“It’s good to keep tabs on yourself,” she said. “Know how you work.”
“So, why do I follow them?” I asked in a moment of transparency.
“Our time is up. I’ll see you next week, Fig.” She smiled.
It was late that night when I drove to Bad Mommy’s house and parked a block away. I’d thought about not coming, but I wasn’t going to let myself be bullied by some shrink. It was chilly outside. I fished my hoodie from the backseat and pulled it over my head, tucking my hair carefully into the hood. It wasn’t likely I’d get caught, but this sort of blonde hair attracted attention. This part of town was comprised of young families who were respectively in bed by nine thirty, but you could never be too careful. I decided my cover would be a late night jog. Harmless enough. If anyone were to peep out of their window, they’d see a woman in sweats trying to be her best self. I reached down to check the laces on my new trainers. I’d bought them online just for this occasion. I’d seen Bad Mommy wearing them to the park, bright white with leopard accents. I’d wanted them immediately. I pictured us running into each other at the market or the gas station as we stood with our hands on the pump, and her saying, “Oh, I have those trainers too! Don’t you just love them?” I’d learned this technique from my mother who used it on men after she left my father. You pretend to like what they like so you have something in common. Perhaps you really start to like it—then it’s a win/win.
It was just a few feet away now.
I glanced furtively around the little street with its hand-painted mailboxes and lush flowerbeds. Not a soul in sight. Most of the windows in the houses were already dark. I jogged on the spot for a few seconds then I grabbed the door to the box and yanked it open. Inside were three pieces of mail and on top of them—a small, brown box. I took all of it, tucking it into the giant pockets of my hoodie while I glanced around. The trainers were pinching my toes, and all I wanted to do was curl up on my couch with Bad Mommy’s mail and a cup of tea. Maybe I’d even have shortbread with my tea, the ones in the plaid tin with the little Scottie dog.
The first thing I did when I walked inside my house was get naked. Pants were for losers. Also, they were biting into my waist, making my skin pool over the top—a very bad feeling. I carried Bad Mommy’s mail to the dinette, setting it down without looking at it. Patience, I told myself. All great things took patience. I made tea, being careful to pour the milk in at exactly the right time. Grabbing the tin of shortbread, I carried my cup over to the dinette—an old wooden thing I’d restored and painted myself—and slid into one of the yellow chairs. I placed each envelope face down, putting the package last. Deep breath, okay … I turned the first one over. Her name was Jolene Avery.
“Jolene Avery,” I said out loud. And then as to not be swooned by her pretty name, I said, “Bad Mommy.”
I used my nail to slide open the envelope and pulled out the single sheet of white paper inside. A doctor’s bill, how boring. I scanned the words. She had blood work done two weeks ago. I looked through the medical jargon for more details but that’s all it said. Lab. For what? A pregnancy? A standard procedure? I was no stranger to medical issues. In the last year, I’d been hospitalized twice when my blood pressure spiked, and there were all the tests they’d had to do when they found spots on my brain. I’d blamed George and those bad things he did to me. I was perfectly healthy until I found out what a bastard he was.
I set the bill aside and turned the next one over. This was addressed to her husband, Darius Avery. It was an insurance quote, junk mail. Darius and Jolene Avery. I bit into my cookie. The third letter was a birthday invitation. Red and yellow balloons floated all over the card. You’re Invited! it said in bubble letters.
Giana’s third birthday party!
Where: Queen Anne Park
RSVP Tiana’s cell
I wondered what type of woman wrote sharp on her daughter’s birthday invitations. Someone with OCD is who. The type of woman who peeked out of her window at night to make sure the neighbors weren’t setting out their trash can too close to her lawn. Petty, pathetic people. Weren’t parents of small children known for always being late anyway? It was sort of demoralizing to remind them of their failures on a birthday invitation.
I set little Giana’s invitation down and pulled the package toward me. What could be inside a box that small? The writing on the paper was cramped. Sharp, scratchy letters in blue ink. It was addressed to Jolene Wyatt—must be her maiden name.
I used scissors to slice the tape, humming softly to myself. Once it was open, I tilted it to the side and let the contents slide out. A blue velvet box rolled into my palm—the kind of trinket box people put jewelry in. There was an invoice folded on top; I set it aside and cracked open the lid. Right away I felt disappointed. Secured by a red thread, was a tiny azure bead. I plucked it out and held it up to the light. Nothing remarkable—or as my mother would say—nothing worth writing home about. Maybe Bad Mommy was one of those crafty people who made bracelets and such. A jewelry business on Etsy. I made a mental note to search for her later. Having a child wasn’t good enough for her, she needed extra activities to make her feel like her old bar hopping, whore, necklace-crafting self. I put the bead back in the box and shoved everything into a drawer, suddenly feeling a migraine coming on. I wouldn’t think about that anymore, how ungrateful people were. It was making me feel ill. She didn’t deserve that little girl. I settled on the couch with a cool washcloth over my eyes. And that’s where I fell asleep.