Okay. Now was the time to bounce back.
But could she? After years of drought? After just a few short weeks of a fling that trashed one of her best companionships?
“I’m not good at dating.” she said at a family gathering.
It was a birthday party for her niece. A ten-year-old.
That’s how desperate she was for “normal” social interaction. By now, she was taking whatever came along, but the point was the freedom. She was getting out more, not just for requirements and obligations, but for her own enjoyment. It happened quickly. One large step, and the next thing she knew, she was experiencing things.
She saw a science fiction movie alone.
She went hiking in the valley with people she met at random.
Her home, a lovely two-story won in the divorce, was now in the process of a fresh remodel. It needed it. The mailbox was split in two, a leftover of a spat when she whopped it with an aluminum baseball bat. Well, technically, she swung and missed her husband’s car, hitting the mailbox and breaking her ankle. Bad memories were no longer welcome, so she replaced it with glee and the help of a lovely patient from the office.
Was it illegal to exchange home contracting work for dental visits? No.
Was it unethical? Yes, but only if someone figured it out.
This deal continued into the interior, where neglect left it in similar shape to a haunted house. Cue the wisdom of Pinterest, through which Jessica based her new color template on tropical beach homes and hotels. Bright floral colors enlivened the space in a way that warmed her soul. YouTube helped her refurbish the old outdated kitchen cabinets through wet-sanding and paint. The flooring was halfway complete when her quid pro quo went south.
Dental work guy expected sex. The answer was “no thank you”.
No specific reason, other than “not her type,” as in she wasn’t physically attracted to 65-year-old men with full dental implants no matter how nice they were—at least until the denial of boot knocking turned them into douchebags. Classic.
“He did what?” asked her sister.
“We were laying down the wood planks, and then he whipped out his penis and asked if I wanted a ‘different kind of wood’.”
“Aren’t those laminate floors?”
“Yes. Fake wood.”
“And then he got angry when you laughed at him?”
“I laughed at it, and then him. He got mad. I threatened to taze him. So he left.”
Definitely. And then, the idea of Tinder arose.
Except neither one of them knew how to use it. Her sister was ten years married. Oh, and Jessica didn’t have many friends. For training, they solicited the help of a teenage babysitter. Despite her young age, the girl blew their minds with her fluency. Before long, Jessica was swiping through prospects, realizing that the selection in the upper-thirties was slim. It was generalized, if not limited to:
Recent divorcees—not that she could judge.
Living in mom’s basement.
Or, assorted combinations of the above.
But she needed to get the steam going again. She was worried, wondering endlessly if her time as a rejuvenated sexual being would come to an end as quickly as it started. She was tired of masturbation, and with years of antidepressants killing her libido, she felt robotic and numb. That night, she felt beautiful, her hair thick and curly, her skin glowing with warm blood and excitement. She wore a simple dress, nothing fancy, and tied her hair into a bun reminiscent of her high school days.
So what her face was older. The mirror still said she was cute.
“I guess it’s all in perspective.” said Becky, with a look of doubt on her face.
“Fuck off.” said Jessica.
And she drove down the Universe Turnpike, middle lane, cruise control set at 70mph. No more, no less. It was a nice even number, just like her nice and even personality. She wasn’t a daredevil, but she was daring to take a leap. The date was scheduled for seven, and as normal, she would be no more than fifteen minutes early.
It was Benning’s Steakhouse, one of her favorites. They had killer biscuits, lovely fries, and half-price margaritas. The steak was the icing atop the cake, as was the potential to meet the man of her long lost dreams.
She regretted the choice of a Friday night the moment she stepped inside. The place was packed with families, loud teenagers, and screaming babies—all overshadowed by an atmosphere pumped full of mainstream country music.
“Hi!” said the hostess, nearly shouting to be heard, “Welcome to Benning’s! Do you have a reservation?”
“I’m sorry. What?”
“Ma’am, do you have a reservation?”
“Ope, I’m so sorry!” Jessica stepped closer, turning to ear towards the girl, “I can’t hear you.”
“DO YOU HAVE A RESERVATION?”
“YES!” Jessica forced a smile. “IT’S HARD TO HEAR OVER THE MUSIC. VERY LOUD.”
Florida Georgia Line. Wow, how cliche.
A nearby baby started crying, just to add to the mix. Jessica smiled at the young boy, noticing his fiery red cheeks. His mother patted his back vigorously, wishing for a burp.
“WHAT’S THE NAME?” asked the hostess, checking her list.
“ROWLERS.” and Jessica added, as if she were proud to announce, “I’M ON A DATE TONIGHT. I’M PRETTY NERVOUS.”
“WOW!” the teenage girl instantly changed her demeanor, as if her own best friend made the announcement in passing. “I’M SO EXCITED FOR YOU!”
“THANK YOU! HOW DO I LOOK?”
The girl looked her up and down. Her smile stayed put, though it could’ve been through common courtesy. If it made Jessica feel young, just for this moment, she succeeded.
“YEAH! YOU LOOK GREAT!”
And then, the crying baby gagged, lifting his body up above his mother’s shoulder, projectile vomiting a stream of formula that Jessica had no time to dodge. In slow motion, it impacted her neck, collar bone, chest, and stomach, running down like a river under the force of gravity in little disgusting clumps.
She froze, her hands extended in shock. The baby’s cries stopped, his little mouth now pulled into a bright smile with no teeth to show. He was relieved, his upset tummy cured, his world now aglow with new people and new things to see. He had no remorse, no empathy or sorrow for his victim.
His mother, in all of her kindness, didn’t even apologize. At least verbally.
As she avoided eye contact with a shocked and angered Jessica, all she said was, “Ope!”
And with a shrug, she whisked the little infant away towards the bathrooms.
The hostess gave her a pack of wet wipes. It did little to remove the stains.
Eventually, it took on two presumed forms: well-aimed bird shit, or poorly aimed splooge. She had plenty of experience with the latter.
“Fuck!” she said to herself in the bathroom in front of the mirror.
A stall door opened and out came the mother and the vomit cannon baby. Again, she avoided interaction. Only the boy smiled, giggling to himself as she patted his back before they disappeared through the door.
“What an asshole!” Jessica grunted.
“Yeah. I don’t think that’ll wash out.” said Becky, standing right beside her. “But something tells me that your ‘date’ won’t care. I hear you meet standup guys on Tinder.”
Jessica glowered back at her old friend, wondering if a Xanax would help. She wasn’t real, and she knew it, but why was Becky so persistent? Why was she always there at the worst times?
“I’m trying to move on.” Jessica declared. “I’m trying to do right by you.”
“Right by me?” Becky scowled, hands on hips. “It might be a bit late. You banged my husband.”
“Why are you even here?”
“I’m not.” Becky teased. “And you know that. I’m not real, but your guilt is.”
Silence. Jessica stood there, blank faced, again wondering when she slid so far into these delusions. Here she was, speaking to a dead woman who just admitted that she was little more than a figment of her imagination.
“Don’t stand there and stare at me.” Becky finally spoke. “Go get laid. You’re five minutes late.”
Shit. So, she freshened up the best she could and embarked to the hostess stand, where her young friend led the way to the high top table for two. Her date was sitting there, chatting away on his phone and jotting notes on a little handheld paper tablet. She saw orderly chains of numbers, APRs, and residual values.
Oh god. She’d seen his type before.
When he failed to see her in his trance, she tapped his shoulder, shouting to greet him over the loud ambiance. He seemed astounded, inspecting her from head to toe, his eyes stopping at the trail of stained baby bile.
“It’s throw up from a baby!” Jessica blurted.
“I’m sorry,” he said in confusion, “what?”
“IT’S BABY PUKE!”
His face froze, stricken with the urge to bail. She hadn’t mentioned having a child, and within seconds, she could tell that would be a deal breaker.
“IT WASN’T MY BABY!” she specified.
Immediately, his face relaxed into a smile. He sat his little tablet down and stood to his feet. He was lanky, but clean cut, at least where his hair still grew. His button up shirt was fitted, his trousers nicely pressed, his shoes ritzy, but not too much.
“Excuse me, I forgot to be a gentleman.” he said, learning forward, his hand extended towards her. “I’m Tom Birch. Nice to meet you. You look lovely.”
A group of employees marched by, clapping and singing loudly to ruin someone’s birthday. Collectively, they were louder than a moving train.
He leaned in, close to her ear, “YOU LOOK GOOD! BABY PUKE ASIDE!”
He smelled good, and his handshake was at least firm. Awkwardly, they both sat down, fumbling with their menus, hoping that the birthday singers would abate. The hostess took their drink orders. Tom ordered a Coke, but Jessica jumped straight to the goods.
“Hurricane Margarita, please.” she said.
“Can I see your ID?” asked the girl.
“REALLY?!” Jessica was flattered. Tom smiled, eyeing her intently. For the next few moments of relative silence, they flirted through expression, giggling like school children at each other. It was cute, almost endearing in fact, were it not for Hootie and the Blowfish recap blaring throughout the room.
It helped break the ice, the dreaded beginning of the lover’s charade. They adjusted to the heightened music, their voices settling somewhere between normal conversation and a yell.
“You look amazing.” he said, out of nowhere.
“I appreciate that.” she blushed.
“Oh god.” Becky rolled her eyes, sitting right next to her. “I’m going to barf.”
She caught a stink eye from Jessica, the same playful look she teased her with decades ago. It was a shame that at one point, they were nearly inseparable. In all of her modern insanity, perhaps those days had returned. Who knew?
More time passed. A Luke Bryan song blared.
They ordered, and she didn’t hold back. Fuck it. She was hungry.
“So,” Jessica said, “who starts the ‘getting to know you’ talk?”
“Are you volunteering?” he smiled.
She looked to Becky, who smiled and shrugged. Should she be honest?
And as if her old friend could read her mind, she nodded in approval.
“I suppose,” she gleamed, happy that her margarita arrived just in time. “I don’t mean to be forward with the drink and all, but I have really, really bad social anxiety. A little alcohol helps with it.”
“Trust me, that’s nothing to be ashamed about.”
She gulped down a mouthful, “It’s always been my achilles heel. So, with that out of the way, I’ll tell you that I’m a dentist.”
“Yes, I know.” he nodded. “I read your profile. You have your own franchise? The Tooth Fairy. I love the little commercials on the radio.”
Shit. Now wasn’t time for the guilt.
Becky raised an eyebrow, her smirk even more potent than before. She said nothing.
“Uh,” she hiccuped, “it actually belonged to a good friend of mine. She passed away, uhm, a little over six years ago, and left it to me.”
“Wow,” his voice dipped, “I’m so sorry to hear that.”
“No!” Jessica smiled, taking pieces of the signature appetizer pretzels, ripping them into orderly pieces and arranging them in a line. “You don’t need to be sorry. She was a great person, actually. Everyone loved her.”
“That’s touching. So I guess you’re continuing the legacy.”
“Big shoes to fill.”
He laughed and cringed, thinking about something.
“What’s so funny about that?” she asked, on the edge of being pissed.
“Nothing!” he retreated. “I was just thinking about how much I hate going to the dentist. It’s seriously a fear of mine. Like, I absolutely dread going.”
Yeah, she was offended. She folded her arms, “Like how everyone I know of dreads going to a car dealership to buy a car?”
“Whoa! Easy there!”
“Car dealerships are horrible!”
“You drill holes in people’s teeth!”
“You rip people off all day and waste their time!”
He leaned forward, “Well, I’d like to say that I help people find the vehicle they need for a price that doesn’t break the budget.”
She leaned forward too, mimicking him, “And I know that I help people fix their broken and sometimes rotting teeth. You’d be shocked by how many people would avoid the ‘dreadful’ experience of a root canal if they’d just take care of their teeth and visit for regular cleanings.”
“And you’d be shocked by the amount of money buyers would save if they just did some simple research and planned ahead. I mean, the amount of negative equity some buyers roll into their loans makes me sick. I had a guy that rolled over ten grand!”
“That’s terrible.” she snipped. “I bet you still sold it to them!”
“Yep!” said Tom, proudly, “Sure did, but before you judge me, I made sure to get that couple the best interest rate in town!”
“And I had to do three root canals in one sitting on a guy who never listened to me about getting his cavities fixed. You know what I did for him?”
“I only charged him for one root canal, and gave him 50% off the anesthesia. Horrible dental work is usually just as preventable as getting a terrible deal on a car.”
She raised her shoulders, finally ready to smile again. That broke the ice.
Now, it was time to press further, “So, what’s with the little tablet?”
“No rest for the wicked.” he said. “Trying to pump up my numbers. Got the Silver Star Sales Award three months in a row.”
“I’m assuming that there’s a gold and bronze?”
That touched a nerve. “Yes. Got silver again because there’s a particular asshole that likes to double-dip clients when I’m off work. Steals the customers and makes management split the deal. Swear to god, the guy never goes home. Total asshole. I fucking hate him.”
Suddenly, his eyes were wide, his face reddened with embarrassment.
“That’s allowed?” Jessica paid no special attention to his cursing. At least it was the real him, and now that cursing was on the table, “That’s pretty shitty.”
“Oh yeah. Tell me about it! I was five sales away from gold this month.”
“So you’re working deals on your date?” she smirked. “You want gold that bad?”
“Nice!” Becky was enthused, clearly a fan of wit.
“You don’t think about teeth on your dates?” he asked.
“I try not to.”
“Right.” he playfully rolled his eyes. “You mean to tell me that you haven’t been sitting there examining my teeth and gums?”
“Well. . .”
“I’m not overdue for a cleaning. Plus, I get the whitening treatment.”
Yet, the food coloring was staining the leftover plaque on his gum line. Yeah, she noticed, and yeah, she tried not to. Add ‘obsession with teeth’ to her list of crazy qualities.
“You’re judging me.” he teased. “You’re judging my teeth as we speak.”
“No.” Now it was her turn to blush. Okay, he was likable. “I promise.”
“Okay! Okay!” she surrendered. “I can’t really help it, just like you can’t help but to talk about selling people cars.”
“It’s a part of me. I pride myself in my salesmanship. Are you interested in a new vehicle?”
Okay, about the likable part. . .
“Seriously?” said Becky with a sour face. “A sales pitch on the first date? Desperate.”
“If you don’t mind me asking, what do you drive?”
“You’ve been dying to ask me that question, haven’t you?”
“Yes. It’s my number one question. I know it’s annoying, but I can’t help myself.”
“A BMW. 3-series.”
“Ooohhhhh. Fancy! 320i? 330i?”
“340i. I didn’t cheap out.”
“Well damn.” he looked defeated. “There’s no way I could interest you in a Honda at this point, right?”
Then, their food arrived. It was good. Her sirloin steak was cooked just right, as rare as ever, so pink that it nearly bled when she cut into it. Her eyes rolled back when the meat hit her tongue, the groan that came from her throat as tantalizing as any porno. It was an accident. A pure accident.
Maybe the margarita—shit, this was the second one—was doing a little of the talking.
“So the steak is that good?” Tom asked, clearly moved by her swooning.
“Did I mention that I love eating?” she asked, cheeks full of nearly raw sirloin. “I will literally eat just about anything, which is funny considering that I’ve been made fun of my entire life for being so skinny.”
“So you’re a foodie?”
“Eh,” she shrugged and took another bite, followed by another large sip of margarita “I wouldn’t call it that. I’m not one of those people that Instagram my every meal, but I do like to try new stuff. Again, I’ll eat just about anything.”
“And you chose a steakhouse tonight?”
She sneered, mumbling with her mouth full, “It’s fucking good steak, Tom. Give me a break. Sheesh.”
That took him aback.
“Whoa! Whoa!” his eyes bulged again. “You are a pretty direct lady!”
“I made a promise to myself before I decided to start dating.” she said. “I was just going to be honest. Honest about myself. Honest about what I want. I’m done sugarcoating.”
“So is this the part where we get into the nitty gritty?”
Her eyes honed onto his. “Yep. You start.”
“Divorced, three years ago. One kid. My son, Ben.”
“Okay. I’m divorced. Four years ago, my husband left. Got his stuff from the house with his girlfriend in the car. Swung at him with a baseball bat and somehow broke my ankle.”
Now Becky was shaking her head.
“Stop. Stop. Stop.” she repeated. “Too much. It’s too much.”
“Oh my god!” Tom chuckled. “Wow.”
“He punched me in the face every now and then. Once, he came home drunk and threw me down the stairs. He threw bottles at me. Plates. A drill. A chair once. That last time, he lunged at me, but I had a bat. Never did it again.” she finished the sirloin and worked her way to the baked potato. “How about you? Nasty split, or just a normal one?”
“Uh,” Tom’s voice dipped a little, forcing him to raise it above the loud music, “I guess you could call it ‘normal’? We just grew apart. Still not really sure how or why it started, but it is what it is.”
“Hey.” she said, reaching forward to hold his hand. “I’m sorry to hear that.”
“I’m sorry to hear that you had to go through that. I, uh, I don’t even know what to say honestly.”
“Didn’t mean to throw a wrench in the date.” she giggled. “My bad. Just figured that you should see what you’re getting. Here it is. Jessica Marie Rowlers.” she hiccuped. “Nice to meet you.”
And there, it seemed like Tom had no idea what to say or do next. She could tell his mind was searching for words, something funny or clever to lighten the mood, but he couldn’t. Their eyes held focus, and then she realized that she never let go of his hand. When she finally did, he held onto it.
Quietly, in the noisy dining room, they stared at each other.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone so honest.” he said.
“I’m normally quiet. I never say what I need to say, so people always pushed me around. I’m changing that.”
“You seem very strong.”
“I’d like to think so.” she looked down at his plate. He stopped eating minutes ago. “Is your food good?”
“Uh, yeah.” he nodded, picking up his fork with his free hand. “Yeah it’s pretty tasty.”
“I spoiled the mood.”
“So are you going to end the night early on me?”
“No!” he denied feverishly before following up. “Since we’re being honest. Jessica, what are you looking to get out of this? Are you just having fun? Are you looking for something more serious? Am I pressuring a little too much, too fast?”
“I really wanted to find someone to connect with.”
“Am I your first date using Tinder?”
“No. They normally fall apart well before this point, so I figured I’d just jump straight to it tonight. I don’t want to waste anyone’s time.”
“You’re not wasting my time.”
She smiled. Even Becky did.
“What do you want to do after this? I don’t think I’ll be able to drive home.”
“I can take you home, if you’d like. It’s not a problem at all.”
“Yes.” her face brightened. “I’d like that.”
And he walked her to his car, a shining yellow Honda Civic with gold wheels. She found it funny. For a moment, he didn’t.
“What’s so funny about my car?”
“It’s just,” she shrugged, “kind of juvenile. In a good way!”
He opened the passenger door for her, “It even has red seats!”
She sat down and buckled in as he started the engine, “Shit it’s been a long time since I’ve been in something so loud. Kind of reminds me of a lawn mower.”
“Ouch!” Tom laughed, revving the engine. “This is a sweet car! Civic Type-R.”
“Last time I heard a guy brag about his Honda Civic, I was about twenty.”
He reversed out of the parking spot and pulled onto the road.
“Were they good times?” he asked.
“Yes, they were.” she nodded, staring into this eyes.
“Well, hopefully it makes you feel young again. It does that for me.” he said before pridefully continuing. “And this car has won a slew of awards. Efficient use of space, excellent handling, and it’s the fastest front-wheel-drive vehicle available for sale, all while getting 26 miles-per-gallon.”
He stopped when he noticed her blank stare.
“Tom,” she said.
“Can you stop trying to sell me a car? I’m not a customer. I’m your date.”
“Yes. Sorry.” he shrugged, running his hand through what was left of his hair. “Instinct.”
“I know. Is it at least fast?”
“I think your BMW might be quicker.”
“Oh, hell. At least show me what it can do, Tom. Come on.”
And he did. They cruised through the city, swerving in and out of traffic, spinning the tires loudly from stoplights, windows down in the cold blasting rap music from the 2000s. Two miles from her home, he was pulled over by a Courter County patrol car where he received a citation for driving 70 in a 35mph zone.
“Well shit.” he said. “Bad turn to the date.”
“This is the most fun I’ve had in a long time, bad boy.”
They laughed, and laughed, pulling into her driveway just before midnight.
He shut off the engine, wondering where this would end. Cheers to more awkwardness, but Jessica already had plans.
She stared at him. He stared back.
Finally, after calming herself, she jumped straight to the point. No sugarcoating.
“Do you want to come inside?” she asked.
“Uh,” he laughed, “admittedly, yes.”
“This is the first time this has ever happened.”
“That makes two of us.”
So he walked her to the front door, following her through the opening. She took off her shoes and flipped on a few lights, explaining how she’d spent a good amount of time remodelling the interior recently. He admired it, and her, though he kept his distance. He was timid and nervous.
Finally, she leaned forward and kissed him flat on the lips. He kissed back.
Then came the teenage makeout session—until he stopped her.
“Tom,” again, no sugarcoating, “what’s wrong?”
“Jessica,” he mumbled, hating to mention it, “you’re drunk.”
“I’m perfectly fine.”
“I can’t do this if you’re drunk. It doesn’t feel right.”
She grabbed his hands, her mouth nearly touching his, “I swear to you, I know what I’m doing. It’s okay.”
“Wow.” he took a deep breath and laughed. “I’m so rusty. I’m so sorry.”
She backed away from him, gazing intently at his face.
Yeah, he wasn’t perfect, but then again, who was?
“Can I be blunt?” she asked.
“Sure, why not?” he chuckled.
“Do you want to go upstairs and have sex?” she shrugged. “Because I do.”
Tom looked as if he’d seen a ghost right in front of him. If he only knew that Becky McNare was sitting behind his date, a real ghost, coaching her through what to say.
“That sounds like a fantastic idea.”
And her face suddenly bloomed, “Good. Follow me.”
Getting their clothes off took an uncomfortably long time. Tom’s belt refused to unlatch, and Jessica’s zipper jammed. He kicked one of his shoes off, sending it flying into a nearby lamp that crashed onto the floor.
“Sorry about that!” he said.
“It’s just a lamp.” she laughed between deep breaths as he hoisted atop her.
She opened her legs, pulling him between them.
Yes. Yes, this is the youth she longed for. The feeling of rebellion, of freedom, of spiritual happiness with herself. He wrestled with the condom, but she helped him roll it on, using her fingertips to guide it slowly down the shaft.
He looked her in the eyes in that moment, where her mouth opened, and she let out a muffled gasp. Finally, he was inside of her, thrusting away slowly at first before speeding up the rhythm. He tried to kiss her, but he was breathing much too hard for that.
Tom seemed out of shape, his arms quivering with each stroke beyond the two minute mark. Her hands ran through his hairy back now covered in sweat, willing him forward by grasping his shoulders, but he gave it all he had.
“I’m so rusty!” he panted. “Oh shit, I’m rusty.”
“Slow down.” she whispered. “Just go slow. No rush.”
And he listened, propping himself up on his elbows, deeply pushing in and out, in and out, in and out. She closed her eyes, focusing onto each press, wiggling her hips in the procession to control the angle.
Yes. She’d had better, but Tom was a nice guy. Not a stud, but definitely boyfriend material, though she was never the kind of woman to bang on the first date. Times were changing, but she liked this.
Maybe if he stayed around long enough, she’d try to teach him a thing or two.
Until then, she’d marvel in the perverse joy of fucking, reliving her days as a college girl primed for love and life.
Something caught her eye. She looked to the side of the bed, unfortunately seeing Becky. “I’m not judging you.” she said, as the bed rocked steadily. “You needed this, girl.”
Shit. Even forced romance couldn’t negate the fact that she was crazy.
It nearly ruined the moment, but she persevered. Jessica did her thing, and she helped Tom do his. At some point, the condom got jammed. To solve the issue, he removed it. Now they were in business. They flipped, and sandwiched, and scissored until—
“Oh my god!” Tom said, on the edge of collapsing from exhaustion, “I didn’t mean to get it all over your face!”
“Ah, shit!” she tried wiping it away, nearly gagging as it rolled down her cheeks. “I think it’s in my eye.” then the burn set in. “Shit, yeah, it’s definitely in my eye.”
On the way to the adjacent bathroom, she ran straight into the wall.
Instant concussion. Tom called 911. The ER staff called the cops, just to double check her story considering that half her face looked as if it had been stung by bees.
“Ma’am,” asked the doctor, “you got what in your eyes?”
Then it registered, “Ooooooohhhh. Wow.”
“This is terribly embarrassing.”
“But at least it’s really funny. Good news is that you’ll be okay. Go home and rest.”
Off to the bright yellow Honda they went, and it was silent the entire ride to her home.
Nothing like pink eye to boost her confidence.
At least they gave her eyedrops and Advil.
“I’m really sorry, Jessica.”
“Don’t be, Tom.”
Silence, at least until he asked, “Is it still too soon?”
“Fuck you.” she sneered, fighting away the smile. “I can’t believe this.”
“Can we laugh now?”
“Might as well.”
And laugh they did.
This is a work of fiction. All characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this novel are creations stemming from the author’s imagination. Any events and locations are used fictitiously.
Copyright © 2020 Bryan James Williams