Promises Made

Virgil walked behind Arsene as they navigated a narrow set of stairs deep in the bowels of Jardin. Arsene had Robin slung over their shoulders, who had passed out seconds after returning from the veil.

Virgil wasn’t entirely sure how she and Arsene were still inside of Jardin. The building took up a corner of a dockside block on the Strip and was only three stories tall, but Virgil felt like she and Arsene had walked enough corridors to be Downtown by now and that was without wondering how exactly these stairs seemed to still be going up.

Virgil was pretty sure she saw a door and lights off in the distance. Virgil couldn’t figure out what were the color of the lights that were peeking out of the cracks of the unreachable portal. The lights always seemed to change just when Virgil thought she caught a glint of red or purple or orange.

Virgil hadn’t had a clear idea of where exactly she planned on taking Robin after she broke Todd’s wrist, but Virgil wanted to be well clear of the Strip before cops showed up. Arsene had assured her the pigs wouldn’t be a problem.

“Don’t you worry your head, little ghost. You and your friend are in no danger here.” Virgil could not place Arsene’s accent although she was fairly certain it wasn’t French or Laotian.

Arsene had walked towards Robin and Virgil slowly and with their hands up and then picked Robin up like she was a sleeping kitten and gently laid her over their shoulders. Arsene was still in their mod girl outfit. Arsene’s face was lined and their hair was starting to gray, but their tan, muscular shoulders carried Robin without noticeable burden.

Arsene didn’t even wrinkle their dress.

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June 20th, 2009

[Author’s Note: This chapter of Orchid was initially scheduled to go up on October 28th. Nic and I decided to delay publication of this part of our story after the shooting at the synagogue in Pittsburgh out of respect to the victims and family of that horrific tragedy.

If you’ve been reading Orchid from the beginning, you may remember that one of our heroines, Robin Goldberg, is a young Jewish woman living in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh’s historically Jewish neighborhood. This chapter was going to be our first return to Robin’s part of the story since the second chapter. Like myself, Robin is a secular, non-practicing Jew who still takes great pride in her cultural heritage. However, as this chapter deals with contemporary anti-Semitism and how white nationalists use the internet as a platform to intimidate Jews and queer folks and people of color, Nic and I felt it was appropriate to let ourselves and others continue to grieve over the loss in Pittsburgh before we told a story about our own experiences with modern anti-Semitic violence.]


Robin brushed her hair as she got ready for her fourth date with Virgil.

A relationship had not been in Robin’s day planner for that summer. She was done with school. Robin had a summer to herself before she started teaching full time. She had thought maybe she’d make another movie. Robin had an idea for this low-budget home invasion thriller. Robin still wanted to talk to some friends about financing, but the only part of her life she seemed to be able to  actually think or talk about anymore was Virgil.

Relationship… Jesus. You’ve hung out three times.

Robin stopped brushing her hair. Her futile attempts to straighten her mane only seemed to be making it curlier.

Virgil and Robin had danced their second night at Jardin. Virgil ran her hands through Robin’s hair, lavishing attention on seemingly every curl as they danced and leaned against each other on the dance floor. Virgil had signed to Robin how beautiful her hair was. Virgil massaged Robin’s scalp as Robin danced with her back to Virgil’s chest and Virgil’s other hand traced endless, icy circles on Robin’s exposed midriff.

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How It Will Always Be

Melika was on Tumblr.

Melika reminded herself that she hadn’t been dragged out to Terre. She was happy to be at the gallery. Melika was celebrating Sabine’s big night. She wanted to be present for Sabine, and Melika was… sort of.

Melika had been fine when Sabine was with her. A close friend was the only emotional support system Melika still needed to function in crowded, public spaces.

Melika had been fine when Severin had stopped by and asked how she was doing. Severin did have a habit of studying Melika intently and not apologizing for the stares. Melika could handle Severin’s looks though. She knew why they stared.

Yet, Melika still felt like she would rather cease to be or to have ever even been than be left by herself at shows like this.

This is how it will always be.

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October 11th, 2008

A couple of Todd’s coworkers were manning the late shift in Thibodeaux #3’s cramped lobby, checking student IDs and processing off-campus guest sign-ins. A tiny freshman girl was vomiting in a trashcan, near the line for the elevators. A friend held her hair back. The RAs working the desk all wore the same gold uniform and had the same “I’d rather be asleep or studying or out drinking or literally anywhere besides babysitting all these drunk assholes” look plastered on their faces.

The red-headed sophomore with the Introduction to Juvenile Delinquency and Juvenile Policing textbooks open in front of her was in charge of the ID swiping station. She did not smile when Todd approached.

“Enjoying your night off? Must be nice.”

She took Todd’s student ID and swiped it.

“It’s been wonderful.”

Todd flashed his most charming smile, but his peer still didn’t react. Todd’s face flushed with frustration. He hid the anger quickly, but Todd wasn’t fast enough to keep Melika from noticing his facade starting to crack.

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October 10th, 2008

Melika had just started telling her closest friends that she was a woman. She was wearing makeup to queer bars. She was finding dresses and women’s formal wear that she felt comfortable in. Melika didn’t know if she’d ever be able to afford hormones or surgery, but she was going to exist as a woman and do so outside the confines of her own head.

Melika had heard the rumors about Jardin and wanted to explore those lustful impulses for herself. As Melika prowled the dance floor, she received invitations to the multitudes of sexual congress. Queer women and femme-leaning genderqueers waved beckoning fingers and stole hungry glances, but, after an hour, Melika was sitting at the Rosebud, sipping a screwdriver, and trying not to cry.

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Homes and Self-Portraits

Sabine hated the glad-handing of big gallery shows.

They hadn’t sold a piece in over a month, and their rent was due in two weeks. Sabine was happy to have one of their works at Terre for the 2018 Pittsburgh Art Crawl. They had begged and pleaded with Severin for a spot. They were not, under any circumstances, asking their mother to help cover the rent… again. Sabine was a grown ass adult. They were a working artist. They could pay their bills.

Or, at least, that’s what Sabine told themself each day as they pushed aside the rational impulse to find a job with benefits and a salary.

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A Procedural Tragedy Simulator

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(Author’s Note: This is Dawn. This essay originally appeared on my personal blog where I occasionally put up non-fiction essays. I wanted to explain what this project meant to Nic and I. If you’re interested in knowing a little more about my non-fiction work , feel free to visit my blog and read the rest of this piece at the link at the end of this post.)

Orchid began on my 29th birthday.

In late February, my partner Nic and I were in the first couple weeks of our cohabitation. Neither of us were in healthy economic circumstances. For my birthday, The only present Nic could afford was dinner. We got (delicious) mall hot dogs. Nic felt bad about the meager celebrations. I tried to assure them that spending my birthday with them was more than enough, but Nic kept asking if there was anything else they could do. I was riding the high of the early glow of our relationship and so I worked up the courage to ask Nic if they wanted to write a story together.

Orchid is a trans/queer-centric urban fantasy serial, and it has been an experiment from the start because it isn’t a conventional serialized tale.

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