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Cutting the Cord MAG
The house hadn’t changed in the two months she’d been gone. It was the same two-story, center-entry colonial, painted green with black shutters. The elm on the right cast a shadow over that side of the house. On the other side was a baby maple, bathing in noonday sun. The front lawn was clipped, with clumps of mowed grass arranged in neat rows. Hazel stood where the sidewalk met the walkway, feeling her legs quake with nervousness. The house hadn’t changed, but everything else had.
Her mother answered Hazel’s knock. Hazel still had a key, but she couldn’t use it anymore.
“Hello,” her mother said, as if greeting a Jehovah’s Witness. “Come in.”
“You can sit on the sofa.”
Hazel’s mom followed her into the living room, carrying a pitcher and two glasses. She sat, poured lemonade into her cup, but did not take a sip. Her daughter sat back, resting her ankle on one knee.
“Did Jeff do the lawn?” Hazel asked.
“Yesterday. He’s very responsible.”
“I know.” Hazel crossed her arms, huddling in her faux-leather jacket despite the heat. The sun shone in the window and Hazel’s mother squinted.
“I need to buy some drapes. Or blinds. Something.”
“I like the light,” Hazel said automatically.
“But it would be nice to block it out sometimes. So the rugs don’t fade.”
“Heaven forbid the rugs fade.”
“Maybe just some gauzy curtains,” she continued, ignoring the comment.
“You could use the blinds from my old room,” the teenage girl suggested.
“No, I– I couldn’t. I shouldn’t.”
“Well, if I’m not gonna use them …”
“Drink, Hazel. And aren’t you hot in that jacket?”
Yes. “No.” But Hazel poured some lemonade, savoring the taste as she swirled it in her mouth. Eventually she shrugged off the jacket, exposing a pink-and-black-striped T-shirt. Her mother raised an eyebrow but did not comment.
“How have you been doing?” the mother said, for lack of anything better.
Hazel thought for a moment. “I do okay.”
“Are you living with her?”
“No, she lives with her parents. I found an apartment. I’m staying there.”
“An apartment? How can you afford that?” Hazel’s mom wrinkled her nose, imagining the sort of place her daughter must live.
“I manage,” Hazel said coolly.
“I’m sorry, that was uncalled for.” The mother looked down at her lap. “Are you still in school, at least?”
Hazel played with her belt loop. “Barely. I think I’m gonna drop, though.”
“But we all had such high hopes for
you. I was never very good in high school, but you could be valedictorian if you really pushed yourself.”
“I’ve had a lot on my mind. Stats and Brit Lit are kinda low on the list.”
“I see,” Hazel’s mother said.
They sipped their lemonade in silence for a while. Hazel sneezed: a loud, unladylike sneeze followed by wiping her nose on her hand. Hazel’s mom held out a tissue by its corner, as if contaminated. Her daughter took it and wiped her hand, then her nose. She stood. Hazel’s mom watched her daughter walk into the kitchen and casually drop the tissue in the trash. When she returned to her position on the opposite end of the couch, Hazel’s mother spoke again.
“Are you going to let this–” she struggled for words. “Are you going to let her ruin your future? I was looking forward to having grandchildren.”
“There’s more to life than school and grandchildren, Mom,” Hazel said. She looked at the rugs. They were a little faded. “I really don’t care whether you approve of us or not.”
“Everything was fine until she came along. I don’t know what happened to you. I don’t know what to do.”
Hazel inspected the bottom of her shoe.
“All of a sudden, you stopped caring about school. You broke up with Kurt. You started lying and sneaking around doing God-knows-what.”
“I’m still your daughter, Mom,” Hazel said quietly, looking up from her shoe. “By the way,” Hazel dug out her useless key. “This doesn’t work anymore. You may as well take it.”
“Oh, sweetie.” Hazel’s mother felt the tears welling in her eyes. She rubbed the bridge of her nose and exhaled. “I was just upset. I didn’t know what to do.” She rested her hand on her daughter’s knee. Hazel froze.
“You could have listened to me.” She stood up, walked over to the window. The backyard was immaculate, the way her mother liked it.
“I didn’t expect anything like this from you. I thought I raised you better.”
Hazel watched a pair of elementary-school boys throw a football. Eventually one tackled the other, and both laughed, wrestling in the dirt like puppies. She’d played like that when she was young. In this very house, she’d laughed with her friends without a care in the world. It took every ounce of strength to keep her lower lip from quivering.
“This is coming out all wrong, Haze.” Her mother took a deep breath and stood up, speaking to her daughter’s back. “Sweetie‚ I want you to come home.”
Hazel froze, still watching the boys. They had abandoned their wrestling to go inside for a snack.
“Is Donna welcome here?”
“Donna has a home.”
Hazel walked over to the couch and picked up her leather jacket. The ice cubes in her lemonade had melted.
“This is not as simple as you think,” Hazel’s mother spat. “And this is not who I raised you to be.”
Hazel turned to face her mother. “I can’t help what I am.”
“I’m not going to support this, and neither is Jeff.” Her mother strode over to where her daughter was standing. “If this is how you’re going to be, then you’d better be prepared for some reality.”
The sun was lower in the sky now, and a cool breeze kissed Hazel’s cheek. A blue Volvo drove by, spewing carbon dioxide into the air in black puffs. Cicadas screeched loudly from the trees.
“Bye, Mom,” Hazel said, and shut the door