Lolo was standing in the kitchen as she faced the biggest quandary of her life till date. Her mother made the ‘best chocolate chip cookies ever’. Now she had eaten her share for the day, but she wasn’t done. The cookie jar was on the counter, well within reach, because her mother trusted her. She always told her that. I trust you, I know you won’t do anything that I don’t want you to, you’re only 8, but you’re already so well-behaved. Today, her instructions were clear: look after your 5-year-old brother, don’t make him cry and finish your homework. Mum had promised to take them both out for an ice-cream right after that. The only thing was, she just had to have another cookie. Just had to.
She had made up her mind. But there was trouble lurking in every direction. Firstly, there were only four cookies. Maybe Mum had counted them, maybe not. Even if she hadn’t, what if she asked her. Lolo, did you eat a cookie? I know you won’t lie to mumma. Then she couldn’t lie. It always made Lolo uncomfortable to lie to her mother. Besides Granny was watching from above and she would tell Mum. She would have to pray for at least an hour and promise not to do it again. Even then, Granny would sometimes go right ahead and tell her mother. If she ate the cookie and then simply ran up to her mother, as soon as she was back, and pleaded guilty about eating the cookie, well then, mum would not believe her anymore. We believe each other, right Lolo? Mumma believes Lolo and Lolo believes Mumma, right? Her mother’s voice rang clear in her head. She was confused now and she walked out of the kitchen.
She headed to the little balcony in the living room. She passed by Timun who was so busy fashioning a huge wall with all the Lego he could find, that he didn’t even notice her. In the balcony, she was counting on watching ants, an activity that always immersed her enough, so that she lost track of time. Waiting for a friend who was still on the way, or when Dad would call from office and tell her that he had a surprise for her, or when a cake had to settle after the oven was turned off; for times like those, ants always came to her rescue.
Today, they were scurrying along the balcony wall in a long black line. They seemed to be carrying something that looked like sand. She noticed that one of the ants had fallen out of the black line and was wandering about. She started following him and unlike the others he wasn’t carrying a grain of sand. That’s when she got curious about the source of the sand. She followed the black line all the way to the corner of the balcony and like ants often like to do, they veered off for a bit without any reason, before straightening up again and then plunged downwards. Here, the line merged into a pool of fellow black ants all surrounding a little brown lump. It only took her a few seconds to realise that the brown lump, was in fact, a piece of cookie that she had accidentally dropped while eating the rest of the cookie in the morning. Was this, Grandma testing her?
She plonked herself on the living room sofa and reached for her work book. She had only half-a-page to complete and soon that was done. She looked at the clock and remembered that it was time to get Timun to drink his milk. As usual, Timun wanted another spoon of Milo in his milk. She added a generous spoon, thinking that it was only fair that he get what he wanted, if she was soon going to have the cookie. Timun finished his milk and Lolo asked him to wash his mouth. Timun was beginning to get grumpy and she knew he would want to sleep. She dragged him to the living room and hoisted him onto the little couch. He was already half asleep. How she wished she could fall asleep like that right now.
Her thoughts wandered to her mother. Why didn’t Mum let me eat an extra cookie when I wanted to? Junk food… her mother would say, tastes good, but Lolo’s body doesn’t need it. It made sense when her mother explained it that way, but right now she felt another cookie would do no harm to her. She decided that she would just eat the cookie and then have enough time to think about what to do. After all, they had to leave soon as mother came back, and that might leave very little time for her mother, to even notice a missing cookie.
She walked straight up to the kitchen counter and removed the lid of the cookie jar. She put her hand in and for a moment felt like the cookie jar would gobble her hand. She then grabbed the first cookie and eased it out without breaking it. She took a bite and closed her eyes. Boy, was this the best cookie ever. She began to eat quickly, knowing that Mum would open the door any moment now. As she munched the cookie, she kept looking around to see if she had dropped any crumbs. There were many foes who might let her little secret out: her granny, ants and even Timun. Usually, when she ate a chocolate chip cookie, it was over, too soon. This cookie, however, turned out to be much bigger than it looked; she even considered throwing away the remaining bit. Now, she was feeling sick. She began wiping her mouth clean even as she swallowed the last morsel. She then rushed back to the living room and slid onto the sofa with her workbook in her lap.
Not a minute later, she heard the keys turning in the door lock. Timun stirred a bit. Her mother opened the door and smiled at Lolo as she walked to the kitchen with her groceries. Inside, Lolo could hear that her mother had begun to arrange things in the refrigerator. Usually she would follow mum and help her, but today she hesitated. Timun had a grumpy look on his face as he made his way to the kitchen. Lolo could hear Mum talking to Timun and then soon her mother walked out of the kitchen towards the bedroom. Her little brother was following Mum around, talking about his Lego wall. Lolo began to consider the possibility that her Mum had had simply no time to look at the cookie jar.
After a while her mother came back to the living room and asked Lolo if she was ready to leave. Lolo sprung out of the sofa and immediately headed towards the shoe rack. She could feel her Mum’s gaze on her back and it took forever to reach the rack. As she slipped her feet into her flip-flops, she looked up to to see if Mum was still watching her. She was relieved to find Mum adjusting Timun’s hair.
Lolo was impatiently waiting at the door. Her mother would normally ask her whether she had made up her mind on the flavour of the ice-cream. But today she had not. This made Lolo nervous and she blurted out the name of the flavour. ‘I’d like Cherry Chocolate’ she said. Her mother looked up and said, ‘Oh yes, I forgot to ask you about the flavour. Good that you’ve already made up your mind. Timun told me that he would like butterscotch’. So Mum had asked Timun, or had Timun simply decided to tell Mum? She couldn’t possibly ask.
They reached the ice-cream shop and after they had their cups in hand, Lolo raised her eyes to find her mother’s gaze on her. Lolo quickly went back to eating her ice-cream. But it wasn’t easy to eat. Now, she was sure her mother knew about the cookie. Then, hesitantly, Lolo looked up at her mother and said, ‘Mumma, are you angry with me?’.
Her mother was silent for a moment. She smiled and then looked Lolo in the eye and said, ‘You tell me dear, I know you won’t lie, is there a reason for Mumma to be angry?’