“I’ve had the craziest night. Like the craziest, craziest, craziest night,” Knife slurred to Violet, Gabriella, Imani, and Jack. They were tucked beneath the outdoor awning of Dolly’s, feverishly smoking cigarettes, chomping down gum, and trying their hardest to ignore the blood moon mercilessly laughing at them from her throne in the inky-black sky.
“What happened?” Violet's eyes zeroed in on Knife's face. She looked different. Wasted. Not the kind of wasted that keeps you protected from absorbing the pain of the world. The kind of wasted that strips you raw.
“Who the fuck hurt you?” Rage swelled inside Imani’s chest. Imani was an athlete. She trusted her instincts and her inner-alarm system had been wailing like an ambulance ever since Knife had stumbled over.
“I’m Gabriella, we haven’t met, but I’ll lowkey have someone murdered for you.” Gabriella reached into her tattered YSL and pulled out her rhinestone-encrusted phone. “I can make the call right now,” she raised an expertly threaded brow at Knife. With her long acrylic nails and fire-engine lipstick, she looked like a mob wife. If mob wives wore slashed pleather pants and caroused West Village dyke bars.
“I’m okay. I’ll tell you everything later,” Knife stretched her mouth into the kind of forced smile you flash before jumping out of a plane. “I’ll be right back,” she promised before bolting into the bar.
“I thought we were the most mentally ill lesbians out tonight,” Gabriella squinted into the moon.
“The night is young,” Violet prophesied, tilting her head upward, her eyes sparkling like stars.
“Violet! You have blood moon eyes,” Gabriella gasped. “They’re the same pink-copper-red as the moon!” she sighed. “We’re fucked.”
Violet nodded her head solemnly. “I was hoping no one would notice. This always happens to my eyes during a blood moon.”
“Is everyone here high mushrooms?” Imani asked, scratching her head. “And if you are — may I partake?” She was tired of being the sensible athlete. Her basketball career was essentially over. Why shouldn’t she get bombed like the rest of them?
“Nah. We’re just acting out,” Gabriella pulled a pack of gum out of her bag. “Who wants?”
Violet slowly opened her palm like a ring box. “Shrooms sound like a fantastic idea,” she purred. Gabriella carefully placed a stick of Juicy Fruit into Violet’s hands. Violet dutifully secured her fingers around the piece of gum like it was an heirloom.
“Threesomes and shrooms don’t mix, trust me kiddos” Jack chortled, sucking back a Marlboro Red. “Trust me. I’ve tried.”
Violet’s eyes twinkled. “I almost forgot about our iconic plan to have a threesome with sexy Natalia Gonzalez!”
Gabriella pulled down the top of her corset, revealing the entirety of her shimmery bare chest. Her nipples looked like two shiny pink coins. “We better have a threesome with sexy Natalia Gonzalez. I mean, come on. I didn't dust $60 Guerlain bronzer across my tits for my health!”
Jack found herself blushing for the second time that evening. She’d never seen tits so spectacular. And she’d seen plenty of tits in her day.
Violet lifted her canary yellow babydoll dress over her head, exposing her bare chest to the group. “And I didn’t slather my tits in goddamn drug-store glitter for fun.”
Imani’s eyes widened. Violet’s tits might’ve been small, but they were so perky they defied gravity. And who would’ve ever expected Violet with her constellation of freckles and peter-pan collar dresses to have gold rings pierced through her nipples? These two are a dangerous combination, Imani thought sheepishly, as she stuck her hands into her pockets and grinned.
“PLEASE HEAR ME OUT!” a muffled scream pulsated outside the walls of Dolly’s.
“Oh shit! Sounds like someone is making a scene,” Violet clumsily pulled her dress down. “I’m going in,” she yelled as she dove headfirst into the bar. Gabriella fastened her tits into her corset before diving in after her. Imani followed suit.
Jack stood outside of Dolly’s for a well-needed moment of solace. “Would ya leave us the fuck alone?” she begged the moon, exhausted. She took one last drag of her beloved cigarette, stamped it out with her sneaker, and padded her way inside Dolly’s.
Knife leaned over the bar, her long torso extending far past the edge of the tabletop. “Please,” she whispered desperately to Catalina, who was busy filling a tumbler with ice. The cubes loudly CLANKED, CLANKED, CLANKED into the glass.
“I’m working, Knife. Leave me alone.” Catalina answered flatly. She turned her back to Knife and began mixing whiskey and ginger ale.
Sensing danger, Violet crept her way over to Knife and stretched her torso over the bar in solidarity. The ornate bones of her spine jutted out of her backless dress like liberty spikes. “Knife, what’s going on?” she asked softly.
“I fucked up Violet. I fucked up!” Knife’s eyes were speedballs, torn between racing down Jane Street and collapsing behind a dumpster.
“We all fuck up. Let’s go somewhere and talk,” Violet gently pressed her hand against Knife’s back.
Knife ignored Violet. She stared intently at Catalina’s shiny black hair. When it caught the electric light of the jukebox it looked almost blue. Knife’s brain catapulted back to their kiss on the Long Island Railroad. Her heart moshed like an angry teen boy inside the cage of her chest. Her entire skeleton rattled like a charm bracelet. Violet was watching her protectively, like a big sister.
“Leave me the fuck alone, Violet. I’m so over your self-righteous bullshit,” Knife spat, her blood suddenly coursing with fury. “Who are you to judge me? No one is a bigger fuck up than you. You are the most full of shit fraud I’ve ever met. No wonder Ray left you for Nia. No one wants a junkie with no family,” Knife hissed, slowly, setting each word on fire.
Violet felt as if a lit cigarette had been twisted into her arm.
But then she remembered the orange plastic pill bottles inside of her purse. She slithered off the bar and walked away, so numb that her stiff, brand-new Mary Janes no longer hurt her grotesquely blistered feet.
“Catalina!” Knife yelled, flailing her long arms. “Catalina!”
“Can I get you another drink?” Catalina cooed to a gaggle of underage baby dykes, ignoring Knife’s desperate pleas. They nervously fumbled over their order, terrified and mesmerized by Catalina’s flashing green eyes and siren curves.
The storm could no longer be contained. Knife’s motorcycle boots didn’t even make a sound as she hopped like a gazelle over the bar. Catalina didn’t even notice what she’d done until she turned around to grab a fresh glass. She lost her breath as Knife’s famously platinum head charged toward her. The gaggle of fumbling baby dykes froze. The shocked jaws of bar regulars slammed against the floor. Jack instinctively knocked the phone out of the tweeting hands of a notorious gossip blogger. Violet skittered into the bathroom, the slew of prescription pills loudly banging against one another in the silenced bar. Meredith, the deceased owner of Dolly’s rolled her eyes from behind the glass of her framed portrait that hung lovingly against the chipped bar walls.
“I love you. I fucked up. But I love you.” Knife was unaware that everyone was studying her like a science experiment gone awry.
“Sorry girls,” Catalina whispered to the frozen-faced baby dykes. “Next round is on me.” She turned to face Knife. “You don’t love me. You don’t know me.” She grabbed a rag and began mopping down the bar.
“We had something special! You know we had something special!”
“I liked you. For a second. But then you gave me the great favor of showing me exactly who you are. A user.”
“I am not! I’m good! I promise. Violet will tell you!” her eyes darted around the room. “Where’s Violet!?”
“Violet’s in the restroom,” Gabriella piped, twirling her hair extensions.
“Doing drugs probably,” snickered a sour-faced redhead in a snapback.
“Violet only takes her medication as prescribed,” Gabriella clipped primly. “And please remove that vile snapback from your head. It’s problematic and violent.”
“How?” the sour-faced redhead asked, sidling up close to Gabriella. Her breath reeked of cat litter.
“It’s offensive,” she crooned. “To my eyes. Now get the fuck out of my face, please, and thank you.” She smiled sweetly and loudly smacked her gum.
Cat litter breath slinked back into the crowd.
Catalina continued, “You have no self-control. You’re a disgusting liar. You’re fame-hungry and egotistical. And the worst part of it all? I would’ve put up with a lot of your crap because I thought there was a sweet — damaged, yes — but sweet, real, genuine person somewhere in there,” Catalina suddenly remembered Knife’s hand entangled in her hair that drunken night in Fire Island. She’d never connected with someone like that on a physical level, ever. It was the closest thing to magic she’d ever experienced. Hot tears began to pool out of the corners of her eyes. Goddamn it. She willed them back in. “But I was delusional. You get off on hurting people. It’s sick,” her voice shook, unable to mask the sob caught in her throat.
“I realized something huge tonight, please give me a chance,” Knife was crying too now. For the first time in years. Her eyes were two rusty faucets leaking murky water down her face.
“Just do me a favor. Leave me alone,” Catalina’s hands trembled as she began pouring a vodka soda.
“No!” Knife reached behind Catalina and wrapped her long python arms Catalina’s waist.
“Don’t fucking touch me,” Catalina snapped.
“Don’t fucking touch her, Knife,” Jack had somehow squeezed her way behind the bar. “You’re making a real shit-show out of yourself.t’s time to go home.” She dragged Knife by the collar of her dirty white button-down from behind the bar and marched her toward the dull red exit sign.
“I’ve had a lot of patience for you over the years, kiddo. But tonight you crossed a line.”
“But Dolly’s is my home,” Knife sobbed. “I don’t belong anywhere else.”
“Showing up here drugged out of your mind? Spitting venom at Violet? Harassing the bartender? Putting your hands on her after she asked you to leave her alone? That’s not how you treat your family. And a family is what makes a fuckin’ home.” Jack slammed the door of Dolly’s shut. Knife dropped to her knees as tears poured out of her eyes and into the cracks of the pavement.
The blood moon exhaled and lit a joint. Her work here was done. At least for now.
Violet gazed into the smudged mirror in the bathroom at Dolly’s. At first glance, she thought she looked sort of okay. But the longer she stared into her reflection, the more it began to morph. Her eyes reddened and sagged. Her lips shrank and cracked. She watched the width of her face expand and expand and expand until it was twice its regular size. Repulsed, she turned her back to the mirror, reached into her Balenciaga, and grabbed an Adderall. She chewed it with her teeth like a dog. Something she only did privately. She turned to face the mirror again. Without really looking at herself she managed to wipe the mascara flakes peppered beneath her eyes. She reapplied her lipstick and sprayed herself down with Gucci Guilty. She added a fresh layer of mascara to her eyelashes and finger-combed her hair. She scrawled a big sloppy heart onto the graffitied wall with black eyeliner and washed her hands thoroughly.
She opened the bathroom door and paused to observe the dance floor. Sparkles rained in her brain. Melissa Ethridge’s “Come To My Window” was blasting out of the boombox. A stable of girls between the ages of 21 and 71 screamed along. You don’t know how far I’d go to ease this precious ache. This is why Violet loved the lesbian bar so much. The lesbian bar understood longing.
She twirled over to glassy-eyed Gabriella who was perched at the bar, sweeping her hair up into a dramatic high ponytail that spilled over her shoulders and tickled her naked waistline. Her cropped corset was a red satin that shimmered against the backdrop of her glowy skin. Violet didn’t need Knife. She didn’t need Ray. She had Gabriella. Gabriella was shiny. And Violet loved shiny.
“Oh, what do we do with ourselves tonight, Gabriella?” she asked, draping her arm around her new friend.
Gabriella stared into the abyss. “I’m not sure,” she pondered soulfully, handing her credit card to Catalina.
“Actually — the woman over there —” Catalina giggled and gestured to a leather-draped woman sitting at the lone cocktail table to the left of the bar. “She got you both a round of drinks. Champagne for you —” she pointed to Gabriella. “And a martini,” she paused and smiled at Violet, “for you.”
Gabriella jabbed Violet in the ribs playfully with her prosthetic. “There’s no reason for you to be sad tonight, Sluterina. Natalia Gonzalez, the world-famous DJ is in town from Los Angeles and has bought not one of us — but both of us a drink.”
“I’m on a high dose of Lexapro. I have a fabulous new friend. And I just scored a martini from Natalia Gonzalez,” Violet chuckled. “What the hell do I have to be depressed about?”
“Should we go thank her?” Gabriella asked, swilling her champagne around the flute. The little bubbles stared out of the glass like fishes peering out of a tank.
“Yes,” Violet twisted her turquoise cocktail ring around her finger. “Fuck yes.”
By one a.m. Jack realized that she’d had enough. She’d stopped two whacked-out girls from engaging in a demented face slapping competition. She’d knocked a thirsty lesbian gossip’s phone out of her hand. She’d crawled behind the bar and stopped a fight. She’d kicked Knife out of Dolly’s and into the street. She officially had nothing left to give. She yawned, pulled her smokes out of the pocket of low-slung jeans, and headed for the door. She couldn’t wait to get home to her sixteen-year-old calico cat, Ani Difranco. She pushed open the door and stepped outside. She looked into the glimmery, red-orange moon.
The moon awakened from her stoned stupor. GO BACK INSIDE, she beamed from the sky.
Oh. Right. There was one last thing Jack needed to do.
“Thanks for the drinks,” Violet said to Natalia Gonzalez. She plopped down on the chair directly across from Natalia. Gabriella straddled the chair between her and Violet like she was mounting a horse.
“You two looked like you could use a drink with all that dyke drama,” Natalia leaned back in her chair, her legs uncrossed. She was the kind of woman who wasn’t afraid to take up space.
“We’re big fans of yours,” Gabriella raved. She pulled an oversized Chanel makeup brush and Guerlain bronzer out of her bag. She clumsily dunked the brush into the bronzer and dusted it across the top of her cleavage. She wordlessly handed the brush to Violet.
Violet began to sweep her collarbones. “We sure are,” Violet lilted, continuing to bronze her décolletage while maintaining eye contact with Natalia.
Natalia couldn’t help but burst out laughing. New York girls were proving to be nothing like LA girls. “You’re both a trip,” she cackled, taking a sip of beer.
“You have no idea,” Gabriella and Violet purred in unison.
Natalia eyed them both. They were two gorgeous creatures — but there was a quality far more enticing to them than mere physical beauty. After all, she lived in Hollywood. The land of bleached teeth, Malibu tans, pilates bodies, and shiny blonde hair. She’d been living in Southern California so long stunning women no longer phased her. What was it about these two that made them so...magnetic?
“Gab, if you want to sleep over I have extra Prozac in my apartment. I used to take Prozac before I switched over to Lexapro. Prozac gave me night sweats, that’s why I switched, by the way. Anywhoo, the other day I almost threw out the bottle and then I remembered! Gabriella loves her Prozac! So I saved it for you,” Violet blabbered excitedly.
“That’s lowkey the sweetest thing I’ve ever heard,” Gabriella dramatically threw her hand against her heart.
Charisma. Natalia thought to herself. That’s what it is. New York girls have charisma. And damn, did she find it to be an incredibly sexy quality.
The trouble was, Natalia was equally attracted to both Gabriella and Violet. And besides that, it was clear they were best friends. Don’t be the heartless DJ F*ckboy that causes a rift between two best friends because you can’t keep it in your pants. You aren’t like that anymore, Natalia, her inner-angel lectured.
But how lovely it would be to take them both home, her inner-devil seduced.
Ha! Like that would ever happen. Life isn’t a lesbian Jackie Collins novel, Nat, her inner-angel spat, folding her brilliant wings in disappointment.
“Let’s cut to the chase here,” Gabriella announced loudly.
Natalia’s inner angel and inner devil shook their heads and dissipated into the air. They suddenly remembered: The blood moon was steering the ship tonight.
“We’re tri-state bitches, we’re blunt,” Violet added, tapping her shoes against the ground with every syllable.
“We know you’re probably sitting here tortured, trying to figure out which one of us you’re going to sleep with tonight.”
Natalia panicked. Were her f*ckboy tendencies that palpable? “I promise I wasn’t trying to —”
“Well I hope you were trying to take at least one of us home,” Violet bit her bottom lip.
“Cause we’d sure as hell like to take you home,” Gabriella meowed.
“And by home, we mean your fabulous hotel room. Not our shit apartments,” Violet smirked.
“Highkey good call,” Gabriella winked.
Natalia’s entire body tingled. “My managers hooked it up. I’ve got the Penthouse suite at The Standard Hotel in the Meatpacking District,” she said breathlessly.
“THAT’S WHERE WE FELL IN LOVE!” Gabriella and Violet cheered, once again, in unison.
“So you’re a couple?” Natalia asked, flummoxed.
“Fuck no. The Standard is where we fell in love. As friends. Two weeks ago. Look, Gab is gorge, but we’re both —”
“Bottoms,” Gabriella chirped.
“Power bottoms,” Violet chirped back. “But bottoms nonetheless.”
This had to be too good to be true. Natalia ran her hands through her short black hair. “I don’t want to, like, get in the way of a new friendship,” she said nervously.
“Oh come on. You’re hot. But not, like, friendship destroying hot,” Gabriella teased.
“Gab, nasty! Please excuse her. She’s from Staten Island.”
“LONG ISLAND!” Gabriella bellowed.
“Whatever,” Violet giggled. “You want us to come to your hotel room or not?”
“It would be my highest honor,” Natalia answered.
“Good,” Gabriella pouted. “Then be a good daddy and hail us a cab, while we wait inside and finish our drinks, pretty please?”
“I’m on it!” Natalia vowed, flying out the front door of Dolly’s.
Within seconds, Natalia was back at the table. She nodded to Violet. “Violet,” she addressed sternly. She turned her head and nodded to Gabriella. “Gabriella.” Her eyes danced between the two girls. “Your carriage awaits.”
The two girls pranced out of the bar like two impeccably groomed poodles.
Natalia held the cab door open for them. The girls slid into the faux leather seat. Natalia hopped into the front, next to the cab driver. Right as he loudly honked his horn, she swore she heard one of them giggle, “This will be great content for our memoir.”
Natalia silently giggled back. It’d be great for hers too. This was exactly the kind of adventurous life one needs to live in order to be a New Time’s Best Selling memoirist, after all. She contemplated relocating from LA to Manhattan as she stared into the transfixing lights of the city.
It was true what they said. There was nowhere in the world quite like New York.
Jack elbowed her way through the crowded bar. “Knock it off,” she ordered a teal-haired girl who was screaming at her teenage-looking girlfriend. Once she reached the front of the bar, Catalina cat-walked over to her, nervous and strutting like a young model braving a runway for the first time.
“Hi, Jack,” she murmured, sheepishly. “I’m so sorry about all of that. I completely exploded. It was super unprofessional and I just want you to know that I respect —”
“I was going to apologize to you, Cat. I should’ve yanked Knife outta there the second I heard her slurring like that. Meredith is probably rollin’ over in her grave.”
“I really, really, really, appreciate you stepping in. But —” Catalina paused. “I’m honestly mortified. This job means everything to me,” her glitter-green eyes were big and serious.
Jack looked at Catalina. Like, really looked at Catalina.
She saw her for the first time.
Yes, Catalina was an undeniable smoke show.
But tonight Jack noticed something about Catalina that warmed her. There was a graceful maturity about her. A solidness. An unwavering sense of integrity. She was a girl who Jack could intrinsically tell stuck to her word. Took her job and life seriously. Was she someone Jack could actually trust?
And while Jack had always been addicted to rescuing chaotic drama queens; she found the anchored energy radiating out of Catalina to be a wild, unexpected turn-on.
“Catalina,” Jack cleared her throat. “You’re fantastic at your job. I never tell you that and it’s a damn shame. You don’t get nearly enough credit. You run this joint. Serafina’s always prancing around Europe or Africa or wherever else rich people go. Sia — I love the kid — but she lives on another planet. But you —” Jack stared into Catalina’s shining eyes. “You are the glue that holds Dolly’s together.”
A lump formed in Catalina’s throat. She worked tirelessly to keep Dolly’s a West Village lesbian institution. She knew what Dolly’s meant to the people in her community, even if they didn’t always express it. And while she didn’t work all those extra hours for accolades — damn. The recognition felt nice. Better than nice. “I can’t tell you how much that means to me. You’re Dolly’s royalty,” she clocked a group of elderly dykes making a big show of flaunting their empty glasses on the other side of the bar. “I have to get back to work.”
“I’d love to take you out sometime,” Jack proclaimed loudly. A burst of confidence shot through her like lightning. “On a date,” Fuck it. What was the point of pussyfooting around? It was a blood moon.
Catalina’s face lit up like Times Square. “I’d love that,” she smiled. It wasn’t the sultry, seductive grin of Gabriella. Nor was it the sexy, teasing smirk of Violet.
It was something better.
It was real.
Imani waited until she was safely tucked beneath the sheets of her bed to message Nia Green back. Her heart sped faster than a Manhattanite speeds down the Long Island Expressway on a summer Friday to make it to Sag Harbour just in time for a fabulous party.
She studied Nia Green’s message for the millionth time:
Nia Green: Hi Imani. I don’t know if you remember me? It’s Nia Green. Your former BFF from back in the day?! Ha.
Look, I know this is weird but I just had to tell you something. It’s kind of crazy but life has been kind of crazy lately — so I figured what’s the worst that can happen? You never speak to me again? LOL.
Okay, I’m nervous...here goes: I regret not kissing you back all those years ago. I regret it every day.
Wooh! That felt good to get off my chest. Anyway, if you’re around or interested or don’t hate me or aren’t freaked out or even remember me...would you be open to catching up in person?
Imani took a deep breath and began type:
Imani Gordan: Of course, I remember you. How could I forget? You are the girl that made me realize who I am (gay AF). How is that for creepy and intense? LOL.
On a serious note, Nia, I would love to meet up with you. Just tell me where and when and I’ll be there.
POUND. POUND. POUND. Imani’s heart wouldn’t quit! Three little dots appeared on her screen.
Nia was replying.
Nia Green: This might sound even more insane than anything I said earlier but…
Imani Gordan: But what?
Nia Green: But I’m staying in this amazing mansion on Fire Island? It’s not mine, it’s Jodi Moritz’s — the Hollywood director — I’m an actor now, btw. But look! I have the place to myself. Why don’t you come next weekend? I’ll be alone and it will be the perfect place to catch up.
Imani Gordan: No way! That’s so weird! I’m heading that way next weekend. It’s Lez Volley! A huge lesbian volleyball tournament on Cherry Grove.
Nia Green: Fabulous! Come a few days early if you can.
Imani Gordan: How is Thursday?
Nia Green: I’ll be counting down the seconds. <3 Goodnight.
Imani Gordan: Me too. Goodnight.
And for the first time since her knee injury, Imani fell into an effortless slumber, smiling and clutching her phone like a trophy.