“Bloody? Since when do you say—”
“I mean it. You’re acting like a child! What’s wrong with you?” A vein stands out in her neck, and she is standing closer to me than she has in months. I smell her Cartier perfume, and it reminds me of when I was young.
“I was just having fun with Aunt Stella. You can’t expect me to mingle with those stupid ladies out there. You know I don’t fit in with them.” The bathroom attendant is an old black woman, who sits in her chair, chewing gum and keeping her eyes on the newspaper in front of her.
“Who cares? All you had to do was show up and be pleasant.”
“Now wait a minute, you never said anything about being pleasant. Dress nice, makeup, no piercings. Those were my orders.” It’s the same old song, I think.
Her face is getting red, and then I see her eyes snap. “I’m so fucking sick of the sarcasm, Lydia. Can we just leave it at the door for once? You act like such a martyr, like I’m making ridiculous demands of you when I’m not. It’s all about you and I’m so tired of it. I never see you, I don’t know what you’re doing, and then when I do, you act like an asshole!” It’s like I was five years old again.
The attendant is staring at us now, and I know I should leave. It’s my cue.
“I’m done. I’m really done,” I start.
“Oh, I’m sure you are. Over it, right? Not like I haven’t heard that a million times. Next, you’ll storm out of here. That’s your routine.” She looks at the attendant. “That’s what she does. Keeps secrets, and if she doesn’t like what you have to say, she takes off. Over it.” She makes quote marks with her fingers in the air.
The woman doesn’t say anything. The vanilla candle in the room is sickly sweet, and I want to snuff it out.
“It goes a little beyond not liking what you have to say. Although you’re right, I don’t. You fucking dragged me out of that room like I’m some kid! I’m so sure. You don’t get to do that anymore. And you know what?”
She slaps me. Hard.
As much as I itch to hit her back for all of the years that I wanted to hit her back, I don’t. Because I really am done. I just turn and walk out. Through the door and the dining room, through that foyer and past the maître ‘d—I can’t get out fast enough. This place represents everything I hate, with the person I despise most probably fixing her hair and heading back to that table with her pretend voice and her phony face, acting as if nothing had happened. When I see Rae waiting for me, her red head moving to some music, and without a care or a mother like mine, I am never so glad to get in a car.
“Drive,” I say. It’s only after I get back to my house that I realize I’ve left my entire bag back at the restaurant, but by this time, I’m so high that it seems funny and we laugh like fools as I imitate my mother.
Instead, I decide sex is more fun than thinking about really anything at all, and so I drag Rae into my room and that’s exactly what happens.
In the morning, light floods the room, and Rae’s warm body is next to me, her head is under the covers. I hear her snoring softly. I’m mad because I forgot to pull the blinds.
But, no, it’s not the sun, it’s the overhead light, and the light is on because my mother is standing in my room and has switched it on. Her hair flies around her face like Cruella de Ville, and I wonder if I’m dreaming.
“Don’t worry, Lydia. I know you’re done,” she says, seething. “But I thought I’d return your godawful backpack.”
I sit up. “Did you enjoy yourself? Some good reading there?”
“Yes, I did. Very informative.” She pulls out my phone and drops it on the ground. “You could write a book about the smut on that thing. It was disgusting. I never…” She reaches in and pulls out a handful of condoms. “These are lovely.” Then she takes out my music book, and starts flipping through the pages. “And this. This piece of work just fills in the rest of the blanks. I cannot believe I raised someone like …” But then she stops talking and freezes, like she’s had a stroke or something.
Rae’s awake and not realizing what’s happening, sits up, beautifully naked and so pink and white, that for a second I’m wanting more of her, which almost makes me laugh because how can I think of sex at a time like this? But I stop when I see the look on my mother’s face. Good God.
“You can’t just come into my house like this. My life like this. I don’t want you in it,” I tell her.
“I just don’t—“
“Don’t what?” The air condition is cold, and I want to pull the blanket over me. “You don’t know me and you never will. You think you’ve finally cracked the code? You know all my secrets now? Just because you’ve looked through my shit? Seen this?”