Shut Up and Keep Writing

So here is the first sequel to Pam of Babylon.  It’s an easy read like Pam was, but darker.  The cover is a mock up; Jack will be on the other side and there are only three women!  (Only three….)  Here’s a short excerpt…

For a forty-five-year-old woman, Marie had little experience with dating in general and men in particular. Or, more accurately, more than one man. She was simply allowing “things” to happen with Jeff, not putting up too many boundaries, but not getting overly involved too quickly, either. She was having difficulty figuring out his intensions. Although he pursued her, once they were finally together, he wasn’t acting very interested.

She turned the radio on to keep her mind thinking about something else. An old Don Henley song came on, and she belted out the chorus to “Boys of Summer”:

I can tell you my love for you will still be strong

After the boys of summer have gone

            It had only been weeks since Jack Smith died, and she was already going away for the weekend with another man while singing the songs Jack used to sing to her. Could it be possible that she was over Jack already? She thought back to the first time she met Jeff. She had fled the city that day, feigning illness or family emergency at work (she couldn’t remember which now), getting into her car, and heading toward her sister’s house in Babylon. She went over the speed limit all the way, keeping up with traffic. As soon as she got there, she put on her bathing suit, grabbed a beach chair and a paperback, and went out to sit in the sun. It was a perfect beach day, and the sand was packed with other sunbathers. The area in front of Pam’s was already crowded, so she had to walk south a few yards to find an empty spot. She ended up in front of Jeff’s fabulous house. The oceanfront facade and landscaping appeared in the Sunday home section of the paper just about every summer.

Most all the sunbathers followed the sun’s path, moving their towels and chairs every thirty minutes or so as it traveled toward the west. But Marie liked facing the ocean. She would look up from her book periodically to stare at the water, hopefully spotting dolphins or boats, way, way out there. When Jack was alive, he always remembered to bring binoculars, and they would take turns examining the horizon for interesting finds.

Jack liked looking at people, too. He’d find lovers kissing under their umbrellas or suspicious movements underneath carefully placed towels. He was really a pervert, she thought to herself. Creepy. She relished being alone for the first time in her memory. She could nap without worrying if she drooled or snored, or mindlessly snack while she read her novel.

Jack could also be a tyrant. She remembered, on one of their beach days together when she was just twenty years old, falling asleep on a beach towel and waking up to find Jack staring at her body with his lips slightly pursed. She sat up self-consciously, hoping she hadn’t farted in her sleep.

“What’s wrong?” she asked him, quickly pulling her towel around her.

He was sitting next to her, scrutinizing her face and looking along the length of her.

“You’re thin, but you’re not in shape. You need to work out.” He said, nodding his head yes at her, and turned to look out at the ocean again.

Eager to please him in every way, she agreed, saying she would start going to the fitness center at school as soon she as she got back to the city.

“Yeah right,” he said sarcastically. Then more kindly, “You should ask your sister to give you some advice about a workout. Ask Pam. She’s in great shape,” he said with a devious smile. It was the first time Jack had ever held his wife, her sister Pam, up to Marie as an example. It would be the beginning of years of humiliation and criticism that he would pile on, playing the sisters against each other in a battle that Pam knew nothing about.

Worried that he may be plotting to end their relationship, Marie would have done anything he asked to keep him happy and near her. “Okay, I’ll ask her. Maybe she’ll take me to the gym with her.”

But he ignored her, lying back down on the towel and closing his eyes, his forearm draped over his face, ensuring that he didn’t have to see her. She held her stomach in and stood up straighter the rest of the day, regretful that she had worn a two-piece suit. That evening she would find one of the provocative underwear catalogues Pam shopped from and buy a suit with a push-up bra and tummy control panel. And that night, Jack would come to her bed, and she welcomed him, the insults at the beach already forgotten.

That day on the beach after Jack died was one of the first times that Marie felt like she was going to be all right, that she had hope for a normal future. As long as Jack was alive, she’d have been in bondage to him, even though he had stopped seeking her out. He had replaced Marie with Sandra.

She wasn’t thinking about Sandra when Jeff Babcock approached her. He was walking the beach with his dog, Fred. Fred took an instant liking to Marie and would not leave her, even though Jeff called for him over and over again. Finally giving up, Jeff reluctantly walked to Marie’s beach chair, collar and leash in hand.

“Sorry about this! Fred, you are bad! Bad dog!” Jeff was clearly embarrassed, but Marie was happy; she didn’t really mind the dog’s intrusion because his owner was so nice looking.

I wonder if he’s single, she thought. He wasn’t wearing a wedding band, but that didn’t mean anything anymore.

He knelt down in front of Marie and started placing the collar around Fred’s neck. He held out his hand. “Jeff Babcock,” he said, smiling. He had perfect white teeth. A little too tan, considering it was only June, he must go to the tanning salon. He was wearing crisp white tennis shorts and a white shirt, with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows. His hair was pure white, but he didn’t look much older than Jack had been, not as fit, either. It was a relief. She let her stomach relax a little bit.

“Marie Fabian!” she said, taking his hand and shaking it. “I love dogs!” She pulled her feet in away from the licking dog.

They talked for a while, until Jeff excused himself; he had to get home to take a call.

Later that week, he asked Marie to accompany him to the retirement party of his former partner, meeting her in the city for a wonderful evening of dancing. She couldn’t remember when she had had so much fun. At the end of the night, he said he had to get back to Babylon but wanted to see her the next time she was at Pam’s. He didn’t offer to see her home, putting her in a cab and paying the driver in advance. When they were together, it was really nothing more than companionship. He did nothing for her chemistry. Pam told her that would come in time. Men had immediate desire for someone they were attracted to; for women, it came with admiration for a man.

“I mean, a man can be attracted to a bimbo who can’t construct a sentence; I’m right, don’t you think? A woman can think someone is handsome, but if he is an asshole, she won’t be attracted to him, no matter how good looking he is.” She thought of Jack; there were exceptions to every rule.

Marie navigated the car through Albany. She was almost there. Having rarely been out of the city except for the weekly trips to Babylon, coming up here was a treat, and she was determined to enjoy herself. She thought of Jeff and his mannerisms and posture, how different he was from Jack, thankfully. Where Jack was tall and handsome, Jeff was average height and a little soft around the middle. And Jeff was soft-spoken and gentle. Jack was a larger-than-life sarcastic who didn’t waste a minute or word in action or speech. Jeff was willing to sit back and allow time to pass without looking at his watch. Marie almost relaxed when she was with him. Could it be real? she thought. And then, again, repeated Oh, I hope he’s not a jerk.

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