North Pointe Kroger
That morning, when Cassie told her twelve year old daughter Dani they’d plant pansies this weekend and Dani had asked, “What the hell is a pansy?” it had sent Cassie into her usual tailspin of trying to tease out the true things in her life from the things she just wished were true, a thing that was happening to her a lot, now that she was clean.
“They’re the flowers with the little faces,” Cassie had said, “like the ones we planted last year.”
“We never planted pansies last year,” Dani said, handing Cassie a half-full mug of water to put out her cigarette in, “We never planted anything.”
Both of them had still been in pajamas. Outside, the sun was bright and cold. “Perfect pansy weather,” thought Cassie.
Now, Cassie stood in front of the grocery store studying the rows of candy colored pots, orange and yellow and purple blooms spilling out of them. No way she’d never potted pansies with her Dani. But when someone yelled at her to step out of the fire lane, she was blocking traffic, that’s when a hint of doubt crept in. Had she planted pansies with Dani? Damn it, she could almost see it – Dani’s grubby little hands spooning dirt out of the bag, tamping it down around the blooms. But being sober mixed up all her memories and it made Cassie crazy, sometimes, not being able to separate the truth from the almost-truth.
Cassie knew Dani fucked with her sometimes. Dani used to love saying, about a car left running in the driveway all night or a paycheck spent on booze before bills, “Actually mom, you did do that. You were just too drunk to remember doing it.” Now, Dani had taken to the opposite approach, like, “Yeah, we never did that. You probably just made that up when you were drunk.” Which seemed spectacularly unfair to Cassie but when you’ve done the kind of things to your kid that Cassie had done to hers, you didn’t get to point fingers.
Cassie decided on a pot – pink, Dani would like that. And when she was walking into the store to pay for it – she paid for everything now, thank you very much, even shit it made no sense to pay for, like soda refills at a fast food restaurant – she caught her reflection in the automatic door. Size ten jeans, a sweatshirt declaring Dani a top notch student at Rogers Middle, and damn it if she didn’t look like any other boring middle aged mom and though some days this thought gave her comfort, today it made her want to get on her knees and beg for a drink.
But. “But, but, but,” Cassie told herself. She was that woman no more. Which meant, also, that she was no longer beautiful in the sloppy way that addicts and junkies can be beautiful, with too-thin arms and hollow eyes, something men notice and feel sorry for and want to fuck. Maybe she wasn't beautiful at all now. And maybe no one would ever notice her again, and wasn't that kind of a blessing, she asked herself. To be invisible? She could walk out of there with the plant in her arms and never open her wallet and no one would notice a damn thing.
But Cassie didn’t turn around. Cassie was going to pay for this plant and take it home and show Dani what a fucking pansy looked like. She walked through the line and paid her 6.99 plus tax. She smiled at the handsome young cashier even though he never looked at her. When he gave her the change and called her m’am, she even said thank you.