Disclaimers: None. All of the characters are mine.
Warning: This story involves romance between women. For those of you not offended by lesbian love, happy reading!
Dedication: This story is dedicated to everyone who has fought for marriage equality – by marching in a parade, by writing a letter to a congressperson, by having a conversation at a dinner table.
Copyright Blythe Rippon, June 2013. All rights reserved . This story, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any format without the prior express permission of the author. This story is a work of fiction, and is not intended to represent any particular individual, alive or dead.
Barring Complications will be posted in five parts. Feel free to drop me a line at email@example.com .
– PART IV–
Genevieve adjusted her necklace in the mirror of the Supreme Court bathroom. Her dark hair fell in perfect layers to her shoulders. Since she would be giving a press conference on the Courthouse steps after oral arguments, Jamie insisted on sending a stylist to her condo that morning. Nic had called Jamie a fruit who cared more about appearance than substance. Jamie said that if only Nic could argue cases in a biker bar, maybe she would win some. Genevieve called them both pains in her ass. Nevertheless, in the bathroom of the Supreme Court on the morning of oral arguments, Genevieve stood back and evaluated her appearance. Her blue eyes, accented by grey eye shadow and liner, sparkled. A light application of lipstick gave her lips a slight sheen. She looked good. She knew it. And she was about to walk into a place where it couldn't matter less what she looked like.
She squared her shoulders, grabbed her briefcase and trench coat from the sink counter, and exited the bathroom.
The courtroom was abuzz with nervous energy coming from the spectators and the lawyers. Nic and Jamie were already seated. Nic's ankle, resting on her opposite knee, was wiggling back and forth as she flipped through her notes. Jamie was biting his perfectly manicured nails. She heard her name whispered here and there throughout the room and knew her entrance hadn't gone unnoticed. She exhaled and strode down the center aisle, her heels sinking into the plush carpet with every step.
She selected the vacant chair between Jamie's and Nic's and began pulling her folio, water bottle, and pen out of her briefcase.
“So what do you think they'll all be wearing?” whispered Jamie to Nic, leaning across Genevieve's lap. She could tell her was trying to dissipate the anxiety, but she wasn't in the mood for tasteless banter.
“I think a better question might be: what are they all wearing under those robes?” Nic returned.
Jamie wrinkled his nose. “I don't want to know.”
Nic smirked. “I don't know, Willoughby looks like she works out.”
Genevieve cleared her throat.
“I don't think you're her type,” Jamie whispered.
“You don't really buy that bull that she's straight, do you?” Nic scoffed.
“Not at all. I just imagine it would take a high glass dame to sweep Willoughby off her feet. And you,” his eyes ran up and down Nic's suit, “buy off the men's rack at Sears. You should have had a stylist this morning, too.”
“Oh, you volunteering? I heard you tried for a role on Queer Eye and were rejected because your pants were so tight everyone could see the stick up your ass,” Nic shot back.
“Enough!” Genevieve hissed. “I don't care if they all have the constitution stitched on their underwear. If you two don't shut up --”
Genevieve was cut off by the arrival of the Justices. She was grateful for the pomp surrounding their entrance. While everyone's attention was directed elsewhere, she subtly wiped her sweaty hands down the side of her suit, licked her dry lips, and reminded herself to breathe. She was a solid litigator. She had done this before. And not a single person in that courtroom would think she had any doubts about her case, or her performance.
After the Marshall of the Court finished calling the room to order, the Justices took their time getting settled into their chairs, and most of the lawyers took the opportunity to do the same. Genevieve, however, sat immediately. In the shower that morning, she had decided that she would feel more comfortable looking anywhere but at Victoria, but when she glanced up, she knew she would struggle to look anywhere else. It was like gravity. And, with an urgency she hadn't felt before, it struck her exactly what it was she was fighting for.
The kind of security and belonging that came with federal recognition of marriage was more than tax benefits and the right to make decisions on behalf of a partner. Equality was intangible, and as Genevieve's eyes rested on Victoria's figure, masked by a robe and a perfectly tied scarf thingie, she felt keenly the price of inequality. Worry lines framed Tori's eyes and mouth, and it was clear to Genevieve that the stress of this particular case was exacting a heavy toll on her. She studied those hazel eyes, so intelligent, so weary, so lonely. She longed for a day when Tori wouldn't feel compelled to hide, when she wouldn't feel judgment and condescension from her government, and shame. Worried about the extent to which Tori had internalized homophobia, Genevieve wondered if that day would ever come.
She watched as Justice Willoughby flipped open the folio her clerks had placed in front of her chair. Both women simultaneously reached for a bottle of water. They broke the seal with identical gestures and met each other's eyes before drinking. Genevieve caught the faintest of smiles, so fleeting she might have imagined it. Before she could return the gesture, Victoria had turned away.
The seating of the Justices was determined by seniority. As Chief Justice, Kellen O'Neil sat in the middle. The seat to his right was reserved for the longest serving member of the court, and there Alistair Douglas jotted down some notes. Jason Blankenstein, as the second in seniority, sat to the left of O'Neil whispering to him. Seating continued based on seniority, alternating sides. McKinzie, as the third-most recent appointee to the court, was seated next to Tori. He leaned over and whispered something in Tori's ear, and Tori smiled. The smile didn't reach her eyes, but it still made Genevieve melt. It made no sense to her, this world that said it was okay for Tori to smile when a colleague made a joke – a colleague Genevieve guessed Tori didn't even particularly like – but wrong, ungodly, for her to smile at Genevieve – the kind of smile that might promise love and hope, the kind of expression they used to share in private before it all fell apart.
She wanted to win. Not just for herself, or for Tori. And if she were being honest, the intense personal investment she felt in the case would give her the passion she would need in order to deliver effective answers to the Justices' questions.
The Justices were settled and silence fell over the room. O'Neil allowed the quiet to reign for a long moment before he spoke. “We begin with the lawyers representing the United States in this case, as they were the ones who executed the appeal.” Genevieve could tell O'Neil loved the sound of his voice booming over the courtroom.
And so it begins.
Stuart White was an onerous man with a comb-over and an affected drawl. If a casting agent had gotten his hands on this little drama, he could not have more perfectly assigned the role of the lawyer arguing against marriage equity. Genevieve watched in disgust as he blew his nose on a soiled hanky, which he returned to his jacket pocket, before standing and addressing the bench.
“If it please the court. We convene today to reestablish the meaning of marriage in this country. Marriage, as we all know, has throughout history, from generation to generation, been defined as the union of one man and one woman. We submit to the court that this definition of one of our most time-honored and sacred institutions must be upheld.” White paused here, surprised that he had not yet been interrupted. When no interjection was forthcoming, he resumed his argument.
“The other side will likely try to paint us as bigots, and the impetus for DOMA as animus. This could not be more wrong. We value the lives of our gay and lesbian neighbors. We have no problem with state or federal governments offering alternative institutions such as civil unions to gays and lesbians. But the institution of marriage has a definition. And we see no constitutional basis for changing this definition.”
White almost looked relieved when Michelle Lin took this opportunity to offer a question.
“You don't think the court should recognize gay marriages, and it seems to me that what animates this claim is religion – the notion that marriage is a sacrament. Why, then, should the government recognize any marriages? Why shouldn't we leave it up to the church?”
“Well, Justice Lin, the government has historically recognized the importance of rights and responsibilities stemming from marriage. The precedent for federal marriage rights can be found in a number of places, including Loving v. Virginia .”
When White used the word precedent, Genevieve noted that Tori shifted in her seat. She scribbled something on her notepad and slid it to past McKinzie to Lin, who read it and nodded.
Lin continued her questions. “Then let's talk about Loving . The case is the clearest precedent for this one, and it establishes that the government should not put restrictions, based on identity markers, on the institution of marriage. Explain how Loving leaves room for discrimination against gay marriage.”
The rest of White's argument proceeded as expected, with constant interruptions from the bench and what Genevieve considered mediocre responses.
When the Justices were finished with White and he oozed into his seat, Genevieve took a drink of water, stood, and smoothed her skirt.
She didn't look once at her notes.
“It has become practice for Supreme Court Justices to enter this building through a different door than the public. Lawyers arguing in front of you likewise are granted admission through a special entrance. But today, I walked through the west entrance to the Court like the spectators here today. You may or may not remember the architecture of this entrance, or the engraving on the frieze above it. But average citizens who enter this building do so underneath the phrase ‘Equal Justice Under the Law.'
“And that's what we're here about today. We submit to the court that the Defense of Marriage Act, in its entirety, codifies into US law unequal treatment of gays and lesbians. We –”
“Ms. Fornier,” began O'Neil, “am I correct in understanding that you are requesting a wholesale rejection of DOMA, rather than simply a dismissal of the two sections in question at the district and appellate level?”
Genevieve continued, unfazed. “Yes, Mr. Chief Justice. DOMA expressly limits the rights of my four clients, and thousands of similarly situated gays and lesbians in this country who are married under state law, but single under federal law. This federal law places them in a specifically disfavored category where their fundamental rights are denied recognition by the federal government.”
The Chief Justice interrupted her again. “Ms. Fornier, in your briefs to the Court, you argued that DOMA represented federal overreach – that it was an infringement on states' rights. Explain please how requiring the federal government to recognize gay marriage wouldn't infringe on the rights of states that expressly ban such marriages.”
“Well, Mr. Chief Justice, there are two issues at play here. Requiring the federal government to recognize gay marriages does not require all states to issue those licenses. It simply adds the final step in the marriage process to those couples already married at the state level. Overturning this section of DOMA would mean that couples like my clients never have to question when they fill out an official government document if they should check the box that reads ‘married,' or the box that reads ‘single.' They would be fully married.
“The second issue is the notion that all states ought to be required to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. This is question less of states' rights than of equal protection. Allowing some states to expressly ban gay marriage amounts to a violation of the fundamental rights of gay citizens.”
Justice Willoughby leaned forward and held up her hand, stopping Genevieve's speech. “Ms. Fornier, where is the precedent for requiring such legal recognition of gay marriage? On what cases could this bench base a decision to both overthrow DOMA and require states to start issuing licenses?”
“Thank you, Justice Willoughby. This Court has issued fourteen opinions in its long history that clearly indicate the importance and value of marriage as an expression of personal freedom – and an institution which should not be limited to select categories of people. The decision in Lawrence v. Texas establishes that sexual orientation of individuals is a protected right. The combination of the various marriage-related cases and the protections for gays and lesbians established in Lawrence forms a firm foundation on which this court could write an opinion giving gays and lesbian equal marriage rights. Could write, and, based on this precedent, must write.”
“Thank you, Justice Willoughby.
Questions and answers continued for forty-five minutes, and if the questions were any indication, the court was every bit as divided on this issue as the public had expected. Jamison, as usual, remained silent, but Genevieve studied his reactions out of the corner of her eye while she expertly fielded questions about procreation, religious protections, and the difference between civil unions and marriages.
When the questions concluded and Genevieve sat down, she knew she'd argued convincingly for her clients, that she had made the most compelling case for full recognition of gay marriage anyone could.
She just didn't know if had been enough.
Nic and Jamie had wanted to go out and celebrate, but Genevieve wasn't as certain of victory as they were and she craved the privacy of her couch and a glass of wine by herself. She promised them an epic party if they won.
She and her legal team quickly communicated all this while they were walking down the hallway of the Supreme Court and out of the building. As expected, they were stopped on the steps by a bank of reporters eager to hear their opinion on how arguments went, along with their predictions. Genevieve advanced a step closer than her colleagues, who flanked her.
She always felt cold in front of cameras after a trial, and then feverish when the press conference was over – like someone had drained her blood and replaced it with a liquid form of Icy Hot. She hid her shiver and recited the statement she had prepared the night before about the importance of this case and her confidence in victory. The reporters' questions were inane after the interrogation she had just withstood inside. She made sure the cameras captured her shaking hands with Nic and Jamie and felt satisfied with their public performance.
She descended the rest of the steps around the reporters as they shifted their attention to White and his legal team, who were at that moment exiting the building. She walked straight to the black, unmarked car HER had hired to drive her for the day, and slid into the backseat. Only once the door was closed and the tinted windows protected her from curious eyes did she let the mask fall. She leaned her head back against the seat and rubbed her face, knowing she was ruining her eyeliner and not caring. She unbuttoned her jacket and pulled her blouse out of her skirt. It was early afternoon, but that glass of wine was sounding better and better.
There was nothing to be done now. Literally, she had no pressing concerns, no responsibilities waiting for that day. And, she had no more direct influence on the Justices deciding the case. It was up to nine jurists to study the law and their hearts and arrive at the right answer. It was up to Tori to convince them behind the scenes. It was up to Alistair, whom she expected might retire soon, and would certainly want to exit the court on a high note for not only his liberal colleagues, but for human rights.
Genevieve stretched and exhaled heavily. Maybe she'd take a bath.
The car pulled in front of her townhouse. She thanked the driver, and headed into her home.
She kicked off her shoes as she opened the door, and dropped her briefcase while closing it and throwing the deadbolt, enjoying the satisfying sound of locking out the world.
“You look like hell, sweet cheeks! Good thing I made drinks. One Texas Whiskey Revival for the famous protector of gay rights from sea to shining sea!”
Genevieve couldn't help but laugh at Bethany, seated at her dining room table surrounded by liquor bottles and two tumblers of amber liquid. She dropped into a chair and pointed to the glass that hadn't been have half consumed already. “Slide that over here, you perfect, perfect woman.” She took a deep drink, enjoying the burning in her throat, and closed her eyes. “God that's good. I could marry you.”
“That confident in your performance today, huh?” Bethany teased, but Genevieve could hear the question in her voice.
“I did well. We presented a better case. Now we wait and see.”
“Well, drink up my beauty. There's more where that came from.” Although Genevieve hadn't yet finished her first drink, Bethany began mixing seconds.
“How did you even get in?” she asked.
“Since you were too thoughtless to give me my own set of keys, I borrowed yours and copied them.”
“Charming. You should consider a career in breaking and entering.”
“Nah. I like being on this side of the law.”
Not quite ready to relive her morning, Genevieve slid off her jacket and offered a non sequitur. “Did you notice that new, hole-in-the-wall Jesus gym around the corner from the Supreme Court? I never knew gyms could have religious affiliations.” she asked while Bethany served up round two.
“Oh, God's Gym? ‘The power of faith?' Lame-ass slogan. Although I've heard it's trying to be more non-denominational.”
“It's not trying very hard, unless it's going to change its logo. Jesus with a barbell doesn't seem very welcoming to other faiths.”
“Well if Jesus working out doesn't inspire you to pump iron, I don't know what will. You thinking about joining?” Bethany threw back the last of her first drink and switched tumblers.
“Absolutely not. There's only one situation where I want to be both sweating and calling Jesus's name, and it's not the gym.”
Bethany chuckled. “Girlfriend, you need to get some action.”
“Maybe now that this case is argued. There's a lot of restructuring I want to do around HER, and an adoption case that needs some attention. But, wow,” she rolled her shoulders, “I feel so much lighter now. Like I have time. And space. And fresh air.”
“Does that mean you're going to start taking care of yourself again? Because this Amy Winehouse look you're sporting, with the drawn cheeks and haggard eyes, is so last year.”
Genevieve turned to look at herself in the mirror that hung behind her table. She squinted. “What are you talking about? I look fine.”
“Do you think Amy's problems were only on the outside? Honey, you're withering inside. You haven't seen the sun in ages. Here.” She slid an envelope across the table.
Genevieve picked it up. “What's this?”
“Why do people always ask that? Like I'm going to spell it out for you when you could just open the damn thing and see for yourself. If the envelope came with a speech, I'd have delivered it. Instead, I'm simply pushing it across the table into your waiting hands, and sitting back to watch your reaction.” She leaned back in her chair and took a swig of her second Texas Whiskey Revival.
Rolling her eyes, Genevieve tore open the envelope. Out spilled gift certificates for a massage, manicure, and pedicure; a business card for a stylist in Dupont Circle; and a registration in her name for a half-marathon in D.C. in three months.
She refolded the printout with the race information. “Are you saying I'm fat?”
“I'm saying that you're not sweating on your back in some leggy paralegal's bedroom, so you can at least sweat for a good cause. Run for Equality is right up your alley.”
“I pick the sex,” Genevieve mumbled.
“Can't help you there, Sugar, but I'm sure Tara knows some good gay bars around here.”
“That's not a bad idea. Maybe I'll call her.”
Bethany nodded, looking pleased with herself. “You may thank me now.”
“Thank you, Bethany,” Genevieve said. “I appreciate it.” And she did.
“So,” Bethany said.
“Well, what are we doing today? Are we getting pedicures, or putting on pajamas and camping out in front of Netflix?” she nodded her head toward a duffle bag on the chair next to her. “I also came prepared to go running, or to get skanked out like we're 25 again and hit up some dive bar in the middle of the afternoon. Pick your poison.”
Considering she hadn't run in a while and it would take her a while to work up to 13.1 miles, she opted for the physical activity. After a quick change of clothes, they were off. She noted with amusement that running after drinking was significantly less painful than running sober.
She knew better, really, but lacked the willpower to resist. The morning after oral arguments, Genevieve rose from bed, grabbed her laptop, and returned to her cocoon underneath her down comforter. She went first to the New York Times . The headline story was about her case, and an entire section of the website was given over to opinion pieces. Nothing too surprising. Speculation that Jamison would side in favor of marriage equality because it was rumored he had a gay cousin. An entire op-ed posited that Michelle Lin would vote against marriage equality in a concurring dissent in which she determined the state had no compelling interest in the business of marriage. Well, at least Nic wasn't the only crazy in town. Genevieve thought that outcome extremely unlikely. She next visited CNN, The Washington Post, Slate , Huffington Post , and, for old time's sake, the Chicago Tribune . Pretty much the same theories. An interesting idea in the Austin-American Statesman suggesting O'Neil would vote to overturn DOMA as an infringement on states' rights. She sipped a mug of black coffee and scrolled down to read the comments beneath an article in the San Francisco Chronicle . Some crazy idiot styling himself “Marriage's Sacred Protector” issued blanket threats to anyone supporting marriage equality. One commenter with the handle “Lesburu Driver” wrote a treatise on why every single Justice was probably going to vote for full marriage equality in every state. She was probably a bit loony, but Genevieve appreciated that she could cite the unanimous Loving v. Virginia decision.
She was glad she'd taken some time to read the news (and the vacant content posing as news) before she opened her email. Her work account was flooded, even though everyone in the office knew she was taking the day off. Her secretary had forwarded a request from MSNBC that she appear on Hardball with Chris Matthews . Too bad the invitation wasn't for the Rachel Maddow Show . There were two more requests for interviews, one from Logo and one from NPR's “Talk of the Nation.” She would devote time later in the week to scheduling appearances with various news outlets.
Genevieve raised her eyes and contemplated her bedroom door. She felt a familiar pull to the world beyond and all the projects at work that she could get started on. It was always this way when she wrapped up a case. She ran in one of two gears while in prep: overdrive or passed out. The day after arguments, when there was nothing she could do but wait, she struggled to downshift. She knew she'd feel terrible about herself if she stayed in bed all day picking out a new show and Netflix bingeing. She feared if she got up, however, that she'd immediately get on the phone with her secretary to schedule interviews and start work on her next project (which would probably be fundraising, considering they had exhausted the organization's resources on this case). As soon as she called the office, it would negate whatever reason compelled her to take the day off, and she would decide she might as well go in.
She was pondering all this when her phone rang.
“Okay, girlfriend, you have two hours to be a lazy slob before you have to be at Obelisk,” Bethany ordered. “We have a reservation for four at 12:30.”
“Four?” she asked, warily.
“Sonya and Tara want to hear all about the case. And if you don't want to talk about it, they want to hear all about you. Either way, you'll be doing a lot of talking.”
Genevieve seriously doubted that. It was a toss up whether Bethany or Tara would dominate the conversation, but she was sure it wouldn't be her.
“What's the dress code at this place?”
“Oh, you know, sweet cheeks. D.C. casual.”
“So, a suit?”
“I'm sure you'll pull together something presentable from that warehouse you call a wardrobe,” Bethany returned. “Oh, and Sonya is bringing this adorable new radiologist who just moved here from Chicago, so do try and be charming.”
Genevieve rolled her eyes. “I thought you said the reservation was for four.”
“Did I? Oops! Toodles, gorgeous!”
Before Genevieve could protest, her cell clicked into silence. “Well, I suppose being set up is one way to forget about work,” she mumbled to herself before traipsing off to the shower.
The hot water ran through her hair and she sighed. Her thoughts inevitably returned to the day before, and the emotions coursing through her during her time in the Supreme Court. For the most part, she had separated her emotions from her rational mind, and stayed focused on the arguments. But there were punctuated moments when her emotions overcame her and she found herself glancing at Tori. Their eyes had connected a dozen times during the two hours of oral arguments. Genevieve had expected to feel betrayal or fury toward Tori, but instead she felt calm support from her. Support wasn't something she associated with her one-time girlfriend.
She rinsed the shampoo out of her hair and let her mind wander back twenty years.
Harvard Law School, 1989
She wanted to stand in the middle of Mass Ave and shout it. She wanted to tattoo it somewhere on her body. She couldn't get that “Yes!” song from Dirty Dancing out of her head. She wanted everyone to know that she was in love.
She knew, of course, that sharing her joy wasn't an option. But she was also pretty bad at hiding her emotions, and she could tell by the looks Bethany had been giving her over the past few weeks that her roommate knew she was getting laid at least, and maybe even that she was hopelessly, stupidly in love.
While Bethany bustled around the kitchen with breakfast, Genevieve sat that the table concentrating on her neutral face.
“So do you think Victoria will actually be a Supreme Court Justice?” Bethany called from the kitchen.
Genevieve started at the sound of Victoria's name and her chair made a scraping noise against the hardwood floor. She hoped Bethany hadn't noticed. “What? Where did you get that idea?”
Bethany emerged from the kitchen with two plates of scrambled eggs, one of which she slid across the table to her roommate. “Oh, where does anyone get these ideas? Who knows how gossip gets started.”
Genevieve poked at her breakfast while Bethany continued. “I heard it from Preston after Constitutional Interp on Wednesday, and Walter mentioned it during Parody rehearsal last week. Hey, speaking of the Parody, why aren't you two writing again this year? You were such a great team last year.”
“I, uh, I guess we forgot about it.” Genevieve tried to stop the blush creeping across her cheeks, but she could see Bethany notice and look away.”Have you made any decisions about next year?” Genevieve asked, thinking a change of subject was in order.
“Well, Daddy could get me a job in the Governor's office, but Austin's so far from Dallas and it barely counts as Texas. Besides, I really liked working at Oakes and Driver last summer. I mean, I only took the summer internship as an experiment, and I doubt I'll settle in D.C. permanently. But I'll start there for a few years and see what happens. I know I can learn a lot from a firm, and the money's fantastic of course. Besides, as it turns out, there are a lot of fun things to do in Washington. I went to a party at the White House once, and some of the other summer associates and I went monument hopping every Friday after work. The city is really beautiful -- there's enough space that I can see the sky, and every Texan needs to see a big sky at night.”
Bethany continued her lengthy answer to Genevieve's simple question, and Genevieve's mind started to wander. Tori had looked so beautiful yesterday, silhouetted in the late afternoon sun when Genevieve had dragged her out of Cambridge on a hike. Tori, who wasn't exactly an aficionado of the great outdoors, had spent most of their trek holding forth about the balance of powers in the US government.
When they returned to Tori's room in Gropius, the conversation shifted to the local level, and the two had a lively discussion about a contentious Cambridge city council meeting that was causing quite a stir. One elected official had announced that the police force was doing such a good job, he wanted to cut their numbers in half. Victoria maintained that proposals like this Councilman's created the wrong incentives for police, who would think they needed to do their job badly in order to keep it. Genevieve attacked his premise, arguing that there was in fact a fair amount of crime in Cambridge, but people turned a blind eye to it. Victoria tried to say something else, but Genevieve pulled the shade down and started kissing her, and before long neither woman could string together two words.
“I mean, you agree, right?” The ensuing silence was startling and Genevieve shook off her reverie to find Bethany staring at her expectantly and drumming her fingers on the table.
“Um, right. I agree.”
“Sure you do. I am so sure you agree that all gun control laws infringe on our second amendment rights. Genevieve, have you heard a word I've said?”
“I -- “ Genevieve looked abashed. “I'm sorry, Bethie. I'm a little distracted today I guess.”
“Just today, huh? Because if I was a bettin' woman, I'd say you're pretty distracted all the time these days. My mama always said only criminals and people in love are distracted. So, are you planning a bank heist? Because if so, I want a cut.”
“A cut? Why? You haven't helped steal electrical plans from City Hall, nor can you drive my getaway school bus.”
“I cook you breakfast every morning. Well, every morning you're here, anyway.” Bethany looked at her knowingly. “I think the lady who keeps you fed gets a few thousand, a least.”
“A few thousand? How much do you think I'm stealing? And I've got to pay the actor posing as a security guard, the explosives expert, and the cashier at our corner grocery.”
“Annie? Why do you have to pay her?”
“Last time I was there she told me her dog has cancer. I'm a sucker for a sob story.”
“Some hardened criminal you are, Genevieve Fornier.”
They grinned at each other.
“Well, fine, don't let me in on the details of your, er, bank heist. For now. But Genevieve.” She turned serious for a moment. “Be careful. Not all heists end well.”
Genevieve shrugged. “Well, I haven't been arrested yet.”
Bethany nodded and stood up. “She who doesn't make the breakfast does the dishes.”
“Deal.” Genevieve cleared the table, relieved to have avoided any more direct questions about her recent euphoria. She couldn't help herself -- while she loaded the dishwasher, she hummed “Yes!”
* * *
Genevieve paced back and forth in her bedroom as she read the newspaper out loud. “Ultimately, Harvard Law School has stood as a beacon of forward thinking and progressive interpretation of the law, and in light of this heinous crime in Texas, I urge the leaders of this institution to advocate for hate crimes legislation.” She felt a bit of a thrill to see it in print. She was glad she hadn't edited it – it was perfect.
Last week, in Galveston, Texas, two middle-aged gay men were yanked from their bed in the middle of the night, whipped, horse tied, and dragged behind a red pickup truck with no license plates until they died. Their bodies were stripped and propped up next to the big wooden “Welcome to Galveston” sign in the middle of the town. The word “faggot” had been painted across their foreheads and a sign reading “we don't stand for homos here” had been tacked up on the signpost above them. They had both been castrated.
The incident had garnered national attention for twenty-four hours and was quickly forgotten the following day when playoff football games began. Genevieve was heartbroken for the two men who had done nothing more than share their lives and love with each other. Imagining being pulled from her bed and battered like that actually caused her to shake. She had dabbled in activism before, and was proud to have spent a summer working for the ACLU, but she never felt as impassioned about protecting minority rights – gay rights – as she did when she learned of the events in Galveston.
She wrote the editorial to The Record , the Harvard Law School newspaper, in one sitting, and decided it didn't need revisions. She was satisfied with her forceful language and the urgency with which she conveyed her appeal. She hadn't asked anyone to read her letter, nor had she even mentioned to anyone that she was writing it. She didn't need to. She remained confident in her convictions.
The newspaper had come out that morning, and Genevieve had held her head high in the face of the whispers and stares. When her last class of the day had finished, she strode through the fierce December cold up Mass Ave toward her Porter Square apartment, wearing a black pants suit, heels, and a fierce expression. Her posture dared anyone to challenge her. By the time she had made it halfway home, she had decided she wanted to make a career out of advocating for gay rights.
As she rounded the corner and began to climb the marble steps to her apartment building, she was startled to discover Tori, red faced and fuming, pacing back and forth in front of her door.
“What the hell were you thinking? Have you completely lost your mind?” Tori growled at her.
Genevieve took a step backwards, startled by the frenzied look in Tori's eyes. “Geez, Tor, calm down. Let's go inside.” She reached out to put her hand on Tori's back, but Tori flinched and swatted her hand away.
“Fine, yes, inside.” Tori crossed her arms and pursed her lips.
Genevieve held the door open and followed her seething girlfriend up the flight of stairs that led to her unit. When Tori just stood in front of the apartment door tapping her foot, Genevieve held that one open too.
“Is Bethany home?” Tori hissed when Genevieve had locked the door behind them.
“I don't know – Bethie? Bethany, are you home?” When no answer was forthcoming, Genevieve shrugged and proceeded into her bedroom. Tori slammed the door behind them.
“How could you have done this to us? I don't understand.” Tori immediately resumed pacing, her heels heavily striking against the hardwood in a rhythm that left Genevieve even more unnerved.
“To us? I don't understand. I wrote an editorial advocating for hate crimes legislation, not about our relationship,” she returned, trying to reason with Tori.
“You might as well have bought a billboard, Genevieve. How could you have published in a newspaper that you're a lesbian? You could have written the whole thing without adding that little tidbit.” Tori was gesticulating frantically, as though her motions could turn back the clock and undo Genevieve's decision to out herself.
“Oh. That's what's bothering you? Who cares? I didn't say anything about you, or us. I simply said that my position on hate crimes is inspired, in part, by my position as a lesbian. And I said that probably everyone knows gay people, they just don't know they know. You know?” Genevieve poked Tori in the ribs, trying to lighten the mood. She failed and Tori shrugged off her touch again. “I believe it's important for me to be who I am publicly – for smart, pretty, successful women to be upfront about this. Visibility is important – it may be the key to political power for gays and lesbians in this country.”
“If you think you're going to be successful after this, Genevieve, you're horribly naïve. No one will hire you.”
“I disagree – I think this will actually help me get a job. Well, obviously, only at some firms.”
“You've just completely sabotaged your career,” Tori insisted.
“No, I don't think so. Gay rights is the next big legal frontier. And I'm going to be a part of that fight. Hell, maybe I'll lead the fight!”
“Genevieve, I can't. I can't do this – this – whatever it is we've been doing. I can't do this with you anymore. I'm sorry, but I want a career and I can't afford to be associated with this. With you.” She moved toward the door, but Genevieve stopped her with a shaking hand.
“Are you serious? You're – you're leaving me because of this?”
Tori turned and the moment their eyes locked Genevieve felt relief flood through her. Victoria's eyes contained such love for her, such depth of feeling. But the moment faded almost instantly and Tori's eyes turned cold again.
“Good luck, Genevieve Fornier. You'll need it.”
And Victoria Willoughby walked out of her life.
Genevieve could only stand in the hallway between her bedroom and the apartment door, parallelized with shock.
She had just summoned up the energy to move when the door reopened. She spun back toward it with such joy that Tori had changed her mind that it took her a beat to realize it was Bethany standing before her. Genevieve's heart sunk even lower as she suddenly realized that her Texan roommate might be completely homophobic and she might need to find a new place to live.
“My, Genevieve, you look awful,” Bethany remarked as she moved her coat. A small cry escaped Genevieve's lips before she could choke it back and Bethany rushed to her side. “Oh, Sweetheart, what happened? Is this about your article in the paper?” Bethany wrapped her surprisingly strong arms around Genevieve and led her to the couch. “You know,” she drawled, “I think you're very brave, and I'm proud to be your friend. And if anyone gives you a hard time, you just tell ‘em your roommate owns guns and knows how to use ‘em.” Genevieve felt herself tugged onto the couch and she curled up against Bethany.
It was so absurd that her girlfriend had reacted to her letter by walking out on her while her roommate was offering full-throated support.
Bethany held Genevieve while she cried, stroking her hair and handing her tissues at regular intervals. Around dinnertime she brought Genevieve a blanket, tea, and soup, and when Genevieve said she didn't have the strength to make it to her room, Bethany brought her a pillow and tucked her into the couch.
Genevieve awoke the next morning with determination. She wouldn't live in the closet and she refused to let her gayness negatively impact her career. She vowed to continue promoting hate crimes legislation during her last few months at Harvard Law, and she swore to herself that she would devote her legal talents to protecting gay rights.
But above all, she was determined not to let Victoria Willoughby's harsh words from the previous evening change her mind.
* * *
Twenty years later, Genevieve shaved her legs and thought how ridiculous it was that people could know someone for so short a time and yet be so profoundly altered by them. She had only known Tori for two years in law school. They spent the first one getting to know one another and trying to deny their mutual attraction. They lived apart for a summer. They spent fall semester making love and losing themselves in each other. And they spent the spring estranged.
It's funny, too, Genevieve thought, how some pains can still hurt so much, years later.
She turned the shower water off, grabbed a towel, and buried her face in it.
Two hours later, clad in an understated black Kenneth Cole dress, Genevieve Fornier walked into Obelisk and felt almost every set of eyes in the room turn to her. She knew her appearance held to hint of her morning's agonizing trip down memory lane. She scanned the room, noticing the hostess in Armani pants, an older woman with a head scarf doing a crossword puzzle, and a group of men in suits clearly on a business lunch. She shoved down her ire that so many of those DC lunches were still men-only, and she kept looking until she spotted two perfectly styled blonde bouffants bobbing up and down as Tara and Bethany gestured to her. Sonya glanced up from the wine list to smile at her as she approached.
Genevieve pulled out the vacant seat between Bethany and the radiologist, who was a very sexy young woman in a hot pink dress. She lasciviously dragged her eyes up and down Genevieve.
“Hi,” she said, extending her hand. “I'm Roxie. I think you're my date for lunch.” The handshake lasted much longer than it needed to.
Genevieve raised her eyebrows. “Genevieve. Nice to meet you. No one mentioned you were my date.”
Roxie licked her lips. “I just did.”
It was going to be a long lunch.
They ordered two bottles of chardonnay and kale chips as an appetizer, before settling into conversation.
Conversation, Genevieve quickly learned, meant her discussing every detail of her time in front of the Justices.
“Did you have to answer questions about states' rights?” Sonya asked.
“Who did they interrupt more – you, or that worm arguing against marriage equality?” Tara wanted to know.
“I forgot to ask yesterday, is Jaworski as ugly in person as he is in photographs? Because that wart on his forehead should have its own zip code.” That was Bethany.
Genevieve fielded the questions with charm and humor, although she was a little distracted by the woman seated next to her, not saying a word, just mentally undressing her. It wasn't that Genevieve was thrown by a woman wanting her. She just wasn't used to one whose breasts were falling out of her dress making zero effort to hide it.
Bethany interrupted her thoughts. “You're not going to work today, right? Because the three of us took the day off, and we've got the whole thing figured out.” Before she got a chance to inform Genevieve of the day's proceedings, the waiter came to take their orders.
After they related their choices and their server had departed, Genevieve opened her mouth to ask Bethany what their afternoon would hold. Before she could ask, Roxie was leaning into her, peering at her eyes.
“Are your eyes really that blue, or do you wear colored contacts?”
In the pause that ensued, Genevieve struggled to come up with a response that was polite, could in no way be mistaken for flirtation, and would successfully shut down further inquiries about her body. She was still formulating her reply when the three other women at the table started snickering.
Trying to keep a straight face, Sonya responded, “Roxie, Dear, she had them dyed. It's the latest in plastic surgery. Didn't you know?”
Still staring at Genevieve, Roxie said, “wow, that's so cool!”
“Ask her what else she's had surgically altered,” Tara encouraged. Genevieve could feel her face turn red. Not that anyone was looking at her face anymore.
“You too? Awesome,” Roxie said.
Genevieve coughed. “Excuse me, I have to use the restroom. Bethie, join me.” She wasn't quite sure what was going on here, but she planned to weasel it out of her former roommate.
Bethany just laughed. “I don't have to go.”
Roxie leaned closer, and Genevieve could smell the Herbal Essence on her hair. “I'll keep you company, Beautiful.”
The warm breath in her ear made the skin on her back tingle, and not it an exciting way. Rolling her eyes, but seeing no way out of the situation, she stood and started walking toward the back of the restaurant. She just hoped the over-eager young thing her friends had decided to foist upon her had stayed put. She glanced over her shoulder to find Roxie trailing behind her, staring at her ass like it was lunch.
The door to the ladies' room was locked, indicating it was a single-occupancy restroom. Genevieve hoped that meant she would at least get a moment of privacy. The door opened, and she moved to trade places with the woman exiting. She was about to close the door when Roxie slipped in, giggling. She shut the door and locked them in.
“Um, Roxie, I was hoping --”
“I know, Baby,” Roxie said, putting a finger over Genevieve's lips. “I was hoping too. You're really hot.”
Oh, Lord, Genevieve thought, what did I do to deserve this? Roxie's hands had found her sides and were inching closer to her very real, very not silicon breasts.
“We can't -- not here.”
“Oh, it's no problem, I've done it in this bathroom loads of times. But never with a woman as hot as you.”
Genevieve was debating her options when Roxie started kissing her neck. She hadn't gotten laid in a while -- since relocating to DC she'd submerged herself in the case. But a quickie at noon in the bathroom of an upscale restaurant wasn't her idea of a good time.
It was clear that Bethany, Tara, and Sonya were playing some kind of joke on her. Roxie was starting to slide the straps of her dress down her shoulders when Genevieve stopped her.
“Look, Roxie, you're very sweet.” Roxie pouted, and Genevieve amended her statement. “You're very sexy. But I don't have sex in bathrooms.”
Roxie crossed her arms, pushing her breasts even further out of her dress. “That's not what your friends said.”
“Oh? What exactly did they say about me?”
“The lawyer said that the radiologist canceled, and if I wanted to meet the hottest lesbian in D.C., and show her a good time, I should come with her to lunch.”
“I see. And you know the lawyer how, again?”
“Oh, I worked a birthday party for one of her coworkers.”
“Worked?” Genevieve dreaded the answer.
“Oh, yeah, I strip,” she said, nonchalantly.
“And did the lawyer hire you to sleep with me?”
Roxie looked offended. “I'm not a prostitute.”
Genevieve was confused. “Then, why are you here?”
“She said I'd have a lot of fun with you.” Roxie moved closer. “Don't you want to have fun?”
“How old are you, Roxie?”
“Twenty-three,” she said.
“Right. Well, I'm way too old for you, sweetheart.”
Roxie pouted again.
“Tell you what, why don't we go back out there and let the lawyer think we had crazy monkey sex in the bathroom of this upscale restaurant -- that will be fun for me. And how about tomorrow I introduce you to some of the women who work for me, who are closer to your age -- that will be fun for you. Win, win. Fun for all.”
“Are they as hot as you?”
“Um, sure. Definitely.”
Roxie contemplated. “Will you at least buy me lunch? I can't afford what I ordered.”
“Absolutely. We can even take turns feeding each other.”
“Okay!” Roxie was surprisingly amenable to the change of plans. Genevieve guessed it had something to do with the glass of wine she had chugged earlier.
They returned to the table, hand in hand. Genevieve held her breath the entire walk back, and by the time she reached her chair, her face was red and she was panting a little. She hadn't needed to muss her hair -- Roxie had done that for her.
She sat down with a stupid grin on her face and slurred a little, “did we miss anything?”
It was hard not to break character when Bethany choked on a kale chip. For the remainder of lunch, Genevieve and Roxie whispered, giggled, and took turns stealing food from the other's plate. When the check had been paid and they were standing outside the restaurant, Roxie announced that she had to get to work.
Genevieve drew out their goodbye. “I'll miss you, Baby. I'll call you tomorrow, okay? And we can do that thing I promised you.” She snaked her arm around the stripper's waist and whispered into her ear, “thanks for playing along. You're very sweet.”
Roxie pulled back and said, loud enough for everyone to hear, “You're fun. See you tomorrow!” She kissed Genevieve on the cheek, pinched her ass, and blew kisses to everyone else before she departed.
Genevieve turned to Tara, Sonya, and Bethany, a love-sick grin on her face. “Wow, guys, she's amazing. And so young to be a radiologist!”
They gaped at her until she couldn't stand it anymore and burst out laughing. “What on earth were you thinking? Was there ever a radiologist?”
Sonya had the decency to blush. “Yes, actually, and I think you might like her. But she got called into the hospital and couldn't make it.”
Genevieve turned to Bethany. “So, you improvised.”
She shrugged. “Best I could do on short notice.”
“Uh huh. How hard up do you think I am, anyway?”
“Sweetie, you were checking out the hostess when you walked in, and she is decidedly unattractive.”
“I was looking at her pants! They're nice pants!” Genevieve protested. She was looking at her pants. Right?
“I can't believe you screwed her in the bathroom!” Bethany said with bizarre a mixture of repulsion and pride.
“I did no such thing, thankyouverymuch. Now. Can you finally tell me what we're doing today?”
Each of the women pulled a flask out of her purse, and Bethany had two. She offered the extra one to Genevieve. “We're getting drunk and going monument hopping!”
Genevieve stared at her like she was nuts. “You do know it's December, right? Isn't a little cold to spend the day outside?” Tara giggled. “That's what the flask is for, Sweat Pea! Besides, we hired a driver, so if we get cold, we can just hang out in the limo for a while.”
Genevieve couldn't help smiling. “You people are such nerds. Your idea of a good way to play hooky is a tour of D.C.'s monuments?”
“And Schnapps. Don't forget the Schnapps,” Tara said. She and her sister clinked flasks before they each took a healthy drink.
Sonya shrugged. “I'm along for the ride. But I can think of worse ways to spend the day. Dental surgery, for example.”
“Okay, yes, this sounds better than dental surgery. So, where's this driver and which monument are we hitting up first?”
Bethany and Tara started walking toward the limo parked across the street. Sonya linked arms with her and announced “FDR Memorial, here we come!”
Three days after oral arguments, Genevieve wrapped up her workday with a conference call to Nic and Jamie. They needed to coordinate their interview schedule for the upcoming week. Genevieve thought – and she couldn't tell if this was cynical of her or naively optimistic of her – that winning the public relations war over gay marriage might matter in the months between oral arguments and a final decision in the case. If Jamison was on the fence, or O'Neil, or anyone else for that matter, seeing support for gay marriage surge across the country might tip them to her side. So she, Jamie, and Nic would spend the next six months on an exhausting schedule of press conferences and appearances.
She had made an effort to schedule her interviews so that she would be back in D.C. by Friday afternoon. She could have pretended that it was about work-life balance, and keeping weekends work-free. But she knew better.
She had run into Victoria at the pool once. Once. And yet Genevieve had decided that if she showed up at the pool at the same time the following week, she would find Tori there. So, here she was, on her way into the Harbour Club at 7pm. She was nervous – more nervous, perhaps, than she had been earlier that week in front of the nine Justices. It was really just the one Justice that made her palms sweat and her stomach plummet.
Certainly she was telegraphing to anyone paying attention that she didn't have a date on Friday night. Or, maybe this was a date. Of sorts. After she waived her keycard at the censor on the reception desk, she spotted Victoria Willoughby descending the stairs to the locker room.
They changed, and met outside their respective rooms. Genevieve was surprised all over again by how in shape Tori had kept. Genevieve wanted to take a moment and just look at her former girlfriend, but she was already walking away toward the pool. As she watched, Genevieve's face grew hot and her heart started to beat faster. Thank god she was going to work off some energy, because being this close to Tori in a swimsuit was making her feel like a law student again.
They dropped into the water and, after a brief nod to each other, pushed off from the wall. Genevieve could tell that Tori was the faster swimmer. She would often reach the wall slightly ahead of Genevieve, and then take her time turning around. Genevieve wondered if she knew how to do flip turns, but was holding back to stay with her. It was an odd feeling. Genevieve had always been the superior athlete, introducing Tori to wall climbing, then running and hiking. She assumed she remained the more diversely athletic, but Tori's single-minded focus on swimming had given her the edge in this particular arena.
They settled into a comfortable rhythm, and when she took breaths Genevieve was able to admire the way Tori glided through the water. Stroke after stroke Genevieve wondered what they would say to each other, if they could. She conjured scenarios where they reconnected by rehashing their past, and encounters where they acted as though no time had elapsed and simply focused on the future. She wondered if they would discuss cases and the law, or their families. Or all of it. Or none of it. Or if Tori would apologize and take back the words she had said.
There was so much between them. Time, history. An open case before the court, and a pool of water. It would be so easy to just swim into Tori's lane, and grab her, and kiss some sense into her. Much easier than trying to talk to her .
She'd probably get slapped for her trouble. Tori still wasn't officially out yet. In fact, Genevieve thought bitterly, maybe being in such close proximity to a known lesbian was making Tori uncomfortable. They were, after all, touching the same water. Maybe Genevieve should be happy that Tori hadn't quit the Harbour Club when she found out Genevieve had a membership there. Genevieve put her head down and continued swimming. There were times, and this was turning into one of them, when she was so angry about the way Tori left her that she couldn't stand it and she wanted to scream. She swam faster.
When their fifty laps were done, she pulled herself out of the pool and walked to her private dressing room without looking at Tori.
She was famished, but she couldn't bring herself to go upstairs to the café. She walked out the front door of the Harbour Club and the cold December air hit her face like little daggers.
* * *
But the following Friday evening, she once again found herself in a swimsuit in the Harbour Club. When they met outside their rooms, Victoria's eyes were filled with sorrow. Genevieve stared for what felt like a long while. She wasn't sure what had changed, but she felt better this week. Less angry. She could see the regret etched across Tori's face and she wanted to reach out and smooth the worry from her face. Instead, she did the only thing she was legally allowed to do. She shrugged and headed toward the pool.
Their laps were slower this time, and more in sync. Genevieve didn't steal glances at the woman in the lane next to hers. She focused instead on the way the waves collided when their strokes were in unison. She thought about the water they were sharing as molecules cascading over one another, attached by polarity. She blocked out everything else.
Her post-swim shower was short, and she intentionally beat Tori to the café. She didn't know if Tori had waited for her the previous Friday, and she wanted to spare her any doubt this week. Five minted later, Tori entered and glanced around the restaurant. Her posture visibly relaxed when she saw Genevieve.
They ate at tables as far from one another as the restaurant would allow, and they never made direct eye contact. But Genevieve was acutely aware of Tori's presence, her movements and gestures. They took their time eating. When they had paid their bills, they exited the gym, walked to the parking garage, and got in their respective cars. Genevieve followed Tori through the garage gate, and absent-mindedly continued to drive behind her. Two blocks later, a black car got in between them, and Genevieve shook her head at herself. She turned at the next light, not really caring where her new route took her.
This week, Genevieve's interviews were concentrated in the upper Midwest. She recrossed her legs and leaned against the arm of the chair that the news desk of ABC's affiliate station in Madison provided to guests. The tape on the wireless microphone was itchy, but Genevieve was careful not to show it. The battery pack made her suit bulge in the back, and pull a little in the front. She smiled at Lana Brown, the anchor, and waited for the next question.
“Ms. Fornier, please, explain to our viewers the different potential outcomes of this case.”
“Okay, Ms. Brown, there are pretty much three options.” She nodded to one of the technicians, and he clicked some buttons on a laptop. Just behind the camera, she could see on a large screen what the broadcast looked like: the split-screen showed a three-quarter length shot of her on the right and her visual aid on the left. She suppressed a frown. The image her office had sent to the Madison news office was visually appealing, but she wished it were clearer. She would need to use some gestures, too, to help clarify her breakdown.
She directed her first point to Lana. “First, we lose. The Court determines that the federal government is not legally obligated to recognize gay marriage. The government continue to deny benefits and, really, full citizenship to gay couples. My clients would remain married in Iowa, but that's it.
She glanced at the technician again, who clicked and an additional bullet point appeared on the slide. She delivered her second possible outcome straight to the camera. “The second option is we win, and we win big. The Court completely overthrows DOMA, forcing the Federal Government to recognize gay marriage. And. The Court rules that gay marriage is a fundamental, protected right, and requires every state in our country to begin issuing marriage licenses to gay couples immediately.”
Lana interjected. “From your standpoint, and that of your clients, that's the preferred outcome, yes?”
“Absolutely, Lana. From the standpoint of my clients, and gay people all over the country, that's not only the preferred outcome. It's what is morally right. It's the government performing its function to protect its citizens from discrimination.”
She glanced at the tech again, but he was too busy looking at her legs to notice. She refrained from rolling her eyes, and instead cleared her throat. He quickly advanced to the next visual.
She gave her final point to Lana. “The third option is something in the middle. The court requires the federal government to recognize gay marriage licenses, but doesn't require states to issue them. Gay marriage would remain illegal in many states, but my client's marriage would become legal federally. So, Alabama remains free to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, or deny them.”
Lana interjected. “I see. And, would you consider that a victory?”
“Yes, absolutely. It would mean that my clients are married federally, which is, frankly, what started this case in the first place. Additionally, we at HER, and HRC, and NCLR, well, we have our goals. Our dreams for a more equal country. But we're also realists. We know these things take time. So, yes, federal recognition would be a huge victory. But Lana. Can I ask you a personal question?”
Lana smiled amiably. But Genevieve could see behind her eyes that she was a little uneasy when she said, “Sure.”
“Lana, are you married?” She had done her research, and knew the answer already.
“Yes, I am. Twelve years last month.”
“Congratulations to you and your husband.” She turned to the audience and encouraged them all to clap for Lana's marriage. They happily complied. “Lana, do you remember being engaged?”
“Well, it was a long time ago. But, sure, a little.”
“What if someone had told you that you and your husband could get married. Definitely. Absolutely. In this hypothetical scenario, you're guaranteed marriage at the end of the story. But, no one is sure when. You just have to hang out and be engaged, and until someone tells you the wait is over.”
“I don't like waiting.”
“Neither do I, Lana. Neither do I. I was one of those kids who found my Christmas presents two weeks before Santa came, unwrapped them all, and then rewrapped them before my parents caught me.”
Lana, and the audience, laughed. “I see your point. Now, Genevieve, there's been some speculation that the Court might decide unanimously in favor of gay marriage – especially in light of this 9-0 habeas decision about Guantanamo that just came down.”
Genevieve smiled, and meant it. “Justice Willoughby wrote an excellent opinion. It was a bold move to include such strong language, and still get the backing of all eight other Justices. It's definitely historic. A game-changer, really – I'm eager to see what the other two branches of government do with the detainees now.”
“Do you think the Court could issue a similar unanimous opinion, legalizing gay marriage everywhere?”
“I guess we'll have to see. Obviously, the country is moving in that direction. I certainly wouldn't want to be on the wrong side of history, but I can't speak for the Justice Jamison, for example, or Justice Smith.”
Lana shifted in her chair, and grinned at her. “Well, Genevieve, fair is fair. Can I ask you a personal question?”
She was pretty sure her eyes held the same reservation that Lana's had earlier. “Sure.”
“If gay marriage becomes legal, are you looking to tie the knot?”
Yep, that was the question she was dreading. She smiled and shrugged. “No viable candidates so far.”
“Really? You haven't met Ms. Right yet?”
“Not yet. If I do meet her, I'll be sure to let you know.”
“Thanks so much for stopping by, Genevieve. We wish you all the best – good luck on this case, and everything else going forward.” They shook hands warmly, and Genevieve turned to wave at the camera.
At the Harbour Club that Friday, Genevieve waited longer than usual for Tori to come out of her dressing room. She nodded at a woman she thought was a member of the White House Counsel, and hastily started rolling out her shoulders. She hoped she gave a convincing impression that she was stretching, not waiting for someone. Someone whose name was etched on a gold placard just a couple feet away from her.
It had been a long week of travel and interviews, and she often found herself in a hotel bed, staring at the ceiling, wondering what the hell she was doing during these swim dates. Some nights she fell asleep, convinced they were communicating with each other, relearning each other, reconnecting. Other nights, she tossed and turned, convinced that no meaningful communication had happened between them and she was wasting her time. Toning her shoulders, perhaps, but otherwise wasting her time. Tori certainly hadn't given her any signs that she cared.
Tori emerged from her dressing room and Genevieve instinctively took a step toward her. She was startled when Tori marched straight to the pool without looking at her. She frowned, but followed.
Tori was already swimming by the time she got into the water. She stretched a bit more, and waited for Tori to finish her first lap so that they could start the next one together. She pushed off from the wall at the same time Tori did, but before she was even half-way down the pool Tori was executing a perfect flipturn against the wall ahead of her. Okay, fine, I know how to swim faster. Right? But try as she might, Genevieve was no match for Tori in the pool. She never caught up to her, their water breaks never aligned, and she completely failed to catch Tori's eye. What the hell? Did I do something?
Determined to get some kind of answer, she left the pool before Tori and strode into the locker room. She was leaning against Tori's door when a very winded, very flushed Tori stormed up to her. Genevieve raised her eyebrows, and continued to lean against the door. Tori crossed her arms and glared. As their standoff continued, Genevieve's swimsuit grew cold against her skin. It took great effort to suppress her shivers and continue challenging Tori to convey something about why she seemed so angry. Finally, Tori grabbed the towel that had been wrapped around Genevieve's waist and dried her face on it as she walked away toward the locker room exit. Genevieve had no idea where she was going, but she recognized defeat. She sighed and walked into her room. She didn't bother going upstairs to the café. She knew she wouldn't find what she was looking for there.
Later that night, alone in her living room with a glass of pinot noir and her thoughts, she YouTubed her interviews from the week, double checking her work. Or, more accurately, searching for yet another reason to feel bad. She wasn't a big fan of watching herself on television.
On the whole, she was pleased. She was charming in her Cleveland interview, and downright sexy in her Indianapolis one. But something bothered her about the Madison interview. She reviewed it in her mind as she brushed her teeth and took out her contacts. The interview was still playing in her head as she slid under her comforter. She turned off the light, and then it hit her why Tori was mad at her.
* * *
The next week, in Atlanta, when the anchor asked Genevieve at the end of her interview if she was planning on getting married, she answered, “No plans so far.”
Her interviewer gave her a follow-up question: “So, no one's swept you off your feet yet?”
Genevieve grinned slyly when she answered. “I didn't say that. We're taking things slowly right now.”
The following Friday, Genevieve was gratified when Tori smiled at her before heading to the pool. They swam slowly, together, all fifty laps. So. She watches my interviews. And she cares what I say. And how it might relate to her.
Usually Genevieve fell asleep pondering ways to improve on talking points she had long ago perfected. That night, as sleep took her, she was contemplating other ways she might subtly communicate with Tori through her interviews.
* * *
Of course, it didn't occur to her that Victoria wasn't the only one who watched her interviews.
On Saturday morning, she was awakened from a deep sleep by the sound of Bethany ringing her doorbell nonstop. At least, she assumed it was Bethany. No one else would be hitting the bell to the rhythm of “Deep in the Heart of Texas.” She slipped on a robe, rubbed her eyes, and stumbled down the stairs. When she opened the door Bethany breezed in.
“Who is she and why am I the last to know?” She walked through the living room and sat down at the breakfast table in Genevieve's kitchen.
“Good morning to you, too,” Genevieve mumbled, closing the door.
“I brought you coffee. Not that you deserve it.” She glared at Genevieve before she sipped on a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf to-go cup with “HC” Sharpied on the lid. Genevieve hoped there wasn't whipped cream in there. She was going to have a hard time managing Bethie without the sugar high.
“Black?” she asked, nodding toward the other cup.
“Like your eye's gonna be unless I get some answers.”
“Charming.” Genevieve sat down and put the cup under her nose. Baby steps .
She glanced at her cup. “But you just paid for it.”
“Oh, you think you're so clever, G-spot. Going down to Atlanta where you thought no one would find out.”
“If you think I did something with some woman in Atlanta, you're gravely mistaken. I did no such – “
“Bull hooey. I never said she was in Atlanta. Who is she?”
Genevieve swallowed and tried to come up with a good answer. She came up empty. She must have made a face, because Bethany suddenly started laughing. And once she started, she couldn't seem to stop. Her laughs turned into guffaws, and then she snorted. She slapped the table, and for a moment Genevieve thought hot chocolate might come out her nose. Genevieve just sat there, nonplussed, trying to figure out what the hell was so funny.
Eventually, Bethany wiped the tears from her eyes and managed to speak. “Well, shit, G.”
“Is there nitrous oxide in that hot chocolate or something?”
“Lord, no. Sorry.” Bethany wiped her eyes again and a few more giggles escaped her. “Okay. I'm better now. Really.”
“Lies. You're worse than you've ever been.”
“Ooh, she comes out swinging!”
Genevieve drank her coffee and said nothing. She didn't seem to have to. Bethany had drawn her own ridiculous conclusions.
“Fine. Don't tell me. I already know. It's Roxie, isn't it? You spent some quality time with her and discovered she more than a perky pair of store-boughts.”
“Yes. That's it. I've fallen head over heels for a twenty-year old stripper.” The coffee was kicking in. “Completely swept off my feet. We've already reserved the caterer and picked out the save-the- dates.”
“Ooh, do they have a pole on them? That woman does amazing things on a pole.”
“She does?” Bethany gave her a funny look. “Right. Of course she does. Every night in fact. But we opted for the corset photo instead. Didn't want to scandalize her grandfather.”
“So you watched my interview?”
“No, but the people who run ‘I Fought the Law and the Law Won' did.”
Of course they did. “I Fought the Law” was a very popular blog -- at least, it was in the legal field. Mostly it contained posts about that year's bonus tiers at big firms, and who had just made partner. Occasionally it offered analysis of recent legislation or cases. And it wasn't above salacious gossip. Whether or not they admitted it, every lawyer in the country had visited the website at least once and most frequented it. Even the creepy law firm partner in the dark corner of every law office with the sign on the door that read, “Don't bother knocking. Just go away.”
Genevieve had once before had the pleasure of attracting the attention of the bloggers who ran “I Fought the Law.” She had won an employment discrimination case for a lesbian client who had been fired from the Illinois Department of Transportation. When the verdict came down, and her client was given her job back as well as damages, she had grabbed Genevieve by the lapels and planted one on her. It had been a very public case, so the kiss was thoroughly documented by reporters and photographers. Overnight half the lawyers in the country had learned not only Genevieve's name, but that she had been slipped the tongue. The blog post went so far as to posit that the reason Genevieve looked embarrassed when she pulled away was that she had been caught lingering before cutting it off. She never denied it.
“So. What did our anonymous blogger friends have to say about me?”
“Oh, you know. They might have hinted it was Nic Ford. She seems to be the only new woman in your life.”
“Of course. If two lesbians are working together, they must be sleeping together.”
“Well if they're wrong, Honey, why don't your correct the record? You can start with me.” Bethany smiled at her sweetly.
“Oh no you don't.” Genevieve stretched. “You woke me up from a really good dream. The least you can do is buy me breakfast.”
“I bought you coffee.”
“Small potatoes. It was a really good dream.”
“Oh? And did your new mystery woman – the one you're taking things slowly with – did she feature prominently? Nakedly?”
“I'll never tell.”
“Fine. I'll buy you breakfast.” Bethany sipped her cocoa quietly for a moment. “Gen, be careful. I don't want to see you get hurt.” Genevieve could see her censor herself, and wondered what she held back. She thought it might be the word “again.”
Genevieve stood in the door of her offer at HER, contemplating whether she wanted to bring her jacket with her to lunch. The weather was steadily getting warmer, and she probably wouldn't need it for a quick trip to a sandwich shop. She had just decided to bring the extra layer anyway, just in case, when her desk phone rang. She crossed her office and grabbed the receiver.
“Didyouseethenewpollnumbers?” Jamie Chance spoke so fast she barely understood him.
“Jamie, slow down. One word at a time.”
“I said, did you see – “ Genevieve's call waiting beeped.
“Hang on, Jamie – I have another call.” She clicked over.
“Holy shit, Genevieve, did you see the new poll numbers?” Nic Ford's voice was so high that it took Genevieve a moment to realize it was her.
“Jesus, did the whole world suddenly decide gay people should get married?”
“No, but the majority of Americans over the age of fifty did!” Nic's voice was still shockingly high. For her.
“Hang on, Nic, Jamie's on the other line. He called right before you did.”
“Wait, I just called to – “
Genevieve clicked over. “Jamie?”
“Was it the lumberjack?” he asked. She could hear his pout through the phone.
“Jesus, you're colleagues. Act like it.”
“So you agree she has lumberjack qualities.”
“Why do you have to take a beautiful moment and make it ugly?”
“Oh, I'm not the one who makes it ugly. Have you seen how pretty I am?”
“Okay, Narcissus, if you can tear yourself away from yourself – “
“Is she on the other line?”
“Well, which one of us are you going to choose?”
“What is this, kickball teams in gym class? I'm not choosing either of you.” She tossed her jacket on her chair. “We're all meeting for lunch in thirty minutes. Here, at HER.”
“Here, at HER? Did you honestly just say that?”
“I'll get us champagne.”
“I'll be there.”
“Goodbye, Jamie.” She clicked back over.
“Let me guess. The fruitcake,” Nic said.
“Why do you two dislike each other so much?” Genevieve asked.
“He's a lightweight attorney, Genevieve, and you and I are heavy hitters.”
“You know what? Let's not. My office is ordering lunch, and the two of you are going to play nice. See you here in thirty.” She hung up before Nic could reply.
She used the intervening half hour to research the new poll numbers. Gallup, CNN, and the Pew Research Center all agreed. For the first time ever, the majority of Americans over the age of fifty supported legalizing gay marriage. In the 18-35 age bracket, support was over seventy-five percent. The middle age group hovered around sixty-one percent. Disregarding age, three-quarters of all Americans believed that the legalization of gay marriage was inevitable.
It was indeed reason to celebrate. When Nic and Jamie had sat down in the conference room at HER with their bento boxes, Genevieve raised a glass to the two of them. “Not that I think the three of us made this happen on our own, but worked our tails off and I have to think we've helped in some way. To the changing tides!” They clinked glasses, grinning at Genevieve and only minimally glaring at each other when they did so.
Nic put a piece of sushi in her mouth and started talking. It was a little hard to understand her muffled voice, but Genevieve was pretty sure she said, “If the majority of Americans over fifty think gays should be able to get married, that should mean the majority of the court thinks so too!”
“Tori's forty-seven,” Genevieve said.
They both stopped eating mid-bite.
Genevieve willed her face not to turn red, and she shrugged. “Well, she is. Victoria's only forty-seven.”
Jamie seemed content to move on. “Even if over half of the Nine think marriage equality should happen, that doesn't mean they think the constitution requires it, or the Supreme Court can demand it.”
Nic continued to stare at her, but Genevieve ignored her. “Jamie, what are you focusing your energy on now that our interview schedule is winding down?”
He politely finished chewing before answering. “HRC is organizing the Run for Equality, and that's taking most of my time these days.”
“Oh really?” Genevieve asked. “I'm running that! At least, I'm registered.”
Jamie laughed. “What's your mileage at these days? You don't have much time left.”
“Don't I know it. My long run last Sunday was nine miles, so I'm almost there. I imagine if the race were tomorrow, I could finish it. My time wouldn't be spectacular.”
“Are you going for a PR?” Jamie asked. “I got a PR last year.”
Genevieve could tell Nic was feeling shut out of the conversation. “Nic, do you run?”
She shook her head and frowned.
“Well, you could organize a bunch of NCLR staff to walk it together. It would be a nice show of solidarity with HRC and HER. A bunch of our people are running or walking it.”
Nic glared at her, but Genevieve could tell she saw no polite way to refuse. “When is this race?” she asked.
“Three weeks,” Jamie said. “We've got some bands lined up to play at miles five, eight, and eleven. We haven't decided on our headliner just yet.”
“Headliner?” Nic asked. “Like, a band?”
“No, we usually set up a stage at the finish line and have someone super cool or inspiring there. Gives the runners something to look forward to. Last year it was Neil Patrick Harris.”
Nic rolled her eyes. “Did he sing and dance?”
Jamie grinned. “But of course.
“Who are you thinking of for this year?” asked Genevieve.
“We're pretty divided,” he answered. “Half of HRC wants to go with another celebrity – someone like Frank Ocean. The other half wants to have that little gay high school boy who got kicked out of his prom for bringing another boy.”
“Why don't you compromise and have our four clients?” Nic mumbled. “They're minor celebrities at this point, and they're significant symbols of the fight for gay rights.”
Jamie and Genevieve stared at her.
“What?” she asked.
Genevieve didn't think it was her place to respond, so she turned to Jamie and waited for his reply.
“That's a really great idea,” he muttered.
Nic looked surprised.
Genevieve just sat back and smiled, happy they were getting along for the moment.
In keeping with their tradition of secrecy – a tradition Genevieve found a little pretentious and a lot annoying – the Justices gave no hint of when decisions for particular cases would come down. Still, Genevieve had been fairly certain the Nine would wait until the final week of June before revealing the decision on her case. It was a guessing game, but she, Nic, Jamie and her four clients decided to wait until June 24 th before arranging to be at the Court – that morning, and every morning thereafter until the decision came down.
The Friday before, it poured. In fact, it was the thunder, and not her alarm, that woke Genevieve that morning. She didn't even bother styling her hair that day – it went straight up into a ponytail. On her walk from her parking spot to the front door of her office building, her umbrella broke. She threw it away in the nearest garbage can and pulled the collar of her trench coat up around her neck. When she entered the building, she nearly slipped on the marble floor. The only thing that saved her from completely biting it was the umbrella stand just inside the door, which she grabbed onto as her heels slid. How fitting.
When she got to her desk, she learned that the office was having network problems and her email wouldn't function until the afternoon at the earliest. Shaking her head, she trudged to the break room, only to discover that the coffee maker was busted and no one had bothered to replace it.
The combination of the torrential downpour, the network failure, and the impending decision from the Court added up to an office filled with distracted and anxious HER employees. By noon it was clear that no productive work would be accomplished that day, and Genevieve sent everyone home. She was the last to leave the office. As she trekked back against the wind and sideways rain, she passed her busted umbrella, sticking out the garbage can where she'd dumped it. It looked like a wilted flower.
She got to her car and hit the unlock button, but the typical flash of headlights and beep never materialized. She hit the button again. Damn. She stuck her key in the door, remembering that people used to enter their cars without battery operated fobs. She slid into the driver's seat and immediately started dripping water onto the floor mat and upholstery. When she turned the key in the ignition, nothing happened. She threw her hands up when she noticed that she'd left her lights on.
After calling AAA, she closed her eyes and reclined her seat to wait. She hoped with all her might that she could concentrate her bad luck on that single day, and that none of it bled into the following week.
Later that day, she ended up hitting construction on her way to the Harbour Club. By the time she emerged from her dressing room, she was ten minutes late. She gave Tori, who was stretching by her door, an apologetic look. Tori shrugged and smiled, which Genevieve took to mean “no worries.” They were about to walk toward the pool when Genevieve noticed a huge bruise on Tori's shoulder. She wondered if pointing was allowed between a lawyer and a Justice in their situation. Since absolutely no one ever paid them any attention anyway, she decided to risk it.
Tori's eyes followed the direction of her finger. She shook her head and mouthed, “clumsy.” Genevieve took a step forward, and for the briefest of moments, she entertained the idea of kissing the darkened skin on Tori's shoulder. When she pulled back, Tori's eyes were wide with surprise.
Both of them knew what she had been about to do. Embarrassed, she tried to shrug it away, but Tori's eyes were sparkling. Suddenly Genevieve regretted that she hadn't gone through with it. Tori nodded her head toward the pool, and Genevieve followed her.
When they left the café that evening and headed to the parking lot, they lingered in between their cars for a moment. Genevieve wanted so badly to say something – anything – even something as inane as “lovely weather we're having.” Damn constitution . Damn Bar Association .
So she was floored when Tori did it anyway. “See you on Monday, Counselor.”After six months of silence, hearing Victoria Willoughby's voice took the strength out of Genevieve's legs and she stood, rooted in the same place, as the Justice got into her car and drove away.
To be continued.
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