It was Just a Kissbymismused©
(Author's note: Mildly edited from the original published by eXcessica under the name of A. Mistory. No scenes added or deleted.)
I'd always felt it, but this was the first time I could recall noticing it: Listening to Claire and Jim as they came in and were saying hello to Marsh had me feeling a warmth in my heart, my being. Why hadn't I noticed it before? Whatever, it felt good to me and I gave myself over to enjoying it.
"Hi, Dre, need some help?" Before I could answer Claire and I kissed cheeks, then I waved at Jim.
"Hi yourself, and no, I'm about done. Well, maybe you could take this in while I pour us some wine."
We were best friends, and close neighbors. I just hoped I wouldn't hear too much from Mary, our next door neighbor. She felt, it seems, that as the nearest neighbor, they should always be invited to whatever party or get-together we were having. Ridiculous, but that's how it was with her.
"Ah, now this is how to greet friends," Jim said as he reached for a glass of wine; he loved wine.
It was one of our regular gatherings. We'd been doing this for many years. It didn't seem long after we first moved into the neighborhood—they beat us here by a week. As always, Claire and I sat together—when had this started? I couldn't remember.
Our children had grown up, but we all loved our neighborhood, as well as the friends we had made here, so neither of us thought of moving to smaller homes. Yes, it was hard to keep it clean, and every now and then I had a cleaning service come to help and clean the house properly. Marsh had given up on doing the lawn, so we hired a lawn mowing service to do that little chore. Jim and Claire were the same; we all could afford it since we all worked and had good salaries. What did that make us now? Yuppies? No, we're too old for that—or are we? No matter, whatever was the latest fad in calling us this or that, we had the wherewithal to do as we liked for the most part.
It was our usual good time together, lots of nothing that seemed very important at the moment, then was forgotten in a couple of days, sometimes longer, but seldom. Then Jim piped up with his 'can-you-believe-it' story of the evening. He always had one of those little stories that irked his sense of righteousness.
"Can you believe this ruckus they're making in California over Proposition 8? Why can't they leave it alone?" he intoned as he always did on his gripe-of-the-week. Normally we didn't mind, and this time, to be honest, I didn't see any reason to mind this one either, but Claire did.
"Jim, why shouldn't they object? I mean, what if it were the other way around, and same-sex marriage was the usual, and heterosexual marriage was voted against? It's just religion, and we're supposed to be religion free, or free to believe what we will."
It was a silly argument, at least how she put it—or was it? Well, how she put it didn't quite sound right. Then again, maybe it did.
The disagreement raged for quite a while with me silent as I listened to them go at it, Jim and Marsh on one side, and poor Claire all alone on the other. I stayed out of it though Claire sometimes looked to me for some sympathy for her point of view. I found nothing to join in the fray about, at least not until Jim said something about kissing.
"Jim, Claire and I kiss all the time. Are you saying that's wrong? And if so, why haven't you objected to it before? We've been doing it all these years, haven't we?" I felt I had to put in my two cents worth.
"Well, that's different."
"Why? Granted, we women always kiss, or mostly so, if we greet a friend, or even say goodby, or even when we feel real happy about something; why is it different this time?"
"That's just the way it is, Audrey, you know that?" I thought a moment, and Jim's face got that look on it as if he'd just put his point across to where it couldn't possibly be denied. As a matter of fact, Marsh had that same look, like 'Good going, buddy. You showed 'em.'.
"Okay, I can see your point, but does that make it right? I mean, in many parts of the world, men kiss men, and even make a grand show of it, kissing on the cheek several times in greeting. Is that wrong?"
"Not for them, if that's what they want," he laughed easily, happy with his answer. I was about to really stick my foot in it this time though, even as a fleeting thought flashed through my mind about how I'd felt a warmth in our friends coming over. What happened to the warmth all of a sudden? Maybe this was just temporary, an aberration. I hoped so, but it had a certain feel to it that I didn't like.
"So, it's wrong here because it's not how you want it? Is that it?" I helped push out the warmth I'd just come to give admittance to in my conscious mind. Bad me.
Oh, the look on his face. Sometimes it's nice to see a man stutter and stumble—sometimes. Usually I took no joy in it, but this time I did, and darned if I know why, but it felt strangely scrumptious. Claire must have thought so too by the look on her face.
"Jim, it's not that I disagree with you, but honestly, things do change, don't they?" I pressed on.
"Yeah, they do, but..." he fought for more to say.
"I'm not agreeing with you either," I added, "in fact, I've not really thought of it, but now I have to wonder if Claire's not right? Why do we think it should be forbidden? Why can't everybody make up their own mind, and never mind what our so-called religion dictates, or maybe someone else's religion, or so they tell us?"
"It's not right in the eyes of God," Marsh put in with finality—too final, and a direct challenge to what I'd just said about religion. I had to think about that.
"Okay, show us where it says it's not," Claire obviously thought of it before, or beat me to the punch. "Just where does it say that God said it wasn't right? And again, isn't church supposed to be separated from the state?"
And there we went again. As much as I tried to stay out of it, it had me thinking. My face must have smiled though I thought the smile was in my mind only.
"What are you smiling about?" Jim asked, his own face mirroring what must have been on mine.
"Oh," I blushed at the thought, but braved it out, "I just had a picture of men kissing, and well, it did seem rather odd though it is done by many in this world."
"I'd say it would seem odd," Marsh said.
"You all didn't think it seemed odd that Dre and I kiss all the time..." That's as far as she got with that one.
"All the time?" Marsh asked, his hand going to his face as if saying "Oh my God, no". It was kind of funny, and maybe a good attempt by Marsh to put a lightness on this silly argument.
"No, not that kind of 'all the time,' silly," Claire went on, not put out by Marsh's question, smiling as she spoke. "I mean every time we meet or part—as in goodby, so don't say it," she clarified and made a moue at Marsh.
"But what if men said hello like we do?" my smile was mischievous, hoping to add to the more light-heartedness to the conversation.
"Yeah—ugh!" Claire laughed, as did I. The guys looked sheepishly uncomfortable. They didn't like that idea, I think. Jim made a face too. They were supposed to be laughing with us. Maybe we needed cue cards for them.
"Not good for the macho in you, huh?" I poked fun at him—both of them, really. "But what the heck, though it would take some getting used to, so what if some men wanted to do as we do?"
"It isn't right," March insisted, shaking his head vigorously. I'd goofed; it was threatening to go too serious again.
"Uh-huh, and you said it wasn't so because it isn't in the eyes of God, and I asked you to show me where God said that," Claire said, her jaw jutting out in her best bulldog fashion, picking the fight in earnest once more.
Marsh had no idea where it said it, but I knew he was adamant that the bible did say it, that God said it. He just didn't know where to find it, and that didn't set well with him. Marsh considered himself well versed on what the bible said, but this time he was stuck.
"Maybe it doesn't say it," I suggested. He made a motion as if he was throwing his hands up, but the motion didn't quite finish.
It could have gone on more, but thankfully it didn't. Thankfully because it seemed to prick the guys too much, and all of us did our foolish part to keep it alive.
Though this was kind of new to me, and I still wasn't sure about it, but since I was thinking about it, I could also find no wrong in same sex marriage even though visions of guys in love threatened to bring another outrageous smile to my lips. It was easier for me to imagine a woman saying to another woman, 'Yes, yes, that's so good, baby,' as opposed to a man saying that to another man. A man enjoying sex ala feminine was funny to me. No, I don't think I said anything like that, but then, in our early days, who knows? Maybe I did. Anyway, how I kept from smiling, I don't know. Just my mind trying to find something silly about it all to laugh about.
So there it stood. I had to admit, seriously, that the only reason for my smiling thoughts was that it just didn't seem right to me, but then again, I wasn't pushing my thoughts on anyone else, or even voicing them. No way. Things had gotten too nearly out of hand already. Women, though? Uh...
We talked more, and when we were done, and had to think about getting up early for Sunday church services, we broke up. Finally everything went back to being as it always was, as it should be, that is until Claire got the devil in her as we were about to say—kiss, that is—goodby.
"Let's show them a kiss," she whispered.
With that, Claire took my face in both hands and laid one on me. I mean she really laid a kiss on me—on my lips, that is. It was a good kiss as far as kisses went. Well, delicious, if one were to tell the truth. Warm, full, savory, the way Claire kissed me, the kind of kiss I hadn't had in years and wished that wasn't so, but it stunned me to immobility.
It had all happened too fast for me to do anything, even think, but then again, the feelings would have interfered with any thoughts that might have tried to come to fruition. Still, out of the corner of my eyes, a part of me wondered what the guys thought. It didn't look good by the look on their faces. So much happened in such a fraction of time.
When we parted, I let my breath out in a rush; I hadn't realized I was holding it. The delightful part of the kiss was still with me, with my body, my lips, that is, but something in me made me look around. Sure enough, what I'd seen surreptitiously was still having its effect. Marsh and Jim were fidgeting nervously, and by the look on their faces, not at all happy. Claire was unapologetic. Then she was.
"Oops! Sorry. I guess Jim got me too wound up," she graciously didn't say that Marsh did too. Her pseudo-diplomacy was lost though.
"Come on, Claire," Jim said, though not in the best way.
"What was that all about?" Marsh's tone nearly accused me when they were gone. It was as if I'd planned it with Claire from before they came over, his tone was so harsh.
"I guess you two got Claire riled up," I said nervously, though why I was nervous didn't quite come to me yet.
"Well you certainly acted as if you enjoyed it," he did accuse me.
I thought about it. It had been enjoyable I admitted to myself. "Yes, I guess I did. A kiss is still a kiss, huh? Want to help me to get that good feeling back?"
I wasn't really taunting him, just honestly inviting him, flirting with my own husband, but Marsh walked away as if disgusted. That shocked me. I stood there not understanding why he was acting like that, and leaving me feeling as if I had committed the most grievous wrong. Having your feelings frozen like that isn't a nice thing to feel, and neither is that sudden feeling of self-loathing, though I could find no reason for it. It was grossly unfair of Marsh to treat me as he had.
Later, just after we got in bed, I had to say something.
"Marsh, you know Claire was just kidding, don't you?" I worked to soothe things, make it easier to find common ground. "I mean, they must have talked about it before, and maybe Jim got her to thinking, or something, and then maybe you unwittingly helped push her too far. Claire doesn't usually act that way, so impulsively, I mean. Well, not like that anyway." Claire was as spontaneous as they came, but usually in a very acceptable manner.
That didn't salve whatever in him needed to be salved though and I couldn't figure out why.
"It's not right," he shot back in a clipped tone.
"No, not if you're not used to it, or if it's not what the other person wanted, or if you're just being mean and making fun of someone's sensibilities, which I guess she did, but she didn't do it maliciously. When all is said and done, it was just a kiss, and she was just being playful. It's Claire, the way she is and has been, Marsh, the same Claire we've known and loved for all these years."
"What if Jim and I did it?" he couldn't bring himself to say "kissed." I goofed again and laughed. That silly picture my mind had of men kissing tickled me too much.
"Hmpf!" At that, he abruptly turned his back on me. That brought back the cold feeling again, but worse. This was ridiculous, and though I tried not to sense that ugly feeling of self-loathing, of sensing I was dumb, I couldn't succeed, and I hated myself further.
Maybe I shouldn't have laughed.
I woke up early but stayed in bed. My first thought was to wonder when the last time was that we'd gone to bed without Marsh giving me a good night kiss. I couldn't remember. Though our kisses were no longer memorable, there was still a wonderful comfort in their regularity. What had I stepped into? How long would this treatment last? Then I wondered if it was fair. Did I really deserve to blame myself for whatever Marsh thought was wrong? Was I honestly being so 'dumb'? Wasn't there supposed to be two sides to everything?
I decided to get up, but did so very quietly, and went to the other bedroom to use the bathroom there, then went to make some coffee. I was desperate for a cup, that and some quiet time. Was my laughing at Marsh asking what I'd think if it was Jim kissing him, or maybe vice-versa; so horrible? I couldn't see how. Was I being pig-headed? Again, I didn't think so. Maybe it would all just go away quickly. It was seldom that we had a spat, and I hoped that this would be one of those seldom seen times.
Then there's Claire. Goodness, I love her to pieces, though not that way, and I have no idea what got into her, but had she done something so terrible? Not that I could see. Maybe I was missing something. Maybe I was out of touch. Then again, in something like this, what could there possibly be to be out of touch about? Claire was just being Claire as she always was, albeit a little more so this time.
And was a woman loving another woman such a horrible thing that we couldn't permit it, that it truly threatened all of humanity? Was it the same as nuclear proliferation? Though I just couldn't think of a man loving another man, if it was mutual, so what? Was it just that a woman was taken out of a man's pool of choices? Did women feel that a man loving another man deprived them? Somehow I didn't think so, but then again...
Funny, the thoughts didn't upset me, or make me feel undue anxiety. The thought that Marsh had made a big deal out of it bothered me, and perhaps not knowing or understanding why it made such a difference to him did too. What about Jim? Was he up in arms with Claire? Hmm! In fact, was this the continuation of things that happened before they got here? If so, why had Jim brought it up? Who knows? Maybe Claire would be able to tell me something when we went shopping since we usually had breakfast at a restaurant first.
So what was it that made some women love other women? That, too, was something I'd never thought about. Was it internal, in their genes? I had no idea, nor did I think anyone else did either. One thing was for certain, and that's that proposition 8 in California wouldn't solve the vast differences people were very suddenly highly aware of. * * * *
"I'm glad you called," Claire began. "I guess you figured I might be wondering if I blew our friendship last night. If you did, you were right. I thought you might call us quits and dump me. I wouldn't have blamed you."
"Call us quits? Are you kidding? Why in the world would I do that? Okay, so the kiss was a little much," I said and paused, then began to giggle. Lord, I didn't mean to giggle, it just happened. Claire started to laugh though she had no idea at what. My giggle must have been infectious.
"Okay, what's so funny?" she gave it up.
"Oh, just the 'little much' comment. How about way too much, or wholly unexpected like a lover's kiss on a first date, or shocking, all things considered," my giggling turned to outright laughter, albeit as quietly as I could laugh. Claire's laughing continued too. It was good to sense it as funny instead of as an accusation of heresy of the highest order.
"And I worried you might dump me," she finally got out.
"If I ever got to that point, I assure you it would take a heck of a lot more than a kiss. Besides, that was some smooch, girl."
"Yeah? You liked it, huh?"
"When I stopped to think of it on its own merits, I'd have to say I did. On a scale of one to ten, it came close to a nine. A little longer and it might have been a ten plus. You've got a lot of obvious visible reasons to make some men crazy, but your kissing talent is pretty far up there, and only your boyfriends and Jim know about it. Quite a talent, lady, if I do say so myself."
"Yeah, well it's a talent that's gone to seed, or is it rusty? Maybe rusty is the better word," she said sarcastically.
"Oh-oh, is this something you need to be talking about, or just something that came out accidentally?" I wondered openly.
"Christ, maybe I do need to talk about it. Let's get some breakfast first, okay?"
"Yeah, okay," I suddenly began to worry for Claire. How she said that had me worrying.
The day had started off with no forgiveness in sight as far as Marsh was concerned. He didn't say much—and that's the telling part, he was pretty cold, frosty. Civil, but just barely. And now Claire. Was it really proposition 8 that was at the core of whatever was going on with all of us? That didn't seem right.
* * * *
We had a decent breakfast. We were now fortified for that energy sapping chore of grocery shopping—and whatever other mischief we could find. First we had to linger over our coffee. Since we were fairly alone, Claire felt it was as good a time as any to bare whatever it was her soul needed to bare. It wouldn't have taken much to guess at what the outward portion of it would be.
"I'm sorry about last night," Claire began again. "I mean, I did enjoy the kiss too," she quickly smiled as if in pleasure, "but I was out of line."
"Next time, make it in line so you'll have no regrets," I returned her huge smile, which now turned to puzzlement as she thought of what I'd said. She must have taken me to be kidding, which I was, and decided to go on with whatever she had to say. I was kidding, but it was still a nice kiss when I just took in the feel of it.
"You know, you're amazing me," that puzzled look came back, changed, deepened. "Honestly, I went to sleep worrying about what you thought of my idiocy, and woke up with the same feelings, the worrying about what my best friend now thought of me."
"The same; you're still my best friend. Aren't you?"
"I hope so. Damn it, it was a long stretch in finding you. I'm not sure I'm up to looking for as good a friend as you are again."
"Okay, so we're status quo. Go on with whatever," I prodded her gently.
Claire thought for a moment. "Jim and I did get into it somewhat before we got to your place. In fact, we'd been...what? Debating it, I guess you'd call it, but that only means we weren't at each other's throats yet. I don't know what it is about this same sex marriage thing that's got so many people so up-in-arms against it. I've honestly tried to figure out what we—society—would stand to lose, or gain, by it."