Friday Flash: Queen of Hearts – Part One

The wolf whistles and the applause reached a crescendo and the heavy velvet curtain fell, the golden tassles at the bottom brushing the boards. Varla waited a moment and then walked off into the wings.

“Do you want to take another curtain call?” Louis was new and all the stage hands eyed him with curiosity.

She shook her head as best she could in the elaborate headdress. Sergio, the old stage manager knew never to ask her. Every fibre of her being screamed to be back out there soaking up the adoration, but stars took three curtain calls. Divas took more. Varla never forgot which side of vanity she resided on.

A diminutive woman walked into the wings, hands lost in enthusiastic clapping segueing into excited signing.

You were so beautiful Miss Varla. Bravo! Bravo!

Varla’s hands easily formed the signs she needed to assure Luisa, her deaf dresser, it was all thanks to her. Then asked: Is Vin here?

Luisa shook her head. Varla felt her joie-de-vive drain out her diamante-encrusted dancing shoes and into the ancient boards.

Come! Come! Luisa motioned. There is much celebrating to be done. No mooning over Mr Tefnel.

Luisa didn’t wait for any type of response, walking behind the burlesque star, detaching the elaborate feathered train from the sequined bodysuit then giving Varla a very gentle push to propel her back stage.

The scent of evening jasmine hit Varla the moment the wonky door of her dressing-room opened.

“Oh Luisa,” Varla gushed, her words lost as she rushed to admire the huge bunch of tigerlillies framed by the light studded mirror. “He remembered.”

He always remembers, why do you doubt him so? Luisa knew she was safe to sign her mind – Varla couldn’t see her, she’d recklessly plunged her face deep into the large genetically-engineered petals.

Luisa grabbed Varla’s arm and emphatically signed: You will stain your face with the pollen, Miss Varla.

Varla flicked her fingers off opposite shoulders: I don’t care.

With her face out of the massive petals Varla saw the envelope attached, plucking the card from within.

We did it babe. One million hits. The server held this time.


Varla squealed and thrust the card at Luisa, clapping her hands in delight. It had been a long hard road but they’d done it. It had taken years to find a niche for their brand of uncompromising, political burlesque, moving men from wanting just tits and long legs, to appreciating political satire and fine art. And now they were no longer contained to one packed theatre a night. Minsky would love it, knowing he could charge more for the privilege of attending a live show. Via the internet she and Vin had a lucrative means of income for the first time.

Luisa put her right hand in her left and gave the two a hearty shake: Congratulations. Varla smiled, but before she could immerse her face in the flowers to drink in their perfume, Luisa had manoeuvred her into a chair and begun to strip away the burlesque regalia–tiny fingers moving with speed and precision to remove the red and green feathered diamante headdress, the wig beneath and then the thick layer of stage make up from Varla’s face. Before the tiredness had time to settle in Varla’s muscles, Luisa was pulling the star out of the chair, carefully removing the skin-tight lycra and passing a silk robe.

Are you sure you don’t want me to stay? Varla shook her head. She liked to be alone between the show and the party. And tonight she wanted to take special care to look good for Vin. See you at the after party.

Varla pinched her chin between three fingers and pulled them back: Thanks.

Luisa took the same three fingers pulled them together empathically  so the finger tips touched, mimicked Varla’s sign and then pointed to her: No! Thank You.

Varla nodded and disappeared around the corner of the shower cubicle. After a moment of rustling, the sound of the dressing-room door closing echoed around the room. Varla sighed and shrugged her tired body from the robe. She turned the taps on and waited for the hot water to come through. Above the whine of the water and the thumping of the pipes she heard the dressing-room door close again. Knowing it was pointless to yell out to Luisa, Varla stepped around the cubicle wall to find dressing room empty.

A large iron bird cage sat where the flowers had minutes earlier.

“Vin?” Varla called out. He’d always joked it was only a matter of time, given her penchant for feathers and the passion of her followers that one would gift her with a real, live bird. After their adaptation of Sadako and the thousand Paper Cranes every man it seemed, was learning the ancient Japanese art of origami to woo her.

She looked at the cage for a card or some type of identifying keep-sake but there was nothing.

Varla threw her robe on and ran barefoot out into the corridor. It was bustling with stage hands and other technicians, with the reverie from the theatre and the bar beyond still audible.

“Did you see someone come back stage with a parrot?” Varla asked everyone she passed. They all shook their head.

“A parrot you say Miss Varla,” Louis chuckled when she found him in his tiny office. “Can’t say I’ve seen anyone wandering around with a parrot. Mr Minsky was pretty darn clear on barring jerks from backstage. He hired a couple of thugs to man the door tonight.”

Varla returned to find her dressing-room cloaked in steam from the shower she’d left running.

“Shit!” Luisa would have a fit if she knew.

She waved a path through white eddies to turn the taps off. Back at the birdcage she stared at the large red and green feathered creature. It stared back.

“What the hell am I going to do with you?” She remembered all the potted plants she’d neglected.

The bird tilted its head.

The Queen of Hearts is coming.

She stuck her head closer to the bird cage.

“Did you say something?”

It tilted its head to the other side, all the time holding her gaze.

The Queen of Hearts is coming.

Varla stepped back from the bird. She’d definitely heard it say something. Heard was the wrong word for it though. The words formed with astonishing clarity in her head.

The Queen of Hearts is coming.

“OK, this is not funny.” She spun around and ripped aside the costumes neatly hung on the rack, looking for Vin. Accepting she was alone Varla grabbed a tigerlily and poked the bird with the wet stem. It ruffled its feathers.

The Queen of Hearts is coming.

“You can turn the damn remote control bird off, Vin. You’re freakin’ me out.”

When Vin didn’t appear Varla opened the door to the cage and dragged the bird out. As she turned it over, pulling at its wings, looking for the on/off switch long talons lashed out, its beak drawing blood. Finally a hot squirt of bird shit hit Varla in the face and her fingers released. Its wings opened and cut through the steam, carrying the bird to the top of the cubicle wall. Varla looked up through the swirls, wiping the shit from her cheek with her forearm.

The Queen of Hearts is coming. You have been warned.

Author’s Note: you can hear the first two thirds of this story narrated by moi here at audioboo. This story was spawned from the [Friday] Fiction prompt to include a telepathic parrot and comes compliments of my partner who first suggested such a thing two years ago. This ones for you darling!

13 thoughts on “Friday Flash: Queen of Hearts – Part One

  1. Bring on part two!!! Awesome story, Jodi, completely engrossing! Can hardly wait to find out what happens next. Also went to hear your reading and was charmed, not only by the story, but by your charming accent. Everything sounds better in your part of the world!


    • Awww Cathy you say the nicest things. I’m humming and hooing about changing the POV across to first person. This story has been the biggest struggle – first is was a change of the setting (it was originally set in her apartment with her coming home with the bird) and now I’m not settled on the POV being right (the first draft I did was in the first person) – bah! This one is sent to test me I do believe.

      As for the audioboo… thanks for listening. I’ve enjoyed doing the little audiobites – but felt really quite pushed doing a narration of my own story. I know two people I would much prefer narrate one for me!

      Thanks again for your lovely comments… nice thoughts to disappear to bed with xxx


  2. Pingback: Fiction Round Up XVIII | Chinese Whisperings

  3. I loved the signing between Varla and Luisa – it flowed so beautiful. I can’t wait to read what’s next… I am kind of freaked out by the bird though.


  4. Such a lush setting, by your descriptions. I was captivated by the back-stage beginning, loved that you used a deaf helper, and look forward to part 2.


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