By Maquis Leader
Author’s note: Inspired by Lia’s story Conosci te stesso (Know Thyself). For some reason I stumbled at the beginning, thinking that her story was going in a different direction. Then my muse said “well, why don’t we go there?” and so… here we are…
The girl was on her fourth drink. Whiskey and water, a girl after her own heart. Pretty, red lips and polished fingernails, hair done up, and tight clothes that say she’s looking for a good time but she’s not going to tip over for just anybody.
She was pretty sure the girl wasn’t a day over eighteen, but the ID said twenty-one and it was good enough to fool her so she figured, what the hell? Pouring a fresh beer for Joe, she watched the girl slide off her barstool and head for a booth toward the back.
“He’s bad news, honey.” She said softly, shaking her head as the girl stopped next to the booth with the very sexy, very on the make man that had come in earlier. “If you’re lucky, he’ll fuck you and walk away.”
“Talking to yourself, Ma?”
She jumped and turned. “Maurice! You scared the hell out of me!”
“You’re scarin’ me, talking to yourself.” Bosco grinned at her and leaned across the bar so she could give him a kiss.
“When you’re old, you’ll talk to yourself, too.” Rose gave his cheek a light slap. “You’ll see things – see yourself in people – and wonder why the hell people keep making the same mistakes.”
“What have I done now?” Settling on the barstool, he tossed his keys up on the bar. “I just walked in.”
“Not you, baby.”
“Ma, can you not call me baby?”
“What? I’m your mother.” She sat a beer in front of him and reached out to caress his cheek. “I’m allowed.”
“Not in a bar, where other guys might decide that they should beat ‘baby’ up.” Not that it’d ever happened. His mom’s regulars were used to seeing him and though they snickered, they never said a word.
Seeing his mother look toward the back of the bar again, Bosco followed her gaze. There was a couple sitting in a booth, indulging in a little grope and tonsil hockey session. The girl was pretty enough, young and firm like he liked them. Used to like them, he corrected himself. As in before his current situation with a woman who would beat him to death – and then shoot him – if she caught him looking anywhere but at her.
“Things never change, Maurice.”
“What things?” The man’s hand slipped down the girl’s side, and she giggled and jumped a moment later. Bosco looked away. “So he’s feelin’ her up? That’s a crime? If he starts humping her – I’ll tell them to get a room.”
“Maurice…” Rose turned her attention back to him. “You can be so crude sometimes.”
“Now where would I have gotten that from?” He ducked back as she raised a hand threateningly. She hadn’t hit him in years, but old reflexes never died.
“You wait, your turn will come.” Leaning on the bar, she ran her fingers over his hand. “You’ll see some good looking, cocky young guy, and you’ll think ‘that’s me back when I didn’t know any better’.”
“So long as I’m still good looking.”
“That girl – “ She jerked her chin in the direction of the booth. “I’ve been her. I was eighteen and thought I knew everything – “
“Eighteen?” Bosco took another look at the girl. She was giggling at something the man was whispering into her ear. “What are you doing serving her? You could lose your license.”
“Hey, her ID’s good. If someone’s got an ID so damn good that I can’t tell it’s fake – “ She shrugged. “Then chances are you can’t tell either. My ass is covered.”
“You should tell her to go somewhere else.” Now that he was looking past the makeup and push up bra, he could tell the girl was somewhere between eighteen and nineteen. Considering that used to be his favorite hunting ground – he should know. “You got the right to refuse service – tell her to take her underage ass down the street.”
“What for? She’s a regular; she’s making me money. Besides – “ Looking at the girl, Rose sighed. “She’ll screw up soon enough and she won’t be back. At least until she needs a job ‘cos her old man left her.”
“You mean she’ll get knocked up like you did?” The words came out before he could stop them, and Bosco cringed at the pained look that flashed across his mother’s face. “I’m sorry, Ma. I don’t know why I do that.”
“It’s okay, baby.” Reaching up, she cupped his face. “I wouldn’t trade you for anything in this world. No matter how bad things were – you and Michael made it all worth it.”
“Maybe she won’t screw up? People don’t always – “ The couple walked past him, the girl giggling as the man patted her on the ass. “Then again, what the hell do I know?”
“I remember being her.” Rose combed her fingers through his hair for a moment. “I was the good girl – at least as far as my parents knew. I wore decent clothes, went to church when I was supposed to, and never stared at the boys. But… when they weren’t around…”
Bosco leaned forward, eager to hear her story. Her parents – his grandparents – were people he’d never met. They’d disowned his mother when she’d married his father, and that was all he knew about them.
“I’d sneak out. I had this trunk in the garage I kept my good time clothes in.” She smiled, remembering the wicked feeling of changing clothes in the back of her father’s garage. “Short skirts, tight sweaters – I was a bad girl, Maurice.”
“So you had a little fun when you were eighteen? That’s normal.”
“Eighteen?” Laughing, she patted his cheek again. “Honey, I was sneaking out way the hell before I was eighteen. There was this little get together one time at school when I was fifteen – some damn dance or something – and Donnie Mannetti asked if I wanted to go for a ride in his Camaro. Turned out the only ride was me.”
“Ma!” His jaw dropped. “Fifteen? You – fifteen? How old was he?”
“Oh jeez… “ It took her a minute to remember. “I think he was eighteen or so. He’d dropped out the year before. It doesn’t matter.”
“Fifteen?” Not that he hadn’t known his mother was a wild girl when she was younger – and probably still was but he didn’t want to know. But fifteen? “Ma, what were you thinking?”
Giggles hit her at the question. “I was thinking that he sounded like he was dying or something. All that noise – “
“Ma, oh jeez!” He clapped his hands over his ears.
“It was fun though.” Another smile, deeper and knowing, curved her lips. “It was a hell of a lot of fun.”
“Stop it, I can’t afford the therapy I need now!”
“I’d be a good girl all day, do my homework and help my mother with the dishes. Real Father Knows Best crap. Then I’d sneak out after I was supposed to be in bed.” Her laugh was throaty. “I was in bed all right, or at least lying down.”
“Ma, you talk like you were some slut – I don’t remember you having that many men come around when I was a kid.” Bosco rubbed his forehead, he was getting a hell of a headache from the image of his mother as a loose high school girl.
“I didn’t give it to just anybody, Maurice. I was pretty you know.” She said indignantly. “You may not believe it, but your mother was a looker in her day.”
“You’re still a looker, Ma.” As a kid, he’d always been embarrassed that his mother looked pretty and sexy when everybody else’s mother looked like Carol Brady. But he’d been proud too, in a weird way. “You’ve still got what it takes, you know?”
“Nothing like I did then, baby.” These days, she put on her makeup and brushed her hair as quick as she could, trying not to see the wrinkles and the lines that seemed to double ever night. “I was pretty, and I had my pick of young men – and I picked them. You want to hear something funny?”
“Yeah, cos everything up to now has been a real riot.”
“A part of me wanted a house and the white picket fence, the husband, and perfect children. I used to hang my first communion cross my grandmother gave me from the rearview mirror – so I wasn’t committing a sin by screwing with it on.”
“Ma!” An image blew into his mind before he could stop it and Bosco shuddered. “Don’t say things like that.”
“I wanted to be good, Maurice. I wanted to have a good life – but I knew I wasn’t gonna get it.”
“I’m sorry, Ma.” Guilt settled on his shoulders. He’d been the accident that had ruined the rest of her life. “I’m sorry that I screwed it all up for you.”
“Don’t you talk like that!” Rose cupped his chin in her hand and forced his head up. “I love you! You and your brother are the only things that kept me from killing myself too many times, Maurice! Without you two – I had no life!”
“You might have had a better life.”
The midnight blue eyes were full of guilt and pain that broke Rose’s heart. “No, baby. ‘Cos I wouldn’t have had you. And you and Michael – I wouldn’t trade you for anybody else’s life.”
“Things are better now, right?” The last few years had been hard on them, but somehow they’d come out of it closer than before.
“They’re a million times better. I got my own place – “ A wave of her hand took in the bar and its regulars. “I’ve got my handsome son who’s very happy with – ”
“Don’t start about the grandchildren, Ma.” He warned. “I don’t want to chance screwing some kid’s life up.”
“All you got to do is keep your eyes open. Watch what they’re doing.” She sighed. “You don’t think my mother couldn’t have seen what I was up to if she’d really looked? Or that’d I’d have seen what your brother was doing to himself if I’d have looked a little harder?”
“Mikey made his own decisions, Ma.” Why hadn’t he seen what his brother was doing? They’d shared a room and he’d had no idea the shit Mikey was into until it was too late.
“He was a kid – he didn’t know what he was getting into! And I thought what’s a little pot? Hell, I smoked a little pot from time to time, it was no big deal.”
Silence fell between them. For Michael, pot had led to cocaine and cocaine had led to dealing and dealing had led to dead.
“You watch them, and you love them, Maurice. “ Tears welled up in her eyes. She loved him so much it hurt sometimes, made her heart swell up and ache. “You just love them as much as you can.”
“Aw, Ma.” Standing up, Bosco reached across the bar and hugged his mother. “I never doubted you loved me – Mikey either – we knew. You know we love you, right?”
“I know, baby.” She brushed a kiss across his cheek. “Sit down, your beer’s getting warm.”
“That’s alright, I know the owner, she’ll give me one on the house.” Winking, he took a drink of his beer.
“You know, you’ve got an eighteen year old daughter to keep an eye on – she’s already been a little wild.”
“Okay, Ma, I do not have an eighteen year old daughter. Faith has a daughter – I’m just Uncle Bos.”
“You see her more than that no account father of hers does – you might as well be her father.”
“Hopefully Emily’s wild days are behind her. She’s tried drugs and screwed around with a homicidal weirdo – though in her defense, he pretended to be normal up until he tried to kill her.” Unlike Faith, who was happy in the dark, Bosco was pretty sure that Emily had already lost her virginity and was smart enough to not get herself knocked up.
“Hopefully, but once a girl’s been bad…” Rose winked at him.
“Who’s been bad?”
Bosco looked over his shoulder, smiling when he saw Faith. “Ma. She’s been telling me about her younger days.”
“That’s got to be a story and a half.” Leaning down, Faith brushed a quick kiss over his lips before she took a seat on the barstool next to him. ”You should see this couple out in the parking lot. I swear, you’d think some people would rent a room.”
He took a drink of his beer to keep from laughing.
“The girl didn’t look a day over eighteen. You know – “ She sighed. “I keep thinking people will learn – but they just keep doing the same things.”
“Were you out at that age, Faith?” Rose leaned on the bar. “Sneaking out to be a bad girl?”
“Nah, I let Fred climb in my window.” She shrugged. “I was… fifteen? By her age I was already pregnant with Emily.”
Bosco choked on his beer.
“What?” Faith looked from Rose who was laughing to Bosco who was wiping beer off his chin. “What’d I say?”
“Nothing, sweetheart.” Rose handed him a bar towel. “Tonight’s been an eye opener for Maurice.”
“Fifteen? You never told me you were fifteen when you – and Fred – I don’t even want to think about it.”
“I don’t want to think about it either, Bos. You brought it up.”
“How is this my fault?” He turned to her. “How did we get around to where it’s my fault?”
“It’s always your fault, we agreed, remember?”
“I don’t remember agreeing on that.”
“Sure you did.” Faith leaned closer and rested her shoulder against his. “You promised to love, honor, cherish, and take all the blame for everything.”
“I knew I shouldn’t have let you pick the preacher.”
“You should’ve added in that he had to give me grandchildren.” Rose swatted her playfully on the arm. “I want to be Grandma Rose.”
“I think I hear dinner calling.” Bosco slid off the barstool and held his hand out to Faith.
“I’m there.” She reached across the bar to give Rose a quick hug before taking his hand and letting Bosco lead her outside.
On the way to the parking lot, an idea struck him. “Hey, Fred didn’t have a car?”
“So… you never had sex in car?” Bosco slid his arm around her waist and pulled her against his side.
“No. And I’m not starting now.”
“Come on… you’ll like it…” He wheedled.
“The backseat of your car is tiny!”
“It’s cozy…” Pulling her closer, he whispered into her ear. “Tight… calls for an economy of… motion…”
“Bosco…” The idea was tempting. Bosco was damn good no matter where they had sex. “I… you know…”
“It’ll be fun…”
He opened the door of the Mustang and flipped the seat forward. “You know you wanna…”
She kissed him before getting into the back seat. “Once a bad girl, always a bad girl, I guess”
Bosco looked up at the night sky and smiled. “Thank you, God, for bad girls.”
Reaching out of the car, Faith grabbed the waistband of Bosco’s jeans. “Now or never, Bosco!”
Inside Michael’s Bar & Grill, Rose closed the blinds on the window that looked out over the parking lot. “A grandchild, God, all I’m asking is for one grandchild.” Smiling, she went to wait on her regulars.