Momma, inside the house: “Lilah Jean, you get your fanny back in this house this instant and change into something decent.”
Lilah Jean: “But Momma, I got this out of your closet.”
Momma: “I’m perfectly aware of that, young lady. I’m the one that buried it in there many years ago. I’ll not have you running around town tarted up like a tramp.”
Lilah Jean: “But I look so cute in it, especially when I stand like this with my foot on a rock. I feel like a movie star! Why do you think it’s trampy?”
Momma: “Because I was wearing that outfit when I got pregnant with you.”
Lilah Jean: “Are you serious? I think I need therapy now.”
Momma: “All the more reason to get back in the house. Now scoot!”
Lilah Jean sighed and rolled her eyes, the practiced and perfected move of daughters the world over. As she turned to make her intentionally slow-ass way back to the house in order to annoy her mother, a folded piece of paper fell out of a secret pocket in her clingy couture. (How Lilah Jean hadn’t noticed said pocket whilst shimmying into the sheaf is an avenue we shan’t explore, due to time limitations.) She unfolded the folding, scanned what turned out to be a letter, and her eyes widened.
Lilah Jean raced back into the house, quickly located her mother in the kitchen, wherein Momma was humming a tune and icing a layered coconut cake. Lilah Jean did pause for half a second in her mission, because a nice piece of coconut cake would be rather satisfying right now, but she refocused on the cause at hand. “You’re a liar!”
Momma looked up from the cake, not necessarily impressed with this development but unsure of the new conversational territory. “Whatever are you babbling about, girl? I told you that outfit got me into trouble before and it’s true. And I suggest you monitor your tone with me or there will be consequences.” She scooped up another wad of icing with the spreading knife and returned to her project, assuming this situation was nothing more than turbulent young-adult emotions that would shift within minutes, as they usually did.
Lilah Jean was not intimated or deterred. And she was not talking about the outfit. “You lied about who my daddy really is.”
Momma suddenly lost all interest in her culinary sculpting, abandoning her efforts. (The half-naked cake sighed and rolled its eyes, as adolescent cakes were wont to do when they felt they weren’t getting enough attention.) Momma discreetly hurled the spreading knife out the nearby and conveniently propped-open side door, as it suddenly seemed rather crucial that sharp objects not be immediately available during the rest of this discussion. “What could you possibly mean, my sweet angel?”
Lilah Jean: “Don’t give me that. You always told me that my father was a foreign prince that you met during the Roasted Chestnut Festival in Bedford Falls. And you said he couldn’t marry you because his country required that he be a bachelor in order to become king. And he couldn’t come visit us because that same stupid country said he couldn’t cross the border once he had the crown. What country was that, mother?”
Momma: “Well, now you have me flustered. I can’t recall every detail. After all, this happened years ago, before I had offspring who could speak. Something in Europe, maybe? The old part, where countries have been around for a long time. Not the new part, where they change names every other day.”
Lilah Jean: “That country doesn’t exist, mother. But THIS does.” She slammed the letter on the counter. (This aggressive action completely discombobulated the self-involved coconut cake, throwing it into an existential crisis that would require therapy for years. Or at least until it was fully consumed, whichever came first.)
Momma: “That looks like a blank page.”
Lilah Jean glanced downwards. “Oh, sorry.” She flipped the letter over to the side with actual writing. “How do you explain THIS?”
Momma didn’t need to scan the contents, as she knew exactly what it was, but she pretended to do so anyway. “Well, it appears that someone I don’t know was very confused and he was offering to help raise our love child. The poor man was apparently delusional.”
Lilah Jeah: “You don’t know him? Oh, please. Read the signature.”
Momma squinted her eyes. “The words are rather faded and-”
Lilah Jean: “Read it, mother!”
Momma: “Lyle Gene.”
Lilah Jean: “Ring a bell, mother?”
Momma: “Perhaps a faint one. Does it ring one for you?”
Lilah Jean: “Of course it does. Lyle Gene works at the Crock and Bull Pub, and he has for years. You weren’t seduced by a prince from a country with stupid travel rules. You banged a barback and then made up some crap about the banging.”
Momma: “That seems a rather harsh way to put it.”
Lilah Jean: “The only harsh thing about it is that you lied to me. Why did you it?”
Momma took a deep breath. “Because I just wanted the best, for you. I didn’t want you to feel bad about anything in your life. I felt bad enough about my own.”
Lilah Jean sighed, this time without the eye-rolling. “Now, see, this is what I want. Truth. Truth feels good, even when it hurts.”
Momma smiled, tiredly. “So maybe you can forgive me?”
Lilah Jean: “Oh, let’s not get that carried away. But maybe we talk more instead of yelling. I’d like that.”
Momma: “Me, too. You want some of this cake?”
Lilah Jean: “Sure thing. And don’t worry about using a knife to cut it. I’ve settled down. Mostly. How about we hug first?”
They did so, as lovely music swelled on the audio track whilst they embraced. Unfortunately, their emotional physicality caused another folded letter to drop out of another secret pocket in Lilah Jean’s trampy couture.
They both looked at the packet on the floor.
Lilah Jean: “I suspect that I’m not going to be pleased if I open that.”
Momma: “And you would be right. I can tell by the folding that it was one sent by your brother.”
Lilah Jean: “I have a brother? Holy cow, woman. How much of an itch did you have?”
Momma: “I was a very busy girl. But let’s deal with that later. Right now, we should have our cake and eat it, too. One thing at a time. Tomorrow is another day.”
Lilah Jean: “Agreed. Should I pour us a glass of milk to go with the cake?”
Momma: “Oh, honey. You’re of legal age now, and this has been a trying afternoon. Run get some bourbon out of the liquor cabinet and let’s celebrate this moment proper.”
Lilah Jean smiled and ran. As she unlatched the door on the previously-verboten cabinet and reached for a stoppered bottle, another letter fell out and landed on the clever throw rug in front of said cabinet.
Lilah Jean: “Well, damn. Here we go again.”
Previously published, considerably revised and extended. Extreme trivia note: This photo has a slight hint of red, and it is one of only three (so far) Past Imperfect images that has featured color. I’m fairly certain that no one can name the other two, but you might surprise me. Cheers.
Oh, wait. Second bit of trivia: Did anyone catch the “It’s a Wonderful Life” mention? Hmm?
Categories: Past Imperfect