“I still can’t understand why you didn’t ask Anita. She loves shopping with you.” Julia tucked her hair behind her ear, checked over her shoulder and backed her Charger out of her mother’s condo driveway.
“I didn’t bring your sister because she would just nod and smile at everything. She wouldn’t tell me the truth. I need unvarnished truth.” Her mother turned the radio down and readjusted the mirror on her side so she could see the traffic behind them from the passenger seat. “You’re about as blunt as they come.”
“Mom, leave the mirrors alone.”
“Stop, you barely use your mirrors anyway.”
They drove toward the mall in silence for a bit. Julia didn’t move the mirror back.
“I need to talk to you about something,” her mother said quietly, eyes forward.
This couldn’t be good. “Why do you suddenly need ‘the unvarnished truth’ about how you look in bathing suits, anyway? This trip with Aunt Mona really has you flustered.”
“As you know, it’s a singles cruise, Julia! Your Aunt insisted, since Dad’s been gone so long and I don’t date. She says I need to get back out there.”
“Be that as it may, Mona and I will probably be the oldest women on the boat. I haven’t ever been in circumstances like this before in my life. Unmarried and alone, surrounded by men looking for … companionship. I can feel their eyes all over me already.”
“This is just as bad as I thought it would be.”
“Well, too bad. Now I really do need to talk to you about something.”
“Go for it.”
“What happened with you and Todd?”
“Me and Todd?” Oh, Lord. There was no version of this story she wanted to share with her mother.
“Yes, you and my dear friend Ginnie’s only son, Todd. What happened?”
“What did she tell you?”
“Only that you stopped by her home the other day and said some awful things about her Todd. Maligned him! And loudly, out on the front porch.”
Damn it. She knew she should have showed Miss Ginnie the screen shots. “That’s it? That’s all she said?”
“She said you were making up lies about her son. Trying to ruin their relationship. Yelling at her in front of her neighbors. Whatever possessed you?”
“That’s not even close to the whole story.”
“That’s why I’m asking.” Her mother sounded exasperated.
“Didn’t you ask her why?”
“She wouldn’t even talk about it. Hung up on me. One of my oldest friends. Now spill it.”
“Ok. You know how Todd and I kind of hit it off last month at Ricky’s wedding?”
“No. I had no idea.”
“Well, we did. Got talking about the environment and the poor fucking polar bears and I was pleasantly surprised to hear that he actually donates to the Audubon Society.”
“But he’s always been such a right-winger.”
“Right? But, he was singing a different tune that night.”
“Well, I ended up giving him my number.”
“He didn’t text for two weeks and then he finally sent a ‘Hey’.” At 2am, Julia didn’t add. “We chatted back and forth the whole next day, and then pretty late the next night he sent me a dick pic.”
“A what?” Her mother’s jaw hung open.
“An unsolicited picture of his dick. From his phone to mine.”
“He did not.”
“Oh, yes. Then he had the balls to be shitty about me not enjoying that particular wooing technique.”
“What does that mean?”
Julia parked her Charger about fifteen cars into a row near a Macy’s entrance.
“Guys send pics of their dicks to girls, mom. A lot. And I don’t love it. When I expressed that, he became verbally abusive.”
“What did he say?”
“Do you want me to just read it to you?”
Julia pulled her phone out of her purse and brought up her screenshots of his texts.
“So I have shots of our first messaging, just chatting really. Then at 10:30pm he sent ‘what are you wearing’. I said, ‘pajamas’. I was about to go to bed. Then he sent the dick pic. Do you want to see it?”
“That’s what I thought.”
“So I left him on read for a half hour then sent back ‘Ew’. That’s when he got all pissy.”
“Well, what did he say?”
“And I quote: ‘Typical bitch feminist. Tell them nothing but the stupid shit they want to hear and they still don’t want you. You know what Ms. High and Mighty Julia Scheffield? I don’t want you either. You aren’t rejecting me, I’m rejecting you. Fat slut. I was only talking to you out of pity. And I like your car. Good luck finding a man ever with your fucking mouth. Have fun being a cat lady.’ Then he blocked me!”
“I can’t even tell if you’re serious right now. Is this a joke?”
“Yeah. I told you. He’s awful.”
“Yes, I guess he is. But why did you have to involve Ginnie?”
“What does poor Ginnie have to do with any of that?”
“She raised him.”
“I thought she’d want to know that the man she raised is a disgusting creep.”
“Well, clearly she doesn’t.”
“Yeah, I got that.”
“But what were you hoping to accomplish with all this?”
“What do you mean?”
“Why did you go there at all? What benefit could there possibly be for you?”
“I don’t know. No benefit, I suppose. Just revenge. Shame him?”
“Telling on him to his mother like he’s a child?”
“He was her child. She should have raised a better son.”
“Why should poor Ginnie bear the brunt of your anger towards him? Surely you can’t really think she’s somehow responsible for his actions at this point. He’s a thirty plus year old man.”
“A man that she created.”
“A man with his own free will and a lifetime’s worth of experiences that don’t all involve her. Do you think that I could control your behavior? That I’m somehow an integral part of your every future word and deed?”
“No, of course not.”
“Well, they’re no different.”
“Maybe she could speak to him, change him. Fuck knows I don’t want to, but he needs it.”
“Nothing Ginnie could do or say to him now is going to make him into a boy who doesn’t send girls pictures of his sad and lonely penis.”
“She could try.”
“Just like nothing I do now is going to make you into a girl who doesn’t cuss in conversations with her mother.”
“And I will remind you of something I told you a long time ago and then we never have to speak about this again. Don’t give people unsolicited advice unless it’s something that you yourself can fix in thirty seconds.”
“I know about the thirty second rule, mom.”
Her mother popped open her car door and shouldered the strap of her small leather purse. “Try to follow it then, Julia.” She got out and slammed the heavy door shut behind herself.
Julia got out and wordlessly followed her into Macy’s. She smiled at her mother, nodding as she tried on each bathing suit. “They all look lovely, mom. You and Aunt Mona are going to have so much fun.”