The smoke makes my eyes smoggy. I cough up a ball of grey air and light the head in red flame.
I hear a click and turn backwards. Her dark brown hair brushes past her eyes. Her large eyes are now the perfect size, fitting her face perfectly. She's wearing a pink barbie dress that goes just past her knees. I try to avoid eye contact, balling the cigarette in my fist.
"So- you must be my mommy." Her voice is so sweet and smooth like honey. It sounds happy and mocking at the same time.
"Of course I am." I cough. Who else could I be? For a second my head hurts like an overpowered battery. My daughter shouldn't be asking this question. My daughter should know me. She should know how I get mad. How I talk. How I hug. What Saturday morning breakfasts I make.
I lock eyes with her in the rear view mirror. They're big and brown like a puppy dog's. They're the same as mine. I look away and start to drive.
"Grannie said you're a nut head. I heard her whispering it to Gramps in the living room."
"Do you watch TV?" I ask. I am a nut head. I shove an empty bottle of beer underneath the passenger's seat with my foot.
"Yup! Tom n' Jerry! Gramps bought a new CD yesterday."
She's so fragile. Like china. Anything can break her.
"Hmmm." I swerve past a fulgurating grey van and slam the radio button with my elbow.
Load up on guns
"What song is this?" she asks from behind. The sound of asphalt cracks and crumbles in the background.
Bring your friends
"Nirvana. Smells Like Teenage Spirit."
She doesn't respond.
"You've heard it before?" I ask, passing her an Almond Joy.
"Nope." I hear the sound of plastic ripping, "Grandma says rock is reckless and not educational. And thank you." Of course. That's mom.
"I like it."
"Why?" she says, her face pinched up as she chews on the chocolate.
"Because. You don't think that much. Just listen. And do whatever. Y'know?"
The sun starts to splatter itself across the creased lake like orange paint.
"Where are we going?"
"Uhh-" I turn up the radio so loud that it burns my ears, "To get Sam."
"Who's Sam?" Her smile is audible in her voice.
"Sam's Sam. He's just Sam. You'll see."
I stop over on the curb. A thin cement walkway leads to a plump building painted in mahogany and framed with a magenta pink. The apartment complex is horrid. Sam walks through the door. His hair is messed up. His eyes are dark blue, bullets piercing through the blandness of the rest of his face. I roll down the window.
"Sam! Get in here."
He jogs up to the window.
"Can I drive?" The window edge pokes his stubble.
"Sure." I smile. I open the door and switch to the passenger's seat.
"Hey! You're Indy!" He spins to face her.
"Your hair is funny." She laughs, fiddling with her wrapper.
"I like it that way!" He points to his head. "Looks cool, eh?"
"Not really." she giggles.
I watch them talk for a bit. My heart hurts. In a gripping way. In a burning way. Like hot water and chemicals and electricity coursing through the veins that pump blood to my heart. It's somewhat a combination of anger and smoke.
"Start driving Sam." I snap. I direct my eyes at his like daggers.
"What'd I do?" he says, pulling up the collar of his striped button-down.
"Just drive." I cross my arms and stare at the grey slate ahead swirled with pink and orange and blue and violet and so many colours that there would be a million ands if I were to list all of them.
"To the bridge. I want to show Indy something."
He searches my eyes like he's looking for something.
"Oh- I don't think your mom would be too happy with that."
"Too happy about what?" I hear Indy squeak from behind.
We drive for about an hour. The sun has set and now everything is edged in bright melting gold and the shadows have all softened. The world has been coated in a wave of light and euphoria.
"Hey-hey. Wake her up." Sam looks at me, furrowing his brows.
"Oh right." I twist over and try to look behind me, "Hey. Indy. Wake. Up."
She rubs her eyes and her features are like someone who's just woken up. All amplified, bigger, larger, and brand-new.
"Crawl through the back."
"What?" she rubs her eyes again.
"Push your arms through there. Look I'll help you."
I click my seat belt and shimmy myself into the back. She smells like chocolate and laundry detergent.
I open the windows with my black chipping fingernails. The wind washes over us and the smell of sea salt and gas seeps through me until I feel free.
I push her small body through the door and crawl out after us. My hair flies back and my cheekbones push out until my whole face is like an outline of a skeleton.
"Here. Hold this." I look into her big magnified eyes. We both grab the ledge of the truck.
I hold her hand tightly and stare at the stream of multi-coloured cars. They honk.
"I'm scared. What if we get caught? They're so many people honking." Her eyes clip onto mine and I see the small droplets of water that outline her lower lid.
Her forehead is a sky. Her eyebrows are grassy hills. And her eyes are stars of the night sky. I notice the way her right cheek dimples slightly. The mole hidden beneath her side bang and how one cheek is redder than the other. And all of a sudden I know her so much better than I ever did.
"Listen to the honks like music."
She laughs loud in my ear. The sky is black, faintly illuminated by the leaking yellow from the streetlights. The ocean hums and churns, black waves crumple like paper.
"You like it?"
She smiles and pulls her hair back, "Yeah, I really like it."
I stare at her eyes for a few seconds. I love her. I love looking at her. I love her laugh. I love her sweet sarcasm.
She rubs her watery eyes and instantaneously I feel the frozen river of tears streaming down my face. I feel goosebumps sprouting up in my arms. We shouldn't get close. We shouldn't get close. I scoot away from her. Then she'll love me. And I'll leave her. And she'll break. She's china. Delicate.
"Why don't you go back in? Sam's gotta surprise for you."
"Oh? Okay." she looks at me, waiting for me to change my mind. I nod. She starts to crawl into the back of the van, her hair tangled in a brown cloud.
I'm scared. I imagine her crying. Indy crying. Pink. Sweet. Caring. Innocent. Indy. Shattered. I'm scared of it. I'm a coward like a bird. When startled, I fly away.
"66 Moon Crescent!" I yell into the back.
It's midnight when we get back. The lights in the windows of the suburban streets are slowly shutting off like birthday candles being blown off one by one.
Sam marches to the door.
I tap on the delicate stitching off her pink dress, hunching my back like a giant in the small car. Outside the window, Sam is making small talk with my mom. I feel weak. Her chest moves up and down. A drop of my tears falls onto her red cheek. That wakes her.
"Mommy?" she yawns, cupping her mouth.
"Call me Mary. Ok?" I nod, wiping my tears with the back of my hand.
I lift her and walk across the sidewalk, my tears continue to fall like rain onto her cheeks.
Mom looks at me like an object. Spectating. Verifying.
"You were supposed to be back by 8." Her glasses are perched on her nose.
"Ok. Ok." I messed up. I start to choke on my feelings and run back to the car. The night laughs at me. The stars are mocking me as they glow white. I look back and see Indy's small body wrapped up in Mom's thin wrinkled arms.
I'm a coward.
I continue to run.
I turn on the dingy car light and burrow my face in my hands.
I'm scared. Tears soak into my palms and drip onto my jeans.
I'm like a bird.
I fly away when afraid.