I wrote this story for a competition. The brief was, if I remember correctly, to write a Christmas story about some sort of secret. The winner was announced yesterday, and it wasn’t me.
Because I do like my story, because it’s set at Christmas and because I wrote it with the upcoming Irish referendum on marriage equality in mind, I thought I’d share it here. Let me know what you think.
Mother Knows All
I cursed motorways as the miles sped away below our tires. Only five years ago this journey would have taken at least half a day, now we would be there in less than three hours. Why had I said yes? You’d think after twenty-five years I would have learned how to lie to me Ma, but no such luck. The memory of the conversation was vivid in my mind.
“So are you bringing that lover of yours? I’m mighty curious”
“To Christmas? Ma, I don’t know. That may be a bit much don’t you think?”
“Not at all. It’ll be grand. We’ll get the whole meeting the family thing over within a few short minutes.”
It made sense. Then again, it had never been easy to argue with me Ma or get one over on her. So I’d introduced the idea and much to my surprise I’d called my mother back a day later to tell her Jordan would be coming with me, as per her request.
“Will you stop worrying?” Jordan interrupted my fevered thoughts. “What’s the worst thing that could happen?”
I chanced a quick glance to the side before looking back at the road and the white lines flying by. Did Jordan really expect me to list every possible disastrous outcome? I opened my mouth to answer when a pull on the steering wheel combined with a horrible sound coming from the rear of the car informed me we had a flat tyre.
I called my mother to warn her we’d be late before we tackled the jack and tyres. The drizzly rain did nothing to improve my mood.
It was dark by the time we arrived and I could only hope our delay hadn’t spoiled the Christmas dinner. A wave of sound washed over us when I opened the front door. A cluster of nieces and nephews chased each other up and down the hallway and stairs. They stopped for a moment before running into the living room.
“They’ve arrived. They’re here.”
Nerves cramped my stomach and I briefly squeezed Jordan’s hand before taking a deep breath and walking toward the room where my extended and no doubt curious family waited for us.
I couldn’t stop myself from being on high alert and saw the double takes, the raised eyebrows and, most of all, every single head turning to me Ma, waiting to see what she would do and say.
When Ma didn’t say a word my heart dropped. I watched as she walked to the tree and picked up two identically shaped presents.
“I didn’t know what to get you.” She looked at Jordan. “So I got you what I get everybody else.”
I knew the presents would be toiletries, they always were and I had my apology ready for Jordan. Nothing prepared me for the words 'Nivea for Men' when Jordan finished unwrapping, or my mother’s words to me.
“Will you never learn you can’t keep a secret from your Ma, son?”