Mara had a long day, to put it lightly.
Walking to her car, the clacking of her low black heels echoed off the cavey walls of the parking garage. That sound always made her feel so professional, so grown up. She made sure there was nobody else around her, then leaned back on her cramping feet and yelled, “Echo!” at the concrete ceiling.
Ah. Much better. Flushing under her foundation, Mara scurried to her blue Toyota, a big smile on her face as she pulled out the car keys.
She unlocked the thing, turned the ignition, and pulled out of the garage. Her heart skipped a beat when she saw that it was completely dark out. The accountant hadn't thought she had stayed in the office that much later than her number-crunching peers.
But headlights and glowing city windows compromised the inky, starless sky above. Mara’s car clock confirmed it, too. 7:30. Over an hour after when she was supposed to punch out.
She carefully slotted into the thick queue of automobiles. Blinking slowly and shifting her shoulders against the seat, Mara desperately wished she were in the backseat. Like when she was a kid and her parents would drive her and Clarence back from some play in the city, and she would just curl up in the backseat under her puffy coat. Quiet music or a Packers game in the background, the soft red and yellow lights washing over the window like watercolors, the comforting sense of direction, the heater on blast for recovery from the frigid evening air.
She missed that.
Especially because now, she was nothing but tense in that throne she used to covet. Driving made Mara nervous, and the only reason she really ever drove when John or Michelle were in the car was that them, being terrible drivers, being in that throne made her even more nervous.
It was a perfectly reasonable fear; a car can, after all, cause tens of thousands of dollars in property damage and claim a dozen lives for change, but not a very practical one. It tends to make people drive like old ladies, and nobody likes those people.
Mara had mostly squelched the results of the uneasiness that she got from driving, but she still got the heebie-jeebies once in a while.
She drove and drove, streetlamps flashing by after escaping the more congested city streets. “Home’s in the home stretch,” she thought to herself, turning a deft left into Suburbia.
Once arrived at the familiar address, Mara strode out of the car, leaving her briefcase inside for her future self to deal with, and up onto the porch. Lights were on in the entryway; that meant people were still up. No surprise there.
She fought the lock, won, and clacked inside with those heels of hers. The first thing she did was to take them off.
Then off came the spy-ish but more colorful green coat. She hung it on the rack, as one does to coats.
Television talked in the background, and Mara peered into the living room to see what her daughters were watching. Michelle sat up on the couch, blue eyes bright.
“Hey, Mom! How was work?”
The mother sighed. “Long. How was school?”
Michelle shrugged. “Alright. I really like my band teacher so far.”
Mara nodded. “Hey, what's up with Hailey?” the younger girl was curled up on the couch, eyes closed.
“School starting back up hasn't been great on her. I saw her on her math homework, practically working her fingers to bloody nubs making sure she had the right answer. She color codes her planner, has a binder five inches thick, and takes notes on everything. She's really, really tired, so she fell asleep on the couch about half an hour ago.”
Mara shook her head, watching Hailey shift in her tangle of blankets. “The little workaholic. D’you want me to carry her upstairs?”
Michelle looked down at her nails. “She's too heavy. Thanks, though. Want to watch some crime shows? I can make some room.” The blonde scooted over to leave her mother just enough room to snuggle in for Law & Order.
“No thanks, Michelle. I'm exhausted.”
“Oh, well, good night, then,” said Michelle politely as Mara trekked up the stairs.
Brush teeth, wipe off makeup, change into floppy old shirt. That was how Mara did it. Slide into bed next to her husband.
“Long day, huh?” John inquired, though it wasn't much of an inquiry. He knew a long day when he saw one.
Mara answered with a sigh. “How does Hailey get so tired after school? She's young. Her school days are way shorter than my work ones.”
“Well, you get paid.”
The mother chuckled tiredly, staring at the lamp-lit little bumps in the ceiling. “John?”
“Please tell me it's Friday.”
She turned over and gave him a hug.