I wanted to ask 'Oh, high schools?' but I knew that her answering that question, or even acknowledging that I'd asked it, would probably land both of us in more hot water than I needed. So I kept my mouth shut.
She claimed she enjoyed meeting people all the time, but I got the impression that that was part of the costume, somehow. Maybe it was the way she looked at me, or something, but I had a hard time believing it. The rest of it I could check if I felt that interested.
She was currently single, and had never been married or engaged. Nor did she have children. That implied either a bit of foresight on her part, or enough cash to have abortions when necessary. Either way, I took it as a positive sign; I could explain the reasoning but it gets kind of complex, and I can't prove most of it.
When (if) she went to college, she wanted to major in teaching, she said, and I almost laughed at her - YOU? She'd be kidnapped by the football team and never seen again - but then she added that she wanted to teach first graders, and I could see that. I still had a certain sort of crush or something on my kindergarten teacher, and when I was that young and stupid I liked looking at the prettier women. Before I learned what being good-looking tended to do to others' personality. Luckily, I didn't have that problem. Heh.
And then we were there, wherever 'there' was at the moment. The bodyguards got out first, and I wondered if it was a serious thing - I mean, was it more than just thousands of wanking dorks with delusions of eternal romance that fed the paranoia that paid these two bruisers? Like, an ex-boyfriend sniper who went AWOL? Or a pissed-off Mob capo? - and they eventually waved us out of the limo. I tried going first, and nobody laughed - or shot at me - so I guess I did it gracefully enough. I turned to help Angelica out, but she ignored my hand as she made it out.
A camera flashed, and I almost jumped. Angelica's smile turned on for the camera, and she took my hand as she troped towards it. I have a negative tropism that way, but... I sighed, internally, and tried to put on a social smile for the *#@$ lenses.
There were only a few more flashes, and then we were... walking into the lobby of the Four Seasons. Oooh, plush. I didn't think they'd let me in; I thought they had credit detectors installed in the door frames. Or maybe Angelica jammed the credit sensors, I dunno.
I was going to offer her my elbow, and do the gallant thing, but it didn't look like she was interested, so I sighed and did my best to keep up with her. She looked nice, if a bit under-clothed, because the white dress was not only strapless, it had a low back to it too. I wasn't the only one that appreciated it as we walked through the lobby. Some guy met us at the door to the ballroom, and I instantly wanted to knife him, so I figured he was from the magazine. He was; some kind of marketing department luser who was there to make sure that everything went according to marketing specs and that she appeared maximally attractive to the correct demographics, et cetera.
Lookers as a movie was more accurate than I wanted life to be, really.
It also explained why I instantly wanted to kill him. I hate marketing whores. I hate them worse than I hate corporate lawyers, and that's saying something.
I restrained myself - aaaagain - and he led both of us inside and started showing us around. He already knew about me, at least the radio station contest part, and so I didn't really have to say anything at all. I had no idea what was going on, except the guys were relatively young, and mostly quiet and bug-eyed. Then again, I was next to Miss April or whatever-she-was. This seemed to impress them a lot. Eventually, they'd look at me, and a large percentage of them had a little frown, I guess as they tried to figure out what _I_ was doing next to HER. Then the marketing whore would introduce me - as Emily, which I didn't bother to correct - and explain things, and their faces would clear up.
We ended up in a corner somewhere, with Angelica signing things and both of us drinking champagne. Woo ha. And the people coming up for the signing and conversation with 'THE Miss April' (or whatever month she was) were about the same level of mentation as my usual callers at work, except the boobs on display made them make references that I didn't usually hear at work.
STUPID references, which was the real crime. 'Is this your girlfriend?' was the most common, followed by 'Are those real?' and other stupidities. I could have been getting paid for this kind of torture....
I was drinking as fast as I could get refills, hoping to pass out before I completely lost it, but I didn't make it. Some big balding dork - you could tell he was a dork because he was combing strands of hair over his bald spot - looked at her and looked at me and laughed and said, "Too bad you're not dating a real man!" I was starting to hyperventilate at this point, with my arms folded in front of my breasts, not coincidentally allowing me to feel the knives that were sheathed under my arms, and it was taking most of my concentration to keep my teeth un-bared.
"Oh?" Angelica said, with that plastic smile on her face. "Why is that?"
"'Cause a pretty thing like her," he indicated me, "couldn't possibly protect you from all them-"
It was probably the combination of 'pretty' and 'thing' that set me off and started me growling, and the guy looked at me like he was hearing things. Then he got this dumbass smile on his face, and I just KNEW he was going to say something incredibly stupid and white male-ish and then I would berserk in the grand tradition of my ancestors and kill everyone I could catch, and THEN I figured, Why wait? So-
Someone grabbed me by the hair from behind as I started to lunge, and I turned around to find Angelica smiling at me.
"Ellen," Angelica said gently, which surprised me. "If you're that hungry, let's go get something to eat."
This reset my brain entirely. For several reasons.
One, it was FUNNY.
Two, Angelica had said something WITTY. Implying a totally unexpected brain behind the makeup.
Three, she was paying attention enough to remember my real first name, even though no one had mentioned it in a long time. I was beginning to think I WAS Emily.
Fourth.... I was kind of hungry.
And fifth, that WAS what I'd had in mind when I talked to her and the DJ on the phone.
And sixth, there WERE things I'd rather be doing than mass murder.
"GO home!" I hissed at the dork, and let go of my knives before I turned around to Angelica. This time, when I offered her my arm, she took it.
I booked out of there as fast as I could walk, and Angelica was with me every step of the way. The marketing whore got in front of me and started to say something, but he realized JUST in time that I wasn't going to stop for something of mere flesh - in fact, I was planning to knee him, hopefully in the groin, and then kick him before I helped Miss Angelica over his prostrate body - and dodged sideways. 'Wubba wubba wub bub wubber?' came from the rear side, like a Charlie Brown cartoon, but Angelica gave my arm a little squeeze, like 'You go girl!'
I ignored the camera flashes, because if I'd paid attention I'd have chased their asses down for meat too.
The bodyguards fell in behind us as we exited the ballroom, and when we got outside, a minivan sort of taxi was right outside. I said, "Thank you Goddess," for the luck, and went right up to the driver. "Hey, you available?"
"Yep," he said, and grinned. Unlike New York, we have native-English speaking cabbies, since this is a college town.
"Great, you know where [pizza place] is?"
"Oh yeah," he said, still smiling.
Behind us, I heard 'wub wub Wub WUB' and it was getting closer.
"Great, take us there and get us the hell away from the marketing department," I ordered, and we got in quick, made room for the bodyguards, and off we went before any of the zombies could catch us.
The guards were trying hard not to grin. "Did you say 'goddess' back there?" Angelica asked.
"Ah, yeah," I admitted. "It's sort of reflexive Wiccan paganism, helps keeps the Baptists away."
She laughed, and it wasn't a plastic laugh, it was like a real human did it.
"Which marketing department?" the cabbie asked.
Angelica and I looked at each other, and her eyes were flashing in between alive and dead again. I don't know how to describe it.
But I knew that I had a choice, right then; I could go out with Angelica Dawson, Plaything and nude model, who likes meeting people and long romantic walks and the rest of the official bio.... or I could go out with the young woman who was somewhere under the mask. Whoever she was.
Not much of a choice, at least for me.
I leaned forward and said, in a calm voice but loud enough to be heard, "If I told you, I'd rip your head off and eat your brain, I am so pissed right now. But please, don't take it personally; I'm just completely @&$&*ing sick of the marketing whores."
Apparently he'd never heard the phrase before, because he started to laugh, and almost ran into another car before he got control back.
"No $&*," Angelica sighed, and - no lie! - reached up and took off her HAIR.
"&@$@$!" I commented as she scratched her real hair - blonde, but darker, and a WHOLE lot shorter - because like I mentioned, I don't startle real gracefully. "I thought that was your real hair!"
She snorted - actually snorted - and grinned. "Nope!"
And we both chorused, "It was a marketing idea!" And laughed, and laughed... a cell phone rang, and one of the guards reached into his pocket, pulled it out and turned it off and stuck it back in his pocket. And smiled.
I was woozed from champagne absorption by the time we got to the pizza place, so I was glad I wasn't driving. Before we got out, I made Katy - she'd told me 'Angelica' wasn't her real name in the limo, but she hadn't told me what her real name was until she took her hair off in the taxi - take my jacket so's to lower her profile even more. It looked good on her, which was no surprise, just irritating. I knew that everything would look good on her. My knives - those two - weren't visible even if I lifted my arms, which was exactly how I'd planned it, of course.
My profile was already altered beyond recognition, since she'd taken the wig she'd been wearing and arranged it on MY head. It didn't look THAT bad, but I didn't like being a blonde, and I didn't look that good either.
The guards decided that since I was armed better than they were - no lie! - that I'd be suitable protection, and just to make it 'official' she told them that they could go home and take the rest of the night off. They waved as they climbed back into the cab - the driver of which had received an unhealthy tip, but I was extremely grateful he hadn't stopped for the suits and ties behind us, and I wanted to reward and reinforce that behavior. You know, Skinner.
And there we were. Me and Katy.
"Um," I started.
After a few more moments, we both chuckled. "Is this good pizza?" she asked.
"I think so, but I've never been to New York to have New York-style, or Chicago to have Chicago-style... and I like their salads." I shrugged. I did like the greenery, along with the heaps of cheese and greasy meat, yumm...
"You're not just gonna have a salad, are you?" she asked, sounding a bit worried.
"Oh hell no," I assured her.
She laughed, and said, "I thought I'd have to stick to salads too."
"Why would you have to do that?"
She gave me a curious look. "Because it wouldn't be polite?" she said gently, like she was reminding me of something.
"Oh, one of those," I said, and grinned at her. "I don't like polite. With me, just pretend like you're alone, or with your best friend, and if I don't like something I swear I'll tell you. If you think you have to be polite all night long, you'll make me nervous." And I tended to sweat when I got nervous, which I didn't mention. "Please?"
"I can be pretty rude," she said in a warning tone.
I belched at her.
Paint me blue if she didn't come back almost instantly with one of her own.
"I LIKE you!" I shouted happily, and she laughed, and I took her arm, and we went in.
She wanted to order two pizzas, but I told her that even I had never managed to eat more than three pieces of a large, and that was without salad. Which they made in bowls for us, and we ordered a large WithEverything, and we sat at a table and ate.
Once I got her away from the management whores and her image and all that, she was a hoot. She really did want to be a teacher, and that was her real voice, but it seemed somehow less annoying with the shorter hair. Don't ask me why. And she had the NASTIEST stories to tell about other people in the business. I almost blew Coke out my nose, and that is NOT an easy thing to get me to do. She was as bad as my gay friends when drunk.
And I thought she was pretty drunk, because I was sure I was. I hoped all the stories about champagne hangovers were lies, because I was most likely going to have one tomorrow morning. Ugh.
Pizza arrived before I could get too depressed, though. So did a bottle of champagne. "?" I said, trying to get my mouth to work as a communicator again. It had started salivating in preparation already.
"Oh," she said, and smiled a real smile at me. "I asked one of the drivers if he'd pick up a bottle for us on his way out." She made a face, and added, "Mixing champagne and anything else is a surefire way to get a deadly hangover tomorrow morning."
"," I said, and then shrugged. I'd heard that too, and I really had no idea to make things any worse. I decided I'd leave the carousing plans up to the expert; she had to know more about such things than I did. "Great idea," I finally managed to get out of my mouth, and I smiled back at her.
I had a roll of quarters that had been destined for the laundry machine, and somehow it had made the purse-to-purse transfer earlier. Katy saw it when I paid my share of the champagne bill, and she insisted until we got up and spent half of it in the jukebox the place had. Her music tastes were a lot closer than I had imagined they would be, too. We both had a liking for real boot-stomping, headbusting music, like old rock and punk and industrial. She said she liked to dance to it, which I guess you could say I did too. I also liked to swordfight to it, but I didn't mention that. Not right then, anyway.
We drank a lot of the champagne, maybe the entire bottle. I'm getting kind of vague because memory gets kind of vague after the music part of the conversation.
I remember drinking a bit of champagne out of one of our shoes, and thinking how nasty all the foot sweat made it taste.
I think we eventually ate all the pizza.
I vaguely recall doing a table dance for the cooks, but I think that was after the place closed. I remember her hooting at me as I did it, and I think it was her hand that stuffed a twenty into my cleavage. But I wouldn't swear to that.
I do not remember jail or cops, which is a GOOD thing.
I vaguely recall shaking my head violently in reply to a question, and then watching as the wig sailed off, into the chair next to me, and then the wig just sitting there, like it was a guest at a dinner party. I laughed so hard I almost wet myself. So did everyone else in the place.
I also have a vague memory of someone - maybe me, maybe someone else - trying to hurl the empty champagne bottle for a distance record, and watching it shatter in the empty street quite a ways away. And applause, but I don't think it was for me.
I remember hoisting her up and on my shoulder. I think it was to prove that I could, but it might have been time to go home.
I also remember feeling so clever that some of my OTC drugs had made the purse transfer too, that I had to show AND tell everyone how clever I was being by having them, because I could drink a lot of water and take aspirin before I went to sleep, and then maybe just wake up ill instead of zombiefied.
That's pretty much where reliable memory restarts; me waking up feeling ill instead of feeling like an animated corpse. An animated abused corpse, the one Igor dropped on the bottom of the cart.
I detected a bathroom through the fog and haze that were my contact lenses when not taken out and cleaned, and in that bathroom there had to be a toilet. I rooted around by passive sonar and touch and found the toilet seat eventually. I hoped that it was attached to a toilet in the usual way, but I REALLY had to go, so I 'consciously' decided to worry about it later. My feet didn't get wet, so I guess it was.
When I got done, I unwrapped a little plastic cup and drank cup after cup of cold tap water. I stopped when I felt full, which made me feel a bit better, before I staggered back to the bed.
There was a warm breathing body in the bed - I could tell this without trying to see, which was good because trying to see hurt - so I snuggled up to it and went back to sleep.
I'm particular about who I have sex with, but I'll sleep with almost anyone.
"Ellen?" someone asked, and it seemed like it wasn't for the first time. I felt a hand shaking my shoulder lightly. "Ellen?"
"Nugh!" I said back, and rolled over. This shows that I was not unduly tormented by a hangover. Anyone who's lived with me could tell you that if I don't feel well, that they're lucky to walk away from an awakening attempt with only a bruise. I've tried to kick people in their throat before, when I felt really bad and they tried to wake me up.
"Ellllllennnn?" whoever it was complained, and it bothered me that I didn't recognize the voice. Had I gotten a new roommate that I wasn't remembering? And, of course, once you start wondering things like this, your brain wakes up and you are awake. A tragedy, but one that is repeated every day; sometimes more often.
"Nggg rng yugh," I said, more in the hopes of getting whoever it was to leave me alone, than any real attempt at communication. I rolled over and opened my eyes, then rubbed and scraped them until I could make out the person trying to wake me up. It was the girl from last night, the dancer. "Oh, hi," I said, and smiled. She looked mostly naked.
I looked down, and I looked mostly naked too.
Before prudence could stop me, I asked, "Did we have sex last night?" This is one of those rude questions you are just Not Supposed To Ask Ever. Naturally, it's about the second intelligible thing out of my mouth.
Luckily, she thought it was sort of funny. "I was going to ask you that!" she complained while she was giggling.
Also luckily, I remembered her name while she was giggling. I'm usually horrible with names, but I also usually don't end up in bed with someone I just met. Katy, I thought with relief. Now I didn't have to ask, "Uh, what's your name again?" That's another thing you're Not Supposed To Ask Ever, if you just woke up in bed with them.
I was so relieved about the one question that I forgot manners entirely when I remembered the other one, the one she'd actually asked. "Uh. I don't remember," I said truthfully, and stuck my hand in my underwear. "No, don't think we did, I don't feel sticky or anything."
She laughed and laughed and pointed at me and laughed and fell off the bed and complained about how that had hurt. I stared at the ceiling, absent of all thought.
This proves that Buddha was a liar; if Nirvana was achievable simply by emptying one's self of all passions, then I would have ascended that morning. I was a completely blank slate for a time.
My transcendental state of lump was cut short when some Wet fell on me. "Uh?" I complained as I sat up, and there she was, wrapped in a tiny towel and smiling at me.
"Want to take a shower?" she asked.
Instead of trying to talk, I just nodded, and let her lead me into a bathroom. It was a hotel bathroom, which of course wasn't MY bathroom, which led to the inescapable conclusion that we had ended up at her place last night. Or this morning, whatever.
*Well, not necessarily,* said the paranoia generator. *Maybe this is someone else's room.* *Yeah right,* Occam's Axe said - other people use Occam's Razor, but mine tends to end up like an axe - and I resolved to Wait And See, which I usually had to when these sort of internal conflicts arise. More data, Captain.
She had a couple of towels left, but they were little bitty things, barely big enough for me to use as hand towels. It was irritating, but I did what I could with the three of them and then opened the door. "Hello?" I called out.
"Hi," she said back, and I opened the door enough to see her, wrapped in a robe. "I ordered some breakfast, you like eggs right?" I like most everything if it's dead and cooked, so I nodded and smiled at her as I made my way to the bed and pulled the sheet off and wrapped myself in it, shedding the towels in the process.
We had a very sensual - and non-sexual, sorry - morning, involving a lot of touching and kissing and caressing, but nothing two girls couldn't have done in public. If you had brass balls, of course. But, nothing really sexual. I don't know if she wanted me to take the lead or something and I'd missed a cue, but I was just really really happy to be with her and next to her this morning. So I touched her a lot, and rubbed her shoulders and kissed them and trickled my fingers down her back and cupped her breasts and stroked her hair and face, and she did all that back to me, and it was really nice.
Finally, though, her phone rang and she had stuff to do and I had stuff to do and so I had to get dressed in last night's remnants while she called me a cab and we said goodbye and then she walked me down to the lobby where the cab was waiting and then we said goodbye again.
I couldn't stand not to, so I put my arms around her and gave her a kiss, and she returned it with interest, but then the cab was there, and I hate long goodbyes, so I left.
We waved to each other until I was out of sight.
I remembered to take the cab back to my car, which was still there, and then I drove home by myself, and crawled into bed. Maggie was there and asked me how it went and I said Unexpectedly Great and I'll Tell You Later and then I was in my bed and unconscious.
The fact that I had forgotten to have pictures taken was not lost on my pervert coworkers, who called me all sorts of names denigrating my intellect and sense for a long time afterward. I suppose I deserved them, but they did get tiresome after the first two hours.
About five in the morning, we were talking about cars, and someone casually mentioned that they'd seen someone's headlights on earlier but they didn't know whose car it was, and now they thought it might be my car. I left my headlights on about quarterly, so I cursed them and went outside to see if it was true. My headlights weren't on when I opened the building door, which was perfectly predictable no matter what. I was cursing and fumbling with my keys when a car horn got my attention. I looked up, and it was a white limousine.
Before I could do more than stop and make a really stupid face, she popped out of the back, wearing her Angelica hair and nosebleed heels and a crop top and cutoffs that left nothing to either imagination OR padding. "Ellen!" she squealed and ran over to me and hugged me. "Can I see where you work?" she asked, and winked at me where no one else could see it.
So I brought her in and introduced her as Angelica a friend of mine, and after the applause, the perverts gave me looks like 'you brought her HERE?!' and all I could do was shrug and announce that it wasn't my idea. One of the perverts - every group has a weirdo, and ours was simply without any social graces at all; I kind of liked him because there was no dishonesty in the man at all, even if he was a bonehead - reached out his hand to grab I-don't-know-what and she slapped his hand back into his stomach before any of us could blink. That got her another round of applause, and she curtsied for it too. I introduced her around on the mundane side too, and you could see a couple of the guys recognized her but were too chicken to say anything. I know she got a kick out of that; she kept poking me and pointing subtly at those particular guys.
And then we were out at the limo, which she dismissed again, and then we were in my car and she was asking me if I knew a good place for breakfast . . .
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