Charlie’s Room: The Queen of Hearts
One morning, Charlie and Marianne left early to go to the garden store. Isaac was left behind to do paperwork and possibly spend some time reading if he got done early. Knowing Charlie and Marianne as well as he did, Isaac was pretty sure they’d go straight from the garden store to the garden in the backyard. His chances of having extra reading time were pretty good.
In fact, there wasn’t much paperwork to do, and Isaac was on the couch with a favorite novel fairly quickly. There is something about rereading an old favorite that is comforting, like a warm blanket on a cold day. Isaac was quickly wrapped up in what he was reading.
He had no idea how much time had passed when he heard some noises in the kitchen. Had Marianne and Charlie already returned and were now coming in from the garden? He looked at his book. He was only two chapters in. That shouldn’t be enough time for a typical garden center trip.
Something clattered on the floor in the kitchen. Isaac looked around for a bookmark and called out, “Is everything okay in there? Do you need some help?”
There was no response. Odd. Isaac grabbed one of the playing cards spread out on the end table. It looked like someone was playing a game and had left the cards out. He looked at the card he picked up as he marked his place in his book. The card was blank.
It sounded like someone was hitting the refrigerator with a wooden spoon. Isaac dropped the book on the couch and hurried into the kitchen. Someone actually was hitting the refrigerator with a wooden spoon.
She was thin, paper thin, and unnaturally tall. She looked like the drawing of the queen of hearts from a deck of cards, given a lower half and brought to life. But she didn’t look like a normal, living, breathing person. She looked like a living drawing, still two dimensional and drawn with dark black lines and colored in.
The kitchen was a mess. Flour, broken eggs, and milk puddles surrounded the paper queen. A cookie sheet was laying on the open oven door, dotted with odd looking misshapen lumps of dough.
“Can I help you?” Isaac asked.
“The knave of hearts stole my tarts. They must be replaced.” She pointed at the counter.
The jack of hearts card was propped up against a vase of lilies. The jack was munching a red heart that looked a lot like the one in the corners of his card and smirking.
Isaac frowned. “How did that happen?”
“Our cards were left out on a summer’s day.” She turned to the kitchen. “I would like to bake more tarts, but your kitchen is nothing like the one I’m used to.”
“I don’t know about tarts, but how does heart-shaped cookies sound?” Isaac asked.
“That would do.”
“Right. Let me find the recipe.” Isaac stepped over the mess and flipped through the pages of the family cookbook. “Here we are. I’ll get things ready.”
Grabbing a towel, he wiped up the mess, put the cookie sheet in the sink, and closed and preheated the oven. He rinsed and dried the cookie sheet, and began to mix up the cookie batter.
He rolled out the dough, and dug through the cupboard for the cookie cutters. “Which size?” He held up three different heart shapes.
“That one.” She pointed to the largest, plainest cookie cutter.
Isaac cut out the cookies and put them on the cookie sheet and into the oven. “Would you like them frosted?”
“No need,” the queen said.
They waited in silence, watching the oven. The moment the cookies were out of the oven, the queen picked up two very hot cookies in each hand and vanished.
“But they were still hot,” Isaac said to the jack, who was still propped up against the vase. Jack shrugged and looked over at the cookies still on the pan.
“I think you’ve had enough sweets today,” Isaac said. He picked up the card and went back to the living room. He stacked up the cards on the end table adding the jack of hearts to the pile, and put the cards in their cardboard box.
Then he pulled the card out of his book. He’d read the book often enough that saving his place didn’t really matter. The queen of hearts smiled up at him. He smiled back, and put the card in the box with the others.
Isaac left the box of cards on the shelf in Charlie’s room and went back to the kitchen to finish making the rest of the cookie dough into cookies. He frosted them and added sprinkles.
Marianne came in from the backyard as he was washing the last of the dishes. “Cookies!” Charlie rushed to the counter and leaned over the plate. His hand hovered over one of the cookies. “Can I have one?”
“Yes, of course.”
Charlie grinned and grabbed the cookie.
Marianne picked up a cookie with a smile. “I love these! What’s the occasion?”
“The world needed more cookies,” Isaac said. “It was an emergency.”