“Hey Babe?! Have you seen my toiletries bag?!”
I peek my head out of the closet and look at the large suitcase on the bed. The bag was sitting right there…oh, gotcha. “Yeah T, it’s right here.” I walk over to the foot of the bed and crouch down to pick up the small leather bag hiding under the edge. I stand to make my way to our newly remodeled bathroom and Tina comes out to meet me.
She sees the bag in my hand and looks relieved. “Thank you! Where was it? I thought it was in the suitcase but it wasn’t, so I checked under the sink…”
I hand it out to her as I say, “It was, but it must have fell. It was slightly under the bed.” She smiles and grabs the bag but I don’t let go and tug her to me. I give her a sweet, chaste kiss and grin at her before releasing it. She smiles back and swats me on the ass with the bag as I make my way back to the closet and she returns to the bathroom.
I watch her retreating back for a moment and marvel at the difference in our relationship. Tina’s made so much progress in the last four months, not the smallest of which was asking me to marry her. That was completely unexpected, but undoubtedly the best night of my life thus far. Within a month, we had painted and fully moved into the house. I let Tina take the lead. I wanted to see her everywhere I turn, and I truly do. The décor screams Tina, and it’s everything I would have chosen for myself, but then she’s always had distinguished taste.
We had a long discussion Christmas day. She understood why I gave her everything I have and am, and she believes me when I say that nothing else matters, but she just didn’t feel right about it. Since we plan to marry and share everything anyway, we have made a few changes. The gallery is now the Porter-Kennard Gallery, just as our last names will be on the marriage certificate. I smile at this thought. I’m really getting married to Tina. It’s still hard to let that sink in.
I pull my clutch from the shelf and look around for my heels. Leo is still managing the day-to-day with my assistance by phone or email, but Tina and I are equal partners in the venture, just as we plan in life. I do plan to go back after the honeymoon and take a more active role, with Tina as a silent partner. I miss the passion art used to be in my life, and Tina supports me entirely in pursuing it.
Then there’s the house, art, and all the wealth I accumulated in her absence. After some arguing and compromise, I agreed that everything would be jointly owned. It makes sense, and we make it legal after the ceremony, but I just don’t like the idea that I’m taking back what I gave her. But if I plan to share a life with her, and I most definitely do, I have to realize that I’m not a secondary. Neither of us is. We are equal partners; and while none of those things truly matter to me, being equitable in our future does.
She is keeping the journals, terrible paintings, and star. She said she felt a connection to me, my core, with those items and I can’t have them back. I smiled at her. Tina was never one for material possessions. That was always my domain. That’s why giving her everything was so important; it was a testament to my desire to become new, and to do that, I had to shed the old and show how deep my love and faith for her runs.
A brilliant smile lights my face and I realize that I’m standing here in the closet listless. I need to regain my focus. I feel like I’ve been twisting in the wind for a long time now. I got used to it, and it’s hard to get grounded. Now where are those heels? “Are you almost packed?! We have to stop by the bridal shop to pick up our dresses in an hour! That doesn’t leave us much time to get ready for the wrap party!” I hate yelling between rooms but we just don’t have much time. We need to be packed tonight since we leave for New York in the morning and the Lez Girls wrap party starts at eight. I look down at my watch. It’s about four thirty.
“Yeah, I think I have everything but my dress for the ceremony, now that I have my toiletries.” Ah, there they are. I grab my Alexandre Birmans and walk into the bedroom to find Tina zipping up her suitcase. I join her by the bed and stow the shoes and clutch before zipping up my own. Tina turns to me with her hands on her hips and a smile. “All done.”
I smile back at her as I lift both cases. “Me too.” I walk to the door and place them against the wall with a soft grunt.
“So…it’s four thirty. We have to be at the bridal shop in an hour…” She says this as if she’s contemplating something. I stand and turn to look at her curiously. “The bridal shop is only about ten minutes away…” She meets my eyes and smiles. “That gives us fifty minutes…” She takes a couple steps towards me and her hips rotate in a decidedly seductive way. “I suppose we could find…something…to do…”
I grin slyly at her. She’s been all over me lately and I can see where this train is going. It left the last station only two hours ago. “Of course! There’s always something to do.” My face turns pensive. “We could clean the windows…wax the cars…check under the bed for dust…”
I close my eyes and sigh at the warm, sweet lips claiming my own. I reach up and feel the edge where the delightfully full and delicate folds meet with my thumb, and remind myself that this isn’t a dream, it’s real. Tina’s here, we’re here, together. The sigh turns into a surprised groan as I feel her small hands palm my ass through my slacks. She breaks the kiss and we rest our foreheads together as our chests rise and fall erratically. I whisper, “Or something…” as she pulls me to the bed.
“Hi, sorry we’re late Nancy.” We bought our dresses at JLM Couture and brought them here to have them fitted, nothing but the best for Tina, for us. The older woman at the counter is one of the most brilliant seamstresses in the state. It’s funny. She can make some of the most incredible clothes, and yet she always wears the same gray crocheted shawl. It goes well with the short, gray curls that tuft in all directions on her head. She’s probably the shortest person I’ve ever met, just barely reaching my chest, and even at sixty, her figure is still shapely and pleasantly plump. Her face is lined with years of laughter and there’s a knowing gleam in her eyes as she removes her bifocals and lets them rest against her chest by the string around her neck.
“Oh, that’s okay. I knew you two would get here eventually.” She eyes us both with a dreamy expression. “Ah, young love. It warms this old biddy’s heart.”
“Age ain’t nothin’ but a number, baby.” Susan, Nancy’s partner of forty years, comes out from the back and puts her arms around Nancy’s waist as she talks in her ear. “You’re still as beautiful as the first day I saw you outside of the soda shop.” Nancy giggles and slaps at Susan’s hands.
“Unhand me, you fiend! We have guests…” Nancy turns to me and Tina and we can’t help but beam a smile at them. Susan is tall, taller than me, with straight, chin length salt and pepper hair, and she has to nearly squat to reach Nancy’s cheek where she places a tender, heartfelt kiss. They each look deeply into the others eyes and you can almost feel the decades of commitment conveyed from one simple look. If I had any doubts that a marriage could work, it wouldn’t last long with these ladies around. I turn to Tina and squeeze her hand, and she returns the affection with a knowing smile.
“It’s about time you young love birds showed your faces.” Susan walks around Nancy and grabs my hand as Susan reaches for Tina’s. “Get your still tight asses back here so we can get you two properly hitched before they start sagging.”
“Susan, behave yourself!” Susan winks at Nancy as she pulls me into a separate changing room, Tina disappearing with Nancy in the opposite direction.
Susan smiles at me and leans in conspiratorially. “No matter how much you assert yourself over the years, after Sunday, that hot young thing will own your tight ass just as much as Nancy owns my sagging one…”
“I heard that!” The muffled voice is clear and playful, and Susan and I smile at each other.
I wink at Susan and say, “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
She winks back. “Me neither…”
“We heard that too!” The muffled voice is punctuated by giggles and Susan sighs and shakes her head as she turns to the wall and unzips my dress.
She watches me with a satisfied grin as I walk towards the hanger and reach out to touch the white satiny fabric. “Well, what do you think?”
Tears well up in my eyes. “It’s beautiful Susan. You and Nancy have outdone yourselves…” It’s a strapless Valenta, and the back is open but tasteful despite the display of skin. The top fits like a corset but it’s not stiff or unyielding, and the skirt hugs my hips before gradually flaring to its end. There’s a thin, shell gray satin sash that cuts across the waist, but the lines are clean, modern, and traditionally warm, and it’s everything I had hoped it would be.
She waves her arm dismissively and sniffs to hide her own tears. “All in a day’s work. Now, let’s do one last fitting and get you on your way.” She reaches out and takes the dress delicately from the padded hanger and I start to remove my clothes. I smile. I can’t wait to see Tina in hers…
We crawl up to the long winding drive to Yamashiro Hollywood in the dense lines of slow moving traffic and finally reach the entrance. Tina, Kit, and I exit the vehicle. “Excuse me? Can I get a ticket?” The red vested valet walks right by me as if I don’t exist. I look back to see Tina and Kit walking up to the entrance talking. Tina’s wearing a simple black dress, just like the first time I saw her, and just like then, my heart still skips a beat. Another valet passes my line of sight. “Excuse me?” Finally, this one notices me. “Can I get a ticket?” He pulls a ticket from the stack in his hands and passes it to me in exchange for my keys. I point to Tina’s silver Lexus SUV as I hand them over. “That one there…” He nods his head and makes his way to the car.
I let out a deep breath and walk up to Tina and Kit standing next to a limo just as the doors open. Sam and Niki Stevens exit the vehicle together and Tina’s face lights with a smile. “Niki, hi!” Niki doesn’t seem to pay any attention to Tina but Sam smiles contritely. Ever since she had a ‘near death experience’, she’s been so…innocent, almost pathetically gracious, so much so that you’d think she was visited by an angel in a dream and somehow regained her virginity. Sam smiles apologetically as Niki walks right past Tina, snubbing her thoroughly, and they make their way into the venue hand in hand.
Tina turns away from them in frustrated anger and I approach her taking her hand in mine. “You know what? Let’s just go inside and find our friends, maybe even have a good time.” She lets out a breath and nods her head as I smile to Kit and the three of us make our way up the steps.
We enter into the large, open courtyard that epitomizes authentic Chinese architecture and spot everyone gathered around an elegantly prepared table on the edges. As we approach, a large smile lights my face. Alice, Dana, Helena, and Dylan are all standing and talking animatedly, but the reason I smile is because of Helena and Dylan. They are close together, their fingers happily entwined and they radiate fulfillment. I’m happy for them, but truth be told, I’m just so fucking glad to have Helena off our ass.
We approach the group and greet everyone. “Hi!”
They all turn to us and return the gesture as Helena leans in and hugs Tina in a markedly friendly manner. It’s marked because it’s not overly friendly or sensual and I feel intense satisfaction. Then, she turns and hugs me with just as much friendly enthusiasm. Okay, this is different, but a definite improvement. I accept the hug with a curious expression and she meets my eyes. They’re warm, happy, and vibrant and I’m glad. I’m glad that she’s found someone good for her; I’m glad that she’s let Tina go; and for once, I’m truly glad that she’s a part of our family.
“Hi Bette.” I turn to Dylan and we shake hands with bright smiles.
Alice leans in to my ear and playful says, “So…you ready to go for tomorrow? I’m so excited I packed a week ago!”
Dana snorts. “She’s so excited she’s driving me insane!”
Alice turns to Dana and caresses her cheek softly before pinching it playfully. “You love me and you know it Sporty Spice.”
Dana grins toothily and I roll my eyes. They’ve come a long way. I’m glad I can roll my eyes at how ridiculously sickly sweet they are. It’s a vast improvement from the tumultuous undercurrent of dread I used to feel. Alice looks to me with a bright smile and I eye her with patient exasperation. “What do you think?”
Her smile gets brighter and I’m tempted to put my sunglasses back on. She’s just as happy as I am, and that’s saying something. Shane and Carmen walk up with smiles on their faces and their fingers linked. “Hey, happy wrap party.” I hug Shane and Carmen in tandem and they turn to Tina to do the same. Shane eyes Tina knowingly and says, “It’s over…”
Tina smiles brightly, “Finally…”
They both let out exasperated breaths just as a waiter arrives and Helena says, “Drinks…” She turns and takes two flutes of champagne, passing them to Tina before grabbing more. We all have drinks in our hands and Helena raises her glass. “To Bette and Tina!”
Everyone choruses her toast and Carmen adds, “Dios te bendiga! Slaud!” I wink at Tina as we all take a sip. Her gorgeous face is lit brilliantly and I can hardly wait for Sunday to come. She’s been so light hearted and playful since our talk on Christmas. So have I. Things are becoming more even kilter and comfortable. It’s blissfully ordinary, and it’s incredible.
The actress who plays Bev approaches and Carmen hugs her. “Aunt Begonia! This is Bette, Helena, Dana…and of course you’ve met Dylan, Tina, and Shane.”
Begonia smiles brightly at each of us before turning to Shane and taking her hand. “Shane, I had no idea that you were dating my niece.” Shane winces. “If you take care of her as well as you did my hair, I’m sure you’ll both be very happy women.” Shane gulps but smiles tightly and Begonia lets go of her hand. “Carmen, Shane, come…I want you to meet some friends of mine.” She turns back to the rest of us. “I won’t keep them long.” She looks to me and Tina and smiles. “And congratulations to you both. Carmen speaks very highly of you. She considers you family…” She smiles at Carmen. “…and that makes you our family as well. You should look up my nephews in New York while you’re there.” We all look to each other awkwardly and take a sip of the champagne. “Anyway, best of luck.”
I smile at Begonia and say, “Thank you. It was nice to meet you as well,” and smirk at Shane as Carmen pulls her away. She glares at me and seems almost worried, but finally turns to look where she is going.
I turn back to the group and we all chuckle before Alice says, “Well, that was ominous. I thought I was watching a scene from the lesbian Godfather.” She juts out her chin and strokes it, imitating Begonia’s Spanish lilt. “Welcome to the family…” We all chuckle at this and I almost get a bit worried. The Spanish mafia…seriously?
Tina leans turns to me and takes my glass from my hands, setting both on the nearby table before tugging me towards the dance floor. Her stride is confident and sure and I utterly swoon as we approach the dance floor. She takes me in her arms and we fall into the sway of a pattern deeply engrained by years of practice and bodily familiarity. She knows me and I know her so thoroughly that there’s never a missed beat or unpracticed touch, no matter how impromptu.
She leans up close to my ear. “What are we going to do?” I eye her curiously and she grins. “Tomorrow we head for New York. I know that we have Saturday to recover before the ceremony on Sunday, but I might have cold feet.” I can feel my face fall and she strokes my cheek with a mischievous gleam in her eyes. “I’m not so sure it was wise to let Alice plan the bachelorette party tomorrow night. God knows what we’re getting ourselves into…”
I smile brightly at her and lean my forehead against hers as I let out a sigh. “You are wicked Tina Kennard, utterly wicked.” Her laugh is low and proves my point and I look at her adoringly. “I don’t really care what happens at the bachelorette party. Alice could have dancing male midgets in speedo’s, stripping while singing the soundtrack to The Wizard of Oz.” We both laugh at this and my expression becomes indignant. “I’m more worried about spending Saturday night away from you. Is that really necessary?”
She giggles and covers her mouth before her glorious face turns serious. “Fuck…you’re right. I was fine with it when Alice suggested, well, demanded it, but now…” Her eyes travel the length of my arm and shoulders up to my lips as her hand follows the same path. “…now…if you haven’t noticed…I want you so badly…all the time…”
I lean in to her lips and whisper, “I’ve noticed…” before meeting them in a slow, open, unhurried kiss. We continue to move together and for a moment I feel what it would have felt like to be teenagers together. This is what it might have been like to kiss her at the prom and dance without a care in the world. I only wish I had met her sooner. The life we plan together, even from here, will never be long enough.
The music dies away and we break apart slowly. She gazes into my face and her expression is so filled with love that I can’t help but marvel at it. “I love you Bette…”
I stroke her burnished face in the low light of the dance floor and feel my heart swell to bursting. “I love you T…”