Choosing Love

By: M B Panichi

Chapter One

Summer sun blazed through the south-facing window in my parents’ kitchen. I set a plate of lunch in front of my dad, then joined him at the table.

He studied the ham sandwich, chips and apple slices for a second before folding his newspaper and setting it aside. “Thanks, Amry.” I watched while he took a big bite of the sandwich and smiled around it. “This is good.”

“Glad you like it.”

I wasn’t any kind of a cook, but since I’d arrived a little before noon, I figured it didn’t hurt to make him some lunch. I’d driven up from Minneapolis to my hometown of Hibbing in northern Minnesota. I planned to stay with Dad that night and the next and then finish my week-long vacation chilling with my friend Rose at the family cabin twenty minutes north of town.

A widower in his late sixties, Ray Marasich remained roguishly handsome. His gray hair was combed back from a deep widow’s peak, and he still had a solidly built physique from working as a laborer in the taconite mines all his life.

He finished another bite and washed it down with soda. “So, what’s new?”

“Not much. Work’s busy but good. I’ve got an editing project and I started writing another novel. Other than that, just the usual.” My reply was noncommittal, but I had learned long ago to avoid mentioning my lesbian friends and gay-related events. Previous confrontations had been between Mom and me. Dad had never once brought up the subject. I always took Dad’s silence as agreement with her opinion. My siblings, on the other hand, continued to be vocal in their distaste for my lifestyle.

I asked, “What’s been going on around here?”

“Haven’t seen much of your brother and sister lately. Bethany called last night. She’s good. Her boys are still playing baseball and Stephanie has those dancing classes, so Beth is busy hauling the kids around. Tom hasn’t called in a few days.”

“Huh. Yeah, I haven’t talked to them either.” The truth was, the twins and I weren’t close and never had been. Other than emergencies or major holidays, we didn’t contact each other, and when we did communicate it was in innocuous generalities—their children, the weather, sports or Dad.

“When is your friend Rose coming tomorrow?”

“Early afternoon. I figured the three of us could have dinner before she and I head up to the cabin.”

“I brought some pop up for you girls the other day when I went fishing. There’s gas in the boathouse for the boat.”

“Thanks, Dad.”

My best friend Rose and I spent a week up at my parents’ cabin every year. Dad and Rose got along well, bantering back and forth about fishing and Minnesota Twins baseball. Mom had been much more reticent. She’d liked Rose until I’d come out, which was when she’d decided she didn’t want the two of us at the cabin alone because it didn’t “look right.” It had taken a while to convince Mom that Rose was straight.

After lunch, Dad settled in to watch the ball game, so I decided to take my bicycle out for a ride. I didn’t feel like watching the Twins lose again.

I retreated to the bedroom my sister Bethany and I had once shared. I changed into black spandex bike shorts and a loose, quick-dry T-shirt. A glance in the mirror reflected an average-looking woman with short, spiky brown hair and close-set brown eyes—a stereotypical thirty-something dyke. The shorts and T-shirt fit decently enough. My legs were strong from biking, and there was a slight curve at my hips, mostly hidden by the long T-shirt. My arms showed some definition, and my skin was slightly tanned from hours spent on my bike.

I snatched up my sunglasses, wallet, keys, cell phone and bike shoes. On my way out, I stopped at the kitchen sink to fill two bike bottles.

Sitting down on the cement back stoop, I velcroed up my bike shoes, then click-clacked to the garage to retrieve my mint-green Cannondale road bike from the rear carrier rack on my car. I settled the water bottles in their cages and stuffed everything else into my handlebar bag. A quick check of the tires and the brakes, and I was good to go.

Dad stood in the doorway watching me strap on my helmet and gloves, shaking his head. “All that just to ride a bike?” he asked through the open screen.