She clinched two Barbie dolls in her hand as she played in her room. “No, I’ll cook tonight,” she said, imitating a grown-up voice for one of the dolls. “Ok, girl,” she said, imitating the voice of the darker Barbie before she placed her in her Barbie car. She heard yelling coming from outside her room, penetrating the thin walls the stood between her and her parents. She turned towards her door, looking momentarily at it, then turning back to her Barbie. Above her on her wall, a picture that she drew of her, her mother, and her father hung effortlessly. It was a picture drawn the best way any four-year-old could have done. Their bodies weren’t in perfect symmetry. Eyes were lopsided. Shoulders were disproportionate. Their noses were placed on their faces much lower than they should have been. She stood in between her parents as she held their hands.
Above them, she had drawn a heart and colored it blue as they stood in a grassy field with a house to their right. To the naked eye, it would be hard to look at, but to anybody in that house, it was priceless. She drove her Barbie doll, making car noises in the midst of yelling and screaming from outside. She jumped when her mother’s voice hit high octaves, jerking her head towards the door. Her long ponytails swung to the right as she stopped, looking at the door waiting to hear more voices so she would know everything was ok. Not ok because nothing was ok when they were arguing but she wanted to make sure no one was hurt. After her Father’s voice had boomed, she turned around and continued driving the car. She had become accustomed to their frequent arguments. She learned to drown them out the best she could, submerging herself into her imagination.
As the car rode across the carpet, one of her wheels rolled off. “Oh, no,” she said, picking up the wheel and trying to put it back on herself. She couldn’t. She looked towards the door, the yelling still dominating any other noise in the house. Whenever she broke one of her toys before, she would always take them to her Dad. He fixed them, no matter what it was. Baby doll arms that had fallen off were surgically attached. Vehicles were repaired. Doll houses were renovated. She knew it wouldn’t be a problem for him to put the wheel back on for her Barbie.
She turned to look at the door. Fear struck her heart. She didn’t want to go out there, but her imagination wouldn’t be able to save her if her Barbie couldn’t continue its ride to the grocery store for food. She determined it was too hot for her to walk to the store and back to the house with the groceries.
She stood up, inching closer and closer to the door. The yells are becoming louder with each step. She took a deep breath and slowly opened the bedroom door. The yelling was crystal clear.
“I don’t care! I don’t care what you tell me, this happens too much with you!” Her voice was light but piercing. She was carrying emotional stress for a couple of years in the marriage, and they had only been married for four years. He cheated on her a year and a half ago, and although some would consider the reason he did it to be justified, the scar it created on her hadn’t healed.
“I told you,” he said, “I was at the grocery store, and she just happened to be there! We didn’t plan this purposely!”
“Yeah, tell me anything! I should’ve known not to get back with you and try to work this out! You still the same dog you was back then! I don’t care how much you keep that bible laying around this house!”
He shook his head and turned to look at the dishes that stacked up in the sink. On the marble counter top to the right sat a plate of food over a day old stuck to it. The marble counter tops matched the cabinets and the floor. The kitchen itself was spacious; it was large enough to be a guest room, and her voice echoed off the walls as he stood, drifting into his imagination. His daughter got it honestly. She quickly snapped him out of it, “You ain’t got nothing to say, huh?” her eyes watering. Her eyeliner was smearing. She reached out and grabbed his arm, spinning him back around, “look at me!” He did.
He stared into her eyes searching for the woman he married. The woman he said, “I do” to at the altar. He saw glimpses of that day in his mind. Her white dress curved her body effortlessly. She had on very little makeup because she knew he didn’t like that. Truthfully, her beauty exceeded anything that Estee Lauder or Chanel had to offer. Hey, eyes reflected his image as she stared back at him. He was everything she wanted physically. Tall with an athletic build and a smile that could get him anything he wanted.
He finally spoke, “look, I know I messed up before, and I mean, I get that this is just a reaction from that.” She sucked her teeth and folded her arms as he continued, “I’m sorry, and I was wrong for that. I’ve apologized a million times, and I’ve done everything I could to get your trust back,” she cut him off, “everything!? You call going to the grocery store with another woman doing everything you can to gain my trust!?”
He turned around, and she grabbed his arm again but this time, he jerked away, and his hand knocked a glass off the counter, and it shattered onto the ground. The toy dropped out of their daughter’s hand simultaneously. They turned to look at her as she stood in the hallway, horrified and on the verge of tears. Her father rushed to her, “baby? Baby, what’s wrong?” He kneeled down to become eye-level with her. He took his hand and wiped the tears from her eyes before they fell. She was a splitting image of her mother. “Baby?” She sniffled, and his heart broke.
He picked his daughter up, grabbed her toy car and carried them into the front room. “Oh, you just gon’ walk away from me with my baby?” He kept going with her in his arms and sat down on the sectional. The front room carpet was white. Hard to believe with a young child in the home but she was well behaved. She was not allowed to eat, drink or walk in the front room with her shoes on and she heeded to it. They could count on one hand the number of times she had to be spanked for disobedience. Truthfully, they could not have raised a child any better. They were excellent parents but horrible spouses.
“What is it baby?” he said to her as they sat on the couch. She was still trying to catch her breath. She was used to the arguing but seeing it? She had not warmed up to that side of things. He looked at her car and realized it was missing its wheel. It was clenched in her right hand. “Oh, your wheel feel off? Here, Daddy will fix it, ok?” She shook her head in agreement as she began calming down. He sat her on the couch and walked back into the kitchen past her mother. “We’re not done.”
He kept a straight face and walked straight to the utility drawer in the kitchen, “I’m not arguing in front of her anymore.” He set the toy on the counter and searched the drawer for a screwdriver.
“I’m not either, but we gon’ talk about this.” He shuffled through the drawer, moving things around forcefully.
“There is not anything to say. You are accusing me of something I know I didn’t do.”
She slammed the drawer closed, almost smashing his finger in the process. He looked at her. His jawbones are gyrating inside his mouth. “What were you doing with her at the store?” She said with locked lips. He shook his head and moved her out the way, opening the next drawer to find the screwdriver.
Their daughter sat in the front room. She was completely calm now. She knew they were still arguing, but they weren’t loud. She could barely hear them, but now, she was bored. She had nothing to busy her imagination, so she got up and began wandering. She looked for the remote to the television, but it was too high up on the fireplace. She was smart, though.
She walked over and grabbed a small stepping chair from the hallway by the front door and placed it in front of the fireplace. She stood on it, and her eyes lit up. She looked around the room and felt what it was like to be a foot taller. She smiled and turned back towards the fireplace. She grabbed the remote, knocking a finger nail clipper onto the floor. The silver shined like a new toy on the white carpet. She thought to put it back, but that is all it was. She picked it up and placed the stepping chair back into the hallway.
As she walked back, she noticed it and smiled. That looks like a mouth and two eyes, she said to herself. She sat down next to the wall and folded her legs, scooting as close to it as she could. By then, her parents increased their voices. They were back to arguing as they were when she was in her room but her imagination kicked it, and she began fading away from reality.
“How are you doing?” she asked her new friend. “I’m all right,” she made a boy’s voice, “I’m just hungry.”
“Oh? You are?” she looked down in her hand at her new toy. “Well, I can feed you.”
She took the fingernail clipper and tried to put it in her friend’s mouth. He didn’t move. “Oh, I’m sorry. It can’t fit in your mouth,” she said. She looked at her new toy and played with it until she opened it up. She slid the fingernail file out from its place. “This might work,” she said as she put food onto her makeshift fork. “Open wide,” she said.
In the kitchen, the toy sat on the counter with the wheel right next to it. The couple moved away from it, and the Dad completely forgot the reason he went to the kitchen in the first place. They were focused on the argument at hand. It took precedence over anything else that was needed at that moment. “Look! I’m not going to tell you again! I wasn’t up there with that woman, and I haven’t cheated or did anything wrong to you since I did a year and a half ago!”
She got in his face. Her breasts bumped the bottom of his pectorals as she extended her finger towards the front of his forehead, “And that is what I’m talking about! It shouldn’t have never happened in the first place! Now you at a store with some chick and you expect me to believe it’s all a coincidence!? How stupid do you think I am!? You think I’ma just let this go and not pay attention to the things that matter?!” The irony.
Just then, there was a loud buzz followed by flickering lights in the kitchen. The couple looked at the lights, then at each other. “Oh my God! Lanette!” The mother moved past the husband and rushed into the front room; he was inches behind her. Their daughter laid out on her back next to the front door. She picked her up off the floor, “Lanette! Baby, please! Lanette!”
The husband hovered over them and bent down, “Baby, you ok!? Lanette! Oh my God, Lanette what’s wrong!?” He looked at the ground next to the socket and saw the fingernail clipper. Tears fell from his eyes without remorse as he pulled his phone out his pocket, hands shaking as he dialed the 9-1-1. “Hello!? Hello, yes, my daughter has just been electrocuted! Please come! Oh my, God, I don’t want my baby to die.”
“What’s your address?” the operator said.
He struggled to make it out, “Baby… baby, what’s our address?!”
She gave it to him as she sat on the floor, rocking her baby and clinching her tight as her tears streamed out of her eyes even more. “I’m sorry,” she said to her daughter as she rocked her, “I’m so sorry.”