They kiss because-
There is no because. If Claudia Joy were thinking (which she isn't), she would be thinking of a hundred thousand things (her husband, Denise's husband, how happily married grown women don't have friends like this, how Denise must not get it, must not know what this means, or she wouldn't slip her tongue between her lips or sigh like that or wrap her fingers around Claudia Joy's purse strap just like that...). She would ask if Denise is okay. She would ask her, and ask herself, why.
She would stop for air.
But the truth is, she doesn't think, not during their goodnight-kisses-turned-good-god-this-is
She thinks later, though, in fits and starts, fluttering up to the top of her consciousness as she folds laundry and thinks of the silk of Denise's blouse running through her fingers.
This isn't what "friends" do (though Roxy and Pamela joke about it so often that either they know, or they suspect, or they speak from their own experience -- the younger generation seems to fall into this more easily than she ever expected to herself), but this is what she does with Denise. She should worry, because so much else has gone to hell lately, because a thousand eyes are on her all the time, but she doesn't, because this is so a part of their relationship, their friendship, that it no longer surprises her. She no longer wonders who starts it, every time they do this, go from giggling to whispering to kissing and back and forth, necking in the driveway like teenagers whenever their teenagers aren't home.
"I'd ground Emmelin for this," she whispers.
Denise pulls back, touches her cheek. "For what?" she asks, and for an instant, Claudia Joy wonders at Denise's sweet simplicity, at how she sees things in black and white and this, this isn't adultery, isn't gay, isn't any other label that doesn't fit into Denise's world.
It's an odd role reversal when Denise speaks: "Don't worry. You're not doing anything wrong, Claudia Joy."
"How do you know?"
Denise smiles. "I've never had a friend like you. I love you, you know."
And that puts to bed some of the fluttering worries inside her, because when Denise says that, it's different than the way they speak to Frank and Michael. This doesn't compete, because it doesn't compare. It's just... them. What they do. Who they are.
Maybe, all this time, Denise has known the score, known what's important (Michael, Frank, the kids, this, this, this) and she's been the one who doesn't get it.
Their lips meet once more, gently, the type of friendly goodbye kiss that started this all, all those months and years and posts (mileposts, army posts) ago. This isn't the most important part of their friendship, or the most evident way she shows she cares about Denise. It's just the way they say goodnight.
"I should go in. I'll drive you home," Claudia Joy says.
"I want to walk," Denise replies, smiles, opens the car door with one hand before letting Claudia Joy's fingers go from the other. "Goodnight."
Claudia Joy watches her go before going inside. Michael's asleep, so she has the chance to undress and light a few candles before slipping in beside him and sliding her legs between his.
"Hmmm..." he mumbles, not opening his eyes. "I love it when you have girls' nights."
She laughs. She doesn't know how much he knows -- and if he does, doesn't know if it would bother him. Michael's like Denise in that way. He doesn't question her.
But then, when she thinks about it, she doesn't give him a reason to. It doesn't compare.
"I love you," she tells him. It sounds different than in the car, than with her, but it means the same thing.
He kisses her, hard and all-encompassing, the way he does-
- and she stops thinking.