I open the door to the sound of low-budget porn soundtracking. Ah, there’s what I put down all that speaker money for. I slam the door as loud as I can (without bothering the neighbors).
“Hi, Darren, I’m home,” I scream at the top of my lungs (still not actually), staring at the ceiling.
A thump. Fabric rustling. The ringing absence of shitty music.
“Um,” Darren says, “hey.”
He’s staring at the floor, shamefaced, trying to keep his fingers still where they’re interlaced above the pillow on his lap. He kicks one foot against the couch.
Honestly, he can be so weird about stuff sometimes.
“I’m just going to go…derp on the internet, or something,” I say.
“Sure,” Darren squeaks.
“I’ll put on headphones,” I tell him.
I pull the bedroom door shut behind me, tugging on my headphones. The tinny sounds resume. I play something loud with a thumping backbeat to drown it out – Darren’s music. I don’t know how he can stand listening to porn without ever telling me how it’s not mixed right. Some time later, Darren puts his hand on my shoulder and I shriek, but I think it’s probably my fault for playing jumpscares.
“So, did you,” Darren says, kind of blushing and shifting from foot to foot, “want to watch a movie, or like, go somewhere, or….”
I shake my head at him, amused.
“Calliope Group is doing a light show in the park,” he offers.
“Oh, yeah?” I stretch, rubbing the back of my neck. “Anything good?”
“Supposedly a reinterpretation of Midsummer Night’s Dream, so 50/50.” He shrugs.
“Ooh, fairy lights,” I say.
Darren snorts. “In this city? Special Guest Star: Lavender Lad.”
“Darren,” I say.
“What?” Darren says, holding his hands up, “I just mean he likes a good Bottom.”
I snicker. I snicker harder when we get there, and Lavender Lad does actually happen to be playing with them tonight.
Darren drops his head into his hands.
He’s narrating. He’s narrating, and he’s dressed as a geode.
Anyway, it’s all very pretty, if largely unrecognizable. No speaking lines, anyway, pretty standard Calliope Group fare, although they use Lavender Lad’s powers to good advantage; they have him paint up an elaborate variety of sets, plenty solid enough for us to appreciate the intricacy, but still transparent enough we can see the actors through it. He’s gotten a lot better. He must have practiced like hell for this production – although it has been a while since I saw him last.
The music is high quality, if kind of recycled sounding. I’d guess if it’s extranormal at all, it’s someone who can reproduce concert pieces, but it’s probably just a fancy projection system.
Afterwards, the players walk around selling rocks and little plush donkeys.
Darren finishes off the last of his caramel corn. “We should buy one.”
“A geode, or a donkey?” I ask.
“A geode,” he says. “We can name it after –”
“Did somebody say my name?” Lavender Lad asks, offering up his little tray.
“No,” Darren says, “you didn’t let me get to that part yet.”
Lavender Lad winks at him.
“You were pretty impressive up there,” I tell him. “You’ve improved since I last saw you.”
He grins. “Oh? When –”
“You were quite impressive. I think maybe our files aren’t up to date,” Darren says.
Jeremy scowls at him. “Want a rock?”
Darren dutifully looks at the rocks, comparing them for size and color.
“A couple years ago,” I tell him. “A benefit show.”
“Oh, right,” he says, “when we partnered up with Extratronic. That was a disaster.”
“I thought it turned out pretty well,” I say.
Jeremy shrugs. “I mean, sure. It looked good. And we raised a lot of money for a good cause. No, I just barely remember anything about it except a whole bunch of bigwigs hanging around complaining the whole time about their visibility.”
“God,” Darren says, “don’t you just hate rich people thinking everyone should look at them?”
I roll my eyes at him.
Jeremy snorts. “Then they start talking about how to franchise benefits, and I just gave up.”
I laugh. I apologize, but I have to laugh.
“That’s about how I felt,” Lavender Lad agrees.
“How much is this one?” Darren asks, trying to hold up a blue-green geode to the light.
Lavender Lad helpfully casts a little more light at it, so Darren can see it easily. He ends up not liking the shade and picking out a different one. We haggle over prices a little bit. Once we settle on it, and money changes hands, Darren seems a little more relaxed.
I take my change. “Thanks.”
“See you around,” Jeremy says, tucking one of the toy donkeys into my shirt pocket. Then he wanders off into the night.
“Stop that,” Darren tells me.
“Stop what?” I ask.
“Flirting,” Darren says. “I saw that.”
“I wasn’t flirting,” I protest.
“He’s going to think you’re into him and everything’s going to get really awkward and you’re going to have to, like, pretend to date him so that –”
“Darren, this isn’t a romcom,” I tell him.
Darren crosses his arms. “Does he know that?”
“Yes,” I tell him, “I’m pretty sure Lavender Lad knows most of his fans aren’t hitting on him.”
“You don’t know,” Darren mutters, “maybe now he thinks you’re soul mates.”
I cover my mouth to stifle the thing I’m pretty sure would upset Darren the most in this situation. “I don’t think Lavender Lad thinks we’re soul mates, Darren.”
Darren stares darkly at the little sand-filled toy. “He gave you a donkey.”
“You might be reading too much into donkeys,” I tell him. “As far as I know, they’re not all that typical of a token of love.”
“Donkeys now,” Darren says, “next it’ll be iambic poetry, and velvet curtains, and eventually your very own stage, and who knows what he’ll have planned then. Probably a proposal.”
I pat him on the shoulder. “I promise I’ll let you know before Lavender Lad proposes to me.”