Vega: Helen, thanks so much for pulling all these folks together. And for opening the restaurant on a night off. I really appreciate it.

Helen: Happy to. I love these people but I don’t want them crowding my place. Plus, there's more alcohol here.

Vega: Good thinking. Why don’t you introduce me to the couples?

Helen: Sure. You know my sister, Willa. Well, you haven’t met her, but you know who she is.

Vega: Thought she was an imaginary sister there for a while. Nice to meet you, Willa, and thank you again for letting me rent the place upstairs for the year. If I weren’t so happy about where I was moving, I’d be sad to leave it.

Willa: Glad it worked for you.

Des: Wait, Austy’s pad is going to be available for vacations again?

Austy: Not my pad anymore.

Helen: We’re actually talking to Lane’s girlfriend for a short-term rental.

Isabel: Who’s Lane?

Willa: She’s Iris’s friend. The one with the bar.

Vega: That you invested in and made possible for her.

Jessie: She does that, but she won’t admit it. We like to make her admit to her problem with admitting to helping people she knows. Hey, don’t hit me, Quinn.

Quinn: That was from Willa.

Kayin: Who’s Iris?

Willa: A friend. You know the PI who helps out with employee background checks? That’s her.

Elise: A PI? Was she on the force? Wait, Iris, tall, fit with light brown hair and blue eyes? I know her. She was a great cop. Why’s she a PI now?

Austy: Not everyone likes the rigid structure of law enforcement, sweetheart.

Elise: You’re joking about rigid structures, Ms. No One Can Stop By Without Calling First?

Skye: Ha! She’s got that right, Aust.

Austy: Shut up, Des.

Des: I didn’t say anything; my wife did.

Austy: You prompted her.

Quinn: Perhaps we should get back to why we’re here?

Lauren: Always the sensible one.

Vega: I’m starting to think I should be writing about you all as a group. You definitely have a unique relationship going here.

Joe: Got it in one, Vega. Oops, and I’m way outnumbered here. I’ll just go help Helen in the kitchen.

Vega: When did she leave? She was in the middle of introducing—

Des: No, need. I’m Des, and this is my wife, Skye. The couples here are Willa and Quinn, Austy and Elise, Jessie and Lauren, Briony and M, Kayin and Isabel, and Caroline and Sam.

Vega: That was kinda fast. You’ll have to remind me as we go around the table to hear your stories.

Des: I’ll go first.

Jessie: There's a shocker.

Willa: Go first? What's that about?

Caroline: We loved your article series.

Sam: Can’t wait for the book. Hoping for some really good sales.

Kayin: She owns a bookstore.

Vega: Thanks. I’m looking forward to it myself.

Briony: Did it turn out the way you’d hoped?

Vega: S—

Des: How could it not? She wrote the damn thing.

Briony: There are deadlines and time pressures and editors and publishers who influence the final product.

Sam: I’ve heard horror stories from several authors.

Vega: Well—

Des: But she could just tell them to shove it, can’t she?

Lauren: Not if she wants it published. Legally, it also belongs to the publisher.

Austy: You’re so smart, Lanky.

Jessie: Don’t forget gorgeous.

Austy: Yes, very important and so relevant to being smart.

Jessie: Snarky wench.

Quinn: Wench? Are we in a pirate movie?

Willa: What is this again? I thought we were having dinner with my sister and her friend.

Caroline: Didn’t you read any of her articles, Will?

Kayin: There were like a million links to them on any gay-friendly website.

Vega: Slight exaggeration. Or massive exaggeration, whichever you like. Semantics, really.

Quinn: I showed you one of them, hon. You thought it was well written.

Willa: All right.

Vega: So anyway, now that I know who is with whom, who’d like to start?

Willa: Start what? What is this, really?

Jessie: Don’t tell her.

Lauren: Get some restraints.

Des: Quinn, sit on her or something.

Willa: What’s happening? What is happening? Quinn? What’s happening here?

Vega: Helen said you were all willing—

Sam: Don’t say it.

Des: Clamp a hand on her mouth before she blows it.

Vega: I’m doing a follow up to my article series and checking in with some of the favorite couples. I’ll be adding some new stories. Your sister said you’d—

Willa: No. Nope, no way. No. Is she talking about what I think she’s talking about?

Quinn: Honey, she’s not going to get too personal.

Willa: No.

Lauren: Willa, come on. It’s a couple of questions.

Willa: Not going to happen.

Kayin: Get over yourself, Will.

Willa: N. O.

Quinn: Where are you going? You can’t just leave. This is your sister’s restaurant. She’s going to wonder where you went.

Willa: Goodbye. Nice to finally meet you, Vega, but goodbye.

Jessie: You married her, Quinn.

Quinn: I’m amazed she stayed as long as she did.

Lauren: You could just tell your story, Quinn. Willa doesn’t have to be here for that.

Quinn: Right. Then you can live with her for the next twenty years.

Jessie: That’d be interesting. What do you say, Lauren? Want to move in with Quinn and Willa?

Des: You horn dog.

Jessie: Shut up, Des.

Isabel: Austy’s blushing again.

Elise: Knock it off.

Vega: If we could just—

Caroline: She’s so cute when she blushes.

Kayin: Are you imagining that foursome, Aust?

Elise: I want to remind you all that I am armed.

Sam: You’re not really, are you?

Elise: Keep teasing my partner, and we’ll all find out.

Des: Damn, Elise. That was hot. Ouch, stop hitting me, love muffin.

Kayin/Caroline/Briony/Vega: Love muffin?

Des: We’re trying on food products. So far, it’s working.

Jessie: Food products? Please shoot me if I have to resort to that, will ya, Elise?

Elise: Gladly.

Vega: As I was saying—

Isabel: Where’s M?

Caroline: She was just here.

Kayin: Are you sure?

Sam: She is kinda quiet. She was here with us, wasn’t she, Bri?

Briony: You really have to ask where she is?

Jessie: She probably used Willa’s distraction to make a break for it.

Isabel: That means Vega can’t hear your story, either.

Des: More article space for us, right, pumpernickel?

Jessie: Now that one’s gotta be made up.

Des: What do you think, breaded jumbo shrimp?

Elise: Hand me my bag, will you, Aust?

Austy: You can’t shoot her.

Lauren: Not with all these witnesses.

Jessie: We can make a pact not to say anything at the trial. Someday, someone will want to make a movie about our pact.

Des: Hey!

Skye: Buttercup.

Sam: Please say you call her Princess Buttercup. That will make my entire year.

Des: See this fist, Sam?

Austy: Forget what I said, Elise.

Elise: About?

Austy: Go ahead and shoot her.

Jessie: Now we’re cooking with gas.

Iris: Hey, Vega. Did I hear someone planning a crime?

Vega: Glad you’re here. I've been thinking about emptying out the top shelf of the bar over there. Helen and Joe ditched me, and I’m not quite sure what to make of this group.

Iris: Got a 911 text from Joe. Elise? Is that you? Good to see you. Are you back in Seattle to stay? Dealing with the Feds got really dull once you left.

Elise: Hi, Iris. You look great. I hear you’re not on the force anymore.

Iris: Retired for my sanity.

Elise: I hear ya.

Iris: Who’s the one thinking about shooting someone?

Elise: It’ll be my weapon, but I have a feeling several people will fight over it.

Iris: Well, as long as you have it coordinated.

Vega: You don’t seem to be helping.

Iris: They do get a little intimida—where’s Willa?

Quinn: Where do you think?

Iris: You tried to get her to talk about your relationship?

Vega: That’s why we’re here. Helen cleared it. Or I thought she cleared it. Where is she, by the way? How long could it take to cook dinner? We’ve been here forever.

Briony: It’s been ten minutes.

Vega: With this group.

Briony: Understood.

Vega: So if we could get started. I’d love to go around the table and hear about how you all got together. Say whatever you're—

Lynn: What's going on here?

Jessie: Who are you?

Lauren: Sorry, but the restaurant is closed.

Austy: Can we help you?

Lynn: Why are you all here?

Vega: We’re conducting an interview.

Lynn: Of what?

Vega: Their love stories.

Iris: Vega’s a journalist and an author. Perhaps you read her article series earlier this year?

Lynn: You don’t need to hear their love stories. I’ve already written them. Entire book length love stories. Yours included, Vega. No need to rewrite them. I’ll even send you the files since you all star in them. Honestly, people, it’s like you want to try my patience. Stay on paper. Stop attempting to violate my copyrights and go back to your separate stories. I can’t keep you all straight.

Austy: Neither can we.

Lauren: Good one, Young’un.

Quinn: Funny, Aust.

Lynn: Oh, please.

Kayin: Are you single? I know somebody who’d be great for you.

Isabel: Not Erin?

Caroline: No, she wouldn’t do.

Jessie: Might want to leave the nice stranger lady alone. She doesn’t seem to be enjoying this.

Quinn: Agreed.

Des: Huh? Why?

Elise: She just got her hands on my bag.

Austy: Please don’t, Lynn. Elise will have so much paperwork to fill out if her weapon is used to shoot someone here, and Helen’s only got Joe tonight to help her clean up all the blood and gore.

Jessie: It’ll ruin dinner.

Vega: Don’t look at me, Lynn. They’ve been like this since I sat down.

Lynn: Bleep.

Jessie: Bleep?

Lynn: I’m trying to cut down on swearing.

Briony: It’s not really cutting down if you just substitute another word for the swear word. You’re still swearing; it’s just not offensive.

Lynn: This is a bleeping nightmare that’s never gonna bleeping end.

© 2016 by Lynn Galli

Vega and the author