Victoria Richard / a Creative Writing graduate of Jubilee Performing Arts Conservatory in McComb, Mississippi. She is currently studying English Literature at Millsaps College. Richard has received three Scholastic Awards for her work. Her most recent accomplishment is the publication of her poem “Father’s Dwelling Place” in South 85 Journal.
My Mother’s Dream
“He is not my father.”
“He will be soon.”
“Nothing changes biology, Mom.”
“Sugar, you know Brad loves you every bit as much as Dad did.”
“All I am saying, Mom, is that according to science Brad is not my father.”
She places a hand on her hip, the bejeweled belt holding up her pants sticking out conspicuously from underneath her scarlet red shirt.
“You’ve got to move on, Darlin’.”
“I am honoring his memory; he only died two months ago, and you are dating again already!” I snort vehemently.
“Miranda, this is not the way a lady behaves,” She replies coldly, evenly. Her green eyes grow hard. “Have you been drinking?”
“No; you know I don’t drink.” If I had a fan right now, I would start fluttering it in front of my face like the Southern Belle my mother expects me to be.
“Is that cigarette smoke I smell?” She accuses, flipping her perfectly straight brunette hair over her shoulder.
“That’s coffee, Mom. Smoking causes lung cancer.”
“It’s not good for you to drink so much coffee; your teeth are starting to yellow. Maybe that’s why you haven’t grown in a few years. Water will make your skin clear up.”
I slam back against my mattress so hard that the walls begin to tremble. She cocks an immaculately manicured eyebrow.
“Baby, when was your last period?”
Silence. I am not in a bad mood because I am on my period. I am in a bad mood because I am fatherless.
“Did you know that if a woman is too stressed out, she can miss her period?” I avert my eyes to the opposite side of my room where a collage of family portraits with my father still hangs on the wall.
“Honey, why are you stressed out? You’ve got me to take care of you.”
I sigh and reply evenly: “I’m not saying I’m stressed out, Mom. It was a random fact.” Annoyance bursts through my voice like a firework through a cloud. I look up at her and watch her face contort, splotches of red appearing on her cheeks.
“Don’t raise your voice at me, Miranda!”
I turn and begin smoothing out small creases in my bed linens. Maybe that will make her happy. Maybe if I keep quiet, she’ll realize that she has something more important to do and leave me alone with my homework.
“One day, when you have children, you’ll understand.”
“But I don’t want to have children.”
“You mean you don’t want to give me grandchildren?” Her voice shifts like a tide rising and falling, vacillating between anger and despair.
“I have a brother.”
“Now, is his wife actually going to let me come in the delivery room with her, Darlin’?”
I smile sweetly, pretending that I understand why one human would want to watch another give birth.
“Giving birth is what makes you a woman, Miranda.”
I glance in the mirror, wondering if I should try to discreetly wipe the makeup rings from under my eyes.
“You been talking to any boys lately? You’ll never get a husband if you don’t start wearing some makeup and fixing your hair.”
“What’s love, Mom?”
“You know what love is, Crazy!” she cackles, her perfect pink lips curling back to reveal her flawless straight teeth.
“Yeah, it’s what you and Brad have, isn’t it?” I roll my eyes so hard that I swear they should be imbedded in my scalp.
“Miranda, it’s time to move on and start a new life. Your father’s dead. You’re a woman; you’ve got to be able to handle whatever the world throws at you.”
She begins to clean, my notes from this afternoon’s drama class crumpling under her hands until I can no longer read my own words.
I pretend to be engrossed in clipping my fingernails, even though I’ve already chewed most of them off. Maybe that will make her happy.
“Honey, you’re starting to gain weight. Should you really be eating popcorn right now? That’s a lot of butter and salt, you know,” she asks, dangling a buttery paper bag between her fingers, freshly fished from my garbage can.
“I’m a hundred pounds.”
“You were ninety last year.”
I’m cleaning my hairbrush now, emptying dead pieces of myself into the trash can. Maybe that will make her happy.
“What do you want for lunch tomorrow?”
“Almonds and cheese.”
“That’s not a meal. You can have leftover spaghetti. Mama’s cooking fixes everything,” she says tersely.
Moments drag on, and still she is there. Now she is stuffing mascara from my makeup bag into her pocket. I shoot a stony glace in her direction so quickly that it makes my eyes hurt, but she catches me anyway.
“I have a date tonight with your father,” she explains, her cheeks flushing as her mouth parts into a wide smile.
“I already told you, he’s not my father.”
“Oh, you’ll change your mind one day.”
I want to ask her why I should love a man who is inconsiderate enough to propose to a recently widowed woman, but of course, I don’t. That would make her stay in my room even longer. Instead, I lower my head, trying to gather some sort of sorrow, some brand of empathy or compassion into my heart for her.
“I guess so,” I feel the muscles of my face softening into a posture of contemplation.
“What?” She is still in position with her hip jutted out.
“I mean, Brad did buy me a latte last week, so he can’t be that bad.” I say slowly, softly shaking my head.
She relaxes, her smile dripping with honey.
“That’s better, Sweetheart.” She waltzes from the room like a queen, too caught up in fantasizing about her evening with Brad to notice me whisper a ‘Thank God for theater class’ behind her back.