XIV - Temperance/Art
"Every person, all the events of your life, are there because you have drawn them there. What you choose to do with them is up to you."
Messiah's Handbook #14
The balance of power shifted, until one day, April was on top and Chance was on the bottom. He wanted to be out of the limelight, and for the first time in a long time, she radiated. The Texas heat wasn't so bad this year. There was too much to do to complain about the weather. Her birthday was coming soon, but no matter how old she was getting, nothing could mar her mood. Today she felt good.
Life is getting better and better and better . . .
Film crews arrived that morning to cover the making of the Mad Hatter Tea Party & Charity Ball. April performed brilliantly, due in part to the adrenaline, combined with years of performances on the stage.
All kinds of stages . . .
College paid off again. For the first time, she actually used the stuff that they crammed in her head. It felt great, . . . even better than sex. Almost . . .
She counted on her fingers, seven months until . . . The last time she had a countdown, it ended with BABY. Now almost two, Natasha grew everyday, discovering her world. In a way, the Party was April's baby. Her creation, nurtured, now had a life of its own. On the other hand . . . She had more time to worry about it beforehand, but once the Party was over, it was over. Natasha was just getting started.
The fact that we can contemplate the Spirit means that the Spirit exists . . . at least in our minds.
"Where did that come from?" a reporter asked April at lunch, referring to the quote on a painting that she titled: THINK.
It was the head of a man, eyes closed with the top of his head hinged open so that all the thoughts of Man poured forth. No need for words to comprehend the significance of the world around him.
"It has a subtitle: I think I am, therefore I said I was. It's a much catchier name, but I don't create art for its commercial value."
The reporter didn't find the humor, so she stopped talking and waited for his next question. He noticed the diploma from the university. Uh oh, here goes with the quiz.
"So what did you study in school? Let me guess . . . art."
"Quarters and the occult."
"I studied broadcasting some, science, readin', writin', 'rithmatic. I was supposed to anyway. College was the best six years of my life."
"So, you weren't a very good student?"
"Maybe not but I sat near some!"
April watched him squirm uncomfortably, almost ending the interview at that moment. He wasn't having fun and was becoming a real buzzkill. But then she remember how it might look on film, so she tried to soften the mood.
"Okay, I'll stop being funny or I'll start being funny. . . whatever you want."
He leaned back in his chair, "So, when do you announce the participants."
"Announce? Who said I was going to announce anyone beforehand?"
"Don't you think it would help ticket sales to advertise who'll be performing."
She heard this question before so she reiterated, "That's the surprise of the whole event. Surprise! What I mean, it's more important to talk about the money were raising, than about who will be there. Right?"
"I don't believe that your motives are strictly philanthropic."
"What do you mean?"
"What is you real reason for doing all this?"
Uh, oh . . . this interview is over!
"Well, if you think that I am doing this for some personal gain, I would have to agree with you. Every act we accomplish in our lives has a subjective quality to it. Whether we admit to the selfishness of it or not, or we even recognize our true motives, doesn't matter in long run because they become merely a means to an end. And in the end, if we help some people by having a little party, then I'm sure they won't care why I decided to do it. . . . what was the question?"
He didn't like her answer. After he took the cameraman out, she relaxed. I hope he isn't . . . Surely he doesn't suspect . . . He couldn't . . .
Two months before the end of the road show, the crew seemed to be planning their futures, while Chance just sat and nodded as he listened. No one asked him what his plans were, which was okay since he wouldn't have had an answer anyway. Now that they made it to London, he spent most of his free time wandering the twisted streets that snaked through town. He watched children as they played in the grounds of his old school, trying to remember some of the past.
The only memory that came to mind was the day that the world found out who his father was. People crowded him, determined to get a piece of the action. Questions were fired at him by ugly, hungry faces. Unfamiliar strangers called him by name wherever he went. School mates threatened him, always cornered and confused. Sneering older kids spit at him and called him the devil.
"Your mama is a . . . whore!!"
"Bet she did it missionary style!"
"You're going to Hell!"
Turning on his heel, he left the scene of the crime. Seeing the boys in the play yard still gave him chills.
Sure kids are mean . . .but what about . . .
The church hadn't responded well either. Some of the grown-ups had made it clear that they weren't welcome any longer. He and mama didn't go much after that. Religion didn't do much for him once the scandal broke. His faith went on the back burner. He found refuge in rock and roll.
By the eighties, Chance had formed his first band. The five piece group practiced 'religiously,' so they claimed. He accepted their jokes. They were mostly in good taste if that was possible. They even kicked around names like The Alter Boys, and State of the Church. He couldn't agree with that. He tried out a name on them.
"How about Chance Lee, the one man band . . . you're all fired!"
"You can't fire the unemployed! Besides, I thought the word was excommunicate. Call up your dad, we'll ask him," they had said back then.
Now he laughed to himself, "It's fired!"
His new band were professional musicians, not grade school friends. After the first album, it was clear that they had to go their separate ways. The tour of the States had overwhelmed the boys. Only the strong survived.
"And here I am London!"
The crowd thundered, making him feel welcome. No stranger in his homeland anymore. This was the final leg of the Psychic Checkmate tour, which he saved for the end. He wanted to finish where he started, the United Kingdom. In a way, he tried resolve past issues, but became a bit smug when his old buddies turned up backstage. Some of them hadn't been very nice, and it felt great hearing them kiss his ass.
And boy, they can kiss my ass, too!
He was ready to retire!
Tara was back in Malibu, at home, when she started thinking about Chance. The years that they had been together, she hadn't really appreciated him like she should. It was impossible. Two different kinds of people, she figured. But their backgrounds had been similar. She, the daughter of the couple that produced and starred in the number one prime time comedy series, and he, the son of the Pope. Both knew what it was like to be thrust in the spotlight, much too young, for reasons not of their own making. In a way, they were two of a kind.
She wasn't ready to quit running the streets and she wasn't sure how Chance would feel if she did. As a result she never talked about 'the future' with him. Neither did he.
Why is that?
Now that the thought crossed her mind, she began to wonder.
What would it be like to be with him?
As the day progressed, that nagging question didn't subside. Tara could feel her anger rise.
XV - The Devil
Won't you Listen?
When I first met you . . . didn't realize, I can't forget you or your surprise.
You introduced me to my mind and left me wanting
you and your kind.
Oh, yeah! I love you."
The Deceiver stirred. A pair of stygian orbs appeared through the haze, which crept silently along the floor of hell.
No rest for the wicked.
Its scales clicked against each other as it moved, pacing the chamber listening for the word. Subtle, almost inaudible murmurs came from the east.
The time is nigh . . .
Or . . .
"His Highness is nighness," April mused.
Night came early on days like this one. Storms brewed, threatening millions around the world, and the people held their breath, waiting for the end of nature's fury. Some thrive during a tempest, facing the storm head on; others hide.
While winds tore, untold numbers of rain-drenched lives apart. The relentless attack of raging weather devastated the cities but believers survived with their Faith intact. But there were scores of others who had long been lost to the World. The imaginary lines grew wider every age until no harmony is heard, only the single voice.
Mi . . . mi, mi, mi . . . Me . . .
"This is your voice, the one that speaks through you . . . to you," she tried to tell Tara. May knew what April had taught her about the secret side of life. It had been a while even if she hadn't been extremely high at that moment. She found herself hanging with Tara more and more these days, which was odd since Tara didn't do drugs, but constantly had them nearby. She didn't know why, but since the supply never ran short, there was no reason to go elsewhere. For the first time, May had become the teacher. Tara listened intently as the words poured out of May with grace and influence. For once she felt as if her views were being valued, appreciated. She shared with Tara the cryptic knowledge.
Tara heard a voice. She heard it for so long that she assumed it was her own thoughts. She never even realized that it was a man's voice in her head. Even when, in her mind, she debated with herself, it didn't seem strange that any opposing argument was posed by a distinctly female voice. This was, perhaps, because over the years, this voice spoke less often. That was until she thought of marriage, and then about Chance.
The machine cranked slowly into gear, but her biological clock became a ticking time bomb tucked neatly in one dark recess of her mind. And the voice spewed its poisonous rage into the echo of her head.
Shut the fuck up, you stupid little bitch. I didn't want a sermon, I wanted to know if I could get pregnant. After what my . . . that . . . that stupid motherfucker did . . . that stupid dead motherfucker did . . . What does it say about that, huh? What card tells you that I'm about to smash your non-shutting-up motherfucking mouth? If I wanted to talk about God, I wouldn't taken out the restraining order against the Witnesses. I'm going to beat your ass with the Bible belt if you don't shut the fuck up!!
All Tara said was, "Does it say anything about a baby?"
"Would you like it to say something about a baby?"
She smiled sweetly, "Maybe."
"Well, let me see . . . "
She wandered through her playing cards when the message went beyond the pale. Tara watched the color drain from May's face. Tara liked to see that look normally but under the circumstances, it didn't seem like such a good time. May stared into the deck's wisdom, said nothing to break the spell. Tara's mind screamed.
April felt the chill drift past her, not from within but like a cold pocket of air with traveling plans. She recognized it immediately.
Oh, boy, they are back, and now what do I do?
Squinting, she tried to discern what she knew to be present. It was very faint and after a while she gave up trying to see her visitor. She prayed for spiritual, and physical, protection just the same.
Now that the Party is alive and well, I can go back to my daydreams.
The first thing she unearthed was the journal. Immediately, she turned to the chart, automatically without having to look, because just as she opened it, something flew out, right past her left ear.
What the hell was that?
She didn't find any bugs in the room, so she went back to her task. Since the storms, she hadn't been able to go to work. Big T's was closed for the duration. Working a little on her comedy jokes, she wondered if for employment, she could start her own 976 number.
It could be an occult line, THE PSYCHIC SEX LINE . . . you call me and I tell you what you are wearing. Besides, if your psychic friends were that good, they'd call you.
Then she kicked around the idea,
I could be a surreal estate agent . . . for the afterlife . . . for people who have bought the farm?
She could hear distant groans of forgotten hecklers for that one. She scratched it out. Then another came to mind.
A guy called me up and asked me what I was wearing, and I lied to him and made something up, because I didn't want him to see me naked.
"Maybe, I shouldn't use this one anymore, now that I'm back in Texas," she considered.
A guy came to my door the other day and said, "Hello, mam, I'm Jehovah's Witness."
And I said, "Really? What's he up for?"
(Bill Hicks: If you don't like what I say, then forgive me!)
That's when April realized that maybe she could a stand-up set at the Party. Her face flushed at the thought.
I could, couldn't I?
Me . . . mi . . . mi, mi, my, my . . .
"Oh my . . ."
Tara left the wasted girl with plenty of incentive to stay put, as she decided to act upon a directive from the twisted portion of her logic. Not a mile up the road from the hotel by the water, she drove past her estate, and directly to his.
I bet he's got another girlfriend . . .
At least for her sake of mind, she figured that she should check out the possibilities. After all, he had given her a key. It wasn't like she was breaking in or anything. He was in Europe, told her to keep an eye on the place. Obviously, he had nothing to hide!
Right . . . nothing to hide.
Letting herself in, she cleared the security system with her code, and took a diet soda from the fridge. As she wandered aimlessly from room to room, she mulled over the photos, the awards, the platinum/gold records on his walls. Family photos did little to warm her heart, until she saw Chance's baby picture. She remembered why she came.
Starting in the first room to the right of the entrance, she ran her hand over the wall as she went counterclockwise through the interior from floor to ceiling. In her pursuit, she searched through each drawer, into every crevice, and left no stone unturned. She paused at the chessboard, remembering how much he liked to play, but she hadn't the patience to learn the game, or so she said.
I hate to lose . . . it's a stupid game anyway.
Her eyes noticed the painting, the man behind the chessboard sat waiting for the game to begin. His top hat was the only thing that showed, and his eyes. In his eyes were all the mysterious etchings that April could muster the night she painted it. A mushroom cloud formed behind, and had Tara been familiar with Alice . . ., she would have been able to understand the caterpillar with the bong. She just wrinkled her nose at the oddity of it.
Tara knew art, and this wasn't it. She tried to locate the painter's signature on it, but it was missing.
I wouldn't claim it either . . .
What she didn't understand that April's signature was all over it. If she had just listened to his music, she would have seen it then. But try as she might, she found nothing to suspect. Not even one phone number in his Rolodex that wasn't backed up with a professional contact in detail. Each card listed only people that she recognized. That was how she over looked it.
May sat alone, partying again, but with a sense of trouble now. That card reading wasn't Tara's, it was May's. She couldn't speak at all for the shock and horror. It wasn't very pleasant. Gave her nightmares for weeks afterward.
She never spoke of what she saw.
Tara went meticulously through each room being careful not to noticeably disturb any of his belongings. She wasn't really prepared to go through his attic, or the stuff sealed in storage. Bad times in the attic . . .
In his bedroom, she went to the bed where they made love, picking up his pillow. She recognized his scent. Silk sheets beckoned and she couldn't resist climbing in. With one hand, she unbuttoned her blouse. The other went south. In the mirror over head, she watched her nipples grow erect as her violet lingerie camisole fell open. Soon she removed her panties. She managed to open her eyes in time to see herself climax.
Love enveloped her for a few brief moments as she lay their day dreaming about Chance. Soon he would be back for good. She wanted him all to herself, and from the looks of it, that fantasy would become real soon. The tour was almost over.
Seek, and ye shall find . . .
She tried to ignore the impulse, but she forced herself to get up. She straightened the bed and went to his closet to wear one of his shirts, which read Undefeated across it. In the corner of the closet was a stack of blankets with a painting leaning against it. Tara almost didn't see what was there.
Tara had given up on her mission when she heard the directive even louder. Something was under the blankets. It seemed to move as if to catch her attention, or maybe it was the light playing tricks on her eyes. But she found what she was looking for.
She pulled the container from its hiding place, dragging it to the center of the room. Standing up straight, she hesitated opening it. After rummaging through countless drawers, she had located keys to locked trunks that she thought sure would hold some little secret possession, which would betray his innocence but for the last two hours, nothing had emerged. This was different.
I know I shouldn't be doing this, but . . .
She couldn't resist! Moments later, she sat cross legged on the rug, sifting through the contents. At first, she removed one letter and read it, careful to replace it exactly. By the third letter, her anger overwhelmed her.
Tara picked up the box, and took it outside. On the well manicured lawn, she set it down and stepped back. By the light of the full moon, Tara's eyes flashed wildly, insane with jealousy. Out came her lighter. With a fatal blow for justice, she set one corner of the box aflame.
April walked into her living room, having put the baby down for bed. Once there, she finished putting up the baby's toys spread on the floor. When she turned out the overhead light, there danced a single flame on the shelf next to his picture. Cold chills encompassed her, making the hair on her arms tingle.
I didn't light that!
She was glad that she had noticed it, as it might have burned down the trailer. It wasn't normal for her to burn that candle without purpose, but maybe she had. If she hadn't been exhausted, she might have let it burn. With a quick prayer, perhaps a little more inspired than usual, she licked her fingers and snuffed out the candle.
The moon hung low, full and stark, on the Malibu hills. Silent except for the low rumble of waves crashing below, Chance's estate stood witness to the events. Tara laughed manically, as the tiny spark grew to consume one flap. Just as it hit the main portion of the box, she heard the voice.
Without a second thought, she jumped on the box, failing to slap out the growing embers. She eyed the garden hose, picked it up, then changed her mind. The only thing she could do in that case was strip off her shirt and smother it. Burning herself a little, she was more relieved that she hadn't waited a moment too late to change heart.
But why? It's not like I can put it back in his closet. Oh, shit . . . look at his shirt!!
She laughed hysterically as she viewed the damage. The box hadn't caught fire enough to burn the belongings she was happy to see. But now it presented a dilemma.
What do I do with the stuff.
Only one option, she realized that she would have to take it with her.
Take it home . . .
She stuffed the tattered rag into the container. That was when she noticed that she stood naked. Face turned upward to the full moon, she smiled and closed her eyes, bathing herself in its light. Stretching her body, Tara almost danced in her movement. Then as if she heard a noise, she stopped and listened.
I better get the fuck outta Dodge!
Dressing quickly, she straightened up the bed perfectly, went to the closet, re-folded the blankets, and got dressed quickly. Outside, she shoved the evidence into the trunk. She went back into the house to reset the alarm when she remembered something. Back up the stairs, she went into the closet and removed the empty clothes hanger.
I wonder who is at the security company tonight. I bet I can get this little excursion erased. Let's see . . . what dope do I have on me?
Back in the car, she found what she might need. The first stop was to Chance's home defense provider where she found an old friend, Lou Cifre, wanna-be Private Eye. After her second cup of his coffee, she posed the first of her two propositions.
He gladly removed the incriminating record, which he explained would remain in central processing but would be erased from the daily accounts, therefore Chance would be unable to obtain them through his bills or through the general information call upon his return.
Tara had never been there . . .
Her second request intrigued him considerably. She knew Lou would do anything required to 'get the job done.' It was nothing to him. He had no ethics and little morals, so all she had to do to guarantee complete loyalty was pay more than anyone else offered him, and send Ghost to deliver the first cash payment.
"I'm going to go home tonight and think about how to approach this situation I've come upon, and will let you know soon exactly what this assignment will entail. You just realize that you will be paid generously for your discretion. You have nothing illegal to worry about to accomplish this mission, but if you ever mention this or any other meeting we have, I will personally kill you."
"Oh, hell, Tara! You know me!"
"I know, that's why I came to you . . . first!"
"Who else could do it for you better than me?"
"I know! That's why I'm here."
For the first time in a long time, she felt cheerful. For some unknown reason, he made her feel welcome, comfortable and as a result, the endless profanity in her mind subsided. She stayed for the next few hours, surprised when she forgot all about the box, which only came to mind when Lou brought it up.
"So, what did you steal?"
"What? Uh . . ."
"What did you steal from Chance's house?"
"Oh nothing . . . I just . . . uh . . . Why would you ask me such a question?"
"Because you stole something," he laughed.
It was evident to him, for two reasons. This job taught him the business of theft. That and his past. He only believed in two reasons that anyone would erase security entrance into a residence. One was infidelity. Taking something strange home and trying to cover one's tracks wasn't likely since Tara had a bad-ass house nearby. The more likely, however, was theft. He'd seen it all before, though, so unless she 'shared,' he might conjure a half a dozen other reasons.
Little did he realize at the time, he was right on both accounts
At midnight, she left. The moon was completely eclipsed at this point, which she failed to notice. She was too intent on getting to her house. Her drive home gave her time to stew, anger brimming to the surface, and attempts to relax and calm down failed. Deep sighs did nothing. Closing her eyes at the red lights in a momentary meditation didn't either.
Maybe some music . . .
She reached blindly into the glove compartment for a tape, and putting it into the machine as she made the left, she heard the end of Chance's song Momentary Magic. At first she pushed the eject button, and removed the offending music. Then she said to her faraway lover, So, Chance, what do you have to say for yourself?
The music faded from the first track and the second song faded in slowly, chimes and cymbals, or signs and symbols as April wrote in her journal. She had sent it to him in Chicago. When the second album had those words in its lyrics, April nearly fainted.
But Tara listened to the first album, unaware of that reference as of yet. Tonight she would see more than that.
I'm definitely onto something here! Her!
April went to bed that night oblivious to the danger the brewed in the west, unaware, too, of the eclipse, which shone silhouetted in the sky over her house. Storms were churning in the netherworld, but no clouds formed in the sky until Tara opened the carton inside her house.
After lifting the three remaining flaps, she paused, gazing into IT.
I'm not going to like this!
She fixed herself a cup of tea, and put on Chance's second release. This one was called After the Magic . . . , which she tried to figure out.
After the magic, what?
"Exactly!" was his only answer to that question he ever gave.
She thought of her own ending. After the Magic is Gone! In a way, it was. This album only went gold, compared to the platinum for the previous work. Maybe it had only been momentary magic, huh, Chance?
She had laughed inside with that unspoken bit of truth. The critics had been harsh.
But to April, it spoke for itself. She knew that it wasn't fair to judge it so, since it was a quickly released follow up to the first. The way she explained it was that a first album is the body of work that the artist has created over the course of his/her lifetime, all the best stuff. The second album then is either work that didn't make it on the first or it has been produced between the two releases. Ironically, April was listening to it when at the same time, Tara pressed the button to play After the Magic . . .
Tara, ready for what she knew she must do, pulled the box to the overstuffed black leather couch. It was sure to be a long night ahead. Next to Chance's collection was an empty trunk. She flipped through the envelopes, looking for the cancellation which would reveal date and place of origin. Into the new vessel she placed the finished letters in order with which the postmarks were filed.
Chance must have been pretty attentive to this. On her stereo, she listened intently to the words. What exactly had he meant by the lyrics? She assumed that it was her that some referred to, but what if they weren't?
By the end of the first page, she knew.
After the Magic . . .
Trk. 1: Put the Game Away
(3:24) written by Chance Lee,
I watch you slowly take away the dream I've never known,
Far beyond your rules, I live one of my own.
I can never be with you, my path another way,
but if I ever hold you near, please put the game away.
I don't need the fantasy, don't twist my twisted life,
Although I need a lover, I cannot have a wife.
Don't ask why I'm not around, or not to go away,
I'll remember what you said, but I'm not going to play.
When the song had come out so many years earlier, Tara had taken this song personally. It made her think twice before 'playing any games.' She had wanted to ask him about it but she never talked to him about his music. He had said that was one of her better qualities. Besides, inevitably every interview would contain the 'what does it all mean' angle. She didn't talk shop, secretly assuming all his answers as they related to her. For the first time, she wondered about this theory.
Tara thought of the chessboard. The Picture!!
"So, Chance, who is it? The big picture is getting smaller all the time, isn't it? What else have you got to say, huh, Rockboy? Mr. Superstar?"
The next song played on:
If I went down your dusty road and found that you weren't home,
Where would I go from there? Where else could I roam?
So if I choose to stay away, and leave you all alone,
It is because my love for you must remain unknown.
In my mind's eye I see you perfectly,
I can't believe that I believe,
that you believe it's me.
Synchronicity, we'll see . . .
So, don't look at me so carefully,
don't say too much too soon,
Go outside and just look up,
The Sun's eclipsed the moon.
On that note she went outside through the back door, and just as she suspected. Eclipse!! Just as I figured! Tara had a knack for such mystical encounters. She conjured up all kinds of crossroads in the universe. This one made her relax. The rest of the letters were easier to read after that.
April's night was far from peaceful. Visions flickered through her dreams, contorting her body as their images recorded themselves upon her memory records. The dragon was coming . . . your Highness . . . no wait, not you!
With the creature came the knowledge. We are coming from the East . . . Prepare ye the Way of the Lord . . . the beast, from the east . . .
"I'm coming for you!"
April sat upright, jolted awake by the voice of the revelation.
Christ, the anti-Christ is coming!
"March, in like a lion, out like a lamb. In like the Lamb, out like the Lion."
Oh, man, I can't believe that I am thinking like this. What if they both come as the same person? There, I wrote it down, but that doesn't mean I believe it necessarily . . . East, man, I have to remember what the dream just told me. Where's my pen?
Greenwich Mean time is east, isn't it? Right where Chance was born . . . She tried to stop herself from going down that dark road, but she had it right there on the paper before her. Two charts side by side caught her attention.
Chance in an Aries, so there's the sun. Now, I read somewhere that the rising sign was what a person was in the last lifetime. Oh my God, he was a Pisces!
"This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius . . . age of Aquarius . . ."
She studied the charts, and more became clear. If I turn it this way, and look at the connections. I can't believe that it's all here. My rising sign is Sagittarius, which is ruled by Jupiter, Jove, . . . Jehovah . . . Jah.
"Father, Son and Holy Spirit . . . the alpha and the omega . . . . as it was in the beginning, is Now, and ever shall be. World without end, amen, ah men!
Was it Voltaire that said, "It is no more surprising to be born twice than it is to be born once."
"God is dead - Neitze
Neitze is dead - God"
This is what she wrote:
The apple (computer), which caused Adam (atom) to split from the garden, rots - nearing the eve (Eve) of destruction. The sun (Son) touched the world (whirled) a little more (moor) each day, due to a whole (hole) bevy of problems.
In 1948 (1984), the reformation of the Nation of Israel began the clock, the countdown to extinction. Big Brother predicted in 1984 was prophesied in 1948, oh well, Orwell. Driver's licenses were modified to include, not only a hologram photo but also three other little tools of identification. The magnetic strip seemed simple enough but the barcode, which people had grown accustomed to over the past two decades, now appeared on the back of the ID cards.
Id . . .
. . . and the number of the Beast shall be . . . no man can trade without the mark . . . the number . . . what number?
Man shall not trade without the number, the number of the beast shall be,
. . . Social Security. You have to have a number to do anything . . .
April wrote it all down as it came to her. She remembered about the chips, the microchips that had been placed in each license, were capable of being picked up by satellite transmission. Triangulated from above, watched from below. Three satellites were already in place. And in France, they kept a computer that had so much memory, it could easily maintain a file on each and every person on Earth. For the record, they called it le Bete` or in English . . . the Beast.
When 1992 saw the creation of the European Common Market, April saw the reformation of the Old Roman Empire. Tick . . . tick . . . tick . . . On one hand, there was Kuwait, the mouth of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, or the Garden?
On the other end, Greenwich.
First with the binoculars, then with the telescope, then the microscope, You're going the wrong way . . .
The Defiant Ones - Sidney Portier's character stated, " . . . can't blame them for what they don't know."
But with all the cameras in place, how couldn't they know what they were doing. Humans were creating the Perfect World.
Because the microchips weren't always on the person who it was intended for, Research and Development departments around the country secretly worked on other possibilities. Some of the experimental chips went innocuously into the individual during surgery. These subjects hadn't been told, but were monitored for side effects. Strokes tripled
Children under the legal driving age constituted a problem. The law allowed up to the age of five as a grace period to apply for the SS# card. But in malls all over the country, thousands of children were marked. The signs read,
Ear Piercing - free with purchase of earrings.
Just like animals in the wild, their tracking had begun.
Legalize drugs and the gang-bangers have to get jobs. Just say N2O!
Maybe my imagination is a bit over active!
"Maybe it isn't!"
XVI - The Tower
"If I had known it was going to be this small, I'd have said we should all go back to the hotel, put on the CD and get drunk!"
Greg's office buzzed with activity, stemming from the wrap-up of the current tour. People milled around, speaking in hushed tones about the impending hiatus. The ninth floor overlooking Beverly Hills reeked of anxiety. Greg himself sat sullen in his office, only donning a smile when he stood at the door where others could see him.
Tara, however, knew when she crossed the threshold of his sanctuary that the smile faded, and the fear returned. On one hand, she felt the apprehension. Everything was changing so quickly, and no one could predict the consequences. Greg knew he would be out of a job soon, or so rumor had it.
On the other hand, Tara has started the rumor. Much to her delight, it had taken on a life of its own. Now looking at him sitting pensively behind his stately desk, she couldn't muster enough sympathy to convince him that things would be okay. So, why try? Besides, it was all she could do to keep from laughing in his face, anyway.
You think just one of them would have figured it out!
Tara walked to the window, surveying the vast land that stretched into the horizon. Once her back was turned to him, she smiled.
I really do like him . . . I do.
She just couldn't explain why she had told those guys in the crew that Chance was going to fire him after the tour ended. Tara didn't really expect them to believe her but as Fate had it, it had been a slow news day backstage and the rumors abounded. By the time the story reached Greg himself, it sounded possible, even probable, especially since each person added to it speculation. There were many factors that could lead to his termination. When put that way, Greg would have fired himself, too. But Chance said nothing to Greg.
As the final weeks arrived, his suspicions grew. Here he was, only moments away from unemployment, and his best friend hadn't said a word about it. He figured that maybe he was getting no notice so he would continue to work hard, giving his all for the final dates, and then when it was over, Chance would pull him aside to break the news to him. That way no one gets hurt, you know. The show must go on.
The relationship grew strained.
Chance picked up the vibes quickly, knowing that something was amiss but he waited to see if Greg would confide in him or not. They were close, real close. His friend knew he was there for him. Doesn't he? After all, Chance often claimed that without Greg, he would have never left his hometown in the first place. It was Greg that discovered him in the first place, musically that is. It was Greg that got him on the charts. But in the end, it was Chance that the public wanted. In the end, it was Chance.
Tara knew this. She sensed that these two were inseparable, and it made her feel left out.
"Well, Tara, I guess this is it! You finally won!" Greg's voice shattered the silence with a Truth so loud that it reverberated throughout her mind, and would many times in the future. For a moment, all walls had been torn down. For the first time, someone had seen through her. All the lies, the deceptions, the bitter motives that ruled her life . . . had he discovered them? Maybe he knew how, secretly, she envied his relationship with Chance. It wasn't based on power, or sex, or even money. It had been based on trust, a sensation that Tara had been stripped of by her family.
How could he know?! Tara's mind raced, but she remained silent, waiting for the Truth to crumble around her. All she could see was the possible future, where all lies and alibis collide like a cross between Judgement Day and the old TV show This is Your Life. Breathless, she anticipated Greg's voice to continue. Hearing nothing, she began to panic. Finally, she felt like the criminal from the Poe story whose own conscience forces him to cry out,
"I DID IT! That's right, it was me!"
But no! Tara was too smooth for that. Adopting her best Scarlet O' Hara manner, she turned to face her accuser with her bright rebuttal,
"Oh, Greg, what ever are you talking about?!"
Without looking up, Greg spoke low, "You won, Tara!"
Hesitating, but unable to resist, she asked the deadly question, "What do you mean? What are you talking about?"
"The bet! You won! You remember the bet we made, don't you?" Greg looked her squarely in the eye, with a glimmer of the sparkle that reminded her of the past when it was a permanent fixture. It was good to see it there, even if it faded as quickly as it appeared.
Then an image floated to the surface. Not quickly, like some memories, but it came back piece by piece until it formed the big picture.
She realized that what Greg was referring to had taken place on the first tour. It was on the bus that they made the wager, but for what? Tara pressed to recall. It wavered on the brink, but she couldn't quite see it yet.
"I owe you a dollar!"
Suddenly, it came back.
Greg and Tara had been drinking together, trying to sort out a dilemma that had arisen. Greg had scheduled Chance to appear on that TV show that he knew would make Chance uncomfortable. It was risky. If Chance discovered it prior to taping, he would never have agreed to it.
Greg knew that and yet, when the opportunity arose, he weighed the consequences carefully and set the date. He could lose his job over it. By the end of the day, if he wasn't careful. But he hadn't.
The event would be the catalyst, marking in history the new phase. The public begged for it, and he delivered it to them. He hoped . . . prayed . . . that Chance would understand. They had discussed it before, but when it came right down to it, could Chance cross the borderline? Oh, he could sing about it or laugh about it, but come face to face with it? Become it?
"Oh, no!!" he would laugh, waving Greg away. Chance claimed that he would have no part of it, but there had been all those late night conversations when he revealed that . . . maybe . . .
"Why should I?" Chance had asked. "The media already calls me a sell-out. Why should I give into their whims?"
Sure, he came from a famous background, but he could manage to succeed despite that. Just his being born rattled an empire, virtually brought down the house. After all, how should he feel about being the first recognized bastard son of the pope?
" . . . or Pop, as I like to call him when we get together," he'd quip, "which isn't very often these days since we've never met."
And, of course, the event made history.
Tara remembered. Greg had gotten drunk and sworn her to secrecy, which seemed reasonable enough since the idea was so fabulous. She volunteered to help. Of course, she wouldn't miss something this priceless. But as they discussed it that day on the bus, Greg worried endlessly abut losing his job over it. So much that Tara made him a bet.
Greg took the bet, figuring that if he did lose his job, he'd come out a dollar ahead. And she wagered,
"I bet you take this boy to the top of the fucking industry, you'll be stroking them (your egos, that is), he'll turn to you and say, 'Later, dude!' "
Tara and Greg had laughed at the idea then, and even now, ten years after, they managed to find humor in the apparent irony of it. Chance was on top. Greg was losing his job.
Then, without warning, Tara's stomach knotted as she realized her part in fulfilling the prophesy. Unable to make it to the door, she grabbed the trash can. Lunch came back. Greg recoiled in disgust and laughter. It was truly the funniest thing he had seen all week. He didn't mean to laugh . . .
Tara accepted his apology gracefully, but the remorse which made her ill was gone. She felt vindicated.
Later that day, she would verify the pregnancy, but for now, she only seethed inwardly, smiling outwardly. Her mind voice spewed it barrage of obscenitiesat Greg, completely forgetting any connection to his soul. Those moments of contact were becoming fewer and fewer between, and they both knew it. Tara was hardening to the point of complete isolation. Soon she would be a hard core sociopath. Greg might have been worried about Chance, as he always was when it came to Tara, but this time was different. He was worried about himself.
As well as he should be! Tara thought. No more would she feel remorse. She heard the laughter before and never again . . . Besides, it was meant to be. Greg said it himself when he brought up that crap!
"So where's my dollar?" She actually heard herself ask.
He gave her one, as if resigning himself to the inevitable. The next day he was gone. Chance was devastated but not surprised. He knew something had been bothering Greg for a while and if he needed some time off to sort it out, then Chance agreed. But it was odd that he didn't say anything to anyone.
"Kind of rude, if you ask me!" Tara would later say.
Funny thing was that she knew she wa a bitch, good at it, too.Obviously, her money kept them coming back for more. Or for . . . No one ever said it but she knew. Even Chance once wanted her for her money.
Who do you think paid for the first tour? The record company? Ha!!
But now, he was rich.
It wouldn't surprise me if he dropped me like a bad habit any day now.
She began to look for hints that might confirm her suspicions, and found a whole box of them. Now every comment, every joke became a personal attack aimed at driving her away.
She couldn't leave forever though. What if she didn't come back, and no one noticed. That was her reason for dropping in and out of any scene so dramatically. It always surprised the boys when she made her grand entrrance surrounded by her entourage of wild beauties. Tara knew how to pick them! And the guys actually began to look forward to her visits. They never realized how tanked she got the girls beforehand, nor how many visits to the street it took to enlist them. She didn't even have to pay them, but she bought them all the same.
XVII - The Star
"It's seconds, minutes, hours, days inside a maze.
Ya keep your feet upon the yellow bricks, you got it made,
'cause every piece of the puzzle fits the master plan,
in this pre-fabricated, formulated land.
It's every piece in its place.
Red light, green light, Simon sez.
Take a tiny step forward and ask again."
High above the ocean, on Crestview Road's immaculate lawns, stretched a row of stately, intimidating mansions. Because this was considered a 'growing community,' undeveloped lots still separated the American castles that dotted the hillsides.
This feels so much better here!
Chance pulled aside the curtain and gazed out at the sea. It had been weeks since he drew back the shades, and even though night had come, the light of the moon bathed the room. He paused, searching the horizon. Once, this vista had been his favorite feature of the place. In the beginning . . . but now the air-born dust from the blinds made him realize some deeper part of his torment. Something was missing - the view.
Man, I didn't think I'd be this lonely. I thought that coming home would make everything alright . . .
The phone quit ringing. Unaccustomed to the silence, Chance spent the day wandering from room to room, pacing nervously for no apparent reason. He considered phoning Tara, but recently he felt uncomfortable around her. She had changed. It was impossible to understand her these days. Her mood swings were more erratic than ever, creating far more stress than he could handle, especially from the woman he considered as his wife.
Well, not exactly WIFE, since she says she's not the marrying kind.
Tara had made that clear from the very beginning. It was part of her appeal. For once, a woman had 'out-manned' him, with surprising results. Confused by this, he had actually asked her to marry him a few years ago. She had laughed in his face at his proposal.
"Chance, you know I'm not that kind of girl!" she had declared.
The subject never came up again.
All those women who had ever mentioned commitment came to mind. All the suffering he knew he had inflicted by cutting them off crashed unmercifully back. And now, alone in a house built for a family, Chance discovered what true loneliness felt like. But it wasn't until he looked out over the vacant lot next door that he realized what bothered him the most.
No longer did the shadow trace its outline on the crest of his view. When he had moved, the specter had followed him here to the coast. He recalled with a rush of adrenaline that first sighting of number one fan, a sensation which had both scared and exhilarated him. Even now, his heart pounded.
How long has it been?
At first, when that girl began 'stalking' him, he had been amused. The letters were a form of comic relief, softening the edge of the first tour. It wasn't that he was laughing at her . . . exactly . . . but sometimes, it was funny.
Strange, but interesting.
However, when the notes became more cryptic, Chance found them difficult to decipher, causing him to worry.
Interesting . . . but strange.
Unable to read the text, he decided to file them away . . . just in case. In case of what? Many reasons loomed, not the least of which were protective . . . just in case.
Quite often, Chance would discover some new piece of information which allowed him to 'read' another portion of her writings that he hadn't understood previously. It opened his eyes gradually to the hidden side of the world each time he went through the collection. It reminded him to retrieve the most recent additions.
His journal remained in his still unpacked suitcase, which stood as a monument of his transient existence. With his journal in hand, he went out on the balcony. He could smell her perfume from the paper, forcing him to recognize the fact that he actually regretted knowing she wouldn't be out there . . . waiting.
Waiting for what? Did she really think I might go out there? 'Hey, you, come on over!'
All those nights trapped inside by the girl-next-door now seemed like his loss. He had to admire her dedication, if that really was her out there. He was never quite sure, but who else would have stake claim in the empty lot across from his window? If it wasn't her, then why would some of the letters arrive hand delivered?
It has to be her . . . well, it had to have been her.
No longer, though . . . The hillside was devoid of any movement, except for the gentle sway of sea grass. He never realized how he might feel with her gone. Once upon a time, he wanted her to go away. Now, he admitted, he missed her. He tried to remember when he last saw her . . . years ago, it seemed. The last few parcels were postmarked Texas, but no address had been included since the first tour. Her phone number changed frequently, but luckily he had been able to keep it current. The recordings had given him 'the new number.' The last number he called, she had answered. He still said nothing. She quit writing. He quit singing.
The cool ocean breeze refreshed him as he made his way to the front gate. It wasn't often that he left the premises on foot. The passage towered overhead. The unfinished lane crunched gravel beneath his feet, leading him up the hill. His footsteps muffled as he stepped off the path onto the unbroken ground of the tract. He imagined the girl's vision of his not-so-humble abode, cold and uninviting in the California night. He tried to perceive what she might have felt as she made her lonely pilgrimage to this point, night after night.
She must have wanted me to come to her, to take her in, to say 'hello' at least, and all I could do was shut the shades between us.
Chance trekked through the low lying shrubs to the place were she always seemed to sit. He could see light peek through the drawn shades; he could almost see himself looking out the window.
When he came to the spot, he tripped over something in the brush. For a moment, he almost overlooked it but upon investigation, he found something. Half covered by overgrowth, a glint of silver caught his eye. Bending down to dislodge the article, he removed a tin box. Brushing the thin layer of sand from it, he stared at his prize in disbelief. Engraved on the lid was a message:
CHANCE OF A LIFETIME
His legs crumpled under him. Collapsing onto the firm earth beneath him, Chance was shocked by the concussion, which brought him back to the present. The past . . . For a moment, he was lost in the memory of that night so long ago.
Chance re-lived the thrill of the Momentary Magic tour, recalling how fresh he had been back then. The songs were new and the fans flocked to him. The venues were sold-out, city after city, which led to the throngs of the strange and the beautiful as a fixture of his surrounding entourage. People came and left but the party was never-ending.
Vaguely, he envisioned the first time he met that girl. It seemed odd that he could only briefly glimpse that moment. Had it changed his life? At the time, he hadn't been oblivious to the encounter. Had it scared him? Not sure why, he had avoided her then. And later, as well. In fact, this was the first time that he had ever reached out for her . . . and she wasn't there.
Instead, only a silver box greeted the man. Inside, its contents remained a mystery. He hesitated. He couldn't decide whether to open it right then, take it home to open it, or better yet, put it back and leave. He opened it.
Inside, he found a letter, a photo, some drawings, a white candle and some stones. He produced a lighter from his pocket; it flickered in the wind. In its unsteady illumination, he read the note:
"Light your world: place your cornerstones and then add your fire of inspiration . . . SHINE . . . say the word!"
He flipped over the paper but the other side was blank. The letter was sealed with "Not yet . . ." penned across the flap of the envelope. He pocketed it.
The wind was too strong at first to light the candle, but if he propped the box on end with the lid open, it made a perfect tiny closet. Maybe this had been her intention. Just as he lit the flame, the wind picked up making it impossible to keep the flame.
Then he remembered the stones. He felt like a fool placing twelve little rocks around him. Then he was supposed to say the word? All sorts of abracadabra / hokey-pokey things came to mind. Again he fingered the lighter. This time, however, the zephyr subsided. He lit the candle and said the magic word.
Trees motioned to him, dancing in time with the tiny flames, as the breeze returned. His eyes strained to focus on tiny pages but he decided to wait until later to read them, too.
On the back of the picture, a poem read:
I thought you'd never find me here
I've waited until now, you see . . .
You thought that it was over,
this never-ending mystery.
I never meant to go this far.
My life was not supposed to be
wrapped up like this letterbox
buried by your sea.
So, go inside, put out these flames
Think of me out here.
Add the names and play the games
I'll see you soon? Next year?
(April didn't see him that year or the next - she was gone by then.)
"That's today!" He froze.
Blowing out the candles, he hurriedly collected the stones, and crammed all of it back into the box. His eyes scanned his surroundings, searching for HER! He tried to walk quickly but nonchalantly back across the field toward home. He failed miserably.
Sprinting straight for the garage, he pressed the button on his key chain but not in time. He had to stop in his tracks. Bouncing to hurry the door up if possible, he anticipated her. Behind him. Her black-gloved hand reaching out for his shoulder. Or his neck.
Once inside, he sighed deeply, breathless from the run and the . . . fear? He laughed at the idea but locked all the doors and windows just the same. The letter in his pocket beckoned. Whipping it from his pocket, he tossed it on the table as if it repulsed him. Soon he was drawn to open it.
The rabbit has come, the rabbit has gone
It's getting late, the show must go on . . .
The puzzle don't fit, the spirit is weak.
How can you find if you do not seek?
When you wish upon a star,
No matter who or where you are,
"I wish I may, I wish I might . . . "
See it for its former Light.
Again, he was amused. Confused. Mixing a drink from the bar out on the balcony, he saw a white flash streak across the midnight sky. He made a wish.
Later that night, he went to put the new messages into the box. He climbed the stairs, with the tin in one hand, his suitcase in the other. Setting both down on the bed, he went into the closet. He flipped through the clothes rack until he decided on a shirt.
He changed outfits, and sat back on the bed. From the suitcase, he withdrew the invitation. It started to make sense.
The Mad Hatter
the March Hare
the Tea Party and Charity Ball
on the Twenty-Fourth day of March.
Chance fell asleep with the clutter still on his bed. That night he dreamed of the wolf again. This time, he watched as a snow white rabbit scrambled past him into the brush. When the she-wolf disappeared after it, he heard nothing at first. Then he heard the rabbit scream.
The next morning, he thought about the dream. He had seen the wolf somewhere before, but not in a dream.
Getting out of bed, Chance compiled the scattered pages. He stacked the papers on one corner of the bed. Going into the closet, he ran his hand through the garments, looking for one shirt in particular. When he didn't find it, he shrugged. I'll ask the maid if she has seen it.
He picked a different one and got dressed. Back in the closet, he finally reached for the box under the stack of blankets. He pulled it out into the center of the floor. The phone rang just then. He walked to the bed table.
Nothing. Just silence. And with a little laugh he repeated himself, then replaced the receiver. He shook his head and chuckled.
When no one called back immediately, he went back to the box. Something wasn't right. He looked on the outside of the carton but it wasn't the same. Ripping back the flaps, he realized,
Oh shit, I've been robbed!!
His face flushed red with anger and even some embarrassment. After calling the police, he contacted the security company.. No unauthorized entrance into the residence, they said. No record of anyone coming or going other than Chance. The police laughed at him when he told them what was missing. They agreed with each other that this 'fan thing' should be taken seriously but they couldn't understand why he hadn't reported it prior to this. He lied.
"I, . . . uh, thought that I could keep a file, just in case, . . . you know, if she. . . something happens."
He felt wickedly bad betraying his true feelings toward the girl, but here he had the police involved who found no forced entry, nothing else missing, and no reason to be alarmed. The report was made, and Chance was alone once again. He thought should call Tara, but then he'd have to tell her . . . tell her what?
Maybe it was Tara, but the security company said no one had been here. I gave her a key and her own code . . . but . . .
He felt sick knowing that all those years were gone now. Gone . . .All he had now, a few papers on the bed. A couple of photos, some candles and the stones.
Maybe it was . . . her!
He pulled the puzzle piece from the invitation, gazed deeply into her eyes. "So, witch, where did you go?"
XVIII - The Moon
"Sitting in my la la, waiting for my ya ya, Uh huh . . .
Now she's mighty funny but I don't think she's coming . . .
Hey, Baby, hurry, don't you make me worry
Oh, you know I love you. Yes, I really love you! Uh huh!"
Tony Sheridan &
The Beat Brothers,
December 21 (winter?):
. . . and while nations allied to declare peace, fulfilling the prophesy, which would lead to sudden war, and Hell's gate groaned to hold back the demons of the apocalypse, it didn't stop April from going to the mall.
Exhaust fumes pierced Greg's eyes, stinging tears blinded him for a moment. Sunglasses cut the glare a little he noticed as he scanned the busy Wilshire Boulevard. He opened his car door, barely missed being hit by a sports car. For a moment, Greg told himself in his best radio announcer mind-voice, "It should be a great weekend, . . . if you make it through the week!"
Dark windows reflected his shadowed figure, but he could still see the dark circles under his eyes. Lifting the glasses didn't change what he saw in his face. Sleep deprivation was the least of his concerns. His departure from the tour, and the subsequent cancellation of all future dates, was no secret. Trade magazines and fanzines alike called it " . . . the end of the dream."
A rush of cool air greeted him, contrast to the unseasonably warm day outside. He thought it seemed ironic to go inside for fresh air. In the mail room, he chatted with some young guys who were new to the company.
High turnover, huh?
Greg had closed the office upstairs a few weeks back, but still picked up his mail there. This too had dwindled. Over time, the mail would stop altogether, maybe. Then all ties to the past would be severed.
The box wasn't full like he expected, and after he sorted out the garbage, which he tossed unread into a nearby bin, he noticed the hand-written envelope underneath the junk. He recognized the script.
"What do you want?!"
He tossed into the trash can. Closing his box with the key, he clutched the remaining notices under one arm and left the building. A minute later, he went back and took the letter back out of the can.
Back in his car, Greg took the letter out of the stack in the passenger seat. First, he held it up to the light, but it was too thick to see any noticeable letters. Then he shook it back and forth, listening to the paper within slide back and forth. As a last ditch effort, he held it to his open mouth as if his hot breath could actually steam it enough to release the seal of glue. No such luck.
"What do you want?"
He tried to feel disgusted with her whole pitiful attempt, but even he felt the rush.
"After all these years, don't you ever quit?"
Although Chance never spoke of her after the first tour, Greg knew this one was different. But why, he wasn't sure. It nagged at him at times like this when he held another one in his hand. The handwriting was always the same. The return address was missing. He flipped it over and over trying to decide what to do with it.
"It's her alright."
He considered opening it, as this was the first time he was not under any obligation to Chance professionally, and he wasn't sure about Chance- his friend. Maybe if he opened it, he would finally see just what this was all about.
What should I do?
However, before he could be tempted, he quickly located a slightly larger envelope from his briefcase just for occasions like this. He addressed it to Chance, stamped it and dropped it in the mailbox by the front door of the building.
Chance got a letter two days later in Malibu, on which he immediately recognized Greg's hand-writing. At first, Chance was excited, glad to know that Greg was reaching out to him. But when he opened it, he found another envelope. The postmark read Majestic. It was from April. He smiled when he opened it, but his grin disappeared at once. For inside the second, he found a third envelope already open. Puzzled, he withdrew it slowly.
He recognized it at once, but couldn't believe it. It was the first letter . . . It wasn't what he expected, and it baffled him. It was as if he had reached for his wallet and pulled out a fish instead.
What's a fish doing in my pocket?
Then he thought of Greg's little stunt and looked around for the hidden cameras. But nothing . . . Back inside the house, he called Greg. No answer. Chance grew angry then. All he knew was that someone had taken his box of letters, left him an empty box.
He lost his 'happy thoughts.' Violated and robbed, he began to list all possible suspects. Greg, Tara, April - herself . . . the maid, her daughter, even his mother had a key to the place. Someone at the security company, maybe. Maybe the pool guy.
Now, why would he want my mail?
He is Chance, of course!
Subtly, he began to question everyone, never revealing his ulterior motive. No one knew a thing. And the only person who he could not ask was April. But then again, maybe he could. He called up Lou at the security to see if he would check this out. Maybe go see her in Texas, find out what she is really like.
He made the call.
Lou was rather surprised by the request, it being the second time that week. He said nothing about Tara, and after accepting his offer, said nothing to her about Chance. Double income intrigued him more so than the irony, so he accepted basically the same job in both cases, requiring no explanations in either.
Find the girl . . .
He flew out that night.
His investigation began at Big T's. He had checked into the hotel across the street, a run-down shag, even though he had plenty of money to spend. He wanted to be near the bar. The next day, he wandered over.
His salt and pepper hair mopped aimlessly across his forehead and down his shoulders, matching the scruffy beard he was growing. With a flannel on, he looked like the others.
The posters on the wall caught his attention but he wasn't aware of April's involvement, so he noted them with mild interest as he racked the balls for a second game of pool with Bob, a local guy with a heavy accent. From the look of Bob's oily jeans and burly tattooed arms, Lou guessed him to be a biker, or a really dirty truck driver.
Lou let the guy win a few games, even buying the rounds of beer. When he asked if April was around any more, the bartender answered,
"No, she don't work here like she used to. She's got that little thang, up there on that wall."
He motioned toward the poster, shaking his head.
Lou eyed it closely now, memorizing the address of the office. After another round, and a game where he cleared the table in one turn, he nodded good-bye. Outside in the bright sunlight, he fumbled for the keys to his rent-a-heap. A few minutes later, he sat unnoticed in the parking lot, staring at the offices of Yes Oui` Si` and after an hour, watched as the girl in the picture walked into his life.
He followed her to the edge of town, backing off as the traffic thinned. By the time he came to her trailer, he had no one else on the road to blend in with, which made it more intense. Lou was glad when he finally saw her turn into a driveway. He passed by quickly, before making the u-turn to peruse more thoroughly. By nightfall, he had accomplished his mission. He didn't call it in right away.
Tara stretched the latex gloves on one by one, snapping it menacingly each time she let go. She did her doctor impression as she delved back into the box. The sound of paper rustling triggered her ire, and as she flipped through the remaining letters she felt her blood run cold.
Who are you, April? And why do you matter to my man?
It wasn't fair!
She choked back the fury. For two hours she had searched his place, not one of Tara's notes was saved - not that she ever wrote to him, but she had given him birthday cards, hadn't she? Where were they? And yet here was an entire box of crap that Chance saved, in order, from some bitch that he didn't even know. Or did he? The man got thousands of letters each year from fans and yet, here was a single box of April.
There were pictures and poems, jewelry and crystals. Mysterious writings eluded her, which made her furious. Signs and symbols, she decided to research. She wondered if Chance could read them. That thought was unbearable. She had to know.
I've seen her before . . .
By dawn, Tara had a list of addresses, and many phone numbers, that spanned the globe. Who is this bitch?! She even dots her i's with little hearts. How absolutely fucking precious!
The pictures laid in order formed a progression, each was numbered with a Roman numeral or a playing card, which obviously became a Tarot deck. She picked up one that had no person on it, but instead, it had symbols that she knew Chance wore in his custom-made jewelry. She knew who to take it to.
The late night ride through the hood, the 'wood,' was a success. Tara's driver asked several of the gang bangers on the corners where he could find her. It didn't take long to locate her, nor did it cost very much. Information was cheap sometimes. He found her huddled in a vacant apartment with no electricity, hiding from her imaginary demons. She had been strung out for too long.
Back in the hotel by the sea, Tara watched the door handle jiggle, locked. Then a knock followed. She peered though the peep hole, and through the fish-eye lens she saw May. Letting her in with a big smile, the hostess offered her anything. May took the usual.
After a brief chat, Tara decided to bring out the picture. She had put it in a lightweight frame, concealing the writing on its reverse side. She just wanted to know about Chance's necklace.
I hope she isn't too fucked up to see . . .
"Hey, Little Bit," which is what Tara knew her by, "can you tell me what this means?"
May followed Tara's finger to a sign in the center of the picture. Squinting, she tried to remember. She use to know it . . . but,
"It's been a long time since I did this stuff. It's too bad my sister's not here! She knows all about this kind of stuff."
"Well, call her! Where is she?"
"Last time I talked to her, she was in Texas."
"A little town called Majestic."
Tara tried not to show her reaction, intentionally keeping as straight a face as possible, but her eyes betrayed her. May did not notice.
Tara heard the man's voice spew words across her lips, seductively low, "What's her name?"
"What's her name? Why do you want to know her name? Marsha . . . Marsha . . . Marsha . . ."
"Her name is Marsha?"
"No it's April, but I was kidding about the Brady Bun . . ."
Tara heard nothing of what followed. May droned on about TV shows. Tara had to take a moment to regain her composure. Her shock gave way to the feeling that this was meant to be. As she came to grips with the realization that her quest had suddenly become too successful, Tara plotted. How could she ask without asking?
"So, let's call her. What's her number?
"Jeez, what time is it? We can't call her in the middle of the night . . . she's got a kid, and everything. Bitch has got his kid! I'm not calling her!!"
"Fucking Jesse James' kid. She fucked my boyfriend and now she has his kid. How can she do that to me?"
What's the problem? He's family now, right? He can still fuck you, too."
Tara listened as April's little sister purged all the dirty details, the poison which ran through her veins, feeling better for having someone to finally share this torment with who wouldn't judge her. Wasn't involved. That's what May told Tara.
I remember her now! She's the one . . .
The memory returned.
Tara listened as May told about Chance's first show. Front row, they had been, and she acted like a big bitch, wearing all that black witch's costume. Stupid flowers . . . Her sister had basically ruined him for her. She couldn't even play his music after that. She threw it all out one day.
"Besides, his music kinda sucks!"
Tara laughed aloud at that, "It does, does it?"
May ranted on about how her sister always stole her man. She had come to LA with the intention of getting away . . . and guess who showed?
" . . . and then she gets pregnant, and she had to go home!" May roared, and did more to catch a buzz. It was her only barrier against feeling.
"If there was a Good Witch from the North, bad ones from the east and west, then April is the Weird Witch from the South. Yeah, let's call her! Why not?!"
"No, I've changed my mind now. Maybe next time."
"Hey, where are you going?"
Tara was packing up for the night, leaving abruptly. May was sorry to see her go.
"Hey, I guess I'll see you tomorrow . . ."
"Yeah, maybe . . . Later!"
"Uh, Tara, can I get a little more from you?"
"Jeez, bitch, don't you have any pride? Quit being such a fucking bum!"
The door slammed behind her. As May sat bewildered at the change in her, a knock came on the door. She thought it would be Tara, coming back to apologize. It was Ghost . . .
"Hey, babe, let me in!"
May backed up into the room, stunned and delighted. What timing!
"Hey, Ghost, Tara just left."
"Yeah, I know . . . look what she left behind," he held up a bag.
May's eyes grew wide, then narrowed when she smiled. She didn't know how he got it out of Tara's grip or if he 'found' it, which meant he stole it. She didn't ask, and he didn't volunteer. Ghost kept her entertained all night, per Tara's request.
May thought it was good luck that she had his company. After all, he was fine looking! She thought he might make a move on her but he didn't even suggest sex for the whole night. May made a few hints but he never responded except with a laugh. Even after she took a shower and returned wearing nothing but a towel, he still made no move. She gave up, more intent on getting high than getting rejected.
"So where did Tara run off to?"
"Couldn't tell ya," he told her, even though her did have an idea. Tara always kept a room around the corner during night like this. She always made sure someone was close by as well. Another room across the hall from . . . whoever stayed in room 101. Even though it was on the first floor, room 101 had no balcony or patio but instead, a wall of glass over looking the ocean. Beneath, the waves crashed on the jagged boulder on the beach. No escape that way . . .
"Nice view, huh?" Ghost commented, laughing privately.
"Yeah, it's better than where I was staying over in Hollywood."
He knew that. He had seen her there before.
When Lou checked in, Tara said nothing about her new friend. She scribbled the information and went to work.
The Majestic gossip was not about the mysterious stranger in town, but rather about one of their own. April's name was on everyone's lips, it seemed to Lou, as he set about to finish the second segment of his operation. His first instinct was to wait until the next day to begin the job of 'getting to know his mark.'
It was a surprise when April entered the bar.
Lou heard the woman behind the bar holler,
"April is in the house!"
He watched as the woman crossed over to give her a hug, a sight that excited him a bit. Both were knockouts, and together . . .
The two disappeared into an office, causing his imagination to erupt. He crossed the room only to lean up against the wall by the door, trying to eavesdrop. He had no luck.
Once he saw April came out of the office, he moved into position.
"I understand that you are in charge of this event, and I would like to donate some money toward it. Do I give it to you, or is there someplace else I should send it?"
"Come by the office and we'll be happy to have your contribution. I don't have a receipt book on me, but if it is tickets you would like to buy, you can talk to my girl behind the bar, here."
April continued to walk toward the door.
"Maybe we can do lunch?"
She turned with a sideways glance over her shoulder,
"I haven't heard that in a while! Maybe . . ."
A few days went by, and Christmas brought with it Natasha's second birthday. Her arrival on that special holiday had inspired the newborn's name. Nativity has to do with natal, pre, post, neo, or chart.
New Year's Eve brought with it the first date of April's since the baby's arrival. She dressed with care, smiling at her reflection. The evening promised a new possibility, which she pondered with reservation. Lou and April . . . what might come of that? Her eyes tried not to read too much into it, but her mind ran with images just the same.
By midnight, she kissed him.
It's been so long . . . but I can't . . . yes . . . No!
She tried to resist his advances but between the loneliness and the champagne, April was unable to say no. It was the first time since the baby. It felt so good, so bad. Her vow to abstain until . . . until what?!"
In the morning sun, she watched Lou dress to leave, secretly happy to see him go. She saw the used condom in the trash, which she took outside immediately. Back inside, she showered for a long time. She stood under the running water for so long, she never even heard the phone ring.
Three days later, Lou met with Chance. He gave the client the facts.
"Here is her address. I went to her house, her trailer, to be exact . . . and I didn't see anything out of the ordinary."
"At her house, were there . . . uh, any . . . uh, any pictures of me, anywhere? Or anyone else that, you know, wasn't like her friends or family?"
"You mean, did she have any other famous people on her walls?"
"Other than a picture of the Virgin Mary, a broken one, no."
"Will that be all?"
"Did she seem like a religious fanatic, a freak, or anything? Any guns?"
Lou had to laugh, remembering her nude body glistening in the light of the moon, "No . . . She isn't too strange."
"Okay, thanks . . . Here's what I owe you."
Chance peeled off four hundred dollars from his wad, handing it to the detective. Lou put it in his wallet as he stood up, heading out the door. As his hand reached the door knob, he couldn't resist the temptation,
"Oh yeah, by the way, she's a really good fuck!"
XIX - The Sun
"In the beginning, God created Light,
and you could see it for fucking miles!"
"In the beginning, God created Lemmy,
and you could hear him for fucking miles!"
April, finally with a moment to herself, sat cozy in her bed. Tonight was hers. Natasha was at Grandma's house. What she was about to see would change April's life. She held a remote control in each hand. Just as she pointed them toward the entertainment center, she stopped. Setting them down, one on either side of her legs, she reached over for the bottle of tequila on the nightstand. Salt, shot and lemon . . . she was ready!
Three, two, one . . .
She pressed play on each unit at the same moment. On the video, April watched The Wizard of Oz. On the stereo, Dark Side of the Moon swelled. The title faded in at the exact moment that the heart beat from the first song began. She thought of the beginning of Twister, the other tornado movie. She felt goosebumps on her arms. The voice started I've always been mad . . . as the credits for the music composers/arrangers flashed on the screen.
Hey, there's old man George . . . I wonder where he's been since I left LA.
April sat transfixed, it did correspond, the movie and the music.
Hmmm . . . I wonder . . . Dark Side of the Rainbow.
She remembered a sign at the Rainbow . . . The Hollywood Vampire Club. Its elite membership listed the legendary. Many were deceased.
No, they're not . . . They're Vampires!
She missed the sign.
Two months away was the big Party, and she hadn't heard a word from Chance, nothing. All this, for what?
Then she remembered.
In the beginning, God . . .
Where did I read that those four words added up to the number of years between creation and Christ?
April couldn't remember, all those years jumbled together in a haze of acquired knowledge. There was no way she could recall the source.
So, why bother? Was it Playboy?
She sat stunned in the aftermath of the TV viewing experience, knowing that she would have to go on-line to investigate the connection, or was there one? The milestone had been crossed, and soon she knew she had her next project. Her new baby was conceived that night as she lay alone in her bed.
Reaching for pen and paper, April tried to put her vision on the blank page before her. Her mind raced with visions.
Page One (1, Won, Juan)
No, too brief . . . which brings me to my next point . . . Page Two (Too, to, Tiew) Tiew - Tuesday, named for the god of war, or the warlord.
Sunday - Day One - Here comes the sun . . . Son . . . the Sol, the soul, the sole. I am the Light . . . 186,000 miles per second, are you catching on pretty fast? Are you picking up my vibes? I know it sounds weird.
She had to locate four books for this sitting: The Bible, The Metaphysical Bible Dictionary (Unity School of Christianity), Qabalism (Dr. H. B. Pullen-Burry), and her dictionary. If she was going to attempt to write the story down, she would need all the help she could get.
In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth. Genesis 1:1
And the earth was without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. Gen. 1:2
And God said, Let there be light, and there was light. Gen. 1:3
And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. Gen. 1:4
And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. Gen. 1:5
"That's original!" April laughed at what she had written on the page. "But it is good!"
She referred to the Metaphysical Bible Dictionary first. It read: Light is the symbol of intelligence. We cannot affirm too often, "I am intelligence - I am the light of my world."
She could hear the protests from the masses already. But she wanted to note that spiritual things are spiritually perceived (Qabalism).
Jesus spoke in parables for a reason.
If the veil was lifted, Truth would blind . . . it must be a gradual process.
Qabalism again: Everyone must verify these observations for himself (herself), like the story of the Prodigal Son. April saw spiritual evolution as a full circle.
What goes down, must come up.
The fallen angel is you/me, The born-again soul is yours/mine. Whatever your path of enlightenment, whatever gets you to the light, it's alright . . . alright, just don't forget that at some time, you must go HOME.
Home is where the heart is . . . Leo rules the heart. The heart of a lion, its pride . . .
Light is a constant, time is relative . . . and the time spent with your relatives is the longest time known to man.
Spiritual enlightenment cannot be handed to you on a silver platter . . . like John the Baptist, and divinity doesn't come from an outside deity, but is a work that goes on in an individual.
The Kingdom of Heaven is within you, know thyself.
The body is God's temple.
" . . . and the screen of God's movie is time expanding."
The paradoxes that come from trying to decipher The Word, are there for a reason. Truth was concealed as it was revealed.
In the beginning . . . God said, " ."
The Word was spoken, then it was written, then it was wrong? True Spirit can't be captured, not in words, not on paper - only the essence can be discerned by the seeker.
You can't handle the Truth!
The Light brings us to the bringer of the Light . . . Prometheus . . . Lucifer. For unlawful carnal knowledge, the big apple will do. Cut it in half sideways, you'll see the star.
"Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight . . ."
Morning star, Eastern Star, how I wonder what you are . . .
Metaphysically speaking, "Jesus represents God's idea of man in expression (Son of man); Christ is that idea in the absolute (Son of God). Jesus reached a place of understanding where He realized His relation to Being."
I am he, as you are he . . .
April looked down at the page before her, under the Bible quotes which were to begin her book, all it said was Page 1. After that, the book was blank. When she peeked out of the window, she saw it was dawn.
So much for writing a novel.
To at least feel like she accomplished something in her book, she wrote:
Sun - Son
Sine - Sign
It wasn't much, but it was something.
"You are pretty presumptuous to say that you are God!"
"Well, that was one of the original sins, the pride that I am God, but . . .," April told Tara, one night in the office, "believing yourself to be a god is different than being God-like, or Christ-like."
Christ, I wish she'd shut the fuck up about it! Tara didn't want to hear anything except what she came to find out. She knew she couldn't just ask the question. She would have to do her homework, research the bitch.
For April, Tara was just another in a long line of volunteers. When Kelly quit, Tara was there to pick up the pieces. At first, April didn't like her. During the interview though, she came across professional enough to seem like she could really help. Tara did help . . . at first.
While you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, it is possible to read a person and situation completely in the initial few moments of meeting. April had ignored her first impression. Or had she?
Tara was looking for evidence that this girl was after her man, and couldn't seem to find his name in the computer . . . anywhere. As it was, only a few people knew where the guest list was kept . . . and only April knew who was to play certain characters.
She asked repeatedly, but April would only smile, holding one finger to her lips. She told no one . . . and it made the sponsors nervous.
It made Tara furious.
XX - Judgement
"Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different consequences."
"History is destined to repeat itself; and if you don't learn from it, you are going to re-experience the lesson, over and over, until you get it right," April replied, stirring the cup of coffee aimlessly. "In fact, if you pay attention to the details, I'll bet you can see the patterns emerge. Did you ever date one person, break up, and then find yourself back in the same situation with someone different?"
"What do you mean?"
"Maybe the same name, same sign, same anything?" April eyed Tara, looking for that instant of realization, which traced across her face in a smile. Tara found an example.
"My fiance` is an Aries . . . so is my dad," she revealed, even if she didn't see a connection, otherwise. "They are both in the entertainment industry. Is that what you mean?"
"Sure, there's two similarities. Do they act alike?"
"No . . ."
Tara sat, remembering what her childhood had been like . . . and then she thought of Chance.
"No, they are not that much alike."
April knew that something more was going on in Tara's head than she let on, but she tried to handle these situations with kid gloves.
"Aries are, stereotypical, a sign that has definite qualities that can be defined. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule, but stereotypes aren't there without reason. Unfortunately , , , but anyway, what was I saying?"
"About Aries . . ."
"Oh yeah, Aries! I love Aries . . . except when they pick fights. They love to argue and once it's over, they can't figure why everyone is still bent out of shape. For them, it over . . . move on! "
"Okay, I guess I can see that."
Tara recalled the beatings, and how it was 'over.' He just passed out afterward, and the next day, she'd get a new toy. Or worse . . .
Although, April knew not to judge her, lest she be judged, but it didn't mean she couldn't discern her spirit. Whatever Tara was remembering didn't look good. "Sometimes, you have to judge people, which doesn't mean to insult them, or label. Just be aware of what they are, and the rest will come naturally. For example, if you know someone steals from everyone, just remember that you are one of everyone."
"So, tell me more about Aries."
"I am . . ." April paused for a pregnant pause, causing Tara to respond.
"You are what?"
"That's what the Aries aspect states: I AM."
"It is the demand of the first personality. The child who cries, 'I am hungry! I am sleepy! I am going to cry until I get what I want."
"Now that I can see in them.:
"Aries rules the head . . . so, many Aries have either a prominent nose, shaped with the eyebrows like the sign of Aries. Let me show you. Where's a pen?"
She drew out the symbol: ^
". . .or maybe they have a scar on the head. The face. And because of the way male sheep like to fight, I like to think of them as buttheads. But I have to admit that I'm in love with one . . . more or less . . ."
"Really? I didn't know you had a boyfriend?"
"Well, . . . I wouldn't . . . I mean, not exactly . . . anyway!"
April tried to change the subject.
How am I supposed to answer that?
Tara watched as she stammered, knowing what April felt . . . she figured with a few more days like these, she'd have the answers she needed. She needed to know why Chance and April were . . . together? Not together?
The best way she could think of handling the situation was by infiltrating enemy territory. Her smile was the Trojan Horse, and her love would conquer all. Now that she put her mark on him, no other woman was going to occupy his thoughts!
Especially this one . . . Why her?
Tara worked late nights with April, who began to hear the horror stories of Tara's past. She listened as the years of rage spewed from Tara, more intense each night until, she began to feel like a therapist. It drained her, leaving April weary from the conversations. She began to look for reasons to leave.
I thought she would never leave!
Tara was anxious to get started. She had to find out who was on the guest list. She had to affect the outcome. But how? When midnight came, she sat alone in the office still rifling through the files. She had no better luck in the computers. There was no hard copy list anywhere.
I know she has to invite him! Doesn't she? I mean how can she be so obsessed and yet have absolutely nothing around her to show for it? What is his character? Who will he be?
Chance wondered where Tara had been lately. He never asked. Since she had an answering service which returned calls so quickly she didn't ever seem too far away. But where was she when he needed her . . . like now? He felt trapped by shadows right in his own home.
It was hard to believe, but from the window upstairs, he could see it. Flapping in the breeze, it waited for him under the wiper on his windshield. He didn't want to know, but he had to find out.
It isn't a parking citation!
He held the police detective's card in his hand, but he remembered how dumb they made him feel and didn't really want to call. But who should he call? Lou? Not!! So he ordered a pizza and waited for a painful forty-five minutes until the delivery guy arrived. The price of a tip, and his problem was solved.
It was just what he expected. Everyday, another letter showed, in the same sequence he had received them so many years earlier. He felt strange replacing the letters into a new box, strangely glad to get them back but sick at the way in which they were arriving.
But then something caught his attention. It was in her handwriting. He looked at the outside envelopes and sure enough, these new ones seemed different; but he couldn't quite put his finger on it.
Tara ended up asleep on the couch by three AM, no more successful than when she started. She set her watch alarm to go off in two hours, which would give her time to look again before anyone showed up to work. The office grew still as she drifted off to sleep.
Out of the corner of her eye, April spotted the entity in the room. This one was new. She crossed herself with a prayer, before lighting a candle. It glowed brighter and came toward the flame until it hovered two feet above the fire.
You need to get the guest list out . . .
April heard herself think. There wasn't anything that she needed to do, and yet, the thought still nagged at her. She tried to fight off the urge, especially since Chance had yet to respond. The whole thing seemed pointless.
Get the list!
"No! Damn it . . . I'm not going to get the list!"
Get the fucking list, you bitch!"
April couldn't believe she was arguing with herself over the stupid guest list. And the more she resisted, the harder she debated it. Finally, she got up. Under the rug, she kept her secrets in the crawl space under two boards. She pulled out the list and looked at it. The March Hare - Chance Lee was not circled.
Tara woke, refreshed, from a dream about the country. She had seen a rabbit, and the woman. Under the floor . . . She knew it was an omen.
April watched the formless apparition follow her, still unconvinced that what she was seeing was real. She waited and watched but it disappeared into the corner. Hmmm . . . what did it want with the list?
April shuddered at the idea.
The next day she woke up refreshed, the memory distant and fading as her busy schedule demanded her attention. She had to concentrate on the Party for now. Today was the day when she could reveal a new piece of the puzzle to the press, which were hungry and long overdue for news.
"This is all I can give to you right now, you understand."
April unveiled the giant display hidden behind a curtain she had constructed that morning from a trunk she had brought over from her house only hours before this press conference. Stunned office workers were mesmerized as she pulled piece after piece from the treasure chest. Little by little, the image became clear.
"So . . . Who is going to be first?"
As Tara watched intensely from the dark recesses of the room, April motioned to a brunette woman, reporting for one of the networks.
"I'll give you the numbers, you fill in the blanks."
April reached into a box of felt tip pens and pulled one out.
"Here, this one is for yellow journalism."
Before the crowd, a huge puzzle was drawn in a thick black outline where each piece had a number.
"Each of these pieces represents a person or group that is on the guest list, and today, we're going to start putting the puzzle together. This is our guide to who has responded. And let me tell you, now, . . ." April couldn't stop herself,
" . . . our special guest hasn't RSVP'd yet. We're still waiting!"
Tara gasped louder than anyone. But no one noticed, as the news of 'the special guest' sank into their minds.
"I know I've denied it until now, but to answer your next question, yes, there is someone I want to attend that hasn't said 'Yes.' Yet . . ."
"Who?" Several reporters shouted.
April just laughed, "It's a secret."
"Okay, are you ready?"
April led the woman to the exhibit, and the coloring of the map began. This path was leading April to her destiny. She watched in awe as the next man chose red, and filled the second blank. It wasn't long before everyone had a turn.
She observed one by one each of a thousand pens appear, be used once and be put into a barrel for donation to the charity. Each pen had to be different, and it had taken a long time to get all the companies to send one of each from their styles. April had positioned three volunteers at the barrel to record who used which pen on what number puzzle piece. Each participant that day immortalized themselves by signing the official Mad Hatter Register. Most of these people were not on the guest list, therefore this would be as close as they would get to The Tea Party.
"All I'll tell you is this," April tried to appease them, "keep the faith, keep asking questions and who knows, maybe you'll get the answers you want."
She left the platform, resisting the urge to point out which piece was his.
Maybe he'll see the news or something.
Tara's mind raced with poisonous notions. She would have to stop this soon. The next letter she mailed that night, with one pair of gloves covered with blood, the other pair was clean for the outside envelope. She put a note in this one, scrawled in her perfect forgery smeared with blood from her steak.
You WILL MAKE THE PERFECT SACRIFICE
COME TO ME YOU DEMON SEED
IT IS TIME TO DIE
Be led into the slaughter, you.
If that doesn't scare him away, nothing will!
Tara sealed the envelope with a touch more of the bloody juice, and dropped it into the mailbox outside the Yes Oui` Si` office.
Back at her hotel room, Tara looked through the rest of the envelopes. She laughed at her perfect crime. She packed her bags and checked out. With a quick call to April to say she was too sick to come in the next few days, which would lead into the weekend, therefore she would see her on Monday.
At the airport, she stored the rest of the letters in a locker, except for the next few. These had been postmarked from California, so Tara went home for the next phase.
On the airplane, she fantasized how it would be to see the look on his face when this next little gem showed up in the mail. With her right there by his side, she created the perfect alibi. Los Angeles greeted her with open arms, and her driver waited in the bar by the terminal. She called her man from the car.
"Hey, Chance, I'm going to come over tonight. Okay?"
She tried to picture where he might be hiding the letters this time.
An hour and a half later, Tara and Chance were together again. Even as they kissed, each felt the distance between them. No one said a word. They fell into the bed where Chance removed her blouse one button at a time. He slid her underwear off, pushing her mini skirt up over her hips, She tried to get up to take it off but her pushed her onto the bed, this time holding both of her hands over her head with one of his hands locked through her fingers. With his other hand, he touched her between the thighs.
April felt a warm sensation spread through her body, tingling. She wanted to believe that he was thinking about her. Her eyes darted around the room, hoping to glimpse a shimmer of him anywhere. She saw nothing. When she went to check on her sleeping child, she paused in the doorway. Holding her breath, the young mother waited for the rise and fall of another whisper before she relaxed.
Just as she turned to leave, something caught her eye in the mirror.
A H S A T A N
April gasped for air, crumbling backward into the hall. The wall behind her broke her fall, but still she slid it down until she was on the floor. Blackness swallowed her world.
The dragon moved in the shadows where she traveled, until the spirit of April could see that the game was nearing its final stage. She had to move a pawn until it became a queen, which was unlikely since the serpent waited there to devour it. Since when does chess have snakes?
When April came to, she rubbed her head tenderly, wondering how long she lay unconscious. With one swift move, she tore down the banner.
That night, Tara waited in the doorway, hoping that Chance would ask her about her quiet sadness, but he said nothing as he watched TV. She paced back and forth through his bedroom, trying to arouse his attention, but with no success. Finally, she couldn't help it,
"Chance, I'm pregnant."
At first she thought he hadn't heard her, so she swallowed hard and repeated herself. He still didn't respond.
What was he supposed to say?
Finally, he turned to look at her,
"Are you happy?"