It is the scent of a rose that brings back the memory from so long ago. She used a rose-water face cream that left the barest hint of its essence behind on her skin. As my lips pressed against hers, I inhaled its sweet scent and have always linked the smell of roses with that forbidden kiss. Girls were not supposed to have these feelings, these needs and wants, and yet I did and she saw that.
I have lived my life in moderation, exercising restraint and self control. As is fitting, I have remained pure and chaste, doing only those things that are right and proper for a woman to do. I have fulfilled the duties imposed by my gender, my family, my husband, and my children. I am a wife and mother who provides care where it is needed, both within and away from my home. I sing in the church choir, serve tea at the ladies auxiliary, and bake cookies for my children's school. I show temperance, avoiding drink. My tongue does not spill idle gossip.
It has been years since that night and that one simple kiss. Though our lips touched for perhaps a minute, it was an eternity that transcends time. In my heart and my soul, I know it was more than just a kiss. It was something much more, an awakening perhaps. Dammit, I really thought I had put it all behind me, buried it away, and dismissed as just an innocent teenage escapade. Then she called from out of nowhere. When I heard her voice, heard her saying my name, time stopped as the memories came flooding back and my heart exploded. My voice caught in my throat and I could not respond as the butterflies swirled giddily in my stomach. I had not felt this way since that kiss. I had never expected to feel this way again.
She said she was in town and wanted to see me. There was no further explanation and her simple request could mean so very many things. For days I sat and wondered about her motives as I relived that night a dozen times in my head. I struggled to find reason and understanding. My conscience all but screamed at me “I am not a lesbian!” I did not want to be one of those illicit women, gossiped about and ridiculed. I am about to be voted president of the ladies auxiliary, I have a solo this week in the choir, I am respectable and dignified!
But reason aside, my heart and my soul had other words to tell me. The lingering memory of our lips touching, of her hands clasping my waist, of my body having feelings no respectable woman should know; all these things said something else. I may have been able to ignore my feelings and bury them away for the rest of my life, if I had not walked into the pharmacists as he was preparing rose-water for the Pastor’s wife. I had always considered her to be attractive. When she smiled softly at me as I smelled that scent and remembered that forbidden kiss, I felt the stirrings of a desire I could not ignore. Obviously I could not reveal myself to the Pastor’s wife, but there was one person I knew who was waiting for me and who would understand.
I have so much to lose; my respectability, my family, my husband, my honour – all gone for the touch of another woman. How high a price it would be to pay! Or is it really that high? Perhaps, as I have always known but never had the strength to admit to myself, my life is just a façade as I act out a role that is a lie. I have no love of my husband or in performing the required womanly duties. Though I love my children with all my heart, they are more interested in beginning their careers. The social groups, the activities, visiting with my ‘friends’ – it is all just a hollow and empty sham to convince myself that I am a respectable woman. I would gladly throw it all away for her love and to feel her touch again. I know now that I have loved her since that kiss and that I have no choice but to profess my true feelings.
I am trembling as I prepare to visit her. Though I have not worn them since my wedding, I carefully put on my silk and lace foundation garments. Over top I put on my prettiest summer frock. It is tasteful and demure, but it shows my figure well while providing a tantalizing glimpse of my bosom. I cover myself with a light shawl that I can casually slip off when I wish to more fully reveal myself to her.
I cannot describe the feelings as I walk to her hotel in the setting sun. I am simultaneously afraid, excited, nervous, giddy, and ashamed. My reputation will be in tatters if I am seen by anyone. I almost decide to turn back, but I pass a rose bush on the front lawn of Miss Agnes rooming house. One whiff of its fragrant blooms and my courage is renewed.
My face is flush and sweat breaks out as I stand before the desk clerk who is also the biggest gossip in town. Surely the entire parish will learn that that I visited another lady in her private chambers. With my last ounce of dignity, I guiltily ask for the room number of my secret love, trying to blubber an explanation that she is a childhood friend with whom I wish to invite to church on Sunday. The desk clerk cannot hide her knowing smirk as she points me to the stairwell, indicating I need to go to room 204. As I mount the steps she giggles. “Going to join them are ya?” Too embarrassed to understand what she was saying, I hastily climb the steps to escape her stare and that awful knowing smirk on her face. With as much poise as I can muster, I walk up the steps and approach the room. The door is closed, but I can see a sliver of light escaping underneath it. My hand reaches up to knock when I hear a sound. It is the splash of water and then the soft giggling of two women, obviously in the bath together.