“I didn’t agree to this,” Olivia says.
“Um, well, you do have other options. But – come on, look.”
Olivia looks and sees Lily wearing her oops-but-uh-please smile. She also has her hands clasped together just under her chin, which has the effect of squishing the cat, or maybe a kitten, who is now squirming a little behind her curtain of brown hair. It jumps down and pads over to curl up in a bag, thankfully empty, and peers up with wide eyes.
“I have a choice,” Olivia reminds herself, and it’s a little grounding. She lets out an exhale. “I have a choice,” she repeats, and the world feels a little steadier. She looks at the cat again, takes in the way it looks, tries to reasonably calculate how much it would cost to take care of one. She knows there’s a general store a few blocks away that sells cat food at a decently low cost, because for some reason it’s sold next to the candy. Olivia doesn’t want to take in a cat if it will go hungry with her. It’ll feel like a failure, which has never failed to drive her to tears. There are some cardboard boxes that can probably be made to serve as a makeshift playground, and maybe some other things she can scourge up. Could she – no, she reminds herself, could they do it? Olivia crouches down, looks a little harder. Their place doesn’t forbid pets, and their neighbors, who come over every weekend for tea, have no allergies beyond their sneezing reaction to pollen.
“Hey,” Lily says, clasping their hands together and drawing small circles with her thumbs. “I’m ok with it if you decide no.” She looks earnest, a little apologetic.
“No,” Olivia says, and she’s surprised at the amount of conviction that comes with it. “The cat can stay.”
Lily beams, and Olivia offers a tentative one back. The cat has their head raised a little out of the bag, and she wonders if the memory will stay, will remain something hopeful and warm. A little family.
It is an indistinguishable day:
gray, cloudy sky and hours that feel too long.
There is someone with a stroller, a child
kicking their legs, asking for food.
The river sloshes, the boats bob slowly,
all the discarded trash bumps up against the wall
Something upsetting has happened, left you
in shaky tears, spilling out water, an inkwell tipped.
You want to run, sprint to the best of your ability
far, far away. You want to make it to that glowing symbol,
that reads PIER and a number, that attracts boats but not people.
You look down, take two steps at a time, trying to
make it a game, two steps in one rectangular block, and suddenly
It is cold, and your face and arms have turned red.
But now you have an accomplishment, something to counter
the failure that had tipped the scales, sent liquid flying.
It’ll be okay, you remind yourself.
It’ll be okay.
Art of Growing
“…So I moved my two dark, three-dimensional circles out of the dark, and beheld the terrifying sight of-”
Amber smiles, the corners of her lips quirking up, before she hides it with a long sip of soda. Every time James tells that particular story, he embellishes it a little more. Never to the point of being false, because James rather rigidly sticks to his belief that honesty is the best policy, but substituting in longer ways to say things. The number of ways he’s found to say that his eyes opened is frankly astonishing at this point. But the child he’s talking to and gesticulating in front of begins to stop crying. She’s looking up at him and breaking out into weak giggles every now and then, and Amber feels a rush of fondness before turning her attention back to the other children.
They’re loudly gesturing, and they’ve made sure to include everyone, the way she and James have been encouraging them to do. But it seems that they were nearly done planning, as the mass of students breaks up and attends to their plants. Jake, Edward, and Maria are trying to grow a sunflower, and it’s already starting poking up from the dirt. Abigail and George are tending to marigolds. The others had beamed up at her and said it was a secret, but she had been promised that they were flowers and not trees.
“So hey, everything’s okay. My teacher told me something similar when I broke a cup. We can get a new pot of soil, if you’d like, but this isn’t something that’s being graded, and we’re not upset. The most important thing is that you’re alright. Do you feel better?” The girl looks a little calmer now, and less distraught. She nods. “Alright then, wanna remind me what Ms. Amber taught us?” James asks warmly, and the girl stands up straight, with confidence, and leads him through the steps.
The metal glints in the air as it is raised,
And it goes down.
It has traveled through so many terrains
Sank itself, under someone’s hand, into canvasses
Of white, brown, the whole array
They must stab multiple times
Holes appear, which can never be healed
Red issues forth, flies a little up
Until it finds a place to land
Small dots appear, a little raised, like flowers
The face that belongs to the hand smiles
Holds out their work, asks if we can see
The message of love they made
There are swooping lines, dots like flowers
Can you see?
There are leaves falling to the ground
There is warmth in the creation
There is a pumpkin, the one you carved for Halloween
They laugh, a twinkle in their eye
“Do you like the quilt, dear?”
A Little Something from the Embroiderer
It's Easy to Break Things
By Vanessa Lam
Rage slams down, spirals out
Be careful, an earthquake is happening
It’s tearing through pride and hope
Through wispy dreams anchored by tears
And the glass walls keeping everything in
(hadn’t they been designed with concrete?)
There’s the shock wave, look
There are glass shards being thrown out
Remember not to let them go
Your cloudy dreams can be found another day
And hope and pride can be restored
But if you hit others with those shards
Broken trust is not easily repaired