Are We Honest Yet?

A Midsummer Tale ~ Honorable Mention
Jenny Lentz

An Excerpt from “Are We Honest Yet?”

Everything began to fall apart that night.

Mom was irritated with Dad for a reason we had yet to learn, and instead of watching Rear Window with us in the hotel room, she went downstairs to the lobby to read. She later returned, still grumpy and angry, and revealed why she was upset: Dad was encouraging her to get a job now that she’d be empty-nested—she had been a homemaker our entire lives—especially to help pay for the increasing expenses of Kathryn’s psychotherapy. A fight erupted between Kathryn and Dad, because Kathryn was frustrated that he hadn’t kept her informed that his insurance did not cover her psychotherapy. Their heated argument was going nowhere, and Mom was near tears. I just lay on the bed with my eyes closed, trying to ignore the horrible events in the room.

Finally Kathryn said to me, “Jen, come with me. I need to get something from the van.”

As she and I waited for the elevator, Kathryn said, “I don’t really need to get anything. I just had to get out of that cramped hotel room and away from our parents.” On our way to the van, she began to cry in the parking lot. I just held her while she sobbed. We then sat in the back of the van and complained about our parents, about Dad’s obsessive, tightwad money issues. About how Mom is hypersensitive, manipulative, overprotective, hypocritical. How they drive us crazy and are screwing us up. How sometimes we find ourselves acting like Mom, dealing with things in her terrible, unhealthy ways, or like Dad, freaking out when things don’t go according to plan. Mom’s overanalysis. Dad’s self-absorption. We feared we would someday become them.

We talked for over three hours, expressing the concerns and atrocities we’d both been struggling with in terms of our parents. We loved them so much and knew they meant well most of the time—but the bottom line was that they were not perfect parents and often made us—and each other—miserable.

We talked about how Mom and Dad were in denial of how dysfunctional our family was, how in all the time we spend together acting like we’re close-knit, we actually don’t communicate much at all.

We talked and vented and probably could have said much more—but then Mom came out to the van because she couldn’t sleep without us in the room, worrying about us not returning safely, even though we were just in the hotel parking lot. She came into the van with us, and as we talked with her a while, she burst into tears about how insensitive Dad could be. We knew that, facing an empty nest, she feared being alone with Dad and finally having to face the imperfections in their relationship, without the distractions and joys of having her children, who had always been her career, with her.

I had always hated to see my mom cry; it affected me in a way no other person’s crying ever did, as if some foundation were crumbling and something inside me was breaking down. She was still supposed to be the strong and supportive one, not the weak and hurt one who was weeping rather than comforting others and distributing Kleenex.

Kathryn asked her, “Are you glad you’re married to Dad?”

Mom replied, “Sometimes.”

Kathryn asked her which outweighed the other, the times of happiness versus the times of unhappiness.

“I don’t know,” Mom said.

Then Kathryn said, “It’ll be okay with me if you decide to divorce Daddy.”

Kathryn was serious and calm. Mom just sniffled.

I didn’t feel the same way as Kathryn at all. I knew that Dad was in love with Mom and that he would be absolutely devastated without her. Even tonight he would have done anything to make things up to her; he was desperate to restore her happiness. He was simply clueless as to what she wanted, and she would never tell him but then would get angry that he was clueless. But I knew he absolutely adored her. Mom’s adoration of him was far less evident, and if she would truly be happier without Dad, then I would have been okay if they divorced, although I knew for a fact that it would shatter Dad’s heart.


Jenny Lentz holds a BA in English and Creative Writing from Bryn Mawr College, attended the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts in Creative Writing, and works in human resources by day while fervently writing by night. Her short fiction has won awards in the Women in the Arts Annual Contest, Skyline Magazine’s Annual Short Story Competition, and The New Writer Annual Fiction Contest, and has appeared in a various small print and online literary magazines. E-mail: jennylentz[at]

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