AUTHOR'S NOTE: I am so sorry that this took so long to update. My original plan for it seemed too "canned" and I revamped the original direction in which I want to take it. I hope you're all still with me!

Chapter 7

Well, I should have known things wouldn't stay the way they were for too long. The shoe always seems to be dangling above my head … or at least it used to be. I guess I'm slightly more jaded now, but I think everyone has to lose some of their wide-eyed innocence before the growing up process is over. I'm no different, I found. I shocking and disconcerting discovery, to be sure!

I was seeing Sal for about three months at that point when she asked whether or not I was ready to tell my family I was dating a woman. She hadn't asked me to go any further than kissing and some fooling around. And now that I think about it, she might have been saving that for a time when she felt more certain about me and where we were going, as a couple. Can you blame her? She's already been burned once by a bisexual girl.

I have to confess, I got that pang of fear that shoots down your back when you find yourself confronting something you've been dreading. And right after that, the guilt set in. How could I have forgotten that her previous relationship ended because she was trapped in a never-ending lie of pretending she was a guy?

"I … guess I am," I said slowly.

I was scared. I didn't want to hurt Sal, but I also didn't want to shock my family. But I could see that this was very important to her. And her feelings had become very important to me, as her girlfriend. It's weird how it's different having a girlfriend, as opposed to a boyfriend. The guys never cared whether or not I considered their feelings, just like they didn't consider my feelings when they did shit. Seriously, no guy I ever dated considered how I felt about ANYTHING. I came to understand that this was a "guy thing" inherent to the macho jerks I dated. Maybe if I'd gone out with the more sensitive type I'd have had a different opinion. But I was a "clone" and my group dated jocks, so there you go.

Anyway, when I said that I would tell my family, you should have seen the beaming smile Sal sent me. It was like she was grateful I was willing to do that for her. And that made me feel doubly guilty. I didn't see why she should have to feel grateful for something I should be grown up enough about to do on my own. She asked if I wanted her to be there, but I decided against it. I needed to talk to my parents on my own first. God knows my mother can be … difficult when dealing with people she's decided she doesn't like. They'd met Sal already, but they'd assumed she was a guy and I never corrected that assumption.

It took me a week to get up the nerve to talk to my mom about it. She's a formidable woman, even to those who've known her their whole lives. (You know I was talking about me, right?) She was folding my dad's laundry when I finally approached her. I watched her from the doorway for a minute before I let her know I was there. My mom always looks … I don't know. Regal, I guess? Like she could take on the world. Even as she ages, it's hard for me to believe anyone could get one over on her. Especially me. She was taller than I was by about 4 inches, and she was stockier, though that didn't take anything away from her overall appearance. My mom is one of those women who got more attractive in her middle-aged years. There was no gray in her brassy blonde hair, but she colors it, so there shouldn't be. Her eyes always held a suspicious look when I asked to talk to her … like she knew I was going to say things she didn't like. That's me, I guess. Especially now.

"Um … Mom?"

She looked up at me, over her glasses (like a schoolteacher does to bad kids). "Yeah?"

"Can I, uh … can I talk to you?"

"Sure."

She averted her gaze back to the pile of laundry she was folding but I could sense she was on "high alert" for the conversation. I guess I couldn't really blame her for that. I rarely sought her out just to chat, unless we were going to a social event or something and I didn't know too many others there.

"About … um … Sal."

She smiled as she picked up a pair of shorts and shook them out. "Sal seems like a nice boy," she murmured noncommittally. "Much nicer than that Steve you were seeing."

"Oh, definitely a step up from Steve," I nodded with a small nervous grin. "But, um … here's the thing."

She looked up at me expectantly. Okay, here goes nothing.

"Sal's um … a girl."

You know that tired expression, you could hear a pin drop? I never really believed it until then. You could literally hear both of our heartbeats in that room as my mother stood motionless with a pair of khaki shorts in midair, staring at me like I'd just announced the queen of England was coming for dinner that evening. Complete shock … followed by disbelief.

"That good looking young man isn't a woman," she laughed. "Stop joking."

"I'm not joking," I sighed. "She's a girl."

My mom quirked an eyebrow up and finished folding the shorts, setting them down on the pile already on the bed.

"Alexia," she said slowly, in her don't-screw-with-me voice. "Are you saying that your … friend is one of those people?"

I swallowed. I knew I could handle this in several different ways. I could laugh it off and tell her that I was just joking. I could say that although Sal is, in fact, a female, we're just friends and not to worry about it. Or I could take control over my own life finally and let her know that I was old enough to make my own decisions about whether or not the world could accept who I was. I almost copped out and opted for numbers 1 or 2. But at the last second, I remembered Sal's face as she earnestly asked me if I was willing to waste any more time on pretending. I was honest with her then and it was only fair that I remain honest now. So I took a deep breath and faced off with my own mother over it.

"She's a woman and we are, in fact, dating." I used my own no-nonsense tone on her and held my breath. Knowing my mother, I was sure this wouldn't go well now. And sometimes I hate being right.

"Dating?"

"That's what we young 'uns call it nowadays," I shrugged.

"Don't try and be flip with me. Since when are you … you …?"

"Queer?" I ventured in a small voice. "Most likely since always."

"You never said anything!"

"Look at your reaction! Why would I?"

We stared at each other again for what seemed like an eternity. She was upset, and I figured she might be. But her reasons didn't seem justified to me. I know my mother, and I know it's all about what her friends and neighbors think of us … the perfect family. My mom enjoyed being the envy of those around her for raising "good" kids and having a "nice" home. To hell with what I really wanted, she just wanted me to "behave."

"You're not seeing a woman!" she hissed. "Not my daughter!"

"I am seeing a woman! And in case you haven't noticed, I'm beyond the age where I can be told what to do."

She narrowed her eyes and I knew I just gave her an opening to take care of the problem. Luckily for me I'd already started looking for a new place to live. Oh, don't give me that much credit. I wasn't looking in preparation for this standoff. I wanted to get out of my parents' house and start living on my own now that I had a steady job that would hopefully lead me further into a career in fashion. I'd answered some ads looking for a roommate, and now it seems I'd have to decide on something fast.

"Well, Alexia, as long as you live under my roof, you'll abide by my rules."

I sighed deeply, knowing I was quickly approaching a turning point nearly all young adults face before moving into that new relationship with their parents, where they're accepted as adults finally and not as children needing to be raised.

"I guess it's a good thing I've already started looking for a new place to live then," I countered sadly.

"You … what?" She brought an elegant hand to her throat in surprise, like she'd never expected me to defy her in such a way.

"How else am I going to be able to take control of my life as long as you hold it over my head?" I asked.

"I'm just trying to spare you the embarrassment."

"What embarrassment?"

"When this … phase … is over, how are you going to face people?" she demanded.

"It's not a phase, mom," I shrugged and left the room.

What more was there to say?