Not Perfect Part 3 -- Kristen's POV
I finished eating my miserable cornflakes after mum left. I rinsed the bowl out and dumped it in the sink before grabbing my phone to ring my best friend, Jenna. She answered in her cheery, bubbly voice.
“Hi. What are you doing today?”
“I’m at the mall, with a couple of friends.”
“Could I join you?”
“Darling, when are you never not welcome?”
My mood brightened at her cheerful banter. “Oh, I don’t know. But thanks.”
“Anytime, my friend. But, weren’t you going to hang out with your mum? That’s why I didn’t invite you.”
“And why not? She’s awesome.”
“She used to be.”
“Oh, come on!”
““No, serious, Jenna. This has been bugging me for ages…like, ever since dad died, she never spends any time with me. Ever.”
“So, she went to work, then?”
I sighed. “Yeah. And after I clean the house everyday, it’s like she doesn’t even appreciate it.”
“Tell you what. You come here, and we can go to a separate café from the others and have a long talk.”
“As sure as I’m your best friend, really.”
I smiled. “Ok. Meet you in ten.”
I hung up the phone, grabbed my thongs and purse, and headed for the door. I thought about leaving a note for mum in case she came back early and wondered where I was. Nah, forget it, she never comes home early.
I went out by the front door, making sure to lock it properly. Phew, it was hot today. The sun scorched the skin on my back where the dress didn’t cover. By the time I reached the bus stop, it was burned a crimson red. I payed the driver my fee and took a window seat in the un-air-conditioned bus. I counted the gumtrees as the bus pulled slowly out of the parking space and crawled along the street. Thirty-nine.
When it parked at the plaza, I muttered my thanks to the driver and stepped into the heat. Jenna was waiting for me outside MacDonald’s café. I waved. “Hey!”
“Oh, hey!” She enveloped me in a big hug. “Since the slushie machine is being slow today, I already ordered for you.”
A girl at the bench called out, “Two slushies for Jenna?”
Jenna raised her hand. “Yep, thankyou, that’s us.”
We sat down at seat for two with our frozen smoothies.
“So?” Jenna slurped at her strawberry flavoured mush.
“So…I’ve been really upset lately. About mum.”
“Have you talked to her about it?”
I sighed. “No. It almost feels like I shouldn’t.”
“Well, since dad died, she been so different.”
“No! She is everything but depressed…on the outside. When dad died, she kept telling me everything would be okay. What was I, like, three?”
“Yeah, five. I don’t remember being really sad, I was just a kid. Of course, I miss him now, but…” My voice trailed off. I swallowed to make it steady again. “Now, she doesn’t talk about that stuff. She just works.”
“What about on weekends?”
“On Saturdays, she does ‘extra’ on her laptop. And on Sundays she’s so tired so she crashes in bed and stays there most of the day.”
Jenna leaned over to hug me. “You know what? One day, your mum will realize what a help you’ve been to her, and she will be deeply in your debt.”
I laid my head on Jenna’s shoulder. “But, when?”
I felt the tears build up inside my eyes and slowly spill out. “Jenna, it’s like I don’t have any parents anymore. Dad’s dead, and mum is like a non-existing person, and sometimes I don’t feel loved or secure.”
Jenna stroked my hair. “You know I’d do anything to help out.”
I looked at her gratefully. “You’ve been the most wonderful friend anyone could ever ask for. Though sometimes, I just feel lonely.” I straightened up and wiped tears away. Jenna went and got serviettes for me.
“On another subject, how did Brett like the other night?”
“Oh, I think he liked it very much! You know how I said before how sometimes I don’t feel loved from mum? Well…I think he might fill that space…whenever I’m with him I feel so secure and special.”
She gave me a playful slap on my back. “That’s good! Remember though, if you ever need to talk to me I’m always here.”
“I know. Brett feels different from all the other guys, you know?”
“Oh Kristen, I’m so happy for you. Come on; let’s go back to your house. I’ll drive you there.”
“Good plan.” I chucked our empty cups in the bin and followed her outside to the car.
“Oh, man,” Jenna complained, “The shade moved…I had originally parked in the shade.”
“Well,” I opened the passenger seat door. Instantly a wave of stifling heat hit me, making me wait a few seconds for it to cool down before hopping in. “At least there’s air conditioning.”
“Of course.” Jenna snorted, “It would be torment if there wasn’t.”
We turned down Wallaby St. A few of them skidded out of the way of Jenna’s dark green car.
“Hm, what’s going on here?” Jenna scanned the unusual amount of cars parked along the road. I craned my neck to see. “I think…”
“A church fair…‘Save the Orphans’.”
Memories floated back about how a man with a dark beard used to hold my hand and walk me to church, and mum as well. His face was blurred. “We… used to go to church.”
“Before your dad died?”
“My folks still go. I used to believe, but…that was Sunday school time, years ago.”
I grinned. “Remember how, ages ago, when you grew up, you wanted to be a Sunday school teacher?”
“Yes. How demented was that? Can you imagine me teaching kids about…God?”
I shook my head slowly. “Yeah, and I mean those Christians just go on about how their God is so good, and how life is perfect and everything. Sometimes I just feel they’ve got to wake up to reality.”
Jenna nodded in agreement. “Bad things happen.”
“But sometimes…I really wonder if He is actually up there.”
“It’s definitely food for thought.”
We sat in silence for the rest of the car trip, busy with our own thoughts.
I brushed the thick, red paint over my nails. Ew, how it stunk. I reached over to open the window and let some fresh air in.
There was a jingle of keys coming from the front door. A moment later, mum walked in.
“Hi!” She said it a bit distractedly. I forced myself to smile at her.
“Hi. Did you have a good day?”
She plonked her bag on the table. “Oh, um…yeah, yeah I did.”
“Tired? Do you need a coffee?”
“No, but thanks. I think I’ll get away from this…” she sniffed, “Nailpolish smell.”
She shuffled down the hall and, I think, collapsed on an easy armchair in the lounge room.
I gathered up the polish bottle and the tissues and went to my room. Mum wouldn’t have to smell the stink from there.