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Book Excerpt: 'Maye's Quest' by Clifford Henderson

Book Excerpt: 'Maye's Quest' by Clifford Henderson

As part of our effort to profile more authors within the LGBT community, we present Clifford Henderson. Baffled by reality, Henderson has fashioned a life where she can spend most of her time in make believe. Author of three award-winning novels, Henderson is currently working on a fourth. She and her partner of twenty years also run the Fun Institute, a school of improv and solo performance.

SheWired is working to feature more authors within the LGBT community. As part of that effort, here is Clifford Henderson's Maye's Request.

Clifford Henderson's Bio:  

Baffled by reality, Clifford Henderson has fashioned a life where she can spend most of her time in make believe. Author of three award-winning novels, The Middle of Somewhere, Spanking New, and Maye’s Request she is currently working on a fourth. When not writing, Clifford and her partner of twenty years run the Fun Institute, a school of improv and solo performance where they teach the art of collective pretending. Contact Clifford on her website.

Check out the excerpt from Maye's Request below:

Trapped. Row twenty-two, center seat, Mexicana airbus roaring thirty thousand feet above the Earth. Occupying the window seat to my left is Joe Dude Laptop Junkie returning from his “vacay in Me-hi-co.” He’s blowing up digital aliens while rocking out to some heavy metal blasting from his earbuds, his elbow occasionally ramming my ribs. On the aisle: Miss Dorito-Smacking Everything’s-So-Cheap-I-Couldn’t-Stop-Myself who’s crammed the surrounding overhead compartments so full with her “deals” there’s no room for my backpack. She’s gabbing with her BFF sitting across the aisle. I offered to switch seats with one of them, but apparently they like their conversation spewing out for everyone to hear. I lift my face to the spray of cool air shooting from my vent. Miss Dorito Breath has mentioned to her BFF several times (for my benefit I’m sure) how chilly she is. But if she gets the aisle and the overhead compartment, and Laptop Junkie gets the window and the armrest, I get my vent.

I should be honest. If I weren’t afraid of being apprehended as a terrorist, I’d leap from my seat and start shrieking in tongues, or screaming nonsensical obscenities. Anything to relieve this pressure. But it’s not due to my current neighbors. They aren’t making a dent in the tornado of emotions whirling inside me.

I’m about to see my family.

I slip my itinerary from between the Sky Mall magazine and puke bag to check my arrival time. An hour and seventeen minutes left. I stare at my legal name at the top of the document: Brianna Cleo Bell. But nobody will be calling that for a while. Oh no. Once this plane touches ground, I’ll be back to being Bean. Please God, if you even exist, don’t let me revert along with the name change. Let me retain some shred of maturity.

I touch my fingers to my tongue. I can still taste Serena.

I sure didn’t see that coming.

We took off for Mexico as friends. Not even good friends. Our relationship consisted mostly of pulling weeds and hosing off aphids. (We both just graduated the apprenticeship program at UCSC’s garden, land of organic farming and agroecology studies.) And sure, I liked her all right, but she seemed, I don’t know, too emotionally stable for me? Then at our graduation potluck, she mentioned she was looking for someone to share the rent of the palapa she’d lined up in a place called Sayulita, and seeing as the three thousand dollars my dad gave me as a graduation present was burning a hole in my pocket, I thought, why not? My life was going nowhere.

When I told Mom that a friend and I were going to the small town of Sayulita, Mexico, for an undetermined amount of time, she was not enthused. She accused me of squandering my graduation money, of tagging along on Serena’s trip. Which of course was true. Not only had Serena already secured a job serving up “Real Fish Tacos” and “Talapia Mexicanos” at one of Sayulita’s prime tourist restaurants, she’d also enrolled in a local yoga class.

We were only five days into the trip when I got the call to come home. Serena was asleep, her soft cheek resting on my shoulder. I was thinking about how crazy it was that we’d made love. It was so out of the blue; we weren’t drunk or anything.

She was teaching me to play cribbage at the sturdy wooden table in our palapa. I was resistant. My mom loves to play games, and I’m not talking about the Hasbro kind. I’m talking the mess with your head kind, where a person thinks they know what’s good for you and goes about manipulating it to happen. Suffice to say, my childhood left me with a decided dislike of any kind of scheming. I crave truth, transparency.

Serena was wearing a green and blue sarong and had her curly black hair knotted on her head and huge gold hoop earrings in her ears. She’s exotic looking, her skin the color of toasted almonds, her eyes, accentuated by bold black eyebrows, are a brilliant green. Her lips are full and love to smile. As for me, I had on brick-red cargo shorts, a white bikini top, and my new favorite leather-strand choker with a small shell. Both of us were glowing from days at the beach and swimming in the warm, warm water. On the table next to the cribbage board was a brightly painted clay plate holding mango slices and jicama sprinkled with lime and chili powder. A balmy breeze was picking up on the ocean and blowing through the faded paisley cotton curtains over the sink. For some reason, we started cracking up about what you say when your hand contains a jack with the same suit as the start card: “One for his nob.” It’s stupid in retrospect, but at the time it was hilarious. The next thing I know she leaned across the table and kissed me on the lips. It was an awkward kiss because I didn’t expect it. I was reaching forward to move my peg and her lips brushed against mine just as I was settling back in my chair. But that brushing of lips ignited in me a blaze so strong that my body jumped into action before my mind had a chance to consider if it was prudent to have sex with someone with whom I’d signed a month’s lease. I dropped my cards, pushed the mango and jicama out of my way, and crawled up over the table for more. Then everything went crazy. We started pulling off each other’s clothes, stumbling from the table to my bed by the wall. I was kissing her eyes, her neck, her small breasts. She had her legs locked around my waist and was tugging at my hair, nipping and sucking my ears.

I’ve had sex with friends before. A lot actually. Some friendships survive it. Some don’t. But one thing is always true. It leaves me feeling unsatisfied, like a dry, tasteless carob bar, making the next morning, if I even spend the night, rather awkward. This was different. It was rich, sweet, creamy, dark chocolate sex that left me simultaneously buzzed and wasted. Serena was amazing—is amazing—and as I lay there listening to the ocean waves slapping against the sand, her sleeping cuddled in my arms, I thought I might love her.

At some point I must have fallen asleep because I woke to the sound of my phone’s ring tone. I pried myself out of bed and padded across our small palapa, hoping to turn it off before it woke Serena. I fumbled around until I found the phone in the pocket of my cargo shorts. When I glanced at the readout I knew I had to pick up.

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Clifford Henderson