It was his first day in his new role. A role he had not expected. All three knew the family had shrunk by one. It was going to be him, solo dad, and his two small children. Dinner tonight would be pizza. He would order a big one: a simple margherita: mozzarella and tomato sauce, thin soft crust with gooey cheese, easy for small hands to hold. The way they like it. Their dinner would not always be pizza, but tonight, the first night of their new life together, he thought this was a good idea. He set a table before leaving for work in the morning. Placed a different color napkin at each place. There would be an extra setting at the end of the table where she used to sit. Her favorite color was red.
It was a hard day at work. His mind couldn’t hold clients or paperwork. He spent time picturing this meal, hoping tonight would be the beginning of moving on as best they could. He’d buy the pizza at Nicco’s. The kids knew their pies and this was definitely their favorite place. Perhaps in time they would learn to make their own together. They had a lot of the tools at hand. Mom was a great cook: standing mixer, rolling pin, pizza stone. (The pizza cutter flashed in his mind, remembering a purchase they had bought on their honeymoon in Italy.) Yes, it would be good if he cooked for them too. That would come in time, but tonight it would need to be take-out.
When school let out, seven-year-old year old Annie and five-year-old year old Sam met at the curb to be picked up. Their day at school was unfamiliar; as all that had happened swirled in their heads and their stomachs. They stood there holding each other’s hands tightly.
At dinnertime, they sat in their chairs, ready. “Pizza,” he announced as he brought in the large rectangular white box. The room filled with the warm smell of dough and oregano, sweet tomatoes and basil. He placed a soft triangle in front of each of them and served one for himself as he sat down. The children looked at their plates. Sam took his finger and made circles in his slice, a small tear running down his cheek. Annie looked at her pizza and sighed. They both looked at him. “She would want us all to eat,” he said. There was a pause; then Annie took her large warm piece and folded it to fit in her small hands. She looked at her younger brother signaling with her eyes, take a bite.
It’s a start, he said to himself, glancing towards the red napkin.