She’s late, I think as I drum my gloved fingers in annoyance against the cold tinted window of my mother’s car. It’s been nearly an hour since she ditched me in this freezing metal contraption with a rushed promise of, “It’ll be quick”, as she slammed the car door behind her. 

“Fat chance that was,” I mumble to myself with slight disappointment. Why I ever trusted her to be timely, I’ll never know. For as long as I’ve known the woman, which has just been my entire life, she’s always been late. 

 When I was younger, Dad even told me she was late to my birth. Incredulously, I know, especially considering she was the one giving birth. But as he tells it, I was a darling in the womb and met every pregnancy milestone without issue and would’ve been born on the day the doctor predicted. But mother, ever the skeptic, refused the date because it gave her bad vibes. In her defense, she says my fetal self agreed with her. I could only imagine the image of her rubbing her belly and whispering to me about bad omens and curses as I kicked about her uterus in confusion. But I guess fetal me agreed, because a day later, to the hour, I was born. Now I share a birthday with Queen Elizabeth the Second instead of Adolf Hitler; score one, mother. But it still doesn’t excuse her lateness, especially when it leaves me alone and cold in a run down 2012 honda civic. If it were up to me, I would’ve stayed home, but mother had errands to run.

She said it was mother-daughter bonding time, which is a total lie in my opinion. Sure, we’ve run errands together ever since I could sit in a booster seat, but it wasn’t time well spent. Whenever we arrived wherever she was headed, she always cracked the window, told me to be a good girl, and went about her business. As a kid, I thought this was normal and I didn’t really mind it. It felt like an adventure, plus the car was decked out with distractions. At all times, there were blankets and plastic tarps, water bottles and junk food, a first aid kit, a change of clothes and coloring books strewn about the car. As soon as I grew out of coloring books, she just bought me a Nintendo DS and whenever I tired of that, she just upgraded the detraction. Whatever it took to keep me in this car, she did it. But as I got older, I started to question our “bonding time”. If she really wanted to spend time with me, why didn’t she just let me go with her?

When I was eleven and at the peak of my curiosity, I tried to follow her. I was tired of waiting in cars when I could’ve been with her, or just stayed at home with Dad. I thought she always left me behind because kids are notorious for having sticky fingers in stores. My friends always told me how they tossed whatever they wanted into the cart and how their parents blew their fuses. So, I would be smart. I would escape this car, follow her, and prove to her that I could keep my hands to myself. I would be the best-behaved kid in the world. What a mistake that was.

I never knew where mother took us whenever she ran errands. It wasn’t as easy as looking for the storefront or some logo because there weren’t any. Regardless of where she went, the buildings were always labelless. Windows were boarded up and painted over with anything remotely seen as an identifier being spray-painted over. Even the few surrounding cars in the desolate parking lots were nondescript. There was no guessing our locations. I couldn’t even use a GPS to locate myself. These places were dead zones and that utterly creeped me out. But kids are fearless and I didn’t read any of the warning signs before I got out of the car back then. 

I wasn’t a dumb kid. I personally consider myself smart. So, I knew better than to follow directly after her. I also knew if I attempted to open the car door after she locked it from the outside, the alarm would go off and I would be busted. But I was smart and planned exactly for that moment. As soon as she got out of the car and clicked the lock button on the remote, I was already tugging at the door handle; it would keep the locking mechanism from locking. I learned that on accident – it was basically the same principle as opening the door too fast when someone unlocked it and it stayed locked, except this was the reverse. As soon as she was out of sight, I grabbed my coat, made sure my shoes were tied and slid out the open door as quietly as possible. My mother might not have been outside and I didn’t see anyone either, but that didn’t mean snitches weren’t hidden. Adults loved to tattle and I couldn’t have my mom know I was out of the car before I could prove to her that I was a good kid. Speed walking to close the gap between the entrance and me, I heard a scream. It was terrifying and I was worried it was my mother. Panicked, I sprinted to the entrance and ripped open the door. Bad choice. Mother wasn’t screaming; she was perfectly fine. In fact, she wasn’t even pale from the cold. Instead, her cheeks were flushed pink with life. She looked worked up like she had finished working out. Her hair and shirt were disheveled; there was even something red splattered on them.

“Mom” I called out. How dumb was I? She looked at me and shook her head.

“You should have stayed in the car baby,” she frowned in thought before shrugging my arrival off and turning back to the bruised and bloody person tied up in front of her, “but since you’re here, you might as well help your mother with her errand.”

I used the change of clothes in the car for the first time that day. My previous ones were beyond repair but mother didn’t seem worried. In fact, she smiled at me and seemed a little proud.

“It’s always messy your first time,” she told me, “but that’s normal. It gets better, and cleaner, with time. You just have to use the right methods”.

Sitting up from my seat, I see my mother coming out. She looks tired and there’s blood in her hair; she’ll probably ask me to help her wash it out. Dad hated it when she got blood on the tiles.

“You’re late,” I gest as she gets into the car, “and messy. I thought you said it got cleaner with time.” Her brows crinkle with annoyance, I just smirk.

“It does. Working with you has just made my individual skills lazy,” she excuses as she cranks the car, “I could’ve used your help today”.

Leaning my head against the window, I think about it. Sit in the freezing cold or tangle with a bit of blood? “Maybe next time,” I finally answer as she pulls out of the vacant lot, “anything to make you more timely”.