At eight o’clock, Mom’s old hybrid drive Daewoo Hola sedan rolled into the driveway. It’s once fashionable puce exterior was thankfully hidden by the now fallen night. Normally, she worked four ten hour shifts a week and did chores on Friday. This week, she’d done a fifth shift, because a co-worker had had to go to a funeral, and the family needed the money. Dutifully, Eunice helped bring in the groceries from the car. The shadows beneath mom’s eyes were visible. The figure she’d had when she married had long since vanished. She looked like she was in her mid-forties, even though she was only thirty-three.
Eunice had already opened a couple of boxes and popped them in the quick heat before mom could start doing anything else. At fourteen, Eunice felt like an adult making dinner the for family, or at any rate the two of them. Dad reserved Fridays for beer and baseball with his old buddies, some from before he’d met mom, from the old neighborhood. The truth was that mom was probably better off with him drunk at someone else’s house. Dad was not a docile drunk. Jerrica, of course, was absent without leave. Eunice set the nook table for two, since it wasn’t worth using the dining room table for just the two of them. The quiche, as always, smelled wonderful. As an extra touch, Eunice took two crystal wine glasses from the one glass cabinet in the kitchen and poured her and her mother glasses of peach-strawberry nectar. She used the good stainless silver tableware as well.
Mom slumped into the seat in the nook facing in towards the kitchen. Mom smelled of strong antiseptic soap. She starred at the place where Jerrica would usually have brought up a chair and eaten herself and simply said “Where?”.
“She went out with a friend about five. She took a bag.”, Eunice said, as opaquely as she could manage.
“I didn’t see.”
“But, you know.”
“Damn it. He’s twice her age.”
Eunice decided that silence was the best policy at the moment. Mentioning that mom had married dad when she was a pregnant seventeen year old and dad was thirty-seven was not the right thing to say right now.
“School starts Tuesday.”, mom said.
“Jerrica knows. She bought her books last week.” Eunice elected not to mention the lingerie her big sister purchased on the same trip without being asked.
Mom went to the liquor cabinet, took out the vodka, and filled her half empty cup of nectar with it. Euncie rolled her eyes. Mom responded by pouring about a shot’s worth into her glass too. Eunice hadn’t expected mom to do that, but didn’t complain.
Mom nursed her drink with one hand, and squeezed Eunice’s hand gently with the other. “Your growing up so fast yourself.”, mom said. Eunice smiled a little. She was fourteen, after all. Before Eunice could do anything more, mom said, “Go read. I know you want to, your books sitting in bay window.”, and took the dishes to the dishwasher. Eunice obeyed, adjourning to the window.
Half way up the stairs mom kneeled in from of the shrine she’d created with stained glass and trinkets and pictures on the landing. She prayed.
“Lord, I give you thanks that my daughter Eunice is well. Please lord, keep Jerrica and Jerry safe this night, and grant me the privilege to see tomorrow. In your name I pray. Amen.”
Mom went to sleep without brushing her teeth or going to the bathroom. Eunice didn’t know what to think. So she read her book until she fell asleep in the bay window.