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Fiction by Pen . . . . . not real, made up, purely intended for entertainment

Pepsi and Chateauneuf du Pape

A Mad Men fic
written for the FandomGiftBox Challenge 2021


Sally went walkabout when her mom died.

After the cancer did its inevitable work, she was burned to the bone. Old. Too old for college, too old to go carefree to Vassar or wherever and read books and wear a cardigan and play at being an intellectual. So she left. Bobby and the kid were big enough to take care of themselves. Or maybe Henry would hire somebody to make sure they got their homework done and went to football practice and debate prep and ate some vegetables once in a while.

Sally was out.

Out there, in the world.

She went to India first, with memories of the Beatles rattling in her head, but it wasn't what she'd thought it would be and turned out not to be what she needed. Though it taught her things she'd never even realized she needed to learn. Then she went to Israel, then on to Greece, Italy, and finally France felt like it could be home.

She taught rich kids English by day and served beer by night. It worked. She worked. She worked so hard she sometimes even forgot her mother's face. Sometimes. Sometimes she dreamed her mother's words all over again, you're such a good girl, Sally, you're so good to me.

Sally was done being a good girl, so she wasn't. She remembered the bad girls from high school, hiding out under the bleachers, smoking, making out, getting into trouble. Sally was never going to touch a cigarette, they all had her mother's lipstick on the filters. And there was no way she'd get into that kind of trouble. She'd already been a mother. She was done with that. Being a mother to your own mom and your little brothers was what you did when you had to, but when you didn't have to, no. No way. She found her own ways to be a bad girl.

Sally drank Pepsi. And Chateuneuf du Pape. She learned all the French words that nice girls weren't supposed to know. She used them when tobacco-stained Frenchmen pinched her bottom on the metro. She learned to be chic, from a Parisienne who thought her worth teaching. She read Camus and Sartre, and DH Lawrence and Henry Miller, and Betty Friedan and Germaine Greer, going back through her lifetime to pick up what she'd missed while she was a good girl. She posed naked for an artist with beautiful cheekbones, and went on street protests with angry, long-haired men and droopy women, carrying her peace sign insouciantly and keeping her money stashed in a belt under her clothes. She spent her next birthday in the rain, walking through the streets of Paris and looking, really looking, at the wet-washed beauty.

There was no moment of revelation. Nothing happened—good or excruciating—to send her back to the States. She just went home, taking her independence with her. She called Megan, who gushed with gratified astonishment and offered her a place to stay until she got on her feet. They had long, silly conversations in French, and Sally would mock Megan's Canadian accent. Gently.

She went to college, swatting away the attentions of freshmen and sophomores several years her junior and so, so young. She knew how to work, and she knew what she wanted, so she graduated cum laude with a collection of friends and contacts from her extracurriculars. Real friends, almost to her surprise—because why shouldn't she have friends? Cool friends, friends who cared about women's rights and nuclear missiles and even campaigning against cigarette companies, friends who enjoyed shopping and putting the world to rights over a glass of good wine and each other's company.

They formed a tight clique of solidarity, the beginning of a network that would grow as they fought their various ways into the world. It was power suits and big hair now, and Sally was tough. She didn't buckle under the stresses, she'd done harder things before she was old enough to vote, she kept going. The Clique encouraged Sally to use whatever she could to get where she wanted to go, so she contacted Henry. He was grateful. He damned well should be grateful. Grateful enough to give her career a boost, anyway.

She called Dad, too. He seemed smaller than he used to be. Older, not quite as charming, not quite as smart as she remembered him. He smelled of aftershave and whisky just the same. He said he was proud of her. He told her about the campaigns he was working on. A couple of them were products she'd heard of. He was married, again. Sally was polite to his wife, but it wasn't worth cultivating a relationship.

What with one thing and another, Sally's standards were high, so she didn't date a lot of men. There was a fling with an urbane millionaire who bought her jewelry she gave back and a piece by the artist with the cheekbones which she kept for the rest of her days. There was an almost-serious relationship with a colleague; they understood each others' lives but then he was promoted into the job she'd been doing 'temporarily' and that wasn't going to work anymore.

Then came J, sweet and gentle and bruised like she was, practical, honest, truthful. J, who didn't know what seduction was, who thought Sally was the most awesome person in the world and made her, sometimes, believe it. It took a while for Sally to understand that J was somehow indispensable to her own happiness, yet there it was, clear and sweet. Sharing her bed with J was strange, an infinity of kindnesses and care, orgasms almost incidental. To her astonishment, Sally turned one day to find J down on one knee offering her hand and heart forever. She said yes. They shopped together for a ring, had a private ceremony with the friends who mattered most, and spent the weekend at Disneyworld to celebrate, two carefree kids together.


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