Thursday, February 21, 2008


Another excerpt from my novel-in-progress, Ginny Bates. If you are already a familiar reader, begin below. The action in the story resumes immediately after my post yesterday. If you need background, check the links in the sidebar on the right, fifth item down, to get caught up.

Early October 2004

The following Monday, Myra was deep into writing when the kids got home after school. First to arrive was Margie, and Myra was vaguely aware that Margie came into the kitchen but couldn't stop writing long enough to turn around and say Hi. She heard footsteps go upstairs. A while later, Gillam got home, yelling out "Hey, Mom" from the hall. She did turn around then and wave distractedly; he too went upstairs to his room. This was Ginny's night to go to Al-Anon, she wouldn't be home until 5:30.

A little after 5:00, Myra hit a stopping point. She saved her day's work to her hard drive and her online briefcase, printed out the pages she'd just added, and leaned back with a pencil to read it over. She suddenly remembered she was supposed to ask Margie about the upcoming PTSA event. She set down her pages and went upstairs.

She had just come back downstairs a while later and was standing at the breakfast bar when Ginny came in the front door. Myra walked toward Ginny and motioned her into their bedroom. "I need to tell you something" she said.

She sat down on the bed and Ginny joined her.

"I just went upstairs and found Margie in her room kissing with Jaime." Jaime was a boy Margie had been talking a lot about; they had met him once at a school event.

Ginny immediately stood up and strode toward the bedroom door. With a speed Myra didn't know she still possessed, she managed to outrun Ginny and block the door.

"For shit's sake, Myra, get out of my way!" yelled Ginny.

"Can't we please just talk first?" said Myra. "Don't you even want to hear the whole story?"

Ginny glared at her, then stalked back to the bed and sat down. Myra thought her thigh muscles looked tensed for leaping up again. Myra sat down facing her.

"I went up to ask her something and I did that thing where you knock but don't really pause, just turn the knob and go on in? So as I swung the door open, they jerked apart. I was flustered, and I actually said 'Excuse me' and backed out, shutting the door again. Then I realized what I was doing, and I knocked on the door again, waiting this time. Margie said to come in, and when I opened the door, she was standing in the middle of the room, freaked. Jaime couldn't look at me. I asked Margie to come out into the hall, I needed to speak with her a minute. I took her well away from the door and I said 'I am truly sorry I didn't wait after knocking. I apologize. However, if you bring a boy home and want to take him up to your room, you need to tell me or Ginny about it."

"Damn right" said Ginny.

"She said I was too busy writing to notice her, and the fact is, she's right. I mean, I heard her come in but I didn't even register there were two sets of feet. She said when I didn't talk to her, she left us a note on the breakfast bar that Jaime was here."

"Did she?" demanded Ginny.

"Yeah, I was just reading it when you came in. So then I said I wasn't going to tell her she couldn't kiss someone in her room, but I needed us to agree on limits. I asked her if she could promise me that kissing is all they would do, absolutely all, even if things got -- charged -- or if the other person was trying to talk her into it. I said if she couldn't promise that, we'd have to come up with something else, but if she could promise me that, I'd be okay with it."

"You did what?!!" yelled Ginny. "You can't make that agreement without me!"

"I made it clear it was just what was okay with me, that she would have to make her own terms with you. She did promise me, Ginny. And I believe her."

"Well, you're an idiot, then" said Ginny.

Myra sighed. "Can I at least tell you why I believe her?"

"Because you were sexually active at her age and you think it's all wonderful" snapped Ginny.

"I was sexually active at her age, you're right, with someone who was exploiting me. I had no sense of my own worth or boundaries, and you know damned well I'm aware of that." Myra paused, trying to not go into a victim stance. "I would never use my own experience as a model for Margie."

She paused again. Her chest was hurting.

"Okay, Myra." Ginny's voice had ratcheted out the harshness. "I'm sorry."

"At some point, Ginny Bates, we need to have a serious discussion about that it's going to take for you to take my recovery at face value. I'm really ready to not hear your negative assumptions about me with regard to sex and intimacy. You need to let it go."

"Just like you've let go of being jealous of Jules Lefkowitz?" said Ginny, a mean tone returning to her voice.

"I don't bring her up two or three times a week. Anyhow, we'll have that discussion later. Back to Margie -- I don't think she's going to do what I did. I am incredibly grateful she still wants to try dating and kissing, this soon after the rape, and not in a compulsive way. Here's what I registered about what they were doing: They weren't on Margie's bed, they were on her loveseat, facing each other, holding hands sweetly. I think it's quite possible that she initiated the kiss. And it was just a lip on lip kiss, not frenching."

"Maybe you just interrupted them too soon" said Ginny.

"Maybe" agreed Maggie. "But Gillam says this boy is really nice to the kids Gillam's age, doesn't ever put them down -- Gillam said he was 'cool'. I know Jaime's the only child of a single mother, who works hard to support them, and he's a top student. He's not a total geek, but he's not part of the upper social set, either. I think he's likely amazed that a girl like Margie is paying attention to him, and from what I can tell, from what she's saying about him, he knows he's lucky. And -- when I was bringing a girl home, which looked completely innocent back then because what could two girls do -- we didn't ever have sex in my room. She was too canny for that. We'd go out for a drive and park somewhere on a back road. That's what rural kids do, I don't know what city kids do. But Margie didn't have her door locked, I doubt he's even capable of making a move on her, and it occurred to me that maybe she chose the spot because it was safe -- nothing beyond kissing was going to happen, and she counted on that. I'd like to support that choice. If she's able to think about taking a step with safeguards in place, then I'm thrilled."

"You're making a lot of assumptions" said Ginny. "You don't know what he's capable of."

"You're right, I don't. But after what Margie's been through, and the counseling and help she's gotten, I think maybe she can tell. And she wouldn't kiss anybody she didn't really trust. I don't think she's going to get burned again. Girls who get raped and don't get help with the healing, yes, they act out their damage over and over again. But honestly, Ginny, do you really think that describes Margie?"

Ginny thought for a minute. She blew out a breath and said "Okay, no, I don't. I do trust her. I just don't trust the boys."

"Well, at some point, we're going to have to. "

"I really don't like the idea of them being over our heads right now, kissing."

"I doubt he'll ever kiss her again. He's fucking terrified of us, Gin -- any boy in their right mind would be. But yeah, the idea of our children having a sex life in this house is creepy. What a hypocrite I am to even say that, but I am the mommy. I wish at least once every day that we could just skip their adolescence and fast-forward into, oh, around 26 or 28." Ginny laughed with her.

"Speaking of which..." Myra gave another big sigh. "When I told you that the sex talk with Gillam was your responsibility -- I wasn't kidding. I really don't think I can do it. If you can't or don't want to, then I guess we need to find somebody else -- maybe David."

"Why can't you talk with him, when you do so well with Margie?" Myra was gratified to hear that "so well".

"I'm not sure. I mean, he has a real penis, not a rubber one, and I am worried about making him feel bad for that. Because, deep down, I don't think a penis is anywhere near as good as our equipment. And also, he and I have been so close since he was born, physically close -- I don't want to lose our connection by bringing up sex. I'm sure this is all pathological and incest crap, I'm not defending it. I just don't think I can do it."

"It's nice to hear you have a limit" said Ginny.

"I'm not sure what that's supposed to mean" said Myra a little testily.

"It's not a put-down -- it's not meant to be." Ginny took Myra's hand. "You know what? I can do it. I'll use the oversized dildo like you did -- "

"Well, for god's sake, please impress upon him that penises are not meant to be that big" urged Myra.

"-- And I will tell him if he needs condoms and can't get them, we'll help. In fact, I'm going to go up now and get it over with. It's going to be a wretched evening here, anyhow, might as well have both of them embarrassed beyond endurance at the same time."

Myra chuckled. "When I was leaving the hall after talking to Margie, I noticed his bedroom room was a little bit ajar."

"He's quite the eavesdropper."

"One way of coping with a houseful of extremely powerful women. Anyhow, as I walked by I grabbed the knob and jerked it shut. I heard a muffled thud right on the other side of the door."

Ginny had reached under the bed, pulled out their duffel, got out the dildo and a handful of condoms, and now stood up, chuckling with Myra.

"Uh...Ginny? If you walk up the stairs with that and run into Margie and Jaime --"

They both burst out laughing. Ginny went into the bathroom, got a handtowel and wrapped her portable sex kit in it. Myra met her at the door and put her arms around Ginny's neck. "Thank god you are my partner" she said. Kissing Ginny's cheek, she added "You are the most amazing mother I've ever known."

Ginny's eyes filled. "You mean that? Even better than yours?"

"Hell, yeah. If I'd had you as a mother -- well, I wouldn't have wasted 30 years of my life." Myra looked a little sad. Ginny kissed her solidly and said "They weren't wasted years because they got you where you wanted to be. And thank god I'm not your mother, is all I can say."

"I get your drift. Listen, I'm going to start dinner. Shall we ask Jaime to join us? Set a precedent for hanging out here with us?"

"Yes. What are you making?"

"Something simple and wholesome. Veggie soup? And maybe grilled cheese sandwiches?"

"Mmm. There's some fresh collards in the crisper, will you put that in the soup at the end? And a bit of miso?"

"Yum." They kissed again and left the room.

The soup was simmering when Ginny came back down, holding the handtowel. She opened it and pulled out the dildo, saying "I believe we are officially done with this. Shall we put it in the garage sale box?"

Maggie laughed, opened up the trash can, and threw the dildo into it. She piled plastic wrappings from the cheese on top and closed the can. She began cutting thick slices of pumpernickel bread for the sandwiches. "How is he?" she asked Ginny.

"Shall I grate cheese?" said Ginny. She pulled out tillamook and the grater. "Well, it actually went okay at first. You know what a good listener he is, even in emotional situations, and he kept his eyes from meeting mine but he nodded at the right times. I demonstrated l'applicatione of l'condome, as they say, but I didn't make him take the instructional aid because, the fact is, he's got a better model. But when I gave him the extra condoms and told him I expected him to practice with them all the next time he got an erection, well -- he got a hard-on. Right on the spot."

Myra stopped slicing. "Oh, no -- god love him."

"I pretended not to notice. I wasn't sure what to do. I wanted to just kiss his sweet forehead and say 'It's all going to be okay' but I was afraid that would make things worse. So I made my escape after that. He's dealing with it, I suppose. And the only thing worse than having to cope with your children having sex lives is probably them knowing you know exactly what they are doing."

"Okay, stop, I don't want any visuals in my head."

"Myra, what is that other smell in here?"

"I put some of those Boque pears in to bake, with butter and cinnamon. No brown sugar on yours."

They heard steps on the stairs. Margie and Jaime arrived, with agonies of indecisive body language.

"Hey, Jaime" said Myra. "Would you like to eat dinner with us?"

He was momentarily struck dumb, then cleared his throat and said "Sure."

"Margie -- " began Ginny. Margie froze. "I had to go to Nordy's today, to return that ghastly birthday present your Bubbe sent me, and on the way out I saw the most beautiful sweater in the world. I bought it, but once I got in the car, I realized it's really much more you than it is me. Go look at it -- the bag is on the couch -- and if you want it, I can just barely stand to give it up."

Margie got the bag and pulled out the sweater, a silvery-blue pullover. She held it her face and said "Mom, it's cashmere!" She glanced at the price tag and looked at Ginny in disbelief. "This is how much it cost?"

Ginny was helping Myra melt sandwiches on the griddle. "Yup. Can you believe that piece of crap Helen sent to hang on the wall, with its malapportioned geese -- "

" -- And those dragonflies --" remembered Myra.

" -- That thing cost as much as this sweater? No wonder real artists aren't appreciated."

Margie threw her arms around Ginny. "It's gorgeous. Thank you so much, Mom." Ginny lingered in the hug. "I'm really proud of you, Margie" she whispered.

"Jaime" said Myra, startling him from his stare. "I got a question I'd like to run by you." He was stiff with apprehension. "Gillam tells me you're really into science. I don't know if you know this, but I write science fiction, among other things." She paused to turn over sandwiches.

Jaime blurted out "I've read your books."

Myra looked around at him. "Have you, now?"

"They're awesome" he said shyly.

Myra grinned. "Well, that is damned nice of you to say." He smiled, then, and it transformed his face. Myra realized in that instant how beautiful this boy was.

Ginny sent Margie to set the table as Myra continued with Jaime. "Have you ever read anything by C.J. Cherryh?"

"A couple of books" he said.

"Well, she sometimes writes about a part of space where there are planets of methane-breathing species, and I can't quite wrap my mind around that. So the question is: What do you think the chief physiological differences would have to exist in a body that was adapted to breathing methane instead of oxygen? You can just make guesses, it's all guesswork anyhow."

Jaime settled down happily onto a stool at the breakfast bar and launched into conversation. As he was walking, he pulled out a cellphone and punched in a text message. He said, as an aside, "I just wrote my mom saying where I was." Good boy thought Myra.

Myra was cutting the sandwiches into Mary Poppins halves and Ginny was pouring the soup into a tureen -- company for dinner -- when Gillam came slowly down the stairs. As he ventured in the kitchen, focusing on the floor, Myra said "Have you washed your hands yet?" The minute it was out of her mouth, she regretted the implications. He said dully "Yes."

"Jaime is eating with us, so will you get five glasses of water on the table?"

Gillam looked up in tremendous relief at the news that another teenaged boy would be at the table. Deliverance. He walked over and punched Jaime affectionately on the shoulder. "Hey, dude" he said.


When they sat down to eat, everybody looked relatively normal again. After holding hands and observing a minute of silence, they watched as the teenagers took enormous helpings and chatted cheerfully. Ginny kept winking at Myra, who found herself blushing.

When Margie and Gillam got up to clear, Myra said "How's the homework situation with everybody?"

"Done" -- "Done" -- "Don't have any tonight" came the replies.

"Great. I rented a movie I know you two haven't seen -- " she gestured at her own children -- "And if you want, we can watch it, though Ginny and I saw it in the theater: Fahrenheit 9/11."

"Count me in" said Gillam.

Jaime let Margie lead. Very good boy thought Myra. Margie said "That would be fun."

"If the three of you will clean up and put away, I can make lunches for tomorrow. What would you like, Gillam?"

"Do we still have that turkey left from last night?"

"Yes. Turkey on what, pumpernickel or wheatberry?"

"Either. With everything. And some of this cheese."

"How about you, Margie?"

"Turkey sandwich sounds good, but no mayo. Mary Poppins on pumpernickel."

Myra sighed. "How a child of mine could turn out not liking mayonnaise..." She turned to Jaime. "Shall I make you a lunch for school tomorrow? You could take it home with you."

Margie said "Oh, do! We can sit together in the cafeteria with matching lunches, and be all mysterious about it, not answer questions about why."

Jaime was thrilled. "Yes, please. Like Gillam's."

Myra and Ginny made sandwiches, assembled bags of baby carrots and broccoli florets, and opened some Terra sweet potato chips to make little packets of those as well. Myra poured the rest of the chips into a bowl for a movie snack.

"We only have one baked pear left, but there's also two brownies in the fridge -- who wants what?"

Gillam looked at Margie. "You guys take the brownies, I had an extra one last night."

Ginny glanced at him appraisingly. He was registering some kind of approval with that gesture.

After the lunches were bagged, labeled and set in a row on the refrigerator shelf, Ginny said "I'm going to bow out, if that's okay with you. I want to get back to the studio."

Myra pulled her in close and said "You go, girl." Ginny leaned in for a kiss that turned extremely passionate and long. After they parted, Myra whispered "You did that on purpose." Ginny whispered back "I always kiss you on purpose." Ginny walked toward the back of the house, and Myra turned for the living room, ignoring Jaime's belated attempt to not be caught watching them.

"What's your curfew, Jaime?"

"I need to be home by 10:00" he said. "But I have a Vespa, you don't need to drive me."

"It's the most beautiful deep pink" said Margie. "You can spot it anywhere."

"I like pink" said Jaime, trying not to be defensive.

As they went into the living room, Myra said "Did you know that prior to World War II, pink was considered a boy's color and baby blue was considered a girl's color?" Jaime was startled and pleased. "Just goes to show you about all that immutability of gender roles crap" Myra drawled.

She and Gillam grabbed the couch, leaving the loveseat for Jaime and Margie. They sat close but not glommed onto each other -- another point for Jaime. Halfway through the movie, Myra wished she could give the rest of it a pass and go back to where Ginny was. But that would leave Gillam alone with his sister and her maybe boyfriend -- not a good situation for any of them. She did ask for a pee break, though. After using the bathroom in her study, she found Ginny stretching canvas.

"Oh, no" she said.

"What?" said Ginny.

"I don't mean oh no, really -- it's just that you're probably going to start a painting tonight. Which means I won't get to sleep with you all night."

Ginny grinned at her wickedly. "I'll go to bed when you do. And I won't leave until you're sound asleep."

Myra grinned back, and said "You didn't really buy that sweater for you, did you? It's not your color."


"You're wising up about how to play Margie instead of butting heads with her. You can't win in a direct confrontation because she's so much like you in all your best aspects."

"That's the second extraordinarily nice thing you've said to me today."

"Well, I'm just glad there's at least one big difference between the two of you. I'm so glad you like girls." Myra kissed Ginny lightly and rejoined the movie crew.

Copyright 2008 Maggie Jochild.

1 comment:

letsdance said...

Oh no! the babies are growing up!