Our little secret

grocery-store-70s-3

I watch the blood drain out of her face from my seat in her shopping cart.  Her mouth moving silently and her eyes now racing around the store.  A man dressed in all black had emerged from behind my Mom and grabbed her firmly by the arm.  The man steps in close and whispers something in her ear.  When the words fell onto Mom’s ear they melted her posture; her shoulders sinking first, quickly followed with her bowed head.  Tears now streaming down her cheeks Mom tries to speak but the only sounds escaping were quick gasps for air, like she were a fish out of water.  The man begins to lead us to the back of the store.  Mom follows him down a dark hallway, and lastly through a set of double push doors that were pale green and covered in filth.  We reach an office door with a single chair placed in front of it.  Mom stops pushing the cart and she gently lifts me out of my seat and then she collects her purse.  The man now commanding us both with his voice and an index finger: “HERE!  SIT!  WAIT!”  Mom reacts quickly by taking a seat and immediately placing me on her lap.  The man in black disappears pushing the cart through the filthy pale green doors.  When we could no longer hear his footsteps Mom drops her purse on the floor and kicks it underneath the chair we are seating on.

The fluorescent light above us is buzzing loudly.  A silly smile stretched across my mouth when I thought about that bug catcher on Grandma’s back porch.  Last summer I watched my brother chase the neighbor girls around with the monster sized moth we both found.  I am just so bored and we have been waiting here a really long time now.  Mom has not stopped mumbling something to herself; over and over, and she has been tapping her foot so hard and fast that it’s blurred my vision.  I begin to study the dust bunnies that are camouflaged but roaming across the tiles of the gray floor.  In my blurred vision some of them appear to be crawling and coming to life.

Just then the loud and fast footsteps of two people startle us and Mom is finally sitting still.   When the pale green doors opened dusty refrigerated air was forced down into our lungs.  The two men enter the room and they are now standing in front of us.  I feel frightened and small.  They are speaking in large words that I don’t completely understand, but I do know they are angry.  When they bent their bodies to crouch down over us both it was then that I noticed the man in black had a giant gold and silver button on his shirt.  They ask Mom a question that she refuses to answer, and then they ask her again while they reach for her purse.  Mom is finally now able to let some words slip through her sobbing and watches the men reaching inside of her purse.  I hear my Mom say to them in her most gentle voice: “I am sorry.  Please forgive me.  We don’t have any food, and my kids are hungry!  I did what I had to do!”  That was when I watched the men begin to remove store packaged foods from Mom’s purse that she had not yet paid for.  They ask Mom some more questions that only make her cry harder and I hear some words that I recognize but they are so mean, and I am confused.  They tell my Mom to “LEAVE”  and “Never come back!”

When we are finally back inside the car all I can do is stare helplessly at my sobbing Mother.  Her head resting on her folded arms that are stretched across the steering wheel of her car.  Mom finally takes a couple of deep breaths before she can look at me.  She begins wiping tears from under both of her eyes and she managed to force a fake smile.  She speaks to me softly when she asks “Honey?  Do you think we keep this between us?  It will be our little secret?”  I knew what she was asking me and now I can’t speak.  Emotion was strangling me while I fought back my own tears.  I lunged across the seat locking my arms around her neck and I hugged my Mom as tightly as I could, and I always kept that promise to her.

 

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