A/N: Hi, I've been re-reading the 1990s teen series Girl Talk...hope there are readers who are familiar with this wonderful series also.
In lots of ways, it was similar to the Baby-Sitters Club series, complete with four wonderful, intelligent, resourceful girls who cared about the world about them.
Randy Zak was always my absolute favorite Girl Talk character...I love everything about her from her zany streetwise brash manner to her sweet tender, sensitivity that she usually desperately tried to keep hidden to her thick black spiky hair, her high creativity, her wild urban clothes, her courage especially in small, rather conservative Acorn Falls to her big brown intelligent eyes.
So, I was just of this short, one-shot piece...in it, Randy and her friends are now in their mid-thirties with careers of their own...three of them are raising kids of their own.
In this fic, Randy's father has recently died and she is coping with that loss a few months after the funeral.
The usual disclaimers that none of the characters, situations, places or events that Girl Talk and Baby-Sitters Club...the BSC gets brief mention in this story...fans recognize are mine...enjoy!
Tea, Loss and Reminiscing
I closed my eyes briefly as I wrapped up the last piece of the music I was doing for the latest movie project. This time, I was able to end it gradually for the parting scene where the heroine bids her mom goodbye before getting onto the plane.
Saving the piece, I e-mailed a copy to the movie producers and decided to call it a day. I still needed to shower and change to go meet M for dinner tonight in downtown Soho.
M is my mother. She raised me pretty much on her own since my parents' divorce back when I was nine.
I'd grown up mostly here in New York City, but after the divorce, M and I had moved to tiny Acorn Falls in Minnesota where she had grown up.
My throat tightened remembering my dad, who I called D. He died last June of a heart attack when he was wrapping up producing a music video.
I tried not to let the tears well in my eyes as I got ready, pulling on a black jumpsuit studded with a multi-colored sparkle design and ran a comb through my still-damp, thick black hair.
I wish I could think about my dad without getting weepy, but even now three months later, my eyes still often fill with tears.
Thank goodness, I have seven best friends to loan me support when I went to the airport to meet my stepmom, Vivian and my older stepsister, Alyssa and pick up D's...body.
I was so glad that Samantha Gual, Katie Campbell, Sabrina Wells, and Allison Cloud were there to meet me right at the airport because I went to pieces once I saw D's urn.
Vivian and Alyssa were already sobbing up a storm when they got off the plane and we hugged. My other friend, Sheck, who was also with us, was on a short tether himself.
It was Allison who'd held me when I'd collapsed in absolute tears at the sight of D's urn and who shielded my teary face from the public. She knows me the best and knows I hate crying in public.
I'm not as embarrassed about tears as I used to be when I was young, especially since a psychologist told me that I was probably somewhat sensitive, but I still try to avoid weeping in public places.
My close friends were also with me at D's funeral here in New York, where he had requested in his will for his cremated ashes to be buried.
D had eventually moved from New York to Chicago when he opened a new office in his career as a video and commercial producer.
My wife, Haniya and I had flown out to Chicago to close out D's affairs. It had taken me quite a few weeks, lots of time on the phone, including some conference calls, a zillion and ten e-mails back and forth and several trips back and forth between Chicago and New York to help Vivian and Alyssa close out things and straighten D's complicated finances and legal and business affairs out.
As I put on a set of long earrings, I try to put memories of the funeral and the ironing out of affairs and think about where my Acorn Falls friends are now.
Allison Cloud-Piyoria today is a writer for several environmental and animal rights magazines and lives just outside of Minneapolis with her husband and two daughters.
I'm able to smile a bit, thinking about my own eight-year old son, Reese, who is at a friend's house for the night and my wife, Haniya and her four-year-old daughter, Adila.
Haniya and Adila are now away for the weekend tending to an aunt, who is healing from a broken hip.
I'm so glad things have improved since my youth...incredibly, there was a time when gay marriages were not recognized and gays and bisexuals like Haniya and me, were much more heavily stigmatized.
Even Acorn Falls, which I used to think was backwards, has improved in that aspect. Allison, Sabrina, who we still call Sabs for short, and Katie are the three friends I made when I first moved there.
Sabs now lives in Los Angeles, is a part-time actress, but mainly does fashion designs and lighting for various sets for performers and rock singers living there. She's not married, doesn't have kids and is in no hurry for either one.
If you think New York is big, Los Angeles is HUGE in comparison. When I first visited her out there back in my twenties, I'd been a bit overwhelmed by the city's vastness.
Katie Campbell-Virgil lives in another small town, Tenville, which is in Ohio, is married, has a son and two daughters and is a coordinator of various sporting events.
I checked my cell and saw Sheck had left me a text message. He, his wife, Muriel and Samantha live here in New York City like me...today, he edits horror and goth magazines, is married and has a seven-year old daughter Alia.
Am going to meet M for dinner, I texted back. Will call you later this weekend. Give Muriel and Alia a big kiss from me. Caio.
As I walked out the door, Sheck texted back with a Have a great time with your mom...tell her hi for me. Nos vemos.
It's a short train ride to the place M and I usually meet when M is in the city. Most of the time, I arrive before her and snag us a table. The nights are getting cooler, although it's still humid, being September in New York City.
M arrived a few minutes later and we hugged.
"Hi, Randy..." M greeted.
We stood for a few minutes in each other's arms. I think that M senses that I still haven't been able to quite move completely past D's sudden death.
I still don't know if I'm going to cry and it's so uncomfortable for me, especially in public places.
The tears still occasionally come when I'm in M's arms and she quietly holds me until I regain control.
I'm lucky that my eyes don't get all red and bloodshot after crying like many people. Unfortunately, my thick brows tighten and slant at the bridge of my nose when I'm crying, so M is good about holding me so my face doesn't show.
My throat tightened a bit, but I was able to keep the tears at bay this time, so we sat and ordered drinks.
M mostly drinks water, either seltzer or plain, but I drink a variety of drinks...I try to be careful with alcohol since I struggled a bit with mild alcoholism in my mid-twenties.
It wasn't severe enough to need rehab or anything, but I did go for counseling. Today I had a non-alcoholic beer.
"So...how are things?" M asked.
"On the work front and the domestic area...pretty good. I finished up that piece I was working on...their movie is almost done...Reese likes his third-grade teacher a lot...did I tell you he's taking piano this year?"
"Wonderful," M smiled.
"Sheck says hello also," I added. I updated her on Sheck and Samantha.
Mirror images, I thought as I looked at her sweet face...her hair is straight and black like mine and we both share the same large brown eyes and oval faces. We're both even the same height.
We both even wear glasses sometimes...I have several pairs, including a pair that's round with black frames and a wire-rimmed, silver round pair.
My hair is still spiky at the top and I usually have half bangs now, but the rest of it is shoulder-length. Sometimes, I dye the spiky part in different colors like purple, green or blue depending on the occasion.
I'm a lot heavier than I used to be also...my hips, stomach and chin certainly have expanded since my skinny, scrawny middle and high school days.
Actually, M's black hair has gray streaks in it now...she wears it chin-length. It's hard to believe I'm thirty-four and she is in her late fifties.
"How's the branch of art studios going?" I asked after we order our food.
"It's going great," M told me. "The newer branch in Connecticut is really taking off."
M's an artist and still lives in Acorn Falls, but now she owns several art galleries in Minnesota, New York, Massachusetts and this year opened up a new one in Stoneybrook, Connecticut.
Stoneybrook is where another friend of mine, Kristy Thomas-Bineware, grew up. Today she lives in Two Skies, Minnesota and has a very successful business with left-handed appliances.
She has a group of close friends, two of whom live here in New York City also and we touch base once in a while. I smile softly as I remember my college days when Kristy and I were roommates our last two years in college.
Sometimes, in the summers, a group of us...Kristy, two of her BSC friends, Mary Anne Spier and Mona Vaughn and several others would take late-night dips into the city pool, where the fence was low enough to climb over.
A few in the group would go skinny-dipping, but I never was quite that daring and neither were Mary Anne or Mona. Our little group had lots of good times in college.
As we ate, M told me about some of the artwork her studios are sponsoring and about some of her own more recent artwork.
I described the latest movie I've been working on and a bit more about Reese's school and about the pre-school Adila is now in.
"Reese is already getting very good with the piano and Adila loves to draw unusual designs," I said.
"I think Reese takes after you," M sipped her tea. "You were always so wonderful. I remember how back in Minnesota, you could play those drums."
"I remember playing for that group Iron Wombat," I said after we ordered a cherry cheesecake to share. "I tell you, I had to fight a lot of sexism and outright misogyny to get that opportunity."
"You were a trooper, Ran," M said. "You were dealing with lots of changes, yet you never gave up...even during the canoe race when somebody from the boys' side tried to sabotage your canoe...you still didn't let that stop you and your friends from winning that race and making those sexist boys eat their words."
"And with a hairbrush," I added and we chuckled as our cheesecake came.
I'll never forget how this girl, Stacy Hanson and her clones back in middle school made a hole in our canoe and it had almost sunk.
We'd thought we were doomed...until I thought of Sabs' hairbrush...I'd plugged up the hole with it and we were able to continue to the end and beat the boys at their own game.
I remember how shocked I was at the blatant sexism that existed in Acorn Falls...M and I had moved there when I was eleven.
I'd started seventh grade in Acorn Falls...I guess I'd been growing up sheltered in the more progressive New York City.
The cheesecake was big enough for three people, so we ate it slowly and had tea with it as we went over old memories.
"I think transferring to Hopeton Music Academy in Minneapolis in tenth grade was the best thing for you," M said softly. "I missed you during the week, but I'm so glad it was close enough so you could come home on the weekends...see Al, Katie and Sabs often."
"I also remember how glad I was that Al was able to transfer to Lakefield Academy after tenth grade," I put in.
Unlike Hopeton, Lakefield Academy was a day school, so Allison didn't have to leave home until college.
We'd both had a rough time at the Acorn Falls public schools...Bradley High School wasn't much better than Bradley Middle.
"I loved D, but I'm glad I didn't move straight back to New York after I was beat up," I sipped my tea. "I knew D was already living in Chicago...and I had to make sure Greg Loggins and his gang were put away for a long time...before they beat up or did something worse to another girl."
M reached out and stroked my hand. I still occasionally get shaky remembering that traumatic night in late November of my sophomore year...Greg and two of his misogynist cronies had cornered me outside of school and had beaten me.
I'd been injured with a huge cheek bruise, a bloody lip, two broken ribs, a sprained left arm, and internal bruising around my left kidney, stomach and spleen.
That was what triggered my move to Hopeton Academy...I had returned to Bradley High after an overnight stay in the hospital and a week at home recovering.
But Greg and his gang as well as some other kids taunted me cruelly. Other kids were targeted also and my friends and I tried the best we could to defend them, but what we could do was limited, especially since Principal Tadwell had mostly been indifferent.
There were also nasty rumors going around Bradley that I was a lesbian...this was before I discovered that I was bisexual...I'd been shocked, saddened and frightened at the level of homophobia at Bradley.
That December, there were lots of tears and stress on all of our parts, then speculation...M, Sheck, Samantha, Allison, Sabs, Katie, and me.
It was clear that Bradley High was no longer safe for me, so M and I settled on Hopeton Academy in Minneapolis and that January, I'd started there and graduated from there two and a half years later.
It was a lot safer for me to be in a city and Hopeton Academy was exactly what I needed...mostly unstructured like my school back in New York...and better yet, it was mostly focused on my passion, music.
Al had graduated from Lakefield Academy with high honors and a full writing scholarship to the University of Minnesota, where she and Sabs had roomed together.
"I'm so glad you four stayed in touch and stayed friends despite the high school turmoil all of you went through and you and Allison being at different schools," M said. "I was glad to see you get back into your drums and guitar...you were able to become excellent at the piano and violin at Hopeton."
"It was Dune Sadler from Broken Arrow who owned that second drum set I had," I said softly. "You remember the one D gave me the first time he came to Acorn Falls?"
"Yes..." M nodded. "I came back from my trip...I'd said it was a shopping trip, but it was mostly to give the two of you a bit of privacy...you and Peter were coming down the stairs...your lashes were still a bit damp."
"You saw that?" I asked.
I'd tried to hold back the tears and hadn't been able to, so I'd cried in D's arms and had been embarrassed, feeling like a dweeb. Oh, that steely armor I'd tried to wrap myself in at eleven years...it had cracks in it, I know now.
"Yep," M grinned. "Your eyes never have turned red, but I've always known when you'd been crying, even after the tears had cleared from your eyes."
"Huuuaaa..." I muse. But I'm really not surprised. M was always good at reading my moods even before I showed any outwards signs.
D and I had back then a sketchy relationship and D used to be much less reliable...he would make all these promises, but then get sidetracked and not show up or have his assistant cancel.
I recalled one time during D's first Acorn Falls visit...I was going to go music shopping with him...but he'd sent his assistant, I remember his name was Paul...to cancel.
Allison had been with me and had seen my distress, which of course, I'd tried to hide. Once Paul had left, I'd bent over to re-tie my shoelaces in an attempt to hide the tears brimming in my eyes, but perceptive Al had seen. I was never able to fool her with the patented 'stoic' act I had in middle and high school.
D had later come over to the Acorn Falls house, presented me with that drum set and he'd apologized and we had a long talk and a good cry...it had been the first time I had ever seen my dad cry.
I'd cried in D's arms for the longest time, much to my chagrin back then. Since then, D made an effort to be more reliable and we'd grown closer during my teen years...M and I had been happy for him when he re-married during my last year in college.
"I miss him still..." I said as I sat back a bit, my heart contracting a bit. "I'm...I'm...glad the divorce wasn't bitter."
"So am I," M said, reaching over and stroking my hand.
We sat quietly a long minute, both of us remembering my dad. I know Vivian and Alyssa miss him also. It's a relief now that I can think about D without the tears automatically filling my eyes. I'm hoping Vivian and Alyssa can also remember D and smile.
"I think I'm calling Alyssa tonight...see how she's doing," I said as we paid the check and got ready to head home.
I think of all of us, Vivian and Alyssa had the hardest time coping with D's death...Alyssa, who's a professor, lives not too far from her mother.
"That would be good...I know she loves hearing from you," M said as we headed out. We stood for a long minute, then hugged, bidding each other goodnight.
As I headed for the train and M headed to her own train, M called, "Ran...I'm planning on cooking a big meal for Thanksgiving...do you, Haniya and the kids want to come for the holiday and we can have a huge family feast?"
I smiled, thinking of the holiday meals M became interested in once we lived in Acorn Falls. "Sure..." I said. "I'll ask the others, but I'm sure they'll love it."
As I headed home, I considered the idea that maybe after the kids are in bed, M, Haniya and I can sit up and watch cheap horror films...Haniya likes them also.
Copyright 2018 by CNJ