Usual Disclaimer: Xena, Gabrielle and their supporting characters belong to Universal/RenPic/Studios USA and whoever else wants a piece of it.
These uber spinoffs are mine, and yet still theirs. Sort of. No copyright infringement intended. Just fun guys I promise.
Lesbian sex Yes. But no graphic detail.
Violence None, but that could depend on your taste in music.
Other Some nasty language and illicit drug use.
Thanks to Lela the Great Beta. Shes the best in the Verse. Thanks also to her gal Alicia for coming up with the band and EP name.
Assume ThisBy Poto
She looked me over like a prized chicken, only I had a clipped wing and my drumsticks were too thin. At the very least I didnt think I was passing her appraisal with flying colours. Speaking of colours though, her hair was bright pink.
"What colour is it normally?" I blurted.
"Green." She shot back.
Blonde, I thought, genuinely meaning no disparagement. My mother is a hairdresser and subjected me to lessons in hair care as a child. Id endured thousands of lectures on what colours it was possible to dye someones hair and how to do it based on their natural hair colour. I have to admit though that the lessons had never covered fluorescents.
She walked around the shelves for a while, picked up a couple of books, rejected one, and then came back to the counter. She put the book she was holding next to the register. I did as I always did and tried not to look like I was evaluating her according to her reading habits, while secretly wondering why she wanted to know about advanced knitting techniques.
"Is it your mothers birthday? Shall I wrap it for you?"
"No, thanks." She looked at the stand of TV related bookmarks, flipping idly through X-Files, DS9, Xena, Voyager I stopped myself before my imagination had her in a silver catsuit. It did that sometimes. Concentrating on the cash register, I managed to scan the book.
"Are you a member of our frequent buyers club?" Again, she shook her head, no. I wondered how many more questions I could come up with to delay her inevitable retreat from the store away from this obviously loony shopkeeper.
I was packing the book hardcover, a nice edition into a plastic bag marked "Monaghans Readery" my fathers choice, not mine when she looked up. Green eyes were a really bad match for pink hair. I was intrigued, wondering if she knew it and had done it on purpose.
She spoke. "Do you have any Star Trek 3D Chess sets?"
"You know, the one that the guy with the pointy ears plays?"
Stuttering something about looking out the back, I beat a path to the storeroom door. And on top of the bewilderment at the request, I was stunned because I knew I had one. My younger sister had requested I order one while she was flipping through the catalogue. It was a whim.
I picked it up, dusted it off, and looked up the price in the stock register. Id been so convinced that the thing was destined to become a family heirloom that I hadnt bothered to price it.
It was ridiculously expensive. I knocked $30 off as a conversation starter maybe shed been shopping around and would be impressed? and carried it out to the storefront.
"Is this the one you were looking for?" I asked, as casually as I could whilst holding a box with a huge picture of Spock on it up for everyone to see.
She shucked her shoulders. "Yeah, thats it. How much?"
I told her. She seemed surprised. Whipping out her gleaming credit card either brand new or a replacement for a stolen one she nodded assent that shed buy it.
"Could you wrap this one up for me please? Its for my mother." I thought she was joking and smiled, but she shook her head. "No really, you reminded me that its my mothers birthday next week."
I kept my composure, rang up the purchase, and resisted with all my willpower the desire to look at the name on the card or the signature. I wrapped the gift carefully. Belatedly I remembered, as I watched her back go through the door, that I was supposed to look at the signatures to see if they matched. Security and all that. Well, I had a copy in the register
I rearranged the bookmarks on the stand, resisting another urge to count them. She walked up the street, a big package under her arm.
I assumed I would never see her again, but it wasnt like that. It never is.
A week later she was back. It was basically the same time, like she had a lunch break around then or something. I thought she must work at the record store down the street. I watched her closely for half an hour. By then I figured that she had spent way more time in the needlework section than a person with pink hair had a right to without offering a decent explanation.
I decided to be helpful.
"Hi, are you looking for something specific?"
I had come up from behind her so the little start of surprise she gave was hardly unexpected. Putting on my most unmenacing face, I waited for her reply.
She turned and looked decidedly perplexed. "Do you crochet?"
Not the usual "can you recommend something?" question, I thought. "Me? No, sorry. Can you?"
"No. My girlfriend does."
Desperately trying to prevent myself from pouting some say I look cute when I pout but it was hardly an appropriate response on this occasion I answered calmly. "Does she knit often?"
"Crochet." She corrected.
"Oh right. Crochet."
I remembered the book on knitting from her last visit vaguely, realising Id confused the issue. I was too busy thinking of that time Id talked about girls with my mother, who was commenting on the types of women I should or should not date. I remember distinctly a conversation where shed asked me what kind of woman my current girlfriend was. When I asked her to qualify the question, shed told me that she was worried I was dating a "sticky" woman. After my hysterics had subsided I asked my mother what a sticky woman constituted. She replied that a sticky woman was someone who stuck to anyone who walked past.
After another fit of hysterics, I was treated to one of those rare and marvellous double takes from my mother. She further explained that, in my particular situation, I probably shouldnt date a sticky dyke.
Thinking that I would take revenge on her, I replied by saying that I thought a sticky dyke sounded like it was either a badly constructed Dutch water containment barrier, a pudding, or a type of paddle pop.
She was not amused.
The girl with the pink hair was in the middle of explaining what kind of book on crochet techniques was required. "Yeah, so shes in this fit of baby patterns you know? I think her sister is pregnant or something "
I reached down and picked up what looked to be the crochet equivalent of Stephanie Alexanders Cooks Companion, and handed it to her with one of those bookstore managers knowing smiles. "This sells really well. I think no matter what type of stuff shes doing shell appreciate this."
At that moment I was contemplating how appreciative Id be if the seams of her clothes were made of easy open Velcro. I cursed my mother silently. Sticky women indeed.
The pink haired girl nodded as her eyes lit up. They still didnt match her hair, even though the pink had faded slightly since the last time Id seen her. She took the book from my hands and eagerly started examining the pages.
I felt like a bug. I knew nothing about that book. For all I knew it was equivalent to an "Idiots Guide to Crochet". I scanned the shelves looking for something else to recommend. I had to admit I was lost. The girl, however, looked perfectly contented with the book Id given her. She looked at the price and her eyes brightened even more. Must have been cheaper than she had expected. She shoved the book into my hands proclaiming that shed take it, and walked around me towards the counter.
I shrugged, and followed.
That was the sum total of our second encounter.
That night, I went to bed dreaming of eating brown, gooey sticky date pudding with a green-eyed girl with pink hair. There was way too much colour involved so I woke up, got some water, and went back to bed, telling myself that if I couldnt dream anything monochrome, I shouldnt dream anything at all.
As opposed to the first encounter, after the second run-in with the pink-haired girl I desperately wanted to know what I could call her besides "pink-haired girl". I was sure she had several more admirable qualities, despite her taste in girlfriends. I mean, how many dykes do you know who knit and crochet and who have pink-haired girlfriends? I dont have any problem with those qualities per se, I simply find the combination a tad odd.
She was a pretty regular visitor in the bookstore, but for a while she hadnt bought or asked for anything. Every now and then she wandered listlessly past the needlework shelves, and I swore to myself that for my own peace of mind I would hide all the books on embroidery out the back, just to be safe.
I never did. I just thought about it.
One day, she lifted her eyes up and met mine as she was about to head out the door. She smiled briefly, and walked on. I could have asked then. I could have leaped out from behind the counter and popped the question, "what the hell is your name?" But I didnt. She left, and she didnt come back for three weeks.
When I did see her again she was wandering in the Science Fiction section, picking up book after book by different authors I not only recognised but considered myself almost an authority in. I acted bored and sidled up on the excuse that I could shelve some books that hadnt had price tags put on them yet. Half of them had not even been catalogued in the system, so I knew Id have to remember every single damn book and pull them down at the end of the day or else ruin my stocktake system forever.
"She is a really great author." I said, trying to sound authoritative. A Marion Zimmer Bradley tome sat lightly in her hands. She ran a finger almost reverently over the hard bound cover. My senses tingled.
"Really? I havent read any. I was never really into historical fiction. My girlfriend got me into one of her books last week."
I tried to smile. "The knitting girlfriend?"
Her eyebrows shot up, and she looked at me puzzled, kinda like How the hell do you know this about me? It had never crossed my mind that it would be weird for me to remember these details about one single customer.
I blushed. "I recommended a crochet book for you to give her, if I recall." I said, shelving another book, which coincidentally at that moment I had to get a ladder to do so that I could go up and out of her line of sight.
"Oh right, yes, you did. This is a different girlfriend though."
I cursed inwardly. What if the day shed smiled at me she had been between girlfriends? What if I had missed my one and only shot in the hole?
"Oh." Not knowing quite what to say. "In any case, that book is excellent, though this one.." I reached over and pulled a volume from the shelves, "This one is better. Same writer, more mature I think."
She perused the dust jacket and flipped over to read the blurb on the back. I watched her hands as inconspicuously as I could.
"Anyway, my names Jo. Whats yours?"
"Claire." She shook my hand, after placing the book back on the shelf. For some reason I approved, even though she was rejecting my recommendation. Her fiction book tastes were obviously not as easily swayed as her crochet book ones were. The absurdity of that thought only hit me much later.
"Youre in here quite a bit. Do you work down the road?"
"Yeah, in House and Garden."
Well, that was almost next to the record store. I hadnt been that far wrong.
"Im in a band too."
I deliberately looked interested. Its not that I wasnt interested, I just wanted her to know for sure that I was. She visibly relaxed, as if she expected me to laugh out loud or something. Her hands hooked by habit in the straps of her tank top and she stood, rocking back and forth on her heels. She was looking at me now, rather than the bookshelf. I ran a hand through my pony-tail, adjusted my glasses which I personally thought were quite funky. They were octagon shaped. My sister had found them for me a couple of years ago, and women were always telling me they made me look intelligent.
"Yeah? What is your band called? Maybe Ive heard of you."
She laughed again.
"What kind of music do you play?"
"All kinds. Stuff women listen to." She evaded that one, I noticed. I guessed it was just difficult to characterise. Her jeans had a hole worn in the knee. She bent over a little to pull at a strand that was coming free.
"Do you play anywhere?"
"Sure." She looked at me for a long moment. "I can give you the name of the club, if youre interested. Were playing there this Wednesday night."
I nodded, to say that I was definitely interested. She had this weird habit of biting her bottom lip every now and then. She was doing it as she fished for a pen in her back pocket.
As she twisted around I was trying to subtly investigate the muscle definition on her arm to check if she was a drummer. Id had an affair with a drummer once, named Tracy. She and I had had a difference in philosophy. She asked me what I most liked about her. I said that I liked the way she made me laugh. Her bass player, Toni, told her that she liked her thighs. I guess I wasnt as good a masseuse as Toni was.
She asked me to hold out my arm. I almost objected, saying I had plenty of notepaper over on the desk if she wanted to use that, but then she grabbed my wrist firmly and my inner slut slapped me and told me to shut up.
So what if she had a girlfriend? I could just take a peek in at the club Wednesday night for the hell of it, couldnt I? It wasnt as if she acted married or anything
She let go, and the black scribble shed written revealed the name of the club, and a scrawled address.
"You know where that is?"
I nodded, not having the faintest idea.
"Meet you there. At ten. Just look for me when you come in."
After work I searched for my usual place of contemplation. Not that I classified myself as terribly introspective by any means, it was just that in some cases reflection was a necessary evil. It let you, among other things, plan for the foolish steps you were about to take.
I passed by various cafes, bars, parks, nooks and crannies that I supposed passed for secluded or romantic. There was even this cute little tree overhang that sat next to the creek that wound its way around underneath this quaint little bridge.
A couple of miles down the road there was my sanctuary. Burger King.
I went inside and ordered the usual Whopper with cheese meal. I sat at my favourite booth near the juke box. Something was wrong. Usually they played Elvis and "Rock Around the Clock" type stuff. For some reason they were suddenly playing Mariah Carey.
From the second I sat down I began wondering. What the hell did she see when she looked at me? I didnt know how I felt. So she couldnt possibly know how I felt. I shifted in my seat. My sex drive knew how I felt. Hell, my mother would probably be able to walk into the room right then and smell how I felt. I swear, she still thinks lesbians are just straight people permanently on heat.
Why did she mention the club? Did she really want me to show up? I bet she noticed my shoulders were big and that there was the beginnings of a pimple forming on my chin.
When I was a girl, I came home from school once in tears. I remember a school bully teasing me, calling me names. I think hed said I was just like a boy, that I was butch. If I had known at the time that butch was a particularly sexy type of woman Im sure it would not have bothered me quite so much, but I recall that it bugged me, hurt my feelings. I was so tall, so self-conscious.
So my dad sat me down on his knee and told me to stop me crying. He said to me, "Joanne, if you ever think someone is thinking something about you, it is probably more of a reflection of how you feel about yourself."
He had been watching football at the time, and I dont think he even noticed that he had wasted his best piece of fatherly advice where it made absolutely no sense. But, I remembered his words really clearly all through my childhood, mainly because they confused the hell out of me. After a while I think that they came to mean something to me because I fit my life around them, like fitting your week around a bad horoscope.
The words helped me as a grown up. It probably also helped that Id grown my hair and didnt look so butch anymore. I think maybe that Dad was saying that if I felt sexy I would be sexy. I just dont think he could say something like that to a six year old.
I took a sip of my coke. Just when I had convinced myself that the Mariah incident was just a juke box aberration, that it would pass, it become clear to me that they intended to play the whole greatest hits album. I chewed my burger, thoughtfully.
So Claire probably didnt think bad thoughts about me. She was more reticent about her feelings, or else I was really bad at reading the signs, which wouldnt have surprised me in the least.
I chewed some more. Lusty thoughts played with my mind.
I found I always had to come here and think before commencing a hunt. Tracy the drummer had started the same way. Burger King just had atmosphere, and good fries.
What if I didnt like the music at the club? That could turn out to be a problem. Not to mention that I had no idea how to knit.
The damned juke box started to play Celine Dion. I put my half eaten burger on the tray, ate the last fry, took one more sip of coke, and left.
I spotted Claire just as I walked into the dark, smoke-filled bar. Claire. Claire. I tried to send her name rolling across my tongue as much as possible to belay the chances of me referring to her as pink-haired girl to her face.
After one step I found myself apologising profusely for having stepped on a bouncer. She was only five foot four, and was wearing black leather. I figured I had a fairly decent excuse.
I was hoping I wouldnt have to admit that Id spent the entire previous
evening surfing the web for music that pink-haired people liked. It struck me that I
really had to get over the hair, but I was still working on techniques for introducing her
to my parents at Christmas. "Hi, Mum, Dad. No dont worry about putting lights
on the tree, Claire will stand in the corner and act wooden."
She waved at me. I waved back. I felt my hand shaking as I lifted it and shoved it behind my back as soon as I could. I resolved at the very least not to buy and carry a round of drinks until Id drunk at least four.
She moved easily through the crowd before me. It was like watching a pink snake slither through sand. Without a word and with no protest from me she grabbed my hand and led me back over to a group of loud drunken people. They were short on chairs so Claire had to sit on my lap. I thought the least I could do was pretend to look like I wasnt enjoying it. I just kind of sat, not moving, not speaking.
Claire handed me a drink that someone had bought for me. Then she pulled my head down to talk loudly in my ear. "You look uncomfortable."
"Liar." She grinned.
"Really. Im not."
"Youre a really bad liar." She laughed. And she was right, I am a really bad liar, only that just made me feel the injustice more. Funny how bad a lie seems when its the truth.
I looked at my watch. Barely ten. "What time do you go on?"
"About eleven." She motioned to the bartender for another drink. I looked into my glass that was still half full, shrugged, and slugged the rest down. She laughed, and motioned for two.
A girl walked past and bumped into me. I looked up to protest, but shed already passed by. I stared after her. Not really knowing why. I just kept staring.
Claire poked me in the ribs. "Hey, down girl!" I looked at her, confused. "She had huge breasts! You were staring."
I got indignant. "No, I wasnt."
"Bullshit! Yeah you were!" She chuckled and clucked, as if proud of my supposed lechery. I felt cheated. Id gladly take being hassled about staring at some womans breasts if Id actually gotten to see them.
I puffed up my chest. I could be as big a lech as the rest of the dyke population! "Hold that thought."
Shoving my new drink back into her hands, I followed in the trail of the supposed big-breasted woman. I wasnt quite so good as Claire was at weaving through the crowds, so I lost her big, blonde hair in the sea of heads more than once, before picking up the trail again. I was like a bloodhound, instinctive, hungry. Stop those mammaries! Dont let them get away! And why the hell was everyone bumping into me all of a sudden?
I felt lots of eyes on me, and a flush rising to my cheeks. A woman I barely saw flagged me down at the bar and asked if I wanted a drink. I nodded my head, suddenly thirsty. My head was spinning. A drink appeared magically in the form of a shot glass. Black, inky liquid slid down my throat like honey laced with chili. I stared at the empty glass, and then looked at the woman whod bought it. I had a direct view across the bar, in time to see Claire face-locked with a butch-ish but slim brunette. Funny, the girl didnt look the Sci-Fi type. I didnt think it could be The Knitter. It could have been someone else entirely. I figured that was what happened when you left pink-haired people alone at the bar while you went in search of the Holy Grail of breasts. I was obviously not worthy. Theyd disappeared.
My head still swam. Apparently I looked a certain way because the chick at the bar was looking deep into my eyes and smiling knowingly. All at once the world stopped spinning and I felt something. The blonde took my hand and slid my index finger between her lips, sucking on the end. I laughed, not really looking, just feeling the warm sensation as my finger was licked and sucked. I chuckled from somewhere deep in my throat, not a sound I wholly recognised.
The bartender was looking at us expectantly. Being the one most preoccupied at that moment, having a body part sucked and all, I gestured that the strange girl was buying. She didnt seem to object. I leant over the bar and thought hard.
"Do you make cocktails?" I yelled.
She shrugged. "Sure."
I looked down the bar at Claire and Miss Mystery Girl Number Three, gulped back another throaty growl and tossed aside my clutched-stomach feeling of jealousy. "Make me something pink."
I proceeded to stuff my tongue down the blonde womans throat as thanks, and she responded pretty lustily, as far as I can tell such things. She was wearing leather. The salty smell of it got up my nostrils and played around with my carnivorous instincts. At least that explained all the strange growling. I was afraid if I survived the night Id have to check myself into a zoo.
Someone slapped my butt hard, and it wasnt the girl I was mauling because I knew with total surety where both her hands were. Annoyed, I looked up.
"You look good."
"Yeah, you too." Shed lost weight. She was obviously not drumming anymore. It made her look pale and sickly.
We stared at each other for a few seconds. The anonymous girls hand snuck under my shirt, reaching for my right breast fairly insistently. Tracy saw that, and smiled.
"Can you introduce me to your friend?"
Her smile dimmed somewhat. "No, you wont introduce me?"
In that situation, off my nut on something I didnt know, faced with a situation I had never been in before, being felt up by a strange woman, I didnt feel like I had any choice but total honesty. "Actually, I mean, no I really cant. I dont know her." I shrugged.
Tracy laughed. I wondered with amusement why all the laughing I heard sounded suspiciously throaty. I dont think the unnamed groping girl had even noticed I wasnt participating anymore. I threw back a mouthful of something frothy and bright pink as ordered - the bartender had put in a huge cocktail glass and sat in front of me on the bar.
A hand came forcefully through the crowd and grabbed my arm. I freaked, not being used to so many grabby hands. How many hands could one lot of women have? Strong arms grabbed me and twirled me away, and I waved behind me absently at the strange girl who in the split second it had taken me to leave had developed an intense, and rather sick, liking to the ugly fringing on Tracys shirt. Guilt at leaving so suddenly vanished. I recognised and spontaneously hugged my assailant or rescuer tightly, running my fingers through that now familiar hair.
Claire smiled. "I want to introduce you to someone. You werent busy were you?" She grinned. I shook my head, my fuzzy brain not really able to deal with all the quick movement. I almost keeled over twice.
I tried to gather myself enough to stop her dragging me through the crowd. By now Id gotten used to whatever was in my system enough to detect that it was alien.
"What did you give me?" I remembered how quickly Id sunk the first glassful of something Id thought was harmless old vodka and orange.
"Something I thought youd like."
A strange kind of practicality kicked in and I reached for my wallet. "What do I owe you for it?"
She howled and nearly knocked herself over. "Probably a kick in the head. Right now you love me, tomorrow youll hate me."
I nodded, as if it all made perfect sense. "No doubt."
Her eyes twinkled and I was lost in that something again. I was hearing strange piano tinkles and bright lights flashed. Sound guys were on the stage checking equipment and it sounded like beautiful music.
"One two, yip yip yip, one two."
I rolled my eyes. "Fuck, I am so gone."
"Dont worry, Ill take care of you," she replied. Once again, in no position to argue with some kind of overheated ferret running around in my bloodstream like it was his own private playpen, I let her take my hand and continued on.
The brunette was introduced as an ex-girlfriend. I didnt have the courage to ask her if she had knitted any doilies lately, but it was an evil kind of temptation. But it wasnt her. It appeared that neither the Knitting Woman nor the Science Fiction girlfriend were in attendance. I was placed carefully in a seat at a table near the front of the stage. The lights flashed on, bright yellows, greens and reds. The bar crowd cheered.
"Good evening. Were Jennifers Lovechild." A blonde, not my pink haired beauty, took the mic in her hands. Claire strutted there was no other word to describe it onto the stage, her slick, black electric bass slung over her shoulder with a bright pink shoulder strap. It was gaudy overkill. I loved it. So did everyone else. Not ten seconds went by before a lacy black bra was hanging seductively from the end of the bass, thrown onstage by some giddy woman somewhere.
There was a merry-go-round in the park down the road once when I was a child. I remember the horses going round and round, and me making myself sick just standing there watching them because my parents were too stingy to pay to let me ride. They went up and down and the screaming of the little girls as they went was intoxicating to me, even then. Women screamed around me and I saw the lights dip first down then up again over the milling crowd. The band smiled, cracked a couple of jokes.
My throat just felt dry. I looked around, gesturing for water. A girl next to me pulled my hair to get my attention and shoved a water bottle into my hands. I drank, long and deep draughts, until I felt my stomach would explode. I leaned back. Some other woman Id met briefly put her arms around my shoulders and held me back against her, to steady me. The band started up a riff and I drifted into a kind of bleary eyed contentment like I didnt think Id felt before. A kind of well-lit, drunken dyke heaven.
She smiled at me. My hormones were tap dancing. I thought to myself, what would C.S Lewis do faced with such a life altering experience? Probably write some sweet and innocent allegorical fairytale, that was really about his religious experience or some great LSD trips hed taken in the sixties, and publish it in the childrens section. Maybe I could write one about my evening and self-publish? I could stick it on the shelf in the bookshop next to the copies of "Heather Has Two Mommies".
I couldnt sit down any more. The music was funky, yet hard. The singers voice sounded so sweet and innocent yet she was singing about fucking people over and making them pay for their love crimes. We all jumped up to dance. The chick with the enormous breasts reappeared and I grinned madly, feral instincts rising. Another woman with a gorgeous butt ground herself up against me, at least so I thought. It could have been the other way round, but she didnt slap me or anything so I wasnt too worried. Pink hair bobbed and bounced on the stage like a Furbie gone mad, always sitting there in the corner of my vision, somehow.
She was right. I wasnt sure I ever wanted to see her again. I wasnt sure I ever wanted to see anyone again. I wasnt even sure I could see, since Id refused to take off the dark glasses and had stuck myself in the dark storeroom where it was cool, letting my assistant handle the shop.
A little stereo played radio mix music in the corner. It was bland, but still irritating enough to scrape at the edges of my already strained sanity. I rummaged around in my backpack and pulled out the paydirt Id had shoved into my hands as Id left the club. A multicoloured EP. In big letters Jennifers Lovechild was emblazoned across the top, with a smaller, loopier font for the title, I Slept with Tammy Rae. Shed promised to explain the title to me one day.
Popping the disc from the case, I slid the CD into the front of the player. The deceptively sweet guitar riff flowed out from the speakers. I closed my eyes, ready to be bombarded with savage sexual lyrics.
"Gee, and some of us have to work for a living."
I gasped and fell off the chair, muttering expletives as my hand hit the cold floor.
"You seem to react quite strongly to things," she quipped, standing in the stockroom doorway, almost nervous. Too shy to walk in uninvited, certainly. I gestured her in and crankily picked myself up off the floor.
"And you always do the exact opposite of what I expect. I didnt think Id see you here today."
She shrugged, another habit. It cheered me somewhat that there were consistent things about her. "Then you must always assume too much, if thats the case."
She plopped down cross legged on the rug, the only covering on the floor. Again, I thought she would take the other chair. I should have known better.
"It gets tiring always being surprised."
She seemed genuinely amused by that. "You think so?"
I noticed the heavy bags around her eyes, probably twins to my own. I hadnt seen them at first glance. She was tired. That, at least, was a small consolation, considering how much I felt like I had been kicked out the back door of hell that morning.
"Dont you have to work today?"
"Part timer. Never work Thursdays."
"I wish I had taken the day off."
"Why dont you? Dont you own the place?"
"It doesnt work like that."
She looked a bit like my little sister, shoulders hunched over and playing with her toe that stuck out the end of her fake leather sandals. Of course, thats where the similarity ended, thank god. Janet, I thought, as much as I love you, that would be weird.
"Can you take an hour?" She pulled out a tattered coupon from her shorts pocket. "Two-for-one super strong coffee at the café around the corner."
I moaned, and it had nothing to do with those animalistic noises Id been making the night before. I knew that because Id practised those noises in front of the mirror that morning, trying to get that exact gravelly timbre to the vocal chords again, and failing. The exertion had just made my headache worse. "That would involve going outside."
I knew my hangover was bad. I thought I would have followed that little pink beacon anywhere, more than willingly. Being dragged kicking and screaming out for coffee was not any scenario I had dreamed up.
I heard my own response and sighed in relief. Heart and body were in agreement. We would risk being shattered by the evil sunlight for the sake of the green-eyed angel.
I shuddered. One headache and an upset stomach and I was suddenly going biblical. I rose gingerly up from the chair, not trusting stomach, eyes, feet; basically not believing in any bodily function that my blurred instincts wanted to automatically rely on. Id read somewhere, on one of my strange jaunts through useless trivia in boring bookshop moments, that the Danish word for hangover meant "Carpenter man". As in, this little sadistic carpenter, armed with a hammer and sharp nails, is inside your head bashing a couple of lengths of two by four together, each blow driving a nail into the sensitive parts of your brain. Amazing how apt some expressions can be.
I took the chair furthest from the window.
She ordered a long black. I decided anything more than a latte and my head was going to go in search of a more considerate body. Enough was enough.
She looked suddenly mournful. "Listen, I want to tell you I dont do "girlfriend" well." I must have looked surprised, because she raised an eyebrow. "What, did I say something you werent expecting?"
Shamefaced, I decided the sugar straws were fascinating.
She continued, unperturbed. "What Im trying to say is that I can be a little bit inconsiderate."
I snorted. "Yeah. I mean, shit. I try an X for the first time and I dont even get to pay for it? I was crushed."
It was her turn to look sheepish. I decided to try a different tack. "I really liked that club. And your band is great."
"What you remember of it." She laughed.
The waitress arrived with the coffees. We both added five sugars in silence. Some rituals are sacred. I looked up at the menu thoughtfully and wondered if I could silence my little carpenter by burying him in bacon fat.
She was looking at me, kind of interested. Before I took it seriously, I checked the front of my shirt to make sure I was coffee and toothpaste stain free. There was no harm in being certain. It was all clear. I risked looking back. Her eyes didnt seem to clash so much with her hair anymore. I thought maybe it was like TV News violence. You get desensitised.
"Yeah well, I remember you saving me from a chick at the bar."
"Saving you? I was jealous. She was kissing my date."
"She was? I mean, I was..?" Fuck! I hadnt actually said that out loud, had I?
"Well, yeah, what did you think?"
"I dont know. I saw you kissing that woman, your ex so I "
"Assumed? We really gotta do something about that. I bet when you first saw me you thought shit, some pink-haired shoplifting chick who works in the record store down the road."
I swallowed. "Of course not!" Oh please let me lie well, just this once. God, Ill do anything. Ill buy Girl Guide cookies. Ill bring my first child up Catholic. Ill lock my vibrator in that little cupboard above the medicine cabinet that you need a ladder to reach.
"Just as well," she answered, sipping.
My head was snapping. Stress was setting in. My head cursed my sex drive. "You know, I think I do need to go home."
"Listen." She grabbed my hand across the table. "Look, I said I dont do girlfriends well. But I never cheat on people, unless you count the occasional drunk kiss as cheating."
I could see that if I did consider that cheating I was going to have to come up with a new definition pretty fast, especially if I wanted this girl.
I smiled. She smiled back tentatively, like she was wondering what I was thinking but was too afraid to ask. I thought for a second, then squeezed her hand in return. "I think I just admitted to myself that I want you."
"Are you usually this slow in figuring these things out?"
I considered that too. "I dont know." My head pounded again, just to remind me that it was still there. "Im going to close the shop."
"Good idea. Need a lift home?"
I nodded. I had a car, but she didnt know that. My lechery knew no bounds, even when I knew my body would protest viciously if I tried to do anything about it.
We paid full price the coupon was out of date and left, our coffees barely half drunk. I collected my bag from the bookstore, sent my assistant home early, and locked up for the day with a polite sign on the door apologising for the inconvenience.
My mother, she of the sticky woman phobia, once actually gave me a very sound piece of advice. It was something about never taking a woman home on the first date, and something else about never telling a woman you had more than one credit card unless you knew more about her. I was still trying to think if either of these applied in the situation I was in when we approached where Claires car was parked.
Technically it wasnt a first date. Shed said herself, last night was a date. It counted, even if I hadnt thought about it at the time. If I could get away with this on a technicality I would. I had no problem with arguing semantics. I got in the car, watched her hands as they shifted the gears, and flushed so hot I could have been in early menopause.
After much debate between me and my head the fight involving a bath, three vitamin B tablets which I loathed, and a promise from Claire that she would never again drop anything in my drink without telling me - I consented to hot, passionate, afternoon sex.
It was not quite the romantic setting I had envisioned. Again, none of my fantasies had ever involved me having second thoughts as her shirt was falling on the floor and my hands were reaching for her breasts. Delirium had truly set in when I commented on my way to going down on her that the birthmark on her hip looked like a flailing turtle. Her fit of hysterics and bucking of hips had almost resulted in the need for emergency dental.
Finally, as we lay curled up together in the warmth of my bed with the blankets on the floor and a fan making the hot air pleasant, I asked her the question that had plagued me.
"What kind of a dyke knits?"
"Again! Whats with the stereotypes, eh?" she rebuked sternly, tickling my ribs.
I squirmed dutifully. "I dont know..."
She fell asleep on my shoulder, pink locks severe against checkered cotton sheets and pillow cases, and my own long black hair.
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