Man, I would kill for a cigarette. The guy with the crusty dreads sipping from his latte has no fucking idea just how the faintest odour of smoke wafting across from the coffee shop next door is driving me insane, but luckily, as soon as I step inside the restaurant, the Maitre' D just hurries me through to the main eating area.
Though the décor isn't as plush or fancy as Antoines I always preferred Le Belle as the bar was in easy reach as was the bathroom, though liquor still sung to me, beckoning me to down its heady flavours I hadn't touched drop in eight months, a cigarette in nine. He lead me through until I saw her, she looks up with the annoying tassle thing swinging around from the menu and shot me the pearly white smile that never failed to warm my heart.
I smile back firing off my dimples as I try to sneakily wipe my clammy palms on my thighs. I dunno why I'm so nervous, well actually I do 'cos I know what I want to ask her, I just hope she'll understand. I've worn my best dress, the plain black one with the wide straps over the shoulders, it's actually one she bought me and I really hope she notices as I've been so up and down lately that I wanted to make an effort and seeing how I won't be able to get back in my pants for…..god, it's still ages away.
I know it must sound like I'm having an affair, but I'm not having lunch with a tall, dark and handsome stranger, I have my husband for that, and I'm not sneaking off with some hottie from work. I'm just meeting my best friend's Mom.
But still, this 'Mom affair' still feels deliciously sneaky and wrong, but I know it's a feeling I share with shitloads of women. No one seems to talk about it but we all do it, hijacking an older woman as your surrogate second mother. And unlike my real Mom she doesn't have trackmarks on her arms or breath that smells of cheap liquor and mint cigarettes.
My Mom affair really took off when Buffy went off to Uni halfway across the country but when Dawn left for UCLA last year I started to see Joyce more often. Usually lingering in supermarkets or the park with this sullen expression and I know from bitter experience that look she wore, like she would do anything to avoid going home. Her house was so empty and lonely now, well at first it was out of pity, but once we started our 'affair' I really looked forward to seeing her. Our bi-weekly coffee mornings became more regular and we started doing lunch too and now, twice a week we meet at some restaurant. Coffee mornings on weekends, well actually it's more like 'mineral water mornings' ever since I entered my third trimester. Stupid kid better hurry up and get his lazy ass out of me, he must be taking after his father.
I always feel kinda awkward when Joyce picks the restaurant as she tends to choose somewhere fancy and I have to get dressed up a bit but what's the harm in putting in some effort now and then. But sometimes we skip lunch and just head for the spa. Yeah, you heard me right, a spa. What of it? Tara got me a voucher for my last birthday and Xander kinda guilted me into taking Joyce but shit man, once we got into it, woah! It was so damn relaxing and even though it stills feel weird being all girly and pampered, with these hormones being all spazzy, I totally need a day wrapped in mud and having burly Eastern European women who reek of ammonia massaging my sore and bloated feet.
Other times it's a shopping trip to giggle like silly schoolgirls over dresses and shoes, yeah I never thought I could ever enjoy being so femme but then again, I never thought I would be one to actually enjoy being settled in suburbia with a husband, a baby on the way and a dog which never listens to me. I blame the hormones, that's the excuse I've been using all this time and I'm sticking to it. In fact, I think I was using that excuse even before Xander spermulated me.
And now the house is finally finished being renovated Joyce often comes over whenever I have one of my mini emotional crisis', and they seem to strike about twice an hour these days. But Xander did a helluva job on the house, we got it cheap as it was totally derelict. Sure, for the first few months it was like living on a building site but we worked on it every evening and weekend and now it totally rocks, but ever since my results came back positive he went all out making sure it was perfect, especially the nursery, it's beautiful and so….. oh god, don't start crying now. Stupid hormones driving me mental.
I had to give up work as standing all day at the salon was killing my back, though Uncle Richard offered to go halfsies so I could have my own place I didn't want the hassle especially with the little one currently kicking the crap out of my bladder. It was kinda accidental doing the hairdressing college thing but I really got into to it and now I have my own chair at the salon but I'm so damn busy with the demand for dye jobs and dreads. Well this is a college town so you know how kids are with their hair trying to be all cool and rebellious.
But the real thrill of our meetings are in the planning, the complimentary emails or texts, just little things but as Joyce is a woman I've always respected it wasn't hard for our relationship to blossom into a warm familial love. As I feel the bulge in my purse I just hope I haven't overstepped the boundaries as I know how territorial Buffy can be over her Mom, but I think I need to do this. To show what she really means to me.
"Hi Joyce, looking good", I smirk at her new haircut courtesy of yours truly, it's pretty savage but she so needed to dump that frumpy housewife look, now she's a total MILF. He-he, since her new haircut and tighter wardrobe I've seen the way Willow looks at her, can you imagine what B would do if Red and her Mom started knocking boots? Now that would be a meltdown of epic pouty proportions.
"Hi Faith, how are you?", she asked as she struggled to hug me, considering my size I'm amazed she could even get one arm around me let alone two.
"I'm fine. Just getting sick of the backache and crying thing, driving me nuts", I say with a soft smile as she helps me sit. Damn, it wasn't that long ago I was doing the same for her after her hysterectomy and moved in with her for a couple of weeks until she could bathe and go to the bathroom by herself. We both felt so embarrassed when I had to help her to the toilet but she was my non-Mom so I would always go the extra mile for her. Something about it just felt right, to help her like that when she really needed it.
"How's Xander?", she asked picking up the menu once more and pushing my glass of water a little closer so I didn't knock everything flying like I did last time.
"He's fine, he's just finished making the crib and it looks fuc….I mean, it looks wicked cool", I corrected myself, not for her benefit, I was just trying to get out these habits and seeing as I was getting ever closer to popping my cork I wanted to make sure my potty mouth was curbed, well, a little at least.
"How lovely, did he carve the initials in the headboard like he said?", Joyce asked as she chewed on a breadstick.
"Yep, it's perfect. Well, you'll see it when you come over Saturday, you are still coming aren't you?"
"Of course, I wouldn't miss your baby shower for anything. Dawn will be back on Friday but Buffy is swamped with work but will try her best to get back"
"No worries", I replied softly.
Sure, it would be nice to see B again as I haven't seen her since New Years, the first one in our new house, our FIRST house. Though I miss my friend it's not like she was the center of my universe or anything despite what she may believe, when she went away to Uni it hurt Xander more than me but it's not like our lives just stopped without Princess Twinkie.
"Thanks honey. Oh, I got this for you", she says as she reaches under the table and pulls out a bag. Oh jesus, did I really just squeal in delight as I pulled out a beautifully knitted scarf. A gift. A maternally knitted gift!
Man, I can't even imagine my real Mom ever doing something like this, but it shouldn't really be that much of a surprise, the seeds were sown for our pseudo relationship soon after I ended up in this town. The spark was there from my very first dinner at her house. We'd all sat around, Buffy and Dawn, me and Xan, chatting about life, art and shit like that. She really went out of her way to make me feel like an extra sibling, so who else was I going to get to walk me down the aisle when me and Xan tied the knot nearly a year ago.
Once Buffy graduated and got a job in New York doing some kind of boring office thing, and Dawn went to LA, who else was Joyce going to share clothes with and impart her worldly motherly wisdom to?
The last time I saw my Mom she was face down in a pizza, blood running from her nose and mouth from when she had crushed up a shitload of painkillers and snorted them. Her addiction was the one constant in my childhood, well that and her johns who would do anything they wanted to her as long as they paid for her drugs. But after she died her ex-brother in law took me in, I had no idea that side of the family was living like fat cats out West like this. Let alone Uncle Richard, who I hadn't seen since I was about four, being the Mayor of this sleepy little burg. You ever since The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air? Well, it was kinda like that for me when I came to Sunnydale to live with him.
As Joyce and I order food we talk about work, though she is only a part timer these days since her brain cancer scare a couple of years back, god I think I was more scared of that whole thing than she was. As I sip from my water and stare longingly at the icy cold beer being served to the table next to us Joyce talks away, whenever I tell her stories of what's going on in my life she'll act like she hadn't heard them before so she can offer a fresh perspective. She doesn't know me inside out like she does Buffy so she can't second guess me and takes her time to evaluate her response. When she offers some new pearl of wisdom I'm all ears and really take it all to heart.
Whenever I talk to Buffy, which is less frequently these days, she still makes the usual complaints about her Mom and I feel this pang of envy for I knew I would never replace B, not that I would want to, but I felt closer to Joyce than anyone. And not because Xander's Mom hates me, but the feeling is mutual so we just stay away from each other, something Xan is more than happy to do.
Before the starter arrives I reach into my purse and feel a weird fluttering in my heart as I pull out this small badly wrapped box, I've never been good at wrapping gifts even though Joyce spent ages last Xmas helping me. Eventually she gave up trying to teach me and she just got on with wrapping all the presents while me and Xan used the rolls of Xmas paper like light sabers, yeah we can be big kids when we want. Though it got a bit awkward when, in amongst the presents, I forgot I had bought those handcuffs for me and my new husband to play with, seeing as I had to use a hacksaw to cut the last pair off when Xan lost the damn key.
"What's this?", Joyce asks seeing the fidgeting of my hands as she slowly peels the crumpled paper away.
"Well y'know, since B and Dawn aren't here, and it is Mother's Day so I thought….y'know", I shrugged as she opened the box to see an ivory colored candle emblazoned in gold italics with the following words.
'You're my wonderful Mom
Who I can always turn to
When I need someone to listen
With an understanding and caring
You are the one who stands by me
And is always there to help
No matter where I go or what I do
You are truly a special part of my life'
"I know I'm not your kid…..", I bluster out awkwardly as I see her skin slightly pinken with a blush.
"Oh Faith, you are. You know you are", Joyce replies running her fingers over the words as I had totally nailed her on the sweet sentiment thing. "Thankyou, it's beautiful"
Ok, groundwork laid, now for the big one. I run a hand over the huge lump that was formally my stomach and feel my son trying to punch his way out. Man, he's gonna be just like me with the ADD and everything. Damn.
"But what I…what we wanted to ask you is….when this little one finally comes out he's got Willow and Tara as godmothers, and I asked Angel to be his godfather….the thing is….", I say as I clasp Joyce's hand and smile wetly, "…..it might sound weird, but will you be his god-grandmother?"
"M-me? But what about your Uncle? Wouldn't he be better suited for the grandparent role?"
"Oh, he's driving me nuts with his fussing, he can't wait to be 'Grampa Richard', but I know how much it meant to me to have a kind and decent Grandma and I miss her everyday, but as Uncle Richard is still only dating that lawyer jerk-off….what? I don't like her is all. Sorry, I'm going off the point here, I really want our son to have a kick ass Grandma, so will you be Grandma Joyce? It don't look like B or Dawnie are gonna be popping one out anytime soon so it's not like I'm stealing that away from them or anything but I…."
"Faith", she says cutting me off from my babble, damn I must stop hanging out with Red so much but seeing as I can't work anymore and she works from home, it made sense to hang out and shit. She is such the mother hen, and I know it makes Xander feel safer knowing that someone is there with me seeing as I'm so fucking huge I can't even pull my panties on without help. Jesus, this kid must be swimming in about fifty gallons of water, when it finally breaks it's gonna be like those disaster movies Xander loves, a huge fucking tsunami….followed by lots of screaming. Not looking forward to that bit I assure you.
"Faith", she says again, damn I went off on one in my head again didn't I, "I-I would be honoured to be god-Grandma to your little boy"
I can see the tears start to slide from her cheeks.
Though we weren't really mother and daughter we were as good as. And now she was gonna be Grandma Joyce, I could see the glow on her face as her very soul was suddenly infused with maternal glee. Man, she was going to be such an awesome grandma!
Thankyou Joyce, thankyou… Mom.
And just think, next Mother's Day it'll be getting gifts from my little one.
Though it scares the shit out of me…..I can't wait.