Despite her desire to drink it all in, though, Lucy remembered in a draft of her unpublished autobiography that she was always so nervous and timid on these occasions. Meeting such great writers and artists made her blush, and she felt exasperated because she never seemed able to be her real self. Suzanne was always the more social of the two, outgoing and confident. Lucy was laconic and deeply introverted, often seeking solitude. Suzanne was "firm ground, calm and light ocean," but Lucy was "tormented sky, deep agitated ocean," as one friend summed them up.
Their friendship with Beach and Monnier was important not only because it introduced them to other artists but also because Beach and Monnier were lovers. None of these women used the word lesbian to refer to themselves, perhaps not surprising since it was only one of several terms for women loving women and was not necessarily employed in the way it would be in later decades. Frequently, they used no term at all to describe the love between them.
Cafes, nightclubs, and restaurants provided a vibrant scene for women in same-sex relationships in 1920s Paris. In these years, the gay and lesbian community was more visible than ever before, especially in well-established entertainment districts like Montmartre, with its music halls, bars, and brothels. Yet women also formed supportive communities in more private spaces such as artistic salons and bookstores. Gertrude Stein and her partner, Alice B. Toklas—one of the most famous female couples in Paris—created an ongoing conversation about literature and ideas in their living room. Among such kindred spirits, Lucy and Suzanne could be open about their relationship, and pairs like Beach and Monnier or Stein and Toklas became role models for them. In their creative circles, Lucy and Suzanne also learned about the power of a new kind of personal and artistic resistance.
Two years after relocating to Paris, they moved to a new apartment in Montparnasse on rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs and furnished it luxuriously, combining pieces they inherited with items purchased with family money since neither really worked for a living. Despite their bohemian lives, they were never "starving artists." Lucy papered the bedroom from floor to ceiling with dark blue wallpaper covered in stars, believing that it would help her insomnia. Their two cats lurked around the flat. A photograph of the most famous gay man of the day, Oscar Wilde—who happened to be one of Uncle Marcel's friends—and his lover, Alfred Douglas, hung in a conspicuous location.
Lucy and Suzanne often hosted a growing group of friends in their parlor, leading conversations about art and ideas. Suzanne could open their address book, which still exists today, and run her fingers down a list of names that read like an artistic who's who of their day, deciding whom to invite—Louis Aragon, Salvador Dalí, Georges Bataille, the British writer Aldous Huxley, Jean Cocteau, the famous American lesbian writer Natalie Barney, the young psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, and many others. When visitors entered the well-appointed apartment, they were overwhelmed by the array of artwork on the wall—everything from photographs to posters to paintings by Max Ernst, Joan Miró, and other modernists—that nearly reached the ceiling. Cubist sculptures and exotic pieces were scattered around the apartment, along with a collection of glass ornaments and oriental tapestries. Sometimes Lucy brought out a large red mannequin, much to visitors' amusement and delight, or toured guests through their fabulous library, which contained numerous first editions.
Montparnasse provided other Left Bank pleasures. Le Café du Dôme, La Rotonde, and other famous hot spots, just steps away from the apartment, became frequent haunts. These were the meeting places for many expatriate Americans, especially artists and writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, who were living cheaply on the strong dollar in the Great War's aftermath. Cafes and dance halls buzzed with wildly popular jazz music, a welcome release for Parisians who had endured the rationing and lights-out of the wartime capital. Montparnasse was also the home of one of the first lesbian nightclubs in the city, the Monocle. "All the women there dressed as men, in Tuxedos," writes historian Florence Tamagne, "and wore their hair in a bob."
Despite the fun, conversations inevitably turned to political events around Europe, including the takeover of Italy by a new ideology called fascism. In 1922, Benito Mussolini was engineering his rise to power through organized violence and grandiose promises of returning Italy to the greatness of the Roman Empire. Fascist movements across Europe, even in France, threatened to tear nations apart and send more men to their deaths in the trenches of another war. Right-wing groups plotting to overthrow democratic governments and end individual freedoms clashed in city streets across the Continent with communists and centrists.