Survived by Her Longtime Companion

  • Paperback: 240 pages

  • Language: English

  • ISBN-10: 1942204078

  • ISBN-13: 978-1942204077

  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches

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Winner of the

GOLDEN CROWN LITERARY SOCIETY

Ann Bannon Popular Choice Award.

June, 2013.


"I found this an emotionally gripping novel . . . . Eleanor is the star of this book for me (why do I always fall for the older woman)...."

 

Author Clare Ashton's blog.

by Chris Paynter

 

Hired to work on a biography of the late film star, Daphne DeMonet, Bailey Hampton arrives to conduct an interview with Eleanor Burnett, Daphne’s “longtime companion.” To Bailey’s dismay, she learns Eleanor has set up a co-interview with Bailey’s ex-partner, Chelsea Parker. 

Estranged for eleven months, the two women hide their painful memories and strain to be civil to one another. Eleanor startles them by insisting that they take turns reading aloud from Eleanor’s diaries of her life with Daphne DeMonet. Only after the diaries are read in her presence will Eleanor proceed with a full interview. 

Once Eleanor discovers that Bailey and Chelsea are ex-partners, the diary readings take on a new meaning for her. Can they learn from the mistakes she and Daphne made as young lovers? Will that knowledge bring Bailey and Chelsea together again? Or is it too late to mend their broken relationship? 

 

 

 

Chapter 4 is where Bailey and Chelsea meet again, albeit unexpectedly, at Eleanor Burnett's house to interview her about her late partner, the movie star Daphne DeMonet.

 

Chapter 4 Excerpt      

 

     Eleanor looked back and forth between the two women. “You know each other?”    

     Chelsea nodded and noticed Bailey doing the same.    

     “Let’s sit down, and you can tell me how.” Eleanor motioned them to the chairs.    

     Chelsea scooted her chair closer to Eleanor’s before sitting down.     

    “Tea, Chelsea?” Eleanor asked.     

    “No, thank you.” Her heart pounded in her ears. She hadn’t prepared for this. How could she have? She didn’t think Bailey had, either, if her bouncing knee was any indication.     

    “What do you drink?” Eleanor asked.     

    “Water is fine.” Chelsea gripped her briefcase against her chest as if it could protect her from her swirling emotions.     

     Eleanor picked up a small porcelain bell and rang it. Bailey flinched at the sound.     

     “Madam?” Niles appeared at the sliding glass door.     

     “Ice water for Professor Parker, please.”     

     After he left, Eleanor took a sip of her tea and stared at them over the rim of her cup. “So. Who’s going to tell me first?”     

     Chelsea shot a quick glance over at Bailey whose bouncing knee had hit a frenzied rate.    

     “Bailey and I... we... well, we...”     

     Eleanor finished her sentence. “You were lovers.”     

     “Yes,” Chelsea answered.     

     “How long?” Eleanor asked.     

     “How long...” Chelsea grew more uncomfortable with the questions. Who was interviewing whom here?     

     “How long were you together?”     

     Chelsea was about to answer, but Bailey interrupted.     

     “Nine years, three months, and thirteen days.”     

     Chelsea swallowed the lump in her throat in an attempt to stave off her tears.     

     Niles brought out a bottle of water and a glass of ice. After he left, an awkward silence shrouded the table.     

     “Interesting,” Eleanor said. “Very interesting. And how long apart?”     

     Chelsea answered this time. “Eleven months.”     

     “All right. Here’s the big question. Why did you separate?”     

     Bailey tapped the side of her cup with her index finger.     

     When it was clear Bailey wasn’t about to respond, Chelsea answered. “We got too busy with our work and grew apart.”     

     Eleanor’s sharp laugh echoed in the backyard.

      “That’s it? You were busy and grew apart?”     

     “Well...” Chelsea tried to think of something else to say but was at a loss.     

     Eleanor waved her hand in the air. “Don’t try to justify it with any more words. I get the picture.”     

     “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you.” Chelsea wondered whether she’d lost the interview before it had even begun.     

     “Upset me?” Again, Eleanor laughed, but there was no humor in it. “I’m not upset. I’m angry. There’s a difference.”     

     “What did I say wrong? I didn’t mean anything by my words.” Chelsea gave Bailey a pleading look.     

     Bailey leaned toward Eleanor. “We were both at fault.”     

     “You most certainly were. How could you let a nine-year— what did you say? Nine-year, three-months and—”     

     “Thirteen days,” Chelsea said.     

     “Right. If you both can remember the exact time you were together, how could you now be apart? It makes no sense. None.”     

     Eleanor rose to her feet and stomped off toward the garden.     

     Chelsea watched her leave and then whirled toward Bailey. “What is this? Why are you here?”     

     “Hi, Bailey. How’ve you been? I’ve been fine, Chelsea, how about you?” Bailey rolled her eyes. “Why do you think? For the same reason you are.”     

     “Let me guess. Joanne Addison thought because you’re gay, Eleanor Burnett would talk to you.”     

     “Yeah. That’s pretty much it.”     

     “And you came anyway, knowing I’m here teaching?” Chelsea’s voice continued to rise.     

     “Why are you mad? It’s not like you have the right to an exclusive.” Bailey stood and shoved her chair back. It teetered and then settled on all four legs.     

     Chelsea rose to her feet to avoid Bailey towering over her. “I still can’t believe you’re here.”      Bailey looked like she was about to say something more. Instead, she marched toward the direction Eleanor had taken.     

     “Wait!” Chelsea hurried to catch up with Bailey’s long strides. “I’m not done.”

      “I don’t have to listen to this anymore, remember?” Bailey’s jaw was tight.     

     Chelsea stumbled and began to fall forward, but Bailey caught her under the elbow. When she did, Chelsea fell into her arms. They stared at each other, both breathing heavy. Bailey’s gaze dropped to Chelsea’s lips. Then she blinked, pulled away, and continued toward Eleanor who stood in the distance. 

    

     I almost kissed her, Bailey thought. I can’t believe I almost kissed her. What is wrong with me?  She caught up with Eleanor who was weeding the daffodils.

     “Ms. Burnett...” Bailey started to say.     

     Eleanor raised her head and glared at Bailey.     

     “I’m sorry. Eleanor.  Please don’t let our former relationship keep you from talking to me.”   

     “To us,” Chelsea chimed in as she moved beside Bailey.     

     Eleanor straightened and brushed the dirt from her hands. “Tomorrow morning. Seven o’clock sharp.”     

     Bailey and Chelsea spoke at the same time.     

     “I’m sorry?”     

     “Excuse me?”     

     “Seven o’clock in the morning. You Yanks are capable of arising that early, aren’t you?”     

     “Yes,” they answered together.     

     “I see some habits are hard to break. I bet you still finish each other’s sentences, too. Return tomorrow at seven and we’ll talk. I’m tired. It’s time for my afternoon nap. You can find your way to the front by following that path.” Eleanor gestured at a dirt path lined with stones and strode back to the house.     

     “That was interesting,” Bailey said, but Chelsea was already walking down the path. “Hey, wait, Chels. I still don’t know why you’re so angry.”     

     Bailey caught up with her as Chelsea reached the Outback. She was about to open the door, but Bailey pressed her palm against it and waited for Chelsea to face her. “Talk to me.”

     Bailey reached out to touch Chelsea’s shoulder but let her hand drop to her side.     

     Chelsea spun around, her face wet with tears. She wiped at them in jerking motions.        She’s that angry, Bailey thought. No. Wait. She’s hurt.     

     “I can’t believe you came out here thinking there was no chance we could meet. Are you that desperate for a job?”     

     Bailey bristled. “Now, hold on. My job is as important to me as yours is to you. Or have you conveniently forgotten that and twisted history?”

      “What do you mean, ‘twisted history’?”     

     “Seems like the only one you’re thinking about is you. Just like when...”     

     “Just like when, what, Bailey? When I was the brave one and actually acknowledged we couldn’t go on the way we were? Is that what you were going to say?”     

     “I didn’t say it.”     

     “You didn’t have to. I know how you think, and right now the only one you’re thinking about is you.” Chelsea poked her in the chest with her index finger. “You could have told Joanne no.”     

     “Well, I didn’t. So grow up and accept it that we’re both here to do our jobs.”     

     Chelsea opened her mouth to say something but stopped.     

     “What?” Bailey asked.     

     “It’s too damn soon.” Chelsea reached behind her, opened the door, and got inside, not looking up as she started the engine and drove around the circular drive to the gravel road.     

     “It’s not like I planned it!” Bailey shouted at the dust left behind by the Outback. She tramped to her Jeep. She buckled her seatbelt and was about to pull away when she noticed a curtain in the front of the house move aside before dropping back into place.

     “Crazy old broad,” Bailey muttered as she drove back to the main road. “Thanks a lot, Joanne.”