Listen, if anyone tells you that the bus trip Savannah Central to Sahara square is only 10 minutes; they have clearly never been on it whilst high on panic mode. 10 minutes then turns into 10 hours.
Panic mode can differ from animal to animal, but one thing in common is that it's not the most notable in passengers. I mean, to some it’s noticeable; but more than often, that’s only towards yourself. For many it’s not loud or overbearing; it’s quiet and subtle. It’s clutching your bag too tight; it’s keeping your head down; it’s shuffling your feet for longer than necessary; it’s rehearsing each line you’re going to say; it’s counting each car or bike you take in, as if that trick works when every scenario is blasting through your mind. And it’s rutting enough to make you feel uneasy.
The moment I get off the bus, it doesn’t cease. Even as I walk down to Maine Avenue, it’s still pounding throughout every fibre of my being.
Maybe I should wait? No, you have to do this now. Bee wants you to go.
I fish down into my bag, hoisting out a jumble of keys. Why do I still have these, I barely use-Focus, damn it!
Big breath; click and open.
"No no no! You listen to me!"
Dad’s bellow gives me a jump the moment I enter the house. My eyes dart around, half expecting him to be standing right behind me.
Nothing. The hallway is empty; nice and cool.
"I don’t care about your legal jargon-"
Okay, now that was definitely him. Sounds like he’s in the kitchen. Gently, I tread lightly across the carpet. I don’t want to bother whoever he has here.
Slowly peering around the corner, I see him hollering down at some poor mammal through the phone. Even though there are several miles of cable dividing them, Dad’s facial expression is fully livid. Makes me wonder if I should even talk to him right now? I can’t fully hear what the animal is saying on the other end but whatever it is, it’s making my father angrier by the second.
"You’ve had my wife’s car for 3 days straight. Now either you figure out what’s making that squeaking noise or you’ll be making one yourself!"
There’s some quivering garble, barely audible, from the other end. With that, Dad’s muzzle scrunches up and the phone is slam-dunked back into the holder.
"Son of a-"
Although my brain tells me to dash upstairs and just wait, my paws act before I can do anything to stop them. I put on the cheeriest smile I can muster (better to smile in case anything else happens) and ease around the doorway.
“Huh- Oh hi Sweetheart. Didn’t see you there.” Dad’s hard demeanour instantly changes. He opens his arms into a welcoming pose, flashing a toothy smile. I trot straight into one of those big ‘dad’ hugs. Ever since I was a cub, one of those from either him or Mina would make any bad day seem laughable.
Until now, at least.
Like a shock from an open wire, I pull away, "So, what happened with the phone?"
"You heard all that?"
"Mmm…kinda hard not to." I plop my bag down on one of the stools. Dad’s shoulders droop into a small shrug.
"Figures. Those idiots at the garage still haven’t fixed your mother’s car yet." He huffs out, dragging several claws through his greying mane.
"Well, sounds like they’ll do it now, right?" Ending with a small chuckle might lighten the mood.
A slight smirk slowly slides across his muzzle, "You could say that." He gives me a pat on the shoulder before striding across the kitchen. With a single flick of a switch, the kettle gently wheezes. "Anyway, had a good day at school?"
He flicks an ear, "Sorta? What’s that mean?"
A high-pitched call instantly grabs my attention. My ears prick and I twist my head. It’s Mom. Seeing me, she makes a beeline straight down the hallway, marching at full speed.
A small pang of uneasiness hits my stomach; she doesn’t look happy.
Before another sentence can leave my mouth, a gold blur tackles me into a stiff embrace. My whole body tightens at the sudden contact. As soon as she releases me from her grip, my mother cups my face up. Her icy eyes bore straight into mine.
Yep, she’s not happy.
"It is now five o’clock; I thought you were coming home at four." She says sternly, tapping her watch for emphasis. My mother hates it when I, or any other mammal for that matter, are late.
"I know, Mom. I’m sorry." I sigh, "When we were at Jumbeaux’s, I spilt my milkshake all over the table. I couldn’t just leave it; I had to clean it up. Plus the bus was running a little late-"
She raises a sceptic eyebrow, "A milkshake does not take 30 minutes to clean up."
"…and me and Belinda may have gone on for longer than we should have, he he." Floor, just swallow me now.
Mom let’s out a drained sigh, "Well, at least you sent a text. That’s all I ask." She smooths down her floral blouse and flicked back a few whips of loose pale hair. It was like she was trying to tidy herself after the sprint.
"Mom, really, it’s okay-"
"I understand you want independence, but I still want you coming home safely," She leans slightly in, "and on time."
"Come on Honey," Dad says, carefully approaching her, "she’s home now. And you know she’ll be in college this September-"
Oh ho, Dad’s getting the glare now. "You were fretting just as much, Leo."
I finally sigh in defeat, "It…it won’t happen again, Mom. I promise."
To my surprise, Mom comes a little closer. She gently brushes some invisible dust off my shoulder. Instead of the strict, stone cracking face from earlier, her face has soften slightly, "You do know why I get concerned, Little Dove?"
"It’s not you, Honey." Dad sighs at Mom.
Mom’s face instantly tightly, "What’s wrong?"
"Lisa, what have we said about lying?"
"I-I’m not lying-"
"Your mother’s right, Sweetie.." Dad barges in. "You’re looking a little morose. Plus you never answered me about the ’sorta’."
Oh Christ. "…Are…are you two busy with anything?"
Dad scratches his head, "Unless you count basking in the euphoria of being newly retired, not a great deal. Why?"
"Can…can I talk to you two for a moment, please? It’s kinda important." I don’t know why it feels so alien to ask for this. My parents normally ask me to sit down with them; I’m not use to it being the other way round.
"Alright…well…Alice do you-?"
"Updating the accounts can wait." She said, matter-of-factly.
Dad clapped his paws, "Right, tell you what, you sit yourself down, we’ll make some coffee and we’ll talk."
That sounded so much more chipper than intended.
Within 10 minutes, we’re all perched up around the kitchen island. My feet won’t stop kicking the edge of my school bag. I’m grateful there’s at least a cup of tea in my grip, otherwise my paws would be fidgeting. My claws can’t stop drumming against the table; at least not when they are scrunched up in my fist.
Surprisingly, it’s Mom who breaks the silence.
"Well…you wished to discuss something."
A small wheeze rises in my throat but with a large glug of tea, that feeling is quickly shoved back down. I’m not spraying my drink this time! I glance over again at my mother. She’s giving me one of her signature 'Mom’ looks whilst stirring her coffee. It’s type she normally gives to animals after they’ve obviously given her ‘political bull plop’.
Okay. I take a deep breath in just to steady myself. If this is gonna happen now, I need to be calm and composed…
Yeah, easier said than done. I keep darting my eyes back and forth from my cup to Mom to Dad to the counter. The fact she’s giving me that look is not helping. I shove my muzzle further into my mug. Please Mom, I know you don’t like me being silent but you’re not helping: this is as awkward enough as it is.
Don’t panic, Don’t panic. Come on, nice deep breath in...
"Mom, Dad, there’s something I’ve been wanting to talk to you about for a while. Either we were busy or it wasn’t the right time or…I didn’t have-I couldn’t say until…"
They’re both blinking at me now; amazed, I guess, that I finally speak.
"I…I love you both very much."
Yay….Way to go, Lisa. Yes, start the conversation with a cliché. This is GREAT. This is going perfect…
Dad tilts his head, "And?"
"…the thing is…er-" Come on mouth! Don’t go dry on me now.
"Sweetie, are those brats still at it?"
"No no no!" I quickly retort, "That was years ago. Plus the school would tell you if it happened again…come to think of it, I haven’t seen Steven in years."
"Then, do you need any money?"
"No Dad. I-I’m not asking for anything." I sink further down into the stool, slowly wringing my paws, "Except mercy, perhaps? Mercy would be fantastic right now."
"Leodore!" Mom snaps.
Dad spreads out his paws like a innocent mammal, "What?"
"Allow her to speak. It is obvious she is trying to tell us something." Her gaze glides over to me, "Although, if she continues to stall, at this rate we’ll never know."
Dad lightly mumbles something under his breath as he shuffles on his stool like a sulking cub. I’d better get on with this; Mom is going to lose her patience. Think Lisa! You had this all planned in the bus: Go home, tell your parents, act on their answer.
Argh! When animals say things sound better in your head, they’re not wrong. Oh God, they’re staring. They just want me to talk; a talk I got them into and I can’t even drum up enough courage to do it. At least, I thought I could before, but now it’s all gone. I need to do something. Say something, say anything!
My breath is starting to quicken. The corners of my eyes begin to sting. Please don’t let those be tears; I can’t cry in front of them now. How would they take me seriously? All that dialogue drafted on the bus is useless. A hard, lead like lump lodges in my throat. Slowly, I raise my head to face them. If I’m gonna say anything, I have to look them in the eye.
We lock gazes: Mom’s eyes widen, Dad’s jaw slightly drops.
Don’t cry, don’t cry.
After one sniff, I take a long, deep breath.
"…I’m sorry." It’s a weak whisper, but that’s all that comes. Mother's face slightly softens, "For what?"
"For not saying anything sooner."
A tiny sob raises its’ head. I can’t hide it anymore; I can feel those tiny tears rolling through my cheek fur. I try to scrub them away as I ramble on. Even if it’s off script, all of this has to pour out somehow.
“I really wanted to tell this because, I feel you need to…to know. And I didn’t mean to-I mean, I meant to tell you sooner but…I-I didn’t know how-no, I did know how I just…I was scared to tell you ‘cause I thought either-"
Oh no… Dad’s furrowing his brow.
"…either, you would talk me out of it or…we wouldn’t understand and…and..."
Words are completely knocked out of me the second Dad looks back up at me. Jaw slightly clenched and fiery eyes bore into mine, the lead lump plummets straight to the bottom of my stomach. There it is: complete and utter disappointment. I knew it was probably coming, but that doesn’t make it any easier to swallow. I think there’s also a hint of something else but I’m not sure what it is. Mom’s not even saying or doing anything; she’s just staring straight down into her cup.
Eventually, Dad let’s out a heavy sigh, "Oh my god…"
He swipes up a paw to, silencing me, "Who’s the father?"
"I said, who’s the father, Lisa?" Dad repeats, a slight hint of annoyance lacing the word ‘father’.
"Er…" Okay, new playing field, "Dad, I’m not-"
He’s not listening, "Listen, I know it's your body and such, but one, you're too young and two, if it’s Striper’s, I swear to God-"
"Dad!" I blurt out, "I’m not pregnant. It’s okay."
My father let’s out a dramatic sigh of relief, "Thank god! I am not ready to be Grandpa."
"Indeed. I was about to ask long how had you been sexually active." Mom huffs.
"Heh heh, funny you should mention that-"
"Well, what is it then?" Dad barks, "It’s like trying to get blood of out of a stone here."
I squeeze my eyes shut, clutch my paws tightly around my cup and take in a deep breath. Well, here’s goes nothing.
There, I finally said it. A little more rapid than expected but it’s done. I’ve told them. God, it wasn’t even a long sentence and I’m still trying get breath back into my body.
The instant I open my eyes again, my parents’ faces are an awkward picture.
"I’m Pansexual." I say, more clearly this time.
"Bee and company are going to the Pride march this Sunday and she’s invited me along. I wanted to go but then…I remembered that you two didn’t know…a-about-"
Come on, this is pointless. They know now.
"And….that’s pretty much it."
"Um…well-er…well…heh…" My father’s go wide, darting slightly back and forth between me and Mom. I’m not sure if this counts as a brag or not, but it looks like I've just done the impossible: I’ve rendered my father speechless. My father, the loud, larger than life Leodore Lionheart, speechless. It’s obvious he’s trying to get Mom to speak on his behalf, but even she is lost for words. She is just staring, almost in blank disbelief.
Eventually, Dad exhales a hissing breath and slightly picks at his collar, as if an invisible tie is strangling him.
"Sweetie…the truth is, we would answer that, but...only if we knew what that meant." He eventually heaves out, "I mean, you know, it’s obvious it’s a sexuality of some kind, but…er…come on, throw us a bone here!"
"It…er…" Oh boy. I really didn’t think this through. Come to think of it, how do I explain it? Mom and Dad are both ‘Generation X' cubs, so they have both been raised knowing what homosexuality is and even bisexuality. If you think about it, it’s easier to understand. If your homosexual, it’s ‘I am attracted to my own sex’; for bisexuals, ‘I am attracted to both sexes.’ Even Asexual is more than comprehensible: ‘I wish to have a romantic relationship with a partner but it is not sexual.’ At least, that’s how Renée explained it. Transgender is starting to become more widely understood, if not that, at least respected (in some areas anyway).
Pansexuality however, it’s….not complicated, just a bit…confusing for some animals. I can even recall animals within the LGBTQ+ itself being told that being Pan 'wasn’t real' or that we're . As if that another thing you need to deal with.
"Basically, it means that I could be with anyone. Male, female, trans-male, trans-female, neither, both, etc…"
"The world’s your oyster, then?" Dad says playfully.
That does make me smile, if just a little bit. "Heh...Yeah, you could say that. B-But, just for the record, that does not mean that I am attracted to every animal I come into contact with. Or pans! Honest."
Mom takes a small sip of her coffee, "How long have to experienced these feelings?"
Now that interesting question. I didn’t know what Pansexuality was until late in the game. Should I tell Mom about the club? She already knows about the concaine incident (which is why I will never lose Bee in a crowd again), but aside from that…no! No, that…time will have to wait.
Long before that happened, we met up with a group of animals playing spin the bottle in a corner. The dare: spin the bottle and you have to kiss that mammal. Given my first kiss with Bill was not the most romantic, I was a bit hesitant. Yet as soon as we got into the game, tensions started to ease up. That and alcohol is makes you do tons of socialising shenanigans you would never do while sober. It didn’t matter if you were the most dainty or the most butch, everyone had their fair share of kissing that night. Girls kissed boys, boys kissed boys and, obviously, girls kissed girls.
And, oh my lord, did kissing girls feel good. At the time, the fact they were female just…didn’t matter.
But later after the event, we would talk with some of my female friends about it and they would say, “No, kissing females is gross.” Things like that made me think, “Why?” It was no different than kissing males or anyone else. When it came to who they were, physically, it didn’t matter. As long as they were great animals, it was an instant attraction. If they were kind, if they had a great sense of humour, even a fantastic laugh: BOOM! Attraction. Although previous crushes had been predominantly male, I had also found other mammals around campus or in the city at large attractive too attractive too.
"For a while, I guess." is all that comes out of my mouth. "I mean, I don’t really go into detail but, do you ever get that feeling that when you’re with someone, both you’re head and your heart almost agree that you like them. It doesn’t matter what they are, it’s who…right?"
That whole thing could have come out differently, but from my parents’ faces, it’s clear: message received.
Dad slugs down a large proportion of coffee, "Lisa, why are you saying all of this."
"I-" Come on mouth, we’ve been through this. No going dry, "I thought that, you know, you both deserve to know." He frowns slightly, "I meant, now."
I bring the teacup back up to my lips, "As I said, I wanted to go to the pride parade with Bee, but then I thought ’there are gonna be cameras there’. I mean you know how many animals have their phones on them 24/7." The tea swills out any remaining bile, "The point is, I thought you would have been…upset that I hadn’t told you and you’d found out on the news or Uncle Henry telling you-"
"Does he know?"
"No. Dandy has a Furbook account and if someone were to take a picture, she’d see it, show to her dad and then he’d ask you and... well…"
"Lisa, we can’t understand a single word if you continue mumbling." Mom chides.
"Basically, I wanted to tell you both face to face. It would have been sooner but the time and place was never right."
Dad raises an eyebrow, "Did you think we wouldn’t be?”
Those words and face pull a shameful grimace over my muzzle, “…Kinda?” I pull my face away; there’s a slighted look on both of their faces.
Can’t blame them.
"I’m sorry, I just-" I slowly put the cup back down. “I know what the family name means to the both of you and that reputation means a lot to you and…maybe having a daughter who’s…not straight, w-would be too much, even for the most…liberal individuals. I-I wasn’t sure how to break it to you, but I wanted to try and discuss it civilly at least…because the worst thing that could happen is that we’d both misunderstand or not talk about it and…and I don’t want to have that sort of relationship with my parents. If we need to talk, we do it with maturity...” I slowly slide the cup across the counter, rising from my seat, “Look, this is probably fruitless, but I would like to ask if I can at least go to support Bee and her friends. Please. You don’t have to approve, but it’s a big deal to them.”
I’m about to turn heel when, “Woah woah woah, back up there, Lisa.”
My feet are glued to the spot.
“Sit down.” My father repeats, "Look, you said you wanted to talk civilly? We’ll talk civilly.”
Resisting the urge to just bolt out, I heed, plonking myself right back down again.
Dad massages his face with a paw, “Alright, listen. First of all, stop saying sorry. There's nothin' to be sorry about. We don’t disapprove; it’s just a little…surprising, you know. I mean, given your past crushes have only been with males."
"Well that and given your...demeanour, we would never had guessed." Mom pipes up, "But I suppose one can never tell these days."
"And we’ve got nothing against the LGBTQ+ community, I mean I gave them rights within Zootopia-"
"Not just you, Leodore."
"Whatever. Anyway that doesn’t mean I, or your mother, fully..comprehend everything that goes on in there. Remember, we grew up in the 80’s and 90’s, we're still learning about it. We weren't taught or exposed to it until our teen/adult years. There are some things within it that are…Jeez how do I put this…not ‘strange’ but…" He glances up at me, "You know what I mean, right?"
"Well, I can’t really speak on behalf on all the LGBTQ community, but if you two have any questions, at least about Pansexuality, I’d be more than happy to try and answer them."
It’s worth a shot.
Mom straightens herself, "Very well, is this something you are certain of?"
Wow, that was the quickest answer yet. I mean, I am. That is who I am. I know exactly how I feel; I wouldn’t be using ‘Pan’ if I didn’t.
Dad then speaks up, "Okay, I got one, call it stupid-"
"There are no stupid questions."
He perks up slightly, "Okay, then. How do you know you’re not ‘Bi’?"
"Well…it’s not just males and females I’m attracted to."
"Or culinary items it seems." Mom adds.
With that, a loud, snort like laughing fit explodes out of both me and Dad. Mom doesn’t look too impressed.
"Don’t worry Mom, I’m NOT attracted to pans, honest." It takes a couple of minutes for us to settle down, “So…are you guys okay with this?"
Mom let’s out a sigh, "If I am to be blunt, I am inclined to believe this a may be phase…"
“However,” She gently places her cup back onto the saucer, “If this is genuinely how you feel, fair enough. All I ask is that you be careful and, with any partner, don't allow them to take advantage.”
That’s enough for me, “Thanks Mom.” I give her a small smile.
Suddenly, Dad reaches over, his huge paw enveloping over mine. He sounds serious, “Look, whoever you choose to be your partner in life; know that I will love and support you. But,” He grins, "If I gotta be honest, I always kinda hoping you’d be gay.”
“Er…Thanks Dad.” I chuckle.
Mom takes our cups over to the sink, “Now, I take it you want to go to Pride. As with any public event, be careful where you march, never take any drink handed to you, and if you must...'do' anything, be safe and use protection."
My face starts to burn with embarrassment, "Mother!"
"What?" Dad thumps my shoulder, "We both know you're a not virgin."
"DAD, PLEASE!" I beg through clenched teeth.