Thank you for all your lovely comments so far about Hayefield Manor. It’s wonderful to know how many of you are enjoying it (and don’t forget you can get your copy HERE [Bedazzled Book Peddler, UK Amazon, US Amazon and Bella books) I got my own copies this week and I’m delighted about how it looks! What do you think?
Anyhow, I hope you’re smiling and ready to enjoy this week’s episode of Queer Tango: A Little Bit of Liza!
Episode 17: A Little Bit of Liza
Any professional in the performing arts industry would tell you that rehearsal was like the sketch before the true painting, the training session before an athletic competition… or in Paulette’s case, the traumatic labour of love before she had a trip to see Mary-Lou’s therapist… yes, rehearsal was much like class… hazardous.
‘So, as we discussed, in the show Mary-Lou and Hedges own a knitted sweater factory and Stan and Janis are trying to sneak in and break them apart.’ Paulette raised her eyebrows at Andy who leaned onto a stack of joists cradling his jaw. He’d had toothache for a week which he’d told Paulette was sympathy pain but Paulette didn’t had bad teeth and being pregnant wasn’t causing her pain… yet but the class was. ‘Lanie and Miriam are the younger version of Hedges and Mary-Lou.’
Lanie twirled Miriam not really listening to Paulette because they were being good and practising, ish. ‘Why don’t you want Bumble’s Brand of cheese again?’
Miriam slid her leg seductively up Lanie’s thigh. ‘Because it has red labels all over it.’ She arched herself back into the move and then paused to look into Lanie’s eyes as she leaned over. ‘It has our entire daily ration of salt.’
Lanie shrugged, mid-swing of Miriam. ‘It’s ten pence cheaper than the other brands.’
Miriam wrapped her other leg around Lanie’s waist and leaned back onto her hands. ‘Yeah, but the other brand doesn’t try to block my arteries.’ She wiggled in her best sultry manner as Lanie lifted her back up into hold. ‘I know you like quick food because we’re always so tired when we get home but we need to eat more healthily.’
Lanie eased Miriam around her back then lifted her over her head until Miriam’s face was next to hers but upside down in a perfectly straight hold. ‘Why?’
Miriam slid her way down then flipped onto her feet and Lanie pulled her inward and wrapped her up in what Paulette called a sultry spoon move. ‘I just said why… besides, I’m putting on weight… we’re not exercising like we should… and…’ She pursed her lips as Lanie looked at her, vacant. ‘It’s bad for your teeth.’
Yes, Lanie couldn’t argue with that, no. Dentistry was useful sometimes.
‘Ah, the deeping strains of young-ish love,’ Tammy said mid chomp on her chocolate. ‘They lure you in promising to remove items of clothes only for them to steal your Snickers instead.’
Tracy snorted. ‘You’ll be arguing over who should have put the bins out next.’ She chomped on her Nicorette. ‘Don’t matter what Ricky tells me, it’s never been my job to do no bins. I did the kids.’
‘Does Colin steal your Snickers?’ Andy asked then winced then cradled his jaw again.
Tammy snorted. ‘He knows better.’
‘But I’ll take your Snickers away if you keep distracting Lanie and Miriam,’ Paulette muttered then shifted on her feet. Her ankles were puffy which she wasn’t keen on even if it was a pregnancy challenge, as her mother called it, but her bad foot was even sorer than before. Made her grumpy, in case you hadn’t guessed. ‘George, you’re meant to be a ruthless shark in business, throwing Diane around until she gives in and lets you do as you wish to her.’
George sucked in his chin. ‘I sell fried food.’
‘For the show,’ Diane said amidst rolling her eyes and sniggering at Mary-Lou attempting to get Janis to hold her with strength and dominance. ‘You need to dip me in cooking oil and batter me into submission.’
Tammy snorted as Tracy whistled with her fingers in corners of her mouth.
George blushed then looked to Andy and Stan for support but Andy was wincing and Stan was busy flicking through a leaflet entitled ‘How to change a nappy; a guide for expectant mothers.’
‘I… um… but oil is really hot and it’ll burn you.’ George studied Diane who studied him right back like he was soft and she wanted to cuddle him. ‘What… health and safety and all that.’
Paulette was sure that even the hardiest of teachers would slap their foreheads. ‘Imagine she’s in a shady partnership with Trevor and is trying to steal your recipe for… um… chips and cheese.’
George stared at her aghast.
‘Sounds like Trevor,’ Ceri said and nodded to Miriam and Janis. ‘Had three of his friends threaten to leave the practice if Miriam didn’t fire me.’
‘I was happy to for them to go,’ Miriam muttered as Andy cuddled his chin with worry in his eyes. ‘You have any idea what Sid Acrintone’s breath is like?’ She looked to Ceri. ‘Onions… ugh.’
‘I like onions,’ Lanie said swinging her around into hold again.
‘Yes, but not barrel loads of them before going to the dentist.’ Miriam slid down her side seductively. ‘Ooh, we need to put more onions on the list too… organic though.’
‘Did the customers leave?’ Gaynor said in an unusually quiet voice. ‘We’re only getting half the story here.’
‘No,’ Ceri said and puffed out her breath making her hair flap around. ‘I reminded them the only other dentist is thirty miles away and is known for giving everyone caps on their teeth whether they need them or not.’
‘I don’t want caps on my teeth,’ George mumbled and shook his head. ‘I don’t think I can concentrate on dancing and being horrible.’
‘You’re not really being horrible… it’s um… menthol acting,’ Diane said and patted him on the shoulder.
‘Method acting,’ Andy corrected then wiggled his jaw about. ‘You need to swing her around and show her who’s in charge.’
George blinked. ‘She is.’
Diane smiled and patted him again. ‘And I didn’t even need to train you that much.’
Tammy snorted. ‘He knows who controls the Snickers cupboard is why.’
Tracy chewed on her gum. ‘Act like one of them blokes in the pub who thinks Ruby is into him and she should buy him a drink.’
George grabbed Diane, pinched her bum and gave her a smacker on the lips. ‘You need me, baby.’
Andy rolled his eyes then shrugged as Paulette peered at him. ‘I would like to forget that incident, thank you.’
‘I hope you knocked him clean on his backside,’ Paulette said, forgetting the ‘menthol’ acting. ‘Well, did you?’
‘No,’ Andy mumbled and averted his gaze.
‘I did,’ George muttered then wagged his finger at Andy. ‘No bloke is talking to a lady like that.’ He looked at Diane. ‘I mean… I’m pretending… I don’t mean it.’
Diane smiled up at him. ‘I sort of quite enjoyed it.’
Mary-Lou and Ceri who were trying to get Janis to be ‘dominant and overpowering’ looked up.
‘My husband tries that sometimes,’ Hedges mumbled from attempting to get Stan to lean back into her arms. ‘I bought him a new hard hat and it went straight to his head.’
Mary-Lou raised an eyebrow. ‘He did?’
‘Yes, but I then I made him change the strimmer blade.’ Hedges nodded to Stan then Mary-Lou. ‘That sorted him out.’
‘Why, I didn’t think it was that hard to change them,’ Stan said, flicking through his guide on being a mother.
‘It isn’t.’ Hedges smiled up at him. ‘I told him to change it because I was going to use it to cut his hair.’
Stan touched his bright blue wig.
Gaynor chuckled a muted, strained chuckle.
‘…but why do you want organic onions?’ Lanie asked Miriam as they started the routine again.
‘Because they are grown naturally… there’s more nutritional content,’ Miriam answered, sliding her leg up Lanie’s thigh again.
‘Why does that matter, are we having a baby?’ Lanie cocked her head then narrowed her eyes in a playful way.
‘Why do you need to have a baby to be healthy?’ Miriam asked and narrowed her eyes back. ‘You’re such a cheapskate. They taste nicer.’
‘But they cost more,’ Lanie muttered then forgot to reach for Miriam’s leg so took a knee to the elbow.
‘Either way,’ Paulette said, arms folded. ‘If you don’t concentrate, I’ll eat organic onions and garlic and then have my check-up.’
Stan chuckled and his wig slipped off his head onto Hedges’ eyes and she twirled him into Mary-Lou who was still grappling with getting Janis to ‘really hold her like she means it’ who bumped Ceri who was trying to show Janis ‘how to just grab a woman like man in a steamy novel’ and Ceri thunked into George—
The class collectively winced, waiting for George to crash into something or trip or knock over Agnes’ travel kettle…
‘I don’t want you to cut my hair with a strimmer,’ George said to Diane stepping confidently back into balance without so much as glancing at Ceri who’d taken cover behind the joists. ‘Or let Gaynor cut it.’
‘A strimmer would be kinder,’ Gaynor said but quietly as she puffed out her cheeks.
‘That’s my point,’ Stan said still flicking his way through his guide while Hedges tried steering him around. ‘I don’t know why I’m supposed to throw myself about and that. Tammy knocked her Colin on his backside; Gaynor’s threatened to do that to me enough, and… well, can’t my character be a self-respecting woman?’
‘No.’ Paulette thwacked her plimsole to her thigh.
‘I agree with Stan,’ Andy said mid-wince. ‘A woman is not a toy.’
‘Ruby, we’ve discussed this,’ Paulette said. ‘It’s acting, we’re not condoning chauvinistic behaviour. It’s a story… we need antagonists… they don’t care about being self-respecting.’
Andy pursed his lips. ‘Whatever, Plimsole, portraying women as second-class only sets an example to others that we do not deserve to be heard.’
Mary-Lou whooped. ‘You go, girl.’
Paulette wagged her plimsole at Andy who had his arms folded under his bust and was waving a tissue around as if it was a banner. ‘You want me to tell Miriam your tooth hurts?’
Andy scuttled behind Agnes’ table.
‘It’s morning sickness, dear. She just needs more of my special tea.’ Agnes tapped the mug on her makeshift table of two planks and a piece of cardboard.
Paulette limped over and took her mug. ‘It’s not morning sickness, it’s rehearsal sickness.’
Andy peered around Agnes.
‘You have something useful for morning sickness?’ Gaynor asked then scowled. ‘I’ve been sick for nine months and you haven’t offered me any of it.’
‘You didn’t ask, dear,’ Agnes said then lifted up a cup. ‘Would you like one?’
Gaynor shook her head. ‘Do you have one for contractions?’
Stan nodded. ‘This week’s class was on the birth… it wasn’t pretty viewing.’
‘I mean it, do you?’ Gaynor intensified her stare.
Mary-Lou, Glynnis, Agnes, Diane, Hedges, Ceri, Tammy and Tracy all exchanged looks then turned to her in unity. ‘Epidurals.’
‘I’ll need an epidural,’ Janis mumbled as she stumbled again. ‘I’m not built to throw a woman around.’
‘It’s not mean if she wants it, honey’ Mary-Lou said then put her hands out in a dramatic gesture. ‘Sometimes a woman wants a sweaty, hunky guy to just head on over and stir her up like a hot salsa dip.’
‘Does Barney do that?’ Hedges asked looking up at the point on the ceiling that Mary-Lou was gazing at.
‘You kidding?’ Mary-Lou snorted and bumped her shoulder. ‘He tried to give me his coat on our first date.’ She shook her head. ‘But it was like a hundred degrees so I didn’t know why he had a coat.’ She sighed. ‘No, it’s just the romance novels talking.’
Hedges nodded enthusiastically. ‘Oh, they never really get to the part where he’s grumpy because the baby is crying at three in the morning again or pouting because your child is on his side of the bed again… or even when you need bulk supplies of earplugs because he snores louder than a strimmer.’
‘This is why I exiled my husband to his own room after our honeymoon.’ Glynnis perched on a stack of tiles. ‘I told him, he could visit when I let him but I had a double bed to enjoy alone.’
‘But, unlike reality,’ Paulette said through gritted teeth. ‘This is made up and not societal commentary and you’re not really those kinda friends with Mary-Lou, you’re marrying Ceri. We know you’re marrying Ceri, we know you love Ceri.’ She glared over at Andy. ‘And we all know I love you, Ruby and your dedication to equal rights.’
Andy smiled and batted his eyelashes. ‘Thank you for restating it.’
‘I once tried to get Miriam to pretend we were a couple in school,’ Lanie said lifting her up into the overhead pose then met her eyes. ‘You didn’t catch on.’
‘I did catch on,’ Miriam said back and pecked her on the forehead. ‘But I was supposed to be with Neal… and not interested in other girls because I didn’t know you could be.’
‘I will eat garlic, onions and bathe in them, Miriam,’ Paulette muttered and thwacked her plimsole to her thigh. ‘Concentrate, people, Mary-Lou is not going to seduce herself.’
Paulette held up her plimsole. ‘Dance!’
Tracy grabbed Tammy and flung her around in a panicked waltz.
‘But we’re not even in this scene,’ Tammy mumbled but then twirled around and giggled.
‘Don’t care, she’s got the plimsole out… just look useful.’ Tracy chomped open mouthed on her gum and winked at Ceri. ‘I don’t need any persuasion to show a girl a good time.’
Ceri wafted her feather duster at her. ‘You’re only saying that because I gave your Ricky a lollipop for letting Miriam give him a polish.’
Tracy winked again. ‘He looks so hunky with his teeth shiny.’
‘Then maybe Janis could look at the dance as a way to show her shiny teeth to Ceri,’ Andy said then held up his hand as Paulette looked at him. ‘Let me try, my sweet Plimsole, you need assistance.’
Paulette tried to look impatient but she loved it when he called her that.
‘Janis, my dear lovely Janis,’ Andy said with a wincing smile and strode over to her. ‘Your passion for Ceri is clear… you’re her dashing romance novel hunk with hot spicy salsa.’
Ceri nodded. ‘Duh.’
George tugged at his collar. ‘Steady on, Andy… the girls don’t need you going into details.’
‘I don’t mind if they do,’ Stan said then shrugged when Gaynor puffed out her cheeks at him. ‘Don’t get puffy, I’m technically a girl.’
Andy nodded. ‘So, my hot saucy hunk. You need to take Mary-Lou in your arms as if she was yours and show Ceri just how persuasive you can be.’
George cleared his throat. ‘I think we should have tea instead.’
Diane poked him. ‘Unlike you, she can be a dashing hunk without the need for it being dark or having chasers.’
‘I can supply the chasers if she needs them,’ Tammy said then smirked at Tracy. ‘It’d funny to see Mary-Lou plastered.’
‘Drunk,’ Hedges translated.
‘It sure wouldn’t. I sing Disney and try surfing,’ Mary-Lou said with a grin. ‘I blame it on subliminal internalisation when the kids were young.’
Everyone looked to Hedges who wrinkled up her face.
‘Um… a side effect of Botox?’ she shrugged at Mary-Lou.
‘I ain’t ever needed Botox, honey,’ Mary-Lou fired back with a chuckle. ‘My kids played those Disney CDs over and over so I swear I could perform the freaking stage show alone.’
‘Oh, my son loved Thomas the Tank Engine,’ Hedges said. ‘I could sing you that.’
‘Or I could provide Botox for your mouths so we can rehearse?’ Paulette raised her eyebrows and puffed in the way Gaynor was, hoping it would make Stan put the guidebook to poo-removal down and dance.
‘Ricky could find you Botox,’ Tracy said with a sly chew. ‘Only our son skipped kids programmes and has found all Ricky’s stashing places.’
Agnes peered over her steamed glasses with a knowing smile. ‘I have a few he could borrow.’
‘Can I borrow the recipe for contractions?’ Gaynor asked mid-puff.
Stan chuckled and fanned her with his guide. ‘Tea is great for most pains.’
‘Is it any good for toothache?’ Andy mumbled rubbing at his jaw.
‘Right.’ Miriam handed Lanie to Ceri and glanced at Paulette. ‘She’s still rehearsing.’ And she headed to Andy, grabbed him, twirled him around, flopped him over one arm and pulled out her pocket torch. ‘You have a cavity in your right molar… I need to x-ray it but if you pop into the surgery, I can fill it… it’s far less painful than it aching and a lot less painful than childbirth… so I hear.’
Andy peered up at her. ‘I get nervous around dental equipment.’
‘I’ll give you a lollipop,’ Ceri said with a smile. ‘Agnes makes them.’
‘Ooh,’ Andy smiled. ‘You’re on.’
‘Miriam’s really good,’ Janis grunted. ‘The girls didn’t squeal once.’
‘You any good at delivering babies?’ Gaynor mumbled then puffed out her cheeks again.
Everyone stopped and turned to her.
‘You’re having the baby?’ Stan puffed with her.
‘Yeah,’ Gaynor mumbled.
‘Your waters broke?’ Glynnis asked puffing too.
‘Before class…’ She shrugged and smiled at Paulette. ‘I wanted to see Stan dance first.’
‘Well, how close are the contractions?’ Miriam hurried over.
‘Like every few seconds?’ Gaynor puffed with Stan who puffed and paled and wobbled on his feet. George caught him and sat him on the joists.
‘Lanie, get some clean towels from the store,’ Miriam rolled up her sleeves. ‘Mary-Lou, Hedges, George and Andy… go drag something comfortable for her to lie on…’ She glanced at Ceri. ‘Janis, Ceri… I need sterile… you hear?’
Ceri and Janis rolled up their sleeves. ‘On it.’
Everyone hurried off as Diane helped Gaynor from the joists and took hold of her hand. ‘Breathe… breathe through them.’
Stan wobbled over and puffed like crazy. ‘Breathe…’
Paulette puffed with her. ‘Mum, do you have a tea for this?’
‘No, dear… but it helps if she doesn’t stand up giving birth.’ Agnes pulled out her phone. ‘And if you call medical assistance.’
Miriam nodded. ‘I do root fillings not placentas.’
Tammy and Tracy hauled the joists out of the way as Ceri and Janis shined everything that didn’t move… and Stan’s head… as the others pulled towels and a soft day bed in from the showroom and Hedges provided a plush pillow.
Gaynor puffed and Stan puffed and the rest of the class puffed as Miriam attempted to look like she knew what she was doing until the ambulance arrived then, as the doors opened and paramedics hurried in, the sounds of a baby’s first cry filled the air and Andy, clamped to Paulette’s sweaty hand, dabbed at his tears.
‘We get to do that,’ he whispered with awe in his eyes.
‘Don’t remind me,’ Paulette whispered back with a wince.
‘It’s a girl,’ Miriam said as the paramedics helped her. ‘You’ve got a baby girl.’
Stan whooped and shimmied his fake boobs in celebration.
‘Does she have good hair?’ Gaynor said in a quiet voice. ‘Tell me she has hair.’
‘She does,’ Stan said as Miriam handed the baby over.
‘What are you going to name her?’ Diane asked as she gazed at the baby.
Stan and Gaynor exchanged a soft look.
‘Liza,’ Gaynor whispered then winked at Paulette. ‘That way we know she’ll be able to dance.’
Paulette smiled then thanked her mentally because now she could make Andy cross that of his list of names for their baby.
Andy grabbed Tammy and they did a jazz, tap dance shimmy.
‘Mum will be pleased,’ Tammy said with a clogged voice. ‘She loves her name.’
The baby cried in response as the ambulance crew helped Gaynor onto the bed.
‘I remember how much my kids loved their pacifiers,’ Mary-Lou said with a wistful sigh. ‘Barney got the Disney ones.’
‘Pacifiers?’ Tracy eyed her then looked at Hedges.
‘I don’t know but I just hope it doesn’t mean an epidural,’ Hedges said then rubbed at her tears.
‘You were amazing,’ Lanie whispered to Miriam and Stan and Gaynor hugged her and they were led out. ‘Forget dancing, how dashing hunk are you, doctor salsa dip?’
Andy, Tracy and Tammy snorted.
Miriam cleared her throat. ‘Organic salsa dip to you.’
Lanie rolled her eyes.
Paulette looked to Agnes whose kettle boiled and once again gave up on class.
Andy squealed. ‘I swear she did baby jazz hands.’
Paulette limped over to the table and leaned on it. ‘Anything for forgetting you just saw someone give birth?’
Agnes nodded. ‘It’s called rum… but you’re not allowed any.’
‘Spoilsport.’ Paulette held up her tea in a toast instead. ‘To Liza, our newest class member.’
The class downed their cuppas with a cheer, and Janis swallowed the wrong way so Ceri needed to pat her back.
‘You’re very calm considering we didn’t get Janis being a hunk,’ Andy said as the class sat on joists and munched biscuits.
‘That’s show business for you, baby,’ Paulette said in her best, hunk-like accent. ‘For what is a true dance class without jazz hands, wigs, pacifiers and a little bit of Liza.’