“Look. All I wanted to do was change this life I was leading.” Even to Mimosa, who was used to making excuses, the line sounded overwrought.
Daisy, her friend of ten or more years, lit a cigarette. Another. This was back in say, 1985, when people smoked. It was what they did. It was hard to explain. “All,” Daisy repeated.
Mimosa knew she would. She herself would have said “All.” So she did, she said it too. “All. I know: all.” She poured herself and her friend more coffee from the plastic carafe on the table. They came here after school on Fridays because of the carafe, of the waitress not bothering them with refills. “You remember.”
“I’m trying,” Daisy said. Daisy had a sweet face, round with blue eyes. She was thirty-one years old, as was Mimosa. In ten years Daisy with her pinkish soft skin would melt into looking sixty, but she didn’t know that yet and so was content with smoking cigarettes and living with her husband.
“You even told me.”
“Told you? Since when did I have that much influence?” Daisy laughed. A passer-by would have said she looked happy or at least pleased. No one passed the women in the booth, though. The diner was fairly empty at 3:30 in the afternoon. “All I said was Shit or Get off the Pot.”
“God, don’t say that again.” Mimosa pushed her features—not as cute as Daisy’s—into an expression that suggested a foul odor had just descended. “I hate that saying.”
Daisy shrugged and blew a stream of smoke diagonally toward the window, which faced a roundabout. This was in New Jersey where they called them traffic circles, and they too disappeared with the cigarettes although there was probably no connection. “The British called these roundabouts,” she observed.
Mimosa said nothing.
“What will you do?” Daisy addressed her question to the window.
“Can I stay with you tonight? With you and Rich?”
“No!” Daisy said. “What on earth would be the point of that?”
“Somewhere to go.”
“What will you do in the larger sense?”
Mimosa reached for a cigarette and her Bic. Her hand shook. “I should stop drinking so much coffee. I’m putting in for a transfer. The other high school, I hope. I mean, I hope it’s not the middle school. I don’t know whether I could do that.”
“And Dr. Alberts?”
“Doctor. That’s funny. I played doctor. Dr. Bob Alberts remains principal.”
“He’s not even attractive,” Daisy said. “And you didn’t even tell me.” She widened her eyes in a brief flash at her friend to indicate the indignity of the secret.
“Why get you involved? Life with Louie was just too boring—I needed to do something.”
“I remember. You’ve been complaining for three years.”
Mimosa glared in turn. “And you’re all happy and everything?”
Of course they both knew that wasn’t true.
“Happy enough,” Daisy said. “I guess.”
“Not to change things,” Mimosa added. “A whole life.” She let one cigarette with the glowing ash of the last. “I’ve never done that,” she said. “It makes me feel decadent.”
“As though you need that,” Daisy said.