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:: And Jacki, Of Course by Amy Gerstin Coombs
And Jacki, Of Course by Amy Gerstin Coombs
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Nora's grandchild is due to be born any minute. The occasion is marred by her son's mother-in-law, who never accepted Nora's partner, Jacki, as his other parent. Jacki tells Nora to stop dwelling in the past and dismisses her fears for the future. Can Nora forgive and forget? Should she? What will a mother do to hold onto her family? A short story from our Nibs short story line.
In the maternity ward's Family Room, Nora leaned her head against Jacki's shoulder, their fingers laced together. Their daughter-in-law's labor had been going on far too long, the last two hours passing without a report from their son. Nora couldn't understand why Will didn't come. It only took a moment to check in.
Earlier that day, another family—a large, noisy flock of grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, and cousins—had taken over most of the cream-colored room. They shared fruit, inside jokes, and a cribbage game that rotated among players. Nothing like Nora and Jacki's strained conversation with Will's in-laws, Suzanne and Connor. By noon that family's baby was born, and the whole crew migrated to the mother's hospital room. Suzanne had immediately moved across to the vacated chairs, as far away from Nora and Jacki as possible.
“Could she be more obvious?” Nora had whispered.
“Maybe she’s stretching out,” Jacki had said. Typical of Jacki to forgive and forget.
Now Suzanne was talking across the distance of the near empty room, while Connor had disappeared in search of coffee.
“What do you want to be called?” she asked Nora. “I certainly don’t want to be Grandma or Granny. I was thinking, maybe, something like Susu. You could be Nana. Susu and Nana. Isn’t that fun?”
Though Suzanne aimed her words at Nora, Nora knew she was really speaking to Jacki beside her. Really saying, We don’t need to worry about what the baby will call you. You don’t belong.
Nora thought of names to call Suzanne. Grand-Bitch. Grand-Hag. Grand-Horror. She would whisper those names to Jacki as soon as Suzanne left the room. She looked forward to Jacki’s low laugh.
“I called my grandmother Grammy,” Jacki offered.
“Oh. Is that Appalachian?” Suzanne glanced at Nora and Jacki’s intertwined hands, then wrinkled her nose so that her Christian Dior glasses moved up and down.
“I like Grammy,” Nora shot back. “It has a nice, honest ring to it.”
“It doesn’t really matter what we want the baby to call us,” Jacki said in her warmly even way, which Nora had fallen in love with twenty-nine years before. “She’ll find her own names, I imagine.”
This was true. Nora had wanted Will to call her “Mommy B,” for “biological,” and Jacki “Mommy A,” for “adoptive.” She thought this idea was clever. Jacki, at the time, wanted one of them to be “Mommy” and the other “Mama.” She thought this idea was saner. But Will, an intelligent child, a genius child, with gray eyes that turned strikingly green and luscious blond curls, who teethed late and hard and took too-short naps, whose sense of humor caused him to erupt into endearing squeals of laughter, insisted from the age of four on dropping mommy altogether and calling them Nora and Jacki.
Nora was about to share this story when Suzanne said, “Well, I guess that’s true if you let the child run wild and do whatever she wants.”
Nora’s gut tightened. “It’s not up to us how she’s raised. We’re not her parents.”
“But we grandmothers have some say.” Suzanne raised her eyebrows as if daring Nora to challenge her. Then she added, “And Jacki, of course.”
God, Nora disliked this woman. Ever since the wedding. She disliked the way Suzanne’s gray hair passed for tinted highlights against her natural blond, the way she ate with tiny nibbles, the way she always managed to add and Jacki, of course after the fact. But Nora especially resented that Suzanne lived only ten minutes from Will and Becca, not a ten-hour drive across three states. Suzanne could see them—and now, the baby—whenever she wanted.
Jacki squeezed Nora’s hand and smiled her bemused Buddha smile. Nora reached over and curled one of Jacki’s locks around her finger. She loved Jacki’s hair, which cascaded in thick waves past her shoulders, rich autumn brown streaked through with bold gray. Will used to cuddle up to Jacki, one hand in his mouth, the other twirling Jacki’s hair as she read to him Make Way for Ducklings and Arrow to the Sun.
Nora’s reverie broke when Connor entered the waiting room. He carried a cardboard tray with four cups of coffee. His round, clean-shaven cheeks were, as always, red with joviality, and he smelled of cigarettes.
“No baby yet, huh?” he asked the room at large.
“Not yet,” Suzanne said.
“Where is that nurse?” Nora stood and brushed past the cup Connor offered her. She stepped into the corridor. Nurses hurried by, one with a rattling medicine tray. A bearded man stood down the hall holding a bouquet of helium balloons. Machines beeped and chirped, footsteps padded, and somewhere an infant cried. Nora ran her fingers over her scalp, tugging at her hair. Jacki came up from behind and spoke in her ear.
“Worrying isn’t going to make the baby come any faster.” Jacki’s hands closed on Nora’s arms. Her soft body pressed into Nora’s back. “Do you want to take a walk? Go see the nursery?”
Nora shook her head. “I can’t believe Suzanne. After five years she’s still treating you like trash.”
“And she probably always will.”
“Doesn’t that drive you crazy?” Nora fought the urge to push Jacki’s hands off her.
“Honey, we’ve had this conversation. It’s not a battle I want to fight. If she comes around, she comes around. If not, her loss.”
“How can you be so damn reasonable all the time?” And now Nora did push Jacki’s hand away. She spun around and walked back into the waiting room, avoiding Jacki’s eyes. She did not want to see the hurt in them.
Published by: Untreed Reads
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