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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: February 05, 2018

A A A | A A A

Submitted: February 05, 2018




The air wafting through the house was thick and heady; baking pie and roasting meat swirled together, sugary and pungent. Evelyn’s mouth watered. She liked it when her mother had dinner parties, she never cooked like this normally. Evelyn looked at the pink plastic stove in front of her, listlessly pushing a pan full of fake fried eggs to a back burner. Her stomach rumbled. Her mother hadn’t wanted Evelyn to spoil her dinner. Evelyn opened her tiny oven, where a tray of muffins baked perpetually. She didn’t know when to take them out. Evelyn’s mother rarely let her help with cooking. She let Evelyn help her roll out the pie crust earlier, even giving her a taste of the dough, shaped into a tiny perfect sphere. She liked the weight of the big wooden rolling pin in her hands, the height of the chair she stood on to reach the counter, her mother’s warm breath on the top of her head. She moved the pin slowly. Her mother put her hands over Evelyn’s, guiding her. Her bright, pink lacquered nails scratched the back of Evelyn’s hands, but she did not care. They moved in sync, the smell of sugar rising from the crust in front of them. But the lump of dough in its bed of flour flattened too quickly. The big rooster clock in the kitchen clucked, and her mother jumped.

“Oh lord, look at the time. Wouldn’t you rather go upstairs?” her mother had asked, “I have so much to do before the Mathersons arrive, you’ll just be underfoot.” Evelyn had only nodded. “Go put on something smart for dinner- maybe the blue dress?” Evelyn nodded again. But she didn’t go upstairs, she went to the living room. Her father sat melded to his brown leather armchair, M*A*S*H blaring from the television.

“Hi Dad,” she tried.

“Hey Evie,” his eyes flickered from the screen, “You alright?”

“Yeah,” she said, climbing into another chair, “Mama’s busy, can I watch with you?”

“You’ll be bored, but you can watch for a little while. Dinner’s soon, anyway.”

“Just for a little while.” Her father had explained the show to her once, but Evelyn had forgotten all the character’s names. Evelyn was only allowed to watch sometimes, anyway, and she would never be sure when. On some days it was allowed, and her mother would even join them. Other days her mother would storm in and say that the show was not for children. Evelyn did not care about the show, she just liked sitting with her father- and her mother, when she did not yell.

They sat for a few minutes, letting the television fill the quiet. The handsome doctor, Hawkeye, Evelyn remembered, made a joke. Her father chuckled. Evelyn smiled, even though she did not understand.

“Haaaarold?!” her mother’s voice preceded her into the room. She stood in the doorway, her furrowed brow and hands on hips at odds with her cheery gingham apron.

“Yes, Martha?” her father sighed, barely audible over the television.

“What are you two doing in here? The Mathersons will be here in half an hour! Evelyn, didn’t I tell you to go get ready?” Her voice had an edge Evelyn knew too well. She twisted her hands in her lap, looking down at her tangled fingers.

“Sorry,” she said.

“Go on now,” her mother said. Evelyn slid down from her chair and trudged upstairs. “The blue dress!” Her mother called after her. Halfway up the stairs, she heard her mother round on her father. “And you! I thought you would be just the tiniest bit concerned about impressing your boss, but no! Here you are, as always, watching the damn television!”

The row of neatly hung dresses in Evelyn’s closet mocked her as she ran her hands over them. They knew she couldn’t choose. She fingered a ruffled yellow dress, one of her favorites, but she never got to wear it. Next to it was the blue that her mother had requested. Heavily, Evelyn pulled it from its hanger. She slipped it over her head and pulled it down. The polyester was stiff against her skin. She looked at the clock, and the hand little hand had barely crossed the little flower emblazoned with a 4. It had taken all of five minutes to get ready.

Sunk back down on her carpet, Evelyn eyed the pink plastic stove, tugging on her dress. All at once, it seemed too bright and flimsy. She pushed it away and cast her eyes around the room, searching for a distraction. The mouths of her Hungry Hungry Hippos gaped open, but the game was no fun with only one person. Her dolls stared vacantly from the corner where they sat, dressed up with nothing to do. Evelyn sympathized, but she had to look away. Her eyes lighted on a shelf, high above the rest of her toys scattered on the floor. There, lined up in rows that her mother had meticulously arranged, were her figurines. Evelyn thought they were the most beautiful things in the world: the princesses done up in their bows and crowns, dresses in delicate pastel shades, and princes in rich royal tones, jackets glittering with painted buttons. Her favorite pair had their arms outstretched, as if they were about to hold one another for a dance. She loved the animals too, cats and dogs and horses with legs bent and ears pricked like they might leap into motion at any moment. She only got to play with them on special occasions, when her mother came and brought a stepstool, taking them down with great care and ceremony. The lamplight danced tantalizingly on the porcelain.

The candy pink walls seemed to be inching closer to one another. Her mother loved pink. Evelyn’s favorite color was yellow. She had asked for her room to be painted yellow for her birthday last year, and her mother had said yes, but it had never happened. She didn’t like bright yellow, but light yellow, like the spots that the sun made in their living room on Saturday mornings. Saturday mornings were good, her mother let her watch cartoons and took her took the grocery store with her, if her father was still sleeping. Sometimes her mother would buy her a lollipop at the grocery store and they would drive around afterwards. Her mother was in a good mood on these mornings, she sang to the radio and ruffled Evelyn’s hair.

She liked dinner parties, too, but she didn’t like the frenzy that her mother went into before. The edge in her voice was extra sharp then. It scraped across Evelyn’s skin like her father’s razor, the time she had asked what shaving felt like and he had run it over the back of her hand. His touch had been light but she could feel the blade on her skin, cold and threatening.

Evelyn heard gravel crunching in the driveway, the front door opening and closing. Voices floated up the stairs, her mother’s trill and Mr. Matherson’s big boom. They grew quieter and then faded away as her mother led her guests into the house. Evelyn dug her fingers into the thick fibers of her shag rug, waiting. The moments stretched out like the rubber bands Evelyn’s mother used to tie Evelyn’s braids. They always pulled her hair, but she kept quiet. Her mother loved her in braids, she said she looked like a real-life Barbie. Evelyn sat back on her heels, a gnawing beyond hunger in the pit of her stomach.

“Evie?” came her father’s voice. She leapt to her feet, scampering down the carpeted flight. He smiled when he saw her, and Evelyn glowed. “You look adorable, is that the dress your mother picked?”

“Uh huh! The one we got when we went to the city.”

“That’s nice. But the Mathersons are here, your mother wanted me to tell you.” She followed him to the dining room, where a pork roast steamed on the table. The Mathersons exclaimed over Evelyn, drinks sloshing in their hands.

“How old are you now, sweetheart?” Mrs.Matherson cooed.

“Eight and a half!” she reported, pleased with her own math.

“They teach you fractions already?” Mr. Matherson said, raising his eyebrows, “Kids these days are going places, I tell ya.”

They moved on to deplore the state of the schools. Evelyn knew they were finished with her, and she retreated to her seat. Eventually, the adults sat down too.

“Your house is darling,” Mrs.Matherson said, “But it’s so unfortunate, the state of the neighborhood. It’s really going downhill. We’re close, but it hasn’t quite reached us yet.”

“I only hope it doesn’t affect the real estate value, eh?” Mr. Matherson chimed in.

“People just aren’t neighborly like they used to be! You’re right, it’s such a shame,” Her mother nodded vigorously.

“What’s the name of the new family down the street? The Colemans? Nothing when they moved in, no get together, and they weren’t even home when I went to bring them a welcome casserole!” Mrs.Matherson sounded scandalized, like being out when someone brought a casserole over was the worst possible offense she could imagine. Evelyn giggled at her lipsticked mouth, stretched wide in horror.

“Don’t laugh, girlie, this is the neighborhood you’ll be inheriting!” Mr. Matherson wagged his finger at her.

“Oh, she’s not even listening, this is just grown up talk!” her mother laughed, getting up to pour more wine for Mrs. Matherson, “But you’re right, that is truly unacceptable. I haven’t even seen them once since they moved in, that’s just suspicious, don’t you think?”

Evelyn frowned. She remembered her mother and Mrs. Coleman laughing over coffee on Wednesday, just the same way as her mother was laughing with Mrs. Matherson now. But she said nothing. She also said nothing when Mr. Matherson and her father agreed that Carter was ruining the country, even though her father watched his speeches almost as often as he watched M*A*S*H. Instead, she ate her pork and peas. It was her favorite dish, something her mother only made for company, but the meat seemed drier than usual, and it stuck in Evelyn’s throat.

When the plates were cleared away, the adults moved to the living room to smoke.

“Why don’t you go to your room and play?” her mother said, as they were walking out, “We’ll call you for dessert.”

“Okay,” Evelyn agreed, even though she wanted to stay, even just to listen. She wished that they would ask her more questions, even though she knew they wouldn’t. Maybe at dessert. She could tell them what she had learned about At least there would be pie.

On the way up the stairs, Evelyn ground her socks into the plush carpeted steps. When she reached for the doorknob, a shock sparked up her arm. She yelped. Then she stopped, wondering if anyone downstairs had heard, but the distant rumble of voices did not change. 

Hearing the click of her door shutting behind her, Evelyn felt a surge of anger. Perching on the edge of her floral-patterned bedspread, she swung her legs. Her dangling toppled the Connect Four set sitting nearby, and little pieces spilled all over the carpet. Evelyn was not sure if she had done it on purpose or not, but it had felt good. Nobody played the game with her anyway.  Still, she slid off the bed and collected the circles, putting them with the board back in the box and tucking it away. Her mother did not like a mess.

“Mom?” Evelyn called. She knew that no one could hear her. She walked to her door and opened it. “Mooooooom?” The syllable echoed through the hallway. She waited, but there was no response.

Evelyn turned back to her room. She tiptoed across the carpet until she was underneath the shelf of figurines. Before she could stop and think about it, Evelyn dragged her desk chair underneath the shelf and clambered up on it. Though she stretched as tall as she could, she couldn’t quite reach. She balanced on her toes, inching her fingers towards the figurines. The flash of triumph when she grasped one lasted only an instant. In another moment, it slipped from her sweaty fingers. When she could bear to look down, Evelyn saw her favorite princess with the pink dress laying on the carpet, her arm cleanly broken off a few inches away. Evelyn sank to her chair, and then slipped to the floor. She held the pieces of her toy, even though her mother always told her not to touch sharp things. Evelyn’s face felt hot. The party continued downstairs, until they called her for dessert and got no response.

© Copyright 2020 Jacey Davidson. All rights reserved.

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