Becca propped her elbows in the top rack of the dishwasher, fitting them neatly between the green plastic spikes. She twirled a spatula with her fingertips. “This will be my magical royal scepter, and you can be my maid-in-waiting.”

“OK,” I said, nudging her aside to put two Tupperware tumblers in the spots where her elbows had been. Milk dripped out of them onto the dishwasher door. “And you’re stuck in the kitchen because your mean Aunt Matilda doesn’t like you, so you have to do all the work, and I’m here because I don’t want you to have to do everything,”

“Yeah,” Becca said, twirling in the middle of the kitchen floor and waving the spatula with her left hand. “My name will be Amethyst, and you are Rose.”

“Sure.” I shoved the top shelf back into the dishwasher and clattered dinner plates into the bottom. “Abby’s plate is over by the stove. Could you scrape it off and bring it here?”

“But that would get Amethyst’s finger’s dirty,” Becca said, twirling a bit wobbily.

“Oh. I forgot.” I went to the stove and got the extra dinner plate.

Becca twirled the other direction.

As I loaded the plate into the dishwasher she tumbled to the floor laughing.

“The scepter has to go in the dishwasher,” I said.

She laughed harder.

I took the spatula from her, dropped it in the machine, and got the thing started. Then I helped Becca off the floor and dusted her off.

“I’ll wash the extras,” I said.

“OK.” Becca got out a towel and leaned against the counter, watching me fill the sink with bubbly water.

“I think,” she said, after a little bit of watching me scour the chicken pan, “that we should escape tonight. You could convince your friend the woodcutter to help . . .”

Her words melted in with the splashing of the dishwater, and she augmented her points by flicking the towel back and forth.

I rinsed the last baking pan, watching the water swish to one end and then lurch back, spilling out onto my blue jeans. Then I stacked it precariously on the edge of an already full strainer to drain.

Becca unsettled everything pulling out a cookie sheet that was pretty much dry already, but nothing fell.

I wiped the counters while she rubbed the towel over it absentmindedly. “We start with the plan as soon as you finish vacuuming the floor,” she said.

I took the cookie sheet from her and put it away under the stove before getting out the vacuum cleaner.

Becca let out the dishwater and watched it gurgle down the drain. She collected a few of the leftover soap bubbles in her hands and blew them toward the window.

They stuck like little tufts of cotton.

Mama came in as I finished vacuuming. “Wow, finished already?” she said. “See how fast things go when you work together?”