Birthday!: Maureen

March eleventh, 1990

"To la vie boheme!" seven voices chorus as a slender bottle of wine is emptied into plastic cups. Hands suggesting greatly varying ethnic backgrounds reach out and take their respective cups, then click them against one another's, repeating, "La vie boheme!" With that, a collective gulp is audible as all seven bohemians down their drinks.

Maureen is the first to swing her head forward from the dangling position it had been in as she drank. She is swiftly followed by Joanne, and the two clash their lips against each other, using their tongues to capture remaining beads of wine on one another's lips and tongue, beads that were previously overlooked by the initial drinker. When at last Joanne and Maureen are satisified that there is no wine left in either one's mouth, they break apart. Somehow in the process of the rather enthusiastic make-out session (which Mark somehow manages to get on film), Joanne appears to have made her way onto her girlfriend's lap, arms around Maureen's neck.

Collins dryly points out, "I always thought Maureen was on top." He gestures to the position of the two women, and it is surprising, because Joanne is indeed sitting atop her girlfriend.

"It varies," Maureen cheekily tells her friend and former roommate. "Not that you'd know."

Roger tilts his head. "Actually, I seem to recall walking in on the two of you girls going at it pretty intensely one day in our living room about six months ago. And I'd say you were both on top. Anyone else remember that?"

"No," Collins says blandly. "Not at all, and I'm sure Maureen doesn't either, because it obviously never happened, because Joanne is too anal for that kind of public sex. Sorry, Joanne," he adds apologetically, but for once Joanne merely shrugs off the comment. "And besides," Collins adds, "six months ago Maureen was dating Mark, and we know that Maureen never cheated on Mark, right?"

A general mumble of disagreement makes its way over Maureen's cackling peals of laughter, and though Joanne and Mark have been more amused in their lives, it's Maureen's twenty-fourth birthday, and they internally resolve to let her Maureenliness slide, if only for the next… what? Nine hours? Eight.

Mimi – whose leapord-print coat is concealing the fact that she and Roger, around whom she is entwined, are both naked from the waist down apart from undergarments – appears to have an idea as to what to do next. "Drinking games are fun," she begins, "but I think we're already drunk enough. And I don't know how much stuff we've got left." Stuff is the bohemians' code word for alcohol; they go through so many different kinds and brands of it that it would be impossible to label it by any other, more descriptive label. "So Truth or Dare, perhaps?"

"But without the truths," Angel jumps in. She smiles knowingly at Collins and winks very unsubtly at him. "So we just all dare people. That way it's easier."

Joanne mutters something about loathing this game, but Maureen silences her with a kiss and a hand trailing up her thigh. "It's my birthday, pookie," she murmurs, her lips tickling her girlfriend's cheek. "Don't you love me?"

"Oh, fine, I'll play," Joanne huffs, sounding very flustered. Mark has the feeling that it is likely that Joanne never intended not to play, but greatly appreciated the attention she got from Maureen as a result of being stubborn.

"You're spoiling her, 'Reen," Mark drawls, but he is completely inaudible over the noisy kissing noises coming from Mimi and Roger, who do not appear to be able to tear themselves away from one another.

Angel decides to orchestrate the game, mainly because she has an excellent dare in mind. "Mimi – Roger – Joanne – Maureen! Focus!"

"Aww, do we have to?" Maureen whines. She is no longer seated underneath Joanne; now Maureen and Joanne are a tangle of loose limbs beneath a blanket, much like Mimi and Roger. Mark sits across from the lesbians, camera resting on his knees, which are hugged to his chest. A mere few feet away from Mark sit Angel and Collins, with Angel seated between her lover's straddled legs. Their arms are wrapped around one another, and Collins rests his chin on his girlfriend's head.

Angel raps Maureen on the wrist and declares, "Yes, you have to focus. Okay. I'm going to start. Everyone ready?" She pauses briefly and then turns to Joanne. "Joanne. I dare you to sit on Roger's lap until he kisses you. On the lips, of course."

"NO!" Joanne, Mimi and Maureen chorus. Belatedly, Roger voices his disapproval as well, but they are left with no choice in the matter as Angel deftly lifts Joanne up and sets her down atop Roger's lap anyway, much to Mimi's dismay and Joanne and Roger's discomfort. As though to get revenge on her "traitorous" boyfriend, Mimi crosses the room despite her partial nudity and is seated half-beside, half-on-top-of Maureen. Roger and Joanne give their respective lovers helpless glances, but flatly refuse to exchange the kiss that will surely end their suffering.

Maureen pouts at Angel, but Angel merely shrugs it off. "Sorry, honey," she tells Maureen. "Wrong gender. And you're not my type, Roger, so don't even think about it." Angel then follows Maureen's eyes over to Mark, but both Mark and Angel wrinkle their noses at the implications.

Joanne, who appears to be the most uptight she's ever been, loudly announces that it is her turn to dare someone. Her eyes fall on Mimi, and the dancer cringes, knowing that by sitting on Maureen's lap she is officially "the enemy" and will most likely receive a heartless dare. Sure enough, Joanne vindictively tells Mimi, "I dare you to put on your handcuffs and leave them on until someone is willing to open them with the key – using their teeth. And as I'm sure you all wouldn't forget, these keys and handcuffs have been all over the Catscratch, so they're not as clean as you think."

Mimi gapes at the lawyer who had once seemed innocent. (Can a lawyer ever really be innocent?) "You're evil," she accuses, bustling around the room in search of the handcuffs that are found moments later underneath the couch. Mimi fishes them out and slides them on unhappily, then sits and sulks. "Roger, come comfort me," she whines.

"I'm not kissing Joanne," Roger tells Mimi flatly.

"Actually," Mimi tells him, "you are. Now."

Roger takes a deep breath before complying, and even then it is more of a chaste brush of lips over lips than an actual kiss. One might argue that a kiss is, in fact, a brush of lips over lips, but Joanne and Roger are both involved in serious relationships, and know better. So immediately after they pull away from one another, Joanne and Roger go their separate ways; Joanne to Maureen, Roger to Mimi. Both pairs exchange kisses, although the latter's is slightly more in-depth and the former's more playful.

"My turn," Mimi declares as soon as the five-minute make-out break is over. She spins around to face Collins and whispers something in his ear. Collins nods, and Mimi turns to Maureen. "Maureen, I dare you to tell Joanne about who it is you've always fantasised about having a threesome with."

Maureen's jaw drops, and if her expression of horror is exceeded in its shock by anything else in the room, it is surely Joanne's expression. "MAUREEN," Joanne says warningly, placing a hand on her girlfriend's shoulder. "Please tell Mimi that she's wrong."

Maureen shakes her head. "I can't," she says honestly. The other bohemians are quite intrigued; they have never seen Maureen fazed before, and if she is anything right now, she is definitely fazed. Perhaps had Maureen consumed more alcohol, her reaction would be less extreme, but as it is she makes her unwillingness to disclose this information very clear. At last, she mumbles, "Benny."

Joanne, who has had more than the average amount of wine, is perhaps more unfazable than Maureen, and so she merely shrugs. "Benny? That's not so bad. I thought you were gonna say Roger or something." As Roger unwittingly imitates a wide-mouthed tree frog, Joanne continues, "Yeah, we can do Benny. You got his number?"

Maureen nods mutely. This is clearly not the reaction she was expecting. "I'll… call… him… later…" she mumbles, and takes a long sip of wine. As though to distract herself, she turns abruptly to Mark. "Marky!" she squeals, the polar opposite of herself merely a moment ago. Nobody questions it; everyone is aware of Maureen's unfailing ability to constantly alter her personality. "Marky, I dare you to call Benny-poo and declare your love for him."

Mark turns a hideous shade of green and ducks his head behind Roger. "Do I have to?" he whines.

"Yes," Maureen and Joanne say decisively, and Roger reaches behind him to grab the phone, offering it to Mark with a wicked grin on his face.

Mark has always been a believer in never doing anything halfway, and that applies to the situation as he presses the speakerphone button and awaits Benny's response. Making kissing noises, Roger and Maureen and their respective girlfriends move closer to the phone, with Collins and Angel already very close to the speakers. When the unwanted "Hello?" comes from the other end of the phone, Maureen shoves Mark closer to the phone. She does not, however, expect to hear what she ends up hearing.

"Hi," Mark says in a falsetto that, one must admit, does resemble Maureen's voice a great deal. As said woman squawks indignantly, Mark continues, "It's Maureen – look, I have something to tell you, okay?"

"Sure," Benny responds, though he sounds anything but sure.

Using his hands and arms to fight off Maureen's half-hearted slaps and punches, Mark chirps, "Just don't tell Joanne."

"Sure," repeats the sell-out.

Roger, Collins and Angel work hard to stifle their laughter; Mimi decides that it is a losing battle and lets her laughter sound throughout the room, doing her best to keep it from being heard by Benny. "Well," Mark continues, his voice sing-song, "you remember that time, that Halloween when I told you how sexy you looked in those leather pants?"

Benny, who does not remember any such thing, trails off, "Yeah…"

"Well," Mark says in a confidential whisper, "I think you're sexy all the time. Not just when you're wearing sexy pants."

Mimi, Joanne, and Roger can no longer contain their laughter, and they burst into hysterical giggles and guffaws as Maureen beats Mark's back with her fists, hissing, "I hate you!" Mark snickers and nods in response, but he too has difficulty containing his amusement.

Benny starts to say something – that much is obvious from what sounds like the beginning sounds of a word – and then halts. He suddenly announces, "Mark, your falsetto is horrible." With that, there is a click and all the bohemians burst out laughing, Maureen included.

"That – was – awful!" Maureen whines between giggles, but she does concede, "Well, except for the part about the leather pants. How did you know about that?" she wails.

Mark's eyes widen. "I… I was just guessing, Maureen," he tells her honestly. He then abruptly turns to face Roger. "Roger, your turn. I dare you to tell everyone about that first time you went to the Catscratch."

Roger's jaw drops. "You wouldn't," he threatens Mark, hand creeping towards the sole of Mark's foot – his most ticklish area. But Mark will have none of it. He slams his own hand down on top of Roger's and gives his friend a condescending look.

"Tell," Angel, Maureen and Mimi begin to chant. A wide smile on Mark's face is visible as Roger stares at his feet, biding his time before he takes action. But no action is to be taken, because of course the pressure gets to Roger – and he sighs.

"Fine," he grumbles. "I'll tell." He twists away from Mimi and slides into a position with his legs in a pretzel, clutching the parts of his legs just above the ankles. "Okay. Um, it was a long time ago – maybe, what, five years ago? Yeah, something like that. Anyway, me and Mark had just moved into the loft, so it was really shitty and we were spending as little time at home as possible. And because of that, we started looking for people to share the rent with, 'cause it was unfair that we weren't even sleeping there most nights and still had to pay the landlord all that money. So we started interviewing potential roommates. We started with girls, but…"

"Aww," Maureen coos. "Roger couldn't get girls. I bet I can get girls better than you can, Roger."

"Shut up," Roger intones, and continues. "So, this guy Collins ended up moving in with us. And he wasn't into the whole, y'know, straight scene. Always going to gay clubs and shit. And he was always pulling tricks on us. So me and Mark decided we wanted to get revenge – and oh, man, did we!"

Collins buries his head in his hands at the memory. Roger plows on, "One day Collins did something really awful – I don't remember what it was – "

"I do," Mark cuts in, but he refuses to elaborate.

"Well," Roger continues loudly, "Mark and I decided it would be funny to make Collins think we were gay. And so we did. We told him we were gay, and together, and had been for, like, a month. And he believed us."

As laughter echoes throughout the room, a muffled reply from Collins grunts, "I did not."

"Yes you did," Mark and Roger yell. Roger then continues, "So he offered to host a coming-out party for us, and we said that wouldn't be necessary – but we thought a gays' night out would be okay. And he was all 'well, okay, guys, it's a rite of intiation. You came out, so pick a place for us to go.' And we saw our opportunity for the trick. We would take him to a straight club, obviously."

Maureen shrieks with glee and amusement; the other bohemians nod solemnly, barely concealing smiles. Roger adds, "So we looked through the phone book, found the Catscratch club, and – ta-da! God, you should've seen the look on his face…"

"Roger," Mark says warningly. "Finish the story."

Roger crosses his arms over his chest and mumbles, "But Collins thought fast, and at the end, he took me up to one of the dancers and said, 'This is Roger, my boyfriend. He wants to know how he can get a job here.'"

Hysterical laughter ensues, of course, including the gasping exclamations of Mimi as she insists, "It was me! Oh my god! It was me!"

Once everyone has settled down, Roger turns to Maureen. "Maureen. I dare you to pick three people in this room to go have sex with."

Maureen gets to her feet and takes a long chug of wine before tapping three people on the head – Joanne (of course), Mark, and (shockingly) Roger. Mimi tags along, and nobody protests as they pile onto the bed. Perhaps Joanne's agreeable nature can be accredited to the fact that it is Maureen's birthday, or even her abundance of consumed alcohol. Regardless, the four of them have no problem with this situation, and Collins and Angel host a "party" of their own in the living room.

Hours later, when she is lying awake in bed, Maureen very softly sings to herself the timeless classic, "Happy birthday." Joanne leans over and pecks her cheek affectionately, joining in the song during its final notes.

"Thanks, Pookie," Maureen whispers back. "Can't wait till your birthday, baby."

Joanne groans.