Auntie Laine was on the phone in the kitchen making some popcorn and I wondered if that was some kind of Yamanaka tradition, to make popcorn and watch tv because Mom used to do that just about every night too. A show was on pause on the tv and Auntie Laine must have been talking with someone from work because she was complaining about being asked to finish some project that shouldn't have officially been her job. Auntie Laine is Elaine Yamanaka at work, an interior designer at a firm in Century City where she caters to people who like that clean, modern, minimal look in their homes.
She held out the bowl of popcorn and motioned for me to sit on the couch. The room was still spotless and there were a bunch of pillows on the couch. I sunk into the leather and I had a sweatshirt on even though it was still hot outside because Auntie Laine liked to keep the air conditioner cranking all night. I pulled my legs up beneath me and soon Auntie Laine was pointing the remote at the tv, "Did your parents let you watch this crazy reality stuff?"
I recognized The Amazing Race and nodded. It was the first time Auntie Laine had really mentioned Mom and Dad. "Yeah, they let us watch this, but not The Bachelor or the reality shows on BET or MTV."
"Oh, yeah, huh. Well, I guess we'll keep that same policy going here." She grabbed a handful of popcorn. "Are there any other little rules your mom and dad had that I should know about?"
I thought about Mom and Dad's no computers in our bedrooms rule even though I'd already broken that one and checked my email on my laptop earlier. But what Auntie Laine didn't know about that one it wouldn't kill her. Mom and Dad had tons of rules, about meeting friends' parent before we could hang out with them and no tv during the week but I didn't want to tell Auntie Laine about any of those rules. Mom and Dad were way too strict anyway.
And there was no way I would be able to tell Auntie Laine how Mom and I had stopped getting along after sixth grade, how we hardly talked anymore, how the house had been dominated by silence, how I'd cried at the funeral but no one knew the real reason because I felt too awful about it. What kind of daughter feels relief when her mom is gone?
But that night I had to think of at least a few things I could tell Auntie Laine so I thought about my phone. "Well, I can't go over my minute limit and I only have 500 texts a month. I'm not allowed to download ring tones or movies or anything like that." I stopped. I didn't think she needed to know that they checked my phone every week to see who I had in my contacts or who I was calling the most. Besides, I was pretty much a good kid so she didn't need to be all up in my business like Mom had been. Besides, living in LA now, I didn't know anyone to call.
"Okay, phone rules. And what about boys? Any rules about dating or makeup?"
I hadn't really gotten into make-up but yes, there were rules Mom and Dad had about boys. I could go out with groups of people but never anywhere with just one boy. And again, they had to meet his parents. I definitely didn't want Auntie Laine to know any of that so I just shook my head and pretended to watch the people on tv getting ready to climb part of the Great Wall of China. "I guess I'm not all that into that stuff yet," I lied even though I sometimes messed around with make-up at Sephora with Nat and I had my first real kiss this past year.
As I sat there pretending to watch tv, words from my mom echoed through my mind. "Erika, there's nothing I hate more than a liar." Maybe that's why I'd felt relief when Mom was gone. I knew I'd let Mom down, that she hated the girl was becoming. But how was I supposed to know how things would end?
"I'm heading to bed," I told Auntie Laine before the end of the show and in my room I buried my head in the foreign smelling sheets of my new bed. Tonight I was a liar and as I lay there, face down on the bed I hated myself. I used to lash out at Mom, had told her more than once that I hated her but now she was gone and there was no one to hate but myself.