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Fiction Friendship Kids

Ava’s dress was not even pretty and the hot chocolate was SUPER watery.


That’s what I’m gonna tell my mom when she akses me about the tea party. Pecause really, grown ups think Ava’s dresses are so cute, but they’re waaaay too pink and the sparkles get everywhere. Green dresses are ackshully way awesomer, pecause Merida wears green and she’s the best Disney Princess that nobody even knows about. And this hot chocolate is just like, warm water, but it has some cocoa in it, but really not very much and it’s not really as yummy as when my mom makes it, pecause she puts in lots of chocolate in it and even whup cream on the top and even, sometimes she even puts sprintles on the very top but only if I’ve been really super nice to Caden and not made him cry and probably played out in the snow for like a long time or even maked a snowman.


But the cookies ackshully ARE pretty good, pecause they’re the kind what have frosting on them but are really crumbly, so you can dip them in the hot chocolate and they kinda fall apart and it's messy but SO yummy.


But still. Just pecause the cookies are good, that doesn’t mean that the tea party is good, pecause there isn’t even tea here and the hot chocolate is so super watery and it’s just warm, like warm for a baby like the kind of warm the milk is for Caden’s bottle, pecause he can’t have hot chocolate or tea pecause he doesn’t have teeth so he can only have milk, I guess.


Ava is also being super bossy right now, pecause she won’t stop saying, “Pinkies up,” and I don’t really want to put my pinkie up, but she just keeps on saying that thing, and I told her that just pecause this is her tea party at hers house that doesn’t mean she is the queen of the whole world and to stop saying that “pinkies up.” Only she wasn’t really listening, she just kept saying “pinkies up” which is why I had to whisper to her to shut up pecause she wouldn’t quit with saying that thing, but then she still wouldn’t quit which is why I had to yell the shut up really really louder. And that’s why I’m in the hallway sitting in Ava’s mom’s time out chair.


So that’s all what I’m gonna tell my mom when she akses me about was I having fun at the tea party. Pecause, no. I am really not.


***


“I am so sorry,” Whitney says, returning to the table after depositing a kicking, pouting Desi into my time out chair. “Sometimes I don’t know what gets into her, she’s so ornery. She didn’t even want to come, I had to force her into her car seat!”


“Kids are rude,” Bethany nods sympathetically, as she watches her daughter Maya nibble at a sugar cookie while my own daughter Ava shouts, “Pinkies UP!” apropos of nothing.


Kids are rude, I think, mine included. If Desi hadn’t told Ava to shut up first, I probably would have.


I take a sip of my red raspberry leaf tea, which tastes nothing like raspberries. I hate tea. I don’t even know why I made it, I should have just made more hot chocolate for the adults, but I was running low on mix. I always expect tea to taste more…like something other than water. I want tea to be hot Kool-Aid, I suppose. But somebody once said something about red raspberry leaf tea being good for cramps, so here I am, sipping it, as my insides squirm and wrench and I watch my daughter enjoy screeching directions to her party guests.


“Super cute idea, though, a tea party,” Whitney continues, “When I was little, my older sister used to do tea parties for me and my cousins, and make us little cucumber sandwiches. I never would have eaten a cucumber sandwich on a regular day, but for a tea party, I would just scarf them. Kids are so weird, right?”


She reaches for her tea cup, but is startled by a sudden cry from the bucket car seat on the floor to her left. The hot liquid sloshes onto her pants.


"Oh, dang it! Whitney says, dabbing at her pants with a burp cloth with one hand and unbuckling her two-month-old son with the other. "I'm so clumsy, especially post-partum, I can't do anything, I swear."


The tea leaves a muddy brown splotch on her pants, an addition to the splatter artwork of her outfit, which already boasts a spit up stain on the shoulder of her sweater and dried mud on the cuffs of her too-long jeans.


On normal days, I love Whitney. She’s loud, and fun, and goes out in public with spit up on her shirt because she either doesn’t notice or just doesn’t care. She’s my best friend in the world.


Not this day, however. Three or four days out of each month, I can’t stand the woman.


“It's fine,” I say, "Me too." I touch my forehead: no fever. Which makes no sense, because my brain has become a boiling cauldron of molten lava, scorching the backs of my eyes.


Now Bethany is talking about some article she read recently, No, not an article, exactly, it was like a series of tweets about how men should be held more accountable by society if they get a girl pregnant, and she agrees, I think. But I’m losing the thread of the conversation because it feels like a miniature tiger the size of my fist has been let loose in my abdomen to slash its claws on any viscera it can reach.


“Oh that’s totally just like Mad Men, you know, like Pete and Peggy in the first season!” Whitney chimes in. “Kerry, have you watched Mad Men yet?”


My back is killing me. I’m never gonna watch Mad Men, I’ve told Whitney that a hundred times but she still brings it up every, single, time we get together.


“I love Mad Men!” chimes Bethany. My lower back is throbbing.


What’s that polite euphemism that secretly means 'play date over, please get out of my house so I can curl into a ball on the couch and cry while Ava watches Frozen for the tenth time this week?'


“Um, still haven’t seen it,” I mutter, standing up and making my way out from behind the table. “Sorry. Gotta see a man about a horse.”


***


Now Ava is making us all play with her Polly Pockets, only hers are old pecause her mom bought them at Goodwill, I think, so most of the faces are all worned off except for the Cinderella one and Ava always gets to be the Cinderella one. So I have to play with the Tiana with the scratched off eyes and Maya has to play with Ariel with no more hair paint so hers hair is all white. But Tiana only has one dress which is so super boring so I said Maya should be the Tiana pecause that way they matches but Mommy whispered hush in my ear really mean and then said sorry to Maya’s mom so I guess that I shouldn’t say that Maya and Tiana match. But they do.


I tried to tell Mom that Caden needed to drink his milk, so she would take me home, pecause she doesn’t like to feed Caden his milk at other people’s houses, pecause he is a bad latcher, I guess, so when she feeds him it makes him cry and it makes her cry and sometimes she says naughty words at him that Dad says I’m not allowed to say, never ever, even if Mom says them at Caden when he is hungry but he won’t eat. Dammit.


So I thought Caden being hungry would mean we could go home from this tea party, which I didn’t even want to go to, but I guess not pecause I forgot about how Mom uses a bottle now, so she just pulled one out, and Caden just started drinking from that bottle and Mom said no naughty words at all. So I guess that means I’m stuck here playing Tiana, which is not even a tea party thing, I don’t think.


***


I took my time in the bathroom, discretely watching my own personal favorite historical drama, Mr. Selfridge. After ten minutes I sadly pocketed my earbuds and made my way back to the table, knowing my friends might come looking for me if I didn’t.


“It’s not racist,” Bethany is saying quietly to Whitney, “It’s the way kids are, people like to say kids are colorblind, but they notice things. It’s okay, Whit.”


“Well, I feel bad, anyway,” Whitney says, pushing her bangs out of her face. Whitney is always worried about being accidentally racist.


“Did you give up?” I say, motioning to the bottle Whitney has propped up in Caden’s mouth.


“Oh,” Whitney’s face falls, and I realize what I’ve said is outrageously hurtful and uncalled for, even if it is my time of the month.


“No, not exactly. I mean, it's not...all...formula." Whitney tries to smile, to show she is okay with this ultimate failure of motherhood, that breast is best but bottle is better than starving! "I'm still pumping, um, a little...little bit," she mumbles.


Bethany gives me a withering look that clearly communicates I'm acting like a bitch.


“Ugh, no, I’m sorry, Whit,” I say, sitting back down between my friends, defeated. “I didn’t mean it like that. I’m glad you’re bottle-feeding him. To be honest, I think you should have done it weeks ago! It doesn’t matter, seriously, it doesn’t!”


“Really?” asks Whitney, tears trapped in her eyes.


“Really,” reassures Bethany, “Nobody cares how baby gets fed, we just want to see him chubby and happy. Huh, little guy?” She lifts Caden out of Whitney’s arms and begins burping him as if he was her own.


“Speaking of happy,” Bethany turns to me bluntly, “What is your deal?”


I consider lying, but a cramping pain shoots up from my side and I wince and grab at it, as if to catch it and stop it in the act.


Whitney nods, suddenly understanding, and puts an arm around me. “Girl, what are you hosting a tea party for? You should be riding out this storm in a warm bath."


“I promised it to Ava week ago,” I say, miserably.


“Never make promises to a kid,” Bethany says authoritatively. It’s the rule I always forget.


“Desi, time to go,” says Whitney, packing up her diaper bag. “Ava’s going to come to our house for a play date this afternoon!”


Now it’s my turn to well up with tears. I really don’t deserve these friends.


***


Ava’s poofy pink dress is touching my car seat and it’s getting the pink glitter all over the green dress which is only apposed to have gold glitter on it. So that’s why I’m yelling at my mom but when she is saying, “what is wrong?” I can’t tell her pecause I’m too busy yelling.


Pecause, first of all, I didn’t even want to go to the tea party, pecause Ava is my friend but I don’t want to play with her today, and now she is coming over to my house I guess but when I aksed Mom why she said pecause Ava’s mom just needed some alone time. But I ackshully don’t even want to play with Ava anymore today so I guess I need some alone time too but Mom says we can just watch Brave. So I guess that’s okay. And Ava’s mom gave us a whole box of them cookies, and they were pretty good, so I guess that’s okay too.

January 11, 2022 00:24

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11 comments

08:04 Feb 01, 2022

Wow, Rachel! This was an excellent exploration of character. I loved the dual perspectives, they wove in an out perfectly. You nailed the two POVs. I also enjoyed the multiple topics you hit on — obviously motherhood and such, but also poverty and inequality. No notes whatsoever, this was fantastic!

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22:48 Feb 02, 2022

Thanks for the comment, Joshua. I love having other people read my stuff and seeing what they pull out of it. Honestly, when you said you liked how it hit on poverty, and I thought, "What? When?" This isn't a true story, but in my mind it takes place in my home in Virginia with my young mom friends there, so the details (like the Polly Pockets) are drawn from that. And yeah, my husband was in grad school and we had three children living in a two bedroom apartment, so we were very much scraping by. I hadn't even thought about that detail clu...

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Kevin Broccoli
18:35 Jan 24, 2022

I thought you did such a good job drawing these characters out in a way that kept me reading along. I almost feel like it could be broken up into several short stories examining each one of them.

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Kevin Marlow
01:26 Jan 20, 2022

Well done putting the reader in the mind of the child and a cranky (crampy?) mother at a children's party. If I have a criticism, it is that you put much more effort into the first passage sounding like the mind of a young child. The misused words and spellings were very evocative to me as a parent. The last two from the child's eyes drifted into what seemed like more adult language with just a few misspellings. The breast vs. bottle shaming bit is gold. You make me thankful I now have teenagers.

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07:00 Jan 24, 2022

Thanks for the feedback, Kevin. My cousin also thought the child got a little more adult-ish in the later sections...when she talks about the "bad latcher" I was trying to have her using adult language without an understanding of what it actually meant, but I see your point.

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Beth Jackson
00:36 Jan 16, 2022

Oh I loved this story Rachel! It was entertaining on a surface level and very thought provoking on a deeper level! I really liked how you explored your theme gently, without any author intrusion. It was really nicely done!

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23:14 Jan 19, 2022

Thank you Beth- this was very reminiscent of your work, wasn't it? ;)

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Scout Tahoe
01:23 Jan 13, 2022

HA, wow. At first I thought the spelling mistakes were accidental, but then I realized what a good formatting choice you had made to distinguish the children narration from the adult's. I like the title, setting, and how you write about mothers. You capture the "real" them, not the picture-perfect image of "kids are so easy to handle along with everything else in my life." My only critique would be to really tell the reader whose daughter is whose. It is difficult to understand because I thought the child narrator (Desi?) is the adult narrat...

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04:39 Jan 13, 2022

Yeah, the relationship is that the adult narrator is the mother of Ava, the host of the tea party, and Whitney is the child narrator's (Desi) mother. I tried to make it clear in this sentence, "my own daughter Ava shouts, “Pinkies UP!” apropos of nothing." But maybe I should endeavor to make it even more clear. Thanks for reading!

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Scout Tahoe
14:46 Jan 13, 2022

Ahh I see that now . . . it's probably only me who missed it. I do like the title.

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04:41 Jan 13, 2022

I'm glad you like the title, it was the only thing I could think of!

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