"Katy! Litzy!" The little brunette girl runs from her parents' sides to jump into the arms of one of her awaiting babysitters, immeadiately fawned over by the other.
"Thanks for letting us have her for the night, Idina. Behave yourself, James." The slight girl holding Jackie adresses the child's parents as they prepare to leave.
"You've wounded me to the heart, Elizabeth. I always behave!" They all laugh at James' payful banter.
"You're so full of it." His wife says as she love-smacks his chest. The taller of the babysitters steps forward to usher the couple out the door.
"Come on you two. Litz and I don't want to see any of that. Have fun on your date." Jackie waves goodbye as her parents leave the apartment.
"I notice you didn't say you'd mind watching, Kaitla." Elizabeth points out mischeviously. The gorgeous brunette blushes slightly, responding with a gentle shove to the smaller girl's shoulder. "Hey now! I've got precious cargo! Don't knock me over!" A smile breaks out over her weary face as she continues to banter with her best friend.
"Oh? Is that so? Well then I suppose I could relieve you of your duties." Sarcasm drips from Kaitla's words as se attempts to take Jackie from Elizabeth's arms.
"Uh uh! No way sister!" Elizabeth and Jackie take off for the couch, Kaitla hot on their heels. The three collapse into laughter on the small black couch. Elizabeth sighs. "Hoo boy guys. What do y'all want for supper?"
"Litz, you move from Indiana to New York City and you still insist on using the term 'y'all?" Kaitla rises with elegance and grace, taking Jackie's hand to follow her smaller but older counterpart to the apartment kitchen.
"Yeah Litzy. And we're not guys, we're girls." The older two stifle giggles at the straight expression on Jackie's face. Elizabeth straightens and assumes a prim and proper manner.
"Oh my darling, please forgive me. What would you lovely ladies desire for our evening meal?" Elizabeth bites back a grin as Jackie plays along with a lifted nose in response.
"Lovely ladies, ready for the-"
"Kaitla! Small ears!" Now it's Kaitla's turn to stifle a grin as Elizabeth reprimands her, tiny hands on tiny hips, but none the less intimidating. She turns to search in the cabinet for something to eat.
"Call. Standing up or lying down or anyway at all-"
"Kaitla! What did I tell you?" Elizabeth whirls around, whisk in hand. Kaitla is bent in half laughing, a joyous sound spilling from a beautiful soul.
"I swear! It wasn't me!" Elizabeth turns to look at Jackie, perched on the kitchen counter with a mischevious grin.
"Bargain prices up against the wall!" Jackie imitates the actors movements as she finishes the verse. Elizabeth's jaw drops as Kaitla continues to guffaw.
"Jackie Elenor Menzel! Do you even know what that means?!"
"Yup! It's the song where Fantine becomes a prostitute and has sex with whoever will pay so that she can send money home to Cosette." Jackie smirks and Elizabeth shuts her mouth and resumes making supper, muttering to herself. The little girl's face sombers and she poses a question. "Are you guys like my mommy?
"No honey. Your mom's coming back. Her and daddy just went out for the night, remember?" Kaitla finally calmed down, also so bearing quickly at the odd question and Jackie's expression.
"No, I mean, you two always wear long sleeves and long pants when you're around me, no matter how hot it is." Jackie's childish innocence breaks the older girls hearts as they exchange solemn looks. It is Elizabeth who answers as Kaitla folds her lithe arms and attempts to disappear.
"Honey, does Mommy wear short sleeves around you?"
"Yes."
"Would it make you feel better if we did too?"
"Uh huh" Jackie's innocent concern is impossible to refuse. Kaitla remains lost in her head as Elizabeth slowly sheds her sweater, struggling to keep her breath under control. Setting the sweater on the counter, Elizabeth's arms fall limp at her sides. Jackie stretches out a small hand to cover a few of Elizabeth's scars, some old, some new. Some line, some round. All full of painful memories. Jackie raises her head to meet Elizabeth's striking, sad, hazel eyes. "You're beautiful." She removes her hand and pivots on the counter to face Kaitla. She tugs on her jacket and Kaitla blinks, returning to the present. "Take off your sleeves." Kaitla's instinct, like Elizabeth's, is to preserve Jackie's innocence, to protect her from the danger Kaitla feels she is. She looks as her best friend for reassurance.
"It's okay, szerelmem." Tears glisten in Elizabeth's eyes as she walks over to Kaitla. Gently, she helps Kaitla remove the sweater from her shoulders, easing it down her arms until it is all the way off. Elizabeth places it on the counter next to her own and takes Kaitla's hand. Jackie presses her small hand to Kaitla's arm, pausing for a moment before moving her hand cup Kaitla's cheek. Two sets of eyes meet, one hopeful, innocent, childlike, one covering up years of pain and despair. Jackie's small, innocent voice breaks the silence. "I love you."