Dez woke up disoriented. Sunlight tumbled over her naked body, burning through the stained-glass skylight. Shards of red and blue light fragmented her skin and patterned the white sheets that she’d kicked off during the night. Dez felt heavy, weighed down, like she wouldn’t be able to leave the bed if she tried. Her flesh steamed. After the cool November of Albuquerque, this warmth felt good, like it was beginning to thaw the ice that had surrounded her body since she got the phone call from her mother’s doctor.
Her mind shied away from that call, but the abyss of memory swallowed her anyway, replaying the conversation over and over again until every word was just noise in her brain, thunder that made her head vibrate and hurt. Gradually, the pain floated away and she was able to open her eyes again. Fuck.
But even with her eyes open, she couldn’t see. Dez couldn’t imagine her mother here in this house, could not see her laughing face at the kitchen table. She could not see her in the library perched on the wheeled ladder, reaching for a book on the top shelf. She could not see her holding Dez’s hand in the low evening light, telling her that everything was going to be okay, that one more loss wouldn’t break her. Dez couldn’t see her mother anywhere but in Mexico somewhere, dying slowly on a beach with cabana boys in tight white Speedos offering an hour’s worth of living for sale. She scraped her blunt fingertips across her scalp with its short prickling of hair and stood up to get dressed. She left the house so she could see better.
he breeze lapped at her cheeks, pressing its comforting salty tang around the edges of her sunglasses as she rode bareheaded at a lazy thirty miles an hour through Coconut Grove. Claudia and death. It didn’t seem real. Not when Dez hadn’t even heard any of it from her mother’s own lips. She shook her head and deliberately turned her thoughts to the smooth stretch of road in front of her bike, the growl of the Ducati between her legs, and the dense border of Spanish moss-laden trees swaying in the light wind. There was beauty before her to enjoy. The other things could wait.
After riding around Miami the better part of the day, she parked the bike at a downtown bar. Dez settled onto a stool and ordered two fingers of her favorite scotch. The place radiated tasteful-boring with its gleaming wooden bar, deep blue teardrop-shaped light fixtures hanging just so above their heads. The only music was the quiet murmurs of the early-evening drinkers, mostly suits with the occasional frilly dress to lighten up the atmosphere. The later the hour became, the more dresses appeared.
Over the rim of her glass, she watched the hem of a pretty skirt flounce by. It belonged to an equally pretty girl. She walked by Dez’s stool with three of her girlfriends, each sipping a colored drink with fruit in it. Spelman College type. Long, straightened hair. A cute little ass swishing under the Gucci skirt. Shy smile. More Derrick’s type than hers.
So far Dez hadn’t seen anyone that she knew, but that wasn’t really a surprise. Aside from Rémi, none of her friends would be caught alive or dead in this particular straight bar. Too many men, too many needy women, not nearly enough dykes.
The way that some of these straight women were draping themselves over one another, some girl-on-girl action may not be too far off in the future. Dez had taken enough straight girls home back in the day to know how easy it would be to get laid in a place like this. Everyone else in the bar seemed content enough, bouncing happily from one potential one-night stand to another, doing a good job of circulating while she sat at the dark end of the bar nursing her drink.
“Excuse me.” The pretty girl stood near Dez’s elbow looking sweet enough to make her teeth ache. She lost some of that shyness up close. Inside the peach neckline of her dress, her breasts rose and fell with each breath. The girl licked her lips and continued. “I was wondering if—”
“Can I tie you up and fuck you in the ass with my fist?” The girl’s eyes widened at Dez’s growl. “Because if I can’t, you’re wasting your time and mine.”
The scotch burned a trail across her tongue and down her throat. She nodded as the girl backed away and went back to her small huddle of friends. Dez wasn’t in the mood to be nice.
“I guess you’re not trying to get laid tonight.”
Dez didn’t even look up this time. “Not really. Even if you’re offering.”
“Now is that any way to talk to an old friend?”
Friend? With her eyebrow at a killing arch, she turned to face the source of the voice. And got a little surprise.
“Phil?” She laughed. “What the fuck are you doing here?” She got several looks for that one even as she stood up to hug the tall, leggy woman. In her strappy high heels, thigh-baring skirt, and the scent of a salon clinging to her permed hair, Phillida Howard easily caught the eye of every straight man in the room.
“The same thing you are, I imagine. Getting a drink and maybe a little company for the rest of the night.”
“Like I said, for the rest of the night—not for life.” She sat down on the empty stool beside Dez, bringing her cigarette and ashtray with her.
“So where have you been? It’s been boring around here without you.”
“I’m sure you managed to cope somehow. Rémi knew where I was.”
“And she didn’t pass on any of that information.” Phil took a deep drag of her cigarette. “But the rumor mill did say that you took off with that little gay boy you had a crush on in college.”
“Oh, Christ.” Dez rolled her eyes. “I did not have a crush on him.”
“Whatever.” Phil leaned in closer and lowered her voice. “For a while there we all thought you were turning straight on us or something.”
“Something else, but never straight,” she said with a shrug. “He and I fooled around a little bit, got off together in some spectacular ways, but it was nothing major. He found a straight girlfriend and now he’s back here in town.”
Phil ashed her cigarette in the heavy crystal tray on the bar. “Are you going to look him up?”
Yeah, and after that I’ll search for King Kong and let him fuck me up the ass with no lube.
“Hm-hm.” She laughed. “To each her own, baby, that’s what I say. Fuck whoever you want. I’m not one to throw any stones.”
Ain’t that the truth?
Even before Dez left Miami, Phil’s exploits made Dez seem like a virgin. Group orgies, mother-and-daughter tag-team sex. There was even talk about some exotic whorehouse for women in Canada where Phil was a regular customer.
“By the way, there’s a party going on tomorrow night in Fort Lauderdale. You should come.” Without waiting for Dez’s response, she scribbled down the address and phone number. “The whole gang should be there.”
Phil stayed at the bar long enough to pick up two of the pretty girl’s friends. The two who didn’t seem quite as innocent. Dez eventually finished her scotch and left. All these straight people in one room were starting to give her hives.
At home she was still restless. Restless and worried. Seeing Phil again had made her forget. Forget Ruben. Her mother’s illness. Everything. All the pain had shifted to the background for once and she was able to laugh. She’d missed that. During the two years she’d traveled with Ruben, she kept in touch with her friends, sending them postcards, amusing little letters about whatever town they were in at the time, how easy—or hard—the girls were, and how much she missed Rémi, Sage, Nuria, and even Phil, who she’d only met during her last year of college. These were the girls she’d had to leave behind to follow this boy-dream fever that suddenly took hold of her one night and didn’t let go. Not until he jolted her awake by leaving.
After Dez left high school, her Aunt Paulette—the woman she’d sometimes wished was her real mother—had died in a motorcycle accident, leaving Dez shaken to her very foundations. The accident wasn’t Paulette’s fault, she’d been sober and safe, obeying all the rules she’d taught Dez about riding—and riding around Miami in particular, when some blind little fuck in a souped-up Honda took her out from behind. She never stood a chance. After that, Dez couldn’t find an even footing. Her friends hadn’t been able to comfort her, neither had her mother. Three years later, still not quite back on solid ground, Ruben Salinas had been escape and alien and fun. The sex wasn’t bad either. Dez supposed she should be happy that it lasted as long as it did. But the deepest part of her just wanted him back, wanted to have a taste of that mindless joy just one more time.
ez took Phil up on her invitation. On Saturday night she pulled her bike to a stop in front of a grinning valet and handed him her motorcycle keys and helmet. She walked past the well-lit entranceway with its faint scent of jasmine and old money. A steady stream of people, mostly women, flowed toward the house. She slid her hands into her loose-fitting tuxedo pants and went to join them. The wide, marble-paved walkway led to a high, curving balcony overlooking a dimmed dance floor where human constellations mingled and shone together. It would be easy to distance herself from the party, to lean over the balcony and watch the action happen down below. But, as usual, the women and the lights called to her, promising more opportunities for fun than just brooding up here by herself.
The party was well underway with high-energy music and the sound of alcohol-laced laughter, when her feet touched the final step into the opulent ballroom. Dez heard someone call her name. She looked around—glancing past tantalizingly bared flesh, the swell of breasts, wet mouths, and curved backs, past the pleasant distractions—to find the source of that voice.
Phillida stood up from a couch at the far end of the room and waved. She looked gorgeous in a pale, body-skimming blue dress with dyed-to-match flowers sprinkled in her black hair.
“Dez! I’m glad you could make it.”
“Of course. You asked so nicely. How could I refuse?” She greeted the other woman with a light kiss on the cheek, eyeing her caramel skin and its artfully displayed cleavage.
“Please. As if I had that much influence over you.” She looped her arm through Dez’s and pulled her toward the couch. “You remember everybody, right?”
How could she forget these women who she had ran with in high school and then later on in college? They looked much the same now as they did two years ago when Dez left, perhaps only a bit more polished, and a lot more jaded.
“Dez.” Rémi Bouchard extended a hand to Dez. When she moved to take it, Rémi grabbed her in a crushing bear hug that drove the air from Dez’s lungs. “Bitch, where the fuck have you been?” she demanded with a growl.
The first time Dez saw Rémi, she had to look twice. Before that she’d never known anyone whose looks literally took her breath away. And she didn’t even want to fuck her. At least not at first. It was more than the dimpled chin or the devilishly curved lips. It wasn’t even the powerful body that she’d seen naked more times than she could count. Feature by feature, Rémi Bouchard was simply the most gorgeous woman that Dez had ever seen. At first sight, all you noticed were the lazy-lidded brown eyes and the mouth that seemed made for pleasure. Later, after the shock of her looks wore off, you saw the deep olive skin with its hints of red, the low-cut wavy hair, and the long elegant hands. At six feet, she was the same height as Dez, only twenty pounds heavier and all of it muscle.
They had been best friends once. In their teens, they’d formed a mutual admiration society, even flirted with each other briefly, with the thought of getting involved. But in time they’d realized the value they both placed on a friendship, being the only two out black dykes in middle school and then later on in high school. After that they’d taken off and traveled for three years together around Africa and the West Indies, half learning and discarding languages, agonizing over straight women, laughing and crying on each other’s shoulders. All that had stopped when Dez’s aunt died. Dez had to go back to Florida and Rémi didn’t want to stay in Bonaire by herself, so their adventure was over.
“I’ve been here and there,” she said, answering Rémi’s question. “I told you in the letters. I just hit Miami last week though.”
“What brought you back? I know it wasn’t my fine self.”
“Some family stuff.”
Rémi nodded. Dez would tell her more. Later.
“If the beautiful butch reunion is over, can the rest of us get a turn?” Nuria Diaz leaned her cleavage toward Dez from her seat on the arm of the couch. She pouted prettily then smiled, looking every inch the Dominican princess with her cocoa dream skin and shoulder-length dreadlocks twisted into fat curls. The platinum stud of her labret piercing winked in the light.
“You can always get a turn, baby,” Dez said, moving toward her. She scooped the delectable Dior-dressed bundle into her arms and buried her nose in her throat. Nuria smelled like maraschino cherries and peach schnapps. She wiggled in Dez’s embrace, setting off a chorus of appreciative laughter and catcalls. The crowd eddied around them, watching their raucous reunion with mildly curious eyes.
“She never hugs
like that,” Rémi laughed.
“Because you never come out looking like this.” Nuria’s tongue peeked from between her lips as she gestured to Dez’s handsome tuxedo jacket with the loose matching pants that hung off her prominent hip bones and left an inch of skin between it and the tight, lace blouse bare.