The summer of 1985 was coming to an end. It would be remembered in the area as sightings summer.
The little town Julie lived in was sightings central. Several a night, all summer long.
So many calls to the news papers and tv stations and air force about UFO’s in the area, the night sky seemingly filled with flying saucers of every description, though the persistence of glowing disks of similar size, shape and behavior got national attention.
Julie Coulter-Jones was 23 years old, slim, beautiful. Her long dark hair glowed and shimmered in the sunlight while she worked her kitchen garden.
When her roses had bloomed, she wished she could call her dad and describe them to him but that was impossible.
When she ran off with Georgie, she had been disowned and, according to her “Mother”, disinherited.
She always thought of Gloria parenthetically, the quintessential wicked step-mother, who had only bided her time to toss Julie to one side.
Her dad, so in love after years of just him and Julie, was just so weak. Her real mother had had a psychotic break of some kind, and never able to be cured or controlled, had been consigned by Grandfather, to a sanitarium when Julie was about 5 years old.
When Julies grandfather passed a few months back, Julie had shown up at the funeral service and was not allowed, per Gloria, to sit with the family. Julies real mom, still in a sanitarium in upstate New York, was not present, and so Julie sat with townsfolk at the back of the church.
Her Dad never even looked at her. Granny had died years back and now all the family holdings were her dads and, of course, Gloria’s.
Julie was very unhappy with the choice she had made. They lived from paycheck to paycheck, and George was almost never at home, unless it was to entertain his friends and drink enormous amounts of beer. The clean up next day was always a nightmare. This was NOT what she bargained for, and horribly, she knew that both her father AND Gloria had been right, but now there was apparently no going back.
Georges interest in her had faded when he found out there was to be no inheritance, and soon after that he began staying out all night, and sometimes for days on end. The honeymoon was over when the cash ran out.
The day faded, growing dark at the eastern horizon while the west glowed red and gold and gorgeous.
She decided to take a walk down the gravel road to the hill to see if Georges headlights were visible. Maybe he would come home tonight.
As she approached the rise in the road, she could see lights coming, perhaps it was him and she walked closer to the top of the hill to see.
When George finally came home, two days later, hung over and stinking of booze and sweat and some other woman’s cheap, overwhelming perfume, he found the house empty.
Not thinking much about that, he showered, ate what he could find in the fridge and slept.
He left for work without seeing Julie and when he came home at the days end, she still wasn’t there.
He began calling all their mutual friends, not sure when she may have left, but was unable to locate her. Reluctantly, he called her father and was promptly hung up on.
His last move was the police, who had him under suspicion for homicide until the case went as cold as ice.
Julie had walked into history, and, since no one knew just when she had really gone missing, they decided it coincided with yet another sighting.
As far as UFOlogists were concerned, she was an official abductee and her name was mentioned at every meeting of every UFO group, not only in the area, but across the country.
The beautiful brunette walked into the café on main street, holding a newspaper.
“I’m here to apply for the waitress job” she said, “is it still open?”
The woman at the register looked at her and then over her right shoulder she yelled,
“Harry, there’s someone here for that job!!”
She nodded to a booth and told the girl to sit down, Harry would be there in a minute.
Moments later, a harried looking, balding man in his fifties came around the corner and the woman at the register pointed to the booth.
When Harry turned and approached, his smile that had started to form faded.
“Julie?!” he asked incredulously.
The girl looked at him puzzled, then looked over her shoulder, perhaps he was speaking to someone in the booth beyond her.
The place was empty.
Harry sat heavily in the booth across from her, he shook his head and mopped his face with a paper napkin.
“Sorry, I must have scared the crap out of you.
“You gotta be what, 20?”
“23” she responded, and that answer made him shake.
“I’m sorry, but you are the spit and image of a girl I knew in ‘85, she went missing that summer and no one has heard a thing since, of course, she would be in her forties now, but I swear, you could be her!”
“Sorry I’m not your friend sir, “ she said, “but can I fill out an application for that job, I really need to be able to pay rent, I used up all my extras cash getting the little house out there by the curve.”
“The Jones place?” he asked.
“I don’t know, it was just a place in my price range.” she said, smiling.
“If that don’t beat all, Julie, the girl you look like, she was married to the guy that owns that place and when she went missing, they were living out there.”
“All I know is the house is cute, I can afford it, if I get this job anyway, and its not a long way from town, I rode my bicycle in, so if I can just do that application, and maybe you hire me, I’ll be all fixed up.
Harry smiled at her, she was hired, no application needed, it didn’t work out, they’d part ways.
They shook hands and he gave her the grand tour and her uniform and said he’d see her next morning for breakfast rush.
Harry watched as the girl, Grace, hopped on her bike and peddled off toward the Jones place, then he went to his office, thought a few moments and placed a call.
The next morning, bright and early, Grace parked her bike by the back door of the café, came in and grabbed her little waitress apron and an order pad.
“Good morning Harry!” she called out.
“Morning Gracie!” he called back, “order at table 5 sweetie” he added.
She strolled over to the booth, and there sat and older couple, perhaps in their late fifites or early sixties.
“Are you ready to order?” she asked.
“Oh my GOD!” said the woman. Grace notice that lipstick, a bit bright for 7 am had strayed onto the woman’s upper teeth and wicked up around her mouth into the deep lines caused by years of smoking. She also noticed the woman seemed old enough to be the mans’ mother.
The man just sat and stared and tears formed in his eyes.
“Julie?” he said, not taking his eyes off Grace for a second.
“It can’t be Julie, Robert, this girl is too young, but gawd, she looks like her.”
Grace simply stood there, gazing into the mans’ eyes, feeling very sorry for him.
Then she turned and looked at Harry, who smiled guiltily and wiped the counter.
The call to the Coulter place wasn’t the only one he had made yesterday afternoon, and the shit was just about to hit the fan.
People slowly drifted in for breakfast, or so Grace thought, and stared at her, and whispered behind their hands, nodding her way.
They knew nothing about this new girl who looked so much like the long missing Julie, and Harry was no help, he knew her name, or so she claimed, was Grace Smith, she was 23, and looked like Julie.
Shirley, the other waitress was in her forties and quickly befriended Grace.
She apologized for the queer actions of her fellow townies and explained everything about the missing girl that Grace resembled.
“They are all UFO nuts here!” she said, sipping a cup of coffee at Graces tiny kitchen table.
“See, that last summer Julie was here, we had more saucer sightings than you could shake a stick at, and of course, Julie goes missing like that, no trace of her ever found, and she’s gotta be taken by aliens, makes no sense to me, no sense at all”
She took a bite of her bagel, “ I have always thought that miserable s.o.b. she was married to killed her and got rid of the evidence,” she sipped more coffee, “he cashed in a huge insurance policy after her was able to have her pronounced dead, that was like 13 years ago, that’s when he bought this place here and about a year later, he took off for parts unknown, has the real estate people keep the place rented out.”
She sat quiet for a minute, then asked, “So, kiddo, what’s your story then?” she sipped the coffee, “where ya’ hail from, how did you end up here in this little dump?”
Grace looked at Shirley, she smiled a very small smile, and giggled nervously, then cleared her throat. Searching for a way to begin, she finally said, after heaving a sigh,
“this isn’t going to help settle folks around here down, but,” she sighed heavily again,” I have no idea where I’m from, and I made up the name I gave, I can’t remember my name, or anything, I even made up the social security number I gave Harry. I just found myself walking down the gravel road to this place last week”.
Coffee cup in mid air, Shirley froze, “Oh Christ in a jump suit!”
She got up and walked quickly about the kitchen, “Oh mother of GOD!”
“Don’t make me have to believe those UFO idiots have been fucking RIGHT all this time Grace!!”
Back at the café, Harry and his friends were having a free for all argument. Grace of course was the subject. She had caused a huge stir in the 48 hours or so she had been in town.
“Lets get serious here people, we don’t want to scare her off!!” yelled Harry.
“Look…you checked on that soc she gave you, its Julies, you said so, the ssa says so. .now.. ”said George, who had blown back into town when Harry called, “I can clear my name and the cops will not make me feel like a fucking homicidal asshole and I can come home!” he slammed his cup down, “God, you people don’t know what its been like man!”
Harry, who was mediator at all the UFO meetings, slammed his hand on the counter.
“We can’t just go to the cops and say, hey, she came back, I know she still looks 23, but its her, I know cause it looks like her and she knows Julies’ social security number, come on George. .how far will that take us?”
Sandy, a woman who had gone to school with Julie and was a nurse working in Pittsburg stood up.
“excuse me, Harry, there is a way.” she stood there, having made this statement, and the room of people turned to look her way.
“Go on Sandy” said Harry, then the whole room chimed in..
“How can we prove its her?” was the basic question.
“We can check her teeth against Julies dental records for one thing”
At that point, George chimed in, ”As of the time she left, she had never even gone to a dentist, her teeth were perfect, they were straight, not a cavity or mark, you can check with her old man about it, but I’m real sure she said she had never been to a dentist, she said that when I got my front teeth busted out and we were talking about it.”
“The other method is DNA.” said Sandy.
From the back of the room, Robert Coulton spoke, sending a shockwave through George, who had not seen him arrive.
“Don’t you need a reference for that, a sample of her DNA? To compare it with I mean.”
“Well, the method we can use, since none of her hair or body fluids are available, is mtDNA, everyone has the same mitochondrial DNA as our mother, we get it from her and its passed gerationally, so we just need a sample of her biological mothers dna and we can compare, we can prove or disprove she is a child of a particular woman.
Robert sat down, and George inched his way back to him.
“Harry says you saw her.’ said George.
Robert looked up at George, he looked pathetic. “I did, she looks just the same as the last time I saw her over 20 years ago. Not a minute older.”
“You have to understand, “ said Sandy, “DNA testing isn’t free, its gonna cost, but look at what it could prove, we’ll be on the map!!”
“But what about Julie?” asked Robert, she’ll be under a microscope!!
“old man, you didn’t care back then, why act l ike you do now?!” said George.
“Back then, sir, she was married to you, a boozing loser who cheated and couldn’t hold a job and had no appreciation of what you had. You’re only glad she’s back NOW because you can benefit from it.” .then Robert smiled, “And, “he said,”you’ll have to return the insurance money to the company!”
“And YOU were a pussy whipped, spineless ass who cow towed to that old bat, who by the way, I have seen and the age difference is real apparent now, man! She looks ancient!” Harry banged a metal spoon on the counter to settle Robert and George’s hash down, “We can’t have infighting, this is gonna go national as soon as we can prove who this girl is!!”
The next day, Grace showed up at the café with Shirley, who had spent the night at her place. They had been up really late talking, Shirley had filled her in on the whole Julie story, and how the step mom had been and the deal with her mom in a state hospital, it had been one revelation after the other.
The café packed within minutes of opening, and as Grace went from table to table, taking orders, she noticed everyone smiling, making her feel really welcome.
She may or may not be Julie, but they treated her like one of their own suddenly returned from the twilight zone.
At the end of the day, Harry approached Grace and asked if they could get a sample for the mtDNA testing. “I don’t see any reason not to, I guess, “ Grace said
“It’s creepy, but, I really don’t remember anything, and this way, I can find out about myself maybe.”
“What do you mean, you ‘don’t remember anything’” Harry asked. Grace told him how she had simply found herself on the gravel road to the Jones place, but had no memory of who she was, or where she was. “How did you pay to rent the place out there Grace?” he asked, “I saw the rental sign and walked into town and had money in my pocket, it was just there, a few hundred dollars and some coins.” she said
She reached in her purse and pulled out a change purse. “this is what I found in my pocket” she said and handed it to Harry.
Opening it, he checked the coins, none were from any time over 1985, all were from the 70’s and one from 1983. The bills showed series from 1979 through 1982, none over that.
“This money fit’s the time period of the last time we saw Julie.” said Harry, who sat down heavily. He was too excited for words, his heart beating rapidly, he began to have trouble breathing. The whole town now was buzzing with the strange news of Julie Jones return from a UFO abduction.
The news spread like a wild fire in the wind and the dna testing had not yet been completed. The members of the club, though relatively convinced of her true origins were nervous when the first reporters turned up asking questions. The last thing they needed was to be thought of as idiots. The test results couldn’t come in quick enough.
Robert had gone with the nurse and a technician from the dna lab out to the sanitarium to gather the swab from his ex-wife.
She was beautiful. He hadn’t seen her in many years, yet she looked so young and lovely still. Her hair had just a touch of gray, and hardly a line visible.
He had been aging along with his new wife, growing old with guilt over his daughter and how they had put his wife away.
Abigail smiled when she saw him and was gracious. She had never known that Julie had gone missing, unless she was capable of reading the paper, or they let her watch the news 20 years ago.
“Hello Abby “ Robert said, gently. “How are you doing?”
She smiled a Mona Lisa smile, one of those all knowing, but keeping it a secret kind.
“I’m dandy Robert, just Dandy” she sipped on her morning tea and then placed the cup gently on the saucer. “You aren’t looking good though, is there a problem I have to help you with?”
Robert was taken back by this and the nurse next to him gave a quizzical look his way.
She grabbed his arm and pulled him to one side.
“I thought you said she was out of it? She seems really normal to me Bobby!”
Robert, who had gone into a sweat, dug out his hanky and mopped his brow like a politician caught with his hand in the public coffers with no good excuse.
“She is lucid at times, but not enough times to be able to live on the outside” he quickly responded.
“well, I don’t know, Bob, perhaps she got better!”
The nurse hissed. “or is it just too uncomfortable for you and that witch you married to have the woman on the loose?”
Without waiting for him to answer she marched over and greeted Abby and explained they needed to take a swab for testing.
Abigail submitted to the light intrusion of a cotton swab into her mouth, then picked up her crossword book and pen and went back to filling in the boxes with the unerringly correct letters.