"What's your connection to the groom?" the bride's father asked her at the wedding rehearsal dinner, and she froze, holding a fork-full of salad in front of her open mouth. Such a simple question, but she had no simple answer.
Nora let the fork continue its journey, chewing her iceberg slowly, nodding her head and making those "mmm" sounds that mean, "I'd love to answer your question, but I'm masticating some delicious greenery right now. Wow, it's really chewy. Maybe they cut down a forest or something?"
If God had been merciful, She would have distracted the bridal dad at that moment with a well-wisher, to talk his ear off about his lovely, intelligent daughter, or perhaps a serendipitous spitball sent from down the table, where the bride's teenage nephews laughed, gesticulating wildly as if driven to take up more space than their wiry bodies required. But God was messing with Nora.
"He's a friend of the family," she said, hoping that would be enough. It probably would have been, for anyone else, but he'd been drinking, and even though Nora had just met him, she could tell he was a rambunctious drunk.
He gave her the sort of nod that a police interrogator gives when he's not buying the suspect's story. Leaning across the table at her, he raised his voice just a little bit, attracting the attention of the bride's mom, who was seated two places down next to her new beau. "Your son's the ring bearer," he said, "so I thought you must be family. But you're telling me he's a friend. How do you know him?" With one hand, he hit the place mat, playing bad cop.
She could feel her face flushing, as she searched for an answer. Hopefully, she glanced down the table at her mom, sitting next to the groom's mom. But they were too far away to hear or intervene. Why hadn't she asked, before arriving, exactly what the bride had told her parents? She knew the bride was fully aware that her children would have two paternal grandmothers, but had she told them that? Or had Nora's mom simply been introduced as a "good friend"?
If Nora said the wrong thing, it wouldn't matter how supportive she'd always tried to be. It wouldn't matter that, when her mom had tearfully struggled to come out to her on a long car ride, she'd stuck a swamp-boot-clad foot on the dashboard and replied, "I know, Mom, and your daughter wears Army boots."
It wouldn't matter how many parties she'd attended with her mother's Women's Spirituality Group, chatting and swimming with all the lesbian couples to broadcast to her mom that she accepted them and, by inference, her.
It wouldn't matter how she'd held back the hurt when, during her own divorce, all her mom could talk about was her new girlfriend, the woman destined to be the love of her life. The woman whose son, all these years later, was getting married. He wasn't like family. He was family. But Nora wasn't allowed to say that.
The problem was that her mom's life partner, Lynn, held a Very Important Community Position. And this Very Important Position prohibited her from being honest about her choice of love. Or at least, that's what she told the family. Truly, Nora had always thought it was more than that. She'd never heard Lynn use the word "lesbian," and she suspected that maybe her mom's partner was still in her own special realm of denial, where keeping quiet about the "love that dared not speak its name" kept you safe from both societal repercussions and deep soul searching.
These, however, were not Nora's choices to make. She couldn't make such a proclamation for someone else, especially one that, should it come as a surprise, could poison family relationships for years to come. And looking into the red-rimmed eyes of bridal Daddy, she doubted he was the type to understand.
Finally, she found an answer that was not even a lie. "I know him through his mother," she said. And she went back to munching that all-consuming salad, hoping it would end with that.
He tried one more time, "But HOW do you know his mother?"
Then, God finally intervened, in the shape of the bride's mother, telling her ex to "Leave the girl alone. Can't you see she's trying to eat?"
For the moment, that was the end of the interrogation. For now, at least, she'd forded the danger and saved her mother -- and her mother's partner -- from whatever pain the truth might bring. But just in case, Nora made a mental note to stay away from the bride's dad for the duration of the wedding weekend, and to always keep a salad fork handy.
Speaking of family, kfp_rawr's Home Game entry this week is a homemade Thomas and Friends video that would make Gomez Adams proud.