A Sizzling Summer by The Bay - Part Twelve
Need To Catch Up...
A Sizzling Summer by The Bay - Part Twelve
July 2016 – Monterey, California
The next morning Estelle woke up with the sun peeking through the small basement window. Jamar and Jim had worked on a project over the past year finishing the basement to include a guest and rec room.
She stretched and groaned, feeling the ache of unrested muscles. Part of her wanted to sleep longer, but she could hear her niece and nephew thumping around upstairs already. Apparently, they were morning kids, which didn’t surprise her, growing up on a ranch and all. It was the reason she was a morning person. Years and years of farm chores before the school bus would even arrive.
The strong scent of dark roast mixed with the heavenly scent of cinnamon rolls filled her nostrils.
Mom’s cinnamon rolls were a holiday tradition.
Their conversation came back to her in a rush. She needed to tell Jamar. Would their mother ‘out’ her before she had a chance to talk to him this weekend? She didn’t think so, but she also had not expected her mother to react so severely to the news of her sexual orientation.
Estelle grabbed her phone and looked at the notifications as she swung her legs out of bed. She scanned through them to see if Iona had texted. She’d hoped that maybe she would, but at the same time, they’d agreed they were only friends with benefits. They’d been spending a lot of time together as of late. Maybe Iona needed some space? She didn’t want to mess up the good thing they had going by texting and seeming needy, but boy, she could really use a friend right now.
She huffed out a long sigh. No use delaying the inevitable.
Best get this over this weekend over with. Tuesday morning can’t come quickly enough.
Estelle slipped on a pair of jeans, and a plain navy-blue tank top. She padded upstairs barefoot, her hair disheveled, no makeup. She was too tired to bother with anything outside the bare basics today.
She trudged up the stairs and sat down at the kitchen table. Her niece immediately bombarded her. “Auntie Estelle, can I show you Sassy today? I’m going to compete this year! Daddy says I’m old enough now!”
“I’d love to see your new pony baby-girl, but Auntie needs some coffee first.”
In the hustle and bustle of the previous day, there hadn’t been time for her to niece to monopolize her auntie’s lavish attention, as she’d grown accustomed to when Estelle was visiting.
“Okay, I’ll get her saddled up.” Shae was about to turn and run but stopped short at her father’s voice.
“No, you need to sit down and eat your breakfast first, young lady,” Jamar’s stern tone brooked no argument.
Shae pursed her lips in protest but replied, “Yes, sir.” She slumped into the seat next to Estelle. “I’m not even hungry,” she whispered to her aunt.
Estelle winked at Shae, and when Jamar’s back was turned, she switched her empty plate with Shae’s full one.
Shae giggled. “Daddy, I’m all done!”
He turned around and narrowed his eyes. He glared at Estelle, then sighed with resignation. “Fine, get going.”
Shae made a shrill whooping noise, pumped a small fist in the air, then ran out the back door.
“Why do you encourage the mischief?” Jamar shook his head and laughed.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” she said with mock innocence. Picked up the cinnamon roll and poignantly plunged her teeth into the decadent pastry.
He shook a finger at her. “You just wait until you have kids. Payback’s comin’ Sis, and it’s going to be brutal.”
The wonderful burst of flavors suddenly soured in her mouth. She had to talk to him, and it seemed maybe it was now or never. Little Dale was sitting at the table, quietly engrossed in a hand-held video game. Mom wasn’t around, and Wendy was probably sleeping-in considering her precarious pregnancy issues.
“Where’s Mom?” Estelle asked as casually as she could.
“Went to the store to pick up a few items. Why for?”
Estelle ignored the question. She turned to her nephew. “Hey, Dale, would you mind if I have a moment with your Daddy? We need to talk about some grown-up things.”
He barely looked up from his game, shook his small head, “Okay,” then trailed off into another room.
Jamar sat down at the table. His expression took on deep concern. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing – nothing’s wrong. I was wondering if Momma talked to you about – well, we talked last night, and—” She couldn’t find the words to explain herself.
“No, she didn’t mention anything. What’s going on? You’re scaring me.”
Estelle shook her head. “It’s nothing serious, really. I just – she brought up Dayton, and it just sort of came out that I told her—” She inhaled, exhaled, and spit it out. “Jamar, I’m bisexual. I know it’s really important to you guys that I get married and start having kids, but you need to know that if I ever get married, it might not be conventional. It’s time you guys knew.”
Jamar’s eyes went wide. He didn’t respond immediately. He leaned back in his chair, casually interlaced his fingers behind his head, then said, “Oh.”
She waited, and he remained silent, as he still seemed to be thinking.
“Oh? That’s all you have to say?” Estelle blinked rapidly.
“I’m thinking. So, is this why you and Dayton broke up?” He asked carefully.
Estelle rolled her eyes and stood up. “Ugh! Not this again. No! It’s not why I broke up with Dayton!” She pulled a coffee mug down from the cabinet and slammed it down. As she filled the cup, coffee sloshed onto the counter in her haste.
Jamar held his hands up in surrender, “Hey, it’s a reasonable assumption! I didn’t mean to offend.”
Estelle pinched the bridge of her nose. “I’m sorry. It’s just you and Mom keep on about that. It just wasn’t a good match. Do you want the honest to God truth?”
“Yeah, lay it on me. I’m all ears.”
“He was bor-ing. Mind – numbingly – BOR-ING!”
Jamar shook his head sagely, then suddenly broke into a full hearty laugh.
Despite her anger, Estelle’s armor cracked, and she chuckled as well.
“Why didn’t you just say so?” Jamar said as if it was the most straightforward solution in the world.
“I did. I said over and over – we weren’t compatible, and you and Mom couldn’t seem to let a dead dog lie.”
Jamar shook his head sympathetically.
Estelle grabbed a kitchen rag and mopped up the coffee spill, then sat down at the table.
“So, you’re gay, huh?”
“I never said that.” Her voice was rising with exasperation again.
“Well, you’re either gay or straight, and if you’re saying you’re going to marry a woman, then you’re gay, right?”
“No!” Estelle pulled her hands through her hair in frustration. She was trying to keep her cool. “Jamar, sometimes people are attracted to both men and women. It’s called being bisexual. I’m bi!”
Jamar face split into a shit-eating grin. “I know. I’m just messing with you.” He reached out and tousled her hair as if she were a kid again.
Estelle suddenly realized he’d been playing dumb to string her along. She punched him hard in the arm. “You ass!”
“Hey, language! There are children around,” he pretended to scold her.
“What do you mean – you know?” Estelle asked.
“I mean – I know – you aren’t telling me anything I didn’t already know. You don’t think I wasn’t aware of you and Hannah? You might have been able to hide it from Mom and Dad, but you seem to forget, you and I were thick as thieves growing up.”
Estelle gaped at her brother. Speechless. “Why didn’t you say anything?”
“Wasn’t really my business, now was it?”
Her and Jamar had always been close, but at that moment, her heart swelled with emotions so full of love and admiration for her brother, she could hardly contain it.
Then reality hit. He shared the same beliefs as their parents. Surely, he didn’t approve?
“Why aren’t you freaking out like Mom did? Like Dad would have?” Estelle asked.
Jamar got up and refilled his coffee cup – he seemed to be collecting his thoughts. “Look, I’ve known for a long time you’re liberal. I respect those beliefs. Maybe I don’t agree with them, but far as I can tell, the bible isn’t completely stone-cold solid. There’s room for interpretation. Science says that homosexuality is biological. God made the rules of science, and I don’t think they can be broken, especially by the Big Man himself. Doesn’t make sense to make people gay then condemn them for it, based on His own rules of creation.”
Again, Estelle’s mouth hung open in shock.
“So, what if I didn’t even want to get married at all?” Estelle pushed the envelope.
“Your life – your choice. Personally, I can’t wrap my brain around why anyone wouldn’t want to have someone to share the rest of their life with, but if that’s what you choose, I’m not going to judge you. You’re my sister, and I just want you to be happy.”
“Why have you heckled me so much about getting married all these years?” Estelle huffed.
Jamar sighed. “Yeah, I’m sorry. I probably shouldn’t have, because obviously, you’re pretty put out by it, and I didn’t even know. But, you’re my baby sister, and I just want what’s best for you. I have a lot of Dad in me. Being married with kids made Mom and Dad so happy, and I’m really happy. I just want you to be happy too. I never stopped to consider that it wouldn’t make you happy until you brought it up just now.”
Estelle suddenly felt awash with shame. Why hadn’t she just talked to her brother candidly, much sooner? They had always been close, and this perceived rift in her mind had been slowly causing a wedge between them for years. Things would have been a lot less tense.
“So, I take it Momma wasn’t too keen on the bomb you dropped last night?” Jamar shook her from her thoughts.
She looked up at him. “Yeah, I don’t know what to do. She was pretty upset.”
“She’s old-school for sure. I never told you that Wendy and I started going to the New Faith Bible Church, did I?”
Estelle’s eyebrows rose questioningly.
“Well, Momma was pretty upset that we changed churches. I believe in God, but I don’t agree with the way religion has segregated people into groups. I told her that if she wanted to keep going to the First Presbyterian Fellowship, that was fine, but I didn’t quite agree with everything they were teaching there.”
Estelle felt her guilt deepen at the fact that she’d distanced herself so much from Jamar. “I didn’t know. How did she take it?”
“Not well. She was pretty upset for a few weeks. But I know one thing – she loves her family. She’s not going to write you off or disown you. She’ll come around. Give her some time to process it.”
“I feel like you changing churches is a much smaller thing than her accepting I’m half-homosexual.”
“Maybe, maybe not. She loves you. I think she’ll find a way to deal with it.”
Estelle nodded and was going to reply, but Donna came through the front door and hollered down the hallway, “Jamar, can you help me with these bags, son?”
“Be right there, Momma.” He stood up and gave Estelle a half hug. Then broke into the Bob Marley song, “Cause every little thing gonna be alright…”
“Goofball.” Estelle laughed.
Estelle noticed that over the following two days, Donna was massively over-compensating. Her smiles were forced, and she seemed afraid to make physical contact. She ran around frantically, keeping herself busy.
As the weekend unfolded, Estelle kept hearing Jamar’s words play over and over in her head, ‘She’ll come around. Give her some time to process it.’
So, Estelle did just that. It was awkward trying to side-step her mother, but she managed. Only Jamar seemed to notice the low thrum of tension between the two and pretended it simply wasn’t present.
Estelle, instead, attempted to distract herself in other ways. She played with her niece and nephew. She got on one of the ranch horses and rode down the valley road with Shae. Shae beamed with pride showing off her stellar riding skills, which brought up the reminiscent days of her own youth. The scent of hay, dirt, and horse sweat was nostalgic, the memories rose up, like homemade bread baking in an oven.
Sunday afternoon, the family decided that would be the best time to pay their respects to Dale.
Wendy said she’d stay behind with the children. Jamar and Donna got into his car with Estelle caravanning behind. Not that she didn’t know the way, but she told them she’d drive herself. She didn’t want to deal with the awkwardness of being in such a confined space with her mother. She’d let her mom come to her when she was ready.
The three of them arrived at the Monterey City Cemetery after a long yet scenic thirty-minute drive into town. She loved the drive along the 68 with its canopy of California Oaks, Manzanitas, and Cypress, intermingled with ivy bushes all along the edge of the highway. She cracked her window and let the sun and scents of the coast waft through.
The three of them got out of their cars and walked quietly to the grave. They stood solemnly. After a long moment of silence, Donna placed flowers on the grave. She visited much more often than the children.
After they were done, Estelle hung back. Donna and Jamar let her alone.
Estelle sat down on the grass cross-legged in front of the flat engraved stone. She felt suddenly overcome with emotion, and tears ran down her face. It had only been a few months prior since she’d visited her father’s grave, and her reaction had not been as such. There were others in the cemetery, but she didn’t care. It was the place where people expected that sort of thing.
Suddenly she felt like a teenager again – lost and unsure of herself.
“Hey, Dad. I know you believed you’d be looking down over us when you left—” She rubbed at her eyes. “Well, maybe you’re there listening, and maybe you aren’t, but I just wanted to say I miss you.
“I guess it’s only fair I tell you since I told Jamar and Momma. I’m bisexual, Dad.”
She stopped and waited. She knew there would be no reply, but for some reason, it seemed like the thing to do. Maybe there would be some spiritual sign, that he was close and listening?
She sighed, “Well, Momma didn’t take it well, and apparently Jamar had me all figured out before I did.” She chuckled softly. “Figures.”
“Dad, life is just hard. I know you had religion and God to get you through, but it just didn’t feel right to me. I don’t know if any of this family stuff feels right. You always loved and accepted me, but I don’t know if you would have if you’d really known me—”
She stopped short. Tears began to stream down her cheeks.
She let herself sob for a moment more.
Then she stood up and dusted the grass from her pants. She wiped at her tear-streaked face. “Love you, Dad. See ya next time.
On Monday evening – Independence Day – the BBQ was thrumming with so many bodies in their backyard, it was hard to keep track of everyone. She caught up with old family friends. Some of the older men who’d worked for her Dad were still around working with Jamar. It was good to see all of them.
She waved sparklers through the night air with Shae, Dale, and the other children, as if she were ten years old again. She shot hoops on the court with Jamar. Around sunset, half the adults piled in trucks, vans, and Suburbans with the kids, and headed to the beach to see the fireworks show.
She laid back on the cool sand, listening to the reverent ‘oohs and ahhs’ from Shae, Dale, and the other children. She was thoroughly enjoying their reaction more than the fireworks itself. She realized the moment was reliving childhood again vicariously through a child’s eyes. It gave her pause about her feelings towards creating her own family. As the evening wound down, she questioned herself again, wondering what was wrong with her?
When she woke up early on Monday morning, she was both reluctant and ready to leave. Donna was less and less prickly as the days had worn on. However, when they had parted, Estelle still felt there was a wall between them. It made her heart sink.
She couldn’t help but think her father probably would have reacted the same way. Part of her felt relieved that she’d never know, and part of her wonders if he would have been more like Jamar in brushing it off and surprising her.
The drive back up the coast gave her time to think.
She had not expected such a visceral negative reaction from her mother. It had cut so deeply. She couldn’t deny it hurt, and badly.
At least she had some clarity on where Jamar stood, and that brought her great comfort. She realized though, she’d been feeling this ever-growing chasm splitting and continuing to widen with each passing year. If she was going to face hard facts, things hadn’t been the same between her and her family since she’d begun to develop her autonomy in distinct and separate beliefs about life and philosophy, which also consequently included her fringe sexual orientation.
Have I seriously not recognized until now what a pariah I am in my family?
Okay, maybe that was being a bit harsh. Jamar had been more than loving and accepting. So, should it bother her so much that her mother wasn’t? That her father likely wouldn’t have been? That she would never know what his response would have been?
She found her cheeks wet with tears again as she made the long drive home.
By the time she arrived back at her place, it was well past midnight. She slumped into bed, barely peeling off her clothes, foregoing any of her nighttime routines, and quickly fell asleep.
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Part Thirteen will be released on August 7th.
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