A Mississippi River Romance - Part 13

A Mississippi
River Romance

I Kissed a Boy
(and She Kissed a Girl)and I liked it!

by Andrea Lena DiMaggio
 
It' s the way you love me
It's a feeling like this
It's centrifugal motion
It's perpetual bliss
It's that pivotal moment
It's, ah, impossible
This kiss, this kiss


Romance Along the Mississippi

Previously...The Magliano home...

“I wanted to know what to bring?”

“Bring…for what?”

“Oh…I’m sorry…Miri says that you and your daughters have invited me and my children for dinner. I know we haven’t touched base in a while, but she says Violet told her that since she and Vi are so close…well, I’m sorry, but it seems like we’ve got our signals crossed. I’m glad to talk with you, but I’m sorry to have…”

“Please, don’t…it’s okay…we haven’t had much company in the last couple of years…It will be fun…I don’t know what Cindy and Vi are preparing…do you like wine?”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Rubio…”

“Please…call me Ben…my friends call me Benny.” He laughed softly.

“I’m sorry…Ben…I’m an alcoholic…can I bring some Ginger Ale…maybe a salad?”

“Certainly…I’m sorry…it’s okay…oh…by the way…when am I having you over?”

“Sunday at two? That’s what the girls say.” She said it absentmindedly, referring to Miri and Jerry, not Miri and Vi.

“Okay…Sunday it is. I’m looking forward to seeing…your family. Thanks for the heads up…Giada.” He laughed that kind welcoming laugh once again.

“Okay…Benny…Sunday it is. Bye for now.” She almost said the ubiquitous “Love you,” but caught herself. She hit off on the phone and stared at it for a moment. She sighed and said,

“Hmmmm….Benny….”

Ben Rubio hung up the phone even as his eyes darted around the kitchen. He spotted Cindy standing in the doorway looking equally fearful and angry. He shrugged his shoulders to say if to say, “What gives.” She returned the shrug as if to say, “Don’t ask me.” A moment later she looked down the hallway toward their bedroom and screamed,

“Violet!!!!!!” before running down the hallway as her sister ran out of the room and out the front door. Benny watched his older daughter run out of the house as she continued to yell her sister’s name. He laughed once again before say once to himself,

“Hmmmm…Giada…”


At the Magliano home…
“Girls...while I have you all here. Apparently the dinner was as much a surprise to him as to me. Do you know anything about it?”

“Gee, Mom…no. Vi just said that we were invited to dinner; all of us.” Miri said, pointing back to Jerry and Adele in a broad gesture.” She smiled when her eyes caught the beginning red glow of Jerry’s cheeks.

“I’m going to call him tomorrow to see what’s going on. The last thing I want to do is to be intrusive. God knows that family’s been through enough.” She stopped and smiled at the irony of her statement. If any family had been ‘through’ enough it had been the Maglianos, between the abuse of her late husband and the gender issues of her oldest and ‘youngest,’ as well as her own recovery from alcohol abuse?

“As far as I know, Vi just wants to have us over; she’s been awfully worried about us.” Miri snuck a glance and noted that Jerry’s head was down. She looked back at her mother and used a sideways glance to indicated Jerry. Giada nodded and shrugged her shoulders.

“Well, in any case, unless something comes up in our conversation, I think it would be a nice gesture for us to go; they’ve been awfully kind to us over the past few years.” Miri nodded enthusiatically while Jerry looked up and offered no gesture at all. Adele sat next to Miri with her head slightly down, gazing at the ring on her left hand.

“I know this is all new to you honey, but unless Danny has something urgent to discuss, I think it would be good for you to come along,” Giada said with an arch of her brow and a glance toward Jerry, who remained nearly oblivious to the conversation.

“Sure, Mom…” Adele said, partly from feeling a new confidence, but also because Jerry needed support more than ever.

“Girls…would you mind if I talked to your sister…just some old mother-new daughter stuff, okay?” Miri smiled and grabbed Adele by the hand, helping her to her feet and quickly up the stairs.

“You can show me the ring, Sis, okay?” She teased as they disappeared. “For the hundredth time.”


“Jerry?” Giada sat down next to her and put her arm around the girl. She remained quiet.

“Honey…what are you thinking of?” She cupped the girl’s chin and raised it slightly. Jerry wasn’t crying so much as musing a bit; her eyes were moist, but there was a smile on her face. She looked at her mother and her cheeks grew warm and pink.

“Jerry…what’s wrong?”

“Nothing…oh I don’t know…I was just thinking.” As she described her expression, her face grew redder, almost as if she was embarrassed to continue. Giada hadn’t known her ‘daughter’ all that long, but she had known her child since she had carried her and Miri in her womb.

This kiss, this kiss
You can kiss me in the moonlight
On the rooftop under the sky, oh
You can kiss me with the windows open
While the rain comes pouring inside, oh
Kiss me in sweet slow motion

“You’re thinking about the other day?” Neither needed to elaborate. The kiss between her and Vinnie had been a touchstone in her life; a moment in time where she knew nothing would ever be the same. Softly, she began to cry, but still the smile remained.

“Mom…I don’t know what I am? But I…” She paused and swallowed.

“Go ahead, honey.” A look came across Jerry’s face and she turned her head. Giada had seen that look in all of her girl’s faces too often not to recognize; a look of pain and guilt that never should have been.

“You can say it; I’m okay and you need to talk.”

“I can’t remember a time when I liked me, Mom….Daddy always telling me I was…” She stopped once again and began to sob. Giada put her hand on the girl’s neck and massaged it softly.

“You can say it, Jerry…It’s something we both need to hear so we can let it go, okay?” Years of guilt and shame had been swept aside in Giada’s heart with forgiveness to and from her and the children, but the residual effects still plagued all of her girls.

“Daddy said he wished….” She choked back a sob, and her voice became low and nearly a whisper.

“I know, honey…I know.” Her ex had inflicted nearly irreversible damage on her and the children. She had fought her demons and was stronger than ever before, but the words he spoke, especially to Jerry, still sat on the surface like a scab that wouldn’t heal.

“Say it, Jerry, so we can face it together, okay.” She kissed the girl on the cheek, trying hard not to fall into weeping herself; the girl needed the strength that she had garnered, and only she could point the way.

“He said…he wished I was never born….that I was… wrong.” A simple word; hardly threatening or debilitating In most contexts, but to tell a child he was wrong…a mistake…a cosmic error in a way. Jerry had carried hurt even through all the wondrous and welcome changes she had undergone only in the last few months. Giada stroked her hair and whispered softly,

“You are a treasure… you have such a special place in my heart, honey…. I am so glad that I can hardly find the words to tell you how much you mean to me. God didn’t make a mistake, honey. He made a blessing.” Giada thought for a moment, wondering what she could say to bring the girl hope and understanding. It was then she realized that her off-hand comment about mother and daughter was true; it was the first time they had been brought together as mother and daughter.

“Mom…I feel so strange…like there’s something so different but it doesn’t feel bad…but it should feel bad…like I should…”

“I know, honey. I am so sorry for that.” Giada pulled her close and kissed her cheek, her own sobs beginning to mix with her daughters in a sad duet. Minor keys were all too frequent an expression in the Magliano concerto.

“You spent so much time feeling like a bad boy…like you failed, right?” Jerry couldn’t even speak at that point and nodded weakly.

“You were asked for too long to be what you weren’t. You couldn’t be a boy because you never were, do you understand?” Jerry had placed her face in her mother’s bosom and her sobs shook Giada to her core.

“But you don’t know what it’s like to be a girl because no one ever showed you how. “ Giada caught herself and stifled a sob; her own guilt washing over her like a wave as the undertow threatened to pull her under. She remembered a talk the two had had only a few years before. Her confession to her children had brought weeping and laughter and tears and smiles as they had shown her unconditional forgiveness. She held onto that like a lifepreserver.

“I want you to remember this, honey.” She pulled apart from the girl and looked her in the eye.

“You are a blessing to me and your sisters. No matter how you find yourself…whatever paths you take…”

Jerry knew immediately; her mother’s expression told her that she could be whomever and whatever she knew to be…and that included with whom she chose to be. And whatever they were as well.

“You’re in love….the first love you have ever known, honey. There’s nothing wrong at all with it…nothing wrong at all with you or Vinnie. Nothing wrong with who you are and nothing wrong with who Vinnie is or may become.” Giada shook her head and the tears flowed.

“I am so sorry it took so long to tell you, Jerry. Please forgive me?” She put her right hand to her mouth and bit her index finger to keep from falling completely apart; she was the parent, and she didn’t need her daughter to feel responsible for her pain. God was more than sufficiently dealing with that, and would deal with her daughters’ hearts as well.

“It’s okay…Mom. “ The girl looked once again into her mother’s eyes and Giada could see that it WAS okay…more than okay as the final vestiges of her loving son gave way to the new life of her loving daughter.”

“Oh, Mom…..” The girl pulled her close once again as the two sobbed in each other’s embrace; one more victory for the Magliano family.


On the phone with Ben Rubio the following day...

“It would seem that the girls have something cooked up; they won’t talk, and now they’re hardly talking to each other. I’m sorry. It might be too uncomfortable for you, and I certainly would understand if you beg off for Sunday.” Benny said.

“Oh, no…it’s fine. Girls do that all the time, but I don’t need to tell you.”
Benny felt oddly relieved at her words. He swallowed hard before continuing.

“Vi told me about Jerry. I wanted to let you know I understand.”
To deny his perception would have been disingenuous and do a disservice to her daughter.

She sighed.

“Thank you; to say it’s been an interesting few months would be an understatement. I’ll talk with Jerry, but thank you for being so kind. You and your wife were so nice to my children when I was…”

“You don’t have to say anything else, Mrs. Magliano. We all have our things we deal with. I’m just glad that it seems we’re all coming out of the….”

“It’s been awfully dark, but it’s gotten so much brighter than it had been.” She hadn’t meant to be so personal with him, but her guard was already down. Tears came to her eyes.

“I’m sorry…”

“No need, Mrs. Magliano.” He said softly. She wanted so much to correct him, thinking,

“Please, Benny, It’s Giada.” She left it unsaid as he continued.

“The girls are really looking forward to you and your girls coming over.” That phrase, ‘your girls,” served to ease her nervousness; she knew that Benny was a good man. He was a great father from the evidence of Violet, and he certainly must have been a great husband, from what the girls had told her. She sighed, a bit louder than she had meant, and he spoke one last time.

“Listen, Mrs. Magliano. Your children mean a lot to my girls; they meant a lot to my wife, and they mean a lot to me. Whatever Jerry needs to do…it will be okay. We support her in this, and I want you to know we want it to be a nice time for you all. I look forward to Sunday and your visit.”

“Okay…Sunday it is. Thanks again. Bye.”

She hung up the phone wondering if she was reading more into the single word, ‘your’ than she should. Still, from what she knew, no matter what he meant, he was a kind and decent man. It will be a nice, non-threatening afternoon. No implications or expectations other than enjoying good meal with friends.

“Mom?”

“Oh, hi, Jer…how are you, honey?” The interruption was almost welcome since she really didn’t need to deal with the complications of a budding infatuation.

“Okay…was that Mr. Rubio?”

“Yes…as a matter of fact, it’s good that you’re here. I needed to talk to you about
Sunday.” She hoped that everything would be alright; the child was already wound very tight, and she worried that the attention; even well-meant and kind, would be too embarrassing to her.

“Okay…” She went to the couch and sat down, followed quickly as Giada sat down next to her.

“Mr. Rubio knows about you…about YOU,” she nodded as Jerry’s widened.

“OH….what…Vi must have told him. Mom…I feel so… I don’t know…out of place?” She pouted at her inability to describe her feelings.

“You’re between two worlds right now, honey, and you want to know which way to go?” Giada took a stab and the girl winced at little; not at the statement, but again feeling inadequate about her ambivalence.

“Honey…just know that you’ll be among folks who love you, no matter who shows up, do you understand?”

“Yes…” She put her head down and shuddered ever so little, but Giada noticed.

“What is it, honey? Are you okay?” Jerry lifted her head and smiled through the tears.

“Yes…I just remembered something, Mom…something that you just…well, thinking about Mr. Rubio?”

“Yes?”

“Miri and me were over at their house….I think this was when Adele was trying to figure things out…? Anyway, it was right after Mrs. Rubio died. I was I think eleven…? We were in the girl’s room, and they were using me…” Jerry started to laugh softly.

“What’s funny, Jerry?” Giada knew it was a good memory.

“I didn’t realize at the time…it’s funny now, but it didn’t feel funny then…but it didn’t feel bad, either.”

“What, honey?”

“Miri and Vi and Cindy were dressing me up like their personal Barbie…like I was a girl…like I was a girl.” The moment caught up to her and Jerry began to cry.

“It’s okay, honey…it’s okay.” Giada grabbed her hands and began to stroke them softly. She began again,

“Mr. Rubio…you know it was just after Mrs. Rubio died?”

“Yes, honey, I know.”

“He was walking past the room and he looked in; like he was checking up on us or something. Well, he looks straight at me and I thought I was going to die. He stares at me for a moment…then…”

“What, honey?” Giada feared the worst until Jerry continued.

“He smiled…like the smile was just for me and he says, ‘You girls having a party? I’ll go get some soda and some cookies, okay?’ ‘You girls…’ It was like he knew…I didn’t even know, Mom?”

“I see...” Giada hadn’t meant to be selfish, but she lapsed into musing about the coming weekend and how special it might prove for all of the family. This man was growing very, very big in front of her, and she shook her head once again to banish any romantic notion that was trying to invade her heart.

“You think about what you need to do for yourself; everyone there will be supporting you honey, but I think you already know what’s best for you, right?”

“I do, Mom…I’m just afraid…being a girl in my own house is one thing. But out there?” She pointed in the direction of the front of the house.

“I don’t know…I’m just so scared.” She began to cry again and Giada pulled her into herself.

“It’s okay…you’re almost like a little girl…not going on fifteen, and you’ve got a lot of catching up to do. I promise there won’t be a pop quiz or a test other than the ones you put on yourself, honey. Just take it as it comes and try to remember how much God and Miri and Adele and I and your friends all love you, okay?”

“Okay, Mom…” She squeezed in between sobs before falling back into her mother’s arms and weeping loudly. Miri came running downstairs and screamed.

“What’s wrong, Mom…what’s wrong? Is Jerry okay?” She had heard the sobbing even before the sound reached her room, the connection between twins, I suppose. Giada looked at Miri and smiled.

“Everything is just fine, honey. “ She patted the couch on the cushion on her other side. Miri walked over and sat down, her eyes beginning to fill with tears. She didn’t know why she was crying, but she knew it was part of being a sister, a twin, a daughter, and even more than ever, a young woman in complete empathy with the girl sitting on the other side of their mother. She looked up into Giada’s face and her mother smiled and repeated softly,

“Everything is just fine.”


At the Rubio home on Sunday after dinner...
The three Magliano girls and the two Rubio girls held court at the Rubio house hold.

“What was it like?” Cindy smiled and leaned closer. The girls were sitting in a circle on the bedroom floor.

“It…” Jerry’s face grew warm and she turned toward the wall.

“It’s okay…we’re all girls here.” Vi said softly as she touched Jerry’s shoulder. She turned and faced her sister and Vi and Cindy and continued.

“It was…just…nice.” There were few words in the girl’s new dictionary. She had been used to other things meant for other people; a girl in a boy’s body in a boy’s world. So she had few ideas of how to explain how she felt.

“It looks special…your face…it lit up when you said nice,” Adele said. “You never have had anything like that happen…and it was like you said…just nice.” Adele sighed. Her first kiss had been rough and accomodating and altogether painful. She was thrilled that Jerry’s first kiss had been tender and kind and brand-new.

“It was nicer than anything I’ve ever felt…” She paused but the sweetness was lost in sorrow and guilt.

“What’s wrong?” Miri asked with her hand gripping Jerry’s tight. She thought she knew, and she learned a moment later her instincts were right on.

“I don’t know…who kissed whom?” Jerry began to cry.

“You kissed Vinnie, right…or maybe Vinnie kissed you. What’s the difference?” Vi looked puzzled until Adele answered, probably from experience.

“She’s not sure if she kissed a boy or a girl, am I right, Jer?” The girl turned and nodded and began to cry. “It’s okay, Jerry. It doesn’t make any difference.” Cindy said; her own experience, perhaps limited to fantasy and dreams alone, spoke softly.
“It…it is?” Jerry had forgotten just whose house they were visiting.

“I kissed Tommy Mileki when I was seven,” Vi said. It was fun…but it wasn’t the kind of kiss you just said. But when I kissed Monica for the first time…just nice.” She used Jerry’s words.

“Vinnie is who Vinnie is…he…she? Vinnie just doesn’t know yet. But you know who you are, honey. And that’s the most important part.” Miri smiled and wiped away her sister’s tears with her hankie.

“No matter how Vinnie turns out, nothing will change how special your kiss was. It doesn’t matter to anyone but Vinnie who Vinnie is. You’ll be okay. Just remember that you both probably don’t know what you like at this moment, so the kiss is what it is…the first of many…maybe between you two…maybe with others, but you’re both blessed with that first moment.” Adele said softly.

Never before then had she felt like a big sister. Always the interloper; even in her own home…even after the surgery, she had felt like the boy pretending to be a girl. But now, faced with her sister’s needs, she realized just how much all of them had changed. Their mother may have given birth to a girl and two boys, but she had three daugthers.

Jerry looked at the girls and smiled. She had her own moment of discovery, and she felt she had arrived, in a way, at womanhood. And the girls, of course, knew she had as they showered her with hugs.


Meanwhile...

“It’s been an odd and a bit painful journey for the girls, but between counseling and my efforts, I hope they’re coming through okay.” Benny said as he offered Giada more tea. She shook her head no.

“No…to the tea, Mr. Rubio…not to what you said. I don’t know Cindy well, but Vi has been such a good friend to Mir and Jer….they just adore her.”

“Thanks, and please, call me Benny or Ben, okay?”

“Well, just as long as you call me Giada…Ben?” She smiled and hoped she wasn’t blushing. She was.

“It’s really like the children supported each other. Between my loss and yours….” He paused and shook his head.

“I’m sorry…I presume too much…please forgive me.”

“No worries…it’s true…even though we were divorced, it still was very painful to learn he had died. Like all the things we ever hoped for had died, and when he died too, they would never be resurrected.”

“Wow…that sounds so hard…”

“When your wife died I felt so bad about not reaching out to you…” She had felt uncomfortable about being single and reaching out to a married man who was soon to be widowed. Even in the midst of his own pain he had made room for her twins, and that spoke volumes to her…perhaps too much even now.

“You had so much of your own sadness to deal with. And what’s past is past. We’re here, now, and things are good. Oh, I’m sorry; I’m speaking for you again.” Benny blushed.

“It is good. I have three lovely daughters and you have two equally beautiful girls.” She leaned across the table and patted his hand instinctively, causing them to flinch at the same time.

“Yes…lovely.” Benny said as he looked at the woman before him. Perhaps viewing a woman in that way for the first time since his wife passed, Benny was entirely taken, as they say, with Giada Magliano.

“Oh…yes…” She nodded, not even realizing what she was agreeing to.

“Okay, you two…get a room.” Vi said as the girls came walking into the dining room.
“Anything for desert?” Cindy asked as she sat down next to her father.

“Oh…we’ve got some ice cream, and….”

“Relax, Dad…I’ve got it from here,” Cindy said. She kissed her father on the cheek before walking into the kitchen.

“Okay…Ice cream it is.”


On the Rubio porch later that evening...

“It was nice that you and your girls came over. It was fun.” While he made it his goal in life to see his daughters well adjusted and happy; it had been a long time since he had fun.

“Well, it was nice, Ben. Thank you for inviting us.” She laughed and he joined in at the joke. She leaned closer to him and kissed him lightly on the cheek; a gesture she immiately regretted as they hurriedly pulled apart. She didn’t say ‘sorry;’ that would have been more embarrassing. Instead she called into the house,

“Girls, it’s time to go.” A moment later Adele and Jerry came walking out with Vi close behind. In the front hallway of the house, Cindy leaned against the wall, trying her best to act nonchalant.

“This was fun…it was nice to get to know you more…I spend so much time with Vi I forget sometimes about you, and I’m sorry for that.”

Cindy shrugged as if to say, ‘no worries.’

“Even so, I’m awfully glad we came today.” Miri leaned closer and went to kiss Cindy on the cheek. Whether by design or by accident, the girl turned her head and their lips met. They kissed for only a few moments until Miri pulled back, her face hot with embarrassment. She shook her head slightly, more over her own feelings than the moment but Cindy took it the wrong way.

“I’m…..I’m so sorry.” She pushed past Miri and ran down the hall. Miri watched her enter her room before turning around and heading out onto the porch. She pushed past her mother and nearly knocked Jerry down as she ran down the steps.

“What’s that all about?” Jerry asked. Adele looked at Mr. Rubio and her mother before looking past them into the open doorway.

“I think I know…we’ll talk about it when we get home. Thanks Mr. Rubio…thanks Vi…see you soon.”

“You’re welcome,” Ben said as they walked off the porch and down the street toward their car.

“You’re welcome.


That night at the Magliano home...

“Miri, honey? Can I come in?” Giada asked at the doorway to her room. She looked up from her pillow.

“Yes….please, Mommy…” Miri hardly ever used that word. It was serious even if it was normal.

“What’s bothering you, honey?” Not what’s wrong, or what’s the problem; it wasn’t a problem other than that it hurt bad, and she was fairly sure that Adele’s take on it was right on.

“I…I kissed Cindy.” She began to cry again, and Giada sat down on the bed beside her. She leaned over and tosseled her hair.

“And you didn’t like it?” A question already obviously answered, from a mother’s perspective.

“No….I did.” The girl dissolved into sobs as her mother patted her back.

“I know, honey, I know.”


And at the Rubio home...

“It’s all your fault…if you hadn’t invited them.” Cindy sobbed and tried to shrug off her sister’s hug. Vi draped herself over Cindy and hugged her anyway.

“It’s okay…I know her…she doesn’t hate you.”

“I know she doesn’t hate me, Vi…that’s not why I’m crying.”

“Then what is it?” Vi winced in antcipation; they had had too many conversations already for her to forget what was in her sister’s heart.

“What if she…doesn’t love me?”

“I don’t know, honey….I don’t know.”

This kiss, this kiss
It's the way you love me baby
It's the way you love me darlin'

Next: Healing Happens!


This Kiss
Words and music by
Beth Nielsen Chapman,
Robin Lerner, and Annie Roboff
As performed by Faith Hill
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9tUE6pyYU-U



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