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Wedding Bell Blues

The things a woman will do for love… and Lily had love, lots of it. But her partner Charlotte is dead.

Their daughter Mimi keeps her sane—until Charlotte's family claims they have all the rights to Mimi,

who is their blood kin, and no “real” relation to Lily. With what’s left of her world balanced on a

razor’s edge, any choice to find safer ground seems reasonable.

Even getting married. Married to her Bugle Boy-wearing, trust fund-spending gay neighbor, Ben.

Married and relocated to rural Georgia where Ben’s powerful family will make sure Lily gets custody

of Mimi.

Just one little trick involved: convincing Ben’s parents their marriage is the real thing. It doesn't seem

like keeping up appearances will be that hard. But the charade gets more difficult when a beautiful

country veterinarian offers Lily a taste of what she’s pretending she no longer craves…

CHAPTER 1

“Widowhood may cause some major changes in my life, but it sure as hell won’t affect my wardrobe,” Lily muttered as she surveyed the dozens of black dresses in her closet. Of course, even though all of her dresses were black, most of them wouldn’t be appropriate for the memorial service—or the funeral, as Charlotte’s parents insisted on calling it.

The black minidress printed with images of Jackie O’s face was definitely out, although Lily couldn’t help but think that Charlotte—wherever she was—would get a kick out of seeing Lily show up at her memorial service in a dress paying tribute to that most famous of professional widows. Lily would have to wear something with long enough sleeves to cover her tattoos —the woman’s symbol in Celtic knotwork she’d gotten on her right bicep to celebrate her lesbianism and the matching band in knotwork she’d gotten just below it, to mark her commitment to Charlotte.

After Lily and Charlotte had been together three years, they were surprised to find themselves yearning for a symbol of the permanence of their relationship. The media flooded consumers with images of heterosexual commitment: diamond engagement rings, virginal white wedding gowns, and honeymoon suites reserved for church-and-state-approved hetero hanky-panky. But for same-sex couples, symbols of commitment were hard to find.

They had toyed briefly with the ring—and-commitment—ceremony route but gave up the notion when they tried to picture themselves in a jewelry store, crooning over diamonds like a former frat boy and his bleached-blonde bride-to-be. Besides, the only pieces of jewelry Lily wore regularly were the silver rings in her ears, nose, and navel, and Charlotte was a professed socialist who eschewed status symbols.

Neither of them was the diamond-ring type.

And so they had settled on the armbands. The tattooing had been their commitment ceremony. Charlotte had held Lily’s left hand while the lesbian tattoo artist inked her right arm, and Lily did the same for Charlotte when her turn came. After their artwork was complete, they had kissed.

That night, Lily and Charlotte had enjoyed a night of passionate but awkward lovemaking, as they wallowed in connubial bliss while trying to avoid each other’s bandaged biceps.

The past two weeks, the image of Charlotte’s armband had haunted Lily. When the highway patrolman told her that Charlotte’s car had been run off a rain-slick road in southern Georgia, Lily’s mind flashed to Charlotte’s tattoo. Charlotte had left the house the morning of the accident wearing a black T-shirt with the sleeves cut off so she could show off her ink and shock her uptight academic colleagues.

Later, when Charlotte’s body was being cremated, Lily thought again of the tattoo, of the symbol of their love, burning away to ashes.

Maybe all couples should get tattoos as a sign of commitment, Lily thought as she yanked on the pantyhose she resented wearing. A wedding ring could be put in a drawer and forgotten after one’s partner passed on, but a tattoo was a constant reminder to remember. No matter what happened, Lily would always be marked by Charlotte’s love.

Lily regarded herself in the full-length mirror: her plain black vintage dress with its tattoo- concealing sleeves, her black stockings, and the black Mary Janes with chunky high heels, which were the closest thing to a respectable-looking pair of shoes she owned. She had pulled her white-girl dreadlocks into a messy bun so her hair didn’t look too wild, and she had replaced the silver hoop in her nose with a tiny silver stud. She had considered removing her body jewelry altogether, but she couldn’t bear to. Her multiple piercings were the only thing that prevented her from looking like someone’s grandmother from the Old Country.

Lily walked to the room at the end of the hall, where Mimi was still asleep in her crib. Lily

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