Chapter Fifteen

The week following the open house, Carys tried unsuccessfully to catch up on her sleep. She and Jami continued planning their future, but Carys quickly became restless.

"Mom? May Jami stay for dinner tonight?"

"Carys, don't you think you can spend some time with your parents, alone?"

"Doing what, Mom? Watching television? You don't want to talk."

"There are many things we could talk about."

"You don't want to talk about what I'm actually doing with my life. You're ignoring the fact that I'm moving out of this house as soon as I can, to live with Jami. Who you're also doing your best to ignore."

"You know how I feel about that. I can't stop you, Carys."

"No, you can't. It's your decision to have nothing to do with us. Well, Jami and I will be upstairs in my room until dinner. If you should be hit by a desire to talk, with both of us, while you still have the chance, do let us know."

"Just you make certain that door stays open!"

Carys sighed. "It will, Mother. But you don't have to worry. We wouldn't feel safe here, even if I closed my door."

The sky had clouded over that afternoon, looking like rain. The wind began picking up about the time Jami arrived. They went upstairs to Carys's room, where they sat on the floor, leaning against the bed.

They were spending some time almost every day at Carys's house. Jami would come over when she finished working at the photo store in the morning. They wanted to give Carys's parents a chance to see more of Jami. They hoped her mother would make some progress toward accepting Jami, or at least acknowledging that she was a special person in Carys's life.

So far it didn't seem to be working. Carys's father would talk with Jami, but her mother pointedly ignored her. Carys never had understood the relationship her parents had. They were such different people. For whatever reason, her father seemed unwilling, or perhaps unable, to nudge her mother into accepting Jami.

The one time they had tried sitting in the living room with her parents had proved too uncomfortable. Her mother stared at them every time they tried to even hold hands. So now they just sat on the floor in Carys's room and talked.

Today they listened to the wind and the rain on the roof. They talked softly about the pride march next weekend, and their plans for finding a place to live together.

Suddenly Jami stopped talking and listened. "What's that?"

Carys listened for a moment. She walked to the window and opened it. Now the sound was unmistakable. "It's the tornado sirens! Come on Jami, we need to go down to the basement."

They went down the stairs, Jami right behind Carys, who turned into the living room. "Mom, Dad. Those are the tornado sirens. Jami and I are going downstairs. Are you coming?"

Her parents stood up. Her mother said, "Go on down, Bill. I'll check that everything is turned off in the kitchen."

Carys led Jami downstairs. The basement was partially finished, but little used after Caitlin had left home. There was a Ping-Pong table, shelves of old games and toys, a few chairs and two sofas that had seen better days. Carys pulled a flashlight off a shelf and checked that the batteries were good. She also picked up the small radio from the shelf.

She and Jami sat on one sofa, her parents on the other. Carys was tuning in the university public FM station when the lights went out.

"Jami, here's the flashlight. Shine it on the dial so I can find the station."

Jami clicked the light on and held it while Carys found the station, then turned it off again to conserve the batteries. The announcer said there was indeed a tornado warning. The sightings were to the south, around Mason, and airborne so far. Wind gusts and trees down had been widely reported.

"This isn't too bad, you know," said Carys's father. "When I was a boy in Oklahoma, they didn't have decent weather radar yet. It seemed like the sirens went off just about every night during the spring, and you never knew what was going to happen. I saw quite a few tornados down there, and what they could do. It's amazing."

"I guess we're at the end of tornado alley, here in Michigan," said Jami. "But there have been serious tornados here."

"Oh, yes," said Carys's mother. "There was a fearful tornado in 1953, in Flint. My parents talked about it often when I was growing up. Over one hundred people lost their lives, and the damage was horrible. That was before the radar and all. In 1980, there was that tornado that hit the downtown of Kalamazoo. There was considerable damage, but only five people died. All it takes is a moment's warning for people to get under cover. It's still such a tragedy. Every life is so precious."

"Yes it is, Mom," said Carys, softly enough she wasn't sure if her mother had heard her.

The lights came back on then. Carys and Jami were sitting close together, holding hands. Carys's parents were doing the same on the other sofa. They were all blinking in the light.

Carys's mother looked at them, making an expression halfway between a smile and a grimace. "I guess you two really do love each other, don't you?"

"Yes, Mom, we do."

Her father stood up. "You all stay here. I'll go see what the sirens are doing." He headed up the stairs.

The silence was awkward. Carys was reluctant to speak, since her mother seemed to be working something through in her mind. Jami put her head on Carys's shoulder, staring at the floor. She felt very uncomfortable.

"People ask about you, Carys. I don't know what to say."

"The truth is usually best, Mother, even when that isn't easy."

"But what's the truth, Carys? You say you're not a lesbian, but I don't like the word you do use. I don't understand why you want to call yourself that."

"I tried to explain about being queer, Mom. But you don't have to use any of those words. Just say I'm Jami's partner."

"This is not the kind of thing I ever thought I'd have to talk about with either of my daughters. Partner sounds like you're starting a business."

"It's not the word I'd like to use for our relationship, Mother. Jami is my fiancee and will be my wife, in fact if not in law."

"It's just not right, Carys."

"Many people disagree with you, Mother. Perhaps you should get to know some of them and hear what they have to say. Caitlin has tried to talk with you. Jami's parents would love to talk with you. I'm more than willing to go with you to a PFLAG meeting."

"I don't know any of those people."

"How do you know that? You certainly would if you'd go."

"This is not easy for me, Carys, Jami."

Jami looked up at the sound of her name. "I'm sorry, Mrs. Douglas."

At that point Carys's father called down the stairs. "The sirens are blowing the all clear. Come on up."

Carys put the flashlight and radio away, then she and Jami followed her mother up the stairs. Carys told Jami she wanted to speak to her father for a moment, so Jami went upstairs to Carys's room.

Carys's mother went to the kitchen to finish fixing dinner. Her father went back to the living room, to the book he was reading. Carys followed him.

"Dad? Isn't there anything you can do to get Mom to accept what's going on? She barely acknowledges that Jami exists."

Her father closed his book. "Carys, sit for a moment.

"Your mother is very set in her ways. It's how she was brought up, and it's how her friends believe. It's a big change you're expecting of her."

"But I'm her daughter."

"Yes you are, and believe me, you're important to her. But you're asking her to change something she's believed for 50 years, which would mean being shunned by friends she's had since before you were born. It's not simple, honey."

"But what she believes is wrong, Dad."

"I agree with you, Carys. But this is not as clear cut a thing as, say, civil rights was in the sixties. There you had the majority of public opinion, the law of the land, and the President of the United States all on the same side. This isn't like that. Public opinion is divided. The major religions are mostly against it. Politicians waffle on the issue. Even some gay people seem content to remain second class citizens. It's more like the Viet Nam era anti-war protests, which divided everyone along messy lines. I alone cannot make your mother change her mind."

"I guess not."

"Look, Carys. You walked out of your high school because of how you were treated, and what people said about Jami. You're about ready to leave home and live in an open lesbian relationship in a hostile world, with a person you say some people have called a freak. Why?"

Carys bristled. "Because I love Jami. Because she's the most important thing in my life."

"Well, I love your mother. Thirty years ago I married her, for better or for worse. I believe in that. She's the most important person in my life, even before you and Caitlin, and it's going to stay that way."

Carys nodded slowly. "I see what you're saying, Dad. Thanks for explaining." She gave her father a kiss on the cheek and went upstairs to Jami.

Her father watched her leave, then put his book aside and went into the kitchen.

* * *

Caitlin flew in Friday afternoon, and would fly back to Boston on Sunday. Carys borrowed her mother's car so she and Jami could pick Cait up from the airport. Martin and the twins were staying in Boston, leaving Caitlin free to 'have words' with her mother.

"I still can't believe you came back to march with us, Cait. But I'm so glad you did."

"I want to support you, Car, both of you. That's what big sisters are for. Especially when Mom is being so hard on you. I didn't make enough progress with her last week. We're going to talk this weekend, whether she likes it or not."

"Don't fight with her, Cait!"

"I'm not going to fight with her, little sister. I have a lot of leverage with her. I'm going to use it. But you leave that up to me. Pay attention to driving. I'll talk with Jami."

"Yes, mommy."

"You know, Jami, if she gets really irritating, tickling works."

"I've figured that out," said Jami, with a smile.


"Watch the road, Sis. Okay, Jami. Let's talk about what we're doing tomorrow."

The plan was for Carys and Jami to stay at Jami's house that night, so Caitlin could be alone with her parents. Saturday morning, Carys and Jami would walk over for a late breakfast. The three of them would take the bus as close to Riverfront Park as they could, then walk to where the march began. Jami's parents were taking the three of them out to dinner Saturday night. Where Carys would stay Saturday night depended on whether Caitlin needed more time with her parents.

"My mom and dad say your parents are invited along to dinner, too, Cait, if you think that will work out."

"We can hope, Jami. I'll see what I can do."

When they reached the Douglas house, Carys and Jami went in briefly, then left to walk to Jami's house. Caitlin promised to call Carys later with a progress report.

Carys unloaded her pack and duffel bag in Jami's room. During the past week or so, every time she went to Jami's house she had taken some of her belongings. She wanted to avoid a big scene moving out of her house when the time came.

Carrying everything bit by bit had made her realize that there was surprisingly little of the junk she'd collected over the years that she really cared about. There were some books and mementos she wasn't bothering to move. She knew that Cait could help her retrieve things from the house if all else failed. But on a day-to-day basis, very little of what she owned was important to her.

Jami's parents had had a brief discussion about the sleeping arrangements for the night. They quickly decided that it would simply be cruel to separate Jami and Carys for the sake of appearances. They already felt like the entire world was against them.

Carys had been incredulous when Anne came upstairs to tell her and Jami that she and Ted had no objection to them spending the night together in Jami's room.

Anne sat on the corner of the bed and smiled at them. "You're both 18. You're committed to each other and the situation is hard enough on you already. To tell you the truth, I've never quite understood the logic behind parents forcing their children to find uncomfortable and probably unsafe places in which to have sex. No one in their right mind could believe that teenagers aren't going to find a way to do it if they want to." She shrugged.

"The topic is not likely to come up with your parents, Carys, but if it does I have no problem simply saying that they have nothing to worry about in terms of the sleeping arrangements, and leave it at that."

Carys searched for words, then said, "Wow! Thank you for being so reasonable!"

"It is reasonable, Carys. You're both adults. I know you'd run down to City Hall for a marriage license if it was possible. Why should I wait until you move out to treat you as if you're married? I can't change the world easily, so this is the best I can do."

Jami scooted over to give her mother a hug. "Thanks, Mom. What would you like to do about dinner tonight?"

"Oh, nothing that requires work, please. How about we do what we did that first weekend Carys was here? Order pizzas later, and you two can watch videos half the night if you want? Just try to get some sleep, and do set your alarm, Jami."

Jami and Carys readily agreed. Jami pointed out that they could use her computer upstairs to watch DVDs. That way they could cuddle and simply stop when they got tired.

"I'll make sure Carys gets a full night's sleep tonight. I don't want her looking lovelorn tomorrow when we're proudly marching together."

Carys made a face at her. "I don't think that will be any problem, Jami. You have a very soporific effect on me. It has been a most tiring week, or month, actually."

"All right then," said Anne. "I'll check with you in a few hours and we'll order pizza." She went back downstairs.

Jami rolled over to lie next to Carys. She put her arm across Carys's waist and touched noses. "I have a soporific effect on you?"

"Maybe I didn't enunciate that clearly. It might be saphorific, or is that the right word for us?" She ran her hands up and down Jami's back.

"Do you care?"

"No. We don't need words, Jami. In fact, let's do something without words for a while, okay? Do you want to grab the blanket so we can cuddle?"

Jami moved her hand under Carys's shirt. "How about doing more than cuddle?"

Carys half-rolled to face Jami. "Are you sure? I want to, of course, but only if it's really okay with you." Carys closed her eyes and took slow breaths, waiting for Jami to answer.

Jami softly kissed Carys, then moved her hand again. "I'm sure. I've thought about this so much it doesn't frighten me any more. I trust you. I love you. And I want you."

There were no more words for quite some time.

* * *

When Jami and Carys arrived at the Douglas house for breakfast the next morning, Caitlin met them at the door. She stepped outside to speak with them.

"How's the weather inside, Cait?" asked Carys.

"Better, but please tread softly. All of this—gay pride, gay marriage, gender identity, intersexuality—no one talked about any of this when Mother was our age. She was taught one way of seeing the world, and you're not it."

Carys detached herself from Jami to give her sister a hug. "Thanks so much." She returned to having her arms around Jami.

Cait looked at Carys and Jami standing together. "I take it you two had a restful night?"

"Yes, we did," said Jami. "Carys fell asleep shortly after dinner, while we were watching a video in bed."

Caitlin quirked an eyebrow.

"She's really a very dull person when she's not in clown, or gearing up to march for human rights," said Jami, trying not to smile.

"Jami!" Carys poked her. "It's your fault I was so tired by then."

"Ahem," said Cait. "I don't think I want to know more about this. But I'm happy that you two are so much in love. Let's go inside and get breakfast."

"Thanks again for being here, Cait," said Carys. "It is so great that you are so cool."

"No prob. Jami, come help me finish putting breakfast on the table. Mom wants to talk with you for a minute, Car."

Carys waited nervously in the living room until her mother walked in from the kitchen. They looked at each other for a moment. Carys took a step forward, as did her mother. They stopped short of hugging.

"Carys, your sister Caitlin has said some strong things to me, made me think. I'm working on changing my mind, about you and Jami." She frowned. "I admit I haven't been able to find support in my own heart for what it seems other people have taught me to believe."

"Oh, Mom. I'm proud of you!" Now Carys gave her mother a hug.

"But Carys, this won't be easy. I don't have Caitlin here all the time to talk to the people I spend time with, my friends, the folks at church. Having a lesbian daughter is not an easy thing for me."

"So tell them you've realized that loving your neighbor includes loving your own daughter and her partner."

"Don't be flip with me! This is no joke."

"No, Mother, it's not. I'm no joke. Jami's no joke. That we are going to be living together very soon is no joke. No one's joking.

"I'm sorry that what is so difficult for me and Jami is also hard for you. But Jami and I did not make the world the way it is right now. Did you vote for or against the civil rights ordinance that would have made it easier for us to find an apartment to rent? Did you sign the petition that put the amendment against gay marriage on the ballot? Did you vote for or against that amendment? Did you help make it impossible for people like me and Jami to live together as married adults? Are you part of the solution, or part of the problem?"

"Those are harsh words, Carys. I did what I thought was right."

"Did you? I mean, think about it? Jami and I are stuck with living in the world you have helped shape. But you can change, and you can help undo what you and others have done. The phone number for PFLAG is on the refrigerator."

"You can't ask me to turn my back on my friends, treat my past as if it were all wrong."

"Mom, you want me to turn my back on my lover and my friends, and treat our future as if it's all wrong."

"I shouldn't have to go through this!"

"Well neither should I!"

"But what will I have left?" Her mother wrung her hands and looked about ready to cry.

"What will you have left? Me. Jami. Caitlin and her family. Dad. Jami's parents. You'll loose some supposed friends. I did, when I came out at school. But you'll gain new friends, deeper friends. I have."

Carys hugged her mother again. "I love you, Mom. No matter what. But I will not leave Jami. Any more than you would leave Dad. It's the same thing."

Caitlin called out to say that breakfast was on the table. They ate with obviously forced small talk, but they did not argue. Once breakfast was done and they had helped get the dishes in the dishwasher, Carys and Jami went to her room to be out of the way for a few minutes.

Caitlin had some final words for her mother, as she helped clean up after breakfast.

"Think about this, Mom. Did Jesus spend his time in nicely kept houses, among the best of people, or did he spend his time with the outcasts who weren't allowed in the best houses? Did Jesus, not any of the people who put words in his mouth, did Jesus himself say one word against so-called same-sex love?

"What are Carys and Jami doing that would hurt anyone? I wish to God that most people were as warm hearted and socially responsible as those two are. At dinner you were talking about the arrangements for the open house, and how much it cost you. Carys and Jami have been talking about how they're planning to live as simply as possible so they can do what they believe will help other people. They could probably live for three months on what you spent for the open house.

"Don't make a really big mistake, Mom. Open your heart. Love both your daughters, and their families. You know that question that people ask, what would Jesus do? I honestly believe he'd be marching with us today, talking with people about leading a good life in spite of what everyone says about them."

* * *

Carys, Jami and Caitlin walked to the bus. They were happy to be together and willing to forget their troubles for a few hours.

Carys was wearing her high school GSA T-shirt, because she thought it was important to support the students who still had to put up with what she'd been through. Caitlin had indeed borrowed Jami's Hermaphrodites with Attitude shirt. Jami's self-designed shirt said, 'Any Way You Cut It, We're Still People,' with front and back.

"Ouch!" Caitlin had said, when she saw the shirt for the first time.

"That's what you're supposed to think," grinned Jami.

Several people on the bus looked at them, then quickly looked away. Others looked and smiled. It was easy to tell the fellow travelers also headed to the march.

They left the bus earlier along Michigan Avenue than Carys and Jami did when they went to Riverfront Theatre, because the route was detoured around the march area. They walked along Michigan until they could take the stairs down to the riverwalk, then followed it north to Riverfront Park.

They walked through the park, where booths and tables and a stage were being set up, toward Grand Avenue. They could see a crowd, and a few floats, where the march was forming.

"Carys! Jami!"

Turning to locate the voice, Carys grabbed Jami's arm and pointed. "It's Rachel. Hi, Rachel!" They both waved.

Rachel detached herself from the small group of women she was with and jogged over. "Hey, you two. I'm here with friends. How are you doing?"

Carys put an arm around Jami and said, "We're doing good, Rachel. This is my sister Caitlin. She flew in to march with us today."

"Nice to meet you!" said Rachel, looking back toward the women she'd been with. "I have to go. We're trying to find the rest of our group. See you around!" She jogged back.

Once she was out of earshot, Carys said, "Huh. Almost the last person on Earth I expected to see here. I cannot figure that woman out."

"Well, gee, Sherlock. It's good to have a few mysteries in life. What would you do with your spare time, otherwise?"

Carys playfully swatted Jami and the three of them continued to the staging area. They saw David with the GLSEN group and decided to join them.

"How are you doing, Car?" asked David.

"Much better, now that high school is over forever." She read the mission statement on the banner. "The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) is working to ensure safe and effective schools for all students."

Carys shook her head. "There is such a long, long way to go before schools are safe for queer kids."

"That's why we're marching," said one of the teachers who was a member of the local GLSEN group. "Thanks for joining us, Carys. We've all heard about what happened. I'm Tony."

Carys introduced Caitlin, then put her arm around Jami. "This is Jami, my partner. We going to start looking for a place of our own to rent this week."

"Congratulations!" Tony noticed the shirts Caitlin and Jami were wearing, looked back and forth, an obvious unspoken question on this mind.

"I'm the one who's intersexed," said Jami.

"And out about it," said Tony. "Would you be willing to talk to our group? That's an area we're way too ignorant about."

"Sure," said Jami. "Whatever I can do to help."

"Me, too," added Carys. "I'm not hanging up my activist stance just because I'm out of school. Changing the world is one of my major life goals."

"Thanks, both of you. But right now, I think this march is actually about to get started!"

The march was short, but fun and full of energy. Jami's parents were watching along the route. Her father had brought a trumpet so they would stand out in the crowd. They waved madly at each other and waved rainbow flags.

Once they reached the Capitol, they listened to a few speeches, then made their way back to the park. They walked around, picked up some literature, and looked for people they knew. They bought food and sat for a while, listening to the band that was playing. Carys and Jami gloried in the feeling of being surrounded by people who, at least today, were friends on sight.

The weather was warm for mid-June. By late afternoon they were ready to head back home. As they were walking along Michigan to a bus stop, a car slowed and voices yelled out the window.

"Dykes burn in hell!"

"Get AIDS and die!"

Jami waved at them and smiled. "I guess we're back in Kansas, huh?"

"Stupid assholes," said Caitlin. "Can't they keep their tiny little minds on a leash for just one day?"

"That's why we had this march," said Carys. "That's why we have to keep on marching."

The bus ride back was not as cheerful as the ride to the march had been.

Carys and Jami walked to the Douglas house with Caitlin, who wanted to take a quick shower and change clothes. Carys asked her parents if they would go to dinner with them, but her mother said she'd rather not.

Once Caitlin was ready they continued on to the Barton house.

"It's going to take time, Car. Once you're out of the house, Mom will realize that both her children are grown and gone. She doesn't see that much of me, since I live on the east coast, but you're right here. She'll come around."

"Dad seems mostly okay with us."

"He is. But don't put pressure on him. That's not fair. He's doing what he can, slowly, I assure you. One of these days you and Jami will disagree about something major and you'll have a better understanding of what he's going through."

"I guess so, though it's hard to imagine."

"It'll happen. You'll get past it, and your relationship will be the better for it."

The Bartons and Carys and Caitlin had fun that evening. They dropped Caitlin at the Douglas house. Her parents would take her to the airport in the morning. Given the tensions that still existed, Jami and Carys decided that Carys would stay at the Barton house again that night. Tomorrow they were going to begin looking in earnest for their own place.