Meeka does not stop asking me about the Quick-n-Save. I keep telling her that it isn’t a good time to be asking. But when she asks me why I just study the pink flowers etched on her quilt. I want to tell her the truth: that my mother isn’t well in the head. But there is this part of me that wants to protect her and Meeka is too bitter these days to show compassion. Besides, my mother is getting better each day. Her problem is in her head so it’s fixable. But Mrs. Jones cheating is a problem of the heart. And once that’s broken, there’s no pill she can take to get it working again.
And after a few sessions of therapy, after I notice that her fingernails are no longer chewed to a pulp, after I notice that she is no longer a dazed zombie and knows how to pair socks again, I ask her about my working with Meeka at the Quick-n-Save across the street.
She puts the last of the dirty dishes in the dishwasher and turns to face me. She smiles at me like there’s a big secret only she knows about. “Is this what you really want?”
I wait for her dark eyes to start darting all over the kitchen, but she keeps them steady on me. I feel like a bug under a microscope. It is an uncomfortable thing, seeing her calm and sober like this. “Of course,” I say. But her question, her confidence makes me wonder.
She tilts her head to the side, considering something past my shoulder. She swats a dish towel at me and says “It’s great that you want to work. Let me think about it.” She hangs the towel up on the drying rack and turns to me. “Come on. It’s a school night. Off to bed you go.”
She bends over and kisses the top of my head. It is a good thing I am sitting because I am too shocked to stand. I can’t remember the last time my mother, well, mothered me. I tell her fine like I am a typical teenager and she is a typical mother, like the last thing I want is to be told what to do. But the truth is that I’m craving the woman who turns off the kitchen light, taps me on the butt and reminds me to brush my teeth.
Funny, how I didn’t know to miss her until she was back.