Bohemian Like You
She takes Giselle aside one day after class, waiting until the others have filed out, chattering and laughing in pockets of twos and threes, until it's just the two of them in the darkened empty lecture theatre. It's unexpected, to say the least.
Betty Warren and Giselle Levy barely tolerate each other when they're in company and when they're alone, well, they don't speak. Amongst their mutual friends, they trade insults wrapped in false smiles. Giselle is a slut and Betty is a priss and never the twane do meet. Or so it goes.
They stare at each other for a few moments in the shadows. Finally, Betty produces an envelope from inside the cover of one of her textbooks and offers it to Giselle. When Giselle lifts her hand to take it, Betty holds on.
"I'm only doing this because Connie begged me. Apparently it wouldn't be the same without you."
"God, if it's another one of your mother's pretentious cocktail parties then spare me."
Betty gives a thin smile. "No booze, no married men, no talking to people you don't know. I don't want you ruining this and making a fool of yourself."
"Fuck you," Giselle mutters as she snatches the envelope out of the other girl's grip and throws it pointedly to the floor.
"Predictable as ever, I see."
Maybe it's something to do with the bright, vicious gleam in Betty's eyes that makes Giselle act, that makes her surge forward and cover that smug little mouth with her own. It's a long, hard kiss and in the back of her mind Giselle is surprised that Betty doesn't resist, more surprised still when she feels two arms slip across her shoulders.
Suddenly, there's a loud noise from the corridor. Betty bites Giselle's lip and they both spring apart in shock. She can taste the sharp metallic tang of blood as she brings her hand to her mouth.
Giselle glances at the red smear on the tip of her finger then up to Betty's face. Her expression is completely smooth, posture entirely composed, as if nothing has happened. There's only the slightest catch in her voice as she speaks, "I'm working on the table plan, so you'd better RSVP."
With that, Betty steps out into the brightness of the corridor, leaving Giselle temporarily dazzled. She covers her eyes with one hand and lets out a shuddering breath. Then she remembers the envelope and bends to retrieve it, opening the flap. Inside there's a card with elegant script on it. It reads: "Mr and Mrs Warren cordially invite you to the wedding of their daughter Elizabeth to Mr Spencer Jones..."
That's how it began, Giselle's trouble with Betty Warren.
In class or in the communal areas, they continue their barbed comments. Giselle stands beside Betty and nobody notices the veiled glances that they give each other as they quarrel for the sake of appearances. They never sit together, never have a kind word to say about each other because it would seem too strange to their friends. But sometimes Giselle feels the press of Betty's hand as they pass in the hall or Betty will give her a certain look as if to acknowledge their secret.
There are stolen moments in empty classrooms, Betty with both arms braced against the frosted glass of the door, kissing her like it's going out of fashion, kissing her like an woman engaged to be married shouldn't.
"We have to be discreet," Betty whispers as Giselle kisses her neck and Giselle's hands skim across her blouse.
In the middle of the night they take turn about sneaking into each other's rooms. Betty's adamant about Giselle not touching her below the waist. She says she's keeping herself for him, for Spencer. As if he'd know what to do, how to please her.
"You don't understand," Betty insists irritably one night, when Giselle's hand strays under the waistband of her white lace underwear, and she pushes Giselle away, "I have to be perfect. Perfect wife, perfect homemaker, perfect mother to our children. It's what I want, it's what's expected of me."
At first Giselle was bitter but now she's just glad Betty lets her touch her at all. Because Betty Warren's like an addiction. Giselle craves her as much as she does cigarettes and kissing isn't enough so Giselle must satisfy her lust elsewhere with those more able and willing.
The day before the wedding Giselle comes to Betty's room and closes the door behind her. Betty looks up from packing her suitcase.
"I'm really busy," Betty says, folding the skirts that lay on the bed. "There's so many things I have to finish before tomorrow." She flashes a distracted smile and falls silent while she continues packing.
Undeterred, Giselle walks up to Betty and grabs her by the arm, forcibly turning her around. "Don't marry him." The words sound ridiculous and desperate even to her own ears but Giselle is beyond caring. She has a talent for melodrama and Betty brings out the worst of it.
Betty's forehead creases. "Don't say that," she says crossly, shaking off Giselle's grip.
"Look, I've tried to be happy for you, I have, but I can't pretend." Giselle sits on the bed, fidgeting with the cover. "Betty, what happens to us afterwards?"
"Well," Betty says delicately, not meeting the other girl's gaze. She crosses the room to the dressing table and gathers up her toiletries. "I haven't really thought about it. I suppose things ought to... end."
"End?" Giselle echoes. There's a slight pinkness to Betty's cheeks and she avoids looking directly at Giselle still.
She sits there for a few minutes, staring at Betty in a gormless stupor. The magnitude of other girl's words hit her then and she stands abruptly.
"You callous bitch," she spits over her shoulder as she brushes past Betty and leaves the room.
At the wedding Giselle gets drunk and dances with Bill at the reception - it's the only way she can get through it. She feels Betty watching her, looking over Spencer's shoulder, so Giselle makes a show of it, letting Betty think she doesn't give a damn anyway. But Giselle thinks Betty looks more beautiful than she's ever seen her and it makes her heart sick to see Betty fawning over her new husband without any regard for her.
It's the last time Giselle sees her for weeks. The faculty turn a blind eye to married students missing classes. It's to be expected, after all, so they make allowances. In Betty's absence Giselle grows numb. She gives up chasing after Bill and loses herself in other affairs - at least with the married men she commands their full attention, at least for a few hours before they return to their wives.
When Betty finally returns to class, she ignores Giselle. Even her rebuttals are half assed, as if she's above it all now. Betty's married and Giselle is nothing. She wants to hate Betty but she can't bring herself to feel anything.
The break comes one night at the local movie theatre - on a date with the psychiatrist Giselle's been seeing professionally and personally. She thinks she sees Spencer and Betty across the street and she moves to wave and catch their attention (call it her masochistic streak). It's Spencer alright, but he isn't with Betty. It's another blonde and Giselle feels her heart sputter back to life as she watches him kiss the woman that isn't his 'perfect' wife.
She tells no one what she saw but nurses that knowledge with bitter satisfaction. A few days later, it all comes out. Betty had caught him out somehow, had made some realisation and then, there she is, sobbing in Giselle's arms about how her husband doesn't want her. All thoughts of taking delight in Betty's pain vanish instantly as Giselle holds her and whispers comforting words until the sobs subside.
That week Betty moves back into her dorm room. In silence, she unpacks as Giselle lingers in the doorway. She isn't sure Betty particularly wants her around but the other girl hasn't told her to go. At one point Betty turns and looks surprised to see Giselle still standing there but gives a small smile and it's enough to propel Giselle over the threshold. She shuts the door, hiding them from prying eyes.
Betty doesn't protest when Giselle puts her arms around her but clings instead. They stand like that for minutes, neither willing or wanting to end the embrace. Giselle listens to Betty's breathing, relaxing into the warmth of her, the press of her curves, relishing the familiar scent of hair and skin. They haven't been this close for months and she just wants to prolong it for as long as she can because very soon the moment will be lost.
"I'm sorry," Betty says, her voice disconcertingly close to Giselle's ear.
Giselle turns her head to kiss Betty's cheek. "Shh. It doesn't matter."
"But I - I treated you very badly..." Betty's crying now, her voice muffled by Giselle's neck. Her skin feels damp with Betty's tears.
Giselle steps back and holds the other girl's face in both hands. Clear blue eyes shine wetly with grief and regret and Betty just looks so beautiful that Giselle can't help but kiss her slow and searchingly. Betty returns the kiss, her fingers trembling as she touches Giselle's cheek.
Soon they're on the bed and the forgotten suitcase that lay on it is quickly pushed to the floor. Betty pulls Giselle on top of her as they kiss and they're so caught up in the moment that they don't realise the door is open until they hear a squeak of surprise. They hardly have time to break apart.
Connie stands in the doorway, her hand covering her mouth. She doesn't appear disgusted or horrified, merely caught off guard. "Oh!" she stammers, "I - I'll come back later."
The door is shut swiftly, leaving Betty and Giselle staring at it. They look at each other.
"She won't tell anyone, will she?" Betty asks, with an alarmed expression. Her cardigan is half unbuttoned and hanging off her shoulders, revealing the thin silk chemise she wears underneath. Beneath that, Giselle sees the very distinct outline of a bra and it's just about the most erotic thing she's ever seen.
She shrugs and continues removing Betty's cardigan. "No one would believe her anyway. Everyone thinks we can't stand each other." The cardigan is cast to the floor alongside the suitcase and Betty compliantly lifts her arms for Giselle to pull off the chemise. "I'll speak to her later but I'm going to lock the door, just in case."
Swinging her legs round, she gets off the bed. With the door locked, she returns.
She stands beside the bed, watching Betty shimmy out of her skirt, leaving her only in underwear. Betty looks at her, gaze steady, as she removes those last intimate items. Giselle feels her chest tighten as she takes in the sight before her - milky white skin, slender hips, elegant limbs and the gentle swell of breasts. Betty lies back, hair spilling out over the pillow, and, truth be told, Giselle feels a little overwhelmed. Her eyes keep returning to the dark patch of hair between Betty's legs. She's never seen Betty like this in daylight, only under partial cover of darkness and never entirely nude.
The hesitation is only momentary though and once her clothes are shed Giselle crawls onto the bed beside the other girl and leans in to kiss her. And when they make love that day it feels like a revelation. Betty quietly calls out Giselle's name, and only her name, as she comes again and again.
They're in bed on Sunday morning and Giselle's lit her first cigarette of the day. She knows Betty disapproves of smoking in bed but on this occasion the other girl doesn't complain, merely snuggling into the place between Giselle's bare breast and shoulder. Sunlight streams through the open drapes, baking them. With summer around the corner, the days are getting hotter and longer and leading up to only one thing.
"What will you do," Betty asks, affecting a lazy tone but her words are loaded, "after Wellesley?"
Graduation is only a few weeks away now. Giselle slowly exhales smoke upwards then glances down at the blonde head resting on her breast. "Go back home to New York, I guess."
There's a moment of silence as Betty contemplates this. "I've always wanted to see New York but Mother would never take me."
Reaching over, Giselle leaves the cigarette smouldering in the ashtray on the beside table. "So come with me."
At this, Betty props herself up on one elbow. "Are you serious? I mean, what would I do there?"
"You could be a writer and I could be an actress. We'd rent an apartment in Greenwich Village." Giselle laughs. "God, we'd be so bohemian Katherine Watson would be proud of us."
"Bohemian lesbians! My mother will throw a fit," Betty smiles and gives her a leisurely kiss. "I can't wait."