In case you were wondering, no I don't own anything related to Almost Famous or The Beatles...obviously.
"Lady! Lady! Where are you darling?"
Her mother's voice splintered the quiet like lightning striking a tree. Lady winced, kicking her brand new suitcase under her bed just in time.
Virginia Goodman burst through the bedroom door on a wave of Shalimar perfume. Her ratty fur-trimmed bathrobe billowed around her legs and a cigarette was clutched elegantly between long red fingernails. Her golden curls were piled on top of her head, spilling down around a face that had probably been remarkable twenty years before but now was coated with too many layers of makeup. She looked like a fragile and faded rose, a fallen Hollywood starlet.
"Lady, didn't you hear me calling you? No matter...I won't be home for dinner tonight darling. So I guess you'll be fending for yourself." Lady's mother floated towards the mirror hanging on her daughter's wall, automatically preening and smiling seductively at her own reflection as she spoke.
"Why should today be any different?" Lady pasted on a fake smile, flopping down on her bed and staring listlessly at her mother's back.
"I have a date with Mr. Hogan from the pharmacy so I probably won't be home until late." She didn't wait for a reply as she left the room, apparently to finish her pre-date preparation, leaving behind a cloud of smoke and perfume.
Lady shook her head sadly, staring at the empty space her mother had left behind. Over the years following her father's death, Lady had watched her mother's dates grow progressively older, poorer, and less attractive.
Virginia Goodman had once been Virginia Beaulovie, an aspiring actress and full-time gold-digger. She had been the most beautiful and sought-after woman in Manhattan in her younger years. To hear her tell it, she'd been courted by countless men. Flown to Paris in private jets, given diamonds the size of gumballs, and outfitted in the latest designer clothes by various lovers.
Then she had moved to California to pursue her acting career and met Harry Goodman, a nice hard-working middle school principal. Unlike her previous dates, he had taken her to a modest restaurant for dinner and then for a walk through a park to stare at the stars. And Virginia had fallen head over heels. They'd married soon after, and then a few years later Virginia had given birth to a daughter she named Lady...much to Harry's alarm.
Lady remembered her younger years fondly. The house had seemed so much warmer and more welcoming with two loving parents living in it. But the day little Lady had turned eight, her father was killed in a horrible car accident on the way to pick up her birthday cake from the bakery.
For months, Mrs. Goodman had mourned. She did little but lay in bed all day, sobbing and downing glasses of sherry. A parade of aunts, cousins, and family friends had swept through the house, cleaning and cooking while half-heartedly looking after the broken hearted little girl in the corner who wanted nothing more than to see her father again.
Then one morning about a year later, Lady had gotten herself up for school and headed to the kitchen to fix her usual bowl of cereal. Virginia had met her over the breakfast table, looking ten years older but far perkier than she had in months. Barely able to contain her excitement, she informed her daughter that an old boyfriend had heard of her husband's death and wanted to take her out for dinner that night. Lady was taken aback but said nothing. What could she say? This was her mother.
Nothing came of that first date but it didn't matter. It was followed by plenty more.
An aching emptiness settled on Lady's chest as she heard her mother humming and fiddling with makeup and perfume bottles in her bedroom down the hall. Could she really do this? Could she really leave her life behind, change it all? She answered herself quickly...yes, she could.
Leaning over, she flicked on the radio and dragged her suit case back out from under the bed. As she began packing, she tried to imagine what her life would be like. She knew who she would go to. She'd met him just a few years earlier when her mother and her boyfriend at the time (Lyle the concert promoter) had taken her along on their date. She'd been so much younger and more naive then. But he had been so sweet when he'd rescued her like a knight with a shining guitar.
She had loved the time she'd spent backstage with him, reveling in the chaos and the music. It had felt like she was finally at home. Light and sound and voices all around her, enclosing her like a blanket. Then it had all ended too soon when Virginia and her boyfriend swooped in and carried her home.
But she knew he'd have her back. She just knew it. She couldn't even think about what would happen if he took one look at her and no recognition dawned on his face. She couldn't think that way because she had no other options.
But before she even got that far, she knew she needed to change her name. Nobody could take a little blonde girl named Lady seriously. All the pretty girls she had met that night backstage had such beautiful and exotic names. Besides, Lady had never fit her to begin with. It was much more appropriate for someone like her mother. Lady was lost in thought and barely noticed when The Beatles voices came over the radio, singing "Penny Lane".
Without thinking, she began to sing along quietly, shoving a pair of shoes into the suitcase.
Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes...there beneath the blue suburban skies.
Penny Lane. Penny Lane. The name stuck in her head, bouncing around in her ears and rolling off her tongue so delightfully. The thought struck her, bringing a smile to her face. That could be her name. Penny. Penny Lane. It fit somehow.
Still smiling, she snapped the suitcase closed.