"Thank you," Bella says, because a slightly dim person wouldn't announce it was actually completely up to me and I'm having a pretty easy time of it all things considered.
Alice relaxes a little; apparently the danger has passed. Mrs. Hammond smiles vaguely and returns to her dinner.
She returns her attention to the Charlie-should-marry-Hilary-to-
Unless a glass of wine with dinner counts—a comfort not provided to the two teenagers at the table—there is no visible evidence of the former.
She is going to get so full, if there is any dessert.
There is, as it happens! Four identical slices from a tiny, alarmingly rich chocolate cake. Alice grins when he sees it.
"Death by chocolate?" murmurs Bella innocently.
"If only," Alice murmurs back.
Bella says nothing. Her mouth is now full of cake.
"Hilary is the best," Alice concludes when he finally puts down his fork. "I know I say that every time, but damn."
"Language," Mr. Hammond says mildly.
His smile evaporates. "Sorry, sir."
But she privately agrees that Hilary is the best.
"Be that as it may," says Mr. Hammond, with a hint of a smile of his own, "rules are rules."
"May I be excused?" Alice asks meekly.
His father shakes his head. "The meal's almost over, Junior. You can hold it two more minutes."
She tries to remember how wide the angle on the cake was. Was it a small cake cut into quarters, or a large cake, of which there might be leftovers?
Mr. Hammond takes his time finishing his own slice. At last he puts down his napkin and says, "I think we're done here," and his wife and son push back their chairs nearly in unison.
And let whatever happens when this household is unsupervised... happen?
Alice glances at Bella and shrugs.
She turns to Alice and says, "I'll see you in gym class tomorrow."
It's a perfectly innocuous thing to say. And if he's not in condition to attend gym tomorrow, she'll notice, and Mr. Hammond knows it.
"Bye!" And she heads for the door. "Please tell Hilary for me that everything was exquisite."
"Will do," Mrs. Hammond calls after her. Alice waves.