Women and friendship, these are a few of my favorite things…
Recently, I was given some questions for an upcoming signing event for the September 12th release of my third novel, Summer Fling. While scanning my choices, I found one that seemed deceptively easy: Why do I write in the genre of lesbian romance fiction?
Well, of course it’s because I’m a lesbian who likes romance. But that answer didn’t quite satisfy me, and the question lingered. As I searched my soul at the crowded coffee house, sipping away at a cup of House Blend, a much deeper reason revealed itself like a breakthrough in a therapy session.
Turns out, my affinity for writing loud and proud about lesbian romance is a sort of literary retaliation against having lived decades of my life in the closet, afraid and ashamed of who I was. Even though I’d had girlfriends, I’d never felt entitled to experience my relationships the same way heterosexuals do, with pride and an eagerness to share them with others. The simple idea of walking down the street holding hands with a girl overwhelmed me with fear—not just of the possible immediate physical danger, but also the potential of some irreversible catastrophe like losing friends or my family’s approval once they’d discovered this part of me.
What a sad way to live. But in the pre-Will & Grace era, too many of us lived that way, convinced it was best to conceal and conform rather than assert our individuality and endure the fallout. It had a more profound impact on my life than the mere inconvenience of keeping a secret. Because both society and our government devalued the humanity of LGBT Americans, I lived for years with a devalued sense of self and the poor choices that usually accompany it.
“After all we are nothing more or less than we choose to reveal.”
I’ve finally forgiven the former me for bowing to societal expectations and allowing the opinions of others to dictate how much happiness and respect I felt entitled to. The process took longer than one might imagine, with a few relationships falling by the wayside as a consequence.
That’s where writing comes in. What better way to liberate myself from the tethers of a history of self-loathing than by freely writing about the freedoms I’d been deprived of for over two decades? Now, when I consider the criticisms of others about me as an out lesbian, especially those from the current presidential administration, I have to scour the kingdom far and wide for a fuck to give.
This naturally lends itself to the other reason I love writing lesbian romance: the absolute control I have over the characters and their circumstances. Yes, I admit that I like venturing to the dark side and letting absolute power corrupt me absolutely.
As readers, we enjoy watching characters plummet into desperate situations and then try to claw their way out. We commiserate with them through the real-life conflicts and complications we experience in our own lives and relationships. We feel we’re not alone in what we’re dealing with because even though the characters aren’t real, we may assume the author has also experienced them in a similar fashion. Ultimately, if the story is well-written and the characters well-developed, we draw hope from the notion that our heroine always comes out stronger in the end, whether she obtains what she initially desired or walks away with nothing more than a grain of precious wisdom.
A veteran of a few defunct relationships, I savor the momentary escape of a love affair I can experience from a safe emotional distance, knowing my fate isn’t in someone else’s hands. Through my characters, I reflect on mistakes I’ve made in real-life relationships, so hopefully, after knowing better, I’ll do better.
Kate Randall, the flawed and irritatingly guarded main character in Summer Fling, is definitely seasoned with a bit of Essence of Jean. I don’t know if it’s such a smart idea to admit that since at times she’s frustrating and rather unsympathetic in her vehemence to protect her fragile heart. But like all of us, she’s a product of her life experiences, for better or worse, and is trying to figure out how to navigate a new, unexpected romance with a much younger woman who’s rocked her off her stable emotional foundation. I suppose I should give Kate a break. I don’t know anyone who’s gone through a breakup and hasn’t been a little annoying and unsympathetic at times. We all either have that friend—or we are that friend. If we’re lucky, though, we also have friends like Didi and Viv, Kate’s unconditionally sassy and supportive besties who help her hold tight when she feels she’s losing her grip.
Whether you’re that friend or not, check out Summer Fling from Bold Strokes Books for a fun and funny foray into the complex, unpredictable, and love-affirming world of lesbian romance after forty.
9/16/17: Annie’s Bookstop of Worcester, Worcester, MA, 3-5:00 p.m.
10/13/17: Provincetown Library, Provincetown, MA, 10-11:00 a.m.
10/14/17: Provincetown Library, Provincetown, MA, 1-2:00 p.m.
11/7/17: Yale Barnes and Noble, New Haven, CT, 6:30-8:00 p.m.
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- You How I Got Over a Breakup by Getting Over Myself
I came home to an empty house that afternoon and walked into the bedroom to survey the wreckage. Everywhere mashed down carpet fibers in the shapes of dresser, cedar chest, and antique nightstand legs announced the finality of her absence—like the chalk outline left at a murder scene after the body has been removed, except there’s no body at this scene, just the ghost of a relationship that had long outlived its vigor.
I rubbed the tip of my sneaker into a spot marking the former location of our (her) bed, trying to revive the flattened strands. I sighed deeply, wishing one room in the house was free of her imprint and wondering when I’d feel normal again. But first I’d have to figure out what normal was.
With no furniture delivery men to wait on at the moment, I embarked on a journey to the grocery store to restock my fridge and cabinets with food I liked. A delicious taste of liberation is found in shopping for meals and snacks that only have to please you.
I swung my cart with the stubborn wheel into line three. The teenage cashier finished her text tapping pink gel thumbnails on her phone and then dragged my items over the scanner.
“Oh, look how cute!” She indicated the dainty container of a half-dozen eggs and quart-size milk and OJ bottles as though they were toys meant for a little girl’s plastic kitchen set.
I forced a curt grin, miffed that even a quick trip to the grocery store stung me with reminders that life was different now. And if I wasn’t being paranoid, I could’ve sworn one of the older, regular cashiers observed that I was shopping alone.
In the days since I came home and found her set of house keys on the dining room table, I’d come to realize my sadness wasn’t from the notion that my happily-ever-after with her didn’t work out the way the fairy tales promised. It came from the massive upheaval to my life that I had not consented to. Even though it was a change that needed to happen so we could both be happy again, logic rarely stands a chance in that seemingly endless epoch following the demise of a long-term relationship.
Even then, I wasn’t angry at her for leaving. What I was feeling was a generic sadness, that grieving period self-pity at being “abandoned” that we need to allow ourselves in the early stages. In fact, in the weeks after she left and I began to regain my bearings, I grew to be grateful to her and the woman who inspired her departure.
My lingering anger had been directed at the universe for assuming agency over my mediocre, static life. The perspective I chose was that it stripped me of the privilege of growing up and growing old with the same person who would know me better than anyone else, not by genuine effort, but by default because we had grown up and grown old as a team. I felt gypped that I would never be half of one of those cute, elderly couples who take an Alaskan cruise to celebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary, regardless of the expense. After all, they’d earned it weathering the trials and tribulations of decades together. I was bitter that I’d never experience the poignant beauty of searching my partner’s wrinkled, age-spotted face and discovering traces of that youthful smoothness and shine I’d fallen in love with fifty years earlier.
It was a totally self-defeating way to view the situation, but prior to the breakup I was a self-defeatist. It came naturally to perceive things as happening to me rather than as simply happening. “The pain is in the resistance,” they say. I was forced to redefine everything I knew. I had to redefine myself as a whole person, not half of a couple, and I feared there wasn’t enough of me to accomplish the task.
At a friend’s suggestion, I immersed myself in Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth. It helped me recognize how much my ego was holding me back from achieving personal growth and how I’d never move forward until I accepted my present situation for what it was instead of fighting it for what I wanted it to be. Sometimes breakups are like taking shitty-tasting medicine as a kid. Your mother had to grab hold of you and force it down your throat as you gurgled out shrieks of protest, but then a few hours later you found yourself running around the house, eager to go outside and play. Think of how much more expedient recovery would be if we could’ve shifted our perspective to how much better we’d feel afterwards rather than on how horrible the medicine tasted going down.
A few weeks after moving out, my ex came by to pick of a few things she’d left behind in the initial move. As she was leaving, she asked, “Is your life better without me in it?”
It was the last question I’d expected, but my swift response sounded as though it had been rehearsed and queued up since the day she left.
“Yes,” I said, surprising us both.
I never inquired how my response or the zeal with which I’d blurted it made her feel. I’d only said it because it was the truth. By that point, it had felt wonderful to feel confident in something again.
It has been eight years since the breakup, and I’ve evolved into a far better person than I used to be. I understand that, in life, loss and gain work sporadically and mysteriously but always with purpose. I also take care of myself now and refuse to second-guess every decision I make; two things I’d either lost the ability to do or never knew I could do as a young woman in my first serious relationship. And most importantly, I don’t feel guilty about doing either.
I started this essay years ago after seeing, for about the hundredth time, those divots in the rug where her bed had dug in nine years earlier. But for some reason, I’d never finished writing it. As time went on, I just stopped noticing the dents when I’d walk in my room and had moved on to more exciting writing projects.
Then the other day, while vacuuming my bedroom, contemplating the many positives in my life, like my girlfriend, Jen, I noticed the carpet at the foot of my bed was flush with the rest. Those bedeviling divots had all but vanished. I’m sure if I’d got down on my knees and searched, I may have detected some lingering traces of them, but then why would I want to do that?
Talk about a sign for a writer on summer vacation wrestling with writer’s block.
DISCLAIMER: I’m not a relationship expert. I am but a humble writer of lesbian fiction and essay blogs.
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Like many Americans disheartened by the 2016 presidential election, I’m struggling with the dilemma of being a proud American while being profoundly against supporting a man who unabashedly disrespects women and minority groups, namely the one I belong to, the LGBT community. This conflict is especially complicated since elections fall so closely to Veteran’s Day. I’ve had to do some serious soul-searching over the last few days, contemplating my options for remaining true to my values while not coming off as a whiny martyr or worse, un-American.
The solution I’ve come up with for all of us disenfranchised Patriots offers a bipartisan win-win situation and even originated from the manifesto of the VP-elect himself, Mike Pence! Here’s how it works: When the Trump-Pence administration takes the reins in January and starts making America great again by marching us slowly, insidiously toward a Theocracy, I will stand proud as an American and a newly avowed Christian. Yes, you read this right–this unabashed spiritual but non-religious lesbian will officially begin identifying herself as a Christian. Now let my clarify… I won’t claim to be a true Christian. True Christians have true hearts and no interest in doing harm to anyone under any circumstances. They observe their religion and leave everyone else alone. I’m going to become a Po-lit-i-Chris-tian: Noun. One who uses religion to further political and/or bigotry agendas, (think Kim Davis). Once I make this proclamation, I’m free to use the loophole Pence himself established with his “First Amendment Religious Freedom Act” to my advantage. Once Trump signs it into law, any Christian can invoke it whenever they want to legally discriminate against members of the LGBT community. My TV announcer voice: Does baking a wedding cake for gays rock your spiritual foundation to its core? Does keeping a Trans person on your company’s payroll make you quake in fear of the wrath of God? Will renting your vacant apartment to a family with same-sex parents condemn your immortal soul to an eternal fiery hell? Then simply invoke your First Amendment right to religious freedom, and you won’t be forced to damn your soul by having to treat LGBT folks with dignity and fairness.
Now, how will this blatantly discriminatory act benefit me, a formerly self-proclaimed non-religious lesbian feminist? Simple. By calling myself a Christian (politi-christian), I grant myself the right to discriminate against someone if I believe their behavior is an abomination to my moral sensibilities. It’s genius, really. I will be free to speak out against President-elect Trump without fear of being harassed by conservatives who will rage at me for being Unpatriotic, Un-American or worst of all, Liberal. Here’s why: As a Christian, it infringes upon my faith to pledge allegiance to a man who: 1) Uses vulgar, sexual language in public, 2) has committed adultery at least twice, 3) has had two divorces, 4) has a First Lady who profited from posing for sexually explicit photos, and 5) has told a lie, a multitude of them.
Does it seem a bit hypocritical for a lesbian to become a “Christian” so she can justify judging and discriminating against someone? Yes. It doesn’t just seem a bit hypocritical; it is hypocritical, BIGLY hypocritical. However, hypocrisy doesn’t stop other Politi-Christians from judging people whose lifestyles don’t meet with their approval. Heck, even Christian VP-elect Mike Pence, who has an impressive record of judging and discriminating against his fellow LGBT Americans citing his deep religious convictions, didn’t hesitate to accept the invitation to stand side-by-side with a morally corrupt man as they rescue us from our “swamp” Congress and the moral swamp America has descended into in the past eight years as a result of President Obama forcing all that equality and inclusion nonsense on the states.
So, my fellow disillusioned Americans, fret no more with your conflict of conscience when you speak out against a president you do not believe in. In the time-honored tradition of conservative hypocrisy, you now have a loophole through which you can slither. And if people glut your social media pages with accusations and condemnations about how unpatriotic or anti-American you are for not supporting this immoral President, respond by invoking your Mike Pence-given First Amendment right to religious freedom and carry on with your day basking in the glow of self-righteousness. God Bless America!
Join Me at One or All of My Upcoming 2016 Events!
Have a cup of coffee and say Hi!
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A Saturday in NYC? Join Ann, Maggie and Me…
I see from my last blog it’s been quite a while since I’ve had the self-discipline to sit down and write a new post. Now that I’m back at my day job teaching, I wanted to take a moment to give you a sneak preview of my forthcoming second novel, The Second Wave, set to the hit bookstore shelves and online retailers in early October, 2016.
Even though this event will soon strip me of my “debut author” title, I’m so pleased to share that, thanks to the Golden Crown Literary Society, my debut novel, The Revelation of Beatrice Darby, is now and forever an award-winner. Not a bad way to start off a novel-writing career!
Anyhoo, after the excitement of my first GCLS convention hobnobbing with the lesfic greats pictured above, and then hearing Doris Day’s “Secret Love” piped through the room as I made my way to the podium in early July, it was time to get back to the work that brought me there in the first place. Beach days be damned, the final edits and proof pages for The Second Wave needed my attention as the deadline loomed.
Now, with a little over a month until its release, I thought it would be fun to tease you with a post of the first chapter. So without further ado, here it is…
The Second Wave
Alice rushed down the hall of Intensive Care toward Leslie’s room. Her nose twitched at the pungent aroma of disinfectant as she counted off room numbers while negotiating her way around portable patient-information computers, linen hampers, and gurneys. The Facebook message from Leslie’s daughter, Rebecca, was startling enough, but when she’d read that Leslie had a stroke the day before, it shoved her off the fragile foundation she’d finally rebuilt after losing Maureen. After all these years, just reading Leslie’s name was enough to send her heart scattering in all the wrong directions. Nearing the room, she rounded the corner, trembling at what she might encounter. Who would be there? How would she handle seeing Leslie after all this time in a hospital bed, hooked up to all kinds of wires and tubes? An hour after responding to Rebecca’s message, she was packed and off on the two-hour drive from Boston to New Haven without having considered if it was the right thing for either of them. But since her daughter had gone to the trouble of locating her, it had to be serious. Not too serious, she’d hoped. God, please, not too serious. When she found the room, she poked her head in. “Rebecca?” she said softly. “Alice?” Rebecca got up from the chair parked by her mother’s bed and smoothed down the tailored blazer that contoured her athletic build. She bypassed Alice’s extended hand and went right in for an embrace. “Thank you for coming.”
• 16 •
“Thanks for contacting me,” Alice said, staring over at a Leslie she didn’t recognize. “She can use all the prayers and good vibes she can get right now. From what I recall, you two were pretty close friends at one time.” Alice smiled, her eyes still fixed on Leslie. “It’s been a long time since I’ve seen my old friend.” She sat in the chair beside Leslie’s bed and gently held her hand, taped and purpled from an IV needle. “Hey, Bella,” she said. “It’s me, Betty.” She smiled when she felt what she thought was movement in Leslie’s fingers. “What happened?” Rebecca asked, hopeful. “Did she just squeeze your hand?” “I don’t think so. I mean I think I felt her fingers move slightly.” Alice surveyed Leslie’s face. It was thin and pale, but even a condition like this couldn’t entirely eclipse her perennial beauty. Rebecca smiled at Alice. “Whatever it was, I think I had the right idea messaging you.” “Boy, this is something of a time warp,” Alice said. “You were so little the last time I saw you.” She turned to Leslie. “You did all right with this one, Bella. She seems like a real smart cookie.” “Too smart for my own good, she always told me.” The light of Rebecca’s smile dimmed. “I’m scared,” she whispered. Alice twisted her body to face her. “I’m sure you are. I remember how close you and your mom were back then, both you and your brother.” “He’ll be coming by later when he gets off work. I wish the doctors could tell us something definite.” “What do you know so far?” “They’re calling it a mild stroke. She was in and out for a bit yesterday, but today she’s just been out.” Alice tried to stay focused on what Rebecca was saying, but her eyes kept drifting back to Leslie. She kept Leslie’s hand safely tucked into her own. “So what’s up with the nicknames?” Rebecca asked. Alice smiled. “It was a little joke we had. Betty Friedan and Bella Abzug from the feminist movement.”
The Second Wave
• 17 •
“That’s right. You had that crochet thing in the seventies. She really loved that group. In fact, I can still recall an argument it caused between my parents.” “Argument? Why?” Alice’s palms were suddenly sweaty. “My dad’s an old-fashioned, working-class guy. He didn’t get feminism. I was young at the time, but I remember him saying something like it was the first step in making men obsolete. I got panicked thinking someone was gonna come and take my dad away.” Alice chuckled. “That was the toughest part of being a feminist, trying to convince everyone it wasn’t at all about undermining men.” “He wasn’t having any of it. I think he kind of shamed my mom into abandoning the philosophy.” “I’m surprised. She seemed quite taken with it when she first started coming to the meetings.” Alice grinned at the recollection. “But your mom must’ve watched too many Leave it to Beaver reruns as a kid—the good wife and mother above all else.” “Which is why it was such a shock to my brother and me when they divorced a year after I left for college.” “They did?” After the initial shock, Alice avoided Rebecca’s eyes. “It was the weirdest thing. Out of nowhere she said she wasn’t happy anymore and asked for a divorce. I was furious with my dad for finding a girlfriend less than a year later, but it sort of explained their split. They’d just grown apart.” “Do they still talk?” “They’re cool with each other,” Rebecca said. “My mom says he’s a great guy, and she’d never want my brother and me to feel uncomfortable around them.” “That’s always been your mother. She’d do anything for you kids.” “You didn’t know any of this?” Before Alice could contrive a response, Rebecca said, “Oh, I think you’d moved away by then.” Alice was quiet, still reeling from the information. “How come you didn’t stay in contact?” “We did, sort of,” she said, mustering her wits. “We would talk on the phone from time to time after I moved to Boston.” “You guys always seemed to have so much fun together.”
• 18 •
Alice shifted uncomfortably in the chair. “I’m sorry if I’m asking too many questions.” “No, no, that’s okay,” Alice said. “It’s just been a long time since I’ve thought about that part of my life.” “She seemed happiest during those times when she had your friendship. I couldn’t figure out why you didn’t remain close. I asked her once, but she was her usual evasive self when it came to my probing.” “What did she say?” “You know, how people get so busy in their lives with jobs and family that time slips away. When I was younger, I thought it was a lame excuse until I started to experience it with my college friends.” “Especially if one of you moves out of state.” “That does complicate matters,” Rebecca said. “Do you want to take a walk to the cafeteria with me?” “Sure.” “Mom, we’ll be back in a few minutes, okay?” Rebecca gave Leslie’s foot a tender pinch. Alice smiled at the way Leslie’s daughter loved her. Then again, Leslie gave everyone reasons to love her.
As Alice sipped her coffee, she stared at Rebecca, who was chewing a tuna sandwich. Despite her short, gelled hair and forearm tattoo sneaking out from her blazer sleeve, she was unmistakably her mother’s daughter—identical dimpled right cheek and heavenly blue eyes beneath symmetrical, Rita Hayworth eyebrows. “Do you mind if I take a turn questioning you?” Rebecca smiled as she took another bite of her sandwich. “I think I know where this is headed. Let me help you out. Yes, I’m a lesbian, in case you weren’t entirely convinced.” Alice frowned. “I’m sorry for being so transparent. But actually, what I wanted to ask is when did you know?” Rebecca wiped her mouth with her napkin and leaned back in her chair. “I think I always knew. I didn’t come out until my
The Second Wave
• 19 •
senior year in college, though. I did the normal-chick routine. You know, boyfriends in high school and mixers in college, but I never connected with any of them.” “What do you mean, ‘connected’?” Alice asked. “Well, now I know that subconsciously, I always felt something was missing when I was dating guys, but it was when I fell for a woman that I realized what it was. It’s amazing how all it took was one kiss from a pretty girl to make everything crystal clear.” Alice nodded enthusiastically and then caught herself. “Did you have sex with men?” she asked in a barely audible whisper. Rebecca smirked. “I don’t know if this conversation is totally awkward or I find you incredibly cool.” “I’m so sorry for prying,” Alice said, her cheeks hot with embarrassment. “Forget I even asked that.” “Yes, I had sex with men, three of them, one in high school and two in college. I found it to be…” She looked up toward the fluorescent lights for help. “Kind of enjoyable but a galaxy away from being with a woman.” Lost in the familiarity of Rebecca’s words, she nodded again. She then remembered herself and reached for a casual reply. “It must’ve been quite a confusing time for you.” Rebecca slurped the last of her Diet Coke through a straw and scanned the cafeteria. “Alice, I want to ask you something.” Alice’s neck prickled with the heat of accusation as she fingered her coffee’s plastic lid. “Umm, sure.” “It’s pretty personal.” “Go ahead. It’s only fair,” Alice said, bracing herself. Rebecca hesitated, clearly negotiating her words. “Did you and my mother have something more than friendship?” Alice’s face felt like it was about to combust. “What would make you ask that?” “Just wondering.” Rebecca shrugged and piled scrunched-up napkins on her empty plate. “Are you a lesbian?” Alice’s time-honored reticence at a straightforward answer to that question prevailed even while she maintained eye contact with Rebecca.
• 20 •
“I’m sorry,” Rebecca said. “I hope I didn’t offend you. It wasn’t supposed to be an offensive question.” “No, no, it’s not,” Alice said, pausing for a breath. “In fact, I am.” “Is my mother?” Alice attempted to laugh the question off. “Rebecca, well, how should I…I mean that’s a question you ought to ask her, don’t you think?” “She’s not real talkative right now.” “I mean when she’s better.” “If she gets better. They don’t know the full extent of the damage yet.” “You have to believe she will,” Alice said, remembering Leslie’s face when it was alive with youth and the promise of dreams. “I thought she was going to be all right when she whispered your name Saturday night.” Alice’s heart plummeted. “She said my name?” “I could swear I heard ‘Alice,’ twice. That’s why I thought to look you up. It’s the only thing she’s said since I found her yesterday afternoon. Not my name, not my brother’s, or her grandkids’. Yours.” A fire spread up Alice’s neck and across her face. Could that be true? Could she actually have said her name? “She’s going to be okay, you know.” Rebecca’s eyes watered. “I want things to be different between us when she is.” “What do you mean? She doesn’t have a problem that you’re a lesbian?” “Not at all. She’s been great from the moment I came out to her. She loves my partner, Sage, and our son. It’s my father who’s had the problem.” Alice averted her eyes. “Then what do you want to be different?” “I want her to talk to me. We used to be so close when I was a kid. I don’t think she’s been happy for a long time, but I can never get her to open up.” “You think it was the divorce?” “I think it’s something else,” Rebecca said. “She’s fine with my father and his wife. They’ve been known to get together for dinner once in a while.”
The Second Wave
• 21 •
“Has she dated much?” “At first she did, but she never seemed to click with anyone. Then a few years ago she started saying she’s fine alone, that she’s too old to fall for anyone again, and that all the men her age are only looking for caretakers. I called ‘bullshit’ on that excuse and suggested she try dating a woman, but she just gave me an ‘Oh, Rebecca’ and walked away.” Alice sipped her coffee to wash down the jealousy creeping up from the thought of Leslie dating. “Hey, you two should hang out again. You could revive the old feminist crocheting club.” The suggestion brightened Rebecca’s face. Alice entertained a momentary glimmer of hope, too. “That’s a lovely idea, but I’m afraid we’re both too old to be driving two hours back and forth every other Friday.” “Ever think of moving back to the area?” “I have, especially since my wife passed last year.” “I’m sorry.” Rebecca placed a hand on Alice’s. “I didn’t even think to ask about you.” “Understandable, given the circumstances. Her name was Maureen, and she was an exceptional person. We had twenty-eight wonderful years together.” “Listen to me. I don’t even know you, and I’m trying to convince you to move back to Connecticut like you and my mom can relive the past or something.” Rebecca’s eyes watered. “I’d do anything to make her young and healthy again.” Alice smiled. “It’s a lovely wish. Those were good times.” “Not for me,” Rebecca said. “I had to wear those awful crocheted vests and scarves she made me.” Alice laughed. “Those were all the rage in the seventies.” “I’ll stick with tattoos and Birkenstocks, thanks,” Rebecca said with a thumbs-up. “Should we go back and see how she’s doing?” “So you never answered my question before,” Rebecca said as they carried their trays to the trash receptacles. “What question?”
• 22 •
“Were you and my mother ever more than friends?” “Rebecca,” a voice suddenly called out. Bill, Rebecca’s father, walked into the cafeteria and approached them. “Thanks for coming, Dad. I wouldn’t have texted you if I’d known you were away.” She kissed him on the cheek. “That’s okay, honey. I’d be mad if you hadn’t,” Bill said as he eyed Alice. While age had thinned his hair and stooped his shoulders a bit, he was still handsome. “Hello, Bill,” Alice said, extending her hand. “Alice Burton, Leslie’s old friend.” “I remember.” His tone was less than affable, his handshake flaccid. “How’s it going?” Without waiting for her reply, he turned to Rebecca. “How is she?” “Not better but not worse either. Stable.” Alice shrunk from the eerily familiar feeling of being the outsider during poignant Burton family moments. “I’ve got to get going, Rebecca.” Rebecca stopped her father to address Alice. “Are you heading back to Boston?” “No. I’m staying with my sister in Branford for a few days.” “Will you message me before you go?” “Sure.” Alice gave Rebecca a cordial kiss on the cheek and the obligatory courtesy nod to Bill before leaving. Driving back to her sister’s house in Branford, Alice missed the exit off the interstate as memories of Leslie hijacked her attention. She turned onto Route One and headed back toward her sister’s house in the Stony Creek section of town. When Abba’s song “S.O.S.” came on the oldies station she’d barely been listening to, she cranked up the volume. When she heard the line about how hard it is to go on when someone you’ve loved is gone, her eyes clouded with tears. Leslie had to wake up.
THE SECOND WAVE © 2016 By Jean Copeland. All Rights Reserved.