Momma rushed into the house on Thursday afternoon. "Chloe, you need to finish any homework you have early. We're having guests for supper."
"Mr. Brooks and Mrs. Smith."
"You mean the Mrs. Smith from next door?"
"Yes." Momma hurried to the kitchen.
I followed close behind her. "Who's Mr. Brooks?"
"He's the nice man who just moved in across the street. I thought it would be nice to welcome him to the neighborhood."
"But Mrs. Smith isn't new to the neighborhood."
"No, but the two of them are about the same age. It will be nice for them to get acquainted."
I shrugged. "Okay."
Later Momma and Daddy were setting the table, and the doorbell rang.
"I'll get it." I sprinted to the door and pulled it open.
Mrs. Smith stood there on what Momma calls the front stoop with a blue dress on.
"Where's your fluffy pink robe?" That's about all I had ever seen her wear.
"Well, child, that's not appropriate for supper." Her brow crinkled.
"Mrs. Smith, come on in," Momma said from behind me.
Just as I pushed the door shut, the door bell rang again.
"That must be Mr. Brooks. Open the door, please, Chloe." Momma stepped forward. "It is Mr. Brooks. Come on in." She smiled and turned sideways. "Have you met our neighbor, Mrs. Smith?"
Mr. Brooks took Mrs. Smith's hand. "I don't think I've had the pleasure."
Mrs. Smith grinned and nodded her head to him like he was a king or something. "Pleasure's all mine, Mr. Brooks."
Is this Mrs. Smith? She is smiling and speaking in a kind way.
Daddy walked around the corner. "Mr. Brooks, glad to see you again. And Mrs. Smith, it's always nice to see you."
What? Someone is playing a trick on me, right?
Daddy led us all to the dining room table. Daddy didn't sit in his normal chair. Instead, Mr. Brooks sat on the end and Mrs. Smith sat on one side next to him and Daddy on the other side. Momma was across from Daddy and next to Mrs. Smith. And I was all the way on the other end.
"Everything is ready. We'll just say a blessing and eat." Momma looked at Daddy.
Daddy prayed then offered Mrs. Smith the platter with chicken. "Mrs. Smith, I do hope you like chicken."
Mrs. Smith smiled. "Why of course. This looks absolutely delicious."
My mouth dropped open. Never had I seen Mrs. Smith be so polite. She had always been a bucket dipper.
Momma wiped her mouth with her napkin. "So, Mr. Brooks, what line of work are you in?"
Mr. Brooks sat up straight. "Was I in. I'm retired now. I was a veterinarian. Mostly what they called large animals. I lived out in Grainger County. I served the people who had cows, horses, sheep, and even alpacas."
"Did you take care of puppy dogs?" I just had to know.
Mr. Brooks' eyes almost disappeared when he smiled. "Yes, Chloe. I did see an occasional dog. Some of the people had working dogs on their farms. They had to stay healthy to help with herding and such."
"I would like to be a vegetarian someday."
"Sweetheart, that's veterinarian." Momma nodded at me.
"Right." I pointed to Mrs. Smith. "Mrs. Smith has a dog named Rosy. I had to take care of her once while Mrs. Smith was in the hospital. Rosy is really smart. I still help Mrs. Smith with her."
Mr. Brooks looked at Mrs. Smith and his eyebrows rose. "Really? Are you an animal lover?"
Mrs. Smith giggled. "Well, not all kinds. I grew up on a farm and don't much care to do some of those dirty chores anymore, if you know what I mean." She giggled again.
Mr. Brooks patted her shoulder and chuckled. "I do know exactly what you mean."
Momma looked across the table at Daddy and winked. Now, what was that about?
"Mrs. Smith," Mr. Brooks started.
Mrs. Smith interrupted. "Please call me Louise."
"Louise it is. Please call me Roy. I'm just wondering if you were a hard-working homemaker or were you employed outside the home?"
"Oh, I was a school teacher. Second grade."
What? She said she didn't care much for kids.
Mr. Brooks glanced at his watch. "It is getting close to this old fogey's bedtime." He looked at Mrs. Smith. "May I escort you home?" He stood and offered his hand.
Mrs. Smith put her hand in his and stood. "That would be lovely."
I couldn't wait to get to the playground. I wanted to talk to my friends about what had happened with Mrs. Smith last night.
I caught up to a group. "Hey, I want you all to help me figure something out."
Leonardo shrugged. "What is it?"
I explained about last night's supper and the change in Mrs. Smith.
Several of the girls answered at the same time. "They must like each other. You know, falling in love."
I wrinkled my nose but then thought about it. "You know, I sure do like how Mrs. Smith acts when Mr. Brooks is around. And I just like Mr. Brooks. He was an animal doctor."
Dylan stepped closer to me. "You could maybe make sure they got together. Help them a little bit."
"What do you mean?"
Everybody started spouting out ideas at once. "Bake some cookies and give them to Mr. Brooks from Mrs. Smith."
"Send a gift to Mrs. Smith from Mr. Brooks and a gift to Mr. Brooks from Mrs. Smith."
"Maybe messages to each other in their mail boxes."
"The messages could tell them to meet some place."
I smiled. "I knew y'all would have good ideas for me." I rubbed my hands together. "I've got some work to do."
Why do you think Mrs. Smith was so much nicer when Mr. Brooks was around?
Why was Chloe surprised to learn that Mrs. Smith had been a teacher?
Do you think it is a good idea for Chloe to help Mrs. Smith and Mr. Brooks get together? Why or why not? What could go wrong?