mom in emerald green; Aunt Dede (Grandma El's
sister) in pale blue -- taken at my
Jack was tall, lean, dazzlingly blond. One of those "golden boys" you read about but never see in real life. He had an equally dazzling dog, a Weimaraner named Ursic, and the kind of career that used to exist only in Jackie Collins's novels.
He was a photographer who worked with the legendary Francesco Scavullo in Manhattan at the dawn of the 1960s and he was my Aunt Mona's first post-quickie-marriage-and-annulment romance.
And what a romance it was! It isn't often that a girl of my era gets a front row seat to something so adult and exciting, but the summer I turned ten I definitely got lucky.
I've said before that Mona was definitely her mother's daughter. (If Grandma El been born two generations later, she could have ruled the world.) She had guts and ambition and a fearlessness that sometimes got her into trouble. She also fell in love fast and hard and when she did, all of that "I am woman, hear me roar" power suddenly morphed into American Geisha. But that's for another story on another day.
Anyway, it's the summer of 1960 and Mona and her friend Helen are about to open their own real estate agency on Broadway in Elmhurst, Queens. It's a relatively daring venture for two women in their early 30s. (Women in business was still a disconcerting concept for many people.) Sounds great, doesn't it? Only problem was, Mona and Helen decided to open their business directly across the street from the real estate office of Henry C. Reilly . . . the man they'd worked for until three weeks before their Grand Opening.
But nobody was thinking about Henry at the Grand Opening. There was champagne and balloons and music courtesy of the small record player in the corner of the room. Grandma El was there and Aunt Dede, my parents and I, Helen's friends and family, and Jack.
Now this was the first time I'd laid eyes on him and let's just say I was totally smitten. Goggle-eyed, tongue-tied, head-over-heels smitten by every single thing about him. Even his dog seemed more golden and glamorous than normal dogs. To be honest, I can't remember a single word he uttered but if I close my eyes I can still see his lazy smile, the twinkle in his blazing blue eyes . . . and the way my aunt turned downright kittenish when he was around.
Let me tell you, this budding romance writer was totally enthralled. Which probably explains why I stalked them that afternoon. I didn't miss a thing. The way they looked at each other, the furtive glances, the quick touches. I took it all in, tucking the details away for future reference.
Which is how I ended up seeing my first real life, deeply romantic, they're-not-my-parents Hollywood kiss.
The party was winding down. Grandma El was starting to pick apart the paint job and we all knew it was only a matter of time until the serious criticizing kicked in. My parents were ready to leave but I needed to use the bathroom before we did.
Except that was a lie. I'd noticed that Mona and Jack had disappeared into the storeroom a few moments ago and the storeroom was adjacent to the bathroom and . . . well, you get the picture. I cautiously, slowly let myself into the storeroom and there they were. My tiny dark-haired aunt and her tall golden-haired lover were wrapped in each others' arms looking for all the world like the hero and heroine of one of the romance novels I was still twenty years away from writing. It was a full-on Hollywood moment. She was on tiptoe, her arms wrapped around his neck. He was bent low, one large hand splayed across the small of her back, the other thrust deep into her dark, shiny curls.
I stood there, unable to move or think or even breathe. I swear to you I could almost hear bells going off somewhere in the distance although, given the fact that we were located next to the bus station, it was probably the B-52. They had no idea they were being watched. (They probably had no idea they were still on this planet, to be honest.) This was really happening and I was the lucky audience.
It wasn't a movie. It wasn't a TV show. It wasn't a Broadway play. This was real, grown-up life in all its glittering, glamorous, thrilling glory and I was totally captivated by the possibilities.
I was only ten years old but I knew that when I grew up, I wouldn't settle for anything less. I wanted sparks. I wanted electricity. I wanted love and romance and all the excitement that came with the package.
And I also wanted the happy ending that eluded Mona right up until the end.
To be continued. . .
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PS: I'm Barbara Bretton and you can find me here and here. And don't forget Twitter and Facebook, too. If you're looking for a couple of short, inexpensive e-reads, please check out my novellas, THE MARRYING MAN and I DO, I DO . . . AGAIN. They're both from my Harlequin backlist and currently available at Amazon for 99 cents each. Check them out if you have a moment. I think you'll like them.