“Left Angles”

Kaliope glanced up from her breakfast and smiled as Jessica entered the cafeteria. She gently kicked a chair aside and waved her over. “Saved you a seat.”

“Thank you. Is that all you saved me?”

“Um…well, there are no more cranberry muffins, if that’s what you mean.”

Jessica snorted. “You can have your damn muffins, I need to get my waffle on.” There was a station where one could make their own, with three different batter flavors to choose from; she stuck with buttermilk and drenched it in butter and syrup when it was finished. When she had rounded out her meal, she joined her friend and the two touched their Styrofoam cups together.

“To Saturdays in strange new places.”

“And strange new friends to share them with.” Jessica was the Alexander to her breakfast’s Persia; even though Kaliope had started sooner, she was still eating by the time Jessica had cleaned her plate and let out a soft, satisfied burp.

“Damn, girl,” Kali whispered as her friend washed it all down. “I’ve seen garbage disposals shred food slower than that. Are you afraid it’s going to run off on you?”

“No, I just don’t want it to get cold. Besides, I’m famished. That sushi we had last night was more snack than supper.”

“Was you-know-who still asleep when you left?”

“Yeah. Massages suck away all her energy. You think we should bring some ice up and throw it on her face?” Kali’s face blossomed into a grin.

“Oh hell yes!” Kali shoveled the rest of her breakfast in her mouth, and the girls filled both their cups with crushed ice cubes. It was all they could do to restrain themselves as they scurried back to their room, carefully opened the door, and spotted their prey lying there helpless. A flick of the wrist, and gravity took its merciless toll.

“You guys are jerks,” Victoria grumbled once most of the screaming, laughing, and obscenity had died down.

“It was Jessie’s idea,” Kali said, nudging her co-conspirator.

“Yes, t’was I, the Diamond Rogue! But I couldn’t have done it without my instrument of mayhem.”

“Why Jessica, you flatter me!”

“Respect is given where it’s due.”

“Tis’ thine own genius which doth shimmer.”

“Shining best when paired with thy melodious aid.”

“Fuck both of you,” Victoria grumbled. “Just for that, I’m taking all the hot water!” She parted their company with a slam, and silence was momentarily abundant. The girls giggled at each other.

“Should we tell her we already did that?”

“No,” Jessica said, putting her arm over Kaliope’s shoulder. “Let’s just stand here and bask in the glory.”

As soon as the water began rushing, their patience was more than rewarded.

……

The day was as beautiful as one could ask of a Saturday, but Jessica and Kaliope were unable to enjoy it. They shared a mute stare of infinite suffering as they wondered whether it was worth getting on Victoria’s bad side, then looked down at their hands. She had cuffed two to the hangers by the car doors and the other two together; they were unable to move them more than a few centimeters. In other words, they couldn’t plug their ears with anything, and must now endure Victoria’s personalized “torture playlist”, which was blaring through the car speakers loud and clear. And such classics! Practically every disco song ever created, a list of Justin Bieber “hits”, Yanni, post-seventies country, tween techno, kids’ songs, gospel, and a few Carrot Top routines throw in, just for extra cruelty. Naturally, Victoria didn’t have to listen to any of this as she drove: she had her headphones on, and was smiling sweetly alongside Billie, Louis, Coltrane, Clifford, and even a little Stones, just for fun.

She had absolutely no intention of stopping the car, changing the music, or giving her passengers any break, until she was good and ready. Victoria’s revenge was bitterly harsh.

After about an hour of solid driving and unbearable pain, Kaliope felt like she had had enough. Shouting offered her no respite so she had to gently kick Victoria’s seat until she got her attention. Victoria brushed her off the first three times, but at the fourth, even her standoffish state relented.

“Yes, dear?” she said, turning the volume down and taking her headphones off.

“Are we going anywhere? Or are you just going to drive until we run out of gas?”

“Why? Aren’t you having fun? This whole wanderlust thing was your idea, you know. I just wanted to go to Vegas.”

“I mean, do you have any immediate destination in mind?”

“Nope, and even if I did, I’m in no rush to get there.”

“How about a pit stop?” Jessica said. “My nose is in serious need of powdering.”

“You’re fine,” she waved dismissively. “You can wait until we get gas. Or lunch. Until then, just consider it additional discomfort. Now.” She plugged her ears back and cranked up the volume; the Village People were on. Kali struck her head against the back of Victoria’s chair, again and again, but to no avail.

“I will give you all the money I have if you stop!”

“Sorry, can’t hear.”

“I’ll go down on you!”

“No can hear.”

“I’ll…” As she tried thinking of what she could possibly use to negotiate her way out of this, Jessica put a hand on Kali’s and smiled.

“I got this. Yo, Vicks!”

“There will be no bargain, Jedi!”

“You can have that three-way with Louis when we get back.”

The radio was instantly silenced.

“Sold, to the giant blonde in the back! There’s a gas station right there, ladies. Let me just find the keys and you’ll be free as birds in no time.” Kali gave her imprisoned neighbor an awed stare as they pulled in. Jessica humbly shrugged once their binds were off.

“Wow, you are officially a goddess. Who’s Louis, by the way?”

“A bisexual FWB. Vick and I’ve been competing to see who can have a threesome first ever since we knew what the word meant. Looks like she and…Trent, was it?”

“Kent.”

“Looks like she and Kent’ll get lucky. A small price to pay to gain her forgiveness.”

“No kidding,” Kali winced as she rubbed her wrists. “Remind me to never prank Victoria Williams again.”

“Let’s not be too hasty,” she chuckled. “It’ll all be forgiven and forgotten once she pranks me back—I mean, pranks us. Then we get to have our revenge.” Kali shivered.

“That’s some deal you’ve got.”

We’ve got,” Jessica reminded her with a wink. “Don’t ever forget you’re part of our group now, Kal. Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a porcelain patron I have to attend to.” Kaliope was left by herself for a few moments, so she took some time to look around and collect her thoughts. Well! This relationship with the Queens of the school was becoming more intricate, sordid, and (admittedly) entertaining by the day! They certainly weren’t as aloof as Kali had once pegged them as. Sure, Victoria was still fairly intimidating, assertive, and even blunt, but she had just as many insecurities about herself and her relationship with her two friends—what Kali might even call her only two real friends, or at least the only two people who really “knew” her. The fact that she was a closeted nerd—ahem, aficionada—smoothed over all those rough edges and made her more relatable, even endearing.

As for Jessica, she was a rarity, maybe even a deviant. Tomboyish, but certainly not shy about ladylike activities or clothes (as Kali recalled seeing her fawn over them as much as her confederate). An athlete by nature and by design, but one who mused and pondered, with deep philosophy and patience to her: an open hand that only curled into a fist when it needed to. Hers was a deep river that ran serenely; Victoria was more like a pond that liked attracting all sorts of wildlife. Kali didn’t know what sort of aquatic title she’d give herself, or what others might give her. It would’ve been steam two years ago; maybe now it was rain. Oh well.

“Took you long enough,” she heard Victoria remark as Jessica emerged. “What were you doing in there, redecorating?”

“Yeah, El Greco style. But maybe we can go to a gallery next and compare it.”

“I’m all for the former if we can forget about the latter. The less I know about what powder you put on your nose, the better.”

“Speaking of which, how did you like Scarface?”

“I didn’t,” she said as she got into the driver’s seat, the others following. “I sat through all eighty hours of that movie and I just don’t get it. Well, the music was great, but other than that…”

“You dilettante,” Jessica grinned. She shared the expression with Kaliope. “What about you, have you ever seen Scarface? The remake, I mean.”

“I didn’t even know it was a remake. And I didn’t get it either, at first, until I saw it again.”

“Aah, see?”

“Kubrick trumps De Palma any day of the week,” Victoria snorted. Jessica shuddered.

“Please, don’t ever use that T-word again.”

“Sorry, sorry. Resist the Cancer.”

“Resist the Cancer,” Jessica repeated; then, adding, “Go Lakers.”

“All hail the Lakers,” Kaliope echoed.

……

The art gallery they visited satiated the hunger of their souls, but when they left it, more bodily appetites persisted. Victoria had her heart adamantly set on visiting “one of those old-timey diners like they had in the fifties”, and a discussion arose about whether she meant a sit-in or drive-in. Seeing as how Kaliope had never been to a drive-in restaurant, they paused by the nearest library to look one up. The hinterlands of Los Angeles still had quite a few of them prepped up—whether from the bygone era or made in homage to them—so they made a beeline to the nearest one. It was a surprisingly popular place called Soupy’s (no surprise what their specialty was); there was only one free space open.

“We should really be coming here during sunset,” Victoria noted as they parked and rolled all the windows down. Looking out at the sparse vista around them, the beginning hints of a desert with imposing hills, raggedy shrubs, sun-baked plateaus just now cooling off from the day’s crucible… She was right; it would’ve been romantic.

“Maybe once I have some nice guy to share it with,” Jessica remarked. They all ordered hamburgers, fries, and Cokes (“A staple of drive-ins,” Victoria said); there was even a radio built into the speaker that played music from the 50s and early 60s. This opened up another string of debates in between bites: Dick Dale versus the Beach Boys, Chuck Berry versus Elvis, Buddy Holly versus Ricky Nelson, Johnny Cash versus Marty Robbins (Kali siding with the latter on that one)… They wandered out and took at least twenty pictures of the restaurant, of the view, of each other. Victoria started quoting Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas once they returned to the road; Kali started a word-guessing game that kept them occupied for several miles of meandering. They found a little canyon that was a minor tourist attraction and visited it for an hour or so; next they cooled their heels, literally, at a small river, and pondered the existence of frogs, dragonflies, lizards, fish…

They parked the car at a place where there was nothing, absolutely nothing, for miles, because Jessica wanted to bask in silence, since it had been so beneficial the other day. Kali and Victoria amused themselves by looking at clouds.

“We should seriously come back here this evening and camp out,” Kali said. “I bet you could see the Milky Way spiral arms in this sky.”

“I’ve never seen more than a handful of stars at night,” Victoria replied. “The light pollution’s terrible in the city. I see Venus all the time, of course, and Mars, I think. Orion as well, during the fall and winter. I think the Griffith Observatory is sort of close. I…kinda wanna go.” Kaliope smiled at her.

“Not in the mood for camping?”

“What would we sleep in, the car?”

“Blankets.”

“Not on the solid ground, sister. I’m not ready to rough it that much yet.” Kali grinned.

“Me neither, to be honest. Jess might.”

“You know me,” Jessica waved, separated from them in her silence though she was. “Just give me someplace horizontal and I’ll be fine.” They basked in the emptiness for a few more minutes before heading back into the city proper, more or less veering toward the Griffith Observatory. None of the girls had ever been there, although Jessica had driven past it a few times. They first made their way to the Samuel Oschin Planetarium, just in time for a show, and the girls all got their wish as they saw the starry night sky in all its glory. Jessica also insisted they attend a program at the Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon (“Because…come on…Leonard Nimoy,” was her reason). Evening was still hours away once they did everything they wanted to do, so there would be no using any of the public telescopes, but there was the promise of dinner.

“We could swing by the Greek Theater,” Kali smiled. “Maybe get some sandwiches and have a picnic there while we’re at it.”

“Getting in touch with your heritage?” Victoria said; Kali grinned sheepishly. There was a soft laugh; Victoria placed her arm around Jessica. “That’s something we Normans will have to settle one day, won’t we?”

“You really ‘Gaul’ me with your demands.”

“’Paris’ the thought, my dear!”

“And you’re not being very ‘Nice’.”

“You’re really ‘Eiffeling’ my creativity.”

“Ha! Don’t make me ‘Lafayette’!”

“These puns are making me ‘Versailles’,” Kali interjected. Victoria grinned.

“Good one!”

“’Marseilles’,” Jessica pointed, “let’s get that food already.” The other two looked at each other sourly.

“Ugh. Now she’s just stretching. What do the other judges say?”

“A total failure, Miss Williams. Two out of ten, and that’s being generous.”

“You don’t have to be so ‘Frank’,” Jessica sulked.

……

Oddly enough, the Greek Theater wasn’t showing any of the classical Greek plays (and hadn’t for some time); they had pulled something from Henrik Ibsen’s hat for the evening. None of the girls were familiar with his works, so they stayed well after their humble dinner was consumed. Jessica liked it, although she couldn’t understand part of the play because of the acoustics; Victoria got bored and ended up devoting most of her attention to her phone; Kaliope ended up walking around the outer perimeter on her own, thinking and listening. Victoria patted the blanket they had borrowed when she arrived, an open invitation to join her.

“Not what you expected?”

“Not quite. I sort of had my heart set on Euripedes or Sophocles.”

“Ugh, Sophocles is more overdone than that steak I tried to cook that one time.”

“Don’t remind me,” Jessica groaned, rubbing her stomach. “Actual charcoal would’ve been more palpable. You have no idea how lucky you are, Kal.”

“Hey, I’ve gotten better,” she pouted. “You can actually cut through them this time.”

“With what, an oxyacetylene torch?” Victoria only raised a finger in response.

“What about you, Kal, can you cook?”

“Moderately. My parents say I’m good with pancakes, and I know for a fact I’ve got brownies covered. But toasted Reubens are my jam.” Jessica cringed; she hated sauerkraut.

“I’ll stick with the brownies, thanks. So where to now, ladies? Want to turn in early?”

“Not me,” Victoria said in a hushed, somber tone. She curled her knees up to her chest and stared blankly. “Tomorrow’s our last full day. We’ll have to spend most of the day going back home. I really want to do something special tonight—all night if we can.”

“None of us are old enough for a club.”

“We are for some.”

“Know of any good ones?”

“None any of us would be interested in,” Jessica said. Victoria let out a disappointed sigh and laid down on the blanket. Kaliope nestled close and idly played with her hair.

“I think I saw an ad for someplace in the suburbs. Nothing big, but it looked pretty cool.”

“Is it open all night?”

“Fridays and Saturdays only.”

“What’s it called?”

“’Lily’ something, I don’t remember.” Victoria quickly looked it up on her phone: The Lily Club, 2.6 miles northwest, recommended ages sixteen and up. Movie marathon Saturday, $15 cover charge gets you drinks and food; $20 puts you in a raffle for prizes. Group discounts available. Jessica whistled B-I-N-G-O; Victoria just shrugged.

“Works for me. I dunno if it’s as ‘cool’ as you’re boasting, but it can’t be any more anticlimactic than going to bed. JKV, roll out!” Up she went with a purpose, leaving the other two to stare at each other quizzically.

“Jay Kay Vee?”

“You have objections being in the middle?” Jessica grinned. Kali sighed and slowly followed.

“It just sounds weird, is all.”

The Lily Club was a large one-story building placed a respectable distance away from any other shopping center, residence, business, or structure. There was little in the way of a parking lot, but it seemed to be the sort of place one walked to, rather than drove. This little stroll afforded the girls a more appreciative study of the sprawling facility; its seclusion solidly sold the illusion of exclusivity, almost a beacon rather than a destination. Kaliope observed that it was mostly women entering, and college-aged women at that. Victoria indicated a lesbian nightclub not far away, which might have had something to do with the phenomenon. They both hesitated.

“This is the right place. Still wanna go through with it?”

“I am starting to have second thoughts.”

“We’re already here,” Jessica reasoned. She marched on ahead, alone, stopping to gaze at them wryly. “You two are so closeted!”

“S-T-F-U!” Victoria countered, grabbing Kali by the wrist and dragging her along. Kali went with her for about three steps before resisting, and she broke into another diatribe about how this was exactly what she was talking about a few days ago, that Victoria was too assertive—or at least she would have if their coolheaded Mediator hadn’t stopped them.

“Seriously, are we here to bitch or to party? Stop acting like babies and get in here!”

“Okay, okay, keep your tampon on, we’re going! Sheesh.”

“You deserve it,” Kali snickered. They went through the door just in time to watch Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder swinging and swindling; evidently there was a Mel Brooks marathon being held here over the weekend. The Lily Club was part-bar (although there was no alcohol anywhere), part-restaurant, part-lounge, and part-club, exclusive to anyone who wanted to enter, with several television sets and speakers planted around, all topped off with a projector screen against the wall. A cute bespectacled brunette with fuzzy hair was at the bar, merrily making drinks and chatting; she waved at the trio and spoke, but couldn’t be understood over the noise. A large seating area cordoned against the opposite side of the club had been cleared off and beckoned as a dance floor; Victoria nearly dragged Kali there before stopping herself. She sheepishly poked herself in the ribs.

“It’s okay,” Kali laughed, “that’s what we came here for, isn’t it?” She and Victoria wedged themselves into the crowd, dancing with each other and anyone else willing, for the better part of an hour. Even Jessica joined them for a few numbers once she got tired of being a wallflower.

“I entered into the raffle,” she announced, to nearly-deaf ears.

“Whaaat?”

“I SAID THE SHERIFF IS NEAR!”

“What do you mean, ‘Sharon is here’? Which Sharon? Sharon Puleski or Sharon Margrove?”

“Never mind,” she sighed. “I guess I don’t need to split that prize. Now lemme in on this action.” Jessica sidled between them and gave each of her friends attention, her natural athleticism giving her the stamina to withstand both of them, and to endure long after they had retired breathless. The brunette that had waved to them earlier approached, waving again.

“Hey! Are you two from around here?”

“Not really. We’re sort of on a small road trip.”

“Oh, cool! Where from?”

“L.A.”

“Not much of a road trip,” she snickered. Victoria and Kaliope looked at each other helplessly.

“I had my heart set on Vegas, but…you know…school and money and all.”

“Yeah, that’ll sink ya. So was my humble establishment a destination or just a happy coincidence?”

“A little of both. The Prom Queen here didn’t want to spend her last free evening in bed.”

“I feel ya there. Sleep is youth’s anathema. Well, I should really get back to work, but maybe the three of you can help me avoid it. Um…or is it just the two of you now?” She peered over at Jessica, who was wedged between two very happy-looking young men. Victoria soured.

“Why that little…”

“Easy there, Tosca. So what can we do to help you procrastinate, Miss, uh…”

“Gardenia. No Miss about it. And thee, and thou?” They introduced themselves; the club owner bowed to Kaliope, proclaiming, “My Muse!”

“Never heard that one before,” she grumbled. The Lily Club was fully-staffed with cooks, waiters, bussers, and miscellaneous gophers all assigned to make the evening special for their patrons; Gardenia herself had been there since six in the morning, serving breakfast to sleepy passersby and promoting the evening’s entertainment. Victoria and Kaliope gawked, but she dismissed their stares.

“Like I said, sleep is youth’s anathema, and just like Mozart, I don’t plan on fizzling out until I’m thirty-four.” They danced with her a little, had an after-dinner snack, discussed their favorite Brooks films (Young Frankenstein and the currently-playing Producers), and after being educated about the heavens, went outside for some attempted amateur astronomy. Eventually duties won over desires and Gardenia was pulled away; the girls split up and each did their own thing as one movie ended and another (High Anxiety) began. Victoria returned to the dance floor with a vengeance; Jessica completely disappeared; Kaliope flirted with one of the waiters.

Lloyd was sweet but far too enraptured in the local women’s college soccer team to encourage Kali’s interest. Jessica seemed more his type. Some of its players worked there; he could introduce her if she liked; Kali coldly declined. She asked if he wanted to dance, but he had work to do, and only returned to her sporadically. A man devoted to his duties was one of Kali’s turn-ons, but…well, that wasn’t really the point of this journey, was it? She could put any number of men in her dragnet once they all returned home. For now, it was about cementing the shaky but satisfying relationship she had with her friends.

The clock struck past two in the morning when she realized she had forgotten something in the car. Noting that Victoria had taken up residence between two other guys, and was juggling them marvelously, she waved to her politely and went back outside. Aah! Peace, quiet, fresh air! The windows of their car were all fogged over, though, and it was rocking a little. She felt a knot form in her stomach but was compelled to continue, cursing her curiosity.

The door was unlocked. Three pairs of naked feet, and quite a number of similarly-robed body parts, greeted her. A very familiar smile.

“Uh…hey there, Kali. Kal, this is Rudy and Iwan—that’s with a ‘W’, so I think he’s Welsh.”

“Um, hello,” she grinned shyly. Not averting her eyes, though. No sir. “I, uh, left my extra pack of mints in here, and…”

“Ah, say no more. We took three already; I hope you don’t mind.”

“Nope, they’re on the house.” The exchange was made. Kali seemed to be the only one uncomfortable with the situation. “So, uh…”

“Yeah, don’t tell Vikki—but if you do, be sure to rub it in her face. Oh, speaking of things rubbing in people’s faces…”

“Yeah, I’ll do that, have fun!” She shut the car door and walked away red-faced and giddy, feeling amazed, privileged, envious… Mostly envious.

Jessica’s a badass! I’ll have to do something extraordinary to top that!

Thinking back to the morning she showered with Victoria suddenly gave the Muse of Music one of her very own.

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