For Gayle - This is a story inspired by a kind e-mail sent to me by a person from Canada in response to a recent story, and so I decided to write a story set in Montreal, Canada, a city where I spent one wild summer semester eighteen years ago trying to improve my French.
Montreal - Fall 2003
"YOU PRICK ALISTAIR!" I heard down the phone line, immediately recognizing the caustic voice of my ex-wife, the only person in the world who called me Alistair.
"Monica," I answered, a weary resignation in my voice, "What can I help you with today?"
"So you won, you bastard," she squawked, "You finally got that little slut on your side, didn't you?"
What is this bitch mumbling about today I asked myself, fighting the desire to just drop the phone back into its cradle and go back to reading my morning paper.
"ALISTAIR, are you still there?"
"Yes Monica, I'm here. What are you talking about anyway?"
"As if you didn't know. I'm talking about your fucked up daughter; did you forget you had a daughter Alistair?"
CLICK – Enough, I thought as I stood up and walked out the front door into a beautiful, sunny, warm, early September day. I turned left at the corner and within minutes was walking through the east gate, the 'Milton Avenue Gate', and then onto the campus of McGill University.
As I walked slowly through this grassy, tree lined oasis in the heart of Montreal, with the young, eager faces of another generation of students flowing by me, I gradually felt the bitterness that Monica's call had raised fade.
An hour later, when I finally returned to my house, refreshed but still feeling uneasy about Monica's phone call, my niece Izzy was sitting waiting for me on my front steps
"Hi Unc," she yelled out, her perpetual smile lighting up her face.
"Hi to you too honey," I answered as we hugged each other in greeting. "When did you get back anyhow?" I added, as I unlocked the front door and led her in.
"Yesterday, I drove up with a friend from Burlington."
As I sat down on the sofa in the den I asked, "What have you been doing for the last month anyway? Your Mom told me on the phone you were off on a secret mission, all hush, hush."
After sitting down on my lap and then positioning herself comfortably, with her head resting softly against my shoulder she answered, a very unlike Isabel, nervous, cautious look on her face, "It's the reason I'm here today Unc, I've got something to tell you. It's sorta a surprise."
Immediately I knew somehow her visit and Monica's call were connected and asked, "Is this got something to do with Gayle?"
"Izzy!" I insisted again, as I could see my niece wavering.
Finally she blurted out, "She's in Montreal Uncle Bill, she decided to go to McGill."
"What are you talking about? She started at Dartmouth last week," I almost yelled, baffled by Izzy's words, unable to process the thought that my estranged daughter was living in the same city as I. But then seeing Izzy shake her head at my words I added, "She didn't even apply here."
"It's a complicated story Unc" Isabel started; her normal impish grin and good humor now back on her face. "I knew I had to do something to get you two back together so I... "
"So you what?"
"Do you remember I told you that last summer Gayle was applying to all those universities when she was at the farm?" Seeing my nod she went on, a proud look on her face, "Well I took a complete copy of one of her applications and sent it to McGill."
"Well of course she was accepted! Your daughter may be a jerk and a weirdo sometimes Unc, but she is smart. I even got her a full ride scholarship!"
"What? Do they know she's my daughter? And how did you know what was happening?"
"I used my address, not hers, on the application Uncle Bill," she replied, beaming proudly. "Once she got early acceptance last January, I replied, accepted for her and even reserved a place in residence for her."
"But Gayle didn't know?"
"Of course not! That's what I've been doing the last two weeks. I went down to Philadelphia to talk her out of Dartmouth and convince her that she had to come here."
"Jesus, you stayed with Monica?" I gasped, impressed by both her audacity and her willingness to suffer for the cause.
"You know I'd do anything for you Unc, even if it meant a week with 'The Monster'," she whispered in my ear as she pressed her firm young body into mine. "Mmmnn, you feel nice today," she added, snuggling even tighter.
"Izzy!" I tried to admonish the little scamp, as she rubbed her rear end seductively over me, and then asked, "How did you ever convince her? I thought she never wanted to see her cruel, unjust, evil father ever again."
"Trade secret Uncle," she replied laughing as she launched herself out of my lap and headed for the kitchen.
I chuckled to myself, thinking of poor Gayle trying to withstand the whirlwind that was her cousin, and understood just as Gayle probably did, that it was impossible to stand in the way of something Izzy really wanted. Just as I knew that one day Izzy would really decide to seduce her uncle and that when that day arrived I would joyfully acquiesce.
"I did good, huh Unc?" she asked when she reappeared with a glass of milk and a donut in her hands.
"Pretty good sweetie," I agreed, "But will she be happy to see me?"
"You just leave it me," she laughed, and as I watched her couldn't help but think back on how I had got to this place in my life...
The Past -
... I had been christened William Alistair Crowley thirty-seven years ago, the second child of a forty-seven year old farmer and his forty-two year old teacher wife, on Dad's 400 acre farm just twenty miles northeast of Burlington, Vermont.
Dad, an old, hard-bitten, long time bachelor farmer had met my Mom, a spinster teacher, at a Church meeting, and within months had fallen in love with her, and then somehow had convinced her to marry him. Neither had expected children so the appearance of first my sister Cathy and then me within two years had been not only a surprise but also a delight for the couple.
We had a great childhood – kind loving parents, Mom's insistence that we do well in school, all combined with the fun, the hard work and the healthy outdoor environment of the farm. We both did well in high school and in the fall of 1983 Cathy, the valedictorian of her senior class, left home for Yale on a full scholarship.
We were all stunned when she came home the next May, six months pregnant, with no boyfriend even mentioned, almost as if it had been an immaculate conception. Despite Mom and Dad's misgivings, Sis insisted on not only having her baby but also raising it.
On Aug 15th, 1984, Isabel Brenda Crowley, Izzy, a blond, blue eyed bundle of joy arrived and all of our doubts were immediately overcome. I loved her the first day I saw her, sucking eagerly from her Momma's tit, and had loved her ever since. Mom and Dad were of course captivated also and little Izzy became the most spoiled and loved baby in Vermont.
I enrolled at the University Of Vermont that fall, having decided to eschew the chance for an Ivy League education in favor of staying with the family, not wanting to miss any of the unfolding drama.
But I didn't do much better! I met Monica Brown during our first week at school, at an initiation dance for all the freshmen. Love or lust – who knows? We were both innocents and notwithstanding the lessons I should have learned from Sis, I fell for her and Monica was pregnant within a fortnight.
We married at Christmas despite the reservations of both sets of parents and Gayle Anne Crowley, a beautiful, black haired darling, a perfect daughter, was born September 1 1985.
It was during those first few years of their life that Gayle and Isabel developed a connection with each other that I knew would endure until they died. And although Monica and I went to Boston after graduating, I to Harvard for an MA followed by a PhD, while Monica taught elementary school and mothered, each summer we returned to the farm for two months and the girl's friendship was instantly resumed.
The fall of 1992, my Doctorate from Harvard in hand, I returned to Burlington and the University as an Associate Professor in the Department of Economics, a specialist in world trade patterns and the North American Free Trade Agreement. It was great to be back home, to be able to spend time with Sis and Isabel, to see Izzy and Gayle playing together, and to help Mom and Dad who were finally showing their age.
But it was when we went back to Burlington that Monica's and my troubles really began. We had both realized when we were living in Boston that we weren't truly in love, but like so many other couples, we had let it slide. We had a comfortable lifestyle; good friends, nice apartment, Dads farm as a retreat, enough money, we liked each other, the sex was good, but no... no 'magic' lets call it.
And while I loved going home, Monica hated it, finding it dull and uninteresting after cosmopolitan Boston. Everybody who's been through a breakup knows the story and it wasn't much different for us. From small criticisms to carping at each other to major blow ups to sleeping in separate beds – finally even great sex couldn't keep us together.
I was shocked but relieved to arrive home one afternoon in the fall of 1999 to find Monica and Gayle gone, the note of goodbye after almost fifteen years just three lines long.
The divorce was ugly – is there ever a nice one? And even though I was a University Professor, with a home and farm, and a support system in place for a young girl, the Judge refused to accept that I, a male, would be a better parent for fourteen year old Gayle and so awarded custody to Monica, now ensconced in the suburbs of Philadelphia with the man she had run off with.
I, of course, was allowed to see Gayle, I had one weekend a month, and either Christmas or Easter, and a month on the farm in the summer, but slowly the magical bond I had always had with the person I loved most in the world stretched until it had finally broken.
"She doesn't want to see you any more Uncle," Izzy reported during the summer of 2001. "But don't feel bad, she also hates her Mom, her step-dad, she doesn't have a boyfriend and she's a geek, and she wanders around in all black costumes." explained Isabel. "Just leave it to me; it's just a girl teenage thing."
I took a job in Montreal that fall, a full professorship at McGill that was too enticing to refuse, and the short commute home allowed me weekends and holidays with Cathy and Izzy.
The only thing that had allowed me to have any hope during the two years of the estrangement with Gayle was my sister and her daughter who continually put in the good word to Gayle about me during her frequent visits. "It's just a stage," cautioned Cathy. "She's young, it's a hard time for her, give her some space," her advice to her nervous, unhappy brother.
But it was Izzy really who was the angel, the one who promised me that all was well, that I just had to cool it a while, and when she came to Montreal as a premed student in the fall of 2002 she visited almost daily, reporting on every move my daughter was making. I fell in love with Izzy sometime during that long winter, a forbidden love I feared I'd never get to consummate, a love I had once shared with her Mom...
Montreal – Gayle and Izzy
... It was more than two weeks after her arrival in Montreal before I saw my daughter, who appeared suddenly one evening at my door in the company of her cousin.
"Hi Uncle Bill," Iz said smiling, "We're starving, I hope you've got something hot for us."
"Izzy," I said as I kissed her two cheeks, and then turning to Gayle smiled and said, "Hi honey, good to see you."
She turned away from my embrace but issued a soft, "Hello Daddy," as she slipped by me into the hall, her black clothes a reflection of her mood.
It was a difficult meal, Gayle's only contribution to the conversation one word answers to Isabel's and my direct questions. And yet as Izzie and I talked and laughed and generally enjoyed ourselves I couldn't help but see the flashes of interest and even smiles that would appear and then quickly disappear on her generally scowling face.
As the girls prepared to leave around nine, Isabel all of a sudden said, "You've got to take Gayle shopping for clothes Uncle Bill, she's got nothing to wear, it's embarrassing, she almost looks like a hobo... "
"I do not!" Gayle yelled at her cousin, "It's none of your business anyway."
"Well I'm certainly not going to spend my time with you if you're always going to be dressed like some stoned Goth Princess. All her clothes and makeup are black Uncle Bill."
"They are not," protested Gayle. "And Daddy doesn't have to spend a cent on me. I've got all the money I need."
"Girls, girls!" I said grinning.
"Well then, good for you Miss Black," Izzy said to her cousin, and then turning to me, slipped between my arms and cuddled up to me and added, "Well if she isn't interested, you can buy me some clothes Unc, I'll come Saturday morning." A quick kiss on my lips and she flounced out, leaving Gayle to rush after her.
The last words I heard as they walked away was Gayle's plaintive complaint, 'But he's my father Izzy, not yours,' and then Izzy's caustic retort, 'But he loves me and I love him.'
... Gayle of course was accompanying Izzy when they both arrived at my door early on Saturday morning and I would have slept through their arrival if Isabel hadn't had a key. I woke to Izzy blowing gently in my ear, her cries of 'Wake up Uncle, its late' finally penetrating my befuddled brain.
"Who... Izzy, what are you doing here... What time is it anyway?"
"It's almost eight Unc, rise and shine."
"The stores don't open for hours honey," I complained, and then seeing Gayle standing in the doorway, I said, "Hi beautiful."
"Daddy," Gayle offered grudgingly.
"Do you sleep naked Uncle Bill?" Izzy suddenly exclaimed as she moved her hands towards the edge of the sheet that lay just covering my groin.
Slapping her probing hand away I scolded, "Can't you show a little decorum Izzy? Why don't you try to emulate your cousin's good manners for once?"
"Ha, ha, ha!" she responded but I could see a little smile growing at the corners of Gayle's mouth.
"Now you two shoo out of here and let me shower, and you might cook me breakfast while you're waiting."
"I could soap your back while Gayle prepares breakfast Uncle Bill," she teased, but rushed out when I jumped out of bed after her, holding the edge of the sheet in front of me.
I could hear Gayle scolding and complaining as the two descended the stairs, "You slut Isabel, what are you doing, he's your Uncle!"
It was that Saturday, with the three of us shopping together for hours in the small boutiques that lined the Main, and eating lunch on a St. Denis Street restaurants outdoor terrasse under the sun, sipping wine as we watched the world passing, that Gayle's mask dropped and I saw for the first time in over two years the happy girl I had always loved.
It wasn't that all our problems were immediately solved; it was just that this normally vivacious, friendly girl couldn't maintain the angry façade for any long period of time when having fun. At first she tried to ignore us as we shopped but found it impossible to resist when Izzy started trying on ensemble after ensemble.
She couldn't help herself when she finally blurted out to her cousin, when Isabel appeared from a dressing room wearing a sexy, red, pleated mini skirt, her tanned legs spectacularly displayed, "Oh Izzy, that's no good for you. It'd look much, much better on me, it goes with my hair."
"What are you talking about? You only wear black, you dork. Anyway, you don't need any clothes,... remember," Izzy sneered.
After that, Gayle's shopping gene kicked in, that gene that every woman has, one of the main differences in the genetic makeup of the two sexes. I just had to sit back and enjoy the show, as the two led me from store to store, competing as they modeled ever more outrageous outfits, in a frenzy that threatened to use up every dollar of available credit on both my Visa and American Express cards.
When I feebly protested, Izzy laughingly replied, "But Uncle, they're not real dollars, they're just Canadian 'Loonies', they're like Mexican pesos, don't worry. My niece's grasp of foreign currency values clearly needed some reeducation, I thought to myself, but still I couldn't begrudge the two anything given the length of time since I had seem Gayle so happy.
After a late lunch, and after I suggested that maybe it was time to head home, Isabel just shook her head at the stupidity of the male animal and said, "We haven't bought any underwear yet Uncle Bill, you know, those frilly things girls wear under their outer clothes, soft lacy... "
"No," I protested, "Not a chance in the world. Here's some money," I quickly offered, "You two can shop for yourselves."
"We need a virile male's advice Uncle Bill, you can tell us what turns you on," she said grinning as she rubbed up against me, her pointed breasts proudly pushed into my chest.
And it was worse when she dragged me into the store! "We're looking for sexy underwear," she announced loudly to the little French Canadian girl who rushed to serve us when we entered the shop. "He makes the two of us wear such naughty little outfits when he visits us," she added to the surprised vendor, who took an extra second to check me out, wondering how I had earned such beautiful playmates.
Even conservative Gayle finally joined in, laughingly adding, "He's so demanding! Can you imagine, two girls at once! But he pays well," she ended, shrugging her head coyly.
And when Izzy added, "And he's so bigggggg," I simply handed the befuddled girl my credit card, turned and fled the shop, the wide-eyed girl's eyes following me raptly.
They rejoined me in the bar next door an hour later, laden with armfuls of bags and giggling apologies. But I had relished the glint in my little girl's eyes and knew I would willingly suffer much more to see it there whenever she looked at me. Later I drove her up the hill to her residence and the light hug followed by a quick peck on my cheek she gave me was more than an ample reward for my travails.
... I was out of town for a week at a conference so missed seeing the two until ten days later, when I invited both again to dinner. Gayle was still a little reserved with me at first, as if in the time since our day together she had remembered she was supposed to be mad at me but it only took Izzy seconds to break through her last defensive barrier.
"I'm wearing the 'Chantilly lace, tiger skin boyshort' panties you bought me Uncle," she announced as we sipped our soup. "Would you like to see them?" she said leering, her fingers slowly raising the hem on her short skirt.
"Isabel!" Gayle ordered, "God, not at dinner. Oh, she's such a slut Daddy," she ended, but couldn't hold back the giggle that escaped from her lips.
"She's mad Uncle Bill, mad because she only bought dull, black, cotton underwear, you should see it, it's pitiful, while I have colorful.."
"You liar! I bought as nice panties as... Ha, ha, ha Isabel. God I can't believe you always get me like that," Gayle wailed.
"It's Izzy's main role in life to tease you and I honey. You should have seen me last year when you weren't here. At least now I only get half of her abuse."
Before leaving that night I offered Gayle a key to the house. "But Daddy, I don't need it."
"My house is your house Gayle. If you need a place between classes and don't want to slog up the hill, or if you want to sit reading quietly, or bring some friends over, go ahead, anytime. You can also have one of the upstairs bedrooms just for you. If you get tired of your roommate and want a night away just.."