She had fallen out of love. First with the girl she had been dating for one month, three weeks and two days and, by association, with the place. It was time to face the truth and be a grown woman about it. Of course, it would be easy enough to hook up her car to the trailer and disappear with the Tiny Blue House, but she had been raised better than that. It wasn’t the first time she’d had to start a conversation with, “There’s something we have to talk about…” and would very likely not be the last, but she hated it all the same. She didn’t like to hurt her girlfriends, and breaking up did hurt. On the other hand, when it was over, it was over and no amount of wishing it could be different was going to change the facts.
Open the door of her apartment, Molly Knowles, take a deep breath and…
“This isn’t what it looks like. I can explain it…”
Sure, strictly speaking French kissing another woman could be considered an alternative form of exchanging healthy bacteria, but wasn’t it more according to Occam’s razor that the woman she was about to leave had already left her?
“Well, you made it pretty easy on me.” There was a flash of hurt pride, then Molly grinned and continued, “Thanks for the lovely weeks and be happy. See you!”
It was a perfect day, with a gentle sun and an even gentler breeze. A day to laze around and luxuriate in the feeling that she was free again without having to hurt a woman who deserved nothing but good things in her life. It was time, however, to leave for a place she didn’t know yet.
Before she lashed down all movable objects inside the Tiny Blue House in order to keep everything safe, Molly made a big mug of tea and unfolded the old map on the grass, putting a small stone on every corner to prevent the paper from going on a journey all of its own. She stared at the map, contemplating the possibilities.
One thing she was sure of—anywhere where people lived, there would be food. People made the best of a less than ideal economic situation or lived in the middle of a hub of creative abundance and more than enough money. There were exclusive restaurants with big-name chefs and simple eateries where mom and pop cooked whatever generation after generation had always eaten. Molly would eat at their tables and when she liked what she tasted, she would step inside the kitchen and ask, “Can I observe? Will you teach me? Do you have a job for me?” And while many cooks guarded their creations and were not willing to share all the details with a stranger, most were happy to show her a few of their personal tricks of the trade as soon as they had established she was honest in her praise and genuinely curious. She loved food, and that made her one of the tribe of lovers of all things edible.
She walked around the map, recognizing places she had already visited. There had been a town in rural Texas where a woman had refused to believe that she couldn’t barbecue a whole pig as well as any man, let alone a man who had a reputation to lose. The meat had been so succulent, it had brought tears to Molly’s eyes. That night she had lain in the strong arms of the cook and kissed her dark brown skin. “Give it time,” the woman had whispered in her ear. “It’s half of the secret.”
In New York there had been an Italian family she had believed could exist only in movies, as numerous and loud as they were, with Nonna reigning over the kitchen and putting Molly to work on making the biggest pan of ragu she had ever seen. And of course she had kissed one of the many granddaughters when no one had been looking.
She had eaten a hamburger on homemade bread in a place that was all blindingly white tiles on the walls and scrubbed wood on the floor, and it had been a revelation of near-religious magnitude. It had been one of the very few occasions she hadn’t been welcome in the kitchen, but could she blame a god or goddess for not having wanted to converse with a mere mortal?
During one autumn month, she had parked the Tiny Blue House on the land of a big, proud butch who only cooked with the vegetables and potatoes she was able to grow in her own garden and the meat from animals she had hunted with her own gun. Molly had made her first, and only, kill, and while she admitted she would never do it again if she could avoid it while still eating meat, she no longer fooled herself about the reality of even the best way of not being a vegetarian. For good or bad, she was part of it all. She had loved that woman for that lesson, and had thanked her with her whole body.
She took a quarter from her pocket and tossed it on the map. If she was able to get there with her house on a trailer, she would go there.
So Seatown near the Atlantic Ocean it was.
Molly finished her tea and spent the rest of the day preparing for the journey, which would probably take her four to five days, depending on the distractions and the weather. She was definitely ready for something new.
* * * *
After five and a half days, she parked her car on an empty parking lot near a path that led through the dunes. The air was filled with the scent of the ocean. She couldn’t quite hear the waves from the distance she was standing, but even blindfolded she would have known where she was.
She had to find a spot where she could park her house legally, preferably a place with electricity and clean running water, but for now all she needed was a decent meal, because that meal would be one of the deciding factors for how long she was going to stay.
“What a charming little house.”
Molly turned her head and glanced into the face of a woman dressed in an immaculate white costume. She looked old enough to be her grandmother, though something about her told Molly she probably wasn’t the marrying kind, if she had indeed been able to withstand the considerable pressure to find a good husband back in the fifties.
“It is.” She smiled. “I’m Molly and I’m obviously new here. Am I correct that you have lived here for a while?”
“Let me guess, you are in need of a good place to eat and somewhere to park your trailer? I’m Betty McHall, by the way. Nice to meet you.”
“Nice to meet you too, Mrs. McHall…”
“Betty, if you please. At eighty-six I no longer care about formalities.”
Molly shook her hand. “Then Betty it is. I wonder if you could give me some advice on where to eat in Seatown? I also need a place to stay for a while with my trailer without the risk of being fined and chased away.”
“I know my wife well enough to know she will be thrilled to have a sweet little house like yours on our grounds. It’s a short walk from the sea and with your healthy young legs, less than half an hour from the town’s center. There is a connection to electricity, water and waste disposal. Does that sound okay to you?” Betty McHall offered.
“That sounds wonderful.” Molly had met with a wealth of warmth and generosity while traveling with her house on a trailer, but she never made the mistake of taking it for granted.
“We should try our best to care for family whenever we can, don’t you think?”
Molly understood perfectly what Betty meant, though she wondered for a moment how she had guessed correctly, since she knew she didn’t read as particularly lesbian at first impression, with her long red hair and preference for colorful clothing. Then she remembered the small rainbow sticker on her car with the intertwined female symbols. “I totally agree.”
Betty pointed in the distance. “You see that line of trees? Go left there until you reach a thatched cottage called the English Rose. Tell Mike, or Michaela for anyone who isn’t me, that I sent you. I’ll be there after I’ve done some shopping.”
“I can’t detach the car right now, but I’m happy to accompany you to the store so you can get a lift back with me,” Molly offered. “Or even do the shopping for you, if you prefer that.”
“That’s sweet of you, but I need my daily exercise. Doctor’s orders.” Betty McHall started to walk away, then turned back and said, “I’ll ask for a table for you at the Seatown hotel. You love food?”
Molly didn’t have to think about her answer. “I live for it. It’s why I travel, so I can learn from the best, wherever I find them.”
“Then you have arrived at the right place.” Betty continued her walk and Molly climbed into her car again and drove in the direction Betty had shown her.
* * * *
A woman about the same age as Betty McHall, only a head taller and more than a few pounds heavier, opened the door.
“Betty sent me. I’m Molly.”
“Ah, another lost soul.”
“I’m not lost.”
“But someone else might be.” The woman stretched out her hand. “I’m Michaela Vervilla. Welcome to Seatown. Charming mobile home you have there.”
“Thank you. She’s called the Tiny Blue House and I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t love her.”
“If you drive to the end of that path, there’s a small field surrounded by hedges. You’re welcome to stay as long as you like.”
“What do you ask a night? I’m sure it will be more than reasonable, but I prefer to know in advance how much I need to reserve for my stay.”
Michaela shrugged. “Betty and I never got any poorer from the guests that stayed with us.”
“Water and electricity are not free. I’m not penniless.” Molly hated the idea of getting something she hadn’t deserved yet. Sooner or later there was a price to pay anyway, so better to ask for it right now.
“Proud youth.” Michaela shook her head and chuckled. “Don’t you think that at our age my wife and I know enough about our hearts and our own financial situation to know if we can afford to be generous?”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend.”
“You didn’t. Now, if I asked you if you are able to attach the connections to water and electricity yourself, you might actually have some reason to be insulted.”
Molly laughed. “I’m not a natural in all things technical, but after a while everything becomes routine. Well, up to a certain point. But, truth be told, I’d rather spend a day in a kitchen than five minutes in a mechanic’s workshop.”
“So I gather you’re a cook, either by profession or hobby?”
“Professional, and not a half bad one either, if I say so myself.”
“That’s a very useful skill to have. Betty is the cook in our household. In all of our fifty-seven years together I made dinner one time and she immediately asked me if I’d be so kind as to never do that again. That woman has saved me more than once from some very bad choices.”
“It can’t have been easy, in those days.”
“When I realized that getting married to a man wouldn’t save me, everything became clear and easy as the light of day. All the other stuff you learn to deal with. Though, it is nice to be officially married, that I have to admit.”
“You’ve lived in Seatown for all of your time together?”
Michaela laughed. “Dear me, no. We were big-city dwellers for the first thirty years. Jobs and culture, and of course the guarantee that we would be surrounded by people who were either like us or at least didn’t care enough to bother us, were sufficient reasons to not even contemplate small town living.”
“That changed, obviously.”
“Betty was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was in her sixties. It made us think how we wanted to spend the rest of our time together. We both had worked hard, saved some money. We had spent some vacations in Seatown, so when we saw that the cottage was for sale, we didn’t have to think more than a day about it. We both resigned from our jobs, bought the English Rose and now here we are, a good twenty years later. Betty obviously got better.”
“I love a story about real love with a happy ending.”
“Real love never has a happy ending. Unless we die on the same day, and how big is the chance of that happening? In the meantime, we do enjoy our lives to the full.” Michaela smiled. “You go up to the field and set up your trailer. You mind if Betty and I come and take a look in, say, an hour or two?”
“You and Betty are more than welcome. It’s such a pleasure to see an elderly lesbian couple with such a long history. The two of you sure beat the odds.”
“We’re not even sure ourselves how we ended up being this old and still together.”