Kristi stood still. Her mother reached up to push a strand of hair behind her ear and Kristi flinched. When Kristi was five, her mother had always wanted to fix her hair. Before they went to dinner with her father’s co-workers one time, her mother had carried her to the dining room chair and told her to sit up straight. She brushed her hair and petted the fly-away strands down, cooing about her ‘little doll.’ Kristi’s legs itched to run outside and play, but every time she moved her mother would tell her to stop fidgeting. Once her mother was satisfied with the hair, she went to grab a new dress. Kristi didn’t want a new dress. When her mother held it up, she wanted it less. It was white with roses on it. The sleeves were so puffy that she wouldn’t even be able to lift her arms without smacking herself in the face. She cried loudly. Her blue eyes pooled and soon tears streamed down her freckled face. It made no difference to her mother, though, who shoved the dress over her head.
When they had reached the restaurant, her parents made her sit next to a boy named Matthew. He was 7 and he knew everything. He spoke to Kristi’s silence about pirates and dinosaurs and football. Their parents ordered them spaghetti and Matthew’s mother had cut up the noodles and ‘tiny bites for a tiny mouth.’ Kristi wanted to laugh at him but remained stoic.
‘Do you talk at all?’ Matthew finally asked.
‘Not to dummies like you.’
Matthew’s mouth fell open. He looked like he might cry. Then, he grabbed a meatball in his grubby little hand and threw it right at Kristi’s chest. It was Kristi’s turn to gape. There was a red trail of sauce all the way down her dress. Her eyes darted to her mother who was frowning at the woman across the table. Kristi got up slowly and tried to sneak toward the bathroom. But it was too late. Her mother shrieked and soon Kristi was being drug from the restaurant by one arm. In the parking lot, still under the glow of the restaurant lights, Kristi felt the sting of a slap against her face. Her mother’s long nails scratched her cheek.
‘How could you do this to me? You ungrateful little b**ch. You’ve embarrassed me in front of everyone. Because of you, everything is ruined and I’m stuck here with nothing except a daughter who can’t even eat spaghetti like a civilized human-being.’
She stomped to the car and cried against the passenger window while Kristi remained sitting on the scratchy pavement where she had landed.