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We are sitting on the couch in companionable silence, Mum and I. I casually remind her that I turned 21 yesterday, I can now buy alcohol legally. I make a naughty face in her direction, full of fun and games.

It must have been a rough week, or else she's just been stewing over this for a while, because without much preamble, my mother is quietly telling me that she's worried about me.
Her voice is shaking and I can hear her swallowing back the tears as she asks me what I aim to do with my life. I shrug, my mouth stuck in a horrible mix between grimace and grin.

I really worry about you, you know that? You have so much going for you, and sometimes I wonder if you even realize it.

Gee, Mom, I feel all good now. I know, have known for quite some time that we need to sit down and have a little chat. But I'm chicken, I don't know exactly what I want to tell you yet. I hate confrontation. And I don't want to let you down. Even though I have, and I will, and you kind of know it already.

So, you're 21, have you given any thought to what you want to do? Where do you see yourself in a year?

Again, the stupid grin, the careless shrug. She gets up, swallows, and goes down the hall to her bedroom where she changes for work and leaves.

It must be some sort of endurance test I didn't know about, this awful composure I maintain, the dreadful stony face I show when people try to get through.

And my inner child, she quivers and sobs and cries.

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