How To Be Straight

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Part three- Jamie

This was a terrible idea. This was a terrible idea. This was a terrible idea. I closed my eyes, resting my head against the wheel of my pickup while I waited for Gracie. I could still see that day, a party my mom had thrown. I hated those parties. All that smiling and being a quiet little girl who was seen and not heard- not really my style. I remember the Tuffins had been there. They were just more people in a sea of them. But I remember them in particular, and how my hands had been wrapped in bandages later, from my nails digging into the soft skin, so angered was I at the things they said.

“They’re disgusting,” Mrs. Tuffin had said.

“Absolutely,” My mother had agreed.

Mrs. Tuffin had led the conversation. All the time, it had taken up all my willpower to not scream at them. Instead, I had clenched my fists, so angered by them talking about me, about what I was, right in front of me.

They would not be satisfied with her moms. They would demand custody. They had resources. They would win. “Hey, you okay?”

I looked up as Gracie hopped into the truck.

“Gracie you don’t have to go through with this. They’re terrible people. They’ll say things, and do things, and try to, Gracie you shouldn’t do this. Gracie, please don’t do this.”

“Yes, Jamie, I do have to do this. I should do this, and yes. I will do this.” She sounded frustrated. I sighed.

“Okay, but promise me something.”

“Okay…”

“I will come with you, because I have, shall we say, experience dealing with things of this sort. When you enter there, you will not mention your last name. You will not mention that you have two moms and you absolutely will not even think to say that you are- that you like girls. You will agree with whatever bullshit they say. Promise me or I’m turning around right now.”

She blinked. “I promise. I promise. You’re coming with me.”

I nodded grimly. “I have experience being straight.”

I pulled over to the side of the road, a half block from the Tuffins property. “You ready?”

She hesitated, and I prayed to every god I didn’t believe in that she would change her mind. “Gracie, they might demand custody of you.”

For the first time she seemed to hear me. She turns. “What?!”

“They will love you instantly, and want to get you out of-” I falter, but she picks up where I left off.

“Out of a world with two moms.”

“With two moms being acceptable.”

“With two moms being the norm.”

“Exactly.”

She took a breath. “Jamie, I have to know. I can’t just not know what happened to her. She’s my mom, you know?”

“Gracie,” I looked her square in the face. “That’s a very dangerous road to go down. She is not your mom. She is just the woman who carried you. She didn’t even set you up for an open adoption. You are not her child. You are Izabel and Julia’s child. You have a family. Don’t forget that for a second.’

She looked at me, and then put her head on my shoulder, crying softly. “Shh.” I say. “Everything’s okay. Everything’s going to be okay. It’s not too late. It’s not.”

We walked down the block, until I stopped in front of a mansion, not unlike all the others on that block. “This is it.”

She took a breath. “This is it. You know, I only have one pair of grandparents.”

“Really?”

“Uh, Yeah. Mama’s parents were…. Unsupportive.”

“She was like me.”

“I think that’s why they were so eager to welcome you to our family, after you told them you’re not…”

“Yeah.” I saved her from finishing the sentence.

We approached the door. “You wanna do the honors?” I gestured to the doorbell.

It’s a maid, thankfully, who opened the door. “Hello,” I said, but Gracie cut me off with a look. I need to do this, I heard her say in my head.

“I’d like to speak to Mrs. and Mr. Tuffin.” She says clearly. Wow. She’s incredibly good at pretending to be rich. No pleases or thank yous. Just demanding. Tall and strong. I like it.

“I’m sorry, Miss. They aren’t expecting any visitors.”

“Oh, they’ll want to see me.”

“I’m sorry, I’m not-”

“What’s your name?”

The maid looked surprised. “Uh, Gloria.”

“Perfect. Listen, Gloria. Do you know who I am?”

She shook her head.

“Do you know who my family is?’

She shook her head.

“Do you know what my family can do to you?”

She shook her head.

“Let’s keep it this way.”

That was when Mrs. Tuffin rounded the corner. “Gloria, who’s at the door? You’re letting all the cold air in, if you can’t-”

She froze.

There was a noise, as a crystal wine glass I hadn’t realized she was holding hit the ground.

“Patricia.” There was a silence. I felt that Gracie was about to explain, but before she could, Mrs. Tuffin spoke again. “My God, I’ve gone insane. Gloria, are they really there?”

“I believe they are, Miss.” Said the poor maid.

“I’m not her,” Gracie said softly. When the woman didn’t say anything, she added, “see, my eyes are green. Hers were blue.”

“How do you know- who are- why do you look like her?”

Gracie hesitated. “Can we come in?”

The woman nodded, and Gloria stepped aside. We filed into their sitting room, and sat down on hard sofas.

We all just sat there for a moment, before she began to cry. “It’s okay,” Gracie said. “I’m here now.”

I sat there, biting my lip. Gracie had no idea what she was getting into. I wanted to get her out of there. But I couldn’t. We were here now.

Finally, the woman spoke. “You’re her, aren’t you. Her daughter?”

Gracie nodded. “I’m Grace.”

“What a pretty name.”

“Thank you.”

We sat in silence for another minute before Gracie stood abruptly. “I’m really sorry,” she said. “I shouldn’t have come. I- I wish I hadn’t. Thank you for having us, but we really have to be going now.”

I half expected the woman to stand, turn into a demon, and trap us in her house, but of course, that didn’t happen. Instead, she stood too. “Let me walk you to the door,” she said. We nodded.

At the door, Gracie gave her an awkward hug, and we left. “It was nice to meet you, Grace,” she called. “You are always welcome here.”

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