At the kitchen sink, Patty listened as Becky sang along with her music. The rhythmic bass thumped from the floor above, saturating the ceiling and making the standing water tremble. As her week-frayed nerves rose to the point of shouting a request to turn the volume down, the music snapped off.
In the sudden lull, Becky descended the stairwell, her skipping barely making the treads creak. The banister, however, rattled when she reached the first floor, and swung around the post. The same staggered stride brought her toward the kitchen door.
Seizing the sponge, Patty held her breath.
Becky burst into the kitchen, and pirouetted across the tile. “What do you think, Mom?”
Her smile stretched, her braces glittering around indigo rubber bands. The peasant blouse, with a paisly carnary-yellow pattern bleeding to mustard, puffed out around the leather belt cinching her trim waist. Her mint green leggings accentuated her twiggy limbs, as did the clunky wedge sandals laced up her calves with Grecian inspiration.
Diverting her gaze to the dishes, Patty swiped at a tomato sauce smear. “You look great.”
Becky folded her arms, the wide sleeves draping to her knees. “What?”
“Nothing,” said Patty.
“No, you hesitated.” Becky glanced down at her outfit. “What’s wrong?”
“You don’t like it.”
Patty shut off the faucet, and grabbed a kitchen towel. She dried her hands with care.
“It’s…it’s not something I would wear.”
Becky tilted her head. “Why not?”
Flapping out the towel, Patty took her time folding as she formulated a tactful reply. “I don’t look as good in yellow as you do.”
“Oh.” Listing onto the counter, Becky cupped her chin in her hand and stared at the clock.
“When are they picking you up?”
“Seven,” she said, beginning to inspect her mauve nail polish.
“And the movie’s at?”
“So you’ll be home…?”
Becky rolled her eyes. “By ten. Geeze, Mom, I know the routine.”
“Doesn’t mean I’m not going to check.”
The doorbell rang.
“I got it!” Mark hollered from the living room, and stampeded toward the door.
“Mom,” said Becky, her eyes pleading.
“He’s just trying to get on your nerves.” With a shove Patty started them out the kitchen, and down the hallway.
Mark unbolted the front door, and yanked.
A sea of primary and pastel colors swirled before Patty’s eyes as giggling rippled across the threshold.
“Look, the circus is here again,” said Mark.
Patty grimaced at Becky’s shriek. Mark meanwhile spun, and ducked beneath Becky’s swipe as deftly as one of his video game characters. Dashing back to the living room, he cackled.
“Don’t mind him, girls,” said Patty. She supressed her own chuckle as she noted the same style of wardrobe decking the trio of girls on her stoop.
“It’s okay, Mrs. Baker,” said Carrie, absently straightening her blonde locks.
“Bye,” said Becky, trapising out the door.
The quartet spun as one, ponytails and curls bobbing. Spare fabric billowed like albotross wings during their dash through a dusky evening, toward the waiting family-van and it’s headlights illuminating the curb.
“You girls have fun,” said Patty.
Heedless, Becky twirled before her friends.
“Darren Phillips is going to love it,” said Violet.
Becky froze, eyes wide even while her smile glittered and her cheeks rivaled roses. “Do you really think so?”
“Of course,” said the trio.
Catching her arms and they raced on, tittering about their outfits and tossing in a few other boys names along the way. As they hopped into the van, the interior light radiated upon their bright colors before the bulb dwindled.
Patty waited for Carrie’s mom to wave, and flash her headlights in farewell. Standing in the doorway, she watched the van drive off, and vanish around the corner.
“Darren Phillips,” she whispered.
His freckled face and gangly form appeared in her mind’s eye as he traipsed down the school’s basketball court in the final quarter before Becky’s last game. She winced, recalling a similar young man, in more era appropriate snug shorts and clinging tee, catching her eye decades earlier.
Sighing, Patty shut the door against the night and the memory.
The soundtrack to Mark’s game punctuated the sudden quiet with blips and swooshes. Returning to the kitchen, Patty started the kettle heating and fetched her book from the counter. Finding her reading spot, she plucked out the bookmark and dove into the paragraphs, forcing her gaze on the words instead of watching the clock tick toward ten and the simmering concerns stewing in her belly.