Today's Reading

Mom was quiet as she straightened the shelf of DVDs the girls had dismantled.

Quiet was my least favorite response from her. I was pretty sure my mother didn't have a single impulsive bone in her body. Still, I hoped she would say, "Sure!" and move on without long, drawn-out discussions. I would've skipped Mom and asked Dad directly except it was Mom who was going to have to drive me there. And help me pay for it. I needed Mom on my side, yet how could she be when I was the one kid in our family who baffled her?

"You've already had, what, three?" She stopped fussing with things and folded her arms across her perfectly flat belly. She had her wavy brunette hair up in a messy bun, and despite her age and choice of wearing a simple pair of black pants, blue blouse, and white sweater, she looked picture perfect. Effortless and easy, the quintessential elder's wife.

I knew what I looked like at that moment. Her exact opposite. A mass of frizzy hair to hers perfectly coiffed. A pair of red track pants to her tailored ones. A rather dirty vintage T-shirt to her filmy blue blouse underneath a fitted button-down sweater. Bare feet to her Rothy's. I sometimes wondered how I was her kid at all. Josh and Maggie, my older siblings, were more like her. Maggie was intense and driven like Mom. Josh looked a lot like her and acted more like Dad. Me? It was like I was dropped in from another planet.

Mom never responded when I exposed my heightened emotions—good or bad. I had to be calm. Rational. "Two. I've only had two lessons. Most people go every week. It's hard to get a spot with Miss Roxanne because she's so good, her schedule is always full." I tried to keep my tone light. I longed to say how badly I wanted to have one of those coveted weekly spots, but I resisted. Barely. If Mom got a whiff that I was arguing with her, she would shut down the discussion.

She sighed. "Millie. We've talked about this. I'm really sorry. Voice lessons aren't in the budget."

I resisted for about two seconds before I burst. "You paid for Josh to do travel soccer. And Maggie got piano lessons and a bunch of stuff for cheerleading." I stopped, unable to share that I was worried about my singing. I could work on acting and dancing at home on my own. But vocals? I was at a loss. I didn't know how to improve without help—actual professional help.


"Those two lessons really helped me! I know if I could—"

"Yes, we encouraged you children to participate in sports because they teach so many great things about teamwork and perseverance."

"So does theater!" My voice cracked. "And Mom, I don't want to do sports. I hate sports." Settle down.

Mom's lips tightened.

Yelling wasn't going to help her understand. I breathed in slowly. I held it a brief moment, and then I slowly exhaled before speaking again. "I thought it would be okay to try extracurricular activities of my choosing." I congratulated myself on sounding reasonable.

"If you love singing so much, join the choir or worship team at church. They always take new members. You'll learn so much."

Breathe. Breathe. Don't say it.

"It's not the same thing!"

Well. There it was. My traditional fail. If only I could remain calm for an entire conversation.

She started to walk away.

"Mom? Please? Auditions for the school musical are on Wednesday. I'm not ready. I need another lesson." I clenched my fists, so my nails dug into my palms. I hoped the pain would stop me from saying more.

"You'll be fine for a high school audition. Get this room back in shape, please. I'm having a women's brunch in here Wednesday morning."

As soon as I heard her close the basement door at the top of the stairs, I threw myself onto the couch and screamed into one of the striped pillows. I should not have said anything. I should have waited for a better moment.

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