***The Haven, Montrose, TX***
Vic sat in the chair and stared into the mirror that ran the length of the wall. His make-up case sat open on the countertop that also ran the entire length of the wall. He could have gotten ready at Toto’s, of course. Most of the other performers probably did.
But he was not in the mood to socialize with others. He got more than enough of that here. What had he been thinking, inviting these people to live with him? It had been more than a decade since Vic had a live-in lover. He had gotten accustomed to his privacy.
Sure, they mostly kept to themselves as well. But still, just remembering to put on underwear to walk into la cocina por comida was a pain in the ass. He didn’t get the feeling that Jo-Jo would care all that much. And he was sure that the kid was used to it.
They had gotten to talking while they moved all that furniture. Vic was only mildly shocked to discover Donovan had been a male stripper in Vegas. He had teased Donovan about getting him a job at the club as well. No one would recognize him in drag. The man had just laughed and ran his hand over his goatee, making a lude comment about not parting with his flavor saver.
Living with women, though, was a totally new experience. Selena was the reason he had to put on pants just to get a glass of aqua. For a pregnant woman, she was incredibly naïve. Maybe that was why she was in that situation? All the girl seemed to do was watch the Spanish language channel, eat, and sleep. Someone should warn her about getting fat if she kept that up. But it probably wouldn’t sound right coming from a forty-plus-year-old gay man who had never been with a woman.
Vic knew he was dawdling. He struggled, lacking the motivation to begin the ritual that transformed him into the brash and beautiful Victoria Flores. The reason was simple. For the first time in close to a quarter-century, she was not a headliner. Her rise had been stellar; within months of winning that amateur night competition, Victoria was the main event in La Nueva. And she had remained top dog in la Zona Rosa, right up until this little adventure.
But despite that solid track record and experience, even with Clive’s recommendation, the manager here had been firm. He had his headliners. He was happy to offer Vic a three-month stint as a guest performer, but Victoria’s name would not appear on the marquee. She would be the opening act for those younger stars.
Of course, Vic always knew this day would come. That was why he had so carefully squirreled away money. He did not want to be some pathetic loser trying to hold onto old glory when it came. Or worse yet, using that past fame to attract lover patrons. He always planned to retire in style. A final tour, then someplace quiet near the beach, maybe.
Vic kept reminding himself that things were different now. This was just temporary. When this was all over, he would be dead or in prison. Just like the rest of his family. All that money he’d saved would mean nothing then. It certainly hadn’t saved the Sanchez-Garcia dynasty that his mother had always harped on about. And they’d had a helluva a lot more than Vic.
But if he ever wanted to get out of this place and to work, he did not have time to dwell on that. Besides, he could feed Victoria’s unquenchable need for attention at Al’s birthday party on Sunday. The couple had been nothing but wonderful to them. Vic felt guilty about deceiving them. Especially if he or his friends brought trouble to this place. He would do all he could to make sure that didn’t happen.
He was glad that they each had their own bathrooms. At least he was not hogging the damned thing. Maybe this was a bad idea? Did he really need a job? With the money that he had taken from his accounts, all of them could live for….
And do what? Sit around, eating, watching TV, and getting fat like the girl? No, he needed the distraction while he came up with some plan to ingratiate himself with those half-sisters in that god-awful little town that his father had told him about. Without them ever knowing who he truly was would be best. But that made things even more complicated. How would he even arrange to meet them?
Vic knew that his mind was rambling. It had done that all too often since his Tio Manuel’s phone call. Thankfully, the man had the presence of mind not to use the church’s phone. Otherwise, he would probably be in the custody of the federales or the American government, along with his oldest brother.
He had been thinking about all of it for weeks. Playing it over and over in his mind. He thought when he accepted Clive’s long-standing offer to appear at Fee-Nix that would give him time to come up with some plan. But this damned virus, and perhaps the economic downturn, had changed all that.
With a heavy sigh, he began the transformation. Victoria was the stronger one anyway. Maybe she would have answers.
Maybe this revenge thing was the wrong idea? How many times had Mama told him he was weak? He certainly wasn’t doing any of this for her or Diego. He had washed his hands of them as quickly as they had of him. Roberto had been a good kid, though. But could he do this? Even for his youngest brother?
Vic would have time to ponder those things and come up with that plan later. Right now, he needed to get his ass moving, or he wouldn’t need to worry about that job. As always, he had donned his falsies and underwear before even sitting down to do his make-up. So Vic had only to slip into the black sequin dress before adding the platinum blond wig.
He frowned at the woman in the mirror as he tossed back the last of the Clase Azule in the glass. He didn’t know what the manager’s problem was. Victoria looked at least a decade younger than his forty-four years.
“Twenty-nine. Veintinueve and not a day more, mi encantador,” Victoria sassed back.
Shoes, and he was out the door. He thought about calling a taxi, but the walk would do him good. He brushed past some man in a suit on this way down the stairs. He did not even stop to apologize properly, throwing a simple “Lo siento,” over his shoulder at the dark blond and surprisingly fit form.
Maybe he’d have to get to know his new neighbor. It had been way too long since he’d had a lover. Hell, since he’d even gotten laid. If he was going to spend the rest of his life in prison, where consent wasn’t necessary, or worse yet, dead, then he definitely wanted to enjoy the life he had left.
“As beautiful as the day we first saw you,” Al’s deep voice assuaged Victoria’s wounded ego a bit as she walked past the older man trimming the hedges. The Haven definitely was the right name for this place. Vic would just have to be sure he didn’t get too complacent. He was here for a purpose. He couldn’t forget that.