Shout-out to occupy-essayists!

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experimental dental school

I am busy writing the first chapter of my new book, so no new writings for blogs right now. But — I would like to make a “shout-out” to my OCCUPY ESSAYS BLOG, where invited activists (and other “normal persons”) contribute with essays related to social change and philosophy. Check it out HERE!

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Quotable quote from Dalai Lama

monks

“What surprises me most about humanity is man. He sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies never having really lived.” – Dalai Lama

While we wait …

WHILE WE WAIT …

Patiently — we endure,
desperate to believe in God, justice and humanity.
Repeatedly — we suffer
from our own ignorance and immobility.
Admirably — we martyr ourselves,
tranquilizing pain with saintliness and esteem.
Inevitably — we avenge,
using the very tactics of our aggressors.
Ultimately — we are shunned
by all who thought we were extraordinary.
Typically — we wait
for the world to discover its misjudgment.
Ironically — we learn nothing,
and neither forgive nor forget.

MIENTRAS ESPERAMOS

Pacientemente — nos mantenemos,
desesperados por creer en Dios,
en la justicia y la humanidad.
Repetidamente — sufrimos
nuestra propia ignorancia e inmovilidad.
Admirablemente — nos hacemos mártires,
e intentamos paliar nuestro dolor con santidad
y consideración.
Inevitablemente — nos vengamos,
con las mismas tácticas de nuestros agresores.
Últimamente — nos avergonzamos
por todos los que pensaban que éramos extraordinarios.
Típicamente — esperamos
que el mundo reconozca sus equivocadas críticas.
Irónicamente — no aprendemos nada,
y no se olvida ni se perdona.

Copyright Adam Donaldson Powell, excerpted from “Collected poems and stories” and “Three-legged Waltz”)

Enough already!

Enough already! I am more than fed up with the Catholic Church. Excuse my “french” but … jesus f***ing christ! How anal-retentive is it possible to be, Vatican?!! Get with the times, grow up, stop the Illuminati game-playing … be real!
The Sufi part of me has held me at bay with “love, love, love!” but the pagan witch-bitch part of me says: “Enough bullshit already! Leave the Church! Burn a zillion candles!”

What was the final tipping point for me: THIS ARTICLE!

Read my online novel about lesbian Rachel and her fight against a priest who went all too far:

Flora, erotica no. 1

THE STALKER
(the tale of a French Bitch)
by Adam Donaldson Powell
Oslo, Norway
Copyright 2010

The Stalker bookcover

In the beginning …

Five-year old Rachel S. was sitting in her room, playing with her dolls when it started again. She hated the yelling, the accusations, the slamming of doors and the sound of objects thudding against walls and the wooden floors. It was almost always only her mother’s voice that she heard – at first whining and then quickly building up to a banshee-like squeal that made Rachel cringe with fear and obsessed with the desire to run … far away. Her father, must have had nerves of steel and ears stuffed with cotton as he just let her rant and eventually walked unemotionally out of the house and drove off in his car – not to return before late at night, when his wife had – by then – cried herself to sleep. With her father not around to be on the receiving end of these horrible rantings, Rachel could inevitably expect a “house visit and inspection” from her crazed mother. Her moods were always in a wide swing – ranging from “my precious little rosebud” to “you filthy little whore!” It was the unpredictability of the “off – on” emotional faucet that scared Rachel the most. This afternoon was no different. As soon as Rachel heard her father drive off and then the subsequent (and consequent) thud of some glass or ceramic object smattering against a wall, she instinctively tiptoed across the creaky floor and shut herself in her closet, crouching in the darkness in hopes of disappearing from the house, her mother and life itself. She counted her mother’s footsteps from when she opened the door to Rachel’s room to when she flung open the door of the closet, stamping and kicking at the shoes neatly arranged on the floor to the right of where Rachel crouched.

“Come out of there, young lady!” her mother screamed. “Rachel S., come out RIGHT THIS INSTANT!”

Rachel always knew what hell she would be in for if her mother addressed her as “Rachel S.” instead of merely “Rachel”. Like a dog that had been severely scolded by its master, she obediently and fearfully crawled out of the closet … with her head hanging.

“What are you wearing, you little slut?! How many times have I told you NOT to wear your best Sunday dresses to play in? You are the reason your father and I fight all the time. You make your Daddy do and think bad things, Rachel. You encourage the bad in him by getting all dolled-up and parading around … ‘Daddy, my precious Daddy – can I have this; can we do that … ?’ And he is such a sucker for you – you little whore. He takes you here and there, and buys you this and that … and I am left out and often all alone in this damned prison of a house – desperately trying to make it into a home. Take that damned dress off. TAKE IT OFF NOW!” her mother screamed, finally ripping it off Rachel’s body when Rachel could not undo the buttons quickly enough. And then, her mother grabbed the pieces of the dress and turned to stomp out of the room when she noticed that several of Rachel’s dolls had had their heads torn off and lay scattered outside the dollhouse with some miniature teacups. “Rachel S.! What have you done now? Why have you torn the heads off these beautiful dolls that I have hand-sewn dresses for? Why do you always hurt me, Rachel? Why, why, why?!!” She was now shaking little Rachel and screaming at the top of her lungs. Her mother’s eyes were red from all the rage and tears, and she was almost incapable of hearing Rachel’s response.

“I didn’t do it, Mommy! Honest. It wasn’t me,” cried the terrified little girl.

“It wasn’t you, say you! Then WHO was it, Rachel? How many times have I told you not to lie to me?!!”

“It was Emily. It was Emily that did it, Mommy. She was mad.”

“Who is Emily, Rachel? I do not see any Emily here? Do you see Emily, Rachel S.? Look around this room … come – look in the closet. Where is Emily?!”

“She is gone … she is hiding,” replied Rachel, now sobbing uncontrollably.

“You disgust me, you lying little bitch! Now go wash your face, put on some pajamas and crawl into bed. There will be no dinner for you tonight. You have brought it on yourself, you little vixen.” And with that her mother stomped out of the room and disappeared downstairs, seeking refuge in the television and a bottle of Scotch whiskey.

At least the headache was gone. Veronica – her “special secret playmate” always left her with a migraine when she suddenly disappeared in anger. Veronica always said bad things about Rachel’s mother. Rachel tried to reason with her and argued that her mother could not help herself and always did the best she could, but Veronica would then start calling Rachel a scaredy-cat and taunted Rachel into doing something they knew her mother would not like – like getting dressed up in Sunday clothes, making a mess in the room by pulling out as many toys as possible and scattering them all over the room, and other fun but naughty games. Today Veronica had brought along a friend: Emily. Emily seemed even more quiet than Rachel. She hardly said a word – rocked and sucked her thumb, or rocked and held her arms around herself in an attempt to give herself comfort. Rachel thought: “It was a good thing Mommy did not see that. She always got real mad whenever Rachel rocked, or sucked her thumb.” Luckily, they both left before Rachel’s mother came into the room. Rachel knew how to go into “lock-down” emotionally. That made it more tolerable.

Even though Rachel was sent to bed before dinner time, she did not fall asleep before she heard her father’s car again pull up into the driveway and he quietly climbed the steps to the second floor and shut the door to the guest room, which is where he chose to sleep on such nights … as well as some others.

PART ONE

CHAPTER ONE

Rachel was putting the final touches on her eye make-up when she heard a knock on the door of her dressing room. “Come in … I am decent!” she sang out, knowing that only employees were permitted in that part of the club unless accompanied by a staff member. A thirty-ish ginger mop of a hairdo poked its face inside the doorway, exclaiming: “Ten minutes until showtime, Miss Stein!”

Rachel felt the rage rush straight up from her cervix to her lungs as she bellowed: “Miss STEIN! I will stone you to death you mousey little skank of a cunt! How many times …” But before she could finish her rant and hurl the curling iron she had just grasped, Maddy had disappeared back into the corridor – laughing hysterically. Rachel heard other snickering voices in the hallway, got up to slam the door closed and exclaimed: “Bitches! Get a fucking life, why don’tcha!??” That – of course – only made the laughter increase, and Rachel managed to crack a smile to herself as she again stood before the full-length mirror, mumbling to herself: “I’ve got an audience every show night, I write my own material … and I am the one laughing all the way to the bank!” With that, she lit a Gitane and poured herself her traditional pre-show ritual scotch and water, and sat on the small 1930s-style divan – remembering the start of the whole “office joke” …

It was on a stand-in Saturday night about 18 months ago, there at the club when Rachel had just finished a brilliant cabaret show ending with her portrayal of Martha Graham … which even included bits of some famous Graham dance movements and gestures. The performance was quite good but – that particular night’s crowd of lesbians being not quite as cultured and sophisticated as the regular Wednesday night crowd Rachel was used to catering to – it went over the heads of many of the lasses in the audience. Rachel did not mind too much, and remembered thinking to herself as she left the stage: “Sometimes real artists must educate these bitches about art, culture and history!” Just then she was approached by an unknown young woman who caught her off guard with her beaming, genuine smile and who asked Rachel: “Aren’t you … Isadora D….?” Rachel felt her blood rush up to her brain, then quickly took herself together and proudly stated in character: “Why no … I am Martha. MARTHA GRAHAM!”

The young woman looked at Rachel quite quizzically and then turned on her heels while muttering: “Never heard of ya!” It was then that Rachel caught sight of Maddy and called upon her assistance. Rachel felt weak in the knees and dizzy. She thought she was about to faint. Maddy sat her down on a stool in the hallway and rushed to get her a cup of water. When Maddy returned Rachel asked her: “Maddy, what character did I end tonight’s show with? I think I am going batty!”

Maddy then answered, with a smirk on her face: “Why, you have been playing Gertrude Stein, Mademoiselle” Suddenly Rachel saw the young blonde woman again skirt through the hallway to the accompaniment of applause and cackling laughter. Rachel then knew that she had been the brunt of a cruel joke. Maddy also immediately ran off, laughing like the stupid cow that she was .. “and still is, too!” muttered Rachel, while downing the rest of her drink and stubbing out her cigarette.

Tonight’s theme at the club was Jacques Brel’s music, and Rachel’s star cameo performance featured Z., his lover. Rachel had worked very hard on writing this piece. It featured a letter from Z. To Brel, in French … and was then followed by a routine about several known starlets that had been “kicked to the curb” – in English, of course, for the non-Sarah Lawrence graduates that had not properly learned French. Rachel breathed in deeply and then exhaled slowly as she walked to the stage entrance. All fell silent as she took her place on the small stage. Looking far beyond the faces of the mostly-lesbian audience, she esconced herself in the fourth wall as she delivered her introductory monologue:

Cher Jacques,

Félicitations ! Ta chanson “Ne me quitte pas” est devenue un succès énorme. Tu fais sentir ta douleur … en utilisant la veine ensorcellante de Maurice Ravel, comme dans son ” Boléro “, où tu gardes le même refrain et le même ton calme, mais la colère en plus, dans tes mots. Et tu te protèges d’une manière si poignante en me demandant à plusieurs reprises de ne pas te quitter, à en devenir fou de rage. Ta chanson nous ravit, mais en même temps, elle a plongé le poignard dans le coeur de notre conte de fées.

Si seulement tu n’étais pas si lâche. Pourquoi n’as-tu pas pu exprimer tes craintes et tes émotions dans la vie réelle, au lieu de me faire passer pour un citoyen banal ? Comme ta stupide maîtresse, qui a voulu exploiter ta gloire et ta réputation ? Tu sais que je ne me suis jamais soucié de telles choses. Je t’ai simplement aimé. Et toi, tu … tu as seulement été amoureux du romantisme, du simple fait ” d’être amoureux “. L’annonce de notre ” enfant d’amour ” s’est avérée trop pesante pour toi. J’ai aussi eu peur. Mais tu étais un enfant, jouant à être un homme. Ma fierté ne m’a pas permis de porter les ombres que tu décrivais dans ta chanson. Et comment oses-tu inclure mon chien adoré dans ta chanson pitoyable… ? ” Laisse-moi devenir l’ombre de ton ombre, l’ombre de ta main et l’ombre de ton chien. “

Tu exprimes ta colère et ta confusion tout en me priant de ne pas te quitter. La vérité est que tu n’étais jamais complètement là dans notre relation d’amour. J’étais un jouet pour toi, un joyau à chérir dans le secret … mais tu ne m’as jamais vraiment aimée comme un homme devrait aimer une femme. Je sais que je dois sembler amère. En vérité, je ne le suis pas. Je me sens finalement libre de devenir la femme que je suis … libérée de cet homme immature qui me détruisait avec ses émotions toujours changeantes et extrêmes. Tant d’apitoiement sur soi-même, tant de colère et d’indifférence soudaine ! Non, notre ” enfant d’amour ” n’a aucune réalité et il n’existera jamais. J’aime ma chambre sans berceau. Pourquoi n’écrirais-tu pas une nouvelle chanson, Jacques ?: ” la chanson des vieux amants …” ?

Ne me quitte pas …
ne me quitte pas …
ne me quitte pas …
ne me quitte pas …

Assez !

Je ne t’ai jamais quitté … parce que je ne t’ai jamais eu.

Entendons-nous : tu ne me parles pas – et je ne te parle pas. C’est mieux comme ça. Tu peux maintenant écrire toutes les chansons que tu veux de notre amour perdu et devenir ainsi encore plus riche et plus célèbre.
Et je me contenterai d’épouser le plombier ou le charpentier.
Je pourrai alors chérir mes enfants, des enfants conçus avec amour.

J’aurais d’utiliser ce subjonctif que tu aimais tant, je regrette de ne pas y avoir pensé plus tôt!

Penses-y,
Zizou

The show ended in silence, with the spotlight focused on Rachel’s desperate face as she crouched in the darkness, looking up and outward towards some unknown Goddess in the heavens. One by one the clapping and stamping and yells of “Bravo!” spread through the crowd, finally ending with a standing ovation. Rachel graciously bowed several times before leaving the stage … feeling both pleased with herself and her performance – and yes, also more than a bit relieved to see that the opening monologue in French had gone over so well after all. “Thank the Goddess for the faithful Sarah Lawrence alumni!” she mumbled to herself. In the corridor several of her colleagues clapped as Rachel proudly walked towards her dressing room, and even Maddy remarked: “Quite a stunning performance! You WERE Z. – and every other woman scorned by an asshole of a man!”

Rachel smiled geniunely upon seeing that Maddy really meant it, and closed the dressing room door before slumping down into the divan in contented exhaustion. Suddenly, Rachel snapped to attention with a painful start. Someone was in her dressing room! “Who is there?!!” she bellowed, with both authority and fear. “Come out, now … come out and tell me what you want!”

Rachel received no response, just a continuation of the heavy breathing and a strange whimpering noise. She began turning over costume racks, chairs and even throw pillows in an attempt to smoke out and expose the intruder. Finally she spied a leg extending out of the broom closet. Rachel tore open the closet door and found a young woman sitting on the floor, holding herself while rocking forewards and back. The woman’s head was so bowed that Rachel could not get a good look at who it was. “Look at me … look at me dear woman! Are you okay? How did you fucking get in here anyway? You are not allowed in here … only staff is allowed back here. What do you want – an autograph?”

There was still no response, so Rachel grabbed the woman by her blonde wavy hair and jerked her head upwards so she could get eye contact with her. The woman’s arms fell away from her stranglehold around her own chest baring several new bloody cut marks on her wrists. The woman looked as though she had had a seizure and her glazed over eyes looked as though they would roll back into her head at any moment. “I know you!” exclaimed Rachel. “I have seen you before. Who are you? Can you hear me?!!” No response. Rachel noticed that there were blood stains everywhere, with a clear trail to the bathroom where she found a bloody razor blade in the sink.

She ran out into the corridor, screaming: “Help! Maddy! Anyone! There is an emergency in my dressing room. She is a cutter! Help!!!”

Within seconds Maddy and the owner of the club came running. “What is it?” exclaimed Maddy. “Are you okay? What do you mean by ‘a cutter’?”

Rachel was shaking and sobbing. Now that she was no longer alone with the situation, she had begun to let go emotionally. Rachel led them to the closet and just pointed, while trembling: “There!” The club owner, Wendy, took her into her arms and pulled her away from the closet while Maddy helped the young woman to her feet, pulled her into the bathroom and shut the door.

Maddy asked Wendy: “Who is that? Why is she here? I do not understand … I …”

Soon afterwards, Maddy escorted the young woman out of the bathroom, explaining: “I have stopped the bleeding and I will call the ambulance. She is in no shape to sit as a passenger in my car, and frankly I do not want the blood stains everywhere.”

Rachel asked, again: “But who is she? I have seen her before.”

Just then the young woman spoke, for the first time: “Are you Isadora D…”

Rachel exclaimed: “You!”

The club owner then interrupted: “We do not have time for this now. I will help Maddy with Angélique. Someone will come and clean up this mess shortly. Go home immediately, and I will call you later tonight.” And within seconds Rachel was again alone in her dressing room.

CHAPTER TWO.

Rachel had been home for all of three hours and was finally beginning to relax – thanks to a good bottle of French red wine, a few cigarettes … and listening to some vintage Rick Astley, and finally Guy Marchand’s version of “Besame mucho” , blasting on the iPod speakers. She was dancing around the living room when she heard the buzzer announce the arrival of an unknown visitor. Rachel assumed it was perhaps her gay male friend Sébastien, who was due to arrive back in town today after two weeks in Paris, where he had been visiting his parents.

Âllo. Quoi de neuf ?

Bien, c’est la question du jour, ô la plus sexy de toutes !

De quoi parlez-vous ? Qui êtes-vous ?

Oh, drop the phoney accent “Blanche!” Your French is quite good, but you will never be a true Frenchman … at least not without my help. (snicker)

Who IS this? Your voice sounds familiar. I …

C’est Angélique … my Angel – I am newly-resurfaced from the discotheque of Death and Drama. I have been released from the emergency ward at the medical center, on a promise of good behavior to both the psychiatric nurse and to Wendy. (hiccup … sorry, I am sloshed. I stopped by a bar on the way over here. Don’t tell Wendy … and not that silly, sweet-talking nurse either. She does not fool me – I know she must be Gestapo or MI5!). Anyway, Wendy was going to call you to see how you are and I told her that I had planned on thanking you and would stop by on my way home. So, no call from Wendy tonight luv. But if you press that buzzer then I can deliver my ‘thanks’ and also check your form – both for Wendy and for myself. (hiccup).

You are stinking drunk, and raving mad! I can almost smell the liquor on you all the way up here on the 6th floor. Here … come on in, but you will have to excuse the mess in my flat … and I am barely dressed.

“I am panting like a bitch in heat,” responded Angélique.

There could not have transpired more than 3 minutes from when Rachel buzzed her in and Angélique was pounding on the door.

“Hey! Easy now … I have neighbors, you know. Come on in … quickly now.”

Angélique stumbled through the doorway, falling into Rachel’s arms.

Angélique looked deep into her eyes and sighed: “Love at first sight … how many times have I said that while watching you?”

“What are you talking about Woman?!!” muttered Rachel, while quickly closing the door, after assuring herself that no nosey neighbors were peering through their doorways or lurking in the halls.

“You saved my life. And you know what that means,” said a coy and burping Angélique.

“I am almost afraid to hear what you have to say,” retorted Rachel, while reaching for a sweater to cover up her bare arms and low-cut tank top which exposed a good deal of her breasts.

Angélique grabbed the sweater from her hands and hid it behind her back, baiting Rachel to try and retrieve it – a schoolgirl game that they both knew quite well. In the middle of it all Angélique taunted: “If you want it, then come and get it. If you want me, then leave it off!”

“You little tart! Give me that sweater, or I will …”

“You will WHAT?!! Give me your best shot!” And suddenly Angélique lunged at Rachel, pinning her down on the vintage purple velvet divan, and began smothering her with small kisses – all over her face, neck, shoulders. When she reached the breasts a “struggling Rachel” started to relax, her breathing slowed and she whispered: “Okay, you have my attention. What does it mean when a person saves your life?”

Angélique smiled rather devilishly, and replied with a twinkle in her eye: “It means that I will forever be indebted to you.”

“Oh, so I will never get rid of you then?” replied Rachel, half in jest and half in worried seriousness. Rachel had always hated clingers … be they women or men.

“Not unless you let me save YOUR life and then tell me that we are even-steven and that you release me.”

And with that they kissed … a long, French kiss that sent shivers of ecstasy through Rachel – reaching her longtime dormant g-spots. Rivers and tides of pre-orgasmic joy flowed through the two amazons as they circled round and round each other physically … exploring the womanness of abandon to the accompaniment of beating hearts and heavy breathing, thumping like jungle drums. It was not long before Angélique had undressed Rachel of all but her tank top, which was now all but in shreds – quite dishevelled after the foreplay. Her tongue made Rachel quiver in the land of cunnilingus dreams … moaning and jerking and grabbing the hair of her lover, pulling her closer each time Angélique pulled out for a breath of air.

Angélique pulled away and looked at Rachel with her piercing grey-green eyes, like a hawk salivating over its prey right before the kill. And suddenly Rachel pushed her aside, bolted up from the divan and ran into the bedroom.

“Hey! What happened? Where did you go?” exclaimed a startled Angélique.

Rachel re-appeared, smiling and carrying a compact mirror with a credit card and a mound of white powder on it. “Just a little something to take the edge off,” said Rachel. And with that she began to belt out “Besame mucho” as Angélique took over preparing the cocaine hors d’oeuvres:

‘Besame, besame mucho,
Como si fuera esta noche la ultima vez.
Besame, besame mucho,
Que tengo miedo tenerte, y perderte despues.’

Angélique had meanwhile started preparing the lines of cocaine. And now it was Rachel that was stealing kisses from Angélique, who played at being annoyed at the distraction: “I am working here, babe! I am a working girl …”

“That you are, my cute little nasty cunt! Calling me ‘Isadora …” And with that Rachel went into a pout, slapping Angélique lightly on her left cheek.

“Hey! Don’t get your knickers all in a twist!” retorted Angélique. “Somebody had to bring you back down to planet Earth. Besides, how else would I get a babe like you to notice me?”

Rachel responded only by commanding: “Besame … besame mucho, bitch!”

“Later babe.” Rolling up the pound note that Rachel has placed on the coffee table, Angélique presented it to Rachel saying: “You go first. You are the hostess. I will clean up afterwards …”

“Don’t mind if I do … and yes, you will,” retorted Rachel, not about to be outdone.

They finished several lines between them, and soon Rachel was all over Angélique – undressing her frantically. When she reached to snatch Angélique’s panties off a somewhat nervous Angélique resisted: “I must use the ‘ladies room’ first, ma chérie.”

“Don’t be long”, replied Rachel, lying back onto the divan – and a bit frustrated.

In minutes Angélique had reappeared, stroking Rachel’s hair while standing centimeters in front of her face. “I hope you are ready for the delight of your life!”

“Ha!” replied Rachel. “With this buzz I got going, I am ready for everything …”

And with that she pulled Angélique’s panties down, revealing a proud but shy male reproductive organ that had been hidden in between her legs. “That is a … You are a …!” exclaimed Rachel.

“Yes, it is. And yes, I am … I hope you like,” said Angélique while rubbing the still non-erect organ between Rachel’s nose and lips.

Rachel was in shock. A transsexual in transition. This woman – person – never ceased to amaze!

“I … I … I have never …”

“Have you ever made love to a woman?” asked Angélique.

“Yes, of course…” replied Rachel.

“And have you ever made love to a man?” asked Angélique, even more emphatically.

“Yes, but that was years ago …” countered Rachel.

“Well … welcome to the best of both worlds, dahling!” And with that Angélique’s cock began to slowly rise to a three-quarter’s full erection – stretched out straight towards Rachel’s waiting mouth.

It had been years since Rachel had sworn off men … and their appendages, but this shocking wo-man shook her entire universe, in a most abrupt fashion. She instinctively opened her mouth and swallowed the seven and one-half inch and rather thick dick, gagging just a bit from lack of practice … and wondering how Angélique managed to hide it between her legs and without constantly getting an erection. She thought to stop sucking long enough to ask that question but Angélique pulled her head deeper back onto her cock, taking an index finger to her lips while whispering: “Shhh … not now.”

Rachel swooned and must have passed out for a few minutes because suddenly she was surprised to find Angélique penetrating her cunt with her now very hard cock … it all started quite gently – much like a vibrator or teasing dildo, but then the masculine ego of Angélique came to the fore and began banging Rachel’s dripping cunt harder and harder, deeper and deeper until Rachel began to ejaculate gushes and streams of woman juice … all over her precious antique divan.

“Now she is flowing … what a woman-river!” exclaimed Angélique before attempting to insert her appendage into Rachel’s arsehole.

“No!” I do not do that … I have always refused with men …”

“I am not exactly a man, now am I??!” retorted Angélique, slapping Rachel’s buttocks and licking voraciously from her pussy to her arsehole, with deep and long tongue licks until Rachel was purring like a cat. And with that Angélique re-took Rachel’s virginity. She thought to cum on Rachel’s face but suddenly thought better of it, saying to herself: “It is too soon …” Instead, Angélique slipped her aggressive cock back into Rachel’s cunt and finished pumping her final strokes before pulling out and cumming on her belly and tits.

“What if I get pregnant!” exclaimed a near-hysterical Rachel.

“Then I will be the luckiest girl in the world – next to you!” replied Angélique.

Hours later … while Angélique snored lightly beside her in the bed … Rachel lay awake, thinking about one thing that Angélique had said: “Your French is quite good, but you will never be a true Frenchman … at least not without my help.”

Some six years ago Rachel had broken up with her last male lover “Todd”, while living in Boston, Massachusetts. She was taking her masters at the Berklee College of Music. Her boyfriend – assumed to be her future fiancé – suddenly announced that he was leaving her. He had found a marvelous French lover – an exchange student – that he was head over heels in love with. Rachel must move out.

Rachel was indignant and furious. She quickly went “to work” … writing grafitti on the walls: “French BITCH!” with lipstick so red that only whores dare use it, pouring sugar behind the sink to attract hordes of cockroaches, and finally – deciding to pour leg hair removal fluid into her ex-boyfriend’s shampoo. Fortunately, a gay musician colleague advised her not to do the latter as it could harm the man’s eyes and lead to serious legal problems for Rachel. It was after that that Rachel decided to learn French properly … no, to BECOME French – A REAL FRENCH BITCH! She had worked hard and had lived in France for one and a half years … and now this little transsexual tart was both complimenting her and challenging her authenticity! And worse yet, the tranny fucked her cunt and Rachel loved it. Was this just another man in sheep’s clothing … or was Angélique a lesbian, searching for proper love – just as Rachel was? Breakfast would be interesting … quite interesting.

Around 0130 a.m. Rachel pretended to be asleep when Angélique prodded her, kissing her and pressing her erection up against Rachel’s groin. “Angélique has much to learn about lesbian sex and intimacy,” she thought. “She makes love to me more like a man than as a lesbian … or even a well-adjusted tranny. Where is the subtlety?”

Angélique pressed and rubbed up against her again.

¡Vete a la mierda! growled Rachel, using her limited boarding school Spanish.

¿Qué estás diciendo? replied Angélique, anxious to meet Rachel on her own level.

“Who .. and WHAT are you!!!”

“Oh … the million dollar question!

“Heh … I suppose you get asked that a lot, then!”

“It happens … sure. Why?!!”

“You are a man in disguise!” Rachel began punching Angélique in the stomach. She continued more and more aggressively until Angélique grabbed her wrists and pinned them down onto the bed. Rachel began to sob.

“Now, now … “Détendez-vous !”

This, of course, made Rachel even more defensive: “Do you dare to address me in the proper form after you have raped my sacred temple with your deceptive phallus? Fuck you! Vas te faire encule !”

“J’aimerais … encore et encore !”

This – of course – made Rachel hysterical. She began punching Angélique like crazy. But Angélique overpowered her and pressed her down into the mattress, her semi-erect cock dangling before Rachel’s face.

“No, not again … I AM NOT YOUR BITCH, BITCH!” (Rachel had always wanted to use that phrase … ever since seeing it on reality tv.)

“Hey – I swing all ways,” retorted Angélique.

“We will see about that!”, countered Rachel. And with that Rachel reached into the drawer in the night stand beside the bed and pulled out a very large dildo – and a jar of lubrication. Angélique neither blinked nor hesitated …

When it was all over, both women lay gasping for breath – both wondering how they had come to that point, and where the hell they were headed. But neither uttered a word. It was all too strange. Much too strange.

CHAPTER THREE

Angélique had quietly left while Rachel was asleep, and when Rachel awoke at 07:13 a.m. on Monday morning all she found was a dishevelled apartment and a breakfast tray beside the bed: a cup of no-longer hot coffee, a rose from the bouquet Rachel had in her living room, and a couple of pieces of bread and a half-empty jar of marmelade on a small plate. Rachel looked at the pitiful breakfast and scoffed to herself: “You could at least have soft-boiled a couple of eggs and poured me some juice!” She then stumbled out of bed and made her way to the kitchen … her head throbbing and beating like a jungle drum. When she opened the refrigerator door she found a glass of o.j. with a slice of lemon and a sprig of mint as garnish, and under the glass of orange juice was a hand-written note. It read:
“Good morning punkin! I had to run … appointments and such, you know. I will see you around soon. Have a great day … and – thanks!”

Rachel was livid. ‘See you around soon … and – thanks!??? ‘ Her hangover was now in full swing and the kitchen walls and ceiling were swirling like a merry-go-round. She could barely make out the bright yellow walls with white trim, the orange-red Le Creuset pots, the sunflower in the window, the turquoise potholders and the black-and-white tiles on the floor – all swirling faster and faster, the yellow, orange and white colors dripping like runny eggs and irritating the lining of her intestines, making her dizzy. She felt nauseous and barked: “Shit! I am gonna hurl …” She ran to the bathroom and kneeled in front of the toilet, where she spent the next twenty minutes – finally restoring calm to herself and her pressing memories of the overactive kitchen. She took a deep breath and pulled herself up from the floor, flushing the toilet and hosing down the toilet and bathroom floor with the shower hose. “Gawd, am I glad she did not make those half-runny eggs for me!” she exclaimed out loud.

It was first almost an hour later that Rachel finally managed to drink the orange juice in the fridge and to munch away on the toast, which was now more chewy than crisp. She did not bother with the marmelade … too much yellow-orange for one day. She would not have to work before Wednesday as the club was closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, so she decided to get into her silver BMW and take off for the Vermont countryside.

The foliage was more spectacular the further north she drove. By the time she reached Montpelier, she was feeling thoroughly reconstituted mentally – if not well on her way to physical well-being in general. She would check into her favorite bed and breakfast just outside of Plainfield: a cozy 8-room converted mill called “Ye Olde Mill”. Rachel had been going there for years, actually long before she had become a practicing lesbian. In the recent past the place had become a favorite amongst vacationing lezzies from Boston and New York City, that wanted to get away from the madness of big city life. Vermont had always been a liberal state in regards to things that were no one else’s business – especially sexuality. Now, whether or not anyone would look after you and dig you out after a major winter full of snowstorms is another question … Newcomers must pass the traditional 2-winter “survival test” before they are considered part of the “community”.

The rolling landscape was vibrant with color: reds, yellows, oranges, purples, greens, browns … all glittering under the setting sun and adding to the predictive starkness of impending “seasonal death and nocturnal transformation” as evening approached. Fortunately, the weather was stupendous, and the air was crisp and invigorating. This was exactly the kind of “normalcy” that Rachel felt that she needed after her strange tryst with her lesbian tranny. Many thoughts had raced through her mind as she drove up from Worcester. She had not been with many men since Todd left her for the “French bitch”, and she had considered herself to be strictly lesbian the past 2 years. “A lesbian with a real dick!” mumbled Rachel to herself while settling into the bathtub in her room for a hot soak before dinner. “Only I could stumble into something like that … ” Strangely enough, Rachel felt neither guilt regarding the situation nor attachment to Angélique. It would certainly be a littleweird the next time she saw her at the club, but it would quickly go over – and most of the lesbians that frequented the club never obsessed on the same scandal for long as they quickly became bored and needed new things to gossip about all the time. It might even raise Rachel’s status … this thought made her chuckle to herself, before sinking her head underwater amongst the warm bubbles of her bath.

Rachel was enjoying her dinner of pheasant with potatoes and lightly-sauteed organic vegetables when she heard a familiar voice cry out: “Rachel! Is that you? What are you doing here? Are you okay?!!”

It was Wendy, the club owner. Rachel’s jaw dropped in astonishment and embarrassment. She felt tongue-tied and speechless. Fortunately, Wendy took the conversational “driver’s wheel” and saved the day: “You look great – as usual. Although I must admit that I was worried about you. I take it Angélique looked in on you, and you know that all is okay. Silly girl … it is not the first time, you know. She has had some problems and … well, you know how it is. We all have our adjustment issues …”

Rachel cut her off before she said too much: “Adjustment? Oh yeah, of course – I went through some rough patches myself when I came out as lesbian.”

Wendy held back her sigh of relief but Rachel could see it in her eyes. Rachel could tell that Wendy had no idea that Rachel knew that Angélique was a tranny-in-transition … or that they had been intimate. “Just as well to keep that all under wraps”, thought Rachel.

Rachel quickly rescued them both from the half-minute silence that ensued after her last comment by adding: “I have been coming here for years … actually long before I moved to Worcester from Boston; and in fact, even before I came out.”

Wendy looked nervously over at her own table for one; the waitress was bringing her a glass of wine and a menu. Rachel piped up: “Hey, I am here alone and so are you. Shall we dine together? We have never really had a sit-down chat … woman-to-woman.”

Wendy was a bit surprised at this sudden invitation but cracked a smile and said: “Sure! That would be lovely. Let me tell the waitress that I have moved to this table.”

Rachel smiled and replied: “Great!” She watched Wendy walk towards the waitress and then point towards Rachel’s table before grabbing her purse and her glass of wine, and returning to join Rachel. “Not a bad looking woman,” thought Rachel. “But I have other fish to fry …” Her plan was to do a bit of “fishing for information” about Angélique.

Meanwhile, Wendy had some ideas of her own. She had been wanting to get Rachel to sign onto a six-month work contract with a set number of performances per month at an agreed-upon monthly wage. That would save the club a bit of money as the current $800 per performance deal did not always balance out with the fluctuating audience attendance. Wendy was – above all – a business-woman, and she would seduce Rachel if that were necessary to secure the deal. Worcester’s gay community was growing but the appearance of two new dance clubs nearby put a bit of a strain on their previous monopoly. Several of “the girls” were starting to enjoy the mixed bars and clubs now popular with the younger “metro set”. Wendy had already made Saturday nights after 11:30 p.m. “Retro Rave Nite”, which meant that Rachel’s Saturday night show – although still popular – both had to end by 10:45 p.m. AND feature some upbeat numbers that appealed to lesbians (and “friends”) of all ages. Rachel had always been accommodating, and she had even taken a couple of bartender shifts every now and then when Wendy was in a pinch. This was extra cash for Rachel, she could chat customers up about her show and it was convenient as the club was on Water Street, and Rachel lived on Brown Street – just a stone’s throw away. Wendy figured that if Rachel balked at the change to a short-term regular contract she could sweeten the pot with the promise of a few bartender shifts per month on “Retro Rave Nites”, which generally were well-paid as far as tips were concerned. If not … then well … Plan B was always an option. “Right girls?” thought Wendy as she adjusted the ‘girls’ and then flashed a broad smile as she approached Rachel’s table.

Rachel never missed a flirtatious gesture, and gazed appreciatively at Wendy’s “rack”, her lovely and graceful neck and feminine face. Rachel found Wendy attractive personality-wise, and she had a smoking body, but Rachel had always been mostly turned on by women with more androgenous facial features. It was perhaps not so strange that she found herself getting seduced by Angélique. Funny, Rachel had often talked with Sébastien about bisexuality and androgeny and they both had agreed that they liked their “women to be women and their men to be men”. But now, after having made love so passionately with Angélique, Rachel was starting to wonder if she had not just been attempting to conveniently place herself into sexual orientation “cubbyholes” in ways which made her feel both metrosexual trendy and still acceptable to those that needed “social and sexual tidiness”. Rachel had read on the internet that beautiful and “hot” trannies were in demand and that they were considered to be “delicacies” by many men and women – straight and gay alike. She wondered if Angélique had slept with many of the women that frequented the club. Had she slept with Wendy … or Maddy?

Wendy was wearing a peach-colored danceskin with off-white suede capri pants, comfortable heels, an open button-down cable-knit white sweater hanging loosely over her shoulders, and she was wearing Chanel No. 5 – Wendy’s favorite scent. The outfit framed her Pilates-trained body quite well and complemented her dyed strawberry blonde hair and brown eyes. Wendy had rather thin lips, unlike Angélique who regularly had restylane injection treatments.

Just as Wendy sat down, the waitress appeared at their table with Wendy’s appetizer: melon with prosciutto. “I forgot to ask you what kind of bread you would like with your entrée?” said the smiling waitress of about 19 years. Wendy smiled back and replied: “That woman over by the window has a lovely basket with assorted breads. Might I have one as well?” “Of course Ma’am,” chirped the waitress and quickly scampered off in the direction of the kitchen.

“The appetizer looks good!” said Rachel. “What did you order as the main course?”

“I ordered the Norwegian fish soup. I have had it here before. It is marvelous.”

“I love Norwegian fish soup,” said Rachel. “I took a cruise up the Norwegian coast from Bergen to the Northern Cape once – in a previous lifetime, with my fiancé.” Rachel immediately felt sorry that she had “misspoken”. She had never before spoken with anyone at the club about her relationship with Todd or her pre-lesbian life.

“Oh, wow!” exclaimed Wendy. “I have always wanted to make that trip. You know, I have some Norwegian roots and I supposedly have family living in Tromsø – in northern Norway. Hey! That is not far from the Northern Cape, am I correct?!!”

“Yes, you are,” said Rachel smiling. “It was at a restaurant in Tromsø that I had the delicious fish soup. Tromsø is a great town. We had a lot of fun …”

“We? Who were you with again?” asked Wendy, anxious to get a personal “in” with Rachel.

“I was on vacation with my fiancé,” replied Rachel, almost embarrassed.

“Oh, so you have had one of those too?” quipped Wendy, trying to put her at ease. “I am now more disposed towards fiancées, but the idea of marriage to anyone makes me uneasy at this point in my life.”

“I know what you mean,” concurred Rachel, while picking at her now-cold pheasant. Just then the waitress arrived with Wendy’s Norwegian fish soup – which was piping hot.

“Here try some,” offered Wendy, with an encouraging tone of voice.

“No, enjoy it – it looks quite good,” replied Rachel.

“I absolutely insist,” exclaimed Wendy, pushing the large bowl of soup in Rachel’s direction.

Rachel took a bite, raised her eyebrows and said: “That is very nice! I will have to remember that the next time I am here.”

“Have another spoonful – go ahead. There is plenty and I am still finishing up my melon with prosciutto anyway. And have some bread too.”

Rachel took another taste and politely pushed the bowl back towards Wendy, who promptly took Rachel’s hands and remarked: “What beautiful hands you have. Do you play the piano, or do you only sing?”

Rachel replied: “Why, thank you! Actually, yes – I do play the piano. I had it as a minor – after voice – at Berklee.”

Wendy then said: “I would love to hear you play. I have a handsome piano at home but I do not play really. You know, I have considered moving my piano over to the club. You are the only regular performer that plays. Have you ever thought about incorporating piano-playing into your act? The tracks you use are great, but a bit of live piano music would be a nice touch for some of your act. Don’t you agree?”

Rachel was ecstatic: “Yes, I do! Absolutely! Would you really bring a piano in to the club for me to use?”

Wendy replied, smiling brightly while again squeezing Rachel’s hands and holding onto them for just a few seconds too long: “Mais ouí ! Sorry, that is about all the French I know. Listen, I have an idea. Why don’t you come over for dinner on Thursday – say around seven-thirty p.m.?!!”

Rachel looked a bit uncomfortable. After all, Wendy was her “boss”. Before Rachel could formulate her response, Wendy jumped in and added: “We can make it a foursome. You can bring a friend, and I can invite Angélique. It will be fun. Then you can try out the Steinway. If you like it, then I can have it moved to the club and tuned already on Friday, before your Saturday night performance.”

Rachel was moved by this offer and graciously accepted. Of course, the dinner invitation also enabled her to ask Wendy about her acquaintanceship with Angélique. “I have a wonderful friend – Sébastien – that I would like to invite. Is it okay to bring a male friend? He is gay, fun and very lezzie-friendly! He has been to the club several times.”

“Of course,” replied Wendy enthusiastically. “Bring whomever you wish! In fact, let’s have a little fun by each dressing up as an idol of ours. Only the Goddess knows who Angélique will come as…”

Rachel looked deep into Wendy’s brown eyes and pointed “the question” towards Wendy’s ample chest with utmost precision: “Just how close are you and Angélique?”

Wendy almost gagged on the white wine she was sipping, and then quickly regained her composure, clearing her throat while playing it off: “Oh my goodness! That went down the wrong way. I am sorry … oh, Angélique and I dated briefly a couple of years ago, when she first came to Worcester. We only had a few dates. Nothing very serious, you know.”

“Not compatible?” quipped Rachel, feeling rather bold as she took a swig of her double Manhattan on the rocks, now almost empty.

Wendy laughed nervously and replied: “Well, yes and no. Angélique is very sweet but I prefer more feminine women. I like to be the one that wears the pants. I guess I always have – even when I thought I was hetero. By the end of my relationship with my last fiancé I allowed him only up to ten pokes before I threw him off me.”

Rachel just smiled warmly. She had a nice buzz going and she had gotten the information she was looking for … and more. “Ten pokes,” she thought. “I cannot imagine Angélique being satisfied with that …”

The rest of the dinner was filled with chit-chat about the club, and Wendy made her business proposition easily – thanks to the food, alcohol and personal contact, not to mention the offer of the piano and extra-well paid bartender shifts. They retired to each their own rooms, had an early morning breakfast together and Wendy departed for Worcester around 11:30 a.m. Rachel got into her own car about forty-five minutes later, blasting Joni Mitchell and the Scissor Sisters all the way home.

CHAPTER FOUR

Sébastien arrived at Rachel’s apartment at 6:30 p.m., as agreed. She greeted him at the door with much joy. They had not seen each other for three weeks, and they had much to get caught up on. Sébastien (or “Seb”, as Rachel called him) was dressed up as a policeman. After the traditional preliminary cheek-kissing Rachel exclaimed: “Hmmm … now aren’t we bold tonight! But I understand your thinking …” They both giggled, remembering the last costume party in Worcester that they had attended together. Both had dressed up as hookers, and a rather lame rookie cop was all set to arrest them both as they were leaving the party to go to a gay club. Sébastien had to remove his wig before the cop understood that they were in drag and that they had been at a costume party.

“Ouí … I am hoping to meet up with my beau mec again tonight! I hope his uniform still fits him as well as it did the last time we met.” They both screamed with laughter and Sébastien pulled a couple of joints from his shirt uniform left button-down breast pocket. “You got a lighter babe?”

“Bien sür !” answered Rachel, while dancing across the living room to her little “accessory box”.

“Nice wig and dress … very fifties”, said Sébastien, while plopping down on the industrial grey newly-upholstered Biedermeier sofa. “You look very familiar … let me guess. No, can’t be … oh shit. I give up. Who are you?”

Rachel began humming the opening bars from: “La vie en rose”, and proudly announced: “I am Edith … PIAF!”

“Of course you are!” exclaimed Sébastien, accepting the lighter Rachel had just handed him and lighting up the first joint. “Wow! That is fantastic … and look at that purse. I sure wish that I could pull that off.”

“You could, dear … with a “Rachel-makeover”. By the way, I will be anxious to hear what you think of Wendy and of Angélique. Wendy owns the club, and I only just met Angélique.” Rachel was very careful not to spill the beans to Seb, even though he was her closest confidant. She wanted to get his honest reaction to Angélique before she told him anything at all, and – besides – she had not told Wendy that she and Angélique had done the “dirty” and did not know if Angélique had told her or anyone else either. It was best to keep her cards close to her chest for now.

They smoked the second joint, each drank a Heineken beer and they left for Wendy’s house over on Ash Street around 7:15. They walked leisurely, planning on making their “fashionably late arrival” at 7:40 p.m. Wendy answered the door dressed as Jackie Kennedy, complete with a 1960’s designer skirt-suit and a pill box hat. Rachel introduced Sébastien and Wendy to one another and they all had a good laugh at the costumes. Wendy had ordered in tapas and champagne for the first course, and she had a roasted leg of lamb in the oven. “Make yourselves at home. I have to take the lamb out of the oven. Angélique called just before you arrived, and said that she should be here in a few minutes. When she arrives we will pop open some French champagne!”

Wendy returned from the kitchen carrying two bottles of expensive champagne, which she set into a bucket of ice on the coffee table – alongside the tray of tapas. She then sat down and began to explain to Rachel and Sébastien what Angélique had said on the telephone: “Angélique was a bit stressed out when she called … she hates being late. I told her that no one else had arrived yet either and that it would be fine as long as she arrives by 8 p.m. Anyway … she explained that she was only a couple of blocks away but that there had been a car accident and a crowd had gathered. Well, the crowd had begun dispersing but apparently two elderly ladies were walking in her path, side-by-side, chattering away and totally oblivious to the fact that someone wanted to get around them. Every time Angélique tried to walk to their left – they veered to the left, and when she tried to walk to the right – they veered to the right. Finally Angélique moved in close behind them and bellowed in a very loud voice: ‘MOVE BITCHES!’ Well, of course the women jumped out of their skin and moved aside in no time at all. Angélique had just gotten free passage when she called to tell me that she would be here soon. Can you imagine? Those poor old ladies could have had a heart attack!” Sébastien and Rachel looked at each other and burst into laughter. Sébastien said: “She sounds like quite a character!”

Shortly afterwards, the doorbell rang and Wendy announced Angélique’s arrival to Rachel and Sébastien. “Hello everybody!” shouted Angélique from the vestibule. When she walked into the living room Rachel was shocked to see that her hair was dyed dark red and slicked back, and that Angélique was dressed in a fishnet stocking body suit that revealed her small breasts, slightly over-sized black men’s trousers held up by red suspenders, long black leather gloves that reached up to her elbows, black patent leather spike heels … and she was carrying a small whip. Her lipstick was orange-red and her make-up made her look as pale as a ghost. Sébastien’s mouth was hanging open and he was speechless. Wendy came to the rescue: “I told you she would find some freaky idol to portray. She is supposed to be Charlotte Rampling in “The Night Porter”.

“I LOVE that film!” exclaimed Sébastien.

“We all love it … and hate it,” replied Rachel. “But you look absolutely stunning, Angélique. “Bravo!”

Just then Wendy popped the cork on a bottle of champagne and began pouring the bubbling liquid out into delicate fluted crystal glasses. She encouraged the guests to help themselves to the tapas spread on the coffee table. Angélique took a sip of champagne and said: “Ohhh … the good stuff!”

And they all raised their glasses and made a toast to the hostess … and to the “good stuff”. Wendy then bellowed: “Rachel! The piano is in the study. Everyone, please take your glasses and follow me. Angélique, bring along that second bottle of champagne … will you please?!!”

“Sure thing, Jackie!”

Rachel ran her finger over the shiny keyboard cover in admiration. It was – in fact – a very handsome instrument – not a full-sized concert grand piano, but quite formidable.

“Lift the cover and play us something,” said Wendy.

“Yes, Edith … entertain us a bit,” said Sébastien.

“Oh … well, okay – if you insist,” replied Rachel. She sat down and began to play a medley of Edith Piaf songs beginning with “La vie en rose”, followed by “La Foule”, “Milord”, “Inception”, “Mon Dieu” and ending with “Je ne regrette rien”. They all joined in together singing: “Non ! Rien de rien … Non ! Je ne regrette rien …” The champagne and laughter flowed and the happy crowd made Rachel repeat the last song again and again until Wendy – who had disappeared after the first run through of the medley – announced that dinner was served.

After a sumptuous dinner of perfectly-roasted leg of lamb, wild rice, asparagus and scallions, Angélique helped Wendy clear the table while Rachel filled the glasses with more South African red wine – as requested by Wendy from the kitchen. Sébastien motioned for Rachel to come close and whispered to her: “The hostess is quite charming. You are very lucky to have such a boss. And this Angélique is absolutely amazing. There is something special about her … I find her quite exciting, and I never get turned on to lesbians in that way.”

Rachel made a pouting face and Sébastien recanted: “You know that I love you ma chère Rachel … just not in that way. You are like a sister to me, and I do not fuck my sisters. Now perhaps a sexy brother might be a possi …”

Rachel gave him a symbolic slap on his right cheek and called him a “naughty boy”. She then added: “If you only knew …” and burst into giggles, and then excused herself to look in on the two girls in the kitchen. While Rachel was measuring out coffee for the espresso machine and chatting with Wendy about the excellent dinner, Angélique disappeared to the bathroom. Sébastien was busy changing the cd and did not notice her walk through the living room. He sat down and then suddenly stood up, feeling the need to go to the toilet. “Where is the toilet?” he asked Wendy, who had just left the kitchen to bring out small espresso coffee cups. “Just down the hall – first door on the left,” she chimed.

Sébastien tried the handle on the door and it seemed stuck, so he forced it just a little. The door swung open and there standing in front of the toilet bowl and pissing into it like a man was Angélique! He was dumbfounded and embarrassed. But Angélique just smiled and said: “Come in – there is room for two here. But please shut the door behind you.”

Sébastien quickly left the bathroom, shut the door quite well and flopped down in the living room. Wendy looked over at him and noticed that he looked unwell. “Sébastien! Are you okay? You look as pale as a ghost. I hope the food and drink agreed with you …”

Rachel ran over to Seb and said: “Are you alright babe? What is it?!!”

Sébastien mumbled: “Errr … I just barged in on Angélique in the bathroom. He was … I mean she was …”

Wendy – as usual – finished his sentence to save the day: “… standing in front of the toilet bowl and pissing like a man?!!”

Just then Angélique came into the room, and Rachel promptly burst into so hard laughter that she was in tears and got stomach cramps. Wendy joined in – as did Angélique, and finally Sébastien also saw the humor in his predicament. And Rachel then said: “Boy, do we all need to talk!” And with that they all again fell into another round of laughter, albeit – this time – with more apprehension over what would be asked and told.

When the nervous laughter died down and dissipated into silence, Wendy invited all to share in espresso, Italian almond biscuits, some lemon sorbet and Cointreau. It was an uncomfortable “non-conversation” – especially after Angélique shot some pretty stern glares over at both Wendy and Rachel. Both women knew to keep their mouths shut. Sébastien began to fidget and Wendy suddenly turned to Rachel and asked: “So, what do you think? Should I send the piano over to the club tomorrow?”

“Absolutely!” replied Rachel, as happy for the change of topic as she was for the piano being moved to the club. “I have lots of repertoire I can use. My fingers are itching to get to it. I should be able to present a show with live piano music by Saturday of next week.”

“Great!” exclaimed Wendy, and both Angélique and Sébastien added their “mmm’s” and nods of approval.

And then Sébastien stretched his arms towards the ceiling, faked a huge yawn and announced that he must be getting on home but that he had had a wonderful and surprising time. Angélique asked him which way he was walking, and when she determined that they were going in the same direction she decided to leave together with him. Rachel stayed behind another fifteen minutes or so to help Wendy clear away the dishes, cups and glasses, before calling a taxicab and going home to her apartment. She was pleased that she did not have to have “the awkward conversation” and very happy about the piano and the new work contract. “Not a bad day … strange, but not bad at all,” she said to herself while sitting in the cab.

Little did she know that Angélique had dumped Sébastien just minutes after leaving Wendy’s house and walked over to Rachel’s apartment. She was waiting downstairs when Rachel got out of the cab.

“Angélique! What are you doing here? I thought that you and Sébastien were …”

“Were what?!! Did you think we were fucking? I am lesbian Rachel … and I am not a whore. Let’s go upstairs. You and I need to chat.”

“Okay, but keep your voice down – please! It is almost 1:00 a.m.” said Rachel. And the two crept quietly up the stairs.

Once they were inside the apartment and the door was closed and locked, the fur started flying. “Alors Mademoiselle … quel est votre problème ?”

“Quoi ?!!” responded Rachel, while gently shoving Angélique away as she was right up in her face. “What is YOUR fucking problem, Missy!??”

“Why did you set up that stupid dinner party with my ex, and invite me to squirm in between your shared stories with each other …? And then you send that silly queer man into the bathroom to add insult to injury!” Her otherwise perfect English started to sound a bit broken. Rachel could clearly see that Angélique was more than a little upset, and that she genuinely felt hurt and betrayed by both herself and Wendy.

“Look Angélique – I did not set up that dinner party. It was Wendy’s suggestion and I know almost nothing about your relationship with Wendy other than that you dated a few times and things did not work out… Your previous relationships do not concern me … not anymore than mine should con-“

“Stop là !” screamed Angélique. “If my previous relationships do not concern you then why in hell would you agree to such an invitation?”

“Shhhh … Keep it down! I am warning you, Angélique. You keep raising your voice and I will throw you out. Again, I did not set up that dinner and I did not suggest it. Actually, the whole thing started out as a dinner for two – for Wendy and myself. When I was uncomfortable with that, then she suggested that she invite you – a mutual acquaintance – and said I could invite a friend myself to round out the numbers. I chose Sébastien, my best friend and also someone that I wanted you to meet since you are both French. Why are you acting like a psychobitch?”

“ME a psychobitch?!! That is the pot calling the kettle black! And I suppose you did not arrange for Sébastien to break into the bathroom while I was in there?!! That was a cruel joke to play on us both.” Angélique was in tears, and shaking with rage. Rachel embraced her and pulled her over to the sofa, stroking her hair and assuring her that it was not like that. The entire evening turned into something more than it was meant to be. Rachel admitted to Angélique that she had wanted to find out if she and Wendy had ever been intimate but that she had found the answer to that question even before the dinner party, while up in Vermont. And she really did want to know Sébastien’s opinion of Angélique, as he was her best friend and confidant – but she never meant to hurt any of them … not Wendy, not Sébastien … and not Angélique. She told her that Sébastien had told her at the dinner party that he was quite impressed with Angélique – although that was before the bathroom incident. She reassured her that Sébastien was no prude and had certainly seen many “strange and wonderful” things in his gay career. Angélique stopped crying and looked much less fierce with her swollen and flushed face and timid, inquisitive eyes searching for reassurance in Rachel’s face.

“What do YOU think of me, Rachel?” she asked – half fearful of the answer and also a bit reproachful – in readiness for the need for self-defense, depending upon Rachel’s response.

Rachel looked at her and put on her serious smile, saying: “My dear Angélique. You have rocked my world in a very short period of time. I mean really turned it upside down, and forced me to look at myself in ways that I had been avoiding. I thought that I had figured out what being a lesbian was all about … and that feelings and attraction were simple and gender-specific. And then you came along and blew my mind.”

Angélique just looked at her and asked: “And …?”

Rachel took a deep breath: “… and I find you amazing – whatever gender you are. You are my ‘lezzie alien’ …”

“Your lezzie alien?” quipped Angélique.

“Yes … my lezzie in an alien body. But a lesbian all the same.”

“And could you see yourself being with me? Being my partner … perhaps even eventually my wife?”

“Let us take one step at a time, Missy!” laughed Rachel nervously. “I would like to date you … to go on some proper dates, and then see how it goes. How does that sound to you?”

“I would like nothing better, Mademoiselle !” replied Angélique.

And they kissed so tenderly that Rachel thought she would fall into a swoon. They retired to the bedroom and quickly fell asleep in each others’ arms … and new love was born in Worcester that early morning.

When Rachel woke up several hours later, she was all alone in the bed. “Not again!” she cried out. “Angélique! You had better not have left me with a sorry-assed breakfast again …” On the pillow where Angélique’s head had rested was a piece of paper with a hastily-written poem scrawled on it:

Breathless.

In the guises of feminism and masculinity,
we paced and stalked definition
with the cunning of a mother lion:
’round and ’round, closer and closer,
until our precarious showdown brought us
face-to-face with insecurity and dream.
As the war-drum heartbeats of a
million Amazons prepared to vanquish
my masculinity at its first indiscretion,
I loaded my tongue with silver arrows
and mercilessly catapulted the words
‘I love you’ against your brazen shield.
And simultaneously we fell – breathless.

One … and then two tears began streaming down Rachel’s face upon re-reading the poem. Suddenly Angélique entered the room. She had been in the shower. “Bonjour chérie. Comment ça va ?” and then she leaned over to kiss Rachel on the forehead, noticing the tears as she pulled Rachel’s face upwards with her right hand. “Are you crying, honey? What is wrong?”

Rachel held the poem in her hand and shook the piece of paper in the air saying: “This … this is the most beautiful thing I have ever read. Did you write this? About us?”

Angélique replied: “That I did … “

Rachel grabbed Angélique’s head and pulled her down on top of her … and they made beautiful love together – replacing the previous aggressive poking with gentle and sensuous lesbian rubbing and pressing.

CHAPTER FIVE

It was March, and Spring was in the air … if not quite yet on the ground. Rachel and Angélique were officially a “live-together couple”, Angélique and Sébastien had become rather good friends and Rachel’s live piano act was so much of a success that Wendy had renewed her contract and given her two extra show nights each month. Angélique had to go to Boston to attend a one-day training course required by her job (Sébastien had helped her get a new job at the company he worked for. Angélique loved the marketing business and proved to be quite good at designing internet campaigns.). They decided that they would make a four-day trip out of it, stretching the weekend from Thursday to Sunday. In that way they could have a mini vacation together in Boston. Rachel had arranged to give an early evening performance at Berklee on Thursday while Angélique was attending the evening session of her seminar, and had scheduled another appearance at a lesbian club on Saturday night.

The performance at her alma mater went well, and Rachel even saw a few of her fans from Worcester in the audience. She was also pleased to see that it was a mixed audience, even though she was billed as a lesbian phenomenon and “Boston’s own Piaf”. That was stretching it, Rachel thought – but she loved the publicity and the enthusiastic audience all the same. And – after all – there was much Edith Piaf included in her performance that night, as well as Jacques Brel.

The next days were fun and relaxing for the girls: including romantic walks, museum visits, wonderful lunches and expensive dinners – and even a bit of shopping. On Saturday, Angélique was as proud as she could have been – watching her beloved sing and play her heart out and get a standing ovation at the packed club. Rachel had perfected her Saturday night pre-rave night act and it fit perfectly at the Boston club. After her performance she signed several autographs and then she and Angélique slipped onto the dance floor and boogied for hours on end – long into the wee hours of the morning. When they returned to their hotel room Rachel was handed a bouquet of peach-colored roses and a card that had been delivered to her at the hotel. She carried the bouquet up to their room, put them in water and forgot about them until she awoke around 9:30 a.m. When she opened the envelope and read the card she was clearly disturbed. Angélique saw the contortion on her face and grabbed the card from her, wanting to read it herself. It read: “Congratulations! You are a cunt, a cow and a full-fledged French bitch.” There was no signature. Just the lip imprint from painted lips kissing the card.

“Who could have sent this … and what do peach-colored roses mean?” asked Angélique, upset and pissed off.

“I don’t know who sent it. Perhaps a competitor that I do not know about. Perhaps someone from Worcester – at a rival club. I dunno. But what a ghastly color lipstick! I think peach roses are for congratulations …” said Rachel.

“I am going to call down to the reception desk to find out who left these,” said Angélique – determined to get to the bottom of the situation.

“Don’t bother,” replied Rachel. “The night receptionist is surely not there now, and – besides – he told me that a young delivery boy had come in with the roses. Let us just throw them in the trash and forget about it. This is our final day here before we drive home. I will not let this ruin our vacation.”

Angélique nodded in agreement, but she was still furious. She grabbed the roses and tore the petals off violently before tossing the pitiful and naked stems into the trash bin in the hallway outside their hotel room.

They did not mention the incident again and enjoyed a nice brunch together before driving home to Worcester.

PART TWO

CHAPTER SIX

Todd woke up in a cold sweat … his pillow and the light blanket he had over him were soaked. He looked at the clock: it was 06:30 a.m. on Sunday. Boy, he had really tied one on. He had caught Rachel’s show at the lesbian club, where he was careful to stand far in the back and to sneak out before the house lights were turned up – thus enabling the cleaning crew to get the place ready for the dancing. He could not remember where he went, or what he did after that. “But Rachel looked good,” he thought to himself. An old drinking buddy he had not seen in years had called and told him that she would be performing last night. He had been at her performance at Berklee and heard her invite people to the club on Saturday. He did not know Rachel in person, but he knew all about who she was in Todd’s life. “God, my fuckin’ head hurts!” complained Todd. On the night table besides his bed were his keys, some loose bills and change … and a couple of phone numbers with female names on scraps of paper. “Skanks …” he muttered. He suddenly remembered one of his dreams: Rachel and Aimée (the French ex-girlfriend he dumped Rachel for) were sitting together in a diner where Todd was working as a short-order cook. Todd had been checking them up and they were both giggling and giving him the eye, while whispering to one another in English and in French. The middle-aged, red-haired waitress (Bonnie) walked past them, overheard their chatter and then pointed to Todd, saying: “He ain’t worth your time girls. He sures knows how to sweet-talk a bitch … but he can’t keep one. I hear he even turned a couple of them gay.” At that, the two girls first looked shocked and then burst into cackling laughter. Finally, everyone in the diner started chanting in a haunting manner: “He can’t keep one … he can’t keep one … he can’t keep one …” Todd broke out into a sweat and ran out of the diner, vowing never to return.

Todd exclaimed to himself: “Women! I can neither live with them nor without them…” He had just broken off with yet another woman he had been “boning” on and off. She was getting too demanding of his time, and calling him way too often. He couldn’t fuckin’ breathe. “Damn!” he mumbled. “These bitches need hobbies … other than me!”

The truth was that Todd did everything possible to charm these women and to make them dependent upon him. But it was pretty much always only about himself, and his own ego. He had never been dumped by a woman – it was always him that called it quits (well, Aimée had technically dumped him but Todd took credit for facilitating the break-up). Both Rachel and Aimée took it badly, but they both got over it (and him). This last little cunt – Lynda – could be trouble. She had a vindictive streak in her … and had already thrown tantrums when she did not get her way. “Well, she is out of my life now,” thought Todd – thinking that he should probably try to go back to sleep. He then jumped out of bed and went into the bathroom to take a piss. On the way out he looked at himself in the mirror. He ran his hands over his two-day-old beard stubble, saw his blood-shot eyes and dry skin and thought: “You look like shit … but it is a sexy look – especially with the hair. I will let it stay for a couple more days before I shave.” Todd still sported the slightly above shoulder-length haircut that Aimée had nagged him to get, and to maintain. Everyone commented about it looking very “European”. At first Todd thought it made him look like a “queer” but the babes seemed to dig it. He liked it even better with the slight beard growth. It gave him a sort of sophisticated Boston thug / academic look. He quickly stumbled back into bed and slept until 10:13 a.m.

He turned on the tv. A French film was playing, in which a married couple were “talking” to one another. The guy had a guilty look on his face while trying to explain why he was late for dinner, which was on the table … and presumably cold:

“Quel est le problème ?”

“Je t’épargne les détails, ma puce.”

Todd’s French was just basic, but he got the picture. “These guys never learn. NEVER get ‘married’ to a bitch,” he said. “You lose all your power, man!” Switching to some old Tom and Jerry cartoons, he then threw the remote onto the dishevelled bed and sauntered into the bathroom, thinking he would “shit, shave and shower”. Standing in front of the mirror, he suddenly remembered that he had decided not to shave for a couple of days. He then smiled at his image in the glass and commented: “You ARE a sexy devil!” before plopping down on the toilet.

When he had gotten out of the shower he heard the answering machine sign off from an incoming message. He grabbed his robe and casually strolled into the living room, thinking that it may be his mother (she usually called him on Sundays, but never this early … she knew he was often out on the town on Saturday nights). He was surprised to find twelve messages recorded. The first six were hang-ups – no message left at all. The seventh call was from Lynda. Gawd, he hated that whiny voice of hers. “She sounded weird … like she was high on something,” he thought.

“Toddy! This is Lynda. Look, I know you did not mean all those nasty things you said to me a few days ago. I guess I over-reacted when you told me that your ex-girlfriend was in town. I get so jealous sometimes. I dunno why. Anyway, I really wish you would call me so we can “talk”. Everything is okay now. In fact, I have taken care of some things so that our pasts will no longer haunt us. Don’t you worry about a thing. I will be waiting for your call. I love you, my “Wenus”.

“Wenus!” muttered Todd. He hated being called that. ‘Wenus’ was Lynda’s pet name for Todd’s penis, and her idea of “talking” was basically him fucking her so that everything would be alright again. He played back the message and noticed that it had been left at 10:37 p.m. last night. He had just left the lesbian club where Rachel was performing around that time. “Crazy bitch!” he remarked. “She has probably done something “stoopid” like making an appointment for us to tattoo each other’s names on our butts …” The next three messages were hang-ups – undoubtedly from Lynda. Call number eleven was from Aimée. THAT was a shocker. They had agreed not to contact each other ever again … meaning that she had made the demand, and he had consented. “Bitches can never follow through when they make such demands. That is the whole problem with wimmen,” he said to himself. “They always think and act with their goddamned emotions!” But Aimée’s message was not sweet, or coy … or pleading to get together for a café au lait … she sounded a bit pissed off, and afraid.

“Todd. I cannot believe that I am calling you, but at least I got your answering machine instead of having to talk to you in person. I still think that you are a bastard, but I really think you should know that your new bimbo – “Lynda” – called me last night. She presented herself as your new woman, warned me to stay away from you, called me a “whore and a French bitch” and started babbling about something called a wenus … I hung up. She called me back a few times but I did not answer since I recognized her telephone number from the first call. Finally, I unplugged the phone. I just thought that you should know that the woman is a nut case. I can only imagine what you did to her. Anyway, please keep me out of your wretched affairs with these bimbos … and delete my name and telephone number from your Blackberry. I presume that that is how she got in touch with me. You keep too much information on that thing … I have always told you that.” And with that last comment, she hung up the phone. The final message was another hang-up. Todd was furious. “Fuckin bitches!” he yelled, as he yanked the answering machine plug from the wall outlet and smashed the 1970’s retro style wooden telephone onto the floor. “Shit! Why did I do that? I luv that phone. Damn cunts!”

He had lost his appetite for breakfast, and instead pulled a six-pack of beers out of the fridge and grabbed a big bag of chips from the cupboard before zoning out on the over-stuffed brown leather couch – his eyes firmly directed towards the gigantic widescreen plasma tv. The Boston Red Sox were playing the New York Yankees, and the game would be starting shortly. He heard some noises coming from the bedroom and got up to turn off the little tv in there, before kicking back on the couch and stretching his feet out on the coffee table. He was still in his robe and his “wenus” was hanging out through the opening in the front of the robe. He looked down at his penis and remarked, while toasting with a beer: “Just you and me today, bro! No bitches, no problems … just us guys.”

At seven thirty-four p.m. Todd awoke abruptly to the sound of his doorbell ringing and pounding at the door. “What the fuck!??” he yelled, scrambling to his feet and pulling the belt on his bathrobe tightly around his waist. “Who the hell is it?!!” he growled while unlocking the door. There – on the other side of his door – was Lynda, wearing a new bright red, yellow and turquoise spiked punk hairdo, a tight black latex body suit, heels and bright red lipstick. She was flanked on either side by two muscle-bound thugs that immediately made Todd think of the Heckle and Jeckle cartoon characters. “Always a dramatic entrance … you really are a piece of work, you fucking psycho-“

“Hold it right there, Bucko!” interrupted the shorter of the two body-broilers. “That is no way to talk to a Lady.”

“Lady?!! HA! That bitch is no lady. And you do not give me orders. Now, I want you all away from my fucking door or I am calling the cops. NOW!”

The taller of the two signalled to the other muscleman and they both grabbed one of Todd’s arms and dragged him into his apartment. They pummeled Todd with their fists, giving him a black eye, a couple of bruised ribs and and bloody lip. The shorter of the two then said: “THAT ought to teach you to disrespect women.”

Todd was writhing in pain on the floor, red-faced and he continued to cuss out all three … but especially Lynda. Lynda then said to her thug friends: “Harry, Jess … he still has not learned his lesson. I think we are gonna have to wash his mouth out with soap and water. Hold him down while I get some.”

The two thugs grinned and said “With pleasure!” while Lynda stomped into the kitchen, filled a large tumbler with lukewarm water and dishwashing soap and giggled as she stomped back into the living room in her killer heels. “Now open his mouth wide, boyz!”

Todd began to squirm, but he was no match for the thugs. He again screamed “Bitch!” at Lynda who just used the “open mouth opportunity” to force the soapy solution down his throat. Todd choked, coughed and kicked like a madman, and his eyes were red and tearing. Suddenly he was released. He looked up to catch a glimpse of the two thugs leaving his apartment with Lynda. She made a half-turn to face Todd, smiled and said: “Toodles, Todd. I will call you next week.” And the short thug poked his neckless bowling ball head into the apartment doorway and jeered: “Now who is the Bitch!??” before pulling the door tightly shut.

Todd heard them cackling with laughter in the hallway for a few seconds before the pain of his bruises was underscored by the abrupt silence and emptiness in his apartment – and the nightfall’s mocking admonition to “Sleep, Todd. Sleep …”

Todd woke up on the couch in the middle of the night. He looked at the digital clock on the tv: it was 1:27 a.m. on Monday. “I cannot be here if Lynda comes back. I need to get out of here for awhile,” he said to himself. It was then that he decided to close his small vintage vinyl records shop for the week and take some time away from the city. He considered going down to Miami but figured he would probably only get into more trouble – too many babes, alcohol and recreational drugs. He would drive up to visit his parents in Auburn. That would make his mom very happy … and he would be pampered, which is what he needed right now. Besides, he could possibly find some good merchandise for his store at a church or garage sale. Small towns were great for such. The population of Auburn was still around 16,000 residents.

He crawled into bed and slept until seven a.m. He got up, showered, shaved and groaned at his “shiner” staring back at him in the mirror. He would have to tell his parents that he got mugged by some big Black guy or something. Perhaps he would say they were Hispanic … His parents were all worked up over the Mexican illegals so that would give them something to talk about after he had left. At eight thirty he called his parents. His dad answered the phone: “Cobb residence. Gerald speaking.”

“Hi Dad! It is Todd here. How ya doin’?”

“Todd! Fine, son. Just fine. Your mother was trying to call you yesterday but the phone kept ringing forever and the answering machine was not on. She …”

“Yeah, sorry about that. I dropped my house phone and need to get it repaired or replaced. How is Mom, by the way?”

“She is fine. She misses you, Son. We both do. When are you going to visit us?”

“Actually, that is why I am calling. I owe you a visit and I need a bit of ‘r & r’ as well as some ‘tlc’.”

“Is everything alright, Todd? Do you need money?”

“Naw, nothin like that. I would like to see you … and I need to get away from the madness of the city. I will explain when I get there.”

“Here is your mother now. Mildred, it is Todd.”

“Hello Todd! I tried to call you yesterday but …”

“Yeah, Mom. I heard from Dad. Sorry about that, but listen – I am coming to visit you and Dad for a week, if that is okay.”

“How wonderful! Of course it is okay – more than okay! I am so excited. When are you coming? Is everything okay with YOU?”

“Yeah, I will be leaving Boston around nine thirty. I just have to pack a small bag and put up a notice on the door of the shop, and then I will drive on up. I look forward to seeing you!”

“Me too! Oh dear, I have to go food shopping and …”

“Relax Mom. We will go shopping together … you can show me the new stores at the Auburn Mall, and I would also like to check out some church and garage sales. I am always on the lookout for new merchandise for the record shop.”

“Great, Todd! We will see you soon.”

Todd hung up his cell phone … he felt relieved to have set that all up. It is always good to be able to go “home” … when it is by choice. An hour later he was on his way to Auburn in his red 1989 Ford Mustang GT convertible with a recent Turbo upgrade. He felt free … finally.

Todd was well-taken care of by his parents: lots of good food and kitchen chats with his Mom during the day, quiet beers in the evenings with his Dad … and peaceful nights. He had turned his cell phone off, and even went the first few days without watching tv. On Thursday he and his Mom went to a couple of garage sales in and nearby Auburn, but Todd did not find much of interest. It was, however, fun just looking around for treasures and bargains. It was like “old times” for Todd and his mother … they used to do this once or twice a month when Todd was in high school. Afterwards Mildred showed Todd some new shops at the Auburn Mall. Todd was not particularly impressed with the mall, being from Boston, but he expressed much praise for both the mall and the town – which he said was becoming quite “sophisticated”. His mother smiled, looking proud and reflective. She had lived there since she married Gerald as an eighteen-year-old, and she felt as if she and the town had grown up together. Todd asked her if Ronnies Seafood and Ice Cream still existed. Mildred replied: “Of course! That place will never change.”

“Good! Let’s pick up some seafood for dinner – my treat!” said Todd, enthusiastically. His mouth was watering already.

“Sounds like a plan!” Mildred replied.

As they pulled into the parking lot Todd felt a mild panicky feeling rush through his chest He was obviously nervous and his mother turned to him and asked: “What is it, Todd? Is everything alright?”

Todd was staring at two women walking out of the place with double scoops of ice cream in cones. They were babbling away and took no notice of anyone else. He took off his sunglasses, rubbed his eyes and blinked. They were still there … and it was really her. It was Rachel. He turned to his mother and replied: “Just a speck of dust that flew into my eye. It is okay now.” He parked the car and watched Rachel and her friend drive off in their silver BMW, his eyes following their exit from the rear view mirror until they were out of sight. He thought to himself: “I can’t fucking believe it. It must be a female conspiracy against me.” The two voices in Todd’s head were debating the issue with one another. The angel-nice guy/lover of women reasoned: “Now, now, Todd. You know that Rachel lives and works in Worcester, which is only a hop, skip and jump from Auburn. Surely, a short excursion to the countryside and quaint little Auburn is not unusual for them. You are here – yourself – to escape the City.” And the devil/misogynist/bruised ego retorted: “Mebbe … but it is a weird-assed coincidence that she would be here, at this ice cream store, right now … when I am here.” Todd mumbled to himself: “Damn right!”

“What is that, dear?” replied his mother.

“Nothing, Mum. Just talking to myself. Let’s go in and see what they have today! Do you think they have crabs and Maine lobster?”

“Let’s go see,” replied Mildred. And mother and son locked arms and proudly walked into the seafood and ice cream store.

Dinner was great. Mildred made boiled lobster, crab cakes, new potatoes and brussel sprouts for the main course, and they had Maple nut ice cream for dessert. His parents went to bed early as they both had appointments the next day, and Todd stayed up for awhile – thinking, while sitting on the front porch. He would be alone during the day tomorrow. He thought that he might drive into Worcester and have a look around.

CHAPTER SEVEN

Todd arrived in Worcester around 9.43 a.m. and quickly found his way to a small coffee shop on Grafton Street. He bought a newspaper and strutted in, whistling to himself. The place was not empty but it may as well had been, as the curious eyes peering in his direction from the moment he walked in until he sat down clearly emphasized that he was an “outsider”. He felt like he had just walked into a saloon in an old Wild West film scene. “Mebbe I should reach for my gun,” he thought to himself, while chucking under his breath.

“May I help you, Sir?”

Todd almost jumped out of his skin. He had not noticed that the thirty-something-year-old brunette waitress was suddenly standing just behind his right shoulder.

“Hey there!” stammered Todd. “I would like to see a breakfast menu, but I will start with a cup of black coffee.”

“Coffee is coming right up … and here is your menu,” replied the waitress with a broad, but almost plastic smile.

Todd began studying the menu. It was basic: eggs – scrambled, poached, fried, boiled, sunny-side-up; bacon, sausages, home fries, pancakes, waffles etc. “Too heavy …”, thought Todd. Just then he heard the waitress bantering with a customer sitting at the counter. “She has quite a mouth on her, that one”, he thought. And immediately Todd had a flashback to his dream.

“He ain’t worth your time girls. He sures knows how to sweet-talk a bitch … but he can’t keep one. I hear he even turned a couple of them gay.” And then: “He can’t keep one … he can’t keep one … he can’t keep one …”

Todd’s forehead had broken out with beads of cold sweat and his right foot was tapping furiously against the wooden floor planks. He looked up to see several customers looking at him, mostly men – college-aged and in their fifties – a few of them winking and smiling almost lasciviously – well, probably not exactly lasciviously, but it seemed that way to Todd at the moment. They were fags! “Damn!” muttered Todd as he grabbed his right knee to stop the foot tapping. He had unwittingly sent out a “mating call” to all of Worcester. When the waitress returned to his table a minute later, Todd ordered o.j. and an English muffin with margarin and orange marmelade – the same he had had every morning since high school. He thought to himself: “Did I really make Rachel lesbian … or was she born that way? Has she sworn off all men forever, or just me? How would she react to seeing me after all this time? Could I still manage to chat her up – and maybe even bed her? …” His foot tapping resumed and the gays again took notice, one of whom looked his way and then ran off into the toilet. That was Todd’s cue. He quickly asked for the check and high-tailed it out of there … leaving behind a half-eaten half of a English muffin and a dollar tip. He jumped into his car and sped off towards Worcester Common, looking at himself in the rear view mirror every now and then and commenting: “Who can blame those poor guys? If I were gay then I would cruise me too!” Just two blocks away from the cafe, his chuckling abruptly came to a halt as his slammed on his brakes. A woman on a bicycle had cut out in front of him.

“Hey you! You stupid bitch!!! Do you have some kinda death wish, or something?”

The woman got off her bike, yelled back something unintelligible and turned to continue on, but Todd was having none of it. He quickly pulled over to the curb and barked at the woman: “Come back here, woman! Do you realize that you endangered more lives than just your own? Who the hell do you …” They both looked directly into each others’ faces and simultaneously realized that they knew one another.

“You! Totally figures! Only a son-of-a-bitch like you would …”

“Rachel! Wow! … I was just …”

“You were just what, Todd?!! Honestly … if I didn’t know that you were generally such an inattentive driver then I would have sworn that you purposely …”

Todd just grinned from ear to ear. “Good to see you too, babe. Let me buy you a cup of coffee.”

“A cup of coffee, say you?!! Oh … that would be lovely, Todd. Just like when we first met. You bumping into me at the school library, stepping on my toes, causing me to drop my books … and then insisting on taking me to a cheap student cafe, and making plans to bed me down. HA! I don’t think so. Now, if you will excuse me – I have …”

“Same ol’ Rachel … spicy and feisty as ever. If I remember correctly, it was you that was all over me. You even told me that I was a ‘stud muffin’ compared to the other nerds on campus.”

“Stud muffin?!! I don’t remember anything about any stud or any muffin … other than you gobbling down one English muffin after the other. I never understood where you put them … or the beers, for that matter. Heavens knows how you always managed to remain so …”

“So what, Rachel? So fit, so buff, so stud muffin …?” Todd’s eyes were sparkling now and the sun framed the back of his head nicely, forcing a slight silhouette around his European-cut hairdo. He smiled as he watched her pout, then look angry and – promptly – somewhat flustered.

“Look, it has been fun … but I really have to go. See you around in a few years, Todd.”

Todd grabbed her left arm gently but firmly, causing Rachel to swing around abruptly – ready to blast him with some choice “bad words” in whatever language first came to mind. Suddenly Todd said the magic words she had been waiting for for years: “Rachel, I am truly sorry for being such an ass. I hurt you and I have never forgiven myself. Please let me buy you a coffee, a drink … anything.”

Rachel saw a worried look on Todd’s face and the hint of a solitary tear drop forming in the corner of his left eye. He was a two-faced, lying asshole, but even he could not fake this. She looked at her watch on her left wrist and guardedly replied: “Well, okay … but just for a half-an-hour. I was on my way over to Coco’s Cafe on Water Street. It is next to the club where I work. Park your car, and we can walk over. It is not far. I have to warn you that there may be some gay persons there. Can your macho ego handle that?”

“Sure thing!” exclaimed Todd, quickly parking his car and joining Rachel on foot while she walked with her bicycle to her right and with Todd to her left. He sure hoped that Rachel never found out about his getting his ass whooped by Heckle and Jeckle, and being called “Bitch” after having his mouth washed out with soap and water by a scorned woman. Besides, he had just met all the fags in the neighborhood a short time earlier at the cafe on nearby Grafton Street. Surely there cannot be that many in Worcester having brunch in cafes on a Friday. As they walked, Todd juggled between making small talk and thinking hard: “Should I tell Rachel that I saw her in Auburn with a young woman friend yesterday … and that I was at her concert in Boston? Nahhh …” he thought. “She might think I was stalking her, or something. I wouldn’t want her to get a big head … I don’t work that hard for any bitch.”

About ten minutes later they approached the cafe. Rachel had just walked her bike over to the bicycle parking area by the side of the building when Todd heard his cell phone ring. “Who can that be?” he cursed. “I just turned the damned thing on an hour-and-a-half ago.” The name on the ringing and vibrating phone was not unknown to Todd: it was Lynda! Todd abruptly turned off the phone and turned to see Rachel approaching him.

“Hot date, Todd? Are you sure you can fit me in?” she quipped, seeing his embarrassed look.

“Just business,” he replied. “I am on holiday … not taking any business calls.”

“Yeahhh … ” sighed Rachel sarcastically. “Good to hear that business has grown and prospered.”

“Yeah, well,” replied Todd. He had thought to reply “I don’t remember you complaining before!” but he thought better of it and decided to let it go.

From the moment they entered the cafe, Rachel seemed calmer and less antagonistic. She even smiled to the people working there … which precluded her sending bitchy looks in Todd’s direction. Todd decided to tone it down himself as well. This was – after all – her territory.

The brightly-decorated surroundings gave a lightness to their conversation, enabling a flow that had not existed on the walk over to the cafe. Todd was careful to ask Rachel all about her new career and how she liked life in Worcester, but did not touch on relationships or sexuality. Rachel – in turn – tried to show interest in how Todd’s business had grown and – also – did not ask questions about the French girlfriend he had left Rachel for. Rachel had heard from a mutual friend about a year ago that they had split up, but she did not know any details. Was she curious? Of course … but she would not give Todd the satisfaction of knowing that she was. A half-hour became fifty-five minutes and then suddenly a panting woman slumped down in the chair beside Rachel’s, kissed her on the mouth, and apologized: “Sorry I am late. It is not so easy taking the afternoon off on a Friday. There are a zillion extra small things that simply must be done before the weekend. Les Américains traitent leurs ouvriers comme des esclaves !” She then looked over at Todd, reached out her hand and said: “Hello! I am Angélique. Who are you?”

Todd had a shocked look on his face. He took Angélique’s hand and introduced himself: “I am Todd … an old friend of Rachel’s. We go way back.”

“Todd … oh yes,” exclaimed Angélique. And then somewhat dryly: “The asswipe, son-of-a-bitch …”

“Angélique!” interrupted Rachel, with scorn in her voice … and at the same time almost bursting with laughter.

“It is alright,” said Todd. “I have heard it all before. Yes, I am the very one. I see that my reputation precedes me.”

“It certainly does,” laughed Angélique. “You seem nicer and cuter in person than Rachel has indicated.”

Rachel shot Angélique a look that would stop a bull dead in its tracks, and Angélique then cautiously added: “But every scoundrel does …”

Not to be outdone by this witty young woman, Todd thought he would both demonstrate his French skills to Rachel and challenge this woman’s political non-correctness: “So … you think American workers make good slaves?”

Both women looked at Todd, then at each other and broke out into laughter. “No, Todd. She said that Americans treat their workers like slaves … not that they ARE good slaves!”

Several others in the cafe heard Rachel’s too-loud remark and turned to look at them, and Todd blushed – causing the women to laugh at him again. From that point on the conversation was as smooth as a baby’s ass. And Todd began to fantasize in his head about a possible future ménage à trois. Rachel recognized his sex-strategy look and whispered something into Angélique’s ear. They both raged with laughter once again.

“What now?!!” asked Todd.

“Nothing Todd … nothing at all,” replied Rachel. “You have begun to understand how to get along with women. You laugh at our jokes even when you are the brunt of them. That is a good start.”

“That’s not nice, honey!” retorted Angélique – putting her arm around Rachel’s shoulders. “He is just being a man. Too bad he is not gay. He would probably be quite popular in Worcester. I love his coiffure. Has Sébastien met him yet?”

“Who is Sébastien?” asked Todd, with curiosity. He did not comment on Angélique’s referral to his haircut as a coiffure.

“He is a wonderful man … and our best friend,” replied Angélique. “Well, actually he was originally Rachel’s best friend and he quickly became mine too.”

“No,” said Rachel. “They have never met. I became friends with Sébastien first after I moved to Worcester. He and Todd are quite different.”

“Ha! Men are men … underneath it all,” retorted Angélique. And suddenly realizing what she had just said, then modified it: “I mean … in spite of their sexual orientation, men are men.”

Todd had a worried look on his face, and Rachel laughed out loud and kissed Angélique on the cheek. “You are so adorable when you mis-speak.”

Rachel noticed that Todd was tapping his right foot out of nervousness. She looked under the table and stared at it for two seconds … and Todd quickly stopped the tapping, looking around to see if anyone else had noticed. He then called out to the young waitress to ask for the check, and explained to Rachel and Angélique that he had to get back to Auburn and would be returning to Boston on Sunday … but that they are welcome to call on him should they ever come to Boston. They could all go out for a drink …

Angélique replied affirmatively and Rachel was more fake polite, thinking to herself: “right … like that is ever going to happen”. Todd insisted on paying the entire check, gave them both the customary European two-cheek kiss and promptly left the cafe to walk back to his parked car.

His head was full of thoughts on the short drive back to Auburn. It was time to “clean his house”. He would also apologize to Aimée. The “male apology thing” seemed to work wonders. But Lynda would not get an apology. He would send Lynda a registered letter on Monday, asking her to stop harrassing him, and warning that – should she continue – he would file a complaint with the police and seek a restraining order from the courts … and a possible criminal indictment for forced entry – and violence.

Todd felt a slight “rustling” in his crotch. He felt like a man again for the first time since the humiliation by Heckle and Jeckle. “Now, we will soon see who is the bitch!” he said out loud to himself, as he entered his parents’ driveway.

———————————-

When Todd returned to his apartment in Boston on Sunday afternoon, he was surprised to find a UPS parcel at his door. He picked it up and carried it inside, thinking that it was job-related. After a long hot shower, he pulled a six-pack of beers out of the fridge and settled down on the couch. He really wanted a cigarette now … but he was determined not to start smoking again. He had done so well for the past 7 months – even now, through the latest bullshit with Lynda-from-Hell. Feeling superstititious about the last time – one week ago – that he had settled down on the couch with beers and wearing his robe, he quickly put on some fresh jeans and t-shirt and put five of the beers back into the refrigerator. He also checked that the door was locked. He would take the beers out one-at-a-time … and hold full control over his intoxication.

He opened the parcel and pulled out a crumpled poster and a bouquet of roses that had definitely seen better days. The bouquet was just stems except for one pitiful peach rose that was seriously withering – and the poster featured a picture of Rachel and announced her upcoming concert at the Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts in Worcester. Todd was completely puzzled. But then he also found a hastily-scrawled note which read: “Fuck head! Just hours after our surprisingly half-decent time at the cafe I received a delivery at the club – just shortly before I was to go onstage. Guess what the delivery was Todd?: the bouquet I have herewith ‘returned to sender’! … yes, a dozen peach roses, all but one with the flowers decapitated. A step down even from the bouquet of roses and nasty note I received after my concert in Boston. Never contact me again, Todd. I will not tolerate more harrassment and stalking from you. May you rot in your own personal fucking hell!!!”

“Holy shit!” exclaimed Todd. He quickly grabbed his cell phone and called information in Worcester. After he had gotten Rachel’s number he called it and got Angélique on the phone.

“Angélique speaking. Who is this?”

“Hi Angélique. This is Todd. Is Rachel there? I just got home and opened a parcel from her. There is a big misunderstanding. It is urgent that I speak with her.”

“Ohh … it’s the asshole. Well, I don’t think Rachel wants to talk with you. But I would like to meet you in a dark alley you muthafukkha…”, said Angélique in her best ghetto thug accent, attempting to slur all syllables into one in authentic style.

“Yeah, well … I have been there and done that, Angélique. Listen! It was not me that sent those threatening roses to Rachel. I would never do that. It must have been that crazy psychobitch Lynda …”

“Are you a magnet for psychobitches … or are you a bit ‘psycho’ yourself, Todd?!!” demanded Angélique quite sarcastically. “Stay away from Rachel or I will …”

Rachel was screaming in the background: “Who is it?!! Is that Todd? The goddamned nerve of that … Give me that phone – NOW Angélique!”

Todd let Rachel rage for about two minutes before he broke in and said: “I DID NOT DO IT, RACHEL. IT WAS LYNDA!!! SHE IS CRAZY.”

“Lynda?!!” exclaimed Rachel. “Who the FUCK is Lynda? You know Todd, you are just bad newz … you attract flies – no, killer bees – with your shit. You better fix this … NOW!”

He then told her about his recent break-up with Lynda, after an earlier break-up with Aimée. Todd also explained about the phone call he had received from Aimée and he gave an abridged version of the incident one week before where Lynda had shown up at his door with a couple of thugs – carefully leaving out the humiliating details. He promised Rachel that he would sort out the problem, and that he had already planned on taking care of it the next day. He again begged for Rachel’s (and now also Angélique’s understanding and patience) and re-iterated how important her friendship was to him. The conversation ended on a note of “tension, but with a conditional truce” … and Todd ran out to buy a pack of Marlboro cigarettes.

——————————–

Todd had been awake much of the night, and by 7:00 a.m. he had changed his mind about sending Lynda the registered letter that he had composed at 3:27 a.m. He would give her – instead – a taste of her own medicine … he would show up – unannounced – at her door and have it out with her – once and for all. He figured that if he was at her place by 8:15 then he could manage to open his shop at 9 a.m. He would pick up some coffee, an English muffin and orange juice on the way to work.

He arrived at Lynda’s apartment building in the Mission Hill section of Boston at 8:10 a.m. Looking at his watch every minute while he smoked a cigarette, he timed it perfectly so that he would knock on her door at exactly 8:15 a.m. “It is all about planning, strategy, discipline, and getting the job done,” he mumbled to himself. “That is how the male mind works best. No emotional histrionics or manipulations, and no unnecessary chit chat. I will just go in there and lay it on the line, keeping a poker face all the while …” The downstairs door was unlocked so he just went in and bounded up the four flights to Lynda’s apartment and pounded on the door – hoping to wake up any neighbors that had not yet started to get ready for work. There were bound to be several in that building. Lynda barely worked herself.

After beating on the door and ringing the doorbell non-stop for almost two minutes Todd heard Lynda yelling: “Jesus fuckin’ Christ! I’m coming. What is the problem? Hold on … hold on.”

She opened the door just a crack, owing to the chain lock that was on. Lynda peered through the crack, blinked a couple of times and said: “Todd … is that you? What are you doing here at this hour? Listen, it is not a good time. I look a mess. Come back at 10 a.m. and I will make us some coffee. We can talk then. I want to talk to you anyway.” She was about to shut the door in Todd’s face when he put his palm out to stop the door from closing shut. Noting the resistance, she then starting pushing from her side of the door, causing Todd to set the weight of his entire shoulder and upper body against the door.

“Todd! Go away I tell you. Go away or I will …”

“You will what?!! Open this goddamned door Lynda, or I will burn out the call system downstairs and make such a ruckus that you will be thrown the hell out of here. Do not thwart me Lynda. I mean it! Let me in … NOW!”

Lynda reluctantly unchained the lock and opened the door a few more inches. Todd pushed his way in. He looked frantic, and very pissed off. Not at all calm and collected as he had planned. He suddenly took a deep breath and said: “Okay. I am calming down now. Let’s have a little chat – you and I.”

Todd grabbed Lynda’s left arm and pulled her over to the small red leather sofa in her living room. Lynda looked pitiful, shaking with fear, with blood-shot eyes, running mascara and smudged make-up she had not removed before going to bed, and she was wearing a flannel morning robe over the sexy red and black lingerie that Todd had bought her several months before. She stank of whiskey and cheap perfume. Just then there was a loud thud in the area of the bathroom. The door had slammed. “Who is that?” bellowed Todd.

Lynda clenched her robe together, attempting to cover her undergarments, and then said matter-of-factly: “I told you that this was a bad time, Todd. I have a gentleman visitor.”

“Now why am I not surprised,” said Todd. “Who is it? Anyone I might know?”

“That is none of your business … and irrelevant. You broke up with me, remember?!! Now what the hell do you want from me … and at this hour? Have you changed your mind? If you have come to beg me to take you back then you are going about it all wrong, buster …”

Todd began: “I want you to stay the hell away from me, Lynda. And that goes for your thug friends too. It is over between us, and you must let go of me. I will not tolerate any more threats or violence from you – or from Heckle and Jeckle – not to me, not to Aimée and not to Rachel …”

“Rachel who?” exclaimed Lynda. “Yeah, I blew off some steam when I thought that that French whore girlfriend of yours was trying to steal you back from me. I mean, why else would you leave me? And yeah – things got a bit out of hand at your apartment … But you survived it Todd, and we are now finally sitting together and talking things out. Wenus …” she said grazing Todd’s thigh with her right hand.

“I am not your goddamned ‘Wenus’ Lynda, and those sexy eyes and pouting lips are not going to solve this problem – so save it for the next sucker. And stop – I repeat – stop harrassing Rachel. She is quite upset about those roses. That was really sick.”

“What roses … and who is this Rachel?! Todd, I swear I do not know what you are talking about,” Lynda replied – raising her voice to the level of Todd’s. Just then a man appeared in the living room with wet hair and wearing nothing more than a towel around his waist. Todd’s mouth dropped open: it was Jeckle!

“What is all the racket about?” he asked.

“Todd was just leaving,” replied Lynda, glaring at Todd. “He had misunderstood something and I have now cleared it up.”

“Misunderstood my ass!” snarled Todd, rising to his feet and walking over towards Jeckle while gesturing a pointed finger in a threatening fashion. “Well, well, well. If it isn’t Jeckle – of Heckle and Jeckle fame. C’mon buddy! We are one-on-one this time … or is Heckle hiding under the goddamned bed?”

“Whoah there, Toddy. You had your chance with the lady and you threw it away. You would do well to back off and forget all about her now.”

Todd cast a hard look at Jeckle – and then at Lynda – and said: “You two deserve each other. Help yourself to it Jeckle!” He then walked out and slammed the door behind him. He felt like he was going to start crying as he stormed down the stairs. When he reached the entrance to the building he pulled out his lighter and briefly thought about torching the call system buttons, but then thought better of it, lit a cigarette and walked towards his car. He smoked half the cigarette and then looked up towards Lynda’s living room window which faced out onto the street below. He caught a glimpse of someone peering out. Todd then spit onto the pavement, flicked the remaining half cigarette away, took the half-smoked pack of Marlboros out of his jacket pocket and threw it to the curb, and then he climbed into his car and sped off to work. It was 8:55 a.m. He would be late, but he did not give a damn. The whole way across town he went over the argument with Lynda in his mind: “What roses … and who is this Rachel?! Todd, I swear I do not know what you are talking about.” Was Lynda telling the truth? Why would she lie about that when she admitted to calling Aimée? Were Rachel and Angélique telling the truth?

“Bitches and whores!” yelled Todd, slamming his right fist on the dashboard. “It is a fucking conspiracy – I swear! Why can’t I meet a woman that is more like a guy?!!”

As soon as those words left his mouth Todd instinctively knew that there was something wrong with the logic. He had misspoken … as Angélique had done last Friday at the cafe. “Angélique … I like her,” he thought.

PART THREE
– Rachel -

CHAPTER EIGHT

By the time Rachel had started sixth grade her father had left her mother and her. He simply disappeared one day … never coming home from work. Rachel remembered him kissing her good night the evening before, as warmly as usual on the surface but yet with a certain preoccupation and a hint of sadness, she thought – in retrospect. It was a very rough year at school and at home. Her mother struggled with her alcoholism and depression, and rarely came out of her bedroom. Fortunately, Rachel was by then old enough to fix her own simple meals and find her way to and from school and after-school activities without parental supervision or dependency on her mother to drive her here and there. In the summer before Rachel was to enter junior high school her mother quietly told her that she had enrolled her in a private all-girls school in Greenfield, Massachusetts – the Stoneleigh-Burnham School.

Rachel later came to know that it not only was her father that paid for her school years (7-12) at this fine institution, but he also had insisted upon her enrollment there as part of the divorce settlement. Rachel never saw her father again but he provided for her until she graduated from Sarah Lawrence. He passed away shortly after her graduation, but left her enough money to pay for her master’s degree at Berklee College of Music.

Rachel was sullen and depressed when she started her first year at Stoneleigh-Burnham, but soon made friends and eventually flourished. She excelled at music theory and piano, sang in the choir, and – from the tenth grade on – was an active and respected member of both the fencing team and the debate team. The lapses in memory which had plagued her during much of her childhood had seemingly disappeared, and the physical distance from her mother gave her emotional stability and self-confidence. Also gone were the migraine headaches, the uncontrollable out-of-body flights, and finding notes and unknown items left behind by Veronica or Emily. Best of all, Rachel could now look at herself in the mirror with full acceptance that she was – in fact – seeing herself, and she no longer felt that she was merely watching her own life in some film or tv series.

Rachel’s best friends were Constance, Jeanine and Sarah. They were often together, and knew one anothers’ best-kept secrets. Well – none of them ever really talked about the ugliness of their home lives or details of their lives before Stoneleigh-Burnham. It was all kept rather dreamy, and generally referred to as “utterly boring”. Constance and Rachel were both in the choir, Sarah was on the fencing team, and Jeanine was Rachel’s debate team partner. They enjoyed school gossip about other students, staff and faculty members, and on the occasions where they came into contact with boys they afterwards entertained one another with exaggerated references to their flirtations and infatuations. These girls were all well-behaved, well-spoken and conservatively dressed and groomed. The ultimate goal was a good college education and eventual marriage to a young man of stature and means.

Rachel’s mother visited rarely and Rachel often opted to spend holidays with one of her girlfriends … always explaining that her mother was “in Europe” or visiting Rachel’s “sickly grandmother”. It was easier explaining her father’s absence. Two of her best friends’ parents were also divorced. Rachel’s mother did come up for a choir and chamber ensemble concert once when Rachel was in tenth grade. She was so drunk and loud that poor Rachel had to ask the school nurse to help her put her in a taxi and send her back to her hotel room, even before the concert started. Luckily none of Rachel’s friends saw it, and there was no gossip about it afterwards either. Her mother never came back to the school after that – even missing Rachel’s graduation.

Rachel’s junior year was magical. That was when she met Karsten, a young Norwegian who was living abroad during his year in between high school and university. He was three years older than Rachel, as there are thirteen years of school before university in Norway as opposed to twelve in the USA. He saw Rachel at a social dance at the Guiding Star Grange one Saturday night. It was infatuation at first sight for both of them. Karsten was quiet, robust and tall, with a blond ponytail, swimmer’s build and placid blue eyes that were as inviting and refreshing as mountain lakes. He was – in turn – most attracted to Rachel’s long dark tresses, her rather tomboyish build, her cute little nose and her timid gracefulness. They became regular dance partners and he eventually asked her out for a date, where just the two of them could be alone. Rachel was ecstatic but properly-trained to show a demure attitude. Their first official date was one very warm evening in July at Greenfield’s Green River Balloon and Music Festival. After an enjoyable evening of music and food, they had their first passionate goodbye kiss before returning home to bathe in their respective dreams, before again meeting in town the next morning for day two of the festival. Rachel was radiant and full of excitement as she waved to her waiting beau at 10:15 a.m. on Saturday. He was also looking his best, albeit more casually-dressed than the evening before. They enjoyed a very fun day of hot air rides, dancing, music, arts and crafts, and local cuisine. At 9 p.m. Rachel had to return to campus and Karsten was very clear about wanting to go the final step in terms of physical intimacy. Constance had helped Rachel to obtain birth control and Karsten assured her that he had condoms in his wallet, but Rachel felt uneasy. She wanted to be with Karsten in every way possible but she did not feel ready for sex. In the back of her mind she could hear her mother bitching and ranting: “You are a dirty little slut.” Rachel had tears in her eyes as she abruptly disappeared back to campus after excusing herself to go to the ladies’ room. She had left Karsten in much the same way that her father had left her mother and her … and she resolved never to see Karsten again. This was not difficult as she ignored his messages and phone calls, and he was to return to Stavanger, Norway the second week of August anyway. And thus, Rachel entered her senior year much richer in experience … and still a virgin. In her mind she blamed her mother for her break-up with Karsten. For the first time in her life she began to hate her mother rather than always feeling the need to protect her “oppressor”.

In her freshman year at Sarah Lawrence, Rachel found religion … and promptly lost it. A young Catholic church music director was guest directing the non-school local community choir she was singing in, and he (Father Samuel) and Rachel found a good tone together from the start. Father Samuel was in his early thirties, had a clean-cut look and a winning smile, and he wore John Lennon-style wire-rimmed spectacles. They were rehearsing a large program of choral works by Bach, Brahms and Schubert, and Rachel had one of the solo parts. After some weeks, Father Samuel invited Rachel to help him with the youth choir at the parish where he worked – about a half-an-hour drive from the campus. This was great experience for the young music student, especially as she was considering majoring in music education. Rachel had quite a way with the young musicians and provided much support for Father Samuel, who referred to her as his “esteemed colleague from Sarah Lawrence”.

One day, while in the music archives and equipment room, Rachel suddenly felt that she was no longer alone. She slowly turned around and was relieved to see that it was Father Samuel – who was standing just two feet behind her.

“Father Samuel!” she exclaimed. “I got a bit of a start. I did not hear you come in. I guess I was so engrossed in my thoughts that I …”

Father Samuel put his finger to his lips as though to say “shhh”, but instead said: “Listen to that organ music Rachel. It is divine! The organist is practicing for the Easter Sunday mass. He is playing Bach’s Chorale Prelude “Heut Triumphiret”. Rachel closed her eyes and listened. It was indeed quite beautiful. Father Samuel was so close that she could feel his breathing. Her heart began to race from the excitement of the religious drama of the music outside the room, the silence inside the room and the closeness to a servant of the Lord. The next thing she knew Father Samuel was kissing her lips. She opened her eyes in surprise and stammered: “Fath … Sir! I … know that we are both taken in by the beauty of the music and it really is ecstatic, but I do not think that it is appropri…”

Father Samuel again raised his finger to his lips, smiled and said: “Silence my child. You are in the pasture of the Lord God Almighty. Nothing that is said or done here is inappropriate – except breaking the passionate silence of devotion with idle chatter.” And he then grabbed Rachel by the shoulders and pulled her onto her knees before him – as if to give her communion or a blessing. Instead he loosened his belt and brought out his penis. Rachel began to struggle but he held her firmly with his right hand while pumping his organ with his left hand. “Do not struggle my child … my beautiful Rachel.”

But Rachel did struggle and tore away from Father Samuel who grabbed her from behind and cupped his right hand over her mouth, pulling her bum close into him while commanding her to cooperate and to stop resisting. Rachel stomped on his left foot and elbowed his stomach, causing Father Samuel to utter: “Listen you feisty bitch, you are not the first woman to share true communion with a priest and you will not be the last. This is a privilege I am about to bestow upon you.”

He still held her firmly and Rachel struggled to free herself from the iron-clad grip over her mouth. When he lifted her skirt with his left hand and tried to pull down her panties, whispering: “Ahhh … my sweet little whore; my temptress; my vixen …” she lost it completely. Rachel immediately got a severe headache and felt like she would pass out. The entire room began to swirl – around and around, faster and faster. Then suddenly, she finally tore herself away and let out the loudest, most blood-curdling scream possible – reminiscent of her own mother’s screams during her childhood. It was a scream of a passion for freedom – freedom from Father Samuel, from the Church and from her own sense of victimization. It was the voice of Emily.

Father Samuel was aghast. “Rachel … shhhh! This is a House of God. Remember where you are for Christ’s sake.”

But Rachel was long gone – the only one to be seen was Emily, racing out the door and out of the House of the Lord, forever. Never again would Rachel sing religious music. Never again would she trust a priest. Never again would she hesitate to put a man – or her own mother – in his/her place. Furthermore, Rachel resolved after that experience to lose her precious virginity as soon as possible … and on her own initiative and terms. She thought of the Irving Berlin lyrics: “A man chases a girl (until she catches him)” and muttered to herself: “If anyone calls the shots, it will be me.” She began to frequent bars and clubs with talent nights – and this was the beginning of her musical focus on show tunes and popular music ballads. It worked out to be a good “cover” for her hunt for a man. Sexually, Rachel was not in search of a future husband but rather of a man that deserved to be her “first conquest”. Amazingly enough, her academic performance did not suffer and she managed her “double life” quite well. Her fellow students and professors still saw her as studious and classically-inclined Rachel, and on her haunts she was perceived as a sultry, sexy and mysterious budding pop-artist and a “babe”. It took some scouting around before Rachel decided on her “mark”. In fact, his name was indeed Mark …

Rachel met Mark at a small club in the Village (in Manhattan). He was in the audience, and had come to give support to his gay friend Charles – who was using the showcase opportunity to test out parts of his new cabaret act. Rachel had had some light conversation with Charles backstage and noticed a medium-tall, dark-haired man of twenty-three years, and with a post-adolescent goatee, standing in the back of the wings, and giving Charles the sign of the horns and smiling broadly. Rachel watched curiously as Charles returned the sign and beat his chest with his left fist while silently miming “woof, woof, woof” in typical boy-macho style. Mark, in turn, mimicked the second gesture and quickly disappeared. Rachel let out a giggle and asked Charles who his friend and admirer was.

Charles replied: “That’s Mark … my dog. We have been best buddies since junior high school. Hey, if you hang around a bit after your performance I will introduce you. He is as straight as an arrow – but gay-friendly.”

Charles went on right before Rachel and his performing experience was self-evident. Onstage he assumed a smooth, contemporary sexy crooner personality that was a solid turn-on for women (and gay men) of all ages – that is, if they like show tunes and ballads … which Rachel did. He got lots of applause – before and after his performance, and from the reception Rachel could surmise that he was known to the audience as a “regular”.

Rachel sang three classic female audition standards: “I get a kick out of you”, “Somebody to love” (from “We will rock you”) as well as “And all that jazz”. She started out a bit nervous but quickly let the power of her voice overcome her nerves. By the time she reached “Somebody to love” she had the audience’s full attention; and her rendition of “And all that jazz” brought her whistle calls of appreciation and “woofs” from several of the men in the audience. Her outfit helped – of course. She had started out wearing an orange-red shiny 1970s raincoat, showing nothing more than her long legs tightly wrapped in fishnet stockings and supported by matching red high heeled shoes. In the final number she loosened her raincoat and periodically flashed a very sexy 1950’s red lace, all-in-one, open bottom girdle corset. She had “rehearsed” this routine in front of her full-length mirror at her student apartment until Veronica was satisfied that it worked. Afterwards, Rachel changed into her street clothes – a white leather mini-skirt with a black-and-white psychedelic-design top and the same fish-net stockings and red pumps that she had worn onstage. She walked up to the bar and ordered a Heineken beer – “no glass, please”. Immediately a voice behind her belted out to the bartender: “That one is on me. Put it on my tab.” Rachel turned around and saw Charles and his friend Mark. It was Mark that wanted to buy her the beer, and Charles smiled and nodded to Rachel saying: “Great show, Rachel! You have quite a set of lungs … and your classical training is obvious. Mark, here she is: Rachel. Rachel this is my best friend, Mark. I think …”

But Rachel and Mark were drowning in each others’ eyes, and had neither eyes nor ears for anyone else. Charles chuckled to himself and slipped quietly away, leaving the two to explore the possibilities their new acquaintanceship might bring. Mark found them a small table that was secluded enough that they could talk. And talk they did – about everything under the sun, it seemed … from music to politics to literature. Mark was a senior at Columbia University, majoring in European literature. He had been in a relationship until recently and told Rachel that this had been his first time out on the town as a “single man” since his break-up with Lauren seven weeks ago. “It was amicable and mutual,” he confided. “We just sort of grew apart, and decided to part as friends instead of pressuring one another to become different.”

Rachel nodded in empathy. She had no such relationship history to speak of herself but she felt that she resonated with the quiet reasonableness this man radiated. He reminded her a bit of her father … but a much better version. From his comment about his break-up with Lauren, Rachel understood that it was not that Mark was conflict shy or that he avoided drama at all costs but rather that he did not mind letting the woman take the lead, as long as she did not abuse the privilege. After another round of beers, Rachel insisted that the next two rounds be on her. By the time she had had three Heinekens Rachel felt bold enough not only to kiss Mark, but also to hint that she wanted him to make love to her. Mark was a perfect gentleman and did not react as if she was an “easy slut” and get all porn-flick macho on her, nor did he make her hint around several times in order to pump up his own ego. It was the optimal negotiation for them both – effected mostly with eye-contact, kisses and quiet burning instinct. Rachel asked if they shouldn’t say “good-bye” to Charles but Mark assured her that Charles was either long gone from the club to a gay bar or that he was otherwise involved. He spared Rachel the confidential agreement between Charles and himself that should Mark and Rachel “hit it off”, Charles would “disappear”.

Mark lived on the Upper West Side in a spacious pre-war loft-style apartment left to him by his grandparents. “Wow – not bad for a university student!” exclaimed Rachel, in admiration. “You must be loaded.”

Mark blushed and replied: “Nope … just a modest student like you, but I am very fortunate to have this apartment. Of course – it means that I will probably never leave it or New York City. To own a place like this is a dream for most people my age.”

“That it is, indeed!” agreed Rachel, looking around at the sparsely-decorated living space. She loved the openness and the non-cluttered look. Sitting down on the masculine brown suede two-seater sofa, she pulled her mini-skirt down an inch as it had slid up a bit too far. She was – after all – a sophisticated lady. A lady on a mission – but still a lady. Mark put on some soft jazz, dimmed the lighting and brought them both a Scotch whiskey on the rocks. They began to make out – slowly and carefully at first, and then rather passionately. It was when Veronica undid Mark’s belt buckle that Mark went into his full red-blooded male modus operandi. He took Rachel by the hand and led her into the bedroom, which was basically all bed and an armoire. Rachel was soon undressed and Mark crouched between her legs, preparing for his cunnilingus foreplay.

“Mark … this is – I mean, I have never …”

Mark looked surprised for a second or two, then smiled and replied: “Let me take you on the most wonderful ‘maiden voyage’ you will ever have!”

And they made love.

Rachel liked Mark a lot … and he seemed to like her as well. However, Veronica was insistent: “No relationships. Remember your parents. Do you want to end up like your mother? Your father was a ‘nice guy’ too … and things still did not work out. No, Rachel. Keep on truckin’! You are not ready to settle down with any man. I am the only one who can really love you. Me … and Emily.”

And so it was that Rachel stopped seeing Mark after a few dates. He had taught her the basics of lovemaking, and “popped her cherry”. For that she would be forever grateful to him. But it was time to move on. She did – however – let him off easy, saying: “You are an amazing man, Mark. But I am still a freshman at Sarah Lawrence and you are a senior here in New York City. It just isn’t practical for either of us.” Mark simply nodded in agreement, kissed her on the forehead and watched as Rachel left the Bank Street cafe where they had been sitting … never to meet each other again.

The next three years at Sarah Lawrence passed rather quickly for Rachel. She did quite well academically – graduating at the top of her class with a major in music performance (voice), a minor in piano, and a second minor in French literature. Her voice had attained a more raspy and a deeper quality, due to the drinking and the occasional cigarette, but it was well-suited for the popular music and jazz genres that she now preferred. She had had five or six “lovers” since Mark, but nothing serious and nothing that lasted more than two or three dates.

Rachel took the news of her father’s passing rather hard – in spite of not having seen him in person for all those years. They did occasionally communicate by letters and by email, and he still paid for her tuition and helped out with her living expenses right up until his death. The rest Rachel financed with the occasional part-time job and small student loans. She was thrilled to hear from her mother that her father had also advised his attorney that any insurance dividends and pension monies would be earmarked Rachel’s graduate school education. Rachel chose the Berklee College of Music in Boston. It was there that she met Todd, who had a part-time job in the school library while working his way through his master’s at Boston University.

When Rachel eventually moved in with Todd, Veronica and Emily both moved out of her head. They were a solid couple. They did argue from time to time, and sometimes with a bit of drama as they both were inclined to be a little hot-tempered when the feminine and masculine energies butted against one another, but they always kissed and made up. Todd was always very supportive of Rachel’s musical career and she encouraged his dream of starting up a small vintage record shop. They became engaged already after fourteen months and celebrated with a Norwegian cruise – i.e. a cruise up the Norwegian coast from Bergen to the Northern Cape. Rachel had secretly fantasized about running into Karsten while in Norway, but she had no idea where he was – or if he was, in fact, in Norway at all. That trip changed something in her and in their relationship. When they returned to Boston, Rachel seemed irritable, overly-obsessed with her music studies (it was – after all – just months until graduation) and had little time or interest in romance … or Todd. Todd, who often fell into his self-pitying “isn’t it all about me?” state of mind when he did not get enough attention as a male and when he felt that his masculinity was being trampled on, befriended Aimée, a pretty young French student studying at Boston University. Within six weeks he broke off his engagement to Rachel and quietly announced that she would have to move out. That was when her headaches and black-outs returned. Veronica put her foot down: “No more men, Rachel! We are now lesbians.”

After graduation, Rachel moved to Worcester, Massachusetts and eventually became part of the lesbian community – where she met and dated Celia, Kendra and Susan. It was Susan who introduced her to Wendy, the owner of the club – who just happened to be looking for a cabaret artist.

——————

“Hey there … good morning! Did you sleep well?” asked Angélique, nudging Rachel who was lying on her side, facing away from her sleeping partner. It was six-thirty in the morning, and still a good while before Angélique would have to get up and ready herself for work.

“Not really,” replied Rachel. “I have lots on my mind. Meeting up with Todd again, the upcoming concert, his crazy stalker ex-girlfriend … A girl can only take but so much.”

“I know babe,” agreed Angélique – stroking Rachel’s hair and pulling her over onto her back so that she could kiss her forehead. “I love you and I am always here for you. I will follow up on Todd and his ex, and make sure you never get hassled like that again. Now, do you still love me as much as you did before we went to sleep?”

“Of course – even more,” cooed Rachel.

“Good! Now release Todd, Lynda and Aimée from your mind and focus on this fabulous lezzie in your bed!” replied Angélique in her sexy “I want you” voice.

Rachel simply let herself be enfolded in Angélique’s arms, and let her lesbian lover do the driving.

PART FOUR
– Todd -

CHAPTER NINE

Todd had worked for three days on his nature and science class project. It was a wire and clay model of a crow, like the ones he had seen at his grandfather’s farm in Illinois. Todd had carefully researched about the crow’s diet, lifespan, the many types of crow in the genus Corvus and their relationship to humans etc. He had prepared a fine presentation using index cards with bulleted information and even included some dried corn kernels as part of his presentation to emphasize this important part of their diet. He was certain that Miss Tucker – his fifth grade teacher – and his classmates would be impressed. On the day of his presentation, Sheila – the girl that sat behind him, and who was always trying to get his attention – stretched out her foot when Todd was about to take his seat … thus causing Todd to trip and lose his balance. Luckily, he did not fall and hurt himself or the precious box he was carrying but some of the corn kernels did fall out of the box and onto the floor. Sheila began to point at the kernels and shouted so that all could hear: “Look! Todd is going to have corn for lunch. That figures: Todd Cobb eats corn on the cob. Corn on the cob. Corn on the cob. Ha ha! Todd eats corn on the cob!”

Todd blushed in embarrassment, and anger. Sheila had gotten several of his classmates to join in on the taunting and laughter. No one would listen to his explanation of what the corn kernels were for. Todd felt a rush of tears running down his hot face, and he grabbed his project and left the classroom and school, not returning before after three days time. According to the note from his mother, he had come down with a bad cold and she felt it was wise for him not to take a chance on infecting his classmates. By then all but Sheila had more or less forgotten the incident … and – of course – Todd himself. Such taunting was not infrequent at school, and Todd’s mother tried to tell him that the girl probably has a crush on him, but Todd hated Sheila now. He muttered the “B-word” under his breath, for the very first time in his life: “Bitch!”

That was his first memory of male-female conflict, which was the theme of his therapy sessions with Dr. Wanda Leonard. Dr. Leonard was a Gestalt therapist that specialized in sexual relations and conflicts. It was Aimée that encouraged Todd to start in therapy, several months into their sometimes rather “touch and go” relationship. She had hoped that it might help Todd to get over his guilt about having dumped Rachel and his anger at her – and all women – for manipulating and emasculating his masculinity. She wanted him to stop referring to women as “bitches”, “cunts” and “whores”, which she found to be unsettling and crude. But it was a difficult psychological and attitudinal “make-over” which would take hard work and time. The problems reached far back – much before his relationship with Rachel.

“Can you imagine that little Sheila was actually just trying to get your attention, Todd? That perhaps she had a crush on you, and did not know how to express her emotional and sexual feelings at that young age?” asked Dr. Leonard, while peering over the glasses that looked as if they would soon fall off her nose.

“That is what my Mum tried to tell me back then, but I don’t buy it. If a bitch – sorry, if a woman wants a man then there are more appropriate ways of showing it. Even in the fifth grade. Why can’t women be more like …”

“Like men, Todd?” asked the doctor. “Do you want to be with a man, Todd?”

Todd blushed, and then got irritated: “Hell no, I mean … no Doctor. You know what I mean. Hey! I am not a fag. Let us be clear on that.”

“Todd,” continued the doctor. “How do you act when you feel rejected and unwanted by a woman? Do you just accept it and walk away to find someone else that will return your affections … or do you keep trying to win them over – come what may?”

Todd was silent for a minute before speaking, and then thoughtfully replied: “I get your point, Doc. But she hurt me, and made it completely impossible for me to like her. Besides, she wasn’t my type anyway …”

“What is your type, Todd? A woman with ‘big knockers’ and a plump booty? How many shapely Playboy or Penthouse model types did you actually know when you were in the fifth grade? Or did you perhaps want someone that reminded you of another that you liked a lot. Like perhaps a neighbor, a girl on a kids’ TV program or in a music video, or perhaps even …”

“Perhaps even WHAT?!! If you are suggesting my own mother then I am outta here, Doc!” ranted Todd.

“No need to raise your voice Todd. I can hear you just fine and I also register your frustration and anger. Using unbridled masculine energy to force your opinion and perspective will not win you any arguments or empathy. Well, I think that is enough for today. We have made some real progress, I think. Let us go further with these memories when you resume our therapy next week.”

“Yeah, Doc … next week,” mumbled Todd as he shuffled out of the therapist’s offices – looking and acting like a disgruntled teenager. “Gawd, I hate that bitch Sheila … and fuckin’ Rachel too!”

Todd resented having his sexual orientation questioned. He did not have anything against homosexuals – per se – “just don’t hit on me,” he muttered a bit too loudly … making the guys in the elevator on its way down to the lobby slightly uncomfortable. Time after time, women had confused his kind and young-boy face for being a sign that he was effeminate and weak. He felt that he had to overcompensate all the time … just to maintain his masculine dignity and to keep the bitches in tow. Todd arrested that last thought as soon as his mind expressed it, recognizing how unreasonable and crude it actually was. “Perhaps Aimée is right,” he thought. “Mebbe this is all just a protective shell I take on in order to avoid facing my own inadequacies with women. No … I don’t want to go there. Guys and women are different; and in between the two you have homosexuals and lesbians. That is just the way it is,” he let out a sigh of relief as the elevator reached the lobby floor and the doors opened. The other men in the elevator almost trampled each other down trying to get out of there after Todd’s slip of the tongue. “Go ahead and run, faggots,” he joked to himself. And then immediately added: “Gawd, I really am sick in the head …”

The truth was that Todd imagined that everyone – female and male, of every age – lusted after him. He reasoned inside himself that he didn’t really have a “narcissist complex” so much as a slightly over-inflated ego, and that it was a necessary self-defense. He was acutely aware of his shortcomings as compared to other men of his age. He had a medium to scrawny build, was often the same height or a couple of inches shorter than the women he was generally interested in, his ears stuck out slightly (which he suspects is also an unstated reason why Aimée insisted on his longish European haircut, since it made them less predominant than when he had short hair), and he could be quite moody. On the plus side, he had a great face (albeit still too boyish – he looked forward to looking a bit more manly after he had aged another five years or so), he showed no sign of premature balding and his cock was bigger than average when fully-erect. “Oh yeah …” he thought. “I am also smart and – when I put effort into it – I can charm just about anyone of the opposite sex.” He rustled on home to Aimée, who – according to his watch should be back from work by now. “I wonder what she is making for dinner?” he said to himself. “I could really use a thick, juicy steak, but that will only happen in my dreams.” Aimée was on a healthy diet kick, and dragged Todd along with her: lots of fruits and vegetables, no red meat or chicken, and a whole lot of other restrictions like no sugar, no soft drinks, no cigarettes … Luckily, she knew better than to forbid his beers … but she did try to get him to cut down on his alcohol consumption. “It will be fish, for sure,” mumbled Todd. “At least she is a good cook … and not a total vegan.”

When Todd was three blocks from their apartment, he received a long text message from Aimée: “Cher Todd: I am running very late and I need your help. Could you stop by the fish market and buy some fish – perhaps some rainbow trout or Norwegian salmon? And also a couple of lemons and some parsley. Thanks so much. See you in about forty minutes. Bises, Aimée.”

Todd replied with a short “sure thing!” and sauntered over to the upscale Mercato del Mare fish market. Everything looked “delish” but he suddenly spied something that he had never noticed there before: Norwegian whale beef! “Hey,” he mumbled to himself. “It is technically still fish! That should be a great treat.” He purchased three fairly-large pieces and a mess of oysters, some lemons and parsley (would they still need those with whale beef and oysters?) and felt in a much better mood instantly. “Finally, something that resembles beef!” he thought, whistling all the way home.

Aimée arrived home just about twelve minutes after Todd had, bogged down with shopping bags. “Thanks for going to the fish market … I just could not manage everything today,” she said – almost out of breath.

“Relax babe,” replied Todd. “I picked up something special for us.”

“Rainbow trout … Norwegian salmon … wha… – sushi?” said Aimée while giving him a peck on the cheek while squeezing past him to see what he bought. Todd was trying to start a make-out session there in the kitchen but she was not about to delay dinner any more than necessary. “Ha! Later mister… now let’s see what I have to work with here.”

She tore open the packaging and stared at the brownish-red meat for a few seconds before exclaiming: “What is this? Is it sushi-grade tuna filet?”

“Naw …” replied Todd, beaming with pride. “It is Norwegian whale beef. Isn’t that fabulously unique and exciting?!! I had this in Norway, when Rachel and I took that cruise …” As soon as that last sentence left his lips Todd knew that he should not have uttered it.

What was – in fact “unique” – was the look on Aimée’s face: all the blood rushed out of her face, leaving her face pallid and her eyes lifeless. She looked at Todd and mumbled: “Merde … ça sent le sapin !” (Shit … that is the last straw!)

Todd did not understand the French expression, but he understood the look on her face and her despondency. Aimée quietly grabbed her handbag and walked out of the apartment, without saying another word. She did not come back that night … and she did not call. Todd, being too proud, did not call her either. Instead, he called his buddy Brian and invited him over for whale meat with potatoes and parsley, fried onions and lots of beers. They had a blast.

The next morning Todd knew that he would be sitting in the “dog house” for several days, and that pissed him off. “Jesus fuckin’ Christ! She over-reacts. Food is food … and this was even fish – meat from the sea, just like everything else in the oceans and lake and rivers.”

When Aimée returned she quickly understood that Todd would not apologize and had no real desire to talk about the situation. He did not even ask her where she had been (although she assumed that he would understand that she was at one of her two French girlfriends’ places). She was disillusioned but decided to “play it off” and not show how much it had hurt her. She must hold out … perhaps the therapy would start to work soon.

The incident definitely put a knick in the woodwork of their relationship. Aimée did not sport a stiff upper lip, but then she did not initiate any bubbly small talk or discussions either. That was quite out of character for her, and Todd felt the estrangement although he refused to talk about it. He took his sullenness with him to his next therapy appointment but never mentioned it to Dr. Leonard. Instead he wanted to talk about Rachel’s inability to “turn the other cheek”, let the other person go, and “move on” when things were “over”. Dr. Leonard sensed that there must be something more immediate that was bothering Todd but he just replied that he had been thinking a lot about his relationship with Rachel and was tired of feeling guilty for having taken the sole responsibility for calling “a spade for a spade” in their relationship.

Dr. Leonard listened to his whining, to his intricate defensive explanations and to his angry comments about Rachel and Sheila in particular, but basically about the female gender in general. It occurred to her that Todd sincerely believed that women are basically here to satisfy and serve men. She wondered where it all came from. It did not sound as if it came from his parents and Todd had supposedly had a few other short-term relationships with women that he said just ended “naturally, and without drama”. Why then was the relationship with Rachel so different? Had Todd “changed” because of his relationship with Rachel? And if so, then how would this affect his current relationship with Aimée? She had many questions … all needing exploration in future therapy sessions.

Before his next therapy session Todd heard – through the grapevine – that Rachel had become a lesbian. At first he felt as if that news had vindicated him and proven that she really was not “fiancée material” after all. And then the male ego set in. “Everyone will think that I was not man enough to satisfy her … and that is why we broke up,” he exclaimed, slamming his fist on the counter at work. He quickly looked around to confirm that there were no customers in the shop just then.

Todd was desperate to have sex with Aimée that evening but she would have nothing of it – and that, in turn, made Todd even more insecure, even more angry … and created more distance between him and his girlfriend. Aimée tried to get him to talk about whatever was making him so agitated, but Todd refused – instead putting all the blame and responsibility on Aimée. Finally, Aimée told him she was moving out … at least for a trial separation. Todd replied: “If you walk out that door now, then do not bother coming back. This ain’t a goddamned hotel for whores!”

Aimée slapped Todd quite hard on his left cheek, and said: “Go on, then. Either hit me or turn the other cheek so I can strike it too!” She had tears in her eyes and was shaking. Todd just walked into the kitchen, opened a can of beer and sat down at the kitchen table, brooding in silence. Aimée was packed and ready to leave within an hour. As she was walking out the door Todd hollered: “You’ll be back. They all come back groveling. Don’t let the door hit you in the b…” But Aimée was gone. And she would not be back.

Todd never returned to his therapy sessions. And his therapist never called him to ask why not …

——————

“Shit! I really know how to pick ‘em,” muttered Todd to himself. “First there was Rachel – who didn’t give me enuff attention because she was a closet lesbian. Then came Aimée – who tried too hard to be a ‘mother hen’ and to direct my life. And finally I fell into Lynda’s trap …” According to Todd, Lynda tried too damn hard to please him. He needed a bit of resistance to keep him interested. Instead, she struggled to make a square peg fit into a round hole and then – when he dumped her – she got all “amazon” on him. At first, the constant catering and sexual attention was exactly what he needed. He was relieved not to have to have the endless “discussions”, and happy not to have to go to “chick films” at the cinema or forfeit his ball games on the television to watch stupid reality shows about couples or celebrity life. Lynda did not have much academic training – she barely graduated from high school – and grew up “on the wrong side of the tracks” socially. Her only real possibility for moving up the social strata was – in fact – to bag a man with education and money. Todd did not have a lot of money but he did have higher education, and he owned his own small business. Todd tried to explain to Lynda that they probably would not ever get married. He told her that he no longer considered himself to be the “marrying kind”, but the truth of the matter was that he thought Lynda to be too unintelligent and under-educated, too lower-class, too “cheap and whorish” in her personal presentation, and too vulgar in her speech, laughter and the way she carried herself. He could never present her to his parents … or university-educated friends. They would be like: “Ehhhh … Todd, what are you doing here? Slumming … ?” And they would be right. He was slumming … and licking his sores. Problem was – again – when the woman’s time was up she would not let go … and then, as usual, Todd would have to be the “bad guy”. He wondered: “Is it basic human nature to want what we cannot have, and to no longer desire what we can have or do have?” The more that Lynda fought to hold onto Todd, the uglier she became in his eyes. She couldn’t win … she was bound to lose him – no matter what. That was what he tried to explain to her, but she was too dumb to understand … or too stubborn to admit it. Yeah … he realized that he had hurt her feelings by calling her those names: “bitch, slut etc.” But when he no longer wanted her sexually her once-appealing “my sex in yo’ face” way of being became oppressive and offensive. No – downright disgusting! That is the expected behavior for a man – or perhaps for a whore; not a girlfriend or future wife. “She gave me exactly what I wanted but she was just too dumb to know when to stop giving me that and show me the Madonna side of the whore,” concluded Todd to himself. She is much better off with Jeckle. They probably both come from the same social background. “Mixing races is okay, but mixing social classes rarely works,” thought Todd.

——————

Eleven a.m. on Saturday after Todd had been at Lynda’s apartment, Todd’s phone rang. “Hello … Todd here. What’s up?” said Todd a bit apprehensively since the caller had an unlisted cell phone number. There was also a few seconds hesitation on the other end. “Anyone there?!!” bellowed Todd, thinking it might be a prank call … or Lynda.

“Hey Todd,” said the voice on the other end. “It is Angélique – from Worcester – calling. I was wondering … I want to know if you have taken care of ‘the problem’ with your ex-girlfriend yet?”

Todd sneered and replied: “Which one – which ex-girlfriend … and which problem?” And then he realized that she must be referring to the stalker business and the roses sent to Rachel. “Well,” he said. “Yes – and no.”

“What do you mean?” asked Angélique, a bit impatient. She was not going to play any coy games with “Todd the asshole”.

“I mean just what I said,” retorted Todd, a bit put off by her impatient tone. “I confronted Lynda and she admits to having harrassed Aimée and me, but she swears that she has not sent any roses or threatening notes to Rachel. In fact, she says that she does not even know any Rachel. I have been trying to think back but I cannot remember if I ever told her about my relationship with Rachel. She knew much about my relationship with Aimée because I met Lynda just a few weeks after I broke up with Aimée … or rather we broke up with each other. She could very well be telling the truth.”

“This does not make any sense,” replied Angélique, thoughtfully. “I know that this – in fact – happened. I was there and saw both bouquets of roses and the notes. And Rachel was quite upset by them.”

“I dunno,” replied Todd. “It is odd. Look – I did not send those roses to Rachel. I couldn’t have. I did not leave the concert until …” He stopped himself in mid-sentence.

“The concert? Were you at Rachel’s concert at the club in Boston? You have not mentioned that before. Does Rachel know?” Angélique was obviously getting very suspicious.

“Now hold your horses, Angélique!” replied Todd, raising his voice a bit. “Yeah – I heard that she would be performing and I decided to catch a bit of the show, taking care to stand in the back and not draw attention to myself. I just wanted to see how she had progressed – with her music and …”

“And perhaps with her love life?” retorted Angélique. “You men are so predictable … and pitiful.”

“Well, so are women!” countered Todd. And then in a calmer, more restrained tone: “Did you save the cards that came with the flowers? I know what Lynda’s handwriting looks like … and Rachel knows what my handwriting looks like. That might help to clarify things – or at least to vindicate me. I have nothin’ to hide. I didn’t send any roses.”

“Nothing to hide? Well, you have certainly managed to hide the fact that you were secretly at the show at the club in Boston. And then you show up in Worcester shortly before the second bouquet of roses are delivered to us here. What is THAT all about Todd? Another coincidence?”

“Listen Bi…” Todd stopped himself cold in his tracks. He must be careful throwing around the “B”-word. “Sorry … bad habit. Listen Angélique … I know that this all sounds fishy, but I am innocent. I only send roses to my mother on her birthday and Mother’s Day. And I only give flowers to women in the early stages of dating. Ask Rachel. She didn’t get many roses from me while we were together. Why the hell would I send her roses long after we had broken off our engagement and split up? And twice even!”

It was quiet on the other end of the line. Angélique was thinking hard. Todd was a jerk and an asshole, but he had a point. Men are usually consistent in their behavior patterns. She replied: “We do not have the roses or the cards anymore, Todd. I wanted to save the cards both times but Rachel insisted on destroying everything. She was so angry and upset by it, and did not want any reminders.”

Todd answered quickly: “Did the receptionist at the hotel where you were staying in Boston give you a description of the delivery person, at least? Was it a male … or a female that delivered the flowers? Well, I guess that would not tell us much. But the name of the delivery service might help.”

“I agree Todd. But I got nothing – zilch,” replied Angélique, rather resigned.

“Look Angélique, if you come to Boston next Saturday then I can go with you to the hotel and we can try to trace the florist or get some information from the receptionist on duty that night. It will be a long shot since it was a while ago, but it is all we have to work with right now. Besides, it would be good for me to sort this out. I hate feeling paranoid about some stranger or an ex stalking me and my ex-girlfriends.”

Angélique could tell that Todd was sincere, and she was anxious to get to the bottom of this situation. It was affecting Rachel … and their relationship too. Several times when she had tried to get Rachel to think back to what had happened the days she received the roses, she had become almost belligerent and accused Angélique of not believing her. It seemed quite out of character for Rachel. Angélique replied: “You know what Todd? I think you are right. I will meet you at the Waterfront Hotel and Spa, on Summer Street, next Saturday at 10 a.m. And Todd: please do not tell Rachel about our meeting. She would just get upset and paranoid. We should keep this to ourselves until we have found the stalker.”

“No problem,” said Todd. “See you in one week Angélique.”

They were both full of thoughts after they hung up the phones … and also full of anticipation. “She is like no other woman I have met,” said Todd to himself. That Saturday – for the first time in years – Todd felt alone … and even a bit lonely. There were no more telephone calls, no visitors at his door, no threats or drama, and no interesting ball games on the television. Todd cleaned the apartment and ordered in a seafood and vegetable pizza, which he washed down with iced green tea. He felt as if he was changing … almost as if he were embarking upon a fateful journey that would radically alter his perception of himself and the world. He looked forward to it – whatever it was.

PART FIVE
– Michel-Ange / Angélique -

CHAPTER TEN

Michel-Ange was the love-child of a U.S. Air Force pilot Lieutenant (Mike Thompson) and Josiane Péraud (a vivacious young landscape painter from Marseille). They had met while Mike was on special assignment at Istres Air Force Base – Le Tubé. It was a short-lived, whirlwind romance that was never meant to be more than just that. However, Josiane’s unplanned pregnancy came as a surprise – first to Josiane, and then two years later to Mike, who was informed in a letter sent to him on Michel-Ange’s second birthday:

Cher Mike,

I hope that you are well. Please do not be angry at me for writing this letter to you. It has been a long time in the process, and I have started it and crumpled up the pages many, many times already. I do not really know how to put this to you, so I will just use my simple English in a direct fashion. After we had said goodbye and you returned to Westport, I realized that I was pregnant with your child. (Yes, it is definitely your child as I had not been with anyone else for several months before I met you. I believe that I told you this at the time.) Knowing that you had returned to your life in Connecticut and that we had both agreed that a deeper relationship would be impossible for various reasons, I determined that I would raise the child by myself and not burden you. I could not have an abortion because I am Catholic, and I do not believe in abortions. My parents wanted (and still want) me to marry a Frenchman so that my child would have a father and a father’s family name, but I have resisted. I could not marry under the plan of such deception. (Please pardon my English. I know that that last sentence does not sound quite “right”, but it is the best I can do.)

Well, to make a long story short, I now realize that it is wrong and unjust to keep this information (and perhaps even your son) away from you. At the same time I do not wish to pressure you to take responsibility for our love-child. To me he is never a burden … he is my little angel, and his name is – in fact – Michel-Ange, in honor of you. I have included a photo that I have just taken of Michel-Ange and myself. He was two years old yesterday.

Anyway, you can contact me if you wish. If not, then I understand and I promise never to bother you again.

Bises,
Josiane

The letter from Josiane went unanswered, and a year and-a-half later she married a 45-year old suitor – Yves Bertrand – a shoemaker that had been interested in her for almost a year. Yves was kind to Josiane but he came from a rather different background than was her own upbringing … he was hardworking, conservative right-wing and a firm believer in discipline. Josiane enjoyed the comfort and security of a stable family income and a large modern apartment centrally located in Marseille, but she was expected to have meals on the table when her man came home for lunch and dinner, to keep the house tidy and to fulfill all the normal duties of a laborer’s wife. Her painting soon became more a hobby than a vocation, and her artistic friends were replaced by the wives of her husband’s fellow businessmen: Pierre the butcher, Bruno the plumber and Denis the carpenter – the latter whom she did not care for because of his crude demeanor. However, the important thing was that her beloved Michel-Ange had a good home and a male figure in his life.

Michel-Ange had a rather ambivalent attitude towards this burly “cretin” that her mother had taken on as a husband … a man that constantly complained about the closeness between mother and son.

“Enfant de pute !” snarled Angélique, remembering how the accusations from his step-father escalated until his early teens, finally resulting in Yves insinuating that his mother had made him a “queer”. Michel-Ange’s interest in the cross-dressing fashion of alternative designers such as Jean-Paul Gaultier and in American rock stars put conservative Yves over the top. Michel-Ange blasted his rock music louder and louder to drown out the arguments between the two:

“Your son is a fucking queer – and you are responsible!”

“He is not a queer. He is young and artistic, but you would not know about either – would you?!!”

“Have you seen the way he dresses, woman? I am certain that he secretly loans your clothes … clothing that I pay for with my “conservative francs”!

“And so what if he were queer! At least he will not vote for Le Pen when he is of voting age.”

“Ha! If he ever reaches voting age. He will probably end up a homosexual whore statistic on the streets of Marseille … My friends’ sons beat them up regularly. And I support them. You and your son are trying to ruin me!”

Michel-Ange was quite pleased when his mother kept him home from school that Friday morning and told him to pack his clothes. They were moving out and leaving for Paris in two hours. He never saw Yves again, and Michel-Ange was relieved.

“Good riddance!” muttered Angélique. “May he rot in his own personal hell.”

Michel-Ange had heard the same accusations before … from schoolmates and thugs in the neighborhood – especially from the second-generation immigrants from North Africa. They always taunted him about looking, acting and speaking “different”.

“Bastards!” thought Angélique. “And they were buggering the weaker ones in their own community … secretly, while accusing moi of being a homosexuel!”

Both Josiane and Michel-Ange eventually thrived in Paris. His mother enrolled in art classes and she soon combined a part-time sales job at a boutique with a professional painting career, with up to two group exhibitions per year. Michel-Ange did much better at school, being in a more liberal social and learning environment, and decided to study marketing as a vocation. He was seldom taunted in inner city Paris for being “different” but he was frequently mistaken for being gay. He had – actually – tried having sex with another boy at age 16 but he did not find it satisfying. He sort of liked getting fucked and loved fucking, but he was always inevitably reminded of the immigrant thugs in Marseille and of their homosexual sexual activity. There was something “vulgar” about it. Vulgar in the sense that it was dishonest and clandestine in a detached sense. “Much better to be openly homosexual,” he thought. “Or even to be a prostitute or a transvestite!”

When he was seventeen years old Michel-Ange did have sex with an African transvestite prostitute named Hélène … and he liked it. Actually, he thought that he might like to BE a transvestite, but the idea of sucking another man’s penis did not appeal to him. He wanted “pussy” … and he wanted to have it while being a female. It was then that he decided that he was a lesbian. “Is that possible … to be a lesbian in a man’s body?” Michel-Ange asked himself.

Hélène introduced Michel-Ange to a few prostitutes in “the community” and Michel-Ange soon learned that it was quite “possible”. He met transsexuals that were “in transition” and others that had gone the whole way and become females rather than just “shemales”. Michel-Ange was popular amongst these girls, and one in particular – Annette – guided him through his “education” – from shopping for clothing and applying make-up to learning how to properly conceal his “equipement” between his legs when in drag. She and her friends introduced him to the hottest underground clubs in Paris and even to a few famous designers, one of which wanted to use Michel-Ange in a show. Michel-Ange did do a couple of catwalks in cross-dresser designer clothing, but he always wore a mask. He wanted to break this to his mother properly. Besides, for him this business of cross-dressing and lesbianism was a lifestyle – not a fashion statement.

Three weeks after his nineteenth birthday Michel-Ange enrolled at Boston University College of Business. He did well at school and divvied up his “double life” between “shirt and tie” classroom attire and “cross-dressing couture” at clubs in Boston and New York City. His name was difficult for many to pronounce or remember, so he began calling himself “Michael” at school and “Angélique” out on the town. It worked! Angélique never waited in queues outside of clubs. Just like in Paris, she always showed up in a taxicab and raised her right arm high up in the air so that the men at the door could see her clearly. She was always waved in, and stomped past the admiring and the irritable and ignored would-be patrons lined up outside the most popular clubs with a air of “but of course … I am Angélique!”

However, life as a transsexual lesbian was not just “la vie en rose” for Angélique. Her major problem was … men. She was both taunted as a freak and a whore, and pursued as a kinky lay by heterosexual and metrosexual men. Angélique learned to deal with the latter, but the former proved to be a real problem. The persistence of some – and the violent behavior of a few drunken, “high” or sexually-addicted men – caused her to begin to carry mace in her over-the-shoulder purse. She actually gave one idiot a black eye once. Angélique liked the attention at first but quickly admitted to herself that she was wasting her time impressing men. She wanted to be with women sexually, and after having been on HRT (hormone replace therapy) for a little over a six months she sought out ways to enter the lesbian community in Boston. She found a rich lesbian club milieu: in Boston, Lynn, Provincetown, Malden, Jamaica Plain, and Somerville to name a few places. Getting accepted was not immediate or easy. Therefore she assumed a reserved “Hallo. I am French and new at this …” role. It occasionally worked, and eventually Angélique met a few women that were open to what she had to offer.

Angélique’s first lesbian lover was Carole. Carole was – herself – a “shemale”.

Angélique began nodding her head and dancing with her shoulders at the thought of Carole. Carole was Puerto Rican, with gorgeous dark hair long past her shoulders, beautiful mocha-colored skin, bright eyes and a great body. They met on the dance floor – to hot salsa music – at a club in Boston. A better “teacher” could Angélique not have imagined … or asked for. Angélique and Carole were hot and heavy for five months before Carole sent her further “down the line”. After several affairs Angélique eventually was set up on a date with Tina in Worcester. Tina and Angélique became quite the “item” and Angélique moved to Worcester after only dating Tina for three months. Tina was born female … and born lesbian. It was Tina that introduced Angélique to Wendy, who owned the club in Worcester where Rachel worked. “Quite a progression,” thought Angélique, thinking over her personal life history. “But such a snarled and winding way to deliver it.”

————————-

It had always been her plan to have the “ultimate surgery”, but now Angélique was having second thoughts. Being “shemale” suited her right now. Rachel was finally digging on it, and it added an exciting dimension to their sex life and relationship. It was not nearly as popular with lesbians as it was with metrosexuals and horny men (both homosexual and heterosexual). They (the latter) were often obsessed with shemales. Being shemale was no longer equated with being a prostitute or a slut. It had become respectable in certain circles – albeit it, mind you, not amongst the conservatives like her step-father but … Anyway, Angélique was just determined to find her deserved emotional and sexual fulfillment, and thought that she had as much right to that as any metrosexual, heterosexual, homosexual or lesbian. Or transvestite, for that matter! Angélique chuckled, remembering the t-shirt she had had made up a year ago. It read: “I AM NOT A TRANSVESTITE!” That one made many gals and guys at the Pride Parade stop up and scratch their heads.

Angélique had a “love-hate relationship” with her penis … okay, with her dick – her prick – her … anyway… She was afraid of it losing functionality because of the hormone treatments, and yet she sometimes wished it would just shrivel up. It depended upon her partner, and the dynamics of the sexual relationship. She could not imagine having sex with Rachel without the option of fucking her with her penis. But then again, she could also not imagine not being able to be softer “lesbian intimate” with Rachel. She wondered if she would have the same sexual dynamics with her if she no longer had a penis. Perhaps … but Angélique was not willing to take that chance. Not yet, anyway … Rachel was her “dreamgirl”. If Angélique was Rachel’s “shemale” then Rachel was Angélique’s “she-girl”. When Angélique had asked Rachel why she found her so attractive, Rachel had come with the usual crap about physical attraction, emotional understanding, sisterhood etc. And then finally with the core of the matter: spontaneity and versatility that set her “free”. Angélique felt exactly the same way about Rachel. “SHE SETS ME FREE!” exclaimed Angélique to herself, silently beaming with joy.

Angélique’s mamán had often said that the best compliments she ever had received about her art were that: “Seeing your art has inspired me to begin painting myself!” She always felt that art is an active and ongoing communication between artist and audience … each carrying the baton of creation further. This was how Angélique felt about her relationship with Rachel: their love enabled Angélique better to love herself and the world around her.

—————–

Angélique was so nervous that first night together with Rachel. It was always nerve-wracking to have sex with a woman that did not know … sort of like it must be for persons with the so-called hiv/aids virus that wonder how early in the flirting process they should disclose their status. Making a big deal out of being a shemale kind of ruins the “moment”. Angélique knew that she was clumsy those first times together with Rachel, but it worked out. “Mon Dieu, I was drunk!” exclaimed Angélique to herself. “I was surprised I could get it up … and I was probably more “male” than “shemale”, but being with Rachel was … simply magnifique ! And it still is.”

Angélique’s smile quickly dissolved into tense lips surrounded by small worry wrinkles. Rachel was feeling challenged lately. It was because of the roses … and Todd. Well, at least Rachel’s experiences with Todd. Angélique could see the conservative creep qualities in Todd which Rachel had described to her, but she also sensed a sense of seeking in the man … a desire to crawl out of his negative existentialism. Maybe she was mistaken, but she would have a chance to find out next weekend. There was something about Todd …

————————-

Rachel was busy rehearsing for both tonight’s show at the club and the concert next Tuesday at the Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts, and Angélique had a brunch date with Sébastien and their three other French friends in Worcester – Albertine and Laurent, and Marine. The five of them met once-a-month to eat, to chat and to be “just French” together. Angélique had just called and asked Sébastien to meet her at the restaurant a half and hour before the others arrived. She wanted to talk to him about something personal. He was already there when she arrived at two minutes to noon.

“Bonjour chérie !”

“Bonjour Sébastien !

“Comment vas-tu aujourd’hui ?”

“Pas mal … et toi? De quoi voulais-tu me parler en privé ?”

“I wanted to ask you a favor.”

“Try me,” replied Sébastien, smiling. He had grown very fond of Angélique, and he knew that she never asked for anything unless it was important to her.

“Well, I want to buy Rachel something special for her birthday, and I want to surprise her. She is very nosey, as you know. So I was wondering if I could ask you to keep her occupied while I go shopping next Saturday, and also to keep her little ‘cadeau’ at your place until the party. Are you free during the day next Saturday?”

“Actually, I am,” replied Sébastien. “But what about Rachel? Does she have plans on Saturday?”

“No. She told me that she is really looking forward to having the day free of obligations. Once the concert is over on Tuesday she will be needing some rest and relaxation. She has been working very hard with rehearsals.”

Sébastien nodded and said: “Yes, she has. Why don’t I send her a text message now and invite her out for the day?”

Angélique smiled and replied: “That sounds like a plan!”

Sébastien sent Rachel a message on his iPhone: “Bonjour Rachel ! I see Angélique all the time at work but I miss you my darling. I would love to take you out for the day next Saturday. Please say ‘yes’. I will pick you up at your apartment at one p.m. Just you and me. Okay? Bises, Sébastien.”

Angélique and Sébastien continued chatting and gossiping for a few more minutes when suddenly Angélique spied Albertine and Laurent walking into the restaurant. “There are Albertine and Laurent!” As they both waved to the approaching couple Sébastien’s phone plinged: it was a reply message from Rachel. She had enthusiastically agreed to his invitation. He whispered to Angélique: “All systems are go. I will pick her up at one o’clock on Saturday.”

Angélique leaned over the table and kissed Sébastien on the mouth just when Albertine and Laurent had reached the table. Angélique jumped to her feet and gave them both a kiss – first on each cheek and then on the mouth. Sébastien had risen and proceeded to welcome the two when he saw Marine rushing towards them. “Ahh … here is Marine!”

“Am I the last to arrive again?” she said, a bit out of breath. “I was late leaving the house and …”

“You are right on time, dear Marine,” replied Albertine, exchanging kisses with Marine. They all sat down and Sébastien motioned to the waitress to come to the table and suggested: “Let’s start with some bread and wine, and a demi-tasse … what do you all say to that?”

All responded affirmatively … and they sat and enjoyed themselves for two hours – just as they would have had they been in Paris.

————————-

Angélique told Rachel that she had planned to do some window-shopping next Saturday. She felt the need to buy herself something new … perhaps an outfit or a new pair of shoes. She knew that Rachel had little patience for following her around from store to store … and then – more often than not – again returning to the first one anyway. “Would you like to come with me, babe? We could grab some lunch at that Mexican place you like so much.”

Rachel quickly replied: “An afternoon of clothes shopping is not really my thing – you know that. Besides, Sébastien and I have a date on Saturday. He is picking me up at one o’clock. We will make a day of it. Is that okay?”

Angélique put on her pretend-pouting face and pecked Rachel on the cheek, while saying: “Of course it is okay. I find shopping relaxing, and you find it stressful. It must be a shemale vs. she-girl thing.”

Rachel stared at Angélique in confusion for a few seconds, until she saw Angélique’s poker face crack a smile. They then both laughed, and Rachel added: ” Touché ! I know that I should love the sport of clothes shopping – like most women. I guess I am just not like most women …”

“No … and that is why I love you!” countered Angélique. “At least one of the many reasons, anyway …”

Angélique was in a good mood all week long, owing to her joy and excitement in soon procuring the birthday surprises for Rachel on Saturday. “It will be perfect!” she mumbled to herself. “Answers about the stalker … and an engagement ring.”

She had previously confided in Sébastien about her desire to propose to Rachel but she did not tell him that she would be buying a ring on Saturday, and Rachel had made her promise not to tell anyone about the roses. “This time I will surely surprise her!” thought Angélique, while humming to herself the refrain from “Chapel of Love”.

PART SIX

CHAPTER ELEVEN

Rachel was still asleep when Angélique left the apartment in Worcester. She had pre-ordered a taxicab which would drive her to the bus station in time for an early morning bus to Boston. She had already checked on the internet and found what looked to be a reputable jeweler just a block away from the Waterfront Hotel and Spa on Summer Street, where she would meet Todd at 10 a.m.

After looking at several rings presented to her, Angélique chose a simple silver ring with a nice setting. It featured a good-sized quality aquamarine gem with a small diamond on each side. “This should do perfectly,” said Angélique to the jeweler. Rachel did not wear gold jewelry, and she did not like ostentatious baubles. “Funny,” thought Angélique. “Rachel dressed well but she only wore expensive costumes and jewelry for performing, or occasionally to get dressed up for very special social events – never as everyday wear. She seems to have an aversion to that. It is so unlike most women that I have known … and most shemales as well.”

On the way, two doors before the hotel, she saw a fabulous pair of brown suede boots in the display window of a women’s shoe store. They reached just shy of the knees and were quite tasteful – unlike many of the well-over-the knee black leather “fuck me boots” that were so popular amongst many women today. They would go quite nicely with her tweed suit, bringing out the beige and maroon fibers. She went inside and tried them on, and then asked about the price. They were expensive – $525! She did some quick calculations in her head, breathed out a sigh and said to the shopgirl: “I will take them. And I will pay with my American Express Card.” There was only the one – rather young – woman working the register … and she was slow.

“Would you like me to gift-wrap these for you?” the shopgirl asked, with a smile.

“No, honey,” replied Angélique – trying not to appear too stressed. “Just throw them into a bag, thank you.” As the shopgirl handed her the bag she noticed the clock on the wall behind the counter. It was 10:10 a.m.! “Merde ! I am late.”, exclaimed Angélique and she ran out of the shoe store, her large package flailing in her left hand and – lo and behold – she literally almost bumped into Todd. He was just arriving himself.

“Looks like we both timed that just right!” joked Todd. He looked at the large package Angélique was carrying, then glanced back at the shoe store she had just run out of, and quipped: “Did you just hurriedly rob that shoe store, or did you lose track of time as well?”

Angélique was caught off guard by his humor, and before she could speak Todd added: “Sorry I am late. But at least you got to do some impulse shopping while waiting for me.”

“Actually, I did lose track of the time … and where women are concerned, what looks like impulse shopping rarely is. We are always on the lookout for things we need, and suddenly – voilà ! – there they are,” answered Angélique in a more relaxed tone and with a slight smile.

“Et voilà !” teased Todd, admiring Angélique’s personal presentation. She looked great in her tasteful Ann Taylor mid-knee-length grey-and white print skirt and Ralph Lauren white silk jersey blouse. “You look stunning … as you did the first time I met you.”

Angélique replied, with a hint of playfulness: “Why Todd! So sweet of you to notice. I just grabbed something out of the garderobe.”

Todd felt as if he was getting on well with Angélique now, and decided to play his French language card again (hoping to make up for his “misunderstanding” the last time they had met): “Et quelle garderobe !”

Angélique blushed and retorted with a twinkle in her eyes: “Flattery will not get you anywhere, Mister Todd. But even so, I do appreciate your compliments.” Looking up at the building on their right, she exclaimed: “Here is the hotel. This is where Rachel and I stayed during our last trip to Boston.”

The hotel was busy, with several persons checking out and a few waiting to check in. They stood in queue until it was their turn to be expedited. The middle-aged, dark-haired man with a moustache greeted them courteously and asked how he might help them. They had no bags so he assumed that they did not want a room. This was not the kind of hotel for couples that wanted to check in for just a couple of hours, and Angélique did not look like the type to do so either.

Angélique explained that she had stayed at the hotel recently, and that she and her partner had been left a bouquet of roses with a rather ominous card. The card was unsigned and she wanted to try to track down the sender so that she could thank him. The hotel clerk did not seem surprised. There were always many requests at the hotel and this one did not seem any more unusual than others. He asked her when she had stayed at the hotel, what her last name was and what her partner’s last name was. He would consult the booking system and message log. After receiving the information he needed he excused himself for a few minutes, saying that he would check the “system” from the back office – as there was a queue behind Angélique and her friend. When he returned, the clerk told Angélique that he did see that a delivery had been made but that it had not come directly from any florist. The name of the sender on the delivery receipt was simply listed as “Emily”. He had no other information. He was sorry. “Perhaps that will help you,” he said. “We usually ask for a last name but this came during our busy time during the late afternoon, and if the person seems to be known to the person that the delivery is meant for then sometimes …”

“… then sometimes you just take the delivery and move on to the next customer,” said Angélique, completing his sentence for him (a habit she had picked up from Wendy).

“Yes,” affirmed the clerk. “I am sorry, but I must help my colleague with the other customers. I hope you and your friend use our hotel again soon!”

Angélique thanked the clerk and turned to Todd saying: “Let’s go. Nothing more to do here, I guess.”

She looked very thoughtful, and Todd opened his mouth for the first time since they had entered the hotel: “Emily! Well, it looks like you may have a lead … and -“

Angélique replied, a bit frustrated: “Yes, Todd. It looks like both you AND your ex-girlfriend are vindicated … at least of this. But who the hell is this ‘Emily’? Could she be a fan … a competitor … an unknown wacko … or -“

“Or someone Rachel is …”

“Don’t even go there, Todd!” snapped Angélique as they walked out onto the pavement again. “Rachel is not like that … hell, you should know that – you were engaged to her.”

Todd looked sheepish, and he did not want to upset Angélique. They had been getting on quite well so far. “I know … and you are right. There must be an explanation. Perhaps you could ask Rachel who this ‘Emily’ is …”

Angélique seemed distracted by her thoughts, but replied: “I will have to try to work that out in a careful way. She has been jumpy lately, and reacts negatively to being doubted … or if she thinks she is not believed.”

Todd nodded, saying: “Yeah … sounds like me. It must be a ‘human thing'”.

Angélique looked at him, and then broke out in laughter: “Yeah … it must be. Listen, I am starved now. I left the apartment without having had breakfast. What do you say to lunch – my treat? I fancy Italian food today. Do you know of any cozy Italian restaurants in this area?”

Todd smiled and said: “I would love to … and yes, there is a nice family-owned place just a couple of blocks from here. It is called La Trattoria di San Michele”. I have eaten there several times with Lynda …”

Todd stopped short as soon as he had uttered Lynda’s name. “Shit!” he thought. “I have put my fucking foot in my mouth again.”

Angélique pretended not to remember who Lynda was, and smiled while nodding and said: “Sounds wonderful, Todd. Lead the way.” She was starting to like this clumsy “asshole of a man” – especially since he had been absolved of being suspected as the stalker.

Todd and Angélique were seated in a window seat with a view of pedestrian traffic on the somewhat busy street. They ordered a bottle of red wine and a nice antipasto for two, followed by linguini in clam sauce for Todd, and an eggplant dish for Angélique. Angélique excused herself to go to the ladies’ room immediately after the waiter had taken their order, and Todd used the opportunity to approach the owner and tell him that he wished to pay the bill right away. He paid for the meal, two bottles of red wine plus coffee, and left a good margin for dessert and a handsome tip. He was impressed that a classy woman like Angélique was willing to pay for his lunch, but that would tip the scale of balance too much in her favor. Todd had never allowed a woman to pay for a meal – or anything else actually. Even though he knew that Anglique was a lesbian and happily involved with his ex-fiancée, a guy never knows when he might have “a shot”. Grinning, he muttered to himself: “Besides, I have an ‘m.o.’ to uphold.”

When Angélique returned to the table Todd was still grinning, delighting in his little “secret”.

“What are you grinning about?” Angélique asked, reaching for her glass of wine.

“Nothing. Just feeling good. It has been a good morning for me.”

“Good because I no longer suspect you? HA! Rachel still has to be convinced of your innocence … as well as that of your ex-girlfriend. What was her name? Oh yes, Lynnette!” She then burst into laughter. “Hilarious that I should be eating here together with you at your and Lynnette’s ‘place’.”

Todd grinned, seeing both the irony and the humor in her observation as well as appreciating her “classy” refusal to acknowledge Lynda’s proper name. It put it all at a safe distance. “That is like something I might do in such a situation,” thought Todd.

And then Angélique surprised him, by adding: “Well, guilty as suspected – or not. It still sounds as if ‘Lynnette’ is a cunt.”

Todd almost gagged on the wine he was now almost gulping down. Angélique caught his reaction and asked: “Have I offended you Todd? I am sorry. I thought that it was also your experience that she had behaved …”

Todd was staring at Angélique. He could not believe his ears. Here was a woman that dared to call another skirt a ‘cunt’! “No, I am not offended – not at all. And you are right. It is just that I have been struggling with my sometimes offensive language when I refer to difficult women. I have gotten a lot of flack about it. To hear you use the c-word warms my cockles.”

“Warms your cockles, Todd?!! What century are we in?”

Todd blushed slightly, and remained transfixed by Angélique who continued: “Todd, I was born French. I am a real French Bitch – not a cheap copy. There is little that shocks us about language or sexuality. Now, bad food, bad wine and bad French – that is shocking. But not using the ‘c-word’, as you call it. When I went to Boston University …”

“You went to Boston University? So did I! What did you study?”

Angélique explained that she had studied marketing, and they quickly found out that they had overlapped one another by a couple of years, and were also not likely to have met as she had been an undergrad and he a grad student in a totally different field of study. However, they now had something more in common than merely both having known Rachel intimately.

Todd said: “Sorry for the digression. You were saying …”

Angélique continued: “When I went to Boston University, I taught a couple of my classmates some naughty French phrases. It seemed to loosen them up so that their attitude about learning French at school became more fun, and less stifled. Would you like to learn a few phrases and words, Todd?”

Todd was mesmerized by this extraordinary woman. She was élégante and yet she could think – and occasionally even talk – like a man. He grinned from ear to ear and was almost panting like a dog as he replied: “Mais oui, mademoiselle !”

Angélique put on a half-serious attitude and whispered: “Now I want you to repeat after me, Todd. Be careful to watch my lips so that you can mimic the pronunciation properly. I will exaggerate a bit so that you will more easily grasp it.”

“We will begin with something simple, and dear to your heart,” she said. “Now listen, watch my mouth and then repeat after me: le con, la conasse, la chatte … salaud”

Todd repeated each word after Angélique, careful to mimic the contortions of her lips and mouth.

“Very good, Todd! Those words all mean ‘a cunt’, and the last one is the derogatory name-calling form. Now we will get a little more advanced. Repeat after me: Vous sentez comme le boeuf et le fromage.”

Todd carefully and slowly repeated the phrase, and Angélique made him repeat it once again – this time accentuating the proper pronunciation of “le”, “boeuf” and “fromage”.

“Good, Todd! Bien ! You have just said: You smell like beef and cheese.”

Todd looked at Angélique with a worried look on his face, thinking that he had really bad breath. Angélique then laughed and said: “I am certain that you have wanted to say that on a few occasions Todd. We all have.”

Now that things were well-loosened up, Todd signalled the waiter to bring the second pre-paid bottle of wine. The French lesson continued.

“Okay Todd. Let us ‘get down’ now. Do you know what to say when you have had enough of a woman like Lynnette?”

“Yeah … but not in French, Professor. Lay it on me!” said Todd eager to learn.

“Meurs, pute !” said Angélique, repeating it so that Todd could grasp the proper pronunciation.

“Meurs, pute !” repeated Todd.

“Yes, Todd. That should be quite understandable – even to the most stuck-up French Bitch.”

“But what does it mean?” pleaded Todd.

“It means: ‘Die, whore!” replied Angélique, with a straight face.

Todd beamed with joy. He had never actually dared to say that directly to a woman in English, let alone in French – but he had said it under his breath or to himself many, many times. “More … more …”

“Just one more, my naughty-mouthed friend,” said Angélique. “This one is a favorite of mine.”

“Great!” exclaimed Todd eagerly. “Let’s hear it!”

“Va te faire foutre, trouduc ! Or you can also say: Casse toi !” said Angélique in an understated melodramatic way.

The puzzled expression on Todd’s face conveyed that most of the words had gotten “lost in translation”. Angélique promptly explained: “The first phrase means: ‘Fuck off, asshole!’ and the second one simply means: ‘Piss off!’ I find that often the simplest words and phrases are the most effective – especially when telling someone off. It is an art form really – to tell someone off in three words or less.”

They both cracked up laughing. This was the best “therapy” Todd could have hoped for: finally, a woman that understood him!

Suddenly Todd became serious: “Angélique,” he inquired. “Can I ask you something personal?”

Angélique looked a bit apprehensive, then smiled slightly and replied: “Oh, why the hell not! If I do not like the question then I will either not answer it, or I will say: ‘Enculer une mouche'”

Todd looked at her, again with a puzzled look on his face: “Enculer …?”

“Enculer une mouche” repeated Angélique. “It means: ‘Go fuck a fly!'”

Both chuckled, and Todd asked his question: “Angélique …. Why are you gay? Did I make Rachel turn gay, or was she born that way?”

Angélique looked pensive for a half-minute and then replied, choosing her words carefully: “Todd, there is no definitive answer to the question of what makes people gay. I could just as easily ask you what has made you heterosexual … and even why you remain heterosexual. There are many reasons behind a person’s sexual orientation. The reasons are often different for different people. Some may be born that way, and some of us learn sexual behavior patterns that we adjust to better than others. I personally look at sexual orientation as just another personality expression. The relevant issue is rather learning to cope with the idea that there is no one “personality”. We all have multiple identities that we pull out and wear in different situations, and at different times in our lives. I certainly have my garderobe full of identities and behavior patterns.” In her mind, Angélique quickly flashed back to her different periods: in Paris, at the university, to when she first met Rachel at the club (boy was she in a bad way then!) … and now as a respectable working woman and lesbian partner – and soon-to-be wife.

“But you do not seem to hate men,” Todd replied. “You would seem to be the perfect girlfriend for a guy …”

“Not all lesbians hate men,” Angélique assured him. “… and – besides – you know nothing about who I am underneath these trappings.”

“True,” said Todd. “Although I might be curious to find out.”

“Ha! curiosity can be a dangerous thing!” retorted Angélique, dismissing his flirting.

At that moment Angélique felt a shiver come over her. Out of the corner of her eye she saw a blurred figure on the other side of the glass window, an image that seemed to be staring in for a second, and then quickly disappearing.

“You okay?” asked Todd, noticing that Angélique was suddenly ill at ease.

“Yes,” she replied. “I guess the wine must be going to my head. I felt just a bit disoriented for a second or two. I really should be getting back to Worcester. There is a bus leaving in about forty minutes. I should just make it to the bus station in a taxicab. Let me get the check.”

“Already taken care of!” beamed Todd. “It has been all my pleasure! I will accompany you to the bus station.”

When Angélique’s bus pulled away from the station, Todd just stood there for a moment or two – watching it slowly disappear – until it was completely out of sight. “What a woman!” he exclaimed to himself, and flagged down a taxicab that could get him to his apartment quickly. He too was feeling a bit light-headed.

PART SEVEN
– Veronica -

CHAPTER TWELVE

Together with Angélique and Sébastien, Veronica was Rachel’s biggest supporter … and oldest friend – having known each other since Rachel was a little girl. For a long time Rachel had tried to convince herself that the voice of Veronica was merely her intuition or conscience speaking to her, but more and more she was accepting the reality that Veronica was a personality that was actually living inside her … and so was Emily too. Veronica was very different from the sullen, moody, depressed, and often negative Emily. In fact, Rachel often considered them both to be like the alter egos of the cartoon characters from the previous century … the cartoons that Todd always got a kick out of – with the one being the “angel” with good and kind thoughts that appeared in a cloud bubble on the one side of her head, and the other the “devil” with mischievous and not-so-nice thoughts that appeared in another cloud bubble on the other side of her head … both battling for the rights to her thoughts, words and actions. However, figuring out who was “good” and who was “bad” was not so simple for Rachel. They both were naughty in their own ways … and they both loved and looked out for Rachel according to their own discretion. When they did not get their way they would become insistent and pull pranks. Rachel sometimes thought that quiet, reserved Emily was the weaker of the two but time and time again she experienced that the severity of Emily’s controlling behavior went far beyond that of Veronica’s antics. “No,” she thought. “Emily is the stronger of the two. She does not only get inside my head – she takes over in a decisive way.”

Veronica was boisterous, outgoing and adventurous. She had always encouraged Rachel to “dress up” and perform – even at an early age. If Veronica had her way then Rachel would be dressing up in expensive clothes every day of the week. It was also Veronica that had encouraged Rachel to become a performer. Veronica loved music – and she loved having an audience. But Veronica had a tendency to get Rachel into trouble – always egging Rachel on, to do things that she knew she shouldn’t, or to otherwise rebel against the expectations of others.

Rachel remembered very well the trouble Veronica had gotten her into as a child. She could still hear her mother ranting and yelling at her: “What are you wearing, you little slut? How many times have I told you NOT to wear your best Sunday dresses to play in? You are the reason your father and I fight all the time …” After causing trouble Veronica always disappeared, leaving Rachel or Emily to make amends, and to survive the consequences as best as possible.

The same thing happened when Todd left Rachel. It was Veronica that wrote “French Bitch!” with lipstick on Todd’s apartment wall, and yet it was also Veronica that encouraged Rachel to become a French Bitch herself, and later – when she saw how hopeless Rachel’s male-female relationships had been – to become a practicing lesbian. From Veronica’s perspective it was both an expression of revolt and a reminder to Rachel that the best relationships were amongst “sisters” – like Veronica and Rachel.

“Yes,” thought Rachel. “Veronica’s dramatic streak came with a price tag, and was potentially dangerous. Emily was right about that.” Veronica liked to drink, to smoke, to dance, to sometimes drive recklessly, and to flirt. She had acquired a taste for whiskey – just like Rachel’s mother, and a few times she had driven the car while under the influence of alcohol. Luckily there had been no accidents, but once Emily took over and sobered Rachel up instantly when she began to nod off behind the wheel. That freaked Rachel out, and she had not driven while intoxicated since then. Veronica thought that Rachel’s careful and responsible “side” was more a learned response to the treachery of her fun-spoiling mother than anything else. Veronica had always resented Rachel’s mother, but had also admired her strength. Veronica often thought: “If only Rachel could be a sultry, bitchy, strong woman that was ‘fun’ instead of the studious, mousey, obedient and disciplined ‘sheep’ that she usually was.”

Veronica could be quite bitchy when she felt for it, snarling, lashing out and stomping around. And other times she was absolutely charming and flirtatious – attracting men, and later women, like flies to fresh, succulent fruit. However, Veronica did not always have good taste in men. The priest was not a “good apple” (“Veronica must have known that. She should have told me,” thought Rachel) … and Todd turned out to be a real asshole as well. But Rachel was grateful to Veronica for encouraging and supporting her musical career, and for encouraging her to become a lesbian. Her music and her relationship with Angélique were the two most important things in her life.

——————

Rachel knew that Angélique was worried about her. Rachel had been rather erratic lately … both moody and drinking more than usual. Fortunately, the concert at the theatre had gone very well and with no “rose-thorny” consequences. Angélique had convinced Rachel to talk to the management of the theatre and advise them that she would not be accepting any visitors backstage, and no messages and no flowers. It seemed to work. Angélique was very smart indeed.

Looking over at the clock Rachel muttered to herself: “It is 10:17 a.m. Sébastien will be here at one o’clock. I had better start pulling myself together. What will I wear?” Rachel suddenly thought of a lovely yellow, orange and white print dress that she had not worn for a couple of years. It suited her mood today perfectly. She looked through her closet without finding it, and then sat down on the bed. “Where is that dress? I know that I have not thrown it out … Oh yeah, I bet it is down in my storage unit in the basement. Heavens! I have not been down there for – well, for about two years actually.” She put on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt and walked down to the basement. Her storage unit was crowded with old furniture, lamps, boxes of old paid bills and tax records, and other junk that Rachel had forgotten that she still had. “I have to clean this place up one day,” she said to herself while rummaging through the clutter. There – on top of an old bookcase – were two boxes marked “clothing”. At least she had some “order” in her chaos.

Opening the first box Rachel was surprised to find it was full of pretty dresses, shoes, sexy lingerie and a couple of pieces of gold jewelry – which Rachel never wore. None of it was really Rachel’s “style” and she could neither remember purchasing or wearing any of it. “Where did this come from?” she asked herself. One pair of white pumps were obviously completely new. Rachel could tell from the soles that they had never been worn. She took the shoes out of the box and put them to the side while she opened the second box of clothing. There she found familiar items, including the print dress she had gone down to the basement to look for. “Well,” she said with an accompanying small-nervous laugh, “at least I have a pair of new pumps to wear with the dress. Angélique has never seen either, and will be impressed that I actually got dressed up just for an afternoon with Sébastien.”

She returned upstairs, laid out the dress, her shoes and a pair of stockings and stepped into the shower – singing one show tune after another. By the time she had fixed her hair, put on a touch of make-up and gotten dressed it was 11:45 a.m. It was much too late to eat breakfast since Sébastien would be taking her to lunch at 1:00 p.m. She made herself a small glass of grapefruit juice and a demi-tasse. It looked like it would be a perfect Saturday – feeling good, looking great and hours of fun together with her best male friend, Sébastien.

PART EIGHT
– Emily -

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

Emily was sulking. The quiet rage within her was again building up to a climax, and she knew that an outburst was imminent. “Why can’t Rachel understand that her obsession with love relationships only results in more pain?” Sooner or later, all her lovers would hurt her – and thus hurt Emily. When Emily felt depressed it was always because of Rachel and her flights of fancy. She had repeatedly tried to warn Rachel, but Rachel was stubborn and sometimes even “anal retentive”. If she only finally let go of her need to have a lover that took care of her. If she could only see that all the attempts to please the world with her romantic ballads and songs about love gone wrong further increased her own victimization. Why was it so difficult for her to stop all the irresponsible behavior that seemed “fun” at the moment but which quickly bore negative consequences? Rachel’s preoccupation with standing out was a threat. Her mother had at least been right about that. But she was not a threat to anyone but herself. “And to me, too,” added Emily. “I will not stand for it. I will hurt us before I let anyone else do so ever again. No one – not her mother, not a man – and not even another woman-friend – will ever again have control over us.”

Emily had intervened several times, but Rachel never learned. It was Emily who tore the heads off the dolls at the tea party when Emily was but a child. All the frivolity with the dressing up of herself and the dolls would only lead to her mother losing control. Emily had tried to break up the tea party but Rachel was lost in her own fantasy world – she seemed desperate to remain oblivious to the reality just outside her bedroom door. It was also Emily that hid in the closet when the shit hit the fan, and Emily that shut out the pain and held back the tears. “One must never show weakness in the face of tyranny,” commented Emily. “It only further encourages the oppressor.”

Yes, time and time again Emily had come to the rescue – removing her from the one love relationship after the next: Karsten, Mark, Todd … and even that awful priest, Father Samuel. Boy, was he a piece of work – raping young women in the name of God! Emily had gotten them out of that situation just in the nick of time. And what was Rachel’s reaction? She then insisted upon losing her virginity to a man – thinking that it would give her a sense of personal power to learn to be the one who is in control in love relationships. How could she delude herself in this way? Did she love any of these men, really? Did they love her? Could she ever have power over a man? She got engaged to Todd, and as soon as he felt that she no longer was the same ever-doting submissive fiancée he was used to, he dumped her for another woman. And what does Rachel then do? She decides to become that other woman – a French bitch! Todd actually did Rachel a big favor by ending the relationship. It should have been Rachel herself that ended it, but she was too weak to do so. Emily took a deep breath. She was riled up.

Emily saw the parallels between Rachel’s misguided adventures with these men, and her parents’ unfulfilling relationship. Her father had been wise to remove his feelings, and to finally leave the marriage. But his continuous refusal to confront Rachel’s mother only antagonized her more and more, leaving Rachel to bear the brunt of her anger and frustration. “No,” concluded Emily. “Love relationships lead only to pain, and should be avoided at all costs.”

Emily had – so far – not made much of a stink about Rachel’s lesbianism. She did not believe in any love relationships – gay or straight, but she saw that Rachel had more self-confidence and self-assertion since living a lesbian lifestyle … and that was positive. But would it be any different in the end? And especially with a lover that is part man and part female – a “shemale”? Emily was skeptical, and she was trying to hold the reigns tightly. “Just one slip up,” she muttered. “And I swear that I will end it all.”

Emily did not bluff. She was slow to anger, compared to Veronica – who went off like a firecracker, but Emily was much more severe in her responses. Her job was to protect them – at any cost. So many times she had thought to go down into the basement with a pair of scissors and cut to shreds all the fancy new clothes that Rachel had bought and hidden down there. She probably thought that Emily did not know about her stash, but Emily knew all of Rachel’s secrets and weaknesses. Emily had several times tried to warn Rachel away from becoming a big singing idol, more recently by sending her flowerless-roses with messages that she hoped would get her point across. By becoming too successful, Rachel would only attract more people that thought they were in love with her, and whom would inflict pain through hurt and deceit.

Rachel was sabotaging all the security Emily was trying to put into place. And Emily was running out of patience.

PART NINE
– Sébastien -

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

Sébastien had come to the USA from Paris, where he lived until he was twenty years old. He had met and fallen in “summertime lust” with an American tourist named Robert, who was almost six years his senior. Robert was a waiter cum artist, and lived in Brooklyn. He encouraged Sébastien to accompany him on his return flight to New York, saying: “I will show you New York City, just as you have shown me Paris. If you want, you can stay awhile.”

The prospect of visiting New York was thrilling for Sébastien. It had always been one of his “dreams”. His parents agreed to help him with the airfare and spending money for a three-week vacation, but his father stressed that he must not forget his coming enrollment at the ESSEC Business School in Paris in the autumn. It was agreed that he would work towards a bachelor of business administration degree. Well, actually his father decided, and then expected Sébastien to agree with it. Not wanting to pass up the opportunity to experience New York City, Sébastien nodded and said: “Mais bien sûr, Papa !” But in his own head he was commenting to himself: “Well … perhaps I will go to school in America instead. We shall see. I will jump one hurdle at a time.”

The affair with Robert did not become much more than just that – a slighty-elongated summer affair. However, Sébastien did end up taking a couple of fall semester courses at Parsons The New School for Design. After threatening his father with not going to any university at all if he could not enroll full-time at Parsons the following semester, his father eventually consented. Sébastien graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in “Illustration”. After graduation, he then worked for a few Madison Avenue advertising firms as a graphic artist for the next couple of years, and eventually applied for a job with a new marketing company in Worcester, Massachusetts. He not only got the job, but within eight months he had advanced to a low-level managerial position. It was during that period of his life that he met Rachel.

Sébastien was at a club on a date with a cute but rather simple-minded young man named Jason when Wendy – the club owner – announced a new act: “Mademoiselle Rachel – Worcester’s own ‘French Bitch!'” Rachel came out on stage wearing a very sexy outfit and singing “And all that jazz”, which Sébastien had seen performed on film but never before live on stage. The rest of her performance was a mélange of French and American popular songs. Her French was good, but she was obviously – at least to him – not born French. He asked to meet her, and after a couple of whiskeys at the bar and forty minutes of conversation in French and in English, Rachel asked him: “But what has happened to your friend – your date? What was his name again?”

Sébastien looked over his left shoulder and then over his right shoulder, shrugged them and replied: “I don’t know … but I would much prefer to spend my time with an exciting ‘French Bitch’ who is neither French nor a bitch, than with a boring ‘twink’ that cannot hold a simple conversation!” They had been best friends ever since.

——————

Sébastien arrived at Rachel’s place at 1:10 p.m. “Bonjour !” he said, kissing Rachel on each cheek and then on the mouth. “Sorry I am late … I got a little behind this morning.” And then stepping back and looking her over from hair to shoes, he exclaimed: “Ouah ! Look at you! C’est génial ! Who is the lucky gal?”

Rachel laughed, and replied: “Why you, silly boy!”

They both giggled as Sébastien put his palms on each side of his face, opened his mouth wide to express extreme surprise at his good fortune, and then wiggled his ass while saying: “Moi ?!! Ouah ! Ouah ! Ouah !”

When they were in Sébastien’s electric blue Renault Clio, and had fastened their seat belts, Rachel asked: “So, were are we going?”

Sébastien looked at her and smiled, replying: “Well, my dear. When you are all dressed up like a million euros, then you need somewhere nice to go. N’est-ce pas ? I thought we would take a ride into Boston. I have been wanting to eat at a new French bistro that opened a couple of months ago. It has gotten very good reviews. It is called “Chez Anatole”. Are you up for a drive?”

“Sure!” exclaimed Rachel. “It would be wonderful to get out of town. I am on my own all day today. Angélique is shopping for clothes today – probably scouring the Greendale Mall at this very moment.”

“Worcester’s best shopping!” said Sébastien, with a nod. He must not let on that he knew that Angélique was out looking for a birthday present for Rachel. It was best to change the subject lest he foolishly let the cat out of the bag. “Hey,” he continued. “How are you feeling after your big concert at the theatre? Have you gotten the post-performance blues?”

“Ha!” replied Rachel. “Not so bad, actually. I was – of course – tired the next two days, but I feel pretty good today. I guess I am becoming a ‘mature and seasoned performer’.”

“Darling, you were always ‘mature’ – and, if not ‘seasoned’, then at least always ‘in season’. Your audiences, and especially your avid fans – myself included – have always loved you!”

Rachel leaned over and gave Sébastien a peck on his right cheek. “Mwahh! You are so sweet, and as cute as a button too! Somebody rich, handsome, intelligent and sexy needs to snap you up very soon.”

Sébastien smiled and replied: “You are right! I am soon too old to be a gigolo anymore.” They both giggled, and babbled on – all the way to Boston. Sébastien was thrilled to have his fun-loving, giggly Rachel back. She had been a bit moody lately … but “everyone has their ebbs and flows”, he thought to himself.

He parked the car and led Rachel to the busy street where the restaurant was. There were several restaurants on that particular street, including an Italian restaurant one block before Chez Anatole. As they were crossing the street Rachel pointed to the Italian restaurant, which was right in front of them on the other side of the street, and said: “Hey, I know that place. It is La Trattoria di San Michele”. I ate there a couple of times with … well, years ago – before I moved to Worcester. It is a nice place – but not French!”

Sébastien glanced at the facade of the Italian restaurant and replied: “Ohhh, how I love you so much chérie!”

As they were walking past the restaurant Rachel glanced through the window pane and recognized a familiar face: “Speak of the Devil!” she thought to herself. “It is Todd!” He was closely following a conversation with a person sitting right across from him – laughing, smiling and deeply-engrossed. Ahhh … Rachel remembered that look. At that instant Todd’s female friend leaned in closer to him, making contortions with her mouth and lips. Rachel felt a sharp pain in her breasts and suddenly stumbled a few feet past the restaurant, and steadied herself against the facade of a neighboring storefront. It was Angélique!

Everything went into a spin the moment she registered that she had just seen Angélique – her Angélique – together with Todd. And at a restaurant where Todd had taken her – Rachel – for romantic dates. Rachel collapsed to the pavement.

PART TEN
– Dreams -

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

Angélique was exhausted and tipsy when she arrived home. She was also horney. This was the first time in a long time that she was alone in the apartment on a weekend afternoon. Usually she and Rachel spent Saturday morning and afternoon, and all day Sunday together. And often Angélique hung out at the club on Saturday and Friday nights, when Rachel performed there. “I will be Michel-Ange for a half an hour,” she said while reaching into her panties and pulling on her cock. Angélique loved making love with Rachel, but she also needed “Mary five finger therapy” from time to time … “Every shemale does!” she said to the photo of Rachel on the night stand near her side of the bed. Angélique quickly undressed and threw her clothing in a pile on the floor – it was totally unlike her to disrespect her clothes in that way, but – hey … she was having a “moment”. She ran her fingers … sporting long, painted nail extensions … gently over her small breasts, and then pinched her nipples hard – first the right one, then the left one, and then both at once – before letting her left hand wander further down … down … down to her shaven balls, and then fingering the area between her testicles and anus before quickly jumping back up to a full-fisted self-massage of her now-stiff dick. Lots of images flashed through her mind … Rachel’s breasts, Rachel’s mouth, Rachel’s anus, Rachel’s cunt, Todd … “What!??” thought Angélique, abruptly letting go of her penis. Her thoughts of Rachel then resumed … and so did her frenzied masturbation.

As Angélique was about to climax, Todd was standing in the shower in his apartment – hoping to take the edge off his “too much red wine” high. He had soaped up his ass and anus and then began working on his phallic area when he unashamedly began to fantasize about Angélique, who was – at this particular moment – in his mind, perhaps “his perfect woman”. He pulled on his cock and dreamed of tonguing Angélique’s pussy – making the same mouth contortions that she had used when teaching him those dirty French phrases at the restaurant. “Shit!” he moaned. “Boy, do I love a French bitch. I want to fuck the …” Just as he was about to complete his sentence he exploded in orgasmic release, mixing cum and soap suds – which blended together as well as oil and water. It was first after he came that Todd felt a bit of remorse about wanting to fuck his ex-girlfriend’s lover. But – back in the bathroom – he soon shrugged his guilt off, saying: “Hey, man. All is fair in love and war. May the best cock win! Heh heh. If that is the criteria, then I guess I have that one all wrapped up.” He then chuckled heartily as he towel dried himself. Minutes later, he again lay down in the bed – still alone, thinking about Rachel … and Sheila … and Aimée … and Lynda … and …

Todd then cried like a baby, in the comfort of his loneliness – without really knowing why; and not really caring to either. The second – emotional – release was even better than the first one. “Suck on that one Dr. Leonard!” he shouted out into the empty apartment. “I have found my perfect woman, after all. And you can all piss off … “Casse toi !”

And they both fell asleep – miles apart, each alone, and in each their beds.

Todd dreamed of ice cream trucks driving up his hometown street in Auburn, and lots of young girls and boys running out of their houses – carrying loose change that they had wheedled out of their parents. The little neighbor girl who lived two doors down from Todd stood and smiled at him. Todd smiled back and saw that she suddenly morphed into a full-grown and adult Angélique. Her ice cream fell out of its cone and landed on her navel … slowly dripping down to her …

Sleeping Todd rolled over onto his stomach and began grinding into the mattress, all the time muttering: “Angélique … come with me to the prom … come with me … cum with me …”

Angélique had fallen asleep thinking how happy she was that she did not live in Boston anymore. Today the traffic was daunting. And the police car and ambulance sirens rushing into the neighborhood just as their taxi was transporting them from the Italian restaurant to the bus station … “Well,” she thought. “When you are there in the big metropolis you just have to keep your eyes and thoughts focused on where you are going, and not upon all the chaos around you at the moment.” She quickly settled into somnabulance and dreamed of her shemale friends in Paris. “Ouah, chérie !” the one after the other exclaimed. “You have blossomed into the ‘real thing’. But don’t you think you have gone a bit too far? A bit too ‘American housewife’? Maybe you should try a little cock every now and then. It is good for the soul … and for the complexion.” And then they all howled with laughter. Angélique groaned: “Va te faire foutre, trouduc ! … Casse toi !” , and turned over onto her side before pursuing other dreams.

——————

And now dear Reader, you must be quite impatient to find out what has happened with poor Rachel. (Someone is very pissed off … and will not stand for any more. I will get there soon enough.) But just for now, let us revel together with dear Angélique and Todd in their winged dreams … a few moments of respite before all hell breaks loose.

I recently ran across the term “respite from a daily sentence”. A rather interesting concept – don’t you think, Dear Reader? What better “respite” from the sentence of daily life than dreams? Dreams in all forms: day dreams, night dreams, R.E.M. sleep dreams, sex dreams, dreams of flying, dreams of swimming with the dolphins or whales … Dreams are not so much “escapes” as they are “time-outs” to sharpen our one-sided perspectives with other images, thoughts, sounds, colors, and tastes that operate simultaneously with our rather three-dimensional “reality of preference”. Now, you might ask: “Is it really my reality of preference”? And I would reply: “Why, yes!” Both Angélique and Todd had their preferred realities, to which they enslaved their every thought, word and action. But every now and then – their dreams (like ours) would overtake the staid and rotting reality, and infuse the mundane with kaleidoscopic vision.

Relax, dear Reader! Your impatient panting is stressing me out. Try to enjoy the dreamlike experience of falling out of our story just for a moment or two. We have not wandered far off the path. In fact, we are still very much on the path. We have just taken a closer look at the foliage that is surrounding us, rather than trampling through to the continuation of the all-too human, and all-too predictable conclusion. You do know how this story is going to end, dear Reader – do you not? Ahhhh … you have your suspicions – your rather strong suspicions, but …

But … Well, dear Reader. You see, that is precisely the function and purpose of dream-states: to give us enough of a pause in our race to nowhere that our perceptions of the moment and of the possible future can be altered quite radically from one moment to the next. And we all know that when our perceptions are changed – even slightly, so is our experience of life itself also altered. Think about it! Every night we have the opportunity to “fall down the rabbit hutch”, and thus to recreate our present and our future. Hell, we can even reinterpret our past if we will. But we can merely recreate our remembrance of our past – not recreate the past itself. (Well, unless you are a follower of the theory that the past, present and future are all expressions of one simultaneous and concurrent experience, in parallel universes and where there is no real difference between you and I, we and flora and fauna or minerals … If so, dear Reader, then your point is well-taken. But in leading me through that exercise you actually have proven my very point about dreams and competing theories of reality giving us added insight into existence itself … an enriched insight that has creativity as its first source and center.) At any rate, I am – at this very moment – personally focused upon creating my own present and future. There are many stories to be unfolded and told. A storyteller’s work is never done, I am afraid.

And now, speaking of which, let us return to our story … and see if the outcome conforms to your expectations and dreams.

PART ELEVEN
– Shock and Awe -

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

Not quite fifty minutes had transpired, since Todd had fallen asleep, when the phone rang. “Yo – Todd here. What up?!”

“Hey Todd. It’s Brian, Man! What’s happening?”

“Brian, my Man! Just catching a few zzz’s here … I was out on a date – well, sort of…”

“Sort of…” replied Brian, half sarcastically. “Sounds like yet another ‘Todd extravanganza in the makin’. Shit … Rachel, Aimée, Lynda … how many bitches am I gonna haf ta walk you thru, Man? Lighten up, for godssake!”

“You, are too well-informed, Dude! Back off … I am not Google and you ain’t the NSA!”, replied Todd, with a laugh – appealing to Brian’s paranoic obsession with internet surveillance.

“You got THAT right!” retorted Brian. “But one of those two is still a whore that is getting fucked royally. Bet you can guess which one?!!”

“Yeah,” chuckled Todd. “I got my suspicions, but I claim the Fifth Amendment … besides, my goddamned phone is probly tapped.”

“By Google … or the NSA?” asked Brian.

“By a goddamned ex-girlfriend,” replied Todd. “They are bustin’ my balls, man!”

“So make a change, Dude!” suggested Brian.

“Yeah .. workin’ on it. But it is complicated.”

“Heh heh,” replied Brian. “Relationships and sex are often much too complicated … but yours are a usually a cross between a Manga film and a soap opera. What is the problem with this one?”

“Don’t ask, Man. It is too fucked up to believe.”

“Try me … I have no sex life. Everything turns me on, Dude! … the kinkier the better.”

“Well, to begin with … she is a good friend of Rachel. Problem number two: she is a lesbian. Hurdle number three: she is not only fucking with Rachel, but they are in a relationship with each other. And to top it all off … there are reasons for which I do not wish to hurt or anger Rachel right now. So I am fucked.”

“No … you will probly not get fucked. Do you at least have a plan?”

“Well – not exactly a plan, but my charm-machine is re-charged and set in motion. I am aiming for one good fuck … the rest is up to God … or destiny.”

“God or destiny,” replied Brian. “Well – you know me and religion. They are pretty much both a game of chance. Suck it up, and take the wins and losses as they cum!”

——————

And then, about a half an hour after they had been discussing the delicate issue of how to penetrate the pussy of the delectable Angélique, my Readers, Angélique was awakened by a phone call – yes, a rather disturbing phone call.

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

“Rachel! Are you okay? Did you lose your footing?” exclaimed Sébastien, thinking that she was having problems walking on the high heeled shoes. “Grab hold of my arm.” He helped Rachel to her feet, and saw that she was out of sorts. Passersby were staring at them.

Rachel replied: “Thanks Seb. I suddenly felt dizzy. I probably just need some food – it must be my hypoglycemia. I only had juice and coffee this morning.” She did not want to tell him that she thought that she had just seen Todd and Angélique in the Italian restaurant that they had just passed. It was surely her imagination. Or was it? And she also felt a bit nauseous … for the third day in a row.

Holding onto Sébastien’s left arm, she steadied herself on the heels of the new shoes and breathed out – heavily, while cracking a half-smile and saying: “How much further is the restaurant?”

“It is just at the next corner,” Sébastien replied, with concern. “Can you make it?”

“Of course I can,” said Rachel, grasping her throbbing head. “Joan of Arc is my alter ego! Lead the way!”

But Sébastien insisted that they stop at a pharmacy on the way to the French restaurant, to buy some aspirin for her headache. Rachel acquiesced, gulping down two aspirin with the plastic cup of water that Sébastien had requested – fully knowing that aspirin would not help.

When they reached Chez Anatole they were seated at a table for two. The place was doing a fairly good business, thanks to the renommée acquired from the good reviews in the newspapers and by word of mouth. Sébastien was concerned and repeatedly asked her if she was alright, and how she was feeling. He saw that Rachel was still not quite herself. After a few minutes of this nurse-like concern Rachel had had enough and retorted curtly: “Sébastien! Stop! I am fine.”

Sébastien then said in French: “Mais je suis inquiet, mon bouton de rose !” (But I am worried, my rosebud!)

Rachel then snarled: “Please stop calling me ‘Rachel’ … and stop the French crap. And never call me “Rosebud” … I don’t like it!”

Sébastien was more puzzled than ever, and replied (a bit indignantly): “Excusez-moi ?”

Rachel explained: “Stop talking in French. And – my name is not Rachel. It is Emily!”

Sébastien was in shock and awe. He did not know how to respond or react. He had never seen Rachel in this state before … and she had never been rude to him like this. He decided to change the subject and let her come to her senses. He thought to himself: “Poor woman. She needs a good meal, and a drink. Some good French food. Where is that waiter?”

Rachel tried to smile, noting that she had made Sébastien uncomfortable and also that the couple at the neighboring table were looking at them. Sébastien caught the attention of a waiter and motioned for him to bring them menus. Rachel – in the meantime – had noticed a man in a priest uniform sitting several tables over to their right, together with two other men in business suits. She felt an uneasiness inside her – a burning sensation that was building up by the second. Her pulse quickened and Rachel thought that she would soon explode when suddenly the priest stood up, made a comment to his friends and started walking in the direction of the toilets. As the waiter was approaching them with the menus, Rachel leaned over and whispered to Sébastien: “Darling, I need to splash some water on my face in the powder room. Please excuse me.”

“Of course,” replied Sébastien, careful to speak only in English.

Rachel seemed to be back-in-form as she followed the priest in the direction of the toilets, showing no problems balancing herself on her heels. Once in the hallway where the toilets were located, Rachel steadied herself against the wall and waited a couple of minutes before pushing open the door to the men’s room and walking inside – careful to assure herself that no one was following or watching her. Once inside she confirmed that they were all alone. The priest was standing in front of a urinal and was lost in his thoughts. “I will give you something to think about,” said Rachel to herself. She quickly looked around the men’s room for a weapon but everything seemed to be bolted down in the austerely-furnished men’s room. About to give up and leave the toilet, Rachel then spied a metal trash receptable under the hand drier next to the door. She quickly snatched up the receptacle and repeatedly bashed the priest, exclaiming: “This is a privilege I am about to bestow upon you!”

The bleeding priest was cowering, and looking quite pitiful and shocked as he cried out: “Dear woman! What devilry has possessed you to attack an innocent priest in this way? I …”

But Rachel was no longer Rachel, and Emily was pissed. She was pissed at all priests, at all men … and at all who had ever hurt her. And she coldly responded by continuing to bash the poor man with the trash receptable while saying: “Never again. Tell your fellow thugs that they never must fuck with me.” And smashing him senseless with each word, she repeated: “DO (bash with trash receptacle) … NOT (bash with trash receptacle) … FUCK (bash with trash receptacle) WITH (bash with trash receptacle) ME!!!” She completed the ritual by throwing the receptacle at the man, who was now lying on the floor like a wet dishrag – bloody and near unconscious. Emily splashed some cold water onto her face, tried to remove as much of the “silly make-up” as possible, and Rachel (now back, and seeing what Emily had done) affected calm as she hurriedly exited the men’s room – as if all were perfectly normal. Once back in the hallway, she hurried past a cleaning woman pushing a cart – who was on her way out of the personnel toilet and entering the neighboring ladies’ room – and back to the table where Sébastien was still studying the menu.

“Ahhh, chérie ! Oops, my dear Rachel, I mean,” he exclaimed. “You are back. I have to say that I am quite impressed with the menu…”

Emily interrupted Sébastien by saying: “Wonderful, Seb! I feel much better now. But listen – I seem to have misplaced or lost my iPhone. I cannot understand … You know what?! I have undoubtedly left it in your car. I need to have it on me in case I get any messages from the club, or from Angélique. Do be a darling and lend me your car keys so I can retrieve it. I will only be about ten minutes or so.”

Sébastien looked at her quizzically, and responded: “Sure … Rach… – err I mean ‘Emily’. But what about …” he said holding up the menu in his hand.

Emily laughed and replied: “Go ahead and order for me. You know French cuisine best, love!” And with that she grabbed the keys to Sébastien’s electric blue Renault Clio, and sailed out of the restaurant.

Shortly after she had left the restaurant, Sébastien noticed that the restaurant day manager, the cleaning woman and two male waiters were making quite a commotion in the hallway where the toilets were. The cleaning woman was rather hysterical by both Bostonian and French measures. “Not good to display such behavior in a restaurant … especially a French one,” thought Sébastien. The manager then admonished one of the waiters to call the police and an ambulance. Now several of the customers were aware that something was amiss, and there was quite a bit of clamor in the restaurant. Suddenly Sébastien noticed that one of the waiters who was talking to the manager and the cleaning woman now stood there pointing at Sébastien. Soon the entire restaurant staff were staring in the direction of Sébastien and the empty chair across from him.

——————

Rachel was full of determination as she bounded up the block towards La Trattoria di San Michele, where she had spotted Todd and Angélique. She suddenly paused a few doorways before the restaurant, then quickly changed her mind and instead went directly to Sébastien’s car, cutting through side streets, while thinking: “This is nuts. I need to go home. Angélique is surely there waiting for me.” Rachel sat herself in Sébastien’s car, grabbed her iPhone, and tried to call Angélique, but there was no answer. She then put the iPhone into her bag, and used the car’s GPS-system to plan out the quickest route back to Worcester. But her anger demanded confrontation. She thought: “That was definitely not my imagination. I DID see the two of them at the restaurant.” And then again, “I am losing it. I cannot believe that I hurt that priest. What is going on with me? Maybe I should go back to the French restaurant and apologize …”

After driving around for about an hour and fifteen minutes, and arguing with the competing voices in her head, Emily reached a decision: “I am going back to the Italian restaurant!” she screamed to herself. “Maybe I can still catch them both there.” Once back where she started, Emily burst into the almost empty Italian restaurant and demanded of the bartender to know where “the amorous couple” now were. The bartender looked into her crazed eyes and immediately called over one of the waiters who listened to Emily’s description of the two with pretended interest but also with an underlying skepticism. It was not in his nature to involve himself with the personal lives of customers that were unknown, and non-Italian – and he did not particularly want to help scorned women that were angry. “If a man decides to have an affair with someone other than his wife, it is his own business … and perhaps justified.” he thought. But he merely said: “Signora, I do not know of whom you speak. Surely you have mistaken this restaurant with another. A very nice man and woman sitting in front of the window did leave the restaurant about an hour and a half ago but …”

But Emily merely scowled and stormed out of the restaurant. Neither Todd nor Angélique were anywhere in sight. Furious and frustrated, she continued on towards Sébastien’s parked car – now parked in an alleyway, just minutes away from the restaurant – and drove to Todd’s apartment, expecting to find the two of them there – together.

Rachel had not been there for years but Emily remembered Todd’s neighborhood as though she had last been there only recently. There were no available parking spaces in front of his apartment building so she circled the block twice and then opted to park the car two blocks away. Once the car was parked, she looked into the mirror and picked at her somewhat dishevelled hair, while saying to herself: “One down … and two to go!” About twelve minutes later she was buzzing Todd’s call system.

Todd had just hung up the phone with Brian. Pulling on his jeans and a white t-shirt he quickly scampered towards the door of his apartment and spoke into the call system: “Todd here. Who is it?” Todd first feared that it was Lynda … and her thug-friends “Heckle and Jeckle”, but was surprised and relieved to hear Rachel’s voice. “Rachel! Whoah, what a surprise and coincidence!” he responded. “Come on up.”

Emily took some time climbing the stairs to Todd’s apartment. She tried to collect herself so as not to give away the nature of her “mission” all too soon. Todd greeted her at his apartment door in a jovial fashion, and invited her in. Once inside Todd’s apartment Emily confronted Todd about his “affair” with Angélique, telling him that she had seen them talking intimately at the Italian restaurant. “Cheap, Todd! You men never change your act, do you? The same restaurant – and the same routine. You are pitiful. So where is she? Where is the Jezebel?!!” demanded Emily.

Todd was aghast. Okay … he had seen Rachel pissed off before, but she had a psyched out look in her eyes right now and her body language was directly threatening. He had better try to calm her down … to appeal to her feminine ego. “Why, she is on her way home. I put her on the bus to Worcester myself. Look, Rachel … you have this all wrong. Angélique is a great girl and she loves you to death. She and I …”

Just then – through the corner of his eye – Todd saw a familiar object – a plaster bust of a woman’s torso – coming down on his head. As she struck him, Rachel said: “I am not Rachel, asshole. I am Emily – and you are toast!” She continued to bash Todd – first on his head, and then when Todd tried to protect his face and head with his arms she continued to beat him on his shoulders and back. Finally, she kicked him in the balls and stormed out of the apartment, saying: “And now for the lying French whore. We will soon see who is wearing the balls in this ménage à trois !” She stormed out of the apartment, not even closing the door behind her … and suddenly all was quiet – as quiet as the stillness before the storm. Todd knew instinctively that the storm had – in fact – not reached its hiatus. More was to come – much more, and much worse.

Todd was coughing up blood, and he hurt all over his body. He crawled over to the phone and painstakingly dialed Angélique’s cell phone. “I must warn Angélique,” he thought. “… and perhaps Aimée as well.” Angélique did not answer, and so he feverishly dialed Aimée’s number. There was no answer at Aimée’s apartment either, so Todd just hung up – hoping that she was out of town for the weekend. After a half a minute he then redialed Angélique, thinking: “Please answer, Angélique … please pick up the damned phone!”

Angélique finally answered after several rings, still a bit drowsy: “Angélique here.”

Todd shouted: “Angélique! Get out of the apartment … NOW! ‘Emily’ has just been here. She beat the hell out of me, and she is looking for you now …”

“Todd?!! What are you talking about? Have you met ‘Emily’? Where … in Boston?”

“‘Emily’ IS RACHEL, Angélique!” he blurted out, gasping. “And a very deranged and angry Rachel, at that. I believe that she is now headed your way. She saw us at the Italian restaurant, and she thinks that you and I …”

“Where is Rachel, Todd?!!” screamed Angélique into the phone. “What have you … Listen, I have to find her. I will talk to you later.” Angélique immediately hung up the phone, and frantically tried to call Rachel’s iPhone – but there was no answer. “She has tried to call me!” mumbled Angélique to herself, seeing the unanswered call from Rachel on her cell phone.. “Maybe Emily is after her too. Todd must have gotten this all wrong. He is not making sense.”

Angélique then tried to call Sébastien, who told her that Rachel was acting strange, and that she had disappeared from the French restaurant with his car keys – over two hours ago – supposedly to collect her iPhone, but she never came back. And now the police were holding him at the restaurant and looking for Rachel.

“Why are they holding you at the restaurant?” demanded Angélique, now almost hysterical.

“Because a priest was attacked in the men’s room … and a waitress apparently thinks that she saw Rachel – or someone that looks like her – leaving the men’s room shortly before the priest was discovered lying almost unconscious on the floor in there. It is all probably a crazy misunderstanding, but Rachel was acting quite weird. She had collapsed on the way to the restaurant, and she even snapped at me earlier and told me that her name was ‘Emily’. Who is Emily, Angélique? Does Rachel have a middle name or a pet name that I do not know of?”

Angélique was starting to put a few things together in her head, but she did not know how to respond to Sébastien over the phone – right there and then. Just as she was trying to concoct an evasive comment, Sébastien said: “Angélique … I must go. The police have asked me to hang up the phone. They are taking me down to the police station for more questioning. If Rachel calls you or shows up, please ask her to call me.”

Angélique sat on the edge of the bed, staring out into space – in disbelief. “Why is this happening to me … to us?” she said – over and over again.

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

It was eleven seventeen – almost midnight – and still no sign of Rachel … or ‘Emily’. Angélique was exhausted after the hours of worrying and crying, and the many phone calls she had made and received. There was, however, some good news. Sébastien had called to say that the priest had decided not to press charges when he understood that Rachel was having some sort of delusional fit and breakdown, and Wendy had found a stand-in for the night’s cabaret. But no one had heard from Rachel. And Sébastien was still stuck in Boston, without his car.

“How fucking selfish!” screamed Angélique. “I don’t care if it is Emily or Rachel that is doing this. It is just not fair to those that care. And who is two-timing whom here? I am in a relationship with a woman that has another intimate friend that she has never even told me about. And she is worried about losing me to a man. I am not fucking homosexual. She knows that! Arrghhh!” Angélique grabbed a book from the coffee table and flung it across the room, and then stormed into the bathroom – grabbing a pair of scissors from the secretary desk on the way. Standing in front of the bathroom mirror she grimaced at her image and began chopping her hair off, sobbing all the while. She then shaved her head, washed her face of all make-up and took a long hot shower. Finally, she put on a bulky work shirt and a pair of jeans, and flopped down on the couch and cried some more.

She heard a key in the door of the apartment a few minutes past one a.m., and ran to the door. It was Rachel – looking quite tired.

“Good morning, Rachel …” said Angélique, rather sarcastically. “Or is it ‘Emily’?”

Rachel would not look at her so Angélique grabbed her wrists and jerked her around to face her. She then took Rachel by the chin and forced her to look at her. “Look at me … I said look at me!” Both women were trembling. Rachel struggled against Angélique’s firm grip but did not have the strength to pull away. “Who are you?!!” repeated Angélique. “I want to meet your secret girlfriend, Rachel. I want to meet Emily. And I want her to meet Michel-Ange. Here I am. Michel-Ange … your lover. But who are you?!!”

Rachel looked at her with disdain, and said: “I have no lover … not Angélique, and certainly not Michel-Ange. Go away. I don’t deserve anyone. I am sick.”

“We are all sick, Rachel. Do you think you are the only person that struggles with her or his personalities? I have been upfront with you about my own adjustments and my struggles with the part of me that is Michel-Ange, but you have lived a lie with me. Don’t you think that I have a right to get to know Emily? Where is she?!! Where have you been, Rachel … and why don’t you answer your goddamned cell phone? It is just selfish … You have no right to put me or anyone else through this.”

“You are right. I am selfish. I have been selfish my whole life. And that is why I should be alone – forever. I only hurt people …”

“We all hurt people, Rachel. And we all are afraid of getting hurt. Do you understand what Emily has done tonight? You beat up a damned priest, for chrissakes … and poor Todd too.”

Rachel glared at Angélique. “Poor Todd?!! The bastard … I saw the two of you …”

“You saw us what, Rachel … or ‘Emily’? You saw us sitting at a restaurant in Boston, laughing and talking – nothing more. And do you know what we were doing together in Boston, Rachel? Do you fucking care?”

Rachel looked away, and Angélique again grabbed her face and forced her to look at her. “Don’t look away, Rachel. We had been at the hotel where you and I stayed, trying to question the manager about the delivery of roses that you received that night. We were trying to solve the stalker mystery so you could have some peace of mind. So both of us could have some peace of mind, Rachel! If you were so surprised and upset to see us together then why the hell did you not come inside the restaurant and say ‘hello’? Tell me, Rachel: when will you ever get over Todd, and be mine?”

Rachel began to sob. “This will never work out, Angélique. I am a bad person, and I will surely go to jail for a long time for killing that priest …”

“Well,” said Angélique, “Sébastien called earlier to tell me that the priest will be okay, and that he is not going to press charges. You will still have to show up for questioning at the police station in Boston, but it is probably merely a formality – provided that you get some psychiatric follow-up. And by the way, Todd is going to be okay too. But you probably do not care about him. Where have you been all night long, Rachel? And didn’t you think that I would be sick with worry? Do you even care about me anymore?”

Rachel was shaking all over. “I don’t know where I have been, Angélique. I lose time sometimes. It is not only Emily. There is also Veronica …”

Angélique anxiously grabbed her own shaved head at this news, and then quickly pulled herself together. “Look Rachel, we have much to work through … and you obviously have some real issues that will need professional help. I am here for the long haul, but you have to believe that I am totally dedicated to you and to our relationship. Without that underlying trust this will never work. I am willing to make whatever changes and sacrifices are necessary. I love you Rachel … I love you!”

“But there are three of me,” said Rachel. “Can you deal with that?”

“I don’t know … but I am willing to meet Emily and Veronica, and to work with all three of you. I will even go through couples therapy with you if necessary. Do you believe in my love for you, Rachel?”

“I do,” replied Rachel. “But Emily doesn’t. She does not believe that I can be loved by anyone.”

“Well, we will just have to prove ‘Miss Emily’ wrong!” retorted Angélique. “Look, it is late and we are both exhausted. Maybe we should just go to bed and continue this conversation tomorrow.”

“Wait!” said Rachel. “There is more.”

“The only important thing right now is that we believe in our love for one another,” replied Angélique. “Let us not say anything more in anger and confusion that might make things even worse.”

“No,” insisted Rachel. “I have been nauseous. I … I think … I am certain that I am pregnant – with your child.” Rachel was very nervous about how Angélique would take this news and her voice became as small as that of a five-year-old-child as she said those words.

Angélique just stood there with her mouth hanging open, and then a smile slowly formed on her face – eventually giving way to ecstatic joy as she more fully comprehended what had just been said. “Oh my God!” she screamed. “We are going to have a child … we are going to have a baby!”

And they both started crying … like babies – unable to stop for several minutes. Angélique then put her hand into her right hand pants pocket and pulled out a small black box. She said: “Rachel. I did some shopping while I was in Boston – before I met with Todd at the hotel. I bought some great boots, but I also bought you a gift – which I was planning on giving you on your birthday, but I cannot think of a better moment than this one to give it to you. So please excuse me for spoiling the surprise but …”

Rachel looked at her attentively, wondering what she was on about.

And then Angélique fell to one knee, opened the black box and took out a beautiful ring, saying: “Rachel – my love – will you marry me?”

Rachel started sobbing all over again, and mumbled: “ye…”

Angélique looked up into her tear-streaked face, and asked: “Is that a ‘yes’?”

Rachel then repeated – this time in a loud and clear voice – “YES! I will marry you!”

They both collapsed into a welded bundle of bodies and emotions … and Emily made no further appearance that night.

PART TWELVE
– Epilogue / One year later -

CHAPTER NINETEEN

Michel-Ange’s mother – Josiane – was busy in the kitchen, preparing tapas – as he and Rachel had requested. “Michel-Ange”, she shouted. “Have you put the champagne on ice yet?”

“Oui, mamán !” he yelled back. “Everything is under control. The guests should be arriving any minute now.” He had just put The Scissor Sisters’ latest cd on the music system, and was prancing around the living room – greatly excited about this special birthday party for his beloved wife, Rachel. He looked great in his designer cardigan and slacks, which together with his new goatee made him look very “beatnik”. Rachel was busy in the bedroom with three-month-old little Michelle. Hearing the door buzzer, Michel-Ange cried out to his wife and mother: “I got it!”

The first guests to arrive were Wendy and Maddy, who were accompanied by Sébastien and his boyfriend Victor. “Bon soir !” said a joyous Michel-Ange, being quite generous with his kisses and hugs. “Come meet my mamán! She is staying with us for awhile to help with the baby. She arrived from Paris just last week.”

Josiane greeted her son’s friends with enthusiasm, stumbling in her English – but gracious with her beaming smile. “I have heard so much about you all,” she said. “My son and his wife are so very lucky to have such wonderful friends!”

The years had treated Josiane well. She still kept her long tresses but had filled out a bit into a voluptuous middle-aged woman of forty-seven years. Her eyes still had a twinkle and she still talked up a storm to anyone who would listen. Michel-Ange was so proud of her. He remembered how miserable she was in Marseille and how she had slowly bounced back one hundred percent after her move to Paris. But she was now truly in her element – as an independent woman, and as a successful artist.

The door buzzer sounded again. This time it was Todd and his new girlfriend, Esmeralda. Esmeralda was a Latina shemale – gorgeous, vivacious, witty, fast-talking and a little loud … but very charming, and sexy. Perfect for Todd. It was Michel-Ange that introduced them. “Hola everybody!” exclaimed Esmeralda. “My name is Esmeralda, but everyone calls me Esme. I am charmed, I am sure.” Everyone laughed and gave Esme and Todd the traditional double-cheek welcome. Todd looked great. He had cut his hair short, had started working out at the gym and had grown a moustache. He looked like a mature man now, and seemed much more self-confident. Gone were the misogynistic comments and narcissistic tendencies – he did not need them anymore. He squeezed Esme and said: “Here I am … with my main squeeze!”

Esme retorted: “I better be your ONLY squeeze, coño!”

Todd got a sheepish look on his face and replied: “I have put my foot in my mouth once again – I will never get the hang of this!”

Everyone laughed, and the guests made their way into the living room while Josiane scampered back into the kitchen to bring out several trays of tapas.

“Where are the mother and child?” asked Maddy.

“Rachel is changing her diaper and getting her dressed,” replied Michel-Ange. Looking up, he suddenly saw Rachel carrying the baby into the room and announced: “Here they are! My friends: greet my beautiful daughter Michelle!” Michel-Ange was obviously so proud and so in love with Rachel that several of the guests got tears in their eyes as they noticed the loving looks and kisses exchanged between them. They had been through so much, and everyone was elated that they had finally found a simple family formula that worked for them. It was traditional … but it was what they could handle and make work at this point. And they seemed happy … very happy.

Michelle was passed around to each of the women to hold, and the guys started dancing. Suddenly there was another buzz at the door, and Rachel said: “Who can that be? All the guests are here. Maybe it is a neighbor complaining about the noise. Should we turn the music down, Michel-Ange?”

“No, babe,” he replied. “It is your special birthday surprise. You are the only one that does not know about it.”

Everyone was excited. Was Rachel ready for this surprise? Michel-Ange had assured them that she was. Rachel had come a long way so far, and this was carefully planned out.

“I will get it, love,” said Michel-Ange, rushing to the door. “Give my mamán the baby, and follow me.”

Michel-Ange opened the door and waved a very curious Rachel over to the entrance of the apartment. All the guests were watching with anticipation.

“Hello Rachel,” said the special guest. “I have missed youSO much.”

Rachel did a double-take and cried out: “Mom?!! Oh my God!” They both broke down in tears and hugged each other for what seemed to others like an eternity. It had – in fact – been almost seven years since Rachel had seen her mother, and four years since they had spoken to one another. It was Todd that put Michel-Ange in contact with Rachel’s mother. He had found her telephone number amongst some papers that Rachel had left behind when she moved out years ago, and somehow they had not been discarded.

“Rachel …” her mother said. “I am so sorry, honey. I have missed you forever. I was such a fool all those years. Look at you! I am so proud of you, baby! You are so beautiful … and your baby! My grandchild … I never thought … I …” Her mother was overwhelmed, as was Rachel. Josiane rushed over and took Deborah – Rachel’s mother – by the hand, leading her to one of the couches in the living room.

“Here chérie,” she said. “Sit down and have a glass of champagne. No … on second thought, have something much better. Michel-Ange, bring her her grandchild. Bring her Michelle!”

Michelle was crying because of all the commotion, but as soon as she rested in her grandmother’s arms she smiled and cooed, and the two were inseparable for the next half hour. Rachel sat down beside her mother and her daughter, and immediately began mending old broken bonds. It was a tremendous healing for them both. Eventually grandmother, mother and child retreated to the bedroom to talk while the rest of the guests danced, talked and ate before eventually pulling Rachel back out into the fun. By then little Michelle and her grandmother had both fallen asleep in Rachel and Michel-Ange’s bed – weaving dreams of love and healing across the generations.

“Thank you Michel-Ange,” said Rachel, kissing him fully on his lips.

“Well, thank Todd also. Without his help this would not have happened,” said Michel-Ange.

Rachel smiled at Todd and ran over to kiss him on the left cheek, saying: “Thank you, Todd. I … I …”

Todd smiled, took her hand and replied: “I know, Rachel. I know …”

And the party went on for hours … but for Rachel, Michel-Ange and Michelle – my Dear Reader – the party still has not ended.

THE END