It is 1930’s New England. Martha and Karen run a successful girls’ boarding school school together. One of the students, Mary, has run away from the school. In order stop her Grandmother from sending her back, she tells her that Karen and Martha are lovers. This leads to an exodus, with parents pulling their children out of the school overnight, and a fraught court case.
Although the girl’s story was a lie, the scandal has brought something long buried to the surface. In this speech, Martha tells Karen what it is…

There’s always been something wrong. Always – as long as I can remember. But I never
knew it until all this happened. You’re afraid of hearing it; I’m more afraid than you. Listen
to me. You’ve got to know it. I can’t keep it any longer. I’ve got to tell you how guilty I am.
I’ve been telling myself since the night we heard the child say it. Telling myself that I am
guilty of nothing; I’ve been praying I could convince myself of it. I can’t, I can’t any longer.
It’s there. I don’t know how, I don’t know why. But I did love. I do love you. I resented
your marriage; maybe because I wanted you; maybe I wanted you all along; maybe I
couldn’t call it by a name; maybe it’s been there ever since I first knew you – I never felt
that way about anybody but you. I’ve never loved a man – I never knew why before.
Maybe it’s that. It’s funny; it’s all mixed up. There’s something in you, and you don’t know
it and you don’t do anything about it. Suddenly a child gets bored and lies – and there
you are, seeing it for the first time. I don’t know. It all seems to come back to me. In some
way I’ve ruined your life. I’ve ruined my own. I didn’t even know. There’s a big difference
between us now, Karen.