180°

 

 

A Short Story by John Boughton

 

Jenna paced her room, wondering how the conversation would go. Would they accept her? Would they disown her? Would she be sent to an orphanage or forced to live on the street? All of these were questions racing through her head on a quiet, cold Wednesday evening. She rehearsed what she would say to her parents. She wanted desperately to tell them who she truly was. She had stalled through the car ride home, she stalled all throughout dinner, and she continued to stall through the night as she did the “homework” she didn’t really have.

 

The time was approaching. She couldn’t bear to continue the life she was living. She had a partner at school and they loved each other very much. They had been secretly dating for about three months and all she wanted was for them to meet her parents. But first, her parents needed to know the truth. That was the hard part. She thought it would be easy, like any other kind of conversation. Like talking about what to eat for dinner, or whether she interested in going to her brother’s concert on Saturday night (she wasn’t). But nonetheless, she was frozen, Whenever the words approached her lips, her tongue became paralyzed and she would blurt out some fun fact about the African Savannah or Eleanor Roosevelt. It was bad. But tonight she knew she had to tell them because the Winter Formal was this Friday and her parents had been begging her to ask someone out. Just not who they expected, or frankly, wanted. It didn’t matter though. She loved them with all her heart and whether her parents liked them or not, it was her choice and her life.

 

She gathered her strength, took a deep breath, and exited her room. As she walked down the stairs her hands were hot, clammy and vibrating. It felt like the Heat Miser was giving her a vigorous handshake. Her parents were downstairs watching the News. They were both in the PJ’s and about to turn in for the night. This is was it.

 

“Hey, you guys?” She said.

“Yes, honey?” Said her father absent-mindedly as they gazed at the television.

“Can we talk about something?” Jenna said shyly.

“If it’s about your brother’s concert you don’t have to go, we know how boring they are. Do they have to introduce every song and let every child play a solo? It’s incriminating, I swear to God.”

Jenna answered. “Actually it’s about me.”

Both her parents stopped and looked at each other. They exchanged looks of confusion. Her mother nodded to her father as if to make them initiate the conversation.

Her father said, “ah yes! Of course, sweetie, come over to the couch.”

Jenna slowly made her way to the couch where her mother sat. Her father diagonally across from them on a recliner. The TV still loud, Jenna’s mother reached for the remote and turned the volume down.

“Alright sweetie, what is it?” Her mother said.

“Well,” She breathed heavily. She had only gotten one word out and was already starting to hyperventilate. Her vision went slightly blurry and she took a deep breath. She then thought of her best friend, her lover, her partner. The one she cared about and could get through this if she just focused on them. She gathered her courage and readjusted herself on the couch.

“So I’ve been thinking. There is something I need to tell you both.”

Her parents exchanged looks again, still confused, but wondering if they are on the same page.

“Go ahead Jenna,” her father said, “you know you can trust us with anything.”

Jenna smiled and then took one last breath.

“Ok, wow this is hard. I’ve been meaning to tell you this for a while. Sometimes it’s just on the tip of my tongue but I can never seem to get the words out. I think this is the right time now. I’m just so nervous.”

“Alright sweetie, no need to be dramatic, just spit it out!” Her mother said in a sarcastic, but comforting tone.

 

This was it. Now was the time. Jenna’s whole life had to lead up to this moment right here. The moment where she truly started living. Where she no longer had to be ashamed or afraid. She could love her partner out in the open and her family would know how happy she was. It was too much for her. The thought of her endlessly, joyful life with them was too much for her to handle. She knew it was the right time. She opened her mouth and said…

 

“Mom, dad. I’m straight.”

 

She sat there, staring at her parents, waiting for them to respond. They were still. Her mother’s mouth agape and her father with his hand on his chain, staring downward. These few moments felt like an eternity. Were they ever going to say anything to her ever again? Did she break her parents for good? She was gonna get kicked out, this was it. Then her mother said.

 

“Honey, I think we need some time to process what you’ve just told us. I’m a little shocked and I’m not sure exactly how I feel about it yet.”

“Yes, I agree. I did not see this coming and am honestly surprised,” her father said.

 

Jenna didn’t know what to do. Her heart was melting and shattering all at once. What she thought was familiar is now distant and her parents are strangers. Her eyes were glistening with the tears forming in her eyes. She wrapped her arms around herself and nodded slowly. She then sniffled, rubbed her nose and made her way out of the living room. But she couldn’t leave just yet. She wanted to say something.

 

“You guys know it’s still me, right? It doesn’t matter who I love, just that I love them. I’m the same Jenna from ten minutes ago,” she uttered.

 

“That’s not true Jenna. Ten minutes ago we thought you were normal. Now that we know you’ve decided to like men all of a sudden. You’re not the little girl I raised,” her father said.

 

Her hands were going numb and she couldn’t remember how to breathe. She just looked at a woman she thought was her father. Someone she had loved and trusted for the past eighteen years. It was all coming apart. In just a few moments was all it took. Jenna’s mother then interjected.

 

“Amy, please stop. This may be hard for us, but it can be difficult for her too. She’s not like us. I think all we need is some alone time and we can talk about this tomorrow morning.”

 

Jenna simply nodded and as she left the living room, it was like someone had put an ax to a dam. She couldn’t control herself. She ran upstairs into her room, closed the door, cuddled her favorite blanket and cried until her throat couldn’t handle it anymore. Downstairs her mother and father continued the conversation.

 

“I just don’t know Julia, this is not how we raised our little girl. She was supposed to find a lovely wife and lead a normal life!” her father said.

“Amy, please, it may not be normal for us, but if this is what she wants?”

“It’s not natural! How will she and her partner decide who the mother and the father are? They can’t go based off who’s menstrual cycle comes first like everyone else!” yelled Amy

“They’ll have to figure it out for themselves then. I don’t know.”

“You know how the men decide?”

“No, I do not know.”

“Whoever’s dick is the longest! I mean can you believe that? How in the world is our daughter going to win that competition?”

“Honey, please, we can deal with all these issues when they become apparent. But for now, we should focus on our daughter and trying to make this the least painful for all of us.”

 

Her father grunted, picked up the remote and turned the volume back up on the television. She crossed her arms and coldly stared at the screen. Her mother sighed, picked herself up off the couch and headed towards the kitchen. Jenna could hear everything from her room, but all she could think about was her boyfriend. Does she have to break up with her closest friend now? Would she be able to see him ever again? She might be losing that only thing that really mattered to her in this life. So much for him meeting the family before Prom, she thought. She didn’t even feel like going anymore. But maybe she wouldn’t and maybe none of it even mattered anymore. Perhaps if she can’t be who she is then maybe she only had one last thing to do…

 

Update on 10/10/2018 by author: John Boughton

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