Things went back to normal; the next day I was back to routine; school then training. Kenzie wanted me to stay and I wanted to be here, so I set myself to be a model student and guardian.
A few days later after training, which I finished last as always with the others having a good fifteen minute head start to the lounge, I walked up the stairs only to come into the pitch black lounge.
I received no answer and knew something was up.
“Guys?” I repeated on alert.
It was dark but with the light coming in from the entrance, I could see the living room was empty. I went to the kitchen.
“Surprise!” They yelled at the same time, opening the light. I tensed, startled. They had congregated behind the counter where a flan cake was waiting for us, two number candles on it; one and four.
“How did you know it was my birthday today?” I asked.
“It’s in your file along with tons of other little factoids, which I have access to.” Stan said.
“Did you think we’d let this go?” Chuan said. “Why didn’t you tell us?”
I shrugged. “I didn’t think it was important. I mean it’s just my fourteenth birthday, it’s not a big deal.” I hadn’t really celebrated my twelfth or thirteenth birthday either, all that had happened was my parents told me happy birthday and gave me a small gift, I hadn’t had anyone to celebrate it with then.
Chuan cut up some of the cake and distributed it and we all stuffed our faces.
“Is it time for the gifts?” Chuan asked once the first wave of flan cake was devoured.
“I don’t see why not. I have dibs on first gift.” Kenzie said, she took out a box from underneath the counter and put it in front of me, at her insistence, I unwrapped the box, ripping the wrapping into large shreds and opening the box marked ‘Cape a la mode’ it was one of the primary costume design corporation worldwide. They had made much of their money from what they had dubbed D-fiber, which adapted to the wearer’s abilities allowing pyrokinetic to not burn their costumes and brick types to have a costume that would survive the level of punishment they took.
“I’ve had it made just for you, custom order.”
The box contained a carmine red hoodie, very close in color to the one I was almost always wearing, the inside of which, was white, the same ghost white as my costume. I removed my old one and tried it on, it was larger but without being too baggy, it had a nice comforting weight to it and it was pretty thick with fabric yet remarkably soft on the skin.
“How is it?”
“It’s great, I love it.” I gave her a hug and then thugged the hoodie on more tightly.
“No more tight, frayed and discolored hoodie for you. It also can take a bullet or a knife in case you need it to. That’s a default feature of their designs.”
“My turn!” Chuan said, giving me his box, it was rather heavy. I set it down and opened it, it contained a trio of cookbooks, the top most was a book on Thai cuisine.
“I can almost read a message there, but I can’t quite grasp it.”
“I admit it, I’m a complete self interested sham and I really just want you to keep on cooking for us.”
“I’m glad you like my cooking Chuan. Thanks for the books, I’ll make good use of them.” We exchanged a hug.
“My gift if a little smaller. I hope that’s okay.” Jessie said, giving me her packet. “Kenzie told me you liked to read so...”
It contained a novel, reading the back blurb a mystery story in victorian england about two queer ladies investigating a supernatural case. Having a book about people like me that wasn’t one of those awful ‘coming out and being victimized’ felt great.
“It sounds great. Thanks Jessie.” I gave her a hug too.
“Is it my turn already?” Victoria asked, sounding a little nervous.
“Seems like it B.” Chuan said.
Before she could say any more, my phone vibrated. I took it out.
“It’s my mom… I don’t know what to do...”
“I think you should pick up. Give her a chance, maybe she’s cooled down.” Kenzie said, putting a hand on my shoulder.
I answered the call and went into my room for some privacy.
“Hi mom.” I answered flatly.
I braced myself for her answer, expecting the worse, but she didn't sound mad.
“Hello Paige. I just received a text from your dad, he’s in town and he’s coming for dinner. I understand if you don’t want to see me and that you hate me, but could you be there for him at least?”
“Alright… I’ll be there in less than half an hour.” I said, before hanging up and going back to the kitchen. “I hate to cut this short, but I have to go home right now, my dad is there.”
“Do you want me to come with you for support?” Kenzie asked.
“I have a better idea; we could all wait in costume and if trouble erupt we leap through the window and save the day!” Chuan said.
On any other day Chuan would have made me laugh, but not that day.
“No. I’ll handle it.” Kenzie gave me a prolonged hug, “You guys have fun and enjoy the rest of the evening.”
I left, leaving everything but my new hoodie there. I was down by the garage when I realized how awful an idea it was to tell them to celebrate my very own birthday while I wasn’t actually there with them. I found one of the driver in their little break room and got a ride home.
When she dropped me home, I didn’t go inside immediately. Instead I stood before the door for about a minute, psyching myself into going in before I slipped in. My dad was already there, talking with my mom in the kitchen who was tending to a big pot, the air smelled of garlic, meat and tomatoes being simmered together.
My dad turned around at the sound of the door hinge and saw me, taking a few steps forward and meeting me halfway.
“Hi Dad!” I gave him a big hug.
“Hey pumpkin! Happy fourteenth birthday.”
“I like your new hoodie, it looks very nice on you.”
“It was a gift from Kenzie, the guardians threw me a little party”
“Well, I’m sorry to have interrupted it.”
“It’s okay, you take priority.”
“I got a little something for you.”
He took out a small box from his pocket and handed it to me. I opened it and saw a new phone, one of the current model rather than the antiquity I used. It was a simple deployable smart material model in my favorite color. Some tinkerer made lifesaving inventions, revolutionized scientific fields or changed the way we lived we the better and others just sold cool shit to people with disposable income and made gazillions of dollars.
“You were complaining about your old one not working properly, so I figured you’d like something a little more modern. It’s also self repairing from minor damage.”
This was a good thing, I had a tendency to drop my phone, it’s screen was pretty damn cracked from it. At least it hadn’t broken.
“I do, actually I love it. Thanks dad.” I gave him another hug.
“Alright, dinner is ready thanks to your mom so why don’t we get to that.”
I came into the kitchen proper and saw my mother finishing dinner preparation, preparing three plates and setting garlic bread in a basket on the table.
“Good evening Paige.” She didn’t seem angry, maybe a little relieved to see me.
“Hi mom.” I said flatly. “Thanks for making dinner.”
We sat down for dinner and my parents started talking while I quietly shoved bolognese spaghetti in my mouth and tried not to look too uncomfortable. Whenever solicited, I gave short answers. Eventually the conversation, if it could be called that, died.
I made my best effort to not look or talk to my mom and instead I just rather impolitely played around with my new phone and trying to reconfigure it.
“Okay, I can’t ignore it any longer; what is going on between the two of you?” My dad asked after a few minutes with a thick, awkward silence. “You’re not normally hostile.”
“I told mom I was gay and then she punished me for it.” I spat out. “Now I’m living at the headquarter with people who accept me. I only came back to see you.”
“Honey?” My dad said, looking at my mom for her side of the story.
“Paige, I sent you to your room because you were rude to me. You were angry, you shouted obscenities and I wanted you to cool down before having a serious talk with you, but instead you ran away. I when I realized you were gone tried to call you to apologize but you wouldn’t pick up for over a week and even Kimberly wasn’t helpful, she said to give you time and I did. But if you had stayed, none of this would have happened; I would have told you I still love you but instead you wouldn’t give me the chance to say what I had to say. You could have just told me ‘Mom, I’m gay’ and it would have been fine but instead you had to be vulgar and then scream how much you hate me.”
There was a pause.
“Does that mean you’re not against me being… gay?”
“Paige, even if sometimes I struggle with how I was raised, you’re my only child and I’ll always love you, regardless of who you turn out to be.”
“What’s wrong with how you were raised? I mean you don’t talk about it a lot…”
I had never really spent all that much time with my maternal grandparents, aunts, uncles or cousins, all I really knew was that they were very religious and that they didn’t like me being divergent.
“My family was extremely religious, I grew up knowing only two things: fear and hate. Every day since I was old enough to speak, I was told we were living in the end of days, that we would all soon be judged. I was told that people wanted to corrupt us and destroy our way of life; muslims, homosexuals, atheists or anyone else that didn’t share our specific conservative christian values.
When Kaijus first appeared, my family took it as a sign of the tribulations, that they were right. When the exaltation happened, it was another important figure; the whore of babylon, that would seduce the rulers of the world into idolatry. In church they spoke of you as Nephilims, the children of fallen angels and I believed it because I had been told it was the truth from birth.
When I was told you triggered, I cried. You were my baby girl, you could not be one of these monsters. And yet you were. When I saw you in the hospital, I didn’t see the monster, I saw my little girl who was just hurt, you were still the same girl I had raised for eleven years. It was a turning point for me, if you weren’t one these creatures of evil, were the others like you? If so, then what else was not true?
My family wanted me to reject you, in their eyes you were nothing but a spawn of satan and I had been fooled into raising you. I said no, that you really were my little girl. The last thing my father said to me as he disowned me was that he would not have Satan’s harlot as a daughter, that I had chosen his side and forsaken God’s love and my chance at paradise.
I love you Paige, more than I loved my family or my faith. I’ll always love you, even if I don’t know how to reach out to you. I’m sorry that I’m such a horrible mom, that you felt rejected and that I’ve failed when it came to taking care of you. I’ve made mistakes; I didn’t see the signs that you weren’t doing well and I didn’t get you the help you needed. I want to fix us, I want to be your mom again and I’m sorry that you hate me because of my inability to communicate...”
It took me a moment to process everything. I’d never been told the details of what had happened with my trigger event and her family. That she’d been given the choice between everything that mattered to her and plain old me… And now she thought I hated her... I felt a tightness in my chest and my eyes getting a little watery.
“I love you too mom. I’m sorry I said I hated you, I didn’t really mean it.”
She gave me a hug and I stayed in the warm and secure embrace of her arms for a while, desperately trying to not cry and failing miserably. She only let me go after a few minutes after which I’d calmed down.
“What about you, Dad? You don’t mind that I’m gay, right?”
“I love you however you are, regardless of whom want to be and who you love. You’ll always be my little pumpkin.” He dragged me closer with one arm and kissed my forehead.
“Thanks dad. So… Now’s probably the time I should tell you two that I have a girlfriend.”
“You do? who is it?” My mom asked.
“Mom, I have three close friends; one of them is a boy, one is a teddy bear and the last one is…” I let her complete her sentence.
“Ding! Ding! Ding!” After the surge of emotion, joking a bit was oddly comforting.
“So, Why didn’t you bring her over for dinner?” My dad asked.
“I didn’t want to add oil to the fire with mom. You really want to meet her?”
“Of course I do, I want to meet the one who get my little pumpkin’s heart beating, because she must be one amazing person.”
“She is.” It took me a moment to realized I was giving him an absent smile. “Do you want me to call her?”
“Only if you want to.”
I took out my phone and called Kenzie.
“Is everything alright?” Kenzie asked, not even saying hi.
“Hello to you too, Kenzie.” I answered. “Everything is well, turns out my mom and I just had a misunderstanding, both her and my dad are okay with me being a lesbian… Which brings why I’m calling you. My dad wants to meet you, tonight preferably.”
“Good timing, I was about to go shower.” She said. “I can be there in fifteen minutes, wait no. Make that thirty five I want to spruce up a bit. Make a good impression. Is that alright?”
"Sure, take your time."
"Alright. See you later."
I hung up.
“She’ll be there in a little over a half hour.”