You Shouldn't call Me Mommy


A Novel by Susan Tsui

Orphaned by his parents and his artificial mother, and abandoned by his older brother at a young age, Jay spends most of his adulthood serving as a government therapist to those like him.  He considers his own happiness proof of success in his career and life.  Little does he know that his picture perfect world, occupied by his wife, Sasha, and their two children, is not as idyllic as it seems.

When Jay’s older brother, Ian, returns Jay finds himself torn between the happy bubble he resides in and helping his troubled brother keep his own children out of the hands of the very institution Jay serves.  Can Jay save Ian while holding onto the loving memories of his artificial mother and all that he believes in?  More importantly, does he even want to?

You Shouldn’t Call Me Mommy is a story about the difficult journey of self-discovery, one that explores the power of truth over illusion and the meaning of a mother’s love.



”A compelling narrator drives this strong, sympathetic tale that begets metaphysical soul-searching.” ~ KIRKUS REVIEWS (Starred Review and A BEST OF 2012)

“If you are looking for something with family values at the forefront, but a little different to the usual then this is ideal.” ~ Elizabeth Wright at BESTCHICKLIT.COM

 “Though on well-trodden ground, Ms. Tsui has written an original story and written it well.” ~ Stephen C. Spencer, author of the Paul Mallory Thrillers

4.2 out of 5 stars on AMAZON.COM

 3.78 out of 5 stars on GOODREADS.COM




It has been fourteen years since I last saw Ian. So it takes me a moment to recognize the slightly graying gentleman waiting for me out in the hall as my brother. At first I don’t really notice him. I take him for another patient, someone new who wants to join the therapy group. I continue to shake everyone’s hands and wish them a nice evening. It isn’t until he pulls his hands from his pockets to move away from the wall and starts approaching, and I take a brief moment to wonder what this potential patient’s story might be, that I start to realize exactly who is standing before me.

It’s a shock, to say the least.

The last time I saw my brother, I was slamming the door in his face. I glance around the wide open halls and the multitude of rooms surrounding us. There are plenty of doors here, but slamming these won’t do me any good. The hospital’s clinic isn’t in my jurisdiction to kick him out of, and watching him just standing there with hunched shoulders and an uncertain expression has me wondering why the hell he’s here.

“Hi,” Ian says. His voice is more raspy than I remember, older and more tired.

I clench my hands and nod my head, acknowledging that I’ve heard him but not trusting myself to speak.

He opens and closes his mouth several times and then swallows. “How are you doing?” he asks.

The question is so ordinary compared with the circumstances that it feels completely out of place. I don’t know how to answer it. Does he mean how am I at this moment, this day, this week? Does he want to know how I’ve been doing for the past decade and a half? I settle for a grated, “I’m fine.” I refrain from asking him how he is doing. I tell myself I don’t care.

The two of us are simply standing there. I want to walk away, and I don’t know why I’m not. Damn it, do something, I tell myself.

“That’s good,” Ian finally says.

I can’t do this. I won’t. Standing here making small talk to a brother that I haven’t seen in years and pretending that nothing’s happened between us is ridiculous. I stopped talking to him for a reason I remind myself.

“I have to go,” I say.

I start to walk away, and Ian grabs my arm. I shake myself free, while shoving down the sudden urge to raise a fist and smash Ian’s face into the wall. He must recognize how I’m feeling because suddenly he has both hands in the air. “Hey, hey, hey,” he says. All his heys run quickly together without pause, and it occurs to me that my brother is terrified. My anger dwindles down to nothing more than a smoldering burn and try as I do to re-stoke the flames, I can’t. “What do you want?” I find myself demanding.

“To talk,” Ian says. His hands are still in the air. “Just to talk.”

“I have nothing to say to you.” I start to walk away again.

“Please, I need your help.”

The word “please” startles me more than anything. I can’t recall Ian ever requesting anything of me. He demanded, cajoled, but “please” might as well have been non-existent vocabulary.

“With what?” I ask. It must be damned important for him to show up here after all this time.

He opens his mouth to speak and then shakes his head. “Not here.”

“Why not here?”

Ian glances around, and I notice several individuals walking about in the halls. Humans and humaniforms, mingling and chatting.

“The walls have ears,” Ian says.

“I don’t have anything to hide,” I say, and then realize that may be true of me but not necessarily of Ian.

“Can we… Can we go somewhere more private, maybe?”

I shake my head. No, absolutely not.

“Jay.” On his lips my name is a plea.

“I have to get home,” I say. I have to get home, and I have to forget this day ever happened.

“I’m sorry,” Ian says.

What? The words cause me to drop my crossed arms and stare.

“Is that what you need to hear? I’m sorry. I’ll say it again and again, as many times as you need. I’m sorry. Just, please.”

More unfamiliar words from my brother’s lips. Who is this person? Certainly not the Ian I knew. The “I’m sorry” burrows into me. I know it’s not real, that it’s insincere, but just hearing the apology is more than I ever expected from Ian, lie or no.


“Do you have a hotel you’re staying at?” I find myself asking. I don’t know if I’m doing the right thing, except Ian said he needed my help; and I can’t but think how much he must need it to come to me like this after all this time and say please and sorry. I cross my arms, hating myself for being so weak, but unable to change it.

“Your place,” Ian says.

I hesitate, thinking about my home and my life now; and I’m not at all certain I’m ready for Ian to come back into it, much less walk through my front door.

“There isn’t anywhere else,” he says.

I can always kick him back out if I have to. I take a deep breath and nod.

He smiles. It’s painful to see the half-hearted stretch of his mouth coupled with the worried wrinkle of his forehead. There’s so much fear and hope there.

I reach into my briefcase and pull out a business card. I scribble my address onto the back and shove the card at him.

Ian clutches the card close. “When should I…?”

“Come by tonight,” I say. I want to get this over with and get him out of my life if I can. I’d bring him home now, but the thought of spending an hour alone with him in a car while I’m still trying to gather my wits about me is more than I can stand.

Ian smiles at me again, and I realize the wrinkles around his eyes resembles the beginnings of crows feet. We’ve gotten so old, and I’ve missed it. I force myself to turn away and start walking.


My wife, Sasha, is waiting for me at the door when I get home

“Hey, Jay.” She dusts the rice flour from her hands and gives me a peck on the cheek. “How was your day?” she asks.

I close my eyes and place my head on her shoulder, burying my face against the base of her neck. I feel the warmth of her wash over me. I shudder and instinctively her hands wrap around my back, and she’s suddenly squeezing me tight. She coos softly into my ears and runs her fingers through my hair, and for a moment nothing else matters but the sweet lullaby of her.

“That bad, huh?” Her voice is a ghost of a whisper.

I let out a tiny hysterical laugh and find comfort that for her that’s all I need to say.




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