Chapter 33: Fader
"We have to find your dress, figure out how you're going to wear your hair. Did you send the announcements out to everyone?" Mom asked after taking a break from her rambling and planning. I rolled my eyes and wanted to sling my phone across the room. "Yes Mother," I lied. I had only sent out a few invitations to a handful of people and by that I meant the ones that I knew would send me money. There were a few family members that I hadn't seen since I was a kid and then there were a few that I didn't care about seeing ever again. A lot of them would look down on me for being pregnant and about to pop with only a month left before graduating high school. Some of them would scald and judge me for not wanting to go to college. Mom and I had talked about it and we both agreed that there was no point in going when I wasn't really feeling it and end up wasting time and money. I could see a huge difference in her. Before, she would kill me if she knew that I was trying to stick around in Welch after high school.
It wasn't that I didn't want to leave. I just didn't feel the need to rush. I wanted to be able to lay low and enjoy my little family. I knew that shit was about to get real, but I didn't feel the need to jump into something just to please the nosey ass people that lived around us. I wasn't even upset that my friends were getting their lives figured out, even if that did mean we would part ways for a while. Jamie had gotten admitted to Marshall University. By the end of the summer, we would all gather around to see her off to Huntington until Thanksgiving break. Melanie and Derek had both got into WVU and honestly, none of us saw that coming. Mel was smart as hell, but I'm pretty sure Derek slept through all four years of high school. She was going to be an English Major and he was going for Engineering. Turns out, he had knocked his ACT completely out of the park. The two of them spent most of their time working in order to afford one of the insane apartments that Morgantown had to offer.
We would all miss each other like crazy, but we couldn't cry because high school and some of the best years of our lives were coming to an end. We could only smile because they happened.
"Lie again!" Mom snapped, causing me to jump. "What the hell are you talking about?!" I shouted, slapping my hand over my mouth when I realized what I had said. "WATCH YOUR DAMN MOUTH!" she screamed through the phone, adding some base to her voice. I always felt like I was the size of an ant when she used that tone with me. "You didn't. Maw Maw Tess is here and she didn't get an announcement," she added. My heart felt like it was going to fall out of my ass and my entire body broke out in a sweat.
"What did you just say?" I asked with a gulp. I was praying that I simply misheard her. I only ever saw Tess during the holidays ever since she found a man and skipped off to North Carolina to live happily ever after. Candace and I spent a great deal of our childhood around her and we were crazy about her, but the older we got, she became a monster. She turned into a judgemental, opinionated, self-centered nightmare and eventually we learned to keep our distance.
"Maw Maw Tess is here. She called Lil asking about graduation. She's going to be here for a couple of weeks." I could sense that Mom was annoyed and I'm pretty sure she could tell that I was shocked and dreading the first encounter I've had with her in nearly two years.
Before I could panic, I felt Danny wrap his arms around me, connecting his hands right on top of my belly button. I stood in the laundry room with the phone pressed against my ear with a shaky hand. I had nearly finished washing, drying, and folding the mountain of clothes that had been taunting me for the last few days. I didn't have the energy to deal with it before, but I woke up this morning with a severe burst of energy and the intense urge to get up and get it all situated wasn't going to leave me alone.
"What's wrong?" he asked, sounding alarmed. I held one finger up as I desperately tried to figure out how to deal with Tess without killing anyone or sending myself into labor. "Who is she gonna be staying with?" I asked. "Us, unfortunately," she mumbled. Great. That meant she would be questioning why I wasn't at home. "Just come over as soon as you get the chance. I love you," she said quickly. "Alright. Love you too," I replied. I hung up and clenched my phone in both hands as I tried to calm myself. I could feel a few cramps and twinges in my lower belly and since we were getting down to the wire and getting close to my due date, I had to take it easy when it came to getting angry and getting my blood pressure up.
Danny let go of me and turned me around to face him. "Calm your ass down. What's the problem?" he asked with seriousness in his tone. I closed my eyes and took a few deep breaths. "My grandmother is here," I finally said. "That's great! Did she bring anything for the baby?" he said cheerfully, obviously oblivious to the fact that Mom and I weren't happy about our unexpected visitor. "That's not great. Come on," I said grabbing his hand as I pulled him through the house. I glanced down at my clothes. A tank top that was skin tight around my belly and plain old black lounge shorts were going to have to be acceptable. It was too hot and I hadn't worn jeans in weeks. It was always leggings, pajamas, sweat suits, and shorts.
"Since you're completely in the dark about my awful family members, I'm going to have to give you a crash course," I said, hinting that I was still a little irritated about being ambushed by his mom a few months ago. He snatched the keys off of the kitchen table and helped me find a matching pair of shoes since I couldn't see my feet to just slide into them blindly. "Brace yourself."
During the ride over to my parents' house, I told him everything he needed to know about Tess. Contessa Witherspoon was the single mother of Melissa, Lilith, and William Witherspoon with the three of them having different fathers. She was only sixteen when she gave birth to Uncle Will, nineteen when she gave birth to Mom, and twenty-three when she gave birth to Aunt Lily. Candace, Corie, our twin cousins Kyla and Kevin, and I were her babies when we were growing up. We loved every minute of being around her. But, underneath it all, none of us knew the type of relationship that existed between her and our parents. They had been raised by their grandparents, only seeing her for a few hours each day when she would get off from work and head home to whoever her significant other was at the time.
Time went on and eventually, Kyla and Kevin went on with their lives, leaving McDowell County behind when Uncle Will moved out of state. When Corie died, that only left me and Candace. She would teach us different things and spoil us, but when she came face to face with Mom and Aunt Lil, she criticized their parenting skills and was often very cold to them. At one point, she even tried to make Aunt Lil feel guilty for the accident that took Corie's life even though no one had any control over it. That was when we both finally understood why it was like World War III whenever Tess and Aunt Lil came around each other.
When we became teenagers, growing breasts, getting interested in make-up, and developing hormones that raged through the roof, that's when the mask that hid the true Tess came off. She wanted to try to patch up whatever was broken between her and her two daughters. But, that also meant that Mom and Aunt Lil were supposed to throw us to the wolves. She was jealous of the decent relationships we had with our mom's when they existed. She wanted her daughters all to herself and she didn't care if we were left out. She would make my mom feel obligated to take care of her and do whatever she wanted her to do. I was almost certain that she was jumping for joy when I snapped and started keeping my distance from her and Dad.
"That one is going to be a troublemaker. I can already see it. She'll be just like her daddy's people." She would say in an attempt to warn my mom that I was going to change for the worst. My dad's side of the family were a little rough around the edges, but they were nothing like her. They weren't the criminals and addicts that she tried to make them look like. She always hated the fact that my parents got married and was always searching for a reason to put their marriage down.
"You didn't beat her ass enough. You're going to have to get a handle on her." For a long time, she added the fire to the flame that eventually turned into my rebellion. A lot of the crazy shit that Mom projected onto me as I grew up only came from what she saw from Tess. Mom had no idea what to do when it came to being a mom sometimes and that was because she had a shitty role model.
"What's your business is your business. You don't need to tell your daughter everything, Missy." Those words haunted me for most of my life. That was always what started the power struggles between us. Mom only ever shut me out and kept things from me because that was the only thing that she ever knew. It was the only thing her mother ever showed her. I'm glad that I was finally in a place where I could see the shitty cycle that was going on throughout the generations in our family for what they really were and break away from them.
"When was the last time she saw you?" Danny asked. We were parked in the drive way and I was trying to get the strength to go inside and face this beast. He held my hand, squeezing it a few times and pulling me into a hug to calm me down. "When I had my miscarriage. She came home to see me, but Mom told her that I was in the hospital because they found out I had endometriosis and lost too much blood." I remembered seeing her stroll into my hospital room with open arms. She saw everything set up for my blood transfusion and went on for over an hour about how she struggled with it and wished that she had just went forward with getting a hysterectomy a lot sooner. I was too afraid to ask why she wanted one sooner and I was hysterical when I thought about never being able to have any kids after all of that.
"Well, she's gonna be surprised," he said with a chuckle as he traced the tip of his finger over my belly. "Yeah, I'll never hear the end of it." I rolled my eyes. In the back of my mind, I was a little worried about how I was going to handle her hateful comments that she was bound to hit me with, especially when it came to Danny and Fauna. I stopped caring about what she had to say about me a long time ago, but they were my family now and I didn't know if I would fly off the handle and go into a blind rage if she spoke up about them.
"Don't even worry yourself about it. Fauna will be here soon and as long as you have the two of us, I know you'll be just fine," he said, practically reading my mind like always. I reached over and gave him a peck on the cheek. "You just don't know how perfect you are," I said with a smile, forgetting about the dreaded events that were about to take place. He grabbed my chin and pulled me in to place a kiss on my lips.
I looked up to see the front door come open and Mom stepped outside. She looked around for a second before she pulled out a pack of menthol cigarettes, taking one out of the pack, and lighting it with a furious look on her face. Sometimes she wasn't in a shitty mood, she just couldn't control her facial expressions at times, but right now I could tell that she was definitely aggravated. I had never seen my mom smoke before, so this must have been pretty serious. "Here goes nothing," I said with a sigh. I had found the courage to climb out of the car and get to the porch as fast as I could. I didn't like seeing Mom like this. I knew that she was stressed out and I knew that she needed my help to take the edge off.
"Has it been that bad?" I asked with a smirk to lighten the mood. She took a drag and shot me a look that said, "Don't even ask." She took four more puffs within a few seconds and flicked less than half of the remaining cigarette over the banister. I took a few steps toward her and grabbed her hand. She hung her head and covered her face with the other hand. "Hey. You've got me, Fauna, Dad, and Danny. Hot boxing isn't gonna solve any of this," I said with a chuckle, " I've got your back," I added calmly. I realized that that was exactly what this had all come down to. Mom and I really did need each other all along and this was the moment that made all of our fights in the past fade into nothing.
Mom looked up and without saying a word, she tightened her grip on my hand before we stepped over the threshold and into the belly of the beast.
"Missy, you don't do enough dusting! You only work a few days out of the week! There are spiderwebs everywhere!" Tess ranted as she stepped through the living room. "Where the hell is Shawn!?" she shouted. Mom and I stood hand in hand in the doorway of the living room. From the corner of my eye, she stood there bravely with her chest out and her head held high, preparing herself for the worst. As vicious as Tess could be, I knew that she was going to tear down the both of us and wouldn't be satisfied until both of us were in tears. But I had already decided, from the moment that I grabbed Mom's hand on the porch, that I wasn't going to let that happen.
Tess turned her head toward us, locking her eyes on my belly immediately. "Sydney Gayle," she said slowly, her eyes growing wide as she placed her hands on her hips. "Maw maw," I said sternly, placing my free hand on my hips in an attempt to warn her that she wasn't going to win this battle. I heard the floor creak from behind me as Danny approached the three of us. "Who is this?" she asked, pointing her finger at Danny, "and what is that?" she added, jabbing her finger in the direction of my belly.
Show time, I said to myself. A smirk formed on my lips and Tess had no idea that she had just opened up the equivalent to another portal to Hell. The old Sydney was resurfacing.
"That is my fiance'," I said proudly. Mom and Danny snapped their heads in my direction, both of them smiling from ear to ear and obviously in shock. "And this is my daughter. She's due any day now," I said. She huffed and took a step toward us, pushing out her chest to prepare to give us her worst. "And how did that happen, Missy?" she snarled, closing the space between her and my mother. My chest was burning and I was ready to shut her down. She was making it too easy and I was more than ready to bring out the big guns and put her in her place.
I stepped between the two of them, not giving Mom the chance to get caught in her trap. "I'm a grown ass woman now. Why don't you ask me?" I snapped. I stood there, guarding my mom, like I was ten feet tall. "Stay in a child's place. I was talking to your mama," she said as she narrowed her eyes. She was sizing me up. I knew that look when I saw it. She had never gotten physical with me or Candace, but I had been in enough fights to tell when someone was sizing up their opponent. "This is my life and my baby. Why don't you ask me?" She took a step back, looking down at my belly once again.
"Well then, explain," she said, "how did you let something like this happen? How did you ruin your life and throw it all away for a boy?" she snapped. Gotcha, I thought. I was ready to steal the show. I knew her weakness. In my family, especially with the older generations, talking about sex was completely out of the question. You didn't do it until you were living on your own and your elders would threaten your life until you got to that point. She had just set herself up for failure.
I released Mom's hand, taking a step toward Tess. "I think you know. You were in my shoes before, right?" I asked rhetorically as I began to take a few steps around her. "You know how it happens. When your hormones are on fucking fire," my words were already making her uncomfortable. I could see Danny standing next to Mom, watching me proudly. "You know what it's like when your blood gets to rushing, your little panties get wet, and you just can't get your clothes off fast enough. You know what it's like to feel that sickly sweet sting when a cock fills you up for the very first time, stretching you out. You know what it's like when you're all done and you've got cum dripping down your thighs." I didn't know what had come over me, but I had blown myself away. "That's how I got pregnant," I finished, putting the cherry on top.
They were all speechless. Tess was practically trembling and she was visibly uncomfortable. Mom stood there with her hand covering her mouth. Danny stood there with wide eyes, looking like he had just hit the jackpot.
"I'm not a child anymore. I'm about to become a mom and I'm happy. My life is going great and I'm graduating. Mom's job is all done. I'm responsible for myself now and she's got nothing to do with the choices I've made. Leave her alone." She wanted to murder me with her eyes. I wasn't going to budge though. If she kept fucking with my mom, I was going to make it worse. She had no choice but to stand down. She dropped her arms and let them fall to her sides. "Now, on another note, I'm glad you came for my graduation. A lot of shit has changed as you can see," I announced, still refusing to filter what came out of my mouth, "and Mom and I have started over with our relationship. You can join us and set things right if you want to, but this is how it is now and I would love for Fauna to fall in love with the same Maw maw that we all had when we were kids. But, we need to bury the hatchet and grow up."
The expression on her face softened and it turned into a look of pride. I walked back over to Mom and we wrapped our arms around one another, with her petting on me like the big old baby that I was. Tess smiled at us and stepped closer with her arms stretched out to hug us.