Taylor's mother hurried back into the room, her face drawn with concern. "What's the matter, Taylor Why were you screaming"
"Sorry, I was being silly. It was just a firefly," Taylor walked across the room and pulled the window shut. She peered through the windowpane and out into the rapidly darkening night. The early stars twinkled overhead and the leaves of the trees rustled in the breeze. She couldn't see the dragon. She yanked the curtains shut with a snap.
Taylor's mother stood and frowned at her, her arms crossed, and Taylor noticed that she was wearing her "I don't understand you" face. Taylor braced herself for what she knew was about to come. She returned her mother's stare, knowing that her expression would annoy her, but she couldn't help herself.
"Taylor, what is the matter with you lately You are moody all the time and I can barely get a civil word out of you. I just don't know what has gotten into you." She glanced back towards the living room, where Taylor could hear the muted, tinny sound of the TV. Taylor knew she was checking if her father was listening, just so she could use him for back up.
Taylor ignored her mother and started to stack up the dinner plates, clattering the china purposely to make as much noise as possible. She felt an irrational urge to annoy someone and she knew that the unnecessary crash of ceramic against ceramic would set her mother's teeth on edge as surely as nails down a blackboard. To be honest, the harsh, jittery sound was even annoying Taylor.
To Taylor's surprise, her mother reached over and took the crockery out of her hands. She placed the stack of plates firmly on the table, her eyes never leaving Taylor's face. "We need to talk."
"What about" Taylor was stalling. Of course, she knew what the conversation would be about – either her bad attitude, or her lack of consideration, or her recent poor marks at school. It certainly would not be about what a great daughter she was.
Taylor's mother pulled out a chair and sat down. She looked up at Taylor with her best mother expression and waited for her to sit. Taylor sighed. "Can't you just tell me I want to finish up the dishes and go to my room."
"Taylor, please sit down for a moment. We seldom have the chance to just talk any more. You're always in your room these days." Her voice had changed. Now she was coaxing Taylor, trying to be friendly and approachable. She smiled reassuringly across the table but her supposed good humour did not quite reach her eyes. Taylor knew all about these kinds of traps. Her mother was not fooling her for an instant.
Taylor sat down cautiously, her guard up and her tone wary. "What do you want to talk about Will it take long" Taylor picked up a fork and played with it, twisting the prongs into the linen of the tablecloth and avoiding her mother's eyes.
"Tell me how everything is going at school," her mother said brightly. "You never seem to mention Amy any more. Why don't you invite her over for dinner tomorrow night" She paused, but Taylor felt as though she had put the gap there on purpose. "You've been spending so much time in your room. I know that you like reading but you need to socialize more. How is Amy Do you know, I can't remember the last time I saw her. She used to practically live here. You know that I call her my second daughter."
Taylor shrugged, watching the silver tines of the fork stab into the white linen of the cloth as she twisted the piece of cutlery round and round in her hand. "She's ok, I guess."
"Well, that settles it. She can come for dinner tomorrow." Her mother sat back in her chair, looking pleased with herself.
Taylor looked up, raising her eyes but not her head. "No," she said firmly. "Amy and I aren't really friends anymore."
"But you've always been friends! What happened" Her mother reached her hand across the table towards Taylor, though Taylor wasn't sure if it was intended for her comfort or her mother's.
Taylor ignored her mother's hand and instead turned to look at the blinking green clock on the microwave. "Can I go now I wanted to finish up here and watch a show in my room. Or read." She stood up, not waiting for her mother's reply, and picked up the stacked plates from where her mother had placed them on the tablecloth.
"Perhaps you and Amy will make up I know what you teenage girls can be like. Don't forget that I was a teenager once myself. You've been friends for so long. It would be such a shame to lose the friendship now." Her mother's voice was hopeful, encouraging.
Taylor brushed the crumbs from the cleared tablecloth into her hand then dusted them off her palm and into the sink. Efficient and business-like. Busy.
"Are you sure you don't want to talk about it" Taylor's mother probed.
"No." Taylor turned on the tap and began to rinse off the plates. She could feel her mother watching her as the water nosily splashed into the sink. Taylor hoped that soon she would just give up and leave her alone. She opened the dishwasher and began to stack the rinsed dishes.
"Well, I'm here at any time if you feel like discussing it." Taylor's mother said, her voice all sunshine and rainbows. She stood up from the table and Taylor felt her walk over to stand beside her. Taylor's mother put her hand lightly on Taylor's shoulder, pressing down for just long enough to convey her compassion and empathy. "I do understand, Taylor. It wasn't so long ago that I was your age, you know."
Taylor kept her back to her mother so that she couldn't see her eye roll. "Thanks," she muttered. She placed the last of the plates in the dishwasher and picked up a hand towel to wipe her hands before turning around to face her mother again. "I'm going to watch TV in my room. Goodnight." She gave the last word a cheerful, final emphasis and quickly walked away.