For complete disclaimers see part 1.
If you’d like to tell me what a wonderful writer I am or that I royally suck, feel free at: XenaNut@hotmail.com
Willow glanced over her shoulder again, stunned all over again to see Christine Gray following her up the squeaky case, overnight bag slung over the singer’s shoulder. Blue eyes grinned knowingly up at her, making the blonde almost trip over the top step as she reached the second floor landing.
Leading her to the first door they came to, she entered the large, sun-filled room. Christine looked around, finding the rustic, country feel of the place almost comforting in a way. She could feel the warmth and love that radiated from the old walls.
“Is this okay? I know it’s not much. Probably not what you’re used to.” The nurse smiled, leaning against the wall by the open door.
“No, this is beautiful.” Christine smiled, taking in the antique four-poster bed with matching dresser and vanity. The handmade quilt on the bed and antique water basin atop the small table under the window. “I love it,”
Willow watched as the singer walked around the room, booted heels knocking on the old, wooden floor, which squeaked in a few places.
“How old is this house?” Christine set her bag down on the bed, making her smile as the bag bounced a bit.
“Well over a hundred years.”
“Show me.” At the blonde’s look of confusion, Christine grabbed her hand, pulling her out of the room. “You promised me a tour, so come on.”
Willow grinned, nearly tugged off her feet. “Okay, okay!”
“And, last but certainly not least, my babies.” Willow hung her arms over the rail fence, nodding toward the pasturing family of horses.
“How many do you have?” Christine also leaned on the fence, though backed off a bit when Jack, a huge black gelding, snorted in her general direction.
“They won’t hurt you. I have six. That big guy there eyeing you is Jack. He’s seven and as gentle as a bear, aren’t you, big guy?” Snorting again and tossing his head, Jack walked over to Willow’s outstretched hand, sniffing it.
“Wellll, they’re a bit too tall for my taste.”
The blonde eyed the tall singer, a brow raised. Christine smiled sheepishly, looking down. “Yes, well, the secret’s out. I’m a big ol’ wuss.”
“I won’t tell.” Willow glanced at her companion, chewing on her lip for a moment, thinking. “Want to see the rest of the property?”
Blue eyes left the horse, looking at the nurse. “Yeah,” she said, a bit of challenge in her voice.
“Okay, pull in the clutch here and give her gas at the same time. Easy, easy, now,” Willow grinned, holding the brunette back as she almost gunned the engine, sending her flying off god knew where. “Your break is here,” she squeezed the break on the left side of the handle bar.
“Okay. I think I got it,” Christine looked down at the red bike, which Willow had called a 1994 Yamaha WR 250. The blonde sat astride a matching yellow one.
The singer nodded, revving her engine, which the blonde was doing as well. With that, they were off in a spray of dust and gravel.
It was strange getting used to the feel of the heavy bike between her legs, and balancing it. She’d never been on a motorcycle before, not even a small dirt bike like this one.
Willow led them through pastures, down dirt trails, and through the small cherry orchard that took up the southern corner of the property.
“Oh, you have got to be kidding!” Christine exclaimed, pulling her bike to an unsteady stop. Seeing her companion still back in the orchard, Willow turned her own bike around, idling next to the red Yamaha. “I love cherries!” The singer grins at the blonde, then turned back to the trees before her. Rich, dark red and purple cherries cover the branches, making them hang tantalizingly close to her reach. “May I?”
“Please. Help yourself.” Willow sat back on the tell tale blue seat, Yamaha stenciled in large, white letters along the side. She was amused and charmed, watching her new friend jump up to snag a handful of the fruit, humming as sweet juices filled her mouth.
“This place is amazing, Willow.” Christine, hand filled with cherries, walked back to her bike, sitting sideways on the seat. She looked out over the acreage, the trees, sun, flatlands, beautiful, clear stream. All of it.
“Thank you. I love it here,” the blonde said quietly, a smile of pride and love on her lips. “It’s very special to me.”
“I can see why. You know, if this were my place, I’d grab my guitar and sit right out here,” she hitched her thumb back at the tree where she’d just picked her snack.
“You know,” Willow looked at Christine, her head slightly tilted shyly, “Kevin’s guitar is in the attic,”
“He plays?” Christine perked up.
“He used to. That’s how he got me to go out with him,” Willow chuckled.
“Oh yeah?” All cherries gone, the singer crossed her arms over her chest, a small smirk spreading.
“Yeah. He made up this horrible song, and wouldn’t stop playing it until I said yes.”
“And so you said yes,”
“And so I said yes.”
“How long have you been together?”
“Seven years.” Willow killed the engine on her bike, dismounting and plopping down in the shade of the huge trees. It felt good, just a lazy, late Saturday afternoon. She was amazed at how comfortable she felt with the singer. Willow realized that Christine Gray was just a woman. A wonderfully talented and famous one, but a woman all the same.
“What are you thinking about?” Christine asked, her voice quiet, not wanting to break the peace that filled her.
“Hmm? Oh,” Willow looked away, hiding her smile. “I was just thinking that I’m surprised about you.”
Brows drawn. “Why? In what way?” She stood from the bike and sat next to Willow.
“I don’t know,” the blonde shrugged. “I’ve never met a celebrity before, and I guess I thought-“
“Okay, hold that thought,” Christine held up a hand, a gentle smile pulling at her lips. “This weekend, here on your beautiful ranch, what say you we’re just Willow and Christine. Please?” Green eyes stared into blue for long minutes, when finally Willow nodded.
“Well,” Willow put her hands on her knees, read to push up and stand. “You hungry?”
“Starved,” Christine grinned.
“Come on. Let’s get you fed.” The blonde stood, holding her hand out, which was taken in a larger, calloused one.
I was sleeping soundly, my body able to stretch out and relax for far too long when I bolted awake, nearly pissing myself as the door to the room I’d been drug to the night before flung open.
“Time to get up, Christine,” a woman’s voice rang out, managing to cut through my muddled haze. She walks across the room with purpose, grabbing the closed curtains and pulling them open, sunlight spraying into my eyes.
“Jesus Christ, lady!” Bringing my hands up, I cover my face. “Who the hell are you?”
“My name is Sandra and I’ll be your stylist.” She walks back to the door from whence she’d so rudely come, hand on the door frame. I finally get a look at her. Blonde hair piled on top of her head in some pompous do, pristine suit in a vomitous color of greenish brown. Dangly gold earrings and very high heels, making the muscles in her bare calves stand at attention. “You have three minutes.” With that, she’s gone.
“Fuck me.” Scrubbing at my face, I pull the covers back, and I groan. This is crap. All I want is a good night’s sleep and to be left alone! That thought is no sooner out into my head when the door opens again. “What the fuck!” Snatching a pillow, I try to hide my naked ass.
“I need you to shower as quickly as possible,” the woman says. She’s a creepy looking chick, very dark hair, like bottle black, cut into a page-boy, eyebrows plucked to near nothing and extremely long lashes that have got to be fake.
“What happened to three minutes?” I growl, not happy in the least.
“Deal.” She goes out into the hall, returning moments later with a large, pink case. She sets it on the dresser top, opening it to reveal row upon row of various make-ups in every shade you can imagine, and even some you can’t.
Stopping, she looks at me through the mirror. “Is there a problem?” she asks, her voice decidedly nasally. Glaring, I shake my head and pad into the bathroom.
I stand in the shower, letting the hot water run over my chilled skin. I don’t know how long I’m there before I even touch a single bottle of soap. I’m confused, yes even scared, and feel utterly helpless. About to grab a bottle of shampoo, I nearly jump out of my skin when someone bangs on the shower doors.
“Scrub your face really well with this,” a pale hand reaches inside the damn shower stall! I can’t believe this. I snag the little jar from those clawed fingers, looking at it. It’s clear glass, the goop inside looking sandy and rather disgusting.
“Ack!” I scream out. That shit burns! Scrubbing my face as quickly as I can, I jerk the knob to cold, the cool water easing my burning skin.
Wrapping in a robe, I head back into the bedroom, my face still burning, the skin red and angry. There is quiet murmuring as I enter, Sandra and the goth bitch are talking amongst themselves, a very queer looking man mixing various chemicals, holding up his results to look at in the bright sunlight.
“Oh good. You gave her the crème.” My head jerks when I hear Sandra’s voice. She and goth chick, which in my mind I refer to as GC, are looking at me. Sandra walks over to me, walking around me in a slow circle. At first I try to follow her progress, but with an irritated sigh, she puts a stern hand on my shoulder to stay me, and continues her journey.
“See anything you like?” I ask, feeling beyond exposed as the robe is opened.
“Hmm, not yet.” Sandra grabs a small tape recorder from the dresser, speaking closely into the mic. “Gray is too thin, call George this afternoon. Hold off on true fit until gain.” Clicking it off, she looks at me, head slightly tilted to the side.
I am so completely out of my league here, and I have no idea what to do or what to say. I don’t think I’d ever felt totally scared until that moment.
Within moments, I stand naked, three pairs of eyes on me and a cloth measuring tape on my skin. Standing straight, arms held out. It’s Chris on a cross.
As measurements are being called out, I close my eyes, trying to pretend this isn’t happening. Suddenly I find I’m alone, the three heads bent over the page my measurements were written on.
“How’s it going ladies?” Robert Knowles says, clapping his hands together as he stands in the doorway to the room. My eyes bulge, and I grab the robe to cover myself. “Don’t worry, honey. Nothing I haven’t seen before,” he actually winks at me!
“Her body is awful, Robert. I don’t know what you were thinking,” Sandra laments.
“So fix it! What the hell am I paying you for?” Bob glances over at me, taking in an eyeful, then turning back to the swarm of stylists. And why the fuck didn’t the hair guy, no matter how queer he is, bitch slap him for calling him a woman?
“Does God make enough duct tape?” Sandra muttered, turning back to her notes.
“So how are you this morning? Did you sleep well?” Knowles asks, absently twisting his gold, pinky ring around the hairy-knuckled finger.
“It was okay,” I shrug, trying to come off as nonchalant as possible, standing here with a terry cloth robe held in front of my naked body. Man, he was giving me the chills.
“Here,” large hands rest on my shoulders, and I find myself being turned around, my bare ass open for his gaze. Two arms reach around me, almost in some creepy fatherly hug, the robe taken from my trembling hands, then spread over my shoulders. Quickly my arms find the sleeves, and I wrap that puppy around me quicker than you can bat an eye.
“Robert, we need to talk,” says GC.
“Alright. See you later, okay?” is said in my ear, making me shiver. I nod, turning to face him, back away a step or two, just glad to get away from him. “Enjoy your day, ladies,” and with that, he’s gone.
It had been an amazing day. Willow stripped down, a cool summer breeze blowing in to cool heated skin. Sometimes she wished she had a summer home in Montana- escape the oppressive heat.
Pulling back the cool, cotton sheets on the king-sized bed, she slid inside, sighing softly. She had very sensitive skin, and the feel of something sliding against it was often pure bliss. Tactile bliss.
A blonde head met the softness of the pillow, and green eyes closed. Only to open a few seconds later.
Willow’s mind was abuzz with the events of the day, so unexpected and extremely fun. Christine Gray, beautiful, talented, famous, and at her ranch!
After finally getting back to the house, Willow had dug out Kevin’s guitar in the garage, embarrassed at the layer of dust and spider webs that clung to the hard, black case. Cleaned off, she’d handed it over to the singer who gladly took it.
Willow insisted Christine relax as she made them dinner- a wonderful pasta salad with vegetables grown in her own garden.
Christine sat on one of the stools at the breakfast bar, tuning the acoustic.
“Is that your favorite instrument?” the blonde asked, chopping veggies.
“No,” Christine smiled, strumming a simple tune. “I love the guitar and it’s pretty easy to lug around, but it can never match the beauty of the piano.”
“Ah, the piano.” Willow wiped her hands on a dish towel, indicating that Christine should follow with the flick of her head. The singer gently set the guitar on the bar before her and followed.
She was led into a small room off the main hall where a fireplace was tucked into a diagonal corner, a couch ran in front of it, and an upright against the opposite wall.
“Ohh,” the singer breathed, taking in the beautiful, and very old instrument. “Wow. This must be your pride and joy.” Wide blue eyes took in the dark cherry wood and two curvy front legs, which held the heavy instrument up. She brushed long, experienced fingers over the smooth, curved cover, which she knew hid the key to the angelic sound.
“Well, to be honest, my grandparents have had it all my life. It’s one of the few furniture pieces that I’ve kept in the house.”
“Well, they’ve had this piano all their lives, too. I’d say,” she knelt down, looking under the keyboard, bringing a finger up to trace an inscription in the wood. “What I thought,” getting to her feet, she told Willow of her find. “This, dear Willow, is a Pleyel, I’d guess from sometime around the mid-nineteenth century.” She lovingly caressed the wood. “You’re sitting on a small gold mine with this baby.”
“You’re kidding?” the blonde looked at the piano she’d seen almost everyday of her life, stunned. “What’s a Pleyel?”
“French piano maker. May I?” Christine tapped the rounded cover.
Willow quietly stepped up to the side of the instrument, leaning against the high top, watching those same long fingers ran across the aged keys, testing its tune. Within moments, the notes began o make sense and come together to form a wonderful song that Willow had never heard.
Not wanting to interrupt the singer, she slowly made her way back to the kitchen, humming softly to herself as she finished dinner.
Willow turned over to her side, watching the tree branch sway in front of the window, the moonlight peaking through the leaves, creating strange shapes of shadow on the bedroom walls.
She thought about the way Christine had wolfed her food down, little moans of appreciation slipping out now and then, making the blonde smile.
Willow had never seen someone eat so much, but she was glad to able to offer what she had. She encouraged a slightly shy-to-ask Christine to take as many helpings as she wished.
The highlight of the night, however, had been when they’d gathered into the piano room, the blonde taking a seat on the couch, bare feet curled under her, and a glass of iced tea in her hands. Christine had taken her place on the piano bench, back straight, form perfect. The music she’d produced had brought tears to Willow’s eyes. So fluid and heartfelt, bringing a round of applause when the song was done.
Christine had taken the gratitude with a shy smile, bowing at her audience of one, then moving on to one of her own pieces.
“That was amazing,” Willow whispered, having made her way over to the piano during the song.
“What is it called? Who composed it?”
“Well,” Christine said, sipping quickly from her own glass of tea, resting on a TV tray next to the instrument, “It’s called ‘Twilight’, and I wrote it.”
“You wrote that?” Willow pointed at the piano, incredulous. The singer nodding with a chuckle. “Wow. Why that name? Is your group named after it, or is the song named after your band?”
“Yes.” Christine grinned. “I love twilight, and think it’s one of the most important times of the day. Well, next to dawn, that is. But I think twilight is more important.” She turned on the bench to face her friend. “See, for me twilight is kind of like the path for a new beginning. Everything that happened that day, good, bad or anywhere between, is gone, but not forgotten. Almost as if the next day you can try again, new slate, but with the memories of the past. You know?” She grinned at the memories. “Back home I used to climb up on my friend Adam’s building and watch the sun go down before I, well.”
Before you what, Christine? Went out to be a whore?
“I seen you on that stage, kid, just like I seen you on them streets with the rest of us. I seen them guys in the audience watching you, one hand around their girl, the other on their crotch, waitin’ for their chance to fuck the entertainer.” Bitter laughter and a puff of smoke exhaled. “Get over it. You is a whore, always been a whore, and always be a whore.”
Shaking her head to clear the memory, she looked down at her hands, still resting on the keyboard.
Willow stared at the singer for a moment, the softly spoken words fully entering into her brain. Finally she nodded. “Yes. I understand perfectly. The amazing thing is I got that from your song. The way the song, and please forgive me. I’ll probably butcher all of it as I know nothing about music or its terminology. Anyway, the way the song just kind of went along on its merry way, some high notes, some low and melancholy. But,” the blonde paused, chewing on her bottom lip as she tried to find the right words. “but the entire time, there is this kind of underlying build, like its all leading to something, and something big, making my heart beat just a little faster, and my body fill with anticipation. Then all the sudden,” she clapped her hands loudly. “It all comes together like the crest of a huge wave, falling over you in a sensation that I still feel as a shiver down my spine,”
Christine looked at the smaller woman’s face as she expressed her thoughts. How bright her eyes got, the excitement flushing her features. She noted the whiteness of the teeth seen briefly pulling the full, lower lip inside her mouth.
The singer was truly touched by Willow’s words, no matter how simple. She was beyond pleased that the music had filled her so completely, and that the blonde had been moved and touched. Realizing Willow was no longer speaking, but was simply looking at her, she cleared her thoughts and smiled.
“Thank you, Willow. You explained it beautifully.”
“Oh, I don’t know about that,” Willow nervously ran her fingers across the top of the upright, feeling suddenly very stupid for her little monologue.
“No, really. I understand perfectly what you mean, and how it made you felt. That means a lot to me that you were touched so deeply.”
“I was,” Willow said softly. “Why don’t you play more of this sort of thing? Like that song you played during your last encore. Just you and that beautiful grand piano. It was wonderful.”
“Well,” Christine cleared her throat, wanting to change the subject. “That was a rarity, and it probably won’t happen again. Unfortunately it doesn’t fit too well with Twilight’s style.”
Willow could tell there was more to it than that, but decided not to push or ask.
Christine pulled her t-shirt on, lifting her hair to free it from the cotton confines. T-shirt, shorts and bare feet, she slowly opened her door, trying to stay quiet. Not hearing anything, and figuring the small blonde was probably sound asleep, so she continued on.
Creeping down the stairs, wincing with the squeak that punctuated every step. Finally making the ground floor, she took it slow, not knowing the house well enough in the day she’d been there to not run right into something and lose a toe.
Heading down the hall that led to the kitchen, she fumbled around until she found the glasses, then ever grateful to the little light on the fridge ice maker. Sticking the glass under the cubed ice slot, she winced again as the ice clinked into the glass, and the maker’s engine groaned at the activity. Finally filling the glass with water, the ice popped to life as the little air bubbles were broken by the water.
Listening, she heard nothing. Coast clear, she brought the glass to her lips.
Both women jumped and yelped as the glass slipped through the singer’s fingers, falling to the floor with a crash, Christine gasping as the cold water and ice covered her bare feet and splashed up onto her legs.
“Oh my god, I’m so sorry!” Willow exclaimed, muffled through her fingers. “Are you okay?” Flicking on the light above the stove, she gasped. “Oh, Christine, I’m so sorry,” falling to her knees, she picked at the pieces of broken glass that littered the singer’s feet, sucking in a breath as she saw a small sliver sticking out of the top of Christine’s right foot.
“It’s okay. I’m sorry,” the singer said, trying her best to not react to the intense sting flowing from her foot, coloring Willow’s fingers red.
“No, no, hang on,” the blonde stood, hurrying across the kitchen, careful to avoid the incredibly sharp little glass daggers spread all across the tiled floor. Quickly grabbing the First Aid kit from the downstairs bathroom, she ran back to find Christine on her knees, gathering pieces of glass into the palm of her hand. “No, no. Don’t you dare clean that up.”
Christine looked up, watching as the frantic blonde got the First Aid kit set up on the counter by the sink. “I’m okay, Willow,” she said quietly.
“No, you’re cut.” Willow grabbed the singer’s hand, pulling her to her feet. “Can you walk? Are do you need to lean on me?”
Christine couldn’t keep the wince off her face as she tried to put weight on it. Before she knew it, a strong arm was around her waist, and she was being led the short distance to the counter by the sink.
“Hop up,” the two women got the singer situated on the counter, her foot in the sink, and warm water running over it. “I know it stings. I’m really sorry,” Willow gently ran her fingers over the soft skin of the top of Christine’s foot, making sure there was no glass remaining on her skin.
“Oh, I don’t know,” the singer grinned. “I’m thinking it’s your very own personal burglar alarm. You scare them so badly that they hurt themselves by dropping their weapons. You know, maybe they’d shoot off their own foot or something,”
“Oh, stop,” Willow glared playfully up at her patient who was smirking at her.
Carefully drying the skin around the rather deep cut, Willow looked at it carefully, trying to determine if it needed stitches or not.
“I think butterfly stitches will do.” Meeting blue eyes, Willow saw the slight nod, and turned back to the wound. Realizing Christine had in fact not been asleep, but awake, a worry line creased between her eyes. “Are you okay, Christine? Was the bed uncomfortable?”
“No, it’s great. I’m fine, just couldn’t sleep,” the singer explained softly. “My mind just doesn’t always shut off, you know?”
“Yeah. I understand.” Willow unwrapped the sterile butterfly strip.
“What about you? Why are you up? Did I wake you?” Christine leaned back on her hands, watching the blonde’s gentle, yet very skillful fingers work on her foot.
“No.” Willow smiled, placing a piece of gauze over the wound, and taping it into place. “I was craving Oreos.” She risked a glance up into amused blue eyes. “And I couldn’t sleep.”
Christine looked down at the neat dressing and gave the blonde a lopsided grin. “Will I walk again, doc?”
“In time.” Willow patted the foot, then began to clean up.
“Oh, good. You know, it just won’t do to have to run around stage with a walker or crutches.”
“No, but if you’re not careful, you’ll be rolling around the stage in a wheelchair.” Willow raised a brow at her empty threat, smiling with the other woman threw her head back and laughed.
“Come on, doc. Bring out the Oreos.”
Strong, tanned fingers held the small, brown cookie, another set of fingers twisting, brining two halves apart, slowly and deliberately. Finally, in one solid piece, the white cream was revealed.
Christine forgot about her own cookie as she watched a tongue snake out, the pointed tip caught the edge where the cream met the cookie, lifting it just enough to slide the tongue further under the thick layer, slowly lifting it further and further, a dry residue powdering the dark lower cookie layer.
She couldn’t help but wonder how the little blonde made such an innocent, child-like activity so erotic.
Turning back to her own cookie, she popped it into her mouth and sipped from her glass of cold milk.
Willow swallowed thoughtfully, totally unaware of the scrutiny from the singer moments before.
“So,” she took a small sip of milk. “You’re originally from New York, right?”
Christine glanced at her, taking another bite from the Oreo held gingerly between her fingers. She chewed slowly, mind churning. She dreaded having to deny the blonde, but she had no desire to answer questions she knew were coming. Wiping the milk mustache away, she nodded.
“Yes. Born in Queens.”
“Are your parents still there? They must be so proud of you.” Willow smiled big, grabbing another cookie from the blue white and black package.
Christine smiled back, though it was very sad. She contemplated for all of three seconds, knowing how easily she could lie and say yep, they’re so proud and they tell me all the time. But somehow she couldn’t lie to the woman sitting across from her. It amazed the singer just how much she felt she could trust Willow. She decided to tell the truth about her family for the first time in more than twenty years.
“I don’t know,” she said quietly, looking into confused green eyes.
“You don’t know?” Willow cocked her head to the side slightly.
“I haven’t seen my parents since I was nine years old.”
Willow looked at her friend’s face, seeing the pain in the blue eyes. The voice was so soft, not a whisper, but almost as though Christine couldn’t quite get the words out. She said nothing, waiting for the singer to say more. She had the strangest feeling that Christine wanted to get some things out.
“My father was a thug basically. Always in and out of trouble.” She played with her milk glass, unable to meet the steady gaze from across the table. “My mother was a drug addict, also in and out of jail.” She sighed. “One day they just didn’t come home.”
“No.” Christine shook her head, sitting back in her chair. “I think Gary got caught up in something over his head, and she got involved, too.”
“Gary is your father?” Willow asked quietly.
“Yes. His common-law wife, Caren, gave birth to me. And, in the long run, I think they packed up all their shit and were gone.”
“They left you!” Willow’s voice squeaked with the outraged surprise. Christine smiled softly. She’d had twenty-two years for it to sink in.
“It all turned out okay, Willow,” she said softly, that same smile on her lips. Willow stared at her for a long moment, letting everything she’d been told absorb, as well as adding little details of her own fiction. Sensing the discussion now closed, she lowered her eyes and nodded.
“I’ll just say one thing,” she glanced up through her bangs. Christine looked at her expectantly. “I’m very sorry.”
“And,” swallowing the sorrow that filled her for her friend, Willow smiled large and bright, then yawned. “I don’t know about you, but I think I’ll be able to sleep now. Oh, excuse me.” She covered her mouth as her yawn got bigger.
“Me, too.” Christine lied, knowing that she was probably done with sleep for the night. She stood, closing up the cookie package, and stowing it in the cabinet she’d seen Willow take it from. The blonde rinsed out their glasses and turned to her friend. Squeezing the taller woman’s shoulder, she wished her a good night, then headed upstairs.
Christine watched her go, then sighed and ran a hand through her hair. Trying to decide what to do, she saw the guitar standing in the corner of the room.
The apartment was empty, and I just see half-drank carton of orange juice sitting on the dust-covered floor. I go over to it, dropping my pink backpack on the floor as I go. The juice isn’t cold no more.
I got a bad feeling.
Going to the only other room I see the bed is gone. There’s not even that big ol’ crucifix that was above it.
I jumped as the front door is opened, the many locks banging against the wall behind it. Voices, and they don’t belong to Gary or Caren.
“We gotta get this shit cleaned up. Got another tenant,” a man’s voice said, deep and gruff.
“I’ll get right on it.” Somebody leaves, but the heavy footfalls across the wood floors. I look at the doorway, waiting for whoever. I feel sweat start to break out under my hair. I don’t have to wait long.
The man’s gut appeared before he did. He looks like he’s pregnant, and I have to stop myself from giggling at the thought. He’s in one of those shirts Gary calls a wife beater, and dirty black pants that hang down under his gut.
“What are you doing here, kid? This ain’t no goddamn playground! Get outta here!” He lunges at me, but I’m faster. Running around him, I don’t even grab my backpack, and suddenly I’m out of the smelly old building and out on the streets, traffic whizzing all around me, and people on the sidewalks pushing past me.
It’s hot and I’m scared. Wondering down the street, looking at every person who passes, desperate for a friendly face.
I make it the three blocks down to the almost non-existent park that’s not far from my school. I hear laughter, kid laughter. Lacing my fingers in the chain link that surrounds the small, grassed area with a bench and a basketball hoop, I watch the kids play. There’s about six or seven of them, and they all look a little older than me, like around eleven or twelve. Boys.
There’s one boy, smaller than the others. He’s being teased, and pushed.
“Come on you little half-breed. Come get the ball!” one boy yells out, holding the basketball high up. The kid with the glasses is trying to grab it from him. I’m impressed that he’s not giving up.
“Give it to me, Victor,” he growls, taking a running jump, but the tall boy called Victor shoots the ball over to one of his pals.
Then I get real mad. The kid with the ball throws it at the little guy, hitting him right in the face and knocking his glasses off. I hear them crack as they hit the small, cement court.
Fists clenched, I make my way over to the partially opened gate and run up to the boys, pushing the one who threw the ball.
“You’re an asshole!” I yell out, pushing him again. I feel the anger of finding Gary and Caren gone again rising in me, lava under my skin boiling to the surface. These jerks picked the wrong day to mess with someone.
We hit the ground with double grunts and I started to wail on him. His eyes squeezed shut, his head flailing back and forth to try and avoid my blows from my fists.
“Get her off me! Get her the fuck off me!” the kid cried. I growl as hands are anchored under my arms and I’m pulled off, kicking and flailing.
Landing hard on my shoulder, I jump up, really mad now, thrashing out at anyone close to me.
“Jesus! You crazy, bitch!” Victor says, jumping back away from me. I glared at him, chest heaving with unvented anger and frustration. “Let’s get the fuck outta here,” he says, turning and walked away. The other boys look at me as they pass, one by one, including the kid I just beat the shit out of. He swipes the back his hand across his bloodied nose, broken lip trembling. It satisfies me to see how shook up he is. I smirk at him, just as I seen Gary do to Caren after he beat her real good.
Once they all left, I turn and see the kid with the broken glasses sitting on the cement, head hanging.
I see the glasses all twisted and messed up, lying near the bench.
“Here.” The kid looks up at me, a tear-streaked face, and takes the glasses from my fingers.
“Thanks,” he says quietly. Plopping down next to him, I bring my knees up and wrap my arms around them. “What’s your name?” he asks, turning the broken glasses this way and that, his dark, curly hair flopping in his face.
“I’m Adam.” He looks at me, a small smile on his face. “You really kicked some butt.”
I grin, looking down. At the stained cement under us.
“You like basketball?” Adam asks. I glance at him.
“Yeah. I like basketball.”
Christine wiped the wetness from her cheek, stared up at the stars. She hadn’t seen such complete darkness before, no lights from the city to obscure the heavens.
She set the guitar aside and scooted down, her head resting at the bottom of the tree, a hand behind her head.
It had been a long time since she’d thought about Gary and Caren. It seemed like a lifetime ago, and in many ways it was. Things she didn’t like to think about. Unfortunately her conversation with Willow over Oreos hours before had brought it all back. Now she was being haunted. Old specters she had thought long dead, or at least forgotten.
The sun would be rising soon, and the singer felt chilled. The emotions of the night making her cold inside, the kind of cold that a blanket or cup of coffee just can’t warm up. She’d yet to find anything that could warm her up.
Scrubbing at her eyes, she sat up, then with a groan stood, grabbing the neck of the guitar and headed toward the house.
“Thank you, Willow. This has been one of the most wonderful weekends I’ve had in a very long time.”
Willow smiled into the hug, squeezing a bit before being let go.
“Even with your battle scar?” she asked with a raised brow, nodding toward Christine’s foot. The singer chuckled.
“Yes. Even with my battle scar.” She heaved her bag into the back of the Jeep.
“You’re welcome here any time, Christine. If you need a break from all the glitz and glamour and adoring fans.” They both laughed, but then Willow sobered. “Or if you just need a break,” she finished softly.
“Thank you. And if you ever need a little glitz and glamour that the horses just can’t provide,” the singer winked, making Willow grin.
“Will do. Have a safe flight.” Willow watched as the singer climbed into the Jeep and drove away in a cloud of dust.
Return to the Academy