How To Be Straight

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Texts, phone calls, and letters

I missed you at lunch today. The text from Jamie came in around 5 pm.

Yeah, I respond, sorry bout that. Abbey wanted to eat with me.

Jamie: She likes you, you know.

Me: Abbey?!

Jamie: Uh, yeah. Haven’t you noticed?

Me: She HAS a girlfriend.

Jamie: Who she’s been avoiding. You said it yourself.

Me (Somewhat doubtfully): Abbey and I are JUST friends. And she knows it.

Jamie: I wouldn’t be so sure…

Me: Well even if she does like me, she’ll get over it, because I don’t really feel the same way.

Jamie: Good.

Me: Why?

Jamie: Because.

Me: Tell me why.

Jamie: Why what?

Me: Why it’s good.

Jamie: Why what’s good?

Me: You’re stalling.

Jamie: Yeah. I am.


Jamie: I just don’t want you to like her.

Me: Okay…

Jamie: Okay.

I didn’t say anything else. I was still sitting there, staring at the strange text conversation when Mom walked in. “Hey sweetie. Dinner time.”


“What’s wrong.”

I sighed. “Nothing. Everything’s fine.”

Mom sat down beside me. “Hey. Come on. You can talk to me.”

“I said it’s nothing.”

Mom gave me this look like, mhm.

“It is!”


I took a breath. “It’s fine. I’d really rather not talk about it. It’s just someone being annoying and insensitive. They’re putting things in my head. It’s nothing. It’s fine.”

“Is it…” My mom trailed off, obviously not wanting to upset me.

I jumped up. “Mom! No! Jamie is great! Jamie would not do something like that. You’re just assuming that because her parents are- are like that, that she is. But she’s not. Okay?!”

“Okay. Geez. But if you need me to beat someone up…”

I grinned, but my heart wasn’t in it. “I’ll let you know.”

Dinner was usual, we had pasta and red sauce with veggie meatballs and a salad, which Jack naturally refused to eat. I was a little quieter than normal, thinking about what Jamie had said, the way Abbey had been constantly begging for alone time with me, how she was always trashing Jamie... maybe, just maybe, it made a little bit of sense. I ate quickly and excused myself, calling Abbey on the way to my room.

“Hey you.”


“I had fun at lunch today,” she sounded chipper, in a good mood.

“Why have you been avoiding Amber?” I asked, suddenly unable to chat normally.

“I haven’t been-”

“Yes. You have. Tell me what it is.”

“It’s nothing. I just don’t think it’s gonna work.” Her chipper mood was gone.

“You’ve been seeing Amber since 8th grade. You love her.”

“You seem very caught up on Amber.”

“You seem very caught up on me.”

“What are you talking about?.”

There was something about the way she said it that- “Oh my god.”

“What?” She was being grumpy again.

“Oh my god,” I said again.

“What, Grace?!”

“Jamie was right,” I mutter.

I heard her hiss at the sound of Jamie’s name, all the confirmation I needed. “What did she say?!” She spat.

“I can’t believe it.”

“What did she say?!”

“I’ve got to go,” I muttered into the phone.

“Grace! Tell me!”

I hung up, feeling frazzled and numb.

I called Jamie, incredibly confused, and unsure what to do. “Hey,” she said when she picked up. “Look, I’m sorry about what I said. It’s not my business. I was totally out of line.”

“No,” I said, “I- I mean- I- Thank you, I guess. You’re right. You were- right. I called her. I didn’t say exactly but-”

“Yeah. I know. She just called me, asking what I said to you.”

“Oh my god. I’m so sorry! I had no idea she would…”

“Shush. It’s fine. I just told her I had no idea what she was talking about though. She seemed pretty panicked. Did you hang up on her?”

“Shush. It’s fine,” I responded. “Also I’m kind of freaking out. What am I supposed to do now?!”

I heard Jamie sigh on the other end. “Honestly? I have no idea. I want to help you, I do. But I just… don’t know how. If… if I loved someone, but not in the way they loved me, I think it would be best to… make that clear.”

I sighed. “But what if we’re wrong. I don’t want to sound- what’s the word?”


“Exactly. I don’t want to sound presumptuous.”

“You could show her that you’re interested in someone else.”

“She knows who I have a crush on.”


“Have you ever been in her position?” I asked her.

“Not really.”

“Well what would you do?”

“I don’t know.”


She hesitated. “Yeah.”

“Do you like Shay?” I asked suddenly.

I could feel her shaking her head. “I don’t know.”

“Oh.” I was at a loss for what to say.


“So you have no idea what I should do?”

“I think you should talk to Abbey.”

“Oh.” It was silent before I said, “I meant besides that.”

“Maybe you do like her a little bit.” Jamie said it jokingly, but there’s a question behind it.

“Probably not,” I responded, going for the same tone, somewhat successfully.

She was silent, and somehow I could tell that she’s closing her eyes.

We were quiet for so long I lost track. I was standing alone in my room, with my back against my wall. I knew that I couldn’t speak before her. She knew it too, I could tell, but she didn’t say anything. Neither of us wanted to break this silence, but it had to be her. She had to tell me what’s going on. She would tell me what’s going on between us.

“Um, okay. Bye then.” Her voice is broken.

Or not…

“Bye,” I said quietly, and then, “Jamie wait, I need-” But then I hear the dial tone, and realize that she’s already hung up.

I sighed, falling against my wall so I was sitting cross-legged on my floor, beside a white bookshelf with a pride flag hung over it. I suddenly felt like I wanted to go somewhere, anywhere without my parents knowing, even though it was only like 8:00, and they were still out in the kitchen, so it wouldn’t be much of a secret. So instead I pull out a little box from under my bed, one I kept hidden with the knowledge that it would break my moms if they found it, and grab an old envelope. The paper was a little yellow with age, even though it hadn’t been anywhere but in a desk and in a box under my bed for 17 years. I took it out and smelled it, trying to catch the scent of the flowery perfume that I knew once coated it. It took a minute, but I found that little bit of the scent from 17 years ago.

Beloved, it read,

I am crying. If there are spots on this paper, then that is why. Beloved, beloved, I pray that you will read this, that the family that will raise you will give it to you on your 12th birthday, as I requested, but perhaps not.

I don’t belong here, and neither do you. I’m going to leave, and I’m going to leave you with a family where you will belong, because I don’t belong here, living in the rich part of town, eating fancy fish eggs and other random delicacies. I don’t want to be my mother. I don’t want my only purpose to be throwing cocktail parties. I don’t want your only purpose to be throwing cocktail parties. I want more for you.

Beloved, you must know that I love you. I am not giving you to your current family because I do not love you. I do not think it’s possible to carry you in my body, through thick and thin, to feel another small being as part of me, and not love you. I don’t think I could. I love you. I love you so much. I will never forget you, but this is best. This is best. The more I say it, the more I believe it. It is best that you go to a healthy family, one that can care for you like I will not be able to. It is best that I will finish high school, and then college, and that one mistake does not alter the rest of my life except-

That it will. Because you will not be in it. Beloved, unnamed babe, unnamed beauty who lives inside me for only a few more weeks, I miss you already. And I will never forget you. I don’t want an open adoption. It is too hard. On both of us. I don’t know how I would not just come and scoop you up and take you with me, so intense is my love for you, Unnamed.

I wish I could write you one thousand pages, and tell you everything I have planned, and treat you like a friend, but I mustn’t burden this future family of yours with too much. I plan to go to medical school, and become a doctor, and make plenty of money, and marry, and create a family but that family that would be away from you and so I am unsure of what I want. No. I am not. I want to be with you. But this is best. This is best. This is best.

I am whispering the words to myself now, in my bedroom, with the door locked, trying to believe them. That it could be best to leave you with strangers.

Strangers, I remind myself, that will be a good family to you. Strangers, that will raise you as the beautiful little creature you will become, with my red hair, and your father’s green eyes.

Now, remember, I love you. I always will. I- I hope I will one day see you again, but it is merely hope. It is nothing more than that. If you one day need me, to be a second mom, you can come to me, if you can somehow find me. I love you, beloved.

Your mom biological mom

Patricia Tuffin

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