Written by Trey Briggs
Let me throw you a word, hun: enraged. That’s the only way to describe my mother’s face, the expression that she held onto for dear life while she put my things in the street.
My brand new $800 purse sat in a puddle, soaked. My makeup, well, she tossed it down like it didn’t cost her almost $4000 to amass the collection for me. Setting powders and dewy sprays and matte lipsticks cracked and rolled over our massive driveway. Some of it even stained one of the expensive blouses that she liked to wear, that she liked to try to get me to wear.
I’m just not a blouse type of girl, at least not most of the time.
How can I describe her movements at that moment? Enraged. Maybe something like ‘engorged with rage.’ That’s how Astor would’ve put it. She didn’t throw Astor’s things like she threw mine or even acknowledge that Astor was standing there giving her a look that would’ve melted icebergs and asphalt and everything else. No, not Autumn. She’d never acknowledge something bad about her Astor. She made sure she didn’t even look in Astor’s direction while she threw clothes and jewelry and spite at me.
Astor walked slowly behind her every time she flew around to get more things, never taking her eyes off of her, and picked my things up. She piled them neatly near the driveway so we could get them in the car faster when our new husbands arrived. I didn’t feel like moving.
I was 18, and I’d only been 18 for about thirty minutes. I was college-bound. At least until our dorms were ready, I was kind of homeless until our dorm rooms were ready. But it didn’t feel like anything.
“You’re a repugnant little BRAT. After all my work, after everything I’ve done to protect you, you decide to get married to that … hobo? Really? HE LIVES IN AN ALLEYWAY! He steals from us whenever possible! He- he’s a monster! I saved you from him!” She stopped, struggling to breathe, and we both took that in.
“I don’t need to be saved from him, Autumn. We need to be saved from everyone else.”
“What about Louetta? What about your sisters? What about-“
“They’re your responsibility, not mine.”
“What about school? What about all the work we’ve put into you? We let you sit around fucking your own foster sister, you disgusting…”
“What an accusation! When did that happen?” Astor’s liquid voice cut into the rant so sharply that my mother staggered a bit. “Is that what you thought was going on in your home? And yet you didn’t offer any discipline or guidance? We are your responsibility, and yet you didn’t interrupt as a parent? We’re out having sex with our new husbands, not each other, fortunately for you.”
My mother turned to gather more of my clothes to throw. She got to my secret stash in the closet, all my private items that meant the world to me. This stuff was cheaper. Things she wouldn’t allow me to have because of how tacky or ugly they were. Things my new husband, Juke, struggled to get for me.
I looked down at all the cheap trinkets that Juke worked so hard to get me and tried not to get angry. I know men are supposed to work, hun, I get that. But nobody worked like Juke.
I looked at Astor and rolled my eyes.
“Don’t bother talking to her. She’s an idiot. She thinks she’s the savior of the world or something.”
“Yes, she considers herself a mother, doesn’t she?” The pile of clothes was getting too high for Astor to manage. She wasn’t short like I was, wasn’t a tiny thing (as Juke liked to call me), but Astor was still small. I looked around, wishing we could teleport to another world. I’d never been a fan of our house. It was too big, featureless, no personality in it at all. It felt like growing up in an asylum.
Once more, my mother stormed out of the house, one of my older sisters trailing behind her this time. Tiana held my school books in her hand, gentle. She’d always been soft. As much as I don’t relate to her, I always keep her in my heart.
“Noah. Sorry, I’m trying to calm Mom down. I’m not mad about Jukel, I just wish you would’ve told us. We worked really hard to … you know.”
Save me from him.
“Yeah, I know Teetee.”
“Maybe you could’ve had a real wedding and not the courthouse! You deserve better than that. You too, Astor. You’re both too smart for this.”
Astor turned to speak, and I cleared my throat to stop her.
“This was so sudden, it almost doesn’t feel real. Tell me the truth, Noah. Are you pregnant or something?” My mother stopped to turn and hear that. She was interested in knowing that. Was Noah Bishop pregnant? Was I going to be the mother of a hobo baby? Would I give her a grandbaby that smelled like an alleyway?
Osh, Astor’s new husband (they didn’t seem as worried about Astor getting shotgun married, oh no, just me) and my other best friend, pulled up slow in his beat-up car. It coughed like it was choking, exhaust blowing ugly anger out the back. He wasn’t as angry. He parked in front of the driveway, blocking my mother’s rage in, and slowly crawled out. Osh hated confrontations with my mother. I almost laughed. He made a worried face to Astor, rubbing his neck and gulping. He worked at my mother’s clinic a long time, even received counseling from her, and hurting her feelings wasn’t fun to him. Astor motioned for him to start putting my things in the car.
“Hey, Mom? Autumn? I’m going to go, okay? Tell Dad I got into Ingleton. I’m still going into a STEM field. Tell him I’m not doing it for you guys, though, okay? Make sure you add that I decided to do it on my own.”
I didn’t feel much. Hungry, maybe? It would’ve bothered me if it’d had something to do with anyone else. Growing up in a big house with neighbors so far away we basically lived in our own country was a privilege, I know. Having parents that only talked to us when we got bad grades or came home drunk was a blessing, maybe. Having a mother who loved me so much, she spent most of my life scheming and plotting and suffering to save me from the future was a godsend. I get it.
But I didn’t really learn anything or become anyone until my parents brought Astor home. I didn’t realize how much I didn’t want to be saved or handled until I started dating Juke. I didn’t understand how much I was just a potential status, a potential wall of scientific awards and journals, until I decided to get married.
And none of it mattered. In front of me was my future. Astor, angrier than ever but barely different than she was when she was happy. Osh, trying his best not to be seen, grabbing $500 shirts like they were toilet tissue and hurriedly tossing them into his dirty trunk. In the distance, I could see my husband, my new name, my new family, riding toward us on a bike of all things (probably stolen as usual), going so fast that his locs whipped up in the air like wings. Always late. Always crisp and clean, somehow. Always mine.
All of them, really. This was the family that argued with me and laughed with me, and worried about me. Osh, Astor, and Juke.
I turned to my mother and sister, ignoring my sister’s teary and hurt glare, and did a dramatic bow.
“I’m not a Bishop anymore, okay?” The gasp that came from Tiana hurt. Most of my father’s daughters didn’t get to be Bishops, and here I was giving it up. My mother finally lost all her anger and crumbled.
“Of course, you are. Of course, you are, Noah! What else could you be-“
“Do me a favor – don’t look for me when you see my research papers in your overpriced journals. Don’t find my number when you hear about me curing Astor or solving whatever mundane problems you’ve worked your whole life to figure out. I’m not yours anymore, right, hun? I’m not pregnant, but yeah, maybe I’ll give birth to one of those disgusting little things one day, and it won’t be a Bishop either. It’ll be a Dill.” My mother’s face turned redder than it already was. Her updo seemed to sag. I was the most accomplished child, after all. She didn’t have kids not to brag about them.
“A Dill? So this was Yenna’s idea. You’re running off to belong to a monster-“
“I’m running off to live the life I want to live. That’s it.”
Juke skidded to a stop next to me, kissed my cheek, and grinned at my mother.
“Hey! Oh, we’re leaving? Oh, cool, bye, Mrs. Bishop.”
“Creature,” my mother growled, but Juke just smiled.
“Ay, we’re gonna do some donuts in front of your house. I hope that’s cool!” He dropped the bike in front of them, laughing like a maniac, and we piled into the car. Astor sat in the back with me, watching closely for any signs of emotion.
There were none to feel. Not for them.
“Oh, Mrs. Bishop!” Astor yelled, leaning out the car window, screaming over Osh revving the engine, screaming over our excited laughs. My mother fixed her face a bit and stared at her acquired daughter. Astor was such a prize. I knew she hated to lose her. Astor cooked and cleaned and won awards and didn’t hang out with boys all night, and was an overall breeze. An easy path to greatness. A pile of regal 18-year-old wonder. A connection to a past my mother both loved and hated. My mother even managed a small, hopeful smile at her fostered protege.
“Noah’s not pregnant. But I am.”
Don't Stop There!
If you knew the work Autumn did to save Noah from Juke, you’d be angry, too.
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