Title: The Key
Pairing: none (Jessica-centric)
Genre(s): slice of life, angst, drama, humor
Word Count: 1,175
Summary: AU- A series of vignettes that illustrate how Jessica's past has shaped her life.
a/n: This is written in a completely different style than my usual stories because I wrote this for a class. Also be aware that the POV changes from 1st to 3rd person every other vignette.
In seventh grade, my Spanish teacher assigned us to make a family tree in class. On the board, the teacher made her own as an example. I think my teacher must have been only twenty-two or so.
“My aunt doesn’t have a husband because she’s a lesbian,” she joked when she got to her aunt, “She just has a lot of cats.”
The classroom full of immature boys and girls burst into laughter. It wasn’t every day that a teacher said the word lesbian.
I felt like my teacher had betrayed her aunt’s trust somehow- it seemed like telling a class of kids who were not yet mature enough to understand was disrespectful. I didn’t understand yet, either. Was spinster-hood really the same as being gay for a woman?
But it got me to thinking about my uncle who wasn’t married. And suddenly, in the middle of Spanish class when I was twelve, it all made sense. My single, charming, show-tune loving uncle was gay. And no one had told me.
I was later told when I was 16.
Her mother sometimes would tell her stories about her college days. But the stories became less happy as the years went on- when she was old enough to “understand.” They’d include things about when she’d met Jessica’s father and how things were before they got married, when they were dating. And, the older that Jessica got, the more they turned into poorly concealed warnings: don’t make the same mistakes that I did, she seemed to say, don’t marry someone like your father.
I dream about missing deadlines. I dream about being unprepared and about endless staircases with no railings that go up high enough that, if I fell, I’d break my neck. I dream that my family dies and that I’m wandering through endless, dark rooms. I dream about guys that I’m sure are gay fucking me and I dream about girls with wandering hands and soft lips. I dreamt about girls even before. I dream about jokes that make no sense upon waking. I dream about statues that talk and tell the future that have me waking in a frenzied panic- terrified and whimpering. I dream horrible things that darken my mood all day that I can’t even remember by that evening.
But I dream about my father a lot. I dream about hating him. I rarely remember what it was that he did to me to make me so angry in the dream, but the dreams all end with me yelling and screaming. I yell that I hate him- sometimes to his face, sometimes to my mother’s sympathetic ear.
Our relationship is not nearly so bad during waking hours.
I used to just write it off as typical father/daughter problems. But after the dreams became more persistent, it occurred to me that maybe there was a problem.
“If you could have one wish, what would it be?” her mother asked Jessica when she was four years old. The young girl stopped to think, but it didn’t take long before her eyes lit up and she knew exactly what she wanted.
“I wish that everything in the world was pink and plastic!”
Her mother laughed and told the story for years to come.
In retrospect, Jessica thinks that it sounds a bit like the story of King Midas.
I loved to put on shows in my basement when I was in elementary school. I loved to get dressed up and dance around on my mom’s old college trunk, pretending that it was a stage. I even had an old pink sheet hanging behind me as the back drop.
My mom’s old tank-tops made perfect mini dresses and her barely-touched eye shadow set from the eighties (including, but not limited to, turquoise, mustard yellow, and black shadows) was what I would use to do my makeup.
I sang along to the Spice Girls and Britney Spears. Sometimes I’d dance to *NSync or some other 90’s boy band. But I much preferred to pretend that I was Ginger Spice. I think that’s where my obsession with dying my hair red came from.
Either that or Ariel from the Little Mermaid.
Her mother raised her to be strong- opinionated. She didn’t want her to be a doormat- someone who was always walked all over. She didn’t want Jessica to be like her. But had she encouraged her to be too outspoken? And even if she wasn’t a pushover, had she still failed her in other ways? She’d still handed down so much baggage, she felt. So she pushed therapy. She told Jessica how important it was to work her issues out- about how many issues that she, herself, had to work out in her own therapy sessions.
Everyone has issues, after all.
I got my first tattoo when I was a freshman in college, taking the train into the big city with one of the girls who lived in the dorm room next to mine. The tattoo was a key that looked like the key that went to my mother’s dresser- the one that my grandmother helped her pick out at a garage sale right after my mom got married.
My tattoo artist, a brash, Italian guy in in twenties or thirties, yelled at a food delivery man as I was paying. It was a relief that he hadn’t been so intimidating before I’d gotten the tattoo. Because I’d been pretty nervous beforehand. But I was determined.
And on the train on the way home, I couldn’t stop grinning- excited to get back to my dorm to finally take off the bandage to wash it and admire it in the dirty mirrors of the communal bathroom.
It felt like the first decision that I’d made on my own- from what to get to where to get it to the shop that I went to- and it was an intoxicating feeling.
Her mother spoke of how her own mother wasn’t happy in her marriage. She said that, years later after Jessica’s grandfather had passed away from melanoma, she still didn’t know why she stayed in such an unhappy relationship. She told Jessica that she had asked her mother, but she never got a straight answer.
Jessica often wonders why her own mother stays married to her father. She doesn’t know whether she’d be happier if her parents divorced or not. But she’s too afraid to ask- too afraid to breach the subject and far too afraid to hear the answer.
She knows that her mother hopes for more from her- wants her to avoid the same mistake. She also hopes that she won’t end up with someone that makes her unhappy. She hopes that she will be the girl that her mother wants her to be- successful, happy, independent.
As much as she wants it and as much as her mother wants it for her, she’s scared- so scared that she’ll let them both down and then place her hopes on the daughter that she might have one day.