My Name is Jane

written by Christine Unger

Jefferson Starship
“Jane, you’re playing for fun but I play for keeps, yes I do” Jefferson Starship's "Jane" buzzed him awake like an angry little bee at the edges of consciousness.

Dick felt the light through the delicate membrane of his eyelids. Like a child he looked through them, through the fine network of flesh and veins, into the red warmth. The sun was shifting, dipping below the awning. He opened his eyes just a bit, and smiled. Jane was clearly driving M mad. She never did know when enough was enough. People always forgave her, but she never knew how close they came to strangling her before they did. He drifted back into half-sleep and memory.

He’d seen her on the street one day. He never paid much attention to the penguins, they were usually shy, unattractive, not even worth a fantasy. This one was different, a head turner. Maybe twenty-five, hair and eyes black as the tar sands, eyebrows like wings-the kind you didn’t see except in old movies, her lips, even without make-up, red as blood. She was Rose Red, from the story his mother used to tell him. She used to murmur it to him, calming him with the steady rhythm of her soft voice, at the end of the bad days, when they didn't dare turn on the lights, in case HE walked by the door. He saw her, Joy, and he knew with the certainty of death, that he was the bear. Like his father before him, he could not deny his true nature, and all those years he’d walked in the golden light that Jane spread effortlessly around her, were just the day before the night.

Like a pimply kid he stalked Joy through the town as she ran errands and then followed her back to the convent. It was almost a month before he knew her name was Joy. Even now the irony of her name put a wry smile on his face. It wasn’t exactly a crush, but some powerful force that drew him to her. For the first time he understood the fairy tales of sirens.

He loved Jane, but this, this wasn’t love, it was a compulsion, inescapable as quicksand, a force of nature. Jane was really too good to be true, blond and blue eyed, tall, elegant, independent, smart, hell, she even had a sense of humour and good laugh-lucky shit that he was, he’d married Kim Novak. If he’d been a woman he would have wanted to scratch her eyes out. But that was a funny thing too, they never did seem to want to. Even other women liked her. Dick was never included in his badminton buddies ball-and-chain rags. Everyone knew he was the lucky one, the marital lottery winner. Jane was freedom, fresh air, a force of optimism. But this one, Joy, was a dark cave, a solitary shelter in a savage world, she was fate, and to be with her was as inevitable, as necessary, as death.

Looking back now he felt an inward flush of shame, red and hot as the light behind his eyes, as he realized it must have been his age, feeling his mortality, retirement, but most of all jealousy. He watching his beloved partner rise to fame even as he began his long descent. It had gotten so bad he even resented her good nature. He couldn’t stand the feeling of being so much weaker than she was. He couldn’t even bitch about it, no one would sympathize with him. The worst of it was that Joy didn’t even want him at first, and yet she took him: mind, body, and finally, soul - if he believed in such a thing.

When his old pal Patrick had pulled him back into the Angels circle, taking him to see the Devil's Ghosts, he'd been sure he was lost. "Just a favour for old time's sake," he smiled, "or maybe we tell Jane everything, maybe Joy too," he added slyly. As always, the 47 knew everything. If he had been good with Jane, he would have confessed to her right then. But he was lost already, he might as well be damned. He was retired, a girlfriend cost money. Patrick gave him the key and the little trips to the Chalet locker room became a regular thing. Things escalated fast. Jane's regular shipments out to galleries all over the world made things WAY too easy. Dick made the crates already. He started making internal supports out of hollow plastic. The transport trucks where carefully cooled and dehumidified to ensure there wouldn't be damage to work on paper. It was brilliant, the perfect set up. There was no way he could leave Jane. He didn't care about the money but the Angels sure as hell weren't going to let this new trade route slip through their fingers. "It's like the Silk Road man," Patrick leered.

When M arrived on Jane’s arm it was clear to him that the great cosmic jester had issued him a dare. Someone, or something, was pushing him towards a decision.

Joy and M had to be twins. The odds that they would both be in his town, and completely unaware of each other, neatly opposed, one on his arm and the other on Jane’s, were way beyond his math skills. He’d heard of mirror twins before, but this was ridiculous. Physically, they were identical but attitude made all the difference. Joy wore her beauty like a disney villainess. M was awkwardly demure and out of place with his gender. Jane had been working with M forever, saying how great he was, how shy. Shy didn’t really cover it. He saw immediately that M was far more damaged than his sister. Joy, at least, had the Sisters, knew who she was, what she was, but M was missing something. Dick knew exactly what that was, M’s other half, his feminine side. M was confused, miserable, vulnerable. He couldn’t help himself. M had simply landed in his lap: the perfect solution to his Joy problem. All he needed to do was to keep the three of them from seeing each other.

It took a while to work out all the kinks and longer still to set the mood. Now here he was, every detail picked out in golden California light, the perfect opportunity to see his plan through, to be rid of Jane forever, and it was too late. And for that he was infinitely relieved. He’d been such a fool. He wouldn’t let this second chance slip away.
The relief had been so complete and sudden that if felt like pain. He got Joy’s note just before they’d left for California. Short, unsentimental, no return address. Fresh, clean cold water splashed onto his mid-life hot flash.

“I have to leave: for you, the Sisters, but most of all, I had to leave for Jane. I know what you’re planning and I can’t live with that. Don’t try and find me. I’ll be fine. I’m no good for you. You’re no good for me. go back to Jane. go home Dick, run Dick run. See Jane smile. We’re all wrong, you and I. no regrets. I’ll be gone before you’re back, Joy.”
He had to give it to her, Joy wasn’t his dream girl after all, but she certainly was smart to pull out like this. He wished her a long and happy life-without him. He was just grateful it wasn’t too late. He'd confess the smuggling to Jane, admit to Joy, beg for her forgiveness. He knew her, she'd be in a rage for a while, probably go off to California on her own for a few months. Then she'd forgive him, and once she knew, they had nothing to hang over his head and things could be good again.

His day dreams shifted and roiled between darkness and light. Bile churned just below his breastbone, pressure built a rushing pulse louder than the tide. Then, he let it go, it was over, Joy was out of the picture and he was free to fall back in love with his partner. The thought put a knowing smile on his face just as his eyes opened on a scene that practically stopped his heart…Life really was a bitch with a sense of humour. Jane had finally pushed M too far…

Merde! Dick ran across the beach knowing it was already too late.