"All right, what do you want today?" Grenadine asked as she draped the cape over Ruby.
Ruby frowned at herself in the mirror. "I want...." She paused for a second, thinking. "Something...drastic."
Grenadine cocked an eyebrow and looked at Ruby's reflection quizzically. "Right." She took a deep breath. "Are you one, getting married, two, getting divorced, three, breaking up with someone, four, pregnant, or five, having a sex change? 'Cause, you know, these can all affect your sense of style."
Ruby shook her head, laughing. "No, no, no, no, and when did you add number five anyway?"
"Well, you know with this town..." Grenadine picked up her scissors. "How about drastic without being drastic?"
Rose opened her locker, groaning slightly as it stuck. A piece of paper fluttered to the ground as it finally gave, and she frowned. She picked it up and unfolded it slowly.
Hey Rose,Rose smiled and tucked the note into her folder. She closed her locker, and turned around, jumping slightly in surprise at seeing Sangria and Pomegranate standing next to her.
"So who's the note from?" Sangria said cheerfully. "Is it from Steve?"
"Ugh, not 'Steeeeeeve.'" Pomegranate made a face. "He's so gross."
"It's not from Steve," Rose shrugged. "Anyway, he likes Audra now."
Sangria rolled her eyes. "Slut." She looked at Rose levelly. "Okay, if it's not from Steve, who's it from?" She made a grab for Rose's folder, but Rose pulled away. "C'mon, Rose, spill."
"It's just from Clear," Rose said defensively. "We're doing a project in Bio together."
"Hmm...Miss PomPoms..." Sangria snorted. "Whatever." She looked around the hallway, then leaned in slightly closer. "We're going to the mall. Wanna come?"
Pomegranate dangled her keys in front of Rose's face. "We're gonna skip out on last period..."
Rose shook her head. "Guys, you know I don't skip class.." She put her folder safely away in her bag. "Besides, uh...my parents wanted me to come home early..." She shrugged. "Bonding time."
Sangria smiled thinly. "Sucks to be you." She started walking off, Pomegranate following close behind. We'll see you tomorrow, okay?"
"Yeah..." Rose said non-committedly. She watched the two girls walk away, then sighed in relief.
Dark Red glared at her younger sister for a moment before she sat down at the beautifully set table. "Don't even think you can butter me up by taking me out..."
Red shook her head. "That's not what I'm trying to do..."
"It certainly looks like it." Dark Red looked around the restaurant, taking in the ice sculptures, maitre'd, and tuxedo-clad waiters. "Le Rogue, huh? You never could afford this before..."
"I do own a successful bar now..." Red ground her teeth and tried to smile. "Dark Red, look. I know you still think of me as the screw-up of the family, but that was over ten years ago! I've finished college...I have a home, and a bar, and a steady income, and I am in love with a wonderful woman."
"A psychotic! A--" Dark Red lowered her voice. "A murderer."
"She served her time!"
Dark Red sighed. "Look, Red. I didn't come down here on a whim to be the big mean sister here. You called me. You told me that you didn't know what to do about Blackie. You asked me to come here."
"That was nearly a month ago! I didn't ask you stay around for a month looking over my shoulder!"
"I have to! I have to make sure you're okay, Red. You know that..." Dark Red sighed and fidgeted, playing with her napkin. "I know you and Blackie are happy...now, but I can't help thinking that something will go terribly wrong..."
Red's glare softened. "Dark Red, you don't have to take care of me anymore..."
Dark Red opened her mouth to speak, but as the waiter came to their table, she looked away. Once their orders had been taken, she spoke. "I know I don't have to take care of you any more, but I want to...ever since Dad died, it's been my responsibility to look after you and True."
"Maybe it has been, but I don't need you to care of me now..." She paused, then smiled. "You can still look after True, though. She certainly needs it."
Dark Red chuckled, then looked at her younger sister. "Speaking of True..." She said nonchalantly. "I have to go back to New York as soon as possible...a show has to be covered and there's no one else who can do it..." She took a drink of water. "I want to make it clear that I'm not leaving because I approve of you and Blackie, but I need to ask you a favor." She paused again. "Anyway, can True stay with you for a few days? I don't think she has enough money to stay at the hotel we're at....frankly, I don't think she has enough to stay at any hotel..."
"True...stay with me?" Red blanched. She looked away for a few seconds, then nodded. "All right...but only for a week or so."
Dark Red nodded. "That'd be enough...once I get settled in again and take care of this show, I can send her the airfare money."
"Yeah..." Red said quietly as the waiter approached the table with their food. The sisters smiled at each other in uneasy truce.
Cherry pulled up to the curb as she finished telling her story. "So, I told him, 'Only if you start reading the book with a Freudian slant, you misogynist pig!' And then he didn't have anything else to say."
Rose looked at her, her eyes wide. "You called Mr. Johnson a pig? And he didn't expel you?!"
Cherry snorted. "I've called him worse! He's such a homophobic sexist bastard!" She lowered her voice dramatically. "Last year, he almost got fired for dating one of his students..."
"No way!" Rose thought about it for a moment, then whispered, her voice low. "Moondance Levinson?"
"Yep." Cherry smirked. "My mom told me about it."
"Yeah, she's our guidance counselor -- she gets all the good gossip."
Rose frowned. "Wait," she said, trying to think. "Your mom is Mrs. Glow?"
Cherry nodded. "You learn something new about me every day, huh?"
Rose rolled her eyes. "Freak," she said jokingly.
"Yeah, yeah..." Cherry leaned over closer to Rose. "You know you love it..." She slid her hand onto Rose's leg and kissed her slowly.
Rose kissed her back for a moment, then pushed her away. "Cherry, c'mon, not out here...someone might see."
Cherry sighed. "Whatever." She turned off the ignition. "Let's go inside."
The phone in Cola's kitchen began ringing. Gothic picked it up. "Yo."
A woman's voice laughed on the other end of the line. "Gothic, don't tell me you've gone gangsta as well as gay..."
"Nah," Gothic said cheerily. "Speaking of going gay, Cassie, nice article." He began taking trays out of a cabinet and setting them on the kitchen counter. "Thanks for wearing Cola's dress."
"No thanks necessary, of course. It was a beautiful dress." She paused. "What's all that noise?"
"Oh, Cola and I are getting ready for a party tonight..."
"A party? Sounds like fun. Is Cola there? I need to talk to him."
Gothic winced as the stack of trays feel to the ground with a clatter. "No, he's out buying food."
"Damn! Well, would you have him call me? You know the number."
"Sure thing." He scribbled a note on a piece of paper, then stuck it to the fridge with a magnet. "What's going on?"
"Oh, I've been talking to a few of my designer friends and they think that Cola has a real chance of making a go at it. So I was just going to give him some people to use as contacts..."
"Okay, I'll tell him you called. And thanks for helping him out, Cassie."
"No problem." She paused for a few seconds. "You really care about him, don't you?"
"I guess I do..." he said casually, as he tried to pick up the trays. "Yeah..."
She sighed. "I'm sorry, don't mind me...Melancholy over Tom and Nicole breaking up...I'll talk to you later, okay?"
"Okay, Cassie, bye..." He hung up the phone, then repeated softly. "I guess I do..."
Ruby slid into the booth at Natural Ingredients, Blaze raising her eyebrows at the new haircut. "Well, hey... A nice balance between Diane Sawyer and butch. Very today's lesbian."
"It's closure hair."
Blaze looked down at her menu, nodding distractedly. "What are you going on about? Cutting your parents off for good?"
"No..." Ruby sighed. "I'm dumping Copper."
The menu fell to the table, and Blaze stared at Ruby. "What? Why?"
"I think..." Ruby took a deep breath. "I think she's having an affair..."
"Oh..." Blaze nodded. "I see." She shrugged. "Well, dump before getting dumped." She turned her attention back to her menu. "Well, it's about time, honestly. You really shouldn't play 'life-partner' until you're at least thirty. I mean, you could be banging cute French girls like me."
Ruby opened her menu as she waved off the waitress. "Blaze, you're not helping."
"All right, all right..." Blaze looked up at her best friend. "Why do you think she's having an affair?"
"Well, I told you about Ember, right?" At Blaze's nod, she continued. "They've been having lunch together for weeks now. Ember told her it was about Spice's grades, but Coral and Nat are back so that's a load of crap. Co's not stupid enough to still be falling for it, so something else must be going on. there's always these cloying messages on the machine...I delete them, but still..."
"Have you asked her if she's having an affair?" Ruby shook her head, and Blaze sighed. "Don't you think maybe you should before you dump her? Much as I support the move...you ought to do it properly..."
"I know..." Ruby sighed and put her head on the table. "I know, I know..." she said, her voice muffled.
"So what's really wrong, Ruby?"
"I don't know..." Ruby said softly. "I really don't..."
Blaze rolled her eyes and signaled for the waitress.
Cherry closed the door behind Rose and turned around just as her dad walked into the room.
"Hon, I have to ask..."
"Yeah, Dad?" She smiled. "What's up?"
Brown sat down in an armchair and looked up at his daughter seriously. "Rose has been coming over a lot lately...are you and Rose a couple?"
Cherry blushed. "Yes, no, I don't know...something like it." She paused. "I really like her, and we're together, but...
He nodded. "That's why you introduced her to DB as just your 'friend'..."
"Not everyone can be as out and loud as you, Dad..."
He shook his head. "So, she's not out at all, is she? She's hiding your relationship..."
"No, no, it's not like that..."
"Do you want me to talk to her? I know how hurtful it can be to those around you to be in the closet."
"No! Dad, please..." She held up her hands, pleading. "Please don't. Look, it's okay, really. I'll talk to her about it. It's just going to take her time."
"Really. I promise, okay?"
Brown nodded grimly as his daughter walked towards her room. "Right..."
"I can't believe you guys couldn't get your act together in time for a New Year's party!"
Cola shrugged and grinned sheepishly at Spice. "It's for Chinese New Year's?"
Spice rolled her eyes. "Cola...that was like a month ago."
"Okay, okay...um...we've been busy?"
"I don't know...that's a pretty lousy excuse..."
"Yeah, but there's a party now, Spice," Gothic said as he joined them, a beer in each hand. "So why don't you start having fun?" He handed Cola and Spice their drinks.
"You know I'm just teasing you guys..." Spice grinned and took Cola's arm. "I'm just gonna borrow him for a bit. That all right?"
Gothic nodded absentmindedly, and the two strolled off, giggling. He leaned back against the wall, taking in the crowd, when Misty strolled over. "Having fun?"
"So what's up?"
Spice sighed and looked at her best friend. "You win."
Cola frowned. "Huh?"
"You win," she repeated. "I like Gothic now." She took a drink of her beer, then grinned. "Sort of."
Cola snerked. "Wench." He paused. "So what made you like him?"
Spice shrugged. "He just kinda grew on me...I don't know..." She looked up at him. "He's a nice guy, Cola..."
"Well I like to think so..." Cola said, grinning. "He has the nicest--"
"Aaaah! Don't tell me!" The two broke out into giggles, then Spice looked up. "Hey, isn't that Ruby coming in?"
Cola looked over at the door. "Looks like it...what did she do to her hair?"
"I think it's nice. But if she's here, that means Copper's here too. And I need to talk to her for a sec, okay?" At Cola's nod, Spice waved at Ruby and made her way over. "Hey, Ruby! Where's Copper? I need to talk to her."
Ruby scowled. "We're not attached at the hip, Spice. I can go places without your sister." She stomped off towards the bar.
"Oooookay..." Spice said.
Cola came up next to her and gave her an inquiring look. "What's the what?" he asked.
"All is definitely not well in Ruby & Copper Land."
"Well...they can't break up," Cola said matter-of-factly.
"Huh?" Spice frowned. "Why not?"
"Because, you know, they can't. They're Copper and Ruby." He shrugged. "It just can't happen."
"This is one of those Ellen & Anne-type things, right?"
"In an odd and disturbing way, I think it is..." Cola broke off and snagged two more drinks from a nearby table. "Let's try to not think about it."
"Agreed." Spice took a drink, then looked around. "I'm gonna snag more chips from the kitchen. Stay here."
"I need to talk to you." Misty snagged Gothic by the arm and dragged him into the kitchen. "I saw the article. Has anything else been happening?"
Gothic blinked a few times. "Well, uh, Cassie called, and she's gonna give Cola some designer contacts today..."
Misty grinned. "Perfect!" She leaned in closer. "Everything's going right according to plan..."
Gothic shifted his weight uncomfortably. "Yeah...looks like it..." he mumbled.
Misty raised an eyebrow and looked at him. "What's wrong?" She smiled slyly. "You're not jealous about me and Rum, are you?" she asked teasingly.
"No! I just...I just worry..." He broke off, looking lost.
"Oh!" She laughed, putting her hand on his chest. "Don't worry...we're totally being safe...condoms and everything. God knows what he could be carrying..." She smirked up at him. "Question is, are you being safe...after all, you're the high risk group here. Tried to donate blood recently? Gone in for any tests?"
Gothic pursed his lips, frowning. "No, I haven't. Look, I don't care that you and Rum are together --"
"Well, I do. Sure, he's great for a quick fuck, but the thought of you and Cola having sex...it's just so disgust--"
"Oh, so now you're against this? You were the one who came up with this plan in the first place!"
Misty started to protest, then broke off and laughed. "You're right..." She wrapped an arm around Gothic's neck and pulled him closer. "The plan is...going well. Cola got into People -- They ought to be calling him soon to do a special interest story about the small-time designer being discovered by the big star. You'll take the pictures, I'll wear the dress..." She smiled widely. "Everything will be perfect. Then you can break up with Cola and we can be together again."
"No." Gothic sighed. "I can't do that to Cola."
"Gothic..." Misty sighed petulantly. "Look, I figured you might have some...feelings for Cola, but we were good together. We're still good together, right?" She ran her hand over his chest.
"Misty..." Gothic gently pushed her away. "We can still go through with the plan, but I'm not going to break up with Cola."
Misty took a step back, stumbling slightly. "What?"
Gothic took a deep breath. "I'm not going to break up with him. I..." He looked down at the ground for a second, then looked back up at her. "I'm in love with him."
Misty laughed hollowly. "You love him?" She closed her eyes. "Fine. Have your...epic romance. But watch yourself, Gothic. I'll still play along with the plan -- maybe. But one whisper of anything going sour, and I hang your skanky bi ass out to dry. Got it?" She pivoted on her heel and stalked out of the kitchen.
In the hallway next to the kitchen, Spice stood stock-still, her mouth open in surprise.