Please welcome my friend and author, Cindy Rizzo, to my blog. She is promoting her new lesbian romance, Getting Back. Please take a moment to read an excerpt from this amazing writer.
Thanks for stopping by!
Excerpt from Getting Back by Cindy Rizzo
Elizabeth Morrison tightened the grip on her Blackberry as she held it to her ear, feeling her fingers cramp around the curved edges.
“And I assume I’m the last one to find this out, aren’t I, Margaret?”
“Ah, the Queen Elizabeth voice, how I’ve missed it.”
“You deserve it. You engineered this whole thing behind my back.”
Elizabeth eased into her leather desk chair, trying to hold on to her anger, but feeling instead as if she was going to fall apart.
“Sweetie,” cooed Margaret, “it’s been thirty years. Could it be that you’re still pining away for Ruth Abramson?”
Elizabeth breathed out audibly. “Certainly not! And that isn’t the point. I just feel… I don’t know, like I’ve been ambushed.”
It was a diversion, chastising her best friend—or the woman she had thought was her best friend—for taking it upon herself to invite Ruth to be the class luncheon speaker at their thirtieth reunion. But in reality, all her emotions were focused on just one thing—the prospect of seeing Ruth for the first time since college.
“Elizabeth, you run one of the most successful publishing companies in the world. You have editors trembling in your wake, agents fawning over you hoping for the slightest nod of your head. Surely you can deal with this. Maybe it’s time to face things head on?”
“Why didn’t you come to me when this was just an idea, before she agreed to speak?”
“Because I’m chairing the reunion committee and I didn’t feel I had to clear all of our plans with you.”
“Oh come on, Margaret, I’m not just anybody. I’m a trustee of Fowler. Besides, you know very well that Ruth and I have been studiously avoiding one another all this time. I don’t even see why she would agree in the first place. She hasn’t set foot back on campus since graduation.”
Margaret’s voice was quiet, almost a whisper. “Truth is, we begged her. She’s a US district court judge, the second most accomplished member of our class, after you of course, Your Majesty.”
Elizabeth knew the trajectory of Ruth’s career quite well. She’d been following it for years. She closed her eyes and shook her head slowly. A groan escaped. Suddenly weary and unsettled, she was unable to conjure up the anger from just a few minutes ago.
“You know, she didn’t want to do it,” said Margaret. “We waited weeks for her to confirm.”
Elizabeth rolled forward in her chair and rested her head in one hand.
“Why now, I wonder?”
“Maybe she thinks thirty years is long enough.”
With the phone still pressed to her ear, Elizabeth sat slumped at her desk. Margaret’s news had completely unsettled her. What could Ruth possibly want after all this time?
Elizabeth knew from mutual acquaintances that Ruth had only been dating women since her divorce from Bennett Miller in 1985. She wondered if Ruth had ever come out to her parents while they were still alive, especially her father, who’d always been her main concern. Main obsession, really. The Great Leon Abramov, national hero and savior of Russian Jewry. Elizabeth had cut his obituary out of the Times back in 1998 and placed it in the secret scrapbook along with photos from the funeral, attended, of course, by President Clinton and every important Jewish leader in the country. The paper had included a picture of Ruth flanked by her two children, a son and a daughter. She looked tired and drawn but not, Elizabeth had noticed, grief stricken. As she’d carefully smoothed the newspaper photo onto the sticky page of the scrapbook, Elizabeth had speculated whether Ruth could even be a bit relieved that the man who’d controlled so much of her life was finally gone. Or maybe the relief and the hope it left in its wake had been Elizabeth’s?
A loud staccato buzzing propelled her back to the present.
She pressed the hands-free button on her office phone.
“Reese Stanley is here for your three o’clock.”
Elizabeth hesitated for a second. Reese. She’d realize something was wrong in a heartbeat if Elizabeth let her walk in now.
“I need a minute or two,” she said, leaning over to the speaker on her desk.
She stood and straightened her posture, shoulders back, head high. Checking her face in a compact mirror, she freshened her lipstick and made sure nothing looked smudged or worn. Satisfied at last, she called up her business voice—the one she knew they all referred to as “Queen Elizabeth”—pressed the button on the phone, and said, “Have Reese come in.”
It was ridiculous to expect someone to remain the same as they were three decades ago. Elizabeth herself had changed. She was no longer innocent and open, the way she’d been in college. Being the boss suited her. She liked taking charge and always exhibiting confidence, while keeping her worries and doubts confined to nights alone at home. Very few people were permitted to see that side of her. From time to time, she’d open up a bit with Margaret, who as a business owner herself, understood the pressures of making hard choices.
But she thought it prudent to hide her persistent interest in Ruth Abramson from everyone. Her ongoing efforts to keep tabs on Ruth’s life, greatly facilitated these last ten years by the advent of the Internet, had taken the form of a bad habit that was impossible to stop. Like sneaking a cigarette on the back porch or buying the National Enquirer at a newsstand and hiding it in your desk drawer.
Elizabeth sat in her living room armchair sipping the sherry she’d received as a gift from the head of the company’s Spanish subsidiary, hoping it might eventually get her to sleep. But she couldn’t even muster a yawn. Instead, she kept picturing Ruth standing at a lectern in the alumni dining room, addressing the members of their class. Ruth and Elizabeth would be back at Fowler yet not together. She couldn’t make sense of that thought, even though she knew it was the truth. Maybe it would be best to confront who they’d been back then in order to accept the reality of who each of them had become.
She rose from her chair and went to her desk. At the bottom of her file drawer, under a stack of papers was the scrapbook; her own version of the hidden National Enquirer. She sat at her desk with the unopened book before her. Would this little trip down memory lane help her sort things out or just make them worse? What she dreaded most were those first few pages. She normally skipped them when she had something to add, opening the book to the items from the last few years. She’d insert whatever new photo or article she’d found, forcing herself to focus on the present and ignore the past. But with the prospect of finally seeing Ruth, maybe it was worth reviewing the entire history from the beginning and, by facing it boldly, reduce the power it seemed to have over her.
She glared at the closed book as if it was a bothersome underling. You’re not really a scrapbook, you know. You’re merely a photo album covered in faux light brown leather and decorated with a faux gold border. The words of Glinda the Good Witch from the Wizard of Oz came back to her.
“You have no power here. Be gone, before somebody drops a house on you!”
She smiled to herself and opened the book to the first off-white page covered in a clear plastic sheet that could be pulled away from its sticky cardboard backing. Taking a deep breath, she looked down at the blank page, deliberately left that way as a safety buffer so she could avoid being suddenly confronted with the past. The next pages contained all the old college photos. She’d debated about whether to destroy them, but found that she was unable to do so. They reflected back the happiest time in her life. If they were gone, she’d have nothing.
Unable to trust herself not to one day rip them up in a fit of anger after a particularly bad Siberian prison dream, she’d made a full set of duplicates and gave them to Margaret, pretending they were the originals. It was far better for her friends to think she had exiled images of Ruth from her midst instead of knowing the truth: she was incapable of letting them go.
The sherry slid down her throat with a slight burn. Tonight was the time for confronting. She grabbed onto the edge of the blank page and slowly turned it.
And there was Ruth, standing by that oak tree behind the student union, her hand on the trunk, a big smile on her face. Her dark, curly hair was tied back in this picture, even though Elizabeth always encouraged her to wear it out draped over her shoulders, reaching down to her breasts. Her pale skin contrasted with the hair and her dark brown eyes—eyes that had immediately captured Elizabeth and later held her attention as they lay in bed for hours gazing at one another and touching, always touching.
Then there were pictures of the two of them, among friends and on their own. She shifted her attention from Ruth to herself, dressed in baggy, faded jeans and a tight-fitting sweater with pink, green, and white horizontal stripes. Ugh, she thought, howcould I have ever worn such a thing? Luckily her taste in fashion had improved over time. But even with the wretched clothing, she was able to notice with longing her formerly smooth skin and the silky texture of her light brown hair, now dulled by years of coloring and highlighting. Would Ruth even find her attractive now?
She crossed her arms, laid them over the open book, and lowered her head onto them. Ruth had had over twenty years to contact her: twenty years of being on her own and dating women. But she had not come back. Instead, it seemed she had dismissed their intense connection, their love, as a mere college dalliance. Clearly, Ruth had moved on. Why couldn’t Elizabeth?
Cindy Rizzo is the author of three novels and three published short stories of lesbian fiction, including her latest book, Getting Back, released in October by Ylva Publishing. Her first novel, Exception to the Rule, won the 2014 award for Best Debut Author from Golden Crown Literary Society and was a finalist for the Rainbow Book Awards. In September 2014, her second novel, Love Is Enough, was released. A short story, The Miracle of the Lights, appeared in the award winning anthology,Unwrap These Presents (Ylva Publishing) and was also released on its own. A second story, V-Day 1978, was included in Ylva’s Valentine’s Day release, Love Times Two. Cindy was also the co-editor of a fiction anthology, All the Ways Home, published in 1995 (New Victoria) in which her story Herring Cove was included.
Cindy lives in New York City with her wife, Jennifer, and their three cats. They have two grown sons, a wonderful daughter-in-law, and a baby granddaughter. You can contact Cindy by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, via Facebook http://www.facebook.com/ctrizzo, through her blog, http://www.cindyrizzo.wordpress.com, or on Twitter @cindyrizzo.