A short story about family values, yearnings, flaws, and mistakes. In an alternate reality, I might have been Ava. It's a humbling thought.
Twenty-year-old Ava didn't plan to become pregnant. Men aren't even her preferred gender, and being a young mother and aspiring artist is so much harder than she ever could have imagined. She finds the strangest sympathetic ear in her older coworker, Ashcroft. It's hard to say if their mutual support outweighs their shared vices, but as they work together in Le Romantique flower shop, they are content to bide their time and see what the future holds.
Ava shifted, uncomfortably. It was rare for them to talk this seriously. “You want to hear something wild, Ash?”
“I always wanted to be a Mom. Even when I realized, when I was a kid, that I liked girls way better than boys. It broke my heart that I wanted this sort of old-fashioned nuclear family type thing, but I wanted it with a woman—and I didn’t know if that could work.
“That’s why I went for it when Mike and I had our little accident and he said he wanted to keep it. I think I knew he wouldn’t stick around, and I don’t think I really wanted him to. But I sure wanted that little baby.” She smiled to herself and took out her phone. “Look what I got in my email.” She scrolled through pictures of a café-au-lait child with bright, naughty eyes and golden corkscrew curls. Ashcroft’s grandmotherly side made him “ooh” and “aaw” involuntarily at each heart-melting image.
“I want to do right by her. I really do. I just…have to feed the demons sometimes.”
Ashcroft gave her a crooked smile. “I truly understand that.”
“I feel like a selfish piece of crap. I thought I could have it all ways, you know? Be a famous artist…be the next Basquiat…”
“Oh, is that why the dreadlocks?”
Ava looked sheepish. “Too obvious?”
“A bit. But do go on.”
“So I just thought, you know, I’d be this twenty year old supermom, right? Working and Momming and going to school—just like my Mom did with me. ‘Cause that’s what they’re always telling us we’re supposed to do, isn’t it?”
“‘They’ they. The big ‘They.’ Women aren’t supposed to give up their careers, they say, we’re supposed to be strong and independent, and brilliant Moms, too, even if we only see our kids, like, an hour a day. So even though I felt like I could have stayed home and nursed that little baby forever…well, I started to get worried. I thought I should get back to my old life.”
“There’s that ‘should’ again.”
“Yeah. ‘Should.’ I got worried, then I got restless, then I got stupid, and then I got busted, and kicked out, and I missed her first steps when she turned one, and then…that’s when I…” She gestured helplessly, palms up. “I just figured she’d be better off without me. That I’d been given this enormous gift and screwed it all up royally, and that I was the one who should pay the price, not her. Never her.”