When Preem was younger, her dad used to joke that he would be a dead man without her mom whenever she'd stop him from doing something like accidentally burning himself on the stove or remember where he put his keys. She'd never quite understood why the words would always make her mother's mouth twist into a grimace, eyes flashing.
When she got older, she figured that it was just the frustration of being expected to always look out for her dad the way that mothers oft were expected to keep tabs on everything in the household.
She never doubted that her parents loved each other, but they were the textbook example of a heterosexual marriage—Preem was a Gender Studies major and quite proud of that fact, even though her dad didn't really seem sure what to make of it.
But her dad was a good man—had a good heart. It was odd, sometimes, to have a moderately-famous father, whose songs played on the radio as throwback hits, who all her friends had grown up listening to.
Especially because her dad never, ever, played music in the house. There was an acoustic guitar that sat on display in their living room, collecting dust until one of them would eventually decide to wipe it down. Preem knew that all of his songs had been written and recorded while he and her mom were in University together. He'd written one more after they'd graduated, but it was the first two he released that had led to his initial success.
They were both vastly different, but Preem knew her mom and dad had broken up for a bit in University, so she'd figured the second song had simply been written during the breakup. Either way, her father never seemed inclined to sing at home, and Preem never really thought about it all too much, unless someone asked her about it.
There were a lot of things that Preem had assumed, growing up.
Most of them were wrong.
On the 25th anniversary of the release of Moment, her dad's old record label decided to produce a short documentary. Her dad hadn't been especially thrilled about the development, and her mom was downright uncomfortable, but the documentary was going to go ahead with or without them—so her dad and mom decided that with was the far better option.
Preem had been excited despite her parents' reluctance, and the night that the documentary was airing, she caught the bus home to watch it with them, dragging them both into the living room after dinner.
It wasn't that bad, at first—kind of cool, in all honesty, with the opening montage of all the artists that had covered the song in the years since its release.
But then the actual story-telling portion began and things went downhill incredibly quickly when the screen lit up with a series of photos from her parents' time in university.
It was a group photo that did it—her parents in the center of the shot. But standing next to her dad, arm slung around his neck with a bright grin on his face, was a boy that Preem had never seen—Preem knew most of her parents' University friends, they'd all come over at one time or another. And even if they hadn't recently, she knew almost all of them had been invited to her parents' wedding—photos of which Preem had poured over for hours when she was ten and obsessed with the crinkle of thin plastic under her fingertips.
Her dad inhaled sharply when he saw the picture, and her mom stiffened next to him, digging her fingers into the fabric of her pants.
"What's wrong?" Preem asked, looking between her parents and the photo, which had now been replaced by a slideshow of more images from their university days. Preem could see that the mystery boy was in a few of those as well.
"Did they run those past you?" her mom asked her dad, and her dad shook his head, face pale.
"Let me call them," he said, voice shaky as he rose off the couch, pulling his phone out of his pocket as he made his way into the hallway, leaving Preem and her mom in the living room. Her mom reached for the remote and switched the TV off—the silence it left was deafening.
"Who—" Preem hesitated, "Who was that?"
Her mom pursed her lips, exhaling shakily. "An old friend."
What happened to him? Preem wanted to ask, but she couldn't bring herself to, knowing, somehow, that this was a question she didn't want to make her parents answer.
Her dad returned to the living room a little while later, still off-balance, and they wound up changing the channel to a mindless lakorn. When Preem woke up the next morning, her parents acted like nothing had happened the night before—but the guitar in the living room had disappeared.
There were no explanations that her parents would give her—nor the people that knew them in university, all of them shutting up incredibly quickly the moment that Preem mentioned the other boy in the photo. And while she likely could've pieced some of it together herself, she didn't, the image of her dad's pallid face and her mom's bone-weary sigh seared into her memory.
It wasn't till decades later, after her dad passed, that her mom had quietly explained what they'd hidden from her all those years.
1. Preem wasn't named after her mother
2. Her dad hadn't been joking
3. Her dad wasn't straight
4. The songs weren't for her mom
5. He'd loved a boy named Peem