| JENNIFER-ANNE MIDDLETON
July 13th, 2016
I spent the last three weeks crashing out at Jamie’s house, instead of driving home. My parents knew I was in her care once I touched down, but I begged her many times to not let them know where I had been, and to just tell her I had felt adventurous, and that I’m a reckless being. But you can’t keep secrets forever, I guess.
Jamie eventually ratted me out, and as soon as I got home yesterday, my parents knew. They kept quiet, but they were fuming, and I could see it. So I’m not quite surprised when they blow their fuse eventually, at the dinner table on this fine eve.
“I am so mortified. I cannot believe you would pull a stunt like that.” My mother berates me. “How could you do such a thing?” I don’t answer. I keep eating, as if I never heard anything. “Answer me, Anne. What was going through your mind?” I keep silent. “…You just can’t leave this alone, can you?”
“What was going through your mind when you paid to make me?” I finally spit. “You know, you’re always baffled as to why I do the things I do. I thought you would be more prepared, seeming as you’ve dealt with me once before.”
“Our past choices can in no way justify the things that you have decided to do. I don’t want to feel guilty for you anymore, Jennifer-Anne. You need to learn to take responsibility for yourself.”
“Your past choices are the reason I’m even here, in this mess! None of this would have happened if you had just let go. There’s no point in acting so shocked. You think it’s weird that I might have spent my time revisiting a past I never lived? Because I think it’s even more odd thinking you can create a future that can’t fit on the timeline. It’s pretty bizarre to think you can keep your poster-child alive.”
“I am sick and tired of you turning this on us,” my father starts yelling. “Every single damn time. Stop for a second!”
“I’m not what you expected, am I?” I smirk. “I’m no perky Rose. I’m no happy-go-lucky tennis queen. I’m just a mean, depressed, inferior.”
“I’ve had enough of this,” he slides out of his chair, going to pour himself a scotch.
“I’m not perfect.” I say. “I was never going to be perfect!”
Jacque finds it hard to keep still; he fiddles around and moves so much, to the point that he’s almost just writhing around on the sofa. What’s worse is that he feels like he is slowly suffocating. He has to keep blowing out deep breaths to calm his nerves. His mother and father sit on the sofa across the room, waiting in anticipation and apprehension for whatever it is Jacque has to say.
“There’s something you should know,” he mutters. He finds it so hard to let the words out. He knows how they will react - especially his mother. “I met somebody.” The parents sit and wait for the catch – the terms and conditions. They’ll either agree or they won’t.
When nothing follows, his mother picks up her tea from the coffee table and sips slowly, before saying. “Well. That’s lovely. It would be nice to meet her one day, don’t you think? Oh, don’t act so afraid. We’re not that scary, are we?” she laughs; a shrill, little giggle. His father sits stock still, as if waiting for the revelation to animate him.
“Well… he’s a very nice person.” Jacque says. His mother just stares back, smile still plastered on her face. It’s become pained and artificial – her lips keep their position but her eyes have faded. Her heart is probably sinking. His father begins to laugh - a rough, hearty chuckle that makes Jacque jump. His palms are saturated with sweat, and he’s shaking. He regrets ever telling them - he wishes he just kept it to himself, all the way until he graduated, so that he could move out and not have to deal with his parents or talk to them ever again.
He knows his mother wanted grandchildren. He knows that very well - and feels like he shattered her hopes and dreams, even though Jamie or Rose can still make them proud in that way. He is kind of annoyed that that seems to be the most fundamental, detrimental part of being a Middleton child – being straight.
“So you’re telling us you’re…” his father pauses. “A homosexual?”
Jacque swallows. “Yes. I am.” Goddamn, Goddamn, you stupid boy, you should have kept it a secret-
“Well, maybe you’ll feel better in the near future. Next week, next month… soon.” He clasps and unclasps his hands, starts tapping his foot. A sign of agitation.
Feel better? This isn’t an illness, Jacque thinks. It’s not the goddamn flu. It’s almost a more offensive way of saying ‘it’s just a phase.’ Phases aren’t necessarily bad - they don’t need recovery or curing. But hey, if you’re ill, you don’t just snap out of it. You’ll feel better. Like an alleviation of the plague.
“I think that you’re just confused.” His mother says, smile shrinking, fading into the same darkness as her eyes, so her whole face matches. “I think that, you know, being a teenager is always about exploration. Discovering what’s right for you.”
“I found it,” Jacque says. “I found it. I’ve “loved” so many people all my life, from different places and backgrounds. I’ve “loved” girls all of my life. That was my exploration. Finding someone who I really, really, genuinely love… that is like returning home. I don’t need to look any further.”
“As I said, Jacque, you still have a long life ahead of you. I wouldn’t settle just yet.”
“That’s funny. We wouldn’t be having this conversation if I told you I was going steady with Gretchen from across the street, or Stella from tenth grade. You wouldn’t be telling me I’m in denial or that I’ll feel better next week if I was with someone you accept. It’s nothing to do with my wellbeing - it’s to do with your pride.” Jacque never means to explode, but a little part of him flips open like a lid, and the hot gas surges out. The emotions running through his chest like a current, his heart being caught in the belly of the storm.
“Jacque, we understand that this must frustrate you, but it is early days! If this doesn’t end up working out later on, you will regret this conversation.”
“I already do. And it’s been six months already. It’s not like it all began yesterday morning. I’m sorry I had this conversation. You obviously don’t understand.”
“We are your parents, Jacque. We couldn’t not understand you if we tried!”
“You don’t have to try anything. You don’t understand me. You know me from the viewpoint of these walls around us - you don’t know me in the world. You don’t understand my interactions outside of the house - what I love, what I hate, what keeps me up at night. You don’t understand me.”
“Jacque-” his mother tries. His father hasn’t said a word since, just staring at the floor as if in deep thought. Jacque can tell that he’s fighting an internal battle, and he knows that deep down, his father could get over it. But if his mother is bothered, he has to be too. That’s how it has always been. See, Dad has never been the instigator. He’s the doer, but he’s never the one holding the rulebook. He’ll do anything Mom wants. He’ll feel any way she wants him to feel - which is why his parents rarely argue. His father has given up, and unfortunately, refuses to try and understand his children like he should. All because his perfectionist wife has the paintbrush, the paint and the canvas, and she’s already conjured up the kind of children she has always wanted. A gay kid was never on the list, ever.
“Forget it,” Jacque says, rising from the couch. He can feel himself close to crying, as if he’s given up. As if after the hot steam comes the blue pain, dripping through until it’s pouring. He doesn’t want his parents to see him cry, so he hurries out. He hasn’t cried since his Pops died when he was thirteen. He didn’t know that the next time he would cry was when he had found out that his parents were a million light-years away from him. Stuck on Andromeda as he was stranded on the Milky Way. They never really knew him. They had a blueprint ready for him; the strong, masculine Jacque Middleton who would find a wife and give them grandkids. The gorgeous, perfect Jacque, who didn’t need to be cured from anything. Not flu, nor love.
He’s not perfect. He was never going to be perfect.