Saturday, October 4, 2008


Blueberry Pie and Bagettes, mosaic mural by Therese Desjardin
(Blueberry Pie and Bagettes, mosaic mural by Therese Desjardin)

Here's 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.

March-April 2014

Though the renovations to Jane and Gillam's house were much less extensive, Jane was over there every day she was not called in to substitute teach. Gillam brought home a face mask for her to wear to filter out paint and other fumes. When Ginny saw it, she drove right down to the same store and bought a supply for Myra. They actually helped Myra stay on site more, giving Ginny half a day off at a stretch, which she usually spent in the garden at Jane's, as they had begun to call their old place.

A week later, Myra woke up with the inevitable "bowling tournament", as she called it, that seemed to be part of their upstairs neighbor's morning preparation for work. She noticed that Ginny felt very hot to the touch. Over breakfast, she asked "Are you feeling a painting coming on?"

"Fighting it" said Ginny tightly.

Myra thought for a minute. "Go ahead. I can handle it."

"Are you sure? It's the plumbers this week, and if that tile upstairs has to be replaced -- "

"I'll consult you about the design. Otherwise, I'll take my laptop and sit on the bench by the fireplace downstairs, that's a relatively calm spot. We need to put down a dropcloth in the studio here, though."

She helped Ginny get set up, made her lunch and set an alarm to go off at noon to remind Ginny, and drove to the new/old houses with Jane. She emptied a thick cardboard box of its sink and used that as a table for her laptop. The second day, she took in a large cooler of soft drinks and snacks which she handed out to crew, solidifying her position as the new go-to owner. After four days, Ginny had produced a spectacular portrait of Jane as a pregnant Valkyrie. After ten hours sleep, she woke up with a second painting nipping at her heels, and Myra waved her on.

Demolition finally came to an end at both sites. Myra's turf was filled with plumbers, electricians, and elevator installers. The solar panel folks were doing both roofs at once. The back corner of their yard was dug up to install the grey water tank and the rainwater collection cistern, tracking mud throughout every room. At Jane's, however, exterior painting and appliance installation began. Ginny's blue door was transformed to a rich brown, while the outside walls became ivory.

"Won't that show every spot of mildew? And reflect sun-based heat, instead of absorb it?" Myra asked Ginny at dinner that night.

"Yes indeedy" said Ginny shortly. "But the copper salmon will go back on our new blue door. And Jane is from California, remember."

Myra wasn't sure what that last part meant. However, all their decisions seemed to be made just as much by Gillam as Jane. She decided not to point that out to Ginny. Instead, she said "The wrong fixtures were delivered for the roll-in shower. It's called brushed nickel instead of the shiny stuff you ordered. I called but you didn't answer, and they said it would take another week to exchange things, so I went ahead with what we had."

"Well, shit" said Ginny. "Did they find that leak in the side wall?"

"No. But they decided to run pex there instead of using the old pipes anyhow, so it doesn't matter."

"How much extra is that going to cost?" demanded Ginny.

"I don't remember. It's got a 20 year guarantee, though. Look, Gin, we're doing well, relatively speaking. At least the space they made for the elevator actually appears to match the car it's designed for, let's count our blessings. Here, have my extra scallop."

By the first of April, Jane and Gillam's house was ready and they moved in, with a pizza dinner that night for the extended family. They had purchased a massive old table which Ginny was going to paint for them at some point in the indefinite future. It was battered and had more than one finish at the moment, but nobody cared: Getting to eat in the familiar yet utterly transformed dining room was a relief for everyone.

A few evenings later, Gillam walked over through the new gate and invited Myra and Ginny to come for dinner which he was cooking. After seeing off their work crew, Myra and Ginny approached the back door, hearing Jane at the piano and the recently uncovered hot tub bubbling again. Gillam let Myra make the gravy for his broiled chicken, and Ginny went upstairs to cut herbs. Afterward, they retired to a living room arranged in a way they'd never used with furniture they'd never have looked at twice.

When she needed to pee, Myra stood up from the chair which was more comfortable than it looked it would be and faced a quandary: The bathroom adjacent to the main bedroom was no longer "her" bathroom. Neither was the bedroom. After a moment's hesitation, she turned left and went to the guest bathroom next to what was, thank god, still a laundry and storage room.

After she came out, she went to the kitchen to refill her cup of tea. Ginny followed her, calling out to those in the living room "Shall I start another pot?"

"I'll do that" began Gillam in his host voice.

"No need to, if you want the same as before" said Ginny. He settled back down and said "Will you bring it in here when you're done? And pile more of those hazelnut bars on a plate, too."

"Their compost is overdue to be taken out" Ginny whispered to Myra.

"I'll do it" Myra offered, but Ginny said "No. It's their household, they'll run it the way they want." After a moment, she couldn't help but add "Sitting in that living room, though, is like being in an Ikea catalogue."

"They bought it themselves" said Myra, "That's what counts."

"Did he just hate all the color and solid old furniture growing up, then?" continued Ginny in her barely-breathed but still aggrieved tone.

"He adored it. But he did grow up. And he's sharing his world with someone else now. I gave up the idea of ever having my own soda fountain on this counter here because of you, remember Besides, the feel of this house is still as wonderful, don't you think?"

Ginny grudgingly agreed it was nice to be there. As if to argue with herself, she said "The biggest plus is the commute we had to get here."

"Exactly" grinned Myra.

"What are you two whispering about in there?" called Gillam. Ginny poked her head around the corner with a quizzical look and said "Uh, are these little brown mice new pets you didn't tell us about?"

Gillam was on his feet in horror before he realized Ginny was teasing him. They all laughed as she and Myra returned with a tray, Ginny saying "If I'd let you have that soda fountain, you'd be dead now of a heart attack."

Jane was now eight months pregnant and having trouble finding a comfortable position in which to sleep. Both she and Gillam looked tired all the time. Myra began doing their grocery shopping for them and persuaded Gillam to accept a cleaning service to come in once week for laundry, vacuuming, mopping, and other heavy labor. It was all he and Jane could do to keep up their classes and Gillam's job. They had both done extra class work all semester as a deal with their professors against the time when the baby would be delivered and miss at least a week for Gillam, more for Jane. Jane was going to take her final exam later in the summer. They were both such exceptional students, they were granted this leeway.

Myra also got into the habit of making lunch for Jane, walking over to their house through the gate and finding out what Jane's appetite was needing that day. She made enough extra to provide the young couple with dinner as well. Ginny was going over in the morning to have breakfast with Jane, who had stopped getting up with Gillam because she was short on sleep.

On Sunday, Myra and Ginny arrived with a large roast, two ducks, and enough side dishes to feed an army. Jane and Gillam were both crabby, and Myra said "We're just dropping these off. We plan to be next door, hashing out yard plans on graph paper, if you need us for anything." Neither of the young people urged them to stay. Once they out of earshot, Ginny said "I think they were fighting."

"Wouldn't surprise me" said Myra. "Is it safe for us to use the elevator yet?"

"I don't know and I'm not going to risk it. There's stuff we can do inside, since it's starting drizzling. I'm taking this broom upstairs." She vanished into what Myra was beginning to think of as an enormous house, especially compared to their cramped apartment.

An hour later, Gillam came in the back door. "I made a pie earlier, thought you'd like a piece" he said, holding out a plate with two wedges on it.

"I would, even though I'm full of my share of that roast" said Myra. She sat down on a lower step and offered him to join her. "Wow, this is tasty -- did you add almond juice to the blueberries, or what?"

"Or what" grinned Gillam. "Trade secret."

After two more bites, Myra said "So, how's it going?"

"We're squabbling over the baby's name" said Gillam dejectedly. "And I can't talk with you about it, don't try."

"Is she unyielding in a way you never noticed before?" asked Myra. "Petty? Humorless?"

"Yeah" said Gillam, surprised.

"It's not her. I mean, it is, but it's the final trimester hormones hitting her brain, too. Protect the fetus at all costs translates into some weird behavioral shifts" said Myra.

"Good to hear" he said. "I'm feeling pretty irrational myself, way too often."

"A little like watching a freight train bear down on you?" said Myra.

"I thought getting the house ready would help more than it has" said Gillam. "I guess there's no sanctuary from insane responsibility."

"You're up to it, boychik" said Myra. "If Poppyseed appeared overnight, you're ready. What's required is empathy, flexibility, and love, love, love. You're as good as they come in those departments."

"I get scared when I see her climb the stairs" he said. "I get scared when I feel the baby move under my hand. I'm scared now, being out of the house."

"I hear you" said Myra. "It gets better, once you have a routine of hands-on things that actually do make the baby safe and happy."

He rubbed his forehead. "Listen, I need to tell you something. You and Mom both."

"Should we get her down here, or you want to start with me?"

"I'll take the easy route" he said with a faint smile. "You know that Jane's parents are coming for the birth. And Lucy, if she can. They'll be staying at our house."

"Yes. We'll be on call to feed them or drive them around, if necessary."

"Yeah, Thad has offered, too. Well, the thing is...Jane wants her mother and Lucy in the room for the birth. And her dad, if he really wants to. Plus me. But nobody else." Gillam looked at her with not quite apology.

"Oh. Well, I guess -- I had hoped to see your child born, I'll be honest. But -- it's what the mother needs, Gillam, what the woman doing all the work that counts. And you, I don't mean to erase your role, but she's -- it's unbelievable, giving birth, Gillam. You have to be and do whatever Jane wants. You're her lifeline. Even the baby comes second, once labor is underway." She repeated what Patty had told her before Margie's birth.

"I don't think Mom is going to be so understanding" said Gillam.

"Don't underestimate her. She delivered both of you without anesthetic, she knows firsthand in a way I don't. And, if you asked us but not Allie, well that would be strange, and then what about Carly and Margie -- no, I think Jane's support system makes sense. We'll be on hand, out in the waiting room, when you need us." Myra was deeply disappointed and determined not to let any of it show.

"Jane says fuck pain, she's having an epidural" said Gillam.

"Good for her" laughed Myra.

"How about if you and Mom do all the arranging of the naming ceremony?" said Gillam. "At our house. And if Aunt Cathy is here, we want her to be the kvatterin. If not, then Aunt Allie, like she did for me."

"And Margie" said Myra happily. "Are you getting Rabbi Rachel to officiate?"

"No. Carly" said Gillam. His elbow was next to Myra's, and she suddenly realized he was trembling slightly. She put her arm around his shoulders and said "It's going to be okay, honeyboy. It's all going to be just fine."

He cried, as she hoped he would, leaning against her and letting his chest heave. Ginny appeared from above them and sat on his other side, stroking his back. When he was done, he wiped his face with the back of his hand and said "Whew. A little backed up, there."

"Come visit the gatekeeper anytime" said Myra. Ginny had picked up the pie plate and began eating.

"I should get home. Stop by again before you leave, okay?" he said, kissing them each on the cheek.

After he was gone, Myra filled Ginny in on the conversation. Ginny said "I'd wondered about the birth room thing. I don't blame her. The truth is, if Chris hadn't been phobic about hospitals, I'd not have wanted her and Sima in there with us, either."

"A month from now..." mused Myra. "And the contractor told you absolutely, we get this place finished in ten days?"

"He swore. For what it's worth" said Ginny.

The following Friday, shabbos was at Chris and Sima's. Chris's dictionary had been published by the Smithsonian and she had advance copies for them all to crow over. It was a jubilant meal.

Over dessert, Sima said "Guess who I ran into on the street this week? Yoshi Barton."

Myra looked instantly uncomfortable. Allie said "Yeah? She living here now?"

"Yes, she's moved back with her partner. She asked about you. She likes your books, she said."

Ginny said "I don't think I know her, do I?"

Sima answered "She's one of Allie's exes. They were together around the time I met Chris. She asked after you, too" she said to Chris.

Chris said "I bet she didn't ask after Myra." Her tone was provocative.

"Why wouldn't she?" said Gillam.

Myra didn't look up from her plate. Gillam couldn't tell if she was mad or embarrassed.

Allie said "Myra didn't like Yoshi. Was crazy jealous of her."

Myra did look up, then. Mad, Gillam decided. "You're right that I didn't like her. But it was not jealousy."

"What was it, then?" challenged Allie. Ginny realized this was an old, untouched wound.

"I don't think she was...ethical" said Myra.

Allie said to Edwina "We was together almost a year, and Myra never once hung out with the both of us."

"I don't remember you asking me to" retorted Myra. "And I'm sure she didn't."

"Did you have some sort of past relationship with her?" asked Ginny cautiously.

"No. I mean, I'd met her. Through Blue" said Myra. There was definite evasion coming from her, Ginny could tell.

"So you just magically knew she was wrong for me from the get-go and that was enough to not support me in the first big relationship I had during those years" said Allie. "But you can't explain why."

"Was I wrong about her?" replied Myra. "I mean, she dumped you for somebody else and never answered your calls."

"You never talk about her" said Edwina quietly.

"It's a sore subject" said Allie. "Matter of fact, let's drop it now."

There was a long, turgid silence. Myra could tell Edwina's hand was on Allie's knee. Finally Carly said "How 'bout them Seahawks?", which sent them all into relieved laughter.

Back at their apartment, as Ginny was heading for bed, she stopped and turned to Myra. "What's the story with that ex of Allie's -- Yoshi, was that her name?"

Myra put down her pencil and sighed. "I don't talk about it. I don't have anyone I can talk to about it. But I'd like to. You have to promise to never tell anyone, especially Allie."

Ginny sat down swiftly at her worktable. "I promise."

"She was a friend of Blue's, from Ithaca, where Blue lived before. She moved here with her lover, Wicca, after they'd traveled around in their camper for several months. They were crashing with Blue, and fighting nonstop because somewhere along the way, Wicca had slept with a woman they met. They were technically nonmonogamous, but it was one of those deals where neither of them ever acted on it, so they had all the political points without having to deal with actual other women. But Wicca had upset the applecart, and Yoshi couldn't get past it. So...I had some sort of rep as being good with mediation, helping dykes sort out stuff. I'd do it for groups or two women in conflict, usually for a simple barter. Blue asked me if I'd meet with them, and I agreed. Wicca was good at haircuts, so I traded a two hour mediation for two haircuts, I remember. I didn't tell Allie about it because, well, I felt like these sessions were confidential and shouldn't be part of community knowledge."

Myra stopped, rolling her pencil back and forth cross her desk.

"And?" prompted Ginny.

"Well, it did not go well, to say the least. They'd been together at least five years but you coulda fooled me, they had absolutely shitty communication skills. Wicca was apologetic, kept saying she'd never do it again, she'd take it back if she could, but that wasn't good enough for Yoshi. She wanted her beaten down and destroyed, seemed like. I finally confronted her and said 'What do you hope to get from this? Wicca can't apologize any more than she has. Either you believe her and move on, or you two won't be able to go on being lovers, is that what you want?' Wicca was wailing, saying 'Don't leave me!' Yoshi was so fucking cold, I couldn't believe it. She said 'We have to even up the score. The only way to do that is for me to fuck somebody else, too.' Wicca begins begging her not to, saying it'll make her crazy, which is just feeding Yoshi's lust for vengeance. Then Yoshi says 'And since you say this woman you were with didn't mean anything to you, I'll make that even, too. I'll pick somebody who's a nothing, a loser. I'll fuck her and we can talk then about starting over.'"

Ginny's face was horrified. "You're not saying..."

"Yep. They left, because Yoshi wouldn't budge and I said I couldn't help them any further. And six days later, not even a week, Allie calls me one morning before work to say she's got a new girlfriend. She was thrilled to bits, saying it had happened in a whirlwind, after one date. I had to get off the phone to throw up. I couldn't tell her, Ginny, you see that? I couldn't break confidence, but I also -- I just wanted it not to be true. And when Yoshi kept seeing her, I thought maybe it wasn't revenge, maybe she really had fallen for Allie, I mean, who wouldn't? Only then Wicca came over to give me a haircut and she said Yoshi had called her, they were talking about making up when Yoshi was 'done with her affair', and in the meantime they were sleeping together again. I was beside myself, Ginny. And I couldn't talk to anyone about it. After a few days, I called Yoshi and told her if she didn't stay away from Allie, I was going to beat the shit out of her. She laughed at me and hung up. And then she stayed with Allie for months and months, dragging her through all kinds of emotional games and lying hell. She never did get back with Wicca, she was jacking her along, too." Myra's face was miserable.

"And Allie never knew?"

"Not from me. But she stopped talking to me about her and Yoshi when she decided I was jealous of them and being irrational. It was -- it took everything we had to stay friends through that." Myra looked into Ginny's eyes. "I hate her, Gin. Yoshi, I mean. I think she is the scum of the earth."

"I can see why" said Ginny. "I think you should tell Allie now, though.'

"What, that she was so pathetic she was tagged as a loser by someone new to town, a woman she loved who used her as a pawn? I can't say that to Allie" said Myra.

"But it's a barrier between you. Listen, how about if I talk it over with Edwina? Allie doesn't see herself as a reject any more, not in any way. I think she'd be relieved to know you weren't an asshole in the way she thinks you are. You are vitally important to her, much more than even the memory of Yoshi is, I'm sure" said Ginny. "Secrets are toxic, Myra. In ways you can't control."

"I don't know" said Myra worriedly.

"Trust me, Myra. I think this as much for Allie's sake as for yours. Give me the okay to talk with Edwina, and if she disagrees with me, says don't tell Allie, then we won't. But if she thinks Allie would rather know, well, you'll trust her assessment, won't you?"

Myra chewed her lower lip. "Yeah. Okay. Especially since that fucking skank has moved back to town and I may have to run into her."

Ginny stood and kissed Myra. "I'm amazed you've kept this to yourself without imploding."

"Anything to not hurt Allie" said Myra. Ginny hugged her close and whispered "I know what you mean."

© 2008 Maggie Jochild


kat said...

these last few episodes have made me really weepy and emotional. I'm not entirely sure why, but they are. More than your writing usually does, which says a lot.

kat said...

oops, that last bit wasn't clear.....I hope you know what I mean....