All Alone in a Sea of Romance
This first story orignially was written for Dreamspinner Press celebrating their six years of publishing. To help celebrate their anniversary, they asked for anniversary stories for characters that had appeared in one of our novels.
I’M THE DIVA, HE’S THE WRITER celebrates the one year anniversary of Tommy and Jude from the novel All Alone if a Sea of Romance. It originally appeared in the Dreamspinner Press blog on May 25, 2015
I’m the Diva, He’s the Writer
I awoke that special morning to the sound of happily chirping birds. A glance at our alarm clock showed it was 8:06 a.m., and for me, that was early. I work nights and so noon-ish was my usual awake time, but today was a very special day. Very special indeed. Today was me and my man’s—my man! Squeeeee!—twenty-second anniversary.
Well… maybe not technically. But at first I was celebrating one week together, then two, then three¸ four¸ and five. Around three months Jude insisted we keep it to one-month increments. Waiters at our favorite restaurant were starting to raise their eyebrows from the pure volume of anniversary dinners we were having.
Jude… Oh. My. God.
I rolled over, propped my chin in my hand, and looked down at him. Just looked. He was so beautiful. So manly. His brown hair was cut almost military short, and receding a bit, but oh in my eyes, it just made him all the more masculine. His facial hair was cut in a goatee, but he hadn’t shaved in a few days so there was a thick shadow covering his cheeks and running down his throat. Again, manly. Yummy. His mouth was so beautiful and I resisted the urge to kiss him, even if it meant him opening those gorgeous brown eyes and looking at me that way he did. Like he was totally in love with me. Because he was. And he was mine—all mine. Imagine! Me, Tommy Smith—for years always the bridesmaid and never the bride—had finally found love.
Okay—real time. Today was our one year anniversary and—wow!—how could it be one year already? It hardly seemed possible. But then a lot had happened in that time.
Once again resisting the desire to kiss my man and then maybe do a lot more, I slipped out of bed and did my morning bathroom ablutions. I wanted to look good today. I had plans. Plans that I hoped would please him.
Jude and I met at a romance book convention. It’s called Romantic Voyages, and it is only the largest event of its kind. It moves all over the country, even ventures out of it once in a blue moon, and last year it was held in Kansas City—my hometown. I had discovered gay romances a year or so before, and since the event was in my own backyard, I had to go. I would like to report it was so I could meet Jude. I would be lying though. I was going for lots of reasons, but I was really hoping to meet Phillip Brandt. He is just totally gorgeous and very hunky with tons and tons and tons of muscles. Turns out he’s a bit of a jerk. Jude on the other hand? He turned out to be my knight in shining amour.
I won’t go into all that happened that weekend—attempted murder, police investigations, drunken debacles, and all kinds of mayhem—because I am sure you read about it in the newspapers, or Jude’s book, or maybe you saw him on Ellen? Google it. You’ll find something I am sure.
The point for me is that in just a few days, I fell madly in love. Like never before. And thank heaven, so did Jude. With me. I should mention that part—you can never be too precise.
And please forgive me if this isn’t brilliantly written. I’m the diva—Jude is the writer.
It is that very diva-hood that almost kept us apart. See, I’m a drag queen. A very good one. I make damned good money at it too. Thing is? Jude didn’t care too much for them. He went out with a guy once who did drag and it left a very bad taste in his mouth. But, Jude had not met moi as Dixie! I am a drag queen of a different color. I don’t take my not-so-perfect body out on stage and try to pass as a woman. Don’t think I could—ever. But I do drag-comedy, sometime called scag drag or booger drag. I don’t shave and I wear low cut gowns, revealing my hairy chest (which Jude likes by the way). I do all kinds of fun, fun, silly songs. “These Boots are Made for Walking” or Madonna’s “Crazy for You” while wearing a straitjacket. I honor the sacred clown. You haven’t heard of it either? Damn! What do they teach in schools these days?
Just think of the court jester. A drag queen gets to poke all kinds of fun and gets away with it.
Thank God Jude liked me when he finally saw me in drag—he had no interest in being a drag-husband (he who has to help lug all those costumes and props around). But he has been amazing and wonderful and—damn!—I am in love!
Anyway, because he has been so precious and sweet, I have a big surprise in store for him. One I think he will appreciate.
First on my list is a big breakfast. One I am cooking. We rarely get to have breakfast together. This is going to be a gigantic one. Eggs, bacon, sausage and my famous strawberry pancakes.
When I came out of the bathroom I saw Jude was still asleep. Perfect! So I headed quietly out of the bedroom and toward the kitchen when I was stopped by a sight that made me gasp. There on our dining room table was a huge vase of flowers. I am talking huge! The vase was as big around as a gallon milk container, and there were these stalks of purple flowers that seemed to reach for the ceiling. Purple. My favorite color. Irises and coneflowers, dahlias and delphiniums, veronica and gay feather and hydrangea—oh my gosh, was that lilac? How had he gotten lilac, my most favorite, this time of year? How the hell much had this cost?
I found a card: o Tommy, the love of my life, and the sexiest man I know—Yours, Jude.
I almost cried.
I spun around and there was Jude, a big smile on his face—and nothing more. He leaned back against the doorframe to our bedroom. He was pointing at me. And not with his finger.
O. M. G.
“I-I like,” I stuttered.
“What does my baby like?”
I looked at the flowers, at him, at the flowers, and at…him. Then I gave Jude my most lascivious smile. “I want it all,” I said, trying on my best Mae West imitation. “What say we delay breakfast?”
“You were making breakfast? Maybe I should get dressed?” He gave me an evil smile back.
I walked up to him and grabbed him firmly. “It’s up to you,” I growled.
“Breakfast can wait,” he growled back.
We headed to the bedroom.
Jude wasn’t happy I was working that night. But it was all a part of my plan. Plus, we were leaving the next day for Chicago—his hometown. Jacob, a friend of mine and owner of Razzle Dazzle, Chi-town’s biggest and hottest drag club, had even set us up in a nice little place in Boystown so that we could be right in the thick of Chicago gay life. We were even going to fit in some time with Li, his old roommate. Maybe even a visit with his estranged mother. They were getting along, and I was not about to stand in the way of them healing their relationship.
But first was the show at The Male Box, my place of employ. It was going to be a surprise too. Because I wasn’t going to perform in drag. Not the kind you think of as drag anyway. But in the end, leather or feather, it’s all drag. However, tonight I was going for something completely different. Through wonder, luck, and a human sacrifice (just kidding), the great goddess Coutura had seen fit to allow me to find an Armani suit at an estate sale for twenty-five dollars. It was obvious that poor daughter who was running the thing didn’t know what she had. I was nice enough to give her fifty bucks (I don’t want to piss off Coutura).
With just a little hemming here and there (I am a whiz with a sewing machine), I had it all fixed, and I did look stunning in it if I may say so. Imagine Jude’s surprise when I walk out on stage and croon some Michael Bublé: “It’s Time”, “Quando Quando Quando”, “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”… He was gonna love it. I couldn’t wait.
He would never look at me on stage the same way again.
So after making love, showering together (hey, I can shower twice!), a huge breakfast, a little more lovin’, and then a movie, I headed over to the club. We were all packed and ready to go, although Jude had suddenly decided he had a few errands to run and wouldn’t catch up with me until show time. Errands? Maybe he had more flowers in mind? He knew how I loved flowers…
The flowers! Oh no! They would be dead by the time we got back from Chicago. What was he thinking?
He was thinking romance. Lordy, Lordy, I love me that man.
So I went to The Male Box and got ready. I actually had to take makeup off for once. Jude would be suspicious if I left without my face. I always do it at home because the dressing room at the bar is tiny. I mean tiny. Our kitchen is bigger, and apartments in the 1920s had small kitchens. That’s when our apartment building was built. A lot of buildings in those days were named after famous authors of the time; The Mark Twain, Robert Browning, and Oliver Wendell Holmes for instance. We live in the Oscar Wilde. Ain’t that a kick in the rubber parts?
So I was going to look as manly as I could, and you know? That isn’t impossible. I’m a bit of a bear myself and Jude has discovered he likes bears, once he got over the fear that being a bear was something bad. See, he’s one too. I like that. Thank God it’s catching on. We gays don’t have to look all emaciated, or twink-y, or body-builder-y anymore. We can look human. Muffin tops are the new black!
And when I put on that suit?
I was startled to hear a long sexy whistle and turned to see it was my friend Annie. AKA Liddle Awful Annie, the hit host of the local drag scene. She was a real live woman and a sexy one at that. She dressed like a sexy, bawdy version of Little Orphan Annie and told the naughtiest jokes imaginable. Which was hilarious when you knew her in real life. She was as sweet as could be.
“Wow, Tommy,” she said. “You are lookin’ good!”
“Thanks,” I said. “You really think so?”
“If I wasn’t so dedicated to lesbianosity, you would have to run for cover.”
I burst into laughter and she pulled up a chair and started to put on her own face. That included white eyelids so that when she closed them, she had the spooky blank-eyed look of the famous newspaper comic character.
“You think Jude will like it?” I asked.
She looked at me, one eye closed and white. “He would be crazy not to.”
Except it was now show time and no Jude. Our seats were reserved. Two, front and center. But no Jude. And he wasn’t answering his cell phone. What could be wrong?, I wondered. I kept peeking out around the curtain for him, but no. He wasn’t there. I hoped he was okay.
“He’s fine,” Annie whispered to me “Just fine. Don’t worry.”
“I can’t help it,” I said.
“Help it,” she replied. “Tonight is only the beginning of a great anniversary and many more to come.”
She gave my shoulder a squeeze. “And we’ll hold your first number until he gets here. We don’t want him to miss it, right?”
I nodded and Annie answered her cell phone. Which surprised me. She never answered a call before a performance. Hadn’t she said something about her mother being in town?
A few minutes later, the world was filled with the blasting music of the theme song to our show. It was Annie’s rude and hysterical version of “Tomorrow” from the Broadway show that shared her name. The announcer’s voice thundered out like the words of a god: “Ladies and Gentlemen! It’s time for the Liddle Awful Annie Show!”
The audience erupted into applause.
“Also starring Dixie Wrecked (have I mentioned that is my stage name?), Gena Talia, Dharma Greggs, and of course, Billy the Bear!”
The cheering got even louder. Our show was a hit. A big one.
“And now that filthy filly, that sleazy slut, that temptuous tramp, Liddle… Awful… Annie!”
Annie burst onto stage and into song. I barely heard the vulgar lyrics. I’d heard them a thousand times. I was still worrying about Jude. Our seats were still empty. Could something be wrong?
Annie finished her song and then began to talk to the crowd, egging them on, telling a nasty joke, and sending our nearly naked waiters into the audience to pass out free shots. All per usual. Nothing new.
“Tonight is a special night,” my dear friend was saying into her mic. “Tonight is the one year anniversary of one of my best friends in the world.”
What? What was she saying?
“You may remember the big crazy incident here in town this time last year? A gorgeous cover model was stabbed and then more craziness after that?”
Annie? What are you doing? Jude isn’t even here yet!
“And a gay writer from Chicago, along with one of our own, solved the crime?”
Well… I didn’t help. Not really. I only was there for hugs after….
“Well, it was that weekend that our very own Dixie found love. He and Jude Parks, that now famous writer, are still going on strong!”
The crowd began to cheer even louder than before, and despite my worry, I couldn’t help but smile. They were happy for me. For me and Jude. Wherever he was!
“And so let’s start this celebration with style, okay?”
“Annie!” I cried. “We can’t start until—”
With that I felt a couple of hands on my back and I was being ushered out from behind the stage and over to my chair. “What the hell?” I asked. What if Jude saw me? He couldn’t see me until it was time—
“And now! For the first time on this stage! Ladies and gentlemen… Penny Tration!”
Penny Tration? I thought. That name…. Why is that name familiar?
Suddenly, music once more filled the air—a beat and notes that every drag queen knew and loved. The crowd too, by the noise they were making. Then the lyrics were pouring out over the speakers. “All the single ladies, all the single ladies…”
Oh no! Some new drag queen was going to massacre that number? That dance isn’t for the new or faint of heart!
The curtains parted to a silhouette. Figure, head turned to the side, long ponytail—
Wait! Penny Tration? Wasn’t that the name we came up with for…
Then it was full lights. It took me a second to process what I was seeing. Then my eyes flew wide.
Penny Tration began to dance. That queen was dancing Beyoncé’s now famous dance, and I could see right away she was doing a good job at it. And the lip-syncing was nigh on perfect!
But what was really surprising was that the drag queen was Jude!
And he looked good!
My hand flew to my mouth, and I tried not to laugh. Not that it was funny. But it was downright hilarious to realize that the drag queen swinging her hips, raising her hand, and pointing at her finger during the lyric about how you should have put a ring on it, swiveling around and smacking her thighs in a most lusty manner—was my manly lover!
And damn if he hadn’t shaved. Plus the off-the-shoulder leotard was revealing his wonderfully hairy chest. But look at that makeup! It was incredible! How had he done this?
He was even in heels!
Now he had backup singers, and damned if they weren’t Gena and Annie—both grinning like total fools.
Penny—Jude!—was looking at me now with an even bigger smile, and I found tears springing to my eyes. Silly? Maybe. But for my man to be willing to do this? And to do it so damned well? He had to have been practicing for days, even weeks. How had he kept it a secret? Annie and the club must have been in on it. How had a bunch of queens kept it secret?
Jude had made his way down onto the dance floor by now and was shaking his crotch in front of me and the room was one big huge massive roar of cheering and clapping.
He had it down. He had it all down. Sure there were some improvisations. Gena and Annie now had big gold Hula-Hoops and were trying their best to keep them going. It was a great addition if I did say so. Had Jude come up with it? I was especially amazed at the ponytail add-on. How had he glued such a thing to his close-cropped hair?
Finally the number was over, leaving Jude panting, just like Beyoncé.
I applauded along with everyone else. He really was my knight in a leotard. What courage this must have taken him.
But then came the most unexpected thing of all.
Jude dropped to one knee. Annie handed him something.
A box. A tiny black box.
“Baby,” he panted. “I love you with all my heart. And if you would have me, I would like to put a ring on you.”
My mouth fell open and the tears came. The box held a beautiful ring—a man’s ring, but a diamond one all the same.
“Will you marry me?”
The crowd was silent with expectation.
Why I said yes of course.
And I will tell you something else. We are living happily ever after.
If you enjoyed this story, check out the novel All Alone in a Sea of Romance. Find all those links below!