The boys were fast asleep as we cuddled on the couch, watching the end of a western. I must have fallen asleep at some point because when I opened my eyes, Kayla was carrying me to my bedroom. “Is it over?”
“Yep, go back to sleep.”
“I thought we were going to talk?”
“Shh,” she said kissing my forehead, “tomorrow”. She switched off the light and grabbed the door handle on the way out.
“Where are you going? Come sleep here?” I opened the duvet and moved over.
“Leigh, I don’t think…”
“Oh, for God’s sake Kayla, get your arse into this fucking bed now!” She quietly got into bed after stripping off her jeans and shoes. I snuggled closer and wrapped an arm around her waist.
“What has gotten into you today? You are unusually snappy.”
“Sorry baby,” I apologized, kissing her lips.
“Is it that time of the month or what?” My eyes shot open to look at a smirking Kayla.
“That is such a man thing to say?” As punishment, I rubbed my thigh against her. A frustrated moan escaped.
“What was that for?”
“Punishment for your manly comment.”
“Wench!” I licked the side of her neck painfully slowly and nipped her pulse.
“Oh, FFFFFF… this is getting dangerous. You stay on that side and I will stay on this side or I’m sleeping on the couch,” she threatened pushing me an arm’s length away.
“Okay, okay…just talking.” I snuggled into my pillow facing her. “So tell me about you. I want to know everything from the very beginning.” She mimicked my position and it took every ounce of my resolve not to touch her.
“Well I was born and raised in the affluent western suburbs of Durban; Hillcrest to be exact. Both my parents were in real estate until I was born, and then my mother became a housewife, well actually she worked from home," she began in a very emotionless voice, merely reciting the facts.
"It was a normal childhood but, of course, there were always high expectations. I went to a good, private school, I was very sporty and on the honour role for academics. I made the first team for all the sports I was interested in; swimming, track and field, cross-country, hockey and softball. Because of my height, they begged me to play netball and I did for a while but I found it boring. I’m still very health conscious although not as fanatical as I was back then.”
“Wow, a boffin and a health nut and you decided to date the Pillsbury dough girl,” I laughed.
“Hey, you are beautiful. I love how you look and feel,” she insisted, wrapping her arm around my waist and pulling us closer together. Naturally, I didn’t resist.
“Yeah right, you probably dated athletic, skinny, health conscious women who make an effort with their appearance. You know, not too many months ago I almost didn’t recognise myself in the bathroom mirror.”
“Babe, if you are unhappy with the way you look, then fine, I will help you but don’t do it because of me. I love you, I think you are hella sexy and beautiful and if I wasn’t trying to be noble I would ravish you where you stand.”
“Really?” She kissed me to affirm her feelings. I felt the heat rise and settle south and all too soon she pulled away. I moaned my frustration as she smirked knowingly. Touche’ my love. “Okay, but I do want to get healthier. This last year has been brutal on my body; I have never been this overweight. I played soccer all through high school. I was not a health fanatic, I ate anything in front of me, but I enjoyed running and keeping fit after school. Even when I was pregnant, I would walk in the neighbourhood. I never wanted to be those sloppy pregnant women but we can talk about that later. Continue.”
“Okay, where was I? At fourteen I realised I was attracted to girls, little things like their eyes and their smile and then boobs and butts. When we were showering after a practice, I was in heaven. One of the older girls on the team noticed my discomfort and started talking to me. We became friends and then one day she kissed me in the equipment room and that was my light bulb moment. She introduced me to others like us and I became friends with them too but it was all very hush-hush."
"My mom came into my room one Saturday and noticed we were rather close and I suppose warning sirens went off. They crapped me out about it that evening and forbid our friendship. I refused and told them I was gay. They exploded and shipped me off to boarding school, which was the best thing they ever did for me.” It was evident that Kayla was still hurt by these events as she rolled onto her back and stared at the ceiling.
“I will never forget the hate and disgust on their faces. When I came home for holidays, they basically ignored me and would not allow me to be alone with my brother and sister." I cuddled into her side wrapping my arm around her tummy. Knowing Kayla, that must have hurt more than anything else.
"In boarding school, I really spread my wings and experienced life. I played sport, kept my grades up, socialised with other lesbians, and had girlfriends. When I came home during the holidays, I found a job; waitressing by day and a bartender at night. I was underage for both but a friend’s cousin owned the restaurant/club and I didn’t look sixteen with my height. I worked and saved as much as I could, knowing that once I left school I was on my own."
"After high school, I refused to lie about who I was so as expected they disowned me. They ordered me not to contact Charlie or Clarissa. I tried to call and sent a few letters but the calls were blocked and they obviously didn’t get the letters because I haven’t heard from Clarissa since. By chance, Charlie came into the bar I worked at and I refused to serve him and his friends because he was underage and we kept in contact ever since." Kayla turned to face me again and kissed the tip of my nose and then my lips.
"I rented a room in a commune and had every intention of studying a degree in business and eventually an MBA but I never got around to doing it. A year or so later I met Melissa at the bar where I worked. She was a friend of a friend of one of my roommates. We hit it off right away, were dating for about two months when I started to notice that her drinking and drug use was becoming excessive. Now I was no prude, I drank, smoked weed, even XTC once or thrice but I was always in control."
"We fought about it, she promised to be more sensible, and she did, or so I thought. Turns out, she was just over indulging while I was not around. By the time I realised how out of control she was, we were dating for six months and I loved her, I was not just going to abandon her. I tried to get her to go to rehab, I even stopped drinking and smoking myself. Things got worse and she didn’t care enough to hide it from me anymore. At some point, I had enough and we broke up."
"Three months later, she showed up at the commune, looking like death warmed up and five months pregnant. Apparently she was sleeping with some pusher when she didn’t have cash.” Tears filled her eyes and I held her closer. “It was as if time stood still for me. I started thinking, ‘what if I have an STD or HIV or Hepatitis. I remember just running and running trying to clear my head. I ran all the way to the clinic in the city to be tested. I was sitting there waiting, mostly mothers and babies surrounding me, and it made me wonder about Melissa’s baby. What if it was HIV+, what about the drugs she was taking and the drinking? How was this going to affect the baby? I was sweating profusely while waiting for the results, thankfully, I was negative on all tests, but I had to go back for a follow up HIV test."
“I can’t imagine how stressful that was, my love,” I said.
"That scare really woke me up, Babe. I always thought that I was responsible and it made me really think about some of my choices; it definitely changed my carefree nature. I think I aged fifty years sitting there. When I got back home, Mel was passed out on my bed so I sat on the floor and prayed, which is something I had not done in years. I didn’t know what to pray for. She had come to me for help and part of me still loved her, I couldn’t just throw her away. When she woke I laid down the rules; we would be just roommates and nothing more, she was going to a clinic to make sure she gets tested and the right pre-natal care and absolutely no drugs or alcohol consumption. We couldn’t stay in the house because my housemates didn't trust her so I had a month to find a place for us to stay.”
“To have all that responsibility thrust on you at such a young age? As unhappy as my family was about my pregnancy, I still knew that they were there for me no matter what.”
"I was honestly just so worried about the baby more than anything,” Kayla admitted. “Fortunately, one of the regulars at the bar sold me his parent's old caravan; I already had my van so we hitched it up and moved to where we are now. I maintained the yard and any repairs on the house in exchange for reduced rent. Rose is a sweet woman and she needed the help."
"It was difficult for a while; Mel couldn’t work because she was not feeling well most of the time. I worked days as a waitress and nights in the club so I wasn’t around except to sleep or work on Rose’s place and we were in a confined space. We fought constantly; I would create jobs to do in Rose’s house just to have some peace and constantly checked the bins for evidence of alcohol or drugs. I think in the end that I was beginning to resent her for the situation.”
“Why did you do it? It made you so unhappy and yet you had no obligations to her or the child,” I asked.
“I know and I can’t lie, that often played through my mind but every time I tried to leave she would use the baby to manipulate me to stay. I couldn’t just leave that child and as the months went by I became more emotionally invested. I had to give him a fighting chance; otherwise it would haunt me forever.” I kissed her hard trying to convey all the love and admiration I felt in that moment.
“I love you,” I whispered.
“I love you too,” she replied. “Liam was born fourteen weeks premature, his lungs were under developed so he was in an incubator. He cried all the time and the nurses said he had trace amounts of alcohol and barbiturates in his system and he was going through withdrawal. I was so angry I wanted to choke her. I really just wanted to hurt her as much as he was hurting. I would sit next to his incubator and hold his hand for hours. He was so small, 1.6kgs at birth. There were so many tubes I could barely see his tiny face. When I held him for the first time and he looked at me with those beautiful eyes, all the unhappiness was forgotten. My heart filled with so much love for this child that I felt like I was going to burst. In that moment I knew what love really was. Everything in my life up to that point was very irrelevant. I knew I needed to love and protect him and make sure he had all the opportunities for a great life.”
“They let her out three days after the birth; she didn’t even ask to stay with her child and she didn’t visit him at all. I gave up my waitressing job so I could spend days with Liam. They would lay him on my chest so we were skin to skin and I would read to him and sing or talk to him about what our life would be like for hours. He started to get better, breathe on his own and he didn’t cry as much. The paediatrician said only as time went on would we be able to see what his disabilities were and how severe. I lit a candle in the chapel every day, praying that he would be okay. I made deals with God, vowing to pull myself together if he would just do right by my boy. He had been through so much already, and then to have to deal with a major disability as well was too much.”
“He is a normal healthy boy, Love. You did a fantastic job with him.”
“It was a miracle, Babe. That is the only way I can explain it. The doctors and nurses had little hope and yet there he was getting stronger every day. Three months later, they released him from hospital. Mel had no bond, no connection to him at all. She would not hold him or feed him unless I asked her too and she had no patience for it. He had developed colic and she could not handle the crying. I worried every minute that I was at work, if she was taking care of him properly.”
“I’m so sorry that you had to deal with all that on your own,” I said. Kayla wiped away the tears I didn’t even realise were running down my cheeks.
“One night Rose phoned me at work, I could hear Liam screaming in the background. I got home to find that Mel packed up all her stuff and left. There was a note saying I could have Liam, she couldn’t be a mother, she needed to live her life and she was too young to be tied down. We never heard from her again. I went to the police station, they directed me to social services, and I filed for adoption. Her letter and affidavids from Rose, the nurses and doctors that took care of him helped finalise the adoption quickly and within a year, he was legally mine.
“Kayla, Liam looks so much like you, no one would guess.”
“Most people don’t and that’s great but Liam knows the story, I never want to lie to him, ever. He knows I didn’t give birth to him but I am 100% his mom. “
“Aren’t you afraid that she will come back one day?”
“No, part of the adoption process is trying to find the parents through notices in newspapers, and on radio which run for three months. I tried to find her through mutual acquaintances but nothing turned up. After that period she relinquishes all rights to her child so she can never regain custody and her letter showed her intentions,” Kayla explained.
“Have I told you today, how much I love you? You are every bit the person I thought you are and more.” We kissed gently, holding each other close and relishing the closeness. “My cup runneth over, I whispered as we snuggled and eventually fell asleep.
‘Life does not have to be perfect to be wonderful.’
The winter holiday was well under way. Kayla was writing exams so I had the boys. She would come over after work, eat supper, and then go home to study. The boys were happy spending so much time together; they would play in the yard or in their room, and after lunch, we would go to the park for a few hours.
Kayla was exhausted after the first week. They refused to give her study leave so she was juggling work and studying. They only gave her the morning off to right the exam, and then she had to be back at work. She came home Friday night at 9pm, after her last exam and flopped onto the couch. The boys climbed all over her wanting to play and she accommodated them even though she looked ready to pass out. They had insisted on waiting for her to get back before they went to bed.
After loads of questions about her day and her exam and a little rough housing between the three, I sent them to get ready for bed and gave her supper. She tiredly put the plate on the table and pulled me into her lap. We kissed slowly, savouring every contour of each other’s mouths. “God I love you,” she whispered nuzzling my neck.
“I love you too baby, now eat while I put the boys to bed.”
“Aunty Kay,” Joel yelled as they ran out the room. They stopped and stared. Kayla loosened her arms and I removed myself from her lap as if it was the most natural thing in the world. Inside my heart beat so loud in my ears that I thought it would burst out the top of my head. Kayla didn't look as if she was fairing any better.
“You two are supposed to be sleeping,” I said trying to sound playful. Liam stared at the floor while Joel looked between Kayla and me. “What’s the matter honey?” I asked, cautiously approaching them.
“We just wanted Mom to read us a story;” Liam answered.
“I would love that.” Kayla jumped up a little too enthusiastically and followed them to the room. I stood against the doorframe and watched her read ‘the velveteen rabbit’, then tuck them in, kiss their foreheads and whisper ‘I love you’ to both.
“Would you sit down and eat please, before your food gets cold again, I can’t keep warming it.” Kayla paced the living room, mumbling under her breath. She practically inhaled the paella while standing, staring at the muted soccer match on TV.
“We should have been more careful. I don't know what I was thinking! Shit! SHIT! SHIT!” She yelled burying her face in her hands.
“Are you trying to wake them up?” I whispered. “For heaven’s sake, you are not to blame for everything in the world. I was there too, remember?”
“I was the one that initiated the…thing.”
“Since when is needing or showing love a crime? You are over reacting.”
“When our sons catch us in the act!” she shouted.
“Shit!” I wrapped my arms around her and kissed her chin.
“Do you love me?”
“What? Of course I love you, what does that have to do with anything?” she said returning the hug.
“Do you have doubts about us?”
“Concerns, maybe fears, not doubts.”
“We can talk about fears later. We were going to talk to the boys anyway; it’s just going to be sooner rather than later.”
“Did you see the way they were looking at us? Joel looked confused and disappointed and Liam didn’t even look up from the floor.” Tears spilled down her cheeks and she hugged me tighter to her. “I can’t lose them Leigh, I love them too much. I can’t lose any of you.”
“You are not going to lose any of us, Love, but right now you need to sleep. In the morning, we will make a big breakfast, something special, and sit our boys down and tell them the truth. Okay?” All she could manage was a nod.
Kayla went to take a shower while I locked up the house and turned off the lights; then went to bed and snuggled up behind her. “I love you baby,” she whispered.
“I love you.”
The next morning I quietly slipped out of bed, trying not to wake Kayla. I wanted to make a special breakfast to ease some of the tension I knew we were all feeling. I had decided on bacon and onion quiche, pigs in a blanket and chocolate pancakes. I had started the pancakes when Kayla popped her head in desperate for coffee. “Wow.” Stealing a pancake, she poured us both coffee just as it had finished percolating then handed it to me with a morning kiss. “You certainly have been busy.”
“Can you wake the boys?” I asked just as the phone rang. It was Mum inviting us for a potjie supper. After we had gone over the details, she asked to speak to Kayla. How the hell did she know Kayla was here? I felt a slight shiver run up my spine, what if they were suspicious. Mum’s hollering snapped me back to my senses. Kayla spoke to her for about fifteen minutes, writing on the back of an envelope. “What was that all about”, I asked when she was done.
“Oh, someone from the church needs some work done on their outbuilding. It’s quite a big renovation, could mean quite a bit of money,” she said smiling excitedly. The boys came bounding in after brushing their teeth and we all sat down to a hearty breakfast.
I was relieved that both boys seemed in a better mood and so did Kayla. Somewhere between pastries and pancakes, Joel sat up straight and asked, “Aunty Kay, do you love my mummy?” Kayla almost choked on her pancake. They were both very intelligent boys, we had never lied to them before and now was definitely not the time to start. Kayla looked to me for confirmation; there was no going back.
“I love your mom very much, Honey,” she said reaching over the table to touch his hand; he did not flinch or try to move away, which was a good sign.
“Aunty Leigh, do you love my mom?”
“With all of my heart, Baby,” I answered kissing the top of his head.
“Dad said he loved us but he just hurt us,” Joel said, tears forming in his eyes, “and then he just left.”
“My bioclical mom left us too, hey Mom, but we are better without her. Still it’s not nice when someone doesn’t want you anymore.” We were shocked to say the least, I am sure we both thought they were too young to be affected by all that went on and hoped that our love for them was enough.
“Come here you two.” Kayla pushed her chair out to make room for them.
Slowly they got up from their seats, looking quite unsure as to what would happen next. Kayla held one on each knee. “One thing that will always be true is that Leigh and I will always love and want both of you, no matter what. I am going to talk to you as grown-ups and we don’t want to ever lie to you so I need you to just listen and then you can ask us any questions you like okay?” They both nodded.
“Leigh and I became friends because you two were friends. We spoke on the phone so much planning your play dates and then spent so much time taking you two out that we became friends. After a while we started to feel more and as time went by we realised that we loved each other very much.”
“We also started to love you two differently," I continued. "I feel Liam is as much my child as you are Joel and Kayla feels the same about you. We are both your parents and we feel like a family.”
“At school we tell people that we are brothers,” Liam admitted shyly.
“When we had to draw our families in class and I drew you and Liam with Mummy and me at the park but…” Joel seemed suddenly very nervous, he stared intensely at the floor and his voice was so tiny, we could barely hear him.
“It’s okay Baby, you can ask or say whatever you want,” Kayla assured him.
“I wrote ‘Mom’ instead of your name,” Joel whispered.
“And I drew a picture of us all on the couch watching movies and I wrote ‘Mummy’ instead of your name,” Liam confessed.
“Is that what you would like to call us?” I asked astonished that they were so accepting of the situation.
“We already do,” Liam admitted with a conspiring look at Joel.
“But only when we are alone,” Joel added. Kayla crushed them both in a fierce hug, they wrapped their little arms around her neck and I enveloped them all.
“I love you boys so much,” she said.
“We love you too Mom,” they answered in unison.
“Right, let’s get this breakfast finished,” I said. The boys returned to their seats and tucked into their pancakes, Kayla smiled and winked. After we cleared the table and cleaned the kitchen, Kayla sat us all down once more.
“There is one more thing that we need to discuss,” she began. “We are a real family and we love each other very much but because we are two mommies instead of a mom and a dad; we are different. There are people who don't like things to be different and they can say some really mean things,” she explained. “Mummy and I may kiss or hold hands or hug when we go out and some people might look at us strangely or may say ugly things. Some of the kids at school might tease or whisper about you because you have two mommies; we want you to be prepared because it will happen. When that happens, please come and talk to us about it and we will sort it out okay. If you guys feel that this is too much then Mummy and I will end it and…”
“You’ll leave us?” Joel shouted in horror, eyes wide as saucers.
“Joel, I am never going to leave you, ever," Kayla quickly assured him, kicking herself for being so insensitive. "I love you too much to lose you, Son. I just don't want you and Liam getting hurt. You have been through so much already in your lives.”
“Well I am not prepared to end anything,” I said irritably. “We are stronger when we stick together, that is what families do. If people are nasty then we stand up to them together. We love each other until people see that we are a loving, committed family like every other family. What will hurt is if we allow other people’s ideas to dictate who we are. We know who we are. You hold your heads up high and be proud that you have two mommies. Not being a family will hurt.” Kayla stared with wide eyes at my passionate speech while the boys smiled and high-fived. “And whomever doesn’t like it can kiss my cappuccino backside.
“You coloured chicks really are sugar AND spice,” Kayla teased.
‘Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen-Ralph Waldo Emerson’
My sister had come home for the week, which was a real treat because she usually stayed with her friends and got a holiday job. It was the first time that she would meet Kayla and Liam and I was nervous.
When you are the eldest child in the family, you are the one that needs to set the example for the others. When you fail, it's paving the path for them to fail. The pressure extended to cousins as well. I never felt that pressure more than when I fell pregnant. It was as if I had cursed my siblings and cousins to repeat the same mistake.
I had already failed them once. Suddenly the reality of Kayla and my relationship hit me. Although they didn't actively preach against homosexuality in church, it is understood that such acts were against the teachings of the church. An abomination in the eyes of God, an unnatural act, some would say a sin only forgivable by God himself and of course, we cannot forget Sodom and Gomorrah, the Christian trump card in a losing debate.
This was never my belief and I hoped my generation was a little more intelligent about religion and did not blindly follow regulations. My family was raised this way; old school religion, they would never accept it.
“Leigh!” I nearly jumped out of my skin as the bowl clattered to the floor. “Baby are you okay? She asked wrapping me up in her arms. The thing about Kayla that I love the most is how her arms and her scent engulf me and make me feel safe; make everything okay. I relaxed against her chest and breathed in deep until she filled my soul. “What happened?” I could not tell her, I knew Kayla, she will think I’m having second thoughts and pull away from me and that was not what I wanted at all.
“I love you,” I said and poured all that love into a kiss.
“Are you sure you are okay?”
“Perfect,” I smiled, “let’s go”.
“Oh hell!” My parents’ home was the third house from the corner in Sycamore street. There was Dad’s van with a Mercedes parked behind on the driveway and a VW Polo parked on the curb.
“What’s the matter Mummy?” My eyes were bugging out as we parked behind the Polo. That was Uncle Ben, my mother’s brothers, car on the driveway but I didn't recognise the Polo.
“They are all here,” I said aloud.
“What? Sorry, what did you say?”
“Who is all here?” Kayla asked confused and concerned.
“Oh, my mother’s brother and his family.”
“Can we get out now?” the boys asked unbuckling their seatbelts.
“Just a minute.” Kayla had shifted in her seat and was facing me. “Answer me, please.” The pleading in her voice made my heart ache.
“Oh, nothing, my aunt and uncle are just a bit opinionated about everything and everyone and very old school.”
“What? They just get on my nerves after a while and I thought we were going to have a quiet family supper. I wasn’t expecting all of this.”
“Especially after this morning?” Kayla accused.
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“Mom!” Joel moaned.
“We can go if you want?”
“Liam and I can go if you want. I don't want you to be embarrassed and forced to answer questions you are not ready to answer.
“No Mom, I want to stay,” Liam protested
“Liam! Quit! Now!” she snapped.
“Alright everyone just stop”, I yelled putting up my hands to stall any further argument. “We are ALL going in as a family. Is everyone okay with that?” The boys were enthusiastic but Kayla looked out the driver’s window sulky. “You boys get out on the pavement side and go and find Grandpa.” Without further instruction, they scrambled out the car and up the driveway; then I turned to Kayla. “Baby you have to start trusting me and stop assuming that you and Liam are expendable.”
“Then be brutally honest with me and stop hiding your feelings. You were wigging out before we left home.”
“Yes but I promise you we will talk about it at home. I love you; I am not having second thoughts. I was just thinking about how my family will react to us being a couple and I panicked. Just a little.” She took my hand and all was right again.
“That is normal, Love. I would be very surprised if you didn’t. We have taken so many big steps in a very short space of time and this is new for you, hell it’s all new for me too. I didn’t expect you to make an announcement today; there is no rush. All in good time.”
“I know Babe; I just got ahead of myself. We'll talk later I promise but for now we just have to get through today.” I took a deep breath, steeling myself for the onslaught.
“We won’t be obvious, just be cool…”
“Just be you,” I insisted, “that’s all I want.” She smiled and I wanted nothing more than to kiss her senseless until we both passed out from oxygen deprivation but the knock on the window jerked me back to reality.
“Hey slacker, are you coming in or should we bring the vegetables out here for you to clean?” Kayla let go of my hand as if struck by lightning then got out to unload the basket at the back.
“That depends, Princess, are you actually going to help this time?” I teased getting out to hug my cousin.
My cousin Nina and I were best friends growing up. She was the rebel of the family and sort of the black sheep until I fell pregnant. We lost contact when she moved to Johannesburg to study and only really saw each other at family occasions. She was the first one to know I was pregnant, my maid of honour, and the first to call and offer support when she heard I was getting divorced.
“You are looking absolutely fantastic,” she said hugging the life out of me.
“Oh shut up, I’ve put on so much weight and I definitely need to do something with my hair; but you look amazing.” Nina was six months pregnant and starting to show. We walked around the car to where Kayla had the two baskets on the pavement and locking up the van. “Nina, this is Kayla.” They shook hands and smiled politely. “I’m sure you have seen Liam running around with Joel.”
“Pleased to meet you, do you need a hand with that?” Nina offered.
“No thanks, I’m fine,” my very nervous girlfriend replied and walked towards the kitchen.
“So, dish!” Nina encouraged, linking her arm through mine. I was truly puzzled and my nosy cousin rolled her eyes. “Who is she? What’s her story?”
“Oh, nothing much; the boys are best friends so naturally over time we became good friends too. She is a great person.” I could have kicked myself for lying; it felt like I was betraying Kayla but it just was less complicated for now.
A cheer went up when we entered the kitchen. “Kayla, thank goodness,” Mum said almost grabbing the baskets out of her hands. “The dishwasher is not working and no one wants to wash all these dishes. See if you can fix it please, Love.”
“Sure Mrs B but I’m going to need some tools.”
“You know where everything is. Dad is in the garage with the boys if you need help.” No sooner had Kayla gone in search of Dad then I was engulfed by aunty and cousins and my sister; catching up on family gossip. They put me to work peeling and chopping vegetables while trying to avoid embarrassing questions. How is the divorce going? Do you have a new man yet? What are you waiting for? Joel needs a good male influence in his life. I always knew that boy was useless, lucky you got out when you did. Do you ever hear from him? Maybe it’s for the best. It’s because you did not get married in church, cursed from the beginning. Never make that mistake again, Leigh.
Kayla returned with Dad’s toolbox and proceeded to pull the dishwasher out of the cupboard. We moved the table towards the door to give her more space to work. “Do you need any help with that Miss…” Aunty Nora asked in her most aristocratic accent.
“Kayla Johnson,” she replied wiping her hands on the cloth before shaking Aunty Nora’s hand.
“I’m so sorry Kayla,” Mum apologised, hugging her around the waist. “Everyone this is Kayla, Liam’s mom, Leigh’s best friend, my handywoman and most importantly my very good friend.”
“You say the sweetest things Mrs B,” she said returning the hug then continuing with her repairs. I was proud that the woman I loved was accepted and loved by my parents, even if they didn’t know about us.
“So how did you meet?” Nina’s younger sister, Shannon, asked. I zoned out of the conversation, too busy watching Kayla bend over.
“Leigh?” Nina nudged me.
“What? OH, err; Liam and Joel are in the same class. We just….” I shrugged continuing to chop potatoes. I did not want to see the hurt in Kayla’s eyes as I described our relationship in such a blasé manner.
“So what do you do Kayla?’’ Aunty Nora quizzed.
“I work for eThekwini waste management,” she replied from behind the washer.
“Kayla wrote her last exam yesterday; Mum said proudly. “I lit a candle and said a special rosary every day that she wrote.”
“What are you studying?” my sister, Ashley, asked.
“It’s a degree in productions and operations management,” Kayla said switching on the washer.
“Is it fixed,” Mum interrupted the interrogation.
“Nope, it’s clogged. Mrs B when last did you run a clean cycle?” Mum looked wide-eyed and confused. “And when did your salt run out?” Mum looked even more confused. “It’s okay I just need to get some cleaner detergent and salt from the shop and run the clean cycle a few times, then it should be fine. Does anyone need anything while I am out?” Kayla politely offered but everyone shook their heads.
“Let me get you some money,” Mum said but Kayla waved her off.
“I’m coming with you,” Ashley announced and bounced through the door followed closely by Shannon. That made me very nervous; my sister and cousin, the two most nosey people on God’s green earth, alone with my secret girlfriend. They would poke and prod until every detail was squeezed out. The next twenty minutes would be the longest of my life.
They returned arm in arm with Ashley laughing raucously at goodness knows what. Kayla started up the clean cycle while Ashley and Shannon laid out the cheese and wine. There was stilton, brie, and camembert with figs, nuts, honey, and crackers. Everyone was very impressed and tucked in. We sat around the table eating and chatting.
Kayla was helping me chop up the meat when a raucous cheer came from the lounge. Robert, Nina’s husband, came in to fill up the drinks. “What’s the score?” Kayla asked.
“Still nil, its only ten minutes in but they are playing like a bunch of ar…” Robbie hesitated remembering Mum and Nora were in the room, “very, very, very badly”, he continued. Another cheer sounded and they both ran to the doorway to see the replay.
“Oooooo that was close,” they said. “I’m Kayla, by the way, Leigh’s friend.”
“Lovely to meet you, I’m Robbie, Nina’s husband.” Robbie quickly finished with the drinks, not wanting to miss too much of the game. “Why don’t you come and join us Kay, and bring that cheese. I’ll introduce you to the rest.” She looked at me expectantly with those beautiful brown eyes.
“You might as well; you will be of no help to me anyway.” The smile that followed made my pulse race then she gathered the cheese board and was gone.
Ashley helped me with the meat, “I like her”, she whispered to me. I smiled and went to marinate the meat. Nina joined me at the sink, “so what was that about?”
“She practically asked permission to leave.”
“Oh that’s just Kayla. If she says she’s going to help and she can’t or she wants to watch sport, she feels guilty.”
“Bullshit!” Nina sang in a quiet voice.
“Oh fuck off! How’s the pregnancy going?” I asked trying to change the subject skilfully.
“Going, no unforeseen drama.” Kayla came in when she heard the dishwasher cycle finish and started it again.
“Come with me,” she whispered and slipped out the kitchen towards the garage; I followed discreetly. Putting the tools away, she leaned her back against the workbench. “You okay?”
“I am now,” I replied moving closer. I just needed her to touch me but instead she moved away.
“I don’t think that is a good idea.”
“Why not; the guys are watching sport, the ladies are in the kitchen, so what’s the problem?”
“In case you haven’t noticed, your Aunt Nora and Nina know that something is up and I am not exactly the poster child for straight women.”
“I know,” I sighed, “Nina asked me already, and she’s not going to stop until she is satisfied”.
“What did you say?”
“I changed the subject,” I said ashamed of my cowardice.
“Hey, it’s okay,” she assured me, pulling me into a hug. “Relax; take it slow, one day at a time. There are no expectations and absolutely no need for declarations.”
“I just feel like a shit for lying, like I’m denying you and what we are to each other.”
“It’s not lying; we just want to enjoy our relationship and get used to it ourselves before we go telling the world,” she said kissing me on the temple.
“I love you, you know that.”
“Yes I do and I love you too,” she replied with a chaste kiss on the lips. “We need to get this fire started if we intend to eat before midnight.” She placed two bundles of wood in my arms and took the charcoal and firelighters.
“So this is where you two are hiding,” Nina interrupted, opening the garage door wider. “Kayla your son is looking for you.” I was almost tempted to ask which one. We carried the wood to the fire pit; Ashley and Shannon carried all the ingredients out while Mum and Nora had a friendly debate over spices. Robbie started the fire while Dad and Ben lounged sipping whiskey and offered step-by-step instructions. I saw Kayla busy with the kids and then they ran off again.
The first of the ingredients sizzled in the cast iron pot while we sat around enjoying the rather warm weather. Robbie and Kayla helped Mom with the cooking when Liam came running around the corner yelling, “Mummy, Mummy Joel is hurt,” and almost knocked over my chair. Kayla took off at a sprint across the yard before I was even out of my chair. By the time we arrived on the scene, she was carrying him into the kitchen.
“What happened,” I gasped seeing the pained look on his face.
“He fell awkwardly down the bank. I think he sprained his ankle and wrist,” Kayla explained.
“Shouldn’t we take him to a doctor,” Nora said as everyone packed into the kitchen.
“Kayla has first aid training,” I explained as I watched her assess the injuries. Ashley filled ice into two jiffy bags and Kayla wrapped one around his ankle and one around his wrist.
“It hurts Mom,” Joel cried burying his face into her shirt.
“I know Baby, I promise this will make it better,” she said kissing the top of his head. He wiped his tears and drank the juice Nina handed to him. I didn't even notice the deathly silence that descended on the gathering.
“Let’s give them some air,” Robbie suggested, ushering everyone back outside. Nina squeezed my shoulder before leaving.
Twenty minutes later, after bandaging his wrist and ankle Joel hobbled out of the kitchen. Neither sprain was severe. Thanks to Kayla’s quick action, the swelling would go down quickly. He was soon sitting with his cousins under the avocado tree trading war stories and showing off old scars.
“Everything okay?” Nina asked as I took my seat next to her.
“Yeah it’s just a sprain, he will be okay in a day or two,” I replied sipping my very warm drink.
The rest of the evening progressed in a rather subdued mood. Nina kept trying to talk to me in private but we were never alone long enough. Nora stared daggers at me but didn't say a word. Soon after supper, leftovers shared, clean up was in progress and they were ready to leave.
Nina pulled me aside, “we need to do lunch before I go back and maybe a little shopping,” she said conspiratorially. ‘‘How about Tuesday?”
“Tuesday is great, say about 9:30am.”
“Fantastic; I'll pick you up and we can have breakfast to fortify ourselves,” she laughed.
“Cool; I'll text you the address.’’ We hugged and said good-bye to the rest of the family. I wanted to go home too, but there was still some clean-up to help with. Thank goodness for automatic dishwashers.
‘I am the only force strong enough to stop me- Naya S Wood’
Tuesday rolled around soon enough. There was a bit of a chill in the slight breeze reminding me that it was winter but the sky was a brilliant blue and cloudless while the sun warmed me to my bones. Kayla dropped the boys off at Mum’s for the day before she went to work. Joel was healing well but he still needed to be careful.
Nina picked me up at 9:30am exactly. We drove to The Pavilion shopping centre in Westville and went to ‘Centre Court’ for breakfast, our favourite restaurant from back in the day. The conversation was easy but I could sense there was something bugging her. We talked about old times, our current lives, my divorce, her pregnancy, and everything in between. After breakfast, we strolled through the stores, cooing at every baby thing we saw.
I could remember when Joel was that small with tiny hands and feet and made a mental note to ask Kayla to show me pics of Liam as a baby. We bought a few rompers, bottles, a sterilizing unit, blankets, winnie-the-pooh bedding, and some of the cutest plush toys we could find. I bought the boys each a pair of BEN 10 bedroom slippers and vests, sleeping shorts and socks for Kayla.
We were comparing camp cots and strollers when Kayla called to check in on me. “Hey beautiful, are you enjoying yourself?” I could feel the blush rise on my face; I loved it when she called me beautiful.
“Yes, I’m having a great day. How is work?”
“Stinky as usual; I’m up to my arse in trash,” she laughed. “Hey, how about I get pizza for supper with your folks then you don’t have to cook.”
“You are an angel?”
“I know; that’s why you love me.” My smile threatened to split my face in two.
“Yep, one of many reasons. What time are you finishing work?”
“Four. Will you be home by then?”
“Yeah, I think Nina’s feet are telling her that they have had quite enough for today,” I laughed.
“Okay, I’ll see you soon baby; I love you. Bye.”
“Ditto. Bye.” Nina stared at me for a moment too long then turned around and announced she was hungry, again. She reluctantly agreed to have a fruit salad and yoghurt and we sat at the waterfall and ate, watching the fish swim around the pond.
“So tell me about Kayla,” Nina asked staring straight ahead. The question surprised me.
“There’s nothing to tell. What you see is what you get,'' I shrugged. “You’ve met her; that is Kayla.” She stared at me a while, her eyes seemed to be burning into me. “What? You’re creeping me out with all the staring.”
“We have never lied or hid anything from each other, that is just who we are so don’t start now Leigh.” I frowned but offered no answer. “For heaven’s sake, I know you and Kayla are a couple,” she exclaimed exasperatedly. My eyes nearly popped out of their sockets and I fumbled to keep my fruit salad from the floor.
“WHAT?” She held up a hand to forestall any argument.
“Don’t deny it. The boys gave it away on Saturday.”
“I really don’t know what you’re on about,” I protested and gathered my packets, preparing to leave. She grabbed my arm to stop me from leaving.
“It’s okay cuz, no judgement, well not from Rob, Shannon or me. We really like Kayla.” My heart was beating outside of my body. I felt like I could not breathe. I could not form a single coherent thought or word but my eyes asked the question, HOW? Nina squeezed my hand between hers.
“Liam shouted mummy and ran straight to you and Kayla answered Joel when he called her mom in the kitchen.” I closed my eyes remembering and could have kicked myself for not realising the impact it made on those listening.
“Does anyone else know?” I managed around a lump in my throat, feeling as if my world was caving in.
“I think my mother suspects and you know Nora, it won’t be long before she voices her opinion. I suspect everyone knows or at least suspects.”
“Jesus Nina,” I started to cry.
“Let’s go back to your place.” The drive was silent except for the radio. Nina glanced at me occasionally, making sure I was okay. My phone rang; it was Kayla. I really could not talk to her now but she would worry if I didn’t answer. I cleared my throat to try to sound as normal as possible.
“Hey Baby, what do you want on your pizza?” A simple question, one she had asked so many times before. I cannot tell what exactly happened; whether it was the sound of her voice or the way, she called me baby but the crack became a canyon and I was sobbing.
“Baby, what’s wrong? What happened? Where are you?” I could hear the tension in her voice and the sound of running footsteps.
“I’m fine. We are on our way home. I am fine,” I said pulling myself together.
“Leigh you are not fine. Why are you crying?”
“Nina is taking me home. Can you pick the boys up?”
“Yes. Please talk to me?”
“I’m fine, really, please don’t worry. I will see you later,” I said before ending the call.
“Kayla?” Nina asked. I nodded. “It is all going to be okay,” she promised and squeezed my hand. I was numb; all I could do was stare out the window.
Nina made tea while I sat on the couch staring at the blank TV screen; the shopping packets dumped on the lounge floor. I didn’t hear the wheels screech to a stop or the car door slam shut but I did hear her shout my name as she burst through the door. Next minute she was standing in front of me still wearing her overalls, boots, and gloves. “What happened?” she asked kneeling in front of me. Nina put the tea tray on the coffee table.
“The family knows about you and Leigh and Nora will make sure that it spreads like wildfire.”
“What? How?” Kayla was in shock darting looks between Nina and me.
“The boys,” I said finally able to string words together. Kayla was obviously confused. “Liam called me mummy and Joel called you mom in the kitchen.” Realisation dawned followed by dismay.
“Shit! I was so worried I just answered him; I didn’t think. SHIT!” Kayla said, roughly removing her gloves and beginning her usual habit of pacing.
“You were just being a good mother, Kayla. Listen, I suggest telling your parents before they hear it from someone else,” Nina advised. Kayla stared at me from the other side of the room. “I better get going. Rob, Shannon, Ashley, and I are two hundred percent behind you. Always have been, always will be.” She kissed my forehead and went to the door. Kayla followed to see her safely to her car, ever chivalrous even in a crisis.
“I am so sorry Leigh, this is my entire fault. I should have been more careful. It’s just, I thought he might have broken something and I…”
“You acted like any mother who loves her child.” We stared at each other, neither one moving. I knew Kayla, knew how her mind worked. She was thinking of ways to end our relationship to save me from telling my family; sacrificing herself and my son so it would be easier for me. I could see the resignation in her eyes, saw her fill her lungs with as much air as she could to deliver her speech.
“I love you,” I said, cutting her off.
“I love you. It was not your fault; it’s no-one’s fault. I am not giving you and my son up for anything. So don’t even ask!”
“I know it’s sooner than we anticipated but that’s life. I know the consequences; my family will judge and probably disown me but that is on them, not me, and definitely not you.”
“And what about Joel; he adores them.”
“He adores YOU. What do you think losing you and Liam will do to him, to me.”
“You don’t know how bad this can get,” Kayla said, urging me to see reason. “You are a teacher; you can lose your job. It’s too much Leigh.”
“Or I could lose you and Liam and I refuse to even consider the possibility. I choose us, our family, no matter what our kids will know that we will fight for them because there are so many people that haven’t and wouldn’t.”
“You won’t lose us, we can go back to being friends and still hang out like we used to.”
“Could you honestly just go back to being friends? Honestly?” I asked.
“Yes if I have to then I will.”
“Well I don’t want to be your friend Kayla!” I shouted, infuriated by her determination to sacrifice herself. “Why is leaving always your first option to everything challenging? Is this how it is going to be? As soon as something comes up you are looking for the nearest escape hatch?” She reached out for me but I evaded her touch.
“I knew what I was getting into! I didn’t plan on falling in love again but I fell in love with you, Kayla and now I don’t want to imagine my life without you!” My voice was hoarse with emotion. “No one is taking my babies from me, not even you!”
Kayla cradled me in her arms, “I’m sorry,” she whispered placing tiny kisses on my forehead. “I love you so much and no, I’m not looking to run away.”
“And I love you too so stop making any kind of reference to leaving me.”
“I don’t want to be without you," she confessed. "I’m just trying to protect you from all this ugliness.”
“I don’t need you to protect me, Love; I need you to be in it with me, whatever it is.”
“I’m here, I promise,” she assured me.
‘Someday, someone will make you realise why it never worked out with anybody else’
The next few days rolled by in a relative haze. The boys spent a few days with their grandparents, which gave Kayla and I some much appreciated alone time together. We knew we had to tell them soon but I was trying to put it off for as long as possible.
Kayla surprised me on Friday night with flowers and dispatched me to the room with instructions to dress smart. Our first real date! When I was ready I found a note on the coffee table saying she would be back at 6:30pm and to have some wine. There was a bottle of chilled wine and a glass waiting next to it.
I tried to relax but I was too excited.
Promptly at 6:30pm, she arrived wearing a dark grey pantsuit and a cerise shirt with her hair slightly spiked. My eyes could not stop taking in all that was before me. “Wow” was the only thing my mouth would voice.
“I take it you would be interested in going out on a date with me?”
“Oh baby, most definitely.”
We drove all the way to Scottsburgh, to a steakhouse one of her work friends recommended. The mood, the music, the food, and the company was spectacular. It was a proper first date, and we took the opportunity to learn so much more about each other. Kayla was relaxed and flirtatious even openly kissing my hand. After dinner, we drove to the beach and sat on a blanket on the sand eating fruit flavoured Rascals. I sat between her legs with my back against her chest. Her strong arms wrapped around me chasing the night chill away as her breathe tickled my neck and feather light kisses sent my heart souring. We didn't talk, there was nothing more to say, we were content just to be together.
“Hey Arsehole, get a room.” A voice rang out behind us. My body instinctively stiffened and horrid scenarios raced through my mind. A dark haired lifeguard stood beside us. “Umm… sorry…I didn't realise…but aren’t you two…you know…a little old to be making out on a beach. Kayla grabbed his ankle and yanked his leg out from under him sending him onto his ass.
“You are just jealous because my girlfriend is hotter than yours,” she crowed.
“Hey Butch,” he laughed rubbing his backside.
“Sundance this is Leigh, my gorgeous girlfriend and babe, this is my most irritating brother, Charles Andrew Norville Johnson the third.
“Oh God,” he groaned shaking my hand. “Please just call me Charlie.”
“or Sundance,’ Kayla added swatting his shoulder.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you Charlie," I greeted, relieved that it was a friendly face.
“Likewise.” When he smiled, the family resemblance was evident. “So are you coming to Dad’s birthday party?”
“Kayla Marie Johnson."
“No, we are not coming. I'm sorry Charlie. They have made their feelings clear and I will not subject my family to that.” I could feel her heart race, the tension grow in her body. I rubbed her arms still wrapped around me. Her family was something she never spoke about. All I knew was they kicked her out and she had no contact with them.
“Things have changed Kay, feelings have changed. We all miss you. We talk about you all the time and your chair stays empty at the table,” Charlie explained.
“And yet you are the only one who calls to find out if Liam and I are still alive.”
“Because you will only answer my calls.”
“You were the only one who didn’t throw me away!” she shouted. She stood up abruptly and walked towards the water, roughly shedding her jacket onto the sand. Charlie wanted to follow her but I insisted he leave her to calm down for a while.
We had a general conversation getting to know each other better. I felt at a distinct disadvantage, as he seemed to know all about Joel and me. “I’m not trying to trap her into going where she's not welcome, I wouldn’t do that to her. Everything I said is true, they feel shit for what happened but both sides are too scared to make the first move,” he said with pleading eyes.
“Look Charlie, I don’t know the full story but from her reaction just now, there is a lot of pain still there. We are preparing to tell my parents and the thought of their reaction terrifies me.” I finally understood why Kayla was so overprotective. She knew what it felt like to be thrown away and she was trying to spare me.
“So this...” he gestured between Kayla and me, “it’s serious?” I nodded. “Then let me give my brotherly advice.” He cleared his throat and looked me dead in the eye. “If you hurt her, I will hunt you down and kill you.” His smile took the sting out of his words and we both laughed. “Seriously, Melissa did a real number on her and she hasn’t been close to anyone ever since.” I smiled; pleased to see someone else was as protective of her as I was.
“When is the party?” I asked.
“Three months and one week away.”
“Do you really think a huge party is the best time to reunite a volatile relationship?” I felt sorry for him; he looked dejected, he was the go-between in an awkward situation and felt responsible to make it all okay. “Just give her time and maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if the rest of the family tried to reach out to her. They wronged her; they should be willing to get a little uncomfortable to fix it.”
“Thanks Leigh and you’re right,” he said squeezing my hand. “You are everything she said you are; I think we are going to be great friends.”
“Hey Sundance, making the moves on my girl?” Kayla looked calmer. Charlie stood and pulled me up with him.
“I tried but alas, she belongs to another.” We all laughed the last of the tension dissipating. “I have got to go, Rachel and I just moved in together and I have shelves and ‘things’ I promised to put up.”
“Honey-do-list,” Kayla teased.
“Yep, the ‘honey-do or you don’t get’ list.” He hugged us both goodbye and trotted up to the clubhouse.
“I like your brother,” I said turning to kiss her. “We should invite him and Rachel for supper or something.”
“Yeah?” I nodded.
“Charlie,” she yelled as he ascended the stairs, “Saturday. Supper. Bring Rachel.”
“Cool. Will call,” he replied.
“Nice invite,” I teased.
“That’s how we roll baby.”
We have to tell your parents,” Kayla insisted as she climbed under the covers.
“I know, love.” We snuggled together, my head on her shoulder.
“When we pick the boys up, we can just sit them down and explain it to them.”
“Wh…” I raised my head looking into determined eyes.
“We have to know their feelings either way, and I know it’s soon but if we are going to…” I silenced the rest of her words with a chaste kiss which soon turned into a passionate slow burning exploration of mouths. I felt the tingle start in my tummy and move steadily downwards. Her hands never strayed below my waist, ever the ‘gentleman’.
I shifted my body so she was lying on her back and straddled her hips. “Leigh” she said breaking the kiss immediately. Her hands stilled on my hips keeping me in place. I rocked against her once, then again. Her eyes closed but she still tried to hold me in place. “You are not wearing panties.” I leaned forwards; hands on either side of her face and brushed her lips with mine. “No. I don’t want to wait anymore.”
I palmed her breast and rolled her nipple with my thumb, one of us whimpered, I don't know who. Straddling her hips I slowly removed my nightshirt as she watched. My hands found their way under her vest forcing it upward and over her head. She didn't resist.
“You are so beautiful,” she whispered and rose up to capture a nipple between her lips. It sent a shudder down my spine and all coherent thought left me. Suddenly I was on the bottom and her body covered mine, “I love you so much Leigh Anne Burton”. I saw it in her eyes, the love, the desire, and the need that matched mine. We had been denying ourselves for too long because she wanted to ‘do right’ by me. All I wanted was her loving me and touching me. I wanted her to consume me, as I needed to consume her.
“Show me baby,” I encouraged and she did, slowly, aggravatingly slowly and thoroughly.
Every inch of my skin burned where she touched me, first with her hands and then with her mouth. It was nothing I had ever experienced before; Kayla’s sole purpose was pleasing me and making me feel all her love.
Light exploded behind my eyelids and I felt like I was levitating. “Open your eyes baby,” she pleaded. With much effort, I managed to keep them open and it was heaven. I was over the edge, riding the wave and looking into the most beautiful soul I had ever known. There were tears in both our eyes. “I love you,” she said cradling me as the last waves of pleasure gently trundled to the shore.
We lay entwined, her body partially covering mine. I could feel her breath on my neck. My hands slowly scratched a pattern on her back. I could feel her, wet, against my thigh and my arousal peaked again. I ran my fingers up and down her back, dragging nails over her firm bum. God, this woman is beautiful, sexy, intelligent, loving, loyal, hardworking, and stubborn as a mule…perfect, and she is all mine.
I lifted my thigh to rub against her centre and heard her breath hitch. I felt her shudder and continued to slowly rock, squeezing her cheeks and pulling her into me. She bucked pressing hard against my thigh.
I was nervous about this part; I never had to worry about pleasing someone before, not like this. I was not used to taking the lead, being in control. I had no experience and although making love with Kayla was mind blowing for me already, I wanted her blown away as well. This was something I had been researching for a while, thank goodness for the internet. I couldn't talk to Kayla and I didn’t know any other lesbians so I researched. I had the theory memorised but…
She sensed my hesitation and rose up on her arms to look at me. “I don’t…I want to…” I began. The rocking became more urgent, her breath quick and shallow, her heartbeat rapid.
“Stop thinking and just love me”. She was right, and I did just love her and when she came apart in my arms, I held her close and safe. My name on her lips was the most glorious sound, she held nothing back, and she gave all to me. This woman was all mine, forever.
‘When you love what you have, you have everything you need’
The winter sun streamed warm and bright through the crack in the curtain, alerting me to the day’s beginning. Kayla propped her head on her arm watching me sleep. “Somehow that is not as creepy as I thought it would be,” I said snuggling closer and sucking the indent at the base of her throat. I felt her chuckle vibrate on my lips.
“How are you?”
“Me? I am stiff and sore in all the right places. You?”
“Did I hurt you?” She pulled away; panic dilating her pupils.
“No baby,” I laughed. “You know, I’m not a virgin, I just do a really good impression of one.”
“Leigh I’m not joking! I’m sorry if I got carried away, I…”
“Baby please don’t spoil it,” I begged kissing her gently on those most perfect lips. “You were perfect, gentle, loving, and thoughtful. The perfect ‘gentleman’.”
“I love you.”
“Oh Baby believe me, I know just how much,” I teased kissing down her throat towards her breasts.
“I have created a monster,” she laughed pinning me to the bed. “But I have to go to work.”
“You feel like you have a temperature, I think you need a sick day, it could be serious,” I teased.
“Ha, it’s just my close proximity to you, Sunshine. I really do have to go, I have two meetings today.” She kissed me hard and hopped off the bed and into the bathroom.
The day passed in euphoria. Kayla called at lunch just to tell me she loved me, I told her to take extra vitamins because I was not done with her yet. She makes me feel so special, so loved, taken care of, safe; she gives me worth.
After lunch, I tackled the boys’ room, changing linen and sorting through old clothes and toys that we could donate to the jumble sale at church.
I found myself daydreaming, with a silly grin permanently plastered to my face. I couldn't stop thinking about last night; it was something I imagined from the moment we met. I was so nervous even after all the research but being with Kayla was so…easy, so natural for me, which I didn't expect.
I was afraid that my archaic upbringing might prevent me from enjoying sex with her or even prevent me from going through with it at all, no matter how much I loved her. Also, what about me pleasing her? When my hands were on her beautiful body, it was pure instinct, I stopped thinking altogether, and it was beautiful, the most beautiful expression of love and I wanted to spend the rest of my life, giving and receiving that love.
“Baby, where are you?”
“In the room, Love.” Kayla entered with a huge gift basket and kissed me.
“Wow this is beautiful.”
“What are you doing?” She was referring to the shoes and clothes in piles around the room.
“Winter clearing for the jumble sale and making space for your clothes. We can share the wardrobe until we buy another one, unless you prefer the drawers. The two bottom ones are free.”
“WO, WO, WO what are you talking about?” I felt the panic rise and settle itself in my throat and all the confidence drained away.
“I’m making space for you to….um…put…? Did I do something wrong?”
“No. We just…we never…spoke about…this.”
“Oh. I didn’t mean…sorry…I’m sorry”, I apologised grabbing bin bags and filling them with the donation pile in the corner. I felt an ache spread through my heart. She sat on the bed silently watching as I knotted and labelled the bags and piled them in the corner. I tried to keep the tears from falling, urging myself not to cry.
“I need to borrow your van to take these to the church. There's two more bags in the boy’s room,” I said deliberately not making eye contact, afraid of what I would see. She had not moved, had not said a word the whole time, just sat on the bed, and stared ahead with her hands fisted in the duvet. I need to start supper,” I said making a quick exit.
I was chopping vegetables for stir-fry when she walked into the boys’ room without glancing in my direction. I felt like a complete idiot and wholly embarrassed. What was I thinking? This is the twenty first century you doofus not the 1800s. I knocked on the door a few minutes later, “supper will be ready in twenty minutes”, I knew she liked to shower away the workday before eating. She looked up from her perch on the floor with eyes red and puffy from crying. I wanted to comfort her, to say something to make this all better but I drew a blank.
It's very difficult to comfort someone when you are hurting too, especially if they are the one that hurt you. I turned to check on the food feeling uncomfortable just standing there. “Wait,” she croaked rising and following me to the kitchen. “Can I just talk to you? Please!” Her eyes didn't meet mine. I knew what was coming; I stood a little straighter, shoulders back, chin up, arms crossed. I survived Scott, I raised Joel, and I sure as hell would survive this, eventually.
“Sure”. I tossed the stir-fry with a tad too much vigour and turned down the heat. We sat on opposite sides of the couch. I tried to pull off an air of nonchalance but inside I was a mess. I prayed for the strength to hold it together in front of her. I could break down later.
“Leigh…” her voice was thick with emotion and at least she was making eye contact. “I am sorry for the way I reacted.”
“Look Kayla, it’s my fault. I shouldn't have made assumptions. It’s not like you owe me anything just because we slept together.” My tone dripped with sarcasm and hurt. “So don’t worry about it okay. It’s a misunderstanding, that’s all.” I stood to leave feeling my resolve slipping away.
“WHAT! Leigh don’t be ridiculous.” She grabbed my hand and pulled me closer.
“I don’t want to sit goddamit!” She pulled me into her lap and wrapped her arms around my waist, pinning my arms to my sides. I struggled to get free but it was hopeless and she wasn't even using all her strength.
“Why are you fighting me? Baby I love you more than anything in this world, besides our sons. Of course, I want us to live together. I want forever with you. Do you think I could ever sleep without you next to me?” She kissed my shoulder, then my neck, cheek and temple. Do not give in so easily Leigh. Don’t. Don’t! Oh, you melt like chocolate on a hot tongue, you weakling. “I had a plan to court you and do things the right way, showing you the respect that you deserve. Except for our first date, nothing has gone to plan. I'm not worthy of you, I can't even manage to pay the rent on this place.” Her eyes dropped to our clasped hands. “I can’t take care of our family.”
I smacked her hard on her upper arm with my free hand. “OWW.” Then I smacked her again just because she had frustrated the hell out of me and scared me half to death. I assaulted her mouth, squeezing both breasts with my now free hands and pushed her back so I could straddled her thighs then pulled the t-shirt roughly up and over her head. “What are you doing?”
“Shut up and kiss me.”
“Kayla! I heard you. Now. Shut. Up. And. Kiss. Me.”
We kissed for what seemed like hours, kissing turned into touching, and somewhere we both became topless and braless. It was not gentle and attentive like the night before, it was hard, needy, and primal. “I need to taste you,” she growled. I gripped the arm of the couch above my head, “so what is stopping you?”
“I love you.”
“I love you too.”
“I’m sorry about…everything. I looked up into eyes overflowing with regret.
“Like what?” I asked, sitting up.
“What are you sorry about?”
“Everything," she said.
“Like?” She looked down totally confused. “I’m wondering if you regret meeting me or loving Joel or loving me or maybe you are sorry about having Liam or is being a lesbian what you are really sorry about. How about breathing because that really would be everything.”
“No Kayla!” I sat up further pushing her off and reaching for my t-shirt and underwear. She dressed as well. “You make me so mad”. I needed to calm down; being sarcastic and frustrated would get us nowhere except into a huge fight. My face was hot and I could feel the blood rushing in my ears. I let out a frustrated growl and turned to face her, taking both her hands in mine. “You are so beautiful and I love you so damn much but this self-loathing attitude has got to go.” She continued to stare at our hands. “Come on,” I stood and pulled her up with me, “we need to shower.”
We lay in bed facing each other; Kayla was on the phone, saying goodnight to the boys. It was a routine the boys started and we just used the time to catch up after they went to bed. She handed me the phone, they were so excited about going to the ice-rink with granny and grandpa I doubted they would sleep at all. I spoke to Mom to arrange supper before saying goodbye.
“They are never going to sleep tonight.”
“I know.” We lay for a while just looking at each other. I reached out, running fingers through her crop, massaging her scalp. “I’m sorry I was so bitchy earlier.”
“I’m sorry I was so…weird.” She propped herself up on her elbow and gently mapped my face with her fingers. “I applied for a job last month and had the interview on Wednesday. It would have been a fantastic pay raise.” She was silent for a long time just looking down at me. “I didn’t get it. They told us today. Then I come home and… It all just made me realise how far behind I am.” Kayla bent down and kissed me so gently, so reverently, I felt my soul fill up with her.
“Listen to me. I love YOU. I don’t care how much money you make or where you live or what you can give me. Baby I work for everything I have. I had to sell my car to get this place and furnish it. I'm sorry you didn’t get the job you wanted but it’s just one job. You keep applying until you do.” I kissed her again, holding her as close as possible. “I have insecurities too; sometimes I think why did you choose me of all people but then you hold me and kiss me and all that stuff doesn’t matter anymore. Baby, you are loved, our son’s adore you, I am so in love with you and everyone that meets you loves you. You are more than good enough, my love and I never want to hear you imply otherwise ever again.”
She let out a deep sigh, “you know I’m only with you for your money right?” I could feel her smile on my shoulder.
“You know I’m only with you for your body,” I teased smacking her bum hard.
“I’m nervous about tomorrow.”
“Me too, although we have a pretty good idea about how they will react,” I said.
“We don’t have to…”
“Yes we do; to honour our love, to honour ourselves and to honour our children. If we act like we are ashamed of ourselves how do we expect others to accept us?”
“You are an amazing woman.”
“You bring out the best in me.”
‘There is no Fear in Love; but perfect love casteth out fear- 1John 4:18’
We drove in silence to Mum and Dads. Tension rippled off Kayla and she gripped my hand not even letting go to change gears. We parked in front of the house instead of on the driveway as we usually did. Subconsciously I think she was preparing for a quick getaway. We just sat there for a while, holding hands. “Babe?”
“You have got to try and relax. Please,” I begged.
“I really like your folks. This really sucks.”
“I know Love, it really does. We just have to hope it will all work out in the end.” I kissed her slow. “No matter what, we will walk out a family; you, me, and our boys. That you can take to the bank,” I promised. Kayla gathered the basket in the back seat and hand in hand, we walked to the house.
The boys were so excited; they practically knocked us over. I was relieved that interacting with the boys seemed to leech the tension in Kayla. After exchanging greetings, I helped Mom set the supper table while Kayla and Dad took the boys into the lounge.
“I don’t know how you and Kayla manage such active boys; I swear they run on batteries. Even your father threw his hands up in defeat,” Mum laughed. “Three hours of non-stop skating and they were still going strong. I do love them so though, their joy is infectious.”
“Don’t look at me, Kayla is the one that can keep up with them, I tap out halfway. I am in awe of her sometimes. No matter how tired she is from work, she will find the time to spend with them, for as long as they want.”
“We are all lucky to have Kayla around,” Mum winked. We warmed the food and I called everyone to table. Liam volunteered to say grace, much to Kayla’s surprise.
We all held hands while he thanked God for the food and asked Him to bless all those who are hungry. He then thanked God for his grandparents, brother, Mom and Mummy. Kayla squeezed my hand so tight; I swear she cut off circulation for a few minutes. The cat was officially out of the bag and now we had to face the music.
I slowly opened my eyes expecting to see the disgust and disappointment on my parents faces. Instead, Mum passed bowls of food around the table as if nothing had happened while Dad carved the chicken and laughed with the boys. Kayla was tense all over again; I patted her thigh and encouraged her to eat. The conversation around dinner was pleasant. Dad encouraged the boys to do even better at school in the third term and promised we would all go away for a long weekend to the Drakensberg for the September holiday if they got good reports.
The boys went to watch TV after helping clear the table. I was filling the dishwasher when Dad called me to the dining room. He invited me to sit down while Kayla and Mum finished in the kitchen. “So schools go back next week."
“Yes, Monday,” I confirmed.
“Did you have a good rest?”
“Yeah, it was quite restful; I’m recharged and ready to go. Why? What’s up Daddy?”
“Nothing, I just worry about you. It was easier when you lived here because I saw you every day and I could tell if you were in a good or bad mood.”
“Daddy, we are fine, more than fine,” I said reaching for his hand across the table. “I am happy and so is Joel. We have put all that behind us.”
“Yes, I can see that. I don’t think I have seen you this happy, ever.” He took a deep breath and then continued, “I absolutely love spending so much time with the boys; being a granddad is my greatest joy. They trust me and confide in me and I teach them about life.”
My hand reflexively tightened around his and the tears spilled over onto my cheeks. His hand covered mine, “it’s okay baby. I can't say that I was not shocked and upset at first. I'm still getting my mind around it but I see you so happy and I can't help but wonder.” He handed me the hankie that he always kept in his right pants pocket.
“I never liked Scott; you know that, there was just something that nagged me about him, yet I cannot help but like Kayla. I suspected she was gay from day one and I was mad as hell that she corrupted you.” He put up a hand to stall my protest. “I realised she didn’t. It would be unfair of me to think you were so weak. You know who you are and you know what you want, you always have.”
Mom and Kayla came into the room with coffee; I could sense her hackles rise when she saw me crying. Dad invited them to sit and I immediately reached for Kayla who wrapped me up in her safe arms. “Are you okay?” she whispered, “what happened?”
“It’s okay Kayla. I was just telling Leigh how much I love spending time with my grandsons even though they wear me out,” he laughed. “I love that they trust us enough to confide in Mom and me, it's a great honour.” Kayla closed her eyes and swallowed audibly.
“We are old fashioned and set in our ways so you can imagine what a shock I got when the boys implied that the two of you were a couple,” Mum added. “I was really upset. I wanted to do the usual rant and rave but I had to think of the boys. So I just watched and the more I watched the more I kind of understood. I admit to thinking, if only Kayla was a man, they would make a beautiful couple, but you are not and you never will be. And besides I love you just the way you are.”
“As I said to Leigh, I never liked Scott no matter how much of a good impression he tried to convey, he had no respect for us as her parents. Leigh was young and in love and she fought us all the way so eventually we gave in,” Dad continued.
“I have never really apologised for that,” I said wiping my eyes, Kayla’s arm wrapped securely around my shoulder. “It was terribly disrespectful and even if he didn’t think so, I knew better. I should have insisted he do the right thing.”
“That is all, thankfully, in the past. My point is, I can't help but like you Kayla. You are a good and honourable person. I have noticed the change in my daughter and grandson and it does a father’s heart good to know that he never has to worry again because, without a shadow of a doubt, his most precious gifts are well taken care of.”
“Mr B, we didn’t plan this,” Kayla explained, the emotion evident in her voice. “We were just friends and honestly neither of us was looking for a new relationship. I can't help loving Leigh, it was impossible to try to pretend that I didn't but for her sake, I did and we were all miserable.”
“Mom, Dad, it had nothing to do with her being a woman. It’s not as if I decided to switch teams because Scott did a number on me. Kayla makes me feel special, loved beyond measure, safe, worthy, she is my equal in every way. I love her with all that I am.”
“That is plainly clear. You take very good care of your family Kayla and there is no doubt that you four are a family,” Mum acknowledged. “Give us time to get used to it. We will never disown you, you are part of this family, but I think you know that things will be difficult out in the world; I hope you are prepared for that. I’m not so sure that I am but I promise to try.”
“From my experience, you can never really be prepared for hate but we have spoken to the boys and we have to take it one day, one situation at a time. I can't tell you how much your support means to us, to me. I have so much love and respect for you both. My family disowned me when I was eighteen but you have become family for Liam and I,” Kayla said. “Mr B I swear on my honour I have always treated your daughter with respect and I insisted on courting her the right way.”
“Painfully so,” I joked rolling my eyes. “I started to feel sixteen all over again.”
“You are so worth it, Love,” she smiled.
The boys came looking for us; they sensed that something significant was discussed and instinctively stood behind and wrapped their arms around our shoulders.
“What’s going on Mom,” Joel asked uneasily. Liam laid his head on my shoulder.
“Nothing much Hun. Why don’t you boys have some cake then get your stuff together; we are going soon,” Kayla said. Reassured they ran from the room, treats in hand and making enough noise to raise the dead. Mum laughed saying how quiet and peaceful the house would be with the boys gone, but within half an hour she would miss them. We had coffee and cupcakes and talked about general things then gathered ourselves and the boys, said our goodbyes and went home with lighter hearts.
Kayla put the boys to bed and read them a story. I made hot chocolate and waited on the couch, snuggled under the blanket. Kayla had recently downloaded a few lesbian movies for me to watch and I had ‘Better than Chocolate’ waiting on the screen. She snugged up behind me and sipped her chocolate. We both knew there was still so much to figure out but my parents’ reaction was rather overwhelming and enough had been said for one night. We watched in companionable silence enjoying the feel of each other.
Tomorrow we would deal with the world; tonight we could just be together.
‘Decide that you want it more than you are afraid of it.’
It was Saturday morning and raining, which meant the boys were cooped up inside, driving me mad. Kayla and Liam were moving in, officially, so Kayla had to box everything up and bring it over. We stored the caravan in Dad’s garage while Mum and I renovated it. Kayla bought a new bunk bed for the boy’s room and the delivery people were bringing it in. The morning was already so hectic and to make it worse, Charlie and Rachel were coming for supper and I still needed to get to the shops.
“BOYS! SIT ON THAT COUCH AND DON’T MOVE!” I shouted. I stuck in a DVD without even asking their preference and went to the kitchen to see what I could make for supper. Kayla arrived and was unloading boxes, which they thought gave them license to move. “I SAID DON’T MOVE”, I pointed menacingly at them. Kayla stored the boxes in the corner of our room until we sorted through them then went to check on the delivery people setting up the bunk.
“They are almost done,” she said wrapping her arms around my waist, “ten minutes tops.”
“There’s nothing to make for supper, I need to go to the shop,” I said rather irritated.
“Baby, please, relax. It's just supper and it's just Charlie and Rachel. Anything you make is fabulous; maybe biryani or curry?”
“I don’t mean to be obtuse but Sundance doesn’t look like he could handle curry and I’m not sure about Rachel, they are…you know…white.” Kayla laughed so hard, she almost toppled us both over. The delivery people were ready to leave and Kayla signed the delivery note without letting go of me. Two of the young men snickered and made comments about our lifestyle in isiZulu, which I partially understood.
Kayla, I learned in that moment, could cuss like a sailor in isiZulu, which left some very embarrassed men scurrying out the door.
“You speak Zulu? With a Zulu accent!”
“Ngiyakuthanda, sthandwa sami (I love you baby)”.
“Ngiyakuthanda nawe (I love you too)”.
I had decided to make mutton curry, rice, and salad for supper and soji for dessert. Kayla assured me that the ‘whities’ could handle it. I admonished her for her racist comments but she insisted I started it.
Charlie arrived with Rachel promptly at 7pm laden with gifts for the boys and beer for the adults. He helped them build their wooden cars and Kayla promised they would paint them tomorrow.
Rachel was a very pleasant woman, my height but extremely athletic, she had muscles where I didn’t even know muscles existed. I suppose being a personal trainer required you to be in tiptop shape to inspire your clients. She was down to earth, easy going and laughed all the time; a very good match for Charlie. Surprisingly, she wasn't fussy about what she ate and not shy to dish a second helping of anything. I liked her.
The boys loved Charlie; he was just an overgrown kid himself. They begged him to tell them a story before bed while Rachel insisted on helping with the dishes.
Kayla put on some music and we gathered in the lounge with coffee and biscuits. “What do you feed those kids? They are like Eveready batteries, man I feel old,” he laughed.
“They are too precious, I promised to get them guest passes for the pool at the gym, it’s heated,” Rachel said snuggling up to Charlie. “I’m sure you wouldn’t mind the alooooone time,” she teased wiggling her eyebrows.
“I’m sure I could find a way for us to relax, without too much effort,” Kayla teased. I felt the blush rise. I prayed for a change of subject but instead she leaned closer and nuzzled my ear, “I definitely want to make you scream my name,” she whispered. Charlie and Rachel laughed their heads off as I turned beet red.
“Have you thought about Dad’s party?”
“Charlie…” There was a knock on the door; neither Kayla nor I were expecting anyone and Mum and Dad would call first.
“It must be Tony," Charlie admitted getting up to answer the door, “he was going to drop some parts off since I was here”.
“Don’t tell me you are still restoring that old Datsun. Give it up already; it’s been almost ten years," Kayla hollered.
“Isn’t that when I last saw you?” Kayla stiffened and gripped the thigh she was holding. I moved to greet our new guest. SHIT! Clarissa! There was no mistaking the resemblance. She was as tall and beautiful; where Kayla was muscular and athletic, Clarissa was petite and feminine. “Hey sis,” she smiled.
The room was deathly quiet; Charlie stood beside Clarissa, almost protectively, trying to gauge what Kayla’s next move would be. Kayla didn’t move or say a word; she just stared at her sister.
“Um, hi, I’m Leigh, can I get you something to drink,” I asked shaking the proffered hand.
“Thanks, I’ll have whatever you’re having.”
“Please sit, make yourself at home.” Charlie winked, thanking me for making the effort. I was worried about Kayla, maybe this was too much too soon, and to ambush her was a bad idea; a horribly, terrible idea. J#sus Charlie!
In two shakes of a ducks tail, Kayla was with me in the kitchen, leaning against the counter while I made coffee; her posture very defensive. “That’s my sister, Clarissa,” she whispered scuffing the tip of her slipper on the floor. We could hear whispered conversation in the lounge.
“I know baby. Are you okay?” She shrugged her shoulders. I unfolded her arms across her chest and stepped closer, instinctively she closed them around me. “I am right here with you, I’m not going anywhere.”
“Promise?” I crossed my heart and winked. Joel had taught Liam and Kayla our special sign when we first became friends. That smile that I loved so much appeared, if only briefly. Her whole body was wound up tighter than a tension spring. “I’m scared,” she said, teary eyes focusing on mine.
“It was brave of her to come here, not knowing what your reaction might be. Give it a chance, you can dictate what happens and how fast, but give it a chance or you might regret it.”
“They are staring at us from the lounge aren’t they?”
“Probably, this is a small house and I don’t hear them talking anymore,” I smiled.
“Want to give them something to talk about?” she wiggled her eyebrows playfully.
“Ha, not on your life.” I put my hands on her chest and tried to push her away. She pulled me closer and placed a chaste kiss on my lips.
“Have I told you today, that I love you?”
“Yes, in Zulu, and with an accent.” There’s the laugh I love so much.
Everyone sat in silence drinking their coffee and nibbling on ginger biscuits. Charlie opened his mouth to say something a few times but closed it again. It was so quiet that you could hear the CD player shuffle. Clarissa sat opposite Kayla stealing glances every now and then.
As much as I was itching to break the ice, I knew this was something they had to work through. Pushing Kayla was counterproductive and one ambush per night was more than enough. She was feeling insecure enough as it was and she just needed me to be on her side no matter what.
“Mommy,” Liam called exiting the room. “I’m not feeling well.” He climbed into my lap and laid his head on my shoulder. I put my lips to his forehead; he was slightly warm but not a temperature.
“What’s the matter baby?” Kayla got up to get him some cold water while I undid the buttons of his pyjama top. His body was quite warm but he was wearing long pyjamas and was under blankets. “Is it your tummy?” He shook his head and pointed to the back of his head. “Love, bring the Nurofen please,” I called to her in the kitchen, “he has a headache”. Kayla gave him the medicine and some cold water to wash the thick syrup down. He snuggled closer and dozed off.
“Is he okay?” Charlie asked. “Maybe we should go.”
“He will be fine, finish your coffee,” Kayla insisted.
“Mommy what happened to Liam,” Joel stood behind the couch and wrapped his little arms around Kayla’s neck. Blurry eyes made sure his brother was okay, and then laid his head on Kayla’s shoulder and fell fast asleep while standing up. After a moment of silence, the room burst into giggles.
“That’s my son; he doesn’t let a little thing like comfort get in the way of a good sleep,” Kayla teased wiping the drool off her neck. With Rachel’s help, Kayla extricated herself from Joel’s grip and carried him to bed while Charlie took Liam.
“That was Liam? He’s gotten so big?” Clarissa said. “And the other little boy must be Joel. Charlie keeps us up to date,” she said in response to my puzzled look.
“Is everyone up for more coffee and soji?” Approving nods sent me on my way with Clarissa offering to help.
“Thank you for making me feel so welcome.”
“Clarissa,” I said turning to face her. “I don’t know everything that happened but I know it hurt Kayla terribly. She doesn’t talk about her family at all and I respect that. If you are here to make amends then that is great, family is important, but if you or anyone in your family ever hurts her again… I swear on everything in heaven and on earth the plagues of Egypt will look like a Halloween prank by the time I am done.”
Well what do you know; she looks just like Kayla when she is afraid.
‘In matters of style, swim with the current: in matters of principle, stand like a rock’- Thomas Jefferson
It was almost a mission impossible, getting the boys ready for school. First day back and it was a Monday, a double dose of blues. Kayla insisted that I take the van to work from now on and she would get a ride to work with a colleague who lived nearby.
“A little, after today, our relationship will no longer be a secret; the boys calling us both Mom, me driving your van, changing Liam’s address and next of kin information.”
“Ha, not a chance Johnson. I love you too much.”
“You are beyond awesome, you know that?” There was no time for kissing but I didn’t care, it was so worth it and I had no intention of rushing.
“You better get your sons in gear,” I suggested reluctantly pulling away. With one last teasing kiss, she was out the door hollering for the boys like a drill sergeant.
I parked the van in the teachers’ parking lot. A few teachers had just arrived as well. The boys gathered their bags and waited patiently as I gathered mine. We walked towards their classroom, greeting a few colleagues along the way. I kissed them outside their classroom and had a chat with Elaine while they joined their classmates.
“Bye babies,” I hollered ready to go.
“Bye Mummy,” they chorused earning a raised eyebrow from Elaine.
“We are definitely catching up at lunch,” she teased bumping my shoulder. I smiled going to the office to pick up my mail and change the boys’ paperwork.
Theresa Bailey was at reception. I greeted her and then asked for the forms necessary to change personal information for both boys and myself. Theresa kept trying to peep at what I was writing. She would see it soon enough, she had to file it after all and that would start the rumour mill turning. I handed the forms to her noting the stifled gasp as I retrieved my mail from the cubby. So it began, by the end of the day it would be all over the faculty and parent body.
A feeling of dread tingled over my body, this was not going to go well, but I owed it to my family to be brave and proud. Squaring my shoulders, I marched down the corridor towards my classroom praying that this day went well.
The first PTA meeting of the term was thankfully a month later. As I had suspected, by the end of the first school day everyone knew or thought they knew. There were whispers and sniggers from faculty and parents, some people avoided me outright while others were curious. So far, no one wanted to remove their little girls from my class, in case I corrupted them. The boys also seemed to have evaded any major disruption.
It made me very nervous; things were going unexpectedly too well. I at least expected Eleanor and her gaggle to say, I told you so. It didn’t seem to bother Kayla too much; she felt we should worry only if and when we had to instead of living in anticipatory fear. So life went on as usual; work, home, lunch with my parents on Sundays. We were happy.
Anita Pillay was one of the first parents to arrive. We enjoyed working together at the dance and kept in contact via email. “You know the rumours are going around but I want to know the truth from you,” she said placing her bag on the seat next to mine.
“So? Is it true?”
“Is what true,” I sighed dreading this conversation.
“Leigh, I would like to think that we have become friends since the dance. You know how I feel about rumours so I’m asking you, are you and Kayla a couple?” Elaine had joined us and was sitting on the other side of me.
“Yes Anita, it is true. Kayla and I are a couple. We live together with our sons.” Elaine wrapped an arm around my shoulders.
“Does that bother you Anita?” Elaine asked.
“Are you kidding me!” she wrapped me up in a hug, eyes sparkling with glee.
“I think both of you are fabulous and deserve happiness. Besides, I won a R200 bet with my sister-in-law. I saw the sparks between you at the dance and she thought I was insane so we took a bet.” We laughed at the absurdity and went to fill our cups. “So how are that lot behaving,” she indicated Eleanor and her brood.
“Not a word. Kayla doesn't seem to be worried but I think it’s the calm before the storm. It’s going too well, I expected major repercussions.
“It’s the twenty first century; it just isn’t that big a deal anymore.”
“I don’t believe that for one second,” Elaine said. "That lot are up to something so keep your eyes open and your back against the wall. It’s not such a bad idea to figure out who is really on your side.”
“What is the worst they could do? Spread rumours; get me fired? I know Eleanor is still upset about me chastising her at the dance in front of her subjects but I can’t, I won’t live in fear; waiting for something to happen. I can be vigilant and rely on my friends to keep me informed but I will not be a prisoner.”
“You have the law on your side and more friends than you know. Don’t worry, we have your back,” Anita assured me.
The principal called the meeting to order and we discussed potential fundraisers for the third term.
“Hi, can I please speak to Leigh.”
“One moment please. Mommy there is a lady on the phone for you."
“One-minute babe I just need to wash my hands. Hello?”
“Hi Leigh, it’s Clarissa. How are you?”
“I’m good and how are you?”
“Good thanks. I was wondering if we could get together for coffee, lunch, or something. I really need to talk to you.”
“Is everything okay?”
“Sort of, it’s a long story and I don’t really want to discuss it over the phone but I really need your help.”
“Uh… okay. When?”
“My schedule is flexible so you tell me when is convenient for you.”
“How about Thursday at 3pm; the Mug and Bean at Pavillion.”
“That’s perfect. Thank you Leigh.”
“You do know that I am going to tell Kayla about this.”
“That’s okay. I think there have been enough secrets in this situation. Thanks again, see you on Thursday.”
“Bye.” I wonder what that is all about. Just then, I heard the boys get excited. Kayla was home and I hoped she would take the news of our meeting well.
“Hey baby,” she greeted, kissing me. “What’s wrong?”
“Now what would make you think anything is wrong?” I answered brushing my lips against hers. The resulting moan was encouraging.
“I know that particular frown so give it up.”
“Clarissa and I are having coffee on Thursday.” Kayla noticeably stiffened. “Not to worry Love, it’s just a casual chat.”
“Are you okay with that?”
“Yes. Are you?”
“I don’t know,” she replied, sighing loudly.
“I’m on your side, Love, all the way.”
“I know and thank you,” she smiled. “Now what is for dinner and how fast can we get our kids into bed.” The low, throaty growl was all the invitation necessary.
Clarissa was eagerly waiting when I arrived. She looked nervous and I swear she was sweating buckets. I indicated to the waiter that I would be joining Clarissa and he followed me with a menu. “Hi,” I greeted taking the seat the young man had pulled out for me.
“Ahh hey,” she replied almost spilling her coffee. Our waiter cleared the cups away.
“Can I take your order or do you need a little more time?” he asked.
“I’ll have a large cappuccino with a carrot muffin. How about you?”
“I think I’ve had enough coffee,” she replied, “I’ll have a ham and cheese toasted sandwich and an iced tea”. She fidgeted with the table settings then folded and re-folded the napkin.
“Clarissa.” I reached over to stop her hands from moving. “You need to calm down. Okay? Just talk to me.”
“I want my sister back. After seeing her the other night, I can’t stop thinking about her. I know it’s unfair for me to push it but she was my hero.”
“I don’t mean to sound harsh and I certainly don’t know the whole story but why did you wait so long?”
“I was a kid. My parents made us believe that Kayla abandoned the family without reason. Even when Charlie made contact with her again, I couldn’t forgive her for leaving me behind. I didn’t understand why she would just leave.” Tears spilled from her eyes and she forcefully wiped them away. “I was nineteen when Charlie told me what Mum and Dad had done and why.” The tears continued to roll silently down her cheeks. “I tried so many times but I didn’t know how to take that first step. So I contented myself with hearing stories from Charlie.”
“What made you come over the other night?” Before she could answer, the waiter arrived with our order. Clarissa wiped her eyes and tucked into her sandwich. I thought it best to let her take the lead. We said no more until after our table was cleared and I insisted on paying.
“I’m sorry for dumping all my emotions on you Leigh. You barely know me and you have been so gracious.”
“Come home with me.”
“You heard. Nothing will ever be resolved if you two keep dancing around each other. The boys are at my mom’s place; Kayla will be home at 5:30pm.”
“What if she doesn’t want anything to do with me?”
“Then you will deal with it.”
“Baby I’m home,” Kayla bellowed, “and starving.” She walked right into Clarissa drinking tea on the couch.
“Hey, where’s Leigh,” she asked putting her knapsack down.
“I’m here Love.” I answered coming out of the bedroom and kissing her. “Clarissa is joining us for supper.”
“Oh, that’s nice. Where are the boys?” The panic was obvious and her body was tense so she could flee if necessary. Clarissa wasn't fairing any better. A light sheen of sweat covered her face and her hands trembled. I knew I shouldn’t interfere but it was driving me crazy.
“Okay, sit. Clarissa, say something.” Her eyes almost popped out of her head. “Okay, I’ll start. Baby, Clarissa felt abandoned when you left for no reason. Your parents played innocent and made you the villain. It was only when she was nineteen that Charlie told her the real story and she’s been trying to find a way to come back into your life since.” There was a deathly silence, both heads staring at the floor.
“I would never abandon you.” Kayla said it so quietly I almost missed it and I was sitting next to her. “I tried to call and send letters but Mom or Dad always seemed to intercept them so eventually I just stopped trying.”
“I thought you didn’t love me anymore. I kept asking if they knew where you were and why they were not trying to get you back home,” Clarissa explained. “Dad exploded one night and that was the last we ever spoke about it, then a few years later Charlie said he saw you in a bar but I figured if you didn’t want us why should I bother. I was a stupid kid and I’m sorry.” She started to cry. Kayla went to sit next to her and wrapped her up in her arms.
They held each other and cried.
‘Your value doesn’t decrease based on someone’s inability to see your worth’
The term progressed particularly slowly and spring was in the air, which meant rain season was on the way. Kayla was contracted to replace the roof on the office block and took the week off work to complete it. Having Kayla come in with us, every morning was very exciting for the boys and nerve wrecking for me.
It seemed that as long as our relationship was out of sight it was okay but now that they saw us every day, it was too much to bare. It wasn’t as if we touched or even kissed in public but clearly the smiles, winks, laughing and us having lunch together was a step too far out of the closet for some.
Mr Fraser called Kayla and I into the office after school. He fiddled in his chair unsure of where to start so instead made small talk about the repairs. He seemed happy with the progress they were making.
“Mrs El…Miss Burton and Miss Johnson I wanted to make you aware that I have been approached by some of the parents. They are uncomfortable with having you on the premises at the same time due to the nature of your relationship.” He wiped his face with his handkerchief. “Look Leigh and Kayla, I have no problem with your work or your relationship and I have never seen anything inappropriate. I don’t mean inappropriate for a gay couple, I mean inappropriate for any couple. I feel you both have gone out of your way to be super professional. I just wanted to give you a heads up that there are rumblings.”
“Eleanor James and her gaggle of gossipers, I suppose.” He nodded. “To tell the truth, I’m surprised that it didn’t happen earlier.” Kayla sensed the tension in me and reached over to link our fingers.
“Can Leigh lose her job over this?”
“Technically no, but they can make it very uncomfortable," he answered honestly.
“What are they planning?”
“Well they’ve come to me and I've told them what I just told you. Elton James serves on the school governing body so I assume that will be their next move. They might ask for an investigation but I see no basis for it. Legally they cannot do anything. How far they want to take this depends on how far their reach is in the department.
“Thank you Mr Fraser for your support and for the ‘heads up'," I sighed, feeling a serious migraine coming on.
“What do you suggest we do Mr Fraser?” Kayla asked shifting nervously in her seat. I could sense her agitation and tried to ease her worry by rubbing my thumb over her knuckles.
“That is up to you. Legally, Leigh cannot and will not be fired. I assume they want to ‘out’ you to all the parents at the next AGM meeting.” He wiped his forehead with his handkerchief and sipped from the glass of water on his desk. “We cannot predict how the parents will react. We can only hope that in 2014 people are more accepting of diversity. Of course they are hoping for the opposite”
“Yeah right”, Kayla snorted. “So basically we’re screwed.”
“I’m sorry Love, but this just drives me insane. What gives them the right to tell us how we should live? We are not doing anything inappropriate in front of anyone let alone the kids. Why are they doing this? What do they have to gain by making you leave? Maybe I’m being stupid but I don’t get it.” Kayla rubbed her forehead, a clear sign of her rising anger.
“I agree with you Love, but getting angry isn’t going to help. Now getting even is a very different story.”
“What do you mean Miss Burton?” I looked between Kayla and Mr Fraser and smiled. “I suspect that Eleanor has something very big to hide, that’s why she keeps diverting the attention onto others’ misfortune.”
“No. I will never stoop to her level but we can stop her for good. She’s nothing more than a playground bully and its time someone stood up to her.” I stood up taking Kayla with me as a plan started to formulate in my mind. “Thanks for all your help Mr Fraser”.
We had just left the office when I pulled out my phone and started dialling.
Kayla made another round of coffee for our guests. I hadn’t stopped making calls since we left Mr Fraser’s office. After supper, the boys went to their room to watch a movie. Anita Singh and Elaine Beatty arrived, spitting scorpions at the injustice of the situation. I laid out my plan to get the dirt on Eleanor and rally support from all her previous victims. Now they were all on their phones and laptops rallying the troops.
Kayla carried the tray to the coffee table and returned to the kitchen. I knew she was feeling useless, like she couldn’t help in any way. She didn’t make friends with anyone at the school. Although always polite, she was too afraid to let anyone get close just to be hurt later. Now she felt useless and had little confidence in the plan.
“Hey, you okay.” Anita asked from the counter. Kayla turned and plastered on a fake smile.
“I’m good thanks. Did you need anything?”
“More milk please.” Kayla poured milk into the jug and warmed it in the microwave watching as the seconds ticked away. “We’re not just doing this for Leigh you know.” Kayla turned and placed the jug of milk on the counter. “You are a good person Kayla and you don’t deserve this. Don’t be so afraid to let some of us in.” Anita picked up the jug, “I really hope we can be friends.”
The interaction brought tears to my eyes. I was thrilled that my friends were supportive of Kayla as an individual and not just as my girlfriend. She needed that, to know that others see her worth.
Kayla was contemplative as we got ready for bed. She watched me put on my pj’s and go through my nightly routine before climbing in next to her. “Hey what are you thinking about so intensely,” I whispered noticing the furrow between her brows. She turned to face me and pulled our bodies closer.
"Anita’s advice really struck a note with me and I realised I was holding on to the past. My parents, Melissa; I'm allowing them to mould my life still up to now." She kissed me and snuggled closer. "We have two healthy, smart, beautiful boys sleeping in the next room. Rose and Pat took us in and treated us like family, your parents, Ashley, Charlton, Shannon, Nina, Robbie, Anita and Elaine. All these people who aren’t my blood relatives but that want to be a part of my life."
She bent her head and captured my lips, savouring the feel and taste of them. I responded without hesitation sensing my love needed tangible reassurance of our commitment to each other.
I understood Kayla’s abandonment issues. Hell, I had a few issues of my own, didn’t everyone, but I was determined that whatever we have to face we would do it together with love, patience and understanding.
We made love; slow, tentative, passionate love. No words were necessary. Giving yourself unconditionally to someone and trusting them to honour that is the greatest gift of all.
‘Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced’ – Lucille Ball
The school hall filled with parents arriving for the annual AGM. I was one of the teachers assigned to greet parents at the door. I noticed Kayla come in through the side door and stand along the back wall waiting for me. She knew, from the meeting we had on Monday night, that everyone who supported us would be arriving early and occupying seats on the left side of the hall. I heard her name shouted above the hum of voices. Anita and Elaine stood in the front waving her over. She smiled and waved back then proceeded towards them.
Anita and Elaine hugged her then introduced some of the parents and teachers sitting with them. Kayla felt awkward having all these people willing to stand up for her yet she had made so little effort to get to know them. She smiled, shook hands, and accepted hugs thanking them for their support and looked very relieved when I joined her.
Mr Fraser stood at the podium and called the meeting to order. Those milling around took their seats and the hum of voices silenced. I sat next to Kayla and took her hand knowing she would keep me grounded. On the stage sat Elton and Eleanor James, Peter Fraser and Timothy Fynn. The purpose of the meeting was to give a report on the year gone and plans for the year ahead.
There was usually a question and answer session right at the end; this is where Eleanor would have the opportunity to voice her ‘concerns’.
Peter gave a general report on the school highlighting the achievements of clubs, organisations, teams, and individual students. He briefly discussed planned events until the end of the year and implored parents to encourage their children to participate. He then invited Eleanor to give her report on the PTA.
Eleanor had a fake smile and was far too chirpy. Kayla laid a hand on my thigh to quell my agitation. “I want to rip her head off and shove it up her…”
“Shh…” Kayla interrupted patting my hand. Eleanor ended her speech with thanks to each member of the PTA committee and a round of applause from the parents. I could swear that she smirked when she said my name, which only served to make my blood reach boiling point.
Elton James spoke about upgrades and repairs made and a plan to improve the school then handed over to Timothy to discuss details of how they used the finances and reasons for the increase in fees for next year.
Soon Peter was back at the podium opening the floor to the parents to ask questions, propose changes, or comment on anything they wish.
I squeezed Kayla’s hand so tight that it started to go numb. I didn’t pay too much attention to the various parents making complaints or queries. Instead, I kept my eyes on Eleanor. She kept looking at her watch and communicating with someone in the audience.
Before the next line of parents approached the microphone, Eleanor stood and approached the podium. “Mr Fraser, a few parents have come to me, as chairperson of the PTA, with a dire concern.” Here she cleared her throat and straightened her blouse. “It seems that there is an in appropriate relationship between a teacher and parent. Some of the parents are concerned about the type of message this will send to the students.” One of Eleanor’s gaggle approached the stage with an envelope in hand. Eleanor took it and smiled, then returned to her speech.
“We have prepared an official complaint with testimonies from concerned parents. It is eyewitness accounts of inappropriate, public displays by these two perpetrators before, during and after school. Mr Fraser, we entrust our complaint to you and know you will do what is best for the school and the many students that attend.” A round of applause went up from her supporters as she re-took her seat.
Elton approached the podium with the envelope in hand. “Thank you Mrs James. I will read over your prepared document and take the appropriate steps. As chairperson of the PTA though, you should have known that this was not the appropriate forum for your complaint especially when it regards a member of my staff." Peter paused for a moment and looked across the sea of parents before him. “When I was appointed principal three years ago, it was a dream come true. This was one of the first schools to diversify by appointing teachers of colour. It was also the first school to include students of colour on its roster."
"It is my sincerest wish that we continue our legacy of tolerance and diversity for many years to come. Thank you parents and teachers for attending our annual AGM. Goodnight and drive safely.”
“That wasn’t too bad,” Anita acquiesced. “At least we know their plan.”
“To get me fired…”
“It’s not going to happen Leigh," Peter interrupted. “I’ll read over this tonight. You and Kayla meet me in my office tomorrow morning before school.”
“Thanks Mr Fraser,” Kayla said stretching out her hand to shake his.
“No thanks necessary.” Everyone said their goodbyes and went home.
The ride home was silent. Kayla was brooding, I was angry and neither of us wanted to give up our particular emotion just yet. Kayla parked the van on the kerb outside Mum and Dad's. We sat in silence for a while longer then Kayla abruptly left the car. I watched as she paced mumbling to herself, then she turned and slammed her hands down on the bonnet of the car repeatedly. I had never seen this side of her and it scared me a little. Kayla was always cool about everything, I was the hot head. I exited the car cautiously.
“Shit! SHIT! Why? Every time things are going well there’s something new to fuck it, up. For fuck sakes, what do you want from me? Huh? What!” She looked up ranting to the sky.
“Baby? Baby!” Kayla didn't respond, instead she kicked the tyre. I stepped between her and the abused tyre. “Baby,” I said taking her face in my hands and forcing her to make eye contact. The hurt and insecurity I saw shining out of those beautiful eyes broke my heart. I wrapped my arms around my girlfriend, trying with all I had to protect her. Kayla’s body was rigid and tense. She made no move to hug me back so I just held on for as long as she needed. Over Kayla’s shoulder, I saw Dad exit the kitchen door and go back inside again.
Soon the rigid frame began to relax and arms came up to wrap around me in a fierce hug. “I’m sorry Love. I didn’t mean to scare you.”
“Shh. It’s okay. I’m not scared.”
“You forget how well I know you,” she smiled, placing kisses wherever her lips could reach.
“And I know you, Baby. I could never be afraid of you,” I assured her. “You have been the one holding it together all this time for my sake, I’m glad you are finally letting it out.”
“What are we going to do, Leigh?”
“Go inside, have a cup of tea, talk with the folks a little, entertain our sons a little then we are going home, putting the boys to bed, getting naked and making love until…”
“Until?” I smiled and kissed the woman I loved, deeply.
I lay on Kayla’s stomach as it growled and kissed the offending area. “Hungry?”
“What time is it?” Kayla tilted her head to see the read out on the digital clock.
“2:24am.” I crawled up and lay beside her. She quickly pretended to be asleep so I tweaked her nipple.
“No, please, no more,” Kayla teased, “I’m dehydrated and starved, energy levels are rapidly depleting; mayday, mayday.” I straddled her hips and pinned her arms above her head. She was so strong that she could easily move if she wanted to. I teased Kayla’s nipples until moans of pleasure soon replaced the dramatic complaining.
"Mmm don't stop."
“I love you,” I declared, looking her in the eye. “You are the love of my life and nothing and no-one can ever change that.”
“I love you too, Baby and I’ll be damned if I let anyone destroy what we have. I will protect this family with my last breath, I promise you.”
Peter Fraser met us early the next morning in his office. "I've read over the file and yes it is a file. Basically it's not a complaint about your relationship but a complaint concerning inappropriate displays of affection. They know that legally they cannot discriminate against you being a same sex couple."
"It’s crap," Kayla huffed.
"I agree. It's vindictive rubbish. I can't give you the names of the complainants but..." He opened the envelope and removed some papers. "This one saw you kiss in the parking lot in the morning. This one saw you holding hands during a lunch break while walking to your van. This one is the best, 'an intimate touch on the corridor while the children were lined up outside the classroom.’ He laughed. “This is all ridiculous and I am going to tell them so.”
“That won’t be the end of it. You know they are going to try and take this as far as they can go,” I said.
“I know, that is why you are going to demand a meeting. I think we need to call these bigots out on their bullshit.” It surprised me how upset he was about the whole thing but I was just so grateful that he was on our side.
“What kind of meeting,” Kayla asked cautiously. “The last thing I want is for our family to be in the spotlight.”
“I assure you it will just be an opportunity for you to face your accusers. If Leigh has any pertinent information, then that will be the time to share it.” I smiled knowing this was going to be a mudslinging contest.
“So this is going to be a mudslinging contest,” Kayla said.
“No Love, but no one is squeaky clean and they are trying to say we are morally offensive. Well I am happy to show that they have immoral dirt in their own back yard.”
“Yes but that is not showing them that our lifestyle is not immoral. It’s just saying that their immorality is equal to ours. Is that the message, the example we want to set for the boys?”
“Then what do you want me to do, Love?”
“I don’t know, but not this; we are better than this.” She was right and I knew it but I wanted Eleanor to hurt for what she was putting us through.
The boys were playing ‘need for speed’ on Charlie’s PlayStation. Rachel and I were putting the finishing touches on dinner. Rachel had taken the boys to her gym to play in the pool and invited us for supper when we picked them up. Charlie was finishing a shift at the beach and would be home before supper.
They lived in a bachelor flat on the beach which made it very convenient for both of them for work.
“Hey Leigh, is Kayla okay?” I looked towards my brooding girlfriend sitting on the couch nursing a beer.
“No, she’s not but she’s trying to be strong even when she doesn’t have to.”
“What happened? Are you guys okay?” she asked very concerned.
“Yeah, we’re fine but we’re having some trouble at school.” Rachel turned off the stove and guided me towards their bedroom which was divided from the rest of the flat by a screen.
“Talk to me.”
“It’s just difficult and every time I think about it I get pissed off.” Rachel sat us both on the bed and took my hand. She waited patiently for me to continue. I knew how closed off Kayla was from her family and wasn’t sure if she wanted them to be privy to our problem. “You know Kayla has been contracting at the school lately, doing repairs to the buildings.” Rachel nodded. “Some of the parents and staff have laid a formal complaint to the principal about us. Well actually, inappropriate public displays of affection.”
“Oh you’ve got to be kidding me. It’s 2014 for goodness sake.”
“I know but some people remain closed minded. The bitch leading the charge is co-chair of the PTA and her husband is chairman of the school governing body.” I could feel the frustration build all over again. I wanted to lash out. Rachel squeezing my hand grounded me and I took a few deep breaths to calm my nerves. “She’s a bully and I put her in her place a couple of times so now she’s out for revenge.”
“Bitch! They can’t do anything to you, its discrimination. You can sue the pants off them for wrongful dismissal. You should get a lawyer and nail the bastards.” I almost laughed at the way Rachel took up our cause and was willing to fight alongside us.
“Relax. I’m not being dismissed. The principal is on our side. Actually we have staff and parents on our side as well. They are ready to take up arms and fight for us.”
“Well you just add Charlie and I to that team.”
“Thanks, it means a lot. Actually Peter Fraser, our principal wants us to call a meeting with these accusers. Call them out on their bullshit. He thinks they will crumble if we face them head on and demand they clarify their accusations.”
“When is this meeting?”
“We haven’t decided if we are going to do it.” Rachel’s eyes became wide as saucers. “Kayla is reluctant. She doesn’t want this to turn into a mudslinging contest.”
“Kayla is too noble," Rachel said knowingly.
“I know,” I smiled “and it’s sexy as hell.” I lowered my head a little shameful of the feelings coursing through me. “I want them to hurt Rach. For what they are doing to my family, I want to destroy them.”
Charlie’s raucous arrival tabled our conversation. We joined the rest of the family in the living room. Kayla was smiling at her brother’s antics with the boys. I helped Rachel serve dinner and we sat down to a lovely meal. The conversation was light and the joy plentiful.
After a few more hours of PlayStation games which included the adults, we said our goodbyes. Rachel hugged me a little longer and tighter. “No worries,” she whispered, “we are all in this together.”
‘Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak. Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen’
The hall filled up slowly with the divisions clearly defined by those sitting on the right and left. Eleanor was like a presidential candidate at a rally, shaking hands and smiling falsely.
Kayla sat nervously beside me. I put my hand on her knee to stop them from nervously shaking. “Relax love, it will be okay.”
“Will it? Look at them, their out for blood. This was a bad idea.”
“Look behind you.” Kayla turned to the rows of parents and teachers sitting behind them. A few waved and smiled and showed her the ‘thumbs up’. “Those people are here for us.” Kayla smiled and took a deep breath.
“I’m sorry love, I’m not helping am I?” she said. “I just don’t want your career to be marred by this forever. You love teaching.”
“I love you,” I said touching her cheek. “I don’t care about anything else but you, our boys and our family. I can handle anything with you by my side.” Just then Mum and Dad entered the hall through the side entrance and sat next to us.
Peter Fraser stood at the podium calling the meeting to order. “Ladies and gentleman, if you would kindly take your seats.” Eleanor and Elton sat in the front row alone, while their entourage sat behind. “At the annual AGM a complaint was brought to my attention concerning an inappropriate relationship between a teacher and parent. I have since read over the complaint and find it to be baseless and rather vindictive in nature. There is nothing in this report which indicates that any laws have been broken or honour codes breached, nor are there any two statements which corroborate each other. I, myself have witnessed the interaction of these two individuals and while it is clear they love each other, I have never witnessed inappropriate behaviour from them in particular. In fact I would say they have gone out of their way to be subtle.”
“That kind of relationship is immoral and we don’t want our children exposed to it,” Eleanor bellowed.
“What kind of relationship are you referring to?” Anita said, “A loving one?”
“Ladies please.” Peter’s control over the proceedings was slipping.
“Homosexuals are against God.” Supporters from both sides were slinging insults and bible verses at each other.
“People!” he shouted into the mic. “That is enough!” This seemed to shock the crowd back to their senses and they soon quieted and took their seats. “Whether you agree or not with this relationship is irrelevant, it is not against the law and therefore no action can or should be taken. This is not a religious institution.”
“I for one put my son into this school because it was so diverse. Why should that policy change?” one of our supporters said.
“Not too long ago there were people against the progression of woman and people of colour in this world. Now we are persecuting gay people? That is not Christianity,” another continued.
“The bible clearly states that moffies (derogatory Afrikaans word for gay) are an abomination,” one of theirs responded.
“I don’t want my children exposed to this shit. Next thing they will think it is okay to be gay,” another of theirs added.
“That one doesn’t even dress like a woman. It’s so obvious to the children. What do I tell my daughter, that it’s okay to want to be a boy?”
“Hey, you ignorant bigot. Don’t you dare point fingers at my girlfriend?” I was out of the chair and standing in front of this crowd of hostiles. “I am sick to death of this bullshit. I don’t give a good goddamn what you think. When your lives are perfect then come and talk to me. I do my job and I go home to my family, none of which is your damn business.” I was screaming out of control and I couldn’t stop. “You want to attack me then go ahead but you leave Kayla out of this. She is a good, decent, kind human being. She has done nothing to any of you.” The rest of the hall was quiet. Kayla stepped up beside me trying to calm the raging tiger. Just her holding my hands seemed to ground me.
“Hi,” she turned to the crowd and started to speak. “I’m Kayla Johnson, this beautiful woman’s girlfriend.” She put her arm around my shoulder. “I wasn’t too keen on this meeting because I knew it would turn out just like this; mudslinging and no one really listening to each other. I’m gay, always have been and always will be. I refuse to hide who I am. I’m also a mother and I would do anything in my power to protect my sons. Most of you don’t know me because I set it up that way. I remained aloof because I wanted to avoid this. Some of you have taken the time to get to know me since this whole thing happened and I thank you for restoring my faith in humanity.” Anita smiled and blew a kiss. "It is my experience that people are afraid of what they don’t understand and they react with fear.” I wrapped my arms around her waist. “I’m usually a very private person but if talking to me help’s you understand better then I am willing to do it.”
I pulled away from Kayla shocked at what she had said. “What are you doing?” These were not the kind of people to put yourself out there with. They would use anything you say against you. Kayla smiled nervously and kissed my forehead.
“So here I am, what do you want to know?” Dead silence filled the room. Those that were still standing took their seats looking at their neighbours to see who was brave enough to ask.
Eleanor couldn’t contain her rage any longer. “This is preposterous.”
“I agree,” Kayla replied. “I have missed an evening with my sons because I have to stand here and answer questions about my love life. It’s stupid but here we are and since it was your juvenile behaviour that brought us all here, why don’t you ask the first question?”
All faces turned to Eleanor waiting for her reply. “I don’t want or need to know anything about you.”
“Why is that?" I said enraged, "Because you know everything about Kayla?” Eleanor was quiet. “Did you know she works a full day and then attends night classes to finish her degree? Did you know she works weekends doing construction to support our family?” Murmurs could be heard around the room. “Did you know that no matter how tired she is, she always makes time for the boys even though I can see she is ready to drop from exhaustion?” I looked up into those beautiful blue eyes shining with love and prayed she saw the pride and love shining in mine. “I love you.”
“I love you.”
“Aargh disgusting,” Eleanor snorted.
“Shut it Eleanor, you wouldn’t know real love if it came and bit you in the butt,” Anita spat. There was a round of applause from our supporters. Eleanor’s side of the hall didn’t seem to be as responsive as before.
Elton James stood and adjusted his suite jacket. “As chairman of the governing body, I must tell you we are concerned about the impact this relationship will have on our children. We are also concerned that if appropriate steps are not taken then concerned, God fearing, people will start to take their children out of this school. As you know, Mr Fraser, you cannot afford to lose children or you will be closed down.”
“Is that a threat?” Peter Fraser asked defiantly.
“It is what I have been told by my friends at the education department.” He just had to throw that in so we all knew how connected he is.
“Now you just hold your horses young man,” a voice boomed from the back of the hall. A well-dressed older gentleman stepped out of the back row and made his way down the aisle, buttoning his suite jacket as he came forward. Elton James seemed to snap to attention, straightening out his attire. Peter Fraser practically ran down the stage steps with a microphone.
“Mr Mayor, it’s an honour to have you with us,” Peter said handing him the mic. I was gobsmacked; the mayor was here? How did the mayor get involved in all this? I looked to Kayla to gauge her reaction. She stood rigid as a soldier. I tugged on her hand to get her attention. The only acknowledgement that she heard me was the squeeze on my hand. She never took her eyes off the man now standing before us.
This new development unnerved me. This must be Elton James’ doing, he and Eleanor looked too thrilled with themselves. I guessed they weren’t bluffing after all. Their reach went all the way to the top.
The mayor cleared his throat and tapped the mic to make sure it was on. “Good evening ladies and gentleman, if you would indulge me for a few moments, I would greatly appreciate it.” He glanced at us and smiled before continuing. “You all must be wondering why the mayor would be interested in the goings on at your school. When I heard about this unfortunate event I knew I had to be here to add my five cents worth because this topic is close to my heart.”
He looked at Kayla with sadness in his eyes. “I am a God fearing man and like you I don’t take to change very well. Also, like you, I love my family and always want the best for them. Many years ago I discovered that my daughter, my first born, was gay.” A collective gasp could be heard. Kayla closed her eyes and a tear slipped down her cheek. “Now I love all my children but she was my child, my special angel. I had put all my hopes and dreams into her. She was intelligent; on the honour roll at school, athletic; team captain, achieved provincial colours and well on her way to playing for the national team. She being gay felt like an utter betrayal.”
He swallowed hard then took his handkerchief out of his breast pocket and wiped his face. “I already had political aspirations then and this put a spanner in the works so instead of being her father, her protector and loving her unconditionally; I became her tormenter.” I could feel Kayla shaking and saw the tears freely flowing down her face. “I sent her away to boarding school. I refused her any unsupervised contact with her siblings, who adored her,” his voice cracked as he said this. “Slowly but surely I pushed her out of our family until she graduated high school and left home and I never saw her again and that was just over ten years ago.”
The tears had filled his eyes and spilled over. “In spite of me she turned out fantastic. She is good and kind, honourable and loving. I allowed fear and my own ambitions to stand between me and my baby. I am a stubborn, old fool. I missed out on so much in her life. She is a better parent, a better person than I will ever be.” Turning to face Kayla and I he said, “Please forgive me baby. I’m so sorry. I should have protected you and instead I let you down.”
Tears streamed down both their faces. For long moments Kayla stared at her father. I felt as if I was in the twilight zone. Kayla was the mayor’s daughter? WTF! Now with them standing close together I could see the resemblance. They had the same stoic posture and soulful blue eyes.
Kayla approached him cautiously. Raising her hands, she wiped his tears away. “When did you get so old?” she croaked.
“When did you get so big?”
“Hey I’m not big, I’m tall. Really Pop, your English is terrible.” He smiled for the first time and it was clear where Kayla got her looks from.
“I love you angel pie. Please come home.”
‘My religion is kindness – Dalai Lama’
Kayla adjusted and re-adjusted her jacket then stripped it off and started to unbutton her shirt. “What are you doing?” I sat at the dressing table applying make-up.
“Nothing looks right. I have to change this shirt.” I reached her just in time to stop her ripping her buttons apart.
“Relax. It’s just a birthday party,” I said massaging the back of her neck. I kissed her chin and along her jaw, then pulled her down for a kiss. It was sweet and tender. “I love you.”
“I love you,” she replied.
“Why are you freaking out?”
“All my parents’ snooty friends will be there with their successful kids; people I used to socialise with, people I haven’t seen in years. They’ve probably wondered what happened to me and now they get to see the prodigal return with her tail between her legs.”
“Is that what you think? That you are unsuccessful and shameful?” I asked, exasperated at the return of her self-deprecating attitude.
“No, of course not. It’s what they think; it’s what they are expecting.”
“You are a hypocrite! You spurt all this, ‘stand up and be proud’ crap to the boys and I but you are just a scaredy cat.” I stomped from the room and slammed the door behind me.
Ten minutes later, she emerged with her shirt buttoned and her jacket on. She leaned over the back of the couch and kissed me on the temple. “I’m sorry,” she whispered. “You’re right, I am being a hypocrite.”
“How do you expect anyone to believe in us if you don’t?” Kayla sat next to me on the couch then taking my hand, she kissed it repeatedly. “We have to let go of the past. There is nothing we can do to change it because if we tried to change one thing, there would be no Liam and Joel and no us. Be proud of the job you do, of the person you are because the boys and I think the sun shines through you.”
Chuck welcomed us at the door, having sent his driver for my parents and us. His reasoning was that he wanted us to have a fun relaxing time without worrying about having to drive home. Kathleen, Kayla’s mother, stood behind him smiling.
Since the meeting we had spent quite a bit of time with them, having dinners, lunches and even breakfast on Sunday mornings. The whole family showed up to the meeting to support us which ended without further comment after the mayor’s speech.
Kayla’s mother was overwhelmed with emotion when she approached her daughter and refused to let go of her. My parents invited the Johnsons to their house since a school hall was hardly the place to reconnect.
At first Kayla was apprehensive and kept her walls firmly in place but with time and her mother’s formidable personality, she had no choice but to give in. Soon she was walking around her childhood home, laughing and teasing like she had never left and telling the boys about all her childhood escapades. I was thrilled because as much as she would deny it, I knew how much she missed them.
The boys were thrilled with their new extended family. Grandpa Chuck and Granny Kat seemed to want to make up for lost time and had to be constantly begged not to spoil them rotten.
They accepted our relationship from the beginning without any awkward moments and welcomed my parents as an extension of our family. Our parents often spoke with each other and, I think in a way, helped each other become accustomed to our relationship.
After hugs and kisses, Kat introduced my parents and I around the room while Chuck led Kayla and the boys around reacquainting her with friends, family and colleagues. We made eye contact a few times across the room and she crossed her heart and winked.
“It is with great pleasure that we welcome you to our home to celebrate me getting wiser and more distinguished,” Chuck joked. A collective laugh arose. “All joking aside; thank you to my family and friends for being here. I am older and wiser and have learned to appreciate all that the good Lord has seen fit to bless me with, especially my children. I love you all so very much and you make me a very proud father.” He looked directly at Kayla when he said this. “And to my beautiful, tolerant wife; no one else gets me like you do. I haven’t been the easiest person to live with at times but you always stuck by me. I love you more than there are words to express.” Kat blushed when he kissed her hand. “Okay that’s enough mush for today. Eat, drink and be merry.”
“I see where you get your suave nature,” I teased Kayla.
“Ha, me suave? Name one thing that has gone to plan in our relationship?”
“You my love are more the ‘fly by the seat of your pants, oops I hit a bump’ kind of suave. You fall into it more than plan it.”
“If I didn’t love you so much, I would be insulted.” I reached up on my tippy toes for a kiss.
“I love you too.” A throat clearing behind us kept it chaste. A beautiful tall blonde stood behind me wearing a blue, cocktail dress. Kayla didn’t seem to recognise her.
“Hi,” she said, offering a little wave.
“Hi,” Kayla replied.
“You have no clue who I am, do you?” Kayla looked sheepish but admitted to her ignorance. “Nicky, Nicky Hasselman?”
“Oh my goodness; I used to babysit you,” Kayla gushed then hugged the shy woman. “This is my girlfriend, Leigh.”
“Pleased to meet you,” she greeted as we shook hands. “How are you, Kayla? I’ve often wondered what happened to you over the years.”
“I’m good and how are you?”
“Good. I’m a physiotherapist for the KZN rugby union and we have private offices up at the medical centre.” Nicky turned and waved to someone and we were soon joined by a very butch woman in a pants suit with a matching blue shirt to Nicky’s dress.
“Now I know who this is?” Kayla announced and hugged the new arrival.
“It’s good to see you my friend. It has been way too long. How are you?”
“Happy. Very, very happy,” she said putting her arm around my waist and pulling me closer. “Babe this is Joslyn. Jos this is Leigh.” Joslyn! Kayla’s first girlfriend? Shit! She’s gorgeous and so fit. I smiled and shook her hand.
“And you know my wife, Nicky.” Kayla’s eyes popped out of her head.
“J#sus, Boomer you robbed the cradle? She’s a baby.”
“Actually I was the one doing all the chasing,” Nicky beamed. “I did my practical at her practice and remembered her from the many times she visited when you were babysitting,” she smiled shyly. “She had no clue and made me chase her for a year before she relented and went on a date with me and then I told her who I really was.”
“I was a goner from day one but she was young and I didn’t want to ruin another life," Joslyn admitted.
“Jos, you never ruined my life,” Kayla said with a hand on her friend’s shoulder. “I was gay long before you; I’m glad I was able to discover that journey with you.” Nicky sensing a need for a subject change turned her attention to me.
“So Leigh, what do you do?”
“I’m a teacher; grade 3.”
“I admire your patience; I don’t think I could do that,” she admitted.
“Well being a mother helps. We have two kids and if I’m really quiet and inconspicuous I get a really interesting insight into how kids think.” Just then the boys came running.
“Mom the awesomest thing happened?” Joel announced excitedly. Kayla cocked an eyebrow. “Grandpa Chuck promised to take us skydiving.” Their little eyes sparkled with excitement.
“He did? Well I think I need to have a talk with Grandpa Chuck.” We all laughed.
Later we lay in bed happy, a little tipsy and satiated. “I had a great time tonight.”
“Yeah, me too,” Kayla admitted. “And connecting with Jos and Nicky was a bonus.”
“Yes, Nicky gave me her card. They want to get together for lunch or dinner, soon.” Kayla nodded. “Your dad was gushing over your achievements.”
“It was a little embarrassing the way he was going on. And skydiving with the boys? He’s going too far, Love.”
“He’s just trying to make up for lost time, Baby. Please be gentle when you speak to him; I don’t think he was serious.”
“Baby you know Benjamin Xulu?” I nodded remembering the very cheerful man that sat with us during dinner; telling stories of when he and Chuck were younger. “He wants me to register the construction company and he says we can get government contracts.”
“Wow, is that something you want to do? What about your degree?”
“Well I finish my degree at the end of this year so that is good,” she said. “The truth is; I’m always going to be overlooked for promotion because I’m white and B.E.E quotas have to be maintained. Besides, I think I’ve had enough of waste material.”
“Well you already have steady work on the weekends especially since everyone wants to be associated with the mayor’s daughter,” I teased. Kayla rolled her eyes. Since the meeting at school even Eleanor James wanted to be near Kayla. Suddenly we were the cream of the crop and invited to every lunch, dinner, braai and birthday party imaginable.
“False twerps. So what do you think?” she asked. “Be honest.”
“Well I have a good job and you have steady weekend work plus your dad’s influential friends are willing to help so I say go for it!”
“Really!” Her excitement was palpable. “It’s something I’ve been thinking of but I was afraid the risk was too great. I don’t necessarily want too much influence from my father’s friends either; if you get my drift.”
“Baby, I’m doing what I love, so should you and you’re good at it. There’s nothing wrong with using your contacts to get somewhere in this world as long as it’s on your terms. Just let them know where you stand from day one.”
“I love you Leigh.” We kissed until we desperately needed air. “Honey, I want to register the company under both our names, a family business.”
“Listen, I want it to be ours not just mine; something we build together and pass on to the boys one day,” she explained. “So what do you think about Johnson Family Construction.”
“It’s nice but I’m a Burton and Joel is an Ellis.”
“Not for long.” Kayla pulled out a small jewellery box from under her pillow and handed it to me. Oh my God! I had vowed to never marry again after Scott but I wanted the whole package with Kayla.
“When did you…”
“Open it.” A beautiful white gold band with a solitaire diamond in the centre and three diamonds along the band on each side stared back at me. Kayla took the ring out of the box. “You are the love of my life, the mother of my children and my happily ever after. Leigh Anne Burton will you marry me?”
All I could do was nod. The words would not come. She slipped the ring onto my left hand ring finger and it fit perfectly. “I love you,” I croaked as tears ran freely down my cheeks.
We made love way past the sun coming up, whispering words of love and devotion. Happily. Ever. After.
Back to the Academy