“I have something exciting to tell you?”
“Oh, yeah? What’s that?”
“I’m going to play with the New York Symphony next season.”
“Babe, that’s incredible? I’m proud of you,” he tells her.
“And…” she continues, “I want you and James to sit with my parents in the audience.”
“We’d love to. Of course, we’ll be there for you.”
“Speak for yourself,” she retorts, realizing the obvious. “You’re going to support me, but you still haven’t convinced him to give me a chance.”
He sighs. “I want to let him come around on his own. The more he gets to know the more he’ll like you, and he’ll trust you eventually. I want to let him make that decision on his own because honestly, it’s not mine to make.”
She snorts, seeing right through his glossy sugarcoating. “Meaning you’re well aware that he’s now too old to listen to anything you say and you’ve lost all control over your son.”
“You’re so mean.”
“So mean, but so right.” She lays her head on his shoulder and nuzzles gently.
“He’ll be there, El.” She’s not fond of that nickname, but he uses it anyway because she never puts her foot down with him, she just goes with what she says. This time she dares to challenge him a little, probably because her emotions are running so high right now and deep down she wishes her boyfriend didn’t have a kid to make ‘exciting news’ a ‘complicated matter’. Well, that’s just too goodness darn bad for her tonight.
“How do you know?”
“Because that’s a promise and I don’t break promises.”
“Don’t listen to him, Elana, he’s lying!” I shout from my room. He has made promises only to break them before but that’s not the point. The point is to make her mad so she leaves and never bothers us again. The point is that I always have to matter more than she does and he’s putting that witch before me. She’s poisoning him slowly but he can’t see her through her enchantments. I can.
A knock hits my door. Hard, hard, pause. Soft, soft. Pause. Her voice clears the wood with a muffled strain.
“James, can I come in?”
“Do you want to come out into the living room then? I’d really like to talk with you. And hey, by the way, I brought you some cupcakes.” Tonight she sounds gentle as if she’s really trying to be my friend somehow. I think she’s just like the girls at my school- anyone of them would do absolutely anything to feel accepted. I decide to try her cupcakes. Just one bite and then I’m coming back, and that is a promise.
She sits me down in my own kitchen and pulls out the other chair (Dad’s chair). So now we’re awkwardly sitting there facing each other and my skin has decided to rub itself against pine needles. She clasps her hands together, which is how you really know when someone’s about to get all serious with you. And sure enough, she starts in on me. Alright- so not exactly. She leans back and folds her arms.
“Taste good?” I give her a nod. The cupcake deserves that much, but you won’t catch me handing out anything more to her. She smiles and nods back, which I do not get. She must pick up on my reluctance to meet her halfway or whatever because she sighs and then, she starts in on me. This time I swear it’s true. She even hits me with a “Listen…”
“This is kind of weird for you, isn’t it?” She waits for me to respond with gratitude that she’s making this effort to understand me. Nope. Taking the hint she continues barely missing a beat. “Thing is, it’s really weird for me and your dad too. None of us are used to this, none of us knows what they’re doing. It’s just that your dad and me, we get to control it, don’t we? But you’re kind of trapped, huh?” I’m very trapped; as of a matter of fact, I’m actually shackled to the situation.
“Sometimes we make mistakes. Do you think you could tell me what mistakes really, really bother you?”
“You’re not my mom.”
“I know I’m not; trust me, I’d know if I was your mom. Is it just that? You want your mom and dad to be together?”
“Dad promised to never leave me and Mom. And look where we are now.”
“Did your mom tell you she was leaving or say goodbye or anything?”
“No. And it’s all Dad’s fault.”
“So you hate him for that. I’m not going to lie, I hated my dad when my parents got divorced. But then I just started to miss the way everything had been before it all went wrong.”
“Yeah, I guess that’s how I feel. But I don’t hate Dad, I just hate you.”
“I don’t know, man; lucky for me, my dad never started a relationship with anyone else.”
“There was no one after your mom?” Okay, that came out like I actually want to hear to anything she has to say, which I would never, but I can’t help it if I’m curious now. It’s probably a lie, but it all sounds so sad.
“Nobody but the bottle, my friend.”
“We’re not friends,” I yell at her.
“It’s wishful thinking. I’m sorry, James.”
“I bet you don’t really want to be my friend.” She sits back, stumped, and folds her arms again. Still, she’s not ready to admit I just called her out on her phony facade of fakeness.
“I don’t know what I want.” Okay, that’s not what I expected. Now I’m ready to win the fight. Easy peasy.
“I do.” She laughs. Okay, what was that? The witch is eavesdropping on my brain’s conversations with itself. She copies me.
“Oh yeah, and what’s that?”
“You want to bewitch my dad into loving you most so you can replace me and my mom and make him forget us so you can have him all to yourself when you ruin our lives.” Checkmate, Anne Boleyn. Your mine now. She’s taken aback, eyes rolling and blinking like crazy. She has no idea how to process that. And then it strikes me dead- Dad’s probably listening in on us. This must have been part of her plan all along. I take my last bite of cupcake. She’s still sitting back silently.
“What if I just wanted to be part of your family? Everybody wants to collect as much love as they can, James. But I’ll tell you my big secret: the trick is to give it away first.”
“Mom used to tell me the trick is to make people love you.”
“Yeah, well, your mom is a force to be reckoned with, she really is.” She pauses to take a deep breath and runs her left hand through her hair.
“Not all of us have the power in our nature, so we all go through life in a different way.”
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