Carol watches her oldest daughter shuffle across the backyard, turn a corner and disappear behind the trees. She'd offered to go after her twin and calm things down a bit, trying to ease the tension between her sister and their mom. Carol stands at the sliding glass doors, sniffling and wiping away the tears that fall. She wasn't mad or sad, the two feelings that usually led to her crying. But the look on her daughter's face; of hurt and betrayal and embarrassment, that's what made the tears come this time.
In a cliche moment, all parents of teenagers she'd come in contact with had warned her about, Carol had seen something on Kate's computer that she shouldn't. It was a post kate had been typing on some new website she'd been obsessed with. Tumbler, Carol thinks it's called. The post was a stream-of-consciousness talking about Kate having feelings for a girl in her Social Studies class and how she didn't know what to do with those feelings. She'd felt like an outsider in her family and like a weirdo for feeling those things. She needed advice and had turned to internet friends she trusted to help her.
Well, Kate had caught her mom snooping on her computer, and a full-blown shouting match began in the teen's bedroom. Kate was hurt and furious at her mom for looking at her stuff and reading her personal posts. Carol was just hurt that her daughter didn't feel like she could come to her with her problem. Kate had then run outside to hide in her secret place that no one but Tess knew about.
Carol turns away from the window, wiping away tears from her face, remembering something an old friend once told her about her daughter.
"She's a troublemaker... .just wait until she's fourteen."
She shakes her head, silently cursing him for how right he was; especially right then.
Most kids when they get yelled at by their parents, get in trouble or are mad or sad, run for their bedrooms. Not Kate Ross. She created her own little hiding place under the bushes in a hidden corner of their yard. A spot where no one would see her cry; where she could go and think about things alone where it was quiet and no one would bother her.
Only one other person knew about it, besides their neighbor's dog.
"You should have seen mom's face after you ran out. She feels like crap, you can totally tell," Tess says to the bushes, sitting down on the grass next to them. The outline of Kate's body can be seen just beyond the branches. She's curled up under the branches, sitting criss-cross on a patch of dirt molded to her butt after years of hiding out in that spot.
"Good. Let her. Let her feel as hurt as I do," Kate growls back. "She's a bitch for doing what she did. It was my crap to work out. On my own. I don't need her holding my hand, I can take care of myself."
"I know you can," Tess says.
"And I would have told her when I was ready! Why can't she just trust that I'll come to her?"
"You ever think she doesn't want to hold your hand?" Tess suggests.
"Of course she does! She's mom; it's her MO," Kate rebuts.
"Maybe she's just giving you a push to get started?" Kate doesn't reply, but the lack of pokey branches shoved in her face makes Tess think her sister knows she's right. "Buka always said you were the most like mom. You're independent and strong-willed. You like handling your crap on your own and don't accept help too easily. Mom knows how alike you two are. She knows what it's like to have all sorts of feelings and not know what to do with them."
They'd heard stories of her mom's younger days in Chicago; all of the hurt and pain and frustration she'd gone through. Those stories were lessons to the girls about being strong and knowing who they were and to not let anyone take that away.
"I know," Kate says, scooting out from under the bushes to sit next to her twin, head on Tess' shoulder. "I hate that. How alike mom and I are. Dad and Buka say it all the time 'oh you're just like your mother!' or 'Oh, your mom makes that face too!' I hate it."
"At least you got the good parent! I got all of dad's personality. The tunnel vision, the need to fix everyone, needing to be the best at everything. The charming smile," at that, Tess turns to her twin and gives her the most saccharine grin ever.
"Okay, okay," Kate laughs, pushing Tess away. "We both win. Our gene pool for personality sucks."
They sit in silence for a minute, watching their neighbor's dog dig yet another hole in their yard.
"What am I gonna do?" Kate asks. "Mom's gonna tell everyone about it and then they're gonna make it into a big thing and I can't handle that."
"Well then it's a big thing for a while," Tess didn't know what else to say besides the truth.
Kate sniffled, shaking her head. At least her twin was honest. "And what about school? What do I do about that?"
"You do it on your terms," Tess insists. "No one else's. And it may blow up, and you may get looks and people may talk, but then something else will happen at school and that will be the new big thing."
Tess knew that Kate coming out at gay was going to be a big deal, and she hoped that the kids at her sister's school wouldn't blow it out of proportion. It was times like these when she wished they went to the same school. Everyone at her school was out and proud; it was just their culture, they all felt safe. But at Kate's school? It was different. It wasn't always the best for kids to show their true colors there. Tess feared a bit for her sister.
"What if people are mean to me?" Sure, the country was changing its ways of thinking about certain topics, but it didn't mean all of the hate in the world was suddenly gone.
"If they are then dad and I will beat them," Tess says, quickly defending her twin. "No one bullies you and gets away with it."
"Oh my god," Kate groans. "How am I gonna tell dad? Do I tell him? What will he say?" Kate and her dad had always been close, she could tell him things a lot easier than she could her mom sometimes. But this? This was a Big Thing.
"I think he'll be shocked at first; I know I was," Tess answers. "But then he'll get over it and everything will go back to normal. And you tell him when you're ready. Not because you think you have to."
"Yeah," Kate sighs. She leans back onto the grass, the dampness seeping through her jacket.
"You ready to come back in?" Teas asks, standing up and brushing off her butt.
"I'll be there in a minute," Kate replies. Her twin smiles down at her and Kate feels better. She was in control of this, not anyone else.
Kate comes back inside, closing the door behind her, sighing at the welcome warmth the kitchen brings. She spies her younger sister rummaging in the pantry for a snack and smiles to herself; slowly and silently walking to her.
"What are you doing?" Kate shouts, making Addy jump.
"Don't do that!" the fifth-grader cries, smacking Kate's shoulder.
Kate laughs, stealing a handful of crackers from the bag in Addy's hands. "How was rehearsal?"
"It was good. A lot of waiting. I got to help with the little kids, though, so that was cool."
"Sounds like it," Kate says, going for the fridge and grabbing a bottle of water. "I'm excited to see you. First Nutcracker En Pointe, right?"
"Yeah," Addison smiles. "I'm a little nervous, but mostly excited."
"You're gonna be great." They sit in comfortable silence for a moment. "So, mom found out about me today," Kate confesses.
"What! Oh my gosh! Beanie, I'm so sorry!" Addy was the second person Kate talked to about her sexuality. It had happened the previous summer while they sat out on the dock dangling their feet into the water. Addy had asked questions and Kate tried to explain everything to her. But she never once said anything mean or bad about her; it was just something new about her sister.
"Yeah, well it's out there now."
"What did she say?"
"She got mad at me for not coming to her about it and how I was hiding stuff from her. And I yelled back about wanting to deal with it on my own first. And then I ran out. But Tess says mom was pretty upset about it."
"Yeah. It's some pretty big news to hear. She just needed time, you know?" Addy says, starting to pull the bobby pins from her tight bun.
"You are full of smart things, Addison Paige, you know that?"
"Tell that to my science teacher."
"I'm gonna go talk to mom," Kate says, getting up, stealing more crackers as she goes. "Thanks for the snack!"
Carol is in her office, pretending to work on her computer when Kate finds her.
Carol looks up for a second before going back to the bright screen, mentally preparing herself for whatever Kate wanted to talk about.
Kate watches her mom, silently hoping everything was going to be okay and that her mom wasn't going to hate her. She looks around the room, the dark furniture; the impending twilight out the window, her eyes landing on an old picture of her and her sisters. "I remember that trip! Addy spilled an Icee all over me."
"Yeah, and you were so mad at her you didn't talk to her for an entire day," Carol continues, recalling the summer vacation to the beach.
Kate lets the silence hang again. "I'm sorry for yelling at you and for saying those things. I was mad and hurt and I didn't mean it."
"I think you meant some of it," Carol nods. "And I should apologize too. I shouldn't have been looking at your computer. I shouldn't have judged you for not talking to me. I'm sorry."
"It's okay. And I would have come to you. I just had to work it out on my own," Kate says, her voice breaking. She's crying again, and Carol hugs her daughter. "This is all just really crazy, you know? I needed some time."
"I love you no matter what, you know that right?" Carol asks, holding onto Kate's face to be sure the words get through to her.
"I know," Kate nods, hugging her mom once more before pulling away and wiping her tears.
"Is your sister home?" Carol asks, changing the subject, knowing things were good again between her and Kate.
"Yeah, and I think she's hungry. She was raiding the pantry when I came to talk to you."
"Alright, guess we better go get some dinner, huh?"
"Yeah. A milkshake sounds good right about now," Kate smiles.
"Yeah, it does," Carol agrees, taking Kate's hand and leading her from the room. "Tess, come on! We're getting food."
"Everything good with you two?" Tess asks her mom and sister as she leaves her bedroom to walk with them down the stairs.
"Yeah, we're good," Kate says, nodding. "We're good."