Saturday, January 3, 2009


Crema fritta
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.

May 2018

Margie came over at 8 the next morning, rousting Ginny from the study daybed with “Frances made crema fritta last night, I have some leftovers.”

Ginny was still limping as she came downstairs. Margie said “Is your foot infected?”

“I don't know” said Ginny. She pulled off her sock and they looked at the wound left by the glass.

“There's no redness. I still think you should have had stitches. Maybe you cut some small muscle” said Margie.

“It's just sore. But I'm sore all over” said Ginny.

“Immobility” declared Margie. “Frances sent over prosciutto, too. Make tea, I'm getting Mom up.”

Two minutes later, Myra emerged from the front bedroom with Margie's arm linked through hers. Moon and Gidg rushed to greet Myra, stepping politely around Keller. Myra looked at Ginny without expression and said “Hi” in a flat voice.

“Well, better than nothing” said Margie cheerfully. “Sit down, I'm your server for today.” She set a bowl of mandarin orange slices on the table and joined her mothers.

Ginny was already eating a slice of crema fritta. Margie poured tea into Myra's cup and said “All right. Spill.”

“No” said Myra instantly. “I can't rehash it over a meal. Besides...we're not done.”

“But something shifted with Nancy, can you tell me that much?”

Myra looked at Ginny. “Information was exchanged. Ginny, one thing we need to figure out today is how to tell Carly.”

“I know” said Ginny. “Before it gets released into the whole family.”

“Carly?” said Margie. “Because of Pat? You're really not going to give me anything more than that? Damn. Well, what about today, you're going back today, Mom said? Will you talk with me after that?”

“Maybe” said Myra. “Margie, this is as good as it gets right now.”

“All right. I wish I liked the taste of prosciutto, it's such a lovely color” said Margie.

“Who has the grandchildren for date night tonight?” asked Ginny.

“Allie and Edwina” said Margie. “And I want to remind you, Mimi's birthday is Wednesday after next.”

“We know” said Ginny. She felt instantly nervous about that “we”, but Myra didn't react.

Ten minutes later, Frances joined them, sleep still in the corners of her eyes. She made an espresso and heated milk to pour into it. She acted like everything was perfectly normal, which Ginny found extremely reassuring.

After two sips of coffee, she said “Mimi asked me to give her a pony for her birthday.”

“A girl after my own heart” grinned Margie.

Myra looked at Ginny. Every time their eyes met, Ginny's heart flipped over. “Maybe it's time to make some stick horses for this lot?” Myra suggested.

“With extras for guests” said Ginny, and they both smiled. Myra told Frances about the time Margie tried to give away Gillam's horse to Truitt and the meltdown that occurred. Frances said to Margie “You had too many stinky boys around, huh, baby.”

Ginny snorted. “The only boys within a mile were toddlers. They weren't the problem, it was all the fawning aunties who thought Margie farted rainbows.”

“That is not in any way how I remember things” said Margie. Frances winked at her in commiseration.

When Myra finished eating, she excused herself, saying she needed to shower before she dressed. She went into the front bedroom and closed the door. Margie said to Ginny softly “So, are you definitely going to be working things out?”

“I don't know, Margie” said Ginny. “I now know what all those exes of hers felt. When she goes away, she's gone. Like frozen tundra.”

“But you were lying on the daybed together last night, I saw you” said Margie.

“We slept a few hours together. Don't get me wrong, it's a major change. But...things are still...up in the air.”

Frances made a hand gesture Ginny didn't recognize and said “Tempo al tempo.”

When Myra came back out, Frances and Margie were still there. “Uh...I still want us to drive separately” she said to Ginny uncomfortably.

“All right” said Ginny. “I should get dressed too. No, you two don't have to go.”

Myra began carrying dishes to the kitchen. Frances helped her and fed a tendril of prosciutto to Moon on the sly. Ginny went upstairs, returning to find Myra heading out the door and the kitchen empty.

“See you there” said Myra.

Ginny had to go back inside after starting her car because she'd forgotten her wallet and had not set the alarm. She felt anxious about being late, but also wondered how safe her driving was at the moment and forced herself to not speed.

Myra was sitting in the armchair. Ginny took a place beside Nancy on the couch. Nancy put her fingers on Ginny's pulse and said “So, how did it go?”

Ginny wanted to hear what Myra would say. After several moments, Myra said “Better. For a while. Then questions came crowding back in.”

“And you allowed them? Good” said Nancy.

“I...I have a question for Myra” said Ginny. Myra met her eyes. “Why did you change your mind? I mean, why did you finally agree to see Nancy, to talk to me again? Was it something Chris said?”

“You know about that?” said Myra, not pleased.

“Just that she talked to you. Not what she said.”

“No. It was not Chris, or Allie either.” Myra looked stubborn. “Or the visitation, at least, not directly.”

“What visitation?” asked Ginny.

“I thought since you were all sharing information” began Myra snidely. Nancy waved a hand in her direction and Myra stopped for a minute. She resumed talking in a normal tone. “A couple of days ago, my mother appeared to me. By the whaleshark, next to the pond.”

“Appeared? You mean, you saw her?” Ginny's eyes were wide.

“And heard her. So did Margie, in some sort of shared hallucination. And – it seemed like, Keller and the dogs.” The story had to be dragged out of Myra. When she was done, Nancy commented “You don't believe it was real.”

“I don't. Listen, is there a way you can muscle test to find out if it did happen, like, get past my delusion or whatever?” asked Myra. Nancy grinned to herself and said “All reality is delusion, at bottom.”

“But – if you don't believe it was real, then – you said that didn't influence you either?” Ginny persisted in getting her question answered.

“Not directly. It got to me, though, to think I was sliding over an edge like that. And somehow dragging Margie with me. I got...scared, I guess you'd say. That I'm so lost, I'm making shit up. And then, when I told Gillam about it – well, he more or less said he thought my mother had come back to intervene on his kids' behalf. That if I was going to be like her, he wasn't sure I was fit to be around his children.”

“He said that?” Ginny wasn't breathing deeply.

“More or less.”

“And that's what shifted you?”

“Well, if I lose the grandkids, I lose him too, really. And eventually Margie. I'd already lost you, and they were all having Sunday potluck without me. I had to do something” said Myra.

Nancy looked at Ginny, but Ginny had no reply to make. Nancy said “So, do you have any questions, Myra?”

“Questions are all I have” said Myra, rubbing her forehead. Nancy scooted over to sit on the arm of her chair, taking pulses. Myra leaned against her for a second, then looked up into Nancy's face and said “If I'm honest today, I may break her heart. I don't want to. I'm not mad any more.”

“She's strong enough for the truth, Myra” said Nancy. Ginny hoped that was true. She dug herself back into the couch cushions.

“I don't she could have let this happen to her. I know that sounds like blaming the victim. If it is, I'm a fucking hypocrite. I don't think it's her fault, what Pat did to her. But I don't understand how she could let it go on for even a second. It doesn't fit with the woman I thought I knew. And – Listen, Ginny, I absolutely know you didn't want Pat, never did. I believe you. But even so, you kissed her back. If you could do that...I'm scared about us. About what you may have done with me, that maybe you didn't want to. I've never had that worry about you.”

Myra looked queasy. Nancy was working on her steadily. Ginny met Myra's gaze without flinching.

“I don't understand it, either. That's...been the problem” Ginny said hoarsely.

“So maybe you've got some crud in there neither of us knew about?”

“What if she does?” Nancy asked. “What would that mean?”

“Well, for one thing, I want to re-examine her relationship with her parents. Both of them.” Myra's tone was briefly harsh.

“That's not your work to do, Myra. It's Ginny's, unless she asks for your company in that quest” reminded Nancy.

“But...I made a sexual agreement with her based on her not having...her not being like me and Allie and Chris” said Myra.

“You've counted on her being outside the kind of damage you carry, is that it? So now you see her as what, less valuable to you?” Nancy's voice was soft.

“NO. Not that. But it means I have to be careful in a way I never was. Careful to not – I don't know how to explain it.”

Nancy looked at Ginny. “Ginny, when you became lovers with Myra, in your sexual relationship with her, have you had be more careful than with other lovers because she's a survivor of abuse?”

“ I mean, sometimes stuff hits and I need to change what I'm doing, or listen for a while...but that's true for any lover, isn't it? That kind of consideration and reciprocity?” Ginny felt confused, also.

“Myra, your identification of Ginny as somehow not being your full equal if she has sexual abuse in her past – which she most assuredly does, the incident with Pat counts as that – I think it's a judgment you are passing on yourself. Not Ginny.” Nancy flexed Myra's arm and said “Yes, that's right, that is what's going on. Okay, we'll begin there.”

Myra was fighting an urge to throw up. She closed her eyes and let Nancy do her magic. When her nausea began subsiding, she looked at Ginny again. She whispered “When did I become someone you couldn't come to and tell what had just happened to you? Was that barrier always there between us, or was it because that year, how terrible it had been?”

Ginny swallowed. “It was Margie's rape. When she came home, she told you. She asked to talk to you first. Not me. I thought – sometimes, I still think – it's because I'd let her down in a way you had not.”

“Not true” said Myra. “It was because you were so in at her core, and she had to step back from her own insides to know what happened. Once she broke the silence, it was you she wanted most of all.”

Ginny began sobbing. Nancy didn't cross over to her, however. She said to Myra “I'm sensing a block, still. What's going on with you?”

Myra's fists were closed. “All those years. Every second of every day, there was a secret between us that I had no idea existed. Ginny was living with it, living around it, trying to – what were you doing, Ginny? Were you trying to make up for what happened? Were you never going to tell me? What if I had died before this came out?”

“I wanted to tell you, once I realized we could work through it, once the kids got better, I ached to tell you. But by then, enough time had passed – you know how you are about being lied to. You would have left me. As you did. You did leave me, Myra. I'm not sure if you're back or just doing the work because you always do the work.” Ginny gasped her words around her weeping.

“I can't give you a promise right now” said Myra. Ginny interrupted with “I know that, dammit. I'm just telling you what I think, how I feel.”

Nancy smiled briefly. Myra unclenched her hands and said “It was easier when I was mad at you. Now I keep thinking of times, during the past 14 years, when you must have been slammed, been terrified, been all alone. No wonder you never got past that irrational jealousy – it wasn't that I was untrustworthy, it's that you were afraid you were. And having to deal with that scumsucker Pat around Carly and Gillam's relationship, and her – she really did a number on Patty, with the move and the shit that went down in that family. And you couldn't call her on it, couldn't tell Patty, couldn't do anything but walk a tightrope. I want to tell you that you deserved all the hell you must have gone through, but instead I can hardly bear that you did, without me, without your best friend and girl sitting here. I hate it that I have empathy for you, but I do.” Myra burst into tears as well.

“You wouldn't be Myra if you didn't” wailed Ginny. Now Nancy was openly grinning. She moved to sit beside Ginny and tend to her. After they had both cried themselves out, Nancy began mixing oils. She said to Myra “You did not deserve to be lied to, we're all clear on that. But somehow you played a role in the dynamic that got constructed. You need to think about what that might have been, without blaming yourself or Ginny. We can discuss what you've come up with next time.”

“And you, Ginny...You'll have to forgive Myra for not noticing you were keeping something from her. You'll have to do that before you forgive yourself, I think. I want the two of you to not have sex right away -- “

Myra snorted.

“And if one of you is uneasy with talking about these issues on your own, then don't. Bring it back here. There's no rush.” Nancy handed them each a small bottle of oil.

“That's it? We're done for this time?” said Myra, as if Nancy had not just said “No rush.” “We haven't figured out how to tell Carly – how to tell the whole family, for that matter.”

“It's up to Ginny how to tell your family” said Nancy. “And yes, I agree, Carly will be very hurt by the whole story, but it won't surprise him.”

“But what if he turns to us, to me, for comfort?” said Myra.

“If you feel you can't offer it to him, help him find someone who can listen” said Nancy sensibly. “Give him my home number, he can call me. My guess is that he won't turn to either of you, or his mothers. He'll use other parts of his support system. He's a level-headed man.”

“But -- “ began Myra.

“Go back to as much of your normal routine as you can” said Nancy firmly. “Cook and eat together, you can manage that. See your grandchildren. Garden, do chores. And if creativity is something you can manage, that would be ideal. No pressure, though. Same time tomorrow?”

“All right” said Myra resignedly. They hugged Nancy and left, walking down the stairs in a single line. At Myra's car, she turned awkwardly and said “About the grandkids – I can't handle it on my own, but I think she's right, all they want of us is to be around us. I'm ready for it. Are you?”

“I am. For a few hours” said Ginny.

“I want to go eat lunch out somewhere, think for a while. Will you call Jane and tell her we'll take the Golden Horde at our usual time tomorrow?”

Ginny nodded. “I may talk to Margie when I get home. But I'd rather not tell the story a dozen times, I'd rather wait until we can get everyone else together. Well, maybe not Carly and Eric, I don't know yet. Are you going to be able to be part of that gathering?”

Myra took a deep breath. “Yes. You'll need me to keep Allie from rushing out to murder Pat. Or, depending on how I'm feeling at that moment, maybe I'll drive the car for her.”

Ginny let herself laugh. “I'll take that as a compliment. But I don't want you to do that work for me, either.”

Myra stepped over and gave Ginny a hug. “God, you smell good. You've not been bathing much, have you?”

Ginny laughed again. “I'll be in the garden, if I'm not at the house. Thanks for – everything.”

“No problem” said Myra. They both cracked up, with a hysterical edge to their laughter. Myra was still chuckling as she drove off.

© 2009 Maggie Jochild.


Jesse Wendel said...


Still crying, dammit.

For like the last two. Grrrr.

Jesse Wendel said...

Alright, this is getting absurd.

Second time reading, a full 11 hours later. And I can't read the blasted (brilliant amazing oh-my-God you've done it again) thing without weeping, pretty much start to finish.

I'm holding you completely responsible for the reactions I'm having, Maggie Jochild. NONE of this has anything to do with me, ya hear me? This is ALL YOUR FAULT.


Maggie Jochild said...

But -- Nancy says we're not supposed to blame anybody!

If you must judge, Pat's up for grabs as a villain. (grin)