When all was said and done, when the bullet-deficient gun had been bandied about and the architectural designs burned, when the screaming and crying and accusations had dissipated into the sultry Louisiana atmosphere along with decades of industrial waste and spicy steam from thousands of crawfish boils, when all was said and done, Caro did something she'd never thought to do in all her fifty-three years of life.

She took to her bed.

Now Vivi had practically made an art of taking to her bed. She'd set up shop in her best Zsa Zsa Gabor negligee, hair all ribboned and bowed, manicured and perfect in her death-throws of melodramatic agony.

Caro, on the other hand, had no such flair for drama. She just locked the door, gathered every bottle of vodka in the house, stacked them into an ice chest, shut the shades, unplugged the phone, turned on the Country Music Channel, and let Garth Brooks keep her company in her hour of darkness.

It was only an hour or so after her initial retreat that she began to truly appreciate the artistry of her Ya-Ya sister's frequent boudoir retreats. It took about an hour for the rage to dissolve, an hour for the vodka to loosen her mind enough to let the emotions in, those nasty little emotions that ruin a good hate--self-doubt, regret, shame.

Blaine. The mere thought of that fucker's name sent her scrambling for the vodka. No freaking Bloody Mary drunk this time. She pulled a bottle from the ice chest, and drank it straight, letting it burn down her throat for all the times she should have spoken up and didn't.

Blaine.

She'd known he was having an affair for months. She'd known the day was coming. She knew he'd have to tell her something sooner or later. He was too miserable to keep up the schedule he'd been keeping, so much time in New Orleans, that long-ass commute across the Atchafalaya Basin, across central Louisiana, back to his largely empty home in Thornton.

The boys had all moved out. There wasn't enough noise to keep the whispers quiet anymore. They had grown practically into shouts these days, especially with Blaine gone so long. There's no reason to stay together, they shouted like the g-d Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders. There's no marriage left, they said, forming a perky pyramid and shaking their demonic little pompoms at the thought of Caro and Blaine becoming yet another statistic in the divorce game. You don't love him and he doesn't love you.

She'd seen it coming, especially when he started being so damned attentive of her. Asking about her classes, about how much she was enjoying her travel agent courses, encouraging her to take a part-time job with the local agency to give her a better working knowledge of what she was studying.

Thinking about it in retrospect, she should have known what he was doing. Padding his guilty conscious, not wanting to leave her without something to hold on to. He was setting her up so that he could leave with a clear conscience.

She'd expected some little Loyola intern, some Binky or Tiffany or maybe a brainy girl named Eloise or Monique.

She'd expected some tight little body with big tits and a mouth that never talked back and never ever refused to give him a blowjob. Hell, in her mind, the Mystery Woman was distinguished from a Hoover vacuum cleaner only by her 36DDs and her advanced degree in Psychotherapy or Art History or something relevant like that.

Maybe if she hadn't been in such a g-d good mood that night. Maybe if she hadn't thought to make a seafood gumbo, Blaine's favorite, because she'd mastered a particularly difficult computer function in class today and managed to book her first cruise unassisted at the agency. Maybe if Neecy hadn't come by with those brownies of hers, making the entire place smell of chocolate and sweet homey warmth. Maybe if Blaine hadn't looked so damned good to her, coming in from the rain all drenched and tanned and alive after she'd been by herself almost the entire week.

But how bad would her mood have needed to be for it not to cut her in two when Blaine told her, trembling, that he was leaving? How depressed and bitchy would have been enough to counterbalance his look of shame and regret when he finally admitted to her that there was no other woman, that there was another man, that he was gay, that he was leaving her to move to New Orleans to live with his lover Richard?

What anger could possibly have offset that?

She ignored the question. A week later, she still lay in bed, listening to the rain, channel surfing, having called off almost an entire week of work, knowing sooner or later she'd have to get up and get out. She'd turned away the Ya-Ya's twice now, threatening Vivi with a bullet in the ass if she didn't get the hell away and give her some peace.

She'd never realized how much TV was geared towards couples. Every goddam channel showed some pearly-toothed couple discussing their issues, fighting, making love, planning a family, facing challenges with courage and humor. Black, white, Asian, Hispanic. They all looked the same to her after a while, drenched in their earnest couple-ness.

She wondered which "very special episode" of which Top 10 hit would show her situation, an undereducated Southern housewife on the downslope of middle age, who loses her goddam husband to some New Orleans faggot art dealer or interior decorator or whatever the hell he was? How the hell would Meredith Baxter Birney or Markie Post turn that Lifetime movie into anything other than the ridiculous farce her life was at the moment?

She'd hand them the g-d Pulitzer Prize herself if they could make her understand how and why this was happening to her.

The boys had stopped by, each of them in various states of disarray, the younger two looking to her for some sort of touchstone, the eldest just making sure she was eating. He'd known. He wouldn't tell her, but Caro knew he'd known about his father long before she'd ever suspected something was wrong.

If she'd had more energy, she'd have been angry, resentful. But she just let him let her hold him as he offered his undying support and love, and then went back to his life.

That had been this morning. It was five o'clock. She'd narrowed her TV choices to the local news (not a chance), reruns of some ridiculous sitcom starring Loni Anderson as a showgirl who'd gone to live in a mansion (it had lasted about ten minutes, and with good reason), or the stupid show on Nickelodeon where all the kids dumped green slime on each other. She settled for the green slime, distracting herself with images of Blaine drowning in giant vats of the stuff, begging for mercy as she continued to dump it on. "Sorry, Blaine, that's the secret word." More green slime. More begging.

A scratch in the lock caught her attention, and she hit the mute button. Somebody was trying to jimmy the lock to her bedroom.

"Go away," she ventured. "I got a gun."

"You haven't had bullets in that gun in ten years, Caro," Teensy replied as she managed to pick the lock and open the door. "Now don't you even think about sending me away, cuz I am not about to let you sit in this bed one more day."

She looked good, even for Teensy. Vivi may be the glamour-puss of the Ya- Yas, but Teensy had always managed to pull even the simplest outfits into the realm of style. She wore a flattering peach pantsuit, ignoring, no, defying the rain that refused to accept that summer was here. Her hair, now a beautiful silver white, was pulled back in a matching peach bow at the nape of her neck. She wore simple gold jewelry, looking the picture of the country squire's wife.

At the moment, Caro hated the sight of her. All she could think of was Teensy was the happiest married person she'd known, that neither Teensy nor Chick had ever even dreamed of infidelity, that Teensy made it look so g-d easy.

"Go away," she snarled.

"Get over yourself," Teensy responded, ignoring the furious look Caro shot at her as she settled down on the bed in Blaine's empty place, lying casually on her side to stare at her friend. "Now, you need to get your sorry ass out of this bed and get on with your life, Caro."

"Oh, and I suppose you're going to make me?" She knew she sounded like some stupid seven-year-old playing tough on the school grounds, but something about Teensy's attitude bugged her. Like she was so goddam sure she would convince her to get up, shake it off, and not let this whole Blaine thing destroy her. "Go home, Teensy," she added in a softer tone. "Just let me do this my way."

"You're not doing yourself any good, lying here feeling sorry for yourself," Teensy insisted.

"I do not believe you are going to sit.lay there and tell me to get out of bed." She frowned, pulling the extra pillow out from under Teensy's head and pounding it with her fist before putting it under her head. "Vivi gets a goddam hangnail and locks herself away for a month, and nobody says a thing about it. My husband leaves me for another fucking man, and I'm just supposed to get over myself?"

"You know damn well that you and Vivi handle things differently, sugar," Teensy said. "It's not in your character to just give up."

"It's not in my character to let people tell me what to do, either, so what makes you think I'm gonna start now," she countered. "Just let me be, Teensy, please."

"Sorry, kiddo," she said, grabbing the remote control as she settled onto her back. "No can do."

"What in hell do you think you're doing?" Caro stared as Teensy began to channel surf.

"Starting my shift. If you aren't going to leave your bed, we're going to come to you. Now, why in hell didn't you spring for expanded cable? You know I love the cooking channel."

"Get out of my bed."

"You first." Teensy had that look on her face, that look that even when she was a little slip of a girl meant she was ready to spit in a lion's face rather than back down even a little.

"Fuck you." Caro grabbed the remote and turned the channel to the first non-scrambled station. Great. MTV. Some brunette bimbo was dry-humping a red Porsche while the ugliest men alive played an incomprehensible rock song in the background. "Now why in hell couldn't Blaine have dumped me for something like that?" She gestured toward the bimbo, now sucking a red lollipop in her porno parody of a Catholic schoolgirl's uniform. "That I would have understood." Teensy stretched out an arm, and Caro allowed herself to be pulled into a gentle embrace. She never took her eyes from the bimbo. "I could have understood that," she whispered.

"Blaine is what he is, baby. It has nothing to do with you."

"Don't patronize me, Teensy. It has everything to do with me." She shook her head, wishing she had another bottle of vodka. Glasses, optional. "What sort of woman loses her husband to another man?"

"The sort of woman who married a closeted homosexual back when most of us didn't even know what a homosexual was, including the homosexual." Teensy squeezed gently. "That's all, honey."

She leaned into Teensy's arms, suddenly very happy for the touch of another human being. Caro wanted to cry. She really wanted to, but for some reason, the tears never came. She didn't know how to cry for herself. Movies, songs, friends, weddings, funerals, she could cry. But when it came to her own pain, she could never break through to those tears that solidified and choked off inside of her. This closeness, this Ya-Ya bond, was the closest she ever came to a good old-fashioned sob, and she clung to it like a life raft. "What in hell am I gonna do, Teensy," she whispered through her lack of tears.

"What you always do, what all of us do. You're gonna survive, and move on, and learn, if you're lucky."

"What if I'm gay, too?" The words were out of her mouth before she'd even registered the thought. Once said, though, she couldn't stop them. "What if I'm like him, if that's why I could stay married to a homosexual all these years and not even suspect?"

"You're not gay," Teensy laughed. "Just because he is, doesn't make you one. It's not contagious."

"I've been with three men in my life, and I've never loved even one of them as much as I love the Ya-Yas. Maybe I'm a lesbian, and I just never noticed."

"You've been stuck in this room watching cable too long, Caro. It's affected your brain."

"Blaine didn't know he was gay for years. He told me that, and I believe him. What if I'm the same way?"

Teensy lifted herself into a partially sitting position, leaning her back and shoulders against the headboard as she shoved pillows under her lower back. "Okay, let's look at this logically. Are you attracted to men?"

"Right now, the sight of a man is enough to make me want to throw up."

"Understandable," Teensy admitted. "Now, are you attracted to women?"

Caro shrugged. She'd never been so unsure of herself, she'd never been so adrift, and in this condition, anything was possible. "I don't know," she admitted.

Teensy pointed at the TV. The bimbo and ugly man band was gone, replaced by Paula Abdul in black leather and lace, dancing a highly erotic production number with several other beautiful people in black leather and lace. "Does she turn you on?"

"No clue," she confessed. "I don't know."

Teensy leaned over Caro to retrieve the remote control and turn off the TV. With a determined expression, she leaned forward and kissed Caro hard on the mouth.

Caro tensed, shocked and stunned, but slowly relaxed into the kiss, even venturing a tongue into the other woman's mouth as they began to explore the kiss in earnest. Teensy's breath was sweet, and she smelled wonderful as their bodies warmed in the close contact. Caro stroked her soft hair, eventually pulling back as the kiss ended of its own accord.

There was a long silence as both women stared, unable to think of a thing to say. It was Caro who finally broke the vacuum of silence with a cough, then a gasp, as the tears began to flow unbridled. Teensy pulled her hard against her, rocking her like a mother would a child as Caro let out the grief of a lifetime in that one uncensored moment. "It's alright, baby," she cooed as she stroked Caro's hair. "It's gonna be okay, I promise."

"Promise?" Caro sniffed, still cradled in her friend's arms.

"I promise." Teensy pulled back, deliberately wiping the tears from Caro's face, smoothing her short auburn hair with the flat of her hands. "You're a Ya-Ya. What the goddess has put together, no man, straight, gay or whatever, will ever tear asunder."

Caro smiled for the first time in days. "I'm getting rid of cable," was all she could think of to say.

"You might want to think about washing these sheets," Teensy added. "They're getting a bit ripe."

Caro pulled a pillow out from behind her and slapped it over Teensy's head. "I need a cigarette," she said. "I ran out two days ago, but didn't have the energy to go out and get another pack. You have one?"

Teensy narrowed her eyes. "No, but if you shower and dress, I'll gladly drive you down to buy a pack."

"Hell." Caro shook her head. "I was getting so fucking sick of that wallpaper, anyway. How the hell does Vivi do this?"

"She has better wallpaper."

Caro laughed, pretending to smother Teensy with the pillow for a quick moment before standing up next to the bed. "God, I need a shower."

"You sure do," Teensy agreed as she reached for the remote control.

"Bitch."

Teensy just smiled her toothiest grin. "Don't take all night, will you?"

Caro paused on her way to the bathroom. After a momentary hesitation, she turned. "Thanks, pal."

"Go." She was flipping through the local channels, riding that line between Baton Rouge and Shreveport as she looked for the weather report. Just as Caro was about to disappear into the bathroom, though, she said, "So what about the kiss?" It was so quiet Caro almost thought she'd imagined it.

Caro stopped, leaning on the doorjamb as she considered it. "I'd say Chick is one hell of a lucky guy. And I'm not a lesbian."

And she stepped into the bathroom to wash off the last of her old life and begin her new one.

The End