Lea waits for Mother to come home. Mother is never late; she comes home exactly at six thirty every night. Lea’s house is currently unoccupied. The kitchen’s banana-colored walls reflect light coming in through the small circular windows. She has access to all the neatly set-up rooms. Every door opens and closes the same time every day. The blinding bleach-white kitchen walls house many identical cabinets. The kitchen table is laid out with four napkins, with four small forks, spoons, and knives. Meals are always laid out this way. Her sisters wish they could help her, but it is not possible. They always arrive for dinner promptly at the same time as Mother, at six-thirty every evening. Although the youngest four years old, Lea is in charge. Lea discovers she left a hair band in the living room. It takes up too much space. She carefully removes it from the room, leaving everything else in place. Everything must be perfect. The living room has a small, blemish-free tomato-red velvet couch where Lea’s sisters always sit and watch television. The lampshade stands by the window. It was personally decorated by Lea. Plastic hearts surround the border of the shade. One heart has a creased center. It needs to be fixed. The lamp’s light is like a star, a beacon in the darkness. Lea cannot see directly out the windows. She is barred, caged by a barrier she cannot penetrate.
Lea does not like traveling to the other side of the house. This side has a separate kitchen. Cluttered papers and pens take up room, leaving the kitchen table unclean. The walls were once a white color but have dulled to grey. A black circular burn mark and scratches ruin the table. The large oak table occupies half the kitchen, engulfing any amount of free space. She dislikes the enormous, uncomfortable dark-grey kitchen chairs. She has no control over them. Her parents’ room is locked. There is no way to enter. She observes a small thin layer of light at the floor of the door. She cannot go inside. The large oak grandfather clock is broken. It is running fast, loudly dinging at the wrong time, messing up Lea’s dinner plans.
Eva, her other mother, calls her to dinner. Eva has lived with Lea and her other sisters as far as she can remember. She does everything a mother is supposed to do. She washes Lea and her sister’s clothes. She takes out the trash and makes the meals. Most of the time she cooks pasta. There is a small portion given to everyone. There is always enough, but never enough for Lea. Lea watches from the living room as her sisters devour the pasta. They take huge spoonfuls, laughing and joking. Dinner is never quiet.
Eva’s meals cannot compare to Mother’s meals. Lea always helps Mother put the chicken on the table. Lea imagines the chicken. It is always a large portion. She can eat as much as she wants. Lea sets up the minuscule pink plates made by Hasbro. Eva calls again. She ignores and waits for Mother and her sisters to come home. She should be home soon. The tiny, precise hands on her grandfather clock point to the twelve and six.
Six-thirty arrives. Lea carries Mother, Father, and her sisters inside through the front door. Lea arranges the four figures of her family. She manipulates each arm and leg, setting them up straight in their chairs. Mother, the brunette Barbie, sits at the head of the table. Father, a Disney prince, sits at the other head of the table. She places her sisters, the two Bratz dolls, in the other two chairs facing each other. Everyone smiles. Life is perfect.