“Where do the bubbles come from, mama?”
Violet pulls her mitten off to jab the iced weeds with a stick. When she doesn’t get an answer, she pokes her mother with the same downed branch.
“Violet, stop,” her mother says, brushing off the flecks of leaves from where they’ve landed on her new striped leggings. Her fingers tap the phone again. Her hair—cut short now and dyed black—works like curtains, hiding everything.
“I liked the pizza pants better,” Violet mumbles.
Her mother keeps her head down. “They weren’t practical,” she says.
“What about the fox pants? Or the owls—oh, or the tiny mice!”
Violet claps her hands, jumps and twirls across the frozen lawn. She thinks about her mother’s friends, the party where they bought those pants.
“sorry, josey. i had to bring violet. her father didn’t show.”
“again? aw, don’t worry, honey. i’ll set her up with lemonade and cookies. she’ll be fine.”
“Mama,” Violet stops her spinning. “How do the bubbles get in the ice?”
She scuffs her boot along the surface of the frozen puddle choked with weeds.
“you’ve let the lawn go all to hell, laura. jesus, can’t you get it right?”
“Um,” her mother says, “what’s that?”
She’s stabbing harder at her phone. Behind the shadow-fabric of her hair, she swipes a finger, wipes her eyes. Violet knows what’s coming. Her mother stitches on a smile that looks faker than a doll’s lips.
“What do you say we order Chinese take-out tonight, baby? Get a movie. Make popcorn?”
“He’s not coming,” Violet says.
“No, baby. He got held up.”
Violet spins again, this time with her dead branch lifted like a wand.
“Abracadabra!” she shouts.
“Baby, stop,” Laura says. “It’s cold. Let’s go inside.”
Violet smacks her stick against the fence. The neighbor’s Labrador begins to howl and that sets off the whole long block of barking, yapping dogs.
Laura yanks the branch away.
“I said stop,” she snaps.
Her cheeks are red. Her eyes are wet. She’s breathing hard.
Violet glares at her. “Those pants,” she says slowly, “make your butt look fat.”
Her mother holds so still Violet doubts she’s breathing. Laura drops the branch.
Violet flings herself forward, wraps her arms around her mother’s legs and holds on tight.
“i’m telling you, laura, that kid’s not normal. the way she stares at me. those freakin’ eyes”
“she has your eyes, mark”
When her mother strokes her hair, her fingers shake.
“Mama,” Violet whispers, “how does air get in the ice? Where do the bubbles come from?”
Laura’s voice drifts down like flakes. “I don’t know,” she says.
Violet tilts her head back, looks into her mother’s eyes.
“Could be fairies,” she whispers.
Laura smiles, a real smile. “Maybe.”
“Are they trapped?” Violet holds her breath.
“—why the hell I married you, you whore, you bitch, you cu—”
“No,” her mother says. “Not trapped. I think,” she hugs Violet close, “I think, they’re breaking loose.”