Written / A Revelation in Several Parts (Part 4) 

<= Part 1

Marjorie Humboldt:
A Revelation in Several Parts
Part 4

by Crème Brûlée

"We're getting a divorce."

"Oh, Fred, no! Not you and Bess." Marjorie had very nearly said "too" – "Not you, too."

Divorces were becoming a common occurrence in their community. Marjorie was concerned with the effect it had on the children – it was such a challenge to their primary sense of security. That kind of security wasn't something school could provide - wasn't something she could replace. She wondered at the eventual outcome.

"She met someone else. Someone who could give her…" He shrugged. "More, I guess. I love her, so very much. We've always been great friends. I can't blame her."

Marjorie made the polite remarks that she felt were appropriate to the occasion. But they felt inadequate – as she did in the situation. There was so much she'd like to say, to know. Fred sat before her, obviously despondent. She wished she could offer him the kind of support she knew he could to her. The most that she managed to say was, "Are you going to be alright? Is there anything that I can do?"

He looked on the verge of tears. "I'm going to leave town. I'm moving."

Marjorie was astonished. "You can't! Fred, I'd be lost here without you. Bernard is transferring to Jefferson Middle next year, I'm sure you'll make Vice Principal. You must stay."

"Believe me, if Bernard weren't going, I'd have stayed until I'd figured out a way to unseat him. Good riddance." Fred sighed. "I considered asking you to marry me."

"You did?" How this was relevant, Marjorie didn't know.

"It would give us cover - a way to deflect suspicion. But when I tried picturing us living together in the same house, well…" Fred cringed.

Marjorie was hurt. "Am I so awful?"

"You're so neat! I couldn't stand it, I'm such a slob. It'd never work. So I'm saving us the trouble and the indignity. We shouldn't have to hide, Marjorie."

"We shouldn't have to run away either." She was distressed.

"I can't be honest about who I am and stay in this job, we both know that. I'm going to come out. I see no reason not to anymore."

Marjorie's stomach churned at the idea. "But what will you do? You love your work."

"I haven't decided yet. Who knows? Maybe I'll move to San Francisco – to see what that's like."

Marjorie sighed in defeat. "Everything's changing so fast. First Samantha leaves, now you – I'm at a loss."

Fred smiled. Marjorie hated change. But he was sure she'd find a way to adjust, she always did. It was one of the sensitivities that made her good at her job. When something made her uncomfortable, she tackled it from several angles at once, until she found a way to work it into the system in something like a manageable fashion. "It's not all bad news, Bernard's going, too."

"He's going, because I managed to convince both Phil Marshall on the board and Bernard that Bernard's talents as an administrator and disciplinarian would be put to better use at Jefferson. Which is actually true. I think Jefferson has needed someone who was more of a disciplinarian; they're having trouble on that score. That fight last month was horrific – two students in the hospital! Bernard's size alone will prove an asset to Allen Davis. Might keep the more rowdy element of the student body in line, lord knows Allen's not managed it."

Fred was impressed. "You bumped Bernard off!"

Marjorie looked sheepish. "I saw an opportunity for Bernard to advance his career. I do believe he'll be able to help there." She shrugged. "And I didn't feel that I could leave Richmond if there was even a remote possibility that he'd get my job. Chances are they'd hire an external candidate, but still, I didn't want to risk it."

Fred shook his head. "You can't go, Marjorie."

"But you can?"

"Look," Fred said. "You're wonderful at assuring the staff that our unique talents are indispensable. But you're the glue in this place. Half the schools in this district are failing  - we both know why Richmond isn't. You spot trends a mile off, you build bridges, you mend fences, you make things work. People may not always like how you do it, but they respect what you've accomplished."

"And I could lose that respect in the blink of an eye. My job is challenging enough as it is." Marjorie said.

Fred looked at her and spoke deliberately, "Not if you're careful."

Marjorie closed her eyes against a suggestion that caused bile to rise from the pit of her stomach. Lying to yourself was one thing, lying to everyone else… It ran against everything she believed. But then, nothing she'd believed had prepared her for what she felt for Adele.

Here was a contradiction she'd not been able to digest – it hadn't crystallized in her mind, hadn't become a consciously deliberated problem on which she'd choked, but it had been choking her nonetheless.

There was no way to remain true to her feelings for Adele and honest with everyone else - not if she wanted to keep her job. This must have been what Adele was talking about, what she'd had to decide for herself. Marjorie had tried to negotiate the problem away without being fully aware she was addressing it. She'd been trying to find compromises where there were none. She'd convinced herself, however inadequately, that she wasn't like that. Being like that had been too much to take on. She'd prevaricated for months, struggled in a losing battle against what was true for her. She loved Adele.


Adele noted that for the first time since Fred had announced his plan to leave at the end of the school year a month before, Marjorie entered her apartment with a genuine smile. "You're in a good mood."

Marjorie took off her coat and hung it up. "We had the spring pageant this afternoon."

"What's that?" Adele gave her a kiss and led her into the kitchen, where she'd already started dinner.

"The children dress up as flowers and read poems they've written. It's wonderful. And the most fun we have all year, if you ask me - if you ask them, they'd say field day."

"You have the most understated idea of fun of anyone I know. But I'm guessing it's the flower theme that's the hook for you."

Marjorie blinked. "I'd never considered it."

Adele wasn't surprised. Marjorie had a way of not making certain obvious associations that concerned herself. It could be both torturous and endearing.

Adele had cooked, so dinner was a simple affair. She didn't have Marjorie's interest in cooking. If it was edible and didn't upset her stomach too much, it was alright by her. For Marjorie she made an effort to also make it palatable.

Marjorie had noted Adele's indifference to her diet on several occasions. Of most concern was her habit of skipping meals, especially lunch, which Adele claimed she was too busy to stop for. When Adele admitted that she wasn't eating lunch any more frequently than she had before Marjorie lectured her on the importance of a balanced diet to her energy and overall health – Marjorie took steps. She prepared snacks that she insisted Adele eat throughout the day. Adele knew that resisting Marjorie took more energy than giving in, and found, much to her surprise, that her energies were less depleted at the end of the day.

"There's a good film playing at the Beaumont Saturday night, would you like to go?" Marjorie enjoyed the Beaumont's revival film series and went when she could.

"Oh, Saturday! I've been meaning to tell you – I'm attending a workshop at the Women's Center, 'Women, Empowerment and the Workplace'. It should be interesting, would you like to come?" Adele knew the answer, but asked anyway.

"No, I don't think so." Marjorie was uncomfortable with the idea.

"We'll have to go to the Beaumont another time."

"Yes," Marjorie sighed, disappointed. She knew she couldn't take Adele's time for granted, but she had become accustomed to her availability. "What will you be doing at this workshop?"

"All manner of subversive things. Like discussing discrimination and harassment and strategies for addressing them in the workplace. And maybe how to overthrow the patriarchy if there's any time to spare."

Marjorie scowled.

Adele laughed. She'd considered signing Marjorie up for a workshop titled, "Women: Getting to Know Ourselves". The description of the class alone would have made Marjorie break out in hives. Adele had amused herself for days with the image of Marjorie, fastidious in her skirt and blazer, in a room full of women, straddling mirrors in an effort to get to know themselves. If Adele thought there was even a remote chance Marjorie would have attended, she would have mentioned it. If ever there was one, Marjorie was a woman who needed to get to know herself.


Jill's eyes were puffy and red, her makeup streaked. They stood in the bathroom at the reception hall. Jill turned back to the mirror.

"The right one, it's still a little…" Marjorie handed her a tissue.

"Good grief, they said it wouldn't run. This is all your fault!" Jill dabbed at her eye. "If the flowers hadn't been so perfect, so beautiful, I'm sure I'd have held it together. Look at me, I'm a blubbering old woman."

"You're a mother whose daughter just got married."

"In a t-shirt!" Jill burst into tears again.

"Oh stop, it's not a t-shirt. I thought she looked very nice."

"'Very nice'! That's not what you're supposed to say about a bride!" Jill sniffled.

"You've never cared about what people are supposed to say before – you tend to go out of your way not to." This had sometimes been a point of contention between the two that went right back to childhood, and had, more than once, lead to periods of chill between them. "Why is it so important now?" Marjorie wet another tissue and handed it to Jill.

"Oh, I don't know. It's supposed to be special, that's all. Getting married shouldn't be a casual thing that you do in a t-shirt, something you do for entertainment, for fun. Your whole life changes. You have children. You get old! She's my little girl, she's not supposed to get old!"

Marjorie sighed, resting her weight against the sink. "She's going to be just fine. And I didn't think their vows sounded frivolous – they're very committed. I think they've gone in with their eyes open. And if you want to blame anything on me, you can blame me for her outfit, because I'm the one who encouraged her to wear it."

"You!? Marjorie, how could you?!" Jill exclaimed.

"I thought it complimented her figure better than the Che Guevara t-shirt she was determined to wear."

"Oh, dear god, you talked her out of that? You're an angel." Jill hugged her. "I might as well fix my face, so I can go back out there and deal with the world." Jill cringed as she surveyed the damage in the mirror. She opened her purse to begin the task. With studied indifference she said, "I was hoping you'd bring someone. Was your friend not able to make it?"

"No, Adele wasn't free. And Timothy said he would have loved to come, but he's got so many weddings this weekend. He's sent his very best wishes – from the bowels of the greenhouse."

Marjorie's discomfort was immediately apparent to her sister. "He's so sweet. He sent the cutest salt and pepper shakers. But I was hoping to meet Adele."

"Another time," Marjorie said.

"I'm looking forward to it." Jill smiled.

Her sister's gentle assurances were doing nothing but make Marjorie anxious. Here was yet another level of openness she was reluctant to expose herself to. It felt so strange, so uncomfortable – not to mention terrifying.

On the other hand, she'd never felt quite as alone in a room full of people as she did at the reception. There seemed to be an empty space beside her, where there hadn't been one before.

And when people asked her how she was and if there was anything new in her life (they'd long since stopped asking if there was anyone new), her stomach had churned when she said no.


It was like any other Thursday. Marjorie arrived home, opened the door, stooped to collect the mail from the floor that had been pushed through the mail slot… the only difference was that this Thursday, as she stood in the open doorway, mail in hand, George had flown up and landed on her shoulder, briefly, before flying out the door. Marjorie stood, not breathing, watching her go – first to the catalpa tree across the street in the Calloway's front yard, then, after a moment, off down the street and out of view.

It took several minutes for Marjorie to regain her bearings, to move. She went and stood in front of George's cage – saw that one of the metal wires had been pried loose, and pushed aside – not much, but just enough to allow a small bird to squeeze through.

Captain Jack rubbed past Marjorie's legs, nudging her out of her astonished state. "She's gone. What should we do?"

According to Adele, whom Marjorie had called, she should open her doors and windows and put George's cage outside in clear view – with a string attached to pull it shut if George should fly in. She felt odd standing in the front yard with George's cage, balancing it on top of one of the dining room chairs.

"What on earth are you doing, Marjorie?" Bess slowed from a good jog to a walk as she took in the curious sight.

Marjorie waved and answered, "Trying to catch a bird."

"What's wrong with the one you've got?"

"That's the one I'm trying to catch."

"George flew the coop?" Bess walked through the gate to offer Marjorie a hand.

"Yes. And I'm told that her chances in the wild, even our suburban wild, aren't very good."

"They're not so hot for any of us these days. Is there anything I can do? Walk about with a large bowl of water offering free bird baths?"

Marjorie smiled at the thought. "No, thank you. I think this is it. Now I wait and hope that George can find her way back. And that she's somewhat interested in doing so."

"More the fool if she's not. Mind if I wait with you for a while? I've been wanting to talk with you for ages, but hadn't mustered the nerve."

Bess looked uncomfortable, and small, leaning to one side, arms crossed over her chest, wearing a t-shirt and shorts. And she looked younger somehow. She was thirty-two, but Marjorie didn't think of her being that much younger than herself. She supposed this was due to Bess' maturity and general social ease, except for now. The etiquette around divorce was more or less established, but still awkward. Marjorie, however, saw no awkwardness where her friends were concerned. She reached out and placed a comforting hand on Bess' arm, a sweaty arm. "I meant what I said on the phone when Fred first told me. You're both good friends – I meant that."

Bess nodded.

"Come on in. You look like you might need a glass of water."

"I'd love one – sorry about the sweat."

They sat on Marjorie's couch in the living room, a good spot to watch for signs of George.

"So I guess Fred told you about Jock?" Bess asked.

Marjorie nodded.

"How embarrassing. Did he tell you it's over?"

"Already?" It was out before Marjorie could think better of saying it.

Bess slouched into the couch and nodded, "Like I said, how embarrassing."

"Are you and Fred…"

Bess shook her head. "No. It's really better this way. Who knows, maybe we can be friends someday, for now – it's rocky. Has been for a while. I'll be drifting along fine, then he'll say or do something, or he won't, and I explode at him. Then he sulks for days. And I feel wretched, but I still want to strangle him for what he's put me through. It's such an awful mess and then… And then Jock comes along..." Bess shrugged.

"What happened?" Marjorie asked.

"Sex. Lots of sex happened. Finally! It'd been ages since Fred and I…" Bess couldn't help but note Marjorie's discomfort. "Sorry. Only, well, it was just the thing the doctor ordered. I so desperately needed a good… It was good. Very good. Almost like it was with Fred when we first… Only Fred's a bit more considerate – you know how he is - well, maybe not in that way, but damn him! He's so… he's just such a… he's…"

Marjorie moved over to lend Bess a shoulder as she dissolved into tears. Marjorie found herself lending more than her shoulder as Bess collapsed into her arms, gasping and sobbing.

It was several minutes before the convulsions slowed and Bess' breathing evened. Marjorie patted her back lightly and offered what support she could.

After a long moment, in a quiet voice, Bess said, "I still love the bastard."

"I know." Marjorie soothed.

"Oh, Marjorie, I've cried all over your jacket!"

"Don't worry about it – here." Marjorie leaned over and got a napkin from the coffee table.

Still leaning against Marjorie for comfort, Bess wiped her face and sniffled a bit. "God, I feel like an idiot, and I must look horrendous."

"You look fine." Marjorie thought it would take more than a few tears to make Bess look anything less than lovely.

"I almost believe you." Bess smiled as she squeezed Marjorie's arm in gratitude, and sat up.

Marjorie was relieved to see Bess returned to something like cheerful. And then she felt something altogether different, something akin to shock, when Bess leaned forward and kissed her. Not a friendly peck on the cheek, but a kiss on the lips. And not just one. Not that Marjorie was counting, but it wasn't just one. And they weren't exactly gentle. And then there was movement, and hands that had been somewhere else were in her hair, coaxing her forward. And then there was more movement still, a shadow cast in the hallway, and then Adele, standing in the doorway, holding a chair in one hand and a birdcage in another.

Marjorie jerked away from Bess, exclaiming, "Adele!"

A familiar excited chatter also caught Marjorie's attention, "George!"

Adele stood blinking, taking in the scene. She looked from Marjorie to Bess and back again. Then she put the chair down, rested George's cage on it, and walked out the door.

Adele had made it to her car and had started the engine before Marjorie caught up to her in the driveway. She leaned down to address Adele eye to eye through the open window. "She's upset."

"I'd be upset too if you'd walked off on me in the middle of a kiss like that," Adele fumed.

"But I wasn't kissing her," Marjorie argued.

"You weren't fighting her off either," Adele was furious.

"It was all so sudden, and I didn't want to upset her anymore than she was!"

"That's rich – kissing as moral support, what a good Samaritan you are Marjorie."

"I wasn't kissing her! She kissed me. I may not be well schooled in these things, but I suspect that makes a difference." Marjorie thought this sounded reasonable enough.

"If I'd walked in a minute later, you'd have been kissing her back, so the difference isn't very big."

"I wouldn't have!" Marjorie protested.

"I can't believe what a fool I've been." Adele threw the gears into reverse and gave Marjorie a severe look. Marjorie shook her head in frustration. This was too absurd – all of it. And here she was just days after vowing that she never wanted to hurt Adele again, watching a tear well up in the corner of her eye. And over nothing but a misunderstanding!

"Marjorie, you'll have to move for me to go," Adele said, her voice now shaky.

"No," Marjorie answered flatly, then leaned through the window and kissed Adele. The kiss had a life of it's own, born awkward, it grew into a heated exchange that ended only when Marjorie sensed Adele was running out of air - only then did she relent. She stood and stepped back from the car and said, "It's a big difference."

However incredulous Adele may have been before the kiss, after it, she could only nod in agreement.

Marjorie began to feel uneasy, standing in her driveway, strong emotions roiling through her. "Will you come back in?"

Adele paused, then laughed, shaking her head as she wiped a stray tear from her cheek. "Not a good idea."

Upon reflection, Marjorie could see that Adele had a point. They agreed to meet later at Adele's apartment to talk. Marjorie stood watching Adele's car until it turned the corner and was gone from sight. As she turned back to the house, she glimpsed movement from the Calloway's house across the street. A curtain in a window on the second floor swung closed. An icy tendril of fear crept up Marjorie's spine. What had Fred said about being careful? Kissing women in the middle of the afternoon in full view of the neighbor's windows probably wasn't what he'd had in mind.

It wasn't what she'd had in mind either, but she'd done it. And knew that it had satisfied Adele in a way that saying, "It's not what it looked like," ever could have. And satisfying Adele was a bit higher on her list than worrying about what Dolly Calloway might, or might not, think or say about her. Next on her list was returning to the house to tend to a friend in distress.

She walked in to find George's cage hung from its hook and Bess sitting on the couch, petting Captain Jack who lay sprawled across her lap.

"I'm sorry, I've made a terrible mess of things," Bess said, wincing.

"They were hardly tidy to begin with," Marjorie sighed. "Would you like a cup of tea? I know I would."

Bess nodded, hefted Captain Jack, and they went to the kitchen.

"Maybe I should get a cat." Bess mused. "Less maintenance than a man."

"Not that cat." Marjorie put the water on to boil.

Bess smiled and addressed Captain Jack as she scratched his head. "Poor old man, always getting in trouble. He didn't go near the cage when I let him out of the bathroom. I hung it up mostly because George was having fits."

"Thank you." Marjorie placed the tea pot and cups out, then ran out of things with which to occupy her hands.

After a brief silence Bess said, "That was a stupid thing for me to do. I'm sorry. But in the moment… and you're so sweet. I wanted to see what it was like." Bess shrugged.

Marjorie had hoped that they could somehow avoid the topic, but acknowledged that that was improbable at best, especially with someone like Bess who tended toward the expressive end of the spectrum.

Bess continued. "I think I might have gotten a better idea if you'd kissed me back. Given the circumstance though, I think we're both lucky you didn't. Was she terribly angry?"

Marjorie wasn't sure she was ready for such a casual chat about something that, to her, was anything but.

"Am I sticking my nose in?" Bess asked.

"I don't understand…" Marjorie began, then trailed off.

"What?" Bess prompted.

"How people take these things in stride – how they survive the tumult. You've just kissed a woman for the first time and it doesn't seem to have bothered you so very much. You're standing here, in my kitchen, petting the cat – we might as well be talking about the weather."

"I have kissed a woman before." Bess corrected.

"You have?"

Bess nodded. "In college, didn't everybody?"

"Not that I'm aware of."

Bess shrugged. "Most of the girls I knew couldn't keep their hands off one another. Girl school thing, probably - all those hormones, no place to go. When I said I wanted to see what it was like, I meant I wanted to see what it was like to kiss you. But it's not really kissing if you're not kissing me back, and I get the feeling that's not happening anytime soon."

The water had begun to boil, Marjorie turned to pour it. She answered simply, "No."

"It's a shame, too, I bet you're a good kisser."

In as much as this was a conversation that she'd rather not be having, Marjorie couldn't resist asking, "Why do you think that?"

"You're the kind of woman who likes to finish what she starts, you're thorough. I'm sure Adele agrees - she certainly wasn't complaining in the driveway."

In an instant, Marjorie flushed red.

"That was a bold move. Very to the point. Not your usual understated style, but I'm guessing she brings something else out in you."

Marjorie poured the tea and they went to sit at the dining room table.

"Jock brought something out in me." Bess sighed. "Something I'd not felt in years. Something I used to feel with Fred – that I thought he felt with me. Maybe he did, for a while. Good god, the sex we had! The neighbors would complain…" Bess noted Marjorie's preoccupation with folding and refolding her napkin. "You've never been one for girl talk. But I feel if I stop talking I may start feeling as uncomfortable as you look. Would you please say something, Marjorie!?"

"I don't know what to say! I'm out of my element. Usually, on a Thursday, I arrive home from school, collect the mail, chat a bit with George and Captain Jack, fix something to eat, and finish up whatever work I've not managed to get done during the day. If I'm feeling particularly adventurous, I may even call my mother." Marjorie sighed. "Maybe if this had happened on a Wednesday or Friday I'd have handled it with more aplomb."

Bess smiled. "It's good to know that this isn't your usual routine. I'd have to reassess my image of you…"

Not sure how I'd feel about a Marjorie who ran fast and loose like the rest of our sex-obsessed town. But it's also comforting to know you're human like the rest of us."

Marjorie's look of surprise prompted Bess to explain. "I mean that you’re not quite so buttoned down, so correct – so nineteenth century as you may sometimes seem."

"But that's just it!" Marjorie exclaimed. "I am buttoned down! I'm not fast and loose. I'm very nineteenth century, early twentieth century at best. I'm not cut out for all of this. I've always said that if people indulged themselves a little less and paid more attention to the world around them, it might function a good deal better than it does. And here I am, carrying on like a self-indulgent adolescent. And I'm supposed to be a role model for hundreds of children? What kind of example is this to set?"

"Welcome to the sexual revolution! Where all of us are frightfully human – and it's messy. But it's always been messy, now it's just a little more messy in public, and women have more say in the proceedings."

"Well, I'd prefer it to be a little less public and a little more tidy," Marjorie said.

Bess grinned devilishly. "Then you might want to stop kissing women in your driveway."

Marjorie covered her face with her hands and groaned.

Bess laughed. "It's such a relief!"

Marjorie's face was still buried in her hands. "That I have no self control?"

"To get a break from my own drama. I think yours is much more interesting."

Marjorie slumped back in her chair, defeated, and gave Bess a dubious look.

"It's not so bad as all that. At least you've not spent the last eight years of your life married to a man who's no more attracted to you than he is tepid oatmeal. 'What's the matter with me?' I kept asking myself. 'What am I doing wrong? He's a man, shouldn't he have at least a passing interest?' I tried dieting, I tried therapy I tried yoga – nothing. I accused him of seeing other women. That got his attention - but I have to tell you, having sex with a man who's struggling that much isn't anything to write home about. And when he started talking about wanting children, I thought, okay, everything's fine – but I had this feeling… there was less an excited and more a desperate edge to his enthusiasm. And then one day, out of the blue, he breaks down sobbing and begging for my forgiveness – I think, 'Aha! Who is the bitch?' And instead he tells me he's homosexual. There's no woman, there isn't even a man – yet. I nearly fainted from relief. Then I kicked him out of the house for two weeks." Captain Jack, having sprawled for several minutes in Bess' lap without so much as a pet, jumped down and sauntered off.

"When was this?" Marjorie asked.

"A year and a half ago. I still want to strangle him half the time, but he's Fred, so I can't stay mad at him. Not forever. Which isn't to say that I wasn't good and ready to try at first – which was why I let him sleep on Jerry Small's basement couch. Until he caught that cold – he's so pathetic when he's sick. The whole damned business is pathetic. And then I go and fall for Jock, a weatherman with a Peter Pan complex. There's nothing I can stand less than a man who refuses to grow up. I'll never find another man like Fred."

"I should think you'd be looking for something else." Marjorie reasoned.

"Well, I tried women, but you weren't very cooperative." Bess made a face at Marjorie.

"Sorry," Marjorie said.

"It's all for the best. I'd make a rotten lesbian. To be perfectly honest, women grate on my nerves."

"We do?" Marjorie asked.

"Not sensible women, but then you're a rare breed."

"No more rare than sensible men, I should think."

"Too true!" Bess agreed. "So how sensible is Adele? Am I going to have to watch my back in the supermarket aisle?"


"Only if she makes a habit of throwing herself at you." Adele placed the leftovers from her dinner in the fridge.

"I don't think she intends to," Marjorie said.

Adele turned to face Marjorie. "But if she did, seriously, and you…, well if you wanted to…"

Marjorie interrupted. "I don't."

"Look, she's very attractive and as much as I'd like to believe otherwise, she's probably not entirely objectionable. I'm not sure I wouldn't have kissed her back if she'd kissed me like that. And you've not been with anybody else and well…" Adele shrugged. "I don't know. Maybe you should kiss her."

"What do you mean?" Marjorie was shocked.

"You know, to know what it's like."

"No, what do you mean you're not sure you wouldn't have kissed her?"

"I mean she's easy on the eyes, and I'm not averse to attractive women throwing themselves at me and when I'd calmed down enough to think over what had happened, I wondered if maybe you might not mind it so much either – if you were more experienced. As much as I want to be with you, I don't want to be with you because you've not been with anybody else and are afraid to try. So maybe you should think about it… and, I don't know, try kissing her and see."

"Well I don't want to kiss her." Marjorie was adamant. "And I'm not sure how I feel about you wanting to kiss her either!"

"I don't want to kiss her – I'd like to give her a good smack. But I'm realistic enough to admit that if I wasn't terribly attracted to a certain someone, I'd probably have a go. And I want you to, if you want to, because I've had it up to my eyeballs with women who want something else but choke and don't follow through on it. So maybe you should kiss her."

"I don't want to kiss her." Marjorie crossed her arms over her chest and scowled at Adele.

"How can you be sure?" Adele asked.

"Because I was there! This is absurd – I don't want to kiss Bess! I don't want her trying to kiss me again. I made that perfectly clear. I thought I made it fairly clear to you, but apparently I failed."

Adele smiled and her eyes sparked in a way that had a direct effect on Marjorie's lower abdominal region – she'd never felt anything like that when Bess looked at her. "In the driveway."

"Yes. It was impulsive, but heartfelt." Marjorie experienced a potent surge of emotion as Adele moved toward her. As excruciating as it was, she tried not to struggle against it.


That book. It was like the body under the floorboards in "The Telltale Heart". It was driving her mad. It was on her mind, at the very least.

It was in her nightstand, tucked under a few scraps of paper and a handkerchief that had once belonged to Janine. What Janine would have made of that book, Marjorie could only wonder.

She probably would have said something like, "Marjorie, you're turning into a bad joke. First, you make a fool of yourself with my lover (isn't she something?) and now you're reading explicit feminist literature? Next thing you know you'll be moving to San Francisco with Fred to open a leather bar."

If Marjorie had had a pornographic magazine tucked into her nightstand, she'd probably feel less humiliated. As it was, she had a book, a manual really, titled Female Sexuality and the Female Sexual Experience. This was a book, she was relatively certain, someone her age should not require.

It had been in the drawer since she'd purchased it two weeks before, while browsing in a bookstore in Clayton – a town well to the north. She'd not been able to bring herself to actually read it. Not until she'd started hearing a voice, that sounded very much like Janine's, taunting her from the back of her mind. "I dare you to read that book Marjorie Humboldt. And I double dare you to get up the guts to do what you're dying to do, but have no clue how to do, and are too petrified of trying with Adele. Admit it, she scares you like nothing else on this Earth."

"Oh, just get on with it," Marjorie scolded herself after having finished a second glass of wine. "It's not like you've got much dignity to lose at this point."

She climbed the stairs and entered her bedroom - where she stood looking at the nightstand, until Captain Jack started rubbing against her legs. "I think I prefer to experience this particular humiliation without the benefit of company." She picked him up, deposited him outside the door, and closed it.

Continued in Part 5 =>