The girl was angry. Angry, but unsure of the true reason why. She was sitting in her mother’s black Lexus, watching the men and women in knee-length coats and flowing scarves walk in and out of the grocery store entrance. These men and women, all bundled up, annoyed her. They all seemed so determined, so happy, so focused. They had braved the negative temperatures for simple pleasures. The young couple, arms interlocked and two cars to the left, carried a bottle of wine between them. Perhaps to toast to the snow day off of work. Maybe they would wrap under blankets and watch a romantic movie together, glasses refilling until the bottle was empty.
Directly in front of her car were two middle-aged women. One appeared older than the other, but their facial structures were similar–pointed eyebrows, high foreheads–sisters. They carried several bags each; whole wheat bread and muffin mix peeked out of the top of one bag. Maybe for a birthday, or perhaps for breakfast the following morning. Maybe one sister was visiting and they planned ahead in order to keep from going out in the cold the next day.
The girl sighed and turned away from the window. There were so many comings and goings on this bitter cold afternoon; it was surprising. She herself was waiting for her mother. Her mother who had promised to only take a minute, but had already been gone thirty. The girl lay her forehead on the steering wheel. It was soft against her cheek, covered with a black velvet material. In her own car, the wheel was cold and bare. Instead of the stiff and strong of her own vehicle, her mother’s wheel was youthful, almost childish.
The girl sighed again. It was almost as if the two of them had switched roles. Ever since the girl’s father died, she had been organizing, planning, answering phone calls, managing bills. Her mother, on the other hand, had turned to baking—pies with caramel apple filling, French bread with a cheesy center, three-layer cakes. These items were often ridiculous, and served no purpose than to be eaten by the mother herself. The girl wondered why she did it. It was highly immature, like most things about her mother.
She looked up into the rearview mirror and saw her mother approaching; her yellow hat and pink mittens in contrast to her royal blue winter coat. The mother motioned to the girl to open the trunk, and the girl pressed the automatic button, allowing the chilling winter air seep into the Lexus. Her mother, face flushed, began babbling about coupons and great deals on gluten-free baking goods. Her next project was a batch of low-fat brownie-cookies. The mother wanted to make the most chocolate she could in one dessert. The girl watched her mother put the last bag into the trunk and scamper up to the passenger door. The girl pressed the trunk button again and shivered at the air that was now trapped in the car with them. The mother slid into the seat and turned the heating dial up.
“So,” she began, turning toward the girl, “I was thinking we could make those brownie-cookies together, you know, since you don’t have work today.”
The girl reached over and turned the dial lower. The force of heat was too much. She thought about her plans for the day: organizing the rest of her mother’s bank statements, finishing a few loads of laundry, maybe taking a bubble bath later.
“I…” she hesitated, turning to her mother, “I have plans.”
Her mother’s face fell. She looked down and picked at her pinky nail.
The girl studied her mother’s features. She was just shy of sixty, but looked in her early forties. She only had wrinkles when she frowned, like this. The girl turned away and guided the car out of the parking space, one hand on the wheel and the other on the gear shift. She stared straight ahead.
Her mother let out a small sniffle. The girl sighed again, pictured her mother’s tiny hands clenched in her lap, and that puppy-dog way her eyes and nose scrunched up. Maybe sweets on a snow day wouldn’t be so bad.
She turned to her mother. “Maybe I can rearrange my schedule.”
Her mothers face lit up like a child’s, like that picture of the girl from when she was eight–the picture on the mantle above the fireplace. The girl had just gotten off one of the best roller coasters at the theme park a few towns over. Cotton candy had stained her teeth blue. It was that youthful innocence, happiness in the little things–like sweets.
The girl turned out of the parking lot and onto the main road. She thought of the men and women at the grocery store, the couple with the wine and hours to spend just being in love. She thought of the sisters, making muffins and sharing stories. Then she thought of her mother, mixing chocolate chips into brownie batter alone.
The car slowed to a stop at the light and the girl reached for her mother’s hand. It was bony, but soft. Holding that hand made her feel a little less bitter. Yes, maybe she could go for a sugary-sweet brownie-cookie…or two.