A Happy Little Family
by Amanda Byzak
“Don’t tell her I told you, ‘kay?” Mom’s hushed tone makes me strain to hear her through the receiver. “And don’t go sharing this with anyone outside the family,” she says a little too firmly–almost a reprimand.
I am a grown woman of forty years; I can tell anyone I damn well please. I bite my lip, but I can’t help myself. “What exactly is that supposed to mean? Did Jayne talk to you?”
“Oh, no!” She quickly recovers. “I was just saying that our family stuff is, you know… family stuff. All of us should keep it to ourselves.”
Oh, yeah. She talked to Jayne. I sigh deeply. “Of course, Mom.”
“So when you call Sarah, be gentle,” she coaches. “She is a bit fragile right now. Don’t just come out and ask. Try to get her to tell you on her own.”
“Okay, okay. I know.” I hurry the conversation along.
But she insists on driving home the point. “She needs our support. We don’t need to judge —”
“I get it,” I say, annoyed. I’m the judgmental one. I know.
“Okay. Love you,” she says, sweetly.
“Love you, too.”
~ Five Minutes Later ~
“Hey, Sarah.” I try to sound casual.
“Hey, Sis,” she mumbles.
Yep. She knows I know. “How’s everything? You sound like something is wrong.”
“Yeah…” she says, sheepishly. “Did mom talk to you?” She knows better, but she still asks.
I feign ignorance. “No. Why? What’s going on?”
“Oh, okay.” She pretends to buy it. “Well, I’m okay… now.”
“So, what happened?” I urge.
“Danny found out about Chris and we broke up.” She hesitates. “And then I got arrested…”
“What? Why?” What did you do?
“They thought I was suicidal…”
“Why would they think that?” I know why.
“I don’t know,” she lies.
Be gentle. “Did you say anything that implied that you might end your life?”
“I mean… You know how you say things like, ‘I’ll kill you!’ when you’re mad, or like, ‘I’ll run my car off a cliff!’ but you don’t really mean it?”
No. “Um… sure.”