Valkyries & VixensbySweetestThing©
Author's Note: Another girl/girl love story. Any similarities to one that came before it is intentional/based on what I like. If inclined, the songs referenced throughout are what I listened to while writing it and may help set the mood. The artists, though, bear no responsibility for the sappiness/silliness they inspired.
In the Beginning
Paige Jeffries walked cautiously to the barred door of the little storefront on the corner of Chelsea St and Yancy Lane. She'd been inside millions of times before, it was a daily occurrence after all. But today she worried about what might be on the other side of the door. She'd delayed coming down here as best she could. She'd gotten out of bed a few hours than earlier, a testament to her last night's adventures at the local pub in addition to her reluctance to come to the shop, and had stopped for coffee at the giant chain coffee store at the corner of what had used to be her funky little bohemian neighbourhood. Now there were just a few independent places in what was a rapidly gentrifying area. There was the vintage second-hand clothes place, the little Mom and Pop Caribbean restaurant and there was Valkyries and Vixens.
Valkyries and Vixens was Paige's place of business. She'd just gotten out of college, armed with an almost entirely useless degree in Modern Literature, when her Uncle Nigel had died. Paige hadn't been close with her childless Uncle but she was the only child of his only sibling and so she assumed he'd left her the money by default. Rather than face the prospect of trying to use her education to earn a living, Paige had used the considerable sum to open up a store dedicated to her first real love; Comic Books.
Paige had always loved Comic Books. Even before she could read she loved the pictures and the excitement. When she could read she loved them even more. Her parents had always thought it bizarre but they'd indulged her. Her tastes had grown with her. She'd started with the comics her parents had bought her that were intended for little girls but she soon wanted to read the ones full of action and adventure she'd see the boys reading. The ones with the guys in spandex tights beating the colourful villains. Then it was on to the ones for young adults and regular adults that dealt with life and heartbreak and sexuality and history and anything else that could be written about. Paige never lost her taste for any of them.
They'd also been a large part of Paige discovering her sexuality. She'd never quite understood why she'd liked looking at The Invisible Woman and Supergirl so much when she was young, why doing the same for the muscular men had held very little appeal but she'd understood as soon as she'd gotten to high school. Paige had come out to her parents at 15.
So comics held a very special place in her heart. That was why she wanted to sell them. To introduce other kids to what had filled her often lonely, confused youth with so much wonder and excitement. More over, she didn't want a real job and wanted to read comics all day. That was why she pulled the heavy door open and walked under the sign that read Valkyries and Vixens: A Feminist Comic Book Shop.
The store was mainly empty. Behind the glass display cases at the front was a slim young man with a stylish mess of black hair and bushy, mutton chop sideburns who was too engrossed with the pencil drawing he was doing on the thin art board he held on his lap to pretend to be keeping an eye on the two shoppers who were leafing through the stacks of books in the back. He was also too engrossed to look up at the door opening. Paige crept in, barely a few inches inside the door.
"Is she gone?" Paige asked the man doing the drawing.
"Who? You mean Shannon?" Damian asked, though still not looking up. Damian was Paige's lone employee. He'd hung around the shop, from opening until closing, since the day it'd opened. When the business began doing well enough that Paige wanted someone to cover for her late nights and her desire for days off, she'd simply found it easier to hire the guy who was always there anyway. Paige couldn't pay him well but she'd offered the apartment above the shop to him at a reduced rate and he'd begrudgingly accepted her generous offer of employment. Provided it didn't interfere with his artistic pursuits, of course.
"I thought we agreed we weren't using her name anymore." Paige said, wincing at just the thought of her.
"Yes. Shannon, your ex-girlfriend, is gone. Shannon came by an hour earlier and got the box of her stuff you'd left. Shannon said to tell you that she was sorry and that she wishes you well." Damian continued, carefully examining something he'd drawn before erasing it and starting again. "Shannon then Shannoned the Shannon Shannon."
He paused for a second.
"Shannon," he added.
"You're an asshole, you know that?" Paige threw her canvas shoulder bag, covered in buttons proclaiming her love for various political causes, bands and miscellaneous other things, in front of the cash register.
"My mother taught me to tear the band-aid off all at once." Damien explained.
Paige just exhaled. Shannon had dumped her for someone else two months ago and had moved back home. She'd only come into the city to get the last of her things. It was still so raw. They'd been together since her sophomore year at college. Shannon had been there when she'd opened the shop 5 years ago. Still, Shannon hadn't much cared for the shop and so unlike Paige's house, very little of the place reminded her of her girlfriend of 6 years. The rack of Action Figures at the front, the cards behind the counter and the new releases on the plexi-glass along the walls were all things that Shannon's only connection to had been complaining about Paige dawdling in front of before closing.
"I got you a latte." Paige motioned to the pair of coffees in the cardboard holder as she put them down in front of her doodling employee.
"Is it organically grown, fair trade beans?" Damian asked. He even reached out for his coffee while still drawing.
"No." Paige shook her head as she reached for the other one and took a sip. It was good though, a rich dark roast.
"Good." Damian said genuinely as he sipped his own. "It's the tears of the exploited peasant farmers that makes it sweet."
Paige rolled her eyes. She had an odd relationship with her employee. He was a particular, peculiar sort who often treated her as if she should be grateful that he agreed to work for her. He would complain bitterly if she ever put on music of her own over the store's sound system or watched a movie on the small flat-screen opposite the register that he found overly commercial or insufficiently authentic to it's source material. Paige, being the easy-going type, had largely stopped trying. She didn't mind. She found she liked Damian's tastes. The current song being played in particular struck her as being terrific.
"Good song." She said
"Yes it is."
"What is it, jerk?"
"It's called Sodom, South Georgia and the artist is Iron and Wine." Damian sighed "Learn these things."
"Having a life keeps me busy." Paige retorted as she opened a box under the counter that had apparently come in. A new set of a collectible card game. She idly wondered why Damian hadn't unpacked anything that had come in. "Remind me again why I let you work here?"
"I've narrowed it down to three particularly good reasons." Damian said, his pencil still flying furiously "The first is that you, despite your claim to actually love comics, hate being in the store before noon or later than six. I actually live here and don't mind being downstairs and dealing with the assembled group of mouth-breathers we call our customers all day."
Paige nodded. That was a fair point even if she didn't share his contempt for their customers.
"The second reason is that despite your dubious claims to a social life, I've somehow inherited the shameful title of your BFF."
Paige wanted to argue this but, well, it was true. She'd lost touch with most of her small group of friends from high-school and most of her college friends were too busy with actual careers or starting families to hang out. So most of her nights at the local pub were with Damian.
"The third, and this is the kicker, is that you've become addicted to the small, sad dose of local celebrity I've given you."
Paige smiled. This was also true. Damian had, a few years back, started writing and drawing a little comic book that he'd xerox himself every month. It was about a caustic, cynical comic book store employee and the insanely cheerful, frequently clumsy Lesbian employer who filled his life with mischief and grief. It was titled The Mildly Interesting Adventures of Damo and PJ and, to Paige's eternal surprise, had actually been a hit with customers. All 200 copies that Damian printed up sold out each month and even had people asking for second printings, a request Damian refused each time.
Paige hadn't been thrilled with her portrayal at first, especially Damian's tendency to remember and include every single one of their sillier post-pub or club adventures, but it had been a financial boon to both of them. Damian kept the profits the book had generated and Paige saw traffic increase in the store as fans came from all over the city hoping to get one of the few copies. A reporter from a local independent newspaper had even attempted to interview the two of them. Paige had responded enthusiastically, reveling in her little contribution to the community while Damian had bitterly complained about how the interviewer "didn't get it".
Paige chuckled at the memory but, as she let her eyes drift to the chair by the door, she'd felt a familiar wave of melancholy wash over her. That had been where she'd left the box for Shannon. It hadn't been much, a few books and pieces of clothing, but it had been the last of Shannon's presence in her life. As Paige looked at the now empty carpet, lightly marked by the weighted outline of where the box had been, she felt herself getting angry.
"I mean. How does that even work?" She asked to nobody in particular. "We were together for six years. We met at the Pride Parade for fucks sakes. How does she just up and dump me? And for a motherfucking guy?"
That had been the kicker. The person Paige had been dumped for had been Shannon's high school boyfriend. A guy she'd heard Shannon complain about hundreds of times for being bad in bed, a jerk and more into himself than her. But then she'd gone back home for a few months and, upon her return, told Paige that one thing had led to another and that she was very sorry and that she hoped they could still be friends.
"Yeah, a friend that I kick in the cunt." Paige grumbled the response she'd wished she'd said to Shannon to herself before turning back to Damian "I mean, do you know how that feels?"
"Being kicked in the cunt?" Damian asked "No, but I assume it hurts."
"Being left like that," Paige clarified
"You're asking me if I know how it feels when your long-time lesbian lover leaves you to marry a man?"
"Well you're in luck," Damian said, "Because I in fact have several piercing insights into the subject. The very same thing happened to me when I was seven. You see, I was down at the quarry when...no, no. That was the time I lost my bike. Anything like that by chance?"
Paige shook her head and turned back to putting some things away. She heard the door open but didn't look back to see who'd come in. Damian usually dealt with customers.
"Can I ask you for some advice?" The question was asked to Damian. Just the voice alone was gorgeous. Soft and refined and with an accent that Paige, who was not good at these things, could pinpoint no better than as hailing from the British Isles. Damian looked up from his drawing finally and gave the customer a patient smile.
"General or specific?" Damian sighed
"Pardon?" The feminine voice asked, confused.
"Like, do you want advice in general like how I think you shouldn't wear heels with that outfit or were you asking for advice about a specific subject that you wanted my opinion on?"
Paige punched Damian's leg as she stood up and finally saw the owner of the bewitching voice. If Paige thought the voice had been beautiful, the owner of it needed an entirely new set of adjectives invented for her. She had artful locks of long, hair just light enough to look seem blonde at points and just red enough to be seen as a red-head. She had eyes that reminded Paige of the blue-ish green waters of a lake her family had vacationed at once. Clear and bright and restless. Bee-stung lips that were the palest pink colour and immediately made Paige just want to reach across the counter and bite them. She was wearing a grey pantsuit that was stylish enough to show off a well curved, slender body and a pair of black heels that Paige thought made her look quite elegant in a day-to-day sense. Paige lost herself for a second looking at her before remembering that she was trying to save her from her idiot of an employee.
"You're a strange fellow, aren't you?" The customer smiled curiously, that voice still mysteriously unrecognizable to Paige's ear. Paige interjected
"Never mind him. I just keep him out front for novelty purposes." Paige smiled nervously. She felt self-conscious about herself. She wished she wasn't wearing a tattered green T-Shirt with a popular super hero's logo on it over a longer sleeved blue t-shirt that also had a super hero's logo on it. Paige was gorgeous herself albeit in a less conventional sense. Shannon had often described Paige as "thick" and Damian drew her as a little, curvy ball of energy in the book with prominently bulging breasts and a large, rounded butt and short, powerful legs. Her hair remained what it had been since she'd been 16. A short bob of jet black hair with a single streak of pink at the front. Paige often thought she could stand to lose a pound or five but she'd certainly never had any complaints. She'd had to turn down dozens of offers a week from customers before Damian resorted to loudly groaning "Lesbian" when one of the men made their advance.
"What can I help you with?" Paige finally asked. The customer smiled sweetly at her.
"Well, thing is, my niece is coming to town in a few days and apparently she's just mental for comic books." Paige loved her voice. Educated and precise but lyrical and sweet. "I want to give her something to show her I'm the cool Aunt but I'm afraid I know nothing about them."
"How old is she?" Paige asked, already thinking of a few things to recommend.
"And how cool do you want to be?"
"Fifty dollars or so worth?" The customer laughed. Paige nodded.
"Right this way."
Paige took the red-headed woman to the room in the back with the bagged and boarded back issues and into the little enclave with the hard and soft covered collected editions. She looked along the shelf until she got to the R's and pulled out precisely what she was looking for. She handed it to the woman who looked it over for a second before smiling.
"That's the one, is it?" She asked, still lost in a world she didn't understand.
"It is," Paige nodded enthusiastically. "A group of young kids find out their parents really are the evilest people in the world and set about trying to foil their plans. I wish I could have had it at 14."
"Sounds fun," The customer nodded, leafing through the book. "The art's a spot different from the others, isn't it?"
"You mean like how the girls all don't have FF cup boobs and 18 inch waists, yeah?" Paige laughed. The customer smiled and extended a well-manicured hand.
"I'm Courtney, by the way," She said. Paige shook it, cursing herself ever so slightly for her sparkling pink nail polish. She knew it was weird but even touching the woman's hand felt amazing. Soft and strong and warm. Paige could feel herself flush.
"So, Paige. You work here? Must be fun."
"I own it, actually," Paige said with some pride
"But you're so young," Courtney exclaimed, smiling. Paige smiled. She was 25 and looked the same age as Courtney more or less.
"Maybe, but my teachers always said I did had a precocious disposition towards running a struggling business," Paige joked. This did bring a shy laugh from Courtney. A laugh that Paige found as attractive as the rest of her. The two shared an uncomfortable silence for a few seconds before smiling nervously.
"You should probably ring me up then." Courtney said, holding up the book. Paige nodded. She had half a mind to give the gorgeous girl the book but, well, she was running a business ostensibly. Paige nodded and motioned back towards the register. Courtney turned and walked back and Paige followed.
"I'm not going to be awful and look at her butt. I'm not going to be awful and look at her butt" Paige thought to herself as she walked behind her. She was, however, awful and looked at Courtney's butt. Paige thought it looked phenomenal. It was only a quick look, however, as the small shop didn't allow for long trips and soon she was in front of the register, scanning the book's barcode.
"You probably think this is crazy." Courtney said as she let her eyes go all around the store before coming back to Paige "But you've just been so helpful I just feel obligated to ask you to dinner."
Paige nearly dropped the scanner.
"You mean like a date?" Paige asked nervously. She hadn't necessarily thought the girl was gay. In retrospect Paige thought they may have flirted a little but she had mistaken it for politeness. Paige also didn't think she gave off any particular signs. Neither, Paige then thought, did Paige. But there had definitely been electricity felt on Paige's part.
"If by a date you mean dinner and perhaps drinks with romantic intentions then, yes, a date." Courtney smiled confidently. Paige was literally dumbstruck. She hadn't dated anyone since Shannon. She hadn't felt ready. Now she thought of so many different ways to say yes that they all seemed stuck in her mouth at once, fighting to get out.
"Abso-yes. Definitely." Paige nodded enthusiastically. Courtney's eyes lit up and she grinned as she heard the answer she'd been hoping for. She paid for her purchase via bank card.
"Do you know Binjara's?" Courtney asked. Paige did. It was one of the better vegetarian Indian restaurants in town and only a few streets over.
"And does tomorrow work for you? At 8?" Courtney continued. Paige hesitated. It was a Friday night. She always spent her Friday nights with Damian at their local pub. True, they spent most nights there, but Fridays were special. They played the trivia game together. She looked over at Damian who remained drawing.
"I'll survive somehow." Damian said, almost telepathically. "You guessed that the Model-T was invented by Benjamin Franklin anyway."
"Yes, tomorrow works." Paige said, doing her absolute best to play it cool. Courtney smiled and winked and slung the plastic bag over her shoulder as she walked out. She turned back just as she left. "See you then."
Paige nodded. She watched Courtney leave with a smile on her face and dirty thoughts in her head. She felt herself buzzing. She leaned against the counter and turned to her employee.
"God, Damian, you ever meet someone and just know..you know?"
"No." Damian replied simply
"I mean, like the connection was so electric that she just must have known I was gay because of it and she asked and..."
"Yes. It certainly must have been the electricity between you that tipped her off." Damon nodded, continuing to work "I mean, it's not like you have both a rainbow Pride '09 and a pink triangle button on the your bag."
Paige looked at her bag, still sitting next to the cash register and with the two buttons Damian had described prominently visible.