Make A Difference - Runner Up

Katie Kent

Runner Up
My Daughter
Make A Difference


Katie Kent lives with her wife, cat and dog and works in journals publishing. She began writing non-fiction, but always had a dream to be a published fiction author. Her first short story was published in 2019, and to date she’s had over 30 stories published in various publications and anthologies. This is her third Writing Magazine competition success to add to a handful of times being shortlisted.


My Daughter By Katie Kent

“I can’t believe she lets her son act like that.” As we sit in the café, Linda’s eyes follow a woman walking with a teenage boy, holding hands with another boy.
I shake my head. “She obviously hasn’t brought him up right.”
“There’s no way I’d let my daughter do that.” Christina shudders. “It’s always the fault of the parents.”
* * *
A couple of days later, my daughter has a friend over and I need to check if she has any dirty laundry for washing. Her door is shut, so I press on the handle and push the door open.
“Have you got- oh my God.”
Chloe springs off Jasmine immediately, but it’s too late; I can’t unsee the image of my daughter making out with another girl.
“Mum,” Chloe hisses, “haven’t you heard of knocking?” Next to her, Jasmine, her face red, can’t even look at me.
“Get out.” My stomach is churning.
“Leave her alone.” Chloe squeezes Jasmine’s hand.
“Get out!” I yell.
Jasmine stands up. “I’d better go.” She picks up her bag, hoists it over her shoulder, and pushes past me into the hallway. Neither Chloe nor I speak until she’s left the house. Then, Chloe faces me.
“That was so fucking embarrassing.”
“Language, young lady!” I fold my arms. “And you’re the one who’s embarrassed? I just found my daughter with her tongue down another girl’s throat.”
She winces. “I’m not going to apologise. This is who I am. I’m gay, Mum.”
There’s bile in my stomach. “You are not. I didn’t bring you up like this.”
She rolls her eyes. “This has nothing to do with how you brought me up. Jas and I love each other.”
“You’re not seeing her again,” I say. “She’s a bad influence.”
“You’re always saying you like her.”
“Well, that was before I knew she was a l…”.
“A lesbian?” Chloe is yelling at me now. “You can’t even say the word, can you? Well, guess what. Your daughter is also a les-bian.” She stretches the word out.
“Keep your voice down. Someone might hear.”
She laughs, but there’s no humour in it. “It’s always about what everyone else thinks, isn’t it? I know your friends have put these ideas in your head. Well, guess what. I hate your friends.”
I grit my teeth. “How long has this been going on?”
“A few months.” She twirls her hair around her finger. “Her parents are fine with it.”
“Do they know that their daughter has corrupted you?”
She mutters something I can’t make out. “I was gay before I even met her. If not her, it would have been someone else. Some other girl. Because it’s girls I’m attracted to.”
“This is the first I’ve heard of it.”
She raises her eyebrows. “You wonder why I didn’t feel like I could say anything? I’ve known for years. But you’ve made your views on homosexuality quite clear.”
I look at her, so pretty with her blonde hair and blue eyes. She could have any boy she wants. “Maybe you just haven’t met the right boy yet,” I say.
“Get out of my room!” Her eyes are full of fury, and I don’t know what to say to her anymore. I walk out, slamming her bedroom door behind me.
* * *
“You’re quiet today, Felicity.” Christina stirs her tea. “Has something happened?”
“I’m fine.” I try to smile. “Just didn’t get a lot of sleep last night.” That’s an understatement; I was tossing and turning all night, wondering how I was ever going to tell my friends what I found out last night. She’s a single mother, they’ll say. No wonder her daughter turned out wrong.
“You know you can talk to us about anything.”
I appreciate the sentiment, but I know Linda doesn’t mean it. If I tell them this, I won’t have friends anymore. Shame ripples through me. “Thanks, but I’m good.”
* * *
I’m walking past Chloe’s room on Saturday when I hear her voice.
“I miss you too.” Silence, and then she’s crying. “This sucks, Jas. You know how much I love you. But Mum, she’s…”. More crying. “We’ll be going to university soon. If you can just wait for me… soon I won’t be living with her, and we can do what we want. And if she’s not on board with that, then she won’t have a relationship with her daughter anymore.”
My blood freezes. Ever since Chloe’s dad walked out on us, when she was five, it’s been just me and her. I picture her in her cot as a baby, the day she took her first steps, when she got her first period… I can’t lose her.
“Why don’t we go bowling?” I ask her, later. “It’s been a while.”
She looks up from her book. “No thanks.” Her phone pings. She picks it up, reads the text, and smiles, twirling her hair around her finger.
“Shopping, then? I’ll buy you some new clothes.”
She sighs. “If you want me to be happy, then let me see Jasmine. She makes me happy.”
I purse my lips. “I know you think you’re in love, but it’s not real. It can’t be.”
“Because she’s a girl?” she shoots back. “Mum, she isn’t the first girl I’ve had a crush on. But she is the first girl who’s liked me back. Why can’t you let me just enjoy this?”
* * *
While Chloe’s at school on Monday, I go into her room. I know I shouldn’t be snooping like this, but I need to know who my daughter is, because it’s clear I don’t know the real Chloe.
Under her bed, I find a copy of Diva magazine and a DVD of a film called ‘But I’m a Cheerleader.’ Reading the blurb on the back of the cover, I see it’s a gay film.
In the chest of drawers next to her bed, there’s a handwritten letter from Jasmine.
Can’t stop thinking about last night. I’ve dreamed about kissing you for ages. Every time we hung out, it was like torture, not being able to be with you. I know you’re worried about your mum finding out, but whatever happens, know that I have your back. I think I’m falling in love with you.
I throw the letter onto the bed. At the back of the drawer, I find a diary. I pull it out, my hands shaking, and open it on a random page near the front.
I think I have a crush on Jas. She came round today, and she looked really good. I wanted to kiss her, but I can’t. I know Mum would never accept this. I know I’m into girls, but I need to keep this to myself. At least until I go to university.
I flick forward a few more pages.
I made a move on Jas. I know I said I wasn’t going to, but we had a moment, and I couldn’t stop myself. And it felt really good. I know without a doubt that I’m gay. And I think I’m in love with her. I know Mum will go mad if she ever finds out, but Jasmine makes me so happy.
The last entry is from a couple of days ago.
I can’t wait to move out, so I can be myself. Why doesn’t Mum understand that this is who I am? It’s not like I asked to be gay. Jas and I get moments of time at school, but I miss her. I’ve never loved anyone like this before, and Mum acts like it’s something to be ashamed of. Mum and I have always been close, but I think I’m going to have to cut her out of my life.
* * *
I’m sitting on the sofa later when I hear the key in the door. I switch the TV off and call out to Chloe.
“What do you want, Mum?” she snaps. There are dark rings under her eyes, like she hasn’t been sleeping much, and the guilt hits me immediately.
“Why don’t you invite Jasmine over for dinner tomorrow. I’d like to get to know her more, as your girlfriend.”
Her eyes go wide. “Alright, who are you and what have you done with my mum?”
I laugh. “This is who I should have been from the start. I’m sorry that you didn’t feel like you could talk to me. I’m sorry that you felt like I was ashamed of you.”
“You were,” she says.
“I just didn’t understand.”
“And you do now?”
I look at her face. She’s still the same little girl I held in my arms when she was a baby. “I’m trying.”
There are tears in her eyes. “What about your friends?”
I shrug. “Leave them to me. You’re more important. I love you, Chloe, and I’m proud of you for being true to yourself.”
* * *
“What’s everyone up to tonight?” Linda asks the next day, as we sit drinking coffee in a café.
I take a deep breath, looking down at the table. “Chloe’s girlfriend is coming over for dinner.”
Christina gives Linda a look. “Come again?”
I force myself to make eye contact with them. “She’s gay.”
Linda gasps. “You need to nip that idea in the bud.”
I take a sip of my latte. “This is who she is. And I’m proud of her.”
Christina chokes on her cappuccino. “Having a daughter who’s a l… a les…”.
“Lesbian,” I say. “She’s a lesbian.”
“That’s nothing to be proud of.”
“Well, I beg to differ. Look, I wasn’t thrilled at first either, but I can’t lose her.”
“There are things you can do, you know.” Linda drops her voice to a whisper. “Places that can cure her.”
“My daughter does not need curing. And I know what you’ll say behind my back, but this isn’t my fault. She was born like this. I’ve accepted it, and I’d like you to do the same. Otherwise, our friendship is over.” I stand up and walk away, leaving my half-finished coffee on the table, not even stopping to look behind me.

Judges Comments

Thd choice of point-of-view gives a sharp edge to Katie Kent's excellent 'My Daughter', the runner up in WM's Make A Difference Short Story Competition, as we're shown a mother struggling to come to terms with the fact that her teenage daughter is gay. All the reader's sympathies are - as Katie intends them to be - with her daughter, who is leading an everyday teenage life that includes fancying people and - at the point the story begins - falling in love.

As the story develops, the reader may struggle to sympathise with the narrator's internalised homophobia and desire to fit in with her bigoted friendship group at the expense of her own daughter's happiness, but Katie has crafted and structured this piece of fiction so well that the narrator's shift to caring about what really matters and changing her own attitude really does make a difference - not just to what the character thinks but about what we, the readers, think about her.

The writing in the piece is clear and immediate, making for a vivid, immersive read with characters who are layered and relatable, and who deserve the happy ending that Katie gives them, with the narrator accepting Chloe's sexuality and inviting Jasmine to come round so she can get to know her as your girlfriend. In the mother's case, that relatability is hard-won, but by the end of the story she's deserved our respect and made us think differently about her - testament to Katie's skill in creating a character who is initially not sympathetic, and showing that change is not only possible, but positive.