„You want desperately for the feeling to never stop yet you fear you might die of it. But you don’t die. That sensation reaches its delightful crescendo and then explodes.”

Beautiful dreamer, wake unto me

Starlight and dewdrops are waiting for thee

Sounds of the rude world, Heard in the day

Lull’d by the moonlight have all pass’d away

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Beautiful dreamer, queen of my song

Beautiful dreamer, queen of my song

List while I woo thee with soft melody

Gone are the cares of life’s busy throng

Beautiful dreamer awake unto me

Beautiful dreamer awake unto me

 

Beautiful dreamer, out on the sea

Mermaids are chanting the wild Lorelie

Over the streamlet vapors are borne

Waiting to fade at the bright coming morn

 

Beautiful dreamer, beam on my heart

E’en as the morn on the streamlet and sea

Then will all clouds of sorrow depart

Beautiful dreamer, awake unto me

Beautiful dreamer, awake unto me

 

The Barbary Coast

San Francisco, September 1888

 

„Awake unto me” is a historical lesbian romance, something between a pirate novel and a  coming of age one, placed during the 1888-1910 , with more than one twists, involving the two main characters, Kerry and Beth, coming from two worlds apart, thrown into a single real one, that brings them together, yet through fear, could separate them forever.

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Kerry lived in a whorehouse, her mother was dead and  her father was Lucky Jack, a conman of the San Frascisco’s Barbary Coast, who earned his living through gambling or fooling sailors and getting them drugged and steal all their money, yet he wanted Kerry to have a better life as he did, yet the little girl saw she could easily help Lucky Jack dressed as a boy and so she dressed as one, still living in the whorehouse, so at fifteen she had her first sexual encounter with Sally, who read between the lines and seduce her.  One day, Lucky Jack is really lucky to have met Dr. Addison Grant who needs money to graduate the medical school, so they gather up in gambling, because Dr. Grant was a genius in numbering the cards and so Jack earned some money and put them in a bank account for Kerry to be out of the world he knew and made Addison promise he will take care of her, so he did as Jack dies in a dispute with an old villain, Sally falls into disgrace, even more that she has already been, and Kerry finds Dr. Grant and he keeps his promise to take care of her, in spite of his reluctant wife Laura, who will be a really pain in the ass for everyone. Kerry is not yet a grown up at sixteen, yet she knows she wants to remain in Addison’s world and out of  Jack and Sally’s, she know she will dress as a man and find a way in this life, especially when she meets this girl, a future nurse, in Addison’s home at a small party.

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“You’re fifteen now, ain’t you?” Sally asked. Her eyelids were lowered and she had a funny little smile on her face.

Kerry nodded.

“You like girls, I bet. Don’t you?” She grinned when Kerry didn’t say anything. “You used to only like boys. I always saw you with that ratty little guy

Kerry fought to keep her temper. It was true she wasn’t spending time with Teddy. He’d gotten a bellhop job at the Palace so he wasn’t around much. When Kerry wasn’t helping Jack, she would wander over to the Cobweb Palace and saunter through the dark, gazing at the pictures of girls like they had when they were children. Like the cobwebs, the pictures had multiplied over the years. Kerry would stare at one and try to imagine what the girl would be like in real life, what she would feel like, smell like. She liked to think that the portraits in the Cobweb Palace were of nice girls, good girls.

“Yeah,” Kerry said finally. “Maybe I like girls.”

Sally lowered her eyelids again and asked, “Would you like to touch me?”

Kerry had about drained her glass of beer and she was feeling pretty good. Sally was being nicer than ever and looked pretty in her drawers. The tops of her plump, pale breasts peeked out from the yellowed ruffle of her chemise. Kelly looked at them longingly and Sally burst out laughing.

“It’s plain as day what you want, Kerry-o. C’mere.”

Sally pulled her into an embrace and they kissed again. The sensation of their tongues together almost sent Kerry into a swoon. Sally pushed Kerry’s head down to her breasts and Kerry kissed Sally’s chest and the tops of her breasts, and without any prompting she reached up to squeeze them, her hands trembling as she felt Sally’s nipples harden under her fingertips. Sally’s reaction astonished her when she threw her head back and groaned.

“Oh, girl, you’re going to slay me with those lips, you are. Come on.”

With that she unbuttoned her chemise and pulled it over her head, ripped off her drawers, and looked at Kerry with challenge in her eyes. “Take your clothes off.”

Kerry obeyed as though she were a puppet with Sally pulling her taut strings. The room was dim but not full dark, since it was twelve noon, but with the old shade pulled the light was a sickly orange. The beer and Sally’s eyes and Sally’s kisses were altogether overwhelming to Kerry. She was light-headed because even though she’d seen Sally naked before she’d never felt this way—all warm and tingling and aching to touch her. Sally was a little plump and so very soft. Kerry lay down next to her and ran her small, slim, tanned hand from Sally’s throat down to her crotch.

Sally trembled and murmured, “Mmmm. That sure feels good. You can make me feel even better. Do what I show you.”

With that, she pulled Kerry’s head to her breast, gripping her dark brown hair. Kerry knew without being told what to do and licked the shiny pink nipple offered to her lips, reveling in the feel of the soft but wonderfully hard flesh as she ran her tongue over it and sucked it into her mouth. Sally was moving all over and moaning loudly. She guided Kerry’s fingers none too gently to where she wanted them between her legs. Kerry had an odd feeling of familiarity since she had her own body as a reference. She knew what Sally felt, but feeling Sally around her fingers, so soft, and hot, and wet, made her nearly cry out with her own pleasure as her rich, dark scent filled her nose.

In a moment or two, Sally’s hand gripped her wrist hard, her breathing shallow and fast, her moaning taking on a shrill, desperate tone. “Faster,” she gasped. Kerry obeyed. She realized suddenly what kind of power she could wield and she liked it. She liked seeing Sally all helpless and pleading. It all ended suddenly as Sally heaved, uttering one sharp cry, and pressed her legs together hard, her wetness filling Kerry’s hand as her back arched before she collapsed back onto the bed.

“Oooee. Girl. You done me right. I knew you would.” Her breasts were going up and down, and they were rosy and had a little coating of sweat. Kerry lay quietly just looking at her in wonderment, trying to decide if it would be rude to lick the sweat from Sally’s beautiful breasts.

Sally was a lot of things but tender wasn’t one of them. But, for some reason, her hand on Kerry’s cheek seemed tender. Caring, even. Whatever just happened to her at least made her a little grateful or something, Kerry thought, feeling eight feet tall and ten years older to have been the cause of it.

She smiled shyly and Sally laughed. “You’re something, you are. I don’t think I ever got it as good as that. C’mere.” Those two little words were exerting a powerful effect on Kerry, and she was readier than anything to heed the call.

Sally cradled Kerry in her arms, hugging her small, slim body tight. Kerry was about to smother in her breasts, but she thought, This is a fine way to goSally started stroking her all over on her breasts and back and backside, squeezing her now and then. She whispered into Kerry’s ear, “I reckon I get to show you what for now. I’ll treat you reallll nice. ’Cause that’s how you treated me. I don’t forget that.”

Kerry jumped a foot, though, when Sally pinched her nipples a little too hard.

“Oh, sorry, sweetie. I didn’t know you were like glass. I’ll be nicer. In fact, I’ll be so nice you’ll think you died and gone to heaven.” Sally’s hands were everywhere, and everywhere her hands went, her lips followed. Kerry squirmed, half from discomfort and half from arousal. She didn’t know exactly what she wanted, but she knew she needed it. Now. The sensations of Sally’s hands and tongue on her heated skin were driving her crazy.

“Do you touch yourself?” Sally asked suddenly.

Kerry nodded. Her ability to speak had somehow fled. Sally was looking at her closely and insinuating her fingers in those places where no one but Kerry herself had been. Her fingers were clever and insistent, and Kerry had to shut her eyes. She couldn’t stand the feeling but she also couldn’t stand the thought of it stopping. She was concentrating hard and she was shocked when the fingers stopped. Before she could fully absorb that, she felt her legs pushed apart and the brush of hair on her thigh, and then a warm, wet mouth covered her most private, most sensitive place. She gasped and started to shove Sally away.

Sally raised her head. “Shhhhh!” she ordered, and went back to her task, wrapping her arms firmly around Kerry’s thighs.

When it was over, Sally propped herself up on her elbow and gently tweaked Kerry’s nipple. “Now you know what else to do. How about you show me what you learned.”

Beth is the only daughter of an upper-class couple that happen to own a shop and that’s their life. They act like..”if the Bible says so”, so Beth is doomed  from her early years to help her parents in everything and anything and follow their written or unwritten rules, every step of freedom or personal desire is a dreadful fight ended in tears, I find Beth the real heroin of this book, as she has to struggle with the whole world, even to have an Italian friend or visit her family, her mother helps a bit, but really cannot stop the darkness that will follow. Beth is sent to the local reverend to take biblical classes, yet her father need a credit from someone under the reverend’s influence. This reverend is a pedophile and unfortunately, Beth cannot escape his sexual advances nor the abuse afterwards and none believes her, her parents oblige her to go back to the reverend, now that was cruelty and she escapes only when the old man dies.  One thing to be clear, this abuse hasn’t changed Beth’s sexual orientation nor made her in any way, it just shows the horror of some families, at the begining of the 1900, at the foundation of America, soaked to follow the man’s will and the women were silenced through the „Bible says so..” issue or „for her to read the Bible is enough”, regarding the women’s emancipation nor free spirit. Beth manages to go to nursing school, despite her father’s wishes, to be his slave at his shop, and this is the way she meets Dr. Addison Grant, therefor Kerry.

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“She’s the best girl in the world, dear. Give her at least this much privilege.”

“Books are no good for girls.”

“She only reads novels and poetry, dear. They won’t harm her.”

“The only book she needs is the Bible.”

When Frieda mentioned Beth’s request to go the Rocco farm, her father’s face turned the color of the spaghetti sauce they served at their dinner, and Beth curled into herself and stared at her plate.

“No. I said, no. I need her at the store.”

Beth and Addison to go to the Philippines to war

„“You’re unhappy,” Beth stated flatly. “You don’t wish me to go.”’

“It’s not that simple.”

“Explain it to me, then. Tell me what you’re feeling. It’s a worry to me when I can tell you’re unhappy but you won’t explain to me, just as you won’t speak of your childhood.”

I’m in love with you and you don’t know it and I can’t tell you. I don’t know how to tell you. I would like to show you but… “I worry for your safety and I’ll miss you very much, that’s all.”

“Is that all? Kerry, look at me, please.”

Beth came up behind Kerry, who stood at the sink. Kerry slowly turned around and looked into her eyes. Beth’s expression was concerned and tender, but still Kerry couldn’t say what she wished to say: I’m in love with you.

Beth touched her cheek, and Kerry gazed at her longingly and covered Beth’s hand with her own hand.”

Now remember that Beth, unlike Kerry, knows nothing of love, sexual feelings nor care, because her parents took care of that, she was such an innocent in those issues, alltogether with the defiant act with the reverend, she somehow just let herself absorbed in school and afterwards in her work.

The first kiss

„The title read “Nocturne in E flat” by Fredrik Chopin.

Beth played, the notes flowing from her fingers. It was a slow, haunting tune with a few passages of rapid notes. Something about the melancholy yearning of the music seemed so perfectly suited to both of them and to the moment. This time Kerry looked hard at Beth’s face. She seemed to have gone into another world. As beautiful as the music was, Beth’s beauty moved Kerry more. If possible, she grew more beautiful as she played. Kerry stared; she couldn’t stop herself and her throat went dry. She focused on Beth’s lips. She closed her eyes and imagined kissing them.

As Beth played the last notes, she bowed her head and this time left her hands resting on the keys. Kerry moved as though she was under water. She put her hand on Beth’s cheek, turned her head so they were face to face, and kissed her. It was neither a short kiss nor a long one; it was gentle and not especially passionate, but it was unmistakably a lover’s kiss. Kerry was sure she felt Beth kiss her back before abruptly breaking away and closing the piano.

“You should go. It’s getting late.”

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My Dear Beth,

It has been now two months since we last saw each other, and my sadness at your absence grows no less. It does, in fact, become worse over time. My days are truly without color and joy. As for my nights, I sleep poorly in spite of my fatigue. I worry for your safety and trust you are not being too overworked. You, who are so faithful and diligent, I know would scarcely ever refuse to perform a task set before you. As your letters describe, the tasks can be immense. I long for your safe return and for the time we can once again drive the promenade in Golden Gate Park or visit the Baths for a swim.

Kerry

 

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 None of this matters, for she doesn’t love me and will never love me. So does this mean I’ll never know love? Never touch a woman again? If Beth doesn’t want me the way I want her, why shouldn’t I be with someone else?

„During her restless nights, her thoughts turned to Kerry more times than not. She recalled their jaunts to the park and to the Sutro Baths. Kerry’s burning dark eyes stared into hers when she closed her eyes, and her low, slightly hoarse voice echoed in her ears. Between sleep and awakening, she floated on the waters of the Sutro Baths supported by Kerry’s confident hands and strong arms. The memories were a pleasant and comforting refuge with an unexpected edge of bittersweet longing she couldn’t quite understand. Her roommate was quiet and unobtrusive, so Beth was left largely with her own thoughts, which suited her fine

Beth reread the letter. She wanted to say so much more, but she couldn’t find the words. She knew it sounded a bit overformal. She missed Kerry more than she would have predicted and knew she was looking forward to beginning the work for which they had been sent to perform, if only to take her mind off Kerry. They were to care for the casualties of war, and though Beth was only nominally patriotic and had no opinion on the rightness of the cause, she knew there would be people who were hurt or sick, and she wanted to care for them. All else was irrelevant.

The whiskey did relax her, but she fell into bed and tossed and turned in a state of semi-consciousness. Luckily, her stateroom mate was still on duty, else she might have been treated to hearing Beth mumble, “Kerry. Why did you kiss me? It’s a strange thing to do but I do so wish you would again. You look at me with such longing.” Beth played the kiss over and over. She didn’t know what it meant and where it might lead, but her psyche had latched on to it.”

 

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They met at Addison’s party, yet nothing really happens but a flawless attraction, that Kerry senses and Beth has no idea what’s about. And life goes on through  many chapters, them being separated and back together as friends. Kerry manages to get a job as dishwasher at a famous hotel’s restaurant : The Palace and Beth works as a nurse at the same hospital as Addison and lives and sleeps in Kerry’s room and Beth and Addison go to the War in the Philippines together, leaving Kerry and Laura altered behind. Kerry and Beth have shared just a kiss that neither could decipher back then, yet during such a long period of time Kerry understands her own feelings and know she wants Beth as a friend and as a lover, as a wife, yet Beth doesn’t really know, until she hears two nurses confessing their love for each other.

„“And something else. I saw something, heard something.”

Kerry was looking at her closely. “Yes?” Kerry said, to encourage her.

“There were two nurses,” Beth said, “part of our staff. They were very good friends. I heard them talking, saw them. They didn’t know I was there.”

She was speaking in a very low tone, forcing Kerry to strain to listen. Kerry was scarcely breathing and listening so intently she felt she might faint.

“They have a…a connection…they were, are, they…” Beth was clearly very close to tears. “They were in love with each other. I saw them kiss,” she finally said.

Kerry swallowed, not wanting to interrupt Beth. But down in her heart, she began to hope. She has finally realized. She knows. She knows! Kerry didn’t want to speak, even though she was desperate to hear what Beth would say next. She willed herself to be patient. Beth stared at the giant tropical plants for what seemed like a long, long time.

“Dearest Kerry?” Beth turned and looked her in the eye. “Are you in love with me?”

Beth’s expression was tender and compassionate and Kerry relaxed a little bit, but the question hung in the humid, hot air of the greenhouse. Kerry realized that she had to answer truthfully. The chance she had been praying for had come at last, and she had to summon her courage and roll the dice.

“Yes, Beth. Yes, I’m in love with you.”

“I thought so,” Beth said simply. “I wasn’t sure but now you have confirmed it.” There was another long silence.

Kerry took a deep breath. “I fell in love with you the exact moment I looked into your eyes after you spilled the coffee at Addison’s reception and I came to help you clean up.”

“Oh, Kerry. These many months—you never said.”

“I didn’t want to offend you. I wanted to be your friend. I wanted you to like me.”

“I do like you, very much,” Beth said softly, absently tracing one of Kerry’s fingers with her own.

“But you don’t love me?” Kerry asked sadly.

“Oh, Kerry, I don’t know. I don’t know anything about love.”

“Let me show you then.” Kerry glanced around, and by some miracle they were alone.

Kerry put her arms around her and pulled her close. Beth tensed but didn’t pull away, and Kerry pulled her even closer before kissing her, reveling in the sweet softness of Beth’s perfect lips. Kerry didn’t want to take advantage of Beth’s acquiescence and press her too hard so she stopped the kiss, resting her “And something else. I saw something, heard something.”

Kerry was looking at her closely. “Yes?” Kerry said, to encourage her.

“There were two nurses,” Beth said, “part of our staff. They were very good friends. I heard them talking, saw them. They didn’t know I was there.”

She was speaking in a very low tone, forcing Kerry to strain to listen. Kerry was scarcely breathing and listening so intently she felt she might faint.

“They have a…a connection…they were, are, they…” Beth was clearly very close to tears. “They were in love with each other. I saw them kiss,” she finally said.

Kerry swallowed, not wanting to interrupt Beth. But down in her heart, she began to hope. She has finally realized. She knows. She knows! Kerry didn’t want to speak, even though she was desperate to hear what Beth would say next. She willed herself to be patient. Beth stared at the giant tropical plants for what seemed like a long, long time.

“Dearest Kerry?” Beth turned and looked her in the eye. “Are you in love with me?”

Beth’s expression was tender and compassionate and Kerry relaxed a little bit, but the question hung in the humid, hot air of the greenhouse. Kerry realized that she had to answer truthfully. The chance she had been praying for had come at last, and she had to summon her courage and roll the dice.

“Yes, Beth. Yes, I’m in love with you.”

“I thought so,” Beth said simply. “I wasn’t sure but now you have confirmed it.” There was another long silence.”

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It really takes a very long time for Kerry to tell Beth the truth about her childhood, I enjoyed it when Kerry returned to Sally and Beth went after her, yet Beth cannot tel Kerry about her childhood abuse very soon, either.

 

Kerry’s touch, though, was something a part of her desperately craved. She was terrified, though, if Kerry touched her again, it would be exactly the same and she would recoil, thrust back to her victimized childhood. She wasn’t able to decide which was worse—her feelings or their effect on Kerry, who looked so terribly wounded and confused. It’s impossible to disclose or discuss it. Once she knows, she may never even want to speak to me or even see me again. She will think me used and dirty. It’s possible we’ll never be as she wants us to be or as I want us to be with this standing between us. If I keep silent we can perhaps be friends, but that’s all.

When they return, Kerry manages to tell Beth how she really feels and while Addison and his wife were away,  they try to make love, but Beth cannot, she remembers the abuse from her childhood and she and Kerry break up.  After a while, Beth tells Kerry the truth, because she understood she wanted to be with Kerry, too, just like the two nurses she overheard.

They try to talk to Addison and he says he has no real medical cure, but an asylum and it’s not the case, it will just pass with time.

In the meantime, Kerry over-ranked at work and it is now a cook and Beth a respected nurse, close to attend the medical school as a doctor as Addison suggested.  Beth studied her feelings once more and she finally decided that it’s a matter of choice and she chooses to forget the past and go to bed with Kerry. They pass brief beautiful and passionate times until Laura discovers them and puts Addison in the situation to chose her or Kerry. Addison asks Kerry and Beth to move out and they are sad to leave him , yet understood destiny offered them a new chance,a s Addison knew of loves between women from his aunts and actually resides Laura, remains her husband in words only, because she has also told Beth’s parents and created a stupid situation . The girls have some money from Kerry’s heritage from her father and her own savings are added to a new home for them both. Happy end.

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The idea of the novel is beautiful, the characters have essence and somehow we see them evolve, live and love and at loss, yet the times apart were too long, the lack of intimacy and sexual latency, to few, the way they were brought together was well matched, but the substance of love lacks, that special something isn’t there, I understand Beth is hurt, yet her she should have studied her feelings more, or experience more, she seems insipid. I enjoyed the read, but the happy ending was too much expected.

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