In this award-winning story, teenager Monica sets out to push her parents’ button, but was it the one she was aiming for or something unexpected?
A Matter of Choice
“Your parents didn’t tell me why they want you to stay with me for a while,” Aunt Jo said. “They said it had something to do with what they discovered on your Facebook page.
“Don’t ask me.” Monica replied. “Talking to my parents is like bumper cars at the fair.” It was OK to talk like this. Aunt Jo was cool.
Monica lifted her suitcase onto her aunt’s spare bed and glanced around the guestroom. Aunt Jo’s large, carved Kachina doll, known as Left-Hand in Hopi tradition, stood on the bureau. Monica knew her mom would geek out in here. Her parents’ bedroom was mauve, which Monica pronounced moo-vah to irk her mom. It did. Their room resembled a furniture showroom. Stiff. Formal.
“It’s not like I’m pregnant or anything. I’m not stupid.” Monica shook her head at the ridiculousness of it all.
“Ah, I figured it was a fella.” Aunt Jo said.
Monica laughed. The Kachina doll was called Left-Hand because he did everything in the opposite.
“I knew it would freak them out.” Monica confessed. “I mean, I always left the room when he called me when I was at home. And I’d tell ‘em I was meeting Ashley at the mall or the library.” Monica told herself she’d done her parents a favor by preventing them from knowing about Zeki. “Besides, staying here with you doesn’t mean I can’t see Zeki. They just don’t want to be bothered with me. They don’t know how to handle me.
“He must be some special fella.”
“He’s African-American.” Monica felt her head float like a balloon. “And Muslim.”
Aunt Jo’s eyebrows shot up. “And you think that’s why your parents are upset?”
“They’re old school, you know?”
“They’re of a different generation, but I don’t think…Tell me about your friend.”
“I dunno. He’s cute.” There were lots of cute guys. Some of them were her friends. She pulled her shirts and shorts out of her suitcase and tossed them into a drawer.
“You’re doing what every girl does. Stretching your wings. Finding out, exploring, growing. Better now than when you’re my age.” Aunt Jo hiccupped.
“Did you ever do something sneaky, Aunt Jo?”
“Yes! I dated two fellas at the same time. They tried to outdo each other. Your mother and your grandparents scolded me and lectured me. ‘People are talking!’ they said. ‘It’s time to settle down with one fella.’ I ended up losing both fellas. I was seventeen then.” Her eyes sparkled. “Your mom got married when she was seventeen, you know.”
“I know. Nineteen ninety-eight.”
“You got your years mixed up,” Monica said. “Mom and Dad were married in ’98. I was born in ’99.”
“Somebody told you the wrong year. You were born in ’99, the same year they were married.” She smiled ruefully.
Monica’s thoughts knotted. Simple math. “Mom had to get married! I was a surprise. Wait till I tell her!”
Should she make a big scene? Blow her mom’s cover? And be a self-righteous geek like everybody else? Monica squinted at Left-Hand Kachina, whose expression sometimes looked angry and other times surprised. Let Mom and Dad have their little secret. And then the next time they got all flamed about something, she would give them a math lesson.
“Do you love Zeki?” Aunt Jo asked.
“We’re just friends. We hang out together. I’m not gonna fall in love until after I graduate from college, and I’m not gonna get married until I have a career, and I’m not gonna have kids ever! Too much hassle.”
“Why were you sneaky about your new boyfriend?”
“I asked Mom, what if I dated someone of a different background.”
“She got twitchy. She was peeling potatoes. Cut her finger. I ran to get a Band-Aid… They’re always around, my parents, but never there. You know?” Monica’s face twisted. She unfolded the skimpy top she had worn when she went with Zeki to the party. “Mom didn’t say I couldn’t date someone different…a Muslim.” Monica knew she was using what her English teacher called “specious reasoning.” What would Left-Hand Kachina do?
Monica rolled her eyes at Aunt Jo. “OK, yeah. I knew Mom and Dad would geek out big time. Zeki didn’t pick what color or religion he is!” Monica slammed her empty suitcase shut.
“I guess I did,” Monica said.
“And you chose to lie. Numerous times.”
Left-Hand Kachina waited patiently, his inscrutable expression seemingly on the verge of shifting to something altogether new.
This story by Beth Fowler won 3rd Place Creative Nonfiction in the York PA literary contest. Fowler is the author of “Ken’s War.”
When teen rebellion & culture shock collide. Shop here: Ken’s War
“Ken’s War is vibrant with authority … Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion.” Nancy Springer, award- winning author of YA books.