.
AS she removed her coat and purse, stuffing them into the hall closet, he approached her more timidly, ”I don’t have to stay.” Petra stopped to listen, a stack of plates in her hands.
“Oh no, that’s fine. How could I not let you stay when you cooked supper? “ She narrowed her eyes at her kids as if trying to determine how they had been treated. Petra had seen this look so many times. Her mother was always scrutinizing situations that could cause potential danger to her kids. What would protect them ? What would keep them safe? She must not trust him. Maybe Fraser could feel her wariness too. “I don’t have to stay.” He repeated. She turned her gaze up to him. “Please do. We would love to have you.” Her voice didn’t sound convincing.
The table was small with room only for one person on each side. It had been awhile since that fourth side had been occupied. The vacant chair was adjacent to Ruby’s. Shane was on her other side and Petra across from her. Petra watched as Fraser slowly sat down and looked at her as if about to ask, why don’t you sit by your mom? Petra ever so slightly shook her head at him to warn him not to ask. Bringing up Brody was sure to ruin the evening. So she tried to find a light topic of conversation, focusing on Shane’s upcoming judo tournament.
“I used to take judo. It comes in really handy as an RCMP. Maybe you’ll be an officer when you grow up.” He heard Ruby wince. “Or not, if your mom doesn’t approve.”
“Mom doesn’t really like cops.” Shane said.
Petra quickly avoided the awkward situation by changing the subject again, “Mom’s been drafting patterns for wedding dresses. She’s going to teach me how to sew. I’m going to sew my own wedding dress.” Fraser kind of choked on his food.
Shane elbowed her, ”You’re too young to get married.”
What girl didn’t think about getting married Petra thought, but out loud she said,” Well it’s not for right now stupid.” She went back to her food. She waited for her mom to reprimand her for using the “S” word but she hadn’t seemed to notice. Her attention was on something else.
“Fraser?” Mom inquired, but there was no response. He began banging on his chest and Petra realized he was really choking. Nobody had noticed for at least a minute. Mom stood up on alert like she always was. “Fraser!” she yelled but he couldn’t talk. He started turning red. She knocked her chair over getting to him and slipped her arms under his ribcage. Petra was motionless.
“Petra, get the phone.” Mom called as she began thrusting her fists into his abdomen. He was just too tall, she wouldn’t be strong enough, ”Petra!” but Shane had jumped up and dialled 9-1-1. He began babbling to the operator.
“What can I do?” Petra squeeked her hands in front of her holding air.
“Catch him!” her mom stumbled with the weight of him as he passed out. His body began tipping over and Petra could only move fast enough to used herself as a cushion as he crashed on top of her. Shane started jumping up and down on the spot, yelling his address into the receiver.
“Roll him over.” Petra pulled his face off of her torso and held his head in her hands. Mom, still panting from exersion, started scraping her fingers inside his mouth.
“Ew” Petra whispered, grossed out. She thought touching a man would be a thrill, but this was all wrong. Plus he looked much older up close and about to die. Her mom who usually panicked in emergencies seemed to be holding it together. Suddenly she launched sideways with her elbow slamming onto his chest. Nothing. She did it again and dug her fingers further down his throat. There was something there. Good thing she had long nails. She pulled out a strip of steak. Fraser gaged.
“Wake up!” Mom yelled at him, slapping him on one cheek them the other. She put her ear to his mouth. Petra could hear him breathing and his eyes were fluttering. She looked at her heroic mother expecting a smile on her face. What she saw was heartache. Petra was sure he would have come to on his own but her mother slapped him again. Hard.
“Ow.” Fraser brought his hands up to his throat and face, coughing and gagging. He rolled into a fetal position, squeezing his eyes shut.
“He’s awake!” Shane was yelling into the phone. Fraser looked up, becoming aware of his surroundings. He saw the tipped over chair and Mom slumped to the floor. “I’m sorry. What happened? I didn’t know eating at your house would kill me.” He laughed and coughed. Petra looked at her mother recognizing the dark emotion on her face. Had she slapped him out of frustration? Because he was another police officer who couldn’t find Brody?
When no one laughed He said, “ I’m sorry.” again.
“Mom saved you!” Shane came leaping over to him, “You passed out and fell on Petra!”
Petra’s cheeks blazed with embarrassment. She looked down at her hands where his head had been. For some reason she thought this would turn her off from men for a long time.
“Thank you.” He said to her, but she didn’t look up, ”and thank you.” He said to her mom who kind of smiled. Noone moved off of the floor until they heard the ambulance coming down the street.