| "ACCEPTING GINA"
(This is dedicated to Maria.)
* * * * * *
Paul left me months ago.
Six long, lonely, dreary months of endless darkness and gloom. The weeks of
crying, the days of yearning for a phone call, the nights of empty wine
bottles and morning headaches were all behind me.
I was healthy now, ready for a chance at a new beginning. Life was looking
fresh again. The sun was bright, the air was clean. I was finally whole
without him. I had loved him so deeply. It had been unnatural, unsettling,
and uncontrolled. Now I could find the paper and pen before me through the
fog. I could see the vision and the words. I was writing again.
Looking back, I realized the bad times were barely lingering, whereas the
good times were painted like a portrait in my mind. But a portrait painted by
a clown, not an artist. All that time, what did we talk about? I remembered
the drinking, the parties, his friends, the football games. All of it was
one big celebration. We laughed, we had sex, and we laughed some more. I
could not single out one time we had a serious conversation other than an
in-depth analysis of his team's fortunes on the field.
Paul left me the night my was tragically killed in a car accident.
He couldn't handle the intensity, my emotions, and the horror of it all. He
was gone when I needed him the most. My memories of that night are vague: a
dinner party at my parent's house, the phone call, and guests leaving quickly.
Lying in the grass and vomiting. The sounds of shattered glass. Shattered
pieces of my heart. Shattered pieces of my sister.
After six months of therapy, I was finally able to talk about him, but not
Gina. My therapist told me this was my way of shutting down - something about
misplaced emotions, the loss of my baby sister, substitution, and obsessing
over a that never really loved me.
But today, the sun was shining and I was doing this for her, and for myself.
I was joining a local poetry critique group and writing again. Gina would be
There were about sixteen people in the group, ten women and six men. The
group leader was an woman named Kira. Kira had fled the Communist
regime of Soviet Russia many years ago, and her poems had been published
many, many times. She was a kind, woman with sparkling gray eyes, and
obviously had experienced life to its fullest.
I took my seat next to a woman who looked about my own age, perhaps a few
years younger. It was hard not to notice her because of her striking
features: unruly, black hair, porcelain white skin, and big, green luminous
Kira led the group in an icebreaker game. We took turns introducing
ourselves, which was fun and awkward at the same time. Most of the people
there were insecure amateur poets, who were simply looking for something to
do with their spare and often empty time. I found myself pitying many of
them. Perhaps they would pity me if they knew about the last six months of
my life. Months that were not even documented in my work. Not one poem.
When it was "her" turn, she spoke with a bold confidence and radiating energy
I immediately envied.
"Hello, my name is Cassandra. I am here for a one-year appointment because of
my husband's job. I am from Tasmania."
Her accent revealed she was obviously not from this country. But it was more
than that. It was the way she said it. She sounded so exotic, so mysterious.
"I have written over twenty poems, mainly dealing with passion, desire and
courage - in particular, sexual courage," she continued. Sexual courage, I
thought. That's a familiar concept.
"The poem I am working on currently is called, 'Entwined.' It is about
female bonding, intimacy and friendship in today's world. I am very proud of
it and I hope you like it as well. I look forward to sharing it with all of
She sat down and looked right at me. I assumed it was because I was next.
But I couldn't help but feeling an attraction, the feeling that she and I
become very close friends. I needed a best friend about now. Mine were both
It was my turn. I didn't like speaking in front of even small crowds, and I
was acutely aware my hands were trembling. I miraculously found my voice.
"Hi. My name is Jessica Preston. I am from here. I . . .I . . .started
writing poetry when I was seventeen. Most of it is of course, unpublished,
but I hope to learn some things from being here." I quickly took my seat.
However, Kira was not done with me.
"Jus-ik-aa," she said in her Russian dialect, "what is your, ah, latest? Hum?
Or perhaps a current project you'd like to share with the others?"
"Well, I . . . I haven't written anything in six months, although I was
published last year in The Poet's Haven. A small literary journal."
"That's wonderful!" Cassandra blurted out. "What a great magazine! Wow! I
have never been published. What was it called? The piece, I mean?"
"Oh, it was just a little piece called, 'Unconditional.' It is about, well,
unconditional love," I stammered and blushed. I sounded like an idiot.
"Splendid! Will you read it to the class?" Her face was lit up like a
"I don't see why not. Sure, I guess I will." I felt so self-conscious,
though a part of me was eager to share.
Kira cut in, reasserting her leadership status. "What is your next piece?"
Cassandra eagerly looked at me, her eyes shining with interest. I paused for
what seemed like eternity. Then I said it and sat down.
* * * * * *
She made me forget the loss. Over the weeks, we became the dearest of
friends. Cassandra was to a successful financial consultant named
Simon, who was assigned to spend one year in the United States. She had been
suddenly uprooted from her country and found herself here. Since her husband
traveled frequently, she was alone much of the time, just her and her poetry.
And now, she had me.
We began our relationship at the coffee shops, reading and critiquing each
other's work. Slowly, more personal topics began to emerge, such as relations
with the in our lives. She loved her husband very deeply - something else
I admired and envied tremendously.
"Simon is such a wonderful husband," she once said. "He allows me to do my
own thing. We got quite young, too I must say. But I am very,
I told her about Paul, but never Gina. I found myself so relaxed, so open
around Cassandra that I could talk about anything, everything but my sister's
untimely and clouded death. I was too ashamed to reveal the details of what
really happened that night. Even to Cassandra. Anything but the secret, the
On the many nights Simon was out of town, we went to dinner, had a few
drinks, and talked for hours. Cassandra grew to hate Paul and everything he
"My dear little Jessica," Cassie would coo. "What an absolute oaf of a man.
My precious angel, you can do so much better. If you ever come visit us,
there a few sexy little devils I could introduce you to in my country." The
thought delighted me! Handsome, sexy devils from a far away place who spoke
and sounded as exotic and mysterious as my Cassandra!
"Besides, was Paul ever really good in bed? Really?" She smiled. I giggled.
Cassie had such a cute, infectious way of saying things. I tried to remember
what it was like. Sex with Paul had been a roller coaster. Hurried, fumbling,
hardly a word spoken in passion. It was lust. I remember longing for
sweet words spoken in whispers, a gentle caress that would've made the
difference. I found myself telling Cassandra all this. I had never told
anyone. Why was I telling her?
"And," I giggled again, "He had a crooked penis." We burst out laughing. I
thought beer was going to come through Cassandra's nose.
"There was a crooked and he had a crooked smile, had a crooked penis and
he walked a crooked mile!" she began to sing. We laughed and laughed. She
was holding my hand under the table. It felt like high school all over
* * * * * *
I had a date! For the first time in eight months, I had a date! I met Joshua
one night, while out having cocktails with Cassandra. He was of Syrian
descent, with a smooth, olive complexion and long, worn in a sleek
ponytail. Joshua was a professional musician. He taught classical guitar at
the local university. A Greek god. A male muse. For the first time since
Paul, I was attracted to another man.
Excitedly, I went to Casandra's to get dressed. We drank champagne and I
borrowed her sexiest little black dress. It was made of a clingy fabric that
went so well with our hourglass figures and ripe cleavage. Cassie and I both
shared these attributes, and although she was a few inches taller than me,
the dress fit perfectly. We arranged to have him pick me up at her house.
Since I met him in a bar, I was a little cautious, but Cassandra didn't mind.
So I planned to spend the night there. She had given me the key, even told
me to invite him in and said to feel free to use the guestroom as "I
Joshua arrived in all his exotic glory. We were both flabbergasted. He was
wearing dark pants and an expensive crisp, white with a charcoal
tailored jacket. I winked at her as I left, and she gestured back. Simon
was on a business trip and I hated to leave her alone. She would never have
thought of coming along with us, but nonetheless, I felt terrible about
leaving her behind.
The evening was exquisite. Joshua proved to be a charming, cultured,
artistic man. We had a romantic dinner at a quaint Greek restaurant, dancing
at a local jazz club, and sipped on espresso afterwards until the wee hours
of the morning. Our conversation was very natural. We talked about
everything: fascinating of his parent's native homeland, Paul, his
ex-girlfriend, even our views on sex. Joshua was very open about this topic
and I realized he was a very passionate person. It was starting to intrigue
me more and more. We went on and on, about everything but my sister, of
course. What would he think if he knew?
"So, Jessica, do you have any brothers or sisters?" he asked politely, but
"I have one sister, well had." I stopped. I still wasn't used to speaking in
"Had?" He look a bit confused, but not pushy.
"Well, she died in a car accident about six months ago."
He never used the worn phrase "I am so sorry." He simply took it matter-of-
factly, as thought it was as simple as, "She is a senior in high school."
"What was her name?"
"Ah, Gina. A pretty name. Any other siblings?"
His ease at accepting the topic was unexpected and a welcome relief.
"No, just Gina. She was the only one."
"I am an only child," he casually added. It's just me and my uncle. My
parents were killed in a terrorist bombing while visiting friends in Beirut,
"Oh, Joshua, I am so sorry . . ." I caught myself. Now I was doing it. The
"I am so sorry" thing.
He never paused. "My uncle is an amazing man. He came to this country
shortly after I was born. He and his wife, Alla, were taking care of me
while my were vacationing. I was ten. They raised me." I sat
speechless. Despite my loss of words, I felt bonded in ways beyond my
comprehension. Losing both your at age ten. Joshua had offered
details of his but never asked for mine. He never mentioned Gina
At the door, he leaned forward to kiss me good night. It was light, faint on
the lips. His lips were warm, as warm as the Mediterranean Sea.
"Thank you for a lovely evening," he said.
I must have snapped at that particular moment, because I leaned forward and
began to kiss him hard on his full, inviting mouth. The fire in his eyes
matched the fire on my lips. He responded eagerly, and I could feel the
passion unleashing rapidly through his hot, Mediterranean veins. We kissed
for what seemed like an hour. I was well aware of the familiar longing,
aching and desire I had not experienced in a very long time. The well was no
longer dry. As he lightly fondled my through my dress, he whispered
something in a very low voice. I was gently pinned against Cassie's front
door. I knew I could've easily moved if I'd wished. Before I could speak,
he abruptly pulled away. Had I offended him?
He took my hand and stared so deep into my eyes, I felt he could see the
secrets I tried so hard to bury within me.
"What?" I whispered.
"I want you to know something, before this goes any further. Let me preface
this by saying that I am very attracted to you, Jessica. I can see a future
in this, if you are willing and interested." I could hear myself swallowing.
"But in order to be completely honest with you, there is something you need to
know. We talked a lot about sexual intimacy tonight and I was so comfortable
with you. You are truly sensuous. I desire you. But, I have had some
experiences that you may or may not be comfortable with."
I knew what was coming. I felt in it my stomach. My hands began to shake.
"I have had sex with a man. Several times, the same man. It was for my
girlfriend, a couple's thing, experimental."
"Are you gay?" I found myself blurting out a blunt, rude and forthright
question. My voice was like a bullet.
"No, I am not a homosexual. I love women. I love men. But I am not saying
it will never happen again, I enjoyed the experience. I take it you have a
problem with it."
Silence. I was flabbergasted. My Mr. Wonderful, Mr. Right, was bi-sexual?
He was so manly, so handsome, so . . . how could this be? I felt something
else too. My guilt came flooding back. The half open door, watching them in
the soft glow of the night-light. Knowing what was happening, feeling
aroused. I knew what he was going to ask.
"You've never been with a woman?"
"Yes, I mean, yes it does bother me, Joshua. And no, I have never been with a
My answer came more defensively than I expected. I paused. "I am sorry."
"I am not ashamed of my experiences. If they repulse you, then we must move
on," he said. His big, gorgeous brown, disappointed eyes stared deep into
mine. I felt angry, confused, and most of all - guilty. I wanted to explain
it wasn't him - or was it?
"Friends?" He offered his hand. A muscular, brown hand that I would have
loved to have touching the inside of my thighs at that very moment, bringing
me to the destination I'd desired for so long.
"Friends." I managed to barely whisper.
I took his hand and squeezed it. Then he was gone.
* * * * * *
I never intended to wake her.
She walked in on me unexpectedly. I was changing into my champagne colored
satin nightgown. It had been a gift from Paul. For some reason, I became
aware that she had caught a glimpse of my naked, ample breasts. It gave me
goose bumps. She was so cool, so relaxed, so beautiful and so brave.
She came and sat on the edge of the bed. Her short, was a bit
rumpled from sleep, yet still sleek and shiny. Her complexion glowed without
make-up, her green eyes were alive as lightening on a hot, summer night. I
noticed how naturally feminine and lovely she was in one of Simon's cotton
shirts. Cassandra. What a provocative, erotic name, I thought. Cassandra.
She was asking me in her endearing dialect about Joshua, the evening, the
details. I couldn't concentrate anymore. The zombie feeling was taking
over. She finally asked me if I was okay. She was strong. Courageous. I
was a coward. At first, I told her about Joshua. But it wasn't really him I
wanted to talk about. It was Gina. Joshua had stirred up something deep
with in me. Something he said reminded me of Gina. My darling, baby whose death - I was convinced - was my fault. The guilt was overwhelming. I
had to confess to someone. I began to tell her the story, as tears flooded
down my face and into lap. She never flinched. She just sat there and
listened, stroked my hair and held me.
I told her about Joshua and what he had told me. How I hated myself for being
shocked at his bisexuality. I wasn't a bigot. But somehow what he told me
brought it all back. About Gina and Cindy. About me.
She held me close and whispered it was all right.
* * * * * *
It was a stormy night. The Gulf Coast fog was as as molasses. My
parents were having a small, elite dinner party at their home for several
important friends including Paul's parents. Paul and I were there, putting
on our usual act, masquerading as "the perfect couple," with our polite,
witty, and charming banter.
My younger sister, Gina, who was only seventeen, had invited her best friend
over to spend the night. Cindy was a pretty, delicate girl. They were
The party was dull, but Paul was in typical form with a scotch in one hand,
talking about the stock market and sports, while impressing my and
everyone else as usual.
My father, who was a stern, conservative man, had gone upstairs to check on
the girls. They were in Gina's room watching television. Looking back, I am
not quite sure why he went there. Surely a good host would not abandon his
guests abruptly. Perhaps he suspected what I was certain of? Suddenly, he
came down the stairs and asked to speak to my in private. His face
was white as the color of her fine linen. After a few moments, the yelling
My father's protests rang out, loud and furious. I heard my mother's
muffled crying. The guests were hushed. Then the back door slammed and I
could hear the sound of a car speeding down the street. After what seemed
like an eternity later, my and descended from the stairwell as
though nothing had happened. My addressed the crowd in his most
composed speaking voice.
"I apologize to everyone present. My youngest need a little
discipline. Please excuse the fuss."
The party continued. Quietly, I slipped upstairs. Both Gina and Cindy were
gone. I figured my had punished her for something, and she and Cindy
had fled the house. What could have been so awful?
The hospital phoned about an hour later. The news was surreal. Both Gina
and Cindy had been killed when their car spun off the highway and into a
tree. The guest left quickly. My became hysterical. My approached me, tears streaming down his face. I had never seen him cry
"Did you know about this? Did you know your Gina was having sexual
relations with her little friend Cindy?" The shock of my father's brutal
words were too much to bear.
I had known, watched in silence. It aroused both my curiosity and sexual
desires. I never confronted Gina. I never told anyone. I just didn't know
what to think or feel about them. Somehow they made me terrified about my own
sexuality. It made me run to a "man's man" like Paul, as if to reassure
myself that I was straight.
I ran upstairs to Gina's room. Surely she was still there, perhaps just
asleep in her bed? This was all a terrible mistake! Her room looked the
same as it always did. Cotton candy pink walls, Winona Ryder posters,
pictures of her favorite rock bands, school banners, cute little framed
pictures of her and Cindy holding hands and smiling. Teddy bears and lace
pillows, nothing unusual about it.
As I was leaving the room I noticed a small pair of white lace lying
on the floor. Cindy's panties.
I was overcome with a feeling of entrapment, confusion, and frenzied emotions.
As my head swirled like a whirlwind, I ran down the stairs, tripped down two
and nearly falling. The pain unnoticed, I managed to throw the heavy wooden
front door wide open and run out into the blinding rain. It was pouring
outside. I vomited in the azalea bushes as my guts tried to expel the grief,
the shame, and the guilt from my body. Wrenching violent sobbing seized my
body as I fell, a limp heap onto the muddy ground. My legs were no longer
capable of holding me up.
After a few minutes I heard Paul's voice. He hadn't left earlier with the
other guests. I looked up at him from my pathetic fetal position in the wet
grass. I wanted so badly for him to hold me, just hold me until the pain went
away, if it ever would. Instead he spoke with an indifference that shot
through my veins like an icy needle.
"Look, I need to go. I am sorry about your sister."
"What?" I managed to speak. "Now? Paul, I need you. Don't leave me now,
His eyes were cold, lifeless, and ashamed. His lips curled as he said his
final heartless words.
"You knew didn't you? You knew your was gay. God what a family! I
suppose you will be tempted too. My Dad had always told me it was genetic.
It's bad enough if your goes with another man. Imagine what it will do
to me if you end up with another woman. I'll be the laughing stock of the
I curled up even more, each word a blow to my heart. I wept uncontrollably.
"I said I was sorry. But I cannot stay. Goodbye, Jessica. Goodbye."
"Paul, please . . . please come back. Paul . . ."
* * * * * *
Cassandra spoke gently, comfortingly. She understood the guilt and fear. She
understood my confusion.
"Sex is beautiful, Jessica. It gets ugly if tinged with guilt. It is to be
free and natural. Sexuality is a preference. Like everything else. If it
gives you pleasure and happiness, comfort and understanding - then you take
it with your heart and body, just as you give these things to your partner."
It had been a long time. I finally felt safe, secured, and loved. I must
have looked awful with swollen, puffy eyes, tear-streaked face and dry,
chapped lips. I couldn't help but notice that she was erect through her thin,
cotton shirt. I stared at her nipples. They were a work of art. I was
Most of all, I wanted them. In my mouth.
I am not sure how it started exactly. I was crying, she was stroking me,
holding me. Then I felt her lips on mine. They were soft, lush, like tiny
pillows. She tenderly kissed my checks, my mouth, my neck. Friendship had
turned to fire - a burning sexuality neither of us could harness. Not
Somewhere in the recesses of my mind, I heard a little voice begging me to
stop. This was Cassandra. My best friend. She's a woman. Stop. Paul was
But I ignored that little voice and I gave in to my desires, my fantasies. I
knew this was natural. So what if this happens? I liked men, but should that
stop me from liking a woman?
I knew all along, I had wanted her from that first day in the poetry group.
She began to lead, for which I was grateful. Cassandra touched my in
only a way a woman would know. Not like Joshua and not like Paul. Her touch
was tender, soft, and sensuous - and was as wonderfully exciting as anything I
have ever experienced before. Ever. Cassandra, the lovely Cassandra.
There was something I could see in her eyes. She possessed a mysterious,
burning hunger. Indistinguishable, unnamed, deep within her, a persistent need
calling out to be heard. Did she genuinely desire me? Did my eyes reflect my
wanting? Does she sense how I felt? I realized I hadn't had sex for six
months. This was more that sex. My pulse began to race. I wanted to embrace
her, to feel her body, to caress her skin, to encircle her gently and
passionately in my arms. I gazed hungrily, longing to seize her and kiss her
fully on those lips - to explore her lips with my mouth, to explore her
mouth with my tongue.
Then she smiled. I knew it was right. I grinned back, and she knew I was
ready for her. She stood and undressed before me while my eyes took in her
form. She was so round and soft, so very much like me. Cassandra reached
over and carefully lifted my champagne, satin nightgown. She did it so
delicately, as though it were made of fine bone china. The satin gown I would
never wear again.
She sat next to me on the bed, and I touched her cheek. Looking into her eyes,
I kissed her nose, then her chin. I moved down and kissed her breastbone. I
felt her shiver as I licked her stomach. As I moved down her body, my kisses
became more passionate, more willing. I was no longer afraid.
I heard the rhythm of her breathing, soft and fast. I pulled her close, and
her arms surrounded me. We kissed again, this time more feverishly than ever.
Our mouths were starved for each other. I felt her tongue in my mouth, and
I it gently as I heard her groan. Then Cassandra took one of my large,
erect nipples into her own moist, inviting mouth. I gasped at the sensation.
Why does this feel so good? Her lips were like home, a warm, cozy abode. I
wanted more. Cassandra's hands began to move up my legs, which I could feel
slowly parting as she teased me with her fingers.
I could not believe this was happening. I was making love to a woman. And it
was wonderful, so very delicious. I found myself whimpering softly. She
seductively ran her warm hand between my legs to experience my precious
secretions. To see if I was ready. I was. She lightly coaxed my legs wide
apart, and they fell open effortlessly.
Never in my wildest dreams had I imagined a woman going down on me.
Cassandra did so -- willingly, wantonly, eagerly. Her tongue was more
skillful than any man's had ever been, she seemed more patient, more
determined, more at ease. I could feel her breath lightly on my blooming
garden, now exposed to her, no secrets held. No more secrets.
I wanted her inside me, deep inside my body, my heart and my soul. I wanted
her to consume me. It was different from the desire I felt for a man. Chills
of pleasure racked my body as her tongue found my pearl. To my vast
astonishment and delight, I reached my destination rapidly. After a while, my
breathing calmed, and she gazed at me and smiled again. I knew what to do, it
was her turn. I wanted to know. I wanted to know what Gina knew.
I ran my hands up her soft, silky smooth thighs. She eagerly spread her
gorgeous, milk white legs wide as I explored the unknown. It took courage,
but I found it. Her special little spot, her secret treasure, her sexual
joy. Cassandra felt as soft as expensive velvet. It was not frightening or
foreign, merely an extension of her and myself. She felt just like me.
I briefly thought of all those dreadfully empty nights when I thought of Paul
and touched myself. After my climax, I always cried. I cried for Paul. Most
of all, I cried for Gina.
I caressed her with every once of passion, love and tenderness I had within
my heart. I caressed her for the beautiful gift she had given me. I
caressed her as though it were my own. It was. I gently probed her mouth
with my tongue and Cassandra exploded in my hand. The same tongue that read
my work. The same hand that produced my art. Cassandra in my hands and in
my mouth was a climatic chorus sung in poetry. Poetry in motion.
But most of all, I was at peace with myself.
I had accepted Gina.
* * * * * *
It is April. The weather is cooler now, not as harsh. The one-year
anniversary of Gina's death has come and gone.
Cassandra and Simon are moving back home to Tasmania. Drake and I have an
open invitation to visit, one we plan to take advantage of as soon as we get
the money. Drake is my new lover. He is a wonderful who loves me dearly
and treats me with more respect than I ever imagined. Most of all, Drake
accepts Gina. No questions ever asked. He loves her memory as much as I do.
We talk about her every day. We smile and laugh. Gina would have liked
I heard through the grapevine that Paul is getting to his much younger
Cassandra and I kiss each other goodbye. We kiss lightly on the lips. Drake
and Simon shake hands.
We have our secret. We both love our with equal intensity and we love
each other. We are friends forever. Poetry in motion.
* * * * * *
by Jessica Marie Preston
My guardian angel watches me
From the heavens,
My soul mate, my mentor, my guide.
I feel her presence
Surrounding me like a soft glow,
A misty haze,
She is my light.
I look in the mirror
I see her behind me,
Wings spread wide, ethereal.
I open my hands,
As she reaches for me.
Her touch, a rush
Of unconditional love, courage, acceptance.
I feel her through me
Consuming my soul
A loving force, a flame.
She is with me always,
I am in her hands.