Natalie’s legs are splayed on the floor, flexing up and down as she rubs a crayon against a sheet of pad paper. Most of her crayons are snapped into countless pieces, grimy from rolling across the floor. But not this one. It’s the prized pink crayon reserved only for princess’ dresses and decorative hearts, and today she is working on a heart that is too difficult to fill. Still, she does not flinch as she grips the crayon, diminishing it layer by layer onto the paper.
She takes the red crayon next, eyeing two printed guidelines on the pad paper. Everything will be fine if she follows them. She makes a red line along the top. That’s easy. One down. A little wobbly, but it’s one of her better ones. And a crayoned line along the bottom. She pauses to assess her work. That’s a decent “I”.
Her tongue sticks out a little as she continues, glancing at the bedroom door and hoping nobody enters. She remembers her mom scolding her sister the other night for bad handwriting. How will her sister go to college and earn a lot of money if nobody can understand what she’s writing?
Well, Natalie’s not going to make the same mistake.
Following the printed lines helps, Natalie thinks. She likes how she wrote the letter “o”. It’s a good “o”. There should be a check mark beside this “o”. Miss Lora from school wouldn’t say that it looks like a “u” like she always does.Natalie folds the paper in half. It doesn’t fold evenly the first time, so she makes several attempts. She gets it right at last, and she commits to the fold, feeling the wax through the paper as she drags her nail along the folded edge.
She makes her way downstairs, clinging to the banisters as she scopes the field. Mom is at her work desk, punching buttons on a calculator and writing numbers with a blue pen. Natalie does not notice the wrinkles on her mom’s forehead. She does not see her mom pick up the phone, and she does not hear what her mom is borrowing from Aunt Gracie. All Natalie hears is her heart thumping in her ears. All she notices is how fast she is approaching her mom, and all she sees is an open space on the table.
She flings the card onto the desk, the paper fluttering as if startled by her sudden movement.
She scrambles back to the staircase, thankful that her mom is distracted on the phone.
Natalie lies across several steps, playing with a doll she left there ages ago. The anxiety trickles away from her chest as fresh anticipation seeps in.
A few eternities go by, and she hears her name downstairs. She creeps towards her mother, clutching the doll. Natalie reaches the table and looks up.
Her mom gives the card back, glancing at Natalie before jabbing at the calculator again.
Natalie opens the card. There’s the pink heart and the red message.
“Dir Mom. I love you. You r thi most biutiful mom.”
But there is blue ink on the paper now.
“Write 5 times: Dear, Are, The, Beautiful”
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