I was raised to want a ring on my finger and to keep it there. It’s unheard of in my family of Virginia and North Carolina cousins for anyone to ever get divorced. As proof, family marriages have survived a spouse losing all the tobacco crop money in a poker game at the club. And I do mean all of it.
Does this make my family one of incredibly forgiving people, or is it solely their aversion to the shame they associate with divorce? I wonder, more than I’d like to, what deep roots and archaic traditions of my upbringing are still buried way, way in the back of my mind.
I’m a wolf in sheep’s clothing whenever I go home to North Carolina, where no one suspects me of being anything other than their happy cousin, living all the way out here in California. Where I’ve told them I have a job I love.
It’s a tale I’ve spun gladly. I date and go to the beach and from 9 to 5 everyday I work to save the environment, from all kinds of horrible people threatening the food we eat, the very air we breath.
It was so natural, as if running the scales on a piano, how I went from straight to bi to falling in love with Bette.
Is that why I’m still uncomfortable, all these days later, when the topic of bisexuals had entered our conversation with Shane?
“What Tina? Your wool’s not completely dyed, yet?” Bette had asked, before moving onto another ridiculous topic. Alice dating vampires.
So, why am I still in the closet?
I’d like a drink, but it’s too early and I’m riding my bike, getting much needed exercise. Unsteadily, I turn into the parking lot of a coffee shop. While locking my bike, I consider calling my cousin Susan or Meredith or my cousin Sam and saying – after the hellos and how’s the crop this year – Guess what? Ten days ago I had a biracial baby with my lesbian biracial lover.
Then I imagine the line going dead or them taking the first Delta flight out of Raleigh to give me a good old fashioned talking to. Or worse, trying some kind of Protestant intervention.
All I could withstand, but we’d never speak to each other again.
I push open the door to the cafe and the barista, with rings in her nose and a spike in her tongue – a being so foreign my family would turn heel, run and never order – pours me an iced mocha with a shot of espresso. Am I hiding out in the land of ’anything goes,’ because for me, it’s more comfortable?
To her credit, Bette has never asked much about them. Suspecting I guess, they’d be just as awful to her as her father had been to me, and when, she’d finally accepted the fact – that he really was dying – she’d made certain he was going to do it right in front of her.
Taking his last breaths, he’d said his final words, surprisingly to me, “Take care of my baby, Tina. Take care of her.” And then he was gone.
Leaving me to wonder how strange it was, living in the gayest part of West Hollywood, that we had these kinds of skeletons in our closet.
I take my phone out, daring myself to call North Carolina, but instead I pay for my coffee and slip my phone back into my purse and lean against a lamp post to people watch.
I know I didn’t come to California to hide who I was, did she?
Arriving here I was a twenty-something blond, who blended in with the millions of others my same age with similar looks. I had an interest in the environment, as seen by my resume of working for NGOs. I was single. I paid my taxes on time and I’d never been arrested. Period.
I was comfortable living behind my mask of vanilla.
Bette, on the other hand, while I was pregnant with our first baby, had been pushed a mile too far down the road by the bigot-in-chief, Faye what’s her name. It had unspooled itself – their final showdown – in a very public manner, with what felt like loaded pistols pointed at each other’s brains.
Bette’s final punch and the humiliation Faye had shot back, all captured by the glaring lights of television. Afterwards, she never was the same. It must feel very differently when the enemy’s blade is right against your throat, but Bette hadn’t choked.
I, on the other hand, had miscarried.
Her heart had broken too that night. I’d felt it break with mine, while I’d lost my mind on the floor of our bedroom. Where my howling grief had never caused her to flinch or loosen her hold on me one inch.
She’s changed since Faye tried but failed to do her in. And after we lost the baby that horrible night, and now, last week when, my God, it felt too close. My life…so faint, as if I were no longer there. I’m not going to push her to suit up and go back to work. No, not yet, I want her home with me, watching over us.
I’ve loved so many sides of her and now this gentle new one, who paints me and the baby as the most cherished beings on earth. I want her again, like that tonight…watching me carefully, waiting to see if I want the tingling feel of my milk flow while she kisses my lips and stirs me into wanting…and I do, slowing my bike, I bounce into our driveway.
I do want hers as the wedding ring on my finger and I want it soon.
Long ago, and I’ve not forgotten the lesson that was imprinted on me forever in a very, very private moment. After I’d been dating her for six months, she’d invited me on a trip to New York.
My answer had been breezy, while inside I’d set off fireworks. I’d told her I’d check with the staff of people I worked with, but taking a few days off…I didn’t think it would be a problem.
That had been a Monday and by Wednesday I was opening the door of a hired town car and we’d whisked off to the airport.
On the way I’d imagined what flying with Bette would be like. Either she’d be a great adventure planner, the New Yorker and the Times spread out on our seat trays to decide what we were seeing on Broadway.
Or she might be one of those a too long-legged passengers who bitch and complain about absolutely everything.
She was neither.
Two First Class seats had solved the leg room issue. Then champagne that had bubbled somewhere over Utah and she’d threaded her fingers through mine and had announced she was going to close her eyes…for a minute, if that was okay?
Hours later in rough air over Pennsylvania, she’d bounced awake.
Looking over my paperback I’d welcomed her back with a smile. A moment later, she’d stretched and to my surprise had unbuckled my seat belt.
“Bette! You’ve got to be kidding!” I distinctly remember saying crammed into the small toilet space with her near the front of the airplane. “I won’t have sex here.”
“Any issues you have with these tight quarters, our suite at the Peninsula will make up for.” One hand had unsnapped my shirt and the other had tried to disappear my underwear.
“Or the smell,” I’d said just before she’d kicked closed the airline toilet seat. Sitting on it she’d pulled me to her.
“I just had the sexiest dream about you, Baby and I have to have a taste.”
It had been rough sounding and I’d resisted, but my mistake had been not leaving. That move had felt dicey to me, at the beginning of our first trip away.
She’d looked puzzled for about a split second, before the four inches she has on me, make that nearly seven when she’s in heels, which she was that day. She’d stood above me, taking my head in both her hands.
The closeness of her kissing me hard against the bathroom door. The awareness that this was really happening. The roaring of the jet engines I’d hoped would hide any sounds of us against the door, almost toppling into sink.
There she’d bent me over and I’d watched myself coming and coming in the mirror.
I may have had boundaries two thousand miles and some six hours ago, but they were becoming a memory, replaced by my first acting lesson in New York. Pretending nothing was going on under the dinner table. I’d sipped my wine and I had smiled to myself, especially when she’d whispered, “Move your hand down here and feel me taking you.”
Up in our suite the room service waiter had pushed in a cart with a double-sized piece of chocolate cake and together they’d conferred over a bottle of red wine, before uncorking it. I’d excused myself to the shower, where she’d joined me with hands that had been soapy and we’d washed and touched each other in anticipation.
We’d stretched out on a couch, our view overlooking the city.
“You ordered an enormous piece of cake, may I get you some?” I’d asked.
“It smells good, doesn’t it?”
Returning with the cake, I’d sliced off a piece and brought it up to her lips, where it had disappeared in an instant. She’d licked her lips and our eyes had locked.
“Not yet, you and I have more cake to eat.” I remember saying, as I’d fed her another bite to keep her occupied.
“This is nice, Tina. I’m glad you came.”
“Are you different out of town? What is going on?”
“More cake, please,” she’d said.
“Okay, are you finished with me?”
“What do you mean?” she had looked shocked.
“I just…ah, crazy thought,” I’d stumbled, “that maybe this business of having sex with me in airplanes and under tables in restaurants is some kind of last thrill fucking trip, because in your mind we’re over.”
“Put the cake away. We need to talk.” She’d sat up on the couch.
If I’d learned one thing in the six months I’d been dating her it was during her sensual moods, talking has very little interest to her yet, riled she’d prevailed.
“Why on earth would you think that? Am I not being a good host to you in New York?”
I’d gone over to the tray with the wine and poured myself half a glass, keeping my back to her.
“Tina, bring me one, too, please and on the way over – do answer me.”
“You’re always going to be like this, aren’t you? Highly sexed, always waiting to pounce, you can’t be that one dimensional.”
She’d laughed and had taken her wine. “You’re about to talk yourself out of something really fantastic later.”
“You realize you made my point?”
“Do you realize I have no intention of arguing with you? About what? That I’m crazy about you and brought you to New York to…well, I was going to wait until fucking later, but…” her voice had grown agitated, “do you want to live with me?”
“Goddammit! You’ve got me mad now.” She’d started pacing the suite, her bathrobe flying open at times, showing me her shaved black patch that went straight down in a perfect black line.
I’d taken a huge swallow of wine realizing it was amazing and probably had cost a small fortune and maybe this suite, the First Class tickets, the entry into the Mile High Club, all were the staging for some kind of proposal.
“Bette the wine is delicious and I’m two things, really stupid and really sorry.”
By then she’d stopped in front of the cake and was fingering the icing, disappearing her long index finger into her mouth. “Hmm, sorry. You know Tina, that’s a very underused word between people. I rarely hear anyone ever say it. Thank you.”
“I am sorry. Bette. This room is beautiful, dinner with you was,” and I’d begun to laugh, “fucking unbelievable. Quite literally.”
A sly smile had flickered, as more chocolate icing had disappeared from the tip of her finger. Sucking it off she’d looked at me. ”That wasn’t on the menu, but I’m glad you liked it.”
I’d walked past her and into the bedroom of the suite.
She’d followed. “Tina, I’m very high on wine and cake and completely yours for the evening. To do with me whatever you’d like…I presume you have ideas of your own?”
I’d pulled back the sheets on the bed and tossing my robe away I’d motioned for her to come. “Bring the wine.”
With two glasses she’d walked to the bed and handed me mine and had fluffed up the pillows. Lying on her side of the bed, her robe belted closed, she’d leaned back against the pillows and had taken a long sip.
“God that is fucking good,” she’d said with a light smack of her lips.
I’d left mine on the bedside table and nude I’d tucked myself under her arm and settled against her.
“A story?” she’d asked, before taking another sip.
“First, a question, so I’ll know my audience.”
“Why’d you chose me?”
“How do you figure? You’re the most unstoppable pursuer.” I’d untied the knot on her robe and rubbed her belly in the way I knew would make her slowly growl.
The growl had come along with a series of deep sighs. “I’ve satisfied two of my fantasies today, tell me yours? I’m your sex slave for the night, let’s say.”
“Oh, hmm, pretend you’re the woman who sat next to me on the plane. She’s a stranger, but I’ve brought her up to my room.”
“Daring of you. Do you pick up a lot of strangers?”
“No, just you.”
“I hardly believe you. But I’m here only for the night and then, I’m gone.”
“Have you ever tied a woman up?”
“Yes, is that what you’d like?”
“So I’m face down.”
“You want a blindfold to go with that?”
“Asked the stranger,” I’d added, rolling onto my stomach.
Nearby suitcases had unzipped and coming back to bed, I’d felt her hands spread my legs out to each corner of the bed followed by scarves and belts that had held me fast.
“Tight enough?” She’d asked checking the binding on my ankles and then running her tongue all the way up the inside of my leg. “Is this your first time?” She’d asked tying my wrists to the bed.
She’d kneeled behind me and with one arm under my waist she’d raised my hips off the bed and held my wetness against her. “You’re so ready.” She rubbed us together.
“You have no idea.”
Her hands had parted me and much more of her than I’d ever felt had come inside.
I’d cried and pulled against the scarves she’d bound around my wrists.
“You can’t get loose. You wanted it this way.” Her hand had gripped the back of my neck holding me down, but inside she’d slowed and my knees had steadied.
“I’m not going to hurt you again, unless you ask for it.”
Raw is how I remember feeling, as I’d braced for being pierced to the other side. “Not so hard this time.”
Spreading out inside me her knuckles had ribbed against me in growing friction.
“Touch yourself while you fuck me,” I’d said to the stranger.
She’d moaned as her pressure inside me had rolled back and forth and in and out and I’d begun to catch fire and burn.
”Jesus! Fuck!” My whole body had vibrated and she’d knocked my legs out from under me and lying on top of my back, she’d bitten into my shoulder and fucked me with deep strokes. A burning like I’d never felt consumed me. I’d pulled tighter and tighter against the restraints.
”Take yourself there. Quit fighting what you want,” she’d said, holding me down, as I’d struggled against the thing coiled inside me. Crying, being leashed to it for so long. Forever…finally it had snapped and freed itself and had come galloping out of me, taking part of me along with it.
I’d gone too far.
Minutes had passed, as I’d laid bare and spent on the bed, until I’d felt the silk untied from my wrists and the belts loosened around my ankles.
“Did you like that?”
“I don’t think we should do it again.”
“I agree. I like you better this way, with your arms around me.” She’d brushed my forehead with her lips. “So, I guess…is this moment to ask? Are you moving in with me?”