Hey, how was your road trip?
Hey Jet! It was good, we should have spent less time driving and more time actually seeing stuff though.
Aww well that’s only in hindsight, I’m sure it was great!
Yeah, it was nice to spend some time with the family before university next year. I think my parents are already missing me haha.
Yeah I get that a bit too, but I think it’s Chris who’s the most upset about it. He doesn’t want me to leave.
Have you told your parents yet?
No, sorry, I’m not ready… They’re not ready for it.
I don’t like coming over when they don’t know, it feels wrong.
Alright, I get it, I’ll try to tell them soon, okay?
“Jennifer! Dinner’s ready!”
Sorry Stephie, I’ve got to go, it’s dinner time. We need to catch up, I missed you.
Me too. Okay, see you later, love you!
Love you too xx
I shut laptop and sighed. Telling my parents I was gay was one thing, telling them I was with Steph was another. Steph and Caro came round heaps, which of course was fine because my parents thought that they were just my friends. Well, Caro was… If they knew about Steph though… How would they even react? I didn’t really want to find out. It was too hard. Too hard at the moment, anyway. I had exams looming, university acceptance letters to stress about . I also really did not want Laura to know, or any of her stupid friends. And Chris probably wouldn’t even understand what ‘gay’ was. Apart from an insult. I could just imagine it:
“Chris, I’m gay.”
“Aww, no you’re not, Jenny, I think you’re cool!”
Welcome to the vastly spacious realm of a twelve-year-old boy’s mind. Plenty of room for Tonka trucks to do burnouts and dragons to fly around breathing fire on helpless sheep and…
“I said I’m coming!”
It had been, like, a minute since she’d first called! Christ. Relax, Mum. She’d been on edge lately. I was pretty sure she was going through menopause, but I made the mistake of suggesting it a few weeks ago and she’d completely spazzed. Which didn’t help her case, but it helped my social life even less. She’d grounded me for it. Dad had tried his best not to laugh, but he’d failed. She would have grounded him too, if she could have.
“What took you so long, Jennifer?”
“Mum. Really. Laura, you’re in my seat.”
“What? Since when have we had assigned seats?”
“You know I like this seat best, you’re just sitting there to wind me up.”
“No I’m not!” Laura’s lip started to quiver.
“Stop it, Jennifer! You are being ridiculous!”
Laura smirked at me as soon as Mum looked away.
I stared her down while I loaded my plate with peas. I honestly swear she was Satan’s work sometimes. I had to sit opposite her as well. The perfect opportunity for her to kick me under the table, which I didn’t doubt she’d take advantage of. “I was just crossing my legs,” was her usual excuse. If that didn’t work, it was, “Well, you were on my half so I couldn’t help it!”
“So, how was everyone’s weekend?”
Good old Dad, always the peacemaker.
“Pass,” said Laura.
“Bowling was fun,” said Chris.
“I took a plate of food down to the old folk’s home this afternoon,” said Mum.
“I studied,” I said.
“Well that’s good, hun.”
I wouldn’t have if I wasn’t grounded. But at least I wasn’t after this weekend, and Steph had been away all week anyway.
“What about you, Dad?” asked Chris.
“I played tennis with Kevin at the club yesterday, it was a good game.”
“Did you win?” asked Laura.
“No. No, Kevin’s pretty fit.”
We sat in silence for a bit.
“Oh, Laura have you made up the spare bed in your room yet?”
“Not yet, Mum.”
“Wait, Mum, who’s staying?” I asked.
“Naomi, for a couple of weeks, didn’t you know?”
“Naomi?” Dear Lord. She was probably the number one most annoying friend of Laura’s. Perfect.
“Why two weeks?”
“Her Mum’s having like a crisis or something so she’s going overseas. And it might be three weeks.” Laura stabbed her last pea and pretended to aim fire at me.
“Piss off, Laura.”
“Thanks for dinner, Mum!” Man, Laura was greasy.
“That’s alright, Laura, and you might clear the plates, too?”
Laura looked shocked, and I was careful to smile inwardly. She gave me a sharp look and said, “Well, Jenny can help.”
“No, Laura, Jennifer has exams to study for, don’t you?”
“Sure do, Dad, gotta get those Physics problems done tonight!”
“Oh but Mum, what about my speech for school? I have to say it in class tomorrow!”
Laura always had an excuse.
“Haven’t you done that yet?”
“No! I asked Jenny to help me on Saturday and she said she would but she didn’t.”
Oh shit, she actually had asked me.
“Jenny, I asked you to help her too! It was all I asked of you all weekend!”
“But, Mum –“
“It was the ONE THING!”
She was suddenly really mad. Irrationally mad, I thought. Oh God, maybe she was actually about to cry. It must be menopause! But wait, what the Hell? This didn’t even make sense.
“Mum, listen, you’re mad at me because I didn’t do Laura’s homework? I bet she hasn’t even tried to start it by herself!”
“Show me then!”
Laura stormed off and Mum’s face was practically melting. I couldn’t deal with this. Dad just watched in disbelief as everything blew up, and Chris had gone off at some point, probably to play on the Xbox.
Then there was a knock at the door, and Mum leapt out of her and ran upstairs, saying, “I’m in the shower, okay Russell?” as she fled.
Dad looked at me, and I gave him an apologetic shrug before I went back to my room.
The funniest part was that Naomi and her mum would walk in, Dad would offer her mum a drink and they’d all sit down. Then my mum would emerge as though nothing had happened and her puffy eyes would be covered in makeup. Laura would flit in happily and she and Naomi would commence gossip. Chris would ignore the real world and my parents would probably forget he existed and forget to tell him to go to bed.
Was I the only sane person in this family?
Oh, wait, I was gay, so apparently even I wasn’t normal.
I checked Facebook but Steph wasn’t online anymore. I saw Caro come online, so I messaged her.
Omg guess who’s staying for 3 weeks.
Oh man, I wish.
Haha who then?
Think most annoying fifth former aside from my sister.
Umm… So many options!
I know, right? Think absolute most annoying.
I want to say Naomi…
Oh dear, for three weeks? Why? That’s torture!
Tell me about it. Laura said her Mum’s having a “crisis”. Dunno what that means, she’s probably just sick of Naomi.
Haha so true. Text me if they get too annoying, we can hang at the mall after school like any day if you need escape.
Sounds like a plan.
I’ll see you at school in the morning anyway, Jet, dinner time!
See you later, Caro!
It was only seven, and I still had Physics homework standing between me and bed. I heard Naomi’s mum’s car pull out of the driveway and then the dreadful sound of two sixteen-year-old girls running up the stairs giggling. My face fell into my palm.
Naomi laughed and they ran past my room and into Laura’s, shutting the door after them. I could hear occasional bouts of muffled laughter, making it impossible to concentrate. I gave up. I’d just copy Jeremy’s in the morning before class. I looked at the clutter on my desk. An apple I’d grabbed from the fruit bowl this morning sat on top of my pencil case. I wasn’t particularly hungry, but I picked it up and took a bite. Euggh it was floury as heck! I put it back down on the desk.
“Oh, hi Mum,”
“Dad and I are going to have a cup of tea, want one?”
“Yes thanks! I’ll come down.”
Dad was watching TV.
“Hey Dad, what are you watching?”
“Jenny? I thought you were doing homework?”
“Yeah, I finished. Mum said we were having tea.”
“Oh, well there’s nothing really on. You get Sky and it’s such a rip off, there’s never anything decent on, it’s all reruns and reality crap.”
“It’s a documentary-movie about a model, I haven’t really been watching it. It just started about twenty minutes ago.”
Mum walked in from the kitchen with the tea on a tray.
Angelina Jolie pranced about the screen posing for a camera and we sipped our tea, only half-watching it. Only minutes later, the scene turned from innocent modeling to a photo shoot of Angelina and her female make-up artist flirting, naked, through a wired fence. This rapidly evolved into a passionate love-making scene, and I was sure my awkwardness was obvious.
“Okay, this is weird, Russell, let’s watch something else.”
Dad quickly flicked over to Discovery.
I sat there pretending to be enthralled by the documentary on infrastructure, but my heart was racing, and my face felt bright red. How was I ever going to tell my parents if they couldn’t even handle a scene like that? My mum especially. She found the whole idea disgusting. It made me sick to think about how she would react.
I had this strange but completely lucid memory from when I was about ten and I was lying in bed beside her one morning while she read her book. I had just found out that one of our neighbours was a lesbian. I lay there thinking about it, and asked her why some people liked people of the same gender. Mum couldn’t really explain it, but she laughed it off, saying, “Who knows what they do in bed together!” I had laughed too. But I didn’t understand much when I was ten. I didn’t understand sexuality or who I was. I hadn’t thought about boys or girls at that stage.
It’s strange when you grow up and you begin to realise things about your parents. They’re not that wise, and they certainly don’t always know what’s best, although they try.
“Night Mum, night Dad, I’m going to bed.”
“Jenny? It’s only eight?”
“Yes,” I yawned, “but I’m just so tired. I’ll see you in the morning.”
I was tired. I was tired of living like this. Feeling this way whenever the subject of lesbianism touched my family life and I was helpless. I couldn’t tell them, but I couldn’t not tell them. Why did this have to be so hard?
“Find Chris on your way and tell him to go to bed too.”
I could feel my eyes welling up, so I left the room.
Chris was in the playroom, exactly where I knew he’d be. He was playing on the Xbox.
“Mum says you have to go to bed now.”
“Okay.” He looked up at me.
“Jen? Why are crying?”
“I don’t know, Chris, I’m just sad. Go to bed okay?”
“Yeah, I’ll just get to the next save point, Jen.”
I went up to my room and buried myself in my blankets fully clothed. I wish Steph was here. I would tell her in the morning how hard it was. She was so lucky, when she was growing up, her parents always told her how much they loved her, and that they would love her no matter her sexual orientation, no matter what she studied, no matter where she wanted to live and who she wanted to marry. I knew my parents loved me. I did know that. I knew they only wanted me to be happy. But they didn’t want me to be gay.
“Oh, Chris. Hey.”
Chris catapulted onto my bed and snuggled up beside me.
“I’m going to miss you next year, will you come back and visit lots?”
I laughed, “Of course, Chris, I’ll be back after every term, okay?”
“Okay. Night Jen!”
He was out as quickly as he’d come in.
I sat up and pulled my laptop over my legs. Steph wasn’t online, neither was Caro. Facebook was honestly the most boring site when no one was online. I shut my laptop and pushed it away. I grabbed my diary from under my mattress. My diary was full of letters, letters that no one would ever see. I would write a letter to Mum when I was angry with her, a letter to Laura when she would say horrible things, a letter to Steph when I was thinking about her. I never addressed the letters, but I knew who they were to. They would always begin along the lines of “You told me you hated me today” (that one was to Laura). Tonight, I wrote a letter to myself:
You are unhappy and you need to come out. It seems hard, but it is the right thing to do and you will feel better for it in the long run. Eventually they’re all going to find out, or get suspicious. They’re going to notice the way you look at her.
It was too hard to write so I stopped. It was 8:30 and I needed to get my stuff ready for school. I slipped the diary back under my mattress and packed all of my books into my bag. I still hadn’t helped Laura write her speech, but she seemed to have forgotten about it since Naomi had arrived, it can’t have been that important.
* * *
It had been two weeks with Naomi and she had been insufferable. She and Laura would gang up on Chris almost every day after school, and he would sit there, just taking their mockery. One night I had heard Naomi say, “Laura, your sister’s so weird, all she does is read and study and hang out with her weird friends.” Little did she know that everything I did, I did in a bid to avoid her. While my sister wasn’t exactly nice in the first place, I was pretty sure Naomi was brainwashing her. Laura was annoying, and said some pretty horrible stuff, but she wasn’t manipulative. She was a pretty regular sibling, I’d come to realise that after having Naomi around for so long.
Naomi getting ready for school consisted of her rolling her blonde hair, plastering enough make-up on so that her face did the full circle from natural to fake to natural-again-but-looking-completely-different, and eating half a piece of toast – without the crusts.
“She’s still here for another week and I can’t handle another single day with her! Please come over this afternoon, or can we go to the mall?”
“Jet, we’ve been to the mall with you nearly every day in the past week, I don’t know about Steph, but my mum’s getting suspicious, she thinks we’re up to something else! Like we’re doing drugs or something! She’s super paranoid.”
“That’s alright, Caro.”
“I would come over this afternoon, but I can’t today, I’m sorry, Jet. It’s Thursday, I have band,” said Steph.
“Oh, that’s right.”
“Hey, babe, you can stay at mine this weekend though, okay?”
Caro pulled a face. “You guys are a million times too cute. Jet, can you drop me home?”
“Sure, anything to put off my re-arrival to Hell.”
“Cheers. See you later, Steph, have fun at band!”
“Thanks, I’ll see you guys tomorrow.”
I stayed at Caro’s for a bit, then headed back to home and the dreaded Naomi. I parked my car in the garage and walked towards the door slowly, swinging my keys around my finger. Then, I walked inside.
I could hear conversation coming from the living room.
“I think she’s back.”
“Jen, is that you?”
I walked into the lounge to see Mum, Dad, Laura and Naomi all sitting around the coffee table. The coffee table which had my diary sitting right in the middle of it. Laura looked distraught, and Naomi was nearly in tears. I wondered why the heck she would be upset.
“Laura, Naomi, go upstairs.”
They obeyed, arms around each other. I watched as Laura seemed to be comforting Naomi, and even beyond the anger that they had read my diary, I was confused.
“Why are they –?”
“Jennifer,” Mum began, “Are you in love with Naomi?”
WHAT? I was shocked.
“No, Mum, what? Where the hell did you get that from?”
Mum picked up my diary and flicked to one of a few marked pages. She read out, almost choking as she did, “You don’t know I’m looking, but I watch your ankle move as you brush your teeth each night –“. She couldn’t finish.
They had completely misunderstood everything! I couldn’t speak, I was so angry!
Mum moved to another marked page. “’I wish I could feel your blonde hair run through my fingers every night’ and ‘they’re going to notice the way you look at her’?” She started to cry.
“Jen, what is this? Are you –? It’s just –! This is so inappropriate, she’s sixteen!”
Dad just sat there, expressionless.
“Mum, Dad! Listen! I am not in love with Naomi, that’s ridiculous! I hate her!”
Mum sniffed, “So you’re not a –? I don’t understand.”
“Mum, I’m gay.”
Mum burst into tears again.
“But that is about someone else! It doesn’t even matter who it’s about, it’s completely private! Who went into my room and found my diary?!”
“Laura and Naomi found it after school. Naomi is really upset.”
Naomi is really upset. This was so fucked up. There were so many things I was angry about! The fact that Naomi was so egotistic to read it and assume that it was about her. The fact that the thought of another girl liking her absolutely traumatised her. The fact that Mum would believe it was written about Naomi when I’d told her so many times that Naomi was the most annoying person I had ever known. That Dad just sat there taking it all in. That Laura and Naomi had been in my room. That Mum was so evidently disgusted in me. That the four of them had openly discussed the whole thing without me there and had formed their own opinions.
“Your father is dropping Naomi off at her great aunt’s for the rest of her mum’s holiday. We need to sort out this problem as a family.”
This was not a ‘problem’ to sort out. Least of all one that my family could help me deal with in the way that Mum intended.
Naomi went to her aunt’s. Dad came back. Chris was playing Xbox in the playroom, hopefully oblivious to what was going on. Laura had been told to go for a walk to the dairy to get milk. I was still in shock and I had no idea how to deal with this situation. Mum, Dad and I sat down at the kitchen table.
“Alright, now that we’ve all calmed down a bit, we can discuss this properly. Jen, you’re not gay, this must just be a phase.”
“Mum. I will not continue this stupid discussion until you acknowledge one thing: I am gay and I know that I am. You cannot tell me that I’m not.”
“It doesn’t matter to us that you are gay, we are just concerned about how much harder your life is going to be. We will be here for you.”
This was the first time Dad had spoken since I’d been home.
“Thanks, Dad. And you believe that I wasn’t writing about Naomi?”
“Of course, Jen. It was a misunderstanding.”
“Russell! You miss the point! Jen doesn’t need to have a hard life, Jen, you just need to choose the right lifestyle.”
“The right lifestyle? Right? Mum, you think this is a choice?” I had to laugh at that.
“You don’t understand what it’s like to be a mother! I have hopes and dreams, I have had expectations of you finding the right man and… and a wedding! Every mother dreams about that!”
“Mum, I find it really hard to sit here listening to all of your ‘hopes’ and ‘dreams’ especially when they go against my own happiness!”
Mum started to cry again.
“Well, who were you writing about if it wasn’t Naomi?”
I took a deep breath, I knew this would explode.
“Mum, I’m in love with Steph.”
Mum’s face went pale and I could only imagine what was running through her head.
“And is she in love with you?”
It sounded stupid coming from her mouth; ignorant, false.
“Yes, Mum, she loves me.”
There was a horrible silence while Mum reloaded her gun.
“But –! But she’s slept in the same room as you!”
“Yes, she has.”
“Well you are never allowed to have girls stay in your room! Ever again!”
“But it’s different! Caro’s just my friend!”
“Well Steph isn’t staying over anymore.”
I waited for the inevitable ruling, Mum was not done just yet.
“Steph is not welcome here.”
“Elaine, that is ludicrous. We cannot stop them from seeing each other! You are not handling this in the right way!”
Dad was getting cross, and when he was angry, he meant it. It was scary. But he was on my side. It was a relief. Mum would listen to him. I hoped.
“Russell, I do not want my daughter to be a lesbian so I will not have her interacting with Steph. Not in this house!”
“Mum, how can you say that? Steph’s parents accepted her for who she is without any ‘discussion’. Why can’t you be like that? Why can’t you be like Dad?”
Mum continued to ramble on tearfully about hopes and dreams. Her argument was so totally invalid! How could she be so selfish?
I’d almost had enough, and I was about to storm off upstairs before I threw something or hit someone.
“Chris? What are you doing up there?” Dad had noticed him, he was standing at the top of the stairs.
Chris walked down slowly into the kitchen.
“Chris, how much have you heard, darling?” asked Mum.
“I’ve heard everything, I was listening from upstairs.”
“Oh Chris, you won’t understand, we’ll explain it to you later.”
“No, Mum, I understand. We learned about gay people at school.”
Chris walked over to the table and looked at me, quite sincerely.
“My teacher said that it doesn’t matter who loves who, and that we should all let people love who they want to love.”
Mum just looked at him, dumbfounded. He continued.
“Mum, if this is who Jen is, then I still love her, she’s still my sister. She’s still going to take me to the park and she’s still going to tease Laura and she’s still going to love music and art.”
I smiled, and Chris grabbed my hand.
“Jen, it doesn’t matter to me that you’re gay. And it doesn’t matter that Steph is either. I like Steph, she’s nice.”
“Thank you, Chris.”
“Mum, do you still love Jenny?”
“Of course I still love Jen, Chris. You should go back upstairs now, okay? We’re having a grown-ups talk.”
I was impressed. Now that is what Laura and Naomi should be learning at school.
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