Carly screeched at the horrific sight of her daughter. Eyes gleaming, the toddler stood with feet spread wide and a toothy grin coated in scarlet. Is that blood? Carly’s frantic glance saw no forensic evidence. She must be hurt, but her bright eyes were tearless and her chin didn’t quiver. It actually stuck out with unsubtle pride. What now?
Little Maggie was scooped up, the computer forgotten, and a beeline made for the bathroom. Giggles escaped with tiny red spittle from the child’s mouth as they bounced down the hall. Obviously the gleam of panic in her mother’s eyes had not yet registered.
Carly skidded across the vinyl floor and plopped her daughter onto the counter. She stooped to get Maggie’s mouth at eye level, turning the girl’s head back and forth in her cupped hands. No sign of a wound. All teeth accounted for, no cracked lips and a fully functioning tongue that was mumbling in increasing protest.
“Mommy no. Mee libs! Deer stuckie! Kissy, kissy. No, Mommy, no!”
“Shhhhhh Maggie. Mommy needs to see if you have an ouchie. Hold still.” But she could find nothing to alarm her except the reddened teeth surrounded by equally colorful lips, cheeks and chin. Carly pulled one palm away and recognized the pattern of the smear. She snorted delicately and the unmistakable smell of Crayola registered. Up went Maggie again and away towards the kitchen they bounced.
All was typical toddler chaos there, nothing to confirm maternal suspicions. A lone marker sitting conspicuously near the front door made Carly gulp. Please not the lambskin mat, it’ll never come out. Silent prayers and nibbling guilt competed as they approached the crime scene. Maggie kept up a constant babble.
“Mee libs stuckie Mommy. You kissy. MMMwah,” she puckered audibly and planted her affectionate mouth on Carly’s shoulder.
What came into view was less of a disaster than expected. The small bench was pulled under a gilded mirror hanging beside the closet.
“How’d you drag that, my little Wonder Woman?”
Maggie waved her arms. “Wanda Woma!”
Carly saw a few marker lids scattered across the mat, but it seemed clear of any unwanted decoration. The wall however, held ample fingerprint evidence for conviction. It was a strange relief that most of the cardinal red had apparently been applied to Maggie’s face. Back to the kitchen.
Many screams of protest, a damp cloth and a good mouth rinse left Maggie’s teeth a satisfactory shade of pink.
“What were you doing little girl?” Past the initial shock and fear, Carly sat pondering. The walls, floors and furniture had all been christened with Crayola, but Maggie had never seen fit to embellish herself before. What had brought this on?
True to her short attention span, Maggie stumbled along behind her toy shopping cart, the whole incident forgotten. Carly watched her stoop, grab and drop something into the cart, then dash by, barely missing her mother’s toes. An old purse hung off Maggie’s arm and a set of spare keys jingled. The kid was well stocked. She even pulled out a toy phone from her stash, jabbering away and pushing the cart straight towards the kitchen cabinets. Carly flinched, anticipating impact.
As her eyes shut, her brain came to delayed realization. Carly remembered all the times she had bumped into grocery store displays, her hands and mind on something else. She could see herself chattering away on her cell, and heard Maggie echo now.
“Okaaaay. Yeah, yeah. NO! Okay, bye bye.”
Carly’s mind went back to the red marker and a weight sunk into her gut. Maggie’s libs were stuckie. It all made sense.
A low maintenance woman, Carly owned only one tube of lipstick and it was bright red. Last week, after months of disregarding it, reservations at La Crème and a twinkle in her husband’s eye had brought purpose to the forgotten makeup. Maggie had sat quietly on the bathroom floor as mommy applied, puckering up upon completion.
“Kissy,” the little girl had gurgled. Laughing, Carly obliged.
“It’s called lipstick sweetie. Lip. Stick. Makes for good kisses!” They’d giggled and smooched away. Carly hadn’t given it another thought, but apparently Maggie had. Why did children’s radars always hone in on the maximum potential for mischief?
She watched her daughter deftly stop before hitting the cabinets, finish the imaginary phone conversation and hoist the purse onto her shoulder with one motion. “Okay,” announced Maggie with purpose. “Time for coffee.”
Carly sighed. Maggie see, Maggie do.
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