Her face was kind, and at the same time, Jodi knew that the tattooed lady across from her would see through any lies. There wasn’t room in this cozy little cottage for anything but the truth.
The tattooed lady lay another card on the table.
As before, pictures formed in Jodi’s mind. Fragments of memories combining to tell their own story.
The sound of the front door to the apartment clicking closed in the middle of the night. Waking. Finding mom gone.
Mom walking to the car in her bathrobe and slippers.
“Mom!” Jodi called.
Mom turning. Her glasses sat crooked on her nose as she squinting in the poorly lit parking lot. Her expression shifting from scared, to angry, to guilty. “Go back to bed. I just forgot something in the car.”
“I’ll come with you,” Jodi offered, reaching for her mom’s hand.
“No, honey. Go back to bed.” Mom had turned Jodi around and softly patted her rump. “Off you go. I’ll be right up.”
Jodi doing as she was told, and going back to the apartment, but taking a blanket from the couch before stepping on the deck that overlooked the parking lot. Curling up on one of the plastic chairs. Watching mom slip inside their car. Roll down the driver’s side window. A point of red near her mouth. Smoke pluming out the car window.
Jodi falling asleep on the deck.
The next morning. “Good Christ, Jodi,” Mom said when Jodi asked again what she was doing last night. “There is nothing going on. Honestly, you are really too smart for your own good.”
Mom’s smile didn’t cover up the circles under her bloodshot eyes. And the extra maple syrup she poured on their pancakes couldn’t make Jodi forget that her mom was keeping secrets.