‘A safety pin,’ I say, holding it up to show my daughter before sliding it through the waistband of my skirt. I shake my hips and the skirt stays put. ‘Magic.’
Her brow creases. ‘You’re too skinny, Mum.’
‘No, no. Just a little narrow,’ I say, flashing a silly grin to ease her mind. ‘You ready?’
It takes twenty minutes to walk to the supermarket and Lucy chats about school the whole way. I cling to her happy tales of grade three—proof that I’m not completely failing her—while my fingers worry at the shopping list, flicking and folding the edges.
Stepping from the warm evening into the air-conditioned store sends goosebumps dancing across my skin. I rub my arms as Lucy wrestles a trolley free. She knows without asking that we’ll only need a small one.
As always, we head straight for the bakery section with its end-of-day orange price-reduction labels. I pace in front of the shelves, desperately looking for white rolls, and almost cry when I realise there’s none left. I pick up some wholemeal ones instead.
‘Will these be okay for school, bub?’
‘They’re good,’ she says, taking the rolls and putting them in the trolley.
Sometimes I think I’d prefer it if she argued.
Scrounging for specials is time-consuming and a little soul-destroying. Lucy is patient. She wanders up and down the aisles, looking at everything, running her hands over the glossy labels of products I can’t afford to buy for her. She doesn’t complain even once.
When we’re finally done, I double-check the list then mentally calculate the cost of what’s in the trolley, rounding up to be sure. I start towards the registers, but Lucy walks in the other direction.
‘Hey, where are you going?’ I call.
‘I, uh, think I dropped something. I’ll be back.’ She races off around the end of the aisle before I can stop her.
I’m paying for the groceries by the time she reappears.
‘All good?’ I ask.
She nods, but seems distracted.
‘Come on,’ I say, loading my arms with shopping bags. ‘Let’s go home.’
At the door, the security guard steps in front of us.
‘Just a moment, ma’am.’
His old face is leathery. His eyes kind. Even so, butterflies storm my chest.
‘What’s wrong?’ I ask nervously, stepping aside so others can pass.
He lowers his voice. ‘I believe your daughter has something she hasn’t paid for.’
Shocked, I swing around to Lucy. She’s looking at her shoes, scuffing her feet.
‘Lucy! Is it true?’
‘I’m sorry,’ she says, pulling a Crunchie from under her t-shirt with a shaky hand. The harsh fluorescent light bounces off the golden wrapper. She starts to cry.
‘But why, bub? You don’t even like honeycomb.’
‘I know,’ she sobs. ‘But it’s—’ She chokes on her words.
I kneel down and take her hand. ‘It’s what, bub? You can tell me.’
She looks at me, sadness swimming in her reddened eyes. ‘It’s your favourite.’
Allison Black is a queer, disabled writer with a BA in Creative and Professional Writing. She currently lives on Wadawurrung land in regional Victoria, Australia with her awesome rescue cat, Astrid. You can find them both on Twitter @crashing_silent.
Image via Pixabay