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Laura This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

When we walk into her kitchen, Laura is watching through open eyes, eyes she probably pries open with every bit of strength she has left. She is using every ounce of energy that she didn’t waste sweeping the pool for stray bugs to examine the kitchen counters. They are white, and I secretly curse her mother for picking the color. Doesn’t she know what this does to her daughter, the one she trained with her own actions to cower when everything is not perfect? Her eyes are betraying her, but I act like I don’t notice. I say that we should go to her room, maybe look through some old photos and reminisce, but she is pulling a white paper napkin from the roll and being sure to absorb any wandering water droplets that are around the faucet. The stainless steel rim of the sink must be spotless or else she will be in plenty of trouble later. Later, when I am gone and it is all her fault.

I pull against the knit cardigan she is wearing, telling her to come on. She tucks the towel into an under-the-counter waste bin, neatly folding it before she hides the imperfection. I kind of love that the floors in her house are always so slippery and clean, but cringe because I know she has to vacuum them twice a day. We are walking toward the door that will open to her room when her eyes are drawn to the ornate rug at the end of the hall. Laura is breathing more heavily and pointing toward the floor, saying,

“Katie! Look what they’ve done. God, I’m so dead.” and she rushes across the house to pull several spray bottles from the cupboard, carpet cleaner, some Mr. Clean product, a red fabric cloth. A crumb of chocolate cupcake has been pushed into the rug, milled between its fibers. This small dot of brown would be insignificant to most people, but Laura sees it almost automatically. I wonder if she has memorized the patterns and tendencies of the rug, if she checks it every single time she passes by. I get to my knees and let the course texture of the carpet cut into my legs. I spray the cleaner I feel will be the most gentle and watch her rub the cloth in efforts of removing the stain. She doesn’t know for sure if it will come out, and the stress that is circuiting inside of her head is nearly touchable in the air. I am nervous for her and myself, or being caught in the act even though it was some other girl that dropped the piece. It was just some other girl that doesn’t know about what she did.

Laura thinks that the stain is gone, and tells me so. A breath a relief passes between us, but she cannot completely relax. I know she never does. The bottles are rushed back to their place before anyone sees us and we go into her room. The dark navy carpet inside of the bedroom is a sort of blessing I believe, because I’m sure that dirt falls into the strands and goes unnoticed. We can pretend for a little while that she doesn’t sometimes walk to the closet at 4am in order to cleanse the floor and be sure nothing is hiding within it; there is no need. I sit down against the foot of the bed because the sheets are too straight and fold my legs beneath me. Laura leaves for a moment to retrieve the photo albums and I allow myself to look.

Drake told me once that the clean wasn’t real, that really, the shelves were coated in dust because the dirt looked cleaner in uniform. Maybe it wasn’t about the clean but more of a tic. He told me that when they were together they could only sit in the floor inside of her room and she refused to tell him why they could not sit on the bed. Laura said that her mother forbade it and he just sat and never argued. I look at the petal pink book shelves that are nailed into the wall and I am so tempted to run a finger along their surface and find out if Drake was right. I imagine Laura trying so hard, the way she has learned not to for me, to hide those things which she has to do. I wonder if she would tell him she needed to use the bathroom in order to rearrange picture frames on the dining room coffee table. One had fallen over, and so the entire collection had to be dusted and reordered to make it right again. I think that was the only piece of furniture her mother and she both religiously monitored. I start to think that he was right about the others being left to collect dust. The blankets of dust are less noticeable than a wipe mark and less upkeep than dusting every few hours.

When Laura returns with the pictures, I make sure not to ask if she has eaten since lunch. I am hungry as well, but wouldn’t think about asking if I could bring a bag of potato chips to her room. We ate outside earlier around the pool, and Allison sprinkled bread roll crumbs into the water. I think Laura can control herself around groups of people, though. She did not say a word as they did it, nor did she complain about ritualistically cleaning the pool when they left. I don’t think it was possible for her to make it clean enough, and if I had not reminded her of my presence, she may have gone on to scrub the soft lined sides with a brush.




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monochromatic said...
Apr. 5, 2013 at 5:57 pm:
aww - I wonder what kind of house she'll have later when she's living on her own.
 
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-LeftBehindBroken- said...
Jul. 12, 2012 at 7:33 pm:
This is sooo moving.. And well written. Cuddos to you. I could have read more of this (and loved it!!!!)
 
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