“All right, that’s enough!” My mother says loudly. Everyone but me is so shocked, they immediately stop what they are doing and practically snap to attention. “You are all acting like children. Is this the image you want to present to Paris?” The nurses continue on their way; the cop sits back down; Lyle slowly deflates; Mrs. Jenson’s shoulders sag; Mr. Jenson continues posturing. “I have tried to be diplomatic, but I have failed. Catherine, Douglas, you have the right to do what you want, of course, but I think it’s a crying shame that you want to banish one of the few people who loves Paris for who he is. Why don’t you ask Paris what he wants or don’t you care?” From within the room, we all hear a distinct if faint, “Want Lyle.” Mrs. Jenson has the grace to blush while Mr. Jenson continues to scowl.
“May I go in now?” Lyle asks, his head held high. Mrs. Jenson nods her head slightly. Lyle disappears into Paris’s room as my mother shepherds the rest of us back to our seats. I wait for my mother to soothe things over, but she says nothing. Her silence jolts me into understanding that this vigilance has taken a toll on her as well. It’s unsettling news as I count on my mother to be my bedrock when all else fails.
“I think we all need some real sleep,” my mother finally says, the indignation stripped from her voice. “We should be celebrating instead of fighting. Paris is going to be fine.” She isn’t her usual charismatic self, and I have a feeling I’m not the only one disappointed.
“Susannah, don’t think we’re not appreciative of your efforts,” Mrs. Jenson says stiffly, each word wrenched from her tightly-pursed lips. “You, too, Rayne. But this phase of Paris’s, it has to end. See where it’s gotten him!” Mr. Jenson is nodding his head like an ugly Greek chorus in the background.
“What happened to Paris has nothing to do with him being queer,” I say hotly, ignoring my mother’s warning looks. I also ignore the throbbing of my jaw as I’m pissed off. “Don’t turn this into a platform for your agenda.”
“If Paris hadn’t taken up with that Lyle, he wouldn’t have been hit,” Mrs. Jenson continues, pursuing her own line of reason.
“Lyle has nothing to do with this! Paris being queer has nothing to do with this!” My voice is rising despite my attempt to keep cool.