Building Family (S1, E6)

Season content notes: transphobia mention, ableism,

Orli stared at Emeka’s post for a few minutes, arguing with herself. She wasn’t polyamorous. Hell, she wasn’t even interested in a relationship, as most people understood the term. Not long after Chana was born, Orli had given up on dating entirely because even many Orthodox men had been infected by the modern world and expected something she couldn’t give them.

But she is tired of being lonely. She wants to know more about this idea, to build a family. It can’t hurt to ask, after all. Holding her breath, she sends this Emeka a message request.

Her grandmother used to talk about how it was done in the ‘old country.’ How a matchmaker would arrange a marriage. The old woman had no patience with falling in love. “first comes love,” she would say. “Oy, what nonsense. Marry a good man, child. Marry a man you can trust. You will build a life together, yes? And with that life together will come love.”

To her surprise, Emeka accepted her message request almost immediately. “I saw your post,” she said, “about building a family?” which was no different, really, than building a life together. Sometimes old wisdom still applied in the modern world. “I’d like to hear more.”

After three days, Emeka had been almost regretting his post. He still thought it could work, but he hadn’t expected the dumpster load of shit that would result from sharing it. He should have — it wasn’t like he didn’t have tons of experience with how people would react to a new idea.

Amid the attacks, well-meaning criticism, and sleaze had been two people reaching out who seemed really interested in what he was offering. Andie, who he know casually from some of the polyam meetups in town, and this person Orli who he’d never heard of before. But she’d been a member of the group for a couple of years, apparently one of those folks who preferred to lurk.

Orli couldn’t help laughing at Emeka’s explanation of how he’d come to this idea. “Oy, the fans! I’ve managed to avoid the Whovians, but I’ve been friends with some Trekkies and the way they got over those new movies.”

“Yes!” Emeka replied, “Don’t get me wrong, the show is good, I see why they like it, but…”

“But it’s almost as bad as football fans? No! European soccer fans.”

“Canadian hockey fans.”

“I don’t know, that’s going a bit far.”

“A bit.”

Emeka was surprised to realize he was grinning.

Orli’s phone rang and she went to answer it, grumbling about the endless spam calls. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a spam call, it was Chana’s school. Again. Orli answered, already knowing what she would hear.

Yup, Chana was being sent home from school early.

She grabbed her keys and purse, the pulled up the Messenger app on her phone as she walked down the stairs of the boarding house and out to the car. “I’m going to need to go,” she said, letting the voice recognition type the message for her. “My kid is in trouble at school.”

“You have a kid? How old?” Emeka’s reply popped up as she started the engine.

Orli sighed. She should have expected this, kids were always a deal-breaker. “14,” she types quickly. She closes the app and pulls out of her parking spot.

The car pulled out smoothly and she patted the dash. One of her last conversations with her parents, they’d had a lot to say about the amount of money she spent maintaining the car. She should have put the money into keeping up with rent or saving up for an actual apartment, they said.

So did lots of other people. But if she didn’t have a car to get to work with, then soon she wouldn’t have a place to pay rent on. She was so sick of people judging her life and decisions without understanding it.

When she pulled into the school parking lot, she checked for a reply from Emeka.

“Fourteen is the worst. I got in all kinds of trouble at that age,” it read, “Go ahead and rescue your kid from whatever the school’s dumping on them. I’m off today, so just tag me whenever you get back.”

She blinked and re-read it.

The next half hour was a frustrating routine of talking with the vice-principal, waiting while Chana collected her things, a drive ‘home’ with a fuming silent teen.

The boarding house was skirting the edge of legality on a good day, and Orli wasn’t surprised to see the neighbors sitting on the front porch waiting for their next ‘customers’ as she hurried Chana inside.

But the roof was free of leaks, the heat worked, and the tenants mostly minded their own business. It wasn’t where she wanted to raise her daughter, but it was safe and cheap enough she could get each of them their own room — privacy being critical for both parent and child once the teen years arrived.

Once Chana was settled in to do her homework, Orli sat back down at her computer — one of the few things she’d managed to hold onto from before — and stared at the conversation with Emeka that was still on the screen.

She enjoyed that conversation. And he hadn’t been scared off by a teenage kid. They were both looking for family.

“What school district are you in?”

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