Kimberly watched her mother fill in the cheque. It looked as natural to her as her breathing. She eyed the paper fondly, as if it were an old friend. The pen, lightly clasped in her hand, seemed to guide her, rather than the other way around. It was gold in colour, part of a set. Her mother had several desk sets, corporate gifts to her husband, that Donna swapped out regularly.
She must have developed special muscles to sign cheques with such a flourish, the flourish of an artist, a dancer. Instead of being an artist or a dancer, she was a woman who excelled in writing cheques.
There was a tiny smile on her mother’s face. It was her resting face. Unlike Kimberly, who had a “resting bitch face”– an intimidating scowl– no matter what her mood. Perhaps her mother had willed her face that way, or perhaps Dr Stanford had done it. A tiny, tiny smile, that suddenly, to Kimberly, made no sense. It was enraging. She clenched her hands into a fist, digging her nails into her palms.
A memory parachuted into her mind: she was in a small inflatable wading pool with another little girl, playing. Their mothers sat in lawn chairs nearby. When the little girl and her mother were gone, she and her mother were alone in the kitchen, and there was a puddle on the white tile floor, and Kimberly was shivering in her wet bathing suit, desperate for her mother’s warmth, and her mother shouted at her. Kimberly couldn’t remember what she said. She only remembered feeling cold and lost. She shivered now.
“There,” said Mrs Bak, triumphantly tearing the cheque out of the book with another flourish, and offering it to Jo, who stood in front of her desk like a supplicant.
Jo took the cheque and, pretending not to read it, folded it and put it into the zippered compartment of her leather bag.
“The balance on successful completion, now,” said Mrs Bak.
“Of course,” said Jo.
“I want this wedding to be subtle,” Mrs Bak said.
Her mother frowned at her and continued. “Subtle as opposed to ostentatious. The best of everything, but not twee or frilly or overpowering. Do you understand?”
Kimberly said, “I think Jo gets that you want the world to admire and envy you, without your seeming to care if they do or not.”
“Jo?” said Mrs Bak, ignoring Kimberly, the tiny smile back.
“I understand completely,” said Jo.
“Kimmy, what time is the fitting? We should probably be off.” She rose to her feet, smoothing her skirt. “Don’t look so glum! This is a happy time, despite your cynicism.”
“I’m deliriously happy,” said Kimberly. “This is just my resting bitch face.”