Daniel and Nick visit a club in Brighton, searching out the first old friend on Daniel’s list~~
We found ourselves in a narrow corridor running behind the stage and the bar, where two small rooms served as dressing areas. The young man who’d acted as receptionist was in the doorway of one of them, swigging from a can of drink and dressed in a tight, sparkling green Lycra vest and denim shorts. He turned to stare at me.
“Looking for Gerry?” he asked with a grin.
Behind him, the show’s announcer chuckled—he was sitting inside the room on a chair in front of a large mirror, now dressed only in the matching sparkly shorts. The two men were both of slight build, with similar pale good looks. All I could do was wonder if they shared outfits, taking turns to wear the top and then the bottom, until laundry day.
“I’m looking for Dina,” I said, raising an eyebrow.
Alice used to tell me I could look very forbidding, but the young man just laughed and nodded to the next room.
Dina sat in front of a similar mirror with a large cosmetic bag open on the counter in front of her. She’d taken off the huge wig and eyelashes but was still in costume, and she turned her chair to greet us as we entered.
“Hello, Daniel,” Gerry said. He was smiling, though his eyes showed some nervousness. “I saw you in the audience. Long time no see.”
His voice was lower than on stage, his natural hair a shaggy, dark mess, but he was still a long way from the schoolboy I’d known. He’d taken off the heels as well. It looked incongruous: his large, masculine feet showing under the feathered hem of the sparkling frock, the nail polish on his toes that coordinated perfectly with his fingers.
“You remember me?”
Gerry chuckled. “You’re memorable, honey. Not that you ever believed it.” He glanced at Nick and winked.
“Do I call you Gerry, or do you prefer Dina?”
He laughed, and in that moment I was reminded of the joker at summer school, the easy-going extrovert. “Call me what you like, honey. I love Dina, and I love Gerry too.”
“Are you a transsexual now?” I asked, from nothing but curiosity.
Nick’s hand tightened on my arm. “Dan, that’s pretty rude.”
“It’s okay,” Gerry said in his rich drawl. “I’ll talk about anything, you know.”
“We gathered that much from this evening’s show,” I said wryly.
Gerry laughed again. “I always liked you, Danny Boy. You were bright, but you weren’t an arsehole. No, I’m not female, and I’m not sure yet if that’s what I want. For the time being, I’m happy being both of me, whenever and whichever I choose.”
“And the diva is a star,” Nick said with a smile. “It was a great show.”
Gerry flushed with pleasure that could almost be called coy, if I hadn’t recalled how he spiked the cola in the club fridge one lunchtime with vodka he’d stolen from his mother, or the time he offered to wash the tennis kit and turned it all baby pink, or the time he smuggled in a family bucket of fried chicken and sold it piece by slimy piece to the younger kids under cover of the table tennis tournament.
He was watching me, smoothly plucked eyebrows raised. “Remembering the good old days, Danny?”
I laughed then. I realised how buzzed the atmosphere was, how light-headed I felt, and not just because of the wine. “Your costume is magnificent. You always did like playing with the dolls’ clothes. Remember that time we tried to re-enact Chariots of Fire with Sindy dolls?”
Gerry rolled his eyes. “I twisted one of the legs in its socket, taking it through the finish tape. And the homoerotic subtext? Well! That scene snapped the other leg right off, as I remember.”
“And Mark was whimpering we’d get caught, you know how tough the girls could be with him—”
“And Alec sneering how fucking stupid the dolls looked in string vests and shorts made of chopped-up dishcloth—”
We were roaring with laughter by now.
“Do you remember …?” I paused, but I’d gone too far now to stop. “Do you remember that game of chase the ace?”
Gerry stopped laughing, abruptly and startlingly. “Honey, you’re not still worrying about that, are you? After all these years?”
I flushed, and I could feel Nick’s curious eyes on me. “It’s stayed in my mind. I just wondered if it was still in yours.”
“Bloody good punch-up that day,” Gerry said, with glee that owed more to a sixteen-year-old’s boasting than an adult cabaret singer’s set.
“I just wanted to know ….”
“Of course you did,” Gerry said. “Close your eyes, honey.” His voice was suddenly stronger and much deeper. He stood, towering over me even without his heels on. “You hear me?”
Shivering, I did. God knows what Nick thought was happening. He must have worried we had some weird ritual going on, worried what kind of lunatic he’d given a lift to. Then Gerry grasped my chin, tilted my head, and kissed me.
I didn’t open my eyes; I just surrendered to it. His lipstick was sweet and slick and his lips firm. The end of his tongue brushed my mouth, but he didn’t push in, just licked briefly at my lower lip. Nick stifled a gasp, and Gerry chuckled in the back of his throat.
Then our lips drifted apart.
“Well, honey?” Gerry murmured.
I opened my eyes and smiled. “That was nice.”
Gerry raised his eyebrows again. “I’m damned by faint praise.”
“You know what I mean. It was great, but it wasn’t ….”
Gerry nodded. “I know. Even at sixteen I had a kiss you’d have remembered.” He glanced over at Nick. “And your cute man is looking daggers at me, so he needs to be in on the story, right?”
I said, “He’s not m—”
“I’m not h—” Nick said at the same time.
Gerry ignored us both. “Whatever. Fun, fascination, or fuck, you both look good on it.” He turned back to the mirror and sat again. “Now I have to get ready for my second set. You’ll stay for that?”