Queer Fish
written by and copyright © Violet Nova, 2000. Use without asking and you will be mauled to death by small furry animals.

“You two been down at the canal all this time? You catch anything down there?”
“Just a couple of queer fish.” I said.
-from Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown

Part One

"I'm outta here, Jay!" shouted Tommy.
His supervisor's head peeked round the doorway. "You'll be back on Thursday, right?"
"Yup," said Tommy, gathering up his backpack, "Just try and stop me." He swung his jean jacket on over his volunteer’s uniform and glanced at his reflection in the glass door. A friend had once described him as a "Gap gay": meaning upper-middle-class, cute, and a snappy dresser.
Jay, the cheerful volunteer supervisor, caught him looking and tousled his blonde hair. "You look fabulous, kiddo," he said. "As always."
Tommy rolled his eyes, but gave Jay a self-assured smile as he breezed through the glass hospital doors and out into the sunshine. Squinting at his watch, he slung his backpack over his shoulder and strode to the bus stop.
The bus pulled up, and as the machine sucked in and spat out Tommy's CTA transit pass, a voice rang out: "Hey! Hold the door!"
The voice's owner jerked his skateboard to a stop and clambered aboard. His mirrored sunglasses threw back the grim faces of the commuters as he scanned the crowd, finally sitting next to Tommy.
"Hey," he said.
Tommy smiled faintly and nodded, keeping his eyes on his book. The kid with the skateboard eyed him curiously. "Good book?" he said.
"Mmmm," Tommy nodded absently.
"Dante's Purgatorio," read the kid, peering at the cover. "Homework?"
Tommy nodded again, trying to be distant yet polite. Great, he thought, a talker. There's one on every bus.
"Where do you go to school?" the kid asked. Tommy chose not respond, turning a page. But the kid inched closer. "I study photography. Over at Columbia."
"Oh," Tommy considered switching seats.
"Listen....are you busy tonight?"
Now Tommy finally raised his eyes to look at the stranger. He looked to be about 17 or 18, with close-clipped black hair and an elfin face. He wore wrap-around shades in which Tommy could see his own bland expression.
Tommy got up and moved to another seat.
The kid with the skateboard followed. Tommy observed that he was wearing baggy pants and an Alice in Chains t-shirt. "Look, I didn't mean to freak you out or anything--" the kid began.
"So of course propositioning me on public transportation was the logical way to go," muttered Tommy.
"--but it's just that tonight this friend of mine is throwing a...well, its not exactly a rave, but--"
Sighing in exasperation, Tommy tried to get up, but the kid blocked his way. "Oh, come on!" said Tommy.
“That’s what I’m trying to do, if only you’d cooperate.” The kid smiled, displaying a row of brilliantly white teeth. “I’m Jeremy, by the way.”
Tommy slumped back in his seat. “Great. Hi. Now piss off!”
“I bet you say that to all the boys.”
The bus lurched and Jeremy jumped up. “This is it,” he said, retrieving his skateboard and heading for the doors. He winked impishly as he stepped onto the street. “See you around.”
The bus doors closed with a hydraulic hiss, and Tommy went back to his book.

Interior of a car. KATHARINE and JAYNE sit in the back seat. COCOA rides shotgun. IMOGENE is at the wheel. A kid on a skateboard crosses j-walks in front of them.

IMOGENE: (leaning on car horn and shouting) Fuckin' pedestrians!
COCOA: Jeez, Gene, calm down.
KATHARINE: Pedestrians do have the right of way, you know.
IMOGENE: Yeah, well I don’t give a damn! (turning corner sharply) Right now I'm so pissed I'd run over a whole flock of nuns and orphans if they got in my way.
JAYNE: Don't mind Katharine. She's only saying that because it could have been her little skater boy, isn't that right Kat?
KATHARINE: (blushing) Maybe.
JAYNE: Oh! (pats Katharine on the head) When will you wacky heterosexuals ever learn?
COCOA: Ladies, aren't we forgetting that the real purpose of this excursion is to make Imogene feel better?
IMOGENE: (muttering) Tough fuckin' luck.
COCOA: What?
IMOGENE: Nothing. Really, it was nice of you all to come on a pity date with me, but I'm really fine. Really.
JAYNE: (teasing) Really?
IMOGENE: Yes, really! Shut up.
JAYNE puts on a mock sulk. COCOA giggles, and KATHARINE glares at her.
KATHARINE: Come on, Genie, you don't just break up with your girlfriend of a year and a half and go merrily on your way.
IMOGENE: Says who?
KATHARINE: Says your emotional calories. You gotta work them off.
IMOGENE: (braking abruptly at a stoplight) And then what?
COCOA: Then you go find someone else.
JAYNE: (sarcastically) A simple task, what with the current surplus of nice, intelligent, teenage lesbians.
COCOA: (Ignoring her) You're a great girl, Imogene, you could do so much better.
IMOGENE: (scowling) When I was with Dena you all liked her and thought she was so great and all.
KATHARINE: (squeezing Imogene's shoulder) Yeah, but then she dumped you--
IMOGENE: She did not "dump" me! We broke up.
JAYNE: Gene. Darling. Who initiated that breakup?
IMOGENE: (sulkily) Well, she did--
JAYNE: And who decided you shouldn't see each other anymore?
IMOGENE: (sighing) She did.
JAYNE: And who got off scot-free and went off to the coast with her new boyfriend while the other stayed home and put herself through a masochistic cycle over and over just trying to figure out what the hell she'd done wrong?
COCOA: Jayne, that was you when you broke up with Maria.
JAYNE: Oh. Yeah.
(a silence)
KATHARINE: Anyways, my point was that Dena dumped you, thus forfeiting any likeability she once had.
JAYNE: Yeah, see, an important part of the healing process is convincing yourself of Dena's basic evilocity--
COCOA: What the hell is evilocity?
JAYNE: Quiet, you! --convince yourself of her basic evilocity, in order to get over her.
JAYNE: Yeah.
KATHARINE: Surprisingly, I agree.
COCOA: Yeah! Come on, get into it Gene! You don't need her!
KATHARINE: Dena was a moron!
COCOA: A stupid bitch!
IMOGENE: (Bursting into tears) Ohhh, but she was my stupid bitch!
(IMOGENE halts the car in the middle of traffic and her head falls to steering wheel, setting off the horn.)
COCOA: (sighing, rubbing Imogene's back) It's okay, honey, we'll get you a new one.
JAYNE: (sardonically) Yeah, we'll just toddle on down to Dykes-R-Us and pick you up a disposable date.
IMOGENE: (turning on Jayne) I told you to be quiet!
KATHARINE: Chin up, Imogene, its not like Dena was such a catch.
IMOGENE: (still sobbing) Oh, so now you're insulting my taste in women?
KATHARINE: Noooo! I just meant that you could do a lot better.
IMOGENE: But, if I could do better, then why the fuck haven't I?
COCOA: Look, all we're saying is that it's not like Dena was some kind of perfect love-goddess. Like, remember how she used to never wash her hair? IMOGENE: (sniffling) Yeah.....
KATHARINE: And she had that annoying way of correcting your grammar?
IMOGENE: (reluctantly) I guess....
JAYNE: And she listened to that godawful ‘womyns music’?
IMOGENE: Yeah! (brightening) Yeah! (sitting up, starting the car) See! I really am fine! All I needed was a little support from my girls.
KATHARINE: (shrugging) We live to serve.
JAYNE: (winking) Homies before hoes.
COCOA: Yeah, I'm here for you. (Looking distractedly out the window) Could you just drop me off in front of this club here? I've got a date.

Sara unlocked the door to her mother's penthouse apartment and was immediately assailed by a flurry of grey fluff.
"Heeeey, Shithead, how you been?" she said, patting the wriggling terrier. "Where's mom? She inside?"
As if in answer the dog opened its mouth in a mute bark.
Sara was crouched at eye level with the dog, aping its silent yips when her mother sailed in from the living room.
"Oh Sara, don't make fun of the poor thing!" she said, holding a glass in one hand and scooping up the little dog with the other. "You'll only make it worse."
"But Shithead doesn't mind, do you baby? Do you?" said Sara, taking the dogs shaggy muzzle in her hands. "Of course you don't. Of course Shithead doesn't mind."
"And don't call him that," snapped her mother, setting the dog back on the floor. It skittered off to rejoin the party in progress in the living room.
"Why shouldn't I call him that? It's his name," Sara speared an unidentifiable hors d’oeuvre on a toothpick. Her mother slapped her hand away.
"Not while you're here it isn't," she said, picking up a tray cheese cubes.
Sara snatched one of the cubes and popped it in her mouth. "Mother," she said through the cheese, "I am not going to call the dog 'Muffins'. I just can't do that to him."
"You can, and you will," said her mother, smiling and shaking a finger at her. Sara snapped her teeth at the manicured fingernail and stuck her tongue out.
"Jayne's coming over later, I'm gonna go practice."
"Oh no you're not."
"I promise I'll be quiet."
"No, it's not that," said her mother, taking Sara by the hand, "there's someone I want you to meet."
"Mo-om!" protested Sara, dragging her feet. "I told you to stop with finding me 'nice boys.'"
"Don't be petulant."
"I'm not petulant, mother, I'm a lesbian."
"You don't need to remind me," said her mother. The ice in her glass tinkled as she presented her daughter to a skinny, long-haired boy. "Alan here is also a homosexual!" Sara’s mother flashed her brightest social smile before dashing off to meet another guest.
Sara wrung her hands awkwardly. "Don't mind my mother. When I first told her I was gay she said, 'Oh, well, I'm glad you're happy, dear.'"
The boy Alan smiled. He wore wire-framed glasses and had a crooked sort of grin that Sara liked immediately.
The dog bounded up and jumped on his mistress. "Whoa, get down Shithead," she said.
"Is that your dog?" asked Alan.
"What was that you called him?"
Sara laughed. "Shithead."
"Ah. Thats....original," said Alan.
Sara laughed again. "My dad named him. Shithead used to be his dog, only he can’t have pets at his new apartment."
Alan raised his eyebrows. "Your mom said the dog’s name was Muffins."
Sara smirked. "Yeah, well. She's just upset that my dad pays for him, so she can’t put little bows in his fur or give him one of those cutesy haircuts."
Now Alan laughed. He crouched down and let the dog lick his hand. "You're a good boy, aren't you Shithead?" The dog yipped silently in response.
Alan looked up at Sara. "Can't he speak?"
Sara shook her head. "Born mute. The ideal dog for apartment living."
"Yeah, I suppose so. He looks like he could use a walk, though."
The mere thought of getting out of the party cheered Sara immensely. "Yeah, you're probably right." She went for the dog’s leash and then remembered Alan. "Do you....wanna come with me?" she asked.
"God yes," said Alan, grabbing his jacket.
They set off toward the reservoir, Alan walking with one foot in the gutter, one foot on the curb. "Sorry about back there." He said. "I'm....not very good at parties. Or social gatherings of any kind, really."
Sara wound Shithead's leash around her wrist. "Oh no, believe me, I wanted to get the hell out of there just as much as you did."
An uncomfortable silence ensued.
"So...?" said Sara.
"No, but I'm a hell of a cook," replied Alan. Then he smacked himself on the forehead. “Sorry. I make bad jokes when I’m nervous.”
"Heh heh," Sara laughed uneasily. "So, um, our moms met in PFLAG?"
"Yep." Alan seemed to be a man of few words.
"Why'd your mom quit going?"
Alan shrugged. "Probably the same reason as yours."
Sara snorted. “Because she's ‘just not a joiner?’"
Alan jumped up on the low brick wall surrounding the subdivision. "Yeah. Well.” He smirked, extending his arms and walking the wall like a balance beam. "But at least our moms made the attempt, you know?"
Sara shrugged. "Yeah, I ‘spose. My mom is pretty cool about it. I guess I'm lucky."
"You out to your dad?"
Sara grimaced. "Are you?"
"Touché." Alan jumped down.
"Besides, sometimes I think she's partially to blame."
"What, you think your mother made you a homosexual?"
"Really?" Alan grinned and gave Sara a shy punch in the arm. "If I gave her the yarn, do you think she'd make me one too?"

Next time:
Sit in on Jayne and Sara's jam session!
Discover gay geekdom with Dylan and Skye!
Meet the devious Dena!
Laugh at the expense of Scott, the amateur drag queen!

Part Two

"I dunno," said Jayne, plunking absently on the strings of her bass guitar. "I think we should be the Wyld Stallyns."
"Wyld Stallyns?" Sara winced. "Where the hell'd you get that?"
"It's the name of Bill and Ted's band!"
"It's so cock-rock."
Jayne swore as another string went stubbornly out of tune. "But that's why its funny."
Sara looked at her, droll. "Oh, yeah, and if there's one thing we are, its cock-rock."
"Fine." Jayne gave up and gave her attention to her best friend. "Hey, where were you this afternoon? You're mom said you were out with a boy."
Sara smiled slyly. "And so I was. His name's Alan."
"Oh, Sara,” scolded Jayne, "‘Why wouldst thou be a breeder of sinners?’"
“It’s Hamlet.”
“Oh.” Sara yanked one of Jayne's braids. "Anyway, I have no intention of becoming a breeder, of sinners or otherwise. Plus, he’s gay.”
“Who, Hamlet?”
“No, you little dipshit, Alan. And he's really nice. I like him."
Jayne immediately felt her position in jeopardy. "He's probably just pretending, to get in your good graces, you know, and then pounce!"
Sara laughed at that. "He's not exactly the pouncing type."
"Huh," said Jayne. She watched as her friend crouched by the amplifier, her long brown hair swinging like a curtain, and plugged in her white Fender guitar.
"I love this thing," Sara said, stroking the instrument tenderly. "It makes me feel so.....Joan Jett."
Jayne smiled. "You like feeling Joan Jett, don't you?"
"You know, I really do."
Jayne gazed wistfully at the guitar as Sara tuned it. She couldn't help feeling jealous, even if the guitar had been Sara's father's way of overcompensating for his absence. Jayne's guitar, on the other hand, was an ugly secondhand red-and-black thing that was strung out of order. She sighed and shuffling through her notebook of "songs", and said "You don't think we're too girly, do you?"
Sara stood up, brushing the hair out of her face. "What d'you mean?"
"I dunno," said Jayne, fidgeting with her pick. "Its just…two girls with guitars, singing their little songs...you don't think its too...Indigo Girls?"
Sara slung her guitar over her neck. "You like the Indigo Girls."
"I know, but I don't wanna be them." Jayne fell silent for a moment, staring at her friend. "I just don't want to be fuckin' laughed at, y'know?" She paused for a moment, picking up a pamphlet from the dresser. “What’s this? Lickable Cactus?”
"Oh,” said Sara, “it’s some lesbian zine I picked up at the record store, seemed like your kind of thing.”
“Thanks.” Jayne tucked it away in her notebook.
“Hey, what about the Murmurs?" offered Sara. "You like them, and they're two girls with guitars."
"Yeah, but we’re not as cute as they are. And I don't want to be like them anyway, y'know, known as 'k.d.'s girlfriend's band'.”
"Jaynie, have you been dating k.d. lang without telling me?"
Jayne smiled. "You know what I mean."
"Yeah," said Sara, "I know. But first things first, my darling. We need an actual audience if we intend to even get laughed at. When we get a show, then we'll worry about public disgrace." She played a riff, absently. "Hey, how about Lavender Menace?"
"What, for the band?"
"Yeah! Its how early feminists used to refer to lesbians."
Jayne looked at her.
"Yeah, so I read it in a history book. No good?"
"Its sounds like a cartoon villain," said Jayne. "Spiderman vs. the Lavender Menace!"
Sara rolled her eyes. "Oh come on, like Wyld Stallyns was any better?"
"Well, how about Serpenteena?" suggested Jayne.
"Yeah, maybe, if we were a metal band. And isn't there all ready a band called Serpenteena?"
"No, I got if from comic book. It was the name of Athena's band."
Sara just looked at her.
"Fine, forget it. Now, are we gonna do this or not?"
"Yeah, sure," said Sara. "I'm just waiting for you."
"You wanna start with 'Dame'?"
"God yes, and get it over with." Sara strummed the opening chords. "I still can't believe you talked me into this. We're probably the only punk rock dyke band to cover 'South Pacific'."
"Just shut up and sing, will you?"
They played the intro again, and Sara sang: "There is nothin' like a dame / nothin' in the world..."

Skye leaned forward on her elbows. "Where’s the second page?" she asked. “Dylan? I need the next page."
Dylan was peering the label on his juice bottle. "You know, 'Fruitopia' sounds like some sort of gay paradise."
Skye grabbed the bottle. "Could you please at least attempt to concentrate? If I have to spend one more weekend cutting and pasting this damn zine I swear to God I’ll kill myself."
Dylan sulked. “So?” he said, sifting through the papers and folders on the floor. "It's not my problem you're behind."
"Actually," snapped Skye, "it is. YOU were the one who turned in your comic strip late."
"Well, ex-cuuuuse me, miss almighty zinestress! Great art cannot be rushed."
"Hmmph. Apparently it can’t be laid out neatly, either." said Skye trying to arrange the frames on the page.
“Well, it’s not like we’ve got anything else to do this weekend.” Dylan pushed his forever-slipping glasses up. “Or any weekend, for that matter.”
“True, but I’d prefer to keep my options open.” Dylan grunted. “Hey, did I tell you that my mum finally got engaged?”
“No.” Skye held the tape dispenser in her teeth as she stuck the headline Lickable Cactus on the cover. “Which one was it?”
“Gary. The travel agent.”
“Gary, long-distance guy? The one from Colorado?”
“You’re not moving, are you?”
“God, no!” Dylan laughed. “As if they could pry us apart! No, they’re moving here.”
“They?” Skye looked up.
Dylan grimaced. “Yeah, they. Gary and his son.”
Skye wondered how Joel could be so cavalier about such a big change in his life. She hid her concern by sticking her tongue out. “Yecchh.”
“My sentiments exactly.” Dylan looked at his watch. “Shoot, I gotta go.”
“No, you can’t! I need you, you’re my slave labor!”
But Dylan picked up his backpack. “Gotta pick up Mum from the hospital.”
Skye grabbed his wrist and peered at his watch. “Your mom’s shift doesn’t end for twenty more minutes.”
“Ten minutes, if you add lag time for staring at the pretty blond volunteer boy.”
“You know Dylan, for an asexual, you spend an awful lot of time looking at pretty boys.”
Skye raised her eyebrows at him, but Dylan stuck his nose in the air. “I am not under any orders to explain my sexuality.”
“Or lack thereof.” Skye smirked.
Dylan sneered good-naturedly at her. “And now, sweet lady, I must bid you farewell.”
“Yeah, yeah, just leave all ready.” Skye shooed him out the door and returned to the mess of papers on the floor.

“Genie, it’s me.”
Silence. Imogene knew full well who it was.
Imogene sighed. “Yeah.”
Dena’s voice sounded small over the phone. “Are you planning to speak to me ever again?”
“No, not really.”
Another awkward silence. As usual, Imogene was the one who had to break it.
“Well, I don’t know.”
“Cause we kind of need to talk.”
That much was true. It wasn’t over till it was over. “Fine,” said Imogene, “meet me at the festival in fifteen minutes, ok?”
A reluctant pause. Finally Dena said, “Yeah.”
“OK. Bye.”
Another pause. And then: “I love you.”
Imogene hung up.
For a second she sat still, fists clenched, eyes screwed shut. She stood up. Sighed. Paced the room a few times. Didn’t cry. Stared in the mirror, ran her fingers through her hair.
Then she picked up her jacket and left.

Will Dena and Imogene get back together?
Why doesn’t anyone like Skye?
What will Jayne and Sara name their band?
All this, and more about the other queer fish, next issue!

Part Three


The sign outside the club read “This Friday night, Amateur Nite!” and, in smaller type, “Every Friday night is Gay/Lesbian Night.”
Inside, Katharine was scanning the crowd.
“Hey—hey J!” Katharine plowed across the dance floor to her boyfriend. “I’ve been looking for you all day!”
The boy kept his eyes on the floor. “Um, yeah.”
Katharine’s heart sank at the tone of his voice. “So, have you been busy, or are you just avoiding me?"
He looked up at her with those dark brown eyes that always reduced her to mush. “Kat--I didn’t mean to—I don’t know—“
She hated when he was vague. “Didn’t mean to what?”
“Get you....involved in anything....” He looked away, but Katharine grabbed his arm and forced him to face her.
“Jeremy, why can't you tell me what the fuck you're talking about?”
Jeremy looked at her, wishing he could tell her, explain to her why, give her anything other than a stupid cliche....but all that came out was “I don’t think we should see each other any more.”
For a second Katharine just stood there, shell-shocked, and then she turned and ran out of the club.

“Do you think maybe we should leave more flyers at the door?” Skye twisted the sheaf of multicolored papers in her hands.
Dylan shrugged. “I’m not gonna go hand them out to strangers again while you stand in a corner waiting for the opportune moment.”
“So I’m not good with people. So sue me.” Skye surveyed the club. “Judging from this crowd, I think we’d be better off leaving them at the door. Last time I was here I saw some stupid fuck actually ripping up a copy of my zine and throwing it on the floor.”*
Dylan mulled this over. “Did they read the comic first?"
Skye was about to kick him under the table, when suddenly she grabbed his wrist. “Ow!” protested Dylan.
“Shut up, the cute girl is over there!”
“What cute girl?"
“The one I told you about, the one from work.”
“Hmm.” Dylan craned his neck. “Brown hair, gorgeous figure?”
“No, next to her. Stripey sweater, purple hair.”
“Short, with braids in the front?”
“That’s the one.”
“Oval glasses?”
“Walking over here right now?”
“H-hi.” Skye did her best to smile.
The girl smiled back. “My friend over there tells me you’re the ones handing out these flyers?”
“Yeah.” Skye hated shouting over the music. “Did you want one?”
“No, actually, I was wondering....are you the ones who actually write the zine?”
Now Skye could smile for real. “Yeah, I write it and edit it—“
“And I draw the comic,” put in Dylan.
“—and Dylan draws the comic.”
“The Adventures of Sockpuppet.” said Dylan proudly. “Translated into one language worldwide.”
“Yeah, I’ve read the zine......I really like the title. You know, with the lesbian subtext and all.”
“Oh.” Skye blushed. “I actually got the phrase “lickable cactus” from Willy Wonka....I didn’t realized the, uh....subtext, until later.”
“Oh.” The girl stood there for a moment, looking embarrassed. Skye was just about to turn her back when the girl said “See, I was wondering if you would print an ad for me. I mean, a flyer. For my band. We should be playing a show pretty soon, and.....”
“Oh, sure,” nodded Skye, “just put one together and send it to the address on the zine, and I’ll put it in the next issue.”
“Actually.....” the girl started scribbling something on a small notepad. “It would probably be easier if I just gave you my number....”
Dylan smirked and dropped his jaw. Skye ignored him. “Um, OK.” she said.
The girl looked up for a moment. “Have we....I think I've seen you somewhere.”
Skye blushed again. “Yeah. Public Library?”
“Yes!” The girl pointed. “You’re always there!”
“That would be because I work there.”
“Ah.” said the girl. “That would explain it.” She smiled and held out the slip of notepaper. “I’m Jayne, by the way.”
“Well, Skye, I guess I’ll talk to you later.”
“Yeah....later.” Skye waited until Jayne was out of earshot before exhaling. “Whew!”
Dylan was grinning. “That was awesome, Skye! She totally gave you her digits!”
Skye laughed, folding the paper carefully and putting it in her backpack.
“You should totally hook up with her!” Dylan gushed.
“He said as if it were that easy.”
“Come on, she’s totally into you!”
“Godammit, stop saying ‘totally’!” Dylan crossed his arms and pouted, but Skye continued. “Besides, she probably just wants me as a press contact for her band. You know I’m never gonna get a girlfriend.”
“Yeah, that’s the spirit.”
“Fuck you!” Skye buried her head in her arms. “I’m just being realistic. I’m a fat, ugly, myopic geek with antisocial tendencies and a stupid poetry zine! What woman in her right mind would even fucking date me?”
* bona fide actual occurence

Jayne threaded her way through the crowd back to where Sara was standing. “The drag act is about to start,” she said.
Jayne grimaced. “It’s somehow insulting that this club puts Amateur Night and Gay Night on the same night.”
“Especially since the club organizes the amateur show for free, but some local youth group has to pay for it to be ‘gay/lesbian night.” She sighed. “Oh well. Who was that girl you were talking to?”
“No one, I just got us some free PR.....hey, where’s Alan?”
Sara nodded toward the doorway. “He went to get the car.”
Jayne frowned. “You guys are leaving all ready?"
“Yeah, neither of us is very good with crowds.”
“Oh.” Jayne’s frown deepened, and she avoided Sara’s eyes.
Sara peered at her. “Are you OK Jaynie? You look a little funny.”
Jayne heaved a gigantic sigh. “It’s just that.....”
“You and Alan have been spending all this time together, you know? Not that I’m against it or anything, it’s just......”
Sara squeezed Jayne’s arm. “I told you, we’re just friends. He’s gay, I’m gay, we’re all gay, gay, gay!” She smiled weakly at her friend. “Okay?”
“No!” Jayne turned to face her friend. “Not okay! I haven’t seen you in forever! You spend all your time with some boy, we haven’t even jammed in over a week!
Just then Alan appeared behind Sara. “Ready?” he said, lightly touching her shoulder.
“Yeah.” Sara turned to Jayne, apologetic. “We gotta go now, Jaynie.......I’ll call you tomorrow, okay? Okay?”
Jayne scowled, but nodded. “Yeah. Sure. Tomorrow. Bye.”
Through the open door Jayne watched them leave, the two figures disappearing into the throng of the street fair outside.


Outside the club, near the street fair, Dena and Imogene sat on a curb, trailing their fingers in the gravelly dirt. The silence was heavy. Volatile. Tense. Until finally...
“No. No Dena, that’s fucked up!”
“Why? What’s so fucked up about it?”
“That you think you can just come back, just like that! You fuckin’ dump me, spend all this time carrying on with that Sade girl—"
“No! I mean, yeah. Yeah, I spent time with Sade, but it was always you, Genie.”
“How can you say that? I can’t believe you just said that.”
Dena sighed, and bit her lip. “I love you.”
Imogene looked away. “I know.”
A silence. They sat, at odds, hands on the curb, feet in the gutter. Finally Imogene smacked her palm on the cement. “I just—I don’t know. I don’t think that we work, you know?”
“No. Why?”
“Because...I don’t trust you in the least.”
“Oh.” Dena heaved another sigh. “Look, I know I fucked up. I just don’t know what I can do other than sit here with you and say that I’m sorry.”
“That’s just it, there’s nothing you can do. I mean, you can’t make it go away.”
“Do you think.....” Dena trailed off.
“Do you think you can forgive me?”
Imogene shut her eyes. “No.”
Silence. Imogene pitched a pebble into the street.
“Not now, at any rate. I think now we should just.....go home.”
“It’s just......” Imogene could only sit there resting, her clenched jaw on her drawn up knees. She knew Dena was crying. “It’s just that ......I don’t know......” But she did know. She’d simply run out of ways to say “It’s over.”


Inside, the drag act had finally to a close, and Jeremy poked his head around the backstage partition. “Hey sexy.” he said, grinning.
The drag queen, now in his street clothes, leapt up and gave Jeremy a colossal hug. “You made it!”
“I’d never desert a friend on opening night!” Jeremy hugged him back. “How you been, Scotty?”
“Fabulous, as always!” replied Scott. He took Jeremy’s arm. “Come on, walk me home.”
They left through the back door of the club. “So?” asked Scott eagerly, “what’d you think of the show?”
Jeremy gritted his teeth. “It was......a start,” he said.
Scott snorted, scuffing his shoes on the sidewalk. “Thanks for the charity.”
Jeremy laughed, patting him on the back. “Really, it wasn’t that bad. What was the stage name you were using again?”
Now Scott grinned. “Honey Glazed. You know, like the doughnut?”
Jeremy was spared responding to that one by the sound of raucous laughter behind them—about five teenage boys, obviously drunk. Scott and Jeremy ignored them until:
“Faggot! Hey, faggot!”
Scott turned.
“What the fuck are you, from a different planet or something?”
“Yeah,” replied Scott, “Straight outta Uranus.”
Jeremy grabbed Scott and hauled him off by his jacket sleeve. Peering over his shoulder, Jeremy said, “Okay, they’re gone now. Why the fuck do you always take the bait?”
Scott smoothed out his sleeve. “I can take care of myself.”
Jeremy frowned, looking at his watch. “Well, I hope so, cause I’ve got a bus to catch. You’ll be okay?”
Scott rolled his eyes reassuringly. “Just call me in a couple days, okay?”
“Yes ma’am.” Jeremy gave a salute and disappeared around the corner.
Jeremy had only been gone a few minutes when Scott’s jacket was suddenly yanked over his head. He didn’t even have time to turn around before a swift kick to the knees took him down. For a split second Scott thought he heard laughing, and then everything faded into the muffled liquid of his head being pounded against the pavement.

Does Scott survive?
Are Sara and Alan kidding themselves?
+ PLUS +
Dylan meets his new stepbrother
Sade puts a hex on Imogene!

Part Four

“Hi, is Scott there?”
“Umm….can you leave him a message?”
“I dunno, haven’t seen him since yesterday.”
“He didn’t come home last night?”
Well, that wasn’t too unusual. Jeremy drummed his fingers against the metal casing of the pay-phone. “Well, just tell him I called, okay? It’s Jeremy.”
“Yeah.” The voice on the other end of line hung up.
Jeremy placed the phone back in the cradle and stood silently regarding the brick building in front of him. He checked the crumpled flyer he held in his hand—yep, this was the right place. “South Side Youth Health Services” the flyer read. “Free Anonymous HIV Testing.” Jeremy bit his lip and pushed open the door. “Um, excuse me?” he said, peering at the hunched figure sorting papers behind the reception desk.
“Yes, can I help you?” The boy behind the desk looked up at Jeremy with a sudden flash of recognition. “You again.” said Tommy, frowning.
Jeremy smiled. “You’ve been thinking about me?”
Tommy sighed. Who did this kid think he was? “You certainly have a way with arrogance.”
“You’re not doing so bad yourself…..” Jeremy squinted at Tommy’s name tag, which Tommy hid too late “...Tommy H.” Jeremy smiled. “Tommy’s a good name...suits you...does the H stand for Hilfiger?”
Tommy grimaced. “Hawkins,” he said coldly.
Jeremy made a mental note: Hawkins, Tommy Hawkins. But all he said was “So, you’re a volunteer here?”
Tommy rolled his eyes. “No, I do this for fun.”
“Sorry.” Jeremy shrugged, for once unable to come up with a line. “I’m just...interested.” He gave Tommy an unmistakably suggestive look.
Tommy raised an eyebrow.
“Yeah, okay.” Jeremy ducked his eyes guiltily. “I’m coming on too strong. I do that--I’m not very good at chatting up boys.”
“I’ve heard that one before.”
“No, really. With girls—at least, most of the girls I meet—they’re at least friendly. Gay boys—again, at least the ones I meet—tend to be much more...wary.”
Tommy blushed, looking around to see if anyone had heard. “What makes you think I’m gay?”
Now Jeremy raised his eyebrows.
Tommy sat down in a frustrated huff. “You wanna tell me what you’re doing here?”
Jeremy suddenly found himself embarrassed. “Um...” he traced a tile with the toe of his sneaker. “Actually, I’m, uh, I’m here to—" he took a deep breath and looked directly at Tommy. “I’m here to take the test.”


A basement. Interior of DYLAN’s room. It is a small and cluttered, with one tiny window, high-up. DYLAN sits on his bed, drawing on a pad of graph paper. A small television glows. The phone rings.
DYLAN: (Picking up the phone) Yeah.
SKYE: (From the other end of the line) It’s me.
DYLAN: Hey. So what’s up?
SKYE: Nothing. I was just wondering if you could think of anything more pathetic than being home on a Saturday night, laying out a zine while laughing your ass off at a marathon of “MASH” repeats?
DYLAN: Sure...just replace “zine” with “poorly drawn comic” and “MASH” with “Welcome Back, Kotter.”
SKYE: OK, you win.
DYLAN: Damn right. (laughing) Hey, have you called that girl yet?
SKYE: (slightly sulky) No.
DYLAN: Why not, ya dumb bitch?
SKYE: Do you want me to hang up? Do you want me to stop publishing your comic, is that what you want?
DYLAN: Okay, okay, I’m sorry.
SKYE: She can call me if she really wants to.
DYLAN: Obviously she wants you to, otherwise she wouldn’t have given you her number.
SKYE: How about that local sports team?
DYLAN: Fine. Whatever. Rot away your teenage years like a nun in her cloister...
SKYE: Said the boy who was holed up in his basement! I’m assuming you are?
DYLAN: (Reluctantly) Yeah.
SKYE: Hiding from Gary and Gary Junior?
DYLAN: His name’s Luke.
SKYE: Whatever.
DYLAN: I’m just trying to keep out of the way while they move in all their shit.
SKYE: Such a helpful boy.
DYLAN: I’m just thankful for the sanctity of MY ROOM.
(A loud knock from outside DYLAN‘s room)
DYLAN’S MOTHER: (Muffled, from outside the door) Dylan, open the door!
DYLAN: Skye, I’ll call you back, okay babe?
SKYE: OK, bye-
(DYLAN hangs up abruptly. More pounding on the door.)
DYLAN: (shouting through the door) What do you want?
MOTHER: Open up, this box is heavy!
DYLAN: What box?
MOTHER: Hon, will you just open up so we can get this stuff in?
(DYLAN unlocks the door and flings it open. His MOTHER is standing there, holding a large cardboard box.)
DYLAN: What stuff?
MOTHER: Luke’s stuff, we have to get it moved in here.... (she tries to edge past DYLAN, who blocks the doorway)
DYLAN: Why in MY room?
MOTHER: (Puzzled) I told you—you and Luke have to share because Gary needs the other room for his office—I could’ve sworn I told you...
DYLAN: (Unable to form intelligible words) Naaa-uuuh!
MOTHER: Honey, it won’t be that bad. Luke is hardly ever home, he’s got so many friends and extra-curricular activities—unlike some sons I could mention—and it’s only ‘til the end of the school year.
DYLAN: But, Ma—
(Enter LUKE, setting down a stack of cardboard boxes. DYLAN’s jaw drops: LUKE is tall, muscular, and about 18, with dark hair and dark eyes. He wears jeans and a sleeveless undershirt, which he uses the wipe the sweat off his face.)
LUKE: Hi, I’m Lukas. (He holds out his hand for DYLAN to shake.)
MOTHER: (still waiting for DYLAN to finish) But what, Dylan?
DYLAN:(Gaping at LUKE, shaking his hand reverently) Never mind.


They sat there, side by side, huddled in front of the television. Alan seemed to be engrossed in the movie (“Sleepaway Camp II”), but Sara was wrestling with an inner dialogue. Jayne’s jokes and accusations stuck in Sara’s mind, fueling her own growing confusion over the unusual closeness of her friendship with Alan.
If we are “just friends,” she thought, and we are....then why is it that it’s somehow...exciting, to cling to his arm in the dark? Was she afraid to admit something? They were never physically affectionate in the daylight. Sara gave Alan a quick sideways glance, wondering if he noticed these things, wondering if he felt the same way. Maybe it’s from the lack of affection in other areas of my life. Maybe it’s a gut reaction to watching cheap slasher pics.
Whatever it was, she had to know. She had to know why, why she lived for these moments in the dark; clenched, unsure, and breathless.
Fucked up, she thought, this is fucked up. I’m gay. We’re gay! I just….I just don’t get it, and I don’t know what to do. It doesn’t make any sense. It’s so much more than just friendship, but...
No. She shook her head. It’s not like that...I don’t think.
I love him, but I don’t think I’m attracted to him...she looked over at Alan. His face was impassive, as usual, his wire-rim glasses reflecting the flickering blue light from the tv screen. She sighed. Well, not exactly attracted…not in the traditional sense anyway. He’s a boy. That would certainly get in the way. In the way of what, I don’t know...
I don’t know! Maybe I’m just starved for affection. Maybe it’s because he understands.
On the screen, the crazed camp counselor had cornered the naughty camper in an outhouse. “Oho!” grinned Alan. “This part is cool!”
“Yeah?” Sara sat up and paid attention to the screen. The killer counselor attacked the camper with a wooden club, shoving the camper bodily, down into the toilet.
“Ugh!” said Sara, burying her face in Alan’s shoulder. “That’s just plain wrong!”
“Hmm…then you might not want to watch this next part with the lawnmower...”
But it was too late. “Yeecchh!” Sara grimaced as Alan laughed gleefully and put his hands over her eyes.


Somewhere across town, a small clock radio chimed midnight. Sade finished drawing the curtains and clicked the radio off. Then, making sure the door was locked, she walked to the center of the room and tossed five small stones in the air.
The stones clattered to the floor in a roughly circular pattern, and with a piece of chalk, Sade proceeded to draw lines connecting each of the stones. She then lit a tall black candle and placed it in the middle of the pentagram.
At home in her own bed, Imogene suddenly blinked awake.
Sade heated a needle in the candle’s flame, and methodically pricked the candle, murmuring “As I prick this candle, I prick thee...”
...“OUCH!” Imogene sat up abruptly. The tip of her right index finger was bleeding. Absently, she put her finger in her mouth...
...Sade focused on the wavering candlelight. “As I prick this candle I prick thee; break your heart, unhappy be!”...
...Imogene bit her finger to keep from crying out loud. She was suddenly overcome by an inexplicable wave of heartache, holding her pillow over her mouth to muffle the sobs. What’s going on with me? she wondered. I bet Dena isn’t taking it like this. Sniffling, she huddled in her covers and looked out the window. Maybe it’s the full moon...
...Sade mumbled a few words before blowing out the candle. As she replaced the stones in their wooden box, she stopped to gaze wistfully at the photo pasted on the cover. Switching the radio back on, she curled up with the photo of Dena, listening: “Love is kinda crazy with a spooky little girl like you..."

Next time:
Tommy loses a bet,
Jayne and Skye begin a beautiful friendship,
Cocoa rants about being a bi-racial bisexual,
and we find out what happened to Scott!

Part Five

                “Damn!” Jayne slapped the tv set off. “Don’t tell me that doesn’t piss you off!”
               Skye shrugged. “Well, yeah, it pisses me off, but I guess I was expecting as much.”
               Jayne sat down again with an angry plop. “Yeah, but doesn’t it make you wanna, I dunno, write them an angry letter or something?”
               Skye smiled. “There are probably more important social issues to write about than if Willow and Tara kiss on ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer.’”
               Jayne crossed her arms and gave up. “Well, if you’re going to be rational about it....”
               Skye laughed, and blurted out, “I’m so glad you invited me over.” Immediately she looked at her feet, embarrassed.
               Jayne tried to alleviate the tension by socking her playfully in the arm. “Well, I’m glad you called.”
               Skye glowed. “It wasn’t easy, let me tell you.”
                “Yeah. I have trouble calling people. Especially girls.” Especially totally rad cute girls that I have crushes on.
                “Huh. You’re always so, I dunno, outgoing, in your zine.”
                “But see, that’s just it, that’s the beauty of print! You can reach a whole lot of people without actually having to see or talk to any of them!”
                Jayne grinned. “A recluse, huh?”
                “You could say that. I usually hang out with my friend Dylan—you know, the guy I was with at the club the other night? But he’s kind of preoccupied with family stuff....”
                “Yeah, I know what you mean. My best friend, Sara—”
                “The one you’ve been mentioning obsessively all evening?”
                Jayne smiled good naturedly. “That's the one. She’s been spending all her time lately with this guy, so I’ve kinda been....”
                “Needing a replacement friend?”
                “No, that’s not what I meant....”
                “It’s okay, really.” Skye smiled. “I’m glad to be of service.”
                “Sorry if I keep on harping about the Sara thing. It’s just that I don’t know what’s up with her and this guy. It’s all so weird.”
                Skye felt a twitch of jealousy in her stomach. “Why, she’s never had a boyfriend before?”
                “No! I mean, she doesn’t date boys. Or so I thought.....”
                “Oh.” Skye was liking this Sara person less and less.
                “She says they’re just friends, but....I don’t know!” Jayne traced a design on the couch with her forefinger. “I mean, they’re totally a couple, all cuddly and shit, only I don’t know what kind of couple....she’s always saying, ‘Oh, if only Alan was a girl’....” Jayne sighed.
                Skye tried to squelch the sinking-draining feeling in her stomach. “So, you’re in love with her.”
                Jayne looked sheepish. “That obvious?”
                Skye shrugged again. “I’m a writer. It’s my business to be perceptive.”
                “Lucky you. I couldn’t perceive a 16-ton weight if it fell on my head......I’d try to tell her—Sara, I mean—that falling in love with a friend is probably not a good idea, but, well, who am I to talk?”
                Skye nodded. You don’t have to tell me, she thought. But all she said was, “Oh shoot, it’s late. I should probably get going.”
                “Oh. Well.” Jayne seemed genuinely sad to see her go. “It’s been nice getting together and bitching with you.”
                Skye couldn’t help smiling. “Likewise.”
                “We should do it again sometime.”
                Why not? thought Skye. Being just friends was better than nothing, right? “Definitely.”


               “Hey, hot stuff.”
               “Scotty!” Jeremy went in to give his best friend a hug, but Scott shook his head.
                “Sorry, doctor’s orders.”
                “Oh,” Jeremy stepped back to get a better look at his friend. “Geez, hon, you look like hell.”
                “Thanks,” Scott feebly stuck his tongue out.
                Very gently, Jeremy laid his hand on Scott’s shoulder. “You wanna tell me what you’re doing here? All I could get out of your parents was which hospital you were at.”
                “Damn it, those fucking doctors! I told them to call you and not my parents, but since I’m not 21.....”
                “Scott, focus.”
                “It was our friends from the other night. Those guys outside the club.”
                Jeremy paused, trying to remember. “The ones from Uranus?”
                Scott smiled weakly.
                Jeremy sat in the chair beside the bed, the plastic cushion exhaling loudly. “Shit.”
                “You’re telling me.”
                “So...are you okay....I mean....”
                “I’ll survive. I’m a drag queen, honey, this is hardly the first time I’ve been gay-bashed.”
                “But not like this! I knew shouldn’t have let you walk alone.”
                “They’d have just knocked the shit out of you too.”
                “Yeah, but maybe if—”
                “Fuck the maybes, Jeremy. It’s not your fault.”
                Jeremy sighed again, but nodded. “So how’d you get here?”
                “Well, I guess I just sort of laid on the sidewalk for awhile—”
                “—until I could, you know, get my head together and drag my ass to a pay-phone.” He grinned sheepishly. “The ambulance people said I was delirious.”
                “Sweet mother of crap.”
                There was a silence, and then Jeremy said, “So, what did the docto—”
                But Scott interrupted him. “Listen, I’d rather not talk about it any more. How ‘bout you tell me all about your thrilling and scandalous life.”
                Jeremy looked at his feet. “Well, there’s not too much thrill or scandal lately,” he said. “I broke up with Kat.”
                “You did?”
                “No, I’m lying to you for the hell of it.”
                “But she seemed so nice.”
                Jeremy shifted in his chair. “She is nice.”
                “Not that I approve of you dating girls.....”
                Now Jeremy smiled. “How many years since you and I broke up? And you’re still jealous of everyone I date.”
                Scott smirked. “Well of course, it’s my job. Now, why did you dump Ms. Katharine?
                “I didn’t dump her—”
                “Yes you did. I know how you operate.”
                “Fine. Whatever. But it was for her own good. I have a lot of....stuff...to sort through, and I didn’t want to drag her into it.”
                “Stuff? What kinda stuff? Tell Uncle Scotty all about it.”
                Jeremy shook his head. “Nope. Not until things are more....definite.”
                Scott frowned. “J, you’re okay, aren’t you?”
                Jeremy laughed. “Am I okay? Asked the boy with a cracked rib!” Scott smiled and tried to shrug. “Anyways,” said Jeremy, “I’ve got somewhere to be.”
                “Fine. Leave me here.” Scott waved as Jeremy headed for the door. “You’ll come visit on Tuesday?” he called.
                Jeremy waved back. “You bet!”
                “And bring flowers!”


               “Just like that, ‘I don’t think we should see each other any more.’ He actually said that!” Katharine said, forcefully snapping shut her cigarette lighter. “And I wasn’t about to stand there and listen to that shit, y’know? So I.....” She stopped mid-sentence to look up at her friend. “You’re not listening to me, are you?”
                “What? Oh, um.....” Cocoa dodged the question by pointing with her cigarette. “See that girl over there? The beautiful one that looks so sad?”
                Katharine followed her gaze and saw a small, blonde girl, dressed in neat black clothes. “Doesn’t look like the type to hang out here.”
                “Listen, would you mind if I.....”
                Katharine sighed. “No, go ahead,” she said with a wave of her hand, “Never mind my broken heart.”
                “Thanks, you’re a doll.” Cocoa extinguished her cigarette and approached the blonde girl. “Hi.”
                The girl looked up from her coffee; though beautiful, her face was pale, and she had dark circles under her eyes. “Hi.”
                “You look kinda lost.”
                The girl looked down, toying with the tiny silver cross she wore around her neck. “I don’t really go out much.”
                That much was obvious. “My name is Cocoa.”
                “I’m Hope.”
                “Hi Hope.”
                “Hi Cocoa.”
                The girl smiled shyly, and Cocoa took this as an invitation. “Listen....I can’t talk for too long, but can I be really really forward and give you my number?”
                Hope’s pale skin flushed pink. “If you want...I’m not very good at calling people.”
                “Well, here,” said Cocoa, sitting down and scribbling on a slip of paper, “In case you change your mind.”
                Hope looked at the paper. “You spell Cocoa with an ‘A’ at the end.”
                “Yeah. It’s kind of a long story.”
                Hope gave her a questioning look.
                “Well, okay,” Cocoa said, “It’s more weird than long. See, my mom is white and my dad is black, and when I was a born, they didn’t know what to name me, and my grandparents used to joke about my skin, you know, the color of hot cocoa mix.....”
                “Oh.” Hope fidgeted.
                “Yeah, I’m not too popular with either of my grandparents. You know, too black for my mom’s, not black enough for my dad’s. Story of my life.” Cocoa grinned at Hope, who returned only a small sleepy smile. Cocoa wanted to wake this girl up.
                “It’s the same thing with being bisexual.”
                The word “bisexual” seemed to have mildly alarmed Hope, so Cocoa continued. “Sometimes it really pisses me off, you know, being told I don’t belong. Like I have to choose if I want to be gay or straight, black or white, like its an either-or thing. I mean, what’s so wrong with both? I could pass as just black, or just white....I could say that I’m just straight or just gay.....well, depending on who I’m dating...but, y’know, why should I have to do that? Its not fucking fair, I’m telling you!” She had started out fairly calmly, but now Cocoa was building up steam. “Its so much crap! I get all the stigma of being a queer person of color, and none of the nice little default privileges of being straight and white! I mean, shit! I’m not a fence sitter, I know who I am. And it’s not that I’m ashamed or anything, I just get so sick of having to define myself all the time, bi-this and bi-that....” It was at this point that she remembered Hope, who sitting there, regarding her quietly.
                “Dammit, I’m sorry. I just go off sometimes. Sitting here with this beautiful girl, and all I do is bitch about my stupid life.”
                Hope blushed again.


               “I said no, okay?” said Tommy for what seemed like the umpteenth time, “I don’t date guys who try to pick me up in the free clinic.”
                Jeremy was unfazed. “For a PC volunteer guy you seem pretty squeamish.”
Tommy checked his watch to see how much longer his volunteer shift lasted. “It’s not that,” he said.
                “Really?” replied Jeremy, “You’re not afraid I might be positive?”
                “Then what?”
                “I just don’t like you, okay?”
                “You don’t know me. Give me a chance.”
                “Faggot roulette, huh?”
                Jeremy rolled his eyes. “Oh please. One date with me won’t kill you.”
                “No thanks.”
                “You’re just scared.”
                “No, I’m not.”
                “Then prove it,” Jeremy said. “I get my test results back today. If I test positive, you go out with me, prove you’re as liberated as you claim. And if I’m negative....well, then, I guess we’re both off the hook.”
                Tommy couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “No way man. That’s fucked up.”
                “What’s so fucked-up about it?”
                “I can’t believe you want to bet on your HIV status!”
                “Why the hell shouldn’t I? Look, kid, there’s no way I can change those results now. If it turns out I’m positive.....” Jeremy paused, “I just don’t want to be alone.”
                It was twisted, but Tommy felt himself caving. I’m such a sucker, he thought. I always fall for these handsome, vulnerable types, and they all turn out to be weasels. He looked at Jeremy and caught the other boy's face unguarded, taut and nervous and afraid.
                What the hell, thought Tommy. I can always back out of it.
                “Fine.” he said. Jeremy broke into a grin.
                “Okay then, you’re on.”
                It seemed like ages while Jeremy was in the office. When he emerged, finally, looking red-eyed and falsely cheerful, Tommy felt his stomach seize up. “Well?” he asked, afraid he knew the answer all ready.
                Jeremy’s chin quivered ever so slightly as he said, “You can pick me up at seven.”

Next time:
Dena tries to warn Imogene of Sade's nefarious plot!
Jayne and Skye talk dirty!
Sara and Alan confess their true feelings!
It couldn't be more exciting, unless it was!

Part Six

                It was late on Saturday night, and Imogene was restless. She grabbed her jacket and headphones and took to the streets, circling the block at least five times before—
                Imogene stopped dead in her tracks. Then, her eyes narrowed, she turned off her headphones and asked, “What are you doing out here?”
                Dena, who had been walking her bike up the hill, looked flustered at running into her ex-girlfriend. She stammered for a moment, “I—I- I was just down the street…Food Not Bombs meeting ran long tonight.” She regarded Imogene for a moment, a wistful look in her eyes. “So, um,” she said, “What are you doing out so late?”
                “Too much Patsy Cline.”
                Imogene indicated the headphones. “Music as therapy,” She scowled at Dena. “I meant to only listen to ‘Your Cheating Heart,’ but then I kept on listening and got this urge to go walking after midnight....”
                “And we bump into each other. Kind of poetic, isn’t it?”
                Imogene rolled her eyes. “Spare me.”
                A cat wound around their legs, mewing. Dena bent and rubbed it’s head. “Hey there, Bonanza Jellybean! What are you doing so far from home?”
                Imogene squelched a strong desire to yell “Don’t touch my cat!” but instead scooped up the little tabby and hugged it close. “Half a block isn’t far for Bonanza. She likes to walk by her wild lone, waving her wild tail.” The cat wriggled out of her arms. “Listen, Dena, I need to talk to you.”
                “Yeah?” Dena’s eyes were suddenly bright and hopeful. Imogene steeled herself and continued.
                “About Sade,” she said.
                Dena became apologetic. “Look, I told you, nothing really happened with her, it was just that I was vulnerable, and she was there, and—”
                Imogene cut her off. “I didn’t mean that.”
                “Oh. What then?”
                “Well…I know it sounds weird, but….see, I’ve been having these nightmares, and when I wake up, sometimes…well, my fingers are bleeding. And last week, I left my sweatshirt in the lobby of my building, and it wasn’t there when I went back to get it…and then I couldn’t sleep for days, not until I found my sweatshirt outside, covered and dirt and ashes and bits of this stuff…” Imogene took a sprig of a coarse, hairy weed out of her coat pocket. “Do you know what it is?”
                Dena looked at the plant. “Henbane,” she muttered. “Shit.”
                “Listen, I don’t know what this is all about, but something tells me it has to do with Sade, and the last thing I need is some freaky witch wanna-be messing with my head and stealing my clothes—”
                Dena interrupted her. “You’re right. You don’t need this shit. I just thought that if I left you alone like you asked….” She suddenly put her hand on Imogene’s arm. “It won’t happen again, okay? I promise.” And with that, Dena climbed on her bike and sped off.
                Imogene stood still for a moment, not knowing how to react Then she turned her Walkman back on and headed back to her apartment, cat at her heels. The sweet Virginia voice flowed through her headphones, quietly urging her: “Try again, says my heart, try again, say goodbye to the tears in your eyes…” Imogene recalled the fiercely protective look on Dena’s face and felt her resistance melting. “Something seems to tell me that we could love again, try again, says my heart, try again…”

                Meanwhile, Sade was striking a match in her basement room. She lit a tall, dark-blue candle, and let the match burn down to her fingertips. Keeping an eye on the clock—she still had a good deal of the witching hour left—Sade took out the card that Dena had given her for her birthday just a few weeks ago. Carefully, she wrote Dena’s name on one end of the card, Imogene’s on the other, and tore the card in half. Without leaving the sphere of the candlelight, she grabbed a pair of black-velvet underpants, wrapped them around Dena’s half of the card, and placed the little parcel underneath her bed. She then took an ashtray and placed Imogene’s half of the card in it. She crushed a handful of peppermint tea leaves over the ashtray, and then set the piece of card on fire. While the paper burned, Sade chanted in a low voice:
                “Only love that’s
                deserved shall be
                with me she shall
                So Mote It Be.”
Sade watched the embers die away in the ashtray, and when the ashes were cool, she picked it up and went to the window. She drew back the black curtains and nearly threw the ashes into Dena’s face.
                “Aaah!” Dena jumped back from the window. “What are you doing?”
                “Just emptying this ashtray,” said Sadie sweetly, flinging the ashes as far as she could. “Would you like to come in?”
                Sade let Dena in through the cellar door. She gestured for Dena to have a seat on the bed, but Dena stood.
                “What brings you her tonight?” asked Sade, leaning over to light more candles. “Business, or pleasure?”
                “Business,” Dena’s face looked grim. “I need some information.”
                Sade leaned back. “Your wish is my command.”
                “Are you doing something to Imogene?”
                “Doing something?” said Sade. “I’ve hardly even met her.”
                Dena held up the bit of henbane. “This look familiar?” Sade was silent. “I know what you’re doing. And I want you to stop it.”
                Sade blinked innocently. “Stop what?”
                Dena sighed in exasperation. “Fine. Whatever. Pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about. Only—” Dena paused for moment, searching for words. “Sade. Look. I know you think that we belong together, and that Imogene is the only thing keeping us apart, but it’s just not true, okay? Like I told you before, you and me just don’t work. We’ve been through that all ready. And Imogene—well, no matter what I do, she doesn’t want to get back together with me, so you can just leave her alone, okay?”
                Sade shrugged lazily. “Sure. Okay.”
                “ Thank you!” Dena turned and walked quickly out the cellar door, leaving a lingering scent of patchouli among the peppermint and candle-smoke. Sade breathed it in for a moment, her eyes closed. The from under her pillow she took a tiny doll made of a black-painted wooden peg and a photo clipped from an old yearbook. Very carefully, she wrapped the photo of Imogene around the doll’s face…

               That Sunday, after “the X-Files” was over, Jayne lay on Skye’s bedroom floor, leafing through a fat notebook of stories. “These are really good,” she said, looking up at Skye. “You know that?”
               Skye, seated on her bed, tossed a pillow at Jayne, embarrassed. “I do what I can,” she said.
                “Except…how come none of your characters ever have sex?”
               Skye, somehow unsurprised by this point-blank questioning, shrugged. “I dunno. I guess I don’t really feel comfortable writing about it.”
               Jayne eyed her. “You’re still a virgin, aren’t you?”
               Skye nearly fell off her bed, laughing.
               Jayne rolled her eyes. “I’ll take that as a yes.”
Skye didn’t even bother telling Jayne that she’d never even kissed anyone. She stopped laughing and caught her breath. “What about you?”
                “What about me?”
“Turnabout is fair play, my darling. You and Maria were together for a pretty long time.”
                “Yes we were.”
“So.......are you still a virgin?”
                “Weeeelllllll......” Jayne stalled. Skye put up her hand.
                “Stop right there.”
                “Whenever someone stalls like that about sex, it means they’re contemplating definitions, which invariably leads to intimate details, which I really don’t wanna know.”
                “Oh. you’re one of those people.”
                “What people?”
                “Prudes who are afraid to talk about sex.”
               Skye felt her pulse quicken and nervously fidgeted. “I don’t see why it needs to be talked about explicitly.”
                “I bet you’re one of those people who won’t even admit they masturbate.”
                “So sue me for having a little modesty!”
                “Modesty! You mean embarrassment.”
                “I’m not embarrassed.”
                “Yeah? So it wouldn’t bother you if I used the word ‘cunt?’”
                “Ugh, no! I hate that word!”
               Jayne gave her an ‘I told you so’ look.
                “No, I just hate that word. So harsh and ugly.”
                “What, do you prefer nice furry animal names, like ‘beaver’ or ‘pussy?’”
                “Eeew!” Skye put her hands over her ears. “Just shut up, okay?”
                “Eeew? You write stories about lesbians, don’t you?”
                “Yeah, but not dirty stories.”
                “I’m not talking about dirty, I’m talking about honest.”
                “You make it sound dirty.”
                “ You make it sound dirty by being so uptight and wimpy about it!” Jayne whacked a pillow for emphasis.
                “I just see no reason to be crude, is all,” said Skye. “Some things are best left to the imagination.”
                “Left to the imagination? That’s what brainwashed generations into early pregnancies and STDs. Imagination, she says! Mierda!”
                Skye, eager for a diversion, asked “ Mierda? ‘Sat Spanish?”
                “ Si. I’m half-Mexican, half-German. I can teach you to curse in three different languages.”
                Skye couldn’t contain a laugh. “I’m so glad you could come over.”
                Jayne smiled warmly and said, “You say that every time I come over.”
“Well, every time I’m glad.” Skye slowly inched her hand towards Jayne’s.
                Jayne, oblivious, merely shrugged and said, “Yeah, well, Sara had field trip with her English class tonight, so it’s not like I had anything better to do.”
                Skye swiftly put her hand back in her pocket.

                “So where were you, huh? I was waiting for you.”
                Alan tried to fend off Sara’s pokes to his ribs. “I was out, okay? I thought you had that Shakespeare thing.”
                “I did,” said Sara, “but I thought we could meet up afterwards….you were at the grocery store, weren’t you?”
                Alan shifted his eyes guiltily. “Maybe.”
                “Well, so what if grocery shopping is my substitute for sex? No person in his right mind would want to fall in love with me.”
                Sara frowned. “What have I told you about ripping on my best friend?”
Alan made a face at her. “I’ve got some insomnia to get a jump start on. I’ll see you tomorrow, okay babe?”
                “Yeah. G’night.” Sara watched as Alan loped down the sidewalk to his house, two door down in the subdivision. As she turned back to her room, she realized what had been prowling on her mind for weeks…. and realized that she wouldn’t fall asleep until she did something about it. So she wrapped a blanket around her shoulders and sat down at her computer.

> From: sarablackheart@aol.com
> To: longhairedfag@hotmail.com
> Subject: fun with raw emotionalism!
<< so, it’s the middle of the night. sara can’t sleep. she finds herself in a rather strange, speaking-in-the-third-person state of mind…and so she decides to appraise alan of a rather odd situation that has taken place. that being, her falling in love with him. NO, NOT THAT KIND OF LOVE! fear not. she does not mean the grocery-shopping kind. just the..... “wow, i’ve never met anyone quite so neat in my entire life” kind.
                this startling revelation came to her whilst sitting with her english class in the shakespeare rep theater, trying to tune out the trash-metal moron who feels the need to constantly tell her that “girls can’t play guitar,” when she thought, “Hey, i wish i was here with alan.” she realized that alan would probably hate it and be bored. but out of all the people in world that she could have wished to be with at that moment, it was him that sprang to mind. during the second act of henry IV, sara is desperately attempting to know her own mind. desperately wishing that her efforts to feel any kind of heterosexual feeling would be a success. yet, they are not. and she realizes that it is best thus. had she and alan both been “normal” hetero people, they never could have struck a friendship such as this. and if sara WERE able to get the hetero thing going on, it would ruin the friendship that has come to mean so VERY VERY MUCH to her. thus she is glad that her feelings remain romantic in the archaic sense. she feels toward alan the way people feel toward their significant others, except for the wanting a piece of their action part. sara considers how much money she could make bottling such an ingenious substance as this brand of love—all the fun-happy effects of love without any of the annoying hormonal by-products! she can hug alan and have that profound sense of well-being never quite experienced with the previous transient females in her life.
               why is sara telling you all this? seeing as you are a homosexual, she must know that you do not feel quite the same. yes, she knows. but she cares not. she merely wanted to tell alan this to A) naysay his assertion that no one in their right mind would ever fall for him (tho its debatable whether or not sara is possessed of her right mind...) and B) as a warning, b/c future displays of affection MAY occur, and she doesn’t want him to be alarmed and think that they are of the grocery-substitute, modern-romantic nature; she assures him that she means none of it in a “naughty” way.
                finally, she would like to reassure alan that next time she goes to a stuffy elizabethan play, she will indeed bring him.
xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxox sara >>

               Before she could stop herself, Sara clicked [SEND]. She then forced herself to wait at least twenty minutes before checking her inbox.

> From: longhairedfag@hotmail.com
> To: sarablackheart@aol.com
> Subject: fun with….
<< running with the third-person theme, alan would like to inform sara that he has, in fact, fallen in love with her too.
and that, quite probably, by the time she gets this email, he will be standing underneath her bedroom window.>>

                Sara started up from her swivel chair and peered out the window. Indeed, there stood Alan, his glasses glinting in the motion-sensor safety lights. He waved feebly, and with a sheepish grin she slid the window screen up and vaulted outside.
                Then she and Alan hugged until the safety lights went out.

Be sure to come back next time for QF7, “A Kiss Is Just A Kiss,” when all hell breaks loose for your favorite homoteens! There’s gonna be a whole lotta smoochin’ going on!

-written by and copyright © Violet Nova, 2000. Unauthorized use will result in spontaneous combustion.