I hope you have your wig and your heels ready to enjoy this week’s episode of Queer Tango.
As always, please excuse the typos.
Episode 39: Feeling Ruby Inside and Out
Andy was doing his best to be as amazing as his dad was because when he was growing up, his dad had three different jobs, could change a nappy as well as his mum; he was a fantastic husband—his mum was always happy to say—and Andy could add that his dad was hands-on, loving and always interested. It was some inspiration but Andy was feeling the pressure. He had one job which paid okay but he loved working with his dad; he could change a nappy but Paulette had a better way of making sure it stayed on and look cute; he wasn’t married to Paulette even though he really wanted to be but he didn’t want to ask because… well… it was Paulette and she was the most amazing woman and dancer and shoe-shopper.
Besides, why would she want to stay with him when he was fluid and he liked being Ruby. Although she performed with him as Plimsole and seemed very supportive, did she really want Ruby changing a nappy or taking Little Agnes to school?
Andy’s mum chose to stay at home until he was in school which is why his dad had worked so much but neither he or Paulette had that ability because they didn’t earn much between them. So, Andy worked all day on the roofs, came home and changed shifts with Paulette as she dashed off to the theatre and to classes and he looked after Little Agnes. Then he would be asleep when Paulette came home and she would be asleep when he got up to go to work and he really wanted to see her more and he wanted to go shoe shopping with her and Little Agnes but, well, he was meant to be a grown-up dad and they didn’t really go shoe-shopping or dress up and perform as Ruby.
He’d be so distracted by his being grown-up that he had dropped part of a scaffold on his foot and limped around pretending it didn’t hurt. He’d tried not to limp when he got home and took Little Agnes out for her snooze-walk in the pram. He was a grown-up and they didn’t whine about bruised feet.
‘Do you have problems with your tooth again?’ Miriam asked as he trudged by the dental surgery. ‘I can take a look if you like?’
Andy shook his head ready to test out his limping foot by sprinting if she tried dragging him into the surgery—grown-ups were allowed to run from dentists.
‘Good, Lanie is taking me out for dinner,’ Miriam said with a smug grin on her face. ‘And we’re taking the car so I don’t have to wear bicycle gear.’
Andy chuckled. ‘But will Lanie change out of bicycle gear?’
‘I don’t mind if she wears it,’ Miriam said with a wink. ‘How is Agnes?’ She leaned over and smiled at the snoozing bundle of cuteness.
‘Well, she didn’t enjoy the gunk in the jar that said baby food on it. She is protesting until she gets milk from her mum,’ Andy said with a sigh. ‘I told her that although I do look fabulous in a dress, my milk isn’t on draft. I have to use the powdered version.’
‘What does Agnes say?’ Miriam asked and straightened up then checked her hair.
‘She spits out the powdered version.’ Andy eased the pram to and fro as Agnes stirred. ‘She is a connoisseur.’
Miriam nodded. ‘Well, I suppose it saves on buying gunk for her to eat?’ Her face relaxed into a beaming smile as Lanie pulled up in the car. ‘I’m hoping Lanie is happy to pay for gunk though and gunk to drink too.’
Lanie popped her head out of the car window. ‘We could do with entertainment from Ruby though.’
Andy smiled then slunk onto one hip. ‘Paulette is working, sorry.’
Lanie cocked her head. ‘You performed as Ruby before?’
‘Yes, but… well… I need to feed Agnes and make sure the washing is dried because Paulette likes it ready for her to iron when I’m in work.’ Andy heard his bored tone and held up his hands. ‘I love the domestic chores, I just don’t seem to see Paulette but I see the ironed clothes in the cupboard so either she’s doing it or Little Agnes is using hot irons and this isn’t good parenting from us.’
Miriam gave him a hug. ‘You see her in class?’
‘Yes, but she’s working and I’m too busy trying to remember what dance I’m doing because she likes to change the show about so much.’ He rolled the pram to and fro. ‘I meet her there most of the time because I’m doing extra work for Dad.’
‘You should take her out as Ruby. I’m sure she’d enjoy a shopping trip,’ Lanie said as Miriam climbed into the car. ‘Your Dad wouldn’t mind.’
Andy smiled but then shrugged. ‘She doesn’t want to go shopping with Ruby. She’s wonderful but that’s a performance to her.’
Miriam tutted. ‘She loves you, inner Ruby too.’
He shrugged then waved them off. ‘Enjoy your gunk.’
Miriam winked at him and they drove off. Andy stared at the street for a while and waved to Stan heading to his van with two trays of fish and chips; Hedges was locking up her shop and chatting with her usual excitement to Mary-Lou in a thick puffy coat down to her feet who had her ‘shopping’ sneakers on. He smiled. Mary-Lou had an attire for every class and always seemed to have a new outfit for work but, when she went shopping—especially with Hedges—she had her trusty sneakers on.
‘You get gum stuck to your shoes?’ Janis said with a chuckle from behind him.
He glanced over his shoulder and smiled. ‘I’m thinking whether or not I want a greasy meal or to bother going around the shop buying ingredients to make it at home.’
‘Paulette not made your tea?’ Janis said as she put the bins securely against the wall and locked them—Barry liked to dig through them for evidence so Trevor could report Miriam.
‘No, she likes to but she’s performing over in Wibbleston,’ Andy said then moved himself and the pram away from the shutters as Janis inserted her key to roll them down.
‘Why don’t you go take her chips then?’ Janis asked with a smile. ‘I take Ceri chips when she cleans Squishy. I like to make sure she’s eaten and see her… I think sometimes she’d think I was silly for wanting to… but she likes it.’
Andy cocked his head. ‘I worry that Paulette won’t want me to… I want to take her chips as Ruby sometimes… does that make sense?’
‘Does.’ Janis leaned down and locked the bottom shutter. ‘I feel that way ‘bout caretaking… It’s in me, you see, so I find it hard that I’m not being part of me.’
‘You pine for removing gum?’ Andy furrowed his brow.
‘Yes. Well, having somewhere to fix up and run so people can enjoy. I liked that. I’m sure I’d even wear pink lycra… I told Ceri… thought she’d laugh,’ Janis said and rubbed at her beard. ‘She didn’t. Never laughs at me. She said that I was a caring person through and through and that was part of my heart so she was happy if I wanted to wear pink lycra as long as I put knee protection on when I was fixing the floors.’
‘Please tell me you are not going to wear pink lycra.’ Andy folded one arm because otherwise the pram would roll into Diane as she dashed by toward the fish shop. He waved and Diane waved a hurried wave.
‘He’s making fried chocolate,’ she mumbled and hurried on.
‘I’m not wearing pink lycra but I asked Mary-Lou if I could look after Squishy,’ Janis said with a shrug. ‘She was happy I asked and told me she would pay me much more than community centre did.’
‘That sounds lovely,’ Andy said then clapped his hand to his waist with excitement. ‘I’m delighted.’
Janis beamed at him. ‘Thank you.’ She looked at Little Agnes and grinned down. Agnes peeked open her eyes and giggled in response. ‘You would like to see Ruby too, wouldn’t you?’ She tickled Agnes’ chin and she giggled again. ‘I know. He looks quite lovely in his dress.’
Andy shook his head. ‘I think she’d be very confused and she wouldn’t appreciate my wig… although she might pull it off and try and eat it.’
‘That’s a baby’s certificate of love then,’ Janis said and smiled at him. ‘Your Paulette is like my Ceri. She loves every bit of you.’ She rubbed at her beard again. ‘And if you’re not giving her every bit then how is she to show you so?’
Andy studied her. ‘That is very true.’ He gave Janis a hug then felt more confident than he had for weeks. ‘I think we’ll take her chips… yes, we’ll take her chips and her favourite battered mushrooms.’
Janis nodded. ‘Ceri is making tea so best make sure I get home to hear how the girls and Mum have done with their steps for the day.’
‘I suspect your mum has beaten them. She was walking up Bumblethorpe Hill when I drove home.’ Andy gave Janis another hug and hurried to George’s shop. He ducked in as Diane was part way through her fried chocolate.
‘Thought you might be in the mood for tea,’ George said with a smile and headed to the frier. ‘Paulette working?’
‘Yes,’ Andy said and took his usual dinner from George. ‘Could you put an extra chips in and fried mushrooms?’
George smirked and shoved a second parcel across the counter. ‘Even threw in fried chocolate… wear those nice heels with the glittery bits on.’
Andy raised his eyebrows.
‘Diane overheard when she was locking up.’ George waved his spatula. ‘Everyone loves Ruby, Paulette nearly as much as me.’ He winked and waved his spatula again. ‘Go on, take her tea. She’s been calling in on her way home from work. You got to feed her, you know.’
Andy pursed his lips. ‘I thought she was eating before she went to work.’ He tutted. ‘I will take her ironing pile from her if she keeps that up.’
George raised his eyebrows. ‘Can you take mine off me?’
‘Oi, I do the washing, you can manage an iron,’ Diane shot at him then winked at Andy. ‘That nice new wig you have will go with the heels.’
Andy nodded, and hurried out of the shop. He raced Agnes home and she watched as he put on his Ruby jeans, top, make-up, his wig, his jewellery and reapplied some lippy then he turned to her.
‘What do you think?’ he asked expecting her to cry.
She blinked a few times then giggled then held out her hands to be picked up.
‘Baby certificate of love then,’ he mumbled to himself with a smile and put Agnes and the dinner in the car then drove sensibly to the theatre—He had a tile and baby to consider—then put Agnes in one arm, the dinner in the other and took a deep breath as he strode up to the theatre.
The audience were chattering in the foyer and he poked his head around the side door. ‘Is Paulette in?’
‘Ooh, Ruby, she’ll be happy you showed,’ the lady behind the desk said. ‘Pop on through.’
Andy raised his eyebrows. How did the lady know him? Maybe she’d been to the Bee. He headed down the corridors to Paulette’s room. She was chattering to someone inside and laughing. He knocked on the door and hoped she really didn’t mind him showing up.
‘Fried chocolate should win her over, right?’ he asked Agnes who blinked back at him.
The director opened the door then smiled at him then Agnes. ‘Ah, your fans are here to see you.’
Paulette poked her head around then her face changed, her mouth curled up, her cheeks glowed, her eyes sparkled and she jumped off her chair and hurried to them and wrapped Andy, Agnes and the dinner in a big hug.
‘Why are you limping?’ Paulette asked and dragged him into the room. ‘Why haven’t you eaten and why haven’t you eaten, Rubette?’
Andy cocked his head. She was talking to Agnes who giggled back.
Paulette leaned in and kissed him then kissed him again, then a third time. ‘You brought dinner. Are you limping because you had to dance with George to get it?’
Andy smiled but Paulette turned to the director.
‘You don’t get fried chocolate…’ She turned back to Andy. ‘He’s watching his calories… new girl on the scene…’ She turned back to the director. ‘Ruby doesn’t need to watch her calories, she exercises.’
Andy felt his heart turn to fried chocolate. ‘I also dropped the scaffold on my foot.’
Paulette tutted, placed the dinner down and was flitting around and fussing over him. ‘Why are you wearing your heels then? I know they look wonderful on you but ouch.’
Andy glanced over at the director who rolled his eyes. ‘She doesn’t shut up about you both. I don’t exercise.’ He gave a small wave and shut the door.
‘George’s idea… I like being Ruby.’ He chewed on his lip as Paulette put Agnes on her lap and fed her while munching on her food and opening his up and organising it the way he always organised it. She even put the exact amount of ketchup he loved on the side. ‘I really like being Ruby.’
‘I’m very glad. I like being me sometimes when I don’t have PMT.’ Paulette shrugged then paused with a chip to her mouth. ‘Why do you have tears in your eyes?’
‘Because it’s not a performance for me… I like being Andy and I like being Ruby…’ He waved at himself.
‘I got that bit.’ Paulette raised her eyebrows. ‘You think I don’t like your being Ruby or Andy?’
He chuckled. ‘I worried you wouldn’t like me.’
She pointed to Agnes. ‘You think I don’t like you?’
‘I’m being insecure.’ He flapped his arms around. ‘And I’m being silly and over emotional and—’
‘You.’ Paulette patted the sofa beside her. ‘You need a shopping trip if you ask me.’
‘I could do with one.’ He sat beside her and munched on a chip. ‘You love me then?’
‘Yes,’ Paulette said and kissed him then kissed Agnes on the head. ‘Just like you love me… and my taste in shoes.’
Andy grinned and let out a sigh of happy relief. His heart bounced and his smile grew. Yes, he was feeling Ruby, inside and out.