Written / A Revelation in Several Parts 

Warning: Adult-themed entertainments here-in, forthwith an' all that. Ooh-ah. You've been warned. Take appropriate actions and whatnot.

As always, I'm beholden to my beloved beta-brigand, Ume.


Marjorie Humboldt:
A Revelation in Several Parts
Part 1

by Crème Brûlée

What had she been thinking about a moment before? She wasn't sure. She sighed, and looked back down at the bed of flowers stretched before her. Lobelia. Janine had loved lobelia.

"The only reason I come out to visit you in this godforsaken wilderness is to see what you're doing with your flowers. I sure as hell don't come out here to hear about your dismal love life."

Janine said that, or a variation very near to it, every time she'd stepped out of her car in the driveway. It was always difficult to reconcile the image of her petite, prim friend with the kind of language that came out of her mouth.

A tear rolled down Marjorie's cheek. How could Janine be gone? How could a woman with such radiant vitality have died? Just up and went?

The words crowded Marjorie's mind, "unexpected", "sudden", "so young" - "heart failure".

The services had been elegant, very formal - Janine would have been bored to tears by them. And making a nuisance of herself halfway through the first eulogy. She probably would have been making faces as Marjorie was doing the reading she'd been asked to do by Janine's mother. Marjorie had had to fight back tears during the reading as an image of Janine's impish smile had flashed unexpectedly through her mind. She'd willed herself to read on - the absurdity of the dreadful poetry Janine's mother had chosen served as a bracing irritant to focus and sustain Marjorie through the ordeal.

Marjorie pushed herself up from her kneeling position before the flowerbed and smiled weakly at a large swath of blue petals of the lobelia she'd just finished planting.

“You’d have loved these,” she said quietly.

“Good morning Principal Humboldt!” A high-pitched voice cut across Marjorie’s musings. She looked across the yard to the fence that ran along the sidewalk in front of the house.

“Good morning Henry, morning Sylvia.” Marjorie greeted the mother and small boy, who was half way up the fence and had one leg thrown over the top, before his mother caught him and halted his progress.

“Principal Humboldt!” The boy shouted as his mother placed him back on the sidewalk. “I lost my tooth, I’ll be in kindergarten next fall!”

“Congratulations,” Marjorie said, approaching them, “Let’s have a look.”

Henry turned his head to the side, opened his mouth and stuck a finger in to point out the impressive gap.

“Wow! How’d you loose it?”

“I yanked it out with a string,” Henry said, finger still in mouth.

Marjorie glanced at Sylvia who rolled her eyes and shook her head, then mouthed silently. “His brother’s idea.”

“It bled a lot,” Henry said. “Is Captain Jack home?”

“He’s been around while I’ve been gardening this morning. But he’s probably up a tree out back since Rufus came out and started barking next door.”

“Captain Jack’s too fat to get up a tree.” Henry stated. “He’s probably under a bush. I’ll find him!”

“Henry, we’ve got to let Marjorie be, she’s busy I’m sure. And we’ve got to get home. Your grandparents are coming to visit today.” Silvia gave Marjorie a beleaguered look.

Marjorie smiled in sympathy.

“Your garden’s looking lovely, as usual. I wish I had the time to make mine half as nice as you get yours.” Sylvia reached down and picked up Henry, who’d started to climb the fence again. “I just can’t imagine where it all gets to, all of that time.”

They both smiled, then looked at Henry, who smiled back. “Bye, bye!” he grinned.

“Bye.” Marjorie waved.

She watched them walk down the sidewalk before turning back to her gardening.

She’d wrestled the last of the weeds from between her tomato plants. Her abbreviated vegetable patch was behind the house, beside a small slate patio that was rimmed on one side with hydrangea bushes that were in full bloom. Throughout the yard there were flowering bushes, trees, plants – spring was well underway. Marjorie’s garden exhibited signs of meticulous grooming. Marjorie surveyed her labors. Captain Jack sat nearby, staring intently at her for no particular reason, in his usual manner.

The sound of a car out front caused Captain Jack’s ears to twitch. He wandered toward the front yard. This alerted Marjorie to the possibility of company. “Who on earth could that be?”

She briefly considered the state she must be in after a morning of dirt and sweat, but knew there wasn’t much she could do, or really cared to do, about it on short notice.

She walked around the side of the house to the front and found Helena at her door ringing the bell. Marjorie was so surprised to see her there that she couldn’t think of anything to say for a moment. That moment gave her time to focus on the second puzzlement in the scene – the large birdcage Helena had placed on the stair beside her. Before Marjorie was able to motivate her tongue to make a greeting, Captain Jack shot out from the azalea bush beside the door and attached himself, bodily, to the side of the bird’s cage. The bird screamed. Helena screamed. Marjorie rushed forward.


“That animal is a demon!” Helena sat, rigid with disapproval, glaring at Marjorie. She didn’t look all that different than she had the day of Janine’s funeral. She didn’t look all that different than she had all of the years Marjorie had known her. “Pinched and particular” was how Janine had always described her older sister.

“Is there anything else I can get you? Tea? Another cigarette?” Marjorie asked.

“No, I’ve got to get going. But first I’ve got to give you this.“ Helena opened her purse, retrieved an envelope and handed it to Marjorie. “Now, I’ll go.“

“But…” Marjorie stood holding the envelope, looking at the birdcage resting on the table with a small shaken parakeet sitting inside it.

“Mother says ‘hello’ and thank you for the reading. I’ve got to get back to town.“


Helena was halfway to the door, she hesitated at the sound of Marjorie’s voice, then continued on, saying only: “I’ve got to go.“

The door clicked shut. Marjorie stared at it from where she stood. She didn’t move until the sound of Helena’s car had receded into the distance of the quiet Saturday afternoon. A brief fluttering of wings caught Marjorie’s attention; she glanced at the cage where George, Janine’s prize budgie, sat looking at her curiously. He made several quiet clicking sounds.

“Shall we see what this is all about then?” she asked George.


She’d finished her dinner, cleaned the dishes, tidied the kitchen, started a load of laundry, and still, the envelope lay unopened on the table in the dining room. Marjorie had intended to open it, but found herself in another part of the house occupied with something else, each time she’d approached it.

With determination, she seated herself before the envelope, looked at George, and picked it up. She considered the erratic handwriting on the front, Janine’s. Her stomach tightened. She brushed her fingers over the familiar scrawl that spelled out her own name. It was so very ordinary, so familiar, something she’d looked at hundreds of times – a note, addressed to her, from Janine. She had dozens of them tucked in drawers throughout the house; there were undoubtedly hundreds stored in boxes in the attic. Quickly, as she’d remove a Band-Aid, Marjorie opened the envelope and unfolded the note.


Don’t be pissed, but I’m leaving you George. Besides my car, and my collection of Fabergé eggs, he’s the only thing that I care about. I’m leaving the accumuli to the ASPCA. But I’d only leave George with someone I could trust – utterly. The fact that you insist on living with that feline menace gives me pause, but knowing you as I do, I’ll take my chances.

Care and instructions for my darling beast are attached. Follow them to the letter or I’ll haunt you and dig up your flowerbeds.

I know you’re probably wondering (if you’re reading this I must be dead) why I never mentioned my little heart condition. Simply put, we both hate emotional fuss. You, because, God forbid, it might shake that ironclad grip you keep on yourself. Me, because it bores me to tears.

Take good care of George, but better care of yourself. You’re a wonderful woman, a staunch and loyal friend, and too good for those ungrateful rats at that school who are more lucky than the they’ll ever know to have you in their lives. I know I am. Live well – it’s the best revenge.

Yours always,

12 March 1975

Marjorie choked back a sob, the note had been written two years earlier. When, Janine’s mother had since told Marjorie, Janine’s doctor had informed her that her heart condition had worsened.


“Shoo! Leave that bird alone.” Marjorie brushed Captain Jack off of the coffee table where he’d sat staring up at George’s cage. She’d had to move the cage several times to keep it out of his range. She’d finally suspended it from one of the ceiling hooks she’d had a philodendron hanging from. The plant hadn’t been on the dining room table five minutes before Captain Jack had removed half of its leaves.

Captain Jack circled Marjorie’s legs and began to purr loudly.

“Your little brain may have forgotten the damage you’ve done around here lately, but mine hasn’t. Why don’t you go outside and harass Rufus?”

Captain Jack plopped down on her shoes and began to lick himself.

“Not subtle are you?” She asked.


“She’s seemed so strained lately.” Rose noted. “I don’t think she’s sleeping well.”

“She needs a date,” Jim said, while flipping through his mail. “Has for years. It’s probably catching up with her.”

“She’s married to her work.” Rose defended.

“She’s in the room.” Marjorie stated.

Both parties stiffened uncomfortably - Marjorie didn’t have to, she already was. She picked up the memos that awaited her attention in the box on Rose’s desk and walked passed into her office.

She knew people talked about her, but still, the reality of it was jarring. Didn’t they have anything better to do? She certainly did - an entire pile of it. All of which had to be dealt with before she departed for the Healthy Pet Animal Clinic at 4:30.


“I think she may have a cold.” Marjorie told the receptionist at the Healthy Pet Animal Clinic.

The receptionist, a young woman, looked up from the form she was filling in. “I thought you said his name was George?”

“Her name is George. And I think she may have a cold.” Marjorie repeated.

“George is a funny name for a girl parakeet.”

“She doesn’t seem to mind it,” Marjorie noted.

The receptionist took the hint and didn’t pursue the subject any further. “Dr. Levi will be with you in a moment.“

Marjorie sat next to George. The small bird was anxious, she eyed the waiting room warily from her perch in the small cage Marjorie had gotten for the trip to the vet. Several other people and patients waited with them. There was a St. Bernard looking very uncomfortable with a splinted leg; a box or two with holes, and inhabitants of undetermined species; and George. And Marjorie - feeling very out of place in the vet’s office without Captain Jack. It wasn’t her usual vet’s office, Dr. Brayburn’s office – it was the vet that Janine had insisted (in bold underlined capitals) that Marjorie take George to see. “Dr. Levi knows George inside and out. It would be impolitic of me to reveal details, but they’re very close.“

“Miss Humboldt?” A young man in a starched white lab coat looked expectantly into the eyes of the patients and people who greeted his inquiry.

Marjorie looked up from the magazine that she’d been looking at, but not reading. “Yes?”

“We’re ready for you. Why don’t you and George follow me on back?”

The exam rooms were clean and well lit, not unlike Dr. Brayburn’s. She stood next to George whose cage rested on an examination table in the middle of the room. The assistant, before exiting the room, had asked her to wait and told her that Dr. Levi would be right with them.

As Marjorie waited her mind wandered. It was doing that a lot lately and not always when she could afford it. She’d been finding it difficult to maintain focus and had been caught out several times during conversations, and in a couple of meetings. To some extent, she knew, her lack of mental stick-to-it-iveness stemmed from sleepless nights. Janine’s death had stunned her, left her bereft and off kilter. In as much as the world had a rhyme or a reason - and it had always seemed to have something loosely resembling one or the other to Marjorie – she could find neither in Janine’s sudden departure. There was no remedy for the loss, no respite from the heartache.

Marjorie jumped, startled by the door swinging open. She was embarrassed to realize that she’d begun to dose, while standing upright - a first. She took a breath to steady herself, looked up and was greeted by a warm smile.

“Sorry to startle you, and sorry for the delay, Miss Humboldt. I’m Dr. Levi.”

Dr. Levi held out her hand, Marjorie shook it. She hadn’t expected a female veterinarian. A Jewish vet, yes, the name Levi had led her to expect a Jewish vet, but not a Jewess vet. Which wasn’t to say that Marjorie was disappointed or upset by it, she was just adjusting to the unexpected contingency, which sometimes took her longer to do than it did other people.

“It so good to finally meet you.“ Dr. Levi’s eyes crinkled at the edges as her smile lit up her features again. “Janine told me a great deal about you, I only wish we could have met under better circumstances.“

Marjorie was uncertain as to how she could have become a topic of conversation between Janine and George’s vet, whom Janine had never once mentioned. Marjorie was also unprepared for anything other than the already distressing circumstance of being in the vet’s office with Janine’s parakeet and responded to Dr. Levi’s surprisingly familiar welcome as best she could, “Yes, of course. We’ll all miss her very much. Janine was a good friend…”

There followed a pained and awkward silence, into which Marjorie said, “I think George may have a cold.”

Dr. Levi seemed about to speak, but instead turned to look at George. Since Dr. Levi had entered the room, George had perked up a little and had begun to chatter. Dr. Levi raised an eyebrow at George. George cocked her head and gave the doctor a good stare. “Well, old girl – let’s have a look at you, shall we?”

“Is she old?” Marjorie asked.

“Relatively, she’s not young – for a parakeet.“

The exam, brief in its brutality, ended. Marjorie was given instructions on how best to look after George’s welfare. Dr. Levi also gave her a booklet and a list of recommended reading.

“If at all possible, keep Captain Jack out of George’s sight - at least until this has cleared up. Additional stress isn’t good for her just now.“

“But… how on earth do you know about my cat?” Marjorie asked.

“Janine mentioned him. It was one of her points of reluctance in leaving George with you.“

“Well… I…” Marjorie stammered, feeling at a loss and a disadvantage. “He can be a menace sometimes…“

“’Unholy Terror’ were the words Janine used to describe him.“ Dr. Levi smiled.

“Wait a minute,” Marjorie’s head was beginning to ache. “She discussed leaving George with me? With you?”

“Well yes - as you know George meant a lot to her, it was an important decision for her.”

“You don’t understand. I didn’t know she was leaving George with me. I didn’t know she was leaving at all!”

In the silence that followed her statement, George’s quiet chirping filled the room.

“I should be going.“ Her emotions in tumult, Marjorie struggled to regain her equilibrium as she lifted George’s cage and turned to leave. “I’ll do my best for George, thank you for your help.”

“I understand,” Dr. Levi said. “I’m sorry if I upset you, it’s difficult to lose someone so suddenly. Let me know if there’s any change in George’s condition. I think she’ll pull through just fine.“


Marjorie didn’t like unsolved puzzles; she liked loose ends even less. So when Dr. Levi made a follow-up phone call the next week and asked Marjorie if she’d like to meet for coffee, Marjorie agreed without hesitation. The visit to the vet’s office had preyed on her mind – even after George’s condition had improved.


“Please, call me Adele,” Dr. Levi smiled.

“And me, Marjorie,” she said, slipping her napkin onto her lap.

They’d met at a diner near the clinic the afternoon following their conversation on the phone. Except for the waitress and a cook, they had the place to themselves. After serving them coffee, the waitress appeared content to ignore them as she watched a small television tucked behind a counter.

“I must admit,” Adele said. “I’ve been curious since your visit to the office… well, I’d just assumed that you knew…”

Marjorie shook her head, “No. She never said a word. Not so much as a peep. Which, if you knew Janine well, is somewhat uncharacteristic. Getting Janine not to say something was more of a challenge. She’d make a gargantuan fuss over a bent nail, but she somehow failed to mention a life-threatening heart condition. So this whole thing has been something of a shock.“

“Oh…” Adele’s voice trailed off as her gaze shifted away from Marjorie’s. After a quiet moment she looked back, giving Marjorie a searching look. Adele sighed, then said: “I meant that I thought you knew about Janine, Janine and me - that we were lovers.“

Marjorie had been lifting a spoon to stir some milk into her coffee. She dropped it. After blinking at Adele several times and blushing a furious red, she managed to stammer, “I… I… ah… no. No, I didn’t.”

Marjorie lifted the spoon again then set it back on the table. She looked at Adele, then quickly away, finally resting her eyes on her coffee.

“I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable,“ Adele said. “You really didn’t know?”

“It appears there’s a good deal that I didn’t know.“

“I’m sorry.” Adele shifted in her seat. “It’s just that I thought… Well, there’s been no one I could talk to about her. We didn’t have mutual acquaintances. For obvious reasons, I’m not in touch with her family. I’ve been going slightly mad. One day she’s there - a joy and a pain, the next…”

Marjorie nodded, folded her napkin several times, and picked up the spoon. “Yes, the next…”

“I thought maybe we could talk, you two having once been lovers as well.“

The spoon dropped again. “Excuse me?”

“In college… I’d assumed from the way Janine talked about you… Well, I assumed you were an ex.“

Marjorie’s mind reeled. “An ex? Ex what?”

“Oh dear,” Adele fretted.

“I’m not… Janine and I… we were friends. Good friends. For many years… But not… No.” Marjorie shook her head.

“I’m sorry,” Adelee said. “I didn’t mean to upset you.”

“Upset me? Why should I be upset? My closest and dearest friend of 25 years has died suddenly of an ailment I didn’t know she had, left me her parakeet, and insisted that I bring it to her veterinarian, who turns out to have been her lover, who I also knew nothing about. Why on earth should I be upset? I’m sure this sort of thing happens all the time.“ Marjorie lifted the spoon and began to stir her coffee furiously. “I’ll tell you this though, if she weren’t dead, I’d wring her neck.“

Adele stared at Marjorie wide-eyed.

“She was always pulling this sort of thing,” Marjorie continued stirring her coffee with an agitation that bordered on violence. “When we were in college, we took Early European History together. She kindly volunteered to drop off my final paper with hers, so that I could keep studying for another final. She retyped the cover sheets, swapping my paper with hers, effectively stealing my final paper. She couldn’t stop laughing when we got them back. I was furious. ‘What’s the difference? We both got an A-,’she insisted. ‘Don’t be so dour; you’re always such a dour puss. Lighten up Marjorie.’ If I had a nickel for every time she said that, I’d be as rich as she was.”

“But you had your revenge when you sewed her into that ball gown. What I never understood about that story is how she never noticed that you’d done it.”

Marjorie shrugged. “I was reinforcing a button on the back while she was wearing it. She was talking.”

Adele smiled, “That explains it.”

“I could have covered the dress in embroidery and she wouldn’t have noticed. She would simply have chatted away. Despite her vehement protests to the contrary, I don’t think she was especially disappointed that Bobby Maitlin wasn’t able to get it off. Or the stockings I’d sewn to the sash. She did go on and on about her humiliation though. Before dissolving into laughter when she described Bobby’s humbled and baffled retreat. She swore up and down that she wouldn’t talk to me ever again after that. She insisted she was moving out of our dorm room and getting one at the sorority, which, she argued, was where she belonged. Only we both knew she didn’t.” Marjorie sighed, “Good times.”

“You never knew that she was in love with you?” Adele asked.

If Marjorie had still been holding the spoon, she would have dropped it again.

Silence stretched out between them as Marjorie stared blankly at Adele.

“I’m sorry,” Adele said, “I shouldn’t butt in. It’s just… I’ve often wondered about you. And I assumed that you knew about Janine. About me too, though that’s obviously not the case.”

Marjorie stared on.

“I shouldn’t pry. I should go. She wouldn’t want me poking in. Bothering you. I suppose it’s a trespass. I’m really sorry. I’ve been stupid, I’ll go.”

Marjorie blinked. “Go?”

“Yes,” Adele had gathered her things and moved to stand. “This was a mistake.”

“Wait,” Marjorie insisted. “You can’t simply go.”

“But I should.”

“But why?” Marjorie asked.

“I’ve just told you.” Adele said.

“But I’m… Are you telling me that Janine was a lesbian?”

It was Adele’s turn to stare.

“Please sit,” Marjorie pleaded. “This is a lot for me to take in at once. It’s not making a lot of sense, but it’s making as much sense as just about everything else I’ve experienced recently. I’ve not been sleeping well. I’ve barely been sleeping at all.”

Adele sat. The waitress wandered over and refilled their cups.

“I never knew she was…” Marjorie trailed off. “She dated all of those men!”

Adele looked uncomfortable.

Marjorie noticed.

Adele said: “She felt she had to date – men. To please her parents. And to avoid the rumors… she was terrified someone would find out and it would reflect poorly on her family. She may have complained about her family constantly, but she was fiercely loyal to them always. It drove me mad, how she let them run her life.”

“But they never ran her life!” Marjorie said.

Adele rolled her eyes. “She wouldn’t even move out of that town house, that she hated, because her parents had bought it for her and she didn’t want to hurt their feelings. She never pursued her interests seriously, because her mother frowned upon a ‘lady’ doing anything but sitting on a pointless committee.” Adele lowered her voice. “She never spent a full night in any woman’s bed for fear someone would notice her car parked outside – or someone would call and she wouldn’t be home.”

“But Janine had no sustained interests… other than buying shoes,” Marjorie said. “And she enjoyed the committees, they gave her something to complain about for days on end. Like her parents did. As much as she was a very dear friend, she wasn’t a very deep friend.”

Adele closed her eyes and shook her head in defeat. “No, she wasn’t.”

“It must be very difficult for you – to have lost her. I’m very sorry.” Marjorie sympathized.

Adele, her eyes suddenly glistening, nodded her acknowledgement.

“When did you meet?”

Adele sniffed back tears. “The ASPCA’s annual planning committee. Six years ago. I fell head over heels for her on first glance. She was a bit more reserved in her response. We didn’t start seeing one another regularly until a year later.”

“You were together five years?” Marjorie asked.

Adele nodded. “Off and on. She had issues with commitment. And truthfully, I’m often so busy at the clinic – I sometimes wasn’t sure if we were off again, or I’d just been working for months straight without seeing her. I suppose we kept it casual, because it could never be anything else. But I loved her. I loved her a great deal.”

“I’m sure.” Marjorie said, feebly. What else could she say?

“It’s a funny thing, finally meeting you. You’re not what I’d been expecting. I’ve been jealous of you for years.”

“Of me?” Marjorie was stunned.

“Besides her family and the many other excuses I became familiar with – I often thought you were the real reason she’d never committed to our relationship.”

“I… I can’t see why you’d think that.”

“No one else ever measured up,” Adele said. “You were her first love.”

“But… No! That’s not right at all. She had so many loves in college. Reams. She had a different infatuation every other week. It was all I could do to keep her boyfriends’ names straight. And she talked about them endlessly… well, she complained about them endlessly. Late into the night often - when she was supposed to be out with them. Instead, she’d end up parked next to me in the library, discussing a newfound flaw in the male of the moment. And then, of course, she’d insist that we go back to our rooms so that I could make her something to eat on the hot plate. We often stayed up ‘til dawn, talking about the future, making plans…”

Marjorie felt something akin to a light being turned on in a dark place. “Oh god, I never realized.”

“But weren’t you… Janine was so beautiful. Weren’t you attracted?”

“To Janine? Heavens no!” Marjorie blushed.

“But aren’t you… I thought… You’re a lesbian aren’t you?” Adele asked.

“No! Lord no! I’m not married… I don’t have a… but I’m not… I’m very busy.” Marjorie protested.

“I didn’t mean to pry.” Adele appeared genuinely contrite, if not also terribly confused.

“I’m not used to such frank discussions. To be honest, this is all rather unsettling.” Marjorie admitted, gesturing vaguely with her hands.

“I can only imagine,” Adele said.

“Janine was always churning things up - such a terrible little imp. Insisting that I bring George to you – that’s her to a capital ‘t’.”

“It is?” Adele asked.

“Well, of course. She knew this would happen. It’s her way of pulling one last prank. I can hear her now, ‘Oh, lighten up Marjorie!’ Only I fail to see the humor in it… I usually did though.”

“I’m not sure that it is,” Adele said.

“Humorous?” Marjorie asked.

Adele nodded.

“No, I suppose not.” Marjorie sighed.


Marjorie and Adele met intermittently after that afternoon. Their schedules were full, but they managed coffee, sometimes a walk, and dinner occasionally. They alternately mourned then cursed Janine, but loving her as they did, they never condemned her. As much tumult as she brought with her, she also brought a unique sparkle and a genuine warmth. Her absence had left an immeasurable gap in both women’s lives, and the memories they exchanged were a balm to the numbness and shock they felt in the wake of her death.


“There’s something different about her lately,” Jim said as he thumbed through the pile of mail he’d pulled from his mailbox.

“She’s been getting some sleep,” Rose noted.

“She’s probably been getting laid,” he retorted.

“She’s been in her office, but is coming out for a cup of coffee,” Marjorie said as the two of them jumped.

Marjorie didn’t understand gossip. She understood, even less, herself as the focus of it. But people notice change, and changed she was.

She was happy - for the first time in a long time. She hadn’t felt unhappy previously, except after Janine had died, she’d felt… usual, normal. Now she felt a lightness, or a spaciousness, she wasn’t exactly sure which. One day, while gardening, she’d sat back from weeding and said. “I’m happy.” Then she’d laughed.

People notice that kind of thing. Or so it seemed. She’d been asked if she’d colored her hair, or changed something, because something about her seemed different. People’s open curiosity wasn’t something she’d ever entertained well. She’d shrugged, said “no” and changed the subject – which was something at which she excelled.

The truth of it was, there wasn’t much to be curious about. Her life had resumed its usual pace. George had become a fixture in her daily routine. Captain Jack had adjusted and was spending even less time noticing the bird. They’d settled, with fits and starts, into a quiet companionship.

Marjorie looked forward to her visits with Adele. They were less frequent than she would have liked, because their schedules were incompatible. Or at least Adele’s was. Marjorie had never realized how busy a vet could be – a vet with a business partner, and assistants… Marjorie wondered, occasionally, if Adele didn’t use her work as an excuse not to meet. Something Marjorie couldn’t understand – if you didn’t want to see someone, then don’t. But Adele appeared interested in maintaining an acquaintance, she’d even initiated a few of their meetings, and Marjorie had come to enjoy her company a great deal.

She and Adele talked about Janine less, having found several shared interests. Gardens chief among them. Though Adele’s interest was more aesthetic than practical, meaning she enjoyed looking at them more than creating them.

It had been ages since Marjorie had pursued a new friendship. She hadn’t felt the need - she had her friends from the gardening club, from the library where she did volunteer work, her co-workers at the school, her family, Captain Jack and now George. What more could a person ask for?


“Hi Marjorie, I’ve called to say I’m sorry, but I can’t make it tonight.”

“Adele, what is it? You sound awful, are you sick?”

“So it would seem – it’s the flu, I think. Started coming on this morning. It’s going gang busters now.”

“Is there anything I can do?” Marjorie asked. “I could bring you some soup, or juice, or both.”

“You’re sweet, but I’ll be fine. I’d just rather be dead right now. I’m such a whiner when I’m sick. I’m going to let you get about your business. And I’m sorry about tonight, I was looking forward to dinner.”

“That’s all right, we’ll do it another time. Are you sure there’s nothing I can do?” Marjorie asked.

“Don’t worry about it. I’m going to rest – that’s probably the best thing for me.”

“I’m sure it is, you do that. And take good care of yourself.”

Marjorie was restless, hadn’t a clue what to do with herself. She’d fed Captain Jack and George, weeded her vegetables, watered her garden, talked to her mother on the phone and stopped in to talk to her friend Timothy down at the flower shop. And it was only 7:30 PM. She’d tried to read, but that was useless. Nothing on the radio interested her. It was the first time she’d thought that she might have use for a television. What was wrong, she wondered? How did all of these ants get in her pants? In frustration she picked up her keys and drove to the local movie theater.

Marjorie sat in the dimly lit theater before the film began, she was trying to calm her mind. The room was mostly full; it was a large crowd for a Thursday night. She glanced at her neighbors, one was a young man in his late teens who was seated next to a young woman she assumed was a date. The other was a man, in his early sixties who Marjorie vaguely recognized… did he work for the fire department in Greensville, the next town over? She couldn’t recall. The image of the flag flashed onscreen and most of the audience stood for the national anthem. Before the war in Vietnam, Marjorie couldn’t remember anyone not standing for the anthem. So many changes, such upheaval, violent upheaval – and it was nowhere more evident that in the school system. Marjorie sighed. It wasn’t all bad, at least that damn war was over. The film started.

Marjorie watched, but lost track of the storyline after the second car chase. She kept wondering how Adele was doing. And she also kept feeling the leg of the man sitting next to her rub up against her own. She’d moved hers away several times, only to feel his again a moment later.

She nearly jumped out of her seat and skin when during a loud scene in the film the man had reached over and squeezed her leg. She sat, in shock, as he groped her thigh. He then leaned into her, and with breath stinking of alcohol said, “Wanna fuck?”

“No, I do not!” Marjorie hissed, pushing him away.

“Bitch.” He hissed back. “Ugly bitch!”

He stood, unsteadily, and weaved down the aisle, upsetting people as he went. A man behind her snickered. Someone tapped her shoulder, she jumped, then turned.

“Miss Humboldt, are you okay?” It was Cynthia Rogers, an alum of Richmond Elementary. She was sitting next to Adam Reed, also an alum.

Marjorie nodded. “I’m fine, thank you.”

“Shhh!!!” Several people hissed.

Cynthia ignored them. “Do you want to go report him? We’ll go with you.”

“No, that’s alright. I’m just going to watch the film.”

“Okay,” Cynthia nodded gravely.

Marjorie wanted to disappear. But she couldn’t. She sat and watched the rest of the film. It wasn’t the distraction she’d bargained for.

Cynthia insisted that she and Adam walk her to her car.

“Men are such pigs!” Cynthia exclaimed as they walked across the street to where Marjorie was parked.

“Present company excepted, I’m sure.” Marjorie chided.

“Well, of course, Adam would never do anything like that.”

Adam said nothing, just looked off into the distance as if only partially engaged. Marjorie wondered if he was high.

As an administrator in the school system, Marjorie had less day-to-day contact with the children than the teachers. Still, she knew a lot about them and their families. Especially ones like Adam’s, where domestic dysfunction and violence spilled over into his, and his two sisters’ school day. Marjorie had been an assistant vice principal when Adam had attended Richmond Elementary and she’d had a good deal of interaction with Adam’s parents over belligerent behavior in school. Adam hadn’t been one of her easier students to deal with, but by the time he’d left for middle school, they’d reached an understanding and Adam’s grades had even shown some improvement.

“Things will be different when the Equal Rights Amendment passes.” Cynthia insisted. “Then they’ll have to treat us with more respect.”

Marjorie doubted that was anywhere near the case, but neglected to mention it. Despite being the first female principal in the school district, feminism was not her strong suit. She understood and agreed with the basic ideas, but found the activism daunting – even though she was sure that she’d benefited from it.

Marjorie decided to change tack and ask them how they were enjoying Franklin Pierce, the district high school. It wasn’t long before they reached her car.

“Thank you for the escort, I appreciate it. You two have a great night.”

“We will. You too Miss Humboldt!” Cynthia gave her a big grin and a wave, Adam gave a nod, and they walked off hand in hand.

In her car, Marjorie was about to turn the key in the ignition when Adam appeared at the passenger side window. Marjorie leaned over and rolled it down. “Yes, Adam?”

Adam looked uncomfortable, he shifted from foot to foot, didn’t make eye contact, wiped his hand under his nose and said: “Miss Humboldt, I know that guy. If you want, a few friends and I, we could mess him…”

Marjorie sat bolt upright. “Absolutely not! That’s the very last thing I want. Good grief! I think we’ve had enough ugliness for one evening.”

Marjorie noted Adam’s scolded expression and the defiant, set jaw. It was a look she knew well from their earlier acquaintance. She sighed. “I appreciate your looking after me, Adam, I do. Perhaps Cynthia was right, I should have reported him to the management. Lord knows Mrs. Pollacheck brooks no nonsense in her theater. But what I’d really like right now is for you and Cynthia to enjoy the rest of your evening together. Now that would please me, very much.”

Adam looked off in the direction where Cynthia waited, talking with some friends by a car. He nodded, wiping his hand beneath his nose again. “Okay.”

“Good, that’s fine. You have a nice night then.”

Adam hesitated at the window. “Miss Humbolt,” he said, shaking his head. “You’re not ugly.”

Before she could reply, he’d turned and walked away.


It wasn’t that she didn’t like men, she thought. It was that she was set in her ways and couldn’t ever imagine giving up her routine for one. She enjoyed her work a great deal. She didn’t think all men were like her drunken assailant in the movie theater. No, he was very much a subcategory of the species.

She was fortunate to know several exemplary males, also in a subcategory she thought – the princely one. There was Simon, her brother-in-law, the real estate broker, who was also a fair mechanic. And there was Fred, her co-worker and assistant vice principal at Richmond Elementary. Rarely had she met anyone, male or female, with Fred’s gift of connection and understanding. She’d once wondered that if Fred was single, if she wouldn’t have been interested in a relationship with him. But Fred would never be single, because he was married to Bess. Bess, who was stunning. She had that brilliant smile, that quietly wicked wit, and the most lovely hair - full bodied, chestnut colored that fell just below her shoulders.

It wasn’t that she didn’t like men, no; there were just other things that cropped up in her life that drew her interest more keenly. Which was how she’d reached the age of 45, having never, not once, been kissed. And as peculiar as it would have seemed to most - she wasn’t bothered by her rare condition. Or at least she didn’t think she was.


It happened somewhere between the soup and the wine-braised quail. It wasn’t subtle, just about anyone would have noticed it. But what had caused it, Marjorie couldn’t say. Whatever it was, Adele had withdrawn. Was it something she said, Marjorie wondered. Had Captain Jack scratched Adele under the table? Please, Marjorie thought, please don’t let it be the food. She’d worked all afternoon trying to make it just right. The haricot vertes, it was true, were a little on the soft side, but people didn’t generally mind that. Adele had said that she liked quail, hadn’t she? She was sure she had…

“Marjorie, I can’t do this.” Adele placed her napkin on the table.

Marjorie spoke apologetically. “I was sure that you’d said that you liked quail. You don’t have to eat it. It’s perfectly alright, it’s a particular taste, which is why I’d asked, but not to worry, I’ve got some…”

“It’s not the food. The food is wonderful. The evening is lovely. But I’m not Janine, I can’t be Janine for you. I can’t do this.”

Marjorie stammered, “You… you can’t eat? I don’t understand.”

“I’m a lesbian, Marjorie,” Adele said.

Marjorie suppressed the wave of discomfort she felt whenever Adele broached this challenging topic. “Well, I know, but I assumed that like most people you still needed to eat.”

Adele made a quiet sound, something like a stifled groan. “This isn’t eating.”

Marjorie was now nonplussed. She looked down at her plate, then over at Adele’s. “It’s not?”

Adele sighed. “It’s a date.”

Marjorie had no reply. The suggestion was flung so far afield that she was still catching up with it.

“I can’t replace Janine. I can’t have this kind of relationship.”

“A friendship?” Marjorie had no idea what Adele was talking about. What she did know was that she’d begun to sweat. She attributed this to the fact that she was experiencing the hostess’ worst nightmare; the total breakdown of table conversation.

“No…” Adele looked Marjorie directly, but gently, in the eyes. “A relationship in name, but without the deed.”

“Adele, I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about. Are you feeling alright?” Marjorie asked, her stomach in knots.

“No, I’m not feeling alright. I’ve spent the last few months trying not to get to know you too well. You don’t make that very easy. And you don’t seem to be at all aware that most people, most people don’t express this level of interest in a platonic relationship.” Adele gestured at the handsomely set table and the luxurious meal.

Adele had struck a nerve - Marjorie couldn’t restrain herself. “Most people are lazy. I value my friends, they’re special to me – I treat them accordingly. Had I thought you’d prefer McDonald’s, I would have gone out and gotten that instead. It’s perfectly dreadful, but I would have done it. The notion that I shouldn’t cook something nice for you, because you’re a lesbian, that’s simply absurd!”

“Oh, god,” Adele groaned and shook her head.

A notion caught up with Marjorie. “Do you think I’m a lesbian?”

Adele looked at Marjorie and said, “The question is, do you?”

Continued in Part 2 =>

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