Janet’s mother gets home and is actually nice to her.
Janet knew that she would take off her uniform and have a shower before dinner. She set the cornbread on a rack to cool and checked the chicken. It looked perfect. Oven off, she stirred the butter beans and mashed the potatoes. She put plates in the oven to warm and made sure the table was set.
Her mother came out of the shower and changed into her house dress before coming to the table. Janet called Sookie and they sat down to dinner together. Her mother offered grace and they ate in silence a few minutes. When her mother seemed in the best frame of mind, Janet broached her final subject.
“I’m going to the movie on Saturday.”
“Really? With Ramona?”
“Actually, I’m going with her brother. Diego asked me out.”
“Diego. Asked you out?”
“Yes, Mom. It’s okay, isn’t it? We’ve known them for ages.”
Her mother didn’t say anything. She didn’t lose her temper or frown.
“You’re sure this is what you want?”
Kind of a weird question.
“Yes, Mom. I really like him. He’s the nicest boy I know and he’s liked me a long time. He just didn’t think it was appropriate to ask me out before I got in high school.”
Her mother nodded. She said nothing for a long time.
“I think it’s lovely,” she said quietly. “Diego is a nice boy. He’s very bright, focused. He’ll go far.”
“Yes, I think so too. This doesn’t mean we’re getting married or anything.” Janet laughed casually.
“I think it’s wonderful,” her mother said with genuine warmth. “I’m happy for you.”
“Sookie, go clean up. Janet, I need some help with something in the storage room.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Janet cleared her dishes and they went to the basement.
The house was two levels, one above ground, one below. The finished basement had a bathroom, two bedrooms, the utility room and a large, paneled family room. Janet had the larger basement bedroom. The second, smaller bedroom was the storage room. It was crammed full of boxes and bins that her mother moved around periodically, trying to organize, but it never came to much.
She walked in, shutting the door behind them, and sat on one of the boxes, indicating that Janet should sit, too.
“I know you know about how your body works,” she said calmly. “And you’ve learned about sex in school. But you don’t know about boys, not really. This is your first real boyfriend. Are you sure this is what you want?”
“Mom, I really care about him so much!” She didn’t dare say she loved him, her mother wouldn’t believe her.
“A man only takes no for an answer so long,” her mother continued. “And then he expects certain things.”
Janet nodded, knowing where this was going. “I know, Mom. Diego won’t force me into anything I’m not ready for.”
“It’s that I’m worried about,” her mother said, touching her cheek tenderly. “He’s a handsome boy, very sweet, but he’s still a man. We’re going to start you on birth control pills. I’ll buy you condoms.”
“Mama!” Janet was horrified.
“I’m not condoning this, I want that understood. And you’d better not ever do a thing in this house but kiss him.” The stern mother was back, gaining power. “But I understand about being swept off your feet,” her mother returned to the uncharacteristic calm. “Your father, despite his faults, was a handsome, desirable man, and he lit a fire in me that I haven’t had before or since. He was my first,” she mused. “And the best. I loved him so much….”
“Why did you leave him? I mean, I know…. But was that really all?”
“It wasn’t because of his heritage,” her mother said, stiffening. “He lied to me. For years, he lied.”
“Was being married to—to a man like him, so awful?”
“It was the lie, Janet May. The flat out lie that we lived. If he lied about that, what else had he lied about? Could I really trust him anymore?” She shrugged, tears falling.
©2020 Dellani Oakes
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