“I could be prosecuted for imitating a seamstress.” Kim held up a slanted swimming suit skirt with an unfortunate black zigzag running down one side and blew a strand of hair out of her eyes.
Her mother, Janice, swept a spool of thread and needle into a desk drawer. “Megan is obsessed with swimming, not the suit. She won’t care if —”
“You’re making my point.” Kim rolled the suit into a ball and tossed it on a dusty wooden dresser. “She should care. I should care.” She winced. “The world will care.”
Janice strolled over and plucked the outfit off the dresser and shook it out. She eyed it critically. “Good thing you never became a surgeon.” With a shrug, she let it dangle in one hand. “I’ll buy her a new one. After all, she tore it while playing with the dog at my house.”
Kim snatched the suit back and hugged it to her chest. “No. I can’t afford to buy another suit, and you can’t afford to indulge her. She wasn’t supposed to be wearing it in the woods, much less racing with your volatile terrier. This might teach her a lesson about actions and consequences.”
Janice pursed her lips and strode from the room, talking over her shoulder. “You’re just being stubborn. There’s no reason in the world the child should wear a ragged outfit when I can afford to buy another without the least discomfort. I’d be happy to.”
Trailing after her mother, Kim stepped into the kitchen, swept around the island, and dashed to the refrigerator. “You want some ice tea?”
Janice glanced from the dishes in the sink to a dried ketchup splotch on the floor. “You really need to get someone who can help you clean up around here.”
Yanking the refrigerator door open, Kim grimaced. “Even if I could, I wouldn’t. Dave and I live simply. The kids study and play. Dave works and does his thing —” Her gaze flashed to the window and the half-finished swing set in the backward, over to the garage overflowing with bicycle parts. She swung the ice tea container to the table and slid it to the center.
Janice rose and daintily lifted two glasses off the drying rack. “You sell anything lately?”
Hefting a large ceramic cookie jar shaped like a gorilla to the table, Kim shrugged. “A portrait last week.” Her eyes brightened. “But one guy wrote up a really nice editorial about my work in the paper.” Setting the gorilla’s head aside, Kim shoved the jar next to the pitcher of ice tea.
The grandfather clock in the living room chimed three times. Kim glanced at the stovetop. A large metal pot with crusted tomato smudges on the side sat next to a cooling loaf of homemade wheat bread.
Janice followed her daughter’s gaze. “Chili? Again?”
Kim poured two glasses of tea and handed one to her mother. “Okay. I don’t sell much. Yet. I probably don’t even cover the cost of my paints, but we’re living within our means, and Dave and I believe in —”
“’Living honestly and following your passion,’ Yes. I’ve heard it before.” Janice shoved her glass under the ice dispenser. It spat a few splinters of ice and stopped.
Kim rubbed the back of her sweaty neck. “We’re going to get that fixed in October.” She pointed to a bulletin board with a series of charts, graphs, and lists. “We have it all planned out. We’re getting the washer repaired at the end of the week because I’m not Amish enough to survive otherwise. We’ll get new tires for the car in September and deal with the icemaker in October.”
Janice sipped her tea. “You do realize that you won’t need ice in October.”
A large yellow bus squeaked to a halt on the street in front of the house.
Kim plopped a stack of paper napkins on the table and arrayed metal cups with handles around the pitcher of tea. She grabbed a gallon of milk out of the fridge and set it by the pitcher.
Four children pounded into the room, each one talking and no one listening.
Kim cracked a grin. Janice smiled.
The kids stopped, glanced from Kim to Janice, shut their mouths, opened their mouths, and ran to their grandmother. They chatted away as Janice patted their heads and pretended she could understand what they were saying.
Kim strolled down the dark driveway with her mother at her side. Muted sounds of a battle between daddy-monster and warrior-kids erupted in screams and occasional yelps from the house.
Janice pulled out her key and pressed the unlock button.
The car flashed its lights.
Kim strolled around to the driver’s side, opened the door, and stepped aside. “Thanks for coming, Mom. It’s always fun to have you visit.”
Janice leaned over the car door and caressed daughter’s face. “You’re a remarkable young woman, Kim.” Her eyes glimmered. “You’ve done better than I did.”
Kim’s jaw tightened. She swallowed. “It wasn’t your fault. Dad and —”
Janice waved her comment away. “It hardly matters now.” She rested her arms on the car door. “I always fixed everything. Tried to make life easy. I wanted the best for you too.”
Kim blinked back tears. “Comfort was never my God.”
Janice smirked. “No, you and Dave have chosen a less comfortable road.” She shrugged. “But I respect your choice.”
“Really? Or are you just trying to make me feel better?”
Janice ducked into the car and scooted into her seat. She glanced up as Kim came near. “I believe in you.” She smiled. “To prove it, I won’t buy Megan a new swimsuit. I’ll leave it to you.”
Kim grinned. “Good. I was planning on getting her one for Christmas.”
Janice laughed. “I don’t doubt it.” She closed the door, started the engine, backed out of the driveway, and sped away.
Kim stood on the sidewalk and peered into the dark night. Children’s laughter mixed with a man’s gruff monster voice brought a smile to her lips.
Copyright 2018 Ann K. Frailey