Amazon Music, Corona with lime, on sale because people are generally speaking, idiots, thought Frankie with a sigh as the 3rd weekend in quarantine wound down. A salty ocean breeze from the open window rustled the bristles of Babe's paintbrushes. "Don't remind me that you're not stuck here in all this drama, I don't think I could handle it if you were still next door and we couldn't talk or walk each day. Although all things considered I'm doing okay, and surprisingly Grace seems to be adjusting to living with Robert again". And it was true, weirdly Grace was finding her "place" in this post-we're sharing the beach house with our husbands who are our ex's now, alternative universe better than Frankie was. Speaking of Grace, Frankie secretly asked the universe to make that place for Grace anywhere but the bottom of a vodka bottle, even as she resigned herself to that being a bit of a stretch to hope for.
As if summoned by Frankie's thoughts, Grace chose that very moment to knock slightly and walk into the studio.
For her part, as if somehow she was in tune with Frankie's request to the universe after all, Grace had been really focused on watching her drinking. Between Brianna selling Say Grace and focusing on being perpetually engaged to Barry, Mallory packing up the kids and moving to San Francisco, legally separating from Nick, and going to an occasional AA meeting with Coyote who she was grudgingly beginning to respect in a whole different way...who had time to dwell on the ex husbands invading her house? Then of course, there was this cryptic handwritten note addressed to Frankie that she had left lying on the kitchen counter from someone named Dana.
"So, who's Dana?" was the first phrase Frankie heard as soon as she muted the music.
"Good evening to you too Grace." said Frankie pointing a paintbrush in Grace's general direction. Wiping her hands on her thighs, Frankie turned to fully face her friend..
"Dana? Oh, she's someone JM introduced me to. She's old-school, so she sent me an actual note. And here I thought chivalry was dead."
"But hey," said Frankie pointing a paintbrush in Grace's direction again, an unconscious habit she exhibited when stressed, or maybe it was Grace tended to consciously think of it that way anyway... "what's with you rifling through my personal shit? Generally speaking, that's been my role in this relationship."
The sound of Frankie's voice forced Grace to refocus from watching Frankie's hands and the way they were holding the paintbrushes from Babe, and catch the thread of the verbal conversation again. "That's...true. And I didn't rifle through your stuff…(although truth be told, both women heard the lie in Grace's voice)...you left this card on Staton" this was a joke between them since they had discovered, and then binge watched, The Kominsky Method.
"Yeah...so what? I leave lots of things on Stanton. That doesn't answer my question though" said Frankie once again turning to look pointedly at Grace, "What's up with you reading my mail?"
Surprisingly Grace found herself pushing back against Frankie's attitude, and not even questioning why she felt so out of sorts over something Frankie, rightly pointed out, was her personal MO. Maybe it was because what Frankie said was true, she did leave pretty much everything she got in the mail lately, on Staton. So why was this particular note sending Grace so deep into her feelings? Before she could really formulate a conscious answer, she heard herself saying,
"And before you say anything", said Grace holding up her hand, "Post it notes are excluded from this conversation. That...and I was just surprised you and Joan-Margaret, apparently, knew anyone that still wrote personal thank you notes and sent them through the actual mail...while also offering to discuss the Denver Nuggets and female welders over a Happy Meal. You have to admit, that last part is strange even for you... "
"It's like you said, who writes personal notes anymore right?" answered Frankie a bit sarcastically, but also with a hint of anger and a bit of a question mark in her tone because Grace was acting so strange about all this. Was she actually jealous? As Joanne started processing that thought, Frankie answered. "I don't have to admit anything Grace. In case you forgot, our ex husbands are the lawyers anyway, not us. And it's a global pandemic, so people are supposed to write actual letters to people they don't live with or aren't quarantined with…Plus Joan-Margaret was their secretary said Frankie waving her hands in the general direction of the main house they now shared somewhat peaceful with their ex husbands. Grace watched Frankie's hands again until she, again, heard the criticism in Frankie's words, … "and I'm sure that provides her with some kind of lawyer client confidentiality clause or whatever...so I'm gonna plead the Fifth."
Grace had always hated feeling the need to defend her actions, so she responded with her go-to emotions,anger and sarcasm. "Okay...so are you going to accept this Dana person's invitation to buy you a Happy meal from the drive thru after quarantine is over, and accept her invitation to have a watch party to "rediscover" Flashdance while simultaneously discussing gold mining in Colorado before or after you guys watch the movie?"
Frankie reflected on how really emotional Grace was about all this, so in an effort to ground some of that turmoil Frankie turned to face Grace and laid a gentle, hopefully calming hand on her shoulder, smiled, and said, "I love you my culturally challenged friend. The Denver Nuggets are actually a basketball team. Although bonus points for connecting Flashdance to female welders. And don't worry, I won't make you wear leg warmers...again. Although I did have this rather vivid dream about you wearing an off the shoulder sweatshirt once...but anyway...what's all this about really? It's honestly no worries…Dana's just someone I met who helped me pick up the pieces of my heart you shattered when you up and spontaneously married Nick…"
The underlying tone in Grace's voice as she said her name sent Frankie's heart fluttering. She knew it was too much, too personal... it was time for a joke or a deflection from these deep feelings.
"Actually let me tell you about Dana. She's tall and thin. She has black hair and dark eyes. She can carry off a pink suit jacket or a plain white blouse like nobody's business... without having to pop the collar. She favors White Diamonds perfume, or at least she was wearing it the first time we met. She's a sucker for a very dry martini with only 2 olives. She has an estranged daughter, she still writes actual handwritten thank you notes, and she obviously is into McDonald's with the same passion I have had in the past for Del Taco…"
As Grace listened to Frankie describe Dana, the rational part of her brain stored the pertinent facts, but her subconscious, which she sort of called Kevin on occasion, kept picturing the Penelope Cruz wanna be, Delilah, that ride up on the elevator that fateful day at Nick's penthouse. All these thoughts then set off the emotional part of her brain started chanting a childhood mantra of she loves me, she loves me not...then the roller coaster of emotions went down the big hill of panic and abandonment and took a left turn at the bottom of the hill into cool rationality.
Of course Frankie wasn't comparing her to Dana. Frankie wasn't even seriously interested in women anyway right? It was all just an elaborate joke. Plus, obviously, Robert and Sol were the gay couple here, not her and Frankie. Because if Grace was completely honest with herself, sure, she loved Frankie, maybe too much, but Frankie didn't really love her back, did she? Hadn't Frankie point blank said as much the night they squatted in the Beach house? Hadn't Frankie decided to go with Jacob to Santa Fe and then date both Jacob and Jack? Wasn't this jealous feeling about losing her best friend to another woman… wait, wait...her subconscious had obviously been living with Frankie way too damn long ..God, she really needed a drink…
As if Frankie had read her mind, which the thought of that made her suddenly gasp for air…Frankie was looking at her with a knowing look...
Frankie watched the various emotions flit across Grace's face. Then in a flash Joanne said Grace sees Dana as Delilah. Aha, I knew it, gloated Joanne. Wait, what? thought Frankie, not really ready to form that concept into a conscious thought, with all of its implications...thus as if on cue to lighten the mood, Frankie thought, make a mental note to definitely play strip poker at some point with Grace, as she has no poker face whatsoever, at least around you anyway. But hey don't just stand there, get the woman's drink she is so obviously needing.
Shaking her head to get Joanne to stop talking, Frankie opened a small fridge and grabbed a can of cinnamon Coke to hand to Grace. "It's okay Grace, I know it's not a martini, but I figure Corona beer with lime is definitely not your thing. So here. It's a non-alcoholic version of Fireball shots.
Grace took a small cautious sip. Surprised she turned to Frankie, " wow...this is surprisingly tasty"
"I know right? My friend Stella at Trader Joe's allows me to be her taste tester. If I like something I promote it on my Insta account."
" I'm kinda surprised you didn't say you have her 5 stars on Yelp."
And we're back, thought Frankie. Maybe there is some "there" , there after all...
" Funny you should mention 5 star Yelp reviews as I left one for Dana and she returned the favor with both Vybrant and Rise Up...which at this point we need the positive vibes...get it, because…" Frankie watched Grace's expression, "Too soon?"
"No...I'm just sifting back through all the descriptive information on Dana trying to remember if you mentioned her business name or her job title?"
For whatever reason, Frankie just snapped into her anger as she said, "Enough. What's this really all about? It's not like you're actually jealous or she offered to whisk me off to Denver…or McDonald's...or asked me to fly to Vegas and get married…"
"...or Santa Fe, ...yet…" whispered Grace.
Oh shit, that's right, Frankie finally got hearing aids thought Grace. Out loud she said, " What? She's obviously into you...she wrote you a seriously bougie letter... on purple, perfume scented stationary for God's sake...how am I supposed to trust that once this shelter in place order is lifted you won't take off for Denver or wherever with her? Because damn you left me for tofu dogs and the Georgia O'Keefe museum when Jacob asked you to so…" said Grace in a bit of a tempest.
Frankie felt her anger suddenly spike then evaporate just as quickly, at the look on Grace's face. "Oh...well shit. You kinda buried the lead there. But quit stressing. There's only one you, Grace…" and with that reached out and touched Grace's popped shirt collar then leaned in and gently kissed Grace's forehead. "I promise."
"What did I do to deserve your friendship?" mused Grace as she stared into Frankie's eyes. " Well I am kinda.. " squeaked Frankie before Grace closed the few inch gap between them and pressed her lips questioningly to Frankie's.
What the hell, thought Frankie. No matter how many times she had fantasized about actually full on kissing Grace, she had never really imagined Grace would be the instigator...
"Whoa, umm … maybe I need to have my female friends write me thank you notes more often…"
Grace's mouth got ahead of her thoughts as she responded "That's just great. I should have figured you would treat all this as one big joke."
Waving a finger in front of Grace's face, Frankie said, " Nope. You don't get to do that... Kevin. You. don't. get. to. do. that. I'm not the one who just fucked off after a big fight, and got on a plane to Vegas to marry Nick. I'm not the one who goes on a date with one guy only to come home and kiss a different one in the kitchen. I'm not the one who consistently turns down your offers to take our relationship to a different level… "
" Oh, that's rich coming from you, Francis, given that's exactly what you just did. Every time I start to think you might be serious, that you might actually be interested in...hell even when I point blank tell you it doesn't make me uncomfortable to kiss a woman, you just laugh it off…"
At that comment, Frankie deliberately invades Grace's personal space and stares Grace in the eye as she whispers, " is that what you really think? Because to me it appears to be just the opposite. You've never, not once, until now apparently, taken any of my offers to do stuff to you seriously or even considered that I might be serious in expressing my attraction to you...God but you're so heterosexual sometimes and in denial the rest of the time."
" What the fuck am I supposed to say here Frankie? You keep putting me on this super high pedestal and when I fall off or lose my balance and become human again, you freak out, or move to Santa Fe or run back to Sol or do something really sadistic like...have a stroke right in front of me during an argument...or make Nick be the person who comes and finds me sitting alone on the beach, to tell me he loves me. Or worse, you do what you just did... for the second time now...and laugh in my face for taking you seriously and wanting to kiss you or take you up on your offer to do things to me for real, for real."
Realizing that this discussion is getting them nowhere productive as it's currently being played out, Frankie takes Grace's hands in her own and leads her to the couch. "Let's sit for a moment. I'm sure your knee will thank me even if you don't. Plus we're both old A.F. and we've both said a lot of heavy words to each other in the last few minutes. Also before you lose your shit again...no I'm not discounting anything you said, and no, I'm not trying to patronize you by making you analyze it to death, I know you hate that...I'm just saying... you're right...and I'm sorry."
" No, let me finish my thought. I know talking out loud is not your thing, but it is mine. And I'm such an idiot for not seeing your love language more clearly. I guess I really have been in the soup for so long now I've kind of boiled to death or turned into a prune or maybe I just forgot to truly appreciate the audience…"
At that last comment, Grace chuckled softly, "you probably thought I wouldn't get that reference to The Search, but it's... actually one of the reasons I love you…" and with that Grace leaned into Frankie and put her head on her shoulder.
Frankie turned her body slightly so she and Grace were face to face. "Now this is how I always imagined it going" thought. Frankie as she reached up to caress Grace's jawline. "Like it or not, Kevin, you're my friend" whispered Frankie leaning into Grace. "I like it" whispered Grace back as both women finally kissed with intention.