Jenna considered herself the best mom of all of her neighborhood. As a matter of fact, her children had given her various “awards” throughout the years with the labels “best mom”, “greatest mommy” and others. She had left her career in real estate to say at home and take care of her children but when her Andy reached the age of five, she decided it was time to go back to work, at least part time.
Her boss asked her repeatedly if she was certain about it and she always said she was very sure of it. Every morning, she would take her two children Andy and Veronica (who was three years old) to the daycare center. Then, she would work until the clock hit two o’clock. She would pick up her children at that time and would normally take them for food shortly afterwards.
The meal of choice was always fast food. It did not matter if it was hamburgers, chicken nuggets, chili fries, subs or, sometimes, ice cream. Her mother thought she spoiled them too much but she did not think so. To be honest, she took them to those places for them to be happy, as every time she picked them up, they would be rather sad. She had no idea why and didn’t have time to wonder why.
Jenna’s husband worked in a multinational company, selling various electronic devices to retailers all around the world. This meant he was rarely at home and almost had no chance to spend time with his wife. To be honest, Jenna had not had any sex with her husband since she had been pregnant with Veronica. That was a long time to spend without a kiss or a caress. But she was no saint…
Sometimes she would be late to pick up her children, for reasons no one but her knew. Jenna would always compensate her absentmindedness by buying candy and more food and toys to her children. And they seemed to like it so there was no real harm in it. Besides being late, she would sometimes scream and them. She would never hit them or anything but she had to let out some steam somehow, especially when her husband called her to say he would be staying two more weeks in some country she didn’t even knew.
That was Jenna’s life: she did what she thought was right, trying desperately to mend a life that had turned against her, or so she felt. One day she cried especially hard because she realized something that hurt her and no, it wasn’t that her husband was cheating. That she had known for many years and was the main reason she refused to be touched by him. What she realized was that she didn’t like her children. They made her feel trapped in a life that wasn’t he one she had thought for herself all those years ago, when she was and felt young.
However, in her office, she worked with a man called Vincent. He was a very clean man, very thorough with every assignment he did. He didn’t like Jenna very much. To be honest, he didn’t really like anyone in the office. It wasn’t that he didn’t like people; he just didn’t like them. He had many friends out of work and enjoyed spending time with them although some conversations with them proved to be difficult. With time they got easier but there was always some kind of “awkward factor”.
When he was younger, Vincent had to be sent to psychologist because his behavior was “strange”, according to his father. According to him, his son had never been with a woman and he was already twenty-two years old. He even went on to say that if he were gay, it would have happened earlier but nothing. Vincent and the doctor had many sessions until he realized he was asexual, which meant he didn’t feel any sexual desire for any gender.
This revelation was obviously hard on his parents but was even harder to accept by Vincent. He knew it beforehand but the appearance of a word that describe who he was, made him think a lot of other things: would he ever have a family, for example? Was love always linked to sexual desire? The doctor had said he could have meaningful romantic relationships with whomever he wanted but now that seemed just a nice phrase to make him feel better.
By the time he had gotten the job in the real estate office, he had realized that the doctor had been right. A year into his arrival at the job he had met a very nice woman called Rita. She was beautiful and brave and funny. She was simply everything he loved about people but summed up in a single person. They would spend many nights together, talking about various subjects that interested both of them. Their first kiss was difficult but he was able to overcome it.
She knew about him being asexual and assured him she was fine with it. But after marrying and living together, they both felt they lacked something and that was a child. They couldn’t have him naturally for obvious reasons and when doing tests to make an “in vitro” fertilization, doctors informed Rita she was infertile. That came as a big blow to them, feeling unlucky and sad.
They finally decided to adopt and discovered how difficult it could be. The agency they went to go through all of their history included their medical records. When asking about the psychologist sessions he had in his youth, Vincent told the agency he was asexual and that settled the matter for them. They told them they had a strong religious consciousness and couldn’t give children to people that “defied the model of what a family and a person should be”.
Naturally, the couple was destroyed by this decision. They left the agency without speaking and knowing their relationship had encountered a large hurdle. Before they left, they saw a child playing in the gardens, maybe around ten years old. They smiled at him and then left on their car, never to come back again.
That child’s name was Anthony. He had been under the care of the orphanage for a long time, since he was maybe four or five. He didn’t know all the details but he knew his mother was deemed unsuitable to have any children with her, so they took him away. He didn’t know if he had any brothers or sisters, he didn’t know if his mother was alive or his father had ever cared to find him but after so much time, the answer to that question was rather obvious.
After playing in the garden with a bucket and a plastic shovel, he decided to go back inside, as dinner was only two hours away. He loved food and he loved to see how they did it. The ladies at the kitchens were very nice, although normally no child was let inside. They did exceptions all the time for Anthony, who loved to see how his favorite stew was made. He also loved the sounds of the machines, the chopping of vegetables and the gorgeous scents that filled the place.
When he lay down in bed at night, in a room with at least five other kids, he often thought of food first and then he daydreamed about a family that would someday come for him. The older ones in the orphanage teased him sometimes, and told him he was already too old to be considered for adoption, as couple always preferred small children who they could raise for themselves.
Anthony knew this was true because he had seen many of the young ones leave but he rarely saw an older kid do the same. But nevertheless, he was full of hope. Maybe his mother didn’t love him enough to keep him or maybe he was better off without her. That wasn’t important. But he knew he would love someone to teach him how to cook, to take him to school and to play with every day.
Adults were strange all over, that much he knew. But he also thought that some of them were very nice, like the kitchen ladies. So every night he would dream about the family that would come for him. He always saw two people in his dreams but they never had defined faces or traits. They were just there, loving him in his dreams, been warm and making Anthony feel that, at last, he had a home. And that he was loved and was important to them.