By Sydney Moya
“How was your weekend?” asked Mum gently when I got back on Sunday evening.
“Fine,” I said coldly.
It hadn’t been fine, I’d felt very sad that I was happiest away from home.
“Oh,” said Mum with a start seeing I was still in a bad mood. I allowed her to kiss me before I took my things and headed to my room.
“Aren’t you going to greet your father?” asked Mum expectantly.
I didn’t reply. I just went to the living room and said, “Hello Dad,” in an empty voice.
“Hello,” the reply came.
Duty done I continued to my destination.
“A friend of yours called. Her name is Claire, she said you should call her back, it’s about your apartment,” said Mum as I passed the phone in the passage.
“Oh, thanks then,” I replied as if the news was of no consequence though my spirits lifted.
“Charlene you’re not moving out, are you?” said Mum in concern.
“Yes I am,” I replied, “seeing as I’m not wanted here. I might infect you with my madness,” I said vehemently.
Mum looked like I’d whipped her.
“Don’t go, not like this!” she pleaded.
“Why not,” I replied my voice cracking, “I’m a disgrace to all of you. I embarrass you and Dad and Wills. None of you cares about how I feel. You want me to be something I’m not, something that’ll kill me. I’m trying to pick up my broken life and achieve my dream but you’d rather I stayed a drunk, ’’ I accused as I broke down.
“No!” said Mum in an anguished voice.
“YES! I’m a woman but none of you can accept it, you can’t even use the name I want to be called by. I may be many things but I’m not thick, I can tell where I’m not wanted. It’s amazing how much the people I care for the most are the ones who don’t give a damn while at work even my enemies have to get to grips with me being like this,” I finished, crying.
“Charlene I do love you,” said Mum gently before taking me into her arms and comforting me.
I clung to her and cried like a baby.
“How could Wills say all th-that?” I sobbed, “I love him and Rhys so much. D-do y you think I would want Rhys to g-go through w-what I have?” I stuttered.
My mother just held me and hushed me, “My poor baby, let it out honey,” she said softly as she embraced me.
I cried for a long time, letting out all the pent up emotions I had. Dad had risen at the noise and now stood watching for a while. Then unnoticed he took his coat and went out for a walk.
“Okay luv, you and I are going to have a wee chat, all right?” said Mum when I finally calmed down.
She led me to the sitting room, her arm around my waist and mine around hers. She then sat me down on a sofa before sitting down herself. I poured out my heart out to her in a way I’d never done before. I told her about having always felt I’d been born into the wrong body, how from childhood I’d known I ought to have been a girl, how I’d confided in Ellen and she’d believed me, preferring girls to boys as friends, dressing up in Ellen’s clothes and loving it, playing with her make-up, loathing my body even before puberty and how that hatred and shame grew as I got older, finding out I was attracted to boys but not as a boy and I had to hide it and try to fit in when Ellen left by trying to suppress who I was and how it depressed me leading me to turn to alcohol for comfort since I was afraid of telling anyone my feelings.
I told her how booze became my master until I realized I was on the verge of ruining my life. I told her about the psychologist, how I cried when she confirmed I was a girl, telling Pete, my voice lessons, my workmates and how they treated me, Wills and Jo’s different attitudes, Myra’s help and friendship, Claire, my hormones and what they were doing to me and how much I loved it.
When I was finished Mum also had tears in her eyes but she hugged me fiercely.
“I’m so sorry I haven’t been there for you, I didn’t understand,” she apologized.
“Do you understand now?” I asked her.
“Yes I do. You’re my little girl,” said Mum warmly, “let’s make a fresh start,” she offered.
I couldn’t believe it, “Really?”
Mum nodded, “Yes I’ve always wanted a daughter,” she said with a smile.
I threw my arms around her, overjoyed, “Mum you’re wonderful. I love you,” I told her, meaning it with all my heart.
“I love you too Charlene,”” was Mum’s reply accompanied by a kiss on my forehead, “You’re such a beauty,” she said in genuine admiration.
“Thanks Mum,” I said to her
In a sense that evening was the start of a new chapter in my relationship with my mother. I told her what I hoped to do in future and she listened, seeing me in a new light. We became friends when she called me her daughter. Dad found us talking over tea, my tears all gone and replaced by a happy smile. He left us in peace understanding something had changed between Mum and me.
“Mum I’m going to stay because I don’t want to live alone and I love it here, it’s my home,” I told her.
“You’re right. This is your home and you cannot go because you feel unwanted. I can see I’m to blame for not trying to understand you. You have my support from today,” said Mum.
Making peace with my mother changed the atmosphere at home considerably. My mother went out of her way to do things for me, to talk to me and I did my best to meet her half way. I stopped working late and made sure I was home in time for dinner, watched the telly with my parents. I resumed helping with the cooking if I was in early something I’d abandoned ages ago and I loved it, so did Mum. We bonded best in the kitchen as she loved cooking as much as I did, we talked more easily in there and slowly Mum began discovering who I was- her adult daughter.
Though Mum and I had accepted that we needed each other and loved each other more than we differed, it wasn’t the same with my brother. I was still upset about what he’d said and it made me avoid him and his family during the time I spent working things out with Mum. They helped by not coming as much but I knew we couldn’t avoid each other forever.
“Mum I’m going to get my hair done,” I said, “I’ll be back in a ...oh hi Jo,” I said quickly as I walked into the kitchen before pausing at the sight of my sister in law
“Hi Charlene, how are you? I hardly see you anymore,” replied Jo.
I felt tears sting my eyes but said nothing. Rhys waddled towards me and hugged my legs.
“Auntie,” he said endearingly.
I looked down at him.
“Hi baby,” I said gently. I didn’t touch him though, remembering Wills warning.
“Please pick him up he’s missed you so much,” said Jo gently.
I wanted to but the memory of Wills words was still sharp. I just looked at Jo and Mum feeling close to losing it.
“I’m sorry Charlene, what Wills said was uncalled for and I definitely don’t agree. Rhys is my son and I don’t want you to exclude him from your life,” said Jo.
“Aunt Charlene,” Rhys remarked, still holding onto my legs and tugging my heartstrings.
I couldn’t resist, I picked him up and hugged him while I cried.
“Don’t cry Auntie,” my nephew said, putting his chubby hand to my cheek.
I was so touched I tried to stop crying and grin as Mum and Jo smiled.
I kissed Rhys before handing him back to Jo but Rhys refused and started crying.
“He wants you,” said Jo with a smile.
“I can’t, I have to go,” I replied.
“Tell you what, why don’t I come with you? That way you can stay with him and show me that salon of yours,” suggested Jo.
Every bone in me said no, Wills told me to stay away from his son, there’s enough bad blood between us and I don’t want to worsen it I thought.
“Come on girl,” pleaded Jo.
I’d missed chatting to Jo a lot; she’d always been an understanding person so how could I refuse?
“’Kay we’ll go together,” I agreed.
“Thanks,” replied Jo.
“Stay here with your auntie and granny luv, Mummy will be back soon,” Jo cooed to her son before she made her way out to go and change.
I looked at Mum while Rhys pulled my hair.
“Jo’s going to get me into trouble with Wills,” I said quietly.
“Don’t be silly,” replied Mum.
“He made it clear I was to stay away from Rhys,” I went on.
“That was a stupid thing for him to say. Your father and I did have a word with him about it that day. Jo too, if anything happened to him and Jo who do they think would look after Rhys like their own?” she asked.
“You and Dad would,” I said quietly.
“Stu and I won’t be here forever dear and the fact is you are Rhys aunt and what he said hurt all of us. Have fun with Jo okay and don’t reject Rhys he’s just a baby,” said Mum gently.
I reached for her and she embraced me and Rhys.
“What have you been up to these past weeks?” asked Jo when we were in the bus.
“I was hiding; Wills really hurt me that day. I just needed to be away from everyone so I stayed away from everyone so I stayed late at work and left early in the morning, I was planning on moving out,” I admitted.
“I’m sorry he said that and that no one spoke out against it. I didn’t agree with Wills,” said my sister-in-law.
“I wanted to talk to you but you were never there,” she explained while I cuddled Rhys absently.
“I’m sorry I avoided you I just don’t want to put you and Wills into conflict. If he won’t accept me fine, don’t give him a hard time because of me. He said I should avoid Rhys which hurt but I won’t go against him if that’s what he wants,” I replied.
“Charlene he didn’t mean that,” said Jo desperately.
“What did he mean? Look when Rhys grows up and ever behaves in any strange way it’ll be my fault which is what Wills meant right? I’m some filthy drag queen in his eyes,” I said despondently.
Jo sighed helplessly.
“So you’re going to avoid Rhys and move away because of that?” she asked me.
“I’m not moving out of my home. Mum and I have worked things out, she doesn’t think I’m a disgrace and she wants me to stay as long as I please,” I replied deliberately avoiding the first part of the question.
Jo said nothing and I took advantage of this to turn our conversation to more trivial issues.
to be continued
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