THEN NOW AND FOREVER a Memoir by VcToria Gray
The book was released on April 22nd, 2018
To order an AUTOGRAPHED copy please click here: Then Now and Forever by VcToria Gray
To view the author website with 40-year-old letters and photos of the characters please click here: www.vctoriagray.com
1975 MONTREAL, QUEBEC, CANADA
As I turned, my green eyes met his piercing blues, and I knew I had just given my heart away.
"Hi, Donald." My best friend Debbie introduced us. "This is Victoria. Victoria, this is Donald."
I blinked and quickly returned to my body. "Do you have a gun?" I asked.
"No," he answered simply.
"Well, then, get the hell out of my car."
Donald and his two friends piled out of my Buick 225 back onto Closse Street, getting lost in the sea of light, and people gathered in front of The Mustache Club. Debbie looked at me, waiting for me to drive.
"Who was that guy?" I asked.
"That was Donald," she replied.
"I have to have him."
Debbie’s barely-there eyebrows arched and she smiled. "You two would suit each other. We can go to his mother’s tomorrow."
I didn’t say anything, turning the Buick back towards home. The reason I needed the gun seemed so much less important when I pictured his dark hair and smirk.
Today I can’t even remember the reason why I wanted it.
As late as noon can be for some people, it was early for me. I dragged myself out of bed and over next door to Debbie’s. It was already shaping up to be a good day. I had missed my roommates and their godforsaken monkey. I’m not sure if it was even legal to own a live monkey but this family did.
"Debbie!" I pounded on her door. Eventually, she opened it. I had no patience for coffee—my bones pricked with excitement and anticipation, in agony with the unfulfilled promise of seeing him again.
Debbie had found me a room to live in with a family who lived next door. She had met my ex-husband after I left him and had moved in with him. Leaving my husband, I also left behind two children who, we both agreed, would be better off with him as he had family in Montreal and I did not. I left on good terms and could see the kids at any time. Debbie was currently six months pregnant with what would be my ex-husband’s third child. She was sixteen years old, about to turn seventeen on January 15, 1975. I was twenty-one.
We left for Pointe-Saint-Charles where his mother lived, about a thirty-minute drive from our apartment complex. The January cold made everything seem crisper. The sky was extra blue, rising above the snowdrifts. Two-story brick duplexes dotted the sides of the roads with churches and shops in between.
"This is it." Debbie pointed to a nondescript unit. Kids and dogs loitered around the white-columned front porch, and hockey sticks, balls, and sleds littered the front yard.
"Debbie!" A few of the kids ran over to greet us.
"Hello, munchkins." Debbie pulled one kid’s hat sideways.
"Don’t call me a munchkin!"
Debbie rolled her eyes at the little girl. "Is your mom home?"
"Yes," the kids said in unison.
"Great. Now scram." Debbie moved past them.
We walked up to the white door. Debbie didn’t knock. "Patsy?" She strode through into the warm kitchen.
"Debbie!" A small red-haired woman stood up from the kitchen table. Everything about her was soft: her skin, her voice, her eyes.
"Hey, kid." Debbie nodded towards Cathy, Donald’s sister.
"Hey," Cathy shot back.
"This is my friend, Victoria. She’s looking for Donald."
Patsy laughed. "Me, too. He hasn’t been home in three days." She smiled. "But don’t worry, he always turns up."
I guess it was fate, or whatever you want to call it, because as if on cue he walked through the door, stomping the snow from his boots.
"Mom!" he called, coming from the living room. I could see him over Debbie’s shoulder. She pushed me in front of her. "You?" He breathed. "I still don’t have a gun."
I licked my lips and smiled. "That’s okay. There’s something else I wanted to talk to you about."
"Oh?" He clearly wanted me to elaborate but I was making it up as I went.
"Sure, Victoria," Donald smirked as he motioned for me to follow him into his bedroom. He closed the door behind us and said, "So, what’s so important?"
I stood there thinking. It wasn’t easy. His body stood parallel to mine radiating heat. A beat passed and his smirk grew. His face descended towards mine, and he took me into his arms, locking me to him. Everything around us fell away. We went back and forth, each of us daring to take the embrace deeper. I broke the kiss to take off his shirt, kissing his neck. I felt the bed beneath me and then he was on top of me. Nothing else mattered at that moment; nothing else existed but us…
I pulled a cigarette from my abandoned coat. "Want one?" I offered.
"No thanks, I don’t smoke." He lay stretched out on the bed. I put the cigarette away unlit and crawled back in beside him, laying my head on his chest. Everything just felt right. Until Donald shifted to get up. Panic crawled up my spine; I wasn’t ready for this to end. I sat up and drew the blanket around me.
Donald looked me up and down. "You have your car here, right?"
"Yes." I nodded.
"Good, I need you to give me a ride."
I won’t go into the details of our outing because they aren’t important. While our trip did revolve around me driving him to pick up mescaline, and while that was illegal, it was also mundane. In our world, it was no different than any other business transaction. Like going to pick up stock for your store to sell later. Things became interesting when we returned to his house, business concluded. On one of the streets nearby, a group of boys waved us over. I rolled down my window.
"What’s up?" Donald asked.
"The cops are at your house. They’re looking for you," one of them said to Donald.
For a moment I considered the implication, but Donald didn’t miss a beat. "Thanks, kid." He handed the kids some change and turned back in his seat. "Take me to Saint Jacques Street—I’m going to get a motel." We drove off, leaving his family to handle things with the police.
In the ’70s if you drove down Saint Jacques Street, you would see different variations of the same motel repeated. It didn’t matter which one we pulled into; they were all the same.
"Wait here," Donald said. He went inside the office and returned, holding keys. "Come on." He motioned for me to get out of the car. I fell in behind him, as we made our way to the room. He took the keys from his pocket and unlocked the door. He hesitated for a second in the doorway, then turned to look at me over his shoulder and stared deep into my eyes. "I’m a criminal. Don’t try to change me."
"I won’t," I said, and I meant it.
"Good," he mumbled as he ushered me into the room, holding the door. Once inside, he latched the security chain. "Sit down," he said, gesturing to the faded brown couch. I did as he said and Donald joined me. I looked at his arms, noticing his two tattoos for the first time. I looked down at his black jeans, then on the carpet. It was covered in stains and cigarette burns. The bed quilt was faded, and the pillows looked lumpy, but it still felt a million times more like home than my current room.
"Hey." Donald’s voice brought me back to attention. "You’re staying, right?" His demeanor was cool, but his eyes betrayed him. I saw in them a look of urgency.
I nodded my head slowly. "All right." He patted my knee. "Go get your things. I want you to be wearing different clothes the next time I take them off you. We may be here for a few days."
Donald walked me to my car and then headed off to use a payphone.
I drove aimlessly for a few minutes, considering the last six hours. I love him. The words erupted from me. Last night I had been dreaming of him and tonight I would sleep beside him.
I don’t remember what I threw in my laundry basket to take with me. Clothes obviously, shoes for sure, my important documents, maybe? I didn’t have any mementos or keepsakes. Separating from my husband two years ago had reduced my life to fit into the single room I rented.
On my way to the motel, I let my mind drift back to earlier. Something was different with Donald. My instant attraction to him wasn’t new. I had experienced that before. It was something else I felt but couldn’t express. Looking back, I know now what I felt was the familiarity leftover from our previous lifetimes together. I felt totally and wholly accepted for the first time.
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