I checked my reflection in the mirror over and over again. I was determined to make sure that there was nothing different about me—appearance wise. Internally, I feel grown. I feel like I'm changing. I feel both exactly the same and completely different at the same time. It doesn't help that my mother is, and always has been, the most observant person I've ever known.
Being here, back home, in this house, with her....it's making me worry that she'll maybe see it on me, maybe even smell it off me. I can't help but shiver at the thought of her taking one look at me and immediately just knowing that I'm now part of the club. I too, have, and is sleeping with a white, older man.
"Darling! You're already here", she exclaims when she walks into the house.
"Hello Mother", I hug her
"You look—", she pauses, staring at me with a wary eye, "...Different"
I gulp. Oh no, she's onto me. If it wasn't for the rat infestation that hit Shakespeare University, I wouldn't even have to be here this week. Now that I think about it, maybe I should've just slept on the park bench outside the gym? Yes. That seems like it would've been a better idea right about now.
"Yes. You're practically glowing. If I didn't know any better I'd say you're pregnant", she says, "or worse...you've been having sex"
Or worse? I imagine myself snapping back with a cheeky comment like, well, do you? Do you know better? Ugh, I knew she would notice
"Oh Mother, don't be silly", I shrug her off
"I know. I know. You wouldn't do that, it isn't part of the plan"
Ah, the dreadful life plan that my mother made for me ever since my father left. In that plan, I'm supposed to have sex when I'm 25 and/or above, because, as my mother explained to me, by that time I would have met a potential life partner. That makes it...appropriate, and if not, then I'd have to wait till at least after 30. Yes, my mother is that psychotic.
Oh, I'd love to see the look on her face if she ever found out what was happening. That would be a sight. I can almost see it right now, she'd practically have a heart attack, the poor thing.
"Mhm....so, where were you? I'd expected you to be home all day since you don't need to be at the Firm"
"Oh, I went out and got you those oatmeal cookies that you like so much", she says, starting to unpack the groceries. She looks at me and I immediately know to go and help her unpack.
"Thank you. I haven't had them in a while"
"I was thinking, after dinner we can have them over some tea and just catch up"
I nod. Trying to just be as complaisant as humanly possible.
"And maybe you can tell me about your birthday? I'd love to know how you spent it....without me"
Oh, here we go. I think to myself. Can we, for once, not do this? Please?
"I'm going to go up to my room and get some rest. It was a long drive"
"Alright dear", she says, "hurry back"
I glide swiftly up the stairs, holding onto the handrail and taking in the environment. It's crazy to think that this old house is still up on its feet. After all, I grew up here and so did my father and so did his parents and so did their parents and so did theirs. This house outlasted the others in the neighborhood because it's made of concrete. Floor, roof, ceiling.
Only about 12 out of the 22 glass windows remains, wavy and yellowed by time. There's terrible plumbing, the water doesn't flow from the faucets, but splutters, spitting it out in chaotic bursts and no electricity, but the fireplace still works and there's a woodpile in the corner that remains untouched. A woodpile that my father and I collected years ago. Back when he was still here.
The floral prints were bold and the furniture sparse and simple, like my mother enjoyed. In the lobby sat an orange telephone with it's large dialling disk and curled cable dangling from the receiver.
This old house is a museum of all the Tembo's before me and someday hopefully after.
As soon as I finished taking my shower, I change into a night gown and head downstairs. My mother has already set the table and she sits perfectly still on one end, adjusting her fork and knife.
When I sit down, I play around with my warm piece of chicken, poking it with my fork and thinking of being close to Mr. Grayson once more. My mother goes on and on, telling me all about how she hired a new team and...something else, I'm barely paying any attention. Luckily, dinner ends quickly and after I clear the table, I'm forced to join my mother for a game of chess and a cup of tea over the fire.
"How did you celebrate your birthday dear?", she asks
"I went out with a few friends"
"For a movie?"
"Not really. We went to a club"
"Oh", she almost chokes on her tea, "Please tell me you didn't do anything...degrading"
"Okay, I won't tell you", I say playfully
"I'm only joking mother", I giggle
"You better be", she says, forcing a smile. "Anyway, there is something I've been meaning to tell you and I wasn't sure how you would take it"
Oh no. "What is it?"
"I found a buyer"
"What do you mean? What were you selling?"
"What?", I stutter
"I've been meaning to tell you. I put it up for sale last year and now we finally have a buyer.", she starts to explain, "She's a nice lady, Miss Rodriguez, good record, steady income, no pets or children and she's ready to pay the full price at once"
"You can't sell this house Mother"
"I can and I will, in two weeks"
"You don't understand.This house is the only constant reminder I have of my father. Every single day I wake up and I feel like I know him less. I feel like he's not a part of me....and...and coming back here, sleeping in his old childhood bed, looking at family photos, seeing the woodpile, smelling his old toys from the attic...it makes me remember him in the littlest way that I can. This house is my only remaining connection to him."
"Nailea, I have lived in this dreadful house for almost more than half my life! I'm almost fifty now and I need change. It's not fair that my only child won't support me"
"It's not fair that my own mother won't support me!", I yell, "if you want to leave this house fine, but at the very least, let me keep it. I'll come back here whenever I please and pay the bills"
"....Nailea, if you want this house, buy it"
I race up to my room and slam my door shut. You'd think by now I would be used to her constantly ignoring my feelings and opinions. Well, I'm not. Tears start to well up in my eyes as I replay our conversation. Why won't she ever put my feelings into consideration? This entire time she's been plotting against me and she knew damn well that I would absolutely not be happy with this horrid decision. I hate her. I swear on my life that I hate her. Why couldn't she have been the one to leave?
I collapsed onto my knees and when my teary eyes started to wander across the room, I walked over to pick up my phone and make a call.
"Hello?", I hiccup when the call is answered.
"Yes. It's me", I murmur, trying to stop my tears from falling
"You've been crying", he states, "what's making you upset? Are you hurt? Where are you?"
"No, I'm not hurt. It's just my mother...she and I got into a fight", I say, still not sure why I felt like he should be the one to call for this situation. At this moment.
"Send me your address"
"What do you mean?"
"I'm coming to get you Miss Tembo. I'm coming to rescue you"