ANNA MARIA ESPSÄTER
Anna Maria Espsäter writes fiction under the pen name AM Hellberg Moberg. After a career in travel writing, she began branching out into fiction and poetry, publishing five works of fiction to date, including two short story collections. The Girl Who Was Loved by Her Father was first published in 2019, as part of a 12-story collection entitled Boldly Into Darkness Go (one of several LGBTQ+-themed stories in the book). Her most recent book, Wayward Wanderings, features 25 travel tales based on her journeys as a travel writer. She writes in English, Swedish and Spanish.
For more information about AM Hellberg Moberg, to buy her books or sign up to her newsletter, please see her website:
THE GIRL WHO WAS LOVED BY HER FATHER
“I’m very disappointed in you, Isadora,” said her father.
“Why? What’s up?”
She’d never seen him look so serious before.
“I’m disappointed in you, because I loved you and you’re not who I thought you were.”
Isadora stared at her dad, uncomprehending. There was a long silence, the pair of them standing rigidly in the kitchen, facing each other. Isadora had no idea what was coming next, but the look on her father’s face told her he expected her to know, or at the very least, guess.
Finally, as no one was breaking the silence, her father spoke.
“I didn’t want a gay daughter,” he said.
Then he walked out of the kitchen, leaving a stunned Isadora standing alone.
Isadora didn’t see her father again that day, or the next. Nothing odd about that – he usually left for work before she got up in the morning – but this time she got the distinct impression he was avoiding her. Her mother seemed unusually quiet as well. In fact, the whole household seemed tense, as though waiting for some kind of explosion.
Isadora was deeply unhappy. She’d always had such a good relationship with her dad, she assumed nothing would ever come between them.
‘How does he know?’ she thought. ‘I’ve hardly told anyone. I’m barely even out yet. Only Nicki and Sofia know and they don’t know my dad. They couldn’t have told him. How does he know?’ It was no use. She couldn’t work it out.
Two days passed and Isadora still hadn’t seen her father since that strange, horrible moment in the kitchen.
Absentmindedly she went downstairs to make herself a cup of tea in the evening and found her mother doing the same.
“Is there enough water for me?”
“Of course, help yourself,” and with that her mother proceeded to spill most of the contents of her own teacup, whilst trying to pretend everything was normal.
Isadora felt the tension that had been building over the last few days explode into anger.
“Look Mum, you don’t have to spill your tea just because I’m gay,” she burst out, loudly.
She let the words out and there they were, hanging in the air between them, causing her mum to inadvertently spill the rest of her tea. Isadora sighed heavily and put the kettle on again to make herself a good, strong brew, suddenly she felt she needed it. She turned to her mother once more.
“Where’s Dad? Is he home yet? I think we need to have a conversation, don’t you?”
Isadora’s mother avoided her eyes. “I’m not sure what time he’s back tonight.”
It sounded like a lie and it probably was, Isadora thought. She steeled herself. This was clearly the time for bravery.
“Look Mum, we live in the same house – we can’t just keep avoiding each other. We all need to talk. Here, have some tea.”
She handed over a fresh cup, but her mother just burst into tears and dashed out of the kitchen.
Isadora stood there, a teacup in each hand, staring at the doorway where her mother had disappeared. Then she finally put one cup down and quietly began sipping her own, staring into space, pensive.
The kitchen door opened, quite unexpectedly.
“God Lorena, you nearly made me jump out of my skin.”
“Have you been eavesdropping?” she added, more suspiciously. Her younger sister tried to look innocent, but failed spectacularly.
“Well yeah, all right, I was, but I didn’t mean to.”
“You never mean to, do you?” Isadora’s irritation was spilling over and she had to check herself. There was little point in taking this out on her sister. Unless… Suddenly Isadora knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, how her father had found out she was gay. Lorena’s room was right next door to hers and the walls were very thin. All those conversations she’d had recently on the phone with Nicki and Sofia…
She turned to look Lorena straight in the eye, ready to pounce, but to her surprise her little sister burst into tears.
“I’m sorry,” Lorena whispered, “I didn’t know, I swear, I didn’t know this would happen. I just thought, you know, that mum and dad would find it cool and interesting, or that it would be a surprise or something.” She hid her face and sobbed unhappily.
“Well yeah, it was a surprise all right!” Isadora couldn’t hide her sarcasm and her sister cried even harder.
The kitchen door opened and their father stepped in, stopping dead at the scene in front of him.
“What? Are you laying into your little sister now? Well that’s nice and mature!”
“She wasn’t,” Lorena suddenly shouted, removing her hands from her face. “She wasn’t laying into me. I’m upset because of you!”
“Because of me?” Their father was caught off guard.
“Yeah. Because you’re acting stupid and mean and you’re a git-face.”
Both Isadora and her father were looking at Lorena, as though they didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
“What did you call me?” their father said.
“Stupid! Mean! And a git-face!” Lorena shouted at the top of her lungs, causing their mother to come running back into the kitchen to see what all the racket was about.
Lorena had stopped crying by now and was standing in the middle of the kitchen looking positively wild.
“I’m calling a meeting,” she said, authoritatively and stomped off towards the living room. The others followed meekly.
“Right,” Lorena began, “I’m sorry, sis, I shouldn’t have listened to your private conversations and told Mum and Dad what I heard. It was none of my business.”
Coming from the mouth of a twelve-year old, the speech sounded oddly formal, but Isadora felt a wave of affection for her sister.
“Apology accepted,” she said and Lorena nodded at her.
Then Lorena turned to their parents. “And you!” she continued. “What’s wrong with you?”
“With us?” It was their mother who piped up. “There’s nothing wrong with us! How did you expect us to react when you tell us your only sibling is gay?”
Lorena looked at her mother pityingly. “Oh dear Mum, you really are from the burbs, aren’t you?” Their mother flinched and blanched at the same time.
“Whatever do you mean?”
“I mean, what is the big deal here? It’s Izzy, for crying out loud! Does she seem any different to you now? Is she a different person from the one she was last weekend, just because you know something new about her? I don’t think so. I think you’re both being stupid and mean…”
“…and git-faces,” her dad finished the sentence for her.
Their father looked suitably abashed, as though chastised by a teacher far wiser than himself. Their mother though, was still on the warpath.
“Izzy,” she said, turning to her eldest daughter, “you’re only 16. How can you possibly know whether you’re gay or not?”
“When you were 16,” Isadora countered, “did you know if you were interested in boys or girls?” Her mother kept mum.
“I rest my case,” Isadora continued.
“But we had so many plans for you…” Her mum started crying again at the mere thought of all those lovely plans.
“Make plans for yourselves,” said Isadora. “That way you can at least make sure it’s what you want and have some control over the plans you’ve made. I want to make my own plans, for me. Some of them you’ll like and maybe some of them you’ll loathe, but you can’t control who I am or who I’m gonna become. It’s my life.”
They sat in silence for some time, absorbed in their own thoughts.
“When I said the other day that I was very disappointed in you Isadora, and that I loved you, using the past tense, I think I was very mean,” Isadora’s father began slowly.
“And stupid,” Lorena added quietly from her corner.
“OK OK and a git-face too,” he added, smiling slightly now. “I think what I felt, and your mum too, was a deep disappointment that those plans we’d made wouldn’t come true – the nice guy you’d meet, the wedding, the kids, what a great son-in-law he’d make, how we’d spend time together as a family. All those plans evaporated the minute Lorena told us you’re gay and I think we felt cheated, that’s all. But ultimately, we made those plans for you, without even asking if that’s what you wanted – we cheated ourselves. Those plans were only in our head and in the end all we’ve lost are the fantasies we created ourselves. Can you forgive us?”
“Forgive you? Can you forgive me?”
The four of them suddenly got up and began to hug each other. There were more tears, but happier tears this time.
“I love you guys,” said Isadora. “And you,” she nodded to Lorena, “are the best sister ever.”
“You may have to give me some time,” said their mother, “but once I’ve got used to the idea, I think I’ll be fine having a gay daughter.”
“Me too,” said her father. “Isadora, you know that you are loved by your father.”
‘That lovely fairy-tale could certainly have been the outcome, had I had a sister to help me fight my battles,’ Isadora thought to herself, standing there alone in the kitchen after her mother’s sudden departure, teacups in hand, pondering how her parents knew and what on earth to do next.
© AM Hellberg Moberg
All rights reserved by Anna Maria Espsäter (pen name AM Hellberg Moberg) and no reproduction without permission.