Your mother is drinking again.
At least, her current, juvenile iteration is.
“I remember,” she drawls, carelessly banging the empty bottle of Knob Creek down on to the table, “that you were never there for me. Like, at all. Who fucking does that, not give their kid any emotional support? What kind of frigid bitchmonster from beyond the rings of Saturn-“ she spews flecks of saliva in her righteous indignation. “-does that? Seriously. What the hell?”
“Being as I have no recollection of my alleged maternal failings, I haven’t the foggiest idea.” You’ve run through your book – Gregory Maguire’s Wicked, a perennial favorite – and set it down on the table. The last of your yarn was delegated to the repair of a rather misshapen partial scarf yesterday, leaving you nothing to do but sit on the couch and mull over whether or not you should concede to boredom and turn on the television.
“See? That’s exactly the shit I was talking about. All that pointless fucking passive-aggressive horseshit. ‘As you dedicate your time to binge-drinking so dutifully, I see no reason that you shouldn’t be able to adjust to an increased academic workload. You’ve certainly demonstrated that your capability for disciplined time-management is beyond compare.’ Who fucking says stuff like that?” She flops into a sitting position on the floor near your feet.
You permit yourself a small, satisfying burst of carefully restrained resentment as you respond. “You did, lest we forget who raised whom.”
“Oh, cry me a river. Fine, you win, we both screwed up. You screwed me up, I screwed you up. It’s like a double reacharound of alcoholism and shitty parenting. God. They made a movie out of our dysfunctional bullshit, you know. It’s called Mary-Kate and Ashley Fuck Each Other Over.”
“The Olsens were twins, not chronologically displaced ectorelations of dubious exactitude.”
“Whatever. You get my point.” She leans back against the side of the couch and continues in a decidedly morose tone, picking at the weave of the carpeting with one hand. “Doesn’t change the fact that you never gave a shit one way or the other, never showed me any actual fucking affection. Guess you couldn’t, being as you never loved me. At least, it came off like that. If I was worth anything, you never showed it.” She’s moved throughout her lamentation, ending up sitting between your feet, gazing up at you from the floor.
In one universe or any, she was always difficult. But you can’t deny an echo of guilt that rings from somewhere in your psyche at her words. Though it wasn’t your timeline, you are yet culpable.
“If that’s how you choose to see it, then I suppose I must extend an apology. I’m hardly the type for flamboyant displays of devotion. If my natural tendency to reservation came off as frigidity, then I’m sorry.”
You think of your own mother, despised and yet admired, resented and yet willing to die for her ungrateful daughter.
You look at this girl, and who she could grow to be.
“For whatever it may be worth, I’m sure that there was no lack of affection on my end, however unnoticeable it may have been.”
She suddenly pulls herself up and forward, and there she is, right in your face. The hand you managed to place on her arm to halt her rapid advancement was entirely ineffectual.
She’s so close.
It feels as though what air remains between the both of you has compressed itself into something coiled and buzzing and keenly palpable; a barrier composed of unanswered questions and unvoiced regrets. The fabric of her shirt slides from under your grasp as she leans forward, breaching that last defense borne by distance, and a few of your fingers brush against warm skin.
“Do you love me?” she asks, close enough that you can taste the whiskey on her breath, can feel where she could be in the space of half a second, and there’s a ragged, desperate note in her voice that you know deep down isn’t from the drink.
In the fading afternoon light, there’s something terrible in her face, a weakness that you dearly want to deny.
You say nothing.
“Please, just fucking answer me,” she says, or tries to, because her voice cracks on the first syllable of answer, and everything after is half- sobbed. “No more bullshit, no more sarcasm, I just want an answer. Please.” She cups your cheek in one hand, a fingertip barely touching the lobe of your ear.
You realize with a sort of uneasy appreciation that she’s beautiful like this, framed by the dying sun; an anguished Eurydice limned in gold. Your knees press against her hips as she leans closer still, the distance between you an inch, if that.
“Do you love me?” she asks again, and this time you can hear the tears in her voice, see the eyeliner running down her face in damp greyish streaks. “Did you ever?”
Your bodies are pressed together by this point, her hips against yours as she gives you the most wrenchingly needful look you’ve ever seen outside of an ASPCA TV spot. Where her chest touches yours, you can feel her breathing. The tip of her nose bumps gently against your own.
She’s too close.
This isn’t right.
Attempting to pull yourself away would prove ill-advised; there’s a hand on your wrist and another lingering on your cheek, and the cushions at your back mark the end of your wiggle room. You’re not sure that you want to move at all, and that in itself is unnerving on some distant level. At any rate, the primitive, reptilian part of your brain ought to be screaming at you to flee, to flee now, but the synapses in question are curiously silent. On the contrary, there’s a voice in the back of your mind that’s saying yes, this is a position you ought to have been in sooner, and that you should endeavor to remain there. You’re not sure which is more frightening; that the voice exists, or that you’re inclined to listen to it. It occurs to you only now that your heart is jackhammering at a rate that feels fast enough to tear something loose, and that the room is hazy with heat worthy of Phlegethon’s roiling depths.
With all of your silent apologies, all of your far-too-late regrets, with all of the I’m sorrys and I never meant for any of this to happens, all that you can manage is an unsteady “Of course.”
And then her mouth is on yours, and you taste tears and residual whiskey as the girl who you’re finding increasingly difficult to think of as Mother kisses you.
A section of your brain shrieks that this absolutely should not be happening EVER, but is quickly drowned out by the howling of a larger portion insisting that yes, yes it should, because god do you want it to so very, very badly.
And then somehow you’re kissing her back, urgent and desperate, and her tongue is in your mouth as you tangle your fingers in her hair to pull her closer. Your lipstick is smearing, no doubt, but you can’t be bothered to care as you cling to your moment of twisted affection, your act of bastardized devotion. As your tongue runs along her upper palate, she makes a small noise of approval before pulling away, leaning against you for support.
She looks at you for a long, agonized moment. There is sorrow etched deeply upon her still-flushed face, and she gives up on holding back the tears.
Perhaps she was thinking of what you had just done.
Or who you could yet be.
Somehow, she’s ended up in your arms, face pressed to your neck as she’s wracked by shuddering, heartfelt sobs. There’s a lump in your throat and whiskey on your tongue, and you find yourself in tears as well.
Whether from shame or sorrow or the purest sort of desperation, you can’t say.