Boundaries Chapter One


Chapter One

“Mom, come on, we’re going to be late.” I’m standing in my mom’s dining room waiting for her again. I’ve been ready to go for over an hour and I tried not saying anything to see if she could just get ready without me telling her to, but clearly she can’t. My bag is digging into my shoulder and I’m starting to lose my patience.

“Where’s my purse?” my mom asks.

“Where you put it!”  I yell.

“I can’t remember.”  My mom stands frozen, arms dangling at her side.  She looks helpless, like a giant kid.

“Mom, I don’t know either, look around. Honestly.  This place is such a mess; it blends in with all the other crap.  It could be anywhere.”

My mom looks into my eyes from across the room.  She doesn’t really move, she just reaches out at things and nudges them. She lifts a couple of shirts off the couch and slides the bag of apples against the wall with her bare foot.  She’s still looking at me when she says, “I need my shoes.”

“Okay.”  I raise my eyebrows and pretend it was just a statement then I pick up her car keys and start jingling them.

“I can’t find them.” She says to me.

“Mom, we need to go.”

“All right, just a minute.  I need coffee.”

“We don’t have time for coffee. I don’t want to be late!”  I drop my bag on the dining room table and lift a stack of papers off the floor. One of my mom’s folding chairs stands open nearby so I dump them there. The shoes are right there, under the papers. Where else would they be? I shake my head and toss them toward my mom’s feet. They bounce a couple of times and lay there. She doesn’t say anything for a second.

“Make me coffee,” she says as she slips the shoes on.

“Make your own coffee,” I grumble, but I walk into the kitchen anyway. If I don’t make the coffee, we’ll end up standing here forever. I find a clean mug and pour hot coffee into it. Steam rises up in front of my face and moisture collects on my eyelashes. Blinking it away, I take the hot mug out to Mom in the hall.  “Here,” I say and push it into her open hands.

She looks down into her mug and back up at me. “There’s not enough creamer,” she says.

“There’s plenty.  Why don’t you have any travel mugs?”

“I need more creamer.”  My mom sips the coffee and grimaces.  She leans far to the side to set the coffee on the coffee table.

“Too bad.”  I start tapping my toes and wait for all of two seconds before walking back into the kitchen to retrieve the creamer.  “Here,” I say.

My mom pours creamer into the cup turning the coffee an off-white color. It’s way too much.

“Mom, that’s a lot.”

“Here ya go,” she says, holding the container out to me. I grab it and watch her slip her shoes back off. “I’ll be right back,” she says.

“What are you doing?” I ask, but my mom doesn’t answer. She walks away from me. And I watch her as she lumbers down the hallway. I hear the squeaking of metal and recognize it immediately as the shower faucet being turned on. The sound of rushing water follows and then, the slam of the shower door.

My mouth drops open. I hear my mother calling out that she wants me to bring here a warm towel from the dryer. I shake my head. I can’t believe it. What the hell is she thinking?

“Oh my god, Mom!  We are going to be so late!  I hate being late!”

* * *

“See?  We made it.”  Mom hits the blinker to turn left at the intersection.

“We are two blocks away, we still need to park, and we’re twenty minutes late.  We didn’t make it.”

Mom doesn’t respond, but as we near the parking lot the car slows before coming to a complete stop.  I look up from my phone and see that Mom isn’t turning into the parking lot. She’s sitting there in the middle of the street blocking the entrance, not moving. I look at her to see what’s wrong and notice she staring out the windshield barely blinking. “Mom?” I say and follow her gaze out the window at through the next intersection. Oh, I see it now. There’s a damn coffee shop, a little café just beyond the light.

“Do we have time to get a mocha?” Mom asks as cars blare their horns behind us.

I sit up and turn in my seat to assess the situation.  “No, we don’t.  Just pull in and park.  You’re keeping everyone from parking.  Besides!  We’re late.  I should have been here first!  It’s my award.”

“Yes, all right.”  Mom steps on the gas and I relax just a little. Of course, I think she’s turning. She isn’t. She speeds passed the parking lot entrance and runs the red light. “We’ll grab a mocha and a treat to celebrate and then get over there.”

“God, Mom!  Just hurry up!”  I slam back in the passenger seat and fold my arms over my chest. There’s no controlling her.

Mom pulls into the first available parking spot and hold out a twenty. “Here,” she says. “Get me a mocha, a big one, and something for yourself.  Oh and maybe some biscotti.”  A big stupid smile spreads across her face. Seriously? Does she think she’s doing me a favor?

“You want me to go in?” I ask. “I don’t even want anything.  This was your idea.  You go in.”

“But I’m so slow making a decision.”  Mom frowns.  “Don’t you want to get over there?  You’re already so late.”

I grab the twenty from her hand and wrench the passenger door open.  I let it slam shut as I run into the café. It smells so good in here and I’m kind of glad we stopped. I order all I can and pocket the change.  I shoulder the door open and approach the car. Mom’s in there reading, of course. She’s hunching over totally engrossed.   I’m certain it’s a romance. That’s all she reads. She runs off to the world she doesn’t have and leaves me to get her coffee. I shake my head and tap on the driver side window with my knuckles. “Here,” I say as the window rolls down.  My mom drops the book in her lap and reaches for her treats. I hand the biscotti and mocha to here.

“Where’s yours?”  She frowns.

“I have to run back in and get it.  They don’t have carrying trays.”  I thumb over my shoulder before turning back to the little shop.

“Well, hurry up, Kate.” I hear her call.  “We’re really cutting it close.”

“Right.  Be right back.” I say. Like I don’t know that already. Still I hustle in and back out with my hands so full I’ve got to hook open the passenger door with my pinky finger. I set my stuff down on the floor before hopping in.

“Ooo, what’d you get?”  Mom eyes my paper bag.

“Just a scone,” I answer and shrug.

“Any change?” she asks.

“Nope.”  I say as I pull the strap of the seat belt across my shoulder and click it in.  “Let’s go.”

* * *

My face is on fire. So much heat is rushing up my neck; it’s burning the tips of my ears. I can feel sweat running down the small of my back. I just know I’m beet red. I always change colors when I’m like this. Nervous. Late. God, I hate it. “Everyone is staring.”  I whisper to my mom’s back.

She’s walking just in front of me toward our table. She turns slightly as she scoots between to tables and says, “Only because you’re so pretty.”  Then she slides into her chair. I roll my eyes at this.

“Only because we’re so late, Mom.”  I correct her.  “You know I can’t stand it.”  I sit in the next empty seat and set my coffee on the table next to the water glass. I take a deep breath and let it out slow. All right, so not everyone is staring. Maybe Mom is right. I glance at her and smile and then notice her hands are empty. She’s being very attentive and listening to the speaker go on about how talented the young women in the room are, but she doesn’t have her biscotti or her coffee.  “Mom?”  I hiss.  “Where’s your coffee?”

“Oh, I left it in the car,” she whispers.  “I didn’t want people to think we were late because I stopped to get coffee.”

My stomach tightens.  “But I brought in my coffee!”

“It’s okay, you’re getting the award.”

“Mom.”  My voice drops dangerously low.  “It looks like we’re late because I wanted coffee.  And I didn’t.”

“Then why did you get some?” she asks furrowing her brow at me like I’m crazy.

The ringing in my ears starts to push out all other sounds and I can feel the heat returning. I must be holding my breath because my vision clouds and I’m certain I’m going to pass out.  “Because we were already there.  Because you wanted a coffee.  You skipped the parking lot.  You made me go in.”

“If you didn’t want to go, you should have said so.”   Mom snaps.

“I did say so, Mom.”  I growl out the last word and then everyone is clapping.  I pull my eyes away from Mom and look around the room.  People are smiling at me and nodding their approval. Shit, I didn’t even hear what the speaker said.

Now Mom begins clapping. “Well, go on.”  She says through smiling gritted teeth.

I take in a deep breath and exhale with slow deliberation, looking away from my mother.  I didn’t hear what was going on. I have no idea what I’m supposed to do. I’m looking around like an idiot. The other mom’s and award recipients are starting to giggle.  They probably think I’m just too excited to move.  I’m not. I would have been, if we didn’t stop for coffee, if my mom wasn’t arguing with me, if she wasn’t making me look like an idiot. But we did, she is, and I do. I’m too pissed to puzzle out what I need to do. So, I just sit in my chair, bright red, and grinning.

The spokesperson clears her throat.  “Just up here, Kate,” she says. She nods encouragement at me and I begin to move. I keep my eyes locked on the podium and zigzag up between the tables toward the front.

My Family Is …

Passive aggressive bullies.

Now,  Be Nice.

Okay … Full of shit.

Nope.  Try again.

My family is full of people trying to make it.  Trying to make their life full.  Trying to navigate what they need, what they want, what changes their minds, what keeps them going, what pushes against them, what others need, what others want, what pressures them.

One wants you to visit.

They miss you.  They love you.  You aren’t trying hard enough.  Where did you get that idea?  No.  I can’t believe you thought I’d want that.  I want.  I want.  I want.  You just need to show up.  Be present.  Do whatever.  But also run it all.  You disappoint me.  You should have.  You needed to.  You can’t keep me from doing this.  It means so much to me.  Since when?  Since always. You never said.  I shouldn’t have to.  You are letting me be.  You don’t expect me to do it.  I already paid for something else.  I want to do this.  Well, I just thought you’d want to see your family.  I thought you cared.

One doesn’t want to visit.

You don’t love us.

Yes, I do.  My family is full of needs.  My family is full of hurt.  My family is full of love.  My family is full of sadness.  My family is full of shame.  My family is full of desires for laughter.  My family is full of missing out.  My family is full of ideas.  My family is full of procrastination.  My family is full of disappointments.  My family is full of borrowed feelings.  My family if full of unclaimed feelings. 


Boundaries Breakdown Short Stories

From a family of dysfunction, having appropriate boundaries doesn’t come naturally.

Kate and Penny are at each other’s throats. Paul tries to keep out of the way. And mom loves her books.

First in a series of  connected short stories:


High school senior, Kate, is on her own for the first time in her life with no one to take care of but herself. Even across several hundred miles, her family crushes her independence and reminds her just how connected she is to a life she wishes she could change.

Sometimes finding your power starts with pretending it’s already there.

Available at and Amazon Kindle Unlimited