Jaye's hand slid across the dresser, knocking her lamp to the floor before closing over her cell phone. "Hello?"
"You've got to come down here."
"You've got to Were you asleep?" Mahandra asked.
"No." Jaye sat up in bed, rubbing her eyes. "You want me to come to the Barrel?"
"I need you to. Your sister is here."
"Not exactly making me rush out to the car."
"She's here with a woman who looks just like me."
Jaye sighed and waited for the inevitable cryptic-yet-applicable order before remembering that Aaron had carted away her menagerie. The implication that she needed the animals' encouragement to come to the aid of best friend propelled her out of bed. "All right, I'm on my way."
Mahandra was hovering near the hostess station when Jaye arrived. "There they are," she hissed, grabbing Jaye's arm and dragging her to the bar before she could figure out where "there" was.
Eric pushed a shooter toward Jaye as she sat. "Mahandra filled you in on her crisis?"
"Have you seen this woman who allegedly looks like her?" Jaye asked, ignoring Mahandra's muttered "'Allegedly'? Too much family togetherness for you."
"Nope," Eric replied. "I've been behind the bar all night."
"Then I'm going to have to go over there"
"What!" Mahandra yelped, pushing Jaye back into her seat. "You can't go over there."
Jaye reached up and pressed her shooter into Mahandra's hands. "I'm going to go over there, then I'm going to come back here and tell you that you're crazy, okay?" She glanced at Eric. "Keep giving her drinks."
A quick survey of the restaurant pinpointed Sharon's blond coif and Jaye tried to approach it as casually as possible. "Sharon?" she asked with what she hoped was surprise. "What brings you to the Barrel?"
Sharon broke off mid-laugh, looking like a duck before regaining control of her expression. "Jaye. Fancy meeting you here." She smiled at the woman sitting across from her. "Joanne, my sister Jaye. Jaye, Joanne Jefferson."
"Hello, Joanne," Jaye said gamely, scrutinizing the woman for Mahandra-ness. "It's funny, I don't think I've seen you around. Do you live in Niagara?"
"I'm from New York City, actually. Your sister and I met at a law conference there."
"Can you believe that Joanne's never been to the Falls before?" Sharon interjected. "Anyway, tell Eric hi for me," she continued, jerking her head at the bar.
Jaye decided to be merciful and catch the clue. "Well, I'll leave you to your date." Not entirely merciful, judging from the way Sharon's eyes widened. "See you at game night," she added, which was simply untrue.
When Jaye returned to the bar, three empty shooters sat in front of Mahandra. "So," she demanded, motioning to Eric for another, "you see it, don't you?"
"Maybe she looks a little like you."
"A little! All this time, your sister must have been into me, but she knew that nothing could happen, so she held out for my double."
"Your double? First of all, Sharon was never 'into you.' Second of all, Joanne is not your double. She's at least Sharon's age; they met at some lawyer thing."
"Older like Sharon and a lawyer like Sharon. Oh my god, she went out and found a better version of me. This is like when Binky stole your life!"
Jaye kicked Mahandra in the shin as Sharon approached. "Hey," she called as her sister passed the bar.
Sharon paused, pack of cigs and a lighter in her hands. "I was just on my way to"
"Illegally smoke in the bathroom?" Eric suggested.
"Yeah, so if you'll excuse me."
"She seems nice," Jaye volunteered. "Joanne, I mean."
Jaye could see Sharon turning the statement over in her mind, looking for the trap. "Thank you," she said at last. "She is nice."
"Good." Jaye nodded decisively, then shooed her down the hallway. "Go have your smoke."
As the ladies' room door swung shut, Mahandra leapt to her feet. "Easy there," Jaye said, grabbing her wrist.
"Let me go, Jaye. I have to talk to her."
She wished that Aaron had left the fish; what if Mahandra was supposed to talk to Joanne? While Jaye hesitated, Mahandra pulled free and hurried off. Jaye downed the shooter that Eric had prepared for Mahandra and turned to watch the show.
Mahandra dropped into Sharon's empty chair.
"Hi, I'm a friend of Jaye's," she said, then shivered. It was like looking into a mirror, a fun house mirror that showed you grown up and successful. And gay. "Sharon's a Republican," she blurted. "And closeted. Put that together and what do you get? I'll tell you: internalized homophobia." She paused to finish Sharon's cocktail, then noticed Jaye signaling frantically at the edge of her vision; Sharon was on her way back over. "Nice meeting you," she said and bolted.
"Was that Mahandra?" Sharon asked as she sat down. She picked up the empty cocktail glass, frowning. "Hey, what happened to my drink?"
"How would you describe your political views?"
Sharon set the glass down with a thunk. She was going to kill Jaye.