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Dear Jane

Dear Jane, Part Ten:

The Show's Not Over...

by Dan Mullen
art by Julia Keel

Our Heroes:

Vic: the hunky FTM security guard, is volunteering for the Queer Central benefit and waiting for...

Barbara: janitor by night, poet by day, who is performing poetry at the benefit and thinking about the object of her love...

Erika: who is oblivious to Barbara's desire and happy to be in the spotlight with her date...

Ray: a journalist who is rapidly becoming part of the benefit he's covering, along with Erika and her ex-girlfriend...

Jane: decidedly not over Erika, who has decided to vent some more to her ex-girlfriend...

Valerie: Ray's editor at Queer Central and Vic's former lover, who is about to get an earful of gossip.

Erika watched in horror as the act stumbled and Ray stayed down under the boot of the Scottish guitarist. Ray hasn't gotten up yet. Is he okay?

"Dammit!" someone said near her, and she noticed someone fighting their way through the crowd to her side. Why do I have a really bad feeling, like I know that voice...oh no!

It was Jane, bent on a course of destruction, pushing two or three big leather-bears out of her way and heading toward Erika like a vengeful missile.

* * *

"That's it! Bow before the master Scotsman and his weapon! I've got a two-hander here," Ian McMacManus declared broadly, brandishing his oversized strap-on to the crowd's cheers.

Vic watched the scene on stage with a little amusement and a bit of worry. It looked like Ian and Ray were handling the crowd fine, although the slip-up did seem to create a problem. Ian was obviously improvising to cover for.... Vic looked at Ray's face, and while admiring it, realized that a little pain was registered there. Ray must have hurt himself. I thought that fall looked a little too genuine. Time to step in.

Jumping out from behind the curtain, Vic yelled, "I can take it all!"

"Prrrove it, burly man!" Ian roared, and as he turned away from the crowd, winked gratefully at Vic. "This bi-boy canna handle the likes of Excalibur... but you'll do! Down on yer knees and go down, me lad!"

Vic obediently knelt before the strap-on, feigned a little hesitation for the crowd, and let Ian's big guitarist's hand yank his head into position. If this is what I have to do to cover, I should do it more often, he thought, working the big pastel dildo down his throat to a chord progression from the band, Ian's groan, and a rising cheer from the drunken crowds.

Out of the corner of his eye Vic could see Ray crawling offstage carefully. I hope he's okay; I'd rather be sucking on him than Ian's mint-flavored monster. We need to talk... and hopefully more...

* * *

"So, what, women aren't good enough for you any more? Or do you have to have one of each?" Jane hissed, low enough to carry under the crowd noise and whatever Scottish drivel the guitarist was still bellowing.

"Jane, this isn't the time or place for us to fight," Erika pleaded.

"Of course not. Between your girl at the office and the boy here you have no time at all. Fine!" Jane screeched, dashing away a histrionic tear, and stomped off toward the stairs.

Erika sighed. Jeez, she's drunk. I really didn't need that on top of everything else. Where's Ray? She stopped to stare for a moment as Vic deep-throated the dildo. Wow, he's pretty good. Oh, there's Ray, offstage. I'd better fight my way over there and see if he's okay... And I hope Jane's okay. I don't want to deal with her manipulation and screaming fits and emotional abuse... but I do still kind of care about her. I hope she's calling a cab.

* * *

Illustration: Erika comforts RayValerie was relaxing upstairs in the "schmoozing lounge." This was her personal slice of relaxation for a few days of good work. She had hooked up her newest reporter with one her favorite ex-girlfriends (if that was really the right term to use... she still thought of Vickie as her ex-girlfriend, but Vic just wasn't a girl any more). And she'd gotten Ray into one of the hottest benefits for gossip. Hopefully he'd turn up a juicy tidbit or two, but they still had to brainstorm a name for the columnist. But she didn't want to think about work; she wanted to enjoy herself.

The Goddess intervened, in the form of an ex-girlfriend.

"Val? Oh my god, I'm having the worst night!" Jane's voice was cracking a bit as she staggered into the table.

"Honey, what's wrong? Another girl leave you at the CoCo Club for some lipstick baby dyke?" Valerie tried to keep the comment light, but knew that Jane was a little bit more upset then usual.

"No. If it was just that I'd get over it. It's my ex-girlfriend Erika." Jane sniffled a bit and then continued, "It's not just that she's dating again so soon, but that's she's dating a man! And I'm pretty sure she's dating a woman too. She's just being a hussy all over the place. She wonders why I get so jealous? Maybe it's because she can't commit!"

"Jane, why don't you calm down. It might just be you can't handle polyamory. I know you and I have talked this issue to death already." Valerie winced at remembering some of the conversations about this at the end of their relationship. "Why don't you tell me what happened and where you saw her and get it all out of your system?" Valerie knew this was the best way to get Jane calm.

"Well, I was downstairs watching the band, and I saw Erika there with this guy..."

As Valerie listened her eyes started to widen. Jane wasn't describing just a random boy... she was describing Ray! I hooked him up with Vic! What's he doing dating women? "And you're saying he was on the stage?" she demanded. That's no way to get gossip! I'll have a talk with him at work on Monday, that's for damn sure.

* * *

Erika shoved her way through the masses to the side of the stage where she'd seen Ray crawl off. The bouncer fortunately recognized her and let her past the curtains.

Ray was propped against a couple of prop crates. Erika ran to his side. "Are you all right? Do you need a doctor?"

Ray looked rueful, and let Erika help him sit up a little better. "I think I'm okay. My back went out, but I'll be able to walk home soon. And my head is sore from having a combat boot on it. But I think the most injured part is my pride," he tried to laugh.

"Pride isn't covered by insurance, but heals easier. Anyway, you were cute even in your clumsiness." She kissed him gently on the cheek, hoping this minor fiasco wouldn't turn into a major funk for him.

"Thanks. Unfortunately cute doesn't engender getting gossip. I need to be sparkling," Ray sighed, and groaned as he tried to sit up more. I don't feel sparkling. I feel pretty shagged. And the night's only at the intermission...

Erika straightened his hair as best she could. "You did fine. Pull yourself together, and you'll be sparkling again. I think so, and I'll bet Vic does too."

Oh my god! Does she know what happened between me and Vic? Ray's mind flashed through the possibilities. I need to talk with her, tonight. "Um... I don't think so. It might just be good for us to leave. I can tell Valerie that I threw my back out, and maybe I can get Vic to give me some dirt and some phone numbers for follow-up interviews..."

"Fine by me," Erika agreed. "Let's call a cab and get out of here. I just had a run-in with my ex while you were under the boot, and my party mood's kind of gone."

* * *

Barbara had been trying to find some quiet time in the backstage bathroom. She had butterflies -- no, make it octopuses -- in her stomach. She'd done a few readings, but never erotica. She straightened her hair and her dress one last time and stepped out. The distant thunder of that weird Scottish punk comedy band was still droning; Barbara'd be on after Vic emceed them past the intermission and the call for donations. Following a band was going to be really rough...

She walked up the side of the backstage area and saw Erika sitting there with Ray, and her octopuses writhed. And there's the woman I wrote half this erotica for. With a man.

Erika saw her. "Barbara! Wow, you look great! Are you actually performing tonight?"

"I, yeah, I'm doing a reading. Vic needed a last-minute replacement," Barbara stuttered self-consciously.

"Well, you'll do fine. You can't do any worse than I did," Ray said from where he was still propped on the boxes.

"You were onstage?" Barbara demanded in confusion.

"I threw my back out slipping in a beer puddle when I was supposed to be the plant for the McMacManuses," Ray grinned weakly. "Vic had to go down... I mean, go in... well, both, really, and cover for me."

Barbara managed to smile a little. "I'm sorry to hear that. But you're right. I can't do any worse than that. I hope.

Um, were you leaving?" she asked, noticing Erika's armful of coats.

Erika looked at Ray. "I was just about to call a cab. But... Ray, do you mind staying a little longer? I'd really like to hear Barbara read."

Barbara's heart flared like a Roman candle.

Ray grinned. "Sure. We can just flag a cab on Valencia -- it won't take long."

Erika smiled at Barbara, and Barbara thought she might faint.

From on the stage, Vic had been reading the please-give spiel off to the crowds, who had calmed down a little; now his microphoned voice was saying "Our next act..."

"Oh, god, that's me," Barbara realized, clutching her papers nervously.

Erika gave her a quick, impulsive hug. "Break a leg! You'll do great, I'm sure." And Erika shoved her up the stairs as Vic was announcing her name.

* * *

Vic smiled at Barbara as they crossed paths on the stage. God, I hope nobody else falls in the beer. I can't exactly bring a mop out between acts... ah, why the hell not? he realized. That puddle's a safety hazard if I ever saw one. As he went offstage, he saw the spark in the speakers, and groaned.

Barbara stepped up to the microphone and took a deep breath...

And there was a nasty zapping sound, and the spotlight, and all the lights in the place, went dark.

Dan Mullen is a business manager, not a writer, works for two non-profits, has two lovers, and hopes to see two plot twists in the next installment.

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