Monday, August 18, 2008


(Snow at Ayase River, 1915, by Takahashi Hiroaki {Shotei})

Another installment of my Great American Lesbian Novel (in progress), Ginny Bates. If you are new to reading GB, go to the section in the right-hand column labeled Ginny Bates to read background and find out how to catch up.

January 2013

Once in Seattle, Myra said to Edwina "I bet you're headed for campus, to check in at your office? What's your plan for today, Al?"

"I'm going to an AA meeting at 5:00" said Allie. "Home to check mail before then."

"Ah" said Myra, trying to disguise her next remark as casual. "Say hi to Chris at the meeting for me."

Allie looked at her in exasperation. Ginny giggled, and said to Edwina "If you want to go to the noon Al-Anon near Udub, I'll bring you lunch to eat after."

"Deal" said Edwina.

Myra felt left out. She could call Sima, but Sima was no doubt taking care of herself. Instead, after Allie and Edwina left, she dialed Nancy's number.

Nancy answered, saying "I've only got five minutes, but how are you?"

"Okay" said Myra. "All of us, I think."

"I reached out to you yesterday and located your aura right away" said Nancy. "I began a little clearing, but then there was Chris, expansive and open. I've only met her a few times, at your parties, and she was never like that. I felt invited in, so I worked with her intensively for about half an hour. I hope that's all right."

Myra was stunned. "When was this?"

"In the morning -- about 9:30, I guess, because my next client came at 10:00" said Nancy.

"Hot damn" said Myra. "You got through, I'd say. Good job."

"Are you calling to reschedule?"

"Well, we've changed our flight to Denver for Friday morning, so the only time we can meet you is tomorrow during the day" said Myra.

"Oh, darn, I'm completely booked" said Nancy. "I'll call you if someone cancels, but otherwise..."

"Then it'll have to be after we return next week" said Myra, disappointed.

"I've got Tuesday afternoon or an hour on Wednesday morning" said Nancy.

Myra took Tuesday and wrote down the time. Ginny came in from the yard and Myra asked "How're the new sets?"

"Thriving little buggers. I guess that's why their line keeps enduring." Ginny got a look of recognition on her face and began laughing, Myra joining her as she stood from her desk.

"I'm going to empty our bags, Gin, and wash all the good clothes, I figure we'll want them for Denver."

"I'm sorry about forgetting to pack you underwear for Colville" said Ginny, with a grin.

"I got by without it."

" were amazing with Sima. With her and Chris both...You know, Margie was right, you are the Maginot line for us all. I mean, even those of us who are dykely competent and independent, we lean on you most."

Myra looked deep into Ginny's eyes. "I've been thinking about that. The truth is, I was raised to assume that role. And of course I do it from love, from true love and a clear decision, but -- there's also something involuntary about it, deep down. And way deep down, I resent it. Hard to admit, but there you go. Plus -- I think I did feel like I failed you. You were in dire peril, and I wasn't here. It wasn't as bad as what happened to Margie, back -- back then, but I think some of the same stuff came up. I wanted to make sure it wasn't my fault. All that's true, even as it's true that I'm trying to change how you and I operate."

Ginny crossed to Myra and kissed her. It turned into a long kiss. When they finally pulled back to look at each other, Ginny said "Didn't you wonder where on earth Allie came up with those two items, bridles and mint jelly, even as a joke?"

Myra giggled. "If we had been alone and she'd answered my question, for real, I'd have been mortified, you know."

"I don't think you failed me, Myra. Not even subconsciously. But I was terrified and wanted you to keep me safe in ways I didn't ask directly, once we found out we were being stalked. I...I still don't know how to do more than I have been."

"Well, we're talking now, we'll figure it out together. I think we lifted off the nest we've been living in since the Margie was born and found out what's underneath it. We're doing okay, in the big picture" said Myra.

"So jeep on?"

"Jeep on." They kissed again, lightly. Ginny said "I'm going to call Cathy, I didn't check in yesterday. When I talked to her Monday night, she said Michael might go home yesterday, so I'm hoping to catch them there."

"Give 'em my love, can't wait to see them both" said Myra, heading for their bedroom.

Ginny was still on the phone after she began laundry. She checked her e-mail -- 432 messages, most of them related to her blog whose last post was far out of date -- but one was from Gillam, saying he, Jane and Carly wanted to come to Seattle for the weekend. She wrote back, reminding him she and Ginny would be in Denver, they were welcome to the house but Nika had already been asked to house-sit so she would be there too. She wrote a description of the events by the creek and hit send. She turned around in her chair, noticing Ginny's silence.

Ginny had hung up and was staring out the glass wall. "Michael's still in the hospital. Cathy said every time they take him off the diuretics, he starts loading up water in his lungs again. She sounds worn out."

"Shit. Is Nate still there?"

"No, he went back to New York. Noah's pitching in. I think she's sleeping in the waiting room, not going home" said Ginny.

Myra didn't know what to say. She didn't think she could bear to cancel their dinner the next evening with Chris and Sima, not right now. Ginny said "I'll call Noah and tell him to make her go home for a night's sleep; I know he's got kids and a job, but he's young enough to handle taking over one night extra. We'll be there on Friday to pick up the slack."

"Sounds good" said Myra. She returned to her e-mail and listened as Ginny guilt-tripped her nephew adroitly. When Ginny hung up, Myra told her about the boys' plans. Ginny said "I'll make a list of house chores for Nika or whoever. Right now, though -- I left my latest canvas on the easel because my drying rack is full, the hazards of painting such behemoths. Will you help me carry up a couple to the vault and make room for them there?"

As they did this chore, Ginny said "The gecko habitat needs a good cleaning."

"After we get back. Gin, your latest painting, I'm going to have a hard time letting go of it." The scene was from their Brazil trip, the island of Fernando de Noronha where they had spent three idyllic days with Margie and Gillam.

"Me, too, Myra. Let's keep it, then. There's that space over the breakfast bar, I think it would fit there."

"Oh, wonderful, I can look it every time we eat" said Myra happily.

The following afternoon, Chris came over with her file of family papers and asked Myra if she could scan these into her laptop. Myra gave Nika a task she could do at the dining room table and turned over her scanner to Chris. At one point, Chris said "Don't jump all over this, but I'm considering asking you to look into my family history. At least the part that exists in U.S. records, which may not be very much."

Myra felt her heart leap. She kept her voice calm, however, as she said "Sounds fun. Let me know." Chris snorted.

Ginny was making challah to take to Denver, and pounding down Myra's sponge for her at intervals. When the house began to fill with the smell of baking bread, Chris said "I didn't eat lunch. And breakfast was just toast and coffee. I don't think I can last to dinner."

Ginny poked her head around the corner and said "I made a veggie soup while the bread was rising. And we've got some good cheese left."

"Thanks" said Chris, going to the kitchen.

Allie came over early with defrosted salmon steaks. Myra gave her computer to Nika and began collaborating with Allie on a recipe. Edwina arrived in time to set the table, and they held dinner ten minutes while Sima struggled through cross-town traffic.

As serving bowls were being passed around, Sima said "Part of the reason I got caught in traffic is that Margie called me at the end of my work day and we had a long talk."

"Good for her" said Ginny. Sima looked at her with raised eyebrows and said "She told me something that I think may have been a confidence. I'm going to pass it on, however."

"Now, wait" began Myra. Sima interrupted to say "Not her confidence, someone else's. She said Gillam had called her to get Amy's phone number."

"Her friend Amy?" asked Ginny.

"Yeah, the one who lives in Houston now. Apparently he's landed a job interview for the school district there next year, and he wants to ask Amy what it's like to live in Houston. Margie said 'A Bates returning to live on the Gulf Coast, wouldn't that be awesome?'" Sima watched Ginny's face fall.

Myra set down her fork. "He's not said a word to me about it." She looked questioningly at Ginny. Ginny replied "I'd have brought it to you immediately, you know that."

"Goddammit" Myra said, half to herself. She stared at her plate, not hungry any more.

Allie said "There's war orphans all over the world, ya'll could adopt the ones too ugly to be picked by Brad and Angelina."

Chris was the first to laugh, which was a good sign. Myra laughed with them, said "Goddammit" again to Ginny across the table, and resumed eating. A few minutes later, she said "He'll fucking hate Houston, it's humid and hot all year and the traffic is abysmal."

Ginny said "Are we going to act surprised when he finally gets around to telling us?"

"Hell no" said Myra. "He was dumb enough to tell Margie, forgetting she'd of course find a way to pass it on as fast as she could."

"Or maybe he knew she would, and counted on not having to deliver the news himself" pointed out Edwina. Chris laughed again.

After the meal, Allie helped gather plates and paused in front of the refrigerator, saying "You got any ice cream? I have a sweet tooth tonight."

Edwina cut off Myra's reply, saying to Allie sharply "You need to check your blood sugar first." In the sudden silence, Allie said "I was going to."

"Did you need an injection after lunch?" continued Edwina.

Allie motioned her head slightly at her friends in a gesture that meant "Not in front of them". Edwina said "I think maybe it's time they knew." She turned to Ginny and said "She's using insulin twice a day, sometimes three if there's dessert here."

"They said the oral medications wouldn't work forever" began Allie.

"They work just fine if you stick to the dietary recommendations" retorted Edwina. Their exchange sounded as if this was a familiar argument.

"What are you eating that you shouldn't be?" asked Myra. Allie turned to walk away, but Chris was behind her, not really blocking her. Not quite.

"She has white-flour biscuits from a damned pop-out tube at breakfast, or pancakes from a mix, plus eggs and bacon, no fruit. If she eats at home. Worse if she goes to a diner. At lunch, she has a sandwich with white bread and lunch meat, no vegetables unless she comes here or I make it on the weekend" said Edwina, sudden fury in her voice. She turned on Myra. "She says it's because she's working such long hours, she doesn't have time to cook so she goes for the easy stuff. Or that it reminds her of home, and the shots take care of it. But I know for a goddamned fact she's using twice as much insulin as she was this time last year."

Chris moved in beside Allie and said softly, "What gives? Stuff that hard?"

"Only when I'm working like eight or ten hours a day" said Allie. "It's not as bad as she's making out."

"You calling me a liar, Allene Billups?" demanded Edwina. They all knew, Edwina didn't lie, didn't exaggerate or like people who did.

"Is it because you're writing about your Nana, her life and your people?" asked Myra. Ginny glanced at her.

"I don't know" said Allie, crossing her arms across her chest. "And it's not regular white bread, it's that good stuff from Whole Earth -- "

"That's not any better just cause they jack up the price!" said Edwina. "You eat Myra's bread like it's god's own grain."

"Hers is good" said Allie, her jaw settling into fight mode. "I eat healthy when it's available, I'm not a hypocrite like you're implying."

"But if I'm not home to pull it out of the cupboard, you can't find time to take care of yourself, is that it?" said Edwina, close to shouting. "I'll be damned if I sit around and watch you go blind or lose a foot, I won't be hauling you to dialysis three times a week, I'll move out first!"

"I'm not going blind, you fucking wear glasses to read, too!" Now Allie was shouting. It was as if the rest of them were not in the kitchen.

"I didn't have to have my prescription upgraded from six months ago" said Edwina. "Turn around and read that list on the fridge door, without your glasses -- you could do that this time last year, go ahead."

Allie refused to turn her head. Her face was dark maroon. Myra said "I'll give you bread every week, all you want in whatever kind you like best."

But Ginny pushed past Myra and stood with her front against Allie's defensive posture. She said softly "Is that why your lines have changed? In the drawings? Oh god, Allie, you must be freaked."

Allie began fighting back tears. She said to Edwina over Ginny's shoulder "They don't need this worry right now, you dumbass."

Chris thumped Allie's temple with her finger, making Allie say "Ouch" indignantly. "It's okay to let Edwina reach this point, but not tell me? I think you're the dumbass" said Chris.

"Gangin' up on me ain't never worked" Allie said defiantly.

Myra turned and walked around the breakfast bar. "You're right, Al. I'm not ganging up on you. But part of the deal we all have with each other is that we each do everything we can to take care of yourselves. If you can't keep that part of the bargain, well, yeah, I'm worried. Something's in your way, it's not like you, not at all like you." She sat down on the stool. Chris followed her cue and backed away from Allie's space.

Allie looked at Edwina again. "What you want me to do?"

"Let's take this to that counselor you saw when you mother died. One or two sessions, figure out what's up and what we can do about it" said Edwina, her belligerence subsiding. "And yes to the bread" she added to Myra.

"I don't want ya'll riding me or trying to co me" Allie said to Ginny, then the rest of her friends.

"Okay" said Myra. "There's vanilla ice cream in the freezer, four-eyes."

Chris cracked up, and Allie had to grin. " got any fresh fruit?" she said.

"Strawberries" said Ginny. "I'll slice some for both of us, if you want."

"Me too" said Edwina.

"You got whipped cream?" asked Allie.

"I have cream, you can whip it yourself" said Ginny.

"First I gotta do an Accu-Chek" sighed Allie. Later, as they all settled in the living room with bowls of strawberries and cream, Myra said "My aunt Joyce on my dad's side got thrown out of so many dialysis centers, they wound up driving across from Oklahoma into Texas to get treatment."

"How come?" asked Allie.

"She kept sneaking in go-cups full of rum and Coke" said Myra. "She'd sip it during dialysis. When the nurses found out, they'd go ballistic."

Myra told Chris and Sima about what Nancy had said, and Nancy's offer. Chris had an expression Myra couldn't read. Finally she said "I might. I might check her out." Myra gave her the number, which Chris slid into her wallet.

They didn't stay up late because Myra and Ginny had to catch the airport shuttle the next morning at 5:30. The flight to Denver was turbulent and neither of them were able to make up sleep. They took a cab to their motel, checked in, and debated about whether to grab a nap. Ginny said "Let's at least call Cathy and see if they're still at the hospital."

Noah answered Cathy's cell. Ginny said "You're still on duty? It's nearly noon. It's Aunt Ginny, we're in town."

There was a long silence. Noah said "Daddy...he died. He...there was a code, everybody running down the hall. They wouldn't let me in the room, or Mom. Then..."

Ginny collapsed onto the bed. Myra rushed to sit beside her. Her own legs felt weak. "He's dead? He can't be dead, we're here to see him."

Noah began crying. Ginny said "Where's Cathy?"

"They gave her a shot, she's in another room. She couldn't stop screaming" Noah choked out.

"Oh my god. Noah, we're coming there, right now. We'll find you. You stay -- stay with Cathy."

At the car, Myra took the keys away from Ginny, who was desperately pale and breathing hard.

"I know where the hospital is, Myra -- "

"You're not driving, and that's final. Sit down in the seat, I'm getting juice from the vending machines, I'll be right back." She got a can of OJ for Ginny and a Coke for herself. In the car, she studied the map, saying streets out loud to memorize them. She refused to let herself think about Michael, only that they were going to meet Cathy.

Ginny didn't cry until midnight, when Gillam, Carly and Margie had gotten to their motel from the airport. They left Cathy at Noah's house and drove to the motel, finding their kids sitting on the sidewalk in front of their room. Myra had rented rooms for them, too, but the motel wouldn't hand out the keys until Myra got there despite her having asked otherwise. When Margie burst into tears again, so did Ginny.

Their children left two days later. Myra and Ginny stayed on four more, helping Noah sort his father's belongings with Cathy mute on the couch. Nate hired someone to come daily to make lunch for Cathy and do light house-cleaning. Her friends rallied round, and their Temple community promised Ginny she wouldn't be left alone.

Myra had refused to let Allie and Edwina come, saying "Chris needs you in town right now. We know you're there, we'll lean on you when we get back." She did call Nancy every day at a prearranged time and let Nancy do over-the-phone oogie-boogie. Nancy said she was cleaning out blockages for Ginny as well, even if Ginny wasn't on the line. Ginny was sleeping, at least, and eating small amounts, mostly to set an example for Cathy, Myra thought.

On the flight home, Ginny made a pillow of her sweater and leaned against Myra's shoulder with it. She couldn't sleep, however, and after a while she sat upright again. She reached her seat and removed her sketch block from her bag.

"Is that why you're so hot?" asked Myra. "I was scared it was a fever."

"I feel terrible about it coming up" whispered Ginny. "What's wrong with me, that I have no control over it?"

"Not a thing" said Myra. "I never do this, but -- what's the painting about?"

"Daddy" whispered Ginny.

"Soon as we get home" responded Myra. "It's okay, he needs to come through."

Nika picked them up and drove them to the house, but didn't want to stay the night. Myra made tea while Ginny stretched a canvas. She carried a mug back to Ginny, already applying gesso. Ginny took a long sip and said "You better not leave me. I can't handle the idea of you dying."

"Me either."

"Will you sleep on one of the daybeds?"

"I was planning to. I'm going to call the kids first. And our friends."

"Tell me whenever you want me to come out of it, Myra, I will. I don't want you to be alone while I'm painting."

"I'm okay, Ginny. But I'm going to get us in to see Nancy as soon as we can."

"Okay." Ginny had drained the cup. Myra said "I'll bring you more after I do the calls."

"I love you, Myra."

"I know."

© 2008 Maggie Jochild.

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