The Diamond or the Egg (excerpt)

The Diamond or the Egg

Samantha Lazar

1

The wrapper, melted onto the candy, made more noise than Alex could take.  She had finally found a place to be alone, buckled into the back seat of the Toyota Starlet, directly behind her mom. She held the candy in her lap, and desperately scraped her nails against the slick plastic.

“How was Grandma’s?” her mom caught her eyes in the rearview mirror at a stop sign.  

“Fine,” Alex said, “but practice was hard today.”

“You are getting so strong! Did you have to do underwater drills today?”

“Mmmhmm,” Alex looked out the window. Tiny beadlets of rain drifted down the window. Alex played a game she often did with raindrops.  Each drop was a traveler, and she had only a moment to name them and give them a story before they traveled to the end of the window. There is Sally, on her way to New Zealand. She will meet a sheep herder and have a  baby…

After a minute, her fingers felt the edges of the wrapper, and Alex was as determined as she had been to get to the end of the pool without coming up for air, mind over matter…mind over matter, her lungs burning, but her want to win burned more. “Nope, start over! “Her coach called out at the edge of the pool when Alex’s head gasped above water only five meters left.  

Now the candy was finally free from its sleeve and without looking for her mom’s eyes in the rearview mirror, she popped it into her mouth.

Strawberry fireworks and dreamy sugar- it was so worth it, she thought.

“What’s in your mouth?”  It was her mom.

“Candy,” Alex drooled a little bit when she said it.

“Where did you get it?”  The car drifted over the line; her mom turned around in her seat to look directly at Alex.

The tears just flew out. She couldn’t stop.  She did not understand why she took it. She just could have asked her grandma for the candy. But the Pick-a-Mix station was too inviting. It was just too tempting, and she wanted it. She didn’t want to ask for three cents. She told herself they were free samples.  Everyone could just have one, right? Ten minutes later, she paid the grocery store manager for the candy and apologized through tears for stealing.

It was Saturday again. Alex spun around in her bathing suit. The thick soft carpet of her grandparents’ living room hugged her toes. Her long brown hair was still wet from swim team practice, and she danced pretending she was the prima ballerina. She could smell the barley soup cooking on the stove, and she could not wait to eat. Her grandma hummed something that sounded like “You are my Sunshine”  in the kitchen.

As she spun and leaped on her tippy toes in her imagined ballet slippers, she smiled at the familiar painting above the couch, a boy and girl walking in the woods. Then there was the other stuff she had always known:  the bird house clock tick tick tick tick, the bronze chicken statue, the collection of eggs on shelves, blue marble, and blown glass, ceramic and plastic- gifts from over the years from clients of the Egg Company, her grandparents’ business. Around she spun: boy and girl in the woods, tick tick tick tick, chicken and eggs, kids in the woods, tick tick tick tick, chicken and eggs. She felt quite dizzy when she stopped in front of the egg collection. Applause and roses rained down on her from all corners of her mind, and she stood transfixed.

At eye level, there was a miniature basket of eggs. Alex giggled. It was the cutest little basket. It had woven fibers and the littlest blue eggs. Alex imagined it sitting on the littlest kitchen table in her doll house.  Tiny and secret and easily hid. And the next moment, the basket of eggs was in her palm and then in her swim bag that hung on the pegs.

The front door startled Alex, and it was her grandpa, grinning slyly at her.  His grey hair was slicked over to the side, a golf bag slid off his shoulder.

“Hello, my beautiful!”  He picked Alex up and spun her around, “What’s cooking?”

“Soup is ready!” her grandma called them in for lunch.

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