Quick Intro Spiel
This is a follow-up to my last fiction entry, and you can read a longer spiel there. It’s probably preferable that you read that first, since this piece makes reference to events therein.
In this piece, we get to experience some of Chariya’s domestic life outside of her vigilantism. The recent events in Texas targeting parents, teachers, and doctors supporting trans kids (and labeling those doing right by the kids as “child abusers”) has been bothering me, as had JK Rowling’s outspoken comments that come across as anti-trans. Clearly there is not enough fictional content out in the world showing support for these kids. So I’m going to be upfront with this and say that I’m introducing Chariya’s daughter, Alice, as trans. This had been the plan prior to hearing the news out of Texas, but now more than ever feels like the right time to introduce that. I don’t know how much Alice being trans will impact the story, since my intention is to share more of a supportive parent/child relationship, regardless of anything else, but this piece only has a subtle reference to the fact that Alice is trans, and that’s why I’m more explicitly stating it in this intro, and briefly talking about why that representation matters here.
Chariya knocks on her daughter’s bedroom for the third time this morning. “Come on, Alice, you’re going to be late for school!”
All she gets in reply is a grunt and a moan.
“Look, I know fifteen-year-olds don’t really want their moms coming into their rooms, but you’re not giving me much choice here,” Chariya says firmly, before opening the door.
As she wanders through Alice’s bedroom, Chariya scrunches her face up at all the trash wrappers of granola bars and potato chips, before reaching Alice’s bed and shaking her.
Alice groans again, and rolls over, then pulls her turquoise blanket up to her face.
“Alice, it’s already eight! Your breakfast sausages are getting cold. You’re going to have to eat them in the car.”
Chariya yanks at Alice’s blanket and pulls it off the bed, leaving her daughter uncovered, and pulling her legs up to a fetal position.
Shaking her head, Chariya just stands in the middle of the room with her hands on her hips, looking at her daughter, who is already a couple of inches taller than her and very much not her little baby anymore. Alice didn’t used to be this difficult in the morning. Chariya finds herself wondering, is this just normal teenager stuff? Hormones? Natural impact of Alice’s ADHD or autism diagnoses? The lupron in her body? She makes a mental note to discuss this issue with Alice’s doctor at their next appointment. For now, Alice has to get to school.
Chariya makes her way back to Alice’s bed, and this time gets her arms underneath Alice’s armpits and starts dragging her daughter out of bed. Finally, Alice awakens enough to stop her mom from pulling her off the bed completely. She throws her legs around and sits on the edge of her bed.
“Mom, why can’t you just let me sleep?”
“You have school today. It starts in less than thirty minutes, and I have things to do before I start my shift at work. Now come on, get dressed. You can eat on the way.”
As soon as Alice shows signs of standing up, Chariya leaves the bedroom and heads to the kitchen to reheat Alice’s breakfast. On her way downstairs, she vaguely hears the sound of an incoming text on the burner phone she uses for her alter-ego, Tara, but she can’t look at it right now. She’ll just make sure she grabs the burner before she heads out the door.
Chariya drops Alice off at Oakland’s Catlett Memorial High School—a relatively new charter high school named after a prominent Black artist, which specializes in design, engineering, arts, and social sciences—at 8:27am. Whilst Alice’s classes start in three minutes, Chariya actually has a little breathing room before she needs to be at the domestic violence help center to teach her class in Muay Thai. She pulls her burner phone out of her small handbag to finally check her messages.
The text she received earlier is from a number not yet programmed into her phone, starting with 510—an Oakland number. She opens the text, and reads:
Tara – it’s Moon. Reaching out to see how you’re doing, and find out what you’re willing to share with me so I can get to know you better.
Then he signs off with an actual moon emoji. Chariya smirks and gives her phone a little eye roll before replying back with a question related to her morning’s frustration, but makes it about Moon rather than anything actually about herself.
Do you have kids, Moon?
Then she programs his number in her phone, starts her car, and makes her way to her class.
Chariya doesn’t hear back from Moon until she’s on her break at her workplace—a Thai restaurant in downtown Oakland called Curry Mee Home—at 3:30pm, though the timestamp on the text indicates Moon had actually texted her at 12:05pm. Right in her peak cooking time. She was probably preparing something like pad thai, pad mee korat, or pad see ew when he sent the message.
It’s actually a little surprising to Chariya to see how much Moon says in his reply. None of my own. There are a decent amount I keep an eye on, both in my personal and “professional” life. Chariya assumes the quotes around “professional” probably suggests his vigilantism rather than his day job. The personal side may mean he has at least one niece or nephew, or maybe he volunteers with kids somewhere. Wanting these local kids to grow up successfully instead of following the school-to-prison-pipeline is a big part of why I do what I do. What about you? What gets you outside in the evening? And then he ends his text with that moon emoji again.
Whilst she’s amused at the subtle way he describes their extracurricular activities, Chariya thinks it’s a fair question. After all, Moon shared his motivation. It’s too early for her to let him in on her first-hand experiences with emotional and psychological abuse, though, so a less personal response is more appropriate. I don’t like seeing women suffer in toxic and abusive relationships they feel unable to escape from, she texts back.
Almost as soon as Chariya puts her phone back in her handbag, she hears the text notification sound already. Flipping her phone back open, she reads, Can I see you tonight?
The memory of their kiss on the balcony of a foreclosed house the night before comes to the forefront of her mind. The left side of her mouth turns up in a grin, and she responds, I’ll let you know when I can.
Unfortunately, it is too early for her to make plans. The fact that her daughter often does not go to sleep early does not make it easy for her to go out without getting caught either. Sometimes she has to make excuses for why she’s going out at night, but Chariya worries about lying to her daughter too much. She pulls her personal phone out of her handbag and calls Alice, but it goes straight to voicemail.
“Hi Alice, just your mom calling. I guess you’re still on the bus. I should be home around eight-thirty; you can just heat up one of those microwave dinners tonight. Text me if you need me to pick up anything on the way home, and make sure you do your homework.” Chariya remembers there’s probably a parent-teacher conference coming up soon. “I don’t want Mr Kim nagging me about you ignoring history again. I know it’s not your favorite subject, but you still have to submit something. Love you, see you later.”
Chariya finishes off her green tea, and knows she’s likely going to spend the rest of her shift trying to figure out how and when she’ll be able to get out of the house to see Moon, and whether or not she should even be making that a priority.
Whilst being a single mom comes with so many challenges like these, Chariya reminds herself that she’s still better off now than when she was with her ex-husband, who didn’t seem to even want her to have a life beyond that of a housewife and mother. At least now she’s able to have her own income, a little child and spousal support on top of that, and—most importantly—make her own decisions about what she does with her life.