Rude Awakenings (Day 5 - Morning)

Her eyes opened to find the room more brightly lit. The winter sun was higher in the sky, meaning the cabaret’s owners had decided to allow her some extra sleep. Marisol stretched, her back arching catlike across the bed. As she rose to wakefulness, a memory of Remy passed before her mind. “Girl, you’re dead on your feet. Go. We’ve got this.”

It had been a day, alright. Heeding a call to help her former shipmates with their latest crisis, followed by a hectic and bustling night in the Cabaret had certainly taken it out of her. “You’re not a young chica anymore,” she told her reflection as she fought unruly hair into a single ponytail. The traditional sleepwear of panties and one of her husband’s tee shirts was soon covered by a terrycloth robe. Her feet now warmed by slippers, Marisol worked the stiffness out of her thighs as she moved into the kitchen.

The breakfast nook table was set for three, but none of the food had been taken. A carafe of steaming coffee stood untouched. On the stove, two burners flared red hot, but there was no hand to tend them. Her hosts were nowhere to be seen.

“Remy?” she called out as she shut the stove down. “Arturo? Is everything alright?” She wandered the apartment space, then took the stairway to the backstage rooms. Nothing seemed amiss, and there was no sound. The cabaret’s public space was dark, its’ tables stripped of their cloths and centerpieces. Still, no sign of the two proprietors. It wasn’t the furnace; the club was warm, but for a slight draft from the heavy front door, which stood ajar.

Marisol ventured out through the cabaret’s entrance. “Arturo? Remy?” Then she saw them, together in the middle of the street. A number of passersby had also stopped to stare in her direction. She noted their expressions, a mixture of curiosity, outrage, and in some cases, a malicious kind of mirth. She stepped into the street, toward the pair. ‘What’s going on?”

“Turn around.” Arturo laid his hands upon her shoulders as she gaped at the cabaret’s public face. A number of slurs and threats had been crudely painted across the front wall, doors, and windows. The bold lettering delivered a jarring message.

AKTUNG CODSUKERS

YOU SLY – YOU DIE

CHICHI BOYS GO HOME!!!

LIMP RIST MAGETS!!!

”Mi Dios, she gasped.

“Not this time,” Remy answered. “I thought we’d finally found a home.”

“We have.” As Arturo spoke, she could feel a subtle tightening of his grip upon her shoulders. “Interesting color choice, don’t you think?” The crude messages across the cabaret’s edifice were all a single color, the well known purple chosen by the Alliance. “And so, the war comes to our doorstep once again.”

Marisol turned, her jaw set in anger. “I’ll get started,” she said. “I can have this scrubbed off by…”

“Shhh shh shh,” Arturo’s eyes never left the hateful slogans as he hushed her. “No. Whitewashing hatred never makes it disappear. Leave it.”

Remy did a double take. “But our customers! This will scare half of them away! On Solstice…our biggest day! We’ll lose the audience…”

“Look around you,” his husband fixed them with a tight grin. “We have an audience right now.”

And with that, a smiling Arturo faced the crowd in the street. “Good morning, my friends! On behalf or my husband Remy, our friend Marisol, and all of your neighbors here at La Cabaret De Montagne, allow me to wish a joyous Solstice to each of you and your families!”

Marisol forced a weak smile for the assembled folk, as Remy did likewise.

Arturo offered a grand, sweeping gesture toward the sullied cabaret’s public face. “It would appear that during the night, our little Cabaret was visited by an artist. La Cabaret De Montagne supports all artistic expression…even that which may appear somewhat…” he shrugged, “controversial.” His eyes swept the crowd, a combination of locals he knew, and lumberfolk on their holiday. The expressions he read offered him complete testimony, including the smirks and whispers of three young men who snickered behind their hands as they watched from the side.

“Marrrisol,” he tilted his head in her direction. “We need purple paint…and might you have one or two stage lights available?”

“I think we do,” she nodded.

“Good. There’s no time to lose. My friends!!” Arturo once more addressed the crowd, “tonight is the Solstice celebration. We at the Cabaret have been rehearsing for a major extravaganza. You are all cordially invited to come and celebrate this evening with our entertainment, and for that matter, the best drinks in town.” As a murmur rippled through the passersby, he chuckled, “Ah, you don’t believe me? Then allow us to offer a simple token.” He went into his pockets, hands emerging with two wads of free drink coupons that he divided with Remy.

As Marisol darted back to start her tasks, the two proprietors of La Cabaret De Montagne worked the crowd, offering drink tickets and invitations. She paused at the door to marvel at the manner in which the two showmen coaxed their impromptu audience to laughter and handshakes. It was remarkable to her to watch as they converted a public outrage into a miniature celebration.

“Oh yes,” Arturo offered a winning grin to a heterosexual couple. “Sly, narrow, everyone is welcome. Our celebration is about music, comedy, and inclusiveness. We’ll see you tonight, then!” As the folk waved their goodbyes, his gaze landed upon the three young men he’d noticed earlier. “Gentlemen!” he greeted the trio as drink tickets landed in their palms. “It would be our pleasure to serve as your hosts on Solstice night. Fine drinks, a special show, and we…oh!” he exclaimed at the sight of a purple smudge on one boot, “those are made of fine leather. You should get that paint removed soon, before it cures.” His eyes lifted to the three, who could not meet his gaze. “Joyous Solstice to you. See you tonight, my friends.”

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