So I entered this short story contest in hopes of winning a cash prize. Made it through first two rounds before getting knocked out for the finals. They give a Genre, a Main Character, and a Subject.
For this story, I got Drama (shudder), a 13-Year-Old Girl, and Overbearing. Here's what I did. I like it pretty well, I think.
Look, I’m sorry. But Davinia is a stupid name. It just is.
So I call her Dave. Not to her face or anything – since I can’t really face another respect lecture from Dad. Which is a sick joke, given the Mom Situation.
But, to me, she’ll always be Dave.
Which she might not be if she wasn’t so gross and horrible, but she is. That waxy face. Like a fried egg. And she can keep burning that mustache off, but that thing is stubborn.
And those bulgy lips Dad bought her over spring break. And that Trinidadian or whatever doctor. Who squirted her lips full of that poison so they’re all lopsided, like drifting to the left, so she always looks like a melting platypus.
And if she doesn’t ease up on the chemical peels, she’s gonna wind up like that one lady in Argentina or wherever, who kept peeling and peeling and peeling, till they finally burned into the little blood vessels inside her face, which started leaking, so she wakes up one day, and her already weird face is basically a skin bag full of blood. That’ll be Dave – gross, immobilized blood mask of a face.
And those boobs. Those ridiculous, hard boobs. Like hugging a bag of coconuts. Which – if she would take the HINT – is not a thing I wish to do, all the hugging. Best I can hope for I guess is like wriggling over to get a side-hug, since she’s always storming me with her coconut Dave-boobs, completely disregarding my OBVIOUS anxiety response every time she’s closing in.
But, like every other aspect of how she deals with me – totally tone deaf. Total overkill. The texting – I swear if she sends me another string of stupid Hello, Kitty emojis like I’m some kind of baby, I will scream. Plus, her eyesight is too crappy to be able to really see them half the time, so she’s basically just sending me a string of total nonsense. Plus: those Post-Its she always puts in my lunches – lunches we BOTH know Esperanza is making, which, I mean, YES, is Esperanza’s JOB, obviously, but Dave thinks if she sticks a Post-It that says “Miss You, XO” or “You go, Girl!” on the Tupperware thing of baby carrots in that TOTALLY annoying super-girly handwriting, that I’ll get worn down and accept the stupid fact that she married my stupid dad, and we’ll all be a big stupid family, even though I already HAVE a mom (even if it’s only for few more weeks, and even if she’s mostly pretty out of it from her meds) – it’s ridiculous and pathetic.
Which would all be fine – or bearable, I guess – if she didn’t have such a boner for fondant. I mean, I will include a ganache in CERTAIN cakes, but fondant is a full-on crime.
Because I have been baking since WAY before she showed up – but she watches one frickin’ episode of Cake Boss (which just proves her lameness, because how can you watch that crap show when Ace of Cakes exists?) and thinks we’re all bonding or whatever. So I keep coming home – from my CLASS, where I’m actually learning to bake WELL, not show-offy stupid baking like on TV – and she’ll be sculpting little malformed, like THINGS. Where you can’t ever really tell what it’s even supposed to BE, except like “An Animal of Some Kind,” and she’ll come tottering out of the stupid kitchen in those heels she’s always got on (you’re not tall, Dave – we all know you’re not tall, so you’re not fooling anybody with your stupid, slutty-looking shoes), and will be SHRIEKING at me the SECOND I walk in, before I can even get my JACKET off:
“Emmy! Emmy! Come see! Come see the panda I made as the topper of your Chinese New Year cake! Isn’t it the SWEETEST?”
Which, OK, first of all – I have told her like fifteen thousand-million times my name is Emma. Emma is my name, and I do not appreciate being called Emmy. My MOM called me Emmy. When I was LITTLE. And not for a long time. And if she DID, like a couple months ago when she woke after that last surgery, she’d remember, and try to RESPECT my feelings a little bit. And, also – this THING she’s do proud of and eager to show me is very much NOT the sweetest. It looks like a turd. A black and white turd. This, like, butt bullet. That dropped out of a Dalmatian. And she comes bursting out of the kitchen, cupping this sad little turd like it’s an orchid or something. Nice try, Dave. But your stubby man-fingers are not any good at this kind of stuff. Like at all. If you were like six, this fondant panda would be incredible. But you’re like forty-nine. So this sucks. And you suck. And STOP HUGGING ME. Let me at LEAST put my stupid backpack down before you start ASSAULTING me with your hard, weird Dave-boobs.
And then the look on her stupid Frankenface is so, like, DESPERATE for approval, and she’s BLOCKING MY WAY, so I can’t even get past her, till I say like “Yeah, nice, OK,” or whatever noncommittal thing. While in my head I’m going “I would smash my own cake with a skillet before I’d let that piece of panda poop sit on top of it. Now GET OUT OF MY FACE SO I CAN GO TO MY ROOM.” So pathetic.
Or like how she pretends to know tennis. When it’s completely OBVIOUS she like panic-searched Wikipedia after she saw me watching the Australian Open last month to find a couple facts or whatever. And I also honestly think it’s a little bit weird that after I’ve told her like eight separate times that Venus Williams is my hands-down favorite player, she keeps like trying to steer me toward all these different WHITE players, who are nowhere NEAR as badass as Venus Williams. And how she keeps printing out these like Yahoo News stories about Maria Sharapova or whoever. When I have EXPLAINED to her that I like Venus because Serena is so obviously more dominant and how Venus has to play harder cause she’s in her sister’s shadow all the time. Like Mom, how she can’t talk anymore because the feeding tube, but her eyes are still super fierce – not stupid Taylor Swift fierce, but like actual fierce. So I couldn’t care LESS about Martina Hingis or Maria Sharpova or Ana Ivanovic, or any of the WHITE players Dave thinks are more SUITABLE, or whatever, because why else would she keep killing TREES to print out these dumb things, which she HIGHLIGHTS, with a HIGHLIGHTER – a BLUE highlighter, which anybody can tell you is the shittiest color, instead of sending me a LINK like a normal person.
I know. Karma and everything. But GOD, I hate her so much.
And then all the selfies. All the “snap from up high, just like I learned from Buzzfeed” pictures she’s mashing herself into me to take. When she drags me to Girls Spa Day, or Virgin Daiquiri Party, or any of thousand other idiotic Bonding Experiences she’s always organizing. And guess what, Dave? Even though you frame the pictures so nobody can see your gross neck, we can still see it in real life, so you’re wasting your time. And she puts them ALL on her Instagram. For her only followers, which are like my dad, and maybe her Zumba instructor.
The worst. Just. The worst.
But of all the asshole things she does, maybe the awfulest is also the nicest, or whatever. The rides to the goddamn hospital. In her stupid Audi. That smells like a demon made of Skittles farted in there. The stupid, stupid, shitty rides to the hospital. Where I get to go watch my actual mom getting slurped away by the cancer, like the mattress underneath her is giant sponge, and it’s drawing the meat off her and replacing it with morphine. Those are the worst. Because Dave tries to keep things light (“We can hit the DQ after!”) which is horrifying. Or she’ll try to furrow her eyebrows, but can’t, really, because of the Botox. And call me “kiddo.” Makes we want to slap the teeth out of her head.
Because she shouldn’t be giving me THESE rides. I’ll sit in her stupid candy-stinking Audi to go to volleyball or River Clean Up or the library or even therapy – pretty much ANY place else, and I’ll be fine. But HERE. To the hospital. THIS ride. Is one she shouldn’t even BE on, much less the only one WITH me. SHE should not be in the goddamn lobby thumbing through her stack of magazines, her Lucky and Allure, or swiping her way through Pinterest on her stupid iPad. SHE should not be working her way through a Frappucino while I’m upstairs staring at the respirator skeleton where my mom used to be.
SHE should not be taking me to stare at a Peanut Buster Parfait after. HE should.
HE should be taking me. HE should be able to set aside his Survival Guilt and his stupid Trauma About Grandpa and his Throw Money At the Problem Philosophy and TAKE ME ONCE A WEEK TO WATCH MOM DIE. He needs to have some balls. He needs to be a man.
He needs to be a dad.
And as shitty and stupid and fake as she is. I hear Dave arguing with him about it in the night. Every week. And really, I can only hear her. His voice is just a muffled drone – wordless, rational-sounding, measured. “You need to do this, Paul.” Dad murmur. “That is shitty, and you know it. I am doing the best I can with the bullshit situation you’ve put me in, here.” Dad mumble. “Fuck YOU, Paul. You don’t GET to be the coward asshole, here. You need to step up. Because if you don’t, she is going to hate you forever. And she’ll be right.” Door slam.
Wow. Way to be, Dave.
I can picture my dad after she stomps down the hall to the exercise room, staring at nothing and swirling the ice in his glass. Doing that remote, abstracted thing that he seems to think gets him off the hook for stuff. Dick.
I mean. I get it. Mom was never easy. Peering over her glasses at you. Always giving you the feeling you were interrupting something big. That she was favoring you with her attention or something.
And then when she first got really sick. She turned mean, so mean.
And Dad folded up. Like the terrified asshole he is. And they got a divorce. Because he couldn’t take it. Couldn’t take her. Then he found Dave. Who was simple for him, I guess.
So Mom is in a coma again. And Dave takes me down there. And for whatever reason it sucks worse than usual. I don’t know why, really, but over these months I’ve made a rule: I don’t cry in the room. Even if Mom is totally out. I don’t cry in the room. So on this Saturday, I hustle down the hall to the bathroom. Then when I compose myself a little bit, I head back. And I hear a voice. Dave’s voice.
And she’s saying, to my mom: “Gloria. I don’t know if you can hear me. Or if you’d care if you could. But I am so, so sorry. And she is such a great, tough, smart kid. And this is so totally awful for her. And Paul is such a weak chickenshit. And I’m just so sorry.”
And I leaned against the wall and smelled Dave’s makeup smell mixing with the sour dying smell of my mom.
And I didn’t say anything. Not then. But from then on, I tried not to be quite so hard on Dave.