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Chapter Sixteen

On Sunday afternoon, Liz called and persuaded them to come for dinner. She had teased Hilton that they had to come out of the bedroom sooner or later. She was making vegetable ProvenVal with couscous and onion tarts. Veronica and Melissa were also coming for dinner. Hilton was nervous. It was easy to spend the weekend in each other’s arms but going out in public was to begin their life together with all of the unknown challenges.

Anne must have sensed this because she took Hilton’s hand and said, “I could spend the rest of my life here but we can’t, and we will deal with things—including my mother.”

Hilton took a deep breath.

“It will be fine,” Anne said. She got up from the bed. “Come have a shower with me.”

“Is that like an interim activity?”

“Precisely.”

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Later that evening Hilton and Anne were in the living room picking out music. Once the CD player was loaded, Hilton wrapped her arms around Anne’s waist and they danced slow to the music.

“This was the most incredible weekend of my life,” Anne said.

“Me too.” Hilton kissed her passionately.

There was a tussle in the hallway and someone said, “Let go of me.”

“Nat, don’t go in there,” Jessie said.

Hilton pulled away from Anne and glanced up. She felt her stomach drop. She knew she had to tell Nat but she didn’t want it to be today.

Nat was standing in the doorway staring at her. “So you’re banging the boss. Is that what this is all about?”

“Nat, I tried to warn you,” Jessie said, tossing her hands in the air for emphasis.

Hilton took Anne’s hand and faced her ex-girlfriend. Several phrases came to mind, most of them far from polite, so Hilton opted for the stripped-bare truth. “Yes, Anne and I are in love.”

“What about us?” Nat demanded. She placed her hands on her hips.

Hilton looked at her for a moment. She had hip-hugger jeans on, a tight green shirt and a motorcycle jacket. She was the same girl Hilton had always loved but it was different now. Hilton felt detached. It was as if Nat was a rowboat that had once been moored to her dock and she’d just untied it, watching the rope float on top of the water as the boat drifted listlessly away.

“Nat, there hasn’t been a relationship since you went to live with Sherry.”

“You guys fucking remodel the house. It’s like I was never here,” Nat ranted.

“Why are you here?”

“It’s our fucking anniversary,” Nat said. She threw a burgundy jewelry box at Hilton, who just barely managed to catch it before it nailed her in the face.

“What the hell? Nat, let’s go talk on the porch, okay?” Hilton glanced at Anne.

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“Go talk. You two don’t need an audience,” Anne said. “I’ll go help Liz chop vegetables.”

“Forget the vegetables, let’s have a stiff drink,” Jessie suggested.

Nat and Hilton sat on the porch. Hilton was still holding the small box. “Nat, what are you really doing here?” It was true, it was their anniversary but Hilton could count on one hand the number of times they had observed it. She knew Nat had something else on her mind. Hilton took her hand.



“I’m not sure I want it to be over,” Nat said.

“Are you done with Sherry?”

“Not exactly, but Sherry wants this commitment thing. She’s not like you.”

Hilton watched as Nat looked down at their intertwined hands.

“Good for her.”

“I don’t know if I can do it.”

“You want me back so you can resume your old ways. Nat, how much fresh meat do you need? How many positions can you do it in? It’s all finite. Maybe it’s time to explore commitment. It might do you some good.” Hilton looked at the box. “What’s in it?”

“It’s a ring.”

“I’m not the one you should be giving it to.”

“So that’s it then? We’re done? You’re in love with the boss lady.”

Hilton nodded.

“What happened to Emily? I thought you two were hanging out.” Nat was standing now, holding the jewelry box in her clenched fist.

Hilton knew Nat wasn’t going to take this lying down. She needed to make her realize that they had separate lives now. “We only slept together that one weekend.”

“So the whole time I’ve been away you’ve been falling in love with her,” Nat said, pointing to the living room. Tears were welling up in Nat’s eyes.

“Something like that.”

“That’s just fucking great. You’ve all been lying to me,” Nat shouted hoarsely.

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“Nat, come here.”

“No, don’t touch me. Liars!” She raced down the driveway toward her little white car and screeched away.

Hilton went back inside. “That didn’t go well.”

Liz and Anne looked at her sympathetically. Veronica and Melissa came in the kitchen door. They were laughing and joking about something. They stopped when they saw everyone’s somber faces.

“What’s wrong?” Veronica asked. She took Jessie’s hand.

“It’s Hilton’s anniversary,” Jessie said.

“But you two just got together,” Melissa said.

“No, Nat and Hilton’s anniversary. Nat just came by and found out about them. It wasn’t pretty,” Jessie explained.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Veronica said. “Do you have a vase?” She pulled a bouquet of red and white dahlias from the paper bag she was holding. “I thought we needed to some color in this gray season.”

Liz pulled a vase from the cabinet above the fridge. “How about this?”

“Perfect,” Veronica said. She set to arranging the flowers.

Anne gave Hilton a hug. “Are you all right?”

“It’s not me I’m worried about. I’ve been long over it.”

Veronica said, “Well, the way I see it, Nat is a slut who gets what she deserves.”

“Veronica!” Anne reprimanded.

“No, she’s right. Nat has played around on me for years. It’s her turn to get dumped,” Hilton said. She jammed her hands in her pockets and wondered how anger and pity could possibly be intertwined.

After dinner that night in the cottage, Anne lay wrapped in Hilton’s arms. “I never want to spend a single night without you,”

she said.

“That’s part of the I do,” Hilton replied, running her fingers through Anne’s hair.

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“I do, I do, and I do.”

Hilton looked down at her. “You know, we’re going to have to be careful.” Ever since Nat made an appearance, she couldn’t stop concocting horrible scenarios that would force the two of them apart—Anne’s parents, her job, second thoughts about being gay.

The possibilities were endless.

“Because of the show?”

“That, as well as your parents.” Hilton watched her face carefully.

“I know, and we’ll make it work.” She looked determined.

Hilton felt a sense of temporary relief. When Anne set her mind to something she didn’t flag when things got tough. “I think Malcolm already gets it.” She liked him. It was Victoria that concerned her.

“Really?”

“Really.”

“Well, your background buys a lot of stock in Victoria’s world.”

“I hope so. It’s not going to be easy. You know that, right?”

“All I know is that I’ve never felt this way about anyone, including Gerald. You are first and foremost in my life now and the rest is details that will have to be worked out.”

“I could think of a detail or two that needs to be attended to,”

Hilton said. She took Anne’s hand and put it between her legs.

The next morning Hilton lay in bed watching Anne sleep. It was still early but she couldn’t sleep. She tried to lie still so as not to wake Anne. Shannon was sleeping on her side of the bed. Hilton listened to her even breathing, hoping it would relax and comfort her as it had so many nights before when she was scared or sad.

She normally looked forward to going to work, seeing Anne work her magic with the callers and her particular take on the day, but today was different. She could feel it. Nat wasn’t going down without a fight.

Hilton had spent years trying to figure out how Nat operated.

She had compiled much data but had yet to discover any sort of 183

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pattern of behavior. Nat was as unpredictable today as she was ten years ago. This was an alarming fact, and until Nat acted Hilton was living on a precipice waiting for the shove. If Nat did anything to hurt Anne, she would retaliate. What she feared was that Nat would destroy her relationship with Anne, and knowing she would hate Nat from that moment forward made the whole thing worse.

Everyone would end up alone.

Anne stirred, fluttered her eyelids and woke up. “Good morning. Are you all right?” She was staring at Hilton.

“I’m fine, really.”

“You don’t look fine. What’s wrong?” Anne straightened out a tangled lock of hair and rubbed sleep out of her eyes. Hilton could tell she was attempting to function as quickly as possible.

“It’s not an imminent crisis,” Hilton reassured her. “Today is our first day in the real world and I’m a little nervous.”

“Oh, well, don’t be. I won’t kiss you in public. Dave knows, Lillian is oblivious, and Ed won’t find out until I tell him and we’ll decide how to deal with it then. Ed is most likely going to say it’s our business and don’t advertise. No one knew my husband left me for another man. Some things people don’t need to know.” Anne rolled back into Hilton’s arms. “Now, how much time do we have?”

“About ten minutes before the alarm goes off.”

“Oh, too bad. Let’s go shower at my house, grab a coffee on the way.”

“All right,” Hilton said. She wished Anne’s confidence would rub off on her. Shannon jumped on the bed and looked at her expectantly. “Need to go out?” Shannon barked. The day had begun.

On the way to Anne’s house, they listened to the national news and Anne played around with several ideas. The day was windy with high clouds. It didn’t look like rain but the sun was nowhere in sight. Hilton was attempting to comb the knots out of her hair before she showered.

“I know, let’s do a show on what it’s like to live in a gray cloud 184

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for four months. It could be a discussion of coping mechanisms,”

Anne said enthusiastically. “What do you think?”

“Sounds great,” Hilton said, looking out the window. “Or maybe we could call in sick and run off to Mexico where’s it’s sunny all the time.”

Anne laughed. “I can’t wait for our first vacation together.” She turned the radio to a music station and tapped her fingers on the steering wheel in time to the music.

Hilton reached back and patted Shannon’s head. Shannon sighed contentedly. Why was she so tense when her lover and her dog were happy as clams? You shouldn’t worry so much, she told herself. Nat was probably getting banged right now and not giving her a thought. Perhaps she was suffering from some sort of post-traumatic love syndrome. Everything seemed too good to be true so disaster must be lurking somewhere. Anne knew how to handle things and Hilton knew she would. She leaned back in the seat and gazed at Anne. At the stoplight Anne reached over and kissed her.

Hilton stroked her inner thigh and kissed her ear.

“Let’s see how fast we can get into the shower,” Anne said, her breathing growing ragged.

“You’re on.” She started to unbutton her shirt. Anne’s eyes got big. “Don’t worry, my jacket will cover it up.”

Ten minutes later, as the water cascaded over both their bodies, Hilton ran her hand through Anne’s hair as she knelt. Hilton felt Anne’s tongue run across her clitoris and she moaned softly. Anne slipped her fingers inside her, then stood up, pulling Hilton near.

“I wanted to do this earlier,” Anne whispered.

Hilton caressed Anne’s breast and slid her hand lower. Anne spread her legs wider and Hilton gently stroked her. Anne moved closer and then cupped her hand over Hilton’s, pushing her farther inside.

“Oh, yes, like that, just like that,” Anne said.

“We’re going to be late for work,” Hilton said as she gyrated her hips against Anne’s hand. She felt her orgasm rip through her.

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“No, we’re not,” Anne said, pulling Hilton in tight her body quivering. “Yes.”

They held each other for a moment. The cold water started trickling through.

“We better hurry. We’re almost out of hot water,” Anne said.

They got ready for work and Hilton felt better. Just holding Anne made her feel better. They would get more coffee at McDonald’s and an egg sandwich for Shannon, go to work, get some lunch and spend the rest of the day in front of Anne’s fireplace having a good glass of wine and doing nice things to each other. It was going to be all right. Hilton smiled at Anne as they got on the expressway and started downtown.

“I love you,” Anne said.

Hilton took her hand and kissed her cheek.

The radio show started as usual. Anne began her monologue on how to survive the winter in Seattle. People called in with their take on the subject. Hilton’s favorite caller was the New Age one.

“It’s necessary to embrace the grayness, dance in the rain, sip herbal tea and do yoga so your joints don’t stiffen up from all the dampness.”

“That sounds great,” Anne said, throwing a pencil in the ceiling. “Maybe a little slow for me, but it takes all kinds.”

Another guy called and said, “I just visualize the mushrooms growing on my head and I want to shoot my fridge because I’m going nuts.”

“I’m with you,” Anne said, twirling another pencil that was two seconds from hitting the ceiling.

Hilton could tell she was getting bored. They were five minutes from the bottom-of-the-hour news and weather. She grew relaxed as life appeared to be normal. She was probably just being para-noid.

Anne took another call. “Hello, caller, go ahead,” she coached.

“I just wanted to talk about what I used to like to do in the winter.”

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“All right.”

“Well, I had this lover and we used to cuddle up on the couch and have a glass of wine,” the caller said.

Hilton recognized the voice. She looked at Anne, who hadn’t made the connection. She was frantically trying to decide what to do.

“But I can’t do that anymore because you stole my girlfriend and I’m thinking that’s what you’ve been doing,” Nat said.

“Well, Natalie, nice of you to call.”

Hilton sprang from her seat. “Lillian, drop the call, drop the call,” Hilton screamed.

Lillian couldn’t hear her because of her headphones.

Dave swung around in his chair. “Hilton, what’s wrong?”

“How does it feel to steal someone else’s girlfriend?” Nat taunted.

“Drop the call!” Hilton screamed.

Lillian looked at her, plucked off her headphones and screamed back, “Don’t tell me to chop-chop, young lady, I’m screening calls as fast as I damn well please.” She slapped her headphones back on.

Hilton banged her head on the table. What the hell did Anne think she was doing? This was going to wreck her career instanta-neously. Everything she feared was coming to fruition.

“Well, if you’d been a better partner that wouldn’t have happened, but you were out screwing every Tina, Denise and Harriet in town,” Anne retorted.

“That’s your POV on the issue,” Nat said. “She was still my girlfriend and you had no right.”

“Nat, it’s time you moved on. I love Hilton and we’re in it for the long haul.” Anne dropped the call.

Hilton was still banging her head when Dave put on the bottom-of-the-hour news and weather. Anne came into the control room followed by Veronica.

The first words out of Veronica’s mouth were, “That fucking little bitch. Why didn’t you drop the call? You should have 187

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dropped the call. And Lillian, what the hell were you doing? You know you officially outed yourself. Ed is going to kill us.” She was standing with her hands on her hips in her usual tailored skirt and jacket.

“I was listening,” Lillian said, stomping off to have a cigarette.

“That’s just fucking great!” Veronica screamed. “You can’t hear half the time but this time you were listening.”

“Well, sometimes things happen for a reason,” Anne said. She smiled broadly at Veronica.

“You know this is the end of your career,” Veronica replied.

“Yes, I’m aware of that.”

“Dude, I don’t think this was a good move,” Dave said, running his fingers through his hair.

“Actually, I’m kind of relieved. I have two years left on my contract and I’m sure I’ll find something to do,” Anne said, looking at Hilton. “You’ve got a black smudge on your forehead.” She wet her forefinger and tried to rub it off.

“I’m so sorry. I had no idea she would do this.”

“You know, I’m pretty much done with this part of my life. I was bored to death six months ago and then you came and maybe that’s why I had to ride it out. But it’s over now and why not go out with a bang.” Anne clapped her hands and smiled. “Dave, let’s get this show on the road.”

Ed, the program director, stood in the doorway blocking her exit. He looked serious. “A heads-up would’ve been nice. I’m going to have a lot of explaining to do.”

“Let me do one more segment,” Anne pleaded.

“It’s not going to be pleasant,” he advised. “We could avoid the issue all together. Put Dave on the calls and not let anyone through with a homophobic or homosexual comment or we could do a best-of show and call it good.”

“No, Ed, I have to live in this town and should at least get a chance to explain myself. Otherwise it’ll always look like I’m a big closet case.”

“They’re going to hang me for this upstairs,” Ed said. He stuck 188

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his hands in his trouser pockets and furrowed his brow. “Okay, here’s how it’s going to go, no screaming matches, and watch for profanity. I mean quick with the switch. I certainly hope you have a balls-to-the-wall monologue because you’re going to need it.”

“Oh, believe me, I do. Thanks, Ed.”

He left. The control room was quiet. Shannon must have noticed because she came in and nuzzled Hilton’s hand. “It’s all right, girl,” she said, petting her.

Veronica was suddenly beaming. “I’ve got a great idea. You could be a gay talk-show host on XM Satellite Radio. You’d be brilliant.”

“No, thanks. I’m going to write thrillers.”

“You write?” Hilton said. “All those yellow legal pads and the pencils …”

“You wrote a book?” Veronica said.

“I’m writing a book,” Anne corrected.

“Dude, I want an autographed copy,” Dave said.

“I know an agent. Well, I dated an agent once,” Veronica said.

Lillian came clomping in. “So you’re a lesbian now?”

“Yes, Lillian.”

“I was a lesbian once,” she sat down and looked reflective.

“Once?” Anne said.

“It was the summer of nineteen fifty-five …”

Dave, apparently not able to stomach the image of Lillian in the throes of girl-passion, cut the story. “I hate to interrupt but we better get this thing rolling.”

Anne nodded. She touched Hilton’s shoulder. “It’s going to be fine, I promise.”

“I’m not letting the bigots on the air,” Lillian screamed from across the room as she sat down and clamped her headphones on.

“Thank you, Lillian,” Anne said. “All right, boys and girls, let’s rock and roll.” She went into the booth and the bumper music started.

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After station identification Anne started her monologue. “As you all probably have deduced from that last segment, some things in my life have changed. I’m not certain as of yet how this will affect the remainder of my career but I will keep you posted. So in honor of that I’d like to welcome you to Homoslavia, my new homeland. It’s a place where Fiesta Ware and the Pottery Barn rule all fashion, a place where parents hold their arms up in the air and wail, ‘What have I done to deserve this? Where did I go wrong?’

It’s a land filled with Donna Summer tunes, pink drinks and rain-bow flags adorning the porches of neat bungalows where couples still have sex in tastefully decorated bedrooms with designer sheets. Homoslavia, home of the free, home of the brave. And now it’s your turn for all the bigotry and ugliness of the latent fears in your heart that you can muster. People, bring it on.”

The first call was from her father. “Hi, Dad. This wasn’t exactly how I planned on telling you.”

He laughed. “Well, you always were for making a big splash and scaring all the little fish. I just wanted you to know I’m all right with it.”

“How’s Victoria taking it?”

“At the moment she’s packing. I imagine she’ll be hiding out in a spa in Palm Springs until this whole thing blows over.” He chuckled.

“You got to love a woman with a brave heart.”

“She’ll get over it. Welcome to the family, Hilton.”

Hilton smiled weakly. She still had the black smudge from the newspaper on her forehead.

The rest of the show was comprised of the burning-in-hell crowd, gay callers wishing her well and offering advice, a lawyer who threatened to sue the station on her behalf and supportive straight people who knew gay people or had gay relatives. Anne still threw pencils at the ceiling and when she was bored scribbled notes down about new scenes for her book. She was suddenly feeling very inspired. No pain, no gain—it didn’t just apply to the gym. She was starting a new life now and she was kind of excited.

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After the show, Anne said, “See, that wasn’t so bad.”

“You are a very brave woman,” Hilton said. Anne noticed she’d washed the black smudge off.

“They can only hurt you if you let them.” She hooked her arm through Hilton’s and then said, “Let’s go have a few cocktails.

Everyone is invited. I want to toast my new life. I feel like a fucking butterfly who just dumped the white condo.”

“I can finish my lesbo story,” Lillian said, putting on a giant purple hat with a black feather. Dave ducked just in time to avoid having his eye poked out by the razor sharp end of the feather.

“Oh, great, I can hardly wait,” Hilton said.

“No, please,” Dave said, putting her hands together in prayer.

“Here. When she starts the story just put the ear buds in,”

Hilton said. She handed him her iPod.

“Sweet. I’ll just nod at the appropriate moments,” Dave said.

They left the building like a merry band of misfits and walked to the bar across the street and down a block. A few people stopped Anne and told her the show was well done. Anne Counterman smiled politely and thought about how nice it would be to live in a world where no one talked all the time, where every instance of public record didn’t have to be deciphered and discussed, a place where you lived your life and didn’t talk about it. The silence was going to be beautiful.


Date: 2015-04-20; view: 407


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