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‘I watch the show, and I know it’s stupid, but it’s us, Bette. This situation they’ve set up is just like when you were with Jodie and I . . .’ Tina stared down into the glass. ‘I feel embarrassed wanting them to get back together when someone else could get hurt.’ She was silent a long moment, Bette just listening, and then she looked up at her. ‘I knew I was worth another chance,’ she said. ‘But how did you know?’
Across the kitchen the speaker was still playing. Bette’s eyes were locked, loving and sparkling, on Tina’s as she whisper-sang the words. ‘“The Rockies may crumble, Gibraltar may tumble – they’re only made of clay – but our love is here to stay.”’
Tina gave her a look that was equal parts adoring and exasperated. Bette laughed.
‘Kismet!’ she said. Then she cleared her throat, ready for a speech. ‘I look back, Christina Margaret Kennard, and I see one moment when my fate was sealed. I’m in my gallery, I’m schmoozing, I feel good, I have a really cool hairstyle, and then I feel a tap on my elbow, I turn around – and suddenly I don’t feel so good any more.’
Emotion now came into Bette’s voice, thickening it. She swallowed.
‘I don’t feel good because there’s a hole in me – a space – and I never knew about it before that moment. I never even felt it, because I never knew you existed. And maybe . . . No, not maybe. I know for sure I could have gone through my whole life with that hole. I could’ve met someone else, married someone else, had children with someone else, and never known about it. But once I knew . . . Tee, once I knew, I knew.’
Bette looked at Tina steadily, then continued in a matter-of-fact way.
‘Jodie Lerner is living in New Zealand with her girlfriend and an indeterminate number of dogs, cats, alpacas and sheep. Her art wins prizes. I know this because people sometimes like to tell me.’ She shrugged. ‘I wish her well.’
Tina ran her eyes over Bette’s face. Her eyes, dark with smudged eye shadow and alcohol, were heartstoppingly beautiful.
‘We were so lucky,’ she said, touching Bette’s face, outlining her jaw.
‘Lucky, yes,’ said Bette. ‘But also brave. Or crazy. I go back and forth on that.’
Bette moistened her lips, thoughtful, but it looked hot so Tina grabbed her face and kissed her, deep and long, her hands cradling her wife’s head, burying fingers in her soft, thick curls, and then – oh! – the music on the speaker blurred and for a moment – just one moment – she swore she could hear something else . . .
It seems to me you’ll never find another lover gold as I . . .
And it was true. The feel of Bette’s hands on her neck, the insistent swirl of her tongue, soft and whisky-warm, called something wild within Tina, and she pressed herself close, closer, moved Bette’s hand down over her breast, her thighs parting on either side of Bette’s leg.
‘Bedroom,’ Bette whispered.
Tina groaned. ‘Just do it here.’
‘I can’t. Not with him.’
She indicated Solly. Tina smiled, closing her eyes briefly. ‘You promise you won’t fall asleep?’ Bette’s jaw dropped. ‘You have been known to fall asleep . . .’ Tina insisted.
Bette grabbed her wife’s hand, pulling her towards the stairs.
‘There will be no sleep, my lady,’ she said.
‘I just want one good, quick fuck, okay?’
‘You besmirch my reputation.’
They reached the bottom of the stairs and Bette remembered the alarm. While she was setting it, and Tina got Solly halfway up the first flight, they suddenly both froze. A tiny shuffling noise from above. And then . . .
‘No,’ whispered Bette. Then she turned, the alarm still doing its little bleep routine, and there was Sasha at the top of the stairs, rubbing her eye. Starfish jammies, blonde curls, and Pat the octopus clamped under her arm.
‘Hi baby,’ Tina was saying. ‘Let’s go back to bed, huh?’
She shot Bette a look over her shoulder. It said, Wait for me.
Bette gave her one back that said, Always.