Ledge Walkers, Book 2

Lesbian Adventure Club: Book 2
ISBN: 1-932014-39-X
(Character Driven, First-Person)

Blurb: The Dykes Who Dare are back, minus one. Hostesses Kate and Claudia decide to focus on things they should have been taught in school—things that would have helped them grow up to be strong, healthy women. But with this crew, it’s safe to assume that little turns out as planned and that strong, healthy women are sometimes hard to recognize in the throes of drama, deviance, drunkenness, and a whole lot of ducks.

 

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Two chapters follow, or you can use this link to download a PDF excerpt.

 

Chapter 1

I paced. I paced some more. I knew it was stupid, but I couldn’t seem to help myself. We were about to host the monthly Lesbian Adventure Club, and this was the first time we had ever done so in our own home. The other times we were in charge, we had taken everyone away for the weekend. Why having them here made a difference, I wasn’t quite sure. Each of them had already been here. Some came quite often. Never as a group, though—maybe that was it.

I headed out the sliding glass doors that separated the dining area from the screened back porch. I took a seat on the couch out there and lit a cigarette. As I watched Claudia preparing things in the kitchen, I let my mind drift through a mental list of the day’s activities we planned. I hoped to hell that it accomplished what we intended it to. It was important to me, not just from the standpoint of success or failure, but this one was personal.

Our last get-together involved a scavenger hunt. Ginny and Kris had hosted it, and the two proved themselves to be diabolical. They had ‘gotten’ each and every one of us in one way or another, and numerous times during that weekend, we vowed to pay them back in full. I certainly felt resolute at the time, but now there was a part of me just so very grateful for how they truly got us. They got Claudia and me back on the right path, beyond the muck in which we had been so stuck. Our relationship felt renewed again. Hope had returned. Claudia was getting some help dealing with her grandmother’s death, and ironically, it seemed to enliven her at the same time it hurt her. To suddenly think about paying them back for that seemed absurd.

I took a long drag of my cigarette as I watched Claudia approach the porch. She looked good to me, and again, I felt grateful.

“Are you going to help with any of this?” she asked, but the question arrived as a prod not a fist. “It’s twenty to nine. They should start arriving soon.”

“I know. I’m dumping on you,” I ruefully admitted. “I’m sorry. I’m on my way.”

“Are you okay? Is something wrong?”

I smashed my cigarette into the ashtray. I walked to the step, and I hugged her. She towered over me from the dining room. I liked that feeling sometimes—feeling small to her because I didn’t feel that way inside. The side of my face rested on her chest. Her warmth penetrating, her heartbeat steady, it felt safe there.

“There’s not really anything wrong,” I finally replied. “Just nervous. Stupid, huh?”

“No, it’s not stupid. We planned really well, though, hon, so I think everything should go off without a hitch,” she reassured. “If something goes wrong, we’ll deal with it. We always do.” She kissed me on the forehead and ordered, “Now get your butt in here!”

She put me to work pureeing peaches, hardly a monumental task. My attention shifted between doing that, watching her set champagne glasses on the island, and monitoring the street through the front window.

“You don’t think this will backfire, do you?” I asked, still wanting to make sure everything was okay. “I’m praying it hasn’t gone too far already.”

“Trust, hon,” she answered. Then she smiled broadly and added, “I’m an authority on that now, you know.”

“Oh, you are, huh?” I said with an honest but short-lived laugh. “And you’ll help me make it all right if all goes wrong?”

“Of course, I will. We did it. This is not yours alone.”

Before I had a chance to further the discussion, I saw Alison’s car pull to the curb. She had been in the club a few years. She taught yoga at the local Y, and she had a kind heart. Unfortunately—or maybe fortunately—she broke up with her partner during our last get-together, but she had been doing great since then. It made me happy that she decided to join us, as she worried about being the “ninth wheel.” A lot of coaxing on our part finally convinced her that she did not need to be coupled in order to attend. It was not, after all, the Lesbian Couples Adventure Club. If you’re queer, we’re here. Okay, that wasn’t exactly the club motto, but it worked.

Claudia opened the front door quickly, averting any chance of Alison pressing the dreaded button that allowed the irritating doorbell to do its evil work. I hoped that when we moved into Claudia’s grandmother house there would be no doorbell. That at least was one thing I would not miss about this home that had been ours for six years.

“Hey, you guys!” Alison said as she entered. “I’m the first one, aren’t I? Sorry if I’m early.”

“You’re right on time,” Claudia said. “Just throw your duffle bag into the first room down the hall. Then make yourself comfortable. You should have company in no time.”

“I’m glad you came,” I said to her as she started for the hall. “It’ll be great, not awkward—at least not anymore than usual. I promise.”

She smiled at me and offered her thanks. As she disappeared, I pulsed the blender a couple of good ones. I knew Claudia would kill me for an inadvertent oxymoron: chunky puree.

Suddenly from down the hall, Alison’s voice boomed, “Lover Doll! Oh, hi there, Lover Doll! Oh my God, I can’t believe you guys kept her.” By the time she finished her last sentence, she was back with us.

“Yes, we kept her,” Claudia said, tossing a dirty look my way. “But it was against my better judgment. Lover Girl here seems to think she owes something to Lover Doll. The best I could get was an agreement that she would not sleep with us.”

We all laughed.

“I know it’s stupid,” I tried to explain, “but the idea of throwing her away just made it all seem so trashy.”

Claudia rolled her eyes and said, “Kate, it was trashy. She’s a blow up doll from a porn shop. I don’t think there’s a thing on earth you could do to make it not trashy.”

“Yes, but I think I at least owe her a warm place to stay,” I said, smiling as I remembered my little lovefest with Lover Girl in the parking lot of Peter’s Palace.

“Did you at least wash the smooched bugs off her boobs? She was hanging out the car window for quite awhile,” Alison unwisely said.

“Oh please, hon, tell me you didn’t wash her boobs!”

I didn’t have to answer, thank God, because the doorbell suddenly bellowed its deranged tune through the house. Ding, dong, burp, spit, ding—that was as close as I could ever get to a description of it.

“Jesus Christ, can’t you teach that doorbell a new tune?” Ginny sputtered as soon as the door opened.

She wasn’t one to be tossing around those in-vain names. As a communication arts professor, she always said there were a million better ways to express oneself without having to be Neanderthal and resort to swearing.  Either she was learning that sometimes it just plain felt good, or she was crabby. I looked at Kris, and immediately I knew that it was the latter. Kris’ lips pursed, and the furrow in her brow seemed hoisted nearly to the top of her head. Her eyes rolled and then remained in the eleven o’clock position.

“Oh, just ignore our bellman, Ginny. He is one sick dude,” I said. “Come on in. How are you guys?”

“We’re fine,” Kris instantly replied and then refused to acknowledge the whipping around of Ginny’s head in her direction. “And how are you all?”

I felt the need to apologize for the smirk that suddenly owned my face. I had known these two for over fifteen years. I loved them. I respected them. I depended on them. Above all, I trusted them. I trusted that in the nearly twenty-five years they had been together that they had learned enough about relationships and each other to weather whatever negativity existed. Issues that might do other couples in seemed to be mere bumps in the road for them, bumps they marked with respect. It wasn’t that the issues didn’t challenge or hurt. It was more that they accepted that life was downright nasty sometimes; you deal with it and keep moving. While I certainly did not enjoy their hard times, something positive stemmed from seeing their shortcomings, knowing they were not perfect. Those things gave me hope that I could have what they had, that fallible me could maintain a lifelong love. Besides, if you fuse a comm arts professor to a professor of psychology, you had to expect a few conflicts.

Kris and Ginny entered our house just as Maggie and Susan slammed their car doors. This would make Claudia happy; she loved punctuality.

I told Kris and Ginny where to drop their stuff, and then we greeted the new arrivals.

Maggie managed a vegan food store, Mama Earth’s, while Susan taught in an elementary school. They had not been together that long, but it seemed they got a bit stronger and more comfortable with each get-together. This time, in fact, I saw an unfamiliar eagerness on Susan’s face. She overtly wanted to be here, which was immense for someone who still had three-quarters of herself in a closet. I waited for the day when it was less than half, even if only by a centimeter. I figured Maggie would be more comfortable then, as one who abhorred closets and all those things and people in life that forced some of us to need that kind of shelter. She was an activist to the core, on a hiatus of sorts while the two of them found common ground.

“Hey, you guys!” Susan beamed and gave us both body slam hugs.

“Hi, humdinger,” I greeted Maggie from over Susan’s shoulder.

“Hey, dilly,” she replied, and we both instantaneously began laughing.

Once the meet and greet ended, everyone took places on the living room furniture that had been pushed out of the way to accommodate the day’s activities. The conversation centered on the past scavenger hunt, and Kris and Ginny still gloated. Maybe it would be easier to pay them back than I thought.

Susan asked, “So what are you guys going to do to us?”

“Well, we’d love to tell you, but Holly and Laura aren’t here yet,” Claudia said. “Kate, have you talked to them recently? Are we sure they got the invite and everything?”

“Yes, I talked to Laura last night while you were in the tub,” I informed her. “She called to make sure we didn’t need anything. It’s only quarter after. That’s not really late yet.”

Between us, we finally decided to start the first activity, which we would further explain once our missing members arrived. Claudia set out fruits, bagels, a pot of warm chocolate, and various spreads. I took orders for peach mimosas as I popped the first bottle of champagne.

Our living and dining rooms bled into the kitchen, creating a very spacious area. Women with plates and glasses spread throughout, nibbling on food and swilling those kinds of spirits that were somehow justifiable for morning consumption. From the corner of my eye, I saw Kris dip a strawberry in chocolate and offer it up to Ginny, who sat next to her on the couch. Take it, Ginny; please take it! Reluctantly she did and even offered a slight smile to Kris in return. Perhaps she was feeling better. I knew I was. My nervousness retreated, and again, I felt at ease with our friends.

“Oh, Kate sweetie,” Claudia beckoned, and I did not like the tone. “It’s now nine thirty-five. Does that constitute late?”

“Yes, I would call that late,” I shrinkingly replied, wondering how this suddenly seemed like my fault. “I’ll give them a call and make sure everything is okay.”

I grabbed the phone, and before I had even punched in two numbers, the front door burst open. To say they had arrived, entered, even stormed in—none of those related the act correctly. Literally, they landed, with four quick and distinct footfalls, in nearly crouched positions, as if the artist and the detective had just dropped from the sky. Both sported wet hair and looked as though they had dressed hurriedly—the obvious signs of getting up too late and making a mad dash. I had made a few of those in my life.

“We are bad girls,” Holly said sheepishly. “We are late. Forgive us?”

“Yes, we’re very sorry for being late. Please forgive us,” Laura added.

Shit, how could anyone not? It wasn’t like they offered lame excuses or even minimized it.

“We’ll forgive you this time,” Claudia said, my little project manager seeming to turn a new leaf. “But get your butts in here now!” she said. The new leaf yellowed.

“Okay, okay,” Holly said and then quickly turned her attention elsewhere.  “Hi, everybody! What did we miss?”

They both entered the mix to receive updates and the usual gossip while I made them mimosas. They nodded with great interest to everything said while they stuffed strawberries and grapes into their mouths.

Once things settled a bit, Claudia came over by me and worked with clapping hands to get everyone’s attention.

“We decided not even to try to outdo Kris and Ginny,” I began. “We stand humbled before the great ones.” I bowed, watching the rest follow suit, watching the great ones bask in it. “So there will be no competition this time. No clues. No winners. No losers.”

Laura, of course, chimed in, “Yeah, being a loser is kind of hard to take. You two must be awfully tired of it.”

“Yeah, I could rub your nose in a few things, too,” I said, “but I have a bit more class. So shut up!” I stuck my tongue out at her, as any classier person would do. Inside, my resolve to find and exploit her weakness was now a craving, one I hoped to satisfy before day’s end.

“I thought you just said there was no competition?” Claudia posed one of those rhetorical questions that usually came with shiny shackles all their own. “You two, please behave.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Then she proceeded to explain, “There are nine of us here. Oddly enough in that mix there are five teachers: two professors, an elementary schoolteacher, a yoga trainer, and an art instructor.  All of us have been at the mercy of at least one of those for many years sometime in our lives. At their mercy meaning we had stuff crammed down our throats without ever being able to offer any advice on what we needed to learn. So, ladies, our adventure simply consists of learning some of those things that they should have taught us in school.”

The traditional and silent appraisal began as each looked to the other, first with question mark faces and then with approval.

Claudia continued, “While we don’t boast having a stoolie in every bar and porn shop in the city, we do know quite a few people.” She looked to Kris and Ginny, who were both laughing. “We’ll be having an expert in for each session. Not only will we have some non-competitive fun, but hopefully we’ll learn a few things and meet some interesting people.”

A ripple of affirmative nods skipped through the group.

“And who hasn’t been a kid who believed that all school days should begin with recess?” I asked—rhetorical minus the shackles. “So this is recess. We have until ten fifteen to do absolutely nothing but horse around and enjoy ourselves.”

“Um, I have a question,” Susan said, raising her hand like one of her students needing to use the little girls’ room.

“And what would your question be?” Claudia played along.

“Is it common practice to serve mimosas for recess?” she asked. Yes, another millimeter closer to freedom.

“It is at this school,” Claudia answered.

“I like recess!” Susan said in a little girl voice. She raised her glass to be quickly joined by the rest. Two millimeters.

 

Chapter 2 (partial)

“Okay, everybody,” Claudia said, but obviously too politely, for everyone kept milling about and talking. Then the manager in her stood tall. She clapped her hands loudly and repeated, “Okay, everybody. It’s almost ten fifteen. We’ve got to keep things moving along.”

When all attention was had, she continued, “Welcome to Physical Education, the class you love to hate.”

“The class with the ugly butch gym teacher who screwed you up because you thought there had to be something wrong with liking girls if you we’re going to grow up to be her,” I said, receiving leg-slapping laughter from everyone for the sick joke, an arm slap from Claudia for deviating from the script, and a cheek slap from myself for a badly run-on sentence.

“You all remember it, don’t you, girls? Kickball, pushups, badminton, laps, claiming to have your period one hundred and twenty-five days in a row. Well, they didn’t teach us what we needed to know to grow up to be strong, healthy women, now did they?”

A horrifically loud “No!” shook the room. Then they spouted every pathetic gym activity they knew, following each with “Bullshit!” They were madder than hell, and I could not take it anymore. I did the cowardly thing and ducked into the spare bedroom. Retrieving a stack of white sheets, I winked at Lover Doll and then made my way back to the living room. As I tossed the stack into the middle of the room, all eyes turned to me.

“So this one, ladies, is massage,” Claudia announced to a steady stream of oos and ahs. “You’ll have to strip. There’s a sheet for everyone to wrap up in. Panties are optional.”

Between them, they exchanged glances until the verdict was unanimous: They would go along with the plan.

Laura grabbed the first sheet, teasing, “You belong to the KKK? They don’t like queers, you know.”

Before I could make my retort, Maggie was studying the one she had grabbed. “Look,” she said, pointing to a mark on the sheet. “It’s not KKK. She swiped them from a hospital—from St. Mike’s.”

“I just hope it wasn’t St. Mike’s Home for the Bedridden and Incontinent,” Susan added, much to my chagrin.

“Oh, shut up, you guys!” I said. “I got them from the thrift store. Claudia washed and bleached them. There’s nothing wrong with them. Now shut up and get moving.”

As they took turns stripping in the bathroom, Claudia and I set up the borrowed massage tables for each couple, and one for Alison, who would be our guinea pig.

Soon, the living room was filled with white-sheeted bodies. Everyone walked about like clumsy geishas.

In perfect time, there was a quiet knock at the front door, and I let in our massage therapist.

“This is Janice,” I introduced. “She’s going to be teaching us a few things. She’s trustworthy, and she’s one of us, so please feel comfortable. Ask questions. Whatever you need to do. Alison, you get the massage from the pro.”

As Janice set up, Claudia and I stripped and joined the ranks.

Janice began with a short speech on the importance of touch and how it helps a couple with bonding. Alison reclined on the table next to her, and I wondered what she thought about bonding with a stranger. Maybe as a yoga teacher she understood things we didn’t, as she seemed unfazed.

“Okay, so the point of this is non-sexual touch,” Janice said. “Pay attention to your partner’s needs. Be gentle. First, we’ll concentrate on one person, and then we’ll switch.”

With that, bargains were made, and eventually, Claudia, Holly, Ginny, and Susan were all prone. Janice handed out small bottles of oil to each of the apprentice masseuses.

“Always warm the oil in your hands before you touch your partner. A shock is not the best way to begin.”

“Come on, Sutter,” Laura said from the table adjacent to ours. “Get it nice and warm.”

“I am. I am,” I corrected. “You just pay attention.”

Janice furthered her instructions, “Okay, once the oil is warm, place your hands gently on your partner’s neck and shoulder area. Like this.” She began slowly massaging Alison’s shoulders. “You want your back motion to go toward an extremity. Think of it as forcing the negative energy toward a place where it can easily escape the body, like the fingertips, the feet, the top of the head.”

I watched what she did and then tried the same on Claudia. I must have done it correctly, as I could feel her relax under my touch, and an almost inaudible moan escaped her lips.

“Feel good?” I asked, for which I received a lazy nod. “Just tell me if I hurt you.”

After several minutes of this, Janice said, “Now you want to move a bit lower, around the shoulder blade area. This time it’s the upward motion that should push the negative energy toward the arms.”

Again, I did as she instructed, feeling Claudia lose herself in my touch. I thought back to the tension that existed between us during our last get-together. There was none of it now, and none that I could feel in the muscles that gave themselves to me. I imagined pushing out any residue and infusing her with the strong, thriving feelings I had for her.

As I caught onto the techniques that Janice taught us, I finally felt in command enough to move my attention to the others in the room. It was Laura I saw first. Actually, it was only Laura I saw…