what are Cheerios?

by s.m.

Giulietta appeared at the top of the stairs in a bathrobe.  “What are you doing here?” she asked Francesca.

“Bruno called me,” Francesca replied.  “He’s looking for Ricci.”

“But why are you here,” Giulietta reiterated.

“Giulietta, I’m sorry, I didn’t know what to do.  It sounded serious.  I thought maybe I could help–”

“You?  Help?”  Giulietta stayed at the top of the stairs; her pose reminded Francesca of an old Hollywood film, right before something awful happened.

Francesca scooped up Leo, who had been clinging to her leg.  “Maybe Leo and I can go out to the aquarium, give you a little time to yourself.”

“How’s Romaldo?” Giulietta asked.

Francesca looked confused.  “Fine,” she said.  “He’s fine.  So,” she continued, ignoring Giulietta’s non sequitur, “Leo and I are going to go to the aquarium, and we’ll come home in a couple of hours.  Do you think Ricci will be back then?”

“I don’t know when he’s coming back,” Giulietta said flatly.

“Ok,” Francesca said.  “Ok.  We’re going to go now, we’ll see you in a little bit.  Leo, say bye to mama,” she directed her nephew.

Giulietta turned and walked away from the stairs into the hallway, and Francesca heard her bedroom door close.  She turned to the maid.

“Can you help me get his clothes and car seat?  And anything else we might need?”

The maid nodded and walked upstairs.  Francesca set Leo down and wandered towards the kitchen.  “What do you think, should we have some breakfast?  I’m pretty hungry,” she told her nephew.

“Are we really going to the aquarium?”

“Of course we are.  Right after we have breakfast and you change into your clothes.”  She looked around the kitchen.  “What do you normally have for breakfast?” she asked him.

“Cheerios,” Leo said, climbing into his chair.

“What are Cheerios?” Francesca asked.

“Cheerios,” Leo replied.  “Cheerios are Cheerios.”

“You’re not helping at all,” she said under her breath.  The maid returned with some neatly-folded clothes.

“The car seat is in the foyer,” she said.  “I’ll put it in your car when you’re ready to leave.”

“Thank you,” Francesca said.  “Antonella, what are Cheerios?”

The maid opened a cabinet and pulled out a big yellow cereal box.  “From America.  Breakfast cereal.  You can tell you don’t have kids.”  For the first time since Francesca had arrived, Antonella cracked a smile.  She served a small bowl for Leo and poured some milk.  “Would you like some?” she asked Francesca.

Francesca looked at Leo spooning the little o’s into his mouth deliberately.  “Ok,” she answered.  Antonella served her a slightly larger bowl of Cheerios and she and Leo sat together and ate breakfast.