Half Empty Bowl (Short Tale Tuesday)

She looked down at the almost half empty bowl in front of her.  Oh no, she’d eaten most of the toddler’s lunch. How did that happen? She’d only eaten a couple of spoonfuls. It was so good she couldn’t stop.  What was she going to feed them now? The thought of spending the afternoon with five hungry toddlers in the nursery room made her cringe.

She thought of the fridge, that could be her saviour. As she moved toward it she almost bowled over Caleb, her 21 month old shadow. She didn’t mind him following her all the time. He was her favourite. She didn’t mention that to any of the other staff though, favouritism was frowned upon.  They’d been trying for weeks to get Caleb to say his first word, before his parents did, but he hadn’t yet uttered a recognizable sound.

‘What are you doing here my little muffin man? I didn’t realise Ashley let you out with me. I’m getting your lunch ready. Spaghetti, yummy!’ She rubbed her tummy to show him that everything was fine.

She opened the fridge and bent down to take a quick look inside. The fridge was empty. All the lunches had been served to the other age groups. She felt her heart start to race. She looked back at the bowl on the kitchen counter. There was most certainly not enough spaghetti to go around.

She checked in the cupboards hoping the small stash of crackers had been replaced since last week. Perhaps she could think of a master chef style slap together. She fumbled with a few cupboards and shut them harder than she expected when she found them empty. Crap, she was going to be found out. She heard one of the toddlers from her room start to cry. Argh, Tommy was always the first one to sqwark. She noticed her hands getting sweaty and she rubbed them on her jeans. What would she do now?

She would just have to give up her own lunch. Ensuring she wouldn’t be seen, she moved to the staff room fridge and quietly whipped open the lid of her lunch box. Vegemite sandwiches and the delicious smelling chocolate cake she’d baked last night. It would have to do. She raced back into the kitchen and opened the sandwich. She put the reminder of the spaghetti puree on the bread, squished the two pieces of bread together and cut it up into five pizza style slices. It wasn’t a large portion but it would do. She added them all to the serving tray and brought it into the room with her. She looked back to make sure Caleb was still following her.

Just in time. Alicia had just finished putting the fourth toddler in his high chair.

‘They’re hungry monkeys today,’ Ashley said clicking in Ella’s high chair buckle.

‘Yeah, I could hear them from the kitchen,’ she said back.

‘Wow spaghetti sandwiches, that is different. Hold on, and chocolate cake? They hit the jackpot!’ Ashley looked like she was the next in line to devour the toddler’s lunch.

‘Yeah, well the chocolate cake was mine but I gave it up because they didn’t have enough food. The lunch company was very stingy today.’

She looked down at Caleb beside her and smiled at him. He’d seen the whole thing but she knew she was safe. She lifted him to his seat and sat him in his high chair.

‘They’re always stingy on Friday,’ Ashley said, handing out some food to the toddlers who were screaming the loudest.

She bit her lip and picked up a sandwich for Caleb.

‘There you go Caleb, spaghetti sandwiches, just for you,’ she gently placed the sandwich on his tray.

Caleb grabbed the sandwich in his hands and took a big bite. A wide grin extended towards his cheeks as he chewed. He opened his mouth and she could tell he was about to say something. She hoped  it was his usual babble but something in his facial expression told her otherwise. The game was up…

‘Yummy,’ Caleb said.

Both girls looked at him in shock.

She smiled at Caleb.

‘Yes, yummy, that’s right Caleb,’ she gave him a cheeky wink.

Perhaps devouring the toddler’s spaghetti puree wasn’t such a bad thing after all.

Vegemite and spaghetti sandwiches would get Caleb to talk first, who knew!?

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