Nayelli wants to take a shower. She needs one, actually. It’s been two days.
Two days since she’s had a sanity break—free from kid noises, hands pulling at her clothes, and everyone wanting to be held. Nayelli needs self-time, just warm water and steam and blank walls and her body standing alone in the center.
Showers remind Nayelli of cocoons. Her own shower is the small stand-up kind made out of white acrylic. Nothing special. A purplish curtain hangs from these cute metal hooks Nayelli just bought at Target—each hook has a different shell mounted on the front.
Nayelli’s shower curtain is opaque so not much light filters into the shower, even if the bathroom light is on, which is how she likes it. More of a cocoon feel. Sometimes she imagines herself a caterpillar entering, transforming within, and then emerging from her chrysalis as a new thing. Showers are like magic.
That is what she needs today. Magic.
But already she hears a car in the driveway and knows it will be Summer dragging along little sick Ava who can’t go to daycare today. Apparently Ava’s hot-shot mommy is too important to miss even one day of work to take care of her baby girl.
“Hey, Nayelli!” Summer doesn’t bother knocking.
Nayelli is in the kitchen smearing peanut butter on the piece of bread she just pulled out of a plastic bag with “Milk and Honey” printed on the outside. The bread is plain white, but disguised as something good for you. It comes in a short loaf that’s more expensive than the long ones and claims not to contain high fructose corn syrup. Still, it tastes damn good.
“In here,” says Nayelli, who already is planning not to offer any bread to Summer.
Summer’s high heels click on the fake wood floor as she walks into the kitchen holding Ava on her hip.
“I no wanna stay with Yelli,” says Ava. “I wanna go home.”
Summer sets Ava down on the counter and looks directly into the little girls face. “Mama has to work, Baby. You stay with Auntie Yelli today and mama will come back and get you. It’s only for a little bit, ‘kay? Mama just has to finish a few things at the office. Not even a whole day, Baby.”
Ava looks down at her shoe as she kicks a heel against one of Nayelli’s cupboards. The shoe is hot pink with a white leather daisy on the toe—a high-end kid’s Mary Jane style that likely cost more than the cupboard the girl is kicking. If Nayelli sold those shoes on eBay used, she’d make enough to buy her oldest daughter, Benna, descent school clothes.
“Hey, thanks for taking her,” says Summer, “I owe you.” Summer flashes her great big smile at Nayelli. “How about if Ben and I take all the kids next Saturday night so you and Mike can have a night out?”
Summer’s been promising to take “all the kids” for months now, and it hasn’t happened. Not that Nayelli’s thrilled to have the kids over at Summer’s. Ben smokes, mainly outdoors, but Nayelli doesn’t want the kids around cigarettes. And Summer’s not always vigilant when she’s watching the kids. Plus it’s been a while since Summer had a baby. Nayelli isn’t sure about leaving her 8-month-old, Sara, in Summer’s care.
“That sounds good,” says Nayelli. “But I’m not sure if Mike has next Saturday off.”
“Well, whenever you want. I know I’ve been promising you a night out for weeks, and I DID offer two Saturdays ago but YOU had a migraine, remember?”
“Yep. It’s okay.” Nayelli tries to smile at Summer as she swallows the last of her peanut butter bread. “Soon.”
“Well, thanks. I better get to work. I just gave Ava some children’s Tylenol to bring her fever down, but she’ll probably need more in a few hours. I bet she’d sleep if you laid her down. And remember she’s allergic— ”
“To nuts. Yeah. I know.”
“Right. Okay. I’ll just be a couple hours—three tops.”
Ava starts squirming and holding on to her mother. “NOOO! I wanna go with you.”
Summer picks up Ava and holds her, rocking the little girl and smoothing the back of her hair. “C’mon Baby,” she coos. “Be a big girl for Mama. It won’t be long and I know you’re tired. Let Auntie Yelli help you go sleepy-bye, okay?”
Ava is in full cry mode now. She’s huffing and snuffing and screaming “no,” but it sounds more like “woah.”
Summer pries the girls arms off her shoulders and hands Ava to Nayelli. Ava has gone limp, but is still crying softly.
“Can I borrow a towel?” asks Summer.
Nayelli pulls open a drawer with her free hand. Summer grabs out a tan dishtowel and begins wiping Ava’s tears and snot off the shoulder of her black Anne Klein jacket.
She sets the towel on the counter and rubs Ava’s back. “You’ll be okay, Baby.”
Summer leaves as Tyler runs out of his bedroom. “I’m hungry, Mom,” he says.