(Dear Interested Reader, remember, these are my first drafts for the novel, A Year Inside the Moon – this version has some flaws)
Mothers & Daughters
“You’re a cutie,” she said. She glided her warm hand along my arm and onto my hand. “Buy a girl a drink?”
“Thank you,” I said. I shifted the Guinness between us, and I had taken in a full gulp. It was later than my normal nights at The Moon, as I had stayed out to watch the 4th of July fireworks.
“Got a name?” She said. She was petite, freckled, with curly strawberry red haired.
“Rob,” I said. “Still trying to feel my pulse after the fireworks, I think those depth charges got me.”
“Hi, Rob, I know, they were scary,” she said. She was pale, and gaunt, and like me, our prettier days were behind us. “I’m Lauren, I come in here all the time, I’ve never seen you.”
“Been back in St. Pete, less than a year,” I said. I waved over at Jane. “I like this place, I stayed out for the fireworks, I’m usually gone by now, and I guess everyone’s going home now.”
“Yeah, but we can make our own fireworks,” Lauren said. She sat down on a stool, she smirked over at me. “I’m just flirting, it’s not a hot spot, The Moon’s comfortable, it’s also safe.”
“Hey, there,” Jane said. “What are we having? A change in your habits?”
“I’m good for now,” I said. I had nudged my elbow over at Lauren. “It’s what she’s having, not me.”
“Thank you, well, such a gentleman,” Lauren said. She tapped on her red lips. “A brandy, maybe, in a nice snifter, you know?”
“Roger that,” Jane said. She winked over at me. “Give me sec…”
“It’s all about the fragrance,” Lauren said. She smiled.
“Pardon,” I said.
“The brandy,” Lauren said. She laughed like a rhythmic metronome for a constant C-flat. “The smells, they influence my palette, they take me on a journey to France.”
“That’s nice,” I said. I gripped the cold Guinness. “From St. Pete? Or, other.”
“For the most part,” Lauren said. “It’s home, my daughter likes it here, she feels safe here.”
“I take it, then,” I said. “There’s a dad nearby?”
“Yeah, very good guess,” Lauren said. “I needed to keep him in her life, even though I don’t think he wanted to be, which I don’t understand.”
Jane returned with the fragile glass that was wide at the bottom and narrowed toward the top. He poured the brandy with a four-count into the snifter.
“Cheers,” Jane said. She smiled, and she moved back down the bar.
“Cheers,” I said. I sipped my Guinness.
“You should smell this,” Lauren said. She slowly swirled the dark auburn digestif within the snifter. “Eau de vie, water of life.”
“I can smell it from here,” I said. I nodded my head. “Never had a taste for it, but bottoms up.”
“What’s your story,” Lauren said. She wobbled a bit, but she had smiled to shake off her alcohol buzz. “I’ve got ex’s scattered about Florida, or, are you a married man looking for some fun?”
“I do have one ex,” I said. I shrugged. “Ah, she’s still a good girl, it’s just one of those things, life I guess, right?”
Lauren slowly smelled the digestif. She swirled the contents in the glass. She closed her eyes as she had savored a sip.
“I’ve been roaming downtown, tonight,” Lauren said. She wiggled on the stool. She set the glass on the bar top, and she looked over at me. “It’s hard to find a good man, by the way, that’s a nice watch you are wearing.”
I looked down at my tanned left wrist.
“Anniversary gift,” I said. “Long, long time ago, so, what do you do for a living?”
“Oh, public relations,” Lauren said. She frowned. “Politics, you know, a room full of soul sucking vampires. And you?”
“Peddle insurance,” I said. I sighed. “And I write novels, nothing famous, insurance world funds my passion.”
Lauren sat back. She contemplated my comment. She stared up at the antiqued ceiling tiles.
“What do you write about?” Lauren said. She grinned. “I’ve never met a real author.”
It was a question I had grown to have hated, because if I answered truthfully, I thought. But, perhaps I had been in the mood that night at The Moon.
“My first novel,” I said. I directly stared over at Lauren. “It was about child sex abuse, and the epi genetic link to suicide.”
Lauren held her breath for at least a minute. She was stone faced. And even though The Moon’s lighting was dimmed, I could tell she had blushed. It was as if I had quickly punched her in the face, and stepped back to observe my handy-work.
“I don’t know what to say,” Lauren said. She looked away from me. Her eyes searched for something unseeable. “Why? Well, I can only guess…”
“I know,” I said. “It doesn’t go over well at cocktail parties, either, but that was my first novel.”
“Of all the things I thought you’d say,” Lauren said. “That’s not what I had expected. Science fiction, a thriller, but not…”
“My publisher loved it, they thought it would sell,” I said. I shrugged. “I didn’t think it would, but, I went for it, but you know, I got back something better than money.”
“I don’t understand,” Lauren said. “Maybe I’m just to buzzed to think, now, I don’t know.”
“When I told my old friends,” I said. “They thought my first novel would be funny, but then I told them, and like you, they didn’t have a response, they were all very quiet.”
“And then what?” Lauren said.
“Everyone of them, everyone,” I said. I nodded. I had stopped. I had not wanted to cry in a dark bar. “Told me they loved me, as the saying, that was priceless.”
Lauren picked up the snifter, she closed her eyes, and she warmly sniffed the digestif. She sipped it. She cradled the glass. She appeared to have expressed a prayer.
“You were a man ahead of his time,” Lauren said. She nodded over at me. “You were into #Metoo, before, anyone was aware of it?”
“I suppose, but I’m just happy to have survived,” I said. I tapped on the bar top. “But it’s not about me, it’s about we, there are many, many others who work hard for victims. If we can get kids to talk, just talk, that begins the healing process. It opens them up, in some way, I hope my words help save a life.”
“What was it called?” Lauren said.
“Bobby’s Socks, as in the possessive,” I said. “I published it with a pen name.”
Lauren wiped a tear away with a tissue from her purse. She fake smiled over at me, and then she leaned forward and touched my hand.
“Can I tell you a secret?” Lauren said.
“Of course,” I said.
“I was raped,” Lauren said. “The first time was in high school, you know, I drank to much, at a party, and the next morning I realized.”
“It can be a cruel world, sorry,” I said. And I had sat back. I had opened my arms, and hands. I had learned over the many years since the book was published, I should remain quiet and still, and allow Lauren, and all the other people moved by the story, to tell me their story without interrupting them. But it also had given me solace that I was not alone, and that my story might in some minor way have helped another human being.
“The next time, I was at what I thought was a job interview, a dinner,” Lauren said. She interlocked her fingers. “I had just gotten divorced, single with a little girl, he made me go up to his hotel room, and well, you know, I had to survive.”
“Some men can truly be pigs, part of the reason, I’m not much of a lady killer?” I said. I winked at her. Lauren wiped her eyes. She laughed. “But, I think you’ll be all right, you’ve gotten this far.”
Jane returned from the other side of the bar.
“All okay?” Jane said. “Over here?”
“Yeah,” I said. “I think I’ll have one more Guinness, and then I’m done.”
“I’m fine,” Lauren said.
“Roger that,” Jane said. “Give me few moments.”
“How do I protect my daughter?” Lauren said. “She has to learn, grow-up into an unknown, unforgiving world.”
I thought it was an impossible question to have answered, but it was the question any good parent would have posed.
“I’m not a parent,” I said. I sucked in a deep breath. “My ex was a career woman, she understood me. We didn’t feel the need to have children, not to mention I would have been terrified.”
“I can imagine,” Lauren said. “I wish I wasn’t, but I am.”
“I don’t have an answer,” I said. “But, I think just give someone the space to talk, it’s the hiding in shame stuff, I think that’s the genetic harm. It’s like PTSD, abuse literally flicks on the wrong gene instructions.”
“I had no idea,” Lauren said. She sighed. “I won’t lie, I thought about it, when I was a lot younger. But, my daughter was more important than anything. I had to figure out how to keep going, I had to try and to protect her. Now, she’s a teenager, and all I do is worry about her.”
“I do know there are sick people,” I said. “Who do sick things.”
“Maybe I’ll read your first novel,” Lauren said.
“It’s a scary read, be warned,” I said. “I think for children, you need to make it a cool thing.”
“You lost me?” Lauren said.
“It’s not cool to pick on someone,” I said. “It’s not cool, to make a male, child sex abuse victim, into a rich sexual predator, it’s a stereotype that’s not cool. It’s sick.”
“Now,” Lauren said. She nodded. “I understand you.”
“But, make it cool to speak up,” I said. And I remembered my colorful woven socks, socks that represented DNA strands, and the genetic harm from abuse. “I do have this really cool socks idea. I have a few test samples, at home, remember my first novel was called, Bobby’s Socks. Get it?”
Lauren sipped her drink.
“I get it, now,” Lauren said. “Let me guess, take a walk in another man’s socks? Something along that line of thinking.”
“Perhaps we’ll test market our socks with your daughter?” I said. “If she thinks they’re cool, you never know.”