A short story featuring characters from The Belinda & Bennett Mysteries.
The first thing Belinda did after her twin brother, Kyle, left was clean his room top to bottom. He’d taken most of his possessions with him on his sailing excursion to Australia, so his bedroom was as stripped down as it was going to get.
No clothes on the floor. No change splattered on top of the dresser. No bed linens sagging off one corner. It was the perfect time to deep clean.
After stripping the bed, Belinda threw open the windows that faced the side of the driveway. Kyle had the first room at the top of the stairs with the least appealing view. But since he only really slept in there, he’d never had a problem with that.
While the room aired out, she hauled up the vacuum and sucked up every inch of dust, including inside the closet. She could have had her housekeeper, courtesy of Portside House Cleaning, take care of it the next week, but there was something imminently satisfying about doing it herself.
After eliminating all the dust and dirt she usually couldn’t access, she dusted all the furniture inside and out, wiped down all the hard surfaces, cleaned the windows, and changed a dead lightbulb in the closet.
Exhausted, but satisfied, Belinda stood in the doorway to get a good view of her hard work. The room positively sparkled. And Belinda was sure the last time it had looked this sanitary was before they moved in. She set her arms akimbo as she surveyed the space, breathing heavy, but smiling.
“Just need to remake the bed when the sheets dry, and we’re done!” Belinda said to the air since the kittens, her usual companions, had taken shelter elsewhere while she worked. She scanned over the room one more time, thinking her achievement deserved a cupcake.
Then she burst into tears, flopping across the bare mattress.
~ * ~
Bennett slammed the side door, setting plastic containers holding lunch for two in the kitchen. “I’ve got lunch!” he called, pulling off his Panama hat and slinging it on a hook above the bench by the side door.
When no answer came, he dashed up the stairs opposite the kitchen, smoothing down his espresso-colored hair. “I made sure to get plenty of fries this time…” Bennett stopped abruptly at the door to Kyle’s room–or what used to be Kyle’s room.
At that moment, Belinda was sprawled out on the bed on her stomach, muffled sobs seizing her frame. Bennett padded around the bed to the side where her face was smooshed into the fabric, blonde waves flowing loose from the bun on top of her head.
“Belinda?” he said carefully, kneeling beside her. “What’s wrong?”
She answered with a shriek that the mattress mostly absorbed.
Bennett winced, then took in a deep breath, letting it out slowly. He had to admit, he’d seen this coming. He knew it would hit her eventually. As his stomach rumbled, he wished it had hit her after they ate.
Belinda had been all bouncy and energetic–and busy–helping Kyle get ready to head off to Australia as part of the crew of a sailing yacht that belonged to a family friend. It was one of his dreams and she was thrilled he was finally doing it. They’d thrown a going away party at her family’s home, and Belinda had been nothing but smiles the whole time.
He’d wondered how she’d do at the official send-off at the marina–but other than her brown eyes misting over as they watched the yacht inch out of the harbor toward open ocean, Belinda had seemed remarkably okay with her brother leaving for the whole winter.
Bennett supposed the okay part was now officially over as another wail pierced his ears. He decided some distance would be safer for the moment, and left her to soak the mattress with her tears.
As he came down to the last bite of his pulled pork sandwich, a deflated and red-eyed Belinda shuffled into the dining room where he ate. He watched her plod down the stairs and disappear into the kitchen. A moment later, she reappeared in the doorway between the kitchen and dining room, her shoulders sagging.
“Is that other box for me?” she said in a small voice.
Bennett nodded, his chair screeching as he got up. He wiped his fingers off with a shredded napkin, jerking his head toward the table. “I’ll get it for you.”
He set up her lunch at the other end of the table. At first, Belinda only nibbled at a fry, but he figured that would spark her interest in eating, even if it was cold now.
He was right, and soon enough, she mustered up the energy to heave the sandwich into her mouth, doing a lot more than nibbling. “Thank you,” she garbled out between bites. “I’m starving.”
Bennett half smiled, leaning back now that he’d swiped up the remainder of his lunch. He watched her alternate biting off chunks of sandwich with eating French fries. Even though Kyle wasn’t always around when Bennett came by, the house still did feel empty somehow.
Bennett knew she was worried about her brother, especially since they’d shared a living space since the spring. But he also knew they’d spent plenty of time apart before that while Belinda visited Europe with her nana.
Of course, that was Belinda leaving, not Kyle, and maybe that made the difference.
Either way, he did marvel at their bond. Being an only child, he had trouble getting the sibling relationship business, especially with the two of them. As twins, they’d spent a lot of time together. And it did seem to forge them together in a unique way.
Belinda gulped down the water he’d brought her, managing to finish off her sandwich and fries. “Better?” he asked. Belinda nodded, color brightening up her cheeks a little.
She sighed, saying a minute later, “What if he doesn’t come back?”
He was worried the waterworks might make a resurgence, so he took his time with a reply. “I think he’ll need you to clean for him eventually.”
Belinda met his gaze with a wry smile.
“And I think there’s some other reasons he’ll want to come home,” Bennett added. “In the meantime, you could always ask Jonas over for a while. I think he could manage to undo your rigorous cleaning efforts pretty quickly.”
Belinda folded her arms on the table, her eyes holding more of a sparkle. “You do always know what to do.”
Bennett shrugged. “It’s a gift.”
Belinda’s eyes rolled in an arc up to the ceiling. “But I think I’ll be happy Kyle’s off doing what he loves–and savor having more control over the cleanliness level of the house.”
“When Kyle’s away, Belinda will clean.”
She smiled, the twinkle in her eyes steadily growing. “And eat cupcakes.”
After all, some things were just as good no matter what.
~ * ~