by Drakonlily and Venefica_aura
“Am I doing something wrong?”
Janice had been over to Gloria’s several times now, at gatherings in the neighborhood, but never alone. Without a lot of people in the house she really got a look at it, and it was spotless. Well-decorated. Her kitchen in particular looked straight out of a magazine.
“Everyone needs adjustments to life changes.”
She also baked, perhaps constantly. It seemed that Gloria always had freshly made somethings ready to sample. The almost spring air from a cracked window helped to waft the smell about the house. She offered a butter cookie up to Janice without the wink about weight or thighs that other women would have. Gloria herself wasn’t waifish like Mrs Henderson down the street, or Mrs Morrison two doors down. She was, however, the only one who went by her first name in this neighborhood it seemed. “Is something on your mind, dear?”
Janice snapped out of her inventory. “Greg wants to have a baby soon and I… I can’t.” Embarrassed she fiddled with some flowers in a vase.
Gloria had raised two fine sons that were now in college, not much younger than Janice herself. At twenty-two Janice had almost been a little old to get married, but thankfully she had been a bit of a late bloomer. Greg certainly liked that about her. But Gloria was bound to know how to do the whole children thing.
There was something dark about Gloria’s well made eyes at the comment. Her smile dropped, though not disapprovingly. She sat down and for a moment the older woman looked very heavy. She glanced about as though she thought her aging Labrador would tell on her. “I’m supposed to tell you about how fulfilling my boys are to me, and how I know the true meaning of life and love now, aren’t I?”
Janice nearly choked on her butter cookie. “Is it?” Her voice was lowered, because even though she knew that the busybody lived over a block away she still felt a little… wary.
Gloria sat her coffee cup down with something akin to finality. Like she was some high priestess in one of the books that Greg told her to leave at her parents’ house. She was silent a long time, long enough for Janice to notice that her hair was the same color as the coffee. “No.”
Janice felt relief at first, because clearly it wasn’t just her that had trouble living here in the suburbs. Her days were long and lonely, filled with chores that didn’t seem to benefit anything but appearances. And when she wasn’t doing those she had to listen to the other Mrs types going on about their children or their husbands’ jobs, or the new Sears catalogue. Never anything about themselves, as if they simply didn’t exist.
But then she felt panic. Because this was the life she’d chosen, wasn’t it? She took one long look at Gloria’s face and saw the sadness written in the faint lines in her skin and Janice felt a few tears rolling down her cheeks.
Gloria seemed to notice the tears as they fell on the small table in her breakfast nook. She reached out and gripped Janice’s hand. Her grip was harder than expected and her hands were calloused. Women’s hands should not be calloused, Greg said so. She swallowed. “I’m secretly a horrible woman, dear. I’ve upset you with it and it isn’t your burden.”
Janice sniffled and wiped her tears with the back of her other hand, in a rather unladylike fashion. “No, it’s fine. I cry easily. You’ve done nothing wrong.”
Her hand wasn’t doing a good enough job of cleaning her face so she dug into her purse for a handkerchief to finish the job. “What did… what did you really want to be?”
“Before my wedding?” The way that Gloria spoke it sounded as though she were an inmate in prison. ‘Before I was put away’ was the tone and probably the intent of her words. “I wanted to be a writer.” She paused and then picked up a cookie of her own to eat. “What about you?”
“I’m not really sure. I kind of wanted to go to college, but we couldn’t afford it. I like to read a lot, though. All sorts of things.” Janice felt a little stupid, next to Gloria’s obvious laser focus. She was probably one of those that had worked in a factory during the war, or maybe even something better than that. Janice had worked at a Grocer’s after high school to help with the bills, going straight from her parents’ house to Greg’s.
“You’re so young, Janice. I’m… sorry you didn’t get to go.” Janice was old to have gotten married, that was obvious. But here Gloria was, her own eyes sad and deep and calling her young.
“But I have a friend now, at least. I can come over regularly and we can talk about books and things that the others aren’t interested in.”
Janice smiled for the both of them. Gloria needed a friend too, it seemed. It was a little presumptuous of her, but the confession had broken past the usual social rules. They would be friends and that would make it bearable.
Janice had taken to coming over almost daily. Their husbands, Hector and Greg, were very pleased. Gloria, after all, had been the picture of a good wife. Despite her upbringing and the fact that her family was poor. Hector had rescued her, and she seemed so entirely grateful.
Truth be told, while she didn’t hate Hector, she harbored him no love. Everything she did was payment for his money and the power it held over her. Once she had Donovan she couldn’t leave him. She’d never had a job outside of the bar that she worked at. She wouldn’t be able to take care of him on her own.
Gloria felt as though he owned her. The longer she was married, the longer she felt Hector agreed. She could see that wild light in Janice. The girl was bright and would have done so well in college. Instead they were both mulling over how to make Gregory’s favorite cake. “I can’t believe he wants carrot cake”
“Well his mother used to make it. And she used to make everything perfect, he says.” Janice frowned at the recipe and at her flour sifter, one hip leaning against the counter. It was no surprise that she was married; she was shapely in the ways that Gloria had found out men preferred, the way the other wives tended to whisper about.
“You’ll never make it as good as his mother.” Gloria said in her bluntly honest way. She focused away from Janice’s form. “He’ll always just be happy you were trying.”
Janice huffed. “Well then maybe I should make a plain cake and put a carrot on it. Voila!”
Gloria chuckled. She had learned to not laugh loudly. Her sense of humor had always been off and women were not to draw attention away from their husbands. They would tell Gloria that her shirt was far too low cut and complain about how tightly Janice’s pants were fitting. Women were only supposed to be pretty. Never sexy in public. Naturally attractive women like Janice had harder times of marriage.
She pulled out the correct spice. “Well then he’d call you cheeky”
“I could live with being cheeky.” Janice had a rather lovely smile, the kind that made people want to smile back. Gloria didn’t fail to notice that Janice already kept that in check in public, though. She was catching onto the rules; but Gloria felt no pride in seeing that.
But they were not in public. They were in Gloria’s kitchen. “Is he still on about children?” Gloria couldn’t blame him. She’d heard mention of Janice’s hips many times from outside of the den where the men played cards. For some reason that talk made her angry. She felt so much like Janice was a comrade, that she understood.
And comments like that reduced her friend to a thing. A prize or worse, just breeding stock that had been bought to be used up. Her husband said she must be jealous of how attractive Janice was.
Gloria was of the opinion that he only said that because he knew that she disapproved of him. And that wasn’t something he could handle.
“Yes, and I followed what you said about not getting pregnant and it’s working so far.” After her second child Gloria had figured out a few things to avoid having the four that Hector originally wanted. “But… what if he wants me to see a doctor?”
“Explain to him that doctors are men.” Gloria smiled at her, but when she smiled it was a more a quirk of her mouth. Gloria’s emotions were always in check. Even her mirth was not random. “Once he’s over that, relax and know all doctors are men.”
Janice nodded, finally getting the flour sifted the way that she wanted it. She was a bit of a perfectionist sometimes, even with things she obviously didn’t like. “I finished that book, finally.”
“At least it’s easy to get the time to read while they are at work.” Gloria reached up and wiped some stray flour from the counter. It was her one bliss, really. In a drawer in her closet she kept old books that Hector didn’t approve of, next to where he kept the gin that she didn’t approve of.
Sometimes she wondered if he knew she was reading as much as she knew about his drinking, if her habits were as obvious as his own. Or maybe she really was totally invisible, lost in what Gloria was, a wife and a mother and a wonderful housekeeper.
“Did you like it?”
“I did, even if it was long. I think Paris and Helen were really foolish, but at least Helen got to run off with a man that was more her type.” Janice bit her lip for a second. “Though, there’s something I don’t quite understand. Maybe it’s something about Greek culture that I just don’t know. Maybe you could explain it?”
Gloria felt like she had become the professor that Janice was supposed to have had, and as such had borrowed one of her son’s reading lists. Janice’s interests seemed to lean a little on anthropology, so after talking a bit with the local librarian she’d found the sorts of things that an anthropologist would be interested in. Of course, The Iliad and most of Homer’s works weren’t exactly for the faint of heart. Gloria’s favorites were newer and American, mostly, but classics built a foundation.
“What do you need explained?”
“Why was Achilles so angry when Patroclus got killed? I mean, it said he was his cousin but he didn’t act like it was his cousin at all.”
She was pleased with what Janice asked. Questions of relationships that the other woman picked up on were rare outside of college. There was an anger around Janice’s condition, her restrictions were offensive. “Because he was in love, Janice.” It was a simple sort of answer, she hoped that it prompted discussion.
Janice blinked a few times, letting it process. “They… allowed that?” It was like someone had told her that there was no Santa Claus.
Back in college, Gloria had felt empowered by these discussions. She had felt a rapture while discussing literature. Everyone acted like it was ridiculous of her. Hector said that her dance with the Maenads needed to end. It was foolish and only for women who weren’t doing the important work of having children.
For some reason, having children negated intellectual conversation. It wasn’t something that Gloria fully understood. She wanted to discuss literature with her loved ones, but no one wanted to take the time. Here she was, looking at the younger woman with her big eyes shocked and a little confused: the shock of a first literature class. For Gloria it was so intimate that she could feel the guilt wrapping around her. “It was encouraged in earlier cultures. The Romans were famous for it.”
“Why did they encourage it? I mean, Achilles seemed pretty upset here.”
Gloria smiled. “Some, like the Spartans, believed that if a man went into battle with his lover, then he would fight much better, because he had someone to fight for.”
“Like how the boys during the war thought about the girls back home? You know, like they sing about in songs.”
“Almost. Yes, that’s a pretty good comparison, though they doubled their efforts that way.”
Janice frowned and considered. Her pretty eyes took on a different sort of gleam. This wasn’t about bread or truffles or the perfect breakfast pairing. It wasn’t as though those things had no baring, but this was something else. “Going to war for your loved one isn’t the same as going with your loved one though. Men keep and protect women, it’s what the pastor says in church. But that’s not like fighting with someone at all. If you fight with someone, you don’t only want to protect them.”
“You want to also be protected in return. It’s a partnership that lacks a lot of imbalances that we have. There weren’t firm gender roles and many times, men were almost beholden to their wives desires.”
Janice chewed on that a bit. “That would be really nice to have… a partnership.”
Gloria sat up straight in bed. Her throat was dry, the room was dark and for once, Hector wasn’t snoring. The clock read five fourteen. She gripped the sheets and took a deep breath. That dream again. Asking Janice to run away with her, enrolling in Oxford… with what money? She was slightly bothered that her first thought wasn’t about how ridiculous the idea was, but how impractical. She looked at her husband and bit her lip. Hector would probably be glad to be free of her. He could enjoy poker nights and those idiotic sports casts.
She sighed and slid out of bed. Even when she was pregnant, Hector had never been a light sleeper. He didn’t even roll over when her weight shifted. She needed coffee and maybe she’d make him breakfast in an hour. From the hall Gloria laughed softly. Breakfast? That wouldn’t fix a marriage. She didn’t realize when the laughter changed to tears.
After she took a deep sigh, Gloria fanned herself with her hand. She resigned herself to making a proper breakfast. She needed to do something about her discontent, it was becoming obvious. Maybe she’d discuss taking some literature courses at the local college. Even if Hector didn’t agree with college educations, maybe he wouldn’t argue. He felt that everything a person needed was honest work with their hands. But by “person” he usually didn’t mean men. Maybe he wouldn’t argue.
It wasn’t that she felt that there was honestly anything wrong with that. Gloria had seen many people being happy in her hell and prison.
Maybe she just wasn’t that sort of person. Had never been. If that was the case, what good was trying to fix it now?
Janice tossed and turned again, eliciting nothing more than an discontented groan from Greg. If she kept this up she’d wake him again, and he’d make awful suggestions for how to get back to sleep. Maybe it was all the poetry she’d been reading.
She got out of the bed and went over to the pantry. Sorting the cans yet again might soothe her nerves and the images that kept appearing in her mind whenever she closed her eyes might finally be banished. Janice might not have had such a hard time of it if Gloria didn’t hold back.
”Why was Zeus so enamored with the boy?”
“Well, he was beautiful and in Greek love poems the youth is often the object of desire.”
Knowledge was one thing. She enjoyed gaining it, and all the reading she did instead of listening to gossip had made her feel so much better about her situation. But desire wasn’t something she was used to. Flirtations with men, and their desire for her, maybe. Her own desire was something that frightened her.
Especially considering she kept imagining that she was the youth, listening to Gloria recite poems to her and then, ever so briefly kissing her…
Janice nearly dropped a can. Oh no no, clearly the Greeks were just messing with her mind.
The Greeks passed with the last of the cold snaps and they began with the spring into Gothic Romanticism. Gloria was excited to discuss Hawthorne and Poe. She was almost giddy with anticipation for how the younger woman would react. She couldn’t wait to work on their gardens, talking over works from the Romantics. For some reason her mind’s eyes focused on Janice’s form in a simple sun dress, dirt on her brow. She didn’t hear Hector when he spoke to her.
A fishing trip? Had he discussed it before? Oh, they were taking Greg with them. Young man was upset about how his lovely wife wasn’t pregnant yet. Maybe it would be good for Gloria to stay with her a while. Keep her spirits up. He knows how important it is to women to be pregnant. It’s taken such a long time.
Just the weekend.
Of course, just the weekend. He told her about it. Perhaps he had. It didn’t matter, Gloria was going to be able to work on the garden and not have interruption.
It was almost like Hector dissolved from her vision, being replaced by Janice in a sundress and straw hat.
She had to wonder how much time had passed. The sun was lower, and she’d already planted a good section of flowers. Janice seemed afraid to step out onto the plot.
“It’s alright, I can keep planting as long as the sun’s out.”
“Oh… I never had a garden at home… we lived in an apartment.” She was huddled by a container of tulips. Their purple color complimented everything about Janice’s sun-tinged skin. She was worrying her lip with her teeth.
Gloria laughed. “Well, let’s go in then. Some fresh cut flowers on the table and something on the stove, we’ll have a nice weekend together.”
“Can we just have soup? Nothing complicated. I don’t want to do any sort of complicated cooking all weekend. I could eat straight out of a can for all I care.”
She didn’t mean literally out of a can, of course, but Gloria understood the sentiment. She cut a few of the purple tulips and led the other woman inside, a hand lightly on the small of her back. Janice leaned back a little into the touch, but didn’t comment on it.
“How about tomato soup and grilled cheese? It’s simple.”
“Perfect.” Janice crumpled into the chair at Gloria’s kitchen table, and rested her head on the table’s surface.
Gloria ran a hand over Janice’s hair. “Too much sun for you?”
“No, I was barely out there it’s just… all the pressure about having a baby. I don’t want one. And… I’m glad it’s just you this weekend. I think that makes me a little wicked.”
“Oh yes, heavens forbid a beautiful young woman wants to remain so, just a little longer. That’s such a wicked thing. I wonder when it happened that we weren’t allowed to be selfish.” Gloria looked over her shoulder from where she was getting out a can of soup. “Put it off as long as you can.”
Janice pulled her head up off the table. “You think I’m beautiful?”
Gloria juggled the can in her hands a moment and was grateful that the item didn’t fall to the floor. It would have drawn too much attention to the moment, maybe broken it. Carefully she set the item down on the counter. She turned and looked Janice over once, slightly sunburned with those big, curious eyes. “It’s more an observation than an opinion, I’d think.”
“But you have an opinion about everything.” Janice laughed a little, though. Whatever seriousness had passed. Hopefully.
She hopped up from her seat then and went over to where Gloria kept her large frying pan. “And I can handle the grilled cheese. Only fair.”
Was she flirting? Gloria didn’t quite understand how to process the way the conversation started. One didn’t talk about how pretty other women were. But it was true. Janice was a beautiful woman. There was a lump in Gloria’s throat. “Well, it is so difficult to add a can of water.” She laughed and bumped against Janice with her hip. “But you have to share the stove.”
And then it happened. Gloria was reaching for the can opener and Janice stopped whatever preparations she was doing, planted a hand on each side of her face and kissed her. Gloria wasn’t sure what to be more shocked about; the fact that it had happened or the fact that Janice had been the one to start it.
She fumbled around and the can dropped to the floor, thankfully unopened. Gloria sucked in a breath, but it didn’t clear her head. She could still smell the earth on Janice’s hands, and the tulips on her hair. The shock only lasted for half a second before her eyes drifted closed and she kissed back.
Janice pulled away, wide-eyed. “What do–”
“I’ll show you.” Gloria had no real idea what she was doing, it wasn’t like she had ever even kissed a woman before. But she figured that if she kept her sense of knowing, the kind that made her a good teacher as far as literature went, maybe Janice wouldn’t stop.
Was she ever glad that she’d cleared the kitchen table before Janice had come over. Somehow, Janice was sitting on the table. Gloria’s hands had hiked up her skirt to step between Janice’s legs. Both of Gloria’s hands trembled along the outside of Janice’s thighs, then she steadied them, to brush, trace, grasp along the inside of them. Janice arched her back and shivered, her long neck curving gracefully as she looked up at the ceiling.
Of course, it couldn’t be that easy. Gloria decided to keep her hands where they were, and crane as best she could, up on her toes even, to kiss the neck that Janice had so graciously offered.
“Damn these tyrannical undergarments.” Gloria laughed a little as she said it, and backed up so that Janice could meet her eyes.
“I’ll help you, the girdle is tricky.”
She didn’t know which sadistic person had come up with the fashions of the day, but it had been years since Gloria had worn such a contraption. She was well-practiced, and while Gloria had always found herself fumbling, Janice seemed to make an alluring dance of it. She ended with an almost prim tug and flung the offending garment with a pointed toe.
Now Gloria could resume her previous position, with more of Janice’s thighs exposed, her thin silk stockings drooping around her ankles. The stockings ripped slightly, Gloria could feel them drag along a nail that must have gotten chipped in the gardening. Her legs were softer than the silk, the firm muscles of her thighs were taunt up to her hips. Gloria’s hands gripped at the skin and her teeth bit down on Janice’s neck.
Janice reacted immediately with a hiss and wrapped her arms around Gloria’s shoulders. Those beautiful legs wrapped around her. Her fingers tugged the pins out of Gloria’s hair. Just when Gloria was about to ask if she had bitten too hard when Janice breathed “again” into the air.
It was then that Gloria backed away to yank the dress up off of Janice. She threw the item to the side and it took down the flower vase with it. Her chest heaving Gloria looked the woman sitting on her table over. “I wanted to say something witty at this moment, but you’ve struck me dumb.”
Janice’s smile was almost wicked and she reached behind her to unsnap her bra. “You don’t have to say anything at all if you keep doing that.”
Gloria thought for a moment that she should be democratic, allow Janice a moment, or remove some of her own clothing. But Janice’s exposed breasts were the perky, untouched sort, and without the unnatural shape of the brassiere to hide them, naturally lovely. She took a moment to trace the red marks around them that the brassiere had left, cupped one in her hand and then took a nipple in her mouth.
Gloria was almost afraid that Janice would associate the action with something else, but she had remembered that in the blush of her girlhood what kind of sensitivities could be had there. Janice agreed, tangling her fingers in Gloria’s now-loose hair and moaning.
While Gloria’s tongue teased, her thigh ground against Janice’s remaining underwear. Janice responded by shifting her hips to the slow, slight rhythm that Gloria started. She felt hot against Gloria’s leg, but cool against her tongue, and sharp in her hair. A wonderful combination.
Janice let out a little hitched sort of sound that was tight in her throat. Gloria’s mouth moved up, her tongue tasting the clippings of flowers and the earthy sweet sweat of her neck before she kissed Janice deeply. One hand pulled at Janice’s hips, her nails digging into the soft skin while she pushed forward. Janice arched against her and clawed at her shoulders.
Gloria heard her own dress rip at the shoulder, but she paid it no mind. the hand that had been at Janice’s back slid down her firm belly, sloped down between her legs. The scent was more intoxicating than the flowers and she was so invitingly soft. Gently, Gloria’s fingers slid between Janice and moved in a soft tracing pattern. She knew this. It was like a more inviting version of herself.
One finger slid deeper while the others worked in soft, nearly teasing circles. A growl left Gloria’s mouth into Janice’s.
Obviously Janice had either never thought to, nor had the sorts of friends that Gloria used to have, because she stiffened at first, as if she was unsure what would actually happen. But soon her muscles were tightening for different reasons, and her fingers clawed at Gloria’s now exposed back. She made slight almost whining sounds in the back of her throat when Gloria slowed down and breathed heavy when she sped up.
Gloria let the finger go a little deeper and Janice let out a soft, breathy ‘o’.
She stopped the circles then, focusing on steady, repeated strokes. Janice’s thighs tensed until it seemed like they could tense no more and she bit Gloria’s lip, nearly catching her tongue in the process. Gloria could tell when she’d done it, because Janice let out a half yelp, half shout and seemingly all her muscles relaxed at once.
Gloria helped her lay down on the table, the both of them sweating as if they’d run around the block a few times in the heat, but looking less run down than that.
Gloria swallowed. “So… what now?”
Janice tucked a stray hair behind Gloria’s ear. “Now you teach me how to do that to you.”
When Hector got home he was shocked to see that Gloria and Janice were nowhere to be found. All that he came home to was an immaculately clean house and a letter wrapped around the stem of a purple tulip. In his wife’s scrawling handwriting were two simple words.