The song on the radio was from high school. She and her friend used to sing it as loud as possible when they drove to soccer practice.
She would’ve turned it up, but she was in the backseat of her car at the far end of the Target parking lot. She was wedged in between two car seats, nursing her son who couldn’t wait to get home to eat. Her hips barely fit the space, the hard plastic of the Britax ClickTight pressing into her flesh.
Her son, Ryder, had been latched to her breast for twelve minutes — she’d been watching the clock — and made no indication he was near finished.
Can we go, Mommy? her daughter, Annabel asked. She reached over and pulled her mom’s hair.
Don’t do that, honey. It hurts Mommy. She told Annabel to listen to the song. It was one of Mommy’s favorites. She started to sing, but her daughter stopped her.
Play Disney. Annabel took her brand-new glittery wand and swung it in the air. Abracadabra.
She explained to Annabel that Mommy couldn’t reach the knob; she’d have to be patient. To Ryder, she thought, You can’t still be hungry. He continued to suckle, his puckered hand resting below her throat, a touch so tender she’d sit there forever if his appetite demanded it.
She closed her eyes, indulging in visions of herself at seventeen. Thin but muscular. Face freckled from hours outside doing soccer drills. Chin raised, flaunting her invulnerability. When the song ended, she found her reflection in the mirror. The woman she saw looked colorless, bare.
Annabel was bouncing in her car seat, turning the wand in circles. Bippity boppity. Bippity boppity boo.
She asked Annabel what she would wish for if she had a fairy godmother.
That’s easy. Chocolate cake.
She smiled at her daughter, pleased the only thing missing from her world was dessert. If only she shared the sentiment. Her life was full, yes, but it was also lonely, even in a crowded parking lot. Especially in a crowded parking lot. Nothing resembled the dynamic boardroom she hadn’t set foot in in months, a place she’d been impatient to leave but missed, nonetheless.
What would you wish for, Mommy?
Annabel gave her a quizzical look. Her daughter didn’t see the teenager with tight skin and a sharp wit or the executive carrying a heavy laptop and even heavier clout. She saw a woman without makeup and with milk stains on her shirt. The woman who helped her brush her teeth, tie her shoes, and buckle her seatbelt. Annabel only knew this version of her mother, but it was someone she, herself, didn’t quite recognize.
She opened her mouth but couldn’t articulate an answer, unable to reconcile tugs of her former self with nascent feelings of composure. Motherhood gave and took in unequal quantities, the results of which weren’t easily measurable. Bottom lines had been replaced with diapered bottoms — a reality that often left her muddled. She exhaled a prolonged, weary breath.
Annabel patted her mother’s hand. Don’t worry. You can’t hurry a good wish.
Her daughter was right. She’d be patient. She relaxed and focused on the music. The song playing was one she hadn’t heard but perhaps was one she’d grow to love.
Kimberly Crow is an accountant living in Massachusetts with her two young children, husband, and roughly three billion LEGO pieces. When she’s not working or parenting (or picking up LEGOs), she’s writing novels and flash fiction, spending time outdoors with her family, and fantasizing about moving to London. Her debut flash fiction is featured in the literary journal, the tiny journal.