Emmie was possibly the most genuinely fake person I've ever met.
At some point in her late youth Emmie decided that she was going to deny aging. She divorced her sensible husband so she could have something 'hip' to complain about- what's more cosmopolitan than an ex-husband?
Emmie's brown hair went bottle blond, with hot pink at the tips to keep it 'fresh'. She added false eyelashes when the natural ones went a little thin and could no longer support her eyeliner and body glitter. She whitened her teeth and framed them with barbie-pink lip gloss. She got a nip and a tuck when her face showed her age.
She dressed like a housewife from the 50's, in polka dots and pedal-pushers, a little scarf tied around her neck whenever she went out, a wide-brimmed hat for sunny days.
Never without a smile; even when others broke down and cried, Emmie stayed optimistic for the sake of her mascara- she never bought waterproof. When her children cried from scraped knees or broken hearts she'd be there with her Colgate smile and a pack of ice. She dabbed at her eyes at their plays and recitals but no one ever saw any moisture on her handkerchief.
Everything was shining and perfect, her polished counter tops and her patent-leather pumps shone like starlight at all times.
I was always unsettled when my mother dragged me there, every Saturday, where Emmie would greet us with a crushing hug and a kiss on each cheek. It was a plastic paradise, like a real-life dollhouse. A twilight zone where the cookies were so perfectly round I thought she might measure them.
Her children were like dolls, too. Smooth-faced and quiet, wearing vintage clothing and sandy brown curls like the porcelain dolls sitting on my grandmother's shelf. We played with old-fashioned toys like wooden soldiers and spinning tops, and I waited for my mother to pick me up again.
There was a day when I was fifteen where I was sitting on the sidewalk outside Emmie's house watching the cars drive by. Emmie's daughter sat beside me in a vintage dress, fussing with the hem and trying not to look at me. It was a hot summer day but Emmie was vacuuming and didn't want us kids in there getting in the way.
The two of us didn't talk much, until Emmie's daughter looked at me with her big blue porcelain-doll
"Someday I'm gonna run away." She said hoarsely. She always had a hoarse voice.
"How come?" I asked, playing with the laces on my worn-out sneakers.
She shrugged and stared across the black tar road. "I'm scared that I'll never leave otherwise."
"You aren't happy here?" It was an odd thing to say; she knew how the other kids made fun of her mother and their house. Like they were aliens or time travelers. It was no surprise that it had gotten to her.
"Nobody is. Mom says-" We both turned when we heard footsteps in the grass and clinking of ice cubes against glass.
Emmie was walking across the lawn in the blistering heat with her cheerful smile, holding a wood serving tray bearing two glasses of homemade lemonade.
Her daughter closed her mouth and looked down at the ground again.
In a sudden flash of teenage rebellion I looked at Emmie's daughter and said, a little more loudly than I probably had to: "Well, if you wanna run away, go ahead!"
Emmie picked me up from school that Friday, when my mother had to work late. She drove a vintage Cadillac bought with her ex-husband's child-support money, filled with chrome and faux-leather. She said nothing when I got in.
I sat inside with my backpack on my lap and stared out of the window, counting the miles and trying to ignore the eerie back-in-time feeling I got around her. It was short drive to my house from the high school, and with Emmie's lead foot it wouldn't take long.
She stayed silent, her Simon & Garfunkel CD the only sound in the car besides the blasting air conditioning until she stopped outside of my house.
I got out of the car and paused before I closed the door to thank her. She looked at me sideways, not even turning her head, and for once didn't smile when she spoke.
"You don't have to bother coming by tomorrow afternoon, dear."
I closed the car door and Emmie drove away, a dust trail rising behind her.
I never went to Emmie's house again after that. And her daughter barely spoke to me at school.
I heard that girl eventually did run away. If you spoke to the salon owner the girl ran away with a motorcycle gang. If you asked the butcher she was off in Hollywood. If you asked my mother she was with her father on the other side of the country. I wondered if she still wore vintage dresses.
Emmie was spotted in a local Walmart on a hot summer's day several years later, buying waterproof mascara.