A Good Mother

by Ian Cumings

illustration by Lonnie MF Allen

As always, I’m screaming when I wake up. Above, my husband offers Ginger her breakfast, a glass of pink Moscato. She sips it, then chugs it, and I feel the syrupy sweetness coat my insides and push me further down. The bitch is enjoying it. Almost as much as I would enjoy getting out of here and ending all of this.

“Damn you!” I shout, but no one can hear me. Ginger’s lips don’t even move.

Not until my shithead husband leans in and kisses them. I feel the pressure from deep within, feel her tingle down below where he penetrated us last night, and I want to scream again, but I’m even further from the surface now.

“So,” says my husband while he gets dressed for work, “what do you have planned today? Should we put on Mildred to take care of Sean while I’m gone?”

“No,” says Ginger, using my lips. “We have lunch with David today.”

“Really? Fuck,” says my husband. “We’ll have to use Blair, then. Do you agree?”

Ginger nods my head.

“Can Blair handle Sean for that long out on the town?”

I groan deep within.

Ginger hears me and says, “With enough wine, yes.”

“Good,” says my husband, “then she’ll be using an Uber.”

Once dressed, he and Ginger sneak by Sean’s nursery and into the wig room. There are the others on their stands. Mildred’s putrid gray. Blair’s buoyant blonde. Ginger places our ass in the iron chair which is bolted to the floor.

“Can I have one more sip?” she asks, and my husband feeds her more pink Moscato before kissing her goodbye. The wine pushes me further down while my husband straps my arms and legs into the chair. It’s almost time. Last time I got close to escaping, but I feel that last sip of Moscato coating my insides. Then my husband does it, he slides Ginger’s blinding red wig off my head, and I’m free.

“Let me out of this chair, you bastard! I’m going to fucking kill you!”

His hands fumble to grab the blonde wig that is Blair. My screams wake Sean, and his screams join mine.

My husband holds my writhing neck and places Blair on my head while saying, “It’s for your own good, for Sean’s own good.”

“More like for your own good!”

But Blair is in place now, and she smiles into the mirror at my husband and says, “Hello, darling, may I have some chardonnay? The witch is rather loud today.”

“Of course, dear.” He offers her a glass of Kendall Jackson. “I hear you’re having lunch with David today. . .”

“Yes,” says Blair with a tone of excitement. Then it shifts and I feel her scowl before saying, “you’ll be watching Sean?”

“No,” says my husband with a worried frown, “you’ll have to bring him with you.”

Blair sighs dramatically and shakes her head. My husband unstraps her from the chair. Rubbing my wrists, she stands and almost spits before falling into compliance. “If I must.”

About ten minutes later my husband is putting Blair and Sean into an Uber. He looks at her before closing the door and heading to his car. “Call me at work if you need me.”

“Of course, darling.” She uses my disgusted lips to kiss his cheek.

At the restaurant, my brother David, the only person in my family who did not disown me when I got pregnant out of wedlock, waves Blair over to his table. Blair, looking and acting exactly like my old self, saunters over, Sean bubbling spit on her shoulder.

“Helloooo,” she says, exasperation in our vocal chords.

“Hey,” says David, “how’s the little guy today?”

“Annoying, as always,” she says, and I must agree.

“Oh, stop it, he’s lovely. I can’t believe he’s actually yours.”

Blair puts Sean in a highchair then looks at David exactly how I used to. “Trust me, he is, I’ve got the stretch marks to prove it.”

David gags, I giggle, and Sean beats his ugly baby fists on the table. Blair sits down and orders herself a glass of chardonnay.

“Listen,” says David, “Mom and I were talking last night and she thinks she might be ready to reconcile.”

I surge upwards, feeling Blair’s wig tremble on my head. She grabs it and shakily sips more wine. Sean stares at us and I’m almost convinced he can see me.

Blair clears her throat and spits out the words my husband planted inside her when she first wore the wig. “No thanks, we’re good.”

It sounds just as fake and I feel just as dissonant as I did when he first taught her. I can’t help it, like always, I have to scream where I exist, on the inside. We’re not good, you bitch!

Blair, hearing me, chugs the rest of her chardonnay. Sean sits peacefully beside her.

“What do you mean you’re good?” asks David. “All you talked about during your pregnancy was earning Mom’s forgiveness.”

Blair doesn’t remember that. She wasn’t around yet because I wasn’t married yet.

And maybe that’s why, struggling to handle her wine, Blair stands from the table and pulls Sean out of his highchair. “I think we should get going.”

David steps towards Blair, holding his hands out in a pacifying gesture. “Are you sure? I don’t think you should drive. . .”

“Don’t worry,” Blair burps, “Uber.” She clumsily orders one. “Two minutes,” she slurs.

Meanwhile, Sean gazes into Blair’s eyes. He sees me. He knows I’m in here. “Come on, little guy, you can do it. I’m sorry for calling you a brat. I’m sorry that I didn’t want you once you came. Don’t you remember when you were in my belly? How I loved you? How I cared for you? If you let me out, I’ll care for you again. I’ll love you again. I promise.”

The little bugger, my little pipsqueak, he blesses my heart by reaching up and pulling Blair’s wig right off my head.

And I’m free! I feel Sean in my arms. Now that he’s freed me I don’t need him anymore. I can’t believe he actually believes that I would care for him again. I throw him from my arms.

David dives to catch him, and I don’t care because I’m running out of the restaurant. Outside where the sun is bright, oh so bright, and I’m running away, down the street. I can’t help it. I’m dreaming of that place, somewhere far away, where none of this is real, none of this was real, where I can drink the wine I want and be the woman I want, away from him, away from both of them, and away from all the rest. I see it in the sunshine and feel it on my scalp.

But Blair’s heels, they are too tall, and I haven’t run in heels in forever. They catch an edge and my ankles crumble. The sidewalk smacks my elbow and my chin grazes brick and I’m down, I can’t move, not fast enough.

Because David is standing over me. He holds Sean, who giggles like a little fucking maniac. And I don’t want him. I don’t want any of this. But David puts a steady hand on my shoulder and Sean, that little bastard, places Blair’s wig sideways on my head while saliva slides across his grinning, toothless gums.

David straightens it. “Wow,” he says, “I like this one, but you might want to secure it a little better next time.”

“Thanks,” says Blair, “will you help me find my Uber?”

David obliges and asks, “Did you start drinking early today?”

“Why?” Blair asks.

“Usually you don’t freak out until a little later in the day, you know, after the fifth or sixth glass of wine.” He is smiling. Blair is smirking and fixing the back of her wig, fluffing the bob into place. I am scowling inside, hating David’s fucking guts.

Then he locates the car and for the second time today, I’m funneled into an Uber by a man that is supposed to love me.

Once home, Blair calls my husband. “The fucking bitch escaped in broad daylight. Your little brat ripped me right off her head.”

He comes home with something new: wig adhesive strips. Blair gets one last glass of chardonnay before he straps her into the chair and switches over to Mildred for the evening. I remain still, I don’t even try to fight him this time; there’s no point. I had my chance when the brat took Blair off my head and I blew it. Mildred’s gray wig sticks to my skull and I see the infinite future stretch out in front of me: Mildred will do the dishes, change the brat’s diapers, make my fuckhead husband dinner. Then, once Sean is asleep, Mildred will sip aged merlot until my husband switches her back to Ginger. Because my husband is hungry for more than just food. And Ginger will give it to him, and I’ll feel it, yes, I’ll feel it. And then she’ll sleep. And then she’ll wake up, and I’ll be screaming again, forever screaming, while my husband offers Ginger her daily breakfast: a tall, sparkling glass of pink Moscato.

Ian Cumings is a writer and artist who enjoys exposing the dark side of internal life. When he’s not writing, he’s either crying or looking longingly out a window. This story, like all his art, is definitely absolutely not a cry for help. He can be reached at iancumings5@gmail.com.

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