Vinny called me in the office to let me know what was going on. On early Sunday morning, a strike force would be paying a visit to Edgar Sanderson at his home. Two cars, six soldiers, all in body armor under their suits. "We figure if this mook's first impression is that we're Feds, all the better. Then we tell him, 'We ain't the Feds, but you wish we were.' We'll squeeze him for what he can tell us, and make it clear that any plans his buddies have for Becky Page are off the fuckin' table, she's being watched over very closely. We'll be at his door at seven in the morning, stay for a few hours, and be back in San Diego by noon. Is it all right if we use the mansion to bivouac?"
"Works for me," I answered. "Come on, Vinny, you own the damn place, you don't need my permission."
"Let your security guy know there's gonna be some stray vehicles parked out front, and a bunch of wop criminals will be showing up later. I'll be around, too, but I ain't doing the maneuver with the force."
"Are they going to tell Mr. Sanderson who they are?"
"Maybe," grinned Vinny. "It will certainly be alluded to."
We all sat around until two in the morning, talking. DeNiro told stories about behind-the-scenes stuff from some of his movies. His most recent, "Cape Fear," co-starred Nick Nolte, and Bobby assured us that if Nolte seemed to be mentally unstable in a role, it wasn't too big of a stretch, he really is a bit psycho. Bobby was entertained by our tales of the action on the HA Labor Day run. Talk turned back to Terry's monster putt, and she offered to take Bobby for a quick spin on it, him being double-packed. He accepted. They were back fifteen minutes later. Shedding my leather jacket, Bobby looked pretty damn rattled. "Mother of Christ! How can anything that fast be legal? Terry kept it fairly calm until we hit the freeway, and then.... Jesus! We were passing everything so fast, I couldn't even tell what kinds of cars they were! Then, she got off someplace called Sorrento Valley, so she could show me the zero-to-sixty time. I think I left dents in the hand-hold, trying to not fly off!"
"Hey, I got that sissy bar back there for a fuckin' reason," chuckled Terry. "You wouldn't have gone anywhere."
"I been on a Ducati before," said Bobby. "I was even the one at the controls, and I was in the mood to see what it could do. You're right, girl, yours is quicker, even with all that weight. How the hell did you pull that off? How did you get a Harley Davidson to act like that?"
Terry began an litany of specs, explaining that Eddie (the name of the putt) was originally a 1985 Air Glide. The engine had been bored, new pistons, hot plugs, custom injectors, different gearing, the frame weight cut down, and on and on. "I sent a few fuckin' pictures of it to the Navy dude I'd bought it from originally, and he didn't believe it was the same machine. And I realized, he's kinda right. It sure ain't no fuckin Air Glide no more."
In the morning, I called Mike in El Centro to tell him we'd be out around one on Saturday. If he wanted to have Cheryl, Biff, and Roxanne,stop by to say hi, that was fine with us. In fact, we'd be bringing a bonus celebrity, one his parents would certainly enjoy meeting. "Who? Who?" It's a surprise, but you'll recognize him too.
We did a bit of vehicle-shuttling Saturday morning, moving DeNiro's BMW to the mansion, into the garage. I gave him a quick tour, explaining that Saturday was the one day of the week with no activity. He asked if I was still willing to allow him to watch us work, and if so, would he be imposing if he stayed over one more night? Fine with me, I told him. I did give a caveat: if he was someone who really enjoyed porn, watching it being made might ruin it for him. What happens on a sound stage and what shows up on screen are very different things, he'd see just what a technical job performance really was. "I'm not worried," he told me. "All the sex I've ever had in my life hasn't been nothing like what's in porn, and I'm actually kinda happy about that. Porn don't do too much for me at my age."
The vehicle du jour was the Fleetwood. Room for everybody, powerful AC, quiet, very comfortable. Bekka and I explained about the modifications done to it, like the bulletproof glass, armored body panels, hot motor, and dual exhaust. He asked how I'd had this done, and I explained that what hadn't been done at the factory was accomplished by Rico Carelli of Carelli Cadillac of Anaheim. He was another made man, so he got me the car I wanted. On Interstate 8 just outside of El Cajon, I turned on the cruse control and relaxed, keeping the speedometer at seventy, my only input being to steer.
We arrived at Mike's house a few minutes before one. He must have been watching, because he and the other three high school kids came outside when they saw the Fleetwood pull up. They were only guessing it was us, but it made sense: in El Centro, people ride in cars like black Fleetwoods when they get married, and when they die. (Slightly different body styles for each occasion, though.) We all got out, Terry springing out of the car and doing a quick scan of the immediate area, like a Secret Service agent guarding a politician during a campaign stop. Bekka, Bobby and I were out slightly slower, stretching a bit as we did.
Mike came forward, saying, "Hey guys, really great to see you. Who's your--- oh, wow. Are you really Robert DeNiro?"
Bobby smiled and answered, "Well, somebody had to be, and I drew short straw. How ya doing, kid. Just call me Bobby."
The front door opened and a couple in their early forties came out, looking towards us. They could get lost in any crowd, the only defining thing about either one was Dad seemed to have one hell of a tan, at least on his face. He had pale areas over his eyes, where his sunglasses would rest. Mom looked like she'd been ordered out of the Penny's catalog, some assembly required. They walked up behind the other three kids, keeping an eye on us. I waved them all over.
The high school kids and the couple approached. The kids had already met Bekka once, but were unsure of what to make of the rather tough-looking, five foot ten Italian-American shaking hands with Mike. Terry was also a source of concern, as she was simply standing at the front of the Cadillac, scanning the street in both directions. Mike called, "Mom, Dad. This is Becky Page, and, um, this is Robert DeNiro."
The parents stepped forward. It was clear in an instant which parent was more impressed by which famous person. From the look on Mom's face, we'd drawn a royal flush in getting Bobby to come out. She was wide-eyed and beaming, as though about ninety seconds from orgasm. Dad was approaching Bekka with his mouth slightly open, amazed, as though she might be a hologram. He got to Bekka and put a hand out. "Ms. Page?"
Bekka removed her sunglasses and smiled, extending her own hand. "Good afternoon, Mr. Gardner. Please, call me Bekka. My screen name is Becky Page, my real name is Bekka Schneider. How are you?"
"I'm doing just great!" Mr. Gardner averred. "Wow, I'm a big fan. I wasn't sure if someone was pulling some kind of elaborate practical joke on Mike or what. Being promised that we'd get to meet you in person, having us do strange drives around the area.... I didn't know what to think."
"Mike has been quite an assistance," said Bekka. "His grandfather, Edgar Sanderson, is connected with a small, very radical splinter group of Jerry Fallwood's Moral Militia. The vast majority of that group are simply prudes and moral censors, in my view. The people Mr. Sanderson is associated with are, to put it succinctly, Christian jihadists. They don't want Becky Page to stop performing in adult video and star in a sitcom. Instead, they want Becky Page destroyed. Literally. Being able to put our thumbs on these people will keep me safe. I am in Mike's, and your's, debt for helping me, even if it seemed to be a small thing. Just knowing that Mike's grandpa has not fled means a lot."
"Why would Edgar flee?" asked Mr. Gardner.
"All right, I"m sure Mike has explained how the newsletter Edgar subscribed to had, in its most recent issue, essentially told its readers to load the guns and start hunting for Becky Page down in San Diego. Incitement to violence is not protected speech under the First Amendment. We got an injunction against the publisher, essentially telling him to stop publishing and mailing his tracts. He violated that injunction, by sending out a two-page letter to his subscribers, telling them how Becky Page had used the courts to muzzle him, she was winning, and must be eliminated at any cost.
"Mike saw the letter in his grandpa's house, taped onto the refrigerator. He got photos of the letter, sent us the film, we developed and enlarged the photos, and brought this evidence to court, showing the publisher, a Mr. Mather Owens, was in violation of the injunction, and was also directly calling for violence against me.
"Very soon after, three things happened. The first was my studio was picketed by persons unknown, but certainly members of the Moral Militia. We didn't know if they were connected to the splinter group or not, but it was unsettling timing. Next, a threatening message was posted to the Becky Page Fans BBS based in San Diego. Lenny traced the number to a mobile home in Baker, out in the Mojave Desert. The mobile home blew up shortly after Lenny contacted the person at that number. And last, Mather Owens didn't show up for his court appearance that day, to explain to a judge why he'd violated the injunction. Instead, his own house burned to the ground, an obvious arson job.
"When you're destroying your home over what are ultimately crimes that don't garner a lot of prison time, that's a sign you feel you have nothing left to lose. We fear the members of the splinter group are, for all intents, in sort of a kamikaze mode. They will achieve their goal, or goals. and one of those goals is killing Becky Page and destroying Inana Productions. Or, they will die trying. My husband Lenny is also certainly a target. Surely there's a grapevine for these people besides the newsletter, and knowing how they are behaving will show what sort of actions they will collectively make. Mr. Sanderson hasn't fled his home, which hopefully means others aren't, either. They are panicked, but not suicidal yet. However, the fact that Mike's grandpa gave away his cats is a bad sign. He doesn't expect to be able to take care of them soon.
"So, here we are. I am armed, Lenny is armed, Terry, the young woman standing over there, is armed. I have a lot of backing and protection at home and at work, but we're still very concerned about bloodshed.... Possibly mine, and Lenny's. I won't elaborate, but Mr. Sanderson is going to be watched by both law enforcement and my own backers. If he tries to bolt, or begins have a lot of visitors, this will be investigated. He is about the only member of the splinter group we have our thumb on at this point. But that helps, and the efforts of you and Mike aided us greatly. That's why I came out here to thank you, and give you a hug. Will your wife mind if I do so?"
Everyone had stopped talking and listened to Bekka's speech in silence, realizing the gravity of the situation. Mrs. Gardner simply said, "Yes, you may."
Bekka and Mr. Gardner embraced tightly, for about ten seconds. When they broke apart, Bekka grinned and said, "And I'm happy to sign an autograph or two. If you have any of my posters, I'll sign that." With a bitter chuckle, she added, "Hopefully it won't become much more valuable in the next couple weeks, you know?"
Mr. Gardner led us all into the house. He had one of Bekka's PG posters up in his den, one of her lingerie pictures. She asked for Mr. Gardner's first name (Bill) and signed the poster, saying "Thanks for your help, Bill! XXX Kisses, Becky Page." Then she went into Mike's room and put a similar message on his poster. We all gathered in the living room, talking, Sodas were distributed. Mrs. Gardner was finally getting a chance to gush over Bobby. She loved "Goodfellas," "The King of Comedy," "Taxi Driver," and "Mean Streets." Her husband was out of earshot, so she quietly confessed she thought Travis Bickle (DeNiro's role in "Taxi Driver") was dead sexy.
Bobby was rather surprised at this revelation. "Travis was sexy?" he asked. "He was an unstable loner who watched a lot of porn and was obsessed with a thirteen year old prostitute."
"But there was just..... something about him," said Mrs. Gardner. "Maybe it was because he was kind of dangerous. But also, I sort of wanted to hold him, let him know I'd be his friend if he wanted, you know? I wanted to comfort him." She got a bit pink. "And he looked great without a shirt on, too."
Bobby laughed. "Unfortunately, time has claimed that physique from me. Huh. Travis Bickle is sexy. I lived with him for months, and I still think he's just a damn nut."
Cheryl, Roxanne, and Mrs. Gardner all got Bobby's autograph. Bekka had an audience of Mike, Biff, and Mr. Gardner. She was explaining some of the character motivations in Ursula ("Bewitched") and Lila ("Succubus"), elaborating that Ursula really did wish to bring love into the world, but due to her insanity, love was a very abstract thing. When her "love" spell only resulted in sex, she was a bit disappointed, but decided, "eh, close enough," and released it, just to see what happens. Ursula wasn't obsessed with sex, she just thought it would be interesting to observe the effects of her spell.
As far as Lila goes, Bekka explained that Lila had lost her parents while still an infant, and had been raised by an elderly aunt: the woman in the locket. She died when Lila was twelve. Lila had been on her own ever since, stealing and fighting to survive, Her libido was very active, and she lost her virginity at age fourteen.... And quickly discovered that she destroyed the minds of men with sex. She'd gathered the men found the experience so intense it drove them insane. When the pirate band presented her with the Lone Scavenger as a prize, she was actually ambivalent about this gift: another man destroyed, and this one so young.
In the morning, the Lone Scavenger is fine, he has his faculties. Bekka explained that something we never really made clear in the movie was how overjoyed Lila was, she wasn't cursed, she wasn't a poison pill. Like most people, romantic love and sex are pretty tightly intertwined for Lila, who is sure that if the Lone Scavenger stays with her, they can have a real relationship. The Lone Scavenger doesn't want to be Lila's pet: he doesn't understand she wants to try and cultivate a relationship with him. He escapes, and when recaptured, tells Lila that if she wants to be with him, she has to leave the pirate band and join him on his journey to the fabled Summerlands. Otherwise, kill him. Lila weighs her life. She has finally found a man she is compatible with, and who is saying he will be with her, but only if she runs away with him, giving up everything she has built in her life. Love wins out.
"You had a lot of fun making "Good Girl/Bad Girl," didn't you?" asked Biff.
"We all did," Bekka answered. "For Skye and me, we were allowed to be just plain goofy. Okay, Skye's role in "Temporary Pleasures," Madison, was a ditz. But she still had some depth and nuance to her, she had a soul. In "Good Girl," her and me were essentially cartoon characters. There were moments of tenderness with the two of them.... Like when the angel and devil enter the physical realm, and the angel goes home with the guy from the Safeway. The devil is afraid the angel will decide to stay in the physical realm, and despite everything, she is the devil's friend, the devil would be crushed if she left. So she sits outside the apartment building all night, staring up at the window, hoping the angel will return to her. The angel and devil are yin and yang, you can't have one without the other.
"But overall? We got to be as silly as we wanted. Lenny showed us some Three Stooges shorts, as a hint for how her and I should interact. We got to be loud, outlandish, goofy.... We had fun with our roles, because we didn't need a lot of nuance or depth. We could act like maniacs with each other, just being these obnoxious human cartoons following Ella Belle through life. It was a blast."
"That was Ella Belle's first lead role, wasn't it?" asked Mr. Gardner.
"Yes. Her only other good role was as the police officer in 'Dangerous Desires.' It was a strong supporting role, but playing Stella was Ella's first lead. She nailed it, too. She made up for all the depth Skye and I lacked. I was proud of her performance, and also of Lenny's writing. Her scenes with Roach, as her brother, got a lot of feeling out of some pretty short blocks of dialogue. Lenny communicated their closeness in just a few lines, and that was important."
I called for attention, and suggested we adjourn to Tomaso's Cantina for either a late lunch or a very early dinner. This idea was taken with enthusiasm. Then Bekka said, "Before we leave, Mike, I'd like to meet the cats."
"They don't want to meet you," Mr. Gardner grumbled. "They're all but feral."
Mike protested, "That's not true, Dad. They love me. It's just that Grandpa treated them like such crap they don't trust anyone but me. They figure everyone else is gonna act like Grandpa did to them."
"Where are they?" I asked.
"In the garage," answered Mrs. Gardner.
Bekka said, "They desperately need to be socialized. Keeping them in there is only going to reinforce their alienation. I'd like to see them."
Mr. Gardner, Mike, Bekka, and myself went to the door to the garage. When we stepped in, Mike gestured for the three of us to stop just inside the door. Then he made a squeaking noise with his lips and called, "Funyun! Groucho! Two-Ton! C'mere, boys! Lemme see ya!"
Three cats materialized from different areas of the garage and began strolling his direction. When they got up close, they noticed our presence and stopped, watching us. Mike encouraged them by talking in soothing tones and making petting gestures with his hands. They pulled close enough to be petted, and actually purred.
Moving very slowly, Bekka bent way down and sort of drifted next to Mike. The yellow one eyed Bekka, and decided to be brave. He stepped near her. Bekka talked gently and softly to him, then slowly reached out and gave a tentative pet of his back. He allowed it, so she continued. Then she scratched his head. He stepped closer and let off a bit of purring. Mike quietly said, "That's Funyun. He got the name 'cos of his color. He's got the most balls of the three. He doesn't run away from people, he stands there and hisses and bares his teeth. Wow, I've never seen him let anyone touch him before."
Bekka continued petting, making "Who's a good boy?" baby talk. The light grey one with a black smear under his nose was named Groucho. He got curious about this biped Funyun was allowing to touch him, and stepped closer to Bekka, ignoring Mike's petting. Bekka gingerly reached out with her free hand and gave this one a gentle pet, too. He sat and stared at Bekka curiously. She scratched under his chin, and now she had the pleased attention of two of them. The third one, a rather rotund tabby named Two-Ton, figured there must be some appeal to this new turn of events and also stepped up to Bekka. Mike was amazed
Over her shoulder, Bekka said, "Lenny, approach very slowly, and make yourself as small as possible. I'm hoping they're not being nice with me just because I don't give off male pheromones. Come down next to me."
I crouched down where I was, and crawled on my hands and knees in slow motion next to Bekka. My approach was watched with some trepidation. I smiled without showing teeth, and made the same squeaking noise Mike had made. When I got next to Bekka, I stuck a hand out to be investigated. Groucho was the first to approach. He was being very cautious, glancing back and forth between me and my hand. As slow as molasses, I reached out and stroked his back. He was tense, but stayed in one spot. I kept petting. He started to relax. I offered a chin-scratch. At first he leaned his head away, then brought it back forward and let me scratch.
Bekka stopped petting the other two. Still wanting attention, and seeing Groucho getting it, they slowly ambled closer to me. I soon found myself petting in rotation, the way Bekka had been. Mike crouched on the far side of Bekka, watching this with a happy smile.
Mike said over his shoulder, "See, Dad? They aren't bad. They just have a lot of trust issues, because Grandpa was such a fuckin' asshole to them."
"Mind your language, son," said Mr. Gardner, but didn't really mean it.
After a few more minutes, I said, "This is really cool, but my knees are starting to kill me from being on the cement. I'm gonna back up like this until I get back to the door, then I'll stand up."
I did so. The cats turned their attention to Bekka, who slowly stood up where she was (I heard her knees crack). Her getting erect made the cats look nervous, but she slowly bent at the waist and gave them some more petting. "Good boys, good boys," she cooed. Then she straightened up again and slowly walked backwards next to me. Mike simply stood up, to no alarm of the cats at all. He walked over and checked their food and water bowls, topping off the food. Then the four of us went back inside the house.
"Leave the door open," said Bekka. "Make it clear they're welcome in the house, and can come back out here when they want. They'll explore the house while we're at the restaurant, probably. Just a bit of nosing around, since there will be no noise or movement in here. They'll get to know the surroundings after several days."
"I don't think I want them in the house," Mr. Gardner said. "What if they decide to crap everywhere? What if they claw up the furniture?"
I said, "They won't crap where they can't bury, they'll head for their litter box if they gotta go. They're not dogs. And I'm happy to stop by a pet store and buy a couple scratching posts for them. I've post-trained cats before, you just pick up their paws, sorta squeeze them so their claws come out, then drag their claws on the post while petting them and making encouraging noises. They figure it out. And you keep a squirt bottle on the coffee table, to aim at them when they do go after your sofa."
"Hmph," said Mr. Gardner.
Mike went to his mom and said, "Lenny and Bekka both petted the cats! See, they're not feral, they'll be good pets, we just need to get them socialized."
"From what Mike said, Grandpa Sorenson was a miserable prick to them," said Bekka. "Mike is the only one who treated them nice, so Mike is the only human they will innately trust. Right now, everyone else is suspect. They'll probably always be skittish around strangers, but with a little time and patience they will be part of the house here."
"Let me think about it," Mrs. Gardner said.
We piled in three cars and took off for Tomaso's. When we arrived, we were told there would be a ten minute wait. Cheryl asked, "How come Jane didn't come with you guys today?"
"There was no sense in bringing too big of a crowd," I answered.
"Oh. Bummer. I, uh, had a couple things I wanted to ask her."
Cheryl eyed Mike's parents and said, "Um they're kinda personal, like, along the lines of what we were talking about that first night we met you and her. You know?"
"I get it," I smiled gently. "You know, I'll bet Bekka could provide some advice, too. Why not ask her and me?"
She considered this briefly, and gestured for us to go outside. Out in the heat of the valley, Cheryl sighed and said, "Look, you can't tell this to Mike or Biff, or anybody. It's just.... I feel so weird telling you this.... Um.... Look, the more I think about it, the more I think Roxanne is hot. I mean, I keep having dreams about her and me fooling around together, big time, and.... I like it. I don't know what to do. I think Roxanne is really hot."
"Have you ever thought other girls were hot?" I asked.
Cheryl looked away and softly said, "Yes."
"Okay, then you're well inside the bell curve for Kinsey's arc of sexual behavior. You're not weird, you're actually really damn average."
"Do you want advice on how to seduce Roxanne?" Bekka asked. "If you are, I can't help you, I don't know the girl. How do you think she would react?"
"I don't know," Cheryl complained. "I don't know how to even broach the subject."
"Very slowly and cautiously. Baby steps. Try to get a handle on how she feels about other girls in general. Do either of you have access to any of my movies?"
"Biff does. I've never seen one."
"Well.... Watch one of them with her, when it's just you and her. When one of my girl/girl scenes comes on, just make a vague statement about how you'd thought about doing the same things too, and you hope it's not 'weird.' And ask if Roxanne has ever thought about it. If she responds with, 'Ew, no!' you've got your answer. Don't pursue it at all. If she sorta shrugs and says, yeah, everybody does, well, you've got an opening. Don't make it a constant topic of conversation, but bring the subject up every now and then, in a general sort of way. Try to get a grasp of her feelings about it...."
"Then, get her drunk and ram your tongue down her throat," I said.
Bekka whacked me on the arm and said, "Not helping." To Cheryl she said, "Have you ever had the opportunity before, to be with another girl?"
Cheryl responded, "Yes. Ugh. I was at summer camp when I was fifteen, and this girl who was eighteen made it abundantly clear she thought I was hot.... But she was, like, totally gross. She was fat and had no boobs and she had hair shorter than Lenny's and was really crude about it. Yuck. No way. Drunk guys at parties were classier than her."
Bekka chuckled and said, "Yes, bull dykes are a bit lacking in subtlety. And tact. And basic good manners. Sorry you had an aggressive dagger hitting up on you." She continued, "If it's Roxanne in particular you want, you're going to have to take things very slowly, until you get a feeling for how she feels about other girls. I know you don't want to ruin your friendship, so this will be a process that could take months. And even then, if you made a pass, she might still reject you. Mutual interest does not mean mutual attraction. If she does reject you, just let it slide, make it sound like it was a passing fancy, no big deal, it's a dead subject."
"You're a senior, right?" I asked. "You're going to college? You may just want to wait until then to find out what girls are like. At college, you're going to be around a whole lot of girls who are feeling the same way as you. And just like you, they're far away from their parents and old social scenes, there's nobody to judge them. Unless, of course, it's Roxanne in particular you want."
Chewing her bottom lip, Cheryl said, "I.... Yes, I notice when a woman is sexy, and sometimes I think it would be nice to, you know.... But Roxanne and me have been friends since fifth grade, so I guess there's a lot of trust I have in her. You know, it's kind of your fault, Lenny. If you and Jane hadn't come to El Centro, I wouldn't feel like this."
I gave her a rather patronizing look. "Yes you would. You'd just be keeping it buried a lot deeper."
"This is stupid. Girls don't get crushes on other girls."
Bekka and I burst out laughing. Bekka said, "Oh, darling, we've got a whole load of women we know who will contradict you on that! And you know what? It's just as awkward and stomach-churning for them as it is for straights. Just because you're of the same basic sexual preference doesn't mean your communication gets any easier. It's easier figuring out if you like someone as a person."
Stomping her foot with frustration, Cheryl said, "And see, that's one of the reasons Roxanne is so attractive to me! I already know I like her as a person! I wish I could just ask her, straight up, if she is into girls at all or not, and not have it possibly fuck up our friendship."
Bekka creased her brow. "Well.... Change phrasing a little bit. Next time you and her are alone, just ask her if she's ever considered a romantic relationship with another girl. If the answer is 'No, why?' just make up some bullshit that you were curious how my relationship with Jane works, especially with us being bisexual and sharing Lenny. If the answer signals a possible opening, wait until the right time and tell her you think she's attractive, but you would rather drop the idea than mess up your friendship. Promise her you won't be secretly lusting after her if she's not interested, that it was an idea, not a plan."
"And keep that promise, don't be secretly lusting after her, either," I added. "Nobody ever fools anyone when they do that."
"Okay," said Cheryl in a calm voice. "Thanks, you guys." After a few beats, she gave a grin and said, "And what if I just decide I want to find out what it's like to fool with a chick?"
I grinned back and said, "Watch the San Diego papers for when the nest Four Non Blondes or Michelle Shocked concert is, and flirt, flirt, flirt with anything that has breasts and no Adam's apple."
She stared off into the distance and asked, "Do you think Jane would go to bed with me?"
"Oh, in a heartbeat," Bekka said. "Especially with your rack. But that is a can of worms you probably don't want to open. If you and Jane started seeing each other, she'd be out here every other weekend, and would not be coy at all about your relationship. She would absolutely refuse to hide how close you two are, and would be very annoyed if you asked her to. She has a thing about being open with people, especially when the subject is sex or romance. In her own words, she refuses to be anyone's dirty little secret. If you and her were sleeping together, your friends would know. Random strangers would know. And --- big one here --- your parents would know. How would your parents react to having a girl with a nose ring and a blue mohawk showing up at their house on a Harley Sportster, and trying to feel up their daughter whenever she thinks they aren't looking?"
"Oh. Wow. Yeah, Jane is pretty aggressive, isn't she? No secrets with her."
"I'm sure you've dated guys who, anytime you're together in any situation, always insisted in having one hand on your ass. Jane would do the same thing, only she'd be shoving her hand inside your pants to grab a cheek."
"I finally cured Biff of that habit," Cheryl grumbled. "It's tacky."
"Oh, there's another complication," I said. "How would Biff feel about your sudden interest in playing on the other team for a while? I suppose if you did start seeing Jane, he'd be in hog heaven, because her solution would be three-way sex, or at least polyamory. But if you and Roxanne started seeing each other, would the two of you keep things on the Q.T.?"
"Around here? Oh, hell yeah. Homosexuality doesn't exist in Imperial County, just ask anyone who lives here. If Jane went to our high school, the administration would have her meeting with the district shrink three times a week, if they didn't just chuck her into the continuation school. Or convince her parents to have her institutionalized."
"So if a kid let out that he was queer at your school, they'd try to to send him to a shrink? What the fuck year is it out here, 1962?" I asked.
Staring at the sidewalk, Cheryl said, "Yeah. Not to mention that if it got around the school, the kid --- male or female --- would probably be getting beat up six times a month. They'd schedule it, like pep rallies."
Roxanne stuck her head out the door and said, "They're seating us, come on in, you guys."
We headed inside. Roxanne asked, "What were you talking about?"
Cheryl looked at her and said, "Roxanne, I kind of have a crush on you. I have no idea what your reaction to that is gonna be, and I don't want to fuck up our friendship, but I figured you should know."
Roxanne stopped walking and stared at Cheryl with her mouth slightly open. Then she leaned forward and kissed Cheryl on the lips, no tongue, but hard. She said, "We have to talk later, okay?" Then with a smile she quietly said, "You have no idea how happy you just made me." She skipped ahead to catch up with the others.
Cheryl stood there, stunned.... But a smile slowly growing on her face. I told her, "Yeah, that was gonna be our next bit of advice. Play all your cards at once, and have everything turn out totally awesome for you. Shit always works that way, right dear?"
"Absolutely, darling," said Bekka. "Come on, Cheryl, let's get something to eat."