Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Here's the next segment of my novel-in-progress, Ginny Bates. Begins right after my post of two days ago.

If you are already a familiar reader, begin below. If you need background, check the links in the sidebar on the right, fifth item down, to get caught up.

Spring Break 2012

By the time they finished going over Allie's drawings and ideas, it was 1:00 in the afternoon. Edwina said "I have a date with a friend, I need to go."

"Call me later, check in about how I'm getting home?" asked Allie as they kissed goodbye. Gillam said "I want to help with the painting, but I'm going to start a roast for dinner first. That big one in the freezer, it'll take four hours."

Allie borrowed an old T-shirt from Ginny and they went upstairs. After hauling the furniture from Margie's old bedroom into the hall, they lay down dropcloth and began taping windows.

"What color did ya'll settle on?" asked Allie, looking at the top of the paint cans.

"It's what I'd call a deep sky blue" answered Ginny. "For trim and the ceiling, titanium white with a hint of honeydew -- you won't see it, but you'll feel it. It will make a profound difference in how inviting this room is. The color Margie painted it always reminded me of upchuck from somebody who'd been eating raspberries and oysters."

Myra looked squeamish as she giggled with the rest of them. Ginny added "It may well take three coats to cover the walls, even with primer first." Carly and Allie began with rollers at opposite corners on the already lighter-colored ceiling, while Myra and Ginny started on walls at the other two corners. After five minutes, Myra said "I need music" and disappeared, returning with a boom box and a handful of CD's.

"Please, not Carole King" said Allie.

"Scots" said Myra. "I need a strong beat for this."

"Tina Turner" suggested Allie.

"Okay, her next" agreed Myra. Carly didn't bother to toss out a name, he knew he was outnumbered.

By the time Gillam arrived to help, the front wall with its casement windows had on one coat of primer, thanks to Ginny's swift technique. He picked up a trim brush and began addressing the windows. The latex Ginny had selected was so fast-drying, after half an hour they could move on to a second coat. Gillam finished all the trim and doors by 5:00 and went downstairs to make the rest of dinner.

The other four joined him at 6:00. Edwina called as Allie was washing her hands. Gillam answered Allie's cell and after he hung up, he called to Allie "She's coming for dinner, but says you all have something to do after that, to remind you."

Allie blushed, and Myra murmured "Hot Saturday night, eh?"

Gillam had grilled a thick tuna steak for Ginny. There were mashed potatoes, steamed carrots and chard, coleslaw Gillam-style, and frozen whole cherries which he had stewed in a little bit of water and white grape juice, plus a dash of vanilla, as a non-sugar dessert.

When they were done, Myra said "I'll clean up, I've gotten off light today."

"Okay" said Gillam, looking suddenly solemn. "I have to go make a call."

"Oh" said Ginny. "Do you -- " She trailed off.

"I'll come talk to you afterward if I need to" said Gillam. "For sure, I'm going to want to swim, and I'll welcome company for that."

Allie kissed his cheek and said "You just making room for what's already headed you way. You mama taught me that."

After Edwina and Allie left, and Gillam had gone into his current room with his cell, Ginny and Myra looked at each other. Ginny said "It feels like there's virtually nothing I can do any more to make things better."

Carly laughed and said "You're delusional, if you really think that." He headed for the stairs, saying "I think one more coat will do it." Ginny stood and followed him.

Myra picked up the cordless at the breakfast bar and called Margie, talking to her while she put away food and rinsed dishes. Margie was home alone, supposedly working on a school project but sounding extremely glad to be diverted from it. Myra let Beebo lick out the gravy boat as she recounted, with her writer's memory, all of the conversations over the past 24 hours. Margie said "Tell him I say Allie's right, he's a dream of a catch and it's going to happen for him".

After she hung up, Myra got into the battered old swim suit that she'd begun wearing for the pool when David moved in. She put on sweats over it -- it was a chilly day -- and sat at her desk for half an hour. When Beebo jumped down from his perch at her desk and raced toward the front of the house, she turned and saw Gillam through two glass walls, heading her way. He was weeping, putting one hand out to guide himself along the wall. She sat down next to him on the daybed, pulling his face onto her shoulder and letting him sob.

Ginny must have been listening from upstairs, because within minutes she was there also, her arms streaked with deep sky blue here and there. She sat on the other side of Gillam and said "My yingl liebling", which made him cry harder.

"It's going to fucking suck, being in that town without her" he said.

"Yep" said Myra. "It will, for a while." She passed on Margie's message, which brought forth another sob. But even with his tear-ravaged face, he looked better than he had since Myra had first seen him yesterday. The deed was done.

The four of them swam laps for a while, Myra able to do only one in the time Gillam churned through two. She and Ginny got out early and slid into the hot tub, Ginny sighing in satisfaction. When even Gillam couldn't keep going, he sat, panting, on the steps to squeegee water from his hair and chest. Carly said "I'm going out with Davonn, Chick and some others, you wanna join us?"

"Not tonight. But maybe later this week, you go again?"

Carly gave Gillam a hug and headed inside. Myra said "You want some of this hot tub?"

"Nah. I know you said no TV, but I want to use Zayde's DVD player to watch some BSG, can you make an allowance for that?" said Gillam.

"Of course" said Myra. "Maybe you can get some tips on how to live as a freak among humans from the Cylons." He burst into shocked laughter, and kept chuckling as he went inside, too.

Ginny said "He's right, you know. That question about do you want to raise children should have been something I asked each of my lovers right off the bat. It would have kept me from all that muck with Jules, and maybe even Bonnie."

"I had about ten questions ahead of that, given the primordial state I was in, but yeah. Funny how it was something you and I covered right away."

"I already knew you wanted to mother, you'd done it once" said Ginny. "And at that potluck, you asked me if I loved kids, remember?"

"I can't believe men shoved that part of life off onto women when they divided up roles and grabbed what they thought was all the best stuff for themselves" said Myra. "Raising the next generation is necessary to know god, if you ask me."

"They weren't bright, those dividers" said Ginny. "But our son sure is." At that moment, Gillam's head stuck out the sliding door next to his room as he asked "I want to go to Quaker meeting in the morning, are you going?"

"Yes" said Myra, deciding on the spot. "Get me up in time, okay?" The door slid shut again.

"What about you, want to go with?" she asked Ginny. Ginny said "I kinda feel a painting coming on. You going to be okay if I succumb?"

"We'll all be fine" said Myra. "In fact, I'll sit up and work with you until Carly gets home. I can always come back after Meeting and sleep some more."

"We need to spend extra time with Gillam over the next few months. Go down there if he doesn't want to come up here. And, to be fair, go see Margie too. I know it'll mean you negotiating yourself around all our schedules, is that fair?"

Myra thought about it. "It feels fair at the moment. I'm just amazed at how fast Gillam bounces back."

"He's incredibly like you" said Ginny, sliding into Myra's lap. Myra kissed her lightly a few times. She asked, "Why'd you let Carly talk you into that blue? I thought you wanted to do something close to burgundy for that room."

Ginny said "It crossed my mind that he might like to have his own room here, either temporarily or, who knows. He's chosen us, that's clear."

"Oh, how sweet of you, Ginny. You're exactly right" said Myra.

When Myra and Gillam returned home the next day after Meeting, Chris and Sima were there, bringing smoked salmon and five pounds of home-grown onions from someone Chris knew. Sima was cutting the onions in half, planning to stuff them with rice and herbs. Ginny was painting, so Sima asked Myra to grab her pad and help finalize the plans for their seder on Wednesday.

Allie and Edwina arrived an hour later, just as everyone sitting down to eat. Allie held up a bag and said "The sweetest little Fuji's I've ever bitten into -- dessert." Ginny had been coaxed away from her canvas for half an hour. As they passed around bowls, Carly said "When I was growing up, Sunday dinner meant leftovers or McDonald's. You'd think the way I eat when I'm here that I'd put on weight, but I never do."

"Because it's real food" said Myra. "And there's usually a crowd, which cuts down on portions, but it doesn't matter because we feel satisfied from the company and the flavor."

Ginny looked down the table at her said "That reminds me, I've been meaning to say, you've lost weight. Those pants you've got on, you couldn't wear them ten years ago. We were going to give them to Goodwill, remember? But you loved them so much, we put them in the back of the closet. When did you pull them back out?"

"Last month, when I was culling for a garage sale" said Myra. "I tried on several things, like that brown velvet with the shooting stars? They all fit me again. Do you think I should worry?"

"I hadn't noticed it" said Allie, leaning back to look at her whole body. "It's not sudden, or I would have."

"It's been since your hysterectomy" said Ginny. "I've wondered if it's your body using up all the extra estrogen you had in your tissues. Excess estrogen leads to weight gain, I think."

"You exercise more than you used to" offered Gillam.

"Not if you factor in dog-walking and chasing kids" said Myra. "I may be swimming more, but I'm on my feet and moving less, otherwise."

"You cook differently when you don't have children to feed" said Sima.

"Not necessarily healthier" said Ginny. "Well, whatever the reason, it looks good on you." She was cutting another slice of salmon and didn't notice the expression which crossed Myra's face. Chris did, however. For once, Chris didn't laugh. She met Myra's eyes with a hint of anger showing in hers. Myra looked away, unable to take in how hard Ginny had just slammed her.

Allie said "Whereas me, watching every bite I am, I'm developing middle-age spread. Lookin' like an ole black church lady."

Edwina giggled, saying "Not quite." They bumped each other shoulders affectionately and the conversation turned another direction.

After dinner, Myra was helping with clean-up while Sima intercepted Ginny's stride back to her canvas, saying "You need to sign off on these seder plans, we have to get the preparation done in the next two days." Ginny sat on Myra's daybed beside Sima to read the notes. At one point, Sima said something Myra didn't catch, but Ginny's answer came clearly to her ears: "Well, let's just call it the one good thing that came out of that surgery." Sima laughed as Myra's blood went cold. There it was again: Ginny was thrilled she wasn't as fat as she used to be.

She felt sick to her stomach. She didn't know what to do with herself. She was too ashamed to pull aside one of her friends and ask for reassurance -- what if they agreed with Ginny?

She lingered over kitchen clean-up until Allie said "Come sit down with us." Carly turned to Chris and said "How about poker tonight?", and when Chris nodded, Myra went to the storage room to get cards and chips. By the time the first hand was dealt, her emotions were damped down and she managed to get distracted by the game.

After everyone left and Carly kissed her goodnight, she said to Gillam "Are you going to watch Battlestar again?"

He looked wary. "I was thinking about it. The thing is, Mom, it keeps my mind off my stuff long enough for me to go to sleep. The DVD ends eventually and I'm sacked out by that time."

"I'm not criticizing. I was wondering if I could watch some with you" she said.

He grinned. "Long as you don't wake me up when you leave, yeah."

She changed into sweats and met him in the back room after locking up and turning off all the lights except in Ginny's studio. She didn't tell Ginny goodnight and Ginny didn't look up from her painting. Myra felt nauseous again: How long had Ginny felt distaste for her body?

When she lay down on top of Gillam's bedspread, he said "No, get underneath, you're not giving me enough room." As she complied, she said "Can I ask you why you're sleeping back here? Are you avoiding Carly?"

"Not directly. I just...I need to have a break from my teenage room, for one thing, and I figure as long as my heart is breaking, might as well not look for quick comfort" he said, his voice going hoarse.

"Well, if you want to crawl in between your Mama and me at any point, you're welcome" she said with a smile, and he laughed with tears standing in his eyes.

He was right about the effect of the show. He knew them all by heart, and he dropped off within ten minutes. She heard the change in his breathing. After another ten minutes, he rolled over onto his side, his back facing her, but he scooted toward her. When his rump touched her hip, he relaxed and went deeper into sleep. He misses sleeping with someone, she thought with a pang for him.

This was immediately followed by the intrusion of her own heartache. Would she ever completely relax in Ginny's arms again? She couldn't believe this was happening. She began trying to think of something to say back to Ginny, a complaint about how Ginny's breasts had surrendered to gravity, the stretch marks on her belly from childbearing, the bunion on her right foot. But the truth was, she thought Ginny was more attractive now than she had been 25 years ago. She loved every scrap of Ginny's body.

When the episode was over, she was still awake. She gingerly took the remote and turned off the set. Gillam didn't stir. She wanted to stay with him for the night, but she didn't have his consent. Feeling even more sorry for herself, she quietly left the room, letting in Beebo at the bedroom door.

She went to her own bed, hating the idea that Ginny might join her before dawn. She didn't know a way to lock Ginny out. She picked up a new book and began reading. After an hour, she finally went to sleep with the light on.

She woke up to Ginny's arms coming around her from behind. She hesitated, not knowing why, and then memory caught up with her. She pushed Ginny's hands away, saying "I don't want you to touch me right now."

"Why not?" Ginny's voice said in her ear. Myra moved away, creating several inches of space between them, before turning to face Ginny.

"How long have you been disgusted with my body?" she blurted out.

"What? What the fuck are you talking about?" said Ginny. She sat up, her silhouette stiff.

"All that shit about how much better I look now that I'm not so fat, and how it's the blessing that came from the surgery" said Myra. Her grief had been replaced by abrupt rage. "You know, if I wanted to -- " But she couldn't finish the sentence, angry as she was. She wouldn't mean anything bad she could think of to say about Ginny's looks.

"I didn't say you looked better, I said you look good. You always look good, Myra, you're my favorite sight in the world. And I never said anything about you losing weight being a blessing" said Ginny, reaching for her.

Myra recoiled. "You fucking well did, I heard you, you thought only Sima would hear" she hissed.

"Sima? You mean the cancer thing?"

"What cancer thing?" asked Myra.

"She was saying how many women our age are getting cancer, especially dykes who've never had children, coming down with uterine or ovarian cancer. But we don't have to worry about that with you, we caught yours in time and there are no organs left at risk. Is that what you mean?" asked Ginny.

Myra stopped breathing. "I guess...I only heard the last few words, about how it was the only blessing to come from the surgery. I thought -- you did say I looked better, I think you did, Ginny."

"No, Myra, I most certainly did not. I would never think that, and I know it's never come out of my mouth. But if you don't believe me, asked anyone else who was there. Why didn't you -- have you been obsessing about this all night?"

"Yes. I thought you didn't like my body any more." Myra was having trouble with this gear change.

"Oh, my angel, how on earth -- come here, don't argue with me. I am wild about you, body and soul, how could you doubt it? After all this time, me always wanting a little more of you?" Myra let Ginny pull her on top of her. She began shaking, and when the tears came, they burned her eyes and throat but it still felt good to have them out of her.

Ginny said "I wondered why you had sweats on. Can we take these off you now, please? Will you be skin on skin with me?"

"Okay. But no making out. I'm not steady enough for that yet."

"You got it, lover. We'll cocoon and you set your heart back on Ginny time." Ginny kissed her forehead and cheeks, and Myra closed her eyes. She was asleep within a minute.

The next morning, she woke up alone but rested. She peed, then called Allie and talked with her for a while, spilling out the story. Allie said "Was you channeling Gillam's problems, or what?"

"Maybe" said Myra. "Don't tell anyone else, okay?"

"'Course not" said Allie.

Over the two days, Gillam grieved, saw Nancy, created pasta dishes with Carly, and talked Myra into actually drafting the poems-plus-photography book they had daydreamed about. On Wednesday, Patty and Thea drove up from Olympia for the seder and spent the night in the newly painted room upstairs. During the singing of Dayenu, Ginny called Margie and put her on speakerphone for the next hour.

That Friday, when Allie and Chris came early to help make dinner, they saw the mock-up of Myra and Gillam's book on Myra's desk. Allie insisted Myra take it her to agent, it was more than simply a family project. Ginny was coming off her second canvas for the week. Margie arrived in the early afternoon, Frances with her lamb carcass and bags of other items to cook. Carly added a leaf to the table.

Margie announced "I'm definitely going to graduate in May, and the graduate courses I've been taking this semester are being credited toward my Master's, it's all sorted out."

"Wahoo!" cried Sima. She asked Frances "Are you going to get a vacation any time soon, so you two could come up here and celebrate, maybe?"

Frances shook her head. "I don't get anything besides a pittance of PTO until I've been there a year, which will be next autumn."

"And I have to take a full load this summer as well to keep renewing my academic scholarship" said Margie.

"Well, when you can take time off, let us know and we'll spring for some kind of trip or adventure" said Myra.

Carly cleared his throat and said "I talked with my advisor as well. If I take classes this summer and next, plus a bigass load next year, I can graduate with my B.S. and as a registered physical therapist. Save an extra year of schooling."

Another cheer went up. Carly said "So, uh...I could take my courses up here at Udub and transfer them back to Evergreen. For the summer session, I mean. If you wouldn't mind having me around."

Ginny shot a glance at Myra, who made some sort of signal Gillam couldn't interpret. Myra said "We'd adore having you. Gillam, are you going to keep the apartment for yourself or -- what are your plans?"

"Well, they just changed" he said sadly. "But I'll let you know. I want to take the ReadWrite training before I graduate, maybe I could do that this summer. Which would be up here."

Myra kept her face noncommital, saying "Sounds good." She blatantly took a slice of chicken from her plate and handed it down to Narnia, knowing Ginny wouldn't fuss at her right this instant.

© 2008 Maggie Jochild.

1 comment:

letsdance said...

Right out of "real" life, Maggie. Sometimes our feelings are so easily hurt.