Every Good Girl Deserves Favour



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First -The Voice


Each and every heart it seems,
Is bounded by a world of dreams.
Each and every rising sun,
Is greeted by, a lonely, lonely one.
Won't you tell me again?
Oh, can you feel it?
Oh, won't you tell me again tonight?

….A voice spoke loudly but gently, if that’s even possible, shoving urgently past the controlled chaos in the room.

“That’s it, Nan… her head is crowning. Just another push, honey.” Linda had seen it all, but the wonder never escaped her.

“Oh…Jerry....get this… she’s smiling.”

Linda giggled like a little girl at her first sleepover at the sweet expression on the baby’s face. Nan pushed once more as the newbie slipped out of her and into her best friend’s waiting hands. Nothing needed to get her going; Juliette Marie McNair took her first breath and snorted a bit of liquid through her nose before cooing softly. A tiny fist went immediately under her chin, as if she was already pondering the mysteries of the universe.

“She’s beautiful, Nan….I love you so much.” The voice called as if from far away.

The kiss on the foreheads of both mother and child did only a bit of abating the pain Nan still felt. Nevertheless, it had been all worth it, she told herself as the room began to grow dim and a bit cold. Cooing and laughter were quickly supplanted by the sound of sad weeping, which puzzled Nan until she realized the crying was hers.....

* * *

“It’s okay, honey. I know…shhh…shhh.” Linda’s voice was soothing and warm in the cold room. She leaned over and kissed the girl on the forehead.

“Where….where’s Juliette?” A long forgotten name shared between best friends; two children who wished things had begun differently for each.

The girl looked down at her body and saw a thin white blanket covering her legs and lower torso. She put the back of her left hand over her eyes to shield them from the glare of the overhead light in the recovery room. Almost like a fantasy or fiction piece, it was reality, and her empty arms held nothing but wasted hopes and foolish daydreams.

“Oh….” She moaned and her hand went to her mouth. Linda quickly grabbed a pan and placed it under Nan’s mouth, catching almost everything.

“Probably the anesthesia, honey.” Just as likely cruel disappointment and harsh reality as any futile medication. Despite the cold feel of the room, Linda placed an ice pack on the girl’s head.

“Jerry? Linda? Where’s Jerry?” Not quite delirious; nevertheless Nan became almost incoherent for a few moments before realizing where she was and what was happening. Linda leaned closer and whispered.

“Shhh ….shhh. I’m here.”

What could have been a great consolation was understandably lost on the girl lying in the bed. Jerry had long since departed following Nan’s revelation. Who could blame him? Who would dare? Not all that sensitive to begin with; he balked upon learning that his girlfriend…the girl he had SAVED himself for… was less than ‘equipped’ to continue the Aurelio legacy.

“You make me sick!”

His last words still stung like a sore whose scab had constantly been picked until the scar built up as a cruel reminder of the wound beneath. Nan looked at her relatively flat stomach and the realization of the moment hit her; implications that went far beyond that place and time and reached into her sad future to tear away at her heart. She felt like cursing herself, as if that accommodation would have made a difference in a heart capable of loving only himself.

“Adopt? No, Nan…if that’s really your name?”

His words had formed into a cruel taunt; hurting more than anything that she’d ever heard because they were a sad contrast to the sweetness he ‘bestowed’ on her only the day before. Words that led her to believe she was safe enough to confess her secret. She really never had a chance. The love she harbored in her heart was a literal mirror image of his; completely opposite to his love of her love for him. Always in a place of being schooled instead of being heard.

She turned her head away and began to sob. It’s one thing to continue to dream of hope deferred. It’s another thing entirely to give into hope destroyed forever, or so she thought. A love that never had been that was wed cruely to the hope of a baby that could never be. And a body that mocked who she had thought she was. Her sobbing literally shook the bed.

Linda shook her head, wondering just what it was that made the girl so blind. She was almost oblivious to her own value and worth, and if she had been able to see beyond that hurt, perhaps… Linda kissed her best friend on the forehead once again and prayed, her own tears mingling with Nan’s in a silent entreaty that love might eventually find a way.

And how many words have I got to say?
And how many times will it be this way?
With your arms around the future and your back up against the past.
You're already falling it's calling you on to face the music.
And the song that is coming through.
You're already falling the one that it's calling is you.



Second - Beyond


It is not down in any map; true places never are – Herman Melville


Nan seemed almost inconsolable. Her life felt like a travel program. At first her life felt wrong, but each choice that brought her closer to ‘right’ was met with, “Is this trip really necessary?” Once she made the final decision to have her surgery, it was anything but “Getting there is half the fun.” She found out, like so many of us, that her life and her choices met fulfillment every single day; that like the title of a favorite author of hers, the journey truly was the destination.



All we are trying to say
Is we are all we've got
You and me just cannot fail
If we never, never stop

“Honey, can I get you anything before I head off to work?” Linda had stopped by Nan’s apartment. She had struggled with her contact with her best friend. At one point she felt that her frequent visits seemed to enable Nan to stay in her funk, and she reluctantly backed off. But she discovered much to her own distress and too relatively little surprise that she needed Nan just as much as Nan needed her.

“No, I’m set. I’ve got a two o’clock appointment with Kris.” She said from the bathroom. Linda walked down the hall and leaned on the door.

“I’ll give you a call at four or so, just in case?” What was it that drew her so close to her best friend? Why was it that she couldn’t say or do something that was not so obvious as to reveal her true feelings yet that would open Nan’s eyes to the possibilities? Was she beyond consolation? It certainly didn’t help that Jerry had been coming around again. Just enough to keep things going and not enough to nurture. Selfish Pig!

“Okay. You know that Jerry called me again yesterday. He was so sweet.” Nan said as Linda pulled back from the door. She faced Linda and the girl turned away, wanting to keep from getting angry. She weighed her options and decided to be ‘Understanding Linda,’ since ‘Majorly Pissed Off Linda’ had failed to convince Nan of the imprudence of renewing a relationship with someone who only cared about himself.

“That’s great, hon! Anyway, I’ve gotta run. Like I said, I’ll call you later, okay?” She didn’t wait for an answer and hurried quickly out the front door.

* * *

What will be our last thought?
Do you think it's coming soon?
Will it be a comfort
Or the pain of a burning wound?

“I suppose you want an apology. Okay. I’m sorry…” Jerry sat on the couch while Nan scurried about to get things ready for dinner. He looked around the apartment, wondering just how he could have missed things so badly. Still, she was a good lay, no matter what, and none of his friends needed to know about how she got her equipment. He walked into the dining room and came up behind her, nuzzling her neck.

“No, Jer…I’ve got dinner…no…ohhh…”

Several minutes later, Nan lay in bed, her back to Jerry. She was crying softly. He rolled out of bed and pulled on his pants.

“I got someplace I have to be….” The lie trailed off. Nan didn’t even care about the dinner at that point. What was Chicken Cacciatore when compared to a broken heart. She heard his footsteps fade down the hallway until the sound of the front door opening and closing finally brought a chapter of her life to an end. She thought it was over; that the rejection was the penultimate moment that would be followed by a very long chapter of hopelessness, in a way. She buried her face in her pillow and cried herself to sleep.

* * *

“Nan? Nan?” Linda looked at the table set for dinner, shaking her head. A quick glance into the kitchen revealed an untouched casserole sitting on top of the stove. She shuddered and shook her head once again, feeling what would be her own estimation of what the worst was. No answer at all had met her call, so she decided the best thing to do was beat a hasty if regretful retreat until she noticed the darkened hallway lit by a sliver of light coming from the bedroom.

Walking slowly, she looked upward and spoke silently. Never a very religious person, she nonetheless held a faith that included prayer and trust. Something needed to open the girl’s eyes, she felt, and she had given up trying to accomplish that task on her own.

Linda knocked softly on the door and spoke in an even quieter tone.

“Nan, sweetie?”

The open door already told her what she feared, and she peeked inside, only to see Nan sprawled on top of the covers, barely clothed. She walked slowly to the bed and lifted a comforter from atop the cedar chest and covered Nan. Much…maybe even almost all of her wanted to take the girl in her arms; a comforter of a different kind who needed solace almost as much as the sleeping girl. She leaned close and kissed Nan on the cheek. The girl stirred once, murmuring a weepy coo before falling back into a deep sleep. Linda touched her fingers to her lips and blew Nan a kiss before walking away quietly, her own tears matching perhaps the sobbing the sleeping girl must be crying in the depths of dreams.

* * *

All we are trying to say
Is we are all we've got
You and me just cannot fail
If we never, never stop

“You feel? Try to stay with the feelings in your body, Nan, okay? What is your body telling you about the shame?” Kris leaned only a bit closer and lowered her glasses on her nose, revealing a gold-like green hue that was both intense and welcoming. She hoped that Nan would continue her progress in therapy; building upon last week’s breakthrough.

“My throat feels tight…I feel so weak.” Nan choked back some tears.

“It’s okay, Nan…stay with it. You’re doing great. Your feeling in your throat…like you can hardly speak?”

“I feel like I don’t have…..” She put her head down and began to cry softly.

“Like you don’t have a right to speak?” It wasn’t rocket science, Kris would remind her charges; they needed to know that nothing was uncommon when it came to guilt and shame; especially since most if not nearly all of it was misplaced.

“He…” She stopped, feeling uncertain.

“Tell me again what he said.” Kris knew what Jerry had said; she wrote it in her notes but it was so plainly painful to the girl that it was needful to continue to explore her feelings about the words; so simple and almost lethal at the same time.

“He….we finished and he smiled at me. I never saw him smile like that….I thought…” She shook her head.

“You believed…you hoped that things were different, right?” Kris half-frowned in anticipation.

“He said…’Just….just as good….” She dropped her head and began to weep.”

“I know, Nan…it hurts…..say the words that hurt.” Kris didn’t want her to hurt any more than she did, but the healing had to come by facing the truth; not about her, but about Jerry.

“He…just as good as…a real girl.” She began to sob. Turning her head to the side, she leaned into the tall cushion behind her on the couch.

You're an ocean full of faces
And you know that we believe
We're just a wave that drifts around you
Singing all our hopes and dreams

A few moments later she turned to face Kris again, finding a welcoming half-smile to greet her.

“What did we talk about last time, Nan?” Again, a prompt that was necessary to tie in how it all fit together.

“That…I am a real girl, right?” Was she seeking approval for recalling the previous session? Kris shook her head no, but her words spoke anything but no.

“Are you a real girl?” Nan put her head down slightly at the question.

“Your faith means a lot to you; that it gives you strength, Nan. What does your heart tell you about yourself? What words help you remember?”

“’ The days of my life all prepared ….before I'd even lived…one day.’” The confidence that was lacking up to then seemed to burst into sight like a rosebud after a spring shower. She smiled and wiped away the tears with her sweater sleeve.

“So god knew how you’d turn out, right?” Simple enough to grasp if you’ve never been damaged or rejected or hurt, but still graspable; apprehension of the truth can be difficult but supremely rewarding.

“So…no matter what anyone else says about you…you’re …” Kris spoke the question all the way up to but stopping before the key word; the word that Nan needed to say…a confession of sorts.

“Real.” She smiled and put her head down and began to weep; tears not of pain and sadness, but of truth and joy and relief. Her sobs were so hard that she shook the cushions behind her. Kris nodded and smiled.

“Real,” she repeated. She grabbed a small notebook and handed it to Nan when the girl raised her head once again.

“I want you to look up the word real and as many synonyms you can find.” Nan nodded and Kris continued.

“Write down a sentence that describes you that uses each word; the reality of Nan, okay?” Kris nodded and Nan nodded back with smile that might not be the broadest or brightest, but a smile none the less.

We look around in wonder
At the work that has been done
By the visions of our father
Touched by his loving son

* * *

“Knock, knock?” The words mimicked the sound only somewhat, but the playfulness seemed to fill the room. Nan looked up from her magazine to see Linda standing in the open doorway holding a takeout bag and a bottle of wine.

“How’s my girl?” Nothing spectacular, but a question that set the tone for the evening.

“What?” Nan pulled the ear bud out and looked quizzically at Linda.

“I said, ‘How’s my girl?’” Nan’s eyes widened and she turned away, seeking an answer, which came almost jeopardy-like in the form of a question, but with a risk that went far beyond the moment.

“Why do you say that? You say that a lot.” Truth be told, Linda only said it once and a while, but to Nan it was frequent when compared to the way so many others…that one would speak to her. Linda set the food and wine on the coffee table and sat down next to Nan. She breathed out and shook her head. The ‘your head is shaking no, no but your eyes are saying yes, yes’ moment that we’ve all seen.

“Oh, it’s just a phrase.”

It wasn’t just a phrase. Linda looked at Nan and tried to be as nonchalant as possible, but her eyes, as another saying goes, betrayed her. For the first time in a lifetime of sharing, Nan’s own eyes were open. Little boys who shared toys and sadness over daddies who never came home from places far away. Little boys who knew they were different. Little girls who knew they had to be whom they were. Young ladies who longed for young men but found no hope or comfort. Young men who hated what they were but then finally young women who became who they had always been meant to be.

And women who knew finally that sometimes the best lovers and the best mates are the best friends who were right there all along.

All we are trying to say
Is we are all we've got
You and me just cannot fail
If we never, never stop

“How’s my girl? Your girl just realized that she is your girl. That she always has been your girl. And…” Nan spoke haltingly, embarrassed and ashamed over missing something that should have been obvious all along. She felt a hand softly touch her cheek, turning her face back.

“That you’re my girl?” Linda said, tears streaming down her face like so much cool rain on a hot day. Nan went to speak and even the one small but significant word stuck in her throat. She shook her head no at the moment and then smiled; her own tears reflecting Linda’s as she finally nodded and mouthed the word,

“Yes.”

All we are trying to say
Is we are all we've got
You and me just cannot fail
If we never, never stop
You and me just cannot fail
If we never, ever, never, ever stop...



Concluding - I Love You


Nan felt helpless; as if her life left her without choices. She then found out, like so many of us, that our lives and our choices meet fulfillment every single day; when it comes to love, it truly is up to you.



When the breeze between us calls, love comes and lingers into our lives,
And the leaves begin to fall, you point your finger at me.

I love you-
I love you-

In the sadness of your smile love is an island way out to sea,
But it seems so long ago we have been ready trying to be free.

* * *

“Well, honey. Now that you went and did it, shouldn’t you at least find a nice boy? She asked about Jerry in front of Linda one time, which evoked more than a little embarrassment and hurt from the girl, since Nan made absolutely no effort to defend the love of her life. If that wasn’t enough, Linda was even more worried since Nan made little effort to defend her ‘choice’ regarding her transition.

“You’re…For God’s sake, Nan…tell her!” And not just for God, but for both their sake as well, since allowing Marlene to dictate beliefs and values to them was wearing on the relationship. It wasn’t like she was a bad mother-in-law; she didn’t recognize the validity of her daughter’s gender or her relationship with Linda, so she didn’t even consider herself a future in-law. Just a mother worried about the ‘foolish’ choices her son had made.

“I….” Nan’s hesitant tone told Linda everything she needed to hear.

“I….I love you, but I can’t live in this if you won’t show me you love me.”

It wasn’t demanding; more of a lament that expressed her disappointment in Nan’s inability to stand up to her mother; that need to please someone who was incapable of pleasing. The need to finally be the child her mother wanted without any possibility of attaining that goal since her mother still insisted that she had a son instead of a daughter. Any mention that the love of her life was also a girl just like her had Nan backed into a corner of silence and compliance.

“But….You do know I love you?” Nan held out her arms in plea.

“That’s just it, Nan. Do you? Or are you so stuck in the past…a fake past, I might add? You can’t begin to know how much this hurts. I guess I was wrong. I can’t quit you, but I can’t live where I have to wonder if you’re going to hide me away in a closet to please your mom and your sister. I’m going to take a walk.” Linda stood at the door, hoping for something other than silence. No word escaped Nan’s mouth, and Linda walked out.

And it's up to you,
Why won't you say?
Make our lives turn out this way.
If they knew, that we have got nothing to lose,
No reason to hide from what's true.

In the world of me and you
All is forgotten when we're inside
And the words that pass us by,
I am not listening, all of it's lies.

* * *

Nan took a deep breath before hitting the preset on her cellphone. A moment later she was greeted by a cautious 'hello?'

“Mom? I need to talk with you, okay?” She didn’t wait for an answer but continued.

“And not on the phone. I need you….I NEED for you and Rory to hear something I have to say. No… No, Mom… Don’t….Please…. Of course I love you….” She pulled the receiver from her ear and took a deep breath; a plunge into a very dark and dangerous pool.

“No, Mom. I’ll be there in ten. Tell Rory, okay?” She hung up the phone and looked over to the front door; still ajar after Linda had left. She grabbed her keys and purse and headed out.

* * *

“Honey…. Please. You’re all worked up. You need to calm down.” Marlene put a cup of tea on the kitchen table and turned away. Nan tugged lightly at her sweater hem; a gesture long forgotten. Marlene turned back and faced her child.

“Have you been taking your meds, Mom?” Marlene nodded.

“I worry about you, and you know you need to keep taking them, right?” Nan leaned forward slightly and tilted her head.

“They make me feel so …slow.” Marlene shook her head and sighed. It was an odd yet fitting commonality between mother and child; perhaps a way to help her understand Nan finally.

“I hate ‘em, too. I have such a struggle reading now, but I’m so much calmer than ever, and I can be…I am useful.” An odd word to use with her mother, but her attempts at fitting in for so long and her desperate need for acceptance pushed her into trying to be utile and productive instead of being a person…a daughter. Marlene sighed in agreement and Nan continued.

“You know you’re the same Mom that tucked me and Rory in at night, right?” Her mother nodded; almost reluctantly since being impaired was almost a benefit; fewer expectations led to fewer disappointments. Mother and daughter were alike much more than either was willing to believe. Mother and daughters, truth be told, because the younger of the two Aurelia girls had her own struggles with self-esteem as well.

“You were always such a dear…so thoughtful.” Marlene mused as she poured cream into the two mugs on the table. Nan went to take a sip when the kitchen door opened and Rory walked in.

“This better be good.” She seemed upset at first, but she tossed her purse on the counter and grabbed another mug from the cabinet before pouring tea from the pot. Sitting down, she smiled a weak smile but spoke with an unfamiliar tone; welcoming and friendly.

“I didn’t really have anything to do, anyway,” she laughed. Not that anything else wouldn’t usually be more important than anything Nan could ask for, but she was ‘unoccupied’ for the afternoon, as she would say, and was actually eager to hear what her sibling had to talk about.

“And before you say anything, YES! I am taking my meds.” She actually smiled.

“I wanted to talk to you both.” She sighed and looked down into her tea cup; between a decided lack of faith in fate and the presence of a tea bag instead of loose leaves, she would find nothing to help her speak other than the calm of the herbal mix in the cup.

“Is it about that thing you did?” Marlene still struggled with the reality of her ‘son’s’ change. Nan swallowed hard; her own resolve to speak softly seemed to gain strength and she smiled.

“The surgery? No, Mom…that’s really not much of an issue any longer since I’ve moved on.” The natural progression of healing had been moved along with a lot of tender care by the subject of the day’s conversation. She smiled and Marlene smiled back; not a gesture to which she was accustomed, but authentic and convincing, which gave Nan hope.

“You know Linda, right?” Of course they did. Rory laughed.

“Jeez….we should. She was your best friend…. Well he was…she is….What the hell. It’s so confusing.” Rory seemed anxious, but her normal hostility was nowhere to be found; replaced with an honest curiosity and interest.

“When he….you know. When she finally had her surgery, it was the beginning …. How I got the courage to go ahead with mine. I mean…okay, it took a while, but I never would have gone through with my transition if she hadn’t lead the way…

Marlene leaned closer and touched Nan’s arm; sending both a spark and a surprising warmth. Nan pulled her arm away while staring at her Mom with a puzzled gape.

“I talked to Dr. Heller last visit about you. She said …. I’m sorry if…” She put her head down slightly and began to sob. Her efforts to stop crying and continue went for nought, and Rory picked up the conversation.

“We…we didn’t understand, Nan.” It was the first time she had uttered her older ‘sister’s’ name, which turned Nan’s puzzled gape into a surprised, wide-eyed sigh. Nan bit her lip and her nostrils flared as she began to tear up. Rory went on.

“We…Mommy and I….how stupid can two people be? I’m so sorry. I am so fucking sorry.” Rory’s eyes began to well up, matching her mother and her sister. She shook her head.

“You know if Daddy was still around, we….I don’t think we’d even be speaking to you. When you…. We didn’t listen….like he was still alive and pullin’ our fucking strings.” Rory put her head down again and shrugged her shoulders. Nan was speechless. She bit the inside of her cheek and looked up as if to ask for understanding. Marlene went to say something but choked up again. She covered her face with her left hand and waved ‘no’ with her right. Not for what Rory was saying, but for the sheer sadness of losing so much time being so ignorant and deathly afraid of a ghost who still wielded his control from the grave.

“It’s no excuse, Nan…. I shoulda’….. I should have been there for you and I wasn’t. I’m so sorry.” Marlene looked up long enough to nod before falling back into shameful sobs as she rested her head on the table. Nan reached over and touched Marlene’s cheek. She turned her head to face her older child and for the first time she realized….not just acquiesce, but she recognized her daughter for the first time.

“It’s okay.” Nan said softly; happy just for some recognition, but Rory would have none of that.

“NO! It’s not okay. We hurt you, Nan. For Christ’s sake. I hurt you. Please…forgive me?

The meeting between the three had turned out to be entirely different from what Nan had expected. So used to failure on everyone’s behalf, she had held no hope for any change between them. It’s pretty amazing how things can turn out when needs and wants are set aside.

“I….I’m so sorry….I was so mean…” Nan apologized. For her part, it was absolutely necessary to accept her responsibility; she had returned hate for hate and even ignorance for ignorance. Marlene shook her head, nonetheless and composed herself enough to speak.

“Nan?” The word had been foreign and even unwanted, but now she spoke the name again; this time with something no one had hoped would have been restored.

“Nan? I love you so much.” Rory was speechless this time, but managed to nod in enthusiatic agreement. She sidled over; her chair legs making a scraping sound as she drew close to Nan. She put her head up against Nan’s and began to sob. It was true…. ‘It’s up to you’ seemed to fit for all of them.

* * *

“Nan?” Linda called as she opened the door and entered the apartment. Instead of seeing Nan, she walked into the kitchen and was surprised to find Marlene getting some coffee from the carafe sitting on the counter.

“Oh…hi…” Marlene displayed no surprise; as if she and Linda had been lifelong friends. She stepped closer and pulled the girl into an awkward hug and bestowed an even more awkward kiss on the cheek.

“I’m sorry, honey. I hope you’ll forgive me?” Linda had prayed for an opening…a warmth that might thaw the ice of Nan’s relationship…but even she was surprised at the speed to which her prayers were answered. She nodded slowly; wondering if it was a dream.

“Nan has been so worried. I told her that you…well, from everything she’s ever said I knew….Well, once I figured out how wrong I was? I figured how right the two of you are for each other. So I sort of figured you’d be back. And….” Marlene started to tear up, shaking her head no at herself.

“Mrs. McNair? It’s okay…we’re okay, alright?”

“Call me Mom.”

* * *

Weddings are ceremonies that often take on a life of their own. While they aren’t necessarily something one has to have, they are certainly found among the lists of the absolutely necessary requirements of the heart. The room was dimly but warmly lit with the glow of two candles that were reflected to infinity as they sat in front of mirrors on two opposing dressers.

A soft maroon micro-fiber love seat held the accoutrements….most of the accoutrements of the day’s activities; two white dresses draped across the back while various garments were gently folded on the big cushions and two pairs of shoes were lined up on the floor next to the love seat. And on the bed, two figures nestled in wedded bliss. No reason to hide…nothing left to lose…and deeply in love.

And it's up to you,
Why won't you say?
Make our lives turn out this way.
If they knew, that we have got nothing to lose,
No reason to hide from what's true,
That we have got nothing to lose.

pcrf053831.jpg


The Voice
Words and Music by
Justin Hayward
as performed by
The Moody Blues
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-umqM9R8cnI

You and Me
Words and Music by
Grahame Edge and
Justin Hayward
as performed by
The Moody Blues
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7UZ5oVYmb8

It’s Up to You
Words and Music by Justin Hayward
As performed by the Moody Blues
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9M_xM9Pv-GU



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