Dinner


The bills were practically flooding Isabell's apartment.

At least that's how she felt. But there was a pretty foreboding pile on the kitchen counter, which Isabell had to shove aside any time attempted cooking, a reminder. The corners of one of the rent bills was smeared with grease where a Hot Pocket had gotten too close.

Now, Isabell watched a dollop of pasta sauce fall on the one from Regional Methodist Hospital.

Caroline looked up. "Oops."

Isabell sighed. "It's ok. It's just a piece of paper."

Caroline ripped a paper towel off the roll and padded it against the damaged bill. "I thought you said it was important."

That kid remembered everything Isabell said. "Well, it is, but I'll get another one in the mail soon enough." Too soon. "Never mind. Go eat your dinner."

Caroline brought her spaghetti to the table, an old thing that still had a slightly green spot where Caroline had colored on it with crayon a few years ago. Gosh, that was only a few years ago. Isabell could hardly believe how much had changed.

Isabell picked up her dish and took it to the table. "How would you like the idea of spending Easter here with me this year, kiddo?"

"But I always go to Daddy's for Easter." Spoke with her mouth open, past little bits of chunky tomato.

Isabell nodded. "Yes, you do. But right now Daddy...." Can't get his shit together. "...is very busy. He's not going to tell you because he doesn't want to disappoint you." That part was at least true, Isabell was pretty sure. But she didn't want her daughter coming across a mountain of beer bottles or have her forgotten at the park.

Caroline stabbed her pasta. "How come he's been so busy lately?"

Isabell glanced across the kitchen as she tried to find something to say. She didn't remember the floor having that much dirt on it. Great, so now her house was getting dirty too.

"Well, he's just been having a lot going on and..."

"Mom, is that a tree?"

"Where, honey?"

Caroline pointed behind Isabell, into the living room. Isabell turned around.

Yes, that was a tree. In the living room. Just growing straight out of the floorboards, its leaves scratching the top of the popcorn ceiling.

"What's it doing there?" Caroline said.

"I...how did it get there?" Isabell wondered if the roots were dangling out of the ceiling of their downstairs neighbors. Was she going to have to pay damages for this?

"There's another one," Caroline said.

And indeed there was, growing out of the couch, its thick arms reaching toward the ceiling fan. Isabell stood up. What was going on? Should she call the landlord? The police? Hello, there's a tree growing out of my floor.

More trees were springing up, all over the place. Beneath Isabell's feet. grass began to poke through the floor.

Isabell grabbed Caroline's hand. "Come on."

"Where are we going?"

"I don't know. Away from here."

But as soon as she started crossing the room, she saw that a tree was blocking their way out. Isabell bit her lip. They were on the fourth floor. It wasn't like they could jump out a window.

As they stood there, the floor became covered in grass. The branches of the trees pushed the roof off their heads and when it jumped away, there was only blue, blue sky. Suddenly, the walls began dissolving away, like someone was taking a big eraser to them. Beyond, there wasn't the next apartment building over, but more trees and blackberry bushes. The table sunk into the ground and became a little pond. The chairs burst into shrubs and rhododendron trees. The bills on the table sprouted wings like butterflies and fluttered away. Suddenly, there was nothing left of the living room at all.

Isabell stood there for a moment, her mouth open. "What? What?" was all she could muster.

Finally, Caroline started walking forward.

"Wait, where are you going?" Isabell asked.

Caroline shrugged. "I don't know. But we have to go somewhere don't we?"

Isabell sighed. She supposed that was true. She jogged forward and took her daughter's hand as they strode through the strand, new forest.

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