"This—one?" the woman signed questioningly to the man accompanying her.
The man shrugged. "Fine," he signed: just one hand, palm facing the side, thumb jabbing his sternum once, with resignation. With the other hand, he held a squirming girl who looked to be not yet two years old, who was carrying a half-eaten cup of applesauce in one hand and a copy of a picture book in the other, the book bearing the title Goldilocks and the Three Bears. The woman and the man stood on opposite sides of the small mattress.
The woman frowned at the man and ran her non-signing hand in the center of the mattress. "You—not—like—it," she signed softly.
"I—yes—like—it," he signed back. The movements were patient, kind. He put the hand that wasn't holding the child over the woman's.
She retracted her hand as if the touch were some hot griddle. "You—not—like—it," she signed, more harshly this time.
Indeed, the little girl was beginning to squeal and fling her applesauce onto some of the customers. The man was able to take the applesauce out of her grasp for just a moment and hand it to the woman.
The woman, now holding the applesauce, pointed to another mattress. This one was much larger than the last one. "This—one?"
The man shrugged again. "I—don't-know—what—you—want."
She'd spelled out his name quickly, punctuating each new letter. It was the sort of way a hearing woman would emphasise her husband's name if he were in trouble—the sort of thing that men tried to avoid with everything they had. On top of it, she gave him a glare that was stronger than the mattress was large. The poor man.
Amanda chucked a bit of the applesauce onto the mattress over which the couple was currently arguing. It landed directly in the center of it.
The couple looked at each other for a brief moment, then looked down at the applesauce on the mattress. It stood there, holding its ground, a shield in the battle. It collected the dust attempting to force its way through the apple-y shield, protecting the fibres of the bed, so that the person who bought the mattress might have a dust-free sleep. Kind, peaceful, peacemaking applesauce.
The little girl squealed a bit more. The man had been right—she was, in fact, restless. Finally, she squirmed enough that he gave in and let her down to toddle around on her own. She took the applesauce in her hand and the book in the other, climbed up on the mattress, and overturned the rest of the sauce cup in the middle of it.
Before the couple had time to react, though, Amanda promptly slid off the mattress, fair flyaway hairs flying about, Goldilocks book in hand, and ran over to a completely different mattress and sat on it with gusto. This new mattress was in-between the first and the second in size. She then turned her book upside-down, opened it, and began to babble.
"Free iddle beaws!" she said, exclaiming and 'reading' the book aloud for the whole store to hear. "Vey eet app-sauce wif Gowy-rocks." She grinned widely, closed the book quickly, and tossed it happily aside, with a bow and a "Vee end!" and a little jump on the bed. She landed on her back, in an 'X'-shaped position, and closed her eyes, pretending to sleep.
She snored loudly.
The couple looked at one another, down to the overturned applesauce, over to the little girl, and back to each other. The girl allowed loud-but-soft 'mi-mi-mi"s escape from her lips as she lay on the mattress. Only the am could hear it, but the wondan understood enough that she could tell what was going on.
The woman's face softened into a smile, and she ignored the applesauced bed in favour of the one with the little girl. The man did the same thing, easily joining the woman and the child. The couple shared a brief—but loving—hug, and signed quickly back and forth, starting with the woman:
The man and woman laid on either side of the child.
The other mattresses—and the overturned applesauce—evaded their sight.