Mom, you’ve got to be kidding me! Are you serious?”
Margie winced at Christina’s complaint. Up until her phone ringer had shattered their quiet morning preparations, the day had been going well. Bright sunshine streamed in through the kitchen windows of the small house. The rich odor of brewing coffee filled the air. Christina had been blow-drying her long black hair, the hum of the dryer providing a soothing white-noise background as Margie prepared her breakfast and reviewed the day’s plans. Everything had been peaceful despite both of their ‘first-day’ anxieties.
“I know, honey. I didn’t plan this. You know I was going to take you to school today and help with your schedule and getting settled in. But…” She gave a dramatic shrug and grimace, “you know I can’t control when someone gets murdered.”
“Couldn’t someone else take this one? You promisedme.”
“They need me. Others in the department will be involved, but this is my first lead, and I can’t turn it down.”
Margie took a deep breath in. Her stomach felt hollow and heavy. She knew she had promised Christina that she would be there for her first day of school. It wasn’t fair to expect her to do everything by herself while Margie went off to a murder scene. She was brand new in the Calgary homicide department, and her coworkers would be watching to see how she took on her first case—watching for her to make a mistake. To see whether she was competent, or was just a ‘diversity hire’ for a department that needed Indigenous representation on the team.
Christina was right, of course; she could turn it down and ask them to make someone else the primary. But what message would that send to the rest of her team about her commitment and ability to handle both her personal life and the rigors of the job?
“Maybe you could start tomorrow instead,” Margie suggested. “I could call the school and let them know that you won’t be starting today, but you’ll be there tomorrow.”
“No way!” Christina’s response was immediate and emphatic. “I’m starting the same day as everyone else. It’s bad enough that I’m the new girl; I’m not going to have everybody looking at me because I didn’t start the same day as everyone else. Like I’ve got some kind of… privilege.”
Like Margie’s, Christina’s black hair, bronze skin, and facial features showed her Cree heritage clearly. Neither one would ever be mistaken for white. But others often saw Indigenous people as lazy, looking for a handout, or expecting compensation for what had happened to them over the generations. Christina wouldn’t want to be branded as one of those Indians.
“Well, those are the only two options.” Margie looked at her watch. “I need to get to the scene. You can go today and get your guidance counselor to help you get everything set up, or you can wait until tomorrow when I can go with you.”
Christina slammed the door to the bathroom and started the water running so that Margie couldn’t talk to her.
Margie swept her long hair back with both hands and divided it into sections. She deftly braided it and pinned it up into a bun so that it would be neat and out of the way. The coffee machine finished brewing and she poured her coffee into a travel mug.
After making sure she had everything else she would need, including Staff Sergeant MacDonald’s directions to get to the site, she knocked on the bathroom door. “I’m going now. Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” Christina snapped. What she said after that wasn’t as easy to make out, but it was something along the lines of “Not that you’d care.”
Margie sighed. “Love you, sweetie. I’ll see you after school. Give me a call if I’m not home and let me know how your day went.”
“You’re really going to go take this case and make me go to a new school all by myself?”
“I’m sorry. I can’t do anything about it.”
Christina slammed something down on the bathroom counter. Margie knew there wasn’t anything else she could do or say to smooth things over. Christina was old enough that she could manage. She wasn’t a shy or anxious child. She was a strong young woman. She would be able to navigate a new school. Margie had actually been surprised that Christina had wanted her to be there. Usually, she was embarrassed by her mother and didn’t want her anywhere close to her teenager peers.
“Goodbye. Love you.”
There was no answer from her daughter.