Sex, Death and Rock n’ Roll © 2009 By Cyberdyke

This story depicts a consenting sexual relationship between adult women, oh and a man and a women too. There is occasional bad language and violence. Disclaimer: All characters are fictitious and made up from the depths of my mind. Any similarities with living or dead people just sucks.

 

Sex, Death and Rock n’ Roll – Part 5

“What’s our first stop?” Kris asked, as they drove down the wet street.

“Vet’s office.”

“This is a nice truck. Have you had it long?” Kris asked. Looking all over the truck, she found the CD store under the radio and began picking through the selection. “Could we?” She held one of the CDs up.

“I didn’t know you liked ‘Pat Benatar’?” Melissa asked, as the music started. Kris turned it up and replied, “Oh yeah, Patty and I go way back. I cut my teeth on Heartbreaker.” Kris began to play air drums with the music, totally oblivious of anything but the music. The song finished and Kris was back in the same dimension as Melissa.

Melissa looked annoyed. “Oh shit, I forgot to call my mom.”

“That’s OK, I’m looking forward to meeting her.”

Melissa looked apprehensively. “I don’t know.”

“What exactly do you think she’ll object to?” Kris asked. “You aren’t ashamed to be seen by your family with me are you?”

“No of course not.” Melissa looked over at her. “Other than the fact that you’re my lover, and you’re a rock star, and you look like a hood, there’s nothing for her to object to.”

Kris tried to look concerned. “She’s got something against rock stars?”

“What would you think if your daughter was in love with a rock star? Your occupation doesn’t have the best image.”

“Well if it was Steve Tyler, or Mick Jagger, I’d be devastated. On the other hand if it was Joan Jett or Nancy Wilson, I would be jumping for joy!”

Melissa smiled and conceded, “Alright, point taken.”

“What do you mean I look like a hood?”

“Well, you and that coat; I’m surprised you don’t get mistaken for the Mafia all the time.”

“I love this coat. It’s comfortable, keeps me warm and dry, and I can knock around in it.”

“You have no fashion sense.”

“Oh and I see you on the cover of Vogue!” Kris joked. “Hey, I’ve been meaning to ask you, who or what is the Portland Power?”

“It’s our ABL team,” Melissa replied. Kris continued to look blank. “Our women’s basketball team?!”

“I’m not really into sports. I take in a couple of Dodger games and some sand volleyball, but that’s about it.”

Melissa looked askance. “You really don’t know what I’m talking about?”

Kris shrugged. “No, what’s the big deal?”

“Well I know what we’re doing while you’re here.”

By the time they got to the restaurant, Mrs. Davis had already arrived. They entered the restaurant and scanned the crowd, as Mrs. Davis waved them over to her table for two. Mrs. Davis stood and hugged Melissa, and Melissa said, “Hi Mom, I’d like you to meet a friend of mine. Kris Cutler, this is my mom, Frances Davis.” Melissa had her mother’s smile and eyes.

Kris extended her hand. “I’ve been looking forward to meeting you for some time now.”

Francis was a woman in her early fifties, with graying blond hair, which she wore down to her shoulders. She was dressed in jeans, a yellow T-shirt and gray tweed blazer.

Mrs. Davis took Kris’ hand and, looking a bit confused, said, “Nice to meet you.” She turned her attention to her daughter; “I don’t remember you saying anything about bringing a guest, dear.”

Kris brought the older woman’s attention back to herself. “I’m afraid that’s my fault Ma’am. I only arrived this morning, unannounced; I do apologize for being so presumptuous as to invite myself to lunch,” Kris explained as she found another chair and they all sat down.

Looking her over curiously, Mrs. Davis said, “I see. Arrived? From where?”

“Kris is currently on tour,” Melissa replied, picking up her menu and feeling very awkward.

“Really?” Mrs. Davis asked.

A timid man standing next to the table, looking expectantly, asked, “Excuse me, are you Kris Cutler?”

“Would you excuse me?” Kris said to the two women as she turned her attention to the fan.

Frances looked none-too-happy as she leaned across the table to speak with her daughter. “Melissa, would you like to explain what’s going on?”

“Mom, Kris is a rock star.” Melissa was a little uncomfortable with this new subject around her mom.

Frances asked, with an air of doubt in her voice, “You’re saying she’s famous?” Melissa nodded her head yes as a couple other people approached the table. “Does this happen everywhere you go?”

Melissa was studying the menu. “Pretty much. It seems to be more frequent in gay places, though.”

“How interesting,” Frances replied, amusedly watching. “Why more so in gay places?”

Melissa explained, “Well, Kris just recently came out publicly.”

Finally able to turn her attention back to the table, Kris said, “I’m terribly sorry for all that.”

Frances looked very amused as she quizzed, “My daughter says you’re a rock star?”

Kris picked up her menu. “Yes Ma’am. I play drums for the group Scarecrow.”

Melissa caught a glimpse of Rita over the top of her menu, standing very quietly in the corner, and wondered where she had materialized from.

“How fascinating. I’m sorry, I’m not familiar with your group. You’re on tour? How long will you be here?”

Kris replied, opening her menu, “We have a concert in Denver on Monday.”

“Are you staying with Melissa, then?”

“Yes Ma’am. It makes it easier in terms of crowd control,” Kris answered.

“How long have you two… ah, known each other?” Frances asked, not sure what the protocol was.

Melissa didn’t look up from her menu as she responded, “We met several months ago, here in town.”

Frances registered her surprise. “Oh? You didn’t say anything to me about it.”

Melissa answered vaguely, “Well, I found it a little hard to believe, and thought that everyone else might also feel that way.”

Kris smiled slightly, enjoying how cute Melissa was being. “Melissa was worried that you might not be ready to meet me today, Mrs. Davis.”

The older woman looked quizzically at her daughter, before turning her attention back to Kris. “Please call me Frances . I can’t understand why she’d feel that way.”

Melissa blushed slightly. “Well, I just thought it might be a lot to spring on you all in one lunch.”

“Children always think they have to approach news slowly, giving us old folks time to get used to it.”

“Yes Momma,” Melissa replied, relaxing a bit.

“What do you do Frances ?” Kris asked, as the waitperson came over to take their order.

“Well I’m a semi-retired psychiatrist.”

“What does that mean, semi-retired?” Kris rested her elbows on the table and then rested her chin on top of her joined hands.

“I have a limited practice, just a few patients,” Frances explained. Looking from one woman to the other, she continued, “What do your parents do?”

Melissa held her breath, wishing she could have derailed this conversation.

Kris took a deep breath. “My parents are dead.” Before Frances could say anything, Kris continued, “However, my older brother and his wife raised me. She’s a freelance writer, magazine and newspaper articles mostly. He’s a businessman.”

Frances asked, “How old were you when your parents died?”

Kris closed her menu and put it down. “Sixteen.”

Frances looked at Kris in puzzlement. “Most people are pretty much raised by that age.”

Melissa sighed, hiding behind her menu.

“Yes Ma’am, I suppose that’s true. But I really didn’t know what life was like until then.”

Frances asked in disbelief, “You must have had a very strict upbringing then?”

“Yes Ma’am; my father was career Marines, a drill sergeant. My mom was devout Catholic and a good Marine wife.”

Kris and Frances continued their chitchat, getting to know each other. Melissa sat back and watched. She had never really watched as a bystander before. She was intrigued by the way Kris carried herself, the way she moved her agile, strong and soft hands when she talked. The way she was always in motion, her foot was either tapping, or one of her fingers was keeping a beat only she could hear. The way her eyes sparkled when she was amused, and pulled down slightly at the corners when she smiled. The vulnerability that was visible just behind her beautiful eyes. Melissa felt for the first time since they had met that she was seeing Kris the person, her alter ego left behind with the tour. She also knew with all of her heart that she was in love, head over heels, hopelessly in love. She wanted to spend the rest of her life with this woman. But it seemed too soon; they had just met, and this was only their third meeting if you wanted to get really technical about it. She had never felt that she was ‘in love’ before. She had loved previous lovers but had never felt like she was ‘in love’. Not like this. She liked this feeling. It was scary and exciting and comfortable, all at the same time. Now she knew why songs were written about it. Now she knew what all those songs meant.

Her mother asked, looking at her quizzically, “Melissa? Are you OK?”

Melissa was brought back to the conversation, feeling a little guilty. “Ah, sure Mom, why?” she asked, feeling the blush that was heating her face.

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Kris paid the check as the other two women walked out into the parking lot. The rain had stopped, but the sky still looked threatening.

Frances pulled her coat tighter around her. “I’m glad you didn’t cancel lunch today.”

Melissa’s face registered her surprise. “Really?”

Frances took her car keys out of her coat pocket. “Yes, I really enjoyed myself. Kris is really very nice.”

“Yes she is; not at all what you’d expect, right?”

Frances kissed Melissa on the cheek as she climbed in her car. “No. You two look very happy together. Have her over to the house for dinner if you have time.”

“We’ll see how it goes. Thanks Mom,” Melissa replied, as the car started and Frances began leaving the parking lot. Kris walked up next to Melissa and waved good-bye.

Kris said, as they got inside the pick-up, “Hey, that was fun.”

“Yeah, it turned out better than I thought it would.”

Kris put on her seatbelt. “So I passed the test? She’s really nice; I don’t know what you were afraid of?”

Melissa smiled warmly at her, “I don’t either,” Melissa replied, as they drove off.

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“I still don’t understand why we don’t go out to eat?” Kris was saying as she set the table.

Melissa replied, stirring something on the stove, “I’ve had enough ‘fans’ intruding for one day.”

Kris watched Melissa. “Well I have to admit, it does smell wonderful.”

“When was the last time you had a home cooked meal?”

“Last year on holiday; I was over at Bridget’s for some family get-together.”

“Don’t you get tired of eating in restaurants all the time?”

“I suppose; I don’t really think about it.”

Melissa was a little appalled. “Do you realize that you go through most of your daily life not thinking about things?”

“I focus on the music, not the little things. What’s on your mind most of the day?”

Melissa raised her eyebrows. Besides you? she thought. “I really don’t know…”

“...Besides sex, really!” Kris rolled her eyes, as if she couldn’t believe it.

“Well, I guess I would have to say work – gardening, landscape.”

“Right. It’s the same for me as well.”

“OK, I get your point. Hey, would you go call Brandon for dinner please?”

“Sure. Wow, this takes me back to high school,” Kris replied, as she headed off down the hall toward Brandon’s room.

She knocked, and was invited in, as the volume of music inside decreased. She was not prepared at all for what greeted her when she opened the door. Posters covered every inch of the wall space. Most of the posters were of Scarecrow, with a couple of just her, and one of Tony, and another of just the two of them. He also had a couple of jocks. She looked about the room, her mouth hanging open. Brandon was lying on his bed. He jumped to his feet when she entered, acting very nervous.

“Kris! I thought you were Mo!” he stammered, as he picked up his jock strap off the top of his high-hat, and underwear off the top of his TV set and tried to hide them.

Kris was trying not to act shocked. “Lissa wanted me to tell you that dinner’s ready.”

“Who?”

Kris was still looking around, not really concentrating on the conversation. “What?” He asked, regaining some of his composure, “Who did you say?”

“Lissa, your sister?”

“Ah, OK I’ll be right there.”

She complimented him, looking over his drum set, “Hey, that’s a really nice set; I play Tama acoustics too.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“How long have you been playing?”

He was looking more sure of himself. “Since I was in the fourth grade.”

Kris smiled. “I started in grade school.”

“I know.”

“Oh? Is there anything you don’t know?” she asked, smiling. “You know, you shouldn’t believe all that stuff you read in those teen magazines.”

He wore a cocky smile. “Well so far they’ve been right.”

“You’re a smart ass. Let’s hear you play.”

He was hesitant and looked a little nervous. “What? Right now?”

Kris shrugged. “Yeah, why not?”

“Alright. What’s your favorite song?”

“To play or to listen to?”

He rolled his eyes. “To play, of course.”

“That would have to be ‘Flyin’ with the Devil’,” she replied, as he put the right CD on to play, put his headphones on, and switched the stereo so that the headphones and the speakers could be heard simultaneously. The song started, and he played along with it. Kris listened and then started to sing along. He was really very good, and she was duly impressed, applauding as he finished. “Very nice. I liked the little flams you put in during the guitar solo. What’s the name of your band?”

He removed the headphones, blushing a bit. “We don’t really have a name yet. How’d you know?”

“Honey, us musicians are always in a band. You got to play all the time. I’d love to hear you guys.”

Eyebrows rose high on his forehead in surprise, as Brandon asked, “Really?”

“Sure; I’m always on the lookout for new talent.”

He was full of excitement. “That would be great; how about tonight?”

“How about we check with Lissa first about tomorrow? She and I have plans for tonight. …Oh shit, dinner’s ready!” Kris exclaimed as they headed for the kitchen.

Melissa put a large bowl of salad on the table, as the two entered the room. “I can see you got sucked into the black hole of his room!”

Kris apologized, “Sorry, we got to talking music.” She noticed that they were alone. Standing conspiratorially close, keeping her voice down, she asked, “Has his room always looked like that?”

Melissa missed the drama of the comment. “He’s kind of a slob…”

“No, I mean all the posters?”

“Oh yeah.” She stopped putting stuff on the table and looked at her lover. “What are you getting at?”

Feeling silly, Kris was absently playing with the tablecloth. “I was just wondering if he’d always had all the posters of Scarecrow? Or if that was something new?”

“No, he’s always been a big fan.”

“It was kind of weird seeing myself plastered to his walls like that. It was like it was a shrine or something.” She shivered.

Smiling, Melissa challenged, “You can’t tell me your room looked any different when you were growing up?”

“Well that’s true. I guess I just wasn’t ready for it.”

Brandon came into the room. “Mo, can I get the guys over tomorrow for Kris to listen to?”

“Brandon, she’s on vacation; maybe she doesn’t want to listen…”

Kris interrupted, as they sat down at the table, “It was my idea.”

“Well I don’t really have any plans; if it’s OK with Kris, sure.”

“I’ll go call them…”

“…What about your dinner?” she asked. He sat down looking apologetic.

27

The Coliseum was sparsely occupied with people, since the start of the game was almost an hour away. The few people that were there were watching the home team warm up. Pop music echoed through the large space.

“OK, now which ones are we?” Kris asked, as they neared their seats.

Melissa explained, pointing, “We’re the ones in the white uniforms. The only team on the court right now.”

“Wow, get a load of the nose bleed seats! Do we look that small from way up there?” Kris was standing in the middle of the aisle with her head tilted back, staring at her surroundings.

Melissa answered, taking off her coat as she took her seat, “Yes, trust me.”

“Man, I cannot believe that I’m on vacation, and where do you take me? A concert hall!” Kris joked, taking off her coat. “Was this where we played, when we were in town?”

“No, that was across the street. Try not to think of it as a concert hall, but a basketball arena,” Melissa suggested.

Kris was still looking around. “It always amazes me that we can sell one of these monsters out.”

“You’d better sit down before you get knocked down, since you’re blocking the aisle.”

Kris was acting like a kid in a candy shop. “Jee-sus! Have you noticed all the dykes in here?!” Kris exclaimed rather loudly. “I think I’ve died and gone to heaven!” Two women sitting in front of them a couple of rows turned and laughed.

One of them called back, “It’s the best scenery in town.”

“I’m sorry, I’d have to disagree with you. This is the best scenery in town,” Kris replied, as she looked at Melissa and then kissed her. The two women from a few rows up laughed.

“Hey Davis! Good to see you,” a rather stocky woman, wearing a leather vest and sporting a pierced tongue, called to them.

Melissa waved and called back, “Hey Marge. How’s life?”

Marge took off her coat and placed it on the back of the seat in front of them. “Should be a good game tonight.”

Melissa looked around. “Where’s Patty?”

“She wanted some of those God awful nachos. Have you seen Melinda?” Marge replied.

“No, I don’t think she’ll be here tonight.”

“Why did you go off and leave me to carry all this stuff by myself?” a woman with a crew cut asked, as she stood next to Marge.

Marge replied huffily, “I told you, if you’re going to eat that crap, I don’t want to have anything to do with you.”

“Hi Melissa, looks like you have a new friend,” the woman said, as she took off her coat.

“I’m sorry; this is Kris. Kris, this is Patty and Marge.” Melissa made the introductions, and Kris waved.

Marge looked puzzled. “You look very familiar; have we met before?”

Kris looked deep in thought, before she replied, “No, I don’t think so.”

Melissa was anxious to change the subject, not sure how her friends would react when they found out who was sitting next to her. “Can you believe she’s never been to a game? Didn’t even know what it was.”

“Well you are going to be in for a treat. This is going to be really good sports,” Patty stated, eating her nachos with the nuclear orange cheese. More people began to arrive, as it got closer to game time.

Patty shouted out, as a rather petite woman in her early thirties came and sat next to Kris, “Melinda!”

Marge was pointing to her watch. “Boy, talk about cutting it close!”

Melinda explained, as she removed her coat, “I know. I had a hard time getting a sitter. Julie is working the late shift this week.”

“Hi, I’m Kris,” she said, as she shook hands with the newcomer.

“Melinda, nice to meet you. This isn’t a come-on line, but have we met before?”

Kris replied, smiling, “I don’t believe so.”

Patty was scrutinizing Kris. “You know, I thought she looked really familiar as well, now that you’ve mentioned it too.”

Marge demanded, “Alright, what gives? Spill it Melissa!”

Melissa looked at Kris. “I think the jig is up.”

Kris looked back at Melissa, smiling. “I suppose now we’ll have to tell them?”

Melissa was laughing. “Well the truth is… she’s my date.”

“Yeah, like tell us something we don’t know!” Patty stated.

“Alright. I’m Kris Cutler. Bet you didn’t know that?” Kris stated, smiling.

Patty looked very skeptical. “No way!!”

Melinda looked unsure. “The rock star? The one that came out a few months ago?”

Kris confirmed, “I’m afraid so.”

Looking absolutely stunned at Melissa, Marge asked, “That was you in The Advocate?!”

Melissa smiled and nodded her head yes. “I didn’t know you read that?”

Patty sat down rather hard, looking totally surprised. “Well fuck me all over!!”

“Oh man, Julie is going to die that she missed this game tonight!!” Melinda stated.

The game began; the Power was off to a good start with the first points of the game, followed by a foul for two additional points. The group had to all pitch in and coach Kris through what was going on; for every foul, Kris would ask what it was for, and if it was against the home team or not. By the time it was half time, she had a pretty good grip on the rules, and was genuinely enjoying it.

As they all stood and stretched, Patty asked, “That article in The Advocate was in last month’s issue. How long have you two been seeing each other?”

Melissa explained, “We met when Kris was here on tour. For a few months now.”

Melinda stated, “That was one good concert!”

“Thank-you. I’m glad you enjoyed it,” Kris replied.

Melinda was a little star struck. “Oh yeah, Julie is a huge fan; can I get an autograph?”

Marge slapped Melissa’s arm jokingly. “You dog! Why didn’t you tell us?”

Kris searched for a pen and paper. Finding a pen, she signed their ticket stubs.

Melissa looked doubtful. “Well it seemed like a dream. Frankly, I didn’t think you’d believe me.”

Patty turned to Marge. “I told you she had a rose for a tattoo, not a red cloud!!”

Kris asked, signing Melinda’s ticket stub, “So is Julie your partner?”

“Yeah, we’ve been together for eight years,” Melinda replied.

“Wow, that’s a long time. Did I hear you say something about a sitter?”

“Yeah, we have two daughters. Three-and-a-half and two.”

Kris looked uncertain. “Kids? Can’t be from previous marriages?”

“No, we both wanted to have kids, so we each took a turn and had one,” Melinda explained. “I was artificially inseminated. Julie did it the old fashioned way…”

Kris put up her hand. “Stop! I don’t want to hear about that. Thank-you.” She looked a little green around the edges. “I’m sorry. It’s just the thought of a man and a woman… always makes me feel nauseous.”

Melissa observed, “That’s a rather strong reaction.”

Kris looked perplexed. “I know, but I just don’t get it! Why would you want that when you can have a woman?”

Patty looked thoughtful. “They just don’t know what they’re missing, I guess.”

Marge asked, looking curiously at Kris and Melissa, “How many times have you two seen each other since this relationship started?”

Kris counted on her fingers. “Well, this is our fifth day together.”

Melinda looked dreamy. “That’s so cute; they’re just starting out.”

“We had lunch with Mrs. Davis today…”

Patty teased, “Wow, this is more serious than I thought!”

Marge stated, “Yeah, meeting the parents, big step!”

“Don’t rush us, we’ve just met!” Melissa cautioned.

The players came back on the court and began their warm up.

Marge suggested, “Why don’t we go out for a drink after the game?”

Kris looked concerned. “Like to a gay bar?”

“Of course,” Patty replied.

Kris looked thoughtful. “I’d better not. Last time I was in a couple of your gay bars, I came out to the world, and fell in love. I think they have a strange effect on me.”

“Oh I can’t, I have to get back for the sitter. You’re all welcome to come over to my place for coffee though,” Melinda offered.

“That sounds perfect!” Marge stated.

“What do you think?” Melissa asked, into Kris’ ear.

Kris replied, shrugging, “Sounds fine to me.”

“Aren’t you tired?” Melissa asked.

“Always,” Kris answered. “We’d be happy to attend,” Kris told Melinda.

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“You have a really nice home,” Kris remarked, as Melinda took her coat and hung it in the closet.

“Thank-you. It took us a while to find it, and of course we had to do some work to it.”

“Did you actually do the work yourselves?” Kris asked, as they moved into the living room with the rest of the women.

Melinda explained, “Most of it. We hired an electrician to upgrade the service into the house, but the rest of it we did ourselves.”

Kris looked impressed. “That’s really cool. I wouldn’t know where to start.”

“You don’t know which end of a hammer is up?” Melissa replied, as Kris stood next to her.

“Not true. I’m just not versed in home repairs. Now give me a car, and I could knock your socks off.”

Patty was suddenly all ears. “You know cars?”

“Yeah, I restored a ’58 Willys wagon from scratch in high school.”

Respect filled Marge’s eyes. “You own a Willys?”

“You bet!”

Patty observed, “Don’t see too many of those around anymore.”

“Getting harder to find them everyday,” Kris agreed.

“Can I give you a hand in the kitchen?” Melissa offered, as she and Melinda left the room.

Melinda stated, as she removed mugs out of the cupboard, “I have to admit I’m a little nervous. I’ve never had anyone famous in my house before.”

“I know how you feel. Try to think of her as just a regular person; it makes it a lot easier.”

“I’ll try, but my hands are shaking so bad I can hardly pick anything up!” Melinda smiled. “Oh, I saw Susan the other day; she is not very happy with you.”

Melissa’s face grew dark. “Well life goes on.”

“You know, I was really glad to hear that you’d stopped seeing her because I always felt very uncomfortable around her.”

Melissa shivered at the thought. “Me too. I didn’t realize until it was too late that she wanted to possess me. Until a month or so ago, she parked outside my house every night.”

“That is so creepy! Do you think she’ll try something?”

“No, I think I made it very clear that we’re not together anymore.”

Melinda joked, “Besides, Kris looks like she could probably hold her own against her.”

“Well between Kris and Rick, Susan would definitely get her butt stomped,” Melissa agreed.

Marge sauntered into the kitchen. “Oh Melissa, she’s wonderful!” She had a dreamy look on her face.

Melissa beamed. “I know. But thanks for noticing.”

Marge was wagging her finger at Melissa and trying to look angry. “I’m still angry that you didn’t tell us about this. By the way, I want your autograph on that story in the Advocate!”

Melinda took the kettle off the stove. “How is your family taking all of this?”

“Oh man, it was so embarrassing; Brandon walked in on us this morning!” Melissa recounted.

Marge stated, looking horrified, “No! How awful. I told you living with a man was going to be nothing but trouble.”

“So how is she….?” Melinda asked, a sly grin on her face as the two women waited expectantly.

Melissa wore a little pout. “Do you really think that’s any of your business?”

“No, but tell us anyway!” Marge replied.

Melissa removed the milk from the fridge. And made her friends stew in their own juices. “You two are awful!”

Melinda exchanged looks with Marge. “You know you’re dying to tell!”

Melissa was smiling and looking very satisfied. “I cannot believe you two, and since I know that you’ll bug me about this until I do tell – she’s wonderful!”

“Details!” Marge replied.

“Not on your life!” Melissa’s hands were on her hips a defiant look in her eyes. “You’ll have to wait until my autobiography comes out.” Melissa headed back into the living room. She walked up and took Kris’ hand. “How are we doing out here?”

“Good. But I need to use the bathroom,” Kris stated, as Melissa showed her where it was.

Julie entered the house. “Ah, thought all the vehicles looked familiar.” She was tall and very athletic looking. She wore metal-framed glasses that made her look a little shy.

“I hope you don’t mind; I invited the girls over after the game…”

Julie interrupted, heading into the kitchen and kissing Melinda, “A victory party?”

Melinda looked like she was going to explode. “Well yes, and I have a huge surprise for you.”

Julie cleaned out her lunch box. “Oh really? How are the girls?”

“Just fine, they’re sleeping. The sitter had no problems putting them down.”

“Great! Maybe they’ll get through the whole night for a change.” Julie crossed her fingers. “Hey Melissa, haven’t seen you around much lately.”

“Yeah, I’ve been a little busy,” Melissa replied as the two women hugged.

Patty stated under her breath, “Yeah, I’ll say.”

Kris returned from the bathroom and found that everyone had moved into the kitchen. She was standing behind all the other women as she watched what was going on.

“You’ll never guess who I sat next to tonight at the game?” Melinda asked.

Julie was leaning against the wall. “Martina Navratilova?” Julie joked, playing along. “Who?” she asked.

“Melissa’s new girlfriend…”

“…Excuse me.” Kris moved past the other women, extending her hand as she approached Julie. “Hi, you must be Julie. I’m Kris,” she said. The look of surprise on Julie’s face was instantaneous, as her eyes grew to the size of saucers and her mouth fell open. She began to slide down the wall as her knees gave way. Kris reached over and pulled her back on her feet, helping to steady her. “I think maybe you’d better sit down.” Kris helped her to a nearby chair. Melinda brought her a glass of water.

Patty smiled with amusement. “I think she was surprised.”

“Either that, or she’s gonna be sick,” Marge replied.

Julie reached up and grabbed the collar of Melinda’s shirt and pulled her face down next to hers, where she whispered something to her.

Melinda straightened up. “Yes dear, I do know who that is.”

Kris stated, “Melinda said how disappointed you’d be that you hadn’t been at the game, so I hope this makes up for it?”

Julie could only nod her head yes.

Melinda picked up a tray with mugs and a teapot on it. “Shall we move into the living room?”

The women were comfortably sitting around sipping their tea and talking.

When she recovered, Julie asked, looking guilty, “I’ve often wondered, do you lurk on the Internet mailing lists for the band?”

Kris replied, smiling wryly, “Sometimes. I have had more time to do that during holiday. It’s very interesting to find out what the fans have to say. This whole Internet thing is really cool don’t you think? I’ve been known to answer a few fans back directly.”

Melinda smiled as she sat next to her partner on the couch. “That must give people a thrill!”

“Aren’t you worried they’ll get your e-mail address?” Patty asked, as she nibbled on a cookie.

Kris looked doubtful, one corner of her mouth turning up, “Now you don’t think I’d use my most private email address for such a thing, do you?”

Julie asked, as she put her arm around her lover, “Then how do your fans know it’s from you?”

“Do you think ‘Howdy@KrisCutler.com’ is enough of a hint?”

Marge agreed as she sipped her tea, “Yeah, that would work for me.”

“So can we send you mail there?” Julie asked expectantly.

Kris sipped her tea. “Oh sure, but I get a lot of it. I try to answer all of it, but sometimes I just don’t have time.”

“I wanted to ask you what’s the story behind “Like it Hot”?” Julie asked.

Kris was laughing. “Well that’s a little joke we have. When the band first got together, we were all strongly practicing single hood. Then Steve, our bass player, met his soon to be wife and wedding bells could be heard. The four of us who were not smitten with this affliction wrote that song as a wake up call to him about the perils he was about to face.”

Julie started laughing. “I’ve always liked that song. I love the way you perform it by encircling Steve and the looks of insanity you all have on your faces!”

Patty stirred her tea. “So Kris, tell us how was it working with Mindy Mumford in your last video?”  Marge gave her a jab in the ribs and a disapproving look.

“Well she seemed nice enough. She was game enough to put up with what they wanted her to do for the video. But I didn’t sit around and talk with her.”

“What do you mean, ‘what they wanted her to do for the video’?” Melinda asked, as she caressed Julie's thigh.

“Well that was Rick’s song. He and the director put the concept together for the video.”

“What about “Burnin’ Flame,” that was a song you wrote, right?” Melissa asked, putting her mug on the coffee table.

Kris looked at her, looking impressed. “You have been following this haven’t you?” She smiled and shook her head. “Yeah that was mine, but I got outvoted.”

Julie asked timidly, “Outvoted?”

“Yeah, my version of the video didn’t make it past the record execs, so it’s sitting on a shelf in my room.”

“What was your version of the video?” Julie asked, while she intertwined her fingers with her wife's.

“The song is about someone telling another not to cheat on them. I used two women as the couple.”

“Man, that sounds much better than the one that’s out there. I’d really like to see it,” Melinda stated.

Kris sounded regretful; “I wish I could show it to you.”

“Why can’t you? It’s your song, right?” Julie asked, reasonably.

Kris sounded a little angry. “Because I had to buy it from the record company, and the deal was that I wouldn’t show anyone.”

“So it’s your song, but they get the final say over the video?” Melissa sounded puzzled.

“That’s what happens when they pay for it.”

“So even though you’re the one writing the songs and making the money, the record company still has the last word?” Patty asked.

“This contract was made awhile ago, when we basically didn’t know better and didn’t care. Musicians and legal stuff don’t exactly mix. But it’s become a huge pain in the ass. It’s up for renewal this year; I can’t wait!”

Julie tried to clarify, “So then we can expect a change in the future?”

“I think you can put money on that. I won’t work for that closed minded company any longer.”

“This is a general consensus within the band?” Melissa crossed one leg over the other.

“I didn’t say that. I said I wouldn’t work for this company any longer.”

“Do I sense a band split?” Marge asked, as Julie looked stricken.

“Never ask me about my working relationship with my brother towards the end of a tour!” Kris laughed.

“You know, I don’t know how you do that? I would have killed my brother long ago!” Melinda stated as the rest of the women nodded in understanding.

“Yeah, didn’t I read somewhere that you share a house together as well?” Julie quizzed.

“Yep. We have our differences, no doubt about that, but we just have a really close relationship. We have always been really close; it’s probably because there is such an age difference between us and our older brother. I think Tony is the buffer zone between us.”

“How many years separate you?” Melinda asked.

“Thirteen,” Kris replied.

“Isn’t Tony your niece?” Patty asked.

“Yep. Her step-father is my oldest brother.” Kris sipped her tea.

“Ah, I always wondered what the connection was,” Melinda replied.

Marge, never one for politeness, jumped in, “If you and Rick are so close, why all the rumors about your fight?”

Kris suddenly looked ten years older. “I guess it had to get out sooner or later?”

“Kris, even I’ve heard the rumors that the band is about to break up,” Melissa replied.

Kris waved a hand, dismissing the subject. “Rumors.”

Marge protested, “You can’t just let that drop!”

Patty pleaded, “Yeah, please tell us it isn’t so?!”

“Rick and I are currently not speaking…”

“What? Why, what happened?” Melissa interrupted. The room was alive with all the women talking at once.

Raising her hand to quiet them down, Kris continued, “We had a disagreement…”

Marge piped up, “Yeah, I heard it was the split lip you gave him.”

Kris looked pointedly at her before she replied, “That, and the fact that he’s a horse’s ass.” She smiled sardonically.

Melissa searched Kris’ face, seeing pain and mistrust. “What happened?” She took Kris’ hand in hers as they sat next to one another.

“Gods, it’s such a mess.” Kris looked deep into Melissa’s eyes. She wanted nothing more than to jump in and never come back out again.

Trying to get the dirt, Patty prodded, “Rolling Stone said that it was over a woman.”

Kris looked over at her. “When it comes to Rick, it’s always about a woman.”

Melissa suddenly began to get a bad feeling, “When did all of this start?”

Kris tried to push it off as nothing; “Awhile ago…”

Melissa’s gaze was serious. “Did he say something about me?”

Marge said, “Ooo, now we’re getting somewhere.”

Kris dropped her gaze, trying to stall for an answer. “I can neither deny nor confirm that statement.”

Melissa pinned her with her gaze and a raised pale eyebrow. “I’m not the media.”

“True, but…” Kris looked around the room then back at Melissa, “I have to be careful what I say about certain things.”

Melinda piped up, “OK – that’s not something you hear a normal person say.”

Kris sighed, “The fallout might land on your head.”

Melissa’s jaw was set. “Spill it!”

Kris ran a hand through her hair. “After you left, Rick was shooting his mouth off like normal, and he just crossed the line – so I let him know it.”

Julie said in awe, “Oh man, a white knight defending your honor!”

Melissa ignored the comment. “So how much trouble has this caused? No wait, you haven’t spoken since I left?” She rubbed her forehead with her hand. “This can’t be good.”

Kris tried to reassure her. “It’ll blow over – when he finally gets around to apologizing.”

“So are you going to break up or not?” Marge asked.

“I have no plans to break from the band. I can’t speak for the rest of the band.” Kris stifled a yawn. “But when this tour is over, I may kill my little brother.”

Melissa squeezed Kris’ hand. “I think we should call it a night.”

Smiling her trademark smile, Kris asked, “Does anyone want an autograph before we go?” She signed CDs, and took pictures with them, before they left.

25

The morning was gray, and the pouring rain could be heard hitting the roof. Kris was sleeping on Melissa’s bare chest. Melissa slowly caressed Kris’ bare shoulder. She had been awake for a while, just listening to the rain and Kris’ steady breathing, and reveling in the wonderful feel of the woman in her arms. There was a clap of thunder that made Melissa jump in surprise as the room lit up from the lightning. Boy that was close! she thought.

Suddenly Kris started to whimper and twitched about in a very agitated way. “No!” she yelled as she bolted upright.

“Kris, it’s alright!” Melissa tried to calm her upset lover.

Kris looked about the room, trying to get her bearings; once she settled on Melissa’s familiar face, she began to relax. She scrubbed her face, trying to shake her mind from sleep. “Morning,” she said, feeling a little embarrassed.

Melissa looked very concerned. “Hey, you OK?”

Kris tried to sound reassuring. “Oh sure.”

Melissa was stroking Kris’ hair. “Want to talk about it?”

Kris didn’t really want to put a voice to her fears, but she didn’t want to keep anything from Melissa either. “Oh, it was really a stupid dream; no biggy.”

“Uh huh. That’s why it jolted you out of a sound sleep?” Melissa wasn’t buying any of this.

She knew from the moment that Kris had shown up on her doorstep that she was deeply troubled about something. Melissa could also tell that Kris didn’t want to talk about it. She felt it had something to do with the band, and possibly their relationship, but couldn’t verify that.

Kris was trying to minimize it, but didn’t think Melissa was buying it. “It was just a rerun of that sandbag that fell in Chicago.”

Melissa didn’t want to push; she figured Kris would tell her when she was ready. “If you want to talk, I’ll be here.”

“Thanks, that makes me feel good.” Kris smiled and laid back down on Melissa’s chest, feeling safe and a million miles from her problems.

Melissa’s voice boomed in Kris’ ear. “What are you thinking about?”

Kris tightened her arms around her lover. “That I don’t ever want to leave this spot. How about you?”

“I was just thinking of Brandon walking in on us yesterday. I’m still feeling uncomfortable.”

“I’m sure it will pass in time. Besides, we made his day.”

“What do you mean?” Melissa asked.

“It should add a new twist to his fantasy of me, don’t you think?” Kris asked, smiling.

Melissa shivered all over. “That is so creepy!”

Kris caressed the bare skin she was lying on. “You get used to it. I used to think it was flattering, now I try not to think about it.”

Melissa was running her fingers through the dark tresses fanned out on her chest. “This has happened before?”

“Yeah. I always thought that Rick and Tony would be the objects of all of that, but I’ve had a lot of people, of both sexes, tell me that I’m their fantasy.”

Melissa asked, incredulous, “How did you ever get used to all these things that go along with fame?”

“Well, it’s not really me. It’s the person on the stage that they fantasize about. My alter ego.”

“Still, people are so insensitive.”

Kris rose up on one elbow and met her lover's gaze. “We should probably talk about that. Now that your secret is out, the news media may be contacting you to interview you about our relationship.”

“What are you saying? That I shouldn’t talk to them?” Melissa’s brow was furrowed.

“No. If you want to, go ahead; I have nothing to hide. It’s just they can be really persistent. I have been very careful not to tell any reporters your name – I didn’t know how you want to handle this.”

Melissa looked deep in thought. “I really don’t know?”

“Well, I can tell you that once you start it, you can’t stop it.” Kris lay back down on the blond’s chest.

“I think I’d better consider this one a while longer.” They were silent a moment. “Kris…?”

“Mmmmm?”

Melissa was dreading asking this question, but it was nagging away on her mind. “What happened between you and Rick?”

“I told you last night.”

Melissa could feel Kris’ body stiffen. “I know you don’t want to talk about this, but I need to know if I’m causing you problems.”

Kris lifted her head and kissed Melissa, then said, “You could never cause me problems…”

“But if you and Rick are fighting…” Melissa’s voice trailed off.

“Rick is an inconsiderate homophobic asshole.” Kris sat up with her back to Melissa. “I cannot believe we are sitting here discussing my brother. Talk about a buzz kill.”

“I don’t want to come between you and your family…”

Kris turned and gently took Melissa’s chin in her hand. “Oh baby, my family and everything else in my life takes a back seat to you.” Marveling at the soft skin, Kris leaned over and kissed the warm, sweet lips.

Melissa pulled Kris to her as they parted from the kiss and lay back down on the bed.

“Got a question for you.”

Melissa asked, “Yeah?”

Kris was running her fingers lightly over the silken skin of her lover. “If you had a job that needed you to relocate, would you do it?”

“Well it depends on how good the move is, what the pay is like.” Melissa was running her fingers through the thick dark tresses splayed across her skin.

“How much time off can you get from your job?”

Melissa looked quizzically at her. “I have two weeks vacation coming.”

“I would like you to come and spend my vacation with me.”

“That’s kind of a big step. Why don’t you spend it here with me?” Melissa asked.

“Well I suppose that would work, until we were spotted around town and were followed back here and you had hordes of people camping out on your lawn, and the phone was ringing off the hook night and day, and people were breaking into your house…”

“…Alright I get your point.” Melissa held up her hand in protest. “I may have to take a leave, or even quit my job to spend more than two weeks with you.”

Kris questioned her lover, still lying on her chest, “Would it be so bad leaving your job?”

Melissa protested, “I like that job. I’ve worked hard to be there.”

She rose up on one elbow again, meeting her lover’s gaze. “Have you ever thought of owning your own nursery?”

“Yeah, that’s one of my fantasies, but I don’t think I’ll ever have the money to…” Her voice trailed off as she looked curiously as Kris. “…What are you thinking?”

Kris replied very matter-of-factly. “Well I feel that it’s kind of shitty of a business not to be there for their employees, and if they won’t give you the time off, then I think you should show them who’s in control and buy the place.”

Melissa wasn't really sure what was going on, but she was game. Looking amused, she asked, “OK, I’ll play along in the land of make-believe. Where would I get the great bundle of money?”

“What if you knew someone who would be willing to, say, give it to you?” Kris replied, trying to look serious.

“Do you know what you’re saying?” Melissa looked stern.

Kris was smiling encouragingly. “Yeah. But what’s a couple of million between lovers?”

“You’re serious!?” Melissa asked, trying to believe this was actually happening. “Kris, I’ve always felt a little uneasy about having lovers buy me gifts. And in all those cases we were only talking at most  a few hundred dollars!” Melissa’s voice was rising.

“If you came to stay with me, would you feel strange if you had no money of your own?”

Melissa had to agree. “Well, yes.”

Sounding logical, Kris said, “Then this way you’ll have your own money and we can have an equal relationship.”

“How equal is it if you buy me my means of support?”

“True. How much can you put your hands on?”

“I don’t know; if I had to have it tomorrow? Maybe five-thousand dollars cash.”

“Sold.”

“The place is worth more than…”

“If I buy the place for whatever they are asking for, then, as the new owner, decide to sell it for what I think it’s worth, then that’s my right as the owner,” Kris explained.

Melissa got out of bed and put on her robe. She left the room, as Kris quickly got up, throwing a blanket around herself and followed.

“Why won’t you let me do this for you?” Kris asked, as Melissa put the kettle on the stove.

“It’s a bit overwhelming. Let me think about it for a while.”

“While we’re talking, I want to bring up something…” Kris began, not sure really how to proceed. “You wanted us to see other people. I never really wanted that. But when you said we should, I took you up on it, and I slept with several women. I didn’t feel good about it; I felt like I was cheating on you the whole time. I also felt like I was using them, pretending they were you. When I was with them, I thought about you… I only wanted you. I guess my point is that I don’t think we should see other people.”

“You don’t?” Melissa asked, a little cautiously.

“No. I expect you to sleep with me and only me. I in turn will only sleep with you,” Kris finished.

“Really?” Melissa asked, smiling.

“Yeah. Damn it, I love you and I want you all for myself. I’ve loved you since the first moment I laid eyes on you. I just had to screw up my courage to accept what my heart was telling me.”

Melissa reached over and put her arms around Kris’ neck and kissed her.

“The truth is that I have loved you since that first meeting too, but I didn’t want to admit it because I was afraid that the glass slipper wasn’t mine after all.”

“Really? Then why did you tell me to see other people?”

“Because we hadn’t decided to be exclusive, and I didn’t think it was fair for you to be celibate on my account.”

“What about on your account?”

“Well I didn’t just find my freedom by coming out to the world.”

“Now will you reconsider spending my holiday with me? I want us to spend lots of time together.” She had planned this for a long time, and the situation wasn’t the same, but the emotions felt right. Kris reached across the table and took Melissa’s hand and said, “Melissa, I want to be with you always. Will you marry me?” Kris kissed her hand.

Total silence filled the room, as Melissa looked utterly shocked. She closed her eyes for a long moment, opening them slowly as she took a deep breath. “You are making my head spin. You sure know how to knock a girl off her feet.”

“I came to a decision in Chicago, that I loved you and wanted to marry you, but you seemed hesitant, so I thought if I gave you some time…”

“…Kris we hardly know each other...” Melissa interrupted, looking scared.

“…I love you, and you just said that you love me, so what’s the problem?” Kris interrupted.

“It’s an awfully big commitment…” Melissa  began to pace.

“Every since I met you I have felt complete. I never realized that I was not a whole person until you came into my life. I have never felt this way about another person before. I like the way you make me feel.” Kris sat at the table drawing the pattern of the place mat with her finger.

“Well I would be lying if I told you that I don’t like the way you make me feel. Or if I said that I hadn’t daydreamed about what it would be like to be with you… be married. I want to give you an answer now, the right answer, but I just can’t,” Melissa replied, standing at the sink, her arms wrapped around herself. Brandon was on his way to the kitchen when he heard the women’s voices. When he heard the word ‘married’ he stopped in his tracks in the hallway.

“Am I just being naïve? What is holding you back?” Kris asked, not making eye contact.

“You are asking me to change my whole life.”

“It’s going to be a change for me as well…”

“…No, you won’t be giving up your job, career, house, family…”

“…If that’s what you want, then that’s what I’ll do,” Kris interrupted.

Spinning around quickly to face her lover, Melissa almost shouted, “You can’t do that!”

“Why not? You’re ready to do it for me?” Kris asked, looking at her quizzically.

“We both know why; don’t be ridiculous,” Melissa admonished her.

“I love you, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I’ll do anything that you want.” Kris walked over and put her arms around her lover.

“You’d really give up everything for me?” Melissa asked, resting her forehead on Kris’.

“In a heartbeat.” Kris kissed her.

“Kris, I can’t ask you to give up your career for me, but I’m not sure I can live on the road, and I don’t like being without you when you are on the road…”

“…Well you won’t have to worry about the road question for at least a year, and when we do go back on tour, there will be major changes.”

“I do love you… argh!” Melissa looked as though she was really torn; she kissed Kris very passionately. “Kris Cutler, I will marry you,” Melissa said, smiling broadly. There was a loud ‘yeah’ from the hallway, startling the women, as Brandon stepped into view. Kris lifted Melissa off the floor and twirled her around as Gertrude barked and jumped up on them.

“You have made me the happiest person on the planet!!” Kris yelled as she put Melissa down. “ALL RIGHT!!!!” Kris screamed, as she opened the front door and ran outside.

“Kris!! You aren’t dressed!” Melissa called after her from the doorway. Kris stood in the front yard, the blanket the only covering on her naked body, and yelled, “She said Yes!!”

An elderly man across the street was out working in his yard. He looked up with a start, his mouth agape as he stared at the spectacle at the Davis household. There was a little old lady out walking her dog; when she saw Kris; she looked away quickly and hurried off down the street. Melissa’s next-door neighbor was out on the porch, gathering up the newspaper. He was dressed in a ratty blue terrycloth robe and short white socks. He was smiling oddly as he stared at Kris.

“Hello Mr. Page; glorious morning isn’t it?” Melissa called from the doorway, waving. The man quickly turned back to what he was doing.

“Hey Melissa!” the next-door neighbor called, waving.

“Hey Craig!” she called back, waving and smiling. He looked confused and went back into the house.

“Kris! You are going to catch your death! Get in here!” Melissa called, laughing as the tears ran down her cheeks.

“What’s with the tears?” Kris asked, looking concerned as she wiped them away.

“I’m just happy,” Melissa answered, smiling.

“Congratulations!!!” Brandon slapped Kris on the back. He was smiling from ear to ear. “When’s the big day?” he asked, his arms around both of them.

“I don’t know. What sounds good to you?” Melissa looked to Kris.

“The sooner the better, how about today?” Kris replied, kissing Melissa.

“Wait a minute; when I get married, I want something more than a justice of the peace!” Melissa protested.

“What day is it?” Kris asked seeming to ignore Melissa’s objections.

Brandon’s eyebrows were raised in questions, “Friday.”

Kris closed her eyes, “I haven’t heard the news for a few days but I think we can still legally get married in California.”

“What’s wrong with Oregon?” Brandon asked.

Kris looked up surprise on her face, “That’s right you can register your domestic partnership here!”  Kris started to move to the bedroom.   “How long do you think it takes to get to the courthouse?”

“Half an hour.” Brandon replied.

Almost muttering to herself Kris said, “If we hurry we can do it in both places.”  Slapping her forehead she recalled, “Damn! The jet’s in L.A.!”

“You want to fly to the courthouse?” Melissa asked feeling very lost.

Kris looked up at her lover, her brow furrowed, “What?  Of course not we’ll get a limo at the airport…”

Brandon held up his hands in a time-out signal “Wait a minute, you lost me.”

“Time is of the essence.  We can get registered here and then get a judge to do the deed in California….”

“Is she serious about doing this today?” Brandon wanted to know, standing next to his sister, looking confused.

Melissa asked, “Kris can you stop for five minutes?” Kris stopped what she was doing and came over and sat down next to Melissa.

“I don’t want to get married in front of a judge.” Melissa confessed.

“Oh, I agree we need to have a large bash! Besides, our families would kill us if we didn’t invite them,” Kris replied.

“Then what’s all this planning for today?”

“I figure we make it legal in both our home states, and then after the tour’s over we can do it up right.” She gave her trademark smile. “Make your two weeks vacation very memorable.”

Melissa smiled a very large grin. “I’ll agree to that. Shit, what am I going to wear?”  Melissa hurried off to the bedroom. 

Kris picked up the phone, while she was dialing she asked, “Buddy how’d you like to be our witness?”

He gave her a large toothy smile. “That sounds great!”

Kris looked very seriously at Brandon. “I hate to do this to you, but I don’t want this news out until we’ve done the big ceremony…”

He sounded dejected, “I know, I know; I can’t tell anyone.”

Kris smiled as she clapped him on the back. “Good man. Go get dressed and let’s get this show on the road!”

28

“Well, it’s about time you showed up your highness!” Paul stated, tapping his foot in annoyance and looking grim as Kris climbed out of the limo.

“Traffic sucked; what can I say?” Kris offered, leaning up and kissing him on the cheek, handing him a brightly wrapped box, and skipping off towards the stage.

He called after her, “What was that for?”

She turned, still skipping backward, shrugging and smiling ear to ear. Paul shook his head in disbelief as he opened the box to find a very nice new briefcase. He looked up at her retreating back, smiling and shaking his head.

Kris could hear the rest of the band up on stage, tuning their instruments and checking the levels on their mics and amps. The sounds echoed eerily off the walls of the nearly empty hall. The very large space was brightly lit; all of the multicolored seats denoting different sections were all folded up and empty. Roadies were still stringing cables from the stage to the control panel in the center of the hall. Kris ran up the main aisle toward the stage, waving at several of the roadies.

Tom called out, his voice dripping with sarcasm, “Look who has decided to grace us with her presence.”

Kris stopped and took a bow and then climbed up on stage, the smile never leaving her face.

“Ah young love, ain’t it grand?” Steve asked into his mic, his voice filling the hall.

“I wish to beg your forgiveness,” Kris stated. She knew she had the silliest look on her face, but was unable to remove it.

Tony looked at her critically. “You look different.”

Kris walked over and kissed her lightly on the cheek, continuing to smile broadly.

Tony’s dark eyebrow was raised in a question as a smirk played at the corner of her mouth. “Did we have a good time?”

Kris flexed her eyebrows and replied, “But of course. I’ve got some news.”

Now Tony’s interest was piqued. “Oooo, do tell.”

Kris shook her head no. “Later. It will keep.” She waved her left hand at Tony.

The scowl on Paul’s face conveyed his unhappiness as he stood in front of the stage, looking up at the band. “This touching homecoming is heartfelt I’m sure, but can we get back to work? We’re already behind schedule.”

“Certainly, I do apologize and thank-you for your indulgence in my tardiness.” While she was talking she was waving her left hand about.

Tom asked, “Dude is there something wrong with your hand – you keep waving it around.”

Kris held up her left hand with the gold band adorning it. “Not really; it’s a bit heavier then it used to be.” Kris winked at him, before continuing, “I did have a wonderful time; I got married.”

Kris climbed up on the drum platform and behind her set, as Rick counted off a number into his mic and they began to play. They'd barely begun the number when Tony suddenly stopped playing and quickly turned around, her mouth agape as she stared at Kris.

“Hold it, hold it – now what the fuck is the problem?” Rick yelled into his mic.

Tony climbed up on the drum platform next to Kris, smiling, her eyes wide. “You bitch!” She stood next to her aunt. “Let me see your hand!”

Kris wasn't sure if Tony was going to hit her or what, as she held out her hands.

Tony grabbed Kris’ left hand and brought it closer to her face so she could inspect the ring. In a very loud voice, she accused, “You got married?!” Still holding the be-ringed hand, she stated, “Bridget is going to kick your ass for not inviting her.”

Upon hearing the news Rick kicked his foot at nothing in his anger. “Damn it!”

Kris took her hand back, smiling like a fool, “We’ll have a big bash after the tour.”

Tony slapped her friend on the shoulder, smiling happily. “Way to go babe!”

Steve piped up, “Ladies, work, remember? Kris, congrats; can we talk more about this later?”

Kris held up a hand acknowledging his concerns.

Tony climbed down from the drum platform and Rick counted off the same song again. From Kris’ perch atop the drum platform, sitting behind her drum set, she was even taller than the others when they were standing. They began to play. Levels were checked, mics and guitars adjusted. When the sound was judged to be correct, the lighting would be worked on, giving the band a chance to do a little rehearsal as the roadies altered the direction of the lights, their intensity and the color. The group was in the middle of a fast, hard-driving number when Kris felt herself slip backward. Glancing over her shoulder, she saw the drum platform collapse on the backstage side. She fell over backward, hitting the stage hard. Dazed, she looked up to see her entire drum set racing toward her. As she tried to brace for impact, her part of the stage crashed down to the concrete floor below.

The others had noticed Kris had stopped playing. Sensing it was more important than a dropped drumstick, or a drum adjustment, Tony turned around to find out what was up when she felt the stage give a shudder, and then a loud crash filled the air. The song suddenly stopped in mid-play; it echoed and slowly died, filling the hall with a strange silence, as the rest of the band turned around in shocked surprise to see what had happened. Roadies were running from all over the hall to the stage. Tony was the first one on stage to react. She quickly removed her guitar, discarding it to the part of the stage that was still standing, and jumped off to the ground below. Steve and Tom followed, while Rick was still trying to remove his guitar. He felt like he was in quicksand. His limbs were heavy and slow to respond, and he felt like everything was moving in slow motion. His stomach was filled with a feeling of dread as he hurried to get to his sister’s side.

Kris was covered in a heap of drum set and drum platform debris. The assembled group began to remove the pieces of debris covering her.

“What happened?” Paul asked, as he arrived on the scene. After a moment he dropped his clipboard and began to help remove debris.

Tony tossed a large piece of wood out of the away. “Get the doc!!” she screamed in a frantic voice.

“He’s on his way,” a loud metallic voice replied from everywhere.

They had uncovered most of Kris. She lay on her back, unconscious; her clothes were torn and spatters of blood made her look like a mutant Dalmatian. One of the bass drum anchors, used to spike it in place and stop it from sliding away, had skewered her right thigh, and a heavy piece of metal from the drum platform lay across her left arm, pinning it to the floor.

“Stop! Don’t move that!” the doctor cautioned, as he came running down the main aisle accompanied by Tess. Rick stood with the bass drum in his hands, ready to remove it. He let go of it and quickly removed his shirt. Kneeling next to Kris, he covered her with it.

“Did anyone see what happened?” Paul asked, as the assembled group continued to clean the area.

Steve took a step back as he replied, “No, we all had our backs to her.”

One of the roadies offered, “You were playing that fast number and the platform collapsed, and when it hit the stage it collapsed too.”

“Did you find her like this?” the doctor asked, kneeling next to the unconscious woman and opening his bag. Kris’ eyes fluttered, and she began to moan as she started to regain consciousness.

Tony indicated all of the wreckage. “Sort of; she was buried by all the junk.” She knelt next to Kris.

“Kris, can you hear me?” The doctor bent over her, concern written all over his face.

Kris’ eyes opened slowly.

“Man, when you make an entrance…” He smiled down at her while slowly moving his hands over her left leg.

“I’ll need some help removing this,” the doctor stated, indicating the drum anchor impaling her leg. Rick stood and grabbed hold of the drum. Kris moaned and flinched in response to his actions. He frowned and felt guilty for hurting her.

The doctor removed from his medical bag a clear plastic bag filled with liquid with a long tube hanging from it with a needle on the end. He swabbed the area on the back of her uninjured hand and inserted the needle. “Here hold this!” he ordered, shoving the bag into Paul’s hands. The doctor took out some gauze pads and put them around the bleeding leg wound. “OK, now,” he instructed as Rick lifted the drum, removing the drum anchor from Kris’ leg. The doctor covered the wound with more gauze and then grabbed Tony’s hands and put them over the gauze. “Hold this down!” he ordered as Kris flinched and moaned.

“Kris, can you hear me?” the doctor asked again.

“Oow,” she moaned, her eyes opening again, but not focusing. He took out his penlight and shone it in her eyes.

He checked her pulse. “Do you know where you are?”

“My leg hurts,” she replied, sounding dazed.

“What’s your name?” he asked, feeling the arm that wasn’t pinned.

“Kris…” she mumbled.

“Kris what?” he asked, taking out his stethoscope.

“Something. I dun know,” she replied, slowly turning her head from side to side. Everyone was standing around staring at her. Not saying anything, just staring.

“Alright everyone, let’s move back; give them some room,” Tess called out as she watched Kris looking around.

“How is she?” Rick asked, bending over the doctor’s shoulder.

“It could be a lot worse. Kris, do you know who this is?” he asked, pointing to Rick.

“Ricky!” she said in a little girl voice, smiling slightly. Rick smiled down at her, and then knelt by her side.

“How’s the leg doing?” The doctor moved back over to Tony.

Tony lifted the gauze. “Looks like the bleeding’s stopped.”

“Good. Let’s just wrap that up for now. Kris does your left arm hurt?” Doc asked, moving over to it.

“No, I don’t think so,” she replied in a more coherent tone.

“Really?” The doctor sounded surprised.

“No, but my leg sure hurts Doc,” she replied, her eyes focused sharply on him.

“Hello. Do you know where you are?” he asked, looking over the piece of metal resting on her arm.

“Hell? Or a concert hall somewhere,” she replied, sounding like her old self.

“Very good. Now I’m going to have to move that thing off of your arm, and it’s probably going to start hurting…”

“…Oh joy, something fun to look forward to,” Kris interrupted, sounding very sarcastic.

“Would someone lift that off please?” he asked, as several of the roadies came over, and with a little effort, were able to remove the piece of metal. Kris began to call out and writhe in pain on the floor.

“Does it hurt when I…”

“…Fuck yes!!!” she screamed, her face contorted from the pain. She pulled the arm out of his grasp, and cradled it on her chest under the other arm.

“Tess, would you be so kind as to call an ambulance?” the doctor asked. “Rick, get me some ice.” Rick took off running, as the doc yelled over his shoulder, “Get a lot of it.” Kris was stomping her uninjured foot with pain.

Tony looked very worried, as she brushed some errant hair off of Kris’ forehead. “How bad is it?”

“Well, her arm is broken, in at least one place…”

“…Great!” Paul groaned. “Steve, take this; I’ve got to make some calls and cancel tonight’s concert,” Paul interrupted the doctor and handed the I.V. bag to Steve. Rick returned with the ice, which the doctor placed in the shirt Rick had placed over Kris.

“Kris, I need your arm,” the doctor said, as she gingerly held it out to him. “This is going to hurt…” he stated as he wrapped her arm in the ice and tied the shirt around it.

“…Shit!! That’s cold!” she shouted, as the tears began to leak out of the corners of her eyes. The wail of the ambulance could be heard in the distance.

“Kris, we’re going to have to take you to the hospital,” the doctor explained.

Kris asked, through clenched teeth as she grabbed a hold of Tony’s arm. Her grasp was like a vice. “Tony, I need you to call Melissa.”

Tony asked, trying to extricate herself, “Sure Kris, anything else?”

Kris’ eyes were full of fear, as she pleaded with Tony. “Come to the hospital with me?”

“Of course.” The ambulance had arrived and the paramedics were drawing nearer with the stretcher.

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The woman stood on the edge of the crowd of roadies, watching the paramedics load the stretcher into the ambulance. The thieving bitch had finally gotten some of what she deserved. She had had no idea that Kris would get injured as much as she had. She would have liked to see some more permanent injuries, but the broken arm looked painful enough for a start. The accident had been spectacular. It filled her with joy that it had gone off as well as it had. She had worked carefully to make sure no one saw her install only part of the bolts needed on the drum platform; it was just a matter of time before it gave. Weakening the supports under Kris’ part of the stage was the real beauty of the whole project. She figured that once Kris got going really good in a song, it would just let go. Which is just what happened; it would have been much more dramatic during a concert, but the level of injury was much more than she’d dared to hope for. Of course the piece d’ resistance was when she’d gotten herself hired on as a roadie. She thought it was going to be difficult, since she had no experience at it, but they were more than happy to take her on board. She had to admit that she really did like the work, and the pay was OK. Maybe she would consider doing this even after she had extracted her revenge on Kris.

The image of the two of them at the basketball game in Portland made her sick. She had sat in front of Melissa’s house watching one night, but it had just made her angrier and angrier to think what they were doing inside. Now, with this new announcement of marriage, that was the last straw; she would not be happy until Kris was disfigured and/or crippled; then she would feel vindicated.

She was beginning to plan her next attack. She knew that she would be off work for a few days; all the better to plan with! The next accident would have to be even bolder, causing more damage, this time permanent. Because, after all, Kris would still be whole.

She had heard talk that Kris would be doing Lilith Fair; she had volunteered first thing to be on that crew. She had found out just the other day what Kris’ home address was and would be scoping the place out over the next few days off.

That bitch would learn that you just couldn’t step in like the prince on his white horse and steal someone else’s woman.

Melissa had just sat down to dinner, the morning newspaper folded next to her plate, Scarecrow playing in the background. It had only been a few hours since Kris had left, and already Melissa was feeling lonely. It was only going to be a couple of weeks, then the tour would be over and they would be able to spend some time together before the next one started. She had just taken a bite of dinner when the phone rang. Annoyed at the interruption, she got up, and walking over to the phone, picked it up.

“Hello?”

“Melissa? It’s Tony Rain Cloud; Kris wanted me to call you. Don’t panic, but there’s been an accident …”

“What’s wrong?” Melissa interrupted, feeling the panic begin to grow in her stomach.

“Kris is at the emergency room now; it looks like she’s broken her wrist,” Tony stated. Melissa fell into a chair and began to breathe again.

“Tonight’s concert has been canceled…”

Melissa voice was shaky. “What hospital?”

“Mercy. I’m really sorry to have to break the news to you like this.”

“What hotel are you in?”

“The Marriott near the hall. Are you coming out?” Tony sounded doubtful.

“Of course. I’ll catch the first plane I can.”

“I’ll make sure that there’s a car waiting at the airport for you. Don’t worry,” Tony finished.

“Right, bye!” Melissa hung up the phone and called the airport, booking a flight out in less than an hour.

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Tony was vegging on the couch. The T.V. was on, but she wasn’t really watching it. Kris was passed out in the other room, on painkillers. There was a knock at the door; Tony got up and went over to it. She hadn’t realized until now how tired she was. Opening the door, she found a very worried looking Melissa.

Tony hugged her; after the hug was finished, they walked further into  the main room together. “Hey.”

“Thanks for calling,” Melissa said. “How bad is it?” Melissa took off her coat, as she continued to walk towards the closed bedroom door.

Tony replied, as she opened the bedroom door, “Well, she fractured her left wrist in a couple of places.”

Kris was lying still on the bed, the blankets pulled up to her chest. The yellow light from the bedside table lamp cast deep black shadows in the corners. Her left arm was encased in a fuchsia cast from her middle knuckles up to her elbow; it was propped up on several pillows. Her face had several ragged cuts on it and a couple of those were starting to bruise. Melissa sat down on the bed and took Kris’ right hand in hers.

“What happened?” She stroked Kris’ hair, her back to Tony.

Tony proceeded to explain what had happened as Melissa sat down next to Kris.

Melissa’s back was still facing Tony. “How long is the tour postponed for?”

Tony pulled her hair into a ponytail, and flipped it over her shoulder. “The doc says it’s up to Kris, but at least two shows.”

Melissa turned and looked at Tony. “At least a couple of days then?”

Tony shook her head yes.

A groggy voice asked from the bed, as Kris’ eyes opened slowly, “What’s up to Kris?”

Melissa asked, smiling sadly, “Hi sweetie, how are you feeling?”

“Lissa, you’re here!” Kris smiled weakly. “I’m sorry I dragged you here.”

Melissa replied, trying to stay upbeat, “Don’t you know by now that I’ll go anywhere with you?”

“I was so scared that I was going to lose you…” Kris broke off, sobbing.

Melissa tried to comfort her, and get her to stop crying. “Shh, don’t you know you can’t get rid of me that easily? True love can never be broken?”

Kris sniffed. “I love you so much!”

Melissa wiped Kris’ tears away. “I know. Why don’t you get some sleep now.”

Kris closed her eyes and was asleep. As they closed the door and returned to the main room, a knock on the outer door summoned Tony to answer it.

Standing in the doorway were Rick, Tom and Paul. “How is she?” Rick asked, looking worried. He had a six-pack in one hand and an open beer in the other.

Melissa replied from an overstuffed chair, “Sleeping.”

“Melissa, I didn’t know you were here,” Rick stated, making a face at Tony. She swatted him on the arm as he continued into the room.

Paul stated, weaving his way over to the couch, carrying his own six-pack, “We thought we’d stop by and check on her.”

“Like dude, we were all hanging out in the bar downstairs, trying to decide what to do with ourselves,” Tom stated, sitting down on the arm of the chair next to Melissa as Rick threw him a can of beer. He popped the top and sprayed Melissa with some foam. “Sorry.” He feebly tried to help her wipe it off.

Paul leaned heavily on the couch. “Steve left to be with his wife, but the rest of us can’t decide what to do.”

Rick said sarcastically, “Well it would be a bit more helpful if we knew how much time we had.”

Melissa suggested her voice full of anger, “How about the rest of the tour? I think you should cancel it.”

Rick replied, his tone condescending, “Well it may have escaped your attention, but you don’t really have a vote on that subject.”

Rick and Melissa stared at each other for a very long moment. Some unspoken message seemed to pass between them. Rick finally stated, holding up his beer, “Anyway, we figured that we should all get shit-faced and piss at least tonight away.”

“Melissa, would you like a beer?” Paul asked, having trouble keeping his balance.

Melissa answered, looking tired, “Sure, why not?”

Paul handed her a beer. “Here you go. Surprised to see you back with the circus so soon.”

Melissa popped the top to her beer, thinking evilly for just a moment of pointing it in Tom’s direction to get him back. “Well it does feel a little surreal, that’s for sure.”

Rick crushed his empty beer can. “Really? I’d have thought…”

Tony interrupted Rick, “…That’s your problem, you don’t think enough, and then you do it wrong.” Tony took one of his beers as she sat down on the arm of the chair he was sitting in.

Rick popped the top on another beer. “Well if you don’t like it here, then why come back?”

Melissa sounded really tired. “Can we just call a truce for a while?”

Tony got the hint and stood up, pulling Rick to his feet. “All right boys, party’s over; take it on the road.”

With much grumbling, the partygoers stumbled their way out of the room.

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Melissa sank back fully into the chair and began to rub her temples.

Tony asked, looking concerned. “Hard day at the office?”

Melissa looked at her with a you-wouldn’t-believe look on her face, resting her head on the back of the chair. “So how did all of that equipment come apart?”

“Well, apparently it was just human error – somebody forgot to put all of the connectors in. A bolt broke on the drum platform, and the stress from playing caused the others to fail. The sudden jolt and the shifting of the weight all at the same time tweaked one of the supports under the stage, and it just gave way,” Tony explained.

“Strange coincidence, It seems you’ve been accident prone lately.”

“Yeah, maybe. Hey, can I ask you something?” Tony went right on, not waiting for an answer. “When did you know you were gay?” She finished off her beer.

“Looking back, I think I knew from grade school, but at the time I didn’t know until I was in college,” Melissa replied.

Tony was hanging on every word. “What do you mean?”

Melissa sighed, remembering. “Well looking back, I can remember having feelings for certain friends that I didn’t have for others. I have always been attracted to brunettes; I remember one time in grade school, one of my classmates had this beautiful long brown hair and she used to wear this long sleeve shirt to school. The sleeves were cut open all the way up to the shoulder, but had been laced back together in a pattern of tiny figure eights. I used to fantasize about that shirt.”

“Well, I don’t remember interacting with any of my classmates, except to get into fights, until I moved to California. I don’t remember noticing anything special about either sex.”

Melissa queried tiredly, “Nothing?”

“After I moved to the rez, I was pretty much a loner. There was no time to play with anyone, and even if there was, the closest kids were a couple of miles away. I never really learned how to play. I stayed away from the kids at school. I’d had enough of being beat up.”

“It sounds like you were lonely?”

“I don’t remember feeling that way. I always had my Grand.”

Melissa sipped her beer. “Did you date in high school?”

“Not much. I thought the boys were boorish and a big waste of time. Rick did introduce me to a couple of college guys, and they were more interesting.”

“Did you ever meet any college women?”

Tony upended her beer. “Not that I can remember.”

Melissa put her beer up to her forehead. “So what are you asking here? Whether you’re gay or not?”

“I don’t know. I’m so confused I don’t know if I’m coming or going.”

Melissa asked, “What exactly are you confused about?”

“I want what you and Kris have. I guess I’m a little jealous.”

“That’s sweet, but you’ll find someone in time.”

Tony sounded frustrated.“…I know, I’ve heard that before. But this is different. I don’t know what I want. Who to look for.”

“Well, who are you most comfortable with?”

Tony sounded a little defensive. “I guess women. I love the lovemaking. It is so gentle and full of love. Both of us concerned with what the other needs. I never had that with a guy. But I never pictured myself as gay!”

Melissa finished her beer. “Is that a problem?”

“No, I guess not…”

“…I had a hard time with the ‘label’ when I finally figured out that I was gay. Give yourself some time; see lots of people. Decide who you want to be with, most of all be happy. Don’t rush things,” Melissa instructed, laying her head back on the chair and yawning.

Tony protested, “It seems so clear-cut for you.”

Melissa had her eyes closed and she could feel herself slipping off to sleep. “Only because I’ve been at it a lot longer than you have. When I first slept with a woman, I felt just like you, so confused. Because for the first time in my life, things actually felt right, but society said that it was wrong.”

“So, you’re saying this will get easier?”

Melissa voice sounded not as articulate as usual. “Absolutely.”

“I don’t know; it seems so hopeless. Like I’m going to be stuck in this limbo land alone forever…” Tony broke off. Melissa opened her eyes. It looked like Tony was crying.

Melissa reached out and took Tony’s hand in her own. “Oh, hey, come here.”

Tony was sobbing very quietly. Melissa got out of the chair and went to the dark haired woman, holding her for a while until Tony stopped crying.

Tony apologized, wiping her face with her hand, “Thanks. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to go to pieces like that.”

Melissa got comfortable on the couch. “After the last few days, I’m surprised we all don’t jump out a window. I’m beat; I’ve got to go to sleep.”

Tony asked, a little embarrassed, “Would you mind terribly if I stayed here with you?”

“No, the more the merrier.” Melissa closed her eyes and fell asleep.

A loud knocking on the door made Melissa’s eyes fly open. Lifting her head, she realized her neck was stiff; had she fallen asleep? Tony was curled up  on the couch next to her, sleeping. Melissa got up and answered the door.

Doc Kimball pushed past her into the room. “Hello; I know we’ve met, but I can’t remember your name.”

“Melissa,” she offered.

He made his way back to Kris’ bedroom. “That’s right. You’re a friend of Kris’, right?”

Melissa was following a few steps behind, trying to straighten her neck out.

Doc Kimball sat down next to the sleeping woman on the bed. “Kris, Kris, time to wake up.” He picked up her uninjured wrist and checked her pulse.

Melissa asked, as she stood in the doorway, “Why are you waking her up in the middle of the night?”

“It’s standard operating procedure when someone has a concussion. You need to check them every couple of hours to make sure they wake up by themselves, otherwise they could be slipping into a coma. Kris, come on, wake up.”

Kris’ voice was thick with sleep, her face registering her annoyance. “What? I’m sleeping here!”

“You know us medical people, we give you pills to get you to sleep, and then as soon as you are, we are waking you up for something,” he joked.

She was sounding more awake. “If I gave you money, would you leave me alone?”

“You already do give me money, and it hasn’t worked so far. What’s your name?”

“Kris Cutler.”

“Where are you?”

“In a hotel in… Denver?” She had to stop and think about that one.

“Great; here’s some more pills to help with the pain. I’ll be back in a couple of hours.” He smiled and left.

Melissa took the doctor’s place on the bed. “How you feeling?”

“I miss you. Can you just hold me?” Kris asked, as Melissa curled up next to her and they fell asleep.

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Kris opened her eyes to the subdued sunshine of a cloudy day. She had slept sitting up with her arm propped up on a stack of pillows. Looking down she saw Melissa sleeping peacefully by her side. She couldn’t get over how beautiful she was!

She had to go to the bathroom something awful. She moved Melissa’s arm and pulled the blankets back slowly, but when she went to move her leg, it had stiffened up overnight and was quite painful. She leaned over and tried to pick it up, but her left shoulder was also stiff and didn’t cooperate. She felt like a turtle on its back. She was beginning to wonder how she was going to accomplish the task of visiting the bathroom. More parts of her body were speaking up; she seemed to be sore everywhere.

Melissa’s sleepy voice came from beside her. “Do you need some help?”

“Yes please; I need to relieve myself something awful,” Kris implored.

Melissa got up and came around to the other side of the bed, and helped Kris to the bathroom.

“Ah, I feel considerably better; good morning Wife. I like the sound of that. Did you sleep well?” Kris asked, sitting on the bed.

Melissa sat near Kris. “I did, Wife, and how are you feeling?”

Kris was wearing a T-shirt and underwear. Her thigh had a large white bandage around it.

“My leg is feeling better,” she replied, smiling. “What I’m concerned about is my hand,” Kris stated, holding her arm up in front of her. It was swollen and generally looked bad.

“Can you move your fingers?” Melissa asked.

“I don’t know,” Kris replied, as several of her fingers moved. Kris gasped; her face registered the shock, as her skin seemed to be bathed in a light sweat. She sat for a moment, breathing deeply with her eyes closed.

Melissa asked, knowing the answer, “Hurts?”

Kris finally replied, “Let’s not do that again for a long time.”

Melissa questioned, “Hey, where’s your ring?”

“They took it off because of the cast. It’s in my pocket,” Kris assured her. There was a knock on the door.

The doctor asked, smiling as he stepped into the room, “Kris? Good morning, how are you feeling?”

“Well the throbbing in my head and my hand are a matched set I’d like to return, but other than that, I’ll live,” she replied as the doctor knelt down next to her.

“Let’s change the dressing on this leg, and then I want to take a look at your arm.” He removed the dressing. “Yeah, that’s closed up nicely. You were really lucky that it missed the bone and arteries.” He reached into his bag and got out a new dressing, which he put on her leg. “Try to keep the stitches out of the water; you don’t want them getting infected,” he instructed.

“Maybe the band could get the guy in my head to play drums for them,” Kris stated.

“Unfortunately you are going to be suffering from that for some time to come.”

“Like for how long?” she quizzed.

“It could go on for months. You took a pretty good hit to the head; what can I say?” he replied. “Let’s take a look at that hand…”

Kris pulled it out of his grasp. “…Sorry Doc, it’s very sore, and don’t move my fingers.”

“Sore?” he asked, looking concerned.

“Like more painful now than when I first broke it.”

“Let’s get it elevated.” He reached into his bag and produced a sling, which he helped her into. “We need to get the swelling down, see how it feels later today.” He stood.

Kris looked over at her lover and asked, “What do you want to do today?”

Melissa replied, “Watch you recover.”

Kris replied, smiling, “I’m not sitting around this old hotel when I’ve got a day off! Stuff me in a wheel chair, and I’ll be fine.”

The doctor was frowning a bit as he stood in the doorway. “As your doctor, I have to say that’s a bad idea. You should sit quietly and rest. Give your body a chance to heal.”

“Why don’t we get some movies, and spend the day inside?” Melissa offered, moving over and looking out the window. “It’s raining anyway. What do you say? I can pamper you all day; it’ll be fun.”

Kris replied, knowing she had been double-teamed, “I can see I’m not going to win this one.”

With a smile to his patient, and a pat on the shoulder to Melissa, Doc left the two women alone.

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Paul asked, running into the doctor in the hall. “Oh, Doc! Have you been in to see Kris this morning?”

“Good morning. Yes I have.”

Paul asked, smiling. “And how’s the prognosis?”

“Well I’m a little worried. She can’t move her fingers.”

Paul’s smile disappeared. “Oh, is that likely to clear up soon?”

“Yes, I kind of thought that it would have happened by this morning.”

Paul replied, as the man walked away, “Well, hopefully soon.” I hope we don’t have to cancel the rest of the tour, he thought to himself as he headed for the elevator.

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Melissa signed the room charge, and the waiter left after he had set up the breakfast table in Kris’ room. Tony groggily stumbled behind Melissa, yawning and trying to get her hair out of her face.

Melissa was smiling down at Kris. “Doesn’t this look good? Here’s the morning paper…”

Tony interrupted as she took the paper out of Melissa’s hands. “Let me see that.”

Sitting down on the end of the bed, she reached over and poured herself a cup of coffee. Melissa sighed and, looking up at the ceiling, counted to ten before going back to spreading the napkin under Kris’ chin and bringing her some food, which she proceeded to feed her. This was supposed to be breakfast for the two of us not the three of us. Melissa wasn’t sure she was ever going to get used to all this togetherness.

Kris protested, “You know I can feed myself.”

Melissa replied, offering a fork full of pancakes to Kris, “I know, but I said I would pamper you today.”

Tony’s voice was full of disbelief. “Oh here it is, back in the Metro section.”

Kris asked, her mouth full of pancakes, “Oh? What does it say?”

Concert cancelled:

Popular rock band Scarecrow cancelled Monday’s performance following an accident on stage. According to the band’s tour manager, Paul Fence, drummer and singer Kris Cutler was severely injured when part of the stage collapsed beneath her during rehearsal. Her injuries are listed as serious at Mercy Hospital. An announcement concerning future tour dates will be released later this week. This is the second time in as many weeks that the band has been plagued with ‘accidents’ and has had to cancel tour dates,” Tony read.

“So Paul cancelled it? Guess he doesn’t want to extend the tour after we finish all the other dates,” Kris said.

“Yeah, well then our time to meet up with Lilith Fair won’t be cut into,” Tony finished.

“Yeah. That’s good. Less profits though, and that is going to make everyone unhappy.”

Melissa pointed out, “You’re assuming that you are going to be well enough to play by then.”

Kris replied stubbornly, “I’d have to be in a lot worse shape than this to miss that!”

Melissa questioned, looking at her like she’d better be kidding, “You are joking, right?”

“Yeah, but I really want to do that tour,” Kris replied a little sheepishly.

Tony said, leafing through the paper with her back to the women as she lounged on the bed, “Why couldn’t we find someone to play for you? Kind of like a guest conductor.”

Kris stopped chewing, and Melissa saw the look come into her lover’s eyes.

“Oh no, I don’t think that’s a very good idea,” Melissa said.

Kris reached for the phone, then ordered, “Tony! Gather everyone up; we’ll be rehearsing this afternoon.”

Tony got up and dropped the paper on the floor before heading out of the room. “What? Yeah, whatever.”

Kris picked up the receiver. “You look worried. Are you afraid that he won’t want to do it?”

Melissa looked puzzled as she put her hand on the receiver, stopping it from moving closer to Kris. “No, I’m not sure he’s ready for it. Is he really that good?”

“He’s that good.”

Melissa still looked unsure as she let go of the phone, and Kris began to dial.

“Dude…”

Brandon’s voice was groggy with sleep “…Kris, how you doing?”

Kris had a cat-eating-shit grin on her face. “Fine; how would you like the opportunity of a lifetime?”

“What?”

“You have a rehearsal to go to today.”

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Melissa pushed Kris’ wheelchair into the ballroom of the hotel. Kris greeted the assembled group. “Hey everybody, thanks for showing up on such short notice.”

Steve looked doubtful. “You don’t look like you’re ready for a rehearsal.”

Kris smiled and flexed her eyebrows. “Looks can be deceiving. I want you all to meet Brandon; he’s going to be trying out with us today.

Rick objected, “Trying out? I don’t want to replace you…”

Kris assured them, “It’s just temporary.”

Tony was looking very doubtfully at Brandon. She couldn’t get over the family resemblance. She had known instantly that Brandon and Melissa were related. “Kris, this kid looks awful young; are you sure about this?”

Kris addressed Tony, “Trust me.” Then she turned back to Brandon as she patted his arm, reassuring him. “Brandon, you set?”

Brandon looked scared. “I’m so nervous, my hands are sweating like a pig.”

Kris chuckled as he sat down at the drum set. “Oh this ain’t nothin’; wait until you’re up in front of 20,000 screaming fans.”

“May I kiss the brides?” Steve asked, sliding his bass guitar behind his back, as he bent down and kissed Kris on the cheek. He then stood and kissed Melissa on the cheek. He clapped Kris on the shoulder, smiling conspiratorially. “Welcome to the club my friend!”

Tom began playing the wedding march on the keyboard. “Way to go!!”

Tony asked, “Who’s taking whose name?”

Melissa exchanged glances with Kris. “Ah I don’t think we’ve thought that far ahead. This is all very new territory for us.”

Rick stood looking put out, with his arms crossed over his chest. He didn’t say anything as he turned his back to them and fiddled with his amp.

“So when did all this happen?” Tony wanted all the details.

Melissa replied, “Kris proposed on Friday and we flew to Massachusetts that day and got a Justice of the Peace and flew back to my house.”

Kris was watching Rick while Melissa was talking. The waves of anger and disapproval were palpably radiating off of him. I’m going to have to talk to him soon.

“Congratulations. May I kiss the bride?” Paul was now standing next to Kris. He leaned over and kissed her on the cheek and then awkwardly kissed Melissa too. He said, “I know we are all excited, but we really need to get on with this try out.”

Tony smiled and winked. “Slave driver!”

Kris replied, “Paul’s right, we’ll have plenty of time to talk about this later.”

Rick announced as he counted off the beat, “Let’s start with ‘Flyin’ with the Devil’.”

The song went fine; when it finished, Rick went right into another without telling anyone what it would be. Brandon was able to keep up. Kris was having a very hard time staying confined to her wheelchair. After about six songs, they stopped. Rick gathered everyone but Kris and Brandon together, and they went off to discuss Brandon.

Kris assured him, “You were great; you even went through that new one with no trouble.”

The band came back. Rick had a doubtful look on his face.

Kris looked anxious “Well?”

Rick broke out in a smile. “He’s good; I think we’re back in business.”

“Good; now we’re going to need some practice. He knows all of our stuff, but we’ve got different endings for live shows than we do on the recording. Watch me for cues, and above all, have fun!” Kris stated.

They practiced for hours, doing the show over and over.

Tony gave an ultimatum, “I’ve had enough! We either have to take a break, or call it a day!”

Rick suggested, “Let’s take a break and get something to eat.”

Kris reassured Brandon as they left the ballroom, “You are doing really great. Our next concert is Seattle tomorrow night. You’ll do fine.”

Brandon looked a little worn out, as he wiped the sweat off his brow. “Kris, I really appreciate this.”

Kris kidded him. “Hey, don’t mention it; I broke my wrist just so you could have this chance you know.”

29

The DJ stated, “Good morning Seattle! This morning we have some special guests in the studio. We’ve got Tony Rain Cloud….”

Tony replied, “Hello, it’s nice to be here.”

“And Kris Cutler from the band Scarecrow.”

Kris stated, “Hey Emerald city.”

The DJ said, “We are happy that you could come in and talk with us.”

Kris joked, “We’re not really used to being alive at this time of day – does the sun always shine this bright now?”

“Oh yeah. Tell us about this accident you had. I love the color of the cast, by the way.”

Kris held up the cast and modeled it. “That’s great isn’t it? I think they called it hot pink. Well I had a disagreement with gravity and a heavy piece of metal. Part of the stage collapsed the other night during our sound check.”

The DJ sounded serious. “That sounds rather frightening.”

Tony was trying to downplay the seriousness in the DJ’s voice. “Yeah it was. One minute she was playing with us, and the next she was lying on the floor unconscious.”

The DJ was frowning. “So, will you be in the cast for long?”

Kris was keeping her voice light. “Oh yeah, I think they said six weeks or something like that.”

The DJ had suddenly become a talk-show host. “What did you do to your arm?”

Kris replied, bored by this line of questions, “I fractured my wrist in a couple of places.”

DJ was really hitting his stride now. “Will this hamper your playing?”

Kris was getting to the end of her patience. “Oh yeah; so far I can’t move my fingers. Makes it rather hard to hold a drumstick.”

Tony jumped in, “We’ve got it covered though; we’ve got a stand-in drummer.” The DJ was ignoring the notice from the program manager that it was time for a commercial. “So he’ll be playing at tonight’s concert? Well, tell us about the concert.”

Tony was being the perfect guest. “Yes. He’s very good. He plays, and Kris sings, and we’ll be playing tonight at Safeco field, 8 pm. This is the Cornfields tour.”

The DJ was holding up the CD. “Great album by the way. I’ve almost played the finish off mine since I got it.”

Kris was glad that they were back on neutral territory. “Glad you like it. I think we’ve really hit a chord with it, no pun intended. We all just seemed to be in sync when we got into the studio.”

The talk show host returned. “Now you make it sound like that doesn’t happen all that often.”

Tony stepped in. “Well the creative juices flow stronger at different times. Sometimes a song that you thought was going to really ‘wow’ everyone falls like a weight in the studio.”

“So what can we expect from you tonight?”

Kris explained, “Well, we’ll be playing most of the new album, and then selections from the other albums. We might have a new one to throw out at ya, as well.”

The DJ flipped the page of his questions. “I understand that this is the last leg of your tour.”

Kris inwardly groaned. “Yes, we have three more dates to do, and then we’ll be on vacation for a bit.”

“What are you going to be doing on your vacation?”

Tony was warmed up now. “Well, Kris and I will be playing the West Coast dates with the Lilith Fair tour.”

The DJ had cued up a Sarah McLachlan CD. “That was such a hot tour last year. Will Scarecrow be performing?”

“It was an awesome tour, and Tony and I feel very privileged to be asked to be part of it this year. We will be what is known as a power trio. Tony will be lead axe and Kate Willis, to play bass, played with us on our last album.”

Tony put her coffee cup down. “Kris and I have written several new songs to entertain the folks with.”

Mr. Talk show asked, “What’s the name of this trio?”

Kris smiled brightly. “Tomboy.”

The DJ returned her smile. “Good name. Well, we look forward to hearing you tonight. Thanks for coming in.”

Tony replied, “It was our pleasure.”

Rick flopped down on the sofa in the dressing room. “Nice show.” He was covered with sweat to the point where his hair was glued to his head.

“Thanks!” Kris replied. Her head was lying on the back of the sofa; she had dark circles under her eyes and looked pale. She too was covered in sweat.

Melissa handed Kris a towel. “How are you feeling?”

“Wasted, but I really had a good time!” Kris stated, mopping up her face. Brandon brought up the rear as he and Doc Kimball came in. Brandon was bouncing up and down like a little kid. He still had his drumsticks and was playing on any solid non-moving object.

“YEAH!!!” he shouted, making everyone else jump.

Steve asked, a little sarcastically, “Hey, could you be a little less cheerful?”

Tom poked Steve in the ribs. “Don’t you remember being like that?”

Rick looked like he was searching his memory. “Yeah, vaguely. Part of the first tour.”

Brandon stood in front of Kris. “Thanks again for knocking the socks off my friends.”

Kris laughed. “How’d it feel to know they were in the audience?”

He was grinning from ear to ear.

Tony pointed out, “Kris, that was kind of scary when your leg started bleeding through your jeans.”

Kris was untying the bandanna she had gotten one of the roadies to tie around her thigh. A good portion of her jeans was red under the bandanna. “I guess I was jumping around a bit too much.”

Doc Kimball was looking dour. “Well I hope you didn’t pull those stitches out!” He set down his bag. “Come on, drop ’em; let’s take a look.” He helped Kris to her feet so she could take her pants down.

Brandon stood staring incredulously as he watched Kris disrobing.

Melissa walked over to him and closed his mouth, “I know you have better manners than this. That’s your sister-in-law,” she reminded him.

He looked bashful and looked down at his feet. “Sorry,” he mumbled.

Melissa suggested, “Why don’t you hit the shower?”

He moved off to the men’s bathroom.

The doc was looking over Kris’ leg. “Well, you’re lucky this time.”

Kris was pulling her pants back on. “Tomorrow I’m going out there with the bandanna on from the beginning.”

Tony moved toward the bathroom. “Well I’m grabbing a shower.”

Kris fastened up the last of her pants. “Oh shit, I left my pills on the stage.”

Melissa offered, as she headed out the door, “I’ll get them for you.” She walked out into the hallway of the backstage area.

The sound of the stage being dismantled filled the large space. The sounds echoed off the walls and made the noises sound like they were coming from everywhere. Melissa approached the stage where several people were packing away the cords and the equipment. They were laughing and having a good time. As Melissa began to mount the stairs, she realized that Tess was one of the people up there.

“Come on Tess! It’s just one beer; what have you got to lose?” a male roadie was asking from on top of a ladder near the metal structure that held up the lighting rigging.

Tess was smiling and trying to pay attention to her clipboard. “Not tonight. I’ve got work to do…”

Another male roadie on the stage interrupted her, “…All work and no play.”

Tess continued to smile. “Let me have a rain-check, OK?”

They all made dismissive gestures to her as she turned away from them and they went back to their work.

Tess extended Melissa a hand and helped her up the last step onto the stage. “Hey Melissa, what are you doing up here?”

“Thanks. Kris forgot her pills.”

Tess moved away from her. “Oh, let me look for them.”

The roadie on the ladder said, “Damn it!”

The roadie on the stage next to him asked, “What’s up, Marty?”

“This light’s attachment feels like it’s been stripped out. I don’t know if I can get it off.”

The stage roadie suggested, “Well, why don’t you bring down the whole rigging and then try it?”

Climbing down from his ladder, Marty attempted his task. “Alright.”

Tess returned with the pills. “Here you go. How is she feeling?”

Melissa politely replied, “Tired, but OK.”

Tess gently guided her by the elbow away from the others. “I heard that you and Kris got married.” Tess looked her right in the eye.

Melissa returned her gaze. “Yes we did.”

Tess smiled briefly. “Well then, congratulations are in order.”

Melissa got the distinct impression that she was missing something here, but couldn’t put her finger on it.

Marty lowered the lighting rig towards the women. “Ladies, can you move a few steps?”

Melissa took a couple of steps. “I don’t think Kris has had a chance to tell very many people.” She was starting to feel uncomfortable.

Tess followed her. “We’ve been a little busy around here lately.”

Melissa was watching the roadies. “Yeah, these accidents are rather unnerving, don’t you think?”

Tess replied, “Yeah, I guess if you think about it. I try not to do that.”

Suddenly there was an ear splitting ‘Pop’ as the light on the rigging exploded in flames. Melissa felt a rain of burning debris hit her in the face; throwing back her head in surprise, she lost her balance and went crashing to the stage.

The world had slowed to a crawl for Tess as she watched Melissa hit the ground and squirm about. Looking down, she realized that she herself was on fire. Her right side and arm were ablaze; the heat was intense, and she could see her hair blowing around. She realized that her mind had shut down; she didn’t feel any pain. Suddenly there were two roadies on her, knocking her to the ground and covering her with a packing blanket and rolling out the flames.

Melissa lay dazed on the stage; her ears were ringing from all the shouting, and she felt sick to her stomach. Her shoulder and head had landed on some plastic packing crates. Pain was shooting through her. She had no idea what had happened. One minute she was standing, the next she was here. She could feel the pounding of a lot of feet as she tried to figure out what was going on. A very strong pair of hands grabbed her under the armpits and she felt herself flying through the air, and then another pair of hands grabbed her before she came to rest lying on the cold concrete floor.

Kris’ concerned face came into view “Lissa! Lissa, can you hear me?”

Melissa opened her eyes, and sounding very disoriented, asked, “Kris? What’s going on?”

Kris’ voice was full of concern; there was panic in her eyes. “Are you alright?”

Melissa replied, “I think so.”

The sound of screaming could be heard.

Melissa was trying to sit up. “What’s that?”

Kris was deliberately not answering the question. “Lie still. Did you get hurt?”

Melissa was feeling fully oriented now. “My shoulder is killing me, and my face hurts. What happened?”

The screaming was an intermittent sound as many other voices filled in the quiet.

Kris touched her lover’s face gently. “I don’t know. It looks like you may have some cuts and burns on your face.”

Melissa could detect an acrid smell in the air that was turning her stomach.

Melissa sat up. “What is that smell?”

Kris didn’t answer; she was looking up at the stage. Melissa followed her gaze and saw the large group of people gathered around the stage floor. They seemed to work purposefully at something, but she couldn’t see what it was. The ambulance was not far away and the siren was making her head buzz; she felt dizzy and unsteady. The paramedics ran up on the stage and the crowd broke up. Melissa thought her vision was fuzzy because there seemed to be a smoky haze in the air. The paramedics loaded someone onto their stretcher and the screaming was back.

Melissa asked, looking puzzled, “Who is that?”

Kris looked at the blond in a sad way. “Tess.”

Of course! She had been talking with Tess on the stage about something. What had happened? Why couldn’t she remember? She was beginning to get scared when Brandon came running up to them.

He searched Kris’ face, his own full of fear. “Melissa?”

All Kris said was, “There’s been an accident.”

Confusion was everywhere on his face. “I was in the shower, I didn’t know…”

Kris tried to reassure him. “…It’s alright.”

The paramedics carried the stretcher off the stage. The doctor climbed down off the stage and came over to them. He looked tired and very grim; his face had a sheen to it, and the lines in his face were cut deep. He appeared to have aged about ten years since the last time she had seen him.

The doctor knelt down next to Melissa. “How do you feel?”

Melissa looked very distracted. “Alright, but my shoulder hurts.”

“I’ll bet it does. One of the roadies said you landed on it.” The doctor looked over her shoulder to try and find out what had her attention. “Melissa?” he asked, as she seemed to be somewhere else.

“What?” She focused on his face but looked very worried. One of the paramedics was heading in their direction, carrying what looked like a small suitcase.

The doctor was checking her pulse. “What’s up?”

Alarm filled her eyes as she searched his. “Why can’t I remember what happened?”

He took out his penlight and shown it in her eyes. “Mmm, I think we’d better take you to the hospital.” He put away the light and turned to talk to the paramedic.

Kris placed a hand on his shoulder, gripping it tightly, obviously not satisfied with his answer. “What does ‘mmm’ mean?”

Melissa looked up at the doctor, also not happy with his answer.

The paramedic asked, “Can you stand Ma’am?”

The doctor turned back to them and replied, “Well, that means she may have experienced a concussion.”

Melissa prodded, “And so?” There was a little panic in her voice as she got to her feet with Kris on one side and the paramedic on the other.

The doctor was walking ahead of them. “I’ll have some x-rays taken, just to be on the safe side.”

Paul walked over to them. “Kris, are you alright?”

She looked up at him, her face registering anxiety. “Yeah.” Her voice was subdued.

Paul didn’t think that sounded like the response of someone who was fine.

“I’ve decided that we should have you CAT scanned,” the doctor stated as Melissa was helped into the back of the ambulance. Melissa sat down on a bench across from Tess, who was mercifully quiet.

Paul asked a look of puzzlement on his face, “CAT scanned? That sounds serious.”

Kris determined, “I’m going too.”

The paramedic replied, looking apologetic, “Sorry Ma’am, there’s not enough room in here.”

The doctor suggested, “We can follow in the limo.”

Melissa looked like a little kid that was being sent to her room for misbehaving. “Kris?!” Her voice was small and her eyes were full of terror as they beseeched Kris.

“Don’t worry, we’ll be right behind you,” Kris replied, as the door was closed and the wail of the siren began to move away from them.

The look on Melissa’s face tore at Kris’ heart as she moved quickly toward the waiting limo.

Rick asked, trotting along beside them, “Are you going to the hospital?”

Kris didn’t look at him, just straight ahead at the limo. “Yes.”

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Melissa sat on the bench in the ambulance in the cramped space. The wail of the siren was loud, and her head was beginning to pound. She looked over at Tess lying on the stretcher, tubes running into her arm, an oxygen mask over her nose and mouth, fogged so you couldn’t make out those features. Her shirt was charred like it had been burned, and there were bloodstains on her jeans. Her right arm was a mass of reddened angry skin and sooty blackness. Her color was bad, and her hair looked wilted from sweat. That same acrid smell filled the tiny space as they sped toward the hospital. It finally occurred to Melissa that it was the smell of burnt flesh, and that’s when she threw up.

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The limo sped along the dark streets. The streetlights made the car momentarily bright and then dark, like a very slow strobe light. Kris sat looking out the window, not seeing the scenery, only Melissa’s face.

Paul was talking into his cell phone. “We won’t really have to cancel any shows since the band is intact.”

Kris came back to reality at this. “What did you say?”

Paul repeated with his hand over the phone. “We won’t have to cancel any shows. It will be difficult getting along without Tess for the rest of the tour but, thank God we only have two dates left, and we can limp along.”

Rick’s eyes were glassy and unseeing as he stared at Paul. “I guess that makes sense.”

Brandon was sitting next to Kris and his eyes were as big as saucers. She reached out and took a hold of his hand. He latched on to her like a drowning man.

Kris looked at them in disbelief. “Wait a minute, you two are planning to just plunge ahead?”

Paul sounded completely reasonable. “I don’t really see why not.”

“I’ll tell you why not! My wife was almost killed tonight! I quit!” Kris was almost yelling, her face was red, unshed tears glistened in her eyes, and she looked like she was spoiling for a fight.

Rick replied, coming back to the conversation, “You can’t do that!”

“Watch me! I won’t be on this tour another minute…”

Paul interrupted her, “…But we have contracts.”

Kris’ chin was quivering as a tear spilled down her cheek. “Screw ’em! It’s not safe; I won’t stay any longer.”

Paul had never seen her like this before. They had all been under a tremendous amount of strain lately, and he guessed that it had just caught up to her. He thought that if his wife had nearly met her death in front of his eyes, he would be shaken too.

Paul suggested, “Let’s talk about it later.”

Kris’ voice was strong and determined. “There’s nothing to discuss; as soon as Lissa can be moved, we’re out of here!”

The limo pulled up in front of the hospital, and they all disembarked and hurried inside.

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Tony was sitting on the couch in the suite getting shit-faced. The events of the last few days were too weird. She didn’t want to have to cope anymore, she just wanted to be numb. Tony found herself thinking a lot lately, about life and love and Kris and just things in general. One of the things she had realized was that she was jealous of Kris’ union with Melissa. She had been thinking a lot on this tour, that she wanted someone to love her and take care of her. She hadn’t ever felt that she needed someone hanging around, getting in her way, and not letting her do what she wanted before. But since Paige had spent some time with her, she really missed the feeling of having someone around to talk to and to look after. She liked how it felt when she got off stage, and Paige was there, waiting for her and taking care of her. Maybe it was because she was a woman, and was better at knowing what Tony needed. Tony was going through a lot of self-examination. Her whole mental status was turned upside down. She had always thought of herself as straight, but when she met Paige she was surprised at how quickly she was willing to have a relationship with a woman. She had never even thought about it before. Kris was into women, and that was cool. Tony never felt the need or the desire to try that. She had always pictured herself with a man, but now she wasn’t so sure. She needed to sit down and talk to Kris. Tony wished she had picked up some jailbait groupie tonight after the concert; she really wanted to feel close to someone, even if it was only for a few hours. But the accident had put a stop to that. She was so lonely and tired of being on the road!

The door to the suite opened, and a very tired looking Kris held the door open for a more tired looking Melissa who walked wearily into the room, wearing a sling encompassing her right arm; they looked like mirror images of each other.

Tony called out, her words slightly slurred, “The happy couple has arrived at last!”

Kris asked, flopping down in a chair and putting her feet up on the coffee table, “Hello, are you drinking by yourself?”

She replied, pouting a little, “Yes, why don’t you join me?” Tony handed Kris a beer. Melissa plucked it from her grasp, and sat down on the couch with Tony. “Oh no you don’t; you’re on medication,” Melissa reminded her. “But I don’t mind if I do.” She took a large swallow of the liquid.

Kris inquired, “What about you?”

“I’ve only taken some aspirin.”

Tony sounded very sincere. “How are you?”

Melissa explained, “I wrenched my shoulder and have some minor cuts and burns on my face. I’ll be fine.”

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The bus was crowded and quieter than usual. The woman sat staring out at the black countryside. Occasionally, a small cluster of lights broke the monotony. She figured that everyone was pretty shaken up about what had happened. She kept replaying the evening’s events back in her mind. The way that light blew up, it had to have been someone that took a shot at it. Pretty good shooting from the way it flew apart, then burst into flames. She was really shaken up that Melissa had gotten hurt, and that other woman had gotten burned. It should have been Kris – that would have been the perfect payback for her, permanent and disfiguring!

The woman did have to give Kris credit though; she was a lot tougher than the woman originally thought. When Kris’d hobbled out on that stage tonight and put in a non-stop two-hour kick-ass concert, the woman was impressed. She had begun to feel that she had misjudged Kris, until she’d seen her hobble to Melissa’s side after the accident. That made her more determined than ever to fix Kris. She’d begun to think that maybe she had better take her on in a face-to-face confrontation. It would be fairer and more satisfying when she kicked Kris’ ass!

The woman kept playing the same fantasy over in her mind, that she would break into Kris’ hotel room and drag her out of her bed, while Melissa stood by helplessly, and beat the shit out of Kris. Then Melissa would run over to her and realize that she’d been brainwashed by Kris. She would kiss the woman and apologize, and they would walk over the broken and bleeding Kris, laugh, and go off into the sunset.

Their relationship had been just fine until Kris had stepped in and twisted Melissa’s mind around so that she thought that she didn’t even love her anymore. She supposed that the attention from someone famous would be hard to look past. But Kris was a fake; everything about her screamed it. The woman couldn’t understand why Melissa hadn’t seen it by now.

She could picture Melissa, her tight faded jeans and a low-cut shirt showing off her tattoo, all her curves in the right place, and all nicely proportioned, her soft skin and the smell and feel of her hair. The thought of Kris’ hands all over Melissa, kissing her, making love to her, drove the woman crazy. She reached out in frustration and punched herself in the stomach. Doubling over with pain and gasping for air, she began to construct her next plan of attack.

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Melissa had awakened again about half an hour ago and decided to get up. She had come out to the main room where she sat alone, watching the news. There was a faint knock at the door; she crossed the room and, looking out the peephole, she saw that it was Rick. Quickly she opened the door and let him in. He looked worse than dead. His hair was messed up; his clothes were wrinkled and looked as though he’d been sleeping in them for a week. He walked with his head hanging down and his shoulders stooped; he looked defeated. His face was haggard, his eyes glassy, and un-focused. He looked as though he’d been crying. He was unshaven and looked like a doddering old man.

“Rick, are you alright?” she asked in alarm.

“I need to speak with Kris,” he replied in a raspy voice.

“She’s sleeping right now…”

“…It won’t take a moment,” he interrupted her as he continued to move toward the bedroom. Melissa reached out and grabbed his arm, stopping him momentarily. He looked at her and seemed to focus on her for the first time since he’d walked in.

“Rick, I said she’s sleeping right now. If you want to come back and talk to her later…”

“…No. I need to talk to her now,” he interrupted. He looked as though he might start to cry.

“What’s wrong? I’d be happy to listen.” Melissa’s heart went out to him; he looked like he’d lost his last friend. He walked over and threw himself into a chair, and then scrubbed his face with his hands. The sound of his beard stubble scraping against his hands was like sandpaper.

“Rick, I’m a pretty good listener, if you need to talk,” she stated, as she sat down across from him on the couch. She sat Indian style, forgetting that she was dressed in a T-shirt, underwear and socks. He looked at her critically for a moment, and then said, “No, I can’t talk to you about this.”

“Why not?” She brushed a lock of hair behind her ear.

“You just wouldn’t understand.” He sounded like a little boy.

“Try me. I don’t have three younger brothers for nothing you know.” She smiled. He looked at her for a long time. She could sense that he was coming to some inner decision.

“Alright. I just came from the hospital.”

“How’s Tess doing?”

“She only has first degree burns on her right arm.”

“Well that doesn’t sound so bad.”

“Yeah, she’ll be out in a couple of days. The thing is… have you ever been with someone, the two of you are just messing around, for a couple of years, then one day it hits you that maybe you like her more than you thought?” he asked, looking at his hands and sounding like he was thinking out loud.

“Well, not exactly like that, but I think I know what you’re feeling.”

“I didn’t think it would happen like this. I’ve loved women before, but this is different…” He broke off and looked up at her. “…You don’t get it. I knew I should have waited for Kris!” His voice was frustrated.

“What makes you think I’m not getting it?” she soothed.

“Forget it! I can’t talk to you.” He was angrier now.

“Rick, I’m only trying to help. I’ve loved women before too. But this time I’m in love with Kris. It’s a completely different feeling.”

“Yeah. I don’t think it’s as strong as love, but it’s more than I’ve felt before.”

“I take it Tess doesn’t know how you feel?”

“No. I’ve been hinting at it, but she keeps blowing me off whenever I bring it up.”

“Sounds like maybe she’s not feeling the same thing you are. That’s always a tough break. Maybe she’s just scared.”

“Yeah, that’s possible.”

“Were you going to tell her tonight?”

“Yeah, I had finally made up my mind on the ride over to the hospital, but she’s so doped up that I couldn’t.”

“Now’s probably not the best time. She’s probably feeling vulnerable, and if she was feeling scared to begin with, having you drop this news on her might just drive her away from you.”

“I hadn’t thought about that.” He looked lost in thought. “Damn it! It’s not supposed to be like this!” he erupted.

“What are you talking about?” She looked a little suspiciously at him.

“I’m just supposed to walk up to her and tell her how I feel…”

“…And the two of you ride off into the sunset? You’ve watched too many late-night movies. Relationships are hard work, trust me.”

“Well yeah, for you maybe, but not for me,” he replied, looking frustrated.

Besides being shocked at his attitude, she couldn’t help the smile that chased itself around her lips. “Why are you so different?”

“Well I’ve got my looks, my career, and not to brag or anything, but I’m great in bed.” He was absolutely sincere. Melissa couldn’t help but laugh.

“Ah, I knew I shouldn’t have talked with you!” He was angry again.

“I’m sorry! Really, but you have such a high opinion of yourself. Rick, you are a great looking guy, and you have a career that a lot of women would find fascinating; as far as the bed part, I don’t want to get into that. But there has to be more to you. You have to be a three-dimensional person, not someone without substance. Have you ever had a meaningful conversation with a woman you took to bed?”

“What do you mean by meaningful?”

She thought, Just by asking that question, I know the answer is no. “Did you talk about books or movies or your favorite color or what plans you have for the future, something along those lines?”

“Not that I recall.”

She wanted to slap her forehead with frustration, but she counted to ten instead. “Well I hate to tell you this, but there is way more to life than sex. Being Don Juan isn’t everything. Women want someone that they can talk to. How do you know you want to spend a lot of time with Tess when you don’t know anything about her?”

“Because we are great in bed together, and she makes me feel happy.”

“Well that’s a start. But you have so far to go.”

“How’d you know that you wanted to marry Kris?”

“Besides falling in love with her the first time I saw her? She’s interesting, we have lots of stuff in common.” She chuckled. “She has a wicked sense of humor, she’s loyal and protective…”

He mumbled, “Sounds like you’re describing your dog.”

She raised a pale brow at him. “Lastly, she’s great in bed.”

He sat up a little straighter. “But I thought you told her to see other people…”

“…Well I wanted to be sure that we were right for each other. I had to get to know her before I was ready to make a scary decision like marriage.”

“And now you know her?”

“I know enough about her to know that I want to spend the rest of my life with her. We’ve got a lifetime to really get to know each other. Take the two of us. I don’t know you at all, and I feel bad for saying it, but I didn’t like you very much when we first met. But I’ve gotten to know you a little, and we’re getting better around each other.”

“Hey, I didn’t like you either!” He sounded surprised. “But it wouldn’t have stopped me from jumping in the sack with you.”

She put her head in her hands, and counted to ten then counted to ten again. “See, now I thought we were really making progress, and then you say something like that. I want you to know that if Kris and I had the best sex in the world, if she had the same attitude you do, I would have walked away and never looked back.”

He was shocked, “You’re kidding?”

“Sex is not the center of the Universe! You must move past this idea. Rick, what’s your favorite color?”

“Ah, I don’t know. Green I guess.”

“What do you want to be doing in five years?”

“This. But probably be married and having some kids. What do you want to be doing in five years?”

“Growing old with Kris. Watching your children growing up, and having a thriving nursery business, and thanks for asking,” Melissa smiled.

“That’s nice. What’s your favorite movie?”

“I’m not sure I have a favorite of all time, but I think The Thing comes close.”

“Black and white, or 80’s remake?”

“Black and white; I’m a purest.”

“You don’t strike me as the horror film type.”

“I love to go see a horror film on a date.” She smiled lasciviously.

He smiled. “You too!? I love it when they throw their arms around me and hold me tight.”

“See, we’re not that far apart. Have you learned something?”

“Yeah! But I’m so confused I can’t think anymore.” He yawned.

“Well what you need is some rest. Why don’t you stretch out here and get some sleep?” she suggested. He looked whipped as he crawled onto the couch. She covered him with a blanket, and went to turn out the light.

“Melissa?”

“Yes?” She looked down at him.

“I’m glad that Kris has someone that loves her, and takes care of her. I think I’m going to like having you as a sister.”

“Thanks Rick. I think I’m going to like having you for a brother.” She turned out the light and went in to check on Kris.

As she looked down at Kris’ bruised face, she felt a knot growing in her throat. The last few days, it seemed like a month, had been a whirlwind of emotions and experiences that she didn’t want to have to live through again. Growing up as the oldest, she was used to everyone coming to her, but she didn’t want to have to be the only adult in this situation. She too was holding her mental state together with a paper clip and chewing gun, and was not sure how much more she could take. Now she understood why they acted the way they did on tour; it was an insane situation that drove you crazy. Of course you practically had to be crazy to set out on it in the first place. What they needed was a surrogate mother to take care of them.

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Kris stood encircled by flames; they were at least six feet tall. Their heat was intense; as they crept closer, she could feel the flames licking at her body. Her skin was beginning to blister, and she could smell her flesh burning. Her clothes burst into flames, and she could feel her hair burning. She was screaming.

No, it wasn’t her; it came and went, came and went. She began to move closer to being awake; she recognized the phone ring as the scream in her dream. It had only been a dream! Where the hell was she? she asked herself; as she opened her eyes, she could see the hotel room. What day was it? For that matter what time was it? She felt like Rip Van Winkle. Since she was wearing the cast, she couldn’t wear her watch, and it was a pain to get it out of her Levi’s pocket. As the adrenaline began to dissipate, her body began to talk to her. The drummer was still alive and well in her head; her shoulders and back ached, and when she tried to turn her head, it screamed out its objections. She must have slept on it wrong. She didn’t remember falling asleep in bed; how did she get here? Where was Melissa? She sat up, trying to work the kink out of her neck, and could hear voices from the other room. Well, that explained where Melissa was. Her door opened; it was Melissa.

“Oh good, you’re awake; there’s a phone call for you,” she stated, kissing Kris and then handing the phone to her.

Her voice barely above a whisper from sleep, she said, “Hello?”

“Kris? Good. Now that everyone’s on the line, let’s get this conference underway,” Bridget’s voice stated.

“Bridget? What’s going on?” Kris asked, trying to wake up.

“Oh, that’s right dear, you just woke up. Well let’s recap things for her. By the way, congratulations dear!” Bridget sounded very happy.

“Thanks.” Kris was still very confused,.

“Anyway, that lovely Melissa called me and asked me to talk to the three of you. You know it’s a good thing that there is one of you there that has their head screwed on right. She thought that maybe you need an impartial third party to help you judge the situation. Do you really think that this charade should continue?”

“This is about canceling the tour?” Tony asked, sounding very tired.

“Yes. Why isn’t it obvious that it’s too dangerous to continue?” Bridget sounded a little angry.

“You’re absolutely right; consider it canceled,” Rick said, his voice flat and final.

“You’re kidding, right? No more fighting?” Kris sounded incredulous.

“No, Bridget’s right. I’ll call Paul and let him know,” Rick stated.

“That’s very sensible of you Rick. Now everyone get off the phone; I want to talk to Kris,” Bridget ordered.

“Alright, it’s just the two of us,” Kris replied, as the other two phones clicked off.

“How are you doing dear?”

“I’ll be happy to get home and rest, that’s for sure.”

“Well good. Now what’s all this about the two of you running away to get married?” Bridget sounded critical.

“I just wanted to make it legal…”

“…I’m not happy that you’ve eloped,” Bridget cut her off, sounding angry.

“Don’t worry, we’re planning on having a big blowout later.”

“I’m very glad to hear that. But don’t you think you kids are rushing things a bit? I mean, I love Melissa, don’t get me wrong, and I think she is really good for you, but you’ve known each other for such a short time…”

Kris interrupted her, “Bree, I’m a big girl, yes?”

Bridget’s tone had an edge to it. “Don’t get smart with me; I’ll turn you over my knee.”

Kris sighed, “Bree, please I just woke up, I have the worst headache, and the last few days not to mention months have been hell. If you are afraid she’s after my money, I’ll have a pre-nuptial…”

Bridget angrily cut her off, “No, I’m not afraid she’s after your money, damn it!”

Kris sighed, “Work with me here – then what?”

“I just think you two don’t know all that much about each other, and since you’ve been on this roller-coaster ride, are you really thinking clearly, and with your heads and not your Johnsons?”

Kris had to smile. “You saw us together – didn’t we look like we were in love?”

Sounding very frustrated, Bridget said, “Oh for God’s sake, you are driving me nuts! We’ll talk about this when you get home. Don’t think this conversation is over.”

The line went dead. Kris replaced the receiver on the cradle.

“That was a sneaky thing to do.” Kris looked slyly at her lover.

Melissa looked smug. “Well, I figured you guys all needed to hear the voice of reason…”

“…You are wonderful!” Kris interrupted her as they kissed.

30

The three of them sat quietly in the limo as they drove along toward the beach house. The road followed the coast, and the waves breaking could be seen occasionally. The sky was a hazy bluish color; it was sunny and warm. The limo turned through the gates of the two-story off-white stucco house. The lot was long with not much in the way of a front area. It was wide enough for two cars parked side by side. There were three cars parked end to end when they arrived: a black Porsche Boxster convertible; a Navy blue convertible Jaguar XK; and a royal purple Willys wagon. Melissa knew at once whose car was whose.

They unloaded their bags and instruments from the limo. Entering the house from ground level, Melissa climbed a set of stairs and found herself in their combination entry hall, living room. The dining room was off the living room, to her right, with a large picture window off the back of the house. Next to the dining area was a wall that broke up the openness of the room. On her right, a few paces from where she was standing, was a long dark hallway separated from the living room by a half wall along its length. Several doors could be seen over the wall, which were shut. An older woman popped her head out from around the wall by the dining area.

“Oh, you’re home. I wasn’t expecting you for another hour,” she stated.

“Hey Mrs. Johnson, we got an earlier flight,” Tony replied as she passed by Melissa and turned and went down the hall. Kris and Melissa followed her down the hallway. Tony opened the door near the beginning of the hall and went inside. Kris’ door was at the opposite end of the hallway. Kris opened the door and went inside; Melissa followed Kris inside and caught her breath. The entire wall of the bedroom facing the entry door was windowed, with the ocean filling all of the view.

“Wow, that’s some view!” Melissa said, as she closed the door.

The room was spacious. The walls were sparsely decorated; there was a large wooden desk and chair in one corner. Its top was covered with papers and a computer monitor, a fax machine and phone. Above the desk was a bulletin board with some snaps adorning it. A dresser in another corner had a couple of framed pictures of the three musketeers sailing at Disneyland. From the styles in the photos, they had been taken some years ago. A blue high-backed corduroy chair was along one wall, with a dark oak queen size four-poster bed in the center of the room. Melissa walked in and sat on the edge of the bed. She made a surprised sound.

“It’s a water bed; what else in California? Have you ever made love on a water bed?” Kris asked, flexing her eyebrows.

Melissa was bobbing up and down on the waves as she chuckled, “No, I can’t say that I have.”

“Well, we’ll have to take care of that,” Kris stated, leaning over and kissing her.

Melissa put her left hand up and ran it through Kris’ hair as she pulled her down on top of herself. The bed waved gently as they moved about on it.

Melissa made a face. “Yow, you’ve got my bad arm pinned.”

Kris rose up on her good arm. “I’m sorry, did I hurt you?”

Melissa caressed Kris’ face. “Nah, but we are going to have to take this slow.”

Kris leaned down and placed her mouth over Melissa’s, being very careful not to put any weight on her lover’s injured shoulder. The movement of the bed made Melissa all the hotter, as she worked on removing Kris’ shirt. Kris unbuttoned Melissa’s shirt and began to lick her tattoo. Melissa had succeeded in getting Kris’ shirt off to expose her exquisite breasts. This was the first time that they had gotten this close since Kris broke her wrist.

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They lay spent on the bed. Despite both their injuries, and the fact that they were not alone, they had made love three times. Each time, Melissa had reached multiple orgasms.

“That was great! I think waterbeds are wonderful; no home should be without one!” Melissa commented as she ran her hand along Kris’ naked back.

Kris could only grunt her response.

“What a wonderful day.” Melissa walked over to the windows and opened them.

The smell of the ocean came flooding into the room. The warm sun streaming in through the glass felt great on her naked skin as she looked down on the waves crashing below. Kris came up behind her and put her arms around her. Melissa could feel Kris’ pubic hair tickling her bottom.

“How can you come so many times and still have all this energy?” Kris asked, resting her head on the woman’s bare back.

“It’s all your fault,” she replied.

“I accept full responsibility. I want to sit in the hot tub for a while,” Kris replied, limping around the bed and grabbing a robe out of the closet. She tossed it to Melissa and removed an oversized shirt, putting  it on.

Melissa cinched up the robe, smirking. “Let me guess, is that Rick’s?”

Kris held out her hands, which were covered by at least four inches of material. “No way, this is my shirt.” She came over and put her arm around Melissa’s shoulders as they headed for the door. “Just don’t tell Rick I’m wearing it.”

They left the room, heading back down the hallway.

They walked through the living room and into the kitchen, which was the room hidden by the wall. “Mrs. Johnson, can you bring us some sandwiches and wine down at the hot tub?” Kris asked. The older woman nodded her head yes as she turned off the water in the sink.

“Yes Miss,” the older woman replied.

Kris opened the sliding glass door off the back of the kitchen and stepped out onto the wooden deck; they descended the stairs off the deck to a concrete slab about fifty feet square below. It housed a large hot tub, a gas barbeque, an iron outdoor table, and four matching chairs. Kris removed the top to the tub with some difficulty and climbed into the frothy water. Now Melissa understood why the front area was so small; there was barely enough room for the house between the ocean, which, was maybe two hundred and fifty feet from the house, and the roadway.

“This is heavenly. We’re alone… aren’t we?” Melissa asked, climbing into the bubbling water next to Kris.

“Oh sure, right here,” Kris replied, her head resting on the edge of the tub. Mrs. Johnson arrived with the snacks.

“If we were at my house we’d be alone…”

“…Except for your brother and Gert,” Kris interrupted.

Melissa felt angry. Traditionally, after one was married, they went on their honeymoon. She didn’t relish the idea of spending hers with Tony and Rick and God only knows whom else.

“Kris, you aren’t planning to continue living here, are you?” Melissa asked, cautiously.

“No way. We are going to need a place of our own,” Kris answered.

31

The gate buzzer sounded, and Melissa depressed the intercom button while wiping the grapefruit juice from her hands. “Yes?”

“Hi Kris, Malcolm Ferry, I’d like to talk with you. May I come in?” came a man’s voice

There was a moment of silence while Melissa tried to place the name. “I’m sorry, who are you?”

Malcolm’s voice was filled with confusion. “Um… is Kris around?”

Melissa was starting to get a little annoyed. “Who are you again?”

The smile had gone out of his voice. “Malcolm Ferry, Epic records. Is Kris around?”

Seeing as this guy could actually be someone that Kris worked with, Melissa didn’t really want to piss him off. On the other hand, he could be just about anybody at the gate asking to see Kris, and Melissa wasn’t looking forward to letting a member of the rabid press in, or something worse. She tried another tack. “I’m sorry, Kris isn’t here right now…”

He interrupted her, “You wouldn’t happen to be Melissa would you?”

That caught her by surprise. “I hope you won’t take this the wrong way – but you could be just about anyone out there.”

He chuckled. “That’s very true, I’m glad to see that you are as concerned with Kris’ welfare as I am. I really would like to talk to you face to face. Would you call my boss to verify that I am whom I say?”

Melissa considered this a moment and then she picked up the phone and speed-dialed Candy, Kris’ secretary. “Hey Candy, it’s Melissa Davis; how are you?”

Candy sounded surprised. “Melissa, how are you? You back home in Oregon?”

Melissa smiled. “No, I’m out at the beach house. I’ve got a question for you?”

Candy’s voice was filled with helpfulness. “Shoot!”

“I’ve got a guy at the gate of the Beach House, and he claims to be from the record company, can you tell me if he’s telling the truth?”

Malcolm’s disembodied voice came through the speaker on the wall next to the phone. “Hello? You still up there?”

Melissa put her hand over the receiver of the phone and depressed the gate button, replying, “Yes, I’m checking your credentials.”

Good girl; this one’s bright – which could end up causing a lot of problems, he thought.

“Sure, what’s his name?” Candy asked as the rattle of keys on her keyboard reverberated through the phone.

Melissa replied, “Malcolm Ferry, says he’s from Epic.”

There was a slight silence as the sound of keystrokes stopped. Then Candy’s cheery voice came back, “Melissa, Malcolm Ferry is an AR with Epic.”

Melissa brow was furrowed and it traveled down the phone line. “AR, what’s that?”

Candy clarified, “Artist & Repertoire; he finds the talent. He’s the band’s liaison to the record company.”

Melissa brightened, “Thanks Candy.”

“Any time, have a good one.” Candy’s cheerful voice rang off.

Melissa returned to the gate buzzer. “Mr. Ferry, come on up.”

A tentative knock on the front door was followed by Malcolm opening it, and calling out, “Hello?”

Melissa carried her grapefruit from the kitchen and set it down on the table. She called out, “Up here.”

A middle-aged man of average height appeared at the top of the stairs. His graying hair was pulled back in a thin ponytail that hung past his shoulders. He was wearing a white oxford shirt with a black leather vest; new blue jeans with a crease down the front, and shiny black cowboy boots.

Melissa was on her best behavior since this was someone that worked closely with Kris, but she instantly didn’t like this guy. “Morning, would you like a cup of coffee?”

He let his eyes roam over the attractive young woman next to the table, thinking, Very nice as he replied, “Yes, black – thank you.” Then he noticed the food laid out on the table. “I’m sorry, were you sitting down to breakfast?” Taking a couple of steps closer, he said, “You’d think after all these years I would realize that you artist types run on a different timetable than the rest of us.”

She poured his coffee and handed him the cup. “It’s all right; I got up late this morning, usually I’m up before dawn.”

He accepted the steaming mug. “Thank you. Before dawn? I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a musician that did that.”

Melissa held her hand out indicating the chair across the table from her. “Please have a seat. Well, maybe that’s because I’m not a musician or an artist.”

He pulled out the chair, setting down his coffee. “Thank you again.”

Taking a breath, Melissa asked, “You said you wanted to talk; about what?”

Ah getting right down to business – load of trouble this one. Malcolm smiled warmly. “Let me get right to it. The recent events during Scarecrow’s tour have caused me, as well as the record company, great concern for the health and welfare of the band members.” He saw Melissa nodding her agreement. “Please don’t let me stop you from eating,” he continued. “I like to think of myself as more than just a business associate of these talented people, and more like a friend. In that capacity, I would be remiss in my duty if I didn’t share my concerns with them.”

Melissa cocked her head, “Concerns, like what Mr. Ferry?”

Smiling again, he replied, “Please call me Malcolm.” He took a sip of his coffee before continuing. “The fabric if you will of the band seems to be rumored to be unraveling. I think the stresses of all the accidents had a great deal to do with most of it.” He turned gray eyes filled with concern on her. “There is some animosity brewing between Kris and Rick, and I think, if I don’t miss my guess, that has to do with you?”

Melissa dropped her eyes, not happy to be the source of problems between the siblings. She had tried to get Kris to talk to her about it, but she wouldn’t.

Malcolm chuckled. “Relax, I’m not going to rap your knuckles with a ruler. No matter what you’ve heard from Kris, I’m not a monster.” He was wearing a charming smile. “I understand that Kris cares a great deal for you – and that makes me very happy for her. I assume your feelings are reciprocal?” Before she could question him, he said, “Of course that’s none of my business; I’m just concerned for Kris’ feelings.”

Melissa looked at him for a long moment before she said anything. “Mr. Ferry…”

He tried to interrupt her, “That’s Mal…”

She talked over the top of him, “Mr. Ferry, you’re right; my feelings for Kris are absolutely none of your business. In fact as a business associate of Kris’, I don’t really think her private life is any of your business.” She took a breath. “You say you’re a friend, but I don’t remember seeing you when Kris was injured; I don’t remember her talking to you on the phone either. It seems to me that friends would be concerned enough to call.”

His smile slipped slightly. “Touché. I must admit that you deserve more credit than I had originally given you.”

Melissa raised a blond eyebrow, a slight smile tugging at the corner of her mouth. “Well now, shall we put all of our cards on the table?”

Malcolm laughed, as he placed his hands palms down on the tabletop. “Damn, Kris has picked herself a good one this time.” He suddenly grew serious. “Here’s the deal; the record company makes money when Scarecrow makes money. We don’t want to see that situation end anytime soon.” He reached into his back pocket and pulled out a checkbook and a pen, which he laid on the table. “To that end, how much will it take for you to take off and stop cluttering Kris’ head with these distracting thoughts of love?”

Melissa was actually shocked. “You can’t be serious?”

He ignored her and started writing. “Going to play hardball, are we? Well I can assure you that we are willing to pay whatever it takes to send you back to Oregon.”

Melissa stood, resting her hands on the table. “Do you do this with all of their lovers?” She ran a hand through her blond locks. “As her employer, do you have any idea how illegal, not to mention immoral this is?”

He looked up, smiling like a shark. “Do I hear half a million?”

Her face was flushed with anger. “Mr. Ferry, I want you to leave this instant, or I’ll call the police.”

“That won’t be necessary.” Kris’ voice was flat and low.

Malcolm quickly turned and then got to his feet. “Kris! How are you? Melissa and I were just talking about you.”

Kris moved toward him, her eyes cold and hard. “I heard.” She was standing in front of Ferry. “Tell me Malcolm, is this the first time you’ve done this on my behalf?”

Malcolm tried to act innocent. “Inquire about your health?”

Kris exploded, “DON’T FUCK WITH ME!!”

Malcolm shrank back from the outburst. “Kris, I only had your best interests at heart.”

Kris’ eyes narrowed as she said, “You had no right.”

Malcolm was trying to save his hide. “Kris, you have to understand, this is business…”

Kris interrupted him. “Business? This is my private life we’re talking about.”

She turned and walked over to the window looking out at the ocean. In a low voice she said, “Get out.” Malcolm was still trying to plead his case; he took a step towards her. Melissa stepped between him and Kris, cutting off his advancement. “Kris, you have to understand, we just want you to be successful.”

Kris’ voice was menacing. “Malcolm, if you aren’t out of here in three seconds, I may very well kill you with my bare hands.”

Malcolm swallowed audibly, looked from Melissa to Kris and back again, turned around, picked up the checkbook and headed for the door.

The sound of the front door closing filled the room as Melissa tried to figure out what had just happened.

Kris’ voice was a whisper, her fists clenching and unclenching by her sides. “Why didn’t you come and get me?”

Melissa turned around to face Kris’ back, a little startled by the question. “I… you were sleeping, I didn’t want to wake you.”

Kris was rubbing her temples, as she turned around looking tired and angry. “That is absolutely the last straw.”

She moved over to a couch, sat down and picked up the phone.

Melissa’s nice relaxing morning, reading the paper and sipping her coffee, was a distant memory as she cleaned up her uneaten breakfast. She could hear Kris in the background on the phone.

“Adrienne, Kris Cutler…freaked out! Look we need to have an investigation right now of Epic’s dealings with the band and our interests. Something creepy happened with Malcolm Ferry today, and it got me thinking. I really want to not be in business with them anymore. Check everything…. I don’t know, that’s why we hired you as our lawyer! … OK sure, can you at least get it started before we pull together a band meeting? … Great, no I’ll call Em and get the ball rolling, and we’ll get back to you. … Awesome, bye.” The phone beeped as she disconnected the call.

“Em, Kris Cutler – look we have to have a band meeting right away… About Epic. Listen to me, something creepy happened today, and I’ve got Adrienne checking into them. …. Well, you can ask her when we get together. … No, the sooner the better. … OK, call everyone, including Adrienne. Bye.”

Melissa came over and sat next to her lover on the couch as she hung up the phone, Kris sat back and rested her head against the couch and closed her eyes.

Melissa was stroking the dark locks. “Baby, you look wasted; why don’t you go lay down?”

Kris opened one brown orb and looked over at the blond woman. “Gee thanks.” Her mouth twitched into a small smile. “Yeah, I think I will go crash; my head is killing me.” Kris got slowly to her feet and wandered off to her room.

Several hours had passed, and Melissa had looked in on Kris, and was happy to see that she was still sound asleep. Surprised that Kris had slept most of the morning away, she had high hopes that Kris would feel better when she awoke. Melissa heard the front door slam shut, and she moved quickly into the living room to see Rick bounding up the stairs.

Rick was angry. “Where is she?”

Melissa held her hands out in front of her in a stopping motion. “Keep your voice down, she’s asleep.”

Rick continued to move toward his sister-in-law as she moved further along the hall, closer to Kris’ door. “Tough! She cannot fuck with our lives and hope to get off scot-free.”

Melissa tried to keep her voice calm. “Keep your voice down, you’ll wake her…”

Only a few feet in front of her, he interrupted, “Damn right I will!”

Melissa took a step away from the door and toward him, softening her voice. “Rick, please don’t wake her; it’s the first good sleep she’s gotten in a couple of days.”

“She can sleep all she wants to when we’re unemployed!” He reached over the blond woman’s shoulder and pounded on the closed door. “Kris, get your ass out of bed!”

Now Melissa was angry. “Damn it Rick, why did you have to do that?”

He just glared at her. “Because she’s my sister, and I need to yell at her.”

Melissa jabbed her index finger into his chest. “Why don’t you grow up and think about someone else for a change?”

He just stood, staring at her. “You can’t be serious?” he asked, his voice filled with incredulity.

The front door opened, and Tony’s head popped up over the stair railing. “Hey. Where is she?”

Melissa waited for Tony to appear as she turned her stern expression on the young woman; before she had a chance to say anything, Rick replied, gesturing behind him with his thumb, “Get in line, babe.”

In a stern voice that brooked no discussion, Melissa replied, “No.”

Rick’s voice held a touch of anger. “Now see here…”

Tony jumped in, “Melissa, I know you are trying to protect her, but we really need…

Melissa crossed her arms over her chest, her back to the door in question. “No, this can wait until she wakes up.”

Rick was now full on angry. “Who died and left you in charge? Last time I looked, this was my house.”

Tony was still trying to be diplomatic. “This is really serious, and has to do with the biz; I think you should let us talk to her.”

The door behind Melissa flew open, almost dumping her unceremoniously on her butt.

Kris’ eyes looked glazed with sleep; there were little imprints on her face from the sheets, and her jaw was set. “What in the hell is going on out here?!”

Rick was the first to open his mouth. “Your bed-buddy was playing bodyguard…”

Tony stepped in before Kris could knock his block off. “Kris, I think we need to talk about our recording contract?”

Kris continued to glare at her brother, her voice low as her eyes narrowed. “Be very, very careful.” She turned her attention to Tony and raised an eyebrow. “What’s there to talk about? I want out of the contract with those lying bastards…”

Tony wasn’t backing down; this was serious. “OK, I can understand that, but you are ousting all of us in the process.”

Rick crossed his arms over his chest. “But that shouldn’t matter – whatever Kris wants, she gets…”

Kris’ voice rose as she interrupted her little brother, “You will recall that I didn’t want to go into business with those jackals in the first place.”

Tony leaned her back against the wall across from Kris’ door. “Well, like it or not, we’re in bed with them now, so to speak, and since we only have a few months left on that contract, why don’t we just hon…”

“No.”

Tony tried to be reasonable. “I understand that you aren’t happy with them, but what’s a few more months?”

Kris was unwavering. “No. They don’t get another red cent from me.”

Tony almost smiled. “Well, they’re going to continue to make money on our stuff for the next 65 years…”

Through clenched teeth, Kris interrupted her, “They are fucking with my private life.”

The sound of voices coming up the stairs interrupted them as the rest of the band arrived.

“Hello, anyone home?” Emily called out.

Tony, seemingly ignoring the others, asked, “Does anyone else feel like a beer?” And turned and headed toward the kitchen. Over her shoulder, she asked, “How are they fucking with your private life?”

The rest of the band had congregated at the head of the hallway and watched the drama play out between the siblings.

Tony emerged from the kitchen with several beers that she passed out.

“You so read my mind,” Kris said as she took a long pull on the proffered beer. As the party made its way into the living room, Melissa and Kris sat on the couch furthest from everyone. On the couch across from them, Tony and Rick sat down.

Tom put his fist out, which Rick touched with his fist. “Yo!” Tom climbed over the couch that Rick and Tony were sitting on, and sat on the back with his feet on the cushions. “Man, you got more of that?”

Rick pointed with his bottle. “Fridge.”

Steve asked, “Emily, how are you?”

Emily sat down on the coffee table between the couches. “Steve, you look well.”

Steve put his hands on the back of the couch that Tony and Rick were sitting on. “I bet we are all here about the same thing.”

Tony downed her beer. Calling out, she asked, “Tom, bring a couple more of those.”

Adrienne was kind of standing around, waiting for everyone to settle. Tom was coming back with the beers, thrust one into her hand as he passed her, and said, “How’s it hanging Adrienne?”

She looked down at the beer, stepped to the nearest couch and set the beer down on the table next to the couch. “Ah good, I was hoping to talk to everyone about this; it’s good that we could all make a meeting on such short notice.” She opened her briefcase and removed some papers before setting the case on the floor next to one of the couches. “Kris, how are you feeling? I love the cast color.”

Kris replied, as she rubbed one of her temples, “Better, thanks.”

Tony asked again, as she tossed the bottle cap onto the coffee table, “How is Epic fucking with your private life?”

Taking a deep breath, Kris replied, “Ferry tried to buy Melissa out of my life…”

Rick jumped to his feet. “Oh there it is – I knew somehow it had to revolve around her.” He rolled his eyes. “You know, you should think with your big head, not your little one…”

Kris lunged across the coffee table, nearly knocking Emily on the floor, reached out and grabbed the front of Rick’s shirt.

Tony put herself between the two siblings as she stood on the coffee table. “Whoa! OK, let’s get back on track here – business remember?”

If looks could kill, Rick would have been breathing his last breath. Melissa helped Kris back across the coffee table and convinced her to sit down, while Tony did the same with Rick.

Kris turned away from her brother and concentrated on the dark haired woman as if pleading with her to understand. “Tony – Ferry all but admitted that he’d done it before.” Kris waited for her niece to catch on, but when it didn’t happen, she continued, “Remember Lee? You could never figure out why he dumped you in such a hurry when everything seemed to be going along so nicely.”

Tony cocked her head and regarded the older woman a moment, as she seemed to consider the words.

Rick raised an eyebrow. “Jesus, you are better off; he was a wuss.”

Tony looked at him aghast. “Just ’cause you didn’t like him…” She sighed and put her hands out in front of her in a stop motion; taking a deep breath, she got back on track. “That’s not the point….”

Rick sounded annoyed. “OK Einstein, what is the point? Enlighten me.”

Tony’s eyes held a look of pain. “The point is – it should have been my decision… our decision.”

Melissa mouthed, “I’m sorry”, to the younger woman. Tony gave her a brief smile.

Kris addressed her brother. “Don’t you remember how torn up she was, when he left?”

He was silent for a moment. “Yeah, of course I do.”

In a small voice, as if she were talking to herself, Melissa quoted, “Angst is great fodder for songs.” It was silent as Melissa looked up from examining the nap of the carpet to find all of them staring at her. “What?”

Kris’ brow was crinkled as she looked at her lover. “Why does that sound so familiar?”

Melissa looked a little nervous. “You said it in an interview...”

Tony jumped on that. “When?” She smiled wickedly and waggled her eyebrows. “You certainly have gotten to be an expert all of a sudden.”

Melissa was thinking hard. “About three years ago…” She blushed slightly.

Tony slapped herself on the forehead. “Jesus, that was about the time I was seeing Lee.”

Rick let out a sigh of frustration. “OK, so maybe they have been doing this all along, how do you explain Steve and Ronnie getting hitched?”

Melissa looked shy as she replied, “He’s not a founding member.” She realized they were all listening intently. “It would suck, but he could be replaced. You three are the heart and soul of the band. If one of you leaves, the band dies.”

Rick sounded impressed, “Wow, that was deep. You really understand all of this, don’t you?”

In a sarcastic tone, Tony said under her breath, “Well, not everyone is as thick as you.”

Narrowing his eyes at her, he said, “I heard that!”

Tony tried to dismiss Rick’s indignation. “Do you really think those bastards would buy off anyone that we tried to get close to, just to keep the money train rolling?”

Hesitantly, Melissa replied, “Could be – What album did Lee leave on?”

Rick’s confusion was written on his face. “Our seventh – Winter Wheat”

“That went platinum, didn’t it?” Melissa asked.

Rick looked pleased. “Yeah, that was a really good album; lots of great songs on it.”

Melissa asked, “Who did most of the writing?”

He looked a little suspicious. “Everybody pitched in, but Tony,” his voice slowed down, “did most of it.”

Melissa was on a roll now. “Have there been any other relationships that ended mysteriously?”

Rick looked at her as if the light bulb had just clicked on. “What was that chick…?”

Kris interrupted, “Gillian.”

Tony picked up the story. “We were at some party. Everyone was happy, and then suddenly Gillian tells Kris she’d had enough and that was it, she was gone – poof!”

“Which album was that?” Melissa asked as she gave a reassuring squeeze to Kris’ thigh.

“Fifth – You can lead a whore to culture but you can’t make her appreciate it.” Before she could ask, Rick added, “Platinum before it was released, seven Grammy nominations, three wins, and Kris did most of the writing.”

“Holy shit!” a very surprised Steve stated.

Emily said, “Jesus, that’s just creepy.”

Adrienne added, “If they could get Melissa out of the picture, Kris would be devastated. She is the loudest voice for dumping them; if she were distracted when it came time to renegotiate, it might be a slam dunk – plus a humdinger of an album.”

“What’d he offer you?” Rick asked, looking pointedly at Melissa.

Clearing her throat, she replied, “He said they would pay whatever it took. Then he offered half a million.”

Tony whistled. “That’s not just pocket change.”

Melissa said, “You know, half a million doesn’t really sound like enough after surviving that circus that ya’ll call ‘on tour’.” Turning her attention back to her lover, she continued, “It’s a damn good thing that I love you so much.” She leaned over and kissed Kris.

Tom asked, “I’d like to know what it’s going to cost to get out of the contract?”

“If you will excuse me, I’ll let you all talk about the “biz”,” Melissa said, as she left the room.

Adrienne was smiling. “I like her.”

Emily looked puzzled. “Who was that?”

Tony had picked up a Nerf ball and was tossing it from hand to hand. “Em, that was Kris’ wife, Melissa Davis.”

Emily looked surprised. “Kris got married?”

Steve was chuckling. “Em, you really do need to pay closer attention.”

Emily explained, “Did this happen on tour? You know when you’re on tour, you’re Paul’s problem, because I’m on vacation.”

“That’s why you never write, you never call…” Tony was smiling mischievously at her.

Emily replied, “I have one of those phones that only works one way.”

Tony looked thoughtful. “My mom thinks I have one of those too.”

Rick was getting pissed. “Can we get back to business?”

Adrienne replied, “Quite right. I’ve got the whole firm looking into this. If what Melissa alluded too is true, then they certainly have been playing dirty pool. But is it illegal or in breach, that is another question. After all, we create these contracts so that there are no loopholes – iron-clad.”

“So we’re screwed?” Tom asked, downing his beer. “Bummer Dude.”

“Not necessarily – it could be argued right now that they are guilty of harassment and bribery.”

“You’re seriously considering this madness?” Rick asked.

Tony caught the ball and looked at him. “Rick, think about it; if they are low enough to do that, what the fuck else have they pulled?”

“Maybe, but we made a ton of cash on both of those albums – is that really such a bad thing?”

Steve was aghast. “What if they aren’t paying us everything they are supposed to?”

Rick sat up. “What! Shit, I’ve got to call my accountant.” He whipped out his cell and made the call.

Adrienne consulted some pages. “To answer Tom’s question, to buy out of this contract is going to run $135 million.”

Steve replied, “Well split five ways, that’s not too bad.”

Kris stated, “It’s going to run us very much in the red for this tour.”

Tony blew out a breath. “This has to be one of the most expensive and weirdest tours we’ve ever had.”

Adrienne said, “I’m afraid Kris is right; with all of the accidents and canceled dates, this tour was expensive.”

Kris’ head was killing her, and she was quickly losing interest in this. “When will your office have more info?”

Adrienne replied, “Good question; I’m hoping in a couple of days.”

“Em, let’s take a vote,” Kris said.

Adrienne asked, “Are you sure you feel up to this?”

Rick piped up, “This is her hornet’s nest. She damn well better be doing this now.”

“And winning the award for showing the most concern for one’s sibling, Mr. Sensitivity – Prick Cutler.” Tony sounded like a game show host, as she swatted him on the chest with the back of her hand.

Kris sneered at her brother before returning her attention to the lawyer. “Thanks, but let’s get this over with.”

“OK, all those in favor of breaking the contract with Epic, say aye.”

Rick spoke up, “Wait a minute, we are going to vote on this when we don’t have all the facts?”

Tony replied, “What more do you need to know?”

“Well, before I throw away millions of dollars, I want to make sure it’s for a good reason,” Rick objected.

Steve turned to him. “Dude, what more do you need to know?”

“Are they guilty of any wrongdoing? Stealing from us…”

Steve slammed down his hand on his thigh in frustration. “Dude, I have known you for a long time, and I have to say that ever since Kris started seeing Melissa you have become the biggest horse’s ass…”

Rick got to his feet, interrupting, “What the hell does she have to do with this?”

Steve held his hands out in front of him in frustration, unable to answer for a moment. “Why don’t you want your sister to be happy?”

The phone ringing interrupted the meeting.

Rick asked no one in particular, “Everyone directly concerned by this is here; I wonder who that could be?”

Being the one closest to the phone, Tony once again pressed the talk button. “Hello?”

A deep soft male voice, one that would make any late night DJ envious, replied, “Hello, this is Doug Masters from Epic records. I was wondering if Kris was around?”

Adrienne moved like lightning as she replied, “One moment please.” She hit the mute button on the phone.

Tony looked over at Kris, mouthing, “Doug Masters?”

Kris shrugged, “I’ve never heard of him.”

Adrienne stated, “He is the Vice President of west coast distribution.”

Rick looked unimpressed, “So?”

Adrienne explained, “This is Ferry’s boss.”

The light bulb went on.

A small-disembodied voice asked, “Hello, is anyone there?”

Tony un-muted the phone. “Yes, ah Kris is out by the water; she’s on her way.” She put the mute back on.

Kris spoke up, “This would be the suck-up phone call, apologizing for our ‘misunderstanding’.”

Adrienne smiled. “Bingo. Now I want you…”

Kris interrupted her, “I don’t want to talk to this schmuck.”

Adrienne tried to reason with Kris. “Do you want a way out of this contract? If this guy can’t get his foot out of his mouth, then we might have him by the balls.”

Kris sighed, “All right.”

Adrienne stood next to the phone as she addressed the room. “I don’t want to hear a peep out of anyone in this room. If this guy has any idea we are all listening, he might be too guarded.” She picked up the phone and moved it to the center of the group. Sitting down on the arm of an overstuffed chair, she asked, “Ready?”

Everyone nodded their heads yes.

Adrienne un-muted the phone. “Hello?”

Doug’s voice sounded cheery, “Kris hello, how are you?” His tone became one of regret. “Sorry I didn’t get a chance to visit you in person before the tour broke up.”

Kris was trying to play it cool. “I’m sorry, do I know you?”

The sureness had left his voice. “I’m sorry, I thought you’d remember me. Right before the tour started, at the going away party we held for you, I was the guy in the very loud Hawaiian shirt.”

Tony hit the mute button. “I remember this guy. He would embarrass Rick; he was literally drooling over all the women there.”

After Tony turned the phone back on, Kris replied, “Ah yes, you have an eye for the ladies if I remember correctly.”

Tony had to cover her mouth with her hand to keep her laugh from him.

He chuckled. “Guilty; one of my vices as it turns out. Something we have in common.”

Kris made a face; after opening her mouth, she faked sticking her finger down her throat. “It was really nice of you to call and check up on me….”

He interrupted, “Whoa, that’s not all I want to talk to you about.”

Adrienne spoke, “Hello. Where is everybody?”

Kris’ brow was furrowed as she mouthed at her lawyer, ‘What are you doing?’ Adrienne made a gesture for Kris to go along with her.

“Hey Adrienne, I’m on the phone with Doug Masters.”

Adrienne tried to sound surprised, “Oh I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt. I just brought those papers by for you to sign.” Turning the conversation towards Doug, she said, “Doug, it’s Adrienne Webster from Cannon, Schmekler and Pope. We talked last year at the going away party you threw for these guys.”

His voice held the right amount of surprised greeting, “Adrienne, how are you?”

“Fine thanks; how are your kids?”

Kris looked bored as she made a gesture to wrap this up.

He sounded pleased. “They’re fine, thanks.”

Adrienne said, “Please don’t let me interrupt.”

He cleared his throat and sounded a little unsure. “Ah well… I wanted to talk with Kris and apologize for this misunderstanding that she and Malcolm Ferry had earlier today.”

Kris didn’t respond as she waited for him to say something she wanted to hear. The only thing he could possibly say that she wanted to hear was that the contract was null and void.

Sounding a bit hesitant, he continued, “I want you to know that what he tried to do was not something that was sanctioned by Epic…”

Kris cut him off, “You know, I knew you were going to spout the party-line bullshit.”

“Excuse me?”

Sounding very serious, Kris replied, “He was a rogue agent and we cannot be held responsible for his actions….” In her normal voice, “I don’t buy it. He would not spend his own money on bribes, so the company had to know. Are you his direct superior?”

He answered hesitantly, “Well yes, but I don’t see how that has anything…”

“In business, every department has an annual budget. Large expenditures occasionally arise; when this happens, the boss has to OK them before the money is spent.”

“Well, that’s true…” He sounded confused

“I would think thatan unexpected expenditure of ‘whatever it takes’, with a starting point of half a million, would have to be OK’d before the offer was made.”

Adrienne made a fist and then pulled her arm towards herself as she silently said, ‘YES!’

The phone was silent for a few moments before he cleared his throat. “As I said earlier, we had no prior knowledge of Mr. Ferry’s…

Kris was angry now. “Oh don’t give me that shit! How many other shitty little things have you done to us over the years?”

“Kris, I’m crushed that you don’t believe me. We’ve known each other…”

“Dude, I don’t know you from any other asshole on the street.”

He sounded a bit shaken. “I meant we as in Epic; we’ve been a happy family for many years now. Are you going to let this one bad apple spoil that record?”

“Tell me something, did you fire him? Or is he sitting right there, across your desk, wearing that slimy smile of his?”

He thought to himself, ‘How did she know?’ “Of course I fired him. Epic is a company with rules…”

“Like whatever it takes to keep the cash cow producing, do it?”

“As a business woman you know that we, Epic, yourself, are all in this to make money…”

“That’s funny, I thought I was ‘in this’ because I love doing it.” She made air quotes.

“Point. But without our distribution network, you wouldn’t have the fan base you have, which means that you wouldn’t have the income that you have, or that beach house. Truth is, we need each other.”

Under her breath, Tony said, “Like we need a social disease.”

Kris didn’t miss a beat. “Truth is Dougie, you need us a hell of a lot more now than we need you.”

“Why don’t we just get down to it – put our cards on the table, mmm? What will make you put this unpleasantness behind us?”

Adrienne quickly muted the phone. “Don’t say it…”

Adrienne held up her hand. “Everyone be quiet! Kris, tell him you’re thinking about it.”

Kris did as she was instructed, as Adrienne muted the phone again.

Kris asked, “OK, so what are we going to feed him?”

Adrienne replied, “Tell him that you are very tired and need to take your medication, and will think about it and call him back.”

The phone conversation over, Kris was indeed feeling very tired and had had enough of this circus.

Steve spoke as soon as the phone disconnected. “I’m behind Kris 1000%. If these guys are so low as to buy off people, then what else are they capable of?”

Suddenly the room was full of the sound of everyone talking at once. The pounding in her head ratcheted up with all the noise. She finished off her beer, got to her feet, and moved into the kitchen where she looked out at the ocean from the open screen door. She poked her head out the door of the kitchen, spying on the others who were still arguing. She crept to her room, opened the door, and slipped inside.

Melissa looked up, surprised. “Hi, everything OK? Doesn’t sound like it’s over out there.”

Kris put her finger to her lips in the international sign for silence, and in a whisper she said, “Grab your bag; we’re blowing this burg.”

Melissa smiled as she jumped to her feet and grabbed her bag. Kris kissed the blond woman’s lips as she took her hand. With bag in hand, she quietly opened her door and peeked outside. The argument was still going on, and the two women crept to the end of the hall and then quickly slipped into the kitchen where they made their escape.

Kris could feel all of the problems of the day wash away as she stood next to this wonderful woman. “Did I tell you that I love you, and that you are wonderful?”

Melissa smiled, as she caressed her lover’s face. “I love you too.”

Kris replied, “I’ve got a surprise for you.” She stepped away from Melissa, her body almost shouting out its unhappiness from the loss of contact, and took her hand as she walked up to her waiting Willys wagon.  Holding the door open for Melissa, she  helped her in and then climbed in herself.

Melissa put on her seatbelt. “A surprise – you didn’t really have to do that.”

Kris started the vehicle. “Ah no, I should have done this a while ago.”

Melissa said, “I have to admit I didn’t expect this.”

Kris drove out of the gate, and smiled mischievously at her. “I’ll bet.

“You aren’t going to give me a hint, are you?”

Kris was still smiling, as she shook her head no. “You will just have to wait and see.”

After a couple of lane changes and a turn, Melissa asked, “What prompted this?”

Kris replied, “Well I was sitting there, feeling the walls close in around me, and this huge amount of dread at the thought of spending the rest of today arguing about that damn record contract, and then it hit me  why do I have to?”

Melissa was confused. “I’m not sure I follow.”

 “Well, I will get out of that contact one way or another. I decided I’ve got better things to do with my time.” She winked at her lover.

“Not that I don’t want to spend time with you, and I know this is none of my business, but aren’t they going to be pissed that you called the meeting and then bailed?”

Kris made a right turn and then pulled into a parking lot, bringing the Willys to a stop. “You know, I could really care less. I’m so tired of all of this crap, I just want out.”

Melissa reached over and took her lover’s hand. “I’m sorry, this is my fault…”

Kris cut her off, “Don’t even go there. If you haven’t noticed, we fight a lot. If it weren’t this, it would have been something else.” She smiled and then asked, “Could I borrow your phone?”

Melissa handed it over after giving her a quick tutorial on how to work it. While Kris was on the phone, Melissa couldn’t help but feel that the animosity between the Musketeers was caused by her presence, even with her lover’s assurances.

Kris handed the phone back and said, “I think we are all set.” She started the Willys, and they drove off.

Melissa sounded doubtful. “OK – not even a hint?”

Kris laughed, “You are just going to have to wait and see.” She reached over and ran the back of her fingers over Melissa’s soft skin. “What did I ever do to deserve you?”

Melissa captured the hand and kissed it. “You are my soul mate, that’s what you did.”

After they had been driving for a while, seemingly without purpose, day turning into twilight, Kris pulled into a driveway and her headlights swept across the front of a house as the rig came to a stop. “We’re here; everybody out.”

Now Melissa was really confused. “Where exactly are we?”

They held hands as they walked up to the front door.

Standing on the front stoop, Kris reached in her pocket and removed a piece of paper.  Reading the combination she opened the small metal box hanging off the door knob. Removing a key from inside the box she opened the front door, “Ladies first.” She bowed in a flourish.

Melissa laughed as she stepped inside the house. “Where have you taken me Kris Cutler?”

Kris closed the door and kissed her bride. “Melissa Davis, may I introduce you to your new temporary home?”

Melissa was surprised. “What?”

Kris was smiling like the cat that ate the canary. “Surprised?”

Melissa narrowed her eyes looking thoughtful. “What is this?”

Kris took her by the hand and led her into the living room where they sat down on the couch. “As I was listening to all that damn shit this afternoon, I realized that I was feeling the walls close in and that I was very tired of being around these people all the time. Then it hit me; you and I hadn’t been alone yet. That was when I decided it was time for us to get the hell out of Dodge and to find ourselves a nice little hideaway

Melissa wore a large smile; “You are kidding me, right?”

“No. It turns out that if you have lots of money, you can get just about anything, anytime. I made a few calls and was directed to this place and decided it sounded like the perfect place for us to stay until we find our real home.”

“Oh my god, that is so cool! Do you know how happy this makes me?” Melissa threw her arms around Kris and kissed her several times.

“I’m so glad that you are happy. I realized if I felt so bad about being at the beach house, how must you feel? I needed to be ‘alone’ with you for a change.”

“You could not have gotten me a better surprise.” Melissa hugged her lover tightly, a feeling of complete happiness washing over her. She laid her head down on Kris’ shoulder. “Do you have any idea how happy you’ve made me?”

Kris sounded deep in thought, “As happy as you have made me?”

Continued in part 6

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