Tessa and Edie were, at one point, the bestest of friends. But then they decided to runaway together.
During the four days my mother was recovering from her C-section, twenty-two other women went into labor at St. Dominic’s Hospital, the only hospital that serves Salerno Hill’s some 50,000 residents. Of those, three of the postpartum women at some point shared a room with my mom. She found all three to be annoying and flaky. And she said the worst of all was Edie’s mother, Nora. She unabashedly goo-gooed and gah-gahed at her new squishy, squirmy bundle of joy. She would plead with the nurses for “just five more minutes” before they took Edie back to the mass baby storage unit deemed a hospital nursery.
Unlike Nora and the other new mothers, who had no grasp of schedules or the importance of developing productive habits, my mom had a plan. She had called to make the appointment for her caesarian the first week of her final trimester. She had developed a list of multi-syllable words in three different languages to coo into my ears. So when the nurse handed Edie over to her mom for her first feeding, I was right on schedule and halfway through my afternoon feeding/music lesson.
“Rossini?” Nora asked, taking a break from stroking Edie’s bald, baby head.
“Excuse me?” My mother asked testily. She had avoided talking to the other mothers at all costs. She had no patience or inclination to make other new mother friends. Why bother? It wasn’t a village that raised a child anymore, but a well executed eighteen year plan of action.
“The music,” Nora waved her free hand in the air, like she was caressing the notes that were coming out of the CD player.
“I have no idea. It’s a Baby Genius CD. It’s been proven to promote higher mental functions during early brain development.”
“So you’re a first time mom.”
“I am,” my mom stated, more than a little peeved.
“Edie here’s my second. By the second one you realize all that stuff is a bunch of malarkey.”
“There won’t be a second. This one’s going to be perfect.”
Nora took a moment to take in the scene in the next bed over: my mom, me, and the beginnings of my multitasking abilities taking form. God knows what she saw, but she smiled at my mom and very genuinely said, “I’m sure she will be.”
Then she detached Edie, shifted her to the other arm, and walked her over to my mom and me.
“This is Edie,” she said extending her hours old daughter’s hand in my direction.
My mom considered this gesture for what I’m sure was an eternity, but eventually brushed my tiny palm against Edie’s.
“This is Tessa.”
Step One of the Master Plan was getting the fake IDs. Actually I suppose that was Step Two. Step One (and the only one I came up with solo) was to get Tessa on board with the Master Plan. After that, she worked out all the subsequent steps and while I had no moral objection to it, it was a damn shock that our next move involved breaking the law.
I was the one that got us the fake IDs. Which is really no surprised considering that out of the two of us I was the one clearly more like to know how to get them. And to be expected to need one.
But Tessa was the one that went in with the fake ID.
“I look more mature,” she said, smiling and poking my exposed belly button.
“Boring does not equal more mature,” I countered, undoing the buttons that were strangling her throat and revealing what really made the five foot three Tessa look of age. She was only three days older than me, but like the rest of Tessa, her tits were way ahead of the curve.
She slapped my hands away. “I need to be unremarkable,” she said, but only redid one of her buttons.
“Just trying to pull attention away from your ID.” I took a step back and looked at Tessa. The plan was that she’d go in by herself and try her hand first. Then if there were any issues, we’d go somewhere else and I’d take my turn. While I had no doubt her ID would work (my connections never failed me), it was important for her to be, as she put it “unremarkable”.
It was actually pretty amazing, what she’d been able to pull off. Tessa was a quick study, so while most girls were going through their inevitable awkward years, Tessa quickly learned how to over come them. She knew what to hide as well as how to highlight what she had going on and cater it to whatever the situation may be. At our eighth grade dance, both of us went with a pulsing zit as a date, mine bursting out of my forehead, hers from her chin. While I unsuccessfully tried to cover mine with a gelled-down side-swept hairdo, Tessa’s was almost unnoticeable once she’d applied the right shade of lipstick. A siren red so perfect for her pouty lips that no one could look away, even to notice the pustule a quarter of an inch to the southwest.
So as I stood there looking at Tessa’s face, a face that you could argue I knew better than my own, I found myself wondering, if I passed her in a crowd, dressed as blandly as she was, could I even pick her out. Her typically shiny, raven hair was half its normal volume and the color more of a muted charcoal. While I hated to admit it, she’d made the right move by redoing that one extra button. Even her always perfect posture was more slouched and unassuming. I had to hand it to her, the girl was a fucking chameleon.
“People have yawns they’ll remember better than you. Now go get ‘em tiger,” I said giving her a shove in the direction of the door.
She gave me an uncharacteristically modest grin and went in. Much calmer than I would’ve thought considering all the laws she was about to break. Which honestly freaked me out. I headed back to the car to wait, repeating to myself, “she’ll get it. It’ll work. She’ll get what we need.”
I pulled my insulin pump out of my pocket and checked the time. Five minutes had passed.
When she’d been inside for almost an hour I realized I’d been holding my breath, watching the clock for a period of time that should’ve caused minor brain damage. But then she came out brandishing several sheets of paper and an ear-to-ear smile.
“Got the bank account,” she said. “Step one of phase one complete.”