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Boys' Night
London - May 2018
Joseph felt a bead of sweat trickle down his forehead from the rim of his peaked cap.  He wiped it away with his handkerchief, careful not to stain his spotless white gloves.  His uniform was so heavy in the heat.  Not even the hint of a breeze to cool the still and stagnant air.  He watched as the last of the sun’s rays dripped like molten lava into the distant horizon.  Another day nearly done.
Shifting his weight from one polished shoe to the other helped ease his back pain.  He wasn’t getting any younger and the years were beginning to take their toll.  From the look of it, the lady from 312 appeared to share this problem.  She must be about the same age as him, but he could never be sure with white people.  He could see her now trudging up the hill to the hotel, loaded down with several bags of shopping.  She was a strange one.  She’d been at the hotel for more than a month now and was a singer or dancer or something like that.  Her show, Celebrating Darlie, was on every night in the ballroom, but staff like him weren’t allowed to watch the shows.  Why was she always angry, never a smile or kind word?  Even now, she was shouting at a young boy who was trying to sell her some cigarettes.  
‘Good evening Mr Green’, Joseph smiled as he leapt to pull open the ornate metal and glass door, ‘have you had a good day?’  Mr Green returned the smile.  ’Splendid, thank you Joseph, and yourself?’ ’Oh very good Sir, thank you.’  Nice man, Mr Green, always so polite and friendly.  He didn’t look down on him just because he was a doorman.  Joseph appreciated that.
Miss 312 was still some way off but Joseph could hear her loud and clear, ‘I said no, for fuck’s sake.  Scoot!  Get lost!’  She was really losing it now, pushing the young boy away with her free hand.  The boy kept on, all the way to the hotel entrance until Joseph stepped forward and gently told him to leave.  ‘Bloody pain in the arse those little buggers!’, Miss 312 didn’t waste her breath on a thank you.   ‘He won’t be troubling you any further, M’am.’ Joseph replied.
Darlie didn’t like the doorman.  Mr High and Mighty.  Who did he think he was?  Jumped up little nobody, that’s who!  Oh no you don’t, you’re not about to get your hands on my shopping.  ‘Keep your hands off my stuff, you thieving bastard!’  Joseph stepped back, ‘As you wish, M’am.’  Where did he get off calling her ‘M’am’, as if he didn’t know? 
Joseph held the door open for her, but Darlie struggled to get through with all the bags.  ‘Whatcha waiting for?’ she snapped, shoving the bags towards him.  He took the bags and followed her into the hotel.  ‘Would you like me to carry these up for you M’am?’  He wasn’t sure if ‘Hmmp’ meant yes or no but given Miss 312 was already making her way to lift, he decided to follow.  He pressed ‘3’ and the old elevator slowly clunked its way up towards the third floor. 
‘Don’t have much to say for yourself, do ya?’ Miss 312 broke the silence.  ‘M’am?’  What a ponce!  ‘What kind of man are you, anyhow?  Sucking up the abuse left, right and centre and never a word.  Think you’re so much better than the rest, do you?’  ‘No M’am.’  There he goes again with the “M’am”!  ‘And you can quit calling me M’am!’  Darlie barked at him as she headed out of the lift.  Joseph knew better than to reply and silently followed her to room 312.
‘Cat got your tongue?’  Darlie teased.  ‘M’am?’  Not again.  Darlie had had enough.  ’I’m no M’am and you know it!’
‘Aw, for god’s sake, you must’ve seen my show?’
‘Unfortunately no.  We’re not allowed, but I’m sure you must be very good.  You’re a singer, aren’t you?’  Joseph asked.
Darlie turned towards Joseph.  It was the first time she’d really looked him full in the face.  Not a hint of malice in those eyes.  Maybe he really didn’t know?  Darlie relished the opportunity this offered… the opportunity to shock.  
‘You want to know what I do?’
‘Yes M’am’.  Joseph’s fingers fumbled with his top button.  He didn’t like the edge in Miss 312’s voice.
‘I pretend, that’s what I do.  I’m the great pretender’.
‘I’m sorry M’am, I’m not sure I understand’.
Darlie laughed, a harsh and bitter laugh, and with theatrical flair ripped off what turned out to be a blonde wig to reveal a close-shaved scalp.  ‘I pretend’ Darlie continued, ‘I pretend that I’m a lady.’  What would Mr High and Mighty think of that?
‘Oh!’ Joseph’s lips broke into a broad grin, ‘a lady boy!’
‘You’re not shocked?’  Darlie felt a pang of disappointment.
‘Shocked?  Why no, M’am’ Joseph laughed,  ‘all under one sun.’
‘What on earth is that supposed to mean?’  
Joseph placed Darlie’s bags on one of the armchairs by the window.  He really should get going.  The manager would soon notice he’d been gone too long.  No time for long explanations. 
‘Just that we all live under one sun.  Now,  I really must get back to my post.  Unless there’s anything else I can do for you?’ 
There was no reply.  Darlie’s attention was already turned to the shopping bags.  Good buy, that green lurex top.  It was going to look just fab with either the long gold skirt or maybe short black one?  As the room door softly closed Darlie looked up to find Joseph gone.  
Darlie, now dressed in just the green lurex top and red g-string, looked out of the open window and smiled at the orange vestiges of the sleeping sun.  ‘All under one sun’, that was what he’d said.   Damn right.
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