It Was No One
"Sara, who was that?" Judy asked as her daughter hung up the phone.
"No one," Sara answered without turning around.
"No one?" She was definitely lying. Judy watched the way her daughter’s hand
rested on the phone. Her unwillingness to say more.
"Was he a boy from your class? He sounded too old to be in the ninth grade."
"Mom." Sara threw the word against Judy. "I told you. It was no one."
Judy’s stomach felt queasy as Sara stomped from the kitchen. She knew all too well that the boy who had just called was not a “no one.”
Not the nerdy boy with the bad posture and pimply forehead who sat next to Sara in Social Studies. She talked about him for hours on end. Not the boy with the squeaky voice who called every Thursday for the math homework. He was just plain annoying. No, this boy was someone special.
Someone who had made Sara’s whole world tilt a little, a little too much for Judy’s liking.
Judy walked quietly to Sara´s bedroom and stood next to the closed door. She pictured Sara lying on her bed, face down, hanging over the edge.
Using all the willpower she had, Judy didn´t knock, didn´t walk in. Instead she moved slowly down the hall toward the living room.
Outside the rain continued to pelt the roses and fill the walk way. Who said it never rained in Southern California? In may? For six days now, the rain had been flooding the streets, causing accidents, and dampening Judy’s mood.
Water bounced off the spa cover, soaked the lounge chairs they had forgotten to bring inside the garage.
"Mom?" Sara stood behind her at the picture window. "Want to go shopping?"
"You said we´d go this weekend."
So she had. But right now, Judy felt more like reading.
Yes, thought Judy. It would be nice to curl up on the couch with that novel on her night stand. How long had it been sitting there? Every time she picked it up she had to reread a few paragraphs to remember the story.
Sort of the way she saw her life. A few steps forward and then she would play back a little of the day before. Was this what it felt like to be middle aged? But then didn´t everyone hit middle age at a different time? And actually, one never knew when one was at that middle age until one´s death.
"C´mon, Mom," Sara pleaded. "I need some new things."
Sara had been repeating this all week. She needed a new pair of shoes. A pair of pants that fit. And then, that thing.
"Thing." Judy shook her head as they entered the lingerie department at Robinsons May. "You mean a bra," she said to her daughter, intentionally louder than necessary.
"Ssh," Sara whispered, checking the sizes.
When Sara walked into the dressing room with the thing tucked under her shirt, Judy was sure the sales woman would arrest Sara for shoplifting. But Sara, although she wasn´t modest about the changes in her body, at least not at home, not even in front of her father, here in the store, was embarrassed.
"Why are you embarrassed about this?" Judy asked, watching her daughter unbutton her shirt, curious to see how much she had developed since the last time she had seen her naked. The days seemed to show as months on her daughter´s body.
The curtain wouldn´t stay shut, so Judy offered to hold it. She had held a curtain like this hundreds of times for girlfriends. Now she was holding it for her daughter, her little girl who wasn´t so little anymore.
She in turn would hold the curtain and giggle with her friends about boys. About all the "no ones."
Without any warning, Judy imagined young clumsy hands moving over her daughter´s body, lingering on the newly formed breasts.
She glanced away and stared at the floor. A toddler in the next dressing room played on the ground, her tiny foot sticking through the crawl space.
It seemed a million years ago that Sara was that small. Sitting on the living room floor, surrounded by crayons, instead of tubes of eye shadow and lip liners, and trying so hard to color between the lines.
Judy glanced up at her daughter. She was struck by the fullness of Sara´s lips, shaded a deep pink and perfectly lined with dark brown. At her long lashes accentuated with mascara. At the blush on her high cheekbones.
Where had all those years gone?
Panic rose into her chest. She started talking, hoping her words would wash away the inevitable.
"We left in such a hurry, I have to call your father to see if I turned off the bathroom heater."
"It was off," Sara said.
"But I left the light on in the bedroom. And I don´t think we locked the back door."
"What are you talking about?" Sara asked. "Dad was staying home." Then she made a face. "These don´t fit."
Judy shifted positions. The things were already too small. She had outgrown the ´nearly A´ cup in a matter of minutes.
"Try this sports bra on," Judy suggested, imagining eager hands pulling the bra off and gawking at what lay beneath. "I´ll go get you a bigger size."
What she really wanted was to inhale some fresh air. To kill the images flooding her mind. And she wanted the impossible. She wanted to turn back time.
When Judy came back to the dressing room, Sara was pouting. "What took you so long?" she asked.
"Here," Judy answered, tossing several more things on the bench.
As Sara changed, Judy studied her daughter. Her freckled shoulders. Flat stomach. Maybe she should have that mole next to her bellybutton removed.
Sara had never liked her hair brushed. It was always a struggle between tears and kicks. Now it cascaded down her back in silky waves.
It wasn´t really a miracle to give birth. The miracle lay in raising the child into a decent person. In doing all the right things, when everywhere you went someone was luring you in the wrong direction. In keeping them safe from all the hands that wanted a part of their bodies. Safe from all the promises that would turn into nothing but empty words. And, oh how that emptiness could fill a broken heart with tears.
Without intending to, Judy started thinking about Brian. He had been the first boy to touch her. Every afternoon after school she would hurry to the gas station where he worked and during slow periods they would make out behind the counter. He touched her with grease stained hands. She wore the smudges proudly to school.
For a whole six months Judy thought he was the one her mother kept talking about. The man who would take care of her for the rest of her life.
And then one day, after running his rough hands over her new silk blouse and his words into her hopes, he stopped calling. The next time she went to the gas station, she saw a new version of herself leaning against the counter, leaning into Brian´s promises. She went home and cried for a week.
What she wouldn´t give to keep her daughter away from that kind of pain. If only it were possible.
"Mom," Sara stood in front of her. "What´s the matter with you today?"
"Nothing," Judy answered, tapping Sara lightly on the shoulder. "Let´s go check out that Forever 21.”
Sara´s eyes lit up. "Really?" She rushed out of the dressing room ahead of her mother.
The Topanga mall was crowded, a confirmation of Sara´s theory that it was good to shop in the rain. Judy walked a few paces behind her daughter, trying to catch up.
It wasn´t until they reached Forever 21, that Sara stopped and took on a reverent pose in front of the store window.
"I have to have that," she said, pleadingly.
Judy stared at the perfectly proportioned mannequin, dressed in a slinky black dress. She had worn a similar dress to a fraternity party, a million years ago.
"No, it´s too revealing. You can´t even wear that to school. Besides, your father won´t approve."
Sara rolled her eyes.
"You don´t want me to wear it. Why do you always blame it on Daddy?" She stormed off into the store.
Judy knew the scenario. Her daughter would beg. Judy would say no. Sara would protest and promise to do dishes for the next month and Judy would give in.
Sara should have been a boy, Judy thought. No better yet, she should have been a boy.
Then it would have been different. Her dreams would have been her own. But her mother had made her see the world as she had seen it. And in time, Judy had seen the world through the eyes of whoever she was dating.
During her first year at junior college Judy studied men, searching, hoping for the right one. The one her mother said would make her life complete.
For after all, a girl who belonged to someone, who wore someone´s else identity, was safe.
"Mom," Sara waved a hand in front of her face. "Are you coming in? Why are you acting so weird?"
Judy forced her lips into a smile. Sara headed straight for the dress she saw in the window. Judy shook her head as she followed behind.
"Please Mom." Sara held the dress up to her body. "I could wear it to Sabrina´s party. There´s going to be a lot of really hot guys there."
Hot guys. Have some hot young hands already touched Sara´s young skin? That thought crawled around Judy’s mind like a spider.
"I haven´t said you could go yet," Judy replied without conviction.
"Mom! You promised."
"I said maybe."
"Whatever." Sara slammed the dress back on the rack. "You just don´t want me to have any fun because you never did."
"That´s not true. I want you to have fun, I just don´t want...."
Judy broke into a sweat. The store was too hot. The video on the TV was too graphic; a young girl gyrating against a pole while men in leather jackets gathered around her.
She couldn´t stay in there a second longer. Without saying anything she turned and hurried out of the store.
Taking deep breaths, she paced around in circles. Spotting an empty seat, she rushed to sit down before it was taken.
And then she waited, as she had done hundreds of times before. In front of the elementary school. In the auditorium. At the softball game. On the library lawn. At the kitchen table.
What would she do when she didn´t have to wait any more?
She watched as Sara approached. Her long hair bouncing off her shoulders. This daughter of hers, this stranger. Judy started to rise when a group of young boys nearly collided with Sara.
The adrenaline rushed through her body, the familiar rush of fear. But then it became obvious that these boys knew Sara.
Judy sat back, pretending to rummage through her purse.
The taller of the boys placed his hand on Sara´s shoulder. Sara leaned forward and whispered in his ear. He moved his hand to the small of her back.
Judy could feel his palm pressing into her daughter´s skin. She felt his fingers moving toward the mole on Sara´s stomach.
Judy watched Sara´s body language. She knew this emotion. Her heart beat in rhythm to Sara’s. Quick, full of anticipation. She brushed her own hot cheeks with the back of her hand.
This boy stood in the center of her daughter´s world. He could make her laugh or cry. And drive her to the point of despair. If she let him. And there was no doubt in Judy´s mind, Sara would let him.
Judy caught her daughter´s glance. Sara smiled and raised her left shoulder slightly, a gesture left over from her preschool days.
Judy turned away before the tears left the corners of her eyes. She stood up, tucked her hands into her jacket pockets. Through a haze of images she walked over to Barnes and Noble and stared in the window. At nothing and at everything.
A few minutes later the familiar hand slipped inside hers and squeezed tightly.
"He´s cute, isn´t he?" Sara asked. "But sometimes he´s a real jerk."
Judy nodded. She wanted to know if he had been the boy who had called this morning. But she also knew it didn´t matter. So, she said nothing.
She simply held on to her daughter´s hand. Not yet. Not now. But when the time came, she knew she would have to let go.