Skip to main content



Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots


I was pretending to read the paper. I thought that if I didn’t say anything, my mother might stop glaring at me, burning a hole in my face.

I was home from school. I’d been sent home.

And though I hadn’t been caught on purpose, as soon as Principal Hidalgo said “suspended,” my first thought was of my mother waking to the smell of homemade croissants. I’d be in an apron, piling the hot pastries high in a breadbasket, just beside the cranberry sage brown butter I’d whipped up. I was suddenly happy, hopeful, thinking of the time we could spend together.

Then I came home. The fact that she refused to look me in the eyes made me feel like more of a nuisance than a disappointment.

“Kanetha told your teacher that you looked drugged,” said my mother, biting a nail then examining it, the picture of calm, as if we were talking about leftovers. She had a green towel slumped on her head and her long shiny legs were spotted with freckles I’d never have. I’d never have her perfect eyebrows either. They were like the feathery fins of her famous pan-roasted bass.

I went quiet. She did too. I had to remind myself not to say a word. I talked too much when I was upset. I had a habit of asking her if she loved me. She had a habit of not answering.

“Kanetha’s a sneak,” I said. “She writes equations on tissues and pretends to blow her nose during tests.”

More words bristled against my tongue. My mother’s silence baited me. I wanted to tell her that Kanetha didn’t always wear underwear and that she flashed the boys during American History II. Kanetha Jackson, eighth grade busybody. She said I’d been standing in the bathroom, not “making.” So she’d kicked open the stall with her neon sneaker. I didn’t even know she was in there. The stupid thing didn’t lock. She found me with my skirt up, tights down, my shoeless foot on the toilet seat, the paring knife to my thigh. Her lips were stained with fruit punch.

I wanted to ask my mother if she knew the paring knife was hers. The Tojiro DP petty knife, her second favorite. I’d taken it off the counter in the morning.

“I wasn’t drugged,” I said. “I’ve never done drugs.”

I held my breath and looked down at the obituaries. Mort Kramish, Celebrated Hematologist and Master Pickler, Dies at 79. Still, silence. I could feel it without looking: my mother’s low, growly simmer. I gave in.

“I’m fine,” I said, wanting and not wanting her to believe it. “I won’t do it again.” I wanted her to ask me to promise. I waited for it. She swatted the newspaper out of my hands. It cracked as it closed against my knee. She stood up. Her hands were heads of garlic, tight to her sides.

“I could have left you in New Hampshire, you know. You could have grown up with nothing, no one.”

She meant that she could have left me with my father. Sometimes, she called him pudding. “He’s as useful as box pudding,” she would say.

“I’m a good mother,” she said so quietly it was like stirring the air.

“I know,” I said. “You’re a great mother. That’s not the point.”

Stop. Stop. Stop. Stop talking.

I was sorry and I wasn’t. I had the urge to hug her and I didn’t. I told myself to be less selfish. She was so busy. She had a “staff of thirty-five and an untarnished culinary reputation to uphold.”

The towel sat like a turtle on her head, its feet pushing and bending her ear. She had perfect ankles. Her eyes were the color of ripe pine trees. She made no sound when she cried. Like women in the movies. I was a blubberer. Full of watery snot. Aunt Lou said that when I cried it looked like I was about to throw up.

I put my hand on my thigh, willing her to forget. The scabs were pomegranate seeds, tiny and engorged.

“You’ve always been like this,” she said.




My mother said I was sensitive even as a baby. After every fight, after she’d screamed, thrown a jar of Niçoise olives against the wall, or poured—she actually did this once—a full bottle of thyme oil over my father’s head, she’d go to my crib. I’d be on my back. Everything right except for my tiny fingers and toes. They were curled into themselves as tight as fiddleheads. She had to unravel them, one by one. My nails left mini purple crannies in the fleshy parts of my palms. She didn’t know where that strength came from in such a little thing.

“I hoped you’d grow out of it,” she said and I wished myself to be small again.

I could have been more careful. I should have picked a stall that locked.

Now, she went to the freezer and for a second I was bolstered. I thought, she’s about to forgive me. She’s about to take out puff pastry. We’re about to make cinnamon palmiers. Instead, she grabbed a bottle of vodka and put it into her robe pocket. Whenever it seemed like she was going to scream, she didn’t.

“You have no idea,” she said. “This is so much more than I bargained for.”

Nausea pulsed in my throat. I’d never meant to be more than she could handle. I did her laundry. I folded her socks into peacocks or hares. Civet of hare. Hare à la royale.

“I’m sending you to boarding school,” she said. “Principal Hidalgo has a contact. There’s a spot reserved for second semester, which gives you all of December to get your ducks in a row.”

“No, I — ” I started. Already, my mother’s back was to me.

I wanted to sit down, but realized I was already sitting. I couldn’t breathe.

She grabbed the portable phone from the kitchen counter and dialed like this was all the phone’s fault. She was calling Aunt Lou. She didn’t say a word until she was in the other room. I really wanted to say I was sorry. I would change. I bit down on my bottom lip till it almost popped. I shuddered. I noticed a spot on the couch, darkened from where my mother must have left her head. I put my face into it. The dusty sweetness of her shampoo.

“Please keep me.”

Just then, as if she’d heard me, my mother shouted from the other room, “And don’t even think of hurting yourself while I’m in here.”

Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots
by by Jessica Soffer