Bette emphasized her frustration by dropping the black, overstuffed luggage as soon as she passed the threshold into the motel room, and then she kicked it into the open closet on her right for good measure.
"Are you fine-tuning your petulance or did you forget to take your menopause meds again?" Clara entered the cramped motel room as if it were a luxury suite at the Hilton instead of a beige box at the E-Z Stay Motel. She squeezed past Bette and plopped down on the queen-sized bed that dominated the room. She bounced up and down and patted the brown and rust bedspread beside her. "The bed's firm enough, come check it out."
Bette held firm to her sour mood and paced the gap between the bed and the other three walls of the room. She paused before a faded painting of a country cottage smothered in barely discernable wild flowers. "What's this?"
"It's just a painting, Bette."
Bette pulled a pair of gray-rimmed reading glasses out of her shirt pocket and leaned into the painting. "It's paint-by-number."
"No it's not." Clara scooted her plump frame to the top of the bed and fluffed two pillows behind her back. "Come over here and have a nice rest with me. We've been driving for hours."
"It is paint-by -number. See here." Bette pointed at the thatched roof on the cottage. "They didn't use enough yellow to cover the number 7 underneath."
"Fine." Clara sighed. "The room is crap on a stick, okay? But the Weston over booked, and we arrived too late to hold our reservation." She sat up and patted the bed again. "We're stuck here for the night, hon, so how about we just go to bed?"
Bette folded her reading glasses back into her shirt pocket and walked to the edge of the bed as Clara unclasped her long gray hair and let it cascad over the off-white pillow behind her. Bette let out a long, slow breath and the start of a smile curled the edges of her thin lips. She bent over Clara and kissed the top of her head. "Okay, Mrs. Happy, let's go to bed." She glanced at the red, glowing digits of the motel room clock radio. "It's past midnight anyway."
"And you know your grand kids will be here at the crack of dawn."
Bette's face crinkled into a full-blown grin at the thought of her two young grandkids. They and their mother were the only reason she didn't regret her early, failed marriage. Clara scooted to the edge of the bed, and Bette gave her a hand to stand up.
"How's your back?" Bette led the way into the white-tiled bathroom. It was tiny, but functional, and, she had to admit, clean.
Clara stooped over their luggage and tugged at it.
"Stop that. You'll hurt your back again." Bette pushed her way past Clara and stooped down to unzip the luggage and pulled out their individual toiletry bags, a hard, faux-leather case for her and a paisley zip bag. She passed that one to Clara, who was pushing a fist into her own lower back. "So your back is that good, eh?"
Clara grimaced. "Not too bad for seven hours in the car." She stepped into the bathroom, and Bette squeezed in beside her. They stood side by side over the sink, and Bette studied her partner as they brushed. Clara showed no signs of pain, but Bette knew better. She'd make sure Clara took some Aleve before they went to sleep.
Bette raked a free hand through her short, nearly white hair. "It's about time I got this mop cut."
"Leave it be." Clara brushed her fingers through Bette's hair. "Just because it's curling over your ears doesn't mean it's too long already."
"It aggravates me."
"I think it's cute," Clara said as she ambled back into the main room.
By the time Bette finished in the bathroom, she could hear Clara's quiet snores. She changed into her pajamas, the creased pair that she wore only when they traveled. Clara, who slept in an oversized t-shirt, would laugh at her in the morning, but Bette wouldn't wear her usual boxers to bed. What if someone came into the room and there she was, in just her boxers? It just wasn't practical.She pulled back the covers and slipped quietly into the bed, as quiet as the creaking box spring would let her, that is.
Bette woke up in the night to the dark silhouette of Clara, who stood in front of the window's open drapes. Moonlight filtered in around her, casting the room in patterns of gray.
"Can't sleep?" Bette asked.
"It's my back again," Clara said, turning around.
"You didn't take any medication before bed, did you?" Bette kicked back the covers and sat up. She knew she should have nagged Clara about that earlier.
Clara just shrugged. "I took some a half hour ago."
"Hmph." Bette padded over to their half-opened luggage and fumbled around until her hand grasped another zipped bag. She pulled it out and waved it at Clara. "Some of us think ahead.”
Clara laughed. "I noticed you'd packed the massage oil."
"Come back to bed, and I'll give your back a massage." Bette unzipped the bag to pull out the bottle of lavender oil. To her surprise, she pulled out an entirely different bottle that was also in the small bag. She held it up to Clara with a raised eyebrow.
Clara shrugged her shoulders as she passed by and lay on the bed. "You're not the only one who can think ahead."
Bette shook her head, left the bottle of scented lube on the nightstand and pulled out the massage oil that she'd been searching for. She straddled Clara's legs and lifted the oversized t-shirt. With a small amount of oil in her hand, she slowly worked at Clara's lower back muscles.
Clara moaned. "Oh, that's good. Can you go a little lower?"
Bette lifted Clara's panties and pulled them low over her hips. Clara squirmed underneath her. "Am I doing something wrong?" Bette asked, somewhat annoyed.
"Just lift off me a minute will you?"
Bette rolled off and Clara moved with a quickness that suggested her back pain had lessened dramatically. When Bette watched a pair of panties fly across the motel room, she knew the Aleve had kicked in. With a crooked smile, she shifted to lie down next to Clara. "Not needing a massage anymore?" she asked.
Clara drew slow, languorous circles across Bette's stomach. "I wouldn't say that," she whispered, her voice deep and husky. Clara's fingers toyed with the top button on Bette's pajamas. "You had to wear these, eh?" she teased.
"What if someone comes knocking at the door?" Bette felt a welcome heat growing between her thighs as Clara slowly worked each button loose.
"No one's coming tonight." Clara pushed Bette's top off her shoulders. Bette pulled it the rest of the way off, and it joined Clara's discarded panties. Clara's dilated steel-blue eyes stared down at Bette as she cupped one of Bette's breasts and rolled her thumb over the hardened nipple. Bette sighed, arching into Clara's hand. Not satisfied with the distance between them, Bette pulled her closer. The weight of Clara settled on top of her, and Bette moaned aloud. "I love the feel of your body."
Clara chuckled. "No one would believe a butch like you could be a bottom."
Bette nibbled her earlobe. "Too much talking." She slipped her hand under Clara's t-shirt and roamed over the soft skin until she found a full, round breast in her hand. She caressed the warm underside until she felt Clara's hips pushing hard against her thigh. She dropped her hand lower, brushing against Clara's mound. "Just a minute," she said, shifting to the side and reaching for the bottle of lube on the nightstand. She squeezed out a small amount and warmed it with her thumb and forefinger. The scent of strawberries drifted up to her.
Clara tugged at Bette's pajama bottoms. "Don't you think these should come off?"
"Um, I need a little help with that." Bette kept her moistened fingers in the air while she tried to pull off her pajama bottoms with one hand. Clara sat up and tugged them off for her. "Thank you kindly."
She leaned into Clara, kissed her chin, then her cheek, and finally, brushed her lips across Clara's. Clara pulled her closer and their lips pressed together. Bette opened to Clara's probing tongue and for a moment, was lost in the passionate kiss.
Then Bette focused on Clara's needs. She rolled to the side and slipped her moistened finger along Clara's outer folds. Clara moaned, pushing her hips up to meet her. Bette
traced and teased Clara until she felt her thighs trembling. With years of experience guiding her, Bette dipped one finger into Clara, feeling her natural moistness surround her. Clara held her tight, thrusting against Bette's palm. Working in a faster rhythm, Bette glided in and out, brushing her thumb against Clara's clitoris with each plunge. Perspiration damped Clara's exposed chestwhere the t-shirt had ridden up. Bette's fingers moved faster, feeding the rising passion until she felt Clara's body spasm beside her as she climaxed.
Bette slowed down as Clara relaxed in her arms. She pulled her close, but didn't withdraw, enjoying the feel of Clara's muscles tighten and relax in a slow rhythm around her finger. When Clara recovered, she slowly pulled Bette's hand away, satiated.
They lay in each other's arms quietly for a time, until Bette heard Clara's breathing deepen. She smothered her low chuckle in the pillow, not wanting to wake her lover again. She carefully rolled Clara to the side; just enough to reach the discarded bed blanket and cover the two of them. She squinted at the clock. They had three more hours before her grandchildren would show up. She'd sleep for an hour or so, and then get ready.
A knocking sound interrupted Bette's dreams. Someone pushed against her shoulder. She rolled away, muttering under her breath. The offending hand pushed at her again.
"Come on, get up."
Clara's urgent voice broke through Bette's sleepiness. She opened her eyes, blinking at the extreme brightness of the room. Where were they again? The incessant tapping sounded again, this time accompanied by a pair of very young voices. "Shit!"
Bette tried to roll and kick off the covers at the same time. All she managed to do was tangle herself further in the bed linens. Clara stood over her, laughing.
"Don't just laugh at me, you old battleaxe! Give me a hand."
Still chuckling, Clara yanked at the bed sheets until they pulled away from Bette's half-naked body. Bette glared at Clara, who was already dressed in a pair of tan slacks and a white long-sleeve blouse.
"Why didn't you wake me up?" Bette fumbled around the room, retrieving her discarded nightclothes.
"Because you looked so peaceful." Clara handed her a blue terrycloth robe. Bette wrapped her bathrobe around herself and tied it securely, while Clara unlocked the motel room door. As soon as she opened it, two young girls tumbled in, three year old Dani and four and a half year old Brianne.
Bette squatted down and braced herself as her three-year-old granddaughter dove at her. She remained steady until Brianne, who had taken a moment to throw her arms around Nanna Clara, came running at Bette. She ended up sitting hard on her backside, with two grandchildren rambling at her about their ride to the motel, they're latest toys, and the general excitement of childhood life.
Clara just laughed at her, but her daughter, Emily, took pity and scooped up each child. "Nanna Bette needs to get ready kids. Let's give her a little space to get dressed, okay?"
Two little pouting faces pulled away from Bette and explored the small motel room. Bette pushed herself up off the floor, taking care that her bathrobe stayed wrapped around her. She slipped into the bathroom where Clara had left her a clean change of clothes. She was shutting the door, when she saw little Dani point to a bottle that still sat on the night stand and ask, "What's that?"
Panicking, Bette swung the door open again, but Clara was already there, extricating the bottle of lube from small hands and sliding it into the night stand drawer. She turned toward Bette, saying,"That's just a little something that your Nanna Clara likes to travel with, honey."
Clara winked at Bette, who glowered at her from the bathroom doorway. She closed the door again, but not before catching her daughter trying to cover up her own laughter. "No sense of decency," Bette muttered to herself as she pulled on the clothes that Clara had set aside for her. "None at all."
By the time she emerged from the bathroom, Clara had straightened up the motel room and was regaling the grandchildren with a tale of their drive here that sounded far more exciting than anything Bette remembered. Feeling presentable and less like a weary traveler, Bette announced she was ready to go.
As the motel door closed behind them, Clara looped her arm through Bette's, and they followed their grandchildren outside to greet the day, oblivious to anything and anyone but themselves.
In Keisha's Shadow available in print and ebook!
Author of GCLS Literary Award finalists - Lavender Secrets and Face of the Enemy
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