A Sizzling Summer by The Bay - Part Eleven
Need To Catch Up...
A Sizzling Summer by The Bay - Part Eleven
July 2016 – Monterey, California
Family holidays were a big thing for Estelle’s family. She’d been putting off calling her mother back for a few days now. Her mother wanted to know if she’d be able to make it for the 4th of July BBQ party they held annually.
Since Independence Day fell on a Monday that year, her mother thought it would be perfect for her to drive in after work on Friday, spend an extended weekend with the family, then head out early enough Tuesday that she could be back at work.
Estelle had to admit, she always loved their family gatherings. The 4th of July bash was one of her favorite get-togethers. However, this year she wasn’t feeling it. She didn’t want to go home, and she couldn’t exactly say why.
Things hadn’t quite been the same since Dad died on the 18th of July in 2000, and since his passing, Fourth of July ‘celebrations’ had a bitter-sweet edge to them. The family always visited his grave together and paid their respects.
It would have stood to reason that she felt reluctant to go home because of her father’s absence, but in previous years she’d been able to go home without feeling the way she did now. Sure, that void was always there, but she’d not felt the reticence as strongly as it was this time. She couldn’t reconcile why.
She rationalized that she probably just wanted to spend more time with Iona. The two of them had conducted three Scenes in the past two weeks. She had enjoyed every single session and had hoped to spend the extended weekend with Iona. She had to hide her disappointment when Iona said she was going back to Vegas to spend time with some family and friends. She’d booked her flight weeks ago.
Since enjoying the weekend with Iona wasn’t an option, going home should have felt preferable to staying in San Fran and being alone, yet it didn’t.
Estelle texted her mother on Monday to buy herself some time, ‘I’m all good. Just busy. Will call soon. Love you.’ She knew her mother would fret if she didn’t stop procrastinating and call soon. After giving it quite a bit of thought, she couldn’t come up with a rational reason.
Wednesday night, she called her mother. They chatted briefly, and she assured her mother she’d be at the family gathering. She was going to drive down immediately after work on Friday. Pending traffic wasn’t too bad, she’d get there around 9 p.m.
On the long drive down the coast, her mind ruminated on the increasing nervous energy building up. The conflicted emotions roiling inside continued to increase the closer she got. Part of her felt that welcoming nostalgia that wrapped her in comfort and warmth in the thought of home. Yet, on the other hand, she felt a mounting trepidation she couldn’t place.
Something had changed within her since her time with Iona. Perhaps, on some primal level, she worried that her family would sense that change, and she’d have to pretend she was the same person she’d always been? But she wasn’t.
She couldn’t put that transformation into words. She recognized it well enough to know that she’d perhaps repressed it for years. The obvious deduction was to assume it was tied to being bisexual. Yes, that was part of it, but not the entire picture.
As she drove up the road and passed through the gate onto the driveway that led to her house, she felt nearly faint with anxiety.
What the hell is wrong with me?
She almost had a moment where she was seriously considering turning her car around and just heading back to San Fran. She couldn’t break her promise to her mother, though. Jamar and his kids would be pretty disappointed too.
She drove up the long driveway and pulled into the gravel parking area just off to the side of the big ranch house. She turned the ignition off and exhaled the breath she didn’t realize she’d been holding.
The sensor lights popped on as the front door swung open. Lizzie and Louie, their Blue Heelers, came tumbling out the front door. Louie had dark brown and black colors mottled evenly in his coat, stopped short a few feet from the car, cautiously guarding the property until ‘the visitor’ emerged.
Lizzie, with light fur and random black spots dotting her coat, was furiously wagging her tail. As if by some canine premonition she’d known it was Estelle, she paced and barked at the car. Estelle had always been closer to Lizzie than Louie, and it was as if her old faithful friend had known she was going to emerge from the vehicle.
Estelle opened the door, and her tail flew into a frenzied whipping and whooshing back and forth, as the dog bombarded Estelle with ‘puppy’ nuzzles and hand licks. Her bright eyes seemed to say, ‘My old friend! I’ve been waiting for you!’
All of Estelle’s reservations and reticence seemed to deflate upon Lizzie ‘The Welcome Wagon’ greeting her with such gusto. She scratched the old dog – with an ever-youthful spirit – behind the ears and cooed, “Someone miss me, ole girl?”
“Hey, right on time,” Jamar grinned as he bounded down the steps of the porch to embrace his sister in a hug.
“Hey, loser, what’s up?” She teased him.
“Who you callin’ loser – slacker.”
She smiled. Same ole’ Jamar.
“How was your drive?” He asked.
“It was a drive.” She shrugged.
“Let me help you with your bags.”
“In the back seat.” She tossed him the keys flippantly and made her way up to the house. Lizzie faithfully padded along beside her as if she’d never left home so many years ago, and Estelle continued to scratch the top of her head with affection as they made their way to the house.
Louie had approached as if finally remembering her scent. He nuzzled her outstretched hand briefly for cursory acknowledgment of her presence being a non-threat, snorted his approval, then turned on his heel. She knew he’d be making his way to the kitchen where he’d settled back onto his bed, his watch-guard perch of keeping his family homestead safe.
Estelle was bombarded by the family when she walked through the door. She was uncertain why she’d been so nervous. There was nothing to worry about. This was her family, who loved her after all.
The ranch house cultivated an atmosphere that felt like home no matter how many people were present. The great oak trees that surrounded the property felt like sentinels standing watch. The rolling hills that boasted the brightest shades of green in the winter and spring, and slowly melded into fields of yellow-gold as the summer heat scorched the land, was an idyllic backdrop for any artist’s canvas.
Her family’s ranch was nestled in the hills along scenic highway 68 between Monterey and Salinas. The house stood on top of a hill overlooking the other rolling hills of the valley. In July, the days were tepid and the nights cool. She pulled a sweater around her as they all gathered in the backyard sipping on mom’s homemade sangria and lemonade for the kids.
The adults sat around the fire pit, and the children ran around playing – burning off the sugar from the many smores they’d eaten an hour earlier. Dad had built a wonderful outdoor recreation area for the children years ago, with a patio, firepit, half-court, and swing-set fort. In recent years Jamar had continued to expand it, including a posh outdoor kitchen, an above ground pool, and a trampoline. Their house had hosted many parties growing up for family, neighbors, and ranch hands.
Jamar and Wendy were brewing up baby number three of the four children. Wendy had developed a rare condition of preeclampsia in the 25th week of her pregnancy, so their dreams of four were improbable if she continued to get worse or exhibit post-partum complications. As for the moment, the baby was fine, and mom was taking special vitamins and resting often to keep everything in check.
Their neighbors just down the road, the Crosby family were a middle-aged couple with children only slightly older than Jamar and Wendy’s children. Jamar and Wendy’s eldest daughter, Shae, was turning seven in the Fall, and little Dale Jr. had just turned four. Sarah and Jim Crosby had a daughter that was ten and a son that was seven.
The older Crosby family had been in a similar situation as the Reeves, where Mrs. Crosby senior had passed away a few years ago. She moved into a smaller unit and willed the house to her eldest son. Donna had arranged a similar situation for Jamar and Wendy. Donna asked Jamar to have a mother-in-law quarters built on the edge of the expansive property. She wanted Jamar and his family to move into the ranch house with his quickly growing brood of youngsters.
Estelle sat quietly, listening to Sarah, Wendy, and Donna gush on and on about the adventures and misadventures of motherhood. She sat directly in the middle of the divided circle between the men and women.
She turned her attention to the conversation the men were having. Jim was sharing details about the nightmare of a situation they were dealing with on his current investment. Apparently, a mold situation – not unfixable – but tricky.
Jim was a carpenter turned entrepreneur in house flipping. He’d helped Jamar build the mother-in-law cottage along with a basement renovation, and the families had become closer than they’d already been, as Donna and Dale had been life-long friends with Jim’s parents.
Estelle let the conversations wash over her, listening to the men’s side and the women’s side. She felt distinctly as though she didn’t fit in with either group.
Jamar must have sensed her discomfort, and when a lull in his conversation with Jim presented itself, he turned his attention to Estelle. “Hey, sis, how’s the new job treating you?”
Her mind must have wandered because she’d barely registered that Jamar had addressed her. “Huh, what’s that?”
Jamar laughed. “Too many sangrias?”
She smiled sheepishly. “Yeah, maybe. What did you say?”
“I asked if how your new job was treating you?”
Estelle stiffened. The question seemed innocuous enough, but the underlying topic of Dayton and losing time in settling down and having kids was sure to surface. She’d been vague about their breakup, leaving her family utterly perplexed at how such a ‘golden catch’ could slip away. “It’s good. I really love San Francisco. I think I could make it home there.”
“So, you think it’s a good place to raise a family?” Wendy asked with genuine surprise.
There was no condescension in her question. Simple curiosity. Her and Jamar had only ever lived in the small bedroom community on the Monterey Peninsula. It was completely outside their scope to envision raising a family in the big city.
Suddenly the circle had gone quiet. All eyes were on her as the fire crackled and popped—the joyous sounds of children resonated in the background.
How can I not want all of this? What’s wrong with me?
She must have hesitated too long because Wendy flushed, “I’m sorry, Estelle, I didn’t mean to put you on the spot or be presumptuous.”
“No, it’s okay. I think it’s a great place to raise a family. I’d never want to do it in LA, but San Francisco is full of nature and culture. It’s a great metropolitan area.”
Inwardly she cringed. She always felt undecided and felt making statements like that was giving them false hope.
She figured one of these days she may have a family but was waiting for the inclination to hit. She knew that might not include their traditional concept of marriage, but the whole biological clock had seemed stalled, or perhaps flat out broken?
“I can’t even imagine living somewhere with that many people,” Wendy said, rubbing her protruding belly. She had her shoes kicked off, her feet propped up on a footstool, and was warming her toes close to the fire.
“I can’t imagine living in a rural area ever again.” Estelle let the words slip out before she had a chance to weigh them first.
Estelle’s eyes quickly flitted to her mother and then back to Wendy.
Wendy replied flippantly, “Well, at least you’re only a few hours away!”
Donna had a smile plastered on her face, but Estelle was not slow to catch the crack in her mother’s previously calm demeanor. Estelle knew that her mother hoped she would move back to Monterey one day and settle down with her family there. It had always been her and Dale’s dream to be involved in their grandchildren’s lives.
Donna and Dale had wanted more children, and Donna had not been so old after they married. They had tried and tried, then learned that Dale’s biology wasn’t going to allow that.
They’d talked about adopting, but for reasons unknown to Estelle and Jamar, the idea had fizzled away – never coming to fruition. So, Dale, being ever optimistic, focused on the children God had blessed him with and knew that grandkids would be in his future one day. Sadly, he didn’t live to see Shae, his first grandbaby born. Donna often said she felt his presence in their lives in quiet ways, just like God’s spirit was always there watching over them, guiding, and blessing them.
There had been an uncomfortable silence for a beat after Wendy’s comment. Donna stood up and smoothed her skirt down. “I’m off to bed y’all. I’m not the night owl I once was.”
“You want me to walk you back to the cottage Momma?” Jamar asked.
“Nah, I’ll be fine. I got my flashlight, and Louie usually comes with.”
She offered a smile and turned, then as an afterthought turned back. “Estelle? Can you help me with something, though?”
“Sure, Momma.” Estelle stood up and stretched her arms above her head.
She walked along with her mother. At first, Donna was quiet. Then as they approached the patio doors, she said, “Are you okay? I’m worried about you.”
Estelle put a hand on her mother’s shoulder. “I’m fine, Momma. Why you worried about me?”
“I don’t know. Since you broke up with Dayton—”
Estelle groaned inwardly but kept her voice level. “Momma, we’ve been over this. I didn’t break up with him. It was a mutual parting based on the fact that we realized we weren’t compatible.”
Donna grabbed two flashlights from the kitchen broom closet. As predicted, Louie strained his old muscle, forcing himself to stand up and follow his master to the cottage. They set out on the side path, a short walk of about 100 yards from the main house.
“I know you say that, but I just don’t understand how you can live with someone for seven years and not be compatible.”
Because I didn’t realize how unfulfilling my life was…
“Momma, first of all, we only lived together for five years. We were dating seven.” She sighed heavily. There was no way to explain this to her and get her to understand. “Second of all—” she paused, not sure how to phrase her emotions, “We just weren’t in love anymore. I don’t know if we ever were,” Estelle whispered.
Donna stopped walking and turned to her daughter. She searched Estelle’s face, then finally it was as if some light had popped on in her brain. “You want a romance like your father and I had, don’t you?”
If Estelle was expecting anything as a response, it wasn’t that. “I – I guess I do,” Estelle finally managed to say.
Donna nodded her head as if everything were clear now. She drew Estelle into a hug. “I’m sorry you haven’t found your prince charming yet, but you will, baby. Just you wait, God will bless you. Do you ever pray at all anymore?”
Estelle extracted herself carefully from her mother’s embrace and began walking again. “Not so much, Momma. I’m sorry.”
“Well, maybe, you should. Maybe God wants you to come to Him, so he can guide your path and bless you like your Daddy, and I were so blessed.”
Estelle cracked a wan smile, “Yeah, maybe, I don’t know.” Estelle sighed heavily again.
“What? What is it?” Donna pressed.
“Nothing,” Estelle shook her head.
“No, baby, I know when there’s something on my kids’ minds, and you’ve been very heavy since your breakup with Dayton. You can tell me what’s going on? Something more than just the romance thing botherin’ you, isn’t it?”
Estelle wasn’t sure she could explain why, but suddenly she felt an overwhelming urge to put an end to this charade. The façade of only being half herself when she was with her family, was growing tiresome.
She was a grown woman in her thirties. Her mother wouldn’t understand completely, but she could at least expect that she would try to. Estelle had experienced nothing but love and support from her family in every decision she’d ever made. Why shouldn’t they finally know?
They were quiet as they ambled down the paved pathway to Donna’s little house. Estelle contemplated telling her mother the truth.
Her mother’s words played over and over in her mind. You’ve been very heavy since your breakup with Dayton. You can tell me what’s going on?
She’d been experiencing many impulsive moments lately, and this seemed to be one of them. Estelle inhaled deeply, then said, “Momma, I should have told you this a long time ago, but if I get married, it very likely could be a man or a woman.”
Donna stopped walking and turned to face Estelle. Her mouth moved to say something then closed shut again. “I – I don’t understand what you mean.”
“I’m bisexual. Is that a term you’re familiar with?”
“I guess,” she stammered, “but I don’t know what that means. You’re saying you want to be with a man and a woman?”
“I’m saying that I can fall in love with either a man or a woman. It doesn’t really matter.”
“Estelle, homosexuality isn’t right,” Donna hissed and shook her head as if she didn’t want to hear this. “Does Jamar know? Did your Daddy know?”
“No, Momma, I didn’t tell either of them. I’m telling you now because I should have told you a long time ago.”
“A long time ago?” Donna’s voice rose an octave. “This isn’t something new?”
“No, it doesn’t work like that. I’ve known since high school. Hannah and I dated in high school and most of college.”
Donna was crying and mumbling, “Oh my – Hannah?”
Estelle was quickly regretting telling her mother. Her family lived three hours away. There was no reason her mother or Jamar and Wendy had ever needed to know! This had been a mistake. A huge mistake!
Estelle put a hand on her shoulder. “Momma, it’s not like I have cancer!” Estelle said as gently as she could, yet the edge in her tone was undeniable.
Donna kept shaking her head as if that would remove the vile thoughts that were accompanying this news Estelle had just delivered. She sniffed and wiped at her eyes with the back of her hand.
“I—I can’t even – Estelle if you’re attracted to both men and women then choose to be with a man. This is obviously God’s trial for you, and he wants you to choose to be with a man. Is this the real reason you broke up with Dayton? Because you wanted to be with Hannah, and you didn’t tell us about it!”
“No, Momma! I told you the truth about Dayton. It just wasn’t working out between us. How many times do I have to tell you that?”
A tense moment passed where neither one of them said anything. Both sensing that if they spoke, something too hurtful might be let loose.
Donna picked up her pace. She was hurrying to get back to her house now.
They’d arrived at the front stoop of her little cottage. Donna let out a tired breath of frustration and rubbed at the temples on her forehead. “I need to go to bed. The timing on tellin’ me this was perhaps not the best. I need time to think and process.” She reached in and gave Estelle a quick hug and peck on the cheek.
“Love you,” Estelle mumbled. She felt a wave of resentment wash through her. Her mother had brought up the subject of Dayton – yet again – and now she was saying the timing was all wrong!
“Love you too,” Donna said. She slipped inside quietly, with Louie padding close behind, then closed the door.
As Estelle made her way back to the house, she told the others she was tired and turned in for the night. She had a rough time getting to sleep.
Her prevailing thought was, ‘This was such a mistake to come home.’
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Part Twelve will be released on July 31st .
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