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Tomorrow went the same as yesterday and progress on unpacking was pretty slow. Now that Olivia’s room was starting to get in order, it was time to move on to the kitchen. I moved slowly on purpose, having promised my mother she could visit once things were all settled at the new apartment. Mother had huffed and turned away.

Picking her up at preschool again, I asked whether she liked any of the other kids yet. “Are any of them friend material?” She paused a minute and said, “They’re not bad, I guess.” The lack of enthusiasm was disappointing.

I changed the subject. “I noticed you set up Grandma’s checker set. Do you want to play a game when we get home?” Olivia turned her face from the window, “Granma’s checkers?” All the pieces were set in a row, ready to play.

“Yeah! I know you miss your Grandma, but we can always play,” I offered. Olivia just said “maybe” but I was convinced this would cheer her up and when we got home I walked into her bedroom and sat by the checker board patting the floor beside me where she should sit and join me. Instead of sitting down, however, she just stared at the checker board and shook her head. Her eyes were wide, or maybe I only think that now, looking back.

“Okay, suit yourself,” I said, and went off to the kitchen to order take out. I still hadn’t finished unpacking the kitchen. She was quiet during dinner, but she gobbled down her food and swallowed her tall glass of water and then ran back to her room. For a moment I was mad at my mother. How could she poison Olivia like that? It wasn’t fair to drive a wedge between my daughter and I. So I threw down my plastic fork and dialed her phone.

Mother had a home phone, and refused to buy a cell. When I dialed the phone rang for what seemed like forever before the automated voicemail beeped. If she was screening her calls, talking would make no difference anyway, and I hung up. In the background I could hear Olivia in her room. The clinking of plastic dully echoed down the empty hall. It sounded like she had decided to play checkers without me.

 

*This is part 3 of a short story. There is more. Continue here.

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