Scorpio Mood was held in a large nightclub tucked beneath a trendy coffee shop near Union Square like any proper illegal queer girl party should be.
Two Fridays before Christmas was Scorpio Mood’s opening night and queer girls of every borough were chomping at the bit to give it a go. Largely, because of its swaggy trio of promoters. There was Finn, an up-and-coming celebrity chef, and proud owner of Tribeca’s very first vegan brasserie: My Pussy is a Carrot. There was Buffy, an esteemed barber to both huge male celebrities and androgynous downtown darlings. And lastly, there was Domino, the sultry daughter of the famous “Celia Celestial: astrologer to the stars.” Domino wasn’t about to let her mother have all the fun though. Her line of rare vagina crystals designed to “amplify your sexual energy” would be launching in the spring. The three promoters were fixtures of New York nightlife. Between them, they’d collectively slept with two-thirds of the lesbians in Manhattan and half the lesbians in Brooklyn, a quarter of the lesbians in both the Bronx and Queens and a fifth of the lesbians in Staten Island. This was their first event and they’d garnered a ton of hype by paying party “it girls” (like Knife and Patra and New York Newbie, Natalia Gonzalez) to blast the event all over their Myspace and Facebook pages. They’d also hired the sexiest lesbian go-go dancer in town, “Veronica Vixen” to perform with her troupe of burlesque dancers, referred to as the “The Veronica Vixen Vortex.”
“I truly fucking hope my ex doesn’t show up,” Finn huffed into the star-scattered sky, stamping their cigarette into the pavement. The promoters were huddled together behind the club, sandwiched between a dumpster and an abandoned velvet green sofa that reeked of piss.
“Which one?” Buffy cackled, shivering in her black leather jacket that was in no way warm enough for the sixteen-degree night.
Finn stared into their scuffed Timberlands. “All of ‘em.”
“Same,” smirked Domino, which was a lie. She hoped at least a few of them turned up — she’d just had her tits done and couldn’t wait to flaunt them at the bitches who’d scorned her.
The truth was, deep down, they all secretly hoped an ex or two would make an appearance. Nightlife people live for relevance, and what makes you more relevant than an ex who claims to hate you — showing up dressed to the nines to your party?
At 10:45 p.m. the club was vacant except for the three promoters and the Veronica Vixen Vortex, who were dressed as fallen angels. They quelled the sinking sensation in their stomachs with a shot of Jägermeister.
By 11:09 p.m. the line for Scorpio Mood was so long it snaked around the block, bleeding into Union Square.
Tears slid down Gabriella’s face as she lined her big, fake lips with a beige pencil.
What’s the point in getting needles full of poison injected into your lips when you can’t even afford to go to dinner and your entire life is in fucking shambles? she whispered into her reflection.
She stared into the pink mirror that hung above the sink of her tiny, cold bathroom. Because she’d run out of money she’d had to spray tan herself. Her chest was streaked with an Oompa Loompa orange. Half of her lash extensions had fallen out of her left eye while her right eye was perfectly intact. The dramatic imbalance between her two eyes gave her a strange, untrustworthy appearance. The kind where women with strollers skitter quickly past you, as if your mania is somehow contagious.
“Fuck. This!” she wailed into her reflection. She’d not only had one of the worst days of her life — who even was she without two sets of big, fluttery lashes?
She ripped off her black plastic mini dress and stomped to the bed in her black fishnets and little gold pasties shaped like the Eiffel Tower. She looked at her leopard print sheets. She’d had the same sheets since high school. She’d forced her mother to buy them for her when she was in the thick of her first guidette phase. Her mother loathed them but bought them for Gabriella anyway. Tonight they made her want to cry.
“I tried. I swear to Donna Summer, I tried!” Warm tears spilled out of her eyes and splashed into cleavage, further streaking her spray tan.
KNOCK. KNOCK. KNOCK.
Gabriella froze. Who in Mother Mary’s name could possibly be at her door? No one knew where she lived. Except for Violet. Who she hadn’t spoken to in three weeks. And of course, Gianna who’d fucked her twice in that apartment, with a cherry red dildo, nonetheless. But it couldn’t be Gianna. Gianna had broken up with her earlier that week — which enraged her because they weren’t even fucking dating.
KNOCK. KNOCK. KNOCK.
Gabriella quietly unearthed the shiny silver switchblade and mini bottle of pepper-spray she kept neatly tucked under the mattress and tip-toed toward the door. Her heart pounded pounded pounded as she mustered up the courage to peer through the peephole. She braced herself. She just knew a serial killer clutching a gun, covered in blood, would be standing at the door with vacant bloodshot eyes. She prepared for her death, sighed, and finally looked through the tiny fish-eye lens of her thin, wooden door.
“You’ve got to be kidding me.” She muttered, swinging open the door.
It was 11:34 p.m. and Scorpio Mood was stocked with more dykes than cheap Toy Soldiers in a Christmas Warehouse.
“This is a fuckin’ Fire Hazard,” Jack observed her voice and demeanor rough as sandpaper. She wished she hadn’t let Catalina, Serafina, and Giana manipulate her into coming. She’d much rather be drinking beer at her neighbor Bernice’s house. Bernice was an ugly old crone who’d lived in the same one-bedroom for forty-two years. Jack loved to spend her Friday’s sitting at Bernice’s kitchen table, playing cards, chainsmoking and moaning about the young kids who’d infiltrated their building.
“Don’t they realize it’s a pre-war building? You can’t flush fuckin’ tampons down the fuckin’ toilet in a pre-war! Floods the whole building! Entitled fucks,” Bernice would bellow slapping a card against the table.
“Tell me ‘bout it,” Jack would agree, lighting up her eleventh cigarette of the hour.
But oh, no, she wasn’t with her beloved old witch next door. She was at some queer astrology party with a bunch of, to quote Bernice “entitled fucks.” She crossed her arms and scowled at the strobe lights. “Don’t those things cause seizures?”
“Do you have to be so negative all of the time?” Catalina snapped. It wasn’t like Catalina to snap but she’d been uncharacteristically irritable for the past several days.
“Allow me to introduce you to my dear friend, Jacky?” Gianna socked Jack in the arm. “It’s her duty to be a grump, Cat.”
Catalina rolled her minty-green eyes and cat-walked to the bar.
“What the hell is her problem?” Gianna asked. “You’re just playing around like usual!”
“Cat’s had a stick up her ass all day.”
“Maybe ‘cause she isn’t getting fucked, huh?” Gianna smiled. Her teeth were shinier than her new patent Gucci loafers.
“Well if that’s the case, you should have a flag pole up your ass.” Jack grinned. “You haven’t been fucked since the 80s.”
“Oh, I’ve been fucking.” Gianna’s eyes twinkled.
“G, when are you going to get the memo? Vibrators don’t count.”
“You’re right — vibrators don’t count.” Gianna cooly ran her fingers through her dyed black hair. “But Gabriella Tortellini does,” she flashed another Gucci grin before turning on the heels of her glimmering loafers, stalking over to the bar.
Jack’s jaw was on the floor when Violet cannonballed into her.
“Jack!” she squealed like an excited little kid whose daddy had just come home from a long day of work.
“Did you know Gab and G were fuckin’?” was all Jack could say.
Violet twirled an oversized turquoise ring around her slim finger. “Yes,” she said, the light in her hazel eyes dim. “Except we haven’t even had the chance to process all that, because we’re not even speaking.”
“First I find out that Gianna’s sleeping with Gab, now I find out that tweedle dee and tweedle dum are fighting?” Jack fumbled with the suspenders holding up her new pinstriped slacks. “What’ve I been living under a rock or somethin’?”
“Knife and I broke up too.” Violet suddenly grabbed Jack by the hands and spun. She leaned into Jack’s sturdy arms and lifted her leg, resting it briefly against Jack’s plump, tattooed bicep. They began foxtrotting.
“Honestly, kiddo.” They glided across the sticky bar floor. “You two had killer chemistry, but —”
Jack paused to twirl Violet. Violet’s long black skirt fanned around her. “I just think she’s got a lot of shit to work through before she gets into a relationship with a girl like you,” she tipped an imaginary hat and dipped Violet.
Catalina glared at them from across the bar.
Violet threw her torso back. Her chocolate hair kissed the ground. Her amphetamine ribs pressed against her exposed flesh. She was wearing just a long black skirt and a tiny ruffled cream-colored bralette. “I have shit to work through, too,” she said, twisting her skeleton upright.
Jack looked her in the eye. “We all do, kid.” They clasped hands, and with stiff, straight arms shot in front of them like cannons, continued to dance.
“What are you, classically trained?” Violet asked.
“Nah. Just something I learned from my old roommate, Buck Handyman.”
“You lived with Buck Handyman?” Violet gasped. “The world-famous Drag King?”
Jack chuckled. They silently waltzed for a moment. “Where’d you learn to do this? Let me guess? When you were training for the Debutante ball?”
It was Violet’s turn to chuckle. “I grew up in Florida, babe. My parents were actual crackheads and the only dance I was ever exposed to as a kid was pole dancing at my uncle’s strip club in Bradenton.” They rotated counter-clockwise through the club. “An old queen who took me in after I ran away at seventeen, taught me to ballroom dance.” They broke into a tango. “But I’m very glad that I’m giving you debutante vibes. You know I could’ve been Princess Diana” she added, dreamily closing her eyes. “But my parents are crackheads.” she giggled and flung her lids open.
“I guess we don’t really know that much about each other, huh?” Jack’s lungs began to scream for a smoke. “Want to have a cig?”
Violet did one final twirl. She curtsied and looked up at Jack, her eyes two lucky stars shooting bright light around the dingy, dark club. “Yes,” she grabbed her ice blue faux fur off the nearby bar stool and threw it over her shoulders. “Fuck yes.”
They marched out the door and lit up. They craned their necks toward the sky.
“Oh, no,” Jack said, wearily.
“If we weren’t fucked before, now we are.” Violet sighed.
The blood moon rained bright red over their pale faces as they silently blew rings of smoke into the black sky.
Standing before Gabriella, brown leather gloves firmly clutching the handle of her Louis Vuitton suitcase bought on Canal Street in China Town for twenty bucks in ‘91, stood a six-foot-two Cruella Develle in a gold floor-length mink.
“Gabriella Aria Tortellini,” Aunt Valentina beamed, stretching her arms open, encasing Gabriella’s mostly nude body in a blanket of gold fur and souring Chanel #5.
Gabriella wanted so badly to tell Aunt Valentina to fuck off. She’d needed her support, desperately, since her move to New York and Aunt Val had completely ignored Gabriella’s incessant voicemails. Being ignored by her beloved Auntie had devastated her to the core. She prayed for the courage to do what her new friends in New York seemed to effortlessly do whenever they had their heart broken: Go Cold.
But then she smelled the boxed red wine on Aunt Valentina’s breath and felt encased in warmth. She melted into her arms.
Aunt Valentina softly stroked Gabriella’s patchy orange back with soft leather fingers. “What’s wrong, darling?”
Just the sound of the word “darling” dripping from Valentina’s lips caused Gabriella to break into a deep, gutterull sob.
Fat tears splashed into the gold mink, rending it a strange smoky tangerine.
“I was fired,” Gabriellaella sobbed.
Valentina grabbed Gabriella hard, by the shoulders. A dangerous heat radiated out her big, black eyes. “Don’t you know getting fired in New York is a sign of good luck? Silly girl. Every Manhattanite knows it just means something wonderful is about to happen.” She smacked her red lipstick lips against Gabriella’s wet cheek and model-walked toward the fridge, her kitten heels click-click-clicking against the old creaky floors.
The harsh fluorescent light cast a purple glow against Valentina’s profile, as she stared into the fridge. “Well you’ve still got a deplorable taste in Champagne…but…” she peeled off her gloves and tossed them onto the counter. “But…” she leaned her long torso deep into the fridge like was digging for gold. She breathlessly emerged, holding a $12 bottle of prosecco. “This will do.” She frowned at Gabriella. “For now.”
She click-click-clicked back to Gabriella. She peeled off her gold fur, draped it over Gabriella’s naked shoulders and purred: “We’re going to drink some of this revolting drug store Champagne, and you’re going to snivel to Auntie Val all about getting fired and whatever else is going wrong in this filthy excuse for a city —” she stuck her hands on her hips “and then we’re going to taxi to whatever fabulous lesbian party is going on tonight.” Her black eyes burned into Gabriella. “As long as it’s not in Brooklyn.”
By midnight Violet and Jack had neglected the realities of their dark lives and were lost in the glitter of a party. They were piled onto a dusty pink couch in the back of the bar, drinking warm champagne with the three Scorpio Mood promotors, the famous DJ Natalia Gonzalez, an androgynous runway model named Ash (Knife’s nemesis), and a cast member of “The Real World” who’d recently made headlines after publicly coming out as a bisexual. Violet was perched on Finn’s lap, but her legs were stretched long and lavish across the hungry thighs of Ash, Natalia, Domino and Buffy. Buffy’s hand rested lightly on Violet’s ankle, which was bare and silky beneath her billowy floor-length skirt. The tops of her black Mary Janes graced the tops of Domino’s thighs.
The air was full of sex and hedonism and blood moon magic.
“I’ve never seen you drink champagne,” Violet rasped to Jack, who was holding her crystal flute like a beer can.
Jack took a swig of blonde bubbles. “It’s not so bad,” she said, her gruff voice strange and out of context against the dusty pink velvet couch.
They silently stared into the heaving dancefloor. “I know I’m biased but this is a great fucking party,” Buffy observed, her fingertips lightly drumming Violet’s ankle bone. Violet pressed her leg deeper into Buffy’s leg and softly ran her lavender nails down the back of Finn’s neck. The blood moon winked at them from the black sky. Violet had missed this. Belonging to no one.