VIII - Strength
"Obsessions are like fire and water.
They make good servants but bad masters."
Sunset was jumping, now as always. Home to the homeless, the boulevard fluttered newspapers in the wind. The strange and the beautiful roamed the midnight alleys, attracted to the weirdness. Jesse James, for example, fit right in.
His eyes darted up and down the road, waiting for the action to wander past. Suddenly a pink corvette zipped by, the blond inside waving to him. He tossed his head acknowledging her, then spotted the girls heading toward him. Too late to run now! He cleared his throat.
"Hey, ladies, you're looking good tonight. Buy you a drink?"
Tara put her arm around the little red-head next to her. "This is my new girlfriend, Star. Say, hello, Star."
She timidly whispered as she spoke to Jesse, who didn't like what he was seeing. He figured Ghost must be nearby if she was in this area. Tara wasn't ever too far from him, and trouble followed them both. The third girl stared at Jesse, making him uncomfortable. He hoped she would leave or something, but she just stood there. Too much history between them.
Tara turned to her, sensing hostility, and grabbed Jesse's arm. She led him away from the girls, whispering in his ear,
"You got to help me ditch the other chick. I don't know her, but she can't go with me and Star. Ghost is waiting for us and he doesn't want her there. Can you keep her here."
"No way! I know her and . . ."
"What's her name?"
"Well," he lied, "I don't know her that good. I just . . .uh, . . . I got some business, you know. You understand."
"Shit, I'd do it for you! Well, what am I going to tell her?"
Tara couldn't have told the truth, it wasn't in her nature, so she made it up as she went along. She motioned to the girl.
"Can you do me a favor? I've got to go connect real quick, so we can party later. This guy is kinda paranoid so I'll have to alone, with Star, it's her guy . . ."
Tara walked back over to Star, putting her arm around the girl's shoulders again.
"Meet Ghost for me at The Rainbow and tell him she and I will be right back."
Tara took leave, taking Star with her down the boulevard.
Jesse watched the two walk away, acutely aware of the one they left behind. He ordered another beer, not quite sure what to say. She wasn't just his ex-girlfriend, was she?
His eyes wandered away from hers.
The girl watched them stroll away, waiting until they were out of earshot. She rolled her eyes with a sneer, "Tara must think I'm an idiot!"
"So . . ."
"You, too, huh?"
Looking around for a clock, Jesse mumbled, "I've got to go!"
"Yeah, run away! You're getting good at that!"
"What the fuck do you want?"
"You know April had a kid, don't you?"
"You know, they figured out what causes that now . . ."
May sat next to Jesse at the bar, leaning her back into it so she could watch the world go by. If you sat here long enough, you could see everyone eventually. She ordered herself a drink.
"Don't you need to be going somewhere? The Rainbow, I think . . ."
"Well, fuck you, too!"
"No, I'm just pissed!" May slammed her shot. "Tara just told me to meet Ghost at the Rainbow. A few minutes earlier, she was going to meet him herself, with her new girlfriend, Star. I must be an idiot . . . is there a 'duh' written on my forehead?"
His silence only agitated her more, "What is the deal with you people out here? Is everyone here crazy, or what?"
He finished his beer, standing up to leave.
"I see you have enough money for beer, but not enough for your kid, huh?"
When she was finally alone, May thought about the people in her life. And how the people in her life really sucked! Everywhere she turned, another bullshit story, another lame excuse for friendship.
She watched Jesse walk away quickly, knowing damn well he didn't have anywhere else to go.
But at least I can still get under his skin! "Sometimes, being a bitch is all a woman has to hold onto."
His long dark hair, framed a beautiful bronze face. It was clear she still had feelings for him. She hated him at the moment. May was well aware that the opposite of love wasn't hate, but apathy. It was mind over matter.
If you don't mind, it don't matter.
She could see that someday she wouldn't care at all about him, but that wasn't going to be today. For now she was content to feel.
Then she thought of April.
That's when she decided to score. A few minutes later, she was too high to care. It was the only time she was ever happy anymore. And the thought of that made her sad.
Moments later, she was more worried about where the next rush was going to come from than any other issue. Eventually, she was at the Rainbow, standing outside waiting for someone. Anyone.
If she ran fast enough, maybe she could outrun her memories. No one has problems here. This was the city of dreams, enough to go around for everyone. So, why were dreams so close to nightmares?
It is the nature of the beast.
IX - The Hermit
"I returned, and saw under the sun,
that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong,
neither yet bread to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding,
nor yet favor to men of skill;
but time and chance happeneth to them all."
King James Version
This what she had written to him:
One dreamer's holy vision, "Save now!" we declare.
Could anything good come out of this place?
Trend lesson, soul to bear.
Strangers in the world now. So close and yet so far.
Traveling through all the spirals of life
We are not what we are . . .
Each soul guides another . . . the sole intent to shine
The mysteries flow, above and below,
a river of Jordan turned wine.
When I was just a little child, I played my foolish games,
So when do I know when to let the past go?
I have a dream with no names .. .
April knew that it had gotten bad at her house. Looking around at the mess, she had to laugh a bit. Since May's disappearance, Mom cleaved to Natasha, leaving April with more free time than ever. But being in Majestic however, gave her little opportunity for excitement. So mostly, she made phone calls.
The floor was hidden , covered by six inches of important papers,
. . . except for the trash, which isn't so important.
She had boxes of nice clothes with no place to wear them. The project had grown disorderly, files spewed their contents onto the carpet. The trash hadn't been taken out because of stray dogs that shredded it if she took it out the night before and she never got up that early anymore. It was getting warmer these days, but as it was still cool enough not to have developed the summer stench yet but soon. Gnats were forming in the garage. It was becoming less Alice in Wonderland, and more Alice's Restaurant.
She never entertained here, so it hadn't been a problem yet. She loved to be around people, not necessarily having them around her. Her mother and father avoided going inside, not wanting to know. Tight-lipped, they said nothing. Although their minds conjured up frightening scenarios that came nowhere near the truth, one thing was correct. They didn't want to know.
Age crept up on her while parts of her body went the other way. She had more important things to do than sit-ups.
The dishes, for one!
She no longer wore blazers, or tight skirts with slits that went all the way up her thighs. No stocking or high heels, except during sex, which meant she never got to wear them at all. No hairdresser, no manicures, and only the occasional use of make-up left her plain, and in her eyes - boring. She left the French roll at the offices of the Hollywood Reporter. She felt too fat for the Rainbow dress, and it was too hot for the Whiskey a Go-Go boots. Here, the cows wore the leather.
Things had been so different back in Los Angeles.
Friends, only blocks away, became strangers. She caught herself still talking aloud even though the baby wasn't around much. Only these days, she had answers to her endless stream of questions. At night she dedicated herself to the project and by daylight, the carpet had grown another inch.
Her mind was getting better, not any less obsessed but easier and much more fun to live with.
"If I had to have an obsessive-compulsive disorder," which she self-diagnosed from the late night commercials and daytime talk shows, "why couldn't I have had the neat house thing?"
She waded through the paperwork, stashing and trashing with one purpose in mind - to remind herself that the house of lord could get pretty ugly when the maid was away.
"Lord, this house is dirty!"
The living room light, once burnt and now replaced, made her aware of the dust and ashes that covered the four walls with a fine powder. Webs dangled from the corners, waving slightly as the heavy air permeated every room as she worked. In the mirror, she saw that she was as neglected as her home. Solitude had done its worst, which she knew once she looked into the mirror darkly. The new day's sun could no longer dawn over some one else's horizon. She began spring cleaning, clearing the traces of winter from the garden, and packing the blankets away for another year.
As the sun set heralding the coming of night, the last thing she did was change the light bulb on the front porch, which illuminated the path to her front door but none of the forest around her.
If she could have, she would have brought home enough bulbs to light the entire neighborhood. But for now, her neighbors would have to fend for themselves.
Her pale skinned adored the night, even though her sun-streaked hair radiated by day and her friends complained that she was never awake.
I'm not sleeping tonight, so where are they now?
House in order, she was prepared for the days to come.
To look at Chance, one might have never known that he was a millionaire several times over, at least that's what his accounting firm told his business manager, via checks from the record company. At 34, he still looked and dressed like he just finished a baseball practice, except in public. These days, scheduled appearances were fewer and farther between. He had put his trust into a system he barely understood. He hired lawyers to watch over his other lawyers, who represented him.
Oh, God, can I really be letting myself be 'represented' by a lawyer?
These days, he looked like a grown-up, when he dressed for adult games. His fawn-colored hair no longer trailed down his shoulders, to his back. Innocent eyes, once hazel, were now jaded. His broad shoulders were more attuned to designer jackets, and ties, once shunned, now flourished in his collection.
Looking at his weary face's reflection, he tried to remember when he became a man. He tried to recall when he put away his colored pencils, and instead, picked up the ink pen and signed over his life, black and white, somewhere on the dotted line.
His new image was getting old, and for one fleeting moment, he wanted the 'out of the blue' hair color he had as a teen, when alternative was mainstream. But he had to laugh, knowing that he couldn't go to his attorneys office with a mohawk, or the first piece of legal advice he'd retain would be, "Grow up!"
The last time he had gone, someone thought his was one of the names on the front door. It had made his tie a little tighter that day. His briefcase seemed slightly heavier. If it walks like a duck . . .
He remembered a joke that April told one night at the Comedy Store on Sunset:
"You know those phones they have in jail, with the glass walls? I see some of you have been there! So . . . I was talking to my lawyer the other day, but I couldn't hear him, I couldn't understand what he was saying and all I kept thinking was, 'Boy, I can't wait for him to get out!'"
The audience had paused before laughing because they had to think about it to get the irony - an often deadly consequence. By closing time, the crowd would be too drunk to think, too loud to listen. By then the only good material came from the hecklers. However, these faceless audience members secreted away entire routines of the performers, pens flying silently over napkins and notebooks. He watched her act be stolen away the moment she spoke.
Comedy was a cruel world full of petty, jealous people and no amount of sniveling would change that.
That's what copyrights are for!
At least in those countries that recognize this protection.
But for the rest of the world, bootlegging was a common practice. Even he bought his own album for two American dollars in Indonesia. The cover art was different and on the insert, someone had put the words from each song. They weren't necessarily the right words, but they were words.
His next release contained not only the lyrics, but also the inscription, "If you're going to steal from me and quote me, at least get the words right!"
This had inspired him to write a song, using the same idea translated into as many languages he could get. Half-finished, it remained sealed in darkness between two sheets of notebook paper, forever filed in the ever increasing to-be-done category.
Back then, he watched her from the dark recesses surrounding the naked stage, where the dreams of young hopefuls died regularly. No longer did she send the tickets, the times and dates of her performances, and no longer did she appear unannounced at his. She just exited stage left one night and slipped away.
Just the thought of her slipping away caused him to reach for the phone. No one was home.
"The machine here. That's it! No TV, no money, no family jewels, antiques, not even a penny jar. Just me, the answering machine . . . and my answer is a very definite maybe!"
He listened to her outgoing message, like always, but this time, the song on the radio was one that he knew she liked. Or she had back then . . . With a deep breath, Chance increased the volume and put the receiver to the stereo. He grinned like a little kid, realizing that how long it had been since he prank-called someone.
She'll get a kick out of that!
She came back inside, feeling good about the day. April cleansed the world around her and it made a difference. As a Virgo, she had a hard time with some tasks. If she couldn't do it perfectly, she wouldn't do it at all. Therefore, until today, the counters were clean but the closets were a nightmare. Today, though, she made a difference.
An hour later, she noticed the blinking light on the machine. She didn't listen to it for another hour. By then, the sun was long gone.
"Wow, I didn't even hear the phone ring!"
When the message started, she could hear the faint music in the background. At first, she didn't recognize it. Then it got loud.
. . . you will know, Synchronicity. If you act, as you think, the missing link. Her forehead furrowed, she was baffled. Listening to it again, she still couldn't figure out who left such a strange message. She popped the tape out of the machine, put in a new one and put the song away. She'd have to think about that one later, figuring that someone from work was jacking with her.
By midnight, she had the place arranged. It improved her mood considerably. The voice on the radio said that we were going to go back a few years for this next song. Then the airwaves resonated, "With one breath, with one thought, you will know synchronicity . . ."
She lit a candle, and sat back to think. Tomorrow, she believed she would hear back from the Majestic city council on her permit request, which would allow her to hold this size event in the town's only stadium, the Colosseum. The building held almost twenty-five thousand people. If the proposal was approved and the permit issued, she could start with the media campaign.
She wanted to be optimistic but . . . as a believer in Fate, she dubbed herself a Fate-alist.
"What is the most important time of your life?"
She knew it was time to finish what she started.
Instead of dwelling on it, she decided to re-read her song. She wrote it halfway through that first tour, sent it to some place in Philadelphia, at the venue itself, assuming that someone would get and deliver it to him. She did that for the rest of Momentary Magic. By the second tour, Chance had stopped printing the dates.
The letters scared him
She figured that it had scared him, anyway. It wasn't easy reading material. Once she began to look into the symbolic side of the relationship, she began to see signs of meanings that couldn't have been possible. The big picture played itself out before her very eyes, and became clearer each time she looked.
It scared her, too.
The light at the end was okay. It was the tunnel she feared.
She tried to remember where she came from, what her visions had been. April had to know why she carried with her the baggage of a minor infatuation. Her initiation began in the Horoscope section, next to the funny pages. Forces beyond her control guided her receptive mind until she was wishing upon a star.
Star Light, star bright . . . first star I see tonight . . .
Except for the sun, of course . . .
Virgo, sign of the Virgin, became her first neurotic impression, the naked virgin. Erotic. She realized why she grew up thinking that she was reincarnation of the Virgin Mary. Weekly church services had seen to that. Life after death, life after life. The story of Jesus made her cry, and those movies . . .
Mary, merry, marry . . . it stuck in her head. And she told no one. I would die to save the world. Mary had a little Lamb . . . These thoughts plagued her.
Discovering later that she was a slut, the little virgin (technically) decided to re-invent her previous incarnation identity as Mary of Magdalene. Her standards were more attainable. But all she learned from the old movies was that popular opinion was debatable. They. . . could be wrong.
. . . they say there is strangeness too dangerous
in the theaters and bookstore shelves.
And those who know what's best for us,
must rise and save us from our selves!
As she delved into the occult side of life, she noticed even more. That's when the dragon began to stir in its sleep. She had opened the gateway to prophesy, and the countdown sped up. Innocently browsing the oracle, she pinpointed the one. Or so she thought.
Chance was born in April, that was the first clue. After that, she let her fantasy play itself across the pages of her journal. Only recently had she ever shared this information, and then it had been with him. She copied the pages into the one she sent. She tried her best to verbalize the ideas therein, but her mind couldn't translate exactly what it said to her. He'll just have to try to understand it for himself.
Chance was Aries! That made him the Ram. The Lamb. It had become clear to her by then that the Bible seemed to follow the ages of the astrology. By the time it got to Aries, Christianity emerged. Mary had a little Lamb.
Then came Madonna, which didn't have much to do with it but she liked to sing 'like a Virgo' when asked, "What's your sign?"
"It's a sign of the times."
The way she saw it, she was at the end of times, or that's what they say, whoever 'they' are. She might be seeing the end and yet no one else seemed to notice. Waiting for years, April said nothing but wrote it all down. The dragon, now awake, waited for her to surface. She knew who she believed to be the one.. It didn't.
The symbol is not the reality . . . the idol mind is the Devil's workshop.
"Ignorance is bliss!"
. . . wisdom of Solomon . . .
Solo, I was so low until I spread my wings and learned to fly.
. . . but I got nowhere to fly to . . .
X - Wheel of Fortune
"And if you go chasing rabbits, and you know you're going to fall,
tell 'em all a hookah smoking caterpillar has given you the call.
Go ask Alice, when she just small.
One man on the chessboard get up and tell you where to go . . ."
April 13th (Good Friday the 13th):
April knew what she had to do now, and she was/wasn't looking forward to it. All of the information stored in the boxes had to be pulled and utilized. It wasn't going to be easy to do. Each invitation had to be dated, a puzzle piece in each sealed envelope. A thousand points of light . . .
She managed to swing a deal with a caterer but it required this and that, which depended on someone else. It wasn't such a problem yet because the event was almost a year away. But she had the date, and the place.
Easter was Sunday, so she chose to mail the whole package on Monday. The first ones were delivered two days later, on Wednesday. By Thursday, the phone calls began.
Skeptical assistants queried her repeatedly for the first week, but sounded sold by the time she got off the phone with them. Physically drained, she recorded the information onto an answering service that used her home number, giving out her new number for more information. The calls still poured in.
Yes Oui` Si` was born.
This umbrella organization became the promoter of the next big charity event. Thus, The Mad Hatter Tea Party & Charity Ball was alive. She found the response overwhelming. Television crews were scheduled to do interviews every day for the next week. She broke out the good clothes, which were tight by then, so she began to run again. The woods were beautiful this time of year.
The first interview went easy enough:
Q: Why did you choose March 24th?
A: Because of the March Hare. Alice followed him down the hole.
Q: Which charity will be chosen?
A: We've selected . . .
The second interview was tougher:
Q: Who are you most anxious to see attend?
A: Uh, . . . me? I've had this dream since I was little and I guess dreams can come true . . . crossing my fingers.
Q: Has anyone not responded that you had hoped would by now?
A: Yeah, Elvis . . .
Overall, the Mad Hatter Project became instant news. She ran into few snags, until the bills began to pour in. Suddenly, she had to come up with money, quick. She wasn't sure how to set up accounts for charity promotion, so she deposited all the check into an account she called Yes Oui` Si`. There the money sat. Until she was sure, she chose not to touch it.
On a whim, she submitted a short story called The Last Concert, written in high school for a teacher who accused her of plagiarism. What's plagiarism? The teacher had said it was good, where did you get this story? April had taken it as a compliment. But as she sealed the envelope addressed to the magazine, she wondered, maybe that teacher thought I was too stupid to write.
Either way, it sold. She paid her bills.
The last time April felt this good was that day in the hills. Chance owned a house in the hills, two houses, actually. One was in Malibu, overlooking the ocean up the hill, not on the beach but overlooking all of the estates. He liked the ocean better than the beach.
The other house was off Sunset, up the tightly wound roads, past the madness, or above the madness but still in it. The night of the riots had convinced him to relocate. She didn't know that then.
All she knew was that he lived in the hills, and she was going to find it. It wasn't very hard. Since it was LA, the notoriety of celebrities made people happy to point to a house and tell a stranger all they knew about the place or the person who owned it.
She was embarrassed to ask.
But that was how she met Ghost and Jesse, two ragged bikers that chugged coffee at the next booth at breakfast that day. They had started the conversation, by offering a cup of coffee or head. It hadn't turned her on. Small talk led her around to asking about tourist information, star maps.
"Who are you looking for? I know where they all live, don't I, Jesse?" Ghost pronounced it in Spanish, like essay.
Jesse asked, "Who are you looking for?"
April swallowed hard.
She started to blow it off but then realized that it really didn't matter what these guy thought of her anyway. Maybe they did know. Just as she started to answer, they got up from the table to leave. Ghost put on his leather jacket, reached onto his pocket and tossed a couple of dollars on the table. He nodded good-bye to April,
"See, you around!"
Jesse pulled a twenty out of his wallet along with his card. He handed her the card.
"There's my pager number, in case you want to go hang out sometime. I'll catch your coffee, okay?"
"Thanks! I'll see ya'll around."
She was used to the ribbing about her Texas accent, "That's right, ese!"
Alone, at the table, she began to regret not asking the question. Surely, she could find the place, but how? Her thoughts raced through her options, but nothing felt right. Besides, what am I going to do there anyway? It occurred to her that maybe she should get a star map and at least look at it.
A few minutes later, she finished her coffee and stood up to leave. She left a tip on the table, checked with the waitress to make sure the bill was paid, then went to the bathroom. On the way, she passed a phone booth, but she knew he wouldn't be listed. She checked it anyway.
Outside in the driveway of the rock and roll diner, she slid her sunglasses down onto her nose. The morning sun glared off the windows of the parked cars, blinding her momentarily. That's when she realized that it was them.
"Hey, I got you," Ghost had his handlebars angled to where the mirror reflected into her eyes. She put her hand up to block it.
"I thought you guys left!"
"We came out to burn a joint. Want to do a line?"
She replied, "Sure. 'So, do you come here often?' Did I do it right?"
Ghost rolled his eyes, "What are you? A fucking comedian?"
"People laugh at me but fucking hasn't been part of my act yet."
"Maybe you ought to. It might be funnier."
She wasn't too offended. These losers weren't exactly her target market. And they didn't appear to wield too much clout in the entertainment industry. But she bit her tongue anyway, just in case.
"So, who are you looking for, anyway?"
. "Well, I'm not really looking for him. I've met him before back in Texas, and I heard he lived somewhere around here. Just curious."
"Well . . . are you going to keep it to yourself,?"
She cast her eyes at Ghost's, which twinkled handsomely. April noticed for the first time how good looking he really was under his brutish exterior. If she wasn't careful, she might think about him later. While it might have been good to distract her, he wasn't exactly the wisest choice of men to dwell upon.
"Chance . . ."
"Chance to what?"
"Lee . . . Chance Lee."
Ghost smiled at Jesse. He didn't answer right away. He just chuckled as he fumbled with the bungy cord which strapped his helmet to the bitch seat. Handing her the helmet, Ghost mounted the bike.
"Get on. I'll take you."
April stepped away, "Uh, back the truck up!"
"Do you want to see where he lives or don't you?"
Si` . . . see . . .sea . . .C
She handed the helmet back, shaking her head. What do I say now?
"My mom warned me about people like you."
"Your mom doesn't know about people like me!"
April convinced Ghost, with Jesse help, to let her follow them in her car. Ghost relented.
"But we're not going to stop. I'll point it out but then we're going to bail."
"That's fine. I just want to see it."
"Why? Are you his number one fan? You want to have his baby?"
"Yeah . . . of course! Don't you?"
"No, but his girlfriend does! I'm sure she'd put up a hell of a fight with you. What do you think, 'esse?"
Jesse smiled, "You know it! She's your girl!"
April squinted, "What's that supposed to mean?"
Ghost turned over the motor, stood the bike upright, and strapped on the helmet. Jesse James followed suit. She took that as a hint.
In the car, she pulled slowly out into the street behind them. It would have been easy for them to lose her in the traffic, but they seemed to wait. Her hand automatically opened her blade, tucking it in the pocket of the driver side door, out of sight / still in reach. Just as promised, the guys slowed in front of a house, and with a quick goodbye, they were gone.
She felt her luck was changing.
XI - Justice
" 'You know, sometimes, not always, we actually do get what we want, right?
After all, life is a synchronicity of chance.'
'Yeah, whatever . . .' "
It isn't fair, she pouted, glancing over at his house. A month and a day had passed since her arrival on the scene. Seen . . .
"I haven't seen shit!" she told herself.
Twice a week or so, she had made her way to the empty lot beside his house, never going any closer than fifty yards to it. She didn't want to alert attention. I don't want to be told to leave . . . On these days, she listened to music, sometimes she drank wine, wrote poetry, played. Party of one, smoking!
But nothing! No one ever came, or left. At night, the curtains had been open, but no one ever appeared inside. The lights went on and off is if on a timer. I'm wasting my time here! This can't be his house.
She watched the ocean ebb and flow. April tried to pretend that what she was doing achieved something, but her mind voice disagreed. Each day spent was not wasted . . . or was it? Digging in the dirt with a stick, she pondered her existence. Weighing the consequences, she figured that if she spent this many years obsessing, then it would take half as many years to forget. If she stopped right then, she could purge herself of the fixation in a little as three years.
But April hadn't let it go back then. In fact, it had only gotten more ingrained. By now, it would take six years to break the addiction to the fantasy.
That's when she heard a voice say, "You get what you deserve."
What if you deserve good?
What comes around, goes around.
You reap what you sow. So?
Karma . . .
College had taught her that principle, but in ways that were unintended. All the facts and figures poured forth, but were rearranged to fit in with her weird beliefs. It did little to help her grades. Her neurosis, however, grew in leaps and bounds.
In physics, she learned the 'to every action, there is an equal but opposite reaction.'
I love him . . . he hates me . . .
In electronics, she read P=IE (power equals current times resistance) or the force of the source is equivalent to the number of people inspired by the source multiplied by the controversy that arises due to the fact that the SOURCE EXISTS. Pi p equals 3.14159265+, symbolized by the sixteenth letter of the Greek alphabet, used in mathematics to represent the ratio of the circumference to the diameter of a circle. But the dictionary defined it as a jumbled mixture of anything but especially of printing type.
The Chart. The Pi in the sky . . . the wheel in the sky keeps on turning, don't know where I'll be tomorrow.
"I don't know where I am today!"
At least she had remembered to bring a dictionary with her.
The wind caught the pages, gently tugging them. She laid her arm over the open book, brushing her hair back with her other hand. Where was it? She scanned up and down the page until her eyes fell onto the word.
chance, n. [ME . . .] - (definition 1) . . .apparent absence of cause or design. destiny; fortune: often personified;
as, chance could not rule the world.
2. A happening; fortuitous event; accident; as, to meet a person by chance.
She amused herself like this for a few more weeks that year, without any success. One night, she buried the present.
The Present . . . the past.
After that, she didn't return for a long time.
This May was different. April was sure of that. Plans for the Tea Party were going smoothly, except for one detail. Chance still had not responded to the invitation. Granted, it was still ten months away.
Lots of people haven't responded.
She concentrated on the ones who had. Mostly.
By now, it became necessary to organize Yes Oui` Si` into an institution, where people could meet and volunteers would work.
Not in my house!
She located office space in the warehouse district downtown, donated to the cause for the next year. No lease, no rent - just utilities, which were sponsored by Big T's. College students interned willingly, and press releases brought a multitude of advertisers. Already, she had received three hundred, thirty two RSVP's, impressive but not quite a third of the guest list.
She was sure that May would have been instrumental in arranging this event, but in her absence, April dedicated herself to diligence in her sister's honor.
Once she does show up, she'll be soooo impressed! And besides, May, this is all your fault anyway. If you hadn't taken me to that show, I wouldn't be so obsessed. See what you made me do?
"I guess I get what I deserve, huh, May?"
But, did May deserve what she got?
XII - The Hanged Man
"The image on the tarot card is asking me,
'Can't you see the answer's are inside of you.
Cut the ties that bind . . .' "
By now, April could step back from the whole project. Although, trying to be objective, she still found herself overwhelmed by its success. The office came alive with activity. April no longer handled the incoming calls. That task was handled by Kelly, the girl who wandered in three weeks ago. She had been a godsend. Now, there was always help around, since people flocked to Kelly anyway. Soon, April reunited with all those friends from high school. Ambivalent feelings returned. She wasn't quite sure she really wanted to see them, but it was different now . . .
The Mad Hatter Project made it different. The media brought with it celebrity treatment, giving her an air of power. Some guy from school asked for her autograph. This is a trip! April tried to take it all in stride, but it was hard not to overwhelmed.
That's when the paparazzi found Majestic. Her trailer to be exact. She woke up to voices, clearly distinct voices, and for a moment, she believed Oh, no! The ghosts are back. Once she became cognizant, the bewildered woman sneaked a look out the curtains only to discover the sea of reporters.
Uh, oh! What have I done now?
A knock pounded on the door. She chose not to answer it.
But what do I do now?
Switching on the TV, she expected to see her house. It wasn't anywhere. She left it on the channel with COPS on it, just in case. She thought about calling her neighbors.
What would I say since I don't know them? 'Hello, this is your neighbor and I was wondering what is going on at my house right now. No, I'm home right now but I don't know what's going on . . . Which one? It's the house where all the people are standing outside in the yard.
No, I can't ask the people in my yard . . . Hello?'
Fame has its price, she found. From that day on, everywhere April went, the press was sure to go. When the phone rang, she bravely answered it, ready to find out the buzz.
"Hello? . . . hello?"
Oh,well, so much for that.
She had to wait until the second call to find out that the office of the President of the United States had called to confirm his attendance.
Whoa! This is too big.
She put some make up on and went outside for the confrontation. She spent the next hour and a half answering questions, in between calls. It wasn't planned, but the frenzy took the story world wide. And the world noticed.
The beast of darkness saw through the veil that separated it from the world, a sign foretold by the ancients. Now fully aware, it tried to pinpoint her. She held the key. Calling forth its minions, the serpent spoke its secret tongue, bidding the followers to act. Steadily, patiently it maneuvered pawns, waiting for to strike.
April had to sacrifice her privacy once this day came. She felt the eyes of the unseen world upon her, and for the first time since she started this, she wasn't alone. Ever . . . Now even in the trailer, she sensed a constant surveillance.
I'm just being paranoid she tried to tell herself but that did little to allay her fears. Maybe, I should have some company.
"Hello? Sarah? It's so good to talk to you!"
That night, she and an old friend chatted, something they hadn't done in years. April invited her to came over, but Sarah was busy at home with the family. The family . . .
That sounded strange coming from Sarah. All through their childhood, Sarah had seemed like part of April's family, mostly because hers had been lacking. Her mother hadn't exactly been there when needed, always working April had been told. Her dad was long gone. She couldn't even remember being inside Sarah's house. Maybe she had but just forgotten.
Hanging up, April felt sad. She didn't want to think about what Sarah had said. "Oh, I heard about it on the news! I was so excited for you. I've been meaning to call but . . . you know."
But April didn't know. It seemed that everyone else called. Why not Sarah?
Chance had some qualms of his own. Rumor had it the once the tour was over, Greg would be gone. Then there was the question of business decisions, which made everyone suspicious. Money wasn't necessarily the issue, but loyalty and trust usually added up to that. Unspoken issues clouded every aspect of the tour these days. Tension mounted, but no one seemed to understand why.
It all began on November 8th. Tara had been anxious to get him to come to New York the Big Apple, but he hadn't counted upon her motives. He thought that it was a shopping trip basically, but Tara seemed convinced that he would go. That night, seven months ago, he had finally decided to agree. The journal arrived earlier, and upon studying it, he had wanted to run.
A quick getaway may be just what I need.
The drop of blood stained the paper, bright red my color, and the next day, he and Tara flew across the country, into a nightmare which still affected him to this day. Ambush television was at its worst.
Part of what made Chance famous was not his music, nor his films, but family legacy. When he was 'discovered' it hadn't been at one of his shows, or through the television . . . tell-a-vision. It had been at the convent. His mother had been excommunicated for that little accident. She had been a nun.
She wasn't supposed to have none, but obviously she had.
This wasn't what made news either. It was when the story broke. Tabloid TV descended upon him when his father became the Pope. From that moment on, Chance Lee would never be sheltered from the world again. But this news was old news, too.
What Tara did, brought him face to face with the man.
Not her! It was Greg.
She had only boarded the plane with Chance.
It was Greg that set up the meeting.
As the cameras rolled, Chance met the man said to be his father, a man who denied it readily, adamantly. It had been a disaster. Scandal now rocked both the secular world and shook the very foundation of the Holy Roman Catholic Church itself. On November 11th last year, Chance's life was no longer his.
Three strange days . . .
The tour crumbled. After that catastrophe, the alienation came. Greg and Chance never discussed it beyond Greg's apology. The unspoken words poisoned the aura of every aspect of the tour until it became painfully apparent that the end was near.
Greg had taken a chance, and it back fired. What had he been thinking? At the time of planning, it had seemed right. The tour needed publicity, and the opportunity arose. The church hadn't been made aware of the event, since obviously it wouldn't have sanctioned such a meeting. Neither had Chance been warned. The ill-fated meeting would never had happened if it hadn't been for Greg.
Greg was another pawn.
He had sacrificed himself, and for what?
April opened her journal. Right in the chart, she witnessed a bright red drop of blood. The first house, Aries, was where I told you to put the blood, Chance. Why is this in Virgo? Wait a minute! Why is there fresh blood in my book?
"Guess he got the journal!"
She tried to laugh it off, but chills made her hair stand on end. Dipping one finger into the drop, she tasted his blood. It was sweet.
This can't be happening!
She couldn't share that with anyone. Who would believe her anyway? How deep into the story would she have to get before she could have explained even the events that led up to that drop of blood. It was an all or nothing kind of anecdote. Nothing short of all would have sufficed, so she told no one.
These days, she waited for a response from him, but no word ever came.
Chance, now back in Los Angeles, was remembering how alarmed he had been when the letters first came, back then when it all started. Overnight stardom brought with it so much attention that when her stuff first arrived, he hadn't paid much attention. But each message became more complex and esoteric that for a while, nothing she sent made sense.
By then, he was hooked, so intrigued that even the laughter from his friends over the weird chick's fan mail became irritating. At that moment of realization, all secrets revealed to him by her were no longer open for discussion. Not even with Greg. It was Greg that noticed the change first. After all, he delivered the packages. The last one had been earlier today.
Greg eyed it for a while, quite aware that it was from her. It was mailed some time before but with their travel schedule so erratic, it had become lost in the shuffle. He hadn't opened it even though it had been sent in care of him. Chance was touchy about her. Sight unseen, he delivered Chance's invitation to the Charity Ball.
Chance had noticed Greg's silent interest but intentionally dismissed it. He didn't want to talk about it. They both recognized the girl's art. It had been going on twelve years, at least. If anyone knows what this girl is about, it would have to be Greg. Chance missed those late night bull sessions. And all Greg knew was that Chance wasn't talking much these days.
So many things that can't be said . . . and so little time to not say them.
Then, as he thought about the girl, he tried to remember why he didn't want to see her. Something way back then had stopped him . . . but what? He remembered how it felt to be the center of attention, how the fans seemed to affect his impression of them, and what he became. Everyone catered to his needs and it had twisted his perspective of SELF but that didn't explain his perception of that girl. Why did she make him hate her? What had she said that scared him? Why was she so persistent?
What's in this damn envelope?!
He ripped open the seal, and out tumbled a piece of puzzle. Her eyes . . .
April had chosen his piece finally, carefully, the choice, once made, seemed obvious. What else could she send? She figured that's how they met, that first sight. "Their eyes met from across the room . . ."
Chance flipped the puzzle piece over. On its other side, part of the chart. He went to retrieve the journal from the box. Dragging it out of the corner of the closet where he had buried it last time he looked in it, the super star of April's dreams revealed The Box. To look at its cardboard veneer, one would might have overlooked its secrets hidden within.
Cloaked in this carton, Chance kept her mysteries nearby. No longer was this matter approachable. Even if he had ever wanted to really meet the girl, all this made it unlikely. What she wrote wasn't normal. If April was Pandora, this was most certainly her box. He recalled each time they had met, and how he had pretended to be nonchalant. Completely aware of her presence, he tried to shield himself from her psychic attack.
Ignore it, and it'll go away . . .
But she hadn't and here was the proof.
The journal was the newest entry in her file, which gave him more insight into her THING, whatever that was. As far as he could tell, she had included a code which allowed him to decipher letters that were ten years old for the first time. Through the night, he retraced the journey. Now things seemed to clarify, but just as quickly as the realizations flashed, they faded. Now all that remained was the memory, unconsciously etched onto his soul, for as he tried to recapture the occult statutes, he found them lost.
On the pages before him, the symbols opened like windows, exposing their cabalistic truth before blinking back to nothing. He couldn't ever quite remember what he was supposed to remember. Something about this whole episode felt wrong. It wasn't supposed to feel right. The truth had nothing to do with how either Chance or April felt. This had little to do with them anyway.
They were just a couple of pawns, too.
Alone, each in their private world, for one moment, they both looked into the eyes in a picture of the other and thought . . .
What the Hell am I doing?!
XIII - Death
"Now seems like too much love is never enough.
You better seek one another road 'cause this one has ended abrupt.
Say 'hello' to Heaven . . ."
Temple of the Dog
Say Hello to Heaven
For once, it seemed as if they had traded places. April basked in the warmth of public awareness, while Chance sat more alone that ever. Only three months until the last date, he sat one night in the Netherlands, smoking his pipe in room 101 of the Kurhaus hotel, Den Hague. It was one of his favorite places even if the Dutch audience was smaller than he liked. The show earlier that evening had been good enough, but the magic wasn't there any more and he knew it.
He became comfortable with the idea of early retirement, even though the prospect unnerved him. Maybe he'd ask Tara to marry him and they could start a family. High on the hash, he decided to call LA, but she didn't answer the phone. He hung up, disappointed.
The girls in the lobby might have been a suitable distraction for his solitude but remembering the night of the rose, no groupie had ever not been judged by the standard that moment. Compared to that feeling, no one had ever satisfied his need to be wanted, to be adored, worshiped like the crowd had made him feel back then. The look of love in a young girl's eye had made him feel special, vulnerable. So perfect had those fleeting moments been, he couldn't jeopardize ruining it. That was his main reason that he was paralyzed to her numerous advances. She had to remain a perfect stranger. His fantasy of her must not be tainted.
And besides that, she's kind of weird . . .
He still hadn't RSVP'd, nor did he have any plans on doing so. By this point, the Party was everywhere he looked. It felt like a trap. He knew that she wanted him there, but who else did she 'want' there. He wanted to know if he was just one of a thousand people that she had a THING for or was he the 'special guest.' The invitation, tucked into the pocket of his suitcase, seemed starkly simple for what he was sure had to have been 'special' for the girl.
Maybe not though.
At that moment, he decided to investigate it further. But how? How could he research the project without raising suspicions? He'd have to get a private investigator in the States. But who? He couldn't ask Greg, or Tara. He jotted ideas into the tattered notebook.
Guest list, I'll need that first. I could just call the people I know on it and they can tell me what they know about her. I'll play it off as just another potential guest, and if she's got a history with them, then that's it. I'll know!
"If she does, then I'm not going to go!"
Chance let that decision become the parameter, the guide by which he would make his final decision. He realized that he'd have to act quickly, even though the concert was not until March. The fact that he was requested to make his appearance before the Queen, as the character of the March Hare, correlated with the date of the event. But maybe, everyone invited felt seduced the same way. Maybe she stalked them all.
If she does, then she's got too much free time on her hands. Wouldn't that be funny, though?
He could picture the revelation:
(during an interview at the Mad Hatter Tea Party)
Q: What made you agree to attend this particular event?
A: Well, the girl asked me to come after singling me out of a thousand guests, and by years of persistent groveling, she finally convinced ME to pay heed to her pleas.
I guess you are surprised to find out that I am the one she did this all for. I am the ONE she chose.
Q: What do you mean? She does this all the time! Hey, Bob, come here. Tell him! How long has she been sending you crap? I've been getting stuff for eighteen years, newcomer.
He wanted to feel special, but in all the articles he read, not once did she mention him. However, she never discussed anyone. The whole event was supposed to be a big surprise, but in reality, April wouldn't know who showed until the day of the Tea Party. She let the PR people of the guests publicize celebrity attendance, if they so chose. No one was allowed to mention which part they would portray from Alice in Wonderland or Through the Looking Glass.
The 'special guest' had to remain a surprise.
In her mind, she knew she would be surprised, too.
One way or the other.
April fought off discouraging thoughts, especially since she hadn't heard back from Chance. Ever . . . Now she became embarrassed by her obsession once again. The media was ignorant to the truth of the matter. Now, was she becoming tempted to reveal a little of her secret thing to them just so one of them would track the guy down and ask him, What the fuck?
Luckily, she maintained her composure through each interview, fighting hard to keep silent. And she never let them ask certain questions. She wore the illusion of mystery, with answers disguised within answers that she knew if they really looked, they would see the big picture. To the uninitiated, she was vague. To her, the answers were her little private jokes. Each one screamed the truth, yet no one even realized.
May would see it! She was there!!
But where was she now?
May wasn't well these days. She had fallen into the bottomless pit of addiction and hadn't hit bottom yet. In February, her path crossed Jesse James, drudging up those painful memories of betrayal.
How could they do that to me? My own sister!
She didn't call home because she had nothing to say to any of them. How could Mom not understand how upset she was? Or April for that matter? Jesse James, she could understand. But April?
He hadn't been the first one either!
Marsha, Marsha, Marsha . . . she heard Jan's voice.
April had taken them both!
First Chance, now Jesse, too.
May didn't want to feel this way about the people she loved, but the drugs she turned to for comfort only magnified the conflict within her. The higher she flew, the farther she fell. She had known that Tara was trying to ditch her on Sunset that night with Jesse.
How stupid does she think I am?
Tara and Star had been on the way to meet Ghost, so why did Tara really think that she would believe that he would be at the Rainbow?
Sure, she was interested in Ghost, but he wasn't really her type.
Jesse was more my type. April's, too, I guess.
Homeless and wandering through her drug haze, she hadn't heard the news. Her junkie friends weren't up on current affairs either. The squats she frequented had no electricity, any TVs had long been pawned. It was easy to lose oneself here. Time had no relevance, no future, therefore - no past.
What day is it? replaced, "what time is it?"
Not that she really cared. She drifted through the never ending scene change, the roller coaster film projected across the screen of her life. Angels and demons mingled with the user's reality until paranoid fantasies played themselves out. One wasted guy stared out the window while another locked himself in the bathroom for the day. While some would watch them, others never even noticed. Each person was on their own trip, and May traveled the wrong way down that dead end road.
Who the hell is Tara, anyway?
May knew nothing about her at the time, but when she ran into Tara once just now, again the pain surfaced. Seeing her face triggered the latent hostility. She spoke first.
"Hey, girl, I remember you!"
Tara smiled politely, "I'm sorry. Do I know you?"
May could read her face, which seemed sincere, but you never know. She chose not to remind her. Instead, she said casually,
"Yeah, we've met before. You're Tara, right?"
"And you are?"
Judging from the tracks on the girl's arm, Tara judged correctly the state of this one's addiction.
Clean her up a little, some new clothes . . . Where have I seen her before? She couldn't quite place her, but she seemed so familiar. Tara met a lot of people though, so when she couldn't place the face, she gave up trying quickly. Then she remembered Sunset Boulevard. Jesse James . . . and that girl Star. I wonder what ever became of that one.
Now that she remembered, she said nothing to reveal this. She could use it later if necessary. She'd have to ask him about this May chick, but then again, Jesse had said he didn't know her. Jesse was lying, wasn't he? I wonder why.
Tara wondered what she could get for this girl. She took the first step.
"So, I'm starving . . . Let's go get something to eat, my treat!"
May hadn't eaten in a couple of days, and with no money, had no plans to do so anytime soon, therefore when the 'free lunch' was offered, she jumped at the opportunity. Tara knew she would. They were all the same.
Not much was said during the meal, each lost in their own thoughts, intermittently smiling, but awkwardly silent. Neither recalled the first time their paths had crossed. And for May, it was a good thing they didn't.