The Girl tilted her neck into odd angles so that different slivers and slices of the Mother’s face could be seen in combination. First she looked at only the bits of spotted cheek and fleshy lips, she avoided adjusting her chin in a direction that might reveal the Mother’s eyes too quickly, ones that would pry or try and reach into the Girl through her own eyes. But no, when she saw them the eyes were not there on her, they were focused on the path of black pavement ahead. How dare the Mother yell and scream and restrict and grasp for power, push down the Girl, and then not explain, not apologize, not cower back and away.
No, there was the Mother, one arm holding her head and a fistful of gray blond hair, normal, the other arm guiding the car, the wheel loose and strong in the Mother’s working hand. But, yes, she did look tired, choking a little, yes, the Girl decided. She had won. The Girl looked more, again, to see the eyes were not violating, but normal, normal, clouded and watching what they watched everyday, going where they went.
The strong wind stopped blowing fast through the open windows and the sun’s rays smoldered the Girl’s dark pant-covered legs. Meat, sweet meat and salty meat, smells and dust came into the car with the heat. The dust scratched the Girl’s dark eyes and the succulent smell made her tongue swell and water. Men in aprons, young strapping grinning men in green aprons flipped meat on black grills under green mesh tents, acknowledged the Girl with strong handsome nods. The Girl shut her stinging dusty eyes and turned her blushing cheeks away from the window, the eyes were prying she feared, her cheeks were flooded with rosy waves. The Mother had seen she knew, oh the violation. The sun filtered. Patterned onto the meat and men.
The car stopped and the Mother and the Girl unbuckled — unclick, unclick. From the inside, the working hands inside pushed the heavy doors to let them be open, not in the car. The Girl, cautious to avoid traveling her same path, paused a moment at the door, to adjust the pins in her hair and to flatten the folds in her blouse. The Mother would, she knew, walk ahead, attempt to take the lead, attempt to be in control. Despite attempts to reign over, crawl out, the Girl washed over the Mother like dirt burying a coffin. Now the Girl held back, gave the Mother fictitious strength, let her browse among the fruit, first. The Mother walked under the patterned filters and the light splashed in some spots where there were already spots on her cheeks, but now the light made them bright. The Mother got a cart and put her large red leather pocket book into the front baby seat of the cart.
The Girl was behind her scuffing her soles and blue jean hems, sulking among the produce, always controlling her eyes and lips, contorting them into expressions that evoked a desired emotion. The Mother could feel the fast, brilliant, manipulation working into her. The Girl, her creation, was filled with unknowing power, but love, always deep love, always deep love for her, buried in the dirt. The Mother squeezed pears for her pear tart for her book club tea tomorrow. The Mother selected twelve almost, very close to ripe pears, tomorrow they would be. Tomorrow for the tart, for the tea. Tomorrow the Girl would be away, in the trees, and the Mother would be filling tall glasses of cubed ice with pink lemonade or dark brewed ice tea, nodding and smiling, sharing and receiving. The Mother knew the Girl regarded these teas with repugnance, laughed at their futileness, not an event worthy of devotion. The Mother, however, still with some shame, grasped at the teas, collecting the novels and finger sandwiches as her duty, her connection. The shame burned and she feared her weakness, the prey of the Girl, but longed for the connections in her duty. The Mother pushed the cart, rickety on the rocky cement, down the lanes of fruit cartons on cartons, under the green mesh awnings.
Behind, watching the selection, the Girl now traced the lines where the Mother had left trails of her touch on the undesired fruit. The Mother had left a pear, a good, odd, but good juicy pear still in the carton and she would show it to the Mother.
“Mom, this is a good pear,” the Girl tossed the pear, in an arc, into her mother’s choosing hands.
“Yes, it is a good pear.” Cautiously, the Mother agreed. Yes, thought the Mother, it was a good pear. The Mother felt the connection in her duty.
Close together, milling among the same fruit, the Girl and the Mother touched and chose fruit for the tart. The knots of fear in the Mother loosened, eased their tight pain, melted slowly. The Girl was now so physically close, examining the same produce. In a moment, the Mother felt walls and anger dissolve, always a mystery, always welcome, always a secret up and down. Up and down, under the awning together. Both smiled and pressed into the fruit with their thumbs and forefingers, testing and discussing and selecting. The Mother, not as cautious, more eager now, strived for the mounting connection, reached for the Girl, shared a list of foods scribbled in pencil, and together they strolled the lanes and found the foods. The Girl selected impeccably, finding ingredients and flavors the Mother could not know to write on an orderly, productive, list. The Girl was focused, bringing the Mother pride and awe. The Girl found the foods with care and placed them carefully into the plastic cart, and the Mother unloaded the food with caution onto the rolling checkout stand and slid her checking card into the payment machine, and the Girl would bag the food, still quiet, but welcoming in her silence and in her now soft, still expression.
Then the Mother and the Girl drove home and baked the pie. Together, while they put cinnamon on the sliced pears and waited for the tart crust to turn a slight brown color, they hummed with the radio and joked quietly, smiled sometimes, content. They were openly connected and happy and simple, not in struggle. Days like this, when the Girl was not at sports and music and school and with companions and gone she would act like this with the Mother. The Mother felt comfort in their togetherness, yes, she could feel the warmth and the connection, together, while they baked the pie. The pie crisped and the oven baked the smell into the walls and warmth into the chair cushions. The Mother felt that happiness was normal, normal like before the Girl had grown up and her heart had moved away. The Girl, with a flour splattered apron tied around her hips, leaned her elbows on the yellow plastic counter and rinsed the pie off her hands, into the sink. As the Girl, her creation, looked out the window at the hanging, potted flowers, the Mother hoped that she too felt the connection, that she too felt the togetherness. Togetherness like this time with the pie, they were happy and normal, connected like before the Girl’s heart had moved away.