“Mom? You’re picking me up today?” Frankie asks, getting into the car and throwing her school bag in the back seat.
“My appointment with Lily got moved because she had to go to her daughter’s basketball game, so I told Joanne- sorry, Jo, force of habit- that I would pick you up today.” MJ says brightly, waving to Jo through the window. Jo waves back amiably.
“Is everything okay?” Frankie studies her mom’s face. Nothing seems out of the ordinary... aside from the fact that her mom was picking her up. MJ rarely picked her up from school anymore, because she was in her therapy sessions, or napping at home. Frankie didn’t really mind not getting picked up every day anymore. As long as MJ was taking care of herself, she’d figure out her ride home from school- and usually it was Jo who drove her.
“Yeah! It’s fine!” MJ says, smiling at her, as they pull away from the school.
They ride in silence for a while, until Frankie realizes they are going a different direction than the usual path home. “Where are we going?” Frankie asks. “This isn’t the way home.”
“It’s a surprise.” MJ says elusively, smiling to herself.
“Okay...” Frankie looks at her mom, who is barely able to contain her excitement at whatever they were going to next.
Frankie finds herself sneaking glances at MJ again, observing her face, her actions, her demeanor. This was a new habit of hers, developed after MJ had overdosed. Seeing her mom at the hospital terrified Frankie more than she was willing to admit; the thought of losing her scared her to her very core and often sat uncomfortably in the pit of her stomach for hours on end. Sometimes she’d ask Jo to drive her home in between after school activities, just to check on MJ, playing it off as needing to pick something up or grabbing a snack before a meeting. For a few months, she’d even set an alarm for 1 or 2am to wake up, swing by her parents’ room and make sure MJ was asleep and okay. Not that she ever let her mom know.
But no, MJ looks fine, except for a little tired, which was her new normal anyway. But she also looks happy and excited. Frankie rolls her eyes to herself; whatever they were going to do was probably pretty stupid. But she’d play along.
They pull into a parking lot. "Sky Zone Trampoline Park!?” Frankie reads the sign, mouth open.
“Yep!” MJ grins.
“Remember when we used to have that trampoline in the backyard, and we’d jump on it for hours and hours and dad used to yell at us because I hadn’t made dinner yet?” MJ says wistfully, as she parks the car. Frankie has a sudden flashback of jumping on the trampoline with MJ. MJ taught her how to do flips, and they practiced every day for a whole summer at one point, until finally Frankie could do it… she thought her mom was so cool. And, truth be told, MJ was. Even Jo had said so, when MJ taught her how to flip.
“Okay, but mom- I don’t want you to hurt yourself.”
“I’ll be fine, it’ll be just like old times!”
“Okay…” Frankie says uneasily.
“You think it’s stupid.” MJ looks crestfallen.
“No! No, no, no, not at all! I love it.” Frankie says hurriedly. “Let’s go!”
“Don’t just say that because of me.” MJ says, defeated.
“No, I promise I mean it. C’mon.” Frankie exits the car. MJ follows behind, locking the door. Frankie waits for her mom to join her, linking arms. MJ looks a little surprised, but walks in, arm in arm with Frankie.
A few minutes later, Frankie finds herself in front of massive trampolines, taking off her shoes, getting ready to jump in the “Freestyle Jump” section. MJ looks at the trampoline warily. Is she ready for this? She isn’t entirely sure, honestly, but when she saw those photos of Denise’s kid’s birthday party, she knew she wanted to come with Frankie. And there’s no time like the present.
Frankie helps MJ up onto the giant trampoline. They both jump tentatively, testing out their capabilities. MJ grips onto Frankie tightly, unsteady, but determined to continue.
“Okay, you got it?” Frankie asks, letting go of MJ’s hand after they’ve been jumping for a few moments.
“Yeah, I think so.” MJ takes a minute to catch her breath, holding onto a pole nearby. “Can you still do a flip?”
“I’m not sure…” Frankie begins jumping higher, getting more height, before launching herself forward and flipping.
“Yes! Oh my god, yes!” MJ claps. “Now, try a back flip.”
Frankie does so successfully, and MJ cheers. She notices MJ clinging to the pole. This is supposed to be fun for the both of them, some mother-daughter bonding time.
“You gotta jump too, mom.” Frankie says, breathless, slowing down and offering her hand to help her away from the pole. “What, you scared?” Frankie teases.
“No!” MJ says defensively, pushing Frankie playfully.
They both start jumping in earnest now, MJ no longer clinging to the side, the two of them laughing and giggling. “Okay, let’s see who can jump the highest.” Frankie knows how to appeal to her mom’s competitive side.
“You’re on.” MJ replies.
“Big jump on the count of three?”
MJ nods. “One.”
“Three.” They both yell at the same time, before launching themselves into the air.
“So... I won.” Frankie says, when they come back down, still jumping lightly, flushed from adrenaline.
“No, I’m pretty sure I was higher.”
“No I swear I could have touched the ceiling.”
“Okay me too, if I wanted to.” MJ says, eyes bright with excitement.
“Mom, fine. You win.”
“Nah, don’t just let me win. We need someone to judge. Let’s do this again.” MJ scans the place for someone who can be an impartial third party. “Excuse me, sir! Do you work here? Good, you have to listen to me.”
“Oh my god, MOM...” Frankie rolls her eyes, half laughing at MJ’s insistence at a judge.
“Sir, hi. Yes. My daughter and I - we’re trying to see who can jump the highest, and if you’d be so kind as to judge for us... uh... John?” MJ asks, pausing to stare at the man’s name tag.
“Okay, sure.” John says good-naturedly.
“Alright, you ready Frankie? I’m gonna beat you.”
“Oh no you aren’t.”
“One, two, three!” They count together, and jump as high as they can. MJ tries to pull Frankie a little lower, and Frankie does the same, and they end up in a fit of giggles, laughing as they catch their breath.
“So, John, who was higher? I think it was me.” MJ says. “By the way, you’re very handsome.” She winks at him.
“Mom!” Frankie shoves MJ playfully.
“I’d have to say you.” John points at Frankie. “But only by a little!”
“Okay, how little? Like, are we talking a millimeter? An inch? A foot? Two inches?” MJ asks hurriedly.
“Mom, relax!” Frankie is somewhat mortified but mostly amused; she hasn’t seen her mom this happy in a while, and is happy to keep humoring her. John looks amused too.
“No, I gotta know much farther I have to jump on the next round!” MJ exclaims. “An inch? Okay. Fine. I can do that. Alright, c’mon Frankie, let’s go again.”
Frankie rolls her eyes but gears up to jump again. As they’re about to jump again, suddenly Frankie hears MJ yelp in pain, and sees her mom sitting on the trampoline, holding her foot.
“Mom!” Frankie slows down immediately and rushes to MJ’s side. “Are you okay?! What happened?”
“My foot just rolled, I’m sure it’s nothing. C’mon, let’s go.” She dismisses Frankie and gets up to jump again, but not before John and Frankie both notice her wince.
“Okay, we’re getting off.”
“Yeah, ma’am, I do request that you get off for the moment so we can investigate.”
“No, it’s fine. I’m sure it’s absolutely fine, just a minor sprain or something.” But Frankie isn’t hearing any of it, and leads MJ off the trampoline, helping her onto solid ground. “It’s just a sprain, probably. Really, I’ve had sprains before-“
Frankie quickly googles how to treat a sprain. “Okay, ice. And elevate. We have to elevate her foot.” Frankie helps MJ hobble over to a chair, as John rushes to get some ice.
“No really - Frankie, you should go jump, I paid for our tickets already-“
“I’m not jumping without you, and you’re in no fit state to jump.” Frankie takes MJ’s leg and places it on a chair. She grabs the ice from John and presses it against her mom’s ankle.
“Well fine, just throw my money away!” MJ says dramatically. Frankie rolls her eyes.
“If it means that much to you, I’ll pay you back, I’ve got some money saved. But mom you’re NOT jumping.” Frankie says, dead serious. “We don’t need you to be hurt anymore.”
MJ opens her mouth to argue, but sees the fear and worry in Frankie’s eyes. Frankie’s words sit with her: ‘we don’t need you to be hurt anymore.’ She sighs. “Okay.” She says quietly. She watches as Frankie ices her foot.
“Does that feel better?” Frankie asks.
“Yeah, it does.” MJ nods. But she winces slightly as she shifts her foot to a different position.
“The internet says to ice for 20 minutes.” Frankie sets a timer on her phone, holding the ice in place. Her fingers start to grow numb, but she’s not going to let anyone else ice her mom’s foot. She looks up to see her mom staring at her, an unreadable expression on her face. “You good? Do you want me to get dad?”
“No, no. This is fine. I’m fine.”
“You’re 100% certain? Don’t lie to me-“ Frankie warns. MJ smiles and rubs her shoulder reassuringly.
“100%.” Frankie stares at MJ, before determining that she’s telling the truth. “We’ll just go home after the 20 minutes and then bake cookies or something.”
“I’d like that.” Frankies says, smiling up at her. “Also, I’m driving. Can’t have you making your foot worse. Oh, and we should wrap your foot when we get home. Nick probably has some athletic wrap that we can use.”
MJ nods, conceding. They spend the rest of the 20 minutes and the drive home chatting about what Frankie learned at school that day — specifically, about the role women played in Nazi Germany. It was actually interesting, something MJ had never thought about. It was always nice to hear Frankie talk about what she was excited about; the way her eyes lit up, how her tone of voice changed. It was wonderfully refreshing.
Frankie helps MJ into the house, and sits her down in the kitchen. “I’m gonna grab some athletic wrap, if it’s still where I saw it last… you better elevate your foot!” She yells, before dashing up to Nick’s room to raid his stuff for some athletic wrap. She returns, triumphant, and MJ shows her elevated foot off proudly.
“See! I listened.” She says, half joking.
“You don’t always.” Frankie says cheekily. MJ swats at Frankie, who dodges her hit. Placing MJ’s foot on her lap, Frankie wraps it carefully. “Is this too tight?” She asks quietly.
“No. It’s perfect.” MJ replies, touched by how gentle Frankie is being with her.
“Alright. Ice again.” Frankie stands and goes to the freezer.
“Are you kidding me?” MJ says incredulously.
“It helps the swelling go down.”
“Well how am I supposed to make cookies?”
“I can make them.” Frankie hands another pack of ice to MJ, who takes it reluctantly and holds it against her foot.
“This was supposed to be a mother/daughter bonding activity!” MJ pouts.
“Why don’t we pull a chair over, then.” Frankie suggests. MJ nods enthusiastically. “Alright, so what kind are we making today?”
“Snickerdoodles.” Frankie agrees, taking out the ingredients.
When Steve returns from work that evening, he finds a giant tray of cookies on the kitchen counter, and MJ and Frankie curled up on the couch together, MJ’s foot elevated, giggling and feeding each other snickerdoodles watching The Great British Bake Off.