Jessica screamed, “I hate you!” and slammed the door as she left the house. Ms. Kemp saw her arms pumping as she butted, head down, into a hostile world. She had pleaded that she hadn’t been able to do anything with her hair and she would be late if her mother did not give her a ride to school. Ms. Kemp had calmly replied that she must get up a little earlier if she was to have time to walk the three blocks. And wasn’t it a lovely day for walking?
Ms. Kemp had her own problems getting ready for work this morning. She and Jessica had hurriedly torn open their Valentines to each other and exchanged hugs at breakfast (instant with spinach in it). So now Ms. Kemp could not pretend that she had not yet received her gift nor ignore it. Face it, she told herself, you will have to wear it all day lest Jessica check up on you and find another excuse to hate you.
Twelve years old was probably not the most difficult age she would ever be. As a counsellor, Ms. Kemp theorized that this was only the beginning. An inauspicious one, perhaps. Some kids just had a harder case of adolescence than others. So she’d better wear her basic black and flaunt the neck piece, carry it off somehow.
What Jessica had made for her mother was a wood heart about half an inch thick by four inches, top to point. A border of curlicues and the words “Have you hugged your Psychologist today?” had been crowded onto the red painted surface. It was heavy and awkward, but she would wear it because Jessica was sure to ask and Ms. Kemp would not lie to her daughter.
Ms. Kemp took pride in adorning her fashionably slender, long legged body with smart, very low key, but beautifully stylish clothes. The heart hanging from its red ribbon just below the bust line looked grotesque. Her clients asked about it understandingly. The staff snickered or razzed her. Reactions of the partners ranged from understanding smiles to surprised looks followed by averted eyes. Mr. Black had openly disapproved of her, but then he always disapproved. She’d even worn the heart to her professional organization’s planning meeting/lunch at Smirnoff’s. Somehow she got through the ordeal tattered but honor intact.
It was Jessica’s turn to cook, thank heavens. The smell of TV dinners in the oven greeted her nose as she removed her jacket to reveal her fidelity and love.
Jessica’s shocked screech grated: “Mother, don’t tell me you wore that!”
“Jessica, isn’t this a necklace?”
“Do you think I’m, like, eight?” Insulted. “I’d never make something so gross for you to wear! Like, how tacky!”
“Then what is it for?”
“It’s for your office wall! It’s a decoration! You mean you actually wore it, like, all day? I bet you told everybody I made it for you! Oh, Mother, how could you?” And she slammed the door to her room.