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Hanging on the Telephone

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Sheena googles the skinny girl from Beach City after the show and finds almost nothing. No social media, no web site, nothing. From the whole “conscious manifestation of light” line, she was pretty sure Pearl was some sort of yogalates instructor or selling essential oils or at least running one of those hippy-dippy boardwalk shops you can find anywhere on the shore.

Then she stumbles on Keep Beach City Weird and discovers that maybe Pearl wasn’t using a line. While the kid running the blog is clearly a conspiracy nut, he has a lot of extremely helpful photos. The beach temple is majorly wild and it does seem like monsters or aliens attack Beach City regularly. And if the blog is right, Pearl really, really believes she’s an alien taking human form and her friends and the kid all back her up on it.

Sheena’s not sure how to feel about it at first. After a couple of days and some good sessions at her dojo, she decides what the hell. The universe is a strange and diverse place. Maybe there are ancient alien lesbians who chill on the beach and fight monsters and go to rock shows. Sheena’s going to keep an open mind about it.

It takes Pearl three days to call her after the show anyway. Sheena’s not surprised it takes that long at all. Ancient alien or not, Sheena knows how other women can be. The really straightforward way Pearl came up to her and the whole vibe that she wasn’t sure whether or not they were flirting when they clearly were says that Miss Pearl has been out of the game for a long, long time.

When the phone rings and Sheena doesn’t know the number, she answers. Usually she wouldn’t, but she’s digging this whole destiny vibe and she’s curious how gem alien ladies follow up when they get a girl’s number.

“Hello, is this S? This is Pearl from the Crystal Gems,” Pearl’s clipped little voice announces. “I’m not sure you remember me, but we met at the Big Donut in Beach City and spoke at the garage concert afterwards.”

“Hey, girl,” Sheena answers. “This is Sheena. Nice to hear from you. Gotta admit, I wasn’t sure you were gonna call.”

“Oh, well,” Pearl says with a flustered tone, “I wasn’t sure I was. I didn’t have a telephone device until today, but my…friend…Amethyst insisted that I get one and ‘give you a ring.’”

Sheena chuckles. She’s kind of into how Pearl is 100% honest about her not-a-human self. Even the awkwardness is endearing. Pearl is trying really hard to be polite but also not really trying to hide that she’s weird.

“So how’s it going?” Sheena asks. “I mean, besides getting a new phone. What have you been up to?”

“Ohhhh,” Pearl says, sighing. “That’s quite a list. Amethyst was careless on a mission, so I had to think quickly to make sure that the Gem Mutant we were pursuing didn’t escape. Steven’s training led to some excitement like always, and then there was laundry and sword practice, too. Nothing special, I suppose.”

Nothing special. Huh.

Sheena is used to being the coolest girl in the room. She rides a hog, dyes her hair wild colors, and splits her time between teaching Tae Kwon Do and her art studio. Her friends tease her about only listening to bands so obscure you can only find their music by going to their garage shows and going “full Shane from the L Word”, but they still ask her if their outfits look good and mean it.

Pearl is cooler than Sheena, and that’s even taking into account that she is clearly an uptight lady who rocks mom jeans with a popped collar. It’s a total turn-on.

“I dunno, that sounds pretty cool to me,” Sheena says. “I did some Tae Kwon Do yesterday. My friend Janice and I teach at this little dojo in Bawlmer, but I don’t know how to use a sword. My mom is always saying if she lived in this town, she’d go strapped 24/7, but she’s such a suburban Betty. Tae Kwon Do is plenty.”

There is a pause so long that Sheena thinks the call’s dropped, but finally Pearl says, “I don’t know what anything you said means. I’m sorry. I don’t know what Tae Kwon Do is, or where Bawlmer is, or why you go strapped or what a suburban Betty is. But I can teach you to use a sword if you want.”

“Only if you let me give you a few Tae Kwon Do lessons,” Sheena counters. “You should come up to Bawlmer sometime. I give a killer tour and I don’t know if you want me around your kid…”

There. It’s out there. Sheena has been wondering about Pearl’s kid or maybe kids, the purple chick didn’t seem like anyone’s kid but Sheena didn’t know how to place her otherwise. But the little curly-headed boy - she assumes his name is Steven - is clearly Pearl’s and maybe this is U-Haul lesbian territory, but they’ve got to talk about him if this is going to go anywhere.

“My kid? Oh, you mean Steven,” Pearl says. Sheena can hear her blush over the phone. “He’s not my son, but. I don’t know how to explain. His mother and I were close. Very close.”

Crud. The whole story is between the lines there. Sheena gets it. She’s raising the ex’s son, which means the ex is dead or might as well be. There’s some serious baggage there, beyond the whole kid deal.

“Oh,” Sheena says.

“Rose is…not with us anymore. And I realized very recently that I couldn’t live for her anymore,” Pearl says nervously. “My goodness. I’ve never said that aloud to anyone. This is such a mess of a phone call. It’s not at all how I practiced it.”

Sheena, who is still not quite sure how she feels about the baggage of this Rose hanging over the phone call, chuckles again at the idea of Pearl practicing. She can picture that. Maybe the other girl from the show prepped her, telling her what was okay to talk about and what she was supposed to say, and Pearl snapping about how she didn’t know what any of that meant and this was all too complicated.

“Well, what did you practice?” Sheena asks, now curious how close her picture is to reality.

“I was supposed to tell you I enjoyed talking to you at the concert - which is true, by the way - and that I was interested in meeting again if you were interested,” Pearl says, her voice getting flustered. “I was supposed to suggest getting coffee and talking more.”

Sheena nods along. “I’m cool with getting coffee. When do you want to go?” she says. “Where do you want to meet?”

“Wait, you want to get coffee? I was told under no circumstances to talk about Rose or…what did Amethyst say…any downer stuff,” Pearl says. “I think I broke both of those rules within minutes.”

“Eh,” Sheena says. “So you’re raising your ex’s kid. That’s within acceptable lesbian drama boundaries. Who doesn’t have that ex?”

“Oh. Oh my,” Pearl says.

Sheena would give a million dollars to see Pearl’s face right now. “Do I need to translate?” she asks, even though she’s pretty sure that alien or not, Pearl got it. Something about the “oh my” suggests that Pearl is surprised and a little pleased by Sheena’s reaction.

“Absolutely not!” Pearl says, sounding offended. “I’m not used to my life being put in such human terms, but it sounds quite accurate.”

“Seriously. We all have that ex,” Sheena says. “I’ve been that ex. So, seriously, where should we get coffee?”

“I actually don’t know,” Pearl says. “I don’t drink a lot of coffee.”

Sheena considers the places she thinks are cool for a first date like this. It takes a minute, but she hits on the perfect idea. “Okay, have you been to Delmarva Head Brewhouse? It’s like, fifteen miles up the road from Beach City in Dogfish Beach. It’s not coffee, but they’ve got great beach fries. We can hang there or sit on the beach and talk.”

“I would like that very much,” Pearl says.

They set up a time and then Pearl yelps and says she has to go or something is going to blow up. The last thing Sheena hears before the call ends is Pearl shrieking “Steven, what is IN that bubble? No, Amethyst, don’t…” and then the line goes silent.

Well, this is going to be one wild first date. Sheena can’t wait.