While the music played she placed an arm protectively across her abdomen and began to chat unabashedly with the embryo about the normalcy of her background among skyscrapers versus its paternal background of palm trees and freeways, when there was a buzz at the door. It was her mother, in a temper and, unusually for her, without the buffering effect of alcohol betwixt her and the great wide world. Both the personal visit and the state of sobriety were uncommon. Jill Shayes, coat and huge shaggy hat made of faux fur, swept her daughter with a glance,“I have to hear from…Bob?!” she could barely force out the despised syllable,“That you’re knocked up? You? My daughter, who I raised? And I have to hear it from him?”
“I just found out myself, and since when do you talk to my father?”
“Who called who?”
“Who do you think?”
“Daddy called you.”
“Give the girl a prize,” Jill said as she removed her hat and coat and crossed to the couch.“Do you have any coffee?”
“You want coffee?”
“Don’t be a bitch, dear. Mommy’s trying to set a good example.” She dropped the hat and coat in an unceremonious heap on the couch. The glossy synthetic pelts looked just like a dead animal.
“Would that be the caffeine-and-cigarettes-daily diet?”Anne snapped.
“I’ll get it myself,” said her mother.
Perhaps, Anne thought, one of the points of attraction between her and Cliff had been the understanding of what it was like when a parent was an addictive personality, a pill popper or an alcoholic, or both. If her mother had really smoked and drank and chugged the coffee while she was pregnant, that would explain, among other things, Anne’s size. All her nearest relatives were beanpoles. She had a vision of Jill Shayes, wearing an Yves Saint Laurent peasant blouse, frosted hair, frosted lipstick, puffing cigarette smoke over her nursing baby’s downy little head. As she listened to her mother bang around in her closet-sized kitchen she thought about the fact that while her half-sister was collecting graduate degrees in the seventies, her mother, as far as she knew, had had covers on Bazaar, Cosmo, and Vogue. She, herself, must have been the most puzzling child imaginable born to a fashion model: scraped-kneed and scholarly. Her own child most likely would be (following the rule of skipped generations) a tall, trippy, clotheshorse, with musical aptitude.
Anne’s mother emerged from the kitchen carrying two mismatched mugs. The one she handed to Anne was emblazoned with The Rolling Stones’ lips and lolling tongue logo; it reminded Anne of her mother’s infrequent drunken hints that she had once had a “thing” with one of the Stones back in the mists of time. So what Jill said next was surprising. “Friend of your father’s,” she said, nodding at the mug.“You owe him a very big thank you.”
Anne looked puzzled.“How’s that?”
“Back in the day he set what my attorney called The Jagger Standard for child support. Thirty grand a month, minimum, for the rich guy’s babies,” Jill was lost for a moment in perfectly posed reverie, head cocked slightly back, eyes cast to the side. “A big thank you.” She continued to muse, and added acidly,“That’s one man who believes in family values.” Anne noted that when her mother wasn’t a tedious, repetitive inebriate she was actually quite funny. Jill looked around Anne’s apartment as if it were sorely lacking in civilized amenities, like appreciable square footage. “You know, Cole Starkey’s a billionaire.”
“Yeah. And, I’m not carrying that old lizard’s child, so what?” Anne retorted.
“No, but you are carrying his only heir.”
It suddenly became clear to Anne why her mom had sobered up.