“I want to go home!” Petulant, weepy.

We’ve had this conversation every night this week.

“You are home, Margot. You live with me now, remember?” A veneer of cheer barely masks my exhaustion.

“No! I don’t like it here! I hate you!” Rage, laced with fear—isn’t that always the way? Anger disguising something deeper, more painful?

I try to hush her, laying a calming hand on her arm, but she throws me off. She looks so small in her floral nightgown, her thin arms around herself. My eyes burn, and I feel a sneeze threatening—tears come next. Time to redirect.

“Margot, shall we work on our puzzle for a bit before bed? We’re almost done.”

I watch her think, studying how her mouth purses as she considers, how much her nose looks like mine.


My shoulders loosen, and I lead her out into the sunroom, helping her scoot her chair in before I sit, too. I choose a puzzle piece and roll it between my fingers, my eyes on her. Dusk gilds the yard and sparkles in her hair. She bites her lip as she searches, beaming when she finds where the piece fits.

As the sun sets, she looks up at me, her smile faltering.

“Are you my mama?”

I take her knobbly hand in mine, my throat tight. Somewhere in the past years, the lines between our roles blurred, then flipped completely—mother, daughter; daughter, mother. I miss her so much my chest hurts.

I can only nod.

Written in March 2023 for the final round of NYC Midnight’s 250-word Micro Fiction Challenge 2022. Announcements due in April 2023You can read my first round story here and my second round story here. Read more Newsletter Exclusives here.