Chapter 2: Callie
My parents spent three hours at my place the next morning before I started to really lose it. They had been hinting about me finding someone the whole time they’d been there, and my mom had now officially stopped being subtle. I just needed them to leave before I jumped off the cliff they were driving me towards.
My parents were very loving, very affectionate, amazing parents. I’d thankfully grown up in a pretty good environment; we’d had our share of issues but we stuck together as a family and everything had turned out for the better. Unfortunately, that also meant that sometimes my parents cared too much. Like I’d mentioned to Char, in the last year they’d started to prod me into the whole find-love-get-married-have-kids lifestyle, and now that I’d recently turned twenty-nine they’d really doubled down. I knew they were doing it because they cared for me and wanted me to be happy like them, but it was driving me crazy that they didn’t think I’d a) really been trying, b) wasn’t really happy without “love”, and c) thought I’d been posting about cats a little too much on Facebook.
In fact, my mom was going on about the whole cat thing at that very moment. I rinsed out the cup I’d been using and started actively maneuvering them towards my front door. My dad broke away to use the bathroom and I inwardly groaned since that only gave my mother more time to pester me.
“And then ten minutes after that, you posted about how cats were better companions than any man because they can’t talk back!” My mother huffed as she picked up her purse from the side table by the door. She turned back around to me, a twinkle in her eye as she leaned in and stage-whispered, “You’re a Drakos- men don’t talk back to us anyway.”
“I heard that,” my dad yelled from the bathroom he’d been using. He sounded stern but I could tell he was fighting a grin. “And your mother is right, Calliope. We don’t take shit from anyone.”
My mom nodded forcefully once, like that was the final word. As my dad came out of the bathroom to stand by her and looped an arm around her shoulders. And then, of course, she kept talking. “Callie, we just want you to be happy-“
“Mom, Dad,” I interrupted. “I am aware that you want me to be happy. I get it, but I am happy! I have a great job with a great partner, I love my family even when they drive me crazy, I’m healthy, I’m independent- I even know how to change my own tire! I’m getting along perfectly fine without a man in my life! Just because I like cats and I live alone, it doesn’t mean I’m a miserable old woman. I’m only just barely twenty-nine, and I have plenty of time to fall in love. If I’m even capable of that!”
After several beats of silence, my dad was the first one to speak. “What do you mean ‘if you’re capable of it’? Why wouldn’t you be?”
“Because I’ve tried, and it never works out! All I ever feel is friendship or whatever with these guys, but it never develops into anything else.”
My mother snorted. “Now you’re just being self-pitying. There’s no need to be dramatic about it. Plus, I know some boys that… ”
I couldn’t believe it. MY mother, calling ME dramatic! And then trying to set me up in the next breath! I interrupted her again after having tuned out while she was talking. “I don’t want your pity dates! And at this point I feel like it’s not even worth it. In fact, how about this,” my temper finally getting ahold of me I continued. “Since you won’t listen to me, I vow to the heavens and whatever gods or goddesses are up there, that I’ll never fall in love!”
My mom tried to stop me from finishing my declaration as soon as I said the word ‘vow’ like she knew what I was about to say, but she’d frozen as the last words left my mouth. She looked at me with a strange expression in her eyes, almost a mixture of pity and reluctant humor. I glanced over at my dad who had the same look in his own eyes. They glanced at each other, then back to me and said at the exact same time, “You asked for it.” That was nowhere near the response I’d been expecting, and I was about to ask what they meant by that when a sudden, blistering pain exploded in my chest like a hot brand was pressed against my sternum. I fell to my knees, gasping for air.
“Wha… What’s happening?” I managed to get out as I stared up at my parents. They were looking down at me, that same look from before on their faces.
It finally started to fade out, only a dull throbbing by the time I managed to stand up. My legs wobbled when I tried to put my weight on them, and my parents rushed to help me stand. I reluctantly leaned on them as they guided me to the nearest couch. I plopped down on the plush cushions, absently rubbing my chest.
“We told you Callie. We told you never to promise anything to the heavens you weren’t sure about. You knew why. And you still did it.” My father shook his head as he pulled my mother in closer to his side, watching me try to breathe through the last of the pain.
Taking a deep breath, I responded to my dad. “I didn’t realize you were serious about it… I thought it was only a family fairy tale.” Even as I said this, I could feel in my heart that it wasn’t the whole truth. My parents had taught my siblings and I growing up that we had an interesting genealogy- we came from a line of Greek oracles. Both our parents were descendants of these oracles and that somehow made their children doubly sensitive to “oaths accepted by the gods” or something. I’d always thought it was cool, but not necessarily true. Even with that skepticism, I still hesitated to make any sort of promise that my parents had warned, as my dad recently pointed out, I wasn’t sure about. Just in case. And I had just ignored my twenty-nine years of caution all because my parents had insinuated I should probably start dating if I didn’t want to become a crazy cat lady like our old next-door neighbor.
“Obviously,” my mom said, “it’s not a fairy tale. Do we seem like the kind of people to raise you based on fairy tales?”
“I… Well... No.” It was at that moment that I realized I had officially jumped off the cliff, and I had no idea just how hard my landing was going to be.