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Mother Knows Best
I sat, laughing, in the shallow grave Mother had dug for me.
Was it over?
Sitting down at the breakfast table, I know something is wrong. I’m being given approximately 500 less calories this morning, my meal only consists of 2 waffles, with butter and syrup, 6 sausage links, a bowl of oatmeal, and one apple. The absence of two waffles, coupled with my muffins, makes the table look strangely bare. Still, I don’t dare do anything but pick up my fork and dig in. Mother appears within seconds, humming harmonies to her favorite operetta. She touches my face, and I obligingly put down my cutlery and allow her to kiss me. She lingers, brushing her tongue over my lips, before pulling back and smiling.
“I’m sorry your breakfast is so small. Georgie was here, and I let him take what he wanted.”
I smile, and nod, and she knows I understand. Of course I understand.
“After breakfast, I thought we’d go shopping! You’re making our new dresses for the Mother Daughter ball tonight.”
Now I understood the smaller breakfast. She doesn’t want to have to pay for more fabric, and she’s under the delusion that feeding me less for one day will accomplish that.
“Of course, Mother. We can go as soon as I am finished eating.”
She grins. “Perfect.”
Of course I am perfect. I am daughter.
Walking into the small sewing shop on the corner of our street, I can feel eyes following us. I know it’s because how Mother walks. Confident, without a care in the world. The eyes trace my shape, and wonder how she can be so unashamed at being seen in public with me. I feel their questions. How is one woman so big and the other so small? Are they together? Is the small one not embarrassed at her close proximity to such a disgusting creature? All the questions in their minds, I feel them wash over me, like a scalding bath. I shudder, and Mother smiles.
Mother is excited today because we left in time to talk to her favorite sales lady, Lucita. Lucita has a sharp tongue and ears like a hawk, a combination which makes her a prime gossiper. When we arrive, she nearly races to the front of the store, eager to speak. Words flow from her lips, like snakes escaping from a cage, each filled with poison and ready to bite. I stand, awaiting Mother’s orders, silent until Lucita takes a breath and notices me.
“Why are you here, standing like a lump, ignoring your mum?”
Mother frowns at me. “Daughter, I said we were here to get fabric. Stop eavesdropping on me and Lucita. Here’s the money for the fabric.”
Lucita looks surprised. “She can’t pay for her own dress material?”
Mother laughs, “She’s too lazy to get a job, all she does is shuffle around the house all day!”
Lucita glares in my direction disapprovingly. I take this as a signal to walk away as quickly as I can.
Watching the young sales woman ring up my purchases, I ponder on my choices. I settled on blue plaid, to compliment mother’s eyes, and dark blue with brown stripes for me. I’m taking a risk with the blue, not only because it’s only a few shades darker than Mother’s, but because it’s slimming. I only hope the stripes will cause Mother not to notice.
I spent the entire day sewing, working like a maniac to try and make our dresses. Mine was simple, just a basic pattern, one I secretly like, but Mother required something fancy, an elaborate ball gown almost. It’s odd looking, because of the plaid, but Mother’s eyes light up when she sees it. She gives me a warm hug and 16 sugar cookies, and tells me I can have a half hour to nap before I dress her and do her hair. A whole half hour! I got to sleep, I got to dream!
I dreamed I was flying. I was weightless, hovering over a field of alfalfa, filled with duplicates of Mother and Lucita. They shouted, and shouted at me to come down, but I said no! They were too heavy to lift off the ground, so all they could do was wave their fists at me and glare. I felt so free, for a minute. Then Lucita pulled a slingshot from her pocket and hit me with a stone. I fell, but Mother caught me. She stroked my hair and cried, saying “little baby bird, why don’t you listen to me?”
I know it was just a dream, but I feel so guilty. Mother could tell something was wrong, but luckily she was in such a rush that she didn’t have time to grill me. She tried on her dress, looking almost like a little girl, excited to be swimming in a sea of fabric. Unfortunately, she was so on edge with anticipation that she didn’t want to wait for anything, including me. When it took me longer than a few seconds to finish her hair, she threatened me with the hammer, and when I couldn’t fit into my dress right away, she threw her favorite knife at me. Luckily, her elbow caught in the fabric of her dress and her arm didn’t extend, so the knife didn’t hit me. I understand how much stress she must have been in, and I clearly wasn’t helping.
Looking at ourselves in her mirror, Mother is all smiles. She knows she will receive many compliments tonight, and I will be insulted equally. She loves the nights when I create my own hell, with nearly no help from her. I know that gives her more pleasure, which will show in bed later, but now, it’s time for the ball.
I was at the ball with Mother, and she dismissed me so she could complain to the other older women about how I was too stringent to buy her a dress from a real store. I wandered into a quiet room, one meant for luncheons and such, and there, I met a girl. She was pretty, so very pretty. She was sitting in the corner, drawing, when I came in, but she looked up right away. She started, and stared me down for a few seconds. This I was used to, it takes people time to figure out my age, and after they realize I am relatively young, they’re usually confused by how overweight I am. It seems impossible for a 22 year old to weigh nearly 300 pounds, but I’ve accomplished it. I don’t know why I’m so big, after all, I don’t eat more than normal people. I eat more than Mother, but that’s only because she likes to be smaller than most people. Mother says it’s because I’m so lazy. Anyways, after the girl soaked in my appearance, she did something unusual. She smiled. I smiled back, because Mother says that even though when people smile at me they’re just making fun of me, it’s the polite thing to do. Then, she asked my name. “D-daughter…”, I replied. She made an odd face, then, and giggled a little bit. “No, your name. Everyone is a daughter! I’m a daughter. My name’s Rachel, but everyone calls me jeans. Wanna know why?” I’m so confused by her stream of words that it takes me a minute to process. She must be confused, because my name is Daughter. That’s not who I am, it’s what I am called! I decide not to argue, and say sure. “Because at my 8th grade graduation, I wore jeans instead of a dress like all the other girls! So now everyone calls me jeans.” I smiled faintly and then tried to back away. Jeans, however, is apparently undeterred by my trying to leave. She doesn’t understand how upset Mother is going to be. Jeans told me she wants to be my friend. I don’t understand, but it doesn’t matter because I’m not allowed to have friends, and I explained that to her. She told me she would let me leave, and I wouldn’t have to be her friend, but only if I gave her my address. I supposed that this was okay, because Mother had never said not to give my address away. I tried to run back into the ballroom, but I’ve taken too long, and I know I’m in trouble. Sure enough, Mother pulled me aside and whispered in my ear, “Downstairs. 11pm.”
I strapped myself into the chair at 10:58, saving Mother a step. She appears shortly after 11, lurching a little bit. She asks if I ate dinner, of course I have. Two chicken sandwiches, a plate of green beans, half an apple pie, and two scoops of ice cream. She smiles. “I’m sorry I have to do this, Daughter, but you were bad tonight.”
“I understand, Mother. It was my fault.”
She bristles, and launches into a furious rant. “What are you saying? Are you saying that it COULD have been my fault?! Is that what you’re trying to say!? I give you everything! I gave you life! How could you disrespect me like this!!!?” She grabs the whip on the back of the door and begins to hit me with it. I know things will be worse if I scream, and I feel awfully guilty for making her so upset. She says it isn’t good for her heart. Tonight must be especially hard on her, she’s screaming, and hitting me harder than I can remember. All of a sudden though she starts to hit my face, and I’m in blinding pain. I can’t move, I can’t see, I’m lost, I’m an animal. I screech at the top of my lungs, and I am lost.
I know that I’m not dead, but close to it. Mother and I both know it won’t be long. She lugs me out to the backyard, and she paws a hole in the earth. She scoots me into it, and she kisses the top of my head.
“Why didn’t you listen to me, little baby bird? Why didn’t you listen to Mother? After all…Mother knows best.”