“How about letting me go to the Halloween dance tonight after all?”
“You’ve got to be kidding me.”
“I’ve been up there sweating all morning, and I found some good stuff.”
“All you’re doing is what you’re supposed to be doing. It’s not my fault you’re flunking geometry.”
“Oh, my God, Momma!”
Caroline was at a crossroads. She hated Momma so much she wanted to leave the kitchen, slamming the door behind her (which, when she thought about it, wouldn’t slam anyway—it being a swinging door and all), or stay in the kitchen, which was at least cool. Cooler than cool actually. The icy air on her sweaty clothes felt deliciously cold.
She reached for another sandwich, even though she wasn’t hungry, and a bottle of barely cold water. “Lord, Momma, you’d think things like Grandma dying weren’t supposed to bother me.”
“What in the world are you talking about now?”
“I think the reason I can’t focus on geometry is because I’m still so sad.”
“Get off your soapbox, Caroline. It’s not going to work.”
Damn, I guess I played out the dead Grandma card. “It’s not just that, it’s just doing all this stuff is like saying goodbye to her all over again. Getting rid of all her stuff, I mean. Doesn’t it bother you at all?”
Slowly chewing the dollar store peanut butter and jelly probably full of chemicals poisoning her, Caroline waited for an answer.
Momma put her rubber gloves back on and began scrubbing another tin box. “It has been a lot of extra work, I know.”
“She’s barely dead, Momma, and you’re just ripping through this place like there’s no tomorrow. I mean,” Caroline continued, realizing it was true, “we won’t even be able to come back and visit, or anything.”
“You listen here, young lady, I’m only doing what I have to. It’s not like I have anyone to depend on . . .”
Caroline didn’t have to listen. She knew exactly what Momma would go on and on about. But it bothered her, how easy it was for Momma to wipe out any trace of Grandma’s life.
It bothered Caroline even more not being able to go to that dance. For the past six weeks, when Bobby Ray was alone after fourth period, Caroline had been working on getting him to notice her.
When beautiful Bobby Ray was leaving Spanish class, Caroline would be going to art, after stopping off at the girls’ bathroom to check her lipstick and mascara.
They had progressed from eye contact to nods, and now he was smiling, sometimes stopping for a minute to chat. But he had waited until yesterday to ask if she was coming to the Halloween dance. She’d said yes, smiling into his blue eyes in a way she hoped would encourage him without making her look too easy. Not worrying then about the report card being sent home in the mail that day.
All that work down the drain. Bobby Ray would probably hook up with one of the many girls who wanted to date him, and Momma would probably have her digging through Grandma’s shit until after ten.