Author’s Note: This is a stand-alone story. But it was done for a major character in The Neallys whose history is referred to but predates that story. This story fills in that history.
My name is Mary Elizabeth Nelson. Much of my life and much of my story turns on the fact that I am a lesbian. Thus my initials, MEN, are ironic. Stealing from Dickens, this is my story but whether I am its hero is up to you, dear reader.
I was born on July 8, 1963 in a hospital near Mill Valley, California, an affluent suburb north of San Francisco. My younger brother, Billy, was born there on August 5, 1966.
I am an inch or two taller than average. My hair is jet black and since I turned 45 any gray that might otherwise be present has been chemically repressed. My face can best be described as “stern.” It would fit well for any number of hard-woman characters that populate any number of 19th Century novels. Particularly when combined with my broad shoulders and big thighs. A swimmer’s body.
My father, William, went to Stanford and was a lawyer at a big firm in San Francisco. My mother, Mary, went to Saint Mary’s College, a small Catholic college across the Bay. She did volunteer work for our Mill Valley Church.
I knew I was gay early on. Boys never grew on me and from high school my looks lingered on older girls. When I discovered the joy of masturbation it was always with thoughts of a girl. Or woman. Before college I had a few make-out sessions when we were sure we were alone, but we—all well-closeted—were all terrified of being caught. Nothing but drive-bys. None got past the kissing stage. But my lips and tongue confirmed what every other part of my body knew. That I was gay.
I was a good student. Smart and clever with a creative streak. Some of my teachers recognized it. I had a crush on two or three of them. I could have gone to my father’s alma mater, Stanford, but chose Cal-Berkeley. He made enough that financial aid was not happening and my parents foot the bills for my tuition and room-and-board. I kept what I earned over the summer.
Things of course changed when I got to Berkeley. It’s where I met Laura Johnson, the first woman with whom I was intimate. We had a class together, and I sat with her a few times in the library. After the third or fourth time there she didn’t pull away when my fingers happened to run across her wrist. A few days later we mustered our courage and were naked in my dorm room. About ten minutes after our clothes were off we were off. Neither of us had a clue but found our way to a 69, me on top, and we each had our first orgasm at the tongue of another woman. We repeated it a few times, but it was training-day and she drifted off to someone else and I drifted off to someone else and we became cherished memories for each other.
My “someone else” was Holly Usher. Sophomore heading to law school. Very pretty. An inch or two shorter than me with fair skin, long auburn-hair, blue eyes. My first girlfriend. We met at a dorm party where we were both bored. We did everything together for a few months but, ironically, she got bored with me and was taken by, and taken away by, a short blonde junior from Van Nuys. My first heart-break. I spent the rest of the semester without anyone steady and with only a couple of liaisons that were fun but fleeting. What are now called hookups.
I worked at a law firm over the summer. While home my father never tired of speculating why I planned on majoring in English Lit and my mother never tired of asking whether I had found a man to settle down with. My brother, Billy, was a high-school junior and we ignored one another. There was never a doubt as to who was the favorite in the family. It was not me.
I left the three behind when I got back to school. Sophomore year began much as freshman year ended. I threw myself into my classes and spent my free time mostly with groups of friends, sneaking beers and smoking pot on weekends. On the girl front, nothing serious with the occasional weekday hookup.
One of those proved fateful. I saw Sally Ethers in the library. From Washington State and majoring, if I recall right, in economics.. She was sweet and one thing led to another, as they say, and she came up to my room on an early December Wednesday. Not long after an uncomfortable Thanksgiving in Mill Valley. Sally and I got comfortable. Lying on my bed, in nothing but t-shirts—bras and panties still on—kissing. Nice kissing and I was starting to fall into her dark eyes when I heard the knock. In retrospect it doesn’t make much sense, but I thought it was another classmate with something urgent and being pantsless being no big deal, I grabbed a robe and jumped up to answer. Sally hopped up too.
I don’t know which of the three of us was the most surprised. Standing there in one of her Nieman coats with a purse over her arm was Mary Suzanne Nelson. My mother. Sally was behind me, in a robe and rustling to find her pants. Me staring at my mother and she looking past me and seeing Sally rustling to find her pants, the most obvious thing in that being that Sally did not have pants on. Neither did I. I was, sorry, fucked, but not in the way I hoped.
My mother turned and walked away. I never found why she’d come.
Sally and I never did anything then or later. Her bare legs set in motion the train of events that changed my life.
It was quick. On Thursday, an envelope was under my door when I got back from class. Addressed to Miss Mary Elizabeth Nelson. A “Notice”:
Miss Mary E. Nelson,
Please be advised that William Allen Nelson is hereby exercising his right to cease providing any and all financial support to his daughter directly or indirectly from this day forth. Please be further advised that he has elected to allow his daughter to remain in her current position as a matriculated student at the University of California, Berkeley (the “University”) through the end of the current semester and to continue to reside in and enjoy the benefits attendant to such residence on the campus of the University for that period and no more. Insofar as his daughter elects to continue her matriculation at the University beyond the final day of the current term, all obligations, financial or otherwise, are hers and hers alone.
Mr. and Mrs. William Nelson wish their daughter the best in her future endeavors.
William Allen Nelson, Esq.
I called from the payphone in the hall. My mother answered: “Mother. What is happening? Why are you doing this? Why?” The last thing she ever said to me was, “Mary, you know we can’t accept this. You may come home when you are ready to come home. You have keys. Your father and I will be out between two and four on Saturday. You can remove what you want then. I’m sorry. Please lock the door behind you and leave the keys.” She hung up, not waiting for a reply. “And leave the keys” were the last words I ever heard my mother say. I have no idea what my father’s last words were since I never spoke to him again. I saw neither of them again.
Her message was clear: I was disowned.
I still had exams but I didn’t know why they would matter since I wasn’t going back to Berkeley and doubted I could afford college myself. I needed to get my stuff from the house and figure what I was going to do after that.
When I ran into Sally again, I told her what happened, barely finishing before the tears were back. She held me closely as we made people walk around us in front of the library and promised to try to think of something. I had similar conversations and hugs from a number of others, but Sally was the one who came through with something and so add my eternal gratitude to my list of things about her. She is truly a not-so-minor hero in my story.
Sally had a cousin who lived in New York’s East Village. Danny Ethers worked at a florist off the Bowery. Sally gave me his number, and I put a bunch of quarters into a payphone at the library and called him. He said he’d be happy to help if I could get to New York and suggested that I might get a not too-expensive Amtrak ticket.
Danny also said he had a friend who had a friend, a woman, who was looking for a roommate. The place was small but not crazy expensive. He also knew enough people that needed decent workers, especially in bars and restaurants, that I could probably find a job that’d pay the rent.
I had enough money from my summer job that I could afford an Amtrak ticket. But before that, of course, I had to get my stuff.
A friend had a car and she drove me to Mill Valley on that Saturday. She sat in the living room while I went through my things. I looked around my room but most of the stuff I wanted or needed was in my dorm. Here I took some photos and left the swimming trophies. I ran my hand across my set of Jane Austen’s novels and grabbed them. In my closet I found my long-treasured stuffed bear—Elmer. The only male I ever slept with.
When I left and closed the door, leaving the keys on the hall table, I had five pictures, six books, and one stuffed bear. That was the entirety of the world I took from the Mill Valley house in which I grew up.
New York, New York
Penn Station is a dump. It is the one spot in New York City of which New Yorkers think tourists are not critical enough. It has no redeeming qualities.
Penn Station is a dump. It is where I fell in love with New York.
It was December 30. I’d spent the days after moving out of school on a friend’s couch and since she was Jewish we went to a Chinese place for “Christmas” dinner.
I was a mess. Physically. Mentally. Emotionally. A woman named Alice sat next to me when the train was in Philadelphia and while she was initially talkative and I was not, she adopted me before we left Trenton. She lived on Manhattan’s Upper West Side and was in Philly for a day trip. By Princeton she had my story and though she spoke of having a husband she cared not when I revealed—how could my story be told without that reveal—that I was gay. When we got to Penn Station and I was finally off the train, she called her husband, Harold, from a payphone. She then accompanied me. She paid for the cab that took us to my new small-but-not-crazy-expensive apartment on Avenue C near 7th Street. (Since I won’t have the chance to mention her again, I should say here that I still speak to her once or twice a year, with her now being in Orlando. I last saw her shortly before she moved after her Harold died in 2012. At his funeral. Alice was the first New Yorker I loved and the first to love me.)
Danny was as good as his word about work too. I became a waitress at a restaurant on 8th Street near NYU. With work and exploring and forgetting about everything that happened and was happening in California I was happy for the first time in years. The staff of the restaurant, front and back, got along well. Within a few months I was part of the whole East Village/NYU universe. My gayness was never an issue; if someone had an issue with it, she wouldn’t be in this group.
In August I went into NYU’s English Department. A professor, Marc Peters, was holding court with students in his office. He beckoned me in although I confessed to not being a student. He didn’t care. They were talking about Virginia Woolf and I knew enough to join in.
When the others left, I stayed. He taught several courses in 19th Century lit and had a small class—about 15 students—on Jane Austen. I explained that I was forced to leave Berkeley for financial reasons and wondered whether, sub rosa, I might sit in on his class if there was an empty seat. Prof. Peters swore me to secrecy and made me promise not to tell anyone that I wasn’t a student. If enrolment did not fill the room the empty seat was mine.
Enrolment did not fill the room and I took one of two empty seats on the first day of class. I sat after whispering a thanks to Prof. Peters. I was treated like any of the “real” students. Over time and debates I got to know several of them. One was Betty Anne Elliot whose name, yes, harkens to a well-regarded if too-persuadable heroine.
Betty Anne Elliot. She was a couple of inches shorter than me with more delicate features. Her face was heart-shaped and with a long, slim Aquiline nose and a small but wide mouth. Perfectly-sized boobs, i.e., smallish. Light brown hair worn long and jewelry always simple. Of course I would fall in love with her. Madly. Deeply. However the poets put it.
Over time the number of classmates with whom I drifted for post-class discussions dwindled until there was only Betty. And whether we talked about Austen or politics or we talked about California, where I was from, or Long Island, whence she came, didn’t matter. We talked and I breached my pact with Prof. Peters and confessed that I was a scab and left Berkeley after a year-and-a-half. Then, because it seemed natural to tell her, I said I was gay. I didn’t say that was why I left Berkeley.
That was that.
She told me about Gerry—Gerard Allen. She grew up with him in Huntington on the Island. They were exclusive for about six months. She wanted kids. Throughout the semester her affection for him became clearer and clearer. I was happy for her. Then, right after Thanksgiving, she showed me the ring. He’d proposed over the holiday.
Nothing changed between us. We still fit in time to see one another and she kept apologizing for monopolizing my time and denying me the opportunity to see “your type of woman.” I laughed it off.
I met Gerry about a week before the end of the semester. He and Betty came into my restaurant with another couple. They sat at one of my tables, and Betty introduced me. While I gave her table extra attention, things were too busy for me to pay too much.
In the spring, with our mutual class over, I did not see Betty. She spent more of her free time with Gerry, often up at Columbia. We didn’t talk much since I was working most nights and weekends. Just an occasional and usually brief call on one of my days off. Then that dwindled as well and I regretted it but I was out of her life even if she would always lurk in mine. It didn’t matter since she was now doubly off-limits—straight and engaged.
I continued what I was doing. Mostly spending my free time during my out-of-kilter schedule hanging with friends and going on the occasional date. Sometimes going to bed if there was any chemistry. But something, usually my work-schedule, got in the way. I never go past a third date. I was not unhappy. To the contrary, I took up writing. I wasn’t thinking about Betty so much. She wasn’t popping into my mind as I touched myself before falling asleep as she often did at first.
You know how my mother’s knock on my door changed everything in a flash? Much the same thing happened with Betty.
It was early April 1985. I was preparing for the night’s dinner shortly before the restaurant opened. She walked in. She asked to speak with me. I don’t know when I had last seen her, probably briefly in February when I was crossing campus. She wore the ring. My boss said I could take ten, and we stepped outside.
“I can’t stop thinking of you.”
“Listen. I cannot stop thinking of you.”
“Betty, you’re straight and you’re engaged. We haven’t seen each other in months. What are you talking about?”
“I don’t need reminding. But look. And you can walk away if you want. I’ll understand. But I need to know. I cannot spend the rest of my life wondering. Look. I hope it’s . . . that you’re nothing special.” Seeing my reaction to this little “compliment” she added: “I mean to me. That I find out that there is nothing and can be nothing between us. And that’d be that. But, fuck, please. I. Can’t. Stop. Thinking. Of. You.”
We were on the sidewalk, my ten minutes almost up. In shock.
“Just one date. That’s all I’m asking. One girl-girl date. If, as we both hope, it’s nothing, it’ll be no harm, no foul.”
“What about . . .”
“Gerry. That’s for me. OK? If there’s no ‘we’ it didn’t happen. OK?”
And that’s how I ended up meeting Betty for drinks at a bar in SoHo five days later. It was the worst date either of us ever had. Because there was something. Hell, I knew there would be when I agreed. We went out on several more dates on the West Side. By then I had moved to a one-bedroom on West 83rd Street.
On a Sunday in May we made love. It was the only time we consummated our relationship. We both knew it would be. We both knew it was stupid. Before we walked to my apartment, she told me she loved me. I had long loved her but I knew I couldn’t say it and I didn’t. We knew it didn’t matter. She made her commitment to Gerry and was not going to walk away from it and from her family. This was 1985, remember, and things were a lot different then. They still are for some families.
“I don’t have the courage to do what you did.” And I held her before we got to my place and we made love. I stayed in my bed as she got dressed and did not move when she gave me a final kiss. On my forehead.
She was gone from my life, me put into a box placed in some spot in the rafters of her mind, aging like Miss Havisham and eventually forgotten. But, of course, I was Miss Havisham and I could not forget.
I found out—I’m not sure how—that she married Gerry and they had a couple of boys and lived up in Yonkers, a city just north of the Bronx. Near Sarah Lawrence College. It might as well have been the Dark Side of the Moon as far as it mattered to me. That’s all I knew of her.
Between lunch and dinner at the restaurant I wrote. The words flowed. With four or five short stories, I sent them to magazines. No nibbles let alone bites. My third batch, though, got a nibble. A letter from the Holy Grail: The New Yorker. Yes, The New Yorker. A fiction editor called Shirley Davids said I “had promise.” On my next day-off I was sitting in her office on West 43rd Street. She, dangling and occasionally puffing on a cigarette (again, different era), went through—“ripped through” in time and manner—my stories. Six months later my first short-story appeared in The New Yorker.
With the New Yorker seal-of-approval, my stories were no longer rejected summarily and eventually I had enough out to publish a collection with Random House. It didn’t sell many copies, but with the money I was getting from my stories I could almost quit the restaurant.
I did quit when the gruff-but-lovable Ms. Davids—as she was universally known—got me an interview that led to a job at Time Magazine. Now I was making good money—again, another era—and on the road covering politics. The occasional appearance on MacNeil-Lehrer or Washington Week in Review on PBS.
I thought of my family now and then. What of Billy? He was an ass but he was in high school when I’d last seen him. I decided to reach out to him. In 1986 he would have been a sophomore and I knew he’d be at Stanford. So I wrote him a letter. This was before I got to Time. It was simple,
I am sorry about what happened between me and father and mother. I can only be true to who I am. I hope you can understand that. Know that I am always here for you.
To “William Nelson, Class of 1989, Stanford University, Palo Alto, California.” About a week later there was a large manila envelope folded in my mailbox. I opened it and saw my letter to my brother. It was unopened and written across the back of the envelope, in all caps, was “DO NOT CONTACT THIS PERSON AGAIN.”
I had tried. He was an ass. I’m sure my parents were proud of him.
To get it out of the way now, I had no further contact with my brother until 2010, and I’ll get to that. In 1993 or 1994 I went through Time’s morgue—where copies of old newspapers were kept in those days—as I periodically did, going through the society page of The San Francisco Chronicle. I saw that on June 8, 1991, Kathleen Pugh, Daughter of Eric and Mary Pugh, of Glenview, California married William Nelson, son of William Allen and Mary Suzanne Nelson, of Mill Valley, California.
Of course they did. There was a picture of the couple and their parents. His wife, Kathleen, was pretty, I’ll grant her that. If I could wipe the smirks off my parents’ and off my brother’s faces I would have. I kind of felt sorry for Kathleen Pugh Nelson but she walked in with her eyes open and it’d be a while before I came to hate her. That’s for later too.
Since my job had me all over the place, I didn’t have the chance to enter into a committed relationship with anyone. I had some wonderful, torrid affairs. Some with married women. One transcendental evening with a tall Chinese woman in Shanghai named Nian Zhen that I cannot forget if I wanted to. Which I don’t. But I was too busy for anything else. The women with whom I slept knew what they were getting, or not getting, into. My sex life, I thought, was good and satisfying.
I did not understand I was wrong. It was spring 2005. I was nearing 42, in my office at Time on Sixth Avenue. The switchboard said it was “a Ms. Allen” and not knowing any “Ms. Allen” I asked that the receptionist find out what it concerned. A moment later, “It is a Ms. Allen from Huntington. She says she knows you.” My heart skipped several beats and my breathing accelerated as I asked that she be “put through.”
And of course it was her and in those two syllables my happy world collapsed. “Betty?”
“Yes. I’m at a payphone near Rockefeller Center. Can I meet you or come up to see you?”
It was a sunny afternoon. I was not on deadline so I told her I’d meet her on the promenade to the east of the Prometheus statue, towards Saks. Ten minutes later one of us was in the other’s arms. Probably both. I had not spoken to or seen her for nearly twenty years. Her wedding band was all too obvious. We sat among a recently-installed floral display.
“Mary. I am married and I have two children. I will leave him—but not them—if you tell me you love me.” It was rehearsed, probably a hundred or a thousand times.
What do you say to something like that? What is one supposed to say to something like that? I didn’t have a clue and I still don’t. I wanted to say—shout—“I Love You” but we’re talking about someone’s family. True as it was—and be clear it was true—I couldn’t say it and she knew I couldn’t say it. This was the beginning of something that was as likely to explode in our faces as it was to be anything good.
“Betty. I am not committed to anyone right now. But I cannot commit to you. We have to talk.”
With that we walked up Fifth Avenue to Central Park and through the Zoo and wandered north until I saw a bench along the path. We sat. On the way, I told her of what I had been doing—she told me she saw my byline now and then and that she subscribed to The New Yorker in case I had one of my stories in it (and for the cartoons). One, “Autumn Fling,” sounded suspiciously familiar. She was right. “Autumn Fling”‘s characters were left in limbo at the end, up to the reader to decide which way a man went when faced with two equally-compelling women, one of whom his parents approved but his heart did not, the other of whom they did not but his heart did.
In a draft he chose the latter but that was too easy and it was left ambiguous in the published version. I regretted that she read it, though. I feared it rekindled an old spark and unnecessary regret. She made her choice and I did not want her to revisit it. It was my most personal piece. In telling me about it I knew she revisited us. I regretted that.
I knew what she wanted to hear from me more than anything and I finally said it: “I never found someone.” In those days, of course, gays couldn’t marry so there wouldn’t be the tell-tale band. She told me of her two boys, Peter, who was almost fourteen, and Michael, who was nearly ten. All of these things were bounding around my head when we sat.
“I don’t know if I ever loved Gerry. He’s a good husband and a great father. Even before I met you I had doubts. I should’ve listened to them but, you remember . . .”
I stopped her. No point is going over this.
“To now then. He may have loved me but, and it’s probably my fault, but I don’t think he does anymore. We’re both going through the motions. The sex? Even he’s lost his enthusiasm for me and I never really had much for him. We both kind of take care of our separate needs separately. Nothing extramarital though. So far as I know.” (And let me interject that in fact neither of them engaged in anything extramarital until after my meeting with Betty that day and she and I were out in the open with him. Gerry was, and still is, a very good man and a very good father and according to Betty he was a very good husband.)
“Gerry and I have spoken about it. I think he’d be OK with me leaving. Not happy. But OK. We’d have to work out something about the boys, of course, but I think it could work. But it all depends on you, Mary. Do you love me?”
Mary and Betty
I’d be lying if I denied loving her. There probably wasn’t a moment since shortly after I met her in that Austen class that I did not. It’s not that I didn’t try to find my someone. I just never succeeded. My life was not some fairytale. As I look back, maybe I did compare my other women to her. I was not, though, staring at my phone pining for her call.
In fact, as Austen wrote, speaking of Captain Wentworth and Anne Elliot, “he meant to forget her, and believed it to be done. He had imagined himself indifferent, when he had only been angry; and he had been unjust to her merits, because he had been a sufferer from them. Her character was now fixed on his mind as perfection itself.”
And now Betty Anne Elliot was asking me to live with her. Now she was asking me to be a homewrecker. So I gave the only answer I, or anyone, could.
“Betty, I need to think. I need time.”
She nodded. We got up and resumed our walk north, past the Boat Pond and the Hans Christian Andersen statue I sometimes rubbed when I walked this way home. We left at the subway stop at 86th and Lexington, where she caught the Number 4 train to 125th Street where she caught her train home.
And I turned and walked into the Park by the Metropolitan Museum and across to my 83rd Street apartment. I sat until it got dark. I threw something into the microwave for my dinner. Glass of wine. Maybe two. I knew that if she were unattached there would be no issue. But she wasn’t. She had two boys in school in Westchester. I had no idea who I could call. I had lots of friends, but I could not open to any of them. Then I thought of, and you will think that I am making this up, but I did it. I worked for Time and I probably shouldn’t have but I tracked down Evelyn Donnell. She was one of my high-school teachers on whom I had a crush. I ran into her in a vintage-clothes shop in the East Village about five years earlier. She lived in Scarsdale, which meant she was married and probably had two-and-a-half kids and a Lab or Golden Retriever. And it turned out that she was married to a doctor and she was still teaching, at a local high-school.
I called her and after I told her who I was she said she remembered me. I don’t know if she really did, but she was happy to meet on the following day, a Saturday. I called Betty and told her I needed time and she told me, and I’m sorry but I still treasure it, she’d wait “forever.” I didn’t want to hear that.
I headed to the Harlem-125th Street Station, as Betty had a few days earlier. To Scarsdale. Standing on the platform when the train arrived was, I must say, a woman who did not look what I imagined a woman-married-to-a-cardiologist-in-Scarsdale looked like. For a moment, a nanosecond, the twinge of a crush shot through my veins. She let me call her Miss Donnell three times before telling me to cut it out. “It’s Ev.”
She took me to a small restaurant, insisting I have wine “or I’ll feel guilty for mine.” After we ordered, I told her why I needed to see someone. She was a mother—two girls and a boy—probably ten years older than me.
“I love my husband to bits. I couldn’t imagine being with anyone else and his existence makes me glad every day that I came to New York”—she too was a northern-Californian—“so I won’t pretend to know what your friend is going through if she doesn’t have that. I can’t know what she’s going through. What is it, the whole ‘all unhappy families are unhappy in their own way’?
“All I can tell you is that I could not imagine the torture of living day-after-day with someone I did not love. Whether it’s you or someone else, if, and I emphasize the ‘if,’ if she does not feel that, it’s not for you to decide what she’s supposed to do.”
She grabbed a piece of bread and buttered it before continuing. I did the same.
“I’m a romantic and perhaps naïve but I believe in happily-ever-after. Not perfect but happy. So here’s my advice. If you weren’t there, weren’t available, would she still leave?”
Our salads having come in the midst of this and the waiter having offered us pepper, both of us shaking our heads “no,” I looked over at Ev and thanked her. I did not know what I would do but I knew she was right. Which is what I told her. Then we moved to less-treacherous territory.
We ate our salads and finished our wines and had our coffees—no desert thank you. We got up. I asked how far away Yonkers was. After she told me—about five miles—I nervously stepped to a public phone to call Betty. She answered on the third ring. I asked whether we could meet. She paused. I suspected that she feared I would end it, so I added, “It’ll be OK.”
Where she lived was close to Bronxville, and she asked to meet by the train station there. When Ev told me she knew where it was, I said I’d be there. About twenty minutes later I saw her sitting on a bench in a small park near the train platform. I asked Ev if I could introduce her, but she declined. “This is on you. Good luck.” After dropping me off, she headed home. She became something of a support system for me from that day forward.
On that Saturday, though, I had no idea what I would say to Betty. No matter how hard I thought as we drove down, I didn’t know what I would say to her.
“Well?” She later told me that the minutes since my phone call were the most frightening of her life, and I regretted having extended it. It was hard for me.
“If I told you I was happy with someone, would you still leave Gerry?”
She panicked. “Are you?”
I stopped her. “Betts. That’s an ‘if’ question. I need to know whether you want to leave him because of me or because of you.”
We got up and she led me to another, larger park. She was angry. “I shouldn’t have done it. OK? It was stupid and I knew it was stupid and I did it anyway.” It took a moment but I got that she was talking about Gerry. “Everyone else was so fucking happy. Gerry’s a great guy. Everyone loves him. The problem is that I love him the way everyone else does. No More Than That. OK?
“It’s supposed to be More Than That.” We crossed two streets and I could see where she was taking me.
“Look, the thing is, Gerry does not matter in this. He simply doesn’t. It’s not there. He knows it. I know it. The only issue is the kids, Peter and Michael.
“So I’m done bullshitting OK? You act like there’s some third ground, some two-step dance. But, Mary, this is my world. I know if I leave him and come to you that we can create a space where Peter and Michael can thrive. We would never cut Gerry out. But their mother can be happy and their father can be happy and right now neither of us is.”
Again I was at a loss. I needed time.
“Look, Mary, I told you I’d wait forever. I will. I promise you that it will work for Peter and Michael.”
She paused for breath.
“I’ve told Gerry what’s going on. But to answer your question, I told you I love him but not in the way I should. I need someone else. I want that to be you. If it’s not, I’ll have to search for her. This is me. Not you.”
We passed the hospital and turned into the path along the Bronx River where a small lake appeared, finding a bench. When we sat, I grabbed her hands and turned towards her.
“There is no one else for me. There never has been. I could have lived happily enough knowing you weren’t available. I can’t say that anymore. I love you.”
She started sobbing. Enough that a number of passersby looked at her, one or two asking if she was alright. She was.
A Devoutly-to-be-Wished Consummation
It remains one of the happiest days of my life so please indulge me. And, yes, I am lucky that each day with her seems happier than the last. But that all began on a Sunday about a month after I admitted my love for Betty. She told Gerry the specifics the night she and I met in Bronxville. He was, she told me, relieved. A blockage in their marriage was cleared and they could finally get on with their lives.
Betty and I spoke regularly, and I met her in Bronxville on a couple of weekends, with her once taking me for a drive upstate—but not too far upstate—where I’d never been and which reminded me a bit of Marin County, with beautiful farmland and quiet towns.
Sunday, April 24, 2005, though, was the date we agreed upon to make love. Gerry would be home in Yonkers. The kids would be out doing what they did in those days. Betty drove down. She got a parking space a few blocks from my apartment on West 83rd Street. When she came to my door after I’d buzzed her in she was ravishing. She wore a turquoise dress that went below her knees. Completely inappropriate for brunch on the Upper West Side. She knew it was special. So did I; I had a raspberry dress. We each gave ourselves a slight touch of makeup and wore two-inch heels.
My heart skipped a beat when I saw her. She beat me to it and had her arms around me before I could move to her. The kiss. Rodin could not do justice to the kiss. My eyes closed—I assume hers did too but, well, I couldn’t see because my eyes were closed—and we inhaled each other. First just lips and then tongues unleashed until she pushed away. We both needed air.
“That’s the appetizer. We need to get out of here before they discover our bodies in a week or two after a neighbor complains of the smell.” She smiled when she said it, but I knew it was true. I turned to get my pocketbook and keys as she waited on the landing, not daring to again cross the threshold.
After locking up, I followed her down the stairs. We headed west, hand-in-hand, to Columbus Avenue, to a place at 79th Street, across from the Natural History Museum. We got a few stares as we did; we were way overdressed. A pair of women in their mid-40s holding hands and giggling like the schoolgirls we in some respects were. People passed and nodded to and mostly smiled at us; it was obvious, again, that we were on a hot date. One ass, male, asked if he could “watch.” We ignored him.
It amazes me, but I recall the details. Perhaps from my waitressing days. The waiter in black slacks and a white shirt and white apron was tall and clean-shaven. The busboy was a short girl in her late teens with brown hair and a ponytail. The place was about half-full, the piped-in music originals from the Great American Songbook. Porter. Gershwin. And the rest. “Embraceable You.” “The Way You Look Tonight.” And the rest.
We both had coffee and mimosas. Betty had Eggs Benedict and I went with Eggs Florentine. They came with a nice, lightly-dressed salad. I think we each had a few more coffee-refills than we should have. I know I, and I think she, had to use the ladies’ room before we left. She left a slight lipstick stain—a sultry red—on her coffee cup. I think she reapplied it after the kiss while I got my purse.
I was high. On the mimosa, the coffee, and Betty as we headed “to my place.” That sounds so clichéd. But it is true.
I couldn’t get the door unlocked and opened fast enough. The apartment was a one-bedroom. There was a slight hall with a closet to the right. It opened into a living room and to the left was the kitchen and next to that was a short hall to the bedroom. Queen-sized bed. Cheesy, yes, but I had candles strategically placed and some potpourri containers were open. The head of the bed was against the left wall, and the window faced north, out to a brownstone on 84th Street.
She stopped in the bathroom, which was across from the bedroom. I made sure everything was in order in the bedroom while she did. I turned down the blanket. I can’t believe now that I did it, but I lit several candles and lowered and closed the blinds over the window. At least I didn’t put a scarf over a lamp.
I heard the bathroom door open. If I did not have a strong heart I would not be writing this. I would be dead. Betty walked in wearing nothing. Nothing. It’s a vision seared into my brain. 5’ 5” tall. Her narrow face. Her light-brown hair draped about three inches below her shoulder, released from the bun into which it was placed earlier. Her tits sagged, but only slightly. They were perfectly shaped and perfectly sized. Her nipples could put someone’s eye out. She had a slight tummy and a wild bush. Her legs were, as Lincoln said, long enough to reach the ground with perfect curves as they got there. Her feet a little small, with red toenails.
She reapplied her lipstick in a shade that can only be described as fuck-me red. She sashayed over to me. “Someone’s overdressed.” As she ran her right finger across my cheek and then down the center of my dress, stopping and making a small circle around my pussy. That’s what it was. My wet, needy pussy.
Her eyes burnt into mine as she kept her circling. “Fuck.” That was me. “That’s the plan.” That was Betty.
I turned so she could unzip me. I turned back and after shaking my arms, my dress fell to the floor. I stepped out of it. Then off went my shoes. I was in a lace bra and panties. She reached and undid the clasp in front, and released my tits. They were bigger than hers, but not by much. They sagged more than hers did but she immediately raised them with her hands. She kissed my right nipple and then my left. They’d never sparked, not even with Nian Zhen, the way they did while she suckled on and then bit them. I grabbed my panties and pushed them down and off.
In all my years with all my partners, there had only been one that came close to doing what Betty was doing to me. That was Betty those decades ago. I ripped the blanket from the bed and led her to it. She lay down to the left, and I was next to her. I then got atop her, our tits pushing against one another. I leaned to kiss her and had I not been lost to her those decades before I was lost to her now. Somehow I was positioned so that my pussy was rubbing against her left thigh and my left thigh was rubbing against her pussy. As we kissed we were grinding into each other, completely lost in the passion. She suddenly pushed my chest away as she came, her body shaking. I was an animal, not caring about her but only about me and while she shook my legs clutched her thigh so that I could get off. Just as she settled back, my own explosion hit. Now I was shaking, saying nothing but “Betty” again and again.
We both lay staring at the ceiling and trying desperately to catch our breathes. She began to sob. Her chest heaving.
“You can’t imagine how long I’ve dreamt of this.”
She was on her back as I stood. I walked to the foot of the bed. Her eyes were watching my every move. My hands spread her legs a bit. She spread them more. There is hunger. And there was this. I could see her glisten through her hair. It was the most erotic thing I had ever seen. She knew what I was about to do and I knew what I was about to do. I knelt on the bed and bent down. With a lick I tasted her. Her head collapsed to the pillow and her hands grabbed my head and pulled me into her. The details of what happened next are lost to me. All I know is that I was licking and kissing and lightly nibbling on her as her stomach started rolling in rhythm with me.
“In me.” It was half-plea, half-demand. I made my tongue into a circle and poked inside her pussy as far as I could. Her shaking increased as her ass started bounding off the sheet.
“Fingers. Fuck me with your fingers.” It was all plea. I leaned back so I could look at her. Her pussy. Her tits. Her face. I didn’t need to lubricate. Nature saw to that. I placed first one then two fingers into her. Staring at her face, where her eyes were slammed shut and her mouth bubbling, I starting fucking her.
“More.” Betty was losing control. Over her body. Over me. “MORE.” And I added two fingers and in-and-out. “Bite me, Mary, Bite me.” My face dropped to her and my mouth encircled her engorged clit. I licked it. She could barely say anything but she said, “BITE ME.” My teeth gently bit into her clit and that set her off. For a minute she shook as her orgasm crested over her, my fingers still moving, my teeth still nipping until I heard “STOP STOP STOP.”
I did and quickly drew my body to her left side, my left hand lightly rubbing against her slight tummy as I watched her again try to catch her breath. Sweat was pouring from her as she slowly found herself calming down.
“If you never did that to me again I would die a happy woman.”
“What if I did that to you again.”
“I’ll be dead. But I’ll be happy.” She turned to me and smiled.
I will not get into details of what she did to me that afternoon. Suffice it to say that were I hit by a bolt of lightning as I walked her to her car, I would be a happy woman. While I sometimes wondered whether I’d set the bar too high, I find that over the years we keep raising it.
But I did walk her to her car a few blocks away and she drove back to Yonkers. It didn’t matter. She’d be back. In some ways, from that consummation, she’s never left.
I fear I went a bit overboard there. It is so seared into me that I couldn’t resist writing about it. I, um, enjoyed writing about that afternoon. If you’re wondering, we left a nice tip.
There is awkward and there was this. About two-and-a-half weeks after our brunch, Betty met me as I got off the train in Bronxville. About a mile from where she and Peter and the kids lived. I was coming to meet her husband. I had seen him once or twice with Betty in her NYU days. That was long ago. We walked the short distance to the restaurant, which was across from the hospital. As we walked—we had no physical contact—she tried to buck me up, saying he, Gerry, understood and they agreed it was for the best.
“Relax.” She said it several times. Her saying it meant me doing it became harder.
It was a Tuesday night and only a few other tables were occupied. Betty led me to a table about halfway down the right wall. Peter, who I did not recognize, got up. It’s-been-a-while-nice-to-see-you, nice-to-see-you-too, have-a-seat. Beyond awkward.
Luckily the waitress came to fill our water glasses and take our drinks order. I don’t recall what I got, but I remember it was stronger than my usual. I needed bolstering. The place was nice and bright. Quiet with only the slight murmurings of other diners.
“I thought the three of us should meet.” Betty. She and Gerry had agreed about the divorce and the boys. It was “amicable” as they say, by which was meant not as acrimonious as it could have been. Each was largely independent already. It was all about the boys.
I liked him. Despite my better judgment I liked him. He loved Betty. She loved him. That much was clear. But given who Betty was it was not, and could not be, the intimate love that she and I had. It never had been. It never would be. That fundamental element was absent from their marriage. Gerry regretted but recognized that. So it was as non-acrimonious as these things can be.
I can’t say that the awkwardness vanished. That would take years. By dessert I found myself comfortable with the husband on whom my lover had cheated with me. Not physically; that had been in the open. Emotionally. I think it took him a lot longer.
Betty’s divorce was finalized in 2007. She remained in the house in Yonkers with the kids after Gerry moved into the City, to a one bedroom on the Upper East Side. Financially, things were getting tight for them. Betty had a good psychotherapy practice and Gerry was an architect.
The logical solution. I would move to Yonkers. Betty cleared it with Gerry and I got along well enough with the boys. I met them about a week after that dinner with Gerry. Betty, me, and the two boys. It was tough on all of us but we survived it. They didn’t hate me. They resented me. Years later, though, each admitted that he knew his parents were unhappy before I showed up and were happy afterwards.
Betty later told me that many, many evenings were ruined when whatever she and the boys were talking about descended into shouting about me. I’m afraid that Betty and I had more than a few shouting matches as she delayed my moving in with her again and again. Especially after I questioned her abilities as a therapist since she couldn’t “even get your children to accept me.” It was the one time in my life when I was cruel to her. She was giving up so much for me and I was a bitch to her. It took me a while to accept that she forgave me: “You shouted because you wanted to be with me. How can I not forgive you for that?” She was right. I was frustrated about delaying just being with her. Sleeping with her. Getting groceries with her and sitting outside on a summer evening talking about ourselves and the boys and the future.
Finally, though, the date was set. My lease was expiring and I hadn’t renewed. It was September 1, 2005. I’d be there when the boys began school. I didn’t have much stuff to take. I left my furniture. The photos were gone, mixed in with something and probably lost forever, but I had my Austen and I had Elmer. When I moved to Yonkers, they were the only things I had from Mill Valley. They still are.
To give Gerry his due, he moved a few years later to Baltimore. He met and married Cathy Betts there. While they were still in school, each of the boys spent a summer month there. Now, both adults, they alternate holidays between their mother’s and their father’s.
I was not lost in Yonkers. (I’ve been waiting to say that.) It’s true. I settled into domestic bliss. I missed being in the City. Doing things like walking to work or wandering in the Park. A cab to a Broadway show. Being able to go for after-work drinks with colleagues.
Still, it was bliss. The house had four bedrooms. Betty and I turned one into my den, where I worked on my writing. I was assigned duties: the laundry, grocery shopping, vacuuming, occasional cooking. The boys were increasingly comfortable with me just being around and dinners lost their edge.
I knew about suburbs. I lived in one for my first twenty years. I became reacquainted with a driving-culture. We could walk into Bronxville to shop or eat or for the train. For everything else, though, you need a car. I got used to it.
The sex? I am the only woman with whom Betty has slept. She was—is—an eager student. Now we can get stuff on-line but back then we’d drive down to Rivington Street near the Bowery and get “things.” I had to slow her attempts to put twenty years of missed time into twenty days.
One other Sunday afternoon stands out. Fall 2009. Peter at Georgetown, and Michael spending the weekend with his father. I was washing off the pans from our late breakfast. The radio—WNYC—lightly in the background. I felt her hand around my waist.
“I have a cock and he’s very hard and he wants to be inside you.”
I could see our backyard and a neighbor’s house through the window above the sink. I didn’t care. I needed to be taken right there and right then.
“I want him inside me.”
With that I felt her pull my shorts and panties down in one swipe. I steeped out of them and spread my feet. Her finger ran through me and sparks followed. I don’t know whether I ever got so wet so fast, that April Sunday after-brunch excepted.
Once again instinct took over. The instinct to have her inside me, to impale herself in me. She, too, was an animal.
“You’ve denied me for too long. Now you pay.”
With that she pulled her fingers away, and lifted them, dripping, to my mouth and I suckled on them like a cub on a lion’s teat. While the taste was still on my tongue both her hands were on my waist and she shoved her cock inside me in one horrible, fantastic motion. To the hilt. She held it there for days although it was only seconds.
“Please.” A chorus of “please”s. Nothing but “please”s until I could not speak. As she felt me getting close she pulled almost all the way out. We both caught our breaths.
She’d never been like this. I liked it.
“Beg.” She screamed and I couldn’t catch my breath, resorting to pushing my ass to her. My hair crossing my eyes and sweat starting to drip from my forehead. For a moment I wished she could explode inside me and fill me with herself. For a moment. Then it didn’t matter as she plunged in and out in time to my guttural moans. Finally, after edging me three or four times she let me cross. I gripped the faucets on the sink as everything overwhelmed me.
Betty needed to hold me up and then she helped me collapse to the floor, my back to the doors below the sink. Her thick, long cock obscenely in front of my face. She knew I couldn’t do anything as I continued to shake and quickly took it off. She didn’t want me to feel I disappointed her by not cleaning it with my mouth. I so much wanted to and to then kiss her so she could taste my juices but I was physically incapable of doing anything. Lewdly lying with my legs spread and t-shirt against the doors and my hair crossing my face.
She sat to my right. I felt her arms encircle me. Staring ahead, I tapped her leg. “I owe you one.” She kissed my right cheek. In my ear she whispered, “You don’t owe me anything. I owe you everything.” It was the last thing I heard before, somehow, I fell into a deep sleep. Leaning against her and sitting half-naked on the kitchen floor.
That may be a good way to end a chapter but it did not end the day. According to Betty, after I was out she somehow led me up to our bed and put me there and tucked me in. She then returned to the kitchen and grabbed the dildo. She came back to our room, and after putting a towel on a side chair, she watched me as she licked the dildo clean. With me asleep, she confessed, she let herself go. She took off her pants and panties then threw one leg over an arm of the chair. Again, according to her, she proceeded to shove the dildo inside her pussy, which was so drenched that it flowed easily in. After shoving—her word—it in as far as it would go she held it there till she couldn’t take it. She started fucking herself with it. Again and again until she quietly came, afraid of waking me.
She left it on the towel and crawled in next to me.
Three things made that afternoon memorable. Its spontaneity. Its animal brutality. And that it was a woman to whom I had long ago surrendered myself. I wish I could say it was repeated. We came close a few times but that first is special. We had a good sex life, especially for a couple of old broads—MILF wasn’t a thing then I don’t think—and it kept getting better. But that was the third of the four of our sessions that I can touch. We’ll get to the last.
And our lives continued. Betty was working in White Plains, affiliated with the hospital there but also with her private practice. I was writing my stories, using the fourth bedroom, and full-time for Time. That meant a fair amount of travelling, especially in election season. I now tolerated it, saved only by the reception I got from Betty when I got home from the airport. When I wasn’t travelling, I was taking the train to my office at the Time-Life Building on Sixth Avenue. That gave me a shot of midtown adrenalin, as did trips that Betty and I made regularly into the City, usually driving in. We found a place for holidays in Berkshire County, the part of Massachusetts that borders New York and Connecticut. The boys usually came with us.
The Next Generation
As to them, in 2009 Peter graduated from high school and went to Georgetown and after Georgetown he stayed in DC and began working for a lobbying firm, often spending weekends with Gerry and his wife in Baltimore. Michael went off to Boston College in 2013.
I’m not sure what I was to them. Betty and Gerry were active and generous with them. In a sense I, and after he remarried Gerry’s second wife, were stepmothers lite. We both deferred to their parents but we were more than just friends. Again, I don’t know what to label it. But it worked, and both Betty and I were amused that one or the other of them would complain to me, who they only called “Mary,” about her. They knew enough not to try to use me to get around her veto of something. I was proud of both. Betty and Gerry did well by them.
Little did I know that I would acquire yet another group of next-generationers. It began in October 2010 with a letter for me mailed to Time. “William & Kathleen Nelson” with a Mill Valley address was on the return label. I never received, well, anything from them. Not even notice of the births of their two children. I found out about Suzanne and Eric only in one of my periodic trips to the morgue, easier now via computers.
Dear Mary Elizabeth,
We would be pleased if you could join us for Thanksgiving dinner at our home at * * *, Mill Valley, California on November 25, 2010 at 2:00 p.m. local time. Please RSVP by November 11, 2010 so that appropriate arrangements may be made. We regret that we cannot make accommodations available to you, but there are a number of nearby hotels and bed & breakfasts where you can stay.
We look forward to seeing you on the 25th.
William and Kathleen Nelson
To be clear, I, too, thought this was the most bizarre communication that I had ever seen. Except for my father’s “notice” when I was at Berkeley. I imagined that they spent hours crafting the words. The bottom line, though, was that for the first time since I left Mill Valley in 1983. I was asked to return. I wrote a letter to Billy at his law firm at one point, but got no response. Until this invitation.
With the presidential election two years away, I had to come up with an angle for my editor. Someone in California who might be flying under the radar as a challenger for the GOP nomination in 2012. When I identified him, I got my editor to sign off on a visit to his Congressional district, which was south of San Francisco. So I got my travel and hotel taken care of thanks to TimeWarner.
It was typical San Francisco weather. Low 50s, a bit cooler than in New York. I got in on Sunday night and did my district interviewing on Monday and Tuesday. The background story was pretty well done by the end of Wednesday. I was ready for the reunion. I had no idea who would be there. The invitation was so formal that I thought it might be hordes. It wasn’t. It was my brother and his wife, his daughter, and his son.
I loved Suzanne immediately. After a formal shake of the hand from William and a brief hug from Kathleen—”Kate” as she insisted—I found myself in a deep hug with Suzanne Marie Nelson, my niece. And then with Eric Nelson, my nephew. But it was Suzanne, much older than her brother—Suzanne was 16 and Eric was just ten—that drew me in. She was tall and slim and so different from the Billy that I knew when he was her age.
Still, I was in my brother’s house—he cringed when I referred to him as “Billy” which just led me to do it with some frequency—and order was observed. The turkey was properly prepared and the sides were properly prepared and the alcohol was properly allocated. Things were stiff before dinner as the five of us attempted to carry on a conversation in the large living room, with Kate jumping up periodically to check on “the bird,” and Suzanne or Eric jumping up more frequently to check on something unspecified.
I finally found myself alone with my brother. Our conversation began with, “So, Billy, how are you? I heard you’re now a big-deal partner in a big-deal firm.”
“Yes, Mary. I am. And I’ve seen some of your work. Your fiction is, well, interesting but not my cup of tea.”
I turned to my parents’ death. They died in a car crash on the Pacific Coast Highway on April 14, 1998. I learned of it two weeks later when a colleague offered his condolences during a telephone call. I rushed to the morgue and pulled up the story, about the deaths and the existence of two children, Mary, “believed to live in New York City,” and William Allen Nelson, living in Mill Valley, California, with one grandchild, Suzanne Marie Nelson, the daughter of William and Kathleen Nelson.
They were cold in the ground, perhaps as they were cold above it, but I still had the right to know. I had the right to decide how I was to handle it. It was not Billy’s decision. And when I pointed this out to him in his living room in a calm, measured voice, he said, he decided—not “thought,” “decided”—that it was for the best.
There was no point in pursuing it. Chit chat returned with Kate. I have not forgiven him.
Before dinner, the weather being nice, I said I was taking a short walk. I did have some happy memories of Mill Valley. Suzanne jumped up and joined. We walked in the middle of the quiet street where she lived. She asked me about myself and I told her about myself and I asked her about herself and she told me about herself. Then she said, “I’m sorry Aunt Mary for not contacting you.”
We stopped and I looked at her.
“They never told me about you until a few years ago but I should have contacted you when I found out. I was a coward. I was afraid they’d find out.”
There was no doubting who “they” were. She was just a kid and they were putting this on her.
“Suzanne. Baby. You’ve nothing to apologize for. What matters is what happens from now on. OK?”
And she said “OK” and we resumed the walk until we circled the block and it was time to go back into the house. As we reached the door, I told her that I’d like to meet her, one-on-one, the next day and we set the time and place to sit down in Mill Valley on Black Friday.
Billy and Kate looked tense when we entered the living room. What did they think we were doing? Kate jumped up and said dinner was ready and we helped her bring things out and sat down, said Grace, and ate. Suzanne, so somber earlier, was open and relaxed, asking me questions and teasing her brother and her mother and even her father.
When dinner was over and the table cleared I passed the kitchen where I overheard my brother and his wife. “I will not allow her to do to Suzanne what she did to herself,” he said. “I’m not giving her another chance.” His wife agreed, “I don’t know why you thought it would be a good idea to ask that bitch here.”
My disregard for my brother and my ignorance of my sister-in-law changed at that moment to hatred. To them, I was a subcreature bent on contaminating their daughter. I hoped that Suzanne had not heard, and I did not mention it to her for many years.
In contrast, I had a remarkable lunch with Suzanne the next day. She kept apologizing until I told her to cut it out. I assured her that while what happened to me was tough, at that moment I was in a wonderful place. Especially being with her. I said that she should never cast her family off. “Always leave the door open.”
At that time I did not know that Suzanne was gay so I did not understand the depths of her concerns, that she knew that were her parents to find out she would be treated in the same way that I had been. It was enough that she told me how unhappy she was for the way my parents—her father’s parents who she never knew—treated me and how her father and mother had written me out of their lives. And out of hers. And her brother’s.
After she got down from that, I found her to be a marvelous girl. She was sweetness itself, and my first impressions were reinforced when I began speaking to her regularly.
Coming to New York II
Suzanne called me on the Christmas after my visit and we have spoken regularly ever since. Mostly I was a sounding board for her complaints, which were the normal teenager complaints. But she was tense in the house and she did not find it easy to speak with her mother. Who she always called, “mother.” We spoke more often after she moved to Stanford. I made it a point to emphasize that her mother and her father were her only parents. They were not perfect, but they were the only ones she had.
When she was a junior at Stanford, she told me she planned on going to law school, and asked whether she should head east. I knew little about law schools but I did know that some of the top ones were here. In March of her senior year, in 2016, she asked if it made sense for her to come to New York, to Columbia Law, which she got into. She made it clear that she was not following her father’s and her grandfather’s footsteps by going to Stanford. “I might come back here when I’m finished but for now I want to get away.”
I made inquiries and tracked down a two-bedroom apartment on West 87th Street, just off Central Park West, and she and a friend from Mill Valley, Annie Baxter, took it. Suzanne told me her parents agreed to pay her rent, as they were paying half of her tuition. She said she and Annie were driving east. Annie was going to Columbia Business School. I told Suzanne she could leave the car at our house in Yonkers. She was not to tell her parents that. The less they knew of my involvement the better.
So the calls started coming in mid-August as she and Annie made their way across the USA. When she told me she was about an hour-and-a-half away, I took the train and subway to be sitting on the stoop of the apartment when her Camry arrived. I had not seen her in six years but she was so much older. I cried when I hugged her and helped her and Annie get settled. Suzanne and I drove the car to Yonkers before she turned around and headed back into the City.
I spoke to her often and saw her on a number of weekends when she and Annie took her car out for a drive. It was routine until early November when she called from a New York friend’s place and by day’s end I met that friend, Kerry Neally, and Kerry’s mom, Eileen. Kerry was a classmate. Her mom was sweet but reserved. I liked them both.
Eileen was a widow who lived only a few miles from us and gradually Betty and I had lunches and dinners and went on outings with her. She was extremely shy and had placed herself into a shell when her husband died in 2010. With the two girls, Betty and I were able to get her out of it to the point where we were suddenly part of one family. She would eventually fall in love with and marry Tom Doyle, which I mention because his house in Chappaqua is important to my story. I’ll get to that shortly.
Suzanne, for reasons she herself explains elsewhere, dropped out of law school after her first year. She got a job as a paralegal in the City, and moved in with Betty and I, each morning taking the 8:16 train from Bronxville. We loved having her there although after she and Kerry realized they loved each other they spent a fair amount of time at Kerry’s house a few miles away until Eileen moved to Tom’s place in Chappaqua and Suzanne moved in with Kerry. It was complicated at the time, but what matters is that at some point, as now, I was with Betty, Suzanne was with Kerry, and Eileen was with Tom. And—spoiler alert—each couple got married in 2018.
Perhaps it was fear. When gay marriage became legal in New York in July 2011, neither Betty nor I spoke about it. We attended weddings of friends but things were going well enough. Betty’s marriage had not worked. Why tempt fate?
Then suddenly Suzanne and Kerry were engaged. I skipped over what happened with those two since they wrote about it themselves. Suffice it say that they fell in love, albeit it took a while for them to realize and admit it, and Kerry proposed to Suzanne on the train and they were still trying to figure out when they would do it. Spoiler: September 22, 2018.
Anyway, in a May 2017 theatrical display Betty proposed to me in Kerry and Suzanne’s house and I knew it was time. Old as I was I wanted her to be my wife and I wanted to be hers. But right before that, which I’ll get to presently, literally the six days before that, the hated Kathleen Pugh Nelson reentered my life.
Somehow Kerry’s mother, Eileen Neally, got me and Betty to agree that an effort should be made to see if Kathleen—Kate—could be reunited with her gay daughter. A sense of what she and my brother thought can be seen from what they said on Thanksgiving 2010: he said, “I will not allow her,” that’d be me, “to do to Suzanne what she did to herself, ,” he said, “I’m not giving her another chance,” with his charming wife responding, “I don’t know why you thought it would be a good idea to ask that bitch here.” To them, as it was to my parents, it was a matter of deep religious and embedded faith. So I didn’t give it much of a chance but thought it worth the effort.
Eileen made a phone call out-of-the blue to Kate in California that did not go well. But well enough so that a few days later—four days before my wedding—I was walking upstairs in a pub on East 47th Street in Midtown Manhattan with Eileen to meet Eileen’s fiancé, Tom Doyle, as well as Kathleen Pugh Nelson herself.
It did not last long and it did not end well. But somehow Eileen got Suzanne to meet with her mother and somehow Suzanne got her mother to accept her and, with it, to accept me. No one, however, managed to get her father, my brother Billy, to accept her or me and that’s the last I will say of him.
That explains why when Betty and I got married on June 23, 2018 at Tom’s house in Chappaqua, New York, Kathleen Pugh Nelson was a guest. While I said earlier that my hatred of Kate came later, my love for her came later still and I now understand that Suzanne’s sweetness comes from her Mother.
Betty and I were going to Bermuda for our honeymoon in the morning. When we got home—my wife and I—I saw her with new eyes. Far wrinkly than the first time we’d made love. My hair a not-entirely-natural black. Hers still the same light brown. We had changed from the gown we wore at the ceremony and were in dresses that ended mid-calf. When the door closed, I turned and looked down at her as I loved to do. Our tongues danced and we were upstairs in a flash.
I undressed my wife slowly and she did the same to her wife and we wore nothing but our ivory lingerie with garters and stockings. I knelt to remove her stockings and she did the same to me before unclasping my bra. I lost track of what happened next but it was not long before I was beneath her on our bed and suddenly she was gnawing on my left tit, larger than hers but not big. And she nibbled on it while I moaned and then she moved across my no-longer-flat stomach. I spread my legs to my bush, which I trimmed that morning for this very reason, and she spread my lips. I was so primed, that I came almost immediately after she began to suck on my clit.
She was determined. I tried to push her away. She refused. Avoiding my clit, she painted the folds around it and her fingers, one, two, three, entered me and turned to rub. I was no longer pushing her away, my hands above my head and my eyes staring at a spot on the ceiling. I feared my heart would give out. I would die happy. Married and happy.
I’ve had many orgasms and many at the mouth of this woman. The one I had that night, the second one of the night, was the most intense of my life. When it was finally over, I could not move. Every bit of my energy was sucked into my pussy until it exploded into a million bits cascading through the universe. I could not get up. I could not get up.
Betty moved next to me, her hand grazing up from my pussy, across my stomach and my tits until it caressed my cheek. I could not say it. I was spent. She did. “I love you.” That was the fourth of the sessions between us—the others being back in 1985, my apartment in 2005, and our kitchen in the fall of 2009—that I can see whenever I close my eyes. The next thing I remember was our approach to the airport in Bermuda.