Monthly Archives: July 2019

Don’t Rayne On My Parade; chapter four, part one

Chapter Four; Part One

I wake up in a good mood which lasts until I arrive at work and answer the phone only to hear Inspector Robinson’s voice on the other end.  A phone call from the cops first thing in the morning, especially a Monday morning, especially a Monday morning at work, can really bring a person down.  She has a few more questions that she wants to ask me, she informs me in a brisk tone.  When I protest being disturbed at work, she points out that the alternative would be for me to come down to the precinct, which is precisely the last thing I want to do on my lunch break.  I hem and haw, but finally give in.  Even though I don’t want to be heard associating with the police, it’s the lesser evil which is exactly why the inspector brought up the point about me traipsing down to the precinct, I’m sure.

“When you and Mr. Frantz were outside, how long did you leave Ms. Bowers inside alone?”  Now that she has gotten what she wanted, the inspector can afford to be friendly so she warms up her tone a fraction.

“Um, five minutes?  No, probably longer than that.  Maybe ten.”  I tend to underestimate time, thinking less time has passed than actually has.

“And you’re positive that you left the bedroom after viewing the deceased before Mr. Frantz?”  She sounds as if she’s reading the questions off a list, which she probably is.

“I told you, I can’t be sure,” I say, lowering my voice.  I don’t want my boss to catch me talking on the phone to the police on company time.  “Look, I don’t meant to be difficult, but could we do this another time?  I’ll even come down to the station.”  I’ve changed my mind.  Anything is better than sweating it out over the phone, paranoid that one of my colleagues will overhear me.

“What a great idea.  Be sure to bring Mr. Frantz with you so you can both sign your statements as well, which, as you probably forgot, you were supposed to do yesterday.  Have a nice day, Ms. Liang.”  She hangs up before I can ask her where exactly is the station.  I suppose I’ll have to look it up on the internet.  I call Paris at home to relay the message, but he’s not there.

“Paris?  It’s me.  We have to go to the police station today to make our statements, and Inspector Robinson wants to talk to me.  Call me so we can—”

“Hello?  Rayne?”  It’s Paris.  I should have known he would be screening his calls.  He always does because he has too many complications in his love life to want to deal with them in person.  “What the fuck?”

“We were supposed to give our statements yesterday, remember?”  I am gloomy after talking to the esteemed Inspector Robinson.  She was all business on the phone, not at all how I imagined our next encounter would be.

“Damn it, I wish we were done with this!”  Paris says in disgust.

“Pick me up at four.  I’ll see you then.”  I am about to hang up the phone when I add, “Find out where the police station is while you’re at it.”  I figure since he’s not at work, it’d be more expedient for him to do it than for me.  We could probably walk if it’s in the Mission, but I’m not in the mood.

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Don’t Rayne On My Parade; chapter three, part two

Chapter Three; Part Two

I do the dishes—this is our deal.  When one person cooks, the other does the dishes.  Consequently, I do a lot of dishes around the house.  I am more than happy to do that in payment for the fabulous meals that Paris cooks for me.  After the kitchen is clean, I start making the cakes.  I usually make two of whatever I’m baking because I know Paris will want one.  He has a tremendous sweet-tooth which he has yet to tame.  It’s another reason he works out religiously.  He always says if he’s going to play, he has to pay, and for him, it’s a worthwhile trade-off.  Me, I eat my chocolate whether I work out or not because I’m not as obsessed with my body.  That’s another reason Paris and I couldn’t date.  He has too many body issues that would drive me nuts.  That’s why he tends to date models because they understand his issues and actively support him in them.  I don’t think that’s the best mentality for his well-being, but who am I to judge?

My thoughts wander to Inspector Robinson.  I wonder what her first name is and if she dates men or women or both.  She looks straight, but I only have a spot-on gaydar for men.  For some reason, I can’t tell when a woman is queer.  I think it’s because women are more fluid than men are.  I know more gay and bisexual men who have known since they were very young that they liked boys than I do women who knew at an early age that they were interested in girls.  Women have closer friendships to begin with which can easily cross over into the physical.  I would never presume that a woman is interested until she tells me she is, unlike men.  I can always tell when a man wants to get to know me better and not just in a friendship way.  Then again, I think most guys would jump my bones if I give them the indication that I am so inclined.  It’s endearing in a way—so touchingly simple and straightforward.  Not like the manipulative minds of woman.

Inspector Robinson is a mystery, however.  There are moments when I felt a frisson of tension between us, but I can easily convince myself that I am making it up because it’s what I want to happen.  She is not my usual type—I don’t like blonds—but I’m willing to make an exception for her.  I like the way she sits so still, it’s as if she isn’t even there.  I wonder if she’s taken any martial arts or studied Buddhism.  That would explain the alert look despite her relaxed body.  She is quite intelligent, too, which is one of my requirements in a bedmate, unlike my not-so-picky roommate.  I realize that I’m talking myself into a huge crush on the good inspector, so I force myself to stop idolizing her.  The last time I fell for someone before really knowing her, I ended up having to get a restraining order against her.  She did not take rejection well at all.  Finally, from what I heard, she started dating someone else and is currently happily stalking her.  Not to be mean, but better her than me.  It’s every gal for herself.

“I’m out!”  Paris calls from the hallway.  “Make sure you save me some cake!”  That boy is a slave to the cacao bean.  Hm, maybe I can use it to lure him into my bed.  Just because we wouldn’t make good lifetime partners doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun.  We have always been dynamic together in bed.  The cakes are coming along nicely, so I sit down to wait.  I don’t want to watch them as I know from experience that I can ruin things faster than a flash if I watch.  I tend to want to dabble instead of just patiently waiting for it to do its thing.  Come to think of it, that’s a good analogy for the way I deal with most things in my life.  When the cakes are done, I change into a black silk shirt and low-riding blue jeans.  Just as I’m about to leave, my cell phone rings.  I don’t want to answer it, but it’s probably important.  Very few people have access to my cell phone, and those who do know better than to call unless it’s important.

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Don’t Rayne On My Parade; chapter three, part one

Chapter Three; Part One

I must have fallen asleep because the next thing I know, I’m being gently shaken awake.  I stubbornly cling to the remnants of my lovely dream where I am having sex with a very alive Moira in so many creative positions.  I am just making her come for the third time when I finally emerge from my dream.  I am cross at having to abandon Moira, but I struggle to wake up when I see Paris’s face staring down at me.  His mouth is set and his eyes are grim, but he tries to force a smile to his lips when he sees that I’m awake.  Max is hovering behind him, her own mouth pursed.  Officer Clark is somewhere in the periphery, scowling as usual.  I have an impulse to tell him that it’s not catching, that he’ll still be as manly when he leaves as he was before he ever met us.  Somehow, I don’t think that will reassure him.  I stand up and stretch, trying to work out the kinks in my back.  I wince as my back cracks.  I am only twenty-eight, but I feel at least fifty.

“Let’s get out of here.”  Paris says through gritted teeth.  He directs a malevolent glare at Officer Clark who returns the favor.

“Where’s Inspector Robinson?”  I ask, hoping to get one more glimpse of her.

“Don’t know, don’t care,” Paris spits out the answer, grabbing me by the arm.

“What am I supposed to do?”  Max cries out, grabbing Paris’s arm.  “I can’t stay here alone.”

“What do you want me to do about it?”  Paris snaps, tugging free from Max.  I glance at him in surprise.  I haven’t seen him this upset in quite some time.

“Can I stay with you?”  Max asks piteously.  She clutches at Paris’s arm again, hanging on with all her might.

“No, Max,” Paris says, his tone slightly softened.  It clear that his sense of responsibility toward her has ended.  “You’ll have to call someone else.”

“Fine!”  Max’s tone hardens.  “And I’ll have to tell the inspector what I know.”  I don’t like the look in her voice or the tone of her voice as she says this.  I don’t think she knows anything, but she’s more than capable of stirring up trouble.

“You do that, Max.”  Paris starts dragging me toward the front door.  “I’m leaving.  I’ll talk to you later.”  Neither of us say anything as he roars away from the curb.  It isn’t until we’re well on our way home that I dare to speak.

“Are you ok?”  I ask timidly.  Paris rarely loses his temper but when he does, he scares me.

“No, I’m not fucking ok,” Paris seethes, his hands clutching the wheel.  “That bitch actually thinks I killed Moira!”  I wince at his use of the word, ‘bitch’, but I chalk it up to his bad mood.  “She kept insinuating that Moira and I had a thing going.”

“Moira’s gay, isn’t she?”

“Yes!  She’s never been with a man, but that didn’t stop Miss Inspector from questioning our sexual history.”

“What possible motive could she pin on you?”  I wonder.  “It’s not like you really knew Moira that well.”

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Don’t Rayne On My Parade; chapter two, part four

Chapter Two; Part Four

“You’re next,” Inspector Robinson breaks into my reverie and nods at me.  I hop up with a start, nearly choking on my water.  I set down the glass and follow her, leaving a dejected Max to grapple with Officer Clark.  We settle on couches opposite each other, and she pulls out a notebook.  “What is your full name?”

“Rayne Liang.  R-a-y-n-e L-i-a-n-g,” I say, then remember that it’s not exactly true.  “Um, that’s not my full name.  It’s what I go by.  Is that good enough?”

“Full name, including middle,” Inspector Robinson repeats, tapping her pen against the notebook.

“Rainbow Freedom Liang,” I say reluctantly, cursing my mother as I do any time I have to divulge my name.  I wait for the comment that inevitably follows my revelation—‘Your parents must have been hippies!’—but it doesn’t come.  Inspector Robinson writes it down before continuing with her questioning.  After receiving mundane details such as my address and age, she starts asking more substantive questions.

“How long have you known Ms. Bowers?”  Inspector Robinson asks, her eyes trained on my face.  I have the uneasy feeling that I have a glob of toothpaste in the corner of my mouth, but I resist the urge to lick it to see if it’s true.

“I met her at the party tonight,” I say.  I open my mouth to add something, but don’t.  Just answer the questions and nothing more.  That’s what I’ve heard to do when talking to the police.

“Your friend, what is his name?”  Inspector Robinson waits.  She has a habit of sitting completely still, which is distracting.

“Paris Frantz.  F-r-a-n-t-z.  No middle name.”  Surely, this will get a rise out of her.  I am wrong again.

“Mr. Frantz is friends with Ms. Bowers, then.”  It takes me a few seconds to realize that she’s asking, not telling.

“Not exactly friends,” I hedge.  “He’s her personal trainer.”

“Where?”  Inspector Robinson’s voice is brisk, but not hurried.

“‘N Sound Shape on Valencia.”  I make a face as I say the name.  I catch a glimpse of a similar reaction on Inspector Robinson’s face before she can mask it.  “I know, I know, horrible name, but a great place to work out.  The owner really care about you.”  Jimmy Benedict, the owner, is a fixture in the Mission District, one of the many characters. Easy on the eyes, too.  He’s in his forties, but could pass for early thirties.

“It doesn’t sound like her kind of place,” Inspector Robinson frowns, looking at her notes.  “Why would Ms. Bowers frequent a health club not up to her standards?”

“I don’t know,” I stare at Inspector Robinson with respect.  She actually knows ‘N Sound Shape, which means she probably uses it herself as it’s not well-known.  “Maybe she likes to support locally-owned businesses.”

“There’s a Starbucks mug in the kitchen,” Inspector Robinson says with a hint of a smile.  “I don’t think Ms. Bowers has much difficult patronizing chains.”  Is that a joke?  I wonder if I can let my guard down. “Ms. Liang, why did you accompany Mr. Frantz here?”  Her tone is deceptively mild, but I can sense the quickening of her interest.

“He asked me to,” I reply simply.

“Do you do everything he asks?”

“Do you have a best friend?”  I don’t wait for an answer.  “He’s done so many things for me.  It was the least I could do.”

“Are you two lovers?”  The question comes out of left-field, but it doesn’t bother me.  I’m used to people questioning my relationship with Paris.

“No.  We’re just friends.”

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Don’t Rayne On My Parade; chapter two, part three

         Chapter Two; Part Three

“Hello?  Paris here.”  He has one of those phones where a person standing near by can hear almost everything the other person says.

“Oh –y God, Pa—s.  It’s Ma—………..looking for Moira…….broke down the door….she’s de—.  You have to…….right now!”

“Max, calm down.  Are you sure about that?”  Paris looks concerned as he cradles the phone to his ear.

“She…..bed…..not moving.  Mur— .  Some—.  I want you…….now!”  Her voice rises hysterically as she talks.  It sounds as if she’s not even trying to control herself any longer.

“Ok, Max.  I’ll be right there.  Drink some water and take deep breaths.  Remember, stress is your enemy.”  He clicks off the phone and turns to me.  I’m eagerly waiting for the news, though I can piece together most of it from the excerpts I overheard.  “It’s Moira.  She’s been murdered.  Max’s going crazy.  We gotta go.”

“Who’s we, white man?”  I retort, trying to ignore his other words.  “She asked for you, remember?”  I do not want to see Max again, and I definitely do not want to see a dead Moira.

“I need you there with me,” Paris says soulfully, putting on the puppy-dog eyes.  “I need you for moral support.”  He leans over to kiss me on the cheek which breaks down my defenses.  Every time, I vow to be strong.  Every time, I fail.

“All right.  Let me pull on some clothes first.”  I walk toward my bedroom before something strikes me.  “The police will most likely be there.  Do you think this is a good idea?”

“I have to go,” Paris says simply.  “I want you with me.”  That seems to be the end of that.  We both throw on some jeans and long-sleeve shirts before jumping back into his car.  We are silent on the way there.

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Don’t Rayne On My Parade; chapter two, part two

Chapter Two; Part Two

 “I’m telling you, she’s the best art teacher there is.  She knows everything!”  A young woman in her early twenties with ratted dyed black hair and heavy raccoon eyes gushes to her friend who is so nondescript, I barely notice her.  “If Moira says it’s true, then it is.”

“That’s bullshit, Brenda,” the other woman says heatedly, her face flushing.  Her shoulder-length mousy brown hair falls in her eyes no matter how many times she brushes it back.  She finally gives up and peers at her friend from behind a veil of hair.  “She’s a charlatan who gives good mouth.  Her stuff is crap, and her advice is crap.”  Her hands are clenched into fists, and her receding chin is thrust out as far as she can.  “The bitch thinks she’s all that.”

“You’re so wrong, Tansy,” Brenda says earnestly, touching her friend on the arm.  Tansy?  I have never heard a more inappropriate name.  Dorcas, maybe.  Or perhaps Zelda, but not Tansy.  “Moira really cares about people’s talent.  She talked to me for fifteen minutes about my charcoal sketches in the caf one day.  She didn’t have to do that.”

“She probably just wants to shag you,” Tansy says cruelly, her face a dark red.  I watch in fascination at the scene developing.  “You know her reputation, right?  She likes them young and stupid.”

“Is that why you slept with her?”  Brenda shoots back, her own face pinking.  “You certainly fit the stupid part, though you’re no longer young.”  The two of them glare at each other, and I’m wondering if I should step in.

“Here you go,” Emil smiles, holding out a glass.  “Rum and coke, just as you ordered.”  I accept it from him and take a sip, choking as I do.  It is definitely not as I would order, being heavy on the run and nonexistent on the coke.  “Oh dear, what are those two young women arguing about?”

“Moira,” I say simply.  I’m beginning to think that everyone has a Moira story to tell.  I recall the sway of her hips as she saunters around the room.  I think about the curve of her lips as she smiles, dreaming about kissing those lips.  I stop.  Where have I seen her before?  For the life of me, I can’t remember.

“—Don’t you think?”  Emil is looking at me, but I haven’t the slightest idea of what he has said.  Noticing my befuddled look, he repeats himself.  “I said, Moira is going to get herself in trouble one of these days, don’t you think?”  He’s shaking his head, but he can’t keep the gleam out of his eyes.  He is looking forward to the day Moira gets in trouble.  He is hoping that he’ll be there to witness it.  Slightly sickened, I drain half my drink.

“There you are, hon!”  Paris exclaims as he breezes up to me and Emil.  “Emil!  How the hell are you?  How’s academic life?”

“Tedious, Paris,” Emil says with a smile.  “I am taking a sabbatical next year, and not a moment too soon.  Nobody cares about true learning any more.  The students only want to know what’s ‘relevant’ to life.”  He twists his lips in distaste before smoothing them out again.

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Don’t Rayne On My Parade; chapter two, part one

Chapter Two; Part One 

“Max, baby, who is this?”  The woman is talking to Max, but looking at me.  There is something oddly familiar about her, but I can’t believe that I would have forgotten this woman if I’d ever met her.

“Moira, this is my trainer, Paris—you remember him, and his friend, Rayne.  Paris, Rayne, this is Moira, my girlfriend.”  Max’s tone is smug as she presents Moira to us.  I am mesmerized by Moira’s beauty and cannot look away.

“Paris, nice to see you again,” Moira says rather perfunctorily before turning to me.  “Rayne!  Such a pleasure!”  Moira’s smile dazzles me, so unexpected is it.  “You are a very stunning woman, you know?”  I am taken aback.  It isn’t every day that someone compliments me like that, especially one who looks like her.  Especially when Paris is around.  By the look on his face, he is not pleased to take the backseat for once.  “I would love to sculpt you some time, if that’s all right with you.”

“Excuse me?”  I am not usually easily flustered, but Moira is keeping me off-balanced.

“Come, talk to me,” Moira says and sweeps me away.  I turn to wave to Paris, and I glimpse a look of rage on Max’s face before she can wipe it away.  Moira links her arm through mine, pulling me closer.  “Rayne.  You have such exquisite bone structure.  I bet your parents are stunning, as well.”

“My father is dead,” I say lamely, not sure what I’m supposed to say.  I’m aware that I am breathing harder than normal, and I try to calm myself down.  No matter how much I want this woman, she is off-limits by virtue of being Max’s partner.  I don’t mess with other people’s monogamy even if I’m elastic about my own.

“I have got to feel these cheekbones!”  Moira stops and faces me.  I stop, too, uncertain what to do.  Before I have time to think, Moira has her hands up and on my cheeks.  I flush at the contact of her warm flesh on my flesh.  I want to kiss her now.  Just as I am about to do something foolish, she pulls away.  “Just as I thought.  Perfect.  I have to have those cheekbones, and you must give them to me.”  Uneasy images of unwilling surgery float through my mind.  “I can be quite ruthless when I need to be.”  She throws back her head and laughs.  Her laugh is high and thin, not magical enough to match her exterior.  It allows me to break from the spell she’s weaving around me, much to my relief.

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Don’t Rayne On My Parade; chapter one, part two

Chapter One; Part Two

Over the years, our friendship has been forged through fire as well as through happiness.  He was there for me when my father died in a car accident.  A drunk driver plowed into my father’s car at three in the afternoon.  The driver had eight previous DWIs, but hadn’t spent any real time in jail.  Killing Dad netted him a year behind bars.  A year!  He took away a man’s life, and he got a year.  It was disgraceful.  I was a sophomore at Berkeley and almost went insane.  I had been Daddy’s girl since I was born, and his death hit me hard.  If it hadn’t for Paris, I would have been in horrible shape.  He was the one who held my hair—it was waist-length then—while I puked night after night of heavy drinking.  He would go to the parties with me, though he rarely drank himself, making sure I didn’t get myself into trouble.  He’s the one who kept telling me that it was going to be all right when I felt as if I had no more heart or will to go on.  He was the one who stopped me from slashing my wrists at one especially low point that year.  My mom adores him.

In return, I was the one who ran interference between him and his mother.  She sent him letters every week while we were in college just as she does now, but he wasn’t as inured to them then.  Each letter would upset him for days.  Unlike me, he didn’t realize he was attracted to both males and females until he was a junior in high school.  His mom caught him kissing a boy that year.  Ever since, she has been preaching to him, trying to save his soul.  After reading each letter, he would rush to our apartment and sit in the dark for hours, not moving from whatever position he was in.  Paris became so distraught after one letter—where his mom wrote she’d rather see him cut off his testicles and become a eunuch than for him to fornicate the way he did—he refused to speak for days, even in class.  I decided to take matters into my own hands.  His mother’s letters arrived on Friday without fail—I wouldn’t put it past her to have calculated when she’d have to send the letter from Memphis to get it there on Friday just so his weekend would be ruined.  I intercepted the next one and opened it.  I refused to let him see it, then read the innocuous parts to him such as how his mother was doing.  That’s how we read the letters until Paris felt strong enough to read them on his own.  I was also the one who kept him together after the love of his life died from AIDS, but I don’t like thinking about that.

“What are you thinking so hard about?”  Paris asks softly.

“Family,” I reply.  “Us.”  I take a deep breath before continuing.  “Do you ever think how much easier it’d be if we were a couple?”  We’ve talked about this before, but it’s a subject we revisit from time to time.

“Yeah, no doubt,” Paris sighs, ruffling my hair.  I move so that I am in his arms, rather than lying in his lap.  It’s not like we haven’t tried.  Paris was my first kiss from a boy.  I had been very unpopular in high school, more teased than dated.  The only physical contact I had was when a boy snapped my bra then ran away.  I messed around with female friends from time to time, but boys left me strictly alone.  Paris was popular, but had been gallant enough to take me to our junior prom.  When he dropped me off for the night, he kissed me on my front porch.  My parents had left the porch light on, but that hadn’t daunted Paris.  In some ways, it’s still my most cherished kiss.

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Don’t Rayne On My Parade: chapter one, part one

Ed. Note: I wrote this nearly twenty years ago while I was getting my MA in Writing & Consciousness in San Francisco. It’s the first of a trilogy, and I had a lot of fun writing it. Let’s see how well it’s aged, shall we?

Chapter One; Part One

“Rayne, we have got to get up out of here!”  Paris snaps his fingers in my face, something he only does when it’s just the two of us.  We have been best friends for so long, he knows I won’t misinterpret the gesture as bitchy or overly queer.  Same with his pattern of speech.  When it’s just the two of us, he can be Miss Thing with major attitude.  When we are out in the world, he tones down the camp.  It’s not because he’s ashamed of being bisexual or anything stupid like that, but because he hates being labeled just about as much as I do.  Besides, it amuses him to observe people trying to discern his sexual orientation then get flustered when they realize he knows what they’re doing.

“Stop that,” I say crossly, waving his hand away.  I am in the middle of Armistead Maupin’s new book, which frankly, I am not enjoying very much.  Why don’t I put it down, then?  Because it’s the ‘in’ book of the moment for queers to have read, and I hate not being able to talk about the newest trends, even if only to bash them.  It’s the same way I feel about voting—I do it so I have the right to bitch.

“Ooooh, it’s Armistead,” Paris simpers, peeking over my shoulder.  “The King of the Castro.  What does the big bad bore have to say?”

“I dunno,” I frown, turning the page.  “I just started, and I’m not liking it already.  Who would talk about sex with a child who had suffered horrible sexual abuse?”  Wisely, Paris doesn’t comment on that as he knows there’s no suitable response.  I try to read a bit more, but, frankly, I have never liked Armistead.

“Listen to me,” Paris pouts, his voice taking on that whiny note that I dislike so much.  “I am going cuckoo being holed up in here!  We need to get our groove on!”

“Uh, huh,” I say absentmindedly, my mind in the story.  I already don’t like the little kid, which I feel guilty about as he’s dying of AIDS.  I have the uncomfortable feeling that if I keep reading the book, I’ll end up hating him which would make me the biggest bitch on earth.  I mean, what kind of person hates a kid who has endured sexual abuse from his parents and various other adults and after escaping them, discovers that he has AIDS?  Only the meanest-hearted person on earth.  Which is me, I guess, because I really can’t stand the little brat.  “Paris?  Do you think I’m mean?”

“Yes,” Paris retorts, folding his muscled arms over his nicely-sculpted chest which can be seen under his tight, black mesh shirt.  “You’re being mean to me now.”

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