Posting another short. This one is in a very different vein than the last one. Most of my reading tends to be in the fantasy genre, but I’m trying to expand beyond my “comfort zone” with my writing (and reading). Lately, I’m trying to write things I don’t normally read about in genres I am not entirely familiar with. I’m writing from perspectives I can’t possibly have which forces me to put myself in someone else’s shoes. The end result of this, hopefully, will be steady growth and improvement as a writer. Enjoy!
“What do you mean?” I spat. I felt my cheeks warm and my hand curl into a tight fist. I forced it open with deliberate effort and used the back of my hand to wipe the spittle from my chin, doing my best to not reveal my embarrassment as I did so.
“I mean no, Julie. N-O. Not this time, anyways.” Mom remained perfectly calm, as she always did, as she sat on the couch with her stitch work in hand. The needle never wavered or faltered. Mom never seemed to miss a beat. Not even during an argument.
“That’s completely unfair…Hannah’s parents are letting her go!” I said. I raised my arms in frustration, but dropped them to my thighs with a smack when she didn’t even bother to glance up.
“It’s too far, for one. It’s too late, for two. It’s too dangerous, for three. Three valid reasons, so you go ahead and pick your favourite.” Mom actually put the stitch work down to count the reasons off on her fingers.
“It is not too dangerous Mom” I gritted my teeth. “It’s just a city.” I muttered under my breath.
“Yes,” She picked up the needle and began to work again, “it’s a city – a big one at that. You’re just seventeen. You are too young and too naive to spend the night without an adult.”
“I wouldn’t be alone though…” I strained, weakly, to keep the quiver from my voice, “Hannah will be there, and maybe even her brother!” The bit about her brother was a lie, but she didn’t have to know that. “He said he’d probably come down the see the show, and he’s twenty four.” I held eye contact to see if the lie would land or be swatted aside, yet again. It was like she had some kind of special mom radar, calibrated specifically for truth.
“I said no.” Her mouth turned to a thin line. “Tell Hannah maybe next time. Maybe.” The needle began to move more vigorously, “and thank her.” Her black hair bounced lightly as her hand worked up and down with the needle. Despite her calm exterior I could see I was beginning to get to her. Her eyes were narrowed ever so slightly, her breathing more erratic. She was getting worked up, I was getting to her. She was, to her credit, hiding it well. I just knew the signs.
I huffed and groaned with exaggerated displeasure for Mom’s benefit before raising the phone to my face again.
“Sorry Hannah, I won’t be able to go. My mom,” I stressed the word with a little extra emphasis, “won’t let me. Thanks anyways. Take lots of pictures for me, okay? Call me right after.” I clicked the phone off and threw it on the couch next to Mom.
“Dropped your phone.” She said without even raising her eyes from her hands.
“I don’t know why you have to be like this!” I could almost hear the blood pumping vigorously through my veins. My hands were fists again, my breathing suddenly heavy, and I felt my brows pull down slightly. “All I wanted to do was go to a stupid concert with my friend, but you can’t let me have any fun can you?” I gritted my teeth as I stared at her with narrowed eyes.
“Julie,” she dropped the craft to the side and looked directly at me without batting an eye, “I am your mother. I am responsible for you. If I say no, it’s no. That’s final.” Her gaze wasn’t cold, not by any stretch, but it was firm. She meant it, and that made it all the more maddening.
“You’re not even my mother!” I blurted out. The silence hung awkwardly between us for several seconds before Mom said anything.
“I…beg your pardon?” She blinked.
“I…” I mumbled incomprehensibly as I rubbed the back of my neck. I was suddenly warm everywhere; beads of cool sweat ran down my back uncomfortably.
“I’m not your mother?” Her lip twitched, not unlike when she was angry.
“I…the thing is…” I looked skyward but the words weren’t there either. There really was no good way to start a conversation like this. “You were sick.” I decided it was easier to start from the beginning. “The doctors put you in a coma.” I looked to her.
“When I gave birth? Yes. There were complications. The doctors put me into a medical coma.” Mom nodded, her face a blank sheet not betraying a shred of what she might be thinking.
“The child you gave birth to…” Here came the hard part; I looked down at my toes. I was afraid to say it, to tell her the truth after all these years. More than anything I was ashamed at how it had come out. I had shouted it at her in a moment of anger. It wasn’t right.
“…it wasn’t me.” I said, letting the words hang between us awkwardly.
“It wasn’t you.” Mom parroted slowly.
“No. Your child…birth child,” I added hastily, “died shortly after she was born. I’m…I’m sorry.” I sat down next to her on the couch. The seat was cold, but I sunk into my usual seat next to her and grabbed hold of her hand. “Dad, in all his flawed wisdom, decided to adopt me to fill that void in his life. His words.” I shook my head, memories of that day flooded my focus taking my attention away from the moment. “He told me a few weeks before he died.” I snapped out of my reverie and felt my mouth curl into a guilty little frown.
“He had a good heart.” Mom’s eyes crinkled as she thought of him, apparently oblivious to my day dreams. Her lips curled into a little smile. “He loved you very much.”
“Yes.” Mom sighed. “What do you suppose he would say if he heard what you said to me just a minute ago?” She looked down on me with her brows drawn together. I pressed my knees together and looked away.
“He would be ashamed of you.” She said. “Be happy he wasn’t here to see it.”
I nodded and sucked on the inside of my lips drawing them into a thin line. “Are you okay?” I dared to glance back up at her.
“I’m hurt you would choose this way to tell me.” She nodded, “but as it so happens I already knew.”
“You did?” My eyes went wide, my jaw slackened. Dad failed to mention that. “How? When?”
“Do you remember when you were three and you fell into the glass coffee table?” Mom’s eyes went distant as though she were remembering it.
“No. I don’t.” I racked my brain but it didn’t sound familiar. I bit my lip nervously.
“Well you did, and it shattered. It was very serious, and you lost a lot of blood. Your father and I worried we might even lose you. When we got you to the hospital the doctors told us to prepare for the worst. In the end you needed a transfusion. When neither your father nor I were a match…well, he had to come clean.” Mom chuckled to herself. “Of course we found a donor, got you stitched up and you were right as rain in a few months. Like it never happened.”
“Is that how I got those scars on my legs?” I grabbed at them self consciously. Mom nodded.
“Hit an artery. Doctor said it shouldn’t scar too badly, but try telling a teenage girl her scars aren’t too bad.” She smiled warmly. “So I’ve known the truth since you were three.”
“And you never told me?”
“We didn’t think you were ready to know. I’m surprised your father told you to be honest. It must have weighed on him greatly.” Her eyes drifted off as though she were deep in thought. “Judging by this display I’d say we were right. You’re not mature enough to handle the truth.” Mom pulled her brows together in a frown.
“Do you know why he told me?” I felt the fire rising within me. Feelings long ago sorted out, or so I thought, bubbled back up to the surface, “Because I confronted him. I’m not stupid mom.”
“No…no of course not.” Mom blinked. Her mouth opened and shut a few time wordlessly.
“You, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, Uncle Johnny, everyone in the whole family has black hair and brown eyes. Except for me. Red hair,” I shook my shoulder length auburn hair at her, “blues eyes.” I pointed to each of my eyes. “Dad had great intentions and a good heart, but he didn’t understand genetics worth a damn.”
It was Mom’s turn to lower her eyes in shame.
“I found out I had been adopted in the library, looking at the state adoption records. I was alone. I was all alone!” My voice shook, whether with rage or hurt I wasn’t sure. Probably both. “I felt like I had no family. One had sent me away and the other hadn’t cared enough to tell me the truth.” I felt my lip quiver. I forced my face into a hard, blank slate. I refused to allow tears to form.
“I never wanted that for you.” Mom’s eyes were wet, her lips twitching downward slightly. “I hope you know that.”
“I do.” I nodded, “Now. It took a lot of time to get over the anger.” I shrugged, my anger melted away at the sight of her this way. She didn’t birth me, true, but she was my mother through and through. More than that though, I was her daughter and it pained me to see her in pain. “I guess…we both owe each other apologies.”
“We both made mistakes…” Mom nodded, “And for my part I am sorry. Sorry I hurt you. I’m so sorry you had to find out in that way.” She shook her head as if it would cast the tears away. “If it helps at all…at least you know your family chose you. And we never second guessed that decision.” Her eyes were wide, wet, and hopeful. Full of love.
“If it helps I’m sorry too.” I wiped the wetness from me own eyes with a sleeve, “at least you know I choose to call you Mom.” I smiled back.