Excerpt from "Life is a Three-Ring Circus"
by Rebecca Kelly
“Auntie wanted a high tea served,” Jane said as she took a pan of miniature muffins out of the oven and set them on a rack to cool. “Do you think that means everyone will show up in Easter dresses and big floppy hats?”
“I hope not,” Louise said, thinking of Florence’s love of themed events. “They’d look terrible on the men.” She reached for the cookie jar, which Jane kept stocked with fresh-baked treats, and frowned. “Where are the cookies?”
“They’re right . . .” Jane paused and frowned. “There. Or they were.” A sudden, thunderous look came over her face. “Alice.”
“She must have taken the whole jar up to her room last night after I went to bed. That does it.” She stripped her oven mitts off, yanked open the garden door and stalked outside.
Louise followed her sister out to where Alice was setting up the tables for the meeting. “Jane,” she urged, “calm down.”
“I’m calm. Perfectly calm. Totally calm. There isn’t a calmer person than me in the entire state of Pennsylvania.” Jane marched up to Alice and planted her hands on her hips. “Okay, you diet wrecker, where are they?”
Alice put down the table cloths she was holding. “Where are what?”
“Don’t pretend. No, don’t tell me.” Jane shook her head violently when Alice tried to speak. “Let me guess. The caramel apples at the circus were too much for you. You couldn’t stand it anymore. It wasn’t your fault. The chocolate chips were whispering your name.”
The phone inside the inn began to ring.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Alice said, giving Jane a skeptical look before she walked inside.
Louise blocked Jane’s path as she went to follow their sister. “I believe you and I have a different concept of what calm is. Jane, it’s just a diet.”
“She broke a promise,” Jane snapped. “She swore to me that she wouldn’t cheat. Now she’s gone and gobbled up two dozen double chocolate chip cookies.”
“Alice wouldn’t do that.” Louise hoped.
Jane was too angry to listen. “The kind I make with the extra big chocolate chips. Do you have any idea how many calories there are in just one of those things?”
Louise frankly was so weary of Alice’s diet, and Jane obsessing over it, that she thought she might have trouble with staying calm. “I know you’re disappointed, but shouting at Alice isn’t going to help matters.”
“No, but it’ll make me feel a lot better.” Jane went around her and back inside.
Louise and Jane found Alice on the phone at the front reception desk.
“That’s all right, Pauline. I know you’re busy. I’ll give them the sheets next week. Wednesday, not Tuesday. Yes, I’m sure. You, too. Bye now.” Alice hung up the phone and glanced at her sisters. “That was Pauline Sherman. Her daughters didn’t make the ANGELs meeting last night because she thought it was held on Thursdays.”
“The ANGELs meetings have always been held on Wednesdays,” Louise said, puzzled by this. “Since you first began your youth ministry.”
“Pauline knows that; she’s been bringing her girls to ANGELs meetings for well over a year now.” Alice looked troubled. “She sounded really upset about it. I could hear one of her daughters complaining about missing the meeting, too.” She turned to face Jane. “Now, what’s put the bee in your bonnet?”
Jane gave her an ironic look. “I know about the cookies, Alice.”
“Oh, right, I meant to say something to you about that last night. The temptation was really starting to get to me.” Alice smiled. “Is it okay with you?”
“Okay? Okay?” Jane stomped her foot on the floor. “What about all our hard work? Weeks of watching every portion and counting every calorie? All those bike rides you’ve been taking?”
“What about them?” Alice asked, looking bewildered.
“They’re all for nothing, that’s what!” Jane threw up her hands. “You ate two dozen cookies, Alice, how could you?”
“Oh, did I?” Incredibly, Alice grinned.
Louise decided to go and visit Cynthia the next time someone went on a diet. “Alice, please, don’t provoke your sister.”
“I would never do such a thing, Louise. Come in here with me, both of you, and I’ll show you what I did.” Alice led Jane and Louise back into the kitchen, where she opened a cabinet, revealing the cookie jar. “Here it is,” she said to Jane.
“Oh, Lord.” Jane covered her eyes. “She’s showing me where she hid the evidence. Make her stop, Louise. Make her stop.”
Alice made a decidedly unladylike sound, took down the jar and opened it. “Look inside. Count them, if you like. All two dozen are still in there, and not a single chip missing.”
Jane’s expression turned comical. “But – but–”
“I put the cookie jar in the cabinet last night so I wouldn’t see it every time I walked into the kitchen.” Alice cradled the jar in her arms. “Like I said, the temptation was killing me.”
“Well done, Alice.” Louise folded her arms and looked at Jane.
“Thank you, Louise.” Alice handed the jar to Jane. “Now, say, ‘I’m sorry that I doubted you, Alice.’”
Jane sighed. “I’m sorry that I doubted you, Alice.”
Alice patted her arm. “‘I will trust you to keep the promises you make, Alice.’”
“I will trust you to keep the promises you make, Alice,” Jane repeated, rolling her eyes at Louise.
Louise saw Alice’s eyes gleam just before she said, “‘You may have all the cookies in the cookie jar, Alice.’”
“You may have – wait a minute!” Jane gave her a furious look.
Alice laughed. “It was worth a try.”