(This is half of the story and one child's Christmas)
“Don’t be so selfish. Think of your brothers?”
Mom still wore her flannel dressing gown and she hadn’t combed her hair. Mandy could remember four months ago when her mom cared what she wore.
“It’s only twice a week. And I can go with a friend.”
“I told you yesterday. No more dancing classes. We can’t afford it with all the Christmas stuff and I need you to help me.”
Mandy’s stomach dropped. In her dancing classes, everyone was like her. They talked about important things—shoes, steps, and music. She was good, a star even, and her teachers had plans for her. It was all snatched away. Worst of all, she’d spend the time she should’ve been dancing, babysitting the twins. She didn’t like them. They smelled bad.
“I can’t wait for your dad. I need you to go to the store and pick up a bottle of Tylenol. My head is ready to burst.”
None of her friends did shopping. Even though she was only eight, her mom trusted her. She pushed the money her mom gave her into her pocket.
“Put on a jacket. I don’t want you getting a cold and giving it to the twins.”
Upstairs in her bedroom, Mandy caught sight of the envelope with what was left of her birthday money—four dollars. Only yesterday, she’d heard her mom say she loved chocolate, not the dark, bitter stuff but the light brown, creamy kind. Mandy decided to buy her mom surprise chocolate for Christmas. Dad had put her name on the watch he bought for Mom but that wasn’t like picking out the present she wanted to give. Chocolate would make her mom happy again. She hadn’t been happy for months and she was worse after the twins came home, three weeks ago.
On her way downstairs, Mandy looked in on the twins in their white and blue cribs. She stuck out her tongue and blew raspberries at them. Her dad thought they were wonderful because they were boys but they were noisy, whiny, nasty little slugs. And if they weren’t here, Mom would have more money. Why couldn’t she see that?
“Don’t take too long,” her mom called out as Mandy left the house.
She had to go down the street, turn left and cross three streets to reach the twenty-four hour store with the Tylenol. She practiced dance steps on the way. She could even stand on her toes for a few seconds.
At the twenty-four store, before picking up the Tylenol, she checked out the chocolate. She couldn’t get kid’s bars or Reese’s peanut butter cups. No, her mom liked Lindt or big Cadbury bars with nuts. Everything cost more than she thought. She counted her birthday money again. It had to be enough.
“Can I help you?” a man who kept sniffing asked.
“No. You don’t have the candy I want.”
She bought the Tylenol, dropped it into a pocket, and left the store. Sales, that’s what she needed. Her mom talked all the time about sales. Mandy hurried up to the bridge and then she had to cross with cars coming four ways but she could do it. She was grown up enough to do the shopping. Her mom and dad had said she’d have someone to play with when the babies arrived. By the time they were old enough to play with her, she’d have a job and an apartment outside her parents’ home.
On the narrow path that crossed over the bridge and wound around to another main road, she couldn’t put her feet side by side but had to put one foot in front of the other. Should she go to the big Stop and Shop or should she turn right where she could check out several stores? She turned right. Cars dared her to cross. They were in such a hurry to turn onto Route 9. They’d be in a lot of trouble if they ran her over.
The first store had chocolate her mom liked but it was seven and eight dollars.
“Do you have anything on sale?” she asked the old woman behind the counter.
The woman shook her head. Mandy had to keep looking. She knew chocolate would put her mom in a good mood again. Mandy didn’t even care if her mom agreed to dancing classes as long as she’d smile again. Why did she want the twins when they made her so miserable? Mandy would never have kids or get married. If she couldn’t be a dancer, she’d be an ice road trucker. She’d show her dad she was tougher than her brothers.