Disclaimer : Characters and situations are all from my imagination.
Warnings : Sex and love between women
Feedback : Constructive criticism and feedback, both welcomed at firstname.lastname@example.org
Author's Note : You should read my novel On the Air before you read this. But if you don't, you probably won't be terribly lost or confused. This focuses on a new character.
Copyright © 2011 Geonn Cannon
I'm not a stalker. I don't want to break into her house and smell her pillow, nothing odd like that. My adoration isn't any different than someone who reads Us Weekly or whatever rag is on the newsstands now so they can follow Angelina Jolie or Olivia Wilde. The difference is that the celebrity I have a crush on lives on the same island I do. I looked it up in the phone book and she actually lives about five blocks away from my apartment.
I didn't even know about Nadine Butler when I moved here. I was fresh out of high school. All of the money I'd earned from waitressing after school and on weekend went toward a first and last month's rent. I had enough for some food, but I stocked up on Ramen and then went on a job search. People always look horrified when I tell them I'm a night shift janitor at the animal shelter. My coworkers are sleepy puppies and playful kittens, and they only eat my lunch if I feed a little of it to them. What are your coworkers like?
I leave the shelter at four in the morning and walk home. That was why I came to this island. It's like they got together and agreed they wouldn't move too far into the current century. They would take the good things - television, the internet, medicine - and then stop. A twenty-one year old woman could walk seven blocks in the pre-dawn hours without clutching Mace in a white-knuckle grip.
Still, most nights the deputy drove past and flashed his lights at me. The first time he realized I was out he offered me a ride home. I refused, but he made a point of letting me know he was nearby whenever I was on my way home. I appreciated the extra security. Just because the residents of the island agreed it was a safe place didn't mean the tourists all agreed.
Most nights I had a quick dinner-slash-breakfast, showered, and crawled into bed at about five. I would sleep like the dead until my alarm went off at eleven. I had a little battered clock radio set to KELF, so more often than not I woke up to the sound of Nadine Butler wishing me a good morning. I kept my cheek against the pillow, lying on my stomach with my legs splayed out under the blankets as the radio came on mid-song.
Aerosmith stomped their way through Rag Doll . When the song faded to a stop, Nadine started speaking. "Good morning, everybody. I wanted to start the day with something soft and pretty, but some days just demand a screaming beat, you know? Hopefully that got you guys all ready to grab the day by its coattails and just hang on. I know some of you are in the middle of your day, some of you are on your way home, and some of you may just be starting out. But whatever you're doing, I want to thank you for doing it with me. I'm Nadine Butler, this is KELF, and I'll be right back after these message with some Roy Orbison, some David Bowie and, as always, your requests. Stick with me."
I came to the island right before Nadine's celebrity really exploded. It was when I was still working at the gas station while I waited for something more permanent to come along. I rang up a bottle of water for a woman who shook her head and pointed out at her car. "Have you been hearing this? On the radio? It's crazy."
I never found out what the woman thought was crazy. That Nadine was standing up for herself, or that she had been forced to do it this way? Before long I realized that pretty much everyone on the island was listening to the show that day. The street in front of the radio station was pretty much blocked off thanks to the cops and the protestors. I took my break in the store room and listened to Nadine on a little portable radio.
Twice, I dialed the number she gave and twice I hung up before it went through. I figured the line was busy, and I figured no one would care if I came out. Plus I was terrified. How could I come out to someone I didn't even know when I hadn't even told my own sister? So I listened, and I hoped for the best.
My shift ended, and I went down to the station. I stayed well away from the whole mess, the protestors and the cops, and I just looked at the building. In there, Nadine Butler was fighting the good fight. I wanted to at least offer my presence as support to her. I don't know. Maybe it was a silly thing, but I stayed for about half an hour. No one asked me to move and no one seemed to notice I was there.
I finally went home. I discovered then that real life doesn't wrap up as nicely as TV and movies. Nadine ended her show and then that was it. I tried calling the station, but the secretary was very apologetic when she told me that she couldn't comment on it. She offered to tell Nadine about my call, to let her know I supported her, and I figured it was the least I could do for her.
Finally, a decision was reached and Nadine was allowed to come back to her show. The people who had protested seemed to disappear. Every radio seemed to be tuned to KELF that day, and everyone who came into the gas station seemed to have a smile on their face. The island was a great place to be.
After that, the floodgates seemed to open. Being a lesbian on Squire's Isle was suddenly no big deal. The deputy mayor, Patricia Hood-Colby, was not only openly gay, she was married to an elementary school teacher. The fact that students weren't yanked from the classroom was a sign of how big Nadine's victory had really been.
I realized I had fallen back to sleep when Nadine started speaking again. "We're going to do our Tourist of the Day soon, so keep your ears open for that. Today's prize will be an amazing dinner for two at the new Italian restaurant Di Mare . M and I ate there the other night, and let me assure you, this is quite a deal. You can take that special someone, or go alone and just have two meals. Trust me, the food is that good. Whoever wins can put that diet on hold for just one night."
I smiled with my eyes closed. M was her partner, her wife, whose name she tried very hard not to say on the air. Most people knew that it was Miranda Powell, the station manager, but using the initial was Nadine's subtle way of asking everyone to respect their privacy.
It was a few weeks before I even knew what Nadine looked like. The newspapers never ran a photo to go with their stories, at least not that I saw, and their website didn't have any pictures in their biography sections. The first time I saw her was at a Labor Day live broadcast. I went down to support her and maybe get one of those buttons I'd heard people talking about. I saw her at the broadcast booth and I couldn't help but smile.
She was adorable. Dark hair, big glasses, a smile that just wouldn't quit. She was wearing a hooded sweatshirt under a dark blazer. The booth was elevated, but she was constantly stretching across the desk to look down at the crowd who had gathered around the platform. She waved to people, handed out buttons and bumper stickers, and made conversation that I couldn't hear over the songs playing through the speakers mounted overhead.
I was willing to just see her, watch her for a little bit, and then move on. But when she spoke, her voice came over the speakers. Magnified louder than I'd ever heard it, and watching her while she spoke, kind of put a spell on me. I moved forward through the crowd as if she'd hypnotized me. When she finished speaking, she put on another song. I watched her work, transfixed, and then she turned and smiled at me.
"Hi." She moved her chair and leaned across the table toward me. "Can I play something for you?"
"You're so great." I closed my eyes and wished I was flexible enough to kick myself in the ass.
Nadine just laughed. "I don't think I know that one. Maybe Isn't She Lovely , if it's not too self-centered. What's your name?"
"Okay, Valerie. I'll get it on soon. Do you want a Pixie button?"
I tried to act nonchalant. "Yeah, sure." I held my hand out, and Nadine had to stretch to hand it to me. Her fingers brushed mine briefly.
I opened my eyes in bed and looked at the button. I had it pinned to the lapel of my coat, which was hanging off the back of my bedroom door. Sometimes I thought about that brush of fingers. Had she been married when we met? No, that was a couple of years after the event. But she was definitely with Miranda by then. It helped my peace of mind to know that I had absolutely no shot with her even though we'd met, spoken, touched. Still, Nadine was as gorgeous as she sounded. I rolled onto my back and listened to Stevie Nicks.
Sometimes lying in bed, I imagined what Nadine was doing in her booth. I'd seen her a lot of times since that first encounter, now that I knew what she looked like. The last few weeks at the gas station, I would often see her riding her bike across the parking lot or I would spot the bicycle chained up outside the grocery store. I knew that she varied between wearing nice clothes to work and letting herself relax a little.
Today, I pictured her wearing a nice blouse and some slacks. I imagined her shoes would be off, her feet crossed at the ankle under her chair. I put my hands on my stomach, the fingers overlapping the waistband of my sweatpants. I had this timed, shamefully. I kept my eyes closed and pictured Nadine not as I'd seen her that first day, but as I'd seen her since. She'd let her hair grow longer, and the bangs brushed over the top rims of her glasses.
I applied pressure with my fingertips. Just enough to start the ignition process while Marvin Gaye sang about hearing it through the grapevine. The first time I did this, I thought it was an invasion. I felt bad about using someone I'd actually met as a masturbatory fantasy. But then I realized it was innocent. I was never going to act on it. I was never going to set up camp outside of Nadine's house and beg her to love me. She was just someone I found attractive, who made me smile. What was wrong with that?
When the song began to fade out, I used one thumb to lift up my pajama waistband, slipping the other hand inside to start stroking myself. Nadine listed the artists and songs she had just played. "It's one of those days, listeners. One of those days when I wish I wasn't cooped up in this booth and I could be out there with you."
I whimpered. She really wasn't helping.
"The sun is shining so beautifully off the water. It's... you know when it's just rained and the sun comes out, but the air still feels kind of moist and soft? It's like magic, right? Like there's a bubble around everything, holding in all the good. You're safe and protected, warmed and cooled at the same time. That's what it looks like out there. I see people out in their sailboats through my window, and I'm jealous of them. Each and every one of you, I hope you're listening. And I hope you enjoy it enough for both of us."
I imagined Nadine unbuttoning her blouse as she spoke. I pressed my lips together and rubbed harder.
"We have a lot of great music coming up for you to relax to. First up will be Elton John singing Daniel . I don't know what it is about that song, but it always makes me think of being out on the water, on the sea. I hope you all enjoy it. I'm Nadine Butler, the Pixie, stay tuned."
In my fantasy, Nadine slipped off her headphones and put them down on the table. Her blouse was open and she dragged her hand down to trace the lacy edge of her bra. Her pants would come open, and she'd push a hand into them. I imagined her keeping her eyes open just enough to see the clock counting down when the song would end and how much time she had. I didn't have that luxury, but I tried to time it just right so that we would finish together.
I came quietly, the product of knowing just how thin my apartment walls were, and I closed my legs around my hand and crossed my ankles under the blankets.
I stared at the ceiling and then, in that dreamy and not-quite-awake bravery we all have, I scrambled for my cell phone. I dialed KELF's number, which I had memorized a long time ago, and held the phone to my ear before I could chicken out. I chewed my lip and wondered what I would say. Through the crack in my curtains, I could see the roof of the gas station where I'd worked when I first moved here.
Right before I chickened out, the buzzing of the dial tone stopped. "Hi, this is KELF and I'm the Pixie. What can I play for you?"
Nadine laughed. "Well, then we're kind of at an impasse unless you're a tourist looking to be Tourist of the Day."
"No. I've lived here for a couple of years. I actually moved here right before, uh... your troubles. I thought what you did was really brave. Braver than me, anyway. I couldn't even bring myself to call, but I wanted to."
"Well, thank you. I'm touched so many people were behind me that day. I thought it was the loneliest I would ever be. But it really brought this whole island closer to me. I didn't expect that. Thank you for calling. What's your name?"
"Valerie. I work nights, but I set my alarm for your show. I usually listen to you for a little bit before I go back to sleep." I rubbed my face. What the hell was I doing?
"Wow, that's so sweet. Thank you so much, Valerie. Listen, stay up for a little while longer, okay, and I'll get a song on for you. Who do you like?"
I said the first thing that came to mind. "Bowie. Space Oddity. "
"Oh, great choice. I can't get enough of him. Valerie, thank you for calling. I would have loved to hear from you back then, but it's always better late than never."
I couldn't stop myself from smiling. "Thanks, Nadine."
"My pleasure, Valerie. Keep listening!"
I hung up and rolled onto my side, smiling as I pressed my cheek into the pillow. As much as I wanted to stay up, I felt myself drifting as Simon and Garfunkel serenaded me. I was just about gone when Nadine's voice filled my head.
"Today's Tourist of the Day is a very special listener. She's not technically a tourist anymore, but she came to our fair shores and decided to stick around permanently. That makes her a super tourist. Her name is Valerie, and she's pretty sleepy. So we're going to hold her free dinner tickets until she came come pick them up. Valerie, this next song is for you. Thanks for listening all those years ago, and thanks for sticking with me. Sweet dreams, Val."
I smiled and fell into a deeper sleep, the sound of David Bowie's music following me as I drifted off with Nadine's voice in my head.
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