Jennifer Taylor learnt that life was ironic.
The belle of the ball with long, shimmering blonde hair and vivid blue eyes, at the mere age of twenty-two, and she was getting married to the stylish man who literally swept her off her feet. How could life get any better?
Gifts showered her daily from the day they met. Flowers. Candy. Chocolates. Jewels. Dancing in the moonlight. Kissing beneath the stars. Making love on the rose-petals sprinkled on beds, picnic blankets, car seats, or any surface Craig could get his hands on.
Life at twenty-two was like a romance novel come to animation.
But somewhere along the line, Jennifer realized that there was more to life after the happily ever after.
The heavy rock on her slim ring finger started to feel heavier every day as the tidal romance dwindled. One day, Jennifer stopped receiving gifts. There were no more flowers, no more candies, and no more chocolates. There was no more dancing in the moonlight or kissing beneath the stars or making love on any more rose-petals.
And she wondered when had marriage become the downfall of their passionate love affair.
But then she received the greatest gift anyone could ever give her, and she forgot all her treacherous thoughts that rebelled against her proper lady-like training instilled from birth.
Vivid baby blue eyes and creamy porcelain skin captured her from his first cry.
And who cared about the flowers – they always withered eventually – or the candies – cavities and hypertension and gaining weight, the horror – or the chocolates – okay, so maybe she cared a little about the chocolates – or the jewels – the rock on her finger was already a burden to carry – when Justin blinked those gorgeous blue eyes, yawned cutely and then snuggled into her arms?
The love affair was on again. Just with the wrong man.
Instead, Jennifer spent her nights dancing with her baby boy and kissing his round cheeks in the moonlight that seeped through his bedroom window; and she spent her days lying on picnic blankets covered with rose petals, simply basking in the babble and joy her son exuded.
And she thought firmly to herself that nothing could surpass this pure piece of perfection in her life. Not even her absent husband who sometimes thought that his company was more important than the little miracle they’d created.
Jennifer just couldn’t comprehend that.
Clinging artistic fingers reached for crayons and papers before his legs could walk a steady line. And Jennifer knew that her talented baby boy was born to be great.
As he grew older, she often found herself wondering how she could accept another woman in his life. How could some girl love him as much as she did? Was that possible? Would she be able to take care of her baby boy as well as she?
Jennifer just couldn’t imagine it.
Then Justin befriended Daphne. And Jennifer started to imagine it. Daphne was an opinionated girl and unlike Craig, she could care less about her skin tone. Daphne made Justin happy. Case closed.
But as the years passed, Jennifer began to have second thoughts about Daphne-and-Justin.
Justin was too much for even the opinionated Daphne. There was too much fire, too much passion, too much of everything in him. And Jennifer couldn’t love him more for it.
Poor Daphne was just another one of them, stringing along in the wake of destruction and creation Justin seemed incapable of controlling. And Jennifer laughed to herself. Teenage rebellion was just something everyone went through. Why should Justin not experience it too?
When the first of the detentions and punishments were doled out, Jennifer simply chalked it up to the fierce independence in her son that prevented him from accepting the unacceptable. Her brave little fighter.
Why shouldn’t he defend the bullied? Why should he not be able to question the teachers? Why was his art not considered as important as his other academic subjects or even the physical sports?
Molly appeared in a distracting surprise. Unplanned yet a most welcome addition to the Taylor family. The sometimes-absent Craig was suddenly there again. The company was thriving without his constant presence and he was finally ready to be a family man.
Jennifer delved into her dark thoughts. He was ready. Eights years after the birth of their son and he was finally ready to be a father. But Jennifer had had years of practice. She ignored the unspoken librettos in her mind and moved on.
The Taylors were finally completed. The successful businessman and doting father, the pretty and demure trophy wife with the outspoken and brave son and darling little daughter.
Why then did Jennifer feel like a fraud?
But Molly prevented such thoughts from manifesting and Jennifer was more than grateful. Because, although Justin’s independence meant that she was doing her job as his mother, she still felt lonely.
Justin had begun to carve a life for himself. One that didn’t necessarily include her. But, that was growing up, wasn’t it?
And on the positive side, she had another chance to have that love affair she’d once shared with her baby boy. But it was never the same. Molly simply wasn’t Justin.
Upon this realization, Jennifer suddenly craved the closeness they’d once shared. The years of Molly and Craig had dulled the bond between them and she didn’t really know her son anymore.
Justin was still an artist. So she started there. Exquisite drawings of life-like trees and nature. Intriguing representations of people. Painfully expressive nudes of boys and men. Jennifer closed the drawing pads.
Justin was still an artist. Check.
Jennifer punished herself. Where had she gone wrong? Did she neglect him? Was this a cry for attention or help? But as she thought about it, she scoffed. Justin didn’t cry for attention or help. He fought for it. Her brave little fighter.
Jennifer shook herself of self-pity. Her son needed her. Guidance in his time of confusion – blast those teenage hormones – and understanding in his dilemma.
Jennifer Taylor learnt that life was ironic.
Justin neither needed nor wanted guidance or understanding. He just liked dick, sucking dick, getting fucked – oh God – by dick and apparently, he was good at it.
Jennifer blamed that little fucker named Brian.
Brian had corrupted her son. Her beautiful baby boy who was being – exploited – by that Brian. Jennifer felt like crying.
Her carefully constructed world was falling apart at the seams. And then it got worse.
Brian wasn’t some little fucker. No, of course not. Her son didn’t believe in toeing the line but crossing the fucking border. Brian was a man. A thirty-year-old man. A man. With a job and his own place.
Something broke in Jennifer the moment she saw her baby boy in his evil clutches at that first art show, the moment that man pressed his lips to her son’s ear and intimately bit him.
Jennifer Taylor broke.
All the denials and self-pity just skipped out the window and committed suicide. Justin was gay. Her son was attracted to men. The latest slap in the face was the last piece of evidence she needed.
But she knew she needed guidance and the ability to understand. Cue Debbie Novotny.
Jennifer learnt more about the male physique in those minutes than she had experienced first-hand in about twenty years of marriage. But she also learnt more about her son in those minutes than she had in the past few years. She learnt how to become the mother of a sexually active gay boy.
And she put those lessons to use during those trying first months.
It slowly worked before it didn’t.
Jennifer should have known. Never to trust her husband with the well-being of her baby boy. The man who had always placed his company before his family. She was lulled into the faux family man persona over the past few years, and it had bit her with vengeance.
Brian swooped in like an avenging angel, dark and brooding. His admonishments and well-veiled scorn stabbed at the part of Jennifer that disciplined and conditioned her into the perfect lady, the perfect wife… but not the perfect mother.
Her heart broke.
Instead of collapsing in a pitiful state of the fits or outright anger like her husband, Jennifer armed herself with a facade of confidence and authority. Marching to Brian’s office, she surprised herself and probably the man as well with her audacity in the care of her son.
It didn’t hurt to admit that at least her son had chosen well in someone who could provide for him, as Jennifer surveyed the office building and Brian’s position at the workplace. Like mother, like son.
Maybe, she could learn to accept Brian, if it meant she could keep her son.
Then the divorce came.
Like a rose in her hand.
The beauty of freedom in those red velvet petals, slightly stained with the blood from the thorns in the scorn and hate in Craig as he refused to provide for her and her son any longer.
As though the world wanted retribution, prom happened, and suddenly Jennifer spent her days like a ghost trailing the white corridors of the hospital crying silently and praying as much as she could.
Justin woke up. But her son didn’t.
The angry ball of hate snarled and cried as his hand - his precious hand, her little artist - lost control. Grief battered her and she threw it at the man who was conveniently there. Not Craig - that piece of trash - but Brian - who looked no better than her, to be honest.
Justin rallied and hated on her decision leading her to willing give up him again for her to regain her son. Her smiling, giggling baby boy.
And the years passed.
Her baby boy returned in bits and pieces, making right decisions here and there, and making terrible choices here and there. And the stunner of it all, the stability and steadiness behind her boy’s recovery lay in the man who she used to call the bane of her existence.
Her job bridged the discomfort between Brian and herself, and their shared interest in her son seemed to capitalize on it. Without being away of it, her mind unconsciously treated Brian as a son-in-law whether he liked it or not. A distal son-in-law, but one she knew she could trust with her son.
Her dreams of her baby boy finding a girl who could handle him seemed hilarious these days, but at the heart of it…
Jennifer figured that maybe he had found a man who could handle him instead.
Jennifer Taylor learnt that life was ironic.
Romance transcended genders and all the societal norms. Jennifer followed the rules and ended with a divorce with irreconcilable differences.
Her mind usually wandered these days to explore what she - as an individual - thought romance was - and not what society declared.
Gifts? Like what? Flowers? Candy? Chocolates? Jewels? – that man had given Justin a family when his biological had failed him. What did material gifts mean at the end of the day? And though her baby boy was in New York living his artistic dreams, his jewels - his wedding ring and his ex-fiancee / current lover - remained in a loft down the street from her home.
Dancing in the moonlight? Why hide in the darkness, when so much of what they represented was forbidden? Instead, they danced where all could see them. In the flashing techno of a club, along the streets of their hometown, in a prom for the bigoted…
Kissing beneath the stars? Making love on the rose-petals sprinkled on beds, picnic blankets, car seats? And unfortunately, Jennifer knew a little too well - and maybe not at all - of the places that shared moments of their moments. They might not be ones she would explore, but the act and intent behind the act were all that mattered, not the place.
Romance was all in the eye of the beholder. And this time, the younger, bad boy with the motorcycle had decided to catch her eye. Maybe, this time around, she could glimpse - experience and live - a bit of what stole her baby boy from her.
After all… like mother, like son.