a Women Writer's' Showcase
by Alexandra Barnes

“ I want to die,” her teenaged daughter says defiantly.  Her beautiful blue eyes are angry, her lips a tight, straight line.

They are sitting across from each other in a doughnut shop.  It is a mother/daughter outing, something they do regularly since the divorce.  Jessica has learned not to overreact to Miranda’s outbursts – they are very much alike and she knows her daughter needs this.  Miranda says the anti-depressants don’t let her ‘feel’ anything like she used to, so when she has a surge of emotion Jessica lets her say what she needs to say. 

“My best friend wants to kill herself and I can’t help her. The meds may be keeping me from cutting myself, but I still want to.”  Miranda laughs, an angry, choked sound.   “How can I help her when I want to die, too?”

There was a time, Jessica thinks, when she would have comforted her daughter, assured her that things would get better if she would only wait.  She used to believe that life was good.  She’s said these things to Miranda countless times but she no longer believes it.  Tears well up in her eyes and she says nothing.

Miranda stops and her face softens.  She reaches out with a slender finger and wipes the tears from her mother’s face as they silently course down her cheeks.

“I used to not be able to stand seeing someone I love cry,” she says quietly.  “I would have been in hysterics.  Now I just feel bad for you, but I can’t cry.”

Jessica nods and says nothing.  She takes a gulp of her scalding coffee and feels the knot in her throat loosen slightly.

“Do you want to go?” Miranda asks.

“Sure,” Jessica says.  She puts her arm around her daughter’s thin waist as they walk across the parking lot.  “I love you very much, you know.”

“I know.  I love you, too.”

As Jessica starts the car, she reaches into her pocketbook.

“Here,” she says, opening her palm.  “They gave me this for the cat when I bought his food and I know he won’t play with it.  He’s too lumpish.”

Miranda gasps and carefully takes the tiny, stuffed mouse out of her mother’s hand.  His red felt eyes are lopsided and his pink felt ears have a tiny crease in them.  His white fur feels like rabbit.

“He’s so cute!” Miranda cries.

“He’s a happy mouse,” Jessica tells her.  “His job is to make you happier.”

“Happy Mouse,” Miranda repeats.  She rubs him against her cheek and kisses his nose.  “He is the cutest thing I have ever seen.”

She looks at Jessica, her eyes shining.  “Nothing has made me this randomly happy in a very long time.  Thank you!”

Tears spring into Jessica’s eyes again. 

“I wish I could give a Happy Mouse to every one of my friends,” Miranda says.

“I think you should.”

“But it’s too expensive!”  Miranda strokes her mouse and Jessica sees how much she wants this.

“I’m sure they’re cheap.  Let’s go back and buy a bunch of them.”

“Really?  You mean it?  You’re sure?”

Jessica nods.

Miranda happily begins to list the people she knows who need a Happy Mouse.  She rubs her nose against the tiny toy and Jessica tries to hide her tears.  If only it was that simple.

©2004 Alexandra Barnes All Rights Reserved

Alexandra Barnes is a freelance writer and glass artist's apprentice.  Her novel, One Perfect Thing, is currently being marketed.  A second novel is nearing the end of the editing process and a third, the sequel to One Perfect Thing, is underway.  Barnes lives in Connecticut with her lumpish Siamese cat, Harry.  Contact Alexandra.