Rather than yanking the bottom pan out and letting those displaced clank and clatter down as is my careless custom, I remove each pot one by one. Using both hands to lay each down, my fingers remain on the rim a second, muffling any possible din caused by contact with the counter. This takes twice as long, but it's worth it.
I consult the full list of ingredients, planning to collect everything needed at once from a given cupboard or shelf, minimizing the number of times the cabinets and refrigerator tap shut.
Chopping is slow and measured, probably more coarse than usual, less uniform. I turn the heat on as low as it will go without snuffing out.
Quiet. Slow. I listen, drawing dinner prep out.
Without any view to it, I attend to what's happening in the next room over.
Sister murmurs to sister, sing-song and soothing, ineffective protests, inspired only by habit and not meant to thwart in the least. Pillows puff to the floor. I can envision the Younger's disdain inspiring casual, haphazard tosses. We barely register it anymore, much less expect to stop it. Between puffs, Younger emits sighs of satisfaction. With small transition I cannot decipher, abruptly I hear knees and elbows bump and graze the floor; a teasing, laughing tone in whatever Older is saying to Younger. During short pauses, pealing squeals in a pitch reserved for only these sessions are squeezed from the smaller of the two. The Older maintains her monologue shifting in modulation extremes herself, just for the entertainment value.
This faster paced, more raucous soundtrack continues, capriciously paced, yet with a cadence familiar and well-worn. It slows, the sighs come from both, jarringly similar to each other, each communicating the same thing without words. Drowse, languish, slack, ease.
Brief silence. Sounds of agreement, consent and unity. Older resumes the sing-song murmur while Younger responds inaudibly, contributing what she must to sustain. Maybe an arm around Older, both hands on her cheeks, a constant locked gaze, a sign that says "more." I imagine they are flopped on the carpet right where their wrestling ended, face to face. I don't know. It's between them. Not about me. I am stealing right now and I know it. They will forgive as they always do.
The wooden spatula that pushes the vegetables around the pan, disconnected from my hand that holds it, drops suddenly. I need to go look at something.
A picture. From a few years ago. Halloween, I'm certain of it. Yes, I'll find it in "October, 2010."
A photograph of what I can hear from the other room.