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Chapter 9

Chapter 9 I awake to the sound of a ringing phone. As I fully become conscious, the compilation of five minutes worth of rings build in my mind. I jump up. Paul’s meeting my parents today. I run to the phone. Before I pick up I make one practice ‘Hello’ in hopes that my voice doesn’t sound too groggy.

“Hello?” I inevitably sound as if I’ve just woken up, but what else could they expect?

“Hi Julia?”

“Yes, hi.”

“Your dad told me to call before I left to pick you up. Good thing I did. Did I wake you?”

I wish I could say ‘No,’ but know I wouldn’t be fooling him. Besides, if he did believe me, he’d probably think that meant that Paul and I had been taking part in some crazy, mop-top, drug-induced orgy or something. “Well yea, but what time is it?”

“About nine, I could come later if you would prefer?”

I smile. “No, it’s all right. We’ll be ready in time. What will it be? Half hour ride here?”

“Seems more like forty minutes with the traffic reports.”

“I’m sorry to put you through this. I’d be fine with public transportation, really…”

“No Julia, I’m fine with it. It’s no big deal. But I’d better be leaving now if we intend to have you here by lunch time.”

“Lunch time?”

“Yea, your parents just went on a mad food shopping spree. They want everything to be perfect. They haven’t spent a moment resting since you called last night.” He laughs. “And you should see Cordelia. She’s going crazy. She insists she needs a whole new wardrobe just to meet him. She nearly fainted when we told her.”

I smile. “I can imagine.”

“Yea well, just between you and me,”—he whispers—“I think your parents are actually somewhat excited about meeting a celebrity as well. Particularly a celebrity that has for so long stolen the heart of their treasured eldest daughter.”

I sigh. “I hope you’re telling the truth.”

“Believe me, you shouldn’t worry so much. I know how I felt bringing Stephanie home to my parents at first, everything had to be right. No mistakes. And yes, your situation is a bit more difficult, but still, I’m sure everything will turn out fine. Premarital sex is not that much of a big deal.”

“Umm…what?”

He laughs. “Yea, your parents had a bit of meeting with the rest of us ‘adults’ and had us agree not to bring up the topic of anything you may be doing that ‘isn’t exactly Kosher’.”

“Oh no…”

“Yes. But Julia, don’t worry. It’ll all be fine. I’m sure of it. Listen, if they try to throw you out of the house, you can always hide in the guest room with me for the night.”

I laugh. “Paul too?”

“Paul too. That is, of course, only under the conditions I wouldn’t be wakened by any loud banging noises…”

“Michael!”

He chuckles. “Sorry, sorry. I couldn’t help it. But seriously Julia, you have nothing to worry about. I promise to protect you in any dangerous family situations.” “All right, it’s a deal. See you in forty minutes?”

“Yes, forty minutes. Bye.” I hang up.

Well, at least they care enough to go out of their way to make a luncheon feast. Not that I could eat a crumb I’m so tense…

Realizing I have to get dressed and tidy up the here-and-there traces of a man sleeping in the house, I rush to the bathroom. After a quick shower, I brush my teeth and throw on my bathrobe. I return to my room to find Paul still sleeping in a lump on the bed.

“Paul, you have to get up.”

He groans.

“Paul, get up!” I walk over to the bed, which he has now fully monopolized and shake his shoulder. He doesn’t move. I finally yell. “PAUL MY PARENTS ARE IN THE NEXT ROOM AND HAVE NOW BEEN LECTURING ME ON THE EVILS OF SLEEPING WITH LAZY MEN!”

Paul juts up. “Wha? Parents? Room? Where luv?” After looking nervously about the room for a minute or so, he comes to full consciousness. He laughs. “No parents!” He throws a pillow at me.

I jump into bed and grab a pillow of my own to attack him with. Before I know it, I’m lost in a full-fledged wrestle and my bathrobe is becoming undone. I laugh. “Paul, if we don’t get out of bed Michael’s going to be here and think sex is all we do.”

He raises an eyebrow. “And that’s a bad thing?” I hit him over the head with a pillow. “All right, all right…I surrender! I’ll get up! But who’s this Michael person you mentioned?”

“My cousin. His fiancée Stephanie is over at home. He’ll be driving us there. My dad’s name is Raymond, but I don’t suggest you call him that. My mom’s name is Selma. You’re probably best off knowing them as ‘Mr. and Mrs. Anderson’. As for my sister, she’s eight. Her name’s Cordelia. You’ll really make it over with her. She’s a crazed, squealing, fainting, die-hard Beatles fan. But, I should let you know, George is her favorite.”

Paul pouts. I smile. “Yes, we all have to deal with rejection sometime in our lives. Then of course, most treasured of the household is Cloe. She’s our little white fluffy doggy. She’s a Bichon Frise, truly adorable. You probably don’t have to worry about her either. She’ll love anyone that smiles at her. Got it?”

He grins. “Hope so. Otherwise I’ll need another crash course as we stand outside the door. Anything else I need to know…names…people…things not to bring up?”

“Yes well, it seems they are more worried about sensitive issues themselves. Michael told me that last night my parents called all the ‘adults’ together—Michael, Stephanie, and themselves, making an agreement not to make comments about the things we may be doing that aren’t exactly to their liking.”

Paul raises an eyebrow. I sigh. “Yes well, that doesn’t mean my parents will necessarily keep off the topic with me when I’m alone.”

He strokes my back, “Oh luv, you shouldn’t worry so much. You haven’t done anything wrong. We love each other. It’s all right.”

I smile. He kisses my forehead. “But, as you said before we’d better get dressed. How much time do we have left?”

I look towards the clock. 9:20 am. “Twenty minutes.”

“I’ve had tighter situations than that. We can do it.”

And we do. I put on my long lavender skirt and peasant shirt and straighten up my apartment to perfection. Paul dresses in his usual pants and a button-down shirt. He joins me on the couch. He smiles. “And we have five minutes slack time.”

It’s then I remember. “Oh gosh! I can’t believe I forgot! My parents had said something about staying the night. That means we’d have to pack a suitcase for the night.”

“Luv, that’s great and all, but all my extra clothes are at the hotel. If we stop of there he’d know for sure I slept here.”

I sigh. “Yes well, he seems to be more understanding on the topic. He’s two years older than me and likes to think he’s ten times more experienced than me in the world.”

“He may very well be.”

“I prefer not to think about it.” I return room and pack my suitcase in record time. The buzzer rings.

“Should I get it?” Paul asks.

I take a deep breath. “Maybe I should.”

He takes a step back from the door and I undo the latch. I turn the handle and there stands Michael. He smiles and extends his hand into a hug. He stands a full foot above me and his crew-cut blonde hair brushes against the top of the entrance as he enters. He turns towards Paul, clearly prepared for this moment, holding back any traces of celebrity admiration he might have. They shake hands.

“Michael, this is Paul. Paul, Michael.” They both nod.

Michael speaks. “Well I suppose we should get going. Have everything you need?”

“Everything except that Paul left his suitcase in his hotel room. Would you mind if we stop by there and pick it up?”

Michael gives a professional smile. “Not at all.”

We drive somewhat comfortably to the hotel. I decide to wait with Michael in the car. “He seems like a nice enough guy.”

“You really think so?”

“Believe me Julia, you know I wouldn’t lie. You’ve dated many smucks in the past. This one’s better than the others.”

“…Thanks.” I never know how to take those half-compliment, half-insult remarks. One part of his statement compliments my choice, the other smacks me in the face for my past taste.

Paul makes it down in record time. He seems a bit stiff. Michael helps him put his bags in the trunk and Paul joins him in the front.

As we continue to pass by numerous cars and trees and houses I begin to think about Pam. How is she doing? Was I wrong to just leave the phone as I did? Have I been turning my back on her in her time of need?…as she had done to me? Had she really done anything wrong?

Um, yes, she did. I must be forgetting the months of pain I went through desperately waiting for some contact from the man I love, from the friend I value, only to have her to pretend she didn’t know anything, completely ignorant to why they weren’t calling me. No true best friend would do that. Not for any reason. Not without a motive.

But what could have been her motive? Paul and my relationship posed as no danger to her. She never cared for Paul. John and I were only friends. John was the man she loved—her beloved little ‘Johnny boy,’ her beloved little married man.

“Julia, you all right back there? You’re being so quiet…”

I fall back to reality and look away from the window, smiling. “I’m fine.”

“Paul was just telling me about your performance as Juliet. How come I wasn’t invited?”

I laugh. “I didn’t think you’d be interested.”

“Of course I would. Next time, call me.”

I grin. “All right then.”

Michael turns on the radio. The music blares. He turns it down to a low hum. “Paul, you mind talking music?”

I explain. “Michael’s an aspiring dentist, but a musician at heart.”

“Yeah, I guess you could say that. Before I majored in dentistry I had intended to become a musician. You were part of my inspiration, you know.”

I find Michael’s laid back tone to be strangely ironic. He’s not only sitting next to the man he’s so admired for the past few years, but also telling him what an idol he was, all the while, staring straight ahead of him, emotionless, finally saying what he’s probably wanted to say for years—‘You were part of my inspiration, you know.’

Paul grins. “Really? Why?”

“I don’t know, maybe the seeming ease you guys had at creating such great songs. The craze you guys started.”

“We didn’t start the craze.”

“Then who did?”

Paul’s silent. “I’m not sure exactly, but I know we don’t deserve all the credit.”

Michael turns down the street and we finally are in familiar territory. Garden City. My home town. One of the worst towns to have been living in during the Forties as a child of a mixed family. Home sweet home. I couldn’t blame my parents for moving there. It was a pretty nice place for them to have picked after eloping. They wanted the best for their children and this was the best they could do for the money they had…and their parents later gave them. Nice education, nice schools, big happy family town. Pity the town had such an anti-Semitic edge about it.

Two more blocks and we’ll be home. Two more blocks and Cordelia’s heart will burst. Two more blocks and I’ll have to face my parents.

As we pull into the driveway I take a deep breath. Walking to the door I realize Paul is even more tense than I am. I put my arm around him and he smiles. This day will certainly be something.

Chapter 10

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