Trouncing out of the bedroom, a scraggly light brown mass of straw pounced in the air, hiding two missing front teeth wrapped in a banana shape grin. A bunch of Strawberry Shortcakes bounced on the little nightgown singing along with the ball of energy “You love me, you know it, you can’t deny!” Repeatedly boinging off the faux wood paneled walls. Thumping through the caved hallway, the song continued as the little one sprung herself onto the couch — flipping over in a back bend then, flicking her small straight toes over. Raising her arms in the air, her perfect landing received applause and each of the judges gave her a 10.
Boing, boing, boing. “You love me, you know it, you can’t deny it!” Ballet spins open-close-open-close-open-close-stay on your toes-open-close…Boom! Thumps rang throughout the shaky house. Rattling walls from the front to the back.
“Joliette stop making all that noise, I am sleeping!”
“Joliette are you turning on the stove?”
“Joliette stop singing it’s too loud!”
Shaking her gown as she staggered up, her grin turned into giggles — fingers turning the giant black knob off. Smelling the fumes dissipate into the air. Spinning with her dance partner falling into the chair knocking it over, quickly she picked it up. Cowling into her body gripping a stance. Looking back and forth, biting her lip, easing a little more as the time passed. Silence caused her to relax and start to dance again singing, “You love me, you know it, you can’t deny it!” under her breath. Spilling cereal into her bowl, splashes of milk puddled on table she quickly grabbed a towel to hide all the evidence.
Smeared white rainbows finally disappearing. Crumbs fell on the floor — scooting them with her feet under the table, she looked over her shoulder then, back to her bowl. Sitting in her chair, the song flew through her mind. Wobbling it back and forth making creaking sounds. Forming a musical treasure, the tune to go along with her new song. Small puffy lips curved a smile, while her big eyes looked up at the ceiling. Crunching on the cold, plain flakes for each word. “You love me, you know it, you can’t deny it!” Giggles fill her belly every time she crunched. Crunch, crunch, crunch.
Looking at her friends who danced upon her jammies her grin widened and she said: “Why hello, Miss Strawberry Shortcake, how are you smelling today?” Strawberry Shortcake looked right at her bobbing a big fluffy hat and said: “I smell quite fine Joliette, but you need a bath.” Laughter roared out of her belly as cereal chunks flung into the air, one tiny flake got stuck in her throat. Cackling, choking, and snorting all at the same time — a herd of elephants stomped down the tunnel rattling the whole house until she was dizzy. Trying to stop, she covered her mouth. Eyes popping out of her head, protruding from the light brown straw that hung in her face.
“Joliette, what are you doing? I told you I was sleeping!”
“Caa caa caa blaaahhh, sorry mama, my cereal got stuck. I tried to be quiet.”
Sighing mama went to make her tea.
“Why can’t you be like other little girls, calm and quiet? Every day bouncing all over the house like you are some sort of circus show. And the singing, must you sing all the time? I need quiet. You drive me crazy! I just want some sleep. A little sleep. You never let me sleep.”
“Sorry, mama I tried to be quiet. I forgot. I had dances going on in my head. I needed to do them. I have a new song that I was singing. I couldn’t keep my lips from opening and letting it out.” singing in a falsetto with the last few words, her hands raised to the sky performing for her audience.
“Joliette, you are a silly girl. Don’t talk to me anymore until I have my tea.”
While mama left the room Joliette sucked in her lips making a fish face trying to stop herself from saying a word, biting down on both chunks of meat inside of her mouth, her eyes rolled around and around. Biting harder to stop the words from flying out the flesh between her teeth tasted of blood. Her mind filled with: “Don’t say a word!”
Blurting out “Ok, mama!” Her eyes closed tight, she sank into her turtle shell. A few minutes went by, filling out her body with air she began to eat her cereal. It was soggy slop by now looking down at Miss Strawberry Shortcake wrinkling her nose. Her friend whispered back: “Gross.” Catching her giggles before mama could hear her, she sprung from her wobbly chair, sliding the floor. Scooting the right ball of her foot to heel then left ball of her foot to heel. “Must keep foot on the floor” Scoot, scoot, scoot. Making it to the kitchen sink stopping in 5th position taking a little bow with her head and arm holding up the bowl. After the applause, she cleaned out her bowl and skipped off to her room to change clothes.
A rolling metal sound filled her matchbox room. The closet door went back and forth. She liked watching the spinning ball in the tracking — she hadn’t even noticed the sound. Screech, screech, screech.
“Joliette, stop that god awful noise!” her shouts pounded through the flimsy walls.
She paused wondering what noise. Deciding it was better to get dressed than to upset mama she found her favorite green dress. Adorned with a poof skirt, and puffy sleeves, she put it on twirling around for her audience. Her stuffed turtle spoke up and said: “Joliette, that dress is too small. You can see everything.” She was a feeling a little breeze, and felt around her bum realizing that her parts were hanging out. She looked at turtle and said: “No problem, I will put on some shorts.” Promptly she found some shorts, managed to button the back of the dress, squeezing her frame in snugly. Sitting on the floor, she yanked off her socks, and put on her ballet slippers.
Spinning out of her room, hitting the wall she giggled. Lyrics pouring out of her laughter “You love me, you know it, you can’t deny!” open-close-open-close-open-close-stay on your toes-open-close racing through her mind, she landed front and center into the living room, melting into her reverence waiting for the final applause. Silence filled the room, and the smell of smoke sucked into her nostrils.
“Mama when are you going to quit smoking?” Contorting her face with a hand on her hip, while still bowing.
“Joliette, I don’t want to talk about that today, and what are you doing?” Wrinkling her brows, while the book received her eye roll.
“I’m bowing for my audience.” Slowly rising, looking to her right, and then left with small head nods of acknowledgement.
“You are such a silly girl.” She couldn’t help but smile, and shake her head.
“They are finished applauding, I am waiting for my roses.” Standing in second position.
With a chuckle mama said: “You goof ball.”
Joliette burst in laughter: “Can I sing my song for you?”
“Oh, Joliette not today I have a headache. I am so tired.” While crouching into the couch, and inhaling the last bit of her smoke.
“Why don’t you drink coffee like daddy?” Blinking her eyes.
“I don’t like coffee and you know it, don’t talk about your dad. God you are just like him.” Huffing and grimacing at the same time. Her book was calling and Joliette stood waiting. Standing in perfect second position, becoming a statue. Covered in marble, keeping her arms perfect. Only her eyes moved, and the inside of her mouth as she chewed on her cheeks.
Her mind filled with “Do not say a word. Wait, and see if she will notice you.” Stiff, in perfect stance, blinking for affection. Silence curled around her body — she waited. Sounds of pages filled the room. Looking down at the book, she wished she were a book. Her thoughts drifted into a grand novel where she was touched, noticed, recognized, and everyone wanted to know her. Flipping pages kept her gaze — she danced and sang through the pages. Riding on unicorns, and butterflies. Swaying with the trees, and talking to bugs. The frogs shared all of their stories, and the lizards sat on her lap as she told them wonderful tales.
Spinning around and around she began to sing, “You love me, you know it, you can’t deny it!” Leaping across the living room floor, high jumps bursting louder “You love me, you know it, you can’t deny it!”Bouncing and leaping her song sprung straight from her lungs and laughter came pouring out — the slam of the book startled her. Shaking to reality, she saw mama’s eyes staring at her. Terrified she looked at her and said: “I’m sorry mama. Please don’t yell at me I will go outside.” The tears started to well as she chewed on her cheeks, gnawing at her flesh, trying to control her pout. “I can’t stop my lip mama, I can’t make it stop pouting. Please don’t yell me.”
Her little quivering lip broke mama’s heart. Staring at her little ballerina guilt rushed, trying to stop her eyes from filling. They stared at each other not knowing what to do. Silence blanketed them in comfort. Tears came rushing and mama said: “Joliette baby, sing for mama.” Shaking and gesturing for her little one to sing and dance.
Wiping the tears from her cheeks, Joliette whispered: “I wanted to sing it for daddy. He likes songs.”
“Oh, baby you are not seeing daddy today. You won’t see him for a while.” Looking at her matter-of-factually.
Her head bent down, little shoulders starting to shake:”You said that last week. When am I going to see him? Doesn’t he want to see me? When, mama, when?”
Rage filling her body, while sucking in her breath, cursing God in that moment. “I don’t know when you will see him. He is getting married this weekend. You’ll probably see him in two weeks.”
Echo sounds of her little heart panged into oceans of emptiness. Swallowing her tears, looking straight into her mama’s eyes, she said: “I will sing for you mama, I will sing for you.” Sniffing, grinning ear to ear she giggled out: “I have to dance too! Can we have fried chicken, taters, and lemonade from the gas station? I love those taters!”
Tears trickling down, admiring her little ballerina, she heaved out: “Yes, baby we’ll get fried chicken, taters, and lemonade from the gas station. I love those taters too!” Sitting back in the stale smoke smelling couch, between tears and laughter she watched her little ballerina dance and sing.
“You love me, you know it, you can’t deny it!” Then singing to the same tune full of silliness: “Ballet spins open-close-open-close-open-close-stay on your toes-open-close You love me, you know it, you can’t deny it!”
Coming to a staggering stop eyes piercing mama’s tear-stained face: “You know we are fine right? I think it’s for the better. We’re good together mama, you and me. We’re good together.”
Mama shook her head, holding back the tears. Eyes gripped tightly she whispered under her breath, “You better make it ok, for my baby Jesus. You better make it ok for her.”
Joliette spun around and around, showing off her purple shorts. Twirling her fingers in the air, making circles, and eights, she smiled comforting mama: “It is always ok, we are always ok.” Leaping onto the couch, she hung upside down and sang, “You love me, you know it, you can’t deny it!”