At midnight, Jill returns to the kitchen for a cup of chamomile tea. She adds hot water and honey and takes the mug upstairs to the bathroom. There she finds the bottle of melatonin pills, which help her sleep when her mind races, and takes two.
The bathroom has two doors: one opens to Jill’s bedroom, the other to Christina’s. She opens Christina’s door and turns on the light. The bare white walls surprise her again, though she knows they shouldn’t. On the wall opposite the bathroom door, a bit of tape still holds a torn corner of Christina’s Bob Marley poster. Jill peels it off, then folds it into a tiny square and presses it between her fingers.
Christina’s room is small. When they first saw this apartment, Christina’s eyes dampened at the sight of it. They both knew that this was the only place Jill could afford on her small salary and child support.
“It’ll be okay, Mom,” Christina said. “I can get rid of some stuff.”
“No,” said Jill. “We’ll keep all your stuff together.”
Christina pretended to rub sleep from her eyes. “How?”
“We’ll make it work,” Jill said. “I promise.”
Jill signed the lease. She bought special shelving for the tiny closet, so Christina was able to fold and stack her clothes. Blue plastic bins held all her knick-knacks neatly under the bed. A corkboard on the wall featured photos and inspirational quotes. Everything fit. Christina’s tin owls and colorful scarves made the room feel familiar and comforting. It was home. Christina’s home.
Jill lay flat on the floor of Christina’s empty room. She couldn’t recall ever telling her parents to fuck off, literally or figuratively. There was one time when she was sixteen and her parents refused to let her go “for a ride” with a handsome college freshman with a Ford Mustang. Jill screamed at them about the unfairness of it all. She got good grades and never caused trouble, so why deny her this bit of fun? As she lay on the floor of Christina’s room, she wondered what would have happened with that boy. Surely he would have touched her. She wasn’t naïve; she’d wanted him to. Who knows where that relationship could have gone? Perhaps if she married him instead of Rick, she wouldn’t feel so miserable now.
Last December, Christina asked to go to a holiday party some friends were hosting.
“How are you getting there?” Jill had asked.
“Todd’s picking me up.”
“Who is Todd?”
“Who is Jaycee?”
“The girl hosting the party.”
“You’ve never mentioned Jaycee.”
“She goes to Deering.”
“Then how do you know her?”
Christina shrugged. “Ashley knows her.”
“Will her parents be there?”
Christina’s eyes darted to the left. “Uh, yeah,” she said.
“I want their phone number.”
“I want to know if parents will be there.”
“I told you they will be.”
“I want to confirm that.”
“You need to just trust me.”
“I need to check,” said Jill. “Why don’t you ask Ashley to ask Jaycee if I can call her parents?”
Christina let out a long sigh.
“And I’ll want to meet this Todd guy before you get in the car with him,” Jill added.
Christina said, “Fuck it,” and walked away.
“Watch your language,” Jill shouted after her.