Short Stories 365/163

“Leaving” by Angela Vitale from Best Lesbian Romance 2012 (Cleis Press). Edited by Radcylffe.

This story captures the excitement of being completely immersed in an ongoing intimate relationship. I want to say it’s a relatively new relationship, but it may be one that is continually renewed by the fact that it is a long distance one.

At the start of the story Ang is watching T as she heads down the front path toward her truck and, ultimately, to the airport and back out of town. Ang doesn’t want the visit to be over yet, so she grabs her cell phone and calls T, then races through the darkened house to the bedroom window. There she cajoles her lover with seductive images until she gets what she wants: T returns to the house and extends the visit for a little while longer. It’s an aspect of romance we haven’t yet seen in this collection, the playfulness of people already committed to one another, undertaking the challenge of keeping the interest and excitement of their union alive.

Short Stories 365/162

“Blazing June” by JL Merrow from Best Lesbian Romance 2012 (Cleis Press). Edited by Radcylffe.

Ellen is a police officer in London, called to make a wellness check on an elderly woman who lives alone. Carla, a young mom, is the concerned citizen who phoned the cops to come check on her next door neighbor. When Ellen cuts her finger trying to jimmy her way into the old lady’s apartment, Carla offers to doctor her wound. They’re drawn to one another, and through small talk try to get the correct read on the situation, to avoid misinterpreting cues. The banter also provides a way for them to meet again, a week later, when Ellen shows up at Carla’s gym. Small talk in the locker room further clarifies their mutual interest. They go for coffee, and there begin to speak plainly, going so far as to speculate about Carla’s elderly neighbor Mrs. MacReady. They cite the fact that she married a man because she wanted a child, and then stayed with him even after it became clear they could not have children, as an example of the way things once were for lesbians and for women generally. It’s not at all how things are for the two of them, though, and that fact is quite uplifting. Overall, it’s a very engaging and thought-provoking story.

Short Stories 365/161

“Misty and Me” by Catherine Paulson from Best Lesbian Romance 2012 (Cleis Press). Edited by Radcylffe.

This next entry is short and sweet. In the small town she came to in order to rebuild her life, a woman named Jules finds herself drawn to her new best friend, a young mother by the name of Misty. Jules thinks the attraction is one-sided, but is pleasantly surprised, at the start of the story, to learn that she’s wrong. Misty, however, has a much harder time afterward, battling her inner demons. She worries what people will say and do if they find out, and that fear threatens to tear the two women apart.

All in all it’s an engaging, sensual piece, but I wish it had been a little longer. Several questions came to mind while I was reading it. I’d like to know more about the characters’ lives prior the start of the story. What drove Jules to pull up stakes and start life over in a new town? How did the two meet? What transpired between Misty and the man who is the father of her child? Was she married? Is she now divorced? How does her relationship with her son influence the decision she makes regarding Jules? I wish all of these things had been answered in the text.

Short Stories 365/160

“A Prom Story in Three Parts” by Sheree L Greer from Best Lesbian Romance 2012 (Cleis Press). Edited by Radcylffe.

High school senior Zaire has a date to the prom in boyfriend Sheldon but her heart secretly belongs to transfer student Daryan. So secretly, in fact, that she’s almost not conscious of the fact. Her brain is doing all it can to block out the information, so the truth has begun arriving via dreams.

Her dilemma is paralleled nicely by some backstory about her parents’ failed relationship, and the sudden reappearance of the father who walked out when she was a toddler. A pre-prom talk with her mother further grounds the story in a heterosexual dynamic that raises the stakes, but does so subtly. This isn’t the bat shit crazy mother from Carrie, but still: Will Zaire’s mother be able to empathize with a daughter who’s fallen in love with another girl? It’s anyone’s guess.

The second scene introduces us to her friends from school, who have an obvious bond, as well as to Daryan, who still carries the vibe of an outsider even though the end of the school year is right around the corner. Again, this isn’t Carrie; none of the kids says or does anything, but there’s definite emotional distance between them and Zaire is caught in the middle. It’s not surprising when we learn that there have been rumors going around school about Daryan, and theories about what it is that makes her seem different.

In the final section we get a clearer picture of Sheldon. He seems like a nice, well-mannered kid. We learn that Zaire has been using him to try to figure out some things about herself. You can’t blame her, but again, it ratchets up the stakes. He stands to get hurt, and if he does, he could lash out. Lastly, there’s progression in the interaction between Zaire and Daryan that feels like a beginning much more than the ending it is here. I figured this had to be part of a novel, or rather, three parts of one. I did a little research and found out that indeed it is, only the novel it’s from has not yet been published. Too bad, since from the glimpse we get of her here, Zaire seems like a heroine LGBT youth would benefit from knowing.

Short Stories 365/159

“What No One Else Has” by Theda Hudson from Best Lesbian Romance 2012 (Cleis Press). Edited by Radclyffe.

I was pleasantly surprised by this story. The way it starts out, I was hesitant. I thought I wouldn’t be able to relate well enough to it to make any kind of commentary and would be forced to skip reviewing it, but things took an unexpected turn about halfway through. It became a much different—and much more interesting, to me personally—examination of the human psyche than the one I was anticipating.

Main character Lucy works as a demonstrator at shows catering to the BDSM set, modeling articles of clothing, equipment and toys. Mickey is a mysterious stranger in the crowd. There is an instant attraction between them. It soon becomes clear, however, that Lucy’s behavior is informed by self-esteem issues. She isn’t aware of it, just as most of us are ignorant of our own motivations, but Mickey sees what’s really going on. She’s determined to get control of the situation and steer it to her advantage. She’s playing a long game, and I found that to be a much more fascinating story.

Short Stories 365/158

“A Time and Materials Job” by Anna Watson from Best Lesbian Romance 2012 (Cleis Press). Edited by Radclyffe.

Here’s a character type I haven’t seen in quite some time and didn’t realize that I missed: old-fashioned and well-mannered. The unnamed protagonist is polite and quietly confidant. She knows perfectly well what she wants but she doesn’t place her own desires above those of other people. She’s not a pushover; it’s just that she has respect for the feelings of others and the boundaries they seem to have erected around them. In other words, she was raised right. I love this character’s voice. It’s absolutely dead-on.

It would be easy to use the word “country” to describe her attitude, but I think her outlook harkens back to a time when most people, even those living in cities, were less sophisticated and jaded and, well, self-centered than we are now. She reminds me of the kind, determined souls Jimmy Stewart used to play. She’s an everywoman readers should be able to identify with, and hopefully will emulate.

She’s an electrician by trade, and we catch up with her just after she’s started on a project re-wiring a bungalow from the 1930s for a newly divorced mother of two small girls. Maeve has flaming red, curly locks, pale skin, lots of freckles, and a life that’s just fallen apart. The thing that would really benefit her right now would be finding someone even-keeled and very together, who wants to help her. The trouble is, that someone is too considerate even to ask what it was that caused the marriage to fail, to see if there might be a possibility for romance.

Speaking of romance, this tale is vying with “A View” by Brandon M. Long from Fool for Love: New Gay Fiction and “Save the Last Dance for Me” by David Puterbaugh from Best Gay Romance 2014, also both published by Cleis Press, for the title of Most Romantic Story of this project.

Short Stories 365/157

“Rule 4” by Cheyenne Blue from Best Lesbian Romance 2012 (Cleis Press). Edited by Radclyffe.

I accidentally skipped this story in these reviews, so I’m going back to it.

Here’s another entry for the imaginary anthology of LGBT culinary-themed stories. The main character is a chef who sizes up her potential new housemate, Joanna, by noting what she does and doesn’t consume when presented with a surprise meal. After Joanna moves in they get fully acquainted the same way, over carefully analyzed plates of food, and it turns out they have a lot of common interests. Soon they’re hanging out together all the time.

My only gripe with this story is that the main character’s name shows up very late, more than halfway through the piece. Anyway, before you know it Sam is smack dab in love, enamored with all of Joanna’s little quirks. There’s only one problem. They live together, and Sam has a rule, Rule 4, which is to never seduce a housemate. She manages to stick to her principles for months, until her best friend Jazz expresses an interest in Joanna and requests permission to ask her out.

It’s not okay with Sam, of course. It’s not okay at all. But what can she do? She gives Jazz the green light and then braces herself for the heartache of watching someone else sweep Joanna off her feet.