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Twenty-one

Lunch tasted much better than Tess had expected, considering she thought she might become a vegetarian after cleaning the fish. It wasn’t until they had finished their meal and were all in the kitchen washing the dishes that she noticed the Helpful Points chart on the wall. She had three points. Brianna had eight.

“I almost forgot, Grandma,” Tess said. “I bought you some mint chocolate candies. Only I can’t remember what I did with them.”

“Are you sure you actually bought them?” Brianna asked, wiping the counter. “You can be absent minded sometimes.”

“Yes, I’m sure!” Tess said. “I gave Mr. Wilkin the money. Then I …” she reached into her back pocket and pulled out a squashed white bag. “Then I put them in my pocket.” She looked inside. There was just one flat, melted piece of green and black mint chocolate. “Oh, Grandma, I’m so sorry!”

“You put chocolate candy into your back pocket? That’s just like you, Tess,” Brianna said. “You’re so …”

Tess stared at the glop. “I know,” she said. “I really am.”

Grandma put down her dishtowel. “Let me see, dear.” She took the bag from Tess, opened it, and held it to her face. “It smells delicious. Henry, get us a bowl and four spoons.

“You know,” Grandpa said, “Some of the best inventions in the world came from people doing things the wrong way. You might have invented a new kind of dessert, Tess. Mint Chocolate Swirl Mess.”

They all laughed. Grandpa spooned the glop into a bowl and they went back into the other room to share it. When they had scraped and licked all they could, Grandma turned to Brianna. “Remember when I used to buy you those chocolate mint candies, Alice?” she said.

“I’m not Alice. I’m Brianna.”

“But you look just like her. Isn’t that extraordinary, Henry?”

“Brianna is Alice’s daughter,” Grandpa said. For the first time, Tess saw a touch of sadness in his eyes, and she wanted to give him a hug. “Hey, Brianna,” he said. “Ask your Grandma if she’d like to lie down and take a nap. Tess, help me carry the rest of the dishes into the kitchen. There’s something I’d like to talk to you about.”