Unlike Others (Classic Lesbian Pulp)
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by Valerie Taylor
Category: Mainstream/Gay Fiction
Description: Jo works for the publisher of a small magazine. She is very good at what she does and enjoys the challenges that come with her job. Jo is not looking for love, having just ended a relationship with Karen who used her and cheated on her. No, Jo is going to focus on her work and stay away from women? until she meets Betsy at work. She is surprised to be so strongly attracted to Betsy, but resolves to stay away from her. Betsy appears to be straight and has begun dating their boss, Stan. Feeling terribly lonely, Jo ventures out? and before long circumstances bring her and Linda together. Linda and Jo are unable to fight the powerful attraction between them, however Jo's heart still yearns for the seemingly unattainable Betsy. When the relationship between Betsy and Stan grows and becomes entangled, Betsy turns to Jo for help and comfort? which is almost too much for Jo to bear. Almost.
A highly-talented writer, Valerie Taylor brings us the poignant and absorbing story of a young woman's search for love and fulfillment in a world of shadowed embraces and secret vows. And, as is often the case with her lesbian pulps, Ms. Taylor refuses to condemn her characters to negative and tragic consequences.
About Lesbian Pulp Fiction:
In the early 1950s new sub-genres of the vintage paperback pulp novel industry emerged--science fiction, juvenile delinquent, sleaze, and lesbian fiction, for instance--that would tantalize readers with gritty, realistic and lurid stories never seen before. Mysteries, thrillers and hardboiled detective pulps were already selling quite well. Publishers had come to realize, however, that sex would sell even more copies. In a competitive frenzy for readers, they tossed away their staid and straightforward cover images for alluring covers that frequently featured a sexy woman in some form of undress, along with a suggestive tag line that promised stories of sex and violence within the covers. Before long, books with these sensational covers had completely taken over the paperback racks and cash registers. To this day, the "good girl art" (GGA) cover art of these vintage paperback books are just as sought after as the books themselves were sixty years ago.
With the birth of the lesbian-themed pulp novel, women who loved women would finally see themselves--their experiences and their lives--represented within the pages of a book. They finally had a literature they could call their own. For lesbians across the country, especially those living in small towns, these books provided a sense of community they never knew existed, a connection to women who experienced the same longings, feelings and fears as they did--the powerful knowledge that they were not alone. We are excited to make these classic lesbian pulp novels available in ebook format to new generations of readers.
eBook Publisher: SRS Internet Publishing/Digital Vintage Pulps, 2011
eBookwise Release Date: July 2011
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [256 KB]
Reading time: 164-230 min.
There's no point in owning a double bed if you have to sleep alone. Thinking about the fifty dollars she'd paid out for this good-looking piece of junk, useless since Karen had gone off to get married and lead the square suburban life, only made Jo Bates feel worse about waking up alone in it. The fifty was irrevocably gone. And so was Karen.
Jo's reflection looked back at her from the dressing-table mirror, a neatly built girl a little above average height, in striped pajamas; short brown hair tousled around an alert, intelligent face. A useful body too, seldom sick or tired, capable of giving and receiving a great deal of pleasure. It was too bad nobody seemed to want the kind of pleasure she could give.
She rolled out and started making the bed, frowning as she leaned across to smooth the covers. New double-size sheets and blankets too, naturally; add that to the initial cost. Karen had paid for the bedspread, her only contribution to the household economy during the four months of her stay. The only trace of Karen left in the apartment, unless you counted the heavy early-morning feeling of loss that lurked somewhere between Jo's windpipe and diaphragm.
She showered, decided there wasn't time to make coffee, and got into her bra and panty-girdle, nylons, low-heeled pumps and favorite pleated blouse. Sunday's bermudas lay on the bathroom floor. She hung them in the closet and took her gray suit off the hanger. The girl in the gray flannel suit, she thought, applying bright lipstick and running a comb through her short hair. She picked up her handbag and gloves, got to the door, then went back for silver earrings and a lapel pin. Now she looked like a thousand other girls heading for buses and subway trains, putting their personal lives aside until next weekend, starting another five-day block of office work. Nobody would look beyond the career girl's uniform and see the real Jo.
We all look alike, she thought, climbing on the bus. If there's a difference, it's not the one straight people make such a fuss about. (Her stomach tightened at the thought of discovery; her chief dread since she was sixteen.) The only real difference is that I want more out of life. Yes, and the way things are going I'm likely to end up with a damn sight less.
She stood holding a strap, pressed against the broad beam of a man who smelled of perspiration. A car of my own, she thought. She and Karen had talked about buying a car. By staying home nights and doing their own cooking, they could have managed it. She remembered lying in bed beside Karen and arguing about the advantages of American and foreign-made compacts, putting off in mixed dread and hope the moment when she would touch Karen and wait for a response that might or might not be forthcoming.
And all the time Karen had been seeing David Breen. All her little hints about moving out and starting her therapy again hadn't been anything but a smoke-screen. The little cheat.
It would be easier if I could hate her, Jo thought, shutting her eyes as the bus swayed past Grant Park where the beds of cannas stood red and yellow, past the Conrad Hilton with sunlight glancing off the east facade, down Van Buren past the big Sears-Roebuck store. This was the daytime world--State Street slipping past, separating her from the apartment and everything unconnected with her job. She was glad now that Karen had worked in their own neighborhood. There were no invisible footprints of Karen's on these sidewalks to remind her of what she had lost.
The bus turned east again, got back on Michigan Avenue. She liked working on North Michigan. The buildings were new and streamlined, the sidewalks wide, the shops exclusive and uncluttered. From her office window she could look down sixteen stories over the gray-green river and northward past the Tribune Building and the Wrigley Building.
She rode up to sixteen with nothing on her mind except the November issue of the magazine. Even the sight of the publication's name, Produx Topix, in gold letters on the door no longer made her squirm. I'll get it changed yet, she thought.
She hadn't known anything about magazine editing when she answered the ad in the Tribune. A certain dexterity with words and a tremendous willingness to work were all she had; Stan had hired her on the strength of these. Or so he told her. After two years she suspected there had been other things in her favor, like being a girl. Stan looked at a female's figure first and her references second. He should only know, she thought wryly.
It hadn't done him any good or her any harm. They worked together like parts of a machine, Jo doing most of the work and Stan getting most of the credit, to put out the throw-away that was read by more than two thousand Plastix Produx workers. Maybe it was small time, as Stan pointed out when he had more than one martini at lunch, but it was fun, and a fairly honest way to make a living.
Some day, when she knew more about magazine production, she would go to New York and get a job with one of the big publications. Listening to Stan's troubles was a small enough return for all he had taught her.
She passed the tiny reception room where Gayle sat, breathing on her diamond and polishing it on her skirt whenever the phone wasn't ringing; the smaller office where the assistant worked--they were always losing assistants; as soon as a girl learned to read proof she either got married or got a better job and left without notice. Stan wasn't in yet. She passed his door and entered her own room at the end of the hall. Here she spent seven and a half hours a day writing about other people's engagements and weddings, funerals and new babies, surprise birthday parties and vacation trips. Her daytime world.
Gayle peeked in. "Jo, Betsy Considine is here. She's applying for Nancy's job."
Jo nodded. "Send her in."
The Considine girl was small, blonde, and calm. Good, Jo thought--Nancy had been given to tantrums.
She said, "Mister Haxton will be in any minute. Would you like a cup of coffee?"
"Run down and get three coffees, Gayle. I'll take the phone."
Big deal, having somebody you can boss around. Do this, do that. She said, "The turnover on assistants is pretty high here. They keep getting married."
"I won't be."
"Are you married?"
Betsy Considine considered this. "I'm divorced. Any objections?"
That takes care of that, Jo thought. Not that she had hoped--still, you never knew. She said neutrally, "This is a business office, more or less. Your personal life doesn't enter into it."
She liked the girl's looks. Perhaps because she looked a little like Karen. Not a real resemblance, but they were the same general type: fair, with a wide forehead, heart-shaped face and gentle blue eyes. Betsy Considine returned her look steadily. Jo grinned, wondering if she threw things when she was angry, like Karen. You couldn't tell with these little hausfrau types.
"How old are you?"
Karen was twenty-four.
Gayle pushed the door open with her knee and walked in, balancing a stack of paper cups. "Here's our coffee," Jo said. "Ask Gayle any questions you want to, Betsy. I'll see you again after you talk to Mister Haxton."
They left. She sat looking around her office.
This small room with its one window overlooking Michigan Avenue was the center of her working life. The desk and chair, typewriter and file cabinet belonged to Plastix, but she'd bought the thin gold-colored curtain and half a dozen of her own books lay on the file, handy for lunch-time reading. The Roget, dictionary, Literary Market Place and Writers Market were her own, and she had never returned the New York Times Style Book, which belonged to Stan. The metal pica stick and long-bladed scissors were hers too. Stan needled her about it. He said it was evident she'd turned into an editor and this was the most dismal thing that could happen to a nice girl. "You'll end up marrying a printing press."
"That's all right with me."
"It's a waste of womanpower."
Goaded, she might answer, "How about you? I don't hear any wedding bells ringing for you."
"I've got my mother to think about."
And I have problems of my own, Jo wanted to say. But she knew better. You couldn't tell the truth to straight people, ever; the best you could hope for was tolerance without understanding. They saw the different ones as emotionally retarded or, worse, guilty of some nameless sin against society'.
You can't escape it, Jo mused, taking her first sip of the cooling coffee. Still vivid in her own mind were the twelve years of her misery: guilt, worry, daydreaming, trying to find out from books what no one would tell her. It was no wonder Karen's crazy middle-of-the-night attempts to respond to her lovemaking had been followed by the broad-daylight blues. She herself hadn't settled all the moral and religious angles; it was more that she'd quit struggling.
To hell with it. Jo opened a folder of news items and began to leaf through them, selecting a few from each factory department for the next issue. She continued to sip her coffee, not because it was good but because it was paid for.
The door of the outer office slammed. That would be Stan, underlining his masculinity. He came back to her door, already pulling off his suit-coat. Bypassing his own office to talk to her, not because she counted as a person but because she could be relied on to sympathize with him. A mother surrogate. With that bitch he had at home to sour him on all motherhood? Sure, she thought, he needed the old harridan, fake heart attacks and all; otherwise he'd get out. Can't tell him that, though.
"Hi, Jo. Did you see the new babe?"
Jo said neutrally, "I talked to her."
"What did you think?"
But of course. Stan was the boss. He expected her to make the decision and then convince him it was his own. She said, "I haven't found out if she knows anything, but she seems to have good sense."
"Think we can do better?"
"For what we're paying?"
"Yeah, I know."
She put down the manila folder, gave him her whole attention. A tall lanky man with a crest of red hair and an outsize adam's apple, he was in no way handsome, and nobody knew better than she did (unless it was God, or his bitch of a mother) how insecure he was. But she was sorry for him.
He waited, leaning against the door-jamb. She said, "Have a good weekend? How was the stag?"
"I didn't go." She waited. After a moment's uncomfortable silence he said, "She had an attack after supper, Saturday night. It wasn't a bad one, but I didn't want to leave her."
Between them hung the shared knowledge of what he could and couldn't do. He could go to church, unless the weather was bad; the old lady was at her worst on rainy days. He could get to his Great Books group on alternate Thursdays, and his disappointment when he missed a session was pitiable. But a bachelor party suggested drinking, off-color stories and, worst of all, sex. That took care of that.
The pause was lasting too long. She said, "Maybe she'll feel better when the weather settles. I'm going to make up the weddings while you talk to Missus Considine."
He grinned. "Guess I'll hire her. Then well have three good-looking girls in the place."
He went out. She looked after him with a mixture of affection and annoyance. If he had any guts he'd throw that complaining old bag into a rest home. Wouldn't cost any more than keeping that big old house where she lived and ailed, surrounded by out-of-date furniture, keeping a stranglehold on her only child. Find himself a warm and willing girl who'd give him some affection and not ask for the moon in return.
It had reached a point where she, Jo, looked hopefully at all the girls Stan met, the girls in the Plastix plant who handed him their news notes every week and the stenos from the building pool who took dictation when they were between assistants. Pimping for the boss, she told herself. But that didn't keep her from wishing he could find somebody.
She turned back to her desk, determined to think only about her work. But the unease that had haunted her all morning was too strong. I need to talk to somebody, she thought. She laid down the folder and reached for the telephone.