‘No, mommy, please. I want to be in the middle.’
I press my extra ass underneath my regular ass and turn sideways, crushing my breast. ’Lucy, if I lie down anywhere but right here I will fall off the bed.’
‘I want to be in the middle.’ This is bordering on a wail. If she wakes the baby I will tear off my own face and run naked through the streets.
‘Let’s talk about this,’ I say, stroking her hair. Mila is trying to melt into my back by sheer force. ’What is it that you’re afraid of? What has changed since I turned off the light? I’m here, Mila’s here, Richie’s out there, Jack is sleeping and the dogs are watching for werewolves. Nothing can happen.’
Mila says into my back, ‘She’s afraid of the closet.’
‘But the closet is over there,’ I point. ’You’re over here. And why are you afraid of the closet? You were just playing in there. Remember how you took all the clothes off the hangers and mommy went crazy?’
‘Because of Mama,’ Mila says, and I have to hold my fist down so I don’t punch myself in the face. Why do I let my kids eat the nation’s stock of oreos and watch scary movies? So that they shut up. This is the price I pay.
‘No, because of that,’ Lucy says, lifting a shaking, chubby hand in the direction of the dresser. ’I think it’s a zombie.’
I use the two inches of space I’m allowed and turn my head to see a three-drawered mockery that’s vomiting clothes and busted hinges. I squint at a bundle next to the war-torn jewelry box. It’s a dirty diaper. I zone for a second, doing the math. Yes, it’s been there a week.
‘A zombie?’ I slur. The bottle and a half of red is starting to kick in. So much for sexy time with Rich.
‘A girl zombie,’ says Mila.
‘Yeah.’ My hair-stroking is working. Lucy yawns.
‘Well it’s not. And nothing is different. Put your hand in front of your face. Can you see it? No? Well do you think it’s turned into a girl zombie? Of course not. Your whole room is like that. Nothing has changed.’ I think I fall asleep for a second, because Mila laughs and says that I’ve farted.
‘I most certainly have not. I’m going to count to three and you’re going to go to sleep. 1…2…3.’ Mila puts her little arm around my belly and shuts up. I bite my cheek and fight sleep. If I can make it two more minutes…
But I haven’t replaced the evaporated water in the fish tank, so the noise that the filter is making, regurgitating slime into the habitat of my poor, forgotten damselfish, provides a waterfall score to my consciousness meltaway. I fall into a cabernet stupor, the empty second bed beside Lucy–the loving antidote for a day of sciatica and a future devoid of happiness and wellbeing–disappears with it.