London “Honeymoon”

Part 1: London Calling

          London was exciting. Different but not as different as I feared. A mashup of cultures, but not the same mix as in my native New York. It felt like home, and I liked it.

          I didn’t know why I was wandering around Hyde Park on my first day in town. I didn’t know why I was in London in the first place. It was to be my honeymoon. Four days in the capital then three in the Lake District. All planned. Until it wasn’t. All the plans weren’t. I had to pay for a wedding that neither took place nor was affordable. The British Airways tickets were non-refundable and that’s the main reason I was wandering, still jet-lagged, around Hyde Park in the late afternoon of my first day in London. My first trip there. My first trip to Europe.

          My name is Eve Young, and I hadn’t been left-at-the-altar. I never got that far. I got to my bachelorette party. That’s where my then-fiancé and now supposed-to-be-husband barged in, quite drunk, and told me and my friends that “I can’t go through with it” and left. By the end of the evening, I, significantly more drunk than he had been—though for all I knew he was far more drunk at that moment—was taken home and put to bed by Alice, who sat with me through the night and accompanied me to the bathroom to puke and pee once or twice before I finally drifted into a troubled sleep.

          At least he hadn’t decided to use his non-refundable British Airways ticket. With its assigned seat next to mine. I still hadn’t heard from him. Just third-hand gossip about either “cold feet” or “someone else.” I figured it was the latter since I still hadn’t heard from him. He was gone but, as I walked in Hyde Park, not forgotten.

          My unpleasant memories as I walked were cut off when I heard the sound of a bell and a shout, the British-understated, “excuse me.” I turned like a stunned deer. I’d wandered to the wrong side of the path and right into the path of a cyclist. “Sorry.”

          “Fucking Yanks” erupted from the cyclist as he managed to weave around me. I thought of shouting back, but was too weary to get the words out.

          It opened the floodgates. Still on the path I dropped my bag and my body shook with anger and grief and an overwhelming feeling of helplessness and hopelessness. And tears. I didn’t hear the bell of a second cyclist. I didn’t see her until the bike slid to the left. And then I heard the “arsehole” from this rider as she was falling. It broke me out of my stupor and I instinctively hurled a “Fuck You” at the woman who was now prone on the path, her bike atop her. I grabbed my bag and walked away.

          The woman who fell, Sally, got up, and the cycling traffic resumed. Grabbing her bike she chased after me. “Wait. Wait.”

          I turned, embarrassed at what I said and that I didn’t apologize. The thing was my fault. I waited.

          When Sally reached me, the fucking Yank said, “Look, I’m really sorry about getting in your way. I’m just having a bad life. Are you OK?”

          Assured that she was, I teased: “It’s pronounced ‘asshole’ by the way.”

          We were now walking, me talking and Sally rolling her bike, her helmet draped on one handlebar.

*        *        *

          I thought my apartment was very small. Sally’s was smaller. The presence of a bike did not help. The flat was carved out in a Victorian-era townhouse. “But,” she said, “I can ride to work,” as a mid-level grunt in the British outpost for a U.S. tech firm. She’d let me tell everything as we walked, me in the comfort of a stranger I’d never meet again.

          I was a junior associate at a Wall Street law firm. I made good money but had a huge student-loan to pay off. I planned to give up my small-but-not-this-small apartment at the end of the month since I gave notice that I’d be moving into my husband’s place on the Upper East Side. Not only did I not have a husband but I’d be without a place to live come the first of the month.

          Sally suggested they get take-away—me comfortable enough to joke, “It’s pronounced ‘take-out’ by the way.” Which had the undesired effect of a “for that you get to pay” from my host—and we headed out. Returning with our Indian, they sat across from one another with the food and our beers.

          We talked. I hadn’t talked in a long time. Even with Alice. It seemed that every non-office communication over the past three-or-four months centered on the wedding. It wasn’t true, but it seemed that way to me. Now it all was gone. I had no idea what I would do or even where I would live but I could talk. Inane chatter to a stranger. I enjoyed it.

          Still jet-lagged, I was fading by nine-thirty. Sally walked me to the Tube Station. As we reached it, Sally put her arms around me and hugged me tightly, receiving a whispered but almost teary “thank you so much” from me in return. After we separated, I looked into Sally. Before the tears could come she leaned in and placed her lips on mine and then our tongues danced. All of my longing and lust expressed in the next fifteen seconds we shared with one another.

          It had to end and it did. I turned and reached my hand towards Sally and we exchanged one last flicker of fingers.

*        *        *

          On the flight home, after a wasted experience in the Lake District, I thought. Sally was the first woman I’d kissed. I didn’t watch a movie or pull out my book. I thought.

Part 2: Return to New York

          As I walked with my bag and followed the crowd to Customs, alone, I was numb. A month earlier, I expected this would be a walk to my new life. My new husband. My new apartment. My new family. Perhaps a new perspective on my job. Everything would be new. Including, perhaps, me.

          Instead I walked through the long hallway with its low ceiling staring at the bag being pulled ahead of me. Without a husband, apartment, or family. My job will be just as mundane on Monday as it was on the Friday before I headed to England.

          It hit me shortly after wheels-up at Heathrow. What I was heading to. And what I was heading from. At some point over the Atlantic, though, the former eclipsed the latter and by the time we landed I was just . . . numb.

          I hoped Alice would meet me after I got my bag and went through the doors that opened to the crowds holding signs or waiting with balloons for family members. I had no family and I shouldn’t have been surprised when Alice wasn’t there. I was a little pissed though. She could have made the trip. But getting to JFK from midtown in the afternoon is hellish. Still. If she wanted to play it that way, she has to be the one who calls me. Petty, yes, but.

          I got a cab to Manhattan. The cabbie tried to engage me in conversation—where are you coming from?/how was your trip?—that sort of thing, but he quickly realized I was a local in no mood so the ride was quiet. The traffic was not helping matters.

          We turned onto West 85th Street to my brownstone just west of Central Park. I wouldn’t be here much longer. In anticipation of moving into my husband’s place I’d given notice that I was moving out, and the landlord said she was sorry but she’d already rented it to someone else so I couldn’t stay. It had to be broom-clean in less than two weeks. I hadn’t thought where I’d be then. My brain lacked the room for it.

          As the cab slowed in front of my building, I saw Alice sitting on its steps, and after the cabbie got my bag out of the trunk, I paid and thanked him and turned to receive her friend’s extended hug.

          “What am I going to do?” The numbness quickly replaced by tearful despair. “What am I . . .?”

          “You’re smart and clever and beautiful. We’ll figure it out.”

          With that Alice helped me with my bag as we climbed the two flights to the apartment. She sat in the living room even after I fell asleep on my bed.

          She and I met in college outside Boston. We were good but not best friends. We knew each other more as members of a group from our dorm than anything more. Our relationship was helped by having been brought up in towns about ten miles apart in Westchester County. Alice went to public school. I went to Catholic.

          We lost touch after graduation. I went to NYU Law School in Greenwich Village and she started at a bank in midtown Manhattan. We met again at a classmate’s birthday party. We sat next to one another on a sofa. I was in my final, third year of law school, graduating in a couple of months. We had our first true one-on-one conversation since college at that party and I realized how much I missed seeing her. Now we’re, as the foregoing should have told you, best friends.

          She was far the more sarcastic and impish of the two of us. She was the one who always tried to push me out of my comfort zone, with mixed results.

          We’d always helped each other with Men Issues. She was in a long-term relationship with Ben, someone she met in college who I vaguely remembered and who I now quite liked, and they and my ex-fiancé often double-dated. After the bachelorette-party blow-up, Alice told me that Ben never really liked the guy anyway. I yelled at her. “He didn’t like him? Why didn’t you tell me?” She said she only found out after the fact, that Ben didn’t want to rock the boat for me.

          Alice, too, expressed post-blow-up reservations about the whole thing, but she also kept it to herself because of how happy she knew I was. And I really was happy about it. She still feels awful about not warning me. But I’ve forgiven her. I went in with my eyes wide open and wouldn’t have listened to her no matter what she said.

          A little before I was supposed to get married, Alice and Ben moved in together. At that moment, though, Alice was in my living room waiting for me to wake up.

          She was there for me for the next months, too. She got engaged to Ben, but still made time. They took me out on a few dates with a friend or acquaintance of one or the other of them every couple of weeks or so, but nothing stuck. They were nice, but I probably was in a place where it didn’t matter. I was not interested in a transitional guy and they were not interested in a woman who was left-at-the-altar. While that was not technically true, it was close enough to the truth to matter. So dinner, sometimes just with the date, and a kiss and that was it. I had no interest in sex and no longings to get into bed with someone for the sake of getting into bed with someone.

          I took care of myself. My ex really wasn’t very good at it so I became very good at it. Two or three times a week, maybe more, when I got in bed I took my vibrator from the bedside table’s drawer and ran it across myself. Knees up and legs spread, Up-and-down, avoiding my clit at first. Eyes closed; I didn’t need them for what I was doing. I sometimes ran it across my vagina and across my perineum to my anus, touching only lightly until coming back and putting it in me. I was adept at using my left fingers to rub my clit when it was ready. I enjoyed the vibrator in me as my fingers manipulated my clit till I came. It never took very long and I nearly always fell quickly into a deep, satisfying sleep, the vibrator left on the bed beside me for the night.

          In those moments and increasingly at other moments I did not miss the quick in-and-out/thank-you that was the norm with my ex. In those moments and increasingly at other moments I was happy I was rid of him and I was not in a hurry to find a replacement. As I said. I took care of myself and I became very good at it.

          I had managed to find a place not far from my old apartment. It was in a relatively new apartment building on Columbus Avenue—as opposed to a mid-block brownstone. A few blocks north of where I’d been.

          My job still sucked but I was at the point in my career when associates start thinking of moving to a more-permanent job since they won’t, as I wouldn’t, be making partner. The idea was to make a lot of money and get enough experience to find a place at a smaller firm or a company. My résumé was up-to-date and in circulation. Job searching was not a concern of my firm. It knew most of those in my year were looking to leave and would help insofar as it could to avoid a logjam of senior associates without partnership prospects.

          I had some close calls for getting a new job, but I was still where I was. And ever optimistic.

Sally Abbott’s Email

          After a typically long week in mid-September, I was tired on Friday as I got home. I’d have some wedding-planning things to do for Alice—I was her maid-of-honor—the next morning but otherwise planned to decompress for the weekend. Go out for a run each morning, perhaps around the Reservoir. It is a way to clear my head, but I don’t do it often enough even though I lived only a block from Central Park.

          I booted up my computer and opened my personal email. The usual. I was about to delete one from “Sally Abbott,” a name I did not recognize, but since I thought she could be a real person I opened it.

          Eve,

          Hi. I hope you are who I think you are. Are you the Eve that I almost hit with my bike in Hyde Park some months ago?

          If not, sorry to bother you. If you are, I am coming to new york and I’d like to see you.

          Please let me know either way.

          Sally Abbott

          Oh my God. I hadn’t thought of her in a while. I’d only seen her for a few hours months ago but I suddenly recalled those pleasant hours in an otherwise disastrous trip I probably shouldn’t have taken.

          It was about eight and her email about an hour old when I opened it. It was one or two in London. I figured she’d get my response in the morning.

          Sally,

          It is I. Or however you British assholes say it. It is me?

          Seriously seriously, I definitely remember you. I’d love to see you. How did you find me?

          Eve

          As I made dinner, I heard an email come in. I rushed to it. I was excited about this. Her again.

          Eve,

          We’re “arseholes”. For the record.

          I Googled “Beautiful New York Lawyer” and your picture came up.

          I clicked it before I realized it was an ad!!!

          Seriously, seriously, seriously my mum and auntie are coming with me next month. I’d really like to say hello. Would that work?

          Sally

          And thus began our exchange. They were arriving at JFK on a Saturday a few weeks later and taking the bus to Grand Central. I told her to call when they were on the bus and I’d meet them on 42nd Street and Park Avenue, near the viaduct that goes around Grand Central.

          She was hard to miss. Still tall and slim. Still long light-brown hair. Standing with two obviously-English women in their early 50s.

          I hugged them all and told them I was thrilled to see them. It was the first time in New York, in the U.S., for all three. They were staying at a hotel near Times Square, and we hopped a cab. I explained that I would be their tour guide for the day and for Sunday. In part it was returning the favor Sally did for me in London. In part it was that I love being a tour guide.

          I left Sally’s mum and auntie—I’m going with what Sally called them—to recover from their flight and I grabbed a cab with Sally. We headed up to my new apartment.

          So much for my charm. She fell asleep on my sofa about twenty minutes after we arrived. I called her hotel and spoke to her groggy mum. I said Sally had crashed on my sofa—translated to fell-asleep-on-my-couch—and asked whether they could take a cab uptown so I could take them to dinner. Assuming Sally ever woke up. She laughed and said they’d be there in about an hour.

          By then, Sally was up and embarrassed. I just told her she was cute when she snored. She threw a cushion at me. I told her she might have hit me if her national sport didn’t involve kicking and not throwing a ball. When she got back from peeing, she laughed. “I thought all you New Yorkers had huge apartments.” I wish. I told her I was lucky to have what I had, noting that it was still twice the size of her place.

          “Oh, I’m not there anymore. I have a slightly larger flat a bit farther out. I usually have to take the Tube to work. Too far for my bike. Of course, it’s safer. Fewer tourists.” She smiled. Such a nice smile she had.

          With that she took my offered glass of wine and I told her her mum and auntie would be coming at about 6:30 and we were all going out to dinner. My treat.

          We sat next to one another on the sofa. I had to say it.

          “I haven’t recovered from that kiss.” I was in part teasing her.

          She was embarrassed again.

          “I’d never done that.” She was a bit red. “Before or since.”

          My God she was pretty.

          That kiss. I think it was always somewhere in my brain all the time, but below the surface. I figured it affected me because I was in a bad place and any human contact would affect me the way that kiss affected me. But I gave it no active thought once I’d returned to New York. It was no more than the one good thing, exclamation point, in an otherwise horrible part of my life and I was glad that it and everything about that trip was behind me. Sometimes I didn’t know if I believed that.

          So I told her I liked it simply as her effort to reach out to me in my distress and that it helped me make it through the rest of the trip. She smiled. “Good. That’s what it was for me too.” And that was the last we spoke about it.

Dinner for Four

          They could talk. And laugh. The three of them. Gin-and-tonics and they were off. Listing the sights they planned to hit. The usual. Statue of Liberty. Empire State Building. Ground Zero. Central Park. Metropolitan Museum. Chinatown. The Subway. It was exhausting just listening.

          They were here until the following Sunday. I was working Monday through Friday, but I promised to take them around on the next day, Sunday, and next Saturday.

          I got them to defer the usual tourist-stuff until they were on their own. Except for the Subway. I insisted we take the Number 2 train so we could walk around the West Village. They adored the Subway and the people going about their business as they rode, much as I did. When we arrived downtown, I walked with and talked to Sally as the other two bounced from boutique-to-boutique. Her mum and auntie were not from London. They were northerners. From outside Newcastle. Geordies. They’d only been to London a few times so they still were somewhat awed by the Big-City Experience. They weren’t Yokels but pretty sophisticated, and they loved everything. Sally and I enjoyed their enthusiasm. Who were the adults in the room?

          On Sunday afternoon we strolled through Central Park. It was a bit warm for October so we bought water at vendors now and then. And we stopped a lot. By the time we were done, they caught a cab back to their hotel. I met them nearby about an hour later and we had dinner at a somewhat touristy place they’d always wanted to go. I had a blast.

          I was able to see Sally alone twice during the week. Tuesday and Thursday. She left her mum and auntie at the hotel and took the Subway to see me. Her experience on the Tube quickly made her an expert on our trains. She stayed over both those nights. On the sofa. It got too late for her to venture back to the hotel and I had the sofa. We were like college roommates. I hadn’t had someone stay over since the break-up. It was good to have someone for the evening, most of the time spent just talking about this and talking about that.

          Speaking of roommates, Alice met the two of us for dinner on Thursday night. Though I asked her not to, she spent a fair amount of time telling stories about me and my ex. Including details of his I’m-outta-here reveal at my party, which Sally found as hysterical as I did not. But I knew Alice was right and eventually I joined in. Well, until she said, “In the end, she said he wasn’t good in bed” which I never said (although as I mentioned earlier it was true) and which garnered a “really?” reply from Sally.

          In fact, I think I enjoyed that threesome more than I had enjoyed a night out in a very long time and I regretted that it had to end. But end it did.

          On Saturday the four of us walked across the Brooklyn Bridge. It was crazy, although really not that far, but the bridge was mobbed by tourists (me being an honorary one for the duration) but they wanted to do it and get the pictures. We got sandwiches and water and enjoyed the view across New York Harbor from the Brooklyn Promenade. You would think being exhausted would quiet Sally’s mum and auntie. You would be wrong. On the other hand, Sally and I sat quietly one bench over, in wonderment at the other two.

          Sally turned serious. I told her what happened to me since I left her at that Tube stop. I had given her hints when we were alone during the week. I was more expansive as we sat. How if I heard you-just-have-to-get-back-on one more time I would scream. How I didn’t want to get back on a horse. Or at least the type of horse everyone wanted me to get on. I went on about the dates I had and how none struck my fancy at all and I struck the fancy of no one either.

          Sally opened up about herself as we looked across the harbor and to the lower-Manhattan skyline to the right. She’d never been engaged but came close once. Several other long-term relationships with men she knew, most notably a post-college period with a classmate and once with an American she met at her company. In both those cases, they ended when her lover—she said she’d only had sex with that almost-fiancé and the two others and that, she lowered her voice, while it was OK it was still “disappointing,” to which I said, “I hear you”—fell for another woman. She always felt, she said, like a runner-up or a transitional girl. Both of those last two men married the woman they left her for. “Maybe I’m a lucky omen. I’m surprised more desperate men don’t date me so they can dump me for their dream girl.”

          She was in the midst of a long, dry spell. Her mum, though, was perhaps more anxious about it than she was. Sally was nearing thirty and content to work hard at her good job until the right one came along.

          We had to laugh. Two frustrated, not-unattractive city girls in their late 20s unable to find a mate in two of the largest cities in the world. I said, “If we can’t find anyone in five years, maybe we should get married,” and she laughed when I did.

          By this point her mum and auntie were tired and we walked to the subway for the trip home. It was their last night, so they took me for a nice dinner. I picked a place near my apartment and we re-assembled there at seven. All dressed up. It was a very nice time and her mum and auntie gave the two of us time to be together for a post-dinner stroll. I’d be seeing them off the next day at around noon, but things would be hurried then. I was glad for the chance to speak with Sally like this one last time. She confessed that she was getting tired. With what she was doing. As was the case with me, was she going where she wanted to go?

          I found my hand holding hers. As a friend. By then I considered this woman a good friend. When they finally haled a cab, I gave all three a hug. I’d be stopping by their hotel in the morning and would go with them to get the bus to JFK.

          As I entered the lobby in the morning, I saw her mum and auntie. She was nowhere to be seen. They didn’t see me. I heard her auntie say, “She’s seems very nice. I hope they . . .” She stopped when Sally’s mum tapped her on the arm and nodded towards me. They both smiled.

          Sally came down a minute later and we brought their luggage to the curb. We caught a cab to where they’d get the bus. We had one final hug before they got on it. The two older women left me alone with Sally. We lingered until she gave me a hug and whispered, “Thank you so much. I’ll miss you,” and I told her that I was so glad to see her and hoped to see her again. But much as I would like that, especially with Alice getting married and having her new life, I doubted I would see Sally Abbott for a while, if I ever would again. She turned as she headed to the door and came back and gave me another kiss, my second with a woman, and she turned again, got on the bus, and I waved to them as it pulled away from the curb.

          It was a far briefer kiss than the one in London. While her watching relatives may have thought it a friendly one, I felt much more from it. Much as I did in London. I watched as the bus turned to head to the airport. And I thought.

Part 3: Staying in New York

          I sometimes regretted letting Sally just slip away. Especially after what I thought would be a long-term relationship with someone I met from another firm that I entered into shortly after she was back in London blew up. Once again it was “someone else” who got him. Although my fiancé left me it turned out—I didn’t mention this—for another woman, this time I was left for another man. This time he was caught, kissing yet another lawyer in his bed when I was supposed to be out with Alice. I had keys and often just stopped by. But Alice cancelled at the last minute so I decided to surprise him. We surprised each other.

          After his lover unceremoniously fled, Rich confessed. He was trying to “straighten out”—that’s really what he said—with me but had been seeing this man for a while, even before we met.

          This time I lost it. Not only at being deceived and dumped but at the inanity of it. “If you fucking loved him, why couldn’t you just love him and been a couple and not been a lying creep.” I knew Rich and his crowd and I knew why he couldn’t let some of them know. His concern for what-others-thought, was embedded in him. One of his less attractive qualities.

          Surprisingly for someone who’d been cheated on for a while, over time we became friends. I did like him and I liked him more when we both gave up trying to have him be someone he wasn’t. And when he finally broke free of his friends’ restraints by breaking free of those “friends,” he moved in with his lover and they are now engaged.

          When it happened, though, I was not in a good place. Alice of course was there for me again, but she was limited by being married and by being pregnant. Then she was gone. Ben got a job in San Diego and they moved across the country.

          The one thing I had going for me was my new job. It was in the legal department of a mid-sized bank with its headquarters in midtown Manhattan. The pay was good and the hours were better than at my law firm. The other lawyers and the staff were more laid-back too and for the first time I became friendly with a number of them. I could walk the three miles or so to work, including through Central Park, and had time for almost-daily runs there, even entering races every few months.

          The new friends, of course, begat new dating opportunities, mostly of the friend-of-a-friend type. With my improved work-situation, I began to enjoy myself and with several men I went on a number of dates and brought two or three home with me to spend the night. From then I confirmed just how bad my ex was in bed. Thank God I was rid of him.

          None of these relationships turned serious, although I think some of them wanted it to be. But things were not clicking for me. Still, I was having fun.

          I came home from one of those enjoyable dates on a Friday night. Bill. It was a third date, but we both knew “we” weren’t happening but we both had a good time of it. I was in a better place than I perhaps had ever been. I was spending some weekends up at my parents’ place in Westchester and getting to know my sister Carly’s two-year-old boy. She and her hubby lived nearby. Carly, older than me by two years, had become my Alice since the latter’s move to California.

          It was a bit late on this particular Friday. I’d let my phone run out of power and hadn’t checked my mail for hours, so I raced to boot up my laptop. I was not ready for the third message.

Eve,

Long time. I’m sorry I haven’t kept in touch. I couldn’t.

I’ve been thinking a lot about you recently. I’m coming back to New York for an extended period. I’ve managed to get a transfer to my firm’s New York office. There’s no fixed period for it but it’ll be at least a year.

I hope you’re still available to help me. Please say you are. If not, I understand.

Fondly,

Sally Abbott

          Sally Abbott. I hadn’t thought of her in a while. As happened with that first kiss in London, her second lingered on my lips for some time but with all that was going on in my life it faded. I suddenly regretted that, my right hand touching my lower lip for a moment.

Sally Abbott,

I will always be available to help you. You’ve made me very happy.

Love,

Eve

          I sent it.

          I hadn’t given any thought to what I wrote and as I read it I was afraid she’d get the wrong idea. Then I couldn’t stop staring at it. Every word of it was true.

          Her email was three hours old. Who knows what time it was in London. She’d see my response in the morning.

*          *          *

          I went to JFK to meet her. I didn’t need a sign for her to recognize me as she came through the doors after clearing Customs. It was mid-afternoon, and she was dragging two bags and I called to her. She rushed to her right and hugged me over the steel barrier, saying, “Oh my God. You don’t know how thrilled I am to see you again.”

          I walked to meet her and help her with her bags as she passed into the open area of the British Airways terminal. We dragged them to a short taxi-line and after the bags were stowed in the trunk we headed to Queens. Bad as the traffic was, I barely noticed as I listened to her go on about her new job. How she saw a posting for it and applied without thinking she’d get it and, well, getting it. She would need to get an apartment, but had a monthly stipend to use. The firm would pay for one month at a mid-range hotel in Queens. We were going to that hotel.

          Much of this I knew, of course, from our emails and conversations since that Friday email. She was so excited, though, that I let her tell it again.

          The hotel was really mid-range. At least it was close to the subway so she could get to her office in midtown relatively easily. She was too tired to want to do anything so after we checked in and she took a quick shower, we walked to a small restaurant a couple of blocks from the hotel.

          She, of course, was still on London time, and she quickly faded. So after our chatting during dinner, I walked her back to her hotel and to her room. I was strangely nervous. Because she’d be up early, I suggested that she take the subway to my place and we’d meet for breakfast. I told her she could call me any time after eight in the morning and I’d be ready for her.

          But I was not ready for saying goodnight. We stood awkwardly at her door and I think we both knew. This time I leaned in and kissed her, quickly pulling away. I said, “I’m so glad to see you again” and she echoed it and I left when she opened the door to her room.

          As I took an Uber home. The trip was a blur. We were both straight. Yet. This third kiss was riddled with promise and hope and joy and more than a hint of passion. And it was just a kiss.

          When I got back I pulled out my vibrator. I used it fairly regularly and it filled a need. As it hit my pussy that night, though, I pulled it away. It was “enough” hundreds of time. It was not tonight. I was burning there but I didn’t want or need the intervention of a vibrator. Instead I tossed it aside and ran my fingers through myself and into myself. I thought of Sally and I spoke of Sally and I came hard.

          What if I had it all wrong? What if she was straight? There was passion and she had initiated the first two kisses but she also had stories of the men she had been with over the years. She never mentioned a woman.

          And me. What if I had myself all wrong thinking that she might be interested in me? About thinking of her as a lover? About thinking of any woman as a lover? I had almost married a man for God’s sake.

          It wasn’t late, although it was a Friday. I texted Rich.

          {Eve: I have something important I need to speak to you about. Are you available?}

          He got back in ten minutes or so.

          {Rich: Yeah. I can talk. Give me a call.}

          I called him. When I told him what was going on he couldn’t resist saying:

          “What’s with your water? It’s turning everyone gay.”

          After I asked him to be serious he was.

          “Eve. I don’t know how much help I can be. I pretty well always knew that I was gay. I just tried to overcome it with you. But I knew it was always there. I don’t know if you are gay or bi. You don’t know if you are.

          “My advice is not to overthink it. You like this Sally right?”

          “That’s just it. I’ve always ‘liked her.’ What if I ‘love her’?”

          I explained about that email I sent without thinking when she said she was coming to New York for a year.

          “I just sent it. It was like my fingers were talking before my brain could stop them and it was gone and I couldn’t get it back.”

          “Did you want to get it back.”

          I paused.

          “Shit. That’s just it. I don’t know if I wanted to.”

          “Paging Doctor Freud.”

          “So all these years I’ve been secretly gay?”

          “You know it’s not that simple. Look, just go with it. I wasted so much time not.”

          “OK. Don’t tell anyone. I don’t know what’s going to happen with her.”

          “Just make sure you have my current address for the invite.”

          “For that, you’re sitting by the kitchen.”

*          *          *

          Sally called at 8:01 on Saturday. Sounding tentative.

          “I hope I didn’t wake you.”

          Of course she hadn’t. I’d been awake for over an hour and was nursing my first cup of coffee of the day, staring at my phone and its clock.

          “No. I’ve been up. When can you get here?”

          “I’m in front of your building.”

          That was interesting.

          “Come in. I’ll buzz you up.”

          And then she was at my door.

          “We need to talk.”

          I nodded and suggested, “Let’s go for a walk.” I grabbed my keys and phone, locked up, and we quietly took the elevator to the lobby. We got two large coffees at the corner deli and headed the one block to the Park. We were silent until we entered. There was the usual hubbub for a Saturday morning, and we found a quiet path.

          “Tell me if you think it’s fate.”

          “What do you mean?”

          “Our encounter in London. You being so wonderful when my mum and auntie came with me here. Me getting the job here. Do you think it’s fate?”

          “Why did you kiss me that first time?”

        “I don’t know. I just did it. It seemed the right thing to do, you know? I thought about it every once in a while but I could never figure out why I did it?”

          “Me neither. I said it was just a human’s touch at a bad time.”

          “I remember when you told me that. I felt bad when you did. That I was trying to do something I shouldn’t have. The whole sexual aspect.”

          “Look. I didn’t know whether what I said was true when I said it. I was afraid, I think. I don’t know of what. The kiss was one of those mysteries inside of something things.”

          She laughed. “You mean Churchill’s ‘riddle inside a mystery’ or something. I used to know that.” She shook her head. “It was probably one of those quotes they made us memorize. But I get your point. What are we supposed to do about it?”

          I stopped her. I turned her towards me. I kissed her. Without a thought I kissed her. Then our tongues were touching and dancing. An asshole—arsehole?—shouted “get a room” as he rode by. That broke us apart. It was . . . amazing. She felt it too. Which I know because she said, “that was amazing.”

          “Great. What do we do now?”

          We sat on a bench. Holding hands.

          She said, “I don’t know what I want. I do know I want to be your friend. I just don’t know if I want more and I’m afraid that if I try for something more and it blows up I won’t have anyone. You’re the only person I know in New York.”

          “That makes two of us. Although I do know other people here.

          “Sally, I don’t know what the fuck’s going to happen either. That first kiss kind of made my toes sparkle but you’re a woman and that’s not supposed to happen is it?”

          “Ha. I’ve kissed guys and gotten four, maybe five toes to sparkle. I was lucky to have any toe nails when I got home that first time.”

          “So. What do we do now?”

          “Can we get breakfast?”

          “What?”

          “I don’t want to be flippant. But I’m starving and my brain is about to explode and I think for now all we can do is see what happens. It’s not like we have a choice. You tell me you sent that email without thinking. So let’s just get breakfast without thinking. And go from there?”

          Breakfast it was. We sat in a coffee shop on Columbus Avenue, like the one in “Seinfeld,” and ate and had coffee and decompressed. She, by the way, made the “Seinfeld” reference, somewhat shocked that such a place really existed with its booth and coffee and little box with napkins and saucy waitresses and plates overwhelmed with food. “I thought an English Breakfast was bad for you.” And after she explained what an English Breakfast is I told her it sounded less healthy than eggs, homefries, toast, and bacon with a coffee chaser.

          Life returned to normal insofar as it could return given my realization that I was probably hopelessly in love with a woman who I barely knew and who was in the City for a short-term gig. We agreed that she could stay at my place, sleeping on the sofa, while she looked for her own. The commute from Queens was killing her and it was killing me that she was there. For the weekend after the first one, I visited her and I enjoyed exploring a new neighborhood. But we agreed that we wanted to spend more time together, damn the consequences. So we loaded up her suitcases and she checked out and we Ubered to my apartment. It was tight, but I don’t think either of us cared. She said she was happy to be on the sofa. We spent the nights talking and getting to know one another. Simply knowing she would be there when I got home made my days go faster. We went for walks when we could, ambling around with me telling her about what movies were shot in front of what buildings. “‘Ghostbusters’? Really?” And we began to understand each other’s eccentricities. Like her penchant for horrible British comedies that she tracked down on YouTube.

          About two weeks later, with Sally’s apartment search not turning up anything, a Saturday. Maybe it was early Sunday. We’d spent the evening as we usually did. It was her turn, and she made chicken with veggies and we got through nearly a whole bottle of red. We watched a couple of movies on Netflix and turned in around eleven.

          Maybe it was the wine, but I couldn’t sleep. I peeked out into the living room when I went to pee and I saw she was up. Her tablet was lighting up her little portion of the room. When I finished in the bathroom I went to see her. I just wanted to check on her, but she surprised me.

          “Can I live here?”

          “Sorry?”

          “I think I love you and I know I love being with you. I know we’re supposed to let things happen. Right now, I just want to live with you.”

          I had thought of this myself. I knelt by the sofa. She put her tablet down and turned to me.

          “Sally.” Again without thought. “I really like you being here.”

          “But?”

          “No buts. If you can handle the couch, it’s all yours.”

          I got up to walk away.

          “What about the other thing?”

          “What other thing?” I was being a little cruel but I didn’t want to be too eager.

          “That I think I love you.”

          “Think?”

          I felt bad. This was hard for me. So I quickly added,

          “I don’t have to think about it. I’m madly in love with you.”

          “Really?” She seemed genuinely surprised.

          To convince her, I stepped back and leaned down. I placed my lips on hers and hers locked onto mine and I’m not sure how but I found myself on top of her, grinding into her, completely lost to her as she pulled me closer to her.

          “Bed.”

          “You sure?”

          “BED.”

          We rushed into my room. Neither of us knew what to do. But I’d quickly had her nightie off and she had mine off and we stood in nothing but our panties. I’d never really looked at another woman before. I placed my arms to her waist and stepped back to savor her. She was a little taller than me and her light-brown hair was straight. She often wore it up, but for sleep it flowed through her back. Her breasts were round and small and her tummy was flat.

          And that was the beginning of the first time we made love. After pointing out our mutual lack of experience, she giggled, “I have some ideas.” I shut her up with my mouth. We’d kissed several times since that first kiss. And the second. We were now, though, in unchartered we’re-naked-and-making-love territory. And that was the last moment of thinking I had for the duration. If memory serves, after we got into bed, we just . . . did it. Our tongues danced and continued dancing as she pushed me to her side so we were on our sides and face-to-face. This freed our hands to wander, and wander they did. I cupped her ass cheek and suddenly she was cupping my left tit. It had been cupped before, but never as intimately as then. Our lips still locked she started making smaller and smaller circles until she had my nipple between her thumb and index finger and she started kneading it gently.

          By that point I had pulled my hand from her ass and managed to get it to rub her slit. When I lowered it, a hint of her cream attached itself to my finger. We were both humping one another and I knew I had to bring some order to the chaos. I pushed her on her back and stayed on my side.

          “Tell me what you want me to do.” She hesitated, not knowing how to answer. “Tell me what I can do to you my love.”

          “Please, God, please Eve put your finger inside me.” So I did. After a minute or so I asked, “More fingers?”

          “God yes.” I added a second and then a third and my hand was cupped as I pushed my fingers in and lightly dragged them out. She was so wet and the thought that I had done this to her, had made her erupt inside, made me grab her right wrist and turn her slightly towards me so she could reach my pussy. She began to duplicate what I was doing until we were just a mash-up of arms and legs and fingers and pussies. Both of us speaking gibberish as we each came for the first time at the hands of another woman.

          When we were done, we lay on our backs trying to recover.

*          *          *

          About three weeks after Sally’d moved in officially, I had to work late on a Wednesday. When I got home at about 8:30 the apartment was dark. When I turned on a light, Sally sat on the sofa. Shell-shocked.

          I rushed to her.

          “What is it love?”

          “Someone buzzed the apartment. He said you’re his wife.”

          “What? You didn’t let him in did you?”

          “No. He kept buzzing. He sounded drunk. He kept shouting, ‘I want to see my wife.’ That’s not true is it?”

          That explained her look. The bastard was back. I’d blocked him on my phone but he apparently tracked me to my new place.

          “Sal. You might remember how we ended up meeting. That must have been the bastard who got drunk and walked away.”

          She nodded, beginning to relax.

          “Marrying him would have been the worst mistake of my life. And it would have meant that I’d never have met you.” I gave her a kiss on the forehead. “I’m all yours and that’ll never change.”

          I realized those were the words of someone in the first blush of love. We both knew it. We both hoped it would prove true, that it would never change. But with that tacit dose of reality, it was what I needed to say and what she needed to hear.

          When she was calm I asked her to excuse me for a minute. After using the bathroom I went to the bedroom and closed the door.

          I used language that I probably shouldn’t have but I don’t regret using. But I told my former-and-never-again fiancé to stay out of my life. When he started with his “but I’ve changed” I said, “And I have too. I’m so happy I didn’t settle for you.” That last part was a bit mean to someone I did love at one time, but he deserved it. Which is when I hung up.

          “Did you love him?”

          I was sitting next to her.

          “I think I did. Probably even after my trip to London I still did. I don’t know. Maybe I would have said ‘yes’ again if he’d asked me when I got back. I don’t know. I do know that I don’t love him now and I haven’t for a very long time.”

          “Do you love me?”

          I reached for her hands. “I do.”

          “How do I know you won’t stop loving me?”

          How does one answer that question? I did not know the answer. My only hope was that my heart knew.

          “Sally. My love. I can only speak for me and for now and for the woman whose hands I’m holding.” I tightened my grip. “All I can tell you is that right now I have a need and a want for you and only for you that I cannot see ever lessening. Things may happen. But I cannot see anything happening that would lessen how much I need and how much I want you. That’s all I can tell you right now. It has to be enough. Because if it is not enough, I do not know how I can go on.”

          I had difficulty with the last part as the tears started. She reached over to wipe them with a finger, her own eyes misty. She took the damp fingertip and kissed it and returned it to my cheek with a smile.

          “Eve. That is enough for me. Please understand that I’m not a fancy New York lawyer with a slippery tongue but if I could I would say the exact same thing to you.”

          Feeling her relax, I couldn’t resist: “You think I have a slippery tongue” and she giggled as she nodded.

          I turned to close the curtains in the living room and walked back to her. She had her eyes on me the entire time. I moved the coffee table aside and knelt in front of her. She spread her legs and undid her belt and her jeans and let me pull them down. Her panties followed. We’d never done this before. She said, “get a towel I’m gonna need it” and I jumped up and came back with one. She lifted her butt so I could cover the cushion.

          She was naked from her waist down. She again spread her legs and allowed me to approach. I’d never studied her before. Like a petalled flower I cannot do justice in describing. Her hair was neatly trimmed so I could see her clearly as her lips spread. A slight reflection in the cream at the base of this flower. She put her hands to either side and opened herself lustfully and lasciviously for me. It was by far the most erotic thing I had ever seen. By far. My tongue ran across my lips and I scooted to get closer.

          I placed my right fingers along her, wondering at her. I leaned in and gave a peck to her hooded clit. I felt her thighs shake. Now her hands were in the back of my head, guiding me in. And I let her and then my tongue reached her. I was still in my suit but that was the farthest thing from my mind. Only her. Only this precious part of her. It took up so much space in my brain that there was no room for anything else. Were the room to catch on fire—which it surely might given the heat that I was feeling—I hoped that she would have the wherewithal to raise the alarm because I certainly couldn’t.

          My tongue getting wetter and wetter along with her. I sucked on her clit for two, three seconds when I felt her hands push me down. She wanted my tongue inside her. So did I. I made a circle out of it and stabbed her vagina. Reaching in as far as I could. Again and again. She released her hands but it did not matter. I was fully engaged in what I was doing. She began to rock and I lifted my right hand around and began to rub her clit.

          “Finger. In me.”

          My mouth and my fingers switched places. I was pistoning her while sucking gently on her clit. She had leaned back on the sofa saying who-knows what to who-knows-who until I suddenly felt her hands again grab my head. “Oh My God.” Her hips began to bounce on the cushion as she pulled me closer into her.

          Then, as my arm began to cramp she pushed me away. Her orgasm washed over her and she was done. It was the most-primal moment of either of our lives. She wanted to return the favor, and I was so aroused that when I straddled her on the sofa and pulled up my skirt and she pulled my panties down to get access to me, I came within a matter of a minute or two of when she started fiercely rubbing my clit as I pulled her head to my stomach, me holding on to have some semblance of control over my body. After I shifted so I was sitting next to her, my panties halfway down my thighs and me putting a portion of the towel under my butt so I wouldn’t stain the cushion with my flow, I turned to kiss her.

          She licked her own juices that surrounded my mouth. While her pussy was the most erotic thing I had ever seen, this was the most erotic thing I ever felt and I made her share me with me as my tongue attacked hers. If we weren’t done, we’d have gone for a second round. But seeing as we were done, all I could do was talk. Barely. I didn’t need much brain-power to get across what I wanted her to know.

          “I love you Sally. All I can say is that I loved you so much yesterday but I love you so much more today and I think I’ll love you even more than that tomorrow.”

          “Damn you. I don’t really care if you love me. If you do what you just did every day, I’ll keep you around regardless.” And she gave the natural giggle that I’d long found endearing in her.

          She added. “You’ve eaten. I haven’t.” I slapped her. “There’s Chinese I ordered that’s getting cold. Let’s take a quick shower and have dinner.”

          The shower was not big but it was big enough. There was no hanky-panky. We were way too tired and spent for that. It was a quick I-suds-her/she-suds-me deal and we put the food in a microwave and opened a bottle of Merlot and sat in our robes eating with chopsticks. The curtains were still closed so we enjoyed our privacy. I thought of how nice it would be to eat Moo Shu Pork from her belly, and I think she might have thought the same thing.

Part 4: Meeting the Parents

          Metro-North trains are nice. They are workhorses during the week, taking tens of thousands of commuters to and from work in Manhattan from parts north, including in Connecticut. The cars are in a two/three configuration with half the seats looking in one direction and half in the other. They terminate when they come to the city at Grand Central Terminal. Since that’s where the tracks end, it’s a terminal and not a station.

          On a Saturday morning in September, a little over a month after Sally was formally my roommate, she and I were in the third car in the middle in one of the two-seaters facing forward. We were heading to Mount Vernon to meet my parents. To get this out of the way at the start. They didn’t know about Sally. They knew of her. That I had a roommate. That was pretty much it.

          Carly knew “about Sally and me.” She was my confidante with Alice gone—Alice knew pretty much everything via phone calls almost as it happened, although not some of the details (Wink! Wink!)—and I met with her for lunch at her place on a Saturday afternoon to tell here how important Sally was to me. She insisted on coming back with me to meet Sally and they got along from the start.

          Carly understood the need for secrecy regarding my parents. They were old school. By which I mean they were conservative by nature and did not like the way things had, as they saw it, all gone to hell. They were definitely not on board with gay marriage. It was a topic that was verboten when we had dinner together.

          Throw into that the fact that they expected to have another grandchild on-the-way by then since I was supposed to be already married to a guy who apparently sometimes thought I was actually his wife.

          I was nervous. I called my mother and said I wanted to have lunch with them. I decided the safest route was to tell them about Sally at the house and see what happened. She picked us up when we got off the train at the Fleetwood station. She stood on the platform when I saw her and she immediately noticed that Sally and I were holding hands. I gave Sally’s hand a squeeze. I’d told her about my parents but assured her a thousand times that it’d be alright. I wasn’t sure it would be but I had to assure her or she’d never have come.

          When we reached my mother. “Hi Mom. This is Sally Abbott. She’s my girlfriend. She’s British.” Simple and to the point. Like they teach you in law school. “Hi Mom. This is Sally Abbott. She’s my girlfriend. She’s British.” So much for waiting until we got to the house.

          My mother gave a perfunctory look at Sally and then at me. “Aren’t you going to say hello?”

          She fumbled and said, “Nice to meet you. . . . Sally.”

          “Pleased to meet you Mrs. Young.”

          The accent threw my mother. She looked at me. “She’s British?”

          “Yes, Mom. She’s British.”

          “Well. That’s nice. Are you here for long?”

          And so began part 1 of Meeting the Parents.

          Mom was quiet as she drove to the house. We could have walked, but she insisted on driving and I was glad because it gave her time to process before we met my father. The iciness of my mother was a relief compared to the heat of my Dad. He gave up on trying small talk after three or four minutes. At that point he asked to speak with me in the kitchen. Poor Sally was left alone with my mother.

          We did not go to lunch with them. It was made clear that “that Brit” was not welcome in “my house.” “What would the neighbors think?” was asked. So was “What happened to you?” and “Why are you doing this?”

          Less than fifteen minutes after we arrived, Sally and I were walking into town to get the next train home. And “home” was where we were heading. It was not where we had just been.

          I held off on the tears for a few minutes. It was Sally’s turn to be the comforter. We stood on the sidewalk with her arms around me and patting my back as I wailed. When I recovered a bit, we resumed the walk and sat down at a small café in town for coffee and a bagel. Before our train was due, I stepped out to call Carly.

          “I was afraid that would happen. I’m sorry it did.”

          “Should I have gone alone?”

          “That wouldn’t have made any difference. He’d have just tried to browbeat you even more. No. You did the right thing. How is she handling it?”

          “She looks strong, but she’s devastated. I met her mom and aunt and I think given the way the pushed us together that they were thrilled about the prospect. At least Mom was neutral about it. They’re probably yelling about it right now.”

          “I’ll call Mom later and find out what’s going on with her at least. We’ll talk later. Don’t leave Sally alone too long. And sis?”

          “Yeah.”

          “Tell Sally that I love her.”

          Which is the first thing I did when I rejoined her.

*          *          *

          For days Sally couldn’t let go of what happened with my father. Carly spoke to me again on Saturday night. After she’d talked to my mother and told her how wonderful Sally was for me, my mother moved from toss-up to slightly in Sally’s favor. My mother then opened up about my Dad. After I’d left, he’d closed the door in his den and didn’t come out for hours. When he did, he railed about how they had “fucked up” in raising me. Why couldn’t that idiot—referring to my erstwhile fiancé—just have married me? How could they just find the right man for me? “One thing I do know. That Brit is never coming into this house again.”

          Carly said our Mom tried to calm him down and that she’d do what she could to “change his mind.” She went to the house on Sunday and spoke to our Dad. Her message to him: If I did not welcome Sally he would lose me and “probably” her as well. Then she left.

          Seeing as there was nothing I could do with my father, all I could do with Sally was assure her that if I had to choose I would choose her. To me it was a Hobson’s Choice. That is, it would be no choice at all. She was still miserable about it, at times more miserable than I was, but I got her to understand that I meant what I said. At which point my troubles at the house-where-I-grew-up were put into a drawer, neither forgotten nor dwelled upon.

          Sally had by then told her mum and auntie about us actually being a couple and the two of them were thrilled. Her father, a staid Newcastle banker, shared his wife’s enthusiasm. Which explains why about a month after our visit to my former home I was sitting in the kitchen of Sally’s. It was a small town in the Newcastle suburbs. Sadly, to me, it was not one of those charming English villages where murders always seem to be piling up on British TV. It looked more like a house built in Scarsdale in the seventies. Big and comfortable though.

          And with a big kitchen. Which is where I was sitting, rebellious New Yorker that I was, with coffee and Sally’s folks. We’d flown into Newcastle the day before and I was trying to get on UK time. The trip had been a surprise. After all of the turmoil Sally had gone through in New York, good and bad, she desperately needed to visit familiar surroundings. She called me at the office one day and asked if I had vacation time available. After I got her to disclose her scheme, I realized how much I wanted to get away with her. I cleared the time with my boss and three weeks later we were on a British Airways flight to London. So much different from the last, fateful trip. We slept a bit on the flight but for the most part just watched pre-loaded movies on my tablet and read as we held hands. So much different entering the terminal at Heathrow. But no walk in Hyde Park I’m afraid as we took a flight to Newcastle. Technically Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Sally had bopped me—“Ha! Ha!”—when I asked whether she’d packed the coal after we’d left the apartment. I so loved being with her.

          Sally’s father, Jim, couldn’t have been nicer, insisting on driving us around the city for a tour, which some sweet cajoling by Sally’s mum managed to curtail. Her name, by the way, is Brenda and her sister’s name is Linda. That’s the auntie I met in New York. She came down to see us on the weekend.

          Fortunately, Sally’s folks gave us plenty of “alone time.” Since she had a full-size bed, we shared it while we stayed. We took turns. Each night one of us would finger the other to perhaps the quietest orgasms either of us ever had. At least I hope they were quiet. I bit into the pillow trying to keep my moans down. Sally was quite adept at what she could do with a middle finger. While kissing my neck on one of our last nights, she ran it along my folds. She shifted to whispering things in my ear as she shifted her finger inside of me—“you’re going to be a good girl and come for me tonight aren’t you?”/“nod if you like my finger in your pussy”/“tell me if you want me to stop” (which drew an immediate panicked shake of my head)/“that’s it, you know you’re mine don’t you, all mine” (which drew an immediate panicked nod of my head). It wasn’t long before my teeth were biting into the pillow to suppress my scream. Slowly building and then exploding. Sally held me to control my shaking. It was a side of her I wasn’t used to. I liked it.

          So we were not sex-starved on the trip. We left a few days before we were to fly back and spent two days in London. She now gave me the grand tour. Which, of course, included a stroll in Hyde Park. We stayed at a small hotel in a Victorian mansion near Harrod’s and mostly just walked around. Pretty much as I walked around on my “honeymoon,” this time actually in the company of someone I loved.

Part 5: Playing Games

          I got home on a Friday about a month after we were back from England. Sally was on the sofa. I knew her look. I put my bag down and sat next to her. After a kiss on her forehead I asked, “What is it?”

          After a pause. “Remember the first time you ate me on the sofa?”

          “Of course. I loved it.”

          “So did I. As I told you. Remember at my parents’ house where I ordered you around.”

          “I liked that too.”

          “So did I.”

          I had a sense where this was headed and I wasn’t sure I liked it.

          “Well, our sex lives don’t need spicing up. You know that, right?”

          “I know that. Right.”

          “But I had an idea.”

          “OK.” More like, “Ohhhhh Kay.”

          “I wrote something about it. It’s on the bed. You’ll understand when you read it. If it doesn’t work for you, that’s fine. If it does. Well, you’ll know what to do.”

          With that she kissed the forehead on my confused face and went into the kitchen. I got up and after stopping in the bathroom went into our bedroom. Centered on the bed was a hand-written letter.

My Love,

          Thank you for trusting me enough to read this letter.

          There have been times when I have forced you to do things to my body that have been among the most pleasant things I have ever experienced. I believe that you found them pleasant too. Afterward, I sometimes felt guilty about having forced you to do something against your will. I will never do that. I understand that my control over you at those times is simply an aspect of our love for one another.

          I know you think where this is going. You are wrong.

          I want you to share in what I experienced and I want to share in what you experienced. If you are willing, until midnight. I will be your willing slave. I will do whatever you ask me to do. I will not do anything that you do not tell me to do.

          I have done some reading on Master/slave relationships among loving couples. The rules are simple. You may order me to do ANYTHING. There will be no bondage and no pain infliction. Tonight. If at any time you wish to stop, you MUST do so. If at any time I wish to stop, I will say “RED.” If I do, you must STOP. We need to trust each other on this. I know you will stop if I tell you to. I need to know that you will stop if you want to.

          For the evening, you will be “My Lady Eve.” While “Mistress Eve” is more traditional, I have read, I like the sound of “My Lady Eve” and I want to have it pass my lips as many times as possible before midnight.

          It is traditional that a slave be called by a name she would otherwise despise. My middle name is Cindy. As your slave, I am “cin.” You may only refer to me as that or as your “pet.”

          If you agree, I have put things in the top drawer for you. My only order to you is that you wear mothing but what is in that drawer. Except for one thing in that drawer. You will understand when you see it.

          If you do not wish to continue, please read no further and we will speak of this no more.

With love, adoration, and subservience,

cin

          I read to the end.

          She was right. I was not expecting this. I could hear her piddling around in the living room. I couldn’t imagine how nervous she was. After a minute, I rose and opened the top drawer. It was empty except for lingerie, stockings, and a pair of my three-inch black heels. They were all in black. Next to them was a dog’s collar. It, too, was black. It had a note attached.

My Lady Eve,

If I am your slave, I must wear your collar as a sign of my subservience. If we proceed, hand this to me. I will make one request of you. I hope, to the bottom of my heart, that you agree to it.

cin

          The only other thing in the drawer was a lipstick. I opened it. It was bright red.

          The lingerie consisted of silk panties, a garter belt, stockings, and a silk bra. The panties, however, had no crotch. The bra had no top; it would cover the bottom and not anything more of my tits and, more important, it would not cover my nipples. I looked at myself in the mirror and decided to proceed.

          When I was finally ready, I opened the door.

          “Come here my pet.”

          Fuck. She had closed the curtains and was naked as she walked towards me. Slowly. She held her hands behind her back, and she looked down as she did. The furniture was moved so there was an open space in the middle of the room.

          “Look at me. cin.”

          I think I detected the slightest hint of a smile, but she raised her head. I held the collar across both my hands.

          “I believe this is yours.”

          “My Lady Eve. It is not mine. It is yours. Will you please allow me to wear your collar this evening?”

          So that was the request she mentioned.

          “Yes you may my pet.”

          She put the collar around her neck and turned.

          “Please secure your collar on your slave My Lady Eve.”

          I did and she turned back to me, her head again down. Eyes locked on my crotch.

          “Do you like what you see?” My God I felt powerful and I knew I was getting wet.

          “I could not imagine a more beautiful sight than your body My Lady Eve.”

          In that moment I knew that this was true and it was true of the body in front of me.

          “Follow me to the living room.”

          She’d had the foresight to place a sheet across the sofa. It would get messy.

          I sat in the middle of the sofa.

          “Kneel.”

          She knelt in front of me as I spread my legs.

          “You may approach. You may not touch. You must keep your hands behind your back.” I had read enough stories and seen enough videos to know what I was supposed to do.

          Her eyes took on a glow I’d never seen before. It was pure lust and pure adoration. She’d not had the chance to gaze at a woman’s vagina the way I had that first time. Now it was hitting her. The perfection of my cunt.

          She inched her way closer but stopped when she was about six inches away.

          “You have made me wet, my pet. That pleases me. Can you smell me?”

          “Yes My Lady Eve.”

          I reached down with both hands and my fingers opened my petals to her.

          “You may put your nose, and only your nose, to me to savor it.”

          She did it in a flash and I could hear her inhaling.

          “Worship her.”

          That released her from her trance and suddenly her tongue was everywhere. Too much. Too fast.

          “STOP.”

          She stopped. For a moment I was afraid she thought I was backing out.

          “My pet. You are such a good pet. Your Lady needs to stop you or she will fall into the abyss and perhaps never return.”

          I tapped her on her head as she sat back with her ass on her feet. Staring at my cunt. After I caught my breath and lifted my feet onto the sofa’s cushions to give her better access. To me.

          “Resume.” And she resumed. More feverish than before. Everywhere. I’d put no restrictions on her and she would have disregarded them if I had. In, across. Biting. Her tongue ran across my perineum slightly and she stopped.

          “You may.”

          And her tongue continued to my anus. She lightly passed over it and it was a new, pleasant sensation for me. Dirty. I filed that bit of intel away. Now I was in a fever as she went back to my cunt and my clit. I wanted to stop her, to keep on the edge, but I couldn’t. I had lost control and my thighs clasped her head as my hands grasped it into me as the greatest orgasm I’d ever known slammed into me.

          I tapped her head, and she backed away. She’d been licking me through my cumming. She again sat on her heels and again her eyes were locked on my cunt.

          “cin. Let Your Lady taste herself on you.” The whole area around her mouth was covered in my juices. I licked as much of it as I could, returning some of it back to her with my tongue.

          “You have pleased me my pet. You shall be rewarded.”

          I walked to the bedroom and grabbed something from the third drawer. It was my vibrator. Our vibrator. The one sexual-toy we then used on one another.

          She was kneeling in the center of the living room, looking away from the bedroom. I circled around her and turned. It was something I’d fantasized about.

          “You may take care of yourself.”

          There was a moment of hesitation in Sally’s eyes. She wasn’t expecting this.

          She took the vibrator from my hand.

          “I wish to watch you.”

          I turned and sat on the sofa. She didn’t know what to do.

          “I wish to watch you satisfy yourself. You will look into my eyes while you do so.”

          That jolted her back.

          “Thank you My Lady Eve.”

          She was embarrassed. We’d both used it on ourselves when we were alone, although we never admitted it. I’d noticed it had fresh batteries one day.

          I stood. I walked to her and took it from her hand. Standing over her, I turned it on and inserted it into my cunt. I took it out.

          “Lick.”

          She licked. It pushed her over. This was what she wanted to do.

          “Please My Lady Eve. May I pleasure myself for you?”

          “You may my pet.”

          I handed her the vibrator and returned to the sofa. I turned and when our eyes locked she lay on the floor with her legs spread, her cunt staring at me. I grabbed a cushion to put under my pet’s head and went back to the sofa.

          She went into a mad frenzy. Her cunt was drenched and she shoved the vibrator in and out with ever increasing speed and with both hands. She was manic but could not make it.

          “Please My Lady Eve. Tell me. TELL ME.”

          “Come my pet. Come.”

          She wallowed on the floor, breaking eye contact with me as she did, screaming. As she did, I too came. My fingers found their way to my clit while she was displaying herself and I quietly came as she loudly did.

          I got up and lay down next to her. It was only 9:38.

          “My pet. That is enough for tonight.”

          “But . . .”

          “No buts. Come with me to the bedroom so we can make love. Sally.”

          “I love you Eve.”

          “I know you do. And I love you.”

          The spell was broken. I was exhausted. We got into bed and we kissed gently and we rubbed each other gently and we came within thirty seconds of one another.

          As we lay together after, we talked about it. Sally said it was and it wasn’t what she’d expected.

          “I loved being told what to do and doing it to you. That’s why I came so violently. Probably more than ever for me. I’m sorry I was hesitant.”

          I gave her a kiss. “That was fine. You weren’t expecting it. I was winging it. Although I have read a bit about it.”

          “I could tell. You caught on very quickly. It’s just that I’d like to do it again. Both ways. But just for fun. I prefer being your lover and not your slave.”

          When she said this, I realized she still wore the collar.

          “Let me get this off” and it was gone. I stood and undressed myself. “After we wash this, let’s put it all away for a while. I don’t like ordering you around. I don’t think it’s for us. Right now at least.”

          “I love you Eve.”

          “No. You can still call my ‘Your Lady Eve.’ That part I’ll always like.”

          “You’ll always be my Lady Eve. Just never call me ‘cin’ again.”

          In the bedlam, we’d forgotten dinner. So we ordered Thai delivered and we ate while we watched a movie on Netflix.

          About three minutes after the lights were out, Sally said, “What about a strap-on?”

          “We’ll talk about it in the morning.”

*          *          *

          The next weekend we headed down to the West Village. To a sex shop. We’d done some preliminary scouting online, but were not prepared to actually see the rows of sex toys. A sales clerk, a woman, came up to us.

          “Please let me help you.”

          Our newness was obvious. I said we were a couple and were looking for some “toys, maybe a strapon.” After confirming that we had never used one, or pretty much anything else, she showed us a number of options. We bought a harness and three dildos in three sizes. Yellow, red, and black.

*          *          *

          We flipped for it. The winner got to decide. Top or bottom. This time we’d done our research together, including videos, and were confident we knew what we were doing.

          She won the toss. She held the damn thing in her hand. As if she were weighing it. We were naked sitting on the bed. She looked at me and then back at “him.” It was the yellow one. The smallest. It had a small dildo that went into the wearer’s vagina.

          I think she was unsure. Finally she handed it to me. “Fuck me.” And she lay on her back with her legs spread and her knees up. Before doing anything with him, and bent down to lick her and she was quickly wet enough. I put the harness around me and attached him. I put lube on him. I was atop her. She’d been fucked by men. So had I. But I’d never, well, fucked someone with me having a cock.

          “Ready?” She nodded.

          I lowered myself to her and she guided me in. After a few, slow movements I was fully in her. I looked to see it. It was a glorious sight. I was like that briefly as I lowered my chest to hers and my lips to hers. After a peck I raised myself.

          “Ready?”

          “Fuck me Love.”

          I began to thrust my hips. It was a strange feeling for me, to be fucking someone like this. But it was very nice. My arms were straight on either side of her chest as I rocked in and out of her.

          “Faster.”

          I obliged insofar as I could given that I’d never done this before. But we were both soon into the swing of things and both of us were moaning. I felt her legs encircle my thighs to pull me in deeper and control my pace, slowing me down, lengthening my thrusts. Our eyes locked.

          Having the albeit artificial connection to her was bliss itself. When she began to shake, I thrust as deeply into her as I could and held it until the storm passed as she gripped me to her as tightly as she could. She relaxed her arms when she was done but said, “stay in me” and I did for several minutes, removing him only after we kissed mildly for two or three minutes. I then rolled onto my side and she reached to touch him. She took a breath and lifted herself up and placed her mouth over him to taste herself. She was forever doing erotic things to me and this was among the best, heightened by her turning and getting atop me and spreading her juices in my mouth with her tongue.

          She fell back.

          “My turn. Prepare to be boarded.” She hurried to unstrap the strapon and grabbed some lube. “I don’t have to clean it first do I?” The thought of her juices mingling with mine led to an immediate “don’t you dare” and she coated him after strapping herself in. I was silent. The sight of this beautiful woman naked wearing a dick and staring at me as she approached, my legs involuntarily spreading for them, would kill a woman with a weaker heart.

          I reached my arms and waved her in.

          “Please Sally. I need you inside me.”

          And she wasted no time getting inside me and she repeated what I had done, perhaps with more vigor. We were both sweating and swearing and grabbing as she pounded me. Her slight dom-side came through as she did and it frightened me for a moment until I realized it was unbridled lust seeking to pleasure me, that in that moment her existence and her strength and power existed solely to pleasure me.

          I was primed but had not come when I wore the strapon. Now my existence was solely in my cunt and in the connection it had with my love. I latched onto her ass as I pulled it in me and made her fight to pull out which resulted in increasing the force of her thrusts. Without warning I lost complete control over my body, spasming beneath Sally who somehow increased the ferocity of her pounding me until I was finally able to scream “STOP FOR THE LOVE OF GOD STOP,” not caring who heard me.

          She slowly removed herself and leaned down to give me the most wonderful kiss, her tongue passing through my passive lips as she gently circled my mouth, just gently enough to permit me to catch my breath. When I awoke, she was sleeping beside me. The bed a mixture of our juices. The dildo obscenely hard and dangling from her waist. I ran my fingers along it and tasted myself mixed with the lube. When I awoke some hours later, I was under the blanket and in my nightie and Sally’s right arm was around me, her hand dangerously close to my left tit. I reached and pulled her arm closer and drifted off again to dreams that could never match what just happened between us.

          At breakfast we spoke about it. Sally was afraid that she’d gone too far in how she took me. I assured her that she had not. From that night on, though, we realized that the strapon had some special power and that it would be used with care. I, too, learned to use it to channel my desire to pleasure my love.

Part 6: Family

          I boycotted Thanksgiving. It wasn’t much of a decision. If Sally couldn’t come, I couldn’t go. My father was recalcitrant. I hadn’t spoken to him since that awful Saturday at his house. I’d met my mother in town a couple of times, once with Sally and once without, and she’d come down to our apartment several times, with Carly joining us. We ignored the gorilla in the room, i.e., my Dad. I was just trying to get my Mom to know Sally. I knew she’d like her, and she did. She was especially a sucker for the accent. Sally told me afterwards that it never failed to impress “you Yanks. It’s like they all think I was in ‘Downton Abbey’ or something. Some would probably bow.”

          When she had something she thought displayed a Brit’s superiority, she was quick to use it.

          My mother begged me to come to the house Thanksgiving, but I wouldn’t budge. So Sally and I were welcomed at the apartment of one of my colleagues from the bank with his wife and a couple of other out-of-towners who couldn’t make it home. We had a delightful time and Sally experiencing her first turkey-with-all-the-fixin’s dinner.

          On the way home, she apologized that I couldn’t go to my parents. I was straight with her. “I will never apologize because of you.” And we were quiet the rest of the cab ride home.

          My father called on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. He asked to meet me in the City. I conditioned a meeting on Sally being there. He tried to dissuade me but he failed.

          On Sunday afternoon I buzzed him up. Sally was there but after saying hello to him she went out. I offered him a coffee, which he took. I had a few pastries as well. We sat in the living room, him on the sofa, me on a chair facing him.

          “You wanted to see me. What do you want to say?”

          He took a sip of his coffee and played with the Danish.

          “I don’t understand what happened to you. You were . . . you were doing so well. I understand how upset you are when the wedding was canceled. Maybe you can get back with him. I don’t know. Or some other man. But why are you doing this?”

          “Doing what?”

          “Throwing your life away with this . . . that woman. Why?”

          I stood and walked to the window before turning and going back to my chair, standing behind it with my hands on its back, my voice rising:

          “If you think what I am doing . . . what we are doing is throwing our lives away, there’s really nothing I can say to you. If you really think that I feel sorry for you. I’m not here to listen to your slander. Your pettiness. Your complete lack in faith in my ability to love the person I choose to love. No. The one person I have no choice but to love. The person in the end who I need to love. More than anything, I will not compromise with the woman I love.

          “Is that clear?”

          He lifted his cup again, lingering before taking a gulp. He put it down.

          “It’s wrong honey. Don’t you see?”

          “Don’t call me ‘honey.’”

          “What would your grandparents think? What will the neighbors think if you show up with her?”

          “Then I’ll make this simple. They won’t think anything because they won’t see her. You can tell them I’m dead for all I care. If you can’t even accept—not endorse but fucking accept—me as I am, I will not accept you. I don’t know why you bothered coming down here. Now, please go. I want to go see my fiancée.”

          I opened the door and he was gone. His last words, “I’m sorry. It’s just not right.”

          I sat at the door. Crying. Why couldn’t he see? I called Sally, telling her we’d meet at the entrance to the Park for a walk. And I no better understood him at the end of the walk then I did at the start. At some point, my phone rang. It was my Mom. Sally told me to answer, and I sat on a bench while she walk a short distance from me.

          “Of course he’s upset. How do you think I feel about it.”

          “No. We’re definitely not coming up for Christmas.”

          “I told him what he has to do. It’s really simple. Just accept me.”

          “He can only accept me if he accepts her. OK? You didn’t have a problem.”

          “OK. Whatever problem you had you took care of, right?”

          “I love you and I love him. He has to prove he loves me.”

          That was my side of the conversation. I hoped I got through to her and that she could get through to him.

*          *          *

          On Christmas, our plan was similar to Thanksgiving. This time, though, we were asked by a married couple at my running club. They lived on the Lower East Side. They knew about my situation with my father, and they extended the invitation. They said there would be a few more couples there. It’s, sadly, not an uncommon topic of conversation—the price of coming-out—during my Club’s group runs.

          So on Christmas morning, we Skyped over to England and chatted with Sally’s mom and dad. I still don’t get crackers—things you pull apart that go “bang”—but her dad carried the laptop around so we could see the tree and the presents, specially pointing out “Eve’s gift.”

          My Mom called in late morning. She asked again if I’d come up. That my Dad was sulking and Carly was super angry at his “stupidity and stubbornness.” My Mom had to talk her into showing up. She said she’d tried to get him to the phone, but he refused. I wouldn’t have spoken to him anyway.

          I then called Alice in sunny San Diego. It was, by the way, about 40 in New York. No snow. She and Ben and the baby were doing well and I hoped to see them when they came to New York to visit their folks.

          We took a few subway trains—the 2 to the Shuttle to the 6—and arrived at my friends’ place at about 3. There’s something magical about the subway on a holiday. You have those who have to go to work and those laden with bags for visits to relatives and tourists wondering how crowded it would be near the Rockefeller Center Tree. Everyone in a festive mood. Everyone polite. Mostly.

          The apartment was on the fourth floor of a small building. A walk-up. We were bringing several bottles of wine and a bag full of English Christmas food and props, including crackers. Sally found a place that carried that stuff and our cupboard sometimes looked like her folks’ did.

           Much of the furniture had been put to the side so there was a circle of chairs with a well-decorated tree, about 5 feet, in a corner. I introduced Sally. Our hosts, Meghan and Yvette, were maybe five years older than us. The other couples were like us: One ran with the Club and the other didn’t. My initial nervousness disappeared when Meghan handed me a glass of red wine and grabbed Sally’s party-favor bag.

          We had a good time. Inevitably, though, coming-out stories were told. They knew of my estrangement from my father and several had similar stories, sometimes with the mother, sometimes with both. They said lots of families have views so encrusted that when it comes to their own child they panic. A couple of them said it took time but the objecting parent eventually came around. One person, though, said she hadn’t seen her parents in five years. “And they live in Jersey.” Her partner gave her a squeeze. It was strangely comforting to know I wasn’t alone in my stress and that at least I had the other members of my family supporting me.

          I left with the sense that there was nothing I could do to convert my father. Either he loved me or he didn’t. It was that simple. Sally and I took a cab home and she took me to bed. We were both a bit blitzed from the wine and the food, but somehow she knows what I need. She undressed me and herself and we lay in bed looking at one another, with the occasional peck on the lips, her rubbing her hand up and down my cheek. Finally, she reached for my pussy and I reached for hers and we had a lazy session of intimacy which ended when I came and she followed. After cleaning up she spooned me and we both drifted off to sleep. After a final, exchanged “Merry Christmas” from me and “Happy Christmas” from her.

Part 7: Who Are You?

          I could hear it from the hall. The Who. Blasting. When I got the door open Sally was dancing in the living room. She pointed at me, shouting “Who . . . are You? Who? Who? . . . Who? Who?” along with Roger Daltry. As I entered, she began circling and pointing at me, with a final “Who the fuck are you?”

          She told Alexa to stop and rushed to me and gave me a kiss and said, “Have I told you today how much I love you?” which of course she had. She always did.

          “What’s going on?”

          “Nothing. Really. I was just tidying and this song came on and I love this song and then you came in and, well, I’m just happy.”

          “I’m glad you’re happy, love, but I need to get out of this suit.”

          Given her enthusiasm we decided to go out to dinner. We got dressed up and headed to Broadway to a little restaurant we liked. One of us usually got a salad and the other of us usually got a burger with fries and we’d share them. We ordered a salad and a burger. Which we split. For everything else we did, this was my favorite. Sitting out with the woman I love and just being with her, talking about whatever popped into our heads.

          At that point, she’d been in New York for about seven months, but she was told that she’d be here for at least another year. She was happy at work and work was happy with her. It was her relationship with me that got her bosses to agree to extend her period. I made some inquiries and learned that she could probably get a green card to remain in the U.S. if . . . we married. But it was too soon for that, and I did not mention it to her. I wasn’t ready.

          That issue was hanging over us. When I sat across from her at a table and looked at her, especially when I looked at her when she was not looking at me, I often thought of growing old with her. But logic told me that she was the only woman I’d been intimate with and that I didn’t know whether I would want to be intimate with a man again. It was too early. But I knew she was thinking about it.

          It led to our first fight. It was about a month after that dinner on Broadway. She was particularly quiet as she put things away after we ate. I put my arms around her in the kitchen.

          “What is it?”

          “Nothing.”

          “Sal.”

          She turned.

          “If you were to ask me to marry you I would say ‘yes.’”

          I was stunned. I didn’t think we were quite there although we were headed in that direction. I was silent as the seconds ticked by.

          “Good to know.” That was it. That’s what I said to her.

          She glared at me. “I’m so fucking happy for you.” She grabbed her keys and ran out. She did not take her phone. Which I discovered when I tried calling her five minutes after she was gone and I heard it ringing in our bedroom. She kept putting me in this position. Will I always love her? Will I marry her? I DID NOT KNOW. I WAS NOT SURE.

          I was numb as I sat waiting for her to come back. Had she proposed to me? Had I said “no”?  Was I a bitch to the person who mattered more to me by far than anyone in the world?

          I heard her keys in the door a couple of hours later. I rushed to open the door for her and when I did she just stared at me through red eyes.

          “I think I should move out. We both need time to think.”

          “Sally. I was not ready for what you said, OK? I’ve thought about it, yes, but I don’t think I’m ready yet.”

          “I’m ready. That’s all I wanted you to know. I don’t want to force you to say ‘yes’ just because I want you to. It has to be your decision. Right now, though, I feel strange and I don’t know if I can stay.”

          “Don’t be silly. Of course—”

          “I’ll call someone in my office. I’m sure I can get a sofa to sleep on before I find my own place.”

          She then walked into our room, grabbed a bag from the closet, and put some of her stuff in it.

          “I’ll find someplace for tonight and let you know what’s happening tomorrow.”

          She grabbed her phone, left her keys, and was gone, ignoring my “Sally, please.”

          I proceeded to spend the most miserable night of my life. Far worse than when my fiancé dumped me. I called Carly. She rushed over and slept on the sofa. If I slept at all, it was brief. But I could not be forced into marrying Sally. At times I was angry at her for thinking I would.

          She didn’t call the next day or the day after that. I kept calling her, including her office. Voicemail.

          On Saturday I was still in a daze. I went to get some groceries and when I got out of the elevator I saw Sally sitting at our door. She saw me and remained where she was, again staring at the floor. I sat next to her.

          “Can you forgive me for what I did?”

          I pulled her close and kissed her on the forehead. “I will always forgive you but I don’t think it’s you who needs forgiving. Let’s talk. In our apartment.”

          She followed me in and after I put stuff away I sat with her on the sofa. That sofa has seen a lot of stuff. And we talked. I assured her that I had thought about asking her to marry me. A lot. That I couldn’t see a future of which she was not a part. But I asked her to give me a little bit more time.

          She smiled. “Take as much time as you need. I’ll be here.”

          And we agreed that “here” was the apartment. She moved back in and took her keys when she went out. (I would find out later that she slept on Carly’s sofa. In fact, while Carly was on mine that first night Sally was on hers.)

          I’d been engaged. I needed to be sure. I spoke at length to Alice. It’s what decided it for me.

          I left the office early to be sure I beat Sally home. When she came in, I was on the sofa. I patted the cushion next to me. She was uncomfortable. I said, “Remember that role-playing we did.” She nodded. We hadn’t repeated it much and we switched roles but it really wasn’t us. “Well, I was thinking. And you don’t have to do it, but I left something for you to read in the bedroom. I’ll be out here when you decide.”

          I had left her a hand-written letter.

My dearest loveliest Sally,

Thank you for trusting me enough to read this letter.

You bring joy to my every morning and to my every evening and to everything in between. I could not imagine growing old and not having you by my side. I want you to share in all my happiness and I want to share in all of yours.

It is traditional that if you agree I shall refer to you as “my wife” and you shall refer to me as “your wife.”

If you agree, I have put things in the top drawer for you. My only order to you is that you bring me what you find there and request that I put it on you.

If you do not wish to continue, please read no further and we will speak of this no more.

.

.

With love, adoration, and expectation,

Your Eve

          It did not take her long to return, carrying the small box with her. Her eyes were damp.

          “Do you have something to ask me?”

          “Will you put it on my finger?”

          And I did and we were engaged and I knew it was time.

*          *          *

          I found out why some people don’t like gay marriage. It’s the wedding. The joy. The excitement. The freedom. OK, I don’t want to stereotype but Rich’s wedding, held about a month after Sally and I became engaged, was worlds apart from the many staid, straight ones I’ve been to. Nothing but people being happy for Rich and Adam. All sorts of people. I danced with Sally. I danced with Rich. I danced with a bunch of folks and had the time of my life. And, of course, the how-will-we-do-our-wedding popped into my brain as I’m sure it did Sally’s but that could be kept under wraps for a while.

          At one point before dinner was served, I saw Rich’s dad on his own. I’d met him a few times when Rich and I were together. I sat with him and told him about my own father’s refusal to accept me.

          “You have a baby and you picture what he’ll be like when he grows up. Better at baseball than you. Better at the piano. Better looking.”

          “I can’t imagine that” I teased.

          He smiled. “No, it’s true. As he grows he starts diverging from the path you thought he’d be on. He doesn’t like sports. He likes science. Then you watch him make his own path. Of course, you always envision him meeting a nice girl. Someone like you. Marrying and settling down and starting his own family the way I did.

          “With Rich, his path simply went another way. I could no more disown him for that than if he rooted for the Yankees over the Mets. Don’t worry, he didn’t go that far afield.” He squeezed my hand.

          “So being gay and falling in love with a man is just the path he found himself on. I don’t love him any less or any differently for it. I love Adam and the most important thing is that they love each other. Whether they move to the suburbs and have kids? That’s for them. I’ll love them either way.”

          He pulled me close to him. “If your father is like me, he’ll come around. You’ll always be his little girl and he’ll understand that you have to take your own path and not the one he wished you had. I wish Rich was a rock star so I could meet Mick Jagger but that’s not going to happen.”

          He gave me a kiss on the forehead. “Although I do think you and Rich would have had beautiful babies.” I lightly slapped him at that and got up and thanked him. Yeah, I did know that Rich and I would make beautiful babies but that was on neither of our paths.

          “What was that all about?”

          “I just wanted to understand how Rich’s dad accepted him so well. He told me I just need to give my Dad time.”

          That thought, too, lingered in my head as we spent the rest of the night enjoying ourselves before catching a cab and heading home in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Part 8: License and Registration Please

          “What are we doing?”

          It was lunchtime on May 16, 2018 and we were on the Number 4 Train heading to the Brooklyn Bridge Station. What we were doing was getting our marriage license. A piece of paper we needed to get married. The next formal step in our lives. There were couples getting married “at city hall.” (I write it that way because, in fact, the office is not in city hall but a few blocks to the north.) Friends and photographers recording the moment and it cheered both of us. All these people embarking on their own journeys, overflowing with optimism. A joyous place.

          Then we had it. Our piece of paper. The first formal step that made real that I was soon to marry the woman of my dreams and she was tall and British and beautiful.

*          *          *

          “You’re being an asshole. You know that don’t you?” That, according to my Mom, is what got my father to come to the wedding of his only child. Not that child or her only mother or her only sister or her only brother-in-law. A guy he plays tennis with. Apparently word had gotten around—horrors of horrors—that I was marrying a woman and that he was standing on some unspoken principle and declining my invitation to attend. My invitation, to be clear, was sent as a final opportunity for him to RSVP “yes” and when he did I was shocked.

          Until my Mom told me of the conversation in the locker room of the Field Club after a game. So when his buddy said he would frown on him not going it turned my father’s world upside down and so he said “yes.” I still have not forgiven him for it, but at least he was there.

          There is a there “there.” Since Sally is Church of England and CofE apparently translates in some way, shape, or form to Episcopalian here, we decided to be married in an Episcopal church in the neighborhood. Half-a-mile from the apartment.

          While there might have been a time when my Mom would be upset that I was not getting married in a Catholic Church—and for the record I was supposed to be married in a Catholic Church a couple of days before I met Sally—she now resented its prohibition against her daughter marrying in one. Hasta la vista, baby. She still hasn’t gone back.

          Sally’s Mom, Dad, Aunt, Uncle, and Brother arrived on Thursday. This time we found a hotel for them not quite in Times Square. Alice, Ben, and the baby came in late on Thursday too. While Sally had dinner with her family on Friday night, Alice, Ben, and the baby came to the apartment for a nice dinner. After we ate, Ben went to settle the baby down and Alice and I had our first face-to-face talk since she’d headed west.

          I missed our chats but we hadn’t missed a beat.

          “You are so much happier than you were last time.” “Last time,” of course, Alice was to be my maid-of-honor. This time things would be trickier. Thoughts of our fathers giving Sally and me away were quashed given my father’s view. Because Sally didn’t have anyone comparable to Alice, we decided that our mothers would stand by us. My Mom’s initial hesitancy had long since disappeared, hastened away in no small part by her confusing Sally’s accent for charm. I mean, I loved her, but she relished wielding her accent like a weapon when it suited her. And it always suited her with my Mom.

          My Mom, of course, came to love Sally on her, Sally’s, own merits. She and Sally’s mum and auntie had a long lunch together on Friday and got along quite well. Apparently mothers assemble a chest full of embarrassing stories about their children that they share with their soon-to-be in-laws hours before the wedding.

*          *          *

          The Wedding was set for ten on Saturday morning on West 99th Street.

          May 19, 2018. Two May brides, walking to the Church to get married, accompanied by their mothers, Sally’s auntie, Carly, and Alice. The Church was half-a-mile away. It was quite the parade heading up Columbus Avenue. I felt like the Queen. Except I didn’t have a pocketbook draped across my elbow or a corgi behind me. Our dresses were white—Wink! Wink!—although they did not match. I got mine in an outing with my mother and Sally had gotten hers with a fair amount of international calls among her, her mum, and her auntie. Our bouquets, though, were identical.

          It was a simple ceremony. Our families and friends and colleagues. Rich and Adam arranged for the reception at a loft-space in the West Village and, well, they interjected a fair amount of joy into the proceedings although Sally and I brought our share. So we hopped into cars for the trip south and there were actually some pretty good speeches and toasts, funny and serious, and then my wife and I headed to the apartment to change and bring our bags down to the car that was taking us to JFK for the start of our honeymoon.

Part 9: London Honeymoon

          I decided, fuck it, and asked Sally if I could get a chance to do it right. “It” being honeymooning in London. We’d stayed there for a few days after we visited her folks in Newcastle but I wanted to do it right. Which is why we were on the same British Airways flight that I had taken over a year-and-a-half before to spend a week with my brand-new spouse. Although she neither was nor had a dick. (Except, well . . .)

          Since I wasn’t as broke as I had been, we upgraded our accommodations and were staying near Hyde Park Corner for the week. And what a week it was. There’s something indescribable about being anywhere with your wife, but especially returning to the scene-of-the-crime, Hyde Park itself.

          This time I got it right. The museums, the parks, the stores, the Queen. The sex.

          And the walks. We’d gone on countless walks together since that first one when she had her helmet on her handlebars as she tried to figure what was wrong with the vulgar New Yorker she nearly ran over. Hyde Park. Regent’s Park. The Embankment. We were in no hurry and we savored each step.

          On our final full day, Sally told me she wanted to show me something. I followed her to the Tube. I was beginning to get comfortable there but suddenly I had no idea where we were or where we were going. She wouldn’t say. I felt like a kidnapping victim being driven all over the place so she couldn’t retrace the drive. As we approached a station, she stood and I followed. We climbed the steps and left the station. She stopped about twenty feet from its doors. She turned. It took a moment, but I understood.

          “My Lady Eve. While I will have regrets for lots of things, I will never regret somehow having the courage to kiss you here a year-and-a-half ago. It was the best thing I’ve ever done.”

          She leaned in, putting her arms around my neck.

          “I still don’t know why I did it. But somehow I knew that I had to.”

          “And I’m glad you did.”

          Then I put my lips to hers and she put her lips to mine. It wasn’t our first kiss. It was probably our zillionth. It was still magical.

THE END