Life is about to change for Kate. She’s holding a cup of tea, thinking about the fallout from Rosa’s revelation the night before.
‘Now that you’re all here, I need to tell you this celebration isn’t just about Kate’s birthday.’ Rosa spoke confidently while she looked around the crowd, but avoided eye contact with Kate.
On Rosa’s left, Kate felt her cheeks burn. The back of her neck was damp. Her tummy was on a wash cycle, and not from the prawn cocktail she’d just consumed. Kate was worried. She thought back to their fight, before leaving home.
‘I’m not ready yet,’ Kate had said. ‘Let’s give it another few months.’
‘Months?’ Rosa screeched, tucking her tie dye T-shirt into her leather pants. ‘You’re never going to be ready. You don’t want to be real.’
‘That’s spectacularly unfair!’ Kate yelled. ‘I just know how they’ll react. I need more time.’
Rosa stared at a speck on the floor next to Kate’s feet.
‘Please? Just a few months,’ Kate repeated, wringing her hands.
Rosa had lifted her gaze to meet Kate’s eyes. ‘OK,’ she’d whispered.
In the restaurant, everyone gathered to celebrate her 35th birthday, Kate had a bad feeling. Rosa was going blurt it all out. In public. She stared at her mother, across the table from her. It was no use, Mum was gazing up at Rosa, smiling broadly.
It was funny really, how everyone just assumed they were good friends, flatmates. Kate wanted to spill the beans, but her church-going, god-fearing parents wouldn’t cope with the news. Kate continued to stare as Rosa kept talking.
‘Kate’s my best friend. And we’re all here because we love her and want the best for her.’ Rosa loved to address a crowd, Kate knew. And she was really enjoying herself now. Kate reached for Rosa’s hand, a deft movement designed to implore her to stop, to not do it. Rosa felt Kate’s fingertips and flicked them away.
‘But I also want to share the best news. News that might shock. But in order for me to be authentic with you all, I need to say it.’
Kate quickly looked at her Mum. She was still smiling widely.
‘Kate and I are lovers. We’re not just roomies, we’ve been in a relationship for two years. We’d like you know that we love you and our relationships and friendships with you aren’t changing. It’s just time we were more honest. With ourselves and you.’
Kate, watching her mum, noticed her smile had slipped off her face. Her eyes darted around the table, trying to gauge everyone’s reactions before she settled her gaze on her only daughter.
The disappointment was palpable. It was as obvious as the colourful designs on her mum’s muumuu dress.
‘Kate,’ Mum said. ‘What’s she talking about?’
A collective intake of breath threatened to suck the food off the table. Kate swallowed a hard ball in her throat.
‘Mum,’ Kate whispered. ‘I’m sorry, this isn’t the way I wanted to tell you.’ She glared up at Rosa, who was holding her glass to her lips. ‘But she’s right. We’re in love. We have been for a while.’
‘I don’t even know how to process this,’ Mum said, wringing her hands in the same way Kate did only hours ago. In spite of the moment, Kate felt content, safe.
‘Mum, it’s 1979,’ Kate said, lifting her chin. ‘Life’s different now. We’re not the first lesbian couple in the world and we won’t be the last.’
‘Betty.’ It was Kate’s dad, breaking into the conversation. A man of few words, but when he finally spoke up, it had a lasting effect. He stood, pushed his chair backwards; it loudly scraped across the wooden floor of the restaurant. ‘We need to leave. This instant.’
One by one, everyone followed suit. It was only Rosa and Kate left.
Rosa grabbed her hand and said, ‘Let’s go home, hun.’
Now, sipping her tea in the rocking chair on the back deck, Kate wondered what to do. She was livid with Rosa; they’d not spoken since they left the restaurant. Kate had forced her to sleep on the couch. By the time she got up this morning, Rosa had already gone. Kate assumed she was jogging, or perhaps she had left for the office. Kate thought about her parents. She should give them space, but she finished her tea quickly.
She drove home. Time to face it all.