All I Need Is YouBy: M. Malone
KAYLEE WILHELM STOOD at the window and watched the white, cottony flakes fall from the sky, blanketing the lawn of her childhood home. When she was a child she used to love the snow, running around and trying to catch the crystalline fluff in her mouth. It had felt like magic, like stardust on her tongue. Now that she was an adult, all she could think of was pollution and acid rain, of the inevitable mess, of shoveling and clearing off her car. There was no doubt about it.
Being a grown-up sucked sometimes.
Not that she’d had a choice. She unhooked her daughter from her car seat. Kay hadn’t had the luxury of adjusting to adulthood. She’d been dropkicked into it with no safety net.
“And I wouldn’t change a thing,” she whispered and kissed her daughter on the nose. She stood, settling the baby on her hip.
“Did you bring her teething ring?” Her mom, Henrietta, pawed through the diaper bag, her usual pinched look in full force. Kaylee felt her good mood start to dissipate.
“What about her blankie?”
Kay bit her lip to suppress a huff of impatience. She’d been raised to be a good girl. To speak with care, to help those less fortunate, and above all else to respect her parents.
It was just really hard to do sometimes when no matter how great Kay was feeling, her mother had the ability to bring her down in sixty seconds or less. Especially when her mother was always impeccably groomed and Kaylee felt like such a mess.
Even now, just spending a quiet evening at home, her mother’s black hair was styled in precise curls that formed a halo around her face. Her smooth brown skin bore few lines, and her makeup was perfect. Kaylee pulled her lip balm from the back pocket of her jeans and applied a thin layer, hoping the slight bit of color would keep her from looking like a twelve-year-old. She rarely wore makeup, and it usually didn’t bother her.
Except when she was around her mom.
With laser precision, Henrietta’s eyes narrowed and focused on Kaylee’s bare face. Before she could comment, Kay answered her earlier question. “Yes, I brought her purple blankie and an extra one just in case she throws up on it again.”
Her daughter, Hope, squirmed in her arms. Ever since the baby had discovered she could move around by holding on to the furniture, she didn’t like to be held anymore.
“Oh, she wants to come to me. You want to come to Grandma, don’t you? Yes, you do.”
Her mom plucked the baby from her arms and carried her off toward the kitchen. “We’re going to feed you. I know you’re hungry.”
“Actually, I already fed her.” Kay sighed when her mom didn’t slow down or even acknowledge that she’d heard her. As usual, her mom was going to do whatever she wanted. After all, what did she know? She was just Hope’s mother.
No big deal.
Kay looked around the living room. She’d grown up in this house, given her first performances on the shaggy brown rug in front of the fireplace, and brought her first boyfriend here to meet her parents. The familiar sight of the pictures over the mantel and the knitted blanket on the back of the sofa should have been comforting. Instead, it felt like she couldn’t breathe in here sometimes.
“Don’t let her get to you, pumpkin. You know how your mother is.”
Kay turned at her father’s voice. With his jet-black hair shot through with streaks of silver, Leeland Wilhelm was a striking man. To Kay, he was the most handsome man alive. He’d always been her champion and her protector. Even now when he didn’t agree with the way she was living her life as a single mom trying to break into the music business, he was always in her corner.
Always on her side.
“Thanks, Daddy. I won’t.” She gave him a quick hug and then walked down the hallway and into the kitchen. Hope was already strapped into her high chair and eating a cup of yogurt. Half of it was on her cheeks and the other half was on the front of her bib. She gave Kaylee a big, toothy grin when she saw her.
“I’ll be back around ten to pick up Hope. I’m sorry it’s so late. I’ve just got a lot of catching up to do.”
Her mom waved her apology off with an impatient flick of her wrist. “It’s always something. They want you to sing it again, sing it differently, sing it better. They’re never satisfied.”