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It took Nadine a moment to realize why her alarm was going off on Saturday. She stared blankly at the small clock at the edge of her coffee table, blankets piled around her face and mind still locked on sleeping. She stared at the pre-noon time displayed in undeniable red numbers for an entire minute before she remembered her promise about the renaissance faire.
She covered her face and groaned into her cupped palms before kicking the blankets away. She sat up and silenced the tinny, bleating voice of the alarm clock. Her glasses were lying next to the clock, but she didn't bother picking them up. She just stared at the blurry wall until she completely woke up. She was naked from the waist down and felt completely used up.
After falling immediately to sleep, she had woken up a few hours later. The rest of the night was like that; asleep, waking up and staring at the wall, fall asleep, stare out the window as the sky turned violet and then red. She'd been exhausted, but apparently her mind was eager to turn over her relationship with Kate. Over and over. This weekend was supposed to have been a big step for them: going out, being together without sex entering the equation. She hadn't gotten a solution for her troubles, just the start of a migraine throbbing behind her left eye.
She finally stood up and shed her t-shirt as she stumbled to the bathroom. The shower was ice-cold, a common problem in the old apartment building. The neighbors used up most of the hot water before she was awake, so she more often than not found herself shivering herself awake. Not that she would complain; today the chill was exactly what she needed.
When she decided the shower was over, she dried off and wrapped the towel around herself to keep from shivering. She sidestepped the clutter in the bedroom and dug through all the casual work clothes for something vaguely appropriate to wear out in public. She hated these 'public display broadcasts.' How many other professions would ask someone to climb up on a wooden crate and perform their job for the masses?
She finally chose a tweed suit that was just a little bit baggy on her. She put on a rumpled gray dress shirt and a tie that she looped loosely around her neck for an appearance of formality without all the choking. She dressed quickly and led her bike out of the apartment building without looking up at Kate's apartment.
As she walked outside, she was struck by how pleasant it actually was. The sun appeared to be on a mission to disprove the 'end a drought by throwing an outdoor festival' rule. She left her bike leaning on the door frame and ran back into the apartment. She found a boonie hat a fan had sent her and put it on in the hopes it would offer a little protection from the heat.
Head protected, she climbed back onto her bike and checked her watch; she had a little over an hour to get to the park. She turned the bike in the opposite direction and instead rode into the heart of town.
She turned the corner and went past a row of restaurants she often advertised on her show. They were family-owned and operated; no Mickey D's or Wendy's on this island. People seated at the windows waved as she passed and, knowing the familiarity such a small town brought, she waved back and wondered how many knew she was on the radio.
Turning onto Front Street was like being transported to a completely new town. The stores were kitschy little tourist traps with stuffed orcas and paintings by local artists hanging in the window. The tourists rarely ventured past this strip mall area, the false front to the real-life town where people lived and worked. Already this morning the sidewalks were full with people who had arrived on the morning ferry and were awaiting the next one to take them home.
She paused before crossing the ferry lanes towards KELF. Instead of parking at the station, she angled her bike across the street. She stopped in front of the building directly across from her place of work and stared at it for a long moment. It was nothing special, just a small, one-story yellow brick building. The sign hanging in the front window said simply 'Photos' over a neon yellow camera.
Knowing she either had to go in or head to the park, she leaned her bike against the wall next to the door and stepped inside. The bell over her head jangled as she brought one hand to the loose knot of her tie.
The wood-paneled public area of the store was tiny; a low counter ran parallel to the front door and offered little in the way of a waiting area. Nadine stood next to the cash register and stared at the door that led to the photo-processing area. After a few seconds, the door opened and an older woman stepped out with an armful of photo packets.
"Just a second, dear," she said. "I'm..." She looked up and froze when she saw Nadine. "Oh."
Nadine smiled weakly. "Hi, Momma."
"Your father..." The woman looked nervously towards the front door.
"I know. He's never here on Saturdays. Why do you think I came now?"
"No, honey, he's down the street. He's buying..."
The front door opened behind Nadine and a gruff voice said, "Someone else in this town has a damn bike just like..." He looked up and mimicked his wife's reaction. "Nadine's."
Nadine stayed put. Whether it was a conscious choice or forced by the fact that her father was blocking the sole exit, she wasn't sure. Her father was a block of a man; arms thin but coiled with muscle, a brush of white hair capping his head. He looked at the world with his eyebrows knit together, his jaw caught in a perpetual clench. He frankly seemed willing to fight any and everyone who crossed his path.
Nadine fiddled with her tie under the force of his stare and finally glanced over her shoulder at her mother. Tamara Butler put down the photo packets she'd been holding and rounded the edge of the counter. She went to her husband and forced a smile. "Nadine just stopped by to say hello."
Nathaniel Thomas Butler started to put his hands into his pockets, looked down at the bag of donuts as if it had simply appeared there by magic, and settled for leaving both arms by his sides. "I thought I made it clear." This was said to his wife, rather than the woman standing right in front of him.
"Sorry, Daddy," Nadine said. "I just wanted to make sure Momma was..."
He shoved the bag of donuts to Tamara and said, "I'll be in the back." He looked towards the back of the room, apparently just to avoid looking at Nadine, and added, "Call me if a customer comes in." He stormed around the counter and through the door Tamara had exited.
When they were alone again, Tamara put the bag down and gripped Nadine's arm. "Oh, honey, I'm sorry."
"What do you know," she murmured. "Still hurts."
Tamara bit her lip and looked down at Nadine's hands. "What did you want to tell me?"
"I'm broadcasting from Squire Days today and tomorrow. I thought you might want to come by and say hello. Maybe."
"I'd love to." She rose onto her tiptoes to kiss Nadine's cheek; her mother was the only person Nadine, at five-foot-four, could tower over. "I'll be there if I can."
Nadine smiled and hugged her mother. When they parted, Nadine glanced towards the door and quietly said, "Do you think he'll ever stop hating me?"
"He doesn't hate you," Tamara said. She straightened Nadine's blazer and tsked. "I don't know why you have to dress like this all the time, Nadine. Honestly."
"It's fine," Nadine argued as she swept her mother's hands away. She smiled sadly and kissed the top of her head. "I have to go, Momma. I'll see you soon."
"Okay, honey. Be well." She tightened her grip on Nadine's hand before letting it drop..
Nadine took her bike by the handles and walked it to the corner, tears finally burning her eyes. She'd held on as long as she could and had thankfully managed to keep her calm in front of her mother. But now that she was alone... She wiped her eyes before she climbed onto her bike and pedaled towards the park.
Her father had officially banished her from Butler Photography when she broke the news to him. The hurt and pain in his face had been almost unbearable, like she was denying him along with everything he believed in. He couldn't comprehend her decision, that it was her life. But he'd been pig-headed and stubborn about it. "Fine!" he'd snapped as he tossed her booklet across the room. "Be a... disc jockey." He had imbued such venom into the job title that she might as well have told him she was becoming a prostitute.
He'd never forgiven her. She was his only child, the sole heir to Butler Photography. If the business was to live past him and his wife, she would have had to take over. Without her taking her rightful place as his successor, it would either close down and be forgotten or have to be handed over to a stranger. Neither idea appealed to him.
During her school years, he'd actively campaigned to have her return to the flock. Drop out, come home, and learn the ropes of photography and film developing while she was still young. When she graduated, he made one last ditch effort to convert her. She was implacable and he'd literally turned his back on her. Since then, he hadn't spoken a word directly to her.
The fact that KELF and Butler Photography faced each other across a road wasn't mere coincidence or fate being cruel. When Nadine was a little girl, she had gone straight from school to her parents' shop. She had been the dutiful daughter, giving people their Treasured Memories photo albums and learning how to count by giving them their change. She had been happy and her father had beamed with pride every time she said, "Thanks for trusting us with your memories" to the departing customers.
That all began to change when she realized the wonders that lay across the street. She owed her career, her entire adult life, to a package delivered to the wrong address. The mailman had left it outside the front door of Butler Photography, but it was addressed to KELF Radio.
It had been hours since their last customer, so eight-year-old Nadine had tucked it under her arm, told her parents she'd be right back and walked confidently across the street. And she had never turned back, not really, since that day.
KELF was magic. The radio people lived there! She started sneaking over whenever she could. The DJs and the station manager grew to know her and anticipate her arrivals. They let her into the booth, showed her the marvelous things that let them speak to *everyone* on the island. What eight-year-old wouldn't have been entranced?
As far as she was concerned, KELF was the be-all and end-all. Working in radio was like being God; a voice coming to people all over, in all moods. She could brighten their day just by being there. She could play music and make people dance. As soon as she knew what the word meant, she wanted to be a disc jockey.
It had cost her a father.
She wiped the tears from her eyes as she pedaled through the familiar streets of her home town. The worst part of it was that she would never come out to him. Her job choice had demoted her to a non-entity in his eyes. The fact that his little girl would never give him grandchildren? That she was a 'heathen'? She couldn't bear to think about how he would treat her in that case.
The faire preparations she'd seen the day before hadn't prepared her for the sheer extravagance of the final product. Even from a block away she could hear the sound of bagpipes. As she grew nearer, the music was joined by the bustle of the crowd and the sounds of several people singing. Her headache throbbed as if to say, 'Oh, I will love it here' and she groaned.
She secured her bike to a tree and joined the sea of people heading in through the front gates. When asked for a ticket, she showed her KELF Employee ID card and the ticket-taker waved her through. Most of the people she saw were in full costume, a handful of them were wearing regular clothes and there seemed to be a few people who had gone at least half-way with their outfits. A man wearing ratty slacks and a loose thermal shirt looked at least forty-percent authentic.
Vendors shouted for her to try their mead - "Best in the land," they proclaimed. A jester stepped into her path and thrilled her with his golf ball juggling. He smiled sheepishly and said, "If I try with bigger, they bounce off my head. I figure I'm better to be laughed at than dead."
Nadine laughed and applauded his rhyme. Before she could even wonder if he wanted a tip, he'd moved onto the next unwary pedestrian. She paused to watch a belly dancer enthralling the crowd from a small stage, applauded when she finished and continued on her way.
She found the booth easily enough; it was at the end of the midway, slightly elevated off the ground to give her a nice view of the entire park. Two towers on either side of the booth held speakers that were playing the station. A banner draped between the speakers stands announced "KELF RADIO, AM 1220, Broadcasting Live!!" Nadine briefly wondered how they'd gotten the faire-runners to allow this blatant anachronism, but it wasn't her place to wonder why. It was her place to climb up there and play music while the masses walked beneath her feet.
"Great," she murmured. "I get to play the great and powerful Oz... Pay no attention to the woman behind the microphone..."
She climbed the short staircase on the back of the platform and took her seat. The mobile radio station set-up was vaguely familiar to her, but she took a moment to reacquaint herself with the slightly different controls. As she was examining the dials, a hand fell on her shoulder and startled her. She turned and looked up into Miranda's steel blue eyes.
It took her a moment to recognize the woman she'd worked with for five years. Miranda's normally straight blonde hair had been transformed into a ringed veil, drooping down into her eyes from either side. She was wearing a flowing blue dress with a woven brown bodice. Her breasts were far more impressive than her business suits implied and Nadine found herself staring. Fortunately she caught herself before Miranda could notice.
"Everything normal?" Miranda asked, her eyes focused on the control panel.
*Define normal,* Nadine wanted to say. Instead she just nodded and said, "Looks like it."
Miranda nodded and knelt down, inadvertently letting the bodice of her dress fall open. Nadine swallowed and focused on her hand, which was resting on a stack of rectangular blue stickers in a cubby hole under the desk. "Bumper stickers are here, the buttons..." She opened a drawer and revealed boxes of KELF AM buttons. "Hand them out at your discretion. We've got about eight million of the things. We've got about fifteen t-shirts you can give away in contests if you'd like. I think that's it..."
Her hand squeezed Nadine's shoulder as she stood and Nadine was very aware of Miranda's breasts hovering inches away from her face.
"Thank you again for doing this for us, Nadine."
"Just remember," Nadine said with a raised finger. "Time and a half. Raise."
"Yes, ma'am," Miranda said. She started for the stairs and said over her shoulder, "I like your suit."
"I like your breasts," Nadine said before she could stop herself. Her face turned beet red and she turned around to see if Miranda had heard her.
Miranda had stopped on the top step and was looking down, her hands smoothing down the front of her dress. "Thank you. I bought it at a thrift store on the mainland. You really like it?" She looked up and said, "My dress?"
Nadine nodded, eternally grateful for the out. "Yeah. I-it's gorgeous." *Full, firm, supple,* her mind added. *Oh, shut up,* she told it.
Miranda smiled her thanks and went down the steps. Alone again, Nadine turned and covered her face with both hands. "Wonderful, Butler," she growled at herself. "It's not like you have to *speak* for a living or anything like that." She sighed and leaned back in her chair as she waited for the DJ at the station to send it over to her.
She bided her time people-watching as the Looking Glass sang about Brandy over her head. She idly wondered why the band hadn't rewritten the song about 'Alice,' gone for the whole literary reference, but she figured they knew what they were doing.
The juggler she'd seen earlier passed by, still tossing golf balls over his head but having added two or three to the rotation. He was bent almost backwards keeping track of them, but his hands were a blur. He glanced at her and she smiled, applauded. He tilted his head in what she took to be a bow and walked on.
A few people saw her and stopped to ask for autographs. She signed bumper stickers and buttons, told them to keep listening for the t-shirt contests and wished them a good day at the fair. As she was sending away the last of her admirers, she heard Ben, the weekend DJ, come back on the air. "That was Brandy by the Looking Glass and that will do it for me here in the studio. I'm going to send it out to Nadine Butler at Squire Days right now. Nadine, you there?"
She leaned forward to the mic. "I'm here, Benny. You oughta come out and see some of the stuff going on. We've got mead, we've got rhyming jugglers, we've got saucy wenches..."
"Sounds like my kind of place!"
"I'm telling ya! It's a smorgasbord of ladies and beer. You should've gotten this gig for yourself! But Ben and Hoagie lucked out and so did you, listeners, because I am going to be here from now until four this afternoon, keeping you company and keeping these lovely people entertained. Speaking of the lovely people, come on up and say hi! I'd be happy to play a song for you and I've got bumper stickers and buttons to give away.
"Right now, we're going to start things off right with Mr. Simon, Mr. Garfunkel and a little parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme."
She started *Scarborough Faire* and set up the next two songs on her play list. They weren't particularly medieval, but beggars couldn't be choosers. She still had the Moody Blues song, but she was saving it for later. Best not to blow all her tricks in the first few minutes. More people were congregating in front of the booth. She felt a bit like a judge as she rolled her chair to one side and peered down at them. "Hi! How are y'all?"
"Hey!" one guy said. "You really *are* the Pixie!"
She laughed and said, "I sure am. You guys got anything you want to hear?"
They gave her a handful of requests, which she scribbled down as best she could. "Okay, I'm definitely going to get those on for you!" She opened the drawer and grabbed a handful of buttons. "Anyone want a button?" She tossed them down and people snatched them from the air. "Keep listening to KELF!"
Miranda left the booth and stood in line for a turkey leg. As she waited, she looked down at her dress and noticed, for the seventieth time, how low-cut it was. It had been much more modest in the store. She was so anxious about how much it revealed, she was sure Nadine had said she liked her breasts. *Wishful thinking, much?* she chided herself.
The person in front of her walked off and she stepped forward. "A turkey leg, please...?" She withdrew a leather wallet from the folds of her dress and fished out two dollar bills.
"Dollar-fifty," the girl behind the counter said, "Your dress is really... like, really hot."
Miranda looked up and into the girl's eyes. "Really? You like it?"
The girl nodded, looked pointedly at Miranda's cleavage and said, "Yeah. I really, really do." She handed over the leg, a greasy napkin wrapped around the bone end. Miranda took it and held out the money to the girl. Their fingers brushed over the image of George Washington and the girl smiled. "I, uh... I'm just here for the weekend. Working for my uncle. I go to college on the mainland."
Translation: I'm over 18, if you're interested.
"Really," Miranda said.
"Really," the girl nodded.
As the crowd of autograph-seekers dispersed, Nadine rolled her chair back to her controls and looked out over the crowd again. She wasn't searching for anything in particular, but she spotted Kate deep in the crowd. She was wearing a white blouse and slacks, her black hair loosely gathered underneath a brown newsboy cap. She was looking off to her left, hand up and her fingers lightly scratching her cheek. Someone stepped up next to her and she laughed, looped an arm around the newcomer's neck and started walking down the grassy midway.
The woman with her was a brunette in a t-shirt and jeans. She didn't lean into Kate's arm, but she wasn't exactly trying to escape, either. The mystery woman lifted an arm and pointed towards the booth and Kate nodded. They made their way over and Kate waved when she saw Nadine looking at her.
When they were close enough, Kate called out, "Hey, Dean!" in a Jerry Lewis drawl. The mystery woman laughed and Nadine instantly hated her.
Still, no need to be ugly about it. She forced a smile, waved her hand and said, "Hey, Kate," as casually as possible. "Who is your friend?"
Kate gestured at the woman she was currently embracing. "This is Amy Wellis." Amy lifted her hand and waggled her fingers. "She runs Coffee Table Books. You know, that place downtown..."
"I know it," Nadine said. "So, ah... w-what are you guys up to today?"
"Just hanging out," Kate said. "Amy's been after me to join her baseball team. The Squire's Knights? Anyway, she's been pestering me for weeks to play in this afternoon's game but, up until two days ago, I had plans. When I found out you had to work, I called her up."
"How do you know each other?"
"Kate interviewed me for this 'local celebrity' column she was doing," Amy said.
Nadine felt her hackles rise. It was the same subject Kate had been working on when they'd gotten together. She fought to keep herself calm as Kate spoke again.
"Amy wanted to meet you and maybe get one of those KELF buttons...?"
Nadine opened the drawer and pulled out a blue and white button. KELF 1220 scrolled across the curve of the button, surrounding "I listen to the Pixie!" in cursive writing. Nadine wanted to add 'And I sleep around with her girlfriend' before she tossed it down. She refrained and rose from her seat to drop it into Amy's hand. "Thanks!" Amy said.
Kate watched as Amy fastened the button to her t-shirt - *Eyes off her chest, Price,* Nadine seethed - and then smiled up at Nadine. "Thanks, babe. The game starts at around noon, so maybe I'll see you after?"
"Yeah, maybe," Nadine said. She glanced at the display and saw the batch of songs she'd set to play was about to end. She gestured at the mic. "I have to..."
"Yeah, duty calls," Kate said. "Bye-bye!"
"Thanks for the button!" Amy called.
Nadine watched them walk off and switched her mic on. "That was *Black Water* by the Doobie Brothers. Coming up, we've got David Bowie, Billy Joel and... a-and Paul Simon is up next." She went to commercial and searched the CDs for a certain song. She found it on a disc near the bottom of the stack.
*50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.* She kind of doubted it was to that point with her and Kate, but... it would certainly help her mood. "Just duck through the gate, Kate," she muttered as she slipped the disc in. She set it to play after the commercial break and watched her girlfriend walk away, arm-in-arm with another woman.
"Thanks for coming back," Nadine said. "In that last set, you heard Neil Sedaka's *Breaking Up Is Hard to Do,* The Bay City Rollers with *Bye, Bye, Baby* and *Farewell* by Rod Stewart. And no, you don't win a prize if you call in with the hidden theme in today's show." She managed a smile at the number of people who had called in about the break-up theme and actually found herself a little cheerful about running an actual contest.
"But there *is* time for a contest right now. Who, of the following four, are not mentioned in the Joey Levine song *Life is a Rock (But the Radio Rolled Me)*? Remember, we're looking for the one who is NOT mentioned... The Rolling Stones. Jack the Ripper. Elvis Presley or John Denver. Be the first caller with the right answer, you could win a very snazzy KELF AM t-shirt. You can even get it autographed by me if you want. Let me hear ya. Right now, we've got *I Wish It Would Rain* by the Temptations."
She heard footsteps on the stairs leading up to her platform and she turned to shoo away yet another teenager trying to be king of the hill. This time, however, it was Miranda Powell. She swayed a little and put her hand on the back of Nadine's chair to steady herself before she fell. "Hey," she said. Nadine detected a whiff of mead on her breath. "Good show?"
"Decent. Gave away a couple of t-shirts, about to give away one more if I get a winner."
"Good. I heard the trivia question. Is it John Denver?"
"No," Nadine said.
"Darn," Miranda said. She smiled and winked before moving her hand to Nadine's shoulder. She bent down to whisper in her ear in a conspiratorial whisper. "Maybe you could lay off the break-up songs for a while? It's kind of supposed to be a fun time."
"Yeah, okay," Nadine said. She smiled and realized just how drunk Miranda was. *She's leaning down,* her mind informed her. *Remember not to look at her breasts.* Nadine's eyes dipped down to Miranda's cleavage. *Idiot,* she chided herself.
Miranda followed Nadine's eyes and clapped a hand over her chest. "Oh, jeez. Giving everyone a free show, aren't I?" She stood up - to Nadine's pleasure and consternation - and smoothed the bodice of her dress. She looked out over the crowd and said, "I'm heading home. Just wanted to stop by real quick before I left."
"You're not driving, are you?" Nadine asked.
"No," Miranda chuckled. "I found someone to give me a ride. You're sweet for worrying, though." She bent down and kissed the top of Nadine's head. "See you on Monday, Dean."
"Yeah, see you." She felt redness rising in her cheeks, the spot Miranda had kissed tingling slightly. She waved a hand in front of her face, watched Miranda leave and then turned back to her console. "1220 KELF, you're on with Nadine Butler. You got an answer for our trivia question?"
Miranda found the girl from the turkey stand in the parking lot and said, "Thanks for giving me a ride. I think I had a bit too much." She wrapped her arms around the girl and squeezed her ass through the patchwork trousers she was wearing.
"How drunk are you, milady?" the girl - at least half Miranda's age - asked.
"Drunk enough," Miranda said. "Come on. I'll give you directions to my place."
At 2:30, the sun that had been relentlessly beating her had finally disappeared behind a cloud and Nadine, for one, was grateful. The headache she'd been nursing all day had returned with a vengeance when she saw Kate with Amy. She wasn't sure what the main part of the headache was from; her sleepless night, the heat, her encounter with her father... but she assumed the most insistent throbbing was from seeing Amy and Kate together. Her mind refused to stop manufacturing scenarios where the two of them ended up in bed.
If the team lost, would they drown their sorrows in beer? If the team won, would they get caught up in the moment and share a celebratory kiss?
She finally gave up thinking about it and gave away the rest of the t-shirts with insanely easy trivia - "Which member of the Beatles married Yoko Ono?" and the like - and handed out every button in the drawer. The bumper sticker pile had started to dwindle so she had sought out a new supply. She found a stack of what had to be twelve thousand stuffed in another drawer and had yet to make a sizable dent in that stack.
At three, she transferred the feed to Willa Lamb, back at the station, to read the news off the wire. As Willa read the news, Nadine watched the people wandering back and forth in front of her booth. A few of them reached up to shake her hand or paused to say hello. She signed a lot of the bumper stickers - she refused to call them autographs; famous people gave autographs - and wished them all a good afternoon.
When four o'clock finally rolled around, she wished everyone a happy faire and began packing up. She wasn't sure who would break down and put away the booth, but she knew it wasn't her job. She put the CDs and tapes into the safe and made sure it locked tight before she climbed down.
She paused to get something that proclaimed to be a turkey leg but looked like it had been taken from some prehistoric beast. She hadn't had a chance to eat all day and was finally starting to feel the pangs. She wandered through the faire, pausing to examine some of the costumes of people she passed. After a while, she realized what she was doing; she didn't want to go home and wait for Kate to stumble in. Most likely with Amy in tow. God, she didn't want to face that.
But she had no choice. Might as well go home and face the music, get it over with. She dumped the remainder of her monster turkey leg into a trash bin and headed to find her bike.
To Be Continued in Chapter Four
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