Andi and Allie – Chapter 30
“…and a silver sixpence in her shoe.”
Martha’s home was every bit as elegant, if not even more so, than the club. The stone work was evident throughout the atrium as were the fine Persian carpets. Original oils and water colors hung on the walls and fine ceramics were tastefully placed on the various tables. The interior was only slightly smaller than that of the club but the home stood on two full lots.
I guessed that the dining room was to my left and the parlor to my right. The closed door to my immediate left happened to be a ‘lounge’. And to my right there was what appeared to be an office. After placing her purse upon one of the tables by the entrance, Martha immediately took us into her office.
“I thought you…”
Before Martha could even finish her sentence I saw the portrait. I recognized the unique style immediately. My father had painted this portrait of an older balding man with the most amazing eyes…and an amazing nose! But on him it looked very distinguished. I turned to Martha in shock…again.
“Yes sweet heart…” She smiled gently. “Your father painted this portrait of his father; your grandfather.”
I walked up as close as I could, Martha’s large credenza being in the way; its top littered with files and various pictures with other people. The brush strokes were his signature; very precise and very…eloquent; as was his pinched face and hawk nose?
“I’ve never seen this one before.” I spoke to the painting.
“It was never catalogued. There are others I’m sure you’d be most intrigued with.”
‘Intrigued’ didn’t even begin to describe what I felt. The manner in which my father managed to capture the spirit of this obviously quite accomplished man was what I longed to achieve. I was so fascinated by the image that I never heard Petra enter the room.
“Ahhh… Pet my dear…” I turned to see Martha kiss a young woman on the lips. “Come here and meet our…” Martha turned to Allie and me. “…new family. This is Allie. And this…” Martha grasped my arm. “Is my…niece Andi.”
Pet, who was perfectly gorgeous and so very well attired, took Allie’s hand and kissed her on the cheek. Then she took mine hand and simply gazed at me for the longest moment.
“Your work is incredible. That portrait…” She kissed both my cheeks. “I am truly happy to meet you. When Martha told me of your existence, I thought it an act of God.”
There was actually a tear in Pet's eye.
I couldn’t imagine which one…or if she meant a work with Allie as the focus.
“Yes… Come, let me show you.” Martha hooked her arm with mine. “Pet dear… Why don’t you take Allie up in the lift.”
“Oh yes… Of course…” She smiled noticing Allie’s baby bump.
“You see Andi…” Martha spoke as we left her office and proceeded up the stone stairs covered with Persian carpet runners. “When Susan showed me the portrait you did of her and the little ones, I was struck by the similarity to one I have of my father and me.”
As we climbed the stairs, I had to stop and gaze at artwork that made Peter’s collection seem almost…insignificant? We past a Gauguin, Toulouse-Lautrec, and a Matisse only to arrive at a Picasso near the top of the long flight. A Braque met us at the top only to be followed by another Picasso and, of course, a Duchamp. There were two Dali drawings and even an O’Keeffe as we walked down the hallway toward the double doors at the end.
Martha let loose of my arm as she reached for the polished brass handles. She opened both the doors and pushed them back. Facing me was the portrait I assumed Pet was speaking of. I was immediately stunned and tears came to my eyes. I walked toward it as if in a dream.
It was, in so many ways, identical to the one I’d done for Susan. The setting, the coloration, the figure placement and, most importantly, the fire in the eyes of Martha as a child and her father were all frighteningly familiar. I drew even closer to examine the brush strokes even though I already knew the artist. I turned and looked at Martha.
“Yes…” Her hand went to her mouth and she cleared her throat. “Your father painted that.”
“But it’s signed Colbert!” I was shocked.
“Your father feared it being barred from the house because our father so very much disapproved of his lifestyle.” Martha sighed. “That’s when Colbert was…born shall we say?”
I happened to notice a chair by a desk. I pulled it out and sat down. I felt I would faint if I didn’t. But I simply couldn’t take my eyes from the painting. This wasn’t catalogued either.
“Are there others?” I needed to know.
“Indeed there are. I keep them out of the public’s eye. Come dear…” Martha placed both her hands upon my shoulders and bent to kiss the top of my head. “I have others in the next room.”
I gingerly got up from the chair not even noticing that Allie and Pet had joined us. As I walked toward the next set of double doors I noticed it.
“Oh my God…!” I stared at Martha. “You bought it?”
My self-portrait hung opposite the doors. Allie quickly rushed to my side and took hold of my arm.
“Yes… Well… I was so taken with the piece you did for Susan I insisted that she let me know of anything I might be interested in.” Martha stared at the work. “I didn’t know who you were or what you were thinking but…” Martha turned from me and sighed as she gazed my work. “When I saw this I truly realized what pain your father suffered for most of his life.” She turned to face me. “Sometimes…” She paused and gently smiled. “A painting is worth more than a thousand words?”
“I really didn’t want to sell it.”
I was still dabbing at my tears from the last piece.
“Allie and Bob Preston kind of convinced me…sort of.” I sniffled.
“Yes… I can understand that. It really is quite…revealing?”
“I feel as though I should give you your money back. I would want you to have it anyway.”
“Nonsense…!” Martha was quite firm. Then her voice softened. “Do you know what makes art great?”
I shook my head. I only wish I knew. I could recite all the analytical crap I learned in school. But in truth I felt it was something special about a piece that went beyond the definitions of the critics and the dilatants and the ignorant parlor talk at parties from those who never had a picture in their minds.
“Art is good when you can feel what the artist is feeling. But great art challenges one to find one’s own meaning in the work.” Martha turned from me to the portrait. She stood silently as she gazed at it. “In this painting I see all the pain of my brother. I see just how terribly fractured he was.” She turned to me with tears in her eyes. “And I had no idea the work was his…”
Pet handed a tissue to Martha.
Allie came up behind me and encircled my waist with her arms. She rested her chin upon my shoulder. I laid my head against hers.
“Why did he stop working? I mean…it should have been his most productive period.”
“Do you recall when you first drew something other than stick figures?”
I hadn’t expected a question as an answer.
“When I was…” I had to think back. “…four…maybe…?”
“He stopped painting eighteen years ago and died two years afterward.” Martha smiled sadly at us. “And you would have been about…four or so?” Martha turned back to the portrait. “Life simply overwhelmed him at that point. I was sending him eight thousand dollars each month and yet he was always penniless. The drugs simply took everything from him.”
Martha, deep in thoughts or memories, rocked back on one heel and gazed at the pump’s toe.
“Come… My sweet hearts… Let me show you the rest of his work.” She suddenly said with a gentle smile
Martha turned toward the doors. As we turned I noticed that Pet was silently wiping away her tears. I’d forgotten she was even with us. As we all entered the lift to descend, Pet gazed at me and smiled. I couldn’t help but comment on her OOTD.
“You look so beautiful. I love what you’re wearing.”
As we descended Pet and I began to talk. It was then that I remembered, from only several passing comments, that she was like…me…sort of? She must have guessed as much as well because she gave me that knowing smile; kind of Bette Davis style?
The dining room was as elegant as anyone could imagine. The style was colonial and authentic pieces, the server, the breakfront as well as the table and twelve chairs matching chairs scattered about, seemed so very fitting given the nature and posture of Martha. I immediately recognized a Bryant and a Poor on the same wall as the breakfront.
Then I spotted my father’s piece.
There was no mistaking his style; his use light and color. The landscape was a larger canvas that centered over the server. It was framed by two tall, simple, pewter candle holders; the tapers waiting use.
“How much of his work do you have?” The painting was not catalogued.
“I really don’t know.” Martha said wistfully as she gazed off for a moment in thought. “There are twelve very fine works hanging.” She turned to look at Allie and me. “There are…oh…” Martha paused and rolled her eyes upward in thought. “…perhaps another twenty or twenty five stored of the third floor along with the work of others. Then there are the many sketch pads and the notebooks…and of course his studies.”
“Is any of it catalogued?”
I was stunned. Martha had it all! The drawings, the notebooks and pads and the studies would be priceless…at least to me. Indeed the entire collection was…priceless…truly priceless.
“No dear… I saw no reason to bring these to the public’s eye.” I could see Martha was fighting back tears. “His mind was in a very desolate place. He was not unaware of how…how very fragile his condition was. So every month I would receive something from him. He no longer even bothered to sell his work.”
“Oh… Oh God…!” Allie looked shocked and turned a shade of fine rosewood as one hand flew to her lower tummy and the other to her…crotch?
“Are you okay?” I was suddenly brought back to reality…mine and Allie’s.
“Excuse me… I need the…potty?” Allie couldn’t get the words out fast enough.
“Oh please…” Pet said with smiling confidence.
Pet took her gently by the arm and led her to the half bath just outside the dining room. I started to follow but Pet held her palm out stopping me.
“It’s okay.” She smiled quite confidently. “I’ve got this.”
I looked questioningly at Martha.
“Mother to be problems I’m sure…” She chuckled. “Pet and I went through many of these little wrinkles with our surrogate. You needn’t worry.”
I stared for the longest moment at the closed door. Pet suddenly came out and went towards the back end of the house.
“May I see his sketches and notebooks?” I spoke whilst still gazing out toward the closed door.
“You will see it all. After all, you have as much a right to his work as I do. All of it is stored on the third floor. We have a special room for all the artwork. What you see displayed is only a small portion. Pet likes to change the works periodically.” Martha placed her hand upon my shoulder. “Come… Sweet heart… Let’s go into the parlor and perhaps have some coffee and a bit of port.”
I let Martha lead the way as we passed the closed half bath door. Pet was rushing back with what appeared to be a plastic zip lock bag.
“There are other matters we do need to discuss.” Martha locked her arm with mine and led me into a rather bold art deco reception room.
Now art deco is not one of my faves.
It tends to be a bit kitschy and pretentious for my taste in that everything seems to be upholstered and the materials always seems to clash in my mind’s eye. Metal with wood and chintz fabrics with odd shaped throw cushions always made me think of surreal dreams…or nightmares.
But once again Martha’s interior designer, I mean someone with real knowledge of art had to be responsible, handled the style with elegance. Much of the furniture I recognized as being of Swedish design and originals obviously custom made for Martha.
The modern art fit in perfectly. And there was a good sized Dali along with a Metzinger and a Cadorin that hung on one long wall along with one of my father’s experimental works. Two more of my father’s paintings were on the opposite wall with a Warhol piece and several black and white photographs.
“I don’t do very much entertaining here.” Martha said as she sat down on a couch. “That’s what the club is for. I prefer my private life to be…private.” She chuckled and gazed off as I walked over to where my father’s work hung. “Lord only knows my public life provides way more than ample exposure.”
Allie and Pet walked into the room just as I turned to look at another work.
“Are you okay?” I was really concerned.
“Oh sure baby doll… I just…leaked? I think that’s going to happen more and more as time goes on.” Allie blushed revenge red.
“It does come with the job.” Pet smiled sympathetically. “Pressure on the bladder and all that…”
I had no idea. Clueless yet again…
“Pet sweet heart… Would you be so kind and have the ladies prepare coffee and some fresh fruit and whatever sweet cakes we might have?” Martha’s smile was an embrace of adoration. “And have them fetch a bottle of port with glasses.” Martha gazed at Allie. “Why don’t you sit next to Andi sweet heart? We still have a bit of business to discuss.”
Allie smiled and sat down quite tentatively. I looked at her and Allie simply shrugged her shoulders. I knew she just didn’t want to have another accident. Pet sat in an arm chair cattycorner from Martha. Martha smiled at Allie.
“You do realize that Andi now owns a significant percentage of Grey Adams.” Allie nodded. “You must also then realize that Andi has a significant say in the workings of our company.”
I had no idea of where Martha was going with this but Allie grinned.
“Well…?” Allie rolled her eyes upward. “I really don’t think Andi should be spending any time worrying about things that are…distracting?”
“You are quite clever. I’m sure you must realize where Andi’s entire being must be focused.”
“Well…?” Allie looked like the cat that just ate the canary…and the goldfish…and the entire evening’s meal! “Andi’s focus must be entirely on her art. And of course my needs; especially in my present condition.”
“I agree entirely. But Andi still must have representation. She does own a considerable amount of shares in the company. And I would so detest having any outsider act as…Andi’s agent. Wouldn’t you agree?” Martha eyed Allie with a shrewd smile.
“Oh… Absolutely…! It simply wouldn’t be right.” Allie giggled as she took my hand in hers and gave a reassuring squeeze. “I could act as Andi’s…agent? I mean I already do that with his art sales...sort of? And of course I have you to assist and teach me.”
“You must understand that we do have others who sit on the board. But since I’ve been acting for the estate’s interest, and with Marti Adams on my side of things, we’ve been able to steer the company in directions that some of the other board members aren’t always pleased to entertain.”
“Oh... I understand fully and I’m sure that Andi’s interests would never stray from any path that you might choose.”
I looked at Allie and then at Martha. The way they smiled at one another made me uneasy at first. Then I realized what wasn’t being said. They had a perfect understanding of one another; at least where it concerned my holdings…whatever those are?
“Then it’s settled.” Martha smiled warmly. “I’ll have our general counsel draw up the agency agreement. Of course there will be a clause that permits Andi to nullify the agreement at any time and the voting rights will revert back to him.”
“Of course…” Allie giggled.
“And although my company will maintain the management of the assets, you will have the right to question any decisions made.” Martha chuckled. “How else will you learn?”
“I hope that will include what I’m adding to the pot.” Allie also grinned.
“Of course my dear… I think a separate accounting should be kept in the event of any sort is issues that might develop in the future.”
“What’s going on? I don’t understand?” I got somewhat lost in the ladies planning.
“Oh baby doll…” I got Allie’s sympathetic smile. “All we’re doing is taking a burden off your back. You really don’t need to worry yourself about such things as board meetings and financial decisions. You already allow me to deal with your money…right?”
“Yeah… I do kind of lose track of things.” I had to sadly admit that was true.
“Well…? All we’re doing is taking the money factor out of the equation. I’ll certainly tell you everything you need to know. But I’m sure none of it will be of real interest. Just think of all the suits uptown that would die to bring in only one account half the size of the three you’ve given them. And you don’t even bother to look at the bonus’ they give you.”
“Yeah… I guess that’s true. But what about that part with me not letting you do stuff? What’s that all about?”
Allie giggled. “Well baby doll… It’s kind of a pre-nup? Like if you decide to dump me, all you need to do is let Martha know in writing.” Allie gazed at Martha. “You know…? We might as well get that out of the way too. The separate accounting will make it easier for us to financially part company?”
“Clever girl…” Martha said with a chuckle. “I know we’ll be able to pick your brain from time to time.”
“But that would never happen!” I needed to sound insistent.
“Of course it won’t ever happen. Just imagine life without me.” Allie snickered as she leaned over and kissed my very worried looking face. “And with each passing day it becomes most and more impossible to live without me. But…” Allie pointed her finger up. “Each passing day makes me love you, and need you, even more than now I do. So we’re both stuck with one another.”
At just that moment, a woman, probably older than Allie by several years, entered the room in a perfectly tailored grey uniform rolling a tea cart. Pet got up to meet her half way with a huge smile. The top of the cart was covered with a platter of fresh fruit, another one with very delicate looking pastries, and a third with cheeses. A sterling silver coffee urn with matching sugar and cream bowls accompanied by fine china cups and saucers completed the picture.
“Thank you Sofia… I’ll serve if you don’t mind.” Pet said softly with a smile.
Pet proved to be an amazing hostess. She served Allie first and then me. Pet knew exactly what Martha desired so she didn’t even need to ask. The port was amazing. I had to hold the small belled glass up to the light. The redness of the wine was so very deep. I was so entranced that I failed to hear Martha speaking to me. Allie gently touched my arm and I turned to look at her.
“What…?” I even spoke in a distracted manner.
“I said…” Martha chuckled. “It’s all about light and color; isn’t it?”
“May I have some of this in a small bottle?” I gazed back at the glass.
“The color is amazing.”
“Why you may take the remains of the bottle if you wish. It is an excellent vintage. And should we finish it…” Martha took a sip of the wine. “I will make sure you leave with another just like this one.”
“When will we be able to meet Andi’s cousins?” Allie was quite excited. “How old are they? Are they here now?”
Martha laughed. “Yes… They are at day school and normally return around four.”
“They’re five years old and they are absolutely adorable.” Pet blushed russet and smiled with pride.
This was really the first time we heard Pet speak without being prompted by Martha. She was obviously very involved with the care and nurturing of the twins.
“I think I’d like to change my name.”
I couldn’t contain myself. I must have been thinking about doing it subconsciously since lunching at the club. I mean…it did make sense; to take my father’s name. After all, I was his child in so many different ways. Everyone was silent. It was…deafening.
“I thought you liked ‘Andi’ baby doll.” Allie gripped my hand.
“I do. It’s my family name I’d like to change.” I blushed hot Paris pink and stared at my hand in Allie’s. I looked up at Martha. “Would that be okay?”
“Why sweet heart…” Martha chuckled and gazed at me with wonder. “You certainly don’t need my approval to take your father’s name. I think it would a very meaningful gesture.”
“You don’t think my work would become…lost under his name?”
“Oh dear child…” Martha shook her head and snickered. “I’m sure that walking gossip column who sells your works…Preston is it…? Well… I’m sure the entire country knows that someone bought one of your works for an unimaginable price. Your work…! And not your father’s…! And you do only use ‘Andi’ for your showings.”
“What do you think sweet heart?” I looked at Allie and gently squeezed her hand.
“Well…” Allie chuckled. “I think it would give my mom and dad a coronary. I think you should do it.”
“It’s just that I feel closer to my father even though I never met him.” I was tearing up…as usual. “And I got so very little from my…mother.”
“I understand completely my dear child.” Martha touched my shoulder. “Now you understand why I’ll be so protective of you.” She looked at Allie. “And you as well my dear Allie. The child you are carrying will be what you both pass on and it will be endowed with marvelous gifts.” Martha choked up a bit.
Pet instinctively handed Martha a tissue.
“And you dear Andi…” Martha blotted a tear. “You are the very embodiment of my brother and his legacy to me. You are most precious to me.”
I felt so very humble at that moment when Martha mentioned the legacy her brother left for her. I understood a great many things at that moment. I understood that I now truly had a family and I so wanted Martha, Pet and my yet to be seen cousins to be a regular part of our lives. I now truly had my legacy. I now truly had my roots.
“I also can’t wait to introduce the both of you to the chief executive officer and president of our company; Martina Adams. Marti is married to a very talented woman named Drew.”
“You mean Drew Adams?” Allie suddenly perked up. “The author…?”
“The very same…” Martha chuckled.
“Oh my God…! She’s amazing. Even I’ve read her children’s books.” Allie positively sparkled as she smiled.
“Yes…” Martha smiled wryly. “So have a good deal of other people. She’s quite well off on her own right. In fact she’s one of the women that we should have as a sister.”
“Why doesn’t someone speak for her?” Allie scowled.
“Because my dear… She is quite like Pet and our Andi; not genetically female.” Martha’s smile faded. “We are but two votes short of a tie in which case my vote would swing the rule change.”
“Well anything I can do to help… You can certainly count on me if I become a sister.”
“I know we can.” Martha chuckled. “Then we can make Andi and Drew full members.”
“Well…? What about Pet…?” Allie cast her gaze at Pet. “Shouldn’t she become a member as well?”
Martha smiled sadly and looked at Pet.
“I have no money of my own to speak of.” Pet smiled sadly. “And having a certain minimum of means is one of the criteria for membership.”
“Oh…” Allie looked apologetic. “I’m sorry.”
“Oh don’t be.” Pet grinned. “I use the club as a spouse.” She smiled lovingly at Martha. “I’m at the spa several times a week. And when Drew is in town we have lunch there quite often.”
“Pet’s true talent…” Martha spoke seriously. “…is seeing to my needs, the children’s needs and the workings of this household. She is indispensible. I don’t know where I’d be without her in my life.”
“How long have you been together?” Allie suddenly leaned forward.
Martha and Pet gazed at one another before she spoke.
“Six glorious years…” Pet giggled. “I must admit the first year was…trying? But once I accepted my place…? I found my life to be full and complete.”
Allie squeezed my hand gently and grinned at Pet as she continued.
“There are so many people out there that have things and positions; professions. And yet they’re unhappy. They haven’t truly found a place for themselves. I am so lucky Martha found me. She gave me a place where I belong doing what I was meant to do. I really couldn’t be happier.”
Pet got up and walked the few feet to where Martha sat. She bent over and kissed Martha’s upturned face.
“Perhaps I could show Andi our garden?” Pet asked Martha.
“By all means sweet heart. I have a few more things to discuss with Allie that would only bore the two of you anyway.” Martha smiled…actually glowed…at Pet.
Pet came to me and offered her hand. I grasped it and stood up. I glanced down at Allie. She smiled and nodded her head. I felt kind of odd being left out of whatever Martha and Allie were going to discuss. Pet hooked my arm with hers and led my out of the room.
“I love your hair by the way.” She said as we walked toward the back of the house.
“Thanks…” I touched the back of my pinned up hair and giggled.
“I’ve been letting it grow out.
I wanted to try different looks. You know…?”
“Yes…” We walked through an ultra modern equipped kitchen with a dining alcove off to the right. “So… How are you doing?”
“With your transition…?”
Pet opened the gated back door of the house and we walked down several small steps into an amazing garden.
“Ummm… I guess I’m coming to terms with it?”
“It’s difficult to realize sometimes.” Pet smiled.
“The roses will be lovely this year.”
She motioned toward the budding flowers. “I had a difficult time at first. Martha is very strong willed and I felt…”
“Lost…?” I offered.
“Yes… And quite frightened as well. I mean it all began as simply dressing? But Martha took it all the way with me. She seemed to know and recognize what I didn’t.”
I trembled at how similar our stories were. The only difference was that Pet admitted it was dressing and not some form of performance art.
“Well… How did you deal with it? How did you come to terms with it?” I asked.
Pet led me to a gazebo and we sat down, our arms still linked.
“You must understand that I was completely captivated in Martha’s presence. I was enchanted and bewitched by her. So before I knew it I was…well…changed; permanently. That feeling of enchantment truly hasn’t worn off yet.” Pet giggled.
“But you said the first year was…”
“I ran away…sort of. I thought she had misused me to her own ends and I left.”
“Oh my God…! Really…?”
“I had a little money and the credit cards of course. Martha didn’t try to stop me. At first I thought it was because she didn’t really care. I was so very angry. I felt betrayed.”
I was enthralled by what I was hearing. Pet seemed so calm and controlled as she related what must have been a harrowing nightmare of an experience.
“But I had a few days to think things over. It wasn’t until I realized she had actually sent two people to make certain no harm came to me that I knew she did indeed care. I was staying at one of those cheap hotels.” Pet turned to smile at me. “It was kind of a dive? There were prostitutes and druggies living there. I was too naïve at the time to realize it. So she sent two people.”
“That’s when you knew…” I never got to finish the sentence.
“She was willing to let me go because she would only accept me if I could totally accept her. And so I did. I went back to her. Martha never said a bad or recriminating word about my leaving. She was so grateful I returned. That’s when it finally happened.”
“What happened?” I was enthralled by this tale.
“I finally gave into her completely.” Pet gazed at me. There were tears welling up in her eyes in spite of her wide smile. “That’s when I finally let go of my old self completely and accepted what she had made me into.”
“But what she made you into… Was that your choice?” I was confused.
“Someone once said of a sculpture… It was already within the granite. All I did was remove the extra pieces?”
I suddenly understood. Martha had recognized truly what was within Pet just as my Allie has seen the true me. Was it really that simple? It was always there? Was I really always ‘Andi’? Was my father always ‘Andi’ as well? Martha must have recognized something within him for her to facilitate his dressing.
“There would be no Martha Gray as you know her now without me. But there would also be no Petra without Martha Gray. We are forever tied to one another.” Pet smiled.
I sat and stared at Pet. My mouth hung open and my eyes were wide as a tear fell. I suddenly had to hug her and kiss her cheek. She hugged me as well.
“Thank you so very much…”
I whispered into her ear as tears began to flow down my cheeks.
“The children are home!” Sofia smiled as she shouted from the kitchen door.
Pet handed me a tissue from the pocket of her skirt. I quickly blotted my tears and blew my nose. Pet got up and offered her hand. She smiled down at me. I got up and once again she hooked my arm with her own.
“It’s the giving in that’s the hardest part; accepting who you really are and finding your place as a result.”
I instinctively knew she was right. Martha loved Pet so much that she couldn’t bear to see her come to any harm. That was Pet’s turning point. How many turning points had I passed by? Allie’s entire being revolved around me as mine did around her.
As Pet and I walked back toward the house, our arms around one another’s waists, I felt the pleasant silence that often does more to connect than separate. I think we both had a quite demure smile on our faces. What Pet and I exchanged gave me…comfort? I wasn’t crazy or alone in what I felt.
Once inside the house Pet hooked my arm with hers again and she led me back to the parlor. There stood the two most beautiful children I’d ever seen. Allie had an arm around each one of them as she sat. They were giggling away and the sound was so…amazing. They sounded so happy.
“Oh look…” Martha sounded so…elated. “This is your first cousin Andi.”
The gaze they had was instantly captured in my mind forever. Jane’s face framed by her strawberry blonde hair was perfect. Her porcelain complexion was so perfectly offset by her sparkling blue eyes. She so reminded me of a porcelain faced, hand painted doll one sees in a specialized catalogue or an upscale specialty shop.
And Oliver was just as striking. He had Martha’s chestnut colored hair, the reddish highlights flashing in the sun’s light as it streaked through the bay windows. He and his sister were dressed in what appeared to be some form of school uniform? Grey trousers and a skirt for Jane coupled with white blouse for her and a stylish white shirt for him. They both had blue sweaters with some sort of coat of arms on the breast.
Both of them had a band of faint freckles running across the bridge of their noses. With their wide opened eyes, their demure smiles, and their rust rage cheeks, they resembled Sitzendorf figurines. My heart just opened up completely. They looked like the perfect melding of their mom and…mom?
“Normally, Pet loves to bring the children home. But I thought I’d have Mister Stone fetch them a bit earlier today.” Martha grinned. “I know you’re as anxious to meet them as we are to have you do so.”
“They are glorious.” I began to choke up.
I walked up to them and knelt down until I was nearly at their eye level. Oliver was slightly taller than Jane but the difference was negligible. I smiled at them one; one at a time.
“I am so very happy to meet you both. My name is Andi.”
Jane blushed dare devil red and giggled. Oliver turned blind date pink and stared suspiciously at me. I reached out slowly to touch Jane’s cheek. She flinched and gazed quickly toward Pet. I followed her eyes to see Pet smile and nod her head. I reached out again to stroke the most amazing skin ever. It was so soft and smooth to my touch.
“We have them well trained.” Pet smiled. “They were taught to be wary of new faces even when in our company. Jane loves to draw by the way.”
“And so does Oliver.” Martha added.
“Oliver is named after…?” I gazed toward Martha.
“Your grandfather actually…” Martha smiled serenely. “I know it’s an old fashion name but it was one of the very few times I acted on a compulsion.”
“Please don’t call me Ollie.”
“I hate that name.” The child pouted.
“Well then… I will not use it.” I smiled at him. “Would both of you like to show me your drawings?”
They almost answered simultaneously. They became quite excited and went for their respective little back packs. They were so adorable I simply sat down upon the floor and watched their every move.
“We believe they might have some talent.” Pet beamed. “Allie told us that you’re working with some children on Saturdays.”
“Yes… They are an absolute joy and delight.” I grinned. “I adore seeing their imaginations run wild on paper.”
They both retrieved their note books and quickly opened them. Nestled amongst the various exercises were drawings. Most were simple doodles. But every so often there would be an actual drawing of a person. But unlike most children their age, the figure would have an actual face complete with eyes, nose and mouth.
The bodies were somewhat accurate in that there was more substance than merely stick lines or random squiggles. But more importantly there was some recognition of proportion between the limbs and torso. And the heads were relatively correct in size and shape.
“Do you like them?”
Jane asked, her eyes wide and her nose crinkled in the most amazing impish expression, as she searched mine.
“Yes…” I chuckled. “Both of your notebooks are…interesting.”
“So what do you think baby doll? Do we have room for two more in our little class?”
Allie giggled knowing my answer before I could even glance up at her. I smiled and continued looking through their books, totally oblivious to the conversation going on around me. I marveled at what miracles…what blessings they were. I knew instantly that this is what I wanted; children to fill the air with their noise and their innocence and their unique ability to break the world down into a size they could comprehend.
We stayed for dinner in the cozy kitchen alcove. The conversation was filled with plans for the future; all our futures as a family. There were several times during our dining that I became overwhelmed with emotion. I was being bathed in the sacred pool of family life and I simply let its waters flow over me.
Mr. Stone drove us home. We both had a hard time leaving but Martha and Pet had just as hard a time letting us go. But my Allie was very tired and, truth to tell, so was I. The day had been long and emotionally wearing although I’d take one like this day rather than a thousand more wondering about my roots. Allie sank back into the seat and I settled in next to her. At our feet was a bag containing the unfinished bottle of port with a second one unopened. Alongside that bag were our meals Martha was kind enough to order for us.
However, the biggest surprise came when Martha made a point of asking me to do some work for her company. They were looking for a company to handle their marketing and advertising and Susan had recommended me before any of this had happened. Though not as big or diverse as Scoville Industries, Grey Adams would prove more than large, and prestigious enough to attract the attention of the powers in the ‘tower’.
I also remembered that I had a grandmother. Martha glossed over that fact but even the fleeting mention didn’t get past me. Obviously there was a degree of tension between the two but I felt that we would meet in good time. Then my thoughts fell upon myself.
Performance art is never truly performance art unless you have the audience. A street musician is not playing to those who simply pass by too quickly other than to catch a note or two. A mime isn’t performing to those who pass by and only notice the ‘white face’ makeup. He performs for those who stand and watch.
Perhaps such is the case with me? Perhaps my ‘performance’ wasn’t really anything of the kind? Perhaps my attempt to match the image in the mirror with the one in my mind was an end all unto itself. I’d thought about it before and people have mentioned it…the big IT. Was I transitioning? Maybe I was. After seeing what I only just witnessed, that thought was looming larger and larger.
“I am going to need access to McCann’s file on your case.” Mister Stone’s voice was very deep and gruff.
“It would make things easier.”
I couldn’t imagine what would be easier and I didn’t question his request. Martha trusted him and that was good enough for me. Allie gave me the file. I reached forward and carefully placed it next to Mister Stone when we stopped for a red light.
“We’ll need to speak with Joan again.” Allie clutched my hand. “The name change…?”
“Ohhh… Yeah…” I’d forgotten what was involved when I had my name changed the first time.
“What’s the matter baby doll? You seem…out there.”
“I’m still absorbing.” I giggled.
We sat in comfortable silence the rest of the way home. When the huge car pulled up in front of our building, Mister Stone got out and assisted Allie, and then me, out of the back. I was really beginning to like that car. No… I was beginning to like that life style. It was ordered and… dare I say it…civilized?
The moment we came through the doorway we kicked off our shoes and, after slipping off my blazer, immediately removed my bra and rubbed myself just where the band fell beneath my boobs. I was beginning to understand why that was the first thing Allie did with her huge underwired bra and how terribly comforting it must be to rub her skin where the bra made a deep impression upon her skin.
I really felt badly for her. Poor Allie needed to acquire new bras on a regular monthly basis. Her nipples were changing as well. The nubbins were darkening from their usual candy pink to almost mocha-luscious brown. And, much to her dismay, she was acquiring hair in new and interesting places.
I came up behind Allie as she was removing her bra from beneath her blouse. I slipped my hands in under the drop of her boobs and gently rubbed the impressions in her skin. She leaned back against me and softly moaned in pleasure.
“Why does that feel so much better when you do it?” Allie placed her hands atop mine as I massaged her. “You seem to have just the right touch.”
We made it to our bedroom where we almost instantly shed our cloths and donned our usual lounging outfits. I was beginning to need to help Allie undress. Her stockings or socks were becoming a bit of a chore as her tummy grew outward. And though her pumps presented a minor challenge, Allie’s sneakers were nearly impossible for her to lace and tie.
We settled in bed after placing the food in the fridge and the port bottles on the island. Allie was sitting up against the headboard and I rested my head in her lap as I stretched out between her legs. I was still absorbing all that had happened during the day and it was a substantial amount to digest.
“The twins are so adorable.” Allie smiled down at me as she ran her fingers through my hair.
I was thinking of everything other than the twins. My mind was churning and ruminating over the idea that perhaps I truly had a female soul. Everybody else seemed convinced. I was the only one hesitating in coming to grips with that distinct possibility. I suddenly felt Allie shift.
“I have to go.”
And she hopped off the bed as quickly as she could and went as quickly as her body would permit to the bathroom. She closed the door behind her which was a bit unusual. But then again, these were unusual times? I waited for what seemed quite a while before I got up and went to the door. I knocked gently.
“Go away!” She sounded more than a bit adamant.
“Are you alright?” Why shouldn’t I be concerned?
I went back to the bed and sat down. She’d never acted like this before. Well… There was this one time but she ate something a bit rum and suffered the usual result. Allie finally exited the bathroom and tears were flowing rather freely down her face.
“What’s wrong sweet heart?” I got up and took her free hand, the other busily wiping tears.
“Well...” She sniffled. “At first I though I had to go but it was only gas. Then…” The most distressed looked appeared upon her face. “…the weirdest stuff came out of me.”
“Oh baby doll… It was a…discharge?”
A what…??? I was so very clueless. I really had to start reading some of the stuff Allie procured about this entire baby thingy. She saw the perplexed expression on my face.
“You know… Out of my coochie…?”
Sometimes it’s better not to know?
“I mean it’s normal but…really?”
Allie’s distressed look said it all. I hugged her and tried not to image whatever it was she had to see and contend with. I know she was already a bit upset about not being able to deal with her usual ‘grooming’ regimen. But now with these added little niceties, poor Allie was beside herself.
“I think I’m hungry. Can we get something to eat?”
Allie’s eating habits were weird to say the least. But I was more than accommodating. I mean we had been so very attentive to one another’s needs that this seemed quite normal; even if it wasn’t.
I assisted Allie up and we headed toward the kitchen. My arm was around her the entire time. I felt she needed that little extra physical connection. I knew I certainly needed it. We got into the kitchen and she sat on a stool at the island. I immediately went and brought out the meals Martha was kind enough to order.
“Oh God no…! I can’t stand the smell.”
I was clueless.
“But it’s what we had for lunch.”
“I know but it smells horrid.” Again the distressed look said it all. “Get in away from me!”
I didn’t know how on earth she could smell the food. Everything was not only still sealed in the containers, but it was also chilled from the fridge. Without even bothering to argue, I simply put the food away.
“What can I get you?”
“I don’t know. Maybe some fruit…? I would really love an apple.”
Allie really didn’t care for apples at all…except in pies? But who was I to argue. We always had some in the event Allie felt like baking. She makes a killer apple cobbler.
“And some cheese and crackers…?”
Well that was always in stock. We often lived on little else.
“Oh… And maybe a little ice cream…?”
Well… So it was a bit of a strangely developing meal.
“Do we have any kippers?”
“Yeah… It’s a herring thing.”
I just stared at her. We never ate kippered herring; or anything else kippered for that matter.
“That would be killer with some eggs.” Allie giggled.
I sat down opposite her and waited. This was really verging on the bizarre. I thought about even getting a sketchpad to draw upon whilst she decided what else she wanted to see set before her. I mean I was becoming accustomed to odd combinations of foods but this…this was something epic by comparison.
“Kippered herring sweet heart…? We don’t have any. I don’t even know where to begin to look for that.” I said somewhat exasperated.
“Oh God baby doll… I have to have some. Please…? Go out to the market and see if they have a package or two.” Allie rolled her eyes upward. “Maybe we should get a few packages?”
“But it’s nearly nine.” I whined.
Allie’s stern expression was all it took. And so I left the comfort of my sleeping tee and got dressed. But before I left I set out two cored and cut apples and a few wedges of cheese. It was getting toward our usual witching hour by the time I was down on the street and heading for the local market. The weather was quite fair and a slight breeze blew down the avenue. I could at least take some delight in observing the people as I walked.
Fortunately for me, our market, aside from stocking the usual, also stocked a fair array of the unusual. I grabbed three packages of the most foul looking vacuum-packed herring. I don’t know why everything vacuum packed appeared to look so very foul. I also picked a dozen eggs in the event Allie decided to feast upon all three packs; an unlikely scenario but…
Allie guided me through the preparations beginning with the caramelized onions and garlic. I must admit was it not for the fact that Allie was in her present condition, I would have had a problem after opening the package of herring. As I pan cooked the lot amongst the onions and garlic I quickly poached two eggs.
With a slice of lemon I prepared as best I could a presentation of the most ungodly foodstuff ever. I couldn’t believe the speed and ferocity exhibited by my fair and delicate Allie. She barely let the plate settle long enough to cool before covering the eggs in ketchup and beginning to devour the fish.
“You really have to try this.” Allie giggled between gulps of eggs and fish.
“Uhhh… No thanks… But thanks for asking.” I giggled in return.
“Ohhh please…? Do it for me?”
Allie whined. How could I refuse? And so I held my breath and closed my eyes as she brought a piece of the foul looking fish to my mouth. I must admit that upon closing my mouth and finally taking a breath, the onions and garlic actually made the fish more than merely palatable. Though a wee bit too salty for my taste, I could see the combination with the eggs.
I was happy that Allie at least had a reasonably full meal. After cleaning up, Allie had already gone back to our bedroom, I joined her to resume my position between her legs, my head upon her lap. I was intrigued by the sounds emanating from her tummy. I only hoped that the meal would not cause her indigestion, a recent semi chronic development.
“So baby doll… Your thoughts on the day…?”
Where to begin…? I turned my head toward her tummy to gaze up into my Allie’s eyes.
“You really seem so very comfortable with me…my…” I had so much trouble saying the damned word. “…transitioning?”
“Ah ha…! So you finally admit it!” Allie giggled.
“It’s not funny.” I pouted.
It was hard enough to even think about it.
“I’m sorry baby doll…” Allie stroked my cheek. “It’s just that I was waiting for you to come to your senses and, to be quite honest, it was driving me bonkers.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well… Didn’t you notice how far you’ve come since we first met? I mean you were trying so hard to be androgynous and you were failing so miserably. Don’t you feel happier now than back then? I mean you barely seem to notice or care about how femme you appear. Your only issue is looking perfect.”
There was no denying my biggest fear was not being adequately put together before leaving the apartment. There was no denying I had the biggest collection of kitten-heeled pumps going. There was no denying that wearing a skirt or dress on occasion felt quite natural. And there was no denying that I enjoyed, and even felt excitement, when men, and women, stared at me; their attentions appearing either envious or lewd.
“Yeah… I guess…”
“And you can’t pass a mirror without taking a quick look.”
“Yeah… That’s true.”
“And you can’t pass a clothing store display without at least glancing at the clothing.”
“And if you dumped your bag, I bet you’d have a goo collection to rival my own.”
“I mean there is nothing that says to me…well…almost nothing…” Allie snickered. “…that says; ‘I’m a guy’.”
“I’m just so frightened that…” I had to stop for a moment and take a deep breath. “I’m scared that one day you’ll wake up and realize that there are certain things I can’t do for you. You know…?”
“And that can’t happen if you were six feet four and a solid two twenty…with a ten inch dick?” Now Allie laughed. “It’s not what you are that I find so…so exciting. It’s who you are that gets me so fucking swampy baby doll. The fact that we can go shopping and do other really fun things is simply an added benefit.”
I had to admit that was true. We did do a lot of things that most couples, guys going with girls, didn’t. And I enjoyed these things. The shopping, the primping at the stylist’s, all the stuff guys would call ‘chick shit’ that I now considered essentials. And I had Allie to thank for all of that. Maybe Allie is the mother that I never had. Was that so wrong?
If all of those benefits actually helped me find that magical and elusive image I’d been searching for…was that so bad? The further I got into who I really was, the better my art, and my craft became. Certainly the last show was indicative of just that fact. I felt good about what I was presenting. And nobody even bothered to question my gender; least of all me. I no longer thought of my ‘performance art’. I only needed to admit it.
I gazed up at Allie as my eyes filled with tears. I felt so lucky…so blessed. Maybe this truly was payback for all the shit I had to wade through growing up. Maybe all the foul names and shoves and sneers I received were being repaid three fold. I reached up with my hand and gently stroked her cheek…so very soft and smooth.
“I love you so much.”
I managed to utter between sniffles.
Allie giggled. “I know baby doll. I know.”
Allie cradled my head as I turned my face in toward her tummy…our child. I inhaled her aroma and I placed my hand upon her baby bump. I closed my eyes and let my mind drift. As I turned my head even further, I could smell Allie’s arousal. It was at that very moment of contentment beyond description that the first phone call came. It was Susan and thankfully she called Allie’s number. Allie put her on speaker.
“So darling children… Was Martha everything you expected?” Susan chuckled.
“Oh… My god…!” Allie squealed. “She was amazing. And Petra was a dream. I couldn’t believe how…how gracious they were. And they virtually fawned over both of us.”
“Yes… Well… Martha doesn’t let too many people in but the ones that she does she truly cherishes. I imagine she doted over Andi like a mother hen over her roost.”
“Oh my God…! Did she ever. And we were both so surprised that she was the one who bought the portrait.”
“And she had no idea who the artist was. Martha was more than taken by that piece. You should have seen the expression on her face when she saw the family portrait Andi did for us. I’d never seen Martha shocked…not ever…until that moment.”
“She spoke about that.”
“By the way…” I could almost hear that sly smile of Susan’s over the phone. “Where is our young genius?”
“”I’m here.” I was actually speaking into Allie’s groin and my voice was quite muffled.
“Well lover…?” Susan snickered. “What was your impression?”
“It felt like…like family.”
Just at that moment my phone began to sound. It was Peter. Thankfully Allie answered that one as well and now Peter was also on speaker.
“So you both survived.” Peter laughed.
“They seemed to have past muster with colors flying high.”
“Is that you Susan?”
“I certainly hope so. I’m in her panty.” Susan chuckled wickedly.
“She’s on Allie’s phone.” I giggled.
Peter also wanted to know that all went well. The three and one half of us (I was only partially into conversing) spoke for a number of minutes longer. It was quite gratifying to know that everyone I knew was so concerned about how things went.
Then Jill called and we spoke with her for some time. She was happy to hear that Allie was so taken with Martha and Martha with Allie. I felt that Martha was more pleased with the fact that Allie was caring for me in such a focused manner than with Susan’s very insistent request for Allie’s…sisterhood? Peter, of course, was thrilled that I had found my ‘family’ and they were so accepting…of everything.
Even Rhona called to inquire about my experience. We spoke for some time although I felt quite naked without a cup of coffee and my nail file. It was a sweet conversation with Rhona wanting to know all the details; as usual. And I complied; as usual.
And Bob was thoughtful enough to call. I had no idea how he discovered what was occurring but I assumed Jill must have informed him. He was most curious about the entire event and wanted to know the where and why that caused such a climactic meeting.
Finally we were left to our own devices. Allie had been snacking the entire time and now felt quite nauseous. I assisted her to the porcelain throne where she promptly gave back much of what she borrowed. I felt for her. Allie was always so hungry but our child was jealously taking up all the available room. If it wasn’t for chocolate Allie would have gotten little nourishment. I held her forehead and fetched her water when she had finally finished.
Once back in our bed, Allie broached a subject that Martha had brought up I evidently wasn’t privy to. Martha had questioned Allie’s desire to continue working at her current job. Now Martha realized that Allie wasn’t exactly the housewife kind of person. And, in fact, I tended to most of those duties especially with Allie in her present condition.
What Martha did suggest was that Allie open up a gallery where she could sell not only my work, but also her own and the things we did together. She hadn’t mentioned the idea of me quitting at all. I guess Martha felt that I was getting everything done that needed doing and that Allie seemed to have enough of the entrepreneurial spirit to build a business of her own.
“I really don’t know.” Allie said as she held me in her arms. “In a way I am in a dead end job unless maybe Jill decides to quit or retire. But starting a gallery is a big undertaking.”
“Yeah it is. But you do have the building and the store downstairs certainly won’t be there forever.” My mind began to work. “We could even have displays of student works. The exposure and the whole getting the show together would be invaluable.”
“And we could have a school on the second floor for children who are gifted. You seem to love working with Lilly and her friends so very much.” Allie added. Her mind was now working in synch with mine. “I could even teach pottery. I think I might enjoy that.”
“And I could still do my graphic art thingy. I mean I don’t really need to be in to office all the time although Peter likes me to look at what the others are working on”
“Well… They’re working mostly on your clients anyway.” Allie giggled.
“Oh poopie shit…! I forgot to tell Peter about getting Martha’s account.”
“It was nice to hear she was going to give the work to you anyway.”
I had to agree that earning the work because of my skills was most reassuring and…edifying? But then again, Martha didn’t seem like the type who gave out charity work even to a relative. Of course the suits uptown would have yet another boogie-woogie but whose fault would that be?
Allie and I spent the remainder of the evening simply laying in bed and dreaming about our possibilities for the future. Allie even felt excited enough for us to engage in a wee bit of monkey love. Allie’s sexual drive had diminished somewhat as her pregnancy advanced. This was a marked difference and I sorely missed that part of our intimacy more because of the spiritual closeness it brought than the physical release.
As Allie’s tummy continued to distend, our practice of orally pleasing one another became far more challenging. And since this was becoming more and more of the only method we could enjoy, my boy bits were becoming bittier and bittier, and the silicon toys were more difficult for poor Allie to enjoy properly, we honed our skills in new and interesting positions.
I began to feel almost as if I was attending a yoga class. I needed to stretch my body across the expanse of Allie’s to enjoy the taste and aroma of her ‘coochie’. And, as things did progress, I did begin a program of yoga more for the purpose of simply stretching and exercising my newly forming body than anything else as a compelling reason.
I never stopped once to consider my…position? I was not only accepting that I was in fact a woman, I was a lesbian as well?
That was the last thought I remembered.
What is ahead for our two love birds? Will Allie totally encompass Andi? Wiil Martha totally encompass Allie and Andi? Will I continue to supply tissues at strategic locations? No way...! I ran out during the editing and was forced to use... Never mind...! Will Captain Gallant continue to bust Private Fuzzy Knight? What kind of name is that anyway? For the amazingly surreal answers to these probing questions...be sure to read the next Ministère des Armées approved chapter of 'Andi and Allie'!!!big>
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