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.
“Hello?” I hold the phone to my ear as I check myself out in the mirror one more time. Remembering Paris’s words last night, I preen. I do look pretty damn good if I do say so myself.
“It’s me.” Speak of the devil. It’s wonder-boy himself. “I just want to warn you there are some reporters hanging outside our building so if you don’t want to talk to them, you better sneak out.”
“How did they find out about us?” I wonder, marveling at the efficiency of the press. They’re like the post office—rain, snow, sleet can’t stop them.
“They have their ways,” Paris says darkly before clicking off. I shrug and stuff my phone into my purse. After deliberating for a minute, I pull out a raggedy coat that I’ve held on to for ages. It’s my father’s, and I claimed it when it he died. It’s about three sizes too big for me, so it nicely disguises my figure. I wind a scarf around my head and slip on a pair of enormous sunglasses. Looking into the mirror, I burst into laughter. My own mother wouldn’t recognize me. Grabbing the cake in one hand, I’m out the door. I immediately spot the reporters who barely glance at me as I saunter by. They are not expecting someone who looks like me to be anyone of import. I heave a sigh of relief. I may want to make the front page, but not as a murder suspect.
“Girl, it’s been too long.” Lisa envelops me in a hug, a cloud of Liz Taylor’s perfume wafting in the air. Lisa wears it a bit too thick for my taste, but it suits her. She is tall, for an Asian woman, at five-feet eight inches. She is the proverbial willowy Chinese woman with slender curves, except she’s Korean. Her hair reaches her waist in a thick, blue-black waterfall. If my hair was that lustrous, I’d grow it out again. At twenty-five, she is a beautiful woman, and if she wasn’t a good friend of mine, I’d hate her intensely. Or try to get her into my bed, but sadly for me and the rest of the queer women in the Bay Area, Lisa doesn’t bat for our team. “You’re the last one here. As usual.” There is warmth in her voice as she gently chides me. I am always the last one for whatever reason. “What’s with the getup?” The others swarm out of the living room to greet me before I can answer.
I look at them affectionately as we wander to the living room. I divest myself of my camouflage before taking a seat. For better or worse, these are my girls. There’s Dylan, a short, round dumpling of a woman with thick glasses and a butch cut she maintains herself. She is Chinese American. She is slightly deaf in one ear, so she’s always cocking her head to hear better. She usually has a smile on her face. If she doesn’t, head for cover because when she loses her temper, she blows. She’s also the baby of the group at twenty-two. Cassandra is our elegant one who usually wears her hair on the top of her head. She has Anglo features because her father is British. Her mother is Nisei, but considers herself white. Cassandra’s ‘nearing thirty’, but looks simultaneously younger and older. She rarely smiles, but when she does, the whole world capitulates. Vashti is also multiracial. Her father is Indian while her mother is Korean. Her skin is the most gorgeous shade of brown which is only one or two tones lighter than her eyes. She has a pierced nose and wears saris on occasion. She is the eldest at thirty-three, so she sometimes takes on the ‘mom’ role of the group. As for sexual orientation, Lisa and Cassandra are straight while Dylan and Vashti are dykes. I couldn’t have ordered it up any better if I tried.
“I hear you were at the house where there was a murder last night,” Vashti says in her musical voice. I have had a crush on her for as long as I can remember, but she only dates femme woman which leaves me out. I’m not butch, but I’m definitely not femme. Still, she sometimes gives me a look that makes me wonder if she’s open to a little exploration, but I’m leaving it up to her to make the first move. I’ve been more than obvious about my interest in her, so it’s up to her to reciprocate if she’s so inclined.
I ask Vashti how she knew that I was at Max’s house last night. It turns out that Vashti knows someone in Max’s writing group and has attended a few time. She kept in touch with Max, or rather, Max kept in touch with her. Something about her smile makes me think that she’s slept with Max. If so, there’s no accounting for taste. Max called Vashti for moral support, which is puzzling as they aren’t that close of friends. Lisa is bustling here and there, being a good host. She hands me a rum and coke while accepting the cake from me. I sit next to Vashti who presses her leg against mine. I move away because being in direct contact with her impairs my ability to think, and if I’m going to give the girls a summary of what happened, I need to keep my head about me. Lisa passes a plate filled with food, including my cake, and I take a slice before passing the plate to Vashti.
“I think you were just going to tell us about this murder, yes,” Vashti says, looking at me intensely.
“It’s Max’s girlfriend,” I begin. She interrupts me right away.
“Oh, the beautiful Moira. I know her well.” She and Dylan exchange a glance which I find difficult to read. That irritates me.
“Moira,” Cassandra frowns. “The name sounds familiar. Do I know her?”
Turns out Cassandra had seen Moira at a Shirley Geok-Lin Lim reading, but hadn’t been impressed. Moira had tried to turn the charm on Cassandra to no avail. Cassandra has absolutely no sexual interest in women, which didn’t dissuade Moira from persisting. Lisa is the only one who has never met or heard of Moira and isn’t particularly interested in the details of the murder as she’s too busy playing host. She’s good at it, but she’s beginning to get on my nerves. I wish she would just sit down and relax, but she won’t. It’s her upbringing, and while she’s slowly breaking the habit of being the hostess with the mostest, she still has a ways to go. Cassandra isn’t particularly interested, either, but Dylan and Vashti won’t let it go. They insist that I tell them everything, including the grisly details even as I keep deflecting their questions.
“Not much to say,” I shrug, trying to forget how she looked. “She was trussed up like a pig with a gag in her mouth. It looked like a sex game gone wrong, but she was shot in the chest.”
Vashti insists I’m wrong about Moira being tied up. Says Moira wasn’t into rough sex so if she was tied up, then it had to be against her will. I refrain from mentioning that perhaps Vashti doesn’t know Moira as well as she thinks she does because I have a feeling that Vashti would not want to hear that. I let it slide, but I’m sure that I remember someone at the party say something about Moira liking it rough. I frown. Damn! I forgot to tell the inspector about it, and she’s probably going to be pissed when I do bring it up. I shake my head to bring myself back to the present and the chattering girls. They are peppering me with questions I don’t know the answer to/don’t want to answer. Vashti keeps on insisting that Moira would never give up control by allowing herself to be tied to her bed, but no one is really listening to her. Cassandra is trying to change the subject while Dylan is bouncing around, stoked to be talking about an actual murder. Lisa is making her umpteenth trip to the kitchen to fetch more snacks. Just another typical gathering for us.
Dylan maintains it’s the coolest thing to happen to her except for the time she got to kiss k.d. lang on the cheek, which gets us on the subject of kissing which sets Cassandra off because she just caught her boyfriend, the hunky Joshua Hsu in bed with his secretary a few nights ago. It’s hard to tell what mortifies her more—the fact that he was cheating on her or the lack of creativity he displayed by having such a stereotypical affair. I think the latter offends her more than the actual act of adultery itself because Cassandra cannot abide commonness. Her face turns red as she regales how she went over to his apartment uninvited to surprise him. We groan sympathetically because we all know that no good can come out of that. She found him in bed with his secretary and went ape-shit. She started throwing his favorite CDs, books, and clothes out the window, thankful he lived on the fourth floor. His lover’s clothes weren’t spared, either. Joshua is a Camus freak and has several first editions which Cassandra tossed as well.
“Remind me never to make you mad,” Dylan breathes, her eyes round in admiration.
Cassandra didn’t stop there. She pulled all his Bruno Magli shoes from his closet and out they went as well. We got a hearty laugh out of that because we know what a shoe whore Joshua is. Boy loved himself some shoes, yes he did, and that probably was more painful than losing the first-editions. He raced outside in his boxers to grab his shoes, leaving Cassandra alone with the cupcake. Cassandra realized that the woman had no idea that Joshua had a girlfriend and spared the humiliated woman further indignities. Instead, Cassandra continued flinging Joshua’s things out the window, willy-nilly. An autographed Bonds ball from before his head exploded; a Rolex watch; his portable CD player. Anything of any value went right out the window. By this time, the cupcake was helping out. When Joshua came back with his arms laden with his possessions, he hadn’t even bothered to pick up his new lover’s clothes. Jerk. Cassandra’s face is infused with blood as she recounts the drama, though she keeps her tone neutral. It reminds me how volatile a lover scorned can be.
“I’m telling you, if I weren’t so beneath me, I might have done bodily harm to the boy,” Cassandra sniffs, her mouth hardening. She’s living proof that even the most aloof person can be moved by passion.
Dylan returns to the murder. By now, I am heartily sick and tired of talking about it, but she refuses to let me change the subject. Cassandra is also bored by it, I can tell, but Lisa and Vashti don’t seem to mind. Vashti keeps insisting that Max is the killer because of her jealousy. I attest to the fact that Max is, indeed, a jealous woman but that doesn’t necessarily make her a killer. Lisa wonders if Vashti knows more than she’s telling. While she acts ditzy sometimes, Lisa is a lawyer and doesn’t miss much. Vashti squirms as she disavows any special knowledge, but I notice that she’s not quite able to meet Lisa’s eyes. After Lisa presses her, Vashti admits that Max told her, ‘I think I know who the killer is,’ but wouldn’t give Vashti a name. Max did mention that it was a man, though. After telling us this information, Vashti clams up and refuses to say another word. I wonder what Vashti’s hiding, but decide that it’s better to question her about it one-on-one rather than in front of the group.
“I wonder if it’s Emil,” I say out loud, then immediately regret it as they all turn towards me.
“Who’s Emil?” Cassandra gives me the fish-eye, as if she suspects that I am making this up.
“Nobody,” I shake my head, backpedaling. “Just someone I talked to at the party.”
“Hey, come on! No fair holding out on us.” Dylan leans forward, an avid gleam in her eyes. “You need to share fair and square.”
No matter how much she presses me, though, I don’t say another word about Emil. Bad enough that I mentioned him to the cops, but I’m not going to keep bringing him up every time someone wants to talk about the murders. Then I wonder if there’s a reason I can’t stop mentioning his name. Perhaps there’s something in my subconscious prodding me towards him. I try to remember our conversation, but it’s difficult. I know that he had displayed an unusual amount of animosity towards Moira, but so did others at the party. So why is Emil lingering in my thoughts? It might have something to do with the virulent look in his eyes as he mentioned Moira, or the vehemence in his tone when talking about her. Obviously, it’s not about a soured love affair as she was a lesbian, but perhaps he knows of someone who was involved with the Typhoid Mary of relationships. As my mind is wandering, Dylan is talking about the open mike she’s hosting next week. The gathering peters out, and we’re out the door by ten.
I am dead tired from not sleeping much the night before and would have loved to go straight to bed, but Paris is in a snit when I get home. He doesn’t like me hanging with the girls for reasons I can never quite discern and snipes about them after each gathering. At first, I thought it was sweet that he was jealous, but it quickly grew tiresome. Tonight, he is extra-bitchy and I’m extra-tired, which leads to an all-out fight. I accuse him of being selfish and wanting to keep me to himself, of being as bad as an abusive lover. He accuses me of ditching him for the girls and of being a fair-weathered friend. That is so patently ridiculous, I don’t bother dignifying it with a response. I point out that he has his queer guys’ group, which he counters by saying he only goes there to score tricks. We go round and round, our argument growing increasingly acrimonious until I finally drag it out of him that he’s afraid I’ll ditch him as my best friend. The idea is so stupendously idiotic, that I’m literally breathless. After a minute, we both see how stupid we’re both being and burst into laughter which leads to tears. Once the emotions are drained from us, we hug tearfully and head to our separate bedrooms. It’s been a long weekend, and we both can do with a good night’s sleep.