Opposites Attract- Two
“I am literally killing myself right now,” I said, finishing off another Little Debbie frosting filled cupcake. I wiped the crumbs off my face and looked across the cafeteria table at my best friend, “Angela!” I whined playfully, “You’re such an awful friend, I can’t believe you can just sit there and watch me deteriorate in front of your eyes. You could at least tell me I’m getting fat.”
She glared at me as she chewed on her apricot spinach salad with ginger sauce. “You’re not remorseful at all?”
“Riley!” she snapped, “We’ve caused the misery and sorrow of a man who believed in love, my father. He’s completely miserable, and you’re sitting with your legs crossed eating cupcakes while he cries his eyes out!”
“Angela, please, enough with the drama. Just because we study drama, doesn’t mean we have to be dramatic off stage,” I sighed, and placed a hand comfortingly on the table, “I am remorseful, I am. If I could control my mom and make her settle down, I would. I promise. But you know her.”
Angela frowned and took another bite of her salad, chewing it as if she was envisioning my mother between her teeth. “What did we do?” she asked after swallowing, “How did we think matching them together could ever have a happy ending.”
I looked down at the table quickly, not wanting Angela to see the truth behind my eyes. Of course I had known it wouldn’t work out, I wished that it would be different, but I knew that it wouldn’t. I pinched the brim of my nose and closed my eyes, not because my head hurt but more of a gesture of distress.
“Ugh… Could we just stop talking about it? I have enough to worry about.” I opened my eyes and offered her my last cupcake in apology. “I’m really sorry about my mother, okay?”
She took the cupcake with a forgiving smile, “Trying to kill me now?”
Out of the corner of my eye a short stocky figure walked over to a table, and I quickly glanced up from Angela to stare longingly at the boy who so often frequented my daydreams. I reached over the table and gripped Angela’s hand.
“It’s him,” I hissed.
Angela turned quickly to look at him and instantly looked exasperated, “Riley, c’mon. Don’t tell me you’re still pining for Michael?”
I practically melted in my seat as I watched him and his strong arms eat his perfect chicken wrap. His short hair stuck straight up to the sky, and his wrists had my favorite array of leather bands and friendship bracelets. It takes courage and talent for a guy to pull of pink and purple friendship bracelets, and he had both.
“Pining away,” I said dreamily, starting to daydream about Michael suddenly needing a napkin, and then asking to sit next to me. “It’s so childish,” I giggled to Angela, my eyes bright with excitement. “Angie, it’s so silly, but wouldn’t it be just wonderful if he were to sit at our table one day?”
“Completely silly,” she said dully and finished off her salad. “I can’t believe you haven’t talked to him yet.”
“He’s so unapproachable though, I mean,” I looked back over at him, “He’s too hot, I would never be able to force a word out.”
She looked at me with disbelief, “Oh yes you would, you would force out quite a bit.”
I rolled my eyes but couldn’t suppress a giddy feeling, “Do you think he remembers me?”
“Who wouldn’t remember you? You were practically pole dancing for Cats.”
“Was not!” I gased.
“Well you certainly weren’t tap dancing.”
“I was not pole dancing!”
“Shaking your hips while holding onto a pole doesn’t equate to pole dancing, and for your information it was actually a ceiling support so I couldn’t pole dance if I even wanted to, it would be unsafe.” I poked my lip out at her but couldn’t help but smile. Cats had been fun, despite everyone’s apparent amusement of how I fell on stage while leaning up against the buildings support pole.
Angela gave me a reproachful look and shook her head, “Whatev’s.”
I opened the fridge to find the green protein drink I had made earlier in the day staring me in the face. The pink sticky note I had stuck to it, having fallen off, lay at my feet face down. I grabbed the protein drink in annoyance.
“Mom?!” I yelled through the apartment, looking around the kitchen. “Mom?!” I walked into the small living room, the comfy loveseats and cushions looking like they hadn’t been used since we bought them. The sun had faded out the wooden lamp stands and the dark brown zebra printed carpet, since she forgot to close the curtains… again. “MOM?!” I yelled getting more frustrated.
“What?!” her voice, sounding as irritated as mine, came from above where her master bedroom suite occupied the whole grand New York apartment loft.
Grumbling under my breath about the stairs, the curtains and the protein drink, I looked around the loft, clothes and beauty products strewn around the large room.
“Mom?!” I yelled again, knowing that it would irritate her more.
“What?!” she snapped, rounding the corner of her bedroom sized closet. She looked me up and down, then her eyes rested on the green protein drink in my hand. She bit her lip, looking guiltily at me. “I’m sorry honey… I just—”
“Where’d you get the dress?” My eyes fell on the gorgeous dress she wore, looking as expensive as our flat. Red satin, with what looked like real red bird feathers, she looked like Marilyn Monroe with the dress hugging her hips and then fanning right below her knees, her sandy blonde hair curled around her face. If I was in a better mood, I’d flatter her with a breathy “You look like a movie star.”
She looked down at the dress and a mischievous grin spread across her face, she looked up impressively and shrugged, “Co-worker.” She turned and walked back into her closet.
“Or boss…” I said under my breath as I walked in after her, insinuating that she had bought it for herself. She turned to give me stern look. I shrugged and held up the protein drink, “Mom, this is the third day in row that you’ve forgotten to take your protein drink.” I sat the drink down on the island of drawers running the length of the closet. I put my hands on my hips and looked at her disapprovingly, “I’m beginning to think you’re doing it intentionally.”
“I don’t have time,” she said searching for the perfect pull-over, she turned to look at me glaring at her and slumped apologetically, “Honey, I try to remember, I really do.”
“I do, and your protein drinks are fabulous,” I crossed my arms and gave her my best pouty eyes, “Oh don’t look at me like that.” She turned trying not to meet my eyes, guilty of her forgetfulness, “Maybe if you put the note on the outside of the fridge, than on the inside I would see it.”
“Ha!” I pointed at her accusingly, “So you did see it, you just chose not to drink it. Why?”
“Honey!” my mom whined, walking up to me and taking my hands in hers. “Let’s not argue, please? You’re leaving in the morning to spend Christmas with your,” she made a face, “father. Let’s have fun tonight.”
I pulled my hands from hers and gave her a stern look, “Fine, as long as you promise to take care of yourself when I’m gone.”
“Riley,” she laughed and then kissed my forehead, “I’ll be fine. Now go get dressed. I’m not going out with you looking like that.”
I looked down at my purple jeggings and my frilly green sweater. I rolled my eyes, “I wouldn’t go out with me either.”
She laughed, and turned me around by my shoulders, patting my bottom to get me moving. I skipped out of the closet, and then turned in the door way.
I point at the protein drink dramatically, “Take off the dress and drink your protein drink or I’m returning from Georgia with a Mohawk.”
“Don’t get me started on girls with Mohawks,” My mom yelled after me as I skipped away.
I practically ran down the stairs down to my bedroom and into my walk in closet. It wasn’t as grand as my mom’s but it held my entire wardrobe comfortably. Well… most of my wardrobe, a few piles of shirts lay on the floor and then another pile of dresses and leggings I’d never really wear but were cute on the manikin lay in abandonment. I instantly reached for my silky pink party dress; spaghetti straps, skirts ending right above my knee, with an empire waist bow in the front. I slipped it on, feeling like a princess with the skirts flaring out on either side. I pulled on my knit white stockings and grabbed my white faux fur jacket, stopping perfectly at my dresses empire waist.
I hurried into the bathroom, and started to apply fresh make-up, bringing out my sparkly pink eye shadow and bright red lipstick. If I was going to dress up, might as well do it right, right?
By the time my mom came down to pull me away from the mirror, I had turned from regular high school girl, to a glamorously pink princess. Complete with new year’s eve tiara, that worked as a Christmas eve tiara. I had curled my straight hair, and when I looked in the mirror one last time and couldn't help but laugh at how akin I looked to a pageant queen.
“Mom!” I whined as I pulled on my pink boots, my mother already opening the door.
She sighed impatiently and waited at the door, watching me zip up my boots. I purposefully slowed down when I saw her watching me, but when she glared at me I stopped and hurriedly put the last one on.
I smiled and grabbed my sparkly pink hand bag, “Yep, let’s go.”
We walked out of the flat and into the apartment hallway, wreaths and garlands strung up on the walls through the halls, reminding me of the song.
“Where are we going?” I asked.
“Party, where else?”
The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree was probably the largest Christmas I had ever seen since last Christmas.
Our cab passed the tree on its way to the Christmas Eve party at one of my mom’s client’s houses, which was promised to be kid friendly. My mom’s counseling business had been successfully busy for five years and her clients, who always seemed to be women with guy troubles, always invited her to any possible event you could think of.
How my mom chose between all her clients during the holidays was beyond me, but I really didn’t care as long the client had good taste.
New York City, the skies growing dark and the buildings starting to glow, looked like a giant Christmas tree itself, decorated and lit up with twinkling lights. The skyscrapers on either side seemed to compete with each other to see which one can keep on the most lights and the streets below were bustling with people as usual, normal new Yorkers and tourists just trying to keep warm, fighting the cold with their stubborn New York attitudes and energy.
Go. Go. Go.
It was like the word pulses in everyone’s blood here. Exhilarating, I felt it pulsing through my veins as well, driving me to be a star.
“Eric? Hi, it’s Reagan… Yes, hello.” My mom smiled, pressing her phone to her ear, her bright red lipstick shining in the dim light from outside the car. I reached forward and wiped the lipstick off of her front teeth. She waved me away and wiped at her teeth with her tongue, “Uh huh? Oh really… well we’re heading over to Stacy’s… yeah, Stacy Long… Well we’re in the area, would you like us to pick you up?”
I groaned out loud, making it clear that I didn’t want to pick up any new boyfriends.
My mom stuck her tongue out at me and then smiled, as if he could see her. “No problem… I’m sure my driver won’t mind… No! Of course not, I don’t mind at all, I’d love to... Of course… Be there in a few minutes… Okay… See you.” She hung up and then looked at me sternly. “Now, Riley. It’s not what you think. He’s a colleague and hopefully a friend—”
“Mom,” I raised my eyebrows incredulously at her, “Don’t fool yourself, and don’t even try to fool me. The last time you had a ‘colleague’ I found you making out with him… in my room.”
“You can’t still be mad about that?”
I crossed my arms, my dress making crinkling noises as I moved. “Yes… and no. I’m just saying,” I sighed and rolled my eyes heavenward, “that usually all male contact ends in a relationship and then heartbreak, for them.”
She looked away from me and out the window at the lights, “Well… this one isn’t going to end that way, okay?” her sharp words made me feel guilty and I sighed in defeat.
“I’m sorry,” I said in a small voice, “I shouldn’t have said that… I didn’t mean it.”
She pursed her lips, smearing some of her lipstick off her lips. Looking back around at me she smiled, “It’s okay, sweetie.” She stroked my cheek with a gloved hand. I reached out and fixed her make-up again. She poked her lip out, her eyes watering, “I’m going to miss you.”
“I’m going to miss you too,” I said, a lump forming in the back of my throat. I forced a smile, “But it’ll be fun.”
My mom sat back in her seat, and let her hand drop. She looked out the window, half of her face shaded by the inside of the car. “It’s good,” she cleared her throat, “For you. It’s good for Stella too. You need each other.”
I tried to hide a grimace at the mention of Stella, and the thought that I needed her. My chest constricted at the thought of her. My older sister, Stella, had always been perfect, and when she decided she was too perfect to come be with me in Spring, or even talk to me on Skype, I realized that nobody needs Stella, especially not me.
I ground my teeth together and tried to not think about it by distracting myself with the lights of the city.
My mom redirected the driver to stop outside an address I couldn’t mentally follow, and then sat back to hold my pale hand in her warm gloved one.
“I’m so jealous,” she said, grinning. She looked out at the flurries of snow starting to come down, “You get to go spend Christmas in the south, in the heat.”
I grinned and rolled my eyes playfully, “Don’t be surprised if I come back home all red and sunburned.”
She laughed, “As long as you stay out of the sun, I think you’ll be fine.”
“Uh… It’s Georgia, Mom, you can’t just stay out of the sun,” I laughed back.
“Well,” my mom paused to think, “Never mind. I was going to say you could stay inside… but I doubt you’ll be able to stand the sweet Georgia hospitality that your father has filled his house with.”
“I’m not afraid of the house,” I scoffed, “It’s the zoo inside that I’m worried about.”
She giggled and kissed my forehead, “You’ll be fine.”
“I know,” I shrugged and grinned mischievously, “Poor Dad, he has to put up with me and my drama till New Year’s Eve.”
“Sounds like torture,” my mom stuck her tongue out at me playfully, “Poor me, I have to be all alone in that big apartment until New Year’s Eve. Who am I going to eat Oriental food with tomorrow night?”
I rolled my eyes, feeling the car slow down to the curb of an apartment complex, “Oh I’m sure you’ll find someone.”
A tall, quite large, potbellied man stood waiting at the curb. Dressed in a suite and red tie, his black hair combed back. His jaw would be sharp if it hadn’t been softened by over indulgence. In a matter of speaking, he was handsome. Being the snob I was, I couldn’t’ help but notice his potbelly and softness first. But the softness in his eyes was nice, and his smile was quite sweet. My mom scooted over to the middle of the seat. The man, who I presumed to be Eric, opened the taxi door and scooted in next to my mother. He turned with a sweet smile at me and his soft expression looked affectionate.
“Hello,” he reached across my mother to offer his thick hand, “I’m Eric.”
I smiled politely and shook his hand gingerly, “Riley.”
“Your mom has told me a lot about you.”
“Really?” I brightened, “And you are…”
“A colleague’s of your mom,” he smiled and buckled his seat belt.
My mom leaned forward and told the taxi driver to keep going. She turned to smile at Eric and nodded, “Very good colleague at that. How are you Eric?”
“I’m well, thank you,” he smiled and looked my mom up and down. “Wow, you look… wow.”
“Thank you,” she grinned and fluttered her eyelashes.
I sighed quietly to myself and rolled my eyes. Completely helpless, I thought to myself, watching my mother flirt. I knew she couldn’t help it sometimes. She had done it so often that it became second nature.
The rest of the night could be explained in four words: Lamest Christmas Eve Ever. Not the best going away party, but even though the party consisted of older people talking about books and different kinds of therapy, I got to enjoy making my mother look good. Everyone loves a good mother, and my mom, despite her lack of self-control when it came to the opposite gender, was a good mother… well, she was to me.
“You have everything packed… you’re sure?” my mom asked, distractedly looking through her email on her phone.
“I bought a bottle of sunscreen when I was at the store… but I might have left it in the bag in the apartment.”
“Oh right, toothbrush,” she looked up from her phone. She looked like she was going through her ‘Good Mom’ list. “You’re supposed to have a toothbrush.”
I nodded, “Mom?”
My mom glanced behind me to the security check, “And… um, you got your clothes, carry-on bag… and do you have pepper spray?”
“Good… then I’m guessing you packed extra underwear…” She screwed her eyes shut and pinched the brim of her nose, as if trying really hard to remember something she was supposed to say.
“Yeah?” she opened her eyes expectantly.
I rolled my eyes and hugged her, “I’m good. I have everything taken care of. I got this.” I stepped back and shrugged, truly confident. “I’ll miss you.” I kissed her cheek.
“I’ll miss you too, sweetie,” she hugged me a second time and kissed my forehead. She paused again, unsure of what to say.
I smiled in amusement, enjoying her silent struggle of mother hood. “I’ll call you when I get into Atlanta.”
I hugged her one last time and then turned around before I could start crying. It was time to leave New York City. The early morning of four o’clock felt like a drug, making my thought process slower. It was probably a good thing. I didn’t want to stress over my trip.
I’m going to be good, I ordered myself, feeling stupid, You’re going to behave and look on the bright side. This is going to be fun… ish.