My Mum never used to cry, but now she does it all the time. She cries for the big things, and the little things. She cries during movies and TV shows, including the commercials, and even cries when she can’t open a jar of pickles. Personally, I blame the hormones. They’re a shock to the system, and she’s still new to puberty.
This morning I found her in the kitchen, literally crying over spilled milk. I bent down with a handful of paper towel, and helped her to soak it up. She looked up, chuckled, and gave me a knowing smile.
“I dropped the bottle,” she said. “It caught me by surprise.”
Don’t let the waterworks fool you; despite being a crybaby there was nobody more together than my Mum. At seven am, just as I was dragging my carcass out of bed, she had already bathed, dressed, and set breakfast ingredients on the counter. I cooked my own meals, but she managed to set the way without treating me like a child.
After salvaging as much milk as possible she returned to her coffee, and sighed into it. Tears were always cathartic, just as much as they were a bother. How dare her own emotional state stand in the way of ritual.
“Am I seeing you after school?” she asked.
My thoughts sat with the hot plate in front of me, and the cheese melting into the vegetables. “Um, yeah. I don’t think I have any plans. Why?”
“Just planning dinner,” she said. “I’m thinking stir fry, and if you feel up to it maybe some Mario Kart?” A coy grin curled her lips, challenging my resolve against the peril of Rainbow Road.
I couldn’t tell you how many kids played video games with their parents, but most hadn’t lived through the things we had. Much of our family fell by the wayside when Mum came out as transgender, on both sides; all of this while Mama, my other parent, fought against cervical cancer. Losing her isn’t something a person ever recovers from; maybe that’s why Mum and I need each other so much, because we’re all that’s left.
One breakfast quesadilla later and I had the mental space to answer. “That Star Cup is mine,” I grinned, prompting an exchange of mock gestures across the counter top.
Thought it had been less than two years since Mum greeted the world it was hard to imagine anything different. Like the saying goes, the more things change the more they stay the same. The comic book t-shirt and denim capris belonged to the same awkward dork I’d grown up with.
She opened the refrigerator to do inventory. “Vi, do you need a lift?” she asked absently. Not only did we need milk, but we were low on juice and eggs.
I murmured an answer through my food to the effect of ‘nah.’ She ignored the bad manners, but only because of the morning rush. It was seven twenty-five, and I still hadn’t showered.
As soon as I took the last bite she scooped up my plate and fed it to the dishwasher. We were like a well oiled machine, or at least she was. I was more the little engine that could.
“Move,” she said with a smirk. It was a school day, and as always I was working against the clock. Far be it from me to stall Mum’s impeccable sense of time.
* * * *
Perhaps you’d like to know a bit about the one telling this story.
My name is Violet. I’m fourteen, a gemini, and have one of those ‘modern families’ they panic about in the news. Having two biological mothers is tricky enough to explain without people making a big, stupid deal out of it.
Like most people my age I spend thirty-something hours at school over five days, and drag home a mountain of homework after. I’ve chosen electives in drama, home ec, and Chinese, and share classes with my three best friends, Steph, Beck, and Michelle. (More on them later.)
As you can tell it’s a life of scandal in service to the gay agenda, completely different to everyone else.
Anyway, back to the story.
Life at school wasn’t bad. Actually, it was pretty chill. Everybody likes each other, mostly, and the cliques aren’t super anal about who talks to who, or hangs out where. Maybe you get a relationship drama once in a while, or some weird gossip going around, but when you do it’s not that big.
It was during our lunch break that an idea came to me. Beck, Steph, Michelle and I made our home under the far end of the art building, and across from a group of year eights playing handball in a square. A beam of sun arched through the pillars, and was gentle enough to be comfortable.
Steph peeled the lid off a small yogurt tub, and dipped a strawberry into it. “So I need a place to stay on Friday night,” she said, and slurped on the sweet dairy.
“What’s on Friday?” Michelle asked.
She rolled her eyes. “It’s my parent’s eighteenth wedding anniversary, and I figured they could use the house to themselves.”
Beck kicked her feet, and bit off a mouthful of muesli bar. “So they can have sex, right?”
Steph inhaled, and boomed like an awkward robot. “Yes, Rebecca. I would like to evacuate my home so that I do not hear my parents having sexual intercourse, which is something we agreed to never talk about!”
The grade eights giggled to themselves. Any mention of sex was the height of comedy.
“Parents have sex,” Beck said. “It’s just a fact of life. You would not exist if your parents did not have sex.” Her smirk widened with the visible tensing of Steph’s shoulders.
Michelle cleared her throat and sat upright. “You can stay over at mine. I’ve got hockey on in the morning, though.”
“I can clear out early,” Steph said.
It was a beautiful thing, really, that two people should stay in love for decades at a time. My Mum would be the first to say it required a lot of work, but it didn’t diminish the fact Steph’s parents were meant for each other. Mum and Mama had the same thing before their story was cut short, but I tried not to think about it.
“Meanwhile, I get to see Sebastian this weekend,” Beck practically chirped. Before you get any ideas, Sebastian is the name of her horse whom she has loved and tended since elementary. Despite being wedged firmly in the middle class her parents loved her so much to make a little girl’s dream come true; and she’s been ranting about it ever since.
I picked at my sandwich, lost in my own thoughts. Steph’s parents reminded me of my own, which led to thinking how much I missed my Mama, and to how much Mum did as well. She didn’t always cry about the little things. Sometimes I heard her in the middle of the night, sobbing into the empty half of the bed.
Michelle clicked her fingers. “Earth to Vi. Everything okay out there?”
“My mum’s so lonely,” I said. “Someone should take her out.”
Beck smirked. “What, and make it look like an accident?”
I rolled my eyes at her. “All she’s got is me, her temp job across town, and a few friends from her support group. It’s not bad or anything, but I’m not sure that’s enough. Does that make sense?”
“So you want to find your old lady a date,” Michelle said.
I shrugged. “Gross as it is to think about, I would be so happy if my Mum could get laid again.”
Steph threw up her arms in defeat. “You all have it in for me, I swear!”
We changed the subject, but the thought stayed with me through the day. As much as I missed my Mama, I also missed the way Mum smiled when she was around her. Maybe she could have that again.
* * * *
The rest of the school day was spent idling the time, and scribbling the names of single parents, divorcees, and other potential candidates in the back of a notebook. Most of them weren’t even in her league, but adding them created the illusion of progress. Even then, how did I know which ones were her type?
When three-fifteen came her car was already there, waiting across the road. It was an old two seater, only a few steps up from being a lawnmower, but it was cost efficient and helped us to get around. Mum was sitting in the driver’s seat, tapping the wheel to a tune on the alternative youth station.
She leaned in to kiss my cheek as I climbed in the passenger side. “How was school?”
“Yeah, it was okay.”
“Just okay?” she pressed. “What homework have you got?”
Like I said, she was together, enough for the both of us. She always preferred to be in the loop, not because she was a helicopter parent, but because she was interested. It could be stifling sometimes, but I made good grades, and she gave me room enough to breathe. Most kids didn’t seem to have that luxury.
We followed the block to the main road through town, and talked about the day, skipping the part where I wanted to set her up on a date. Ours was a wide community, with more urban sprawl than development, and enough chain outlets to pass as modern. It had only taken two decades, but we were slowly becoming a part of the twenty-first century.
A random slice of pop came on the radio, prompting Mum to gyrate her shoulders and sing along. “Oh-wah-ah-oh-oh-oooooh! Oh-wah-ah-oh-oh-oooooh-oh-oooooooooh!” At thirty-six she claimed to be too old for embarrassment, and it was only by mercy that she held back in front of my friends.
I surreptitiously opened my notebook, and scrolled the list of names. Honestly, I couldn’t imagine her with any of these people, but I had to try.
She bopped in her chair and sang. “Yes, honey?”
“Do you like guys?”
She paused, but only for a moment. “I like them well enough most of the time. Why do you ask?”
I ignored the question. “Ever had a boyfriend?”
Mum contorted in an effort to stifle laughter. “Oh, sweetie. I wouldn’t even know where to begin,” she said. “There were a couple of girlfriends before your Mama, and without going into too much detail, one boy in high school who was… let’s call him ‘curious’, but other than that, no.”
It wasn’t the answer I’d been hoping for. I turned back to the notepad. To cross out names, or not; that was the question.
As we pulled to the light, Mum reached across the console and placed a hand on my knee. She gave a squeeze, and a comforting smile. When I met her gaze it was to find one of those looks only a mother could wield; the one that said she was concerned.
“Violet, I just want you to know that if you have any questions about your sexuality-”
I beamed at her, and squeezed her hand. “I know, Mum. Thanks.”
“And it’s okay to not know things, or to change your mind,” she said. “Just look at me. I’m almost forty and I’m still working things out.”
It was hard to imagine her as being unsure of anything. This was my Mum; she who was as sure-footed as a mountain goat, who was always prepared, and always had a plan. That there were things she had yet to make sense of seemed unlikely at least.
Back in the note pad a series of names met with a question mark. One by one I would narrow them down, just to see my Mum happy again.
* * * *
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Hey, friends! I hope you enjoyed this installment. It's a fun little distraction I came up with after playing 'Dream Daddy' on my PC. There's no set plot for this, so I'm soliciting suggestions from commenters. Where would you like this to go? Keep in mind the aim is to keep it sweet and wholesome. Thanks for reading, and I hope to hear from you!
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