On the last afternoon of their vacation, Lise’s daughter wants to walk to the convenience mart. They had just returned from the pool, when she says, “I’ll be right back, Mom.”
“Where are you going?”
“I wanna buy a souvenir at that place down the road – like a snow globe, or something.”
“Want me to go with you?”
“That’s ok. I’ll be right back.”
Lise’s daughter steps into the hallway and sighs. Finally, she’s alone. She wants just a few minutes to herself, before they begin the grand finale – a night of room service pizza and ice cream sundaes, pay-per-view movies, and piles of People magazines. She must admit, it sounds like fun. Her mother was so excited, she jumped up and down in the elevator, chattering from the lobby to the twenty-second floor.
Now, listening to the rhythmic flip-flop of her shoes, Lise’s daughter felt a strange mixture in her chest, an internal combustion of sadness and love. How depressing, she thinks, that my mother is so pumped to spend a week alone with me. Like I’m some prize.
She approaches the convenience mart, with its sidewalk display of plastic rafts. She enters, fingering the ten-dollar bill in her pocket, and surveys a row of shot glasses, magnets and tiny silver spoons. She turns to the counter, where a small-boned, dark-haired girl eyes her from behind the cash register. She notices a boy with dreadlocks, sitting on a stool, beside the girl. The two exchange glances, communicating in a secret code of blinks. Lise’s daughter pivots to a rack of candy bars. She wishes she hadn’t let her mom French-braid her hair at the pool this afternoon. She wishes she had changed out of her pink sun dress. She looks like all the other tourist brats. Why couldn’t she try, just for a few minutes, to be someone else? As if on a dare, she approaches the register and asks the girl for a pack of Camel Lights.
The dark-haired girl raises her eyebrows and says, “Those aren’t very good for you, you know.”
“So you don’t look like a smoker. Filtered or unfiltered?” Lise’s daughter has never smoked a cigarette in her life.
“Definitely filtered.” The girl smirks at the boy.
“Where are you from?”
“Cleveland. Where are you – I mean, you live here?”
“Yeah. Near the beach.”
“You’re so lucky.”
“You here with your family for the week?”
“With my mom. It’s our last night.”
“Oh yeah? What are you two ladies gonna do tonight?”
“My mom’s probably going out to the clubs. That’s sort of her thing.”
“What about you?”
“I’ll probably just hang out.”
“You should come to the beach.” She grins at the boy, “Should we tell her where it is?”
The boy blinks.
“Know where the old ranger station is, in the park?”
“I think so, yeah.”
“We’re usually there after sunset. Look for the bandana on the door.”
“Okay. See ya.”
“See ya. Hey, what’s your name?”
“Don’t forget your ciggies, Margot.”
Lise’s daughter takes the pack from the girl and walks casually to the street. Once clear of the rafts, she picks up her pace. She wonders how long she’s been gone. She wonders if her mother is worried about her. She throws the cigarettes in a manicured bush near the entrance of the hotel, and jogs to the elevator. She presses the button several times, tapping her toes on the floor as she waits for the doors to open. Her heart thuds in her chest, and she wishes she could teleport herself to her room. She wants to lie on the bed, beside her mother. She wants to share a sundae, giggle, and pick the perfect movie. She wants to burrow in beside her, pull the covers up to her chin, and stay forever. The elevator door opens. She steps in and takes long, deep breaths, all the way to the twenty-second floor, where she will get what she needs.