Part Three: The main course
7 people were seated around the large table. The other guests had opted to eat in the living room, to be entertained by those who were singing karaoke. Dinner and a show, I suppose. I took a moment to take a mental picture of the group assembled at the table. Tools was at one end, carving the tradition holiday turkey; the ham had all ready been sliced. On his left side, facing towards my way, sat Prodigy, who was discussing the prospects of the local team in the upcoming game. Across from Prodigy sat Cupcake; there was an empty seat between Cupcake and Bling; I took that seat as Shopgirl directed, and then I smiled at the other guests. Shopgirl took a plate of food and joined the group in the living room. Across from me sat Belladonna, who gave me a quick knowing glance before resuming her conversation with Gypsy and Roses, the daughter and mother lesbians. That's right. A daughter and mother who happened to be lesbians.
Roses, the mother, sat at the other end of the table; her daughter, Gypsy sat next to Belladonna. I said hello to Gypsy, since I didn't get a chance earlier. She was singing at the time. Gypsy smiled and returned my greeting happily, a twinkle in her eyes. I looked around for Roses' partner, Guns, but I didn't see her in the dining room. I had seen her earlier; I wondered where Guns could be.
Roses was actually Shopgirl's aunt. Roses worked as a financial officer in one of the larger accounting firms. Her partner of about ten years was Guns, whom Roses met during an after work drinks with some coworkers. For as long as I've known Guns and Roses, they've had this on again, off again relationship. Arguing, splitting up, but then getting back together a few days later, only to argue some more. I used to think, good gawd, just end it all ready! Move on and stop the misery! I never understood why they stayed together if they argued so much! Seriously, being together shouldn't be that much work, and it certainly shouldn't mean shouting matches and daily drama.
Guns was a former Navy sailor, and she cussed like one, too! Every conversation I had with Guns included her liberal use of colorful phrases like that muthaf*cka, that c*nt, or that cocks*cker! She always dressed in black, too. She wore the same outfit every time I saw her--black shirt and black jeans. Maybe she had a whole closet full of them. Was it her out on the town look? Was it a lesbian thing? I wasn't sure, but even during the hot summer, that was her choice of attire. Although, I did see her wearing a white shirt and black slacks one time--when she was getting off of work, of course. Guns kept her hair cut short, and she acted like a tomboy most of the time; I suppose this could make her butch, but really, I doubt it. I had seen her scream and jump up on a chair when someone brought a tarantula spider to a Halloween party. I don't think that's very butch behavior.
Back at the table, Cupcake had engaged Tools and Prodigy in their local sporting events conversation. That left Bling on my right talking to no one. So I thought I'd start a conversation with her. This was a social event after all, and I needed to act social. When talking to strangers, I've found three neutral topics that help break the ice: The weather, hobbies, and current events. So I decided to use the weather.
"Quite a cold evening we're experiencing. Well, cold at least for these parts. What do you think?", I asked. Start with a statement; follow with an open question; presto: invitation to conversation.
Bling replied, "Well, it is a bit chilly. But I've been in colder places."
Ah, information. Follow up to show interest and engage the other person, make them feel welcomed, "Really? Like where?"
Bling smiled. It was genuine smile,"Well, I used to live in Wisconsin; it was really cold there. Got below freezing at times."
"Wisconsin? The dairy state?," I replied, "Wow, that is freezing. You know, the closest I've ever been to Wisconsin was Chicago. And it was pretty dang cold there, too!"
The mention of Chicago got a surprise look from Bling, "I've been there! I love Chicago. It does get cold there." For the next few minutes, Bling and I traded stories about our experiences in Chicago. Surprisingly, the last time we were both there was a few years ago around the same time. I was visiting some friends; she was attending her brother's wedding.
Then I felt a tap on my left foot. I ignored it at first and continued my conversation with Bling. Then I felt the tap again, and this time, the tapping foot started to tap lightly, repeatedly, in a slow pattern on my foot. I looked at across the table to see Belladonna, smiling at me. That look in her eyes and coy smile confirmed my suspicions when the tapping foot started to climb on top of my shoe and start to massage the top of my foot. Ah, the game is afoot! We're playing footsie, I see. I've played this game before. So I started to rub back with my foot.
I continued my conversation with Bling, trying not let my excitement from Belladonna's foot massage show. It was a little difficult keeping a straight face while I was starting to tingle from the stimulation. It was a wickedly fun challenge, and I relished the excitement of it all. When we finished talking about Chicago, I complimented Bling. I noticed her blonde hair was cut above the shoulders and I could see highlights shimmering in her hair. So I told her, "I like you're hair. It looks great and it shines; it's a very good look."
Bling smiled, blushed, "Thanks. I just had it done recently." Women love genuine compliments. And then I felt Belladonna's foot start to climb up my shin. Ah, well, women love genuine compliments so long as they were directed towards them. I wondered if Belladonna was jealous at the attention I was paying towards to Bling; I certainly hoped so. In the meantime, I had to admit that I was enjoying Bling's company. It's always nice to meet new people and start a conversation. You never know what you might find. At the very least it'll keep you from getting bored.
A small silence followed after I gave Bling the compliment. I remembered what she said about her brother, so I asked Bling, "So is your brother still in Chicago?"
"Yes," she said, "he's still there."
"How's his wife?"
"Well," Bling paused, "they actually got divorced."
"Oh," I said," well, I hope he's doing fine."
"Yes, he's fine."
"Well, so long as he's happy, then that's what's really important," I said.
"Yes, he seems happy enough," Bling replied.
"These days it seems everyone is getting married and divorced," I said.
"Everyone except gay people," said Roses, suddenly joining in our conversation, "But given how expensive weddings and divorces are these days, I suppose it could be a good thing." Then she let out a laugh. That's why I called her Roses; no matter how bad things got sometimes, she always tried to see the bright side of things. Everything comes up roses for her, especially when she's had a few drinks!
"Well, some states allow gay people to marry. But I'm not sure if people are getting divorced these days because they weren't really ready for marriage at all or they're just making choices that work for them," I said.
"Probably a little of both," said Roses, "I was married once."
This much I did know. Roses was actually married before, and after her husband died, she became a lesbian. But that I was all I knew. The whole table was quiet as we all turned and paid attention to Roses, who was drinking a glass of chardonnay. "The world was different back then. I did it because it was expected of girls my age. I never knew any other type of life. So I married a young man who came a courting. We met at work. We were both naive and so innocent in the ways of the world." She paused, smiled, before whispering, "We both were virgins on our wedding night."
Gypsy let out a gasp!, "Mother! I don't think we need to hear all that!"
The rest of us tried not to giggle out loud, but Roses kept on, "Honey, it's true." She took another sip of Chardonnay and continued, much to Gypsy's horror, "That first time, I nearly choked going down on him."
"Oh my gawd, mother, please!," pleaded Gypsy.
But Roses continued, much to our delight, "He held my head down tight; oh, he knew what he wanted and I was curious at first, but it was getting ridiculous! When I finally came up for air, I was ready to tell him off when he went off all over me." Tools was red, trying hard not laugh. Cupcake held her napkin to her face trying to hide her laughter. Prodigy's mouth had dropped open. Belladonna just smiled. Bling gasped, "Oh, my!"
But Roses continued, "You know, I enjoy wearing pearls, but this was not the kind of pearl necklace that I had in mind."
That was it. The rest of us burst out laughing as Gypsy sat there, horrified by what her mother had said. Roses just sat there, sipping her chardonnay before saying, "Well, after that, I decided that I was going to do something about it. I grabbed him by the head and got what I wanted. The man was a very good listener and a quick study."
"Oh my gawd, mother, please stop!", begged Gypsy. But the rest of us were still enjoying this. We were laughing out loud.
"Darling," Roses said, "your father was a wonderful man, and I loved him very much. I don't think I'll ever quite love anyone else the way I loved him. I was very fortunate to have married him," she paused to pat Gypsy's hand, "Honey, all I'm saying is that sometimes, you've got to grab life by head to get what you want." That sent us into another fit of laughter! Conversation--you never know what you might find. I say again, at the very least it'll keep you from getting bored!
Tools started passing out the food down the table. I felt a tap on my foot again; we stopped playing footsie abruptly when we started giggling at Roses' tale. But it seemed like we were starting again at step one. Except, this tapping felt different from the first. And it when I tapped back, it was a shoe, not a foot. Odd, I thought. Maybe Belladonna's foot got cold, so she put it back in her shoe. But then she announced she was heading into the kitchen to get another bottle of wine and asked if anyone else wanted anything. As she got up and walked away, it occurred to me that I was still rubbing my shoe against someone else's shoe! Whose was it? I thought maybe Cupcake, but she wore heels. This shoe that was rubbing mine felt like a sneaker. It was Prodigy! Mother of pearl!
I looked at him but he was talking to Cupcake. Did he mistake my foot for Cupcake or was he playing coy? I didn't know how to take this. On the one hand, I suppose I should be flattered if he was making a pass--although one wasted on me. On the other hand, he might've mistaken my manly foot for Cupcakes delicate, tiny one! How dare he! Well, whatever he was planning, he was going to play by himself! I pulled my foot back to my chair just as Belladonna returned to the table. Prodigy shifted in his chair, so that confirmed my suspicion that it was his foot!
Speaking of Prodigy, he was telling Tools and Cupcake about his recent gig doing a fire performance at a warehouse downtown. His footwork aside, I was intrigued by his hobby. So I asked him, "How did you get started doing all this fire stuff?"
"In high school, I was a band leader. I had a big baton that I used to direct the marching band. One night, we got drunk at band camp and lit both ends of the baton on fire." What is it with these band camps? These band people are wild! "I started spinning it and I was hooked from then on. I started reading up on it on the internet and started practicing with torches and all sorts of stuff."
"That's pretty cool!," I said, "When's your next show? I'd luv to come see you perform!"
Prodigy replied, "Actually, I still have my gear in the trunk. If you'd like, I can show you all some things."
"Dude, that would be awesome!," I said, "But it's kind of chilly, so don't put yourself out. Maybe next time."
"Nah," said Prodigy, "When we're done eating, I'll just grab my stuff and do a quick show. It'll be fun."
"Cool!", I said. Everyone else was interested, too. By the time we were done eating, even the people in the living room wanted to see Prodigy's fire show. So people started heading out to the yard, watching in anticipation as Prodigy was setting up. The blistering cold winds had died down. I came back inside to get another refill of eggnog and I found Gypsy in the kitchen.
"Hey," I said, "how long you're going to be in town?"
"For Christmas, then I'm off to California for New Years," she said.
Gypsy had brown straight hair that was cut off below the shoulders. She had brown eyes with gold flecks in her irises; full, succulent lips that promised softness and sweet pleasure. She wasn't tall but she had beautiful, bountiful curves in all the right places. Gypsy had a wanderlust in her; her job took her to different parts of the country, and she loved it. That's why I called her Gypsy. Earlier this year at a party, she made a statement, saying that she was now a lesbian. I suppose it was her coming out party. Except for later on that night, she invited me over her place. And I was not going to turn down an invitation from her.
The next morning, I asked her what happened to being a lesbian? She laughed and said that she had invited me over just to make sure that she really was a lesbian. I suppose some people could see this as an insult. But not me. It was an opportunity. So I told her, well, the next time you have doubts, you just give me a call. She laughed at that. She called me a few more times this year; usually whenever we happened to be in town at the same time. And I just went along with it happily. The last time was the end of summer, and I asked her, "Not that that I'm complaining, but I'm curious, I thought lesbians preferred women. So what's going on?"
She sighed, rolled onto her side, looked me in the eyes and said, "Well, sometimes I enjoy spending time with a man."
"Well this man certainly enjoys spending time with you," I said. And we both laughed at that.
Now she was in the kitchen, drinking a glass of wine while I got myself some eggnog. She asked, "Any plans this weekend?"
"Nothing concrete," I replied, "I'll know more tomorrow."
She smiled and said, "Well, if you're free this weekend,just give me a call. We'll do something together." Then she walked out. Ah, an invitation. To say that I was feeling good is an understatement. I was exuberant! And I followed her out to the yard where Prodigy was getting ready to put on a show.
When I got outside, a small crowd had formed on the patio. Prodigy was on the grass, barefoot and shirtless. The man was dedicated to his art, that's for sure. Then he held up a torch and started spinning it. He spun it faster and faster til the other end of the torch caught fire as well, making a golden ring of fire. The crowd oohed and ahhed and we clapped as Prodigy started making tricks with his torch.
I made my way over to Shogirl, who was waving for me to come stand next to her and Bling. I asked Shopgirl, "Did you invite him over hoping for a show?"
"No," she said, "This is quite a surprise! Tools said you started it."
"Actually, Prodigy offered to show us what he can do, and we couldn't talk him out of it," I said.
I noticed Bling had her arms folded; she was cold, but she didn't want to miss the show. So I took of my jacket and offered it to her. She smiled, thanked me, and put it on. Prodigy had moved from one torch to spinning two. I did a quick scan of the crowd and spotted Gypsy standing by the patio table. Belladonna was standing next to her. Both of them looked at me and smiled, totally unaware that they were doing the same thing.
I had a dilemma. On the one hand, I was getting close to Belladonna. Closer than I've ever been. I couldn't help but feel like a moth drawn to her flame. That never ends well for the moth that got too close. Then there was Gypsy. She was fun, and I did enjoy spending time with her. I had to admit that I was exhilarated at my prospects. Except, I couldn't help feeling that someone was being betrayed. I just wasn't sure who was being betrayed. Both were in the dark about our situation and entanglements. Not that it was anyone's business; but I had to admit that there was a certain thrill that came with keeping this secret. I just smiled back at Gypsy and Belladonna and watched them turn their eyes back to the show. Prodigy had moved from spinning torches to spinning these balls of fire on metal chains. He created these amazing patterns in the air as the flaming balls rushed into the darkness, leaving a trail of golden light. It seemed almost magical the way these paths curved and bent and flashed before they vanished in the darkness as new paths formed and illuminated the night briefly and hypnotically.
I had an interesting thought as I watched those ephemeral flaming patterns. Opportunity was like that. When it arrives, it stands out; but it doesn't last long. I had an opportunity to spend time pursing Belladonna to the finish line, but there was not guarantee that I'd win a medal. Or I could go with Gypsy and enjoy helping her celebrate the holidays. The gods had either blessed me tonight with such bounty or they're testing me with such temptations. If I was lucky, I might not have to choose at all. In less than a second I entertained the thought of maybe I could have them both, at the same place, same time. But that was a very fleeting, evil thought. Fun it may be in fantasy, the reality might be a little more dangerous, especially to my well being. But I did have to make a choice; it was only a matter of time before the opportunity slipped away. Tick Tock.
Part Four: Dessert
Prodigy ended his show to a loud standing ovation from the rest of us. He took a bow and we clapped some more. Then a few of us went to help him pack up his gear while the rest of the guests filed back indoors, talking excitedly about the show. We complimented Prodigy on his performance, helped him carry his gear back to his car. Then Tools took him to one of the bathrooms and handed him a towel so he could clean off and refresh before rejoining the party.
Inside, I finally spotted Guns. She was picking a song for the karaoke machine. Tools came by and we hung by the wall, talking when Roses walked up to us and announced, "Don't forget to get some dessert. I made some pecan pie. Help yourselves to my delicious pie, it's warm and moist!"
Tools snickered, pretending to take a drink while I said, "Oh, that sounds great. We'll definitely try some. Thanks."
Soon as Roses walked out of the room, Tools and I started laughing, "Dude," he said, "That was too funny!"
"Well, we ought to be careful lest she grabs us by the head and makes us eat her pie!," I said. And we laughed some more.
Then the music started and we turned to see Guns singing. She had a great singing alto voice and her passion often came through. Of course, she was singing KD Lang. No surprise, I guess. She was all ready wearing black. And at karaokes, she either sang KD Lang, or Melissa Etheridge, or Sophie B Hawkins. And for tonight's selection, she was singing "Constant Craving".
Still feeling juvenile, Tools whispered, "I bet I know what she's craving." And we started to giggle again.
"Really, now? What is she craving?" It was Shopgirl; damn her for showing up at the most inopportune times! She gave Tools and me a look like she was deciding whether to scold us or let us be.
So I said, "Probably dessert. We haven't had any yet." She looked at me shrugged, then looked at Tools while I continued, "Maybe even a piece of Roses' pecan pie!"
Shopgirl turned to me as Tools struggled to keep from laughing. Shopgirl asked me, "And what about you? What are you craving?"
"The usual," I replied, "Peace on Earth and goodwill towards men. And you?"
"What a girl wants; what a girl needs," she said.
"You all ready have a man. Anymore and you'll be breaking the law, you hussy!," I said.
"No," she said, "I was talking about jewelry."
Tools had this wicked look in his eyes and said, "Well, honey, you might just get some; maybe some pearls."
Now it was my turn to stifle my laughter, while Tools gave me knowing glance. It was hard trying to keep from busting out, but if Shopgirl knew what we were talking about, Tools can forget about the pearls. Hell, he might just lose the family jewels! Shopgirl just smiled and then walked off. Soon as she was out of sight, Tools and I started laughing again. Sometimes, it feels good to be juvenile; it was just pure fun to be that ridiculous.
We had dessert then sat down for a game of poker, then gin rummy, then Uno. Bling handed me back my jacket and thanked me again for lending it to her. Throughout the card game, we all alternated singing Xmas songs and listening to other people singing karaoke. At one point Shopgirl, Gypsy, and Belladonna did their girl group performance to the tunes of the Shirelles and the Ronettes. But the most impressive singing performance of the evening had to be by Sky Captain and Mrs Sky Captain. They did an amazing duet of Smokey Robinson's Crusin' that blew us away.
I found myself keeping an eye on Belladonna throughout the evening. She did the same to me. I'd feel her gaze on me and I'd turn slowly to see her looking at me, smiling before she looked down. Then she looked back at me, laughed and looked away. Eventually, we found ourselves standing by steps, away from everybody. She was leaning on the wall, drinking from a glass when she suddenly said, "You know, I feel like going out to dance."
"That might be fun," I said.
"There's this place not far from where I live. They play a number of fantastic old school jams and dance numbers," she said.
Choice. I had to make one. In the living room, I could see Gypsy, laughing as she played card games with some of the other guests. She was certainly an attractive and beautiful woman, and I did miss her company. Whatever it was we had was certainly wonderful and just so freeing. But in front of me was Belladonna. The object of my semi obsession. I didn't know where this would lead, but I knew I would regret it if I didn't try to follow this through to the end. The opportunity was here; seize it or lose it. So, I made up my mind. "That sounds good. So why don't we check it out?"
She looked at me, thinking, but then slowly grinned, "Well, let's go."
We decided to say our good byes to the others separately, with me leaving first. I said good bye to Shopgirl last before I headed out to my car and waited. Belladonna came out a few minutes later. I followed her first to her place, where we parked my car then drove hers to a club not far from her place. We parked the car and headed inside. The music was definitely old school, circa 1990s. I was surprised that there was a good crowd in the club, especially considering how chilly it was tonight. Belladonna led the way to the middle of the dance floor. I couldn't help but be captivated by her slow, swaying movements. She turned to face me, arms open, reaching for mine, hips swaying sensually side to side, eyes looked on mine, her body turning to the beat of the music.
They say a small amount of Belladonna causes euphoria; too much causes death. At this point, I was intoxicated; how much more could I take before it became fatal? Would life mean as much or be as exciting if there was no risk, no death? And isn't that what drew me to her in the first place, the thrill and the exhilaration? Why else would I have come this far? So I reached for her open arms, grasped her hands, and let the music and emotions guide my body, eager for the dangers and the overwhelming passions, the chance of a little death.
Return to Friday morning...
I finished drinking the hot tea and decided to give Shopgirl a call. It was still early enough to catch her before she left for work. I dialed her number and she answered on the first ring. We exchanged pleasantries before she asked, "What are you doing?"
"I'm about to take a shower," I answered.
She asked, "So where did you go last night?"
"No where," I said.
"You must've went somewhere; I mean, I left a bunch of messages. Either you went to bed early or you just ignored my calls," she said.
"Okay, so I went out," I said.
"Out? Out where?"
"Just out," I said.
"Oh my gawd, you went looking for some whore to sleep with!"
"How dare you!," I feigned indignation, "You know damn well that it was too cold last night for the whores to be out! And anyway, I did not pick up any whores! Anyone I spent my time with did so of their own free will! Freely and Willingly"
"So you did pick up some skank!," she said, "And here I was trying to set you up with a nice girl."
I wasn't sure if she was joking or not so I asked, "Set me up with who?"
"With Bling! Why do you think I was trying to get you to talk to her last night?"
Now it all made sense why she kept putting me next to Bling; I couldn't help but laugh at Shopgirl's persistence. "You know, I thought we had agreed that you'd stop trying to set me up."
"We never agreed to such a thing!", she said, "Besides, I'm trying to hook you up with some very nice girls."
"You know," I said, "If you really wanted to hook me up, forget the nice girls; hook me up with some of your sluttier friends. I know you've got a bunch of them." And I started laughing.
Shopgirl laughed and replied, "You know what, go wash your skanky, whoring ass; you're making me feel dirty!" And with that we said our good byes and hung up the phone.
I had to admit that I did not expect Shopgirl to set me up on a blind date at one of her dinner parties. Very crafty. I hoped that her plan's failure would ensure she'd back off from the set ups; but she was never one to give up easily. I knew that once more, the next time I was invited over to Shopgirl's, I'd've to start guessing who was coming to dinner and why. Still, it was quite an affair, she did throw great parties, and I, for one, certainly enjoyed how it all turned out.