Danny - Part 5

Printer-friendly version
 
Danni_on_stage_1.jpg
   
DANNY
Part 5

by Roberta J Cabot

This is a story about Daniel, a guy with a unique talent and an even more unique problem: A great singing voice and the looks of his gorgeous sister, and how he and his family and friends deal with life with him having breasts. And now, it is coming close to that moment, when he has to choose the path his life would go - between being a girl or remaining a guy. Things are finally coming to a head for Dan & his gang.

 
Author’s Note: I started writing this December 2005, soon after I discovered the now-defunct Fictionmania site (I just discovered recently that they resurrected it, however), and I decided to try my hand at writing Transgender Fiction. And it took me this long to build up the courage to actually upload it for others to enjoy (or not — your option heheh).

I resurrected what little I had of my old story, cleaned them up and posted them in four parts, in Crystal’s Storysite and in Topshelf. And though I am by no means a real writer, I am trying my darndest to finish the rest of the story — I thank everyone that gave me encouragement, either through emails or comments in the sites. It is because of you that I am persevering with this. This fifth installment is the result of this. Feedback would be most appreciated, so I do hope people write me back through my site-registered email address.

I hope you will forgive any grammatical and literary flubs that you see, and any problems in format. Further, given that this little piece had close to five years of gestation, many of the cultural referents will be off - for example, many of the songs used in the story are not current but in the story they’re treated as if they were, yet at the same time other songs are really current songs. I hope you will forgive the temporal mismatch here, and try and enjoy the story despite this.

Apologies also if the quoted lyrics are wrong — I got most of them off the net, or from my own memory — I didn’t get them off official sources.

So, without further ado, here we go with Part Five. Hope you like… (Don’t forget! Feedback, please!!)


 

Part Five: Going Home; Revelations
 
 
In Part Five, we see how Danny and the guys celebrate their triumph at the concert, how Morgan and Danielle open their hearts and reveal their true feelings about Danny, how Danny’s boss discovers his secret, and how Danny takes care of his fans.

 
 
Fourteen: After the Concert
 
***** (Danny) *****

     It was a major operation, this contest thing. Janet had dipped into the band’s bank account and splurged for a semi-large U-Haul trailer that Dale towed behind his Ford, as well as a budget for incidentals like toll fees, gas and food. Maybe even enough for a couple of motel rooms if it gets too late and we get too tired to drive anymore.

     I didn’t even know the band had a bank account. All I knew was that I got paid a share of what the band makes during our gigs. I was getting one-twelfth of our billings, net of taxes, and I thought that was a little low. But when I saw the bankbook, and Dale showed me the band’s financial ledger — it was all there in neat rows of names and numbers. The upshot of it was that everyone got one-twelfth of the band’s earnings, even Janet, and another twelfth was put in a time deposit for each band member, which the band member can withdraw if he or she quits the band. That makes one sixth per member. One-twelfth was reserved for contingency fees to other people (like Marie, our pseudo-producer) and another twelfth for miscellaneous expenses, but if not used up, they’re put in the time-deposit account distributed equally to everyone. I looked at Dale, impressed at his organizational skills, fairness and forethought. But he pointed out it was all Janet’s doing.

     “I just do the bookkeeping,” Dale said. “It’s all Janet, really. She wanted to make the band a business as well as something that everyone shared.” He said that they had to recompute to accommodate me — before, when there were only four of them, each member’s share was one-tenth of the earnings, so Janet decided to keep all of what they had in the current account, and start from scratch with a new one, hence no problem with the recomputing. “No one really complained much at the percent reduction,” Dale said, “since Janet said we’d probably have more gigs than the once-a-week we used to have at Mario’s. But two shows at Mario’s instead of one wasn’t what we were really hoping for.” I laughed at that. “Still,” Dale said, “with Mario almost doubling our rate per set and allowing us to do three or four instead of the one set per night is netting us more than three times what each of us made before. Too bad that he’s gone to one show per week again…”

     This was all news to me.

     Anyway, about the U-Haul trailer - since the authorized signatories for the bank account were both Janet and Dale, we had to get Janet to agree to the U-Haul. It took Dale AND my cajoling to get Janet to say yes. Otherwise, we’d be carrying our equipment on our laps in our individual cars (and Dale’s van). “Besides,” Dale told her, “it’s not gonna cost us much more than a couple of hundred.”

     “You’re forgetting the deposit, the insurance, et cetera, et cetera…” said Janet.

     “But, Janet,” I said, “they’ll return the deposit afterwards. And I don’t want to have to shlep around guitars and keyboards and stuff. Please?...” I comically batted my eyelashes at her. She burst out laughing, gave me a kiss and agreed to it, and actually did one better — she had a couple of thousand withdrawn for the rental as well as contingencies.

     “You owe me, kid,” she said when she signed the withdrawal slip. The couple of thousand was totally over and above what we needed, but best to be safe. “No problem if we don’t use it all up,” Dale said. “We’ll just deposit it back later.”

 

     Anyway, with the ten thousand-dollar prize, we more than made back whatever we spent, and we had a shot at becoming more than just a garage band — included in the prize was a possible recording contract (there would be a demo and audition first, though) as well as being opening acts for a couple of teen concerts that the sponsoring company was organizing.

     The sponsor was RockrGrrl Guitars, a fairly-new guitar manufacturer that makes guitars specifically for girls and women. Somewhat similar to Daisy Rock Guitars — the RockrGrrl guitars were light-weight guitars that had narrower necks, with some models having a shorter scale length and reduced spacing between the frets, which made the guitars easier to play for girls with their smaller hands and bodies.

     The awarding had taken more than an hour to complete, which included the inevitable plugs from the various sponsors, breaks in the videotaping for commercials, the awarding of the check for ten thousand dollars, the awarding of gift vouchers and guitars from the sponsor, and an impromptu encore song. Since there were three “girls” in our band, we were given three complementary RockrGrrl guitars complete with cases — a pair of six-string single-cutaway electric guitars, similar in look to the classic Gibson Les Paul (though a little smaller), one of them a bass, plus a standard-looking (although again smaller in size) acoustic guitar with a built-in pickup and jack. The bass was in an imitation mother-of-pearl white top and the other one in a solid candy-pink. The acoustic guitar had a mint-green finish with a marble look to it. All that Dale and Mongo got were small gift checks. Mweheheheh…

     June and Janet got first dibs, but June said we could have them as she’s not too interested in guitars. Janet took one look at them, shuddered a bit at the saccharine color schemes, so all three ended up being mine. I was at once elated (that I had three, count em! three new guitars), but also disappointed in that they were girl guitars. Or more properly, “grrl” guitars. Heheh. The sponsor’s representative who handed them to us said they were pre-tuned, just in case we wanted to give them a test drive. Talk about heavy hints…

     The announcer talked to each of us, starting with Janet, asking our names, how we got started as a band, and how we felt about winning, as well as some other inanities. Dale took the opportunity to plug the band a bit, casually mentioning our once-a-week gig at Mario’s (It used to be twice a week, but Mario’s cut it down to just Saturdays now).

     The announcer finished up with me. He introduced me as Dannie Fairchild (of course, the spelling of ‘Dannie’ couldn’t be heard via the interview unless I actually spelled it out), and asked me the same sort of things. I couldn’t get much said as the loud and un-ending cheers kept drowning me out. I was able to talk about how I got started with the band, though, and how I loved being part of the group. I also got to talk about my friends and pointed to them. A spotlight was turned on the guys. I can’t remember my exact words, though, but I did get to mention Nikki by name as my “special friend,” and she waved enthusiastically and gave me a flying kiss. Everyone laughed and roared in appreciation at that, and the host wrapped up the interview. We all gave a bow — the usual stage bow, with us holding hands and bowing at the same time, and the audience responded with thundering applause. And even after repeated bows, the audience didn’t want to stop clapping and cheering.

     The announcer stepped off the stage and the floodlights clicked on, so I guess it was our turn again, for our “encore” song.

     As the cheers started to fade, we went into a huddle. I said I wanted to play “Real” by Plumb. Janet agreed — she loved the pop-song beat of the song, with lots of hooks that guaranteed it to be a hit. For me, it was more. For me, the words had meaning.

     I put my old guitar down, slung the new candy-pink electric’s strap around my neck, plugged in, cleared my throat and tried to project the image I had in my mind.

     I waited until the hubbub of the crowd died out, and in the almost virtual silence, I started playing the new guitar. The frets felt like they were tailored to my hand. So much easier than my fake strat. As I plucked the strings, the sound reverberated in the hall.

     “Look at me, I'm twenty three, beautiful - a sight to see tonight,” I sang plaintively to the listening audience. “A little dress to draw the press, and I'll be leaving all the rest behind.”

     Janet strummed a bridge chord, and I sang the next verse. “Well, be pleased, girl, if this is what you wanted. The whole world is watching you take the stage. What will you say?”

     Dale, Mongo and June got in the act, and we went into high gear.

     “Aren't I lovely, and do you want me, cause I am hungry for something that will make me real! Can you see me, and do you love me, cause I am desperately searching for something real!”

     The guys dialed it back a bit for the next verse. “I close my eyes, imagine time will not forget my sacrifice,” I sang. Janet crabbed her guitar and made it go, “wowowowowow.” That was hard to do without an effects box, but she did it purely from the frets.

     June, Janet and I harmonized the next line. “I numb the ache and decorate my emptiness, stand naked in the light.”

     I went solo again as Janet and Dale strummed the bridge chord. “Well, be pleased, world, if this is what you wanted. This young girl is everything that you made. What will she say?”

     The guys fired it up again for the refrain. “Aren't I lovely, and do you want me, cause I am hungry for something that will make me real!

     “Can you see me, and do you love me cause I am desperately searching for something real!”

     The guys pulled back, leaving me to sing the next lines, lonely and vulnerable. “The world goes home. The lights go down. My lipstick fades away.” I got a little teary-eyed. The lyrics were more than words to me. Like the song was about me.

     But I shook off the melancholy waves, and we fired it up again for the final part, and I sang my heart out. “And do you want me cause I am hungry for something that will make me real. Can you see me, and do you love me, cause I am desperately searching for something real!”

     Like always, I had goosebumps as we played together flawlessly, like the well-oiled machine that we were. And I repeated the lines. “And do you want me cause I am hungry for something that will make me real. Can you see me, and do you love me, cause I am desperately searching for something real.” I repeated the last few words. “Something real! Yeah! Something real…”

     I stretched the last word as we faded the music away, and the applause and cheers rained down.

 

     We escaped to the backstage as the curtains came down and the applause kept going. We hugged as a group, and June was almost jumping in joy and triumph.

     “We did it! We did it!” June shrieked. I looked at my friends with a smile, and even in my somewhat melancholy mood, I couldn’t help but feel my pride in them. My joy in them.

     As we wound down and mopped up our sweating necks and faces (I was lucky in that I had built-in hankies — my scarves), one of the organizers came over and told us that the girl who supposedly “fainted” (I still say she was faking it) asked to meet us. Janet agreed. The girl timidly came backstage with a couple of stage hands trailing, ready to catch her in case she “fainted” again. After looking at the five of us gooey-eyed, she shyly walked over, and said in a very meek voice, “Hi, I’m Janice.”

     Dale came over and shook her hand, as did Mongo. June gave her a hug. “I’m June,” she said.

     Janet noticed the little flyer she had clutched in her hand, and offered to sign it. All of the band took turns signing Janice’s flyer, and when it came to me, I wiped my sweaty hand on one of the scarves, took the pen and signed it with a flourish. “To Janice,” I wrote, “thank you so much for being a fan. Love, Dannie.” (I almost wrote Danny).

     I handed it to her and gave her a hug. She squeezed back so strongly, it was hard to breathe. She then snuck a kiss on my lips, and whispered in my ear, “You’re wonderful. I love you.”

     I gave her another light squeeze before gently pushing her away. “Thank you, Janice,” I said, being careful of what I said. “We all appreciate it.”

     “No, no,” she shook her head, holding my hands in a death grip. “I really love you. I’ll do anything…”

     The two stage hands gently but firmly pulled her away, one of them looked back at me and shrugged apologetically.

     “Wait, goddamnit!” we could faintly hear her say as she was led off the stage.

     “Groupies,” I said, looked back at everyone and shrugged. June giggled.

     “What,” I said a little irritatedly. June pointed at my sleeves and I noticed I was missing my scarves. Groupies like to take souvenirs, after all…

 

     After we all signed some paperwork and shook the hands of the organizers, Morgan and the others came over and we loaded up the U-Haul with everyone’s band stuff, as well as the three new guitars, and piled into the cars — Dale’s big Ford, Joanne’s van and my ‘stang. Danielle went back in and made sure to get a copy of the final signed documents. She came out as we finished loading up.

     “Got it,” Danielle said, waving it in the air.

     “Just in time, too,” I said. “just as we’ve finished loading up.” Everyone laughed and Danielle chased me around the parking lot.

     Most of the other bands had gone, except for a few that stayed behind to congratulate us. It was getting late after all.

     After all our band stuff was securely packed in the U-Haul, we had to take back all our overnighters and pile them and other stuff in the back of either Dale’s Ford, Joanne’s little van or the trunk of my mustang, the rest we would carry on our laps. As it was an overnight thing at worst, Janet insisted that we only bring a couple of changes of clothes and essential toiletries. The girls, of course, stretched that rule though, but they were unusually restrained in the amount of their baggage — no more than two bags apiece.

     As Nikki got in my car’s passenger seat, and June and Janet got in the back (Danielle wanted to ride with Joanne), Janet tapped my shoulder. “Mr. Taylor, the event manager said that our show is gonna be featured on MTV or VH1 or something.” When I was younger, MTV and all the music TV channels were kings of the airwaves. Nowadays, they’re not as big, so I didn’t know if that was such a big deal. Janet went on. “He also said that they might feature a few of the segments on The Today Show and Good Morning America.”

     “Cool,” I answered back laconically.

     “What’s wrong, Danny,” Nikki said.

     “I’m glad we won and all,” I said, “it’s just that it’s gonna be seen on TV.”

     Nikki gave me a hug. “It’s all right, Danny,” Nikki said. “Remember the plan? If anyone connects this to you, we say it was Danielle and not you.”

     Wonder of wonders, Betsy was able to make it in time to meet us at the parking lot, in nothing less than a chauffeured limo. (The chauffeur being their butler, Walter.)     Betsy came out of the back of the limousine, dressed in club clothes just like the rest of the guys, and ran to my car.

     “Danny,” she shrieked and leaned in through the driver’s window and gave me a kiss on the cheek.

     “Betsy!” I exclaimed. “You came.”

     “I’m so sorry I couldn’t make it. Dad was inaugurating a building upstate and he wanted mom and me there for the ribbon cutting. But I’m here now.” Betsy wanted to ride with us, so we had another passenger in the mustang. Betsy had us dump most of the stuff we had with us in the limo, and Walter followed us in convoy.

 

     We heard an electronic buzzing coming from the glove compartment and pulled out one of Mongo’s Radio Shack walkie-talkies. “Wazzzup!” Dale exclaimed. We groaned at the hackneyed joke.

     I pressed the radio’s button. “Danny, here,” I said. “We’re ready to roll.”

     Joanne buzzed in. “We’re all ready in the van as well.”

     “Okay, guys,” Dale said. “Let’s boogie on outa here!”

     We decided to go to a restaurant of Morgan's choice - a Chinese restaurant specializing in dumplings. Walter, Betsy’s family butler, now temporary chauffeur, went ahead of us and arranged for a table for the group, and we ended up sitting in a big, round table with a hot pot in the middle, and an unbelievably large Lazy Susan.

     We all deferred to Morgan and he ordered up a mess of pork hsui mai, chicken dumplings, cellophane rice noodles with beef and cauliflower, egg drop soup, a pot of lemongrass tea, a kind of drink with little round tapioca balls and gelatin cubes, sweet-and-sour pork, and chinese fried rice.

     "Wow," Janet commented, "you're some kind of Chinese food connoisseur."

     "But of course," Morgan said.

     Walter took a small table away from us and placed an order for himself with our waiter. He also handed a small card to the waiter - presumably a credit card.

     "The meal's on me," Betsy said. "Or, actually, on Daddy's credit card." She shrugged. "It's the least I can do to make up for not being able to join the contest."

     "No big, Bets," I said, and gave her a hug.

     None of the band had changed attire, with Janet and June still in their Beyonce-licious best, and Dale and Mongo in their dark-brown leather jackets over a shiny electric-blue silk shirt (in the case of Mongo, it was electric green). I was still wearing my large jacket over the tube top, the big belt buckle over the pouf skirt, and the stiletto boots. And everyone else were in their club clothes. Good thing the place was a bit upscale so our group didn't unduly stand out.
 
***** (Nikki) *****
 
     We found ourselves in a restaurant of Morgan’s choosing. We were given a big table, enough to accommodate the entire group, and we made a boisterous time of it. I kept my arm firmly around Dan’s waist, and he had his around my shoulders. I sighed and looked up, trying to pay attention to Dale. But Dan’s sexy, slightly musky scent distracted me. Mongo had brought one of the Rockrgrrl electrics and stowed it under the table, presumably to examine it a bit later.

     Dale was going on about the demise of classical music in the popular culture, and how everyone could benefit from a good dose of culture. Mongo suddenly broke in, saying that the others who left early were lucky to be spared this. Dale threw a roll, and a food fight erupted. If it weren’t for the maitre d’, it would have gotten out of hand. It felt like deja vu.

 

     As the hilarity died out, we got down to some serious eating. I noisily sucked my tapioca-and-gelatin drink but the little tapioca balls would get stuck in the straw. I reversed the straw to get at the stuck little jelly balls, and continued my noisy drinking. Betsy used a fork to eat her cellophane noodles by twirling them onto a fork and Danny expertly maneuvered slices of sweet-and-sour pork to his mouth with chopsticks. Mongo got a couple of little slivers of raw beef and a bunch of greens with his chopsticks and dropped them into the boiling water of the hotpot. Joanne looked at Drew trying to eat fried rice with chopsticks without much luck, so, taking a cue from some of the patrons in the restaurant, Joanne got a spoonful of rice, said “Here!” and popped it into Drew’s mouth. Everyone giggled at Drew’s surprised expression. She chewed the food in comical enthusiasm, went, “Mmmm!” and gave Joanne a garlicky kiss on the cheek.

     For good measure, Joanne did the same to June, and she also gave her the same kind of kiss on Joanne’s other cheek. “Yuck!” Mel complained, and everyone laughed. June and Drew really did look and act like twins, though not as close as Danny and Danielle.

     The novelty of the restaurant was wonderful, and although the food was great, the way you ate the food was an adventure all by itself and made it fun and memorable. Much of the meal was eaten in appreciative silence except for the munching, the odd burp (typically from Mickey), and various sighs of appreciation.

     We talked about the evening, and the wonderful time we all had at the concert, and Mel and Joanne couldn’t get over the large crowd. Ever the curious guy, Jerry asked about the prizes. Janet showed them the check for ten grand and Danielle brought out the “limited engagement” contract that they all signed. I grabbed it, looked it over with Danielle, and tried to decipher the legalese. As far as I could tell, the band was given an option to be the opening acts at two RockrGrrl concerts (to be determined later), and one audition for a recording company. Sounds like a great opportunity for the band to get signed up.

     “What else?” Betsy asked.

     Mongo brought out the cotton-candy pink hardshell guitar case and popped it open. Inside was the rock-candy pink electric guitar, as well as a set of pink and black tweed guitar cables, a little packet that contained replacement steel-strings and a bunch of cherry-red guitar picks.

     “Wow,” Betsy said. “That guitar’s real pretty!”

     Mongo handed the guitar over and Betsy put the strap on around her shoulder. She pantomimed strumming the guitar like a glam-rock singer, pinwheeling her arm in a big circle before hitting the strings. “Look at me,” Betsy said. “I’m Dannie!”

     “Look at me, I’m twenty-three,” June and Drew sang and giggled themselves silly. Me, too, actually.

     Danny laughed and gestured for the guitar. “Hold the bottom of this glass against it,” Danny said to me, and got me to hold a drinking glass against the guitar.

     He played the guitar, and a distinct sound could be heard, but not loud. Equally quietly, Danny sang, “Well, be pleased, girl, if this is what you wanted. The whole world is watching you take the stage. What will you say?”

     The girls picked up the song, and sang the rest of the refrain at the top of their voices. “Aren't I lovely, and do you want me, cause I am hungry for something that will make me real! Can you see me, and do you love me, cause I am desperately searching for something real!”

     The rest of the restaurant clapped in good humor, and the girls giggled and waved.

     “What song was that,” Betsy asked, and everyone filled her in.

     What a fun group.
 
***** (Melody Piper) *****
 
     What a fun group, I thought to myself. Danny’s bunch of friends were quite boisterous but the patrons in the restaurant was quite tolerant of them. I was surprised. But I guess it was because, despite their boisterousness, they weren’t too rowdy. The food throwing was a close thing, but between Danny and the maitre d’, disaster was aborted in the nick of time.

     I was seated at a table against the far wall, well away from Danny, and hiding behind my menu, taking short peeks around it at Danny and his friends. They felt just like me and my friends way back in high school. I couldn’t help but wish for my own Tracey to have such friends.

     Judging by what the gentleman that was with them was wearing, I concluded he was their driver. But the fact that he accompanied them into the restaurant but sat at a table away from them - probably a butler, I thought. I surveyed the kids and my experienced eye spotted the couture-quality clothes of the cute redhead (not Danny nor Danielle). The butler was probably hers. And from the K Mart quality of some of the outfits on the guys, Danny’s gang had a pretty wide… demographic. Speaks well of him, I thought.

     Weeks ago, I heard from Tracey and a few of the kids at Tracey’s school about the upcoming concert by Rockrgrrl. The guitar company obviously wanted to get on the same bandwagon that lots of shows were currently on, like American Idol, England’s Got Talent, Dancing with the stars, et cetera et cetera. And, given my radio station’s predominantly young listenership, I decided and called to ask the concert organizers at Rockrgrrl if we could feature the concert on the station. Even though my station was basically a hole-in-the-wall, they agreed without delay, as would any new company trying to break into a new market.

     They gave me a list of the ten girl-bands that passed the screening, and I noticed Unlimited Bandwidth in there. I seem to recall Danny featuring the band on his Nighthawk radio show a few times so my interest was piqued. I looked at the listing for Unlimited Bandwidth and one of its members was a Dannie Fairchild. I assumed it was Danielle, but I never heard her called Dannie ever. Could it be? At almost the last moment, I decided to go, and see if it was.

 

     I never expected to enjoy myself, but I did. Many of the bands were pretty good, but I liked Danny’s band the best. And it really WAS Danny. I had been impressed with the kid before, but this was beyond expectations. And another question arose. Could it be he was like Tracey? If so, maybe he’d be good for him, and bring him out of his shell.

     I looked at them enjoying themselves, and I felt jealous — jealous that my Tracey didn’t have that kind of relationship with his peers.

     I made a decision, and called up the Rockrgrrl representative I was introduced to earlier. I asked for a copy of the booth recording, and the guy promised to give a cleaned up version in a couple of days. I said, fine, but I was hoping to get a copy now, even if it was the raw, unmodified version, and that I’d be willing to sign any kind of NDA they needed. I used all my salesmanship skills, as well as a bit of name-dropping, and the guy agreed, though reluctantly. I thanked him profusely and told him that my friend Isabel (the owner of RockrGrrl) will be pleased to hear about her friendly and talented staff. The guy thanked me and said I could pick it up my copy in about twenty minutes or so. He even said I didn’t need to sign an NDA.

     I gave Danny and his friends a last once-over, brought out my iPhone and surreptitiously took a picture of them. The waiter gave me my takeout in a large plastic bag (I deliberately selected stuff that would travel well, given the two-to-four-hour drive home) and I made sure I wasn’t seen by Dan and his friends as I left for the auditorium to pick up the video.

     I was home in less than two hours, thanks to my driver’s expertise with the car. Once home, I found Tracey in the living room area, watching SyFy again while doing something on his laptop. It wasn’t a school night so I didn’t chew him out for staying up so late.

     “Hey, Trace,” I said, and proferred my cheek for a kiss.

     “Hi, Mom,” Tracey said as he got up to give me a kiss. He sat back down on the couch, smoothening his skirt first. He was becoming very proficient in that, I thought. I noticed he’d shaved his legs again. Tracey was my pre-op son, currently going through his real-life trial. Next year, he’d qualify for the hormone treatment and then, eventually, qualify for the operation.

     “Did you have fun?” He asked.

     “Pretty much. Listen, I’ve got something to show you.” I dropped the paper bag of food on the table, took out the DVD that the organizer’s rep, Mr. Taylor, gave me from my bag, and popped it into the player. I fast-forwarded until I came to the section with Danny’s band, and pressed PLAY.

     On the TV was the girl from Dan’s band with the enormous boobs, and she sang with a synthesized effect. After that one line, Danny was on. I settled into the couch and snuggled with my son.

     After a bit, the video caught Tracey’s eye and pretty soon, he put aside the computer and was sitting on the edge of the couch watching Danny and his friends sing their hearts out. “Who’s that?”

     “That? The one singing? You won’t be able to guess. That, my dear is the one and only Nighthawk.” Tracey was a fan of the Nighthawk, as most of the kids he knew in school were, and his eyes goggled at that.

     “She’s gorgeous!” He said. “Wow! And she’s got a pretty good singing voice, too.”

     “Wait until the next song.”

     The taller blonde girl took over the singing. “You mean this one?” Tracey said. He didn’t sound as impressed.

     “No. After this.”

     We listened through the blonde girl’s song, and after a moment or so, Danny took over singing another song.

     “What’d she do with her voice? Wow! She sounds just like Courtney Love, only better!”

     “You should listen to him as he does his show. He can switch voices at a second’s notice. He’s…”

     Tracey went “shhh!” and tried to concentrate on the TV. I smiled, happy that he’s taken an interest in something else other than his computer.

     As we watched the end of the song and the tumultuous applause, Tracey turned to me. “Any more?”

     I fast-forwarded to the awards portion, sat back and watched my enraptured son. He watched as the individual bands were introduced, and when it was Danny’s group’s turn, Danny stepped forward and struck a chord on his guitar, adding a couple of flourishes with his scarves. “Wow!” Tracey said.

     And when the announcer announced the winner, Tracey actually clapped in glee. I giggled at his enthusiasm.

     Tracey sat through the interview and listened to Danny struggling to answer the announcer and be heard above the un-ending cheers and applause, and listened to Danny sing their encore song. “I wonder what the title of that song is…” Tracey said to himself. Danny was expertly playing the guitar that was given him as if the guitar had always been his. “A pink guitar!” Tracey said, and giggled. “Too cute!”

     After the song, and Danny’s band disappearing behind the curtain, Tracey turned back to me. “Any more, mom?”

     “I’m afraid that’s it, sweetie.”

     He got the remote from me and started playing the disk again, queuing it back to Danny’s section.

     “Listen, have you had dinner already? I brought Chinese.” Tracey impatiently shook his head no. “Well, if you’re at all interested, I’m bringing the food in the kitchen. Just come on in if you want some.”

     I looked at Tracey. He was sitting inches from the screen. “Would you like to meet Danny?”

     That caught his attention. “Really? When!”

     “He has an early program at the station tomorrow. That is, if he can make it. I bet he’s gonna be pretty tired after that concert.”

     “He’s gonna be at the station? Mommm! Can I meet him? Can I?”

     I giggled. My son… I should learn to start thinking of him as my daughter.

     “Sure, Tracey,” I said. “But we have to leave for the station early. His program’s only two hours, from six am to eight.”

     “No sweat!” He… damnit — SHE - gave me a hug. “Oh, mom! Thanks!”

     “No problem, honey.”

     She went back to watching the TV. I gave him a kiss, picked up the paper bag and went to the kitchen.

     “Wait!” I heard her call. “The Nighthawk’s a guy?!”

     I giggled, and I heard Tracey running to the kitchen.
 
***** (Danny) *****
 
     After the meal, we were still hyped and everyone wanted to do something before having to go home. I asked the kid who fetched our rides if there was a good place to go to. The would-be valet looked us up and down and suggested a club a few blocks away, one that wasn’t too strict with IDs and such, and was “girl friendly.” I told the guys and they agreed to go to Foxtails.

     “I’m sorry, guys,” Betsy said, “but I’m sort of ‘under surveillance,’ if you know what I mean.” She gestured at Walter, her butler/driver.

     “Well, why don’t you invite him,” Janet said, “and he could keep tabs on you there. I’m sure if you did, he’d say yes.”

     Betsy nodded and trotted off to her butler. They had a short conversation, and Betsy came back.

     “Walter said I can go if he’ll be coming with us,” she said. “So let’s go then.”

     “Wait,” I said. I had a brainstorm. I reorganized the seating arrangement a bit, and had the girls sit in the limo. I then asked for volunteers to ride with me in my mustang but everyone wanted to ride in Dale’s Ford F150. Morgan shrugged and volunteered to ride with me.

     I asked Joanne if it was okay to hook up the trailer to her van. She said okay to that and squeezed into the limo.

     After Dale and Mongo transferred the trailer as well as our odds and ends to the van, Mongo volunteered to drive it. He led our little convoy and we kept an eye open for a parking space.

     Halfway there, we saw an open parking lot. Mongo turned the van into the lot, picking a slot near the guard’s little booth at the front. We waited for him across the street, and as soon as he was done paying, he ran over, jumped into Dale’s van and we were off.

     Danielle told me later that our group made a big splash as soon as the limo parked in front of the club, as I intended. Walter, playing the chauffeur thing to the hilt, opened the door for them, and seven hotties (she was referring to themselves, of course heheh) stepped out. Everyone that was waiting in line to get into the club turned to look at them, and the girls giggled at all the attention. Walter went to the doorman-bouncer and spoke to him briefly. Danielle saw him slip the guy some money, and the doorman nodded. Walter went to Betsy and nodded. “Everything squared away, miss. I’ll just park the car and be back.” He waved the valet away and got in. He pulled forward a bit and waited for the others.

     Dale pulled up in his humungous Ford and he and Mongo stepped out, along with Mickey and Jerry. Dale handed his keys to the valet and the valet pulled away from the curb. Walter trailed him to wherever he would be parking Dale’s car.

     And then I pulled up. According to Danielle, my shiny ’73 Mustang was always an attention-grabber and tonight was no different. Morgan stepped out, and everyone in line did a double-take when I switched the engine off and stepped out. I mean, who wouldn’t if a tiny hottie came out of the driver’s side of a muscle car. I stepped up onto the curb but almost lost my balance on the stiletto heels. I grabbed for Morgan’s arm and we then went towards the rest of the guys.

     “Walter said everything’s okay,” Betsy said, and led us to the doorman.

     “Welcome to Foxtail’s, ladies, gentlemen,” the big black man said to us, and held the door open.

     The place was jumping, as we had arrived just before eleven. Our big group grabbed a couple of corner tables adjacent to each other. The guys went and bought a round of drinks for everyone. I told Dale I'd have rum and coke, like Janet. Betsy ordered a Diet Pepsi.

     A table of giggling girls always attracts a lot of attention, and there were a lot of guys eyeing us up, already, as well as a lot of the girls. I was not at all comfortable with this, but the others just whispered and giggled a lot.

     Most everyone got up and danced, and Betsy was the most popular among us. She giggled a lot as guys vied for her attentions, but the others weren’t having much of a problem looking for partners, either. Even Jerry and Mickey. Morgan and Drew gravitated towards each other, of course.

     I was able to dance with Nikki for a couple of songs, and I enjoyed it a lot. But I begged off afterwards, though, as I felt a lot tired. I shooed Nikki back to the dance floor to enjoy herself, and a tall blond guy cut in, whirling Nikki away before she could respond. I giggled and waved goodbye.

     I sat down at one of the tables we had claimed as ours and put up my tired tootsies on one of the chairs. As I did so, lots of guys came up either trying to chat me up or get me to dance. I shook my head and they all skulked away. I took a sip of my long-neglected rum-coke, closed my eyes and sighed. After a bit, a tall gorgeous girl with long, ash-blonde hair dressed in a very stylish fitted mini dress came to stand by the table, asking for a dance. I looked up at her and my brain locked up. She was absolutely gorgeous. Her dress was one of those one-shoulder things, with ruffle trim and a glitter design throughout the cloth, ruched along the sides. Although her boobs were smaller than mine… I was wondering why my brain was noting details of her clothes and her measurements when a whole, cute, live girl was in front of me.

     I finally got my voice to work. “Uhmmm, I’m a little tired, and I just sat down…”

     “That’s a little unfair. That blonde girlfriend of yours has been monopolizing you the whole night.”

     “But I…”

     “Just one dance? Please?”

     I relented. “All right.” And as soon as I said that, the girl pulled on my arm, pulling me up and dragging me back to the dance floor. “Eeep!”

     Once I was boppin’ to the beat with this hottie, I finally noticed that there were a lot more girls in the place than boys. Maybe a four-to-one ratio. With most of them looking at me. Then I thought of the club’s name — Foxtails. I looked around. There were several guys there, but not many. And girls were dancing with Morgan and the others. But I guessed that the place caters mostly to a… female clientele, though not exclusively.

     No wonder a girl was so quick to proposition me here. Normally, I would be tickled pink by the attentions of such a beautiful girl but I was just one inch from freaking right now, despite the fact that my nose was mashed against the girl’s wonderfully-smelling cleavage. I wondered at that as the girl spun me around, and the only thing I could think of was that I was afraid of being found out.

     I looked desperately for my friends, and I saw Morgan just finishing dancing with a tiny little brunette thing. Seems Morgan and Drew were dancing with other people for a while. I looked at him with desperate eyes. He looked at the girl in my arms (or more correctly, the girl whose arms I was in) and grinned. He looked back and gave me a big wink and an emphatic thumbs-up. I shook my head and mouthed the words, “rescue me.”

     Morgan nodded and gave the girl he was with a quick kiss as he escorted her back to her friends. He then turned back and went straight to me. He tapped my partner on the shoulder. “May I cut in?” he said.

     The blonde looked at Morgan. “I don’t think so,” she said.

     I shook her a bit to get her attention. “Please?” I asked.

     She looked at me for a second, and then leaned down to give me a kiss.

     “Okay, sexy girl,” she said.

     She handed me to Morgan. “Here she is, stud. You don’t know how lucky you are.”

     Before she could go, I grabbed her hand and said “I’m sorry. Thank you.”

     She touched my cheek gently. “No big deal, dearie. If you change your mind, I’ll just be around.” And then she walked off. Now that there was no more immediate risk of being caught out, I suddenly noticed how really cute she was. I watched her saucy ass swaying underneath her short mini-dress. Wow.

     “Hmmm,” Morgan said. “I wonder if Nikki saw who you were dancing with. Heheh.”

     I kicked him in the shin. “Ow!”

     “How about you, Mr. Cassanova? Does Drew know you were dancing with that brunette?”

     Morgan laughed. “Yep, she does. She’s back there dancing with the brunette’s boyfriend.” He pointed back to the dance floor.

     “Ha-ha. Can you bring me to the table and keep me company?”

     “Eh?”

     “I want to sit down and rest, but people keep hitting on me.”

     He looked at me with a small grin. “Whatever the lady wants,” he said.

     I made as if to kick him in the shin again, but he danced away at the last moment.

     Chortling, he took my arm and escorted me back to.

     By the time Morgan and I were on our second drinks, things got a bit blurry.

     Mickey, Dale, Jerry and Drew slid into the booth.

     "Having fun?" Morgan asked as they slumped into the seats. Drew gave Morgan a kiss.

     "S'okay I 'spose," Jerry huffed.

     “Whaddaya mean, ‘okay?’” Mickey said. “Morgan, this guy here,” he gestured at Jerry, “has been dancing non-stop. You can’t believe how many girls were coming on to him and wanting to dance.”

     “Lesbians,” I slurred.

     “What?” Jerry and Mickey asked.

     “Danny said ‘lesbians,’” Morgan repeated. “Didn’t you notice that there were lots of girls in this place? And lots of girl couples?”

     Mickey and Jerry looked at each other. “Ohmigod,” Jerry said. “Danny’s right.”

     “They probably felt safe, here,” Morgan said. “So they felt they can be as forward as they want and not have to deal with repercussions.”

     “Eh?” Mickey said, not understanding.

     “Never mind,” Morgan said, not bothering to explain.

     After a bit, our table was suddenly surrounded by half a dozen girls, all of them sexy, and all of them real tall.

     “Hey, ladies,” Mickey, the obtuse wonder, said. “What’s up?”

     The girl in front was my dance partner. “We were just making sure you guys weren’t keeping our girl all to yourselves,” she said.

     “Eh?” Mickey said again.

     “Hi, girls,” I spoke up. “I’m totally fine here. My friends are just keeping me company while I take a break. We’re totally cool.”

     My partner crouched down so she could look straight in my eyes. “Well, if they give you any trouble, just holler, and any of the girls here will come rescue you.”

     “You got it all wrong,” I said. “These are my buds. I’m fine.” I deliberately wrapped my arms around Morgan and Drew, and snuggled up to them.

     The girl took the hint. “Oh, okay,” she said. “Anyway, when you’re done resting, let me know? I’d love to get another dance.” She gave me another smile. “Let’s go, girls.” She gestured at the others and they walked away, all of them looking back to stare at me. I waved bye-bye.

     “Whew,” Jerry said. “That was scary.”

     “Why scary?” Mickey said. “Six really hot girls wanting to dance with Danny?”

     Morgan shook his head in exasperation.

     I gave Mickey a loud raspberry. “You’re so clueless, Mickey.”

     Morgan looked at me.

     "You’re drunk, Danny-boy,” Morgan said. “Sit here if you don't feel well." He pulled Mickey over and draped his arm around me. “You” he pointed a stern finger at Mickey, “keep her out of trouble.”

     “Him,” I giggled drunkenly, and playfully bit at his pointing finger.

     “Damnit! Sorry…” He stood up and went to the girls who were still dancing. He spoke to them motioning toward me. I made a feeble wave back as they looked, and came over.

     "You okay, Danny?" it was Joanne asking.

     "Shhh! Not too loud… I feel sick."

     "Okay. We'll be leaving soon. Do you want some water or something?"

     "Yes, please, Joanne."

     She returned with a glass, and with Nikki in tow. I sipped while the others had a last bop.

     "Danielle told us you don't normally drink, Danny?" June stated.

     "Never get the chance," I replied.

     "Well, we'll soon get you trained," Janet added, and giggled.

     I just groaned. “Where you been,” I asked Nikki when she squeezed in between Mickey and me. I gave her a one-armed hug.

     “That guy I’ve been dancing with? He didn’t wanna stop. Jeez, I’m pooped.”

     I gave her a deep kiss, and everyone went, “oooh!”

     Nikki took a deep breath. “Wow, you really are drunk! Not that I’m complaining…”

     “You should have been doing what Betsy’s been doing then,” Mel said, “and sticking to softdrinks.” She gestured at the glowing Betsy as she sucked on another can of Diet Pepsi through a straw.

     “It’s not as if I’ve got any choice,” Betsy said, wiping her brow with a tissue and gesturing to Walter standing against a far wall, trying to be unobtrusive.

     “You’ve been dancing up a storm, Bets,” Joanne said. “You’re really popular with the guys.”

     “And a lot of the girls, too, I noticed,” Janet said.

     “I haven’t had this much fun, ever!” Betsy enthused. “Thank you for bringing me.” She leaned over and gave me a kiss.

     “No prob, Bets.”

     “Wow, you really don’t look good.”

     “I wanna go home, but I think I’m too drunk to drive.”

     “Maybe we should like check in to a motel or something, and allow Danny to sleep it off?” Jerry suggested.

     “No can do,” Danielle said. “It’s a Saturday tomorrow, and Danny has a radio program to do in,” Danielle looked at her watch, “five hours. Oh boy!”

     Danny groaned. “Oh, God! I forgot all about the program. Danielle! Ohmigod, whatamigonnadooo!”

     “Don’t freak, Danny-boy,” Morgan said, making patting-down gestures. “We’ll all head for home. I’ll drive the ‘stang with Danny and Danielle, and the girls will ride with Betsy in the limo. The guys will ride with Joanne in the van. Mickey will ride shotgun, and Mongo and Dale can be in the Ford.”

     “I don’t get the seating arrangement,” Jerry asked.

     “Well, Walter is a professional, and the most un-tired among us, so the girls will be most safe in the limo. Joanne can manage a few more hours, and Mickey’s the only other guy I know here who can drive a stick, so he’s gonna sub for Joanne if she needs it. And Dale and Mongo can spell for each other, and bring everyone’s stuff so there’ll be room. And I’ll drive Danny and Danielle home.”

     Everyone digested that, and agreed to the plan. I couldn’t make heads or tails of it, but nodded enthusiastically, anyway.

     We all got up and moved to the door en masse.

     My blonde ex-dance partner saw us moving to the door and made a beeline for us.

     “Hey, sexy!” she called. “You leaving?”

     I gave Nikki a little squeeze and went to her. “I have to,” I said to the tall blonde. “I’m sorry. I have something to do in the morning, and I’m not feeling too good.”

     “Poor baby,” the girl said. “Will I ever see you again?”

     I smiled. “I’d like that,” I said, my white lie coming almost automatically.

     “I would have liked another dance,” she said. “But I can settle for another kiss?”

     I paused a bit, looked back at Nikki. She shrugged, so I turned back, puckered up, and the girl took advantage of the opportunity. The only other time that I got kissed like that was with Janet a few hours ago. I didn’t know if I was drunk, or if it was the kiss, but I got dizzy. I didn’t know how I could still be standing, but actually, I think she was the one holding me up.

     I held on for a bit until my head cleared. I gave her a final squeeze.

     “Seeya,” I said. I went back to the guys, and we left the club.
 
 
Fifteen: Driving Home
 
***** (Morgan) *****
 
     I helped Dale and Mongo unhitch the trailer from Joanne’s van and re-attach it to Dale’s Ford. This is getting a little old, I thought. Unhooking the trailer, hooking it back on, unhooking it again…

     After we finished, I walked to Drew and gave her a kiss. “Be safe,” I told her. “I’ll talk to you later.” Drew nodded, and went to June and wrapped her arm around hers. We all said goodbye and got into our assigned cars.

     “Walter!” Dale called out before getting into the Ford. Walter turned around in time to catch a walkie-talkie. “Channel twenty-one,” he called.

     “Thank you, Master Dale.”

     “No prob,” he said, and waved as he got into the big Ford’s driver’s seat.

     I got into Danny’s mustang, and Danielle sat on the passenger side. Nikki and Danny sat in the back.

     “All comfy and safe?” I said, and everyone murmured their assent.

     “Dale here” came a buzz on the walkie-talkie. “We’re all ready.”

     “Joanne here, we’re all set in the van.”

     “Okay.” I pressed my walkie-talkie’s button. “Morgan here. Mustang ready to roll out.”

     “Ummm, this is, ummm, Miss Elizabeth’s limousine,” Walter chimed in uneasily. “We are also ready to, ummm, roll out.” I heard the girls giggling in the background.

     “Okay,” I said, “let’s go.” I pulled away from the curb and proceeded to head for the freeway. I looked through the rearview mirror and saw the limo trailing us, and behind that the van, and then followed by the Ford with the trailer.

     Also in the mirror, I saw Nikki and Danny. Obviously, Nikki was giving Danny the cold shoulder. “Everyone okay back there?” I asked.

     “Peachy,” Nikki mumbled, and stayed as far away from Danny as she could.

     I ignored the brewing lovers’ quarrel, and continued driving. I turned on the car’s stereo and played some muted tunes. After a few minutes, I pulled up to the highway toll booth, plunked coins into the receptacle and started driving for home.

     I looked at the back. No change. It’s gonna be a long drive.

 

     After a couple of hours of driving, mostly in silence, I was starting to feel sleepy. I was actually on the verge of nodding off when Dale buzzed in. “Guys?,” Dale said through the walkie-talkie. “Can you keep your eyes open for a convenience store? Mongo and me are getting a bit punchy here. I can sure use a break, and a little pick-me-up.”

     “Okay, Dale,” I responded. “Keep your eyes peeled, guys.”

     We spotted a 7-Eleven a few minutes later. “Paydirt,” I said into my radio. “Follow me.”

     I made a right-hand turn signal, and slowed down to pull up to the rest stop. There was a gas station, a 7-Eleven, a couple of pancake places, a Coffee Bean, and an all-night Pizza Hut. Intending to get the two out for some refreshments at least, I turned around and looked at the back seat. Nikki and Danny were wrapped around each other, innocently sleeping. Danny snoring a bit and Nikki had her nose in the hollow of Danny’s neck. Danielle giggled at the image and we both got out.

     Everyone else had gotten out as well and were in the middle of deciding where to have a cup of coffee or a snack. Drew came over and I gave her a hug.

     “Sorry, guys,” Danielle said. “We can’t stay long. We gotta be back in time for Danny’s show. How ‘bout ten minutes for necessities and stuff, and then we go.”

     Everyone sleepily mumbled okay, and spread out through the place, most of them going to the coffee shop. Mongo and Dale went to the 7-Eleven to buy a couple of Red Bulls. Drew and I went with them and I bought a couple of my own as well as some Cheetos. I got two cups of hot chocolate for Drew and June, a tube of Pringles potato chips that she could share with June and the others, and a big bottle of water for Danny. I gave her a kiss and went back to the mustang.

     Danielle was already at the car. “The lovebirds are still sleeping,” she said.

     “Better that than fighting,” I said, and we got in. I swigged down one of the Red Bulls, and pulled out of the rest stop, tooting my horn and waving to the others.

     “Well, Danny shouldn’t have kissed that girl,” Danielle said.

     “He was just being polite.”

     “Polite, hell. That girl was practically sucking his lungs out.”

     “That’s exactly the point,” I said. “It was all the girl.”

     “Hmmph. Well, you’re his best friend. Of course you’d be taking his side.”

     “Well, yeah, I’m his best friend. But you know Danny. He wouldn’t have done anything. Especially not in front of Nikki.”

     Danielle stayed quiet.

     “Admit it, Danielle. You’re just jealous.”

     Danielle remained quiet.

     “It’s just how Danny is, now,” I said.

     “I know,” Danielle said, almost in a whisper.

     “Danielle? You okay?” I looked at her. She was crying quietly.

     “Danielle!”

     She waved my concern away. “I’m okay. Just … nerves. And I’m tired…”

     “Bullshit. Tell me what’s really wrong.”

     She cried harder. I took her hand and held it until her crying died down a bit.

     “You’re right,” she said. I AM jealous. I just…” She couldn’t go on. “Oh, Morgan!”

     “Shhh! You’ll wake them up.”

     Danielle and I quickly looked up at the rearview mirror and sighed with relief when we saw the two of them still sleeping in the back.

     “Oh, Morgan,” Danielle said more quietly. “If you only knew...”

     “I think, after all these years, you know you can tell me anything. And it’ll be between us. I won’t even tell Danny.”

     “You’ll think I’m a pervert or something...”

     “No I won’t.”

     She took a deep breath. “You’re right. I AM jealous. I’m actually jealous of that girl that Danny kissed. I... want to be that girl. I want...”

     “Danielle?”

     “Nikki’s my best friend, and I couldn’t love her more if she was my real sister. But...”

     I squeezed her hand.

     “Everytime I see them together, everytime he kisses Nikki... It’s like a knife in my heart. She’s my best friend, and I’m jealous of her. I want to be the one Danny kisses, I want to be the one that he brings out on dates, I want to be Nikki. Oh, Morgan...” In shame, she covered her face with her hands and cried. She tried to keep quiet but couldn’t stop little mewling and crying sounds from escaping.

     “Danielle...”

     “You must think I’m some kind of pervert. That I want to be with my brother. But look at him! Half the time, I can’t even think of him as a guy. I’m no lesbian. But he looks and acts and feels like this incredible hottie that’s so sexy and so beautiful, so smart, talented and... and so wonderful… I… I just want…”

     I squeezed her shoulder. “You’re not a perv, Danielle,” I said. “Like you said, Danny is something else. No one can blame you. In fact…”

     “Yeah?”

     I… sorta feel the same way.” I could feel my face become hot with my embarrassment and shame. “I never did feel this way about Danny before. At least not this strongly. But, yeah, I feel the same way. Thank god for Drew. That she’s always there. Otherwise… I don’t think Danny would be safe around me.”

     Danielle looked at me, and touched my face in sympathy. “Poor Morgan,” she said.

     “Yeah. Poor me. Aren’t we a pair — you stuck on your brother, me stuck on my best friend.”

     “I wish there was a way,” she said, “to sort of end all of this. If I can…”

     “Danielle! What’re you saying!”

     She hit me on the shoulder. “No, you dumb jock! Nothing like that. I was just thinking… If there was just a way we can walk away from all of this. So that we can all get back to how it used to be.”

     “There’s no way, Danielle. What is just… is…”

     Danielle sighed. “You’re right, of course.”

     “And can you really walk away from Danny?”

     “No. I can’t. Can you?”

     I looked straight ahead, and contemplated the long highway. “No,” I finally said. “I can’t walk away. But I mustn’t do anything. I can’t hurt Danny.”

     “Yeah. Nikki too.”

     “Yeah.”

     I looked ahead, trying to concentrate on the road. “Do you think I’m, you know, gay or something?”

     Danielle shook her head. “No. Do you think I’m a lesbian?”

     “No.”

     “It’s Danny. Whatever it is... it’s got to be Danny.”

     We drove on in silence. I looked at the rearview mirror. Danny and Nikki were still in dreamland.

     We heard the walkie-talkie buzz.

     “This is Morgan,” I said into the radio. “What’s up?”

     “How’re you guys holding up,” Janet asked.

     I pressed my squelch button again. “Doin’ okay,” I said, clearing my throat and trying to sound normal. “Real tired though.”

     “Just an hour more or so, and then we’re home. And beddy-bye for all of us.”

     “We could have, like, gone to a motel or something, y’know.” Dale interrupted from the Ford. “And continue on after a good night’s sleep. We had the money for it.”

     “It’s just that Danny needed to be back before six,” I said. “But like Janet said, just an hour more.”

     “Excuse me,” Walter the butler interrupted. “But Miss Drew would like to talk with Master Morgan.” Which was followed by a lot of giggling in the background.

     “Hi, honey,” Drew said. Or was it June? Hmmm. I smell a rat.

     “All right, June,” I said into the radio. “I know it’s you. Give the walkie-talkie to Drew, and let her talk.”

     I heard June give me a raspberry.

     “Spoilsport!” June said. “How did you know it was me, anyway?”

     “I know my Drew,” I said. All of the girls went, “oooh!” I looked to Danielle and she was giggling herself. Well, at least she wasn’t crying anymore.

     After a short silence, we finally heard Drew.

     “Hi, Morgan.”

     “Hi, honey,” I said.

     “How do you know it’s me this time?”

     “I always know.” Drew giggled.

     “So, what did you want to talk about,” I said.

     “I just wanted to ask, after you drop Nikki, Dan and Danielle off, how’re you gonna get home?”

     “My bike’s at Danny’s so I’m all set.”

     “Okay. I was just worried. Give me a call when you get home, ‘kay?”

     “Sure, baby. Talk to you later. Need to concentrate on my driving.”

     “Okay.” She then made a kissing sound over the radio.

     Immediately after that, Dale made a similar sound over his walkie-talkie. Danielle laughed. I pushed the button again. “Thanks, honey,” I said. “Love ya. Mwah!” I could imagine Dale, Mongo and the girls bursting out laughing.

     After laughing a bit myself, I sobered up. “Can’t live without Drew,” I said.

     “You’re a lucky guy,” Danielle said.

     “Yup. Don’t I know it. How about you? Got your eye on anyone?”

     Danielle seemed glad for the change in topic. “Well, not really. Pretty slim pickings at school, you know.”

     “Hey!”

     Danielle laughed. “Present company exempted, of course.”

     “Well, thanks for that...”

     Danielle hit me lightly on the shoulder. “S’all right.”

     “But you’re serious? Not a one?”

     “Well, come to think of it, Drew’s big brother, Jim, seems real cute.”

     “I don’t think I’ve seen him.”

     “You haven’t? Even at Drew’s?”

     “I’ve only been to Drew’s once, and all I got to meet was her mother.”

     “I’m sure you know him. Big guy? Likes arcade games? Plays soccer for the school team? Real hunk, with curly hair and dimples?”

     “Well, I wouldn’t have noticed the hunk or the dimples... But someone on the soccer team? I think I know who you mean. In any case, why don’t you go for it?”

     “He’s a bit out of my league, you know?”

     “What!? This is Danielle Fairchild I’m talking to, right? The wet dream of every guy in school? You’ve got to be kidding.”

     “Ewww,” she said, and hit me on the shoulder again. “Don’t be gross!”

     “Seriously, Danielle. Why don’t you try?”

     “I don’t want to make the first move! What would you think if the girl was the one who made the first move?”

     “What guy can resist a girl if she’s easy.” She hit me again, only stronger. “Owww! Quit it!”

     “Oh! Did I hit you too hard? I’m sorry. I was just joking.”

     “S’okay. But Danielle, why don’t you ask Drew? Fix you up with her brother and all...”

     “Lemme think about it. But, Morgan, thanks.” She leaned over and gave me a peck on the cheek.

     “No prob.”

     Danielle smiled. “Danny was right about you, you know? You’re one of the good guys.”

     “I’m not all that good, you know.” I then went into my godfather-mafioso imitation. I have to say my impersonation was pretty good, but not as good as Danny’s. At least I got Danielle to laugh again.

     I sobered up a bit. “It could be your way out of this, you know? This thing with Danny.”

     “I’ll think about it,” she said. “But Jim might not be interested in me.”

     “What makes you say that?”

     “When Danny, the girls and I were at the mall buying our outfits?” I nodded. “Jim was at the arcade and he saw Danny.”

     “Saw Danny! Did he recognize him?”

     “Well, no. Danny was dressed as a girl at the time. Even so, he did seem a lot more interested in Danny than me.”

     We thought that over a bit.

     “Still,” I said. “Make a go of it. See how it goes first. You haven’t even tried, yet, and you’re already giving up.”

     “Okay, okay. You twisted my arm. But… give me a couple of days, though. These things have to be subtle.”

     “Ahhh! The devious mind of the human female.”

     She hit me on the shoulder again. On the same spot. “Owww! Quit it!”

 

     We drove the rest of the way more relaxed. We were joking more, and were more at ease with each other than before. And Danielle seemed more chatty — a lot different now than before: Danielle seemed preoccupied these past few weeks, more closed in. Now it’s like she’s back. I think I did good.

     And in that drive home, Danielle and I became friends. Sharing common things, common likes and dislikes, sharing the same experiences — these things are the basis of friendships. But sharing secrets, sharing hurts and feelings — these things are what close friends share. I guess, to me, Danielle has become more than Danny’s sister. She’s become more like a friend, now.

     We talked some more, about many inconsequential things. Sometimes they featured Danny, but most of the time we talked of other regular stuff. Listening to Danielle gave me a window to her world, which has always been a mystery to me. And I guess talking to me gave her the same thing with mine. Drew says my sports-related stories usually bore her to death, so I kept my sports talk light and we talked more about the music we liked, and things like that.

     I explained to her about electric guitars, about the legendary Les Paul line, and how the pickup on a guitar worked. Yeah, nerd stuff, I know, but Danielle seemed interested. What’s more, she seemed to know a lot herself. Like she knew Les Paul died recently (I didn’t know that). But, then, of course, hanging around her brother, I’m sure she’d pick up a lot of this stuff. And, after all this guitar talk, I told her I didn’t play the guitar. She laughed and laughed.

     From time to time Danielle would look back to check on Danny and Nikki. Danielle noticed that Nikki wasn’t buckled in and she leaned over to snap on her seat belt. But for most of the drive, those two were sleeping like the dead and we left them alone.

     As Danielle settled back into her seat, she sighed.

     “You okay?” I asked.

     “Yup,” she smiled. “Lots better. Thanks.”

     “No problemo.”

 

     When we got near our neighborhood, the other cars split from our little convoy, on their way to drop the others at their houses. Drew (and June) had said their goodbyes over the radio before the limo turned off into a side street a while back. And it was near five AM when we pulled up at Nikki’s house.

     After we stopped, Danielle got out and reached in to shake Nikki awake.

     “We’re home, honey,” Danielle said. “Time to wake up.”

     Nikki yawned and sat up. She leaned down and kissed Danny.

     Danny woke up and looked up at us. “’Sup?”

     “Hey, bro,” I said. “Just dropping Nikki off at her place. You okay?”

     “I feel super. Big headache, though. But thanks for letting me sleep.”

     “’Kay,” Nikki said. “I’m going in now. Seeya later?”

     “Yeah. And Nikki? Sorry about…”

     Nikki kissed him to forestall any more apologies. “It’s okay, Dan. I’m sorry for over-reacting.”

     Danny smiled delightedly. “So I’ll see you after my show?”

     “Depends on whether I’m awake enough or not,” she giggled. “But I’ll try.”

     “Okay.” He gave her another kiss and Nikki got out of the car. She gave Danielle a hug, waved at me and walked over to her door, looking for the key in her purse. We waited for her to get in, and when she closed the door, we went and continued on to the Fairchild’s.

     “You okay, there, Danny?” Danielle asked.

     “I’m okay, sis. Thanks.”

     I handed him the mineral water bottle. “Drink as much of this as you can, dude. It’ll get rid of the headache.”

     I parked the car in their driveway and we all got out. Danny and Danielle got their little carry-ons from the boot, and I got my little duffle.

     “How are you gonna get to the radio station,” I asked, as I handed over the car keys.

     “I’ll just take a quick shower, change and drive myself over there.”

     “Want me to drive you?”

     “I think I’ll be okay. I got a couple of hours sleep, thanks to you guys. I think I’m good to drive.”

     “All right, dude. I’ll just go get my bike and boogie on home then.”

     Danny checked if the garage was locked first, then reached down and pulled the garage door up manually. Seems the dude was packing muscles I couldn’t see.

     I wheeled my little 75cc Honda out, got on and kick-started it.

     Before putting on my helmet, I reached out and gave Danielle a hug. “Be cool, girl.” I said into her ear. “Remember what I said, okay?”

     Danielle nodded and let me go.

     “Dude,” I said, and Danny and me did that little complicated handshake we always did. Danny gave me a hug, too (which surprised me), and thumped me on my back.

     “Later, dude,” he said.

     I nodded and put on my helmet. I pulled away and waved to the two of them. Danielle waved back, and they turned and went into the house via the garage.

     I didn’t gun the engine so as not to wake up the neighborhood, keeping it at a low 200 RPMs, and headed on home. It’ll be good to hit the hay. I wonder if mom and dad are gonna ground me this time…
 
 
Sixteen: Danny Outed. Sort of...
 
***** (Danny) *****
 
     Danielle and I walked up the stairs and saw a note taped to mom and dad’s bedroom door. It said to wake them when we arrive. We opened their door, but didn’t have the heart to wake them up, so we just wrote on their note saying we’ve arrived, and drew a couple of sleepy-smiley faces. We went to our rooms and said goodnight to each other.

     After I closed my door, I went to my bathroom — I had to whiz real bad. It’s all Morgan’s fault, giving me that big bottle of water.

     I walked to my bed and sat down on the edge. I caught my reflection in the dresser’s mirror and I saw a cute redhead in an oversized jacket, one bare shoulder exposed. It was Danielle. Her hair was tousled as if she just got out of bed, but in a sexy way, and looked sleepy-tired. I guess I would never get used to my image as a girl, and having echoes in my mind that I wasn’t actually looking at me but at Danielle. I shook my head and proceeded to undress.

     I unbuckled the big belt, slid down the pouf skirt and stepped out of it. I threw it into the little hamper tacked on the back of my door, took off the jacket and hung it up on the door’s little peg along with the belt. I looked at my reflection. It seemed that all I ever did lately was to spend time in front of the mirror.

     I scrutinized my reflection, starting with my stiletto boots, and slid my eyes up to the rest of me. All I had on were the boots, Calvin Klein men’s thong briefs, and the tube top. I wouldn’t mind Nikki wearing an outfit like this.

     The tube was actually a Spanx body-shaper, and it fit like a second skin. Or more like a really soft pantyhose for the torso. Underneath was a NuBra, an adhesive bra that Danielle suggested for the costume, ideal for wearing under sheer clothes. In fact, it was Danielle that suggested substituting Spanx for the halter top I originally picked out, and the NuBra for the regular bra I was intending to wear. It made me look real sexy, and the NuBra didn’t leave any telltale marks. I couldn’t help but run my hands over the Spanx — it felt real good. Then I happened to look at the clock on my wall, and it was five oh-five already. Jeez, I’m gonna be late!

     I peeled off the Spanx, and looked at my chest with the NuBra. The front closure really did enhance my cleavage. I waggled my eyebrows at my mirror image, giggling. And then I noticed the clock again.

     I quickly peeled off the NuBra, raided my closet and took out a pair of jeans, boots and my favorite bomber jacket. I went to my dresser and picked up a pair of white tube socks, a white crewneck tee shirt and underwear. I laid everything on my bed, sat down and pulled off my stiletto boots with some difficulty. As soon as I had them off, I suddenly felt relief in my calves, ankles and feet. I didn’t even know that my feet hurt anymore until I had the boots off. The relief I felt was almost orgasmic. I had probably unconsciously blocked out the pain. Now I had an idea how women can stand to wear shoes like these for hours on end.

     I took off my briefs, threw them into the hamper as well, and then went into my bathroom. I rushed through a quick shower and brushed my teeth. Good thing Danielle replaced my old towels with new, soft and fluffy ones, so I had no compunctions of briskly rubbing myself dry with what felt like a shammy (or is it chamois). It’s like I was polishing myself.

     I was dry pretty quick. I used the hair dryer that Danielle got me and blew-dry my hair. It poofed my hair some so I took a little time to brush and comb it back to something less… seventies-looking. Soon, my hair was back to it’s usual look - subtly wavy and shiny. I looked at the wall. Five twenty. Damnit! I slid on my jockey’s and put on the tube socks. I dipped my hand into the dresser’s top drawer, felt around and pulled out the first sports bra I got my hands on. I pulled it over my head and slid my arms through the straps, snapping it around my torso.

     I put the jeans on but they seemed to have shrunk a bit as I had a bit of trouble pulling them up. I put my feet into the boots, felt around for the laces but couldn’t find them. I stood up but I felt funny in the boots. I sat down and looked at the shoes, and they were one of the pairs we bought at the mall. Gisella Buckle Wedge Boots, if I remember right. And, yup, they had big buckles on them, and, yup, wedges maybe three inches tall. Well, they’re really not that feminine-looking if you didn’t notice the tall wedges in place of low heels. Since I didn’t have time, I decided not to change them anymore. I zipped the zippers on the backside of the boots, pulled on the tee shirt, slid my bomber jacket on and got my stuff from the little backpack I got from the car - wallet, comb, keys and other stuff. But when I tried to put my wallet in the jeans’ back pocket, I found that I couldn’t. I turned around and looked at the pants’ tag in the mirror. It said, “DKNY - Boot Cut.” Jeez, another something we bought at the mall. Damnit! Where are my REAL clothes?

     Time was ticking so I put back all my stuff in the itty-bitty backpack and my wallet in my jacket pocket, got my little Vaio laptop, stuffed it as well as a couple of RCA patchcords into the backpack, strapped on my wristwatch and rushed out the door. I wrote on the note on mom’s and dad’s door that I went to the station and will see them later, and pounded down the stairs. I got into my mustang, adjusted the seat forward (Morgan had obviously adjusted it) and started driving to the station.

     I remembered that Mrs. Piper was supposed to have inaugurated the new studio downtown last Monday, but I didn’t exactly remember where it was. I pulled out my Palm Pre from my backpack and scanned through my emails. I found the right one, tapped it and read the directions. The map was too small to be useful so I followed the directions explicitly. I found myself in the main business district of town, office buildings to the left and right of me. The address was 1701 Telecom Plaza, and the studio was on the fourteenth floor. I soon found it — a new, modestly-tall building (it was all of fifteen floors) on my side of the street. I went in through the parking garage entrance and had to sign the guard’s guest book before he would raise the security gate. I followed the guard’s directions and found my assigned slot, with a sign on the wall that said “KRPQ - D. Fairchild.” Wow. Didn’t know I rated my own parking space. Seems there were several parking spaces reserved for the station’s staff, but they were all empty at the moment except for one that had a big, shiny Mercedes parked in it. Mrs. Piper’s? But what would she be doing at the station on a Saturday, and this early in the morning, too?

     The guy told me to go to the lobby guard first thing so I pressed the button for the ground floor. The lobby guard took my old company ID, replaced it with a slicker, better looking one with a built in lanyard. He also gave me a little electronic key-card on a hook. The guard said to put the key-card in my car so that I wouldn’t need to do any signing-in at the gate anymore.

     “Cool,” I said. The picture on my new ID was my yearbook picture — the one I gave to Mrs. Piper when I filled up her employee form. The picture’s real bad. I made a face, but still put on the ID and proceeded to the fourteenth.

     The elevator opened to an empty lobby with a sliding glass door. I peered inside but there was no one at the reception desk. I was about to knock on the glass when I noticed a little black thing mounted on the wall beside the door, and a little doorbell button. The black plastic thing was the size and shape of a matchbox, with two little LEDs on it — one red and one green. Right above it was a tiny little sign that said “Swipe your ID here, or ring the bell to gain access.”

     I experimentally passed my new ID over the thing and the little green light blinked on. Simultaneously, the glass door slid open.

     “Cool!” I said, impressed not so much by the technology but by how much better the new office was than the old one.

     I walked in, noting the tastefully-done decor and furnishings, the nice plush carpet and the muted on-air sound of the station’s music playing in the background. On the wall was a picture of the old office’s booth, decrepit old mixing board and broken-down swivel chair in the foreground, with the caption “The First Studio of KRPQ.”

     There were other pictures there, too - stock photos of nondescript rock groups and singers playing on stage, a few pictures of string quartets, pictures of several folk/country bands I didn’t recognize, and a sixties-style Beatle-esque band in what looked like copies of the costumes for Sergeant Pepper and the Lonely Hearts Band.

     They were so obviously actors posing in studio shots, but the overall effect was to give the place, for want of a better term, a radio station-like ambience. On one separate wall, in pride of place, were a handful of poster-pictures, with a sign below that said, “The KRPQ On-Air Team.” The first one, on the upper-left, was a picture of Dennis, the guy that goes ahead of me on-air. He was wearing an expensive-looking leather jacket, and he had his hair slicked back. He had a mean, sort of distantly angry expression, like he was waiting to tell you off about something, his posture very tight, with arms crossed. He actually looked good, which I thought was slightly impossible. Below the picture was the caption, “Dennis Oldfield — Late Evening / Early Morning Shift”.

     To the right of it was another picture, with the caption “Lou Jefferson — The Daily Grind.” On it was a picture of my ambulance buddy, Lou. Though still lots overweight, he looked light-years better than that time when he had his heart attack. He was clean-shaven in the picture, and his shoulder-length hair was neatly combed and styled. He was wearing a casual sports jacket over a light-yellow button-down shirt. The angle of the shot was such that it appeared Lou was looking to the left - towards Dennis, with a finger pointed at him, and Lou snickering. I had to laugh. It was a funny gimmick.

     Right below Dennis was a picture of a girl - a really cute blonde I didn’t know. She was facing forward, with head canted to the side and hair streaming over one shoulder. She had on a trendy, white off-the-shoulder sweater, hoop earrings and a tiny thin chain necklace. All in all a very, very sexy pose. The caption said, “Talia Stevens — Early Morning Power Drive & The Rush Hour Beat.”

     Right next to Talia’s picture was another one, actually two pictures in one frame — On one side of the frame was the picture of a guy that looked about our age, wearing a shirt and jacket but no tie, carrying an old-style microphone (the kind with a wire) with the station’s logo pasted on its side. He looked like the stereotypical image of a news reporter, which was reinforced by the picture of a burning house in the background. “Harry Seavers,” the caption said. On the other side of the frame was another picture, this time the picture of a very pretty African-American girl. Imagine a prettier eighteen-year old version of Halle Berry and you’d be close. She had on a stylish but professional-looking blouse-and-jacket combo, and was also carrying a mike. Behind her was a picture of a high-fashion photoshoot or fashion show, with girls sashaying down a fashion runway wearing trendy, haute couture clothes. The caption said, “Sally Marshall.” Beneath the two was another caption — “KRPQ News & Events.”

     I was about to try looking through other doors when I chanced to look up a bit and noticed another picture, this time top-center of the wall, above Dennis’s and Lou’s pictures. It was a picture of me! Me from the concert last night!

     It was a candid shot of me singing on stage, wearing the jacket, pouf skirt, shining belt and flying chiffon carves from last night. My band was behind me, but out of focus. My picture was just a touch blurred, just enough to indicate it was a live shot, and it had me playing my pink guitar, with a look that was all concentration and intensity, but with a bit of a smile.

     The caption said “The Nighthawk — Dannie Fairchild.”

     Good God! Whatever possessed Mrs. Piper to do this? And where did she get the photo? How did she get the photo?

     I looked closer at my picture and noticed that it was home-made — ink-jet printed paper glued to a posterboard, the edges not that cleanly cut. I looked at the other pictures, and they were professionally-mounted posters.

     “Do you like the poster?” Mrs. Piper said, surprising the heck out of me.

     I spun around.

     Mrs. Piper giggled at my jumpiness. “My ummm… daughter… made your poster last night. Hope you like it.”

     “Mrs. Piper!” I said.

     “Tracey’s gone to the photo supply store in the building next door, and is arranging to have a real poster made. She should be back by the time you finish your show.”

     I completely forgot. “My show!” I said. “Oh, no! I’m late!”

     Mrs. Piper waved me on. “Go, go. We can talk later, after you’re done.”

     I hesitated. “Go on, dear, quickly!” She pointed at a door to my right, and I hurried on through. What greeted me was a big radio booth/studio — two rooms adjacent to each other separated by a glass partition. The side that was facing me was dominated by big sound-proof glass picture windows, which allowed me to see inside of both rooms.

     The smaller, empty one was probably the producer’s/engineer’s studio, with a mixing board and a telephone switchboard. On its far wall was a big shelf full of audio cartridges and cd’s. The other bigger room had a similar setup but had about four or five swivel chairs facing the DJ’s table and several mikes mounted on overhead booms. The engineer’s room was empty at the moment, and in the big room was Dennis holding court. A lighted sign above his head said “live.”

     On this side of the picture window was what I suppose was a library-reception area. There were a couple of deep couches and one wall was covered by a big shelf full of LPs, CDs and large old-fashioned tape reels in boxes. On the other side was a record player, an open-tape reel player, a cassette deck and a digital disk player. I recognized the record player from the old studio, but the other pieces of equipment seemed new.

 

     From inside the booth, Dennis saw me, and gestured frantically for me to come in.

     I checked to see if he was on air first, and then I opened the door, and greeted him.

     “Hey, dude,” I said.

     “You’re late, bub,” Dennis said. “The song I got on will give you four minutes. Lemme give you a tour of the new equipment.”

     Dennis proceeded to give me a fast rundown on where all the switches were, and what the various equipment was for, and after the two-minute briefing, he clapped me on the back, and said, “well, dude, you’re all set.”

     He handed me the headset. “Good luck. Aaaand I’m outa here!” He picked up his stuff, threw me casual a salute, and escaped out the door. I was so shell-shocked with the information overload, I didn’t even think to stop him or mumble any kind of protest, and just stood there with the headset dangling from my fingers.

     I shook myself into action, plunked myself in the new ergonomic chair, pulled out my laptop and looked for some aux jacks. I powered up my computer, plugged in, and queued up my WinAmp list, which I pre-prepared a couple of days ago. I cleared my throat, closed my eyes and tried to get into DJ mode.

     “Hey-hey-hey!” I kicked off my morning’s spiel, my Nighthawk voice in rare form for once. “It’s me, the Nighthawk, checkin’ in from our new digs here at the new studio of the new KRPQ. Just wanted to say thanks to my buddy Dennis for holding the fort. But I’m here now. We’re gonna have a wonderful time today. Goooood morning, little chil’un!”

     I pressed the enter key and John, Paul, George and Ringo sang, “Good morning, good morning, good morning!”

     The new studio was well heated so I took off my jacket to try and be more comfortable. I looked over the layout of the new panel, and noted the two record players, the old tape track player, the digital CD deck and the digital media storage player. At least now I don’t have to rely on just the temperamental turntables and LPs. I turned on the digital media player and looked up the songs in there. Nothing new, really — they just digitized the songs from the LPs. Too bad. And, looking at the old songs listed on the screen, I decided to change my playlist today, and make all of my songs as upbeat as possible and as new as the format would allow. I looked through my list and saw a couple of fairly-new songs that haven’t been played to death yet.

     I queued up a song by that new singer Disney’s molding into another Hannah Montana, and waited for the Beatles to sing their final lines.

     “It's time for tea and meet the wife,” Paul and John sang. “Somebody needs to know the time, glad that I'm here. Watching the skirts, you start to flirt - now you're in gear. Go to a show, you hope she goes. I've got nothing to say but it's Okay. Good morning, good morning...”

     As the song ended, I clicked Demi Lovato’s song from her first album, and she sang in that rocker-girl style of hers, emoting the song to death.

     “I didn't wanna say I'm sorry for breaking us apart,” Demi sang, and Joe from the Jonas Brothers answered, “I didn't wanna say it was my fault even though I knew it was.” And Demi sang again. “I didn't wanna call you back ‘coz I knew that I was wrong… yeah, I knew I was wrong...”

     I looked at a sheet of paper on a clipboard, the name “Danny” penciled on the top margin. It was a list of numbers, with names beside them as well as times, maybe eight in all. The first on the list was “#23, Kraft Vegemite, 6:15AM.”

     What’s this? Commercials?! Good god, we’re actually making money! I looked at the clock above the window. 6:14! I scanned the wall, and found cartridge number 23. I looked the cartridge over, trying to figure out how it worked. I scanned the board and found a likely receptacle with a button on the side. I popped it in and waited for the song to end.

     “We'll leave it on the line tonight…” Demi and Joe sang, and the song faded out. God, Demi’s vocal cords must be near breaking.

     When the song ended, I switched on the mike. “That was a new song for the show. Demi Lovato, ‘On the Line,’ cats and kitties. Dontcha just love the way she sings? ‘We got it all, destined to fall, our love was tragical,’” I sang, imitating her, and giggled.

     “Here’s another new one for the show - actual commercials!” I said the last in a whispering conspiratorial tone, and pressed the button. And lo and behold, it was indeed a commercial.

     After that little paid-for ditty, I turned my mike back on. “So. What’s up, folks? Haven’t heard from each other in a week. I’m sure something’s been happenin’ to you and yours. Me, I’ve had lots happenin’ especially last night.” I giggled inadvertently. “But that’s a totally different story for another day. So, gimme a call, why dontcha, and tell me a tale. It’s 555- 2878. Call me, baby! In the meantime, here’s Marvin Gaye and Tammy Terrel with the original. Ain’t no mountain, baby.”

     “Now if you need me, call me,” Marvin and Tammy sang. “No matter where you are, no matter how far (don't worry baby) - Just call out my name, I'll be there in a hurry. You don't have to worry. 'Cause baby, there ain't no mountain high enough…”

     As I predicted, the phone started to ring almost immediately. The new switchboard started to flash and blink. I didn’t know how to operate it so I just randomly pressed one of the buttons.

     “Hello. KRPQ.”

     “Am I on?” the girl on the other end said.

     “Not yet, dearie. Let’s wait for the song to finish and then I’ll put you on the air.” A loud whine came out of the line! “Oww! Babe, you have to lower your radio’s volume. The feedback’s terrible.”

     “Ooops! Sorry, I didn’t know.” She clunked down the phone, and the feedback died as she lowered the volume. “Better?”

     “Lots. Okay. Stand by, dearie. I’ll cue you in so when we next talk, it’ll be live and on-air. Okay?”

     “’Kay.” She took a deep breath. “I can’t wait. I’m so excited!”

     I giggled. “Thanks, babe. Stand by.”

     Marvin and Tammy finished up the last of the song, and I pressed the button.

     “Well, seems we got a caller on the line. KRPQ, this is the Nighthawk.”

     “Hi! This is Jeannie.”

     “Hi, Jeannie. You’re on the air. Thanks for giving me a call. What can I do you for?”

     “Well, I just wanted to call, and say that I’m one of your biggest fans. I love your show!”

     “Thanks, Jeannie. I appreciate it. Love ya, too.”

     Jeannie giggled. “And I really like the songs you play. Wish your program was longer, though…”

     “I’m sorry, honey. But we do the best with what we got.”

     “And I also wanted to talk about this concert I went to last night?”

     I started to feel cold. Uh oh.

     “Was it the one by Rockrgrrl?”

     “How did you know? Were you there?”

     Darn. It’s definitely an “uh oh” moment. “Ummm, yes, I was…”

     “What a great show, huh?”

     “But the show was just last night, and was over a two-hour drive away. You must have just gotten in. Where do you live, anyway?”

     “Just downtown. My mom and I live in that apartment complex near the new skating rink?”

     “I think I know the place. Pretty ritzy joint.”

     “Gowan! It’s no place special. But we like it. Anyway, my mom and I got back around two this morning, but I haven’t gone to bed, yet, soz I could catch your show and call to tell everyone about the concert.”

     “Did you get to see everything?”

     “We were there from the start, and we got to listen to all the bands.”

     “What was the concert all about?”

     “It was a promotional concert for RockrGrrl Guitars. What they did was advertise a contest over the net for unsigned girl bands. And there were about ten of them that passed the preliminary auditions and made the show.”

     “Were all of them okay?”

     “They were all pretty good. Well, except for a couple…”

     I giggled. “No names, Jeannie. ‘Kay?”

     “Well, okay… But, you know that band that you feature from time to time? Unlimited Bandwidth? They were the ones who won! They were unbelievable!”

     I saw Mrs. Piper waving from the outside of the booth. I wondered how I could open the door for her, and then I saw a big round button on the panel that had “door” printed on it. “Well, duh,” I said to myself, and pressed it.

     Mrs. Piper came in and handed me a CD and a sheet of typewritten paper. As Jeannie prattled on, I kept saying “uhuh,” at the appropriate moments while I read the sheet of paper. I looked at Mrs. Piper. Mrs. Piper grinned, nodded and gave me a thumbs-up. I clicked off the mike. “Mrs. Piper, what’s this? You’re gonna feature the RockrGrrl concert?”

     Mrs. Piper nodded. “Yes, the station will. I just had to bring it in when I heard you had a caller talking about the concert.”

     “But…”

     “It’s a done deal, Danny. I signed the contract a week ago, and I am speaking to the TV station later, to coordinate things.”

     “But Mrs. Piper, I…”

     “I saw you and your friends play, Danny. I’m very impressed.”

     “But…”

     “Let’s talk about it later, okay? But, right now, I need you to take care of that,” she said, gesturing to the paper, “and you need to take care of your caller right now.” And she left me to do my program. “Remember to play track three, okay?” She called out before shutting the door.

     Oh, no! I Jeannie! I clicked the mike on again, but Jeannie was totally oblivious and was still going on.

     “…and then this girl,” Jeannie was saying, “wore a getup like Lady GaGa, complete with glass beads and all. I mean, it wouldn’t have been at all bad if she could have stayed in tune. It was so…”

     “Wups, Jeannie,” I said. “None of that, please.”

     She giggled. “Okay, I’ll be good.”

     “Among all the bands, though, which do you think was the best?”

     “Well, Dannie and Unlimited Bandwidth, of course. Who else?”

     “I really appreciate you saying that, Jeannie.”

     “How about you? Who did you like best?”

     “Well… I think I shouldn’t say?”

     “Why not?”

     “Y’know — best not to show any preferences.”

     “Huh?”

     I cleared my throat. “But, since you liked the concert so much, Jeannie, I think you’re gonna like what I’m gonna say. My boss just handed me something. Apparently, KRPQ is gonna go FM soon, in a week’s time, in fact. And to inaugurate the FM station, we will be featuring the RockrGrrl concert in its entirety. How does that grab you?”

     This was greeted with silence. And after a few seconds, Jeannie screamed. I had to lower the volume of my speakers.

     “Jeannie…” But she wouldn’t stop screaming. “Jeannie!”

     She finally stopped. “Ummm, sorry…”

     I laughed. “I guess I don’t need to ask you what you think about the news, huh?”

     She screamed again, and I couldn’t stop laughing.

     Finally she wound down. “I gotta tell the girls! Hey, listen. Thanks so much. This is great news! Can’t believe it, and thanks for taking my call. I love you, Nighthawk. Seeya!”

     I laughed again as she hung up.

     “I guess Jeannie liked that. So! Let’s take another caller.” I turned to the switchboard but there were no blinking lights anymore. Hmmm…

     “Seems everyone’s telling their friends about the news, or maybe no one wants to talk to me anymore. I’m hurt…” I joked.

     “Ah, well. Anyway, even if no one wants to talk with me, this one’s for you, especially to Jeannie — a live recording from the RockrGrrl Evolution Festival at the Jubilee Center last night. Here’s Unlimited Bandwidth with the nineteen ninety-eight hit, Malibu. Enjoy!”

     I popped the CD into the digital player, selected track three, and pressed PLAY. I turned off my mike, took off the headset and jammed one of the chairs against the door.

     “Mrs. Piper,” I called. “Mrs. Piper!”

     I caught up with her at the reception area. She was with some tall, thin brunette dressed in a tee shirt and jeans. “Danny,” she said. “Who’s in the booth?”

     “I jammed the door open, Mrs. Piper, don’t worry. But, the concert…”

     She gestured to the tall girl, who was looking at me with something like a cross between awe and shyness. “This is my… daughter, Tracey. Tracey, I’d like you to meet the one and only Nighthawk, Danny Fairchild.”

     She was dressed in a long-sleeved tie-waist tunic tee, obviously some designer brand given the quality, pencil-cut jeans and a pair of white wedge sneakers. She reminded me of a younger Fran Drescher from the nineties TV show, The Nanny, especially with her choice of colors.

     But she seemed like a nice person — I liked her immediately, though I thought something was a bit off with her. I stuck out my hand. “Hi. Danny. Good to meet you.”

     She shook my hand timidly. “H-h-h-hi. I’m Tracey,”

     I gave her a friendly smile and nodded, and went back to Mrs. Piper.

     “Boss,” I began.

     Mrs. Piper shushed me. “I promise, Danny, we’ll talk about it. Though I don’t understand why you need to hide your transitioning. Or is this like a… hobby, that you just like dressing up like that, and those aren’t real?” She gestured at my tee shirt and jeans, and the bra that was so obviously underneath. I belatedly realized how I must look. In the bright fluorescents, I noticed that my tee shirt wasn’t the plain white shirt that I thought it was back in my room, but a sort of faded purple or plum color. (When I got home, I looked at the label and found the color to be “pale rose.”)

     I’ve been dressing as a girl too often, and it’s made me too used to these kinds of clothes. Though I wasn’t trying to dress as a girl this time, I forgot to deliberately change to my guy persona. Girl clothes just seemed more comfortable. Except for the shoes, that is. Good thing I was wearing my jacket when Dennis was still around.

     “Ummm, yeah. I guess we do need to talk later.” I turned around and headed back to the booth.

     “Excuse, me,” Tracey said. The voice — it clicked. Tracey was a boy! I tried to stop my surprise from showing on my face.

     “Can I help?” ‘she’ said. “Or maybe just watch you work?”

     I didn’t know how to react now. Dumbly, I waved her to come.

     “Tracey,” Mrs. Piper suggested, “maybe you can help Danny by manning the phones? Danny, will that be all right? Tracey knows how to operate the switchboard.”

     I nodded, went into the booth, and Tracey went into the engineer’s booth.

     As I sat down, I saw the counter of the digital player. It’ll end soon. I queued up a new song on my laptop. I looked through the list of commercials and there was another due. Cartridge number 54 — Cowgirl Jeans. Well, that’s new. I popped it in and waited for the song to end.

     “That was Unlimited Bandwidth, folks,” I said as I faded the applause down, “in one of their contest-winning performances, a live recording from the RockrGrrl Evolution Festival. More where that came from, so stick around. In the meantime, here’s a word from one of our sponsors.” I pushed the button on the cartridge.

     As soon as I did, Tracey chimed in. “Ummm, Danny? I can do the commercials for you, if you want.”

     “I didn’t know that you could do that. Sure, Tracey. Thanks!”

     “Also… I got some callers on the line…” I wasn’t used to someone talking to me via the headset.

     “Thanks, Tracey. Pick one out and have em stand by. Let’s just finish this commercial.”

     “Okay, Danny. It’s on Line One.”

     I switched on the mike and pressed the button for line one as soon as the commercial was done. “Okay, guys. We got another caller on the line. Hi, caller, this is the Nighthawk. Who’s this?”

     “Hi, my name’s Amanda. My friend’s Jeannie, the one you just put on the air? I just wanted to ask about the concert, and when you guys will be airing it?”

     “Hi Amanda,” I replied, and picked up the sheet of paper again. “It’s gonna be on next Saturday morning, and it’ll pre-empt my show for that day.”

     “Hey, cool! But… too bad for your program. Ummm… sorry…”

     I laughed. “Heheh. No offense taken, Amanda. At least it’ll give me a day off.”

     She giggled in relief. “Me and my friends were there in the concert, too, but were way up in the bleachers. I think Jeannie was nearer the stage. We didn’t get a chance to meet up. Where were you sitting?”

     “Ummm, I was just there, hanging around…”

     “Wish we’d have known, and could have looked you up. But then we don’t know how you look like, anyway…” She left the question hanging.

     “I’m just a regular joe, Amanda, nothing special.”

     “Really,” she said, in a humorously-disbelieving voice.

     “I’m just a five-foot nothing, scrawny little kid, nothing special, really…” I tried to turn the tables. “How about you?” I said. “You must be some five-eleven Grecian goddess, with guys just salivating after you.”

     Amanda giggled. “You know it! How’d you guess?”

     “Just a hunch.”

     “Nahhh, I’m just a regular girl, just like you.”

     Another one… “Appreciate it, Amanda.”

     “So, it’s gonna be next Saturday, then?”

     “Yup, Saturday morning, six AM. It’ll be a two-hour special recording of the concert, and it’ll be sponsored by RockrGrrl Guitars. Of course. And, later in the evening, at around ten, our town’s local TV affiliate, KPRX, will be airing a special recorded video broadcast of the concert, simulcast over our own KPRQ.”

     “Hey, cool! But how’s that gonna work? With the TV station, I mean.”

     I looked at the sheet again.

     “Well, the concert will be seen on KPRX, and we will be transmitting the audio feed over KRPQ at the same time. The difference being we’ll have some extra stuff during the commercial breaks, like interviews with some of the bands, special intermission numbers and stuff. I’ll be hosting the show for our radio station.”

     “You will? Hey, cool!”

     “Heheh. It’s all news to me, babe. Didn’t know about it ‘til just now.”

     “There’s gonna be interviews? Cool! Will you be interviewing Dannie and her band?”

     I didn’t think that people would ask that. But Mrs. Piper knows that Dannie the singer and Danny the nerd are one and the same. She wouldn’t have done anything like that. I rustled the sheet near the mike. “Doesn’t say here in my sheet, Amanda. Sorry.”

     “Awww. Well, it’s still cool. Thanks, Nighthawk. And cool program!”

     “Don’t mention it, Amanda, and thanks for calling.”

     From the other room, Tracey gestured at my own switchboard. I clicked off line one and turned to my laptop.

     “Anyway, here’s a song for all you wonderful people out there, from the Australian group Bachelor Girl, from ninety-eight, here’s Buses and Trains.”

     “Hey Mom, why didn't you tell me?” Bachelor Girl sang. “Why didn't you teach me a thing or two? You just let me go, out into the world - you never thought to share what you knew.”

     I clicked off the mike and pressed the intercom to Tracey. “Hey, Tracey? How do I get an outside line from here?”

     She gestured to the little phone pad near the mixing panel. I spotted it and gave her a high sign. I dialed Danielle’s number in her room.

     After several rings, Danielle answered. “Hlloo…” she answered sleepily.

     “Danielle, it’s me. I’m sorry for waking you up. Listen, there’s a sort-of situation here, and I could really use you your help.”

     “Danny?” she said, alarm evident in her voice. “Everything all right?”

     “Everything’s fine Danielle. Don’t worry. I just need you here. Can you come?”

     “Okay.” I heard some rustling of clothes. “Where are you, at the station?”

     “Yes, but no need to rush. I still got an hour or so to go on my program.”

     “Okay.”

     “It’s the new station here downtown,” I said, and gave her the address.

     “Got it,” she said. “I’ll call Morgan or maybe Joanne or Dale to give me a ride. Or, heck, I’ll just get a cab. So, see you in an hour or so?”

     “Thanks, Danielle. Love you.”

     “Love you, too, little brother.”

     I hung up and tried to concentrate on the program.

 

     The show continued on, and it was smooth sailing. Predictably, a lot of people kept on calling about the upcoming concert coverage, and details about the concert itself. I didn’t bother filling them in much, as other callers did that for me. There were a lot of them, some of them I recognized as kids from my school. So many kids had gone to the concert. Ohmigod…

     I noticed Mrs. Piper sneaking into Tracey’s booth. They’ve been talking a lot. And is she wearing a headset of her own?

     Inevitably, most of the calls turned back to me. There were the usual quota of creepies, but most were just kids who wanted to get to know me. I talked about me being a high-school student, and only doing this gig part time, with permission from my folks, of course (had to get that in — Mrs. Piper was very particular about that). I talked about the things I liked — like fried shrimp dumplings with vegetables, over-bright and hot Sunday afternoons, Cuba Libre with Oliver and Oliver rum plus lemon instead of lime, hamsters (we had a fun time talking about the new movie, “G Force”), the C-sharp minor chord, family and friends, and sharing ice-cold milk and banana muffins with family and friends on cold December mornings.

     I always tried to steer the discussion back to them, of course, and the callers, mostly girls, were pleased that someone wanted to talk about them. I used the need to break for commercials or to play a song as a convenient excuse to cut conversations, otherwise the show would be monopolized by the caller.

     As the time got nearer eight AM, and Tracey just popped in the next commercial, she pressed the intercom button.

     “Uh, Danny?” she said. I looked up and saw her gesturing at her mom, who was standing just beside her.

     Mrs. Piper held a piece of paper against the glass. “Your program extended two hours. Yayyy!” I looked at her. She was smiling widely and gave me two big thumbs-up.

     I forced a smile and gave her my own, albeit tenuous, thumbs-up. Mrs. Piper waved and stepped out of the studio.

     I pressed the button that connected me to Tracey. “Hey, Tracey,” I said. “What’s up with your mom?”

     “Uh, the commercial’s about done.”

     “Lemme fix that,” I said. When the commercial was done, I pressed my laptop’s Enter key. In moments, Sara Bareilles’ piano playing came out of the speakers, and we could hear the first piano chords from “Love Song.”

     “That gives us about four minutes, Tracey. So what gives?”

     “Mom’s been listening in, and she thinks that there are too many callers that’ll be disappointed if the show ended too quickly, so she’s extended your time for about an extra two hours.”

     “But isn’t someone supposed to take over at eight? Isn’t Lou Jefferson up next?”

     “Mom called up Mr. Jefferson a while ago, and told him he needs to check in at ten instead.”

     “But, Tracey…”

     “Mom says you get the contracted overtime rate, and Mr. Jefferson isn’t getting docked for the undertime or anything.”

     “Okay. I’m game. But what does she want me to do?”

     “Nothing, Danny. Just do it as if it’s your regular program.”

     “All right. Now, I need to call my sister.”

     “No prob! Hold on.” Tracey pressed a couple of buttons. I then heard a ringing over the headset.

     “Tracey? Who are we calling?”

     “I just speed-dialed your sister. Her cel number’s in your employee file.”

     “Wait, wait… You’ve been reading my employee file?”

     “Ummm…”

     “Hello?” Danielle said. “Who’s this?”

     I waved him… I mean, her… away impatiently. “Danielle? It’s Danny.”

     “Danny! Thank goodness. Listen, there are no taxis available right now. I’m calling Joanne in a second. Can you hang on a while?”

     “Sis, it’s not a problem. Mrs. Piper has extended my program by an extra two hours. Take your time. Call Joanne if you want.”

     “Whew. Okay. Sit tight, little brother. We’ll be there as soon as we can.”

     “Thanks, sis. Bye!”

     I pressed the intercom again. “Okay, Tracey. The song’s almost done. Pick me another caller.”

     The gab-fest continued, between commercials and songs. And I got to know most of the callers, in ways I would not have been able to otherwise. Some of the callers were trying to be smart-alecky, though, calling in with lame lines, like offering to take me out for shrimp dumplings and rum cokes. But I never needed to fight back - most of the others who called fought back for me.

     As I shared another chuckle with one of the callers, Kathy, if I remember right, Mrs. Piper came over and knocked on the booth’s glass window. She had another piece of paper plastered against the glass. “No more commercials and songs, okay?”

     I mouthed the word “why?”

     Mrs. Piper wrote another note. “Too many callers.”

     I shook my head in dismay.

     Mrs. Piper knocked on the window again.

     I looked up. Mrs. Piper had another note. “What’s wrong?”

     I shook my head again. “Nothing,” I mouthed. I turned on the intercom.

     “Tracey? Your mom says no more songs and commercials for the duration. Just keep on screening the callers. Pick me good ones, okay?”

     “Okay, boss,” Tracey said.

     So the next hour or so were all callers. Tracey said that the switchboard was alive with callers so I tried to put a limit of about three minutes each, and give as many people a chance to get on-air, but it was difficult to break away, especially with the more… talkative ones. There were a few, though, that had interesting things to say, and I tended to spend more time on-air with them. This gave me the idea that maybe for the future, I should have a specific topic in mind per program.

     After a while, I found I was having a lot of fun, even if a few of them weren’t exactly… you know… Still, I persevered.

     As the program wound down to its last thirty minutes, the number of blinking lights on Tracey’s board became less and less.

     “Danny?” Tracey said, “I got one last caller. On line two.”

     “Thank god, Trace,” I said. “I’ve about lost my voice already. Okay. One more for the road.” I pressed the button for Line Two.

     “Hi. You’re on the air.”

     “Hi,” the caller said. She sounded a little half-hearted, spiritless.

     “Hi, yourself.” I tried to lift the mood. “How’re you doin’?”

     “I just wanted to say that you have a great program, and to say thanks. It’s meant a lot to me.”

     Hmmm. Something’s wrong. “What’s your name, dear?” I asked the girl.

     “I’m Valerie. I just wanted to say thanks, before I … go.”

     “Going on a trip?”

     “You could say that.”

     “You don’t sound good, Val. What’s wrong?”

     “Oh, nothing. It’s just.”

     “Val?”

     “I just wanted to try and talk to you, at least once.”

     “At least once? Val, I know it’s hard to get through, but just keep on trying. I’m sure you’ll get through again. Tracey, my new producer,” I gave Tracey a thumbs-up, “is pretty good. I’m sure she’ll be able to get you through, even if it’s just once in a while, heheh.”

     “No, that’s not it,” said the unspirited voice.

     I paused. “Val, tell me what’s wrong.”

     “Nothing matters anymore, really. Nothing’s worth it. I can’t go on anymore.”

     “Val, you’re scaring us over here. Y’know?”

     “But nothing matters anymore! I’m…” she broke down crying.

     “Val, Val. Hey, talk to me. Nothing can be that bad. Talk to me.”

     “You’re nice and all, and I like you. Hell, everyone I know likes you. But I know you don’t really care. It’s just a lot of radio talk, to get you more ratings and stuff…”

     “Ratings?” I said. I got a marker from the little drawer on the side and wrote on the back of the commercial sheet. I held it up to Tracey. “Call your mom,” I wrote.

     “You’re doing this so there’ll be people to listen to your program, get better ratings. Make more money…”

     “Babe,” I said, “before today, we never had commercials. What money?”

     Valerie laughed a bit. “I guess.”

     “Val, I really want to know what you’re thinking of doing.”

     “I’m real tired of all of this. It’s all pointless anyway.”

     “Val, that’s not true.”

     Val laughed without humor.

     “Yes, it is. No one cares. Not even my mom and dad. No one.”

     I didn’t know how to react to that. I’ve always been surrounded by family and friends. Even with my problems at school, I always had someone to turn to. This girl felt she was all alone. Just then, I saw Mrs. Piper rush into Tracey’s booth. I held up my hand, and mouthed, “wait.”

     “I can’t believe that,” I said to Val. “I’m sure your folks love you.”

     “I was never, you might say, their favorite. It was my older sister that they liked best. She died about a year ago, and ever since, it’s like my folks just... decided to go away.”

     “They left you?”

     “Not literally. They just, sort of gave up. Like I said, my older sister was their favorite. Their world revolved around her. But, at least when my sister was still around, we’d get to go do, you know, the regular stuff that families do. But when she died, it’s like their world ended. And they didn’t notice I was still here.”

     “Oh, Val. I’m so sorry.”

     “I’m not surprised they like Tess best. She was the class president, a cheerleader, and in the honors section, and very popular with everyone. And I’m just a nobody.”

     She went on, talking about Tess. And I couldn’t help but think of me and Danielle. Danielle wasn’t a cheerleader but it wasn’t for lack of looks or talent. The cheerleader squad was after her the whole first semester but she wasn’t into the whole rah-rah thing. But that’s nothing. The life of a nerd living in the shadow of his sister.

     I could identify with Val. But the thing is, mom and dad did not pick favorites. It’s just that Danielle needed the attention. That’s what Dad said when we got to talking that one time. And Danielle wasn’t all bad. I found that out the hard way, though. And I think if Val’s sister didn’t pass away that quickly, Val would have come to the same conclusion, too.

     And as I listened to her, I could read between the lines. That beneath all of the hurt and the bad memories…

     “You miss her,” I said.

     “What?”

     “You loved her, and you miss her.”

     She didn’t react to that. “Val?” I said.

     “What do you know,” she said angrily. “I mean… What do you know about it, huh?”

     “You’re not the only one with a sister, you know. My sister’s one of the most popular girls in school, and she’s the apple of our dad’s eye. And she has tons of friends. And here I am - Geek city. I couldn’t help but be jealous of her — her popularity, her friends, her life. But you know, part of the reason I felt that way was because I wanted to be part of her life. You know. And, it’s worse because I love her, too.”

     Val started to cry.

     “I know it, Val. I was there where you are now. And there’s one thing I also know. I know that she loved you, too.”

     Val was crying so hard she couldn’t speak.

     “Don’t do whatever you were planning, babe. Tess wouldn’t have wanted that. And you should talk to your folks. Don’t think you’re the only one who’s hurting. They love you, too. And they need you.”

     “I can’t stand it anymore. I just…”

     “There are always people that care, Val. I care, too.”

     “You don’t know me. And I don’t know you, really.”

     “So? Doesn’t mean that I don’t care. And besides, you think I’m cute, right?”

     She giggled. “I don’t even know what you look like. I don’t know your name.”

     I felt it. The turning point. She’ll be okay now.

     We talked some more, about her life with her sister, how she died, and how it was to be without her. But it was different now, her aura had changed. I think Val will make it.

     I looked up at the clock. It was close enough to ten o’clock.

     “Val, I have to wrap up the show in a bit. But don’t hang up. Tracey will take care of you.” I wrote on the commercial sheet again, held it up so Tracey could see. “Don’t let her hang up.”

     “Is that okay?” I asked.

     “Okay.”

     “Cool.” I turned to my laptop, looked rapidly through my MP3 directory, and double-clicked on one of the songs.

     “Cats, and kitties. It’s time to go again. It’s been an eventful morning. Talked music, talked fun, made new friends. But don’t be sad, I’ll be back again soon. In the meantime, this is for you, Val. Be safe and be well. This has been the Nighthawk on KRPQ. Keep it real.”

     The old nineties song, Beautiful In My Eyes, started to play. I originally downloaded a copy of it because I thought it was something by Elton John. It was a beautiful, though awfully sentimental song. I found out later that it was by someone named Joshua Kadison. He sounded a heck of a lot like Elton. I would have erased it long ago, but Danielle heard it and loved it, so I kept it in my computer.

     “You're my peace of mind in this crazy world,” the song went. “You're everything I've tried to find, your love is a pearl. You're my Mona Lisa, you're my rainbow skies, and my only prayer is that you realize you'll always be beautiful in my eyes.”

     I listened to the song for a bit, hoping it reaches Val. “We'll have our fill of tears, our share of sighs. My only prayer is that you realize you'll always be beautiful in my eyes.”

     I pressed the intercom. “Tracey? Is Valerie still there?”

     “Hi. I’m still here,” Val responded.

     “I’m sorry, Val. I had to wind up the show.”

     “I understand.”

     “But I got some free time today? What say we meet later? You say where and when.”

     “Ummm, you don’t have to…”

     “S’okay, Val. I want to. Lunch maybe?”

     “I don’t…”

     “Where are you now?”

     “I’m here in my dorm room, in the community college downtown.”

     “Great. How about we meet for lunch? Maybe one o’clock at that café in the commons?”

     “But…”

     “Please, Val. I wanna meet you. Please.”

     “Okay. But, what do I call you, anyway?”

     “You can call me Danny.”

     “Okay, Danny. One o’clock, then. How will I know you?”

     “I’ll be the redhead wearing a leather jacket and a smile, and drinking a biiig caramel frappe.”

     Val giggled. “Redhead? Are you that Danny from…”

     I laughed. “Well, you haveta wait til later to find out. ‘kay?”

     “Okay. See you later, then.”

     “Seeya later.”

     “Oh, and Danny? Thanks for the song.”

     “My pleasure, Val.” I made a hanging-up gesture and Tracey broke the connection.

 

     I was packing my stuff when Lou bustled in.

     “Hey, dude,” he said, and looked me up and down. “Or is it dudette?” He laughed.

     I gave him the finger, and continued packing. As soon as I had a song queued up and playing on the turntable, I unplugged my laptop and packed it away.

     I was about to leave when Lou stopped me with a hand on my shoulder.

     “Dude,” he said. “I’m sorry about that. I just wanted to say that I think you did good today.”

     I grinned, nodded my thanks, and left the booth.

     Danielle and Mrs Piper met me outside. Danielle gave me a hug. “I heard the program, Danny.” She hugged me for a long time. I love my sister.

     Mrs. Piper cleared her throat. “Danny,” she said, “let’s meet in my office. Bring Tracey along, okay?”

     I went back, told Tracey we’re having a meeting in Mrs. Piper’s room, and then we followed my boss to her office.

end of part five


 
Author’s Postscript: Part 5 was totally newly-written, and none of it was sourced from any previously-written stuff. Apologies for taking so long writing it. Am already starting on new stuff, but am having a hard time progressing the story. I'll do my best, and I hope those following the story can maintain their patience, as Bobbie Speedy-Gonzalez Cabot (that's me heheh...) tries to gets the next part written as fast as possible.


To Be Continued...
up
378 users have voted.
If you liked this post, you can leave a comment and/or a kudos! Click the "Thumbs Up!" button above to leave a Kudos

Comments

Really Intense!

I think this was one of your best written chapters Roberta: very moving, emotional, well packed, and well played.

Your writing skills are honing up to perfection.

*BIG HUGS!* =^.^=

Sephrena Lynn Miller
Bigcloset TopShelf
TGLibrary.com

Can't

wait to read more. I know, I know, I have to wait for you to write it, but I sure hope you write fast! *grin* Love the story...

Some days you're the pigeon, some days you're the statue

Emotional

What a great 5th part. I have greatly enjoyed this series.
Danny is such a great character and seems to be enjoying life.
What has Mrs Piper got instore for Danny's career.
Please keep writing this terrific story.

Anticipation!

Andrea Lena's picture

The wait is always worth it, dear one! Thanks for another great read, and I'll wait patiently but with great anticipation for the next chapter.

"She was born for all the wrong reasons but grew up for all the right ones." Che Dio ti benedica! 'drea

  

To be alive is to be vulnerable. Madeleine L'Engle
Love, Andrea Lena

I had forgotten all about

I had forgotten all about this series until I saw the new chapter - I'll admit that it was a very welcome find after all this time. I hope to see much more; this chapter was definitely plot-forming!

BW


I'll get a life when it's proven and substantiated to be better than what I'm currently experiencing.

Danniey

This is developing into - no it is - a heartwarming and uplifting story. It is probable that hard times and tough decisions lie ahead for Danniey. He is adjusting to his changes, but where will his/her journey end. I am sure his caring nature will carry the day.

As others have said, this was a very emotional chapter and your development of the characters is very good. One thing is certain - everyone wants to love Danniey.

Thank you for continuing this special story.

As always,

Dru

As always,

Dru

I am certainly glad that

I am certainly glad that Danni was able to use the show for suicide intervention with Val. Somehow, I see Danni coming out to everyone because of this. This is a really sweet and lovely story. Janice Lynn

I am so glad that you

I am so glad that you brought this story back and are continuing it. Dannie is an interesting lead and I'm looking forward to where the story goes.

Janice

Well that was great!

I really, really liked this chapter. Heck, I really like the story, it's wonderfully different and yet still so remarkably sane, so believable. And it's also very heart warming.

The suicide watch conversation was very touching and sounded really real.

Thanks for sharing, Roberta.

Jo-Anne

What can I say

bobbie-c's picture

To Andrea, Dru, Brute, UK Rose, Bibliophage, Janice Lynn, Janice, Jo-Anne, and my Editor-In-Chief Sephy ;)

Words are not enough. Thank you. From the bottom of my heart.

For Topshelf's seasoned writers (and there are lots of wonderful writers here in Topshelf), I suppose such wonderful comments and messages are old hat. For a newbie like me, it's overwhelming. Words are not enough. And they help me get past the... not-so-complementary emails I have gotten (some people can be real mean) these past weeks.

I cannot apologize enough for my glacially-slow writing. Rest assured I am doing my best, and that the story will end eventually. Among my pet peeves, there two that I think are very key here - stories never completed, and stories without an ending. Know that Danny's personal little epic will be completed. Eventually... All I ask is that you be patient with this fan playing at being a writer.

In the bible, it says, "everything comes to him who waits." But then, Edmund Burke also said, "there is however a limit at which forbearance ceases to be a virtue." So I will try to write more quickly.

Thanks again.

- Bobbie

Take your time.

I, for once, need only to know two things:
1)You are still there somewhere
2)You are working on a story till it is finished.

And that is enough for me. It's not like I will wither and die if I have to wait a bit ;)
Some have waited for much longer.

Faraway

Faraway


On rights of free advertisement:
Big Closet Top Shelf

Where you can fool around like you want to and most you get is some bemused good ribbing!

I think this was your best

I think this was your best chapter yet! I'm really looking forward to finding out what happens with Valerie, and what Mrs. Piper has in store for Danny. Take your time and enjoy writing the next part, we'll certainly enjoy reading it! :)

Saless
 


"But it is also tradition that times *must* and always do change, my friend." - Eddie Murphy, Coming To America


"But it is also tradition that times *must* and always do change, my friend." - Eddie Murphy, Coming To America

Ditto...

Great episode, probably the best so far. Looking forward to seeing where this is going.

Wrote long paragraphs here about Mrs Piper outing the Nighthawk as Dannie (thoughtless or selfish or what?) and about Danny's continued apparent inability (unwillingness?) to recognize the chemical nature of his popularity as a romantic target at Foxtails and elsewhere. But we'll know a lot more about the first when Mrs Piper, Danny and Danielle hold their meeting in the next chapter. Hopefully at some point the second will come to a head when Danny recognizes how disruptive he is to the relationships among band members. (He presumably won't tell them about the pheromone issue until/unless that happens.) I can excuse Danny -- he's never had this kind of attention before, and he's probably too fond of it to look the gift horse in the mouth -- but I'm disppointed that Danielle doesn't understand what's going on with her attraction to him, since she was in on the original report.

(It's surprising to me, even with Danny a normally male name, that Val made the jump from an apparent girl DJ to a boy she knew last year in high school. Then again, she never finished her sentence: was she thinking of Dannie from the band?)

Eric

Danielle

doesn't understand her feelings for her brother because she doesn't know about the pheromones. The doctor only told Danny about that, and he hasn't told anybody. I think that's a mistake on his part, but an understandable one.

I'm pretty sure Val was thinking of Dannie from the band.

Saless
 


"But it is also tradition that times *must* and always do change, my friend." - Eddie Murphy, Coming To America


"But it is also tradition that times *must* and always do change, my friend." - Eddie Murphy, Coming To America

You're Right...

I missed that, since Danielle told us that she and the family had been told "everything", and I had the vague notion that Dad knew what was different about the basketball game and as was scared by it as Danny was. (Maybe he did know, but not the reason.)

Thanks, Saless.

Eric

Well I was crying by the end!

Absolutely wonderful Bobbie Speedy- Gonzalez!

Nicely written, great pace and composition.

Keep up the good work!
Thank you!

LoL
Rita

Age is an issue of mind over matter.
If you don't mind, it doesn't matter!
(Mark Twain)

LoL
Rita

Please keep it going

I love this story so much!

Thank you!

This is the best part yet! Dannie is rapidly approaching the time when she'll have to let the world know the truth, or at least as much truth as the world needs to know. Dannie is starting to impact many lives, and with that comes responsibility. Val and Tracey are both vulnerable and will need extra care. Danny can no longer turn away from acknowledging Dannie. The circle of knowledge will inevitably grow.

SuZie

REALLY COOL!

I am really digging this story. I can't wait for the rest of it. Great job!

XXX,
Bri

IMG_2075.JPG

XXX,
Bri

Hello again.

bobbie-c's picture

Hi, everyone.

I saw the announcement (blog? post?) about the October TG Terror Contest. I am a BIIIG Stephen King fan, and have always dreamed of trying my hand at the genre. Very excited!! But given there is less than 17 days til the contest deadline, I am going to devote what little writing skills I have to this for the moment. That'll mean Danny's gonna take a back seat... Hope you guys don't mind the extended wait... Or do I need to hide out from angry mobs with torches, clubs, slings, arrows and pitchforks? heheheh.

To Faraway, Saless, Eric, Rita, Ms Christine, SuZie and Bri - thanks for the wonderful new comments. And rest assured I will get back to Danny and crank out some more stuff as soon as I can. Danny's little saga is starting to come to a point where things have to be resolved one way or another - Danny's complicated relationships, his keeping secrets from his friends, the unrequited love some of the people around him feel, Mrs. Piper's agenda, and the new problems that Val and Tracey have brought into the mix. So I REALLY need to get back to the story. Someone said that the plot is somewhat akin to a soap opera. I guess it is, somewhat. But it's not gonna be like a TV soap in one respect - Danny's story will have a definitive ending. The problem is, it's under the inexpert and amateur hands of yours truly. But I will do my best.

- Bobbie

You know, I don't think

You know,

I don't think Dannie should have to tell anyone about the pheromone issue. At least don't turn it into a contrived dramatic scene. And I think that theres something special about Danielle and Dannie's relationship. Call me a pervert, but I don't see anything wrong with it. I mean whats wrong with love? I mean, incest is kind of...a stonage age taboo that's irrelevant in modern times. The bulk of us (readers) here at Big Closet are transgendered, so who are we to throw stones (even if this is only a story)? I think the author should continue developing their romance, since it just seems to me that Dannie and Danielle's romance/non-romance is a very special kind of relationship. I mean, no matter what, it's not like it's sexual abuse...pheromones or no pheromones. We all need to step back from the narrow minded heterosexual thinking our society has burdened us with.

I dunno, I like to read stories that think/are outside the box. I think that the relationship they have makes the story both unique and special. Forget that stupid taboo. It's not like they are going to have kids together or something gross like that. Jeeeeeez people.

Danny's story

My only comment is please continue.

On-Air Shows

Great story -- please continue

Umm -- I'm kinda' lost on what Danny's Air Time is suppose to be. Saturday 6am to 8am and I thought a couple of afternoons.

Seems a couple of weeks have past since Mrs. Piper took over, and I don't seem to find any mention of the afternoon shows.

Just curious....

Thanks for the great Story.
Carla

"May you live in Interesting Times" is a promise, not a threat!

I just keep coming back.

Eclectic Kitty's picture

For no apparent reason, other than I think it's great, I think about this story a lot, checking for updates every couple of days. Danny is a definite favorite. Please keep kicking ass, Bobbie! 8)

What does one do with such a gift/curse? How long before Danny begins to realize that his power is causing problems as well as opportunities? Damn, I'm getting all excited about the next update. I need to go write or something. Or maybe reread Danny? 8)

- Eclectic Kitty
Oh, that magic feeling - nowhere to go.

- Eclectic Kitty
Oh, that magic feeling - nowhere to go.

Good Stuff!

Hi Bobbie - as promised, I read the story to date and have really enjoyed it immensely! The dialogue is well done, with characters retaining their individuality. The Valerie call into the radio station was VERY well done and emotional.
I have the feeling (not a new comment I'm sure) that Dannie is going to be coming out a bunch whether she wants to or not with the popularity of the band, the radio station, etc.
The pheromone issue is a REALLY big problem - I can't imagine how that will be handled and at some point you have to think that Dannie will be questioning virtually every relationship she/he has - "do they like ME or are they responding to the pheromones?" - that either hasn't come to mind overtly to Dannie or hasn't come to a crisis point yet. Either way, that seems like the biggest issue in the long run.
Also, I have a feeling that Mrs. Piper (and Tracey) will be a huge help for our protagonist, both in controlling the Dan/Dannie-as-a-public-figure exposure, and also with her being able to assist the band in any number of ways. She came off kind of creepy in the restaurant following the show with her little on-the-sly obvservation thing, but I think her heart is in the right place with her daughter and wanting to help.

Very exciting stuff and I can't wait to read about the meeting!
Thanks for the great work!
~abenderx~

Oh yeah - forget SoundForge for WAV editing btw (lol) - Audacity is the DEAL and it's free!! Wooooo!!! It's all I use now for straight stereo-track processing. Here's a fun trick - you can set the audio-input on Audacity to the output of your sound card (default main out) and then if you hit record, it'll pick up any sound your computer makes as an input stream - way cool for capturing audio!

Are you posting the next chapter yet?
how 'bout now?
now?
lol sorry couldn't resist...

Fascinating....

This has been a fascinating read. For some strange reason I had trouble getting into it the first few times I tried. Then, poof, I guess I was ready.

The story has a LOT of immediacy. The characters show a lot of compassion. Danny's medical condition... Fascinating. I just hope his aroma doesn't cause problems. Maybe them Chemists can come up with a "deodorant" that turns off some of that animal magnetism. 'Cause, if it were me, I'd be wondering if the attention I was getting was for me or for the pheromones. I expect I'd end up trying to push people away, SURE they didn't really like a freak like me. *sighs* Liked the way you had Nighthawk help Val... But Danny's going to have more "troubles" going forward.

Wonder what you're going to have the twins tell Mrs. P. & Tracy. That could be "interesting". :-)

Thanks,
Anne

This is an amazing story

You've got great characters. I love stories where good things happen to nice people, so you've just given me such a payoff with your story.

I will definitely be back to re-read it again, several times.

Wow this is intense! So many

Wow this is intense! So many have lives that end in taking one's life. It's never that bad, some one cares.
I'm misting up reading this last chapter.

Karen

This was...

as expected, a most excellent chapter. Congratulations. T.

I am a Proud mostly Native American woman. I am bi-polar. I am married, and mother to three boys. I hope we can be friends.

Close to answering his own question

Jamie Lee's picture

From the way Danny performs along with the other band members, and the audience's reaction, Danny is more relaxed on stage, or behind the mic, than he is otherwise.

His own question wondered if he was a girl or boy, because what has happened to him. Danielle has done her best to get Danny to go shopping, for women's clothing, unbeknownst to Danny. She has actually kept from spending as much time with his friends as he once did. The girls had that sleepover and used Danny's new found consideration to get him to be one of the girls.

And now Dannie has started feeling comfortable wearing girls clothing, getting good compliments along the way. Danny had a question which Dannie is slowly answering.

Danny did exceptional talking with Val, making her feel valued, taking an interest in her and keeping her from ending her life. So far.

Danny doesn't see what others see, but he is so much more compassionate towards others than when his story began. He is also more considerate than in the beginning, though sometimes things could have gone sideways.

Why do people gather to him more than before? Has it to do with the pheromones he produced or the wonderful change they see in him? Or because others believe they are seeing one very beautiful girl? Or, all three?

Others have feelings too.