Work Header

To Live My Life the Way I Want

Work Text:

Midge wasn't proud of her behavior. Stanford ladies were supposed to spend their days productively—career, motherhood, good deeds. She suspected that showing up at a man's apartment unannounced wouldn't count as a good deed, and her reward was watching another woman leaving—Madeleine Elster, most likely, and as beautiful as Johnny had tried not to say she was.

Stanford women were also persistent in pursuit of knowledge, so she didn't stop there. Midge followed Madeleine as she drove away from Johnny's apartment, just missing being seen Johnny himself as he ran out after the other woman. Madeleine drove back to a luxury apartment building, but she didn't go inside. A man met her in the drive, spoke to her, then got into the driver's seat himself.

Midge shuddered involuntarily. Now that she'd seen him, she remembered Gavin Elster all too well. He'd openly and unashamedly come to Stanford in pursuit of the male equivalent of an MRS degree, only to find to his dismay that the sort of wealthy heiress who attended Stanford was precisely not the type who would hand all the family money over to the likes of him. He'd floated around the fringes of Johnny's college gang, probably hoping that Johnny's connections could lead him to the more innocent and naive sort of rich girl. Of course he turned his nose up at strivers like Midge, which is why she hadn't remembered him by name. He tended to absent himself when she and Johnny were together.

The Elsters drove toward the marina and Midge thought they might be heading back to his office, but no; this time, they were going to one of the seedier bars in the area. Odd, that Elster would take his wife to a place like that. Midge parked her car and followed them in, glad she was wearing trousers; the more mannish she appeared, the easier it was to keep the wolves at bay. She found a spot at the corner of the bar that gave her a view of the whole place, though it wasn't that large to begin with.

Inside, the Elsters took a table near the back, too far from the bar for Midge to listen in on their conversation but she could, at least, watch their body language. Madeleine certainly seemed like a wife who wanted to please as Gavin sternly asked her question after question and she replied, often at length. There was a pleading look in her eye, like an animal who wasn't getting enough attention, and she seemed like an entirely different woman from the cool, smooth, dreamy one that Johnny had described. But once the interrogation was over, Gavin was all affection, wrapping an arm around her and giving her a kiss before settling his hand proprietarily on her thigh. That seemed a little tawdry to Midge, but maybe Madeleine was one of those rich girls who liked slumming it. Maybe pretending that she was cheap and easy got her juices flowing.

Midge didn't care much for women like that, personally.

The Elsters got up to leave, so Midge took a last watery gulp of the scotch and soda she'd been nursing and trotted out to her car, where she watched as they went to their own car and drove away. Again, they didn't do what Midge expected, and head back to their apartment. Instead, Gavin drove downtown, parking in front of one of those single-occupancy hotels that shop girls and waitresses who didn't have a chum to split expenses with tended to live. They got out of the car, clutching at each other and kissing as they walked along the sidewalk, then went inside.

Midge felt sick. Johnny was clearly being played for a fool in some sort of weird sex game for the thrills of a wealthy couple. She couldn't tell him what she'd seen; he'd be furious at her for being here to see this at all. But there had to be something she could do to snap him out of whatever trance they had put him in. He was going to get his heart broken, and not through his own weaknesses, which had led Midge to break their engagement. No, this time it would be because of someone's deliberate cruelty, and Midge had too strong a sense of fair play to let that happen.

The car ahead of her stopped short and as she slammed on the brakes a book slid off the seat onto the floor—the museum program with Carlotta's painting in it. A little idea started to form in her mind, a way to show Johnny how ridiculous the whole story was, get him laughing and away from the clutches of the Elsters and their selfish manipulations. Tonight she'd sort through her long-neglected supply of brushes and oils, and tomorrow she'd get a canvas and whatever else she might need. She was rusty, to be sure, but she still had enough skill to copy a middle-class portrait from the 1800s.

It would be just the thing.

Judy shouldn't have taken this chance. She knew that. But she couldn't help herself. She'd spent enough nights crying over that final terrible meeting with Gavin, when he'd been so cold, so cruel. He'd tossed her aside like she was nothing, leaving her with a little money, a few jewels, and a secret she could never tell. But even then he'd given her a way back.

"I'm surprised at this reaction from a girl like you, Judy. You've been around the block more than a few times. Take some pride in your work. You clearly went above and beyond."

"What do you mean?"

"Haven't you heard? Ol' Scottie's in the sanitarium."

Now here she was, just outside Scottie's door. She could see him through the little window, saying nothing, staring into space, so lost. She might be the only person who could truly help him, like an antidote made from the poison itself. If she could only get up the courage to open the door.

She heard footsteps in the hall and turned to see a woman—small, glasses, blond hair cut into a pageboy—walking toward her. "Here to see Johnny, too? Or, you probably called him Scottie, didn't you?"

Judy flinched away from the door. "I …"

"Don't worry!" the woman said, smiling as she came closer. "I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who visits him." She extended a hand. "I'm Midge Wood. I know Johnny from our college days. And you are?"

"Judy," she replied, coming close enough to take Midge's hand. Her grip was firm but warm. Straight-forward. No nonsense.

Then Midge squinted, just slightly, and her handshake grew tighter. "No, you're not," she said.

"I don't know what you mean," Judy said, trying to pull away.

"Or at least, that isn't the name Scottie knows you by, is it?" Midge looked closer. "I bet if I took that scarf off your head I'd see the old platinum dye job you're growing out, wouldn't I?"

She gritted her teeth to keep from acknowledging the truth. "Please let me go."

"No," Midge said flatly. "You're coming with me, and you're never to see Johnny. You are the last person who should ever see him. Do you understand?"

Judy felt frantic. She couldn't easily get away without attracting attention, but how could this woman possibly know? "I think you have me confused with someone else."

"I don't, but Johnny did, didn't he? Just as you wanted him to." Midge pulled closer, her lips in Judy's ear, and Judy could feel her body heat, smell her perfume. "Now, if you don't want me to go to the police, you'll come with me. I assume you took the bus out here?"

Judy nodded, because what else could she do?

"All right. We'll take my car." Midge shifted her grasp so it appeared that she and Judy were holding hands, and took Judy back the way she had come, down the hall, out the door and to a little convertible parked outside. Judy said nothing as they drove to a neighborhood unfamiliar to her, and parked behind a luncheonette.

"Heya, Midge!" said the woman behind the counter.

"Heya, Gayle!" Midge said, calling out to the woman whose name was on the door. "We'll take that little booth in the back, okay?"

"Whatever you like!" Gayle said. "Coffee?"

"Yes, please!" Midge replied.

They settled into the booth, looking like nothing more than two girlfriends meeting for a chat over pie. Judy glanced around and saw nothing out of the ordinary, other than that all the customers appeared to be female. But it was three o'clock in the afternoon; the men were likely all working.

Midge took up one of the menus from the table. "I'm getting a ham sandwich, I think. What about you?"

"I'm not hungry," Judy replied.

A waitress came then, with their coffees. "No, I insist!" Midge said, sounding cheerful, but Judy sense menace in her tone. "Cathy," she went on, addressing the waitress though her eyes didn't leave Judy's, "what's good today?"

"Apple pie just came out of the oven," Cathy said, taking the pen from behind her ear. "Bean soup today."

"Well, I'll have a ham sandwich on rye and a slice of that pie. Judy?"

Judy at that moment wanted nothing more than to sink into the floor, to disappear. She used to think of herself as unremarkable, completely invisible. But lately she'd been getting all the wrong kinds of attention. She looked up at Cathy. "Does the soup come with crackers?"

"Sure does."

"Then I'll have a cup of the soup. Thanks."

Once Cathy left, Midge said, "So the only part I haven't been able to work out is, did you kill her or did he?"

"I beg your pardon?" Judy asked, looking behind them to see if anyone was in earshot.

"We won't be overheard," Midge said. "Not at this time of day. But I can say it softer if you want me to. Did you kill Madeleine Elster, or did Gavin?"

Judy's throat felt tight so she took a long drink of water. "He did."

"I'm not surprised. He always was a creep." She smiled, suddenly, and Judy realized it was for Cathy, who'd come back with their food.

"Anything else?"

"No thanks. I'll signal you if we need anything."

Cathy nodded, as if she got that particular request all the time. "Sure thing, Midge," she said, and walked away.

"Now, you eat that while it's hot," Midge said, "and I'll tell you what I think happened. Okay?"

Judy nodded, and did as she was told. She expected the soup to taste like dust, like that last meal she'd had with Gavin, but from the first spoonful it was somehow the most delicious soup she'd ever tasted. She savored it, then took another.

"Good. When I first saw you, that day you came running out of Johnny's place? I thought Madeleine was slumming it, playing games of having an affair and then going to low-class bars and low-rent hotels with her husband to get off on it. But as soon as I saw the real Madeleine's picture in the paper I realized that I had it backwards. Gavin trained you to be high-class for Scottie, but the rest of it was the real you, wasn't it? Where do you work?"

"Magnin's," Judy replied. "Handbags and accessories."

"He saw you there and plugged you into his scheme—bought the clothes and dyed your hair and told you how to walk and talk and all of it, didn't he? When did you know what he meant to do?"

"It was too late by then," Judy said. "I was—"

"You were in love with him," Midge finished, and her voice was softer, somehow.

Judy looked up. "I thought I was, but now I don't see how I ever could have been. Naive, wasn't it?"

"I'd say the opposite of naive," Midge said, smiling a little. "Low expectations due to bad experiences can add up to the same thing, sometimes."

She smiled back and then, because suddenly hiding seemed unnecessary, she took off the scarf she'd wrapped around her head and throat. Midge was staring at her. "What?" she asked.

"The necklace," Midge said. "Carlotta's? Did he give that to you?"

Her hands went to her throat; she'd forgotten she was wearing it. "More like he didn't ask for it back. I thought—well, I thought Scottie might recognize it. Might help him recognize me."

"Oh, honey."

Tears came to Judy's eyes then, and she had to look away. "It's stupid, I know. He loves Madeleine, not me. I thought I could win him over, maybe."

"You can't, because you're a real person. Johnny always was better at poetry than prose. That's why he abandoned the law for the police. More chance to be a big hero."

"Were you in love with him, too?" Judy asked.

"I don't see how I ever could have been," Midge replied. "You'd better give me that necklace."

"Why?" Judy asked, though she immediately removed it.

"It's the only thing that connects you to him. Unless—"

"The gray suit I was wearing when—it's in the back of my closet."

"I'll bring it to a consignment for you," Midge said. "And get this necklace reset."

"Why are you helping me?" Judy asked, cocking her head. "An hour ago you were ready to take me to the police."

Midge put the necklace in her handbag. "After you took Johnny on that little tour—you know, to Carlotta's grave and the painting—he came to me looking for a local historian who could give him the real story. Pop Liebel talked about Carlotta going mad in that house, walking the streets, but her madness wasn't hereditary, any more than Johnny's is. She was driven to it, by a man." Midge paused, taking a drink of her coffee. "I was angry with you, for Johnny and maybe, if I'm being generous, for the real Madeleine, but that was unfair. There was a man behind what you did, and he hurt you, too."

Judy didn't know what to say to that, so she just nodded.

"Anyway," Midge continued, "I've had some lucky breaks in my life. You've had some unlucky ones. I suppose I'm just trying to even things out."

Judy could feel that something tight in her chest had loosened, and she didn't know why, or how, but there was safety here, a safety she hadn't felt since her father died. It didn't make any kind of sense, but she wasn't sure anything else did, either. All she could do was smile and say, "Thanks."

"Finish your soup," Midge said, and smiled back.

"Hello?" Midge said absently, focused on her work. Anyone who would call her during the day would expect that.

"Midge? It's Judy."

Midge set her pencil down. "Oh, Judy, yes," she said. "I'm afraid I don't have the necklace yet—"

"That isn't why I called," Judy said.

"All right," Midge replied.

There was a pause, and then Judy said, "I was wondering if you'd like to go see a movie."

Midge didn't know what to say to that—if she'd expected anything from Judy, it wasn't this.

"It doesn't have to be tonight," Judy said, and Midge realized she'd let the silence go on too long and made her nervous. "Any night you're free. Though I'm working on Tuesday."

"Tonight would be just fine," Midge replied, so they made their arrangements. After they hung up Midge was too unsettled to continue working immediately. She made herself a quick cup of tea and sat looking out the window, wondering what had made Judy call, and trying not to read too much into it. Judy was appealing, to be sure, but she'd had enough of a hard time of it lately with men who wanted her. She didn't need that from Midge.

Judy needed a friend, and Midge resolved to be a good one.

The movie was sweet, something about a witch falling in love with a mortal man. A Christmastime romance straight out of the Saturday Evening Post but in a modern urban setting that gave it a sheen of visual sophistication.

"It was pretty," Midge said as they walked out of the theater. "And I always like Jack Lemmon."

Judy nodded. "I liked it, but I wish she hadn't had to lose her powers when she fell in love. That's always the way, I suppose."

She looked so sad, that the words came out of Midge's mouth before she thought. "I know a place where it isn't," she said. "Let me take you there?"

Judy raised an eyebrow. "I'll believe that when I see it," she replied, and there was that edge back again. "When?"

Strange that she didn't ask where. "Anytime. Tonight, if you'd like."

"Please," she replied, smiling.

So Midge brought her to the most new-girl-friendly of all her regular haunts, a coffee house whose lack of a liquor license made it less prone to police interest. A piano jazz combo had set up in the corner but Midge asked for a table toward the back, so they could talk and have a better view of the entire room.

They ordered their coffees and pastries and it wasn't until the waitress left that Judy leaned over and asked, "Where are the men?"

"They have their own places to go," Midge replied, smiling slightly.

Judy looked around again. "Are those women holding hands?"

"Oh, Carly and Amanda, yes, they met in London during the war. Still together, isn't that lovely?" Midge thought, not for the first time, that Judy had remarkable control over her own reactions. Any other woman would have been wide-eyed by now, but Judy only nodded.

"So you're …"

"A lesbian?" Midge finished. "For the most part, yes. There's a man here and there but as I get older I find they're just, well—"

"Not worth the trouble?" Judy offered.

"In a manner of speaking. Not that women can't be their own trouble—any other person is—but the rewards are much greater. For me, at least." She paused, but Judy said nothing, so she continued. "Come to think of it, I'm not sure there has been a man for me in a good ten years."

"Except Scottie," Judy replied, looking away. "How is he?"

Midge wondered if she'd said the wrong thing. "He's talking now, which must be a good sign. It makes it easier for the doctors to do their work. If he keeps making good progress he might come home in a few months."

"Good, that's good," Judy said, almost as though she were trying to convince herself of it.

"Anyway, not Johnny," Midge said, needing to put the record straight. "We really are just old friends. He hasn't any family, you know, and few real friends. Mutually beneficial. He gets someone to talk through his thoughts with, and I get someone who takes my work seriously and takes me out to the movies."

"I'm sure any one of the ladies here could do that for you," Judy said, smiling slightly.

"You greatly overestimate my popularity. But some of them have. And some are friends."

"Like us."

"Yes, like us."

Judy looked around the room again. "Well, I'm not sure I could ever fall for another woman, or kiss one. I've honestly never thought of it. But I could do with a break from the men. I guess that's why I called you in the first place."

"Then I'm happy to oblige," Midge said, and smiled.

After that night with Midge, Judy decided to stop putting quite so much effort into men. After all, where had it gotten her? Exactly nowhere.

So she threw herself into her friendships. She went out with the other girls from work for drinks or coffee or to the movies. She made dinner in the shared kitchen with some of the other girls who lived in her building. She took on Saturday evening shifts at Magnin's so she wouldn't accept an offer in a moment of weakness. One day she even took the bus up to Sausalito to see a former coworker who'd married and had a small child.

And she spent more and more time with Midge. They went to museums that didn't have paintings of women who were driven to suicide by selfish men—or if they did, Midge didn't mention it. They went for rides (up the coast, not down) in Midge's convertible and picnicked watching the waves crash against the rocks. Midge brought her to parties in stylish little apartments in neighborhoods Judy had never been in. She was initially intimidated, being with all these knowledgeable women and her only a shopgirl, until she got into a conversation with one woman about handbags and found her opinions being taken seriously, particularly her observations on what sold and what didn't.

"Of course she does," Midge said. "Shirley makes them! Didn't she tell you?"

"I wanted her unbiased opinions," Shirley protested. "If she'd known who I worked for, she might have tried to be nice!"

A few days later, when it was her turn to build the little tree-shaped display of handbags at her station, Judy kept that conversation in mind. She tried to balance big sellers with the newest most fashionable bags from Europe as well as the purses she knew brought the biggest margins. For this she won praise from the floor manager, which was a new kind of satisfaction.

So her winter and spring went, full of work and women and not a single date, and Judy thought she might be building herself a better sort of life than she'd had before, one with a future that looked just fine to her, a future she would have earned herself.

One afternoon in early May Midge asked to meet her at Gladys's Luncheonette, that same diner they'd first been to all those months ago. They sat again at the booth in the back, and Midge handed her a small box. Inside was Carlotta's necklace, reset in the more modern design Midge had sketched with Judy's input.

"Oh, it's lovely," Judy said, holding it up to the light. "How much did they charge, in the end?"

"The consignment from your suit covered it," Midge replied. "Don't worry about that."

Judy didn't believe that for a second, but rather than protest she made a note to herself to buy Midge something personal. Midge spent so much time drawing pretty things; she should own some, too. "Well, thanks," Judy said.

Midge just nodded and drank her coffee, which wasn't like her.

"Is something wrong?" she asked, putting the necklace away.

"It's funny," Midge said, smiling but looking even sadder now. "I told myself when we met that what you needed was a friend and not another person making demands in your life."

"You've never made any demands," Judy said.

"And I won't now. But—oh, Judy, I'm afraid I've begun to fall for you."

Judy's eyes widened. Sure, some of the girls at the parties had approached her, and she'd turned them all down, but she never thought Midge would see her that way.

"I was trying to keep this to myself, but I spoke to Shirley and she thought I should have the respect to let you make up your own mind. Of course I cherish our friendship and if the answer is no, as I'm sure it will be, I'll just need a few weeks to lick my wounds and we can pick up right where we left off." Midge paused for a moment, but Judy couldn't find a single word to say, so she continued. "I know there aren't many flowers and frills in my declaration, and while I could sit here and tell you all the things I find wonderful about you—"

"How I look?" Judy asked, because in the end that's always what it came down to.

Midge blinked at her, and seemed surprised. "You are a pretty girl, of course," she said, "but I was thinking more of your curiosity. You're so open to all sorts of new people, new experiences. You take them all in with so little judgment. You're funny, and down-to-earth, which is rare in this town. You're independent and you intend to remain that way. After what you've been through—it's remarkable. You're remarkable."

Judy thought she might cry. No one had ever said such things about her—or at least, no one since her father. "I don't know what to say."

"Say nothing," Midge said. "I've said too much, myself. Just think about it. You know where to find me." She put a few dollars on the table, and stood. "Take your time, all right?"

She nodded, not daring to look up and watch Midge walk away. She hated to be the source of Midge's sadness, but all she felt was confusion. Judy sat in the booth for quite a while, long enough to eventually order dinner before going back to her room, alone. Maybe in the morning she'd know what to do.

Nearly two weeks passed without a word from Judy, and Midge missed her terribly. At least before she could keep her feelings (mostly) in check, but now she had a little kernel of hope that refused to go away, in spite of her best efforts. Every time she tried to look at the situation rationally, she knew that Judy wouldn't possibly want to be with her, even if she'd been taking some time away from men, even if she'd slipped into the lesbian scene in San Francisco with a minimum of fuss, even if sometimes the way she looked at Midge made her want to sit up straighter and be smarter, braver, better.

Midge wasn't so foolish as to isolate herself; she worked, and saw friends, much as before. She even had dinner with Johnny, who was out of the hospital and doing much better, though he seemed to be spending much of his time taking long aimless walks around the city. Midge wasn't sure that was entirely healthy, but surely that was better than sitting at home.

Then, one night when she was working, she answered the door and found Judy standing there.

"I'm sorry I didn't call first," she said, looking around nervously. "May I come in?"

Midge stepped back from the doorway. "Of course, please. Sit down. Can I get you a drink?"

"I'd rather stand, if that's okay," she said, and leaned back against the kitchen wall, her hands behind her. "Some water would be nice."

"Sure," Midge replied, and got them each a glass. "Are you sure you wouldn't like something stronger? Pardon me for saying, but you don't look so good."

"I want to be clear-headed," Judy said, shaking her head.

Midge decided to stand as well, but backed away to give her some breathing room. "Did something happen?"

"Scottie found me," Judy said, before draining her glass.

"Did he—what did he say?" Midge asked, trying to keep the shock from her voice. Judy looked shaken enough.

"He saw me on the street and followed me up to my room and tried to get me to go to dinner with him. He said I looked like someone he used to love." She held out her glass. "Can I have some more?"

Midge took the glass. "Your hands are like ice," she said. "I'm making you some tea." She filled the glass and handed it back, then filled the kettle. "I guess you said no, since you're here."

"I tried to kick him out but he looked so lost. He asked me all sorts of questions about who I was, how long I'd been in San Francisco. He even looked at the pictures of my parents, and there was this moment, I don't know, I guess I thought maybe I could help him."

"And then?" Midge asked. She didn't dare look up, but kept her eyes on the teapot.

"I asked him if the only reason he wanted to have dinner with me was because I reminded him of her, and he didn't say anything. I said that wasn't very complimentary, and then I asked him to leave, and he did. He nodded at me, and he walked out the door, and that was that." She sighed. "I didn't realize how much I'd been dreading and hoping for that moment until it happened. But when he looked at me, it was like he was looking straight through me. Like I was a ghost."

Midge set out two cups, then steeled herself to look at Judy. "Sounds like you're not in love with him anymore."

"I don't see how I ever could have been," she said, with a little smile. "But that isn't why I came here. That isn't even why I told him to go."

"No?" Midge asked.

"All the time he was talking to me, about looking like someone else, all I could think about … was you."


"How you said that you didn't love me because I was pretty. How you've never looked at me like that, like I don't have any insides. How you stood up to him back in college, so you could be yourself." She took a step forward, into the kitchen. "I wanted to be strong like you. For you."

"For yourself, you mean," Midge said.

Judy moved closer, right next to Midge, and she felt rooted to the spot. "I knew that I needed to be strong to deserve you. To deserve all the things you've done for me, I had to start standing up for myself."

"But you've already done that. You've been doing that all spring. Heck, you did it when you left Kansas."

"Of course you'd say that," Judy replied, smiling. She put her hand over Midge's, on the counter. "I'm sorry I made you wait, but I was confused."

"About what?" Midge asked, and willed her heart to stop pounding so loudly, to stop hoping, because this could not actually be happening. Not to her.

"Love, I guess. I thought it was fireworks and being possessed, but it's not. It's this. Or it can be."

"It is this," Midge replied.

"Can I kiss you? All the way over I've just been thinking about how much I wanted to kiss you, and hold you—"

Midge's kiss cut her off; she thought the time for talking was over, had been over for a while now. As they kissed, the whistle on the tea kettle blew, and they broke apart, laughing.

"I don't really want the tea," Judy said.

"That's all right," Midge said, shrugging. "I have other ways of warming you up."

"How's your love life, Midge?" Johnny asked from the couch. "That train must be going someplace; you've been pretty scarce the past few months."

"Have I?" Midge asked. It was like old times, Johnny sitting around watching her work, except for all the ways it wasn't.

"You know you have. I had to call ahead and make an appointment!"

Midge set down her pencil and spun around in her chair. "Well, as a matter of fact, the train seems to have pulled into the station."

Johnny sat up. "What, you mean—are you getting married? Some fella move in on you while I was away?"

"You know there's only one man in the world for me, Johnny-O," she said, and waited for him to get the gist.

"It's not that I never thought of it," he said, getting up and walking around the room. "But I always thought those girls who said that sort of thing about you in college were just jealous."

"Worse than jealous," Midge said, "but that doesn't mean it wasn't true."

"She treat you well?"

"Very," Midge said, grinning, and Johnny gave her a wolfish smile in return. "We're even talking about moving in together. You know, nice two bedroom, very discreet. She doesn't think people should live alone and now that I've met her, I don't want to, either."

He raised an eyebrow. "She's not sponging off you, is she?"

"Come on, Johnny. There's nothing to sponge."

"Just trying to look after you. But I'm glad to hear it because actually, I've made a decision, myself."

"About what?"

"Leaving San Francisco. A few fellas from the old crowd wrote me after I made the papers, so I thought I'd do the grand tour, go visiting for a while. Too many ghosts walking down all these foggy streets. Might find myself another city to move to, get some perspective."

Midge cocked her head. "What did your doctor say?"

"He's all for it. Especially after …"

"After? Something happen?"

Johnny looked ashamed of himself, and sat back down. "Can you believe, I thought I saw a girl who looked like Madeleine? Looked so much like her that I followed her back to her room and asked her twenty questions. I offered to take her to dinner to make up for it but she sent me packing and no wonder." He paused. "Guess I'm not as okay as I thought I was."

"Then I'm glad. I'm sure a change of scenery will do you good."

"Maybe when I get back, you can introduce me to that girl of yours. That is, if I come back. Anyhow it's good to know I won't be leaving you alone."

"I'll be just fine, Johnny. Don't you worry," Midge said.

The phone rang then and Midge popped up to answer it as she had a good idea of who it was. "Hello?"

"Hello, you," Judy said.

"Hello, you," Midge replied.

"Just a check-in call to make sure he's behaving himself."

Midge smiled. "In a manner of speaking, yes."

"He's right there, isn't he?"

"You bet," Midge said, and glanced over at Johnny.

"Remember, we're meeting people for dinner tonight."

Midge laughed at that—they already sounded married. "I'll be there, don't worry!"

"All right. I'll see you."

"See you. Good-bye," she said, and hung up to see Johnny staring at her. "What?"

"You look happy, is all," he said.

"I am happy."

He nodded, wistful. "Well, maybe I'll find that someplace, too."

"I hope so, Johnny," Midge replied. "I really do."

Scottie or no Scottie, Midge was right on time to pick Judy up, later that evening. Judy came out to the car to see Midge scowling up at her building.

"Hello, you," Judy said, and hated again that they couldn't kiss in public. They'd make up for it later, to be sure, but it was still unfair.

"Hello, you," Midge said, brightening, and they pulled away. "New scarf?"

"I do get them on discount," Judy said. "And so much opportunity to wear them since you always keep the top down."

"What's the point of a convertible if you leave it up?"

"I suppose it never really gets cold here," Judy said, smirking.

"Yes, yes," Midge said. "Nothing like Kansas. I get it."

Judy laughed then; it was so easy to laugh, these days. "How was Scottie?" she asked.

"Not well," Midge said. "He's leaving San Francisco. Apparently seeing you really shook him up."

"That was over a month ago," Judy said. "I feel badly."

"Not your fault at all. And I think it'll be good for him, in the long run," she said. "I told him about you."


"Well, not the person he thought he knew. The person I know. I told him I had a gal of my own."

"A gal?" Judy asked, raising her eyebrows.

Midge shrugged. "Though it was about time he knew, so he could understand how things stand between us."

"Then I'm glad," Judy said.

They were quiet for a bit, then Midge said, "I was thinking, Sunday morning, I'll make us breakfast and we can look through the real estate listings in the paper. Sound good?"

"So you've made up your mind?" Judy asked.

Midge nodded. "I'm sorry I made you wait."

"That's all right," Judy said, and took her hand. "It's this."

"It is this," Midge said, and gave it a squeeze.