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December 2008

“Your name please?” I ask for the ten thousandth time today.

The mall is packed, the decorations make Deb’s house look classy, and it reeks of cinnamon pine cones. I hate it. But I’m so desperate for volunteer hours for National Honor Society that I’m working the charity gift wrapping booth.

“Kinney,” the woman says.

That breaks me from my Capitalismas hating fog.

I look up. Medium height, short gray hair, stern expression. Brian’s never mentioned any relatives, but I know from Debbie’s stories that he went to high school in Pittsburgh, so surely he has family here. I study her face for any resemblance.

“Hey kiddo, almost done with your shift?” I hear Debbie’s loud voice through the din of mall traffic.

She and my mom walk up, loaded down with shopping bags. Deb’s got on a tacky Christmas sweater, unironically, while my mom is wearing jeans and a plain, red cardigan. They make such a strange duo. Deb’s nothing like the rest of my mom’s friends, but in a good way. She’s brash, honest, and doesn’t stand for bullshit. And she was there for my mom during the hardest time of her life. I fucking love her.

The woman in front of me turns around. She and Debbie look at each other for a long moment.

“Hello, Deb.” The woman stands up straighter, adopting a defensive attitude.

“Joan, how are you?” Debbie is wary, and I’m definitely getting a bad feeling about this.

“I’m well, thank you. And you?”

“You know, can’t complain.” Debbie pauses for a moment and looks from Mom to the woman, Joan. “Jen, this is Joan Kinney, Brian’s mother.”

Fuck. Obviously, Brian has a mother, but he’s never spoken of her. I’ve been around the community enough to know what that means. Not everyone gets awesome parents like Debbie and my mom.

“Joan, this is Jennifer Taylor. She’s Justin’s mother.” Debbie's being uncharacteristically polite and formal.

The woman frowns. “Justin?”

Mom swallows hard, but gives Joan one of her country club smiles. “Brian’s partner.”

Joan’s frown deepens as she looks at Mom. “The blond boy?”

“My son is blond, yes.” Mom nods and I can see her struggling to maintain her manners. “It’s nice to finally meet you, Joan.”

Joan looks from Mom to Debbie, her expression cold. “I see. I’m very sorry for what Brian has done to him.”

“Done to him?” Debbie hisses, but Mom just gives Joan this calm, hard glare.

“The Bible makes it clear that homosexuality is a sin. Brian is leading him on the road to Hell.” She states it calmly, factually, like she’s describing the weather rather than literally damning her son.

Mom stands a little taller and looks Joan straight in the eye. “I’m sorry that you are a narrow minded, fundamentalist bitch. That you can’t see what a wonderful man Brian is. As for what Brian has ‘done’ to my son? He’s loved him, supported him, taken care of him, and literally saved his life. I am grateful everyday that they are together.”

Mom certainly didn’t always feel that way. But I know that now, eight years into this thing, Mom really does love and respect Brian. I mean, I’ve seen them actually giggling together.

Joan’s jaw drops for a moment before she composes herself with an arrogant huff. Mom’s death glare never falters. “Excuse me.” Joan picks up her pile of gifts. “I think I’ll wrap these myself.”

When Joan is out of sight, Debbie puts an arm around Mom, “And that’s why Brian spent most of high school at my house.” Mom sighs and leans into Debbie’s hug.

Later on, I’m in the backseat as we drive back to Debbie’s house.

I can’t get that awful woman out of my head. How could anyone think that about their own child? I can't imagine what it must have been like growing up with her. To feel such hatred from the one person that is supposed to love you unconditionally. No wonder Brian never talks about his mother.

It’d be better if he didn’t have one.

"The muscular mountain man moaned at the sweet, salty taste of her slick sex."

That gets my attention.

"Oh that's terrible." Mom laughs.

Debbie chuckles. “I think I’ve really outdone myself this year.”

Debbie knows she can’t afford to buy Brian anything that would suit his expensive taste, so she goes for humor instead. This year, that seems to have taken the form of the trashiest straight romance novel she could find.

Mom and Debbie start cracking up at the thought of trying to get Brian to read this out loud on Christmas Eve.

It occurs to me that blood doesn't matter. Despite Joan Kinney's rejection, Brian has two mothers that love him for exactly who he is.