At the club, Jillian and Abigail sit at a table that affords them a good view of the bar and dance floor. There’s a moderate crowd, some who know Jillian, and a woman at the bar gives Abigail very close scrutiny, before apparently deciding she’s with Jillian and turns back to her drink.
“Isn’t this great?” Jillian says as they sit. “No guys to hit on you.”
“No, but plenty of women to hit on me,” Abigail replies.
“This is slow. Evenings the place is really crowded.”
She glances over the drink menu then says, “So, how long have you been out.”
“I was never really in to be honest. It’s just not something I talk about that much. Like I say, Mom just sort of figured it out, though I never doubted she’d be cool with it.”
“But you haven’t told your cousin.”
“Why does she need to know? She knows who I am. If she ever asks I wouldn’t hesitate to let her know, so why volunteer the info?”
“People tend to assume things. Sometimes it’s best to just let them know where you’re coming from rather than letting them make the wrong assumption.”
“Genni doesn’t think that way. I’m not sure how concerned she is about sex and sexuality.”
“She’s a teenage girl. She thinks about it.”
“Yeah, I know. We haven’t spent so much time together since I’ve been at school. That’s why I’m glad she and Mom came down.”
They order drinks. Abigail takes Jillian’s suggestion on what to try.
“I can tell you’re not comfortable with it,” Jillian says, “and I don’t mean the gay part, but interacting with others. You haven’t dated much, have you?”
“No, not really.”
Jillian stares at her a moment.
“Oh my god. You’ve never had sex with anyone have you?”
Abigail blushes and shakes her head.
“You’re probably self-conscious, then — afraid of approaching the wrong person. That’s why places like this are valuable. In here, we can assume we’re all looking for the same thing.”
“Someone to go home with?”
“It’s not just sex. It’s being with someone who understands you, who’s been where you are.”
“Is that what you have with Trudy?”
“Yes. Definitely. Sure, I fooled around in high school but when I met her, I knew I’d found the one. I always knew I wanted something long term. With Trudy, I knew I’d found someone I wouldn’t mind sharing the rest of my life with.”
“That sounds nice. I wouldn’t mind that.”
“You’ve got to get there first. Finding someone means testing the waters, trying out different situations until you figure out what you want. Trust me, I know how tough that can be.”
Their drinks arrive and Jillian takes a sip of hers.
“In college, it’s tough to tell because you’ve got your wannabes who are away from Mommy and Daddy for the first time and want to sow their wild oats. One week they’re gay, the next they’re dating the captain of the football team. In here, it’s not like that. Sure, there are probably some hetero girls in here who want to experiment, but at least you know why they’re here.”
“Oh, you’ll get rejected. But at least you know it’s not because you’ve misread someone’s intentions. In here, you have the luxury of knowing, if someone smiles at you, it’s not just being friendly. Here, you can assume that if someone acts like they want to be with you, they probably do.”
Jillian points to someone. “The redhead at the bar, for instance. She’s been checking you out since we came in.”
“So? Go talk to her.”
“I wouldn’t know what to say.”
“The words will come to you as if in a dream. Hurry up. It looks like she might be getting ready to leave.”
Abigail seems hesitant.
“Go. I’ve got your back.”
Abigail reluctantly stands and heads over to the woman at the bar. As she approaches, the woman glances in her direction and, seeing Abigail, smiles and watches her.
“Hello,” she says.
“Hi, I’m Abigail,” she says. She leans against the bar beside the woman.
“Nice to meet you. I’m Lauren.”
They shake hands.
“Hope your friend isn’t going to be jealous of you talking to me.”
“Oh, she’s my sister.”
“Really? I’m not getting that vibe from you.”
“We weren’t raised together.”
“Say no more. I haven’t seen you here before. Is this your first time?”
“Yeah, I’m attending college in town.”
“No. It’s not like that.”
They talk for several minutes then exchange information. Lauren collects her things and they head over to Jillian. Abigail introduces them and Lauren leaves.
“See, that wasn’t so bad.”
“You going to see her again?”
“Maybe. I’ve got her number. She has mine.”
“Good. Stick with me. I’ll have you breaking hearts all up and down the west coast.”
They finish their drinks and head over to the restaurant where Neil is waiting at the bar, nursing a beer and a bowl of pretzels.
“Finally,” he says. “What took you so long, I was about to order without you.”
After some discussion and several promises from Jillian that she’ll behave herself around Rhiannon, they agree to get a table together.
“I thought Mom and Genni would be here by now. They were visiting one of the museums but I think it closed early.”
They’re there for twenty minutes when Abigail’s phone rings.
“Genni? Where are you? When did this happen? Are you okay? Where’ve they taken her? Have you called Aunt Rosie? Okay, sit tight. I’m on my way.”
She concludes the call, obviously very upset.
“Abby, what is it?” Neil says.
“Genni says a car ran a red light and T-boned their rental. Mom’s been taken to the emergency room with serious injuries.”
Neil rises and helps Abigail up.
“Let’s go, then.”
Abigail looks at Jillian who puts up her hand. “Yeah, go. They’re going to need you there to make decisions.”
“Treatment decisions,” Jillian clarifies.
Neil starts to lead Abigail away. He looks back to Jillian.
“Are you coming?”
“Get her to the hospital. I’ll join you shortly. Is it Armstrong?”
They head for the door.
“If she’s at Armstrong, she’s in excellent hands,” Neil says.
“I want her in better hands.” Abigail gets on her phone. “Elspeth? It’s Abigail. I need your help.”
Once they’re gone, Jillian removes her phone and dials a number. She takes in a deep breath and lets it out slowly.
“Dad? Yes, it’s Jillian. Never mind that now. You’re about to get a call from Mom. If you entertain any notions of ever speaking to me face to face again, when she calls, you’ll do everything I’m about to tell you. You’ll need your overnight bag.”