Today’s teaser is from a young adult book I’m working on called The Hornbeam Door. It feels a little weird to write something intended for teenagers, but I’m clearly tapping into the desolate weirdness of my own adolescence.
As soon as Mom got home from work, I said, “Reese asked me to the movie tonight.”
I thought she’d be excited. That she’d want to be there when Katelyn came over to help me get ready. I thought maybe she’d loan me some of her jewelry. She always did that when Lola had a special date. Ironed stuff for her, bought her new lipstick or nail polish.
“It’s awfully short notice,” Mom said.
That wasn’t like the third or fourth thing she said after: “That’s great!” or “Congratulations!” Because she didn’t say any of those things. The first thing she said was, “It’s awfully short notice.” She didn’t even look at me when she said it. She was fishing the tea bag out of her mug.
“The movie doesn’t start until 9:00. I know curfew is midnight, but I can be home by then.”
“That doesn’t seem a little rude to you?”
“What?” I said.
“That he only asked you today to go to the movie tonight?”
“Katelyn and I make last minute plans all the time.”
“She’s your best friend. I think if a boy wants to ask you out, he should give you more notice.”
“More importantly, I think you should consider what kind of message it sends that you’re willing to let him ask you out like that. Do you want to be the kind of girl he can treat very casually?”
“It’s not like that anymore.”
“It’s not like what? Men don’t need to respect women? Has that all changed?” Mom said. I hated it when she got like that. Like every little thing in life was part of some big picture. Some universal injustice or nationwide discrimination.
“Mom, it’s not like it was when you were dating. People don’t plan that far ahead. He only asked today because that’s when he decided to go.”
“It was like that last year when Lola was dating. She expected to be treated with more consideration.” Mom didn’t move. Didn’t do anything except blow on her tea and look at her recipe book.
“Well, how nice for Lola that she’s so wonderful she can plan her social calendar months in advance.”
“You know that’s not what I mean,” Mom said.
“What do you mean?”
“Are you content to be an after-thought? To be something he just decided to do at the last minute?”
I hated playing that game, but sometimes it was the only way to get through to Mom. The worst part was I knew it was over. By getting Dad involved, Mom was never going to be part of my dating life. She was never going to care about it the way she did about Lola dating. Maybe she wouldn’t have anyway, but it was over once I yelled for Dad.
When he came in, I said, “Can I go to the movies with Reese tonight?”
“Is this the boy you like? From your chemistry class?”
“That’s great, honey. I hope you have fun. Do you need some money?”
Mom closed her recipe book and left the room while Dad was getting out his wallet. It wasn’t that she didn’t mean well. She did. She just always meant well in the shittiest way possible.