Friday, August 1, 2008


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.

Into December 2012

On Saturday night, all five of the under-30 set, including Nika, went out clubbing with Davonn and his circle of friends. Myra noticed that Margie loaned Nika her Armani jacket, now eight years old but still gorgeous. Gillam was voluble about how much fun Jane was going to have, and Carly smelled strongly of Axe when she hugged him goodbye.

Once they eddied out the front door, the house became abruptly silent except for the jangle of Narnia's collar as she stood in the foyer, looking at the space where Margie had just been. Ginny said to Myra "What shall be do with ourselves?"

"Well, I don't think Narnia got her evening constitutional, so I want to get that out of the way. Afterward, how about if we sit in the peace of the hot tub?" said Myra.

"I'll walk with you" said Ginny. Narnia's ears lifted.

They spent an hour in the hot tub, crawling onto the lip occasionally to cool off before sliding back down into the delicious hot froth. At one point, Ginny said "Do you think Nika will spend the night again?"

"I wouldn't be surprised. She and Margie are talking each other's heads off, with that chewy charge of attraction which will eventually dissipate into what might become an extraordinary friendship."

Ginny grinned at Myra. "You certainly gave Margie a role model for that."

"With Allie, at least. I don't remember being that attracted to Chris, not in that hot and bothered kind of way."

After a pause, Ginny said "I think Sima could use hearing you say that."

"What, she thinks I'm carrying a torch for Chris? Or that I did?"

"Yes. She asked me flat out this summer if I thought you two had the secret hots for each other" said Ginny.

Myra goggled. "She did? What did you tell her?"

"I told her you did not. Absolutely." After another pause, Ginny asked "I was right about that, yes?"

"You were. Wow, I bet that sort of suspicion has really accumulated after all these years. Should I talk to her?"

"I don't know, Myra. Partly it sounds to me like she and Chris need to do more talking, but Chris is -- well, you know how very Scorpio she can be. Information is power kinda thing. I think -- she said they don't have regular sex." Ginny, of all people, was looking embarrassed.

"Yeah, I got the same impression from Chris. But sounds like Sima thinks maybe it's because Chris is focused on me?"

"She was afraid of that. I'm glad she asked me, flat out."

Myra thought for a minute, then said "I notice you spoke for me, but not for Chris."

"I can't tell what Chris is thinking or feeling reliably" said Ginny. "I'll be honest, though, I have the same -- suspicion. About her feelings for you."

"Oh, Ginny, I earnestly hope not. Fuck. I can't think of a way for me to bring that up with her, not without having teethmarks left in my flesh" said Myra.

"Ask Allie. It'll mortify her but she'll know, and she'll tell you" suggested Ginny. She reached her foot out across the tub and cupped her sole over Myra's knee.

"Let me say here and now, Ginny Bates, that I am eternally grateful to you for being my sexual match all these years. I got no problem with lesbian bed death if both partners like it that way -- sex is not as important as the tadpoles think it is. But when there's unrequited longing, or unequal meaning attached to sex, it's so painful and messy. I credit you for our having escaped it" said Myra.

"You shouldn't" said Ginny. "It's luck, pure and simple. Probably we're just both screwed up in exactly the same way, so we agree on what's normal."

"Sisters in pathology" grinned Myra.

When they got out and dried off, Myra pulled on one of her oversized flannel gowns that she wore up to the moment of bed during the colder months. Ginny pulled a second from her drawer and donned it as well, having to roll up her sleeves. Myra found her adorable in it. They headed back to the common rooms. Myra opened the fridge and stood looking into it.

"Going to make another snack for the dancers coming home?" asked Ginny, joining her.

"Huh? Oh, yeah, I guess I will." Myra pulled out bread, cream cheese, and cucumbers. "Besides little toasted sandwiches, how about those tamari-roasted walnuts and a bowl of Fujis on the dining table?"

"I'll brew a pitcher of iced tea, with lots of chamomile to help them sleep" said Ginny, filling the kettle.

"I was trying to see what we have in the way of veggies left. Aside from these cukes, the crisper is bare. I guess that means a run to Pike in the morning, if we're to have our traditional Sunday dinner before they all head back south tomorrow afternoon" said Myra resignedly.

"Well, let's brainstorm, see if we can get by until Monday. There's several teenaged cabbages of the new heirlooms that I could harvest and we could braise those. Plus a lot of baby lettuces, not enough for an entire salad -- "

Myra interrupted with "Oh, Ginny, we'll eat up everything that's in the new plantings!"

"It's made to be eaten, honey, and who better than our kiddos? More will grow. As I was saying, we could use the lettuces as a thick bed for a heap of your corn salsa, we've got pounds of that corn frozen from the summer. So that's two fresh veggies, of different colors. For the third, how's about I simmer a couple of quarts of my marinara, also from last summer? We can cut thick slices of your 12-grain bread and toast it for dipping in the sauce, or spread the marinara on main dishes" said Ginny.

"I'm getting a little hungry thinking about it" said Myra. "Brill. So, then, main dishes to go with -- sounds like I should broil chicken breasts, plain and marries well with marinara."

"And let's pull out that massive sea bass. I want to roast it until it has crispy skin" said Ginny.

"Even more brill. The boys will want dessert, it's the weekend" said Myra.

"The boys can make dessert."

Myra picked up the dry erase pen and left a note on the fridge: Dessert for Sunday midday is yours to execute, go wild.

They did, Jane leading the baking of a seven-layer butter pecan cake the following morning before she and Gillam left for Quaker meeting. Carly busied himself cleaning up the kitchen as the couple went out the door, dressed in the finery they had arrived wearing on Wednesday. Nika was being instructed in Myra's corn salad recipe by Margie, with frequent corrections by Myra. When Allie came in and saw the tall cake on the breakfast bar, she whistled and said "Holy moly, looks like an extra insulin injection today!"

"Every Sunday is an extra injection day for you" said Edwina drily.

They waited on eating until Gillam and Jane returned from Meeting. As they served themselves, Myra asked "What did you think?"

"It was exciting. So many people" commented Jane.

"Maybe next time you can go to Temple with Gillam" said Ginny noncommittally.

"I really want to. Fresno has a reform Temple but for some reason a lot of Jews came to our Quaker meeting, so I learned a little bit from them" said Jane. Carly exchanged an unreadable glance with Chris.

"When we go see Frances' family at Christmas, she says she wants us to go to Mass with them. Just so I can see it once" said Margie.

"So...your Christmas plans are definite, then?" said Ginny.

"Yes, she's nailed it down. She has to work the 24th, but we're going to fly out Christmas Eve and have three days in L.A." said Margie. "I plan to drive up here for Hanukkah, though. Which begins on the 21st this year" said Margie.

"Well, then we can have a combined latke-making and burning the male consort in effigy party on solstice" said Myra. Jane, for once, looked startled. Carly giggled.

Gillam cleared his throat. "Uh...we've committed ourselves to going to Fresno for Christmas. So I can meet Jane's family."

Jane turned to look at him keenly. "Committed ourselves? Gillam David, if you'd rather be here, you need to say so. We can meet my tribe another time."

"Uh, no, that's not how I meant it. I really want to go with you" said Gillam.

"Because if this is one of your 'better to please others than rock the boat' kind of decisions, well, don't do that with me. Not ever" said Jane.

Myra heard Chris drawing in breath to laugh, but her eyes were on Ginny's, which were twinkling. Gillam's tone changed as he said, calmly, "I made the decision that I wanted to make."

"While we're at it" interjected Carly, "I'll be here for Hanukkah but Mom wants to go back to Chicago for Christmas, with Thea, and she's asked me to go with them. Truitt says he can't because his wife is so pregnant."

Myra looked at Nika, who blushed at the implication as she said "Oh, I'm headed for Lawton. Mandatory."

Edwina said to Ginny "So it's just us chickens for Jesus's birthday."

"First time since 1988" remarked Sima. Margie looked at her with raised eyebrows.

"Let's go somewhere" said Chris.

"Mexico?" asked Allie hopefully.

"No, closer. But outdoors, yes. How about the Olympic Peninsula, we've never done that as a group? Trek the rain forest, get in some fishing, it's only a few hours' drive" said Chris.

"I'd love that" said Sima.

"I would too, but not camping in December" said Myra.

"They have a lodge" said Edwina. "On Lake Quinault, a big lush place with fancy food and fireplaces, but you can fish right outside the door and it's surrounded by woods."

"Can we get reservations this late?" wondered Ginny. "I'll go check after dinner."

"Used to be the homeland of the Quinaults" said Chris softly. Myra looked at her and said "Still okay?"

"Yep" said Chris.

Gillam and Margie were both looking a little envious. Gillam said "I do plan to come back for New Year's and stay through my birthday."

"Then we'll make sure we're back by the 30th" said Myra. "Still, that's at least a week's vacation, wahoo!"

When the kids left, weighted down with the last of Myra's fresh bread, jars of preserves, and reluctant pets, Nika went home as well. Myra and Ginny ordered a pizza for dinner and otherwise worked until late. The next day, they made their run to Pike, buying only enough for four days as they were leaving for DC on Friday. That night, Ginny began a painting.

On Tuesday shortly after noon, the doorbell rang. Myra pushed back from her desk and said "Ginny? Gin! We have some kind of visitor, put on your caftan there."

When she answered the door, it was the rep from their security firm, Aaron. He asked "Can I have a consult with you two? I understand you're leaving town again for a week in a couple of days."

"Sure, come on in" said Myra. She offered him tea or coffee and made him a cup of plain joe as Ginny joined them, distracted and bedaubed.

"I've had a chance to completely review the police report and notes from your break-in" Aaron began after taking a sip of his black brew. Myra hoped she'd made it right. "I'm far enough along in the investigation that I thought I should let you know what I've found out so far."

"You're investigating it?" asked Myra in surprise.

"Of course" he said. "Since it's an open case, the risk still exists. To begin with, we agree with your assessment that this attempt was likely the result of surveillance and its intention could have been potential bodily harm. We tracked down the teenaged neighbor you mentioned, Ms. Bates, and his record is clear, both the public one and at his school. Which may not mean anything." He had a small notebook in his hand that he was consulting. He took another sip of coffee, reassuring Myra it was at least drinkable. Ginny had now focused in.

"We ran a background check on your new employee and housesitter as well, since her appearance in your lives coincides more less with the break-in" he said neutrally. "She, too, has no past incidents of note, her credit rating is all right and the opinion of her by her academic instructors and peers is highly favorable."

"You suspected Nika?" said Myra, outrage dumping into her bloodstream. "Why the fuck would you suspect her, because she's not white?"

"As I've said, because of the temporal association of her presence with the event" replied Aaron, unperturbed. "Ms. Josong, this kind of planned theft slash attack, with the difficulty in fencing art work indicating a criminal of above-average intelligence and connections, is usually the result of an inside job. Didn't the police mention that to you?"

"No, they didn't, but if they had I'd have told them the same thing: Hands off Nika!" She was furious. Aaron stirred his coffee and said "I can't rule anyone out simply on your say-so, ma'am. Not if I'm to be competent in my service."

He took two more sips and continued "The other likely contenders are any young people in the family who may have fallen afoul of trouble they can't tell you about. Again, your children and their friends have all been cleared."

Ginny turned to stare at Myra, growing anger on her face as well. Before she could speak, Aaron said "Therefore, we have no good leads and a persistent threat. I want to ask you, have you ever encountered any negativity from people in your neighborhood? Any off remarks or hostile stares? Perhaps when you walk your dog? Or, disturbing fan mail?"

Myra's mood instantly shifted to apprehension. "Let me think...No, I can't remember anything. Not since I was -- before I got together with Ginny."

Ginny slowly shook her head as well. "I mean, there are art critics who attack everything I do, but they're nattering nabobs of no consequence."

"We're going to have someone observing your cameras and monitors stringently while you're gone. The increased traffic of the holiday season creates good cover for burglaries. I know you've got a panic button on the keypads at every entrance to the house, but I think it would be a good idea for your housesitter -- it will be Nika again for this coming trip, right? -- for her to wear a button around her neck, so she can call for instant response wherever she is. If that's all right with you, one of us will drop it off tomorrow." He finished his coffee.

"Sheesh, Ginny -- should we let her do this? Or hire a bonded service?" said Myra.

"Let's give her the information and let her make the decision" said Ginny.

"If you decide to opt for a service, please talk it over with me before contracting with anyone. I can give you recommendations if you want" said Aaron.

He clarified dates of departure and arrival with them, then took his leave. Ginny said "I'd kinda like to see the reports he collected on our kids. Would it be an invasion of their privacy to request a copy?"

"Yes" said Myra firmly. "I don't want them to know about it. Nika neither. Suspicion is ugly."

Ginny drank a bottle of orange juice and returned to her painting. Myra tried calling Nika but got her voice mail and left a message. She dialed Chris next. When Chris answered, Myra told her about Aaron's visit.

"Well, Myra, I don't blame him for checking into it. I mean, it crossed my mind -- the timing was a little too close, and what Edwina knows about a student is not necessarily much" said Chris.

"Oh for fuck's sake, Chris, I can't believe you of all people don't see the bias in this" countered Myra.

"Because she's Indian? I grew up with Indians who raped me and got me hooked on drugs. We're not all Standing Elk. For that matter, even Standing Elk isn't Standing Elk." Chris chuckled to herself.

"Why are you so ready to believe that you're the only person who can really look after me?" said Myra.

"I look after you only when you fucking beg me for it, princess" said Chris, her voice suddenly thick.

"I don't beg you for anything, Chris" said Myra, her voice high. She saw Ginny step into the doorway, brush in hand. "I thought we had a functional give and take."

She could hear Chris's breathing on the line. Her own pulse was also loud in her ears. She refused to look at Ginny. After a long minute, Chris said "Is this about the money?"

"What money?"

"The money you're giving me. Is that part of the give and take you mean?"

"Oh, hell, Chris. N-O. I mean going back 30 years, how we've stepped up for each other. Do you really think I beg for your help, or that I'm somehow taking care of myself?" Myra was determined not to cry.

There was another minute of no speech. Finally Chris said "I don't think that. I was just mad. I need you to not criticize how I'm your friend, not in that pissant way. If you got something to ask me, then ask."

Myra swallowed before saying "All right, then here's a question: Do you have buried sexual feelings for me?"

"What in the blue fucking hell -- Is this your question, or Ginny's?" shouted Chris.

"Mine" said Myra.

"But Ginny's in the goddamned woodpile, I can tell!" said Chris. "No, Myra, I do not long to get into your J.C. Penney's panties. You know what, I can't talk any more right now. I'll call you later." She hung up abruptly.

Myra turned to face Ginny, whose eyes were wide. "That went about how I expected" she said.

"Did she hang up on you?"

"Yep. After correctly implicating you and saying a few other things about me. She says no, by the way." Myra rubbed her temples.

Ginny went back to her painting. Myra thought about playing Doom, in god mode with only a chainsaw and the walls permeable. Instead, she filled a glass with Coke and ice, gulping it down as she began making a quick veggie pasta for her and Ginny. She'd make meatloaf for dinner; her guess was that Chris would drop by to eat with her, having cooled off by then.

[Thx to Jesse for the conversation that cut through my, and Myra's, obliviousness.]
© 2008 Maggie Jochild.

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