Mother wouldn't tell me anything until we got home. She just drove up to the breezeway of the mall and told me to get in.
"Would you like a ride home, Tammy?" You could chill drinks with her voice.
"No thanks," Tammy answered and they glared at each other.
We all sat in silence as she drove home, her mouth set in a thin line; she kept glancing at me sidelong.
She fairly slammed the car door when we got there and walked briskly up to the porch, but her poise never broke. She stood there, her handbag hanging from the crook of her arm, looking like an avenging angel in pale green chiffon.
She immediately went to the kitchen, and I headed up to my room. I had no idea what she could've found in there that would upset her so much, but whatever it was, I'd not often seen her in such a tiff.
My door was locked.
I went back downstairs and found Mother sitting on the sofa, pouring herself a cup of coffee.
"Sit down," she said bluntly.
She took a sip of her coffee and set the cup down gently, taking a deep breath as she did so. Then she stood up slowly and gave me the Look.
"What do you have to say for yourself, young lady?"
"Besides 'I'm not a lady'?"
"Don't get smart with me, Dani. Answer the question."
"Can I plead the Fifth?"
"What has gotten into you?"
"Nothing, Mother, I just don't know what I'm accused of. Don't I have the right to know that?"
She flushed, and turned away.
"All right," she said, glaring at me over her shoulder. "We'll do it your way."
She took her keys from her purse on the credenza by the door and started up the stairs.
"Come with me."
When I got to the top of the stairs, she'd already unlocked the door and it was standing wide open. She was inside, standing by my bed.
The closet door was ajar, and there were some beat-up old eight-tracks laid out on the bed.
One of them was Heroin, by the Velvet Underground; the others were hand labeled copies, possibly bootleg, of groups I'd never heard of. I'd gotten them from a guy called Fenster at school. Whether that was a nick-name or a job description, I didn't know, but he sold them cheap.
I knew they were punk.
One of them was a commercial tape, relabeled in duck-tape and had 'High Times' written on it in heavy black pen; the others said 'the Sex Pistols', 'Smegma', and 'Willow Pussies'.
This all looked pretty bad, taken out of context, but I hadn't even listened to any them yet. I had only heard about punk and wanted to check it out. There was not much in the local record shops, so I found another source.
But as bad as this music might be, and I didn't really know, it was unlike my parents to get upset about something like choice of music. They usually trusted us to make decisions like that.
"Well what, Mother? It's music. Have you been snooping?"
"Don't change the subject," she said, turning a little pink in the cheeks. "This is about these." She pointed at the tapes like they were poisonous vipers.
"Are they yours?"
"Yes, Mother, they're mine."
"Where did you get them?"
"From a guy at school, and before you ask—no, I won't tell you his name."
"I swear, Dani, you must get this defiance from your father."
"Daddy wouldn't defy a stake through the heart, Mother. I'm just like you."
"Ah," she started, and closed her mouth. Then she teared up.
"I just don't know what to do with you anymore Dani. Is there anything normal about you?"
That was unfair, especially with all this gender drama in the Heywood household lately, and I was surprised she said it.
"I'm sorry baby," she said and put her hands over her mouth, as if that would reverse the effect of her harsh words.
But it was too late; you can say anything you want, but you can never unsay it.
She sat on the bed and cried.
"This is so hard. You have never been like other children, but this...Rarebit thing is a bit much for a mother to handle."
She laid her hand on the 'High Times' tape beside her.
"And now I find shit like this."
I don't think I'd ever heard her say a bad word before. It sounded unduly coarse from her mouth, like it somehow profaned the ears which heard it.
"What's wrong with that, Mother. It's just music. I haven't even listened to it yet."
She gave me a curious look and reached out to me, but I was mad and folded my arms across my chest.
"Baby," she said, pulling back her proffered hug, "please don't."
"Don't what, Mother?"
"Don't shut me out..." Her voice faded.
I didn't say anything.
"Or run away from life. Dani, I raised you, and I know you are stronger than this."
"Mother," I scolded, dropping my guard and moving to the edge of the bed, "you're making no sense. What is this about? What am I stronger than?"
If 'shit' was out of place in her mouth, 'drugs' was like a troupe of malodorous hoboes in your parlor, stealing from the liquor cabinet and building campfires out of the cigars.
"Drugs, baby," she repeated.
"Mother, have you lost your mind? Do you think I've lost mine? You used to trust me. I'm not on drugs."
"I do trust you, honey."
"So you spy on me and go through my stuff?"
"It's not like that," she pleaded pitifully. "I am a concerned parent in difficult times. Nothing is as simple as it was in my day; there weren't hippies, and free sex, or pot parties."
"You think I'm smoking marijuana, Mother?"
"No." She pointed to the tape. "This..."
She was really going around the bend.
"You think I'm smoking eight-tracks?"
Then I realized she was going on about the title.
"Mother, listening songs about drugs is not the same as having a drug habit."
Her eyes widened further.
"I didn't say anything about a habit. How much heroin have you been doing?"
She sounded terrified.
"Mother," I replied through clenched teeth, trying to remain calm, "I am not doing heroin. I have never done heroin. I don't even know what it looks like. I couldn't pick heroin out of a police lineup!"
"Then how do you explain this?"
She picked up the tape and I could see the label had been split along the seam. She worked the two halves of the case apart and shoved one half under my nose.
'This' turned out to be needles, or more correctly, syringes. There were four of them, and a bent spoon sitting in a makeshift compartment that had been fashioned into the case. The tape itself had been removed, with only a little piece of it stuck in the cover in her other hand to hide the reworks inside.
I felt my skin tingle and the hair stood up on the back of my neck.
"Mother," I said to her with great deliberation, "I have never seen those in my life. I swear to you. I got these tapes from a kid at school. I wanted to learn more about punk rock."
"Are you sure Dani? Are you telling the truth?"
"Yes, Mother, I swear to you."
"Well," she said, forcing the two halves of the tape back together, "I will believe you, for now. We will talk about this some more, when your father gets home."