With a concerned look, my mother gave her sauce a quick stirring and pulled out a chair to sit down. "Ok, babe. Talk to me. Whats wrong?" She sat down at the kitchen table and I sat down across from her. "Is everything ok at school?" She asked.
"School is fine, Mom."
"Is it...I mean, you're not still having problems with those bullies, are you? Because if you need me to go back up there..."
"No. That's...all of that is fine."
Suddenly, she gasped. "Oh my God! Is it Tanner? Are you guys having problems?"
"Honey, sometimes relationships take some work. They take time to balance themselves out. He's a really good boy, Derrick. Whatever it is that you two have going on right now, you can fix it! You just need to..."
I started to giggle over how this was the one thing that worried her the most. "Hehehe, Mom. Tanner and me...we're fine. We've never been more in love. I promise."
"Are you sure?" She asked. She was literally holding her hand to her chest, almost breathless at the idea of us possibly breaking up.
"I'm sure." I said. "I'm thinking that we're going to grow old together, so there aren't any worries going on with us being a couple."
"Thank goodness." She sighed in relief. "Because I really really like him, Derrick. He's a real cutie pie. You don't get to break up with Tanner, I won't allow it. You keep him close. Do it for me. Because if that ends up being what I have to measure any of your future boyfriends up to, they're never ever going to be good enough for my tastes. I'm just letting you know that now."
We shared a smile, and it was soooo sweet to know that she loves Tanner as much as I do, but I knew I was just going to have to come out and say what I needed to say eventually. So I might as well just blurt it out and get it over with. "Mom? Remember when were talking about you...you know...getting a 'shot'?"
A bit confused, she asked, "A shot? A shot at what?"
"You know...about maybe being a big time chef? At a fancy place? A place where you could really shine and put your heart into what you do?"
"Oh Derrick, are you still stuck on that?" She grinned. "It's a sweet idea, but don't lose any sleep over it, ok? I'm happy where I am. We're both happy, right?"
"Mom..." I said softly, "I think I got you an audition."
She gave me the strangest look. "I don't understand."
"I talked to somebody...he put a good word in for you..." I said. "Mom...you've got a legitimate shot. The owner wants you to come in and try out for head chef."
My mom burst out laughing. NOT the reaction that I was expecting. "Derrick, hahaha, what are you talking about? Baby, I need to finish dinner. This isn't the time to be goofing around."
"I'm serious, Mom. He wants you to come in and try out against some of the other chefs in the area. He set aside a time for you to come in so he can see what you're made of."
"Sure he did." She scoffed. But I kept up a serious face. "Derrick? Come on now. Stop it."
"This coming Tuesday." I said. "Four O'clock. My friend told me that you should go extra early though. It's important that you're nowhere near being late. I guess he's got a thing about tardiness."
My mom's expression changed a bit. "Wait...this is all a joke, right?" I shook my head, and she suddenly stood up from her chair. "Who did you talk to? What did you DO? Derrick...?"
I stood up too, hoping to look back at her, eye to eye. "Listen...you've got a genuine shot at this! All you have to do is show up on time and give it a chance. That's all."
"Derrick! I can't just drop into a major situation like this without planning and...and...some kind of clout behind me. I don't have a resume, or any references...Derrick, I don't even have any clothes to wear to something like that!" Uh oh...she's freaking out on me. "Awww, baby...why did you do that? You have to call it off. Tell your friend that I can't make it. You really should have asked me if I was ok with this before going behind my back like that."
"Kinda like when you invited Tanner over to the house for dinner?" I said with a smirk. But she did not like me bringing that up in the moment. "Mom, it's no big deal. All you have to do is show up. You're guaranteed to win the top spot. How hard can it be?"
"Tuesday is less than a week away. Are you crazy?" She said, now walking back to the stove to turn the knobs back up and finish dinner. "I can't just take off of work and go chasing some fantasy job at a place across town. That's just plain irresponsible."
I walked over to get closer to her, saying, "Look...you take one day off from work, you market yourself to the people in charge, and you do the exact same thing that you're doing right now with dinner. Except HERE, you do it for free. And the most you get out of it is me occasionally rubbing my stomach and telling you how good it was. Imagine if you could actually make money doing what you love??? Imagine if you got some real appreciation for all of the hard work, the time, and the energy, that you put in to making everything you do so amazing. Isn't that worth it?"
"Babe...listen to me, ok..." She said, putting a hand on my shoulder in an almost condescending manner. "I think it's great, what you're trying to do. Honestly, thank you. But we have to put food on our own table. I have to keep the lights on and the phone working. I have to keep you in school. I need to keep something in the bank just in case one of us gets hurt or sick. That's just the reality of our situation. Ok? We're just one emergency expense away from not being able make rent, honey. I'd rather have a stable income and a steady paycheck over foolishly chasing of a dream that might never come true. It's my job to take care of us. I can't go diving into a pool without any water in it. Do you know what I mean?"
Arrrgh! She wasn't LISTENING to me! I know what she's saying, and it SUCKS that she has to pass up her dreams for the pointless act of being a slave to bill collectors and greedy tax thieves! But I just...I wish she could put down the burden of 'surviving' for a day or two in the pursuit of something more. Imagine what she could accomplish if she wasn't working herself half to death on an almost daily basis! She has just as much worth and talent as these people out there who have it so EASY, and don't even appreciate their place in the world! If they're so much better than my mom, then let them step up and PROVE it! Instead, I have to LIE about who my mom is and where she lives, just so she can get a fair chance like everybody else. It HURTS! You know? It really does. She deserves better. And it makes me feel bad to think that the self confidence of a woman so strong, so dedicated, so incredible in every way...has somehow been corrupted by the public's view of her from afar.
I didn't let that shit break me down in school...and I'm not going to let it break her down in her life either. It's so unfair, how society tries to brainwash you into being a failure, just because you weren't born on 3rd base...waiting for the chance to run home after somebody else hits the baseball for you. My mom needs a chance. A fair shot. Equal to all of those repugnant narcissists who think they deserve the job just because of their last name or where they grew up. They don't have to fight for ANYTHING! But my mom struggled to get where she is! She started at the bottom and worked her way up to being who she is. If I could only get them to see that...she'd knock every last one of these over-privileged brats out of the running, one by one, until there was nobody left.
"Mom, look...all you have to do is walk in the door, answer a few questions to let them know that you're not a total psycho, and cook a few items from the menu. That's it. Nothing more." She looked a bit apprehensive about it, but I kept pushing. "Aren't you the one who's always talking about taking a chance on getting what you want out of life? YOU taught me that."
"This isn't the same thing, Derrick?"
"Why not?" I asked. "It sure seems like the same thing to me." She turned down the sauce and tried to avoid my eyes. "So...you're not even going to try?"
"I...I just..." She tried to come up with an excuse, but it was almost like she didn't want to disappoint me with her answer. "When you say...'audition', what does that mean, exactly?"
Finally! A tiny little chink in her armor! "It means that he provides all the materials, the spices, the cookware...you get to try out whatever meal he gives you, and you get to work in a big kitchen...a professional kitchen! The whole thing might take you an hour. Two hours, tops."
She looked like she was mulling it over in her head. "I don't know, Derrick. This is all a bit sudden..."
"You can DO it, Mom! I know you can." I said with a grin, now getting excited at the idea of her caving in. "You wouldn't have any troubles at all when it comes to killing the competition. You can slaughter them all with a meal that usually takes you all of 15 minutes to whip up on a random Tuesday. And that's AFTER a lengthy work shift. Imagine what you could do with some extra time and a professional work space. You'd be unstoppable!"
She was struggling, sure. I expected that. But she was also weakening fast. "I'm not so sure about this. I feel like I'd need more time."
"You don't need any more time. You'll be AWESOME!"
"What if I can't bring my A game to the table? What if I mess something up?"
"What if you bring your triple A game, and you win?" I grinned.
"Why does it have to be this Tuesday?"
"Does it matter?"
"Mom...seriously? It's time for you to stop being so modest about your talent and really go for it. I don't know anybody that can cook the way that you can. I'm pretty sure that these snobs don't know anybody either." I said. "Tanner thinks you're the best cook ever! So do a lot of people. You already won an award, didn't you?"
"This isn't a neighborhood trophy for the 'best cheeseburger'."
"Sure it is. Just on a larger scale." I told her. "You always said that I needed to challenge myself. That I can only reach for the stars if I'm willing to let my feet leave the ground. That's exactly what I did, and I won an award for being one of the best students in a school that was constantly trying to beat me down and tell me that I didn't belong. That I wasn't worthy of...well, anything really. If I can do it...then the biggest influence on my life, and my own personal hero, can do it even better than I could."
"Ok, now you're just laying it on a bit thick." She said.
"Was that too much?" I giggled. "Doesn't mean that it isn't true." My mom sighed to herself, giving it some extra thought. "Do it." I said. "C'mon....do it. Go in, and show them how to do it right. Do it."
"Stop!" She said, feeling me poke her in her side. Then, after an extended pause, she said, "Tuesday at 4 PM, you say?"
"Tuesday at 4 PM! Yep! He'll be waiting on you. Expecting a miracle." I was smiling so wide that it hurt.
Still displaying a bit of her stubborn aura, she simply said, "Go wash up. Dinner's just about ready."
Yes! I KNOW that she had given in to my peer pressure, she just didn't want to admit it! "M'kay!" I said cheerfully, and I gave her a quick kiss on the cheek. "Love you!"
"Love you too, sweet pea..." She sighed.
Now, it would be foolish of me to think that my mom would cave that easily and wouldn't be constantly trying to squirm her way out of this...but I wasn't about to let her. I really do believe in her. Honestly, she could flatten almost anybody when it comes to running a kitchen the way she does. I find it hard to believe that anybody could take a single taste and not be blown away. So i'm just going to keep my fingers crossed for now, and keep juicing her up with compliments and giggles until she's almost convinced that she'd be letting me down if she didn't show up. It's a dirty trick, I know...but if there was ever a way where both me and my mom were absolutely identical...it would be in the way that we need an occasional kick to go for something that seems so far out of our reach. Hopefully, this is just the kick she needs.
I had to really struggle with myself to not call Tanner and scream my success at him through the phone, hehehe! But I wanted to see the look on his face when I told him that my mom was actually going to go fo it. It made it really hard to sleep, just waiting for the chance to see those big, sexy, eyes of his brighten up, and his smile nearly bowl me over with its unimaginable beauty. Getting on the bus that morning had me anxious enough to have my feet bouncing nervously in anticipation.
Then...I saw Tanner get on the bus, immediately searching for his reserved seat next to his favorite boy. "Hey!" He said. "What happened? I expected to hear something from you last night. How did things go with your mom?" I tried to hide my smile, but I couldn't. It burst forward before I could stop it. "Omigod! No way! You, totally, talked her into it, didn't you???"
"Shit! Hehehe, I kinda wanted to tell you myself!" I said.
"You did. Trust me, that grin said it all." Tanner lunged forward and hugged me around the neck. "I'm SO happy right now! Your mom's gonna SLAY those other hacks!"
"Here's hoping." I said. "She's got a few days to get herself all ready. As long as she doesn't go in there all nervous and worried...she should do great. But, that's easier said than done, I guess."
I didn't even realize that Tanner was holding my hand until he gave it an affectionate squeeze. We sort of blushed at one another. This was becoming such a normal and natural 'touch' between us that we hardly even noticed it anymore. I know that Tanner and I have been together for quite a decent amount of time at this point...but sometimes it seems like we've come soooo far in terms of our relationship being...ok. You know? We're light years away from whispers and hidden glances and always wondering what everybody else around us might think if they saw us being even remotely intimate with one another. Like...it barely mattered at all anymore. In fact, after Tanner's loving hug, and his hand in mine...I decided to further prove how little that other stuff mattered by leaning in to gently kiss him on the lips. Right there on the school bus. Who cares, right?
Not us. Not at all.
Even if the unexpected smooch did cause Tanner to flinch slightly at first. But then he just grasped my hand even tighter, and leaned his head on my shoulder as we rode the rest of the way to school. Pure, normal, and totally comfortable. This is what true love feels like. God help those closed minded jackasses that want to snatch it away from other people for the sake of their own comfort. They may never know the joy of sharing a moment like this with someone they truly cherish, inside and out.
Sucks to be them.
Just as the bus was pulling into the school parking lot, I used my free hand to do a quick 'boner check'. Hehehe, being all cuddled up with my boyfriend like this might inspire a few obscene visuals from time to time. But there really wasn't anything 'sexual' about our contact. It was just...snuggly and warm and full of life. A connection that completed us both, simply because we could be together. I kind of liked that.
Tanner giggled softly to himself. "What are you doing?" He asked.
"Are you feeling yourself up? What is that about?"
I'm surprised he even caught that. "I was just making sure that I wasn't...you know..."
Tanner got a wicked gleam in his eye, and he suddenly reached out to grab the front of my pants and squeeze. "Nope. You're fine!" He laughed as I gasped out loud at his brazen gesture.
"Jesus, dude!" I snickered.
"You wanna check me too?"
Just then, the bus driver made a point to let everybody know that he had places to be, and that any stragglers had to exit the bus and get to class. "Maybe later." I grinned. "I think you might be due for a much more thorough examination."
"Mmmm, sounds interesting, Doc. I'm game if you are."
"Boys?" The drive said. "Let's go. Let's go. Move out."
Damn, just when things were getting good. Hehehe!
Tanner and I were the last ones off the bus, and even though we were surrounded by an entire swarm of high school students, I bravely reached out to take a hold of his hand again. His touch is so addictive to me. And even though it felt a bit scary at first, it was also an exhilarating declaration of my heart and soul. An expression to let him know that there would never be another day of my life spent thinking that there was something wrong about any of this.
God...I was trembling so bad. I think Tanner was too. And a few other kids did look in our direction, a bit surprised by seeing something so 'out of the ordinary' at the start of a random school day. But they were easy to ignore. I had all the beauty I ever needed right here at my side to stare at anyway.
I can't imagine that anything could possibly matter more than having him know that my heart was his. All of it. So, when we walked through those front doors...walked through proud.
Hand in hand.
And our hearts beating in sync.
Just as it should be.
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