Story 23Button 22



The fists flail the air. Indicating glee, she thinks. The face: happiness. His eyes are smiling. His parents left already, but he’s not missing them, just yet. A wisp of cologne, a note of lavender, signals their existence.  His parents are her parents’ friends. This is the first evening she is to take care of him on her own. It has been said that she’s quite earnest and serious for her age. She’s trying to do right. He sits still for a second, as if to check she’s watching him. Then the arms let loose again.

The fists clutch her blouse. Fascination. The face: concentration. Saliva is running down his chin. The scent of wintergreen in the washing powder is familiar to him. She thinks the blouse with its flower shaped buttons is too vulgar and girlish, but her mother insisted that she wear it. It was a gift to her from his parents, almost a year ago, when she was still just a child. Her being here with him was her mother’s plan, her mother suggesting that she should earn some money on her own. How to argue against obligation?

He protests, whines, cries, screams. Distress. The face: anguish.  His cheeks are in bloom. The odour of her skin signals that she is different from his definition of tenderness. She tries to offer the prepared food, tries talking, shushing, gently rocking, walking him around the house; she never considers his mother’s perfume that would have reconciled him. She wants to be home, in her room, closing the door to a world whose demands suffocate her. He needs the world to embrace him.  She wants him to shut up.

The head flops forward. Tiredness. The face: yawning. His fists rub his eyes. He dreams of his mother’s lavender scented hair. His body is heavy on her legs. She is humming a melody she makes up on the spot, not because it feels right, but because she thinks this is what one is supposed to do. Thinking that makes her question. Wouldn’t he go to sleep in spite of her attendance? He snores. She hasn’t thought of bringing a book, or to ask if she’s allowed to watch television. She doesn’t dare stir him in his sleep.

She wakes up startled. Haziness. Her face: confused. She knows her hair is in disarray. The smell of urine woke her. She feels dampness where his nappy touched her clothes. There is a hefty tug on her blouse. He is cooing at the button in his hand. She doesn’t react, in trance, is only startled into action when he is already choking. Her finger searches his mouth, gagging him, bile shooting up. She reaches the button, rolls it forward, pulls it out.

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