She finished the first draft of LAC 18! I took the liberty of swiping its first chapter. I will behave myself for the rest of the year.
“I want you,” I said, my breathy words punctuated by the well-timed screech of my tires as I brought the car to a breakneck halt.
Claudia laughed, a wordless reply capable of breaking a girl’s heart. Okay, under normal circumstances it would have, but this was hardly normal. I had been joking, although given half a chance, I would have taken her right there.
Right there… My eyes scanned. We were parked mid-block in a residential neighborhood not far from our home. So “right there” proved hardly the place for an impromptu love-in. But still, I would have. … Okay, maybe not.
How had I gotten myself into this situation? Fair question.
It was quarter to ten on a Saturday morning, a cold November day so frickin’ gray it could have been mistaken for night. We were on our way to Maggie and Susan’s for a Lesbian Adventure Club weekend and had just been talking about how frickin’ cold it was. She joked that at least there was not a blizzard for us to get locked out in as there had been last time we stayed at their house. I defended our stupidity with a racy little recap of precisely what we did out there in the wickedly white hurricane. Then, I pushed it by slamming on the brakes. And, well, there you have it: even more stupidity.
“Very funny,” she said. Then, she wildly waved her hand. “You better get going, honey, or we’re going to be late.”
Dutiful servant to the one true powers-that-be, I depressed the gas pedal. I had barely moved an inch when she walloped me.
“Car! There’s a car coming!” She sniggered. “I should probably have checked traffic before ordering you out into it.”
I did what I should’ve done to begin with: I looked in the frickin’ rearview mirror. When the beater of a pickup passed, I pulled out and got us moving again.
“Did you ever notice how they always get the holiday months?” she asked, and I started the recollection process. “They had Christmas last year. And I think the time we went camping on Denny’s land, it was the Fourth of July.”
“Christmas on the banks of Gator River,” I specified, “and I don’t think it’s very patriotic to be shooting each other with paintball guns. Okay, maybe it is.” But then, something dawned on me. “Hey, we had November last year.”
“And we screwed that up, royally.”
Jesus, had we! Well, to be honest, she screwed up royally, by thinking something as preposterous as my cheating on her. Okay, but then I wasn’t on my best behavior that weekend, either. That damn champagne forced itself on me, and I did not fight back.
“Things have sure changed in a year, though, haven’t they, Kate?”
Again, she set my brain to thinking. As I looked both ways at the stop sign, my memories shifted with each turn of my head. We had just celebrated eleven years together, without a fight to mark its passing as we had done last time. I was just about to recollect our Christmas when she assumed the role of Traffic Cop on Memory Lane.
“Laura got shot. That was definitely the biggest thing. Alison and Janice moved in together. Laura got her sister back, and we got to meet her. And now, Susan and Maggie are going to have a baby. Big things. Very big things.”
The thought of that baby, though, made me think more about what was going to change than what had changed. But, I didn’t have much time for that either, for she continued, “We just celebrated eleven years together, honey,” she said, “and we had such a nice day.”
I seized the opportunity to ask a question that had been niggling at me lately. “Claudia, do you ever have any regrets about not having children?” Maybe that seemed as though a question one should not have to ask a lesbian partner, but even in our horribly bigoted part of the world, the times they were a-changin’. Hell, Maggie and Susan were making that loud and clear.
“Goodness no,” she answered almost immediately. “I love our life together, and as selfish as it sounds, I don’t want to share it with anyone.” She chortled. “Not even a dog.”
We had toyed with the idea of getting a dog in the past year; that was another big thing, but for the exact reason she just gave, we ultimately decided against it.
“What about you, Kate? Do you have any regrets? Do you wish we would have had children? Do you still want to have children?”
“Me? Hell no. I don’t think I’d make a very good mother.” The thought of being responsible for another life made me shudder.
Her hand came and squeezed my thigh. “I think you’d make a damn good mother. You have a kind heart, and besides, you had perfect examples of how not to be a parent.”
I did not want to go there. I sped up as though in a fire-ass hurry and brilliantly changed the subject, “I wonder if they’re going to have a Thanksgiving theme. The idea of that scares the hell out of me.”
“Scares you? Why would that scare you?”
I pulled to a stop at yet another sign, and as I answered, her head mimicked my check-both-ways head. “Well, there’s this stupid-ass thing made to look like a turkey but it’s actually made out of tofu. Jesus, I think I’d die.”
Once more, she laughed at me. “Honey, we already know she’s not going to make us go vegan. We trust her, remember? That’s why we didn’t have breakfast, remember?”
“I know. I know. But with it being days away from Turkey Day—” I had a startling thought. “I bet she’s going to make us protest at the turkey farm!”
“She is not! She’s never been one to force-feed us her beliefs.”
Then, an even more startling thought rocked me to the core. “Jesus, you didn’t have to make a totem or anything I have to figure out, did you?”
“Nothing behind your back this time,” she assured. Then, she grabbed my hand, saying, “Whatever happens, we come out the other end together. Promise?”
I squeezed and gave her the easiest of replies, “Promise.”
“If they pull anything not nice,” she very ominously said, “it will be to pay us back for what we did to them last time.”
“Revenge for revenge,” I reminded her of what we had joked about all month, of what we knew would come back to us, of what we probably had coming.
We mulled the idea again, and finally, frickin’ finally, I turned onto their street. As I made our way, I transformed into my busybody self, trying to spy familiar vehicles.
“There’s Holly and Laura,” she said with a point.
I had already seen them bounding out of Holly’s little red car that would soon be put away for the imminent winter. They had parked behind Alison and Janice’s occupant-free car. As far as I could tell, the professors had yet to show.
As I slowed, I pulled her hand to my lips to kiss it. “I love you. Even if it’s tofu turkey and picket signs, let’s have fun.” I needed fun. Jesus, I needed fun. I had the next week off school and a four-day weekend on the horizon. I needed fun. I needed this.
“Deal,” she replied as she held the button to lower her window. She shouted, “Since we all came separately, I take it it’s okay to park on the street tonight.”
“Laura’s going to call in for us,” a nodding Holly answered, her hands cupped to make a megaphone.
Some cities let you park wherever whenever. Some cities had alternate side parking. Granton had no frickin’ parking at all on any city street between two and five in the morning. As a city reporter, I knew that was to accommodate street sweepers and snowplows, but still, it was a pain in the ass. Not that I was often about at those hours in need of a place to park. Not even with a sexy green-eyed chick out in a blizzard. But still.
She closed the window, reciprocated the hand kiss, and told me she loved me.
With that, we bailed out of the car to be greeted with hugs and kisses from Holly. The cop just watched, and I covertly scrutinized her enough to believe she was in a good mood.
The four of us headed up the walkway to the front door. Holly had a fist poised to knock when a honking horn caused us to turn to the street. A familiar van caught our eye, Ginny at its helm, Kris in its passenger seat waving as though in a parade. In kind, we gesticulated our greetings and watched Ginny take the parking spot just beyond the driveway.
I figured we’d wait for them; it was the polite thing to do. Besides, Holly would never miss a chance to dote on any of us. It was what kept her bubbly personality, um, well, bubbly.
Thwarting the plan, though, the front door suddenly opened, and there stood the vegan and the schoolteacher.
“Good morning, everybody,” the schoolteacher said, and I’m sure we all silently sing-songed, “Good morning, Miss Garrity.”
“Come on in,” the vegan said. “It’s cold out there, and we have a fire going in the living room.”
A whiff of the damp air confirmed that there was indeed a chimney puffing away above us, and damn it to hell if that realization did not make me need a cigarette. But again, my thoughts were hijacked.
Holly’s hands flew to her hips, nearly taking me down in the process. “I’m not going in until I find out if we can’t say the t-word.”
I think everyone gaped in confusion right along with me.
“The t-word?” the vegan wisely requested clarification.
“Tits?” the schoolteacher said, shocking the shit right out of me. “You can say ‘tits.’ In fact, we’re encouraging the use of potty mouth this weekend.”
Say the hell what?
Holly turned to me, and her jaw hung a hell of a lot lower than mine—or anyone else’s, now that I had the chance to take a gander.
“Not that t-word!” Holly assured.
“My God, not that one either!” Holly cuffed me, as though I was about to say it, not Susan.
“What did we miss?” the English professor asked as she and Kris caught up to us.
Maggie succinctly explained, “Holly’s asking if you’re allowed to say the t-word or not.”
“Tits?” Ginny asked, and seriously, I thought I would keel over with a coronary. “Why couldn’t we say ‘tits’? We’re grown women, not debasing males. Well, I suppose there are enough debasing females to go around, too, but we’re not like that. If we want to talk about our—”
“Not that t-word!” Holly shouted loud enough to knock the soot out of the cigarette-smoking chimney.
Just as loudly, a chorus bellowed, “Then what t-word?”
She growled. “Thanksgiving!”
“Why the heck wouldn’t we let you say ‘Thanksgiving’?”
She shook her head as though she couldn’t believe us, which seemed pretty right on to me, because, frankly, I couldn’t believe any of it. And, we weren’t even through the frickin’ front door yet.
“Last time, you had us here it was December, and you told us we couldn’t say Christmas, the c-word. You did the C-Word in July, remember?” She paused here for… I don’t know what. Cognition? Recognition? Precognition? Some -nition. “This being November, I thought maybe you were going to do the T-Word in June or something.” Her head whipped to Ginny. “And since when do you say the t-word?”
Very, very, very smart-assedly, Ginny replied, “Thanksgiving? I say it at least once a year. Why, sometimes I say it three times before breakfast.”
“Not that t-word!”
And the chorus bellowed, “Then what t-word?”
She growled again, but this time it was tinged with laughter. “Can we please just come in? I’m sorry I even asked.”
“Well, before you do,” Susan said, “let us be clear that you are allowed to use any t-word you’d like.”
Please, just don’t let it be tofu!
The vegan and the schoolteacher separated themselves and gestured for us to enter their humble abode. Just inside stood Alison and Janice, their gapes just as tremendous as ours had been. Since they still seemed confused, I suspected their eavesdropping began at the tail-end—not that the conversation was any less absurd from front-end. And what the hell was Ginny’s deal? In all the years I had known the lover of rich vocabulary, I had never heard her use that t-word.
The redhead un-gaped her mouth to inquire, “What the hell was that all about?”
“Just don’t use any t-words,” Ginny advised. “Holly will go ballistic.”
Holly smacked Ginny, who simply snickered.
“Totally won’t talk in t-words, then,” Janice said, making the Ts spitty and stark. “I truly wouldn’t want Holly in a tizzy.”
This time, Alison smacked Janice, and we all laughed.
“I’ll take your jackets,” Maggie said as she opened the closet door right there in the foyer with ten people crammed in it. “Susan will take overnight bags and sleeping bags.”
Despite not wanting to go back out in the cold, I thought getting our stuff from the car sounded the lesser of evils when compared with trying to remove my jacket in the sardine can in which we stood. I declined Claudia’s offer of help and excused myself.
When I unsuccessfully attempted to close the door behind me, I discovered Laura shadowing me.
“I’m coming with you, Sutter,” she said, and before I could question the rationale for that, I watched her fumble in her pocket and then withdraw a pack of cigarettes.
“Good thinking,” I said.
“We can share one since we’ll catch hell if we’re gone too long.” She lit one, took a death-defying drag, and handed it to me. As I took one just as long, she asked whether I had any coffee.
I shook my head. “Didn’t bring any.” I handed off the cigarette to her. “Maggie always has good stuff so I figured I’d wait.”
“You always have coffee, Sutter.”
“And you’re always a coffee mooch.”
“F-er.” The word left her mouth in a big plume of smoke.
“B-word,” I said and snatched the cigarette from her hand.
We meandered to my car and took our sweet time removing our necessary belongings.
By the time we moseyed back to the door, our smoke had been spent. She snuffed it out on the ground and shoved the butt into the pocket of her bomber jacket.
“Something I’m sure you’ve never done.”
We entered the foyer, this time finding only Maggie stationed there. A strange look spread over her face, and she plugged her nose. “I can tell what you two were up to.”
That’s because Laura has a butt in her pocket.
“Sutter made me.”
“I’m sure she did,” she replied with a roll of her eyes. “Give me your jackets, and, Kate, throw your stuff at the end of the hall.”
Covertly, Laura transferred the butt from her jacket to her jeans pocket, probably afraid she’d stink up the whole closet. She gave Maggie her jacket, and as I removed mine, she tossed Claudia’s and my stuff to the end of the hall where a mountain of belongings sat, completely blocking passage. More specifically, there was no frickin’ way to get to the kitchen where that good coffee was probably languishing in some carafe, in an ice-cold cup, or worse, on a scorching warming plate.
“Everybody’s in the living room,” Maggie said, and that news bulletin would’ve been unnecessary had I simply tilted an ear to the obvious chatter on the other side of the wall.
Hoping to hell coffee was being served or that Claudia had thought to grab me some before the hall became blocked, I hurried inside.
A fire, as promised, blazed in the hearth. The furniture in their spacious living room had been moved to butt the walls, making it almost arena-like, and that made me a bit nervous. I saw Claudia alone on a loveseat, and when she saw me, she patted the spot beside her. Forever obeying her come-hithers, I happily obliged.
She was not holding Earl, and she did not thoughtfully hand me a cup of coffee. As a matter of frickin’ fact, no one in the room had a beverage. A scan verified not only that sad fact but also that there were no carafes, warming plates, or cups to be seen. No frickin’ food either! Didn’t hostesses always provide snack-y breakfast things and beverages? Sure, sometimes we had to pay, but, shit, I would have paid. I would have paid dearly. Maybe they were going to starve us so tofu turkey would have been easier to swallow. I doubted the likelihood of that. Not of them doing it. I mean the swallow-ability of it.
Why the hell hadn’t we eaten breakfast?
Why the hell hadn’t I brought coffee or hit Road Swill on the way?
Road Swill! Jesus, I missed Road Swill.
My eyes shot to the coffee moocher, who more than likely smelled like a dead butt. Her eyes were already upon me, and I could tell from the look on her face that she was well aware of our predicament. Her eyes grew wide and then circled the room. She held an imaginary cup to her lips, pretended to drink, and then shook her head. No f-ing coffee, Sutter, I could hear her say. Yeah, Laura, I frickin’ get it! We won’t be protesting at the turkey farm. We’ll be protesting right frickin’ here.