3w: Progression

Janelle “Happy birthday to you!”


Transitions are never easy. Ever. The last time things changed should make that pretty clear to you, Janelle. I’m not good at adjusting.

Adjusting to my babies growing up into their own people—that was hard. Apollo was so strong and bright and competent—I knew he’d be an excellent person, an excellent contribution to society, maybe an excellent husband or partner or father someday.

But adjusting to you hating me? That didn’t come easy.

I spent a lot of time doing things on my own.

(That’s Leolin in the corner over there-I bet you forgot how big he was, yeah? I forget sometimes… I still picture him as that buoyant child…).
Leolin Newman: Willow Creek High Class of 2020

Whenever you were in the same room, really, I buried myself in my guitar. I excused it to myself: (1) I had goals, this was in the pursuit of something good and (2) you didn’t want me around anyway, so what did it matter?

Janelle “If you could, mother, could you put that infernal instrument away?” / Leolin “Yeah, mom. Why couldn’t you have learned to play the piano?”

But Creator, I knew I was just running away. From you, and from Leolin a bit now too. He had grown into a teen with your same tendencies towards feeling superior—there’s nothing wrong with wanting a better life, of course, but it seemed like his natural cheerfulness was overshadowed now by his want to take you as his high-class mentor.

Leolin “Ugh.”

Every opinion Janelle expressed, Leolin joyfully, but staunchly, abided by.

Even the ones about me, though the one’s about my character didn’t seem to stick quite as well as those about my guitar-playing, thank the Creator.

Janelle “Must you sit so close to me, mother? You’re compromising my ability to think.” / Leolin “Mama! I’ll come sit with you!”

I spent a lot of time with Leo as well.

Leo “It’s beautiful out here.”

He really was my rock while I was figuring out how to deal with all that was now so crazy in our home life. He was a constant voice of reason and reassurance.

Leo “You know she doesn’t mean it, right? She’s just a teenager.”


Boy, was he mad when I told him what she said to me that day. It was me that had to stop him from going out and confronting her—kids shouldn’t talk to their parents that way, no matter how they’re feeling, he told me.

But I needed him more in the moment. I needed him to hold me more than I needed him to stand up for me. And he understood that, like he always did, though I think he worried about it from a parenting standpoint.

Leo “You know not to talk to your mother the way that Janelle does, right? I know you’ve been spending a lot of time with her.” / Leolin “But Janelle says-“
Leo “Listen, kid, I don’t care much what Janelle says. Well, I do, but she’s B’s daughter, not mine, so I don’t have much say in stopping it. But you’re my kid. And if I hear you talking to your mother with anything but love and respect-which is what she deserves-you won’t be pleased at the consequences.”

I could admit it now—I loved that man. I swear I did. It took me so fucking long to say it, I know it did. It took me so long just to admit it to myself. But he had been living with me for long enough now that I couldn’t justify pretending—I loved him. He was as close to a soulmate as I could ever hope to have.

Other residents of the house, however, were not quite so welcome.

Janelle “Alexia! How nice of you to visit!”


Janelle “I swear! She brought me to the shop, like that would fix things between us. You would have been disappointed in how I handled it, but I just couldn’t help myself. And at least now she’s leaving me alone, right?”
Alexia “Though your tactics are not befitting of a woman of your status, it’s better to cut off the rotten branch before it poisons the rest of the tree.”
Apollo “She’s out with that ghost again… Should I get Mom?” / Hari “Nah, leave her alone, she’s fine.”

Creator, if I knew how to exorcise a ghost, she’d be gone. All of my suspicions had been proved correct with that apparition. Someone had poisoned by daughter against me, and I was convinced it was Alexia, the dead bitch.

Leo “You wouldn’t do that even if you could. Janelle isn’t talking to us right now, but clearly she’s going through something of an identity crisis. Aren’t you glad that she has someone she can talk to?”

I guess Leo was right. Leo was always right, damn it.

Hari “You know, Janelle, you’ve been spending a lot of time with that ghost…” / Janelle “You keep your mouth shut about Alexia, Hari. I can punch way harder than you.”

And I was glad that she had someone she could talk to. I wish the person weren’t dead, but at least it was something. She had life experience, to be sure.

Leolin “I think Alexia’s pretty cool!” / Janelle “Thanks, little bro.”

And there was always Leolin. Janelle hadn’t distanced herself from him, joy of joys.

Hari “I hate that fucking ghost!”
B “I love you.”
Leo “…what?”

Even despite what was happening with you, Janelle, something about knowing that I wouldn’t be in charge pretty soon was bringing me a sense of inner peace. You were so close to being a young adult. And as much as I knew (from my own damn experience) that age had nothing to do with maturity, or how ready one was to take of oneself, I figured that at least I could take a step back. You would have to figure it out for yourself, and I would have to let you.


Janelle “For the love of the Creator, Apollo, can’t you take a bath before sitting down at the table? This is so beneath you.” / Apollo “Seems that in your eyes, everything is beneath us.”

And in the meantime, I would get to let go of some of that pressure on myself.

Leo “Hey, you think you could help me with something Apollo?”
Apollo “Hey, Mom, I think I saw some wild animal out by the crypt. Think you could go scare it away?”
Leo “I’ve been thinking. Janelle and Hari are going to be all grown up soon. You won’t be the matriarch anymore, someone else is taking over the reins. You’ll have some time to just be you… but we’re getting older too, you know? As much as the kids will be adults and can theoretically take care of themselves, I don’t want us to die-want me to die-and end up leaving them with some crazy lawyer mess to deal with. You know how the government will be. So…”
B “Leo, what is this?”
B “Oh my Creator…”
Leo “I know this isn’t what you’ve said you wanted. And I know, when we got together, you said you’d never want to be with just one person. But the other day… you finally said you loved me. And I thought that, maybe, even if you didn’t want to get married, to be committed to me permanently, you’d at least consider being my fiancee.” 
B “Oh, Leo, I don’t kn- oh, such a pretty ring…”
B “It does look nice on me, doesn’t it…” / Leo “It certainly does.”
B “I’ve been think about how nice it’d be to keep you around a little longer anyway…”
B “How do you always know what I need? Have you been reading my mind again?”
Leo “Like I need to. You’re an open book.”


Things weren’t great, Janelle. Far from it. You had still broken my heart—shattered it, really—and didn’t seem to care whether or not I picked up the pieces. But Leo was there to help me out, and that was good, and I was okay.

That’s really the best that anyone can ever hope for, I think—that, through all the bad, we have someone by our side who makes it—or tries to make it—okay.

Leo “I love you.”
B “I love you.”




Janelle “For the love of… Can you just quit that already? First of all, why would you want to be with her? And secondly, being… like that out in public is so unclassy.” / Apollo “Just shut up, Janelle. Mom deserves to be happy.”



Janelle “Oh, thank the Creator Mother’s not here… I feel a little bad for what I said to her, you know? Or at least where I said it. She’s just… so bad for my image, it drives me crazy sometimes…” / Hari “…Yeah. Right. Great ‘apology’, sis. Maybe try to think a little harder before you tell that to her. Just blow out your damn candles.”




Janelle “Maybe I’ll talk to her later, maybe.”
B “It’s good to let go. I don’t have to worry about much anymore-my kiddos can take care of the family now.”

You know, I do wish you had talked to me. I do wish that you will talk to me. Someday, maybe you’ll decide that you were wrong. Or maybe I’ll decide that I was wrong, though I doubt that will be the case. Either way, I don’t want us to stay this way—where we dance around each other, making no eye contact and exchanging no kind words.

I’m not happy, Janelle. But I am content. And I really don’t think that you are. You seem lost, angry, bitter. I hope I didn’t make you that way. If I did, I apologize. All I want for you now is for you to find your contentedness. Seek it fiercely, determinedly, with the same boldness you’ve approached everything in your life, even me. Find your happy. And teach your children, if you choose to have them, to find theirs.


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