A Hypothetical Morning by KT Heins

Here is your daughter. Her khaki satchel has been dumped next to her, its contents scattered onto the linoleum, and you wonder if she has even noticed. Her hair is pulled back and you know that it's morning still for her. She presses her lips together in a hard line while she reads Dilbert in the Sunday paper, and her fingers idly fiddle with the fabric of her t-shirt; one that you specifically told her was not for sleeping in.

Across from her, sits the.. one she introduced to you as her girlfriend at your kitchen table and your property. You had ‘girlfriends’ in college, but this one, the Singular One, was very different from that. She is pretty, and for a moment you admire your daughter’s taste. She had the sense to stay away from the sort you’ve seen on television and, instead, found this. This was soft with wide eyes and a bearable wardrobe.

This looked normal and, if they didn’t hold hands in public, they could be confused as merely girlfriends instead each other’s girlfriend.

The Singular is sleeping on their couch before a Speech and Debate-meet this weekend. Go Tigers. And now she sits sleepily at their kitchen table, nursing a cup of tea in one hand. Her head droops and she has terrible posture.

You say nothing, but instead glance down to the Arts section of the paper where MET has plastered crude photographs, black and white, of their new exhibit: animal sculptures with supposedly vivid paint. One wouldn’t know. The photos are black and white.

The Singular clears her throat; an awful, feminine sort of noise,

“May I read that when you finish, please?”

Your daughter straightens her back and her chest swells. She has her father’s determination, but her eyes are dim, like yours. You watch her; you do not glance to the Singular, though you feel her staring. She doesn’t understand.

And you suddenly wonder what your daughter has told her about you. That you are the wicked witch of the west, no doubt, that you forced her to her state of illusion. That you make her very angry.

“Yes.” It’s all you can manage and you recall a time in which you imagined a boy in this Singular’s place. Strong, handsome with a Southern sort of name. He would’ve had broad shoulders and you would have made pancakes and his lipstick wouldn’t have smeared on the edge of your porcelain tea cup, one that you usually only used when the others were dirty.

You remember when you had nothing to tolerate about your daughter. There was nothing to accept, to understand.

Daughter relaxes under your stare, an almost grateful expression on her face now. Singular does more; she smiles and you watch them make eye contact. Something intimate and unspoken occurs between them and you’ve been made an intruder in your own home. You say nothing and watch as both smile privately and your daughter asks if she could “kindly explain Dilbert” to her.

You knew she wasn’t smart enough to understand Dilbert immediately, but she was never unafraid of asking for help and yet, she had asked and suddenly, you knew something very disgusting in the pit of your stomach and understood the gravity of this moment.

KT Heins is a student at the University of Missouri, studying Journalism, Graphic Design, and Film Studies. If she isn't being distracted by cat videos on youtube, you can find her searching for a pen.