Happy Friday, darlings!
So I thought since it’s a new release announcement kinda day, I’d share a little bit with all y’all. LadyLit Publishing just released the anthology First: Sensual Lesbian Stories of New Beginnings, edited by the fab Cheyenne Blue. I’m excited to have a story therein, titled “The Sum of Our Parts.”
So what is this about, you may ask?
Dive into these fifteen sizzling tales of lesbian love and romance and experience the wonder, the joy, and the magic of new beginnings.
A woman sees her lover for the first time after years of blindness. For the first time in her life, a top trusts her girlfriend enough to let her take control. A connection forged in a bar in New Mexico encourages a breast cancer survivor to take a lover. Stories of new love and first lesbian encounters intermingle with other emotional and physical firsts, and the excitement of new experiences: an around the world flight, the thrill of a carnival, and even the first time to see the sea.
So Cheyenne asked participating authors (of which I am one, in case you missed my little hinty above) to contribute a “first” of their own to her for her blog to celebrate the release of the anthology. I agreed, and I sent her a “first” of my own. I’m sharing it here at Women and Words with you, along with an excerpt from my story in the anthology, titled “The Sum of Our Parts.”
Before we get into that, here in the States it’s also the anniversary of 9/11. If you’d like to help commemorate it through donating some of your time, here’s the 9/11 Day of Service site. Thanks.
A few firsts
The first hour after surgery is always a bitch, and I remember thinking exactly that as I gingerly got out of my hospital bed and walked slowly to the bathroom dragging that damn wheeled IV rack with me. I kept my left arm close against my body because it was also my first official hour awake without my left breast, and things on that side of my body were uncomfortable and sore. It was February, 2012 and I remember thinking on that trip to the bathroom how much I hate hospitals and why the hell is my pee blue before I remembered that I had gotten an injection of dye the morning of the surgery to light up my lymph nodes. The surgeon took a few of those, too, for checking. All clear. Thank whatever deities for that. No chemo or radiation required. Thank you, again, deities.
I didn’t look at my chest until I got home the next day. I didn’t want to, but you have to in order to deal with the drain and its tubing, which you have for 2-3 weeks, sometimes longer after surgery. That first time I looked at my chest post-surgery, I remember carefully unbuttoning my shirt — I wore really baggy flannel shirts that buttoned in the front while I had my drain tube — and exposing the puffy slash across my pectoral. It looked weird, I decided. The surgeon had done a great job with the incision, but my body was no longer how it had been for the first 45 years of my life. That was hard. I avoided looking at my chest as much as possible for months, only doing it in the weeks after surgery to deal with the drain. I didn’t even look at it much when I got my first prosthesis and mastectomy bra a few months after surgery.
Basically, it took a good eight months for me to really look at my body in the mirror and not freak out about the blank expanse of skin on my chest. It took another six months before I settled in with the reality of life without a breast, but it was about two years after surgery before the prosthesis and mastectomy bras became part of my daily routine, and just something I do in the mornings and evenings.
“The Sum of Our Parts” is the first story I’ve written featuring a character — Kim Perez — who is dealing with what I did. Kim is thus a watermark for me, because I’m comfortable enough now with the new geography of my body to write part of my experience, something I couldn’t do prior to this. And though I don’t yet have a tattoo to map my geography, Kim does, and there’s a scene in the story that I hope captures a bit of the experience for some of us every time we look in a mirror after losing a breast. Here’s part of it:
Kim studied herself in the mirror. She was finally used to seeing her chest with one breast, twenty-two months and twenty days after the fact. Seven months ago she’d decided on a tattoo to mark where her breast had been, and she liked how that tatt looked, the vibrant greens, yellows, blues, and reds of Quetzalcoatl, the Aztec god who sometimes took the appearance of a feathered serpent. He did on her skin, a dragon without legs whose body was a muscular, serpentine splash of life over her scar, and his tail curled up to her shoulder, while his feathered fierce head rested on her sternum, almost touching her remaining breast, across a background of glyphs from one of the god’s temples.
The tattoo artist had taken several sessions to do it, given its size and color. All Kim had felt during each of them was the pressure from the tattoo gun because the mastectomy had taken nerve sensation along with breast tissue, and she was mostly numb from her armpit to an inch below her scar. The surgeon had said that would happen. She might get sensation back. She might not.
Kim pressed on her skin, and traced the lines of Quetzalcoatl’s tail down to her scar, barely visible, until she found the spot where the numbness ended below it. She ran her fingertips slowly back and forth along that boundary, and wondered how another woman might see and feel her, if Kim decided to remove her shirt and allowed someone to touch her again.
She thought then about Jordan, and the little buzz she’d gotten last week. Kim liked the buzz, and she liked thinking about Jordan, but losing a breast had affected her more than she had predicted, though she’d never worn feminine-cut clothing or worked to attract a male gaze. Funny, how she carried the weight of culture, history, and womanhood somewhere in her psyche.
So I hope you join me, Cheyenne, and these other authors in First for all kinds of different takes on first times: Annabeth Leong, Harper Bliss, Jeremy Edwards, Tamsin Flowers, Brenda Murphy, Sacchi Green, Ivy Newman, Emily L. Byrne, Vanessa de Sade, Cheyenne Blue, Jillian Boyd, Allison Wonderland, Rosie Bower, Cela Winter. And stick around. Cheyenne’s joining us next week to chat a bit further about First and she just might have some e-copies lying around for giveaways… 😉
Regardless of what you do today, I hope you have a great one. Happy Friday!