Chapter 13:

November 1, 2015, 9:00 AM

Let's Make Love Bloom

“We’ll have to head back a bit earlier than I’d hoped,” June said, and for just a moment I wondered if I’d messed up somehow.Bookmark here

We’d gotten up at a much more reasonable time than yesterday, though honestly I could’ve stayed under the covers for hours more. After showering and changing, we’d headed downstairs and were enjoying breakfast in the hotel’s café when her phone buzzed. It was just after glancing at it that she spoke. Now, consciously I knew: after the great time we’d had yesterday, there’s no way she was already sick of me and wanted to call things early. And even if she was sick of me, she was too polite and caring to say so outright, at least so soon after pouring my heart out to heart like I had. (And God, I really did do that, didn’t I?) So I quickly assuaged myself of my own fears. Still, I had to press her.Bookmark here

“Why, did something come up?”Bookmark here

“Yeah, it’s…” June waved her phone then sighed as she replaced it in her pocket. “That was my dad. He and Mom both want me over tonight for a family dinner and… and Olivia’s already agreed to come.” Just the mention of the name “Olivia” was enough to set off alarm bells in me. Despite having never met the woman, I already knew plenty about how she made June feel, and I didn’t want June getting hurt any more than she already had. Almost by instinct, I reached out and took her hand in mind, just as she had done for me.Bookmark here

“And you’re going to go?” I asked.Bookmark here

“I almost feel like I need to,” she said. “It’s been so long since I’ve talked to her, you know? Maybe this is our chance.”Bookmark here

“You don’t need to do anything,” I said. “What matters is, do you want to go?” June’s grip was slack as she let her thoughts and gaze wander; then, it tightened as she looked me in the eye.Bookmark here

“I’m scared,” she said. “But she’s still my sister. Maybe it’s more than she deserves, but I have to try.”Bookmark here

“Okay.” And to be honest, that wasn’t what I wanted to say. Some part of myself wanted to plead with her not to go, to stay with me just a little while longer. Because we were having such a good time, weren’t we? We deserve to be happy. Forget everyone else, let’s just revel in ourselves.Bookmark here

But then, how terrible would that be of me, to try to hold her back from something she wanted to do? Especially after she’d helped me so much just by being there for me. She had enough heartache in her life already, and I wasn’t about to be the source of more.Bookmark here

Besides, maybe we’d already helped each other enough. After the time we’d spent together, she was ready to face her sister again. While I wasn’t quite ready to confess to my parents, I did at least feel more accepting of the eventuality of them finding out. I didn’t know when it was going to happen, but when it did, I was going to be ready.Bookmark here

“But hey,” June said, “we’ve still got time. Assuming we’re in the car by four, that gives me plenty of time to get home by seven, so what do you say we enjoy ourselves until then?”Bookmark here

“I say that sounds like a great idea.” Grins plastered on our faces, we wolfed down the rest of our breakfasts and sped back out into the parks. Sure, we had difficulties waiting for us back at home, but we didn’t have to let those hardships rule our lives, and as we spent the rest of the day screaming, crying, and laughing together, I felt certain that no matter what happened, things would turn out okay.Bookmark here

#Bookmark here

Things were not okay. That became clear the minute I got home.Bookmark here

It was about twenty after six by the time we pulled onto my street. I’d texted Padre well ahead of time to let him know I’d be home a bit early, and the only response I got from him was something cryptic, saying there was a nice surprise waiting at home. That had me curious, but as we pulled onto the curve nothing seemed out of the ordinary.Bookmark here

“Say,” June said as I undid my seatbelt. “Are you… are you sure you want to go back there?”Bookmark here

“What do you mean?” My confusion was genuine.Bookmark here

“Sara, you broke down crying in my car. Everything else aside, living there is clearly hurting you a lot. And, I’ll say it, I’m scared for you.”Bookmark here

“Oh.” She reached out for my hand again and I gripped hers tight. “Thank you, but… I don’t think I’m ready to leave them behind. Not yet. Maybe… I guess I still have hope. Not a lot, but just enough.”Bookmark here

“Okay,” June said. “I guess we’re the same in that department. But if you ever need to get away, you let me know. My door will always be open for you.” Oh no, June, that’s too generous an invitation. You have no idea how tempting it is to take you up on it right away. But I meant what I said—I still want them to love me, hopeless as it may seem.Bookmark here

With a smile, I tightened my grip one last time.Bookmark here

“Thanks, June.”Bookmark here

“Yeah.” Finally letting go, I got out of the car before the part of me that wanted to run away with her took over. “Take care.”Bookmark here

“I will,” I said, turning to wave goodbye. She waved back, and moments later she pulled out onto the street, around the corner, and was gone. Already missing her, I took a deep breath to calm myself and turned to walk home.Bookmark here

On the brief walk there, I passed by our family car, and immediately I realized what Padre had been talking about: he’d gotten a new window put in. No more cardboard placeholder, that there was actual glass. Huh. Good for us, I guess. I had, in fact, told him about the repair shop that I’d spotted during my first date with June, while of course being vague about how exactly I’d heard about it and avoiding mentioning the fact that I had gone out not just on a date but for drinks. So he had, for once, listened to me. That was a nice surprise.Bookmark here

All of that—the car, my talk with June, and my general good mood—had worked to lull me into a false sense of security. As soon as I opened the front door to our family home, things immediately went from great to terrible.Bookmark here

“Sara!” my mother screeched as soon as we locked eyes, her voice having attained a pitch I had not heard in ages. Immediately I feared the worst and regretted not running off with June. Lucky for me, it was only the second worst.Bookmark here

“Did you know?!” Mamá asked as she ran up to me and shook me by the shoulders. “Did you know?!”Bookmark here

“Know what?” I asked, trying my damnedest to keep my voice level and calm, though Mamá’s hysteria had its way of rubbing off me on. Just as she was feeling distraught, I could feel trepidation start to creep over me.Bookmark here

“About… about that nasty boy, he… he…! Oh, I can’t even say it!”Bookmark here

“Mamá, what are you talking about?” The concern in my voice was genuine; in no world would I take pleasure in seeing my mother this distraught. Question was, distraught over what? What boy?Bookmark here

“Calm down, dear,” Padre’s smooth tenor rang out as he appeared behind Mamá and wrapped his arms around her waist. “You’re scaring our girl. Look at her, you have her confused and scared. She doesn’t know.”Bookmark here

“Know what?” I asked again, desperate to get a handle on things. Mamá, as worked up as she was, looked to be in no state to provide a coherent response, so Padre, the ever calm and collected one, answered.Bookmark here

“It’s your friend, Masashi,” he said. “This afternoon, he introduced his parents to his boyfriend.”Bookmark here

Oh.Bookmark here

Oh, shit.Bookmark here

“I just can’t believe it. He was such a nice boy, but all along, he, he… Oh, Sara, you must not see him again! It is a miracle that he hasn’t already corrupted you! You must stay away!”Bookmark here

“Mamá, I…” I was at a loss for words, is what I was. I wasn’t near as shocked as she was, but still—he went and did that without at least warning me first? Oh, I was going to have some words for him later. I mean, on the one hand good for him, I’m proud he was able to take that step, but man do I wish he’d talked to me first. I would realize later that he was just doing what we’d talked about earlier, taking big steps without relying on each other, but in the moment I wasn’t thinking about that. I was thinking of how I wasn’t prepared to deal with the fallout on my end.Bookmark here

“Why shouldn’t I see him again?” I asked. “He’s my friend.” I knew damn well what the answer to that question was, but my panicked brain couldn’t stop me from firing off the question anyway.Bookmark here

“He’s a nasty boy, is what he is, and you will not see him again. This is not a discussion.”Bookmark here

“Hey now, calm down,” Padre said, stroking her arms as he spoke in a soothing tone. “Why don’t you go lie down? Let me and Sara worry about dinner. You just rest. Okay?” He continued to whisper hushes and reassurances in her ear, holding her tight as he walked her out of the living room. I took the time to unpack my bag and then decided to wait in the living room for Padre to come back out. Relieved that at least my own secret was still safe, I was tempted to call up Masashi right then and there to get the story; but then I figured, with walls as thin as these, now wasn’t a good time.Bookmark here

None of this boded well in the slightest. If there was one thing Mamá’s hysterics had made clear, it was that it would never be safe for me to come out to them, and moreover that there was a very good chance that I was no longer safe here.Bookmark here

“Right then,” said Padre, emerging from the hallway. “Want to go get takeout?”Bookmark here

“Sure,” I said, standing from the couch. And yet, despite my newfound certainty in my fears, there I was, not even thinking to disagree when Padre asked something of me.Bookmark here

I didn’t know what to make of Padre’s relative calm during all of this. Thanks in part to his heart, he wasn’t one to get worked up easy; the closest I had seem him to getting out-loud angry was when I had gotten my hair cut short. I rarely knew much about what he was thinking other than what he chose to show, and given Mamá’s reaction and how faithful he was to her, I feared that his reaction would be at best more restrained. In an effort to force a lighter mood, as we approached the car I pointed at the window.Bookmark here

“I see you got the window fixed,” I said. “Looks good.”Bookmark here

“Oh yeah. I figured it was long past time. Took it in yesterday after you left. Had to catch a bus back home and back there this morning to pick it up, but it was worth it.” He chuckled as he ducked into the driver’s seat, and I followed suit. The interior also looked a little cleaner. “This was supposed to be the surprise when you got home. And to think, just a couple of hours ago I thought that this was going to be the most exciting part of my day.”Bookmark here

“I don’t think ‘exciting’ is the word I’d use.”Bookmark here

“Fair enough,” he said with a shrug, and a moment later he started the engine and we were off. He took us in a direction I recognized: that of our regular Chinese takeout place. On the way, he only asked me one question about the whole Masashi affair:Bookmark here

“Are you going to stop seeing him?”Bookmark here

“…No.” As scared as I was, as I had always been to be truthful about our real selves, I knew that this was one truth I couldn’t hide. “He’s my best friend, and that hasn’t changed.”Bookmark here

“I see.” Padre scratched at his beard as he sighed. “Short of locking you in your room, which I would never do, I know I cannot stop you. Just… just promise me you’ll do what you can to make your mother happy, okay?” I didn’t detect a hint of anger in his voice. If anything he was tired, even pleading.Bookmark here

“I promise,” I said, knowing full well that was a promise I could not keep.Bookmark here

“Good. That’s all I can ask.” Padre sighed with relief and let a smile come over his face. “Now, tell me all about this trip of yours! Did you have a good time?”Bookmark here

“Oh! Uh, yeah!” Taken aback by his sudden interest in my personal life, after some hesitation I started telling him about the date—while leaving out any details that would indicate that it was, in fact, a date. I told him stories which I hoped he would get a kick out of, and luckily, he did laugh a lot, especially when I pantomimed having a milkshake moustache. Talking and laughing with him like this, I could almost believe that he would take my side when the time came.Bookmark here

Almost.Bookmark here

#Bookmark here

Dinner passed without further incident. Mamá… my mother was quiet the whole time, the occasional utterances that escaped her mouth not being loud enough to make it to my ears. Whatever she was muttering about, I was sure it couldn’t have been good.Bookmark here

She didn’t seem to have much an appetite, either. All she had was a few bites of rice before heading to bed early, and Padre and I passed the remaining twilight hours watching a game of football that neither of us cared about.Bookmark here

Before I headed to bed that night, I swapped between two text conversations: one was with Masashi, the other with June. With Masashi, I confirmed that our morning routine hadn’t changed and that we’d be meeting up at the gym and having breakfast afterward. After giving him my congratulations, I made it very clear that he had a lot of explaining to do. His reply was simple: “Yes, ma’am.” Though it was just text, I liked to imagine the defeat in his tone.Bookmark here

The text conversation with June was a little more involved. I didn’t get into details, but I told her that things got bad, and right away she wanted to know if she should call me or if there was anything she could do to help, and I didn’t have a good answer for her. What could she do that she hadn’t already? What could she do that I shouldn’t do myself? I told her honestly that I didn’t know what I was going to do, much less what she could do; right then, all I could do was wait. She told me that I shouldn’t hesitate to call her if I needed to, and with my thanks, we said good night.Bookmark here

It didn’t even occur to me to ask her about Olivia. I would have to fix that next time I saw her.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.