by P. A. Farrell
A piercing morning sun promised no relief but only more heat as the carefully tanned woman stood waiting with the little girl in her overly heavy dress and orthopedic shoes. The woman was sporting faux haute couture in crisp white shorts and a mind-blowing bright blue halter, her blonde hair carefully arranged in a silky ponytail. Delicate leather sandals with a troublesome strap were a bit loose, but she loved the look.
Sunglasses, not Bentley Platinum but knockoffs, shielded her eyes from the sun’s glare. The little girl, refusing to hold the woman’s hand, squinted in the painful light and squirmed, scraping the bottom of her brace on the cement. No attention was paid to her discomfort.
The doorman’s heel crunched on tiny pebbles as he twisted to turn away, seeming not to notice the activity at the curb. He had done his duty. Now it was up to the new mother.
A bus would arrive within minutes, but to the woman at the curb it seemed an eternity. Looking down at the little girl, she flashed her carefully practiced non-Duchenne smile which had always so usefully connoted her feigned joy in the past. Mirrors had helped a lot. The smile was the key to her most recent success.
A short yellow bus slid up to the curb. The bus stopped, a large stop sign flipped out and two young women jumped to the sidewalk. The bus was unmarked, but the yellow t-shirts the women wore had an emblem of a day camp.
Now the yellow-shirted women greeted the woman and the child and with great enthusiasm, began bending over and smiling, clapping their hands in unison in an excessive display of joy; frantic rather than heartfelt. The little girl looked at the three of them and kept her hands at her sides.
The blue-halter garbed woman became more animated as the little girl jumped up and down with effort in a show of dissatisfaction, her face distorted and now dappled with tears.
“No, no, no! I don’t want to go!” The pleading would gain her nothing. Her fate was sealed. The fees were paid, she was registered, and she’d get on the bus eventually. The woman had no doubt of it.
“Florence, honey, it’s going to be fun. You’ll meet other children who will play with you, and you’ll get to make friends. You want friends, don’t you?”
Forcing herself not to grit her teeth, the woman was wondering if she might order the camp workers to lift the little girl up into the bus. No, her husband wouldn’t like that. It’s too soon to upset him.
Concerned that she would be late for her Pilates class, the woman initiated a vigorous few minute of coaxing in an effort to thaw the reluctance. Photos, photos are what were needed to memorialize the special occasion, and the woman began taking them with her phone.
One, two, ten photos taken next to the bus, several with the young women, and the little girl leaning against the bus. Excessive waving of goodbyes began now as the girl mounted the bus stairs with some assistance.
The stop sign retracts. The woman’s frantic waving continues as the bus wends its way from the curb. More smiles and waving from the curb. The bus enters traffic and slides slowly away, disappearing like a yellow bug in the crush of morning traffic.
The woman begins crossing the street, fingers her phone and begins talking as she views herself in the video display. Her hair, eyebrows and make-up all look good to her.
The traffic light turns red. She never looks up, as is her usual carefree way of crossing streets busy or otherwise.
Traffic was supposed to stop for her, wasn’t it? Talking on her phone, she had begun to cross the next corner as the traffic light turned red. The leather sandal strap slips. She slows down to wiggle her foot.
“The doorman had to help me,” she fairly moans, “because she didn’t want to leave the building, and she was grabbing on to the door and everything she could find. Why, God, oh God, why me? Oh, God, I’m so sick of her. Thank God she got on the bus!” The pesky sandal strap slips again but a quick hop will resecure it.
“You have no idea what I had to do with that kid. It was his week with her. He’s at work so I had to take her to the bus today. Can you beat that? Oh, my God, I …”
Hanging in mid-air, the sentence would never be completed as a screech of tire on asphalt ripped the muggy morning air. Blue collided with blue.
“Johanna? Johanna?” The voice fades as the phone begins an acrobatic swan dive in the air before it crashes to the roadway, shattering as it did.
The faux Bentley glasses follow the phone in short order.
Yes, the traffic had stopped for her.
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