Michelle opened the door of her apartment and entered hesitantly, slowly. The room was dark; she had left the drapes closed, and the overcast late afternoon did nothing to brighten the gloom. I guess this is fitting, she thought. Again she felt tears rolling down her cheeks, but all she could think of was that her mascara must be a complete mess.
She had never felt so empty and devastated in her life. It had felt so right...and turned out so wrong. Dear gods, she thought. How the fuck did this happen? Suddenly, she found herself sobbing again. She threw herself down on the flowered sofa where she and Tammy had shared their first kiss...the thought of that made the hot tears come even faster. She had never felt so alone in her life...and damn it, before Tammy, it never bothered me that much...damn her, damn her, DAMN HER...!!! Even Dirk at his worst hadn't been that cruel.
C'mon Mishi...she wasn't being cruel...just realistic. Honestly, what kind of future could you have had...?
The thought of that was no comfort. Michelle had opened her heart and given it completely -- for the first time in her life -- and nothing would ever be the same again...
She lay on the couch, sobbing for what seemed like an hour, finally crying herself to sleep.
She was awakened by the phone ringing. She looked up, but didn't get up from the sofa. The phone rang again, and yet again. Half-heartedly, her head and throat aching, she slowly sat up, when she heard the click of the answering machine --
"-- Hi, you've reached Michelle Devereaux at 555-8967. I can't come to the phone right now -- please leave your name, number and time you called. Thanks!
"Michelle, it's Kathie. Look, when you get this mess --
Michelle got up and grabbed the phone. "Kathie -- ?"
"Mishi? My god, what's wrong? You sound terrible!"
"It's -- it's nothing, I -- I -- " but Michelle couldn't fake an allergy this time. Suddenly, she started sobbing again.
"My god, Michelle -- I'm coming over."
"No -- no, please...you need to be at your shop -- "
"No, I need to be with you -- my god, what's happened?"
"I -- I can't talk about it right now."
"Hang on, honey. I'll be there in thirty minutes."
At that, Kathie hung up.
Exactly one half hour later, Michelle heard the knock at her door.
"Mishi -- it's Kathie."
Michelle opened the door.
"My god! Michelle, you look awful!"
"Gee, thanks," said Michelle, drily, with a bitter and ironic chuckle.
"Come here," said Kathie, opening her arms.
"Oh, Kathie..." Michelle melted into her cousin's arms, and started crying yet again. Kathie just stood there, holding her, stroking her red curls.
"Okay, honey," she murmured soothingly. "There, there...whatever it is, we'll get through it together...okay...?"
They went back to the sofa, where Kathie sat holding Michelle in her arms, rocking back and forth slowly, stroking her head as she cried her eyes out. After about thirty minutes, the sobbing began to subside.
Kathie placed a hand under Michelle's chin and looked into her blue eyes, now rimmed with red. "How ya doing, sweetie?"
Michelle sniffed. "I must look like shit."
Kathie chuckled. "Why don't you go wash your face, and I'll make you some tea."
Michelle sniffed again. "I think I'd rather have some cabernet."
"Well...okay. Where is it?"
"Bottom shelf of the refrigerator." Slowly, she rose to her feet and started for the bathroom. "Hell, just bring me the whole damn bottle."
Kathie shook her head. "That's not going to solve anything, Mishi. Look, I'll go pour you some...you just go get cleaned up and we'll talk."
"Don't you have to be back at your shop?"
Kathie shook her head. "I told my head assistant to handle it for the rest of the evening. I'm here as long as you need me."
Michelle looked down at her cousin. Tears started rolling down her cheeks. "Oh Kathie...did I ever tell you how much I love you?"
Kathie took her hands. "A few times..." she stood up and gave Michelle a peck on the cheek. "Go on, now...I'll pour us some wine."
Ten minutes later, Michelle and Kathie were standing out on her deck, sipping the strong maroon liquid from goblets. The rain had turned into a light drizzle.
"Okay, Mishi...wanna tell me about it?"
Michelle chuckled. Voice still husky from almost three hours of crying, she said, "Not really...but I suppose you won't give me any peace until I tell you the whole sordid tale."
"I think you'll feel better if you talk to someone."
Michelle sighed and brushed another tear from her eye. "Kat, I don't think I'll ever feel better again in my life."
They were silent for a few minutes. Finally, Michelle said, "Did you ever read Grandmama's diary?"
Kathie nodded. "Some of it."
"How far did you get?"
"Oh...let's see...I'm up to the part where...she and her friend Gina are going to hear that one band...Fred -- no, Fletch...Fletcher Hamilton. The Nighthawks and the -- 'African hot jazz,' or whatever she called it."
Michelle nodded. "You're definitely at one of the most interesting parts," she said. "You should read that section."
"Well...maybe when I get home...do you want to come home with me tonight?"
"Would you mind staying here?"
"Not at all, hon...whatever you want." Another silence. Then: "What does this have to do with the diary?"
"You -- whatever's made you so upset."
"Oh...look, come back in the living room with me...I'll read it to you."
A few minutes later, Michelle had started reading to Kathie from her copy of their grandmother's diary...starting with the entries of October, 1924.
She stopped reading an hour later, just having finshed the entry for 13 September, 1926. She looked up. Kathie just sat there, looking dazed.
"Well...?" Michelle started.
Kathie shook her head slowly, and quickly brushed a tear away from her eye. "My god, Mishi...I...never even dreamed -- "
"Oh, I did," said Michelle.
"What do you mean?"
"About a week before we got the diary -- I had a dream about it."
Michelle sighed. "Kat, it was like I was Grandmama -- I was seeing her experiences through her eyes."
Kathie said, "What did you dream?"
Michelle described the dreams she'd had about Fletch Hamilton and Gina. "And this was before I'd read the diary...seen the photos...anything."
Kathie was silent for a moment. "Do you think -- somehow -- Grandmama was with you that night?"
Michelle nodded. "I don't know what else it could be." A tear came to her eye. She quickly brushed it away and said, "I really, really needed her about that time..."
Kathie smiled sadly. "And so she came."
Michelle nodded. "Oh, damn," she said, as tears started again.
Kathie moved over and gathered Michelle in her arms again. "Oh, sweetie...is that what's made you so sad?"
Michelle shook her head. "No...that's not it." She sniffed, then said, "Kat...I don't know how to say this..."
"Honey, just say it!"
Michelle looked up. "Let's just say I have a...well...I understand how Grandmama felt about Gina. First hand."
Kat looked puzzled. "I'm still not following you."
Michelle sighed. "Kat, do you remember Tammy?"
"Oh, yeah...that friend of yours you brought to Aunt Lora's place that day about a month ago."
Michelle chuckled. "Oh, Kat...she was a lot more than a friend."
Suddenly, it began to dawn on Kathie. "My god...you and she..."
Michelle nodded. Looking up, tears streaming down her cheeks again, she said, "Kathie, I was in love... for the first time in my life, I was honest-to-god, all-out, totally in love."
Kathie shook her head. "My god...I never knew..."
Michelle replied, "Well...now you do."
Kathie was silent for a minute or two. Finally, she asked, "What happened?"
"She -- she went back to Puerto Rico...and her ex-fiance, I guess." Michelle wiped her eyes again. "She -- she said -- we'd -- have a hard time sharing a life and a future together -- oh, damn!" Again, Michelle started sobbing.
Kathie just held her, rocking back and forth. In spite of herself, she felt her own cheeks becoming damp with tears.
After a few minutes, Michelle regained some measure of composure. "Ye gods...you must think I'm some kind of freak..."
Kathie put a hand on Michelle's cheek. "Not at all," she said gently. "I understand a lot better that I think you realize."
Michelle chuckled. "Yeah, I forgot. How is it going with you and the big Dutchman?"
"Oh, Andreas? I thought you knew."
"Andreas and I broke up a week ago."
"Oh my god, Kathie! Why didn't you -- "
Kathie put a finger to her lips. "It's all right, Mishi -- I'm fine with it, really."
Michelle chuckled again. "Well...you'll have to tell me your secret for coping sometime."
Kathie smiled. "No secret...actually, to be honest...my heart really never was in that relationship."
Michelle looked at Kathie quizzically. "Didn't seem that way to me."
Kathie sighed. "Oh, he was fun to be with...but...I don't know...I -- I just couldn't seem to take the next step with him. I -- I didn't really want to..."
Michelle shrugged. "Well...if you're not into someone, I guess you're not."
"My poor, sweet Mishi," Kathie murmured.
Michelle looked up and into Kathie's eyes; they were brimming with tears again. "Kat -- " she started to say.
Kathie shook her head, putting a hand to Michelle's lips. Sliding her arms around her cousin, she pulled her close. "I -- I'm just sad to see you hurting like this," she said.
Michelle cried softly into Kathie's shoulder for a few minutes. She pulled back; the two of them looked into each other's eyes for several seconds. Michelle looked down, but Kathie placed a hand under her chin and lifted her face back up. Slowly, she moved her face closer to Michelle's...
...and the two of them kissed, softly, on the lips.
Michelle sniffed, and giggled lightly.
"It's good to hear you laugh," Kathie said with a smile.
They looked at each other again for several seconds. Slowly, they kissed again.
It was like being fifteen again...feeling nervous and awkward, yet strangely exciting.
"I love you, Michelle," said Kathie.
"I love you too."
They began kissing, almost exactly the way they had nine years before...gradually parting their lips, tongues playing shyly, hestitantly. Slowly, their kisses became deeper and longer...
They finally went into the bedroom. Like the two shy teenaged girls they had been nearly a decade before, they hugged each other and giggled nervously. Again they kissed. Gradually, they wriggled out of their clothes and lay down on the bed, arms wrapped around each other, bodies close together. They gazed at each other, then began kissing again, tasting each other's mouths, lips and tongues for the first time in nine years...though for both of them, it was almost like the first time...
Michelle woke up the next morning to find Kathie gone from the bed. She got up, stretched, and went over to the French doors. Kathie was standing by the railing, sipping tea. Michelle went out and stood next to her.
"Good morning," replied Kathie, giving Michelle a perfunctory kiss on the lips.
Michelle felt suddenly awkward. Last night had been wonderful...but she was starting to realize that the painful empty feeling in her heart was still there.
Kathie turned to Michelle. "Look, about last night -- "
Michelle shook her head. "It's okay, Kat." She put her arms around her cousin.
Kathie shook her head. "Michelle, I feel like -- "
Kathie turned away. "Michelle, I'm so sorry..."
"I feel -- like I took advantage of you last night."
Michelle turned Kathie around. "No -- no you didn't -- "
Kathie shook her head. "I have to confess someting."
"What?" asked Michelle.
Kathie put a hand on Michelle's cheek. "I -- I've loved you ever since -- "
"Since that summer we spent at your place?" Michelle smiled.
Kathie shook her head. "Since way before that, Mishi."
"What do you mean?"
Kathie smiled sadly. "You know, I think I got to be so involved with my plant shop and business because -- because I was confused."
"About -- oh, I don't know! Life, I guess...sex...who I was..." She turned away again. "And how I felt about you," she added.
"So what are you saying?" Michelle asked quietly.
Kathie sighed. "When I was about fouteen, I knew I liked boys...but...well..."
"You liked girls, too?"
Kathie smiled sadly. "Well -- one girl, at least."
Michelle was beginning to understand. "How come you never said anything?"
"Oh, Mishi -- because I didn't understand it myself!" She turned back to Michelle. "You know, I dated boys -- even made out with some of them -- I was supposed to like them -- but then, there was that summer when you stayed with us -- "
"And after that -- oh, Mishi..." Kathie sighed. "There was that girl at school I was friends with during my senior year -- did I ever tell you about her -- ?"
"Sandra, I remember," Michelle recalled. "Wasn't she -- on the cheerleading squad, or something?"
Kathie grinned sheepishly and nodded. "Drill team, actually...we were in the tennis club together. I wound up getting such a crush on her..."
"I see," said Michelle.
"Anyway, she and I wound up 'making out' one night -- "
"And you liked it?"
"I kept pretending it was you!"
Michelle smiled. "How come you never said anything about it?"
Kathie shook her head again. "I -- I don't know. I didn't know how you felt -- or if you'd think I was wierd..."
Michelle put a hand on Kathie's cheek tenderly. "Never, Kat."
"Anyway, I experimented some while we were in college -- you met the two guys I went with."
"There were girls?"
Kathie nodded. "A few. You actually met one of them."
"Who -- ? oh, never mind, it doesn't matter." Michelle smiled. "I still love you."
"I love you, too Michelle." She chuckled softly. "I -- guess I always have."
"Can I ask you something?"
Michelle turned to Kathie and put a hand on her cheek. "Would it have made any difference if -- "
" -- if I'd been a guy?"
Kathie thought about it for a moment. Finally, she said, "I -- I don't know...no, I don't think so." She sighed. "It might have made it simpler, perhaps..."
"But -- ?"
Kathie took Michelle's hand. "No, Mishi. No difference." She smiled. "I would love you no matter who -- or what -- you were." Then, she added, "And I'm glad about what happened last night."
"Me, too." The two of them embraced and kissed briefly.
"I still feel like I took advantage, you so vulnerable and all -- "
Michelle shook her head. "No, Kat, don't even think that!"
" -- and...Mishi, I -- I just feel like this isn't really the best time for you...and me." Kathie sighed. "You're hurting so much -- and I feel like that's coming between us -- "
Michelle sighed. "I -- I'm sorry, Kat..."
Kathie put a hand on Michelle's face. "It's alright -- really." She smiled sadly. "I love you...and I do want to be with you."
"I sense a 'but' coming."
Kathie smiled again. "But...Mishi...you need some time alone. You need to heal."
Michelle wiped a tear from her eye. "Yes...I suppose you're right..."
"Of course I'm right. Honey, I could tell last night -- you weren't totally there."
"God, Kathie, I'm sorry -- "
"Mishi -- it's all right. I understand." Kathie looked into Michelle's eyes for several seconds. Then, she said, "Look -- I think what I need to do is stay away for awhile -- give you a chance to get over Tammy."
Michelle gave a bitter laugh. "Like that's ever going to happen."
Kathie replied, "It will, honey...you just need some time. And I'm going to give it to you."
Michelle smiled. "So, I guess this is good-bye?"
"Just for awhile," Kathie reassured her. "I love you, Michelle -- and when you're ready -- I'll be here."
Michelle smiled sadly and hugged Kathie tight. "Thank you, Kat." She added, "I love you, too..."
"I know," replied Kathie.
Well, thought Michelle after Kathie left, that's that. Kathie was right, of course...Michelle couldn't possibly give her heart to someone so soon after it had been broken so cruelly. But some good had come of it...after all, she knew now that Kathie had indeed shared her feelings...finally, after nine years of denial, they would finally be together.
But on another level, Michelle knew the truth...Tammy had really been her first, deep love. And that love had shown Michelle who she really was.
And one never truly gets over a love like email@example.com