“Mom… you’ll love me no matter what, right?”
Monday afternoon, 23 November 2015
GM: Weeks pass.
The boys are convicted by Judge Carson Malveaux for their assorted offenses against Derek and Anna. They receive seven years in Louisiana State Penitentiary and will be up for parole in four. They’ll be convicted felons once they get out. They’ll probably do something to get sent back, Derek thinks, even if they don’t violate parole.
Victoria: Sylvia doesn’t mention what she did to ensure the boys received their just desserts, unless she asks. Anna probably guesses. She also guesses that Sylvia feels their punishment isn’t enough.
GM: Anna does not seem to guess at all.
Why would she suspect that Sylvia went so far as to bribe the police?
Sarah Whitney goes back to school, around December. Anna hears. She’s happy over that. Sarah was in a coma for a while. Doctors feared there would be brain damage.
Still no job back.
Victoria: Sylvia asks if she wants to visit Sarah.
Maybe that’ll provide some closure.
GM: Anna is not sure if either of the girls’ families would want her to have any contact with their daughters. She doesn’t have anything against the kids themselves, though. She just wants her job back.
But that’s nothing new.
Victoria: She pulls Anna into a hug and consoles her.
GM: Weeks pass. Christmas approaches. They’ve been together for around four months, now, and they’ve obviously had feelings for far longer.
Both of their families want each of them over for Christmas dinner.
They haven’t told either of their families they’re official, yet. Anna does not think hers would be thrilled over her being in a same-sex relationship.
Anna asks what she thinks they should do. Both in general and for Christmas.
Victoria: Sylvia makes a suggestion that they adopt six or seven cats and play out the cat lady trope.
“I’m not going to make you feel guilty if you don’t want to tell them,” she says, rubbing her arm where Anna smacked it.
“I don’t think it’ll be any easier at with my family. Just… a different brand of difficult. For visits, maybe yours in the morning, mine for dinner?”
GM: “Do you want to tell yours?” Anna asks.
Victoria: “Do you?”
GM: “It’s your family. I’ll support whatever decision you want to make with them.”
“I do think it’d seem… weird to show up to Christmas with a platonic friend, though, don’t you? That’s for family and significant others.”
Victoria: “Anna. You were my family long before you were my girlfriend.”
GM: “I meant in general,” Anna smiles. “Not with you.”
She curls up against her girlfriend, laying a head on her shoulder.
“You’ve been family for a long, long time.”
Victoria: Sylvia runs her hands up her face, then fingers through her mane of hair, breathing a long exhale.
She can tell her family, and deal with the consequences. She can’t see life without them, nor does she feel any of them will excommunicate her.
She can not tell her family, and…
She’s not spending Christmas without Anna.
“You’re coming with me. I’ll spend half the day with you at your family, but only if you want. If you want to go alone, it’s fine.”
It’s not fine. She’ll be hurt, but she won’t let it show.
GM: “Okay,” nods Anna. “I’m happy to spend Christmas with your family. Whatever they tell you.”
She smiles faintly at the take-charge ’you’re coming’ tone. That’s gotten pretty normal.
“I kinda don’t want to tell mine,” she says with a sigh. “I don’t think they’ll take it well.”
“But… if it’s not a thing this year, it’ll be a thing next year. And the next year. And they’ll ask about grandkids and why there’s no guy in my life.”
She lets out another sigh.
“I guess it has to come out at some point. Just… really not looking forward to that conversation. I’d kinda rather not have it at all.”
Victoria: “According to my mother, if you pray hard enough, God will show you the way. If we pray hard enough, maybe he’ll show me the path to getting you pregnant.”
Yes, even in what’s clearly a joke, Anna would be the carrier.
“You don’t have to tell them. Not if you don’t want to. I won’t make you. Not on that.”
A moment of silence passes between them.
“…you really want there to be a next year? And the year after?”
GM: “Maybe if we pray hard enough you’ll grow a penis, you mean?” Anna muses.
Even joking, she doesn’t say that would be inappropriate.
Victoria: “We could always hire someone.”
GM: “I want there to be many next years.”
Victoria: Even joking, something pulls at Sylvia’s insides. She pulls her closer in turn.
“…I like you being mine.”
GM: Anna smiles up at her and kisses her cheek.
“I like being yours, too.”
“I’m your girl.”
“When you say hire… you mean a sperm donor?”
It’s asked seemingly hypothetically.
Victoria: “I mean… if we ever felt that drive…”
“I’m not sure I will…”
GM: Anna looks at her thoughtfully.
“I love kids. You know that.”
Victoria: “Would you want that…?”
GM: Anna thinks, then nods.
“Eventually. Doesn’t have to be now. But I want to be a mom, in some form.”
“Is that something you… how would you feel about that…?”
Victoria: “We could switch roles?”
GM: Anna snickers.
Victoria: It seems she isn’t going to escape, despite Sylvia bringing the topic up in the first place.
“I… maybe. I don’t know. Something feels so… Artificial about that. I think I’d want a real partner, or at least the warmth of a…”
She shivers, shaking her head.
“This is weird to think about!”
GM: Anna looks at her thoughtfully.
“What do you mean when you say artificial…?”
Victoria: “Insemination. A cold chair, cold hands, cold syringe, cold lube…”
Sylvia perks up.
She pulls up her phone and writes something down.
GM: “Yeah,” admits Anna. “It wouldn’t have to be you, though. It could be me.”
“Would you still be comfortable?”
Victoria: “That’s… I need to think about it.”
Not right then.
“There’s adoption, too.”
GM: Anna nods.
“I was going to bring that up.”
“Adoption… obviously means so much to you.”
“And there are obviously more kids who could use loving homes.”
Victoria: She simpers.
“There are so many that need it.”
GM: “How does adopting make you feel?”
Victoria: “Like I’m not ready.”
GM: Anna smiles.
“I don’t want kids just yet. However we’d want them.”
Victoria: The series of topics is an anchor on Sylvia.
GM: “But say when we’re older. 30 plus. How would you feel then?”
Victoria: “I… can see it, yeah. Maybe an older child; 10, or so. I’m not sure I’m the right mother for one younger.”
But if she doesn’t does she relegate them to effectively prison?
GM: “Your age,” says Anna.
“When you were.”
Victoria: “I guess.”
She puts her chin against the back of her palms on the table.
GM: “Is this something you’d prefer to think about later…?” Anna asks, rubbing her shoulder.
“We haven’t even hit our first anniversary.”
Victoria: “I think later would be better. It’s… there’s so much in my life that I want to do, Anna.”
So does Anna. It stings her to say it.
“I could lose my business and we’d be screwed. I want more security before I think about children.”
GM: “That’s totally fair,” says Anna. “We’re still young. I don’t even… I don’t even know how my career is going to pan out.”
She sighs at that topic.
“God. Why can’t it just be summer already.”
“I hate waiting.”
Victoria: “Maybe I can talk to my mom… after she calms down about us.”
GM: “About my career…?” Anna asks, confused.
“I thought she was a social worker.”
Victoria: Sylvia explains Mary’s church connections. She might be able to hook up Anna with something at a Catholic school.
GM: “Oh,” she says. “That makes more sense.”
“Yes, please, that would be wonderful! I’d be happy to teach at a Catholic school. I’d be happy to teach anywhere, so long as the students don’t threaten to kill me!”
Victoria: Sylvia makes a mock gesture at shooting a gun.
“Same thing will happen again.”
Not that she wants it to. No, she might not be quite as level-headed if she has to save her again.
“A Catholic school might be calmer…”
GM: “I don’t want you to be in that situation again, either,” Anna says, deathly serious.
“I know you can handle yourself. I know you’ll always fight for me.”
“But something could have gone wrong, and I don’t ever want to take that chance again.”
Victoria: She takes one of Anna’s hands, stroking the back with her thumb.
“I don’t want you to be there again. Seeing you so close to dying…”
She blinks away a tear.
GM: Anna kisses her cheek.
“It’s okay. You saved me.”
“We won’t do an inner city school again. We learned our lesson.”
“I learned my lesson. You were right all along.”
Victoria: Sylvia regards her with a mask of disbelief.
Anna corrects herself.
That earns a ‘ha!’.
“We won’t be going anywhere near that type of school. I’d rather you teach in the bayou than that, and I’m not letting you get murdered in a swamp either.”
GM: Anna gives her an amused look at that.
“Sorry, I learned my lesson… mistress. Is that better?”
Victoria: She earns a faint smile.
“One day I’ll have to save you from a trip to the grocery store.”
Sylvia shakes her head
GM: Anna sighs.
“I kinda don’t want to tell my family, this year. There’s just… been enough stress, and ups and downs. I’d like some peace.”
“I’ll tell my parents I want to bring you, though. Say how you’ve been so supportive, through everything, Jeff and losing my job and putting me up, it only feels right. They know we’re roomies.”
“Maybe that’ll make it easier when we come out, too. For you to have already spent a Christmas with us. For them to accept you as a big presence in my life.”
Victoria: She squeezes her hand.
“They’ve already accepted I’m a big presence in your life, and I think that’s a fair reason to invite me for the holiday without suspicion,” she muses.
“There’s no pressure to tell them this year. Or next. I understand.”
GM: “Thanks,” smiles Anna, squeezing back.
“We can spend Christmas Eve and morning with your family, and dinner with mine? Since it’s a long drive up to Lafayette.”
It’s phrased as a question, not ’let’s do this.’
That’s become normal.
Victoria: She tenses her brow, thinking.
“Or the reverse? Or one day with your family, and one with mine? Dinner is important to my mother. Probably more than any point of any other holiday.”
GM: “Okay. We could drive up for Christmas Eve, spend Christmas morning, then drive back your mom’s.”
Victoria: She kisses her hand, signing the deal.
“Sold, to the one making pizza tonight.”
GM: That’s Anna, of course. Like always.
Friday morning, 25 December 2015
Victoria: The pair spend a lovely evening and subsequent morning with Anna’s family. Mr. Perry has always been fond of ’Anna’s Friend’ from their very first meeting, where he walked in on her roleplaying a petulant student for Anna’s ‘Classroom Management’ course. He made a quip on punishing bratty children with a ruler back in his day, causing both women to blush for their own reasons. Mrs. Perry was less immediately intrusive to their doings, but offered Sylvia a lukewarm start than only heated over the years.
Sylvia enjoys the evening. It’s just as it always was. In that sameness, she feels hollow. In a way, is she lying to her beloved’s parents? Is she betraying kindness received without condition? She isn’t the same bubbly self by the time they leave in the morning.
GM: Mr. Perry is a police officer, after all. He says that a little discipline is a good thing. Tempered with loving, if course.
The couple really have to try not to blush over that.
The Perrys are delighted to have Sylvia over. Anna’s brother is present too, with his girlfriend. The Perrys don’t seem at all questioning of Anna not having a boyfriend this year. She lost her fiance and her job four months ago. Those wounds are still fresh. Everyone is very supportive and wishes Anna all the best in finding a new position come the summer. Mr. Perry starts to rant angrily about those “no-good f… udgers,” at a look from his wife, who used his daughter as a scapegoat. He looks about to start on a lengthier tirade when Anna’s mom touches his arm and entreats him, “Dear, please, it’s Christmas.” Mr. Perry sighs and tells his daughter she’s the best teacher in the world and that McGehee is going to rued the day they fired her.
“Thanks, Daddy,” Anna blushes.
Victoria: Sylvia makes a comment about Mr. Perry getting her out of jail when she lights them on fire. She’s moved on from cars.
Still, it’s clear Sylvia was affected by her firing, and she cares immensely.
GM: The Perrys are full of cheer and goodwill towards Sylvia, too. They’re so thankful she’s had a friend she can count on during such a trying time. “You sound like exactly what she needed, when she needed someone most,” Mr. Perry remarks.
Anna tells her family about how Sylvia saved her life. The story has everyone gasping and exclaiming incredulously. Mrs. Perry cries, then hugs Sylvia. Mr. Perry looks like he’s fighting tears as he hugs her too. They can’t thank her enough for saving their daughter. They’re overflowing with thanks as Anna reiterates how her best friend saved her life. They say Sylvia will always be welcome in their house.
Anna looks at Sylvia over her parents’ shoulders and mouths,
It’s a question. She looks unsure.
Victoria: Sylvia gives it no acknowledgment.
GM: Spending the night isn’t without awkwardness. The Perrys have converted their kids’ old rooms. Anna’s is a guest room. She tells her parents that she and Sylvia can share the bed, it beats anyone sleeping on the couch. They raise their eyebrows, but accept the logic.
There is no sex that night. Just a kiss, and sleeping without touching.
Anna does not want them to walk in and see anything.
Victoria: Sylvia doesn’t press it, even if she teases a few kisses. When they fall asleep, it’s on opposite sides of the bed, facing away.
GM: The Perrys prepare a lovely Christmas breakfast. Anna’s brother and his girlfriend rejoin them for it. Everyone opens presents under the tree. Mrs. Perry gives Sylvia a hand-knitted sweater. Mr. Perry gives ammunition, two concealed holsters—one under the shoulder, one for the waist—and a cute note with a gun drawn on it, saying it’s redeemable for lessons at a New Orleans shooting range from Mr. Perry. He laughs that he’d have gotten Sylvia an actual gift card, but everywhere is closed on Christmas Eve. So he’ll get her one when they re-open.
“You want a good holster,” he says, patting the two. “These are good. Cheap holster will come right off you, if a bad guy grabs it. Cheap gets you killed.”
He’s printed out the forms for a concealed carry permit, too, and filled out as much of Sylvia’s info as he can. He’s also included cash in an envelope to pay for the application fee. All of that is in another present.
“Always conceal that you’re packing,” he says. “Those idiots who walk into Herricks’ with a handgun you can see on their belts? Or those fuckheads-”
“It’s Christmas, dear,” says Mrs. Perry.
“-er, fudgeheads, with semi-autos over their backs at O’Tolley’s, thinking they’re being pro-Second Amendment. Fuc-fudging idiots. If I’m the bad guy, guess what? I know exactly who to target first. You paint a giant bullseye on your back and lose the element of surprise, when you open carry. Always conceal. Got it?”
Victoria: Sylvia holds back tears, her eyes shimmering. As little as Mary has to give, she’s always managed to deliver a happy Christmas for her children. The St. George matron is and has always been magic in providing for her children and teaching them modesty and respect as she does.
“Yes, Mr. Perry. I understand.”
It’s probably better than leaving it open in her bag, even with the safety on.
“This… I didn’t expect… thank you. Really. We’ll get lessons as soon as we get back, and I think it’s time Anna gets her own weapon, too. Just in case.”
GM: “We didn’t expect either,” Mr. Perry chortles.
“Santa had to do some last-minute wrapping,” smiles Mrs. Perry.
Victoria: She gets up and hugs each of them, bleary-eyed.
GM: Anna’s parents warmly return her embrace.
“This is a gift for us, too,” says Mr. Perry, patting Sylvia’s back. “An investment in Anna’s safety. Isn’t that right, pumpkin?”
“Yes, Daddy,” Anna replies, sounding a little choked.
“I showed Anna how to shoot when she was younger,” says Mr. Perry. “But it’s been a while since she was at the range. You going in together sounds like a great plan.”
The drive back to New Orleans is a happy one. “I think my dad gave you his holsters,” says Anna. “There couldn’t have been anywhere open on Christmas Eve…”
Victoria: That drive back to New Orleans is one of the few times Anna has seen Sylvia cry. It’s a happy cry, but a cry no lesser.
“You h-have the b-best… parents…”
GM: “Awww… Sylvie…” Anna smiles, embracing her.
“I do. I love them. That was the best gift I could’ve asked for…”
She doesn’t talk about coming out to them.
She doesn’t want to ruin the moment.
Or maybe it’s happy enough she doesn’t think it.
Victoria: “I—I… I love you. A—and I love them. A—and I hope they’ll always love us!”
She probably shouldn’t be driving like this, but the car doesn’t move from the lane.
GM: Sylvia is always the one in the driver’s seat.
That’s their normal.
Anna smiles, sniffs, and rubs her hand.
“I love you too, Sylvie. So much…”
Friday afternoon, 25 December 2015
Victoria: It’s just after noon on Christmas Day that they reach the St. George home and rap on the door.
GM: The St. George house is abuzz with Christmas cheer. The tree is decorated, the advent calendar opened, and the manger scene is set with little porcelain models of the baby Jesus and the witnesses to his birth.
Sylvia’s mother receives Anna and her daughter with hugs and warm words. Beth passed some years ago, but the modest house still feels more than full between her five children and their significant others. Leslie is the only one who’s single.
Jason, of course, is not present.
Victoria: Nerves wrack Sylvia the closer they get to the St. George home. As Mary opens the door, she’s trembling.
“Hey Mom,” she says, pulling the elderly woman into a hug; tight, but not Sylvia-tight. “Merry Christmas.”
GM: “Merry Christmas, dear,” smiles her mother. Her hair is all-gray now, but there’s strength and life in her embrace yet. She can handle tight, it feels.
Victoria: They exchange their pleasantries with the group, and spend some time enjoy company before the fireplace.
After a (non-alcoholic) eggnog and a few snacks, Sylvia rests a hand on her mother’s shoulder, whispering.
“…Mom? Can I talk to you? In private.”
GM: “Of course,” Mary nods. She tells the others over the playing Christmas music (currently “It’s Cold Outside”) that she’ll be back soon and takes Sylvia into the kitchen. The air is warm from the many dishes in the oven.
“I thought all of you getting older would mean less cooking, but it just means even more during Sundays and holidays,” Mary laughs.
“All of those +1s…”
Victoria: “It means more help, too, Mom. I can do a lot more without you worrying about burning down the house… or putting my brother in the oven.”
She wonders if that has anything to do with why Jason turned out how he did. It was the first and last time they played ‘Christmas Turkey’.
“Mom… you’ll love me no matter what, right?”
GM: Mary smiles at the quip, but turns serious again at her daughter’s question.
“Of course I will, Sylvia. Always.”
“I still love your brother, even after what he’s done.” Mary’s face stills slightly at his mention. “A parent never stops loving their child, Sylvie. Not ever.”
“What do you have to tell me?”
Victoria: Her mother’s response quells her racing heart, but only a little.
Just enough to let her speak a thought. She looks to the door, ensuring no one is walking in.
“I love Anna.”
She leaves it at that, expecting a quip of friends loving each other before reality sinks in.
GM: “More than as a friend, you mean,” says Mary.
Victoria: She doesn’t answer. Sylvia looks like she’s barely held together, shame cracking through her mask.
GM: Sylvia’s mother embraces her again.
“‘Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him.’”
“I will always love you, Sylvie. I will always accept you. That will never change.”
“The morality, health risks, and potential dangers of a homosexual lifestyle make me very concerned for you. But understand always that my concern is borne out of love for you.”
Victoria: Silently, tears overflow down her cheeks. She remembers those first days, when her mother held her as she bawled at the top of her lungs. Now, it’s a simple hugs. Sylvia doesn’t scream anymore.
“I’m careful, Mom. You know me.”
She returns the hug, this time tighter.
“I… wasn’t sure how you’d react, but I didn’t want to be unfair to you; to bring her here and not tell you; to lie to you.”
GM: “I do know you, Sylvie,” her mom repeats, rubbing her back. “I know you will be smart and careful.”
“But being smart and careful can keep you physically safe. I am more concerned for the morality of your actions and the impact they will have on your relationship with God.”
“I am grateful your honesty with me. Thank you for telling me the truth.”
Victoria: “Then pray for me, huh? I don’t think I would have made it to fifteen without your prayers.”
Mary knows she’s trying to appease her, but she also knows Sylvie means it.
“I’m not forgetting about God, Mama. I still go to church. I still pray.”
Just not as often as Mary would like, which she leaves obfuscated.
GM: “I have always prayed for you, Sylvie,” says her mom. “I will never stop.”
“I am glad you are still praying and going to church. I’ve always believed they’re like exercise. More is better, and even a little is better than none.”
Victoria: She hugs her mother, then releases.
“It won’t be weird outside, right? I don’t want Anna to be uncomfortable.”
GM: “You are always welcome to bring your friends into my house,” says Mary. “There are some ground rules, for when you do. I will ask that you refrain from overt displays of homosexual affection. I will ask that you refrain from overt discussion, around the others, of the fact that you are in a homosexual relationship. Can you and Anna abide by those?”
Victoria: Her heart sinks.
“Yes, Mama. Of course. No affection, no talking.”
Not quite, but close enough.
GM: “Thank you, Sylvie,” says her mother.
“Thank you again for sharing this with me. I would rather know what you’re going through than not know what you’re going through. I want to love you and be there for you no matter what happens. I always want you to feel you can tell me things without fear of losing my love.”
Victoria: “I know, Mom. I know. I love you.”
She turns to leave.
A brick from the bridge between them falls into the river.
Friday evening, 25 December 2015
GM: Christmas dinner otherwise goes largely well. Dinner is roast goose and other Christmas staples, with lit plum pudding for dessert. Sylvia sees some of her siblings holding hands with their significant others. Anna doesn’t try to. Everyone sings carols and opens presents. There’s more non-alcoholic eggnog. Maria and her husband kiss under the mistletoe.
The story of Sylvia saving Anna’s life at work draws gasps and exclamations from everyone. Mary asks concernedly whether Anna still works there, and is relieved to hear that she does not.
Mary asks if Sylvia is still concerned for Anna’s safety. Or her own.
Victoria: Sylvia only ever eats plum pudding at her mother’s house, but it’s one of her favorite desserts. She has more than her fair share.
Anna and Sylvia sit by each other. Their hands brush at one point. That’s all. Sylvia doesn’t need to tell Anna what her mother said. Her affection normally rivals God’s, and now she’s gone cold. It’s explanation enough.
Sylvia’s answer takes a moment, but she shakes her head.
“No, I think she’s quite safe where she’ll be working next.”
She doesn’t mention more about the gun, or her other gifts.
GM: “A mother never stops worrying,” says Mary. “No matter how safe her children are.”
“I don’t know what the future holds, Sylvie. But I don’t think that will be the only danger you face in your life.”
She undoes the crucifix around her neck and presses it into Sylvia’s hands. It’s the same one she showed to her daughter in the long-ago thrift store.
“I want one of you to have this.” She looks between Sylvia and Anna. “Whoever you believe needs it most.”
“It’s not a gun. But it has your grandfather’s love for me, and my love for you. I believe it will keep you safe.”
Victoria: Sylvia can’t speak when she’s handed the crucifix. To say she’s stunned is an understatement.
“God’s love and family love is more powerful than any weapon, Mom.”
Anna knows that Sylvia has Christianity somewhere in her heart, but in all these years, it’s the first time she’s ever heard her speak a phrase like that.
GM: Mary’s smile is joyous when she hears those words, so declarative of her daughter’s faith.
“Love overcomes all, Sylvia. As it always must.”