The Right Thing

By SX Meagher

Part 10

The night before Hennessey was to fly home for the summer Townsend insisted on going out for a celebratory dinner. "I can’t believe I got through my first year of college without a drink, a controlled substance, or a failing grade," she said, laughing.

"You’re being more than a little modest, Townsend. You were less than a quarter point from being on the Dean’s List." She reached across the table and squeezed her friend’s hand. "I couldn’t be more proud of you."

"Thanks," Townsend said, blushing under the praise. "I will concede to working hard, and even admit that it felt good to apply myself. Who knows, I might even decide to go to graduate school some day."

"Those are words I never thought I’d hear," Hennessey said, smiling fondly at her friend. After a beat, she added, "You've made all of the progress this year. You've changed you life in so many ways, and I'm stuck just where I was when the year began. You’ve been so patient with me, and now I’m asking you to wait for over a year to see if I can figure out how to have a sex life."

The blonde sighed, trying to be upbeat but having a difficult time of it. "Well, it is disappointing that we won’t be able to work on it while you’re away. I wish you would have let me pay for a therapist for you, Hennessey."

"I should have," the brunette allowed. "I let my pride get in the way, and now we're both paying the price."

"Pride?"

"Yeah. I've always believed that I can fix any of my problems as long as I work hard enough. But I'm not having a lick of luck with this one. I should have admitted that I was struggling and we might have been able to make some progress."

Townsend gave her a thoughtful look, then asked, "Would you have gone to therapy?"

"Well … I didn't mind talking to that doctoral candidate in the student health service, but I don't know if I'm ready to lie on a couch." She looked at Townsend, her lips pursed. "Where I'm from seeing a therapist is a sign of pretty severe mental illness. I'd have to work up to the full blown therapy thing. But I should have at least gone to talk to the people in the student counseling service again. I let my fears get in the way."

Townsend nodded, saying, "Kinda what I thought."

"It hardly matters now, but I wish I had been more open minded. I feel like I've pulled you into this hole with me, and now you can't get out." Hennessey's head dropped for a few moments, and when she lifted it there were tears in her eyes. "I guess … I guess what I'm saying is that I don’t feel right asking you to wait for me, baby. God knows I hope that things can work out between us, but I can’t guarantee they will."

Covering the chilled hand with her own, Townsend said, "I’m not asking for guarantees, Hennessey. I love you and I don’t have any plans to look for anyone else."

Hennessey gave her a relieved smile and said, "I hoped and prayed you’d say that, but I thought I had to tell you that I wouldn’t blame you if you did."

"Please don't worry about that. Just enjoy your summer and try not to let any of the campers drive you mad."

"I don’t think anyone will challenge your record," Hennessey teased, earning a pinch from her friend.

* * *

The next morning, Hennessey sat in the United Airlines terminal, Townsend at her side. "Do you think you’ll be able to visit me at the end of the summer?" the brunette asked.

"I’ll sure try, but there’s a good chance I’ll be in Europe in August. My mom has an international tour to hawk her latest book, and I might go with her."

"Really?" Hennessey’s brow scrunched into a frown. "You’ve never mentioned that."

"Well, it’s not a firm plan, or anything. She just asked me recently, and I’ve been thinking about it."

The frown remained, and Hennessey's shoulders slumped a little. "Oh. Well, maybe we can meet up in Paris. I arrive on September the tenth."

"That won’t work. I start school the day after Labor Day. That’s a week before you get to Paris."

"Damn, Townsend, I don’t know how I’ll survive if I don’t get to see you before I leave. You know I need to see your sunny face."

Giving her a warm, but sad smile, Townsend nodded. "I know. But sometimes we don’t get what we want. Sometimes things just don’t work out."

"Meaning?" Hennessey asked, her frown etching deeply into her forehead.

"Nothing." Townsend patted the taller woman to reassure her. "I just meant that schedules and plans don’t always work like we think they should. There's not much we can do about this one, stretch. I'll make every effort to visit you, but I'm really looking forward to being with my mom on this book tour."

Hennessey looked at her for a long time, blinking in annoyance when she was called to board. "Will you really try to visit?"

"Of course I will." Townsend wrapped her arms around her friend and gave her an enthusiastic hug. "I’ll try hard."

Hennessey looked at her again, staring deeply into her eyes. "Do you promise?"

"I do," Townsend replied, holding her friend’s gaze. "If nothing else, I’ll come to Paris over winter break. There’s no way I’m going to miss the looks you get when you speak French with that Southern accent. No way on earth!"

"That’s my girl," Hennessey said, smiling at her fondly. She leaned over to kiss Townsend, placing a gentle buss on her forehead. "I love you."

"I love you too, Hennessey. Now, you’d better scoot if you want to get some room in the overhead bin. Go on, now."

Hennessey nodded, then got in the slow-moving line, looking over her shoulder every few seconds to make eye-contact. After she handed her ticket to the gate agent, she turned one last time, but Townsend was gone.

* * *

From: Hennessey Boudreaux <hboudreaux@freemail.com> Sent: May 17, 1996

To: Townsend Bartley <myrealname@teaparty.com>

cc:

Subject:

Townsend,

I know it’s only been an hour since we hung up, but I’ve still got so many things to say to you that I can’t calm my mind enough to sleep.

I want to tell you one more time that I understand perfectly. I know you think I’m lying, but I swear I’m not. I understand how it happened, and I understand that you want to give it a chance. That makes perfect sense, and I think you’d be shortchanging yourself if you didn’t do so.

Jenna is a wonderful person, and I’ve grown very fond of her over the past year. I can’t imagine how hard it’s going to be for her to deal with her feelings for you, but if she’s able to hang in there, I agree that you have to let her know you’ll be there to support her.

The simple fact is this: Jenna seems ready, willing, and able to love you, Townsend, and she’s ready now. While you know how much I care for you, you also know that I haven’t been able to summon my nerve to step up to the plate. Hell, for all I know, I never will. Who knows? Maybe I’m not even a lesbian. God knows I’ve never been attracted to another woman, and I’m no longer physically attracted to men. Maybe I’m just asexual, or maybe I’m afraid to be sexual with anyone. But whatever my problems are, they are real — and they’re keeping me from giving you what you need — what you deserve. If Jenna can do that, I swear I’m in favor of this.

I’m not a selfless person, Townsend. I’m filled with desire for you, and I’ll admit that I want you to wait for me until I’m ready to express that desire. But that’s not fair to you. You can’t spend your life waiting for me, no matter how much I want you to.

So, that’s why I’m not angry. That’s why I’m not pissed off at Jenna or at you. I love you enough to want what’s best for you, Townsend, and if you think this is what’s best — I trust your judgment. I honestly think you’ve grown and matured much more than I have in the past year. I feel a little stuck, to be honest, and this might be the push I need to grow up a little.

I leave for camp on Monday, and I’m quite sure that Jenna won’t be comfortable with you and me being as close as we have been. So, I’ll understand if you’re not able to write every day. Let me hear from you when you can. I love you with all of my heart, and I swear I only want for you to be happy. I hope you find that happiness with Jenna.

Love always,

Hennessey

p.s. When people say that you didn’t wake them up when you call at 3 a.m. — they’re lying <s>.

 

 

 

 

 

* * *

From: Townsend Bartley <myrealname@teaparty.com> Sent: May 17, 1996

To: Hennessey Boudreaux <hboudreaux@freemail.com>

cc:

Subject:

Hi,

I can’t sleep, either, but my cell phone is dead and I can’t find the charger. I wish I could hold you right now, Hennessey, and tell you how much I love you. I feel … I feel so horrible … like I’ve cut off one of my own limbs. But there’s something inside of me that says it’s better this way.

I know you’ve noticed that I’ve been distant for a while. I’ve been trying to figure out how I could be close to you while holding back at the same time. It’s not working for me, sweetheart, and I don’t think it ever will. I don’t know why you can’t commit to loving me sexually, but it’s obvious that it’s a big issue for you. I don’t think it’s just me, Hennessey. You’re obviously a sexual, sensual woman — but you’re almost twenty years old and I’m the only person you’ve ever kissed. You have some work to do to figure out why that’s so, and how you can change the situation — if you want to.

God knows I don’t have a clue if this will work out with Jenna. But it seems to me that both you and I need to experiment a little. I don’t want to beat you over the head with details, but having sex again was very, very weird for me, Hennessey. I’ve never had sex when I’m sober, and in a way, I felt as raw and as vulnerable as Jenna must have.

We’re both still very young, H, and now that I’m sober I feel almost virginal again. Learning about ourselves and our sexuality with other people might be the safest choice at this point in our lives.

I didn’t plan for this to happen, Hennessey, I swear I didn’t. It honestly didn’t cross my mind that Jenna could be sexually attracted to me. But I care for her deeply, and I feel very protective of her. That’s never happened to me before, and I think it’s just what I need at this point in my life. I’ve been focused on myself for so long, that it felt wonderful — weird, but wonderful — to be more concerned about making it safe for her than for myself. I would never tell Jenna this, but I desperately hope there’s still a chance for you and me. That might be a wish that’s never fulfilled, but I want you to know that it’s a wish that will always burn in my heart. You’re a part of me, Hennessey — you’re the very best part. I love you more than I can say, and no matter what happens I hope that’s always true.

Townsend

 

 

* * *

From: Hennessey Boudreaux <hboudreaux@freemail.com> Sent: June 6, 1996

To: Townsend Bartley <myrealname@teaparty.com>

cc:

Subject:

Hi,

I've always tried to avoid writing e-mails when I'm angry, but I'm going to break that rule this morning.

I haven't had a good night's sleep since you slept with Jenna, and if I don't get some of this off my chest I might never sleep again. So please forgive me for being so blunt, but I'm feeling very raw and very bruised.

Here's what is torturing me. You told me that you had no idea that Jenna was attracted to you. That statement has longed in my craw and I can't get rid of it. I can't let go of it because you never said anything about the corollary. Where you attracted to her? I have a strong feeling that you were, Townsend, and I'd like to know if my feeling is correct. I want to know how you felt about her and when you realized you were attracted to her. I know you, and I know that you wouldn't say yes to a sexual encounter with Jenna unless you knew it wouldn't be a one-night-stand. You're not that kind of person any longer, Townsend, and you yourself said that you were protective of her. You don't protect a sexually inexperience Mormon woman by having a sexual fling and then abandoning her. So, how did you feel about her, and when did you know that you had feelings?

Given that I'm sure you did have feelings for her, why didn't you tell me about them? Don't you think I deserved to know that you were interested in another woman? I sure as fuck do! When I left Boston you told me not to worry – that you weren't interested in anyone else, and you had no plans to get involved with another woman. Were you lying to me?

Now this is the hard part, but I want to know. Who made the first move? I have a hard time believing that Jenna did. I know this won't make me feel better, but I have to know how it was between you. I have to know who started the ball rolling.

I also want to know what you mean when you say that sex with her was weird for you. What does that even mean?!? God knows I'm inexperienced, but I don't have language for that. Isn't sex just sex? I feel like you're operating at a higher level of understanding and experience and I'm so stupid that I can't even translate your words into meaning.

I've been trying to sort this out on my own, but I'm not having any luck at all. I'm short of temper and I find that I'm overly critical of my students. I don't want to make this camp a bad experience for the girls, so I'm begging you, T, help me out. I think that's the least that you can do.

Hennessey

* * *

"How am I supposed to call you when you have your cell phone off all day," Townsend said, letting her annoyance show when she finally got hold of Hennessey that night.

"I've got a job to do," the brunette said. "I can't have my phone ringing in the middle of class." She paused for a moment and said, "Is the entire tenor of our conversation going to be like this? If it is, I can make myself miserable. I don't really need help in that department."

Townsend was quiet for a while, trying to control her temper. "I'm sorry, Hennessey, but your e-mail really pissed me off."

"Pissed you off? I pissed you off?"

"Yes, you pissed me off. Your note was so accusatory, Hennessey, and I've done nothing to deserve that."

"I'm the one who's in a position to decide that," Hennessey snapped.

"No, you most fucking certainly not! You can have as many suspicions as you want, but I'm the only one who knows what went on between Jenna and me. And if you want to know what happened, I suggest you take that high and mighty attitude and tone it down a couple of yards. Now do you want have a civilized conversation, or not?"

"Yes, yes I do," Hennessey said, sounding more like herself. "I'm just beside myself with anger and frustration, Townsend. I feel like you lied to me, and I can't tolerate that."

"I did not–not once, lie to you, Hennessey. You can believe that or not, but it's the truth. Now if you want to know what happened I'll tell you. But don't bitch about it if I tell you more than you want to hear."

"I want to hear everything," Hennessey said. "I promise I won't complain."

Townsend took in a deep breath and let it out slowly, trying to calm down enough to relate her story. "Okay. Here goes. I've always thought that Jenna was an attractive woman. She's pretty, but in a nice, clean, wholesome way. She looks like she could do an ad for milk or some really pure soap."

"Yeah, that's Jenna," Hennessey agreed. "She's not a weathered old crone like me."

"Hennessey, will you stop feeling so fucking sorry for yourself!" As soon as she said it, Townsend regretted it. "Oh, shit, I didn't mean to say that."

"Yes, you did," Hennessey said. "You're just sorry that you said it out loud." Her voice was hard and cold, two tones that Townsend had almost never heard from her friend.

"Fine. I am sorry I said it out loud. But you are feeling sorry for yourself and it's getting in the way of my telling you what happened. Now do you want to know, or not?"

"Yes, I want to know. I'll try to keep my opinions to myself."

"Great. That's just what I want." Townsend sighed, knowing it was going to be a long night. "As I said, I've always thought Jenna was pretty, but I also think that Halle Berry is pretty. I gave as much thought to sleeping with one of them as the other."

"Until …"

"Until the night it happened," Townsend said. "I was down about your leaving, Hennessey. I can usually hide my feelings pretty well, but Jenna sat me down that night and asked me what was going on. I tried to weasel out of the conversation, but she was very determined."

"I bet," Hennessey muttered, but Townsend chose to ignore her comment.

"I don't know why I did it, but I told her the truth. I told her that I was in love with you, but that we hadn't been sexual with each other."

"Because I'm frigid," Hennessey said, sounding terribly wounded.

"No," Townsend said, her voice soft and empathetic. "I told her that you were trying to protect both of us from heartache. I told her that you wanted to make sure that I wouldn't drink again, and you were being more careful than I thought you had to be. That's all I told her, Hennessey, I swear that."

Sniffling back her tears, Hennessey said, "I believe you. I'm sorry I'm being such an asshole, Townsend, but I'm so fucking hurt."

"I know that, love, I really do."

"Then what happened?" the brunette asked.

"She asked if I thought you and I would ever get together, and I said I wasn't sure. I said that it wouldn't happen for more than a year, and that I was getting doubtful that we'd ever be able to take the leap."

"You and me both," Hennessey said.

"Yeah, well, she came over and sat next to me on my bed and told me about what had happened when we were on spring break. She was having an ice cream cone and was approached by a woman who I used to sleep with. Now that's not a small group, but I think I know who it was. This woman told Jenna that she'd seen the two of us on the island and asked her a few questions. Jenna blithely told her about being friends, and the woman said that I didn't make friends, I just fucked women until I found a new one who caught my eye, and then I fucked her."

"Ouch," Hennessey said.

"Yeah, well, I can't fault the accuracy of her account, just the inappropriateness. Jenna, as you can guess, was pretty freaked out by the whole thing, but she said that she'd spent the previous months praying about it and seeking guidance. Everyplace she looked told her that women having sex with women was a massive sin, but she slowly admitted to herself that she was attracted to me. I swear that I'd never picked up on it before, Hennessey, but she told me that she was in love with me, and that if I had feelings for her too she'd do her best to get rid of the years of negative messages she's been bombarded with."

"So you took her up on her offer," Hennessey said flatly.

"Yes, I did. I still don't know if I did the right thing, but I did what I thought was right. I don't mean to sound like Mother Teresa, but my heart really went out to Jenna. For a girl like her to fight through all of the bullshit she's been told … well, I was very moved."

"What is this, Townsend, a mercy fuck?"

There was dead silence on the other end and it lasted for a long while. Finally, Townsend said, "I can't believe you said that to me. Do you have no feeling for who I am?"

"Shit. I'm sorry, Townsend. I … I don't feel like myself tonight, and I probably shouldn't have even written to you. I should have waited until I had my feelings under control."

"NO!"

"What? What in the hell are you yelling about?"

"I don't want you to control your feelings, Hennessey. That's why we're in the situation we're in! You have to learn to trust your feelings and give in to some of your desires! You're so buttoned up that it's stifling you." Her voice grew soft and tender, and she said, "It's what's keeping us apart."

"Oh, Townsend, I want to be with you. I want you so much."

"I want you too, Hennessey, but aside from the bus stop incident it had been a year since we kissed, and it's going to be another year before we can kiss again."

"So you're with Jenna because she's available? That hardly seems fair to her."

"Hennessey, I don't use people anymore. I've told Jenna exactly how I feel about you. Neither one of us thinks that we'll be together until death parts us. Jenna is just discovering that she's attracted to women and she wants to see where those feelings lead her. I know what I want, but I don't think I'm going to get it, so it's time for me to start dating again."

"So you don't think we have a chance," Hennessey said, her tone flat.

"That's not what I said. All I said was that I can't put my entire future in your hands, baby. I need to live my life and you need to live yours. If you get to the point that you feel ready to love a woman and I'm single, I'd love for that woman to be me."

"That sounds pretty unlikely, Townsend. You're such a catch that you'll never be single."

"Thanks for the compliment, stretch, but I'm also very discerning now. I'm not in love with Jenna yet, but she's kind and thoughtful and a very good person. She's a lot like you, Hennessey, and that's why I'm willing to take a chance on this relationship."

"And Jenna's okay with the fact that you're feelings are … divided at best?"

"I told her everything, Hennessey. That's all that I can do. I told her that I'm not ready to settle down and get married, that I'm in the market for a girlfriend–not a wife. I can't be more honest than that."

"What happened after you had this discussion?"

"Why do you want to know this?" Townsend asked. "How will this help you?"

"I just want to know. Please don't keep me in the dark, baby."

"I don't think this is a good idea, but I trust that you know what you need," Townsend said. She took a breath and said, "Jenna was struggling with her feelings for me, and she asked if I'd kiss her. I did, and … she liked it."

"Uhm … I guessed that part," Hennessey said.

"We just played around for a while," Townsend explained. "I thought we'd leave it at that, but she insisted that she wanted more."

"Only Jenna wanted more?" Hennessey asked, her tone implying that the question was rhetorical.

"No, I wanted more too. Holding her and feeling her body against mine set me on fire, Hennessey. All of the sexuality we've both been suppressing just bubbled up. Before I knew it, we were both naked and making love."

"Does she … please you?" Hennessey asked, her voice sounding strained.

"Only sometimes," Townsend admitted. "She's got a lot of programming that she's trying to get past, Hennessey. Sometimes it gets overwhelming for her and she has to stop. But when she's able to really be there and focus on the pleasure, rather than the bad messages, she's … she's learning to express herself," she said, trying hard not to be too graphic.

"She's doing better than I ever did," Hennessey said, "and I didn't get a lot of negative messages. I guess I'm just fucked up."

"Hennessey please, please do what I asked of you. You've got the whole summer, and I'm sure you could find a therapist in Hilton Head. You could talk to someone and have a place to vent your anger as well as your feelings about sex. Please, baby."

"I'll think about it," Hennessey replied, giving the impression that she would do no such thing.

"Fine." Townsend sighed and asked, "Anything else?"

"Yeah. What did you mean when you said that sex was weird for you since you stopped drinking?"

"Hennessey, I've been doing everything through a haze of alcohol since I was a kid. I've never been vulnerable with another person. I've never really shown anyone what was in my heart. It's a whole new experience, and it's been pretty amazing. Sometimes it's terrifying, but sometimes it's such a blissful feeling that I'm simply blown away."

"I wanted to be the one to blow you away," Hennessey said, her tears starting again.

"I wanted that, too," Townsend agreed. "But we might still have that one day, baby."

"Uhm … I don't feel comfortable talking like that," Hennessey said. "You're with Jenna now, and I'm not going to be a part of breaking you two up. I'd really prefer it if we can just be friends from now on. I can't have it any other way."

"Fine," Townsend said quietly. "I'll try. Anything else?"

"No, that about covers it. I'll think about what you said and we'll talk again. Thanks for responding so quickly."

"That's it? You're gonna hang up?"

"Yeah, I think so. I'm so tired," Hennessey said. "I might be able to sleep tonight–now that I know you didn't make the first move on Jenna. That image has been haunting me for weeks now."

"I'm sorry, Hennessey. I really am. For everything."

"So am I," Hennessey said. "I'm sorry I couldn't be there for you, I'm sorry I wasn't able to have sex, and I'm sorry that you couldn't wait for me. I'm sorry about so many things that I'm sick of being sorry."

"I still love you, Hennessey," Townsend said softly.

"Thanks. Uhm … I'm gonna go now. G'night."

Townsend hung up, and went for a long walk around Boston, struggling to get her emotions under control while being bombarded with images of nothing but Hennessey.

* * *

From: Hennessey Boudreaux <hboudreaux@freemail.com> Sent: June 10, 1996

To: Townsend Bartley <myrealname@teaparty.com>

cc:

Subject:

Hi, buddy,

I've had some time to go over the things we spoke about the other day, and I'm feeling much better. I know I was an asshole through most of the conversation, and I'm very happy that you didn't hang up on me. Thanks for hanging in there and helping me through the worst of my anger.

I'm in a pretty good place with everything that's happened, and I'm sleeping better, so things must be pretty good in my head, too. I'm starting to enjoy my classes, and the students are no longer trying to transfer out of my sections, so I must be projecting a better mood, too <s>.

The main message I want to give you is that I appreciate the fact that you've gone out of your way to make things easier for me, Townsend. I know it was hard for you to have the phone conversation the other day, and I want you to know how much I appreciate it.

I'm going to do my best to be the friend you deserve, Townsend. It's going to be hard, but I'll try to keep my desire for you from getting in the way, and I'm confident I'll be able to do it. I still want you to come visit, but I doubt you'll be able to, and I swear I'm okay with that. I realize that you have to put Jenna first now. That's the way it is, and the way it should be.

I know it might be uncomfortable, but if you ever need anyone to talk to, I'm here for you. I know you as well as anyone in your life, and if I can help smooth the road for you and Jenna, I'm at your disposal.

Even though we may never be lovers, I'll continue to love you for the rest of my life, Townsend. You're the best friend I'll ever have, and I'll do my best to make that always be true.

Love,

Hennessey

 

From: Townsend Bartley <myrealname@teaparty.com> Sent: July 30, 1996

To: Hennessey Boudreaux <hboudreaux@freemail.com>

cc:

Subject:

Hi there,

As I told you last week when we talked we're leaving tomorrow, and since I’m not going to be taking my laptop with me this is probably the last time I’ll be able to e-mail you for a while. But I’ll write to you the hard way. You’re worth it.

I’m still amazed that my mom seems so excited about taking Jenna with us to Europe. Mom still has her issues, and she still drives me mad a good percentage of the time, but I’ve got to admit that she’s really come through for me this summer.

Jenna’s parents have been supportive in their own way. She thought she’d have a hard time convincing them to let her stay in Boston over the summer, but when my dad got her an internship at his firm, they gave in. Who would have guessed that my parents’ intervention would let me have an opportunity to make a go of my first stable relationship? <s>

Jenna’s a long way from telling her family about us — or telling anyone else, for that matter. She won’t even hold my hand in public, and she’s paranoid about anyone at school finding out — but she has a lot of issues to deal with, so I’m being patient. Yeah, that’s right. I’m being patient. Wonders never cease <s>.

I wish I could have written more this summer, but she’s pretty jealous of our relationship, Hennessey, and I can’t say I blame her. I know that over time she’ll get comfortable with your being my best friend, but right now it’s hard for her. I also don’t think it’s wise to use you as a sounding board for the problems she and I have. It’s sweet of you to offer, but I don’t think it’s fair to you or to Jenna. So, I’ll continue to bore my therapist to death — since that’s why I’m paying her <s>.

Being in a relationship is harder than I would have thought. I guess I fell for the Hollywood hype about everything being easy once you hooked up. But Jenna and I are working hard at this, and it feels good to commit to something.

I know you’re going to love Europe, Hennessey, and I’d give anything to be with you when you arrive. I’m still going to try to come visit you over winter break, but I know you’ll understand if I’m not able to. I could probably talk Jenna into coming with me — but I think that would turn into a disaster. So, if she’s still feeling jealous, I think we’ll have to wait until you return to see each other. Just know that you’re never far from my thoughts. I don’t have to see you to feel close to you, Hennessey, and I hope the same is true for you.

Love,

Townsend

 

 

 

* * *

"Hey, Jenna, how many pairs of shoes are you going to bring?" Townsend was speaking into the depths of the closet in her old bedroom at her parent's house in Boston. She was frowning at how she could possibly have as many pairs of shoes lying on the floor while none of them seemed attractive enough to take to Europe with her. She couldn't hear her lover's reply, partially because her closet was so large, and partially because her cell phone started to ring. "I can't hear you, honey, I'll be out in a minute." Pulling the device from her pocket she flipped it open and said, "Hello?"

"Got a minute?"

"Sure, Hennessey. Uhm … let me make sure we have some privacy." She poked her head out of the closet just in time to see Jenna walking down the hall, heading for the bathroom. Townsend closed the closet door and sat down on the floor. "I'm ready. What's going on?"

"I'm scared," Hennessey said, her voice starting to quake.

"Scared? Oh, baby, what are you afraid of?"

"I'm afraid of leaving home, being out of the country for a whole year, missing my grandparents, losing you." She sniffed loudly, then said, "Mostly losing you."

"Oh, Hennessey, my sweet, sweet baby. I'll always be your friend. Always."

"I want, I need, a lover, Townsend. I want you as my lover, and I won't ever be happy until I have you."

"Hennessey, I know you're sad now, but give it some time. You're going to be in such a wonderful place, and you'll be learning and experiencing so much. I promise that you'll be so enthralled that you won't have time to focus on our relationship."

"I'll never be too busy to focus on you, Townsend. You fill my mind and my heart. I'd do anything to have another chance. Anything."

"Hennessey, you know I love you, but you need to go to Paris. You need to broaden your mind and your outlook. You need to be open to any new experiences that you encounter. Heck, you might meet some lovely mademoiselle and have a fling. Don't focus on the past, baby. Look to the future."

"I want you to be my future," Hennessey said. "I always will."

"Then spend this year getting rid of the things that stop you from living the life you want. You can't have a future if you're not fully living in the present."

Sighing heavily, Hennessey was silent for a moment, then said, "I'll cancel my plans and return to Harvard this year if you'll give me another chance. I'll go to therapy seven days a week. I'll do anything to make it work."

Forcing herself to remain strong, Townsend softened her voice and said, "I can't do that to Jenna or to you. It wouldn't be fair to either of you. I've dedicated myself to my relationship with Jenna, and I won't give up on it. And you have to figure things out for yourself, Hennessey. I can't do it for you, and I can't make it any easier for you. I'm sorry, but that's the truth."

Once again, Hennessey was quiet for a while. Then she cleared her throat and said, "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have called."

"Oh, sweetie, don't be sorry. I'm glad I got to talk to you."

"No, no, I'm not sorry that we spoke. I'm sorry that I tried to pressure you into taking me back. I don't know what in the hell gets into me, Townsend. I call you intending to just say goodbye and wish you a good trip and I find myself begging like a child."

"Hey, don't be so hard on yourself. You know how my therapist told me that I was stuck at fourteen because that's when I started to drink?"

"Yeah."

"Well, it's a little like that for you. This is the first relationship you've ever had, honey. Most girls start dating when they're fourteen or fifteen. You didn't start until you were almost eighteen and as soon as things got serious you pulled back. You've got to move through the things that most girls get out of the way when they're still in high school. Your brain is very, very mature, babe, but your emotions have some catching up to do."

"I guess you could be right," Hennessey said quietly. "I don't like it, and I hate to agree that I'm that immature, but I guess I have to."

"You're not immature, Hennessey. You're one of the most mature people I've ever met. You're just going to have to progress through some stages that will probably be painful for you."

"Why is growing up always so painful?" Hennessey asked.

"Got me. I think it seriously sucks."

"Seriously," Hennessey agreed, chuckling softly.

"That's my girl," Townsend said. "I knew I could get you to laugh at least once."

"That wasn't really a laugh, but I think it's the best you're gonna get," Hennessey said.

"Have a good time in Paris, stretch, and know that I'm thinking of you … always."

"Me too, baby. You're always in my thoughts. Please try to forget my earlier begging. Rack it up to temporary insanity."

"If I were twice as crazy as you are I'd still be saner than I am now," Townsend said, laughing softly. "You're still my role model."

"I don't know how wise that is, but I appreciate the compliment."

"I've gotta get going now, honey. I'm not even half finished with packing and you know how long it takes me to get ready."

"I'll let you go," Hennessey said, the truth of the words hitting her like a blow. "I love you, Townsend."

"And I love you, stretch. I'll write as often as I can."

"Thanks. I'll do the same. Bye."

"Bye-bye." Townsend hung up and flopped down on the floor. Lying motionless for several moments she felt her heart beating wildly while she struggled to keep from crying. Oh, Hennessey. I love you so much. Please come back to me someday.

* * *

From: Hennessey Boudreaux <hboudreaux@freemail.com> Sent: September 09, 1996

To: Townsend Bartley <myrealname@teaparty.com>

cc:

Subject: Paris et al

Hi,

As usual, you were right <s>. Now that I'm here, I feel better – much better. I still miss you like crazy, and I'd give anything to be with you, but I'm slowly starting to put things in perspective. I'm going to do my best to grow up a little this year. I need to be a little bit more like you, T – not afraid to take risks.

The school is very good, very challenging, and the amount of work they give us keeps me from having much time to lament my wretched life. Okay, so maybe it's not wretched, but I feel so much more dramatic in Paris <s>.

There are fifteen of us Americans, and we've banded together in a nice clique. Ten women and five men, so we've got the upper hand <s>. I'm the only one from the South, so I still don't have anyone to wax rhapsodic with, but there are some nice people in the group. I'll tell you all about them when I have time – if you're interested that is.

Of course, we Americans are not the only students. There's a big group from Germany, six from Poland, a few from Austria, about a dozen from Spain and ten from Italy. Everyone has a pretty good foundation in French, so that's how we all communicate when we're together. But each group tends to hang out with others from its own country – which only makes sense. At the end of a long day, it's nice to speak without having to think about it – and without being corrected for our poor grammar or, in my case, for having the world's worst French accent <s>.

I could tell you all about Paris, but I know you've been here dozens of times, so I won't take your time doing that. My main message is that I love you with all my heart, and I want you to be happy. I'm sorry that I called you before I left, T; that was thoughtless of me. I put you in a very awkward position, and I hope you can forgive me for that. I like Jenna, and I think she's very good for you. Part of loving someone is wanting what's best for her, and I think you have it. In retrospect, it would have been a mistake for both of us if I'd come back to Boston this year. Thanks for helping me keep my head on straight.

Even though I'm far from home, you're always with me, T. You'll always be a part of me, no matter who you're romantically involved with. I'm going to try to be a good friend to you, and support you in every way that I can. I'll be very busy, but I'll make time to write to you as often as you want. You can tell me anything, and I'll keep it in the strictest confidence.

I hope things are going well for you, and that you're able to write back soon.

All my love,

Hennessey

 

 

 

From: Tamara Armstrong <tcarmstrong@masscollege.edu> Sent: September 11, 1996

To: Hennessey Boudreaux <hboudreaux@freemail.com>

cc:

Subject:

Hi buddy,

I hope this doesn't upset you too much, but Jenna saw your e-mail, and the shit really hit the fan. I'm using my friend Tammy's e-mail account because Jenna's so suspicious that I'm afraid she'll go through my sent items when I'm not home.

I'm not as honest and forthright with Jenna as I am with you, Hennessey, but that's only because she feels so unsure of herself and of us. She's sure that I'll go back to you as soon as you return from France, and now that she's seen your note, she's surer of that than ever.

I know you didn't have any way of knowing she'd snoop, but I can't take the risk, baby. I hope you understand, but we're going to have to be much more circumspect in our communication. I hate to do that, Hennessey, but I don't see any other way.

You know how interested I am in everything that's going on with you, but I think I'll have to call you to get up to date. E-mail is just not going to work.

If you need to talk to me, send me an e-mail and say something like, "I can't wait to talk to you when I get back" or something equally innocuous. I'll call you as soon as I can if you send me a message like that. I wish there were some other way, but I can't think of it.

Feel free to reply to this address. I told Tammy that you'd probably write back. She's pretty discrete; I don't think she'll read your reply.

I love you, and I'm sorry this is turning out so badly.

T

 

 

 

From: Hennessey Boudreaux <hboudreaux@freemail.com> Sent: September 30, 1996

To: Tamara Armstrong <tcarmstrong@masscollege.edu>

cc:

Subject: For Townsend

Hi,

You can't imagine how bad I feel about this, T. I never, ever meant to cause any trouble for you, but it sure seems that's just what I've done.

I appreciate your attempt to find a way for me to contact you when I need to, but I don't feel comfortable with that. The only way to have a good relationship is to be as honest as you can possibly be ¾ and finding ways to talk without Jenna's knowledge is not going to help you two ¾ at all.

I have friends here, T, and there are people I can talk to. I appreciate your devotion to our friendship, but it's time for me to branch out and bring some other people into my inner circle. In the long run, it will be good for me. I need to open up more, and I'm going to look at this as a growth opportunity.

I still have Robin to write to, and she's very good at keeping me up to date on things in Boston. I think I'll ask her to call you every once in a while and check up on you ¾ just to put my mind at ease. Other than that, I think we should keep our correspondence to a minimum. It's not what I want, and I know it's not what you want, but I think it's something we have to do. You have to devote yourself to Jenna, and having a clandestine correspondence with me is just plain wrong.

I'll be fine, Townsend, and I know you will be, too. We don't have to talk frequently to remain best friends. No matter where you are, you're still in my heart.

Always,

Hennessey

 

 

From: Hennessey Boudreaux <hboudreaux@freemail.com> Sent: December 20, 1996

To: Townsend Bartley <myrealname@teaparty.com>

cc:

Subject: Christmas greetings

Hi pal,

Just a note to wish you a very merry Christmas. I hope you and Jenna get to spend most of your break together and that you have a wonderful time.

With the price of airfares, I can't afford to come home, so I'll be in Paris for the holiday. Luckily, I won't be alone. Six of my American friends will remain here, and we'll celebrate the holiday together. The mother of a friend of mine is French, and her family is coming over for a couple of weeks. They promise to take all of us orphans out for a nice meal on Christmas, so it should be fun.

Not much news, other than the fact that I'm working harder than I ever have. It's so much more difficult to have to learn everything through a foreign language. Even though I thought my French was good, it's still a chore for me. I can't wait until I begin to think in French. My instructors tell me that most people begin to do that after six months or so, but they don't hold out much hope for me <s>. They have given up trying to improve my accent, since I am a hopeless case. You'd think they'd never heard a Southern accent before !<bg>

I'm not sending Christmas presents, but I promise to bring home something nice for you and Jenna. It will be delayed, but it's always nice to have Christmas in June, don't you think?

Be well, and enjoy the holidays.

Joyeux Noel, ma petite chou!

Hennessey

 
 

 

From: Townsend Bartley <myrealname@teaparty.com> Sent: May 19, 1997

To: Hennessey Boudreaux <hboudreaux@freemail.com>

cc:

Subject: Summer?

Hi there,

I haven't heard from you since there was snow on the ground. How in the heck are you?

I know your term is over soon, and I don't have a clue about your plans. I assume you'll be back in South Carolina, but if you're coming through New York or Boston, I'd love to hear from you or see you if possible.

Let me know your plans, buddy.

Townsend

From: Hennessey Boudreaux <hboudreaux@freemail.com> Sent: May 20, 1997

To: Townsend Bartley <myrealname@teaparty.com>

cc:

Subject:

Hi,

You’re gonna laugh, but I started to write this note in French. It’s gonna be a huge adjustment for me to switch back to English full-time, so bear with me. I’m not trying to be a show-off, but I even dream in French now. That’s gonna go over big at home, I’m sure <s>.

As you guessed, I'm going to be back in South Carolina for the summer. Here's my itinerary. I arrive at JFK on June 6. I’m on Delta, and the flight gets in at noon. I leave for Atlanta at around 6:00 p.m., and I’ll call you between flights. I tried to get a direct flight to Boston, but things didn’t work out, so I’m stuck in New York. Please don’t even think of coming to New York to meet me. It would be wonderful to spend six hours with you, of course, but with delays and security, there’s a good possibility that I won’t have much time, if any, between flights.

I hope you know that both you and Jenna are welcome to come visit me in South Carolina. I don’t know how she feels about sleeping on the floor, but we’d love to have you both.

You looked so different in the last picture you sent me, Townsend. You’ve become such a confident looking woman now ¾ there’s hardly a trace of the troubled girl I first met three years ago. Moreover, you look happy ¾ and that’s what I’ve always wanted for you.

I’ll miss you this summer, but in any case, I’ll see you in the fall. My last year in Boston ¾ unless I don’t get accepted to any Southern graduate programs <s>.

Love,

H

 

 

 

* * *

Continued in Part 11

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