The Hardest Answer: Parentsbycawastedyouth©
Julia picked up the ringing phone and watched Lauren in the backyard with Jeremy.
"Julia? This is your mother." Julia suppressed a groan.
"Hi Mom, how are you doing?"
Her mother's bright voice perked up. "I haven't seen you or Jeremy in months. I wanted to invite you to dinner on Saturday night."
"That's nice of you Mom, I'll see if I can keep Jeremy a little longer on Saturday then." Julia would have weaseled her way out of the dinner right then and there, but her mother would have seen right through her attempts.
And then Julia watched Jeremy squeal with glee as Lauren picked him up over her head and headed indoors. Julia looked at their faces and was suddenly compelled by some strange force, and before she knew it, she found her voice saying, "Mom, could I bring a guest?"
"A guest?" her mother blinked over the end of the phone.
"I'd like you to meet someone."
"I guess it would be all right..." her mother sounded very skeptical. Having and accepting a gay daughter was one thing. Having and accepting a gay daughter's girlfriend was something entirely different.
"We'll be there around seven Mom. Want me to bring anything?"
"Just you, Jeremy, ..." she hesitated, "And your guest."
Lauren put Jeremy on the ground and sent him on his way. She joined Julia as the phone was hung up.
"Who was that?"
"Good news? Bad news? None of my business?" Lauren ducked into the fridge and selected a package of carrot sticks and started to gnaw away.
"How would you like to go to dinner with Jeremy and I on Saturday at my parent's house?"
Lauren coughed and spit out bits of chewed carrots in the sink and then ran some water.
"Your parents want all three of us for dinner?" Lauren tried to keep her voice even but it came out incredulous.
'There has got to be a way out.'
"Well, they really just want to see Jeremy, and they know I won't let him go over there without me and I guess it's as good as time as any to let them know I've been spending time with you. I don't want them treating you horribly if I'm not around. They will if they don't know who you are." Julia went over put a hand on Lauren's back.
'Okay, no way out.'
Lauren gripped the edge of the counter. Julia saw Lauren's knuckles turn white. "I'm going to be there Lauren. I won't leave you alone with them. I know it's a huge step for you, but they'll be so busy spoiling Jeremy, they won't really think about you." She rubbed Lauren's back hoping her predictions would come true.
Lauren nodded, knowing there would be no turning back. Julia's mother expected that she would show up.
"I wish I could lie to you about this and tell you my parents will love you. It's going to be hard for both of us, but we're together Lauren. I won't stand with them if they are less than cordial to you." Julia reassured Lauren.
Lauren found her voice. "It's in seven days. I'll figure it out on Saturday." But even Lauren knew how quickly time could wind its way through the hand of time.
Their marriage was nearly forty years old, and the one truth they shared without a second thought: Annabelle and Lucas Cabot loved their daughter Julia. They had liked their son-in-law until he came to them with some very disturbing news right after their grandson was born. Their daughter, according him, was a lesbian.
Lucas Cabot was sixty-five years old, but you would have never known it by the way he grabbed Gill Bennet and tossed him out onto the sidewalk. He had never had a reason to toss any other man out of his house until that day. A few years later, he had admitted to Julia that he had enjoyed doing it.
The Cabots had supported their daughter to the best of their knowledge. Certainly it had been one thing for their daughter to say she was a 'lesbian' and know she went to places where those people existed. And she helped some children out of an unfortunate situation. They believed their daughter was doing well in the world as a teacher.
But when she learned that her daughter was bringing someone over, it unnerved Annabelle Cabot. She knew she had to tell her husband, but she decided to let him know that there would be more than just Jeremy and Julia. A guest. It was better this way. He would agree with her after the evening was over. And perhaps, they would be able to ask their daughter never to bring a guest again.
Saturday came all too quickly for Lauren. And before she knew it, she was in front of a red door with shiny brass door fixtures holding a bottle of wine that Julia had selected. And then the doorbell was pressed and there was no escaping what she was about to walk into.
"You'll be okay." Julia whispered and took Lauren's hand.
"Julia! Jeremy!" Julia's mother opened the door, a silver haired woman scooped up Jeremy into a bear hug and squeezed in her large matronly arms.
"Come on in. Dinner will be ready in a minute. Jeremy why don't you run on into Grandpa, he's in the office." Annabelle looked up and saw Lauren and stopped in her tracks.
Julia took the opportunity to move closer and shove Lauren through the door. "Mom, this is Lauren."
"Nice to meet you." Lauren offered her hand to shake, all too aware that the door was closing behind her and realized the bottle of wine was in her outstretched hand. "I hope you don't mind, we brought a wine." Lauren covered herself quickly.
Julia's mother looked at Lauren and forced a smile and accepted the wine. "Thank you. Please have a seat in the family room."
"Who's Lauren? Your girlfriend?" teased a man from another room.
"No!" It was Jeremy giggling, "She's Mom's girlfriend."
The elder man in a sweater vest and a plaid shirt stalked to the entryway and stared at Julia and then Lauren.
"Lauren, this is my father." Julia led Lauren into the family room. The elderly man gawked at the guest in his house, his grandson's hand firmly gripped in his own. Julia saw her father look at her with a glimmer of tear in his eyes as if to say 'it is true.'
"Nice to meet you." Lauren sized up her competition. She figured if the old man was really in a fighting mood, she had at least forty pounds on him; he couldn't just toss her into the street. Lauren squared herself up, and put an arm around Julia.
"So Mom, is there anything I can do to help you in the kitchen?" Julia sensed it would be better that Lauren and her father go toe to toe and figure this one out for themselves.
'Besides, Jeremy is right there. Lauren wouldn't start anything violent with Jeremy right there.' She reassured herself hoping she was right.
"Annabelle didn't tell me Julia was bringing a guest." He cleared his throat, hoping to excuse his stunned expression. He sized up the girl that Julia had brought to join them. She looked like a man with long hair was the best he could come up with.
"I didn't mean to surprise you."
"No matter, Julia does what she pleases. I'm getting used to it finally." He stared at Lauren suspiciously for a moment. "How old are you?"
"Old enough that Julia enjoys my company."
The old man snorted. "Well, at least you're funnier than that Gill fellow."
Clearly bored by the strained conversation, Jeremy piped up not to be forgotten. "Can I turn on the TV Grandpa?"
"Hey sport, why don't you talk to your grandfather instead? You watched TV after soccer today." Lauren suggested rumpling Jeremy's hair. The old man winced seeing her touch his grandson.
"You played soccer today?" Asked the older man sitting on the couch patting the space next to him to have Jeremy join him as far away from that woman as possible.
"What position?" the elder asked with grandfatherly curiosity.
"Goalie!" Jeremy proclaimed proudly.
"So you do anything as goalie or did you just sit around?"
"I stopped two attempts, I think Mom brought the tapes that Lauren made today of my game." The comment brought both Lauren and Julia's father to a screeching halt.
Lauren remembered the camcorder bag in the car.
"I could certainly show it for your grandfather if he was interested." She said carefully.
Jeremy looked up intently at his grandfather who was torn between giving his grandson due attention and then recognizing this woman who clearly was spending more time with his grandson than he was.
"Why don't we save that for later Jeremy, okay?" Lauren quickly suggested.
"Okay." Lauren relaxed a little, grateful that Jeremy was either immune to the tension in the house or was choosing not to partake in the debate.
They sat in silence for a minute while Lauren tried desperately to find something to connect with Julia's father on.
'Well, he could be polishing his shot gun right now.' Lauren was trying to find whatever positive spin she could to get through this horrendous evening.
In the kitchen silence was the only thing that Julia had thought could possibly make the evening better.
"She's so young! She still looks like a baby herself! I bet she's barely older than some of your students. You should know better." Her mother scolded.
'Wait until you find out she used to be my student.' Julia mused but was definitely going to keep that fact from the table as long as possible. Julia knew that springing a relationship like this on her parents would have been very taxing. She would have liked to at least count on her parents treating Lauren like a friend and nothing more. Her parents were not dead; they knew that Julia and Lauren were more than friends. It might have been easier if they could convince themselves of this fabrication, but then again, she had not presented Lauren to them in that manner.
"Lauren and I have addressed all of this. We're very happy Mom. Jeremy likes her and things are really good for the two of us." She reassured her mother.
Annabelle put the dark wheat rolls into a breadbasket. "Your poor father must be tearing that child to bits out there. How can you leave her out there like this?"
"She'll be fine Mom." Julia hoped she wasn't lying, "Now what did you make for dinner?"
"All of Jeremy's favorites...wait she's not one of those funny vegetarian types?" Julia's mother paused trying to figure out if she might have something for 'those funny vegetarian types' to eat at her dinner table.
'Because that would make it easier tonight to have a vegetarian and a lesbian instead two lesbians who love each other at your dinner table?' Julia joked with herself and then spoke to reassure her mother. "Lauren will be fine Mom. I think I had to stop her the other day from eating raw meat." The joke was lost on her mother and Julia just uncorked the bottle of wine and grabbed four glasses for the dinner table hoping she believed her own words.
Another thought struck Julia, 'You'd find a vegetarian more disturbing than your daughter's girlfriend?'
"Dinner's ready." Called Julia's mother with her false cheery nature. The evening was already strained as it was.
'And not a blessed moment too soon.' Lauren sighed.
"Jeremy please go wash your hands and show Lauren where the bathroom is." Ordered Julia as she helped to bring out a few of the side dishes to the linen covered, hand carved, oak panel table. It had been in Julia's family for as long as anyone could remember. It had born numerous scrapes from knives, scorches from hot dishes and tonight it was the peacemaker between Julia, Lauren and Julia's parents. Undoubtedly, it could stand another set of scrapes and scorches tonight. Whether it was going to be from sharp hurtful words or a dish, Julia was not quite sure.
Jeremy eagerly took Lauren's hand and led her down the entry way and under the stairs. Jeremy waited as Lauren opened his cuffs and rolled his sleeves up so he could wash his hands without splattering everywhere. When he was done and dried, Lauren buttoned his cuffs and sent him down to the dining room table. Lauren went into the bathroom under the stairs and paused for a moment over the sink.
'Just get through dinner, pleasant conversation and you're home free.' She gave herself the little pep talk while she turned on the sink and scrubbed her hands.
She dried her hands on a fluffy white guest towel and then joined the table that had already been laid with white napkins. Gratefully, she saw that Julia had a place for her closer to Julia's mother. Lauren knew that he was glaring at her as she entered and sat next to Julia, she didn't need him to stare at her the entire time they were eating. Jeremy was sitting next to his grandfather giggling over some silly joke they shared.
'Though I imagine I won't be eating much.' She sighed internally. "It all looks amazing." Lauren complimented.
"So how long have you and Julia been seeing each other?" asked Julia's mother as she served Jeremy and her husband vegetables from a large dish.
'Thank you too.' "Um, I think that's nearly nine months now."
"Takes nine months to have a baby too." Breathed Julia's mother as vegetables were served to both Julia and Lauren. Julia shot her mother a glance in Lauren's defense. Lauren felt internally grateful and reminded herself to thank Julia later. If the roles were reversed, Lauren wasn't sure she would have the bravery to defense.
All the different dishes, thin slices of marinated beef, homemade wheat rolls, and an apple chutney sauce of some sort were each flavorful and aromatic. Lauren had to admit she had never tasted such wonderful dishes, wishing that there could be something to lighten the air. Julia's left hand squeezed her thigh as if she had read her mind. Thankfully Jeremy's bright chatter about school and soccer filled the uneasy silence between the adults.
"Jeremy, please use your knife." Julia corrected from the other end of the table. Annabelle gratefully leaned over and showed her grandson how to use his knife. He looked up to his grandfather and the old man nodded sagely prompting Jeremy to pay attention to his grandmother.
"Let me help you clear." Lauren offered after dinner suddenly feeling brave.
"Oh no, I couldn't ask you to do that." Julia's mother said.
"You're not asking, I'm offering." Lauren said gently but firmly as she carefully gathered the plates and followed Julia's mother into the kitchen.
"Do you pre-rinse or are you going to want these washed by hand?" Lauren asked as she set the dishes carefully on the island.
"Why would I wash the everyday dishes by hand?" Julia's mother asked peevishly.
Lauren sensed an opportunity to turn up her charm and did so. "Well I thought these were the fine dishes, they made the meal so festive."
"I can see why my daughter likes you. You best treat her right." Annabelle wished she could take the warning back as soon as it had left her mouth, but was relieved with Lauren's comment.
"I do every chance she'll let me." Lauren scraped Jeremy's meal into the trash and rinsed the dish in hot water before setting it carefully into the dishwasher.
"I've not met any other women like you and her before. You're the first she's ever brought here."
'Well, we're all coming out of the woodwork.' Lauren nodded.
"I'm sure Lucas was gruff with you, but he gets to see Jeremy so infrequently, it's like Julia doesn't want him to be around us."
Lauren said nothing and then carefully shook the crumbs from a napkin in the sink before folding it and placing it on the sideboard.
"You sure you two know what you're doing?" Annabelle asked. "It's all so...strange."
'Let's keep the details vague.' Lauren decided.
"We're all right Mrs. Cabot. Not everything is going to be perfect. Not everyone is going to like who we are, and that's okay. I've never asked anyone to like me or what I do."
Annabelle nodded curtly. "You just take care of our girl and bring our grandson around more. And don't hurt her." Annabelle leveled a kitchen knife at Lauren.
"I have no intention of thinking about hurting her ever." Lauren promised eyeing the blade of the kitchen knife closely.
"Are you going to have a baby of your own?" she asked putting down the kitchen knife.
'Uh, none of your business.' "Julia and I have not discussed that possibility yet." Lauren wondered what she had done offering to help with the dishes.
In the living room while Jeremy sat in front of the TV, Julia turned to speak quietly to her father.
"What do you think of Lauren?" she asked pointedly.
"The boy is taken with her. You should have never let those two come together." He said quietly.
"It can't be undone Dad. But she's good to him, and me." She watched her father look away in embarrassment.
"I would lie to you Dad if I thought it would help us, but it does no one any good. Lauren and I love each other in all the ways I have seen you and Mom love each other all these years. I know you wished I could have continued my marriage with Gill, but it would have been a lie." She explained as gently and as directly as she could.
"And what does she do for a living?"
"She's a graphic artist, but she works at the school with disabled students in between private contracts."
"Artist! Ha!" her father snorted.
"Mom! Lauren's commercial!" Jeremy pointed at the screen excitedly. Lucas Cabot looked over at the TV.
"She didn't write the commercial, but all the other details are hers, and hers alone. She has been in nearly fifty-seven print magazines alone in the past year Dad. She's good at what she does. You won't have to worry about her and money."
"I'll worry about my daughter and grandson as I see fit." He answered gruffly, taken by the commercial. He asked Jeremy, "You saw her put that stuff together?"
"She did it all at Mom's house." He claimed excitedly. "She told me about each character and what the characters were going to do and she made me promise until last week that I couldn't tell anyone. Mom didn't even get to see it. She let me choose a color to put on the dancing rabbit."
"Silly noise box." The elder man grumbled. "People make a mint off of what other people think they can do."
Julia saw past his bluster, he was impressed. She knew she couldn't press Lauren on him repeatedly, but it was a start. Julia kissed Lauren's cheek as they pulled away from Gill's house after dropping Jeremy off for the week.
"Thank you for tonight, you have no idea what it meant to me." She said.
"It wasn't too bad. I figured as long as your father wasn't showing me his gun or knife collection things would be just peachy." Lauren quipped.
Julia laughed heartily. "I was so nervous. I was afraid for you, but you did wonderfully."
"Can we stop and get some beer or something to watch TV with tonight."
"You don't drink an entire bottle."
"I feel the ability coming on."