Dad gives me a wink, like we are pals or something. We’re sitting in our kitchen having eggs and waffles on a Sunday morning. I’m not sure why he winked; we haven’t said a nice word to each other for weeks, not since he married that witch that is now supposed to be my new “mother.” She wants us to be friends and that makes me want to puke. Worse than that, her heavily made-up eyes light up whenever she sees my dad, like he’s a puppy or something. My dad is definitely not in the puppy category.
I know that Dad wants for us – him and me – to make up. He is not such a bad guy, really, but this woman, where did he find her? She is just the opposite of him. She’s skin and bone, like she might eat once a week, and her hair is the color of strawberries, for God’s sake. It isn’t that I don’t understand that older people sometimes need each other, but I just hadn’t expected a stepmother who darts around like some brightly colored cartoon character with a look of love in her eyes.
But here we are in the kitchen, a month after their stupid wedding, with Dad winking at me again and nodding his head in the direction of Edith when her back is turned. Yes, her name is Edith – the worst old-lady name ever – and I realize that Dad is trying to get me to notice the tear in her dress. I see it, a jagged three inches that she must have done on the edge of our old kitchen table, and beneath the tear I can see a glimpse of her pink underwear. Not gross sexy underwear, but just normal cotton underpants like regular women wear. I can’t suppress a chuckle, which makes dad chuckle and then Edith looks at both of us with a surprised expression. God knows we haven’t been laughing much around the house since she arrived.
Dad points and she turns her skirt so she can see the tear and that’s when she realizes that we’ve been able to see her underwear. Her eyes get wide and then she does something I would have never expected: she lets out the deepest belly laugh I have ever heard, especially from a woman who can’t weigh more than 90 pounds. Dad and I exchange a shocked look, then all three of us start laughing and can’t stop until tears are running down our cheeks.
At that moment, I realize maybe Dad has understood something about Edith that I couldn’t have known. She may have stupid hair and she may be a tad too adoring, but she definitely can make fun of herself. That is a decent human trait, and one that I can respect. Besides, cotton underwear means she doesn’t see herself as a diva. That alone makes me breathe a lot easier.