“I am not listening to you! I need to talk to Mom! Mom is going to straighten you out!”
“Leave your mother alone. She has a headache and she needs some quiet. You’re going to have to talk to me.”
“I will not talk to you! You are being mean!”
Mark’s voice is frustrated, “I am not being mean. I told you to keep your hands off of the plate of cookies. Why did you touch them?”
“Daddy, they needed to be rearranged on the plate. I followed your directions . . . I just rearranged the cookies. And then you yelled at me and you were mean!”
“With your hands, Kallan. You rearranged the cookies with your hands.”
“Mommy! Daddy is being mean to me!”
I sink into the bathtub and pretend I cannot hear their conversation.
Mark is exasperated, “Kallan, you can’t keep running away every time you get in trouble. Either come down here and talk to me or go to bed.”
“Mommy! Daddy is threatening me with mean choices!”
“Stop talking to your mother.”
I don’t answer. I breathe deeply and try to relax.
I lie back in the water and sink my head below the surface.
Her voice is muffled now, “Mommy!”
I feel the vibrations of her stompy feet as Kallan heads back down the stairs to talk to her Daddy.
I reach forward to add some hot water to the bath. I want the water hot . . . as hot as I can stand it. So hot that when I step out of the tub in a bit, my body will be a bright flushed color. So hot that I can feel the heat in each individual hair follicle as my head sinks below the surface. So hot that it is difficult to breathe. So hot that it feels as though my fingernails will pop right off of my fingers, the flesh beneath them swollen with blood.
So hot that this headache is forced for a minute to flow from my head through the rest of my body.
Tears run from my eyes and into the water . . . I try to relax into the pain.
Into the heat.
I run more hot water.
Eventually, I slip from the bathtub into the bedroom and lie down for a bit. Flat on my back, towel over my face to block the light and sound of the day. My headache a pulsing mass that bruises me from within. I lie very still and pass in and out of consciousness for twenty minutes or so.
I am pulled into the world again by a whisper, “Mommy?”
I whisper as well, “Yes, Kallan?”
“Are you well enough for me to tell on Daddy yet?”
“No, babe. No, I am not.”
“He was very bad. You will want to hear of his misbehavior.”
Kallan climbs up onto the bed with me and snuggles into my side.
I remove the towel from my face and turn sideways to pull Kallan into me. My headache shifts within me. Fuck.
Kallan whispers, “Does this voice hurt you? If I talk like this, does it hurt you?”
I kiss her head, “No, babe. That voice is fine.”
She wiggles happily and whispers, “OK, so Daddy made cookies and he told me that I could take them off of the pan with the spatula and I did that job, but then they needed to be scooted on the plate so they looked good. And then Daddy said DO NOT TOUCH ALL OF THE COOKIES JUST CHOOSE ONE but Mom I was not choosing a cookie I was just rearranging them which yes used my fingers but since I wasn’t choosing a cookie I didn’t really think his directions applied to me and then Maj flipped out because I touched the cookies with my fingers which I guess I should have thought of because she always flips out when you touch food with your fingers even though I used hand sanitizer somewhere in there and so then she was screaming and Daddy got all mad about how I never listen to directions and he was all scary and mean and he yelled at me and so then I came upstairs and then you wouldn’t answer even though I know you could hear me and then Daddy said I had to come downstairs and talk or go to bed and to leave you alone. But someone has to talk to him because he was bad.”
I talk into Kallan’s hair, “So did you go back downstairs and talk to Daddy?”
“You apologized for touching the cookies?”
“Did Daddy explain why he was angry with you?”
“Did you guys work it out?”
“Did you get to eat a cookie?”
“So what’s the problem, exactly?”
Kallan scooches away from me and stands on the bed, “Let me show you . . . this is what he looked like.”
She stands tall on the bed, towering over me. She glares down at me and pulls her lips into a thin angry line. She leans over a bit from her waist and brings her hands to her hips.
And then she screams down at me, her words vibrating and bouncing inside my skull, “KALLAN! YOU NEVER LISTEN TO ME! WHY DON’T YOU LISTEN? I TOLD YOU NOT TO TOUCH THE COOKIES!”
Kallan sinks back into the bed with me and whispers again, “Did you see how scary he was? Did you see how tall he was? Tell Daddy to stop being angry from above.”
I kiss her head and pull her close again, “I heard Daddy being angry with you. He was not unreasonable and he did not scream at you. Daddy gets to tell you not to touch the cookies, you know.”
“Daddy gets to be upset with you when you don’t follow directions.”
“Daddy gets to discipline you if you are not behaving.”
“And it sounds like Daddy and you worked this out.”
“So basically, you want me to tell him to stop being tall.”
Kallan giggles, “Yes . . . tell him to lie down if he wants to be mad. I don’t like him to be angry from above.”
I giggle into her shoulder.
We giggle together.
Mark comes to find us, “Is Kallan in here telling on me?”
Mark sighs, “Kallan, we already worked this out.”
I pat the bed, “Wait, babe. Before you say anything else, lie down with us.”
Kallan giggles happily.