She’s on a ladder, washing windows.

Below is a compressed version of my story WINDOWS, part of my: A Mother’s Time Capsule collection. 

Kate has two children, girls. She’s on a ladder washing windows and stopping to peer into the room of her older daughter, Brynn. Kate’s become a voyeur; on the bed, three books, a stack of notebook paper and a pile of rumpled clothing. On the floor, Brynn’s underwear scrunched and rolled up—and then, almost kicked under her bed but not quite, a box of Kotex. Kate’s talked with Brynn about keeping these things rather secret, not secretive-scary, but reasonable. Jody is only five and doesn’t need to be asking questions. Brynn should put her private things away.

But Kate sees that it is all new to her. Brynn’s had only one period and Kate guesses today is the start of another. But she peers into the room as if to find another explanation. There could be only one: Brynn doesn’t have her period again, the box just got kicked out from under the bed. Kate smiles, starts down the ladder. But then something moves forward in her mind, something she feels more than thinks, like a shiver to signal that she’s about to topple from the ladder—Brynn does have her period and doesn’t need to mention it to Kate—ever again.

Back on the ground, Kate lifts the light aluminum ladder and moves it down the side of the house. She’s almost done. One more window.

Other women have time to shop, I mean shop for parties they’ll attend—or they meet for lunch or play cards. Other women– 

“God, I never want to play cards,” Kate says to the birds in the trees.

Her mother had been smoking a cigarette, the ashtray on the floor near her feet so the smoke won’t bother anyone. She’d just had her hair done, and though Kate is never really sure what that means, she remembers that it looked, was always, the same. Then the older woman had immediately complained: He’s been out of town, right?

Mother, my husband’s name is Ted and yes there was a business trip this week.

Kate again goes up the ladder, balances carefully, works at each window corner where a thick layer of grime has settled. She’s good at pushing away things her mother says, but she better not fall while doing this chore—her mother would explode in front of Ted. And right then Kate gasps as the roll of paper towel slips from her grasp and falls. She holds tightly to the ladder. She’s a story and a half up. Her mother would have to nurse her, watch the children—she’d get to hear about the unnecessary fall every five minutes.

And then, up high, Kate clinging to the sides of the ladder, her mother’s immutable story comes circling back: You were just a little girl; I got locked out of the house when hanging the washing. The door blew shut and I was locked out. You were asleep in the upstairs bedroom and the windows were open to the breeze; so I pulled a ladder from the garage and climbed it high onto the front of the house. I prodded you with a broomstick to wake you up. I knew you were old enough to go down and open the front door for me. I was just frantic going up that ladder. I had to get back inside to you.

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