This was my contest entry for the 80's Power Ballad Contest. I entered because apparently I can't stay away from a contest hosted by earthprincess4 (graffiti4 on twitter). I won most original plot! You can check out the awesome banner on my profile (made by the wonderful Christag_banners). My good friend justine_dee beta'd this for me.
"Aaarrrrrrggggghhhh!" Fuckin'cabbie had to drive right up on the sidewalk to get that puddle.
Great. Perfect. Damn puddle splashing bandit. Now I will have to go to my interview drenched in city street muck. Oh well, I probably wasn't going to get the job anyway; I don't even know how I talked myself into going to the interview. My study partner, Ty, said the bar he works at is hiring and he thought I would be perfect for the job. Apparently the tips are great, and at least Masen wouldn't be pissed about some guy hitting on me. I'm pretty sure I'm not packing the right equipment to please the clientele at this joint.
I use my scarf to wipe what I can off my jeans, then shove it in my bag as I turn the corner of Church street. In front of me is a three story bar, and between the bottom two floors is an oversized, neon pink, flashing sign marking the building as the one and only Ms. Sparkle's. Welcome to Toronto's first gay bar, specializing in drag.
Ty assures me that they are hiring and that the moves I picked up during my stint as head cheerleader in high school and college will count more than my sexual orientation.
The place looks appropriately dead for three o'clock on a Thursday afternoon. I make my way up to the entrance and attempt to open one of the padded, and holy-crap-heavy, doors. Barely budging when I push against it, I decide to shove the door with all my might. Suddenly the door becomes weightless and I fall forward before two very strong arms catch me.
"There you go little lady." The door is now being held open by a man at least twice my size –and curiously or not given the surroundings –wearing sparkly eye shadow. I thank him and take in my surroundings. While most bars feel eerily empty and desolate after the crowds have dispersed, this place managed to look spectacular all on its own. It lives up to its name, sparkles are abso-fucking-lutely everywhere.
I hear the sound of someone's throat clearing behind me and turn around. The door-man is looking at me expectantly. "Oh," I let out a nervous giggle. "I'm looking for a…um… Ms. Rosie?" I know I'm nervous because I've never actually spoken to a drag queen before, and now I will have to sit through an entire interview across from Ms. Rosie while thoughts of exactly how she tucks it away continually cross my mind.
"Ah, you are looking for my wifey. She's right over there by the bar hassling that liquor delivery man," he says as he points to the other side of the room. I'm a little taken aback by the term "wifey". I know same sex marriage has been legal here for so long that it's not even really a hot topic anymore, but again, I've never been immersed in this world. I follow the guide of his finger and come across his "wifey".
There isn't a surgeon on earth gifted enough to create this gorgeous creature, and I quickly realize I have made some strong and entirely wrong assumptions.
Sparkly-Eyes lets out a sharp whistle and instantly grabs the leggy blonde's attention. "Babe! C'mere, this spinner is here to see you." He gives me a wink and then heads over to the bar to take over for Ms. Rosie.
Is a spinner a specialty type of drag queen? Oh my god…does he think I'm here to audition for the floor show? Which means he thinks I'm a man…I look like a man! I've always told Mase that I have boxy shoulders, but to actually be mistaken for a man…. My inner psychological crisis was interrupted when I feel a delicate hand on my shoulder.
"Sweetie, are you Ty's friend, Bella?" Even her voice was full of a velvety saccharine.
"Um…Ya…Yes?" I stammer, still slightly stunned at her presence. I collect myself, "Sorry, yes. Ty told me you are looking for a hostess. I brought my résumé with me." I hand her my résumé, which I assume to be in pristine condition only to find that it had also fallen victim to the puddle splashing bandit.
I await the proper admonishing for my dishevelled appearance with matching waterlogged résumé, but instead am met with a snort unbefitting of the person in front of me. "Fuckin'cabbie, eh?" I am taken aback by her uncannily accurate assessment of my predicament.
My face displays my shock and she laughs. "I swear that cab driver just waits at the corner on rainy days for some unsuspecting victim to walk by. Ah well, doesn't matter any way. I can see you are gorgeous, which, yes, is a requirement and Ty just raves about you, which is about as good of a reference as you can get." The kind expression that covers her face makes me instantly feel welcome and at home. I haven't felt this way since we moved here.
We are interrupted suddenly when a recognizable guitar riff blares through the bar speakers. Before I can even cover my ears, someone yells out "Duck!" and I hit the floor, just in time. A mass of feathers, sparkles, and what I believe to be leopard print goes swooshing overhead accompanied by a distinct Tarzan-like bellow.
I groan, as the familiar burn of a bruise settles in and I struggle to catch my breath. In typical "Bella Chic," while diving to avoid the potentially fatal collision, I manage to knock the wind out of myself and bang my knee. Just what I need: more bruises. I may have been head cheerleader for four years of high school, but that didn't mean it was injury free. I had enough experience with injury; the road to head cheerleader was paved with blood, sweat, tears, bruises and the occasional broken bone.
Rosalie's four inch heels are instantly in my eye line. Holy crap she managed to right herself quickly. She simultaneously straightens her skirt and screeches, "What the fuck, Tyler?"
Picking myself up off the floor, I now understand what has just happened. The deadly jungle animal that had sent me flying was only Tyler, fucking Tyler.
"It's my new routine, Rosie. What'cha think?" He attempts to strike a manly looking "me Tarzan you Jane" pose but neglects to take into account the position of the rope wrapped around his feet after his landing. As his arm rises to show off his biceps, he trips himself and ends up in a position similar to mine a few moments earlier. There is nothing I love more than watching people, other than myself, fall down.
Rosalie doesn't even crack a smile. "And that, my feathered friend, is why you have never been allowed to participate in our floor show and are banished to backstage hair and makeup. In case you didn't notice, the song is 'Walk This Way' not 'Swing this way!'" Ty's face drops and he looks almost as sad as the day I told him Mr. Masen was my boyfriend and therefore straight.
Rosalie high-tails it back to the bar, but leaves a parting comment, "PS. Bella is the new bar wench for the DJ booth. Hook the girl up with a new 80's look before she leaves, and hand her a schedule. Misty just quit so that will be you for the next two weeks. K, Bella?"
I'm not sure what expression is on my face, as this is all happening so fast, so I just nod.
"If you have any scheduling conflicts with school or whatever, just come let me know and we will work it out." Nodding seemed to work well, so I just stick to that.
Processing what has just happened, I am able to fully comprehend that Ty is standing in front of me in all his leopard goddess glory and I just start laughing, I'm talking like I have to bend over and cross my legs to avoid peeing kind of laughing.
Rolling his eyes, he walks over to me, which I admit astounds me almost as much as his earlier grand entrance via rope because he is also wearing four inch heels. Panic momentarily steps in, and panic is wearing stilettos. I'm great in sneakers, but don't typically wear heels and everyone…and I mean every single person here does, even the liquor delivery man. Apparently Emmett makes him change his footwear at the door. This is a first-class establishment, after all.
Sparkles and feathers adorn every inch of the hallways Ty guides me through until we reach a dressing room that has a large gold star on the door with the words "Bar Bitches" painted on it. Inside is a drag queen's wet dream. (Literally. Ty told me about his first wet dream when we bonded over daquaris). There are endless racks upon racks of dresses, boas, wigs, heels and hairspray.
"You." Ty points at me, then at a chair in front of a well-lit mirrored dressing station, "sit." I do as I'm told and then I am promptly buried under a sea of chiffon.
I hear a muffled cry from Ty yelling for someone named Levi, and that's when the real hurricane begins. What I'm left with two hours later is a reflection that looks suspiciously like Katy Perry in her new TGIF video, minus the headgear. I also have suitcases full of cone bras, neon pumps, and Hyper-color clothing. I don't even want to think of the implications of that while I'm bartending.
"Okay sweets, you are good to go. Most of the time you can just dress here and that way Levi and I can take care of you. Just in cast though, for those times when you are rushed, you have your home emergency kits in these three bags." I continue to stick with the nodding as Ty leads me out of the dressing rooms.
Door after door lines the hallway. When we pass one that is open I can't resist taking peek inside. What I find is a six foot tall, blonde, fabulous drag queen…playing air guitar in all her glory. There may have even been a little head-banging involved. I am awed into silence and pause to enjoy this impromptu performance of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody.
Unable to contain the laughter building inside me, I draw attention to myself from the glamazon. We spend what seems like minutes just staring at each other. She…well he….erm…he-she looks embarrassed. That in itself seems like an oxymoron to me.
Our moment is interrupted when Ty reappears, "Oh hey, Bells, this is Ms. Angel-A, our DJ. Angel-A this is Bella, your new drink chica." I reach my hand out but realize that the gesture is not being returned so I turn it in to a sort-of wave that then looks like an unanswered high-five, so I not-so smoothly pull the hand through the hair manoeuvre which becomes stuck in the hairspray. I give up and just try to make myself invisible hiding behind Ty which is a losing battle due to the fact that my hair alone matches his five foot five frame.
Angel-A is now busying herself with tidying up her dressing station and sorting out her wigs. "What happened to Misty?" he seems perturbed that he has lost his previous bartender. Maybe I could ask Rosalie for another station, she seemed pretty agreeable.
"Why Ms. Angie, are you seriously going to miss that girl's constant nattering about her one night stands and the nausea induced by her dousing of Betsy Johnson perfume? Or is it the way that at least once a month you storm off your station threatening to quit if Rosie doesn't immediately remove Misty forcibly from the premises that you will miss?" Ty is manically laughing over Misty memories as Ms. Angel-A keeps up her OCD re-organization.
Noticing the tension, Ty pulls me along yelling over his shoulder, "See ya tomorrow night Angel-A." We reach the end of the hallway, Ty hands me a hot pink piece of paper with my schedule on it, right before he shuffle me out the door to the back parking lot.
"The back door?" I question, as I comment to myself, that's what she said.
"Ya, I saw the cabbie waiting at the corner...if you cut around the block here, you will be fine. Well, not fine…but maybe not any more wet than you already are." I give him a scowl promptly followed by an appreciative smile and take off down the alley. "See ya in class tomorrow, Bella," I hear in the distance as I turn the corner.
Now…how to tell Masen I took a job at a drag club. I let part of myself do an inner happy dance (okay maybe a bit of an external one, with some fist pumping and leg action resembling a jig to boot) that I have a job that Masen won't just drop in whenever he feels necessary.
The next day, I'm racing across campus to meet Ty before our class starts. As he comes into my sights I see that he is in a deep conversation with some guy I've never seen before. I slow my gait as to not interrupt whatever they are discussing as it looks like its escalating and getting quite heated.
When I am within about fifty feet or so I give a wave to alert Ty to my presence. I busy myself playing on my cell phone until I see the mystery man walking away; he gives me a brief glance over his shoulder, so quick I almost miss it.
"Hey Ty." I approach and we engage in Ty's customary three cheek kiss greeting, because two kisses would just be too common. "Who was that you were talking with?"
"Oh, no one, my little Bellissima." He grabs my hand and heads in the direction of our classroom.
"Really, cause you seemed to be having quite the little argument." I open the door to the room and then follow Ty to the back row.
"One of the Queens from the show, you know Queens!" I give him a look that says I most definitely do not know Queens.
"Oh…well…you will know Queens. Drag Queens and drama queens are synonymous. Now sit down and shut up…we are here to learn, bitch!" He proceeds to take out a bottle of nail polish and begins painting while I start making notes on what the best approach with Masen will be.
"Kay babe, I'm off," I yell in the direction of the kitchen, where I know Mase is preparing enough food to feed a small country before watching the ball game.
I bend over to take off my heels. To ensure that I arrive in one piece, I'll wear sneakers to and from the bar. It is safer for all that way. When I stand up, there is a pair of mesmerizing green eyes in front of me. "I'm really gonna miss you," he says with an adorable pout. He may be an arrogant-possessive-call-me-only-by-my-last-name-because-I'm-still-living-out-my-glory-frat-days-brute…but he's mine, and I love him. And he pays half the rent.
"You are going to miss me making your food and jumping up to grab whatever you need so you don't miss a play," I shoot back at him.
"Well, you could have pre-made some stuff after your class." The pout moves in and gently kisses my lips. Before I can huff my annoyance he's gone back to his mission of destroying my kitchen, which I inevitably will have to clean up when I get home at whatever ungodly hour that is.
I leave, putting it all out of my mind and focusing on what I'm about to do. I suddenly realize I've never bartended in my life. Why did this not occur to me when I accepted the job? Or when I got my makeover? Or when I was using the third bottle of hairspray an hour ago? Crap. Crap. Crap.
I take the back way to Ms. Sparkles; there was no way that cab was going to get me a second time, especially not when I've spent the better part of two hours perfecting this 80's video girl look.
Dropping my purse off in the dressing room and changing into my ridiculously high shoes, I make my way out to the main floor. Lights are pumping and sparkles are fluttering about as I take the room in. On a small platform to the far left of the room is the DJ booth. Ms. Angel-A is there in all her glory, spinning away.
She – yes I googled the proper pro-noun as to not make a fool of myself – was simply glorious. Tonight her blonde hair was in long ringlets down her back and she was wearing a neon paisley sparkled uni-tard that only she could pull off, with three inch platforms to match.
She crooks her finger at me and I look around to make sure she's motioning at me. She rolls her eyes and deliberately points at me and then points at the bar station connected to her booth. She motions for me to come around the back of the booth and up on the platform.
I stand just off to the side of her, wringing my hands nervously not sure what to do. Angel-A does some sort of snazzy, jazz-handed twizzle before placing a record on the turn table. "September" by Earth Wind and Fire is playing and breaking into the chorus when I'm abruptly flying through air by an unexpected hip check.
"Oh fuck! I'm so sorry. Fuck, fuck, fuck." His voice is panicked. Yes, his voice as he has promptly switched into his manly voice, all illusions of Angel-A the drag queen are gone.
"It's okay," I assure him. It really was. I have no business wearing these shoes anyway.
"No sugar, it's not." She is now back to her sweet southern accent. "I really shouldn't release my smooth moves on unsuspecting damsels." His hand extends to help me out of the heap I have fallen in. As he helps lift me, I stumble into him and wince at the slight burning pain in my ankle.
"Oh sweetie, let me go get you some ice. You just sit yourself right down here on this stool." It's not really a request as he has lifted my small frame effortlessly and sat me on the stool.
"No really, it's fine. I'm just much more of a sneaker chick than a six inch heel kinda girl." I dangle my good foot in front of his face.
She waves her hand at me and heads to the back room, returning shortly with a bag of ice. Pulling up a stool beside me and gently placing my injured foot on her lap she applies the ice.
I worry that this is forcing her to neglect her prep duties and voice this concern to her. She shuts me down and insists that we have tons of time before the bar opens. The turntables are currently blasting out Aerosmith's "Toys" album. Ms. Angel jacks her thumb toward the DJ booth, "Ya see? It's getting all warmed up. We have almost two hours before we have to man our stations and prepare to beat off the customers who will be begging for one of us to take them home."
I can't help but giggle, when she finishes that ludicrous statement with an adorable smirk and wink combo. "Oh Ms. Angie, can I call you Ms. Angie?" She nods in approval. "I really think I'm lacking a certain array of…erm…well…equipment? I won't be of interest to this particular clientele."
"Oh, sugarlips…you vastly underestimate your appeal. My bet is more than half of the patrons tonight would trade in whomever they came with for five minutes in the back room with you." The waggling eyebrows do me in and I start laughing again, so much so that I almost fall off my stool.
"Yes, gimpy girls with neon leg warmers and 3 foot tall crimped hair are all the rage these days." This earns me a laugh. We settle into the ebb and flow of the easiest conversation I've had since moving here to Toronto.
Ms. Angie tells me all about how she grew up in a moderate yellow house in Markham, a suburb of Toronto, and I tell her about growing up in Forks before moving to Vancouver to do my undergrad at UBC. She asks about my recent move to Toronto and I tell her it's because of the great program at UofT, and not because of my boyfriend. I purposely leave Masen out of the conversation. Every friend I have here, with the exception of Ty, is through Mase, and they are fine and all but not really my friends. I just want something that is all mine and separate from everything else that allows me to escape real life if just for a few hours a week.
By the time my ankle has gone numb, Ms. Angie and I have become best friends. For real, we even made a secret handshake and are exchanging engraved half heart necklaces next shift. I had completely forgotten about my non-existent bartending skills when two huge metal containers of ice are delivered behind my station.
My face must have revealed my panic because I suddenly felt Ms. Angie's palm caressing the side of my face. "Darlin', don't freak out. Just breathe." She soothes into my ear. She's right; my breathing has sped up significantly.
"Ha, ha ha, ha ha ha," I force out a laugh. "Yes, I shouldn't freak out at the fact that I have been hired as a bartender but can't even tell the drinks apart when I'm ordering them let alone attempting to serve them. This is going to be a disaster Angie."
"Babe it's fine, DJ's booth only does pre-mixed drinks. You have the five most popular drinks, each a different colour. See this here," she points to a large, easily visible sign on the inside of the bar. "That tells you what is what." Well that didn't sound too difficult. I immediately start memorizing the list and matching the drinks.
Soon the lights are dimmed, the music has changed and disco balls are in full spin mode. By the time the first performer takes the stage I'm actually enjoying myself. The Queens are simply phenomenal. I find myself dancing all my bartending worries away and even throw in some hip-checking moves of my own. Before I know it I have been serving drinks for about two hours when my wrist is grabbed by Ms. Angel-A. She whisks me up bridal style while yelling over the music, "Break time, my lovely."
Kim, another bartender, has appeared in all her cone-bra glory and waves me off as she starts to man my station.
Angel carried me back to her dressing room, plopping me down on her chaise lounge and passing me a can of Coke. She then dives into her clothing racks with a fierce abandon. Under a pile of sequined jumpsuits, she makes her way behind the divider screen.
When she reappears, she is a vision in gold. The dress is fitted to the floor with two slits right up to her hips. It sparkles like a disco ball and her head-dress is an intricate crown of sparkles and jewels. Attached to the back of her dress is a huge pair of shimmery gold wings. As she turns to check her makeup in the mirror I see that the wings come together to form a large 'A' on her back. I'm beginning to sense a theme with Ms. Angel-A.
"You look so…well…sparkly." We both start laughing at my stating the obvious. She grabs my hand. "Come on princess, I have a show to do and you have a show to watch. None of these bitches hold a candle to me."
I force her to slow down, reminding her of my death-trap heels. She brings me to the side of the stage and I can see the houselights have all been turned off and there is only a few glimmers coming off the disco balls that allow me to see the shadow of Ms. Angel as she takes her position on stage.
The jarring sound of a blast of guitar fills the bar. I smirk as it blasts once more followed by the opening words of what couldn't be a more perfect track for Ms. Angel. Her right arm rises above her head; with her fingers spread, she settles into her opening stance. Then she strikes a new pose with every phrase. Just as the song was accurately belting out, dude did look like quite the lady.
When she is finished, there are bras, underwear and even a few condoms thrown on stage. She takes a grand bow and then runs off, grabbing me up in her arms and swinging me around. I love her enthusiasm and that she's taken to me so quickly.
"That was amazing. You are amazing and clearly have no problems with four inch heels." I point to her feet. She guides us back to our stations and starts pumping the tunes again. I lean towards Ms. Angel while passing out the pink drinks to a group. "I didn't expect you to perform to that song," I tell her.
"Why? What were you expecting? 'It's Raining Men' or 'I Will Survive'?" She gives me an incredulous look.
"Oh! Well no, not necessarily, but yes…I guess something more…female?"
She laughs slyly before telling me, "Sweetie, you don't get much more drag queen than Steven Tyler." The rest of the night passes so quickly with all the dancing and teasing that I engage in with Angie.
Last call has already been announced, and Ms. A is informing the crowd that this will be the final song, as electric guitar once again consumes the club. I hear a groan beside me and see Rosalie for the first time that night. "Not a fan of Aerosmith?" I ask her.
"Don't get me wrong, I love me some good classic rock, especially of the hair band variety, however, Ms. Angie-A over there has been playing this same song at the end of every night." She rolls her eyes and gives and evil glare towards Angie.
I put a smile on my face and whisper out the side of my mouth to Rose, "I get that she loves Aerosmith, but is this song sentimental or something?"
"Yeah, apparently Ms. A has a secret muse that he admirers from afar and dedicates this song to said object of affection each night. It's sweet but nauseatingly repetitive." She nods in Ms. Angel's direction. Apparently this is Angie's solo as she belts out "You're my a-e-a-e-a-e-aaaangel. Come and save me toni-i-i-i-i-iggghhht." Complete with a Celine Dion chest thumping manoeuvre.
Looking around the club, I notice every bartender is displaying a similar reaction to Rosie's. Rolling eyes, gagging motions and death glares all directed at Ms. Angel-A. "Erm…Rosalie?"
"Yeah babe?" She literally has her fingers in her ears.
"When you said she plays this every night, you mean just the past few nights, right?" I mean yeah the same song three or four nights in a row would get a little bit aggravating but these people looked like they were considering offing themselves to never have to hear one more note.
"Yes. The past few nights…and the few before that…and the few before that; going on just over two months now. I'm going to have to talk to her, some of the staff is threatening to take her turntables hostage and I don't want to deal with the aftermath of that." The ballad comes to a close and Rosalie heads back to the main bar.
It's amazing how different the club and its patrons look when the lights come up. If people just waited until this time to see who they were going home with I think there would be a lot less random hook-ups, 'cause none of these people are looking their best.
Angel and I get our stations all squared away. I continue to gush over her performance and we exchange numbers. She offers me a ride home but I tell her that Masen should be coming to pick me up. She insists on accompanying me out to the back parking lot to wait for Mase.
We continue to talk for about 20 minutes when I hear my phone beep. I look at it and it's from Masen telling me that he's parked up the street near the next alley way and to hurry my ass up.
"Okay, well that's him. So, I'll see you tomorrow night, right?" I start walking away but Ms. Angel begins to follow me.
"Where are you going?" she asks in a slight state of confusion.
"Mase is parked down the street. He probably just didn't want to deal with any traffic or turning around."
"Well, I'm coming with you. In no way is your pretty little ass walking around the streets of Toronto at three a.m. alone. No offense…but your boyfriend is a jerk." She gives me a look like I should have figured this out already.
"Ya, that's Mase." As soon as we come out on the street from the parking lot Mase starts honking his horn obnoxiously and flashing his brights. "Point and case," I mumble.
Ms. Angel walks me to the car and gives me another big hug just as Mase lays on the horn again. I roll my eyes and get in. Before my door can close completely, Masen speeds off with screeching tires. "Jesus Christ, Mase. What is your problem?"
His eyes stay on the road. "Nothing! Who was that fag groping you?" he spits at me, his voice laced with venom.
"What the fuck, Mase? Don't call him…her that! Don't call anyone that, you bigoted asshole." He's for sure not getting any tonight. "She's my friend, so watch your mouth."
The drive home goes super-fast as I sit there stewing through the whole ride. As soon as he parks the car, I jump out of my seat and slam the door, rushing up the walkway. I slam the front door as well, and lock it behind me. Take that be-otch!
By the time I'm stripped down to my skivvies and turning the bed down, Mase has made his way upstairs. I throw a pillow at him and tell him to hit the couch. As always though, I can't say no to his emerald greens when he makes his puppy dog eyes at me.
"My little Swan, you know you want me in your bed. You will be all cold and lonely up here in this big old bed by yourself." He shivers a little to emphasize his point.
"Alright, but don't call me Swan. Just because you insist we all call you by your last name in some attempt to relive your high school quarterback and college frat days, doesn't mean I need the surname recognition." I toss a second pillow at him just because I don't want to be a pushover. We get into bed which inevitably is followed by what I would call sexy times, but is typically more of a few grunts and me finishing myself off to his snores.
It wasn't always like this; we are just going through a temporary low; at least that is what I keep telling myself.
The next few weekends are the same. I spend Friday and Saturday nights at the club, and I love it. Every night ends the same, with the same power ballad of Aerosmith's 'Angel' and the same forlorn expression on Ms. A's face. I asked her once but she got really uncomfortable so I never hedged the topic again. I didn't want to cramp any part of our relationship. I look forward to those nights all week, knowing that the hours I spend at Ms. Sparkles feels more like just hanging out with Angel-A than a job. She is definitely my best friend in Toronto, and possibly ever.
I didn't have a lot of friends in high school and not even a boyfriend until I met Masen at the University of British Columbia. I was so surprised when he started flirting with me and revealing his interests. Maybe that's why I'm so desperate to make this all work, he was my first everything.
It's mid-December now and getting quite cold. Mase dropped me off this morning at an art gallery where one of my classmates is having a show and I volunteered to help at. I check my watch and it's a quarter to five…Mase is 45 minutes late picking me up. Turning down the multiple offers of rides back to the downtown core, I now find myself hopping back and forth, one foot than the other, trying to keep warm. Text, text, text, no reply, no reply, no reply. I've left four voice mails. Where the hell is he?
Finally! My phone lights up with a picture of Masen. "Hey, where are you? I've been freezing my butt off here!" It's hard to even hear him when he starts talking because of all the background noise.
"Hey babe, the guys and I went to a game so I might not be able to pick you up after work tonight depending on if we go out, k?"
Asshole! "Mase, I'm not at work, I'm at the freakin' art gallery, and you need to pick me up so I can get to work."
"Ah crap. Sorry babe no can do…take the subway or something."
"Mase the subway doesn't come out here and I'll never make it in…" he hangs up on me. Unbelievable. I rarely ask him to do anything and the one time, geez. Crap. What am I going to do now? I try Ty but there's no answer. Scrolling down my contacts, I stop at Ms. Angel-A. I knew she should be getting ready, but I decide to give it a shot anyway.
She answers after the first ring barely goes through. "Bella! How did the art gallery go, darlin'?" Her sweet southern drawl makes me feel comforted instantly.
Tears spring in my eyes because the man who I've spent almost five years with couldn't remember to pick me up, yet someone I've only known for a month immediately knows. I must have sniffled into the phone because immediately Ms. Angel is onto me.
"Oh sugar, tell Ms. Angie what's wrong." At this, I succumb to a blubbering mess but eventually get out that I have been abandoned. She doesn't even hesitate and continues our call while she is getting in her car.
"Just hang on babe; I will be there in a jiffy." She hangs up the phone. I actually find myself smiling at the prospect of spending more time with Ms. A, granted much of this time will probably be me bitching about Mase. I've come to embrace Ms. A as my closest confident, sharing every little life detail with her. I did ask her last weekend if she was tired of always discussing me and my issues, but she assured me that she loved it all.
I'm pretty sure I have a wee girl-crush…or…erm…boy-crush…which would just be a crush-crush? Whatever…I get giddy butterflies around her and want to tell everyone walking by that she's my bestie.
This line of thinking has kept me pre-occupied and before I know it, Ms. Angel is pulling up in an inconspicuous Volvo. A red wig is what is on the agenda for today, her makeup already mostly done. She drives us straight to the club so that we can finish getting ready together.
An extra coat of lip gloss is being applied to my lips when I ask Ms. Angel-A to tell me when she first got started in drag.
"Well, when I was little, my older sisters insisted they needed a third person to have a proper tea party. So they dressed me up with makeup, hat, and gloves and called me Claudia."
Snort. I actually snort, and then get reprimanded by Ty when the lip gloss gets applied outside his delicately place lip liner.
The rest of the night is awesome and after getting all my earlier frustrations out through discussion with Ms. A, I let loose and dance the night away with my bestie DJ-gal-pal.
I am mid twirl when Emmett comes by our station and says that my friends are here. Since all of my friends work at Ms. Sparkles, I wonder who said-friends are. My curiosity is quenched when making their way across the dance floor is Masen, his gooney Neanderthal friends and their bimbo girlfriends. I am suddenly paralyzed with irrational fear.
Still frozen at a standstill, I don't move when Mase goes around the side of the DJ booth and grabs my waist pulling me into a kiss. Being as Ms. Angie has never seen Masen, except for through the windshield of a car late at night; she goes into protector mode, tackling Mase. The force sends me flying back into the turn tables, knocking them over.
"Bella, Bella are you okay?" Ms. Angel is back to her male voice and has completely forgotten about Masen, as she rushes over to help me up.
"Ya, just stunned." I grab her hand to stand up just as Masen gets his footing back and flies in Ms. A's direction bringing the both of them to the ground again. I scream to get the attention of Emmett and some of the other bouncers, and shortly it's a full on brawl, wigs, sparkles and feathers are flying everywhere. If I wasn't so worried I would find this situation absolutely hilarious.
It's only moments before what seems like the entire bar, all bouncers, bartenders and patrons are now entrenched in knock-out, drag-down brawls. I can hear Masen using his full bigoted vocabulary, spewing it at Ms. A and anyone else within hearing distance. The blasphemy is shut down quickly though when Angie lands her very effective, and to be honest, quite manly right hook square on Masen's eye.
The cops are called, and every fight is broken up. Surprisingly, after much discussion and agreement, no one is pressing charges. I apologize profusely to Rosalie and she is as gracious as ever and just tells me that under no circumstances is Masen allowed anywhere near the bar, not even to pick me up at night. I easily agree and take Masen home.
Unable to locate Ms. A in all the confusion, Ty assures me that she was fine, just some cuts and bruises. I'm fuming as I lead Masen to the subway stop, maintaining the silent treatment while I stew. Anytime he goes to touch me or talk to me, I make it clear that we are not on speaking terms as I huff and give him the sub-zero shoulder.
This is it. This is my breaking point. The constant little jabs about my job and my new friends over the last month have been boiling up inside me and it's now spilling over. I have never had the experience of loving someone you dislike with every fibre of your being. I worry that it wasn't even love anymore, but just habit.
After tonight's no-so-fabulous fiasco, I can't even deal with him right now. As soon as I'm through the front door, I run up the stairs and shove a few essentials into a duffle bag before I take off again. I give Masen a pointed look as he sits on the coach with a bag of peas on his eye. I am actually disgusted with his behaviour. He yells "What?" as I slam the front door behind me.
In the midst of all of my queen-worthy dramatic flair, I didn't really think my plan through. I have nowhere to go, so I call the number of the only person I want to be around.
I don't even manage a greeting before she answers the phone with, "I'm on my way."
She's still in drag, although it's kind of busted up. I wonder why she just doesn't take it all off but I don't question her. Her condo has a second bedroom, and she sets me up with warm tea and my favourite cookies while she lets me spew my dramatics like word vomit. It's four in the morning before I find that I can't keep my eyes open any longer. Ms. Angie, still in her broke-down drag, tells me to sleep and that she has errands in the morning but I am welcome to stay as long as I want. She leaves me a key to lock up when I leave, managing to make me feel more at home in one night than Masen did in five years.
I know that I have some big decisions to make. Since I met Masen in freshman year, all of my decisions have been made with him in mind. I'm beginning to see how naive and immature that was because his decisions haven't included me at all. We lived in the neighbourhood that was convenient for him. We went to grad school where it was best for him. I even turned down Christmas in Hawaii with my parents because I assumed Mase and I would go back to BC to celebrate in the mountains with his family. When I went to book our plane tickets he claims we had a discussion where he told me he was headed to Mexico with his old frat buddies for a "guys only" vacation.
That's right; I'm stuck here in Toronto. By myself. My parents offered to help me fly to Hawaii last minute but I just can't justify that, especially since they have turned it into a second honeymoon, blech.
I decide that the only decision being made tonight was one to sleep.
The next day when I got back to my place, Mase was nowhere to be found. This wasn't such a bad thing because I really had no desire to see him while in such an indecisive state. I head upstairs and fall asleep, still exhausted from last night's events.
In what seems like only moments, but what my phone confirms has really been three hours, I am awoken by a text from Ty telling me he's coming over to help me get ready tonight. Ms. Sparkles is closed to the public for the evening. It's the annual by-exclusive-invitation-only Christmas party, this year's theme being the dirty thirties. It's all gangster and speakeasy, with a secret code word to get in and everything.
Ty is definitely a miracle worker. I presented him with baggy, puffy eyes and matted, greasy hair and he manages a reality-TV-worthy transformation with flawless makeup, gently pinned up curls and a floor length, ivory satin gown. I barely even recognized myself.
We arrive and I give the password to the bouncer outside, "Spider Monkey." We are allowed to enter and I instantly feel like I've been through a time machine that has stopped in 1932. Everyone looks amazing and the Queens have pulled out all the stops. I am giddy just thinking about what Ms. Angel-A will be wearing. We've been texting each other all day but she won't budge on telling me about her ensemble. I scan the room but realize she must not have arrived yet, so I make my way to the bar to join in on the festivities with Rosie and Emmett.
Forty-five minutes, and three Bellini's later –which by the way are fucking awesome – I decide to just walk around the bar to take in the atmosphere. My phone starts ringing and I place my fourth Bellini down and prepare to lash out at Ms. A for being so late. It's not Ms. A…it's Mase.
"Masen, I really haven't decided anything about us, so I don't want to talk…" I'm promptly cut off.
"Bella listen, I don't know why you are so pissed. I'm sorry I did that at your work, but that bitch was asking for it. Really babe, are you actually gonna let some pansies get between us and what a great thing we have?" Oh. My. God. He seriously doesn't get it.
"Masen, they aren't just my co-workers. They are my friends, and quite frankly, practically family. These "pansies" are the only thing that has kept me sane these past few months in Toronto. Even if they weren't, I cannot tolerate your bigotry any longer. You are going to have to do some serious soul-searching about the kind of person you are, and if you can't at least attempt to reflect on that I don't think we will survive as a couple." I now realize that I can't spend my life with someone whose values may vary so widely from my own. "I love you Mase, I always have but this is so much bigger than love."
He's silent for at least a minute. That is a really fucking long time when you are listening to silence on the other end of the line. "You know what? Whatever Bella, when did you become such a fag-hag anyway?"
There it is. I hang up. "Fuck!" I groan out in frustration. "Who would have thought that love could suck this much?" I pick up my Bellini and take a long swig.
"Then again, love can make life worth living."
Apparently, someone has taken it upon himself to offer unsolicited advice. I whip around to give the intruder a piece of my mind, and I'm a little thrown.
"Do I know you?"
He looks vaguely familiar. He's absolutely gorgeous, dressed in full pin-striped gangster garb so one would think I would remember him if I did know him…. I am also a little put off by his green eyes as they resemble Masen's, but they are warmer. At this moment, some party-goers congregate near us, one knocking into me spilling a bit of my drink.
"I saw you across the room; I was in awe and thought to myself, 'that is the most beautiful woman I've seen, and the only thing that could make her more beautiful to me would be waking up beside her with her arms and legs wrapped around me.'"
I instantly see red and toss my drink in his face. Men are all the fucking same. He sees me and instantly thinks the best thing I could provide him with would be a good lay. I storm off, or attempt to anyway, because I am stopped when mystery pervert in his pimped out garb grabs my wrist.
One of the party-goers, who had overheard everything, intervenes, "Hey man, what's going on? Do you know her?"
"Yeah," he looks resigned at this admittance, "We work together. I guess you could call us girlfriends."
What. The. Fuck.
I take a much closer look and concentrate on the familiarity of his face.
Holy. Mother. Fucking. Lying. Drag. Queen.
This time I try to run, but the mother fucking lying drag queen still has my wrist. "Let me go Angie."
"Edward." His voice is calm and not southern in the least little fucking bit.
"What?" I shriek, enraged at his calm demeanour.
"Edward, my name is Edward, Bella." He looks around because the entire bar is looking at us, my theatrics have caused quite the scene; even the music has stopped.
"I'm Edward, a straight man who loves his gay and lesbian family and has fun escaping from real life for a few hours each weekend as Ms. Angel-A. I hope you can accept all parts of me." He looks and sounds so genuine. His eyes make me weak in the knees for about three and a half seconds.
"No, no, no, no, no!" I finally get my wrist away from him. "You lied to me, not just once but night after night, week after week. I told you things I would never tell a man!"
"What on earth did you think I was Bella? The dress, hair, makeup and heels didn't change that I was a man. I know that I know your life and all your stories and you know so few of mine, but I want to change that. I want to spend every day of my life worshipping the amazing woman you are." Tears have sprung in his eyes and they match the ones that have collected in mine.
"I can't. I just can't. Do you know what you've taken from me? Do you have any idea? You were the one thing I had, the one that was all mine!" I am fighting the inevitable on-coming breakdown.
"I'm still yours." He has the nerve to look as broken as I feel.
"No, you are a liar. I trusted you with everything and you trusted me with nothing." With that I walk toward the exit. I manage to get out a broken cry for Ty, who graciously helps me out and drives me back to his place.
The next week passes in a blur. I have no emotions left, Masen and Ang…Edward have drained me. She…he texts me every day. Ty's apartment –because I refuse to stay at my place until Mase leaves for Mexico – is filled with flowers, feathers…and sparkles of course. Ty points out that I smile every time something new arrives or my phone lights up with a message. I admit it, that I miss my friend but I can't seem to shake this feeling of deep betrayal. Ty also enlightens me that I'm much more upset about my fight with Edward than with Masen.
It's now Christmas Eve and I'm alone in my apartment. In true Swan tradition, my mother has sent me Christmas pyjamas that are red and fuzzy and super comfy. I try not to wallow in my pathetic-ness but in a true stroke of genius, I decide to watch It's A Wonderful Life and I'm a complete wreck.
I'm currently entertaining sob-fest number three when my phone rings. It's Rosalie.
"Hey Bella, sweetie, is there any way you can come down to the club?" She seems a bit frantic.
"Now? Rosalie, it's Christmas Eve. What on earth are you doing at the club and what could you possibly need me for?" Masen took his car and left it at the airport, and I really don't even want to think about the nightmare of getting a cab tonight of all nights.
"A pipe burst in the back and water got all over the dressing rooms. If we don't get these costumes and everything else out of here it will all be a loss, and unless you want to be the one to explain that to the Queens in the morning, I suggest you get your ass down here."
"Fine. But I'm coming in my pyjamas," I all but growl at her.
"That's what she said. See ya soon Bells." She hangs up and I roll my eyes. I schlepp over to the door and put on my winter boots, coat, scarf, hat, mitts and any other winter gear that is in my eye line.
Every call I made to every cab company got a busy signal, so I just go out to the street hoping against the odds, that I catch something on the drive by. What are the odds? There is a cab waiting outside for me. When I open the door, the cabbie says, "Swan?"
"Yes," I reply. The cab driver suspiciously resembles the puddle bandit that I encountered my first time going to Ms. Sparkles… I say nothing about that though. I'm just grateful for a ride.
The cab lets me off in front of the bar; I get out and make a valiant effort to walk up the sidewalk without falling on the surrounding ice. I unlock the front door and decide to slip my jacket and winter gear off and leave it at the front, minus the boots of course. They will come in handy in the flood waters.
I toss my crap to the side and look up at the room for the first time. I almost run out the door because I am almost completely positive that I have somehow entered the wrong building.
Before me is what can only be described as a Christmas winter wonderland. It is, no freakin' joke, a scene right out of the movie White Christmas. There are trees everywhere. Some real, some fake, some covered with snow, some, of course, made entirely out of feathers and sparkles. Presents, mistletoe, reindeer, you name it, it's in here, and standing in the middle of it all is Edward. The only out of place aspect was that ever-present tune by Aerosmith, Angel, was being played over the loud speakers.
My lip begins trembling slightly and I'm overwhelmed to the point where the tears are gathering again. I detest that I cry any time I feel a strong emotion. I try to compose myself, but then it starts snowing. I shit you not. Snowing. Inside. Looking up in the rafters I see Rosalie and Emmett shaking some kind of long tube that is releasing snow and I can't help but laugh.
Like some sort of cheesy movie scene I feel myself being pulled toward Edward as I step into the dreamland he has created. He walks until he is in front of my and gently grasps my hands leading me deeper into the room.
"Bella," his voice is laced with so much sincerity. "I know you are hurt. I also recognize you have every right to feel that way, but I can't just let things end without putting all of myself out there. I need you to know how it all started."
He took a deep breath before speaking again. "The first day I saw you was back at the end of August."
"But…" I interrupt him but he quickly places two fingers against my lips pleading with me to let him finish.
"It was orientation day and you walked up to the table to get your intro material and I was stunned. I immediately committed your name to memory in hopes of searching you out later. Imagine my surprise when we actually shared a class."
All of it was started to click. I vaguely remember that first day, it was such a whirl wind, but I do remember a certain heated discussion Ty had with a man outside our class the day after I was hired at Ms. Sparkles. "You…you were fighting with Ty." I said as a statement more than a question.
He laughs. "Yes. I wasn't exactly thrilled that Ty had gotten my dream girl a job where I would be in constant drag around her. Don't get me wrong, I'm not ashamed of Ms. Angel-A, but I was a bit more than worried you would discover my affections before you got to know me. Embarrassed would be more accurate as I had been subjecting my colleagues to the same love-sick power ballad every night as an ode to the girl I couldn't even get up the nerve to talk to."
Continuing to explain himself he lead us over to one of the couches, appropriately draped in red velvet fabric. "From that first night when I inadvertently injured you and you just began talking about every aspect of your life, I was enraptured. After that night, I didn't want to lose that magic. You spoke so freely and I knew it was because of a comfort you felt because you assumed I was gay and just one of the girls, as you have told me numerous times."
Part of me was angry at myself for not letting him explain this to me, another part, and I hadn't decided how dominant that part was, was still pretty fuckin' pissed that he sat there day in and day out, phone call after phone call and listened to me go into fine detail of every part of my life including my sex life.
"I don't know how to begin to get over this," I whispered honestly to him. "I feel this one sided relationship where you know everything and I only know small snippets, is too skewed to be saved."
"I get that, I truly do. That's what all of this is. It's not everything but it's a beginning." My confusion at his statement must show on my face because he is pulling me up in an instant and dragging me over to the largest tree in the middle of the room. It's covered with mismatched decorations. Upon closer examination of one of the ornaments, I see that it is hand painted and in the middle is what looks like a five year old boy with reddish hair and mischievous green eyes.
"Is that...?" I reach out to hold the decoration.
"Yes, it's me. In fact, all of these ornaments are mine. Well, mine and my family's. It's my parents' tree." He explains this like it should make sense.
"How did you…?" I'm confused.
"Oh, Emmett and Rose helped me get it over here. As long as we get it back in their living room by tomorrow morning, they will be cool about it." His nervous laughter gives away his lack of confidence in this statement.
"Come here." He now brings me over to the bar. Spread before me is the strangest assortment of foods. On one side of the bar there are cupcakes, pizza and diet Pepsi on the other side is a cake, pogo sticks and Fruitopia in a can. I give him another questioning look.
"I love diet Pepsi and mushroom pizza. I hate any kind of juice in a can or meat on a stick." This last bit is actually accompanied by a look of disgust on his face. "And cupcakes," he continues, "I love them, but cake, actual cake-cake is disgusting." This is punctuated with a stuck-out tongue. He passes me a cupcake before bringing me back to the red covered sofa.
Reaching underneath he pulls out a pile of albums. "These," he says proudly, "contain my whole life; documented by a camera-happy mother who is a scrapbook enthusiast extraordinaire."
I grab the first one off the pile and open it to a random page. Bursting out laughing at what is before me, it's Edward, well Ms. Angel-A…actually I guess the appropriate name would be Claudia, in all her tea-party glory.
This is the moment that I realize, although instances have been few and far between in the past, Edward has confided in me by letting me into small, but deeply character-forming moments in his life. I look into his eyes again and don't see betrayal but rather the love a friend, a best friend who is asking for the chance to be more.
My hands reach up and hold each side of his face. I lean my face into his.
"Bella," he interrupts the moment.
It's my turn to place fingers over his lips, pleading with him to be still. I gently press my lips to his and he is hesitant at first but then responds. For brief seconds I'm lost in this moment and it seems so natural. I know now that not forgiving him is not an option.
I don't know how long we would have stayed in a blissful state of making out if we hadn't been disturbed by Emmett. "Hey guys, I'm super stoked for you and please I would like nothing more than to watch you make out…but the view would be better down there. Can we stop with the snow?"
Rosalie gives Emmett a shove before leading him off the rafters and into the back while Edward and I laugh.
"We have a lot to talk about and figure out you know." I tell him, because I still want to know so much more about him.
"Of course, and we can do all of that, after you come to my parents' house for Christmas day." I just smile at the thought of getting my family Christmas after all.
I point to the tree. "You guys grab that tree and I'll be right back."
"Bells, where are you going?" Edward asks.
"To get some of Ms. Angel-A's stuff," I yell at him and wink.
He smirks, "Why? For you to wear or me?"
"Well, I did find that southern accent a little bit of a turn-on. Let's see how creative we can be." I punctuate my proposal with a wink and for the first time in years I feel completely care-free and more importantly, loved.