Bad Mommy Page 2

I considered getting out of the car, I could pretend to be taking a walk, maybe pull up outside the driveway and ask him for directions somewhere. No, I couldn’t risk being seen. He held a briefcase in his hand, swinging it back and forth as he walked. Was he whistling? Happiness in his shoulders, happiness on his lips, happiness in his step. None of what he’s doing is real. I wanted to reach out and warn him that it’d all be taken from him one day. It’s just the way of things.

When he reached the porch, a light flickered on and I leaned forward in my seat. His hair was dark! Greys were probably starting to thread through his temples, but from here all I could see was the dark helmet of hair under the glowing yellow porch light.

I sat back, breathless. I was right. I pressed my fingertips against my eyes and started crying. Wet, sorrowful tears leaked down my face and dripped onto my sweater. I was crying for what I lost, for what I’d never get to experience. I slid my fingers under my eyes to clear out the tears and watched as the door opened. The woman threw her arms around his neck. They looked like the perfect family, like happiness came easily to them in their grey house. I could already tell she didn’t deserve it.

Bad Mommy.

“I’m not obsessed with them per se.”


“No.” Why did my voice sound like that? I touched my throat, made a little eh-eh sound before I continued. “I’m interested in them, sure. I feel … connected. But, I’m not crazy.” Why was I always assuring people that I wasn’t crazy? Was it because they were all so normal, so boring?

“Fig.” My therapist sat forward in her chair, light glinting off of her red-rimmed glasses.

I looked down at her shoes instead, also red. She was like a little matchy-matchy dolly. It’s like no one cared to have a little personality. I tapped my finger on my rose gold watch then reached up to finger the silver hoops in my ears. Maybe she’d notice and feel inspired. That’s what life was all about. Making others want to be you.

“You followed the mother and daughter home from the park, correct?”

She was twisting my words, trying to make me sound crazy. That was the danger of seeing a therapist.

“I drove toward my neighborhood,” I said. “After the park. They live really close.”

I thought the matter would be settled, but her eyes were drilling into me.

“So you didn’t follow them to their house and sit outside for hours in order to see the little girl’s father?”

“I did park,” I said. “I already told you that. I was curious.”

She sat back and wrote something on her notepad. I craned my neck, but she was a professional at hiding things. Maybe she was a psychopath. Writing things down that I couldn’t see was a power play, yes?

“And how often have you done that since the first time?”

I was suddenly so thirsty my tongue was sticking to the roof of my mouth. I looked around the room for water. Warm air blasted through the vents in the ceiling. I slipped out of the sweater I’d just bought and licked my lips.

“A few times,” I said, casually. “Do you have any water?”

She pointed to a little fridge in the corner of the room and I stood up and walked over. Mini bottles, row after row of them. I grabbed one from the back so it would be the coldest and returned to my seat. I busied myself opening the bottle and drinking greedily to stretch the time. Any moment she would announce that our session was over, and I could front her next question for the following week. But she didn’t end our session, and I started to sweat.

“Why do you think you feel connected to this particular mother and daughter?”

That one took me off guard. I relaxed, running my thumbnail lightly across my wrist as I thought.

“I don’t know. I’ve never thought about it before. Maybe because the little girl is the same age as my daughter would have been.”

She nodded thoughtfully, and I snuggled down in the cushions.

“And maybe because the woman-”

“You mean her mother?”

I shot her a dirty look. “The woman,” I emphasized again, “doesn’t look like the other mothers. She is the anti-mother.”

“Does that upset you or appeal to you?”

“I don’t know,” I said, for the second time. “Maybe both.”

“Tell me about her—the mother.” She settled back in her chair, and I started picking at the skin around my thumbnail.

“She wears things that make the other mothers look, you know? Leather pants, a Nirvana T-shirt underneath a blazer, more bracelets than I’ve ever seen anyone else pile onto their wrist. This one time, she wore a black fedora and a grey shirt you could see right through, the only thing between the rest of the world and her nipples was her hair.”

“And how do the other mothers on the playground respond to her?” she asked. “Have you noticed?”

I had, that’s what had caused me to notice her in the first place. I watched them watch her, and I was hooked.

“She doesn’t care to talk to the other mothers. You can tell they don’t like her because of that. She snubbed them before they had the chance to snub her. Brilliant, if you ask me. They’re pack dogs and they shoot her looks that range between inquisitive and outright annoyance.”

“Do you like that about her?”

I thought about that.

“Yeah, I guess I like that she doesn’t care. I’ve always wanted to not care.”

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