I felt cool in my vintage one piece bathing suit. Mama brought it home from one of her weekend excursions with Penny, and decided that we should have a pool party just to give me an excuse to wear it. Anna invited a group of her friends and I invited Aunt Elise. I wasn’t used to attention, but went along with the plan for the simple fact that Mama seemed so excited about it.
Penny whistled as I descended the steps from the deck in my big sunglasses and boy cut suit. I blushed, but was determined to remain confident. Anna was already in the water with a few girls, Penny was sitting on the steps of the pool, and Aunt Elise was stationed by the table of snacks. “Where is Mama?”
“She’ll be down in a bit.” Aunt Elise said with a haze of crumbs escaping her lips as she spoke.
I was seventeen years old and Mama who should have gotten used to it by now, was still disappointed that I hadn’t found a boyfriend and didn’t have a group of friends that I fit into yet. Anna was flourishing with a revolving list of boys knocking on the door every time she was home, and daily phone calls from girls who wanted to have her over to spend the night. My sister and I couldn’t be more different if we tried.
The French doors opened and everyone looked up to see who was joining the party. I expected to see Mama, but instead saw Father wearing a pair of swim trunks that were entirely too short. I didn’t remember inviting him to my get together and wished he would leave, but there was nothing I could do about it without causing a scene in front of Anna’s friends.
“Cute bathing suit.” Father said in my direction as he sat down on the edge of the pool and dipped his feet into the clear water. Anna’s friends whispered and smiled in his direction, and Anna swam over to welcome him to the party.
“Is Mama almost ready?” Anna pulled Father’s leg hair and ducked under the water to avoid getting kicked.
“Missed me!” They made me sick. Couldn’t Anna see that Father was a cheating jerk?
“She’ll be down in a bit.” Father splashed water in my direction. “You getting in?”
“Not yet, I’ll wait on Mama.” I was a bit embarrassed that a party in my honor included Anna’s friends and a bunch of adults. Even nerds had at least one friend, but not me. I just had Mama, Penny, and Aunt Elise.
The French doors opened again and again we all gazed upward. The lace drapery flowed out and framed Mama, taking nearly everyone’s breath away. There was something classic about Mama’s beauty that made you feel like you were in the presence of Audrey Hepburn or Grace Kelly. She transcended time and you could literally pluck her from that moment and put her in any decade and she would have been just as timeless and just as beautiful. I could tell that Anna’s friends wanted to be like Mama, that Penny was proud to be her best friend, that Aunt Elise was proud to be her big sister, and then I looked at Father and his back was to her still. He hadn’t even bothered looking up. He couldn’t see what he had and wouldn’t have realized how amazing his wife was if she hit him in the face. I felt like hitting him in the face for her.
“Hi honey,” Mama sat down beside me, and the party resumed. “Having fun?”
“Sure.” I lied.
“Your suit looks cute.”
“Thanks,” I smiled as I dove into the pool, sending a sheet of water up in Father’s face. It was the least I could do.
Penny giggled as Father shook his hair like a dog before diving in behind me. He was used to the mean little things that I did, and it didn’t phase him. It wasn’t long before everyone was in the water, and I actually began to enjoy myself. About halfway through Marco Polo, I managed to forget the fact that I was friendless and bitter and started enjoying myself. By the time the sun went down, we were all having the time of our lives.
I glanced up from my plate of snacks and saw Mama give Father a peck on the cheek. He smiled, and I glanced over at Penny who had obviously seen the exchange too. “Poor Mama,” I whispered, assuming that Penny understood what I meant.
“She loves him, Addy. Deal with it.” Penny winked, before popping a tortilla chip in her mouth. I blushed, embarrassed that my disdain for Father was so obivous, but I shouldn’t have been surprised-- It wasn’t like I had ever tried to hide it.