I wake Maj at 8:00 am, and she rolls out of bed and follows me crankily downstairs. She sinks into the couch and pulls her knees up to her chest, reaching to tuck her robe around her bare toes. Resting her chin on her knees, she glowers at me.
I sip at my coffee and check my email.
Maj picks up a book and reads for a few minutes.
I let the dogs out and then back in again.
Maj walks silently behind me into the kitchen, where she pours cereal and milk into a bowl. She follows me back into the living room and sinks into the couch again. She takes a bite of cereal and looks around the room.
Maj gestures to the half of the couch that is generally reserved for Kallan, “Where is the hellionette?”
“I thought I would let her sleep until 8:30.”
“What? That is an outrageous answer! Perhaps you would like to explain yourself?”
“Maj, for the past week and a half, I have been waking you up a half hour before your sister. Is this seriously the first time you’ve noticed?”
She stares at me, “Really?”
“Really. Didn’t you notice that you and your sister haven’t been fighting over breakfast?”
Maj considers, “Huh. I guess I thought we were just getting along better. Seriously? She’s been sleeping an extra half hour every morning?”
“It’s not that odd . . . during the school year, you had to get up before Kallan; I just decided to continue that routine into the summer. You have a hard time with Kallan first thing in the morning.”
“Mother, she wakes up cheerful and perky and filled with song. It’s infuriating.”
“Yes, I know . . . and you wake up ensconced in velvet rage.”
She smiles, “Ensconced in velvet rage? I like that.”
“Can’t take all the credit . . . Ensconced in velvet is a phrase from a television show, meant to indicate a letting go of all one’s inclination to please anyone but oneself.”
Pondering for a moment, she says, “That’s my new catchphrase. Whenever I am sick of people and their expectations, I will say that I am ensconced in velvet rage.”
“I will be sad when you start swearing, babe.”
“For the most part, there is no need to swear, Mother . . . I can get my meaning across with actual words.”
“I love that about you.”
“So shouldn’t you go up and wake Kallan?”
“I usually wait until you are in the bathroom.”
“Huh.” She takes her bowl into the kitchen and rinses it out in the sink, “OK, I am headed into the bathroom.”
I stand and follow her up the stairs, “And I will wake your sister.”
Maj pauses as she reaches the top of the stairs, and she turns to me, “Seriously? Every day since we got out of school? Really?”
“Huh.” Maj disappears into the bathroom.
I continue down the hallway to Kallan’s room, “Wake up, sleepyhead!” I pull open the blinds on her windows and stand next to her bed, “Morning, sweetie . . . time to get up.”
Kallan stretches her arms above her head and yawns, reaching for the sleeve of my robe as she brings her hands back down, “Your robe sleeve looks like an elephant’s trunk.” She squeezes the end of my sleeve tightly, “What would an elephant do if you squeezed his trunk tightly, you think?”
“I imagine there would be some irritated trampling.”
Kallan giggles as I consider my trapped “trunk.” I lean over the bed a bit, “I could always ele-nibble you into submission.” I lower my armpit over her head and chomp a few times as she squeals in delight. She releases my sleeve and I lower my hand back through its length, reaching for imaginary grass that I then curl up into my armpit-mouth.
“Mommy, you are silly.”
“No sillier than you truncating my trunk.”
“It means to shorten or cut off . . . so a truncated trunk is a shorter trunk.”
“Want to hear a song I wrote?”
Kallan kneels in the bed and bounces as she sings . . .
I ate a fortune cookie
and it said to me
that you were right for me
but I think that cookie’s
from an alternate reality
in which you were someone who was good enough for me
because cookie has got it all wroooonnnnnggg
as far as this version of the world goes
because in this version all you get are
and I ate a fortune cookie
that was filled with lies
but it was tasty
so I ate it anyway
I know better than to trust dessert products with my future.
I clap as she finishes, and she leaps out of bed, “Want to see the cheer I learned yesterday?”
Kallan goes through a very precise routine, and she spells as she moves her arms and jumps into the air . . . Z-E-B-R-A-S . . . Gooooo, Zebras!
“Yeah, I don’t know what that’s about. We’re not going to be cheering for the zebras, but that’s the cheer they taught us.”
“Right? I would ask, but the lady in charge of the cheerleading does not seem like the sort of lady who wants to be questioned on her cheer animals.” Kallan throws herself back into bed and reaches for me with outstretched arms, “I’m still tired. Give me a hug.”
I lean to give her a hug, and she wraps herself tightly around me, “I am never letting you go.”
I try to pull away, “Come on, babe. It’s time to get up and have some breakfast.”
She hugs me tightly, “Stay here with me.”
“Ugh. I am going to have to tickle myself free.”
She pulls me closer, “Wait. Listen. Do you hear that?”
I stop struggling to listen; there is the sound of a siren approaching and then passing our neighborhood, “You mean the siren?”
“Yes,” Kallan whispers into my neck, “I always like to say a little hope in my head when there’s a siren that the person with the emergency is alright.”
I lean deeply into her hug, “Love you, baby girl. Now let me go so we can get this day started.”
She releases me, and I walk to the doorway.
“Can I have one more hug?” She holds her arms out as she lies in bed . . . pouts her lower lip, “Please?”
“You promise to let me go? Hug and then release . . . you always have trouble with the release.”
Kallan giggles and with her best newscaster voice, she interviews me, “Tell me, Mrs. Fly . . . How is it you were once again lured into Spider’s web?”
I make my voice high and apologetic, “I’m sorry to waste everyone’s time and money. It’s embarrassing to have the fire trucks come out to rescue me yet again.”
“But Mrs. Fly . . . Please explain to our viewing audience how this keeps happening.”
“He promised this time it would be different! He swore to me!”
“We’ve spoken to Spider, Mrs. Fly . . . He suggests that he had his fingers crossed when he made you these promises.”
“I guess . . . well, I guess I didn’t notice that.”
“Is that the truth, Mrs. Fly?”
“What are you getting at?”
“Well, Spider told us he crossed all of his fingers.”
“What’s your point?”
“Spider has eight hands, Mrs. Fly . . . that’s a lot of crossed fingers to overlook, don’t you think?”
“I thought he was cramped!”
Kallan howls with laughter and I walk to hug her. She hugs me tightly and whispers in my ear, “I’ll let you go if I can make pancakes for breakfast.”
She releases me and hops out of bed, pulls her robe on, turns to me, “Should I make some pancakes for Maj as well?”
“Nah, she already ate.”
Kallan stares at me, “Maj got up before me?”
“Yes, like always.”
She’s confused, “Wait . . . what?”