“Share it!” growled Kathie, “Or I’ll tell,” she teased in a sing songy voice.
“No! Shut up,” I snarled back.
“I’m going to tell Mom you said, shut up.”
“Just get out of here and leave me alone.” I shoved Kathie with my empty hand trying to move her away from me. It didn’t do much good. It was stuffy under the bed, and I was pushed up against the wall. Kathie squirmed closer to my face. Why did she always have to get in my business.
“It smells fruity, just give me one piece.” Kathie pleaded. I unwrapped another piece and shoved it in my mouth, not looking at her.
“No fairrrr”… and then the, MOMMMMM!!!!” escaped Kathie’s mouth as she rolled back out from under the bed. I heard her barefeet pad across the carpet and then get quieter as she ran down the hallway to the kitchen. I waited. I unwrapped another piece of gum and added it to the ball that was growing in my mouth. It was quiet. Maybe she hadn’t found mom, or gave up and went outside. I waited. The gum was getting harder to chew, but I unwrapped another piece and added it to the large wad in my mouth. My jaw was getting sore,my tongue numb tired from chewing. The gum wasn’t as good as I thought it would be.
It was then that I heard another set of footsteps, not Kathie’s quick-paced feet, but slower and more forceful feet, they stopped at the door. “Angela, where are you?” I didn’t say anything. “Kathie said you had gum, and won’t share.”
I started whimpering. I knew I was in trouble. I sniffled and mom’s feet came closer to the bed. “Are you under the bed? Get out here right now!” She crouched down and looked at me. Her brow was wrinkled, and her eyes looked tired. In a quieter, but more serious voice mom repeated, “Get out here, now.”
I crept out from under the bed and sat with my back propped up against it.
Mom looked at me and shook her head. “I don’t know why you can’t be nicer to her. She just wants to be around you.” Silence. “ Why couldn’t you just give her a piece of your gum?” Shaking her head, mom sat on the edge of the bed. I didn’t know what to say. The tears rolled down my cheeks, I felt one tear hang on the edge of my chin and then drop onto my shirt. My nose dripped and I sniffed, and then coughed. I was reminded of the the large lump of gum in my mouth and chewed it.
“What do you have in your mouth? Angela! You must have five pieces of gum. Spit that out in the garbage this instant. “ I leaned over the trash can and spit out the gum. In a way it was a relief to have the gum gone.
“That is just gross. There is no excuse for having that much gum in your mouth and not sharing with your sister. Give me the rest of your gum.” I reluctantly handed the pack of gum to my mom.
“Where did you get this anyway?” she questioned.
My heart started to beat faster, my sniffly nose started to drip again, my face was getting hot, my hands started to sweat. “I….I…I got it from the store.” And the tears started again. A rush of anxiety overcame me as my chest crushed. It felt like a giant was squeezing me and I couldn’t breathe. My shoulders rocked back and forth as the sobs shook my body. Guilt was washing over my body.
My mom looked at me, confused. She didn’t look mad, her head tilted to the side and she questioned me, “Angela, why are you crying so hard?”
I just sat there with my head in my hands. My mom let me cry. My nine year old body tired quickly and then with a big sigh, I took my hands from my face, looked at my mom, and softly said, “ I stole the gum from the store.”
“Mom’s facial expression didn’t change. She just looked at me, studying my melting body. I started to cry again.
“We’re going back to the store. Get your money and meet me in the car.” She stood up and slowly left the room.
“Andy, Chad, Kathie…get your shoes on .” Mom wasn’t yelling, her voice was steady she was on autopilot, just moving ahead, we all fell into place behind her. We climbed into the hot station wagon and rode to the store in silence. The wind blew in the windows, the radio wasn’t on. Everyone kept looking sneaking a glance at me, but nobody said anything. A sense of dread heavy in the stifling air.
At the store, mom parked and just sat there. She turned and looked at me. “You know stealing is wrong?” I shook my head and sniffled. Tears once again stinging the corners of my eyes. “We’re going to go in the store and you are going to apologize for taking the gum and then you’ll pay. Do you understand? mom calmly reported.
“Yes,” I managed. I looked at mom and she looked at me. Her tired eyes now clouded with concern. Mom took my hand and walked with me, the others trailing along behind. We all hung our heads, shamed by the event, shamed by me.
Mom stopped and glanced at me. “It’s going to be alright, Angela. This is the right thing to do. Fix your mistake and you’ll feel better.”
She was right. I did feel better. She was by my side through the difficult time. And I made it with her support. It wasn’t easy to apologize to the cashier, who felt sorry for the crying mess that I was, but there was a weight lifted once the deed was done.
It was another silent ride home, but there were no tears, and no dread, just kids and a mom reflecting on a lesson learned.