“Why would you want to embarrass yourself like that? You know those sorts of things aren’t for girls like you, Emily.”
Emily was standing outside the Piggly Wiggly starting at an almost-florescent yellow flyer in the front window.
Miss Marigold Pa gean t
That’s what it said in comic sans font off-center and weirdly spaced.
Come one, Come all
$50 entrance fee
Bring your talent and sign up today
That was the rest of it. Then there was a picture of last year’s winner, Virginia Lashley. Emily rolled her eyes just seeing that smug face staring back at her from the page. That’s when Mama walked up and caught her staring. Mama, with her knockoff designer purses and brand name clothes bought at Marshall’s… Emily would stare up at the ceiling some nights after Mama had been particularly cruel, poisonous words dripping from her wine-stained lips and wonder just why Mama tried so hard to fit in with people that obviously never gave a shit about her in the first place. Shit and words like it were ever-present in Emily’s head, but she didn’t dare utter them aloud. Mama would be sure to backhand her a good one and tell her how unladylike she was being.
“Seriously, child, you aren’t pageant material and everyone knows it. It would be a waste of $50 and send you into your usual fit of tears so come on now. I need a roast for dinner tonight for your father’s favorite birthday dinner.”
The two headed inside. Emily was quiet trailing behind her mom with her eyes downcast as usual. Mama was a talker though. Emily supposed she fancied herself a socialite, but everyone in this place, in this whole town, feigned interest in one another then gossiped about each other in the next breath.
Emily thought this was complete bullshit and spent the entire time she was in the store imagining all the women as big fat sewer rats. Mrs. McMillan was a plump old gray rat with blue hair and spectacles. Mrs. Spencer had orange lips and too much rouge on her brown fur and was way too skinny with a long, way too long, snout. Ms. Sorenson was a taller rat with a flat face like a pug and dark, almost black fur, a mole on the end of her short snout and dead eyes like a shark. And on it went. A ten minute trip to pick up a roast that, if Mama was honest with herself wouldn’t get eaten anyway since Daddy preferred to drink his dinner, took nearly 2 hours.
The only time Emily actually said anything, she asked for an iced molasses cookie from the bakery in the shape of a goofy frog when Mama was picking up Daddy’s cake.
“Now, Em dear, you know you don’t need the extra calories. You could stand to lose a little weight as it is. I refuse to add to your little problem there. And don’t even ask for any of this birthday cake. You won’t be getting it.”
Emily noticed the woman in the bakery looking at Mama strangely but Mama didn’t pick up on the confusion and bewilderment on the baker’s face. Instead, Mama winked and proudly said, “We have to make sure we keep out girls looking fit if they ever intend on getting married, don’t we?” And with that she grabbed the cake and turned away from the counter without waiting for a reply.
The checkout line wasn’t any better. Mama gabbed uselessly about herself as usual. The young girl ringing up their groceries looked like she absolutely could not care less about the great deal Mama got on her exquisite Gucci card case in fuchsia of all colors, so she leaned over towards Emily and asked, “So, little lady, do ya think you might enter the Miss Marigold pageant? I bet you’d look great in a royal blue gown with those brown eyes of yours!”
Emily blushed at the compliment and peeked up at her shyly from behind her mop of brown hair. She blushed even harder when Mama scoffed and said that it would most certainly be a waste of time and money putting a girl like Emily in a pageant with the kind of girls that usually won the Miss Marigold title.
The cashier stood there with her mouth open for a second staring at Mama but then she turned back to her work, shut her mouth, and quickly got them out of there before anything else could be said.
On the ride home, Mama hummed off-key along to one of her country CDs while Emily, in the backseat, stared out the window into the clouds overhead. Sometimes she felt like she lived two lives. On the outside, she was demure and shy, sensitive to her mother’s criticisms and her parents’ drunken fights, always the wallflower. In her head, she was fierce, unrelenting, a force that would stop at nothing to get out of here and live her own life one of these days. She was going to be a biologist. She was never going to wear another pair of Capris for as long as she lived, and she was going to marry a girl.
In a way, she was a caged tiger. From the outside looking in, there was nothing to fear. It was easy to see her as just a scared little house cat. But one day she would find a way out; her real self born from the prison she constructed to make her life with Mama a little easier. Free. It wasn’t like phoenix being reborn from ashes because the true Emily had never really lived in the first place.
One day, she thought, staring into the clouds ignoring the off-key humming. She daydreamed of her future (one without Mama) and allowed herself to smile for the first time since she woke that morning.
Sunday Confessions today! The prompt this week was embarrassment. I hope you will check out the other submissions on More Than Cheese and Beer. Thanks for reading!