"I don't know why you insist on embrangling me in your quarrels with Becky."
"The word you're looking for is entangle, Mother," Sandy said.
"I am not a child, young lady. I said just what I meant to say."
Victoria crossed the room and pulled her word-a-day calendar from the top drawer of her desk.
"See. It's right here. May 17th. Embrangle."
Sandy set her iced tea neatly on a coaster. Heaven forbid she leave a ring on Mother's precious coffee table. She pulled herself up from the overstuffed sofa and followed her mother's path across the den. She stood, back propped against the rolling wooden chair, and extended her hand with a huff.
"It was a gift from Henry."
"Of course it was."
"Don't be petty. He says it will broaden my horizons."
Sandy rolled her eyes and began flipping through the tear-out pages.
"There it is: embrangle. Oh and there's more: vilipend . . . esoteric . . . magniloquent . . . trivalent . . . periapt."
Sandy started laughing.
"What's so funny?
"Broaden your horizons? What was that old man thinking?"
"He was thinking it would be a very thoughtful gift."
"He was probably thinking how funny it would be when you blurted out a word like magniloquent at your next garden party."
"Now you're just being mean."
Victoria snatched the calendar out Sandy's hands and shoved it back into the drawer.
"Why do you have to be so hateful?" Victoria said.
Sandy thought that her mother's voice sounded more sad than angry. She watched as her mother walked over to the bay window. The mid-morning sun was pouring through the glass, creating slender rays of light. Victoria watched the specks of dust sparkle in the sunlight. She could hear the call of a mockingbird coming from the wide Live Oak outside the window.
Things were so much more peaceful when Sandy was away at school. It was only the end of May and Victoria was already exhausted by the constant chatter, the mess, and the need for confrontation. She was even tired of the bouncy energy she had once admired in her youngest daughter.
Three more years of college and Sandy would be out on her own, leaving Victoria alone in the big, empty house. She remembered this stage with her other three girls. Somehow her two boys had been easier. Soon enough Sandy would mature and gain some wisdom, some idea of how the world really worked. Until then Victoria would bite her tongue and send up a few more silent prayers.
Sandy came up behind her mother and wrapped her long, thin arms around her, squeezing. She rested her chin on her mother's shoulder, letting her straight blonde hair fall across her face. Victoria brought her arms up over her daughter's. They stood there silently for a while. Victoria watching a squirrel turn an acorn in its front paws. Sandy keeping a count of her mother's steady breathing.
"I'm sorry, Mom."