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Questions and Answers

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It had been a long time since Petra had first talked with her daughters about the nature of her relationship with Jane Ramos — five years and a wedding later, to be exact. 

The first conversation came just a few weeks into Petra’s relationship with Jane, when Petra had been far too distracted one morning and had forgotten to look at her texts. She missed the crucial message that Rafael was bringing Ellie and Anna to Petra’s penthouse earlier than expected because of a shift change, and thus, just as Jane was finishing in the shower, Petra found herself trying to extract the girls from the situation before things could become… complicated.

Suffice to say, she failed miserably.

At the time, Petra had had many qualms about introducing her girls to Jane. The most pressing was the one that turned out to be a well-founded concern — Jane’s comfort level with children. Petra and Jane hadn’t yet talked about children, though Jane obviously knew that Petra was mother to two of them, and Petra feared that Jane would leave her after the reality of her motherhood actually sunk in. 

(Although, if any partner left Petra simply because of her children, well — good riddance)

The next fear was one caused by the downfalls of a heteronormative society that even the most liberal and accepting of mothers could not protect their children from. Petra knew that one of the girls’ friends from school had two fathers, but most children — even her incredibly intelligent and mature daughters who were raised in a complicated family situation — still were socialized to figure that a mother-father family was the general norm.

It didn’t help that Petra had only been with men before Jane. Not only did she regret that she hadn’t discovered the wonders of women before being in her thirties, but she also feared that her sudden and new relationship with a woman would confuse Ellie and Anna.

So, as Petra walked her girls to the Marbella Kid’s Club to get ice cream and have a “nice talk”, she strategized. There would be no easy way to explain it, no precedent to fall back on. Petra always tried to be open and honest with her daughters, but even this transcended the bounds of explaining the myths of Santa and the Tooth Fairy.

Petra waited until the girls had their ice cream to begin. “Girls, I need you to pay attention to me for just a few minutes. Okay?”

The girls nodded and looked at their mother expectantly. Petra took a shuddering breath, squared her shoulders, and continued.

“When adults aren’t married, they sometimes become special friends with other unmarried adults who they think they might love, and they call it dating. That means that they spend lots of time together.”

“Just like Daddy and Auntie Jane?” Ellie asked.

“Exactly like Daddy and Auntie Jane,” Petra said.

Anna put her spoon in her bowl and furrowed her brows. “And you and Mr. Chesser?”

“Yes.” Petra sighed. “I used to date Mr. Chesser. But, dating doesn’t always work out between two people, and that’s why we don’t see him anymore.”

“Are Daddy and Auntie Jane going to get married?” Anna asked.

Petra laughed. “I don’t know. Maybe.” Anna seemed satisfied with this answer, so she returned to eating her ice cream. “I want you two to understand that dating isn’t just between and man and a woman, just like marriage isn’t just between a man and a woman. Just because it happens a lot doesn’t mean it’s the only thing that happens.”

“Jason has two daddies.” Ellie seemed proud of herself for understanding and contributing.

“He does,” Petra said, “but it doesn’t have to be two men, either. Two women can date and love each other. Do you understand?”

“Yeah, Mommy,” Anna responded. 

Petra took another breath before continuing. “You know my friend you just met? That was Jane, she’s—”

“Another Jane?” Ellie asked, looking to Anna in confusion.

“Let’s call her JR.” Petra tried to hold back a smile — Jane would give her hell for passing the nickname to her daughters. “JR and I are… dating.”

“Is that why she was wearing your robe?”

Petra’s eyes widened at Anna’s question. This territory was even more challenging.

“People who date sometimes… have sleepovers, because they want to be around each other for longer. So, when one person forgets to bring their robe or their shirt, the other shares.” Petra was proud of herself for that one. “Anyway, I just want to make sure you girls understand this and are okay with it.”

Anna looked at Ellie. “We are.”

“Well,” Petra said, letting out a steady breath, “good, then. Finish your ice cream and then you can help Mommy at the front desk.”

Before long, Petra was watching Jane warm up to the girls — after only a few months, Jane was staging fashion shows for them. The first time Petra got home from a late meeting and found the three wrapped in blankets on the couch, asleep, her heart melted; that was the night she knew Jane was the one.

They were engaged after a year — Jane proposed during a late-night walk on the beach — and married in just two months. The hotel was thriving, enough so that Jane only had to work as a lawyer part-time, and she was able to focus on the highest profile cases, becoming Florida’s premier attorney. Ellie and Anna thrived at school and at sports. Every day, Petra woke up and was delighted by the joy that her wife and daughters brought her.

One day, just a few months before Ellie and Anna turned eleven, Anna knocked on Petra and Jane’s door late at night. They had just settled in to bed; Petra had had a long day at work, her eyes had sagged at dinner, and Jane was content to help her restless wife fall quickly to sleep. When Anna approached them, tears falling down her face, however, Petra and Jane were wide awake.

Anna had always been the more reserved of the twins — Ellie, though mature and refined, was particularly expressive, much like Petra when she was relaxed. Anna, though, was quiet and contemplative. She always seemed to be ruminating over the plot of some book or pondering the workings of the human circulatory system. Her intellectual interests were well-rounded and ranged from philosophy to early calculus, whereas her sister had a one-track mind set on physics.

“What’s wrong, Anna?” Petra asked as she sat up in bed, her muscles wound tight as the strings of her violin. Jane rested a hand on her thigh to calm her, though held the same concern on her face.

“Can I—” she hiccuped through her words, “—can I sit in bed with you?”

“Of course.” Jane motioned for Anna to climb onto the mattress, and she moved away from Petra to make space. Their daughter settled between them and wiggled her feet into the pink sheets. “What’s wrong, baby?”

Anna didn’t speak for a long while, just took deep, shivering breaths. Petra looked at Jane over Anna’s head, her heart breaking. Neither of them spoke, however; they were going to let Anna speak when she was ready.

“What does it mean to be queer?” Anna finally asked, her voice soft and hesitant.

Petra’s stomach dropped, her chest tightened. “Did someone call you that?”

Anna nodded her head. Petra clenched her fists, ready to call someone’s parent and demand they explain why their child would dare to insult her daughter with a homophobic slur. Thankfully, Jane was able to be more rational in the moment. She reached over to Petra and took her hand to ground her.

“Anna, honey,” Jane began, because Petra could not form soothing words, not yet, “you have to know that being queer is not a bad thing. Your mother and I are both queer.”

“You are?” Anna looked confused, and though Petra was still simmering, she couldn’t help but melt at how adorable it was. She could already see Anna’s mind moving, preparing itself for an onslaught of information that it would be able to process and contemplate.

“Whoever said that to you probably meant it in a nasty way. But there are multiple uses of the word.” Jane smiled and waited as Anna shifted so that she could face them, ready to learn. “A long time ago, ‘queer’ meant weird or odd. Then, queer became a mean way to describe a person who loved other people of the same gender.”

“Okay. So you and Mommy, because you both love each other, are queer,” Anna said. After a beat, her eyes widened and she covered her mouth. “But it’s a bad word? I’m so sorry, Mama, Mommy. I didn’t mean it.”

Petra, finally calm, laughed. “It’s okay, Anna. It’s all about context, and who uses the word. When Mama and I call ourselves queer, we only mean it to describe how we feel. Some people only love their same gender, and they are queer, and other people love many genders, and they are also queer. It just makes it easier to identify a larger group of people who have small differences.”

“I am a lesbian,” Jane said, “so I only love women. Mommy is bisexual, so she loves men and women.”

“But you’re both queer, because you both love women.”

“Exactly.” Petra leaned forward to kiss her daughter’s head. “Men who love men are queer, and men who love men and women and any other gender are queer.”

“Then I’m queer,” Anna said.

Petra froze, then turned to Jane, who bit back a smile. “Is that how you feel?”

“I think so.” Anna closed her eyes. “You know the show K.C. Undercover?”

Jane nodded. “You and Ellie watch reruns all the time.”

“Ellie always talks about how cute she thinks Ernie is. She can go on for an hour about how amazing he is, and how wonderful his hair is, or how much she likes his eyes. I feel that way, but about K.C. Does that mean I’m queer?” Anna looked into Petra’s eyes, mirrors of each other. “How did you know that you were bisexual?”

Petra’s cheeks turned hot, and she looked nervously to Jane. “I think we should settle into bed before I tell this story. Would you like to sleep in here?”


So the three burrowed into the covers. Petra reached over and turned her lamp off, then turned to face Anna and Jane. Even in the dark, she could see Jane’s smug smile. She was hoping to wait another few years before they had the sex talk with the girls, so she had to come up with a quick, P-G explanation of her sexual fantasies about Jane. Petra stroked Anna’s smooth hair and tucked it behind her ear.

“I first met Mama five years ago, when my sister, Anezka… died. Mama and I were working together. I didn’t know that I might have feelings for women, until I started thinking about Mama and started spending time with her. We were just friends first, then…”

“Then what?” Anna looked expectantly at Petra.

“Then Mama showed me how it felt to love a woman, and I realized that I didn’t want to be with another man, or another woman, for that matter,” Petra said. “All I needed was her.”

“I love you,” Jane whispered, then leaned over Anna to kiss Petra gently.

Anna smiled at them. “Did you know that you loved women when Mama kissed you for the first time?”

“After she kissed me the first time, I was sure that I loved women, yes.”

“I want to kiss a girl,” Anna said then. Petra and Jane both started giggling.

“In a few years, if you want to kiss a girl, and she wants to kiss you, too, then you can.” Jane placed a kiss on Anna’s forehead.

“Mama, when did you know you loved women?” Anna’s question was punctuated with a deep yawn. Jane shuffled in closer and threw an arm over her daughter and tightened her hand on Petra’s hip.

“I was only a few years older than you. I was twelve, and I had a crush on my older babysitter,” Jane explained. “She was tall and blonde, and I thought she was the coolest person on Earth.”

“Even back then you had a type.” Petra winked at Jane, who narrowed her eyes.

“Anyway, after that, other girls were crushing on boys, and I wasn’t. I was scared and confused, and it took me a long time to really be okay with my feelings, but after I was, the world opened to me and my life was much happier than it had been,” she finished.

“I’m so happy I'm queer like you,” Anna said softly. Her breaths evened out.

Petra looked tiredly into Jane’s eyes. It had been almost an hour since Anna came to their room.

“Are you surprised?” Jane asked softly.

Petra shrugged. “I’m honestly a bit relieved. I was worried something far worse was going on.”

“It’s not okay that someone at school called her queer.”

“Don’t worry,” Petra said. “I’ll be on the phone with the teacher first thing tomorrow.”

“I wouldn’t expect anything less.” Jane squeezed Petra’s hip and closed her eyes. Petra felt sleep pulling at the corners of her mind.

Soon, all three were asleep soundly, the conversation they had had momentarily out of mind. When morning came, they simply smiled at Anna and sent her off to get ready for school. There were no more tears, and no more questions (for now), but when Petra kissed Jane goodbye, she noticed the brightest smile on Anna’s face.