“Ma’am?” She turned around to face a sheepishly grinning man. “I’m afraid you have—ah…” He cleared his throat delicately while tugging on his earlobe. “There’s something attached to your… skirt.”

Warmth rushed to her cheeks as she twisted about, trying to spot the object in question. Something white flashed at the corner of the eye, sticking out from under her butt. She grabbed for it, coming into contact with a sticky, paper stick. She tugged on it, feeling the skirt shift away from her rear, but a few tugs could not pry it free.

She drew in a breath, counting to three before returning the man’s smile. “Thank you for pointing it out, that could have been embarrassing.” Her daughter must have left something on one of the chairs. Something she had licked, and by the feel of it licked quite thoroughly. This was why she kept a spare change of clothes in her office, clothes she never took home. Her assistant took them to the dry cleaner once a week and returned them straight to the office. She had enough suit separates to last her an entire week.

She waved a polite goodbye to the man and hurried into the building. This early most of her coworkers would still be prepping for their commute into work. The elevator dinged when it reached her floor and she made a beeline for her office. Sure enough, when she shimmied the skirt down her hips, she found a lollipop stuck to it. She gave it a sniff, definitely the remnants of a cherry flavored dumdum.

Anabelle was forever licking things. The remotes were sticky. The Barbies were all slobbered on—any doll whose hair could no longer be brushed suddenly developed a pixie cut or was scheduled for chemotherapy and ended up bald. Her building blocks had permanent saliva trails, even after the third trip through the dishwasher. The wheels on her Hot Wheels no longer turned. Nothing was safe.

She peeled the sucker off the cheap polyester of her skirt and dropped it into the trash. In nothing more than her pantyhose and bra, she carefully wrapped the whole of the lollipopped suit in a plastic bag. Her assistant would retrieve it later for cleaning and return it for her to wear home at the end of the day. Only then did she wash her hands, using paper towels to scrub free her arms up to the pits. She washed her face and hair in the sink, discovering that somehow her daughter had lodged a LEGO man into her hair. She dropped it straight into the trash can having learned from experience that there was not enough soap in the world to make the arms and legs move again once it had been in Anabelle’s mouth.

The next half hour she spent with a comb and a blow dryer, freeing even more toys that had found their way into her frizzy hair. Once dry, she smoothed it back into a chignon. Finally she applied her makeup. She pulled a crisply pressed pinstripe pantsuit from a dry cleaning bag. She dressed quickly before exiting through the bathroom’s connecting door into her office. At her desk she opened a drawer and pulled out a pair of heels.

She opened her office door as her coworkers began to file past. She called out greetings to them before returning to her desk. By noon her desk was filled with reports to follow up on and file. As her coworkers began to depart, she pushed the speed dial on her office phone, smiling and bobbing her head along to her husband’s ringback.

“Anabelle don’t lick the cat!” Greeted her as the phone clicked to life. “Please tell me you’ll be home soon.”

“Unfortunately not. I’ll be lucky if I make it in before midnight.”

“You could bring it home with you,” he offered.

“Not after what happened last time, I’m sorry.”

“Only a few more days until the project deadline, then I can hand this licking monster off to you.”

She pinched the bridge of her nose, massaging it. “Thanks for understanding.”

“Finish up as soon as you can, I’ll leave some leftovers in the fridge for you.”

“I don’t deserve you.”

“I know. Love you.”

“Love you, too.”

She pressed the end call button, kicking her shoes off under the desk. Now that most of her coworkers had gone for the evening she could let some of her professionalism slide.

At six, her assistant dropped a sandwich off at her desk. She thanked him and told him he could go home for the day. She smeared the extra packet of mayo across the top layer of bread before taking a bite. As she ate, she pulled open Google. Very carefully she typed in “Unlickable Toys” and hit return. It immediately asked her if she meant “Unlikable Toys.” She groaned and closed the window, concentrating on her sandwich. Apparently, her fate in life was to suffer through her child licking everything she could get her mouth on.

She hit send on the last report in her inbox shortly after ten. By the time she returned in the morning she would have more projects to work on. But for now, it was to change back into her polyester skirt and return home to a world filled with bald Barbie’s and slobber on everything—and to the world’s most patient husband.


At the age of six, Eliza was certain of two things. The first was that she had stories to tell. The second was that she had no talent for illustrating them herself. Talent or no, she still wrote and illustrated her first book, one that should be located and locked away if only to prevent her parents from embarrassing her terribly by showing it off alongside baby pictures. Now she spends her days writing stories that she isn't embarrassed to show off after a little bit of polishing.

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