"Lunchtime," I yell into the hallway. Loud squeals erupt from the bedroom at the end, before the children burst from behind the door and rush to get their food. "Eat up, kiddos, while I read to you from one of my favorite books."
"What is it?" The oldest boy has piercing eyes, but for some reason I can never figure out their true color. His skin is dark - inherently tan - and his brown hair flops over his forehead.
"It's called The City of Ember." I pull out the worn book, its brown cover beaten and stained with love. "My daddy read it to me when I was your age," I say, looking at the middle child, a girl. She has her brother's deeply colored skin, but with green eyes. She leans over her food and smiles at me.
The youngest of the three, a boy, looks like a skinnier, mini version of his brother, except his eyes are always brown and his hair has been buzzed. He is sitting across from me at the dining room table, his shoulders level with the edge of the table. He's small and skinny for five years old, but he's got a lion's heart.
I hear a satisfactory amount of forks banging against their plates as they stuff food into their mouths. But I'm not really paying attention. I'm about to start the book I've read four times, the book I love more than most books. The book I will always cherish as a favorite. As I settle myself into my chair, I begin to read - and I am lost in the story.
What a world! I think to myself fondly, as the Mayor of the city forgets to pass down the secret box. This story is pure genius! I think, as the box clicks open, lost in the back of a stuffed closet. Oh, how could a story be better than this? I think, absently taking a sip from my water as I read about Assignment Day. Will Lina get the Messenger slip? Will she trade with Doon? My eyes are grasping at the words, my mouth forming each sound, my tongue tasting the story like it would a dessert. I know what's going to happen, but with each and every word my mind begins to race, my heart pumping - and I forget I've heard this story more than once. I forget that it's old news, published "long ago", that the cover is faded and has a rounded cup stain on the front.
It is silence that startles me back into reality. There is a lack of feet shuffling against the ground, of chewing and of forks scraping against the plates. The silence is pure, captivating, encompassing. What has happened? I ask, willing myself away from the story.
What do I find? I find three sets of eyes staring intently at my face. They sparkle with joy and fascination. The oldest has his fork poised above his plate, as if to take another bite, but he hasn't moved in a while. His sister hasn't touched her food in a while either, her hands folded in her lap, her expression dreamy. Even the youngest, though five years old, has his eyes fixed on me, completely ignoring his cold food and his brown eyes sparkling. They are wide and full of wonder.
They see that I have noticed the silence. They notice it, too. In one swift jerk back into reality, they shake their heads from the dream of the world of the city of Ember and pick up their forks. But their wheels are turning, their little eyes still wider than I've seen them yet. And because of that, I keep on reading...