An entry for the Writer's Cramp about being happy for your big sis.
Lela brushed some dog hair off her shirt and chose a warm navy sweatshirt out of her cubby. She shrugged. "I'm fine with what I'm wearing now."
Her mother looked at her indignantly. "Ripped-up jeans, a sweatshirt, sneakers that you wear every day, and a T-shirt with a fat cat on it? C'mon, honey, you know how good you look in that dress!
In her head, Lela snottily remarked, "It's Pusheen, Mom. Plus, that's your dress, and as it turns out, red does not look good on redheaded people. It's, like, the first rule of fashion!"
In real life, her tone was even. A mad mom would get her nowhere. "I just feel more myself in this."
"This is important, Lela. We have to be there to support your sister."
"Will my casual attire detract from my support more than being late to her big play?"
Her mother flushed, glancing quickly at the glowing green numbers on the oven clock, the only light left on in the kitchen. "Let's go, Lela!"
They grabbed their jackets and scrambled out the door. Outside the car, Lela put on her blue sweatshirt, her bare arms covered in tiny peaks from the frigid evening air.
Her mother honked the horn. "C'mon! Hurry up!"
Lela protested illegibly through a mouth full of sweatshirt fuzz, the pressure creating an escape-the-straitjacket atmosphere, and pulled the last part over her head. She yanked the car door open and plopped down on the imitation-suede seat, her coppery hair disheveled by the quick pull.
"Could you be a little more patient, please?" she asked her mother huffily.
"Aren't you excited to see her perform?"
Lela sighed softly and slumped against the car seat. Her mother was always hyping Lela up to be Makena's little cheerleader at every play, every award. Sure, being that successful at only twenty-two was a big deal for an actor, but Lela's mother never got excited for something Lela was doing. When Lela made it into the UDub Brain Camp, her mother had forgotten to pick her up. When she got to deliver a speech for the whole school, her mother didn't ask her anything about it.
"We're here," announced Lela's mother, pulling up to a little brick building with a buzzy fluorescent sign that read, "Gabriella's Pizza."
"Mom, this isn't the theater!" Lela felt exasperation creep into her voice. She couldn't help it; if her mother was going to be irritating and priss all over her outfit, she could at least not be a hypocrite about it.
"I know, but parking there is terrible, and we gotta eat somewhere."
They walked into the restaurant, and Lela almost did a double take. Her best friend Violet was there with her mother, Elle. Lela tapped her friend on the shoulder, and was greeted with an all-encompassing hug. She noted with some discomfiture that Violet was in black sweatpants, a white-and-purple pinstriped T-shirt that hung loosely off her body, and white Birkenstocks with black socks. Elle sported a similar outfit in stark contrast to Lela's mother's, a green cocktail dress, navy kitten heels, and sparkly rhinestone jewelry. She looked like a sports car parked in front of an elementary school.
"What're you doing here?" asked Violet, an incorrigible grin lighting up her face.
Lela smiled back. "We're gonna see The Little Mermaid. My sister's in it. What about you?"
"We're going to the same play as you!"
Lela and her mom pulled up stools opposite from the other mother-daughter pair.
After remarking that those Italians really knows what it's doing, Lela's mother leaned in close and whispered, "Elle seems kind of young, don't you think? Is she single?"
Lela vehemently swatted her mother away, a sour expression on her face. Violet had told her all the great things that Elle had done to make Violet happy. Her mother had no right to gossip about the mom who made chocolate chip pancakes every Sunday, who helped her daughter decorate her room, who was always scanning the horizon for something Violet would like.
"What?" asked Violet, noticing the cantankerous scowl that pulled at Lela's face. "Did your mom tell you that you had B.O.? That's happened to me before." she added in a stage whisper.
Lela gave her mother a cold, hard glare and resumed eating.
Her mother squirmed a bit, but then stood up and declared that she was full. "C'mon, Lela, let's get going."
Lela got up and said, "See ya later, Violet, Miss Malone."
"Please call me Elle."
"Can do, Miss Malone!" Lela winked and gave a two-finger salute, her good mood returning briefly.
Elle laughed and Lela pushed open the Plexiglass door, shivering slightly. But she'd left her sweatshirt in the car and would have to bear the freezing, breezy night in bare arms and almost bare knees. After what felt like forever, she finally reached the car and pulled on the door handle. It gave, and she sat through fifteen minutes of awkward silence until they reached the theater.
Lela and her mother bought tickets, chose their seats, and sat down. Lela saw Violet in the crowd and stood up to wave. Just then, the lights dimmed, and a red-faced Lela sat down again.
As Lela watched the play, she felt a swelling of pride in her chest, and when the actors took the final bow, she found herself cheering and clapping harder than anyone else.