This story, just under 6,000 words, is set on Kingdom Come, but it is not related to any of the novels. It does include a scene that is inappropriate for kids. My thanks to James Cawley and Patty Wright for letting me use a picture of the Ticonderoga Elvis for this story. Thanks also to my friend Tristan Newsome, who let me mash him up with Johnny Cash and kill him off in my story!
Lahla had enough of zombies, ninjas, and aliens to last a lifetime. Two lifetimes, even. Zombies, generally speaking, could not dance at all. Ninjas were worse, because they thought they could, but were usually very wrong. Aliens were usually overly concerned that their make-up or costumes would be damaged, and refused to even try to learn the choreography. Her job was difficult, to say the least.
What Lahla was absolutely sick of was the Elvi. Cassidy had been the best that Three Ring Circuit, Lahla’s parents’ production studio, had ever seen. And for six months, Lahla had sighed and moaned and screamed (in a good way), and agreed… Cassidy really was the best… in many ways.
But the months of passion and puppy love had come to an abrupt end when Lahla delivered the news that Cassidy would not be starring in TRC’s next big production. She was undoubtedly the best Elvis impersonator the studio had ever seen – especially considering the fact that she was a woman – but she simply wasn’t right for any of the upcoming major roles. Cassidy had stormed off the set right in the middle of rehearsal, scattering ninjas in her wake and yelling some rather vile insults regarding Lahla’s sexual habits. She certainly understood how to make a scene.
Fortunately, Lahla’s brother Tee had been on hand, working with the small orchestra, and he told her to go home and blow off some steam while he took over both the musical and dance aspects of the rehearsal. “Tee” was short for Tchaikovsky, and his specialty was orchestral scores. Like all their siblings, Tee and Lahla worked with their parents; Three Ring Circuit was very much a family business.
Lahla arrived home to find zombie ninjas picnicking on her lawn, but that wasn’t the worst of her problems. She had forgotten that today was the day they were rearranging the neighborhood to look like the sleepy backwater town at the end of the movie, where they set up the teaser for the sequel. She watched as the last of the pods were assembled by crane, and the scenery people swooped in to construct the façade.
It was very convenient to live on the lot, and it definitely saved money. She liked most of her family, from her siblings to the various cousins who lived and worked at the studio. Having her housing regularly rearranged was inconvenient, but it helped to keep life interesting. Her own pods consisted of one average four meter by four meter cube for her bedroom, a second that she used as a sitting room and office, and a third cube the same size that was her bathroom, closet, and a hallway that made it simpler to connect to whatever it needed to connect to. Sometimes her pods were simply an extension off the back of the façade, and might never appear in the film. Other times, her pods ended up on a third or fourth floor, and she found herself climbing stairs several times a day.
She joined the actors on their blanket. “Hey Lahla” said one ninja, zombie slime oozing from an open gash on his arm.
“You’re done early.” mentioned a woman with one eyeball dangling from the socket.
Lahla accepted a bag of potato chips from a ninja who looked like he had yet to be zombified. “Cassidy dumped me,” she announced. “Rather dramatically, too. Stormed right out of rehearsal.”
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that, sweetie…” cooed the arm
“I’m not!” exclaimed the eyeball zombie. “Cassidy’s a real Ching-wah tsao duh liou mahng. You’re better off without her.” Everyone on the blanket laughed.
Although there were still a number of prop people attaching siding and architectural bits to the outside of the house, an upstairs window opened and Lahla’s sister Soh leaned out. “Hey! Lahla! I’ll bet you dish duty you can’t find your own room in less than two minutes!”
“You’re on!” Lahla yelled, jumping up from the blanket amidst the laughter of her zombified friends. The first door she tried turned out to be fake, but she quickly found another way inside. “Where are the frakking stairs?” she cursed as she quickly moved through the rooms on the first floor. She found them off the kitchen and took them two at a time, but it turned out that they only led to a couple of rooms, neither of which seemed to connect to the rest of the second floor.
She jumped down the stairs and raced around looking for another way up. Finally, she passed through their game room pod and found another pod beyond that had a bathroom and more stairs. At the top, she heard her sister’s voice teasing, “One more minute!”
She found her sister at the end of the hall. “Congratulations! You found my room. Now where’s yours?”
Lahla grinned and took off like a shot. She returned to the stairs, which continued up one more flight. Her sister’s voice rang out behind her, counting down. “Ten, nine, eight…” Lahla recognized several doors with her siblings’ personalization. Tee’s had the theme music from Farstar, his favorite flick, etched across the center panel. Their brother Fah’s door was constantly changing, but always featured some scene of hand-to-hand combat.
Soh followed her up the stairs. “Three… two… ONE!” She called out just as Lahla discovered that the hallway made an “L” at the end. From there it connected to her bath and closet pod, then her bedroom pods at the end.
Soh wrapped her arms around Lahla’s waist from behind. “I heard what Cassidy did, sweetie. But you’re better off without her. She’s a real Ching-wah tsao duh liou mahng. I just wish you’d been the one to dump her, not the other way around. She was only using you, you know.”
Lahla leaned back against her sister, grateful for the support that was both physical and emotional. “That seems to be the general opinion, as well as the applied insult of the day.” She removed her sister’s arms and started poking around her room. They had changed a wall out, so she had two window walls instead of just one. She tried to remember what she’d had hanging on the missing wall, but Soh was already taking frames and things out of the box under her bed for her.
“How did you hear about it so fast?”
Soh laughed. “Hear about it? Darling, I not only heard about it, I saw it six different ways. Ray even edited it together, and Mimi added in sound effects.” Lahla stared in open mouthed disbelief, then closed her mouth, realizing she should have expected as much from her family. “Don’t worry. They made you look like a hero, standing there taking it all with grace, while Cassidy looks like an idiot. They’re currently working on adding a devil’s tail and horns…” Soh’s link chimed a rather cutesy melody. “Oh, look, they’re done!”
Lahla watched over her sister’s shoulder a very well-edited clip of Cassidy dumping her, loudly and profanely, in front of a large crowd of zombies, ninjas, and aliens. There were reaction shots from the crowd, and Cassidy had excrement shooting out of her mouth as horns grew on her head. She even sprouted a tail as she stormed off the set. Altogether, it was less than three minutes long, and had occurred less than a half hour before.
Lahla had to admit, seeing her ex-girlfriend vilified in such a way did help to make her feel better. Being in a creative and loving family had its benefits.
After dinner, three of their six mothers descended on the house, raving about how awful Cassidy was and how glad they were to finally be rid of her. Lahla’s oldest sister, Doe, broke the news that Cassidy had formally turned in her resignation through her agent, and was currently bad mouthing Three Ring Circuit and their entire family via any and every outlet she could find. The good news was, the Grimm family was universally loved by scores of fans and employees, and the counter-publicity was viral and effective.
By the end of the evening, all six mothers, four fathers, fifteen siblings and numerous aunts, uncles, cousins
and a bunch of unidentified children descended on the pod house. There was universal agreement that Cassidy was a frog humping son of a bitch, and Lahla was a bit disconcerted that her family was so quick to condemn the woman that, ’til a few hours ago, had been one of their star performers and Lahla’s girlfriend.
“Did anyone in this family approve of our relationship?” she asked the room at large.
A female cousin wrapped an arm around her. “Oh, sweetheart, we haven’t seen a disaster like that since the last time you dated a drummer!”
“We were just too polite to say anything…” added a random voice from the family crowd.
“Since when has this family ever been guilty of being ‘too polite’ about anything?” Lahla demanded, only half joking.
The laughter that answered her question was drowned out by her father’s voice singing out “Do… Ray Mi Fa So La Ti…” instead of the final “Do” he ended with, “…and everyone else.” It was the standard way of getting the entire family’s attention. Lahla winced and smiled simultaneously whenever she heard it. It was amusing that her musically inclined parents had named their children after the solfège syllables, and only marginally embarrassing.
“As we all mourn the loss of our star Elvis impersonator…” This comment was greeted with more laughter. “Three Ring Circuit still has the problem of whom to cast in the Tristan Cash biopic.” The laughter died away, the air in the room growing tense as the company pondered whether an announcement was about to be made, or if the boss was going to ask for suggestions.
“Fortunately, Cassidy may have solved that problem for us.” Lahla’s head snapped towards her father, wondering how Cassidy’s dramatic departure could possibly help. Glancing around the room, she saw that she was not the only one wondering. “Those of you who knew her knew that Cassidy was fond of referring to herself as the ‘evil twin’. Her ‘good’ twin Casey is not only an impersonator, but a much better actor than Cassidy. I asked their agent long ago if Casey would be interested in working on something with Three Ring Circuit.”
“But Cassidy hates Casey…” Lahla interrupted.
“My point exactly!” Her father explained. “Their agent said that Casey would never have anything to do with us as long as Cassidy was part of the company. But now…”
“I’m on it!” declared Lahla’s little brother Shoshta. Being named after a composer whose name was a colloquial curse word had made Shoshta rather bold. The room erupted into contemplative murmurs and Lahla made her way to Shoshta’s side.
“Shostokovich, what do you have up your sleeve?” she demanded, deliberately implying both name and curse.
Their cousin, the magician, took advantage of her straight line to reach into Shoshta’s sleeve, miraculously pulling out a small chick. “Something fowl!” he proclaimed, earning groans and laughs from those who had gathered close.
“Casey commented on the video…” Shoshta announced, reading his link.
“What did she say?” someone in the back of the crowd asked.
“You didn’t need the special effects to see Cassidy’s true personality shine through.” Shoshta announced. “and then Cassidy herself added something that I won’t repeat in the presence of children.” A chorus of disappointed youngsters answered him as he keyed in something else. The company watched as his lips twitched, then he smiled. “We have a meeting! Tomorrow at nine!” The crowd cheered.
Lahla was busy rehearsing the big Bollywood zombie dance number when she heard the news that Casey had agreed to film the scenes that Cassidy hadn’t finished yet, and she was in negotiations to play Tristan Cash in the studio’s next big feature.
Lahla had just about decided that zombies were never meant to do the Bardo Chham when she heard loud anachronistic engine sounds. Her dancers parted like the Dead Sea to let a rather large motorcycle through. Her heart skipped a beat, thinking for just a second that it was Cassidy, come back to make another scene, but then she realized it must be Casey. The choreographer stood her ground as the newcomer parked, casually dismounted, and approached her. She refused to react. Casey was every bit as gorgeous as Cassidy. Even more so, as she exuded an intensely masculine Elvis swagger that Cassidy, as talented as she was, had ever been able to produce. Casey even had realistic sideburns, a dedication to the act that Lahla admired.
Lahla considered yelling at the intruder, but she knew that her parents had been hoping to lure Casey to their studio for a long time, and she didn’t want to endanger the new relationship. She waved “Take ive” to her zombies, most of whom promptly sat down or reclined to watch the drama unfold between the two of them. So much for privacy.
Casey approached Lahla languidly, appraising her from head to toe. The choreographer met the Elvis impersonator’s gaze assertively, only raising one eyebrow to question the interruption of her rehearsal. Casey didn’t say a word, but the actor’s body language made it clear that Lahla’s sari-clad body was quite pleasing.
Lahla suppressed a shiver. She did not want to react to Casey, but something about the presumptuous manner in which the impersonator had approached her was more arousing than annoying. The zombies needed a break anyway; nothing had been lost.
“Wanna make my sister jealous?” Casey uttered in a perfect Presley accent.
“What?” Lahla asked. That was not what she had expected her ex-girlfriend’s twin to say.
Casey smiled, and casually walked back to the absurdly large motorcycle. “You. Me. Dinner. Eight.”
Lahla let a little grin sneak onto her face. Revenge?
Revenge was a dish best served cold, and she was feeling rather hot. Perhaps a dinner date could solve that problem. Or feed it…
“Dinner.” Lahla answered, as if promising nothing more. But the knowing look in Casey’s eye before she drove off promised that their date would not end with a simple meal.
Lahla had her sisters’ help whether she wanted it or not. Knowing that the theme of the date was “let’s make that bitch forget she ever dumped me” they chose the slinkiest, sexiest sari any of them owned. “Isn’t this the one Jen wore in that scene from “A Knight to Remember?” Mimi asked.
“Mmm Hmmm!” Soh purred. Soh knew costuming, and the steamiest sex scene from “A Knight to Remember” had begun with the female lead wearing that exact outfit, down to the costume jewelry. But it was a contemporary flick, and Lahla looked gorgeous in it.
Elvis, AKA Casey, arrived at the pod house promptly at eight, riding in a rickshaw pulled by a very large and muscular young man. Lahla considered being fashionably late and making an entrance, but she was justifiably afraid of what her siblings might do if left alone with her date for very long. She started down the stairs as soon as she saw the rickshaw pull up.
Being a dancer, Lahla knew how to walk down a flight of stairs and show her legs to their best advantage. Casey was still sporting true Presley style, although it was toned down enough to be appropriate for a night on the town. The impersonator eyed her appreciatively as she descended to the foyer. “You’re the devil in disguise.”
Lahla smiled at the cheesy compliment. “Shall we go?” she asked, eager to leave before her family embarrassed her more than was absolutely necessary.
Casey held the door for her, then helped her into the rickshaw. She smiled at the driver, a nice young man she used to babysit. “I hope she’s paying you well, George.” She quipped.
“Hon’s promised me a nice, healthy tip if I don’t end up behind or next to any horses when we reach city traffic.” George grinned. Lahla wondered at the gender neutral pronoun “hon” but since Casey was dressed as a man, it wasn’t too unusual.
Lahla turned to Casey as George pulled them away from the house. “Do you prefer ‘hon’ or…”
“He’ is fine.” Casey answered. Lahla wondered if ‘he’ had his eyes on playing Tristan Cash. It wasn’t unheard of for a woman to play a male lead, if her build was appropriate and she had the talent. Lahla had to admit, Casey made a damn fine looking male.
George pulled the rickshaw smoothly from the studio gate into Tinseltown traffic, pausing just a moment longer than necessary so that a horse-drawn carriage full of tourists would be well ahead of them. They found a niche between a trio of scooters and a tour bus instead. It was a short ride to Gabby’s, one of the trendiest new restaurants in town. The maître d’ recognized them and led them to a table right away. It was one advantage to belonging to one of the world’s best-known production studios; although she wasn’t one of the stars, those whose job is was to know who’s who in Tinseltown knew who she was. More than one patron at the restaurant snapped an image or vid of them as they walked to their table. Lahla wondered how much editing her siblings would do to the visuals once they were shared. She half expected to return home to a highlight reel titled, “The Best Moments from Tonight’s Date.”
“So, are you allergic to horses?” Lahla asked, after the waiter took their drink order.
“No…” Casey replied, “just don’t like them. I don’t mind working with kids, but I’ve had a couple bad experiences with animals.”
“Really?” Lahla asked, wondering. It felt strange, sitting there with someone who looked so much like her ex-girlfriend. The only things Cassidy had ever said about her own twin were allusions to the idea that Casey was the ‘good’ twin, and Cassidy herself was the ‘evil’ one. Lahla had wondered what caused the rift, but the question seemed a bit too personal for a first date.
Casey related two rather humorous anecdotes about acting alongside farm animals, and Lahla laughed at all the right times. They were highly visible in the restaurant, and both of them were very conscious of the eyes that were on them from all directions. Cassidy would certainly hear about her ex-lover dating her twin before the night was over, and that was the goal of the date, after all.
Lahla subtly let their legs touch under the table, and Casey put a hand on her thigh. They played it up over dessert, sharing a dish and seeming to be completely wrapped up in each other.
George was waiting with the rickshaw when they left the restaurant. Lahla spotted a knot of plotters across the street, stalking the restaurant and taking pictures of everyone who was anyone coming out. Casey saw them too, and as soon as they were in the rickshaw he leaned in to kiss her, throwing in a not so
innocent grope of her breast in the process.
“Did they get that?” Casey asked as George pulled them into traffic. Lahla laughed and readjusted her sari.
“I hope so!” she answered.
Casey raised an eyebrow. “You hope so? Why?” he teased. “I know there was garlic on that steak, but was the kiss really that bad?”
Lahla tried to make out his features in the glaring and changing lights of the Tinseltown street. She thought there was a hint of actual hurt in Casey’s voice, but she couldn’t be sure. After all, he was an actor…and wasn’t he taking her out just so he could piss off his twin sister?
As they passed a particularly illuminating light, Lahla saw that his face showed what seemed like genuine sincerity, and hope. Well, he might be a good actor, but she was willing to play out the evening, wherever it led.
The first place it led was to a popular club. It felt good to let loose and just dance. Lahla spent all day at work with elaborate choreographies for extras who may have little or no dance experience. But at night, it was her time. No steps to memorize or teach, just music and movement and the crush of bodies sweating it out on the dance floor.
She was impressed that Casey was more than willing and perfectly able to keep up with her. His hips swiveled and shimmied to song after song, ‘til it was well past midnight and they were both exhausted.
They joined some of her friends in a booth towards the back, and Casey excused himself for a moment.
“Lahla! I thought you and Cassidy were…”
“That’s not Cassidy. That’s her twin!” explained one of the friends.
They all offered their opinions of Lahla’s ex, which were unsurprisingly similar to the opinions already expressed by everyone at Three Ring Circuit. They were interrupted by the exodus of the live band, replaced by the strains of a very old song.
Lights came up on stage, and there was Casey, sideburns and rhinestones, posing in the spotlight. The first line of the song was drowned out by loud cheers from the still rowdy crowd, but when Lahla heard “All this aggravation ain’t satisfactioning me,” she knew exactly what song it was. She got up and dove into the crowd, whirling with the other dancers on the floor to the familiar tune.
Casey’s on stage antics had the crowd whipped into a frenzy, and Lahla was no exception. It felt good to let herself go, publically proclaiming that being dumped was not going to slow down her social life in the least.
Two songs later, Casey went to chat with the band while the soundsystem took over the intermission with a complicated multimedia show. Lahla pushed her way through the crush on the dance floor to rejoin her friends.
Several voices spoke at once. “He’s great!” and, “She was fantastic!”
“She prefers ’he’, at least for now,” Lahla clarified. “Hopefully he’ll play Tristan Cash in the new flick.”
“The one your Mom wrote?”
Lahla nodded, knowing what was coming next.
“Did your mom really almost marry him?”
Lahla related the story exactly as she did every time someone asked. “…so, no, they didn’t almost get married. I think she knew the kind of man he was, and was happy to enjoy the affair while it lasted, and then just walk away.”
“She walked away from the Tristan Cash?” more than one person asked incredulously.
Fortunately Casey chose that moment to return, and Lahla turned her attention to the reason she was there.
Lahla returned to the pod house in the wee hours of the morning to find her siblings munching popcorn and watching a highlight reel of her date. Soh turned when she heard Lahla come in. “And just where is his hand going?” she demanded as a very clear video of Casey’s hand travelling up the back of her thigh appeared on the big wall of the family room. Her eager siblings made various sounds of cheering or chastising the grope.
“Who the hell got close enough to get video that clear?” Lahla demanded.
“The real question is how did anyone get video that clear when everyone is so mashed together!” answered her brother. “There’s some interesting footage your gynecologist might find useful, but fortunately the algorithm I use to edit the endless supply of clips left it out.”
Lahla blushed furiously and shook her head at the room full of siblings.
“How the hell can you dance like that while your underwear is disappearing into Lahla land?” her sister joked, and the room erupted with laughter. The laughter subsided to a group “Aww!” as an adorably artistic collage of their goodnight kiss danced on the screen with fireworks in the background. The kiss that had taken place only a few minutes before. Thus was the life she lived; well loved, but no such thing as privacy.
She spent the weekend out of town with her sisters. It was partly a working weekend, as they were scouting locations for the Tristan Cash Story, but it was fun and she forgot about being dumped. Moonday arrived all too soon and she returned to the task of turning a hoard of zombified ninjas into something worthy of their tribute to old Bollywood.
On lunch, she temporarily escaped into the bowels of the main studio, seeking someplace she could simply be alone for a few minutes. She turned a few corners then paused, wondering if she heard footsteps behind her.
“Lahla?” came an uncertain voice from the main hallway.
Her forehead crinkled, wondering whether to acknowledge she had heard the call, and lose her chance at some privacy, or to just hide.
“Over here,” she called. She was often needed, and it just wasn’t in her to run away from someone who was lost, or couldn’t possibly do their job without asking her something vitally unimportant.
Casey appeared, and he seemed relieved to have found her. He took two steps towards her, but then glanced at his link as it demanded his attention. “Frak… of all the bad moments to…” Casey muttered.
Lahla raised an eyebrow. Casey ignored the multiple electronic pleas for his attention, and strode right up to her. He looked down at her, his height being just the right amount greater than her own. “I just wanted to make sure you understood that those passionate, groping kisses during our date… those were for all the cameras. And for she-who-will-not-be-mentioned.”
Lahla nodded her understanding. “I had a great time, Casey. I appreciate you helping me give her the kick she deserved.”
Casey immediately corrected her. “No, Lahla, I meant those kisses were for the cameras. This one is just between us.” He leaned in, gently pulling her to him and closing his mouth over hers. Surprised, she took a moment to respond. But he wasn’t hurrying. He was savoring her. Lahla relaxed into him, enjoying his obvious expertise.
Both their links sounded off that their attention was urgently required elsewhere, and they broke the kiss. Ignoring the demands for just a moment, they looked at each other, realizing that the kiss was something they had both enjoyed. But the moment was over as they each glanced at their links and found that they were needed at opposite ends of the lot.
The flirting over the next week took place mostly in the furtive exchange of a meaningful glance or smile as they passed each other on the busy lot. More intense flirting took place in the virtual realm, and by the time they snuck out for their second date Lahla was wanting more than the occasional tongue tussle.
They chose one of the medium sized towns up in the hills which happened to be hosting a concert of one of the smaller, local bands. A medium sized town meant that it was big enough that they wouldn’t be noticed, but small enough that no one would expect to see a celebrity there, even ones as minor as they were. The amphitheater was a natural formation of the rocks, and seating was casual.
After the first intermission, Lahla took Casey by the hand and led hon up one of the many trails that led further up into the hills. The second half of the concert drifted up to them from far below, the breeze surprisingly warm for the heights. They found a secluded spot and Lahla set about finding out just how identical Cassidy and Casey were. Although most of Casey’s jaw was baby smooth, the Elvis sideburns seemed to be real and not prosthetic. Not many actors would go to such an extent to play a part. Casey’s build was lean, just like a young Elvis in his prime. Lahla ran her hands over Casey’s arms, admiring the almost masculine shape of them. Cassidy’s had been much the same.
Casey wrapped his arms around Lahla and tasted her lips. She loved it when he did that. He didn’t crush her or slobber all over; Casey kissed with finesse. Lahla’s breasts were pressed to his chest, but she couldn’t tell whether Casey had used a binding to force feminine breasts to pass for a masculine chest, or if, like Cassidy, Casey simply had very small breasts that required no binding.
Their tussle grew more intimate, and Lahla threw back her head as Casey moved aside the layers of her blouse to expose and suckle first one nipple, then the other. Casey sat on a rock at about bar-stool height, more leaning than sitting. Lahla pushed her date backwards, skimming over the heavily sequined shirt as she moved down towards her main interest. Cassidy had hidden the fact that her hair was not as naturally dark as Elvis’, but that fact was only known to those who knew her body intimately, as Lahla did. Lahla was fascinated at how similar the twins could be physically, while so different in temperament.
She tugged Casey’s pants open, unsurprised to find no underwear at all. She blinked at the erect rod standing at attention before her eyes. Cassidy had often stuffed her pants to appear more masculine, but although she’d been fond of strap on toys, she’d never used one that was so…
Lahla tugged tentatively, and heard a low, encouraging growl from Casey.
Instead of tugging, Lahla maneuvered the penis left and right, examining where the shaft met Casey’s groin. Sure enough, there were testicles there as well. She handled them tentatively, just to make sure, and Casey’s gasp as she pulled the sack cleared up all doubts.
Lahla fell backwards, laughing.
Casey looked confused, and for just a moment he joined her in laughing before he realized that his date was laughing at his manhood. His pride shrank and he started to pull up his pants again.
“You’re a man! A real one, I mean,” Lahla said, wiping tears of mirth from her eyes.
Casey just looked stricken. “Of course, I’m a man, what the frak did you expect?”
“Well, you’re twins, and you look so alike…”
“And she’s always been a girl, and I’ve always been a boy. A man, I mean. I mean I…”
Lahla doubled over with laughter again.
“Enough already, Lahla, my ego can only take so much…” Casey protested.
Lahla composed herself. “I’m sorry, Casey, it’s just that… I always assumed that you were a woman. It’s the ‘good twin/bad twin’ thing. It never occurred to me that Cassidy’s twin was a man!”
Casey had pulled himself together and was heading off down the path and back towards the concert. Lahla followed, having exthinguished her laughter when she saw the hurt in the actor’s face. She knew enough actors to know when the hurt was real. She remained silent for a few minutes, going over in her mind every clue she’d had both from Cassidy and from Casey himself.
No wonder he preferred the masculine pronoun ‘he’ over the gender neutral ‘hon.’
He was a man.
Casey headed to the snack bar, and seemed to have regained his composure. “How about we just forget about what just happened up there,” he suggested in what she assumed was his best “mature” voice. She agreed and changed the subject, sensitive to the fact that she’d hurt his feelings. The concert gave them something else to distract them, but the ride home was awkward and uncomfortable as they both tried to think up something to talk about that was safe and banal. They said good-bye at the studio gate.
Lahla passed the weekend at home, missing the virtual flirting she’d been enjoying with Casey over the past week. He was definitely different than Cassidy. She sent him a brief, sincere apology, but she didn’t want to harass him; if he wanted to avoid her, that was fine. She’d just tell her nosey friends and family that it had been a brief fling just to show Cassidy that Lahla was just fine without her, and now it was over.
Lahla didn’t want it to be over. There had been a lot of sexual tension building between them up to “the moment,” as she began to call it. Her sister Soh dragged the whole sordid story out of her, but thankfully agreed to keep the details private. It was bad enough that Cassidy had loudly announced embarrassing details about Lahla’s sexual proclivities when they broke up; Lahla didn’t want to endure the teasing if everyone found out she had thought Casey was a woman. She certainly didn’t want Casey to have to endure the teasing either. He was sweet, and considerate.
He was a real gentleman.
Sunday afternoon, Soh told her there was someone outside waiting for her. Fortunately, only the two of them were at home, as most of their housemates were out and about for the day. Lahla smiled when she saw Casey, dressed in a form-fitting and slightly transparent shirt that left no doubt that his chest was masculine and muscled. The only trace of Elvis in his persona were the sideburns, which no longer seemed so extraordinary.
When he spoke, Lahla realized she was hearing him for the first time. Casey, the man, not the actor or the impersonator. “Lahla, while you and Cassidy were together, I didn’t think much of you. I thought, ’How could anyone who likes Cassidy actually be a real, genuine person?’ When you two broke up and I came here to the studio, I thought it would be fun to give that Ching-wah tsao duh liou mahng a nice dose of the grief she gives everyone else.”
Lahla noticed that he had brought several back-up singers with him, and they were moving into place behind him. “You are an amazing woman. And I want to get to know you.”
And then Elvis was back. The change was subtle, but clear. The lip, the stance… he was The King. The backup singers started an a cappella beat
and he started singing “I don’t want my heart to be broken, ‘cause it’s the only one I’ve got…”
Lahla swayed with the serenade.
It was a cheesy start to a relationship, but cheese was what Three Ring Circuit did best.
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