The Tables Turn - 2008
The day of Ginna’s seventeenth birthday, she and Danny were tossing a baseball back and forth in their backyard. Lauren had wanted to throw a party for her, like last year’s, her Sweet Sixteen Birthday. But Ginna said she didn’t want one.
“Mom, it’s too much expense for you.” Where was this new thriftiness coming from? “Besides, I don’t have any friends here that I want to invite.”
Yes, last year’s party had been awkward, Lauren knew. By this time, she was hoping Ginna and her brother would have begun to fit in with their peers at school.
Watching them play, she reflected on how Danny was doing. He’d always been more of a loner than his sister, quiet like his Grandpa John. In the deeper recesses of her mind she sometimes wondered if he was keeping the same kind of secrets his father had about his sexuality. Almost every day, she prayed this wasn’t true.
Today was just another example of how her children took refuge in each other. For a while after Ginna started high school, they’d started acting distant and argued a lot. They must have patched things up through the next couple of years because now they were closer than ever.
So many things Lauren wished she could change, but all she could do was try her best. That’s what being a single mom is, she told herself for the millionth time.
Just as she turned away from the kitchen window to do some dishes, Danny threw the ball over Ginna’s head. She scrambled back to retrieve it, and when she bent over to pick it up, her hand went to her back, rubbing it. With a start, it came to Lauren that this gesture was all too familiar. She’d done it often whenever she was pregnant.
No, that can’t be. She’d never get promiscuous on me. In spite of herself, though, Lauren began noticing other clues over the next few weeks.
At last she couldn’t stand it any longer. One night after Danny had gone to bed, she took her daughter into the kitchen, where he’d be less likely to hear them. Once they were seated in the straight-backed chairs at their small wooden table, Lauren stared at Ginna, searching for words.
Trying to keep the anger out of her voice, she began, “Is there something you need to tell me? I’m a mother, and I know what pregnancy looks and feels like. There’s no denying that none of your jeans are fitting now.”
“Hey, who are you to criticize me?” she retorted. “You’ve been sleeping with your boss for months.”
That’s a low blow. “So this gives you permission to sleep around?”
Lauren was surprised when Ginna shook her head. “I don’t know.”
“What don’t you know? Who’s the father of this baby?” Her voice grew sharp, as unstoppable waves of anger and disappointment swept over her. “How many men have you slept with?”
Ginna stared at the tabletop, tears filling her eyes. “Mom, in the sense you’re saying, I’ve never slept with anyone.”
“What is that supposed to mean, young lady?” Tears began pooling in Lauren’s eyes. Ginna turned, looking out the yellow-curtained window above the kitchen sink.
“So, are you telling me someone raped you?” Lauren whispered.
Ginna turned back to face her and shrugged. “Would it make you feel better if it was, Mom?”
This comment sent a jolt through Lauren’s gut. Suddenly, she remembered how Ginna had tried to warn her against having an affair with Dave, with the text she’d received in the elevator. A text she should have read, but shoved aside. Guilt and regret bubbled up from deep inside. The tables were turning now.
“But who? When? Was it date rape?”
“You have no reason to hassle me,” cried Ginna. “You’re the one who’s been sleeping with a married man.”
Again, her daughter’s words hit like a physical blow. She knew she was reaping what she’d sowed.
By this time Ginna had stalked into the living room and collapsed on the worn brown couch, burying her sobs in a yellow pillow.
“Cry if it helps,” Lauren whispered, sitting beside her and smoothing her short, brown hair with her hand. “We can sort this out. I’m sorry I got angry. This is just so unexpected.”
Ginna nodded slightly under Lauren’s hand. “That’s for sure. I can’t explain it, Mom,” she murmured into the pillow. “It’s complicated.”
“What’s so complicated? Either you practice safe sex or you don’t.”
“I never meant to lose my virginity.”
“What? You must have let yourself be drawn into a situation where it could happen.”
“Not really, Mom. Like I said, it’s really confusing. You wouldn’t believe me if I told the truth, anyway.”
“It’s like a bad dream. Maybe I’ll wake up and it will all dissolve into nothing.” She gulped a breath. “Danny and I have met some time-travelers from another dimension.”
“Wait, this sounds like a great fable.” Lauren almost laughed. “Can’t you come up with a better excuse?”
“Mom, I’m not lying. I knew you wouldn’t believe me if I told the truth.”
“Well, I have to admit it’s the most imaginative excuse I’ve ever heard. Whose science fiction book did you get this from?”
“Forget it then.” Ginna pulled the pillow on top of her head, and sobbed into the couch.
She kept her face toward the back of the couch and didn’t speak for another moment or two. When she began, she didn’t raise her head, but kept it against the cushion. Her words were muffled, so Lauren could barely hear them.
“Wait, you’re saying some time-traveler raped you?” Is this just an elaborate scheme to make me feel guilty, after all?
“Mom, I’m so confused. I didn’t even understand what was happening to me at first. I was afraid I was gaining too much weight. I know I’m just a huge disappointment to you now.”
At this, Ginna sat up and pulled her into a desperate hug.
“Except that I’m the one who failed, not you,” Lauren murmured. “How could you have a good example, when I—"
“Don’t say any more, Mom. I can tell you still don’t believe me.”
Lauren couldn’t deny this. For whatever reason, Ginna wasn’t able to face the truth.
Through the rest of the pregnancy, all Lauren could do was mull these thoughts over. This tale of Ginna’s was unbelievable, but she never tried to give any other explanation. Lauren decided it must have been date rape, and Ginna couldn’t handle it. Perhaps someone at school, because as the pregnancy began to show more, Lauren had to force her to keep up her senior year of high school. She came home in tears almost every day. Her emotions were on edge because of the pregnancy hormones, but Lauren wondered if there was more to it. They both were thankful when the high school teachers finally agreed to continue her studies at home during September and October, as her pregnancy entered its last months.
Oddly enough, Lauren and her daughter did draw closer. She supported Ginna in her decision to keep the baby, even though it meant taking on the responsibility of child-rearing all over again.
Still, there were days when she was in a waking-nightmare. Her first impulse was to seek comfort with Dave. Even if nagging guilt began growing, her sheer need for him kept overwhelming her doubts.
Of course, he could sense something was off and asked one night when they’d slipped off to their favorite motel in Fort Collins, “What’s bothering you? Have I done something wrong?” They were already lying in the tangled bedsheets.
“Not you, just me.” She tried not to echo the testiness in his voice.
His dreamy eyes stared into hers, full of puzzlement. “What’s that supposed to mean? Sounds like an excuse I’ve heard before.”
This wasn’t what she needed to hear. “So you’ve had other affairs.”
“Hey, they were just fun and games, Lauren.”
“I’m not a fun and games person,” she snapped.
He took both her hands in his. “You’re a deep person,” he whispered into her ear. “I’ve never known anyone like you.”
“You probably say that to all your lovers.” Though she was trying desperately to brace herself against his charms, she wasn’t succeeding. “Your hands are so warm,” she sighed. “I sure could use you in my drafty old house.”
“Is that the problem? You want more of me?”
“Yeah, that’s part of it. I don’t feel right being just your mistress.”
He blinked but didn’t give a quick reply, so she went on, “The bigger problem is my daughter has gotten herself pregnant.”
“What’s that got to do with us?”
She cringed. His response was too quick and sharp. Again, she needed to take some deep breaths before she spoke. “I tried to raise her with morals, Dave. Now that she sees what I’m doing with you, well—I’ve totally blown my credibility.”
“Credibility? Hey, this isn’t the Nineteenth Century, you know. Values have changed.”
“I know, but she’s my only daughter.”
“Take it easy,” he murmured, pulling her closer. “I know you love me, and you know I love you. That’s enough for us. Just put it aside and enjoy what we have. Your daughter’s problems are her own. You’re not responsible for every decision she makes.”
Despite herself, she leaned into his embrace and nodded against his chest. “I want to believe that. Still, there’s something inside me like a judge saying ‘Guilty!’”
He made no reply, but turned her face up toward his and kissed her lips, then nuzzled just below her jaw line. He already knew this was one of her erotic zones. There was no way to resist him. Her body was responding in spite of her doubts.
Later, as they both lay on the hotel’s bed, she could hear his deep, even breathing in sleep. All she could do was stare at the ceiling and blink back tears. Why was she so weak?