Seems I was able to abscond with Chapter 2 of the as-yet-unfinished Lesbian Adventure Club Book 9! You are amazed, I know. I would be amazed, too, if I wasn’t so impatient for the author to: Get the damn thing done!
If you didn’t read Chapter 1, please do so here. Otherwise, what follows will make even less sense than our LAC meetings sometimes do all on their own.
The screw ducked into the kitchen again, this time returning with a huge sheet of paper. "It’s really quite simple," she said, and I figured I was not the only one to doubt that. She tacked the sheet to the wall and explained, "Bottom line is that if Holly would do it, it’s probably acceptable."
"Probably? That’s not very specific for a law, Detective McCallister."
"What the hell is this anyway? Is Holly princess for a day?"
"Every day," Laura said, and she and Holly started laughing and swiftly moved onto kissy-face activities.
"Hell, if Holly would kissy-face, it’s probably acceptable for us to do it, huh?"
"I say we go for it!"
Partner seized partner, and overdramatic smacks and mmm’s filled the room. Then, laughter erupted. And just when I thought maybe the weekend would not be so bad, an ear-piercing, head-exploding whistle sounded. We looked to the screw standing there, a referee’s whistle on a white cord being whipped in a circle with her index finger.
"Did anybody read the laws?" she haughtily inquired. "I suggest you read number six."
All eyes darted to the dreaded list.
Â 1. Trust your hostesses.
Â 2. Listen to Holly.
Â 3. Obey Laura.
Â 4. Participate in all activities.
Â 5. Do not take over.
Â 6. Do not make your own rules.
Â 7. Do not kidnap.
Â 8. Do not take your pants off, unless instructed to do so.
Â 9. Keep complaining to a minimum.
10. Remember we love you.
"Any questions?" Laura asked, still whipping her whistle.
We looked to each other, and it became obvious that if anyone had any questions they were not going to be audible ones. Simultaneously, we shook our heads.
"Fine, then. Let’s get started, shall we?"
Holly’s face lit up with delight. "We’re going to have so much fun, you guys! Of all the rules, just remember the first one and the last one. Trust us. We love you. If you do that, the rest will take care of themselves."
Okay, that made sense to me. On the all-important levels, I did trust them. It was on the not-so-important levels where they made me nervous as hell.
Holly led us to the back door, opened it, and gestured for us to head into the January frigidness. Despite the lung-sticking bitterness, it felt damn good, freeing in a way. I closed my eyes and drew it in deeply.
"For Pete’s sake, Holly, what the heck did you do to your studio?"
My eyes snapped open to look. Holy shit! Blotches of paint covered nearly the entire building. Either that or the mushrooms in those omelets were of the magic variety.
"My paintball gun," she explained. "Pretty cool, huh? My whole studio looks like an artist’s palette! As it should."
Laura entered the throng and handed off the paintball gun to Holly. "Be careful," she said to all of us. "It’s below zero, and that just might freeze the paint into actual bullets."
With fear in our eyes, we looked at each other.
"What exactly are we going to shoot, Holly?"
"I don’t think we should be shooting each other with frozen paintballs."
"Not each other! My studio!" Holly exclaimed. "I have everybody that goes in there add a little to it. It’s like a cover charge." She aimed the gun at the studio and instructed, "Everybody take a turn. Just be careful of my windows."
A split second later, she released a blotch barrage. Her ammo kind of steamed on impact, began to dribble, and then froze to a complete standstill. With a smile of utter satisfaction, she handed the gun to Ginny and made a beeline for her studio’s door.
Ginny riddled the snow more than the building, passed the gun to Kris, and made her own dash on the shoveled path.
Through the line it went until that gun finally landed in my hands. For some odd reason, I liked the feel of it. I remembered shooting one at Maggie’s Capture the Flag maps, but they were mere feet away. I had never gotten the chance to aim into the great beyond and pull the tinting trigger.
Just as I prepared to raise it, Laura stopped me and filled its hopper.
"Get it good, Sutter," she ordered. "Holly would be happy."
I readied. I aimed. I fired. And in so doing, I received a sudden intimacy with the term "going ballistic." While I knew I would not feel the same about a real gun with real bullets, there was something very liberating about launching blobs of paint, leaving my mark on an unsuspecting world.
Pleased with myself and the experience, I handed the gun to Laura, who promptly headed back into the house with it.
As I waited for her, I looked to Holly’s studio. It was a strange building, even without the blotches of paint, and in many ways, I found my reporter self at a loss when trying to describe it. It looked like a house that had been cut in half at its peak, with one tall side and one short. It sat at an angle on the property, begging the morning sun and shunning the afternoon. Windows took up most of the tall wall. If you stood with the building’s angle, you could see in, and if you didn’t, it shut itself off as though it contained a secret. Tall, short, welcoming, standoffish, open, sequestering: it was a contradiction, as though it even clashed with itself.
I had only been in there a few times over the years. It made me nervous in ways that were inexplicable to me. It seemed as though I walked into a church, a spiritual place that mandated a hush. â€¦ No, that wasn’t it. Maybe it was more like walking into a womb. There was still an expected hush, and it still felt spiritual, but it wasn’t a worship of what was. It was a worship, a respect for what was becoming. It was life without the loud, maybe. It was Holly’s own primordial ooze of oil paints. It was a place that took me to beginnings and uncertainties, a place that made me think. Maybe that was why I avoided it.
But nowâ€”now, I looked at it and felt a sense of kinship, remembering how it had sheltered Claudia and me with its half-house shape. She and I had made love in its shadow. I had befriended its outside, and vice versa. And now, I owed it something, and it owed me. See, it wasn’t just a blotchy building where Holly painted. It had a life of its own.
"Get a move on, Sutter," Laura’s voice suddenly interrupted. "You’ll freeze your ass off."
With that, we zoomed up the path and abruptly stopped at the door. Strangely, we both hesitated and looked to the other to enter first.
"Go on," she ordered.
"No. You go."
"No. You go. I have the whistle. Shut up and go!"
I squinted my eyes at her. "Why the hell don’t you want to go?"
She laughed, but it came more from awkwardness than humor. "I don’t usually go in there."
"Why?" That seemed odder than odd to me.
"Because I usually end up in trouble."
"What kind of trouble? Why?" I imagined her spilling paint, tipping over an easel, making a nuisance of herself.
"There’s something strange in there, Sutter. She’s the sexiest creature in the world, but in thereâ€¦" She stopped talking and lit a cigarette for us to share. After a long drag and a hand off to me, she leaned against the studio and said, "There’s just something strange. Why don’t you want to go?"
"I’m not falling for your non-answer. You explain what you mean first."
"I’m not sure I can," she said and grabbed the cigarette from my hand. "I have a hard enough time behaving when we’re out here. When I’m in there with her, she becomes completely irresistible. She sees paint. I see her. She smells turpentine. I smell her. She touches a brush. I want to touch herâ€”and not even sexually or romantically. I mean I really just want to touch her. Just put my skin on her skin. She paints. I want toâ€” There’s just something strange in there."
I seized the cigarette. "So what, you don’t trust yourself?"
She laughed again. "I trust myself. I trust that every cell of me will succumb to whatever happens to her when she’s in there, when she turns into that artist who makes beautiful things appear out of nowhere. â€¦ Why don’t you want to go?"
"I’m not sure," I said, and I wasn’t. "There is something strange in there, but it doesn’t make me look at Holly any differently. Maybe it’s more as if it makes me look at myself differently. â€¦ I don’t know. There is something strange in there."
"Have you ever been in there with Claudia?" When I shook my head, she asked, "Want to make a deal?"
I was notorious for getting the short end of the stick whenever I made a deal with Laura, but for some stupid reason, I said, "Sure. What is it?"
"See if the same thing happens to you with Claudia. Tell me the truth, either way, and if you get yourself under house arrestâ€”which seems inevitable, knowing youâ€”I’ll give you one free-of-charge pardon."
"Seriously, Sutter. I want to know if it’s the place or just Hollyâ€”or if it’s both. Deal?"
She stomped the cigarette and picked it up. "All right, let’s go." She motioned for me to get the door. The shithead!
Trying to be very quiet, I slowly pulled it open, and the warmth that blasted me made me realize just how cold I had been outside. A myriad of smells ran up my nose and made themselves at home. Then I looked to the eight of them in the room. The morning sunshine made them look like surreal, glowing silhouettes.
After Laura tossed our spent cigarette in the garbage, we crept further into the room.
"There you two are!" Holly shouted when she saw us. "Kate, get over by Claudia. Babe, you come by me. Let’s get this show on the road."
I scooted to Claudia, who generously offered a kiss. After greedily accepting, I scanned the room, trying to determine everyone’s mood, but I found no face forthcoming. I turned back to Holly and discovered an uncomfortable Laura standing next to her, eyes trained on me. Oh goody, I was the screw’s diversionary focal point.
Holly beamed and said, "Next to Laura and you guys and Noelle and my mom and my dad andâ€¦ Um, next to people, I love art more than anything. And Alison before you start complaining about lack of talent, I honestly believe you don’t have to be good at it to experience how incredible it is. Good comes from practice, but the experience comes from the good that’s already inside."
Laura piped in, "In other words, pleading ‘no talent’ and/or not participating will result in house arrest."
We all looked at Alison and her grand gape. Then, we supplied our own. For me, art was speeding down a potholed street and not spilling coffee. For me, art wasâ€”
"Art is simply taking what’s in your mind and making it exist outside yourself, giving it form."
Alison raised her hand and dared, "Holly, I’m really not complaining, but what if the form you give it looks nothing like what’s in your mind?"
"So what?" Holly answered. "Call it abstract and move on. If you focus on the experience and not the product, it can be incredible no matter what you end up with. Experience the colors of what you see. Feel the lines and the curves instead of just trying to duplicate them. That’s what I want. That’s what Holly would do."
We exchanged glances, and everyone seemed amenable to the idea.
Holly smiled approvingly at us and said, "Cool. It’ll be fun! â€¦ I thought we’d be better starting with pencil and then if you want to add some color, we can try paint or pastelsâ€”whatever you want."
She was excited, and it seemed contagious to everyone but Laura and me. She instructed each couple to grab an easel and a table and set up a work area. Without protest, we embarked on the mission.
Eventually, redhead and blackhead’s area cropped up behind us, the professors’ to the side, and the vegan and the schoolteacher’s catty-cornered.
When we finished, Holly said, "Okay, now you need to decide who will draw and who will pose."
"You mean we have to draw our partner?"
"I was thinking fruit bowl."
"Fruit bowl?" Holly shouted with great disgust. Her arms jutted from her hips again, and I found myself trembling in fear. "We are not doing fruit bowls!" Then, she declared. "We’re doing nudes!"
"Nudes?" times eight equaled Holy frickin’ shit!
"You’re kidding, right?"
"Of course, I’m not kidding. What better subject could there be? You know the subject. You worship the subject. Seriously, chickies, if we’re going for the experience, what better subject could there possibly be?"
"A fruit bowl," Janice flatly said and immediately received a cuff from Alison.
"You’d rather draw a fruit bowl than me?"
"No, I’d rather you drew a fruit bowl than me. â€¦ Wait! Wait! Wait! Al, are you saying you’d let me draw you nude? Naked nude? No clothes nude?"
"Of course, I would. I think it sounds like fun. And at the risk of getting hollered at by Holly, you do draw better than I do."
They hugged for a mere three seconds before Susan climbed aboard the HollyWould bandwagon. "Maggie honey, will you pose and let me draw you?"
Maggie eagerly nodded, and before I had a chance to even contemplate the unexpectedness of their enthusiasm, Ginny had already gotten Kris to consent to a strip and sketch. It all happened so fast that when all eyes turned to Claudia and me, I had neither a question nor an answer at the ready. I looked at her and she at me, and we both dove into deep thought.
Hmm, let’s seeâ€¦ Nudity did not bother me, most times, but there existed a humungous difference between her being naked and me being naked. I could stare at my naked self all day, and it would produce nothing but utter boredom. I was apparently not my type. But her! Her! Jesus, a simple peek could completely seize me and send all reason out the window. It was much saferâ€”for all womankindâ€”for her to draw me. Yes, it would be much, much safer.
But then againâ€¦ If she were drawing me, she would be forced to scrutinize. The idea of that gave me a sick pain in my gut. See, just as with the big-boob bimbo babe, flaws in passing could prove unnoticeable. With scrutiny, however, flaws had the ability to enlarge, turn freakish. And scrutinized flaws were quite capable of huffing neon gas, turning marquee in nothing flat, telling the world: Flaw. Flaw. Flaw. Flaw. Flaw. Flaw.
No! I did not want her scrutinizing me at the moment.
But what of scrutinizing her? I had studied herâ€”a hundred thousand timesâ€”and I had never found anything but sheer perfection, despite what she claimed to be her flaws. But that was always in privateâ€”with her skin at my fingertips. I tried to imagine beholding her like that in room filled with people and an invisible but blatant billboard, "Do not touch." I hated not being able to touch her. I hated it when I desperately wanted her but couldn’t have her. It was akin to having my car all packed and ready for a joyous expedition, a pilgrimage, only to realize the car was on blocks. No matter how heavily I put my lead foot to the gas pedal, I wasn’t frickin’ going anywhere. The engine would rev until it sounded like a scream. Belts would snap. Bolts would melt. Head gaskets would blow. Pistons would get pissed off. The whole frickin’ thing would overheat. All that, but I wasn’t going anywhere. I hated that sensation with a passion, literally.
But perhaps more than anything in life, I hated not feeling that way when I looked at her. To me, that was a sin, a crime, a freak of nature, a harbinger of self-loathing and shame.
She looked at me and sweetly smiled. "You draw. I’ll pose," my project manager confidently proposed.
A frightened, trembling voice in my head whispered, "Because she doesn’t want to look at you," and with frantic desperation, I smacked it into silence.
"Okay," I agreed, and subsequently, I vowed to myself that I could do it. I could keep my souped-up pilgrimage-bound sports car on its blocks and not overheat. I could. I wanted to. God, I wanted to!