a short story by The Overlord Bear/Jem De Ocampo
with character designs and illustrations by Denyel
and beta reading by ThatOtherGabby and Hwannyreese
Summary: A troublesome young man named Jewel Laza personally introduces his maybe first girlfriend Tina Santos to his powerful single mother Laila, starting yet another stupid power play between mother and son. Fortunately, someone’s bothering to help those two settle things properly.
“Hi, hello there, Tina! And Jewel.”
“Hello, Ms. Laza!”
Down a suburban highway in a certain South Luzon city stood Laila’s, a cafe of trimmed green and polished brown. But right now, sunset times had its shutters covering its facade. As for what’s behind that and the fancily spiked metal fence of the subdivison it stuck out of, it’s my house, which a bespectacled girl named Tina Santos and this gloomy boy named Jewel Laza faced immediately after a special tricycle trip, meeting the blindingly bright greeting of my mother, the eponymous cafe owner.
“Go get ‘em, Jewelboy!”
As Mom and the girl touched cheeks, they glared at my whistling friend and my happy response to him as he drove off. And why wouldn’t he whistle? Maybe one can say that Tina doesn’t have much to whistle at, but my mom definitely has a lot to whistle at. After all, one can say that my mom won the jackpot in the genetic lottery. Her smooth skin held thin layers of black hair that betrayed the neon dyes on her head, her slender figure was passively maintained by fast metabolism that most girls would kill for, and her facial features exuded twinkling energy from sharp angles that made for blinding winks against people she fancied. And would you believe me if I said that she’s a woman in her forties who’s still managing to save up a lot by not needing cosmetic procedures?
If you want to be more simple-minded about it, then you can say that she won just because her deadbeat dad’s some foreigner who knocked up her Filipina mom. And if you think Mom would even want to be a great model with those looks, then you’re damn right, as she’s been making a middle-class living off of being an attractive cafe owner who also had her business as her very own pickup spot. The tricycle drivers, construction workers, subdivision custodians, and all my other fellow boring guys in the area knew that along with my actual worth as a person thanks to our sari-sari store hangouts. Like me, they definitely wouldn’t recommend hooking up with her because of her university-grade personality, which also had them without any hesitation to piss my mom off by going wolf at the cat whenever they could.
Not like I minded, of course. It was like living at Grandma’s – bless her soul – up north all over again, after all. But right now, this unlucky student of maroon had to face his proud mother of maroon in this weekend encounter with a schoolmate. Thanks very much, me and my gawking over a stupid first date picture while sitting on Mom’s couch.
“Your mom’s beautiful, Jewel.”
“Thank you, Tina! And don’t worry, I won’t steal her from you, son!”
So we people of differing cultures entered the house.
But before I myself managed to enter, I was halted by a call that bordered between booming and keening. It came from an old lady in a duster from a house across mine, and I knew it came from her despite how much she looked like a wrinkly dwarf with her height and posture. After all, she was one of the many lesser annoyances I had to deal with in exchange for going all buddy-buddy with their husbands, sons, and grandsons.
She didn’t say anything else after I turned to her call, though. She just gave me a look, one that prominently featured a pair of raised eyebrows.
My reply to that was a very grating sigh, an obviously forced smile, a crazily exaggerated thumbs-up, and then a noisily stomping turn into my house.
Like the cafe, the Laza residence was also filled with trimmed green and polished brown. In this part of this fancy forest, unfamiliar movie, book, and album titles lining the wall shelves greeted whoever went past the house’s front door. All I knew about them was that they were fancy foreign and/or indie crap Mom ordered online, and she indulged in them while sitting or lying on the one couch in the living room, whether by herself or with some date.
“So, how did you and Jewel first meet, Tina? I’m sure there’s definitely more to that picture my son took of you two.”
Meanwhile, Mom was acting like an ordinary schoolgirl. Or maybe a wannabe schoolgirl looking to, uh, rescue a poor little thing from her creepy little son and his hardcore romantics. I could see it in how she was lying like Kate Winslet on that couch, and I wasn’t going to underestimate how Mom could still make herself look sexier even while covered up.
“Well, he was like a hawk circling around me while I read light novels on my phone in the Main Library. But then he tried his best to act normally after I corrected him, and it turned out better than I expected!”
Yeah, yeah, I came from this stupid wilderness, and that insatiable animal on the couch just had to be my mother. How Tina said yes to my lame pickup attempt AND my heavy travel request, I still don’t understand. Am I really that cute and funny, or is it just because I’m my mixed mother’s mixed son? Or is it because of my reviled mother, whom I also ranted about during the first date?
Speaking of my mother, she was giving me and Tina a raised eyebrow now.
“You have a…unique taste, Tina,” Mom then said.
“Like Wendy’s?” I asked, actually referring to an uppity hot classmate of mine who also happened to hail from a neighboring city. “I mean the burgers, of course. They’ve got some nice buns, after all.”
And yes, I’m still not over the humiliation they gave me recently. Sure, I can admit that I was being a creep after Wendy brushed me off that one time, but did they really have to have obnoxiously loud intercourse within my hearing here the weekend later as well? Talk about finding out that your classmate’s fucking your own mother…but then again, I should’ve expected it from the so-called top state university my mom pressured me to get into.
“Right,” my mother answered with a slow nod and a still raised eyebrow, seeing through the bullshit I deliberately made obvious. “Buns. Definitely warm and soft.”
“So you own a cafe, Ms. Laza?” Tina interrupted the mother-son stare-down. “What are your specialties?”
“Pasta, pastries, and coffee,” Mom listed off while still staring at me. “I just learned them off cookbooks and online guides and made personal modifications on them, though, to be honest.”
“What are your best sellers, then?” Tina kept on asking.
“Creamy carbonara, cinnamon buns, and brewed coffee,” she answered with a grin at both Tina and me now.
I couldn’t help a twitching eye, because while those really were Laila’s best sellers, she also often used them as euphemisms. Unfortunate weekend walk-ins told me enough there.
So now, how long will it take before Tina asks for my mom’s “best sellers?” Mom has all the sex appeal and worldly smarts to get everything she wants, after all. Maybe I should’ve kept myself from bragging to Mom that I tricked her with surprising ease into thinking that I was bi years ago via some hems and haws at pictures of magazine models, then…Nah, I’ll still have to suffer through being an unwanted voyeur, among a whole lot of other things, even there.
“Oh yeah, what’s your course, Tina?” Mom asked another question this time.
“Psychology,” Tina answered.
“And mine’s English Studies, specifically Literature,” I decided to mess around a bit more.
“Sounds like a good combination, Tina,” Mom said while giving me another look. “How about hobbies?”
“Reading light novels and manga,” Tina answered. “I’d also say watching anime, but homework’s so heavy that I find it hard to watch stuff right now.”
“Oh, I know how tough homework can be,” Mom grinned and…winked at Tina. “Don’t worry, you can manage as long as you’re focused on it enough.”
“Thanks, Ms. Laza,” Tina smiled back. And she was probably blushing. I don’t think I want to look at her face right now.
“Just call me Laila. ‘Ms. Laza’ makes me feel old.”
Haha, like you don’t brag about your age too while you fuck, you old hag.
“Now, what about clubs and orgs?” Mom continued asking, that last part sounding real close to becoming “orgies.”
Man, how I wish could go to cloud nine from the ninth circle instantly and stay there forever. What’s a scummy guy like me going to get from a relationship that sprouted out of love at first sight, beginner’s luck, and just the freaking other day? And should a human being even have the Devil’s luck or not?
And now Tina’s giving a gentle press on my wrist and a concerned look at my face.
Suddenly, the long bus trips felt more worthwhile than I expected. I mean, Tina still went along even though she could’ve told me no while reasoning that I’m an annoying creep, so it has to mean something, right? She’s a strong woman, right?
“Alright,” I then decided to answer, hoping that I didn’t stutter while I also looped Gloc-9 calling himself a simple human being inside my head.
“Okay, maybe we should eat for now. Do you like salads, Tina?” Mother now moved introductions to dinner, all while subtly reminding everyone else in the room about how she’s not wearing a bra underneath that apron and tank top. “Jewel won’t admit it, but they’re a big part of why he looks so pretty! Oh, if only he were more open-minded…”
“Well, I don’t mind salads,” my maybe girlfriend told my stubborn mom, and then Tina suddenly brightened up. “Wait, are those mangoes?”
“Yes, they are! I’m sure you’ll enjoy the rest of the salad, though! Come on, dig in!”
I groaned. Mom squeed. Tina sat first.
Then once we all got ourselves firmly seated, Tina went “Let’s pray!” and made a Sign of the Cross.
And then Tina prayed. It was an ordinary prayer, that one before meals, but still, she prayed, and I’m pretty sure she didn’t do that when we had snacks. I mean, we were laughing our asses off about homeworking our asses off as we took bites off oily burgers that would inflate our asses off. And she was just reading light novels and talking about nothing with me during our bus trip.
Mom stared at Tina.
I stared at Tina.
Tina stared back at us.
“What’s wrong?” my schoolmate then asked.
“You’re Catholic?” Mom and I somehow asked simultaneously.
“Not perfect, but would like to practice,” Tina answered with a small smile, and then she started eating her salad, which she just added roasted sesame dressing onto. “Also, this is pretty good, Ms. Laza! God bless your culinary talent!”
And then Mom and I had a staring contest while we dressed and ate our salads.
Then she let me win that battle in a few seconds, turning her eyes toward Tina and her gusto-filled munching in an attempt to win the war instead.
“You don’t need to flatter me, Tina,” she told my schoolmate. Mom had one of those smiles again, of course. “And you don’t need to pretend to be so uptight. You wouldn’t be able to read what you like otherwise, right?”
Tina stopped halfway through her plate, awkward smile on her face. When she swallowed her latest chew, a noticeable sheen of sweat also went down her brow. “Of course I shouldn’t,” she even said, and wow, I just got unlucky enough to see her blush to Mom.
And speaking of the Devil herself, she was slowly moving two fingers across the table, a wider smile on her face. “Besides, you’re already at that age, right? You must be…curious…about a lot of things.”
Ah yes, that pickup game that made me fear nerdiness more than I should. I’m quite lucky that my dear friends kept me away from totally swearing off nerd life, then.
“Yes, I am, but not in the way you think, Ma’am,” Tina answered through her teeth, looking away while still having that unfortunate blush on her face.
“And I did tell you to call me Laila, but to tell you the truth, I don’t mind the respect you’re giving an old hag like me,” Mom dropped another one of her age fetish shit again. “It makes me feel like I’m really…experienced.”
“Wish I had a camera for this one,” I stage whispered, because even with her kinky open-mindedness, Mom had one kink she damn hated: being recorded while doing the do. A drunken rant session with new friends that leaked a certain little tale of unfortunate conception had me learning that years ago, during my first days in this city after Mom stole me away from Grandma, and somehow, I had never been pissed enough to remember that fact, let alone hold it over her, until now.
“What did you say, Jewel?”
And of course, she heard it. But while I expected her to be pissed, I didn’t expect her to make me feel like she was going Gorgon on me.
“I-I said nothing,” I ended up fucking stuttering, then. “N-Nothing, Mom.” And there it was again.
“You better bet it was nothing, you pity sex product.”
A pity sex product?
Okay. I wouldn’t deny that my biological father’s a jerk, but did Mom really have to call me that? Maybe she always wanted to call me that, but she had more than enough touted wokeass reasons to not call me that straight to my face, right? Maybe I’m a decayed chip off the moldy old block, but she still gave him the time of day, right? And even though she could’ve killed me off like her friends here would more likely do, she still let me live, right?
And she hated hateful trash like me, but Catholics?
“I’d like to convert,” so I declared. “To the Catholic Church, that is.”
The plastic bottle of dressing in Mom’s hand let out a loud squirt that creamed her plate, which she also just flooded with even more green, so much that they also made a ring right outside her plate.
“I-I don’t think you’re serious, Jewel,” I then heard Tina tell me. “Can you pl – “
“I’m serious,” I insisted, turning to look at Tina with my hardened eyes. “If I end up knocking you up, I promise I’ll marry you.”
“You’re cute, but not bangable cute yet, Jewel,” Mom then started speaking, banging the dressing bottle and her fork down. “If ever, that is.”
“While I agree, Ms. Laza – “
“Can you just shut up, Mom?” I couldn’t help snapping back at my dumbass single parent again. “I’m talking to MY girlfriend. Not YOUR girlfriend. Or side dish. Like this salad you turned into our dinner tonight.”
“Jewel, can you please – “
“If I were a lesser human being,” my freak of a mother stood up, knocking her plate across the table, “I would have stabbed your homophobic and misogynistic ass several times already, boy. Now why don’t you go hang out with your horny bum boys’ club right now? You can even send me records of your locker room shit, all while I take good care of your girl better than you ever can. I’ll even send you a record for you and Daddy Dearest to share!”
“Well, why don’t you kill me already, Mom?” I flipped my empty plate off the table, pricey porcelain shattering as it hit the floor. “In fact, why didn’t you abort me like all your friends do to all their little mistakes? You trying to be a woke pornstar now?”
“You want a real bang, you dumb virgin?” that nonsensical womanchild went around the table, rolling up the non-existent sleeves on her skimpy outfit as she got off her chair and knocked it back.
“You want another smash, you slutty bitch?” I cracked my knuckles as I began to see so much red, even feeling so much exhilaration as I finally got the chance to beat up the source of all my life’s suffering with my own bare hands.
So Mom and I yelled, launching our fists.
“WILL YOU TWO JUST STOP!?”
But we suddenly paused as a shout accompanied the dining table falling away from us, spilling its contents onto another side of the floor.
As we turned to look, a third pair of fists smacked Mom and I onto the floor one by one, explosive screams tearing into our ears and overpowering some cracking sounds.
My turn to see stars came just as I saw those bespectacled eyes that burned as hotly as an actual star.
Oh, and I think I got a cut on my nape from a porcelain shard.
“Shmeth!” I ended up shooting out a curse, mangled pronunciation also making me realize that Tina broke my nose as well, the surging pain there causing me to writhe with quiet squeals soon enough.
“Shush, you whiny inshell!” the woman who happened to be my mother spat back with similar pronunciation and subsequent writhing. “Fuck, my back hurthsh…”
“Happy now, Thina?” I then squeaked to my definitely not girlfriend now.
“Shush!” my glaring mother snotted out at me through her broken nose.
Tina’s response was a trembling glower and growl at us. Somehow, they were enough to make us flinch and shut up.
Then she turned around, stomping with heavy breaths to the landline phone. None of us talked as she dialed and waited. And then of course…
“Hello? Yes, there’s an emergency here. Or, well, I don’t know, I’m just really shaken by what I did just now. They’re not dying, but…I punched two people and broke their noses and knocked them down to the floor and the spot they landed on happened to have porcelain shards and…God Almighty help us, I just might be killing them somehow…”
Meanwhile, Mom and I ended up having yet another staring contest. But this time, we were more drawn to each other’s noses than to each other’s eyes.
Then we laughed at each other. When our noses made us stop, we just settled for smirking instead. And all the while, we never managed to fire more anger at each other. I guess Tina really did punch the shit out of us, then, though this strange and warm calm and joy…
…and there came the tears I was expecting. Of course, Mom and I kept our crying quiet for our pride and for Tina’s comfort, even rolling away from each other’s sights, but that aside, it’s been quite a while since Mom and I last had anything as properly familial as that, if there ever was such a time. Normally, I’d just walk out the house and hang out at one of my bros’ houses until one of those old ladies there forces me back into my house. The old ladies considered my mother a very troublesome woman, sure, but they’d consider a son who doesn’t take good care of his mother even worse than that. And I couldn’t help remembering Grandma every damn time they nagged at me, ‘cause they’d always remind me of Grandma telling me the same thing back when she was alive, and I resented Mom for not caring for Grandma enough, too.
Now I’m crying even more. Freaking women…
“Are you done fighting now?” Tina spoke up as she hung up the house phone, and I noticed that her voice had a bit of a rasp now. “Please don’t make me hit you again. My hands are throbbing, my throat is hoarse, and I don’t think I can handle another battle here. Whether cold or hot, your stupid war is really making me uncomfortable, and I already get more than enough of that in my everyday life.”
“Thanksh, Thina,” I raised two suddenly outstretched thumbs-ups and made a lopsidedly widened grin with my likely horrifying red eyes. “Be my girlfriendth.”
“Can we be friends first, Jewel?” Tina shot back with a stiff look-alike of a smile, to which I nodded despite the psychological pain I got from that thinly veiled bluntness. “And by the way, being a good Catholic isn’t easy, whether you want to be one or not. And speaking of which, please work on your respect for your mother too.”
“Yeah,” Mom also raised two thumbs-ups just as suddenly with a grin just as wide and eyes just as red. “Friendsh. I alsho promish no more shtealing threatsh on my shon. I’m marrying him off like shome feudthal bashtardthsh. For worldth shanity.”
“And I am NOT into the same sex, Ms. Laza,” Tina also dealt, shooting a glare so sharp and serrated, any smile I had at that wonderful revelation might as well be shreds now. “I can tolerate people like you, but PLEASE, if you have time to try seducing me, then I’m sure you have some time to help build up more decency within your stupid son BY EXAMPLE.”
I’m still scared, but I’d like to believe that I’m witnessing a miracle right now.
“If you want me as a mediator or a referee or whatever, then fine, have me,” Tina continued with rough sighs and crossed arms as she sat on the one couch in the living room. “Besides, I brought myself into this…”
“Yeah, dthefinithely a miracle!” I yelled through the pain. “Godth ish real, and Godth ish goodth!”
“That wouldth be greath…” Mom shook her raised thumbs and nodded her floored head. “Thank you, Thina…”
“You’re welcome, I guess…” Then Tina buried her shaking and groaning face in her hands. “God Almighty help us all…”
“Well, thish couldth be worsh,” Mom shrugged, groaning from the more numerous shards she got. “Whish ith will be.”
“Yeah,” I dropped my arms back to the floor, sighing with yet another tangle of emotions as we waited for both emergency help and neighborhood gossip. “Buth maybe we can share another happy laugh in another crappy momenth,” I followed up as I turned to smile at Mom.
Mom did some mock gagging in response to that.
Still, we shared another laugh.
“Thank God you’re getting along now!” Tina yelled to the ceiling. Then she took off her glasses to rub her eyes.
At that moment, Tina Santos looked like an angel.
“Our neighborhoodth’sh gonna love her, Mom,” I whispered.
“I hope you all holdth me back, then, shon,” Mom whispered back.
And the two of us held back our laughter as we did a quiet high five.
“Oh yeah, where are the apologies?” we then found Tina squinting at us.
“We’re shorry, Thina,” Mom and I instantly replied.
“Not just to me, you two,” Tina followed up as she put her glasses back on.
Mom and I looked at each other. Tears were threatening to come out of the corners of our eyes again, but still…
“I’m shorry for bringing thoshe badth memoriesh up, Mom,” I told her. “Andth for being a shitthy shon in general.”
“Andth I’m shorry for calling you a pithy shexth prodthucth, Jewel,” she told me. “Andth for being the worsht mom ever.”
“Well, you’re noth the worsht anymore,” I smiled.
“Andth you’re lessh shitty now,” she smiled back.
“GET OUT, YOU IDIOTS!”
Then Mom and I glared at Tina, only for us two to soften our looks as our eyes met her back.
“Aww, she’s keeping the noshy neighborsh away~” Mom cooed.
“She dtheshervesh a clean room tho shtay in all by hershelf thonighth,” I added.
“And I’m really sorry for making you two sound so stupid right now,” Tina turned.
All three of us laughed after that.
Author’s Note: Happy Birthday to me!
So yeah, it’s my birthday, and as planned, I’m freaking back with a freaking nutty original short story, and the freaking nuttiness feels more on the level I’ve been aiming to achieve! Praise and thanks be to God Almighty very much again, especially for working through my lovely sister Hwannyreese, my dear friend Gabby, and my commissioned citymate Denyel as well! My sister and my friend helped me turn my ranty drafts into something that reads more like an actual story, while Denyel helped me fulfill more of my nerdy dreams with his wonderful visual designs!
Still, I can’t deny that I’m feeling nervousness along with excitement and confidence in sharing this with you all. But at the very least, it’s somehow helping me keep myself on my toes way better than I expected. Praise and thanks be to God Almighty very much again, then!
Also, yes, I do consider this story Catholic and Philippine too. But of course, I don’t think I myself alone can evaluate how good this story is under those labels. So yeah, honest constructive feedback is highly encouraged and will be highly appreciated, and may God Almighty keep on helping us all!
EDIT (December 21, 2020): And now, have some character design art!