“They can live without you for one night,” Tonya said. “We’re just going up here to get my things and coming right back.”
“You’re right,” Meg hesitantly agreed with her sister. Tonya had been a successful businesswoman in Atlanta. Her therapeutic massage establishment was the second most prominent in the county. But it had only been open for about three years. And when the government passed out small business loans for COVID relief, Tonya was denied assistance. The company who owned the building swiftly served her an eviction notice so that someone else could move in. And Tonya used the money she’d saved to pay her rent, bills, and buy food. Finally, she’d decided to move back to Mississippi.
In just two weeks’ time, she’d already gotten a job as a Charge Nurse at the best hospital in Jackson. It would pay her extremely well, though Meg wasn’t sure how much. As far as Meg could see, Tonya still had it made. It never took her sister long to bounce back after devastation. Meg on the other hand, went wherever the wind blew her. She was an artist, after all. Artists tend to play by their own rules.
However, there was one rule that Meg felt compelled to follow. “Being a parent.” She took it too seriously. “What’s gonna happen when you start dating again? They’re gonna call you every ten minutes? Come on, sis. You gotta have some time to yourself.” Tonya was right of course. Meg hadn’t realized just how much she’d catered to her children, especially the girls.
In fact, her middle daughter Sicily hadn’t stopped calling since she woke up that morning. Despite being only seven, she and Meg were friends, especially since COVID. They were forced to be stuck around each other 24/7. And Sicily wasn’t used to being without her anymore. They watched tv together, told each other jokes, and even discussed the news. “You need time to be an adult. You’re not just a playmate or a teacher, sis. You’re a grown ass woman with wants and needs of your own.” Tonya was right, of course.
They made it to Atlanta around 3pm. Tonya’s apartment was just as luxurious as it was when she first got it about four years ago. She kept everything so tidy, so pretty, like something out of a magazine. Meg wanted to be envious, but what sense did that make? Tonya was her sister, her born friend. There was no need to be jealous. It only made sense to be happy for her.
The sisters did more talking than packing. When 8pm hit, they sat down to rest for the night. “When’s the last time you took a nice long soak, sis,” asked Tonya.
“I don’t know,” replied Meg.
“Come on. Let me run you a bath.” They went into Tonya’s bathroom. There was a massive mirror that let you see yourself from the top of your head to your knees. It stretched across eight light bulbs spaced about four inches apart. All across the vanity were various lotions, face creams, shower gels, bubble baths, and bath salts. Most of it had hardly been used.
Tonya went over to the deep, oval tub and started to fill it with hot water, just like Meg liked it. “There,” she said walking back over to the vanity. “This bath salt is lavender. It’s to help calm you. This one is for muscle tension. And this one is for…”
“That one,” interrupted Meg, picking up the muscle tension bath salt. “I woke up with pain in my back and my neck.” Meg poured a little into the palm of her hand. She couldn’t describe the scent. All she knew was that it smelled cool and relaxing.
“What do you think you’re gonna do with that?” Tonya questioned. Meg looked at her sister confused.
“I’m gone put it in the bathtub.” Tonya took a deep breath and rolled her eyes. She took the jar of salt out of Meg’s hand and turned in nearly upside down over the tub of water. If Meg had to guess, it looked like a full cup, maybe even a cup and a half. “I don’t need all that,” she protested.
Tonya closed the jar and didn’t respond. She rambled through her things on the vanity until she found something else. A small jar with yellow scrub in it. “This is a handmade product. The woman who makes these was one of my best customers at the spa and we were going to partner together, but you know…COVID.” The condescending tone made Meg giggle even though it wasn’t funny.
Tonya handed Meg the jar. “Use it. It’s gonna make you feel like a girl again.” Meg smiled. She didn’t know anything about being a girl anymore. Sure, she understood that biologically she was female. But that’s as far as it went.
“One more thing,” Tonya said as she opened the medicine cabinet. Pulling out a small vial, she went over to a shelf that was over the toilet. Picking up a scent infuser, she put in a few drops from the vial. “This is lavender too. It’ll help you relax.”
“I don’t need all that,” protested Meg.
“Yes, you do,” answered Tonya. “You think too much.” Meg laughed while Tonya put the infuser beside the tub. “Now,” she took a deep breath and looked Meg in the eye. “Try to relax ok.” Meg nodded her head.
When Tonya was gone, Meg turned off the water and undressed in front of the wide mirror. Getting almost a full look at her body, she noticed how much weight she’d lost. Her hips were nearly non-existent. Her boobs were the smallest out of all the women in the family. Her butt had slimed down and sagged just a bit like her grandma’s used to. Some squats might pick it up, maybe she’d do some along with the yoga she’d started getting up at 5am to do.
The only thing that she liked about herself was her stretch marks. They made such a pretty design running along her iliac crest. She wished she could paint them, but she never seemed to capture their true essence.
Stepping into the tub, Meg sat down and took a deep breath as her body hit the hot water. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d taken a long soak. Between the kids and all of her projects, she only had time for quick showers and simple baths. Tonya was right, Meg had no time for herself. She laid back and let all the different scents filtrate her nose. Her mind went on a trip. She imagined herself in green pastures.
She prayed for herself, her sister, her nieces and nephews, and her parents. She tried not to focus on the negative, only positive thoughts. She prayed for hope.
She didn’t know how long she’d stayed in the tub. All she is that when she got out, she felt like a girl, a woman. Tonya was right, she needed time to be an adult. She didn’t have to sacrifice being a good mother, but part of being a good parent is advocating self-care. After all, she wanted to teach the kids how to take care of themselves.