Baby Girl by Marla Miller Showers sobered us up enough so we didn’t stagger down the street but I was grateful

Charlie’s house was within walking distance of Julia's. Neither one of us was fit to drive. Sally's chicken was so delectable; I was tipsy enough to gnaw the remaining remnants of meat off the bones. Charlie poured wine at dinner. Julia put her hand over her glass. Had I done the same, I wouldn't have awakened later that night with a headache that made me vow never to mix my liquors again. I woke up at one thirty-two, according to the digital next to the bed. I lay there adjusting to the strange surroundings. My mouth begged for water, my head for Tylenol. Where to find relief was the question. I had Tylenol in my purse but where that was God only knew and he wasn’t saying. I got up and headed for the bathroom. Surely, Julia had something in the medicine cabinet. As I walked across the hall, I heard the noise for the first time. Though it was the middle of the night, the house glowed bright from a full moon which I was grateful for considering I heard the noise again just as I crossed the threshold to the bathroom. My heart pounded with fear. I was about to turn the bathroom light on. I didn't. Instead, I stood stone still waiting to hear it again. I did, within seconds. This time, there was no doubt. The sound came from the patio just outside the bathroom window. I thought about running into Julia's room. I don't know why I didn't. Then I heard it again. And again. Each time the sound more distinctive; giggles. Someone was giggling. I walked over to the bathroom window, a small window I had to stretch on tiptoes to peer through. Moonlight illuminated the area

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enough to spot movement to my left. Then I heard more giggles. No mistaking this time. It was Julia's little girl giggles. Next to the bathroom was the study, next to that, the master bedroom where Julia slept. Julia was on the patio outside her room, in the middle of the night, giggling with someone. The story gets dicey here. What I should have done was return to my room.. I know that. Julia was giggling, obviously in no peril, having a good time with someone, and it was none of my business to know who that was or why she was giggling. In my defense, I will say that had it been any other time in my life, I would have minded my own business and retreated into my room, but whatever made me leave my family on a moment's notice, whatever made me kiss Charlie Peterson hard on the lips right in front of my house the night before also made me eavesdrop on Julia's middle-of-the-night tryst with Steve Wilcox. Now that I've confessed, let me tell you what happened next. Over the years, I'd read my kids every Harriet-the-Spy book ever written which was how I decided to approach the scene, like a 12 year old on a mission, I slinked into the room next to the bathroom next to Julia's taking absolute care not to make a sound. I stood in the corner of that room and curled the drape back enough to see the long view of the patio. The moonlight made my job easy. Almost every corner of that rectangled red-bricked space was lit bright, except the nook Steve and Julia had tucked into. How did I know it was Steve? Who else would it be? I couldn't quite see them but I heard every word. "No! Do me like I like."

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"I am Baby." Steve cooed in a tone I'd never heard before. "No, you're not." "Then show me." Then I heard commotion, maybe chairs dragging, then more giggling that turned into moans. I was beat red with embarrassment. But did I leave? I did not. "That's the spot, oh, Babycakes go....oh, faster, oh babyyyyy..." I shut the curtain. Lord help me, I was witnessing the sound version of my best friend since the fifth grade having an orgasm on the patio of her mother's house. I wanted to run. My legs wouldn't budge. Then Steve moaned loud. Not a sex moan. A pain moan. Julia giggled. "You poor Baby. Knees giving out again?" More giggles. "Get over here, I'll show you what isn't giving out." "Steven, people will see us there-" "Shush," he commanded. "Just sit on my lap like a good little girl." The sound of metal scratched across the bricks. I had to look, I didn't want to but I had to. What I saw made me gasp. Loud enough to be heard, I was certain. I froze. Waited. No reaction from either one of them. She sat on his lap like he was Santa. Talking dirty. I draw the line here because I cannot repeat what was said except to say Julia sat there in a shimmery nightgown - I couldn't tell for sure, but it looked silver in the moonlight - I don't think she had anything else on, and Steve was stripped down to his underwear, a pair of dark colored skivvies, maybe blue. He repeated 'be a good girl for Daddy' Julia cooed and giggled, obviously

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loving every moment. And that's all I will say. Suddenly, she got up and, mounting him like you would a horse, they began a ride that ended with 'oh my God, yes, yes, oh no Jesus, sweet Jesus! Yes! Yes! Yes!' "Faster, Baby," he commanded at which point I flipped the drape shut. Shame had finally overcome me though shame didn't make me leave. They continued to grunt like animals until I heard a slap. "You're a wild woman, Julia Brooks." "You'd be wise to remember that." "What do you mean by that?" he cooed. "Come up with a few possible answers and I'll tell you when you’re close." This time he giggled, soft, silly, sounds I'd never heard Steve Wilcox make. I waited for more noise. Nothing. The next sounds I heard came from the hallway. Imagine my panic. Would Julia come in and discover me there? My heart pounded. I stood there frozen. Then the noise receded, moved farther away. I inched toward the doorway, peeked down the hallway. The voices fainter still. Maybe they’d retreated to her room or the living room. I darted across the hallway into the safety of my room. I stood there waiting for the pounding to stop exploding through my chest. I heard an engine, darted to the window, curled back the drape and peeked out. He must have parked down the street because when I looked out, Julia was walking up toward the house. She was wearing her Norma Kamali robe, the one with the big yellow daffodils splotched all over it. I watched her - could see her plain as day, really - she tracked the car slowly as it crept down the street. He turned on the headlights after he passed the house, skillfully done not to draw attention. A man with experience. I

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looked at Julia looking down the street at him. Even from my vantage point, I could see her eyes. They brimmed with life. Needless to say, I didn't get much sleep that night. Since we were teenagers, I'd wondered why a woman with Julia's qualities could stay connected to a man who possessed so few. That night, I no longer wondered. I lay there with my eyes open, my head throbbing as this realization dawned on me: the force that kept them colliding into each other's lives had nothing to do with qualities. It had to do with need. A mutual need. For years I'd believed Steve Wilcox had no idea what made Julia Brooks tick. But that night, what I saw with my eyes and heard with my ears told me otherwise. Steve Wilcox had her nailed. He knew her Achilles heel; knew all about her insatiable need to be cared for. I'd never been a fan of Sigmond Freud. In my opinion, the guy was a misogynist, a product of his time, but as I lay in bed that night with fragments of what I'd heard replaying in my head, I couldn't help but wonder what ole Sigie would have said had he witnessed the Julia and Steve show. Steve Wilcox might have been the physical object of Julia Brooks' desires but the ghost of her father loomed large in the pale moonlight. Steve was Daddy, she was his little girl. When that insight hit, I felt more fear for my best friend than I ever had before.

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