The Stubborn Suitor

By: Alexa Wilder

“Cami, I didn’t hear you come in,” she said.

“Where’s Madison?” Cami asked, coming to stand next to the older woman.

“She’s passed out in the bedroom. We went to the park, and she spent the afternoon running around with a neighbor’s dog. She was exhausted.”

“Sorry I missed that,” Cami said with a sad smile.

She could picture the little monster, running through the grass after the mutt, shrieking with joy. She smiled at her mother, who was now looking at her with an inquisitive expression. She must have seen the stress on Cami’s face. Cami really wasn’t ready to have that conversation with her mother, so she turned to go.

“I better get her home.”

“No rush,” the older woman said. She patted the chair next to her. “Come, have a seat.”

Cami thought about arguing, but knew that she’d never win that fight against her mother. Besides, her mom didn’t spend much time around other adults. She owed her a few minutes of visiting. So Cami pulled out the chair and sat down beside her.

“You look tired,” the older woman said as Cami relaxed into the chair. “You work too much!”

“I really don’t want to get into this with you again, Mom.” Cami was emotionally and physically exhausted, and she really didn’t want to rehash this argument once again.

“You’re missing out on so much of her childhood,” her mother replied, changing approaches to continue her point when Cami clearly didn’t want to talk about it.

Cami sighed deeply, wishing she hadn’t taken a seat. The truth was, she did feel like she was missing parts of Madison’s childhood. But that was the point of working long hours four days a week. She then had three full days to spend with Madison—at least when her daughter wasn’t spending the weekend at her father’s house. But she was doing her best—or what she thought was best for Madison.

“I don’t have a choice, Mom,” she replied indignantly.

“Of course, you do! You could work part-time. Move in here with me. That way you wouldn’t miss so much of your baby’s childhood.”

“I can’t do that, mom. You know I can’t.” Cami was growing angry. “This apartment only has two rooms.”

“I can sell this place and move into a town home or something.”

“Not going to happen, Mother,” Cami said.

The thought of living with her mom sent another wave of nausea through her stomach. Cami loved her and was eternally grateful for the support she offered in taking care of Madison, but she would pull her hair out if she had to live with the woman.

“Something has to happen, honey,” her mom replied. “You work too damn much.”

“Why is everyone saying that today?”

“Who else has been saying that?” the older woman questioned.

Cami sighed. She definitely did not want to get into Ken’s phone call with her mother. She’d only worry and make things all the more stressful.

“No one, Mom. I just…I don’t have a choice. Ken has made it clear he isn’t going to help, so if I want Madison to have everything she deserves in life, I have to work. You worked more than I do when I was growing up. I turned out fine.”

Cami’s mother eyed her speculatively for a moment, as if she disagreed with Cami having turned out fine, but she thankfully didn’t respond. She simply sipped her tea and looked back down at her magazine.

“Besides,” Cami continued, too indignant to let the topic fall just yet, “I love my career. I’ve worked hard to get where I am. I love helping people. I feel like I’m making a difference in the world.”

Her mother just hummed, but didn’t look up from the magazine. They sat in silence for a few minutes, her mother reading while Cami collected her thoughts. She was just about to get Madison and head home when her mother spoke again.

“I worked two jobs while you were growing up because I had to. I had no other options,” she said after a moment.

“And I do?” Cami really didn’t know where her mother was going with this, and she didn’t want to know.

“I was older than you are. I had less going for me. You’re still young. You have a beautiful face.”

Cami cringed at the word face. Now she definitely knew where the conversation was heading and she didn’t want to have it. She moved to stand but her mom put a forceful hand on her shoulder. For a woman her age, she had a surprising level of strength.

“Just sit here for a second and hear me out,” she said. “You owe me that much.”

Cami hated when her mother brought up all the free childcare she was giving. But it was true—Cami did owe her mother a lot. So she gritted her teeth and sank back into the chair. She allowed her mother to push the open magazine over until it was sitting in front of Cami. It was open to an article about celebrity diets.

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