Drama Coming of Age High School

Past chemistry papers are spread all around me: on the couch, on my lap, on the floor, and on the coffee table. Toast crumbs are mixed in with eraser dust, and its a disgusting sight. Disgusting enough for my mother to tut when she walks in the living room for her five o’clock soap opera.

“How long have you been studying for?”

“I’ve been up since nine.”

“Ah. That hard, huh?”

“Yes, Mum, really.” Easy for her to say so nonchalantly! She went straight to beauty school after her GCSEs, and met my dad not long after she got her license. That’s not what I’m planning. I want to go to university, which strangely, my mother isn’t so keen on. She scoffed at me when I announced I wanted to do pure sciences after the Year 9 options meeting.

“After this you’re joining me for my evening run. You’re getting so terribly pale.” She settles into her end of the couch. “And no arguments.”

When I’m running alongside her, mother drops as cool as you please, “Are you still planning on doing chemistry at uni?”


“You do realise it’s going to be hard?”


“Well?” We pause in the middle of the street. Even though my mother’s pushing forty-five, she looks great. The sun shines upon her face at perfect angles, making her look all glowy goddess-like. Her hair is long and chestnut-brown, tied in an effortless ponytail at the back of her head. She leans her weight on her right hip like a supermodel, and I swear a boy on a bicycle crashes into a collection of bins behind us.

“Yeah, chemistry. My chem teacher’s great.”

“Life’s not all that, sweetheart. If you’ve got your heart set on for a life of academics and all that smarty-pants stuff, you have to dedicate your entire life to it.”

We’re as different as night and day. She’s gorgeous. I’m plain. She’s confident and chatty, to the point where my aunt claims she can talk the hind leg off a donkey. I prefer staying quiet and hidden in the shadows, until someone pulls me out reluctantly by the ankles. We’re both mysteries, but hers are sealed tight because she doesn’t want to remind herself of her Pandora’s box. I’m all closed up because I don’t want anyone close to me hurting.

“I don’t really mind. I like working hard. You’ve always known I prefer it that way.”

She links arms with me as if she’s one of my best mates, leaning her head slightly towards mine. “I’m just saying, Dinnie, that you’re getting so serious and swotty. I’m worrying about your health. If you go off to university, I won’t be with you. You won’t be with me! You need me, Dinnie.”

I turn towards her, aghast. Her smile seems tight and forced, like she’s determined to keep it on even if it kills her. She’s been this way, ever since I was eight. She’s got me locked in her nest, so she can smother me with all her love and care. She’s got me trapped. She wants me to remain young and naïve and oblivious to the real world and its problems. 

She doesn’t trust me at all.

I grit my teeth, willing myself to not say anything scathing. “I’m going to run ahead.” I don’t even wait for my mother to say anything. I just sprint to the neighbourhood park.

Spring is in the air. A red-breasted robin perches on a tree branch above the bench I’m sitting on. My father told me when I was little, the first robin you see brings spring. But there’s still huge hills of ice on the grass, unyielding to the rays of the sun.

The ice cream man rings his bell, yelling out gallantly, “Ice creams ice creams, getcha ice creams!” He uncovers the lid off his ice cream tubs, and a strong smell of chocolate syrup wafts out. I swear I can see a dark brown smoke float towards me. It wraps around me like a hug, comforting and warm..

Suddenly, I am eight years old again. I’m riding my bicycle around the cul-de-sac where our house is. A nice white bungalow with blue shutters. My cousins chase after me, waving pink and blue ribbons shrieking, “Dinnie wait up, Dinnie, Dinnie, Dinnie!”

My mother and my aunt sit by the curb, watching us while gossiping about the rest of the family.

“I think Tracy and Mark are headed for the divorce court.”

“Are you kidding?”

“Uh-huh.” My mother smiles knowingly.“I met Tracy at the supermarket. Her trolley was filled with tubs and tubs of ice cream. I nearly threw up. Ice cream is never welcome at my house. So many calories.”

Aunt Adele sighs. “You can’t just assume that. She could’ve been planning for a party or somethin’.”

“Dinnie’s friend’s mother told me during a PTA meeting that she hears fighting all day and all night at the their residence. They’re neighbours.”

Whether it’s a painful coincidence or the slap of karma, my father’s car screeches into the garage. I scramble off my bicycle, greeting him with excited hellos.

He gets out the car, pushes me aside gently, and walks right over to my mother who stands up. Her face has always been like a block of stone to me: unreadable and impassive. 

“We need to talk, Clara.”

She raises an eyebrow. No one looks at Clara Ogawa like that, all narrowed eyes and crossed arms. She clearly doesn’t like it, for she crosses her arms right back and spits out, “Why are you looking at me like that?”

Dad ruffles a hand through his salt and pepper hair. “Because–“


With the efficiency of a military commander, Aunt Adele picks up her kids by their armpits and hauls them into the house. I’m still staring at my parents, who are looking at each other like fighters in a ring.

“I need to tell you something.”

“Go ahead. I’m all ears.”

He hesitates. Aunt Adele is about to follow her kids into the house when she notices me looking forlorn and lost standing still in the driveway. She steers my shoulders into the cool interior of my house, but my face is still directed towards my parents.

Pink and blue ribbons lie abandoned on the asphalt, tangled up and tattered.

It’s midnight. Thunder knocks at my window but I curl inside the fort I made on my bed out of pillows and blankets.

Aunt Adele and my cousins left hours ago, leaving me to deal with the storm raging inside. My parents had stopped just before she left, but it still feels ominous. Like the calm before another storm. Aunt Adele was great; she made us play board games in my room. She sat me on her lap and cradled me like a baby, but I didn’t complain because she gives the best hugs.

The telly’s blaring loudly in the living room downstairs. I can hear the theme song of Melrose Place make its way through my closed door and through the safety of my fort.

I can’t take it any longer. I go downstairs. 

My mother is sprawled on the couch, huddled up in knitted blankets and silk throws eating ice cream. Ice cream! 


“Oh Dinnie!” She tries to hide the ice cream under the blankets but says, “Oh, what the heck. You want some?”

“But I’ve already brushed my teeth.”

“Who cares? I don’t.” She makes space for me on the couch. 

“I thought you don’t let me eat ice cream. You don’t eat ice cream.”

“Look, do you want it or not?”

I follow her into the kitchen. She gets a tub of vanilla ice cream out the freezer, scoops some into my Dora the Explorer mug, and sets it on the island. She asks me if I want chocolate syrup and I say yes, because anything chocolate is good.

She drizzles it on, and its heavenly smell invades my senses and renders me hypnotised. I forget that my parents had fought earlier on, and that my father left the house in loud, loud anger, tires screeching and all.

But then my mum bursts the bubble.

“Don’t ever marry someone who you’ve only dated for three months.” She stabs a spoon viciously into her mound of ice cream. “You’ll only end up miserable. Trust me.”

I know better than to swarm her with invasive questions and little kid stuff. I just sit in silence and soak it all up.

“You’ll only end up giving that person more than what he gives you. You should be having fun, y’know, playing the field. Have fun. That’s what I want you to do. Have fun.” She repeats the last phrase with glossy eyes. It’s the first time I can read her mood: sad. “Don’t ask any questions. And never speak of this day. Do you want some more?” She holds out the chocolate syrup bottle and I happily agree.

We eat ice cream for the rest of the night in silence, watching the telly. She lets me watch my cartoon shows and when I’m nodding off, she places a blanket over me and sleeps right beside me on the couch.

My father packs up his things within the next two days. My mother doesn’t let me say goodbye.

The tweeting of the spring robin brings me back to the present. I’m not an eight year old anymore. I’m pushing 17, on the brink of adulthood and mature enough for answers to the questions that have plagued me since that golden afternoon when my cousins chased me around with ribbons.

I run to my house, where my mother is making herself a cuppa. She watches my face carefully, gauging for any warning signs.

“Why did you go off like that in such a hurry? Does your chest hurt?” She pours me a mug, but I ignore it.

“Why did dad leave?”

The initially smooth waterfall of ginger tea splashes onto the kitchen island, hot and scalding. Red marks flare up on the porcelain canvas that is my mother’s arm, but she doesn’t even blink.

“I thought I said no questions.”

“I’m seventeen now. I’m not a baby.”

“As long as you’re living under my roof, you’re still a child.”

“Is this why you’re not letting me go off to university?”


We stare at each other, anger showing up on neither of our faces. We’re just stoic, blank because we’re lifeless mannequins still waiting for a lesson on expressions. I’m a carbon copy of my mother.

“I’m old enough to know the answers. You have to trust me.”

My mother hesitates. But she holds out an open palm to me. “Fine.”

As I follow her, my head turns to the window. Water drips out from the ends of the icicles on our mulberry tree, and puddles of water where ice blocks used to be, leak into the soil. Shoots of grass peek out.

I smile; spring is finally here.

September 27, 2020 11:59

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Ru B
23:22 Oct 04, 2020

Great coming-of-age story! It's ironic how Dinnie's mother was gossiping about another couple divorcing and disapproving of the woman turning to ice cream for comfort, and then she does the same thing! Clearly, nobody's perfect. I hope Dinnie successfully goes on to college for chemistry! Good job writing!


Taliah Melur
01:55 Oct 05, 2020

Thank you so much! 🌷


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