Monday, May 19, 2008


Here's the next segment of my novel-in-progress, Ginny Bates. Begins after my post of yesterday -- it's been a big writing weekend.

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.

May 2012

She wrapped herself around Ginny but turned halfway to pull Margie into a triad with them. Narnia's tail was thumping against Myra's leg. "I'm so sorry I caused you this much worry" she said over and over, "I'm so sorry." Ginny was apologizing as well, "I didn't listen, I got mad instead of listening".

After a minute, Allie walked up the driveway and stopped at Myra's open car door to reach in and grab her laptop and duffel. She carried this to the entry and walked back for the cooler. Myra hugged Edwina, who was in the living room, and asked "Have you called Chris and Sima?"

"Yes." Ginny hesitated, then said "They don't want to come over today."

"It smells like lemons in here" said Myra.

Margie laughed. "She's been on a canning binge. She began with apricots, then it was pears, and last night she began making quarts and quarts of lemon curd."

"Your favorite" said Ginny, a plead in her voice. "I couldn't sleep or do anything else."

"Oh god, Ginny, I'm so sorry" Myra began again.

Edwina said to Allie "Have you eaten?"

"Some cheese and bread, plus an apple. But I could use something else" Allie said, her arms around Edwina, looking down into her eyes.

"Would you like some Ginny eggs?" Ginny asked Myra.

"I would adore anything you make" said Myra. "And lemon curd."

"I made biscuits" said Margie. "They didn't come out quite right -- "

"Bring 'em on" said Myra. She carried the cooler into the kitchen with Ginny and began unpacking it into the refrigerator. She paused at the last Coke, trying to gauge whether it was time to go off her caffeine binge or extend it a while longer. Finally she carried the bottle to the table, where Margie was already setting places for them. A plate of somewhat trapezoidal biscuits sat next to a bowl of warm lemon curd. Margie sliced tomatoes and avocados to go with the eggs, and Allie added milk and juice to the table. When Ginny scooped her mound of chive-flecked eggs into a bowl, she came to sit next to Myra instead of at the other end of the table. Margie took the chair on the other side of Myra.

They held hands in silence for a minute, then kissed each other's hands. As Myra spread curd on a biscuit, Ginny said "Have you been eating?"

"Yes" said Myra. "A little more junk than usual, but they have a rockin' farmer's market there, I stocked up."

"You were in Anacortes the whole time?" Ginny's eyes looked bruised.

"Yeah. Well, except for island-hopping on the ferries. I saw orcas and California greys" Myra said to Margie. She wasn't sure how to do this. As if reading her mind, Allie said "What do you want to say right now? Do you need to wait until you see Nancy?"

Turning to Ginny, Allie said "She cried." It reminded Myra of their reports to each other about Narnia's bowel production after a walk.

The phone rang. Margie answered it and said "Yeah, she's here, we're about to eat." To Myra she said "It's Gillam."

Myra reached for the phone. "Hello, boychik. I'm realizing what I put you through, and I feel terrible about it."

"I need to know what happened, Mama" said Gillam. Myra swallowed and said "Okay if I put you on speakerphone? And get Carly on your end, if he's there."

"He's right here" said Gillam.

With the phone next to her plate, she said "I don't know how to do this except to be bone honest and let you ask me whatever you want, tell me whatever you want. I'll see Nancy later. I don't need her preparation to be with my family."

"Why wasn't that true three days ago?" came Gillam's voice.

"Because I hit a limit I didn't know was approaching, and it was late at night, and it looked like the people I lean on the most were -- rejecting me" said Myra. "To be honest, I still feel...different. Like maybe what I'd believed for decades isn't true."

"You mean about me and Chris?" asked Allie. "I thought you heard me when I explained that."

"I did hear you. And I know -- I have damage, I'm not completely clear when it comes to understanding sex and intimacy" said Myra. She saw Ginny look sharply at Allie. "So I can see why you wouldn't choose me, and why you would choose Chris. But it hurts, Al. Even though I don't want you that way, haven't in decades, it's not about wishing for something different than what we have. It's that I was always not even a second choice for you, or Chris. I was the person only good enough to be a friend, not healthy enough to let into bed."

"If you think you heard me say that, you trippin'" said Allie flatly.

Gillam's voice drifted out again. "Mama, I've heard you say a hundred times that you were not able to have a healthy sexual connection until you did the work that year before saying yes to Mom. If you know you weren't ready, why does it matter that your best friends knew it, too?"

Myra realized, from his tone, that Gillam was mad at her. Really mad.

"Whoa" said Allie. "We harin' off in a direction where they ain't nothing but scrub." She looked at Margie consideringly and tightened her grip on Edwina's hand before continuing.

"You keep assuming that me and Chris was a healthy choice, too. That we maybe thought things out, had some kinda talk where we said 'We okay but Myra, she messed up' and went off to have ourselves a good time on the sly. Well, let's have a reality check. This happened during the winter of 1979. Four times total. What you remember about that period of our lives?" Allie's eyes were challenging.

Myra rifled her memory. "Mama was still alive. I had just broken up with Fern, and then that summer before was Mimosa. Uh...Chris'd been out of the lockup for -- four months? Oh...You were still drinking."

"That's right" said Allie, rapping the table with her free hand. "I was knocking back whiskey ever single night until I was a blur, and Chris still didn't have all the psychotropic shit out of her system. The last sex she'd had was hookin', which is not really sex. And yeah, if I remember right, you made you way that year through Judy the Burning Spear revolutionary, Annie at the bookstore, and Smokey, so you was pretty busy. But me and Chris...If it had been good for us, we'd still be lovers, Myra. Chris needed somebody she could top, she can't do it no other way. And I was drunk enough to not care, not at first. The only thing to our credit is that we stopped in time to stay friends. Well, and me gettin' sober. You weren't on the missing end of nothin, you whiny baby."

Ginny was open-mouthed at Allie's bluntness, and there was total silence from the phone. Edwina's knuckles gripping Allie's were ashy.

Margie, however, was grinning. Myra bet that phrase "whiny baby" would be repeated with endless enjoyment inside her daughter's head. Margie said to Myra "You're so not the third wheel, Mama. You're the hub, and all the rest of us radiate from you like spokes. You're our Monica."

Ginny looked blank, but Myra heard laughter from the phone, and she'd watched enough television to know what Margie meant. It felt like her organs were shifting inside. She reached for a sip of Ginny's orange juice.

"You gettin' it now, My?" asked Allie, not quite so harshly. Myra nodded, meeting her eyes.

Gillam said "So why couldn't you talk about this with Mama?" He wasn't ready to let up on her.

Myra said "Because I could tell she was starting to get all bent out of shape about me and Chris. She still gets jealous about Chris, thinks we're carrying a secret torch for each other, and she was about to demand I reassure her that I knew landing her, Ginny, was the real accomplishment of my life. But I wasn't ready to shove my feelings into a drawer."

She couldn't see Gillam's face but she could feel his disbelief. It was showing in Margie's expression. Margie looked at Ginny, who said "I was...distracted. It's entirely possible that's what would have been out of my mouth next."

"What do you mean, you and Chris?" came Carly's voice. Brave boy, and an echo of Ginny three days ago.

"Myra and Chris came close to having an affair, decades ago" said Ginny. "At least in Myra's mind they did."

Margie was reveling in it. "What about you and Mama?" she asked Allie, pointing to Ginny. "Or her and Chris? I mean, did all of you -- "

"No" said Allie with finality.

Gillam said, "If you had left like this at any point during our growing-up years, Mom, it would've maybe marked me forever. I'd have worried about upsetting you always after that. I mean, it's going to take a while to get over this even now." From his lofty present maturity. Myra felt a knife in her gut.

Ginny said "She would never have done it while you were little, would you?" Myra shook her head, grateful for Ginny's advocacy. Which disappeared as Ginny said "So what made it different now they're out of the house? Why is it okay to reach a point of no return when it's just me here with you?"

Edwina came into the fray. "It's the working class way. Allie sometimes does the same thing. Or maybe it's raised poor: You just keep going until you slam into the wall. Because stopping to ask for help or take a break is not an option, even when of course it is. Hence, discovering your diabetes only while saving the life of your godson and nearly dying from it."

Myra was suddenly glad she didn't hear the conversation Ginny and Edwina must have when they were alone. Ginny said, in a general announcement tone, "Well, it's not good enough. Not for me. If you need more room or more help, let's set it up in advance."

A little stung, Myra said "I really loved the idea of being by the sound alone for a few days. No responsibilities at all." She immediately felt sorry, but Ginny said "All right. We can do that." No undertone. Myra leaned over and kissed her cheek.

Gillam said "I'm pissed that you didn't even give me a chance, Mama. I did everything I could and you just shut me out."

"You're right, Gillam. I screwed the pooch there."

"We're gonna need to deal with it. Next weekend when you come here." He was determined, though she could hear the fear behind it.

"I agree. I'll work with Nancy, and you can too, if you want, tell her to bill me. And you and I will hash it out when we see each other. You too, Carly. I love you both, and you deserve better from me." She looked at Margie and said "You, too." Margie's face was very pale suddenly.

"Did you read my e-mails? Or listen to my messages?" said Gillam.

"Not yet. But I promise I will." Penance, thought Myra.

"Okay. Well, I'm going to go now, I've got a study group to attend." Gillam paused, then said "I love you, Mom." "I love you, too" came Carly's voice.

After a chorus of goodbyes, Myra clicked off the phone. She finished her cold eggs and took another biscuit, adding twice as much lemon curd this time to cover the metallic taste of too much baking powder in the dough.

"We gonna go, too" said Allie. "I'm done with search and rescue for the weekend. You need something, ask me." She and Edwina hugged everyone, and Allie whispered to Margie "Call me, we'll talk more."

Myra took the last slice of avocado, salted it and said to Ginny "I think I'll postpone Nancy until tomorrow. I'd rather just be here with you. Maybe hold you while you catch up on sleep."

"I'd love that" said Ginny, starting to clear the table.

"Narnia's overdue for a walk" said Margie, sending the dog into cartwheels toward the door.

"I'll go with you" said Myra. She looked at Ginny and said "A few minutes of me and Margie alone time? You okay with that right now?"

"Yes, but thanks for asking" said Ginny.

When they reached the corner and turned, Myra said to Margie "I know about Frances and Imani."

Margie stopped in her tracks, jerking Narnia backwards. After a few seconds, she said angrily "Sima."

"She told Chris, Chris told me. It's stopped there, and I for one won't tell anyone else" said Myra. "It would be nice if you didn't get Chris in any more trouble than she already is, but I'm not going to make any requests. I'll take the heat if you have to yell at Sima."

Margie still wasn't moving. Narnia came back and woofed at her. Margie said "Is that -- did you freak out about that, too?"

"Probably" said Myra. "But you don't have to deal with it. I'm telling you because we've had enough secrets around her for one week, not to pry or make you listen to me."

Margie finally met her eyes. Myra thought she saw some relief there. "If we've had enough secrets, then how are you going to not blab to Mama or Aunt Allie?"

"I'll find a way. I'll use Nancy for it. It's your life, I'm not going to interfere."

"You don't get to be all condescending to Frances when you're around her" said Margie, finally walking forward again.

"I won't. I admit, I don't completely understand what you two are doing. It's not my way, although god knows I tried it, more than once. It never worked for me." Margie looked a little rattled at that. "However, you are not me, Margie, and I trust you. I respect the love you and Frances have, and I'll behave myself. Plus, if you want to talk with me about it, I'll get even more groovy and clear about it all, give me time."

"Mom, absolutely nobody but you says 'groovy' any more" said Margie.

"I'm a dinosaur, trying to learn how to be warm-blooded" said Myra. Margie laughed and slid her arm through Myra's.

When they got home, Myra said "If you want to go home and see your girl, I'll understand. If you don't, we'll have a trio of family time here for the rest of the day. Ginny can nap with her head in my lap while you and I do whatever."

Margie studied her face and said "I would like to go home. Let me call and make sure she's gonna be around."

A few minutes later, she emerged from upstairs carrying her overnight bag. Narnia was shadowing her. Myra and Ginny packed a canvas carryall with bread, herbs, and jars of preserves for her to take home. Myra hugged Margie for a long time, murmuring "Bless you for coming to be with Ginny. Best daughter ever."

They walked her out to the car and waved until she was out of sight. Back in the house, Myra carried her duffel to their bedroom and began unpacking. She stacked her new books on her side of the bed while Ginny undressed. When she reached the marine hardware, she set them on the bed, unsure what to do with them.

"What on earth is all this?" said Ginny, laying down naked and picking up a copper oarlock.

Myra told her the story, as Ginny fingered each item.

"What do these mean to you? Some sort of symbol?" asked Ginny.

"I don't know. They're utterly functional, nothing extra for ornamentation. But the metals are extremely polished, to resist corrosion, and the beauty is from the molecule out. I especially like the ones that are a complete mystery" said Myra. She separated out the brightly-colored plastic webbing loops and fasteners, saying "I could give these to Beebo for cat toys."

"Put the rest on the dresser, I see what you mean about them. We'll figure out some kind of art with them" said Ginny.

When Myra returned to bed, shucked of clothes, Ginny curled into her and said "I'm too exhausted to do anything but sleep."

"I'm here, I'll be here when you wake up" said Myra. Ginny was right, she was sleep inside of a minute. After half an hour, Myra carefully moved until she could grab one of her books and, with Ginny on her shoulder, she began reading.

Four hours later, Ginny woke up with a jerk, grabbing at Myra in a panic. When her eyes focused on Myra's face, she broke into a storm of grief. Myra rode it with her This wasn't penance, it was reconnection. They got up afterward, made a simple meal together slowly, and sat next to each other again to eat. Afterward, Myra carried the left-over biscuits out to the birdfeeder tray and crumbled them for the nuthatches.

"Are you going to call Chris?" asked Ginny.

"I did while you were in the bathroom" said Myra. "Neither of them answered. I left a message."

"Were you shocked by what Allie said?"

"Yeah, but I shouldn't have been. I was clearly looking everywhere I could for ways to prove how unlovable I was, even in retrospect." They looked at each other for a minute.

"What shall we do now? This may be a touchy subject, but did you start on that canvas?" asked Myra.

Ginny snorted. "That first night, I was too mad. After that, I was simply scared."

"Do you want to paint now?"

"Only if you really aren't going to have some hidden shit come up about it" said Ginny.

"I guess I asked for that. I won't, Gin. In fact, I'd like to write."

They kept looking at each other. Ginny said "You'd have let Chris top you, I bet. You'd have gone on trying until you hated each other."

Now Myra was shocked at the bluntness. She said "I think you're right. The question is, were we all lucky or did they love me enough not to muck up things with me?"

"I know the answer to that one, Myra. But I think you'll have to figure it out for yourself."

Myra sighed. "What else is new."

"Stop me for dinner. Don't cook for me, let's do it together." They kissed lightly, and Myra opened her laptop to download her new writing.

© 2008 Maggie Jochild.


letsdance said...

So honest, so real, so earthy and alive......

Liza Cowan said...

"Well, it's not good enough. Not for me. If you need more room or more help, let's set it up in advance."

this is the line that most struck me. If Myra needs ROOM, they all have to set it up in advance? That's not room. That's control. Room is when you can make up your own mind, when you want to go, and then go. Even if it's to your own room. IMHO

I know I'm not them, but their web of relationships made me feel smothered.

Great reading, as usual.

kat said...

I think I agree, Liza.

I know what Edwina was talking about, that wall. I do the same thing. I have no idea anything's up, but then, suddenly, I'm face-first in that proverbial wall with a proverbial broken nose and proverbial blood all over the place.

I'm very slowly learning how to recognize signs in advance, but they're usually so subtle that I only see them for what they are after the fact.

Myra's done infinitely more work than I, though, so maybe she's better at getting herself out.....

Also, I'm glad to hear that Margie has trouble making biscuits, too. I have one recipe that works always, but it's super complicated and takes hours. The simple, more traditional recipes always get messed up.

Maggie Jochild said...

You're a sharp bunch. And you're deep in the "psychology" of these folks.

I agree about the "room" assessment. Also Jesse's off-thread comment about the quickness of resolution: It's not resolution, is re-setting the mechanism to how it has worked in the past. I won't give you any more hints, except to say when people live in intimacy, each other's life lessons become partly your own because you set up the relationship between you to accommodate those limits and lessons.

What happens over time as people continue to grow and change? We don't have many (if any) role models for that adjustment. How can you more or less outgrow each other and still stay close, figure out a new way to choose one another? Especially when the reason for connection (raising children) has become no longer valid?

Kat, I put in the biscuit failure for you. Margie has other skills, as do you.