"Mom, I have to get some school supplies."
My mom looks up from her soap opera in which she's enthralled, and tosses me a twenty dollar bill. "Here, can you have Aunt Mimi take you?"
Aunt Mimi isn't really my aunt. She's a nice lady who lives in our building and would often take me on errands when my mom was unable. Or unwilling, but we'll stick with unable. She didn't really like shopping and crowds.
I knock on Aunt Mimi's door and she's making dinnner. It smells so good. She calls for me to come and smiles when she sees me. She watches me eyeing the pots on the stove and ask me if I'm hungry. I shake my head no, not wanting to be disloyal to my mom.
I show her my money and tell her that I need to get school supplies. She tells me she'll take me after school tomorrow. I go back upstairs, one last longing look at the wonderful aromas bubbling on the stove back to our apartment, which smells much like antiseptic.
I tell my mom that Aunt Mimi will take me tomorrow and she nods. I am not sure if she's heard me.
The next day after school I don't go home first but straight to Aunt Mimi's apartment. She's ready with her coat and gloves on (she always wore gloves no matter what temperature it was outside - maybe that's why she never got sick once the entire time I knew her, and why it was more shocking when she did get sick and died years later).
We go to the drug store and I carefully select my purchases. I never get the most expensive goods because I know I have a budget, but I try to get middle priced stuff that still looks ok so I don't get laughed at. My favorite is Holly Hobbie. I get a notebook, a new lunch box, some pens and pencils, and safety scissors. I am fondling a hair clip that says $5 and I put it back reluctantly.
Taking my purchases up to the counter, the elderly lady behind the cash register rings up my stuff. "Twenty four dollars and ninety eight cents."
Before I can ask, Aunt Mimi is taking care of the bill. I shove the twenty at her but she waves me away with a wink.
I carry the bag out of the store. I cannot stop grinning. Inside I see peeking out the hair clip I wanted. I fold the twenty over and over so it's really small and dig it into the furthest corner of my pocket to keep it safe. I still am grinning - I smile all the way home.
When we get to our building, instead of going to our apartment I follow Aunt Mimi upstairs. She sits me down on the chair and brushes my hair. It hurts, but I like it. I like the pain. She puts up my hair in a clip and tells me I look beautiful. I thank her then run downstairs to my apartment. The TV is on and my mom is in her curlers and pajamas in front of the TV, drink in hand. I try to show her what we got, but she shoos me away.
I skip off to admire myself in the mirror.