It’s June, time to celebrate summer, so what if this is the Pacific Northwest and it’s still raining half the time. Lindsey decides to host the next lunch gathering in her back yard, gals garden party. It’s a sunny weekend! And she’d managed to mow the out-of-control lawn the day before, drag out her rusty garden tools and make some inroads in the rampant weeds.
“Lindsey, you are so blessed to have this place right in town! It’s like the Garden of Eden!” Crystal throws out her arms and spins across the lawn past the sprawling red rhododendrons and the old lilac tree, her embroidered long skirt wheeling out around her pale legs and bare feet.
Lindsey recalls that vivid dream, months ago now—twirling young and barefoot across the grass in her hippie skirt—and she feels a rush of gratitude to Crystal. She sets down the picnic basket and kicks off her flipflops to feel the earth beneath her feet. She grabs Crystal’s hands and twirls them both across the moist grass.
“Whoa, girls!” Megan’s chuckling, waggling her bottle of Chardonnay. “You haven’t even fueled up yet!”
HighJinks, overstimulated by the visitors, yowls and darts to the back porch to jump onto a rounded beach cobble Lindsey uses as a doorstop. He slides onto his side, embracing it, kicking his legs to get it spinning.
Crystal claps her hands. “Did you teach him that?”
“Try teaching a Siamese.” Lindsey snorts. “It’s his latest obsession, humping that rock.”
“Way too much sexual frustration bottled up in this household!” Megan gives Lindsey a significant look, waving the wine bottle. “Mister Mojo there is ready to roll, anyway.”
“And I am so ready for summer.” Lindsey pulls off her fleece zip and ties it around the waist of her jeans, savoring the breeze on her bare arms. She’s been wearing tank tops all spring so she can cool off when the flashes hit her, has figured out how to pad the left cup on her bras so the lumpectomy breast doesn’t look so unbalanced with the other one. And now that it’s officially summer, she and the underdressed coeds aren’t the only ones wearing skimpy tops.
“Yep. Figured it was time to show a little leg.” Megan strikes a pose, extending a rhinestone-encrusted sandal to show off shiny pink toenails, then going into a modelling turn to display what look like brand-new purple capri pants. “So where do we set up camp, Kemosabe?”
“It’s still pretty mucky down by the creek, let’s eat up here.” Lindsey shakes out a heavy blanket, spreading it over the grass beside the border of native groundcovers she’d planted under the rhododendron hedge, fringy foliage of bleeding-heart with its pendant blooms setting off the glossy leaves of wild ginger.
“Wait, I have to visit the appleblossom devas before we eat. I want to see who else is popping up back here.” Crystal meanders deeper into the yard toward the old orchard and the creek ravine, stopping to poke here and there at wildflowers struggling up through the weeds Lindsey has let take over since the divorce.
“Let’s pop this sucker.” Megan plops down onto the blanket and whips out a wine opener, cranking into the Chardonnay cork and yanking it out. Lindsey hands her glasses from the basket, and she pours. “Better corral Crystal before the fairies take her away.” She hands Lindsey a glass, then stands and takes hers and Crystal’s. “So how’s it going with your mom?”
Lindsey raises crossed fingers. “We got the new meds ironed out, I think, so we’re in a holding pattern.”
“Good.” Megan tilts her head, auburn tints catching the sunlight. “You look better, too, Lin. But you could still take ten pounds from me, you skinny minnie.” She reaches over to click glasses with Lindsey. “Though I have to say, you look hot in that tank top.”
“I’m hot all right. Still up at night with those damn hot flashes. Crystal gave me a couple of Reiki treatments—that’s her latest thing—but it didn’t help any more than the herbs.” She blows out a breath. “I’m about to say to hell with the cancer risk and try hormone replacement for a while. It’s the nausea along with them. Sometimes I just hit the wall with it.”
“Well, maybe some hormones wouldn’t hurt for a bit, just to get you through the worst of it.” She heads after Crystal toward the apple tree. “My family, we’re good peasant stock. All I noticed was I stopped bleeding, never had those flashes.”
“I could kill you.”
They duck under the gnarled apple boughs, white petals drifting down. Crystal’s poking around in the tangled foliage by the fence that separates Lindsey’s yard from the neighbors’ backyard barbecue area. Luckily it’s a six-foot fence, since the Jorgensons are earnest Born-Agains and Lindsey still indulges in nude sunbathing.
“So how long has it been since you had sex?” Megan’s voice booms across the lawn.
“Ssshh!” Lindsey waves her down, tilting her head toward the fence. She can hear the Jorgensons on the other side now, sounds like they’ve got the Bible-study group out there again.
“Oh, shit!” Megan giggles. “Tell ’em you invited Mary Magdalene over,” she stage-whispers. Raised Catholic, Megan has never let notions of sin cramp her style. “Crystal, come and get your wine!”
Crystal drifts over to claim her glass.
Megan raises hers. “To Lin getting her brains fucked out.”
“Megan….” Lindsey rolls her eyes.
“Goddess! You’re kidding!” Crystal bursts out. “Lin, don’t tell me you have a new guy?”
“No. Megan’s hallucinating.”
Megan laughs. “Just you wait, my dear. You better get serious, or I’m going to call Newman, sic him on you. Do you both good, his ex did such a number on his head I think he might go turn into a monk again.”
Lindsey can feel her face burning, not a hot flash this time. She’s been thinking about that phone number Megan gave her. “Give me a break!” Lindsey turns away, irritated now, tired of advice and the focus on healing that seems to have taken over ever since the cancer. She just wants to live her life.
And then she’s more irritated, with herself, when she realizes she’s hunching protectively around her breasts, crossing her arms. Every time Lindsey lets herself think about connecting, maybe making love again, she has to remember. Nick had flinched away from the lumpectomy scar, didn’t want to touch it. So how would a new man see her now, this aging body? The misshapen breast?
“Sweetie.” Megan’s voice has gone soft. “Don’t do that to yourself. Nobody who deserves you is going to mind a little missing piece.” She touches Lindsey’s shoulder, the faint scar from the years-ago repair she rarely thinks about. “Who the hell at this age doesn’t have scars? Like this one never slows you down. Shows you’re winning the fight, if you ask me.”
Lindsey bites her lip, gives Megan a wry smile. “Yeah, here I go with the pity party.” She moves toward the fence, where Crystal is poking around again, picking forget-me-nots.
A voice is reciting on the other side of the cedar boards, “And lo, when Delilah saw that Samson had told her all his mind, she sent and called the lord of the Philistines….”
“Lin!” Crystal’s kneeling beside the birdbath Lindsey and Nick had made years ago, a concrete basin formed over the impression of a huge rhubarb leaf. “I never saw this before. It’s wonderful!”
“Nick and I made it.”
Crystal leans forward to rub moss off the deeply incised veins, runs a finger up the deep folds of the leafy basin. “You two did have a strong creative synergy, when he could stay centered in his true self.”
Lindsey pauses. “You’re right.” She kneels beside Crystal, reaches out to pull weeds away from the basin.
“…and she bade him sleep upon her knees while.…” The low voice rumbles on from the Jorgensons’ yard. “Then she began to torment him, and his strength left him.”
“It’s pure Goddess energy for your garden!” Crystal turns on her knees, raising her voice to call over to Megan. “Come and look at this! It’s the perfect fertile female shape, the way the leaf is opening, beckoning male penetration.”
“Crystal….” Lindsey tries to hush her.
“I mean, just look at these labial folds. Did you realize what you were creating here?”
The voices beyond the fence have fallen silent.
Crystal spreads her arms, raising her face to the sun in smiling rapture. “Goddess, Lindsey, it’s a celebration of sacred sexuality! Completely vulvular!”
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