The Beetle jerked to a stop in front of the low brick schoolhouse, spraying gravel. Lucy glanced at the outside clock: 9:03. The greeter-parent would still be here, but maybe they would luck out today. Maybe it would be Nora's mom, or Ella's dad.... a flash of yellow was approaching the car, a yellow so blinding it made Lucy squint. Shit. This could only mean one thing.
"Hi, Sophie," she cooed, her white teeth glinting as she leaned in to prize Lucy's three-year-old from her car seat. Her smile never wavered as she coaxed Sophie out of the car, but Lucy saw her blue eyes narrow as they swept over the backseat floor, taking in the accumulated detritus of February's lone knit mitten, the Cheerio-Cheeto fight from The Weekend of Long Rains, and worst of all, the dreaded golden arches wrapper tucked in the baby's car seat, still waving three golden fingers as if to leer at everything Suburban Barbie stood for.
"Sophie's mom, have you been ill recently?" SB asked. Lucy didn't know Barbie's real name either, although she was deputy CEO of the PTA; she was just Liam and Bryce's mom. Through identification, identity, as the school always emphasized. "And isn't your baby boy too big for that infant seat? Did you know the bar isn't supposed to be upright like that?"
"I guess I missed the memo on acceptable car regulations," Lucy said.
"That's unfortunate." Barbie managed to look genuinely regretful. "If it was just the car seat, I could let it go, but...with the tardiness, and the condition of the car, I'm afraid I'll have to mention this upstairs." Lucy nodded as though it didn't matter, and swallowed the lump in her throat that tended to crop up whenever she approached the school, like a recurring case of geographical strep .
How could she be so stupid? She knew she should have read the memo, and this wasn't the first infraction. Just last week there was the soccer tournament, when everyone brought power bars, water bottles and Guatemalan throw-blankets, while she clutched plastic bags full of juice boxes and Pringles.
In the school office, Administrator Marleigh patted Lucy's hand and stood, simultaneously conveying reassurance and dismissal. "Not to worry. There's still plenty of time to compensate for any....well, irregularities."
And if there isn't? Lucy was afraid to ask. She'd heard of past expulsions, hinted at in hushed tones. She glanced through the vaulted windows at the playground across the street. Nannies and mothers sat forlorn while their children rolled dusty and unheeded, happily oblivious to their lowered societal status. Lucy looked at her baby boy, innocently glancing out at the swings, and a chill crept over her as she clutched him closer.
"I'll read the memo. I'll read all of them," she said, backing out towards the door.