Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit

BOOK: Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit
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Dedication

To my parents, Lynn and Robbie,

for raising a challenging girl and loving her

anyway and always, no matter what.

One

“COME ON EILEEN” IS A
terrible song at any wedding. But when the wedding is being held at the Ritz-Carlton in Atlanta—the bride's overpriced choice—one might expect better tunes, even if they are being spun for my dad's evangelical masses. When the song ends and the DJ segues into a line dance, I realize there's no hope. The whole room gets up, because, you know, line dance, wedding, white people. My dad, Reverend Anthony Gordon, handsome in his tuxedo, and the newly minted Elizabeth Gordon, aka Three, lead the dancers in a right, left, front, back shuffle that even the good Baptists of Rome, Georgia, must feel isn't too much of a sin, because they're all out there electric and sliding.

“Don't feel like dancing, dear?” An elderly woman pauses as she passes my hiding spot, a crevice tucked between a wall drape and a hotel tree well acquainted with future divorces in the making. I'm working up a suitable answer when my best friend, Dana, slides in and cuts off the woman's direct route to the preacher's daughter, aka me.

“It's electric. Boogie, woogie, woogie.” Dana brings an invisible microphone to her mouth and runs her other hand up through her spiky hair, totally ignoring the fact that the woman's still standing there, waiting for a response.

Eventually she harrumphs and toddles off, muttering about lack of manners and what happened to God-fearing decency.

“Really?” Dana looks over her shoulder,
then plops down behind my potted plant shield. “I can't believe your dad's making you move your senior year. Total douche play. You're going to be in the sticks, girl.” She points as the woman is swallowed into the crowd. “With winners like that.”

Not the word I would have used, but I get her point. Rome, Georgia, is definitely where queer girls go to die. In real time, it's only a couple of hours north, but in theoretical time, it's like twenty years south. I know I could raise a conniption over it, but as much as I do
not
want to leave Dana and Atlanta, and as much as I have
serious
concerns
about this marriage, I've never seen my dad this happy. And my agreeing to move and be a part of his new life, he claims, is a big part of his happiness pie chart. So what's a loving daughter to do but put on her Walmart panties and move to the boondocks? Besides, it's not like he'd let me stay anyway.

“You never gave me your approval. Wedding appropriate? Hot?” Dana stands up again and twirls in front of me. She's in a pinstriped, skinny-pants and blazer combo with some black shiny wingtip shoes I'm sure she found at the Value Village. She does look hot, inappropriate crush on your best friend hot, but I would never tell her that in a million years. Dana's ego is massive enough without compliments from me.

“Blondie seems to think so.” I nod toward the late twentyish, early thirtyish bi-curious cougar Dana had been flirting with before she deigned to check in on me.

Dana sits back down and slumps in the chair, then crosses her leg across her knee, a rakish grin settling on her lips. “Yeah, her.” She digs a flask from her pocket and swigs before passing it to me, never taking her eyes off the woman, who blushes red to her scalp line under Dana's scrutiny.

I hold up my hand and wave it away.

“Aw, come on, liquid courage.”

“I told you. Dry wedding.” I slump farther into my sulk. “Dad asked for best behavior.”

“I dressed up for you and your dad. There's no way I'm staying sober.” Dana's eyes hone in on my new stepmom's thirty-two-year-old ass. She elbows me. “Three's a total MILF.”

Three
is
a very attractive female, but she's also my dad's and that is gross enough on its own. I shove Dana's drinking arm. “Put your pecker back in your pants, party girl. That's my new mama. And can you be a tad more discreet with the flask? Three's mother keeps giving us the stink eye.”

Dana leans back and smiles across the room at my new grandmother. I can't believe Dad went and got married again. I can't believe he's moving us to north Georgia. And I can't believe the ugliness of this stupid blue dress I'm swaddled in.

But Dad's smile is so hopeful as he swings Three around the dance floor and his eyes so soaked with love that I pray, because that's what he and I do, that this one sticks. Not like Two, who bitched about the lack of money and then, when it finally started rolling in, was already screwing a radiologist. Or One, aka Mom, who lost her battle with breast cancer when I was barely two. Dad's worked so hard to be a family for me even when things didn't work out
quite right. He really does deserve happiness and I'm just going to have to suck it up and be a good daughter, even though I hate everything about this new development.

Dana slings back farther. “Seriously, though, Jo. Your new stepmom is the—” She has the good sense to cut off her conversation when the woman she'd been flirting with approaches our tree-hidden chairs.

“So.” The blonde, eyes narrowed at Dana, slides into a seat. “You never did tell me your name.”

Dana thrusts out her hand. “Dana Parducci. Troublemaker, miscreant, jailbait.”

The woman grins and I sense trouble. Dad has been pretty cool about my sexuality, what with him being a preacher and all, but I'm also cool, too. I don't flaunt it around the flock. Not that I'm hiding, but I have my own secret mission—get my father to agree to a youth program where I can talk about
all
the issues—and for now, being chill when necessary is part of the plan. Dana, however, has no such inhibitions, and she's got her freak flag lit in neon rainbow lights.

“Dana . . .” I hiss at her, but blondie cuts me off with an arm across my chest as she reaches for Dana's flask.

“You going to share?” She looks around. “I can't fucking believe they had a dry reception.”

Dana leans forward and winks. “Right? Here you go.”

The woman takes it and with a furtive head twist sips, then hands the flask back, letting her hands linger on Dana's for a few seconds before turning to me. “You're Elizabeth's new stepdaughter?” The woman smiles. “Joanna, right?”

“Sure,” I say, though all my friends call me Jo, but tonight, in this confection of baby blue picked out by Three, I don't feel like explaining. Joanna seems to fit my new role as small town stepdaughter.

“Well, I know Elizabeth is glad y'all are moving up to Rome instead of her moving here. She's never been much of a city girl. She hated having to work down here for her training weeks. Well, except for meeting your dad, of course.”

“And you are?” I ask.

“Sorry. I'm Jennifer. I went to high school with Elizabeth, but I live in Dallas now.”

“Texas, huh?” Dana scoots her leg forward so her heel parallels Cougar Jen's heel, and I'm stuck awkwardly between them.

“Where we like things bold and brash.” Cougar Jen pulls her lower lip into her mouth by the tips of her teeth, a classic come-hither look if there ever was one. I don't know how Dana does it. In her mind, every woman on the planet is fair game and most of them tend to agree with her.

I quickly lost interest in an endless string of nothing hookups, and older women, even when attractive, aren't my thing. I have definite fantasies of finding
the
one, but I doubt that's going to happen now that I'm moving to the land of “Who's your boyfriend?” Plus, Dana's always by my side, sort of a combination queer crusader and safety net. She's like my girlfriend, just not in the girlfriend-that-I-kiss or have-my-heart-broken-by kind of way. It's the perfect symbiotic relationship—I'm her wing girl and she's my fauxmance.

“We should bounce.” Dana looks around the room, then looks at me, her eyes a hopeful question mark.

“Dude, it's my dad's wedding.” I yank out a handful of blue froth from where it's gotten tangled around my leg.

“There's a warehouse party in East Atlanta tonight.” Dana bats her eyelashes at me. “DJ Gabby F. is spinning. You know you want out of that dress.”

Cougar Jen pouts. “Y'all can't leave. We've only started to get to know each other.”

Pretty sure she means Dana can't leave, but whatever.

“You could come with us.” Dana's voice is weighted with innuendo as she leans across me to flirt with Cougar Jen.

Great. I slump back behind my tree. I wonder how long this hookup will take.

“Sounds more fun than here.” Cougar Jen is actually growling.

“Come on, Jo.” Dana pouts and puts her forefingers together at her lips. “Let's make like a tree.” She pats my bark-covered shield for good measure. “And leaf.”

“No way, dude. If I'm not here for birdseed flinging and the big bon voyage, I'm screwed. You go. You've got a card to my room. Just don't wake up half the hotel when you get back.”

Cougar Jen giggles. For real, a grown-ass woman giggling. “You want to hit the minibar in my room, first?”

“You know it, sweetheart.” Dana stands and holds out a debonair hand for Three's friend.

I think I may hurl. But I don't get a chance, because before nausea can even set in, they're out the door. I glance around to see if anyone noticed, but all eyes seem to be on the dance floor.

This sucks.

I plant my chin in my hands and contemplate moving to Rome, Italy, instead of Rome, Georgia.

“Where did Jennifer go?”

I look up and Three is standing in front of me, sans Dad, who's been pulled into the middle of a throng of followers. Her eyes keep darting toward the door. Maybe
someone did notice after all. I shrug. “Don't know. She went that way.”

“And your friend?” Three's looking down the hallway with confusion in her eyes. Or is it judgment? I know Dad told her about me. He told me about their conversation. How at first Three was surprised, but then told him it was fine and didn't affect how she felt about him. He seemed convinced it was no big deal, and I believed him. It's not like I've been part of their whirlwind courtship, since most of it took place on Three's terms and without my involvement. But her telling him my being gay didn't affect how she felt about
him
doesn't really address how she feels about
me
. Or this situation. There's one sure way to test it.

“Thinking she went that way, too.”

“Oh.” Confusion gives way to horror, then a second “Oh!”

It's one thing to understand something in a somebody-else's-life sort of way, but the reality of the this-is-my-life-now situation seems to be hitting Three hard based on her sprung-wide eyes and slack mouth.

“It's no big deal,” I say as Three glances in the general direction of her family table, one I've assiduously avoided for fear of Southern judgment and small town mind contamination.

“Right, of course you're right, it's just Jennifer, and . . .”

My dad steps in to save the day. “Sweetheart, they want us to cut the cake.”

Three is totally flustered. It shouldn't fill me with such unmitigated glee, but it does. Go Dana. Go Cougar Jen. And, what the hell, go cake.

I follow the newlyweds to the round table at the side of the room. She's not a bad person. But she did insist my dad move out of Atlanta. Which in turn means me having to move away for my senior year. Which, if I really think about it, is a pretty shitty thing for her to do. The look on Three's face when she connected the dots between Dana and Cougar Jen pops back into my mind and I laugh, even though I shouldn't. Making my new stepmom's life hell might just be the perfect hobby to keep me entertained when Dad moves me to lower Mongolia.

BOOK: Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit
7.87Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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