"Hey Jo, are you ready yet?" Blair shouted to her girlfriend from the steps at their Upper West Side townhome in the heart of New York City.
"Yeah, yeah, I'm comin'!" she yelled back in her bedroom.
"Come on now, grease monkey, you don't want to be late."
"Well, what makes you want to be punctual for this? Punctuality is like a disease to you," Jo dryly noted.
"Ha ha, very funny." Blair deadpanned. "I'm not that bad!"
"Honey, you were late for every single date we had," Jo yelled down from the bedroom.
Blair smirked a little in remembrance. "Ah, but there was a method to my madness. I couldn't have you thinking I was desperate or something. Being slightly tardy gives the appearance of having very valuable things to do with one's time." Her smile grew as she continued, "Besides, it drove you crazy to have to wait on me, and I so love seeing you flustered."
"So, what's the big deal about being on time now?"
"Because this is important and people are depending on us. We're going to repair the community center's gym for the youth. Isn't that a good enough reason to be punctual?" Blair countered.
Usually, Jo was the punctual one and Blair that was terrible with time because of her endless primping and preening in front of the mirror. Unknown to Jo was that today was a special day.
Jo walked out of the bedroom, running her hands through her dark hair. "Okay I hear ya, but I need to find my jacket before I leave."
Blair stood at the bottom of the stairs holding Jo's favorite leather jacket on her arm. "I got your jacket right here so let's go!"
Jo immediately grabbed the jacket from Blair and they left, heading straight to the community center at Jo's old neighborhood in the Bronx. Jo knew very well how important the center was to her old neighborhood, so unlike most of Blair's 'brilliant ideas', she didn't hesitate to help her out on this one.
As soon as they got in the car, Jo noticed a bag on the backseat. "Hey, honey, what's that bag doin' back there?"
"Oh, that's just an extra set of clothes. Just in case we make a serious mess on these old rags we're wearing," she scoffed as she pulled on Jo's beat-up sweater.
Jo and Blair were wearing some old worn-out clothes – well Jo was. She was wearing an old silver Langley College sweater with a pair of light-blue, beaten-up, denim jeans and a very dirty pair of white Adidas. What Blair was calling 'old rag' for her was really only a few months old! Blair, on the other hand, was wearing a light-pink Chanel sweat suit with a pair of white Reeboks that were even barely worn.
"Old rag? You just bought 'em three months ago!"
"They are indeed old, sweetie. The 2006 version just came out two days ago!"
"Jesus, Blair…" she stated while rolling her eyes in contempt.
During the drive, they had their usual conversation of Blair bringing up something about herself that made Jo do her smart comments. And of course as usual, they ended up having yet another one of their trademark arguments. Luckily enough, they didn't get into an accident.
Finally, they got to the place but Jo noticed that there were more cars than usual on the parking lot.
"What are all these cars doin' out here?'
Blair shrugged, trying to act nonchalant. "Maybe they're having a party at someone's house nearby and they are using it for space."
"You're probably right, I remember people doing that for the birthday parties we held." Jo found a parking space and parked the car. When they got out of the car, Blair made sure she got the bag and they headed to the building. When she got to the door, Jo noticed that the lights were on inside.
"That's weird. There shouldn't be lights on at this time of the night."
Blair was a bit nervous; she had to think of something quick, "Well, maybe they forgot to turn off the lights."
"Who's 'they'?" she asked puzzlingly.
"The plumbers. They came here yesterday to fix some of the bathrooms," Blair responded, thanking herself for her quick thought.
"Oh I see." Jo shrugged.
Blair sighed in relief as Jo opened the door with her keys and they found their way to the gym. When they finally opened the gym's main entrance doors, Jo was greeted with a surprise.
"Surprise, happy birthday!" everybody said in unison. The gym was decorated with balloons and streamers, with a big "Happy Birthday Jo!" banner on top of the stage. In addition to the guests, there was a band on the stage, ranging from around 10-13 members, with guitars, keyboards, drums, and even a horns section! They were playing mostly R&B and Jazz music. Jo noticed something familiar with the band, especially with the lead singer, but she brushed it off and turned her focus back on her lover. Blair knew she didn't like surprises, especially ones that involve celebrations. Fortunately for Blair, Jo's best friend from the neighborhood, Kelly, met them before Jo had any time to protest. She got her best friend's attention by lightly punching her on the shoulders.
"Yo' Joey, what's up!"
"Hey Kelly, how ya' doin'? It's been a while."
"Doin' great. It's been eight months since I've been out of the slamma'."
"That's good to hear!"
"Yeah, I finally got my life together. I got a job now."
"Really? What do you do?"
"I work for a telemarketing company, sellin' window siding." She grinned.
"That's a real improvement, Kelly. Maybe in the future you can sell rain gutters," Blair said sarcastically. Kelly picked it up but didn't let it get to her, figuring that Blair was just being Blair. Jo, on the other hand, gave her a short, cold frown.
"Nah, too boring!" Kelly retorted. Blair rolled her eyes in disbelief as Kelly continued. "Besides, I'm on a fast-track training program for management and they're planning on opening a new call center in Texas. So, how are you two doin'?"
"Great! I became sergeant about four months ago. I finally got my own office!"
"That's great, Joey! I don't know why you still workin' when you got Ms. Money-Bunny here. So tell me how many Porsches do ya own?"
Jo looked at her with a somewhat dissatisfied look. "You know I'm not into that type of stuff. I still drive a Honda."
"Ah come on now Joey, don't be so modest. I know that you got a vacation home in the Hamptons."
"No, but we have one in Tahiti," Blair intervened in the conversation.
"Wow, that is so cool!" she said honestly. "I know where I can stay if I ever get tha' money to vacation down there!" she said excitedly. Blair had a disgusted look on her face when she said that but Kelly continued, "Well now that I'm out, maybe I could come by and visit some time."
"It might be sooner than you think," Blair muttered. Kelly heard it and she wasn't very pleased. Jo was surprised at what she heard, and Kelly was simply livid.
Mad as hell, Kelly spat, "Alright ya' bleach-headed, blond bimbo. Hope ya' plan ta visit yo' plastic surgin' down at Madison Avenue, cuz I'm 'bout ta' punch a button on that button-nosed face of yours!"
Kelly stepped up and tried to swing a punch, but Jo quickly blocked it and then restrained her. "Stop it Kel, stop it!"
"Yeah, you need to stop it, you uncivilized Neanderthal!" Blair goaded, adding more fuel to the fire as usual. She was acting tough, yet she cowardly backed as far away from Kelly as she could. Soon the crowd noticed Kelly's struggling to get to Blair and one other person within the crowd helped Jo holding her back. Eventually, Jo moved Kelly to an isolated area and had a small talk with her.
"Listen Kel, don't let her wind ya' up like that! I know that you could be betta than that!"
"You're right Joey, I should not let her get ta me like that."
Eventually, she calmed down and congratulated her best friend.
"Well, Happy Birthday, Joey, it's good to see my old buddy turning the big fo'-oh'," she cheered followed with a friendly hug.
"Thanks a lot."
"No problem, you take care of yo'self! Later." She ended with an icy cold glance to Blair as she was walking away.
When Kelly was out of sight, Jo spat at Blair, "Why the hell did you do that? You can be such a snobby ass sometimes! For once in her life she's doing something good and you can't appreciate that!"
"Do you consider telemarketing as a positive direction? Pul-leeze, who would buy from her? She can't even enunciate her words correctly. But you're right Jo, it could be worse; she could be a spokesperson for 'Hooked on Phonics'!"
Jo started to grit her teeth. "And you could be a spokesperson for the Trust Fund Children Society!"
"What is that supposed to mean, grease monkey?" Blair squeaked.
"It means you need to learn how to shut your trap, you spoiled princess!"
The other two musketeers, Natalie and Tootie, saw yet another epic argument brewing. Knowing the couple for over twenty years, they knew too well how far they could go. Before Blair and Jo could get into their usual all-out quarrel, they came over to avert the impending riff.
"Hey Jo, congratulations on your 40th birthday!" Tootie elated.
"Yeah Jo, congratulations!" Natalie shouted and then they hugged her nearly to death. Feeling like a wrestler experiencing a bear hug from Andre the Giant, Jo had to stop them.
"Ok, ok, knock it off! It's a birthday party, not a funeral!"
"Sorry, but we're so happy!" Tootie said delightedly as they finally let go of their death grip.
"Okay, okay, I get the point, but I do want to live to see 41, if Blair doesn't kill me first!"
Blair took a small offense to her wisecrack and lightly backhanded her in the stomach, causing a small "oomph" to come out of her. Nat and Tootie were chuckling.
"Hey Jo, we got you something for your birthday," Natalie said.
"I hope it's not something like that fleece poncho that you gave me."
"I thought you would like it." Natalie sighed in disappointment.
"I did at first, until it started to make me itch and I got a rash from it."
"Sorry, I didn't know, but this one is a lot safer."
"A lot safer huh? So, what is it?" she asked.
"It's a ticket to a special episode of my talk show." Tootie said as she showed the ticket to her. Jo sighed when she heard that.
"You know I'm not into that type of stuff."
"Just a ticket to your show?" Blair scoffed. "What makes it different from all your other shows?"
"Well, this one is 'Biker Chicks and the Women Who Love Them!'"
That got some strange looks from Jo and Blair.
"Eh?" Jo puzzled. Then Blair knew why she had a show like that.
"Let me guess, sweeps week!"
"You got it!"
Jo sighed. "That's basically the only time we lesbians are considered important on TV."
"You know I'm trying to bring more visibility to gays and especially lesbians, to show all the dynamics and subcultures in it. In fact, TV Guide once said that my show is gayer than 'Queer Eye for the Straight Guy'!"
That got some laughs from the group. Jo then gave it a thought for a second. "Hmm… I might take you up on that." Tootie gladly handed her the ticket and then she thanked her.
"Do you have an extra ticket for me?" Blair asked.
"Sure, I thought you would never ask." She handed her the other ticket.
"Thank you for your generosity."
"No problem. Trust me, you won't be disappointed."
"Well, it couldn't be any worse than any of those 'You are NOT the Father' shows on Maury!" Jo cringed.
"Maury's a hack. My parents knew him back when he was living in DC. He was always a shameless ham. Anyways, I thought that something small and simple might suit you better, because I'm sure you might get something fancier from other people." Blair and Natalie were surprised at Tootie, and they glared at her, thinking she came too close to letting out the surprise. Natalie hastily interrupted.
"Well, I think we need to get going. Enjoy the party," Natalie said with her usual charm and then she dragged Tootie to an isolated corner so she can have a word with her.
As they left the area Jo looked at Blair. "I know those two are hiding something, but since it's s'posed to be a surprise, I'll just go along wit' it. What really surprises me is that she didn't ask us to appear on that show."
"That's because everybody knows us. We were all over the tabloids back when they found out about us."
"Yeah, I remember those days… They were very wonderful."
"Indeed…" Blair rolled her eyes. "But it's the past now, and we don't have to deal with it anymore," she reminded her partner followed by a kiss to Jo's cheek. Jo had a soft pinkish blush on her face.
"Yeah, it feels good to be able to hold your hands in public." she mildly grinned.
"And to be able to hug you like this," Blair said as she gave her a soft loving hug. "Don't worry, I won't kill you with this hug," she chimed.
"Yeah, I don't know how many ribs those two just broke," she kidded with her typical dry humor as she enjoyed the warm hug she got from her partner.
While having their personal chit-chat, Beverly Ann, along with her adopted son, Andy, came along.
"Well, happy birthday, Jo!" Beverly Ann greeted, followed by Andy.
"Hello Beverly, hello Andy," the couple said as they hugged Beverly Ann and Andy.
"How are you doing, Jo? It's been a while since we last saw each other!" Bev noted.
"Yeah I know, I've been quite a bit busy since I've been promoted to Sergeant."
"Really, that's cool!" Andy said.
"Yeah, so how's your entertainment business goin', Andy?"
"It's great! I just took over another agency for only a quarter of their value! I found out that a few of their clients (mostly celebrities) were disgruntled with the agency's policies, so I paid them a small amount of money to continue making an ass out of themselves, thus lowering the value of the agency as they were constantly in damage control. When it got to a reasonable price, I went out and bought them out. And just like magic, those celebrities have turned back into angels! And I'm raking in the dough…" he said smugly.
Andy had learned how to become a ruthless business manager by being under El DeBarge's manager's wings for a while. Plus, he worked with El DeBarge's old boss who was also notorious for being ruthless, Motown's founder, Berry Gordy.
Andy had more to say, "I'm about to represent socialite Paris Hilton after she and her agent got into a fight and he quit her."
"That's not surprising… Her and her family have no limits to their rudeness with others," Blair chided. Jo was thinking to herself, 'Well ain't that the pot calling the kettle black!'
"Why do you hate the Hiltons?" Beverly Ann asked. Before Blair spoke, Jo butted in, knowing that she would continuously rant for hours on the Hiltons and especially on Paris Hilton.
"Because the Hiltons went behind Blair's back in obtaining a piece of land near Bedford-Stuyvesant, where she was planning to build her hotel. Plus, Paris Hilton once called her a 'has-been heifer'. And to top it off, Paris Hilton's mom, Kathy, is good friends to Blair's eternal arch-nemesis, Boots St. Clair."
"And don't forget she's a media hog and a slut!" That was probably the strongest word that would ever come out of Blair's mouth.
"That too," Jo concluded.
"Oh dear…" Beverly Anne stated while shaking her head in disbelief.
"I don't know why people think Paris is hot. None the matter, she's gonna make me a lot of money. She's not that pretty and she has no body structure. Blair, even at your age, you still blow her away with your looks and your curves." Andy remarked.
Jo was about to let her infamous short temper and her jealousy get the best of her, but she stopped herself, knowing that Andy knew better and that he was only complementing Blair.
Blair blushed at Andy's complement and giggled. "Of course I do. Why thank you!"
Jo just rolled her eyes, seeing how easily Blair's ego fed into Andy's bullshit, but it wasn't going to last very long, as Andy pulled out an iPod with an attached speaker.
"Oh, by the way Jo, there's someone who wants to say happy birthday as well." He tapped a button and played the recording. It sounded like a man with a soft voice.
"Hey Jo, I just want to wish you a happy birthday. I still haven't forgotten it."
Jo's eyes nearly popped out, while Blair was simmering with anger. What they heard was the voice of El DeBarge. The story goes that El was quite smitten by Jo, and Jo was a bit interested in him, still in denial of her true sexuality. So they dated only for a short time. It ended when Jo found out that he was charged for sexual harassment against a college student. Needless to say, she wanted to have nothing to do with him, and he was one of the last men she had ever dated.
Andy kept on playing the iPod, much to Jo and Blair's growing annoyance, as El sang Happy Birthday.
"Happy Birthday to You
Happy Birthday to You
Happy Birthday Dear JooOOOOooooOOOOOooooOOOOoooo" - CLICK!
Jo immediately grabbed it from him and turned it off while he was singing her name in an unnecessarily long hook.
"Don't you ever, and I mean EVER, bring up anything about him again. Understood?" Jo hissed like a deadly viper to Andy. Blair was no better as she gave him an icy cold glare. Beverly Ann was still too shocked to say or do anything.
Andy had a hard time swallowing the lump in his throat, but finally squeaked out, "Yes. I very much do so, Jo."
"Good!" she spat coldly.
Wanting to change the subject, Andy brought up something important. "Oh, um, another thing, we put our gifts at the table over there with the rest of the gifts." Andy pointed at the table that was about half-full of gifts. Jo was indifferent about it at first, but then she realized how much people really cared about her and how much they appreciated her. It left a smile on her face, finally realizing that all of her hard work and support she had done for others was never in vain. "Trust me; you'll like it when you unwrap it," he concluded.
"Speaking of unwrapping gifts, where's the birthday cake, Blair?" Beverly Ann asked.
"Yeah, where is it?" Jo smirked at her girlfriend as she tried to put the annoyance she felt towards Andy away for the moment.
Blair closed her eyes and sighed. "Oh my… My mother is supposed to bring it… I should have known better, she's hardly on time and she's hardly reliable."
"Like mother, like daughter…" Jo muttered. Blair huffed at the comment but Jo backed it up. "It's true! I was shocked that you wanted to be on time for something tonight."
"She's right!" Beverly Anne and Andy said backing her up.
Before Blair could protest, Andy asked them, as he looked at one particular woman a few feet away. "Hey, is that Tootie?"
Jo and Blair turned their backs from Bev and Andy and looked at Tootie. "Yes it is," Jo responded.
"I heard that she is planning to fire her manager. Also, I heard that she is a widow. In fact, she doesn't even have a boyfriend."
"Both are true," Blair replied.
A big grin appeared on his face, for that was VERY good news to him. "Well then, I'll see you ladies later. I got some 'business' to take care of…"
And he headed straight to Tootie. Jo and Blair looked back, then they looked at each other in amazement and just giggled. Beverly Ann shook her head.
"Well, some things haven't change," Jo snickered.
"True indeed," Blair agreed.
Beverly Ann interrupted, "I think I've taken up enough of your time. Have fun and enjoy this birthday, Jo. Who knows, it may be the best birthday in your life."
Blair smiled, liking how shrewdly Beverly hid the surprise. "Ah, I doubt it. Looks like the same ol' birthday ta me!"
"But it may not be…" Beverly Ann said, followed with a smirk as she walked away. Blair noticed that Jo didn't get it.
"Well that was interesting…"
"Yeah Blair, tell me about it."
Blair changed the subject. "I wonder what is taking my mother so long."
"Why don't you call her?"
"I will do just that." Blair called her mother's cell phone number. All she got was an answering message. "She's not answering. I'll call Bailey and see if she'll answer." She called Bailey but got the same result: a voice mail.
"None. Why can't my mom be on time for once?"
"Hey, at least your mom is coming." Jo moped. "Hell, at least your mom accepts our relationship and she accepts you for who you are." she grimaced, fighting off tears.
"Don't worry about it Jo. At least your uncle is here. Besides, my mother is the only person on her side of the family that accepts my homosexuality. The rest of them are ashamed of me… What a bunch of high-class inbreds," she mumbled under her breath.
"Yeah, but it's not the same. It feels like a consolation prize of sorts."
"Let's talks about this privately, okay?" Jo simply nodded in agreement. They left the gym and went to a private area in the hallway. There they continued their chat.
"Joey, you don't know yet, but maybe she will come around."
"My father never came around. That was the reason why he didn't bother to get in touch with me when he was dying and it was the only reason why he didn't have me in the will," she said as she angrily brushed away her tears.
Jo's father died a few years ago from colon cancer. He basically left her nothing in the will. All of his money went to his kids from his second wife. Although he never approved of most of Jo's past boyfriends, he was vehemently against Blair, since she was a woman. This was ironic, since he once fancied Blair's mother.
Blair saw the sadness in Jo's eyes, so she comforted her. Jo cried a bit on her shoulder. The pain of her own mother not accepting her for who saw was and who she loved was a lingering pain that never went away. This was in addition to the pain of her father never fully accepting, even to his grave. Blair's eyes were starting to get watery, feeling Jo's pain and also the pain of not having that full approval from her relatives.
"It will be okay, sweetie," Blair comforted. While Blair was taking care of her, one of her guests was looking for her and found them. When he saw her, he had a feeling of what was going on.
"Hey Jo, we need to have you… Whatsamatta Jo? Does it have ta do wit' Rose?" Sal asked. This was nothing new to him.
Sal Longo, Jo's uncle, was a close relative to Jo, probably closer to Jo than her father ever was. Sal knew the situation between her and her mother very well. He tried multiple times to reason with his sister over Jo's sexuality. However he had no success. She was a devout Catholic and strongly adhered to the Church's stance on homosexuality.
Blair didn't say a thing but she didn't have to, Sal saw it on her face and the fact that Jo's cries grew louder when he mentioned her mother's name. Sal then comforted her with a hug while she was crying her pain away. Eventually, Jo stopped crying and dried the tears off her face.
"Hey, Uncle Sal, how are you doing?" She finally greeted him, her face flushed from crying and her voice barely audible.
"Busy as usual since my car dealership got off the ground."
"Yeah Jo! People are seriously buyin' them hybrid cars. You thought that I was crazy, did ya? I told ya' people would be buyin' them."
Sal sold his garage a few years back and started a Honda car dealership that specializes in hybrids.
"Selling, hybrid cars?" Blair questioned. "I thought someone like you would be more into Iroc Zs and Fieros."
"Hey I'm a proud American, and I used to love American cars, but times have changed and you gotta keep up wit' it. The Japanese are makin' betta' cars and dat's what people are buyin'."
Blair didn't say a word, but Jo agreed with her uncle.
"Yeah, you're right. Now thinkin' about it, I should have joined when I had the chance."
"Don't worry about it, Joey, you can join anytime. I'll provide you wit' the necessary training you need, cuz' I know that you will do a great job. Plus, you can make molto denaro from fixin' them cars, since not many mechanics know howta fix a hybrid engine."
Jo gave it a little thought but quickly declined. "Nah, I like my job enough."
"Hey, that's okay. We need a lot of good policemen in this crazy town."
"Ahem…" Jo cleared her throat to correct Sal's sentence.
"Oh sorry, I mean policewoman. I gotta remember that political correctness stuff."
Jo and Blair chuckled. "It alright, I know whacha sayin'," Jo said. "But anyhow, thanks for coming."
"Aaay, you know I wouldn't miss this fo' the world!" he said, sounding like a true Italian.
Jo smiled. "I know you wouldn't."
"But look, I got a present fo' ya' that you'll never forget."
"What is it? Some new chrome rims for my chopper?"
Sal chuckled. "Nah, something even better. You'll find out when the time comes. Anyway, take care and enjoy da party!" And he walked away with a smile on his face. It made Jo even more curious.
"What could be that 'big' surprise?"
Blair simply responded, "I don't know," but she knew, and Jo knew that she knew.
"You know I don't like any type of surprises, don't you?"
"Of course, Jo. We've known each other for twenty five years and we've been with each other for nearly twenty, so I basically know you inside-out. But you got to realize that some surprises can be a good thing. Besides, this is a birthday party, what are the chances that it will turn bad?"
Jo shrugged, believing that she was getting worrisome over nothing. "You're right Blair. Maybe I shouldn't be so negative about surprises."
"Of course I'm always right, I'm Blair Warner," she chimed.
Jo rolled her eyes. "If that's so, then I'm Gloria Vanderbilt," she retorted.
Blair giggled when she said that. It brought back memories of the first time they met. "That's how you introduced yourself to me, remember that day?" she slyly noted.
"How could I forget? You were sizing me up!" Jo grinned.
Blair then had a crimson-red blush on her face, much to Jo's enjoyment.
"A Warner does not size people up like a piece of meat, they evaluate."
"Same difference! Either way you look at it, you were checkin' out my goods. Not that I have any complaints about it!" Jo kidded. Blair laughed in response.
"A Warner knows a good thing when they see one," Blair teased. Now it was Jo's turn to blush red.
"You're not gonna hear any disagreements from me on that one."
After that they went back into the gym. While in the middle of the conversation, a dark-haired Asian woman interrupted them.
"Happy Birthday Jo," she said with a touch of seduction. When Jo saw her, she was totally shocked, but when Blair saw her, she was totally pissed.
It was Miko Wakamatsu, former Japanese student of Eastland who once idolized Jo, even so far as to develop a crush on her. In fact, she once tried to steal Jo away from Blair during a low point in their relationship. About fifteen years back, there was a serious miscommunication between Jo and Blair that nearly caused them to breakup. Miko got wind of it and thought it would be the perfect time to steal Jo. She made her move and tried to start a relationship with Jo. They dated and they even went so far as to kiss. While they were kissing, all Jo could think of was Blair, so she stopped the kissing and stopped seeing Miko.
She looked totally different from her Eastland days. She adopted more of a 'biker chick' look with her leather jacket, short hair, and a few tattoos. After Eastland and college at MIT with a Masters in Mechanical Engineering, she decided to become a Road Racer, participating in many road races throughout the world. She dominated the field, cleaning up prizes and championship in Europe, Asia, Australia/New Zealand, and the Americas. After she retired from competition, she became in charge of the Motorcycle division of Wakamatsu Motors.
Needless to say, Blair did not invite her, but she came nevertheless.
"What the hell are you doing here?" she tersely asked Miko.
Miko, playing it cool, responded, "I just came to say happy birthday to Jo. What's wrong with that?"
"There's nothing wrong with that, but when most people say 'Happy Birthday', they don't try to sound like Kathleen Turner!" Blair furiously spat at her. Just like earlier with Kelly, Jo was trying to be the peacemaker, doing her best to calm her lover down.
"Blair, will ya just calm down? I don't think she has any ulterior motives."
She did calm down a little bit, but she was clearly marking her 'territory' like an Alpha Wolf by wrapping her right arm around Jo's waist. Miko wasn't naïve of the situation. She was very aware of what Blair was doing.
"Jo's right, there's no need to be hostile Blair. I only want to give her a present." Then she pulled out the present from her pocket, a ticket to a concert.
"Great, another ticket…" Jo said with a stiff smile.
"No Jo, not just an ordinary ticket, but a ticket to the greatest concert of 2005!" Miko said with a joyful grin.
Her eyes widened when she heard that. "You mean…"
"That's right Jo, the Heartbeat of America concert! And it's sponsored by Wakamatsu Motors of course. John Cougar Mellancamp and Bruce Springsteen will be there!"
"Did you say 'Bruce Springsteen'?"
"Yep, and with the E Street Band as well! So do you still want this ticket?" she teased.
Jo got excited. "Absolutely!" Miko gladly handed her the ticket. But Blair knew there was something fishy about it, and no, it wasn't because Miko just finished eating some sushi.
"Hey, how come you only have one ticket?" Blair asked with a suspicious tone.
"Because Blair, for one, it's her birthday, not yours; and two, this is not your type of music, everybody knows that," she responded in a straightforward tone. Blair couldn't disagree with her response, yet it wasn't valid enough for just one ticket.
"Well either you give me a ticket, or Jo will hand it back to you," She commanded.
"Blair! Isn't it for me to decide?" she protested.
"Yeah, isn't it for her to decide? Do you have to make all the decisions in the relationship?" Miko spat purposely, goading Blair's anger.
Blair was totally irate at Miko. "Don't try to twist things around, Miko. You were planning to use this to move in on Jo. And speaking of decisions, since I'm the one who's set this party, I'm the one who also decides who should be allowed in this party. And the last time I checked, I didn't invite you, so you better get out of here, or else..." she sneered.
Miko then stepped right up to Blair, only mere inches away from her, staring at her eye to eye. Through gritted teeth, she replied, "Or else what?"
Before any potential volatile actions between the two occurred, they were interrupted by a cheerful elderly woman.
"Happy 40th Birthday Jo!"
Jo immediately smiled like a daughter seeing her mother. "Mrs. Garrett, it's good ta' see ya'!"
Yes, it was none other than Mrs. Garret, who could not have arrived at a better time. Miko knew it was time to nonchalantly leave the area and so she quietly slipped past the couple.
"Well how are you doing? I heard that you are now a Sergeant."
"Yeah, I got promoted. Blair's happy 'cuz I don't have ta' be out on the streets anymore!"
"I sure am…" Blair said. Her face showed how relieved she was.
Mrs. Garrett chuckled. "Well that's great. How are you two getting along? I still remember those epic-sized proportion arguments you two had."
Both of them blushed as they remember those "good old days" when they argued to death over everything. And of course they still do, if not even more so since they're a couple of almost exact opposites.
"We still have them, but the end results are much better." Jo slyly blushed along with Blair. Mrs. Garrett was old but not naïve and she knew what she meant.
"Well I wish that your mom was here, because she's missing out on one hell of a party!"
"Well it doesn't matter to her, nor does my own feelings." Instantly it made Jo bitter again.
"Jo, don't say that," Mrs. Garrett cautioned as Jo looked like she was going to cry again.
"But it's true, she hasn't fully accepted me and Blair and the fact that I'm gay. At least you have. You were more like a mother to me than she ever was."
Mrs. Garrett knew it was true, much to her dismay, "She did care about you Jo, and she does love you, but due to circumstances beyond her control, she couldn't be there for you as much as she wanted to. Look, ever since the first day I met you, I could see through your tough act and saw how vulnerable you were. I knew that you had a warm and caring soul inside. You might have had a troubled past, but it makes me proud to see that you have become a productive member of society.
Back then, I sensed that there was a strong attraction you two had for each, even though you two were denying it. You two fought like cats and dogs but yet you two cared for each other like lovebirds. Now I'm very glad to see the both of you together as a couple, as I've always believe you two were meant for each other, contrary to what everyone else believed. Now that you two are grown up, it's goo' to – to – to," By then, Mrs. Garrett had lost her composure and started to cry.
"What is it Mrs. Garrett?" Jo asked as she was wondering where the sudden outburst came from.
After regaining a little bit of composure, Mrs. Garrett responded, "Congratulations," and she hurried off to the bathroom. Jo was still clueless as to what was going on.
"Jeeze, what's up with her?" Jo asked in puzzlement.
"Maybe she got choked up because we're no longer the young teenagers she fondly remembers. Blair simply noted, making up something on the fly once again.
"Hmmm… I could see that."
A few seconds later, Blair received a phone call. She checked it out and saw her mother's name, Monica, on the cell phone.
"Hi mom, where in the world are you?" she worried.
"We're only about a few blocks away honey, but the traffic is more backed up than an all-you-can-eat buffet on Sunday after church. We should be there in about fifteen minutes, right Bailey?"
"I hope so. This present is so freakin' heavy! I think I'm losing feeling in my leg!" she complained.
"Oh hush up! You'll live!" Monica spat. Bailey steamed a bit.
"Well I don't know what to do in the meantime," she panicked.
"Don't worry; I know you'll figure it out. After all, you're a Warner. Toodaloo!" She added as she quickly hanged up on her.
Blair knew she had to think of something, but she had no "brilliant ideas" in her head. However, she didn't really need any, as Jo was examining the band on the stage. She really wasn't sure who the band was until they started playing 'Summer Madness'.
"Yes grease monkey?"
"Is that Kool and the Gang?"
Blair smiled. "It sure is."
Jo wasn't so amazed, as this was not the first time that Blair hobnobbed with famous musicians. Through Blair's socialite status, she has met Joan Jett, Pat Benatar, Frank Sinatra, Gene Simmons, and many others.
"So how do you know them?"
"Through my father. I think Robert 'Kool' Bell could tell you better." She then went to get the band leader's attention. Excusez-moi Kool!"
Kool instantly stopped the music, and came up to Blair with his bass guitar strapped around his shoulder.
"Yeah what's up?"
"As you probably already know, this is the birthday girl, Joanna Polniaczek."
"Nice to meet you Joanna," he greeted as he shook her hand.
"Ah just call me Jo, everyone else does."
"No problem Jo." Then the lead singer approached Jo, "And this is our lead singer James 'J.T' Taylor, but you probably already know that."
"Of course, what teen who listened to pop music in the 80s wouldn't know that?" she grinned. "It's nice to meet you J.T."
"Nice to meet you too!" he sang with his famous buttery voice and then he kissed Jo's hand like a gentleman.
"Isn't he such a gentleman?" Blair smiled.
"Of course, what do ya' expect from someone who sang 'Ladies Night'?" Jo responded. They all chuckled.
Then Blair continued, "So Kool, tell her and everybody else who's listening how you guys know the Warner family."
"Oh yeah, well one of our former band member used to work in one of the family's textile factories in Jersey. He found out that Mr. Warner was actually a jazz fan and coincidently, we were at that time a jazz band. In fact, our original name was the 'Jazziacs'." That got some chuckles from Jo, Blair, and the rest of the crowd, but Kool continued, "Well, at that time, we were playing at various clubs in New York and New Jersey but we had no record deal, so we thought that since Mr. Warner knew a lot of people, he could help us in finding a record deal. Through talking to a lot of people in the company, we were able to see Mr. Warner.
When we visited Mr. Warner in his office, he wanted to hear our music, so we told him about a club date we had on that night. On that night when we were playing, Mr. Warner came and listened to our music. We made sure we were on our peak performance that night, playing nothing but our best songs, and it worked! He was so impressed that he told us not only will he find a record company deal, but he will also pay for our first album! He introduced us to Gene Redd of De-Lite records, and the rest was history. Thus we are ever so thankful for what Mr. Warner and the rest of the Warner's have done for us.
Whenever they need us to perform for their private parties and/or any concerts they are sponsoring, we are always there and we always charged them with a discount, but he always insisted on paying us the full price."
"That's because dad thought you guys deserve the full price."
"Yeah, he always did, so he always gave us a 'big tip'." Kool chuckled, but something else was more important in his mind and he brought it up to Blair. "Speaking of Mr. Warner, how's your father doing?"
"He's doing alright, though he can't leave the hospital yet. He really wanted to be here, but they refuse to let him go. He's still bedridden," she said in a somber mood.
Blair's father just had a stroke a few days ago, and he was now in serious but stable condition. He couldn't leave anyway, for the stroke had partially paralyzed his right side.
"Well, tell him that me and the rest of the gang wish him the best of luck."
"Actually, you guys should go and see him yourselves. Visitation hours are from 10 AM to 9 PM, and he would really love to see you guys."
Kool smiled. "We will do so. We'll be in the area for a few days, so it will be a good time to visit."
Blair smiled. "Thank you! I know he would love it!"
"No problem. Anything else?"
"Yeah, since my mother hasn't arrived with the cake yet, I guess it would be a good time to sing that song. I was hoping to wait until after she opened her presents, but I guess I can give her one of my 'gifts' right now. J.T., I hope you don't mind?"
"No problem Blair, I don't have to be the lead all the time," he said as he handed the microphone to her.
Blair walked up to near the stage with Kool and then commanded to the band, "Okay guys, hit it!"