This is one of my first short stories! I discovered a random personals ad that struck a chord with me. Had to get this tale written!
Copyright: The characters of Xena: Warrior Princess are owned by MCA/Universal and used here without permission. I just borrowed them. And totally butchered them….. And damn if it wasn’t fun!
“Well, you know, Gabrielle, I think it’s high time you moved on,” he stated with some authority as he sipped at his paper cup of espresso.
Green eyes rolled expressively as the young redhead glared at the older man. “Look, I understand that you care about me, Salmoneous, but let’s just drop it, okay?” She shook her head in vexation, knowing her friend wasn’t going to let it lie. He’ll worry it like a bone.
“But, pumpkin,” he began, his melodic voice taking on the tones of paternal concern.
Gnaw, gnaw, gnaw, ran through Gabrielle’s mind. She quashed the uncharitable thought with some force. He’s just worried about you. Her eyes blindly watched the pedestrians and automobiles moving to and fro past their table outside the restaurant, his voice washing over her. Gods know he has reason to.
“You know it’s been over a year since Perdicus…. uh…. passed on. And you’ve done your duty as his wife to mourn him. But you really need to get out and meet people.” Unable to gain her visual attention, Salmoneous reached out and grabbed a hand that was fidgeting with a napkin. “It’s not your fault that crazed lunatic was gunning down every newly married bride she could find.”
Gabrielle’s face twisted into a grimace of pain.
“Sorry! Sorry!” the man apologized. “But it’s true. He just got in the way before the police could take the.. uh… woman – and I use that term very loosely – out.” He pulled her hand closer to him. “You need somebody to hold you.”
The redhead looked Salmoneous in the eye, seeing all the love and worry he held for her. She dropped her gaze to the white plastic tabletop. He’s right, lady. You really do need somebody. It’s been so long. Gabrielle looked back up at her editor and friend, shrugging so slightly it was hardly noticeable.
But, Salmoneous did notice. His blue eyes lit up with glee and a smile creased his bearded face. “Have I got a deal for you!” He released her hand and bent over to rummage around in his briefcase on the sidewalk.
Gabrielle felt a sinking sensation in her stomach. “Uh…. Salmoneous…” she began.
“No, no, no! Hear me out, Gabrielle!” He sat back up with a newspaper in his hands. It was the local street rag, called Willamette Week. With an air of importance, he flipped the paper open towards the back, folded it, and plopped it down in front of the woman.
A bright red marker had circled one ad in particular and, despite her misgivings, Gabrielle leaned forward to read whatever it was that had so fired up her friend.
Wanna date our friend? She’s a smarty pants, who’s not too big for her britches; swanky ballroom dancer and professional Jeep wrangler. Call to schedule interview with highly trained lesbian panel; past experience preferred.#5446 (6/23)
Still leaning over the table, hands in her lap, Gabrielle slowly tilted her head up to stare at him. “You have got to be kidding me.”
“Why did I ever let you talk me into this?” Gabrielle asked for the dozenth time. She was seated in the passenger seat of her friend’s Lexus at a stoplight.
“Because you know I’m right.” Salmoneous honked his horn as the light turned green and traffic didn’t move fast enough. “Sunday drivers,” he muttered under his breath. “Look, honeybunch, I’ve known since the day I met you. You’re as queer as a three dollar bill! Marrying Perdicus was a big mistake, all the way around. You would have just been unhappy with him.”
The redhead sighed deeply, having gone over this conversation many times over the last week. “I loved him, Salmoneus. Don’t belittle that.”
Expressive blue eyes glanced over, full of love and concern. “I know, munchkin. You did. But you weren’t in love with him, were you?”
Gabrielle rolled her own eyes and turned to stare out the window.
“Uh huh. You know I’m right about this. Uncle Salmoneous knows you, Gabrielle. You just haven’t met the right woman, yet.”
There was a dry chuckle from the passenger seat. “I could say the same about you, pal.”
“Eeww!” The plump man shuddered. “Not while I’m driving, please.”
“Well, you just remember your promise, Salmoneous. I’m humoring you this once. When it’s over, you’ll drop it.” Gabrielle frowned when there was no response. “Salmoneous,” she drawled, warning in her tone. Still no answer. With a swift movement, the young woman nabbed him by the ear and pinched… Hard.
“OW! Gabrielle! I’m trying to drive here! Let’s not get ourselves splattered colorfully all over the tarmac, alright?”
“Do you remember your promise?” she growled at him.
“Yes! Yes! I remember! One time! No more! Now will you let me go?”
Gabrielle gave his ear a final tweak, enjoying the squeal it resulted in and then feeling guilty for causing her friend pain. She released him. “Just so you remember. I’m not going through this silliness again.”
The older man rubbed at his ear. “I’ll remember. I’ll remember. I don’t want my highest producing bard to be brought up on murder charges.”
The redhead rolled her eyes and shook her head. She brushed imaginary lint from her stonewashed jeans. The butterflies were starting to flutter about in her stomach as they neared their destination. What am I doing here? she wailed to herself.
“You look fantastic, buttercup,” Salmoneous interrupted her musings. “Any dyke worth her salt would fall over in a dead faint from one look at you.”
Despite herself, Gabrielle smiled. “I don’t think that’s exactly the purpose of this little outing, is it? It’d hardly be a boost for my self esteem….” The thought of women falling over in heaps as she walked by caused her to giggle.
The older man tsked at her. “You know what I mean! Bards! So literal sometimes!” And then he was pulling into the driveway of an old Victorian style home. “We’re here!” he sang out.
Gabrielle’s chuckles instantly dried up, as did her mouth, the butterflies taking up kickboxing in her stomach. “Uh…. Salmoneous, I really don’t think I –“
“Oh.” They sat there in silence for a moment, the engine still running. “Well, that’s okay, lambkins! There was this other ad in Just Out that I thought you might be interested in…. Something about shoe fetishes –“
“Let’s go.” The young woman was out of the car, standing nervously in front of it.
Salmoneous chortled to himself and shut off the engine. “When you’ve got it, you’ve got it,” he congratulated himself.
While she waited for her editor to shut down his car and join her, Gabrielle’s eyes glanced around at the house and yard. The house itself was light grey with dark grey trim, three stories tall. It looked well cared for. In one of the upper windows was a rainbow sticker and a dream catcher. The yard was neatly kept with tall shrubs blocking off most of the view from the street. Roses were planted along the walk and blooming nicely. The driveway held two other vehicles. One was a beat up Honda Accord and the other was some nondescript hunk of junk that appeared to be in many pieces.
And then Salmoneous was there, taking her arm in his and escorting her towards the front door, babbling away happily. He rang the bell and firmly placed his hand over hers on his arm. “You’ll do fine, ducky,” he encouraged with a wide smile.
Gabrielle smiled weakly in return.
The door was pulled open and a dark haired woman looked at them. “Yes?”
“Hi, there!” the man said with his usual exuberant style. “I’m Salmoneous? This is Gabrielle. We had an appointment?”
Brown eyes lit in recognition. “Oh. Of course! Come on in!” She held the screen door open and let the pair in. Closing it behind them, she turned and stuck out her hand. “I’m Solari. You’ll meet Ephiny in a minute.”
“Pleasure,” Gabrielle murmured.
“If you’ll excuse me for a moment? We’re almost finished with another applicant.”
“Certainly!” the plump man said cheerfully. “Not a problem.”
Gabrielle glanced curiously around the entry after the woman left them.
Stairs led up to the left and there was an opening that led to the living room to the right. Straight ahead was apparently the kitchen. A table sat along the wall at the bottom of the stairs, cluttered with photographs and knickknacks. Salmoneous was peering at the three masks hanging above.
“What are these? African? I don’t recognize the style.” He touched a feather with a short finger. “You know, Halloween’s just around the corner. Think we could find out who makes these?” He turned to the redhead with a monetary gleam in his eye.
“They’re not African, Salmoneous. They’re Amazonian.”
“Really? Like in ‘rainforest’?” The thoughts of the politically correct public wanting to buy tribal wear from Amazon pygmies widened his entrepreneurial smile.
Gabrielle smiled and reached out to trace the beak of one mask. “No. Amazons as in female warriors.”
“You’re right,” a low voice said from behind them.
The pair turned to see a blonde woman with short curly hair. Her dark eyes roamed up and down Gabrielle’s form appraisingly, and an eyebrow was lifted in grudging respect.
“How did you know it was Amazonian?” she asked as she stepped closer.
The bard fought past the blush. “I remember reading a National Geographic article on them.” The kickboxing battle in her stomach was moving into the World Wrestling Federation range, but she took a deep breath to settle her nerves and raised her chin. “This one,” and she indicated the more ornate mask in the middle, “is a replica of what they think might have been the mask of the Queen of the Amazons.”
The blonde nodded, lips pursed in thought. “I’m Ephiny, by the way. Sol told me you were out here.”
“But, Solari! I know I’d be perfect for her!” a petulant voice insisted.
Two women came from the kitchen area towards the front door. Actually, the term ‘woman’ was a rather loose application for the dark haired teenager that was with the first woman they had met. Her hair was in dreadlocks and she didn’t look a day past fourteen.
“You’re too young, Tara,” Ephiny said firmly as she turned around. “We told you that before. We’ve humored you by allowing an interview, but our judgement stands.”
The girl, Tara, pouted angrily. She looked at the two new people in the entry, eyes snapping. Her gaze locked on the redhead and she looked her up and down with an obvious sneer. “So you’re gonna bring Goldilocks into the picture?”
Solari rolled her eyes and sighed heavily. Ephiny stepped to the door and pulled it open. “Out!” she ordered.
Tara harumphed and stalked towards the door. Before leaving, she turned to Gabrielle and said, “You’ll never give her what she needs.” And then she flounced out.
The bard heard Salmoneous murmur in her ear, “Well. If that’s your only opposition, I’d say you’ve got it in the bag.”
Ephiny closed the door behind the teenager. “I’m sorry. She’s a bit… impetuous.”
“Who is she?” Salmoneous asked.
“Neighbor kid,” Solari supplied. “She’s been hanging with Xena this last summer, helping her with the car.”
There was an awkward pause before Ephiny finally stepped forward and gestured towards the kitchen area. “Shall we?”
Gabrielle swallowed her nervousness and let her editor guide her into the next room.
Through the kitchen and a turn to the right, the redhead found herself in a sitting room with a couch and loveseat. Lots of plush pillows and two crocheted afghans gave the furniture a homey feeling. Mismatched wooden tables completed the effect. On the left was a wall to wall bookshelf, crammed full of reading material.
“You have a nice place,” Gabrielle said in an attempt to fill the silence.
“Yes!” Salmoneous cheerfully agreed. “Who does your decorating? One of you lovely ladies?”
Solari scratched the back of her neck. “Um…. It’s kind of a collective thing,” she finally offered and gestured for the pair to seat themselves.
Everyone sat down, the two newcomers on the loveseat and the interviewers on the couch. Gabrielle sat a bit primly in her nervousness, Salmoneous excitedly on the edge of his seat. Solari slouched on one end of the couch while Ephiny curled her legs up underneath her.
The blonde woman scooped up a clipboard from the end table. “Shall we get started?”
The redhead schooled her features to calmness and nodded pleasantly. Her editor reached over and patted her hand solicitously.
There was a long silence. Solari glanced over at her roommate, eyes meeting a dark scowl and raised eyebrow. “Oh!” she exclaimed. “Guess that means me, huh?” She grinned apologetically at Ephiny and turned to their visitors. “So, Gabrielle, what do you do for a living?”
“I’m a writer. Salmoneous is my editor.” She shot a smile to the man who squeezed her hand in response.
“Really?” Solari asked, obviously impressed. “What do you write? Have I read any of it?”
“I don’t know. Possibly. I usually do freelance work for magazines and journals. Special interest kind of things.”
Ephiny frowned. “Special interest? Like….what?”
“Oh, you know. Ladies’ Home Journal. Readers’ Digest.”
A blonde eyebrow raised and Ephiny blinked at her.
Sensing a potential problem, Salmoneous spoke up. “She’s one of my most prolific authors!” he gushed. “Why, right now she’s got two articles being published in Redbook and Better Homes & Gardens, and a third under consideration with Cozmo!”
Solari seemed impressed. “Cosmopolitan? That’s cool….”
Gabrielle sighed. “Umm…. No…. Cozmo… with a ‘z’. It’s a home decorator magazine on the east coast. Very small readership.”
“Exclusive readership,” the plump man corrected.
“Whatever,” Ephiny put in. “Moving right along….” She consulted her clipboard. “Why are you here?”
“Excuse me?” the redhead asked.
“Why are you here? Why did you answer the ad?”
Gabrielle sighed as she mulled the question over in her head. Why, indeed? Because I got railroaded into it…? “Well, uh….” She took another deep breath. “I…. I mean….”
“I kind of put her up to it,” Salmoneous dived in with an brave smile. “She’s been so lonely since her… uh… partner died in an untimely accident last year….” Seeing the warning scowl from Gabrielle, he swiftly looked away, his expressive face portraying sorrow to the other women in the room.
“That’s horrible,” Solari said, sitting forward.
“Well,” the editor said with the air of a gossip, “you know how it is nowadays. All those crazy people out there…. And they sell anybody guns anymore!”
“She was shot?” Ephiny asked, a hint of concern crossing her face.
“Well, actually –“
Salmoneous cut in before the writer could finish her sentence. “Yes, shot! It was so sad. Right after their… commitment ceremony.” He patted Gabrielle’s hand. “It was a traumatic event for my little pookie here.”
A slow burn of anger began deep inside the redhead’s heart. Salmoneous was starting to push her over the edge with his half truths and evasions. She frowned at him and pulled her hand away from his ministrations.
He turned to her, his blue eyes pleading with her to go along. A grin played across his face as she rubbed irritatedly at the bridge of her nose, a sure sign that he had a bit of a reprieve. “So! Next question!” He looked back and forth between the interviewers eagerly.
Ephiny studied the man suspiciously. Something hinky’s going on here. “Okay. Solari?”
“Huh? Oh, yeah!” The dark haired woman leaned back again. “So, Gabrielle, how long have you been out?”
The other women stared at her blankly. “You’re not,” Solari repeated in confusion. She looked to her compadre and shrugged slightly, unsure.
“Well, what I mean to say is –“
“What she means to say is that it’s… uh… never been an issue in her life before,” Salmoneous jumped in, sweat popping up on his brow. “Out of the closet, in the closet…. In this day and age –“
“Will you shut up!” Ephiny ordered sharply.
“Yes, ma’am,” the plump man said, dropping his gaze from the severe brown one across the room.
“Are you or are you not out?” she demanded of Gabrielle. Another warning glare at Salmoneous and he subsided, slumping in defeat on the loveseat.
“No,” the redhead answered, chin lifted defiantly. “I’ve never even considered being with a woman… you know… that way.”
The silence was deafening.
After several minutes ticked by, Ephiny rose from her seat. “Excuse us. My roommate and I need to confer.” When the blonde got to the door, she looked back to see Solari still on the couch in shock. “Solari!” she snapped.
The dark haired woman shook herself. “Uh… yeah, okay.” She grinned weakly at the visitors and followed her friend out the door.
Ephiny led them to the front entry. “I already know what I think. What do you think?”
Solari considered a moment. “Well, she’s cute. Makes a decent living.” One hand reached up to rub her shoulder. “At least she’s open-minded and all.”
“A little too white bread, doncha think?” the blonde frowned.
“Yeah…. But that’s what makes her cute. Not a bad looker, either.” A sly look crossed her pretty face. “Ya know, I could always show her the ropes….”
Ephiny ignored the libidinous thoughts of her friend. “Are you sure you put ‘experience preferred’ in that ad?”
“What ad?” a contralto voice asked curiously.
The dark haired woman squeaked, brown eyes wide, as she turned to look up the stairs. Ephiny simply closed her eyes for a second, bracing herself.
A tall, dark woman sauntered down the stairs in her sock feet. She was dressed in faded blue jeans that hugged her long legs and a sleeveless charcoal t-shirt with a Harley Davidson logo on it. Long ebony hair was still wet from a shower.
“I said, ‘what ad’?” she repeated as she made it to the bottom of the steps.
“What ad….? Well, uh….” Solari started nervously. “It’s too early for you to be off work, isn’t it?”
Xena shrugged. “Got the Schwartz job done early. We’re gonna have to rebuild the entire tranny on Bybee’s Grand Cherokee, so Lou said we could start it tomorrow.”
“When did you get home?” the blonde woman asked in a tired voice.
The dark woman frowned. “About half an hour ago. You guys were fighting with Tara so I went on upstairs.” She looked from one woman to the other. “Now what ad?”
“Um… excuse me…?” Salmoneous was in the door with a winning smile, wringing his hands. “I’d like to put in a good word for my client before the final decision is made….” He looked Xena up and down. “Are you applying, too?”
Ephiny groaned and slapped her forehead. Even as she stepped forward to order the editor back into the other room, pale blue eyes pinned the two women.
Xena glared at them. “What ad?”
Solari gulped knowing she was between a rock and a hard place. Xena’d beat the crap out of her and Ephiny would ream her a new asshole. Either way, she was a goner with a definite immediate future of pain and suffering.
As she pondered her meager choices in life, the man sidestepped the rude blonde trying to muscle him backwards towards the kitchen. “This ad,” he exclaimed cheerfully, whipping the folded and tattered Willamette Week page from his jacket and thrusting it at Xena.
Ephiny jumped and tried to intercept, but the mechanic was too fast and plucked it out of her fingers.
Xena read the ad with a red circle. And then read it again. Slowly, she looked up and stared at her roommates. “You have got to be kidding me.”
Salmoneous chuckled. “That’s exactly what Gabrielle said!” he stated with delight.
Attention drawn away from her squirming roommates, Xena’s eyes found him. “Who’s Gabrielle? And who are you?”
The plump man stepped forward with an exhuberant smile, hand reaching for Xena’s and shaking it vigorously. “Salmoneous! At your service. My friend Gabrielle was answering the ad. She’s in the next room.”
“No, she wasn’t!” Ephiny growled. “You dragged her in here for your own reasons. She’s not interested.” She turned to the dark woman who was bristling with anger. “Now, Xena, we just thought we’d, you know… help out –“
At the same moment, both Solari and Salmoneous also began speaking. The woman was protesting her innocence in the whole mess and the man was beginning a major sales pitch for the writer in the other room.
Completely bombarded on three sides, Xena broke through the miniature mob and threw open the front door. As the trio continued their song and dance, she herded the lot of them through the door and onto the front step. Then she slammed and locked it.
Xena lifted the paper up to have another look at the advertisement in question, hardly hearing the argument escalate outside. “Not too big for my britches, huh?” she growled. She tossed the offending newspaper onto the table with a snort.
“Uh…. Excuse me?”
The dark woman turned in surprise, having forgotten there was an interviewee somewhere in this mess. As her eyes met beautiful blue green, all thought seemed to drain out of her head except one. She’s here!
Gabrielle forgot what she was going to say. Something about Salmoneus. Those electric blue eyes landed on her and her brain simply short circuited. Two words ran through her head. It’s her!
It has been said that when one half of a soul meets the other, sparks fly – a connection is made instantly and on such a deep level there’s no need for discussion. It just is. For an indeterminable time they simply stood, eyes feasting on each other, refamiliarizing themselves with a timeless sense of having known one another before. The silence that surrounded them was a comfortable one, as if they didn’t need to speak. It was intense and moving and connected.
The smaller woman blushed and smiled, finally dropping her gaze at the surge of emotions coursing through her.
Xena felt such loss! She had to see those eyes again. She cleared her dry throat and wiped a sweaty palm across the front of her t-shirt. “Hi. I’m Xena.” She stuck her hand out and turned on the charm with a beautiful smile.
“Gabrielle,” the redhead offered. She accepted the warm hand into her own and shook it, stepping closer.
If their eyes meeting had been intense, it was nothing compared to the pleasurable jolt that resulted from their touch.
The dark woman knew she had to get to know this fantastic creature better. She racked her overloaded brain. “Um…. Would you like to go get coffee or something?”
Gabrielle smiled and it lit the mechanic’s heart. “I’d like that.”
“C’mon, my bike’s out back.” She steered them back through the kitchen and towards the back door. Her eyes closed with pleasure when she heard the other woman giggle.
“You gonna go like that?” The redhead was pointedly looking down.
“Like… what….?” I put my pants on…. Didn’t I? Xena looked down. Oh! Shoes! “Oh! Well, no. Ah… Hold on a sec.” She backed away towards the front of the house. “Don’t move!” And then she turned and ran.
Gabrielle smiled, her heart thumping happily. Even Perdicus didn’t affect me like this! She heard the woman clamber back down the stairs, sounding more like a herd of elephants than the most gorgeous creature that ever walked the earth.
“Okay! Let’s go!” Xena led the way out back.
Once outside, the voices of their friends arguing could be heard clearly. “What about them?” the redhead asked, using her chin to gesture towards the front of the house.
“Sounds like they were made for each other,” the dark woman smirked. It sounded like Ephiny was getting jumped by both Solari and that Salmoneous fellow. And then the argument ebbed and the man was getting the brunt of the verbal tirade from the women. Xena grinned and kick started the bike. “Let’s blow this popsicle stand!”
Gabrielle climbed aboard and the pair took off for parts unknown.
Author’s Note: So, there you have it…. The biggest reason why I should never be allowed near the personal ads on graveyard shifts…. Not enough sleep, too much Xena on the brain, and WHAMMO!! You get this!
Hope ya enjoy!