The Consequences of Dissonance - Chapter Twenty-five
I wound up spending the first few days at my dad’s since Colorado Springs seemed closer at the time than Steamboat. When I made it back up to the mountains again, I met my mom at a restaurant near our house rather than heading straight home.
“Thanks again for dinner,” I said, our initial greetings out of the way once we had been seated.
“Of course, Cory,” she smiled. “It’s good to have you back home for a little bit.”
I nodded and lied, “It’s good to be back, too. Nice to see real snow again.”
“Yeah? I’m getting a little tired of shoveling, myself.”
“Jared helping out at all?”
“Yeah, we’re alternating snowstorms for who shovels and who knocks down the snow and who does the driving for shopping.”
“Well, makes sense, I guess. We’ve only gotten one or two big storms and a lot of little flurries out east. Never more than four inches.”
“Yeah,” she laughed. “That’s not real snow at all.”
I shook my head and sipped at my water. I had had to quell the urge to order a beer. Never mind my mom, I was still only eighteen with nineteen coming during the break. “So how have things been going other than that?”
She unfolded her napkin and laid her silverware out on the table, refolding the napkin, apparently found this disappointing enough to fold the napkin in a different way. She was stalling. Finally, “Jared lost his job.”
“Huh? I thought he was feeling pretty secure, though!”
Mom wouldn’t look me in the eye, “He was, but… oh, I don’t know. You know the economy’s a total mess right now.”
“So I’ve read,” I nodded, then shook my head. “Why didn’t you call me?”
“It was just this last week, you had finals.”
I frowned, but nodded.
“He didn’t any real severance pay.” She continued, still looking at everything on the table rather than me, “That kind of messed up our plans.”
I nodded and took another sip of water to try to swallow the lump that was growing in my throat. I thought I saw where this was going, but didn’t even want to think about it.
When I didn’t reply, my mom went on. “Anyway, I’m going to have to help him pay for his daughter’s tuition, as well as yours. Combined, we can afford another semester of both of you like this before savings run out.”
That lump that had been forming in my throat started to taste of bile, which I tried to quench with water. At the rate I was going, I’d finish the glass before food got there. “Oh,” is all I could muster. Then, “I’m sorry…”
Mom laughed and shook her head, finally looking back at me, smiling tiredly. “No, Cory. Don’t be. I’m sure Jared will find another job soon.”
I furrowed my brow and nodded.
“But can we ask you to try to get a job this next semester just in case?” she asked. “We’ll help you with scholarships when it comes time if it looks like a Jared won’t find something in time.”
“Yeah, that sounds fine, I guess.” I brightened, “I was thinking I’d hire myself out for computer help here and at my dad’s during break, just little things.”
Mom seemed to relax a little when I didn’t freak out and flip the table over at the news. “That sounds good. Jared and I will sound out among friends to see if any of them need any help. Do you have a brochure or website or something I can lead them to?”
“I’ll come up with something quick tonight. Web pages aren’t that hard.”
She nodded, “Sounds good. When should I let people know when you’re available?”
“I don’t know. I can be up here with a day’s notice in most cases if I’m at my dad’s or elsewhere.”
“Oh? Thinking of heading somewhere else over break?”
I toyed with the hem of the table cloth, but was rescued from answering for a few moments as our food was brought. Finally, I answered, “Well, a bunch of friends from the dorms were thinking of meeting up somewhere, renting a condo or hotel room for a night at some ski area just for fun.” I hastily added, “Dad’s cool with it, and might help with money if things work out with friends.”
Mom sat up straighter and finished the mouthful she was chewing. “Just… going and spending the night in some other mountain town? Why?”
I shrugged and shovelled some of my own food into my mouth. I had been looking forward to the curry, but with the way our conversation had been going, it tasted of very little. “Just getting together, rather than spending the whole month apart.”
She nodded a little and I could tell she was trying to hide a smile. “Kris going to be there?”
I smiled plainly and nodded, “I want to see her again, too, of course.”
“Well,” she said, taking a sip from her glass of wine. “I see no problem with it. Just wanted to make sure you were keeping up on your duties as boyfriend.”
I laughed with relief. “Oh. Thanks, I suppose.” Man, I thought. Moms are weird sometimes. I had thought she was going to just dismiss it straight out.
“In fact,” she was saying. “If you want to, maybe have the little party up here. I wouldn’t mind getting to meet Kris.”
“Well, to be honest, since everyone lives out east, we were thinking of somewhere like Loveland – Idaho Springs or Georgetown, I mean, there’s nothing really around Loveland — or, you know, Winter Park or some other place closer.”
Mom shrugged and nodded, pushing more of the yellow rice into her saag. “That makes sense. Still, if she ever wants to, she’s welcome to come visit you up here. I mean, heck, Chris visited, so why not Kris? Man, that’s goofy to say…”
I laughed and nodded, feeling better by the second. I savored a bite of curry and nodded, “Sounds weird to hear. Luckily they’re exactly the same and not just similar, so I don’t mix them up.”
She laughed and nodded. Most of the rest of our meal was spent in silence, my mom’s addiction to spinach carrying her through just as my desire for good curry. I would have to find an Indian place in Fort Collins — I forgot how much I enjoyed the stuff.
With our food finished, only the milky chai left to finish, we were afforded more time to talk. “So how much do you think I should charge for computer stuff?” I asked.
“Oh, I don’t know,” my mom shrugged. “Maybe something like twenty dollars an hour, minimum one hour? That sound fair?”
“I guess so.” I thought for a few seconds, “I’d need about five hours to afford the trip. A hundred should cover my shair of the room if we all chip in equally, then maybe some food as well.”
“What all were you guys planning? Six people in one room? Maybe two beds and a pull out bed in the couch? I guess if you pay two hundred for one night… yeah, about forty dollars for the room, plus gas and food.”
“Yeah, that’s what I was thinking. There’s me and Kris, Erin and Eric, hopefully. Jamen, and maybe one other if we can get ahold of him.”
“Jamen? That’s a nice name,” mom said. “I bet people call him ‘Jammin’ a lot, though. Or try to shorten it to ‘Jay’.”
I laughed and nodded, “That’s a pretty sure fire way to get him really angry, really quick.”
She laughed and sipped at her chai. “Do you like your name?”
I nodded, “It’s alright, I suppose. Kris calls me ‘Cor,’ which I like. It means ‘heart’ in Italian or somesuch.”
“Really? That’s why we named you that, you know,” she smiled. “Your dad said when you were born that you looked like you’d have a big heart. I suggested Cory, which he went along with on the stipulation that we never just call you ‘Cor’. He said it was stupid and Cory was short enough.”
“Wow,” I laughed. “Hadn’t heard that one before. Sounds like something my dad would do. Say something like that, then amend it so he didn’t sound like a softie.”
“Which he totally was, then,” she grinned. “How’s he doing, anyhow? I still miss him occasionally.”
I nodded, “He’s doing fine, I guess. Just working lots.”
“How’d he take to you and Kris?”
“He was fine with it, I suppose. Pretty happy about the whole thing, guess he kinda wanted grandkids.”
“Makes sense.” Mom passed her credit card straight to the waitress before she could even hand her the bill. “I have to ask,” she said, leaning in close and lowering her voice. “You two are being safe, or will be when you do anything?”
My ears went from zero to fuscia in nothing flat. I nodded quickly and hid my face behind my mug of tea.
“It’s a mother’s job to make her son blush.” She sat back in her chair looking satisfied.
“Child abuse,” I mumbled.
She laughed and nodded, “Just you try and report it. I really am happy for you two, by the way. I’m glad it seems to be working out.”
I smiled, “Me too.”
“It’s still kind of surprising to think about. There was all that standard drama when coming out, it was strange to have to go through many of the same thoughts a second time.”
I nodded, listening.
“Hell, I nearly asked you flat out if it was a phase again.”
“Yeah, that was pretty strange. Kind of made me doubt myself.”
She smiled and patted my hand across the table, “You know that wasn’t my intention.”
I nodded, “Of course. I just took it to heart is all. I think we wound up closer for my doubts, though.”
“Good, good,” Mom nodded. “That’s what good relationships should do.”
I smiled. “Good point.”
The check came back and mom dashed off her signature. Slipping back into our jackets, we made our way back out into the cold, dry dark. Home didn’t feel quiet as alien anymore.