I’m a wreck.
I don’t go on dates. Or rather, I don’t go on dates often. My last date the night before Law showed up in Arrow Creek was a sorry attempt, the first in well over a year. If I have anything going for me, it’s that I’m not teaching my daughter about parading men in and out of the house. Give me a check in the win column for that one.
I remind myself that this is Nathan, my friend and partner, but can’t figure out if that’s a good or a bad thing. It makes this easier, because we already know so much about each other. I’m comfortable with him. We don’t have to go through any awkward stages.
The flip side to the positive is that I feel little for him as far as attraction. Besides the one kiss, I don’t get stomach flips over seeing him. I don’t feel much of anything if I’m being honest. And that kiss seems like a fluke because it’s been nearly half my life since I’ve kissed anyone else, besides Law just a few days before. I mean, of course my body would react like that… right?
The water in my shower cools. I’ve lived in my home for eleven years and not once have I run the water heater dry. I depress the lever into the wall, and the steady stream above my head stops.
Cool air pricks at my skin as I stick an arm out in search of my towel. I find one hanging on the rack, pull it inside the shower, and close the glass door to prevent as much heat from escaping. It may finally be time to turn the furnace on. The temps now dip below freezing at night, and the house is cold. I credit my frugal upbringing to my success in keeping a roof over our heads as a single mom.
I dry the droplets from my skin, wrap the towel around my body, and hop out onto the thick, memory foam mat outside the shower stall. The toes on my good foot wiggle and squish the material while I lean against the shower door and contemplate what to do next.
Lotion in here, robe for warmth, then search for clothes.
However, when I step out to find something to wear, I don’t spot a single bra in my room. Crap. Evelyn must have left them to dry when she did the laundry.
I tighten the belt to my robe, a sweet, mint-green silk with an edge of cream lace (who said a single mom can’t have sexy things), and grab one crutch for support as I make my way to the laundry closet.
“Hey, Evelyn? Did you wash my bras? I can’t find them.”
“Sorry, yeah. They’re hanging up.” Her muffled voice comes from behind her bedroom door as I limp down the hall. I enter the kitchen when her bedroom door swings open. “Wait, have you not been wearing a bra all week?”
I swivel on one crutch to face her, just in time to see her cute nose wrinkle. “Yes,” I snap, though not in a mean tone.
Her eyes widen in surprise of my confession. “But, mom!” she hisses, as though someone’s around to hear our conversation. “What if someone sees your…” She leans closer and quiets her voice. “…nipples?”
An unladylike snort bursts out before I can censor it. A full riot of laughter barks out after. “Oh, honey,” I wheeze, trying to catch my breath. “For one, nobody’s seen me. I’ve been at home all week. Second, my body is mine to do with as I please, and stuffing myself into a bra when I’m not leaving the house is not something I’m about to do.”
“Does that mean I don’t have to wear one?”
“No.” The automatic answer dries up the laughter.
Evelyn raises her eyebrows at me in challenge.
“Sorry, sweets, but you have to wear one for now. The reasons suck, and it’s a lame part about being a woman in this society, but until you’re an adult, that’s the rule.”
“Why though? If my body is mine, I should be able to do as I please, too.”
I sigh. “If you ran around naked down the street, they could arrest you for that choice. It’s not that simple, and I wish it were. You won’t be arrested for not wearing a bra. But, just as your body is yours to do with as you want, it’s also yours to protect with your life.”
“What does that even mean?”
“It means that there are predators out there who will try to look at and touch what isn’t theirs. And it hurts me to have to tell you this, because nothing you do could ever warrant someone touching you when you don’t want them to, but some sick people think if they can see certain parts of your body, it’s an invitation. It’s not.” I look directly into her eyes as I speak for emphasis, willing her with my mind and my heart to truly hear me. “You could wear a miniskirt, a low-cut tank top with your belly hanging out, and that still wouldn’t be an invitation for anyone to touch you if you didn’t want them to. Being able to see your breasts through your shirt isn’t, either. But you’re my baby, and until you’re an adult, it’s my sole mission to protect you. Even if it means requiring you to do something th
at’s uncomfortable and unfair.”
The conversation sours my stomach, and guilt eats at me. This isn’t what I want to tell her. I want to be a cool modern parent who encourages her to do what feels best. To be herself and make choices not based on conformity. I can’t do it, and maybe that makes me cowardly. The need to protect her is too strong. I only have a few years left to impart as much wisdom as I can.
“Okay, mom. You don’t have to worry because I like wearing my new bras, anyway. I’m going to finish getting ready for school. Lori will be here in a few minutes.”
“I better get dressed, then.”
She walks down the hall, and I meander to the laundry closet to find my bras neatly hanging from the drying rack. I snag a fire engine red one and close the door behind me.
A loud noise rattles the window above the sink. My heart jumps into my throat, and I spin in that direction, sending my crutch crashing to the ground. Without the support, my balance wavers, and I reach for the closet door handle. After steadying myself, I shout, “What the crap!”