The story so far:
The ride home had been quiet, with Paige immediately succumbing to the call of her MP3 player. For once, this suited Adara just fine. She drove cautiously and purposefully, sneaking probing glances at her daughter, searching.
Searching for traces. But traces of what? Peace of mind, for one thing, thought Adara. Satisfied that Paige appeared just as she had when she left this morning, Adara pulled into a Walgreens and parked the car.
Surprised, Paige plucked an earbud, “Mom, what are we – ,” and stopped short realizing they were at the drug store.
Adara said, “Come on, kiddo. I’ll buy ya a candy bar.”
Paige grudgingly opened the door and followed her mother into the store. Keenly aware of this, Adara slowed her pace to keep in step. Surveying the aisle markers, Adara pinpointed the location of the feminine products and navigated in that direction. Paige started for the candy display.
“Paige! This way.”
“What mom? God! I was just getting a candy bar.”
Realization creeped over her. Being overtly clingy would only create alarm, and she still hadn’t completely figured out exactly what she planned to do about the call.
“Don’t you want to come pick out…”
“You know what kind, Mom. Or just pick something.”
A calm voice reasoned from her head, “It’s okay, she doesn’t know. How would you expect someone to react?” She recognized it as her own, or one of her own. This was 'soothing-sympathetic psychologist in session'. She sighed with impatience with herself. This is what I have been reduced to? Counseling myself in Walgreens? She continued down the aisle, but not without quickly scrutinizing the surroundings. She grabbed the first pain reliever she saw, and a box of Kotex, and made her way back to the front of the store.When she didn’t see Paige near the register, she dropped her items and made tracks to the candy aisle.
A burning hole erupted in her stomach, “Paige!”
“Paige!” back and forth, peering from the head of each aisle. She quickened her pace, and made her way for the automatic doors.
She saw Paige leaning on the car, watching a guy blow grass from the easement into the roadway.
She stormed in her direction, “Paige!!”
Paige continued eating her candy bar, humming with the chocolate in her mouth, wondering why the lawn guy was looking at her, and smiling. The thought hadn’t even finished crossing her mind, when her mother spun her around so hard she dropped her half-wrapped chocolate bar and an earbud popped from her ear on its own. She let out an ear-drum busting shriek and fell back from her mother.
“Paige!! What the hell are you doing?!”
The look on her mother’s face, coupled with the sudden explosion of adrenaline, shocked her into tears. Immediately Adara softened, and she clutched Paige into her. This time the teen allowed her Mother to soothe her for a split second, until she realized the lawn guy had stopped and was watching them.
She pulled from her mother, “God mom! What did I do?!”
The check-out clerk walked up to Adara and handed her a bag, “Mamn, you forgot these!”
Adara turned to the clerk and absently took the plastic bag, “I didn’t pay –.”
“Don’t worry, a man in line paid for them. He said he knew you would be mad when you realized she was right out here.”
Adara started toward the store, following the clerk.The clerk turned, “He’s already gone. He just paid and left. That was nice, right?”
Adara stood there a moment, looked at Paige wiping her face on her sleeve, and headed back to the car with a small smile, shaking her head.
“What’s got into you, Mom? I didn’t even want to go in…”
Adara swatted Paige playfully and laughed, “You just scared me, I think your old mom about had a heart attack!”
Paige glared at her mother as she opened the door, and then relaxed. Once inside, Adara chuckled softly, “Yep, your old Mom almost had a heart attack right there, but she’s still got it.”
“I still got it.”
Adara turned her head and looked at her daughter down her nose, “IT! You know, It!”
“Paige, if a man you never net before suddenly buys you flowers – I mean Kotex….”
“Mom, seriously. I am not a freakin’ kid anymore! I don’t need to be by your side non-stop.”
Adara considered this and retorted, “You will always be my freakin’ kid…”
“For real MOM! I’m not seven, I know to look both ways when I cross the street!”
“Okay, okay. I am sorry, I know I overreacted. I know. I was scared, really scared. I didn’t even give myself time to think. I jumped the gun. I am sorry.”
Paige rolled her eyes at her mother’s attempt to speak her lingo, “I’m not kidding. You embarrassed me.”
“Neither am I. I am sorry, Paige. I did not mean to embarrass you. I just have been jumpy all day. I didn’t sleep well, and I know that is not a good reason, but it is true. I didn’t sleep well at all. So whad’ya say, you forgive your old mom?”
Paige stiffened in her seat and then relaxed, “Fine! Just remember, I am practically a woman.” With that, she popped her earbud in and turned on her mp3 player. Adara tapped Paige and motioned for her to turn it down. Paige rolled her eyes again, and pressed the volume button one time.Adara turned to start the car and saw the lawn guy standing in the grass at the front of her car, looking at her. She turned the ignition and frowned. He blew her a kiss and turned back to his other blowing.
Adara threw the car in reverse, and started to back out. Still watching him, she shuddered as he turned to her and waved. Adara slammed the car back into park and jumped out of the vehicle, halfway out of the parking space. She ran up on the guy, screaming and shouting the whole way.
“MOM!! Mom, what are you doing? Mom!” Paige had hardly registered what had happened before she jumped out of the car.
“What are you looking at you son of a bitch!!!! Do you know me? ” She got within an arm’s reach of her admirer.
“MOM!”The lawn guy, clearly confused, was answering Adara in loud and abrupt Spanish, and started pointing at Paige. Adara glanced over and moved back.
“Get in the car Paige!”
“Mom! What is going on?”
“Get in the car Paige!” Adara turned and walked back to the car. She looked over at the lawn guy, who deciding it was break time, was retreating slowly walking backwards, watching the crazy lady. She slammed the door shut and threw the car in reverse. Paige jerked in the seat, as she was returning the earbud to its rightful place, prior to buckling her seat belt.
Adara swiped at the sweat running into her eye, and only rubbed more there with her palm. Her left leg ticked up and down nervously from the third adrenaline rush of the day, and she tried to ease out into traffic, only it was more of a lurch, with her insensitive right foot. Paige, not able to digest her mother’s uncharacteristic behavior, simply retreated into her own digital world.
Adara’s stomach churned and knotted. The fifteen minutes to home, did little to calm her.
Franco Davis came home to a dark house, although it was only 3:30 pm. All of the shades were drawn tight, and his eyes had trouble adjusting, even with his Ray Bans held in his hands.
He heard the tv blaring from the back room and headed that way, setting his glasses on the counter. Paige didn’t hear Franco, and he just shook his head when he saw that she was watching television close to full blast, while rocking out with her mp3 player glued to her head. Apparently she thought better this way, as it appeared that she was doing her homework by the glow of the television set.
He turned back and went to the stairs off the living room.The well lit upstairs hallway was notable cooler than the rest of the house, and he didn’t need to be a psychic to know what he would find at the end. He stopped midway at the digital thermometer on the bare walls and raised the temperature from 65 to 78.
His bedroom door was slightly ajar, but no light came from the room. Adara was curled up tightly on top of the bedspread, her laptop open to a screensaver of their wedding picture, but locked. He looked to the nightstand, and saw the tell-tale glass of water. In the twelve years they had been together, he had come to know a lot about Adara, and he fiercely loved every piece. In fact he knew more than she thought he did. It was only recently, the last three months actually, that he started to feel that there was something that Adara was wedging between them. Many times he felt like grabbing her and shaking her into her senses. He wanted to let her know that nothing about her would change his love for her. He wanted to tell her that he knew what he needed to know. Instead, he usually just held back and waited for her storms to clear and then he would hold her and kiss her until she fell asleep.
A triangle of light leaked in, dancing on the scene of Sleeping Beauty. He closed the laptop and set it on the floor next to the nightstand. With a gentle tug, he pulled the spread out from under Adara and carefully draped it over her. She moaned and unfurled, but sank further into the bed. Franco pulled the covers up more carefully, and then headed downstairs to make dinner.
Where am I? Adara held her breath and opened her eyes. At first it was all black, and nothing was discernible, except for the cool feel of sateen on her skin. She pondered this, and sat upright, shaken and disturbed. She saw the distorted magnification of her alarm clock through her water glass and immediately calmed. She moved to get up, and laid back again, wondering which parts of the day had been real. When she came to terms with the fact that it had all been real, she again moved to get out of bed. Her foot came down half on and half off the laptop next to the bed, and she cursed under her breath. She trudged through the door into the hallway, and the lazy aroma of lasagna announced to her that her Franco was home.