She clicked the garage door opener more patiently, but certainly with greater pressure, before it wished to engage. The door rattled and screamed, metal against metal, metal against wood, the damaged panels shivering with fear. It took several tries but it eventually closed. Daisy, cursing and grunting, may have intimidated it into submission, but hanging from it by her fingertips certainly helped. It was a good thing her children couldn’t hear her vulgarity, though it would have been hard not to hear.
Daisy was out of breath and sweating. She would stink by the time she arrived at work and would have to find the time to freshen up before her presentation. She was certainly not unlocking the door to retrieve her deodorant and excite the dog, who’d surely found another pillow to chew on by now. It would make them even later. The two oldest would never make it to school before the tardy bell.
“Not a word from any of you.” She sounded much too calm. She traded her glasses for sunglasses from the visor, though the low cloud cover proclaimed rain and possibly sleet. “Not one word. The entire way. To school.” She brushed the stray curls from her temples and shifted into reverse.
It was the quietest her children had ever been, even when they were little and waited for Santa at Christmas, trying to stay awake all night. Robbie, the oldest, was sitting behind Daisy. He didn’t want to sit beside her, even though the honor of sitting up front was bestowed upon the eldest. Daisy was still irate over the smoking incident, imparted by protracted, unblinking glances. “How can you smell it three hours after my first cigarette ever—outdoors?” It was a grave lapse in his judgment. But he knew for certain now that mothers could smell a lie—like bears smell fear. He hadn’t tried lying to her since he was seven and was a Sophomore now; the old lesson was revived.
Clara, in the front seat, leaning forward unnaturally, hadn’t closed her mouth yet. Her braces made her salivate profusely and there was a tiny puddle building between lower lip and teeth. It might have glistened if it was a sunny day. Daisy thought it was funny but knew it was not the time to break into laughter: she was upset – no, she was totally pissed. When a parent stepped into a particular stance, there was no way to retreat. It would reveal weakness, or something more profound she couldn’t explain. It was simply a rule of parenthood – even if the incorrect position was chosen, one was locked in.
The humor dissipated at the thought that Clara would certainly blab the incident all over school. That was her job as the middle school student—the middle child. Clara kept stealing glances at her stiff mother. Daisy could see it past the thick frames as she scanned for cross traffic. She knew her cheeks were flushed, the neck above her scarf peppered crimson and yellow much like the red delicious apple in Clara’s lunch box—who wasn’t cool enough to give up her lunch box yet, though it could not be adorned with any logos or stickers, just pins of peace signs and “have a day.” There was so much to worry about with Clara’s inflating chest and omniscient attitude that Daisy had to distract herself.
Micah. She would be the most traumatized by the morning’s event. The second grader was the unexpected child; there’s already trauma in that. She was lovely, full of smiles and ceaseless energy, but a completely unsure wreck inside. How would Daisy ever grow Micah’s confidence? During the couple of hours after school while she traded between mop and chopping block? While she oversaw three children with homework? Through the pressures of getting a raise and a marriage that was nearly twenty years old?