Ashley and I have just came into the living room and there aren't many seats, so I let her have the seat and I'm on the floor sitting in front of her legs. Paula is sat next to grandma with the laptop, waiting a moment for her to put on her glasses before clicking on the appropriate window to pull up the gay Jesus picture.
...and then laughed some more.
She laughed so much her false teeth dropped down a little, scarring me for life.
I tried to keep the look of disgust off my face, really I did, but I either didn't hide it very well or Ashley just knows me that well because I got a less-than-subtle knee in the back, telling me to stop I presume.
It kinda hurt. I think I have a bruise there from yesterday. To prevent her from doing that again I grab both of her legs and wrap them around me, putting her feet onto my legs so they're resting on my thighs and then place my hands on top of them so they don't get cold. It feels nice.
Paula and my grandma are still laughing. Not a lot... it's more like the last few chuckles that escape your lips after something exceptionally hilarious and then a little later you think of it again and have to try not to laugh.
I should be pretty thankful I have family as accepting as they are. I know I should, and if Paula was some overly religious mother I know I'd complain just as much...or probably even more.
It wasn't too difficult to come out to grandma. I'd hardly even thought about it, to be honest. Call me naive or stupid or whatever, but I just thought about coming out to my mom and then she would 'spread the word', so to speak.
And while she did proudly tell her friends, she told me it was up to me to tell any other family members.
When it was time to tell grandma and grandpa I wasn't that nervous. I mean, they were never homophobic towards anybody else and this was me; they were either going to accept it or they weren't. Thankfully, though...they were fine. They said they already knew from my lack of boyfriends from a certain age and old pictures.
I know right, pictures? I asked them what they meant by pictures and grandma went upstairs to get an old album. We skipped past ones I'd seen before and then there was a few I hadn't seen for some reason, or just never really noticed.
There was one of my walking and holding hands with a boy, him looking over the moon and me looking like I would murder anybody who dare speak to me; another one with us still walking but me suddenly having a smile on my face, looking towards a cute redhead.
And the last one was me standing next to the aforementioned redhead, handing her my ice cream cone and sporting the biggest smirk in history, my 'date' in the background looking like his puppy had died.
I'm brought out of my reverie by Paula suddenly bursting into another fit of giggles, grandma not far behind.
Halfway through an eye roll I catch a glimpse of the clock and notice that it's already 6:30. It took so long to win that teddy and now we don't have much time left.
I usually find that when you visit family and it's almost time to leave, conversation drops in the last hour and then during the last twenty minutes it's a huge case of remember when's and you can't shut anybody up, thus making it that much harder to leave.
That's what it's been like for the last ten minutes, anyway. Paula is speaking now. "Remember when Spencer got kicked out of McDonalds when she was six, for starting a fight in the ball pit?"
Everybody except for Ashley, of course, remembers and starts laughing, agreeing it was 'classic' and it so was.
She leans closer to me, laughing. "How the hell do you get yourself into those kinds of situations, Spencer?"
I turn around to face her, still holding onto her feet to keep them warm. "I didn't start it. Some jerk stepped on my foot, and who am I to let somebody get away with something like that? I picked up the nearest plastic ball and threw it as hard as I could. I had fantastic aim, even back then, so it bounced off his left eye socket and looked like it came pretty sharp. It was quiet for like two seconds until he burst into tears."
She looks mildly amused. "And then what? Or is that the whole story?"
"Well, I wasn't with anybody except for my mom. She was in the restaurant, or so I thought, and I was in the ball pit. Anyway, the guy is crying for his mom and then, like, four guys started throwing balls at me. Most of them had really bad aim so they flew past me, until one hit me right on my mouth."
"I know, right? Anyway, that was it y'know; it was war. I moved even closer to them and took out all four within fifteen seconds. I hardly had time to bask in my glory before a worker there told me to get out."
She laughing and after a while, adds, "If you were six, how do you remember it all so well?"
"Well, remember I said I thought Paula was in the restaurant?" A nod. "She wasn't. She caught it all on tape. She was in the corner of the room filming the entire time telling everyone 'that's my daughter' before we were told to leave the building."
"I have to see that video when we get back."
"Sure. We have tons you can see, but if I show you my home videos, then you have to show me some of yours."
Everybody starts talking about Clay and I zone out, thinking about how cute Ashley must have been as a kid and how I can't wait to see some pictures or something.
It's time to leave now and I'm really not looking forward to leaving her alone again. It's just me and Ashley to say our goodbyes now. I walk up to her and hug her. "Are you sure you'll be okay?"
"What did I tell you yesterday?"
"That you'd be fine but I-"
"I'm going to be fine. I have good friends, Spencer; friends who have been through this before and are helping me through it now. Plus, we still have our weekly phone calls."
I think about what she's said and nod, letting her know I'll call in the week some time. She pulls me back in for another hug and I return it gentler than I want to in fear of hurting her. "I'm gonna miss you, you know."
I hear her laugh slightly. "I'll miss you too, Spencer."
After that she practically squeezed the life out of Ashley while telling her she's welcome there any time and thanked her again for the gift. We're on the way to the airport now, Ashley and I are driving Paula's rental car and Dad is driving everybody back in his.
I'm glad they didn't get one of those people carriers. Ashley and I wouldn't have had any privacy, and knowing my luck Clay would be in the seat in front, making conversation.
Ashley has a rock radio station on and I switch it to one I like, smiling as old school Mariah starts up.
"You pretend to be such a badass, Spencer, but listening to music like this doesn't really scream danger."
I turn to face her. "I never said I was a badass."
"I didn't say you said you were a badass. I said you pretend you're a badass." She pauses and moves a hand off the steering wheel to poke me in the stomach. "You're just a softie."
I smile and roll my eyes, looking out the window.
We pull up to a red light and I start laughing.
"Why are you laughing?"
I point to a guy walking down the street looking like he has a shit in his pants, causing her to burst out laughing and tell me I'm 'so weird'
Our plane is delayed.
Thirty fucking minutes of sitting here doing nothing. Absolutely nothing. Fuck all.
My ass hurts. They really need to invest in some new seating. I get up and take the one step it takes to reach Ashley, picking up her magazine off her legs and sit down, smiling at how much more comfortable it is and then re-open her magazine for her. I put it on my lap so she can read it better.
Ashley doesn't say anything; she just looks up and smiles at me. It's really cute and I lean down a little to kiss her cheek.
With Ashley focused on her magazine I look up to see Clay doing his 'happy dance' at winning yet another Sudoku game.
Paula has just come back from Starbucks with a coffee for herself. I don't remember her asking me if I wanted one... Not that I do but it would have been nice to have been offered, right? It's the thought that counts.
She stops walking and picks up something off the floor, spitting out her coffee as she sees what it is.
I look closely and notice the length of the object in her hand.
No...I would have felt it.
I quickly feel inside my pockets and close my eyes, cringing. Shit. I don't dare look in Paula's direction. I know what she's holding and I can only imagine what she's going to say.
Ashley shifts in her seat. "I need to pee, can you move for a sec?"
"Paula knows and if you leave she'll come over here."
She looks confused and I don't want her to ask what Paula knows so I stand up and tell her if she isn't back in two minutes I'll rip her ticket in half.
Okay, so...I wouldn't really do that but I'm desperate here. I'm pretending to be engrossed in Ashley's magazine when Paula sits down in the seat next to me.
Three, two, one.
"How are you doing?"
"I'm okay... Are you?"
"Oh, I'm fine, sweetheart. I have my coffee." She waves her cup around a little.
"That's... great." I clear my throat and pull my magazine up towards my face a little more, shrinking down into my seat.
"Have fun this weekend?"
"Yeah, it was y'know...fun," I finish lamely. Where the hell is Ashley?
"I thought you might say that."
I swallow thickly. "Oh?"
She pulls out her earlier finding. "Well, yes. I mean, you don't have pictures like this and say you had a bad time." She laughs, inspecting them again.
Ashley, I need reinforcement! I can't speak, I'm so embarrassed.
She points to the last picture with Ashley practically on top of me. "I like your hair in the third one."
Please go away, please go away.
It's Ashley, hallelujah!
"Ash! Hey! Here… come sit." I pat my legs rapidly and Paula moves to go sit next to my dad, taking the pictures with her, still smiling at them as she walks away.
Ashley sits down and I wait a second. "What the hell took you so long?"
"I was washing my hands."
"With what? Did you leave the airport and get water from the river? You took forever, Ashley."
"Jeez, I'm sorry."
I sigh, knowing it wasn't her fault. Paula would have caught up with me eventually. "No, it's okay. It's me, I'm sorry. Paula found our pictures."
"What pic-" Her eyes go wide. "Please tell me you're joking."
"She isn't angry. If anything, she loves you more now."
Ashley doesn't answer me; instead she gets up off my legs and sits on the chair next to me. "Why are you sitting there? Come back," I request.
She turns away from me.
Great, the silent treatment. Thank you, Paula.
Maybe she'll cheer up on the plane.