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“Oh shit,” Rachel Parker exclaimed as the twenty-five-year old redhead recognized the well dressed older woman standing at the corner bus stop, not ten feet from the building she had just exited.
Her outburst had been louder than she’d realized as both of her companions turned in her direction. Mary Ann Bradley, standing to Rachel’s left, had been a friend since high school while Brenda Phillips, on Mary’s left, had only met the two of them at another club a few weeks before. Realizing that, whatever the reason, her comment was directed to something ahead of them, they shifted their attention in that direction.
“Fuck!” Mary said in a much lower tone, echoing Rachel’s reaction, as she recognized the woman, now close enough to display a similar recognition.
“Oh my goodness, Rachel, it is you,” Belladonna Giordano said as she closed the distance between her and the three girls. “I was sure when I first saw you standing there that I had to be mistaken, but I can’t say how happy I am to have been right.”
Normally, Rachel would’ve had no problem with running into Belle Giordano, no matter how unexpectedly. After all, up until nine months ago the forty-two-year old was on track to become her mother-in- law, and throughout the two years that Rachel had dated Anthony Giordano she and Belle had enjoyed more cordial relations than she did with her own mother.
That situation was exemplified by the different way Belle and her own mother had reacted to the couple’s breakup, only three days before the wedding, when it came out that “the asshole”, as Rachel would now forever think of him, had been cheating on her. Elizabeth Parker’s counsel had been to forgive his little transgression because, after all, men were men and good ones were hard to find.
Getting a blow job by, or even screwing, one of the hookers his best man had hired for the bachelor party was a little transgression, Rachel had shot back at her mother in an angry tone she had never used before. What Anthony had been doing was fucking his former high school girlfriend, Karen Miller, who he’d run into a few months before at his grandfather’s garage. Moreover, he had been doing it right up until two weeks before the planned nuptials
Belle, on the other hand, had been the first one to refer to her son as “that asshole” and had immediately taken her almost daughter’s side, agreeing with her that the wedding be called off. She had divorced her own husband for similar behavior a few years after Anthony had been born and had zero tolerance for such behavior.
No, running into Belle Giordano wasn’t the problem. The problem was that she had run into her just as Rachel and her friends were coming out of Cherry Pie, one of the best lesbian clubs in the city. Going there tonight had been Brenda’s idea and as luck, or lack of it, would have it; Belle had to have seen them. It just didn’t seem possible that she couldn’t have since she was looking right at her as they came out the door.
Yet, as she kissed Rachel on the cheek, the statuesque brunette didn’t seem to have any reaction to it at all. In fact, she was just going on about how much she had missed spending time with Rachel.
“I’ve missed you too, Mrs. Giordano,” Rachel finally replied with a surge of relief as she accepted the fact that the impossible was indeed possible.
“Oh, it’s Mrs. Giordano now, is it?” Belle asked, taking a step backward to better see the young woman.
“I’m sorry, Belle,” Rachel apologized, “I’ve missed you too.”
“And are you going to introduce me to your friends?” Belle asked.
Introductions were quickly made and Belle smiled at Mary Ann and Brenda, remarking that she knew Mary Ann, didn’t she? When the younger woman replied that yes she did, Belle made a further remark that she really had to make the time to have her eyeglass prescription checked.
“It’s getting so I can’t see what’s ten feet in front of me at times,” Belle laughed, “or at least clear enough to really recognize it.”
“Let’s hear it for bad eyesight,” Mary Ann whispered to Rachel in a very low voice.
“So where are you all off to tonight?” Belle asked after explaining that she was meeting a friend and going to the late night showing of her favorite old movie at a theatre on the next block.
“Oh we had no specific plans,” Rachel quickly said, “just a girls’ night out.”
“Well you all have fun,” Belle said, adding that she’d love to come along but knew they didn’t need an old lady like her slowing them down. “It’s been a long time since I had a girls’ night out,” she laughed.
“You’re hardly old,” Rachel insisted, a sentiment both of the other girls echoed.
“Well I really must run,” Belle said, “Julie will be waiting at the theatre and wondering what’s become of me. But before I go, I want you to promise that you’ll come to dinner next week, and I won’t take no for an answer.”
“All right,” Rachel gave in, “how about Thursday night?”
“That would be fine,” Belle agreed, “say about seven?”
“I’ll casino siteleri be there,” Rachel said as she leaned forward and kissed Belle on her cheek.
Belle took a further moment to say goodbye to Mary Ann and Brenda, saying again how delighted she had been to meet them. Then she turned and hurried down the street toward the old Rialto Theatre.
“Wow, that was close,” Mary Ann said once Belle was across the street and far out of earshot.
“You’re telling me,” Rachel laughed.
“I don’t get it,” Brenda said, feeling she was missing something.
“Well, let’s just say that not all of us are out of the closet,” Mary Ann explained.
“I still can’t believe that she didn’t see us coming out of the club,” Rachel said.
“So what if she did,” Brenda asked. “It’s not as if she would’ve known what kind of club it was, would she?”
Both Mary Ann and Rachel turned around and took a long look at the “Cherry Pie.” It really didn’t look any different from any other club they had been to. In fact, except for the decorative lettering, and the picture of a pie with a slice cut out, on the smoky front window, there was nothing to identify it at all. The short line of girls waiting outside to get in really didn’t say much either since you could find similar lines at many straight clubs too.
“I guess we were just being a little paranoid,” Rachel concluded.
“Or feeling a little guilty,” Brenda suggested.
“I guess that too,” Rachel agreed, if somewhat reluctantly.
“God, that’s why I’m glad I’m not in the closet anymore,” Brenda laughed. “Life is too short to spend your time worrying if someone is going to find out that you’re a dyke.”
“Half-dyke,” Mary Ann said with a grin. “Some of us still drive stick on occasion.”
“So, are you going to have dinner with the old lady?” Brenda asked Rachel, not wanting to have that particular argument with Mary Ann again.
“Sure, why not. I have honestly missed her,” Rachel answered, then added in a stronger tone, “and I meant it when I said she wasn’t old. She has more energy than any two of us.”
“Hey, I didn’t mean anything by it,” Brenda replied, “In fact, I thought she was still pretty good looking, nice tits too. If she had decided to come along with us, I might’ve even tried giving her a tumble.”
“Brenda!” Rachel exclaimed in a shocked tone, unable to imagine what Mrs. Giordano’s reaction might’ve been to being approached by her friend.
“Hey, it was just a thought,” Brenda laughed. “You know what they say about good women and fine wine, they both get better with age.”
“Let’s just end this here and head on to the Pink Pussycat like we planned,” Mary Ann interjected. “It’s obvious that Brenda here is in serious need of a good fuck, and it wouldn’t do you or I any harm either.”
All three of them laughed in agreement and started out for the other club, which was about five blocks north.
Leaving work six days later, Rachel decided to stop off at the liquor store on the corner and pick up a nice bottle or two of wine to take with her to Mrs. Giordano’s. Anthony’s mother had called her earlier in the day to confirm their dinner date and to assure her, in case she had been worried, that her son wouldn’t show up unexpectedly.
“Actually, Anthony moved out not long after the wedding that wasn’t,” Belle had said. “He’s been living over at his grandparents’ until he can afford a place of his own. The two of us didn’t see eye to eye about a number of things and we both thought it best.”
It was one small bit of consolation, at least to Rachel, that “the asshole” had been left with the cost of the wedding reception even though no one actually went to it. The caterers, band and photographer still had to be paid, having signed contracts that had passed the date he could get any kind of refund. In addition, without the money he expected to get as gifts, all of it had to come out of his own pocket.
Faced with several thousand dollars in bills, he’d actually had the nerve to suggest that Rachel cover half the cost. She in turn had suggested that he ask Karen Miller for half, since she was the reason there hadn’t been a wedding. Unfortunately for Anthony, she had already moved on to another hard cock and wasn’t returning his calls.
With two bottles of wine that she was sure would go well with what Belle was making for dinner, Rachel boarded the cross town bus and headed over to the Riverside section. She worked later than she planned and hadn’t had time to change, but she was sure Mrs. Giordano would understand. The last thing she had wanted to go to dinner in was the black skirt and white blouse she wore as a hostess at Papa Giovanni’s.
The bus left Rachel off two blocks from the Giordanos’ so she found herself ringing the doorbell at five past seven. Almost as if she had been waiting by the door, Belle answered the chimes before the echo had a chance to fade.
“I’m so sorry I’m late,” Rachel said as soon as the door was fully open. “Things were canlı casino crazy at the restaurant and my relief was late and …”
“No need to apologize, my dear,” Belle assured her with a warm smile. “As far as I’m concerned, you’re right on time,” she added as she led her dinner guest into the foyer.
“And I’m sorry that I didn’t have time to change,” Rachel continued as she followed Belle out into the kitchen with the bottles of wine, thankfully noting that the older woman was also dressed on the casual side, with a soft blue blouse atop a pair of dark slacks.
“Perfectly understandable,” Belle said as she took a large bucket out from under the cabinet and filled it with ice. “Work does come first. Besides, I think you look really cute in that outfit,” she laughed.
Rachel replied with a smile as she took the two bottles out of the bag and put them into the bucket of ice. The smell of lamb chops in the broiler filled the kitchen and she remembered the best thing about nights at the Giordanos’. One thing you could say about Belle was that she really knew how to cook. A few years ago, she had started a small but highly successful catering service, and Rachel had often thought that if she ever wanted to open a restaurant, Belle could’ve given Mario Giovanni a run for his money.
“Now if we’re lucky, these will be chilled by the time everything else is done,” Belle said as she checked on each aspect of their meal. “If not, I already have a bottle in the fridge that we can open first.”
It turned out that they did need to use the one from the refrigerator, but that in no way detracted from Rachel’s enjoyment of the meal. The over dinner conversation was pretty commonplace, more a matter of just catching up with what had been happening in each other’s life since the break-up of Rachel and Anthony. It wasn’t until the dishes had been cleared and they’d retired to the living room couch with the first bottle of Rachel’s wine that their discussion became more personal.
“So,” Belle said as she stretched out her legs, kicking off her shoes so that she could slide her legs up onto the cushion, “are you seeing anyone?”
“No, not really,” Rachel replied, following Belle’s example and making herself more comfortable. “I guess I’m just not ready yet to get into anything serious.”
“That’s understandable,” Belle said as she took a drink from her wine glass. “In fact, I think you’re probably better off being like that for a while. I never said it before because I didn’t think it was my place to interfere, but I thought you were way too young to be getting married.”
“Really?” Rachel said in surprise.
“You have your whole life ahead of you,” Belle went on, “and if at some point you want to follow the traditional wife and possibly mother route, there will be plenty of time for that. But I think that someone as young and beautiful as yourself should take the time to see what’s out there, to enjoy life before you get yourself tied down.”
“That’s funny,” Rachel said.
“Why is that?” Belle asked.
“Because that’s exactly the opposite of what my mother still tells me,” Rachel replied. “That there are only so many good men out there and that I should latch onto one before they’re all gone.”
“Well, men aren’t the world,” Belle said as she refilled her glass.
“What?” Rachel asked, not sure what she had meant.
“Oh nothing,” Belle said, discarding her remark with a wave of her hand as simply thinking out loud, then changed the subject to how Rachel was making out at Papa Giovanni’s.
“I’m doing okay,” Rachel answered, “but it has become sort of a dead end.”
“Well, it’s fine being a hostess,” Rachel said, “but I’d really like to get more involved in running the restaurant. I’ve been taking some business classes at the community college and I really think I could contribute something in that area.”
“So have you talked about that with Mario?” Belle asked as she refilled Rachel’s glass.
“Twice,” Rachel answered as she took a slip from the now filled glass, “but as long as he has two unmarried daughters working there, he really doesn’t need anyone else in the back office.”
“I see,” Belle said. She remembered Maria and Sophia Giovanni well and was quite ready to accept that the two of them were going to be unmarried for a very long time. It wasn’t a nice thing to say, but the truth was that the only way a ring was going on either of their fingers was if a percentage of the restaurant went with it.
“Have you thought of looking elsewhere?” Belle asked after a moment’s pause.
“I’ve actually gone on a half dozen interviews,” Rachel said, “but the end result is always the same. I don’t have any real experience and no one is going to hire me without it.”
“Catch-22,” Belle observed. “You can’t get hired without experience but you can’t get experience if you don’t get hired.”
“At least not until I get my associate’s degree,” the redhead clarified, “but at the rate I’m going that’s going to take kaçak casino another two years at least. With the hours I work at Papa Giovanni’s, I can only take one or two classes at a time.”
“I see,” Belle commented, thinking that she might have a solution to Rachel’s problem but that now wasn’t the time to bring it up. Not when she had other things on her mind.
The phone on the end table rang, providing a break in the conversation. Belle excused herself for a few minutes while she went back out into the kitchen to take the call in private. Closing her eyes as she rested her head on the couch’s high back, Rachel remembered how much she’d missed spending afternoons and evenings with Belle. In a way, they had been the best part of her relationship with Anthony.
Of course this wasn’t the first time that thought had occurred to her. During the weeks after she and Anthony had broken up, Rachel had often asked herself that if she hadn’t enjoyed being part of his family so much, would their relationship have lasted as long as it did. Even before the Karen revelation, Rachel had been having second thoughts about the marriage. She had chalked it up to cold feet, but the nagging thought that she might be making a mistake never really went away.
“Sorry that took so long,” Belle said as she came back into the room. “I have a catering job on Sunday and the client just wanted to confirm some last minute details.”
“That’s okay,” Rachel replied as Belle took back her place on the other end of the sofa. “It must be nice being your own boss.”
“It is,” Belle agreed, “if only for the reason that you get to set your own hours, allowing time for other interests as well.”
“Yes, that’s definitely an advantage,” Rachel said, thinking how her own life was ruled by the big assignment board in Papa Giovanni’s kitchen.
“It was nice seeing Mary Ann the other night, she’s a lovely girl,” Belle said, again changing the subject. “She always seemed very nice.”
“She is,” Rachel said. “We’ve been friends a long time.”
“And that other girl, Brenda was her name, right,” Belle asked. “Have you known her long too?”
“Actually, Mary Ann and I just met her a few weeks ago at a club,” Rachel said, bringing her glass up to enjoy more of the wine. “We all just seemed to hit it off and became almost instant friends.”
“I see,” Belle said while Rachel took her drink. “Was that at “Cherry Pie” or another club?”
Caught in mid swallow, it was all Rachel could do not to spit out the wine in her mouth. As it was, it took a few long seconds before she could stop choking from having the wine go down the wrong way.
“The what?” she sputtered.
“Cherry Pie, the club the three of you were coming out of the other night,” Belle repeated. “You seemed a little embarrassed about it at the time so I thought it best to act like I hadn’t noticed.”
“Oh God,” Rachel gasped, thinking herself pretty foolish to have bought the poor eyesight excuse. Then again, she had accepted it because she wanted to believe it. “Mrs. Giordano, Belle,” she corrected herself, “I swear to you, I’m not, I mean I was never…”
“Rachel, take a deep breath,” Belle said in a calm tone.
“Belle, I swear, I’m not…” Rachel started to say after taking that breath, then paused as she realized that she was reacting defensively without any regard for whether she was speaking truthfully or not. She had never lied to the woman sitting across from her and she wasn’t about to start now.
“It’s okay Rachel,” Belle said in the same reassuring voice, “take your time and say what you want to say. I promise that, whatever it is, it will be okay.”
“I was about to say that I’m not a lesbian,” Rachel said, pausing for a few extra moments before going on, “but that wouldn’t really be the truth, at least not the whole truth. I guess I’ve always been attracted to other women, but I like men too, at least sometimes.”
“So you’re bisexual,” Belle said, her tone carrying no more surprise than if she’d accused Rachel of not being a natural redhead.
“I guess so, I mean I think so,” Rachel replied, then added in a much more determined voice, “but I want you to believe that I did love Anthony, I really did, and when we were together I never cheated on him with another man or woman.”
“Well, then you were a lot more committed to the relationship than he ever was,” Belle said, “but then again you were always a lot more mature than Anthony.”
Rachel showed surprise that Belle would make an observation like that about her own son.
“Don’t look so surprised,” Belle said, “I’m only speaking the truth. Do you remember when you were planning the wedding and I offered to take care of the catering? If not to do it myself then to at least make all the arrangements. Anthony wouldn’t hear of it and had to do it all on his own, just to prove his independence. In the end, that cost him a lot.”
“I remember,” Rachel said, the smallest of smiles on her face.
“Mary Ann and Brenda, are they like you too?” Belle asked, her question seeming to carry a lot more weight than simple curiosity.
“Mary Ann is,” Rachel answered. “I mean she likes both guys and girls. Brenda is totally into women only.”
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