The day didn’t start off bad.
No, in fact it was going quite smoothly for once. Natalie had even surprised me and had eaten more than two bites of her breakfast. She and Tommy had kept their fighting to a minimum. For once I didn’t have to spend my entire Saturday telling them to be nice, be nice, for the love of God BE NICE.
Then the doorbell rang and yes, it was one of Tommy’s irritating friends. But my nerves weren’t as frayed as they usually were so the kid didn’t bother me as much as he usually does. I went outside with Natalie at my heels to open the garage for the kids. As I was lifting it up, Natalie went, “I be right back!” and then darted into the house.
I didn’t think much of it. Maybe she was eager to get back to her creepy Yo Gabba Gabba toys that she had brought downstairs. But then I heard the slam of door.
“Tommy’s Mom? Your kid just locked the door I think,” Tommy’s friend Chase informed me.
I rushed over to the door and tried to open the screen door. But it was locked. And Natalie had closed the actual door too.
This was not good.
Still, I couldn’t panic in front of the kids. So I took a few deep breaths and went, “It’s okay. Natalie likes to pretend. She’ll open the door.”
Of course Natalie doesn’t fully know how to turn the knob on the front door. But still. Maybe she’d miraculously figure it out.
I banged on the screen door. “Natalie?”
“Yes?” came her muffled voice. She didn’t sound phased at all.
“Sweetie. You have to turn the knob and unlock the screen door,” I said calmly. I even turned and flashed a smile at the boys who were gaping at me.
I could see the knob flick a few times as though Natalie were attempting to turn it.
“Natalie?” I tried again.
“Yes?” Same sweet voice.
“You have to turn the knob.” My voice was beginning to wobble. I was starting to worry. Suppose Natalie got hurt? I pictured her being buried by all my books and slammed on the screen door again. “Natalie. YOU HAVE TO TURN THE KNOB!” I shrieked.
The knob turned briefly but then it went still.
“Bye bye, Mommy,” Natalie said.
I banged on the screen door. “Natalie! NATALIEEEEEEEE!”
“Do you want me to go and get my crow bar?” Chase said behind me. I head nearly forgotten that they were even there.
Plus it’s pretty disturbing that an eight-year-old has a crow bar.
“I’ll be fine,” I lied even though what I wanted to do was curl into a ball and cry on my porch.
“This doesn’t look good. You’re locked out, Tommy’s Mom,” Chase informed me gravely.
I had a compulsion to hurl my shoe at his head. Instead I swallowed and went, “It’ll be okay. She’ll figure out how to turn the knob. And please, call me Amber.”
I know some parents would probably flip at a kid calling an adult by their first name. But I hate when people call me ma’am. Or Miss Amber. Miss Amber reminds me of an old schoolmarm. And I’m not an old schoolmarm. I’m 27, for craps sake.
As it is, I’m usually called Tommy’s Mom 98% of the time. The other 2% I’m just called, “Hey you.”
“Natalie?” I attempted again. “It’s Mommy. Could you come back to the door?”
“Yeah?” Now Natalie sounded irritated as though I were interrupting her play or something.
“You need to TURN THE KNOB. TURN THE KNOB!” I said frantically.
“Is everything okay?” One of my neighbor’s was passing by with her kids.
I whirled around and pasted a smile on my face. “Oh, we’re great!” I squeaked. “My two year old is just being silly. Haha.”
The neighbor frowned. “Are you locked out?”
My smile got bigger. “Who me? No. I mean, yes but it’s no big deal.” I didn’t want to be known as the negligent parent on the block. I’m not! I didn’t leave her in there. She came out with me. She just raced inside and locked me out.
“Do I need to call the police?” she wondered. “I have my cell phone.”
I shook my head. “No police. I’ll be okay. But thank you.”
I waited until she had walked off before I resumed pounding on the screen door.
“It’s your MOMMY! Please TURN THE KNOB!”
But it was obvious that Natalie wasn’t going to do this.
My throat was starting to hurt from the shouting.
“Are you going to have to sleep out here tonight?” Chase asked incredulously.
I waved my hand at the boys. “Why don’t you go play?”
“Are we going to have to sleep out here tonight?” Tommy asked, looking panicked.
I shook my head. “No. Your Daddy is home. Remember?”
Yes. Tom was home. But he had just worked a night shift and was sleeping in a room with a closed door and a loud fan. So he couldn’t hear me. And I really didn’t want to disturb him since he had another night shift to work.
But I had to. What if Natalie got hurt? Or what if she got into my secret Reeses Peanut Butter Cup drawer and ATE THEM ALL?
I pounded on the door one last time. “Natalie?”
“WHAT?” Natalie screamed. Yeah. She was annoyed. As though I were inconveniencing her or something.
“Go get Daddy. Do you hear me? GO GET DADDY FOR HELP!” This is exactly how Timmy must’ve felt when he shouted at Lassie to get help. I mean, if that show were real and all.
“Okay!” Natalie said and then it was silent again.
I started ringing the doorbell like mad so Tom would hear me.
A few minutes later the front door opened and Tom stood there blinking in his boxers.
“Dude, your dad has no pants on,” Chase said to Tommy.
“What in the hell?” Tom asked. His eyes were still half shut.
“The screen door. You have to UNLOCK THE SCREEN DOOR!” Oops. I forgot that the situation was okay now so I didn’t have to yell. Sometimes I get carried away.
Tom unlocked it with his brows furrowed and I hurried in and shut the door so the neighborhood wouldn’t have a peep show of Tom’s gray boxers.
“What in the hell?” Tom repeated as I scooped up Natalie.
“Are you okay? Are you okay?” I kept saying as I checked her body over for injuries.
“What in the HELL?”
“Oh. I’m sorry, Tom. Natalie locked me out. I’m sorry she had to wake you. Did she tell you that her poor mother was stuck outside?”
In my mind Natalie had rushed up in a panic and had said to Tom, “Mommy needs help!”
But Tom was all, “No. She sat on the bed with me and didn’t even mention you until I heard the doorbell and asked what was going on. Then she said like it was no big deal ‘That’s Mommy.’ And I was all, ‘Why is your Mommy ringing the doorbell?’ and she went, ‘I don’t know,’ and tried to get under the covers.”
My daughter didn’t even CARE that I was trapped outside?
I only gave birth to her. I only nursed her for two years. I only dress her in the cutest outfits ever. And this is the thanks I get?
“I’m sorry,” I said again to Tom. “I know you have to work tonight but I didn’t have any other options.”
A smile was playing on the edges of Tom’s lips. He wasn’t mad. He was amused.
“Isn’t it ironic?” he said.
I raised an eyebrow. “What?”
“Isn’t it ironic that this happened to you? When I watch Natalie you always go over this long list of how I need to watch her like a hawk and it’s YOU who ends up locked out while our daughter runs rampant in the house. I just find it ironic is all..” He shrugged and looked quite pleased with himself.
I glared at him. “Do you ever want to have sex again, Tom?”
His gloaty look left his face. “You know. Now that I think about it, this could have happened to anyone..”