That night Lizzie took extra pains with her hair and makeup. She dressed in black denim jeans and a green sweater that gave her grey eyes a greenish tint. Why am I primping? It’s just dinner with a friend. But, like Mom always says, “Don’t dress to please others, dress to please yourself.”
She walked into the restaurant and saw Sara at a table. She felt a fluttering like dozens of butterflies in her stomach. The reaction of her body surprised her. This is weird. Why am I reacting to this woman this way?
Sara motioned to the chair opposite her and said, “I didn’t order any wine since I don’t know if you indulge.”
“I like wine with dinner, especially Italian food.”
“So, what looks good besides you?”
Lizzie cocked her head and looked at Sara. “A-h-h.”
“Sorry, couldn’t help myself.” Sara winked. “You do look very nice. That color brings out highlights in your eyes.”
Lizzie blushed, ducked her head and picked up the menu.
“How about an appetizer tray while we decide?” Sara asked and motioned the waiter over.
She ordered an appetizer sampler and a bottle of Moscato. “Hope you like sweet wine. I prefer it to dry.”
“So, any other siblings besides this twin?”
“No. My father’s unable to have kids. Mike and I are the result of artificial insemination.” Mom would say I’m talking too much. “Lizzie, you don’t have to tell people your life history.” I haven’t even had a glass of wine yet.
“Wow! So you don’t know who your father is?”
“Well, yes. Mike and I found out a few years ago when we were sixteen. Our biological father is our uncle Dave.”
“The gay uncle?”
“Yeah,” Lizzie admitted.
The waiter brought the wine and appetizers. Sara ordered Fettuccini Alfredo and Lizzie asked for Chicken Parmesan.
Sara took a bite of calamari and tilted her head. “Now about this ex-husband. What happened?”
“I met Jerry in college. I thought I was in love with him. He’s very politically inclined. I think he hopes to be Governor someday.” Lizzie paused and took a drink of her wine. “We’d been married a couple of years when he had an affair with my cousin.” After four years, it feels good to be able to talk to someone about it.
“Wow! Your cousin? Is she anything like you?”
“Yes and no. She’s a couple of months older than I am and there has always been a rivalry between us. I never understood it. Her mother’s spoiled her since she was born.” Lizzie recounted all the things that happened between her and Catherine when they were children. “Like I said, I’ve never understood it. She had the best of everything. I think the only time I was jealous of her was when her mother bought her a brand new Mustang for her sixteenth birthday. Even her brother, Scott, didn’t get a new car when he turned sixteen.”
“How long did the affair go on before you found out?”
Lizzie gave a semi-laugh. “According to Jerry it only happened one night. A couple of months later, Catherine told him she was pregnant. He told me, and I filed for divorce. Shortly after they got married, Catherine told him she’d never been pregnant. She’d just made it up so he’d leave me and marry her. Told him nothing had even happened that night. He was too drunk to remember.”
Their entrees arrived, and the waiter refilled their wine glasses. The bottle was nearly empty and Sara ordered another one.
“So where are you from?” Lizzie asked. “You don’t sound like a New Yorker.”
“No,” Sara replied. “I’m from a small town outside of Birmingham, Alabama.
“Any siblings?” Lizzie asked.
“I have a younger sister and two younger brothers. I’m either the oldest of four or an only child depending on how you look at it.”
“Okay. I put up with Uncle Jesse saying his twin sister is a year older than he is, but that doesn’t make sense.”
“You’ll have to explain that one.” Sara frowned.
“Jenny was born at 11:58 December 31 and Jesse was born at 12:03 January 1. She always teases him about being a year older. So give.”
Sara’s eyes darkened with sadness. “It’s a long story.”
“Hey, no fair. I told you my sordid past.”
“At least you know your father. My mother was sixteen when she was raped several times by a married family friend.”
“Did they prosecute him?” Lizzie asked.
“Of course not. He was a well-known pillar of the church and above reproach. Mom was blamed for ‘enticing’ him. He never acknowledged me as his daughter,” Sara said. Disgust dripped from her voice. “Anyway, Granddad paid one of his employees to marry Mom. When I was growing up, I could never understand why my dad didn’t love me like he did my sister and brothers. If anything went wrong, it was my fault and I was the one punished.”
“Did he beat you?” Lizzie sounded shocked.
Their meal came and for a few minutes they were engrossed in eating.
Then Lizzie asked, “So when did you leave home?”
“Well, about a week after graduation, Dad caught me kissing my best friend. He decided to show me what a man was like and raped me. That’s when I found out he was not my ‘real’ father.”
“Oh my God! That must have been horrible! Did your mother know?”
Sara drained her wine glass and refilled it and Lizzie’s. “Oh, yes. Told me I had it coming. After all, I was born ‘in sin’.” She air-quoted. “I ran away that night. I waited until everyone was asleep, and lifted my mother’s ATM card from her purse. I knew her PIN. There was a $300 limit per machine and I hit four of them. I hot-wired my brother’s car and took off. I drove to Birmingham, dumped the car and bought a ticket to California. The next day, I switched directions and headed to New York. I hoped by doing that, I’d throw anyone off my trail.” Sara grimaced. “I never looked back. Well, that isn’t exactly true. Before I got on the bus for New York, I called my brother and told him where to find his car. After I got a job and saved up enough money, I bought a money order for the $1,200 I stole from Mom and mailed it to her.”
Lizzie shook her head. Her eyes felt wet. “I can’t imagine a mother standing by while her daughter is beaten or raped.”
“I don’t think she cared. She hated the way I was conceived. I think she tried to love me but couldn’t. She was afraid to show any affection for me because of her husband. I also think she hated my grandfather for making her marry that man.” Sara’s eyes were dark with anger. “I know he’s legally my step father, but I can’t think of him as Dad anymore.” She again emptied and re-filled her wine glass. “I must be getting drunk. I don’t usually tell people this.”
“Me too.” Lizzie giggled. She took another drink of her wine. “Have you always known you were gay?”
“I figured it out when I was about twelve. I liked looking at the girls in the gym locker room more than I liked looking at the boys on the football team.”
Lizzie laughed. “That’s kind of what Uncle Dave says about how he realized his sexuality. He preferred the jocks to the cheerleaders. So how old are you, if you don’t mind saying?”
“I’m 23. How about you?”
“I’m 27, at least I will be in a couple of weeks,” Lizzie replied. “I’m an Aries. March 21.”
“February 2 here.” Sara grinned. “I’m a groundhog.”
“And an Aquarian.”
Sara wrinkled her nose as she asked, “Do you follow that kind of stuff?”
“Not all of it, but I’ve found a lot of truth in some of it,” Lizzie answered.
* * *
They talked and talked. Lizzie told Sara about how she and Mike found out Dave was their biological father and about Dave and Jesse’s twins. How Jesse’s sister was artificially inseminated with Dave’s sperm so the babies are related to both of them.
“Twins seem to run in both the Johnson and O’Connor families.” Lizzie then asked Sara about her protesting activities. “I’ve never been to a protest.”
“You should come with us next weekend. We’re marching for same-sex marriage in New York State.”
“I don’t know.” Lizzie hesitated. “I might not fit in since I’m not gay.”
Sara stared at her with a frown. “There’ll be a lot of straight people there. It isn’t just gays who are marching and protesting. We have a lot of straight allies. Besides, what would your uncles want you to do? Are they married?”
“They got married before Prop 8 passed” Lizzie answered. “They could get married in Iowa. That’s where Jesse’s family lives and where they had a commitment ceremony about seven years ago. I think they are waiting until Prop 8 is overturned.”
“Well, see you have something to march for.”
“I don’t know. I’ll think about it.”
Sara looked around. They were the only people in the restaurant and their waiter stood patiently by the door to the kitchen. She put her hand up to her mouth and whispered. “I think they want us to leave so they can close.”
Lizzie looked at her watch. “Oh my God. We’ve been here over four hours.” She giggled. “Time flies when you’re having fun, doesn’t it?”
Sara laughed. “It has been fun. Please say you’ll join us this weekend. I’ll come by your place and pick you up.”
“Okay. I’ll do it.”
Lizzie – Chapter Four