Friday, August 28, 2009

11. The Dance.

Linda Baker did as she was told her and put the bug in Charles' head that the child may not be his. She danced around the subject like a ballerina tip toeing when she didn't like being pressed to say yes or no and performing a jete when he asked if there were other men, pirouetting around and around until Charles was so dizzy he conceded when she finally ended her movement with a curtsy because she knew he was eating out of her hand. But 2.5 months later when Linda went into labor Charles Ernst was there coaxing her to breath and push and enduring the broken fingers he was sure he had as Linda squeezed his hand with a new found strength until finally the painful screams that filled the room turned into the cries of a new life calling out, announcing her arrival into the world. Linda's worn, exhausted face turned into joy when she gazed upon her daughter's face, and maybe because he by her side as her emotions reached unexplored territories or maybe because there was really something there, but she saw the image of Charles looking back at her. It was in this heighten state of elation that Linda Baker told Charles he could name their daughter. Charles looked alert when she said "their" but let it pass when he looked over at Linda and she continued to stroke the baby's head so gently and so calmly, that in that moment Charles saw the epitome of happiness and love so he tucked her words in the pocket of his soul and secretly knew the baby was his. Thus from a bed of lies and love mixed with deception and passion, Juliana Ernst came into this world.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

10. Protection.

Juliana unconsciously turned on her autopilot very early in life perhaps as a defense mechanism to adapt to the monumental changes that were happening in her life, when at the age of 2, her single mother, Linda Baker, met a man and fell in love. Juliana had a vague sense that life as she knew it would be vastly altered from that point on. In the minuscule awareness of her developing brain, Juliana put up walls and bars and every kind of barrier that she could not yet name to protect herself from the upcoming blow that would inevitably fall on her.
* * * * * *

Linda Baker found herself touching her belly more often these days, hoping to feel some movement. It was her second trimester and she was very anxious to connect with the life growing inside of her. As she turned the spare bedroom in her mother's house into a nursery, bordering the walls with smiling yellow suns, she thought about her mother being so accepting and accommodating when she told her about the child.

* * * * * *

"I'm going to have it." Linda stood facing out the window and only slightly turned her head when she spoke so her mother could see her profile.

"Is it Charles'?"

"I don't - I mean, of course"

"Linda Baker, do you really think you can live under my roof without me knowing about the slew of men you drag in here?!" Marlene Baker lit a cigarette before continuing, "If Charles weren't so madly in love with you, you would see though your deception and wouldn't hang around you like wounded dog grateful for whatever scraps you throw at him."

"Mom, please -"

"But you're too good for him anyway Linda. He's a pizza boy for God sakes, with no prospects, no goals and no future with you."

"Mom! Can you put that out?! Jeez, I'm pregnant!"

Marlene took a long drag before snuffing out her cigarette. "Are you still seeing this Charles?"

"Not really. I kind of broke it off, but this was before I found out."

"Well let me give you some advice Linda and you'd be a fool no to take it. Whatever you do, don't tell Charles it's his, the last thing I need is for my daughter to get stuck with some loser who's going to sell pizza for the rest of his life. How will he support you? Where will you live?" Marlene choked on her words and tried to swallow the lump that was forming in her throat, but was unable to stop the tears from streaming down her face.

"Oh Linda, I wish you were smarter about this. You're only 18, you won't be able to do anything with your life now." Marlene walked up behind her daughter and gazed out the window, stroking Linda's hair. More than anything, Marlene didn't want Linda to have the same life as she did, but history has an eerie way of repeating itself and there she was lamenting and comforting her daughter, just as her mother did 18 years ago.

Marlene kissed her daughter's head and squeezed her tight. "We'll make this work baby. Mama's here for you."

And with those words, Linda knew her mother was just doing what she always did: protecting her at all cost.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

09. Stroke of Genius.

In the pale glow of a flickering light bulb, Trevor's hand cramped as he worked his instrument with a masturbatory zeal, culminating in a release as his creative juices spilled onto the page. Trevor dropped his pen just as the barely legible ink dried and he shook his hand out and massaged his knuckles. Trevor often experienced bouts of inspiration that he could only express by putting pen to paper; in a way he felt this was a more authentic way to write rather than typing on his laptop, everything from the misspelled words to the X's and scratches and arrows pointing to the margins that were choked with words oozed with the passion and intensity Trevor was feeling in the moment. It was in this raw medium where Trevor's genius truly festered and bred and grew into something magical.

After dating Juliana for two weeks, she let her guard down and shared more and more of herself with Trevor. Although Trevor's initial judgment of Juliana was a little off, he was still dizzy with the material she was giving him. With each night, their pillow talk revealed deeper crevasses of Juliana's soul; and it couldn't have happened at a better time, just when Trevor hit a dry spell, Juliana was the Muse that sparked his fire that was dormant for far too long.

Trevor reread his work and let his lips slowly curl up and his eyes narrow as he looked up and saw his reflection in the window with a backdrop of lights from the city. He let the sneer completely encompass his face as Juliana's body appeared in the reflection and grew bigger as she approached him until she blended into the foreground. Knowing he would meet his deadline, Trevor casually closed his journal just as Juliana draped her arms around his shoulders and kissed his neck. Trevor pressed her hands into his chest and let himself be consumed by his lust and his craving to finish the story.

Monday, August 24, 2009

08. Stop and Look.

Now in her late twenties, Juliana knew that the crossroads she encountered when she graduated from high school wasn't unique to her, but a rite of passage everyone goes though as they test the waters on their own for the first time. She was finally able to remove the water wings circling her arms that kept her afloat in the past and she no longer heard the warning from the shore that the current was too strong or the water was too cold; she was going in on her own terms and she was not about to tentatively dip one toe in, no Juliana was going to jump in head first. At the age of 17, Juliana Ernst felt her self coming into being and regarded this experience as a privilege that was bestowed only upon a few and she felt lucky embracing such an honor knowing that she would exploit this time to it's fullest.

As Juliana got older, she liked to boast about the experimental time in her life, right before college, when she kissed girls and smoked joints and went to all night dance parties where she met strangers that she immediately felt close to. Juliana was able to shed her suburban shield and allowed herself to be carefree and open for the first and only time in her life; later when she picked herself from the momentary slip off the well worn path, her shield went right back up and she would continue to hold it there for the rest of her life never wanting to deviate from what was expected of her. Juliana would also later learn that her transgressions were a little more extreme then most people and she clung to this one reckless period in her life and retold stories about it a lot longer then she should have until one day when she was 32 and she still talked about that one time when she was at a rave that she realized she couldn't use her teen years as a badge anymore. Yet, Juliana held on to it because she had a vague sense that it was important, what she didn't recognize was it was the one time she forged her own path, however off beat it may have been. Perhaps with time, Juliana could have corrected it, but she would never find that out because before she knew it some outside force reached down, picked her up, and put her back where she was supposed to be.

Juliana confided in Trevor that she thought she was doing what every one did, that she was tired of being labeled as good, that she wanted to prove to everyone in her high school that she didn't fit into the straight A, student government, band geek mold that everyone assumed she belonged. Juliana saw her senior year as the time to break away, the time to start displaying some deviant behavior so people would start talking. She hung around the locker room when the football team finished practice and made sure everyone could see her kiss one of the players; because jock and nerd worlds never collide. She rolled down her window as she drove out of the parking lot and casually hung her hand out the window, her fingers embracing a circular blend of tobacco and addiction. She left campus during lunch and came back for the last period of the day with a different outfit so people would ask why she changed. But that wasn't enough for Juliana, because once she knew people were talking she wanted to fan the flame even more so she started taking more risks with herself and never said no to anything, yet as she continued down the black abyss, Juliana forget that she was trying to prove something to everyone because graduation day came and went and the only thing she was trying to do now was keep up with all the people around her so she would fit in as they put things up their noses, in their veins, and through their lungs. Juliana never once stopped to look at where she was until it was too late.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

07. City Self.

Juliana Ernst dreamed of city life for as long as she could remember but her idealistic fantasies were always grounded by the idiosyncrasies of suburban life; a force akin to gravity, so powerful and so predictable that it always brought her back to the place where lush trees lined every street and houses looked more and more identical, and men in matching jumpsuits raked leaves, picked up garbage, and polished the entrance sign welcoming you to upper middle class life. Yet for as long as Juliana could remember the dream of life in the city was always just a vague notion, merely what was expected of her; to move on to bigger and better things before inevitably ending up right where she stared, but this time on the other side of the coin as the mother, the nurturer, the planter of the Dream that was packaged and sold on the corner of any town in every city all across the great money capital of the world.

Juliana walked along the path set out for her by society of which her parents were a product so they expounded the same values that she saw all around her. She did the minimum to fit the mold never questioning what she did or why she wanted the things she did, so when she failed twice at moving to New York City it was probably because she just didn't want it that much even though she was raised to believe that that was the goal, the ultimate mark of success. Juliana would never know this because when she finally made it, she believed it was her own doing and not because she had a man in her life, which was another myth that she was taught to believe.

Juliana lived this life as best as she knew how but was merely the product of her generation where the media, models, and magazines tell young women what to wear and what not to wear, when you're ready to have sex and when you should wait because he's not "the one," who to be attracted to and how to shed those unattractive pounds. They told her what to be and who to be, but did they ever tell her to just be herself - whomever that may be. Did they ever tell her that outward appearances don't last forever, that beauty and perfection isn't everything? Did they ever tell her that all the makeup, and hair products, and fancy clothes were just layers upon layers that covered up the self? But they never asked Juliana if she would know her real self when she saw it?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

06. The Sound of Pain.

Disturbed, troubled, afraid, alone, no matter how you put it, Trevor was in need. His first memory was of waking up in a cold damp bed to the sounds of children screaming in pain as if their limbs were being yanked from their little bodies, or so Trevor imagined he would cry if such unthinkable acts were performed on him. Fear crept over Trevor and he pulled it tight under his chin and found solace in the embrace of the only emotion he knew. As he lay in his bed and the wetness of his sheets soaked through his pj's, he timidly looked around for the origin of the pain and horrid cries anticipating whatever monster out there that would inevitably come for him. Yet as his eyes looked left and reached their farthest corner he was shocked to see his reflection staring straight back at him. The refection he saw was equally surprised and mimicked Trevor's movements of immediately jerking their eyes back towards the ceiling. When Trevor finally got the courage to look again he saw that his reflection was staring back wide eyed at him. It was only then that he realized that what he thought was a mirror image of himself was actually another boy lying in a bed no more than 12 inches away. He turn to his right and saw a body covered in a heap of blankets rhythmically moving up and down. Trevor's heart still pumped fear through his veins, but his curiosity gnawed at him so profoundly, he had to know; he propped himself on his elbows and saw rows and row of identical beds filled with bodies as far as the eye could see. A new emotion of utter despair and sorrow so powerful, so raw, and so consuming coursed through Trevor in that moment and made him feel physically ill. Then he understood the pain in the cries that interrupted the dark, cold night as scared children were haunted in their sleep of being abandoned by their parent. Trevor swore then and there that he would push this ordeal out of his mind forever. Only later when Trevor was a successful author, and he saw his work being printed and bound and put into stacks, the sheer quantity and uniformity of the rows of rectangular books as far as the eye could see overwhelmed him and Trevor had a flashback of the first night he spent in the orphanage.

Monday, August 17, 2009

05. A Dark Past.

Trevor Marshall didn't always know upper East side Manhattan life, but he always knew city life. He was one of those people that had the stench of alley ways, the buzzing of 24 hour fluorescent lights, and the continuous movement of a city that never sleeps flowing through his veins. His family went way back and had their roots planted during a time when street cars ruled the roads and a beer was a nickel; or so he liked to think. As a child Trevor liked to imagine he had an intricate family legacy full of important men and noble women whose accomplishments were known world wide and maybe even some old money as the cherry to the sweet life that he only heard about in movies, but like most orphan dreams, his got blurrier as he got older and he realized he was meant to just get lost in the shuffle.

It's not to say that he didn't try, but Trevor's aim always kissed the rim of the basket and performed a toilet bowl trick of pretending to sink before regurgitating itself from the net. And so he bounced along hoping that the next person to catch the rebound would be someone he could really score with. But Trevor could only shoot and miss so many times before he gave up and opted for life on the sidelines where he remained until Mr. Marshall and his family with all their wealth and status and chest of hidden gems sired him with a sir name he could call his own. The Marshall family swooped in at just the right time as Trevor had turned towards the creatures of darkness. He roamed the streets evading the world with a hood masking his face and putting up defenses even when no threat appeared. It was in this world that Trevor built his reputation among the street rats that ruled the city when the white collars retired to tuck their children in at night while filling their heads with sweet thoughts and dreams of a world of love and peace and happiness when on the streets below the rancid, despicable breath of the city bellowed and belched itself into the atmosphere clouding the peoples minds with thoughts of horror and savagery that Trevor knew as home. He crouched in dark corners and hid in shadows and began filling journals with the decrepit decay of life as he knew it. Trevor's prose and metaphors highlighted his pain and suffering but also had an underlying theme of hope or so he was told by his English teacher at his fancy new prep school after she bounced back and forth from writing him off as a dark problematic child or declaring him an articulate genius. On his progress reports she described him as 'a promising writer although topics are often troubling.' Trevor who had an unconscious sixth sense to constantly adapt his ways to please others saw right through her comment and began producing subjects about meeting girls or making the team to show he was a normal teen feeling the angst that everyone goes through when at the age of 16 and he portrayed it in the style and artistic manner that he was known for with his pen so his teacher never doubted him again. Although if she had she would have seen that Trevor was a very disturbed child.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

04. Try and Try Again.

Third times a charm; that's what people told Juliana at her going away party. She smiled and thanked friends and coworkers as they wished her well in the Big Apple, but she knew it wasn't sincere. After all this wasn't the first time Juliana had this party. Twice before she boasted about how this was her chance to really make it, yet she always came home with a sheepish concession that things just weren't meant to be.

The truth was, being on her own was a lot harder than she excepted. She watched shows like Friends and Sex and the City that made being single in New York City so glamorous and easy, not to mention completely doable on a barista's wages and tips. Juliana was naive enough to believe that these shows portrayed real life and was in for a wake up call when she found herself broke and alone in a 300 square foot studio in a part of town where she was afraid to leave her building even during daylight. But Juliana was determined to try it again and after two failed attempts, she knew how to do it right. This time she had a nice cushion of money saved up and found an affordable, decent sized apartment on the fringes of the good part of the city, and already had one telephone interview with an independent boutique where she could eventually sell some of her own designs.

Juliana's good feeling about moving to New York was looking grim after being in the city for three months when she started noticing the same pattern that resulted in failure on her previous attempts. Her cushion was dwindling fast and living expenses were constantly on her mind when the boutique cut her hours and her designs were still stuck in her daydreams and hadn't' quite made it to the drawing board. Juliana wanted to prove everyone wrong, but she secretly knew it was only be a matter of time before she was buying yet another train ticket back home. She desperately wanted something to happen, but she was stuck in the rut of her daily routine to do anything to make a change. And then she met Trevor; meeting him was like a dream come true and slowly, the pieces of being in a real life in New York was falling into place.

Trevor was all she could think about as she got ready for work, she waltzed around her apartment in a dream like trance picturing his perfect face and piercing blue eyes, then she let her mind wander to his other perfect features and she blushed at the thought of seeing him again. She hoped she didn't come across as desperate by jumping into bed with a man she just met, but she had to admit to herself that part of her really needed to feel the arms of a man holding her and she felt validated as he made love to her. But it was Trevor who suggested they meet again, so Juliana figured it was a good sign.

Juliana was so happy and couldn't wait to get to work to tell Abbi about Trevor. She glanced at herself one last time before leaving the house and nodded to herself with approval but she was so distracted with thoughts of Trevor that she didn't notice one earring was missing.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

03. In the Light of Day.

Trevor lay in bed staring at the ceiling. He turned to look at Juliana, her naked body slowly heaving with every breath. He gently ran his hand through her hair and felt only slightly guilty about sleeping with a women he just met. Trevor had a bad habit of falling for women real hard, real fast and then losing interest just as quickly. He was trying to change his ways but Juliana's passionate kisses and the deep curves of her body made it hard for him to resist. Trevor tried only once to slow things down and suggest he walk her home, but the look on her face told him that she needed this; she longed for a man to touch her and pleasure her in a way that would make her feel beautiful and desired. He didn't know where this would lead, but he went with it and gave her exactly what she needed.

In the light of day, Trevor decided that he would just take things one step at a time, for all he knew Juliana didn't want a relationship and was simply trying to have some baser need fulfilled. Yet something about Juliana still nagged at Trevor and he hoped she would want to see him again. As Trevor jumped in the shower, he tried to figure out what Juliana had that made her so enticing to him. He couldn't figure it out in the coffee shop and even as they shared nachos and sangrias, he was still stumped. Perhaps it was because she was the type of girl that he didn't normally fall for; she seemed very naive about the world and had very superficial interest. He wondered if he met the real Juliana last night or if it was the Juliana that she thought guys liked; he wondered if she even knew who the real Juliana was.

Trevor was lost in thought as he wrapped a towel around his waist and walked out of the shower. He was only slightly caught off guard when he saw Juliana scrambling around for her clothes. He smiled at her awkwardness as she hurried around the living room trying to pull a rug over her head before realizing that he sweater was in the other corner. Trevor could hardly contain his amusement and tried to cover his laugh when Juliana turned towards him.

"Did you find your clothes alright," Trevor asked, with a slight hint of a smirk on his face. Juliana blushed and nodded. "Oh Juli, you don't have to be shy around me. How about some coffee? Skinny Vanilla Latte right?"

Trevor sauntered into the kitchen and was fully aware that his towel was positioned just barely covering his back side and was hoping Juliana could see that.

"Well I don't think I have vanilla, but I could do a Skinny Latte?"

"Oh, sure. That sounds perfect actually," Juliana said.

Trevor brought two cups of coffee to the bistro table where Juliana was sitting that face a floor to ceiling window that looked out onto the city. As they sat sipping their coffee and watching the city stir to life, Trevor asked, 'What are your plans for the today/'

Juliana told him she had to work until close which was 8 PM and then said her evening was open. Trevor knew she wanted to see him again and took the chance to ask if she wanted to have dinner with him, and of course she said yes. As he walked her home, she told him about her coworker, Abbi, whom she was closing with and described 'like Paula from the Real World,' and when Trevor didn't get the reference, she launched into a full recap of MTV's 17th Season of the Real World. Trevor's head was spinning as he tried to keep up with who was who and just why Abbi was like Paula. He was revealed when they got to her door, but when she continued to go on about how Svetlana and Paula were BFF before Janelle caused all the drama, Trevor grabbed her close and kissed her goodbye.

As Trevor was walking home, he finally realized why he found Juliana so interesting and his mind started working in high gear as he saw the beginnings of a story play out. He didn't' want to make too much of it, but he knew he was onto something and Juliana was the key.