Written by Trey Briggs || Art by Monte Miller
That’s the only way to describe my mother’s face, the face that she held onto for dear life while she put my things in the street. My brand new Gucci purse sat in a puddle, soaked. My makeup, she tossed it down like it didn’t cost her almost $4000 to amass the collection for me. Powders and Dewy sprays and matte lipsticks cracked and rolled over her driveway. Some of it even stained one of the expensive blouses that she liked to wear, that she liked to try to get me to wear.
Maybe something like ‘engorged with rage’. That’s how Astor would’ve put it. She didn’t throw Astor’s things like she threw mine, or even acknowledge that Astor was standing there giving her a look that would’ve melted icebergs and asphalt and everything else. My Mother made sure she didn’t even look in Astor’s direction while she threw clothes and jewelry and spite at me.
Astor walked slowly behind her every time she flew around to go get more things, never taking her eyes off of her, and picked my things up. She piled them neatly near the driveway so we could get them in the car faster when our new husbands arrived. I didn’t feel like moving.
I was 18 and I’d only been 18 for about thirty minutes. I was college bound. I was kind of homeless, at least for the next few days until our dorm rooms were ready. But it didn’t feel like anything.
“You’re a DISGUSTING little BRAT. We PUT UP with your…your PROMISCUITY and PUT YOU THROUGH school and you decide to get married to that…hobo? Really? HE LIVES IN AN ALLEYWAY! HE steals from us whenever possible! What about school? What about all the work we’ve put into you? We let you sit around fucking your own adopted sister, you disgusting…”
“When did that happen?” Astor’s liquid voice cut into the rant so sharply that my mother staggered a bit. “Is that what you thought was going on in your home? And yet you didn’t offer any discipline or guidance? We are your responsibility and yet you didn’t interrupt as a parent? We’re out having sex with our new husbands, not with each other, fortunately for you. ”
My mother turned to gather more of my clothes to throw. I looked down at all my things, my expensive things, the things Juke worked so hard to get me. I know men are supposed to work. But nobody worked like Juke.
I looked at Astor and rolled my eyes.
“Don’t bother talking to her, she’s an idiot.”
“Yes, she considers herself a mother, doesn’t she?” The pile of clothes was getting too high for Astor to manage. She wasn’t short like I was, wasn’t a tiny thing, but Astor was still small. I looked around, admiring the cold air. I’ve always been more partial to cold, it makes my skin supple. I’d never been a fan of our house. It was too big, featureless, no personality in it at all. It felt like growing up in an asylum.
Once more, my mother stormed out of the house, one of my older sisters trailing behind her this time. Tiana held my school books in her hand, gentle. She’d always been soft.
“Noah. Sorry, I’m trying to calm Mom down. I…I’m not mad about Jukel, I just wish you would’ve told us. Maybe we could’ve had a real wedding and not the courthouse. You deserve better than that. You too, Astor. You’re both too smart for this.”
Astor turned to speak and I cleared my throat to stop her.
“Are you pregnant or something?” My mother stopped to turn and hear that. She was interested in knowing that. Was Noah Bishop pregnant? Was I going to be a mother of a hobo baby? Would I give her a grandbaby that smelled like an alleyway?
Osh, Astor’s new husband (they didn’t seem as worried about Astor getting shotgun married, oh no, just me) and our old best friend, pulled up really slow in his beat-up car. It coughed like it was choking, exhaust blowing ugly anger out the back. He wasn’t as angry. He parked in front of the driveway, blocking my mother’s rage in, and slowly crawled out. Osh hated confrontation. I almost laughed looking at him. He made a worried face to Astor, rubbing his neck and gulping. Astor motioned for him to start putting my things in the car.
“Hey Mom? I’m going to go, okay? Tell Dad I got into Ingleton. I’m still going into a STEM field. Tell him I’m not doing it for you guys, though, okay? Make sure you add that I decided to do it on my own.”
I didn’t feel much. Hungry, maybe? It would’ve bothered me if it’d had something to do with anyone else. Growing up in a big house with neighbors so far away we basically lived in our own country was a privilege, I know.
Having parents that only talked to us when we got bad grades or came home drunk was a blessing, maybe. But I didn’t really learn anything or become anyone until my parents adopted Astor. I didn’t realize how much they weren’t around, how much they threw books and money at me, until I started dating Juke. I didn’t realize how much I was just a potential status, a potential wall of scientific awards and journals, until I decided to get married.
And none of it really mattered. In front of me was my future. Astor, angrier than ever but barely different than she was when she was happy. Osh, trying his best not to be seen, grabbing $500 shirts like they were toilet tissue and hurriedly tossing them into his dirty trunk. In the distance I could see my husband, my new name, my new family, riding toward us on a bike of all things (probably stolen as usual), going so fast his dreads whipped up in the air like wings. Always late. Always crisp and clean, somehow. Always mine.
All of them, really. This was the family that argued with me and laughed with me and worried about me. Osh, Astor, and Juke.
I turned to my mother and sister, ignoring my sister’s teary and hurt glare, and did a dramatic bow.
“I’m not a Bishop anymore, okay? Do me a favor and don’t look for me when you see my research papers in your overpriced journals. Don’t find my number when you hear about Juke graduating college at 19, or solving whatever mundane problems you’ve worked your whole life to figure out. I’m not yours anymore, right? I’m not pregnant but yeah, maybe I’ll give birth to one of those disgusting little things one day and it won’t be a Bishop either, right? It’ll be a Dill.” My mother’s face turned redder than it already was. Her updo seemed to sag. I was the most accomplished child, after all. She didn’t have kids not to brag about them.
Juke skidded to a stop next to me, kissed my cheek, and grinned at my mother.
“Hey! Oh, we’re leaving? Oh, cool, bye Mrs. Bishop. Ay, we’re gonna do some donuts in front of your house, I hope that’s cool.” He dropped the bike in front of them, laughing like a maniac, and we piled into the car. Astor sat in the back with me, watching me closely for any signs of emotion.
There were none to feel. Not for them.
“Oh, Mrs. Bishop!” Astor yelled, leaning out the car window, screaming over Osh revving the engine. Screaming over our excited laughs. My mother fixed her face a bit and stared at her acquired daughter. Astor was such a prize. I knew she hated to lose her. Astor cooked and cleaned and won awards and didn’t hang out with boys all night and was an overall breeze. An easy path to greatness. A pile of regal 18-year-old wonder. My mother even managed a small, hopeful smile at her adopted protege.
“Noah’s not pregnant. But I am.”