On a Night Like This #1
by Sean Kennedy
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of author imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
On A Night Like This: Wow! © 2017 Sean Kennedy.
Excerpt from On A Night Like This: Confide in Me © 2017 Renae Kaye
The character of Allotta Moxie originally appeared in a short story called "Drive Safe" by Sean Kennedy. Although this is not the same person, the name was too good to not be used again.
Cover content is for illustrative purposes only and any person depicted on the cover is a model.
All rights reserved. This book is licensed to the original purchaser only. Duplication or distribution via any means is illegal and a violation of international copyright law, subject to criminal prosecution and upon conviction, fines, and/or imprisonment. Any eBook format cannot be legally loaned or given to others. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission, except where permitted by law.
To Australia's true queen: our Kylie. Especially for you.
And for Misty, my Kylie brother-in-arms
AUTHOR’S NOTE: There’s no float at the Perth Pride parade with a number of Kylies corresponding to each year she’s been in the industry. I only wish there were.
I don’t come out every night, but when I do, I’m the brightest star you’ll ever see.
Most stars, when you see them, have actually faded away thousands of years ago.
I’m the star that made my way through the galaxy, destined for a small blue planet called Earth, and I should have burnt up as I fell through its skies, but all I did was burn bright. And when I landed I dusted myself off, bought the reddest pair of stiletto heels you have ever seen in your life, and went dancing.
My name is Allotta Moxie. It’s a pleasure for you to meet me.
There was a steady drone as I worked. And there were many levels to it.
First there was the drone of the air conditioning. It was a steady rumble that acted as a rhythmic meter to the day. The low hum of the computers was on a slightly higher frequency, adding volume and a pulse behind the meter. My colleagues mumbled to each other and their customers, their voices coming in waves and sometimes finding the off beat in an echo to the air conditioning’s rumble. The beats started to swell with various idiosyncratic noises such as the piercing screams of babies, the constant opening and closing of tills, the percussion of the clack of fingernails on keyboards, and the sudden crash of coins against metal. Sometimes if you focused on it too much, the sounds became a cacophony that threatened to send you crazy. They called it “going postal,” but here we called it “going banking.”
This was my day job. It’s a living. That’s why I got drawn to the stars on the weekend. That’s where she came in.
Not exactly a she, darling.
I’m so sorry.
This was what it was like living with her. She’s entirely her own persona, and she didn’t take shit from anyone. Not even me.
This wasn’t to say I thought I had multiple personalities, or thought I was some special snowflake who’s two souls in one body. Just, she’s there. She’s like my Jiminy Cricket—
Stop interrupting me. And watch a film that was made before 2004.
Where was I? Yes, Jiminy Cricket. Except she’s Jiminy Cricket with a dark side. She’s a Jiminy Cricket who liked to take over from time to time, doing the things I was too scared to do and could never do. Basically she’s my id. Or was it superego?
I’m your superhero, darling. I save you from a life of perpetual boredom.
Well, she could be right about that. And I was fine with it, allowing her to be slipped on like a second skin. Because Allotta didn’t give a shit what anybody else thought about her. She oozed confidence. She was unflappable. When she took to the stage at the Perth nightclub, Connections, she was the textbook definition of fierce. Her leggings may have had to cover her hairy pins, but she let her freak flag fly and let her chest and armpits run free, even though her face was shaved right before performing, and make-up perfectly applied.
Not me. I had trouble even taking my shirt off at the pool. Most of my dates ended in complete darkness because I liked it that way, leaving things to the imagination rather than the exposure of a sixty-watt globe.
Dates? What dates, Mark? If you’ve been getting any, it’s the first I’ve heard of it.
Okay, so there haven’t been any for a while. But I’m hoping to rectify that.
Oh. You’re talking about that new guy.
Yes, I am.
He’s really not that special.
We don’t know that at all.
You can do better.
I think he is better. If anything, I’m out of his league.
Oh, honey. Look, I am you and you are me. And we’re fabulous. We’re wow, you know?
Like the Kylie song. Our song.
That song is all you, Allotta.
Okay, I was being modest. It’s all me. But like I said, you’re me too. So you just have to start thinking like I do.
That’s a scary thought.
I’m a hard act to follow, I do admit that. But I’ve seen the way the boys look at me when I’m on stage. I’m a dream, I’m a vision, I’m completely fuckable and lovable.
I’m never that.
I know. I was trying to be nice. But believe me, I admire you for it.
You can’t sit there and pretend you don’t love all the attention when you go down the catwalk, lip-synching to some song you feel all the way in your gut because it’s such a part of you. And that’s why the boys love me. They see someone completely at ease with themselves, and that makes us desirable. They know they’re not getting any hang-ups.
Ah, but what happens when the stockings come off at night and the make-up gets removed and they’re left just with me and not Allotta?
You know, you’re really not that bad.
Thanks, that’s sweet. I know I’m not that bad. But sometimes I wonder….
You were thinking something.
I was just thinking… maybe it’s time to retire Allotta.
I know you’re there.
It’s just… I’m absolutely gobsmacked, darling.
First time for everything.
Now who’s being mean? Especially when you’re talking about killing me!
Don’t be overdramatic. It’s retirement, not a killing.
I thought you said I was you and you were me? How could I kill you if we’re one and the same?
Let me just tell you one thing, buddy. You’ll feel different tonight. Just wait and see.
Okay, you’re ignoring me. But I know you. You’re looking forward to tonight. You can’t wait to get home, shower, spray yourself with perfume, then pad out naked to open up your special side of the closet where all your clothes live. You’ll rub the silk between your fingers, before you slip on your panties—
Panties? Panties! I hate that word! And you’re not a Yank!
I knew that would make you talk.
Fine. You got me. You just had to bring up the clothes, didn’t you? I do like the silk underpants. They just feel so good! Especially on my dick.
Do you have to be so vulgar?
Don’t pretend you don’t like it! I know you like it. It’s my dick, too.
Okay, they do feel good.
See? But it’s not just the silk. It’s the whole ensemble. The stockings shaping my legs and causing Betty Grable to have insecurity issues. My fabulous cheekbones enhanced by Sally Bowles’s makeup. And the eternally youthful inspiration of Australia’s sweetheart, Ms Kylie Minogue, or as she is better known, Our Kylie.
You’re not telling me anything I don’t already know.
Yeah yeah yeah. You just wish you could carry this feeling twenty-four seven.
I don’t mind copping to that. I wish I could.
Could you imagine the looks on everybody’s faces here? If Allotta suddenly made an appearance, using the tellers’ ledge as my place to strut?
It might be a bit difficult with all the bulletproof glass getting in the way.
I’ll shatter it with my sheer confidence.
You probably could.
You sound down, darling.
Maybe I am. Just a little.
You can talk to me.
Then I’ll really have stepped over the line to crazy town.
Everybody talks to themselves, honey. You should just be glad you have someone as fab as me who’s listening.
It’s just that new guy who’s started… you know, the one I started talking about ages ago but you distracted me—
I didn’t distract you.
Uh, yeah, you always distract me.
Like I said, because you’re bored. So you’re talking about Joel, right?
You know I am.
Joel is such a douche’s name.
This Joel isn’t a douche.
I’m only teasing you, baby. I know he isn’t a douche. He’s as sweet as honey and probably just as sticky.
What do you even mean by that?
I don’t know. It just sounded good. So what’s the problem? You like him, he seems to like you—
We don’t know that.
Oh, please, he flirts plenty.
I think that’s just him being friendly.
He’s not that friendly with everyone.
He’s friendly with Connor.
Yeah, well, that’s why you’ve got to stake your claim. Like the Marilyn song.
Don’t you even dare joke about that. You know I’m talking about Monroe.
I know. I like to tease you occasionally too. And it works.
You know how to push my buttons.
As you do mine.
You know Freud would have a field day with this, right?
We’d be locked up.
That’s okay. It happens to all great artistes at some time or another. Frances Fisher had a lobotomy. Van Gogh sliced off his own ear. Sylvia Plath stuck her head in the oven. Kurt Cobain… well, Kurt didn’t shoot himself, if you ask me. There was a shadowy figure on the grassy knoll behind his house.
I read it somewhere. Anyway, all creative people are crazy. It’s just you get to show a façade to the world of a boring everyday loans officer.
Exactly. I’m worried that he’ll see me as too boring.
Honey, he’s a bank teller. He’s got no right to call anybody else boring.
He’s not boring, though.
Well, neither are you.
You just told me I am!
Yes, I can say that about you. Nobody else can. Anyway, if you want to prove you’re not boring, you could always tell him about me.
Why not? Are you ashamed of me?
No. I love you. I love what you do.
But you’ve never told anybody at work about me.
Because I like to keep my professional and private lives separate.
Better stop crushing on that boy, then.
Okay, in this case I might make an exception.
You really think he’s that good?
I don’t know. I don’t really know him, do I? All I know is that he’s cute, funny, I’ve seen him stick his own money in the Koala Protection collection tin, and he doesn’t seem to think I’m some hideous wildebeest. I don’t know if that translates into “I will totally go out with you and check the thread count of your bed sheets,” but I wouldn’t mind giving it a shot.
Then why haven’t you?
I don’t know. You tell me.
You’re just a big ole teddy bear. And you know what? People like to cuddle teddy bears.
That’s what I’m afraid of. That he’d only want to “cuddle.”
Ah. The friend zone. There’s nothing wrong with being friends!
I have plenty of friends. I want a boyfriend.
Sweetie, I’m a drag queen, not a fairy godmother. Nor am I Samantha from Bewitched or the titular character from I Dream of Jeannie. I’m a passable lip-syncher with a great set of gams and a hairy chest you want to lay your head on at night. If you want that boy, you have to get him yourself. Nobody else can do it. And do it before that lech Connor does.
Hey, I like Connor.
No, you don’t. Remember, I am you. I don’t know why you stayed friends with him after he fucked you and dumped you.
You’re exaggerating. We decided we’d be better off as friends.
Yeah, because he said you were a dud fuck.
He didn’t say it like that.
No, he said you weren’t “compatible.” Which you took to mean you were a dud fuck. And you’ve kind of believed it ever since.
I do not.
You do. But babycakes, I know you’re not a dud fuck.
You have a much higher opinion of us than I do.
And I’m the smarter one, so listen to me.
Don’t be snarky. You know I’m right. So go get that boy.
It was exhausting having a drag queen live in my head.
At best I was eccentric; at worst I was certifiable. It wasn’t like I believed Allotta was real—she’s me. But she’d taken on a life of her own, and sometimes I liked it. She had the strength and the courage, and I just followed along in her wake. If I was wearing her wig, her come-fuck-me boots, and her gold hot pants, I would walk straight up to Joel, lie on his desk, my legs up in the air, and I would purr seductively at him. He would have no misunderstanding of my intentions. But I couldn’t exactly do that. Besides him wondering what the fuck I was doing, I’d probably make everybody else in the bank extremely uncomfortable and find myself on a sexual harassment charge.
So it was best to just play it safe, and be good old dependable and boring Mark Hodges. The slightly fey loans officer who knew how to convey sympathy when telling couples that their less-than-average income was not enough for their more-than-average dream home. The denying money part was just the bank’s regulations. I hated doing it. And many angry customers hated me doing it. But somehow I could stick to my guns when I had to, yet I was unable to do anything resembling it in my own life.
Joel had only been here for a month. He’s a little on the short side, but compact. He could probably throw me over his shoulder if he wanted to. And if he did, I would probably squeal and giggle most unbecomingly. He’s blond, but a little too blond if you know what I mean—his roots varied in length most unnaturally. But he had a naturally ginger blond beard, which drove me crazy. His dark eyes stood out, and together these all complemented each other in sheer perfection. Because he’s smallish he tended to walk like a pit bull, shoulders front, but every now and again he’d do a beautiful little swish that was graceful and seemed to be completely at odds with his gait, but also naturally him—
Oh. My. God. Give it a rest.
Look, you don’t have to join this conversation.
I get you’re a fool for this guy, who you hardly speak to because when you do your voice rises an octave, your skin flushes—and honey, red is not your colour—and I think you actually squeak. If Joel—bwahahahahaha! What a name—
You can talk, Allotta.
You gave that to me when you created me in the lab, Dr Frankenstein.
Are you calling me a monster?
Frankenstein is the doctor, not the monster.
I think you’ll find, Allotta, that Frankenstein was the true monster.
And who said that Bachelor of Arts degree went to waste? Oh, wait. Everybody did!
How did you end up in a bank, of all places?
Lack of teaching jobs when I got out of uni.
So, why didn’t you apply for more as they came up? Get out of the banking industry?
I don’t mind my job.
“Don’t mind.” That’s not a ringing endorsement by any means.
Why are you bugging me about my job? It keeps you in fancy dresses, boas and a fine assortment of wigs. Even if you don’t wear that flapper outfit enough for my liking.
The twenties are so 1920s, Mark! I’m a modern girl.
You’re a pain in the arse.
You wish you were having a—
“You look deep in thought.”
Great. Caught out in my own office, looking like an idiot.
You were encouraging me to be cool, remember?
I finally looked up, knowing that voice before I even saw his face. Joel was almost at the stage where he’d either trim his bum fluff of a beard or shave completely. I hoped he just trimmed. He looked so much younger than his actual twenty-seven when he was clean-shaven. I didn’t want to feel like I was lusting over a teenager.
“Sorry?” I asked stupidly.
“Wow! You’re really away with the fairies, aren’t you?” He leaned over me, and his breath was warm against my face as he said with mock concern, “Come back! They’ll keep you forever if you stay too long.”
“Phew, that’s a relief.” His cheeky smile zinged down my spine.
How can you not think he’s flirting with you? Jesus, take the wheel!
“You busy?” Joel asked.
“Not for you,” I replied.
What are you doing?
You told me to take the wheel.
You’re not bloody Jesus!
“Well, that’s the nicest thing anybody’s said to me all day.” His grin was distracting me. He shouldn’t grin like that at people when they’re at work.
“That you’re not Jesus?” I asked with confusion.
He gave me a strange look. “What?”
Hahahahahahahahaha. Oh my god, you can be an idiot.
“Sorry,” I said, kicking myself and trying to keep the blush down. “My mind’s still on the paperwork I was doing.”
“Is Jesus asking for a loan?” he said without missing a beat.
I shrugged self-consciously. “Well, you know, the lenders at the temple charge too much.”
His grin widened and we shared a moment of laughter before he said, “This is nice and sacrilegious, but are you sure you’re not busy?”
These were the most words I had ever said to him. “Not at all.”
“Well, you see, I was talking to Connor—”
Danger! Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!
I couldn’t disagree.
“Oh, Connor. And what does he have to say for himself?”
Something about my tone must’ve alerted him to the fact I wasn’t overjoyed that he was talking to Connor, because he paused then said, “Aren’t you guys friends?”
That was too complicated to fit on the back of a postcard. “We’re… slightly above acquaintances?”
“Oh, that wasn’t the impression he seemed to give.”
He told that sweet boy that the two of you swapped juices!
How many times do I have to tell you to stop being vulgar?
It’s not vulgar if it’s true.
I think it definitely can be.
Stop drifting off! He’s looking at you funny.
Joel had dragged a chair over to the front of my desk and was sitting on it Christine Keeler style, back to front with his arms draped over, almost hugging the backrest. He looked at me expectantly.
“Um, what?” I asked, feeling like I’d missed some vital piece of information.
He went to stand up. “Sorry, you seem really distracted. I’ll come back later.”
“No!” I cried, perhaps a little too emphatically. “Stay! Stay!” I even made a show of switching the computer off. “You have my undivided attention.”
“I hope you saved that,” he said, concerned.
“Your paperwork about Jesus’s loan?”
“Oh, that! It’s fine.” I wasn’t going to tell him I was actually looking up press-on nails on eBay.
Ooh, what kind?
“If you say so.” He settled down again.
“So how can I help you?” I winced internally. That sounded so officious.
Joel gave a wry smile. “Well, sir—”
“Oh, please, don’t call me that.”
“I think technically you’re my superior?”
“No, I’m not.”
“Well, you’re higher up than me.”
I shrugged. “Different departments, really.”
“Okay, maybe this makes things a little easier.”
He’s caught you watching him! Here comes the sexual harassment lawsuit!
Shut up, Allotta!
Just warning you.
“Like I said, I was talking to Connor. And you came up in conversation.”
“And I just happened to ask if you were single—”
I could just imagine Connor’s reaction. “Him! I don’t think he’s had a root since the millennium!” Which, gross, because I was only nine at the turn of the century.
“Were you doing a survey?” I asked.
Joel rolled his eyes. “You’re not making this easy for me, are you?”
I had no idea what was going on, and was trying to distract but had to give it up. “Sorry. Go on.”
“And he said you weren’t—”
Not since the millennium!
Fuck off, Allotta.
It was a good line. And it can be used twice!
“—seeing anyone, so I was wondering if you’d like to go out for a coffee after work sometime?”
DID HE REALLY JUST SAY THAT?
I think he did!
MAKE HIM REPEAT IT!
“Coffee?” I asked, sounding slightly dim.
“Yes, it’s a black liquid. Some people add sugar, some add milk, some add both.”
“Oh, that,” I said, regaining a little equilibrium. “I’ve heard there are sometimes even these establishments where you can buy it made with steamed milk and have a piece of cake on the side.”
Joel nodded, and his Adam’s apple bobbed nervously above his collar. “You could even have cake with your coffee. If you want to go.”
Maybe he just wants to pick your brain about some work project. Or ask for your help in mentoring.
We don’t have a mentoring program.
Just play it cool.
“Is this, like, a date?” I asked.
RETREAT! RETREAT! SAY YOU HAVE EXPLOSIVE DIARRHOEA AND NEED TO LEAVE, AND IF YOU’RE LUCKY HE’LL NEVER TRY TO SPEAK TO YOU AGAIN!
“You didn’t hear the part where I told you I asked Connor if you were single?”
Oh my god, maybe he’s asking you out.
Thanks for the vote of confidence before.
WHY ARE YOU TALKING TO ME? SAY YES, YOU FOOL, BEFORE HE CHANGES HIS MIND!
“That sounds great.”
Joel smiled, and I was blinded by how brilliant and disarming it was. “Phew! You were really starting to scare me.”
I was scaring him? What the hell did he think he was doing to me? Mark Hodges going on a date. I swallowed to relieve my suddenly dry mouth.
“When should we go?” It came out as a squeak.
Wow, he doesn’t waste any time.
Of course, it had to be tonight.
“I would love to, of course, but the thing is, tonight is really not a good night.”
You’re stammering. And why the hell not?
Because it’s the float meeting, remember?
Pride parade! I totally forgot! We can’t miss that! It’s all about ME!
I thought you’d change your mind.
Use the explosive diarrhoea excuse.
Why are you so obsessed with diarrhoea? It’s your go-to excuse for everything.
I’m not very good with lying on the spot.
Yet your mind always goes there.
“Oh,” Joel said, visibly disappointed. “That’s okay.”
I winced. “It’s not, really. I just have an important… meeting. And I can’t reschedule it.”
He nodded understandingly. “It’s fine. Can I just ask one thing?”
“Are you really single?”
Ha! If only he knew!
“I assure you, I am.”
“So we’ll do it another night, then?”
“I promise. How about tomorrow?”
Who is this person you’re becoming? Like Sade said, you’re a smooth operator. It’s strange. It’s new. It’s exciting!
Joel grinned again. “Good. That sounds really good.”
He got up off the chair, and with the briefest of goodbyes he took off with a slightly hurried pace in the direction of the toilets.
Hm. Maybe he’s got—
Shut up, Allotta!
It seemed like some wishful fantasy, rather than reality. The boy I’d been checking out for a while and hadn’t had the guts to approach, had approached me. I was starting to doubt it had actually happened when I got a message on the intraoffice network: Forgot to give this to you.
His mobile number followed. I put it into my contacts list and texted him immediately. Here’s mine.
A dancing girl emoji was sent back.
Looks like he knows your little secret already.
Don’t rain on my parade, beeyotch.
She was literally gobsmacked. Maybe she was starting to rub off on me after all.
I liked it.
I hoped Connor hadn’t said anything to Joel about his plans for tonight. It might have looked a bit odd if he said he was going to a meeting as well. Except Connor wouldn’t be obtuse, he’d come right out and say it was for the Pride parade. He wasn’t going to be playing a Kylie, but working behind the scenes building the float and decorating it.
It wasn’t that I was worried about Joel knowing the meeting was for Pride. More that it would lead to questions like “oh, so what committee are you on?” and “are you participating or just administrating?” and “you’re a drag queen?”
I wanted him to know me for my wit and charm before that particular bombshell was dropped on him, so he would already be in love with me before it could have any effect on our potential relationship.
It’s me who has the wit and charm.
And I am you.
No, you’re a facet of me.
No, you’re a facet of me.
We can argue about this all day, but we all know it’s Allotta who is cool and confident, and you’ll want a little bit of me coming out when you’re on your date.
That sounds really disturbing.
It did, didn’t it?
I was jolted out of my conversation to find Connor looming over me. “Huh?”
“I believe you have me to thank for the fact you’re finally going to get laid soon?”
Ew… he’s so sleazy. But fucking hot.
And you’ve got bad taste.
Pot. Kettle. Black. Except maybe for Joel. I like him.
“Keep it down, Connor,” I said. “Try to maintain some professionalism in the workplace.”
Connor waved me off. “Better brush the cobwebs off your dick first.”
“There are no—” I refused to give him the satisfaction of talking about my dick in the workplace.
“Oh, come on, I’m just joking! Anyway, if it wasn’t for me saying you were desperate and dateless you would be going home with Mr Hand and his five tricks for another night.”
“It’s just coffee.”
“And it’s not tonight,” I told him.
“We have the committee meeting.”
“You’re passing up guaranteed humping to go to a meeting?” Connor was aghast.
“It was just coffee!”
“You’re fucking hopeless!” He actually had his arms crossed and a scowl on his face.
He’s got a point there.
“I have responsibilities,” I said.
“Don’t be such a priss! If anybody there tonight knew you had a date they’d be telling you to go for it.”
“Joel and I are going for coffee tomorrow night.”
For once in his life—or at least, for the time I had known him—Connor was dumbstruck. “For fuck’s sake! Why didn’t you just say that, then?”
“It’s fun watching you get riled up.”
“You’re a prick.” But for Connor, that was a term of endearment.
“A minute ago you said I was a priss,” I reminded him.
“You’re a prissy prick.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment.”
Be careful. It almost sounds like you’re flirting with him.
Don’t gross me out.
Maybe it was just because we had been involved once. But I definitely didn’t have any feelings for Connor now. My mind was firmly set on Joel, and when he left work that night with a glorious smile and a “See you tomorrow,” I turned into a puddle that threatened to leave a nasty stain on the carpet.
It was only a short distance from our office into Northbridge, so Connor and I walked it, our ties ditched and stuffed in our bags, and Connor stripping out of his business shirt and into a tight-fitting tee that stretched across the pecs he had been working so hard on in the gym. He had no shame, and bowed at a couple of guys who wolf-whistled at him when he was still in the process of changing there on the street.
I wished I had his confidence. And his pecs.
“You’re shameless, you know that?” I told him.
He shrugged. “No shame in getting a little bit of advertising out there.”
“What, ‘Come one, come all’?”
He chuckled. “You can actually be funny sometimes.”
“So I’ve been told.”
“If we weren’t running late for that meeting, I might have turned back and hit up those guys.”
“Even you wouldn’t be that cocky.”
“You have no idea how cocky I can be when my cock’s involved.”
I heard far too much about Connor’s cock for my liking.
Oh, honey, I could never hear enough about Connor’s cock.
You weren’t even around to see Connor’s cock back then.
Shared memories, darling. And, ooh, you can’t see me right now but I’m waving a fan in front of my face, my blood boiling at the thought of that fine man naked once more.
Take a cold shower.
Now, now, you know that won’t help.
“I’m really fucking horny now,” Connor said, and I rolled my eyes. “No, seriously! I might have to wank before I go in to the meeting.”
“You know, even between friends, there’s such a thing as TMI.”
“I’ve told you worse.” Connor shrugged.
“Believe me, I know.”
“Like you’re not going to go home tonight and beat it mercilessly to the thought of Joel’s hot little butt.”
I tripped over a crack in the pavement. At least, I think it was a crack. I hope it wasn’t just me being distracted by the thought of Joel’s very lovely butt in his work trousers. Connor caught me by the arm and I mumbled a thanks.
“Hit a nerve there, did I?”
“If you think he’s so hot, why didn’t you have a crack at him?” I was indignant and flustered, and my face was on fire.
“Because you’ve been mooning over him, you dickhead,” Connor said, shaking his head. “I’m not that mean, you know.”
I could tell he was being genuine, and I softened. “I know you’re not. You’re very good at pretending to be, though.”
“But I never do any pretending when it comes to my dick,” he said, and he was very proud of himself.
But hot. Oh so fucking hot. I would ride that boy like a merry-go-round that’s spinning out of control.
What happened to shared memory? You already did that.
Yeah. Shared memory. I want to be in the now.
Well, keep remembering. That’s all you’re getting.
You’re no fun. But I guess at least we have Joel.
I don’t think he’ll have a chest like Connor’s.
Pecs aren’t everything.
You should know.
“He shouldn’t even be here,” Connor announced as we walked into the packed meeting space. “He was asked out!”
He wasn’t the cat’s mother. He was me.
Connor’s statement was met with cries of outrage and disbelief. Richard stood open-mouthed at the thought. There were mutters of “Oh, Mark!” and “No way.” My decision was obviously not popular.
“Are you crazy?” said Frank, the float’s Kylie from the “Wouldn’t Change A Thing” video—short skirt, bra-top, and strings of pearls.
Hmph. He shouldn’t be that Kylie with that belly.
He makes a wonderful Kylie, so shut up, you body shamer. It’s not like we have anything to write home about.
We have a slight muffin top. Not a keg.
Seriously, Allotta. Shut it. You’ve been very bitchy lately.
Lately? It’s like you don’t even know who I am anymore.
Okay, but you weren’t mean.
Be less like Connor. Keep it to yourself.
If I’m horny, you’re horny.
I’m perfectly fine, thanks.
So you won’t be boffing Joel if you get the opportunity tomorrow night?
I didn’t say that.
You haven’t got me if I admit to it willingly.
“I told you they would think you’re crazy,” Connor told me.
“I already had plans,” I said to those who were listening.
“What, here?” Frank asked. “Oh, honey, you need to get out more.”
“I am—tomorrow.” I sat down and hoped that would be the end of everyone involving themselves in my social life. And by everyone, I guess I really only meant Connor and Frank. And maybe Frank’s partner Franco (yes, don’t get me started on that. You would think they should refuse to fall in love with each other over their names. But what do I know? My parents are Gerry and Sherri).
“But it’s been a very long time for you, no?” Franco asked in his clipped accent.
“Cobwebs,” Connor answered for me, “down there.” He gestured at my crotch.
I folded my arms and stared ahead to the stage, waiting for the meeting to start.
“Congratulations,” Frank said.
“Yes, good to air out down there.” Now Franco was pointing to my crotch.
This couldn’t be any more humiliating.
Hey, it’s the most attention paid to your parts in a while. Enjoy it while you can.
Okay, now it’s more humiliating.
“So are you going to tell lover boy about your meeting?” Connor asked.
“Don’t play coy.”
“Why wouldn’t I?” We were walking back through Northbridge to the city train station, where my line would take me home to the north of the river and him to the south.
“Because you’ve never told any other guy you’ve seen about your so-called secret life.”
“There were a couple. They obviously didn't stick around."
Connor scoffed at this. “What about Dave? You were with him eight months. It never came up in conversation all that time?”
“Well, he never sat down and asked me, ‘Honey, are you a drag queen?’”
“He didn’t ever have a reason to go in your closet?”
“Don’t you mean wardrobe?” I asked pointedly, knowing what he was getting at.
“Oh, no,” he said, unrepentant. “I mean closet. But then, it’s so fucking deep he would have needed a map to get out again.”
“No, seriously. I’m out to everybody I know. I’ve never once tried to hide it, not even at work.”
“I’m not talking about you being gay,” Connor said. “There’s even some undiscovered tribe in the Amazon that knows you’re gay. I’m talking about Allotta.”
Did someone call me?
No. Go away.
“What about Allotta?” I asked.
“Besides me, and your family, and the others on the Kylie float committee, who knows she exists?”
Anyone who sees me take to the stage. I’m emblazoned in their memory forever, and burned onto their retinas. I’m the Medusa of queer entertainment.
“Oh, wait, your cat does,” Connor added.
“You leave Carlotta out of this!” Carlotta was the best secret keeper anyway, even if she was a vocal ginger. I was glad we had to stop at a pedestrian crossing so I could gather my thoughts. “Why are you bringing this up all of a sudden?”
“Have you ever thought that maybe, just maybe, none of your relationships have worked because you always held part of yourself back from them?”
I was furious that he was psychoanalysing me, and in public. And like he could talk! The man hadn’t had any kind of relationship with another guy that lasted past a week. Well, except for the guy he mentioned once when he was drunk, and then clammed up about as soon as that little secret had escaped him.
I felt exposed to everything—the people, the elements, my nerves. “You knew about Allotta, and that relationship didn’t last either.”
He looked surprised that I would bring that up. “Oh, come on, we were never in a relationship. We just had some fun, and then became better friends.”
“Yeah, and that was your decision, not mine.”
And now it was finally Connor’s turn to be dumbstruck, and when the red man turned green I powered across the road and left him behind me.
You already said that.
Will you stop repeating yourself?
It’s just that….
What’s happened to you today?
What do you mean?
You’ve become so… butch!
I mean, you’re answering back, you’re bringing up things you’ve repressed, like telling Connor—
Please don’t bring that up.
Did you actually like him?
Of course I did!
Wow. I never knew that.
No offense, Allotta, but you really don’t tend to think about other people.
I can’t argue with that, I guess.
That’s a first.
So why did you break up with Connor?
When the other guy breaks up with you, you don’t really have a choice, do you? You can’t stop them.
But why be friends with him?
In case you haven’t noticed, we’re not exactly friends. We’re work colleagues who have a history, and whose paths cross quite a bit in a small city in which we’re a niche part of the population.
Can I go back to reading my book now?
I opened up my book again, almost losing my grip when the train turned the sharp corner into the tunnel that ran under the freeway.
Don’t sigh at me!
Are you going to tell cute little Joel about me?
That doesn’t sound very promising.
Will you at least let me go on my date with him, and see how that goes?
I was glad Connor and I worked at opposite ends of the bank so I could stay out of his way. I actually spent most of the day in one of the interview cubicles, dragging my laptop in there so I wouldn’t have to go into the back area where our offices were.
And for once, Connor didn’t seek me out either. Maybe this had been the final straw in our already fragile “friendship.”
Joel and I exchanged secret smiles whenever we ran into each other, which seemed to happen quite a bit, as if we were going out of our way to do so. Odd, that. Soon we would probably be doing the bend and snap from Legally Blonde, in what has now become an ubergay mating ritual.
But as the afternoon dragged on I started to feel bad. Connor hadn’t even swung by to convince me to go for lunch, and I had eaten alone in the break room, not even able to spend it with Joel as he was on a different schedule. My leftover chicken marsala tasted like guilt. I dwelled on how upset Connor had looked when I turned on him, and how remorselessly I had abandoned him at the pedestrian crossing. It was going to have to be me who made the first approach to our reconciliation.
I got caught up with some appointments after lunch, however, and by the time I got to my desk, Connor was hanging around the water cooler across from it, plastic cup in hand. Which was an obvious ploy to see me, as he always brought his Fremantle Dockers bottle from home (and my cooler was still broken and only dispensed lukewarm water, while the one closer to him was functioning beautifully and produced water as cool as if it came straight from a natural rock basin).
“Hi,” he said. In a monotone, so I couldn’t tell whether it was conciliatory or antagonistic.
“Hi,” I replied. In exactly the same tone.
“So, I got home safely last night.”
“So I see.”
“You know, thanks for being concerned and all.” He was now peevish.
“I left you in the middle of Northbridge, not downtown Beirut,” I reminded him.
He snorted. “When was the last time you were in Northbridge when the sun went down? Vampires are scared out of their gourds and decide to stay in their coffins.”
I sat at my desk and pretended to look busy. “Your flair for drama is unparalleled.”
“Look who’s talking,” he said with a barely suppressed sneer,“Allotta.”
Connor sat opposite me, and from his seat threw the empty plastic cup with ease into my bin. “Four points.”
“I think it’s actually three.”
“Three. Whatever.” He shuddered. “Sports.”
“So, what, are you threatening me now?”
He looked genuinely perplexed. “What?”
“Calling me Allotta. Are you planning to go and tell Joel?”
Now he looked aghast. (As a fellow overdramatic person, I also particularly like overdramatic words.) “What? Why? Why would you think that?”
“Oh, just the way you came over all Disney villain just now, hissing my secret in such a way that people around us could hear.”
He gestured to the empty office. “Who?”
Maybe he had a point.
“And thanks, mate, for thinking I would do that to you. Makes me wonder why we ever bothered staying friends.”
He got up to leave, but I stopped him with a raised hand. “Why did we? I mean, we could have been more. But you decided not to.”
Connor stood there for a moment, weighing up his options, and when he looked at me directly again, I was shocked to see there were tears in his eyes. I had seen Connor remain dry-eyed through dead dog movies.
“Because I liked you. Because I thought I would be better off with you in my life permanently rather than another fuck buddy who disappeared further off down the road when he found somebody better.”
Holy shit is right. That pure, precious little cinnamon roll. You’ve misjudged him all this time.
You had a hand in it, beeyotch.
I take it all back. Hug the poor bastard.
I stood up and moved around my desk. Connor seemed resistant at first when I took him into my arms but gradually accepted my hug.
“Maybe you made the right call,” I said.
“So we’re still friends?”
“Of course we are.”
Maybe even better friends from now on.
Don’t get sappy.
Yeah, well don’t get all dead dog movie dry-eyed on me.
“Quitting time!” Connor yelled as he sailed past my desk. “Have fun tonight. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do!”
“That doesn’t leave me with much!” I yelled at his back, and I heard him laughing as the security door closed behind him.
Really, the swell of affection I was feeling for him right now was strange and exciting. And no, don’t get the idea I’m falling in love with him.
I didn’t say a word.
You were about to. I can tell.
Oh, is your name Psychic Doris? Because I wasn’t about to say anything.
Okay. Because I think he’s right. We’re better as friends. And we all need more friends in our lives.
I don’t, honey. I’m friend enough for myself.
“Are you ready?”
I looked up to see Joel standing there, almost at attention. His messenger bag was slung jauntily across his chest, and his tie was already off. The top two buttons of his shirt were now undone, and my mouth went dry at the gorgeous thatch of dark hair that emerged from it.
Ooh baby. Mama like.
Yeah, it’s my Achilles heel too.
Your what in the what now?
“You look lost in thought,” Joel said. “Should I come back in a bit?”
“No!” I cried. “No, no. I’m ready. Just let me turn the computer off.”
I didn’t power down properly like you’re meant to. I just hit the off switch and the screen flickered into immediate darkness. I hoped my spreadsheet had saved, but then I had a miraculous thought—
You don’t give a shit?
All I had to do was look at Joel and I was already lost. I grabbed my bag, stuffed everything I probably owned in the office into it, and was out the door with him in seconds.
“So,” Joel said once we were out on the street. “I’m really glad you agreed to go out for coffee.”
“I’m really glad you asked,” I said, trying not to be too shy and reserved. I had to be on my A game to ensure there was a second date. “If you’d left it up to me I would never have done it.”
He stopped and turned to face me. “What, you didn’t want to try a date?”
Okay, so that went really well for all of two minutes.
“No, it’s not that,” I said quickly. “Just, I’m a procrastinator. And I kept thinking you wouldn’t want to go out with me, and then I feared rejection and then having to probably move branches because of a sexual harassment case, and okay, now I realise I’m babbling and probably showing you how stupidly neurotic I can be, but I didn’t want you to think I didn’t want this too. Because I do. I do. And if I say that three more times I’m officially an ABBA song.”
Joel had been trying to hold back a laugh, but he finally let it loose. “Good to get it all out in the open. I’m a chronic farter, by the way.”
“Yep. Dicky stomach.”
“Really smelly, too.”
“Well, I knew you couldn’t be perfect.”
“Do you still want to have coffee?”
I knew I was smiling like a loon. “I don’t mind farts. It’s burping that shits me.”
“Oh, I burp too.”
“Okay, that’s it. Let’s call it a night.” I swung around as if to take off, then turned back to catch him grinning at me. “Oh, all right then, let’s see how this goes.”
“Good,” Joel said. “Our worst dirty little secrets are out in the open.”
Hey! What about me?
Can it, sister.
“Coffee’s good, but what if we go for a drink instead?” Joel asked.
A drink sounded really good. A little Dutch courage might help me get through the night.
“Okay, where would you like to go?”
We ended up at the Court, of course. I couldn’t help but think it was a bad idea. The Perth gay scene can be pretty fucking small, and it seemed obvious that one of us would see somebody we knew, and any attempt to have privacy on our date would be struck down.
Which was proven when Joel was grabbed as soon as he got through the door, pulled into a rip tide of twinks that fawned over him mercilessly.
Who are those babies, to try and lay claim to my man?
Settle, Gretel. He’s not even our man yet. My man, I mean.
Look at you, getting all possessive.
I stood to the side like the mother of an Oscar nominee on the red carpet, ignored by all, until Joel turned back to me. He hung on to me, using me to pull himself away.
“Sorry!” he panted as we found a table. “I would have introduced you but then we wouldn’t have escaped.”
I hoped it actually wasn’t an excuse for not wanting me to meet his friends, but I fought against getting this paranoid this early on in our date.
“They’re not even my friends, really,” he continued. “They’re just impressed by something unrelated to me, even though he’s related to me.”
That made no sense. So I told him so.
Oh, I see he’s trying to beat you in the melodrama stakes.
You eclipse us all.
I have to, darling. It’s my schtick.
“There’s a story here,” I prodded Joel.
“It’s just I don’t like to tell people too early on. They tend to get a little star-struck. Or at least, 90 percent of them do.”
“Are you like an ex-boy bander or something?”
“Closer than you think,” he said with a wry grin. “My brother was the winner of Remember My Name a couple of years ago.”
“Oh?” I asked. I’d never watched the show, but knew it was one of the many Australian Idol rip-offs, and I wouldn’t be able to pick any of the contestants out of a line-up.
“Yeah, he was… well, pretty much loved. Not that that means much once the show ends and they have someone else to get excited about the next season. I guess he’s doing okay. But for some reason he’s very popular with a certain subsection of our community.”
OMG OMG OMG his brother is—
How would you even know who his brother is? I have no idea.
You would be surprised what you can subconsciously pick up through television ads and other people’s conversations at work and on public transport.
By now Joel had given his name, but I had missed it and still wasn’t in the clear—
STEVE COLVIN. STEVE COLVIN! STEVE COLVIN! He’s so fucking hot! Maybe not like Connor hot, but I would definitely climb him like a squirrel, if you know what I mean.
I actually do, but it’s a terrible analogy unless you like advocating for bestiality or arboreality.
I don’t think that’s a real word.
“What? Do people try to get to know you just to get to your brother?” I asked Joel.
He nodded. “I mean, not all the time. But let’s just say I’m also very popular with fourteen-year-old girls.”
We both paused for a beat, and laughed with embarrassment at the innuendo.
“That sounded so wrong,” Joel snorted. “I’m sorry.”
“And we haven’t even started drinking yet,” I pointed out.
“Time to remedy that.”
“Hey,” I said, before he got up. “I just want to let you know I’m definitely not the secret president of your brother’s fan club.”
“Good!” he said, standing. “Because secrets suck.”
I know. Don’t say anything.
I feared Joel’s reaction if I told him about Allotta, because I had been through this before. Some gay guys dislike any sense of femininity, due to some latent homophobia that has been instilled in them through living in a heterocentric society all their lives.
Did you just swallow a dictionary? “Latent homophobia.” “Heterocentric society.” You trying to prove you actually did an Arts degree?
That thirty thousand dollars has to count for something. Anyway, you’d know what I meant if you read The Velvet Rage, Allotta, darling.
I’ll wait for the movie, thanks.
Did you hear that? It was me, sighing.
Some guys wanted to be seen as the “palatable” gays, the ones that society accepted or liked more. It’s all bullshit, because if they turned on you, they did so regardless of how straight-acting you were.
So I’d had a couple of boyfriends who I thought everything was going fine with, and then I told them about Allotta. And you would have thought I’d told them I was a vivisectionist.
Another two-dollar word.
Seriously, crack a book every once in a while.
Why bother when I can just come to you anytime I’m bored?
I remembered one guy I really liked, Brad. He tried to deal with it. But when I’d first dressed up for him—
You mean when he was formally introduced to me.
Whatever. Anyway, he just couldn’t handle it. He’d actually paled. We were meant to be going to Connections together so he could watch me perform, but the thought of openly walking down James Street terrified him. “We’ll be a target,” he’d said. “What if I just drop you off, then go park the car, and meet you in there?”
Sure, I’d told him.
You wanted to make things work. There’s nothing wrong with that.
The only way it would have worked is if I got rid of you.
Then you made the right decision. He was a dickhead.
No, he actually wasn’t. He was just scared. You can’t blame him for that. I knew at that moment we were going to break up, but we still went for another fortnight before he sat me down and gave me the talk. And as some people might say, is dressing up really worth killing a relationship? But I just like it. I like being somebody else once a week, and getting away with all the stuff I can’t normally. It’s part of me. You’re part of me.
Thanks, babe. But what if Joel turns out to be the same?
I mean, he’s a little swishy himself, isn’t he? So he’ll probably be fine with me. And he has a brother in the entertainment industry, so he’ll have some idea of what it’s like. Right?
Right? I hate it when you don’t talk to me.
I’m sorry. I just don’t know what to think right now.
You really like him. You don’t even know him!
That’s what tonight is all about.
As the streets got darker, the liquor kept pouring and the conversation grew more personal. It was like we were trying to fit a month’s worth of talking into a couple of hours, which was hard enough to do in any bar setting—but with the dark came the Court’s love of doof-doof music, and even though it was meant to stay corralled in the beer garden, it tended to overwhelm the bar as well.
“So, it’s like, I think my brother’s gay, you know?” Joel said. “Or bi or whatever. He’s definitely some variety of queer. But he refuses to come out.”
“Even though he’s seen that you’ve come out and your parents are fine?” I asked.
Joel waved the suggestion off. He became a little more camp when he was drunk and I loved it, as his mannerisms were usually combined with a cheeky smile that was totally endearing. “I don’t think it’s so much that he’s scared of my parents knowing he’s queer. It’s more like the double whammy of, oh no, both my kids are gay!”
“So your mum and dad get a two-for-one deal. Most families should be so lucky.”
Joel barked out a laugh, and in the process almost knocked over his drink. “Exactly! A double rainbow family!”
“Is it because he’s a celebrity?”
Joel snorted. “Celebrity? Okay, he might qualify as a D-List guy we can fill in the numbers with on Dancing with the Stars or I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, but he’s only a reality television personality anyway. He’s about as famous as someone on My Kitchen Rules.”
Ouch. And I thought I could be harsh.
There’s obviously some issues there.
Issues? There’s enough issues to topple a magazine rack.
“Still, he must have a fan base. And like you said, they’re fourteen-year-old girls. They want to crush on a het guy. Maybe he’s scared of losing them?” I suggested.
“Oh, please! Have you met any fourteen-year-old girls lately?” Joel laughed. “They’re writing incest slash fic about Robb Stark and Jon Snow giving in to their passion for one another, and then the younger one is the bottom and the top tenderly wipes the come off their chests with a wet hand towel afterwards.”
“Sounds hot.” I grinned. “Anyway, it’s my theory that they’re not really half-brothers but cousins.”
Joel’s eyes were wide. “And you think that makes it better?”
“Well, it’s technically not incest then, is it?”
“Have you ever wanted to fuck one of your cousins?”
I squinted mockingly, thinking about it. “Do I know we’re cousins, or is it something we find out later?”
“Ha, you’re sick.” But Joel leaned back with a satisfied smirk on his face. Maybe I was his kind of sick.
“I think it has a bearing on the question.”
“Let me guess, you like twincest porn?” As if he was already imagining my porn collection.
“No!” I said. “Look, that’s the difference. Real life incest is icky, fictional incest is hot.”
“Wow, you’re not holding anything back tonight,” Joel said.
Little does he know!
It’s like the night is dripping in portentous irony.
I don’t know whether that sentence is meant to be sexy or pretentious.
“So let me tell you something else,” Joel continued.
I don’t like the sound of this.
“I want you to take me back to your place and fuck me silly. Then I want to return the favour. And then later on, we can draw straws or pick a number and figure out what to do the third time.” Joel was dead serious, and his hand clasped mine on the table. His thumb rubbed against my knuckle, and holy shit, that one little action was making me as hard as Mount Kosciuszko.
I think that’s the first time you’ve ever been lost for words.
I… I don’t know what to say. Just get that boy home right now.
This is one thing I don’t need to be told twice.
We were tearing each other’s clothes off before I had even properly closed the door to my apartment. Carlotta had come into the hall, but when she saw there was company she fled to her hiding spot. I gave the door a deft kick and began pulling Joel along with me into the bedroom. By now Joel was out of his shirt, and my dick was throbbing at the sight of the dark hair on his chest. Blond boys with dark chest hair always did it for me. Even if the blond was out of a bottle.
Joel unbuttoned his belt and I pulled it out of his pants for him. It dropped to the floor as he kicked his shoes off and his pants bunched around his ankles. He was hard, and showing through his Aussie Bums. For a brief second I imagined spanking that arse that was so deliciously displayed through the sheer material.
That’s more of an Allotta trick.
You are me, and I am you, and we are all together.
“Get your clothes off, mister,” Joel ordered me.
Oh my lawd, this is really happening.
I ignored Allotta. Getting out of my clothes only took seconds. Normally I wouldn’t be this lackadaisical about getting naked for the first time with someone. But with Joel I was ready to get a membership at the Sunnydale Nudist Camp for Nude People Who Like to Be Nude. It also helps when you’re inspired to do so, because by now his Aussie Bums were also on the floor, and I was crawling on top of him on my bed, relishing the feel of his skin against mine and the hardness of his cock as I leaned down and took it into my mouth.
“Oh fuck,” he breathed. He reached down and stroked my cheek as I continued. “I didn’t know if this would happen tonight but I hoped it would.”
I released him and grinned. “Do you always talk during?”
“Yeah, it’s one of my major flaws.” He hoisted me up to face him properly.
“Doesn’t sound so bad to me.” I wanted him back in my mouth but he was holding on to me. My dick felt like it would explode if he so much as brushed it with the back of his hand. But when he rolled me over and kissed his way down my chest and belly to return the favour, one hand in my chest hair and the other rolling my balls, I managed to hold on, although when his fingers started going further south, I pulled him back up. “I’m gonna come if you do much more.”
“So what if you do?” he asked. “We’ve got all night.”
It was just as well he said that, because he took me in hand and I came right there and then. I leaned against him and muttered an apology. But it still felt good. He began kissing me while stroking himself, until he shuddered. I felt the warmth of his come hit my belly and thigh, and I’d probably have to wipe down the bedhead later.
“Fuck,” he said again. “I planned to hold on a little bit longer, but you’re too fucking hot.”
“You’re fucking hot,” I told him, meaning it more. Allotta was hot, not me.
What happened to I am you and you are me and we are all together?
I tuned her out, and rested my head on Joel’s chest. Fuck, it was comfy.
Joel ran his fingers along my side and they came to rest on my bum. “Now that’s out of the way, what about round two?”
I hope nobody ever does a black light sweep in here.
Seriously, that kid should call his dick Old Faithful.
It was like a milk truck exploded in here.
Are you thinking of trying out comedy or something?
I’m going to need to incorporate some kind of act to go with my show when I eventually headline.
Well, keep working on your material.
Mind you, you weren’t so bad yourself. And by the look of it, you’re already up and ready for more shenanigans.
But so is Old Faithful. Get the shammy ready to soak it all up afterwards. And crack open a window.
But Joel was weighing me down with his delicious body, and I thought if we choked on our own fumes it would be a hell of a way to go.
“Do you think it would be too obvious if we both called in sick today?" Joel asked. “I don’t think I can be in the same office as you without wanting to do everything we did last night all over again.”
“What, on the desks? In front of everybody?”
“Maybe we could lock ourselves in one of the interview rooms.”
“That wouldn’t be obvious at all.” But my dick was hard again.
Joel moved in closer to me, and I could suddenly feel that his was as well. I groaned as he started moving slowly against me and then moved his hand between us so he could take us both to completion.
“Fuuuuuck,” I managed to breathe.
“Isn’t that so much better than going to work?” Joel asked.
“I think I’ve got a dry tank now,” I said.
“We can always try and see.”
“Let me refuel first.” I laughed. And even that took too much energy. “I can tell you’re going to be a bad influence on me.”
“Something tells me you won’t need much influencing,” he countered.
Maybe he was right.
It was a strange feeling to have a naked man in my bed again. Joel was on his back, lightly snoring, his cock flaccid against his thigh. It looked like a baby bird in its nest that needed my protection.
What the hell?
A baby bird needing protection? It’s a cock!
But it’s pretty.
Yeah, now it is. But later it becomes a hissing, spitting snake.
And his spits a hell of a lot. And that’s what you want, honey. Because then you know he likes you. Baby bird, for Shirley Bassey crying out loud in heaven’s sake!
All right, all right.
My mobile sounded, and I went to grab it before it woke Joel up. I hoped it wasn’t work telling me they knew I was faking and I was fired. But it was Connor.
Surprise, surprise. Both you and Joel are out sick today! Have you got mono? Or something much more pleasurable?
I texted back a thumbs up. He wasn’t getting any more information out of me right now.
Please tell me you got laid, he wrote.
I ignored him.
By now Joel was awake. “That wasn’t work, was it?”
“Just a ‘hope you’re okay,’” I lied. I didn’t want him to think that I swapped stories with my ex who really wasn’t an ex, at least by his definition.
“I wonder if they sent me one.” His arse was suddenly up in the air as he scrambled over the bed and reached for his mobile, which was still in his pants. “Nothing,” he said dejectedly. “Guess they don’t care about me.”
“I am more senior than you,” I pointed out, hoping it would suffice.
He gave me a cheeky smile. “Don’t I know it.”
What does that even mean?
I don’t know. But it’s obviously meant to be a compliment. Just go with it.
You don’t have to tell me twice.
Hey, that’s my line.
“So, what was the first thing you liked about me?” he asked.
We still hadn’t gotten out of bed. Not even to shower (although a quick feed of Carlotta was needed before she tore the bedroom door down). It would have to be done sooner rather than later, just for hygiene’s sake.
“Your arse,” I said, pinching it.
“That’s romantic.” He laughed.
“Well, it’s a good arse.”
“Thank you. I’ve been told that before, so I try to maintain it as best as I can.”
“Well, when something’s your best asset, you have to do so, don’t you?”
“I guess.” He slapped himself on it, and looked back slyly to gauge my reaction.
“Beautiful.” I snuggled in closer to him. “But to tell the truth, it was actually your smile.”
“It’s either my arse or my smile that brings all the boys to the yard.”
“Your smile is even better than your arse.”
He grinned, and there it was. I kissed it, and regretted the second it was out of my sight, until the kiss deepened and I remembered his lips were just as nice.
“What about me?” I asked him as he started kissing my neck.
He looked up at me, his lips still pressed against my skin. I could feel myself throbbing against his hip and as he rolled onto his back he pressed against it until I groaned.
“You’re terrible,” I breathed.
“The first day I saw you in the break room,” Joel said, “you were sitting with Connor, and you were laughing at something he said. You laughed so hard you began to choke. But you weren’t scared. You kept on laughing, even though it made you choke even more. You and Connor were hysterical because it just seemed funnier the more it went on.”
“And you thought, there’s an idiot who doesn’t even know how much danger he’s in? I think I would like to get to know him better?”
“No, I thought somebody who can find the humour in even a dire situation is someone I’d like to know.” He lazily traced the hair around my nipple.
“Or, you could have thought, does anybody know the Heimlich manoeuvre?”
“See, that’s why I liked you,” he said. “Humour.”
I think I’m going to be sick. When they say they like you because of your sense of humour, what they mean is that you’re butt ugly but they’ve overcome their revulsion of you.
Thanks for that.
Honey, you’re no Nick Youngquest. Nobody’s going to be sticking you in their ads for perfume anytime soon. But you do okay. You do even better with a bit of lippy and some contouring—from homely to handsome!
I’m actually pretty cute, fuck you.
For someone who’s me, you’re fucking mean to me.
Aren’t most consciences?
You’re not my conscience.
Don’t get upset with me. It was just a joke. You have a good sense of humour, remember?
There’s a time and a place. And not when you’re naked with another man for the first time.
You know I think you’re cute.
I know. I am you, remember?
I won’t argue with that.
“I actually thought you and Connor were together,” Joel said, out of the blue.
“What?” I didn’t want to appear too evasive.
“Just the way you looked at each other during that moment when you were recovering. It was tender. And I thought, wow, I’m barking up the wrong tree. They’re a couple.”
“Definitely up the wrong tree.”
“Good friends, though.”
“Uh, friends, I guess.”
“No, really.” I sighed. “Okay, full disclosure?”
“Oh, no. I hate it when people say that.”
“When we first began working together, we… well, you know.”
“No, I, well, don’t know,” he said, pushing me for more info.
“I guess we would have been called fuck buddies. Except I didn’t know we were fuck buddies. Until he told me so.”
“Fuck. And you stayed friends after that?”
I shrugged, and Joel’s head bounced against my shoulder.
“Ow. Words, please.”
“Sorry.” I bent my head and kissed him better.
“So why did you?”
“We’re not friends. At least, I used to think that, but we’ve reached an understanding and maybe we could be on the way to being friends now. But there’s nothing between us. I mean, there never was on his side, and not for ages on mine.”
Joel leaned on my chest, his chin propped up on his arms. “What made you decide to agree to this, then?”
“Speaking of romantic….”
“I know,” Joel said. “But I can’t help but admit that I’m interested.”
“Because I like you.”
“But you could also say we hardly know each other,” Joel pointed out.
“But I want to get to know you,” I said.
“So it’s not just about boning the new guy?”
“No! Why, is that what you think?”
“No.” He ran his fingers through the hair on my chest, tracing a path through the forest.
“Then why did you want to do this?” I fired the question back.
“I had a feeling about you.”
“A feeling?” I asked.
“Yeah, a feeling. I haven’t had a lot of luck with guys recently, but I had a good feeling about you I never had with them in the early days.”
“So I felt like a safe option?” I asked.
Settle, Gretel. You might be putting the apple cart before the horse.
So now you’re the voice of reason, are you?
Like I said, I’m the conscience.
“No!” Joel hurriedly kissed me. “No. I’m not explaining myself very well. I just feel good with you. Like good enough to play hooky from work on our first day together, good.”
“Good.” I kissed him, desperate to be buried in him once again, or him buried in me, come what may.
His hands disappeared around my back and pulled me over him.
My dick was going to be raw by the end of the day.
Even the shower didn’t give us much relief as he ended up fucking me against the glass. Afterwards we sunk to the floor, tangled up in each other as we tried to squeeze in the small space together, letting the warm spray continue to shower over us like our own waterfall.
“I don’t think I’ve come this much in a day since the first time I discovered wanking,” he said.
“My dick actually hurts” was my contribution to the conversation.
“Maybe we should actually go out to avoid temptation,” he suggested. “Until our dicks recover.”
“Then no more kissing. That’s how the shower sex started.”
“No more kissing,” he agreed. “Until we say goodnight.”
“You don’t want to stay tonight?”
He laughed. “I should make an appearance home before my roommates report me missing. They knew I was off for a hot date last night. They didn’t know it would stretch out to the next day too.”
“They’d be that concerned?”
“Like I said, it’s been a long time between good guys. Usually I couldn’t wait to run away from them.”
“Oh?” I asked.
“This time it’s hard to leave.”
Joel was sitting on the end of the bed, searching for his long-discarded jocks.
“Do you want a fresh pair of mine?” I asked.
“Already sharing underwear,” he said. “It’s like an engagement ring.”
“I’d like to see you in my undies.”
“Let’s add flirting to that list of no-gos. Otherwise this towel is going to tent quite embarrassingly.”
He was already at half mast, and as much as I would have liked to watch him dress I turned to leave him some privacy. Carlotta darted between my legs and under the bed, trying to stake back her territory.
“Hello, kitty,” I heard Joel croon.
There might have been a muffled growl in return.
I laced up my shoes and entered the bedroom again. Joel was buttoning up his shirt, and it was a shame to see that chest disappear. He smiled at me, and then was distracted by some kerfuffle beneath the bed.
“Your cat doesn’t seem happy.”
“Carlotta can be moody at the best of times.”
“Yeah, as in—”
“The queen of Sydney drag?”
I should have been happy that I didn’t need to explain the origin of my cat’s name yet again, but it was disconcerting that it was so close to the secret I was keeping from him. “Uh, yeah. Thought it was a good name for the cat of a gay man.”
“Either that or Cher,” Joel said. “What is she doing?” He was now leaning over the end of the bed. A furry little butt was backing itself out from under it as Carlotta started coming into view again. Dragging the end of—
My Agnetha wig!
Allotta’s Agnetha wig.
That little beast! Does she not know how valuable that is? If she eats it I’ll never be able to do “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)” again!
And we may never see Joel again!
How dare you choose a man over ABBA! How could you not put the wig away properly?
You’re the one who undresses herself—don’t blame me.
“What have you got?” Joel asked, and my life started flashing before my eyes.
“I’ll deal with it!” I said, and pushed him towards the bathroom. “Go brush your teeth.”
“Are you implying my breath stinks?”
“We’re in the honeymoon period. I think your breath smells like roses.”
He did the breath test against his palm. “Dead roses. Okay, I’m off to brush my teeth. You can deal with your wayward cat.”
As soon as the door closed behind him I pounced behind Carlotta, who didn’t take a blind bit of notice of me as she continued to attack the wig. By now it had fully emerged from under the bed, and really needed a good brush—
I’ve told you and told you that we need to get one of those mannequin busts so we can do our hair properly. A couple of books and a tin of Campbells tomato soup just doesn’t cut it, no matter how much you try and cast it as an homage to Andy Warhol.
We buy one of those, and our secret’s really out. We can’t just hide a bust that easy in a flat this small.
It’s almost out anyway.
If you had put the damn thing away—
There’s no use assigning blame.
Only because you know you’re in the wrong.
Just grab Agnetha before Carlotta eats her! She’ll be pooing blonde for weeks.
Carlotta was reluctant to give up her prey but she got distracted when I started scratching her belly. As everyone knows, this is a cat’s no-go area unless you’re being led into a Machiavellian torture chamber set up by the cat herself. This time, however, she was the one who took the bait and instantly launched an attack. As I was being bitten, scratched, and kicked (all done with love, of course), I used my free hand to snatch the wig away from her. She paused her assault to look up, betrayal in her eyes as her victim now hung out of her reach, and took off out of the room, leaving me bleeding but triumphant.
He’s coming! Hide Agnetha!
Don’t just throw her in the wardrobe! You were scolding me earlier for not putting her away properly!
We don’t have time!
Agnetha! Darling! We’ll rescue you later!
“Where’s Carlotta?” Joel asked as he entered the room again, smelling minty fresh.
“Oh.” I casually leaned against the wardrobe door, having just slid it shut. “She took the shits with me and ran off.”
“What was she doing?”
“Just playing with some old thing.”
Old thing? OLD THING? Don’t listen to him, Agnetha, honey.
I gave Joel a quick kiss. “Let’s go eat.”
“So? Feeling better?” Connor asked with a sly grin as I made my way to my desk the next morning.
“Must have been one of those twenty-four hour things,” I said, sitting down and turning on my computer.
“Hmm.” Connor swung around in his chair to face me. “I guess Joel must have had the same thing because he’s back this morning, too.”
“How strange. There must be something going around.”
“What a coincidence.” Connor stared at me, almost sizing me up. “You know, you look happy.”
“I am happy.”
“Amazing what getting laid will do for you.”
But it wasn’t anything to do with getting laid—even though that had been good. No, scratch that. Not good. Wonderful. Superb. It was the connection Joel and I had shared. It went beyond the bedroom. Like when something just clicks into place and feels right. That click had been felt during dinner. It was when we finally connected—sure, we had had fun at drinks, and fun in my flat, but over dinner we talked about family, favourite books, and movies, and even the two subjects you shouldn’t discuss if you want an evening to go well: politics and religion. We may not have agreed on everything, but there was such an ease to the conversation—well, we could have talked all night and into the morning. There was a simpatico there, and when we parted ways that evening the kiss felt like something more than it had in earlier kisses—there was now an emotional depth as well as a physical depth. To put it quite bluntly, I felt more naked with that goodnight kiss than when I had actually been naked with Joel.
Oh my god. Will you listen to yourself?
And what is it I’m meant to be listening to?
A sap. A total and utter sap.
There’s nothing wrong with being a sap.
It’s been two nights. You might as well be a lesbian. You’re about to move him in on the second date.
Sounding a bit misogynistic there, Allotta.
Even the lesbians make that joke.
You’re not a lesbian.
How do you know?
I don’t even need to answer this question.
Who’s the misogynist now?
“You’re sitting there looking like the cat that got the canary,” Connor said. “And then covered it in cream.”
I hoped that wasn’t a sexual innuendo. You never could tell with Connor.
“Things are progressing nicely,” I said, hoping to leave it at that.
“Progressing nicely? Wow, you have a way with words.”
Like I was going to let Connor in to the deepest workings of my heart. He’d had that chance, and he blew it.
I was Sally Bowles singing “Maybe This Time,” and this time it would work out for me.
Unlike Sally Bowles.
“What are you doing Saturday?” Joel asked.
We had spent practically every night together, so I could see how he would assume we’d be spending Saturday night glued to each other’s sides as well.
Only there was a little problem.
Okay, not so little problem.
Is that an aspersion about my weight?
Then it would be an aspersion against mine too. And I’m not going there.
“Saturday?” I asked, trying to think of something, anything.
“Yeah, it’s the day after Friday. We normally don’t work on that day, or the one after it, which I think is called Sunday.”
“Seriously. Do you have plans?”
Family dinner. Family dinner. Family dinner.
“Family dinner,” I said. “It’s my dad’s birthday.”
“Oh, nice. Maybe we can do something Sunday?”
“That would be great.” I was relieved that he wasn’t angling for an invitation to come along. Firstly, I would be caught out in a lie when it was revealed that there was no such family gathering. Unless I managed to convince the rest of the clan to hold a totally fake birthday dinner for my father, which would then have to be held on the same day every year if Joel and I stayed together. And I couldn’t see my family agreeing to that elaborate a façade, because it would be too much effort for them and they would take too much delight in trying to catch me out. Seriously, my parents were crazy. They once faked adoption papers for my brother when he was being a shit, and left them lying around. The charade was kept up for over a week as he slunk around the house convinced we weren’t his blood relations and having a major crisis of identity, until they relented and showed him the home video of his birth and his head coming out of my mother’s freakishly dilated vagina.
And they wonder why you turned out so dramatic.
Yeah, they were the least surprised parents that could ever find out their kid was a part-time drag queen.
They loved me.
They didn’t even know you then.
Well, they loved you so they knew they would love me.
Lucky for us.
Joel letting the family dinner slide by showed that he wasn’t jumping too quickly into married coupledom—he was allowing the natural development of our relationship. In truth, I wouldn’t have cared if he wanted to come. My parents would love him, as would my siblings. He was an adorable pocket gay. He was probably the gay son-slash-brother they always wanted. So, yeah, it would have been fine.
Except for the whole thing that the family dinner didn’t exist, because I would be tripping the light fantastic on stage at Connections.
You would be? I don’t think so, darling.
Okay. You will be. I’ll just be tagging along for the ride.
Riding on my coat-tails.
The wind beneath your wings.
The wind beneath my—wait a minute.
Oh, I already know what you’re going to say.
I doubt it.
Any chance we could get a red curly wig by Saturday?
“You still haven’t told him?” Connor asked.
Another Kylie float meeting, and another chance for Connor to bug me about my personal life.
“I told you, I don’t want him to know just yet.”
“So you’re lying to him?”
“You can’t say anything about lying to a partner,” I told him.
“Holy shit,” Connor snapped. “You have got to get over this. I never lied to you. In fact, I always told you the truth. You just hated it.”
Before I could say anything, Connor made his way to the vending machine to grab himself a drink. When he returned he sat two rows away from me.
“Trouble in paradise?” Frank asked.
“Shut up!” I said in my most un-Kylie-like manner.
“I’m sorry!” I yelled after Connor’s back as we left the meeting.
He finally turned to acknowledge me. “Oh, really?”
“Then get over it. You have Joel now. Stop pining over me.”
I snorted. “Oh, for fuck’s sake, I’m not pining after you. So you get over yourself.”
“Then what’s your problem?”
“My problem? Okay, this is the first time, ever, we have discussed what happened between us.”
“Well, it’s actually the second. Or the third if you count the day after the first.”
“Whatever. What I mean is, we never talked about it until now. So, yeah, I have some feelings that I’ve never discussed with you. About the way you treated me. But believe me, it’s not because I’m pining after you.”
“It’s just you seem to have a lot emotionally invested in this.”
Oh no he di’nt!
“Me? You’re the one who was in my office the other day crying over wanting to be friends.”
“Yeah, I saw the tears!”
“I don’t know how,” Connor said, “seeing they were non-existent.”
“Okay, Connor. But all I’m saying is, if you wanted to be my friend, truly be my friend, then you would give some sort of shit about my feelings. And maybe think after all this time, I was owed an apology and then we can properly move on to being mates.”
“I thought we already were.”
And bless his heart, the heart I currently wanted to rip out of his chest and feed to him as it kept beating, he believed it. Maybe he was a pure sociopath. Or maybe, even though I didn’t want to consider it, maybe I was wrong. Maybe it was stupid to think every falling into bed was turning into love eventually. Maybe I was wrong about Joel as well, and this would just be another fling that was nice while it lasted and absolutely destroyed me when it ended.
Oh, poor babe.
I don’t need your pity, Allotta.
Well, you’re getting it. I never knew you felt so strongly about Connor.
I don’t think I ever did, either.
Do you still love him?
Honestly? No. I just hate unresolved conflict. Even if it is only on my end. Maybe I just have to make peace with the fact that Connor actually did nothing wrong, and I was seeing something that wasn’t there. It’s not like we actually talked about a relationship. I mean, I was waiting for that conversation, but we broke up before it actually happened. If you can even call what we had a break-up.
I wish I could hug you.
Your motherly bosom would be a salve right now.
Now you’re just making things weird.
“I guess we are,” I said, finally.
“For what it’s worth”—Connor slunk back to my side—“I’m really sorry about the way things happened. But I mean what I said. You’re kind of like my best friend.”
How sad is that? And you didn’t even think you were truly mates.
It is a little sad, I guess.
It’s VERY sad.
Okay, it’s very sad.
But don’t you go falling in love with him again.
I mean it!
“That sounded kind of sad, didn’t it?” he asked, with a slight laugh, as if reading our minds.
Yeah, it did.
“No.” I brought him in for a hug. “We’re friends.”
I truly meant it this time. Was a heartfelt apology all I ever needed? Maybe. But it definitely felt like Connor and I were on the same page now.
And if there was a brief moment when I thought of a final kiss, I chased it out of my head just as quickly.
Thank fuck for that.
Saturday night came all too fast, after another spectacular Friday night with Joel and a spectacularly messy breakfast in bed the next morning. I felt reservoirs full of guilt when he told me to have a good time with my family. There was a moment when I considered telling him everything, but I let it pass by.
A text from Connor asked Did you tell him?
And when I replied that I had chickened out, he sent back a flurry of emoticons that suggested I was a fucking idiot.
And in case I hadn’t gotten the message of said emoticons, a text that said You’re a fucking idiot.
Maybe we really were friends.
Joel had said he was going out with some friends tonight, but didn’t know where. They seemed to be fly by the seat of their pants people—there was never a plan, just a meeting place for drinks and then spontaneous bar-hopping. This worried me at first as there really weren’t that many queer venues to end up at in Perth—and sometimes the queer-friendly ones weren’t friendly enough based on the clientele they might be hosting that night. But Joel volunteered, of his own volition, that they wouldn’t go to Connections as his friend Tim’s ex worked there. It had been a bitter, and recent, break-up. And to make matters worse, he already had a boyfriend, who tended to hang around the nights he was working to “keep him company.”
I wasn’t one to feel good about benefitting from another person’s misery, but at least my secret was safe for a while.
By six, Allotta was ready to come out. I started feeling the itch throughout my body, and before I knew it I was sashaying in my civilian clothes towards her section of the wardrobe.
You make it sound like I’m some demonic parasite breaking out of you.
You’re doing the silent treatment now? Trying not to incriminate yourself by implying that, yes, I am a demonic parasite? Hardy har har.
Sometimes you are too easy.
And just for that, I’m breaking out Agnetha tonight.
I thought we were doing Annie Lennox?
Agnetha has been mauled recently. She needs to feel whole again.
Whatever you say. You’re the boss.
Don’t you forget it.
When I walk down the street everybody notices me.
Uh, we’re parked at the back of the club.
When I walk in the back of the club, everybody notices me.
Yeah, we really don’t want to get beaten up.
We could always change at the club.
Remember the state of the dressing room last time we used it?
Oh, yeah. Those girls are wretched.
And they steal your make-up.
We have good make-up.
We do, but that’s not the point.
I’m not sure what the point is.
You just have to look pretty and sing.
ABBA never got tired with the LGBTQ community. Even if it was just Agnetha. A lot of them sided with the underdog, Frida, but they all wanted to be Agnetha. She was the golden goddess who looked like she could have cavorted with Thor and still had enough time for Loki afterwards.
As the strains of “Thank You for the Music” began, Agnetha—
I start in shadow, a silhouette to the punters below me. But they know the song already, and I haven’t even started the lyrics. This is Agnetha’s song to the masses, thanking them for loving her, and to the muse who lets her sing the way she does.
Thank you for the music.
And now the masses are loving me—they whoop and holler as I cross the small stage, and, hey, I know I’m no Agnetha. I have bluster and form and stage presence, but I’m just some little cabaret girl singing out into a massively understated void, but for these few minutes I’m their star. I’m their—
What? No, I’m not their Joel. Joel is not a performer. He may be the bee’s knees to you, but he is—
No, you complete and utter prat! Joel is standing there, right there at the front of the stage.
Well, he’s never met me, so I’m sure we’ll be fine. Don’t falter now, darling. It will make us look unprofessional.
And that was when I took my first ever tumble on the stage. It felt like my heel went out from under me and I completely lost my balance, no matter how much my arms cartwheeled trying to make me gain my equilibrium.
Protect the wig! PROTECT THE WIG!
My hands automatically went to my head to stop it from falling off or going askew. The music continued, of course, and I knew—
THE SHOW MUST GO ON.
Of course it has to.
I felt someone grab my hand and help me back onto my platform high-heeled feet. I looked up to thank my knight in shining armour, and Joel stared back at me.
We’ve been rumbled! The show must go on! Keep singing! SING, MAN, SING!
And I did.
We did, baby.
Joel left the stage and took his place again. His friends were with him, and they clapped him on the back for his efforts. I briefly wondered which was the supposed exiled one, because Joel simply was not meant to be here.
But I sang. Even when the blood started falling from my forehead, which was when I realised that I must have smacked my face on the way down.
By the end I looked like Carrie at the prom. Everybody went wild, a kindness given I had humiliated myself in front of them.
When the lights went down, I fled backstage.
“Are you okay?” Hans asked as I ran past him.
“Just need some tissues,” I said over my shoulder, not stopping.
Luckily Mariel had a huge number of tissue boxes jutting out of her bag. They were used to enhance her womanly assets, if you know what I mean. I guess she was too cheap to buy the fake chicken cutlets like the rest of us. But at least she was always at the ready if you had a sneezing fit from all the powder and smoke that flew around on stage.
Head wounds tended to bleed a lot, but they’re only gushers, nothing serious. Soon the tide was stemming and I was staring at my sorry self in the mirror. I leaned over to grab my bag and start removing my make-up.
Giving up already?
There’s no use going back on for a second round. The make-up would be hell to apply over the blood.
Tell me honestly, Allotta. How bad were we?
Get over it, kid. It wasn’t Altamont, for god’s sake. It wasn’t even as bad as the death glare Frida gave Agnetha when she caught her looking too lovingly at Frida’s man during a live performance.
Maybe you’re right.
I’m always right… who’s causing that bloody ruckus?
Ruckus was the word for it. I could hear some scuffling down the hall and somebody yelling, “I’m telling you, I’m his boyfriend! Let me through!”
I groaned and buried my head in my hands.
Hey, at least he hasn’t taken off screaming into the night.
He’s probably just coming to hear me out, then break up with me.
That glass is always half-empty for you, isn’t it?
They really were scuffling. And although he was a tiny pocket adorable gay, Joel really knew how to wrestle.
Not now, please.
“Hans!” I yelled. “It’s okay. Let him through.”
“You didn’t tell me you were seeing someone.” Hans scowled as he appeared at the doorway.
“You didn’t get the press release?” Not that it mattered much now.
Joel exaggeratedly dusted himself off as he pushed his way into the room. “Hello, Allotta. We haven’t formally been introduced.”
He’s such a charmer.
Sorry. I think I’m besotted now, too.
“Not Allotta,” I said. “Just plain old Mark.”
“You’re anything but plain,” Joel said with his big patented grin. “You’re a dark horse.”
“Just get over here.”
When I sat back down at the mirror he pulled a chair over and started inspecting my gash.
“It doesn’t look too bad.” Joel seemed satisfied. “Does it hurt?”
“So,” he continued, maddeningly cheery. “When you said ‘family’ I didn’t know you meant family.”
“I guess you want an explanation,” I said.
“Well, I think I can already guess.”
“Why didn’t you tell me you were a performer?”
Performer? He gets me, he really gets me!
I think I was gaping like a fish.
“And your legs!” he crowed, standing back to have a better look. “I already thought they were pretty good, but they’re killer in heels.”
I still couldn’t say anything.
“And you were really good out there!”
“Until I fell on my face,” I managed to say.
“But you showed true showmanship. You got back up and went on singing.”
“Only because you helped me.”
“I doubt that. You would have done it anyway.”
“No, really,” I told him. “I couldn’t have gotten up on these heels.”
Joel laughed. “Okay.”
A little flicker of doubt started in my mind. “Do you think… she’s hotter than me?”
“Well, you’ve gone on about my legs….”
“Yes, you look hot, you dummy,” he said, and came back in to kiss me. “But I didn’t even know who Allotta was when I met you. You’re fucking hot.”
He’s too good to be true.
Shut it, Allotta.
No, seriously. He has to be a serial killer.
Well, he can kill me right now and I’d still die happy.
And people think I’m the freak.
“You’ve got lipstick all over your mouth,” I said, and reached for a tissue.
“Wait a minute!” He pulled his mobile out of his pocket. “I need proof for my friends out there that I actually am dating the hottest drag queen at Connections.”
Normally I would have felt a little self-conscious. But he allowed me time to fix my lippy and adjust a few strands of Agnetha to cover the majority of my injury.
As the flash of the camera went off, I pressed my lips against his cheek so that a picture-perfect kiss mark would be left there. When I pulled away he caught sight of it on the screen and grinned at himself. He then took another photo for posterity, and the time I spent on my lippy and wig adjustment he spent on his apps collaging the two photos together and then posting it on his Instagram. It was the first I’d even heard he had Instagram.
We then both scrubbed at our lips with the tissues, and I had to admit the smear of colour on his mouth and cheeks before it was removed made my dick harden. So sexy. And I had put it there.
We both did.
“But, seriously,” Joel asked. “Why didn’t you tell me before?”
“It’s our first week together. You don’t think that’s a huge thing to lay on somebody?”
“Then you’re not everybody,” I told him.
“Did you even notice I called you my boyfriend?”
Hell yes, I had. “Uh, yeah.”
“And I sent that photo to all my friends and put it on social media.”
“So I think it’s great. You have nothing to worry about. I’m proud to be dating a drag queen.”
“Only on Saturday nights.”
“Well, the rest of the week boyfriend is even better.”
Kisses started up again, and things got a little hot and heavy before we heard a stampede of drag queens coming down the hall to change between sets. We jumped apart guiltily, only imagining how we could have been caught in flagrante delicto had we kept giving in to our hormones.
“Look at the little babies in love!” Mariah cried.
They all chorused a series of awws and honeys until even Joel was blushing.
“He’s adorable!” Cherilyn cried. “I just want to eat him up with a spoon.”
In the moment he had been waiting for all his life, our resident Boy George impersonator leaned in to Joel and purred, “He tumbled for ya.”
I started stripping out of my dress in order to get the poor guy out of here and into a more sane world.
He looks quite comfortable to me.
He does, doesn’t he?
Maybe we could do a double act.
You happy, darling?
Yeah. Yeah, I am. Really happy.
Good. God bless us, every one!
Holy shit! A text from Connor appeared around 2:00 a.m., when he had probably just stumbled home after one of his usual nights out. You’re official!
Of course Connor would already be following Joel on social media. But then I realised I had been tagged in Joel’s photos, so he had found out through them. There was nothing “official,” of course in case any of the “fans” saw.
Bleary-eyed, because I was quite exhausted after the shenanigans Joel and I had gotten up to after we got back to my place (Carlotta had fled in fear and disgust), I sent back a photo I had taken of Joel sleeping.
Holy shit! was the response.
I was starting to think that was the only thought he could formulate.
You have come far, young Padawan, Connor finally texted more coherently. And much faster than I thought you would. Congratulations.
Maybe we could be friends after all. Real friends.
“Who was that?” Joel asked, yawning.
“Sorry to wake you.” I snuggled in closer to him. “It was Connor. He’s happy we made up.”
“We never fought.” Joel turned on his side to face me, and his hand nestled on my butt to bring us in chest to chest. “Because I am a very understanding boyfriend who realised your secrecy, although misguided, came from a true and honest place for you. And now you have nothing to worry about because I’m also cool.”
“And I can go like the Energizer bunny.”
He could. But even sleep seemed to be getting the better of him right now. “You know I was thinking about what you said before, about the Kylie float.”
All my secrets had come out over a late kebab. He now even knew about Connor’s involvement.
“What about it?” The hair on his chest was tickling my chin as I fitted my head into his neck.
“Well, doesn’t every Kylie need a Jason?”
I looked up at him. “What are you saying?”
“Maybe we could be a double act.”
He would fit the bill. Blond and cute, he could probably pass for the twink the younger Jason Donovan was. “We’ve never had a Jason on the float before.”
“Just picture it. You in a curly blonde wig, sailor top, and short skirt to show off those killer legs, and me in double denim and a mullet.”
“Dueting to ‘Especially For You.’”
“Or the lesser-known B side, ‘All I Really Wanna Do.’”
I was impressed. “I didn’t know you were so well versed in Kylie.”
“There’s still a lot we have to find out about each other.”
I kissed him, and he pressed closer against me. At this moment I believed anything was possible. That I could even overcome the “Kylies Only” rule on the float, brought in the year somebody wanted to dress as Robbie Williams.
“I can’t wait, Jason,” I said.
Read on for a preview of
Confide in Me
On a Night Like This #2
By Renae Kaye
What do people do when the man of their dreams tells them he “just wants to be friends”?
If you’re me, you agree. Okay, so first I cried a bit, got drunk, raged at how unfair the world was, prayed to Goddess Kylie that the pain would end quickly, and didn’t get out of bed for two days, but then I agreed.
I told myself that if it got too much then I would simply delete him from my phone. But then I never did. And I became the friend that Callum Brown confided in. Life was just a barrel of laughs.
Why didn’t I delete him? I guess hope springs eternal, exactly how Alexander Pope said in his “An Essay on Man.” Plus, had circumstances been different, like he’d been straight, I’d have been friends with him easily.
You see, I’d met Callum legitimately on a dating site. It wasn’t Grindr, okay? It was Tinder. And not the naughty side of Tinder. Tinder is for people who hope for something more than only the brief hook-up. And that’s me. I’m staring down the barrel of twenty-nine now. Over a quarter of a century. A whole twenty-eight years without a serious relationship. So I have a profile on Tinder. It didn’t get a lot of swipe rights.
That was until my friend, Mark, helped me out with a wonderful profile picture. He took a photo of me and filtered the shit out of that baby or something. He says he didn’t and it was just good lighting. Good lighting, my arse. Mark’s a drag queen, and the way he can do that make-up is like magic. Maybe it was the influence of his drag persona, Allotta. Maybe the stars aligned and Jupiter got a glimpse of Saturn’s rings. I don’t know. All I know is that I put that profile picture up and suddenly I was swiped right so many times—including by Callum.
Callum was exactly the type of guy I knew I could fall in love with. His profile pictures showed a deliciously gorgeous man, complete with the almost-required abs shot that a lot of gay men insist on judging you by. He obviously spent time in a gym on a weekly basis, took care of himself, and liked nice clothes. But more than that, his profile bio was witty and—causing somewhat ecstasy for me—he could spell. Nothing turned me off more than someone who only messaged me in “text speak” with “u” and “l8r” and “idk” peppering their speech.
It was a side effect of being an English teacher. I often had to drum into my kids at school that I didn’t want to see that sort of speech written in their essays. I therefore didn’t want to have to lecture my new date on the attractiveness of knowing the difference between their, there, and they’re. Because it put romance out of my head and work right in.
His first message to me of: Hey, Ed. Thanks for the swipe right. What are you doing tonight other than watching TV and writing letters to our local politicians about the same-sex marriage debate? made me fall in love with him right there. It was a brilliant opening line. Because now I could tell him if I was writing those sort of letters and where I stood on the issue. I wished I’d thought of that line before, because it would’ve stopped a lot of unnecessary bad dates.
I also loved that he used my name in the message, which made it personal.
Ed was really the suckiest name my parents could’ve given me, apart from Aloysius. Thanks to Stephanie Meyer, the name Edward came back into vogue while I was in my teens… so around ten years too late. Before that, the name was ridiculed. As a kid I was called Eddie, and then was teased and called “Steady Eddy,” mocking the comedian with cerebral palsy who went by that name. I tried to get them to call me Edward for a while, but taunts of “Awkward Edward” ensued.
So at the age of twelve I decided on Ed. The first person who turned around and called me “Mr Ed” was successful in making me blush and scuttle away. But then I was determined not to let them get to me. So when Julian O’Mara called me “Mr Ed,” I was ready with my reply.
“Glad to see you have acknowledged my superiority over you. Mr Ed sounds good to me. Put a ‘sir’ on the end and we’ll be great friends.”
It was stupid. It was dumb. It was the last time Julian called me Mr Ed.
But navigating high school with a name like Ed was hard. I don’t know how many times a teacher had said, “Who else is there? Who have I missed? Oh, yes. Ed.” It was something I always remembered and went out of my way not to do to students in my class.
However, navigating the world of gay men with a name like Ed? You would think that having only two letters in your name would make it easier for people to remember it. No. It just made it easier for them to forget. And the line, “Do you give good head, Ed?” was no longer funny, if it ever was in the first place.
Also no one got my joke when I said, “My name is Ed. You know—like making a regular verb past tense?” It was obviously too much for people. In the dating world, saying a word like “noun” or “verb” was strictly forbidden.
Callum and I messaged back and forth for two weeks before he suggested a meeting in person. A date. A real date in a restaurant, not just a date that started and ended at the bedroom door.
I eagerly went off to meet him and fell even further in love with him the moment he walked in the door of the restaurant. He was gorgeous and confident. He’d told me that he worked in sales—although at that time not exactly what he sold—and I could see it suited him. Whatever he was selling, I wanted to buy. Even if it was Avon.
We had a brilliant meal. And I thought it was going swimmingly well. Seriously. My heart was thumping with excitement and my palms were sweaty. So when Callum suggested I follow him back to his house, I didn’t think twice. I wanted every part of this man—someone who could talk to me on an intellectual level as well as politically, someone I was extremely attracted to physically, and someone who was obviously looking for more than a one-night stand because we’d met on Tinder, not Grindr.
He invited me to his house, telling me his housemate, Steve, would be working for another two hours and therefore the coast was clear. We were kissing before we’d even made it past the entrance hallway. Callum was beautiful and I wanted to kiss him all over, and when I told him that, he said that he had no problems with my plan.
His bedroom was neat without being super-freak-neat, which was another tick in his favour. We helped each other divest ourselves of our clothing, using hands and mouths to explore as we did. It all went well. I mean, Callum told me repeatedly that the blow job I was giving him was “so good.” I thought it went well too, as he came within acceptable time period, so I didn’t feel like my jaw was going to break from overuse, or that he had a hair trigger. Then, as I was panting in exultation that I’d made this man of my dreams come, he’d rolled over, pushed the condom in my direction, and almost begged me to fuck him. I’d eagerly complied and acquitted myself in an extremely fine manner.
As a gay man, I’m constantly comparing myself to the only role models I have when it comes to sexual matters—gay porn. I mean, Hollywood has plenty of examples of what straight sex is supposed to be like. There’s supposed to be soft lighting, ladylike moans of enjoyment, no sweat, and the sheets are supposed to tastefully remain over the lower bodies the entire time. Hollywood very rarely does the gay sex though. So I compared my effort to what I thought was realistic—50 percent of a porn star’s effort—and I thought it went well.
Which was why, the following day, when Callum had messaged me to say that although he’d had a “great time,” that he’d enjoyed himself, that nothing had “gone wrong,” but he really didn’t think we “clicked” so he wanted to remain “just friends,” I was completely gutted.
I had analysed the date from start to finish since then, trying to pinpoint where I’d failed. My best friend, Tammy, and her boyfriend, Todd—both of whom I shared a house with—tried to help.
“And he definitely came?” Todd asked me as I was crying into my cornflakes. “It wasn’t just fake?”
I nodded. Tammy looked sceptical. “You guys keep telling me that orgasm and coming are different, but I’ve never seen it. I think you’re lying to me.”
Todd and I shared a male bonding moment over the top of her head before she moved on. “And you… ahh… did a good job of the next bit?”
“What do you mean?” I said, solely to make her say it. What are best friends for otherwise?
I received a glare. “You fucked him good?” she said, her dainty mouth pursing in disdain that I’d made her elucidate. “How do you know if you’ve done a good job on that?”
I held up my hand and ticked them off. “He didn’t scream in pain, his erection came back although he didn’t come again, it lasted more than just a few minutes, and he kissed me passionately afterwards. There were no markers of bad sex.”
Todd frowned as if thinking hard. “Did he say anything during the session? He didn’t ask you to slap his arse or pull his hair and you didn’t do it?”
“No,” I said glumly. “He was just saying things like ‘yes’ and ‘that’s so good’ and that sort of stuff.”
Tammy propped her chin on her fist as she leaned on the table. “Was there anything he did wrong?” she asked. “Perhaps he’s feeling as if he did something embarrassing and can’t face you.”
“No,” I said, feeling like the most rejected person in the world. “He was perfect. Everything was perfect. Until he messaged me the ‘let’s just be friends’ story.”
Tammy and Todd had no other advice, so I logged back on to Tinder and began comparing everyone on there to Callum. I became a left swiper for days.
Then he messaged me.
What was the name of that movie you said I should watch? The one with Keanu in it?
I wanted to ignore him… but he was asking about a movie I’d mentioned. It was sweet that he remembered me telling him while we were on our date that he should watch it.
He messaged back almost immediately.
I pulled up that message on my phone at least ten times in the next twenty-four hours, but he never added to it. Not until three days later.
Fuck. That movie is all types of screwy. I can’t believe that murder really happened.
I was teaching class and didn’t get it until after school. It had been a particularly bad day, with me having to break up a fight at recess that now required parent interviews. I wasn’t exactly forgiving in my text back.
The kids of today make them look like angels. Drugs and murder I think I can deal with. But this new generation coming through seems to have no interpersonal skills at all. Our future is doomed.
There was a stack of assignments in front of me that needed to be marked, so I put my phone aside, picked up the first, and began to read. When the phone dinged, I deliberately ignored it, telling myself it would be my “reward” for getting through Denise’s essay that told me Henry Lawson was a popular poet before World War I because people in the bush didn’t have TVs to watch back then. I wrote something encouraging next to the C-minus I gave her, and then grabbed my phone. It was Callum.
Tell me about it. I went out with a guy two weeks ago who wouldn’t leave his phone alone during the meal. It seems like anyone under 24 these days doesn’t know how to hold a conversation.
I replied, You should date older guys.
It was a subtle dig at the fact that I didn’t once touch my phone while I was out with him. It was probably too subtle. Too bitchy too. I sighed as I picked up the next essay and groaned. Toby Bryant was not my favourite student.
I started reading, correcting grammar and sentence structure in my head so I could work out the gist of his argument. The phone buzzed again. I waited until I had marked Toby’s work, which earned surprisingly a good grade, despite my initial impression.
Do you mean older like in their 50s? Or older like in their 30s?
Callum’s profile had said he was twenty-seven, only one year younger than me. I knew I would feel awful about him dating someone who was around my age. If Callum met and fell for a guy who was in his fifties, then I could say that there was nothing I could do about not appealing to Callum.
Try someone over 40.
It was a compromise and it fucking hurt to type those words. How could he even ask me that? He knew I was looking for a date. He knew I had chosen him to go on a date with. How terrible was it that he thought it okay to ask me what sort of guy he should date?
In disgust, I threw the phone down, then picked it up again and turned it off. I wouldn’t be tempted to look at it then.
As a result I missed the text from Todd saying that he and Tammy were going out to dinner, and that I should stop in at the shop and get something for myself as our cupboards were bare. I therefore had cereal for dinner while I finished marking. The little red dot on my phone told me there was a message from someone, but it wasn’t until I was tucked up in my bed that I felt brave enough to read it.
Cool. Thanks for the advice. I’ll do that.
I rolled over and wiped my tears on the pillow.
The Tigers and Devils Series
Tigers and Devils
Tigers on the Run
The GetOut Series
The Ongoing Reformation of Micah Johnson
Micah Johnson Goes West
Wings of Equity
Dash and Dingo in Search of the Tasmanian Tiger
I Fell in Love with a Zombie
lives in the second-most isolated city in the world, thinks there are thylacines still out in the wild, and is a disciple in the cult of David Lynch.