Excerpt: Green Toes

There’s a throbbing bass, bodies in the dark all around her, and a cute girl slowly growing impatient as Laura struggles to find anything interesting to say.

“I’m so glad summer’s coming,” she shouted desperately over the noise.

“Yeah, right,” said the girl, with a slight look of interest. “There’s so much good shit coming up, can’t wait for the big summer dance parties.”

This was what Laura hated about clubs. It wasn’t the drinking, which was nothing new to her, and at least it was a change of setting from the pub in Warragul. She didn’t mind dancing, even if the dancing here was different to the country balls she used to go to. It was trying to make conversation with people she had nothing in common with other than being queer.

Maybe Laura could convince the girl to forget about waiting to get through the crush at the bar and just drag her back onto the dance floor. The only things on her mind about summer were planting vegetables and backyard barbecues.

Before she could think of a cooler answer, though, another woman was at her dance partner’s elbow, and they were squealing about how long it had been since they’d seen each other.

“Come and dance,” the newcomer pleaded.

The woman looked back at Laura. She didn’t ask if it was okay if she left, but the question was clear. Laura took one more look at her—the ragged asymmetrical haircut, the baseball cap set at just the right angle and the singlet emblazoned with a joke she didn’t get—then smiled and waved her away. Both women smiled back and then disappeared into the crush.

Of course, this was when Laura finally managed to get to the bar and grab her drink.

“Butches, huh?” the bartender said, sympathetically. “Sometimes they’re as bad as men.”

Laura didn’t think so, but she was nowhere near ready for that debate. She just paid, smiled, and slipped out to the courtyard where she could drink and people-watch in relative quiet.

“Hey, it’s the country girl!”

Laura cringed at the nickname, but it wasn’t said unkindly. She wasn’t surprised to suddenly find Tash’s long, tanned arms around her neck. They’d met a few weeks earlier at an event at the local queer bookshop. Laura had gone in the hopes of meeting some interesting people, soaking up some queer culture or something, and wound up standing in the corner nursing a coffee until Tash had struck up a conversation.

“Striking out again, eh?” Tash pulled Laura to her side in a hug, looking after the other girl.

“We had nothing to talk about.”

“You don’t start with talking.” Tash sighed, rolling her eyes. “At least not until you’re both drunk enough to think everything’s interesting.”

Tash was the kind of glamorous girl that Laura had always imagined finding at city nightclubs. Laura was sure she’d be able to go home with any woman she wanted any night of the week—she seemed to rule this scene. She was so gorgeous that Laura was too intimidated to even be attracted to her. Though there had been a moment of confusion when Tash gave Laura her number that day in the bookshop, and Laura thought she was picking her up.

“Oh! No, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to get you confused, although that’s sweet,” she’d said, when Laura shyly asked if that was what was happening. “You’re a cutie, alright, but I don’t really date femmes.”

Laura had looked down at her long skirt and ballet flats. “I’m a femme?”

“Definitely feminine of centre,” Tash agreed, patting her shoulder. “I’m just saying, we should swap numbers so I can take you out some evening and show you around, help you find some nice girls your style.”

“Because I’m hopeless, huh?”

“Laura, I like you, but if you get down on yourself I’m going to have to smack you,” Tash had said, dryly. “You’re not hopeless, you’re just new around here. I’ve never moved, but it must be hard, and I know dating’s hard. You need someone in your corner. I just want to be your wingman, that’s all.”

Which was how she’d wound up at the Glasshouse for the third Saturday night in a row, alternately dancing, drinking, and clinging to Tash when it got too hard to navigate the complex social layers of Melbourne lesbian culture without a guide. She was more confident these days, at least, mostly because after three weeks the club was less intimidating and more familiar. Yet it wasn’t even midnight and she was thinking of just going home to bed.

“You can’t!” Tash exclaimed, horrified. “You can’t just give up like that, Laura, there are so many girls here you haven’t met yet!”

“I’m not giving up, I’m just not feeling it tonight.” Laura poked at the ice in her glass with her straw. She didn’t even really want to finish her drink.

“Come on, there must be one girl in here you’d like to go home with. What’s your type?”

“That’s the trouble. I don’t know.” It wasn’t like there was a scarcity of different ‘types’ to meet. Just in the small beer garden out the back there were women of every hairstyle, outfit, and gender presentation she could have imagined back when she lived in the country, and quite a few she’d only just heard about. “Not that I don’t like anyone here, I just don’t know who I like. The only person I’ve ever dated was a guy from my hometown.”

“Boys.” Tash wrinkled her nose. “Well, we all make mistakes.”

“He wasn’t a mistake, I loved him,” Laura snapped. She rubbed a hand over her eyes. “Sorry. I think I must be tired.”

“No, I’m sorry.” Tash really did look it, too. “I shouldn’t have said that—I don’t know anything about him.”

Laura sighed. “It’s okay. I mean… well, I don’t know. Whatever. I’m not mad at you, I’m just not feeling it tonight. I’ll see you next time?”

“I’m still sorry, that was a jerk thing to say. I don’t know that many bi girls but I shouldn’t assume.” Tash chewed her lip. “Well, travel safe. Maybe we could get hangover brunch tomorrow? I’ll text you.”

“Sure thing.”

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