In this new house — in her new house, she guesses — Rosie doesn’t know where to look. She wants to see everyone; she wants to be seen. If Rosie can’t be seen, she wants to be felt. Honestly, Rosie prefers to be felt. She just finds it’s easier to be seen, even though (or especially because) no one here, no one ever, stands still.
Rosie opens doors. Rosie patrols hallways. Rosie sits by windows, unless she can sit in a spot where someone else is sitting, then Rosie sits there. Rosie sneaks downstairs. Rosie has a room upstairs but prefers to sleep on a sofa that faces the foyer, so she can see if someone’s coming or, more importantly, if they’re trying to leave. Rosie’s second mom — her new mom, she guesses — brings down pillows and a blanket; she hands Rosie warm milk.
Rosie likes this second mom, but because she had a first one, she’s not sure about moms in general. Rosie thinks they might just change, like the weather. Every morning, she searches her second mom’s eyes for rain clouds. Rosie sees clear skies (she thinks), but still listens for thunder.
Rosie goes to school. Rosie eats lunch: soft, star-shaped sandwiches, neat lines of color-coordinated fruit, hard-boiled eggs with happy little faces. Rosie watches time tick off the face of her classroom’s clock. She worries the second mom won’t be outside once the bell rings. Rosie is surprised each time she sees the second mom standing there, standing anywhere, really.
Rosie thinks about her first mom but only remembers distance. I’m here, she’s there. We’re separate. Rosie figures, if this second mom decides to leave her, it’ll be on some church steps, because Rosie knows that’s where living things often go to get discarded. Rosie doesn’t pray. Rosie mostly panics. Rosie wonders if she should try on other moms, just in case she’ll need a third.
Rosie clings, but to everything. Sweet and sticky, like honey. Rosie follows her second mom’s mom out of the new house when she leaves after Sunday dinner. Rosie waves to neighbors. Rosie talks to strangers. Rosie makes — Rosie maintains — eye contact.
Rosie starts to skip, but on a zigzag, afraid to commit to a direction. One day, at school pick-up, Rosie follows a friend; she hops in his mother’s station wagon. Rosie’s second mom comes running. She picks Rosie up; she puts Rosie down. She places both hands on Rosie’s shoulders. The second mom’s not mad; she’s just scared and a little wounded. Rosie knows because Rosie looks — Rosie feels — that way all the time. Rosie wakes up. From a nightmare, she guesses. Her forehead is slick, and she hears thunder, but it’s coming from outside the house. Rosie sneaks upstairs. Rosie whispers; Rosie whimpers. The second mom rouses. She lifts Rosie into bed, slides over and curves her body like a cradle, but Rosie asks to trade places. She prefers to be the big spoon; it holds even water still. Rosie wraps an arm and a leg around her new mother’s body, chin to shoulder, nose on neck. Rosie breathes in; Rosie breathes out. I’m here, you’re here, we’re together.
Jeanine Skowronski is a writer based in N.J. Her work has appeared in Reflex Fiction, Tiny Molecules, Complete Sentence, Crow & Cross Keys, Lunate Fiction, and Fewer than 500.