by Jean Roberta
(Inspired by a reportedly true story in a tabloid newspaper, London, England, 1974.)
She stood at the bottom of the stairs looking up. With a sigh, she made up her mind, stomped up the stairs and stood at his door. She opened her purse, took it out and held it in her hand. She hammered on the door with her fist. “Henry! Open up! It’s me!”
The door opened so fast that the resulting breeze blew Jessica’s long chestnut hair around her face. She resisted the impulse to smooth it down.
A sullen young man faced her like a personal demon or like an image in a mirror. His shaved head and nose ring failed to give him the aura of a dangerous outlaw. His classically handsome features broke her heart.
“I have it here.” She showed him the clean white copy of an official document that had lain, like a ticking bomb, in a government file for twenty-two years. “We have to talk, Henry. I’m so glad they didn’t change – well, that’s not the point. You would have been yourself anyway. Henry.” She caressed the name.
His eyes, dark and hot with the cruelty of youth, drilled through her. “What the hell do you want now?”
“I want to talk to you! Do I have to do it out here on the staircase?” She was standing on the outside staircase of an old rooming house, facing the boy-man of her dreams on the second floor. Beyond the open door, she saw an unmade bed, an open laptop, rumpled clothes and a poster-sized photo of the sun rising over a mountain.
Like a reckless youth who could no longer stare at the sun, he lowered his eyes. When he did, they swept over her welcoming breasts and the generous hips under her thin cotton skirt. She saw tears glistening on his eyelashes.
“Come in,” he mumbled. She did.
He didn’t move aside or offer her a place to sit. “I don’t even know what to call you now!” he burst out. “Jessica or Ms. Regis, or – or –?”
“Last night it was easy, wasn’t it?” She wasn’t taunting him. She was testing her own endurance, even though it had been tested so many times before. “You were my lover, and that was real. I’ll never forget it. I don’t want to.”
Jocasta, seeing death as the only way out that was even slightly honourable, might have said the same.
He glared through his tears. She saw that he feared himself much more than he despised her. “I won’t touch you,” she assured him. “Not now. Henry, we can work through this. We just have to figure out how to do it. I refuse to lose you again.”
“You gave me up right after you had me.” He was challenging her to deny it or to explain it away. Such an ambiguous verb, “to have.” She wondered if anyone on earth had ever really belonged to her. And yet here was her flesh and blood in the form of an unbearably strong, fragile, headstrong, confused young man.
Under her comfortable panties, Jessica’s clit tingled. She took a deep breath. “I didn’t think I had a choice then, my dear. I couldn’t give you the life I wanted you to have, and I knew there were couples out there who could.”
“So that’s my real fuckin birth certificate?” This was a rhetorical question.
“An official copy, stamped and signed. It’s yours. You need to see it.” She held it out to him as though offering him a coming-of-age present.
Henry grabbed the paper and ran his eyes over it. “So you were really married. To my – um—birth father.” He read the name a moment before it registered in his mind. “Oh my god!”
“Yes.” She nodded slowly, closing her eyes. “Anthony Rockblaster. I knew him from high school, then he moved away and came back on tour. I was a fan. I know he’s your father. I wasn’t with anyone else for five years.”
“But you had to take me away from him! You couldn’t let me grow up with the Rock!” Henry looked as though he would hit her.
Jessica flinched, but didn’t move. “He wasn’t ready to be a father then, honey. I don’t think he is now. I ran away with you to keep us both alive. Believe it or not, Henry, and you probably won’t. But I wanted you to be safe and loved, and I damn well saved you from the life you could have had.”
Like a wild heroine of Greek tragedy who expects the lightning bolt to fall and ignores it, Jessica stepped forward and wrapped her arms around her son. Her tears fell on his face as she kissed him. “Last night wasn’t a mistake,” she told him. “It wasn’t random. We were meant to find each other.”
He held her eagerly, bruising her middle-aged arms. “I don’t even like cougars,” he hissed into her hair, trying to break her, trying to crack her enormous power over him.
And I don’t like immature puppies, she thought. I never did. Yet here we are.