It was Friday morning and I’d just dropped Molly off at school. The nervous anticipation was eating me up. In a few hours, I’d be going to see my mom, whom I hadn’t seen in so long. I felt like a bachelor who was taking his girlfriend to get his parents’ approval. I guess it was sorta like that — I was trying to get approval. There were just so many bad times built up between us that we kept locked away for so long. One day it was going to explode… and I had the strange feeling that it was going to be this time. The best that could happen would be my mother realizing that Molly is an adorable, loveable child who just needs someone to care for her. The worst… well, I didn’t want to think about that.
I sat through my classes probably the same way Molly had when she knew she had an impending spanking. I couldn’t stop tapping my pen against the desk and the teacher’s voice seemed barely audible. My thoughts were much louder than any other noise in the room. I just scribbled down the notes, chewing on my lower lip, waiting for dismissal. When the professor finally spoke those words, I think I ran out of there so fast that I almost knocked a couple of people over.
I glanced at my watch. It was nearly eleven.. time to check Molly out of school. She’d be really happy to hear her name announced over the intercom.
“Hey MollyCakes,” I said when she skipped happily to the office, backpack thrown over her shoulder, hair in semi-pigtails (I can’t even explain it). “Ya ready?”
“Yep!! Thanks for picking me up!” she chirped, grabbing my hand and leading me out to the car that was parked right in front of the office.
“How was school?”
“It was boring until they called me to the office to check out!”
I giggled and rolled my eyes, remembering when I was a kid and how excited I used to be hearing the buzz of the intercom with the false hope of getting to leave early. “Got any homework?”
“Noooo, it’s the weekend!”
Ah, yes, the times when there actually was a weekend. Once you get to college you’re begging for things to be due on Mondays so you can have all weekend to work on it. At least that’s how I was. “Wanna grab a bite to eat before we visit my mom?”
“Yes!!” she shrieked. “I’m soooo hungry. We had pizza at lunch today and it was gross.”
“What do you want to eat?”
“Ooooo!! Can we go to Olive Garden?? Please please please!”
I rolled my eyes. She couldn’t request anything cheap, could she? “I guess,” I groaned.
“Yay!! We haven’t eaten at Olive Garden in sooo long! I love their ravi’s.”
“It’d be so much cheaper just to get that from a can.”
“But it’s not as good!” she insisted, bouncing in her seat. “I’m so excited! We get to see your mom!”
I smiled, glad that she was happy. That made one of us.
We ate our lunch with Molly chattering away the whole time. I was used to it by now, and it was still as adorable as ever. I loved how she got so excited over tiny things, and I loved how she wanted me to meet all of her new friends. In fact, I loved her, just like I would love my own little sister… even my own child. Maybe that’s why I was so worried about whether or not my mom would support my decision.
As we finished, Molly demanded that I leave a big tip (even though she hadn’t realized how expensive Olive Garden was in relation to the other restuarants we eat at), and then we headed on our way. As if she didn’t talk enough while we were at lunch, Molly jabbered the whole ride to my mom’s house.
“So is this the same house you grew up in?”
“That’s really cool. Will I get to see your old room and dig through all of your private stuff?”
I raised my eyebrows, looking at her. “Do I dig through all of your private stuff?”
“I hope not!” she exclaimed, giggling. “Can I at least look through old picture albums and see what you looked like when you were a baby?”
I sighed. “I guess,” I answered, winking at her.
She seemed pleased with that answer. “So is your mom old?” she asked after a moment of silence.
“Not really. I mean, depends on what you classify as old.”
“My mom was 35,” she said. “How old is yours?”
“A bit older. More like fifty.”
“Fifty!! That means she was like… thirty when she had you!”
“Something like that. She was even older when she had my little sister.” I cringed saying that. I wasn’t ready for question and answer session about my kid sis.
“How old was she when she had your sis?”
“Wow! That’s almost as old as my mom is right now!”
I smiled, glad that she wasn’t pushing with topics that I didn’t feel like talking about. I knew eventually we’d have to go there… but for now, I wanted to keep things on a good note.
“Brian, I have to pee.”
“Molly! I didn’t want to know that!”
She pouted, bouncing in her seat. “Can you find a gas station or something, puhleeze??”
“Why didn’t you go before we left the restuarant?”
“Because I didn’t hafta then!!”
I groaned but found the nearest gas station and let her take care of business while I stocked up on some chocolate and Mountain Dew. Man, if I thought Molly talked a lot as it was, wait until she was on all of that caffeine! She’d be totally wired, then!
The rest of the ride was uneventful. Molly mostly listened to music and sang along, talking to me every so often and playing the suitcase game (where we were packing a suitcase and had to name everything we were bringing in alphabetical order and had to repeat it until we got to Z). Finally, I pulled up to the small one-story cozy house. I parked my car behind the grey Lincoln that I knew so well from being a kid. The first car I’d ever driven.
“Is she home? It seems really quiet,” Molly whispered.
“Sure she’s home. She just doesn’t have any bratty twelve year olds running around the house like some of us…”
She was dead serious when she said it: “Who do we know like that?”
I giggled. “Me!”
“You?? Nahhhh…” she said, grabbing my hand. I could feel her palms sweating. Or maybe they were mine. We were equally nervous.
I cleared my throat and knocked softly on the door. It seemed pretty awkward, knocking on the door of a place I’d lived my entire life. But I knew my mom, and she wouldn’t want me just barging on in.
I heard shuffling around inside, then figured she was looking through the peep hole, and then she opened the door, a look of total shock on her face.
“Brian!” she said, more surprised than enthuised. “I wasn’t expecting you to be here. You didn’t call or anything.”
I smiled. “Nice to see you, too, Mother,” I said sarcastically.
“I apologize. It’s nice to see you. And who’s this?” she asked, looking at Molly.
“Mom, I’d like you to meet my friend, Molly. Molly, this is my mom.”
Molly had turned about nine different shades of red. That was the cutest thing about her Irish heritage — her blushing. It was too adorable.
“Hi, Molly,” my mom said, shooting me a look while she shook her hand.
“Hi,” Molly said, biting her lower lip.
We stood out there on the porch, dumbly, for about a minute, until my mom invited us in. “Oh, do come in and have a seat. Sorry the house is such a mess.”
As Molly walked in she glanced at me and whispered, “now I see where you get it from.” Meaning, I was always complaining about the apartment being such a mess when, really, it wasn’t so bad.
I smiled at her.
“Would you like anything to drink?” she asked, walking into the kitchen and jingling some glasses. “I have tea, orange juice, some soda.” She peeked her head back in the living room. I shook my head. “Molly?”
Molly looked at me and I shrugged.
“No thank you,” Molly said, polite as ever. That’s my girl.
“Molly, why don’t you check out my room. It’s down the hall on the right. There should be some old photo albums in there, right Mom?”
“Oh, yes, I’m sure there are,” she said, coming back into the living room with a glass of tea, stirring the sugar inside. “And if you look in his closet, I’m sure you’ll find his favorite stuffed animals!”
I rolled my eyes. She’d always be the typical mom trying to embarrass her son.
Molly smiled at us and dismissed herself to my bedroom.
I sat down on the couch.
“What are you doing here?” my mom asked.
“Well, I just wanted to discuss some stuff with you.”
She took a sip of her tea. “Discuss some stuff with me? What, are you molesting a ten year old and want my approval?”
“She’s twelve, and no, that’s not why I’m here. Why do you have to make this so hard for me?”
“You come waltzing in here for the first time in four years and you expect me to make this easy?”
“Can we stop the bickering for a couple of minutes. Please?” I begged.
“Fine,” she said, bored already. “What is it?”
“I’m thinking about adopting Molly.”
She nearly choked on her tea. “What?!?” she yelled, standing from her chair. “Are you crazy? Out of your mind, Brian?”
“Mom, sit down.”
“Sit down? You tell me that you want to adopt some twelve year old you barely know and you’re telling me to sit DOWN?”
“Yes, Mom, I’m telling you to sit down. This isn’t something to make such a big deal over.”
“Brian, look at you! You can barely take care of yourself. How the hell do you expect to raise a twelve year old??”
She was testing my patience all right. “I do a perfectly fucking fine job of taking care of myself, thankyouverymuch. And when I was sixteen, I did a fucking good job of raising myself AND Janice. In case you don’t remember, you walked out on us.”
“That was different. That was a hard time for me.”
“And it wasn’t a hard time for me?” Now I was the one freaking out. I was standing up, clenching my fists together. “He was my dad. He abandoned me, too. You weren’t the only one that he left. He didn’t give a shit about me, either. He didn’t give a shit about me OR Janice. How the hell do you think that WE felt? First he left, then you did! Not a note, not a phone call, nothing. I was sixteen fucking years old, Mom.”
She shook her head. “If you had done a good job of raising Janice, maybe she wouldn’t be dead,” she snapped, obviously trying to think of the worst comeback possible.
Oh, it was the worst thing she could have said. And boy, it hit me the wrong way. “That is the biggest load of bullshit I’ve ever heard,” I shrieked, waving my arms in the air like a maniac as I spoke. “I wasn’t the one who was supposed to be raising Janice. I wasn’t the one who walked out on her. I had nothing to do with the fact that she killed herself. It was all your fault. All your fucking fault.”
She cowered away like I had just slapped her across the face. I was breathing hard, my heart racing. My mom just stood there, hurt. It was so silent.
We stayed like that for a couple of minutes, not speaking, not moving. I’d known that I’d say it one day. I’d known it since the day I found my baby sister with her wrists slashed open, lying motionless on the kitchen floor. My mom had always blamed me and I’d always taken it. For a long time I’d mostly blamed myself. But as I got older my eyes opened and I realized that it wasn’t my fault she was dead — I’d tried all I could to provide her with everything I could. Maybe that’s why I wanted to take Molly in, to prove to myself that it wasn’t my fault. I wanted another chance. I wanted to do for Molly what I hadn’t done for Janice. But I’d done all I could have for Janice. And at this point, my head was so distorted I didn’t know what I felt anymore. Everything inside me seemed so hollow.
“You’re right,” my mom nearly whispered, tears streaming down her cheeks. It startled me a little. We hadn’t spoken in about ten minutes. She sat back down on the chair. “You’re right, Brian. It wasn’t your fault. It was mine. All my fault.”
I rolled my eyes. Now she was trying this guilt trip thing on me. And damn, it was working. “No, it wasn’t all your fault,” I muttered, squatting down next to her. “It was a lot of stuff. With Dad leaving and then you leaving and then not wanting to disappoint me or put too much weight on me… it was everything, Mom.”
She shook her head. She knew I was lying. “It was mainly my fault,” she admitted. “And I’m sorry for that. Not a day goes by that I’m not sorry.”
“And I’m even more sorry for putting all the blame on you. I know I haven’t been the best mother, and I haven’t tried that hard. I guess I should’ve taken your advice years ago when you wanted to be a psychologist and actually gotten some help.”
“It’s not too late,” I said, though it was kind of mean.
She nodded. “Now, tell me about Molly,” she said, wiping the tears from her eyes.
I raised my eyebrows. “She’s one of the girls that always comes to the skating rink and her father recently died. One night she was at the skating rink and her mom never came to pick her up… and we went to her house and she wasn’t there… hasn’t been back since that night.”
My mom shook her head, almost being set off into tears again.
“Mom, Molly has nobody… and she’s the greatest kid ever. She just has a hard time, and I really enjoy having her around the house. It reminds me of having Janice around, gives me some responsibility.”
“How are you ever going to find a girlfriend and get married if you always have a twelve year old following you around?”
“She won’t be twelve forever, and I’m sure most of them would understand. Some girls think it’s sweet!”
“I don’t know, Brian. I mean, taking care of a teenager is hard work to do by yourself. What are you going to do when the hormones kick in?”
“I took psychology classes!” I reminded her, smiling. “I guess I’ll just have to come to you and get your advice?”
She smiled back. “Brian, I think that, if in your heart, you really think this is the right decision, you should go for it.”
I almost started crying. This was the first time that my mom was *really* standing behind me, and it felt sort of good. Maybe I should have exploded on her years ago instead of just walking out like I had. Maybe our relationship could grow…
“Thanks, Mom,” I said, hugging her.
The two of us talked in soft voices for a few more minutes, until Molly finally came back in, figuring all was safe. She sat in my lap and let me throw my arms around her, getting antsy to go home. Finally, as the sun began to set, I announced that we’d better get going and my mom sent us off. Something inside of me was at ease, but I still had a strange feeling that I wouldn’t be seeing or talking to my mom for a long time.
“Brian,” Molly said as we got on the highway, “I don’t like it when you cuss.”
I bit my lower lip. “Sorry, Molly,” I said, feeling ashamed.
“I mean, you seemed to have a good reason… but it scared me. I just don’t like it,” she said, slumping down in her seat.
“Guess you heard the whole thing, huh?”
I put my arm around her. “I’m sorry, MollyCakes. I just got really really angry and let my temper get the best of me. I don’t do that often…”
She nodded again. “I know.”
There was a moment of silence.
“So you really want to adopt me?”
“Well, not necessarily adopt, but at least get guardianship of you.”
“What’s the difference?”
“I don’t know,” I laughed. “But apparently it’s easier to get guardianship, and since I’m just getting started on my life… you know, just finishing college and stuff… it’d be better than adoption.”
She nodded. “Brian,” she said suddenly, “if I had talked like that to my mom, even if I had a good reason, you’d have spanked the daylights out of me.”
I cringed. “Well,” I stuttered, trying to make up an excuse, but finding none. “Yeah, Molly, I guess you’re right.”
“I think that it’d only be fair if I got to spank you.”
I bit my lip to keep from laughing. “Are you serious?” I asked.
She smiled. “Yes.”