Plaintiffs

By Rose Himber Howse

Tomorrow, we testify in court against the state in favor of gay adoption.

Tonight, we break up and figure out how not to tell anyone about it.

We were chosen (I suspect) because we’re both dress-wearing and without tattoos. We will look to the jurors like the kind of mothers who don’t fuck each other with most of our clothes still on while our kid is at a Chuck E. Cheez birthday party, even though that’s exactly who we are. Tara says I’m too cynical. That they picked us because they could see how much we both love Noah. Her mom’s bringing him tomorrow morning for the photo shoot; she bought him a baby cummerbund.

We’re in a Best Western 0.2 miles from the courthouse when her phone lights up with a text from “Guapa.”

I imagine pretending I didn’t see it. But when she comes out of the bathroom, hands full of the hotel shampoos she likes to steal, I immediately cry.

She is sorry, I can tell. She doesn’t love her, I can tell that, too.

I’ve been getting ready for the hotel pool, so I’m wearing my bathing suit bottom but no top. I cross my arms in front of my breasts.

“The stress of the trial,” she says.

“Please,” I say. “Space.” She nods. Leaves.

I put my bra back on and remember the coaching we got today, about our testimony tomorrow. Just the right amount of emotion, the lawyer said. Not too much, not too little. Think Goldilocks!

She comes back thirty minutes later with a hard hotel Danish and sits across from me on the carpet. She eats around the plasticky-looking cheese in the middle and offers the nibbled moon of it to me. I take it. “If it helps,” she says, voice strained, “you can think of tomorrow as fighting for the right to split custody.”

What I think instead is that I’m fighting for the right to be trapped in that awful and beautiful way that only family can trap you. The right to – ten minutes later – let her fuck me in the hotel shower because I saw one of those documentaries where they put blacklight on the hotel bedspreads and also because I hope it will remind her of when we were in our twenties – sex in a hammock that made Tara motion sick, sex in a barn at a friend’s wedding that ended when a brown recluse crawled over my fingers.

We had to interview to be put on this case, prove our relationship was perfect. In the interview, they asked us to define gay rights. I thought of how I’d once heard a definition, through a megaphone, at a rally we went to, but I’d been too busy laying my cheek on Tara’s shoulder to pay attention. She was sunburned, and as I touched the little curls of her peeling skin with my lips I felt Noah turn inside of me.

Rose Himber Howse is a current MFA candidate in fiction at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Her nonfiction and interviews have been featured on Dead Darlings, GrubStreet Boston’s site for novelists. She is currently at work on a collection of stories inspired by folktales of the Southern Appalachian region of the United States. Before pursuing her MFA, she taught high school English and adult literacy.

Find Rose on Twitter @rosehimber

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