Read Winter Jacket: New Beginnings Online

Authors: Eliza Lentzski

Tags: #Gay & Lesbian, #Literature & Fiction, #Erotica, #Lesbian, #Romantic, #Lesbian Romance, #Genre Fiction, #Lgbt, #Gay Fiction, #Lesbian Fiction, #@lgbt, #Contemporary, #@unread, #Romance

Winter Jacket: New Beginnings (23 page)

BOOK: Winter Jacket: New Beginnings
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The magic s-word.
Another perk of being tenured. “I have to apply for one of those.”

Then apply,” Troian said impatiently. “They won’t say no.”

I thought about those recently rejected course proposals.
I hadn’t thought those would be denied either. But who knew if Dean Merlot would allow me a break; she’d probably find a way to deny me a semester off because of my sexuality.

We didn’
t talk for the rest of the drive. Well, I was silent, just looking out at the southern California landscape and Troian yelled at the drivers who were going too slowly or who cut her off.


I called Hunter via Skype as soon as Troian and I got back to her house.

“How was your day? What did you do?”
Hunter asked, blue eyes eager. Her visible earnestness made me miss her even more and wish she could have come along on this trip.

“Troian brought me to her studio. I got to sit in a brainstorming session with her team of writers.”

“Oh, that sounds like it would have been a blast. I bet you were totally in your element.”

“Yeah, it was fun,” I agreed. I thought about Troian’s offer.
“Would you ever want to leave the Midwest?” I posed.

“Depends. Why do you ask?”

“Troian offered me a job,” I revealed. “She wants me to be a writer for her show.”

Hunter didn’t look surprised. I guess I wasn’t too surprised either. For as long as I’d known
Troian, she’d been trying to get me to quit being a teacher and be a full-time writer like her.

“What did you tell her?” I couldn’t read Hunter’s emotions over the video chat.

“That I’m a teacher.”

re a good teacher, too. I remember,” she said with a wry smile. “But do you
to keep teaching, Ellio? I know how frustrated you were last semester.”

I could
always teach someplace else, but the job market was oversaturated. The professors who should have been retiring weren’t because of the economy, yet graduate programs kept churning out new PhDs every year. I had friends from graduate school who still didn’t have full-time work and here I was, already tenured. It made me feel whiny and ungrateful, or like I was making too big a deal out of Dean Merlot’s interference.

I sighed and rubbed my hands roughly over my face. “I don’t know anymore.”


The next morning, Troian didn’
t wake me up by jumping on the bed, but she did tumble into my bedroom an hour earlier than I had planned on waking up.

“More work today?” I groaned into my pillow.

“Yup,” Troian confirmed.

“Ok,” I sighed, hefting myself up.

Troian hovered near the end of the bed. “Are you sure you’re okay hanging out at the office again today?”

I didn’t think I really had a choice. I was the one visiting, but I was also kind of interrupting her work schedule. From what I’d gathered from a few brief, tense conversations, Troian’s spare time was precious and limited these days.

“Yeah, it’s fine.” I raked my fingers through my tangled hair. “But there
something I want to do with you while I’m out here.”

That sounds dangerous,” Troian clucked. “Remember that I’m an engaged woman now.”

I snorted. “
Right. As if you could be any more committed to your future wife than you already were.”

“What is it that you want to do?” Troian pressed.

I rolled out of bed. “Well first I want to shower.”

“Yes, please.”

“Is my hair crazy?” I asked through a yawn. I touched my hand to my hair. I’d been rolling around all night, unable to sleep. Thoughts about my immediate future career had preoccupied my brain.

“The craziest,” she confirmed.


“I can’
t believe you made me stop for coffee.”

I threw mysel
f down on a vacant easy chair. “Not just coffee,” I corrected her. “We’re going to have a coffee

I wiggled in my chair, tryi
ng to break it in like the beat up hand-me-downs at Del Sol.

“What are you doing?”
She glanced around the coffee shop as if I was causing a scene and she worried people were watching us.

“Getting comfortable, duh.”

Troian sat down in a chair of her own, only more cautiously than my dramatic sit down. “You’re really weird, Bookworm.”

I sat up more rigidly. “Hey, I don’t know the next time we’ll have this opportunity,” I pointed out. “
You decided to leave me for California and Fame.”

You could come too you know. The offer’s been made.”

d never fit in around here,” I flippantly dismissed. “I’m a Midwest girl all the way.”

The coffee shop was a sea of laptops and cell phones, people taking advantage of the free Internet or working on the next great American novel – although in southern California they were probably working on a screenplay. Everyone was too pretty, both the men and women, for this to be a real place.

“Do you actually like it here?” I flagged down a barista who brought us two coffees.

Troian picked at the material of her easy chair. “Well, it’s no Del Sol, but it’s less than half an hour from my house, so I can’t be picky. Everything takes so fucking long to get to. I miss the days of stumbling out of bed to meet up with you.”

I stopped being critical long enough to smile at my best friend. “But look at all this eye-candy,” I observed. “If I lived out here, I’d get in trouble.” As if to prove a point, I let my gaze follow a woman in a skirt so short it should have been illegal.

“Eh, even a horn-ball like you would get desensitized to all the pretty faces. It’s like working at a strip club; eventually you stop noticing the meat market.” She shook out her raw sugar packet before tipping it into her black coffee. “But on the plus side, not as many people flirt with my girlfriend out here.”

,” I corrected her.

“Right.” She chuckled and shook her head. “That still sounds so weird.”

I dipped a stir-stick into my coffee. “Were you serious yesterday about giving me a job?”

s face looked eager at my question. “Are you thinking about it?”

Maybe. I don’t know.” I made a frustrated noise. “It would be a really big change from my life right now.”

“That’s certainly true.”

“What would I do? I’d be a real writer, right?” I stated with caution. “You wouldn’t make me get you coffee?”

t be ridiculous; I already have someone who does that.” She paused, and I could tell she was mulling the idea over. I knew she’d enjoy hazing me too much. “But seriously, you’d be doing the same thing you did yesterday, only you’d actually get paid for your ideas. I don’t know how much you’re making right now, but I can guarantee you’d make more at the Studio.”

I stared into the top of my coffee cup.
More money would be nice, but that wasn’t my concern. Uprooting my life was.

“What about job stability?” I posed.
I had tenure at my university, which was supposed to be the ultimate in job security. But with Dean Merlot’s new regime, who knew if she’d actually honor tenure in the future.

a bit of a gamble,” Troian admitted. “The Studio green-lit this project, but if we don’t get ratings, they won’t keep ordering new episodes.
don’t have to worry as much because they gave me a Talent Contract. So even if the show gets canceled, I still have a job.”

But all the other writers would be out on their cans.” I frowned. “So I could potentially give up my life to come out here, only to fail in a few months time.”

“Welcome to Hollywood,” she nodded.

“How does Nik like living here?” I asked.

“She puts on a brave face, but I think she hates it,” Troian said glumly.

“Because she’s not getting hit on?” I ventured. I didn’t like the somberness that had reached Troian’s face.

“No. I was so busy the first month trying to get into a routine at the Studio that I kind of neglected her. I think that’s why she went back to landscaping so quickly.”

I sensed we’d broached a sensitive subject. I couldn’t recall Nikole and Troian ever having a rough patch in their relationship, but moving across the country as they’d done could certainly cause tension.

Plastic Barbie-type near the bathroom,” I said, nodding toward a blonde woman who sat by herself. “Top, Bottom, or Switch?”


Nikole was home from work by the time we returned from the coffee shop. She must have just returned, however, as she was still in her landscaping uniform and had dirt smudges on her cheeks. She waved at us when came in while she filled up a glass with water from the refrigerator.

“You two are back early,” she observed. “Short day at the Studio?”

Troian tossed her keys on a table in the foyer. “We didn’t make it,” she admitted. “Elle distracted me with coffee instead.”

Nikole grinned. “I’m impressed.” She tipped her water glass in my direction. “I owe you one, Professor Graft. Even I haven’t been able to distract her from going to the office with offers of much more than overpriced coffee.”

“Damn you, Bookie,” Troian grumbled out of the side of her mouth.

“What?” My eyes widened on their own accord.

“Do you see that?” she said, gesturing at Nikole. “I could be ravishing my fiancée on the kitchen countertops right now if you weren’t here.”

s smile was as brilliant as ever. She hopped up to sit on one of the counters and swung her bare legs back and forth. “Oh, I’m sure Elle wouldn’t mind,” she winked.

I turned on my heel to escape down the hallway that led to the guestroom.
Nikole’s laughter followed me as I ran away and shut the bedroom door behind me.


“You’re on early,” Hunter observed.

I hadn’t really expected her to answer the video-chat call. Her hours at the hospital were all over the place, but I thought I’d give it a try in case she was home and in earshot of her laptop.

“I’m avoiding Nik and Troi; they’re trying to suck me into a threesome.”

Hunter frowned and looked uncomfortable.

“I’m kidding,” I reassured her. “Neither one is my type.”

She gave me a small smile, but it didn’t reach her eyes. “That’s nice to know.”

“Are you okay?”

Even though we were early into the conversation, I sensed that something was a little off. She kept looking away from the screen, unwilling to look at me straight on. Coming from a girl with unfaltering eye contact, it made me feel strange.

Hunter worried her lip. “I have to tell you something, and I don’t know how you’re going to react. And it would probably be better if I told you in person, not like this,” she said, waving her hands animatedly, “but I wanted to tell you right away because honesty and transparency is the foundation of a healthy relationship.”

I wanted to laugh because she had worked herself up so much that it was almost comical. But instead of chuckling, I immediately antici
pated the worst. I didn’t know if I could handle more disappointment and frustration. These past few months had not been kind. My only constant had been my relationship with Hunter.

I took a deep, c
leansing breath. “What is it?”

Hunter worked the muscles
in her throat. “Loryssa kind of, um, prepositioned me last night.”

“Prepositioned you?” My stomach sank at the words.

“I don’t want you to get mad.” Hunter bit her lip again.

“I can’t make that promise.”

Hunter looked away from her laptop as if she needed to check if anyone might overhear. It didn’t take me long to realize that person would be Loryssa.

“She climbed into my bed last night.”
The words coming out of her mouth were getting worse and worse. “I’m pretty sure she’d been drinking.”

My voice sounded strangled even to my own ears.

Hunter looke
d away from the computer again. I heard muffled voices in the background.

“Hold on,”
she told me.

She rose from her bed, all elegance and long limbs
, and left the direct view of the built-in webcam. I heard her steps on the creaky wooden floor and the sound of her bedroom door opening. The voices became clearer, one male and one female, but I still couldn’t make out the words.

I started to nervously sweat as I waited, helpless and thousands of miles away.
God, why was this taking so long? Why couldn’t she just rip the band-aid off and tell me she’d had sex with her fashion model roommate who was closer to her age and had more in common with, and that they were soul mates, and she was going to keep my cat as well as my heart?

Hunter returned into view and settled back onto the bed.
The voices had become quieter, and I guessed she’d closed her bedroom door again. I tried not to appear too eager or anxious for her to continue her story.

Sorry about that. Eric, Loryssa’s boyfriend, just came over.”

My mental panic continued.
Loryssa was probably telling her boyfriend about her wild night with my girlfriend at the same time that my girlfriend was going to tell me about her night with Loryssa. Synchronized heartbreaking. A new Olympic sport.

They had a fight or something last night,” she explained. “I think that’s why she ended up in my bed.”

I threw my hands in the air, unable to restrain my em
otions. “Just say it, Hunter.”

“Say what?”

“That you cheated on me.”

“What?” Hunter’s jaw dropped. “I didn’
t cheat on you, Elle.”

“You didn’t?” I was experiencing too many emotions in too short of a time.

“Of course not. Loryssa hopped in my bed and I turned her down. Nothing happened.”


,” Hunter confirmed. “And she’s totally embarrassed about it. She’s been apologizing all morning.”

You turned down sex with a runway model.” I said the words out loud and they sounded just as preposterous to my ears as they had inside my head.

Nothing happened.” Hunter’s face and her tone were serious. “I wouldn’t do that to you.”

let myself relax a little bit, but not entirely. “And that’s it? That’s what you were nervous to tell me?”

She nodded.
“I just know it’s been kind of a weird start to our relationship already, and then add to that Loryssa being one of your students, too…” She trailed off.

Be honest, were you the least bit tempted?” Why was I such a masochist? Couldn’t I just let this be?

hot. Anybody with eyes can see that,” Hunter shrugged. “But she’s not you.”

This was the epicenter of m
y self-doubt and insecurities. I wanted to cut my trip short and fly back immediately. I hated our physical distance, that I was on the opposite side of the country and couldn’t hold and kiss her. I would probably continue to feel unsettled until I could see her in person.

Hunter’s generous mouth flopped into a troubled f
rown. “You’re not going to, like, beat her up or anything, right?”

It was a fair question.
I was pretty famously a jealous person. Plus, it wasn’t like the threat was gone. Loryssa still lived there with her. What was to stop her from crawling into Hunter’s bed the next time she got drunk or fought with her boyfriend? What was to stop Hunter from giving in the next time?

I had so many unanswered questions, but the gory details of
Loryssa’s failed proposition would only aggravate the gnawing jealousy in my gut. I was naturally territorial, but I had to believe that Hunter wouldn’t betray my trust. She could have chosen to keep this from me, but she’d been forthright.

I cleared my throat. “Your roommate is safe.”
While I’m still in California
, I mentally added.

Her lip twitched, curling up on one side
. “She’ll be relieved to know that.”




I sat by the infinity pool that overlooked some undistinguishable southern California geography. The sun was warm on my face and it was remarkably quiet outside. There were no birds chirping, just the occasional roar of a leaf blower filtering from a neighbor’s yard.

I had once warned my ex-girlfriend Cady when we’d first started dating that if she wanted to be with someone who had banker hours that she should date a banker, not me. There would always be student papers to grade when the teaching day was done, or student emails to respond to, or research of my own to complete. But not today. I had no papers to grade, no lectures to prepare, no research or writing of my own to complete. I felt like a regular person with a regular work schedule.

It was the kind of morning th
at made me miss my girlfriend. I imagined her splashing around in the pool, unwilling to sit idle for too long. She always had to be moving, even on what should be a lazy weekend. I imagined her laughter in the background. I thought about calling her, but after our intense conversation the previous night, I didn’t want to seem like I didn’t trust her and was checking up on her.

The sliding door opened and Troian appeared, bleary-eyed and blinking into the sun. Her glossy black hair stuck out this way and that, and she was barefoot on the patio in her sleep shorts and t-shirt.

“Wow.” I couldn’t help laughing at her disheveled state. “Good morning, sunshine.” I set my e-reader down and took a sip from my orange juice. “Rough night?” My own night had been emotionally exhausting, but I’d somehow managed to turn off my busy brain long enough to fall asleep.

Troian ran her fingers roughly through her wild hair and padded across the backyard to sit down at a vacant patio chair across from me. “That woman is going to be the death of me.” She rubbed gingerly at the hinges of her lower jaw. “I think I dislocated my jaw.”

I nearly spit out my orange juice. “Let me stop you right there.”

“Good.” She sighed and leaned forward so her forehead rested against the glass table. “I need a powerbar or gatorade or something.”

“No wonder you stay so tiny without ever working out,” I ruefully stated.

She lifted up her head just a little. “Oh, I work out,” she assured me. “You just won’t find my exercise regime in any fitness magazine.”

“No, just the porn ones,” I quipped.

Troian’s head dropped back to the table. “I think I strained a muscle in my
right bicep, too.”

“You need to sign an insurance waiver before
having sex with your girlfriend.” I didn’t feel sorry for her, not one little bit. She was having acrobatic sex with her partner while mine was deflecting the advances of a runway model. I bit my tongue. I couldn’t tell Troian about that yet. I was too much in my head about it still. I needed to work it out for myself before I could tell her. I knew Troian would have an opinion. She had an opinion about everything.

“So what’s the plan for today?” I asked instead.

Troian grunted. “An ice bath.”

“And then?”

She heaved her head up like it was a great chore. “And then I’ve got an appointment at a bridal shop, but I don’t think I’ll go.”

“Why not?”

“I hate shopping for clothes,” Troian said, making a face.

I wasn
’t a big fan of clothes shopping either, and I really didn’t possess an ounce of interest in trying on bridesmaids dresses or watching Troian try on bridal gowns, but I supposed this was the kind of chore that went with Best Woman territory.

“Are you going to wear a dress to your wedding?”

“Of course I am – what else would I wear?”

I shrugged. “I think you’d look cute in suspenders and a bow-tie.”

Troian wrinkled her nose. “I don’t want to look
on my wedding day. People think I’m 12 years old already.”

“Do you know what style of dress Nik is going for?”

“What – no suit and tie for my fiancée?” Troian challenged.

I arched an eyebrow. I was sure Nikole could pull off a tailored suit, but she was definitely a wedding dress kind of bride.

“No. She wants it to be a surprise.”

“I hope you two don’t end up with the same dress. How embarrassing would that be?” I snorted. “If you thought Prom was bad…”

Troian cracked a smile for the first time that morning, and I felt lighter, glad to have her in my life. While I couldn’t entirely dismiss the unsettling thoughts that lingered from my conversation with Hunter the previous night, spending the day with my best friend certainly helped.


The bridal shop Troian took me to was a cute boutique, not one of those franchises you find in strip malls. We’d been buzzed in from the outside after providing Troian’s name. I hadn’t been a part of too many bridal parties, so I was a bit of a novice when it came to dress shopping and everything else that went into planning a wedding.

I pushed around some dresses on a rack, all of them too expensive and too small for me. I was a reliable size 10, an 8 on a good day. Southern California seem
ed to have a shortage in sizes. From looking at just one dress’s price-tag once inside the shop I’d also surmised that I was out of my league. I’d hardly paid that much for my used car. I wondered if they did layaway.

“How’d you find this place?” I felt like I should whisper. We seemed to be the only people in the shop.

“One of the interns at work.” Troian still had on her aviator glasses, which made her look like she was nursing a hangover, mid-week; she’d only overindulged on sex though. “She said everyone who’s anyone comes here. I even had to name drop one of the studio execs to get us this appointment.”

If this was such a fancy place I would have expected to be greeted at the door with flutes of champagne and staff catering to our every
whim. I couldn’t spot a single sales associate, let alone anyone giving us celebrity treatment.

BOOK: Winter Jacket: New Beginnings
5.78Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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