Grace watched as the cursor blinked.
She squinted a little and turned down the brightness on her laptop.
She admired the Google art of the day.
She adjusted her glasses and cleared her throat.
The cursor was still blinking.
She rolled her eyes, internally asking herself what she was so afraid of and typed the words “Am I gay?” into the search engine.
The results immediately loaded and she found herself annoyed at how fast the WiFi was.
She clicked on an article, skimming it until she read something along the lines of “If you’re here, searching, you probably are.”
She immediately left the site, not willing to deal with the emotions that sentence brought up.
After a few more articles and a few more hasty exits, she found herself taking a quiz. Not exactly where she thought she’d be doing on a Tuesday night, less than an hour away from midnight.
But she couldn’t sleep, her brain was occupied by another woman and her lips that were hundreds of miles away.
A second into reading the intro to the quiz, her phone suddenly rang, that very woman and those same lips smiling up at her as the caller ID lit up her screen.
Grace contemplated letting it go to voicemail, finishing her quiz with a glass of wine, and going to sleep buzzed and possibly attracted to the same sex.
She answered anyway.
“Why are you awake?” She asked in lieu of a greeting.
“Why are you awake?”
“You’re the one who called me.”
“Maybe I was hoping for your voicemail.”
“I could always hang up.”
They were quiet.
“See?” Frankie pointed out, the smile audible in her voice.
Grace ignored her. “Why are you awake?” She asked again.
“Oh, Grace, you know the nighttime is when I do my best work. Powers of the moon and all that.”
It had been almost a year since anyone had painted in their home.
“And has the moon been good to you tonight?”
“Absolutely not. I don’t know what the fuck her problem is.” Frankie paused. “Sorry for cursing.” Her voice was muffled and Grace guessed she had her hand over the speaker. She already knew the apology was meant for the big rock in the sky and not her. “I haven’t had any luck lately. I’m all off. I keep painting -” She cut herself off.
Frankie was quiet.
“What do you keep painting?” She had an idea of what Frankie was going to say but she wanted to hear it.
“You.” She answered softly.
“Parts of you. Your hands, your eyes, your hair, your lips. It’s like my brain is stuck on Grace Hanson.” She laughed a little.
“I know how you feel. My brain has been stuck on Frankie Bergstein.”
They were quiet.
She listened as Frankie took a deep breath in. “So, uh, what are you doing?”
Grace looked down at her laptop.
“What are you doing?”
“I, uh -”
“Come on, lady.” She could hear Frankie’s smirk again, could practically see the twinkle in her eye. “Spit it out.”
“I’m taking a gay quiz.” She blurted. “That’s - That’s what I’m doing.” She pursed her lips defiantly, not wanting to seem affected by this confession.
“You’re… a gay quiz?” Frankie cackled. “God, this is better than I expected!”
Grace was quiet.
Frankie reeled herself in. “Okay, sorry. I’m sorry. I’m not laughing.” She immediately giggled again.
“I don’t know about you, but I don’t have anything to go on. It was either this or ask my ex-husband if he’s ever suspected me to be sapphic and I am not doing that.”
“Oh, sweetheart, I don’t have anything to go on either, beside my feelings and my gut.” She said gently. “If I knew how to work that witchcraft, I’d be on Google too.”
“And, uh, what’s your gut telling you?”
“I’m not sure. I haven’t had any greens lately so the line hasn’t been clear in days.”
“And why haven’t you been having any greens?” Her volume went up a level.
“Did I say ‘greens’? I meant ‘beans’. I haven’t had any beans. You know how important beans are for gut-mind communication.”
“Uh huh.” Her tone was flat.
“So, anyways, what’s the homosexual quiz saying?”
Grace looked down at her screen again. “I haven’t taken it yet. You called before I could get started.”
“Oh, lucky me. I like being involved.”
“I know you do.”
They were quiet, the implication hanging in the air.
“What’s the first question?” Frankie asked after a moment.
Grace squinted at the words and colourful blocks. “It’s asking me to choose a colour.”
“Colours are gay? Why didn’t anyone tell me? Colours can’t be gay, can they? I know about the pride flag, obviously, but are certain colours designated for gay people? Have I been offending a whole community of people for years? But I might be gay so maybe not. But if I’m not gay - Oh, I gotta call Sol. We should ask Sol! He’s gay, he’ll know -”
“No one’s calling Sol!” Grace finally spoke up.
“Because it’s too early to let anyone know you’re questioning? Good call, Grace. Good call. Wouldn’t wanna prematurely turn everyone’s lives upside down with the notion of a gay Grace Hanson.”
“That and the fact that the we’d have to explain to him that the only reason why I’m taking this dumb quiz is because I kissed his ex-wife and really liked it.” She hadn’t meant to say that last part, had meant to stop at kissing the ex-wife.
Frankie swallowed audibly. “I see.” Her voice was soft.
Grace cleared her throat. “So, anyway, no one’s calling Sol.”
“I have a question to go along with your homosexual quiz.”
She knew they were walking into dangerous territory, knew she should change the subject. “What’s that?” She asked anyway.
“What made you kiss me?” Frankie’s voice was soft.
“We’ve known one another for decades. We lived together for three years. Why did you choose that moment?”
Grace was quiet for a second before deciding to be completely honest. “Well, I hadn’t seen you for six months and I had kinda learned to live without you constantly being around me. But then as soon as you opened the door, I felt… I don’t know. Like everything was…”
“Yeah.” She agreed. “Whole. And then suddenly you were in my bed again and we were back to our usual banter and we had that great evening together…”
“It was great.”
“It was.” She agreed again. “And then, we were in that kitchen, with the music playing in the background, and the two of us still dressed up, and the feeling of the night still all around us as we danced, it all just felt… overwhelming. It’s like, in that moment I suddenly realised how much I loved you and missed you.”
And just like that, she answered Brianna’s question from a few days before. It wasn’t just physical. There was a lot more going on. She didn’t say anything though.
“That’s the first time you’ve said that.” Frankie said after a moment.
“That you love me.”
“Oh.” She paused. “Well, I do.”
“I love you too.”
Grace didn’t say anything.
Frankie cleared her throat. “Hey, wanna hear about all the trades I’ve made at the market recently? Spoiler alert: it involves a fuck load of weed.”
Grace laughed and closed her laptop, placing it on her nightstand. She scooted down in bed, making herself more comfortable. “Yes, always.”
As she approached the door, it swung open, Robert giving her a smile from the other side. “Welcome!”
“Sorry I’m late.” She tried to sound sincere as she leaned in and gave his cheek an air kiss.
“You’re not late. Drinks were just about to be served.”
“Oh, wow, I’m just in time then.” She stepped inside. “I’ll have a -”
“I may have been a terrible husband but I like to believe that I’m well versed on what Grace Hanson likes to drink.”
She smiled. “Well, my bad then.”
He returned her smile and gestured towards the back doors. “Everyone’s out on the terrace.”
She watched him walk off and then made her way through the living room.
As she stepped outside, she was greeted with a heated debate about whether sweet potato pie should be classified as a dessert or not, Brianna representing the ‘nots’.
“So when you order sweet potato fries at a restaurant, do you order them before or after your main meal?” Brianna yelled as Mallory stood up to kiss her mother.
“That’s a dumb -”
“No,” she cut Coyote off. “I’m asking you. Before or after?”
“Considering that we’re talking about a dish that is not served with a burger on the side, your question is irrelevant to this argument. Sweet potato pie and sweet potato fries are completely different meals.” Bud was using his lawyer voice.
“So you agree that they’re both meals?” She sounded smug.
Grace made eye contact with Sol, silently asking if this was really the argument their children decided to have. He just smiled and shrugged.
“Now you’re just being technical.”
“Isn’t that what this whole discussion is about?” She looked around the table like she couldn't believe she had to explain the basis of the argument to him. “Whether sweet potato pie is technically a dessert or not? Wow,” She sat back and shook her head. “Your clients must hate you.”
“Not as much as your employees hate you.”
Grace sat down beside Brianna who turned to her. “Mom, would you tell these two idiots that a vegetable cannot be a dessert?”
She looked at Brianna and then at the boys, trying to decide which side would satisfy her more. She sniffed and then looked away, placing her bag on the table. “Vegetables can’t be a dessert.”
Brianna shot in the air, her hands above her head, grinning.”Thank you!” She took Grace’s head in both of her hands and then bent down to kiss the top of it. “God, I love this woman.”
“Well, of course she’s going to agree with you. She’s your mother.” Coyote pointed out.
“Hello, are you new here? Have you met my mother?” She asked as she sat down.
“I think what Brianna is trying to say is that our mother wouldn’t automatically take our sides, she’s unbiased.” Mallory tried to save Grace’s feelings.
“Oh, now you want to say something. Where were you when these two bozos were tag teaming me?” Before anyone could say anything, she closed her eyes and held her hand up. “I heard it, shut up.”
“Why would you put that image in my head?” Coyote questioned.
“And in front of our parents? Shame on you.” Bud added.
Thankfully, Robert walked out with a tray of drinks before the conversation could get even weirder. He handed Grace her martini and she took a big sip, wanting to drown out the image Brianna just conjured up.
Allison came through the back doors, belly first, looking miserable. Bud stood, offering his chair and then disappeared into the house. “I swear to God if I pee one more time..”
Mallory laughed. “I know how you feel. Maddison practiced her tap dancing on my bladder for the entirety of my third trimester.” She paused. “Of course, now I pee when I laugh so I guess it just got worse.”
“Thanks.” Allison said flatly. “Very reassuring.”
“Wait ’til it’s born. That’s when things really go to shit.” Grace took a sip of her martini.
Brianna leaned her head on her shoulder. “Isn’t my mommy just the sweetest?”
Bud walked back out, a laptop in his hand.
Grace’s heart jumped at the sound of Frankie’s voice.
“Hold on, mom. I need to find a place to put you.”
“Oh, let me see everyone first!” She heard Frankie say.
Bud turned the laptop around and everyone waved at the screen, offering their greetings in unison.
Grace just held up her glass and smiled.
“My family!” Frankie exclaimed. “I miss you all.” She pouted. “Absolutely furious at the concept of distance right now. I want to be there!” She whined.
“You’re here in spirit!” Sol yelled.
“Oh, Sol, you know I love that spirit bullshit but right now I wanna be around that table in flesh and bones.”
“We miss you, Frankie.” Brianna spoke up.
“I miss you too, my baby Bri!” She pouted again.
“Alright, that’s enough sappiness for now.” Bud looked around and then decided to place the laptop at the end of the table, beside Grace. The screen facing the other end of the table.
“Grace, sweetheart, I didn’t even see you sitting there!”
Her face warmed at the term of endearment, feeling exposed in front of their family.
“I’m here.” She smiled.
“Now I wanna be there even more.”
Her heartbeat sped up. “We really want you here too, Frankie.” She played it safe.
“Okay, so, can we speed this up? I only have the babysitter for another hour.” Mallory looked at her watch.
“Don’t your children have a father?” Brianna questioned.
“Yes, that’s who I’m talking about.”
Bud took Allison’s hand and led her to the other side of the table, asking everyone to take their seats.
“So, you might be wondering why we asked everyone to come over today...”
“Hm, kept me up all night.” Grace mumbled into her martini.
“As you know, we’re having a baby -”
“What? When did that happen?” Brianna feigned surprise.
“Okay, if we can save all the Hanson sarcastic comments for after the announcement, that would be great.”
“Speed up the damn announcement then.”
“We’re going to have a gender reveal party.” Allison spoke up. “That’s it. That’s the announcement.”
“Oh! That’s exciting!” Frankie exclaimed.
“When?” Coyote questioned.
“A month from now, actually.”
“That sounds like fun.” Sol nodded at Robert who didn’t seem to share his husband’s opinion.
“I just… I feel like this could have been done over email.” Brianna gestured around the table.
“Grace, we were hoping to use the beach house, if that’s okay?”
She nodded and gave Bud a smile. “Sure.”
He returned her smile and then pointed at the laptop. “Mom, don’t worry, your flight has already been booked.”
Grace and Brianna eyed one another.
Brianna leaned in, the excited chatter cloaking their conversation. “I have this feeling you instantly regret what you just agreed to.”
“Hard to fake food poisoning when the party's at your house.”
“I know a guy who starts accidental fires.”
She snorted. “That’s what you automatically jump to? Arson?”
“I crave chaos, Mother.”
Her phone rang so she paused the TV, not bothering to check the caller ID because she already knew who it was.
“Oh, Grace,” her voice came through immediately. “were you watching? Did you watch?”
“I’m watching.” She nodded. “Just like I said I was when you called five minutes ago.”
“I had to make sure I didn’t lose you to some frivolous distraction or what have you! This is a very important episode. I don’t want you to miss it.”
“How could I ever miss an episode of ‘Longmire’? It would be unconstitutional.”
“You joke but it just might be. Who knows what that thing holds after the fifth amendment.”
“So, while I have you here in between commercials,” Frankie tried to sound casual about her abrupt change in topic but Grace could hear the uncertainty in her voice. “I was wondering… am I - am I staying with you? You know, when I fly down for Bud’s heteronormative gender reveal party?”
“Of course you are! Why wouldn’t you? It’s still your house, Frankie. It’s always going to be.”
“Okay.” She could practically see Frankie nodding. “I just thought - I didn’t know -”
“What? What didn’t you know?”
“You know… with everything that’s happened between us. I wasn’t sure if you’d think it’s a good idea.”
“Oh.” She said softly. “I mean, I feel like everything’s okay between us. Is everything not okay?”
“It is. But that’s not what I meant.”
“Well, what did you mean?”
Frankie was quiet for a moment. “I meant… can we be trusted around one another?”
Can they keep their hands off each other , is what Frankie was asking.
Grace swallowed. “We’re big girls. I’m sure we can spend a weekend together without anything happening.” She didn’t sound very convincing to her own ears.
“And Jacob will be here, won’t he?”
“That didn’t stop us last time.”
She had a point.
“Do you wanna stay at a hotel?”
“Do you want me to?”
“No.” She didn’t hesitate. “No, I want you here.”
Frankie exhaled. “Oh, Grace, this is a terrible time to be talking about wants.”
“How come?” Her voice suddenly dropped an octave.
“I have a lot of wants when it comes to you.”
Her brain was yelling at her to change the subject. “Like what?” She asked instead.
Frankie was quiet for a moment until Grace heard some movement and then a door closing.
“Where are you?” She wondered.
“In the office-slash-studio.” Frankie paused. “Where are you?”
“The living room.”
“You’re not in bed?”
“That’s unfortunate. It’s a great bed. I miss it. I miss waking up next to you.”
Grace smiled. “I miss having your cold toes against my calves.”
“They wouldn’t be cold if you didn’t keep your room below freezing.”
“I don’t hear you complaining when you’re pressed up against me in the morning.”
“Who could ever complain about that?” Frankie was quiet for a moment. “I want to be back in your bed.”
Grace sat back against the sofa. “What else do you want?”
“A lot of things I shouldn’t want.”
Grace waited. It didn’t come. “Say it.” She whispered.
“I want to kiss you again.” Frankie’s voice was low and smooth, heating Grace’s cheeks from hundreds of miles away.
She closed her eyes, nodded. “God, yes.”
“I want to feel your body pressed up against mine. Not just after a sleepover, but while you’re kissing me, my neck, your hands holding me against you like you did that night in the kitchen.”
Grace’s breathing was shallow. “You still think about that?” She knew it was a silly question but she wanted to know.
“It’s all I ever think about.”
“Me too.” She confessed. There was so much more she could have said. She could've told Frankie about the dreams she kept having. The ones where the kiss in the kitchen didn’t just stop at the kiss, the ones where they went so much further that Grace often woke up aching for relief, for a release. But she left it at that, her curiosity overshadowing everything else.
“What else?” Her voice was rough.
“I just want you, sweetheart.” She paused. “I want you.”
“In what way?” She asked softly.
“Every way. I want you in every way.”
Things were quiet.
“Fuck.” Frankie muttered. “Fuck!” She said again.
Grace opened her eyes and sat up. “Frankie.”
“I, uh, I have to go.”
Grace was suddenly back in that kitchen, her lips wet with a life altering kiss, her terrified best friend staring at her. “Are you running?”
“No. I just - Grace, I can’t.”
“I’m not the one who started this.”
“I know. But -”
“Jacob.” Frankie said softly. “I can’t -”
“Yeah, me neither. Listen, I have to go.”
Frankie was quiet.
“Bye, Frankie.” She hung up, throwing her phone to the other side of the couch.
She sat back, stared at the TV screen.
She knew her anger was irrational, knew Frankie was committed to her boyfriend, was aware that she herself was semi-committed to someone else. But she felt that after everything, after always being the perfect woman with the right amount of emotions, she deserved to be a little irrational, considering all that had happened.
She sighed before grabbing her phone again.
She pulled up Nick’s texts and typed out “Come over. Bring wine. I’ll make it worth the trip”.
She was about to hit send when her phone dinged, Frankie’s texts showing up at the top of the screen.
It dinged again.
I wish things were different, I wish I could be that person.
None of this takes away from what I said. Just because I can’t be that person, doesn’t mean what I said wasn’t true.
She stared at the last message until the pop-up notification went away.
She looked down at her own message hovering in the box.
She hit send.