Daisy’s hair was a rich brown halo of thick coils. With a rat tailed comb, her mother separated the locks into smaller sections. Daisy with her tablet in hand sat cross legged on a pillow on the kitchen floor as Thea bent to rub coconut oil into the child’s hair. Sunlight from the window over the farmhouse sink lay across their shoulders. A vegetable stew bubbled in the crockpot and cornbread baked in the oven.
In the corner, the old radiator sighed with steam. Yawning, Thea stretched her back to stay wake in the cozy heat. Daisy stretched too and then broke out into song.
“Daisy, Daisy give me your answer do.”
Thea began teasing out the tangles and thinking about the accounts she had to reconcile.
“I’m half crazy all for the love of you. Ow!”
“Oh, sorry baby,” Thea said. She hoped all of the amounts would tally but she knew they wouldn’t. Stupid I can’t find my receipt Rita. “ I wish your daddy would learn how to do hair. Every Sunday you come back like a ragamuffin.”
“Mildred doesn’t pull my hair, Mommy.”
“Yes, I know you’re tender-headed, sweetie peach.” Gently, ever so gently. Thea began to braid.
“I’m not a sweetie peach. Mildred never calls me ragged muffins Mildred says I can be anything I want to be.”
Thea’s hands moved like water separating and joining weaving down to the ends. She looked over at her computer bag. Daisy hummed to herself.
That’s right sugar pop.” Thea oiled the girl’s scalp and massaged from her roots to her ends.
“I’m not sugary pop. Mildred says she couldn’t do what she wanted but I can.”
Thea thought next Friday she would tell Steven to make Daisy wear a satin cap or he can start taking this head to the salon.
“Mommy what’s hysteria?”
“What now? “
“Who is this Mildred? What kind of kid is this with two dollar words?”
“Mommy! Mildred is my friend, my special friend,” Daisy said.
Thea moved quickly. Shiny braids gleamed in the afternoon sun.
“She’s my special wecial friend who lives in my closet. Ow!”
“Sorry, sorry, how long have you had this friend?”
“Forever since we moved here. She used to keep me up with her crying. It made me so mad but you told me to use my words instead of my fists so I started talking and she started talking and we started talking. And then I could see her. Well I could see some of her.” Daisy broke out into song. “Give me your answer do.”
Despite the stove and the radiator, the kitchen suddenly grew cold. Thea’s hands froze in mid-air.
“What else does she say?” Thea said softly. She could see her breath in the air. Memories of this old house, her Mom Mom’s house, were she spent many sleepless summers seeped into the front of her mind. Closing her eyes, Thea slammed the five panel door on those thoughts She set down her comb.
“Just that she loves me like a mommy just like I was her little bitty baby that she doesn’t have anymore.” Daisy rocked to her song in her head.
On stiff legs, Thea climbed down to the tile floor eye level with her daughter. Thea smoothed the girl’s edges and kissed her forehead. Thea locked eyes with Daisy. They held each other’s cheeks.
“I’m your Mommy. You’re one and only Mommy. I know things have been hard with the move and changes but you and I haven’t changed. It’s impossible for anyone to love you like I love you. I’m your Mommy.” Thea lovingly tapped Daisy’s nose. Daisy hugged her mother tight.
Suddenly the kitchen was warm, heavy with the smell of buttery cornbread. The frost melted on the window glass taking away the words written in the ice from an unseen hand
“And I’m your butter bean,” Daisy said.