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What If Therese Knew Abby First?

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“I swear, Terry, I don’t know where you come up with some of these notions.  Of course I’ve never been in love with a guy. Sheesh!”

Therese cringed inside once again at Richard’s use of his “pet” version of her name. Even though she had asked and explained more than once, she had given up any hope of him understanding how important it was to her to be called Therese. At least he hadn’t called her “T”. Ugh!

“Tell me my name again, papa.”  It had become a game between little Therese and her beloved father.  “Therese Katrina Velovic, my little baruska.”  Four year old Therese would giggle and say , ”I’m not a ladybug and my name is Therese Katherine Belivet.”

“Yes it is,” smiled her papa, adding “my little baruska” just to tease her and see her stomp her feet again.  

“You were born on the first day of spring when the krokusy were peeking their brave little heads out of the snow. In such a hurry to get started with life and maybe show off their beautiful selves just a little bit, hmm?”

Therese grinned her front tooth missing smile.

“The minute your mama and I saw you we knew the name we had planned for you was perfect.  Just right for our beautiful girl.  We knew she would need the strong names of her two babicky because she was going to have many adventures.”

“Like coming to America.”

“Yes, baruska.”

Therese had been much too young to understand or be told what her parents and grandparents had lived through by the time she was born in 1927 Czechoslovakia. Sometimes she heard them talking about the Great War and losing people.  She didn’t understand how they could lose someone but she did understand that it made them sad. 

“But why did you change my name?”

Papa would smile indulgently at her because she knew the answer. She just loved to hear him tell her anything about her “earlier” life. 

“Because you were going to be an American girl so you needed an American name that was easy to pronounce and said that you belonged here.”

All of this flashed through her mind as she was pondering her perturbed feelings toward Richard. Was it really that hard to remember to call someone by their name?  Was she just being petty or was this another indication that Richard just couldn’t be bothered when it came to what she wanted?

Richard interrupted her musing.  “I’ll tell you one thing, anyone who goes in for that kind of stuff is a sicko or they’ve had something bad happen to them. Yeah, I could see two gals maybe canoodling a little bit if they’re lonely but never guys.  That is so repulsive.”

Therese wondered why Richard was getting so worked up.  She had just been thinking about her friend Abby’s heartbreak and wondered what Richard knew about that kind of love. Therese added this topic to her list of off limit subjects with Richard. That list was getting disturbingly long. 

Moving in another hopefully neutral direction Therese decided to tell Richard about Abby’s encouragement to get serious about pursuing her photography. 

“I’ve been thinking about putting together a portfolio of my favorite photos and submitting it to some possible jobs.”

“Abby again, right?  It seems like you always listen to other people’s ideas for you but not mine. What about Europe? Are you even thinking about that, Terry?”

Therese turned toward him with barely controlled rage.  With a coolness that belied the molten anger she was feeling, Therese icily said “I am thinking about it and wondering why in the world would I want to spend my money and my time being with someone who doesn’t even seem to remember my name!”  With that Therese entered her apartment building and slammed the door.  

Richard stood flat footed in shock.  He had never seen or heard Terry like this.  His gaping mouth and staring eyes betrayed his complete cluelessness to what had just happened. “Must be her time of the month” he muttered as he slumped away. 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

NYU Creative Writing 101

Spring semester 1947

 

Essay assignment:  Write about an important event in your life

 

Mama took me to school the day Papa died.  I didn’t want her to but Papa said he needed to go to work early so he said he would pick me up after school and we’d stop at Dobransky’s for a kolacky. That was my favorite bakery because it made Papa happy to see Mr. Dobransky and talk like in the old country.  I liked school and my teacher, Miss Bell, so I was always happy for Monday morning to come.  I was ready for Miss Bell’s smile after two days in the house with Mama.  She was never happy like Papa.  His eyes always seemed to brighten when he saw me.  Mama’s eyes never changed.  Papa’s eyes made me feel safe and warm.  Mama’s were sharp like pins sticking me.  Papa thought I was fine just the way I was.  Mama always had something for me to change.  I was too noisy and moved too much.   No need for dancing and singing just because you feel like it.  Stop reading so much and go outside to play.  Sit like a lady instead of hanging off your chair.  And for goodness sakes stop talking about electric trains.   No girl gets a train for Christmas.  If you knew what it was like before we came to America you would be happy with whatever you got.  

Mama always seemed to be in a hurry that looked like she was mad.  I never knew what she was late for but something was always just out of reach.  She spluttered and tsk’d tsk’d a lot but never said exactly what would make her happy.  That day was no different.  She fussed at me for taking too much time to get ready and then I didn’t walk fast enough to the bus stop.  She was sure we would miss the bus and it would be my fault.  On days like this my breakfast would feel heavy in my stomach by the time I got to school.  The days Papa took me were so different.  He wanted to hear all about what I hoped would happen that day and my friends and Miss Bell.  And we talked about Christmas coming soon.  I would ask Papa to tell me again and again about Christmas when he was a boy.  He would ask me what I wanted Santa to bring.  I could tell him anything so I told him about the new Lionel electric train that came with a whistle.  He hummed a bit and then said that he thought Santa might just do that after looking at his naughty and nice list.  I was so excited I couldn’t sit upright.  I shut my eyes, bowed my head, and squeezed my arms around my body. It took that much to contain my happiness.     

We were practicing writing our lower case letters when Mr. Maxwell, the principal, came into our room and whispered to Miss Bell.  Her face changed like she couldn’t hold it in place and she looked quickly at me.  My stomach felt like it did when Mama had left me at the schoolyard gate that morning.  She stood and slowly walked toward me and asked me to come with her.  I was so scared because I never got in trouble at school.  Miss Bell walked me to Mr.  Maxwell’s office with her warm hand on my shoulder.  When we got there Miss Bell said she needed to tell me something sad.  

Mama didn’t come until school was over.   I wondered why Mama had Miss Bell tell me about Papa dying.   Why did she leave me at school instead of coming for me?  I waited in the schoolyard after school until she finally came.  Her face wasn’t like Miss Bell’s.  Her face was set in a mask I didn’t recognize.  The only thing that looked like Mama were her eyes.  The pins had turned into knives.  She didn't  touch my shoulder.  

Even though some people told Mama I was too young to be a part of all the wake and funeral happenings Mama didn’t see it that way.   “Life is hard.  She might as well get used to it.”  People commented on how I hadn’t cried.  I didn’t tell them about how I couldn’t cry but my doll did every night when we went to bed.  

Our house was never warm again after Papa died.  Even that summer when we had record breaking highs, I still felt chilled most of the time.  And I learned that life is hard but I never got used to it.  Especially after Mama told me one day in passing that Papa had gotten me the Lionel train for Christmas but she had sent it back before I saw it.  She said she was just trying to make a proper girl out of me.  

The day Mama left me at the Sisters of Charity Home didn’t feel much different from going to school.  Throughout that next year after Papa died , Mama and I became two planets circling his memory .  Our orbits were held by the gravity of irreconcilable differences.  Mama’s orbit expanded so that eventually we weren’t circling the same sun.  She casually told me one day that she needed to devote all of her energy to moving on with life.  She didn’t need to add that I was a speed bump on the map she was charting.  I was relieved when she said that she needed me to stay with the sisters for a little while.  She was making plans for us.  In my eight-year-old heart I knew I was part of her past and not her future.  

That Christmas, a generous benefactor hoping to share his love of photography and inspire a child, donated a Canon camera to the orphanage.  Sister Alicia knew immediately that child was me.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Village Voice

April, 1980

 

 

We Are Family

Guest essay 

by 

Carol

 

Our first year together was Dickensian in it’s “best of times, worst of times” roller coaster. In private, we were ridiculously giddy to be together.  We were like any other newlywed couple.  Rhapsodically in love and caught up in a world of our making. The mundane chores of life were ridiculously thrilling when they reinforced that we were together. So what if we discovered all the ways we did things differently?  How could any of that compare to what it meant to know we were as bound and committed as any sanctioned legalities could bestow. We were safe and nested in at home. Our home was a solace and a fortress within another world that either undermined our validity by purposely ignoring us or threatened our existence out of fear and bigotry.  We had been through hell to get to this Edenic place and we soaked up our time together like parched, cracked ground in a long awaited rain shower. Yes, in public, we were denied the taken for granted pecks and nudges and delight giggles of other newlyweds, but in our apartment it was our world to create in any way we wanted. Containing the exhilaration in public was exquisite.  Experiencing it at home could sometimes be exhausting. Let’s just say there was a minimum nap requirement on weekends to sustain the required stamina.  The click of our apartment door signaled that once again life was good at the Madison Avenue apartment.

Therese and I needed the sustenance of our weekends to carry us through the workweek and dealings with the Gordian Knot, otherwise known as my ex-husband. I want to be clear that I knew that he loved our daughter, Rindy, and truly wanted what he saw as best for her. But his version of best was the WASP ideal and had no room for variations that hinted at depravity. I had volunteered full custody to him because I knew that otherwise the turmoil would be endless with every interaction about our daughter being a guided tour of the battlefields of our civil war. Giving up the fight for custody produced shock in him that morphed into further proof of my complete fall from grace. He felt no hesitancy wreaking mayhem anytime he took a notion to exert his court ordered privileges.  Although his last minute decisions and upheaval of plans made were so distressing to me I at least had some maturity and Therese. Our precious Rindy was often caught unawares and without shelter in the rapidly changing forecasts. 

After months of traversing the two way road of accusations and disappointments, Rindy’s teacher provided a rest stop.  She had also been Rindy’s teacher last year so she was the perfect barometer for reading Rindy’s moods. Our charming, friendly, whip smart little girl had become morose and lethargic.  An intervention was needed and  Rindy’s ‘take no prisoners’ teacher was just the person to do it.

“I. don’t. care. who is living where.  I. don’t. care. who loves whom.” This was said emphatically and accompanied by a long pause while directing unflinching laser beams at each of us that scored through huffy protestations and self righteous arguments.  “All that matters is the heart of Rindy.  All that matters is Rindy.”  Something crumbled in my ex  and he began tentative tiptoe steps on a new road toward peace. I began unloading just enough resentment to be able to join him. 

A few months later I received a call from him asking to meet for coffee.  We had established equitable visitations and the handoffs were going smoothly. Rindy was once again recognizable as our special girl.  She and Therese were bonding quickly and their greatest delight seemed to be coming up with ways to play tricks on me. So I was clueless as to why he wanted to meet. He was nervous in a way I had never seen. Almost boyish in his demeanor. After a few obligatory inquiries as to how I was, how was work, and shockingly even how Therese was he cleared his throat.  “I’ve met someone.”  After a stumbling start he began to share with the wonder of a first love.  As I listened I realized that this probably was his first freely given and freely received love.  He was speaking in a gentle way with genuine kindness about this new delight in his life. It occurred to me that neither he nor I had ever spoken that way to each other.  Until it began to melt I didn’t realize the glacial mass that had lodged in my heart regarding him.  The trickle of relinquishing disappointment, anger, and regret began to free up breathing space.  I felt like I was taking deep lung fulls of air for the first time in years. I looked at him and wondered if we can ever really know our best selves until we’re united with our destiny. 

Seventeen years later Rindy had been united with her destiny and was proclaiming this truth via a wedding ceremony. She had come of age during the sixties and fully participated in the freedoms and upheavals.  More than once it was a round robin of her four parents talking each other off the ledge because of her latest adventure. LBJ and McNamara introduced her to the world of protesting an insanity. Dr. King provided a balance of peaceful repudiation of long ignored injustices.  Therese and I were proud of her with a side of strong trepidation.  Her father learned how much love means letting go.          

Before I go any further with our story I need to rectify my neglect of not telling you of someone else in my life who has been my bedrock and dearest friend since we were in high school.  Abby.  Abby is the honorable wild child every patrician raised upper middle class girl needs in her life.  She is a walking reality check to all things aloof, snobbish, or just plain irritating.  She was my rudder when I left my safe port and ventured out into treacherous seas because of Therese’s siren song. She kept me afloat when those seas were overwhelming me with accusations and threats during the divorce.  She kept me sane when Therese and I were separated early on due to my lack of courage and not trusting the depth and strength of her love.  It is not hyperbole to say I don’t know where I’d be without Abby. 

And now back to Rindy’s wedding. Choosing a traditional ceremony came as a bit of a shock to all who knew her well.  Her father’s euphoria opened the checkbook wide to make sure all rites and rituals were well funded. The dress, bridal party couture, flowers, and church were all Bride Magazine worthy.  I imagine from what I’ve told you about Rindy and Abby you won’t be surprised to learn that they cooked up something special for the dinner dance.  All Rindy would tell me was to please trust her and just go with the flow.  Very Rindyesque. 

The sweet father/daughter and mother/son dances were oohed and aahed over and our guests were anticipating joining the dance floor when the DJ requested everyone’s attention.  He asked that the groom and respective parents leave the floor and for me to join Rindy.  There was a bit of a buzz in the room while I nervously met up with my daughter.  She smiled and reached out to take me into a dancing embrace.  The  DJ cued up Sister Sledge.  

“We are family

I got all my sisters with me”

I looked into the smiling, impish eyes of my little girl.  I laughed and joined her in following whatever moves she was “busting”.  She leaned in said “we’re just getting started.”

“Everyone can see we’re together

As we walk on by

And we fly just like birds of a feather 

I won’t tell no lie”

Rindy smiled at Therese and motioned for her to join us.  Now the three of us formed our odd little triangle of a family. 

“All of the people around us say

Can they be that close?

Just let me state got the record

We’re giving love in a family dose.”

Then Rindy pointed to Abby who had been doing her own solo dancing on the side. Of course she would be included. We were here because of her. 

Our dance eventually expanded to include the bridesmaids, mother-in-law, stepmother, stepsisters...the women. It was a poignant moment of honoring the love of our core triangle family and a powerful bestowing onto Rindy the strength of sisterhood. 

And so, dear reader, as we move into this new decade of the 80’s, I hope our story can shed light in the darkness of fears and phobias about others who love, and form bonds, and create families in non traditional ways. It is not too simple to say that all anyone wants and needs is love. Who are we to judge or question that.  

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

“Abigail, I’m not sending you 3,000 miles away to some state college.  You’re too young to be that far from your mother and me.”

Abby muttered, “That’s the point.”

“What did you say?”

“Oh, Dad, it’s just that USC is a good school and it’s southern California and they have a great business program.”  Abby knew this conversation that never really started was over.  He had used her given name, added a bit of elitism and threw in a twinge of guilt.

“We’ve decided you can go anywhere along the East coast within, say, six hours driving time.”

Abby rolled her eyes.  “I don’t have a car.”  Her father chose to ignore her mild insolence and divulged what he was sure would seal the deal.

“You’re getting a car for graduation” he proclaimed.  Abby almost expected to hear a Ta Ta Ta Dah in the background.  He paused for her delight which was muted.  “But only if you agree to a closer university.  We’re going to pay your tuition, room and board, and plenty of spending money.  The whole package if you’ll just stay closer to home.”

Abby knew when she was whipped.  Didn’t like it…but she knew. 

“Oh, all right, but I have to talk to Carol.  This means changes for her too.”

Mr. Gerhard was not surprised.  He had had wonderings since Abby was able to start speaking her mind…that being shortly after she uttered her first words.  She was always a little too brash and boyish.  Always wanting to take charge and run the show.  It reminded him of his own energy.  He loved his middle daughter dearly.  Maybe even too much because he caught himself favoring her and giving in to her because she was such a delight.   His other two daughters were sweet and lovely and he was certain they would make wonderful wives and mothers.  He had no idea what the future held for Abby.  He did know it would be unconventional and probably challenging for everyone around her. 

Abby and Carol had been best friends since grade school.  Carol came from a perfectly acceptable home. He felt like her more compliant nature was a good influence on Abby so he never went too far down the road of being curious about what kept Abby so fiercely attached to her.  Carol dated nice boys from their social circle.  Abby never seemed too interested in that but she did fulfill the ritual requirements of going to school proms and homecoming dances.  With pressure from him and her mother she went to their country club’s dances.  Abby gave them no reason to worry about her grades or getting into trouble in or out of school.  When her sisters turned 13 it was like a switch was thrown and suddenly it was clothes and boys and makeup, if he and their mother would have allowed that.  Abby just got more confident in her approach to life without showing any interest in boys or the giggly things his other two daughters spent their time on.              

“Fine, talk to Carol.  Just know that whatever Carol decides, our requirements won’t change. “

Abby looked at him incredulously then quickly reorganized her face into an agreeable smile to calm his concerns. 

“Sure, Dad.  I know.”  Abby walked away to hide the panic that hit her when she thought of being apart from Carol.  They were such an Abby/Carol unit that it was unthinkable that they wouldn’t be together at college.  She took some deep breaths to help her gyroscope get her balance back.  This was the first time that the thought of being separated had taken up residence in a hardly ever acknowledged vulnerable corner of Abby’s heart. 

“We’ll work this out.  Carol won’t want to go somewhere without me.  It’ll be fine.  It’ll be fine.”  Abby kept saying this to herself hoping her heart would return to its brave self.  She needed to think about how to approach Carol with this change of plans. 

***********

Abby sent off for catalogs from schools she thought they could be interested in.  She had used her dad’s atlas to plot out schools on the farthest edge of the six-hour arc.  It wasn’t that she specifically had a problem with her parents.  But she also knew the push to be far away was more than the usual ‘spreading your wings’ phenomena.   Abby was ready to start…she really didn’t know what for sure.  She did know she needed to be far from where anyone knew her, except Carol, of course.  No one in her life knew the times she felt constrained or was play acting her way through situations.  Always reading the room to make sure she was getting by and her discomfort unnoticed.  No one would have dreamed that she felt just slightly at odds with her surroundings most of the time.  And during the times Abby felt the most uncomfortable in her skin it was passed off as growing pains that were taking a little longer than usual.

She remembered in grade school being asked by one of her mother’s friends about having a boyfriend.  She airily responded, “I have too many to count,” instead of saying what she realized in that moment.  She would never marry.  Even then she didn’t know how she knew that.  But she did, with certainty.  She remembered wondering where the switch was in her brain that hadn’t been turned on to supply her with the words and actions that seemed to come naturally to other teen girls.  Alien was probably too strong a description but something was missing and a lot of energy was spent trying to cover that deficiency. 

She never knew anyone whose actions matched her inner life.  Crushes on young female teachers and upper-class homecoming queens were never divulged or hinted at.  Sleepovers required vigilant care to not look too much or lay too close. She had good girlfriends and (boy) friends.  She was in the popular crowd at school because she was fun to be around.  But she always knew that they lived a life she wasn’t privy to.  They were learning the navigation skills needed to sail into the adult world they were all clamoring to enter.  She was running in place to not be seen. 

Abby often wondered where Carol fit in all of this.  She was gorgeous, sweet, kind, funny and faithful.  Abby chuckled at that word.  Like Carol was a puppy or something.  But Carol was faithful to their friendship.  She put up with Abby when she was unexplainably grinchy.  She laughed at her offbeat humor and stuck around when Abby’s unspoken sadness hung on her.  So why didn’t she have those “crush” feelings toward Carol?  She did and she knew it but everything was just too unformed yet in Abby to put into words or make sense of it.  Her best friend was going to stay under that heading to keep life simple. 

So, Abby was getting her catalogs together and was going to meet up with Carol to share her ideas for their college years.  She was also going to start the journey of sharing abbreviated parts of herself with her best friend.  She wanted Carol to know how she’d been doing some reading and what she was discovering about herself.  Abby was terrified that even a little revelation would risk her losing Carol but more than that she knew she needed her friend on this journey. 

**********

“Hiya, Toots!”

Carol smiled and turned from the writing desk in her room.  “Hi to you, Nitwit. What’s up?”

Abby walked over to flop down on Carol’s four poster, canopied bed after she had dropped her satchel on the floor.  She stared at the patterns in the canopy fabric, tapped her steepled her fingers against each other and took a deep breath. 

“Well, Mr. and Mrs. Gerhard have been flapping and squawking about their darling starling flying too far from the nest.”

Abby continued as Carol did her own version of a bird cocking it's head quizzically to the side.

“So, no USC, no sunny California, no warm winters, no accidentally running into Garbo or Harlow or Hepburn, etc., etc.”  Abby finished with a dramatic queen wave of her hand and then dropped it with a heavy sigh.  Her eyes were glued to the canopy and her heart thumped a tango in her chest.

“They’re bribing me with a car and a full ride parental scholarship if I’ll stay within six hours driving time of the family domicile.”

“Oh, Abs, what are we going to do?”

Abby’s heart did a stutter and her breath leaked out a slow exhale when she heard Carol say “we”. 

Going for casual she said, “You know me, I’m always working on a plan so I’ve already gotten school catalogs for us to look over and decide the best match for what we want that isn’t USC.”

Abby sat up and began to take the catalogs from her satchel.  Carol came and slumped by her on the bed.  “You’re being pretty calm about this.  All I’ve heard for the past year is ‘USC this and USC that.  It’s never cold in California.  Sun shines all the time. You’ll love it Carol.  It’ll be like we’re brand-new people to do and be what we want because no one will know us.’  And now you’re just going to look at other schools’ catalogs like its no big deal.  Where’s the fight? Where’s the pout? Where’s Abby?”

Abby stopped unloading her satchel.  “Carol, you know there is no fighting Dad once he makes up his mind so I decided to cut to the final scene.  There’s no way I can pay for USC or any other school so I had to agree in order to at least get the most important thing…distance.”

Abby knew this was the perfect lead in to the main attraction of this visit but she was feeling her bravado slip and slide as it usually did when life started getting too close to real.  She gave Carol a side look to check her demeanor and for any other clues to what she was thinking. 

“Well, I guess that’s that.  What have you got for us?” 

Abby grinned while stifling the swell in her heart that would have plastered a wall to wall smile on her face.  It was going to be okay.  She and Carol would pick out the perfect school for them.  They would forego fun in the sun for falling leaves and making snowmen and spring fever.  If handled adroitly their six-hour leash could be long enough to give Abby breathing room.  This was going to work.

*********

They chose the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.  It was Ivy League (Dad), in a major city (Mother), had a Fashion/Business degree (Carol), and was the farthest away from Ridgewood (Abby).  With their 17-year-old minds it never occurred to them that there would be any bumps on the road to admission.  They both had good grades, money and taken for granted privileges that led to unearned confidence.  And that’s exactly how it happened.  They were admitted to the freshman class of 1934. They requested to be roommates but bureaucratic machinations were sacrosanct and not to be interrupted.  By pure chance they got to be on the same floor in the freshman dormitory.  

Their freshman year was uneventful.  They had little trouble adjusting to college life and college level courses.  They both made good grades, did an appropriate amount of socializing without going overboard like some students did with their first taste of freedom with little supervision.  They made friends and life was good. 

On a whim, right before the summer break from classes,  Abby had her hair cut into a shingle bob.  She knew this short bob had been popular earlier and was out of fashion now but she didn’t like the wavy curly look all the stars were wearing.  Carol was shocked but loved it.  After a long look over she said, “it’s fits you”.  That’s all Abby needed to stick with her first unknown step down a road she didn’t know she was on.  

They both returned to Ridgewood for summer jobs.  For Abby, something about being back home and sleeping in her childhood bedroom put her on edge.  She felt itchy all the time.  Her mother started asking why she never wore a dress anymore and tried to entice her with ideas of going shopping.  Summer was always shorts weather in New Jersey but some occasions called for a little dolling up.  When her parents suggested they have dinner at the club one week-end her mother very pointedly asked her to wear the new sundress she had gotten her that week.  Abby had the feeling that this discussion could escalate quickly into territory she didn’t want to explore so she wore the dress.  Abby had tanned up enough that her mother didn’t realize until they got out of the car at the club that she wasn’t wearing hose.  No hose meant no girdle.  Abby was surprised at the ferocity of her mother’s look and the set of her jaw.  She had never seen this face.

The evening continued through dinner and drinks with friends while Abby’s mother gave her a crash course in how to present a plastic façade of expected behavior and conversation in spite of being furious.  It all seemed to drag on interminably with Abby vacillating between thoughts of just get through this and I really don’t fit in here anymore.  This made no sense to Abby.  Nothing had changed.  She knew this place.  She knew these people.  And yet…Abby could barely sit still with the unexplained turmoil going on inside of her.  She was beginning to feel like she was a little crazy because none of this made sense.  All of this over a dress and hose.

The ride home was quiet.  When they arrived, her dad asked if her mother wanted a nightcap.  She icily said she had a headache and was going to bed.  Abby noticed that her dad let out a familiar sigh with a slight shake of his head.  Something told Abby this wasn’t the first time her mother had headached her way out of unpleasantness.  Abby said she was tired also and had to work tomorrow so she was going to bed too. 

In her room, Abby felt the band of tension around her head start to ease just a bit when she heard a tap while her mother opened the door.

“Abby, we need to talk.”

**********

The static surrounding them was so crackling that Abby expected to see sparks.  She was scrambling inside to connect this mother with the one she was used to interacting with.  They had never been close.  It’s like they were both in the Milky Way but their constellations were far apart.  On the other hand, her sisters were like two Little Dippers to their mother’s Big Dipper. 

Her mother came and sat at Abby’s desk while Abby was on her bed, grateful her mother hadn’t tried to be cozy.  Abby saw her mother’s facial attempt at pleasantness but didn’t pull it off with her set mouth and darting eyes. 

“Abby, I know that you think my being upset that you didn’t wear hose tonight is just me over reacting.  That I’m old fashioned and too strict.  But you need to understand that how we dress sends important messages about who we are.”

Abby shifted on her bed and wondered how far her mother was going to take this conversation.  Her heart was pounding and her chest seemed determined to make breathing a chore.  Panic began to spread as she wildly thought of her mother being able to see more than she thought she was showing. 

“Abby, you’ve always approached life so differently than your sisters.  I’ve had concerns that once you became a teenager that people were going to misinterpret your immaturity and lack of social awareness as something unseemly.  That maybe you’d be seen as someone who didn’t have natural instincts.  Your father and I, especially him, have been too lenient with you.  We’ve allowed you to be rambunctious and tomboyish.  You’re 19 years old now and that kind of independence is not attractive in a young woman.  You’re long past the time of allowing that sort of nonsense to continue.  I know that deep down you want to marry and have children.  That’s what’s natural for a woman.  I think I have to take some of the responsibility for not instilling in you the more feminine ways of behaving once I saw that that wasn’t going to happen automatically for you.  But now that I’ve seen leaving your childhood setting and being around other maturing young ladies hasn’t changed anything, I knew that I needed to say something. Even though your father has always been lenient with you I’m sure he agrees with me on this. So, from now on we expect you to put real effort into presenting yourself in a way that I know deep down you want to be." After a slight pause she said, "I think we’re finished here and that’s all clear to you now.”

She patted her knees once and stood.  Satisfied that she had gotten her message across she walked to the door.  Their one-way conversation was over.   As she opened the door she turned back, “let’s get started by letting your hair grow out.”  And she was gone.

Abby’s brain was locked.  A gear had slipped a cog and nothing was moving.  All she was aware of was her rapid breathing, sputtering heart, her clenched stomach and a band tightening around her head again.  Terror had overtaken her.  She fell back onto her bed and stared at the ceiling.  What just happened?!

********

Eventually, bits of her mother’s monologue began to weave in and out of her thoughts.  So, she’s expecting me to respond to some instinct I know I don’t have and instantaneously become like her and my sisters?   She thinks that who I am is just a willful child who’s gotten by with unladylike behavior because they were too lenient?  And what was all that ‘natural’ business?  Does she think she needs to keep me from being some kind of pervert? 

That last thought sat Abby up in bed.  She knew she couldn’t be what her mother wanted.  She had no words for how foreign and alien that life felt to her.  And yet that’s all she had known.  How could it be foreign when she had no other experience to say “this is really you”?

It was late and Abby was exhausted.  And not just from tonight.  It dawned on her how much this whole summer at home had been a high wire act of performing for her parents so they wouldn’t see her discomfort.  She laid back down and curled herself into a ball.  Nothing made sense.  It seemed as if everyone else was comfortable in their skin and what was expected of them.  They went through their lives checking off the boxes with ease.  You were a girl who liked pink and dolls.  Then you liked boys and dated.  You got engaged and enjoyed your moment in the sun of rituals and gifts and parties.  You had maternal instincts that told you children were next.  It all just happened with no effort on your part.

So why not me?  Eventually Abby fell asleep with no answers.  She thought about talking to Carol but for the first time she knew she couldn’t. 

*********

When Abby returned to school, she did two things immediately.  She made an appointment for a haircut and she took a tab from a poster announcing the formation of a new book club that focused on women authors. 

Chapter Text

Abby returned home for Thanksgiving and Christmas. She knew her mother would immediately notice her hair and her slacks. But after all, it was cold now and wearing warm slacks and sweaters didn’t seem like any kind of a statement. Abby had put a lot of thought into her outfit for the annual Christmas festivities at the country club. It wasn’t formal, as in long gowns or tuxedos, but best suits and gorgeous cocktail attire were de rigueur. Abby knew the evening had the chance of being an incendiary device for her mother so she was putting together an ensemble that said Christmas party, was stylish and came close to being true to herself. She had found a wool Stuart plaid blazer (required red and green colors included) that had rounded lapels and the sleeves and hem were finished in matched material ruffles. She coordinated this with black velveteen women’s slacks and Mary Jane black patent leather shoes. She was very pleased with herself. Apparently, it was just enough for her mother because she said nothing and gave Abby a tight smile as they left for the club. Her mother was not used to being defied in such a clever way, but for now, she kept the peace.
**********
After the holidays, Mrs. Gerhard’s bi-weekly bridge club resumed. Everyone was chatty with news of all the family gatherings and events. She gave a Readers’ Digest version of the stilted festivities at their house while frowning at her hand. Her North partner cleared her throat, “I thought Abby’s outfit at the club’s party was stunning. So chic and modern.” East and West jumped in with smiling agreements. North continued, “I think it’s wonderful how young ladies today have more freedom to make some choices. Sometimes it feels like progress stopped for women after we got the vote. We need to keep pressing for independence in how we live our lives.”
Mrs. Gerhard’s hand was a bit shaky when she picked up her coffee cup. “Surely you’re not saying that a woman’s primary role isn’t to support her husband and mother her children? I mean, that’s the foundation of our society. “
North took a breath and paused while East and West watched the verbal ping pong match without moving their heads. “If women got the equal benefits as men do from their roles then I’d say we have something to build on. But women are completely dependent on their husbands in every aspect of their lives and that inequality leaves us vulnerable.”
All four women immediately thought of the club member who decided his wife of 26 years was disposable when he left her for his much younger secretary. He did the “honorable” thing and gave her alimony but it was such a pittance she actually had to become a governess to survive. Mrs. Gerhard thought of her oldest daughter and how her son in law was already taking a later and later train home from the city after work. They had been married only two years but what seemed like an inevitable pattern was emerging right on schedule. Nebulous reasons for tardy homecomings, golf most of the day on Saturday, and grouchy brunches on Sunday with the in laws.
“All I’m saying is that some things need to change and I think Abby is just the sort of young lady to be a part of that. We’ve all watched her independence as she’s grown up. Never obnoxious or out of line but always letting you know she was thinking her own thoughts. I think she’s a delight. And cute as a button. Let’s face it ladies, that’s going to help her navigate this life.”
“I agree.” East and West chimed in at the same time.
The waitress coming around to refill their coffee and display the sweets tray provided the breather they all needed. The game continued with East and West providing some banter to lighten the mood while North focused on her cards and Mrs. Gerhard cemented her opinion of women who didn’t know their place.
********
Abby did not come home for Spring Break. She had saved up enough money from her spending allowance to pay for a trip in case her parents didn’t agree with her plan. She convinced her parents that going to Paris and getting credit for a critical literature class was the best use of her time. They even agreed to fund it. It was a legitimate college level credit class that would count toward Abby’s degree. But the real impetus for Abby was the fact that the professor was good friends with Gertrude Stein and Alice Toklas. The small, select group of female students was going to get to meet and spend an afternoon with these icons. Abby was the envy of her new friends she had been making this year.
That summer Abby stayed in Philadelphia to work. She convinced her father it was a quasi-internship and would look good on job applications after graduation. She would look like a real go getter because she had started prepping so early. All of this pleased her father and he told himself that Abby was putting herself on the right path career wise. In his heart of hearts though, he felt like his daughter was fading out of the family. She only spoke to her mother when he insisted on putting her on the phone. Their conversations were short and awkward. Abby’s conversations with him were vague with no real information about what filled her days other than classes. Their home had always been pleasant enough but emotional content was brief and usually embarrassing for everyone. It was enough for everyone to just fulfill their roles and not veer off the foreordained path. So, he felt inadequate when trying to reach for something of substance from his daughter. He felt clumsy and embarrassed. After the first stumbling attempt, he returned to the comfortable and banal.
*********
Abby fell in lust with a teaching assistant and experienced her first affair in her junior year. She seemed oblivious to the TA’s similar appearance to Carol. Her close friends and Carol saw it but felt no need to point that out. They chose to give her her first Sapphic experience without interference. She was heartbroken that this was a transient one semester affair. She knew she wasn’t in love but it still hurt.
Once Abby had her passport stamped for the Isle of Lesbos, she quickly learned that women were either native born residents or tourists vacationing from parents, husbands, children, endless PTA events and charity drives. Tourists were wicked clandestine fun but it always ended the same… tears of regret or tears for lack of courage. Abby tired quickly of the drama and from then on only dated women with a Lesbos stamped birth certificate.
Throughout her junior year it became more obvious the direction Abby’s life was going. She and Carol maintained their friendship with an unspoken agreement to avoid certain subjects. Carol’s sorority sisters had not signed on to this agreement and felt compelled to speak to her for her own good. They warned Carol about what associating with Abby would do to her reputation. This is when they encountered, for the first time, the charming and lovely Carol who had a steel rod for a backbone when it came to Abby. She informed them that any discussion of Abby and their friendship was off limits. It was never mentioned again.
********
Abby and Carol met for weekly coffee and scones on Saturdays at their nearby favorite diner. Even though life was pulling them in different directions they clung to this tradition. Nothing was going to interrupt this time together…not even Abby’s occasional hangovers or sleepovers.
Today, Carol was telling Abby about a party/dance that was being thrown together by her sorority. Just kids getting together to blow off some steam. Seniors were taking their hardest classes and the Philadelphia winter had been especially brutal that year. The combination created some serious cabin fever which really needed to be excised. She wanted Abby to come.
Hesitantly, Abby responded. “I don’t know, Carol. Those sorority gals are just a step too far for me. They’re all so into society status and whether or not you’re wearing the latest and who you’re dating and who your father is...” She trailed off looking around at the other customers while fiddling with her spoon.
This was a conversation they had skirted around ever since Carol had been pledged. They both knew sorority life was just the beginning of how they were going to be making different choices. But they also knew their friendship was one in a million and they weren’t going to give that up.
“Please, Abby, I really want you to come.” Carol had been realizing the calendar was counting down to graduation and she wasn’t sure what their lives were going to look like after graduation.
“Will Harge be there?”
“Yes, but it won’t be like a real date. It’ll just be everyone hanging out.”
‘Harge’, Abby thought. She guessed he was all right. Probably the best Carol could pick given this year’s crop. He was nice enough and definitely good looking. His pedigree was perfect for Carol’s parents. He and Carol were a gorgeous couple and she was the envy of her sorority sisters. Their lives were easily going according to plan. Abby had picked up on some disturbing occasions of his taking charge in an entitled way but that was probably just because her mindset toward men was a bit jaundiced.
“Okay, just tell me when and where you want me.”
Carol smiled the smile that puddled Abby’s heart. Actually, Abby realized, she had never seen Carol bestow that smile on anyone else. Not even Harge. She tucked this thought away in her little treasure chest of Carol memories.
“…and the expected attire for this soiree?”
Carol smirked out “anything you damn well please, my dear.” Abby looked down shaking her head with a smile. She had just been given permission by the most important person in her life to be herself.
**********
Abby arrived after the party was in full swing. That way she could slip in unnoticed and get a feel for the room. Carol had been right. It was just kids hanging out and dancing. The atmosphere was loose and unstructured. She had gotten a drink and was chatting with a couple of the sorority sisters she knew casually when Carol spotted her and made a beeline toward her.
“I was getting worried you weren’t going to show. I’m so glad you’re here.” She gave Abby a wicked smile and said, “dance with me”. Abby’s head went into a familiar place of scrambling to figure out what she wanted versus what was acceptable. It wasn’t uncommon for girls to dance together at these parties but no amount of normalcy could be blanketed over Carol and Abby dancing together. Abby knew what was whispered behind her back and she knew Carol did too. She stared at Carol until Carol said, “let’s do this.”
Carol had no way of knowing the next song was going to be the most melancholy, slow dance of the evening.
The minute the music started Abby thought Carol would give her a goofy kind of shrug and they would walk off the dance floor. Instead, Carol reached out for Abby to lead as if this was done every day. They danced the entire song with Carol smiling and Abby barely able to breathe. Abby figured she was imagining the hint of sadness in Carol’s eyes.

“If I didn't care more than words can say
If I didn't care would I feel this way?
If this isn't love then why do I thrill?
And what makes my head go 'round and 'round
While my heart stands still?
If I didn't care would it be the same?
Would my ev'ry prayer begin and end with just your name?
And would I be sure that this is love beyond compare?
Would all this be true if I didn't care for you?”

Abby slipped away soon after. She didn’t have the energy to finish the evening with the necessary façade in place. Her mind raced around the what just happened track and then what do I do now? As in literally, what do I do now?!
Abby went back to her dorm room thankful that her roommate had gone home for the weekend. She thought she would toss and turn but she was so exhausted she tumbled into sleep quickly. It was later when Carol slipped into her room and her bed and wrapped herself around her dearest friend.
Even though they had never done this before, Abby knew immediately who was holding her like this happened every night in real life and not just her dreams. Carol’s whisper was soft with gentleness and intimacy. “I know how you feel about me, Abby. I love you too.”
Abby’s broken heart sighed out, “but not in that way.”
Carol squeezed a little tighter. “Yes, exactly in that way.” Carol took a deep breath. Abby shivered as she felt the warm release of air on her neck. “I think I’ve known this longer than you have. I think I’ve known you longer than you have. But sweetie, I don’t have your fierce courage to live this life. I don’t want to be guarded and careful all the time. I want to be a mother and that means getting married and the picket fence and all the other stuff. Harge will probably ask me to marry him right before graduation and I’ll say yes.”
Abby had known this was the likely next step for Carol. And she had known she would have to go through the extended hellacious time of bridal showers and the rehearsal with dinner (because of course she would be the Maid of Honor) and finally the big day. And she knew she would be on the receiving end of the inevitable questions of when for her. And she could only imagine having to do all of this while staying at her parent’s house. That place had stopped being home for her a long time ago. She felt bone tired just thinking of what was ahead that couldn’t be avoided. She wasn’t sure if her heart could break anymore but it seemed like it did.
With a shaky voice Carol said, “I’m going to ask something of you that I’m not sure I could give if the situation was reversed. I want us to stay friends. I can’t be with you like we want but I don’t think I can pull off the other without you. I know I’m being incredibly selfish but I need you as my friend.”
Carol paused and then with a whisper, “would you?”.
In spite of feeling like she was being ripped apart, Abby felt her tension seep out and her back melted into Carol. She knew she was choosing the hardest road possible. “Of course I will.”

Chapter Text

Stand by Your Man

(The chapter no one asked for)

 

 

Harge was trotting across the Quad.  He hated being late for class...especially on the first day.  Not that he was particularly excited about the class, Creative Writing, ugh. He had balked when his roommate suggested it.  

“Look, Aird, you need an upper division Humanities elective for your degree.  And they don’t call this prof ‘Easy B Barnum’ for nothing. Besides, there’s always a virtual smorgasbord of coeds in the class. I’m telling you, you can just about make a checklist of what you’re looking for and it’s a good bet you’ll find it in that class.  You’re going to thank me, my friend.”

So Harge was trotting and swearing under his breath when he saw her.  He didn’t realize he had stopped until someone bumped into him. The bump startled him into realizing that he was standing stock still, staring.  She was laughing and talking animatedly to her friend.  The sun was turning her blonde hair golden so that she seemed to almost shimmer as she turned to put an arm around her friend’s shoulder and throw back her head in a laugh. She was taller than her friend but that didn’t account for how she seemed to be exuding an aura of confident familiarity and ease.  He didn’t know what to do on so many levels. He had to get to class but he couldn’t just walk away without knowing how to meet her.  

Who is she? How am I going to figure that out? What am I going to do if I do get it figured out? Oh, for crying out loud, Aird, pull yourself together and get to class.

He reluctantly started trotting again, picking up the pace to make up for time lost. Then a smile began to appear as he realized they were going in the same direction. 

A little more time to see her. 

Then they were at the same building, walking down the hall, and into the same classroom. His heart was pounding as he walked past her and found a seat with the best viewing potential. 

This just might work out.  At least I’ll find out her name and we’ll see what I can do with that. I wonder who her friend is. They seem really close.

*********

Hargess F. Aird II learned his son was born via a telegram from his secretary, Benjamin Trudale, while he was out of town on business. 

          Boy. Stop. 7 lbs. 14 oz. Stop. Mother and son are fine. Stop.

Mr. Aird II frowned at the extravagance of his secretary spending his money on frivolous information.  All he needed to know was whether or not he had a male heir. The rest he would know once he got home anyway so why spend money on that now.  Aside from Mr. Trudale’s wanton expenditure, he was pleased to get word that his obligation to produce an Aird III was done.  His wife would be relieved to be finished with what she called the ‘disgusting part of the marriage contract’ and his current mistress could ease up on her piques of jealousy regarding his marital requirements.

He was looking forward to devoting his time to the two things in life he enjoyed most:  growing his business and the continual pursuit of his next mistress.  Some time would have to be found to make sure the III knew how to run their very successful family business. His father had heeded the wisdom learned the hard way by so many others...money is not made in panning for gold but in selling the equipment to the dreamers. He knew there could only be one J. P. Morgan or Vanderbilt so instead of competing to build the railroads he manufactured the necessary tools.  Aird Tool and Die didn’t provide a five mansion, private railroad kind of wealth but a city home on the upper East side, a country home in the Hamptons with all the accoutrements at the both places and occasional trips to Europe were enough to keep the Airds well ensconced in New York City’s upper echelons. 

*********

Harge was trying to figure out what to get Carol for Valentine’s Day. They had been dating for five months so they were in that gray area of almost being a couple but nothing stated for sure.  He had wanted to do the ‘meet the parents’ ritual during Christmas break but Carol had put the brakes on saying that it was way too soon for that.  He liked Carol. He really liked her but couldn’t figure out exactly where she was with him. She kept accepting his date requests, except when she had plans with Abby, and seemed to have a good time. The ‘physical’ was going slower than he wanted but Carol wasn’t in the category of ‘easy’.  She was the kind of girl he could end up marrying so he didn’t press.  

*********

Life for Hargess F. Aird III (Harge) was pro forma for the industrial scions of the era.  Nannies, private schools, finishing classes, and little personal interaction with parents.  While his parents weren’t keeping a close eye on him, he was watching them.  He knew their marriage was a socially agreed upon endeavor to perpetuate the maintenance of their class. He knew his mother was a lonely, bitterly disappointed woman and his father was a self-centered, obtuse bully. He didn’t know how but some way he wanted a different marriage. He thought it would be nice to love his wife and have her love him back.  He thought it would be nice to know his children. He wasn’t familiar with this in his life except with some of their help at home. His father’s valet and his mother’s head of household were married. He had often seen their respect and tenderness toward each other. Sometimes, late in the evening, when he went to the kitchen searching for a snack, he would see their family working on schoolwork or playing a board game.  They seemed to know and enjoy each other. He felt like he had entered a home tucked into his house.

********

It was spring of their senior year and everyone was ready to party.  He and Carol had been dating steadily since September of their junior year and were a bona fide couple.  Her parents adored him and his parents icily approved of Carol.  They weren’t like other couples he knew.  Carol was way more independent than most of his friend’s girlfriends.  It wasn’t automatic that there would be a date on the weekends because she might be doing something with Abby.  They hadn’t gone ‘all the way’ yet.  He wasn’t happy about that but he tolerated it.  After all, he was going to marry her and she’d certainly be available whenever after that. 

He got considerable razzing from his buddies about how much he let Carol make decisions.  He was called ‘henpecked’ more than once.  All he knew was that he was the boyfriend of the most gorgeous girl on campus and he had their future all mapped out.  Besides, even Carol knew how marriage worked.  He would be the head of the household.  His word would be final.  Not that he wanted to be a tyrant but someone had to make decisions. 

Abby.  He just didn’t know what to think about her.  She and Carol had been best friends forever.  They were almost like a couple.  They finished each other’s sentences.  They had lots of inside jokes. Carol always seemed more animated when Abby was around or when she was talking about something they’d been up to.  And they were always coming up with things to do that interfered with what he wanted to do.  He got the feeling sometimes that Carol chose him over Abby just to placate him and keep him complacent.  None of this mattered though because all of this would change once they got married.  He would be Carol’s primary focus and then there would be children. 

He was thinking about all of this on the way to Carol’s sorority party.  She hadn’t wanted them to come as a date because she said everyone was going solo.  It was just a ‘blowing off steam’ party with drinking and dancing for everyone.  He was looking forward to it and hoping that tonight, with some drinks in her, Carol might be willing to go a little further than she had up until now.

The party was in full swing when he arrived.  He was going to miss this after graduation.  He knew he would be taking over the family business eventually.  He was actually okay with this because he had enjoyed the various summer jobs he’d had so he could know what tool and die meant from the ground up.  He wanted to disprove the axiom that the first generation starts the business, the second grows the business and the third ruins it.  There was a lot to prove and parties for no reason other than to have a good time would not be a part of his life.  Once he joined his father at the corporate office his social life would always have a purpose.  That’s one reason why he was so pleased to have chosen Carol.  She was going to be a perfect hostess, wife and mother.  And just for icing on the cake, she was gorgeous and he was crazy about her.  There was nothing like walking into an event with her on his arm.  He loved those moments of heads turning and envious stares. 

He found Carol quickly and got her on the dance floor.  She was a great dancer and followed his lead beautifully.  Dancing was probably when he was most happy with Carol.  He led and she followed…all set to music.  They were taking a breather when Abby arrived.  He couldn’t believe it.  What was she doing here?  She wasn’t in Carol’s sorority.  Just once, just once could he have Carol to himself, he hyperbolized in his mind.  Carol happily made a beeline for Abby and drew her out on the dance floor.  When the slow love song started Harge froze inside.  Surely, they won’t do this.  This is not okay.  This is way past girls dancing together because there’s not enough guys or the guys are tired or whatever.  This didn’t feel right at all. 

Harge noticed some side eyes coming his way.  He didn’t know what to do so he went to the drinks table and tried to tamp down his anxiety. The song ended after an eternity and Carol made her way back to him.  She was all stilted smiles and blushes.  A possessiveness roared up inside him that he’d never felt before.  Through clenched teeth he said, “let’s dance”.  He grabbed her wrist and dragged her to the dance area.  He held her too tight for the fast paced “Anything Goes” while others were trying to ignore the scene.  When the music stopped, Harge harshly whispered in her ear, “you’re mine and no one else’s”.  Carol pulled away and left the party.  Harge returned to the drinks table.

Fueled by liquor, frustration and regret, Harge decided he needed to find Carol.  He knew he loved her and she loved him in her own way.  He didn’t want to screw up his dream of the loving couple and the children and the business success.  He needed to find her and explain all of this to her.  He needed her to know that Abby was going to have to find another friend because she was going to be so busy with their life.  She wasn’t in her dorm and at the park area on campus where she liked to relax.  In an angry flash he realized she was with Abby.  Coed dorms were off limits to guys but everyone knew how to get in after hours.  He knew which room was Abby’s since he’d spent plenty of times talking to Carol through Abby’s window.  He quietly made his way down the hall and turned the door knob.  When the light from the hall splashed across the room, he saw Carol curled around Abby in her bed. 

Carol jerked up at the sound of the door opening.  She saw the outline of a man and knew immediately it was Harge.  She whispered to Abby, “I’ll take care of this. Go back to sleep”.  She walked to Harge, took his arm and led him back into the hallway. 

“Harge, Abby’s been going through a rough time.  We were talking and both got so tired we fell asleep. I’m sorry I didn’t get back to the party but we can go now if you like.”

“Carol, you were curled around her.  You were cuddling!”

“Oh, Harge, we were not.  That’s just how we fell asleep.”

“Carol, I need you to understand how I feel about you.  I want to marry you.  I want us to have a life together.  I want you to want that to. Do you?”

Carol realized the threshold into her next life had arrived.  She had already told Abby her decision and now it was time for her to follow through on that.  She’d heard of those end-of-life experiences where your whole life plays out in front of you.  She saw her Abby life: silly girl laughter, overnights, movies, tennis camps, swimming at the club, laying in the grass looking at clouds or stars, sharing Cokes, homework, freedom and contentment.  She looked at Harge and saw acceptability and safety and children. 

“I do.”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

It felt really good to slam the door in Richard’s face.  “He’s probably out there thinking I’m on my period or something. Has to be my problem and not the fact that he’s an arrogant prick,” Therese muttered to herself.

“Baruska, such language from my beautiful girl.”

“ I know Papa, but it’s true. I’ve just been lazy about not breaking up with him.  I keep telling myself he loves me and wants the best for us but his version of that is getting very tiresome. It’s always his opinions, his plans, his view of what our future looks like.  What about my ideas? What about what I want?”

“Uhhumm...maybe your Papa has been dropping little haslerky hints for you to ponder about this Richard?  Hmmm?  Maybe like that program on the radio, your ‘Otec vi Nejlepe’.” 

Therese ruefully smiled to herself.  She still missed him but these secret conversations kept him close.  And, yes, he would have gently let her know that when it came to Richard, ‘Father Knows Best’ but it was her decision. He loved his baruska no matter what.

As Therese climbed the stairs to her apartment, wondering how loud the slam had sounded to her neighbors, she chuckled at the memory her door slamming prompted...the infamous Abby Gerhard Shattered Glass Door Incident.

 

The day started like any other in the Buyers Department at Frankenberg’s. The flurry of multiple deadlines cascading into an avalanche of noise...typewriters, phones, file drawers jerked open and slammed shut, and the incessant chatter of everyone’s oh, so vital thoughts about Frankenberg’s merchandise. Abby Gerhard, uniquely female head of the department, thrived on this chaotic level of energy. While others might see pandemonium, she saw synergy and frisson. Her male cohorts kept a heavy hand on their subordinates with the usual results of ‘yes men’ and robotic secretaries. Abby oversaw a beehive of creativity that resulted in a lovely sales chart whose lines always headed northeast. 

Recently, Mr. Frankenberg had made the kind of decision that gave everyone around him pause. The kind of head scratching decision that causes people to ponder exactly how did he become so  successful.  He installed his smugly entitled nephew in the Buyers’ Department as Abby’s assistant. Everyone knew the young man, Mr. Frankenberg’s sister’s boy, had gotten into Columbia University because of a curiously timed chair endowment in the business school.  Everyone also knew he pursued his degree in drinking and chasing skirts quite vigorously. So after considerable pressure from his older sister, Mr. Frankenberg gave Abby the back handed compliment of “you’re the only one I can depend on to keep him from ruining the company”.  

On this day, the fly who saw no need and arrogantly refused to even try to become a bee, had pushed Abby to her limit. The particulars aren’t important.  It was always the same cavalier, gob smackingly ignorant behavior that left others hip deep in a mess they would have to clean up.  Abby had quickly surmised it had happened again shortly after arriving that day. She continued toward her office when she heard the pompous oily voice of the nephew rise above the cacophonous undercurrent in a spewing tirade of venomous disparagement. She whirled in place to look at him.  Today was the day.  He had screwed up and she had sucked it up just one time too many.  Her department and her people had endured enough. Radio silence descended on the room as people began to realize something was truly amiss. His performance spluttered to a halt as he realized the spotlight was now warmly uncomfortable. 

“Get out”, Abby said just above a whisper.  The nephew’s face quickly mimed a three act play.  

Act I: Shock/Disbelief.  

Act II: ‘You’re so going to pay for this, b**ch’ grin.  

Intermission: Abby, ‘Out’ in the same thunderous whisper. 

Act III: Rage

The nephew walked out with as much hauteur arrogance as he could muster. Abby walked to her office with her workers’ silent ‘bravi’ in her head. 

And that’s when it happened. Abby took months of frustration out on her innocent office door and slammed it shut so hard the glass shattered.  The room burst into applause and  Abby turned with a smile and a deep, heartfelt bow.  

 

Therese smiled at the memory as she opened her apartment door.  She had had a meeting that infamous morning with Abby to go over advertising layouts.  Her timing was impeccable as she got there just when the nephew was storming out and the glass was shattering. Therese knew the nephew  history from her after work drinks with Abby so she quickly sized up what had just happened. With a winking smile toward her friend, Therese had joined in the applause and laughter at Abby’s perfectly executed bow.  

Chapter Text

“Well, that’s that,” Therese thought as she left a dumbfounded Richard staring at her back as she walked out of the café.  “God, why did I wait so long to do this?”

Her relief was palpable as she walked back toward work.  She had planned the ‘break up’ scene so it would be as drama free as possible.  Meet Richard on their lunch hour so there was a time constraint.  Check.  Meet in a new setting so they wouldn’t run into coworkers.  Check.  Meet in a place they didn’t frequent so one of her favorite places wouldn’t be tainted.  Check.  And most important of all, keep it brief and not get lost in the weeds of explanations that Richard would demand.  Check. 

It wasn’t that she was a sociopath.  She felt for Richard.  She did have regrets about her lack of investment in the relationship and his attempts to make it work.  Of course, his attempts were so drenched in his WASPish man view of what a couple looked like that it was always going to go against her grain.  And, she reminded herself, there was going to be no introspection on Richard’s part.  No attempt to figure out what she was saying or how her experience might have some validity.  She knew he would move quickly from shock to all the ways she screwed up and wasted his time.  He would be bad mouthing her for a while and then find someone else to prove her wrong. 

Therese mused about what he would be saying to himself right now.  He would be flabbergasted that there was no one else.  She wasn’t even leaving him for another guy.  How could she leave because of unhappiness with him?  What did that even mean?  He did and said all the things a boyfriend is supposed to.  He spent money on her and always made sure he remembered to get her a present on her birthday and at Christmas.  Could this really be about him not ‘valuing’ her little hobby of taking pictures?  But in a way she was leaving him because of someone…Abby.  Not that there was anything going on between them besides friendship, but to honor how important Abby had become to her she had to move on from Richard.  Abby had brought fun and spontaneity and living an honest life to her.  Abby had encouraged her to figure out what she wanted and who she was.  Being with Richard meant living his life.  Marriage, children, Sunday dinner with in laws, holidays with in laws, strait jacket conformity to the white picket fence American dream. Therese shook her head and wondered again why it had taken her so long to really grasp what her future would have been with Richard.  Now that she was on the other side of that realization, she thought of all that she would have had to give up to be with him…career, freedom, her ‘hobby’ and certainly Abby and other free spirits in her life.  Nope, Richard nor any other man was worth that. 

*********

Therese was beyond excited to start her first day on the job.  She had interned at Frankenberg’s in the Advertising Department during the summer following her junior year.  The internship had done exactly what she hoped it would…gave her an advantage when it came to applying for a job after graduation.  She would be starting just above an entry level position because she had already proven what she could do.  So instead of starting at basically being a gopher she would have assignments for specific advertising layouts to be used in the newspapers and catalogs.  Taking photos of Frankenberg's merchandise was not her career end goal but it got her a good income, benefits, and stability in her life as she pursued her dreams of professional photography.  Finally, after years of teaching herself by trial and error at the Home and working so hard to excel in her Fine Arts/Visual Communications degree in college, she was ready for this first step toward her dream. 

Therese spent the morning in the overwhelming whirl of new employee orientation.  So many names and procedures.  She was taking a much needed coffee break when she heard a laughingly boisterous voice asking, “where’s this new Teresa Bellvet? I need to screen all new employees who are going to be taking pictures of my merchandise.”  One of the secretary’s laughed and said, “right this way Miss Gerhardt but go easy on her.  We haven’t warned her of your own personal orientation to Frankenberg’s.”   

Therese poked her head around the break room door looking like a meerkat with her alert eyes and curious face.  No one had told her about any “orientation” with the Merchandise/Buyer’s  Department.  And once again she was going to have to correct someone on the pronunciation of her name.  It got so old and besides it was tricky knowing what approach to use depending on the other person’s status.  Therese drew herself up and walked toward Abby while surreptitiously scrambling in her head for what to say.  She needn’t have been too concerned because Abby came at her like a friendly steam engine.  All smiles, chatter and energy. 

“Well, hello, Miss Bellvet.  I’m Abby Gerhardt, head of the Merchandise/Buyer’s Department here at Frankenberg’s.  I was reading in our employee newsletter that you had been hired and I always make it a point to check out anyone who’s going to be working with my department.  Welcome to the zoo.”

Therese’s response to Abby’s outstretched hand was a stutter step motion of looking down at Abby’s hand and then back to her face.  She wasn’t used to this kind of interaction with anyone, especially a woman.  It wasn’t that Abby was masculine but there was some kind of vivaciousness that wasn’t exactly feminine.  She tried to hide her curiosity with a smile and joining in the handshake. 

“Unusual name you have.  Is that Americanized Czech or some other Slavic language?”

Therese was momentarily stunned.  No one had ever given her name any attention.  The name she was so proud of and that connected her to her Papa seemed to be a nuisance to others.  She quickly decided to take a chance and respond to the gift she had been given. 

“It is Czech.  And actually, its pronounced ‘Terez Bel a vet’.”

Abby’s force field eased up a bit and with a gentle smile she said, ‘that’s lovely’. After a slight pause Abby charged back up.

“Okay, well Therese, all kidding aside about my ‘orientation’, I do like to work closely with the Adverts so that we can turn out enticing catalogs.  Let me take you to lunch so we can get acquainted.”

Therese really didn’t know how things like this worked here so she automatically began looking around for her boss.  He and Abby had been a work couple for many years so he had no problem with her modus operandi. 

His head was buried in a layout when Abby called across the room.  “Hey, Al, Therese here wants to know…”  He interrupted her and looked at Therese while waving a hand toward Abby.  “Whatever she says is fine.”

“Okay then.  Be at my office by 12:30 and we’ll go out for one of my famous three martini lunches.”  Therese couldn’t tell from Abby’s smile if she was happy or teasing.

“Oh, don’t worry.  I’m kidding.  I wouldn’t do that to you on your first day here.  We’ll start with just one, maybe two, to build up your tolerance.”

Therese could tell Abby was thoroughly enjoying herself but it didn’t feel like she was making fun of her or using her position to belittle her.  She wasn’t sure why but she had an immediate feeling of some kind of connection.  This was new to her.  She kept everyone at the outer edges of acquaintance.  Some friends in college almost got to arm’s length friendship.  Richard was so clueless he didn’t know how far removed from her he really was. 

Abby left in a dervish of chatting with others in the department.  Therese found herself smiling to herself and looking forward to lunch.

*********

Abby’s secretary had her first cup of coffee waiting along with messages, memos and the employee newsletter.  She wasn’t ready to dive into the chaos that was her usual day so she picked up the newsletter.  The coffee stopped halfway to her mouth when she saw Therese’s picture.  She was stunning.  Even in black and white and the quick snap shot from HR Abby could see that this Therese was gorgeous.  Not that she was interested.  Oh no, she finally had what she had wanted since high school.  Carol.  After years of being her best friend and enduring the descent of Carol’s marriage, Abby had Carol.  She had no romantic interest in this new Therese but there was something in her picture that drew Abby to her.  Maybe she was ‘like minded’.   Abby scoffed to herself.

“You just want all the pretty girls to be ‘like minded’.  Well at least I have a legitimate reason to get acquainted.  Orientation.” Smiling to herself Abby began her day looking forward to this new development.  

  

Chapter Text

A Very Scotty’s Orientation

 

It was obvious the minute they walked into Scotty’s that Abby was a regular.  She and the staff spoke in first names with an inside joke or two.  There was a hiccup in Abby’s jovial demeanor when the host asked, “where’s your other half today?”.

“Oh, who knows.  Doing some Jersey thing I guess.”

Something about that interchange didn’t make sense to Therese but she didn’t have time to dwell because ‘orientation’ was moving along.

They had just settled into their booth when the waiter appeared to take their orders.  Therese hadn’t opened her menu yet when Abby rattled off  “Steak sandwich, medium rare, steak fries and a martini with two olives”.

Therese’s first thought was how could Abby eat this much at lunch with a cocktail and stay awake at work in the afternoon.  Her second thought was how could Abby eat like this and look like she did.  Petite and slim.  And most pressing of all, Therese was scrambling to get the menu open and make sense of it.

“Oh, sorry I’m rushing you.  We come here so often and I always get the same thing.  Take your time.  Remember, you’re with me so we have all the time we want.”  Abby gave a little smirky grin indicating she fully enjoyed the perks of being in management. 

Therese took a deep breath and turned to the waiter, “I’m more of a salad person at lunch so I guess I’ll have your house special of that and a martini.”  A martini was definitely not her drink of choice anytime but she wasn’t sure how much of Abby’s live and let live attitude was for real so she decided to join for now. 

The waiter left and Therese was left to figure out how to participate in this luncheon. “So, Therese, tell me a little bit about yourself.  Are you from New York?  Brothers, sisters, etc.? College?  Special guy?  You know…the usual let’s get acquainted stuff.”

Despite Abby’s casualness and her friendly smile, Therese’s brain went back into the scramble mode she visited earlier that morning when Abby’s steam engine persona had chuffed into Advertising.  Once again, she needed to figure out how much or little to say to be polite and still give minimal information. 

Oops.  The meerkat is back.  She really is a shy one.  Dial it back, Gerhardt.  You’re not at a bar checking out the possibilities. 

“I’m sorry, Therese.  I can come on a little strong and I know that can be off putting.  I really am just interested in getting acquainted.  For me it’s easier to work with people if we know each other just a bit.  I don’t expect the closets to be opened for skeletons to appear…just chatty stuff.”

Therese’s shoulders visibly relaxed while she gave Abby a lips only smile.  What’s wrong with you that you can’t even answer basic questions that everyone else sees as perfectly normal.  Come on Belivet, this is the adult world you’ve been wanting to be a part of for so long.  This kind of conversation is one of the entrance fees.

“Oh, it’s not you.  I… um… just have the kind of background that can make people uncomfortable.  They don’t know how to respond when I tell things and then it’s awkward.  There’s usually a lot of pity involved and that is the last thing I want. I just haven’t figured out how to cover that time in my life so that the conversation can keep moving along and not get bogged down in mumbling sorries. 

Abby shifted a bit in her seat and said, “well let’s get the only sorry I’ll say out of the way first.  Sorry that my questions stirred all that up.  Let’s start over with you telling me what you’re comfortable with me knowing.  I promise to listen and then we can move into you asking me questions.  It’s a two-way street.”

Therese wondered if her mouth had dropped open because that was her internal response.  She had never had a conversation like this.  Never.  She was not used to people being this frank and direct.  She found that she was always trying to decode others’ words and figure out what her next move was supposed to be.  Like other people had the script but she had never been privileged with it.  She got by with so much by claiming shyness but she remembered a time when she had been happy and brave, at least some of the time, with Papa and Miss Bell.  Then it was just mama and then finally the Home.  What was a seven-year-old supposed to do with all that leaving.  Better to just keep to herself. 

Therese realized she had gone away again and needed to get back to Abby.   She gave the merest of shudders and looked Abby in the eye.

“I grew up here in the city.  I don’t have any brothers or sisters.  My father died when I was six years old.  My mother couldn’t raise me by herself so she bequeathed me to an orphanage.  I got a scholarship to NYU and here I am.”  This all came out in a rush that left Therese breathless and startled. 

Abby’s martini had been in route to her mouth when Therese started talking.  It stayed suspended until Therese finished.  Abby brought it to her mouth for a sizeable gulp.  “Wow.  Would you mind if I asked a few more questions?”

Therese’s eyes never left Abby’s as she shook her head no.  Their faces mirrored each other’s surprise and the beginnings of “what’s happening here?”.

“Do you live alone?”

“Yes” Therese said proudly then she slumped a bit when she continued with “I do have a boyfriend, Richard.  He wants to get married but I don’t know about that.  Do you live alone?”.

“Yes, and there’s no Richard in my life. I’m happy paling around with my girlfriends.  What do you do for fun?”.

“These days mostly whatever Richard wants to do.  I met him during my senior year and he’s kind of been in charge since.  Except when it comes to my career and my photography.  That’s the part I don’t know about.  He definitely has a different view of any future we might have.  What do you do for fun?”.

“I hang out with my friend Carol and my goddaughter Rindy when I can. Her husband is kind of possessive so that’s limited.  I have friends in a women’s softball league so I go to their games.  Not the sweaty athletic type myself but the games are a laugh and there’s always beer afterwards.  I've also been known to frequent a bar or two.  You know, to unwind after a hectic week.  Is Frankenberg’s your dream job?”.

“God, no” Therese blurted out and then realized what she had said and to whom.  Her hand flew up to cover her mouth.  “I’m so sorry.  That came out all wrong.”

“No worries.  Besides, this is a sorry free conversation, remember?  Tell me what is your dream job.”

Therese allowed herself to relax against the back of the booth and said, “free lance photography.  I got a camera for Christmas one year.  It had been donated to the Home and Sister Alicia thought it might help bring me out of my shell.  I fell in love with it but I don’t think it did what Sister had hoped.  I now had an actual object to hide behind.  In some ways, the camera became the friend I could feel safest with.  I spent all my free time with it and took it everywhere.  Sounds silly doesn’t it?”

Abby knew she was seeing a Therese that maybe no one else got to.  She felt a warmth stirring in her chest that was new.  She was used to being attracted to women and working out how to ‘court’ them but this was different…and not just because she finally had Carol.  She felt like she was looking at a fragile appearing but incredibly strong woman who could be a friend. 

“Not at all.  I think it’s great that you have something to be passionate about.  That’s what all of us really want, isn’t it?  Someone we can wrap our arms around and say, this is mine.  This is what makes me who I am.  This is worth whatever it takes.  I’ll soar or I’ll crash and burn.  I want to soar but even if I crash, I really had no choice.”

Therese caught the slip of Abby saying ‘someone’ but astutely chose to not say anything.  I hope she has that someone.  Therese realized that even though they had just met it was important to her that Abby have that.  Maybe they were becoming friends.

They both smiled at each other and returned to their lunches. 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

                                                     It Changes


Rindy was beside herself with excitement about her first sleepover birthday party. She had been gulping and stuttering her happiness all day long.
“And then...um...Molly said...um...we could stay up late and have ice cream...um...with her cake. And...um...Jenny and Sally will be there. It’s just us...um...um...because we’re her bestest friends.”
Carol had been hearing minutiae type details all week since Rindy had brought home the invitation. Of course, she had called Molly’s mother to get the actual facts. Carol had no concerns about Molly’s parents. She knew them from the club. Her concerns were about whether or not they really know what they were taking on and would Rindy last through the night without a bout of homesickness.
Rindy had insisted she needed a new dress for the party. Carol was torn between practicality and giving in. Harge and his parents were constantly buying her outfits and toys. They weren’t that far away from Christmas where she knew there would be a tidal wave of presents. What Rindy actually could use was a new pair of pajamas so she made that trade with her. Rindy was a stripes, checks, and plaids girl so she was quite pleased when Carol presented her with a red and white candy stripe set of pjs the day before the party.
“I feel like I’m getting her ready for the prom” Carol sighed to Abby when she came in the front door. Abby cackled while giving Carol a consoling pat/rub on her shoulders.
“So far she’s had a bubble bath, her hair curled and tried on her outfit twice. I drew the line at lipstick.”
“Well, she is a girly girl. I’ll go run some interference for you.” Abby trotted up the stairs to Rindy’s room. “Where’s my ladybug?”
“In here” squealed Rindy. Abby walked in to see Rindy sitting on the floor fastening the buckles of her black patent leather Mary Janes.
“You’re putting on your fancy shoes. Are you going somewhere?”
Rindy did her six year old version of an eye roll and said, “you know about my party, Aunt Abby. You're just being silly.”
Abby plopped down on the floor beside her. “You’re right kiddo. Tell me what you’ve packed so I can make sure you’re all set.” Abby thought this would give Carol a needed break.
Abby loved her goddaughter dearly and snuck in as much time as she could finagle around Harge’s absences. No surprises that he didn’t approve of Abby’s presence in his daughter’s life since he barely tolerated her in Carol’s. She was drifting down that angry path of reviewing his manipulative and controlling behavior with Carol when she was brought up short by Rindy’s question.
“Are you and mommy going to have a sleepover too?”
Slight pause then, “what do you mean sweetie?”.  Abby hoped Rindy didn’t hear the nerves in her voice.
“Well, daddy’s gone away to Pennsvania to play golf and mommy will be here all by herself so why don’t you and mommy have a sleepover? You could pop popcorn and watch TV in mom’s bed like we do when daddy’s gone. She even lets me have a little bit of Coke but not too much because she says it ‘winds me up’.” Rindy giggled about that.
Carol entered the room just in time to rescue Abby from further sleepover conversation.
“Time to go sweet pea.” Rindy jumped up and grabbed her overnight bag. “Bye Aunt Abby. See you soon” as she ran down the stairs accompanied by her mother’s “slow down Nerinda.”
Carol relaxed into the silence of the car after dropping Rindy off at Molly’s. Rindy’s excitement was off the charts by the time they got to Molly’s and the four girls together were hovering in the upper stratosphere by the time Carol finished the parental handoff. Nice to have this respite of calm but oh how she dreaded what was ahead of her.
Last spring she and Abby had given in to years of restraint and tension in the cheesiest of ways. Like something out of a supermarket checkout stand bodice ripping romance, if they wrote those with two female characters. Harge had been out of town on one of his quasi business really golf outings and Abby had come over to grill steaks and watch a movie with her and Rindy. Rindy’s school had their end of the year picnic and field and track day so she was exhausted. She had literally slumped to sleep at the table. An unexpected storm blew through knocking out their power so no TV, no lights and no Rindy chaperone. Carol was bone weary of Harge and his dictatorial possessiveness. She felt like she couldn’t breathe anymore, even when he wasn’t around. She drank too much rye that night and starting sighing and crying and the next thing she knew she was in Abby’s arms. She really needed safety and comfort that night and if it came in the form of Abby’s lips all over her face and neck then so be it. Then clothes started disappearing and Carol began to feel an urgency she hadn’t felt in forever with Harge. Abby didn’t force anything but she certainly knew what she was doing and Carol did not want to resist. Carol came like she never had before. Cliches ran through her mind...melting bones, waves crashing, stars exploding. It really happened for her for the first time. She felt like she’d been eating crumbs when the banquet table had been available to her this whole time.
Abby assured her she didn’t need to do anything but Carol wanted to. She wanted to give her friend what she’d been given and what her friend had waited so long for. That night was the sweetest Carol had ever lived. She always wondered if they ever did do anything if it would end up being awkward but it wasn’t at all. Sometimes fierce, sometimes heartbreakingly tender, always given and not taken.
Abby left the next morning well before Rindy would wake up. Neither knew what was going to happen next and neither tried to come up with any plans. They just knew they had crossed the threshold that had been in front of them since high school. With years of rock solid friendship behind them they would figure this out.
In the car Carol asked herself how could they have been so naive. There was no way she and Abby could have a life together. She was so chained and bound to Harge and attached to her beloved Rindy that there was no path for her and Abby. But what was really holding Carol back, and this was so painful to admit, was that she didn’t feel for Abby what Abby felt for her. She loved her. No doubt there. She vehemently loved her. It was akin to the level of love she felt for Rindy. Roots so deep there was no end to them. Unshakeable. But Abby was her friend and would not ever be her lover. She realized this a few weeks after their first night together. The sex was amazing. Abby knew her way around the female body and she was an excellent tutor. That hadn’t changed. Abby never pressed for Carol to leave a Harge for her...just do it for her own sake. Abby was supportive and funny and caring and snarky and she adored Carol. Everything anyone could ever dream of...and Carol loved her but did not adore her the way Abby had a right to want. So after weeks of trying to squeeze what she felt into another kind of heart, Carol knew she had to tell Abby this brutal truth.
Carol opened her front door to “Hi, darlin’. I’ve got my steak on the grill, salmon for Miss Fancy Pants and a pitcher of martinis waiting for us. Dessert is a surprise but let’s just say it involves chocolate eaten in some adventurous ways.”
“Abby, we need to talk.”

Chapter Text

 

 

She’s crying. God, is she crying. I can feel her heart break a little more with each sob.  I wonder if there will be enough left to repair by the time she’s done talking. No, crying and sobbing don’t cover what’s wracking her body right now.  I need different words.  Better words.  Word thats capture the hiccuping sobs, the hands that tremble so they can’t hold each other, the jaws that rattle and can barely form words. That’s what’s taken over her body.  I think she might come undone.  Normally, I would be holding her right now. So tight.  Wrapped around her so that pain could slither and slide and snake and sneak trying to find a crack in my protection of her. “You’re going to have to get through me you son of a bitch!”  I’m the knight errant to her Guinevere. 

But I can’t hold her tonight. She keeps saying words.  “I’m so sorry.  I never should have started this. I never should have let it get this far. I would give anything to not be hurting you. I love you so much but I can’t keep doing this.  And I know I said back in college that I loved you like you loved me but I didn’t have it all sorted out and I thought since I’d realized that I might like girls and I loved you and you loved me that meant that I loved you like that but...”.  She runs out of air and words. Her explanations lacerate.  My mind is racing and stuck.  I’m numb and my skin is painfully stretched trying to hold in feelings.  I’m encased in freezing ice and my brain and my heart and my lungs are running a marathon at sprint speed.  It’s all so clear and nothing makes sense.  I’ve been flayed and gutted and yet here I sit, staring. I need to leave. I have to get out of here. I can’t stay here any longer. 

“I need to leave. I...I have to go.  I can’t stay here right now.  I can’t be with you right now.”

“Abby, don’t go. I know this is awful for you and please believe me this is killing me too.  I can’t lose you, Abby. I just can’t.”

I can’t even look at her. 

I don’t remember driving home. I do remember realizing the hell that was ahead of me. There was not enough booze or sex or anything yet invented in this world that was going to spare me this nightmare. I already felt like a gutted shell and this was just beginning.  But what made it worse was that I had known all along. 

 

Oh, god.  The look on her face.  It felt like I was plunging a knife into her with every word and then myself.  Back and forth. The more I tried to explain the worse it got. Why couldn’t I just go along?  I love her with all my heart.  Why couldn’t I just let it be?  I would never let anything happen to her.  But I did.  And it was me.  And I’ve lost her. How can we ever come back from this?  I’m horrible. I’ve destroyed my marriage and broken her heart. All I’ve got now is Rindy. Sweet Rindy. Oh, oh no, he...he might try to take her from me.  He could use Abby against me. He can do whatever he damn well pleases. He’s an Aird for Christ’s sake.  They walk on water in this town. Okay, now slow down Carol. Think. You can’t panic right now. Think.  

 

Carol was deep into the pitcher of martinis when Molly’s mother called.

“I’m so sorry, Carol, but Rindy is inconsolable.  She started getting upset as the party was winding down and it was time to go to bed.  I’ve tried everything but she keeps crying for you.”

“Oh, dear. Well this is embarrassing because I’m afraid I’ve had a little more than usual to drink tonight and I really shouldn’t drive.”

“No problem at all.  I’ll have my husband bring her home if that’s all right with you.”

“Of course.  And it’s me that’s sorry about all of this.” 

Carol got Rindy calmed down and tucked into bed with her. Her engine had run down completely after the excitement of the day and then the trauma of being away from mama at night for the first time.  The alcohol and Carol’s own trauma caught up with her as she collapsed into bed with Rindy. They were both so comatose they didn’t hear Harge come in.

 

The golf trip was upended by an unexpected torrential rain storm and the rest of the weekend was cancelled.  Harge decided to take the train home that night.  He could sleep during the trip and not waste all of Sunday with travel.  Coming into the house quietly he decided to have a snack before going to bed.  He was puzzled when he went into the kitchen  and saw a meal that hadn’t been eaten. There was abandoned cold steak, salmon, baked potatoes, wilted salad and a pitcher half full of martinis. When he opened the refrigerator he saw chocolate dipped strawberries.  Abby.  Enraged  he stormed upstairs to confront Carol and Abby but found Rindy curled into her mother and both were asleep.  Totally confused he went to sleep in the guest bedroom that he’d been occupying for months now.  

Harge woke the next morning with Carol sitting in his room.

“Harge, we need to talk.”

 

Chapter Text

                                            Therese Knows Things

 

Abby came into work early on Monday morning to hide in her office and avoid the post weekend memoirs of her friendly staff. She cracked her blinds a bit but kept her sunglasses on and the office lights off.  Her eyes were red, puffy, and almost swollen shut from all the tears. She thought she might be dehydrated from all the liquid and gross mucus  she had expelled over the last 36 hours.  She was so hungover.  Her ears had turned canine picking up every sound possible across the decibel spectrum. Her brain cruelly took those sounds and transformed them into kettle drums, piccolos and really grating tenor saxes. She knew she should have called in sick but she also knew if she stayed home right now she’d keep drinking. In all of her college and young adult life she had never consumed this much alcohol in one steady stretch.  She kept telling herself what else could she do.  She had no one to talk to.   No one.  Carol had always been her confidant. Her lended ear. Her bosom buddy. Her sounding board.  Her no judgement zone. About everything.  So as she cried about Carol taking her heart back and telling Abby she couldn’t have it anymore, she cried because she didn’t have a friend for refuge anymore either. 

She was going to complain severe headache to explain the sunglasses and isolation to Enid, her secretary. If her solicitous secretary asked why she hadn’t stayed home, which she would, Abby was going say some drivel about deadlines...there weren’t any...or new projects...none on the horizon. She knew the very astute and loyal Enid would get the coded message and leave her alone and guard her door.  It all went according to plan until mid morning. In her haze of pain, regret and sorrow she forgot about her weekly Monday morning meeting with Therese. 

Abby and Therese had become really good work friends over the summer and early fall.  They were even bumping up against off duty friendship. They were both on the same page of how to approach work and enjoyed the crossover in their responsibilities.  They frequently went to lunch and had started having some after work drinks. Abby knew that Therese was unhappily dating Richard and was screwing up her courage and energy to break it off.  After Therese had blurted out the Reader's Digest  version of her history at Scotty’s that first day, she had, over time, added details and color commentary.   Therese knew of Carol as Abby’s best friend forever and her beloved goddaughter, Rindy, and some of her family details.  Abby was always coy and vague about her social life but gave enough generic information to pass for sharing.

Therese had moved into the “knock and enter” level of co worker so when Enid had stepped away, and Therese arrived, she followed her usual routine. She was surprised to find the room so dark she could barely discern outlines of furniture.  At first she thought the office was empty but then she heard a shuffle and gasp from the sofa. 

“Abby? Are you okay?”

“Oh, sorry Therese.  I forgot about our meeting.”

Therese barely recognized Abby’s voice.  It was thin and gravelly.  She seemed to hardly have enough breath to push out the words. 

“Abby, what’s wrong? Are you sick? What are you doing here at work?”

Abby heard the genuine concern in Therese’s voice and felt the tears returning to her eyes and her throat closing with emotion. 

I can’t do this here.  Not now.  If I’m bawling like a baby that kind of defeats the headache excuse. I don’t know what to say. I can’t lose it at work. I was so stupid to come in today.  

While Abby was berating herself Therese was cautiously moving toward the sofa. She sat down on the edge and gently placed her hand on Abby’s.

“What is it Abby? What’s got you in such a state?”

The tenderness in Therese’s voice swept away the fragile veneer of protection Abby had tried to construct. She had no strength to stop the avalanche of sobs that came out of her.  She turned on her side into a fetal curl and held onto Therese’s hand. She was so devastated by the weekend and so touched by Therese’s kindness that she wasn’t even embarrassed by this new outpouring of pure pain. They remained in this bubble of shared intimacy until Abby calmed down. 

Therese knew this was no ordinary episode for Abby. She also knew what hollowing out pain sounded like.  A pat and a ‘there, there’ would be an insulting response to this fractured, broken heart, so Therese took a chance that matched the size of Abby’s vulnerability. 

“Is it Carol?”

Abby froze.  How could Therese know anything?  Surely I haven’t slipped or been too free with what I’ve told her. Have there been rumors here about  the bars or parties?  God, can this day get any worse?

“Abby, I know Carol is very special to you.  I’ve always been so pleased that you had her in your life.  You light up when you talk about her and Rindy.  I think everyone should have a Carol in their life.”

Okay, now what is she saying exactly?  Is she talking besties or has she figured something out?

“I knew two girls in college who were special to each other.  Some people made sick jokes about them. Others seemed to think they were some kind of affront to them. I never understood why it mattered. If they were happy and they weren’t hurting anybody else then what difference did it make?  I know I haven’t found my Carol yet because Richard certainly doesn’t bring  me that kind of joy.”

Abby was dumbfounded. She had never, ever in her most fantastical fantasies imagined a scenario in which she could, in freedom and acceptance, be herself. She knew Carol accepted her, even now with their world crashing, she knew Carol wasn’t rejecting her.  But to have someone accept her because they wanted to. Because they didn’t see a problem. Because it didn’t matter. Because love was love. What was she supposed to do now?

“Abby, have you eaten or slept or done anything besides drink this weekend?”

Still trying to wrap her throbbing head around what was happening, Abby croaked out a no.

“Then how about I sneak us out the back way while everyone’s at lunch and I take you to my apartment for some R & R?”

“Therese, you can’t just up and leave work in the middle of the day.”

“Au contraire ma chérie, I have some pull around here with Al and if I have a family emergency then who’s going to stop me?  You stay right here until I check out with Al and by that time everyone will be out to lunch. We’ll go to my place where I’m going to replenish and replace your expunged liquids, get several aspirins down your throat and maybe even some chicken soup.  Would you let me do that for you?”

Abby almost gagged at the notion of chicken soup but the rest sounded good.  

“Are you sure?”

“Absolutely.”

“Then yes, yes I would.”

Therese got up to go to the door.  As she reached for the doorknob Abby quietly said, “Therese, thanks. For everything.”

Therese gave her the gentlest of smiles.  “You’re welcome, my friend.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

                                                     It Takes a Village

 

Al Rosen had the eyes of a man who had seen way too much but hadn’t been broken.  They broadcast whatever was going on inside so if you paid attention at all you knew what was coming or what his response was when you brought something to him.  His team had seen all the variations of approval, perplexity, warmth, delight and occasionally reprimand. These were the eyes facing Therese when she went to ask for the rest of the day off. 

 

Al Rosen did not look like a man in charge of one of the most critical departments in any retail setting, advertising.  If asked to pick, out of a lineup, the person Frankenberg’s depended on to get the word out about their merchandise, Al Rosen would never have been chosen. There was no smooth slickness about him that was expected these days from men whose purpose in life was enticing people to part with their money in exchange for the latest and best whatever. He was disheveled in appearance with his way past sell by date suits, unruly hair that defeated any comb or brush who dared tame it, and perpetually long ashed cigarette dangling in the corner of his mouth. Always slightly rumpled and crumpled.  Al Rosen at the top of the advertising ladder in one of New York City’s triumvirate of department stores...Macy’s, Gimbal’s, and Frankenberg’s...was a curiosity to everyone except those who worked for him and depended on him. 

Al had spent the war photographing the invasions and campaigns of Northern Africa, Sicily, Italy and finally the granddaddy of them all, D Day and Europe.  He had seen all along the spectrum of a GI’s life...heroics and cowardice, compassion and cruelty, well oiled efficiency and mind boggling bureaucratic interference. And just when he thought there was nothing left to see in man’s catalog of behaviors he accompanied Eisenhower to Ohrdruf. 

When Al came home he had his choice of photography jobs at all the high status, high profile newspaper and magazine publications. He was fervently courted by The NY Times and Life magazine but Al knew he was done with holding a mirror up to the world. He had grabbed the world by its lapels and shaken it long enough. He figured some of this weariness might be his own version of shell shock but he longed for a ‘normal’ nine to five life with a wife and kids. He just wanted to take care of his corner of the world and let someone else have their turn as town crier. 

So that’s what Al did.  After VE Day he married Annette, the army nurse he’d fallen in love with in France and they came home as soon as she was mustered out. He knew someone who knew someone and he was hired at Frankenberg’s. His boss couldn’t believe that a photographer of Al’s stature would be happy taking pictures of toasters and dolls and three piece suits but he wasn’t going to say no to this gift. Al soon worked his way into the boss’ office through turnover, talent and his ability to work with people. His coworkers were thrilled when he got the job. He raised the status of the department through his willingness to be innovative and had an almost cult like loyalty from his staff because of the camaraderie and respect he encouraged.  

He got along with the other department heads but he had a special affinity for Abby Gerhardt. She was bright, spunky, motivated, got the job done and took care of her people. She was succeeding in a man’s world on grit and ability unlike the others who had golden tickets into the ‘good old boys’ network.  He was pretty sure where Abby’s proclivities lay. During his years abroad he’d been exposed to the whole spectrum of human desires and behaviors so he was usually quick to pick up on things that weren’t even on others’ radar. It wasn’t like Abby was broadcasting her interests.  In fact, it was what she didn’t say that was the poker tell.  Never a specific person/activity anecdote.  Just vague parties/movies/dining/drinking with vague friends.  The exception to that was Carol and Rindy.  She didn’t talk of them often but when she did she always made sure that Rindy had the goddaughter designation and Carol’s marital status would be included. Al saw right through this smoke screen. For him, this was just another curiosity in all the ways human beings went about getting what they needed. He felt no need to put his stamp of approval or disapproval on Abby. She just was who she was and he wished that they all lived in a world where you loved who you loved and that was that. No drama.  No finger pointing.  He had lived for years literally under the gun of life’s capriciousness. He saw no point in making whatever time we do have harder on others. He’d spent a lot of years navigating the military chain of command and knew one cardinal rule for a fact...a full frontal attack never worked.  So when he heard the crude remarks of his fellow department heads about Abby just because she was a woman he would divert the conversation by commenting on her latest accomplishment.  In his own department there was always one or two immature young men who thought they gained stature by taking down others. They were interrupted and chided more directly with a stern “Don’t you have an ad campaign that needs your attention?”

 

Therese poked her head into Al’s office.  “Got a sec?”

“Sure come on in. What do you need?”

“I need to take the rest of the day off and take Abby home.  She’s not feeling well.”

Al looked up from his work with a quizzical expression, “she’s sick?”

“Well, not exactly sick.  More like just not well.”

“Is she hungover?” Al asked incredulously.

Therese felt terrible.  This was a little trickier than she thought it would be.

With a grimace and just above a whisper, “yeah.  She’s...um...kind of had a rough weekend...and um...she really shouldn’t have tried to come into work...”

 Al walked over to the window and looked down on Seventh Avenue.  He was obviously deep in thought. Therese’s didn’t know what to do.

Finally, without turning to look at Therese, Al said, “is it Carol?”.

Therese felt a sick wave of heat roll through her body.  This is turning out all wrong. What did I say?  What’s he saying?  Abby is going to be mortified.

“I, I don’t know what you mean.”

“I think you do. Was there a breakup of some kind?”

With no way out Therese said, “Yes.” 

He stayed looking out the window.  Therese started to wonder if he had forgotten she was there. 

“I’d like to help so, yes, take Abby home.  Please stay by your phone.  I may need to talk with you later.”

Therese walked out of the office on shaky legs fearing she had said or done something horrible for Abby.  All the way back to Abby’s office she was replaying the conversation to sort out where it had all gone wrong. 

 

Therese got Abby home and in bed. She got one big glass of water down her along with three aspirin. Abby couldn’t tolerate the thought of even something as bland as soup so that was skipped.  Therese left another glass of water on her nightstand and made Abby promise to drink whenever she stirred.  All the while, Abby was apologizing for being such a mess and ruining Therese’s day and on and on.  Therese kept shushing her and finally silenced her with “this is what friends do”.  Abby teared up but was too tired to go into a full meltdown again.  With blinds drawn and lights out Therese left Abby to sleep.  A couple of hours later Al called.

“Therese, I have an idea that I want you to consider. You absolutely do not have to do this but I do want you to give it really serious consideration.”

“Okay,” Therese said hesitantly.

“I have a friend who has a vacation home south of Miami.  I’d like for you to take Abby there for a week.  I actually would like two weeks but I don’t think we can pull that off on short notice.  I think getting out of town and completely away from this situation would do Abby a lot of good.  I think she needs to take a complete break from everything in order to get back on her feet. Time to clear her head.  Walk the beach. Eat great seafood.  Read trashy novels.  Soak up some sun. Probably go easy on the drinking. What do you think?”

Therese was speechless and had so many questions. “Can we be gone from work that long?  Won’t people think it strange for us to suddenly both be gone?”

I don’t have the money for this. I don’t have the vacation time and I can’t afford to be gone without  pay.  Would Abby want to be with me for a week?  Will Abby even agree to this?  This is just too crazy!

“Therese, I know this idea probably sounds harebrained to you but in spite of having just a couple of hours I think I’ve figured out how we can make this work.”

There was a lot of back and forth working out the logistics and Al explaining how the trip would be paid for and the viable reasons he had come up with for their absence. 

“So, what’s left is your decision and then Abby’s.”

 

The next morning, two women, appearing a bit dazed, boarded the Silver Meteor train in Penn Station bound for Miami and the Florida sun. 

Chapter Text

Dear Diary

 

September 25

Hello Sigmund, you’ll never guess where I am right now.  Don’t even try.  I am sitting in a first-class sleeping compartment, on a train, with an open-ended return ticket, headed to Florida.  I’m accompanied by the lovely Therese Belivet whom I have sent to the Dining car to have a coffee and explore the train a bit.  I needed some time alone to write you and try to sort out the past 48 hours.  First things first, Carol pulled the emergency brake on us.  Not even sure there was an “us” but whatever was going on between us is no more.  “And how,” you ask “are you doing?”  I’ve been gutted, eviscerated, devastated, and for added good measure, stabbed in the back.

Abigail, you always use drama and that fancy vocabulary to mask how deep the wounds are.  Lie down with your eyes closed and let the free associations bring your subconscious to me.  I think maybe Carol has done us a favor.  Knocked down some bolted and padlocked doors.

I want to write what happened but I can’t go through all of that again.  I just can’t. 

Take some deep breaths and tell me what you can.

It was like there were two of me sitting there listening to her.  There was the Abby that was having her forever dream ripped away and there was the Abby who always took care of Carol no matter what.  I had never seen her like that.  She was so broken.  Even if what she was telling me had been about something else, I think I would have been lost in how to respond.  That’s how shattered she was.  But it was about me and so there I was…part of me needing desperately to get out of there and the other part thinking I’m supposed to make her okay. 

Such a painful dilemma. 

I left. I left her sobbing and begging me to not give up on us. I went home and proceeded to have my own Lost Weekend.  I knew I couldn’t keep drinking so I went to work on Monday.  Therese saw through my ridiculous headache charade and got me out of there.  She had to talk to Al and that set everything in motion to get away and here we are. 

And does Florida have special recuperative powers for healing the heart?

I’m not sure what this trip is supposed to accomplish.  No matter how many times I said no, my pitiful, sad little heart kept slipping into one of my bags.  So, am I really getting away? No.

 

September 25

I’m somewhere I never thought I’d be…sitting in the Dining car of the Silver Meteor train headed for south Florida.  Why I’m here is a sad story about my friend Abby.  Friend?  I don’t know exactly what we are but we’ve definitely moved past fellow employees of Frankenberg’s.  Long story short, she’s had her heart broken, I walked in on her crying in her office, I got her home and Al arranged for time off for both of us to go to his friend’s vacation home in Florida to give Abby a break.  It’s all happened so fast that I’m just now slowing down enough to wonder what have I gotten myself into. 

I’ve never, ever been on a “trip”.  To a new place.  With just one other person.  For who knows how long.  What I do know about Abby is that we really don’t have anything in common.  Family, school, status, nothing.  She’s great to work with and fun for drinks but…what am I supposed to do with her for however long she wants to stay? 

Okay, let’s just take some deep breaths and focus on what I do know.  I like her.  She’s funny and smart and she’s been incredibly kind and welcoming to me.  She doesn’t treat like I’m made of glass because sh*t happened to me.  And, I know things about her and it doesn’t bother me.  She’s Abby, end of story.  In fact, I’m thinking I know things that very few people do.  That’s a privilege. I think that’s enough to work with for this first day.

Sooo…Belivet, let’s do Florida.

 

Therese returned to their compartment just as Abby was closing a notebook. 

“Here’s coffee. One cream.  One sugar. Right?”

“Perfect. Did you get the train all sorted for where we can lunch?”

“Yes.  I’ve not been on a train like this before so I don’t know if the elegance is just how trains are or if Al set us up with the best.”

“Nothing but the best from Al.  He’s…really special.”

“Yes, he is.  I feel so lucky having him for a boss.”

Abby took some sips of coffee while Therese slipped her journal into her overnight case.   Abby noticed the notebook and casually said, “so you keep a diary?’. 

“I do.  Sister Alicia said everyone needs a place to write anything and everything.  She said even people who have families or best friends still need a place to say what they’re not ready for others to know.  Maybe never know.”

“Hmmm…I do to.  It started as kind of a joke after I’d taken a psychology class in high school.  I began writing to Sigmund Freud because he was all about sex back when it wasn’t talked about so I figured I could say anything to him and he wouldn’t be shocked.  Silly, huh?”

Therese smiled and shook her head.  “That’s great.  But does he talk back to you?  Do I need to be worried?”

“Therese, you’ve been put in charge of the Abby Gerhardt Rest and Rehabilitation Project.  You need to be very worried.”

Pause.  Therese started laughing and Abby joined in with her signature cackle. 

"Let's do lunch, girl."

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

                                                                                                                         

 

The waiter laid the check for lunch on the table between them. They both reached at the same time.

“You’re not paying for my meal, Therese.  Good lord, you’re being dragged away from your life at a moment’s notice to babysit me on this harebrained trip of Al’s. You shouldn’t be out any money for this.”

“But I don’t want you to have to pay for me either.  We both agreed this trip was a good idea so we can both just be responsible for ourselves.  Okay?”

Abby mulled this over for a bit and then an idea lit up her face.

“I know Al.  He’s really a standup guy. He would not have pushed this trip without making arrangements to have it paid for.  He wouldn’t say ‘you two take a trip and by the way it’s going to cost you a pretty penny’.  I know he pulled some strings to get these last-minute train tickets.  Especially in first class.  Did he say anything about the place we’re staying?”

“Oh, for Pete’s sake.  I completely forgot.  He gave me an envelope and told me to not open it until we were settled on the train.  This has all been such a mad dash that I completely forgot to look at it.”

Therese pulled a bulky envelope out of her purse.  Al had definitely scrawled on the front, “Do not open until you’re on the train”.  Therese tore open the flap and pulled out a note while her eyes got so big, they almost took over the top half of her face. She held the envelope open and showed it to Abby.  Inside was a stack of $50 bills.  Abby took the envelope and began to surreptitiously count the money.

Ladies, if you’re reading this then your tickets have been delivered to you and you’re on the train.  The place you’ll be staying is courtesy of an Army buddy.  This money is for food and anything you want to do in Florida. Eat lots of fresh seafood, book a sailing adventure, go deep sea fishing, whatever...just use your time to do Florida up right.  I will be very unhappy if you come back with any of this money.  A car service will be waiting for you at the station in Miami to take you to Islamorada, islands off the coast.  Al.

Therese and Abby stared at each other. 

“Abby, I can’t take this money. It just doesn’t feel right.”

“Therese, I know this has been a whirlwind 24 hours and you may be feeling overwhelmed so you need to trust me on this. It would be an insult to not accept this gift. Forget that Al’s your boss.  Under that gruff exterior clad in those god-awful suits is the kindest man I’ve ever known. He’s given me...”

Abby’s voice trailed off as she turned and looked out the window.  Her eyes were glistening with tears she wasn’t allowing to spill out. Her chin was trembling slightly as she straightened her shoulders and took in a deep breath.

“He and you have given me something that no one, besides Carol, have ever done.  So, I won’t sully that with trying to pay for it.  And I think the same goes for you.  Right?”

Therese realized something had just happened that didn’t have anything to do with splitting checks.  Al was trusting her discretion and compassion to care for his crushed, fragile friend. Abby was saying that Therese had been with her in her most vulnerable place and it was okay to stay.  She waited for Abby to turn and look at her then she nodded ‘yes’.

Abby rapped her knuckles lightly on the table.  “Well, then, that’s that.”

 

They spent the rest of the afternoon in the Observation car reading and watching the scenery go by. After dinner they both realized they were exhausted from the roller coaster of the past few days so they decided to go to bed early.

“What’s your preference for berths, Therese?”

“Oh, I don’t care.  Whatever you want.”

Abby looked at Therese and then said, “Therese, I’m not big on rules so how about we have a flexible list of things that will make this trip easier?  First on the list...speak up.  I really don’t want to spend this trip making decisions.”

“Lower berth.  I’m afraid I’ll fall out of the top one.”

“All right, that’s what I’m talking about.  By the way, Therese, you know marriages are made in heaven but berths are made in Pullman cars?”

Therese just stared at Abby then chuckling said, “I call first on the bathroom.”

 

They had both settled into their berths when Therese realized she needed to go to the bathroom again.  Quietly grumbling to herself she left the coziness of her bed.  She was just snuggling back in when she heard barely perceptible sniffles. 

 Oh, no.  It’s all catching up with her again.  She’s made it through today and now the night feels are settling in. 

Therese got out of bed and looked into Abby’s berth. There was enough light from the window to see Abby pushed into the wall with her back to Therese.  Standing there, Therese laid her head on the mattress and began to gently stroke Abby’s back. Abby flinched, held her breath briefly and then exhaled a sob. 

“I’m sorry I’m such a baby about this,” she stuttered.  “I’m really embarrassing myself.”

Therese had been through many nights of lonely heartbreak.  She knew there were no magic words of salve to fix everything so she gave Abby what she had wanted during those nights...someone to sit with her in her pain.  She didn’t say anything...just stroked Abby’s back until the crying stopped and her breathing became peaceful and full of sleep. 

Therese returned to her berth a bit stiff and cold from standing so long in her light nightgown.  She wrapped the covers tightly around her and curled into as tiny a ball as she could. She shivered off some of the chill and settled into what had just happened. She drifted into sleep with a smile inside.

 

The car service driver was waiting for them in Miami’s Seaboard Air Line Railroad station. They spotted his sign with their names and met him with their luggage.

“Welcome to Florida, ladies. My name is Mathias and I’ll be taking you to Islamorada.  Here now, let me have those bags and you follow me to our car, please. Have you been here before?”

“I’ve been to Florida but not Islamorada.  My friend hasn’t been south at all.”

“Oh, you are both in for a treat. It’s a little paradise we like to keep quiet. Don’t get me wrong.  We’re friendly but we don’t want to turn into the Keys. Oh, my goodness...that place is crazy overrun with tourists.  You can’t live a normal life down there.  But now Islamorada is just what you think of when you imagine island life. Sun shines all the time except for an occasional pesky hurricane.  You can walk the beach without having to tiptoe around all those pasty white northern bodies. Or you can swim without screaming kids splashing all around you.  And there’s just enough town to have what you need for your stay.”

Both women were slightly enchanted by Islamorada’s friendly ambassador.  

“You’ve sold me, Mathias.  Let’s get to Islamorada as fast as we can.” 

“Yes, ma’am.  Let’s do that very thing.”

 

Abby watched as Therese walked around their cottage with her mouth just a bit agape.  “Abby...the furniture, the curtains, the view, the...all of it,” Therese sighed. Abby had to admit the cottage was exactly what she’d expected.  Wicker furniture, bright floral-patterned fabric for the cushions and curtains, seashell encrusted mirror and picture frames, driftwood, nautical knick knacks, and on and on. 

“So, you like it?”

“Oh, Abby.  It’s wonderful.  I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Abby smiled at seeing Therese’s reaction.  Something about her wonder was almost childlike and innocent.  Even though she wasn’t responsible for the circumstances that prompted Therese’s reaction, she was delighted to be witness to it.

They flipped a coin to determine bedroom assignments because neither one could out and out claim the room with the ocean view. They quickly unpacked and did the vacation version of settling in.  They checked out the kitchen which had the needed basic staples and the liquor cabinet was well stocked.

“All right, Therese, we’ve been responsible long enough.  Time to walk the beach!”

Therese almost clapped she was so excited. They walked through the living room French doors to their large covered patio that opened up to the sandy beach.

“Shoes off, Belivet.  We’re going to get gritty!”

 

Their days quickly settled into a comfortable routine. Whomever woke up first made the coffee. They sat on the patio for coffee and eventually fresh fruit and toasted bagels with a schmear of cream cheese.  Decisions were made for eating dinner in or out since that would determine which market they would go to that day.  They read, walked the beach, swam, and explored the town’s park, shops, and one island history museum.  They both decided they neither one needed to experience deep sea fishing but they did charter a piloted sail boat one afternoon.  Abby wanted Therese to be on the ocean and not just by it at least once.  After serious trepidation, and deciding the captain knew what he was doing and they weren’t going to suddenly capsize, Therese loved it.  Abby had never seen anyone sustain a smile for so long.

One evening, while dining out they had an especially nice white wine with their fish and decided they had to have a bottle of their own at the cottage.   They had both been very light on the alcohol except a glass of wine with their dinners. Nothing was said but the unspoken understanding was that Abby did not need to add hangovers to her current state.

They were browsing in the liquor store when Abby said, “I’ll be right back”.  Therese gave up her search and decided to ask a clerk for help.  He was explaining the merits of their wine choice when she glanced over his shoulder and saw Abby in the walk-in humidor with a smiling man who was obviously excited about their conversation. Moments later a grinning from ear-to-ear Abby came waltzing up to Therese waving a small box. 

“I got them. I got the Cuban Cohiba Siglo I cigars.”

Therese looked at her like she’d grown another head. “Abigail...why?”

“First of all, only Mr. and Mrs. Gerhardt call me that and it’s never for a good reason.  Secondly, for us! These are perfect for us. Not too long.  Not too fat.  Eduardo said they’re mild with a sweet creaminess to them that is just how most women like their cigars.”

“Abby, we don’t smoke cigars!  We’re not...not...we don’t smoke cigars!”

Abby took a cigar out of the box and passed it under Therese’s nose. 

“Smell that.  Doesn’t that just conjure up island life and the tropics? Come on, Trezzy, let’s do at least one thing we’ll never ever do back home.”

‘Trezzy’ gave a long look and then burst out laughing. 

“Not in the cottage!  I don’t want one whiff of those things in the cottage!”

Abby rolled her eyes, “I’m not a troglodyte, Therese. I do observe a few social mores.”  She waggled her eyebrows and cackled a wicked laugh.

Therese threw an arm across Abby’s shoulder pulled her in for a quick peck on her cheek.

“You’re incorrigible.”

That night, both women lay in their beds and thought about the liquor store.  For Abby it was a spontaneous episode of fun with her friend. Something she hadn’t had for a while.  For Therese it was discovering the joy of having a friend like Abby.  Both women had a chuckle and then turned to sleep. 

 

Their lovely days were interspersed with Abby’s sadness. Sometimes she’d say she was going for a walk or it was time to visit with Sigmund. Therese didn’t ask questions or intrude. Usually she just smiled and said, “I’ll be here”.  They both knew she meant more than geographically.      

 

One morning while Therese was reading the paper she sat up and said, “Abby you’re not going to believe this. There’s a photography exhibit at the University of Miami’s new art museum.  It’s featuring the photographers of the war and they’ve listed Al as one of them.  Do you think we could go?”

“I think you should go.  There’s an express train that can get you there in just over an hour.  Any cabbie will know how to get you to the university.  It’s definitely doable in a day.”

“But, what about you?”

“I’m thinking it’s time for me to spend some extended time with Sigmund and start wrapping this trip up.  If you’re okay with going into Miami on your own I think the timing is right.”

The next morning Therese headed out for her adventure and Abby headed to the beach to meet up with Sigmund. 

 

Well. Sigmund, I think it’s time to turn a corner on this Carol business. Part of me doesn't want to because then that means I'm moving past her and into a place where she's not what she's always been to me.  I cannot imagine life without her but I have no idea how to have her in my life now.   I can't stay here in this limbo paradise forever.  In fact, I'm starting to feel antsy to get back to my life even if it's going to be full of reminders.  I'm tired of crying and missing and the what ifs.   I want to get on with whatever it is that's next. 

 A couple of ideas have been popping up that feel important to all of this.  I haven't been ready to sit with them but when Therese mentioned the photography exhibit, I knew this was the time.  So, this is my work in progress. 

The first thing is so hard to admit but...I always knew it wasn't going to work out with Carol.  Not for the obvious reasons...Harge, Rindy, nowhere for us to be ourselves...but because Carol has never loved me like I love her.  I came pretty close to deluding myself, but even when she was all in, I knew.  When Carol realized her truth and had the courage to tell me she was holding a mirror up to me and I refused to see what was there.  That way I could make it all her fault.  She had let me down.  She had led me on.  She had used me.  The only part of that that's true is the she used me part.  She didn't do it maliciously.  She needed something so badly and for a while she thought I was it.  But Carol didn't use me as much as I used her.  How could I let her, even encourage her to, think I was the answer?  At least she was flailing blindly.  I knew and let her walk down that path knowing the pain that was waiting at the end.  I don't know how but some way I have to let her know this.  I have to relieve her of the 'what have I done to Abby' burden.  There's enough pain to go around for all of us without adding pain that isn't based in truth.

The second idea is going to sound really strange.  I've been wallowing in a lot of 'why me'.  Why was I born so differently that I have to be an imposter in order to survive?  Why can't loving someone be simple.  Why is my business anybody else's business?  Why do I have to live this life?  Why can't the world just grow up? 

This is where it gets strange.  We went to the Islamorada history museum to learn more about this wonderful island.  There was a special section about some of the islands further south that were colonized for sugar production.  We read with horror about the slave trade and the treatment of the locals in order to grow and ship sugar.  Neither one of us had any idea.  The pictures and stories stayed with me and kept rumbling around in the back of my mind until it dawned on me that those people never had a chance.  They had no say in how their entire life on this planet was going to be lived.  And there were thousands of them.  It got me to thinking about our own shameful slavery and all those thousands of people. And that's when it hit me...why should I think that I'm so special that I shouldn't have pain in my life?  Why do I think the universe has chosen me specifically and it's not fair?  Why do I think I should escape what everyone else has had at some time in their life...and some wretchedly so for an entire life?  Some never, ever had a chance or a choice.  And I'm being arrogant enough to think that life isn't fair because I've not been exempt from all of this?

Both of these ideas have shifted something inside of me.  I'm not happy or done with the sadness.  That's going to be around for a while but I feel like I've begun to ease up on clinging to the pain.  The pain I‘m feeling now seems clean…like it’s what this is about, loss, and not distortions.  It's time to give some space for healing to happen.  Smooth sailing?  Onward and upward?  Not if it's an Abby Gerhardt journey.  But headed in the right direction?  I think so. 

 

Therese returned just before dinner.  Abby could see she was brimming with her day and she was trying to be cautious to not disrupt Abby's day.

"Tell me all about it."

"Are you sure?"

"Absolutely.  I want to hear everything."

When Therese was done, she asked Abby how her day had been. 

"Good.  I think it's time to go home."

 

On a Monday morning, several weeks after Abby had returned, she drove to Carol's.  She parked down the street and watched as Harge left for work and then Florence took Rindy to school.  Abby knew that Florence did the family grocery shopping on Monday mornings so Carol would be alone for a few hours.  She drove up the driveway and rang the doorbell. Carol opened the door.  Her hand covered her mouth and she teared up.  Abby saw that she had lost weight and her eyes looked haunted.  Abby stepped inside and turned to look at Carol.  Carol closed the door and stood stiffly not knowing what to do or say.  Abby gave her a sad smile and opened her arms.  Carol gasped and then fell into her friend's embrace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Life settled into a comfortable routine for Therese and Abby after their return from Florida. On the ride back, Therese realized she didn’t want what they had in Florida to be over. Therese didn’t want their friendship to fade just because Abby’s crisis phase had passed.

When their train was pulling into Penn Station, Therese mentioned to Abby that she knew there was nothing edible at her apartment so maybe they could grab a bite before going their separate ways. Abby happily agreed. As time passed, they began to go to movies, eat out and increase the drink after work occasions. Going to the movies with Abby was truly an experience. Her running commentaries drew glares but Therese loved it. They were thoroughly enjoying each other’s company. Abby was the first friend Therese had ever had that was so honest about who she was and what she was thinking. She didn't treat Therese like she was made of glass or someone to be pitied or protected because of her past. Therese was the first friend Abby didn't have to worry about what she said or did for fear of revealing too much. There was an unspoken sweetness and comfort between them because they accepted each other just as they were without underlying questions or agendas.

Work was the same. Even though it wasn’t official, Al used Therese almost exclusively for their joint work with Abby’s department. He recognized the easy flow of communication and mutual high standards for their work.

Carol and Abby were also finding their way in this new phase of their friendship. Abby was not available for on call as much and although Carol missed her she tried to manage her expectations of what Abby could offer. Carol was relieved after Abby shared her insights from the trip but she didn't absolve herself completely from what she called her 'unconscionable using' of Abby. There was less tip toeing around their past and more time spent together based on the strength of their love for each other.

One afternoon Therese and Abby were having a quick drink after work when Abby said, "sorry to cut this short kiddo but I'm meeting up with 'the girls' for dinner tonight." There was a pause, then Therese said, "Abby, why don't you ever ask me to join you and 'the girls'?" Abby stopped mid purse grab and stared at Therese. "I... I wasn't sure you'd want to do that. I know we're okay but I really didn't know how you'd feel about socializing with a whole group of..." Abby's voice trailed off. "Do you think I'd be repulsed in some way?" Abby couldn't tell if Therese was hurt or angry. "No, no of course not. I just wasn’t...well, it looks like I'm the roadblock here because they have been after me to bring you along. They think you're a candidate for a humanitarian award after the trip to Florida." "You told them about me?" "Of course, I did. They'd seen the before and after and they knew I'd left town. Explanations were required." Therese's smile was almost smug as she looked at Abby expectantly. "Ok, cards on the table. I was worried that at least one of them couldn't keep themselves from flirting with you and you'd be uncomfortable and I'd be furious and it would just ruin everything all around." Therese enjoyed watching her brash friend squirm and look everywhere but at her. "Okay, okay. I'll let them know I'm bringing you next time but I am setting firm protocols for behavior from that bunch." Therese chuckled. "You do that, Abby. You do that."

"Belivet!" Therese was chatting with Dannie in their common work area. The rush of publishing the Christmas catalog was over, newspaper ads were prepped and ready, and the January White Sale ads were in progress. She gave Dannie a wink and said, "Coming, Rosen. Where's the fire?" She hopped off Dannie's desk and walked to Al's door. "It'll be under your backside if you don't get in here.” When Al was worked up, his dangling cigarette gave off smoke and flung ashes so precariously that Therese wondered if it was only a matter of time before there was a paper fire. “I need you to go down to Toys and pick up a Bright Betsy doll. Abby managed to get another shipment from Mattel. I swear I've never seen a doll sell out so fast. I don't know how Abby did it but thank god she did. She would have never heard the end of it if Macy's and Gimbals' had them and we didn't. Upstairs wants a special layout for this Sunday's ads and big posters at all the entrances. We can't just pull the catalog negatives. We need new shots. And to sweeten the burden of having to go down into that maelstrom of frantic shoppers and blaring Christmas carols, I've been told the latest Lionel train has just been set up in working display. But don't dilly dally down there too long. Check in with Miss Walls. She'll have the doll setback for you." A very happy Therese turned to leave and with a wave said, "I'm on it!"

"Carol, you've got to get down here today. I've got a Bright Betsy setback for you but if they run short it will be gone. Just go to the doll counter and ask for the manager, Miss Walls. Tell her I sent you and she'll get the doll for you." "Oh, thank you Abby. You're a star."

Carol would do anything for Rindy and this trip proved it. First there was the traffic, then the parking, and then the shoppers. God, she hated to shop and the week before Christmas was the worst. But Rindy had her heart set on this particular doll and Carol could not disappoint. Carol made her way through the chaos and noise to the stuffed elevators. Getting off on the third floor she was emptied out into more chaos and noise. She braced herself and began walking toward the toys when she saw a large rectangular glass class containing a full train set with a miniature landscape and village at the entrance to the department. Something about the idyllic scene with charming buildings and the little puffing train drew her to pause there.

Therese could not wait to get to the third floor. She was practically bouncing as she walked down the back stairs to get to the toy department. She left the quiet of the stairwell and entered the din of excited children and harried parents. She walked down the short corridor and around the corner to see the train case. Standing in front of it with her back to Therese was a tall, slender blond woman clad in a luxurious knee length fur coat. Even though Therese couldn’t see her face she automatically assumed she was beautiful because of her regal stance. Therese didn’t want to stand next to her or across so she quietly slipped up to the end of the case. Therese was torn between looking at the train set and getting a glimpse of the woman’s face. She wasn’t sure the woman had even noticed her because there was no movement by her.

“You’re not one of those pestering sales people that’s going to try and convince me to get my daughter a train set for Christmas, are you?”

Ball served deep into the corner of the Service Box.

Her voice sounded like a sexy fallen angel. Low, slight husk, and utterly captivating. Therese couldn’t tell if the woman was irritated or teasing her. The voice was impossible to ignore...like it physically lifted her chin so that Therese had to look her in the eyes. And what eyes Therese saw. Glacier pools of slate blue that were cool and somehow blazing hot at the same time. Therese was mesmerized.

I need to say something, but what? She’s...she’s...she’s smirking at me. What the...

“No, but I bet could if I put my mind to it. Sell you this train.”

Service returned and the ball is in your court.

Carol did not expect this challenge. A slow smile began to appear. “You think you can sell me a train set when I came here to buy a doll for my daughter? That’s bold.”

Return to your backhand side.

Therese began to very slowly walk around the case in the opposite direction from Carol dragging her hand long the top edge. Their eyes never left each other. “This train set is the fulfillment of every child’s dream...their own world...the one they create. They create the town with stores that contain wished for merchandise. There’s a park with a pond for ice skating in the winter and summertime fishing and model boat sailing. There’s a carousel for horseback riding. Paths for exploring and riding bikes. They populate the town with who they want to be in their lives. The friendly baker who slips them a little treat. The barber who sits in front of his shop and always knows their name and says hi. The Five and Dime where you can read comic books and the clerk doesn’t make you buy them. The town is theirs to do what they want, when they want. Their family lives in a two-story house with a wraparound porch and a big yard. The front yard’s oak tree is so tall and wide its canopy covers half the yard and is a cool respite with lemonade on hot summer afternoons. Its strong lower branch features a tire swing. And if the child decides it’s time to travel to adventures, there’s the train. The sturdy, powerful, shiny black engine with the head light and puffing smoke says it can take you anywhere. The passenger car is where you will meet the most fascinating people who are on their own adventures. In the dining car you can eat whatever you want and watch the world spread out before you. And finally, the sleeping car. Your own compact dollhouse sized room where you are rocked to sleep.” By this time, Therese had circled the case and was standing in front of Carol. It was Carol’s turn to be mesmerized.

40-Love.

“Sold.”

Game.

“Really?”

“Yes. My daughter is getting a doll and a train set for Christmas.” Therese steepled her hands in front of her smiling mouth. “I would have given anything to have gotten this train set for Christmas. Your daughter is so lucky.”

“Well, if she doesn’t like it, I think I’ll spend time with it myself and relive your wonderful sales pitch. Although something tells me that wasn’t all pitch. Maybe some memories in there?” Therese blushed and dipped her head slightly. “I’m sorry. That was too intrusive. Please forgive me.”

“No, no, don’t worry about it. You’re right. There was a lot of wished for memories in there.”

They stared at each other and then Carol said, “I need to find Miss Walls and get the doll that was set back for me before they run out again.”

Therese jumped at the chance to spend more time with this woman. “I’m here to see Miss Walls also. I’ll take you to her.” Carol smiled like Therese had just given her a gift. When did the toy department shrink? I can’t even take a detour that would disguise how I’m stretching out our time together. Since when did this become ‘our time’? God, just walking beside her feels so... Therese and Carol arrived at the doll counter where Miss Walls was giving a frightened temporary worker a stern warning about not wearing the Santa hat. When she saw Carol, she switched into sales person mode and smilingly asked if she could help. “Yes, I’m Mrs. Aird and Abby Gerhardt has arranged for a Bright Betsy doll to be set back for me.” Therese’s smile slid off of her face as she felt her body freeze. She slowly turned to look at Carol. “I’ve got the doll in the back, Mrs. Aird. Therese, I’ll be with you as soon as I’m done here.” Carol mirrored Therese’s movement exactly with her slow turn and stare.

Chapter Text

 On December 21st, Mrs. John Aird II’s driver delivered four hand calligraphed invitations to Rindy and three of her classmates. They were invited, along with their grandparents, to an afternoon of High Tea at the Aird residence on New Year’s Day. The young ladies were encouraged to bring their favorite doll. The grand mamas would serve as examples of appropriate behavior in a setting worthy of their social status. The grandpapas would be drinking brandy and smoking fine cigars while watching the Stanford University Indians versus the University of Illinois Fighting Illini in the Rose Bowl in the den.

I think this is a perfect way to lay the groundwork for teaching our girls the proper way to comport themselves. I’m so worried when I see what the war has done to family values and how outrageously women are wanting to have ‘freedoms’. Do they really think they can manage on their own?  Mrs. Aird II shook her head and resumed her preparations which meant haranguing her staff on every detail as they did the work.

On New Year's Day, Harge picked up a very excited Rindy to take her to his mother’s tea. He was going to have Rindy the coming week so she was staying with him afterwards. He wasn’t happy about the separation and especially about staying with his parents, even temporarily. His father didn't seem to notice him being there, but he felt dismissed by his mother as a disgrace to the family. He knew Rindy was miserable during her time there. He was at work for long hours and her interactions with his parents barely registered on the warmth meter. When she was not in school she would sneak away as much as possible and be with the help. She didn’t understand why her grandmother got so upset when she found her helping the cook or watering plants with the gardener in the greenhouse.

His interactions with Carol were very stilted these days. He certainly didn’t want a divorce. He actually thought his marriage was better than most of the men he knew. He had never cheated on Carol. Never even wanted to even though the possibilities were there every day. It actually disgusted him how some of the men in his company used the secretarial pool as their personal harem. The only explanation she could give was that she didn’t love him as a wife and she needed out. Well, don’t all marriages go through ups and downs? Sometimes he wondered if he‘d ever really known Carol. Something about Abby always being around somewhere in their lives bothered him too but he didn’t know what to make of that.

“It’s nice to have some quiet time with you without worrying about Harge barging in. I miss Rindy when she’s gone but the one consolation is that he’ll have no reason to ‘drop by’.”

Carol and Abby were sitting in front of the fireplace having drinks and snacks. Abby noticed Carol staring at the train set still under the tree.

“Are you going to call her?”

“What? What are you talking about?”

“Therese, are you going to call her?”

“Why would I do that?”

“Because you’re smitten. It’s so obvious.”

“It’s not obvious because I’m not smitten.”

“Carol, do remember who you’re talking to. I was on the toy floor and saw her whole ‘sales pitch’, the walk to the doll counter, and both of your reactions to the big reveal. I know what I saw.”

“First of all, I don’t appreciate you spying and secondly...”

Abby interrupted, “I wasn’t spying. I just happened to be checking on the stock of our Red Ryder BB Guns and saw the whole thing play out. Carol, only a blind person would not have seen what was happening between you two. Besides, I talked to her.”

“What?! Oh, Abigail, you didn’t.”

“I did", Abby smugly chirped.

Carol got up and began to pace back and forth.

“I, I don’t know what to say. I’m...Abby, you and I are in a good place and I can’t stand the thought of hurting you again in any way. I will never put you through that again. She’s your friend. I don’t know what I’m doing or even what I’m thinking these days. I'm just afraid I’m going to make a mess of everything.”

“Okay, let’s take a short pause here for me to remind you what our ‘good place’ is. It’s us being the best friends forever which means we want the best for each other. I’m telling you Carol, you did me the biggest favor when you came clean about your feelings. You made me face reality. Otherwise, I’d still have myself tied up in knots waiting for the inevitable crash. You freed me to get on with my life. Over you? Not yet. Everyone else is going to pale in comparison to you for a while, at least. But eventually some gal is going to knock my socks off and then...who knows.”

“Oh, Abigail. I’m just so...”

“No time for the waterworks, my dear. We’ve got some strategizing to do. Are you ready?”

Carol turned to face Abby with the beginnings of a smile and softly said, “Ready”.

 

“Hello, Therese Belivet.”

“Hello, this is Carol Aird. You sold me a train set last week.”

“Oh, hello Mrs. Aird. Did it arrive on time?”

“Yes it did. It was such a hit with my daughter. She’s been playing with it more than her doll.”

“That’s wonderful, Mrs. Aird.”

“I was wondering if I could take you to lunch. As a thank you.”

“Oh, you don’t have to do that.”

“I know but I’d really like to. Would Scotty’s be okay with you or have memories of Abby’s ‘orientation’ scarred you forever?”

Therese chuckled, “it was a bit harrowing but I survived. Sounds like you and Abby have chatted.”

“We have...now about that lunch...”

“Yes, I’d love to, Mrs. Aird.”

“Wonderful! But, you really must stop with the ‘Mrs. Aird’. I much prefer Carol.”

Therese wondered if Carol could sense through the phone how wide her smile was.

 

Time and Tide by Basia

It's hard for me to stop my heart

Love never knows

When the time is right

I don't want to hurt Anybody

but Can't help loving you

I never felt like this before

I know this is passion

Worth waiting for

Let love take take its course

That's the only thing

For us to do

We got time, oh baby,

There's no rush

Gonna be a better

Day for us

Hang on And I will Wait for you

Our love will always stay as good as new

Time and tide

Nothing and no one

Can stop us now

For better for worse

This time I'm sure

It's gonna last

How can I stop my heart?

Love never knows

When the time is right

Don't want to hurt Anybody

Don't want to make them cry

Don't want to make them cry

We've got time, oh baby

There's no rush

Gonna be a better

Day for us

Hang on And I will wait for you

Our love will always stay as good as New...

 

Cape Cod Daily News

September 13, 2004

Carol Aird and Therese Belivet were joined in holy and legal matrimony this past weekend at the United Congregational Church in Wellfleet. Many gay and lesbian couples have been coming to Massachusetts to get married after the Supreme Judicial Court made it’s groundbreaking ruling, in May of this year, that preventing gay marriage was unconstitutional under the state’s constitution. We’re reporting this particular wedding because of the uniqueness of their situation. With their permission we are sharing their ages, 87 and 77 respectively, and the length of their commitment to each other. They have been a couple since 1952, 52 years. The couple was asked why they wanted to formalize their commitment and get married after they’ve already been together for so long. Neither one wanted to speak publicly and declined. However, Ms. Gerhardt, their officiant, volunteered a comment.

“Isn’t this what couples have done since the beginning of time when they love each other? Don’t they declare before some deity or authority that they have chosen each other? We’re not any different just because of our gender or age. I, for one, am glad that the legal powers that be are finally catching up with life in the real world and coming into the 21st century.” Ms. Gerhardt had more to say but time constraints prevented this reporter from staying longer.

The Aird-Belivet couple plan to honeymoon briefly in Niagara Falls on the Canadian side. Per Ms. Gerhardt, "for Pete's sake, they want to be recognized as a legally married couple on their honeymoon." They plan on returning to their home in Wellfleet. Their friends and family wish them many more years of wedded bliss.