Read Winter Jacket: New Beginnings Online

Authors: Eliza Lentzski

Tags: #Gay & Lesbian, #Literature & Fiction, #Erotica, #Lesbian, #Romantic, #Lesbian Romance, #Genre Fiction, #Lgbt, #Gay Fiction, #Lesbian Fiction, #@lgbt, #Contemporary, #@unread, #Romance

Winter Jacket: New Beginnings (8 page)

BOOK: Winter Jacket: New Beginnings
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“How long is she staying?” I had never seen her get so worked up. I couldn’t understand why she’d be so upset by my mom’s unanticipated visit.

“I don’t know.”

you know?” Hunter asked, looking more and more irritated with each unsatisfactorily answered question.

“That I feel like crap
,” I sniffled, “and I just want to cuddle with my girlfriend.”

The former annoyance on Hunter’s face faded. “God
, you make it hard to stay mad.”


When I came downstairs the next morning I shouldn’t have been surprised to find my mother still in the kitchen where we’d left her. Overnight, my kitchen had been turned into a French
. Parchment paper covered nearly every kitchen surface. I wondered if she had gone to bed at all or if she’d been baking all night.

I mumbled, plopping down on a stool at the kitchen island. My body ached, and I was definitely still sick.

“Coffee?” my mom offered, sunshine in her voice


She poured me a cup. “You still look like crap,” she observed.

“I just woke up,”
I complained. I ran my hand over my face and through my unruly hair. My fingers got caught on a tangle that if left to its own devices might turn into a dreadlock.

My mom returned the coffee pot to its usual p
lace with too much enthusiasm. “That girl. She’s your girlfriend?”

Yes, Mom,” I sighed. I didn’t bother to hide my exasperation. “And her name is Hunter
not ‘that girl.’”

My mom fiddled with the rings on her fingers. Even though my parents had divorced when I was little, she still wore her engagement and wedding ring for some reason. She’d never remarried
, had never gone back to her maiden name, and I didn’t know if she’d ever seriously dated anyone after splitting with my dad. “I couldn’t help noticing how young she looks.”

“She’s 21.”
I cupped my hands around the warmth the ceramic mug offered and inhaled its sweet aroma.

But you’re 31,” she said, as if I’d forgotten my own age. “Is this some kind of mid-life crisis?” My mom put her hands on her hips. “Do lesbians have those?”

I wanted to tear out my hair. I know you’re supposed to love your family unconditionally, but why did she have to make it so hard?

She stared me down. “And I didn’t appreciate the way you two skipped away last night. You know it’s rude to abandon a houseguest. I thought I raised you better than that.”

“You’re not a house guest. You’
my mom

“Exactly,” she clipped. “
Which is all the more reason to be polite.”

“Sorry. It won’t happen again,” I said dully. I didn’
t think I had anything to genuinely apologize for – she was the one who’d shown up unannounced. She should have been happy I’d let her into my house at all.

Why are you here, Mom? For real.” My eyes scanned over the assortment of cookies and bars that covered my countertops. “And what’s with all the baking?”

Her erect shoulders
now slumped. “I got fired.”

My mom didn’t have a college degree, but she’d done well for herself. When my sister and I were growing up, she’d bounced from one job to the next,
but was always moving up the economic ladder. The last time I’d bothered to ask, she had some fancy development job with the city where I’d grown up, turning abandoned lots into playgrounds and revitalizing the once quaint downtown area.

“You got fired?” I repeated, shocked by the admission.

“It’s all politics,” she said, waving an unconcerned hand. “The men on the City Council were intimidated by me so they let me go. They want someone in that job whom they can control.” She winced. “But now I’m in a tiny little bit of debt,” she added sheepishly.

My eyes widened. “All of those vacations?” I guessed.

“I suppose I should have been saving for a rainy day,” she said wistfully. “Because now it’s absolutely pouring.” Her eyes snapped into focus and she leveled her gaze on me. “I need someplace to stay. I had to foreclose on my house.”

“Foreclose?” I squeaked. This was getting worse and worse by the minute. “But why me? What about
Lauren?” My sister, a few years younger than me, and her husband, still lived in our hometown. We didn’t talk or see each other often, but we were on good terms. We just had that kind of relationship where we didn’t need to talk religiously. But when we did see each other, it was as if no time had passed.

My mother wrung her hands in front of her. “I didn’t want to be a bother. She and Matt just have the two-bedroom apartmen
t, and with the baby on the way –.”

” Maybe I should talk to my sister more often.

My mom nodded. “And she told me
that you’d gotten tenure and were living in this big house all by yourself…” she trailed off.

I let my head rest in my hands. My mom had dropped a bombshell on me
, and I didn’t know how to react. I went for addressing the most immediate and visible issue – the baked goods taking over my living space. “What am I supposed to do with all this food, Mom?” I asked weakly. “There’s no way the three of us can, or
eat it.”

“Can’t you take it to school?”

There was nothing undergrads enjoyed so much as free food, especially pizza and baked goods. I myself had had a hard time shaking the habit of reaching for handouts after so many years as a student with little or no money. Even now with a steady salary I was hesitant to spend money. Frugality was a hard habit to break, but luckily I had a girlfriend I loved to spoil, even if she scolded me when I tried.

“Maybe we could have a bake
sale,” I suggested without thought.

My mother’s frown was severe. “I don’t find that funny, Elle. My financial situation is nothing to joke about.”

No matter how old you are, there’s nothing so powerful as a mother’s guilt-trip. “I’m sorry,” I apologized. “I wasn’t thinking. But since you mentioned it, how much debt are we talking about? Is the IRS going to be knocking on my door and seizing
assets, too? Did you rob a bank to settle up and now you’re on the lam?”

My mother smiled mildly. “You alway
s did have a wonderful, if overactive, imagination. A lesser mother would have put you on medication,” she congratulated herself. “Are you still writing?”

“I have to for my job,” I nodded. “But even if it wasn’t required
, I’d still do it.” I tapped a finger against my forehead. “There’s too many voices in there, competing to get out.”

“I wouldn’t say that too loudly, dear,” my mother said with an easy smile. “Normally people don’t brag about the voices in their head.”

I swiveled around on the kitchen stool when I heard light footsteps skip down the stairs. Hunter appeared, newly showered and pristinely primped. Instead of her usual scrubs or sweater and jeans, she wore a printed skirt that hit just above her knees and a sleeveless shell beneath a dark blue cardigan. The outfit choice was unsuited for her schedule that day, not to mention that it was well below zero with the wind chill outside. Her legs were going to freeze. I knew the clothes were because my mom was here, making Hunter feel the need to look perfect. It made
feel guilty. My favorite moments were when she let that sometimes rigid exterior falter to just be human.

“Good morning,” she greeted with a practiced cheerfulness.

I stood and kissed her cheek, but frowned when I felt her stiffen as my arm went around her cinched waist. “You okay?”

She nodded
, and as unobtrusively as possible, slid out of my reach. “Just nerves,” she insisted, taking a quick sip of my coffee. “I’ve got a bedside manner test today, and I’m feeling unprepared.”

“Why didn’t you tell me? I could have helped you study.” Normally I would have never let a phrase like ‘bedside manner test’ pass me by w
ithout turning it into a thinly-veiled sexual innuendo, but I held myself back for my mom’s benefit and because Hunter already looked so uncomfortable in her presence.

Hunter glanced briefly in my mom’s direction before returning her gaze to me. “I’ll be fine. I just have to remember to smile more.”

“And breathe,” my mom offered unhelpfully.

Hunter gave her a
forced smile. “Right,” she said with a curt nod. “And breathe.”


My phone vibrated for at least the tenth time that morning since I’d arrived at Del Sol. I glanced at the screen, but when I saw my mom’s number
, I let it go to voicemail. She’d get the picture sooner or later. I shoved my phone into my work bag so I didn’t have to see her constant texts.

“So your mom is staying with you?”
Troian questioned.

“For the time,” I nodded, taking an experimental sip of my coffee.
“Although I honestly don’t know how temporary this situation is going to be. It sounds like she’s dug herself a serious financial hole.”

Troian wrinkled her nose over the top of her
own coffee mug. “That must make for some kinky sex with your mom sleeping downstairs in the guest room.”

I luckily was no longer mid-sip, otherwise I would have spit hot coffee all over my friend. “I will
be having sex with my mom in the house.”

“How do you pass up sex?”
Troian looked truly flabbergasted.

I shrugged. “It’s not the only important thing in life, you know.”

Troian pointed at me and waved her finger around. “You
lose the right to bitch about being sexless from this day forward. So don’t complain to me when Hunter stops spreading it for you.”

I cringed at her words. “Why are you so crude?”

Troian grinned triumphantly. “Because I love the look on your face when I am.”

I rubbed at my eyes. “My brain feels like mush today.”

“Student papers that bad?”

I made a noise of agreement. “That and I’m still nursing this damn cold.”

“I’m curious,” Troian stated, tapping her fingers against her ceramic mug, “what makes a student paper painful?”

“Oh, you know; they do things like add unnecessary words and phrases just to bulk up their word count. Or, my favorite is when they give two thumbs up to a Pulitzer prize-winning author. Like, ‘John Updike does a good job writing this novel,’ – funny things like that. Plus,” I continued to rant, “I see the same stylistic mistakes over and over again until I legitimately start to worry if
the one who doesn’t know how to use commas.”

Troian snickered while I made a disgruntled noise.

“And if my writing seminar doesn’t pull their weight in discussion today,” I continued, picking up steam, “I’m going to lose it. I’ll shame them and send them home.”

Troian’s dark eyes widened a bit. “O-okay?”

“When you were in college, did you ever show up to a class that you hadn’t done the reading for?” I asked, feeling myself unraveling. “Would you just
sit there
taking up space and oxygen instead of participating in class discussion?”

“All the time.”

I threw my hands up. “Who
you people?”

Troian cocked her head
to regard me. “Are you sure you’re not sexually frustrated, Professor Graft?”

A little. But it wasn’t my fault. I challenge anyone to feel sexy when they’ve got a cold and their mother is staying in their house.

“No. I’m just disgruntled. I’m still pissed about that book proposal rejection and that Dean Merlot thing, and now my mom is staying with me, so every little thing my students do is annoying me.”

an hid a smile behind her coffee cup. “You know my response. You could always come work with me.”

“I know, I know.” I roughly ran my fingers through my hair. “But I’
m fine. This is just my once-a-semester rethinking of my career choice. I’ll get over it.”

Despite the unnecessary headaches that working at this school provid
ed me, I still loved teaching. I got a strange thrill of satisfaction looking across a sea of student faces, observing them diligently take notes while I lectured or watching them scribble furiously in their blue books during a final exam. There was something magical happening in that exchange of knowledge, and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to liking the power.

“Speaking of work –
I, um, I have some news.” Troian set her coffee cup down and regarded me with a serious expression.

“Uh oh. You’re pregnant,” I joked. “How are you going to survive without caffeine?”

Troian rolled her eyes. “As if.”

“Am I supposed to keep guessing?”

Troian smirked. “That might be fun, but no. Nik and I, we’re, uh…” She paused deliberately and cleared her throat. “We’re moving to California.”

I blinked once
, taking my time to let the words connect in a meaningful order that actually made sense because what Troian had just said didn’t register. “Say that again.”

My best friend breathed in sharply.
“The Studio tapped me as head writer for a new show they’ve given the green light. If I want to do a good job, I can’t telecommute,” Troian explained. “It’s an amazing opportunity,” she said, almost apologetically.

“What about Nik’s business?” I asked.
Who was I kidding? Forget Nik’s business.
What about me?
I wanted to shout. First the annoyance of Dean Merlot, then the rejected book proposal, then my mom’s unexpected arrival, and now

ve never really needed the money in the first place, and with the pay bump I’m getting from the Studio, she really won’t have to work. But even if she wants to start up a new landscaping business, California has sunshine and dirt to grow plants in, too.”

“I can’t believe you’re leaving me.” I felt gutted by this news.

“You’re being overly dramatic, Bookworm. I’m moving, not dying.”

But what am I supposed to do when I’m having a nervous breakdown?” I demanded. “Who am I going to talk to?”

Me, silly,” she said, shaking her head. “There’s this thing called a telephone. And rumor has it, you can even talk to people over the Internet. I know you’re old, but I have faith you’ll figure it out.”

“I suppose congratulations are in order then.
” The words came out, but I felt the opposite of celebrating. “When’s the big move?”

“End of the month. I’ve got so much to do between now and then. I’ve gotta find someone to sublet the townhouse, which, now in hindsight
, seems like a ridiculous purchase,” she grimaced. “We’ll probably lose money, but that’s my own fault for buying in this market. Know anybody looking for a two-bedroom condo?”

Both Hunter and my mother came to mind as candidates to sublet, but I knew that neither of them would be able to afford the
rental property on their own. Then I thought about them being roommates. And then my head exploded.

“How much were you thinking about for rent?” The gears that worked my brain started to churn. I did some quick mental math. With the jump in title from Assistant to Associate Professor had come a significant raise. Even without the pay increase I had been living comfortably. I had planned on squirreling away the extra money into my savings account, but maybe it would be worth
it to finance my mom subletting Troian’s condo if it got her out of my house.

“I have no idea. I have
n’t had time to research comps. Why?”

“I will literally pay you
to take my mother off my hands,” I said.

Troian quirked an eyebrow.
“It sounds like you’re hiring a hitman.”

“Don’t tempt me,” I said, only partially joking.


We hid from my mother that evening in my bedroom like teenagers.
Truthfully, nothing made me feel more juvenile than knowing my mother was lurking around downstairs. When Hunter came over after finishing her afternoon at the hospital, I had just gotten off the phone with my sister. First, I’d congratulated her on being pregnant. Then, I’d berated her for telling our mother where I lived.

I buried my face in a pillow
on my bed and yelled. It was overly dramatic, it was a pre-pubescent move, but sometimes you just needed to scream. I looked up when Hunter tugged at the pillow; my loose hair nearly covered my face.

Hunter brush
ed the hair away from my eyes. “Was that about your mom or Troi?”


“You’re really upset about them moving, aren’t you?”

“I am,” I nodded glumly. “
And I know it’s incredibly selfish of me. I should be ecstatic for Troi and this opportunity, not sad for me.”

Your best friend is moving across the country, Ellio. You’re allowed to feel sad. You’re allowed to feel things.”

All of this was too much at once – the Dean breathing down my neck, the book contract falling through, my mom staying with me for who knew how long, and now my best friend was leaving.

“I should throw them a going-away party,” I sighed.

“That would be nice of you.”

I mentally shook myself. It would do no good to wallow in this. “How did your test go today?”

Hunter laughed softly. “I remembered to smile. And breathe.”

I looked away from her angelic face when there was a knock at my bedroom door. My mom stood in the open doorway, looking timid. “Dinner’s almost ready.”

“You made more food?” I asked, sitting more upright on my bed.

She nodded. “But don’t worry; I kept it reasonable. We’re not opening a restaurant.” She turned her eyes toward my girlfriend. “Hunter, will you be staying for dinner?”

BOOK: Winter Jacket: New Beginnings
13.63Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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