How To Be Straight

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Part two- Gracie

“I’m home!” I dropped my bag on the ground in the entryway to our house and walked into the living room, where I hear a TV blaring.

It’s my nine year old brother, Jack.

“Where are our parents?”

He didn’t look up. “I think they went grocery shopping.”


“I guess.”

“Why’s it take two people to go to the grocery store?”

“I guess they think it’s romantic. Why do you care so much?”

I opened my mouth, but then realized it was a good point, and used my hand to launch myself over the back of the navy blue couch, so I was sitting cross legged beside him. “Let’s hope they take a while. What are we watching?”

We aren’t supposed to have TV on school nights. Which is why we jumped up to shut it off the second we hear the car pull into the driveway and the dog jump up to greet them. I grabbed a book at random from the bottom shelf on the bookshelf, where we keep children’s books, and open to the middle, reading out loud to Jack as they enter. “We’re home! What are you kids up to?”

My mom entered, took one look at us curled up on the couch, me reading to him, his head on my shoulder, and crossed the room, putting her hand on the still warm TV.

Damn it.

“Oh silly me,” she said. “See, I thought that you kids weren’t supposed to have TV on the school nights.”

There was a silence, and I could tell Jack was about to confess, to avoid a harsher punishment, when I blurted, “I had to. For school. We had to watch this one program. I promised Jack I’d read to him when it finished, which was just, like, three minutes ago.” It was a gamble to lie, and I held my breath, unsure of what would happen.

I could see my mom thinking, looking around the room for a flaw in the lie. And she found one. “And yet you’re already almost done with that book,” she gestured to the one still open in my hand.

Jack saved us this time, “We started it last night. I couldn’t sleep, so she read to me for a few minutes.”

I held my breath, while my mom looked at me skeptically. Finally, she winked, and said, “Next time, please ask first.” I heard the implication plain as day. Next time, she won’t be so forgiving.

I smiled, relieved. “As you wish.”

This made her happy, the reference to her favorite book and movie, The Princess Bride.

My mama entered, putting her hand around Mom’s waist, then turning to me. “Hey, Gracie.”

“How long does it take to grocery shop?”

“A long time, especially if someone’s birthday is coming up.”

Jack smiled, “Me! My birthday is coming up!”

I rolled my eyes. “Congratulations. You know the date.”

He sank back down, pouting. Mama reached over and picked him up, holding him up on her hip like she did when he was a toddler. Which he’s not.

“Whoa! Mama, you’re strong!”

I had been thinking the same thing, though I’d never admit it.

“What’s for dinner?” I asked suddenly.

“I thought I’d make tacos?” said Mom, the default chef of the family.

“Bleh.” I rolled onto my back on the couch. “I am so sick of tacos.”

“Well then, why don’t you try making something everyone will like?” Mom countered.

“Fine.” I stood, and walked towards the kitchen. I felt like cooking something anyway. “I will.”

I made baked chicken nuggets that day. I made a double recipe, because when Mom makes it, there’s never enough. But apparently she halves the normal recipe, so I made quadruple what she normally makes. Oops. That night was a good night. A night to remember. My cooking in our small kitchen, Jack dancing around in his underwear, my moms sitting in front of the fire. I blasted music through the whole house and sang along to every song. It was great. It was better than great. It was family.

It was my family, no matter what all of the rich and powerful thought of it.

That night, I lay in my bed, texting my friends. I was tired, and there was school tomorrow.

It was November first. November brought cold air and snow. It brought smiles and Thanksgiving. It brought short days, and cups of hot cocoa, and staying in bed until the very last second.

I shut off my phone and went to sleep.

When I woke up, the first thing I noticed was that there was light out. I rolled over and looked at my clock.

Shit. I was late.

I rolled over, “Mom!” I screamed! “Mama! Why didn’t you wake me up?!”

I rolled myself out of bed, and walked towards the door, figuring I’d grab a quick breakfast before heading to school. If I hurried, and if one of my moms would drive me, I could still be on time.

I wandered into the kitchen and-

“What the-?”

“What’s wrong sweetie?”

I blinked at the forty something year old man standing in a bathrobe, frying bacon.

“Who the hell are you?”

The man laughed and rolled his eyes. “You must be still asleep. I-” He paused, looking me over. “Why aren’t you dressed yet?”

Why are you in my house?!”

He walked over to me, putting a hand on my forehead, but I flinched away. “Mom! Some creepy guy is frying bacon in our house!”

“Hey, what are you doing, Gracie you’ll-”

I backed away from him. “How the hell do you know my name?”

My mama entered the kitchen. “Gracie, what’s going on?”

I gestured to the man. “Do you know him?”

She looked at me like I was crazy. “Are you feeling okay?” She touched my forehead. “No fever… What’s gotten into you?”

“Where’s Mom? And Jack.”

She laughed. “I’m your mom, and who is Jack? Are you sure you’re feeling okay?”

“Yeah. I’m fine I just-”

I was interrupted by a high pitched noise. It sounded like a smoke alarm. They didn’t seem to hear it though. In fact, they seemed frozen in their strange little-

I jerked away. “Gah! What the hell?”

I glanced at my hands, finding myself sitting up in my bed again. It was still dark. “That was thoroughly creepy,” I muttered as I shut off my alarm, dragging myself out of bed and to the bathroom.

15 minutes later I poked my head into the kitchen, extremely relieved to see both of my moms standing there in their work clothes. (Mom teaches English at the middle school; Mama is a therapist.) “Hey sweetie, sleep okay?”asked mom.

“I had the weirdest dream.”

“What happened?”

“So I woke up late, and went into the kitchen, and there was this creepy guy there, frying bacon…” I continued on, telling the story of the nightmarish other reality.

When I finished, they glanced at each other. “Did you… like having a dad?” Mama asked after a moment of silence.

A lightbulb went off in my head. They were worrying that I was wishing I lived in a “traditional” household. “Nah,” I replied, sliding into one of the stools at the counter and taking a sip of O.J. “I like my parents.”

Both my moms smile and look relieved. “Good,” Mom finally said, ruffling my hair, “Cause you’re stuck with us.”

“But Shay’s just so…”

“Straight?” Abbey finished for me. We were walking to school, through the brisk, late fall air.

“Exactly. She’s annoying too. All gossipy and makeup-y. Like she’s trying to hide inside her body and behind her popularity.”

“You seem extra poetic today.” We turned the corner, and headed up the walkway towards the school.

“Yeah. I’m like Shakespeare or something.”

“So if not Shay, then who do you like?”

“I said no one.”

“And I said someone.”

I rolled my eyes. “I hate how well you know me.”

She laughed. “So there is someone. To be honest, I wasn’t sure.”

I shrugged.

“So who is it?”

I shifted uncomfortably, then, in a whisper, even though there was no one else to hear, “Her name’s Jamie.”

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