(You can listen to this piece on season 1 episode 30 of the podcast.)
Carpenter stepped into the kitchen for a glass of water as her twin girls colored autumn leaves on the adjacent living room floor.
“Ms. Sarah is coming tonight,” she sung out, checking her watch before grabbing a clean glass from a cupboard.
Three-year-old Piper craned her neck to the side as if she couldn’t believe her ears. She looked towards the side door entrance of their home. A grin splashed across her pudgy features as she peered through the windowpane in the top half of the door. Her twin, on the other hand, looked perturbed.
“Ms. Sarah?” Kinley questioned, violet crayon slipping from her slackening grip.
“Yes,” Carpenter responded, “Ms. Sarah is watching you two while Mommy and Daddy go out for a few hours.”
“Yay!” Piper yelled, standing up quickly to clap and hum out a rhythm. Carpenter imagined the tune to be her daughter’s made-up happy song.
Carpenter poured the glass of water, watching as a furrow in Kinley’s brow increased, eyes narrowing, mouth quivering.
“What’s wrong honey?” she asked, stepping around the kitchen island and over the threshold back into living room. She squatted down in front of her oldest twin girl. Carpenter wondered if this dynamic would ever change. Piper ever the child of impulse and mischief. Kinley always much more cautious and law-abiding.
Carpenter’s sudden appearance at Kinley’s side startled the little girl so much so that Kinley jumped when Carpenter called out her daughter’s name once more.
“Kinley, don’t you like Ms. Sarah?” she asked, rubbing her daughter’s back as she sunk deeper into her squat. That would be odd, Carpenter thought. Sarah had babysat four to five times per month for the last few months. The college girl was sweet and energetic, and the twins had seemed to take to her instantly.
In the background, Piper continued her humming and clapping. The rhythm was unchanging. Persistent. Yet, the notes had become discordant as if moving from celebratory wedding chorus to a moody funeral procession. Carpenter rubbed her hands together, reminding herself mentally to turn up the heat as the temperature outside seemed to have dropped suddenly.
“But the circle,” Kinley said pointing out the open windowpane above the side door.
Carpenter followed her daughter’s pointing.
“The moon, sweetheart?” Carpenter asked. “You know that word.”
“No, the circle. The calming circle!” Kinley sputtered.
Piper’s humming and clapping seemed to pick up speed.
“If the calming circle is out,” Kinley announced, voice tremorous, “Ms. Sarah is not very calm…”
She trailed off, and Carpenter squinted at Kinley then back at the gleaming full moon filling the span of that side door window in the darkening sky. Goosebumps prickled Carpenter’s skin as she stood and swooped up Piper, motioning for the little girl to cease her humming and clapping as she resettled them in front of Kinley’s statue-still frame.
“What does Ms. Sarah do when the calming circle is out?” she asked, addressing both girls this time with serious eyes.
Piper opened her mouth to speak just as the doorbell rang. Carpenter’s head jerked up, surprised, and she saw the jovial face of Sarah Roundtree staring at them through that same window. As the young woman waved, Carpenter swore Sarah’s eyes were as round as the moon now eclipsed by her silhouette.