The anxiety: it roils.
She inhaled raggedly, fighting the nausea that'd been plaguing her lately. It was all too much. Her responsibilities were making her sick. And, despite what she screamed at Craig and Dave, it wasn't just the day to day monotony that was propelling her to the brink, that was edging her dangerously close to a cliff where she would whirl like a winged maple tree seed, kick her legs like a rockette and see what happened.
It was the young lives she was protecting and guiding. And generally fucking up.
She loved them too much. She hated them for poking holes in her like one of their little sandbox toys, for making her so permeable.
And, yes, there was the laundry. That drove her batty, too.
Eli smushed his face against the screen door, licking it until it glistened with saliva. "Mommy?" he said.
"Mommy just needs to rest for a minute," Tamara said. As she spoke, a shiny, black BMW cruised quietly past. On the other side of the tinted windows, she knew, was Angel Telkowsky. Angel was an ad rep for a local magazine. Childless, with a boyfriend who drove a Range Rover and visited her house at the end of the cul-de-sac a few nights a week, her life was the antithesis of Tamara's.
Angel probably sent her laundry out, picked up dinner on the way home from work, sat around in silk pajamas on the weekends. Tamara often saw her running the neighborhood in black spandex and, when it was cold, fur earmuffs.
"Bitch," Tamara muttered.
"What mommy?" Eli called.
She jerked around. She didn't know Eli was still there.
"Mommy?" he said.
"Yes," Tamara muttered. "Yes, what honey?"
"I need to poop."
"So go poop!" She all but pounded her fists on the warm ground. The kid was four-and-a-half. Why couldn't he go on his own?
"I want you to come with me."
Slowly, she stood and brushed dried grass from her shorts. Eli was still licking the screen, making an elaborate maze of wet tracks over the metal mesh.
The house smelled of the meatloaf she'd made for dinner the night before. And that damned detergent.
As she headed for the bathroom, she lurched toward an unhealthy ficus and threw up in its pot.
She righted herself, wiped her mouth with the back of her hand and saw Craig and Eli blinking at her. The other kids were still crashing around and giggling in the bedrooms.
"C'mon, buddy," Craig said to Eli. "I'll take you to the John."