Taylor insisted on coming with when Dori went to meet Nikki. There was no way she was going to leave the girl at Aunt Andrea’s house all day, so it made sense to bring her with, but then it turned out that the restaurant Nikki wanted to meet at was on the way to Taylor’s school, where she had to go anyhow, and it made no sense to drive all the way out there and then come back into town, she might as well go see Nikki and then maybe the three of them would go and drop Taylor off and then do lunch of whatever. Taylor was surprisingly persuasive on this point, and Dori didn’t have a reason to say no, so she took her with.
It had been over two years since Dori had seen Nikki, but she recognized her at first sight anyway. That wasn’t weird. She was pretty good at remembering faces. Besides, Nikki was only five feet tall and favored black clothes that made her stick out like a sore thumb, unless they were at a place where other goths congregated. What was weird was that she recognized the woman who was with Nikki, too. It was the bald Asian woman who’d been at Pandora’s a few days before.
The chick recognized her, too. Her eyes narrowed in confused recognition.
“Pandora’s Pizza,” Dori said, introducing herself. She wasn’t sure if she should hug Nikki or what. She wanted to, but Nikki was weird about touching, or had been, and who knew what had changed in the years since she’d seen her. Couldn’t have been too much, though; the little goth-girl looked basically the same. Dori wondered if she looked the same to Nikki too.
“It’s good to see you,” Nikki said. Her eyes were full of happy tears. “This is my friend Liz.” The mystery Asian woman nodded, smiling now.
“Small world,” Liz said.
“What happened to your face?” Nikki asked.
Shit, was that still visible? “A dog bit my head. Long story. Anyway, um, this is Taylor. I have to take her back to school, before we go to lunch or whatever, if that’s okay.” Nikki frowned at Dori. “It’s a long story, too, okay?”
Nikki angled her head with a small smile. “‘Kay.”
Finding herself stuck between Dori, whom she thought she had a crush on, and Nikki, whose black clothes and silver symbol jewelry were sure to freak out the conservative Christian in her, Taylor had gone completely mousy. The tall, skinheaded Asian girl with the combat boots didn’t help either. Taylor had been telling Dori a lot that morning about how she wanted to go to one of “your clubs,” by which she apparently meant lesbian bars. Dori didn’t even know if any existed in the metro Detroit area any more, but she was certain that Taylor would have a panic attack if she were actually turned loose in one. At least she wouldn’t complain about being taken straight to school now.
Once back in the car, with Nikki and Liz following, Taylor came out of her shell slightly. “So these are old friends of yours?”
“Nikki is.” She saw no reason to explain to Taylore how she sort-of knew Liz.
“Where did you know Nikki from?” The tone of Taylor’s voice carried her real meaning clearly.
Dori just smiled at the idea. “We were just friends.” Nikki hadn’t even known what bisexual meant when they had first met. And upon finding out, she’d been quite scandalized. “If I ever tried to kiss her, I doubt I’d ever see her again,” Dori said, still grinning.
“Do you want to?”
“Not really,” she said with a shrug. “She’s not my type.” It would be convenient if Taylor was too freaked out to hang around any more, actually. Dori went for the too-much-information angle. “Every chick I’ve gone out with except one has been sort of, I don’t know, puffy. Big hips, big tits, soft belly, you know. I go for the earth-mother types. Body types, anyway.”
Taylor opened her mouth as if she were going to say something, but didn’t. An Alice In Chains song was on WHMH, and Dori turned it up as far as the Oldsmobile’s scratchy, 1970s-era speakers would tolerate.
For the rest of the drive, Taylor sulked. Whether it was because Dori had excluded her willowy body type from her description of what turned her on, or because she didn’t want to go to school, or because she was actually (finally!) weirded out by Dori’s “deviant” lifestyle, she wasn’t sure. It could have been any of ten other issues, too. Dori decided she wasn’t going to worry about it.
Jailbait disposed of, she led Nikki and Liz to the first restaurant she could find, which turned out to be a nondescript little Chinese place in a strip mall, which was fine with everyone. The first thing she did (after they ordered lunch) was to fill them in on the Taylor situation, ending with, “Shit, I should’ve called her parents and told them I took her to school. Do you think that’s the right thing to do? I feel weird, being an indentured babysitter.”
“You can use my phone if you want to call,” Nikki said.
“Dude, you have a cellphone?”
“I got it few days ago. It’s…for my job.”
“What do you do?” Liz asked.
“Lots of different things,” she said, folding and refolding her napkin. “I have a random job. My boss is an event planner, for some corporations and shit, and I’m his assistant. Which means that sometimes I’m on the phone making appointments, and sometimes I’m fucking washing dishes. It depends.”
“Wish I could tumble into something like that,” Liz said. “I work at a fish store, you know.”
Nikki gave her a little smile. “I’m glad I found you both,” she said.
“Agreed. So where do we fit?” Liz asked, indicating Dori and herself.
“Pretty close together.” Nikki’s restless hands toyed with the chopsticks. “Dori, I met Liz when I was in high school.” She tossed a glance at Liz.
“I had green hair then,” Liz said. Dori nodded, glancing at the greenish ends of Liz’ lovelocks. She’d apparently had green hair for a long time.
“I ran away at the end of that summer, and that’s when I met Dori, Liz,” Nikki continued. “I met her in Nashville.” Dori got the same glance that Liz did, and figured out that it was her cue to elaborate, if she wanted to.
“I lost my cash, actually–I was on this fucked-up trip, it’s another long story. I, um, well, I got it into my head that I had to see this chick I went out with in high school who was my best friend or whatever, until she got committed. Anyway, I hadn’t seen her in three or four years, and so I got a letter from her one day and just hopped in the car and went to see her. Actually, it wasn’t really that simple either, it was kind of a fucked-up time for me–not unlike now in fact, maybe less so–but anyway, I lost all of my stuff in Nashville, after my car blew up and I had to get another one. And so Nikki and I ended up working at this IHOP for two and a half weeks, to get travel cash.”
“We lived in this shitty hotel room,” Nikki said. She seemed less amused by the memory than Dori was, but it didn’t mean she was any less happy to have met Dori. Everything was always all screwed up and wrong with Nikki, on the surface. Both Dori and Liz were aware of this, on different levels.
“It didn’t suck that much. It was like summer camp.”
“Did you finally get to see your girlfriend?” Liz asked.
“Nomi? Yeah. We hung out for a few days in Florida–she was working at Disneyland–and then I went home. We’ve been writing back and forth since then. She’s almost finished with college I think.” Dori looked at Liz, thought of the lawyer guy she’d talked to at Pandora’s, whom Liz had had dinner with, and suddenly realized that Nikki was the long-lost sister and Liz was the friend he had fucked…she opened her mouth suddenly and then bit her lip to shut herself up. Maybe this was not a good thing to bring up. Ever.
Nikki caught her anyway. “What?”
“Um…nothing, I just remembered that I…” Think of something, quick! “I saw the guy Liz had dinner with, at Pandora’s. He was back a few days later.”
“Charles?” Liz asked. Nikki didn’t react, just looked from Liz to Dori with interest.
Oh, good, so Nikki was aware that they knew each other. “Um, yeah. He came by without you one day. We talked about some stuff.”
“He’s my brother, you know,” Nikki said.
“I got a weird vibe from him.”
Liz frowned. “Like what?”
“Like, I don’t know.” Nikki and Liz looked at each other. Okay, fine, so Liz would think she was sort of a flake, that was fine. She was sort of a flake; it didn’t bother her friends. “He seemed really nervous and overly worried about doing everything right, kind of like you. Not that it actually made me think of you, since he’s like five times your size and I hadn’t seen you in two years anyway, but still. Now that I think about it.”
“He told me he’s getting married,” Nikki said. “He’s living in San Francisco. Hopefully I can go out for the wedding.” Liz nodded in agreement, but she wasn’t meeting Nikki’s eyes.
The unconscious tension was making Dori uncomfortable, so she changed the subject. “I should have asked him some legal questions. Listen to this,” she said, and launched yet again into the story of the Chris Sinclair situation. She’d been telling this story a lot lately.