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If anyone on the 1:40 PM ferry to Squire's Isle happened to have a shortwave radio, they might find themselves scanning the dial as they neared the dock of the tiny northwestern island. They would scan back and forth across the dial, getting only static and the odd burst of a French-speaking DJ for their troubles until, finally, a lone voice broke through loud and clear like a beam of sunlight on a cloudy day.
"I can see the first ferry of the afternoon through my little window here. Hello, to all you newcomers. Hello, to everyone coming home after a journey. For those meeting me for the first time, I am Nadine Butler, the Pixie of K-E-L-F AM 1220, and I am here with you for another three hours or so. We're taking requests right now, so if you're a tourist, give me a call at 232-KELF and I'll do my best to make your stay on our little island as memorable as possible. Coming up, we've got the Eagles, Jackson Browne and Fleetwood Mac. Stay tuned!"
The broadcast was coming from a non-descript two-story gray building hiding behind a row of tourist shops. The booth where Nadine Butler broadcast her show was blessed with a window that did indeed look across the street into the crystal blue glare of the harbor and gave her an eagle-eye view of each new arrival. She had a special introduction for each ferry that arrived during her show and was especially welcoming to tourists.
The booth itself was a nondescript closet, dominated by the semi-circular table that held the various odds and ends of broadcasting. A stack of CDs and tapes towered to Nadine's left and just over her right shoulder, a wide picture window looked out into the bullpen and the sea of cubicles KELF called its business offices. As Nadine finished her welcome message, she hit the button that would begin a pre-set block of commercials and turned her attention to the phone banks.
The button for Line Three had been flashing since the end of the last song, so she depressed it first. "This is Nadine Butler and you're on the air with the Pixie. Tourist or local?"
"Um... tourist. Is this really on the air?"
"Live on tape, honey," Nadine said. She rested her elbows on the table and leaned towards the microphone. It increased the volume of her voice and listeners had told her it sounded more intimate, like she was in the room with them. "What's your name?"
"And what can the Pixie play for you, Robert?"
"You got any Springsteen? *Born to Run*?"
She glanced to her left and saw a Bruce Springsteen Greatest Hits CD within easy reach. She stretched her arm out and plucked the CD off the rack, withdrawing the disc as she spoke into the microphone. "Robert, that is one of my all-time favorite Springsteen tunes and I *do* have it right here. I'm gonna play that for you the first chance I get. All right? Thanks for tuning in to the Elf! Have a great trip, okay?"
She smiled and disconnected the call. She glanced at the clock to see how much time was left on the commercial before she moved her finger to the next flashing light. "You're on with the Pixie. Tourist or local?"
She answered the next three calls, got a request from each of them, and seeded the songs into her already-planned play list. She ran her finger down the row of song titles and screwed her lips into a frown. With this list, plus the commercials she was obligated to play during this hour, she was still going to run a little short.
She pulled the headphones from her ears and hurried to the door of the booth. She stuck her head into the bullpen and scanned until she spotted an older black man pushing a mail cart between the desks. Billy, their resident mail boy, janitor, jack-of-all-trades, was in the middle of handing out that day's memos. She whistled and he lifted his rheumy eyes to her.
She said, "I need just under three minutes."
He leaned against his mail cart and drummed his long fingers on the rail. His eyes danced back and forth across the carpet as if reading something written on the hardwood underneath before a smile burst forth from his thin lips. He pointed at her and proudly said, "*Gypsys, Tramps and Thieves*, two minutes and thirty-six seconds."
"Cher?" Nadine said.
He shrugged and gripped the mail cart's rail with both hands. "I like 'er. Nice voice."
Nadine held her hands out in surrender and said, "Then Cher it is. Thank you, Billy."
She returned to her seat just as an ad for Gail's Seafood Restaurant ended. She put the cans back over her ears and depressed the broadcast button with her pinky. "Gail's Seafood Shack, man... Talk about some good eatin'. If you haven't been there, it is just the greatest seafood you will ever eat. And to prove it to anyone out there who doubts their Pixie, I have a coupon awarding dinner for two to Gail's if you can answer one extremely easy trivia question. Trust me, with food this good, I'm all but giving this prize away. Who, in 1966, said his band was bigger than Jesus? Give me a call at 232-KELF with the right answer and you'll be eating very, very well tonight.
"Right now, though, I'm sending this one out to Robert, a newcomer to our fair shores. Robert, I hope you have a great time on Squire's Isle and you don't feel the urge to run." She snickered and said, "Yeah, I know how bad that was. This is the Boss, from 1975, *Born to Run* on K-E-L-F."
As the song started, she saw that the lines had all lit up once more. It was the typical reaction when she ran a contest, especially an easy one, so she ran her fingers over the three lights and pressed one at random. "Hi, KELF. You're on with the Pixie."
"Hey, this is Tony. I just came over on the ferry and I wondered if I could request a song...?"
"Sure thing, Tony! What do you wanna hear?"
"*Me and You and a Dog Named Boo*, by Lobo, I think...?"
"Oh, I adore you for requesting that, Tony. I've loved that song since I was a little girl, so... I'm going to give you a special prize. You're my tourist of the day! What that means is you can come by the station - we're just south of the ferry lanes, just ask if you can't find us - and pick up a coupon for two free ice cream cones from Sandy's Dee-lights. Sound good?"
"That sounds great!"
"If you're happy, I'm happy, Tony. I'll get that song on for you ASAP and be sure to come by and get your coupon before five."
"Okay! I'm making my way over to, uh, the, uh..."
"Sholeh Harbor for the whale-watching?"
"Well, then, you're in for two treats today, Tony. I'll move your song up to make sure it plays on your way out there, all right?"
"Tony, I am going to send you away with good memories of Squire's Isle if it's the last thing I do. Keep it tuned to KELF and I'll get some bright red Georgia clay on your shoes."
"Well, all right."
She thanked him for calling and went on to Line Two. "KELF, you're talking to Nadine."
A woman meekly asked, "You have a winner for the trivia yet?"
"I don't! You wanna make a guess? Who said that his band was bigger than Jesus?"
"I *think* it was John Lennon..."
"That's right!" She hit a button that caused a noisemaker to sound. "Oh, no, there's confetti all over my booth! What's your name?"
"Well, Sara, are you a local or a tourist?"
"Born and raised here on the island."
"Well, that is fantastic! So you've been to Gail's before, I assume."
"Good! You know what you're in for. Get something really good and think of me when you're eating, all right?"
Nadine chuckled. "Okay, I'm going to send you to the secretary now. She'll get some information from you and then you can pick up the coupons anytime before five this evening. Sound good?"
"Glad to hear it. Sara, who is hooking you up with a free dinner?"
"The Pixie," she said with a bit of laughter in her voice.
"That's right, your Pixie Godmother never lets her children go hungry. Keep listening to 1220 KELF and you have yourself a great dinner."
There were still two minutes left on the Boss, so she went ahead and answered Line Three. "KELF, this is the Pixie."
"You have a winner yet?"
"Ooh, sorry, we just got one."
"Ahh, nuts. Thanks anyway!"
"You got a song you want to hear?"
"*Norwegian Wood*, by the Beatles."
"Oh, no, you're a real Beatles fan, huh? You probably knew the answer right off."
"Yeah, I did."
"Aw, well, better luck next time! I promise you at least one more easy Beatles trivia sometime this week, okay?"
"I'll train my dialing finger."
"Don't give me *too* much information, honey," Nadine laughed. "I'll get your song on for you as soon as I can, all right?"
She disconnected the call, saw all the lights were dim, and rolled her chair around to face the stack of CDs next to her. She ran her fingers down the spines and pulled discs of the Beatles and Lobo. As she was searching for Cher, there was a tap on the glass behind her. She turned and saw Miranda Powell standing in the bullpen. Nadine waved and Miranda motioned for her to come out. There wasn't enough time before the end of the song for a conference, so Nadine pointed at the CD and held up two fingers. Miranda nodded and crossed her arms to wait.
Nadine leaned forward and wondered what Miranda could want. She was the station manager, the 'messenger' they weren't supposed to kill when she gave bad news from the owner. She was mostly hands-off when it came to the talent, so it would have to be something of semi-importance to get her to interrupt a show. All Nadine could think of was there had been a complaint. "I said Jesus on the air," she muttered. "The Satanists must be demanding equal time."
When the song ended, she hit a switch to transfer the feed back to her mic. "Hey, everyone out there, be you tourist or native, whale-watcher or sight-seer, friend or foe. I'm Nadine Butler, the Pixie, and we have a winner for the dinner at Gail's." She hit the replay button and the call with Sara's voice began issuing from the tape deck.
She set the requested Lobo song to play as soon as the winning call ended and stood up. She hung her headphones on the edge of the desk and went to the door. "I've got three minutes and some change," she told Miranda. "What's up?"
"You're not in trouble," Miranda said as introduction.
"Uh-oh," Nadine said. She slumped against the door and crossed her arms. "Now I'm *really* worried. What's wrong?"
Miranda reluctantly said, "Hoagie... has a conflict this weekend."
"Oh, *God,*" Nadine groaned. "Can that man *ever* fulfill an obligation? What is it this ti--" She froze when she remembered the commercial they had been playing endlessly that week. "Oh, no. Not the fair. Please, Miranda, do not do this to me. Please!"
Miranda, to her credit, did look uneasy at making the request. She lifted her fingers from where they lay on her forearm and said, "I'm sorry, Nadine, but he can't host it this year. You're the best option for replacing him. You're the most popular DJ we have and you... I'm sorry, but you *are* single."
*Ah,* Nadine thought. *That old chestnut.* She held up her hands in surrender. "Is there any way I can say no without it affecting my job here?"
"Well, we won't fire you, if that's what you mean," Miranda said with a playful smile. "But you'd really be helping us out. Most of the people going to see Hoagie would prefer to see you, anyway. It wouldn't affect ticket sales; we'd probably get even more ticket sales because of the switch. You'd be saving the day, Dean."
*Oh, not the nickname,* Nadine thought. She closed her eyes and accepted that it was already a lost cause. She waved her hands and said, "All right, yeah. Fine," Nadine muttered. "But remember this the next time we talk about raises, all right?"
"You got it. Thank you, Nadine. You're the best." She pulled a folded piece of paper from her pocket and thrust it into Nadine's hands. "Since the fair is this weekend, I'm going to need you to announce the change as soon as possible."
"Make Hoagie do it during his show. Make him explain why he's backing out."
"Don't make Hoagie the bad guy, Dean."
"Stop calling me Dean," Nadine said. She snapped the paper away from Miranda and said, "This is the last time this quarter, all right? The last time I host one of these stupid galas, the last concert, the last last minute switch. Deal? From now on, when I have a weekend off..."
"It will actually be a weekend off," Miranda said. "I got it. You're a dear for putting up with it this time."
Nadine sighed and waved her off. She went back into her booth, reading over the copy as she sat down and replaced the headphones. She flipped a switch and tried not to sigh into the microphone. "That was Lobo with *Me and You and a Dog Named Boo,* and those wheat fields of St. Paul. Ahh, gotta love that song. Just makes you want to hop in the car and just keep driving. Don't try it here, though; can't drive too far on an island. Unless you're going in circles.
"Anyway, enough of my nonsense. Or maybe more of my nonsense. Because I just got handed a note," she waved the paper so it would be heard over the mic, "that says I am going to be the hostess with the most-est of this years Squire Days. That's right, this weekend's renaissance faire will be emceed by yours truly. I'll be out there, broadcasting live for most of the weekend. So why don't you come by and see me, okay? We'd love to see you all out there in your nice tights and big fluffy dresses. Coming up, we've still got the Eagles and a few more requests for those tourists, bless their pointy heads. Keep listening to your favorite Pixie on 1220 KELF AM."
She pulled the headphones away and glanced at the phone lines. Sure enough, almost thirty seconds after she went to commercial, Line Three lit up. She glanced through the glass, saw that Miranda had left and answered the call. "KELF, this is the Pixie."
"So it *is* you," a quiet voice said. "Not some... I don't know, lying body-snatcher or anything?"
Nadine winced. "Hi, Kate. Look, there was..."
"You're working this weekend? *All* weekend?"
"That's what it looks like," Nadine said. "Only a couple of hours each day, but... yeah, it might as well be all weekend. Ruins our plans, at any rate." She checked the counter. A minute and forty-five seconds left on the commercial. "I... don't really have time to have this argument..."
"It's not an argument," Kate assured her. "I just want to make sure I have all the information so we can have a fully-informed fight when we get home. So... you're working all weekend? And when you're not working, you'll probably be too tired to do anything else. That's the situation?"
"I know, I know. It was my idea, you cancelled a bunch of stuff to clear the weekend so we could go and now I'm reneging and..."
"Okay," Kate interrupted. "That's all I needed to know. Have a good rest of the show."
Kate hung up abruptly and Nadine resisted the urge to throttle her mic. She mimicked Miranda's voice, giving her a nasal quality the real woman didn't actually possess. "You *are* single. You *are* the most popular DJ here. You *are* the biggest pushover on staff." She could tell them that she was seeing someone and just leave it at that, ignore gender and the whole furor it would cause to know her significant other was a woman. But she'd seen enough snooping to know that her lover's identity wouldn't stay secret for long. It was easier to just say she was single... in theory, at least.
She sighed, pushed a lock of hair out from behind her glasses and hit the broadcast button. "Welcome back. You're still listening to KELF, I'm still Nadine Butler, and our songs still rock." She transferred directly to the next song and sat back in her chair. She looked at her watch and groaned.
Three more hours on the air.
More than enough time to brace herself for a fight with her girlfriend.
Nadine looped her scarf around her neck just after she started *The Load-Out* by Jackson Browne. A nice, good song for ending her show. Plus, when partnered with *Stay,* as it usually was, the song was long enough to give her time to get out and let Hoagie into the booth for his show. Joe "Hoagie" Hogan was a full foot taller than Nadine and probably more than a foot thicker. He wore jeans and flannel shirts on the air, his curly blonde hair hugging his head as if afraid of the fall it would take should he go bald. He shed his denim jacket and tossed it over the back of her chair.
She rounded the table and let him take her place in the nerve center. She bent down and opened the fridge that was tucked beneath the desk. As she searched for a can of Pepsi, she said, "Joseph."
"'Joseph'? What'd I do?" the big man said, actually looking offended behind his day's-worth of beard stubble.
"You cancelled the renaissance faire."
"Ooh," he said. He nodded and said, "Yep, I did."
"You know what this does to my schedule?"
He scoffed. "What schedule? Come on, Nadine, we both know you're the most popular DJ here. I'm just giving the people what they want."
Nadine sighed and popped open her can. "Popular or not, you owe me."
"Yeah, yeah, I'll find some way to pay you back."
Nadine squinted at him from behind her glasses. "It worries me, the way you said that..."
He waved her out and she slipped from the booth. He trimmed off the end of "Stay" and said, "Welcome, welcome, welcome, I am Joe Hogan, you can call me Hoagie. I'll be here with you until you're sick of me."
"Too late," Nadine muttered.
She walked across the bullpen, stopping at her desk only long enough to finish her soda and pick up her leather satchel. She crushed the can and slipped it into her coat pocket before looping her bag's handle around her head and went down the narrow staircase.
The building was staggered, with the second story looking down over the first. The receptionist was on the ground floor, separating the 'celebrities' of KELF Radio from the outside world by means of a huge circular desk. Nadine rounded the edge of this barricade with a waggle of her fingers to Sue, the secretary on duty.
"I loved your show today, Nadine," Sue said, as she did every day.
"Thank you, Sue. See you tomorrow."
As she stepped outside, a brisk wind blew off the harbor and hit her broadside in the face. She paused, body bent against the wind, and fumbled with the buttons of her jacket. The lank dark hair that had been mashed by headphones all day suddenly came to life, exploding around her head like a dervish. She turned her sneakers to the left and walked to her bike with her coat held shut with both hands.
By the time she undid the chain and threw her leg over the seat, the wind had died down enough for her to find her balance. As she rode towards Spring Street, she could see the line of cars in the ferry lanes, and wondered how many of the people waiting there had called in requests.
She turned onto Spring Street despite the chill in the air; it was nearly a straight shot to her apartment, but it took about five minutes longer than her alternate, winding route. The fewer turns she had to make, the more time she had to think. The more time she had to think, the easier the upcoming fight with Kate would go. An added bonus was that her route took her past the newspaper offices where Kate worked. As she sped by, she straightened her back and peered through the window. Kate's desk, near the back of the brightly-lit room, was already vacant.
Probably already at the apartment, stewing, picking her words carefully. Nadine sighed; there was no way around it. Work was work.
She'd met Kate three years earlier when she had been doing a fluff piece for the newspaper - Celebrities of Squire's Isle - and rather than interview the mayor, Nadine had gotten the request. Coming from a raven-haired beauty like Kate, it was a hard request to turn down. Their first interview had gone well and transformed into dinner. Dinner had gone even better and transformed into a night of sex.
They'd been together ever since, two relatively visible women in a small town, both still closeted and butting heads about it. Kate was firmly in the closet and willing to stay there as long as she could. Nadine was wishy-washy on the subject. On the one hand, she would love to be out, would love to tell people that she was in a relationship for a number of reasons. Not the least of which was the fact she could finally tell Miranda that she couldn't do things like the renaissance faire because she had plans with her girlfriend.
She rounded the corner to her apartment building and parked her bike in the courtyard. The Blair Idyll Apartments was shaped like a U, three sections surrounding a small courtyard with a neatly-tended garden. Nadine herself tended the flowers in return for a break on her rent. As she walked her bike up the concrete walkway, she took a moment to look over her little soldiers. They had all been covered for the winter and looked like they were already miserably resigned to their hibernation.
Her apartment was in the center section and she pushed her bike into the foyer. Nadine's apartment was on the ground floor, to the left of the entrance. She only had one neighbor on the ground floor, directly across from her door. A flight of stairs that started just outside her door led up to the second floor, which had an identical floor plan and an open-air landing.
When she and Kate had started sleeping together, they'd been forced to sneak around as much as possible so as not to alert their neighbors. When Nadine's upstairs neighbor moved out, they'd struck on a brilliant idea. Kate moved out of her postage-stamp apartment and moved into the postage-stamp apartment above Nadine's. That way, they effectively lived together without raising too many eyebrows or having to pretend they were secret agents.
She chained her bike to the stair railing and went into her apartment. "Kate?" she asked. She withdrew the crushed can from her pocket as she dumped her scarf and coat on a convenient chair. Her apartment wasn't messy, but it was small enough to look cluttered. A couch and two armchairs dominated the living room, facing the small TV that stood on a small oak end table. Her wall was filled with framed photographs; whale-watching trips, Kate on the beach, her mother circa 1960 in a tremendously ugly hat.
She tossed her crushed soda can into the recycling bin next to the couch and moved through the living room to the hallway.
The living room and combination kitchen/dining room made up the front half of the apartment. A bedroom, bathroom and den made up the other half and were connected to one another by a thin hall between them and the living room. The bathroom and den were both clear. Her bedroom, which had been bed-free since she moved in and stacked all her excess things there, was also empty. With the entire tiny apartment searched, she had determined Kate was upstairs. Which meant Kate was too mad to even argue right now.
She dropped onto the couch, which doubled as her bed due to the cluttered bedroom, and found the remote amidst the clutter on the coffee table. She turned the TV on to the news, lay the remote on her stomach and let the impossibly pretty anchors talk her to sleep.
She woke to the feeling of hands on her feet. She didn't remember taking off her shoes - or laying down, for that matter - but the fingers working against her socks were so familiar that she kept her eyes closed for a few minutes. She sighed and pushed her black hair out of her face, realized her glasses were gone, and finally opened her eyes.
Kate was sitting on the other end of the couch with Nadine's feet on her lap, absently rubbing them as she watched the news. Nadine rubbed her eyes, looked at the TV and murmured, "What are you watching?"
"News. Late news. You've been asleep about an hour."
"Mm," Nadine said. She twisted to see the TV better, but kept her feet planted on her lover's lap. "Anything interesting in the world?"
"Fire in Seattle, fire department got it under control... nothing big."
"Squire Days, huh?"
"I thought Hoagie was going to do that."
"He said he would, but he had to back out. Family commitments, I guess. I didn't really ask."
Kate moved her hand to Nadine's ankles and lightly squeezed them. "You had commitments, too, you know... It was *your* idea."
"I know, hon." They'd had plans to drive to the mainland, see a couple of shows in Seattle, have a real date for a change. To actually walk down the street and hold hands with each other; they'd been looking forward to it for weeks. "I'm sorry. I know you had work, and I know you had to cancel just for this weekend. I'll make it up to you."
Kate's hands moved to the cuff of Nadine's jeans. "Really."
Nadine lifted the foot Kate wasn't holding and pressed her toes against Kate's chin. Kate laughed and tried to squirm away but managed only to lie down against the arm opposite Nadine's position. Nadine spread her legs apart and reached out and gripped Kate's arms. She pulled her lover forward and on top of her. Kate chuckled as they embraced and found each other's lips. Kate moaned as Nadine slid her fingers between the buttons of her blouse. "Just how do you plan to make it up to me?" Kate asked as she undid the button on Nadine's pants.
"How... um, w-what do you want?"
"Will you dress up for the faire? Will you dress up like a wench?"
"If it please milady," Nadine smirked.
Kate grinned and slipped her hand lower. Nadine gasped.
Afterward, naked and wrapped in each others arms and an old quilt, Nadine put her glasses back on and turned off the TV. Nadine had Kate's long auburn hair draped over her face and was dragging her fingers through the curled strands as she stared at the window. The blinds were drawn, thankfully blocking what they'd just done from the outside world. She tilted her head and said what she was thinking. "Maybe I should come out."
Kate didn't register shock, just kept her hazel eyes focused on the wall. "You don't think it would affect the show?"
Nadine shrugged. It was their most-quoted reason for not coming out; Nadine had to worry about people refusing to listen to a gay disc-jockey while Kate's fear was that the editor would suddenly be calling for the cancellation of her column. "I'd like to say no," Nadine finally said. "But truthfully? Hell..." She checked her watch and patted Kate's arm. "Dinner?"
"I ate before I came down." Kate kissed the back of Nadine's neck. "Sleep upstairs with me tonight."
"I have to get up early. I should stay down here."
"You sure?" Kate asked. "A warm bed instead of a couch... a warm me..." Her hand slipped around Nadine's waist and cupped her breast.
"I'd love to. But no, honey."
Kate got off the couch and gathered her clothes. Nadine watched as she dressed, eyes on her breasts until the shirt went on, shifting to her ass until the jeans were pulled up over it. Kate looked around and stuffed her underwear into the pockets of her jeans. She bent down over the couch and brushed her cheek across Nadine's. "Okay. See you tomorrow?"
"Mm-hmm." She stroked Kate's cheek and said, "This is our best fight ever."
Kate chuckled and brushed Nadine's hair. "Sleep tight."
Nadine waited for Kate to leave before she got off the couch. She rooted around in the bag next to her armchair until she found one of Kate's baseball jerseys. She was petite enough and Kate lanky enough that the jersey reached to mid-thigh on her, leaving her covered enough for comfort. She buttoned it as she walked into the kitchen in search of sustenance. She scrounged in the fridge for something to eat and found her supplies severely lacking.
She was about to call Kate and ask if the invitation was still open when there was a knock on the door. She paused, aware of how naked she was, aware of the underwear draped over the television set, and said, "Who is it?"
She opened the door and Kate stepped inside carrying a covered dish. She held it up and explained, "Last night's meat loaf. I looked in your fridge before you woke up; you don't have anything for dinner." She kissed Nadine's cheek and looked her over. "You look really hot in my jersey." She touched the white-and-blue hem and bit her bottom lip. "Don't stay up too late. Good night, sweetheart."
"Good night," Nadine said. She smiled and watched Kate go back upstairs. She kicked the door shut and carried her dinner into the kitchen. As she sliced off a piece and put it into the microwave, she smiled at Kate coming back downstairs for her. 'I knew you didn't have any food,' she'd said.
But still... they'd been together for three years. She expected to feel something other than sweetness and the occasional - okay, frequent - romps in the sack. If they eliminated the sex, what would they have? A good friendship. Leave the sex in, they'd have a *really* great friendship.
She snickered to herself and popped open the microwave. As she carried her food to the dining room table, she pushed her worries out of her mind. So what if all they had was a good friendship and really great sex? Relationships had been built on less, right?
*Besides,* she thought as she dug into her reheated dinner, *it's not like I have a ton of other prospects beating a path to my door...*
To be continued in Chapter Two
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