<= Part 1
by Crème Brûlée
A Revelation in Several Parts
"Is she alright?" Marjorie asked.
"She's fine, it's a strain, that's all. She'll stay off it for a while, favor the other one, like she's doing now. See?"
"I feel too guilty to look at her. Oh, George, I'm so sorry!"
"It's alright." Adele soothed. She didn't know who needed comfort more, George, with her strained foot, or Marjorie. They were both traumatized. "Let's sit you down and have a look at that scrape."
Marjorie had had a bad fall while cleaning George's cage. That Captain Jack figured into the scenario surprised no one. Marjorie knew she'd be badly bruised in at least two places and was lucky to have only a scrape on her forehead from where she'd been grazed by the corner of the coffee table. One fraction of an inch further and she could have been seriously injured.
"It's nothing, a band-aid will be fine," she insisted.
"I'm the doctor, I'll be the judge of that," Adele said.
Marjorie acquiesced and sat. Captain Jack walked by to see if the atmosphere had become any more amenable than it had been the last time he'd wandered through. The dual disapproving glances from Marjorie and Adele convinced him it wasn't.
"Janine wasn't exaggerating," Adele said. "He really is a pain."
"His timing could be better." Marjorie admitted.
"His demeanor could be, too." Adele looked at Marjorie's forehead. The bleeding had long since stopped; it was a forty-five minute drive from her apartment in the city to Marjorie's house. The scrape was still raw and angry looking though. "This is going to be attractive tomorrow. What did you clean it with?"
"Must have stung." Her examination finished, Adele sat next to her.
Marjorie shrugged. "A bit. I didn't notice really, I was too worried about George. Thank you for coming."
"Of course," Adele said, taking Marjorie's hand. "It's been a while since I've done a house call, I'm glad you called me."
Marjorie squeezed Adele's hand in reply. She felt utterly foolish, but also good to have Adele's reassuring presence. They sat for several minutes. Marjorie eventually gave in to Captain Jack's hesitant inquiries and gave him a pat.
"You spoil that cat." Adele noted.
"Oh, not too awfully." Marjorie said, while giving him a good scratch under the chin - his favorite spot.
"You did say you'd cooked dinner for him, didn't you?" Adele pressed.
"I only seared a scrap of tuna. I cooked dinner for myself as well, I don't consider myself spoiled." Marjorie said.
"Anyone who knows your cooking would."
"I'd be more than happy to spoil you anytime you'd like." Marjorie truly enjoyed cooking for Adele - who seemed to like to eat most everything, yet rarely took the time to prepare a decent meal for herself.
Adele wished Marjorie was flirting, but knew better. "I look forward to it. But now it's late. You both seem to have survived. I should probably head home."
Marjorie hesitated; there was something so right about their sitting there together so comfortably. And while Adele's exam had been the utmost in professional courtesy, her touch elicited a response that Marjorie couldn't ignore - however much she might like to after all, it did complicate things so. It would be so much easier if they could just be friends, good friends… Marjorie did so enjoy the quality of Adele's company. Adele had an easygoing manner, it was probably why the animals in her care responded to her so well Captain Jack certainly took to her immediately. She was calm in a way that was rare - it was a self-confidence, certainly, but also something else - Marjorie couldn't say what exactly. It was sometimes unnerving, because Adele could be so straightforward - but there was also such a kindness in it that it didn't feel confrontational - simply open, accepting. It was something Marjorie had sensed from the very first in Adele's smile, in those lively intelligent eyes… and those engaging crinkles at the corners of her eyes… Adele's eyes were a lovely hazel color, striking, really, much like her quiet laugh and the way she had sometimes of looking at Marjorie that made her loose track of thoughts mid-stream…
But it was late, and Adele had a long drive back, so she reluctantly agreed that she should go.
"Never would have pegged you for a cat person, Marjorie."
Marjorie looked up after collecting her change from the clerk. Samantha Hill had appeared behind her in the checkout line at the pet store with an impressively large bag of dog food. Marjorie glanced back at her own purchase cat food and a new cuttlebone for George. She smiled at Samantha and stepped aside to make room for her to place the bag on the counter.
"You certainly wouldn't think of me as a cat person if you met my cat. He thinks he's a dog. Or possibly a demon."
Samantha's expression was vaguely disapproving, "Can't fathom cats. Sneaky animals - kill birds. You look like you'd have a Collie, maybe a Shepherd. Something like that."
"Yes, well…" While Samantha's directness could be refreshing, Marjorie often found her opinionated brusqueness off-putting.
"No offense meant," Samantha said, collecting her change and hefting her bag again. "You just seem a sensible sort."
"I feared to even mention George her estimation of me would have dropped through the floor."
Adele smiled. "What kind of dog does she have?"
"A bull terrier. Ike, I think she called him." Marjorie finished dressing the salad and carried it to the table. They were having a simple, quick meal before heading out to see a play.
Once seated and ready to serve the salad, Marjorie noted that Adele was laughing. "What's so funny?"
"People," Adele allowed herself to be served. "And their pets."
"We make you a decent enough living."
"I find it amusing when various personality traits are mirrored in people's pets one wonders which came first, the pet or the trait."
Marjorie served herself. "And what amusement have you noted in our case?" She indicated Captain Jack who was sitting in the window, staring out at the birds in the garden.
"It doesn't apply to everyone." Adele shrugged. "But you're both terminally stubborn."
"I'm not stubborn," Marjorie said. "Focused, determined at times, but not stubborn."
"I've learned not to argue with you about this kind of thing, you never give in you're stubborn." Adele smiled.
Marjorie frowned. Adele had a way of undermining an argument before it got started. She changed the subject, "Why do you suppose Samantha thought I'd prefer dogs to cats?"
"Some people associate dogs with sensibility, masculinity, and cats with shiftiness and femininity. The view says more about the person who holds it than the animals themselves. One could just as easily say that you're an independent woman, so you like cats for their independent natures."
"It's certainly a more flattering interpretation," Marjorie said.
"Than someone thinking you're sensible and masculine?" Adele wheedled.
"Was she flirting with you?" Adele asked.
Marjorie's eyebrows shot up. She swallowed the last bite of her salad and replied, "I don't think so…"
"I'll have to keep my eye on Samantha." Adele teased.
Marjorie considered it, for the first time ever, "I don't think she's my type."
They settled on the couch after finishing with the dishes. Captain Jack sprawled on Marjorie's lap, Adele rested her head on Marjorie's shoulder.
"Do you think Janine left George with me so that we'd meet?" Marjorie asked.
"No, she left George with you because you're so loyal and she knew you'd follow her instructions to the letter. Janine spent more time thinking about her own needs than she did about anyone else's," Adele said.
"That's unfair, especially from you." Marjorie scolded.
"Especially from me?"
"She loved you," Marjorie said.
"She had sex with me. She loved you."
Marjorie shifted so that she could look at Adele better. "Do you really believe that?"
"I know that," Adele said matter of factly.
"Then you didn't know her as well as I did." Marjorie withdrew her hand from Adele's and looked away.
"She wouldn't let me know her. Not in the full sense. I accepted that, because I felt it was better than not having her at all." This wasn't territory Adele enjoyed revisiting. The compromises she'd made to be with Janine were nothing but unflattering to her ego. And yet, she'd maintained the relationship, off and on, despite her better judgment - because Janine, aside from everything else, was uniquely vibrant, keenly intelligent, and great in bed.
Marjorie asked quietly, "Is that why you're here now? With me? To find that part of her you feel you didn't know?"
Adele answered without hesitation, "Not at all. I was curious about you, of course, but I also needed someone to talk to someone who knew her. It was so sudden, so empty - talking with you helped. But then, at a time I'd have least expected it, I found myself drawn to you - more than I should have. It's no great surprise, really, given the fact that you're such a handsome woman and your cooking is this side of sinful. You're warm, sincere, engaging I found something very different in you, very different. And after Janine, despite all of the good in her, I swore I wouldn't get involved like that again attached to someone who couldn't, or wouldn't, reciprocate fully. So no, I'm not here looking for…"
Marjorie lifted Captain Jack from her lap, stood, and walked out of the room. Adele sat stunned in the wake of her abrupt departure. She bumped the heel of her palm against her forehead in exasperation when the likely reason for Marjorie's reaction occurred to her. She found Marjorie tidying up in the kitchen. "That's not what I meant."
Marjorie didn't look up from the countertop that she was wiping down with a sponge.
Adele said: "I wouldn't have seen you again, if I thought that about you."
"And why don't you? Because it's true, I can't 'reciprocate'."
She'd interpreted Marjorie's reaction incorrectly Marjorie wasn't talking about emotional reciprocation, which was what Adele had meant - Marjorie was talking about sex. Surprised by this unexpected turn of events, Adele found herself at a loss for words.
In the face of Adele's silence, Marjorie resumed her vigilance against disorder with the sponge.
"She must not be sleeping well again," Rose said.
"She must be on the rag," Jim said, flipping through his mail.
"You men always think that, when a woman gets a little testy."
"It's either that, or she needs to get laid again, maybe she and Roberts broke it off."
"Just because you're obsessed with one thing, doesn't mean that Marjorie is. Men think that women are ruled by one thing, but that's only because they're projecting."
"I didn't say she was ruled by one thing. I said it was one thing or another. And with her, it's probably another," he shrugged.
"Either way, you're saying that she's governed by her emotions. That's sexist." Rose stated.
"Any more sexist than you saying that I'm obsessed with one thing?" Jim asked.
"No, you are obsessed with one thing, it's all you ever talk about. I might start wondering why that is one of these days." Rose teased.
Marjorie entered from the hallway and recognized the sudden bloom of silence in the room it was a type with which she was well acquainted. She accepted the stack of messages that Rose handed her, casting a wary glance between the two of them before proceeding to her office.
"This has been lovely." Marjorie placed her napkin next to her empty plate and smiled across the table at Adele. "Thank you."
"I thought it would be fair if I cooked for a change." Adele stood and began clearing the table. Marjorie stood as well.
"No, no. You sit, let me." Adele insisted.
"You cooked, let me help clean." Marjorie lifted her plate.
"But I don't want you to. I want you to have a night off. Relax, let me take care of you." Adele nudged Marjorie back into her seat.
"But…" Marjorie found it difficult to argue with Adele's hand over her mouth.
Adele smiled. "It's probably more torture than pleasure for you to sit there being waited on, but I'd appreciate you trying it at least once."
"You wouldn't let me do all of the work!" Marjorie sat in an uneasy state as Adele resumed clearing the table.
"Oh wouldn't I?" Adele laughed. "I can be as lazy as sin and I love being waited on."
"You do?" This was something Marjorie hadn't known and wouldn't have guessed about Adele.
"Yes, and you spoil me a bit too much - and turn about is fair play - so sit all the way back in that chair and get comfortable, because I'm not letting you help with the dishes either."
"Now that's not necessary," Marjorie argued.
"Actually, I think it is. Here's today's paper, I haven't done the crossword knock yourself out."
Marjorie sat trying to concentrate on the crossword. She glanced at Adele cleaning up in the small apartment kitchen. She sighed, repressing another urge to get up and help. It wasn't that she enjoyed cleaning up, she liked the result - and that was beside the point when you were a guest… but the wishes of a guest were trumped by those of the hostess… Her gaze lingered on Adele as she turned to place a bottle of oil in a cabinet above the counter. Adele moved gracefully, with purpose, and yet she'd placed the oil where she usually kept her spices. And probably wouldn't be able to find it when she went to use it. Which was why she sometimes had two opened containers of the same ingredient. Cooking and tidying up did not receive the lion's share of Adele's focus. Marjorie couldn't say why she found this as endearing as she did.
After Adele finished up in the kitchen, they sat on the couch, talking and listening to music. Adele was partial to jazz, and though Marjorie tended toward classical and enjoyed the occasional musical, Adele's collection of jazz records was growing on her.
They talked about gardening. Marjorie was excited about the prospects for the coming growing season and Adele was looking forward to visiting several greenhouses with her. Work was a common topic of their conversations. Marjorie had learned the names that peopled Adele's workday. She'd become acquainted with some of the challenges Adele faced, and was surprised to learn the extent to which people mistreated their pets. Adele had said, "It's no wonder vets sometimes avail themselves of the tranquilizers they've got on hand for their patients. You see one too many kicked dogs or cats, you're tempted to reach for one yourself."
Adele loved her work and found the animals she saw on a daily basis endlessly fascinating. Marjorie looked forward to hearing about Adele's day - she had a way with a story.
"You try convincing a nervous dog with an upset stomach to hold it. It took a half-hour to clean the reception area up it was everywhere. Which is why we don't have carpeting out there."
"And with that colorful image etched into my mind's eye, I should be getting home," Marjorie said.
The smile faded from Adele's face. "Is it that late?"
Marjorie nodded down at Adele who'd stretched out along the length of the couch and rested her head on Marjorie's lap.
Adele sat up, smiling again. "But I haven't kissed you yet."
"You kissed me when I came in," Marjorie reminded her.
From her tone, Adele thought it possible that Marjorie was playing coy - the prospect delighted her no end. She scooted closer. "I gave you a brief peck. I'm talking about kissing."
"But I should be going soon, and if we start that now I won't get home until much later."
"That won't take that much time, and you should have let me know it was nearly time for you to go so we could have started that earlier." Adele got the proceedings underway.
Recently, Marjorie had begun to grasp the magnitude of her predicament just in time for it to run off with her sense and better judgment altogether. She was of two minds about her situation, one of those minds, however, appeared to have the upper hand when it came to spending time with Adele. And as uncomfortable as the idea of kissing Adele was for her to reconcile with who she believed herself to be, the reality of doing it was another matter altogether.
"See?" Adele whispered, after breaking a lengthy kiss, that was one in a succession of lengthy kisses. "That didn't take that long."
Marjorie shook her head in answer - she hadn't quite focused yet. Or considered leaving. How could she? With Adele pressed up against her as she was?
Adele relented and shifted so that Marjorie could stand. To her great surprise, Marjorie leaned over and initiated another kiss; and another still. Marjorie's ardor did not go unnoticed or unappreciated. Her increased comfort with the abbreviated intimacies they shared greatly pleased Adele.
"It's late," Adele reminded, between kisses.
There was no reply from her engrossed partner.
Marjorie was unclear about the sequence of events that lead up to it, but it was with extreme embarrassment that she withdrew her hand from beneath Adele's blouse. Adele had been saying something, but what it was hadn't registered until Adele had raised her voice and said clearly, "There's no way I'm letting you go home if you keep that up."
Uncomfortable. That was the word that described her. She leaned over and clipped another stem from a geranium topiary. It sat in her bedroom window, overlooking the side yard. The only peace she seemed to find these days was with her plants.
Captain Jack jumped and dove after the clipping as it fell to the floor. He batted it away and waited for another.
Marjorie considered the plot in her garden, beneath the window, where she'd planted the lobelia the summer before. "What's become of my life? It used to make sense."
Or had it? Now forty-six years old, no children, no husband, no sustained interest in having either. A cat, a bird, a house and yard full of plants and flowers for companionship. That probably wouldn't have made sense to most people, wouldn't have been enough, but to Marjorie it sounded just right. She enjoyed quiet, prized her afternoons of solitude. She still enjoyed these things, craved them even, but there was also Adele… Her wayward thoughts managed to find their way back to Adele, no matter where she was, or what she was doing. And so her life had taken on another dimension. One she'd not managed, despite her best efforts, to tidy up.
"It was such fun seeing you here!" Bess said. "And it was nice to meet you, Adele."
"You too." Adele smiled.
They'd just left a performance of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" downtown. During the intermission, they'd run into Fred and Bess in the lobby and had met them again on the way out.
"Look, it's still early," Fred said. "Would you two like to go get a cup of coffee?"
"Early for some," Marjorie noted. As much as she considered Fred a contemporary, he and Bess, in their early thirties, were somewhat younger and more energetic by far. "It's a long drive back home, I'll have to take a rain check."
"Of course," Fred said. "Drive safe."
After the short walk from the playhouse to the parking lot, Marjorie and Adele sat in Marjorie's car in silence. "What's the matter?" Marjorie asked.
"Have I done something wrong?" She knew the answer, or at least she thought she did. After intermission, she'd sat, barely watching the play, preoccupied with the possible consequences of having run into someone else she knew and their possibly gleaning something from her being with Adele. She felt like a child having been caught while up to something. And now she was about to get punished for something else.
"I thought you said that Fred was gay?" Adele asked.
"He says he is."
"And that Bess had accepted it. And they've thought that you were gay for ages."
"He says she has. And they have," Marjorie replied.
"Then what would be the harm of having coffee with them? And don't tell me it's too late, I know your late night habits."
"I work in a school Adele. I can't risk people finding out." Marjorie argued.
"They already know."
"Who knows?" Marjorie sounded alarmed.
"Fred and Bess! Who did you think I meant? You're acting like you're a criminal of some kind."
"Some people would think I am."
"Some people believe in little green men from Mars, that doesn't make them right," Adele insisted.
Marjorie leaned her head back against the seat and sighed, "I know."
Adele was surprised to hear it. She felt that she'd drop the subject for the time being, Marjorie would have to decide where her boundaries lay in this murky terrain it wasn't an easy process for anyone. Besides, there was something else Adele was curious about. "So why haven't you said anything about Bess?"
"What should I have said?" Marjorie asked.
"That she's stunning and you have a crush on her."
"I most certainly do not!" Marjorie flushed crimson.
"Aunt Marjorie, why didn't you ever marry?" Pamela's bright, inquisitive eyes sparkled with curiosity.
"Marjorie was always too sensible a woman," Jill, Marjorie's younger sister, cut in. "Are you going to ask her the question you've been wanting to ask?"
Marjorie's stomach flopped in anticipation of a more awkward inquiry.
"Oh, right!" Pamela turned to Marjorie. "Would you help me with the flower arrangements for my wedding? I haven't a clue, Mom's useless about flowers, could you?"
Marjorie breathed a quiet sigh of relief. "Of course, I'd love to."
Pamela squealed, hopped out of her chair, and gave Marjorie a big hug. "You're the best! I'm going to call Mark."
And off she went.
Marjorie and Jill laughed.
"Thanks, it means a lot to her. She wanted you to be involved. The more the merrier. I'm up to my ears in catering hell. We've got a great band though. Friends of the groom. At least something was easy."
"Are you still looking for a dress?" Marjorie asked.
"Didn't she tell you? I can't keep up with who knows what. She's decided, as a protest of some kind, to wear casual clothing. I went right back to the last bridal shop we went to and bought one of the dresses that fit her. What do you want to bet, come the morning of the wedding, she decides to wear it?"
"I think," Marjorie said. "That this is one of those instances where, as an aunt, I should maintain a stance of neutrality."
"Such a diplomat. Simon was having lunch with Jerry Fuller last week and Jerry said that if there's one thing he likes to see least at the union's negotiation table, it's Marjorie Humboldt glancing at him over her bifocals - with that neat stack of papers and files arranged, just so, in front of her. He says that dealing with the school board is bad enough, but he calls you Richmond Elementary's last brick wall. I think it's a compliment. Would you like another cup of tea?"
"Jerry's good at what he does, I think he's why we've got as good a relationship as we do with the union - heaven knows Dan Langston had a good deal to do with the sour one we had for years before he retired. I think Jerry still sees me as his fourth grade teacher. And I'd love another cup of tea, but I should be off soon."
"Why don't you stay for dinner? There's plenty of lasagna. And maybe you can help us talk about something besides the wedding. Simon would be grateful."
"I'd like to, but I'm meeting a friend." Marjorie tried to sound casual.
"Oh, rain check then. Is it someone from the garden club? They're not sticking you with the planning committee again this year, are they?"
"No, I've declined this year. I've been too busy. I'll be leading the tour of the Whitfield Horticultural Society again though. And they've asked me to do a talk, but I've no idea what I'd talk about."
"Gee, flowers and plants, your favorite subject I think you'll manage to come up with something. We loved going last year - I'll have to sign up again. So, do I know her?" Jill asked casually too casually for an elder sister's ear.
"No, I don't think so. Adele Levi? She's a veterinarian downtown." Marjorie tried not to squirm under Jill's knowing eye.
"Oh, that's nice. How do you know her?"
"She was a friend of Janine's. I should really run. Have Pam call me whenever she's ready to start with the flowers."
Jill sighed, "You're an angel. But I'll tell you now that if she insists on dandelions and buttercups, I reserve a mother's right and a sister's privilege on vetoing it. I don't care if she's marrying a musician, this will not be a hippie wedding."
"I'm sure we can arrange something that will work for all concerned."
"Good, because if Mom doesn't like anything, I'll just say it was your idea. And by the way, she's been complaining that you're avoiding her, because you're not answering the phone when she's calling at night. I told her that if her first-born daughter is too busy to pay attention to her every bent nail on a moment's notice, she could always call here. A suggestion that must have gone into her deaf ear, because she won't drop it. Just thought I'd give you a heads up, because that's what sisters do something you might want to remember when Pam starts waxing poetic about daisy chains. And whatever it is that you've been up to lately that's put that glow in your cheeks agrees with you keep it up."
"See? This is much more comfortable." Adele snuggled up to a fully dressed and rigid Marjorie.
"I was perfectly comfortable on the couch," Marjorie complained.
"I'm tired of having a crick in my neck," Adele complained back, while lightly stroking Marjorie's hair. It was dark, thick and wavy, and lightly streaked with gray. The bright scent of Marjorie's shampoo, mixed with that more subtle, much more alluring scent, that was Marjorie's own, pulled at Adele in a very basic way.
There was no way Marjorie could relax, stretched out on Adele's bed as she was. "I think you'd be more tired of me."
"I am tired of you on the couch. That's why I've opted for this change of scenery - to liven things up." Adele smiled.
Adele wondered if she shouldn't have pressed harder for the lights to be turned down. Marjorie needed all of the help she could get to relax.
"Maybe I'm not a lesbian," Marjorie said. It wasn't the first time this had occurred to her.
Adele tried not to roll her eyes. It wasn't the first time they'd discussed it either. "Maybe not, but circumstance might indicate otherwise."
"You're biased." Marjorie accused.
"Because I'm a lesbian?" Adele challenged.
"You're never going to forgive me for breaking into your orderly routine, are you?" Adele whispered lightly into Marjorie's ear. It was something she knew Marjorie was partial to.
"No," Marjorie responded weakly, feeling what had become a familiar melting feeling cascade through places she generally felt something a bit more resolved in.
"Sometimes I think that's your major gripe against me, not the fact that you think I've turned you into a raving lesbian."
Marjorie, feeling herself at the edge of a precipitous fall, scooted away from Adele's distracting advances. "But what if I'm not?"
"Then this has been a terrible mistake. You can go back to your cat, bird and gardening club guiltless. And I'll find some other poor weak soul to prey upon. And maybe, if I'm lucky, she won't be as stubborn as you are!" There was only so much reticence her ego could bear - Adele sat up.
Marjorie made no sense. After all, just moments ago on the couch, they'd about fallen off they'd been so engrossed in one another. She knew the bedroom would be a leap for Marjorie, but she hadn't expected it would cause such an extreme reaction. And then, like a brick out of the dark, she was struck by an all too likely possibility. "Good God, Marjorie - do you think that as long as we're not having sex, you're not really a lesbian?"
The look of pained disgust on Adele's face burned straight through to Marjorie's core. Shame and guilt radiated out from there, paralyzing her as much as Adele's revelation.
Adele got out of the bed and left the room.
Marjorie lay staring at the ceiling, stricken. It was true. It hadn't been a conscious thought motivating her actions, but it was true nonetheless. And she suspected that it wasn't only for the time she'd known Adele, but for longer, much longer. She'd hidden it from herself as much as she had anyone else.
A wave of nausea overtook her and she rushed to the bathroom. She didn't know how long she'd sat there, expelling the contents of her stomach. She thought there was probably more than enough liquid in the toilet to drown herself. Then, she'd never have to face the world, or Adele, again.
She felt a hand rest on her back and she flinched. Adele rubbed lightly until Marjorie's breathing evened. She handed her a damp face cloth. "This was not the effect I was hoping to have on you this evening."
"Leaving? But why? You've been teaching at Richmond for fourteen years!" Marjorie was surprised, to say the least.
Samantha shrugged, "Fourteen years that's as good a reason as I can think of."
"Is anything the matter?" Marjorie asked, thinking of Samantha's problem with Helen. Fred had told her that the difficulty had passed and the two had seemed all right enough. "Have you been unhappy here?"
"No, no, nothing wrong here. You run a tight ship, never minded it." Samantha shifted, she could have done with a few less meetings and fewer offhand remarks from her more snotty co-workers, but other than that, she didn't have all that much to complain about. "I've had this idea… for a business, and a few friends and I, we think we can make it work."
"We’re going to open a gym," Samantha said.
"A gym? Like a gymnasium?" Marjorie didn't understand.
"Yes, a place people can go to exercise."
This seemed an odd notion to Marjorie. "But can't people exercise at home?"
"But they don't have a clue what they're doing. We'd train them, and offer the right kind of equipment top of the line gear. Maybe have nutrition classes for the health nuts."
Marjorie was concerned. "It seems a big gamble. Opening a business…"
"At my age?" Samantha finished what she assumed Marjorie was thinking. It wasn't like she hadn't thought it herself a few times. "I know, I know, but this can't fail. We've researched it, found a great location in the city. It will be easy for people to get to they could stop in before work, after work, during lunch. I've seen lots of gyms and most of them are uncomfortable, smelly places you go to box. This will be bright, well lit, there are huge windows and it will be clean a place you can come to feel good. Not have the tar beat out of you."
Marjorie could see that Samantha was taken with the idea. Marjorie was dubious such an effort could succeed, but then, she didn't know much about exercise other than what the curriculum required for growing children. It did seem to have become very popular though. A few more people had taken up jogging in her neighborhood. "I wish you the best of luck, of course. We'll miss you here."
"Doubt it." Samantha snorted. "Never been one of the gang here. Not married, never went to a fancy college always stuck out too much. Never been able to blend in not like some."
"Not like…" Marjorie trailed off. "Oh."
Samantha shrugged, a characteristic gesture. "But I appreciate the sentiment." She sighed. "I'll miss the little rascals. Nothing cheers me up quite like kids complaining about P.E." For the first time in their conversation, in their acquaintance, Samantha's voice faltered as she spoke.
Marjorie smiled. "They do have an effect upon one."
Samantha sniffed back a tear and nodded.
Mortified. That was the word that best described what she felt. "Self-loathing" was hyphenated, so it wasn't a single word, but it too was relevant. How could she ever have treated someone as she had Adele? The thought cut like a knife each time it surfaced.
She wasn't sure how to face Adele, but face her she must. Which was why she stood just inside the door of Adele's apartment, still wearing her coat, feeling as uncomfortable as if she were standing on tacks in her stocking feet.
"I think you should find someone else," Marjorie said quietly.
Adele stood a few feet away facing her. She leaned against the wall and crossed her arms over her chest. "I had a feeling this was coming. Do you want to talk about it, or will this be a brief severing of the ties?"
Marjorie's cheeks burned, she glanced away. "You deserve better much better than this. Than me."
Adele felt she was being shouldered with one too many burdens. "Don't use me as an excuse not to deal with your own feelings. If you're leaving, go - but don't try to tell me that you're leaving to save me. I don't need that kind of charity."
"I'm not using you as an excuse! All I know is that I don't ever want to hurt you again, not like that. I couldn't bear it."
"So you're leaving? To spare me pain and heartache?" Adele shook her head. "I don't think so. To save yourself from a reality you can't deal with? More likely." Adele stared at Marjorie, willing her to make eye contact.
Marjorie finally did, her eyes brimming with tears. "But don't you see? Janine and I, we're just the same to you. Incomplete. Opposite sides of the same coin. I've used you."
Adele sighed, "You and Janine are not opposite sides of the same coin, you're opposite period. How you sustained a friendship as long as you did is the real mystery. Janine was a lot of wonderful things, but a lot of surface as well you're… a gentle undercurrent, intrinsically substantial. I feel so different about you. We used each other, Janine and I and we were frank about it. Living a 'discreet' life, where I'm forced to lie to practically everyone to preserve what standing I've got - I strive to be honest with myself. And with the women I'm with. It keeps me sane."
Marjorie nodded in understanding. "I should go."
"But you said you didn't want to hurt me again."
"I don't!" Marjorie pleaded.
"If you leave now you'll break my heart, I should think that's going to be painful. I've fallen in love with you Marjorie, or hadn't you noticed?"
Marjorie's breath caught in her chest, she looked at Adele in astonishment.
"Don't look so innocent, like you've had no clue I've been wrapped around your little finger since you first accused me of turning you into a lesbian."
"Well… I… I never accused you of turning me into a lesbian…" Marjorie's mind stumbled upon a thought. "I suppose - well perhaps I have held you responsible, in a way. I'd never have acted on my feelings if I hadn't felt the way I do about you all of the time. So in a way, it is your fault. Only, you didn't turn me into a lesbian. You just made me realize the inconvenient fact that I am a lesbian."
"Is it really so inconvenient?" Adele asked.
"Of course it is!" Marjorie answered. "But given the way I feel about you, I suppose it would be more inconvenient if I wasn't."
Adele smiled. "Then don't leave."
The bolt of tension in Marjorie's chest eased. For the first time in twenty-four hours, she felt she was able to breathe.