The buzzing of the phone on the night table rudely dragged Joyce Madison back to the conscious world. Reaching out from the bed, she lifted the receiver and dragged the headset back under the sheets where she had buried her throbbing head only six hours before.
"Hello?" the forty-seven-year-old brunette said in a groggy voice.
"Good morning, Mrs. Madison, this is your ten-thirty wake up call," said the disgustingly cheerful voice on the other end.
"Wonderful," she replied, already replacing the phone on its cradle before she could say what was really on her mind to the desk clerk.
Only five minutes later, Joyce admitted defeat and tossed aside the sheet, lifting herself up and swinging her legs over the side of the bed. The room around her came in focus as she put on the eyeglasses she had left next to the phone. The cold spartan nature of the hotel room didn't help her mood.
"Damn that miserable bastard!" Joyce cried out as she recalled the reason for her sour mood.
Yesterday had been a day that should've been one of the happiest of her life - the day her son took a wife. And for the most part, it had been just that. At least until her ex-husband, Robert, had shown up with his own child-bride.
The blonde whore, as she liked to think of her, really wasn't a child-bride, she had to admit, but she might as well have been. Twenty years Joyce's junior, she was also only three years older than their son, Stephen's, new wife.
To add insult to injury, the two of them were staying only two rooms down. The image of them going at it all night had been enough to disturb Joyce's badly needed sleep. It had also served as a reminder that the other side of her own bed had been empty for far too long.
Taking a deep breath, Joyce tried to put both thoughts from her mind, concentrating instead on the fact that right now, her son and new daughter-in-law, Karen, were on their way to ten glorious days in the Florida sun. At least that much was going right.
Thinking of Karen made Joyce remember why she had asked for the wake up call in the first place. Sometime during the reception, still early enough that the idea made sense, Joyce had promised Karen's mother, whom she had met all of eight hours before the wedding, that she would have lunch with her today. A native of San Francisco, the mother of the bride was only going to be in town for the weekend.
"I guess it would be poor form for me to call her up now and cancel," Joyce said to herself as she headed for the bathroom in the hope that a cold shower would help clear the fog from her brain.
As she stood under the running water, letting it both wash her body and clear her head, Joyce thought back to yesterday. During the hectic half-hour that Joyce had got to actually spend with Sharon Robinson, she found the fifty-year-old redhead to be charming and friendly. She could easily see where Karen got her looks from and pointed out to her son that old maxim that if you want to see what your new bride is going to look like in thirty years, take a good look at her mother. If that proved to be true, then decades from now, Stephen would hardly be disappointed.
Five minutes under the cold water was all that Joyce could stand, but she left the shower feeling better than when she crawled in. She dried herself off then took care of her rest of her morning toilette.
Stepping naked into the other room, she laid out the clothes she planned to wear across the bed, a nice green dress that was just perfect for a lunch date and the appropriate undergarments. Before she dressed, however, she moved over to the large dressing mirror over the bureau and took stock of herself.
In all honestly, she had to say she looked pretty good for her age. A lot of the friends she'd gone to high school and college with couldn't say the same thing, especially after two kids and a divorce. As much as her ex-husband made her furious at times, she had refused to let him ruin the rest of her life. She'd seen too many other women bury themselves in a bottle or worse.
Okay, she had a few extra pounds, but she lived in the real world and not Hollywood where you had personal trainers and nutritional experts to work with you every day. And if she didn't dye her hair every month, a good part of it would probably be gray. But if that was a crime then millions of other women were just as guilty.
Her breasts had held up pretty well, partly because she went right back to keeping up her body after each of her pregnancies. Something Robert never seemed to appreciate as his eye was constantly roving. The rest of her body also showed the effects of a few years, but what did anyone expect, no one with a real life kept the body they went to college with.
"Enough of this," Joyce said to herself, "it's just Robert making you crazy again."
She quickly got dressed, then went back in the bathroom to put on her make-up. Soon after that, with ten minutes to spare, a much more composed Joyce was heading for the elevator and the restaurant in the lobby.
Waiting for the elevator, she became aware of someone else standing beside her. She turned her head just enough to see who it was. To her shock, it was the child-bride.
"Good morning," she managed to say, reminding herself to be civil.
"Hi," the younger blonde said with a smile, then turned back to watching the indicator display over the door.
It took a second for Joyce to realize that Ginger, she finally found the strength to say her name, even mentally, had no idea who she was. This despite the fact that they'd been introduced the night before.
"Did you have a nice time at the wedding?" she asked the blonde.
"Oh I had a great time, but I think I drank way too much," Ginger gushed. "Were you one of the guests too?"
"Sort of," Joyce grinned, "I was one of the organizers you might say."
"Really, then you must know my Robby," she replied. "It was his son's wedding."
"Oh yes, I know him very well," Joyce said in a neutral tone.
"Isn't he the most."
"He's certainly something, that's for sure," the older woman agreed as the doors opened.
As they stepped into the elevator, Joyce decided that it was hardly a matter of having had too much to drink the night before. What ever else Ginger might have going for her, and in the physical assets department that was a lot, a high intelligence didn't go along with it. Or even a medium level when she thought about it. Once those physical charms began to go, it was a certainty that Robert's wandering eye was going to reemerge. If it took that long. By the time they reached the lobby, Joyce was feeling a lot better about herself.
By the time she reached the restaurant, Joyce found that Sharon had already arrived and been seated. Led to the table by the waitress, Joyce thought that her new in-law looked a lot fresher this morning than she did, despite being a few years older. She was wearing a pair of white slacks with a blue blouse.
"Good Morning," Sharon said as she looked up from the menu that she had reading.
"Good Morning," Joyce said in turn, "I hope I didn't keep you waiting."
"Not at all, in fact I think you're right on time," the redhead smiled warmly.
"Have you ordered yet?" Joyce asked as she picked up her own menu.
"No, but the special looks good."
"Then why don't we make it two of them then," Joyce said as she put down her menu.
"Sounds fine to me," Sharon said.
The waitress returned a moment later and Sharon gave both their orders. Joyce took the brief time to review what Stephen had told him about his new mother-in-law. Fifty years old, Sharon had been widowed almost twenty-one years ago and had never remarried. Joyce had been divorced only two years and hated being alone. She couldn't imagine being that way for two decades.
It couldn't be for lack of attention, Joyce thought. Even at the half-century mark, Sharon was a striking woman. Her dark red hair was cut short and framed an attractive face. Her body was quite full figured and if she hadn't managed to defy gravity as Joyce had with her smaller bust, well then she managed to hide it well.
"It was a very nice wedding, don't you think?" Sharon said as they waited for their order to be delivered.
"Very much so," Joyce agreed. "I'm glad the children had such a good time."
"I seem to recall you having a pretty good time yourself," Sharon grinned.
"I guess I did get a little carried away and had too much to drink," Joyce admitted.
"Nonsense, it was a celebration," Sharon replied. "If you can't cut loose at your child's wedding, then when can you?"
"I notice you managed to retain a more proper decorum," Joyce said with a touch of embarrassment.
"Well lets just say that I cut loose in a different way, one that I though wouldn't be that appropriate at the wedding," Sharon explained.
Before Joyce could ask what that meant, the waitress returned with their lunches. When conversation resumed, it centered on more on the children and their future. It went on for almost three-quarters of an hour until finally, when the meal was done and that topic exhausted, the two women returned to more about themselves over coffee.
"Karen told me you lost your husband a short time after she was born," Joyce said, "I was sorry to hear that."
"Thank you," Sharon replied, "but it was a long time ago. And Stephen tells me you've been divorced two years now."
"Yes," Joyce acknowledged with a nod of her head, "you probably met my ex last night with his new wife."
"Twenty-something, long blonde hair, big boobs, empty head?" Sharon asked. "The one wearing the dress that looked like it had been spray painted on?"
"That was the one," the brunette grinned.
"Barely even noticed her."
Both women laughed.
"Anyone new on the horizon for yourself?" Sharon asked.
"I've dated some, but few men seem that interested in a used car when there are so many new models coming off the assembly line," Joyce answered. "At least not for the long haul."
"Then what about the short haul," Sharon asked. "There's nothing wrong with having a little fun for yourself."
"Oh I have nothing against a little fun," Joyce said, "but it seems men are worse than women when it comes to something like that. They can't wait to tell all their friends. Then the old double standard comes in. A man can sleep with fifty women and they call him a stud, let a woman sleep with one guy and all of a sudden she's a slut. I live in the suburbs and it's not that big of a community."
"Maybe it's just a matter of selecting the right people to sleep with," Sharon offered.
Joyce again nodded her agreement, thinking that she was finding it really comfortable talking to her new in-law. A lot more than most of the women she normally called friends.
"Sharon, I know we really don't know each other that well yet, but can I ask you a personal question?" Joyce asked.
"It depends on the question," Sharon instantly replied, then laughed and then said, "of course you can, ask away."
"You've been single more than half your adult life, doesn't it get lonely?" she asked. "I mean it's one thing to take care of the physical needs but hasn't there ever been anyone you wanted to settle down with?"
Sharon didn't answer right away. In fact, enough time passed that Joyce now felt that the question had been inappropriate and apologized for it.
"Oh no, the question was fine," Sharon replied, "it's just the answer that's somewhat complicated."
"Then lets just forget it then," Joyce said as she finished her coffee.
"No, if we're going to be friends and not just in-laws, we shouldn't have things between us," Sharon said. "Besides, it's not something that I really hide or I'm ashamed of, I just thought that Karen or Stephen might've mentioned it to you before."
Now Joyce was intrigued.
"To put it simply, I'm a lesbian," Sharon said, draining the last of her coffee as well. "In fact I've been one all of my life."
"But you were married, you had two kids," Joyce said in surprise, but then added. "I'm sorry, it's really none of my business."
"No, I want us to be friends so let me tell you," Sharon insisted. "Unless you already have a problem with it and I won't."
"No, no I don't have any problem with it," Joyce replied. "In fact, I've never even known anyone who was, and living in New York that's saying a lot. Please go ahead."
"Well, back when I was in my teens, I was still pretty unsure of my sexual orientation. It was 1970 and despite all those stories you might have heard about the swinging sixties, a lesbian lifestyle still wasn't very socially acceptable. At least not in my household. I was unable ... unwilling ... to make the choices that I would've had to make to follow that road. To make my parents happy, I tried to live a heterosexual lifestyle. I met Jack on my first job out of high school and two months after that I was pregnant. My knowledge of birth control left a lot to be desired."
The image of Karen's older brother Mike, who she had also met at the wedding, flashed through Joyce's mind. He was the baby, Sharon was referring to.
"The idea of being an unwed mother didn't appeal to me either so Jack and I were married a month later. Seven months after Mike was born, I was pregnant again, this time with Karen. Jack was nothing if not persistent."
Joyce found herself listening intently, the story was fascinating.
"After we'd be married a few years, I found that some desires wouldn't stay buried and I had my first lesbian affair with the woman across the hall. It lasted six months until Jack came home unexpectedly from work. In hindsight, it was pretty stupid having my lover over to my own home for a romp in the hay. But with two toddlers, I didn't have that many options."
"He didn't want a divorce?" Joyce asked.
"That was a surprise to me as well." Sharon replied. "Jack never mentioned what happened again. He simply moved into the extra bedroom and never ventured into my bed again. Later, when he became ill, we made our peace with each other. I really cried when he died."
Joyce didn't know what to say. Thankfully, Sharon didn't expect her to say anything.
"Can I get the two of you anything else?" the waitress asked as she stepped back alongside the table.
"No thank you," Sharon said as she glanced over to the woman on the opposite side of the table to see if she wanted anything. "Just the check please," she added when Joyce didn't say anything.
The waitress placed a small green check down next to Sharon's setting. The redhead pulled out her pen and scribbled her name, room number and how much of a tip she wanted to add on it and handed it back. The young woman's eyes lit up when she looked back at it, most guests only left a dollar or two.
"At least let me pay half," Joyce said.
"No, I'm the one who invited you to lunch, remember?"
Joyce acquiesced with a smile, thinking she'd make it up later as they'd already agreed to spend the rest of the day together. She was gathering up her things when she caught Sharon's eyes followed the young waitress as she walked away. It made her wonder if she hadn't been here with her, would Sharon had tried to pick the pretty girl up.
The hours of the afternoon and the early evening seemed to fly by as Joyce showed Sharon the sights of midtown Manhattan. By the time they'd made it back to the hotel, it was as if they'd known each other for years instead of only a few days.
Walking through the lobby, they had the fortune, or perhaps the misfortune to spot Robert and Ginger checking out of the hotel. Totally into each other, they didn't notice the two women, but Joyce found herself staring at her replacement.
"It really bothers you doesn't it?" Sharon asked.
"I know it shouldn't," Joyce said, for all the reasons she realized in the elevator this morning and more, "but I wish I could make him feel what he made me feel when he cheated on me."
"Well if you like, I could always seduce her," Sharon offered, in a voice that was almost half-serious. "Airheads like her aren't that hard to talk into bed."
"You like girls like that?" Joyce asked, thinking back to the waitress at lunch and making reference to the older woman's sexuality for the first time since then.
"Well I wouldn't want a steady diet of them," Sharon smiled, "but they can make for a fun distraction now and then."
"Normally, I prefer a woman with more between her ears than her legs," Sharon quipped. "Age really doesn't enter into it, I've had lovers on both ends of the calendar."
"Thanks for the offer, but I think I'll say no," Joyce finally said as she watched the two of them exit the lobby. "It's one thing to wish he could feel the pain, it's another to be the one to cause it."
"Okay," Sharon said, "but if I'm any judge, I think the day will come when she might just beat him to the punch."
"I have to admit, I did spend some time watching her at the wedding last night," Sharon confessed, "and I saw the way she liked to party. He's never going to be able to keep up with her and eventually she's going to realize it."
That thought, Joyce realized, was more than enough to make her happy.
"What do you want to do about dinner?" Sharon said as she changed the subject. "Do you want to go out, eat in the restaurant here or settle for room service?"
"After all the walking around we did today, room service sounds fine," Joyce replied.
"Room service it is then," Sharon said, "so that only leaves the question of your room or mine?"
It turned out to be Sharon's if for no other reason than it was a bigger suite with a dining area. Joyce went first to her own room to freshen up. A quick shower and a change of outfit later, she was headed up to the older woman's room.
"Imagine," she thought to herself as she hit the button for the sixth floor, "I'm having dinner with a lesbian, what would the girls at the garden club think about that?"
The real question, Joyce had yet to discover, was what did she really think about it?
"I hope you don't mind, but I took the liberty of ordering already," Sharon said after she'd let Joyce in. "I figured we should get a jump on room service so we're not eating sometime late this evening."
"That's fine," Joyce replied, "I'm sure whatever you ordered will be great."
Joyce took a moment to walk around the suite and take it all in. It certainly was a lot more impressive than her room and she said so.
"Well that's only because I was able to write off some of the cost as a business deduction," Sharon explained as she opened one of the bottles of wine she'd had them bring up when she'd ordered dinner. "I had a meeting with my East Coast distributor yesterday before the wedding, so that makes the IRS happy."
"It must be nice to run your own business," Joyce said as she took a glass of wine that Sharon poured for her.
"It does have its advantages," Sharon said, pouring her own glass. "It gives you a chance to do the things you want to do."
"Why don't we have a toast?" Joyce asked.
"Great idea, what shall we drink to?"
"Well I think we drank to the kids enough yesterday."
"Then to us, to new friends," Sharon said as she raised her glass.
"To new friends," Joyce repeated, bringing her own glass to touch Sharon's.
They each downed half the glass and Sharon refilled both.
By the time dinner arrived, they were on the second bottle. When the plates were clear, a third had already been opened.
"I think we'd better slow down with this before we get into a dangerous area," Sharon said as she put the cork back in the bottle.
"What dangerous area?" Joyce asked.
"Remember at lunch when I said that when I get a little toasted I cut loose in a different way?"
"Well let's just say that would be even more inappropriate now than at the wedding."
"I don't get it."
"I used to have a girlfriend that lived by the theory that every woman is only a few drinks away from a lesbian encounter, the key is figuring out what number that is," Sharon tried to explain.