Monday, December 3, 2007


This is an excerpt from my novel-in-progress, Ginny Bates. If you are already a familiar reader, skip down to Read More. If not, here's links to background information in the sidebar to the right, third item from top.

December 1994

The first Saturday in December, their "Hannah weekend", Ginny suggested they partake in the Arts Orbit for the afternoon, a stroll that linked up galleries and museums on Capitol Hill. Afterward, they could go out for a seafood dinner and then check into a downtown hotel for alone time. Myra packed an overnight bag with the bedroom door closed.

Saturday morning, they had breakfast with Hannah and the children and left with great fanfare amid hugs and promises to bring back "something fun". They drove only a few blocks to East Pine and parked the car at the end of the planned walk, then caught a cab to the beginning of the walk -- "decadence as befits childless people" said Myra.

Myra had a blast meeting Ginny's friends and colleagues in place after place. Ginny was only too glad to explain the relevance or style of each artwork they stood before, her arm linked through Myra's at first, then pulled loose so she could gesture out a technique or worry the gallery owner by putting fingertips a little too close to certain sections of paintings. They bought a couple of child-sized berets in one shop -- green for Margie, maroon for Gillam -- but knew this would not count as a "fun" present, and kept their eyes open for something else.

As they left one gallery and resumed the sidewalk, Myra heard a voice call out her name. They turned, Ginny letting go of Myra's arm just in time to see a strong-looking dyke only a little smaller than Myra grab Myra in a bearhug. She had short curly red hair and a thick Brooklyn accent, pronouncing Myra's name over and over as "Moyra". Myra was clearly thrilled to see her. The woman slung her arm around Myra's neck as Myra turned her to face Ginny.

"Ginny -- this is Myra!" said Myra.

"Moyra Two, you can call me" said the woman.

"This is Ginny, the love of my life" said Myra.

"Y'know, I heard from somebody that you'd gotten married and settled into domestic bliss!" exclaimed Myra Two, grinning into Myra's face. "I am so fucking glad for you!"

"Well, not married married, but bliss is right. We have two children we're skipping out on right now" said Myra.

"Kids! You always wanted kids!"

Ginny was beginning to remember this was one of Myra's exes, one of the "good" ones that, if Ginny had not come along, Myra might have gotten back in touch with and had another try at working things out.

Myra Two grinned at Ginny and said "Congratulations. This one here is a catch." She looked at Myra again. "You cook for this woman?" She looked back at Ginny. "Ain't she one hell of a cook?"

Myra blushed and said to Ginny "Myra is who taught me how to bake bread."

"Oh, god, that's right!" exclaimed Myra Two. She seemed to be loud all the time. "Remember how on Friday nights, we'd go to the movies -- "

"Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers!" said Myra.

"-- and afterward, we'd locate the sites I'd scoped out earlier in the week and do a little guerrilla action."

Myra said to Ginny "We altered billboards, either by freehand with spraypaint or, Myra here is an artist and she could create posters that matched the original, we'd wheatpaste it on over the original, those were the best. Several of our actions were printed in the newspaper or made into postcards, I know youd've seen 'em."

"Moyra here would carry the posters or stencils rolled up in the back of her overalls, with a jacket on to cover the lump, and I'd have spray paint stuffed into my overalls, and we'd slink around like criminals, waiting for the coast to clear before we scrambled up ladders or redecorated the sides of buildings" said Myra Two, so excited bits of spit flew out of her mouth.

"And then right before dawn, we'd go to that all-night place on Broadway, just ravenous -- "

"Moyra here loved her hash browns, does she still always get hash browns?" Myra Two didn't look at Ginny for an answer to her question, her eyes were locked on Myra.

"And then we'd go back to your place and start a batch of bread, enough bread to last each of us the whole week -- " said Myra.

"And while the dough was rising, we'd find other ways to siphon off the high of antisocial behavior!" said Myra Two.

Ginny thought Myra was likely to piddle on herself if she got any more worked up.

"Well, listen, Moyra, I got a carful of people waitin' on me back there, I just saw ya and had to run over. Call me, you, have me over for dinner and I can meet your kids, okay?"

"Okay!" Myra Two kissed Myra right on the mouth, not open-mouthed but still a little too long for Ginny's comfort, squeezed her and barreled off down the sidewalk. Myra stood watching her until she got into the back seat of a Toyota with a final wave as they pulled into traffic. When she turned back around, beaming, she looked directly at Ginny's face for the first time since Myra Two had appeared.

"Oh" said Myra.

"Indeed" said Ginny. Myra stepped under the awning of the place they had come out of and motioned Ginny to come closer.

"That was Myra" she said stupidly.

"I remember who Myra is to you, but even if I had not, the two of you made your connection abundantly clear" said Ginny.

Myra looked at her closely. "Ginny, honey -- are you jealous?"

Ginny took a breath. "Myra, I must admit, what I am feeling is definitely jealous." She took another breath. "I know it's silly of me, I do, Myra. You did nothing wrong, you were happy to see someone meaningful to you and you showed it without any disrespect to me. I mean, if she hadn't run off, I would have expected you to include me in the conversation more..."

"Of course I would have. You got to see her but she didn't get to know anything about you, not really."

"Perhaps she didn't want to, Myra." Ginny could tell this Myra hadn't considered this idea. "The thing is, Moyra, I could totally see the two of you together. You with yeasty hands, her with that dazzling grin and her pockets bulging with eager Testors, and the two of you finding ways to burn off your high, with the energy of the very young...And I felt just a wee bit...housewifey."

Myra began laughing. "Well, first of all, housewife is a very hot category in my fantasy life -- "

"Don't be obtuse, Myra. I don't want your reassurance that you desire me, I am confident of that. I'm not sure why this made me jealous, so maybe I need to just get over it. But any honest, unmanufactured expressions of enthusiasm you could direct my way in the next little while would not go unappreciated."

"When you get multisyllabic, I know you're scared" said Myra, grinning affectionately. She moved in and wrapped her arms around Ginny's waist, her face an inch away. "There is something I've been meaning to tell you. Last month, when we had our long break from the kids? After you finished 'Hettie' and we made love on the daybed, and you went to sleep, bam, just like that? I lay there with you in my arms for a long time, thinking about us. And here's some of what I thought."

Myra began telling her, with a completely open heart and her voice down a register because it was thick with emotion. Ginny melted. Five other people on the street or in nearby shops were watching them, caught by the expressions on their faces. When Myra finally leaned in to slowly kiss Ginny, four of those people sighed in satisfaction, but one felt her heart start to ache because she had recently broken up with someone she loved that much, who had not loved her back.

By the time their kiss had traveled to an end, Myra was trembling a little. Ginny rested her forehead on Myra's shoulder a moment, then slid her arm through Myra's and put her hand deep into Myra's pocket, turning them to resume walking.

"I am unbelievably turned on right now" murmured Ginny.

"You and me both, girlfriend" said Myra.

"I am so glad for that hotel room tonight. Let's soak in it the rest of the day, shall we?"

Myra squeezed her arm in reply. After several steps, she said "So, I guess we're not likely to be asking Myra to dinner sometime?....Ow, Ginny."

"Pardon me."

August 1997

"Myra -- we got a notice today about the start of school, with a list of supplies and also a request that we make an appointment to meet with Margie's third-grade teacher before classes start." Ginny's face was different, in a way Myra couldn't name immediately.

"Okay. She's in the TAG program, right?"

"Yeah. And her teacher, it says, is going to be Bonnie."

Myra took a second to recognize the name. "Your Bonnie?"

"Yes. My ex." Ginny's lips were tight. Finally she looked up from the letter and met Myra's eyes.

"I don't know where to begin. Is this going to be okay for Margie? How are you with it?" said Myra.

Ginny just kept looking at her for those long Ginny seconds. "She was a good teacher -- the way she was involved with her kids, I deeply respected that. I would have trouble believing she'd take any -- feelings she might have -- out on Margie, at least not consciously. Myra, I don't want to tell Margie about this, about my -- "

"Of course not. She doesn't need to know. But, again -- how are you?"

"I don't know. I haven't seen her, I mean, even run into her at the school since Margie started there. I wasn't sure she was still there, to be honest. We didn't part as enemies, but she was very clear she didn't want to be friends, either. I don't think I'm carrying a lot of residue -- but you never know, do you? Until you see them and have to deal with them again?"

"You got that right. Well, you'll have me with you. And Margie will win her heart, I'm sure, she's a spectacular child. And, to be honest, Ginny, I kinda feel sorry for her. You were the catch of the century and she let you go."

Ginny smiled. "Of course you believe that, my loyal Myra. But she may not."

"I just can't imagine how she could not miss you. And when she sees you, how more beautiful and lit up and amazing you are with each passing year, and sees your perfect daughter who is the very image of you, and then sees me and you together -- no matter what her assessment of your past relationship, it will be a kick in the gut. I plan to be kind."

"That's a good plan. So will I."

"When do we go in?"

"Next Tuesday afternoon. I can't tell if it's an individual appointment -- surely not, surely this is just a 'meet the teacher' event for parents."

"I'll need a haircut before then."

Ginny laughed. "You'll be kind but you won't mind showing off a little, eh?"

"Well..." Myra laughed with her. "Say, why didn't we get a notice for Gillam?"

"He's starting first grade, they don't know yet how brilliant he is, so he won't get tracked into TAG until after the first reporting and testing period. Don't worry, they'll pick up on him soon enough. They did send along a list of school supplies for him, too."

"Now this is a shopping expedition I can get into" said Myra with relish. "Do they recommend a store?"

"Several. Shall we go tomorrow afternoon?"

"Yes, and Ginny? I want them to have some new outfits as well. Not just new to them, but actual new clothes."

"We've already gone through this two years now, Myra. It's fine with me -- I know what new school clothes means to you -- but not buying out the store, they grow too fast."

"Okay, you rein me in."

The next evening, Myra got out the video camera to record Gillam reverently putting together his first school backpack with all the shiny new notebooks and pencils, then a fashion show featuring the two children. Ginny didn't appear on the video much, but her laughter was a constant background ripple.

The following Tuesday, Myra and Ginny drove the few blocks to Lowell. "Do we touch or not touch in front of her?" asked Myra as they walked in.

"What would you do if you were meeting a teacher neither of us knew?"

"Be cool, I guess. I mean, I don't always notice when I touch you, how I stand near you -- it's automatic. No, that's not accurate, it's not automatic. I feel it every time, but I don't remember maybe I should be more discreet. And even if I don't touch you, I am so tuned into your wavelength -- I think the energy between us must be visible."

"Especially to an ex" agreed Ginny. "I don't want to rub her nose in it, I don't want to protect her from it, I want something in the middle, something like indifference to her perception of us -- except the respect we would automatically give someone who is going to teach our child for a year, which is a lot."


It was, in fact, a general meet-and-greet, although there were only half a dozen sets of parents there. When they walked into the classroom, Myra was immediately struck by three things: The atmosphere of the room was extremely warm and interesting, which boded well for Margie; they were the only two-women couple present; and Bonnie was wearing a dress, some kind of print skirt and sweater outfit that made her look older than either of them. She had light brown hair in a shoulder-length style popular with lesbians who don't give a damn. She had on lipstick but no other make-up, and was wearing sensible shoes. Myra wanted to look and see if she had visible leg hair, but couldn't figure out a way that wasn't obvious.

Ginny had on a pair of dark plum silk trousers that tied at the waist with billowing legs, like karate pants, and a white silk shirt that showed her nipples when the fabric pressed against her breasts. Her hair was a glossy buzz, and she had Myra's labyris in the hollow of her throat. The way she walked and moved made Myra just the tiniest bit short of breath. She caught all the light in the room.

Bonnie looked up and saw them approaching. She was a little taller than Ginny, and big in the shoulders, thick through the waist. She smiled politely, which scored points with Myra that made up for the points she'd lost with the lipstick and dress.

"Hello, Bonnie" said Ginny in a perfectly normal voice.

"I saw the name on the roster, Ginny Josong-Bates, and it crossed my mind that might be you" said Bonnie, just as evenly.

Ginny pulled Myra to her side lightly. "This is the Josong half, Myra Bates-Josong. Our daughter Margie -- she goes by that, not Marjorie -- will have the pleasure of your class this year."

Myra shook Bonnie's hand, trying not to look at how big or deft her fingers were.

"I'm not sure I'm clear on the surname -- you are now Ginny Josong-Bates, and that's Marj -- Margie's name as well? But yours is different?" said Bonnie, looking at Myra.

Sharp woman. Most people blitzed right over that.

"Yes, we're each retaining our original last names as the final name in the hyphenated version, and each of our two children has one of the versions. Our son Gillam, whom you'll meet in two years, has my version" said Myra.

Two children. Bonnie took that in.

"Well, as you know, Margie's testing is stellar. I read in her file that she began reading at age two?" said Bonnie.

"Myra's influence" said Ginny.

"You always say that, but it's both of us equally, Ginny" protested Myra.

"And Gillam, our son, also began reading at two. In fact, he's more of a reader than Margie" went on Ginny. "And it is Myra, more than me. I'll take credit for a lot, Myra, but the language ability is yours, sweetheart." She grinned into Myra's face, and Myra tingled. "Myra won the Astraea for poetry a couple of years ago, has one book of poetry published and another on the way."

"I've read your work" said Bonnie. She didn't say where, and Myra didn't ask. "You all live in the neighborhood?" said Bonnie.

"Yes, we live in the house I bought -- after" said Ginny. "We're both active in the PTSA here."

"Great. Well, it's a silly question, I know, but do you enrich your child's home environment and in what ways?" Bonnie's smile was at last genuine. Myra felt a pang for her.

"Neither of us work outside the home, although Myra's writing and my painting count as full-time jobs. We have a nanny, Hannah, who picks up the slack in an incredible way. Plus there are three aunties who act as additional parents to the children. We have art on demand, of course, constant reading -- the house is crammed with books -- Margie does orienteering and map-making, lots of nature study, lots of physical activity, we have two sets of encyclopedias and little to no TV -- our home is centered equally on the children and our art, and I think it's the happiest place on earth." Ginny would, honestly, have said the same to any teacher. But a little of the light in Bonnie's eyes dimmed, or so Myra thought.

"How is your painting?" said Bonnie. For a moment, Myra wasn't there.

"Everything I ever wanted" said Ginny. And Bonnie was happy for her, Myra could see it on her face. Happy as well as something else.

"Bonnie -- I just want to say, I'm glad you will be Margie's teacher" added Myra. "Personally glad. She and Gillam are the light of my life, and they deserve the best. If you ever have any questions or concerns, we're completely open to hearing them." Myra realized her arm was through Ginny's elbow, but what the hell, this is how they stood together in public.

"I look forward to this year" said Bonnie. She was very professional. Myra let go of any worries she might have had about Margie's well-being. If anything, this woman would really care for Margie because of her connection to Ginny.

Another pair of parents approached, so Ginny and Myra took their leave of Bonnie. They looked around the classroom for a while, introduced themselves to another set of parents, then finally walked back out to the car.

Once they were out of sight of the school, Myra opened her mouth to say "A dress? Did she wear dresses when you were with her?" but before a word came out, she realized Ginny was crying quietly in the passenger seat. She took Ginny's hand and drove the last few blocks home, parked in the driveway and turned off the car. She pulled Ginny into her arms and said "Let 'er rip."

"Oh, it's not that bad. Just sadness over two people misconnecting in a particular way. But also an indescribable relief that we did move on, that I went on and found you. I feel like you rescued me from that life."

"Not accurate, honey. You rescued yourself, which is even better" said Myra. "But I'm glad I was in the vicinity."

"What did you think of her?" said Ginny.

"Well...She'd look a hell of a lot better with her hair shorter, of course. She looked strong and solid. She handled all the volleys coming her way with grace and smarts, which is what I would have expected of someone you chose to love. I trust Margie with her. The lipstick was icky, and the dress looked bizarre on her. And you, my angel, sparked up the joint with what you had on, so the contrast was painful."

Ginny had begun laughing. "I knew you'd freak about the dress. She wore them sometimes when we were together. No wonder the sex trailed off. But she never wore lipstick around me. I have to admit, I picked this outfit out for the dynamic color. She used to tell me I didn't dress appropriately for elementary school."

"There's Margie at the window, no doubt schvitzing about how we might have screwed up her prospects with her new teacher. She thinks we're hopelessly backward, I can tell" said Myra.

"Shall we spin her some awful story about what we did?"

"Nah. She's got enough to deal with, having mothers like us. Let's go in and let her off the hook." They kissed and got out of the car.

September 1997

Margie was in the back yard kicking the snot out of her soccer ball. Myra could hear her yell whatever it was she was mad about, followed by the thwack of her foot and the yaps of Juju as she raced the ball to the net. A lull, as Margie retrieved her target, then the sequence repeated.

Ginny was murmuring to Yoko and O'Keefe. The gecko's end of the conversation was silent, as usual, conveyed by eye tilt and skin twitch. At the bottom of their columnar world, tiny clear crickets gave forth the constant prayers of those doomed to die by esophagus.

Myra's screen was up, but where her desk abutted her daybed, she could see Gillam sitting there, working hard to memorize "Stopping By The Woods On A Snowy Evening". He would close his eyes after reading a stanza and whisper it to himself. She had not yet broken him of the habit of coming down harder on the last word of each line, so what she could hear from him was
Wissa wissa wissa SHAKE
Wissa wissa wiss ss-STAKE
Wissa wissa wissa SWEEP
Wissa wissa wissa FLAKE

Myra leaned her elbows on the desk and bent her arms up so she could jam her thumbs into her ears while focusing the poem she was trying to rewrite. She had, as she often did, begun these lines in blank iambic pentameter. She'd read somewhere that a ten-beat sentence was what English-speakers usually could get out in one breath, and therefore was the basis of much spoken speech. Her best work, however, was done in an eight-count line -- she wondered if it was because she had asthma, and could not say as much in a single breath. After a while, the thumb earplugs worked so well she began hearing her own pulse in her ears, and using that as her Ringo Starr, the lines began to revise in front of her. She resisted pulling out her thumbs to write it down until she had several lines redone in her mind.

Suddenly she began aware of Gillam waving at her frantically from the daybed. She pulled out her right thumb, and simultaneously heard the phone ring and Ginny yelling "Myra!" She grabbed the phone, pulling out her other thumb.

"Hey" said Allie. "Can you and Ginny spare some time for me tonight, I got something to show you."

Allie never asked if she could come over, she just came. Myra blinked and said "Sure."

Allie said "'l'll be there in a few. Don't start cooking, I'm bringing dinner."

Myra said "Okay" and hung up. Ginny called "Who was it?"

"Allie. She's bringing dinner and she has something to show us" said Myra. She looked at her clock: It was 5:07.

"What?" asked Gillam. Myra didn't know if he was asking what Allie had to show them or what dinner would be, but either way, she answered "Don't know yet."

"Can I practice saying this poem to you?" asked Gillam. He'd seen the clock too.

She smiled resignedly, flipped her poetry folder shut and said "Yeah, come sit on the desk here so I can see you better."

He had it down. She hugged him, relishing the self-pleased flush of his cheeks, and they began discussing the rhyme scheme. She explained the multiple punch of the last stanza -- the break in the rhyme scheme, the deliberate repetition and the double meaning buried in it -- and as his eyes registered an "Aha!" she felt a similar click inside her head about her own poem. She knew what to do with it, not just changing the meter but those two lines in the middle --

The doorbell rang. She stood up but Gillam beat her to the living room, flinging open the door and yelling "Allie!" Allie's arms were full of bags and containers, and her big brown leather portfolio was draped over her shoulder. She must have rung the doorbell with her elbow, unable to turn the knob for herself. Myra began taking some of her burdens as Gillam, and now Margie who'd seen her through the glass wall, clamored for Allie's attention, begging her to come watch this new kick/listen to what I memorized.

As Allie leaned her portfolio against the wall, Myra began "Actually, Allie is here to show us something -- " but Allie jumped in with "Sure, five minutes each, okay?" Margie grabbed her hand and began dragging her outside, and Allie took Gillam by the other hand, pulling him along with her. Myra began unwrapping the food as Ginny came in to set the table.

Ten minutes later, Allie took the kids to wash their hands and they all returned to the table. Ginny pushed edamame and miso soup over to the children and said "You can go ahead and start." She and Myra looked expectantly at Allie, who opened her portfolio with a shy grin and pulled out a stack of 20 x 30 bristol boards, separated by tissue paper.

She stood at the end of the table and said "You know those Mirage and Djinni stories you been telling the kids for years? And that one where the character Ali gets introduced, about 'The Ebony Orbs of Oogie Boogie'?" Myra nodded, her pulse beginning to race.

"Well, I kept thinking about what it would look like. And then I drew the scene where Ali finds the secret compartment inside the first orb -- and, well, I just kept going. I've done the whole story as a book, and Myra, I changed it just a little. I hope you won't mind."

Allie turned over the first of the bristol boards, revealing the opening page of a lavishly illustrated children's book in the haunting dark watercolors that Allie favored. Myra sucked in her breath and half stood up, leaning forward to get a closer look. After a minute, she said "Show me the next one", and she kept saying "Next" until they reached the end. She sat back down, her heart hammering, and finally looked up at Allie's face, a dazzled expression on her face.

"That's it" she said. "That's it, exactly."

Allie's face erupted into joy. She looked away from Myra, then, first at the children whose expressions matched Myra's, but when she reached Ginny, her grin started to fade. Myra turned to look at Ginny also.

Ginny said "It's magnificant, Allie. It truly is. But.... I'd always thought I'd be the one to draw those stories, if Myra decided to write them down."

"I did write them down" said Myra. "I gave the kids copies, remember?"

"Yeah, but I meant really turn them into stories" said Ginny.

Myra looked back at Allie, who said "They were already stories, far as I could tell."

"I just think you jumped the gun here, Allie. I mean, the Skene thing was hard enough, but at least we collaborated there. Now you've just assumed you had the right to use Myra's work -- " began Ginny.

"Of course she had the right to be inspired by me" said Myra. "I don't write just for myself, I don't believe writers who say they do. I write to express myself, yes, but it's also a dialogue with a reader. And especially those close to me, they have complete access to my art, if they want it. You've just never asked me about doing anything with my writing, not once, not on your own." She looked at Allie, then back at Ginny. "I mean, don't you know what a dream come true this is? To have Allie's and my name on the same book cover? It's huge, Ginny."

Ginny's eyes were blue blazes. "You always want to know how I'm feeling, Myra, and I'm telling you, I feel shut out."

Both children were stock still, each with an unopened pod of edamame in their hands.

Myra struggled to keep her voice gentle as she answered "I wish we could celebrate this first, before I have to deal with your feelings of insecurity."

She saw it hit Ginny like a wall of water. She heard Allie beginning to put the bristol board away in her portfolio. Ginny looked steadily at Myra for a minute, then stood up and walked around the table to Allie. She put her arms around Allie's waist and laid her head on Allie's shoulder, saying softly "It's absolutely perfect, Allie. I'm so glad you did this, not just for you, not just for Myra, but for all the children who will get to read it."

Allie hugged her back, answering only "Thanks."

Then Ginny came and kissed Myra on both cheeks, saying "You deserve this. Mazel tov, angel." She went back to her seat and said to Margie "Eel and chutoro, I presume?"

Everyone began serving themselves. Myra said to Allie, "Do we talk to your agent or to mine?"

Ginny replied "Both, I should think. And listen, Allie, that story about how they all visit the underwater volcano? -- that's going to be spectacular with your kind of illustration."

Myra reached out her hands and took both Ginny and Allie's, saying "Let's don't forget to say grace." She closed her eyes and tried to clear her head.

Autumn 1999 -- Margie is almost 11, Gillam is 8

Chris and Sima were out of town for the weekend, so on Friday night, after lighting candles, the four of them went out to a Chinese restaurant on East Pike to eat with Allie. Myra and Margie were sitting on one side of the deep booth, Gillam between Allie and Ginny on the other side. Their food had just arrived and they were in the process of sharing dishes when they heard "Moyra Josong! And look, it's Allie!"

Standing at the end of the booth was Myra's ex Myra, grinning at her. She motioned at Margie, saying "Scoot over, girlie" so she could slide into the booth on Myra's side. Margie was already offended by the "girlie", but when Myra Two leaned heavily behind her to kiss Myra a big smack, Margie looked stormy.

"These your kids? My god, they're huge" said Myra Two.

"Gillam and Margie, this is an old friend of mine, also named Myra" introduced Myra.

"Hiya, Genia" Myra Two said to Ginny.

"Ginny" she corrected, but Myra Two wasn't looking her way any more.

"So you and Allie still tight? We used all useta have some bang-up times, huh, spanky?" she said to Myra right in Margie's ear. Allie was about to reply but Myra went on. "Listen, Moyra, I read your book. Fucking awesome! I can't believe you wrote that!"

Gillam and Margie said in one breath "Language." Myra Two looked momentarily confused, but kept focused on Myra. "And I gotta say, I was really touched by you including me in it. You know, that character Szebel. Very flattering."

Szebel was a hypersexual future human with special powers. Ginny raised an eyebrow and looked at Allie, but she was grinning. Allie shook her head unobtrusively. Myra could see this from the corner of her eye, and relaxed.

"I can't wait to see what she does in the next book. If you want to reminisce about possible scenarios from our past you might wanna use, just say the word." She winked at Myra, then reached over and helped herself to a potsticker.

Margie was tired of leaning forward to stay out the line of speech. She pushed herself against Myra as hard as she could, swinging her knees a little bit toward the interloper and facing her directly, blocking most of Myra's face. Myra put her arm affectionately around Margie's neck, and Margie grabbed onto it. She said to Myra Two in a neutral tone "My mother Ginny is a famous artist, too."

Myra Two finally looked at Margie. "Oh, yeah?" She glanced at Ginny. "What do you do, again?"

Gillam was following Margie's lead. "Have you ever heard of Ginny Bates?"

"Ginny Josong-Bates" correctly Ginny quietly.

Myra saw it register on her ex's face.

"That's you? Holy fuck" she said to Ginny.

Gillam and Margie again chorused "Language". This time Myra Two looked at them with a little irritation.

Allie explained "We don't use profanity around each other."

Myra Two was momentarily derailed. She took a sip of Margie's water, then said "So, Allie, what're you doing out with these famous women?"

Myra said smoothly "Well, first of all, she's part of our family, and second, she just won a Newberry honor for last year's Podinqo children's book."

"Damnation!" said Myra Two. Margie looked at Gillam and shrugged her shoulders. She pushed her water glass away and took Myra's instead.

Looking back at Allie, Myra Two said "Part of the family, huh? Is this some kind of -- alternative -- arrangement? You and Moyra finally get it together?"

Myra could see Gillam trying to decipher this puzzling statement. She'd had enough, but before she could figure out how to word anything, Margie spoke up. "My mother Myra is crazy in love with my mother Ginny, she says like nobody she ever loved before. Allie is my aunt, and she has a committed relationship to all of us. And why do you say Mama's name that way?"

Myra Two looked at her flatly and said "I can tell you're Ginny's kid".

"She's my kid, Myra" said Myra in a soft tone that made Ginny's eyes snap. That was her warning voice.

"Okay, well, no offense. Listen, I just wanted to say hey, long time no see. Congrats on the book, and to alls the rest of you, probably the kids are celebrities, too, huh?" She laughed, slid out of the booth, blew a kiss to Myra, grabbed an eggroll, and strode away.

After she was out of earshot, Margie turned to face Myra but stayed glued to her side. "I bet that used to be one of your girlfriends, Mama" she said, intrigued. Gillam was leaning on the table, staring at her.

Ginny jumped in diplomatically: "She was, and they had a lot of fun together when they were young."

Margie looked skeptical. Gillam said to Ginny "Well, I'm glad you're our mom, that's all I can say."

"That's all I can say, too, Gillam. With a fervent prayer of thanks." Myra was gazing across the table at Ginny, who was grinning back at her.

"Can we get ice cream after this?" asked Margie.

Ginny said "Oh, yes, you've earned it tonight." Allie laughed loudly and gave her eggroll to Gillam, then said to Ginny "So, Genia -- who are you exactly again?"

Ginny and Myra both cracked up. Myra began eating her Buddha's Delight, her foot snugged against Ginny's under the table.

May 2001

When Margie came home with the details of her graduation ceremony from elementary school, they invited all their friends and family. A week later, Chris came to Myra and said "My nephew Ricky is graduating high school the same night as Margie, dammit."

"Oh, god. I wanted to go to his graduation. And Margie will be crushed that you and Sima aren't there, but you have to go to Ricky's, I know" said Myra, distressed.

"Well, Margie's is at 4:00 in the afternoon, right? Ricky's is at 7:00. If I drive like a maniac, I can go to hers -- she'll be early, with Bates as her surname -- and then haul out and get there for the end of his. Or at least the family party afterward. Of course, he'll go out with his friends after that, but I could stay for the weekend, visit my sister."

"That would be great, if you can pull it off. What would he like as a graduation present?"

"He's not going to college, despite all of us piling on him about it. He has a job already lined up. I was thinking about getting him a used motorcycle, so he can get around on his own. Their second car is on its last legs."

"Would he rather have a car? I'd love to help him get a good used one. We could ask Sadie for recommendations, and you could drive it out to him."

Chris's face lit up. "Really? He would go wild over it."

"You know him best, Chris. You find it and we'll pay for it, say it's from all of us, how's that?"

Chris hugged her. "You ought be there to see his face."

"Take pictures for me, of everything."

"Is Ginny's family coming in from Denver for Margie's graduation?"

"David says he will, for sure." They looked at each other, and Chris grinned. "Unless Helen gets athlete's foot and can't be left alone, I guess" she said.

Myra and Ginny went together with Margie to buy her a graduation dress and shoes. Once she had narrowed it down to three possibles, she was seized with uncharacteristic indecision and kept trying them on again. Myra finally tapped Gillam on the shoulder and said "Let's go find you a new suit or at least blazer, the one you have is a little too tight now." Ginny nodded and said she'd meet up with them at the fountain in the center of the mall.

Gillam picked out a stark black suit with a grey shirt and white tie. Myra looked at him a little uncertainly when he modeled it for her. "You look like a miniature mafioso" she said.

"I like black, and grey. You guys never let me wear those colors" he argued.

"Well, okay. You'll outgrow it too fast, anyhow. Let's get shoes while we're at it, your sneakers are not going to go with this."

Back home, after the children had a small fashion show -- Margie's dress was of rose silk, with intricate flounces, lace, and seed pearls stitched into the bodice -- Ginny said "The question arises, what do we wear?"

Myra thought for a minute. "You still have that suit from your gallery opening?"

Ginny laughed. "Yeah, it's in plastic from the cleaners long ago. I'll have to make sure it's in good shape, though. Well, then, I vote for your satin suit, that maroon print with the silver in it."

"We'll be stylin'."

"We're the mothers of the valedictorian, we have to live up to her honor" said Ginny.

For Margie's graduation present, they gave her a laptop with monitored internet access. They loaded it with graphics capability and memory, and Pat recommended mapmaking software which they had installed. Myra also gave her the one piece of her mother's jewelry that she had, her mother's pearls -- not a very expensive strand, but she cried when she handed them over to Margie, so Margie cried, too. Ginny took her out the day before graduation to have her hair shaped ("Not cut" warned Margie) and also allowed her to have her first manicure. Myra was busy finalizing the sale of a good nearly-new Ford pickup, bright red, for Chris to deliver to Ricky. Then, while Myra made dinner and listened to Margie practice her speech again, Ginny went to the airport and picked up David, who finally stood up to Helen and said he was going, no matter what.

The next afternoon, everyone met at the house so they could drive to Lowell together. Chris and Sima gave Margie a gold charm bracelet with three charms already on it: a mortarboard, a Star of David, and a bear claw. She immediately put it on, saying it went perfectly with her dress and the pearl necklace. David gave her a gift certificate to Old Navy, and Myra saw the gleam in Margie's eye -- more dresses were in the offing. Patty and Pat gave her a makeup collection, which made both Myra and Ginny go temporarily grim. But Allie was the one who scored: She gave Margie a digital camera along with photoshop software. Margie immediately took everybody's photo and had a dozen taken of her before they finally needed to leave.

Their group was so large, they had to sit halfway back to find seats together. Allie held Margie's camera for her and promised to take photos up front. After they were seated and chatting, waiting for the procession to begin, Myra craned her head around to the back, hoping to catch a glimpse of Margie -- her cheeks had been plummy with excitement when they separated from her. Instead, she saw Bonnie Linehan coming in with another obvious dyke, a woman at least ten years their junior wearing a red leather jacket. She nudged Ginny and pointed with her head.

After staring for a minute, Ginny grinned. "She's moved on."

"And raided Generation X, from the looks of it."

Bonnie spotted them at that moment and allowed herself a grin, then a wave. Myra and Ginny waved back. Chris whispered "Who is that?"

"The former Mrs. Ginny Bates -- she was Margie and Gillam's third grade teacher" replied Myra. David, on the other side of Sima, must have overhead because he turned to look at the same time Chris did.

"Nice jacket on the girlfriend" said Chris.

"And not standard grade school event wear" replied Myra. "Bonnie must've loosened up a bit."

"Still, she doesn't look right for Ginny" whispered David, which pleased Myra more than she thought she should admit.

Margie's valedictory speech, which she had labored over for a month, was a huge success, not so much because of the content but from how she delivered it. She was completely confident, flashing her gorgeous grin often and speaking clearly enough to reach the back of the auditorium. Allie leaned over and said "Where d'ya think she got that ability to speak in front of a crowd like that?" Myra was so proud, her temples were pounding.

Chris and Sima had to leave right after that, and Chris gave Myra a kiss as she stepped into the aisle. "You got our card?" whispered Myra.

Chris patted her jacket pocket. "Right here. See you all on Sunday."

Afterward they had to stand around while Margie relived her glory with her friends. Ginny, restless, went to chat with Bonnie for a few minutes. Patty took Gillam, Truitt and Carly outside to run off steam. Myra pulled David over to meet Amy's parents. Pat stood with Allie, their hands in their pockets, Allie's gaze following Margie, Pat looking curiously at Ginny and Bonnie.

After a couple of minutes, Pat said ruminatively "I never understood what she saw in Bonnie. But Ginny's taste in women doesn't match how she's what you'd call a chili pepper -- good thing I met Patty first, I guess." She laughed, and didn't notice how Allie froze in place.

Myra and David returned at that point, with Margie in tow. Myra made a signal to Ginny, and they all began moving toward the doors. Margie had been allowed to choose where her celebration dinner was to be held, and she had opted for a very ritzy seafood place downtown. They split up into two groups -- Gillam going with Carly and Truitt in their car -- and began driving to the restaurant.

Myra, in the front passenger seat, turned around and beamed at Margie in the middle of the back. "I have one more treat for you today" she said. "I'm going to tell you something private, something that matches your new maturity, and you have to promise to not tell Gillam or anybody else outside the family."

Margie's face glowed. "I promise."

"Your teacher, Ms. Linehan? Well, she was once your Mama's lover. Before me, they were together for three years."

Margie was incredulous. "Ms. Linehan and Mama? Like you and Mama are together, like that?" Ginny nodded at her and said "We lived together in the house she still has, south of here."

Margie was trying to wrap her mind around it. "Did you -- were you Ginny Linehan-Bates then?"

"No. We didn't -- we weren't as involved that way" said Ginny.

"Were you in love?"

"Well, I thought I was at the time. But not like I am with Myra" said Ginny.

"Is that why you stopped living with her, because of falling in love with Mama?" Margie liked the drama of this idea, Myra could tell.

"No, we broke up because we really just weren't right for each other. I knew Myra by then, but she didn't seem interested in being friends with me yet."

"Ginny was friends with me, though" said Allie.

Margie paused for a long moment, then said "Did you kiss her?" Her tone was faintly disgusted.

Ginny laughed. "Of course we kissed."

"But you didn't have children" persisted Margie.

"No, Bonnie didn't want children."

"But you did, right?"

"Yes, always."

"And Mama did" said Margie, looking at Myra.

"I certainly did. We made that decision almost as soon as we made the decision to be in love with each other. I knew I needed children to be happy, but I have to say, Margie, I never in a million years could have imagined how happy I would be to have you as our daughter." Myra was a little choked up. She put on hand on Ginny's leg, and Ginny squeezed it briefly with her own.

"Wow" said Margie. "And Gillam doesn't know."

"No, he's not old enough yet" said Myra, making Margie's gloat complete.

After another thoughtful pause, Margie said "So -- this means there are two other girlfriends you had, right, Mama?"

Ginny nodded, but Myra interrupted her "Three, Ginny."

"Three? You told me you only had three girlfriends besides Mama. Ms. Linehan, and then two more" accused Margie.

"I counted wrong" said Ginny, which brought confusion to David's face. "There were four before Mama."

"Do I know any of the others?" asked Margie.

"No" said Myra firmly. "One lives in Oregon, maybe; one lives in Denmark; and one lives here but you've not seen her."

David was registering the Denmark comment as well.

"Okay." Margie was ready to move on. "I get to order any dessert I want after dinner, right?"

"That's right" said Myra, but Ginny added "After you eat a real meal."

"Can I have lobster?" asked Margie.

Myra grinned at Ginny. "Your daughter" she murmured.

"Ours, completely ours" replied Ginny.

At the restaurant, while they were walking in Allie moved next to Myra and murmured "Do NOT let me wind up next to Pat."

Myra said "I know, all she ever brings up with you is the WNBA. Listen, you sit between me and Gillam, okay? Grab Gillam and plop him down next to you, say I asked you to monitor him if Pat asks. Carly will insist on being next to Gillam, so you'll have two people between you and whoever else."

Allie was still tense, but they were with the others and couldn't talk freely.

Margie was allowed to sit at the head of the table, with Ginny on one side and Myra on the other. David claimed the spot next to Ginny, and he pulled the chair out beside him for Patty, so Pat was stuck between Patty and Truitt. As Ginny and Myra looked over the menu with Margie, reassuring her she could order really truly anything, this was her special night, Allie leaned to Gillam and pointed on his menu. "They have steak here, too."

He looked at her, wide-eyed. "You think I could order that?"

"Yep." Allie leaned behind Gillam to whisper to Carly "Myra and Ginny are paying for everybody's dinner, so Carly, if you want steak, you can order it, too."

Carly and Gillam both gave Allie high-fives.

After the meal, and way too many rich desserts for Ginny's pleasure, Gillam got peeled away from Carly and the family went back home in one car. Everyone changed into more comfortable clothes and gathered at the dining table to play a new board game, Carcassone. The children were allowed to stay up until 11 p.m., and the last half hour they fought to stay awake, determined to milk every minute from their privilege. David went to bed at the same time as the children. Allie stayed another hour, talking with Myra and Ginny but never having a chance to be alone with Myra and tell her what Pat had said earlier.

When Myra and Ginny went to bed, just past midnight, as Ginny was washing her face she said "We can both sleep in tomorrow. Margie's going to be preoccupied with her computer all day, and Daddy will get up early and feed them, at any rate."

"Oh, lovely" said Myra. "Listen, did you meet Bonnie's new girlfriend?"

"Yeah. Her name is Slade."

Myra began giggling. "You're kidding me, right?"

"Nope, for real. She's read your book, and thinks it's quote awesome unquote. And Bonnie wanted to know the names and relationships of everybody in our entourage."

"Has she ever met your Dad before?"

"God, no. You're the only one I ever took home, angel."

"You know, Ginny, I never get tired of hearing how I'm special. Which reminds me -- you fucking well have to stop putting Dakin in her own category."

Ginny looked startled. "What do you mean?"

"You don't include her on your list of exes, she's in some exalted 'other' universe, it feel like. I mean, okay, I can't tell you how to feel about her, I know that's out of line. But it -- I want to be the only one in your life that's singular." Myra was a little ashamed of her insecurity.

Ginny smiled and put her arms around Myra. "I don't think that's what I'm doing when I forget to put her on the list, Myra. But I'll think about it. It's ironic that you're insecure over my list of four, you know?"

"I know" admitted Myra.

"You've done so much more than I have, with so many other women" continued Ginny.

"It doesn't feel that way inside me" said Myra. "It feels like my body came completely alive with you. And I've done everything with you that I ever wanted -- " Myra stopped, struck by an apparent thought.

Ginny waited, and when Myra didn't go on, she said "My? Is there something we haven't done that you're interested in?"

"It's -- crossed my mind. I've not done it with anyone, actually, so I don't know if I'll like it..." Myra's cheeks were turning pink.

"Please tell me it's not S/M" said Ginny, trying to not sound judgmental.

"No. It's -- Do you know what rimming is?"

Ginny's shoulders relaxed. "I think so."

Myra's face was very red now. "I'd love to see what it was like to kiss you -- there."

Ginny sat down on the bed and patted the mattress beside her. "You know what? Me, too."

"Really, Ginny?"

"You bring out the oral omnivore in me, Myra" said Ginny, pulling off her shirt.

Myra scooted over to lock the door, then hurried back to the bed.

March 2002

After the mail came one day, Ginny burst into Myra's study waving an envelope. "I just got a letter from Clarion Gallery in San Francisco. They want to do an exhibition of my work next June!" Ginny's eyes were blue asters.

Myra whooped. "Yessss! You go, girl! An out of town show!"

"And I don't even know the gallery owner. This is not a personal contact, networky thing, this is just because of my paintings."

"I'm not the least bit surprised, Ginny Bates. Shall we call now so you can say yes?"

"No, what I really should do is fly down there and meet with her in person, take a portfolio, that kind of thing. She suggested next Friday. Will you go with me?"

Myra's face dimmed a bit. "What about the kids?"

"They could stay the night with friends. I want to see San Fran with you, Myra."

Myra was silent.

Ginny said "Is it because Hannah is gone? I know it's still hard on Gillam."

"That's a lot of it. I mean, we can't do much sight-seeing in just a day, especially if a big chunk of it is devoted to your meeting, as it should be. But...I hate to sound like Shrub, but 9/11 has me rattled about leaving the kids. Gillam is especially shook, I don't want to leave him for more than a day."

"Gillam is 11, Myra."

"Eleven is tough."

"This matters to me."

"It matters to me, too, Gin, sheesh. But let's not conflate things. You need to arrange the gallery show, and that should happen on Friday. We're going to want to attend that show, yes? -- maybe the opening and the closing. So how about if I plan to go with you in June for the opening and we have the kids settled in someplace well-planned out by then? We could take a few days on our own. Then we could fly back, the entire family, for the closing."

"I hate it when you're sensible."

"I do too, Ginny. that's your job description. Now, here --" Myra reached into her pocket, pulled out her wallet and extracted the platinum card. "You call them back, find out the times, and book your flight for next week. I want you to get a first class seat -- don't argue, you'll be carrying your portfolio, you don't want it stuffed into the bins in coach."

"It won't be my big portfolio, Myra, not paintings and drawings, just a notebook of slides."

"Well, still, I want you well-rested. Book a great hotel near the gallery, eat fabulous things, and be the advance scout for our trip in a few months. And bring me back something San Franciscy."

Ginny took the card. "Can I get a massage?"

"No." They laughed.

Ginny flew into SFO on Thursday afternoon, checked in, and went to eat in Japantown. She gorged herself on the kind of sushi Myra could hardly even bear to look at on the plate. Then she went to the Wharf and sat far out on a pier, watching a nearby haul-out of seals on a boat dock. The look of their fur, both slicky wet and scruffy dry; the inky water chipped on top with light from boats and the moon; and the sense of motion -- she stored it all away in her memory, hoping she could use it later. If she could paint it so that she could smell this iodine and hear the buoy bells, she'd be satisfied.

When she got back to the hotel, she called home. Myra was helping Margie with some history homework about the Colonial period and could not talk long. Ginny went to bed by 10:00; her meeting was for 9:00 the next morning. But she could not sleep. Finally, at 11:00, she called Myra back.

"I can't turn off my brain. And every time a streetcar rumbles by, I wonder if it's an earthquake."

Myra asked, "What can I do?"

"Just talk to me."

"What about?"

"Anything at all. I want to hear your voice. Tell me about Margie's project."

Myra launched into a comparison of Jamestown with the Plymouth Company. Within five minutes she heard the change in Ginny's breathing that meant she was sleep.

"You there?" she said softly. No reply. She whispered, "I love you, Ginny Bates", and hung up the phone.

The next morning, Ginny woke up early. She dressed, checked out, and rolled her little bag along the sidewalk to a deli where she got honest-to-god matzah brei and blintzes. When she arrived at the gallery, Carol, the owner, had a plate of fresh bagels with schmear and lox sliced so thin you could have photographed through it. Ginny ate again.

Carol was a painter, too, and they clicked immediately. She exclaimed over every slide, and Ginny found she couldn't stop discussing technique. She was elated to hear Carol describe her work as having two periods so far, which she had labeled the Portrait Period and the Nature Period. It made Ginny feel Picassoesque. By the time they had settled all the arrangements, it was noon.

Ginny felt like skipping when she left the gallery. Her plane left at 4. If she missed lunch -- no problem -- she had time for one last errand, a surprise for Myra. She took a cab to 17th and Valencia.

There were several people shopping in Good Vibrations, looking for all the world like out-of-town tourists from Iowa. She was taken aback by this. One of the clerks, a chunky woman her age with platinum hair streaked by purple, came over to her right away. "Can I help you with something?"

Ginny turned away from the tourists, and pitched her voice low. "I need to look at your harnesses. Strap-ons, I mean."

The clerk stepped back and looked at Ginny's hips appraisingly. "What are you, about a 36?"

"No, no, it's not for me." Ginny put her hands protectively over her hips.

The clerk did not lower her voice a whit. "Now, honey -- nothing to be ashamed about here. If you can't admit what you really want here, well, then, what are you going to do?"

Ginny glanced around. Every single person in the store was now watching her.

Fuck this. Raising her voice to match the clerk's, she said "It's not for me, it's for my GIRLFRIEND. And after I find a harness to fit her, we're going to need a new double dildo because she actually broke the last one using it on me. And I'm going to want some spares in other styles as well."

The other clerk cracked up. Two men left the store.

After that, it was fun for a while. She found Probe in an economy size, bought a couple of thigh harnesses, a new thing called a duodo, a rainbow assortment of silicone -- "Is this little critter at the base what I think it's for? I mean, does that work?" -- and then, as she lay the credit card on the counter, she said "Now, I don't know much about butt plugs." The clerk, lifting up the edge of the card with one long fingernail that looked very un-vulva-friendly, was about to answer when her glance caught the name on the card. "Myra Josong?" Oh, god, another gushing fan.

Instead, she said "From Seattle? That's your girlfriend?" Ginny nodded. The clerk smiled slyly and said "I used to know her. Tell her Heron says....hi."

Ginny froze. Was there anyone on the West Coast Myra had not messed around with?

Heron walked over to a glass shelf twinkling with various mini-dildos. "This one is our most popular model, but, if you want my particular advice" -- here was a meaningful pause -- "I think she'd be happy with this little jewel right here."

"Fine" said Ginny. "Could you ring me up, please, I've got a plane to catch."

That night Myra and the kids were laughing so hard at dinner they did not hear the airport shuttle pull up out front. When the door swung open, they all looked around as Ginny strode in, dropped her suitcase, walked swiftly to stand between Margie and Gillam, and gave each of them a solid kiss on the cheek. Everyone was asking her about the gallery. But Ginny leveled her gaze at Myra and tossed a bulky bag toward her that landed in Myra's plate, splatting food everywhere.

"There, that's a present from Good Vibrations, where one of your exes was ever so helpful in telling me your anal preferences." Ginny pivoted away to their bedroom and slammed the door.

Gillam let out a shocked bark of a laugh, his face turning crimson. Margie began, "What on earth did she mean, anal--"

Myra stood and pointed a finger at Margie, shutting her up in mid word. As she lifted the bag from her plate and wiped tomato sauce from it, she said calmly "Finish your meal and clear up, please. I don't know when we'll be out." She then walked over to the bedroom, and when her gentle knock got no reply, she went on in and closed the door behind her.

On Sunday afternoon, Sima and Chris arrived with a paper bag full of different kinds of squash and beets. "We thought you might like to experiment with recipes with us" said Sima.

"Oh, goody" said Myra, emptying the bag on the counter. "Look, golden beets!"

"Let's roast those" said Chris, "They're so good by themselves."

"Maybe try grating some of these others, make fritters?" asked Myra.

"And soup" said Sima. "You have chicken stock?"

"I do. Plus a chicken I was going to broil tonight."

Ginny came in from her studio. "And some cabbage in the garden that needs to be eaten -- I could braise it the Allie method, with hoisin sauce" she offered.

"Where is Allie?" said Chris.

"Not sure at the moment, but she is coming over tonight" answered Myra. She pulled out the mandolin and a couple of bowls. When Gillam came downstairs a few minutes later, he was put to work scrubbing beets.

"Listen, thinking of roasted beets" said Sima. "I want us to write a haggadah for the seder this year. Compile all the parts we like best from other haggadahs, and maybe get our artists to illustrate it."

"FABulous idea" said Myra, "Count me in."

"Me, too" said Ginny.

They were discussing whether to have the meal in the middle or at the end of the seder when Allie arrived, a box from Macrina's in her hands.

Gillam's face lit up. "Whatja get?" he asked, crossing to hug her with pink wet hands.

"They'd just made chocolate chip cookies" she whispered to him. "Reach in my jacket pocket, there's one in a separate bag for you."

He disappeared around the corner for a minute, with a rustle of paper. Allie came on into the dining room. After she settled on a barstool, she and Ginny talked about Ginny's gallery opening.

"Why don't you have a show?" Chris asked Allie.

"I've thought about it. But the kind of work I like to do is mostly not for individual sale; I'm deliberately drawing for mass reproduction" said Allie.

"You could still have a show" said Ginny. "Let me ask around, see if we can get a gallery space for you."

Allie looked very pleased. "I'd like that" she said.

Margie finally appeared downstairs. "Finish that paper?" Myra asked her.

"Yeah, I just have to type it. Can I use your computer?"

"Mm-hm. But either before dinner or after, it's your turn to do the trash and recycling" said Myra.

Margie sighed and went to the recycling closet. Gillam, reminded, went to carry clean laundry upstairs. Allie got up to set the table. "What else did you do in Sin City while you were there?" she called over the breakfast bar to Ginny.

Margie stopped sorting, her back to them. Ginny glanced at her, then said "I did a little shopping."

"She went to Good Vibrations" said Myra. Ginny made a face at her.

Chris began giggling as she grated onions. Myra went on "You remember Heron, Allie?"

"Hoo boy, yeah. She was hard to forget" said Allie. Ginny was trying to get Myra's attention, but Myra was not looking her way.

"Did she and I ever date?" Myra asked.

Allie stopped folding napkins and looked at Myra. "You would be the one to know that, Myra. Have you come down with amnesia?"

"I remember, but I'm asking you for your version" said Myra, a challenging note now in her voice.

Allie looked uncomfortable. Still, she answered "No, you never dated. She chased you like you was a rabbit at a dogtrack, and you avoided her like she was just that. It was kind of a joke in the community."

Myra finally faced Ginny. "You see? If my word isn't good enough, then will you fucking believe Allie?"

Ginny was pissed, more about the audience than being wrong. She decided not to answer.

Myra said to Allie, "Heron's working at Good Vibrations now -- "

"Talk about finding her niche" remarked Allie.

"-- And she decided to tell Ginny some horseshit about me and her back way when. And Ginny decided to believe her without even asking me first."

Chris couldn't seem to stop giggling. From where she was kneeling, Margie could see the edge of Gillam's foot on the stair landing, where he'd paused to listen.

Ginny flared "Well, it's not as if you don't have a string of women from here to San Diego!"

"It didn't used to bother you" retorted Myra. "What bug crawled up your ass now?" Then she added "So to speak. And that's another thing, even if you chose to believe any woman at all was fair game for me, you damned well know that the specific claim she made about me is not one of my preferred activities -- she suckered you into a sale, is what happened."

"What activit -- " began Chris, but Myra shot her a glance and she stopped.

"Can we talk about this later?" said Ginny through tight lips.

"Well, I tried last night and you shut me down" said Myra. "I think the least you can do is apologize for throwing that butt plug at me."

This time, it was Allie who let out a whoop of laughter. Ginny gave Myra a scandalized look, then, in spite of herself, she began giggling too. A few moments later, Myra put down her mixing bowl and crossed to Ginny, wrapping her arms around her and giving herself up to laughter. Ginny said "I do apologize. She was a nasty girl, and I shouldn't have listened to her."

Sima nudged Margie with her toe and said "You done with that yet?" Margie went into frenzied sorting. Conversation returned to planning the seder.

8 June 2002

The turnout at Ginny's gallery opening in San Francisco on Friday night was more than either of them had expected. They got separated rather quickly, Ginny swept off in a cluster with Allie on the edge, and Myra feeling honor-bound to hang with Ginny's parents -- she was still shocked that Helen had come with David. Apparently San Francisco was worth a trip West. Helen had a big glass of champagne and seemed just as pleased as David with the accolades coming Ginny's way, for which Myra was trying not to be ridiculously grateful. Margie was already bored and kept casting glances toward the front door, which made Myra nervous. Gillam was eating more than his share of the hors d'oevres.

As Ginny was introduced to yet another clot of people by the gallery owner, Myra saw Ginny react with extreme amazement to a sleek-haired dyke in black leather pants and the kind of blazer Myra associated with valet parking attendants. Ginny threw her arms around this woman and kept her hands on her shoulders as they began talking animatedly. Helen was looking that direction also, and after a minute she said to David "I think we know that girl with Ginny. Isn't that Robin Hansen, from Denver?"

David peered at her and then said "Yes, I believe it is." Myra was trying desperately to place the name. David leaned over to her and said, in a barely audible voice, "The gas main incident."

Oho! The girl Ginny had been crushed out on in high school. Well, Robin had grown up well, from the looks of it. Myra wondered if Ginny was going to remember her and want to introduce her to Robin. After waiting several minutes, she gave up -- Ginny was just too excited -- and looked again to make sure Margie was still in the gallery.

It took an unsettled search to find Margie sprawled on a chair in the little sitting area at the rear. Myra walked back to her and sat down on the loveseat adjacent, saying "Edward Gorey had one of the Gashlycrumb Tinies actually die of ennui."

This brought a small smile to Margie's face. Myra continued "We'll make up for it tomorrow, I promise."

"Please, no stupid tourist stuff" begged Margie. "Like, no cable cars, for pitysakes."

"Well, Sunday we've chartered that boat out to the Farallones where, if god is good, we'll get to see a blue whale. How about tomorrow we tour the Ghiradelli chocolate factory? And visit the Musee Mecanique?"

As Margie was about to ask what that last place was, a woman in a wheelchair rolled into the field of view between her and Myra. The woman stopped herself abruptly, grinning at Myra, and said "Look what the fog dragged in!"

Myra felt her heart begin thudding. "Mimosa!" She leaped to her feet and draped herself over the woman, hugging her fiercely. Mimosa was short and slight, with a heart-shaped face and long brown hair already going silver. When Myra sat back down, Mimosa maneuvered her chair beside the loveseat, put on the brakes and transferred herself to the loveseat beside Myra.

Myra gestured to Margie and said "Mimosa, this is my daughter Margie. Honey, this is -- is it all right to refer to you as one of the best summers of my life?"

Mimosa laughed and said "You know how much we gimps love being reduced to symbols." She reached forward and shook Margie's hand. "Daughter, eh? Good for you."

"I have a boy here somewhere, too" said Myra, not looking anywhere but at Mimosa's face.

"And a wife, I presume?" asked Mimosa.

"We don't use that term, but yeah -- she's the artist of the night" said Myra.

"Wow, no shit? She's really something" admired Mimosa. "So that's how come you're in the City?"

"Down for the weekend" said Myra. "You still on Broderick Street?"

"No, gentrification drove me out of the Haight. I'm near South Van Ness now" said Mimosa. She had lifted something from the side of her chair and held it up for a moment, looking where to place it on the small loveseat.

"Here, put Cathie down between us" said Myra, reaching for Mimosa's catheter bag which was attached to a cord running up her jeans. Mimosa laughed merrily, saying "You remembered her name!"

"How could I forget?" said Myra. "Remember how you used to make up those dialogues between her and my inhaler, whom you called Heathcliff?"

As they went off into gales of laughter and reminiscence, Margie leaned forward to listen, definitely no longer bored. Myra forgot Margie was there, and some of the anecdotes she and Mimosa shared were scandalous for Margie to hear.

After a few minutes, Allie spied them across the room and said out loud "Mimosa!" She began to weave their way. Ginny, still glued to Robin, stopped in mid sentence: That name rang a bell. She looked where Allie was aiming for and, leaning to one side, spotted Myra curled up on a loveseat with a woman in easy intimacy. Myra had noticed Allie heading her way, and now she saw Ginny locate her as well. She said to Mimosa "My darling Ginny has been glommed onto a woman who was her high school heartthrob, but she just got wind of you and is going to make an appearance. I'm not going to watch, you tell me if she's headed our way."

"The one in Adriatic blue velvet?" asked Mimosa.


"She's bearing down like a heat-seeking missile" said Mimosa. "Do you want to disavow all knowledge of me or would you rather use me to make her jealous?"

Myra giggled. "Neither, I want her to like you" she said just as Allie got there and plopped herself down in Mimosa's empty chair, reaching over to give Mimosa a hearty hug.

Margie wasn't sure where to look, at Ginny's face, Myra's apparent ex or Ginny's high school girlfriend. Things were hopping. But suddenly Ginny claimed everybody's attention, standing over Myra and saying "Where's Gillam?"

"And nice to see you too, Ginny" said Myra mildly. "I don't know, he was closer to you than to me last time I looked."

Ginny had spotted the catheter bag, nestled between Myra and Mimosa, and then seemed to register the fact of the wheelchair. Myra let her hang for a couple of seconds, then said "Ginny, this is Mimosa, the best ex you could hope for. Mimosa, this is Ginny Bates."

Ginny shook Mimosa's hand, taking in her merry green eyes and bright face.

Myra continued "Your mom and dad identified Robin for me. I hope I get to meet her at some point."

Ginny was now completely thrown. "Oh god, I'm sorry, Myra, there's just so much going on -- do you live here in San Francisco, Mimosa, or are you visiting from Seattle, too?"

"I'm stuck like glue to San Fran" said Mimosa, a hint of reassurance in her voice. "But I heard your paintings were not to be missed, and my source was right. Finding Myra here was just icing on the cake."

Ginny looked around for a chair to sit down in, but Myra nudged her with her foot and said "You can't leave the adoring throngs. Go, mingle. After this is over, we'll all go out for a cuppa and you can get to know Mimosa then." She looked at Mimosa, who nodded. "And, you know, Ginny, you can ask Robin to join us."

Ginny finally blushed, and looked behind her. She realized she had walked away from Robin without a word of explanation. "All right. Nice to meet you, look forward to talking with you more" she said very politely to Mimosa. Margie seemed a little disappointed. Ginny tore herself away and Myra relaxed back into the cushions again, talking with Mimosa and Allie about the summer of 1979.

After the gallery closed, they all went back to the hotel restaurant for a light meal and celebration. Myra introduced Mimosa to Helen and David as one of her ex-lovers, which startled Helen and Ginny simultaneously and gave Margie a grin. Margie made sure she sat next to Mimosa. When Mimosa began transferring from her wheelchair to the restaurant chair, Gillam stepped forward as if to assist. But Myra said to him, kindly, "She'll ask if she needs help."

Once they had ordered, Mimosa asked Allie "Are you planning to see Donnie?"

"I'd like to, but I don't have a current address for her, and she's not in the book" said Allie.

"I saw her at a march last year. Try calling Lagarto, they're still in touch" said Mimosa. "Here, I do have Lagarto's number somewhere" she said, rummaging in her pack.

Myra turned to David and Helen and explained, "Allie and I spent a summer here together years ago, which is when I was with Mimosa and Allie dated Donnie." Now Gillam was staring at Mimosa as well.

Myra shifted attention. "So, Ginny -- what's the best thing you heard from somebody all night?"

Ginny smiled at her and began talking. Myra kept bringing the focus back to Ginny until their food arrived. Then Mimosa said, digging into her omelet, "That one self-portrait, with the madrone tree? Guess what that reminded me of, Myra?"

(Pacific Madrone, Arbutus menziesii)

Myra's cheeks flushed slightly. "That time we went to Sunol, and you insisted on climbing the biggest hill in the park."

"It got really steep" Mimosa said to Margie, who was leaned into her, "and I began having to go backwards just to get up the trail, even in my hiking chair. And then the trail petered out completely."

"We were about 30 feet from the top" said Myra, "So I got Mimosa on my back and we scrambled that last bit as one unit."

"You were wheezing by the time we reached the summit" said Mimosa. "There was this massive old queen madrone at the peak, and the ground underneath was littered with red curls of bark, like the shaving of a giant crayon."

"Beautiful to see, but not so much fun to lie down on" said Myra, grinning at Mimosa.

Ginny said, in an emotionless tone, "So is that why the madrone is your favorite tree, then?"

Myra faced her, still grinning, and said "Not the main reason, no, but it's in there."

Allie suddenly needed to cough into her napkin.

Myra said to the table "Mimosa is a big muckety-muck in disabled rights, helped get the ADA passed." She said to Mimosa "I have a photo of you from some newspaper crawling up the steps of the Capitol in D.C."

"Yeah, that was quite a moment" said Mimosa. "But now, tell me the story of you and Ginny, I want to know how you got so happy."

Myra jumped in, and within a few minutes Ginny had joined her. Every time Margie and Gillam heard this story, there were new items to interest them, and Mimosa kept asking charming questions. Ginny really enjoyed going through the details in front of her mother, Myra could tell. At the end of the evening, Myra offered to give Mimosa a ride home, but she said she had a van with a lift somewhere down the block. Myra walked her outside to say goodbye. When she get back to the lobby, Ginny was waiting on her -- everyone else had gone up.

"How come Robin didn't join us tonight?" asked Myra, before Ginny could say anything.

"I didn't ask her" replied Ginny, linking her arm through Myra's as they went to the elevator.

"Why not? Some reason you don't want to share her with me?" asked Myra.

"We had enough going on" said Ginny. "If you're really interested, I have her number, I could get her to join up with us tomorrow."

Myra waited until the elevator door closed before she answered "I'm not interested unless you are."

Ginny squeezed her arm. "My plate is pretty full. But I'm glad to meet Mimosa, I really am."

"Yeah, she was always just plain good for me. If we'd lived in the same city, mighta worked out with her. You know how much you like my kissing? She gets credit for that instruction" said Myra.

Ginny reached over and pulled the emergency stop button, bringing the elevator to a sudden halt. A distant alarm began sounding. "You have one minute to show me the best of her teaching" said Ginny.

April 2008 -- Margie is at college, Gillam is 17

Myra got a call at noon from Gillam. She could hear the clamor of his school cafeteria in the background.

"Hey, Mom -- I have a big report I'm working on with a classmate, about the history of slavery in the South, and you've got that whole shelf of books on it. Could I bring him home tonight so we can dig through your library?"

"Sure. Lots of those books aren't available other places any more, and the internet hasn't caught up with library de-funding. Is he going to eat dinner with us?"

"If that's okay with you. He's not vegetarian." Myra thought Gillam was maybe hinting.

"I could do hot pastrami and a potato kugel -- David asked for it sometime."

"Awesome, Mom. And, listen, could we use your study, like, even your computer? It's so fast."

"Like, yeah" she laughed. "Your mom and I are, god help us, going through our closets and the storeroom after dinner. Time to donate to a garage sale."

"Oh, I got stuff, too. Okay, see you after school."

Gillam's friend was a thin sandy-haired boy named Isaac, with big lips and intelligent grey eyes. Myra gave them a snack and had an extra chair set up at her desk for them. David was painting, and Ginny was transplanting seedlings from the mini-greenhouse on the upstairs deck into a raised bed she could cover in case of a late freeze. After dinner was under way, Myra made a pan of peanut butter brownies and frosted them with chocolate: In her experience, thin teenage boys ate the most.

Allie and Edwina dropped in for dinner, bringing a platter of fried catfish. Myra made a last-minute tartar sauce and, after they all sat down and began eating, Gillam started talking to Allie and Edwina about his paper. At first, Myra noticed, his friend Isaac was nervous about discussing slavery with two black women, but when Gillam grabbed a notepad from the breakfast bar to write down some of their suggested resources, Isaac joined the conversation enthusiastically.

"Isaac makes higher grades in history than I ever have" Gillam said at one point. "Which is pretty funny when you consider that his brother, also in our grade, just sucks at it."

"But Jonah is way good at physics, and I can't retain those equations wortha a f--flip" Isaac said.

Gillam, shoveling noodles into his mouth, said "Have you guys ever like swapped places for a test, you know, have him take your physics exam for you?"

"Nah, we wear our hair too differently" said Isaac. He said to the rest of the table "We're twins, and identical, but we don't dress the same."

Something tickled Myra's mind, and she tried to track it down -- a memory, maybe? Deja vu?

Allie looked hard at Isaac for a minute, then said "I hope you won't think this is rude, but do you have lesbian mothers, too, Isaac?"

"Yeah" said Isaac.

That's when the torrent broke through the floodgates inside Myra. "Your mother -- is one of your mothers Karin Barbaras?"

Ginny froze. Isaac and Gillam both reacted to the sudden tension. Myra forced herself to smile as Isaac said "Yeah. My other mom is Claudia Koch."

Myra said, in a surprisingly normal tone of voice, "I used to know Karin. Tell her hi from me. You and Gillam once met each other at a Dyke March when you were babies."

Gillam punched Isaac on the shoulder, and Isaac laughed.

"Tell her hi from me, too" said Allie. "How she doing?"

Isaac's grin dimmed. Faltering a little, he said "She -- d'you know, she has cancer?"

Myra was now barely treading water. "Oh my god, no. I hadn't heard. What kind?"

"Breast. Two years now." Isaac wasn't eating any more.

Myra could tell that Ginny's gaze was fixed on her, but she couldn't look anywhere except at Isaac's bruised expression. "And -- how's it going, honey?"

Isaac didn't register surprise at the endearment, although Gillam did. "She's on salvage. It's -- spread to her hip."

Bone cancer, then. "The pain must be godawful." Myra didn't realize she'd said it out loud until Gillam turned a shocked face her way. "I'm sorry, Isaac, I don't mean to put you through this over dinner. Let us know if we can help in any way. I'm serious."

"Thanks" he said in a muffled tone.

The silence was appalling, but Myra didn't notice. She didn't notice anything or anyone at the table now. She ate mechanically. Edwina jumped in with a subject change, and both Allie and Ginny tried to re-engage Myra, but she really didn't hear them. The other adults covered well enough that Isaac returned to his previous chatter. As soon as the main meal was done, Myra excused herself and said she had to go make a phone call. She went into her and Ginny's bedroom and closed the door with a comforting click. She lay face down on the bed, in the dark, and let herself remember Karin's breasts.

After a few minutes, the door opened and closed again. She could tell from the tread across the pine flooring that it was Allie. Allie lay down beside her wordlessly and pulled Myra's head onto her shoulder. Myra let herself cry, then. At one point she said "He could be our son, you know."

"Well, no" said Allie. "You got a son who wouldn't be here if it wasn't for you choosing Ginny. And Isaac's here because Karin loved Claudia. We make our choices, right or wrong, and everything speeds away from us that's not on the one little path we walk."

"Thank god I have Gillam" cried Myra. "And Ginny, I wouldn't have it any other way. Except..."

"I know. I get it" said Allie.

After Myra felt better enough to sit up and blow her nose, she said "You smell like peanut butter."

"There won't be any of those brownies left by the time you go back out there" laughed Allie. "Edwina's in your study with the boys, talking to 'em about the Sea Island culture, and they're typing one-handed so they can pinch off chunks of brownie with the other hand."

"That means my keyboard is going to be covered in crumbs and frosting" said Myra. "Won't be the first time."

"Remember when Margie melted her box of crayons in the toaster?" said Allie.

"Yeah. When I got the screws off the bottom and looked in at those coils, it was actually beautiful, a rainbow metal kind of sculpture" said Myra. "And then there's time she put her waffle in the VCR, and that horrifying moment I caught her coaxing Juju into the dryer." After a long pause, Myra said "The worst part is imagining what Karin is feeling, having to leave her children behind. Worse than dying."

"Yeah" said Allie softly.

"I hate to ask this of you, Al, but she won't talk with me -- will you call her, or Claudia, and find out if they need anything? Especially -- things that money can provide. If you think they won't take it from me, maybe you could say it's from you, as a board member or something -- "

"I won't lie to her, but yes, I'll call her" said Allie. "Now we should get back out there, Ginny holding down the fort."

They got up and Allie went into the kitchen where David was doing dishes, while Myra paused to wash her face. Ginny was just finishing making Gillam's lunch. She came over and gave Myra a long hug. "You okay?" she whispered.

"Yes, and no" said Myra. "Is Isaac all right, did I freak him out?"

"He's forgotten about you, I'm sure" said Ginny.

"Well, let's grab boxes and clean out closets" said Myra. "Just the therapy I need for tonight."

At the end of the evening, Allie and Edwina offered to drop Isaac home. After they were gone, Myra said "You get a good running start on your report?"

"I think we have a complete outline and biblio" said Gillam. "And it won't be anything anyone else has." He hesitated, then said "What happened to you?"

Myra stepped out from the store room and sat down in the big chair in the living room. He plopped down on the couch. David joined them, curious.

"Karin Barbaras was once the great love of my life. Next to your mom, of course, and the gap between the two is exponential. But I've never stopped loving her."

Gillam's eyes scooted toward Ginny, startled. She came to sit on the arm of Myra's chair and smiled at him reassuringly.

"I never heard you even mention her before" said Gillam.

"It was a painful breakup. Needlessly painful. I did things I'm deeply ashamed of, and she's never forgiven me" said Myra softly. Gillam was now thoroughly shocked.

"So, Gillam...Isaac's mom is probably dying. I doubt she has another six months, unless a miracle occurs. I don't know if he's aware of it or not, at least consciously. I want you to extend him every kindness and help. Go above and beyond. And we will do the same."

At the look on his face, Ginny got up and went to sit next to Gillam, taking his hand in hers. He was taller than her, now; she couldn't put his arm around his shoulders any more when they were sitting. He completely surprised Myra by asking "Does he look like her?"

She laughed and said "Claudia was the birth mom. But, funnily enough, he did remind me of her. The gentleness in his face was very like her."

"Could I bring them both home for dinner sometimes, him and Jonah? I really like them, and it's a kind of replacement for Carly, them having moms like ours."

"I would adore feeding them" said Myra.

Ginny said "I hid one brownie for you, by the way, Myra."

Myra blew her a kiss and said "Stick it in Gillam's lunch for tomorrow. That's a recipe I'll have to repeat soon."

"It is so freaky, trying to imagine you being lovers with anybody except Mom" said Gillam. "How could it be you if you weren't in love with Mom?"

David spoke up. "I know what you mean, Gillam. I think of Myra before Ginny as someone waiting to meet her, marching steadily in her direction to make my girl's world complete."

Ginny's face melted. Myra said "Well, that's really the truth of the matter." Ginny blew her another kiss, and Myra stood up, saying "One last set of shelves to go. Gillam, you need to hit the sack."

He kissed her on the cheek and galloped upstairs.

Copyright 2007 Maggie Jochild.


kat said...

oh, the exes.....
I really relate to Ginny on this matter. I'm so awkward and uncomfortable even thinking about exes. It's kind of ridiculous, but I really don't know how to get over it. Maybe Ginny and I can start a club "how to fret over past lovers" or something....

Maggie Jochild said...

She'd go for it, Kat, as long as there was an agenda of keeping them at arm's length (especially from Myra!)

kat said...

but of course......a very, very, very long giant's arm length!

Jesse Wendel said...

"Remember when Margie melted her box of crayons in the toaster?" said Allie.

"Yeah. When I got the screws off the bottom and looked in at those coils, it was actually beautiful, a rainbow metal kind of sculpture" said Myra. "And then there's time she put her waffle in the VCR, and that horrifying moment I caught her coaxing Juju into the dryer."

Yes, precisely.

When we lived in the East Bay area, Avian at about three, put a PBJ cracker into the 5 & 1/4 inch floppy drive on my computer. I had to go buy a new one. Over $100 in 1989-1990 dollars. Ouch.

Also, in 1990, Avian at four with Chelsea at two helping her, put a cat into the dryer AND TURNED IT ON. (There are conflicting reports on if this was an accident. Avian loves her kitties, so we think the cat, more or less just out of being a kitten then, simply was in the laundry basket which had been sitting by the dryer for a while, and the girls were helping Mommy put into the dryer. Oops.)

Mom had the dryer off about 15-20 seconds later, as the cat's screams made clear something was very wrong. Also, all those clothes needed to be washed again as everything in the kitties' bowels, exited.

The cat lived a long life, but was never the same. It stayed clear of small spaces, and kept having near misses. Of all our animals, ever, that cat had the roughest time of any of them. But it probably lived 15 years and was beloved by the children.