The Sharp Edge

October 31, 2011
She plopped down on the floor and stared up at her mother. She tickled her mother’s bare feet with her own.

“You did well in your game today,” her mother commented.

“Thanks,” she said absentmindedly, continuing to wiggle her toes.

“Ooh, I like your toenails. Did you do them?” asked her mother.

Her stomach plummeted to the floor. “Oh, um…yeah.” She studied the ethnic detail on the carpet.

“You hesitated. Why did you hesitate?” her mother asked pointedly.

“Um. They’re a nice color. Orange, for Halloween. Do you like it?” She smiled uncomfortably.

“Why are you lying to me?”

The pause was long and annoying. “Tell me why you’re lying. You’re supposed to tell me.”

“Um, Anya has a nail person. And, she, um, offered to do my nails and I said, ‘sure.’”

“The way that woman spends money!” Her mother began one of her staple orations. “She just wastes it, just like your sister. It’s my money, it’s your money and it’s your dad’s money. It’s not her money!”

“Okay.” The girl said. “Well, I’ve gotta go upstairs and do my homework.” She got up quickly and tried to leave.

“Tell me what you’re thinking.” Her mother followed her out of the kitchen.

“Nothing. I’m not thinking anything.” She made a dash towards the stairs.

“Please tell me. Do you not like my lectures?” Her mother pleaded.

“Your lectures are fine. I like your lectures. I just wish you wouldn’t lecture me about Dad and Anya. I know you’re hurt. I know they’re not anywhere even close to sainthood. But I can’t cut them out of my life.”

Her mother pushed past her up the stairs. “I can’t believe you would defend her! She cheated on me with your dad!”

“I’m not defending her!”
The words had no effect. Her mother ran into her bedroom and slammed the door. It was like a curt slap. She fled to her own room, and began her homework, trying not to think about her toes. It was only a short time before there was a knock on the door, and her mother came in.

“I’m sorry I got so upset.”
The girl didn’t answer, and concentrated a deep stare on her betraying orange toes. Her mother settled in the pink chair, and wrapped her arm around an old grey husky, a present from the girl’s sister. Her mother looked around, letting her eyes wander over books on Buddhism, Faulkner, the Sea, World War II, and Tried by War, 5 journals strewn about a chaotic desktop, a mannequin, a cupboard made in Carpentry with the head of a horse carved in the front, a make-shift pagoda from a project on Japan, a bilingual bible on the bedside table, a chemistry textbook open to the periodic table, and a basket of stuffed animals.
Eventually, the girl spoke up. “It’s fine.”

“No, it’s not.” Her mother reprimanded herself. “I’m just always afraid that you’ll prefer…her over me. She does fun stuff with you- stuff that I don’t do. I don’t want you to leave me like your sister…or your dad.”

“I’m not gonna leave.”

“I have a hard time believing that.”

“Well, you shouldn’t.” There was a long lull, before she finally announced, “I have to do my homework.”

“Well, okay.” Her mother sighed, and raised herself up out of the chair. She took one final glance at her tense little girl, who led two lives and lived in two different worlds. She straddled the jagged line between father and mother.

Her mother slipped her hands into her pockets, shrugged and dragged her feet out the door. She sometimes felt that her daughter didn’t understand her. She felt desolate and alone. The worn tissue box perched on the bedside table. Not tonight, she thought. Tears were in scant supply.

The girl felt self-pity. She couldn’t help it. Her mother forced her emotions on her. She felt smothered. But more than that, she was disheartened daily by their constant struggle to cut the silence with the sharp edge of a true feeling. The girl plunked herself down on the toilet seat. She stared at the 3 types of conditioner she had lined up in alphabetical order, thinking how much she liked wielding power over her possessions, despite the appearance of disarray on every surface. She felt strangely at peace in her solitude. She jumped on her bed and hugged the husky. Droplets flecked the grey matted fur and she smiled, feeling the safest she’d ever felt.

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