Since I’m almost three quarters of the way through writing my first ever contemporary romance novel, Painted Faces, I thought I’d post another short snippet from close to the start of the book. This part occurs when the main character (Freda) is going on a night out with her friends to see her new neighbour Nicholas perform for the first time. She doesn’t yet know exactly what kind of a performer he is. Enjoy! 

***
 Later on, while deciding on what to wear I pick out my dark purple
40’s tea dress and a pair of silver ballet flats. I don’t go in for
high heels, because really, for me it’s like putting my feet inside a
torture chamber. Nora can wear heels until the cows come home and
still be dancing like a good thing at three in the morning, but not
me.
Since it’s the summer I shave my pins in the shower, in preparation
for going bare legged. If heels are torture chambers for the feet,
tights (panty hose for those of you on the other side of the pond)
are torture chambers for the belly. They always seem to roll down
when I bend over and bunch up around my stomach and hips.
Nora
pops out to grab us each a bottle of wine (yes I said each,
when
it comes to drink our eyes are bigger than our livers) and gets back
just in time for Harry and Anny’s arrival. Harry hasn’t got a notion
how to dress well, he could do with getting a few tips from Nicholas.
He’s wearing baggy beige cargo pants, red Converse and a too small
family guy t-shirt under his bright blue blazer.
“So,
where are we headed for your neighbour’s performance?” he asks,
opening himself up a bottle of West Coast Cooler.
“Some
new club called The Hut,” I shrug. “And are you serious
with that drink? I use that shit as a mixer, it’s mild as fuck.”
Harry almost chokes on the liquid as he knocks it back. “The Hut?” he coughs.
“Uh,
yeah. Have you heard of it?”
He looks like he’s holding back a massive grin. For some reason he
plasters on a straight face. “Oh, I most certainly have, you’re in
for a great night. And mind your own business about what I’m
drinking, we all don’t intend to end up blind drunk with our knickers
around our ankles.”
I shove him in the arm and laugh. “You’re missing out then.”
He looks me up and down, like a class A bitch, though I know he’s
only messing. “Mm hmm.”
Harry likes to tease me and pretend I’m a slut, and I relish it
because it allows me to forget that in reality I’m actually a bit of
a prude. Oh I can talk about sex like it’s my specialist subject on
Mastermind, but when it comes down to it I’m not that
experienced. I’ve never had a partner who made my skin boil with
need. It’s all been rather “meh” to be honest.
I get through about three glasses of wine by the time the taxi
arrives to take us to the club. We all huddle in, sufficiently merry
and irritating the driver by chanting, “Turn up the radio, would
you, I fucking love this song,” when something by Rihanna comes on,
even though my sober self would turn her nose up at such mainstream
music.
He
drops us at the club, where lots of people stand outside, chatting,
laughing and smoking their cigarettes. It’s only when I take note of
the clientèle that my suspicions begin to peak. There are a lot
of
men, and the few women present mostly have that whole short haired
indie look going on favoured by lesbians. Yep, I’m almost certain
this is a gay bar. Which begs the question, what kind of “act”
exactly does Nicholas put on? We pay the ten Euro entry fee, a bit
steep, but I’m hoping the show will be worth it.
I pull Harry aside and hiss, “You devious mare, you knew this was a
gay bar, didn’t you!”
He almost falls over laughing. “Guilty as charged. I wanted to see
the look on your face when you finally copped on. Though I thought
you’d know since PantiBar is only a few doors down. So tell me about this neighbour of yours, I’m much more
intrigued by him now, is he a dish?”
I take Harry my the arm and lead him over to the bar. “Oh not only
is he a dish, he’s a gourmet five course dinner, with champagne.”
And, I believe, probably bisexual, since he very blatantly came on to
me but also works in a gay club. Not that I’m judging or anything. As
far as I’m concerned he can have sex with a blind midget if that’s
what floats his boat.
“Sounds
promising,” Harry says, motioning the bar tender over and ordering
us two Sex on the Beach cocktails. I know I shouldn’t be mixing my
drinks, but these are like Summer in a glass and Harry is paying, so
it’s an offer I can’t refuse.
Nora and Anny have disappeared into the bathrooms, probably to check
their make up. They’re still too drunk and oblivious to have noticed
that the men in here are far more interested in each other than they
ever will be in them. Their only hope of scoring is if they’re up for
trying out a night of lesbian passion.
I keep gulping back the cocktail and scanning the room. I can’t see
Nicholas anywhere and I’m just about ready to burst with curiosity as
to what his show is going to be like. You might have a hunch. I might
have one also, but I’m keeping my lips sealed until I can verify it
with my own two eyes. I spot Nora and Anny emerging from the hallway
that leads from the bathrooms.
They bump into two guys with snazzy haircuts who immediately start
chatting animatedly to them. When I see the blond one gesture to
Nora’s sparkly stilettos I imagine he’s complimenting her on her
outfit. Typical. She probably thinks they’re chatting her and Anny
up. I’m sickly anticipating the moment when realisation hits her,
like a peeping Tom waiting eagerly for a glimpse of underwear through
their next door neighbour’s bedroom window.
I’m
just finished the last drop of my cocktail when the Scissor
Sisters’
“I
Don’t Feel Like Dancing” starts blasting from the speakers with its
catchy beats. The thing about this song is that in contrast to the
lyrics, when I hear it all I want to do is dance. Perhaps that’s the
point. Also, I have one of those futile crushes on the front man Jake
Shears. He’s just got this irresistibly pretty face.
Harry and I give each other “the look” in silent agreement that
we’re going to take to the floor and dance our little hearts out. He
grabs my hand, flips it over his shoulder, cocks his head and drags
me away from the bar. We probably look quite…special, with our
uncoordinated movements, but I’m having fun, so who cares what I look
like.
We continue in this manner for about three songs before we’re both
out of breath and a pool of sweat slicks itself down my back. As far
as I’m concerned, a night out isn’t a night out if your dress isn’t
sticking to you by the end of it.
At the back of the club is the performance area, where there’s a big
stage with tables and chairs all around it. The place is fairly
packed, but we manage to snag a small table right at the front, just
as Nora and Anny decide to join us. Nora has a bit of an irritated
look on her face. Damn, I must have missed her moment of revelation.
I tip my head to her and laugh. “You look like you just sucked on a
lemon.”
She folds her arms over her chest. “Nicholas is gay, isn’t he,”
she says, her voice dripping with dejection.
I shrug, again remembering his proposition last night. “Not
necessarily. The jury’s still out, there’s hope for a Christmas
wedding yet,” I tell her.
She narrows her eyes at me and sips on her glass of white wine. A man
in his mid-thirties with a slick of bleach blond hair steps out in
front of the red velvet curtains that obscure the back of the stage
from the front. He has a microphone in his hand. There are several
wolf whistles and cat calls as he waves to a few individuals he knows
in the audience.
One man shouts something rude up, but I can’t make out the words
properly over the noise of the crowd. I think it had something to do
with “nice arse” and “suck”. Who knows. The guy with the mic
smirks and with a breathy voice says, “I might take you up on that
later, sugar.” He’s wearing a purple shirt that’s almost the same
colour as my dress and shiny black trousers.
He spots me sitting just shy of the stage. “Oh honey, look at us
all coordinated,” he gestures between his shirt and my dress and
the audience laughs. I give him a little sweeping bow.
Then he addresses the whole club, all business. “Welcome to The
Stonewall, this evening we have some great entertainment lined up for
you still to come. But now we have someone very special, our
headlining act all the way from Christchurch, New Zealand. I’m sure
some of you have witnessed this act before, so it needs no
introduction really. I’ll let the performance speak for itself,” he
finishes, and with a flourish bounces off the stage and disappears
into the crowd.
A slow mischievous beat starts up. The music sounds familiar but I
can’t quite place it. It’s one of those anticipatory song intros,
beginning slow and them slapping you with the big reveal. It’s all
too appropriate as I can’t wait to see Nicholas take the stage.
Anny slams four drinks down onto the table, just returning from the
bar. “I didn’t miss anything, did I?” she asks, all out of
breath.
Nora shushes her and yanks her down into her seat. My eyes return to
the stage just as the curtains are drawn back to reveal Nicholas, a
microphone in hand, and my God do I have a hard time containing my
surprise.

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