Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Pop Tart

Pressing down the lever to the toaster, waiting for the smell of sugar and warm jam to fill the room with morning sweetness, she frowned. Pop-tarts were the only real sweetness she ever found in this kitchen lately, in the morning. In the afternoon and evening, too, most days. Sweetness here was forced or Splenda fake.

Used to be, steaming pots of tea scented the air. Measuring cups of flour and milk, eggs and a dash of cinnamon, all beaten together, puffed on the griddle. But that was then and this was now. That was the way Saturdays used to be, before she had to move in with Clueless Aunt Shari and all those annoying stray cats she fed, before Mummy went away and everything fell apart. It felt like so long ago already and so forever coming up, even though she knew, KNEW, it was only a few months, maybe a year or two, and in the meantime, they had internet and webcam sometimes, snail mail or phone calls now and then, so they'd manage, they would, her and Clueless Aunt Shari, they would, until Mummy came back and everything would be okay and they could live together again.

So for now, she had an aunt who bought her every damned microwavable, single serving, convenience food they advertised on TV instead of cooking, even something simple like mac and cheese in a box or canned soup, or even just plain asking, ‘What do you want? What do you like? Are you hungry-hungry or would you rather just have cinnamon toast?'

Her aunt knew how to cook, she just didn't care to do it. They'd eaten at Shari's lots of times, dinners and lunches and cupcakes and fancy colored drinks in glasses with umbrellas and olives for the grown-ups and flourescent cherries for her. Only thing, each of those were special occasions or holidays or sorta specials anyway, not everyday. Everyday was work and hurry and homework and school and feed the cats and no time to do the laundry, ‘I'll just pick you up another shirt on the way home', and pages to turn and trying not to be fussy but it was so hard and she missed Mummy so bad.

"I miss her, too."

Well, she had snaps because she was just a kid and a kid missing her Mummy got snaps over a lady missing her sister.

The toaster popped and she put the charred around the edge pastries on a plate, poured a glass of water, no milk again, no juice either, and sat down, flicking on the TV. Mummy played CDs in the morning, ‘nothing good on, nothing we need to see this a.m. Let's just listen to some... some... How about this, it's zydeco/Japanese/French/creole? Yeah, that's good. If we can't understand whatever it is they're singing, we can really concentrate on the music, right, honey? Hey, is that a zither/calliope/hurdy-gurdy/shawm? How often you hear one of those, hon?'

Another repeat of some stupid, perfect, packaged life, kids show where everyone had a nice haircut and house and real dinners and money for whatever they wanted and it all ended in a happy free-for-all in twenty-two minutes or so. She clicked the power button on the remote. If it was a weekday, she could go to school. Today, she'd have to be cheerful, anything Aunt Shari suggested, she'd say, ‘Sounds good there, Aunt Shari. Let's do it!' even if she'd rather have needles in her eyes.

Shari walked in, grabbed a mug from the cupboard and leaned against the counter. "Hey, honey, you up so early? It's only 8:15, what are you doing up? You eat? Good." She glanced down at her plate, surprised to see that both Pop-Tarts were gone. She'd eaten them both? When had that happened?

Shari scooped out coffee and poured water through the coffee maker. "I am so glad I don't have to perk coffee. I remember when your Momma and I were maybe your age, perking coffee for your grandparents. It sounded great, smelled great, but drinking it, well, that was something else again, always a surprise: strong, weak, grounds all over the place." Shari patted the stainless steel appliance. "This thing, same taste every single time. It's a miracle."

She tensed up, here it comes.

"So, babycakes, what you want to do today? We got the whole weekend ahead of us, lots of time for fun and yeah, we got some chores, gotta get some of that special diet cat chow, but we'll have time to catch a movie or go to the library or do puzzzles or or or"

Or anything at all except what she really wanted.

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