Sorry for the hiatus, everyone. I had a lot going on, and definitely will next week, but…I’m back! Here’s:
AMERICAN DREAM: Red Writing Hood Challenge
“AaaaaaaaaahBabababa!” Shelley’s tiny pink mouth babbled incessantly as the playswing moved her back and forth, her small, wiggling hands grasping the air for her mother. Five months old and already she sounded like a talker.
Cynthia was too busy to do more than give her baby a strained smile, as she was searching for the missing canapés, brushing a strand of frosted platinum hair off her forehead that had stuck there from sweat. The oven was preheated and the appetizers were nowhere to be found.
She swung around with the baking tray in hand, looking across the countertop. It had only been five minutes since she pulled the bulk store box out of the freezer, and already it had vanished. She took a second to rest against the counter, looking out the bay window over the sink. It was April, but unseasonably cold that day. There had been frost-fog that morning.
“God, I hate this,” Cynthia sighed, her gaze tracing the kitchen until she spotted the hors d’oeuvres. “In the dishrack. Of course. Why didn’t I think of that?” she muttered sarcastically, grabbing the box and going back into rush mode.
“Because you’re too distracted to notice.” The voice was amused and low. Cynthia turned to see her voluptuous best friend Danni leaning against the doorway. “What are you so upset about?”
Danni did know her best. “Hey,” Cynthia called, and as she whooshed by, she leaned in for a peck on the cheek from Danni. Cynthia spoke in a hurry. “Nothing. I’m living the American Dream! Big House, White Picket Fence, Minivan ready for more than just the first in a series of cute but unhappy children…”
“Why unhappy?” said Danni plucking a strawberry from a decked out platter on the countertop and biting into it. She spoke with her mouth full. “That sounds pretty good to me.”
“It’s Mark’s 30th, so of course it has to be pretty good,” Cynthia said, struggling to open the cardboard box. “It’s perfect.” Danni moved from the door and took the box from her, opening it easily and handing it back. Cynthia’s hands were trembling as she held it, mentally calculating the number of guests. “20…no 25…” she muttered, then gave up and dumped the whole box onto the tray. One renegade spinach puff kamikazed its way onto the kitchen floor, and Shelley laughed her awkward baby-laugh.
Cynthia struggled to bend over in her too-tight sundress, retrieving the puff from Danni’s feet. It was too cold for sundresses still, Cynthia thought. She shivered at that, wishing she had brought a sweater from upstairs, all her skin getting goose-pimples.
“You’re working too hard,” Danni said slowly. “You should take a break.”
“From what,” Cynthia said, throwing the offending puff onto the sheet, “life?” Cynthia gave a dark laugh and crossed her arms protectively in front of her. “I’m a housewife. Housewives don’t take breaks.”
“How long have we known each other, Cynthia—nine years?”
“Since the first day of college,” said Cynthia. “So…yeah, I guess so.”
“And you’re still terrible at hiding your feelings,” Danni said, narrowing her plucked eyebrows. “So spit it out. Why are you afraid your children will be unhappy, Cynthia?” she said, going straight to the point.
She came close, and Cynthia was bathed in the comforting scent of Danni’s shampoo. She had loved the scent so much, she had stolen the shampoo from Danni when they were juniors, and Danni had blamed their third roommate. She never knew it had been Cynthia, even after Cynthia started buying the same brand just to smell like her.
Cynthia felt like a soda can as she talked, the contents threatening to burst as she tore apart a drawer looking for the oven mitts. “Because my children will sense this is not what I wanted, Danni.” She had to be careful. In her mood, she might let the secret out and ruin everything.
“You had an exciting young life,” Danni said, shrugging and rubbing her friend’s back again. “Now it’s time to settle down and be realistic.”
“I don’t want realistic,” Cynthia snapped. “I want to be selfish.”
Danni calmly picked up the oven mitts that had already been on the counter, and put the puffs into the oven for her. “You can’t have everything you want,” Danni reprimanded as she turned around, giving her a perfect white grin.
Cynthia started crying at the counter and Danni hugged instantly.
“Cynthia…come on, it’s okay!” she said in a soothing tone.
“But–I know what I want now! This is not my life…”
As Cynthia cried, she buried her face into Danni’s neck and she buried, too, the sentence that kept trying to make its way into the air. She would shout it from the rooftops if she could.
But I want you, Cynthia thought, and she hugged Danni even tighter.
This was written in answer to Write On Edge’s Red Writing Hood challenge: it used an old meme, and the prompt is here. I got character, “a new mother”, setting, “a party,” “spring,” and plot, “a secret that needs to be told.” I went a little different route with the secret than I first intended, and I like this result a lot better. Hope you enjoyed!