“Sorry to interrupt the party,” Gloria slurred, wobbling in, already holding a wine glass. “Carry on.”

The guests looked up, irritated. The drunks were starting early. They returned to grazing on antipasti.

“Is Johanna here?” she shouted, waving her left arm in the air, balancing precariously on her stilettos. “Johanna?”

A man in a tuxedo walked toward her, but she tossed her head and walked toward the bar. She plunked her wine glass down.

“Whisky,” she demanded, slumping over the bar. “You can put it in here.” She pointed to the wine glass.

“Miss, I think you’ve had enough.”

“Damn strait I’ve had enough,” she yelled, rising to her feet again, wobbly. She turned to face the crowd. The tuxedo man was approaching her again, but she didn’t care.

“Where the hell is Johanna?” she yelled to nobody in particular. Everyone stared. When she didn’t get the result she wanted, she started mumbling under her breath.

“Ma’m, come with me please,” the tuxedo man said, gently placing his hand on her arm. She threw him off.

“Where is Johanna? I want to see Johanna,” she cried, starting to run toward the front doors, her crepe dress flailing helplessly behind her. She stopped outside, taking off the damn shoes. Why did she choose these things, anyway? Where was that girl?

She sat on the brick wall just outside, shoes in one hand, empty wine glass in the other. A limo pulled up in front of the hotel. Gloria stood up hopefully.

“Johanna?” She pushed wisps of hair out of her face. This updo was quickly becoming a downdo. She released the pins, letting her hair fall, shaking it out. She saw the shocked faces in the car and tried to compose herself, patting stray hair down, smoothing her dress. She struggled to put her shoes back on as they exited the car, first the new husband, then his new bride enveloped in her frothy white strapless dress.

“Johanna,” she whispered, moving toward her. “You look beautiful.” Tears welled up in her bloodshot eyes.

“What are you doing here, mother?” Johanna asked, with strained patience. “I thought we agreed you would stay away.”

The rest of the wedding party waited by the door, feigning disinterest.

“I just wanted to see my baby girl get married,” she slurred, slumping against Johanna, who stood up taller, pushing her mother away.

“I haven’t been your baby girl in a long time, Mother,” she said. “You gave that job to your own mom, who did a great job, by the way.”

“Aww… honey, you’re not gonna hold a grudge on your wedding day, are you?”

“Mother, please leave,” Johanna said. “Now.”

Her new husband tried to lead her into the hotel, but Johanna turned and faced her mom, steeling herself.

“You know what? I have lived a lifetime of waiting for you to come around and be the mom I needed. Instead you come around and mess things up. You and your party friends almost ruined my life. I’m so grateful to Grandma for coming to my rescue.”

Her mother shook her head in disgust. “Meddling bitch,” she said.

“No, Mom,” Johanna continued. “Grandma saved my life. I almost fell in with the same crackhead crowd you were running with. People go where they are comfortable, and that was the life I knew. I’m happy now.” She motioned toward her new husband and her friends. “These people are my life. They love me. They don’t embarrass me. Grandma loves me, and God only knows why, but she loves you, too. She wants you to get some help.”

She started walking, but turned and said softly, “I love you, too, Mom. Get some help. I really wish you could have been here today.”

“But I am here,” Gloria protested.

“Not like this. Get some help.” Johanna said, turning back to her new husband.

Gloria stood there watching her only daughter walk away. She had not been there to see the wedding. She wasn’t welcome at the reception. Some of what Johanna had said started sinking through the drunken haze. Johanna was married now. Soon there would be grandchildren. Would she miss out on their lives the way she had missed out on Johanna’s? She pulled out her phone and looked at the number she had stored – Clean Treatment. She pushed dial, then cancelled the call.

Shoes and wine glass in hand, she started walking down the road toward the bar. She would call, just not today.

Photo courtesy of Grammar Ghoul Press


6 thoughts on “Unbalanced

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