“Shhh!” Bex heard Andi say rather loudly as she, Cyrus, and Buffy giggled inside her room. Bex smiled to herself, opening the door slightly on her way by.
“Doors open, please,” she sang as she walked past the bedroom. She glanced back to see Buffy covering her mouth with her hand while Cyrus and Andi laughed wildly next to her.
Bex rolled her eyes. On her way to the laundry room, she continued to hear the kids laughing and chatting. “She heard you, Buffy Driscoll! And you know Bex; now she’s gonna force you to finally ask out Marty!”
“Shut up, Andi!”
Bex smiled proudly as she watched Andi, Buffy, and Cyrus scarf down the waffles she made that morning. Yes, the use of boxed mix was required, but hey, these were waffles that Bex made, not the usual freezer-burned (and oftentimes toaster-burned as well) Eggos. She was killing this parenting thing.
“Hey Mom,” Andi started, her voice muffled by the waffle still in her mouth. “Could you drive us to the flower shop after school today?”
“Oooh, why are we buying flowers?” Bex grinned as she sat down across from the kids.
“Homecoming is in two days,” Buffy responded.
“High school dances,” Bex said dramatically. “So, who are your dates?”
“Marty,” Buffy said calmly, preparing to take another bite of her waffle. Her fork stopped midair when she made eye-contact with a now panicked looking Cyrus.
Oh. Bex’s suspicions about Cyrus must be true: she recognized his look of gay panic™, having made those same expressions herself as a closeted bisexual teen.
“Alright, you don’t have to tell me,” she said, giving Cyrus a little wink. He didn’t see it, though, as he was now looking towards Andi.
Was that gay panic™ on Andi’s face too?
“We’re going to go get our backpacks and start to head to school,” Andi said, getting up from the table rather suddenly. Buffy quickly shoved a large bite of waffle into her mouth before following Andi and Cyrus upstairs, giving Bex a muffled “thank you for making breakfast” as she caught up with her friends.
Bex observed as her daughter passionately discussed the Homecoming Dance plans with Buffy and Cyrus. Andi had a notebook in her hand, scribbling down ideas and marking off the complete items on her checklist.
“Buffy,” she started, consulting a page titled “Wardrobe” filled with writing and colorful doodles, “do you still own that lilac dress from Libby’s middle school graduation party?”
“Of course. Why?”
“I’ve decided that we’ll be doing a group color scheme instead of just having couples match colors. Amber is wearing an eggplant purple, I’m wearing lavender, you’ll be wearing that lilac dress, Cyrus can wear the plum button-down Norman got him last Christmas—”
“—why have you memorized all of our wardrobes?”
“—and I’ve already put Amber in charge of finding TJ a purple shirt for underneath his suit jacket. We are all going to look amazing!”
Bex laughed under her breath, remembering the half-goth-half-grunge aesthetic she and her friend group wore to their freshman-year Homecoming Dance—no planning needed.
Unlike Bex, Andi was a planning queen. In the short ten-minute walk to the florist, Andi had already settled on a restaurant for dinner and figured out a convenient location for photographs nearby. With a flurry of texts, carpools had been arranged as well.
As they neared the shop, Andi began to run toward the entrance, already excitedly pointing out different options.
“I think we’ll go with white,” Andi said as she held the door open for her friends and Bex. “That’s what the Kippens are buying.”
“Thanks for ruining the surprise, Andi,” Cyrus joked.
Andi grabbed her friends’ hands and dragged them to where the corsages and boutonnieres were located.
“Look at the light green ribbon around this one!” Cyrus said. “It’d look nice with TJ’s eyes,” he added a bit more quietly. “Do you think it would clash with the purple theme though?”
“Not when it’s that pale,” she told him, smiling. “It’ll look great.”
Just then, Andi noticed Bex watching them. “Mom, why don’t you speak with Ms. Ellen? She owns the shop.” Andi gestured towards a white-haired woman rearranging some greeting cards.
“Alright, I’ll give you guys some space,” Bex said, beginning to walk towards the older woman. “Hi! I’m Bex Mack...”
Bex secretly loved doing laundry. She loved the way the clothes smelled as she pulled them out of the drier, pressing them against her face and savoring their warmth. Plus, all loose change and bills that accidentally found themselves in the wash were automatically hers (house rule). But after laundry came folding and after folding came putting away clothes, two considerably less enjoyable tasks.
She had a system: first underwear and bras, then socks, next came shirts, and lastly pants. She was on socks right now, folding them neatly and placing them in Andi’s drawer.
As she shifted around the drawer’s contents so she could fit more socks, she noticed a clear plastic case holding the white corsage. Hidden in Andi’s sock drawer.
The two boutonnieres were nowhere to be found, so it wasn’t like Andi was holding onto everyone’s flowers.
So that must have been gay panic™ on Andi’s face; she must be the one giving the corsage, probably to Amber. (Also, for the record, Bex had totally called it with those two.)
But that realization also came with a sobering fact: Andi felt the need to hide the corsage, hide the fact that her date was female, from Bex. What did that say about her as a parent? About Bowie?
Of course, it was possible that Andi was still coming to terms with her identity and didn’t feel ready to come out. It could have nothing to do with her and Bowie.
But it could. So next morning at breakfast, Bex made sure to drop a, “Did you hear that Dan Howell came out? And the day after we get ‘You Need to Calm Down.’ What a time to be alive!” Hopefully Andi would get the message.
“LEMON BOY AND I, WE’RE GONNA LIVE FOREVER!” the Good Hair Crew sang, squished against each other in the far back seats of Bex’s mini-van. “It’ll feel like a limo if we’re back there!” Andi had insisted.
“And to think this used to be on your angst playlist,” Buffy commented now, smiling at Cyrus.
When they entered the Olive Garden a few minutes later, Buffy was the first one to spot the Kippen twins and Marty sitting in a booth to the left of the entrance. As they made their way over, Bex saw Ms. Kippen sitting a few tables away and walked towards her to introduce herself. “Hi! I’m Bex, Andi’s mom.”
“Natalie Kippen, TJ and Amber’s mom. Nice to meet you.” She looked to be in her early forties, her hair a dull blonde with some grays she had earned raising twins as a single mother.
They decided to eat dinner together, since they both had to be at the restaurant to drive the kids to the dance later anyways.
Bex and Natalie chatted over spaghetti and chicken piccata, discussing everything from the local county council election to TJ’s upcoming piano recital.
During a lull in the conversation, the women looked over to the table of chattering children. Buffy and Marty, butter knife in hand, were analyzing a pepperoncini which sat on a bread dish in between them. Andi and Amber were joking around with Cyrus and TJ, who sat across from them. Something TJ said made Cyrus blush, and then TJ leaned into the other boy, giving him a peck on the cheek.
Bex looked over to Natalie, who was smiling at the scene. “Look at them,” she said fondly. “I’m so glad he found Cyrus. It’s like he melted TJ’s shell. He hasn’t come out to me yet, but he has been more open and more comfortable with me. I remember we were watching House Hunters a year or two ago and a gay couple was buying a house together; he became tense and eventually asked to change the channel. Last week when a gay couple was on House Hunters, I saw a slight smile on his face.”
A warm feeling filled Bex, happy that TJ had grown so much in self-acceptance. “Maybe we could switch carpools. I could take your twins and their dates in my mini-van, and you could take Buffy and Marty?”
“I think they’d appreciate that,” Natalie responded with a smile.
“This is a great location for photos. You’re amazing, Andi,” Cyrus said.
Bex and Natalie had finished taking the group photos, and the kids began to walk towards the cars. Andi lingered back a moment, looking at some of the photos, which Bex had just sent her.
“Not so fast!” Bex called to the group. “We’re not leaving until I get some cheesy couple’s photos. C’mon over here, Amber,” she said, forgetting that Andi had never told her that Amber was her date.
Andi gave Amber a panicked a look. Amber took a deep breath and gave her girlfriend a reassuring smile, walking up to her. She gave Andi’s hand a small squeeze before they broke eye contact to face the camera.
Bex immediately felt guilty. She began to give Andi an apologetic look, only to find Andi already looking at her, with a slightly confident and even grateful countenance.
Bex’s supportive smile made Andi’s self-assurance and appreciation only grow.
“Alright, TJ and Cyrus are next,” Andi said after a few pictures. “And TJ I swear if you try to do something meme-related for your picture—”
“Too late, Andi,” Cyrus said. “He’s already t-posing.”
“Surprise!” Bex said as she got out of the Honda. “I’m a chaperone at the dance!”
Bex’s announcement was met with a groan from Andi, a chuckle from Cyrus, and silence from Marty and Buffy who had already started racing towards the gym’s entrance.
“Hearing ‘Old Town Road’ in the distance is possibly the most ominous thing I’ve ever encountered,” Cyrus said as he and TJ began to walk towards the dance. TJ laughed, looking down at the ground. Bex caught him mouthing to himself This is my boyfriend with a wild grin on his face.
Amber’s phone was extended in front of her and Andi, taking cute selfies. They shared a smile before following TJ and Cyrus.
Bex leaned against her car and texted Bowie. u here yet??
they’re coming in now. andi still doesn’t know you’re a chaperone too lmao.
hey. are you gonna come in? bc they just started playing ‘i wanna dance w somebody’ and i know you love whitney houston and also i want to dance w somebody. somebody being you.
thanks, cheesy romantic. i’ll be right in :)
The thrumming of the bass was too loud and the music choices were questionable at best, but Bex loved the school dance. She loved handing out the plastic cups of water, Sprite, and Gatorade to the barefoot and exhausted kids who came up to her counter. She loved seeing Bowie dramatically lip synch to “Dancing’s Not a Crime.” She loved seeing the Good Hair Crew’s joyous faces as they jumped up and down to Taylor Swift. She loved hearing Cyrus’s gleeful scream when “Strawberries & Cigarettes” started playing.
And when Ed Sheeran’s “Photograph” began playing, the couples drifted closer and began to sway together. Bex watched as Andi rested her forehead against Amber’s. Amber said something to Andi then, and they both laughed softly, their foreheads never losing contact.
Halfway through the dance, Bex and Bowie were allowed a break. They headed to the back room, Bex sitting down on the floor. “Hey,” Bex said softly, motioning for Bowie to sit behind her. She leaned back against him and rested her head against his chest. “I’m glad we did this.”
“Everything. I’m glad we decided to chaperone this, I’m glad we got married, I’m we’re raising Andi, I’m glad I’m in a position where I could fall asleep on you right now, and I’m glad I sold some of our stuff and used the money to buy a side car for my motorcycle.”
“Wait, you sold our stuff? Bex, what does that mea—”
Buffy had to carry Cyrus out to the car because there was a blood blister on his left big toe (there was some intense dancing going on, okay?!). TJ would have done it, but Amber made a joke about it looking like TJ was carrying Cyrus from their wedding bridal-style, and the interaction resulted in a blushing TJ chasing his twin and threatening to tackle her.
Andi, meanwhile, was strolling back to the car with Bex and Bowie. “So, you know about Amber,” she said, looking up at Bex.
Bex smiled at her daughter. “Yeah. I didn’t know for sure until I saw TJ give Cyrus a kiss on the cheek, meaning that you and Amber had to be dates—process of elimination—but, I mean, I called it at least four months ago.”
“And you’re good with it, right?”
“Of course I am!”
Bowie ruffled Andi’s hair with his hand. “Same goes for me. I am so proud of you, being strong enough and brave enough to come to Homecoming with Amber. You’re amazing, Andi.”
Bowie’s wrapped his arm around Andi’s shoulders, and Bex mimicked the movement.
“I love you guys.”
“Love you too, Andi.” Bex dropped her head so it rested on Andi’s shoulder.
“Love ya, kid.”
Bex closed her eyes for a few seconds, savoring the moment. When they reached the car and separated, Andi made her way towards Amber and confidently grabbed her hand, grinning at her. The girls were exhilarated and exhausted and euphoric.
Oh, to be young, Bex thought to herself. Ugh, did that thought mean that Bex was old? Bex was not old. That did not mean that Bex was old...