Ethel’s 3: Michelle and Val

Michelle Steele was drunk. Everyone else was so fucking happy and she’d just been dumped. So she was entitled to get herself drunk on this particular Saturday night in September. She sat in one of the tables along the wall and friends were on either side of her. They were protecting her and allowing her to get it out of her system. They got her watered-down drinks at the bar and kept watch over the door to see if Val, always Val, came in.

Those friends were Sally Abbott and Eve Young and they were decidedly among the so-fucking-happy people Michelle knew. Married even. They knew Michelle from the bar well enough to chat for a few minutes when they saw her. They happened to be there when Michelle started on her bender and volunteered to chaperone her.

Michelle was from Albany, New York and worked at an ad agency in midtown Manhattan. She blossomed after she arrived in the City and discovered the freedom of being a lesbian away from home. She’d yet to tell her folks, but her brother and sister knew she was gay. Michelle’s parents were oblivious to her orientation since to them she was always the pretty girl destined for a handsome husband.

Michelle had relationships with a number of women in college, usually tall and playing a sport, and when she got to New York she lusted after similar women at Ethel’s, on the subway, and pretty much everywhere else. The relationship that just blew up lasted three months. It was with Val Daniels. They’d met at Ethel’s, and Michelle was immediately attracted to her. Val was a bit taller than Michelle. Val was Michelle’s dream of a woman whose arms she wanted to be in.

It was another Saturday night, this one in June, when Val saw Michelle ogling her as she had many times before. But this time, Michelle’s look lingered with a barely-noticeable smile before she turned to go to the Ladies’ Room. Val followed her in. It was otherwise empty, and Val stood behind the shorter woman at the sinks, where she was waiting. Their eyes meeting in the mirror.

It was a cheesy pickup line but it worked.

“Are you alone?”

Michelle put her arms behind her back and drew Val towards her. It thrilled her. She turned quickly. She put her arms around Val’s shoulders and Val put hers around Michelle’s waist and just like that they were kissing deeply, until the door opened.

Val pulled Michelle through the door and back into and then through the bar, giving Michelle only enough time to grab her bag and say goodbye to the women she was with—who looked at each other as she left. In an instant they were out on Hudson Street. It was late spring, and warm enough not to need a coat or a sweater. Val pushed Michelle against the wall of a building around the corner and devoured her mouth, first nibbling on the lower lip and then circumnavigating and lancing her tongue into a desperate mouth. It brought feelings to Michelle she’d never known existed.

Michelle had never gone to bed with anyone unless there was some connection. She was always worried what would happen if it didn’t work out. She needed a connection. It was there with Val.

“Please take me somewhere.” It was a hoarse whisper with lips caressing Val’s ear lobe. She’d never said nor had the urge to say it before in such a moment.

Val put her arm up and a cab screeched to a stop at the curb, and the two women got in. It took them to a small apartment in the East Village, on the third floor of a walkup. Decorum ruled on the way, and they did no more than hold hands. As they left the cab and went up the stoop.

“I’m Michelle.”

“I know. It’s Val. Just Val.”

“I know. I’ve heard all about you.”

“And yet here you are.”

“Here I am.”

Val took her keys out and opened the door. Before it was shut, Michelle had taken her dress off above her head. She was embarrassed for a second; she had not expected to take her dress off in front of someone that night and so wore simple cotton panties and a basic bra. She blushed, aware that there was a growing stain on her panties.

Val kissed her on her neck, running her tongue in small circles then whispering, “You are glorious.” She then undid her shirt and took off her jeans. There Michelle saw a strapon in Val’s black boyshorts. Val was expecting something to happen that night.

She took Michelle into the bedroom and removed her underwear, sniffing the panties like a trophy as her eyes bore into Michelle’s until she licked her pussy for just a moment after Michelle was on her back. She reached for Val to move up.

“Ready?”

It had been a while. Michelle was at the receiving end of a strapon several times in college and had in fact extended one relationship for about a month after they both knew it was over simply to feel one in her pussy. But for all the dates she had in New York, none had reached this stage. Until tonight. She was ready. She nodded.

Val slowly entered and the two found a rhythm. After several minutes, Michelle asked Val to stop so she could get on all fours and have Val enter her from behind. She had her elbows on the bed and the side of her face on the pillow as she was entered. The physical connection complemented the mental one that appeared in the Ladies’ Room at Ethel’s.

Val enjoyed herself. She’d noticed Michelle several times and saw how her eyes often lingered on one or another of the butchier women at the bar. She was told by friends (and sometime rivals) that Michelle never clicked with any of them, and several dismissed her as a “frigid bitch.” Which was catnip for Val.

Now she was in the other woman gyrating the dildo and reaching to rub the pearl of the clit until she made Michelle spasm and come. After a period of recovery, Michelle turned voracious and after Val let her take off the strapon she attacked the damp pussy. It was the most magical thing she’d ever seen or tasted and when Val said, “Asshole,” she, for the first time, ran her finger across an anus and when she heard “In” she, for the first time, after wetting her middle finger with Val’s juices placed it in an asshole and Val burst, grabbing Michelle’s head so hard that Michelle feared she would drown in Val’s flood and not caring if she did.

After they both came down, they lay in the bed together on their backs and, after tidying themselves and preparing themselves in the bathroom Michelle fell asleep on Val’s bed, with Val wrapping her arms around her.

From that evening on, the two were inseparable.

They complemented one another. Michelle, who shared an apartment on the Upper East Side with the very-straight Diane Volk, spent two or three nights during the week at Val’s and always Friday and Saturday. Val, who worked as a librarian for the New York Public Library at its Kips Bay branch on 31st Street—she had a degree in Library Science from Cornell—was comfortable from the start with her lover. They frequented Ethel’s on weekends as well as smaller bars in Val’s neighborhood.

One night while they were in bed, Michelle asked Val to take her on a date.

“I don’t do dates.”

“I know. That’s why I want you to take me. It’ll be nice.”

Val gave it a fair amount of thought over the next ten seconds. Dates always struck her as a sort of preliminary to the main event and she’d always gone directly to the main event with women.

“If I do, what do you want to do?”

“Dinner and a movie.”

“You’re kidding, right?”

Michelle leaned onto her right elbow, her head over Val’s.

“I’ll make it worth your while,” said as she ran her finger across Val’s cheek, something that at first aggravated the hell out of Val and that no one else had ever done but that had become strangely intimate and wholly natural between the two. She knew resistance was futile.

So Friday became a date night, and Val began to enjoy it. She liked that Michelle wanted to show her off, going to things. Movies. Galleries. Even bowling once; Val found her guard evaporated after the fourth frame of her first game she’d rolled since grammar school on Long Island. As often as not, Michelle told Val as they left whatever venue they’d been in, “thank you for that.”

Then everything broke. It began innocuously enough. Michelle’s parents were taking the train to the City for a few days when her roommate was visiting her own folks in Colorado. The roommate, Diane, had no problem letting Michelle sleep in her bed so Michelle could give her parents hers. When Michelle told Val that they couldn’t see each other for a few days, it blew up when Michelle said Val could not meet her parents. They were together for three months, exclusive to one another, and Val couldn’t meet her parents.

“They still don’t know.”

“What do you mean, ‘they still don’t know’?”

“About me.”

“You haven’t come out to them?”

“No. My brother and sister know. But I’ve never come up with the right time to tell them.”

“And what do they think you’re doing socially?”

“That I’m dating eligible guys.”

The two sat and talked it out. They were in Val’s small living/dining room on its small love-seat. Michelle would not see reason. She did not understand that it was something she had to do, damn the consequences. But she was afraid. Unlike, she thought, Val.

Michelle said, “Everyone knew what you were.”

“What’s that supposed to mean? That I was so obviously a butch that everyone understood that I was a fucking lesbian.”

“I didn’t mean it like that, but I guess that’s what I mean. Look at you.”

Val was silent.

“So I’m some type of freak, is that what you’re saying? That you’re here out of pity for me. Well, fuck you Michelle. I like the way I am and I thought you liked the way—”

“Val, I do. I love the way you are. I love you.” Which, as it happens, was the first time she ever said that.

“You have a fucked-up way of telling me. But you can say it as much as you want, but the fact remains that you are too embarrassed to have your parents see you with me.”

“They’re just not ready. They’d freak out.”

“You’re twenty-five. If they can’t handle it now, when are they going to be able to handle it? Look. Until you figure out what to do, until you are confident enough in ‘us’ and comfortable enough about ‘us,’ I don’t think we have much to talk about. Just leave the keys when you go.”

And Val grabbed her own keys and walked out. Michelle was stunned. Had Val just broken up with her? After the three best months of Michelle’s life. Maybe of Val’s life too. Just leave the keys when you go.

Michelle fought the tears as she packed as much of her stuff as she could in a small suitcase, left the keys, and went down the steps of Val’s apartment. Val watched from down the block, and out of sight, as Michelle hailed a cab to get home, where she went straight to bed. Ignoring her roommate Diane’s questions.

Michelle zombied her way through the next two days at work. She came close to calling or texting Val a hundred times. She pined to hear Val’s ringtone. When she got home each night, she had a bowl of cereal before going to bed. She ignored Diane’s increasingly anxious questions. Diane, who knew quite a lot about Val and Michelle, knew Michelle had to speak to someone, but did not know who and couldn’t get her to open up. She saw Michelle look at her phone when it rang before rejecting call after call.  

For Val’s part, she’d broken up with plenty of women, including women she was with for longer than she’d been with Michelle. It’d take a few weeks, but she’d get over it and so would Michelle. They all did. It was the way it was. Val would keep a low profile for a while. She’d had some rough moments with exes when she went to Ethel’s too soon and had, unfairly in her view, been labeled a love-em-and-leave-em type.

At times her job was challenging but it was often mechanical. She took advantage of its mundaneness to take her mind off of Michelle. But after a break-up, she’d never before needed a distraction. She was miserable by the weekend. It wasn’t her fault. Michelle wouldn’t stand up for her. It might have been OK if Val was a “normal” lesbian. Not when she was a butch. No chance.

When Michelle walked into Ethel’s on her own on the Saturday when the story began, the question where-is-Val? ricocheted around the room. Sally and Eve saw her first and saw the state she was in and led her to a small table. Bringing her diluted booze and watching for Val to come through the door.

Michelle was not nearly as drunk as she thought she was when her phone rang. Caller ID said “Rose”—Michelle mumbled that it was her sister—and Eve decided to pick it up with “hello.” To Rose’s “who’s this?” Eve asked her to hold for a moment as she went out onto the sidewalk.

“I’m sorry. I am Eve Young and I’m one of Michelle’s friends.”

“Are you her girlfriend?”

Eve chuckled. “No. I’m taken. Look. Michelle just broke up with her girlfriend and she’s in a very bad way. She came into the bar we all hang out in and my wife and I took her under our wing, making sure she’s OK.”

“I’ve been trying to reach her and she’s not returned my calls or voicemails. Is she going to be OK?”

Eve did her best to explain the situation. It began with something about Michelle’s parents and Vic being upset that Michelle wouldn’t tell them about her.

“I’ve told her.” This was Rose. “It has to come out. She can’t live the way she’s been living. But she won’t do it. I wouldn’t care if it were me, but she lived for their approval when we were growing up. I may be able to drive down tomorrow. I’m up in Albany and my husband and I could do a day trip if you think it’d help.”

“Let me call you in the morning.”

When Eve got back to the table, Sally and Michelle seemed deep in conversation. She and Sally were not among Michelle’s close friends but none of those were at Ethel’s that night. The couple debated and decided to bring Michelle to their place on the Upper West Side. It was a one-bedroom and they’d flip to see who got the couch and who got the bed with Michelle for the night. At about ten, they took a cab uptown and after Michelle threw up in the bathroom, they cleaned her up and lent her some pajamas and she was asleep within minutes of getting in bed.

Eve and Sally spoke about it in the living room. Sally’s folks had been fine with her being a lesbian, but Eve struggled with hers. Her mother was initially just OK with it but gradually opened herself to her daughter. Eve’s father only started to come around after one of his tennis buddies told him he was being an ass for not supporting her. She still feared that his initial animosity was lurking just below his surface, but he seemed to be evolving about her and about her wife.

So the pair well knew about these tensions, and they knew some who hadn’t seen or spoken to their parents in years. The couple understood that all families are different and that their and all of their friends’ coming-out stories differed. Some went well. Some went nuclear. But a rising cultural-tide had made it easier than it had been not too long before. Still, everyone is different.

They worried about being sucked into something that was not their business but they were at Ethel’s and Michelle was sleeping in their bedroom so they would have to carry on.

At about ten on Sunday morning, Eve called Connie Dyson, one of Michelle’s closest friends. Although Eve wanted to minimize the crowd so as not to pressure Michelle, she told Connie and her wife Paula to come over and they got there at about eleven.

The four really were too many, and Michelle felt trapped and being spoken down to and it was all too much.

“Look. I appreciate what you have all done for me and what you are trying to do for me. But this is something that I have to deal with. I’m a big girl. OK? So I’m going to clean myself a bit and head home and I’ll try to figure out what I’m doing.”

Eve said she’d spoken to Rose, Michelle’s sister, and that she’d come down from Albany if they thought it would help.

“I’ll call her” and she went into the bedroom and did. She assured Rose that she was fine and had to work some stuff out and she appreciated her offering to come down but it would be best if she didn’t. And so she was spared that bit of drama, and when she had her things kissed and thanked everyone and got a cab home.

The four she left—Eve, Sally, Connie, and Paula—sat around uncomfortably after she was gone. They’d all had issues, several of them concerning their parents, and agreed that Michelle had to do what Michelle had to do. And they headed out for brunch on Columbus Avenue and got to know one another a bit better than they had before.

While they were having mimosas, Michelle sat in her tub as the water began to chill. She, too, knew this moment would come, that she’d be sitting with nothing but her thoughts and playing out again and again what she had to do. Val wasn’t right. She was not embarrassed for having fallen in love with her. She was embarrassed because she was afraid to come out to her parents.

She’d admired her brother and her sister for being their own people while she remained a creature of her parents. She thought that the moment she stood outside Ethel’s years before and was befriended by someone, entering into that world had freed her from her parents. But it was a lie. She was hiding from her parents.

*          *          *

Val knew enough to stay away from Ethel’s for a while. Exes often ran into one another there and it was uncomfortable for everyone. There was a rule that confrontation was not permitted in the bar or within 100 feet of its door. If there was something to be said or to be done, it had to be taken outside. Maggie’s rule.

Val didn’t want to take the chance of running into Michelle. About a week after whatever happened with Michelle happened, she looked up Cindy, with whom she’d had an off-and-on relationship for a couple of years. Cindy was between women, and the two had a nice dinner on Saturday, and they returned to Val’s walk-up. Cindy knew the apartment and Val’s routine well and after using the bathroom she walked, naked, into the bedroom. Val was waiting. Naked on the bed. Cindy removed her left, prosthetic leg. The two lay down facing one another until Val turned Cindy onto her back. Dripping kisses on Cindy’s mouth, her right hand moved across her labia and her right middle finger easily entered Cindy’s pussy, quickly followed by the index and ring fingers.

Val began moving in and almost-out, curling her fingers to seek out Cindy’s g-spot, now looking into the femme’s eyes. Cindy started to move her left hand to her clit but stopped, using it instead to push Val away and out of her.

“What the fuck Val. Who are you fucking?”

“You, of course.”

“Bull shit.” She pushed Val onto her back and rose to look down on her.

“You’ve been with me between other women before, but you’ve always been with me when you’ve been with me. Not tonight. What’s going on?”

All of Cindy’s horniness was gone, replaced by concern, which is the last thing either of them could have expected.

“Shit. You’re in love aren’t you?”

Val plopped down, looking at the ceiling.

“That obvious?”

“I know you too well. You’ve never appreciated how much of a romantic you are. It’s one reason why I enjoy being with you so much, however infrequently.”

“I thought it was my fingers. . . . And other real and fake body parts.”

This garnered a light slap.

“You know we do love each other in our own, bizarre way.” Cindy was on her right side, her left hand idly drawing patterns on Val’s stomach. Their eyes met. “You realize that, don’t you?”

Val raised her head to give Cindy a peck on the lips and plopped back down.

“I’m so fucked.”

Cindy lay back down and pulled a sheet over them as they were beginning to get chilly. She let Val tell her story about her Michelle.

“You shouldn’t have lost your temper.”

“I know.”

“You know enough people who haven’t come out to be ready when she told you she hadn’t.”

“I know.”

“In the end, do you care? If her parents are so . . . paranoid, would it bother you to never ever have to see them? And would you be enough for her?”

“But I was such a shit to her. ‘Leave the keys.’ What was I thinking?”

“Which is the point. You weren’t thinking. One word: Grovel.”

“Fuck you.”

“Val. Much as I’d love you continuing to be a free agent so I can get fucked by you now and then—and I mean when you are fucking me and not someone else in your head like tonight—I do love you and I do want you to be happy. So, again, you have to grovel. The old Val wouldn’t grovel. But the old Val wouldn’t be in love with someone. The new Val? She has to grovel.”

“I know.”

And the two took care of things and after they’d put on t-shirts—Cindy borrowing one of Val’s—they fell asleep. And Cindy wrapped her arms around her friend as they did.

*          *           *

The next day, Sunday, was quiet. Cindy had gotten up around seven and after reattaching her leg and taking a shower, she sat on the bed until Val stirred. She ran her finger across Val’s lips, and Val kissed it.

“You know what you have to do. ‘Grovel’ is today’s magic word.” With that Cindy was gone.

After a lazy day, Val decided to venture to Ethel’s. There was little chance that Michelle would be there on a Sunday, and if she was Val thought she’d be ready. But she wasn’t there. Ethel’s was quiet. She missed the place. She was hoping for some support. She sat alone at a small table waiting for her burger and fries, sipping on a beer. Estelle came over. They were sometime rivals for taller femmes. Estelle sat, uninvited, on a chair opposite Val’s.

“You shouldn’t have let that filly get away.” She smirked. “She was a hot one when I finally got her into my bed. You—”

Val was on her feet.

“Outside.”

“What? I didn’t think it’s a big deal. You dumped—”

Val started to walk towards the door, grabbing Estelle’s arm as she passed. The mini-disturbance was noticed by a few people, including Maggie, who followed the pair outside and around the corner, past the no-arguing line.

“You keep your fucking hands off of her.”

“Shit, Val. She came on to me. She told me you and she were history and she was glad to be rid of you.”

This shut Val up.

“You’re lying you stupid—”

“Just calm down. I thought she was free. I don’t need to get into bad shit with you. I really thought you’d gotten rid of her. I knew she was on the rebound but—”

“You knew something was going on between us. We had some issues. Did you say she came onto you?”

“I swear. I thought she was off limits. I thought the two of you were good together. She tapped my arm and said she was ‘going to the Ladies’ and I followed her. I asked about you. She said you and she were over. Fuck, she started running her hands up and down my sides. What was I supposed to do?”

“You were supposed to tell her to get her head out of her ass.”

Maggie was observing this; it did not seem they’d come to blows.

“OK. I probably should have, OK. But I didn’t. I took her home and—”

“Enough. Did anything more happen? Have you seen her again?”

“Seriously. It was nice. She is a catch. But it was ‘blah.’ I think she was somewhere else the whole time. I don’t think she’s over you. I don’t know why, but she’s got a thing for you.”

The two sat on the sidewalk, leaning against the building they were in front of. Maggie went back to the bar.

“It was her folks. She—”

“She told me. Look. It’s in my interest to get you into a relationship. Cuts down on the competition. And you know I sort-of like you in some sick way. If she tried to get you out of her system, I don’t think it worked. Track her down.”

“You ever feel like this for someone?”

“It was a long time ago. She left me for someone who had a fully-functioning dick. Talk about a phase. Poof! Gone. But not forgotten. I got over it. I still hope to find another one. If you’ve found yours, don’t fuck around with it. Why give a shit about her parents? She’s a big girl.”

Estelle placed her arm around Val, who placed her head on the shoulder of her friend and rival.

“Call her.” She stood, reaching her hand to help Val get up. “And if you don’t come back, can I finish your burger. Which is likely to be pretty cold by now.”

“Fuck you, you bitch.”

Estelle left and Val hit Michelle’s speeddial number. It rang just once and went to voicemail. She had been screened out.

“Michelle. It’s . . . It’s Val. Look. Can we just talk? Please. Give me a call. You have the number.”

*          *           *

Michelle stared at her phone. She rejected the call. She did not need to hear Val ask when she’d be getting her things from the apartment. She’d leave them there forever if she had to. Not only had she failed when Val wanted her to be proud of her she’d picked up Estelle and let Estelle fuck her. She knew it was wrong when she whispered to Estelle and when she waited for Estelle in the Ladies’ Room and when she went home with Estelle and when she let Estelle inside her. Estelle probably only did it to get back at Val.

The one thing Michelle did know was that she was never going back to Ethel’s. It had been her refuge but she’d ruined it. With Val. With Estelle. With getting drunk and having to be put into bed like a three-year old brat. That’s what they all thought she was and they’d all laugh at her if she showed up. But she was never going to show up. She’d find another place. Another crowd. Another woman who could love her and understand why she couldn’t tell her parents.

She deleted Val’s voicemail message without listening to it. She didn’t need the stuff she’d left there.

*          *           *

At that point, Val and Michelle had a number of similarities. Each thought the other had abandoned her. Each feared going to Ethel’s lest she run into the other. Each was more lonely than she had ever been. Each was in love and each was too stubborn to do anything about it. So each spent their weekdays at work less than a mile away from one another and their weekends thinking about the other.

On a Saturday afternoon a couple of weeks later, Val was feeling sorry for herself and telling herself that, yes, she would find someone to take home that night when she heard a banging on her door.

“Val. Open this fucking door.”

Estelle. Val let her in.

“I miss you.”

“What do you mean, you miss me. We hate each other.”

“It’s one of those love-hate things. You know that. Look. Neither you nor Michelle has been at Ethel’s since our little chat.”

“She hasn’t?”

“No, she hasn’t. We all—”

“What do you mean ‘we all.’”

They sat on the sofa after Estelle declined Val’s offer of coffee or water.

“The gang. We’re a regular garden-party now that you’re gone. No. Maggie and a bunch of Michelle’s friends. Note that I didn’t say any of your friends, you cow.”

“Fuck you.”

“Only if you let me be on top.”

That shut Val up.

“Look. If Michelle were over you, we figure she’d be on the prowl again. Like that fucked-up night with me. But she’s not. I told you she still—”

“I called her that night. She’s ghosted me.”

“Swallow your pride. She probably thinks you’re still done with her, that you wanted her to get her shit from here.”

Estelle looked around. “You know, this place really is a dump.”

“Fuck you.”

“You’re like a fucking parrot. I’m trying to help. I’m not trying to move in.”

*          *          *

I can’t believe I’m doing this. It’s like I’m back in high school. This was the thought bouncing around Connie Dyson’s brain as she waited for Michelle on Madison Avenue in front of Michelle’s office. They’d arranged to meet for lunch, and Connie promised they’d go to a great place “not too far away” and that it would be “so worth it.”

The two hugged when Michelle came through the revolving door and Connie led her south. A few blocks east and after Michelle’s umpteenth “how far is it?” they were there.

“You bitch. I’m not going in.”

“Look, Michelle. You’ve ghosted everyone. Nobody’s seen you in weeks. The gang—”

“What ‘gang’?”

“A bunch of folks at Ethel’s who have your best interest at heart. Here’s the thing.”

They were standing on the sidewalk along the building line.

“Do you love Val?”

“That’s over.”

“That’s not the question. Do You Love Val? Yes or no?”

Michelle glared at her friend before issuing a meek, “yes.”

“OK. Do you know that Val is madly in love with you?”

“Not after what I did to her.”

“She does not care.”

“How do you know?”

“Because we’re not a bunch of idiots and Estelle—”

The name froze Michelle.

“Michelle. We know what happened with her.”

“It was a huge mis—”

“She thinks it was a huge mistake too and feels horrible about it. She told everything to Val when they were about to get into an epic cat fight outside Ethel’s—Maggie was there to be the referee—and more than anything Val was upset because she was afraid she’d lost you. OK?”

“But she didn’t lose me. I threw it away.”

“Which is why, Einstein, we’re here. You are going in and asking to speak with her. We, without Val finding out, know she goes to lunch”—she checked her watch—“shit, in eight minutes. Get your ass in there and be sweet and take her to lunch. Here’s twenty”—and she handed the bill—“go someplace nice. This is your chance. This is your get-out-of-jail-free card. For the love of god take it.”

Connie, holding her breath, turned and headed away, stopping at the corner to make sure Michelle went in.

Michelle looked at the twenty-dollar bill she’d been handed and then at the door of the library branch. With a final, deep breath, she entered and went to the reference desk on the second floor and saw Val helping a teenager. She stood about fifteen feet away staring. She told herself not to run out, willing her feet to stay stuck to the floor.

When Val was finished and about to close up to go to lunch, taking her bag from a drawer, she looked up.

 *          *          *

“I told them.” Her parents.

Michelle and Val were sitting in a small café a few blocks from the library, each with a salad and a ginger ale.

“When?”

“When they were here.”

“And?”

“They didn’t freak out quite the way I thought they would but they weren’t happy. I was the one who was going to have the fancy wedding with the handsome lawyer. I think that’s what they cared about. Not having me do the fancy-wedding thing and worrying about what people would say about them at their club. It was so trivial. Disappointment. That’s what they were. Are. ‘We’re very disappointed in you Michelle.’”

“Did you mention me?”

“Not directly. But that was only because I didn’t think there was an ‘us’ while they were here. I told them, though, that I was attracted to butches.”

“How did you put it?” Val felt bad about pushing Michelle on this but wanted to know.

“I said that there was a type of lesbian I was attracted to and that it was a strong, handsome woman who knew what-was-what and would ‘take me.’”

“Did you say ‘take me’?”

“I did. Their eyes almost popped out. And my father, as expected, said, ‘why not just find a “real man,”’ and I told him that I didn’t want a ‘real man’ but a ‘real woman.’”

“How’d you leave it?”

“That was their last night. It took me a while to get up the courage, but once I did I didn’t melt or anything. They were chilly towards me, both of them, when we took the subway to Penn Station for their train home but they knew enough not to say anything. I think they spoke about it and realized they might lose me if they did.

“Of course my brother and sister gave me their told-you-so speeches and my sister made me feel like a shit for doing what I did to you for what turned out to be a non-issue. Can you forgive me?” She batted her eyes across the table. “I was a very-bad girl.”

Val leaned across the table. Her voice low: “Can we talk about whether I forgive you later.”

Michelle smiled. “Too late. You already do. And I love you and you love me.”

Val smiled. “Maybe we’ll find something else to talk about then,” and with that they cleaned their table and put their empty plates and trays in the appropriate spots and held hands as they left until they had to separate to go to their respective jobs.

*          *          *

When they got to Val’s place that night, each was more nervous than she was that first night together. Each understood how high the stakes were. They’d met for a dinner at a place nearby and chatted as if there’d been no gap since the last time they were there. They held hands as they walked to Val’s. Once inside, Michelle took the initiative. That was almost unheard of for Val.

Michelle was in her best, short dress. Black. Val was in tailored midnight-blue trousers and a white blouse with French cuffs. She was in flats so Michelle, in her two-inch heels, just about matched her in height. When the door was closed, Val waited. One-Mississippi. Two-Mississippi. She felt Michelle lightly reach for her to take her into the living room where she let go of Val to turn on a lamp next to the sofa. Val did not move as she awaited Michelle’s return. With a demonic smile, Michelle sashayed back. She put her hands around Val’s waist and closed the distance until their chests touched, Michelle’s hands now wrapped around to and up Val’s back. Michelle felt Val’s hands on her ass.

“I will never forgive myself for what I did—”

“We both made mistakes. I should have understood what you were going through. Ironically I made you leave because I was so afraid I would lose you. I’ve never felt that way about anyone.”

“I cheated on you with Estelle.”

“From what she told me—she thought you were a free agent—you weren’t with her when you were ‘with her.’ Look, I tried to fuck Cindy, but she wasn’t you and I couldn’t do it. Can we just agreed we both screwed up and agree that we won’t do it anymore? Ever.”

“Do you love me?”

“You know I do.”

“A girl likes to hear it.”

“OK Michelle Steele. I love you. You’re the only person I’ve ever said that to.”

“Good, Valerie Daniels.” Val grimaced for a moment that Michelle used “Valerie” and then said, “No one calls me that. I like that you do. But don’t do it too much in public. I have a reputation to maintain.”

“Whatever. As I was saying, Ms. Daniels, I love you and while I have said it a few times to others, I’ve never felt the way I feel with you with anyone else. And I can’t imagine that I ever could.”

She stepped back. “So if you’re good looking forward, I’m good looking forward,” and she extended her right hand, which Val took. “Deal.”

Michelle moved back in. “So I’m looking forward to some hot looking forward. What do you say?” And Val put her arms around Michelle and pulled her to her and Michelle swooned and moaned as her lover began to devour her as they stood in the living room until she turned and pulled a willing Michelle into the bedroom.

Once there, Michelle stopped Val, pushing her teasingly so Val sat on the bed. Without taking her eyes off Val’s, Michelle reached to the back of her dress and unzipped it. She then pushed it off her left and then her right shoulder and let it fall so that its top hung above her waist, revealing a black lace bra. She slowly pushed the dress past her hips and let it drop. She stepped out of it. She was now only in the bra, a matching pair of panties, thigh-high stockings and her two-inch heels. All in black.

She stepped out of the shoes and took a step closer to Val, whose eyes had a sheen they’d never had and Michelle had never seen before. Michelle reached behind her back again, this time to unclasp her bra. She clutched the cups to her breast until she let one and then the other strap drop. She then pulled it away, leaving her naked above her panties.

She stepped so that she could touch Val, stepping between spread legs. She reached and undid the top button of the blouse. She kissed the newly-exposed flesh. And she repeated this for each of the next six buttons until it was fully open. She pulled the blouse out of Val’s trousers and pulled it off. She put her hands behind Val’s back and unclasped her bra.

“I’ve missed these babies,” and she leaned in and kissed the left and the right tits. Val had never let anyone do something so deliberate to her but she was lost in that moment. Michelle stepped back and after taking off her heels pushed Val’s knees together and the scooted so she was on Val’s lap and facing her, her hand crossed behind Val’s neck, their faces inches apart.

“If you don’t take me right now I think my heart will explode.”

Val flung Michelle on her back and hooked her fingers into the band of her panties as she was still bouncing slightly on the bed and in a moment they were gone and a moment after that Val’s mouth covered Michelle’s pussy and her tongue ran up and down her inner and outer folds, flickering the clit as she did. She then put three fingers inside and began to run them in and out as Michelle tightened her grip of her lover’s head, her knees now in the air as she placed her feet on the bed to be able to open herself fully.

Too soon Michelle exploded in a chorus of panting screams until she pushed Val’s head away. Val looked up, and gave a satisfied grin.

“I hate that you can do that to me so easily.”

“I’m a little out of shape, being denied so long.”

“Valerie. Please fuck me.” Michelle had come down enough to be ready. Val stood and took her shoes, trousers, and shorts off and went to the bottom drawer of the dresser to take out their favorite strapon. She put a little lube on it, not needing much, and put the harness on before turning. Michelle was hypnotized by the sight and positioned herself dead center in the bed. Val towered over her from between Michelle’s legs and she lifted those legs and put the ankles on her shoulders, opening up Michelle.

She looked down at Michelle’s glorious pussy, glistening from having come.

“Please.”

Val entered her love and they began a slow, rhythmic dance of intimacy that both missed more than they realized while they were apart. When Val felt her own orgasm coming, she quickened the pace of her pumping into Michelle, neither wanting to delay the inevitable. And they were both coming in ecstasy. Val pulled out and with the strapon still on lay next to Michelle, their arms and legs butting gently against each other.

“You make me so much better than I could ever be on my own.” This was Val.

Michelle turned to look at Val’s profile. She ran a hand across Val’s cheek. “As you do me.” She then leaned over and gave Val a kiss on the cheek she’d just caressed. “From now on, all I care about is you and making me happy.”

“You already make me happier than I deserve to be.”

Michelle plopped back down.

“Can we just agree that you’re too good for me and I’m too good for you so we don’t keep having a fight about it? Can we?”

Now Val turned on her side to look at Michelle and give her a kiss on the cheek.

“If fighting means make-up sex, I don’t mind fighting.” She plopped back down. “But, yeah, it’s a deal.”

*          *          *

“There’s someone I want you to meet.” Val and Michelle were approaching Ethel’s. They’d already been there several times since their reunion, but this was a Sunday in the late afternoon so it was quiet. “I figure we can have an early dinner with a friend of mine.”

When they got in, a woman was sitting alone at one of the tables by the front window. Cindy did not come to Ethel’s often. She found it a bit cliquey and felt a bit of an outsider. She’d met Val at a library function a few years earlier, and gone with her to Ethel’s maybe three or four times since.

She rose to kiss and be kissed by Val and then turned and said, “you must be the one I’ve lost her to.”

Michelle looked a bit puzzled.

“I wanted you to meet Cindy because she’s important to me. I haven’t been as fair to her as she deserves, but she’s always been there for me. She is the one I saw when you left—”

“I didn’t leave. If you recall you—”

“Whatever. She was the one who told me to grovel to get you back. She knew more than I did how much I needed you. So I wanted you to meet her and for her to meet you.” And Val went to the bar.

“I’ve known her for a while and I’ve never seen her like this. Like she wants to settle down. It’s, frankly, kind of scary.”

“What exactly is your relationship with her?”

Cindy explained that from the moment they met, she and Val had a connection. But for reasons neither understood it never grew into a romantic love. They enjoyed the time they spent together and the sex they had when neither of them was in a relationship but each knew that the other would never provide what each knew she needed.

“She really is special.”

“I know.”

“She’s a librarian. And she made me feel less self-conscious.”

“About what?”

“Oh, you don’t know.” Cindy pulled her left leg out so Michelle could see the prosthetic.

“It wasn’t heroic or anything. My mom was drunk and drove into the side of a bridge on a parkway. She was killed and they had to saw me out. Couldn’t save it. I was twelve. I met Val at a librarian event. I work at a branch in Queens. There was something between us. I figured she was gay—”

“I said something along those lines to her and she went nuts.”

“It’s OK to think it. But don’t ever let her hear you say it. Anyway, at a break I asked if she’d like to go out for a drink. Probably not the first lesbian pick-up at one of these things. So she and I went to a bar and hit it off. I made it clear that I was gay. We exchanged numbers and went out a number of times but, as I say, there was no there there so we stayed friends. She got me to talk about my leg. Very matter-of-factly, which helped. It helped me to stop defining myself by that part of me that was gone and wasn’t coming back. That’s what I mean about helping me get comfortable with myself.

“I don’t want you to think she’s a saint or anything though. Far from it. I’ve been with her when she’s ripped some girl’s heart out. ‘Time to move on.’ Never a ‘sorry.’ She treats people as disposable.

“And don’t think too much about me. I’ve seen her do it and I’ve been in her bed right after. I was in her bed after whatever happened with you. So you need to understand that. But she knew I’d tell you all of this. That’s never happened. And she froze when I was with her after she broke up with you. And that’s never happened. You make her different. But I can’t guarantee that down the road she won’t tell you it’s time to move on. Nobody can. All I can tell you is that you’re different and that she’s different.”

Cindy asked for Michelle’s phone and dialed her number. “Here, now you have my number. Call whenever you want. She saw me do it. She knew I would.” She stood and leaned to give Michelle a kiss on the forehead. “Much as she’s a shit, she is a special person. I hope you tame her.” With that she turned and, after nodding to Val, standing by the bar, left.

Val came to the table.

“Well?”

“I like her.”

“So do I.”

“We need to talk.”

“I know.”

The couple left Ethel’s without eating and went for a walk, not particularly caring the streets they were on and being guided in part by hitting red lights, which led them to turn onto whatever street they would otherwise have crossed. Michelle relayed what Cindy said.

“I told her not to sugarcoat me. I’m glad she didn’t, crazy as that sounds.”

The two stopped and Michelle stared into Val’s eyes.

“Will you ever tell me it’s time to move on?”

Val waited, struggling to find the true answer. Not the right one. The one that reflected her true answer. She knew how cruel she’d been to many women, but justified it to allow for a clean break. But she knew Michelle didn’t want or need that explanation. She only needed to hear one thing.

“No.”

Now it was for Michelle to pause. Two steely eyes locked on two other steely eyes.

“I will never tell you to move on. Never.”

“I know.”

The two moved to the side and wrapped their arms around each other and kissed. The air had a suggestion of a thunderstorm in the works and they quickly walked to Val’s place and up the stairs to her apartment and they made love.