by Alexondria Jolene

The cord rests on the floor, unplugged, in the same position it was five times ago. She stares at it, waiting for it to give her some sort of reassurance. It gives her the reassurance she needs.

Lacy leans on the red door frame and watches Oliver as he kicks his ball into the air, bouncing it once, twice, three times with his ankle.

“Mommy, are we gonna be late again?” Oliver asks. His sprightly voice holds a hint of concern. His green doe eyes and cinnamon-covered face hide it well. The ball rolls into the street.

Lacy attempts to focus her attention on his simple question, but panic absorbs her. She loses everything she’s ever had. Her pets. Her son’s Jurassic Park bedroom. Baby pictures. Sanity.

“Hold on a minute, buddy. Mommy forgot about something inside.” She walks further into her small house and stands at the top of the slender staircase. The dark basement remains undisturbed. The smoke alarms sit silent. Johnny, their dog, gives her a brief tail wag from underneath the couch. Everything is fine.

“Mommy, we have to go! I’m always the late kid. Every single week,” Oliver whines, running into the house, his new cleats leaving little dents in the wood floor.

His voice becomes an obscure murmur as his mother refolds the kitchen hand towel. Organic snacks line the top of the fridge—tallest to shortest. Cords dangle off the countertops. Appliances sit a few inches from the wall. Her tight fists soften.

“Go make sure your bed is made, and then we’ll go.” She smiles at Oliver’s unblemished face.

“You say that every day. It’s what makes us late.” He rolls his eyes and runs upstairs. More dents in the floor.

Lacy steps into the small basement bathroom. She glares at the hair straightener on the counter and kicks at the cord coiled on the ground. You.You’re ruining my life. Lacy pushes her back against the wall and slides onto the floor. She pulls out her pocket-sized notebook and a blue gel pen. Anxiety: 7 out of 10. Higher than it was the day before.

She tosses the notebook aside as Oliver comes rushing down the stairs.

“My bed is made. Flat, just like we like it. Why are you on the floor again, Mommy? Are you cleaning?” He jumps around, attempting to pull her up off the cold, bleached tile.

“Yeah, let’s go, buddy.” She steps on the end of the cord, grinding the metal prongs into the floor. You stay there.

Lacy grabs Oliver’s hand as she flicks off the lights. They both yell goodbye to Johnny and the fish.

“You go out first, buddy. I have to lock the door behind us.”

Oliver jumps into the car. She twists the door lock in her fingers. Once, twice, three times, until her anxiety comes down a number.

“Ready?” she asks.

“I’m ready!” he replies.

She turns on Oliver’s favorite song as they pull onto the highway.

“Wait, Mommy, are you sure you locked the door? Stop. We have to go back. What if it didn’t lock? What if someone lets Johnny out?”

Lacy watches Oliver in the rearview mirror, his little body twisting out of its seat belt, reaching towards the house. She picks at her steering wheel for a moment then twists the rearview mirror up. Everything is fine.