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 6

Tony stumbled out of her room yawning and scratching her head. She needed coffee. ‘Why can’t they just make it intravenous? It would save so much time.’ She was not surprised to see Rick sitting on the couch watching cartoons. He grunted at her as she moved into the kitchen. Automatic coffee makers were great, but what someone really needed to invent was one that would start perking the moment you woke up, so that by the time you got to the kitchen and got your mug, it would be all ready for you.

As she waited for her life giving elixir to arrive, she took a bowl out of the cupboard, and then pondered what cereal she wanted to have. ‘Cap’n Crunch,Coco Puffs or Trix…’ Suddenly a voice in her head was of a small child saying, “Silly rabbit. Don’t you know Trix are for kids?” That made her smile and grab that box. She could smell the coffee brewing as she poured milk on her cereal. She grabbed her cereal and coffee and went out to join Rick.

She sat Indian style on the couch next to him; placing her bowl on the coffee table, she sipped her coffee. They watched Scooby-Doo in silence for a bit.

Tony’s voice was still gravelly with sleep. “Is this the one where they land on the island and the phantom is after them?”

Rick took a bite of his Pop-tart. “Yeah, it’s like from the first season.”

Around a mouthful of cereal, Tony replied, “Those were the best; that’s when Scooby and Shaggy were really stoned.”

“Totally,” he agreed, drinking his Yoo-Hoo.

Tony blew on her coffee. “She come home last night?”

He shook his head no. “And Melissa’s nowhere to be seen. Bed’s not slept in either.”

They were silent for a time.

Tony’s voice was serious and now fully awake. “I think we went too far.”

Rick grunted in response. After a moment he said, “Lately I feel like I’m going insane. Nothing is the way it used to be. Stuff you could always count on not changing isn’t there anymore.”

“You mean like the three of us hanging out?”

He looked at her. “Yeah, and there only being three of us. Knowing that if we ordered pizza, it would always be a combo with no anchovies and green peppers. That when I needed to talk to my big sis about stuff, she was always right there, and that when it came to the band, it came first, no question.”

Tony put down her empty bowl. “Rick, I think we both need to realize that stuff like that has been changed forever. Kris is in love, and the rules have changed.”

There was anger in his voice. “Why? Why does it have to change? It is so not fair that I lose my sister and my band all in the same move.”

Tony’s tone was soothing. “I miss her too. But don’t you see how happy she is when she’s with Melissa?”

He rolled his eyes. “Oh please!”

“Don’t you want Kris to be happy?”

He sounded defensive. “That is so not the point!”

“Isn’t it? Don’t get all Yosemite Sam on me, but you have been awful to her ever since Melissa came for the first visit….”

He interrupted her, “I have not…”

“You have been riding her case about every little thing. Do you remember Philadelphia?”

His face was set and he didn’t make eye contact with her. “Well she screwed up that song.”

Tony wasn’t buying it. “Right, like you didn’t come in late on three different solos and switch verses on “Flying With The Devil”.”

He crossed his arms over his chest. “Your point?”

She uncrossed one leg and turned to face him, “My point is you read her the riot act for rushing “Sleeping”…”

He held up a hand in a stop motion, “OK, yeah I guess I was pretty shitty to her that night.”

Tony scoffed, “That night? How about for the last four or so months? You can’t punish her for falling in love. Do you know how hard it was for her to come out?”

He looked done with that topic. “Please don’t get me started on that – man, she made my life a living hell doing that…”

She interrupted, sounding incredulous, “Do you really think she did it just to make your life hell? Jesus – you sound like your parents!” She took a deep breath, “You know she got death threats for doing that, right? Do you know how much it hurt her to see all those protesters outside the shows? Do you know how hard it was for her to have any kind of love life, living in the closet? She hated those “escorts” she had to have to take her to functions. I remember her trying to talk to you about it, but you said that the Epic Suits thought it would be a good idea, and so did you, so she should keep doing it. Did you ever wonder what it was like for her?”

“Oh please, like you knew how much her gay life sucked more than me!”

“Did you ever talk to her about it? Did you even notice that she didn’t have a sex life?”

Around a mouthful of Pop-tart, he replied, “I guess because you didn’t have one either, you were more “in tune”.” He made air quotes.

Her face was stormy. “That was a low blow, even for you.” She got to her feet and started to walk out of the room. “I think maybe Kris has the right idea about getting far away from you.”

His face looked as though he were biting off the foot in his mouth. “You’re right. I’m sorry, that was a shitty thing to say.”

She stopped walking and turned to face him. “You can be such a bastard.”

In a small voice, he said, “I’m scared. I’m scared that I’m going to lose my sister.”

Tony looked as though some of her anger had dissipated, “So to keep her from doing that, you ride her hard and you dis her girlfriend?”

He hung his head. “I know; I was just mad at her and…”

Tony finished his thought, “Jealous.”

Understanding filled his eyes. “You too?”

Tony nodded her head, and came over and sat on the arm of the chair across from him. “Oh yeah, big time. I really resent the fact that she has found this special person that is interested in her and her alone. Someone that puts up with all this crap, someone to hold her at night, to be there after the shows.” She looked up and her eyes were a bit moist. “I never realized just how lonely and unhappy I was with my personal life before.”

“Do you ever have days when you wake up and you think, ‘today I want to go sailing?’ but you can’t, because in 12 hours you have to be in some other city that you don’t even know the name of?” He ran his hand through his hair. “I’ll tell you what else I’m tired of – Melissa sticking her nose into our biz, the music biz!”

Tony shook her head in disbelief. “Why the hell did we give Kris such shit over trying to break the contract?”

He looked a million miles away. “$135 million.”

“Oh yeah, I forgot about that.”

He sounded thoughtful. “That was a really shitty thing that Ferry tried to do. I guess if I were in Kris’ place, I would be plenty pissed.”

Tony ran both of her hands through her hair, gathering it into a ponytail over her shoulders and then letting it go. “When she told me about Lee I was stunned, and I began re-thinking life with the record company. I have always felt that we were doing business with… I always feel I need a bath after talking to them. I hate the way they order us to go into the studio and be “creative”, like we can do that on command. I am really surprised that the last album was as good as it was; I certainly didn’t have any enthusiasm for any of the material. For some time I have resented their “artistic input” on the videos and record covers. I thought it was sleazy of them to insinuate that you and I were sleeping together. I have felt for a long time that we were just a commodity to them, and they could care less what we wanted; just turn out the hits, and keep the gravy train running.”

Rick took a deep breath. “Well, I’ll tell you I am looking forward to a new contract and maybe new record company.”

Tony looked down, her jet-black locks obscuring her face. “As usual, we have made one fucked up mess of this. What are we going to do to fix it?”

He did a full body yawn, and then said, “I need to make this up to my sister. Mmmm, what do you think flowers?”

Tony looked him in the eye. “I think that’s a start. But you can do better than that.”

He looked deep in thought for a moment. “Ah, what if I apologize to her girlfr… er wife?” Under his breath, “Wow, am I ever going to have to get used to saying that?”

Tony looked pleased. “That’s the ticket. Of course we need to find her first.” She stood and turned toward her room. “I think we need to talk to Adrienne and find out what we can do about getting out of this contract, A.S.A.P.”

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Melissa opened her eyes to the brightly lit room. Under her ear she could hear the steady “da-thump” of Kris’ heartbeat. She smiled, the feeling of utter happiness filling her to almost bursting. ‘Alone, absolutely alone,’ she thought; it was a very nice feeling. They had made love all night long, in several rooms of the house. She thought that perhaps it was the best sex they had had since getting together; well, maybe second best – the waterbed was pretty special.

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

Melissa jumped a little. “Oh, you’re awake.”

“Scary isn’t it?”

Melissa raised her head off of Kris’ chest and lifted her errant hair off her face and threw it over her head, and saw the smile on her lover’s face.

“I’m sure it won’t happen often. Besides, it’s nearly noon.”

Melissa leaned forward and kissed Kris’ soft lips. “Good morning; you look beautiful.”

“I can’t remember the last time I saw anything as stunning as you,” Kris replied as she returned her wife’s kiss.

When the kiss finished, Melissa glanced around the room and said, “You do know the drapes are open?”

“Yeppers, but since we’re alone….”

“Isn’t that wonderful?”

Kris laughed. “Yes it is, and a very strange feeling.”

Melissa’s stomach growled. “Ah, some food might be in order. I don’t suppose there is any here?”

Kris looked doubtful. “You can keep food in your house? I thought you had to go to a restaurant to get that stuff.”

Melissa play slapped her lover’s arm. “You! We’d better get some clothes on and rustle up some food.”

Kris kissed her again. “Ah, and I wanted to eat you all day.”

Melissa smiled, as the kiss ended. “So sweet, but I’ve got to get some food, baby.”

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It had been about a week of complete bliss. The couple had been happily playing house, spending time together alone in their hideaway, reading and watching movies and just hanging out. Melissa was cooking when Kris wasn’t ordering in. Melissa couldn’t remember the last time she had been this happy. But she could also feel the clock ticking; she knew that this wouldn’t last. Sooner or later the music biz would find them and drag them back. She was pretty sure that the other two Musketeers would show up to win Kris back. But in the meantime, she was determined to enjoy every last moment.

They sat on the back porch of the house at a wrought iron table, having just finished a late breakfast. Both were reading as Melissa sipped at her coffee. Melissa thought she heard a knocking, but dismissed it – since it couldn’t be take-out, there was no reason to answer the door.

This time it was obvious that it was someone knocking. Kris kissed Melissa’s cheek; “I’ll get it.”

When she opened the front door, there was a young kid with longish hair, looking bored, standing on the front stoop with a clipboard in his hand.

“Yes?” Kris asked.

“Mrs. K. Cutler-Davis?” he asked, looking at her as if he knew her.

“Yep, you are in the right place.”

He shoved the clipboard and an envelope at her. “I’ve got a delivery for you.”

Signing the clipboard and handing it back to him, she asked, “Oh yeah? What is it?”

He walked to the back of the delivery van in the driveway and, opening the back doors, he began to unload large three-foot tall vases filled with bright and colorful flowers. Kris stood aside as he carried them into the house.

He stood in the doorframe and announced, “That was the last of them.”

Kris replied, “Was your whole van full of just that?”

“Yep, this was my morning delivery.”

Kris tipped him and closed the door. She then went out to the patio. Kissing Melissa on the top of her head, she said, “Honey, you got a delivery.”

Melissa looked up, surprised. “For me? Who from?”

Kris took her by the hand. “I don’t know; there’s a card.”

Melissa gasped when she walked into the living room, “Holy shit! This must be an entire greenhouse of flowers.” She opened the card and read it. Laughing, she said, “What is it with you Cutlers and flowers?”

Kris looked puzzled, as Melissa handed her the card.

“I apologize for being such a prick; please accept these as a small belated welcome to the family – Rick”

“Well at least I did it first,” Kris said, trying not to be angry.

Melissa asked, “How did they find us?”

Kris shook her head no. “Don’t know – but the next thing we know they’ll breach the walls.”

Melissa wrapped her arms around the dark haired woman. “I suppose, but we both knew this was coming. We could run, but they would just find us.”

Kris grunted by way of answer.

The next morning, as Kris was making a cup of tea, she looked out of the kitchen window and saw a delivery van pull up. Rolling her eyes, she went and opened the front door.

A cheery man in his mid-twenties jogged up the front steps. “Good morning, I have a delivery for a Mrs. Melissa Davis-Cutler.”

Kris took the clipboard and signed it without saying a word.

He took back the board and returned to the truck. As he opened the back door, he was joined by a helper, and together, with some effort, they removed a rainbow balloon arch, which they proceeded to secure to the front of the house. They then retrieved the largest bundle of balloons Kris had ever seen, which they handed to her. She thought for a moment she would fly away. After giving them a tip, she returned to the living room where she let go of the balloons; they floated up and filled the room.

Melissa came in and started to laugh as the balloons threatened to take over more of the house. “Let me guess?”

Kris handed her the card. “I’m not sure I like them trying to get to me through you.”

“Ah, but that’s sweet.” Melissa hugged Kris and then read the card.

“Melissa, I must apologize for not properly welcoming you to the family. I am really happy that Kris has found herself a wonderful soul-mate. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Kris as happy as she has been the past several months after meeting you. You are very good for her. I hope you can look past the fact that Kris is related to a moronic asshole that is so jealous of what the two of you have that she is constantly putting her feet in her mouth. Congratulations on your marriage to my sister, best friend, and aunt!”

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Tony was lying on her back on the couch closest to the front door of the beach house, reading while the TV was playing music videos. Rick was ensconced on one of the other couches, playing his guitar while he wrote a new song.

Neither of them heard the front door open.

“What the fuck is going on?!” Bridget bellowed over all of the noise.

Both of the kids jumped, staring at her with their mouths open.

After a moment Tony reached for the remote and turned down the TV. “Mom, didn’t hear you come in – what’s up?”

Bridget stood at the top of the stairs, with her hands on her hips, looking very pissed. “That’s a very good question.”

Tony was running through everything in her head that could have pissed her mom off so much. She was pretty much drawing a blank, and that really scared her.

Moving around to the empty couch, Bridget sat down. “You know, I’ve always tried to let you kids run your own lives. And I know that as your parent, I’m not entitled to know the day to day details of those lives.” She slammed her hand down on the coffee table making both of the kids jump. “But damn it, when I have to hear about your sibling rivalry standing in line at the grocery store, then things have gone too far.”

Tony and Rick exchanged looks and shrugged their shoulders.

Rick took the bull by the horns. “OK, I’ll bite; what are you talking about?”

Bridget’s eyebrow rose and her eyes narrowed as she looked at her brother-in-law. If looks could kill, he would be in some serious hurt. “Ah huh, where is Kris?”

Tony fidgeted, looking uncomfortable. “Busted.”

“Damn, that’s in the tabloids?” Rick asked.

Bridget took a deep breath. “Apparently there was a love triangle going on, and someone went too far, and Kris moved out.”

Rick spoke first, “Love triangle? That’s not what happened….”

Bridget interrupted him, “I know that – but Kris did move out.”

Tony looked chastised, “Well… ah… she…” Tony gave up trying to explain. “Yes Ma’am.”

Bridget sat back and relaxed a little. “Well what’s the story?”

Tony cleared her throat. “It all started when this asshole….”

Bridget interrupted, “Tony honey, how many times have I told you not to swear?”

Tony smiled as she continued, “Yes Ma’am. This jerk from the record company came over and tried to buy Melissa out of Kris’ life…” She told her mom the whole story.

Bridget chewed her lip in thought. “Boy, when you guys fuck things up, you really fuck them up!” She got to her feet and paced behind Tony’s couch. “And what are you doing to make things right?”

Tony looked sheepishly. “Well, we realized we’d gone too far. I sent a ton of balloons begging forgiveness and welcoming my new sister to the family.”

In a very sarcastic tone, Bridget commented, “Good start, what else?”

“I sent a ton of flowers to Melissa with an apology,” Rick stated hopefully.

Bridget looked each of them in the eye. “And?”

Rick looked worried. “We were going to go over to their place and apologize in person, but I was afraid that Kris would take my block off.”

Bridget chuckled. “Good guess.”

“We’re kind of stuck at this point,” Tony admitted.

“Yep, I can see that.” She stopped pacing. “I swear you all act as if you are three years old! Give me her address and phone number. You two will be at my house tomorrow night for dinner; 5pm, don’t be late, and bring plenty of beer.” She walked over and kissed Tony on top of her head. “Good to see you again honey.” And with that she left.

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“Honey, we’ve been invited to dinner at Bridget’s house tomorrow,” Melissa announced as she handed the envelope to her lover.

Kris grunted, “Summoned is more like it.”

Melissa sat in the dark haired woman’s lap. “Honey, can’t you just look at it as an invitation to dinner?”

Kris kissed the blond woman and then smiled. “This is my life sucking us back in, you know?”

“And you’re not ready for that?”

Kris had to think about that for a moment. “Well it’s been really nice just being with you. No interruptions from anyone. But I kind of miss talking with Tony…” Her voice trailed off.

Melissa didn’t want to make Kris feel bad. “Well if you don’t want to get back together with them, call Bridget and tell her no.”

Kris chuckled. “Ah if only it were that simple. You have met Bridget, right? Tall, dark, imposing, will kick my ass around the block if I say no…”

“But sweetie, you are a grown woman, and I have met Bridget; she’s sweet.”

“If I said no, she’d just come over here and grab me by the ear and drag me over there.”

“OK then maybe we can move back slowly?”

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“Kris, Melissa, come in, come in!” Bridget exclaimed as she reached out and hugged the blond woman as she entered the house. “Congratulations, you look well.”

Melissa returned the hug, a large smile plastered on her face. “Thank you, you look wonderful; thanks for inviting us.”

Franklin was standing behind them, and under his breath, he said, “You won’t think so soon.”

Bridget turned toFranklin, “This is my husband Franklin, and this is Kris’ wife Melissa Davis.”

As they exchanged pleasantries, Kris and Bridget faced off.

“Bree – is the tar and feather committee here yet?”

Bridget looked coy. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. How are you?”

Kris wasn’t buying it. “I have decided to not be mad at you, since you ultimately have everyone’s best intentions at heart. But if they start in on me or Lissa, we are out of here, no matter what.”

Bridget took Kris aside. “Now Kris, why are you talking like that?”

Kris looked her surrogate Mother right in the eye. “I’m tired. I’m tired of all the bullshit. If they can’t come to terms with me being married, then fuck ’em. It’s high time I started to live my life, and they found someone else to take care of them.”

Bridget could see that Kris was very serious. “All right. Do me one favor? Just listen to them with an open mind?”

Kris grudgingly shook her head yes.

“Now get in there to your blushing bride.” Bridget playfully slapped the younger woman on the butt.

They had no sooner gotten a beer and settled on the deck, when Rick showed up. He was carrying two boxes of beer and cheerily called out, “Hey start the party, the fun has arrived.”

Kris had her beer bottle halfway to her face as they made eye contact. Melissa swore she could see her breath as the temperature dropped.

Awkwardly Rick said, “Hey, I’d better get these inside to the chill chest.”

Kris tried to stay calm as she took a long pull of her beer.

Rick returned quickly and approached Melissa. “Hi, I’m really glad you could make it.” Looking very serious, he asked, “May I kiss the bride?”

Melissa was a little surprised. “Thanks, it’s nice to be here, ah sure.”

He gave her a very chaste kiss on the cheek. Kris was watching him like a hawk; he was acting very uncharacteristically.

Rick turned his attention to his sister. “Kris, I really want to apologize for the way I’d been treating you for the last several months. It was really shitty and unfair. I hope we can get back to normal.”

Kris raised an eyebrow, eyeing him cautiously. “Nice act, but I’m not buying it; are you guys really this desperate to get me back?”

Rick looked surprised. “The band? Who the hell said anything about the band? I’m talking about getting our relationship back to normal. I want my big sis back; I miss her.”

Cautiously Kris replied, “We’ll see, no promises.”

“Where’s the beer?” Tony’s voice interrupted them as she entered the deck. She stopped in her tracks when she saw everyone. “I should have known that Rick would be hoarding all of it.” Her tone was light-hearted. She moved towards Melissa and wrapped her arms around her. “Oh it is so good to see you!”

Melissa laughed as they separated. “Well it’s good to see you as well.”

Tony stated, “I’m really sorry I was such an ass; I hope you can forgive jealousy when you see it?”

Kris snorted, “That’s rich.”

“Come on, get your mind out of the gutter; what I was referring to was the fact that now Kris has someone to turn to, to hold her at night, to wait for her after the show, to share her life with.” Tony sounded a little choked up.

“That’s nice.” Rick looked a million miles away, but then he suddenly held his beer high. “A toast – To Melissa and Kris, may your lives together be long and full of happiness!”

All – “So say we all!”

“I have a toast; may your best day apart be the worst day you share together.” Tony smiled at the couple.

“I can’t get used to the idea that you’re married – it’s so grown up!” Rick sipped his beer. “But you know, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised; you always did want to have all that – belonging to someone, having just one person to share your life with. You never were all that interested in groupies, or one-night-stands in our off time.”

Tony replied, “I get that, making contact in more than just a physical way. It’s damn hard to find the genuine article.”

Franklin came out on the deck carrying a large platter of meat en route to the barbecue. “Well I hope you all are hungry, ’cause we have enough food to feed an army.”

“Just in the nick of time Bro – I think we were about to have a group hug!” Rick joked.

Melissa could tell that the dynamics of the group were changing, and that Rick and Tony did seem to be jealous of what she shared with Kris. It was kind of sad when you thought about it. They could buy anything in the world, but the one thing that they wanted couldn’t be bought, and just like everyone else, they needed human contact – to mate and be loved. It was like the light going on; were these people actually growing up?

Rick sat down next to Melissa. “I don’t suppose you know anything about sports?”

Kris laughed. “Dude, you don’t know anything about sports.”

Rick waved her off. “Don’t listen to her.”

Melissa smiled. “I know a little I guess, why?”

“Well I always wanted a brother-in-law so we could watch the game together and do the ‘guy thing’.”

Tony gave Rick’s shoulder a friendly shove. “Dude, you are drunk.”

“Enlighten us, what is the ‘guy thing’?” Kris asked, as she opened another beer.

Rick looked busted. “You know, stuff you chicks couldn’t understand…”

“Like peeing standing up?” Tony offered, smiling broadly.

“Or blowing my nose by holding one side closed and blowing real hard without a tissue?” Kris offered.

Melissa was laughing. “Rick, if you’d like we can watch a game or two together. I don’t know what the ‘guy thing’ is, but if you want, I’ll give it a try.”

“You sir, are a gentleman and a scholar.” Rick smiled at his new sister.

Melissa thought, “Oh my gods! I think that is the first time he has genuinely smiled at me! Shit, are we bonding? Scary!”

“Well?” Bridget prodded her husband as he came back into the house.

“They seem to be getting along,” he replied as he put the dirty plate into the sink. Turning and putting his hands on his wife’s upper arms, he said, “Give it some time and wait until they’ve had a few more gallons to drink.”

Bridget nodded. “Yeah, that’s what I’m afraid of.”

Franklin snuck a couple of chips from the platter. “What time does the rest of the circus arrive?”

Bridget swatted at him playfully. “Stop, they won’t be here until eight; that should give the Musketeers time to patch up their rift.”

Franklin came back out on the deck to tend to the cooking food. “Well, let’s see if we are having barbecue or Cajun food.”

Melissa got up and went over to where he was working. “Can I offer you some assistance?”

He turned his head, smiled, and looked her in the eye. “Are you a whiz in the kitchen?”

She returned his smile. “Well I don’t know about whiz, but I do know my way around one.”

He liked this woman, and his wife was right; she was nice, and very personable, very down to earth – just what Kris needed. Chuckling, he replied, “Well OK then, I can use all the help in that department that I can get.”

Bridget called from the house, “Tony, can you give me a hand for a sec?”

Tony got up. “If you will excuse me, my adoring public needs me.” She winked at the siblings, before replying to her mom, “Be right there.”

Rick watched Tony leave, and then clearing his throat, he asked, “Well Sis, we OK?”

Kris didn’t reply for a moment; she didn’t even look at him. After a tense moment of silence, she turned her head and said, “I want you to understand that I love Melissa very much, nothing is going to change that. She is always going to come first with me, whether you like it or not. She is your sister-in-law now, and if I ever hear you make any comments about getting in her pants, I will rip off your dick and shove it down your throat with my bare hands. And if you ever talk to her, or about her, like you did at the record company meeting, I’m going to knock your block off. Are we clear?”

The siblings looked at each other for a moment in tense silence before Rick said, “Yeah, we’re clear. My turn.”

Kris looked surprised but said nothing.

Rick continued, “I dig that you love her more than life itself; that’s very cool. I also think it’s cool that she is my sister-in-law. Although I think we got off to a bad start, she is good for you and you make a nice couple. As my sister-in-law, I would have to be brain damaged to think that she was fair game. As your brother, I realize that I’m not her type, being male and all. As your business partner, I will not tolerate her involvement in our family business. I don’t want to hear her comments about what songs we sing, our set line up, what record company we sign with, the cover art – in short absolutely nothing having to do with the music biz. Are we clear?”

Kris looked at her little brother for the first time since she had met Melissa. He didn’t look like the geeky kid that she remembered; he looked like a grown man. She resented what he said about the music biz, but in the end she knew he was right. Damned if she wanted to admit that to him though. “Clear for now.”

Bridget asked Tony, while they chopped vegetables, “What do you think of Melissa?”

Tony shrugged. “I like her; she’s funny and doesn’t put up with anyone’s shit. I think she’s really good for Kris. The fact that she is drop-dead-gorgeous doesn’t hurt either.”

Bridget chuckled. “You noticed that too, huh?”

Tony smiled . “What do you think about her?”

Bridget sipped her wine before replying, “I think Kris might be the luckiest woman on the face of the planet. I think if you and Rick don’t drive Melissa away, or piss Kris off to the point where she hates your guts, this could work out really great.”

Tony scoffed, “Yeah, like we would drive Melissa away…”

Bridget cleared her throat and gave her daughter a knowing look.

“OK not intentionally! How did we know it was going to be really hard to see the two of them together like that? Who knew that my life sucked beyond the telling?”

Bridget put her arm around Tony. “Ah honey, I’m sorry you think that.”

“Yeah, maybe if I pull my head out of my ass and figure out what to do with my life.”

Bridget asked, “Besides being an internationally known rock star?”

Tony smiled. “Oh hell, that’s just my day job – I mean with my life.”

Bridget hugged her daughter again. “Oh baby, you are still young; when it happens, it happens – look at Kris.”

“Right – why is it that people that are in a happy relationship always tell single people that same line?”

Bridget handed her four beers and turned her towards the deck. “Well, probably because it’s true. Don’t worry about life; go out and have fun.”

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Melissa dabbed at the corners of her mouth with her napkin. “Franklin, Bridget, that was one fabulous feed. I can’t think of the last time I’ve eaten that good.”

Kris pushed her empty plate away from her and said, “Think you have really outdone yourselves this time.” Sitting back in her chair and stretching, she asked, “OK when is the rest of the band showing up?”

Bridget looked completely innocent. “Why, whatever do you mean?”

Tony burst out laughing. “Holy crap, no one is going to buy that!”

Bridget stuck her tongue out at her daughter. “Oh hush. Melissa, thank you for the compliment.”

Melissa got to her feet. “Oh you are welcome! And now, allow me to help clean up.”

Rick asked, “What do you think Bro, want to toss the old pigskin around?”

Franklin considered the offer. “Why not? I haven’t beaten your butt for a while…”

“Come on old man; let’s put your money where your mouth is.”

Melissa returned from the kitchen for another load, and Bridget jumped to her feet. “Here, let me help you with that.”

Kris and Tony found themselves alone.

Tony played with the label on her beer bottle. “Tia, we OK?”

Kris was sitting back in her chair. “You know, I half expected all the shit from Rick…”

Tony interrupted, “He’s such an ass sometimes.”

One perfectly manicured dark eyebrow rose as Kris continued, “True, but never from you. Do you hate me that much?” Kris stood. “I know I put you through hell after “the incident”, but I thought we had all gotten over that?”

Tony faced her friend; her face wore a pained expression. “I don’t hate you, I could never hate you. And yes, I got over “the incident” years ago.”

Kris shrugged. “What – were you just flexing your newfound bisexual powers? I will never be able to compete with you when it comes to women.”

Tony ran her hand through her black locks. “No, Gods no.” She put her open hands out in front of her and shook her head no. “I don’t know, maybe it was some latent adolescent urge.” She raised sad eyes to her friend. “All I know is, that watching the two of you clued me into how lonely and miserable my own life is.” She dropped her gaze and her voice. “I just want what you two have.”

Kris sat down next to the dark haired woman. “And you thought if you drove Lissa away and broke my heart – then we could be miserable together? Or that maybe she’d suddenly be interested in you?”

Tony met the older woman’s gaze, raised her eyebrows and then let them drop. “Well, when you put it like that, it sounds pretty stupid, doesn’t it?”

Kris looked shocked. “Is that really…”

Tony looked as though she thought herself a moron. “No, of course that’s not what I was consciously doing. It just sort of worked out that way.” She quickly continued, “But I know how stupid that was, and I really want you and Melissa to be happy forever.” Tony put her hand on Kris’ shoulder. “I really want you to be happy old friend – you deserve it.”

Kris sighed. “We’ve known each other for a long time, I think of you as a sister, and I love you very much.” She raised her eyes and bore into the dark haired woman’s with such intensity that Tony jumped slightly. Kris continued, “If you ever try anything with Lissa, I will kill you with my bare hands, and the body parts will never be found. Do I make myself clear?”

Tony audibly swallowed. “Ah, crystal.”

The two women sat in silence for a moment before Kris said in a thoughtful voice, “You deserve to be happy too, you know.”

Tony finished her beer. “Thanks.”

Kris was fidgeting with a thread on the tablecloth. “Just because Melissa and I are together doesn’t mean I don’t still have your back.”

Tony looked up, smiling. “That’s good to know. I’ve got you covered as well.”

Kris looked relieved. “Good – ’cause I’m not looking forward to the rest of this evening.”

Steve appeared in the doorway. “Here you guys are.” He walked over and kissed both of them on the cheek before sitting down. Smiling, he addressed Kris, “Marriage agrees with you – you look great!”

Kris couldn’t help but smile back. “Thanks!”

Rick and Tom’s voices could be heard as they entered the dining room. Tom came over and hugged both Kris and Tony before he picked up a chair, turned it backwards, and sat down.

Melissa entered the room with a large tray filled with beer bottles, which she distributed.

Steve and Tom both stood when she entered the room. Tom punched Rick in the arm and raised his eyebrows at him. He turned around, and realized what was going on, and also stood.

Steve was smiling as Melissa handed him a beer. “Congratulations! May I kiss the bride?”

Melissa laughed. “Thanks. Sure.”

He gave her a very chaste kiss on her cheek. “I was just telling Kris that marriage seems to agree with the two of you; you look great.”

Melissa smiled. “Well, I’ll take that as a compliment from the resident expert on marriage here.”

Adrienne and Emily entered the room and greetings were had exchanged all around.

Melissa made her way over to Kris, who stood as her wife neared. “I’m going to go spend some time getting to know Bridget and Franklin while you guys yell at each other.”

“Sounds like you are going to be having way more fun,” Kris stated, as she leaned in for a kiss. Feeling the need to be a bit territorial, instead of making it a quick peck, she deepened the kiss, and before she knew it, the two of them were playing tonsil hockey and getting pretty worked up. Fortunately, Melissa had the good sense to stop before it got too carried away. As the kiss broke, they were flushed and breathing hard.

The band members were doing catcalls and clapping, as Melissa took a small bow.  .

Steve, Tom and Rick stood. Rick held up his hand to get everyone’s attention. “OK, quiet down. I just wanted to toast the happy couple.”

Everyone picked up their beers and took a drink.

Steve spoke up, “I hope you have a long and happy life together!” Again everyone took a drink.

Tom held up his beer. “Melissa, welcome to the band!”

Melissa was laughing and blushing slightly; she hugged her wife. “Thanks hon.”

Kris looked surprised. “I didn’t do this.” Then she too blushed slightly, as she addressed the rest of the room. “Thanks. This was a very nice gesture. I’m very touched, and I feel like all of you have accepted our relationship.”

Melissa said, “Thanks, all of you. It’s nice to be included and accepted. I’m going to let you all talk business.” She left the room, still chuckling.

Kris moved over in front of her brother and put her arm around his shoulder and gave him a squeeze. Before they separated, she ruffled his hair.

Adrienne opened her briefcase. “That was a very nice sentiment. Let’s settle down.”

Emily sat down next to the band’s lawyer. “Let’s convene this meeting to check into the possibility of breaking our contract with our record company.”

Rick asked, “Adrienne, what’d you find out about Epic?”

She pulled a sheaf of papers from her briefcase. “Well, technically they are doing everything they say they’re going to do in the contract.”

Under her breath, Kris said, “Damn!”

Tony asked, “Technically?”

Adrienne replied, “Technically. They are putting up money for you guys to make your albums, they are spending money to market said albums, and they are paying you royalties for air play as well as live play of songs.”

Steve asked, “But…?”

“Well, it is just possible that they are using company money to make bribes to the romantic interests of certain band members.”

A man in his late thirties, with sandy hair cut short, and glasses came in, sort of out of breath. “Hello everyone. Sorry I’m late.”

Adrienne addressed the newcomer. “Hey Eldon – thought maybe you didn’t get the memo.”

He smiled. “I left my briefcase at work, and didn’t realize it until I was nearly here. Had to turn around and go back.”

Rick called out, “Hey Eldon, how’s it hanging, man?”

He nodded his head in the affirmative. “Good.”

Steve asked, “How’s the wife?”

“She’s visiting her family, thanks.”

Emily clapped him on the back. “OK, let’s get this meeting back on track before it degenerates completely.”

Tony took a pull from her beer. “Is it possible that they were using company money? When will you know for sure? How do you think the stockholders will feel when they find out?” She looked very pleased with herself.

Eldon took out some papers from his briefcase, before putting it on the floor. “When Adrienne called me and told me of your concerns, I got the entire staff working on it.” He pushed his glasses up before continuing. “What we did find was some rather unusual inconsistencies in their record keeping.”

Rick slapped the table, chuckling. “I knew it!”

Eldon continued, “It seems that they were claiming that your last album only sold Gold, but it was reported that it had sold Platinum. Their own internal records show that it did sell one-million copies…”

Kris spoke up, “That’s a difference of five-hundred thousand copies… That’s a ten-million dollar difference.”

Tony let out a low long whistle. “That’s not pocket change, folks.”

“However, their records also show that it cost seven-and-a-half million to produce your last record…”

“I remember them telling us that we owed them a couple of million for making that album?” Steve interrupted.

Tony asked, “So which is it? Do we owe them, or do they owe us?”

Eldon replied, “It’s not completely clear at this time. We are still going through the paperwork. They certainly believe in creative accounting.”

Tom asked, “OK, so we call the cops, right?”

Eldon pushed his glasses up again. “Not so fast. Epic also said that it cost five-million to market your last album…”

Rick sounded frustrated. “This is hopeless. It’s their word against ours.”

Emily asked, “Doesn’t that seem a bit excessive for an established band?”

Steve asked, “How does that compare to our other albums?”

Eldon pushed his glasses up. “All is not lost. It did sound excessive to us as well, and we did find that it was a one-and-a-half million more than the previous album.” He held up his hands to stop the questions he knew were coming. “There wasn’t anything new in their documentation that would justify the increase.”

Kris asked, “Eldon, old bean, isn’t it your job to catch these types of things when they happen?”

He gave a charming smile. “Well of course; that’s what you pay me for…”

Tony jumped in, “Then why is it almost a year after the fact this is coming to light?”

Eldon explained, “I see where you’re going with this. This kind of stuff does happen all the time, and we check it out and adjust with the parties accordingly.”

Rick put his empty beer bottle down. “You’re telling us now that you knew months ago about this anomaly with the marketing charge?”

Eldon nodded his head yes.

Rick continued, “And you didn’t tell us… why?”

Eldon took some papers out of the stack in front of him. “If you will all look at your third quarter report, you will see that it is noted there.” He looked out at the group. “Are you telling me that none of you has read this?”

Kris piped up, “Ah, I’ve been a little bit busy and haven’t caught up on my correspondence.”

Tony looked sheepishly as she inquired, “OK – but what about the discrepancy between how many records were sold?”

Eldon responded, “That’s fishy all the way ’round. We are still checking with the RIAA and some other reporting groups to find out the truth. There are a few little things from a few years ago that I thought stunk at the time but let it go – but now I see there is a pattern. We’re also checking into the number of returned CD’s to verify that they were actually returned and not sold at a cheaper price and not reported. There are some irregularities in the foreign markets as well.”

Tom asked, “Where does that leave us?”

Adrienne replied, “I think there is an excellent chance that we are going to sue the pants off those guys.” She was smiling broadly.

Steve asked, “Did I miss something? Suing them is not the same as getting us out of our contract.”

Adrienne explained, “That’s true. But my hope is instead of all the bad press they will get with a trial, they will just let you quietly out of the contract…”

Rick interrupted, “Plus pay us all the money they’ve stolen, right?”

Eldon pushed up his glasses. “Yes, exactly.”

Steve said, “I suggest we take a vote.”

Emily cleared her throat. “All those in favor of ending the contract with Epic, say aye.”

A unanimous “Aye” was heard.

Emily looked relieved. “I think that’s it.”

Tom stood up. “Dudes, I declare this meeting over. Let the drinking begin!”

32

Melissa was reading the real-estate section of the paper on the deck at the beach house in the sunshine. After doing some shopping she was going to meet up with Kris after she finished up at her office. The beach house closer to their next destination than the rental house. Finding the place empty she guessed Tony might be on a date, surely Rick had retired to his , Even Mrs. Johnson seemed to have the day off,

The gate buzzer went off, without putting down the paper she turned to answer the distraction. “Hello?” she asked, wondering whom it could be.

“Melissa Davis, please.” The female voice sounded familiar, but she couldn’t place it.

Looking perplexed, she replied, “This is she?”

“This is Susan Babbitt.” Melissa froze. How had this woman found her? She must have talked with Brandon, or her parents. Although she thought it was unlikely that either of them would give this woman any information whatsoever.

“Melissa are you still there?” Susan asked into the intercom.

She came out of her thoughts. “Yes.”

“I was wondering if we could talk for a moment?” Susan’s voice was tinny coming through the small speaker. Melissa didn’t really want to have anything to do with this woman. But what could Susan really do to her now? She was married, for heaven’s sake.

“Sure, one moment,” she replied, opening the gate. She found herself a little nervous when she opened the door. She gestured for the woman to climb the stairs. 

She was a large woman, around five foot ten inches tall, maybe 165 pounds. Her dark hair was cut in a crew cut. She was wearing jeans and tennis shoes, and a bright blue polo shirt. She looked fit and happy.

She was wearing a big toothy smile. “You look great! This is a really nice place.”

Melissa gestured towards the furniture and sat down. “Thanks. You look well. How did you find me?”

Susan sat down kitty corner from her ex-lover on one of the couches. “I ran into Patty and Marge, and they mentioned that you were seeing her. From there I just did a little digging.” She hardly took her eyes off Melissa.

“Well I can’t believe that you’d take the time to hunt me down like this.” Melissa felt very uncomfortable.  She felt as if a predator was sitting across from her preparing to pounce.

“It wasn’t really any trouble; I was coming down this way anyway, so I thought I’d look you up.”

“What brought you down here?” Melissa was skeptical of the story; something didn’t smell right.

Susan continued to smile. “A friend of mine just moved to theL.A. area and invited me down for a visit.”

“Oh, how nice.” Feeling that they had gotten the chit-chat out of the way, and wanting Susan to be gone, Melissa jumped right in. “Why are you here?”

“I wanted to tell you how happy I am for you, and that there are no hard feelings between us.”

“Thanks, but you didn’t need to do that. I harbor no ill will toward you. Our relationship didn’t work out. Lots of people have relationships that don’t work out.”

“But not you. It looks like you’re all fixed up here.” Susan was speaking with excitement.

“Things are going very well, thanks.” Melissa was hesitant to tell her they had married. She wasn’t sure why.

“I guess, if you’ve moved in with each other. I hear you’ve been on tour as well. What a great lifestyle!”

Melissa thought that Susan’s smile looked a little too forced.

Melissa made a dismissive gesture. “I’m not interested in the lifestyle.”

“Oh right. I’m sure she is just like anyone else?”

Melissa jumped right to Kris’ defense, not liking the other woman’s assumption. “As a matter of fact Kris is a regular person.”

Susan’s smile had turned into a sneer. “A real down-to-earth rich bitch – that I’d like to see!”

“I don’t like your implication. I think you should leave,” Melissa replied, getting a little angry and worried. She knew what this woman was capable of, and that didn’t make her feel any better about being alone with her.

Susan looked very apologetic. “Oh I’m sorry, did I offend you? I didn’t mean to.”

“I’m sure, but I really do think it’s time that you got going.” Melissa got to her feet.

“Nice ring, may I?” Susan asked, as she also stood and approached the blond. Melissa held out her hand. Susan took it and examined the ring. “This is quite the friendship ring…”

“…If you must know, it’s not a friendship ring, it’s a wedding ring.” Melissa had forcibly taken her hand back. Susan’s face registered her surprise. Her eyes though held loathing.

“Well, well! I guess things are going good. Congratulations. May I kiss the bride?” Susan looked very pleased. Melissa felt awkward about it, but she allowed Susan to kiss her. Susan took her shoulders in her hands and gave her a kiss on the lips. Her lips lingered on Melissa’s. Melissa tried to break the embrace, but Susan held her like a vice. She began to try to force her tongue inside of Melissa’s mouth. Terror ripped through Melissa. She knew she was going to be raped right here by this woman! Why in the hell had she let her in, in the first place!? She thought she had heard a car door slam outside. It was probably her imagination. Suddenly Susan let her go, a sardonic smile on her lips. Melissa moved away from her, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand.

Kris opened the door, and climbed the stairs; at the top, she stopped in her tracks, surprised that she had walked in on something.

“Hello, I hope I didn’t interrupt something,” she said, smiling as she continued into the living room where the two women were standing across from each other. Melissa looked very worried.

“No, not at all; I was just leaving,” Susan replied. “Her toothy smile returned.

Kris looked doubtful as she returned the smile. “Not on my account I hope?”

“No, I had just stopped in to say hi to your wife. Congratulations by the way,” Susan replied, extending her hand.

Melissa came over and clung to Kris’ arm. Kris looked at her wife quizzically but didn’t say anything, sensing something was wrong.

Turning her attention back to the other woman, she replied, “Thanks. Don’t I know you?” Kris asked, looking critically at her and shaking her hand.She looked very familiar, but Kris couldn’t place her.

Susan’s eyebrows raised, her voice registering her surprise. “No, I don’t think so.” Recovering, she turned lust filled eyes to Melissa. “Well, it was nice to see you again; good luck.” She gave a quick wave and let herself out.

“Oh Kris!!” Melissa said, throwing her arms around the dark haired woman’s neck as soon as the door was closed.

Hugging her back, Kris could feel Melissa trembling, “Hey, what’s all this about?”

Melissa delayed long enough for the woman to leave; she knew that Kris would go after her.

The relief was evident on the blond’s face. “I have never been so glad to see anyone!”

Still holding her upset bride, Kris asked, “What’s going on?”

“That was my ‘ex’. She tracked me down here, don’t ask me how! I shouldn’t have let her in, but it just seemed so innocent. Just as you were coming home, she grabbed me and I thought she was going to attack me…”

“…Why did you let her get away?!” Kris exploded, running down the stairs and opening the door to the empty drive.

Calling to her from the top of the stairs, she said, “Because I knew you’d go after her.”

Kris climbed back up the stairs, putting her arms around her wife once more.

Melissa rested her head on Kris’ shoulder. “Dearest, don’t take this wrong, but in your condition she could probably kick your butt.”

Kris’ brow was furrowed with concern. “Are you sure you’re alright?”

“Yes. I’m just shaken and humiliated. How could I have been so stupid as to let her in?”

“Well don’t worry, she won’t be bothering us again.”

33

The mid-morning overcast sky was gray; a wind blew cold air in from the ocean. Melissa’s parents lived in a two-story Victorian house, with the traditional three-color paint job, consisting of white, royal blue and sea blue. It had sculpted shingles on the side of the house, making it look almost like a gingerbread house complete with white picket fence. There was a man sitting, holding a baby, on the porch in front of the house, with another man playing catch with a kid on the front lawn. It looked like something out of How To Film Suburban America – live it, embrace it, be it.

Kris was happy to be out of California and away from all of the crap of the music biz that surrounded Scarecrow. Slightly keyed up for the beginning of Lilith Fair tomorrow, Kris was looking forward to a relaxing afternoon meeting her new in-laws and family. She thought it was a nice benefit that Portland was the opening venue for Lilith Fair. They could visit Melissa’s family and stay at Melissa’s house for the kick off of the tour. Since this tour was going to be different than any tour they had ever been on before, the start of it was different, adding to the new feeling.

Even though it was a workday, the street was coming alive with activity. There were several cars parked in front of the house, and the limo had to double-park, blocking the street. The man on the porch came down into the yard to see what was happening as the driver, dressed in a dark suit and driver’s cap, came around and opened the rear door nearest the house. Rita stepped out, followed by Melissa and Kris. The driver tipped his hat and, getting back into the car, parked it off to the side. Rita took up position around the front perimeter of the house. The people outside, working in their yards or on their cars, had all stopped what they were doing and turned around to watch the activity near the limo. A few kids that had been riding their bikes came over and stopped near the limo to check it out.

As Melissa entered the gate, her dad hugged her, while a little girl ran down to see the activity. Gertrude came bounding out of the house, barking and wagging her tail happily. Melissa bent down and put her arms around the wiggling dog as she washed Melissa’s face with her tongue.

“Hello there!” her dad called to Kris as he came up and shook her hand. “You must be Kris. Welcome.” He was smiling warmly. He was in his fifties, and had thinning blond hair that he wore past his collar. He was around six feet tall and had a smallish build. He was wearing holey jeans, Birkenstocks, no socks, wire framed tri-focal glasses, and a black Rolling Stones tongue T-shirt. Melissa had inherited his facial structure.

“Yes sir. It’s nice to meet you. Did you see them in concert?” Kris replied, shaking his hand and indicating his T-shirt.

“Wow, such formality!” He chuckled. “I think you’d better call me Dad! Oh yeah, they were here in town not too long ago. Mick can still rock; his moves haven’t changed since theHaight-Ashbury days.”

Melissa tossed a ball for Gert. Then she threw her arms around a tall lanky young man with dark hair, eyes and glasses. He was wearing jeans, running shoes, and a blue short-sleeve pocket T-shirt and held a small child in his arms. “Hey Chad, how are you? I would like to introduce you to Kris Cutler. Kris, this is my brother-in-law Chad Roberts, and my niece, and the youngest addition to the family, Gwen.

Smiling, Kris shook the man’s hand. “Nice to meet you.” Indicating the child, she asked, “How old is she?”

“She’s eleven months, our second girl,” he answered, looking down proudly at the child.

“Chad married my sister Meg,” Melissa explained, holding Kris’ hand.

Kris wore an understanding look as she asked, “How long have you been married?”

Chad replied, “Four years, now.”

Craig chuckled as he clapped Kris on the back. “Come on up to the house and we’ll introduce you around.” They climbed the steps up to the wrap-around porch, as he began the introductions. “This is my son Lindsay.” Kris shook the young man’s hand. “Nice to meet you.”

Lindsay was large in a squat way and very muscular, not all that tall. His skin was very tan, and his short hair was white blond. He and Melissa had the same eyes, although he had very long white eyelashes. He had on a white T-shirt, jeans, and cowboy boots. The belt buckle on his pants was about the size of a coffee mug and had some writing on it. He nodded his head once in her direction.

“What’s all this commotion about?” asked an old man, dressed in a gray cardigan sweater and what looked like a blue and red striped flannel shirt underneath; he had on semi-dress dark blue polyester pants and bright white tennis shoes, and sported  a full head of white hair cut short. His thick horn-rimmed glasses made his bright blue eyes look as big as quarters. His skin was white with dark brown age spots scattered about. He was tall, not quite six feet, and was a little stooped; the family resemblance was evident.

Craig stepped closer to the older man and spoke up, “Dad, I’d like you to meet Kris Cutler. This is my father, Gerry Davis.”

Kris shook the man’s hand. “It’s nice to meet you sir.”

“I don’t remember seeing you before?” Gerry asked. His voice was a hoarse whisper, and he looked confused.

“No sir, I’ve just married your granddaughter Melissa,” Kris explained, raising her voice a little so he could hear her.

Gerry sounded pleased. “Is that so?”

Craig was in full host mode. “Sit down and relax. Kris, would you like a beer?” he asked.

Kris was still feeling a bit nervous as she replied, “Yes sir, that would be great.”

He chuckled, “Please call me Dad. Melissa? Beer or wine?”

“Beer is fine for me Dad,” Melissa replied, as the couple sat in the porch swing.

“What did you say your name was again?” Grandpa asked, taking a seat next to them in a paddedAdirondack chair.

Melissa explained, her voice raised, “Grandpa, this is my wife, Kris Cutler.”

“Oh! You just got married. I remember now. Nice to meet you,” Grandpa replied, giving the couple a nice toothy grin.

Melissa dropped her voice; in a conspiratorial tone she said, “Grandpa’s in his 80’s; his mind isn’t as sharp as it used to be.”

Crossing his legs, Grandpa asked, “What do you do for a living?”  “I’m a musician, a drummer.”

Grandpa looked pleased and surprised. “Do you play in the orchestra?”

“No sir, I’m in a rock and roll band.”

Grandpa asked, “Is that like Tommy Dorsey stuff?”

Craig returned and handed out the cold beverages.

Smiling her thanks at her father-n-law, she replied as she opened her beer, “No, the name of our band is Scarecrow.”

“Scarecrow? We used to use those in the cornfields to scare off the crows,” Grandpa stated, trying to figure out why they were talking about that now.

“Grandpa, would you like a root beer?” Craig asked, as he handed the older man a can of soda.

As her brother-in-law came up on the porch, Melissa asked,  “Chad, how are you?” Chad shifted the baby as he sat down near them. “Oh you know, same ol’ same ol’.”

A pregnant woman came out of the house. She was leaning back and had her hands on the small of her back as she walked.

Melissa got up and hugged the other woman as they commented on how each other looked.

Melissa helped  her sister ease into the nearby chair thatChad had just vacated. “Meg, I don’t think you’ve met my wife; Kris Cutler; this is Meg Roberts.”

“It’s nice to meet you. So you’re the one that’s finally made our Melissa an honest woman?” Meg laughed; it sounded a lot like Melissa’s. She was Melissa’s height, and they shared the same smile. Her hair was a honey blond, not as curly as her sister’s, and she wore it long but tied out of her face. She was wearing a thin cotton summer dress, no socks and sandals.

Kris got to her feet as Meg sat down next to them; shaking her hand, she said, . “Looks like.”

“Meg is due any day,” Melissa stated, opening her beer.

Returning to her seat, and trying to be polite, Kris asked, “What are you hoping for?”

She smiled. “Well you know what they say, the third time’s a charm. We’re hoping for a boy.”

Chad took the child’s hand out of his mouth. “We wouldn’t let the doctor tell us from the Amnio what the sex was.” He stood next to his wife turning side to side as he played with his daughter.

A woman’s voice called from the doorway, “Meg honey, Karen wants to know if she can have a Popsicle?”

“Yes, but just one, Mom!” Meg called back.

Lindsay emerged from the house holding the hand of  a small blond girl  both eating Popsicles. He sat down on the porch railing, leaning against one of the pillars, putting a boot-clad foot on top of the railing where he was sitting. The little girl leaned her back against the leg on the porch, enjoying her Popsicle.

Frances came onto the porch followed by Brandon. The sun was out and the temperature was beginning to rise.

Kris got to her feet as the woman came towards them. “Frances , it is so good to see you again.”

The older woman gave the dark haired woman a small hug. “Kris, glad you could come. How’s the arm?”

“Fine Ma’am.”

Frances gave Melissa a big hug. “How you doin’?”

Melissa smiled as the hug ended and the women all sat down. “Hi Mom, I’m good.”

“What did you do to your arm?” Lindsay asked, licking his Popsicle.

“I fractured it in two places,” Kris replied, holding it up and flexing her fingers.

“How’d you do that?” Chad asked.

“The stage collapsed under me in Denver, before the concert.”

The group murmured, shocked and surprised.

“That sounds painful. What happened?” Craig asked.

“The drum platform collapsed onto the stage, and then the section of stage under me gave way.”

“Oh, that’s gotta hurt!” Chad replied, making a face.

Meg repositioned herself in a chair. “I read about that in the paper.”

Kris wanted to change the subject. “Yes thanks, it was quite painful.”

Brandon took Gwen from Chad. “It looks like you can move your fingers again though.”

“Yeah, I can actually hold a drumstick!”

Almost as an aside, Lindsay stated, “I fractured my arm in a couple of places; it can be very painful.”

Melissa sipped her beer. “Was that the time in Pendleton?”

“Yep, I had won best roping and was going for bronc riding and got bucked off and the damn horse trampled me.”

Kris made a pained face at his pain. “So you’re a rodeo rider?”

“No, I’m a carpenter.”

Kris looked confused. “I think I missed something? Where did you encounter the horse?”

“I’m an amateur rodeo cowboy.”

Kris raised her eyebrows, looking interested. “How long have you been doing that?”

Looking completely serious, Lindsay replied, “I’ve been at it since high school.”

A minivan drove up into the already full driveway of the house. A man and a woman got out and they retrieved the two small children from the back and approached the house.

“Ah, Mr. Wonderful makes his appearance,” Melissa said under her breath.

Frances cautioned, “Melissa, you be nice. He’s doing this for you.”

Melissa sounded defensive. “I didn’t ask him to. Don’t you really think he’s doing this just so he can ridicule the choices I have made in my life?”

Picking up on the anxiety coming off her wife Kris asked. “What’s going on?”  

Meg replied in a conspiratorial tone, “Melissa and Duncan don’t really get along; it’s a long story.”

Frances gave her oldest daughter a stern look. “I know you haven’t gotten along  for a while; why don’t you give him a chance?”

Melissa looked resigned, aiming a raised eyebrow at her mom. “Only because you were nice enough to invite us down and put on this party.”

“Did someone die?” Duncan asked, as he climbed the porch steps, holding a child and gesturing to the limo.

“Duncan, Ginny, it’s so nice to see you,” Frances stated, as she got up and kissedDuncan on the cheek and hugged Ginny. They put down the kids who immediately started to get into things.

“Pull up a chair; can I get you a beer Son? Ginny?” Craig asked, as he headed for the house.

“Yeah, Dad that would be great,” Duncan replied, sitting down not too far from Melissa.

“I’ll help you Dad,” Ginny replied, as the two of them disappeared into the house.

“Melissa. It’s been awhile. You are looking fit,” Duncan said. He was around six feet tall with a medium build, his light brown hair was cut short and stylish, he was wearing khaki colored Dockers, dark blue topsiders with white socks and a short sleeve light tan oxford dress shirt. He looked tailored and very out of place. He sat ramrod straight and crossed his legs, resting his foot on top of his knee. Unlike the rest of the family, his eyes were hazel.

“Duncan. How are you?” Melissa replied; her tone was cool.

“Business is booming, keeping me busy. And you?” He was looking suspiciously at Kris.

Craig and Ginny returned with the drinks, which they dispersed, and then sat down.

“I don’t think we’ve met; I’m Kris, Melissa’s wife.” Kris got up and stretched her hand out toDuncan. He looked as though she were holding a snake. He reached out and waggled her fingers.

His tone was icy, and the disapproval poured off him in waves. “Hello.” He turned his attention to his dad, dismissing the woman and the topic. “So, whose limo is that?”

“Mine,” Kris replied, drawing his attention back to her. Damned if this arrogant bastard was going to dismiss her so quickly.Duncan looked back at her, not sure what to make of her. The way she was dressed, it couldn’t possibly be hers. On the other hand…

“She says she plays with Tommy Dorsey,” Grandpa stated, breaking the silence.

Meg tried to correct him. “No Grandpa, she’s in a different band.”

“A real musician, right here in our midst? How interesting,” Duncan asked, his tone rather condescending.

“Kris is the drummer for the band Scarecrow.” Brandon sounded proud.

“That would be a pop band no doubt?” Duncan questioned.

“Actually a rock band,” Kris corrected. She didn’t like this guy; he was too smug – too stuck on himself.

“Oh, excuse me.” His tone suggested he was humoring her. “I suppose you’re from California as well?” He said California as if it were a four-letter word.

“Well as a matter of fact, yes.”

“Oh let me guess. A valley girl?” He was smiling and looked very smug.

“Not quite;Los Angeles.” Kris looked less than impressed.

“Ooh, the big brown pit; I should have known.” Duncan’s tone was one of superiority.

“What do you do for a living?” Kris asked, trying to change the subject before she ripped his face off.

“I am an investment broker,” he replied.

“Interesting. How long have you been doing that?” she asked, trying to sound polite.

“I’ve been at Witmarsh, Pettygrove and Larch for five years,” he stated, throwing around the names like they were E. F. Hutton.

“I’m sorry, I’m not familiar with them; I do business with Goldman, Sachs & Co.. I just bought some shares of Google; sounds like it’s going to be a quick riser, for some fast cash.”

He looked as though some of the wind had been taken out of his sails. “Google is a decent investment for the dot com market, but in order to make it worth your while…”

Kris interrupted him, “I thought for a new IPO that the introductory offer was a bit high, but seems to be holding its own.”

Frances couldn’t help herself. “I read about that; didn’t it open at like $200 a share?”

Duncan found his footing. “Yes, it opened very high. I got in on the ground floor…”

Kris once again interrupted him, “How many shares did you pick up?”

Now he was in his element, and he smiled a knowing smile. “A hundred.”

Kris looked thoughtful. “That’s a nice little purchase.”

Duncan looked pissed. “Oh really? And how many shares did you purchase?’

Kris didn’t miss a beat. “Fifty thousand.” She dismissed him. “Craig, could I trouble you for another beer?”

Duncan sat for a moment as he did the math; when his eyes focused on her again, they were smoldering with anger. They sized each other up.

Brandon looked as though someone had sucked all the air out of him. “Holy shit, that’s ten million dollars!”

Kris was secretly smiling on the inside. ‘You are out of your league little man,’ she thought.

“Let’s stop beating around the bush, just how much are you worth?” Meg asked, a devilish twinkle in her eye.

“Megan Montgomery Roberts!!” Frances admonished her daughter, giving her a warning look, looking shocked herself

“How rude?! You aren’t supposed to ask questions like that,” Melissa chastised her sister.

“It’s what we all want to know. Frankly, I’m glad she asked,” Lindsay backed up his sister.

“Really, I don’t mind. I don’t know down to the penny. We haven’t gotten the financial report back from the tour – we are going to eat something on that one because of the canceled dates. But what I’m worth right now is around 145 million,” Kris answered, as everyone’s mouths fell open. They sat staring in stunned silence.

“Like American dollars?” Lindsay finally asked, when he could catch his breath.

“Yes,” Kris replied, nodding her head in the affirmative.

Melissa looked shocked. “Kris, I had no idea! I think we should do a prenuptial agreement or something.” She was taking deep breaths, as she rested her elbows on her knees and then her head in her hands.

“Ah, too late for that; we’ve already tied the knot. ” Kris smiled. “Are you alright?”

Melissa waved her hand and shook her head yes, although she didn’t raise her head.

“That’s an obscene amount of money for playing in a band, don’t you think?” Ginny asked, looking disapproving.

“No more than eighteen and a half million a year for some guy to play basketball. I’ve worked really hard to get where I am today. I’ve played in more sleazy bars than I care to think about, getting paid peanuts, sometimes not enough to cover the gas to get there. Let alone the cost of the instruments and equipment, and the endless hours of practice; no I don’t think it’s too much. Besides; I didn’t get this all in one lump sum.”

Brandon looked dreamy. “Wow, I can’t wait to make out my Christmas list!!”

Melissa cautioned, “Hey pal, that’s Kris’ money.”

“No, we’re married; we share everything 50/50.” Kris sipped her beer.

“No, oh no, I don’t bloody think so!” Melissa stated with a little more emphasis than she meant.

Kris’ brow was furrowed in concern. “What’s the problem?”

“It’s too much! I don’t want to be responsible for it.” Melissa looked a little panicked.

“Well you’re not really responsible for it, you just spend it. There’s only a couple of million that’s liquid at a time…”

Chad looked stunned. “…So you mean that your checking account has a couple of million in it?”

Kris wore a half smile. “Something like that. I never really see money.”

Melissa looked concerned. “But didn’t you see the Judy, Martina fiasco?”

“Yes. Wasn’t that a bitch? If Judy’s timing hadn’t sucked, Martina probably would have taken the slam that year,” Kris replied, angered, and so missing Melissa’s point.

Melissa looked deep into her lover’s eyes. “I don’t want that to happen to us.”

Kris looked at her critically. “Are you planning to dissolve this marriage in the not-so-distant future?”

Melissa ran her hand through her hair. “Of course not…”

“…If you feel this strongly, I’ll have my lawyer draw something up,” Kris replied, kissing her on the cheek.

“How much do you have on you right now?” Brandon asked.

Kris took out her wallet and thumbed through it. “A twenty, ten and four ones. Ah, but Gold MasterCard, don’t leave home without it.” Kris smiled, sounding like a commercial. “Brandon, I don’t want you to get the wrong idea. When the band was first taking off, and the money was rolling in, I was trying to spend it as fast as we got it. I remember blowing a million in a couple weeks once. I can’t even remember what I bought.”

“Drugs I’ll bet!” Duncan said under his breath, looking disgusted.

“Kris doesn’t do drugs.” Brandon stated emphatically.

“Well, not voluntarily anyway. I tried some pot and a little coke when I was younger, but I didn’t like the feeling of being out of control. And after my recent experience, I will never be doing them again. I don’t think I’ve ever paid for drugs,” Kris said. “What else do you guys want to know? I’ve no secrets,” she added.

“What was it like? To be high?” Brandon asked.

“Terrifying! All of my senses were giving false readings. I just wanted to get out, but couldn’t. It was like being at the fun-house at the county fair, but it’s being run by Stephen King and Stanley Kubrick. Don’t ever try this kids!”

“What famous people have you slept with?” Meg asked, changing the subject as Kris choked on her beer.

“Meg!” Frances looked mortified.

“Well, I asked for that one.” Kris’ face reddened. “I always wanted to sleep with Helen Slater and Laura Dern. I was so crushed when I found out they were straight. I’ve not slept with anyone famous, sorry.”

“Well, since you asked, I would like to know if you’ve been tested for A.I.D.S.,” Frances asked.

“Good question. No, I haven’t been tested for A.I.D.S. in a couple of years. I’m in a low risk group, and to the best of my knowledge, I haven’t slept with a woman that has slept with a man. If it will make you feel better, I can get tested tomorrow,” Kris offered.

Melissa supplied, “I’ve never been tested either. I didn’t really think I was at risk, and frankly I was scared to find out.”

“I’m not sure that would make me feel better,” Frances replied. “But thanks for the offer, and the straight answer.”

Melissa smirked at her mom. “I’m not sure Kris can give a straight answer.”

Frances reached over and playfully swatted her eldest daughter on the knee “Smart-aleck.” Melissa stuck her tongue out at her mom. 

In his quite deep voice, Lindsay asked, “If your career dried up overnight, what would you do?”

Kris looked surprised. “Heaven forbid!! I have no idea. I have no other skills except music.”

Ginny asked, “Work in an office…”

“…I think I’d rather be a bag lady first.” Kris made a face.

“Do you believe in charity?” Chad asked.

“You bet. I give at least ten percent of my income to charities…”

Looking interested, Melissa asked, “What do you donate to?”

“A.I.D.S. research, Gay and Lesbian Task Force, music programs around the country. I also donate my time and name to worthy causes.”

“How much does it cost to put on a concert tour?” Brandon asked.

“Well, it’s very costly. That’s why corporateAmerica got dragged into it, much to my dismay. To give you an idea, for the six dates Tony and I are doing with Lilith Fair, it’s costing us personally one quarter to one half million dollars, apiece.”

“Whoa!! What are you paying for?” Lindsay asked, looking incredulous.

“Transportation is the big cost, then there’s housing and food for the roadies, their salaries, the promotional costs, the percentage to the agents, the concert venues, the ticket sellers, the merchandising houses, insurance…It goes on and on. If you’re not careful, you can get nickeled and dimed to death. You didn’t think that the tickets were 45 dollars so we could buy new homes and trash hotel rooms, did you?” Kris smiled and wiggled her eyebrows.

“What’s the most expensive thing you’ve ever bought?” Craig asked.

“Ah, that would be the house I share with my brother and niece; 17.8 million for my third. You would not believe how hard it is to get that many zeroes on a check!”

“You live in a house that costs 53.5 million dollars?” Brandon asked, looking surprised.

“You didn’t have to get that financed did you?” Melissa asked, looking ill.

“No, it’s paid for. It’s the beach house inMalibu; it’s only got four bedrooms and three bathrooms,” Kris explained.

“Ah, but the ocean is within two hundred feet to the back door,” Melissa supplied.

“What do you make in a year?” Chad asked.

“Every year is slightly different. I would guess that the average would be about 50 million.”

“You know, I must say that I’m quite impressed. I thought you’d be this airhead druggie that didn’t know anything but partying and music,” Lindsay commented.

“Thanks for the vote of confidence on my judgment!” Melissa replied, looking a little hurt at her brother.

Lindsay tried to apologize. “Sorry! I didn’t mean anything by it.”

Kris changed the subject. “I tell you, if you want to succeed in this business anymore, you’ve got to have your head on straight. Look what happened to Billy Joel? Unfortunately, you can’t just be focused on the music 100% of the time; you have to have your eye on all other aspects of the business.”

Duncan asked, “How long have you been a musician?”

“I’ve been a professional musician for the last ten years, but I have been a musician most of my life.” She took a sip of her beer. “Since all of the albums that we make are on ‘spec’, we have to do other things to make money…”

Meg asked, “You don’t make any money from the album/CD sales?”

Kris explained, “Right, if an album goes platinum, that’s a million copies sold….”

Brandon was doing the math. “That’s around $20 million!”

“Yep, and if we are lucky we see like 10% of that, which divided by five, is less than one-half a mill each. From that we have to pay all of the people that work for us. In short, it just don’t go very far.”

Frances sounded shocked. “I had no idea.”

Meg asked, “How many people do you have working for you?”

Kris looked thoughtful, “I personally have a secretary, drum technician, investment counselor and bodyguard, then I share the cost of a manager, tour manager, assistant tour manager, doctor, housekeeper, pilot, lawyers, publicists, and up to several hundred roadies.”

“Damn, it’s a wonder you make any money at all,” Brandon replied.

Kris chuckled. “Yeah, so you can see why we tour. Then there’s the merchandise, the personal appearances, drum clinics.”

“You teach drum clinics?” Brandon asked.

“Yeah, during the tour.”

“How come I haven’t heard about these?” Brandon asked, looking a little upset.

“Because they’re only for girls. I think it’s real important that girls have a positive role model.”

“I didn’t know that.” Melissa looked surprised at her wife.

“That’s because we didn’t have any scheduled inChicago.”

“You’re a role model?” Melissa joked.

“When I was growing up, I didn’t know women could actually play drums; everyone laughed at me when I said I wanted to play them. Then, after I got into band, all the boys made me feel so intimidated.”

“Why?” Frances asked.

“Because they thought they were better than me.”

“Because they were boys?” Ginny asked.

“Right.Brandon, how many female drummers have you had in your classes at school?”

“I could probably count them all on one hand,” he replied.

“It’s important that girls see that anything is possible for them.”

“Wow, I never expected you to feel that way.” Melissa sounded impressed.

“Oh yeah; I helped launch a magazine directed toward female drummers last year called Modern DrummerGrl. I am constantly on the look out for female bands, and especially female drummers, to give them a break.”

“What did you do to your arm?” Ginny asked, trying to change the subject. She was petite, with soft dark eyes, kind face and a warm but sad smile. Her dirty dishwater blond hair was pulled back into a ponytail, making her appear younger than Kris guessed she was. She was wearing tight, brand new jeans with a crease, as if they had been pressed up the front of each leg. Her short-sleeved cotton, floral patterned blouse was very sheer, and her bra could be seen.

“I had a disagreement with gravity and a heavy piece of metal,” Kris replied flippantly.

“Probably drunk as a skunk when she broke it,” Duncan smirked, under his breath.

Meg glared atDuncan as she changed the subject. “Brandon, what was it like, playing in front of all those people?”

“Fuc… Ah it was fantastic! What a rush being up on stage!” he replied, thinking twice of saying the ‘F’ word in front of his parents.

“I always say performing is a drug!” Kris stated.

“And you would know all about them,” Duncan commented, out of the side of his face.

Kris asked, “Are you ready to go on the road full time?”

Craig replied, “Not until he gets his degree.”

Brandon looked hopeful. “Ah, but it would make a great summer job.”

Lindsay rubbed his brother’s head, messing up his hair and smiling. He turned his attention to Melissa. “So, what’s it like, being married to a celebrity?” He had a twinkle in his blue-gray eyes.

“Yes, tell us all about the glitzy lifestyle!” Duncan replied, sounding trite.

“Great!” Melissa replied enthusiastically, smiling broadly.

“We want the dirt!” Meg replied.

“Like what?” Melissa questioned. “It’s not really what I had envisioned. Mostly you get to see the inside of hotel rooms, the bus, limos, and concert halls.”

“What about the celebrities? The flashy parties?” Megan asked, sounding disappointed.

“We’ve spent most of our time together,” Melissa replied, smiling.

“We haven’t really been off tour long enough to take part in those things. I think later this summer,” Kris replied.

“Mister? Is that your car?” Karen asked, pulling on Kris’ pant leg.

“Karen, this isn’t a man, it’s a woman,” Melissa explained, smiling down at her niece.

“Alright. Lady, is that your car?” she asked, not sure what to call Kris.

“Can you call me Kris? It’s sort of mine, why?” Kris replied.

“Can I have a ride in it?”

“Karen, you shouldn’t do that…” Meg tried to scold her.

The child looked up innocently at her mother. “…Why not?”

Kris shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know either, but if you want a ride, go ahead. Anyone else?”

Grandpa, Karen, Brandon and Chad, still holding the baby, all went for a ride.

“If you’ll excuse me, I think I need some fresher air,” Kris replied, as she left the porch.

“Duncan, what’s wrong with you?!” Craig asked, looking unhappy.

“What are you upset about?” Duncan tried to feign innocence.

“You know, I was willing to give you the benefit of the doubt after all these years, but you haven’t changed. You’re still a self-centered, arrogant, S.O.B.!” Melissa stated with fire in her eyes, as she got up and left the porch.

“You went out of your way to alienate her, why?” Frances asked.

“I don’t know what any of you are talking about,” Duncan stated, trying to look confused.

Kris was walking around the yard when Melissa caught up with her. She put her arms around her and hugged her.

“I’m really sorry; he’s an asshole,” Melissa apologized.

“It’s not your fault. Besides, it could have been worse, he could have offered me money to leave you,” Kris replied, trying to stay upbeat.

“I don’t know how you kept your calm for as long as you did. I was getting ready to deck him.”

“Well your parents have gone to all this trouble; I didn’t want to spoil it. Besides, I’m used to being treated like this, except it’s usually for being gay, not a California musician.”

“Well I can’t promise that it won’t happen again. We haven’t gotten along since I was in high school.”

“Oh really? What happened?”

“He’s always been so money-driven, materialistic. He is not like anyone else in the family; he’s definitely a snob. Anyway, I think he was the first to suspect about me. We had gone to a football game together, and afterward, he was with all his snobby friends. He was supposed to take me home, but he didn’t want them to know I was his sister, trying to impress some ice princess whose daddy belonged to the country club. Anyway, he left me high and dry, and I ended up having to walk home, and when I got home, he had made up this story that I had disappeared, and he had looked and looked and couldn’t find me. One of my friend girls supposedly told him I had gotten a ride home with some other friend I wasn’t supposed to be seeing. The long and the short of it was, that I got into really big trouble, and he got off Scot-free. Things were never the same between us again.”

“You are really lucky someone didn’t grab you and molest you.”

“Yeah, among other things.” They walked along in silence, holding hands for a moment.

“You know, this is really a great house.”

“Yeah, I’ve always liked it. My dad was raised in this house, and so were we.”

“Wow, it’s got lots of great memories then,” Kris replied.

“Yes, it’s nice to have roots.” They had come back around to the porch, and climbed the steps.

Frances looked embarrassed. “Kris, I’m really sorry…”

“…Payback time for the way Melissa is treated by my world, right?” Kris interrupted, smiling.

“That car’s quite a status symbol.” Frances smiled, looking relieved as she changed the subject.

“Nothing but the best for your little girl!” Kris smiled. “Actually I hate driving around in them; it’s like a neon sign, ‘I’m over here!’ but my bodyguard is happier when we have a car and driver,” Kris replied, sitting on the railing that went around the porch.Duncan was down in the yard playing with his kids.

“Bodyguard? Would that be the woman lurking in the bushes?” Meg asked, looking suspicious.

“Yep, that’s Rita, my bodyguard.”

“You have your own bodyguard?” Lindsay asked, doubtful.

“You bet. But don’t worry, you won’t even know she’s around.”

“How about another beer Melissa?” Craig asked.

“Bodyguards are cool in case I get mobbed or something like that; it’s nice to have someone waiting in the wings.”

“Mobbed?” Frances asked.

“You remember when we were at the restaurant? Like that, but much worse,” Kris prompted.

“Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it, eventually,” Melissa assured them.

“When we knew that Melissa was gay, I never suspected that she’d be able to marry into money,” Craig stated, smiling.

“Daddy!” Melissa yelped, sounding disapproving.

“Well, that she did.” Kris smiled back.

“Craig, will you go start the barbecue?” Frances asked. He got up, kissed her on the cheek, and disappeared.

The limo returned, and the riders returned to the porch.

“Lindsay, can you give me a hand?” Craig called. He was dressed in an apron that said, ‘I ♥ to B.B.Q’ on it. Lindsay left the porch with his dad.

“Oh!” Meg exclaimed, looking surprised. “The baby just kicked me,” she said, smiling.

“Do you want to feel?” she asked, looking at Kris.

“No, I don’t think so.” Kris shook her head and looked a little scared.

“It won’t bite you,” Frances stated, looking amused.

“I’ll pass.” Kris shivered.

“Are you afraid?” Meg asked.

“Well, the thought of having something growing inside of me always reminds me of the movie Alien. And let’s not talk about how it would get there in the first place.” She shivered again, looking a little ill.

“Oh no! No pitter patter of little feet at your house?” Ginny asked.

“Just those of Gertrude,” Kris replied.

“You’re not planning on having any kids?” Frances looked heartbroken

“Me? No thanks!” Kris sounded emphatic, looking at Melissa.

“Don’t look at me! After hearing what Meg went through, I don’t think you could pay me enough to do it,” Melissa replied.

“You could adopt,” Brandon added.

“Well, to be perfectly honest, I don’t really like kids. I could never deal with that much responsibility in my life,” Kris replied.

“Well, you’re on the road a lot,” Brandon commented.

“True; I can hardly take care of myself, let alone something that was dependent on me. I don’t even have a pet for that very reason.”

“So we’re agreed that children are out?” Melissa asked.

“Oh, I think so. Children and I don’t mix. I’ve never liked babies, and they seem to sense that. I get enough of children every year when I teach my drum clinics. That going to be a problem?” Kris asked, looking anxiously at Melissa.

“Not with me. I had enough of children after partially raising all these guys. What about pets?”

“Not a problem. I never had any growing up, but if you’ll help take care of it, them, won’t be a problem.”

“Well you gals just don’t know what you’re missing,” Meg stated proudly and emphatically.

“I don’t know; I’ve had two, and I really don’t want to have to go through that again,” Ginny stated.

“Well I had five; that was definitely my limit. If I had to do it all over again, I think I would have stopped at two,” Frances replied.

“Why?” Melissa asked.

Frances was being totally frank. “It really tore the hell out of my body.”

“Oh, I agree. With my first child, I was in labor for 32 hours!” Ginny stated.

“I think I’ll go help with the barbecue.” Chad got up and headed for the door.

“What about when they do an episiotomy? I didn’t think I was ever going to get over that the first time,” Meg stated.

“What’s that?” Brandon asked

“It’s when they cut the vaginal opening, so it doesn’t tear…”

“…Oh Yeah!” Kris quickly brought her knees together. “Can we talk about something else, please!” Kris doubled over and looked ill.

“Kris, what’s the problem?” Frances asked.

“I hate going to the gynecologist; I don’t know how you can do that.” Kris looked very skeptical.

“You hate it because it’s a man?” Meg asked.

“No! I would never have a man for a gynecologist!” Kris was resolute.

“Oh, I am just the opposite; I would never have a woman for one!” Ginny stated, looking disgusted.

“Why? Having a man for a gynecologist is like going to a blind optometrist, or getting marriage advice from a priest. What the hell does he know about what you’re going through? Don’t you think that maybe he’d choose that particular specialty so he could get his rocks off?” Kris questioned.

“I could just never expose myself to another woman that way,” Ginny said, looking very prim.

“Do you belong to a health club?” Melissa asked.

“Just the ‘Y’.”

“Do you shower after your workout?” Melissa quizzed.

“Well of course!” Ginny replied.

“You stand naked in a shower and dressing area with other women, and you’re afraid to be examined by a woman?”

Sounding a little angry, Ginny replied, “It’s different.”

“How? You feel more comfortable with a bunch of housewives ogling you than you do with a trained professional? You’d rather have some guy pawing all over you?” Kris was dumbfounded.

“That’s the kind of thinking that has kept us as second class citizens. We don’t even trust our own sex,” Melissa replied, aghast.

“The thought of being with a man really upsets you, doesn’t it?” Meg asked, looking fascinated.

“It turns my stomach,” Kris answered truthfully.

“Really? This is really interesting; I’ve always wanted to know this stuff,” Meg replied.

Looking surprised, Melissa asked, “Why didn’t you ask me?”

Meg shrugged. “It always seemed so personal.”

“More personal than you telling me every step of your first delivery?” Melissa asked, incredulous.

Meg looked at her and they both laughed.

“Kris, you were saying?” Frances prompted.

“I don’t understand what the attraction is? Women are so beautiful and soft and smell good …” Kris stopped abruptly, looking embarrassed.

Meg interrupted, “But men are beautiful and can be soft…”

Interrupting her sister, Melissa replied, “…They aren’t inherently soft. Most are rough, and crude, and smell.”

“The best part about being with a woman is that you can talk to each other about anything, and the other has had similar experiences so you really relate. Because you are the same sex, you can anticipate what the other person needs or wants.”

“Have you been with a man?” Meg asked, looking at her sister.

“Yeah, when I was in college.” She shrugged.  “I experimented.”

“How many women had you been with, by that same time?” Frances asked.

“Just one.”

“On that basis, you chose to be gay?” Brandon asked.

Melissa was resolute. “I didn’t choose to be gay. I was born this way.”

“Oh right,” Ginny said.

Chad emerged on the porch and gave the baby to Meg.

“It’s true. Ask anyone that’s gay, and they’ll tell you the same thing. And yes, when I was with the woman, everything felt right, unlike when I was with the man. I don’t just mean sexually. You suddenly realize that all the feelings you’ve had in your life make sense, they were just directed in the wrong way. You aren’t crazy, or deranged.”

“That is such crap. One roll in the hay, and you make a life altering decision?” Ginny was the voice of skepticism.

“Chad, how many women did you sleep with before you proposed to Meg?” Melissa innocently asked.

Looking cautious, he replied, “Ah, I’m not sure I want to answer that.”

“Come on honey; it’s for research,” Meg assured him.

Looking skeptical, and thinking that he would regret this, he said, “Well, a few. But Melissa’s right; when I met Meg, I knew that she was the right one. Making love only confirmed it.” All the women applauded asFrances said, “Good answer; vague enough to get your point across, and keep you off the couch!”

Brandon clapped his brother-in-law on the shoulder as they smiled.

“So there you have it; a life altering decision after sleeping with one person.” Melissa sounded quite pleased with herself.

Rita came through the gate and waited patently at the bottom of the steps

Kris looked happy. “Hey Rita! Everyone, this is Rita.”

Everyone said hi.

“Kris, it’s time to pick Tony up at the airport,” she informed her boss.

“Great. Can you take care of that? Or would you rather just send the car?” Kris asked.

“I think I’ll just send the car.”

“Great; thank-you,” Kris replied, as Rita headed for the limo.

“Why didn’t Tony come with you guys?” Brandon asked.

“Ah, she wanted to stop and see a friend first,” Kris stated, not wanting to give too much away.

“Who’s Tony?” Meg asked.

“My niece. She’s plays guitar in the band,” Kris explained.

“Kris and Tony will be playing Lilith Fair, starting tomorrow,” Melissa explained.

“We have to go and rehearse today,” Kris stated.

“Really? I’d love to see that.” Frances sounded excited.

“Where are you playing?” Chad asked.

“Some place called Civic Stadium.”

“Did you know that’s an outdoor venue?” Melissa asked.

“Oh great, Tony’s going to shit… ah, I mean, she’s going to hate it.” Kris tried to save the situation.

“I would like to hear you play as well,” Meg stated.

“You’re all invited if you’d like,” Kris replied.

After the limo arrived, the driver opened the door for Tony. She walked tentatively through the gate and toward the steps. Everyone stopped to watch. Melissa watched Meg’s head snap around when she got a look at Tony. Leaning close to her, she asked, “Are you sure you don’t want to re-think this whole straight thing?”

Meg looked up at her and replied, “She’s very attractive.” Melissa could only smile back at her sister.

Tony was dressed in somewhat tight jeans, knee high tan moccasin boots complete with fringe, and a long-sleeved southwestern print blouse that was mostly covered by a buckskin coat with fringe. Her long black hair was blowing about in the slight breeze.

“Hey Tony! Come on up,” Brandon called.

“Hey, it’s the little drummer boy!” she called, smiling broadly, and ascended the stairs.

Standing up and hugging her niece, Kris asked, “Glad you could make it. Did you just get off the rez?” Tony pulled her coat a little tighter around her. “No, I just felt like getting back to my roots. Besides, it’s cold here; don’t they know it’s summer?”

“Everyone, this is Antonia Rain Cloud, my niece,” Kris announced, as the individuals introduced themselves.

“What an interesting name you have,” Frances stated.

“Thank-you. My middle name, Black Bear, is from my mother’s people,” Tony replied, as she sat down.

“I gave my maiden name to both of my girls,” Frances stated.

“So you’re American Indian?” Chad asked.

“Full blooded Apache.”

Meg sounded a bit confused. “I thought Kris said you were her niece?”

Tony looked as though she were tired of explaining this. “Yes, we’re related only by marriage.”

“Well, I think we’re all here, so let’s go in and eat,” Frances said as the group moved inside. “Kris, will your bodyguard and driver be eating with us?”

“Ah, no Frances.”

“Then you can take them out some dinner.” They all sat down around the very large antique oval oak table in the formal dining room.

Meg asked, as she passed an antique crystal water pitcher, “Tony, are you married?”

“Me? Ah no.” She seemed amused by the idea. “I guess it’s only fitting that Kris, being the oldest, got hitched first.”

“The oldest?” Ginny asked, confused.

“The oldest of the three of us…” Tony looked around at the blank stares. “Kris, Rick and I have been inseparable, pretty much since we first met in high school.”

“I guess things in that department have changed?” Craig asked, pushing a large bowl filled with fruit salad.

Taking some barbecue chicken and passing it around the table, Tony joked, “Yeah, I sure am tired of having these honeymooners underfoot! When are you going to find a place of your own? You’re cramping my love life!”

Craig asked, “What about that? Have you decided where you’ll be living?”

“Yeah, we just closed the deal on a really nice place in Santa Barbara,” Kris answered.

Melissa joked, squeezing Tony’s arm, and smiling, “I was threatening divorce if we were going to have to stay at the beach house for recording sessions and rehearsals. Santa Barbara is right up the coast from Malibu, so it will be close by.”

“But you’ll be so far away,” Frances replied, looking sad.

Meg kidded her mom. “Now Mom, you know that the little ones have to fly away sometime.”

Frances , half joking, replied, “You wait until it’s your turn Missy, and we’ll see how funny you think it is.”

Melissa looked a little sad. “We’ll be able to see each other whenever we want to. I promise!”

“Except when you’re on tour with us out of the country, of course,” Kris added.

“Does this mean I’ll be living in your house by myself?” Brandon looked both pleased and sad.

Melissa looked sternly at him. “Yes! And later I have some rules I want you to follow.”

34

The morning clouds had burned away, and the day had heated up quite a bit. The breeze had returned and was still cool, but humidity was starting to build. Melissa, Kris, Tony and Rita rode along in the limo to the rehearsal.

“I noticed that you were making new friends at dinner,” Kris said, looking at Tony.

She looked bored “What? Oh, you mean what’s his name?”

“Lindsay. What did he say?” Kris asked.

“He wanted to go out of course. I saw enough of his type when I lived on the rez to make me puke. Cowboys! Think they are God’s gift to the world; they don’t realize that they are actually the other end of the spectrum,” Tony finished.

“How did it go with Nancy?” Melissa asked.

“Cooling off.”

“Really?” Kris asked.

“I can’t tell if it’s me or her. I’m really looking forward to this tour; I want to play the field, and this is going to be just what I need,” Tony stated.

The stage area was still being constructed to some point; people were milling about as the limo pulled up at the main gate. They presented their passes and drove inside. Climbing out of the limo, Kris was happy to see that all the equipment was on stage. Tony got her guitars out of the trunk, which the driver helped her carry up to the stage.

“Wait, before you go up there, let me check everything out,” Rita stated as she went up on stage.

“I see you finally got your lazy asses up here.” A woman’s voice came from behind them.

“Tess!” Tony replied, hugging her with her free arm.

“Tess, how are you doing? You look good,” Kris asked, kissing her on the cheek.

Tess’ right arm was wrapped in gauze and in a sling. “One day at a time, don’t you know,” she replied, looking sober.

“Are we getting too old for this shit, or what?” Kris asked. Rita gave them the all-clear sign.

“Well, good luck,” Melissa replied as she kissed Kris.

“You gonna sit with the family?” Kris asked.

“Yep; be careful,” Melissa stated, as Kris climbed the stairs to the stage. The family were arranging themselves in the audience space. There were many people sitting in the area.

“My, don’t they look small up there?” Frances asked.

“Test! Hello, we’d like to get a mic level without music, and then do some with music. Thanks,” Kris stated into a mic, as Tony unpacked her guitars and got them ready.

“Ready when you are,” a booming voice came back at them.

Melissa confided to her mother, “The first time I saw Kris perform, she took my breath away.”

“Really? How interesting; that reminds me of the first time I saw the Beatles live,” Frances remarked.

“You saw the Beatles?!” Brandon asked, astonished.

“Oh sure, when they came to town here. I can remember screaming my head off. Ah, youth,” Frances sighed, smiling in the memory.

“I can’t believe you saw the Fab Four! Mom, I had no idea,” Melissa said, duly impressed.

Up on the stage, things were starting to get underway.

“It’s loud isn’t it?” Meg shouted.

“Wait until Kris gets wound up, any minute now,” Melissa stated. Suddenly it sounded as if someone turned up the volume. After about a half an hour, Frances leaned over to Melissa. “I can see what you mean about watching Kris. All that raw power; it’s incredible!”

“Is this typical?” Meg asked, looking mesmerized at the stage.

“Well no, it’s usually harder music, and at a more driving pace,” Melissa explained.

“Wow! They’re incredible!” Meg said.

“I can see why the stage gave way!” Craig stated.

“Kris had to have a special set-up built to hold all the drums in place. The commercially available ones wouldn’t hold up under the pressure,” Brandon informed them. “All of her hardware is custom as well.”

“How many drumsticks does she go through in a night?” Chad asked, as yet another broken stick flew through the air.

“A dozen or more,” Brandon answered.

Meg cupped her hand and spoke directly into Melissa’s ear. “She must be something in bed.” Melissa smiled, then looked quizzically at her sister, replying, “Is there something you’d like to talk about? Or is it the hormones from the pregnancy?”

As the rehearsal continued, some of the other performers came out front to watch.

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From the moment Kris had gotten up this morning, she was moody and quiet; Melissa knew enough to give her a wide birth. It was the morning of the first Lilith Fair concert.

The day was going to be hotter than the previous day, with a little humidity thrown in for good measure. Tomboy was scheduled to go on about mid-concert. Kris and Tony had eaten little of their breakfast and had been sitting in the back yard for over an hour, going over the show.

It felt good to be home again, as Melissa daydreamed out the window over the kitchen sink while she poured herself another cup of coffee.

“You seem a little distracted this morning,” Rita commented, spreading some honey on her toast. She was sitting next to the kitchen window, keeping a close eye on the two women out back.

“I’m just thinking about leaving my little house, and my life for that matter.” Melissa sat down across the table from Rita.

“It really is a very nice place.”

“Thanks. How is it that you can just jump on board with these guys for the duration?” Melissa asked, sipping her coffee.

Around a mouthful of toast, Rita replied, “I live alone and I have no responsibilities.”

“But what about the bills?” Melissa questioned.

“I have a good friend that is my accountant, and she takes care of all that stuff. All I have to do is call her, and it’s taken care of.”

“How long have you lived alone?”

“Since I graduated from college,” Rita replied.

“Where’d you go to school?”

“ Portland State. I majored in Civil Engineering.”

“Wow, I would never have guessed.” Melissa looked surprised. “I mean, I thought you would have been into Phys Ed or something like that.” Melissa had turned bright red as she tried to remove her foot from her mouth.

“It’s OK I get that a lot; it’s really not a problem.” Rita laughed at Melissa’s discomfort.

“So you’re from here?” Melissa changed the subject.

“No, actually I’m from Astoria. But the lure of the big city was too much for me. I really wanted out of that Podunk town so bad, I could hardly wait!”

“Didn’t you get along with your family?”

“No, but it was the homophobic town really.”

“Do you get along with your family now?”

In a matter-of-fact tone, Rita replied, “My parents are dead, and I was an only child.”

“Wow, you really don’t have any responsibilities!” Melissa was shocked and felt a little sorry for her.

Rita stated, with excitement, “That’s why this job is so great!”

“I’ve seen you around at a couple of the bars in town,” Melissa replied.

“Yeah, I’ve seen you around as well. But it’s been awhile.”

“Yeah, I was involved in a relationship, and she didn’t like to go out. That night I met Kris was the first night I’d been out to the bars in about three months.”

“Did you just break up?”

“Yeah, pretty lucky on my part.”

“I’d say so!” Rita smiled.

Melissa sipped her coffee. “Why aren’t you working as a civil engineer?”

“After I graduated and went to work for an engineering firm, I found that I hated the atmosphere. Can you see me in high heels and nylons?” Rita asked. Melissa smiled and tried very hard not to laugh at the thought.

“Go ahead and laugh; I always do when I picture myself. What was I thinking?” Rita shrugged her shoulders and looked skyward.

“College doesn’t completely prepare you for life in the corporate world.” Melissa laughed.

“I decided that I had to find something else to do. A friend of mine runs a gym, and I ended up taking a couple of self-defense classes there. I had always had an interest in Karate, and after a few classes I found that I had a real knack for it. I soon moved on to Jujutsu, and Tae Kwon Do.”

“I suppose you are a master at all?”

“Hardly!” Rita chuckled. “I do have my black belt in all of them however.”

“Damn, I’m glad you’re on our side.” Melissa smiled, and swallowed hard. “Martial arts led you to body guarding?”

“Well in a way. A friend of mine was having some problems with her husband. He liked to beat up on her. She was in the process of getting a divorce and had a restraining order on the guy, but found that he wouldn’t leave her alone. She asked me if I would mind hanging around her for a while. Well it was fun, and pretty easy. I even got a chance to use all of the skills I had been learning in my martial arts classes.”

“Did you put her husband in the hospital?”

“No. But I did severely wound his male pride. After that was over, I got a call from a woman that was a friend of a friend of a friend. Anyway, she runs one of the clubs in town and needed some extra muscle for a band that was playing at her place. Again, it was fun and easy. I got a referral from one of the P.I. firms in town; they had a client that needed a bodyguard. It was fun and easy, and I didn’t have to wear a dress! I had found my new calling.”

“Have you guarded a lot of important people?”

“I wouldn’t say a lot. Enough to make life exciting.”

“Who was your favorite?” Melissa asked, smiling.

“Kris by far. This has been the best assignment!”

“So you were a fan before you started working for her?”

“Yeah. I liked their music, but wasn’t really aware of the band. But you know how cool Kris is?” Rita felt kind of ridiculous for asking that question. Melissa shook her head yes, smiling. “Usually being on tour with someone is rather boring and alienating. But Kris makes me feel like part of the group, instead of ignoring my existence.”

“Doesn’t it bother you that your life is on the line for the people you work for?”

“That’s why I lead the kind of life that I do.”

“You mean with no responsibilities?” Melissa asked.

“Yeah.”

“How do you do it? Don’t you get lonely?” Melissa looked at her skeptically.

“Sure, don’t you?”

“Well yeah. I mean not anymore. Don’t you want a relationship? A lover?”

“I have a couple of ‘lovers’. And we have an understanding – no strings, just companionship when the other needs or wants it.”

“That seems kind of cold and impersonal,” Melissa questioned.

“None of us have the kind of life where a true relationship would work. Can you see me with a wife and a life full of responsibilities, and then getting injured or killed on the job?”

“God, there’s a thought!” Melissa instinctively turned and looked out the window. The two women were huddled over a piece of paper as they sat cross-legged on the grass. Melissa’s mind was running over the list of the accidents that had occurred on the tour.

“Don’t worry, I don’t intend for that to happen to any of us.” Rita seemed to read her mind.

“Do you think she’s in danger?” Melissa asked, without looking at Rita. She really didn’t want to know the answer.

“All I know is that either Scarecrow as a group is cursed, or they have the worst luck I’ve ever seen!” Rita didn’t want to scare Melissa, but she felt she owed her the truth. “I was very relieved to hear that the tour was canceled.”

“What do you mean?” Melissa narrowed her eyes as she looked at her.

“Some of the ‘accidents’ weren’t. The rope to the sandbag had been cut; the LSD couldn’t have been an accident.”

“Are you saying that someone deliberately wanted to hurt…” Melissa’s voice trailed off as the ramifications hit her. “You haven’t told them any of this, have you?” Melissa asked, indicating the women outside.

“No, the tour was canceled, and I didn’t see the need,” Rita replied as the doorbell rang. Opening the door, Melissa found a woman in her mid-twenties, with short red hair and deep seductive hazel eyes. Her thick eyebrows danced over her eyes, making her appear as if she were constantly surprised. She was dressed in baggy gray-green cotton cargo shorts, high topped black and white Converse tennis shoes and a holey off white sweatshirt. She was carrying a black guitar case.

“Hey, Kris and Tony around? I’m Kate Willis,” she asked in a slightly low voice, thick with a southern accent.

“Yep, out in the back yard. Come on in.” Melissa stepped to the side to allow the woman to enter. She was about the same height as Melissa. Kate loped into the house, reminding Melissa of an adolescent.

“Looks like it’s going to be nice weather,” Kate said, as they entered the kitchen.

“Rita, this is Kate Willis.” Melissa made the introductions as Rita stood and shook the woman’s hand.

“I’ll take her out to the others. I need to check the perimeter anyway.” Rita opened the back door as the two women left the house. Melissa watched out the window as the four women talked.

The silence settled in around her like a blanket. She moved over to the stereo and turned on Scarecrow’s first album, Unknowns, and turned up the volume. She cleared the table and busied herself in the kitchen, cleaning up the dishes from breakfast. This was the last time she was going to see her little house for at least a couple weeks. That made her feel a little sad. It was hard for her to believe how much her life had changed in the last few weeks. She constantly wondered if it was a dream that she was having. She didn’t much care. She was happy, and if it was brought on by her delusions, then so be it! She went in her room and packed her bag. Taking a last look around her room, as she prepared to step into her new life, the doorbell rang. Opening the door, she saw the limo driver was standing on the front stoop.

“Mrs. Cutler? I’m here to pick up...”

“…Yes, they’ll be with you shortly. Can you put these bags in the car please?” she interrupted, as he picked up the two suitcases that she indicated and walked off to the car.

“The limo’s here,” Melissa stated as she opened the back door. The women marched out to the car as Melissa locked the front door.

divider

“Hello, Portland!! It’s really nice to be back here again so soon. Sarah was telling me that the reason the concert started off here this year is because the audiences are so nice,” Kate stated.

“I really like it here because it’s such a great place to come out in. And the number one reason – I met the love of my life here!” Kris addressed the crowd.

“Some of you may know us from another band, but today we are here to celebrate the spirit of Girl Power!” Tony stated.

“Enough of all this jawing. Did you come here to rock ’n’ roll? Because I know I did! Let’s do it!” Kris shouted as they began to play.

divider

“I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce the band. On lead guitar and vocals, we have Tony Rain Cloud, Kate Willis on bass and vocals, and back here, keeping the beat, is yours truly, Kris Cutler. We’re going to slow things down a bit here, to give the instruments a chance to cool off, don’t you know. Anyway, this next song goes out to Melissa.” The song was a slow love song that Kris had written after she and Melissa had parted inChicago.

divider

Melissa was heading back to the RV after Kris had finished playing, when she noticed Kris and Tess off by themselves. It looked like they were having a secret heated conversation, by their body language. Melissa moved closer and could hear some of what they were saying.

“I’m glad you’re going to be o.k.; I was really worried about you,” Kris was saying.

“Yeah I noticed. You were so worried; you stopped by and called every day…”

“…I did stop by,” Kris interrupted her.

“You could have at least called once. I was scared, and the band just sort of up and left me.”

Kris was sounding a little defensive. “I wanted to, but it may have escaped your attention, but I myself am not in the best of health.”

“Yeah, I know. I also noticed that you brought her along…”

Kris interrupted her, “…Melissa? You’re not jealous are you?”

Tess scoffed, “Jealous? Of what?”

“You sound like a jilted lover…”

Tess moved closer to Kris and kissed her cheek. “…I’m sorry. I’m just scared and lonely. Can’t we just make love one last time, for old times’ sake?”

“I don’t think so. I’m married,” Kris replied steadfastly.

Tess reached over and kissed her on the lips.

Kris pushed her back. “Didn’t you hear me? I said I was married.”

“The French believe that all married men should have a mistress…”

“…I’m not French; even if I was, I love Melissa and I won’t do anything to jeopardize that. You were the one that always said no strings. Our sexual relationship is over, but I hope we can still be friends.” Kris turned and walked away.

Tess just stood, looking small and forlorn.

divider

The concert was over and Tony, Kate and Kris had all crashed shortly thereafter. The RV was heading on to the next destination. Melissa was hoping to get Tess alone.

Melissa stated, not knowing quite what to say. “I wanted to tell you how sorry I was about your accident.”

“Thanks.”

“How are you doing?”

Tess looked pissed. “Fine. I might actually be able to start using my arm next month.”

Melissa felt something needed to be said. “Well that’s great. I don’t mean to pry, but I had a long talk with Rick, and he’s kind of in a bad way over you.”

Tess looked surprised. “Oh really?”

“Yeah, he could actually be in love with you, a first in his life.”

Tess looked down. “I was afraid of that.”

“Excuse me?”

“I like him a lot, but I don’t love him. We have a great relationship, we get together a couple of times a week on tour for some great sex, and that’s it. I keep telling him that I don’t want any strings. But somehow he’s gotten it in his head that he loves me.”

Melissa put her hair behind one ear. “I would think that, that idea might be a little flattering. No matter how unwanted.”

Tess sounded angry and self-absorbed. “I can’t have that kind of commitment in my life; Jesus, doesn’t he know that?! I guess that means next tour I’m going to have to make other arrangements. This is going to totally fuck everything up!”

“It might help to have a talk with him. Maybe if he understood your point of view…”

Tess interrupted her, and in a condescending tone replied, “I can see you don’t know him very well; he can be quite controlling when he wants to be…”

It was Melissa’s turn to interrupt, her tone a little icy. “…I do know that.”

“He’s great in the sack, but he’s very possessive otherwise. What’s your interest in all of this?”

Melissa replied sarcastically, “Trying to fill my new role as camp counselor.”

Tess looked less than pleased. “I think you may have taken on a larger than life role.”

Melissa couldn’t help herself; one pale brow arched and there was a slight edge to her tone, “Oh really?”

Tess gave her a wary look. “Yeah, I don’t think I’d be as quick to jump into this family.”

Backing off slightly, she said, “How long have you known Kris?”

Tess looked distracted. “Around three… no four years.”

“Then I guess you’ve seen it all?”

With a hint of superiority, she said, “Just about. I was very surprised at how quickly the relationship between the two of you took off.”

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

“My experience with Kris is that when it comes to anything that is not up on that stage, she is very careful, moves almost like a turtle. Errs on the side of caution whenever possible.”

Melissa was trolling hopefully now. ‘Finally we are getting to the topic at hand.’ “What else but the show would concern her during a tour?”

The two women sat and looked at each other for a moment. Territory being fought over, as each woman suspected the other might not be as clueless as was suspected.

Tess broke the silence. “Her family for one thing. It took her long enough to come out.”

‘Playing it cool,’ Melissa thought. “Well that was a big decision; I can see why she was cautious. Was there something else? You sounded like you knew of something in particular?” Melissa crossed her fingers as she cast out again.

Tess eyed her warily. “Well, it’s not common knowledge, but Kris and I had been seeing each other for a while.”

Melissa’s heart was pounding in her chest as the truth came out. She hoped her reply sounded calm. “I didn’t know you were bi-sexual?”

Tess sounded defensive. “This is kind of a personal conversation, don’t you think?”

Melissa tried not to look surprised. “No, since you’ve slept with my wife.”

Sighing, she replied, “Well since you’ve asked, I just kind of do whoever comes along that sounds interesting.”

Melissa looked pointedly at her. “Really! So you were ‘doing’ Kris until Rick sounded more interesting?”

Tess looked like she might be squirming a little. “Something like that.”

Melissa was trying to find just the right word. “How long were you and Kris… together?”

“Awhile; maybe you should ask her?” Tess was definitely uncomfortable. Melissa liked that.

Melissa smiled to herself. “Why? You’re here?”

“What do you want? To compare notes about what she’s like in bed? I thought she was great. Especially when I found out how few lovers she had had. I’ve had better, and I’ve had worse. What else do you want to know? The details…”

Melissa interrupted her. “…What are you angry about?”

“I don’t know. This is kind of a strange situation, don’t you think?”

Melissa conceded, “It’s different, that’s for sure. But is anything ever normal on tour?”

Tess tossed in the towel. “You’ve got a point there.” They laughed a little, breaking the tension. “Look, I’m not a threat to you. Kris has what she wants. It’s been over between us for a while anyway.”

Melissa suspected she was lying, but didn’t want to push too hard, until she had all the facts. “Thank-you for being honest with me.”

Melissa had talked with her, which meant that she was definitely still interested. It had bothered her that Melissa had been somewhat unwilling to kiss her. But that was probably because she knew Kris was coming home then, and didn’t want Kris to hurt Susan.

Melissa had been hesitant to tell her that she was married; that pleased Susan. She had been quite sad to hear her say that, but she would fix that soon enough.

She had recognized her but didn’t know who she was. Susan half expected to find out that she’d been fired, but Melissa would have talked her out of that.

This concert was going to be much harder to rig something up to get Kris and only Kris. But at least she could still keep her eye on them.

The feel of Melissa in her arms still lingered, as well as her taste on Susan’s tongue. She had been consumed with that since she had leftMalibu that day. Every night she dreamed about her and Melissa making love. About Melissa being hers, and the two of them being alone.

She had wanted to take Kris out right there, but it didn’t feel like the right time. She was too injured; it would have been an easy victory, and Melissa might not have come to her as readily.

After seeing Melissa here at the concert, she was going to have to be careful to keep her identity a secret for just a little longer.

divider

Neither Melissa nor Tess had said anything to Kris about the talk that they had. Melissa was waiting for the tour routine to get established, so that Kris’ mind would be better able to focus on what she was saying.

They had arrived at their second destination. Kris felt really good, rejuvenated. The problems from the last tour seemed a million miles away. It felt really good to have Melissa accompany her. Kris felt Melissa was getting a real kick out of meeting everyone.

The pounding in her head was a constant reminder of her injuries. Today it was only background noise, which was good.

All the busses and RV’s were parked in a central area, almost like a campground. Most of the performers traveled from gig to gig in a big convoy, adding to the camaraderie of the whole thing.

Kris and Tess were walking from the RV area back over to the stage area after Tomboy had finished playing. The night air was cool and refreshing, and as they walked on the dry gravel parking lot, they could hear the music echoing over from the stage. No moon tonight, only a thousand stars glowed like diamonds in the fabric of the sky. Kris saw a glint of something out of the corner of her eye. As she turned her head in that direction, a dark figure lunged at her, knocking her back into an RV. As she struggled to get her feet underneath her and keep her balance, she felt cold rigid metal slide across her stomach. The cool evening air touched her skin, raising goosebumps, as the sting of pain began to register. Her back was pressed up against an RV as she fought to catch the hand holding the knife. The hot rancid breath of her assailant was being breathed in her face, their faces just inches apart. The attacker wore a dark ski mask that obscured all but the eyes. For a moment Kris was staring into the angry eyes before she brought her knee up, catching the aggressor off guard. Kris was able to get a firm grip on the hand wielding the knife. Tess came up behind the dark figure and delivered a powerful punch to the kidney, causing her target to call out in pain and surprise. Stumbling back a few feet, a soft and deadly “whoosh” sound was heard as the attacker swung out with the knife at Tess. She could feel the wind move by her face as it went by. It was Kris’ turn to swing out with her cast. She caught the assailant in the upper body and knocked it backward.

“Fucking bitch!” the attacker hissed, brandishing the knife above his head. The voice, along with the build, was neither male nor female. Kris stood with her back against the RV, breathing heavily; she was covered in sweat as she tried to guess the assailant’s next move.

“Help!! Help! Call the police!” Tess shouted. The attacker looked around nervously as Kris noticed that there was no one milling about. Usually you couldn’t walk ten feet around the concert and not run into someone. She began to think that maybe it was time for the finale. It would look odd if she weren’t on stage; someone would come looking for them.

The assailant brought the knife back over his shoulder as if he was going to stab Kris. She did the only thing she could think of. She raised her cast-encased arm up over her chest as the knife crashed down into it. It made a cracking sound as Tess Karate kicked the figure in the side and he shambled off into the night.

Tess, looking shaken, asked, “Kris, are you alright?”

Kris was rubbing her left hand. “Yeah, wow that was close.”

“Man, he could have killed us!”

Kris asked, moving away from the RV, “Where did you learn to do that kick thing?”

“Oh, I took a self defense class a while back. We should get up to the stage,” Tess replied.

Standing outside the backstage entrance was Tony. “Hey, where have you two been? The finale is coming up,” Tony asked. Her expression changed to horror as she looked at Kris. “Oh man! What happened to you?”

Kris looked down and saw that her shirt had been sliced open from about the middle of her left side to her right across her stomach, and that there was blood everywhere.

“Get a doctor!” Tess yelled.

Kris grabbed Tess’s arm, and in a very calm voice said, “Keep your voice down. I don’t need to panic Melissa or any of the others. Now go get Rita, and stay calm.”

Tess nodded in understanding and ran off backstage.

Kris ordered, “Tony, find me a coat, and let’s keep this quiet.”

Rita announced, as she examined Kris’ wound, “It’s really just a big scratch.”

Tony held out the black jeans jacket to Kris. “Here’s the coat.”

“The finale is starting!” Tess was very excited, as the women took the stage. After the finale, Rita ushered everyone back to the RV.

Kate sat down on one of the benches in the main area of the RV. “What’s up?”

“What’s going on?” Melissa looked suspiciously from Rita to Kris, and then back again. Reluctantly, Kris opened up the jacket, as Melissa gasped and put a hand to her mouth.

“It’s only a minor wound.” Rita arrived with the first aid kit as she had Kris pull off what was left of her shirt.

“What happened?” Melissa asked. She sat down next to Tony on a bench across from Kate.

“Someone attacked Kris in the parking lot on our way back to the stage,” Tess replied.

Melissa was almost shouting, “Rita, where the hell were you?!”

Rita’s voice was almost a whisper, her back to the agitated woman as she doctored her employer. “I’m sorry; I was on stage looking after Tony, Kate and yourself.”

Kris tried to defend Rita. “Don’t get mad at Rita. We didn’t tell her we were leaving.”

Melissa was up on her feet, pacing. “What was so fucking important that you had to leave? The anger was apparent in her body movements as well as on her face. “I swear, you’re acting like some kids! Do you think this is a game?!”

“Sarah had asked to borrow a camera.” Dropping her head and feeling chastised, “I’ll be more careful. I figured that since it was Tess and I, we were safe,” Kris explained.

Melissa stopped pacing and pointed an accusing finger at her wife. “You’re right you’ll be more careful.” Turning her anger to the bodyguard, she ordered, “Rita, I don’t want you to leave her side!”

Kris sat back, feeling tired and not really wanting to have this conversation. “Don’t you think you’re being overly cautious?”

Melissa had continued her pacing. “Not at all. Rita, tell them what you were telling me before we left Portland.”

Rita relayed her concerns about the ‘accidents’ during the other tour.

Kate had slunk off to the front of the bus to stay out of this quarrel.

Tess asked, her brows raised in surprise, “You think someone has it in for Kris?” Tess asked.

“Either that, or she has a curse on her,” Rita replied, as she finished up her first aid task.

Kris ran her hand through her hair, looking tired. “I wish you hadn’t told me all this. I don’t need to be looking over my shoulder while I’m out on stage.”

Melissa’s tone was tinged with anger. “I think it’s high time you heard this. Maybe you’ll be a little more careful!” Melissa put her arm across Kris’ shoulders as they headed off toward their bedroom. “You look really tired; let’s go to bed.”

“Is she always this dramatic?” Kate asked.

“I think it’s very touching. I wish I had someone that was that concerned about my welfare.” Tony watched the couple walk away.

Melissa was breathing deeply, her head pillowed on Kris’ shoulder. Kris’ left arm was throbbing; she was pretty sure that the bones had been disturbed in the attack. The rest of her body was also complaining about the activities that she had been involved in earlier.

Although Kris was very tired, she couldn’t sleep. She was incredibly wound up after all the stuff that Rita had been talking about. ‘Christ, when is it going to end?’ Kris carefully got out of bed, opened the drawer under her berth, and being very quiet, began to rummage through her duffle that was sitting in the tiny space. She pulled the plastic bottle of pills out and quietly closed the drawer. She held the bottle in her hand, studying it. She reached down and pulled on her jockey shorts, the grayHenley off the floor, and stepped out into the main area of the RV. “Oh, I thought everyone was asleep.”

Rita smiled as she stifled a yawn. “Yeah, well I thought I’d better be a little better at my job.”

Kris clapped her on the shoulder as she pulled a carton of chocolate milk from the fridge; she proceeded to drink from the carton. “Don’t be too hard on yourself; I am very glad you were watching over Lissa.”

Rita watched Kris drink the milk, smiling faintly. “Melissa was right, I let my guard down.”

Kris put the carton back. “Let it go. Tony go to bed?”

“Ah no, she and Kate are over at Amy’s trailer, something about poker.”

Kris smiled as she headed toward the door, sliding the pill bottle under the elastic waistband of her boxers. “Cool, I think I’ll just take a little trip over there and check out the action.”

Rita got up and followed.

Kris looked puzzled. “Where are you going?”

“Everywhere you go, remember?”

Kris’ brows were knit. “That will leave Lissa here all by herself.” Kris’ face brightened. “Will you come right back here after you walk me over to Amy’s trailer?”

Rita began to protest, “Kris, I don’t think that’s a very good idea. Melissa will have my hide if she finds out…”

Kris interrupted her, “…I don’t want Lissa here alone. I promise I won’t go anywhere by myself, and the girls can walk me back when we’re through.”

Rita didn’t like the sound of this, but it did make a kind of crazy logic. “Alright, but if you get hurt, I’m going to kick your ass!”

Many hours later, the girls returned nosily to the RV. Rita was sitting at the table reading, a cup of almost cold coffee in front of her. “Keep it down, people are sleeping.”

Kate made an exaggerated movement of her fingers in front of her lips as she loudly said, “Shhhhh!”

Tony chuckled and clapped the woman on the back. “I think you’d better go hit the hay…”

Kris interrupted, “…Before you fall down and it slaps you in the face.”

Kate made a dismissive gesture as she stumbled off to her berth.

Tony sat down next to Rita. “I thought she was going to drink Amy dry! Does she have a hollow leg or something?”

Kris sat down across from them, her pill bottle falling noisily to the ground. Trying not to call any more attention to it, she scooped it up. “I don’t know. I thought she was going to drink Amy under the table though.”

Tony looked very seriously at her; reaching across the table, she tapped the hand concealing the pill bottle. “I thought you were going to kick this?”

Kris gave a quick smile. “Yeah, I thought so too; so far  it hasn’t worked out that way.”

Tony sounded very disapproving, ”Jesus, Kris, this has been going on since high school – you’re always telling me you’re going to beat it.”

Rita looked at Kris anew. “What are you hooked on?”

Kris made eye contact with her bodyguard. “Please don’t take this the wrong way, but this is really none of your business.”

Rita tried again, “I don’t approve of this kind of thing.”

“Neither do I.” Kris smiled, then with a serious face said, “It’s a nasty habit of mine, and I wish like hell I could break it.” She gave a tight smile.

“Then do it.” Melissa’s disapproving voice came from behind them.

Kris’ face paled, and she looked like a kid caught in the cookie jar. Turning around, she smiled. Her voice slightly slurred, she said, “I thought you were asleep.”

Melissa stood with her hands crossed over her chest, wearing a long sleeve dress shirt, obviously many sizes too large for her, leaning against the doorframe, looking very unhappy. “I thought you were sleeping as well.”

Kris’ voice was light. “No, actually I’m a little wound up, so Tony and Kate and I were playing poker with Amy and some of the others…”

“I see; so now you need something to calm you down?” Melissa interrupted, gesturing toward the pill bottle.

Kris suddenly looked five years older. “I thought that the poker would wear me out but… I need to sleep.”

Tony and Rita quietly looked anywhere but at the two women or themselves as they tried to melt into the floor.

Melissa crossed the room and draped her arms over Kris’ shoulders and rested her forehead against Kris’. “Darlin’ let me help you.”

“That’s very nice of you, but tonight it won’t work.”

Melissa began to kiss her face with little kisses. “Kris, I don’t want you to take this stuff.”

Looking very regretful, Kris said, “I don’t want to either, but my body needs sleep, and tonight this is the only way I’m going to get it.”

Realizing there was so much about this woman that she didn’t know, she asked, “Isn’t there any other way to do that?”

“I haven’t found one yet.”

Melissa took Kris’ hand and led her over to a couch, where they sat down. “Tell me what happens when you take that stuff.”

“It knocks me out for a few hours, and I can’t hear the nightmare.”

Melissa caressed Kris’ jaw. “Have you tried physical exertion?”

Kris gave a sly mischievous smile. “Yes.” Then she sobered, and added, “and being without sleep for four days straight, and hypnosis… nothing helps.”

Continued in part 7

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