On Wednesday, November 16th, we held our 10th Flash Fiction Contest (see the prompt in the previous post). We had many fine entries, most of which we’ll be posting here in the next few weeks. The winner, as selected by two student editors and two faculty…
The Other Woman
By Kara Fimian
The neighborhood I work in is one of these neighborhoods that I can picture myself living in, but not necessarily being ever able to buy. The houses are close enough to look into the windows of the next house. This must be why there are so many fences, so many curtains, and so many distractions in the house. Giant TV’s, stereos, jewelry boxes, new monthly furniture, fancy kitchen. The house is clean, but only because I clean it. The clothes hang on a clothesline I hung between the back porch and a baby swing set I hung myself. The parents want everything to be machine washed. But look how much money I save you on your electricity bill I say. They let me. Not that they care. They’re going on their third honeymoon at the moment. Which isn’t completely true. It’s more like they’re traveling on the same plane to Africa, but once they get there, they’re going to find new shiny distractions from another. Their kid isn’t allowed to come on honeymoons. Why? Because it’s an adult thing to do.
“If I was an adult, would mommy want me?”
A four year old should not ask that question. He should not ask whether or not it is ok to ask if his parents can stay with him, instead of having his nanny take care of him. All he knows about his nanny is that she loves him, cooks him strawberry shortcake, and is old enough to be his big sister. That’s why they picked me, someone in college still, to be a nanny. It’s better not to have someone older, more experienced. Wouldn’t want to get this older matron and his real mommy mixed up. Can’t have this nanny, this stranger, steal away her child. A child is supposed to love his mommy, even if she doesn’t love him enough to stay.
“She’ll come back,” is all I can say to this child. All this powerful anger to someone who I never see. It’s this absence and abandonment that drives this baby to cry. I don’t like it. She’s horrible. Why can’t she just come back and be a real mom. I don’t care if it means I’ll be out of the job and can’t pay my way through the rest of my college life, just SOMEONE MAKE HIM STOP CRYING! Do it so I don’t feel like I have to cry too.
So I make him some shortcake, it’s his favorite comfort food. The strawberries are real, and there’s not a lot of sugar. He wipes his nose on his sleeve, but forgets that it’s a short sleeve. I take a wad of tissue out my back pocket and dangle them in front of his face. He leans over and blows.
So cute. So cuddly. I want to hug him so I do. He hugs me back. I must remind him of that other woman when I hold him. He loses his tension but regains it and starts crying again. I pick him up. He’s almost too big to do this, but I’m strong so I can. I remember the last time my dad picked me up.
Suddenly, the door opens.
Guess who’s back early.
“Mommy!” he yells. His feet peddle in the air even as I lower him to the floor. He runs and wraps his arms around her legs. She drops her suitcase on the couch beside her. The curtain is open on the window behind it.
“You know I don’t like these curtains open,” she says. “I don’t want my neighbor to look at the inside of our house!”
She detaches her son and pushes him to the side. She starts to ask me for a drink, remembers I’m still a minor, and then fixes it herself.
I put my baby boy to bed. I close his curtain, but only so he can sleep.
I go back downstairs.
“Where’s your husband?”
“Was he crying just now?” she asks.
I want to say that it’s because she’s never here. That he loves her so much but she hired someone else to do the caring for her. “He missed you.”
“Tell him I missed him too.”
She looks at me quietly over the rim of her wineglass.
“You must think I’m a bad mom.”
“No,” I say automatically.
Don’t get fired don’t get fired don’t get fired. Your little brother needs you…don’t get fired….
“I got you something in Africa.”
“You didn’t have to.”
It’s a hair scrunchie. Probably handmade. “Thanks.”
“Ma’am?” I ask.
Another sip. “Hmm?”
“One time my mom yelled at me. She got really upset that I wouldn’t rake the leaves out front. I argued back. She slapped me.” no, I dont have any idea where this is coming from. “She…yelled at me to stop crying. But I didn’t. my heart hurt so much. m’am, that was two years ago. Your little boy is only four.”
“Are you saying that I’m, hitting my child?!”
“No, it’s just…”
“You might as well be hitting him for all the pain you’re causing him.”
I got fired that day. This was ten years ago. I only thought of it cause of the newspaper headline. My little brother, the one I’m not technically related to, just shot himself. He missed though, so only his cheek is messed up. The cheek that used to love holding in that shortcake. At first I just think I might make him some, and then I remember how I too abandoned him, by pushing the lines and getting fired. Should I visit him? Am I allowed? Will he remember me? Will he hate me? Will I be hurt by what I might find? Yes, I’ll visit him. I’m not like that other woman.