As the painful memories of yesterday come flooding into my brain, I will myself back to sleep and into a blissful forgetfulness.
But there’s a knock on my bedroom door.
“Carrie? Are you in there?” comes Elaine’s muffled voice. She doesn’t sound angry. I sit up in bed.
“Come in,” I say, my voice croaky from the crying. The door opens, and Mom’s silhouette is outlined against the light behind her. I can’t read her face. She, of course, can see mine perfectly.
“Oh Carrie, sweetie, have you been crying?” she asks kindly, coming over to sit on the side of my bed. “Your face is all swollen,” she adds, switching on the bedside light. “And your eyes are all red!”
I shrug listlessly.
“Mom… listen…,” I start, but the tears start welling up in my eyes again and I need a moment to regain my composure. Elaine is patient. She’s ready to hear what I have to say.
“I’m s-so sorry about what we did in the kitchen,” I manage before forcing myself to meet Elaine’s eyes. “I didn’t want you to find out like that but we got so caught up in the moment,” I continue pitifully. “It was thoughtless and disgusting, and you don’t have to worry about it ever happening again.”
“Carrie, I know you,” says my mom quietly. “For you to do something this extreme, it must have been quite something. So let’s start at the beginning. Where did you meet Conor?”
“At someone’s house,” I feel my face flush. “It was just supposed to be a regular party, but when the door opened,” my voice trailed off, face flushing. Oh god, this was so embarrassing.
Elaine looks at me curiously.
“What was it about the party?” she asks. “Believe it or not, once upon a time I was young too, so I’ve been to some wild parties in the past.”
I swallowed heavily, still unable to meet her eyes.
“But not like this,” was my humiliated murmur. “Mom, it was a sex party.”
Elaine’s speechless for a moment, trying to process. But then she nods although her chin’s quivering.
“Okay, it was a sex party,” she concedes, drawing a deep breath. “It’s not what I’d want for my nineteen year-old daughter, but what’s happened has happened.”
I nod miserably.
“I didn’t go crazy or anything like that,” comes my small voice. “It’s just that I met Conor, and we had an instant connection. No one has ever looked at me the way he does. No one like him has ever wanted me like this before.”
Mom takes another deep breath while weighing her thoughts. But then she looks me in the eye and asks, “What makes you think that, sweetheart?”
That’s the opening I’ve been waiting for and my words rush in to fill the void.
“You know how I’ve always felt about my body. But Conor loves it just the way it is. I let him take my virginity that night,” is my embarrassed admission. But then I pick up speed again. “It was so incredible. I was a little intimated by the way he made me feel: scared, even, of the urges he brought out in me because it was all so new.” Gaining momentum and confidence, I continue. “But he’s really the one for me, and then this afternoon, when we arrived at the restaurant, and Henry’s son turned out to be him….”
Mom’s thoughtful, taking another deep breath while looking out in the distance.
“It was weird, wasn’t it, sweetheart?”
“To say the least!” I exclaim. “And he was looking so handsome, and when we got to the house, and he was telling me how much he wanted me …,” I stop, because Mom’s clearing her throat, and I know I’ve said enough. “Let’s say we just got carried away. It was wrong, and I’m sorry. It will be hard, but from now on, I promise that we’ll do step-brotherly things only.” A pang of sadness hits my heart, but I know this is what has to be done. I need to sacrifice for Elaine’s happiness, and it’s worth it. My mom has struggled over the years, and she deserves to find peace and contentment with her new man.
But Elaine’s shaking her head now.
“No, Carrie, it’s alright,” she says slowly. “Henry and I had a long talk tonight. We decided that, if our kids like each other enough to do that in the kitchen, with us in the next room, then it’s probably some real strong connection they’ve got going on.”
I feel my heart flutter in my chest.
“What do you mean?” I ask slowly. “What are you saying?”
Elaine continues while taking a deep breath.
“We’re still on good terms. Henry will always be special to me. But we’ve both been married several times, and you two are young,” she continues. “You have your whole lives ahead of you.”
“Mom?” I ask again. “Where is this going?”