Not Like Other Girls, Part 5

Printer-friendly version

Emily Berrigan is a 23 year old transwoman, who hasn't seen her twin Jordan in six years. Not since she told her parents the truth about herself and they threw her out. Her older sister is getting married and wants Emily there - as a bridesmaid. Will sparks fly?
----
Jordan and Kira's relationship deepens. Emily films her commercial. Stephanie tells her mother who's going to be bridesmaid.
----

Jordan stood at the garage of the vocational school, handing over the keys to the truck. They looked at the squat beige building, the garage bays open and cleaner than any commercial garage ever would be. They remembered the RFP their father put in on that school bus depot in Aurora, how pissed he was that he didn’t get it. Well, if they had their way, they’d never have to worry about something that small.

“Well, thanks, uh, Ms.,” the word said uncertainly, “Nehlen. We really appreciate you donating your truck to us. The kids can learn a lot from old vehicles like these,” the ‘old’ a punch to the stomach.

They smiled, “My dad and I rebuilt it from the ground up, basically.”

“That’s what we’ll be doing here, too.” The shop teacher looked over at Jordan’s new, well 3-year old, Toyota pickup, Kira behind the wheel. “That’s a nice one you got there.”

“Thanks,” they laughed. “Kinda hard to drive though. You turn a key and it just starts,” to a laugh from the teacher, who told a story of an old Camaro he had, ‘fifteen minutes of pre-flight when you loaned it to someone.’ “Like, I don’t know what I’m gonna do when it’s cold and I can just go outside and get in...anyway, I’m glad it’ll be of use.”

They walked over to their new truck, and Kira lowered the window. “Can I help you,” she grinned.

They smiled, “Shove over.”

Kira, smiling, “What if I say no?” Her tone, flirtatious.

They took a deep, dramatic breath. “Oh, you’re saying no, are you,” hoping that they didn’t sound like a maniac.

Kira smiled, “You never let me drive.”

From the corner of their eye, they saw the teacher walk back into the building. “I’m an awful passenger,” they said. “You will regret this,” and they walked around to the other side, hopping into the cab.

Kira kissed them on the lips. “I’m a very good driver. You’ll see.” They looked over at the seat and regretted not paying extra for the one with the memory seat. Once Kira got out, they’d have to spend ten minutes fixing it and it would still never be right. Still, they needed to relax, and they took a breath. Kira laughed, “Oh come on. It’s like a fifteen minute drive, it’ll be fine, you baby.” They watched as Kira adjusted the mirrors again, checked behind her and pulled out of the lot.

Kira pulled into the lot at Butler, and grinned. “See, you didn’t die. Your new truck is all in one piece. What do you say?”

They smiled. “You did fine.”

Kira began poking Jordan. “I did fine? I did fine? That’s all.”

Jordan, stifling a laugh, “I don’t know what you’re doing. I’m not ticklish.” They could see people looking at them. “Come on, people are looking.”

Kira kept poking, and they watched as her shirt rode up a little. “So,” she said, continuing the poking, “tell me I was good and I’ll stop. Besides, why do you care what they think?”

Trying to maintain a semblance of control, “I don’t care. I’m concerned for you. You start assaulting people in a parking lot and people start to talk,” they laughed.

“Oh, is poor Jordan being assaulted?” She looked at the window and saw a campus cop going by on a scooter. “Should I call a cop? Yoo hoo, Mr. Officer, my big strong,” and she paused, they hadn’t said what they were yet, “Jordan is being attacked. Just say it.”

“Only because you need to get to class and I need to get to work - you did very well. OK?”

Kira pulled them in close and gave them a real kiss. “Yeah, that covers it.” She picked up her backpack and purse from the seats behind her. “I will see you later, right?” They had softball, Kira’s team playing on the field next to theirs. Roni had told them, laughing, ‘that you better keep your eyes on the field.’

“Yup. I have your glove and bat bag in the back. Have a good day at school.” Have a good day at school? Idiot.

Then, they watched as Kira walked off to class, her ponytail bouncing as she walked away, catching up with her friends. They drove to work with a smile on their face, ignoring the traffic.

--

They ate lunch with two of the other assistant managers, Dean and Lucas.

“Nah, she’s all up my ass about moving in.” Dean was bitching about his girlfriend. “I’m like, yeah, no. Know what I’m saying?”

Jordan took a bite of their sandwich. “How long have you been together?”

Dean looked at them. “Like six months?”

Lucas laughed. “You don’t know to the minute? I’m telling her.”

“Fuck off, dick,” Dean said, then turned to Jordan. “That doesn’t bother you, does it?”

“Does what bother me?” They had genuinely no clue and racked their brain.

“What we’re talking about.” He took a bite of his burger and she watched food fly out.

“No. Why would it?”

He looked at Lucas. “I just thought…”

They grinned. “That was your first problem. You thought. I don’t care if you don’t know how long you’ve been together. She will. I don’t. You chewing with your mouth open? That bothers me. Anyway, is your lease up or something, or hers?”

He looked at them. “A couple of months.”

They shrugged. “Your call.”

“Would you move in with someone after six months?” Now, they both looked at Jordan.

“I dunno. Depends.”

“On what?”

They took a breath. “If I thought she was someone I wanted to see everyday.” They knew Jordan liked girls and thought that was probably easier than if she didn't, straight women being for the trailer. “Do you wanna see her everyday?” They thought about Kira, how they weren't ready for everyday or even close to it, but how pissed they'd be if someone else was.

Dean looked at Lucas, then Jordan. “No but she's hot and I don't wanna give that up. Sorry.”

Jordan shrugged and took another bite. “Not my problem but she's gonna figure that out eventually.”

The two guys looked at each other, and Dean shrugged. “I'll figure that out then.”
--
It was after the game and Jordan and Kira were in the truck, heading back to her dorm when the phone rang. Jordan went to look and Kira said, “Eyes on the road,” then, “it says PITA. Who's that?”

They laughed, “Stef. Pick it up.”

Kira picked up and, in a bad breathy voice, “You've reached Jordan Nehlen.” Jordan went to grab it and she moved it to her other ear. “This is their assistant Kira.”

Jordan, laughing, “Come on. Give it.”

Kira, now grinning, “I've heard a lot about you... I'm a senior at Butler. Econ and theater...I know, they told me. Oh, they're driving. Should I put you on speaker?” Over Jordan's yelled, ‘I'll call you back,’ Kira put Stef on speaker, “Hey, Jor,” she laughed.

“I'll call you back.”

Laughter. “Kira, you don't mind if we talk now, do you?”

Kira, grinning. “Not at all. I won't interrupt.”

Jordan grumbled but smiled, ‘I doubt that,’ and Stef continued, “It won't be an interruption,” then, “Mom wanted me to call you.”

Jordan took a deep breath. This was never a good start to any conversation. “What did I do now?”

Stef laughed, “No, this time I'm supposed to apologize to you.”

Kira looked bemused as Jordan said, “For what?” Trying to remember if anything had happened in Chicago and coming up blank.

“Well, because I'm not having you as a bridesmaid.”

They were confused. “Yeah. Ok. And?”

Stef said, “Well, she thought I should apologize because you,” and she couldn't hold back the laughter, “aren't,” which led to uncontrollable giggles from Kira.

They laughed, “Is she fucking nuts?”

Kira, giggling. “I think you should be,” then, “Stephanie, I'm thinking orange.”

Stef, laughing, “What do you think of magenta?”

“Ooh... chartreuse!”

Jordan, “Are you two having fun?”

Stef, “That's perfect! And I'm thinking ruffles.” They stared ahead, watching traffic, glad that Stef seemingly liked Kira, not that they had planned to introduce them to each other yet. They hoped that none of this would get back to their parents, knowing that Mom would take it out on Dad. They listened as the two landed on a dress with a full skirt, a hat and a parasol, giggling the whole time. “Anyway, call me later, Jor. Love you.”

“Love you too, Stef,” and they hung up.

Kira laughed, “Why would your mother ever think you'd be a bridesmaid?”

They sighed, “I think she thinks this is a phase.”

Kira rolled her eyes. “Is she that clueless? Besides, there's Emily. From what you said, this would totally be her thing.”

“It is. It will be,” and then the lie came to them, “Jared has two sisters, so it's a symmetry thing.” They mentally patted themselves on their back.

Kira played with her phone, “That's crazy AF.”

Jordan laughed, “Yeah, that's the Nehlens. Crazy AF.”

---

On the way back from Kira’s dorm, they called Stef. “Hey, Jordy,” they said brightly. “I didn't expect you to call back so quickly.”

Jordan laughed, “She has an exam tomorrow, you know the deal.”

Teasing, “I like her.”

Drily, “I'm thrilled.”

“She seems really cool, low-key.”

“She is,” then laughing as she drove onto the highway, “and I'll try not to fuck it up.” Then, “she asked why mom cared about me doing it if Em was around.”

A pause, then an intake of breath. “Oh.”

“Yeah.”

“And?”

They had talked to Emily and she had said that she didn't honestly care whether Kira knew or not, that she was who she was and that she'd find out eventually if, ‘you don't screw this one up, Jordy.’ And as far she was concerned, Em was Em and if someone had a problem, they had the problem. But then again, they didn't know if they were ready for the questions. “I don't know if I'm there yet. Em’s in the wedding, right?” Girding themself for a fight on their little sister's behalf.

A sharp, “Of course, she is.” They exhaled. “How could you even ask that?”

They stared out the window, at the flat expanse of highway, running to the horizon line. They remembered the ride to West Lafayette, the emptiness, the openness. “Sorry. What did mom say when you told her?” Picturing a conflagration like those shows on Dresden that grandpa always watched. Then, silence. “Did you tell her?”

Stef, “It's my wedding. She'll deal.”

Jordan approached their exit, carefully turning the wheel, hand over hand. “What? She's just gonna show up and see Em?”

Trying to regain control, “Obviously, not. I'll tell her. She's already pissed it's not Stace and Mia. Who, by the way, both thanked me.”

Teasing, “Well, then thank you too. But, come on, it's not fair to Em.”

Deflecting, “She really seems great.”

The conversation was over and they knew that one of the good things about this was that Mom would never involve them in it, having declared them useless years ago. “You'll like her,” then stopping the pounce. “If we get there.”

“Right,” she said, drawing it out. “If. Although I guess that she could drop you.”

Jordan, pulling into the Kroger parking lot to pick up staples - eggs, milk, cereal, “That isn't happening.”

Stef, laughing, “Someone thinks very highly of themself.”

They had to laugh a little, having had no relationship until they went to college, remembering the insults and a trip to the mall, the first time that Mom and Dad had left them alone overnight. How she and Em walked around, looking at clothes and how they wondered what went wrong that Em was Em and not them. How Stef huffed that she'd let them go to GameStop if they ‘just behaved,’ like they were a little kid. “It's not bragging if you can back it up.”

“Gross,” she laughed. “Anyway, once again, I am truly sorry that you won't be a bridesmaid. Please, forgive me.”

They laughed. “What's the matter with her?”

Stef laughed. “I had too long a day. Love you Jordy.”

“Love you too. Say hi to Jared.”

---
Emily sat on the set, while the makeup artist did her face. A makeup artist was doing her face. She knew that she had to sit here quietly, speak as little as possible, but a makeup artist was doing her face - for a commercial. “You have great bone structure,” the artist said, as she applied lip gloss.

“Thanks,” Emily said. “I’ve been working on it,” she joked.

“So, this is your first commercial?” Emily nodded. “Don’t nod, I need you to stay still.”

“Sorry about that,” Emily said. “I’m never sure which is worse. Yeah, this is my first.”

“Well, good luck. The director is good, I’ve worked with her before, and some of the crew. I don’t know the cameraman or the lighting guy, but she runs a tight set.” She began applying blush to her face. “You’ve got a cute look, y’know, very approachable. If you stay out of the sun, you should have a long career.”

Emily, trying not to smile, “I hope so.”

The makeup artist took the piece of tissue paper from around her neck, then yelled, “We’re ready.”

Emily walked over to her mark. Her waitress outfit consisted of black jeans and a white cotton top, tied just above her waist and a pair of boots that no diner waitress with an interest in keeping her feet would ever wear. She knew, however, that no one was interested in her backstory for her character, or what she did with her feet after her shift. Smile, serve, say your lines, that’s what they wanted.

The director came over, copper hair down to the base of her neck, worn jeans and a white t-shirt over which she wore a green button down. “Emily, right?” She nodded. “OK, so you know what your job is,” and she gave her basic directions. Go there, look here, that sort of thing. “OK, so you’ve got it, right?”

Emily smiled, about to say, ‘I think so,’ then, “I’ve got it!”

The crew laughed. “I appreciate your enthusiasm,” the director laughed, “OK, everyone on your marks.” Emily walked over to the table where the two ‘customers’ sat, menus in hand. She called for sound, then, ‘action.’

The customers ordered, Emily moving from table to table, making sure not to pirouette, making sure to hit ‘Best Foods mayo’ just right. “Cut.” The director looked at her. “OK, that was OK, Emily, but when you’re going from table to table, can I see some motion?”

“Motion?” She had walked from table to table, like the script said.

“Yeah, motion. You’ve been in restaurants before” And she stifled a laugh and raised her eyebrows. “You’re moving from table to table, maybe do a little move like,” and she moved slightly more gracefully than Jordan would. “Can you do that?”

She smiled. “Let me take a shot.”

Take two. Back in place. They called action and she began moving between the tables, doing the little moves she had been doing since she was 17, the hip shift here, the turn there, always hitting her marks and saying her lines with a smile.

“Cut, that was great, really great,” the director said.

The cameraman looked at her. “We had a shadow in the frame,” then looking at the lighting guy, “can you make sure that doesn’t happen again?”

“Fuck you,” she heard someone mumble. “Maybe check your camera beforehand.”

The director said, “Enough.” Then, ‘do your jobs right and we won’t have this problem.’

Emily sat watching all of this. So this is a set, she thought. She had done student films but that was the difference between training camp and the real thing, looking up at a rigger who had to be at least Rob’s age, climbing up and down ladders. She wondered whether he had wanted to do something else and ended here or if he was happy.

After seven takes - missed cues, mike shadows, a noise out of frame - her feet hurt, her hair was falling in strands onto her face (‘I like it,’ the director said when the makeup artist came to fix it, ‘very realistic.’ As if hair in your food was realistic) and she wanted to punch the ‘customer’ who surreptitiously pinched her ass as she went past. But, still she smiled and did what she was told.

Take eight. She moved from table to table, doing her moves, imagining herself at her old job, the synchronicities that came when everyone knew each other. “Bring out the Best Foods and bring out the best,” she said smiling.

“Cut!” The director yelled. “OK, everyone take ten while I check this.”

Emily sat down in a chair and a PA brought her over a bottle of water with a straw. “Thanks,” she said, smiling. “I really appreciate it.”

The PA, a tall guy, all arms, legs and Adam’s apple, said, “You’re doing great.”

She smiled. “Am I? Thanks. I mean, I’m just the trained monkey out there, you guys do all the work.”

He smiled at her. “You can’t have a circus without monkeys,” which made her laugh. “I mean, you need acrobats and a ringmaster and,” he pointed at himself, “clowns too, but you definitely need your monkey.”

She smiled, “I don’t know exactly how to take that.”

He laughed, “I don’t know what it meant, so we’re even. Anyway, I’m just doing this for extra cash. I’m doing a movie, it’s kinda low budget, but it’s a bunch of us from USC and I was wondering if you’d be interested in maybe reading for it.”

She hesitated. With this, she’d finally be a real professional, paid to work. On the other hand, with this, she’d have had exactly one paying job. “I guess. I mean, what’s it about?”

He explained it. A family drama, about a family in the Inland Empire, just getting by, sort of the faces left behind in the boom. She’d be playing the middle daughter, a high school junior. Not a big part but ‘we think we may be able to get into Ignite,’ the young filmmaker’s institute at Sundance. She was fairly certain it was bullshit, her dentist thought he was getting a first look deal, but she was willing to read a script. For every five hundred pieces of shit, there had to be a ‘Tangerine.’ “So, I’ll send it over.” She gave him her acting email and told him she’d read it.

“OK,” the director said, “that’s a wrap. Great job.” She walked over to Emily. “I need your contact info in case we need to loop.” That got her real email. “And the agency will let you know when and where it’s airing.”

“Thanks,” she said brightly, which got a bemused smile and a head shake.

She took off her costume, cleaned off the makeup and walked out on air to her car, stopping to pump her first. She checked her phone - a bunch of texts (Duncan, Marissa, Shaye) and a voice mail - Jeannie or her boss, obviously. Shit, it was already 5:30, which meant Duncan would be getting ready for the dinner rush. She slid into the car, smoothing her dress under her. She turned on Spotify, Destiny’s Child, singing, ‘the clothes I'm wearing I bought it, The rock I'm rockin,' I bought it. 'Cause I depend on me,’ and bouncing in her seat.

She pulled into the parking lot of her building, dancing along to the music in her head, the woman getting her mail, laughing at her. Or with her. It didn’t matter. She went inside and kicked off her shoes. If she did her math right, if the commercial aired ten times, at standard rates, she’d have enough after taxes for the surgery. She sang, grinning, ‘the vag I’m rockin’, I bought it.’ Then, she took out her phone and listened to dictation from work.

Duncan came over after work and she met him at the door, wearing nothing but a big t-shirt and giving him a big kiss. He looked at her, “Is this Apartment 7?”

“Oooh, sorry, no,” she said, giggling. “You’re looking for the big hairy guy, right? He’s across the hall.”

“Oh yeah. That’s right. Sorry,” and he turned.

She smiled, “I mean, as long as you’re here…”

He picked her up, his hands on her ass and her arms around his neck, and walked over to the couch. “So how did it go?”

She smiled, “It was so amazing,” and she told the whole story, hands gesturing wildly as she described everyone. “And some PA asked if I wanted to read for his movie.”

Duncan looked at her. “I don’t like that, I don’t think.”

Her legs tucked under her. “Why?”

“I dunno,” he said, “I think he was just hitting on you.”

“Why, Duncan Connell, are you jealous,” she teased, as she stretched out her legs into his lap.

He turned a little red, which she liked. “No. I just wonder why he asked you.” She raised her eyebrow and crossed her arms. “I didn’t mean it like that. I meant it like does he ask every actress he meets?” Now, she was staring. “OK, I mean why you?”

She looked at him. “I’m good? Might that have occurred to you?”

He knew he had stepped in it. “I didn’t mean it like that. I just,” and he started rubbing her feet, “don’t like it when other guys just start talking to you, OK? I know you’re good and, if you think he’s legit, I trust your judgment.”

She laughed a little. “Duncan, how long have you lived here? And been in the restaurant business? Everyone is in show business except,” and she booped his nose, “you. He probably figured I’d work cheap or something. Besides, the script is probably garbage besides.” He began moving his hands up her leg. “I’m not letting you off the hook that easy, mister.” He began pulling her by her legs closer to him, so that she ended up mostly in his lap. “What do you think you’re doing?” He smiled and kissed her, full on the mouth. “I’m still not happy,” she giggled as he tickled her. He put his hands under her t-shirt and start playing with her nipples. “I’m serious.”

“Uh huh, got it,” he said. “Do you want me to stop?”

She looked at him. “Just because I want a booty call does not mean I’m not upset with you.”

He began kissing her neck. “You’re the best actress I know.”

She began writhing. “How many actresses do you know?”

“Enough,” and he began pulling her shirt over her head, making her flinch, even still. “Enough to know you’re the best.”

“That's better,” she laughed. They went into the bedroom and she pulled his shirt over his head, running her finger down the strip of hair from his sternum to his belly button, then kissing his chest. He moaned and she smiled. “Does Dunky like that?” More moans. “What about this?” And she unzipped his pants, pulling them down and smiling at his erection. “Dunky definitely likes this, doesn’t he?” They stood there, both in their underwear, and she noticed how he never looked down. She closed the blinds, giggling, “We don’t want to give the neighbors a show, do we?” She turned out the lights, took off her panties and they went at it, hot and heavy, his hands all over her chest, hips and ass. After fifteen minutes, she took out the K-Y and rubbed it all over his cock, moaning, “Now!”

She should have made him wear a condom. They had told them all that, even if pregnancy wasn’t a thing, STDs were, even as she was pretty sure he was clean. But, in the moment, all she wanted was to feel him inside her. He began pumping away and whatever she had hung there limply, basically a baby’s thumb at this point, thanks to the estrogen and everything. “Ohgodohgod,” he moaned, thrusting in and out, and she gave her ‘yesyesyes’ back.

And, for the first time in a very long time, she felt...something. A stirring. Not an erection. No, those were a distant and unpleasant memory. But a feeling, a very good one. ‘Yesyesyes,’ she began screaming, ‘ohgodohgod,’ and then she gave a noise and flinched, feeling a drop of something drip from her. Then, she felt him pull out, his cum dripping from her ass.

She rolled next to him, nestling in the crook of his arm. “That was amazing,” and she kissed him.

He had a massive grin on his face. “Did you cum?” Guys always asked this. Shaye always said ‘stop asking and start trying harder.’

“Yes,” she laughed, happy to be honest for once. Then, teasing, “did you?”

He kissed her again. “Nah, I was faking it.”

“You really should quit and become an actor then.” She rolled over to put on her panties.

“Are you kicking me out or something?” He looked upset.

She was confused. “No, why?” She was sitting on the edge of the bed, looking down at her panties on the floor.

“Why are you getting dressed then?”

“I’m not,” she said, “I was just…”

He smiled and patted the bed. “Then, just lie down here.”

She smiled and lay down next to him, feeling his warmth against her, and she listened as he fell asleep.
---
The last place she wanted to be was downtown on a Saturday. She spent more of her life here than anyplace else and, because of this, would have to be back here tomorrow in the office. And she hated Macy’s. It was crowded, the staff was surly and they made no effort at presentation, basically assuming customers were here because they had no imagination or not enough money to shop on Michigan Avenue or whatever.

But mom liked it, remembering it from ‘when it was Marshall Field’s,’ and rhapsodizing about the way ‘the skylights used to flood the store with light.’ Stef remembered the way that they’d ride the escalators with Grandma to the top, looking at all of the floors of stuff, and then work their way back down. But then the store almost went under and people shopped on-line, and so they had to lease the top floors which meant closing off the skylight because of building codes or something.

And she felt guilty. Arden would kill to have her mom annoy the crap out of her, but the pancreatic cancer took care of that. She never wanted to say anything but Arden always joked, ‘Just ‘cause mine’s dead doesn’t make Laura less annoying.’

So, here she was, waiting for mom by the Frango counter, the last vestige of the old store she sort of remembered. Today was the day. She was telling her and she would just have to deal. Emmy was her sister and she was going to be in the wedding. That was it. If they couldn’t deal, tough shit. It was her wedding.

She was looking at her phone, when she heard, “Please tell me that’s not work.”

Stef dropped her phone in her bag. “Nah, Tik Tok. I promised that I wouldn’t do work,” when you could see me, “and I’ll keep my promise.”

Her mother looked at her. “I like that sweater.”

A green sweater that she bought at a store near work, v neck. Nothing special, but “thanks. So, was traffic OK?”

She shrugged. “The usual.” Usurping dad’s line of inquiry. “Anyway, I’m so glad you could make time for me.”

She felt a stabbing pain. “Thanks, ma,” she said, with a tight smile. “I really appreciate it.” Sorry I don’t work at some firm in the suburbs where I don’t make enough to cover my loans, much less pay rent or anything.

“I didn’t mean anything by it. I’m just glad that we’re getting some girl time together. Not that I don’t like seeing Jared too, but I like just us.”

She sighed, “Yeah, me too. Anyway, where do you want to go?” They went up to one of the five women’s floors, men and children being consigned to the first, as her mother began looking for new clothes for work, yammering on about one of the female attorneys who ‘thinks she’s better than the support staff.’

“Do you think the male attorneys think that?” Regretting the words as soon as she said them.

Her mother, holding a dress to herself, “What?”

Doubling down against her better judgment. “Do the male attorneys think they’re better than the support staff?”

Her mother. “Oh stop. That’s not what I mean. She just is particularly snobby. The other day, she just held up her coffee cup and waggled it, like her admin is her slave.”

Stef remembered mom’s old boss doing just that, occasionally barking ‘coffee’ when he was feeling courteous. And the male attorneys in their 50s who all but patted her on the head, when she told them she was doing the Intel Science Search. But keep focusing on the woman, ma. “That’s not OK for anyone to do, ma.”

Her mother was now placated, and they continued walking around the store, her mother offering her opinion on a Nehlen ‘command performance’ she had been forced to attend, savaging everyone except Aunt Jeannie. “She said that she saw you in Jewel when you came out.”

“Um, yeah. She congratulated us.” It was a month and a half ago, and she had all but forgotten, remembering only now the conversation that they had about Emily.

“She seems strange lately.”

Stef looked up to see two boys, obviously bored out of their skulls, trying to run up the down escalator. “What do you mean?”

“She’s very secretive,” then, looking at the two boys, “they’re going to get hurt. They remind me of Molly…”

“Jordan, ma. Their name is Jordan.”

She rolled her eyes. “I don’t do it often.”

Once is too much, she thought, but don’t go there. “Whatever. Jeannie. Maybe it’s something with Robbie.” She knew something was up but no one said anything to her and she wasn’t asking.

“No, that’s not it. It’s more like she’s trying not to say something to me.”

Stef shrugged. “Maybe it’s a business thing. Maybe something’s up and she wants to say but she can’t because of all their BS.”

Her mother smiled, happy to hear dad’s family bashed. “Maybe. It’s just she’s the only one I can tolerate. How are Brooke and Jamie?” Jared’s sisters.

She took a breath. “I’ve told you. They’re great.”

“You’re lucky.”

“So you’ve said. What happened at the dinner?” How to distract her.

And off she went, describing in detail everything that happened, Stef having learned to tune her out, like a vacuum cleaner being used in the other room. She nodded and agreed about how her aunts were all bitches.

They walked around for a while, eventually heading to the Walnut Room on the seventh floor. Stef remembered how she used to love coming here when she was little, the beauty of the walnut paneling and the crystal chandeliers, the linen napkins. After all these years, as overwrought as it was, it still somehow meant luxury to her.

The menu, on the other hand...salmon? Meatloaf? “Chicken caesar salad,” she said to the waitress, “and an unsweetened iced tea, thanks.”

As they waited for their food, her mother said, “Mia,” Stef’s cousin, “is very upset that she’s not a bridesmaid.”

Stef smiled, “Funny, because she thanked me profusely. She said that the baby is driving her nuts and that she’s so glad that she doesn’t have to go through bridesmaid stuff on top of everything. Stacy said the same thing.”

“That’s not,” and she swallowed her lips, “what Jackie told me.” Stef shrugged. “On top of which, it makes me look bad.”

Stef, taking a sip of water, then swallowing, “How?”

“Because none of the family is in the wedding. They had you and you’re having his sisters and Arden.”

Another sip. “Arden is my best friend. She was never not going to be my maid of honor. You know that, right?”

“I have nothing against her being in the wedding.” Gee thanks. “I’m not unreasonable.” You wouldn’t know. “But his sisters and none of your own family? Jackie is hurt.”

“I’ll call her. I’ll make nice.”

Her mother played with a sugar packet. “That’s not the point. I just don’t understand how you can get married and not have any of your family in the wedding.”

Stef took a breath. She knew that she was going to have the fight eventually but had hoped to eat first. Oh well, she thought, plans change. “I am.”

Her mother, now playing with her straw wrapper, “You are what?”

“Having family in the wedding. Our family.”

Her mother stared at her, then laughed. “Oh, so your sister is going to be in the wedding?”

She saw the car heading towards the cliff and debated hitting the brakes. “Yeah, she is.”

“Did you tell them they,” both words all but spat, “have to wear a dress?”

“She knows that and is excited.” Let’s see how long this takes, she thought, as she watched people running out of the way of the car.

“She? You’re calling her ‘she’ all of a sudden? Do they know that?” Her tone light, her face annoyed.

“I’m not talking about Jordan, ma. I’m talking about Emily.”

Her eyes narrowed. “Excuse me?”

Stef, taking a sip of her iced tea. “Emily, ma. Emily is going to be a bridesmaid and she’s very excited.”

A deep breath and, through gritted teeth, “You are not going to have your brother as a bridesmaid. Don’t be ridiculous.”

“Emily is not my brother. She is my sister. And she’s going to be a bridesmaid. In my wedding.”

“Absolutely not,” she said, with finality.

“Absolutely yes, ma,” she said calmly, as her heart beat quickly.

“Oh, really?” Sarcasm flowing. “Your brother is going to wear a dress in front of all our relatives? Do you really think I’m going to be humiliated in front of them like that?”

“Emily is my sister, ma. Not my brother, my sister. And she’s beautiful and no one is going to be humiliated. Do you want to see a picture of her,” and she reached for her phone.

“No,” she snapped. “I do not want to see a picture of him. He is not going to be a bridesmaid, and that’s it.”

“That’s not it,” she said, measuring her words carefully, like tiny bits of nitroglycerin, “She is. And, if someone has a problem, them, you, anyone, that’s just too bad.”

“Have you told Jared’s family that your crossdressing brother is going to be a bridesmaid? I’m sure his aunt will have a field day.”

She was done being nice. “Who the fuck cares what anyone thinks?”

“I do. You should. You know what she thinks of you. Are you trying to prove her right?”

She put her napkin on the table. “I don’t care what she thinks. Or Jackie. Or any of them. Emily is my sister. I love her, she loves me, she is the nicest, kindest girl I know - and she is a girl, ma, make no mistake - and she is going to be in my wedding. And I don’t care what anyone else thinks. If someone doesn’t like it, they don’t have to come.”

“So,” her mother said, smirking, “if I said, it’s her or me…” Stef waved. “Really?”

“I’d rather not but it’s not me making that decision.” She was amazed that she got that out. “I’m sorry if it comes to that, but this is a red line.”

“Well,” her mother said, “I have to decide my next steps as well, then. Two of us can play this game, Stephanie.”

Stef took another sip. “It’s not a game, ma. It’s my wedding. And I’m not making any choice here. Emily is more than willing to be there with you.” Maybe. They hadn’t discussed it. “But you decide. If you don’t want to be at your daughter’s wedding, I will be really, really hurt but I’ll deal.” She wasn’t ready to give the ‘but if you’re not, be prepared’ ultimatum, yet.

Her mother looked at her angrily. “You can explain that to your father, all of this. I’m not.” Stef smiled and took out her phone. “I suggest that you think before you do that.”

“Okey dokey,” she smirked, putting her phone back. “I ask you to do the same.”

The waitress came and all but dropped their food and ran. “Don’t take that tone with me,” and she crammed her fork into her chicken pot pie. She took a bite. “Well, there’s no point in eating this now,” and she dropped her fork, Stef listening to it clank on the plate.

Stef drizzled dressing on the salad, and took a bite. “This is really good. Want some?” OK, she thought, that was bitchy. “Sorry. But I’m not sorry about the rest of this.” Her mother glared. “You can,” and she took another bite, “choose what you want to do here. But Emily is going to be there, like it or not. And if you got over your BS and took the time to get to know her, you’d see how great she is.”

“I know who Christopher is,” she said, taking an angry forkful of her chicken pot pie. “He chose his path, not me.”

You didn’t find her in her room, with the bruises on her stomach from where Rob Robredo and his friends kicked her. You didn’t find her crying because her so-called friends had abandoned her. You didn’t come home from college and hear how she wished she was never born. “Mom, her name is Emily.”

“Whatever he calls himself these days, I don’t care,” and she took a bite, smiling. “What does Jared think of all this?”

“He loves her. He wonders how someone so nice has a sister like me.”

“Does he know the truth?”

She took a bite. “Yeah, he does. And, to answer the next question, he doesn’t care. He knows she’s her true self now.”

“Well, isn’t that lovely? Her true self. I’m sure your cousins will treat her as kindly.”

Stef put down her fork. “Fuck you, mom,” she hissed, and her mother glared. “It’s like you want something bad to happen to her. You’re her mom, Jesus.”

Her mother scoffed, “You’re putting words in my mouth, Stephanie. And don’t curse.”

“‘I’m sure your cousins will treat her as kindly.’ Would you care to give me an alternate explanation?”

Hissing, “Don’t you dare speak to me that way. I am still your mother.”

“You want her to get beaten? Is that really what you want?”

Now smirking, “I understand that, in your world, Chris is his true self or whatever it is you said,” bitch, “and no, I don’t want anything to happen to him, but guess what? Some people aren’t as enlightened,” the word dripping with contempt, “as you and there’s a finite amount you can do to stop them.”

“Then, they’re not invited. See, simple?”

“Then, we’re not paying for any of it. See, simple?” And she took a bite of her pot pie. “This is really good. Want some,” and she smirked.

“Congrats, mom,” Stephanie said, standing up. “You won.”

Her mother looked at her. “Meaning?”

“You drove away Emmy. You drove away Jordan. Now, you get the hat trick,” and she walked away.

Her mother got up and followed her. “Don’t you walk away from me.” Two older women watched from a nearby table, ‘there but for the grace of god go I’ written on their faces.

Stef stopped in front of their table, knowing how mortified her mother felt in front of complete strangers. “Um, yeah, I’m walking away. And to be clear, I don’t need your money for the wedding. Jared and I do just fine,” and pulling the knife from her sleeve, “his parents have already offered to help us out, no strings attached.” The two women made a show of looking at their plates, their ears perked up.

“We are not having this discussion here, Stephanie,” she said, teeth gritted to the point they should have turned to dust.

Stef took a breath and smiled, “We’re not having any discussion anywhere. My sister is going to be in my wedding.” Now, the women stopped pretending, looking with scorn at Stef’s mom. “You can make whatever decision you see fit about coming. But the decision is made.” The waitress walked past and she said, “Can I have the check please? I think we’re done,” then, looking at her mother, smiling her sweetest smile, “do you want her to box up the pot pie? I know how much you like it.” She paid the bill and left, ignoring the increasingly angry calls for her.

---
Jordan called Stef later. “Hey Jor, everything OK?” She was worried. They never called her, just texted.

“Dad’s losing his shit.” That was Jor. Right to the point.

“She’s a fucking bitch,” Stef said, as Jared walked into the other room.

Jordan laughed, “No shit, Stef. What happened, ‘coz Dad’s all like I have no idea what’s going on and I’m thinking, and you think I know?”

Stef sighed, having gone through this with Jared and Arden. “I told her Emmy was going to be in the wedding.” One word, seven syllables - fuck. “Yeah.” And then she recounted lunch in all its gory detail, Jordan stopping her at…

“She said that?” Their cousins.

“Yeah, she said that.” Stef watched the TV with the sound off, flicking from ‘Say Yes to the Dress.’

She could hear Jordan stand up, their feet hitting the floor with a thud and she hoped Kira wasn’t there. “I will fucking kill anyone who fucking says a fucking word to Emmy, much less,” and she heard their breath get short.

“Jor, calm down.”

Jordan snapped, “Calm down? That fucking bitch thinks it’s OK for those assholes to hurt Emmy and you tell me to calm down?”

Stef took a breath. “I’m as pissed as you are and Jared’s even more pissed although,” and she left off the inevitable, if sad, truth of what would happen.

Jordan laughed, “Yeah, no, that would not be good.”

“What I was going to say was I told her then they’re not invited.”

“Oh,” then, “can you do that?”

Stef sighed. “I don’t wanna, but I’m not letting her do this shit to Ems. I want her there, but I want Emmy and you there more.” Jordan made a retching sound. “Fuck you, asshole. I try and say something sweet and you go do that. Fuck you. Kira can come, not you,” she laughed.

Jordan laughed. “Yeah, that’s definitely the right choice. She really hates her that much? That’s hella messed up,” which made Stef laugh, for the first time all day. “Have you told Emmy any of this?”

“Fuck no,” she said, “you know what she’ll do…”

Jordan, “Yeah,” then, laughing, “if we weren’t twins, I’d think she was adopted,” then, sighing, “Dad’s all upset though.”

“I know and I feel bad for him, but I’m not changing my mind.”

What Jordan said next surprised her. “Good. If you do, I’m not coming.”

“Huh?” She watched as people made out on ‘Below Deck,’ and wondered how much one of these cruises cost. Charter a yacht, get married there.

“You heard me. If Emmy isn’t in the wedding, I’m not coming.” She laughed and they said, “what’s so funny?”

“You. You’re so funny. You really care about her, don’t you?”

A laugh. “You wonder why I never call. Now, you know.”

“Jordan loves their sister,” she sang, “now there’s something no one ever expected.”

“Fuck you, Stef,” they laughed, then, “later.”

“I love you, Jordan,” she said.

“Yeah, yeah.”

Now, more seriously. “No, seriously, I do and thanks.”

“Love you too, you freak,” and they hung up.

up
60 users have voted.
If you liked this post, you can leave a comment and/or a kudos! Click the "Thumbs Up!" button above to leave a Kudos

Comments

Great Sibling Dynamic

I love the way the three of them interact and have each other's backs. I'm so glad Stef called her Mother on her bigotry and didn't let her bully her.

Fireworks

Loved this chapter! The siblings all standing up for one another is very heartwarming. Letting the old fossil have it was a great scene too :)

Thanks Jessica

Robertlouis's picture

Another superb chapter. Loving the skill with which you interweave the siblings’ arcs, and how they are differently supportive of one another. The nuancing of their relationships is just brilliant.

And the highly charged encounter between Stef and her mother in Macy’s built like an entire symphony. It was masterly and air-punchingly enjoyable.

☠️