My pumpkin spice latte was too sweet, but my voice was too bitter. As I stared into the murky depths of my cardboard cup, I said, “We’re both single for Valentine’s Day this year.”
I didn’t know why I said it. Maybe I thought she would laugh. Maybe I thought she would show at least a little amusement, a smile that would reassure me that everything was Finally Okay and not depressed and sobbing and curled up on the futon. But she was silent.
I looked up. She, too, was staring into her plastic cup of bubble tea, avoiding my eyes. “Right?” I asked. “Mom?”
Her eyes still didn’t meet mine. She sipped through the excessively hot pink straw, intensely interested by the shop’s colourful decor instead of by me.
Propping my elbows on the table, I dropped my head in my hands. “Jesus, Mom.”
“What?” she asked finally.
“Is it him?” I tipped my head upward to look at her.
Him. That guy she used to date, the guy who was too young and too rash and too fast. It hadn’t worked out then. I couldn’t figure out why she thought it would work out now. Again, she was rushing into something without thinking it through, without thinking that this guy didn’t like me, and that I didn’t like him, and that she was my mom and it was her job to be the sensible one. But lately, I felt like I was the only person making sense in the whole damn house.
Banging my cup on the table, I yelled, “Dammit Mom! Why the hell don’t you ever tell me these things?”
My drink spilled on my coat; I grabbed at the napkins to dab at it.
“Because I knew you would react this way,” my mom returned. Questioning looks turned to us from around the shop.
“So you thought if you kept it a secret maybe I’d be less mad when I found out? Is that it?”
“You’re the one who didn’t ask. Maybe if you cared at all about anyone but yourself, you would have figured it out,” she muttered. The pink straw met her pink lips, and I wanted to smack that indifferent expression off her face.
“In case you hadn’t noticed,” I sputtered. “ I did ask. I figured it out.”
Buttoning up my stained coat, I stood up, grabbing my gloves from my pockets and slipping them on my hands.
“Where are you going?” she asked, her eyes wide.
“I’m outta here. I don’t have to freaking stand this.”
As I carried my latte toward the exit, I felt myself being followed by a dozen eyes from the tables in the shop. The world was already turning into a blurry mess around me; I wiped my eyes with the back of my hand. She wouldn’t see me cry, not in this place. Just before pushing the door open with my shoulder to storm out of the shop, I stopped, turned around, and spit three words in her direction:
“Happy Valentine’s Day.”