"JASON!" Elizabeth called into the living room. "I need this trash taken out!"

She could almost hear the huffing as he stood up from the couch. Instead she focused on the eggs. They were so runny – but if she let them cook just too long – it seemed they'd burn in seconds.

But she did manage to tell Jason, "If you'd have taken that out last night, you'd be able to play Xbox now."

"Oh, someone slacking on their chores?" Henry asked as he walked down the stairs, his striped pajamas and t-shirt fitting the entire Saturday aesthetic of the house.

"I'm sorry for working on homework last night." Jason smarted off as he walked out the door, letting the kitchen door slam just a little harder than was comfortable with the others in the room.

A quick peck on the cheek, and then Henry walked to the kitchen table, grabbing the paper and his glasses before sitting down. Putting his glasses on, and then she watched him look across the table where Allison was sitting, phone in hand, not even acknowledging anyone around her.

Back to her eggs, Elizabeth could only imagine the look her husband was giving their second oldest child. Still just a little bit too watery, and clumpy in weird places, the eggs needed more heat, or that's what she thought. Turning up the burner, she beat Henry to the comment as she cautioned, "Ali, no electronic devices at the table."

"But mom." Ali whined, "It's Saturday."

Elizabeth gazed up at her, over the rim of her glasses, and just shook her head, "Just cause it's the weekend doesn't mean we…" And she stopped. As she saw her husband reaching for the remote and turning on the TV in the corner of the kitchen.

And then she heard smirking behind her, "What was that you were saying, Mom?"

"Jason… don't sass… your mother…" Her husband said, in spurts, as he watched the newscaster spouting something about the weather.

Elizabeth could do nothing but smile as she watched her family. Well, half of the family. Her daughter turned the hciar and began to watch the news, her husband pouring a cup of coffee and kissing Ali on the head before he sat back down. And Jason…

She turned around to find him standing over her shoulder. His blue eyes jumping with laughter he kept inside as he smirked and said, "Mom, what are you cooking?"

Then she cussed under her breath even before she looked down to find the eggs burned to the side of the pan. "Ugh!" And she pulled the pan off the burner.

"Frozen waffles?" Henry absentmindedly called back to her without even thinking about it.

Scraping the tops of the mounds of black and yellow, she slowly said, "I think we can still…"

A unanimous "NO" resounded from the family. And she just tossed the pan into the old farmhouse sink, and said, "Fine then. I thought I could finally…"

Jason had moved and sat down at the table, and asked Henry, "Do you buy an extra dozen eggs every week for mom to burn just so she feels like she's cooking?"

"Hey!" Elizabeth called out, "That's not true…"

The quiet laughter became a muffled attempt for everyone around her to keep her from feeling bad, and she added, "I mean… maybe the last few…" Ugh. It had been every week. She'd tried so hard. "I've been reading a book about how to make eggs…"

"Nope." Jason smiled and shook his head, "It's not working. Return the book."

Henry stood up and walked over ot her, putting his arms around her shoulders as he hugged her from behind and whispered, "Your eggs might not have any hope." Then he gently kissed her ear, eliciting a giggle from her, "But I still love you."

Before she knew it, he'd thrown the frozen waffles into the microwave, and she'd set out the syrup after scraping the burned egg bits into the trash can. They worked well in tandem.

While everyone scrounged for the waffles, Bess looked outside, and asked, "Has anyone seen Emma?" The late fall leaves dead on the ground, a light dusting of Virginia snow from the night before littering the ground. "She wasn't in her bed when I walked by this morning…"

Absentmindedly, Henry just shrugged, "Bess, you know she probably just lost track of time."

"I swear she'd live in the barn if she could." Ali scoffed between the bites of waffles.

Bess walked over to Ali and playfully slapped Ali's shoulder, "Hey! Don't talk about your sister like that." She sat down, and tried to take a bite of waffles. But she hesitated.

And Henry could see that.

And while she looked at the door, biting the bottom of her lip, he said, "Oh, just go out and check on her."

She smiled at him as she pushed her chair out, and went to grab her boots.

"You just wanted an excuse to go see the horses this morning again, didn't you?" Jason called out.

She flipped her hair behind her as she pushed the screen door open, "Right on!"

Still pulling her coat on, she walked down the pathway to the fence, marveling in the wonderful house and stables they had now. The light snow mingled with gravel crunched under her boots as she looked down the fence line, watching for any sign of a rider on one of the six horses out in the field.

Once she reached the barn, she slid open the door and called out, "Emma?" The dust from the hay caught the sunlight from the open door as she walked In, the smells of a farm making her feel even more at home. Glancing past the saddle room and down the row of stalls, she walked while calling out, "Emma? Are you in here?"

Then from the last stall, she heard a quiet, "Shhhhh!"

Picking up her speed, she reached the last double stall and stopped.

There, she saw Farris, the chestnut mare, in one corner, enjoying his breakfast from the trough with loud chewing.

In the other corner, a little form sat with her back to Bess, her legs crossed Indian style in front of her. The grey snow hat had bunched up to the top of her head, which matched the oversized coat on her small frame.

"Emma, what are you…"

Then Emma turned, one finger to her lips as she again shushed her, and then turned and pointed.

And Bess now saw why.

There, in the corner, a grey and white mother cat blinked back at Bess while little newborn kittens nursed, nestled in the hay.

"Oooo" Bess whispered, walking over and sitting down next to her daughter. "So this is why you missed my egg debacle."

Emma's blue eyes were wide with curiosity and they never left the kittens. "Look how little they are." She whispered. Then laid her head on Bess' shoulder, and said, "I know I missed breakfast but I just couldn't leave…"

Placing a soft kiss on her daughter's snow cap, she rubbed Emma's shoulders while saying, "Little kittens or burned eggs – you made the right choice."

Then those little blue eyes carefully looked up at Bess, the stray blond curls bouncing out of their pigtails underneath her cap. Her teeth bit her lip as she asked, "Mom, can I keep one?"

"Emma…" Bess hesitated, biting her own lip as she looked over at the little fur balls in the corner, their bodies barely moving as they nursed and slept. Henry would say no. Henry would say that the barn cats are better in the barn, that their destiny was outside with the mice.

"Please, Mom?" Emma began, "I'll promise I'll take care of it! I won't even use it to annoy Jason!"

Bess quietly laughed, and snuggled the hopeful face into her jacket, "Em, you know you wouldn't last one minute without trying to annoy your brother."


"I'll talk to your dad." Bess said, and stood up, "Now, young lady, it's time for some frozen waffles."

Emma stood up, carefully, and put her hand in Bess' as they walked out. "After can I come and watch the kittens?"

Bess pulled the barn door closed. "After breakfast you can come out and help me clean out this stinky barn."

"You know I don't mind doing that, right Mom?" Emma skipped along in front of her. "It's quiet."

Bess watched her little girl run down the snowy path and vault over the fence instead of walk around it. She was always so at home here on the farm, always finding some little animal to befriend and take care of. Out riding before the sun came up. Staying out in the barn or in the pastures with the horses until Bess or Henry called her in as the moon came out.

Bess saw so much of her own self in Emma, the blond curls, the free spirit, feeling at home outside in the fresh air. Horses were better friends than girls at school, and watching kittens being born beat sleeping in any weekend.

As she walked into the warm kitchen, she watched Henry reach out and tickle Emma, watched her laugh as he reached over and stole some of her waffles, watched as she fought back at him, as he pulled her into his lap and tickled her.

Never in her wildest dreams did she think that her family could be sitting here, together, operating as one family instead of the two she thought she'd fractured them into.