Barbra Streisand grinds and grinds before sputtering to a stop.
"Ugh!" I call out, and then plead with my car. "Barbra, sweetie." I place my hand on her dashboard and rub in soothing circles. "I need you to start. I'm going to be late for work. Will you start for me? Pretty please? Okay, ready?"
I turn the keys again. The grinding sound is worse this time, metallic shrieking. "Darn you!" I yank out the key. It's a freezing December morning, and as I exhale, I can see my frosted breath.
My phone buzzes with a text from Cheyenne: I just folded my 75th sweater of the morning. When do you get here?
The mall opens earlier than usual this week for the Christmas rush. Cheyenne has already been folding clothes at the Gap for an hour, and I'm supposed to be at Once Upon, the independent bookstore I work at, in twenty minutes.
I text back: Hopefully soon! Barbra won't start
She replies: Rough! I'll drive you home later
I send her an emoji kiss face, then step out of my car, tug my coat tight, and hurry inside. Mom and Mama are still home, but the house is silent. I peek into the living room first, then the kitchen. Nothing. I thud upstairs to their bedroom, but the door is shut. Muffled voices filter into the hallway at an inaudible murmur. Usually their door is open. Usually I'd waltz right inside and jump on their bed, playing with the tassels of a throw pillow while asking for a ride. But now their door is closed, dampening the tense voices inside.
I take a short breath, then square my shoulders and knock with two quick raps.
The voices stop, and moments later, Mom opens the door. We have the same brown eyes and the same curly brown hair, but her eyes are tired, and her hair is pulled back into a frizzy braid. It really needs a deep condition. I want to recommend a recipe for a great avocado hair mask I found online, but reading the room, now is not the time for hair-care essentials.
"Shoshanna," Mom says. "Aren't you supposed to be at work?"
Her voice almost snaps, like she's mad at me or something. I fiddle with my Star of David necklace and rock back on my heels. "Barbra won't start. Again. Can I get a ride to the mall?"
"That car should've been junked years ago," Mom mutters.
My pulse skips. She can't junk Barbra Streisand. Yes, she's old, passed down from my moms to me, but I need a car, and my Once Upon paycheck doesn't cover much more than gas and insurance. "Um." I clear my throat. "I don't want to be late. Christmas rush and all."
Mama walks over to us. Her blond hair is still wet from the shower, and she's wearing her silk peach bathrobe, cinched lightly above her rounded hips. It's strange, both of them standing by the cracked door, bare feet on their bedroom carpet, while I'm here in the hallway, boots on the hardwood floor.
"I wish I could take you," Mama says. "But I'm teaching a class soon and need to get ready. Sorry, love."
I give her a small smile. "That's okay, Mama."
"Fine." Mom's voice does snap this time. "I'll take you on the way to work, then. I'll be downstairs in five."
"Okay." I twist my fingers together. "Thanks."
Mom nods and slides back into the room, closing the door behind her. Their murmurs continue, slightly louder than before. I catch a snippet about dirty dishes. Dishes? Is that really why they're arguing?
I walk downstairs, but instead of going straight to the garage, I head into the kitchen. The coffeepot sits in the sink. Next to it are a spoon and a mug with an ounce of milky coffee at the bottom. It's a silly thing to fight about; I can fix it, just like that, and everyone will be happy. I slip off my coat, pull on our pair of ladybug-patterned dish gloves, and wash and dry each piece.
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