© December 1999
No part of this text may be reproduced in whole, or in part, without expressed consent of the author
Disclaimers: Technically, these swinging chicks belong only to me, but…they may resemble a couple of cool ladies that belong to RenPics. This is not for profit just a little fun and what a bad case of writers' block, a boring job, and a jolt of inspiration can inspire.
Violence: There's a couple of moments of swift ass-kicking. On a scale of 1 to 5, I'd give it: 3 or maybe 4 buckets of blood.
Sex: Where? When? How much? And how come nobody told me? Nothing too bad, just some sweet grrl on grrl fumbling. If that gets your panties all in bunch then look elsewhere, no harm no foul.
Language: I didn't think virgin ears was still a concept, so naturally, I ignored it.
Other crap: 'Charm City' is my home when I'm not at school, so it inspired me. I've taken a few liberties with the landscape, but in an off hand sort of way, it's right. Uh, I'm supposed to warn about hurt/comfort…so I'm warning.
By the ways and thank yous: Yes, this is my first jaunt into the genre of UBER!!! By the way the Serenity prayer isn't mine. I'd like to say that I came up with all those wonderful lyrics but actually they belong to: Gershwin (The Man I Love); Young, Crosby, Washington (Ghost of a Chance); Webster/Livingston (12th of Never); Ellington, Gordon,Mills (Prelude to a Kiss); Strayhorn(Lush Life); (Angel eyes). I don't really have anyone to directly thank, but special big-ups go to all those kick ass writers (T. Novan, Missy Good, Morrig, LN James, yada yada, the list goes on) who have kept me up way past my bedtime and have made all my last minute paper writing sessions possible.
Lunchtime: Feel free to drop me a line and tell me whatcha' think, whatcha' hate, whatcha' like and all that. Be easy, be gentle, but if it's constructive criticism give me your best shot. email@example.com
Suggested reading tips: Fix a Martini and grab a stack of cd's that include: Diana Krall, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Cassandra Wilson( just to name a few) and then
Enjoy the show….
Tonight, she was without her shadows, it was just her and the girls. They were three girls in the middle of Baltimore city after 11:00p.m. in search of a jazz club, that Sara laughingly referred to as 'a hole in the wall'. They found their 'hole in the wall' on Eager Street. After Sara managed to wheel her 400 Series Mercedes into a parallel parking spot they walked three abreast on the sidewalk towards the club. Connor walked in between her two friends with her hands shoved loosely into the pockets of her dark slacks. She wore a deep blue button down oxford, with the cuffs rolled up her forearm, and the collar open just enough to form a cradle for a smooth silver cross that teetered on the promise of cleavage beneath it's point. As they stood before the door to the club, Sara swung the door open and swept her free arm across her body as she did a semi-curtsey and beckoned her two friends forward. Conner flashed her a blazing smile, while Terry giggled and followed behind.
The club actually turned out to be a lot larger than a hole in the wall. Connor observed the quaint surroundings as she dug out her wallet and handed her id over to the thick necked gentleman on the stool to her right. He handed it back to her and hit her with a smile that said, 'just doing my job'. She kept herself from laughing by winking at him and walking off behind Sara and Terry. They found their way to a table about midway into the crowd. The room was filled with the chattering of businessman and college students. The clinking of glasses and the swirling of ice cubes were partnered with laughter and the snapping of lighters open and closed.
Connor had volunteered to buy the first round of drinks as she waded through the small cluster of people between the tables and the bar only to find herself searching for a small opening in the crowd at the bar. She let out a small sigh as she thought to herself, 'I can't be that freakin' short'. She gave her thoughts a smirk as she realized most people were on stools and that her 5'4" frame still made her average. She ran a bejeweled hand through her short strawberry blonde hair and absently tried to smooth a loose strand behind her ear. She laughed on the inside as she acknowledged the fact that she was still getting used to her new short hair do. She let her hand drift to her pocket as she squeezed into an opening at the corner of the bar. She found the railing on the floor and stood on top of it, just to make sure she got the bartender's attention. Sure enough, he spied her reddish-blonde spikes of hair and nodded in her direction.
"What ya' need?". He popped the top off a Miller Lite and glanced at her as he set the bottle down in front of him.
"Yeah, let me get a glass of Merlot, a Vodka cranberry, and uh, Blue Moon."
"Indeed." She flashed the dark man a big smile as she waited on her order.
She was digging through her pocket for her credit card when she heard it. Moments before she had only been peripherally aware of the bass tuning and the saxophone running the scales. But as Connor placed her credit card on the counter of the bar she became aware of a low and mournful humming. The sound grew stronger and the melody became a little bit clearer as Conner passed off her credit card to the bartender without looking at him. Unfortunately, her height was getting the best of her as she edged her way through what seemed like a standing room only crowd with three drinks balanced in her hands. Connor plopped down in her seat and the entire world opened up in that instant.
The spotlight might as well have been emanating from the whites of Conner's eyes since they were both transfixed on the figure on the stage. Conner's eyes seemed to dance with the music as they traversed the body of the singer. One bare foot rested on the floor of the stage while the other tangled itself in the bar of the stool. Conner followed the feet up a pair of legs that were draped in black linen trousers. Even though the singer was seated, Connor could tell that the legs went on forever. She followed those legs up to a torso covered in a white silk shirt. The shirt tapered in at the waist which in turn caused the material to fit snugly against the swell of a pair of breasts. The open collar gave way to a hollow of a neck that rose up languidly to support a chiseled jaw, high cheekbones, an aquiline nose, a pair of tapered eyebrows, and a mane of blue-black hair that cradled her face. The eyes were hidden behind closed lids. Connor could only imagine what rested behind those lids as she focused on the full red lips that sang out for the man she loved.
'No wait', Conner thought, 'she didn't say 'man' did she. She barely managed to raise her glass to her lips as she listened intently.
"I'll understand and in a little while, she'll take my hand and though it seems absurd - I know we both won't say a word." Connor held the Vodka in her mouth as she let the words and the drink set in. She closed her own eyes and sang the lyrics in her head. "Maybe I shall meet her someday, maybe Monday- maybe not. Still I'm sure to meet her one day, maybe Tuesday will be my good news day." As the last note was sung the saxophone took over and Conner opened her eyes.
She held onto the mic for dear life, like always, and she closed her eyes like always. Behind her lids she sought out forgiveness. She sought out hope and mostly she sought out love. She always found it in the same pair of eyes. There was never a face, just the eyes. They were a pair of misty green eyes that gave way to golden-brown flecks when the sun hit them just right. The eyes were honest and compassionate and not the hollow eyes that haunted her nightmares. The eyes were bright and full of hope. Most importantly the eyes were filled with love and forgiveness. She sought them out behind closed lids and held onto the mic for dear life, like always. She almost wanted to collapse in grief with the last note, but Samuel slowly crept in on the tail note and took over as she faded out, and then she opened her eyes.
Where had her breath gone? Furthermore where was the oxygen? Hell, where was everybody else? If Connor believed that you could see someone across a crowded room and know they were the one, she would have leapt from her seat and tackled the woman on stage, but Connor didn't want to believe.
The singer let her hands fall haphazardly across her lap and she waited a beat for Rod Serling to step from the shadows and tell her she was in the Twilight Zone. She needed a drink, but she couldn't remember where she put it. 'Oh, yes the piano',she remembered. But that meant movement, and if her legs weren't Jell-O than they were nailed to the floor. Maybe she was crazy, those eyes weren't misty green, it was dark out there and smoke was in the air, and she probably had too much to drink. She nodded internally but couldn't tear her eyes away from the strawberry blonde that seemed to fill the room.
'My God,' Conner thought, 'I've never seen eyes that blue before.' They were like the sky on a clear summer day. No clouds, no smog, nothing. Just a light breeze, sun, and a blue sky that promised of heaven. Connor thought her heart had stopped and apparently so had her friends.
"Connor? Connor?" A waving of hands in front of her face.
"Hello, earth to Connor, this is your captain speaking?" A snapping of fingers. Finally the spell was broken with a swift slapping of Connor's shoulder.
"Jesus! What the hell?" Connor's eyes snapped shut and then back open and focused on the spots of red that speckled the table.
"Good grief Con, we thought we lost you." Terry spoke into her drink as she took a swig of her Vodka Cranberry.
Connor let out a nervous laugh and then took a large swig of her Martini. The chilled alcohol made no dent in the heat that had consumed her insides. "What's up Conner ?" Sara let her hand graze Conner's arm as she spoke.
"Nada. I-I just got lost there for a second."
"Lost. Ha. Lost my ass." Terry took a quick drag from her cigarette. "Girlie, you looked like you were about to rush the stage"
"Shut up, Terry." Conner shot her a quick glare and palmed her glass.
"No, seriously, have a tissue," Terry held out her out her napkin in a teasing gesture, "you look like you got a little drool on your lip." She reached out as if to dab the napkin at Conner's mouth. Conner swatted the hand away gently, but hard enough to show her discomfort. She formed perfectly pink lips into a pout, just to add fuel to the fire.
"She's right Con, do we need to strap you down?" Sara creased her brows in mock concern. Conner opened her mouth in the want to say something back, but instead she opted to take another drink, almost draining her glass.
"Screw you guys, I'm going home." She pouted playfully this time as she got up and walked to the bar. Sara and Terry only laughed.
True she needed another drink, but really she needed air- and honestly she wanted another look at the woman on stage. Conner managed to find an empty stool on the corner of the bar facing the stage. She sat down and waited patiently for the bartender to notice her hand that casually palmed an empty glass. She kept one eye on the bartender and kept the other focused on the stage. The woman on stage was still sitting as she swayed in time with the drummer. The audience erupted into applause as the saxophone solo ended and the woman on stage finished the line. "Someday she'll come along, the girl I love." Conner didn't even touch her new drink as she listened to the song end. She jerked from her stupor as applause cascaded throughout the crowd. She barely held onto her drink, as her being shivered involuntarily at the light husk that was breathed into the words, "thank you". Conner found her seat again and sat down with her eyes focused on the table. Sara and Terry smiled at each other, sharing a private joke.
"So, should we take bets on how long it's going to take you to get those di-gits?" Sara let a heavy New York accent accompany the last word. Then both Sara and Terry burst into giggles as Conner rolled her eyes and flipped them both the finger.
"Fuck you both.", was Conner's reply.
"I'm sure you would enjoy her more." Terry waggled a finger in the direction of the stage. Conner just shook her head and took a drink.
The set continued for at least another half and hour, and all the while, Conner fought between staring at the stage and fending off her friends non sequitors and one-liners. Whether it was the good drinks and good music, or Conner's obvious attraction, she found herself hooting and hollering as well as whistling loudly as the set ended. Sara and Terry leaned into one another as they laughed themselves silly at Conner's antics.
She exited the stage as quickly as her legs would allow her, with minor lulls in her forward motion as she flashed toothy grins at patrons congratulating her. She made her way down the florescent-lit hallway to the back office/ dressing room. She found the nearest couch and collapsed into its cushions. She rested her hands on her knees and cradled her head-letting her hair surround her face and forearms. She sat like that until Sam's deep laugh interrupted her silent musings.
"Blue!", he boomed. "Chickie, that was a slammin' set. Whoo! Fire, baby, fire." Blue looked up from her hands and laughed sincerely. "Hey Sam.", she breathed. She sat back on the couch and ran a hand through her dark locks as she sighed.
"What's up baby doll? You have one too many, huh?" He let out a light chuckle as he sat down next to Blue and begin to twist the mouthpiece out of his horn.
"I think maybe I did. I don't know Sam." She shook her head and sat forward letting her hands rest on her knees. She let out a puff of air and stood up stretching her hands above her head until she heard the light crackling of her spine adjusting. She tousled her hair and walked to an empty table on the left and retrieved her watered down Scotch and water. Sam just watched the tall woman as he polished his horn and went to place it in its carrying case.
"You know I'm not gonna pry chica, but if you need to talk-well you know." Blue whirled around towards Sam and flashed him a bright smile.
"Yeah, ya nosy bastard." A light Boston accent caressed the curse word as she took a swig from her drink. "It's nothing that horrifying I promise, just a feeling I got, 'as all." She shrugged and stared off towards the door as she sipped her drink and thought to herself. 'I wonder if she's still out there. Hell, there probably isn't anybody out there, I was hallucinating, those weren't the eyes. Too much smoke, too much smoke to be sure.'
"Whatever, chica. You headin' out with us or what?" Blue snapped from her stupor and rested her cool blue eyes on the lanky black man with a saxophone slung over his right shoulder. "Yeah, baby, I'm right behind you." She drained her drink, sat the cup on the table and grabbed her jacket off of the hook by the door as she followed Sam out.
Conner had waited as long as Sara and Terry would let her. It had been at least a half-and hour since the set had ended and the bartender had flashed the lights to indicate last call. "Look goofball, either go and wait for her or bring your skinny ass on!" Terry shot Conner a fierce look as she got up from the table. Conner waved off her glance as she downed the rest of her fourth Martini.
"Jesus, girl how the hell can you drink those like that, eych!" Sara reacted to an imaginary shiver and stood up. "Terry's right, baby, come on." Sara's comments were accompanied with a soft smile and caring eyes. Conner gave into the silent entreaty and stood as well.
"Well, since you asked so nicely," She dragged out her last word as she glared at Terry. ", I will oblige."
Terry rolled her deep brown eyes. "Whatever," she glanced back at Conner who was poking out her tongue, "ya midget." Terry didn't bother to wait for Conner's reaction to her taunt as she quickly scurried out the front door. Sara wanted to break into laughter as she watched Conner's ears redden. She walked ahead of her and backwards so to face her.
"Now Conner, it was just a joke, she's playin." Conner really wasn't on the verge of some violent outburst but she hated the taunt none the less. Conner had always been the small fry and she had spent 24 years of her life proving that size didn't matter and that good and useful things came in small packages. She was sure to show Terry a few things about midgets if she could just get past Sara. Sara was continuing to walk backwards towards the door as she pleaded with Conner to calm herself. Just as she was about to flash Sara one of her more disarming smiles, Sara's path was interrupted by a tall figure wearing a black silk swing coat. Conner reached out to catch Sara as she ran smack into the wall of a human and stumbled backwards.
Sara felt herself falling, and she thought of how bad her rear end was going to hurt when she met the ground, but it never happened. Instead she felt a strong arm at her back and one arm gripping her upper arm in a forceful yet gentle manner. "Holy shit!" Sara spat out when she realized she wasn't' on the floor. Warm blue eyes locked on her own blue eyes and smiled. "Well, if that's a thank you, than you're very welcome." The voice had a smooth husk to it and an accent she couldn't place.
"Oh good grief I'm sorry." Sara quickly relayed as she was brought up to her full height of 5'7". "I am such an ass, I'm sorry and thank you." She smoothed her auburn hair down with a shaky hand and let out a giggle. "Come on Conner, let's go before psycho leaves." Sara smiled again at the woman and walked out of the door.
Conner found herself stifling a giggle as she watched her friend scramble for her feet and then she lost the urge to laugh as she focused on the waves of black cornsilk that adorned the head of Sara's savior. The hair was a deep black and it rippled out in waves of dark oblivion down the sturdy back blending in with the jacket. Conner snapped her eyes shut hard and willed herself not to think stupid thoughts. She regained her smile as she watched Sara turn around and walk out the door. Conner walked towards the door and stopped to place her hand on the arm of Sara's helper. When she did, the faceless figure turned to face her.
It was brief, but it was long enough to scare the mess out of Conner. The eyes were now a deep blue and uncovered by smoke and unfettered by stage lighting. They were piercing and full of fire and it was a fire that was directed at Conner. She opened her mouth to say something, anything, at least a thank you, instead all she could come up with was, "Holy shit."
"Is that a new language they're teaching in college?" She watched the lithe girl step back and then she watched as a sweet smile crawled across her face. The laugh she let out, allowed Blue to gather her own senses and break their gaze.
"No…no, no it's not." 'Jesus I can't think of anything else to say besides holy shit and you are the most beautiful entity that I have ever laid eyes on, in my whole entire life.' "Uh..it's, not, just you look familiar."
Blue watched the mental struggle that the young girl was having and only drew her full lips into a smile instead of laughing. "Yeah, I was up there singing."
"Ha. Exactly, that's what I meant. I figured you guys walked out the back or something." Conner flashed her a confident smile and looked anywhere but the woman's face.
"That's probably the safest route, huh?"
"Safe you say?"
"Yeah, you're friend, backwards, stumble." Blue fought hard to hold back a laugh as the statement finally registered with the young woman.
"Holy shit!" Conner's eyes grew wide as she realized Sara and Terry were waiting one her.
"There it is again, I gotta get a dictionary."
Conner laughed and gave the tall woman a smirk as she glanced up at her. "I gotta go, uh, maybe I'll buy you that dictionary." Conner's green eyes sparkled with want as she scurried out of the door.
Blue started to say, "only if you read it to me", but Conner had all ready disappeared out of the door way and ran down the side walk. Sam, who had watched the encounter unfold, placed a hand on Blue's shoulder to get here attention.
"What's up chica?" The two stood toe to toe at six feet even and locked eyes for a moment. Sam waited out the glazed over look in his friends eyes before he took his hand off of her shoulder. Blue searched for an answer for Sam, but could only come up with one. She focused on Sam's face and smiled. "So," he prodded.
She merely stated the words: "Holy shit."
* * *
It had been two nights since Blue's encounter with the girl with the green eyes. She had all but convinced herself that she was just a figment of her imagination and that she never even met her. It was a Thursday night and the club on Eager was filling with business men and women, college professors, and students with early weekends. It was still a little early, so Blue found herself on stage still in her jeans, t-shirt, and range hat tuning the piano. She turned the hat around so that the brim obscured her ponytail and quietly ran the scales. She allowed her eyes to drift over the crowd briefly as exercised her fingers. She let her hands still as she silently cursed herself. 'Blue get over it, she's not here, so move your ass'. She smirked at her own chastising and moved away from the piano. She was tossing her hat up in the air as she walked towards the back, so she never saw the compact strawberry blonde walk in the club unattended.
As much as Conner was ready to return to the club, she was kicking herself that it had to be tonight, but he had insisted and she had put him off for two days. Why in the hell she suggested they meet here, was still beyond her own comprehension, but she knew she couldn't wait any longer to come back to this place. She had racked her brain, while Sara and Terry offered no help as to how she could make a better impression than a few choice expletives for a greeting. Conner found a stool at the corner of the bar that was back near the door. She could see the door off to her right and she had a straight line of sight to the stage. She signaled the bartender with a nod as she absently stroked a phantom lock behind her ear. "What can I get you, miss?" Conner passed him her credit card as she asked for a blue moon. He took her card with a smile and went to run it through the machine. He raised an eyebrow and came back to stand in front of Conner. "What's up?", she asked with mild curiosity. He held the card out to her. "There's no need for a tab, it's taken care of." His mouth crinkled in the corners as he smiled. Conner let out a light laugh and took the card back. "Look, uh..what's your name?" "Greg." "Look Greg, do me a favor, charge me anyway," He opened his mouth to protest, but Conner held up a manicured hand. ", charge me anyway and at the end of the night you can consider it a big ass tip, how 'bout that." Soft green eyes focused on light brown ones and smiled. Greg smiled back nervously and ran a hand through short sandy brown hair. "Please. Greg." She reigned in her smile as a faint blush begin to creep into his cheeks. "Ok, but only if you let me make you a one of a kind shot." He gave her a gleaming smile, which she returned. "Deal."
He nodded triumphantly as he begin mixing her Martini and starting his own concoction. As he settled her Martini in front of her, Conner's attention was drawn to the stage by the sound of the bass tuning and the saxophone softly running the scales. She felt her stomach muscles grow tight with anticipation as the lights dimmed. She took a healthy sip of her Martini and let her eyes grow wide as she watched a flame hover before her. Greg was walking towards her with a glass that had been set aflame. He blew out the flame and gulped down the liquid. He placed another glass in front of Conner who still held her mouth agape. Greg smiled at her wickedly. "You ready?" Conner could only smile. "After I light it, just blow the flame out and knock it back." She couldn't help but find his enthusiasm contagious. "All right barkeep, but if this is bad, I'm suing." They shared a smile as he lit a match and touched it to the rim of the glass. In a flash Conner saw herself staring into a blue that was familiar. The heat of the flame was the same that burned behind the eyes of the singer who had just taken the stage. Conner blew out the flame as if making a birthday wish and let the contents pour down her throat in the same instance in an attempt to burn away her past and blaze a path to her future. As she pounded the glass to the counter top she closed her eyes in a silent prayer. Greg watched her closely for a reaction.
Conner shook down the alcohol and smiled. "Remind me to tell your boss to never let you go." Greg blushed at her compliment.
"It's the least I could do, Miss?"
"Name's Conner and thanks." Greg smiled as if to say 'I know' and walked to the other side of the bar. Before Conner had the chance to berate herself she felt her stomach muscles clinch at the sound of a husky, "good evening". Conner turned her head towards the stage and followed the soft lights of overhead lamps to focus on a pair of smoldering blue eyes.
Blue gripped the mic hard so as not to lose her balance. She found her. She controlled her body's want to break into a gleaming smile, and instead she arched her eyebrow to an impossible angle and ran her tongue smoothly across red painted lips. She could see her barely sipping at her drink as she begun to hum the opening bars of "Prelude to a kiss". Blue didn't have to turn to see Sam, who was smiling from ear to ear as he wrapped his lips around his mouthpiece and began to play. 'Yeah, Sam, I'm showing off, and the reasons in the back corner.'
Conner had no intention of breaking the gaze with the singer, but she could feel the blush creeping up into her cheeks with speed. She finally managed to break away when the singer closed her eyes and begun to sing.
Conner sipped at her drink gingerly as she kept her eyes affixed to the dark haired beauty on the stage. She unconsciously hooked her foot into the leg of the barstool in an attempt to keep herself from swaying off the seat. She smiled on the outside and inside as she listened the woman's rich alto seep honey into the lyrics.
As Blue finished the second verse, she decided it was time to up the ante. As Carl began his solo on the bass, she walked over to the piano and straddled the seat while taking a sip from her drink. Sam did his best not to laugh into his mouthpiece as he watched her saunter to the piano. Blue waited a full two measures before she began to stroke the keys. This time Conner found herself gripping the counter itself to keep from falling off the chair. Oh, she was mesmerized-she was gone. This lady was singing her a siren song and Conner was a willing sailor far from being weary, but dying of need and want all the same. Her lips formed a silent wow, as she listened and watched the woman tease the keys with easy strokes. Conner felt her ears redden as she wondered about the fingers upclose. Conner blindly reached out for her drink which had been refilled by a dutiful Greg, who knew Conner was far from paying attention to him. Conner let her eyes burn holes into the woman's frame as she played and then she began to sing again. Blue closed her eyes once again as she brushed the keys as she sang. She smiled a feral smile that was reflected only in the black lacquer of the piano and then turned her gaze directly at Conner.
Blue's fingers barely brushed the keys as she let Sam fill in the melody. Her full attention was being given to the blonde in the corner, whose green eyes were doing their best to bore into her soul. Blue wanted to give her the same as well, so she did it the only way she knew how, in her voice. The alto that was normally only laced with honey, poured out the sweet confection that was wrapped up in the blue blaze of her eyes. She sang slow and deep as she let her lips caress the words as if they were lapping up the smooth ivory of Conner's neck. "Oh how my love song gently cries for the tenderness within your eyes, my love is a prelude that never dies-a prelude to a kiss." Blue held onto the last note as if it was the last drop of oxygen in the room and she was breathing it into Conner's mouth. Blue couldn't tell if it was the smoke or the lights, but it almost looked as if the young girl was on the verge of tears. She breathed out a 'thank you' and stood from the piano. The applause that echoed through the room allowed her to pull herself together as she shot a toothy grin at Sam, who only shook his head. Blue snapped her fingers indicating a quick tempo and the band erupted into a jaunty version of "Nice work if you can get it".
Conner didn't know if she was reeling from the alcohol or the music, but two things were clear: she needed some air and she had to relieve her bladder. She managed to tell Greg to hold her spot as she got up and scurried to the bathroom on the other side of the room. Conner lost herself in the rumble of the toilet flushing as she gathered her pants and replaced the belt and zipped them up. She walked out of the stall and stared into the mirror. Her eyes were rimmed with tears. 'Ha, she thought to herself, that's new.' Conner got a handful of water and rubbed it through her all ready disheveled hair. A few more spikes of reddish-blonde hair poked out when she was done. She smoothed stray hairs behind both her ears and reached for a paper towel. She glanced at her watch without thinking and her heart stopped. It was nearly 11:00p.m., which meant he was on his way, if he wasn't all ready here. "Damn it, Ewan." She spoke out loud to her reflection. 'This isn't all Ewan's fault, Con. You're waist deep in shit you created.' "Yeah, yeah. Fuck you." She spoke aloud again and tossed the used papertowel into the trashcan at the entrance. Conner grabbed a hold of the handle on the door and took a deep breath. She fixed a quaint smirk on her face and thought, 'maybe she won't mind if you tell right out that you're a murderer.' She mocked herself with laughter as she exited the bathroom and back out into the smoky dark of the club.
Technically, Conner was not a murderer. The last thing Conner had actually killed was a deer when she was 12, and it was at the behest of her Great Uncle Charles who liked to take her and her brothers on trips to Allegheny, Maryland for camping trips. Emotionally, Conner equated herself with Jim Jones. Emotionally, Conner felt responsible for thousands of people and not just the eight that hung on her every word. Technically, Conner just kept the books clean and the money accounted for. Technically, she was a small voice of reason amongst mercenaries. In reality, Conner was a member of the clan. By birth and by right she was a princess in a dark dynasty that had reeked of blood for at least four centuries. In reality Conner was at the top of the food chain relishing in the spoils of victory and conquest. In truth, Conner wanted out.
His suit cost him $3,000., not including the black dress shirt or black silk tie. He wore black leather motorcycle boots that were tipped with silver. Except for the glints of silver on his wrists, ears, fingers, and the canines in his mouth-he was a shadow. His curly dark brown locks hung loosely just above his shoulders. He wasn't a hulking mass of muscles, but his level of fitness was clearly apparent as it was balanced through his 6'2" frame. He had a smooth and young looking face. Besides the fact that his goatee implied that he had gone through puberty, his ruddy cheeks and round face gave him a school boy charm. However, his eyes betrayed him. They were misty green that harbored green and gold flecks when he was in the right mood. Mostly, they whispered his age and they bellowed out his life story. To say that one saw death behind his eyes was too easy, too know of that death was the last thing that most people saw if they got that close.
Ewan McGreely walked into the club on Eager like a superstar. He walked in with only two bodyguards and left the other three out front. He flashed even white teeth at those around him as he made his way into the club. He did a quick search for Conner, but he didn't see her. An olive-skinned man who wore leather gloves, pulled out a chair for Ewan and then stood behind him as he took a seat. The other man sat across from Ewan with his hands folded across his chest. Before Ewan could even tap out a cigarette on his case a thin black girl sat a bourbon neat in front of him and walked away. Ewan put on his game face as made no obvious attempt to even act aware of the eyes that fell upon him in recognition. Instead he lit his cigarette and started chatting with the man across from him as he waited for Conner.
It was the middle of the set and Benny was working his way threw spastic bass solo which he would hand off to Max on the drums and then back to Blue to end the song. She was hamming it up with Sam as she took a swig of drink and rested on her stool. She had found the woman again as she leaned against the back wall next to the archway that led to the bathrooms. Blue made no qualms about the fact that she was sizing up the young girl and Conner did her best to stand up straight and give her an unhindered view. Conner slid her hands into the pockets of her black slacks and let a small smile grace her pink lips. Conner wore a tan long-sleeve v-neck tonight that clung to her body, giving a small hint to the muscles that lay underneath. A small silver chain with a Celtic cross hung below the dip in her shirt. She reminded Blue of an imp, with the mischievous smirk that graced her round face and the reddish-blonde spikes of hair that pointed to imaginary vectors. Blue found herself smiling at her genuinely. 'Well if she isn't the one, she certainly is a cutie.' Blue laughed inaudibly at her thought as she continued to keep time with the drums. Blue let her eyes wash over the crowd as she waited out the next four measures to come in.
A full measure before she was ready to come in, she saw him. He was sitting where Conner had sat only two days before and she could almost swear he had the same eyes. But no, it wasn't the tender green of young girl she had been flirting with, it was the malicious green of a murderer. It was a green that gave way to oblivion and pointed to her own hell as it had more than a decade ago. Blue felt herself drifting off into images of blood and screams that sounded like saxophones. She snapped her head in Sam's direction as she realized she had missed her beat. She let Sam play for another bar as she came in and finish the song at least a minute earlier than normal. Sam raised a concerned eyebrow at the woman seated on the stool and she only shrugged in reply. She leaned away from the mic, and mouthed 'instrumental' to Sam, who shook his head in understanding. Blue figured if she sat at the piano she wouldn't have to look at Ewan's face and then she could rush to the back and clear her head. She didn't want to rush the song, but apparently the other band members sensed her need to rest and sped the song along. The spotlight dimmed as the song was finished and the applause started. Blue didn't even look up to the corner, she just jumped off the stage and hurried down the back hallway. Blue ignored the sound of her name behind her, and walked past the office and right out the back entrance. She was well aware that she shouldn't be smoking, but right now she needed something to chase away the past.
Conner still continued to hold up the wall, as she watched the tall woman flee from the stage. She had watched blue eyes widen in response to something. Had that been fear, no anger. Conner wasn't sure, but a wave of nausea rushed over her all the same as she tracked the singers gaze to Ewan's table, and made the assumption that it had something to do with Ewan.
When Conner had exited the bathroom she saw the back of a person who was unmistakably Richard. She was familiar with the black suit and the wide build, as well as the thick brown hair that adorned his head. She heaved a heavy sigh as she pushed off of the wall and made her way to Ewan. Conner pressed her body through several seated patrons and showed up at Ewan's side, at the same time that Rick made eye contact with her. Rick was seated across from Ewan, and his thin lips curved into a tight smile as his eyes rested on Conner's small frame. Ewan saw the smile form on the mans' lips and knew that it was only Conner that could elicit such a response. Ewan turned his head to his right and looked up. Two seats of misty green eyes locked in on one another and smiled.
"Rabbit." He beamed. A thick Scottish accent rolled around the aficionado. Conner smiled and leaned down to plant a quick kiss on Ewan's cheek. Richard moved behind Conner and pulled out a chair for her, which she accepted and sat down.
"Hey Ewe, what's up?"
"Just enjoying the sounds, rabbit. You need a drink?"
"Hey Rick-" The seated man stood up before Ewan finished his sentence.
"I got it.", he replied to the unspoken request.
"Hey, tell the bartender, who it's for, and he'll know what I want." Conner gave Rick a toothy grin.
"Sure thing Conner, I'm on it." He returned her smile and waded into the crowd of people
Conner turned her attention to Ewan as she folded her hands on top of the table. "So, what's the word daddy-O?"
"What's the word? I haven't talked to you in days, kid."
She sucked her teeth. "Ewan, I talked to you last night." Her tone held slight irritation, but Ewan ignored it.
"Yeah, for a split second and besides, I haven't seen that face in at least a week."
"Well good thing I didn't get that plastic surgery done, or you would have never found me." She shot him a light smirk to ease her own tension and he responded in kind.
"Whatever smartass, but look enough chit-chat. what's up with bills?"
"Ah, your true motive." Before Ewan could come up with a comeback, Rick found his way back to the table, laid out a napkin, and placed a blue tinted Martine glass down in front of Conner. "Thank you sir." She bowed her head in a regal manner, and Rick blushed slightly. Ewan just shook his head.
"Rick, you marshmallow." Rick stood up straight and lost his grin.
"Uh, I'll be at the door." He scurried off, as Ewan just nodded.
"Anyway, where were we?"
"You were just explaining your real motives for missing me." Conner took a gingerly sip from her drink and waited.
"Ha. I confess your pretty face and witty banter is no longer enough."
Conner closed her eyes in a mock moment of pain and said "ouch". They shared a quick giggle and then both reached for their respective glasses.
"So seriously, the bills."
"Yes. The bills. Do you need something special?"
"Well besides the usual, Manny told me there were some discrepancies." Conner ran a hand through spikey hair and silently willed Ewan to continue. "Just minor ones, but they were occurring often enough to warrant an inquiry."
"Well, I'll get on it. I haven't seen anything of late, though. Is it off shore accounts or mainland?"
"Little bit of both."
Conner scrunched her brow in thought. "Well, yeah, I'll get on it." She released a breath and took a sip from her drink. "Other than that, what else is new?"
Ewan opened his mouth to speak again, but he was silenced as Conner turned her head towards the dimming lights and light thumping of the bass drum on stage. He watched Conner with a thoughtful expression as her eyes focused on the tall woman that stepped onto the stage to the sound of light applause. Ewan did find himself transfixed as the dark woman took a seat on the stage, and a brief wave of déjà vu passed over him. Unlike Conner, Ewan's gaze was not filled with admiration and awe, but with anger and anxiety. He tried to shrug it off, but his uneasiness clung to his words.
"I doubt if she's your type."
"Huh?" Conner turned her head back in Ewan's direction.
"That beast of a woman on stage," He crooked a finger in the direction of the stage. ",I say I doubt if she's your type."
Conner let out a deep laugh. "Beast of a woman, huh? Perhaps she's not your type Ewan, but I'm quite sure she's mine." Conner smiled a little harder than she wanted too, but quickly curbed her expression by taking a large gulp of her drink.
"What is she-6 feet, maybe 6'2". You'd look like a dwarf."
Conner slitted her eyes at Ewan's rib and ran her tongue across her teeth in thought. "On the contrary Ewan, I've got a feeling I would fit rather nicely into all the right places." She let a wicked grin spread across pink lips and then she quickly downed her Martini.
Blue took a seat on her stool and listened to the tune up. She closed her eyes and ran over lyrics, the song list, piano solos, how many drinks she had, and the score from the basketball game. Anything. Anything, to not have to look out into the crowd and see was she thought she saw.
There she was again. The little strawberry blonde, with the sweet pink lips, and the misty green eyes. Her misty green eyes. She was seated next to Ewan and they were in an animated conversation. Blue watched as the girl smiled lasciviously at Ewan and gulped her drink. She saw Ewan smile at the girl and lean into her, whispering into her ear. She watched as the girl threw back her head in laughter exposing what she imagined to be smooth alabaster skin. The girl leaned in and squeezed Ewan's arm and held on as she said something to him that he found equally funny. Blue watched the two interact and felt her stomach clench. She couldn't decide if she was jealous or disgusted that the young woman was with Ewan. Blue raised an eyebrow unconsciously as she asked herself a silent question: "Are they together?" What does it matter, they're breathing the same air. She chose to be disgusted. Blue shook the thoughts from her mind as Sam started the intro to "Lush Life". She watched the young girl lean over and embrace Ewan. She could see that it was an embrace filled with emotion, maybe they were together. Blue felt her heart break as she closed her eyes and let a soft moan bleed into lyrics.
Conner pulled away from her embrace with Ewan with a shudder. Conner sat there staring up at the seated woman hanging on her voice and trying to comprehend the swell of emotion that she was feeling. And just as she was about to pass it off as paranoia, something broke inside of her as well, as the words pierced something on her insides. "Life is lonely again and only last year, everything seemed so sure. Now life is awful again, a trough full of hearts would only be a bore…..I'll forget you I will, while yet you are still burning inside my brain, romance is mush, stifling those who strive, I'll live a lush life in some small dive….." Blue was pushing her out of her thoughts with as much force as she could muster just short of screaming. She watched the pair embrace and she was no longer concerned with being worthy, she was just angry.
Ewan watched as Conner's face lost its bright smile and became stone. The look in her eyes gave way to something he couldn't quite register as pain, but she certainly looked as if something was gnawing at her.
"Rabbit? Rabbit." He touched her arm gently as he spoke. "Rab-" She jerked her head back in his direction and they locked eyes. One pair of green eyes were old and ravaged by unspeakable acts, while the other pair seemed to be paling as if someone was slowly dimming the lights.
Conner realized Ewan hadn't said anything. She breathed out, "what?", and even managed to smile.
"Why wouldn't I be? I've got good music and good drink." She held up an empty glass. "That may be the problem." She stood up and Ewan stood with her.
He straightened out his jacket with a few quick brushstrokes, and wished he could do the same with the tension. "Well, I'm gonna get out of here. I gotta' go to the club." He smiled a wicked grin as he placed a hand on her shoulder.
"Shut up you perv. Walk me to the bar." Conner walked back to her original corner and was pleasantly surprised to see her barstool unoccupied.
"Hey cutie. Saved your seat." Conner looked over at Greg, the bartender, who was giving her tooth-filled grin. Then she found herself almost bursting into laughter as the color drained from his face. Ewan was sending out mental daggers in the direction of Greg's face.
"Oh God." Greg looked down at the counter avoiding Ewan's green-eyed glare. "Mr…Mr. McGreely. I-I uh, apologize, um.."
Conner placed her hand on top of the young boy, who was fiddling with his dishtowel. "It's alright Greg, Mr. McGreely is just about to leave." She smiled up at Ewan, who was beginning to let the muscles in his jaw relax. "But not before paying his tab of course." Conner used a smile to cut through the green glare that Ewan gave her, as his eyes widened in surprise. Greg bit his lip and wiped absently at the countertop. Ewan rolled his eyes at Conner as he dug into his pants pocket and pulled out a wad of money clipped with a silver circle that outlined a Celtic symbol. Ewan flipped off a couple of twenties without thought and handed them to Greg.
"Thereya' go Greg, keep the change. And uh, keep your eye on my cutie." He raised an eyebrow at Greg and pouted his lips playfully at Conner. He received a kiss on the cheek for his efforts. Conner held her smile as she watched Ewan exit the club with his two brick walls right behind him. Conner slumped onto the stool and leaned into the wall on her side. Thankfully, the saxophonist was ripping up his solo, so Conner didn't have to be assaulted by the lull of a smooth alto that sounded like honey laced with arsenic, as it hit her ears.
"Greg, hit me with a couple of those flame thingys, and a nice tall black Russian." Greg's brown eyes grew wide.
"I can only handle two myself, are you.." Conner cut him off with a wave of her hand. "You set 'im up Greg, and I'll knock 'em down."
Conner was hurt and she didn't want to believe that it could be because of her, but there was no other explanation. She didn't even know the woman's name. Conner had an inkling about what most likely happened, and Conner felt guilty; all the way down to her toes. No matter how hard she tried the woman on stage refused to make eye contact with her. Maybe she had imagined her attraction, maybe it was all some romanticized vision, or maybe she did have it right all along, and this was karma biting her in the ass. Conner gently passed her hand over the back of her exposed neck as she watched Greg set down two shot glasses in front of her. Her fingertips gently grazed the quarter-sized tattoo that adorned her neck. It was a useless attempt at hoping it had disappeared and it only served to remind her that it would always remain.
Conner blew out the flame on the shot glass just as a second fire begin to blaze on stage. The second flame burned with eyes made of blue ice. The second flame charred her body with a tale about cocktails at noon and life in a dive. It was a non existent and lonely life and she was singing straight to Conner. Conner didn't even bother to look up at the stage again as she sipped her Black Russian. She could feel eyes on her, and she felt dirty and exposed.
* * *
Greg watched the petite strawberry blonde suck down two more flamers, a Black Russian, and here she was, working on what was probably her third Martini; and her eyes were barely even glassy. The band was crawling off the stage and Greg was making the sign for last call. he called out to Conner, who stared blankly at the stage.
"Hey Conner? Conner?" he waved a hand in her face and she smiled loosely after a split second.
"Time's up, that's what."
"Time, time-so fleeting-so something."
"You want some coffee, a cab."
"No cab, no coffee, just gonna sit here." Conner leaned into the bar on her elbows and let her head loll to the side.
"You want to help me clean up then?"
"No, not really, but I'll watch." She shot Greg another loose grin and repositioned her elbows on the countertop. They wobbled this time, but Conner straightened out her back and steadied herself.
However, the wobble did not go unnoticed by Greg. "Hey Conner, how 'bout some water." It was a statement not a request. He smiled at the green eyed girl to lessen his condescension.
"No water." Conner spun herself on the stool and lost her balance. She fell back hard on the wall but managed to stay on the stool. Greg practically leapt the bar to help her sit up straight.
"Jeez. Conner, look go sit in one of the seats, I'll call a cab."
"I don't need a freakin' cab, Greg. I'm perfectly fine. See." Conner sat up straight on the stool without aid of the wall. "I'm perfect. I can even touch my nose."
She actually did touch her nose, twice, before equilibrium got the best of her and Conner careened backwards. She fell onto cushions that felt like silk, and yet so supportive to one's head. The fall was comfy and warm and it smelled of Pantene shampoo and Fahrenheit cologne. It was at this point that Conner's eyes snapped open. She was staring up at smooth tanned skin and whomever this person was, she was convinced they had no face. Conner's panic subsided as the faceless person turned down to her and the mass of flesh became a nothing more than a chin. But it was a chin that was attached to those lips, that hovered below that nose, that was surrounded by those cheeks, that led to two sharp black eyebrows, that protected two perfectly round and seaswept beautiful blue eyes she had ever seen.
She felt herself being pushed upright and the warm arms were replaced by a small hand at her back. She could see that it was Greg out of the corner of her eye. Conner gripped the counter and exhaled.
"Holy Shit!" Conner turned to look over her shoulder and watched as the tall woman backed away and leaned down to pick up a bookbag. "Hey, uh, thank you." Conner tried to make eye contact, but the woman looked past her towards Greg. and said "you're welcome".
"Greg, call her a cab." Greg nodded at the tall woman's order and headed for the phone.
Conner felt herself fill with anger as she hopped off the stool and stood. "I have a ride." She glared at the tall woman who stared back at her with cold blue eyes.
"Oh yeah, that's right-Greg call her boyfriend and get this little girl some water." Blue had noticed the wall of anger the girl put up earlier, but she didn't notice as it dissolved into watery green eyes at her words. She didn't see how Conner staggered back into the counter as if she'd taken a blow to the midsection. Greg watched her slump into a chair and cradle her head in her hands. He knelt beside her with a glass of water.
"Hey," he spoke almost at a whisper. "She's not all that bad. She doesn't mean to be that way-she can't help it. I'm sure she's just tired, ya' know." Conner spoke softy and unintelligibly, through her hands. "Huh?"
Conner removed her hands and left her head hanging down. "What's her name?"
"Name? Uh, it's Blue."
Conner sat up straight in the chair and almost smiled. Greg gave her a tentative smile back and Conner the glass of water. "Blue, huh? Ha!" She drank a healthy gulp and relaxed in to the softly padded chair.
"Yup. Could be for the eyes. All though, I heard that it was due to the fact that she once held a not so long her face turned blue." Greg looked at her seriously and then broke into a smile as he listened to Conner's soft giggles.
"Yeah right.", she mumbled.
"It's true, it's true. Or the fact that she always seems so sad, I don't know." He spoke quickly and softly. He stood up at that and walked to a barstool as Conner held the glass with both hands and drank like a toddler minus the dribblings. Conner put the glass on the table and stood slowly. She was satisfied that she wasn't too impaired and let out a big breath. She ran bothher hands through her hair and ruffled her spikes. She smoothed out her clothes and smiled at Greg.
"What do I owe you, Greg?"
"Just get home and go to sleep, and when I see you again, I'll give you a nice hangover remedy."
"Just as long as it's not accompanied by a flame, it'll be great." They shared a laugh as they walked towards the door.
"Where are you parked?"
"Right there." She pointed a finger at the red and white 1964 Corvette that sat under a lamppost across the street. She didn't even have to look at Greg to see the huge smile that was plastered across his face.
"Oh wow, Conner. She's gorgeous."
"Yep." He walked in step with Conner to the car. "Well aren't you gonna get my door?"
"Wow, can I?"
She smiled. "As long as your arms work." Greg blushed to his toes as he gently grasped the chrome handle on the door and opened it for Conner.
"This is awesome Conner, really." He closed the door as Conner nestled into the leather bucket seats. "Thanks a lot and hey thank you for tonight." She flashed a slight smile that was tinged with embarrassment and relief. "Now get out of here, go do ya' job- and I'll see you around."
She watched Greg walk backwards across the street and finally into the bar. She was still smiling as she started the car and turned the radio on low. She checked her side mirrors and adjusted her rearview mirror. "There you are." she said quietly to herself. Conner had noticed her shadow when she and Greg had walked out of the bar. It was off to the right and blending in nicely with gated alleyway. Conner merely smiled and pulled off. She made a quick left two blocks up and came around the block slow. She stopped at the corner of Read street and watched her shadow walk across the street, with its raven hair shrouding what she knew to be two intense blue eyes. "So, she wants to play."
Conner smiled wildly as her canines bared themselves. She pressed the play button on the stereo console as she backed up on the street, made a u-turn and echoed Robert Plant's "American Woman" as she sped down the city streets.
Blue cursed at herself the whole walk home. She cursed as she turned on to 23rd street and cursed as she ascended the stoop to her apartment. The expletives were working their way through another language as her key hit the lock and opened the door. She had all ready been through English, and Spanish and she was willing to continue through all the Greek she knew and any other stray language she knew. Blue dumped her bag on the hardwood floor at the entrance way and walked through her apartment. She turned on lights-cursing, the stereo-cursing, taking off her clothes-cursing, and finally turned on the shower-cursing.
She leaned her head hard against the white tile of the shower and let the hot water douse muscled bronze skin that reeked of cigarettes and Bourbon. She yelled out one final "fuck" as she pounded the white tile with a wet fist. After another ten minutes of steam torture, she walked naked into her living/ dining room and hit the shuffle button on the stereo. Billy Holiday's aching voice swam through the mid-sized apartment as she walked back to her room and slid on a pair of boxers and a faded Boston Sox's t-shirt. Blue fell back onto the bed and lay prostrate on her queen sized bed, staring up at the ceiling. She wanted to drown in Billy's voice as she damned Ewan McGreely to hell and back and for once she let somebody else do the moaning.
Blue didn't know why she had followed the girl. She found herself saying 'Conner' out loud. She cringed on the inside as she listened to the name roll off of her lips. The sound of it got stuck in the back of her throat and she couldn't swallow it or spit it out to save her life. She rolled over to and stomach and then up on her knees. She rolled her neck around until she heard the vertebrae shift, and then inadvertently cracked her back as she moved to get off the bed. "Why the hell did I wait?", she asked into the air. A six inch long Oscar gulped at the water and swam by her question. The Dempsy was only eager for food and not her words as he stayed in his corner of the tank. "Hey boys, time for dinner." She took a pinch of fish food and crushed it into the tank as the fish sprang to life. Only the algae eater remained where he was, having something better to eat on the wall. "You'd think I was going to talk to her or something. I can't believe Sam actually suggested that I apologize to her." She stared at the tank for a moment as the fish swam by oblivious to her musings. "Ahh, you guys suck." The Dempsy butted the glass as if to give Blue the finger, she smiled and walked to the kitchen.
She pulled out the milk, Capn' Crunch with Crunchberries cereal, a bowl, and a spoon and sat them on the island in the middle of the kitchen. She stood at the island and ate her cereal as she hummed along with Ella Fitzgerald in the background. Just as she turned up the bowl to drink out the strawberry milk, the phone rang. She wiped at a small line of pink liquid as she picked up the phone and walked to the couch in the living room.
"Sam.", she growled.
"Hey puddin' pop."
"Sam it's like-uh- 3:00 a.m. in the morning, what?"
"Like your sleep, punk."
"Yeah, ya mama. What!?"
"Did I what?"
"Scale the Eiffel tower you amazon! You know what."
"No." She spoke softly.
"What? I'm going deaf."
"I said no, smart ass."
"Blue," he whined.
"I have nothing to apologize for."
"You didn't see her face, I did. It looked like you kicked her in the head."
"Sam, I'm going to kick you in the head, if you don't get off it."
"What happened to getting' a feeling and all that?"
"I lost it." She spoke flatly as she ran a hand through still damp hair and tried to stifle a yawn.
"Well…you.." he began to hum.
"Don't sing Sam." He ignored her and continued to plow through the Righteous Brothers lyrics. He got all the way to "lovin" before she hung up. Blue drew her knees up to her chest as she sat back on the couch. She put both hands in her hair and let her neck relax. She sighed and wasn't sure if it was Billy's voice or singing that had her on the verge of tears. More than likely, it was the on the revelation that she couldn't have what she wanted; even if she deserved it, or even if she apologized. Ewan McGreely had all ready taken her youth and most of her life, in turn she sucked out his soul. It was only appropriate that he was capable of taking her future before she could even build one.
15 years ago.
The three of them exited the Alewife bound 'T' at UMASS and transferred to the green heading back to the south side of Boston. They presented a surreal vision of siblings as they walked three abreast on the sidewalk: the oldest boy on the left, the girl in the middle, and the youngest boy on the right. The oldest was a lanky reed, standing 6'2" with his sister close behind him at 5'9", and the youngest was slowly working his way up from 4'9". Three sets of deep blue eyes looked out into the street as three heads crowned with blue-black hair turned from left to right checking for cars.
The projects weren't that bad, it was just a way of life. It was a community with its own rules and laws and its own judges and juries. In a city full of Irishman, the Scots ruled this borough of Boston. The McGreely's were descended from Scottish royalty that traced its roots back to the Highlanders. They were stout young men and women usually with ruddy round faces, dark hair and dark eyes. The McGreely's that roamed these parts were not the usual. Their leader was tall and svelte, with pale eyes and blonde hair. He tried to approach the street not with brow beating and garishness, but rather, an enigmatic smile and humor that border on the sadistic. He was known as 'Chuckles' to his family and his followers. It was his hearty chuckled that alerted two siblings sneaking a cigarette in the stairwell of his presence. Two sets of blue eyes darted up towards the window and stared as they heard the laugh accompanied by voices carrying Scottish accents.
"Should I look?'", the boy asked.
"What for, you know who it is?" She threw the cigarette at the wall and watched the sparks fly as it connected and then fell without sound to the concrete floor. The boy was standing now and peering out of the frosted window. It wasn't really frosted, it just hadn't been washed in about 6 years, but Gi-Gi insisted that they were frosted.
She looked up at her older brother who was still trying to peer out of the window. She tugged at his pants leg. "Armie, what the hell are you doing? Sit 'da fuck down."
He cut surprised blue eyes down her. "Hey, a young lady doesn't use that language."
"Yeah, I'm such a fucking lady."
"Whatever, sir. Can you please sit your narrow rear end down on this rather cool concrete and stop ogling the visitors." She put on her best English accent and even crossed her legs at the knee for emphasis. He rolled his eyes at his sister, but gave her a smile anyway. He walked down the steps until he stood in front of the girl.
"Look, uh, I need to go out there."
She shot up like a reed and towered over her brother, as she stood on the step and he stood on the landing. He looked up into the pupils of two hard blue eyes that had grown small in fear. "Jasmine, c'mon, no worries." He reached out to grab her hand. She whipped her hand behind her back and scowled.
"Don't you Jasmine me. Why do you have to go out there? Send Clyde, send Milos, whoever." She flailed her hands wildly as she spoke.
"Look, Jaz, this will take just a few minutes, no big deal. I promise."
She folded her arms across her chest and let out a puff of air. "Armie, if you go out there your promise is worth shit!"
They stared at each for a while, neither one ready to give in, but the nearing voices made him flinch. She made fists of her hands and dropped them at her sides. "Screw you Armie." She turned on her heels and bounded up the stairs before he could open his mouth. "I'll be up in a few." He called after her. He heard the echo of a door slamming in reply. He sighed and ran a slightly shaky hand through black hair. "Easy boy, just be cool."
The sky was a somber red-gold as the sun sank into the horizon, and Armie exited the stairwell. There were five of them and they were walking towards the tall dark boy. Chuckles stood out amongst the group not only because of his height but the blonde hair that crowned his round hair glistened even as the sun set.
"Armie, Armie." Chuckles spoke in a sing-song voice. His pale gray eyes were listless and held none of the humor that he was known for. "What's up buddy-boy?" He flashed a pearly smile at Armie. Armie didn't return the smile as both stopped walking. They stood at least two arm lengths apart and Armie held his arms at his sides. "Armie, I want you to meet my cousin and my brother." He gestured for the two shortest, and most likely the youngest, boys to come stand next to him. "This is Ewan." he put his hand on the shoulder of a green- eyed boy who was only a little taller than his brother Gi-Gi. "And, this is William." He placed his other hand on the shoulder of a pudgy body with brown eyes. Armie made no move. "Now, as you can see Armie, I'm not here to intimidate you. These boys are harmless and I want to show you that I believe you. So, that's why I'm going to be sending them back here tonight to get my money." His thick Scottish accent held onto every word he said, but luckily he was speaking slow enough for Armie to understand. Not that it mattered, because he knew what was going to be said, he just wanted to know how much time he had.
"So, look Armie, I'm gonna send 'em back in a coupla' hours, so make me happy, Armie." He flashed Armie another tooth-filled smile and turned around. Armie hadn't moved in the whole of three minutes, nor had he breathed. He watched the five of them walk across the parking lot to their cars, and he did his best to bore holes into the tattoos on their necks with his eyes. Another set of blue eyes watched the group walk across the parking lot and pile into two mustangs as well
__________And hour and a half had gone by and Carmen was on edge. She refused to leave her home. She refused to have her and her children run out by some, "skirt wearing brigands". She let out a quick paced stream of Greek expletives and stood next to her husband. It was from Robert that her children got their height, as he stood at 6'6", but it was Carmen who gave them the raven hair and blue eyes that shone with determination. Little Gi-Gi had unknowingly ratted out his brother. It had only been an attempt to prove to Armie that he could be quiet and spy when he needed to, but their mother overhead and went ballistic.
The knock came on time and it shook the cheap wooden door. "Jasmine. take Gi-Gi to the back and stay there." Her father ordered calmly. She growled at her dad, but took Gi-Gi's hand anyway. They stalked towards the bedroom they shared and waited in the dark. Gi-Gi had promised her he wasn't scared, but he made her sing to him none the less. She had reached the second verse of Three Dog Night's "Joy to the World", when the door exploded. She clutched tightly to Gi-Gi who was frozen stiff with fear. She could fee a warm spot grow in her crotch and she didn't know if it was her or the package on her lap. She whispered "it's okay" into little ears as they waited.
The Scotsman were yelling and her mother was yelling, no bawling and then she could hear Armie trying to be calm, but as her own temper rose, so did Armie's. In her own concentration she had loosened her grip on Gi-Gi, who slowly slipped out of her arms and walked to the door. They were yelling outside. Something about money and then something about 5 people and no deal and no trust. She was focusing so hard that she barely even realized that the level of the voices had risen until a shaft of light cut across the floor and she realized the door was open.
She was so busy lunging out of the door looking for Gi-Gi that she didn't see the young green-eyed boy off to her right, or hear the swoosh of the bat unit it connected with her back. She went down hard and felt pain shoot through her legs. She could hear the boy say, "I got the little one and found her". He was standing with the bat in both his hands with his head directed towards the archway. He didn't see her moving, but as the shadow beside him grew longer, he realized she was hovering over him. She unfolded to her full height of 5'7" and dwarfed his 5- foot frame. He would have pissed his pants if he had the chance, but the blue eyed demon slammed her knee into his groin and head-butted him at the same time. He slumped into the darkness on the floor. She picked up the bat and walked to the archway, peered out into the living room, and stopped breathing.
Her father, (or what she assumed was her dad, given the form was missing most of its skull); lay in a pool of maroon that was serving as a pond for chunks of wood that had blown away from the door. Her mothers' body was draped over her his in an eternal pose of grief with a bloodied head resting over his chest. Gi-Gi had barely made it through the archway. Besides the fact that his neck was at an awkward angle, Gi-Gi looked like he was sleeping. Blood was covering almost everything. There was one body that she didn't recognize, who lay dead on the floor to the right of Gi-Gi. His remnants sprayed the back wall as she observed the bullet holes that littered his chest. His killer stood in the middle of the room with the smoking gun still in his hands. The bullets had been spent-the chamber was open and empty. Armie stood toe to toe with Chuckles. The blonde had a gun raised to her brother's head and his ears were blood red with rage. He was saying something through gnashed teeth, but she couldn't hear a thing. The vision moved frame by frame as she watched the blonde man's finger constrict around the trigger. She could make no sound as she watched the shards of skull and brain matter explode out of Armie's head.
It started as a low moan and became a feral wailing that not only brought the young green-eyed boy at her feet out of his dark hole, but grabbed the attention of the three men left standing. Chuckles whipped his head in the direction of the sound, but he only saw a streak of black hair. She stepped out of a perfect batters' stance and swung the polished wood at one of the boys head. She heard a satisfying crack as he landed on the floor in heap. She raised the bat again and felt a something plow into her. It was a little curly headed boy that had been standing in the corner near her parents. He moved her, but found that she wasn't as easy to take down as he had surmised. She staggered forward, but remained on her feet. She made a stutter step, causing the boy to trip up and then with her free hand she grabbed his wrist and swung him around into the wall. She could feel the bones break in his wrist as she whipped him around. The scream that he emitted in response was quelled when he hit the wall. He drew his other hand to the bloody pulp that was his nose and stepped backwards away from the wall on wobbly legs. She started to laugh as a bullet whizzed by her head. She quickly grabbed the dazed boy by the shirt and threw him in front of her as three bullets ripped through his torso. She heard the click of the empty chamber and dropped the body.
She stood up from her semi-crouch, regripped the bat and charged the remaining guy: Chuckles. She never saw him pull out the revolver or even feel the bullet as it ripped through her side. Her long stride easily ate up the few feet that separated them, as she drove the bat into his gut. It sent him reeling back into the wall. He grabbed at a vase on the shelf and threw it at her. It shattered against her shoulder, but she kept walking towards him. He was starting to reach for something else as she slammed the bat down on his arm. He clutched his arm to his body as the bat crushed his kneecap, sending him to the floor. She swung the bat until her arms got tired and then she kicked at his limp body until her legs ached. Finally, she fell to her knees, oblivious of the pool of blood that was gathering around his body. She wanted to punch at his lifeless form some more, but his face was all ready indistinguishable and her body ached from the blood she was losing. She just sat there in a daze, swimming in blood , until she heard a whimper.
She turned ice blue eyes towards the remains of the front door, where the small green-eyed boy stood, with tears streaming down his face mixing with the blood from a gash on his forehead. He was caught in her line of sight. If nothing else stayed with him from this night, her eyes would. From this night hell was no longer burning with flames of orange and red. Now they burned blue. Her eyes seared him to his insides. He was so entrance that he barely heard her speak. The voice was so low, it was almost inhuman.
"Name." His eyes just grew wide at the command. She bared her teeth and he stepped back. She breathed it again and his voice cracked at her request. He tried to straighten his back and stand tall. "Ewan.", he cracked. She nodded and stood slowly. He soiled himself without hesitation and felt the acid creep into his throat. She was a bronze statue bathed in blood. Her smooth face was obscured by blood and matted black hair. Her shoulder peeked out from a shredded shirt as she pressed a hand to the wound on her side. She never took her gaze off the boy. "Ewan." Her voice lingered somewhere between a purr and a growl. She bared her teeth like an animal at the boy. " Get out. Of my house." She turned her back on the boy and he watched her as she knealt beside the lifeless body of her little brother.
He stood there while she cradled the little body and rocked back and forth. He heard her breathe heavy and he thought she was going to break into tears, but what he heard was not exactly crying nor was it praying. It was a wailing much like what had awakened him earlier. It was a wailing that echoed the emptying of his soul, as he stared at the body of his own brother-who lay in an unrecognizable heap of flesh and clothing. It was a wailing that clung to the insides of his ears even as the scream of sirens filled the parking lot.
The wailing had become the soundtrack to his nightmares. It lulled him to sleep and awakened him in the night. He had cut out her face 15 years later and even tried to remove the her eyes or at least dim the fire he saw within them, but the song never left him. It was the emptying of both their souls-and tonight he had heard it again.
Ewan McGreely found himself lying naked on his own bedroom floor, dripping with sweat. His covers had been ripped from the bed and he had sprung from it in order to avoid the deluge of blood that was threatening to drown him as he slept. He opened his eyes and stared out into the black of his room He shot out his hand as if to reach for his gun, but he knew no one was there. It was just him-reduced to a frightened 15 year old again, watching his brother die. But it wasn't' the image of his death that had awakened him with such a start, it was her. The woman who sang tonight. Her voice seemed so familiar to him. And while he had only taken a cursory look at her, her eyes did strike him. He shuddered in remembrance. But the eyes from tonight did not make his soul ache, they just made him think. The eyes he saw tonight seem filled, not void and lifeless, like he remembered. He ran a sweaty hand through damp hair and got up to shower. He decided not to talk to Conner about this, he had to be wrong, but he knew he would check anyway. There was no question in that, the only question rested in what he would do if it was her.
Friday began with a dull rumbling in Conner's tummy. She groaned into the pillow as she forced her eyes open. She wasn't awakened by the wall of bright sunlight that was emblazoned on her right wall, but from the rough tongue of the cat on her thigh.
"Remusss! Get off my thigh." A gold and tan tabby cat ignored her groggy voice and kept on licking her thigh. She sat upright, jarring Remus a little bit, and then she scooped him up into her lap. "Hey boy, where's your brother?" She scratched behind Remus's ears as he purred into her chest. She searched her bed with her eyes, and then she spotted a fluffy tail floating around the perimeter of the bed. A moment later a fluffier version of Remus hopped on top of the bed and began prowling around Conner's feet. "Hey Romulaus." She smiled brightly at her cats and then sat Remus back down on the bed as she kicked out of the covers and touched her feet to the hardwood floor of her bedroom.
The cats were hot on her heels as she left the bedroom and walked to the kitchen downstairs. Conner owned a renovated three-story row house in Bolton Hill. It had taken her all of three years to find a home that had no connection to her family. She just wanted a home free and clear with all the taxes and no favors. So, after a three year search and $265,000 of her own money, Conner got her home. She padded barefoot across the cool clay tile of the kitchen floor to the pantry and retrieved a can of cat food for the two mongrels skulking around her legs. She sat out two bowls in the middle floor and went to the fridge to make her own lunch-after all it was 12:30 in the afternoon. Conner grabbed the milk carton, a glass, a the container of liquid strawberry Quick. As she squeezed the strawberry syrup into the milk, she laughed at the memory of the powdered Quick and the mess she her brothers would make in the kitchen , when they attempted to make their own breakfast.
Conner stared into the swirling twister of pink and white and lost herself in memories, until the phone brought her back to the present. She released the spoon with a clank and picked up the cordless phone.
"Hello, you've reached Dr. Hugh Jass, this is Dr. HughJass speaking how kin I help you." She spoke with a light southern accent into the phone.
"Yes, um, Dr. maybe you can help me," - pause- "I've got this growth on my, well, it's own my ass-can you help me please." The voice was high pitched and whiny. Conner immediately recognized Terry's whimper and giggled into the phone."
"What's up sugarpop?"
"You are blondie."
"Me?" Conner scrunched her brow and then caught the meaning. "Oh. HaHa."
"Yeah, heard ya made quite a spectacle of yourself last night. Ya' lush."
"So, did tall, dark, and nice breasts see your show?"
"Nice breasts? Uh, well, sort of. She was most of the reason for the spectacle."
"Jesus! Conner!" Conner could hear Terry slap her hand to her forehead. "What the hell are you doing? Have you no dating skills?"
"Well dear, after that little fiasco with you junior year, I decided not to press my luck."
Terry let out a little laugh. "Hey, how was I supposed to know she was clinically insane and was two days away from being committed." Conner wanted something smart to say, but she could only burst into laughter along with Terry, as scenes from the ill-fated date played in her mind. "We probably shouldn't have taken her on the merry-go-round." Terry added.
"Yeah, who knew she would relive her life as "Seattle Slew". Conner held the phone away from her ear as both girls erupted into laughter.
"Oh man that was classic. Ha. But really, what are you up to girlie?"
Conner wiped tears from the corner of her eyes and shrugged her shoulders. " I don't know chica, actually I take that back. I've got an idea and I may need your services."
"You just said you didn't want my help."
"Exactly, I don't want help, but your services yes."
"A little after hours fun, heh."
Conner could imagine Terry's wicked grin. "Down girl, no I need a check on my finances."
"Am I mistaken in the thought that you are an accountant. I'm just the para leagal."
"Yes, jackass, I know how much money I have, but I need to know what I need to do if I wanted to buy a business."
"A business goof. You know where business takes place."
"Oh good Lord. Where?"
"On Eager." She spoke quickly to avoid hesitating.
"On Eager, huh?" Terry smiled into the phone.
Conner hesitated before answering. "Yup." She could hear Terry tapping away at a keyboard, while she drained the last of her strawberry milk.
"Why don't you just ask Ewan, he can take care of it."
Conner made the empty glass jump as she slapped her palm down on the counter. "Terry, I don't want to got through Ewan, damn it. Haven't we had this discussion."
"Hold on ya' wee fairy." Terry used her best Scottish accent to alleviate the tension. "I know you don't, but he owns the damn block.
"Yeah, shouldn't you know that? Anyway, he own the zoning rights and plots all in the 2400 area." Conner was silent. "Con?"
"How do you know where I'm buying?"
She could hear Terry let out a breath of air and could almost see her rolling her eyes. "Because you midget, I've known you since pre-school, lived around the corner from you all my life, been there for every misadventure, and besides that you are transparent as hell." Terry breathed and smiled smugly into the phone.
Conner was too busy being embarrassed to take notice of Terry's short joke. "I know, I know. I'm an asshole and I don't deserve you as a bestfriend." Conner spoke quietly like a chastised child. Terry gave her a snort of approval and laughed.
"So, look ask bighead if he'll give over the tags and title and all that jazz, and I'll fix it up."
"I want it legally, Terry."
"Wouldn't have it any other way, you wascally wabbit."
Conner laughed at the endearment. "Thanks, Elmer. See ya tonight?"
"Yes, yes, since I'll be going back with you to check out the joint and the merchandise."
Conner laughed. "Well, not quite, but yes, I'll give you up close and personal."
"Oh, Dah-ling, I'm sooo waiting." They shared a quick laugh. "I'll call you later babe."
Conner pushed the off button and looked down for the cats. The bowls were empty and only Remus remained in the kitchen, next to her chair. She could hear Romulaus running through the living room chasing a ball or something. She hopped down off the chair and scooped up Remus as she walked into the living room. She stroked Remus's hair softly as she smooshed into the cushion of a chinse couch and stared absently at black and white photos arranged on the wall. "Boys, mama's got a plan and nothing to wear." She dropped Remus gently on the floor and watched the two siblings chase a ball of foil, until her thoughts turned to the evening ahead.
* * *
8:00p.m. rolled around slowly for Conner, who spent 2 hours in Towson shopping, another two doing Ewan's bills, an hour for her own work, and the last 2 hours convincing Ewan to give her the deed, legally.
"You wanna buy it? I all ready own it." Ewan sat in the high wing-backed chair and watched as Conner paced the floor of his office. "I mean I all ready own it, so you can run it if you want. I'm sure Tony would be a good sport about it." He shrugged his shoulders and sat back. "You can take care of it for a couple of weeks, I'll jack the price, check insurance, and take it down."
Conner almost spit out her soda as she watched Ewan fish in his pocket for a cigarette. She shook her head forcefully, shaking loose a few chunks of strawberry-blonde hair that weren't trapped by styling gel. "Nononono. I want it. To have and to hold, for real not a scam." Conner's hopefully green eyes met with two wide green eyes, dilated in surprise.
"What? What for? Are you broke or something?"
Conner gave a half smile. "No, I just want it."
"Yeah, like you wanted the house, like you wanted the car, like you got a job." He ran pale hands over his face making him look forty years old rather than thirty, as he slumped back into the chair and sighed. She remained quiet as she waited for him to ask what she knew he would ask her. "Are you leaving Conner?" He was quiet and child-like.
For the first time in three years Conner hesitated when answering the question. She had a solid answer when she bought the house three years ago, but now her answer was shaky at best. She started to shrug her shoulders, but thought better of it. "Ewan, I-I uh. I don't know, I guess I just want a chance." She walked to the window of his office, her back to Ewan, and stared out of the baywindow that overlooked a man-made pond in the middle of lush green grass and trees. She could see the orange and black Koi darting through the water of the pond. Ewan sat forward in his chair, resting his elbows on his knees and clasped his hands together as he watched her.
"Ewan, you know this has never been my life. Maybe you were right all along-I was adopted." She could feel a smile spread across Ewan's face as she stared into the backyard.
"Rabbit, we couldn't have sold you even if we tried." He looked at the floor. "And even the time we did try, we realized we had to keep you."
Her shoulders shook with laughter as she turned around and sat on the large window sill. "Ewan, you are my family, my blood-I will never leave you. I may not talk to you for weeks or I might set your Kiss album collection on fire if you piss me off." They shared a smile as he shifted uncomfortably at the memory. She plastered a small smile on her face and said, "After all, you did kill my rabbit." She held up her hand silencing him. "I know-accident, but I got pissed and I eventually forgave you. There is nothing I wouldn't do for you or haven't done for you, but I want this for myself. Not for family, not even for my safety, just something that's all mine no strings attached, no side deals no nothing-free and clear." Conner held onto the last words the longest and stared into Ewan's eyes.
Ewan knew there was nothing he could say. Sure she had gotten the house and the car on her own, but with free oil changes, discounted maintenance, and co-payments Conner wasn't on her own anymore than a baby on an umbilical cord. She was just out of arms reach. He stood up and met Conner in the middle of the office. "How can I deny an entreaty such as that." He smiled and they embraced tightly. "Allright, Conner, take it, and do with it what you must. But if you change your mind-" He stopped talking as he snapped open the top of his Zippo and lit the flame at the same time. He bared a set of even white teeth in a playful grin. Conner punched him on the arm as she half-walked and half-skipped out of Ewan's office. Ewan waited a few moments and walked out of his office as he lit a cigarette and walked into the den. He stood in front of the open French doors and walked out to the balcony. He looked over and watched as Conner hopped into her car without opening the door and sped off as the engine swallowed up Jimmy Page. Ewan laughed as he took a deep drag from his cigarette and spoke to outloud to no one in particular, "the little imp stole my tape".
* * *
It was fifteen minutes past 8:00p.m and Terry was late as always, especially for somebody who lived on the nextblock. Conner had changed clothes three times and finally decided on the new low waisted black DKNY slacks and a pale pink button down shirt with pearl buttons and a wide collar. Her hair was the perfection of a mess; as if she just woke up and touseled her bed-matted hair. Conner, smoother a fingertip full of sparkiling lip gloss across pink lips and blotted. Her jewlery jingled as she shook off excess water from her hands. She ran downstaris to wait in the to wait in the livingroom for Terry. Ten minutes later, Terry stood on the steps and waved frantically into the window. Conner smiled and walked out the front door.
"Hey hot mama." They exchanged kisses.
"Are we going to the prom or what." Connor laughed as she looked down at her own outfit and then to Terry's. She was dressed in a short black print dress that was barely held up by the two slivers of material for straps. She held onto a sliver clutch bag that highlighted the shadows in the dress. Connor smiled and held out her arm for Terry and said, "Well Dad, did leave me the car." She wiggled her eyebrows as both girls giggled and walked to the car. They secured the top on the car, since lately the Baltimore weather had been unpredictable this close to summer, not to mention, Terry didn't want her hair to fly out of place before they got the place. Terry took over the radio and popped in an Erykah Badu cd.
"So, where we headin' stud muffin?"
Terry's eyes grew wide in anticipation. "Ooh, fun, fun silly willy." Conner laughed as they pulled off. "Where the hell is Sara?"
"Off playing domestic goddess with Willhem."
"Oh good God, hasn't anyone explained to them the dangers of breeding." Conner slapped Terry's stocking-sheathed leg playfully and shook her head as she got on the exit ramp to 95 south. Terry just smiled and bobbed her head to the voice pouring out of the speakers.
After 25 minutes of driving and five more minutes of finding parking on Connecticut Avenue, Conner and Terry stepped into the doorway of Café Aroma. This place was two times smaller than Tony's club on Eager, but it was definitely not a hole in the wall; at least not on this side of Connecticut Avenue. It was definitely a Martini Bar, which was highlighted by the bar that was outlined with Martini glasses. It made its home among the restored Uptown movie theatre, and shops and bistros that catered to those who didn't mind dropping $7 for a beer or $3 for a cup of coffee. The 'Aroma Company' sang out to the aging college student who considered themselves slightly cultured, along with cigar aficionados, people who regularly paid $4 for cigarettes, and those who didn't know that Vodka came in plastic bottles.
As they walked in the door, they were greeted by a thin girl on a stool who was taking $3 for the cover. Conner handed over the $6 and smiled as she looked to her right and noticed the band was on break. She did a quick scan of the aisle in front of her, and thanked God this place was small. Conner saw no one with blue-black tresses and she relaxed her shoulders which she didn't know she had tensed. Terry noticed Conner's search and leaned in to Conner as they walked up to the bar and sat down.
"Somewhere, whatever." Conner shrugged as she took another look towards the blue glow of the lounge and then faced Terry. "Uh, do you wanna go back in the lounge or stay here?" The lounge happened to be providing the sounds of acid-jazz as the band took it's break. Terry peered down the length of the bar and looked into the lounge as far as her eyes and low lighting would all her to see.
"Looks groovy, but we can chill here." She turned back towards the bar and did a quick drum roll with her palms on the counter. "Time to buy me a Martini, and ooh, a pack of Dunhills." Terry clapped her hands together as her eyes fell on the red package of cigarettes behind the bar facing them. "I love this place, Con."
A mocha colored black girl laid down napkins in front of them from behind the bar and asked them what they wanted to drink. Terry just shrugged. Conner caught her attention with a smile and spoke. "Hi, um let me get a Cosmopolitan and this young lady-a Chocolate Martini." Terry's eyes grew wide in amusement and apprehension as Conner placed the order. She grabbed Conner's arm when the girl walked away.
"Ha, you're gonna love it." Conner smiled wildly.
"What's in it?"
"Conner, you little shit, what's in it?"
"Stop whining, it's good,"
Terry continued whining and Conner continued to refuse her as Blue walked out of the back room towards the front. Conner was facing the door so she had no clue. Terry did her best not to let her eyes grow wide when she saw the 6foot bronze-hued woman saunter down the aisle, wearing a long black skirt with slits up both sides and a cashmere short-sleeved v-neck that clung to her body. Long blue-black hair danced across her shoulders as she glided to the front. Blue actually made it past Conner, before Terry gave in.
"By Hera's tits! I do declare that is one tall drink of water."
Conner's eyes danced with excitement as she sat up straight as a rod on the stool. She was afraid to turn around, so she held onto Terry's knees. "Did she see me?"
"I don't know, but she saw me."
"Huh?" Conner looked up to see Terry swivel her body so she could get a better view of the front without breaking her neck.
"Yeah, she just waved to me."
"Bull shit." But sure enough, Terry was waggling her fingers in a sign of hello towards the front. Conner bit her lip and scrunched her brown, as Terry turned her body back towards Conner-she was beaming. "Are you blushing?"
Terry met Conner's eyes with a glare. "Shut up fool. I am trying to enjoy the show." She rolled her eyes and turned around fully towards the front. Conner sat up straight from the unconscious slouch that she was in and realized that she had been so paranoid she didn't even hear the smooth plucks of the guitar. Just as Conner focused her attention on the front Blue closed her eyes and began to sing. Had Conner been a second quicker, she may have noticed the glint of surprise and mischief that passed over Blues' eyes.
It had been her plan to be polite. It was just supposed to be a 'thanks-for-listening-I-don't-want-to-get-to know-you-who-ever-you-are-leave-me-and-my-hormones-be', but polite none the less. Instead, a casual thank you turned into a cold shoulder, that melted into a small game of cat and mouse.
Terry did all she could do besides scream her head off to keep from choking on the wall of sexual tension that swam about her as she stood between Conner and Blue. Terry and Conner had chatted together as they watched the band breakdown, and according to Conner, Terry was smiling too much and bound to attract attention. Sure enough, five minutes later, Blue walked up and stood next to Terry. Blue looked directly at Terry as she spoke.
"You look awfully familiar."
"I-uh, we, came to see you sing at Tony's place on Eager a few days ago."
Blue nodded her head slowly and deliberately ignored Terry's bait about "we". "Oh yes, the "holy shit" girl." She smiled without showing her teeth and reached for one of Terry's cigarettes. "May I?"
"Of course," Terry replied as she flipped up the top on the carton.
Before Blue could even put the cigarette to her lips a flame hovered in front of Terry's face. Its owner leaned across Terry's body and held out a Zippo lighter that had a classic playboy pinup on the front. Blue touched the small hand with two fingers to steady the flame, as she leaned into light her cigarette. Blue and Conner both willed themselves to stare only into the flame and each others eyes. Blue was surprised that the cigarette didn't explode in her mouth as she felt a sure-fire jolt of electricity run through her body in response to the brief touch. Conner snapped the top down on the Zippo with a flourish and used the sharp sound of metal on metal to clear her head. She wasn't sure how long she was going to be able to stay in one spot and avoid this woman's eyes before she went absolutely insane.
At some point Blue's plan of politeness went astray. Perhaps, it was where she was standing, perhaps it was the touch, but somewhere in between the time Blue stood next to Terry to the moment she opened her mouth and asked, "so, where's your boyfriend?"; everything went to hell. Terry sat up straight on the stool that she had reclaimed and practically choked on the smoke she was inhaling. She whipped her head around to face Conner, who was doing her best to keep her jaw from hitting the floor.
Terry watched Conner nibble at her lip and she knew the girl was boiling on the inside. Terry knew that Conner didn't like to be talked down to, and here was this Blue eyed amazon doing her best to step on Conner. Terry was waiting for the inevitable outburst. She was accustomed to Conner's reactions, since she had been there for all of Conner's blow ups. Terry was there when Conner's rabbit had mysteriously fallen five stories out of the window. She was there when the kiss albums were incinerated. She was present when Conner caught her ex-girlfriend cheating on her, and there when every piece of Sylvia's clothing found its way into the lawn and was then met by a lawnmower. She was playing lookout when Conner slashed the tires on Sara's ex's car. She had been there for all the plans and revenge schemes. She knew the looks, the fury, and when to run screaming into the hills. Terry watched green eyes grow bright and ears redden around the edges. Terry kissed her lips to her cigarette and awaited the onslaught.
She almost burnt herself with the cigarette when her friend of 20 years plus, formed the sweetest sparkling lip gloss enhanced smile, and clearly stated with slow sultry precision: "Well, wouldn't you like to know." If someone had dropped a 10 megaton bomb on the White House, the blast would have shattered every window in a 20 mile radius, opened up the earth and swallowed D.C. whole-and Terry wouldn't have noticed. The silence lasted a good thirty seconds. A long thirty seconds. It was a thirty seconds where only the bass pumping from the music in the lounge reminded them all to breathe. Blue was amused and surprised. Conner felt vindicated. And Terry was just confused. She couldn't tell if Conner was aroused or scared and she absolutely refused to look at the tall woman with the smoldering eyes. Finally, when the ash on Terry's cigarette became unbearably long, she let out a peep, and drop the cigarette into the ashtray.
Thank god for Terry's peep or Conner never would have blinked. She and Blue were engaged in a stare down of sorts, where the winner was the one who managed to keep their feelings in check. It was a dead tie. After Conner broke eye contact, Sam bellowed to Blue from the back. She turned to wave at him and as she turned around, she only got a glimpse of a strategically disarrayed strawberry blonde head walking out of the door.
'I'm not going to say it,' she thought as she gestured to the bartender for a drink. Blue felt Sam's hand on her shoulder as she picked up her Bourbon neat and drained half the glass. Sam's brown face was all aglow with wonder and his deep brown eyes sparkled with playfulness. She didn't even look at him as she spoke. "Shut up Sam." He knew better than to rib her know, so he just sat down beside her ordered a Heineken and smiled as if the 64 million door jackpot was an hour away and he had all the winning tickets.
A red and white streak flew down I-695 heading north to Baltimore. The top was down and Erykah Badu and been overthrown for Ani Difranco. Terry decided it was best to just sing along with the lyrics as Conner was, because this is what Conner did. This was Terry's Conner. Fuming on the inside, waiting to explode at some delayed point of bursting. This was Conner; not the chick who was sitting at the bar searching for a tantalizing quip. Her Conner did not tease when she felt threatened. Hell, Conner didn't tease. She just did it. It took her all of college to learn how to ask permission and realize that people actually do like being courted and pursued-and not juggernautted by a green-eyed imp, who would tell a girl she once held a note on a bag pipe for 25 minutes, and then proceed to demonstrate in one form or another.
The Conner that sat at the bar was shy and nervous and desperately trying to impress woman who either didn't know who she was or knew all to well. They pulled up in front of Conner's house 22 minutes later, it was only 2:30 in the morning. Conner cut the engine and Ani's freestyle. She rested her hands limply on the steering wheel and pushed back into the seat.
"So drinks or Ewan's?"
Terry was busy re-adjusting her bun as she turned towards Conner. "Well, I want to talk to you about tonight, and I don't think I can do that with your little groupies asking you to explain your damn tattoo, asking you if you have more, and telling you that they've got one's in secret places. No, no, no." Terry let out a breath.
Conner dropped her hands from the steering wheel and laughed. "Come on ya' lush, let's go get drunk and cook up a plan." Conner clapped her hands together as she opened the door and stepped out.
Terry squealed with delight as she ran barefoot up the steps and met Conner at the door. "Ooh, goody we haven't had a plan in months" Conner shot the caramel colored woman a sideways glance as she unlocked the door and stepped into the house.
They walked through the foyer, past the kitchen, and up the stairs to Conner's room. It took up most of the floor space not including the bathroom. The only other room on the third floor was the parlor, which served as entertainment central; with the 50-inch screen t.v., stereo surround system, playstation, pinball machine, and a fully stocked bar. Terry dropped her shoes on Conner's floor and sat down on the bed to take off her stockings. Conner walked out of the bathroom with a towel wrapped around wet hair.
"What do you mean we haven't had a plan for months, what about Penis brigade?" Conner's face carried no smile. Terry just looked at her and laughed. "What?" she asked as she slipped off her shoes and socks and let the towel drape around her neck.
"You're always so serious when you say that. Besides, penis brigade doesn't count. It's an old plan that just gets reused with new victims. Hey throw me some shorts."
Conner took of her own shirt and tossed it on the bed as she rummaged for a t-shirt and a pair of shorts. "So what if it's reused, that still takes massive planning, especially when we decide where to put the penises. It took three whole days of observation to get that chick Julie."
Terry giggled as she stepped into the shorts and pushed up her dress over her hips. "Ahh, good old Julie, she still hasn't found the one on the calendar. Terry laughed again and stood up as she put on a t-shirt. "I can't wait for that one. Nice bra by the way." She snapped the strap as she walked past Conner out of the room and into the parlor. Conner let out a 'yipe'.
"See, Terry, it's just a plan that keeps on giving. Not too mention the money we spend on research."
Conner could hear Terry dropping ice cubes into glasses. "Hey man, you just can't pick up any porno mag and expect to find the right penis to cut out. It must be perfectly shaped, awkward angles are nice, lots of different colors. You know, like a potpourri of pee-pees."
Terry stood at the bar and laughed as she watched Conner stand in the archway and pantomime holding a bouquet of penises. "Well aren't you just the Martha Stewart of penises."
"Hey chick, you'd be surprised what you can do with a blow torch, some glitter, and a months supply of Playgirls."
The girls burst into laughter as Terry handed out two perfect Long Island Ice Teas. Terry smooshed into one of the bean bags on the floor, and squished the bag around until it allowed her to recline back and still drink safely. She faced Conner who was sitting crossed legged on one corner of the couch. Terry looked up at Conner after she took a sip and said, "so, tell me this plan." Conner smiled at Terry's enthusiasm as she turned on the cd player and settled herself before speaking.
* * *
Terry hated the plan. She thought it was too much of an investment, not to mention extremely uncharacteristic for Conner. All though, she did applaud Conner on her want to sweep the singer off her feet. Of course, it was at that point that Terry took the opportunity to highlight that it was indeed a lot of feet for Conner to sweep and well, she might get stepped on. This comment led to a small pillow fight which eventually led to a drunken session of playing "Area 51". They abandon it after 10 minutes once it was decided that it was extremely hard to shoot straight at an alien, when you're not sure which end of the gun to use.
Regardless of the fact that Terry wasn't too partial to Conner's 'sit and wait, bait and hook' game, she spent Monday morning working like a madwoman to get Conner the papers legally and quickly. It was 4:30 in the afternoon when Conner picked up the phone in her office.
"Good afternoon, Mr. Jakov's office, he'll be coming your way any moment, Thank you." Conner's voice was nasal and high pitched.
Terry laughed into the receiver. "Hey, butt-munch, got some news."
"All right, what's the word." Conner wiggled her pen between her fingers quickly as she waited.
"Well there are some papers you need to sign and it will probably take to the end of the week, but for all intense purposes you are the proud owner of lot #725, at 2352 Eager Street; formerly known as Tony's. Speaking of, hightail your ass down there, because he wants to talk to you."
"Fan-fucking-tastic! Thank you, sweetie." Conner beamed. "Look, I'm gonna go now, uh, I'll call you tonight."
"Good, I'll be at Sara's for a while."
By the time 5:30 rolled around, Conner was heading back to her home with a million dollar smile on her face. She had met Big Tony and Little Tony, two cocktail servers, and two bartenders including Greg. There were no major staff changes being made and the only structural changes were some small office renovations. Big Tony did hold a look of surprise when Conner said she would be changing the liquor distributors and the sound techs. They walked outside together alone and headed to Conner's car. Tony felt some apprehension since he realized that changing distributors and techs meant cutting out Ewan, all though he did recognize Conner's authority.
"I just want it to be legit Tony, that's all." Conner leaned against her car and crossed her arms across her chest. and cracked a small smile at Tony.
Tony was a stocky man, with a large belly, salt and pepper hair, and gray eyes. He reciprocated her smile. "Well Ms. Mc-"
"Call me Conner, please."
"Well, Conner, if that's what you want, then I won't argue, but just so you know, Mr. McGreely doesn't cause any problems."
Conner grinned at his concern. "Oh, I know, I know. I mean hey-it doesn't hurt to have a few legitament profits." She smiled almost uneasily.
Tony chewed the inside of his cheek before he spoke. "There's not a problem is there?" I mean, it's none of my business, I-"
She cut him off with a vigorous shake of her head and gave him a smile. She touched the large man's shoulder as she opened the car door. "No, there's no problems, it's my venture."
Tony gave her a toothy grin as he closed Conner's car door after she was inside. "Okay Conner. She's all yours and maybe now I can get some freakin' vacation time." He chuckled in an off-hand manner as they shook hands.
"Thanks a lot Tony, I'll be back in a couple of hours." He gave her a salute as he turned and walked back inside.
Conner returned to the club around 9:00p.m. just as Blue's first set was beginning. She found her stool at the end of the bar on the corner and got a wide smile from Greg.
"Evenin' Conner, what can I get you?"
"Let me try that Merlot." Greg tried to hide his surprise, but his wide eyes gave him away. "It's early 'as all, not time for rings of fire." They shared a laughed as he poured Conner a glass of wine and sat it down in front of her.
The happy hour bunch had all ready left, so the crowd had gone down to about 25 people, and was mostly composed of college kids and professors. Conner signaled to Greg, after looking over the crowd, and he moved back to her side of the bar.
"Hey, what does she drink." She nodded to Blue who was straddling the piano seat and banging away at the keys.
Greg looked up to the ceiling in thought and then focused again on Conner. "She drinks Bourbon, mostly neat. Anything else and she'll ask for it."
Conner smiled. "Well get her whatever she usually drinks and have Tiffany take it up there when they do solos or whatever she normally does." He nodded and reached for a glass.
"Do I tell her who it's from?" Conner was impressed with Greg's concern for her discretion. "By all means, Greg." She flashed him a bright smile and he winked at her as he fixed a Bourbon neat and put it on a cork tray on the other side of the bar.
The second thing Conner had done after finding out who the liquor distributor and tech guys were, she found out Blue's schedule. The band played there Monday through Thursday, and one Friday a month. It appeared that her weekends were free, which gave Connor the chance to fantasize about Blue having more time for her. She kicked herself mentally for her stray thoughts, and shook her head as if to rid her brain of lewd images. Conner just took a sip of her drink and tapped her foot to the music.
It took about five minutes for Tiffany to drop off the drink, and when she did Blue looked at it quizzically, as she raised an eyebrow and then allowed a half-smile to spread across her face. She made an obvious show of looking around for her benefactor as Benny worked a bass solo, but she was quite aware of were the drink had come from. She and Sam had practically spotted the petite blonde, as they walked out onto the stage. Sam smiled hard at Blue and she growled at him. He did his best to look dumbfounded when the drink arrived, but Blue knew he was itching to smile. Surprisingly, more so to herself than Sam, she raised her glass in Conner's direction and then jumped back into the song. Conner mentally gave herself a point as the set continued.
The week continued in stride. Conner would show up right before nine, sit in her corner seat, and proceed to buy Blue drinks all night. Blue would raise her glass and nod in her direction and that was it. She cut her eyes at Conner once on Wednesday night during "Angel Eyes", but that had been their only contact. At the end of the night Blue always darted out of the back with Sam and Conner knew better to wait any longer than she had to. By Friday papers had been transferred, distributors changed, sound and lighting fixed, and the office and dressing rooms were to be taken care of over the weekend. This Friday was the one day they stayed here and Conner had a surprise in store for the dark singer.
On Thursday, she had dragged Terry and Sara to every music store in a 100mile radius, looking for the perfect piano. Four hours into the search, they ended up back at the 2nd place they had been and decided on one. Conner showed up at the club around 12 in the afternoon, half-dazed from actually being out of bed at a time that she considered early. She wore a baseball cap that practically covered her eyes, since the bill had been pulled down low. Her jeans were ripped at the knees and the back pockets and her t-shirt was an old hand-me down stating that 'Scotsman do it better'. She helped Greg and Remy stock the bar as she waited on the piano people. They showed up at 1o'clock to remove the brown Steinway that sat atop the stage. A half n' hour later, a beautiful black lacquered BØ sendorfer baby grand sat on the stage glistening. Conner knew Blue would show up around 8:00, so Conner made plans to be there as well- hidden of course.
When Conner stood at the right angle in the hallway that led to the office and dressing room, she could see the edge of the stage where the piano sat and remain hidden in the shadows. She almost didn't recognize Blue when she walked through the front doors. She wore her hair in a ponytail with light bangs brushing at her forehead. Thick-soled biker boots adorned her feet, which accented her blue jeans, and a simple white v-neck t-shirt that fit snugly on her biceps. Conner had to hold her breath to keep from saying wow. Sure, Blue looked like a smoldering Diva when she was up on stage in silk shirts, tailored slacks, and long skirts. But damn, if she didn't look like every mother's worst nightmare and every Catholic school girl's dream rolled into one. Conner felt a shiver run through her body as she watched Blue straddle the seat and run her hands over polished ebony and ivory. The shiver ran up her back passed through her chest and settled somewhere in her groin. If Conner's underwear wasn't ruined, then it was certainly being put to the test as Blue leaned into the keys and quietly sang, "You don't know what love is".
Conner listened until she was about to sink to the floor in grief. 'No wonder her name is Blue.' Conner was moved, aroused, nervous, and intrigued all in the same breath. She crept quietly down the back hallway and walked straight out of the exit door. The Baltimore sky glowed red as the sun gave off its last rays and began to dissolve into the night. Conner felt herself appreciating the feel of a cool breeze that blew through the alleyway, and well as the lessening humidity. She closed her eyes as she leaned on the back door and let out a hug breath that she had been holding. "Ugh, I need a drink." She spoke outloud as she began to walk around to the front of the building.
Blue brought her voice down to a whisper and then she stopped playing and singing all together when she heard the quiet click of the back door closing. There were only two people at the bar and a few people interspersed amongst the tables. The set didn't start until 10 o'clock, so the bar wouldn't fill in for at least another hour, so she knew she had plenty of time to calm herself. She brushed her hands over the keys as she looked directly at the entrance to the hallway. Had Conner have still been there she would have seen her, but Blue knew she had all ready gone. She started to say, 'what the hell am I doing', but Sam's deep laugh brought her out of her trance.
"Big Blue!" She turned in his direction and smiled.
"She's a woman, not an Ox, Sam." Max piped up as he carried his symbols slung over his shoulder.
"No wait, I thought I was an Ox." Blue countered as she stood up from the piano. The three shared a laugh at their inside joke and began setting up. Benny came in a few minutes later along with Elias, who was playing the guitar with them tonight.
"Eli!" Blue chirped. They shared a hug and a quick kiss.
"Hey girl, what's going on? Wow, nice piano." She smiled
"Nice, that thing is brand spanking new." Sam walked up to the piano and ran his hand across the smooth surface of the baby grand. "Nice, very nice. I wonder what the occasion is?" His voice raised an octave as it oozed with innuendo. Blue slapped the man hard on the shoulder as she went to the retrieve the mic stand. "What!?" Sam chuckled to himself, as he pulled out his own stand and plugged in to mic.
The night moved along routinely as they worked there way through the first set. Blue accepted the first drink with a nod, and even went so far as to smile when she received her second, which was accompanied by an Alabama Slamma'. Blue waved Tiffany over during Elias solo and told her to get Greg to fix Conner a flamer. Tiffany just smiled and relayed the message to Greg. Blue smiled smugly to herself-she was feeling frisky-perhaps the alcohol was working. When the drink arrived to Conner with a halo of fire around it, she almost jumped out of her seat. But when Greg said it was at Blue's behest, she smiled a tooth-filled grin. She raised the flaming glass towards Blue, blew out the flame, and chugged the drink. Conner knew the night was about to get really interesting.
As the first song of the second set sprang to life, it abruptly stopped as Blue gripped the mic and raised an eyebrow at the crowd. She held a finger to red lips and said, "shh." The audience obliged, enjoying the game. She pointed to her new glass atop the stool and spoke.
"You see this," The crowd nodded. ", well I've had a drink fairy all night and I feel really bad that I don't get to share it with all of you." She purred into the mic. "So," She hung onto the word as the she ran her tongue across her top lip slowly, eliciting a few cat calls from the audience. "I think my drink fairy should share." The crowd, which had grown considerably over the last hour, erupted into applause. Conner put her Martini down and managed to keep a straight face as she focused on the woman on stage. "Hey Greg, tell her to stand up or something." Greg looked at Conner, who sat calmly in her seat with both hands cradling the glass. She cut her eyes at him and he smiled nervously. "Turn on a light or something." Blue prodded, with a voice filled with challenge. Conner mentally accepted and nodded towards Greg. He flipped on one of the overhead lights over the bar. Conner's little corner was bathed in a pale yellow light, that reflected nicely off of the shell colored oxford she wore. Blue smirked. "There she is. Let's give her a hand for keeping me sati-ated." She purred out the words. The crowd burst into snickers and applause. Conner could feel her ears growing red as she raised her Martini to the crowd. Blue kept a straight face as she spoke.
"So how 'bout it fairy, wanna buy some drinks for my friends?" She waved her hand over the crowd as Max accompanied her with a rim shot.
Conner waited till the mumbling died down before answering. "How about I do you one better?"
"You could try." Her voice dropped an octave and Conner took a sip of her drink to ward off a tremor.
"Drinks on the house, and I'll pay everyone's tab-including yours." The crowd burst into hoots and hollers, and she even got a thumbs up from Sam.
Blue arched a smooth eyebrow impossibly high, as she placed both hands on her hips. She wore a violet colored silk v-neck, that looked like it was painted onto her body, that swooped down to meet a long black skirt with a revealing slit up the left side. She brushed a lock of hair off of her shoulder and made a half-smile. She asked for quiet again, since Conner looked like she wanted to say something else. "And,", she prodded.
"On one condition," the audience became still, ", you sing a request." Blue opened her mouth to say 'sure', but Conner spoke over her. "My request." The two women locked eyes as the crowd oohed and ahhed. Conner watched as Sam whispered something in Blue's ear that made the woman pout slightly. "Fine." She breathed. The crowd applauded. "What would you like?"
'Good God, that's a loaded question.' Conner downed her drink in one gulp and smiled. "How about, I'm a little teapot." Blue's eyebrows shot up in surprise. "Just joking." The crowd giggled. "Really, I want to hear 'I put a spell on you."
Blue cocked her head a bit. 'Sounds easy enough.' she thought. "The CCR version or Screamin' Jay?"
Conner sat upright and sucked her teeth. "Well, I was going to make it easy on you and say Nina Simone, but since you question my musical knowledge-Screamin' Jay, all the way. Piano and everything." Conner licked her lips and settled a small grin on her face. She was eating the game up.
Blue wanted to kick herself in the head, but she merely threw up her hands in defeat. She stepped away from the mic, slipped out of high heels, which dropped her back down to 6 feet, drained her drink and sat on the piano bench.
To say Conner was impressed was understatement. Blue took to the piano and after 10 minutes, she left the band and everybody in the room exhausted. The ovation lasted a full minute, and once the crowd had quieted again, she stood from the piano and said, "I don't know about you guys, but I think I earned my drink." The audience broke into whistles, catcalls, and more applause as Blue stepped off the stage. Sam waited until she had stepped off the stage to start the count. The remaining members ripped into Miles Davis's "So What." and Blue knew she had a good 8 minutes of rest coming her way.
She sauntered barefoot down the length of the bar, making the most of her travel by stopping to talk to patrons and sharing quick smiles and laughs. There was a space next to Conner that was large enough to stand in, but once the guy next to Conner saw her walking towards the side, he gave up his stool with a smile. She gave him a breathless "thank you" as she slid onto the stool next to Conner and closed the gap between them. She caught Greg's eye and gestured for a drink. He smiled at her and yelled from the other side of the bar, "water?" She nodded her head and yelled back, "And Bourbon-not together." He laughed and set about his task. She waited a full heartbeat before speaking. She could see Conner out of the corner of her eye. Conner was resting her back against the wall as her right hand held onto a Martini glass and the other hand rested on her knee. Blue kept her eyes forward as she waited on her drink and spoke.
"So, was it worth the tab?" She spoke low, but loud enough that Conner could hear her. Conner tried not to focus on her lips as she spoke, but they twinkled with little drops of perspiration that Conner found irresistible. "Am I to equate silence with disapproval or just being unsatisfied?" She spoke as if it were a throw away line.
Conner pushed off from the wall and turned to face the bar. "Disapproval-never." She sipped from her glass. "Satisfied-rarely."
Blue took a deep drink of her water as the blonde's voice tingled in her ears. "Slave driver, I take it."
"On the contrary, I aim to please."
"Ooh, so you like working in the trenches?"
"Sometimes the best work is done when you get both your hands and knees dirty."
Blue sucked an ice cube out of her water and then took a swig of her Bourbon. The sensation of the cold infused with the hot made her hairs stand on end. She thought to herself, 'what the fuck am I doing. This is too bizarre for words.' Conner tapped her glass lightly. She was down to the cherry, with only enough liquid to cover the bulb of the fruit and not the stem. This conversation had gotten way out of hand for Conner. Any other time, Conner would have whipped out her bagpipe comment by now and been heading out the door looking for the nearest bed. But this was to be different. 'This is supposed to last', she heard a voice say in her head. Conner blinked hard and realized she was being spoken to.
"Wha?" she sputtered.
"Greg wants to know if you want another."
"Yes, I do." She looked strangely at her drink. "Hey, where's my-" She turned to face Blue at the exact second a red bulb slipped past full red lips and disappeared behind white teeth. Conner grinned. "You could have asked."
"Mmm. I could have." She twisted off the stem and twisted it between her thumb and forefinger. "But you want to keep me happy don't you?"
"That's assuming of course that I do make you happy." Conner spoke rather softly and her comment was swallowed up by applause for the band. Blue put the stem between her teeth and looked up at the band, clapping as if she didn't hear Conner's comment. 'I'm out of my mind, I know it, but I can't help it, I like her.' She stepped down from the stool and faced Conner. Conner leaned back against the wall, creating a gap between them. "So, are you going to impress me by turning the stem into a bow with your tongue?"
Blue smiled as she sucked the stem into her mouth and let it rest on her tongue. She caught Conner's bemused eyes and grabbed her own drink. She closed the gap between her and Conner until she was just barely touching her knee. They were eye to eye. She spread a wide grin across her face and purred out, "wouldn't you like to know." Her blue-black hair danced around her face and shoulders as she turned quickly and headed back to the stage. Conner didn't breathe for a full five seconds. And when she finally took a breath she swallowed it just as quickly when she thought that she had soiled herself, but in reality it was nothing that a few moments alone in the backroom couldn't cure. She ran a shaky hand through her hair as she sat upright and leaned forward onto the bar.
"Greg, my boy, I need a Kamikaze and a Pete's Wicked Ale, post haste."
"Yes ma'am." He smiled brightly as he chuckled to himself as he fixed her drinks. He sat them in front of her along with a glass of water. Conner looked down at the water and accepted it, with a slight grin.
"What's this for?'
"Uh, I figured you might need it." he held in a laugh and focused on some spot on the counter.
Conner formed a small playful pout as she pulled the water towards her. "Don't want me to overheat, I take it." They locked eyes and laughed. "Go away." She shoved him lightly and felt her ears redden with embarrassment as he walked away.
It was 3:00a.m. in the morning when the last person straggled out of the door. Tiffany and Karen were clearing tables, while Conner was helping Greg cash out the registers and count bottles. The band had broken down while Blue changed and then started loading stuff in the van. Greg and Conner were the only people left on the floor as Sam carted away the last of Max's drums. Sam flashed Conner a smile as he walked down the back hallway.
Blue stood outside and waited while Sam loaded Max's truck. Blue ran a hand through unruly hair and sighed. He walked over to her and grinned. "What's up chica?"
"This is so stupid, Sam."
"What is?" He stood beside her, as she leaned on the brick wall.
"I don't know." She shoved her hands in her jeans and huffed.
"What's the problem, she's a cutie."
Blue stared at Sam. "Sam, she's 12."
He threw up his hands. "And she own this place, and she bought somebody a new piano." He poked her lightly in the shoulder as he stood in front of her.
"No she didn't, shut up." She pushed off of the wall and kicked at a pebble.
"Nobody else plays that thing, so you shut up." She glared at Sam and he just smiled. "Look, don't go tryin' to feed me that 'she's to young and I'm unworthy' bullshit or whatever else you got up your sleeve. Remember, I saw you tonight. You had a ball and you know you like her, so suck it up and enjoy the hunt."
She just stared. She wanted to grunt or say something smart, but he was right. Sam saw her shoulders sag in defeat and he smiled. "Now march your sweet little ass back in there and say goodnight." He guided her shoulders like a father with a small child and guided her throguh the back door. She stopped halfway and turned back to face Sam. "What?", he asked in irritation.
"Is my ass really sweet." He just shook his head and shoved her forward.
Blue walked to the end of the hallway and stood in the archway. She watched as Conner and Greg talked and cleaned. 'Damn, she was so nice' 'Just because she may be chummy, and dear god let it only be chummy, with Ewan doesn't mean she's the spawn of hell' 'What, you expected her to be an evil cretin?' '. Blue wanted to answer hell yes, to the dialogue in her head, but she couldn't. She had no clue what to say or do. Gone was the vixen that commanded an audience with pouty lips and arched eyebrows. Here she was now, in jeans and a t-shirt contemplating embarking on something that was totally unexpected, probably would never happen, but felt completely right. She mustered her persona and decided she'd save the soul searching conversation for another night.
She leaned out of the door, hanging onto the frame with her fingertips, until she caught Greg's eye. "Just saying g'night."
"Night Blue." Greg chirped. Conner added her own goodnight without looking up. Blue pulled herself upright and started to walk away, when she glimpsed Sam's profile. She turned round and stuck her head back out of the archway and spoke slowly, "And-thank you. Conner." She caught Conner's eye briefly and then turned back around and walked down the dark of the hallway.
Conner focused on the bottle caps in her hands. She had lost count when Blue first said goodnight. She didn't have to look up from her hand to see Greg's face adorning a smile. "Shut up Greg." He giggled as he continued stacking glasses. Conner gave up her count and finally just estimated as she tossed the caps in a bag. She hopped off the stool and tossed Greg the keys. "I'll see you Monday, Greg."
"Night Conner." He watched her walk out of the bar and across the street. He wiped at the counter on last time as he cut the lights and headed out of the back. He tossed the keys as he walked to his car and thought, 'I wonder how long it'll take them to get together? I should start a pool.' He laughed to himself as he hopped into his Jeep and sped off.
The weekend passed in a blur for Conner. She spent most of Saturday in bed watching cartoons and ignoring phone calls from Manny. Sunday was spent waiting on Terry and Sara to come barging in the house asking questions. Terry let herself into Conner's, walked up to the kitchen and held in a laugh as she watched Conner dancing in silk Tigger boxer shorts and a green half top, drowning out Donna Summer singing 'Hot Stuff' into a spoon in front of the stove. Terry finally let out a guffaw as Conner slid from the stove to the sink in her socks.
Conner dropped the spoon she was holding and whipped around to a fighting stance, fists drawn. "Jesus fucking H. Christ!, Terry! She picked up the dishtowel and hurled it at Terry's face. Terry blocked it with an arm as she fell on top of the Island in laughter. Conner's cheeks and ears turned beet red and she pursed pink lips into a pout.
"I'm sorry, haha, I-I'm sorry. It was too funny, I couldn't mar the moment."
"I'm gonna mar your face." Conner turned back around, picked her spoon up off the floor and rinsed it off before turning her attention back to the pot on the stove. "Where's Sara?"
"Well, Conner, it's Sunday, and I have to watch Wilhelm play soccer." She spoke in a squeaky voice.
"So, what the hell happened on Friday, Rabbit?" Terry walked over to Conner and practically jumped up and downed.
"Go get the veggies out of the fridge and start chopping."
Terry managed to stuff her face with salad in between laughs as Conner retold of Fridays events. By the end of Conner's explanation she was wiping away tears from the corner of her eyes. "Well Mac Daddy, it's good to see you still have a few skills."
"It was close there for a minute."
"Yeah, how close?" Terry wiggled her eyebrows and laughed. Conner rolled green eyes and sat back in her chair. "Well, I can't wait for Monday night. What the hell does she do on the weekends?" Conner shrugged her shoulders. "She probably goes and feeds the orphans or visits her husband and kids."
"Shut up. She does not, good grief." Conner stopped talking and looked at Terry. "Oh God, she doesn't have some hidden family does she?"
Terry burst into laughter and finally Conner joined in with her own nervous laughter. "Yeah right, knucklehead. Anyway, what are you doing tonight?"
"I need to go down to the bar and see Remy."
"Who plays on the weekends?"
"Um, usually college groups. Acid-jazz, house-jazz, and all those derivatives."
"Sounds nifty. Oh shit! I forgot." She struck her palm to her forehead.
"Please call Manny. I got a call from Ewan this morning, bitchin' at me about you. He almost lost a limb."
Conner chuckled. "I bet. I know, Manny's left me messages for like three days. I just don't feel like talking to him. Besides it's not emergencies and I have other stuff to do. I got two portfolios due to Neil on Tuesday and three audits due by Thursday. I guess that's what I get for keeping a real job." Conner rubbed her hand across the back of her neck. Terry watched as frustration flushed Conner's features.
"Why don't you just get that thing lasered off?" They shared a glance and Conner looked down at her empty plate.
"Honestly Terry, I don't want to. I know who I am."
Terry sat back and crossed her arms across her chest, raising an eyebrow in challenge. "Then why all of this-and don't say it's a challenge?"
Conner sighed. "What's wrong with a normal life?"
"Ha. You're Conner Rose McGreely, heiress to the Highlanders legacy and all that. You're practically royalty, a princess and a queen if you wanted to be. What do you want with a normal life?" Terry wasn't trying to bait Conner into an argument, but they always seemed to have this conversation at least every few months. Conner wrinkled her nose and bit her lip in thought.
"Terry you can be anything you want to be right?"
"And I usually am."
"Exactly. Nobody asked me. I was born and automatically assigned a function. I knew how to use a fucking broad sword before I could say the Lord's prayer. Nobody even attempted to wonder if we could have lives of our own. Maybe I wanted to be a doctor or a fucking housewife."
"You still can be."
"Oh come off it. Yeah, I'll get married and breed more little boys and girls who grow up to be warriors. No wait, not even warriors. Warriors have honor. I'd be breeding warlords and tax evaders." Conner cradled her head in her hands. "Don't you get it Terry? You know why you're my best friend?" She didn't wait for Terry to answer as she looked up from her hands. "Because I liked you. Nobody made you come to my house or point you out. You were sitting on a stoop playing jacks or something and it looked like fun and we were both bored. I haven't got rid of you yet. I would think you want this for me. I would think you would get it. It's almost not even about her, it's about the possibility of her and having it be real, for once." Conner stopped talking and cradled her head once again.
Terry got up and embraced Conner from behind. "I do get it Rabbit, I just wanna make sure you do." She spoke quietly with her lips close to Conner's ear. Terry leaned into Conner so that their cheeks were touching. "And Conner, don't make the mistake of thinking it's not about her. Possibility my ass, it's all about the here and now and the tangible." Terry squeezed Conner tightly and let go. She rested her hands on her shoulders and squeezed. "Now, get your scrawny ass up, we got outfits to pick out, and we need to work on your romantic dialogue."
Conner allowed herself to be pulled out of the chair and led her up the steps to her bedroom. "What do you mean I have to work on my romantic dialogue?"
Terry let her hand go as they entered the bedroom. "Honey, references to the strength of your tongue muscles and other oral capabilities is not romantic."
Conner blushed as she plopped on the bed and watched as Terry swung open the doors to her walk-in closet. "Hey, that stuff is important."
"Conner you want a relationship, not an appointment at the clinic." Conner fell back on the bed with laughter, disturbing Remus's nap. She sat up on her elbows and watched as Terry shook her head.
Terry whipped around with her hands on her hips. "I'm afraid you're not going to the club tonight. We need to go shopping."
"I just did."
Blue entered the dressing room; which used to be an office and was now a full-fledged dressing room, at 8:00p.m. She put her bag down in the closet and plopped down on the new sofa. She lay down and stretched out onto the soft leather, resting her arm over her eyes, ankles crossed and resting on the arm of the chair. She just sat there in silence. An entire weekend had passed and here it was time to face the inevitable-she couldn't have what she wanted. She shut her eyes tightly in the hope of blocking out the green eyes that had looked at her not only with want, but- with innocence.
Conner had no idea who Blue was and on top of that she seemed determined not to tell Blue who she was. Sure, it was something in the eyes, but more than that, it served Blue right that the fates should hand her a desirable woman that was wrapped up in the McGreely clan. Blue let out a laugh as she spoke aloud, "a rose by any other name.." She trailed off when she heard Sam's tell-tale laughter in the hallway. She didn't bother to get up when he came in; she just rested her hands on her stomach and opened her eyes.
"Hey girlie." Sam looked down at her long body as he sat his saxophone on the new coffee table. "Looks really nice in here." He shifted his feet. "New carpet and everything." Blue smiled as she watched Sam push his shoes into the carpet, and then softly pad to the love seat and sit down. "Ooh-leather. That little girl sure knows how to spring for the goods."
"Her name's Conner." It was out of her mouth before she could stop the words. Sam just threw one leg over the arm of the seat and laughed. "What?"
"You're awfully defensive."
"Oh, Sam, shut the hell up." Blue ran her hands through her hair roughly as she got up off the couch and walked to the closet.
He snickered, but decided to change the subject-for now. "So we got a set list?"
She shrugged naked shoulders as she exchanged her t-shirt for a sheer button down shirt. "Not yet, I haven't decided. What do you think?"
He stared at the wide expanse of muscle that made up her back. "I'm thinking.." He paused and cocked his head to the side as she dressed. "Do you buy the bra first or the shirt?"
Blue whipped her head around with her hair close behind and smiled at Sam, as she buttoned her top. "What?"
"I mean, do you buy a sheer top knowing you'll need a complimentary bra or a nice bra knowing you'll want a nice top to show it off?"
Blue held in a laugh and just shook her head as she smoothed out her black trousers with her hand. "What do you think Sam?"
"I don't know, that's why I asked smart ass."
"Whatever. Now what about the set?"
"You feeling spunky or sad and low?" He shrugged his shoulders as he stood up and grabbed his saxophone.
Blue changed into her pants before she spoke again, She moved slower than normal, knowing Sam was watching her and waiting as she zipped up her pants. "Never gonna happen Sam." She smiled slyly at the large black man, who made like he was changing his reed.
"I know sugar, but I need some inspiration for my dreams." He rolled his eyes and smiled.
"You're ridiculous. Ask Max and Benny what they feel like doing?"
"How about some nice love songs?" He walked to the table and fished a rag out of his case so she couldn't see the smile on his face.
"Sure, how 'bout 'Ghost of a chance' or 'Solitude'. Maybe, 'You don't know me' or 'the way you look tonight' or -
He cut her off with a grumble. "I said love songs, not love me to death and depression."
Blue gave a smile through full red lips. "What do you suggest?" She watched as a smile brightened Sam's face. She held up her hand as she spoke. "On second thought, nevermind." She knew she had made a mistake and that it was also too late, as Sam began to rattle off song titles, causing her to scurry from the back room barefoot down the hallway. She ran out so fast, she didn't see Conner enter the building through the back door with Terry.
Apparently, not only had Terry dragged Conner out for hours of shopping-she got her to go the salon as well. Conner still managed to retain her hairs' unkempt look, but it was minus the errant spikes and chunks. While Conner did get to choose the deep brown color of the suit. The style, cut, inseam, lapels, shirt and all its accessories, were chosen for her; right down to the soft suede of her two-tone HushPuppies. Conner did manage to sneak a pair of Chihuahua embroidered socks past Terry's defensives, and was only allowed to keep them if they could go spend some quality time in Victoria's Secret. In the end, after three bras, two thongs, and ten minutes of playing with the clicks on the miracle bra, Conner got her socks, and a severe wedgie from her new thong. She was commenting on the inconvenience as they walked into the club through the back door.
Terry swatted at Conner's hand that was moving slowly towards her butt. "Leave it alone. Hey wasn't that you're dream girl that just walked by?" Terry pointed at the flash of black hair that disappeared around the archway. Before, Conner could answer Terry she almost collided with saxophonist, as he stepped out of the door yelling something about "The very thought of you'.
"Oh wow, I'm sorry." Warm brown eyes looked down into bright green. "You must be Conner, I'm Sam." He thrusted a slim hand forward.
Conner looked up and smiled as she grasped Sam's hand. "That's right. You play the sax right?"
"Sure do." He held up the instrument in question.
A small cough came from behind Conner and drew Sam's attention to the caramel colored woman. "Oh sorry." Conner passed a glance at Terry, who now stood beside her. "Sam, this is Terry. Terry this is Sam." The two exchanged a handshake and a smile.
"Well, can I escort you two gorgeous ladies to the front.?"
"By all means, lead the way." Terry glanced at the tall man as he stepped fully into the hallway and she walked in front of him. Conner bit her lip to keep form smiling, as they walked out onto the floor.
Conner looked to the front of the club and made some excuse about checking on Milton, the bouncer, while Sam escorted Terry all the way to a table in the middle of the room and towards the front. Conner laughed as she walked towards the front door to greet the man who looked like anything but a Milton. He was helping one of the girls check id's. Milton was a 6'3", 235 pound Latino man with platinum blonde hair and black eyes. He fit snugly into his black mock turtleneck that showed off his biceps and forearms and pecs and just about everything else.
"Hey Milton, hey Tiffany." They both looked up from their tasks and greeted Conner with simultaneous hellos. Conner left them and decided to walk to the bar, since Sam seemed to be explaining finger placement on the saxophone to Terry. Conner just smiled as she watched Terry put on her massive flirting routine. Right now she was probably telling Sam about the flute fiasco, where she got her finger stuck in the hole during her big recital in junior high. Conner watched as Sam threw his head back in laughter. Conner let out a light laugh of her own as she watched his reaction.
A pair of blue eyes was focusing on the conversation as well. Blue was straddling the piano seat and tapping a bare foot to some imaginary song, as she watched Sam talk to Terry. Blue was watching Sam laugh when her own gaze met with the bright green of Conner's eyes as they both drew their eyes away from the couple. Conner smiled as if on reflex, and then dropped her eyes and turned towards the bar, as she felt the heat arise in her cheeks.
Blue turned back to the piano and stared into the black sheen of the lacquered piano. She counted backwards from 10 as she willed her heart to slow back to a normal pace. It had all but stopped when her eyes met Conner's and then it beat wildly at her smile. 'What the hell am I thinking?' 'Like she'll actually have a problem with a killer.' 'But I'm not just any killer, am I?' Blue stopped her mental degradation by dragging her index finger across the keys, creating a quick run of the scale in every octave.
Conner walked to the bar and stood between two empty barstools. "Hey, sexy man."
"Hey cutie." Greg flashed Conner a big smile as he swiped a Martini glass off the counter and placed it right side up in front of Conner. He fixed her a Blue Moon without prompting and poured it as he talked. "You're friend need anything?"
She turned her head back towards Terry and Sam who had seemingly gotten the drummer into the mix as well. "I think she'll live without me for a while."
"I don't-oh. Ha." She cracked a crooked smile at Greg. "Yeah, do that. And, Greg, give her a couple of cherries. She winked at him and smiled as Greg returned the gesture.
It was almost 9:00 when Conner finally sat down at the table. "This is awful close don't ya think?" Conner looked up from her glass as she spoke.
"Well, this way, we get a good view." Terry gave Conner a devilish grin as she took out a silver-plated cigarette case and placed it on the table. "Whadja' get me to drink?"
"Why don't you ask your new boyfriend?" Conner gave Terry a half-smile as she drank from her glass.
"Ooh, jealous much." They exchanged playful glares and then grins.
"I got you a big Vodka Cranberry and a shooter. I figured you might be thirsty."
"Oh, honey you think of everything." Sarcasm spilled from Terry's lips as she took out a cigarette and lit it. "You want one?"
Conner shook her head no. "Nah, at least wait until I'm drunk."
Terry sucked her teeth. "Conner the idea is to be taken out of her, not carried."
"Would that really be so bad?" She let her eyes linger over Blue's tall frame. Her back was to the audience as she spoke to the drummer and Conner admired her curves.
"Now, that what I like to hear. We should toast." As if on cue, Tiffany showed up with Terry's drink and two whipped cream topped blow jobs. Terry looked down at the blow jobs. "Oh you little skank. You know we have an audience."
Conner raised her eyebrows. "For some odd reason, I think this might be more of a turn on for Sam that for her."
"Hey, ya never know."
Conner shook her head and stuck out her tongue. "That's not a nice picture."
"Hey, you're the one who took it there."
"Are we gonna talk or drink woman?" Conner mocked growled as she grabbed ahold of her shooter.
"Raise 'em high." Terry lifted up her glass. "Uh, what are we toasting?"
Conner smirked as she raised her own glass. "How about the art of instrument fingering?"
Terry practically choked on cigarette smoke as Conner beamed. "Okay, I'll accept that and add: to a normal life.
"Terry?" Conner whined.
"And…lots of unnatural and impossibly good sex with tall women"
"Yea, I'll except that." Both girls grinned from ear to ear as they touched glasses and then sucked down the shooters.
A flubbed note and a small squeak alerted the girls to the fact that their audience was indeed impressed. The two glasses rattled the ashtray as they were dropped back to the table one after the other. Conner snaked out her tongue and licked a stray drop of whip cream off of her lip. "You think he saw you?" Conner asked as she pushed the glass out of her way.
Terry laughed. "See my dear, that's while I'll never understand you. Men are so much easier to control than women.
Conner snorted and arched a pale eyebrow. "Why is it always about control with you?"
"Oh come on Conner. Look at that." She leaned in close to Conner and watched as Connor focused her eyes on the bronze beauty who hummed in harmony with the saxophone, the opening bars to 'Someone to watch over me'.
"Yeah, I'm looking."
"Now, are you saying you wouldn't want to break that?"
Conner turned shocked green eyes to Terry. "She's a woman not a horse Terry." Terry opened her mouth to speak, but the look of mischievousness on her face was enough for Conner. "For the last time Terry, crops are not for domestic use." Terry just laughed and sipped at her drink as she gave Conner a 'don't knock it till you've tried it look'. Conner sat quietly for a moment as she let the lyrics wash over her.
Terry watched Conner and she beamed. She leaned in close to her ear and whispered, "tell the truth wabbit, top or bottom?"
Conner kept her eyes affixed on Blue as she hid a smile in rim of her glass. Terry moved away from her ear, but remained only a breath away from her face. Conner took a sip of her Martini and purred back, "A little from column A and a little from column B." Terry let out a little squeal as she grabbed Conner's cheek and gave her a sloppy kiss on the cheek, leaving remnants of lipstick.
Conner and Terry managed to sit in moderate silence through the rest of the first set. Not that they had exhausted their conversation, but Conner seemed so lost in Blue. Terry found herself lost, as she watched both Conner and Blue trying not to make eye contact, then make it, then blush at a certain lyric, raise drinks to one another and share smiles. Terry was bursting with anticipation and impatience. As the second to last song ended, Terry gave up the silence.
"Conner, you do realize I'm going to kill you right?" She spoke with an incredulous tone, but serious all the same.
"Huh? What, kill me?" Conner turned innocent green eyes in Terry's direction.
"You two are ridiculous. You should just rush the stage now or slit your wrists and give up."
"Those seem like choices that will only yield pain and embarrassment."
"True enough, but it would be better than this, 'I'm not really looking at you, but you know I am' game. What the hell. It's almost halftime-go and talk to her or something." Terry waved a hand through the air. Conner opened her mouth to reply, but Terry held up a finger, effectively silencing Conner. "Don't even try to say you don't know what to say, or I will kick your ass right here and now." She bared her teeth at Conner and growled.
Conner shrank back in her seat and mustered up a shaky smile. "Good grief, you animal. I wasn't going to say that- I think." Conner rolled her eyes and smiled. "Whatever, I'll go talk to her, but I don't think she wants to talk to me."
Terry shot a slim brown eyebrow up. "What the hell is giving you that idea?"
Conner shrugged and sipped some water. "I don't know, she seems distant…I know that sounds crazy, but I'm listening to her and she just doesn't seem all there." Conner shrugged again. "I don't know."
Terry waved off Conner's confusion. "Well, after this song, go talk to her and find out. This is making me want to puke." Terry scrunched her brow in thought and then took a sip from her glass. "Hey, how 'bout some Tequila to loosen you up."
"What happened to me walking out of here?"
"That carrying idea seemed good."
"Are you trying to get carried out of here?"
"Perhaps." Terry smiled and winked in Sam's direction.
The saxophonist winked back and sat on his stool as Benny began plucking the bass to initiate the last song of the set. Blue had taken a seat at the piano this time. She tilted her head towards the mic with her eyes closed and then opened them again as she begin to sing and play.
"I love you oh so madly, I need you love so badly- but I don't stand a ghost of a chance with you.
I thought at last I had found you, but other arms surround you-
and I don't stand a ghost of a chance with you
If you'd surrender-just for a tender kiss, or two-you might discover that
I'm the lover meant for you and I'd be true.
So what's the good of all my scheming-I know I must be dreaming-
For I don't stand a ghost of a chance with you."
The words fell off Blue's lips like morning fog meeting dewy grass. It was slow, it was sweet, and it was patient. The piano added raindrop-like accents, that swelled and poured and then slowed to a light drizzle when needed. Blue thought her heart would burst on the spot, as the muscle grew large in her throat. She fought off the thought of tears as what seemed like two solid beams of green flowed through her. Those were indeed the eyes she had been looking for all this time. They did not rest in the lost innocence of a 15 year old boy or his forgiveness. Instead, it rested in the forgiveness of love.
If it was possible for Blue to ever forgive herself for her transgressions, she saw it reaching out to her from misty green eyes. She closed her eyes as she stopped singing and poured her raging thoughts in to the piano for a solo. As she played the last measure, she repeated the last verse and let her voice die out as the music faded into silence. She didn't hear the applause or the whistles. She didn't see them standing. She just saw Conner, who looked as confused and sincere as Blue felt. Blue knew anything was possible at that moment, and Conner was a huge possibility, if not a certainty. If it hadn't been for the last ditch effort of her insecurities welling up, she might have jumped off the stage and done her best to lose herself in soft pink lips. Blue barely got out a 'thank you' as she stepped off the stage and exited briskly through the dark hallway and out of the back door.
Conner wanted to get up and run down hallway, but a slim brown hand with a French manicure, placed itself on her forearm. She met Terry's soft brow gaze and sighed. Sure, Conner thought she would have liked to hear Sara's sweet sympathetic voice cooing over her, but she needed Terry's crisp and blunt off-hand remarks.
"Ha. I bet you she can't even hold a conversation without aid of a songbook." Conner raised two blonde eyebrows in confusion. She wasn't sure whether to laugh or lash out in defense of the tall woman. As always, Terry's wry remark left her wanting to agree and merely incensing her to anger on the other hand. So, Conner did what she did best: scrunched up her brow till the lines creased in her forehead and nose and nibbled her lip. Terry hid a smile as she wrapped her lips around a ciggerette and inhaled. "Yeah, she's just like that guy in the Vonnegut story; he couldn't interact with people without aid of a script. He falls in love with this girl and they play different characters everyday to keep the relationship."
Conner let go of her lip and looked at Terry. "That might not be such a bad way to live."
Terry rolled her eyes. "That's true Conner, but um, sweetie you can't sing." Terry let a slow grin spread over her face and watched as Conner mirrored it. "Now, go get me a drink wench." Terry snapped her fingers for emphasis. Conner bowed her head as she stood up. She leaned in and kissed Terry softly on the cheek. Terry just waved her off and put out her cigarette. She watched Conner walk to the bar with a smirk and then turned it into a full-fledge smile as Sam walked up to her.
"Hey there, may I sit?"
"Please. Can I buy you a drink?"
"Taken care of." He held up a glass. "So where's your little friend?"
"Isn't that my question?"
He looked confused for a split second and then nodded his head. "Oh, you mean moody Blues." He shrugged broad shoulders. "I'm used to it, that lady's got enough baggage to fill a 747 cargo bay."
"And Conner's got enough skeletons to fill it up with." They shared a brief moment of silence and then spoke together, "perfect match." They shred a good laugh that quieted as Conner came back to the table, dirnks in hand.
"Hello. Is she telling you the joke about the three nuns that get reincarnated?"
"Something like that." Terry offered up an answer before Sam could react. Conner sat in her seat and slide Terry's drink to her. "Gracias, senorita."
Conner nodded and then looked towards Sam. "Great set by the way."
Sam smiled meekly. "We're just the accompaniment."
"So..is she okay?"
"You mean Blue? Yeah, she just acts like that to keep her image intact. He gave her a half-smile.
"Ahh." Conner nodded and sipped at her drink.
"She's probably in the back taking a nap. You could always go wake her?"
Conner didn't have to look at Terry to see the sly grin spreading across her face. Conner let out a light laugh and then stood. "Don't worry I was just asking. Look, I'm gonna let you two chat, while I go give Greg a hard time."
"Hey, tell him to stop waterin' down my drinks, while you're at it." Conner smiled at Sam and then walked away.
Terry waited a moment before she looked to Sam and spoke. "So, you want to make a little bet?"
Sam smiled knowingly. "You're late."
"All ready got a pool going."
Terry laughed. "Well, somebody needs to count me in." They shared more laughter and conversation up until Sam had to go back to play.
The second set had good music, but no emotional outburst this time. The patrons began to dwindle as 12:30 rolled around and by 1:45, the place was cleared. Terry and Conner sat at the bar while the bar broke down and the girls cleared the tables. Conner turned to Terry as she rolled a bottle cap in fingers. "Do I need to take you home? I need to hang here and take care of some paperwork, but I can drop you off or whatever."
"Paperwork, eh?" Terry nudged Conner with her elbow. "No worries, my ride is covered." Conner rolled her eyes.
"Behave yourself young lady."
"Am I under oath?"
"Hey now, it's almost 2:30, people need coffee."
"I thought people needed sleep at this hour."
"What kind of girl do you think I am, missy?"
"That kind of girl, missy." They shared sly grins and a giggle As Terry stood up from the stool Sam was soon at her side. "Hey Sam, you take good care of my girl, and don't let her sucker you into anything."
He smiled and said, "too late." Conner and Terry exchanged kisses and Conner watched as her best friend strolled out of the bar with the saxophonist.
It was a quarter to three when Conner locked the door behind Greg and went to sit at the bar. She heard a small noise from the back and looked up to see Blue standing in the archway wearing blue jeans, a cardigan, and range cap turned backwards.
Conner's heart stopped and her face threatened to break into a huge smile. Instead she managed to curb it to a smile as she spoke. "Hi, I thought you left?"
"No." Blue spoke softly as she shifted her weight from foot to foot and then walked towards the bar. "Uh..I had to help Max load the car."
"You know, if he wants, I can just buy a drum set and leave it here."
"Oh, no. The piano's enough." Blue was still inching towards the bar, hands shoved in her pockets.
"So, does it play to your satisfaction?" Conner thought it was a dumb question, but she needed something to keep the conversation going.
Blue wanted to jump up and down and say 'God yes, it plays like a dream!' Instead, she just dropped her eyes to some interesting spot on a stool and said 'yes'. She stopped two barstools away form Conner and sat her bag down on the stool.
Conner was watching the tall woman's slow progression and she sighed inwardly. 'Oh God, maybe she can't carry on a conversation with a songbook?'
"You okay there?" Blue's voice startled her. "Hard math problem?"
Conner glanced down at the neglected paperwork and shook her head. "HaHa, no. Just an errant thought." She paused and closed the portfolio. "Um, do you need a ride or something?"
"No, I was just saying goodnight." Blue didn't want to say goodnight, but she couldn't find another excuse to stay.
"Um, coffee, maybe. Do you want?" Conner was kicking herself."
"Maybe, coffee. I want, sure." Blue answered back.
Conner felt the blush rise to her ears and cheeks as she smiled on reflex. "Nothing like American education." They shared a laugh. "Give me a second and we can go." Blue just nodded in response.
As Conner slid off the stool they heard a dull thud come from the back. They both looked towards the back hallway with wide eyes. "What the fuck!" Conner mumbled. A window pane shattered in the back, making Conner jump slightly. "Turn the lights out." Blue's deep voice rumbled out the command. Conner didn't hesitate at the tone as she hit the house lights and they stood within the low glow of track lights.
"Go wait out front, I'm going to go out back." Blue gave a quick glance at Conner as she rolled up the sleeves on her shirt and prepared to move.
"What the hell?" Conner glared at Blue with fierce green eyes and hands at her hips. "No way, you're not going out there by yourself."
Blue found it odd and amusing that such force could be packed into such a small frame. The glare Conner gave her, almost made Blue want to apologize for the suggestion. "Well, um, then we'll both go out that way, and we'll meet in the back." She gestured towards the front door
Green eyes softened. "Better."
Blue dropped her hat on her bag and they walked out the front door together. Blue held up her hand and pointed to the left as she turned to go right. Conner nodded and they walked away from each other. Apparently, longer legs make for quicker arrivals. Conner reached the back alley just in time to see Blue slam a guy into the wall by his throat. As he slid down the wall, Conner watched as another man grabbed Blue from behind. She let out a useless yelp, as Blue caught the man's descending fist in the air and bent his wrist back dropping him to his knees. That was when the guy from the wall decided to take off down the alley almost knocking Conner down in the process. Conner regained her footing, turned on her heels, and took after the black-clad man that had bumped into her. Blue looked up from the man struggling under her boot to see Conner sprint after the man in the ski mask. Blue looked down at the man, who's wrist was twisted at an odd angle and growled into his face. "Get da fuck outta here." He snatched back his wrist as she let go of it and crawled away from her sneer and then took off out of the alley.
Blue charged around the building to find Conner and the man on the other side of the building standing in a pile of trashcans. The man lay on his stomach with his arm being held back and twisted up by Conner, who had wedged her foot between his shoulder blade. With a good tug, she could rip his arm out of the socket. Blue was impressed and unnerved. She was deathly quiet as she watched Conner reach down with her free hand and yank the man's mask off and then immediately release his arm with a jerk.
Conner's eyes froze at the familiar face. She dropped his arm and removed her foot allowing the man to roll over. He was trying to stand, but the trash bags were casing him to slip. Conner placed her foot at his crotch and silently threatened to stomp, so he stopped squirming. "I know you, you little shit. What the fuck are you doing?" She leaned down into the young man's flushed face.
"J-Jesus, Conner. I-I didn't know. We were just doing a job-that's all, I swear I didn't know." He darted his eyes back and forth trying hard not to focus on the hard emerald orbs that bored into his skin.
She removed her foot and stepped back. "What's your name?'
"Well, Mike you tell Ewan- no never mind, I'll tell him myself. Get the fuck out of my sight." She watched him tumbled out of the trash bags and scurry around the corner. She kicked at a trash bag and cursed the air. "Damn it!" She ran a shaky hand threw disheveled red-blonde hair and her eyes suddenly grew wide. "Oh God, Blue!" She turned quickly on the premise of starting a mad dash around to the other side of the building , when she was stopped by two hard points of blue ice. Raven hair was loose and wild about her shoulders. She stood with her fists clenched at her sides, and Conner could see the veins in her arms bulging. If it hadn't been for the two cold eyes, Conner could have been overcome with arousal . Instead, she was filled shame. She parted pink lips in order to start an apology, when something unexpected happened. Blue stuck out her hand drew full lips into a lopsided grin.
"Hi. Name's Blue and I sing. Who are you and what do you do?" A strong hand hovered in the air as she watched Conner slump her shoulders dejectedly.
Conner removed her gaze from her shoes and looked up at Blue, careful to avoid her eyes. "The name's Conner. Conner Rose McGreely, and I uh, I…" She trailed off and hung her head as she shoved her hands in her pants pocket, ignoring the sharp pain she felt in her right hand.
Blue withdrew her hand and crossed her arms across her chest. 'Now or never' she thought. "And you give a mean interrogation." Conner raised her brows in surprise at the humor and looked up into blue eyes that were no longer chips of ice nor filled with heat. "So, what are you? They still make you take the family name or are you blood?"
Conner lowered her brows so as not to express the shock and surprise that Blue was familiar with her family's ways. "Yeah, descendant of the Highlanders and rulers of the boroughs, yada, yada, yada." She stated the worn credo flatly. She looked back up at eyes that were focused on her and thought, 'Shoot me or kiss me, but don't stare.' "Um, Ewan's my brother." She spoke quietly and focused her gaze on the ground.
The dark woman wanted to do nothing more than to collapse to the ground in laughter. She tightened her arms about her chest as she fought hard to keep her face void of emotion. 'I can't believe I'm still standing here. Fuck, I can't believe I'm still standing. Unfair does not begin to even chip away at this mountain. Blue forced her thoughts down as she nodded slowly and said, "figures" under her breath.
"What?" Conner looked up at Blue.
"Nothing." Now Blue focused on the ground. They just stood there in the alley in silence. Conner was wishing she could be swallowed up by the Earth and Blue just wished she could rewind the tape of her life. She watched as Conner scrunched her brow in deep thought and nibbled on her lip. Blue held back a smile as she observed the rabbit-like gesture that Conner was making. Finally, the quiet got to her. "C'mon ya rabbit, I need a lift." Blue turned to walk to the front, but noticed that Conner stood in place wide-eyed. "What?"
"Wha-what did you call me?"
"Why. Why?" Blue shrugged and started walking. Conner caught her and grabbed her by the arm only to release it quickly as if it burned to the touch. "Why did you call me that?" Conner's voice carried less urgency now.
"Because, you look like a rabbit when ever you're in deep thought." Blue stuffed her hands in her pocket and started to walk away only to stop again. She turned to face Conner, who had a look of bewilderment crossing her features. "By the way rabbit- I think you're bleeding." She spoke matter of factly.
Conner's eyes widened in confusion as she looked at the red stains on Blue's sweater and then remember the pain in her hand. She gingerly took her right hand out of her pants pocket and winced as she looked at the red gash slicing through the lines in her palm. "Aw Jesus!" Conner cursed the air as she remembered blocking a punch from Mike during their scuffle with her hand, no doubt causing the wound.
Blue watched the woman's shoulders tense with pain as she tried to examine the wound on her own. "Here, walk into the light and let me see it." Blue managed to keep her voice free of irritation as she gestured for Conner to walk towards her. Conner held her hand to her body as she stepped towards Blue and stood under the lamppost. Blue put her hands on her hips and rolled her eyes at the woman's apprehension. "Conner," She spoke firmly. ", give me your hand." Conner slowly held out her palm as if she were reaching into the mouth of a Tiger. She waited through squinted eyelids as Blue gently grabbed the slender wrist with her left hand and touched a smooth forefinger to the skin around the wound. Conner grimaced at the anticipation of the pain, more so than the actual pain. In reality, the touch was gentle and warm.
Conner focused her eyes on the mound of black hair that was on display as Blue bent her head to look at her hand. "It doesn't need stitches right?" Her voice held more anxietty than she intended.
Blue fought a smile and decided to put a test to the girls level of paranoia. "Afraid of needles, or hospitals?" Blue didn't look up from the hand she was holding, for no good reason other than the fact that it felt extremely good to hold. Conner was shooting out green lasers at the top of Blues dark head.
Conner counted down from five mentally to curb the flash of anger and fear that rose in her, once she decided Blue was testing her limits. She mentally relaxed and replied. "So what the word Bones, stitches or what?"
Blue finally looked up from the hand and released it with a soft push of her fingers. Conner cradled her hand in the other hand and looked down at the drying blood. "Well, if it starts bleeding again I'll take you to get it stitched."
"Where?" Conner surprised herself with her calmness, but she had a feeling that this woman wouldn't intentionally do her harm. Blue curled her lip and raised an eyebrow as she made a half-smile for a reply. Conner caught the meaning of the smug look and held back a smile. "So, you do stitches?" Conner reflexively raised a blonde eyebrow, acknowledging that she was no longer worried.
"I used to be a girlscout in a former life." Blue ignored Conner's questioning gaze as they began to walk towards the front door. "But like I said, you don't need 'em, the wounds not that deep." She held the door for Conner. "I would however, suggest a nice piece of gauze and some antiseptic." Blue spoke rather gruffly as she pushed her sleeves back up, put her cap back on, and slung her bag over her shoulders.
Conner was slightly taken aback by the tone of Blue's voice as she retorted, " well I guess they don't give girlscouts bedside manner lessons, do they?" Blue almost sneered at the lithe strawberry-blonde who was busy padding her hand with a small stack of cocktail napkins. Instead she merely adjusted her shoulder strap and started to walk past Conner towards the front door. As she walked by, she mumbled loud enough for Conner to hear, "I've never had complaints." She continued on to the front door and stopped. "Are you coming or not?", she asked without turning around. Conner smirked as she snapped out of her stupor and walked quickly to the door.
They walked to the car in silence. Conner stopped as she held onto the door handle. With her back to Blue, who was directly behind her she spoke quietly. "I'm sorry… about back there."
Blue stood in place as she watched the young woman struggle with her words. "So, are you apologizing for our visitors-or for this?" She reached out a free hand almost unconsciously and brushed a fingertip over the raised and dyed skin that formed a Celtic knot on Conner's neck. She saw Conner visibly shake as the hairs on the back of her neck rose, and she gripped the door handle tighter. Blue quickly withdrew her hand and rammed it into the pocket of her jeans. Mentally, she was standing before the firing squad. Physically, she stepped back from Conner, moving further into the street. 'What am I thinking? What am I doing? This cannot happen.' "Um, I'm sorry. I gotta go-uh, you need to talk to -um- bye, Conner." Blue gripped the straps harder as the disjointed words fell from her lips and then she turned and crossed the street, disappearing down the back alley, all before Conner could turn around.
If Blue would have stayed, she would have see green eyes rimmed with tears. Conner's knuckles were turning white from her grip on the door handle and her legs felt boneless. She opened the door just wide enough to allow her to slide inside. Once seated, she let her head fall back onto the headrest and without thought, she pounded her right hand into the steering wheel. This time, the tears came. Conner sat and whimpered until she broke into giggles. Her hand was throbbing, her head was aching, and her neck still burned from where Blue had touched her. It was like a block of hot ice had been laid on Conner's body. She had asked her what she was apologizing for and then without warning she touched her. It took everything Conner had to remain on her feet. She figured Blue had been repulsed by what the tattoo really meant and bolted. Conner got mad again and punched the steering wheel with her left hand. Suddenly, she remembered where she needed to go and why. Conner started the car and did a 180 in reverse before the cd player even had a chance to cue up. She was heading to Columbia at 110mph, with one thought on her mind-Ewan.
* * *
It was nearing 3:30a.m., so Conner didn't bother to go to the house. Instead, she took a corner and turned on Governor's Parkway heading for the club. It was Ewans' only slightly legitimate enterprise. It didn't open till 11:00p.m., didn't get exciting until 2:00a.m., and by 6:30 most patrons were ready to pass out. Conner parked next to Ewan's Mercedes and gave the engine a much needed rest, and hopped out of the car. Her appearance came as no surprise to the parking lot attendant or the bouncers at the door. Richard wasn't surprised when she shot through the front door and bounded up the spiral staircase to get to the balcony. George, Serio, and Paul weren't surprised as she made the turn and headed straight for Ewan's office. Rick wasn't surprised that she needed to see her brother or the point that she didn't give a rat's ass what whore was in there. He was however, left speechless when Conner shoved him aside and kicked in the door. He watched the scene slack-jawed as the pint-sized strawberry-blonde walked right up to the couch Ewan was sitting on and grabbed a hand full of hair that was attached to a head buried deep between Ewan's legs.
Conner tugged at the loose bleached-blonde curls until the girl sprang up to her feet. Conner still held onto her hair as she pushed her towards the door and shoved her through the door, causing her to collide with a still gasping Rick. She gave him a slight smirk and then slammed the door shut. When Conner turned around Ewan was sitting on the edge of the couch leaning forward, resting elbows on his knees. His right hand drummed fingers into his kneecap while his left hand cradle his chin. He had decided that he wouldn't yell-he was just going to sit and listen. Besides, he had found it all quite amusing. Conner could do so much more he thought, but he knew better, she saved her rage only for him. 'How special' he thought as he focused on the two flaming green eyes that bored into his skin.
Conner stood in front of Ewan and leaned back onto the desk, with her legs crossed at the ankles and her arms folded across her chest. She was trying really hard to calm down as she took heavy breaths and watched Ewan. After a few moments of silence, Conner decided she might be able to speak without anger. It was lost cause.
"Have you lost you're fucking mind!?" She was furious. Ewan almost jumped at her voice when he realized she was talking. He sat back in the couch and rested his ankle on his knee. "So, have you?"
"Uh, not lately." He was trying not to sound facetious, but his wide eyes weren't helping.
Conner flailed her arms wildly and pointed at him. "Fuck you, Ewan, you know damn well what I'm talking about. How could you do that to me!"
Ewan had tuned out at the 'fuck you' when he noticed the napkins that were adhered to Conner's hand with blood. He stood up and walked towards her. "What's that?" He reached for her hand, but she snatched it away and crossed her arms across her chest. "Conner what is that?" She glared at him as she walked around the desk and sat in his chair with arms still crossed, lips pouting, and eyes hard. Ewan leaned forward on his desk, resting on his hands and stared at her with the same two hard points of green. "Conner?"
"Why don't you ask tweedle moron and tweedle fuck-up."
Ewan slapped a palm on the table and mumbled something unintelligible. He leaned forward and snatched the phone off the hook. "Hey, find Mike and Hugh-now." He slammed the phone back down on the base and stood up straight. He was trying to hold onto the anger from the phone call, but it couldn't compare to pyres that seemed to burn around Conner. Her hair was windblown to a mad man's perfection. Her ears and cheeks were red, and her eyes were distant and cold. He briefly remembered when she burned his KISS albums. She had had that distant cold look in her eyes, but now there was something else in them that he couldn't quite describe, but it chilled him. Ewan relaxed his shoulders and leaned forward onto the desk again. He could barely look her in the eye. "Conner. I'm-sorry."
"Why?" Her voice trembled as if she was on the verge of tears.
"I'd like to have some sadistic brotherly-love reason, but it was just a fuck up." He sighed, put his hands in his pockets, and walked to the couch and sat on the arm rest.
"I'm listening." She had unfolded her arms and rested them in her lap.
Ewan looked straight ahead, still avoiding the full assault of her eyes. "When I found out you wanted the club I had all ready set things in motion for a torch. Then you came to me and said no. I told the boys to backoff, but apparently the message didn't make it all the way down the totem pole." Ewan sat there hoping that his evasion of her eyes registered as fear and shame and not the fact that he was lying. It wasn't a complete lie. The club had been on the list to torch, but he could have stopped it even after the match had been lit. Ewan had grown quite skeptical of the tall dark singer that his sister seemed to like and he didn't want to take any chances, so instead he had intended to send her a message.
Conner stood up and walked around the desk at the other end. "You told them to back off, eh?" Ewan raised his eyes up at his sister and started to say yeah, but he was cut off by a glare. "Ewan," She spoke with quiet conviction as she walked towards him, stopping an arms length away. "It's mine. It is not your toy. I'm sick of your reneging. You don't own me and you're not my keeper. Just leave my personal business alone- this has nothing to do with family." She started to walk towards the door as he stood up.
"Conner, I'll pay for the damage."
She almost gave herself whiplash as she snapped her head around and tried to set fire to the room with her eyes. "I don't want your money! None of it! So, stop calling the matainence guy, and quit paying for my car checkups." She gripped the doorknob without looking. "And, if you want something," She turned towards the open door, " you fucking call Manny." With that, she slammed the door and walked back out in the same fury that she entered with.
When Mike and Hugh entered Ewan's office it was deathly still and so was he. They stood in the middle of the room with Paul and Rick at the door, and Ewan still sitting on the arm of sofa- right foot touching the ground, left foot dangling in the air, hands resting on his knee. After a brief moment of uneasy silence Ewan dropped his right hand to the couch and began drumming the fingers of his left hand on his knee.
"Which one of you did it?"
Both Hugh and Mike sent harried looks at one another as the low grumble of Ewan's voice breached the stale and quiet air. Hugh looked away from Mike and spoke up. "Did what sir?"
"Hurt Conner." Hugh's eyebrows raised in surprise. He didn't even know Conner had been there. Ewan read the sincere expression on Hugh's face and dropped his eyes to the floor. "Mike, hold out your hand." Ewan didn't need to look up from the floor to know that Mike's face had grown pale or watch as beads of persperation threatened to seep into his eyes. Ewan made no move to make his statement again.
It took Mike a long minute to raise a shaky right arm, bent at the elbow, palm facing Ewan. Ewan reached down in the seat cushion and whipped the gun out and pulled the trigger all in the same second. The bullet passed clean through Mike's palm, leaving a wound no wider than a number two pencil. Rick had made the move to his right and caught Mike before he fell to his knees in a silent scream. Rick then dragged him from the room, with Hugh hot on his heels. He stopped as Ewan cleared his throat and turned to face him. Ewan looked at Hugh blankly as sat the gun back down on the seat cushion and clasped his hands together.
"What about the other woman?" Ewan's voice was quiet but crisp.
"Sh-she was there." Hugh rubbed sweaty palms on his track pants to stop them from shaking as he looked anywhere but Ewan's eyes.
"Did you get a good look at her?"
Hugh absently rubbed a hand across his throat as he answered. "Yes. Yes, sir." He stood up a little straighter.
"Could you remember it?" Hugh
nodded vigorously as a small glint of hope reached pale blue eyes.
Hugh, do you wanna go to Boston." It wasn't a question and Hugh wouldn't have answered no anyway. Hugh relaxed as he watched Ewan pad the seat cushion next to him, gesturing for him to sit down. Hugh took the proffered seat and then visibly relaxed as he listened to Ewan lay out the plans for his 'business trip."
* * *
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