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The LGBT Festival, nicknamed by attendees as the Pride Circus, was an array of lights and wonder against the backdrop of our sleepy city centre. Having grown up in such a small, underwhelming place, I’d never seen something quite like it past dark. The name ‘circus’ suited perfectly. It wasn’t that the festival was a freak show. Rather, it was a welcoming environment that enticed the curious and gave home to the smitten. It was a circus not because the people there were a sight to be seen, but because the glamour and magic of such a wonderful festival was captivating. Yet it was fleeting, as though the intensity of the awe and excitement could only possibly be appreciated for a day or two at a time. Mundane life threatened to take over at any moment, making the joy of the festival a stronger sensation. Lesbians, Gay men, Bisexuals and the Transgendered were united for one night of sensationalism, partying and indulgence before the real world took us over once more.

I was lured, like many young women, by the promise of a world born anew. I had lived a life until now that was more conservative than I had realised. Sure, I hadn’t been raised in a strictly religious household, or even a homophobic one, but the Pride Circus drove home just how grey my world was before. When I had begun questioning my sexuality, I had done so in a vortex of isolation. There had been nothing like this that I had known of: nothing that relentlessly preached acceptance and fun. It was as though I had woken up to discover I was a mythical creature that could live one night as myself, knowing every second that tomorrow I would have to tuck my wings away. But tonight, I would be a Pegasus.

I had been brought into this world by a tiny elf-like girl named Wendy. Wendy and I had known each other in high school, but shared little in common. It wasn’t until she and I reunited at our University’s LGBT club that we discovered we had a shared interest: we were both gay. We had forced ourselves to date for a while, pecking in cinemas and groping in backseats, before we realised it wasn’t going to work out. Instead, we settled for a friendship that matched that of tourists meeting in a youth hostel: we would explore this world together, but would forget all about one another once we were comfortably back in our normal lives. And it was Wendy who had called me one day telling me all about the LGBT Festival that was coming for the weekend. She had read about it in the back of a student magazine published by a group of leftist go-getters at our college.

“The article said there was going to be musicians, and comedians, and even a drag show!” she had told me over the phone. I was sitting at the bus stop, waiting for a ride home. I stubbed the toe of my shoe into the ground and tried to remain subtle for the benefit of the strangers around me. God forbid they know exactly what my phone call was about.

“Oh, really?” I replied. “I’m sure they’ll all be local acts. Nothing special.”

“I don’t know. The article says they’ll have Mistress D on Friday night.”

“I don’t know who that is.”

“Yes you do,” Wendy huffed. “We listened to her single in the car the other week. She’s the crooner from Ceduna. Remember?”

That made no sense to me, and I suspected Wendy had me confused with someone else she made out with in cars, but I humoured her.

“Oh! From Ceduna, you say? Such a far off land!”

“Shut up,” she bit back. “Oh my god! I just saw! Guess who’s going to perform on Saturday night!?”

“Who?”

“Guess!”

“The Ceduna Crooner?”

“Ha-ha, very funny,” she growled sarcastically. “No! Taylor Fitzgerald! And Andrea Joyce!”

Those were names I had heard of. They were comediennes Wendy and I had discovered on one of our many forays into LGBT blogs and forums. We thought they were fantastic. We loved them, not because their acts were especially funny, but because they were daring and unlike anything we had known. They were both open lesbians with short cropped hair and fashion styles somewhere between ‘androgynous’ and ‘gender queer’. Andrea joked publicly about her sex and love lives, all involving women, and we found that positively risqué. And Taylor bellowed her routine with the sorts of insecurity and deep voice only an overweight performer could have.

Wendy and I began giggling with excitement. We chattered hurriedly, making plans to meet the comediennes back stage, and even follow them to their hotel rooms! My concern for offended eavesdroppers was long and truly gone. The thought of actually getting to meet these women, of having them in our tiny city, right in front of us on stage, made every inch of me tingle with excitement.

“I’m on my way to the ticket office right now,” Wendy told me. “I’ll buy you a ticket too.”

The LGBT Festival started about a month after that conversation. Wendy and I arrived, bursting with anticipation. I had gone to great pains to make sure I looked as cute as possible that night. I straightened my curls and wore a casino siteleri headband with a big, white bow on one side. I had made sure to wear a darling floral dress that flattered my shoulders and stopped well short of my knee. And I’d brought my fake leather jacket to fight off the late night chill. I felt like a doll, and I was sure I’d make an impression on my idols that night. Wendy had met me at the bus stop and we walked to the festival square together, arms intertwined at the elbows, giggling about how far the square was from the hotel Taylor Fitzgerald was rumoured to be staying. We were teenagers all over again.

“I think I’m going to kiss Andrea tonight,” she said. She flicked her cropped fringe to one side of her face, trying to see her way through the dark city.

“Are you serious?”

“Of course! Wouldn’t you want to if you could?”

“How are we going to just walk up to her and kiss her? Won’t there be security around the place?”

“Yeah, probably. Let’s try and meet her backstage. I’m sure she’d let us in once she catches sight of us.”

I laughed. “Oh, really?”

“Yeah! Listen,” Wendy leaned in closer to my ear. “I heard that a friend of a friend of mine was actually invited up to Andrea’s hotel room when she was here for a comedy festival two years ago. And they totally hooked up!”

I had to laugh at that.

“Laugh all you want, but it’s true! They get groupies wanting to hang out with them all the time. They’ll be used to it by now. So I’m sure two more tonight won’t be a big deal for them.”

I paused for a moment in thought. “Are you saying that to convince me, or yourself?”

She threw me a whimsical smile and tugged me towards the festival square.

I wasn’t sure what I had expected from the Pride Circus, but what I saw certainly defied those expectations. There were tents and booths parked on the trimmed grass of the square, all glittering with fairy lights and the promise of delights within. The people circling around the lawn seemed dissuaded by the dark, joyless night around. I couldn’t help but feel a bubble of excitement well up in my stomach, and not just because of Wendy and my plan to meet our comedy idols. It felt like I had found my home. I was both comforted and thrilled for the unknown.

I had never felt that way before.

A rather plain woman sat at a booth that said ‘Information’. We made our way towards her. The dim night did nothing to flatter her complexion. Only up close, when the glittering lights cast a glow on her face, could I appreciate her understated beauty. Her cheeks were rosy and her eyes glowed behind a pair of dainty looking glasses.

“Hi there guys,” she said as we approached. “How can I help?”

Wendy spoke for the both of us. “Hi! We’re looking for the tent where Andrea Joyce is going to perform.”

“Ah, no problem. Can I see your tickets?”

I produced mine from the pocket of my coat and passed it to her, my hands trembling a little. She took one quick glance at it, then at Wendy’s, and beamed at us.

“Okay, you want tent one. It’s the one just over there. Seats aren’t assigned. Just sit wherever. And your tickets say you’re also seeing Taylor Fitzgerald? Her set is on after Andrea’s, in the same place. You don’t even need to move! If you want to use the bathrooms, they’re over there,” she gestured loosely with her hand. “They’re just portables, but they’re clean. Just make sure you knock before barging in. Some people get a little excited here. And cans of drink are a dollar a pop if you show the canteen your ticket. Otherwise, three dollars. Is there anything else I can help with?”

I shook my head. “We’re good. Thanks.”

Tent one loomed above us like an enticing paradise. Lights were shining from inside, and the occasional rustle of voices told me an audience had already gathered.

“Come on,” I said to Wendy, tugging on her arm. “We’re going to be late.”

We entered the tent with little fanfare and saw a variety of people already seated on little plastic lawn chairs. There were a few women around who dressed in the same androgynous way as Andrea herself, but there were also dainty old ladies and glamourous femme fatales, and even a handful of burly men sitting on the far side, sipping from frosted beer cans. Wendy and I were unable to get a seat close to the stage, which was a length of thick, elevated panelling that didn’t seem entirely safe. So we sat a little far back, a bit left of centre. I took off my jacket and rested it across the back of my seat.

“This is exciting!” Wendy squeaked.

I looked around, trying to determine where Andrea would come in from. At first I thought the tent was as simple as it seemed and she would walk in from the same entrance we’d used. But subtle observation showed there was a false wall to one side, and behind it was surely the backstage area. I figured it would be much too small for Wendy and I to slip into after the show. We would have to think up another plan.

When I told slot oyna Wendy this, she suggested we wait at the front of their rumoured hotel after the show. This had a lot of flaws. What if they were late? What if it wasn’t their hotel at all? She didn’t seem to mind those possibilities. Wendy had always been the sort to crave adventure regardless of consequences. It was a whimsy that I couldn’t mimic. I was far too cautious for that. But I decided, perhaps foolishly, to put my faith in her for tonight. If worse came to worst, at least we would have had a fun night together.

It was a few minutes more before Andrea Joyce came out from a slit in the false fabric wall and paraded onto the stage. She grinned widely beneath her oversized glasses. She was much smaller in person, but just as dapper as ever. She wore a sweater with a button up shirt underneath, and a flattering pair of tight jeans.

“Hello everyone!” she cheered in a stage voice that needed no microphone. Still, the festival company had set one up for her anyway. She paced towards it, bursting with enthusiasm. The audience around us cheered for her. I clapped along too. “How are we all tonight? It’s bloody freezing here!”

She launched seamlessly into her routine. She joked about her girlfriend (“Aw,” Wendy sighed, disappointed), her dildo collection, and her homophobic grandma. It was just like her routine on all the videos Wendy and I had seen. She was just as delightful in person. I was excited to meet her.

I’ll admit that I enjoyed Taylor’s performance much more. She was hilariously deadpan, which always appealed to me. She made remarks about her parents and her co-workers, but mostly she made fun of herself. I found her very charming, and I itched with excitement to meet her.

After a little more than two hours, the shows came to an end. My cheeks were sore from laughing, but I’d had a great night. If I went home right then, I wouldn’t have regretted it. But we were girls on a mission, and I was more determined than ever to meet my new favourite people.

The idea that we wait outside the hotel was a better one than I’d thought. The girls disappeared into the backstage and we lost sight of them completely. By the time Wendy and I came back from a quick trip to the portable toilets, the lights in the tent were off and it seemed completely abandoned. We would have to wait by the hotel anyway.

I became a little nervous as we ventured off. Perhaps we weren’t the only ones to do this. Maybe the women had disappeared so quickly to avoid the rush of fan-girls. My only salvation came from the fact that the Pride Circus was held in our small city, not some place huge like Sydney, so maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. Maybe it hadn’t even occurred to anyone else. And I was sure Wendy and I were the youngest there, and the Pride Circus had an 18+ restriction in place, so maybe everyone else was too old and wise to be so frivolous. But we weren’t. We were young and stupid and we were ready to do some young and stupid things.

The hotel wasn’t far. We caught a taxi from a taxi rank nearby and he whizzed us to the hotel in the CBD in a matter of minutes. The hotel itself was more lively than the streets were at that hour. Lights were still on in most of the rooms that towered up high above us. The lobby itself was as bright as daylight.

“Should we go in?” I asked. I slipped my hands into the pockets of my coat, trying to hide my nervousness.

“Maybe we should wait out here. I think they’re still coming. Besides, it’s not like the clerk’s just going to give us their room numbers.”

The path from the street to the hotel lobby was bordered by inclining square pots with trimmed plants inside each one. The pots were as thick as fences and were impenetrable from the other side. We used them as seats, perching on the very rims and waiting in the dark. This was surely the creepiest thing I had ever done. The cold, quiet night dulled my enthusiasm. Maybe this was the wrong thing to do? What if Taylor and Andrea were really freaked out by us? What if they called the cops? I wanted to share my concerns with Wendy, but I knew she’d make fun of me. Despite all this time we’d known each other, I still wanted to impress her by being as adventurous as she was. So, I sat in silence. I exorcised my nervousness by tearing up a corner of my ticket in my pocket. A shame, really. I had hoped to keep it for my scrapbook.

A taxi pulled up at the front of the hotel after a while. Out of it spilled a handful of drunken women, including Andrea Joyce and Taylor Fitzgerald. The girls around them were all noticeably older than us and dressed in skin tight dresses and skirts. I hadn’t seen any of them at the show. Andrea had her arms around two girls’ shoulders and demanded Taylor foot the bill. With an eye-roll, she did. I suspected she was much more sober than her counterpart, considering her flawless ability to count out bank notes. Andrea, meanwhile, had her tongue down one woman’s throat as the other fondled her own breast. canlı casino siteleri I looked nervously towards Wendy, daring her to make the first move and announce our presence. She didn’t. Instead, we sat in the shadows cast by the trimmed bushes, watching the scene unfold. The Andrea sandwich struggled to make its way to the hotel without untangling, but they managed. It was helped by the presence of an eager door man dressed in red who swung the front door open as soon as he saw them. Taylor, pulling up the rear, took her time. It was clear she was trying to distance herself from the group, perhaps for a moment’s peace. Andrea and her buddies had disappeared inside by the time Taylor was near us. I seized my opportunity.

“Hey,” I chimed. Taylor jumped and clutched her heart.

“Jesus Christ! You scared me.”

“Sorry,” I said with a blush. “I didn’t mean to.”

“We were at your show tonight,” Wendy said. “It was great. We were hoping to get to meet you.”

The night made it difficult to determine Taylor’s reaction, though the light filtering from the hotel lobby made her eyes glow. She seemed uncomfortable to me, but Wendy must have thought she was flattered.

“When you talked about your mum cleaning your room and finding your stash, I almost wet myself, I laughed so hard!” she went on. “It reminded me of when my mum found my cigarettes in my purse.”

“Did it?” Taylor was cordial, but struck me as impatient. I was sure she’d been through this routine countless times with smitten young girls just like us.

Wendy was not discouraged.

“We saw Andrea’s show, too. We were hoping to meet her, but I guess she’s pretty busy.”

Taylor flashed Wendy a courteous smile, and her teeth sparkled like stars against the night. “Yeah, I’ll say. She gets like this after shows. A little worked up. Did you say you smoked?”

Wendy nodded, and Taylor probed her for a cigarette and a light.

“You’re not allowed to smoke in the hotel,” she said, taking a drag and puffing out a grey cloud. Wendy lit a cigarette of her own and offered me one. I turned it down. Smoking had never been my thing. But I watched Taylor closely, as well as I could. The slight burning flame afforded me a look at her lips. They curved in a seductive way I’d never noticed in anyone before. They looked juicy and tempting, yet unattainable. The way the soft curves embraced the butt of her cigarette made me wonder what her lips could do to me. I felt passion flicker within me. I wanted her to touch me. But I had no idea how to make that happen. I turned to Wendy and psychically willed her to get us into that hotel. Please, Wendy! Please!

In the end, it was Taylor who gave me what I wanted.

“You know, if you really want to see Andrea, I can take you up. As long as you know what you’re getting yourself into. She can be a little… frisky.”

Fireworks went off in my head. Yes! Yes! Yes! We were about to hang out with two of the coolest people in the whole world! And who cared if they wanted to feel us up or make out a bit? Wendy and I had been discussing that for days! We were more than willing. Outwardly, I tried to play it cool. I nodded and said: “If you’re willing to put up with us, we’d love to.”

“Sure,” Taylor said with a smile. “You seem like cool girls.”

Her gaze lingered on me for just a moment before she dropped her cigarette to the floor. She stubbed out the flame with the toe of her loathers, and Wendy took the hint. We rose to our feet and clutched our bags. Wendy stubbed out her cigarette on the rim of the pot. And then we, like eager ducklings, followed Taylor Fitzgerald inside.

The doorman held let us in without a word. Taylor led us straight to the elevator, stopping for nothing. We all got in and rode it up to the fourth floor. When we got out, Taylor busied herself checking the room numbers as we walked down the oddly golden hall. I slipped my hand around Wendy’s, squeezing it to make sure this was real. She clutched back at me, and I could feel the excitement pulsing beneath her skin. Taylor stopped outside of room 409. She knocked briskly. A strange array of sounds came from inside, including the rattling of a wine bottle rolling on the ground. Panting and ruffled, Andrea swung the door open. She was no longer wearing her glasses, and her eyes were small and beady.

“What?” she said, breathlessly.

“These girls wanted to meet you,” Taylor told her, disinterested.

I felt like a little child interrupting her parents late at night. Andrea sighed with annoyance and looked us over. Her gaze made me feel insignificant. This was a bad idea. I tried not to notice when her eyes landed on my breasts.

“We’re sorry if we’re bothering you,” Wendy said. “We were at your show earlier, and we’re big fans of yours. We wanted to come and say ‘hey’.”

Andrea’s face lit up.

“Why don’t you ladies come join me?” she asked, opening the door a little wider for us to fit through. “We’d love to have you.”

Wendy leaped at the opportunity, brushing by Andrea and straight into the room. She paused for a moment to look back at me, challenging me to follow. My stomach was in knots. I tried to think of a way out of this.

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