My mother was doing that thing she did. That thing with the rag in the sink. She wrung it out, twisting it until it made a tight spiral. She shook it out and twisted it again, then she did it again. And again. And again. My mother was upset. Her eyes had this far away look as she stared out the window above the sink. Twist, twist, shake. Twist, twist, shake.

“Mom?” I asked, hesitantly. She turned her head only slightly towards the sound of my voice, but her eyes never moved. Twist, twist shake.

“Mom?” I asked, a little louder. She didn’t move, apart from her hands, wringing desperately at the faded blue rag.

She had found a diamond bracelet in the car. It was brilliant. She pulled it out of the passenger seat. The glint caught her eye and she reached her hand down as if to search for coins that always could be found in there. She pulled it out of the seat like she was handling a strand of hair, pinched between her thumb and forefinger. As it came out, the sun pierced each diamond in turn, sparkling around the car. She held it that way for long long moments. Then that expression on her face came. She left me to carry the groceries inside. I gathered as many bags as I could carry, and found her inside at the sink. Twist, twist, shake. Twist, twist, shake.

She knew it wasn’t hers.

She knew my father wouldn’t have bought her one.

“Mom!” I yelled, scared out of my mind.

She’s snapped, I just know it. After all they’ve gone through, after all they’ve worked on, this was the last straw, and she’s snapped, I thought.

Mom didn’t seem to hear me at all. Twist, twist, shake. I went to get Dad. He told me to stay in the den. I left the house instead, not being able to stand the tension. I was gone for a long time. I just wandered through the town, passing joggers, bikers, cars, kids, dogs, and not even noticing. All I could see was the sun glinting off those diamonds, and Mom with her rag. Twist, Twist, Shake.

I got back to the house and, out of habit, grabbed the full trash bag Mom always sets just outside the door for someone to take out to the large green city garbage bin at the curb. I raised the lid and lifted the bag to drop it in, and stopped cold. Resting at the bottom of the barrel, was my father’s top-of-the-line ball-peen hammer, stained at the end with wet paint. He just bought it. I remembered Mom’s expression when he brought it home proud of himself. She wasn’t proud. Her face twisted into the tight smile that was usually followed by a long lecture, usually loud and always followed by the silent treatment.

She’s thrown out his hammer. That must have been one hell of an argument. I thought, shaking my head slightly. I dropped the trash inside and let the lid drop. Then I took a deep breath and went into the house, ready to face what had to be World War III.

Mom was still at the sink. But she was smiling, humming and washing dishes as if nothing had happened.

“Mom?” I asked, warily.

She turned immediately.

“Hello, dear,” she said. “Are you hungry?”

I glanced around the kitchen. Then something caught my eye and I looked again at the wall next to the sink. Mom saw my gaze shift and looked where I was looking. A large mark graced the white paint. A dark red blob that looked wet. Mom laughed a bright little laugh, then picked up the faded blue rag and wiped the stain on the wall. I looked down at the floor and saw the diamond bracelet laying there, trying vainly to glint in the sunlight coming through the kitchen window, but a red stain covered the brilliant surfaces of the stones. I picked it up and carried it to the bathroom. I grabbed a washcloth and tried to clean the diamonds. Then I rinsed out the rag.

Twist, twist, shake.

Twist, twist, shake.

Twist, twist, shake.

E.M.Pearson writes in Maryland, USA.

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Every Day Fiction