Hannah was a bit of a late bloomer. She was the second one born, and the smallest of the three, but the triplets arrived at thirty-seven weeks plus one day into their gestation, so the physician couldn’t classify them as preemies. Yet, Hannah was Hannah. Trenton was beside himself. He heard her frantic screams, aware she was out in the kitchen and he ran to see what was wrong. Sweet, sweet Hannah looked like a piece of toast that had been in the toaster too long. Burnt, blackened like halibut, she was terribly singed. He worried.
By the time he’d made it to the kitchen, she was no longer on fire, having managed to put out the flames, herself. But she was full of scorch marks up one side and down the other. He caught the acrid smell of burnt hair. He nose was black. She almost looked like a black cat.“Hannah!” he said.
“Daddy, oh, Daddy, I was just trying to make a grilled cheese sandwich. I don’t know what happened. Suddenly, I was just on fire.”
“Are you okay?” he said, giving her the once-over.
“Yeah, I’m just covered in soot.”
“More like burnt skin, Kidd-o. You need to be more careful. How many times has your mother and I told you …?” Hannah rolled her eyes.
“Oh, Daddy, not now.” Trenton took out his cell phone, gesturing with it at her. “Let’s get a picture together. I want to keep this moment for posterity.”
“Oh, please. Must you snap a picture of every little thing?”
“Yes, I do. Besides, this isn’t what I’d call a little thing. You could have been killed.”
Despite her protests Hannah leaned into her father and Trenton snapped the photo. Tiana walked into the kitchen, just then, having arrived home from work. “What is all this?” she said, noticing her once goldenrod stove was black and likely beyond repair. “Place looks and smells as if there was a fire.” She ran a finger over the stove top.
“Hannah, have you been attempting to cook again?” Tiana said.
“I was hungry. And how am I ever to learn how to cook, if you and Daddy keep barring me from using the stove?”
“Well, except for the black markings, you look okay. Go shower and clean up. I’m going to try to salvage my range.”
“Could you fix me something to eat while you’re at it,” Hannah hollered from the adjacent bathroom.
Later on, Trenton went over to visit his uncle Jett. The jog to his house didn’t quite abate the tension he felt, as he hoped it would. Nor that sickening fear in his stomach that he almost lost a daughter. Jett met him outside on the lawn. Trenton took a moment to vent to Jett, who was just as concerned as he.
“Is she okay?”
“She’s as snarky as she’s ever been. I took that to mean she would be fine. I left while she was in the shower trying to get the ‘soot’, as she called it, off of her body. Jett, she was covered in black marks. I’m guessing it was scorched skin. Here, take a look,” he shared the photo.
Jett poured over the photo. “Thankfully, she’s okay.”
“I know. I just don’t know what I’m going to do with her. The other two …”
“Careful,” Jett interrupted. “You know it’s never a good practice to compare children to each other — especially siblings.”
“Yeah. It’s just that I know Seth and Betsy are going to be fine. It’s Hannah. I don’t know, maybe the other two squeeze off her oxygen in the womb. She’s just not as …” he struggled for the words. “Quick as the other two. Not as bright. And the other two are blond. So much for that myth, eh?”
Jett patted Trenton on the shoulder. “Trent, she just put you through the ringer, is all. I’m sure there’s more of that ahead for you. You are the father of three teenagers, after all. I think you’ll survive, in the end. Somehow your parents did. As did mine.”
“Yeah, but I was an only child.”
“Now, you know why.” Jett punched Trenton on the upper arm, then gave him a bear hug.
“Jett, you’re my best friend. I’m so glad I have you.”