“Wake up!” David said, as Layla woke up to feel the soft polyester stocking next to her face. “Santa came!”
Layla could hear her mom in the kitchen in the next room. She could hear the cereal bowl slightly drop out of her mother’s sleepy fingers onto the counter, it was a daily rhythm as her mom headed out to work.
“Merry Christmas sweetie,” Layla could smell the lilac perfume on her mother. She put it on each morning, one arm and then the other. “Left some cereal out for you guys. You will take care of Davey–right big girl?”
Layla wanted to grab hold of her mom’s leg. She wanted to squeeze it, and her mother to come down to her knees and hold her- the way it seemed on most shows she watched on weekend mornings. The sweet music would come on after.
“Yea, you got it,” she said holding tight to her pillow.
“Bus doesn’t drive itself. Santa didn’t give Queens a sleigh this year,” she whispered as the door shut behind her softly. Her mother worked as a bus driver, she would iron her uniform each night, making sure the dark blue corners on the shoulder stood up straight and tall. It was just the three of them, and this job, with it, its “benefits” she would say to Sylvie and Maria on the phone late at night, would be “worth it”.
Layla moved the stocking to the right side of the bed. David moved slightly when she did. She could see him peek his eyes open at her. She smiled at how his eyes watched her but also pretended to be asleep. He thought he was an “all-star pretender”. As he would brag to his friends.
“I wish David were awake,” Layla whispered, moving the pillow over a bit more.
David moved slightly next to her.
David took a slight yawn, and rolled over closer to Layla. “Hmm… goood morning…” He said slightly exaggeratedly. “Where’s mom?”
“She was sad but she had to go to work, but she is looking forward to celebrating with us later,” Layla said.
David moved closer to her, and reached for the stocking.
They entered the tradition. Both Layla and David took a spot on different sides of their pull-out couch bed, and began to pour out their stockings. It seemed like it took 20 minutes. The colors of green, red, blue, yellow, green. The candies danced together and the plastics crinkled together, until the entire couch was covered.
They laughed as some candies fell onto the floor, and rushed to try to get it before it fell into the spot.
“Not the spot!”
The spot was what their mom called the area under the couch where nothing ever seemed to come back from. The way her mom talked about it Layla imagined there as an entire 4 course meal under there, and enough dessert for her entire class.
“It’s too late!” David screamed.
David and Layla laughed together on the couch, rolling on the candy until the skittles began to imprint on the backs of their t-shirts.
Later that morning, the light began to fall a bit behind the Astoria Bridge, they had eaten most of their candy. They had eaten the cereal. They had watched every christmas tv movie on all the channels.
“Pass me the remote.”
“No,” David said head down as he passed through the channels once again.
“You have to, I’m older. Mom said.” Layla responded angrily.
Layla grabbed the controller from David, and just as soon as she had it in her hand the pull-out mattress snapped back. The controller flew out of her hand and hit the glass window. Glass shattered and fell all over the room. She could hear Ljubica’s loud steps as she stomped down towards their apartment. David screamed. Layla cried into her arms. She imagined the crispness of her mother’s uniform. She imagined the side of her mother’s pants between her hands as she could have reached out to them.