I’ve been working on a lighthearted butch F/femme F/genderqueer butch polyamorous kinky romance novella, tentatively titled Meet Cutes. It centers disabled fat Jewish queers in NYC. I am sharing the first chapter with you.
In this chapter, you get to meet two of the three main characters:
- Naomi, a chubby stone butch queer autistic Jewish cis woman with endometriosis who is a dominant
- Rachel, a fat femme queer Jewish cis woman with a mobility disability who is a switch
You also get to briefly meet a secondary character, Zora, Rachels best friend and housemate, with whom she’s in a queerplatonic partnership (though they don’t use that language at this point in the story)
One of the core things I wanted to do in this book was to show that all of the three main characters have significant relationships before they meet each other, because although we are moving towards a polyamorous triad, it will be an open triad, and each of the main characters will continue to have other partners of various sorts, including queerplatonic partners. I am writing it this way because this is how I do polyamory myself. (This story is ownvoices in many ways, and that includes the kind of polyamory depicted in the novella.)
I also really wanted to show disability culture and communities, kink culture and communities, and fat activist culture and communities, Jewish culture and communities, queer culture and communities. These are folks who have webs of relationships they care about, and that includes community spaces that are important to them. The book begins at a disability community event that Rachel co-organized because I wanted to place these characters in a community context from the beginning.
Without further ado, here is the beginning of Meet Cutes. As a heads up, there are brief references to trauma, misogyny, transmisogyny, and ableism.
Naomi had never seen the redhead before. She’d snuck in to the reading, grabbed a seat by the door, late again because of the damn subway, and caught most of the femme’s piece. But honestly, she barely took in the content because she was mesmerized by the redhead’s face as she read, by the way her lips moved and the wicked sparkle in her eyes, and by the sound of her voice. The femme’s voice was all steel and smoke and flattened Naomi like a freight train. She was holding her breath as she listened, glad she had a fidget in her hands because there was this thrumming inside her that just kept building and the energy had to go somewhere. And then the piece was over, and she watched the redhead walk to her seat. The lady had curves with a capital C, and was showing them off in classic fat femme style, from the sweetheart neckline to the wide blue belt, which of course matched the blue flowers on her cane perfectly. Her magen david sparkled at her throat, the blue accents picking up the light.
Naomi was lucky enough to have a good vantage point, where she could see the side of the redhead’s face as she whispered to the femme sitting next to her, winked, and glanced over her shoulder. Right at Naomi, who was definitely staring and had totally been caught at it. And this was the point where Naomi was supposed to do that classic butch thing of holding the femme’s gaze till she looked away and waiting till her gaze returned. She knew that. This was how butches and femmes flirted from across the room, it was traditional. Except of course Naomi basically never did eye contact, and the key to that move was the locked gaze, which just wasn’t going to happen. She could feel the femme’s gaze on her face, and she looked down at her hands, still moving on the fidget.
The room seemed so crowded, now, all these queers, all this pressure, and it made it hard to breathe, hard to be still. This was why Naomi hadn’t really gone to disability spaces much, because of the crowds, and the noise, and the pressure. And really, Naomi was always conscious about how you could look at her and have no clue she was disabled, and she wasn’t sure of her welcome, even if she mustered up the spoons to go, and was actually up for talking to people. The fidget wasn’t enough of a stim anymore and she started to rock, trying to focus on the next reader, a Latinx femme trans guy with sparkly nails and fuschia lipstick who was reading something about PTSD. His piece was a bit too raw for Naomi to listen to right then, so she slipped out of the bookstore for some air.
It was better out here. The fall air felt cool and crisp in her lungs, and she leaned on the building next to the bookstore, her cheek pressed against the cool smooth marble, her eyes on the ground by the door so she wouldn’t be surprised by people walking out. The marble felt good against her face, offering up its impenetrable smooth stoneness so Naomi could take it into herself, draw strength and calm from it. Stone had always helped, long before she had language to call herself by its name. It was exactly what she needed, and she closed her eyes so she could draw it close, ready herself to go back inside.
That’s how the femme surprised her, after all. Because her eyes were closed, and she had stopped watching the door. Suddenly that voice was there, the same one that had mesmerized her.
“Taking a break? It was a bit much for me, too.”
Naomi startled, losing a good portion of the calm she’d drawn from the stone, and opened her eyes to find the redheaded femme right in front of her. Her heart was pounding—she didn’t handle surprises particularly well—and she blurted out, “Whoa. You surprised me.” Smooth, Naomi. Real smooth.
“Sorry about that,” the femme said softly, her hands twisting around each other.
Naomi tried to get her breathing to slow down.
“No, no, it’s ok.”
The femme smiled at her, shyly. Wow, her smile was spectacular, made her glow.
Rachel thought maybe it wasn’t actually ok. The butch didn’t seem like she was doing that well, really. Maybe she didn’t like surprises. Maybe she was triggered from the piece Rickie was reading. Maybe Rachel had misread the whole thing inside and the butch wasn’t actually interested in her. Damnit. Best to play it safe.
Small talk, she could manage small talk if she tried. She just needed to ground a bit first. Rachel took a slow breath, let it out even slower, and counted backwards from ten. Say something neutral, casual. Yeah. She could do that.
“It’s nice and cool out here,” she managed.
“Yes, there’s really nothing like New York in the fall. I know people love spring, but this weather just makes my skin happy.”
Made her skin happy. Oh. Rachel melted a little at that, then managed to get out a response.
“It’s such a relief after how hot the summer was. And I like that I get to wear tights and leggings with my dresses again.”
The butch cleared her throat, eyes on Rachel’s legs.
“Yes, those are spectacular,” she said, gesturing towards her Dali melting clock leggings.
Rachel grinned. Maybe the butch had been flirting after all.
“Thank you. I did want to wear something artistic for this event. These seemed appropriate.”
“Oh yes,” the butch said, her voice a bit throatier. “These definitely work.”
Applause broke out inside, and Rachel realized she had to go back. She was emceeing after all. Damnit.
“So I’ve gotta get back in there. An emcee’s job is never done. Did you get a copy of the zine?”
“No, not yet.”
“Here. You can have mine.” She pushed it in the butches hands, and walked back into the store to introduce the next reader, who had already made her way up to the front. She sure had fumbled that one. And the butch was so handsome, too. Those horn rimmed glasses! She looked a little like a shorter chubby Mandy Patinkin. Not from Princess Bride, but from Yentl. Without the beard.
Damn. She didn’t even know the butches name.
Rachel rested her head on Zora’s shoulder and listened to Mercedes read a piece about nobody getting that she was femme because all they saw was the wheelchair. Rachel was glad Zora was there. Not just to lean on, though that was good right now. But because she needed at least one of her closest people in the audience for this. It was a big deal, launching this zine, making this space for disabled femmes. She glanced behind her to see if the butch had come back in, but couldn’t see her. Nope.
There weren’t that many butches at the event. Because of course, femme events didn’t draw butches the way butch events drew femmes. No surprise there. Just your regular everyday queer community misogyny. Instead, the room was packed with her readers, able bodied femmes, and a bunch of the disabled folks Rachel saw at every feminist and queer disability event in NYC. Oh, she was on again. She flirted with the audience, made jokes, and told a story about her and Beth flirting with the same femme top at a play party, before Beth performed her poem about transmisogyny in queer kink spaces and how it’s all about femme hatred.
She sat down to listen, her knee protesting all this getting up and sitting down, thank you. Zora offered a hand, and she took it, counting breaths in the hopes that the pain would fade a bit. Luckily it was the break soon, and then Blaze was emceeing the second half. She had wanted to try to stay for the whole thing, but this wave of exhaustion was hitting, and Rachel realized that she’d spent down her spoons too much. She was going to have to leave at the break.
There was the applause. She stood to announce the break, and caught Blaze’s eye. Ze came over right away, and she didn’t even have to say anything. Ze cupped her cheek and said, “Out of spoons? Is it time for you to go home?”
When she nodded, Blaze told her not to worry, ze had it all under control, to just take care and get home safe. And then she was heading out the door on Zora’s arm. She looked around for the butch, but didn’t see her anywhere. Damn.
Before she could say anything, Zora had hailed a cab, and they were on their way home.
“So, who was that butch you had your eye on, hmmm?” Zora teased.
“I don’t even know her name or anything. We barely spoke. I’m not even sure she was actually flirting with me.”
“Mixed signals, eh?”
“I can’t tell. Maybe.” Rachel shrugged, and leaned against Zora in the taxi. “I’ll probably never see her again.” She couldn’t wait to get home and curl up with Zora on the couch. And an ice pack. And maybe a nice cup of tea.
She leaned into Zora, and said, “Thanks for getting the cab without me needing to ask. I really appreciate you being here and supporting me tonight.”
Zora said, “Of course, it’s what we do. We take care with each other, and show up for each other. I wouldn’t miss your big night unless I had no other choice. You know that, right?”
Rachel nodded. She did know that. “I love our us.”
“Me too, babe, even if we don’t have a name for it, and it confuses other people,” she teased.
“We do have a name. It’s our us.”
“True enough. You got me there. Our us is one of the best things ever.”