XXI - The World/Universe
" . . . for well you know that it's a Fool
who plays it cool, by making his World
a little colder."
March 24th (The Day):
It was apparent that April was not as excited as everyone else that morning, and yet no one bothered to ask her. They knew. It didn't take Sherlock Holmes to figure that out. Special guest #1 hadn't responded. Or so they assumed.
They were only partly right.
That morning, April had broken down and called Sarah, inviting her once more. No amount of begging would change Sarah's answer.
"I really can't come. We're going out of town in a few days and I have got to get ready?"
"Not even for a few hours?"
"Really, I just can't."
She hung up knowing that she would never see Sarah again. It was over.
April wandered through the auditorium, watching as each participant filed in with their entourage in tow. She greeted them with directions to the costume department, praying that the measurements sent ahead would still fit. There would be no dress rehearsal for this. It had to be right the first time.
Each time she drifted past the costume department, she looked in the door, her eyes involuntarily focusing on the unclaimed March Hare costume. She had to guess his size, only she figured it a little on the large size, jic.
From there, she automatically went to the registration desk, where overhead glared the puzzle outline, almost completely colored in except for his space . . . and a few others.
Soon she would have to get dressed herself.
Tearing herself away, she went to her dressing room, where she was met by a throng of reporters. She ducked quickly past them, into the room where she alerted security over the hand-held radio tucked in her pocket.
""They need to be in the hospitality room or out on the floor! People are getting dressed back here! Make sure they are kept away from the costumes . . . yeah, we don't want . . . yeah, okay!"
She hung up, listening for the group outside her door to be directed elsewhere.
I used feel lucky to be in that group! My how things change!
April wasn't ready to get dressed, since it was hours before The Tea Party started and she secretly wished for more time to wait for . . . to wait for what?
If he was going to come, he would have been here by now. I am just going to have to fall back on plan B.
. . . but there wasn't one of those!
She called back to the registration desk to see who all was unaccounted for at this point. They were happy to report that every piece but one had been colored in at last. She knew better than to hope, but she asked anyway,
"Number 324, right in the middle," the girl answered, wanting to ask but still too new a volunteer to cross that imaginary line. She had been warned.
April sighed, trying to imagine whom she could use to replace him . . . sad that it seemed inevitable that she would have to do so. She open the safe and from it, she pulled a box. It was the second copy of the puzzle, which contained duplicate pieces just in case of this. She flipped through until she found the one she needed. She put it in her pocket and the box, she put back into the wall. The single cardboard puzzle piece became her personal worry stone as she rubbed it endlessly, hand tucked away.
Tara, smiling sincerely for the first time in ages, hurried Chance from the car into the airport terminal. She practically dragged him to the counter, as she made her way through the crowded lines. Eye contact brought her friend over from the other side of the desk, leaving his line of travelers to watch in horror as he abandoned them for the newcomers.
"Thanks, Roger! Here's my credit card."
Chance noticed the hostility emanating from the tourists, but he chose not to respond. Only one couple recognized him, coming over for a closer look. A moment later, the guy asked for his autograph. He obliged.
"So, where are you going, Chance?"
"Oh, she wants to go swimming somewhere . . . says it's a surprise."
"You're not going to The Party, are you?"
Chance knew what the kid would tell him, and he wished he hadn't let him go there. Already, the liquor was wearing off and he was starting to regret his future decisions.
"Do you think I should go?"
"Oh, dude! If you don't want to, let me go!"
Chance's hand dropped into his pocket, where he kept the invitation - the piece. He almost gave it away when Tara said behind him,
"Well, if I've crossed my eyes and dotted my T's, then I guess we're all finished."
That's it! April said she wouldn't do that . . . She never dotted her i's. She put hearts, stars, whatever but never a dot. I can't remember why, though.
He pictured the new envelopes, and tried to picture the i's. Was that the difference? Still lost in thought, he watched Tara's suitcase disappear into the loading area chute. Then she took his, handing them over to her friend as well, smiling brilliantly, not noticing the look on his face.
She waved good-bye as she took the tickets from the man behind the desk, and with a wink and a nod, she led Chance away.
"We leave from gate #6, and we have time to get a bite to eat, maybe a couple of drinks, and hey, . . . look at this!"
Tara pulled him into the gift shop. She pointed to a rack of souvenir t-shirts, the one she picked out to try on had a silhouette of a wolf howling at a full moon. When his eyes saw that, he gasped. Then he looked up at her face. He knew what he saw was from the dream. His heart stopped.
"I'll be right back . . . I'm going to try this on."
"Uh, . . . okay. I'm, . . . uh, . . . going to the bathroom. I'll meet you in the bar in a few minutes."
She waited in the bar for an hour until the plane bound for the islands left. By the time she boarded the airplane bound for Texas, Chance was less than an hour from landing there himself. He was lured there, drawn by her mystery. He was petrified by the idea that he was actually going but unable to resist the temptation. He had to know!
A hundred dollar tip would see to it his bags would be forwarded to his hotel, whatever that meant. He would have to call later, he told the lady in the baggage department. The limo he had ordered from the sky-phone was waiting for him as promised. He told the driver that he had to hurry.
"I'm late for a very important date!"
Chance smiled out the window as the miles flew past, with the trees. Everything seemed so green.
Another hour, and the car pulled to a stop at the concert hall. He waited a moment before opening the door, still wavering on whether to get out or not. The parking lot was filling up quickly, people milling about straining to see who was behind the tinted windows of the limousines that line the sidewalk.
"Uh, driver, could you see if there is a better way for me to get in here? I don't really want to fight a crowd of people, if you know what I mean."
Around the back of the Majestic Colosseum, Chance recognized the back stage door. It had been a long time since he played this theater. The nervous energy swept over him just like back then. Only then it was his first show . . . God, I'm nervous!
The driver opened Chance's door and let him out. The smell of fumes reminded him of so many venues, but this one was not like any other. He remembered April. He knocked on the limo window, and asked for the driver's pager number just in case he changed his mind. He started to pay the driver to stay but the crowd around the arena was thick with security, which made him feel slightly better.
At the backstage door, he was stopped by a young volunteer girl who didn't recognize him. He laughed but it made him feel old. Another attendant, a man with a thick beard, sunglasses and a radio, took Chance in to the registration, as he signaled the others that another guest had arrived. The guy talked in code, but Chance heard that he had his own trailer in back where he would spend the night.
I wish I hadn't sent my luggage to another part of the world . . .
Inside the pavilion, Chance put on his sunglasses, half afraid to be recognized, but too much was going on for anyone to notice him as he snaked through the winding halls. He remembered these corridors. As he turned the corner, Chance ran into a woman dressed in black from head to toe.
Oh, no! It's her!
He ducked back around the corner, but when he poked his head back around the corner, she was gone. He realized that was what she had looked like when they met in this very place so many years ago. Chance had seen a ghost of the past, but was it in his mind?
He laughed nervously, checking again to make sure the image was still gone. Then he reached in his pocket for a cigarette, turning back toward the way from which he came, still fumbling for his lighter. He stopped short to keep from running into the person behind him.
"Oh sorry, I didn't see you coming!'
Chance looked up as he apologized, and came face to face with April. Both gasped involuntarily.
"Uh, . . . uh, . . .I, uh . . . Oh, my God! It's you!" April stammered as her face flushed bright red.
"Do you have a light?"
Tara steamed as she waited for the next flight to Texas. She drank more. By now she was bent. She made a few calls. And waited.
April tried to keep her voice steady and professional as she guided him to the costume department, just like she had all during the day. The thrill she experienced each time she led another legend here or there that afternoon was nothing compared to this. She wanted to throw up.
What do I say to him? How do I . . . does he know . . . did he get . . . oh, God! I'm going to die right here.
"Hey, Kelly! I'm glad you decided to come back to work with us today! We sure did miss you!"
The little red head came to the door, eyeing Chance with a silent smile.
"I'd like you to meet The March Hare! Chance Lee!"
She nodded, with a seductive look that made April feel a twinge of jealousy, even though Kelly looked at everyone like that. Chance didn't notice. He had other things on his mind.
"Have his costume delivered to his trailer, please, honey! Thanks!"
April continued to lead him down the passageway until they came to the registration table. By now, this was media grand central, roped off but anticipating the next arrival. April stopped.
"Maybe we should wait . . . You are . . . uh."
She took his arm and led him away, back toward the halls.
"Uh, you're the . . . you're the special guest."
April's averted eyes finally looked up into his. She melted.
"I've got to sit down for a minute . . ."
April felt embarrassed but she wasn't able to stand up on her own,. He watched her collapse onto the cement floor, sitting Indian-style, with her head between her knees. He looked around but no one seemed to notice. Chance bent down to her, putting his arm around her shoulders. Her hair smelled like her letters. Now he felt faint.
Next thing, they were both sitting side by side on the hard pavement with their heads down. After a long moment, they looked up at each other at the same time, and busted out laughing.
""Guess it's catching," Chance explained.
He helped her to her feet, not sure what to say. Luckily she had her spiel all worked out, about event time, coordination and such, but none of this is what she wanted to talk about. She wanted to ask him about the dream and the dragon, the chart and the revelations that she tried to share. Instead, she talked about who was all there so far.
They walked down heavily guarded corridors until they reached the trailers that lined the parking lot out back. He reached out and stopped her.
"Why am I the March Hare?"
She thought of his Chinese astrological sign, how he was born on Easter, how fertile he made her feel like the pagan rabbit of that season, and how Alice had chased him so. That was how April met the Mad Hatter in the first place.
I can't tell him all that.
"You're no bunny 'til some bunny loves you!" was all she could say.
"Have you ever read the book on the chess game that is played in the Alice in Wonderland book?" Chance thought about the picture on his wall that she had sent. But with that came the memory of the recent rash of letters, sent with their poison.
"No . . . is it good?"
"Yeah . . . did you, um . . . " he wasn't sure what to ask. "Did you send me some letters recently?"
April flushed, embarrassed, "Yes, I sent a bunch of letters over the last decade!"
"No, I know about those . . . no, what I mean, is did you send me all those letters again?"
"No, I don't think so? What do you mean?"
"Somebody sent me all your letters again. Never mind, I think I know who might have done it?"
April's mouth shot up to her mouth, "Someone read my letters?"
"Well, actually, they stole your letters, then sent them back."
"I don't get it."
"That's why I'm here . . . I didn't tell you I was coming because I wasn't going to. It was really spooky getting robbed and stalked all over again. Oops, I'm sorry . . . I didn't mean to put it like that."
"Yeah, look who's stalking!"
"Never mind. I know who did it now . . . you told me once that you would never dot your i's unless you could dot your eye with my apple, whatever the hell that was supposed to mean . . ."
"You didn't get that reference, huh? I'm not surprised."
She started toward his trailer once again with him right behind her. They were at the door a moment later. He knew his trailer was better than all the rest, and it flattered him. Once inside, her adrenaline returned, causing her heart to flutter again. She didn't want to leave, but felt awkward standing at the door.
"You didn't bring much luggage with you?"
"Oh, shit, I forgot! Can I use the phone? I need to contact the airlines to let them know where to deliver my stuff."
"If it's any help, we have an assistant assigned to help you. Whatever you need can be handled by one of the volunteers . . ."
His thoughts flashed to Tara, and he laughed.
"They can help me with my bags . . . but there are just some things better left alone."
Chance sat on the sofa, kicking his feet onto the table, making himself at home. He watched her shift side to side in the door, feeling her nervous pace. It wasn't unusual for people to act like that around him, and it was all he could do to appear calm himself.
"Well, I guess you'll want to freshen up a bit, so if you want, I'll send someone over . . . "
"You're not leaving, are you?"
"Never! Leave? What was I thinking? I'd never leave . . . until I heard the sirens. Or if I felt like it, I guess . . ."
His eyes followed the curves of her body, which was fuller now than the first time they met, more voluptuous. Her blue dress clung to her, causing him to notice the swell of her nipples. She felt his eyes like hands across her. Lust rose in her but she had to fight the urge.
"You're not going to do anything weird, are you?"
After all those letters, that stalking thing, this whole damned event . . . you are sitting right here, asking me that?
"You mean, I haven't been weird yet?"
"Yeah, you've been pretty weird!"
"So, what are you saying?" she asked, not really sure she wanted to hear the answer.
"Well, . . . you know!"
Tara boarded the flight, stoned drunk and vicious. No one said a word to her. The crew could see the rage brimming just under the surface of passenger #57, the dark imp of first class. Staring out the portal, she never even saw the clouds. What she gazed at was in the back of her mind, and it wasn't pretty.
"Well, no . . . I don't know," April insisted, even if she did have an idea.
"You aren't going to . . . you know, like kill me, or anything?"
"Oh, God! No! I love you! I mean, I don't really even know you but . . . I don't want to hurt you! I might wrestle you or something . . . I can't believe I said that, but no, yeah . . . No!"
He laughed, rolling his head side to side and in a circle, trying to release the tension that built up during this trip.
"So, why am I here?"
How am I supposed to answer that?
"Chance . . . I don't really know how to tell you anything without telling you everything. So, where do I start?"
"How about starting at the beginning?"
April laughed, In the beginning, God . . . and knew that was a little too far back. So she skipped most of the story, figuring that in Time maybe she'd get around to the really good stuff. For now, she just raised her palms toward the ceiling in a exaggerated shrug, looking all around, motioning toward the trailer around them.
"Let's start with the end . . . here we are! Actually, this is where I first met you, right here in this building . . . well, not this trailer . . . but you know. Do you remember?"
"You gave me a flower!"
"Yeah . . . you were so hot, dude! I wanted to kiss you right there. But I tried to be a good girl."
"You looked pretty good to me . . ."
"Yeah . . ."
Chance winked at her. April had to remember to breathe, gasping suddenly inspired.
"I know what we should do someday?"
"All your albums so far have been basically done in black and white, right? Well, your next one should be in color!"
His forehead wrinkled as he tried to comprehend what she was trying to say.
"Like Dark Side of the Moon! Just the other day, I put it on with the Wizard of Oz, and it blew my mind. I want to help you do the rest of the movie."
She continued to brainstorm, detailing the change of his cover art work from black and white to color, market the fact that this album fits right in after the Pink Flood as the audio track to the Wizard of Oz, and after this Party, he and she could create this next adventure.
Chance, still burned out on the idea of working, didn't see it as clearly. It rubbed him the wrong way for a second, but then he remembered something she had written:
Friction and resistance cause heat and Light!
Maybe he should listen to her for once. She didn't know his situation but seemed to be inside his head, when she spoke of the next project. Childhood memories floated to mind as she relayed the layers woven in through the lyrics of his other albums with the lines in the movie itself. April explained how Brain Damaged was the Scarecrow, how the Tin Man had his heart,
"Thump, thump . . . thump, thump . . ."
. . . and now if he'd do it, Chance could be the first person to finish where they left off: the Cowardly Lion!
"That's if you're not scared!" April said teasingly.
He hadn't seen the first half dubbed with DSOTM. She promised to show it to him, if they had the time.
"Oh, what time is it?!"
"Well, LA time is two PM, so carry the one, divide the total by zero."
"It's four, then . . . When I came back here from California, I had to set my clock two hours ahead. When I got to my parent's house, I had to set it twenty years back."
Chance was amused but he didn't want to see her go. Nor did he want to ask her to stay. April needed to do something; she did have a show to put on and yet, she didn't want to walk away.
"Well, I guess I should send for your assistant, your costume will be here soon . . . do you need anything before I go?"
"A kiss . . ."
"A good-bye kiss?"
"No, just a kiss."
She waited for him to get up but he didn't. Standing by the door the whole time, April realized how nervous she must look. Transfixed on the magic of the moment, she froze.
Chance said nothing.
Finally, she shuddered, bringing her back to the proposition.
"A kiss . . . huh? Is that all you want?"
"I'm not sure. Let's start with that. Come here!"
April floated to him, choosing to kneel between his legs, until her arms rested on his knees, bringing them face to face. Their eyes searched for answers, recognition, something unspoken and perhaps, as of yet, unknown. She hesitated, refusing to make the first move.
I think I've made enough first moves. It's your turn . . .
His hands cupped her cheeks, tilting her head to the left. Eyes opened, Chance kissed April for the first time.
When they parted, each felt the electricity between them, and it was good. Maybe there was really something to this, he wanted to say but couldn't find the words.
"Your girlfriend is one of the volunteers, you know."
Chance suffered the blow. Visibly shaken, he knew trouble when he heard it. What he asked next, he already knew the answer.
"Tara . . . she works for me."
"Don't ever let her hear you say that she works for you! She'll ruin you!"
"What . . ."
Chance rubbed his eyes, then stood up, pushing April gently away. She didn't like what was transpiring, wishing she hadn't said anything . . . at least, not at that moment.
Just one more kiss . . .
Pacing nervously, he blurted out,
"I have to go!"
He looked at her, fear in his eyes.
"You don't understand . . . she, you . . . this isn't happening!"
"Look! She hasn't been here today. She hasn't returned my phone calls. I don't think she's coming."
"Oh, she's coming, alright . . . and she's going to be pissed."
April switched on her hand-held radio.
"All security bulletin. Detain the Bitch! Put her on the train . . ."
Chance watched her replace the radio onto her hip, this time leaving the volume on low. He waited to get an out.
"It's all set up . . . uh, I'm sorry I called your girlfriend a bitch but that's what the volunteers call her . . . not to her face. I'm sorry . . . I shouldn't have said that . . . Jeez, this is great. Please don't leave!"
"What did you tell security?!
"Well, she came to work for me a little while back, and we just watched her work. Big city girl ain't too wise to our country folk ways, and she tried to, you know, get overly involved. We had many a meetings about her, put it that way. I knew she was your girlfriend, so I just had to work around that fact."
"How did you know she was my girlfriend?"
Oh yeah, she's obsessed with me.
"So, what did you tell them?"
"You don't really want to know!"
"Maybe you're right. Look, I don't think I can wait for her. I don't like the feeling I'm getting from this."
"You will, come on!"
She led him to the door, but paused before opening it.
"You don't think I'd get you all the way here just to let a little thing like Tara stop me? I eat people like her for lunch."
April opened the door, and started out. She stopped, looking over her shoulder at him,
"Figuratively speaking . . ."
I've got you now, Chance. I'm coming to get you, and your little bitch, too. Tara knew where to send her luggage, and was working on getting his sent with it. She was hustling the clerk, and soon money would appear. Tara was a master of the craft. And either way, she was going to catch up with him . . . and with her. I'm right behind you . . .
Chance felt better as they rode in the white limousine away from the venue. He wondered what would happen to him . . . to the show . . . to the bitch.
"So, we're on plan B. This was expected. I knew she was there for a reason, but she never mentioned you, and that seemed odd."
"Mention you? No way! When she walked in the door the first day, I thought she might kick my ass. I mean, I've sent you a lot of strange shit. I half expected the feds."
I thought about it . . .
Chance listened as she explained that Tara would be detained at the gate, diverted to a secluded spot until further notice.
" . . . and upon that notice?"
"Well, Chance, . . ." April didn't want to tell him that. "I think we should wait and see how she acts, . . . if she even shows."
"She'll be here!"
The man looked out the window at greener pastures, hoping that he could feel as sure about it as April appeared. She spoke in code on her cellular, which then made her look out the windows herself.
"I don't see you! Oh, there you are!"
She pointed to the police car, which waited for the limo to pass before falling in behind them. April covered the mouthpiece, whispering,
"Quick, Chance! Hide the dope!"
He jumped in his seat, before realizing that he didn't even have any.
"Thanks, officer!" April continued the call. She gave some more directives before hanging up the phone.
"Okay, we're going to put you up at the house behind mine. We furnished it, and it's all yours. While you're in town, you will have as much or as little security as you wish. She thinks you're the Mad Hatter, by the way. Or so rumor has it."
"Who does she think you are?"
"Alice, of course. Told her myself."
He had to smile. Someone had out-hustled Tara. He wondered what April meant to do to her if she didn't act right, whatever that meant.
She'll get what she deserves.
Something told him.
When the limo turned the last corner into the drive that led to April's trailer, and the house farther back in the woods, Chance got a chill. He had seen the house before.
"You don't have a dog, do you?"
"No, but put in the rider contract and we'll have one shipped to you."
"That's okay . . . I don't want a dog."
"So, what do you want, Mr. Lee?"
No one called him Lee, except Greg.
"The question is: What do you want, Ms. Leigh?"
Her mind raced with the sacred and the profane.
"A kiss . . ."
This time, she moved into his arms immediately, and their tongues met, wet with fire. All the rush of energy which flowed from her, burst into him like a surge of electric spirit. His breath filled her nostrils, warm like an old memory. The kiss didn't end until the driver opened the door. Busted, they laughed and pulled away from each other.
April got out first, almost falling, weak in the knees still. She tried to picture how her home looked in his eyes. Embarrassment almost overwhelmed her but she managed to assure herself that the house he was to stay in was really set up nice. Maybe not as nice as he was used to, however.
Chance stretched once he got out of car, surprised that the air was clean. He hadn't experienced that in a long time, and had almost forgotten it existed.
"Wow, there's a cow over there . . ."
"Stay calm, just don't look it in the eyes."
April wanted to make him laugh. She had never wanted anything so much in her life. He seemed like he needed some good times.
Lord knows he's had his share of bad times.
Inside the house, he could see her trailer, which she pointed to from the front window, so he could watch her for a change. A quick tour of the place revealed the detail to which she had gone to arrange this.
"But what about that huge trailer you gave me back there?"
"Where do you think Tara's going to look for you first? She'll be entertained, detained, or contained depending on what transpires."
He remembered the letters.
"You didn't break into my house, then?" Like she wouldn't lie, too.
"No, honey, I don't go where I'm not supposed to . . ."
"Except, that time we kicked you out of backstage, huh?"
"Oh, . . . I didn't think you knew about that."
"I had security, too, you know."
April hadn't thought about that until now. She had been detained, too, hadn't she? Now it came clear in an ironic twist of Fate.
Tara knew the road, and was able to judge the time it would take to arrive. Nothing would stop her now. Her smile returned as she prepared for the fight of her life. There was no way she would go quietly into the night.
The tender kisses came easily for the couple, as if they were old friends. April knew she wanted this moment to last forever, but the Tea Party nagged from the back of her mind. She had to get back to the show. She summoned the driver.
"Get the costume from the car, please. And send another car out here for Chance."
"What do you mean? You're not leaving me here! I've seen too many scary movies about the country and you're not leaving me alone. Seriously!"
"Okay, okay . . . We'll work something out. I need to take a shower. Let's go to my trailer . . ." she pointed out the window, "over there, and I can change."
"Don't change a thing."
"Just my clothes, okay?"
Chance grinned, "Can I wash your back?"
"Mighty presumptuous, aren't you?"
He waited in her living room, aware of the water that ran over her body from the other room. Chance imagined her nude body, wet and glistening. His hand reached for the remote control as he tried to distract himself with a baseball game, but five minutes later when she returned wrapped in a towel asking about the score, he couldn't even tell her who was playing.
April wanted to make love to him right there, but the time wasn't right yet. Or rather, she didn't have the time to do it right, and she would have to make herself wait, even if it meant that she might lose her opportunity . . . might lose her Chance. She forced herself into clothes, leaving the door open just in case he made the first move. A few minutes later, she was ready to go.
Back in the car, she called ahead to let the volunteers know that she was on her way, and it was time to ready Chance's new dressing room. He was anxious to see what she had in store.
The crowds poured into the auditorium, even though the show was still two and a half hours away. His mind flashed to that first night again. The limo then had made the same path around the venue, only the girl no longer stood in the streets. She sat beside him now. It was hard to believe . . .
His hand crept across the seat until it found hers, grasping it firmly. She looked at their entwined fingers, then into his eyes.
Do you remember me?
"I remember you standing over there with some girl, and you were waving and pointing. That scared the hell out of me!"
"How did you know it was me in the back of the car?"
He grinned, surprised.
"Then who were you waving at?"
Shaking his head, the man had to laugh. Then he recalled,
"That's right - you see shit, don't you?"
"When you put it that way . . . don't."
Chance apologized, ". . . I mean, you have visions, or so you claim."
April shifted in her seat, "Yeah, I'm psycho . . . I mean psychic . . ."
"No really! You sent me some stuff that I can't explain how you knew what was going on in my life. I can't really tell you what exactly I'm referring to but I just know that you read some of my cards, so you said, and it was too true."
"Master of the Obvious!"
"No really! I'd like to know how you did it!"
"We're here . . . Are you ready?"
"I'm not sure . . ."
"That's good enough for me! Let's go!"
April opened door herself, once they reached the curtain which cloaked the car from prying eyes. She had it all arranged. His dressing room was the only box seats occupied on the north side of the building, which she supplied with both a telescope and a good pair of binoculars, he could watch the event unfold from above. A switch engaged the monitors overhead, closed circuit, which covered all entrances and most of the grounds.
"Hey, that's my trailer!"
"No, that was never your trailer . . . that's your girlfriend's trailer."
He felt watched again. This girl was more cunning than he realized. But then again, up until now, he hadn't a basis for opinion except . . . those letters. Even before Tara fucked with them, they were scary.
Looking at his face, she had to laugh.
"Don't worry . . . my love! You will be able to see it all from here. If you don't like what you see, here's a radio, a cell phone . . . do you want a weapon?"
"Sure, I've always wanted a slingshot . . ."
"How 'bout a taser? Here's one!"
He became concerned.
"Do you really think I'll need all this?"
"I'm not going to let you feel at all vulnerable, if I can do anything about it. And so it seems, I got you all this so far . . . you tell me what you need."
"Take a guess . . ."
Her eyes watched a bulge appear in his pants.
Tara knew she was early, having plenty of time to do the hunt. She sensed that security would be tight, but when she saw twice as many guards at the participants' entrance as she expected, her instinct made her back away.
"Driver! Pull this beast to the far corner of the lot back there, and give me a minute to get ready to go in. And close the privacy shade!"
As the black machine wheeled slowly away, she began to scheme. A moment later, she put it together. She would go in with the media. Who could she bribe? Her focus fell onto a radio station's promotions truck. Bingo!
A few minutes later, she was in . . . dressed to kill in her new t-shirt and baseball cap, with the station's logo right on it. Tara was smart enough to prepare for an emergency, so she already had her backstage pass on when she came to the first security checkpoint.
Anybody? Anyone? Nope, not a soul . . .
And Tara was in.
A box of t-shirts and bumper stickers concealed her identity from the first line of defense, and now all she had to do was find out where Chance was staying. Look for the biggest trailer!
She knew how April worked, even if she never said a word. A few minutes later, Tara popped open the unlocked door of the largest trailer on the lot. It was empty. She closed the door behind her. The waiting game began.
"What the hell?"
April looked at the lone figure shadowed in the monitor on the trailer. She whipped out her radio.
"This is Mother Hubbard, wondering why the hell no one told me that the bitch was in the cupboard. Over . . ."
A perplexed male voice radioed back, "This is news to me . . ."
"Well, Bitch is wearing t-shirt and radio station cap. Full alert status . . . Cujo is in the Hole."
Chance watched the monitors come alive as people launched the security routine April had pre-determined. It was almost like watching a movie. In every camera, they moved into position around that trailer, where Tara sat impatiently. "I almost feel sorry for her."
"Do you want to go talk to her?"
They laughed. It was getting very comfortable, almost familiar. He realized that April was sharper than the average fan . . . and much more fun to be around than he expected. Up until this, he pictured her as a clingy, whining weak little freak. Except she kind of had a pretty face.
Now he realized that she wasn't weak. It made her that much prettier. She didn't have a bad vibe about her, even in this her most manipulative time of her life. She had power.
"Oh, we need to call about your luggage . . . I almost forgot!"
"Oh, yeah! But if I'd known she was involved, I wouldn't have waited so long. By now, I'm sure she's managed to get access to them, which wouldn't be so bad except I left my invitation in it."
"So? You're here, aren't you?"
"Yeah, but . . . I feel really bad telling you this. I left my piece of the puzzle in it. Who knows how long it'll take to track down the bag. I'm so sorry."
When he looked up to see her reaction, she held up the final piece.
"Where did that come from?"
"My pocket. Come on . . . it's about time to make your appearance!"
After fifteen minutes, Tara stood up, heading for the door. She was met by Kelly, who was the only volunteer willing to take up the challenge. If anyone could convince Tara to stick around, it was a girl like Kelly. Tara met her match here. They were two of a kind. Kelly made the first move.
Chance watched with interest as the second woman appeared. He observed the two kiss, feeling warm blood pump through his veins.
"Hey, Lee, it's all on tape, right over there. You can watch them later. I'm sure you'll get a whole eyeful of what I'm expecting to get on tape. You just wait."
She really is strange.
April tried to get him to follow her, but he stared at the television wondering what she thought would happen. Then he saw his girlfriend begin to undress the red head. He had to get away from this. It was turning him on.
"Yeah, uh . . . it's time to go," he agreed.
"One more kiss?"
" . . . at least!" Chance held her close, shutting his eyes to the scene in black and white which played itself out with its naked truth. He couldn't bear it; she was still his girlfriend. And here they were, each in the arms of another. One sin didn't cancel out the other. Two wrongs . . .
"Do you feel okay about this, Chance?" April tilted his face to read his eyes. "You don't have to do anything you don't want to do."
"As if . . ."
That is what April wanted to believe. She had to be sure he was completely free to back out at any time. Praying that he wouldn't didn't prevent her from offering him a way out at every turn.
Even if you choose not decide, you still have made a choice . . .
Rush blared over the speakers, like trumpets heralding the coming of the new day. The show had begun, and yet only April knew what she meant by it.
"I remember this song!" Chance brightened. "You turned me onto it . . ."
She thought about the decisions of biblical proportions, and he thought about the two girls kissing in his trailer. It was only natural.
I will choose free will . . .
Tara broke out her stash, immediately attracting Kelly's attention. She saw renewed interest glint in her hungry eyes.
For Kelly, she loved drugs . . . who doesn't? But this meant more than a free high. The next phase was in place, ready to be kicked into gear if necessary. She smiled directly into the camera's eye, which if she hadn't known where is was hidden, she would have never seen it. The higher she got, the more she performed for the camera.
"Man, Tara, you sure get good drugs!" was the audio cue. Now it was radioed back to April that the Dog-Catcher was on-call.
"It is done . . ."
April smiled at Chance, who wanted to remain oblivious to the details. She kissed him again, fully aware that he wasn't asking any questions by now.
"Your girlfriend isn't going to bother us tonight."
" . . . or tomorrow, huh?"
Chance watched her work the floor from the wings, where he could see the crowd filing in to the Mad Hatter's Banquet Hall, which was designed to serve over a thousand people lunch and to seat up to twenty thousand spectators. He marveled at the precision with which the event progressed.
Then Tara flashed into his mind.
I've got to be sure . . .
"Mother Hubbard . . . Energizer here. I gotta walk the dog."
April looked up from where she was, waving at him from across the stage where she was double checking the audio channels against her list of cues. She motioned as if to ask if she could go with him. He nodded eagerly.
I don't want to face it alone . . .
April handed over the clipboard to the bearded guy, directing his attention to the place where she left off. Ready to take another break with him, April refrained from hugging Chance, knowing that prying eyes were everywhere. His smile greeted her once again.
They walked away from the stadium, through the double door that led to the hallways. Once they passed into a completely isolated area backstage, they turned to each other and rushed into each other's arms. Their lips met, and moved gently, passionately over cheeks and eyes, until their tongues caressed.
Chance wanted her right then, but April knew that in these halls many lunatics roamed.
"Therefore, we should really wait."
His hand pulled her to the hyper-secure second dressing room, where he saw Tara and Kelly still partying in the first. He noticed that Kelly was wasted and her clothes were slowly being removed, piece by piece. When he turned up the audio, he witnessed one of Tara's famous rants that he had heard about but never seen. At first, he pitied whomever she was talking about until it dawned on him. She was talking about him.
The endless barrage of profanity that spewed from her mouth cut the final link between him and her. The end of an age was upon them. He and Tara were no more. Chance felt relieved.
"Can I turn this down? It's being recorded, and for nineteen ninety-nine, you can add this to your video library. Next showing is at eleven . . ."
She didn't wait for his answer. Chance didn't need to hear what was being said. April hoped she had what he needed, or at least some of it.
But when her mind thought back to the girl in the field so long ago, who had given 'it' up so quickly, she resisted Chance's more intense advances. When his hand slid up under her shirt, she wanted him so much, and yet told him no.
What am I saying? April, are you being stupid? Here he is and I just heard you say no. Oh, my God, don't stop, Chance! Please stop!
April's face showed her pleasure and her pain, as she tried to fight her lust for him. She wanted to make love to him more than anything; her body screamed!
"Do you think we should wait?"
Panting unevenly, April struggled with her own animal urges which garbled her speech. She shook her head, holding up her hand to signal that no words would come.
I'm not ready for this!
Chance was surprised. It wasn't often that he was rejected by a fan.
Especially this one . . . you'd think, if anyone would . . .
He knew she wanted him, didn't she? Maybe there was something else. The rock star stepped back with an air of bravado that masked his confusion. Before his thoughts turned inward, his eye caught the monitor.
Tara was through waiting, and had finally decided to go hunt down her man. Kelly was no longer amusing, starting to geek. It was time to go. So, with one swift move, Tara threw open the door to leave. The tape would show her leave the room, and seconds later, she would be pushed backward into the room, spun around until she was hand cuffed face down on the bed. To Chance, it looked like any episode of COPS, except for the star.
"What the fuck is happening, April?!"
She cringed, afraid that he might get enraged at this turn of events. April winced as she filled him in.
"Well, she's under arrest, it looks like . . . Look, Chance, I'm really sorry about this but we had to keep her from fucking up this event. She isn't a very nice person, can't you see?"
Oh great, I'm insulting his girlfriend . . . she's being arrested . . . he's mad! What else can I possibly say to really screw this up?
"It looks like she tried to leave . . ."
Chance's face was grim, concerned as he stared at the incarceration of his lover. If he had wondered how elaborate this plan really was, now he began to get an idea. The two watched as the police led her away, from monitor to monitor until she was placed in the back of a squad car and driven off the premises. She had fought, resisting by trying to kick anyone who came near her.
For a long time, neither person spoke a word. She held her breath in anticipation. His somber expression turned to April, forcing her to see his troubled eyes. Her heart skipped a beat.
"You had her arrested?"
Before April could explain, Chance burst into laughter. He rolled off the couch and onto the floor, holding his sides, shaking uncontrollably. Her wet eyes darted between tears and relief, flickering on the edge briefly until she accepted his mirth. Then she rubbed away the moisture, and almost laughed herself. Mostly she was relieved.
"Now I know why you wanted to wait, you know . . . until later. That was priceless! So that's the Dog Catcher, huh? Pretty serious business you got going on, huh? Wow, April, you are something else . . ."
"Yeah, but what?"
"Do you really want to know what I think you are?"
April was taken aback by that question, not sure she wanted to hear any answer to one like it, "Oh, uh . . . well, I uh . . ."
"I think you are a very creative person, who has had an over-active imagination for lifetimes and way too much time on her hands this one."
April wrinkled her nose at him, "I bet you say that to all the girls."
"And you've seen too many movies . . ."
Dress call was an hour before The Tea Party, which gave a window of opportunity to fix any last minute emergencies which might arise. Everyone should have been fitted by this point, but with all the excitement, Chance hadn't even looked at his costume. He poked at it with a hanger a few times after April laid it out on the couch, obviously unimpressed with his role.
"Why can't I be someone cool like the Mad Hatter or, I don't know, one of the Kings? Even Humpty Dumpty had a great fall . . ."
"Humpty Dumpty represents the Cosmic Egg of truth and knowledge, which fell to earth and 'broke' or rather became mundane. What was once sacred, became profane . . . and none of the King's horses and none of the King's men, here on earth, can make it whole again. Only the King Himself can!" April pointed up, referring to something bigger than any of them.
"Any other questions?"
Chance gave up the argument, and put on the outfit. He became The White Rabbit, and although he hated to admit it, the costume felt good. He wasn't himself today.
"Guess I don't have to hurry, huh?"
"Yeah, I know," April laughed, "you're late . . . you're late . . ."
"So, let me get this straight. We're just going to eat today, and then the actual event is tomorrow?"
"Yeah, we have it simulcast and a live audience on both days, but basically, no one will reveal their identity until tomorrow. The first day will just set the stage for tomorrow."
"When do you have us scheduled?"
"Us . . . me and you? I want to touch you. I want to be inside you. When do you have that on the agenda? When are you going to let me come inside?"
April stammered, fidgeting with her shirt buttons, unable to reply. She took a deep breath, looked him straight in the eye.
"I don't know!"
After she left, Chance watched her on the monitors until she disappeared into her trailer, which he realized suddenly that he had no idea where it was. He tried to memorize the path on the monitors, but unable to picture the path, he blew it off somewhat.
I'm sure she won't let me get too far away. I think she likes me . . .
He tried to decide how he was feeling about this whole situation. It was so dream like, that he became numb, almost melting into the scene like a trip through a memory. But here he was, sober and yet surreal.
I feel . . .
"God, April's a trip . . ."
He tried to find her on the monitors but she was still absent.
"I don't even know what she will be dressed as! She didn't kiss me good-bye, either!!"
Chance had to stop himself from talking aloud, especially seeing how Big Brother was definitely all around this place. Then a thought made him chuckle. Looking at the screens on the wall, he mused,
"Today, it's me . . . I'm Big Brother!"
He had to get out of this room. If no one watches what the fish-eye sees, does it make a sound?
"Oh, God, I'm beginning to think like her! I am out of here!"
One last sidelong glance in the mirror, he resigned himself to being born under a bad sign - the Year of the Rabbit.
He took the stuffed carrot fastened to his belt, and pretended to nibble it.
"What's up, Doc?"
He hated what he saw.
"Are you talking to me? Are you talking to me?"
His accent needed work. Trying to be tough guy wasn't easy in a bunny suit.
" . . . behind the rabbit? No, it is the rabbit!!"
He didn't even have to try to sound like Monty Python.
Some things just come naturally!
April felt so jittery, this being the first moment away from him. She hadn't anticipated this great good fortune. He wanted to be her lover.
He wants me . . .
She sensed all the doubts in the back of her mind, packaged them into a dark recess to be dealt with later. It was fortunate that this event was so well-prepared. There would have been no way for her to concentrate on anything else at this moment. Thoughts of the future, after the Party, lingered, but she did what she could to change her mind.
I want him . . .
Dressed in a flash, she was back out the door to find him.
The monitors in the corridors backstage showed the program, linked to the booth where the television broadcast originated. April was oddly disinterested with all of it. Her hands-off approach was to be commended, many would report later. She felt like a guest. No one asked her to help, and she did little to affect the outcome. Her priorities had changed, maybe.
I should be doing something . . .
Then she remembered Chance.
All he saw was a huge rat looking creature heading towards his lair, and knew it couldn't be April. He expected her to be the Mad Hatter, or Alice. When she came in, he just stared at her silently.
"Well? What do you think?"
"You look like a big rat?! What the hell are you?"
"I'm the Door mouse!"
April smacked her lips, offended, "You just don't get it, do you? You just don't get it?"
"Well, I can't really bill myself as a major character. Who the hell am I? That's what the crowd would be asking. So, I figured I'd be the gate keeper, thus, The Door Mouse!"
"You look like a rat!"
When the two went to the Banquet Hall, they were greeted with a frenzy of flash photos and the cheers that came from the crowd when they recognized the White Rabbit. He waved to all, and then jogged his way around the perimeter of the floor, shaking hands with the fans. His talent shined as Chance acted out his portion of the scene in the book, without saying a word.
Once he came back to her side, he panted, "Man, I wish I hadn't done that! Now I'm sweating my ass off."
"We can disappear for a few minutes, if you want to cool off."
"No, that's okay. If I had you alone, I don't think it would help me cool off."
"Oh, shit! I forgot your piece!"
"Hey, Chance! I'll race you!"
Together, they dashed out of the huge double doors, racing toward April's trailer. She knew the way. He didn't. Even when he was in the lead, she turned corners that he had run past already and he was forced to back track to follow her.
Chance leaned against the wall, trying to catch his breath, too tired to argue.
Inside the trailer, she located the single puzzle piece from the pocket of the pants she had tossed carelessly on the floor. Holding it between her finger and thumb, April offered it up to him. He tried to take it with gloved hands and great difficulty, dropping it twice before she finally put it in his special pocket, where each participant carried the puzzle piece. She knew it might be a problem and had tailored a solution.
He kissed her as much as she would let him, but with each of them wearing a fake nose, it quickly became a pointless endeavor. Laughing, he pulled away,
"We should really be going. It is bad etiquette to be late your own party, I'm sure."
"No, Chance, this is your party . . ."
The Hall was still when the lights went out. Overhead, a single beam of white light, grew wider and stronger as it slowly scanned the auditorium. It started its search slowly at first but sped up until it touched everyone at some point. The guest were still milling about on the floor, trying to locate their places at the table. April led Chance to their seats, which she personally chose next to the Mad Hatter himself. She wanted to be next to the spotlight, not actually in it. Just to bask in its warmth was enough. Right as they reached their spots, the light paused on the Mad Hatter. A voice announced,
"Ladies and Gentlemen . . . The Mad Hatter welcomes you to the first annual Mad Hatter Tea Party and Charity Ball. Let the carnage begin!"
The overhead lights came brightly back, revealing the full effect of the crowd and participants, numbering twenty thousand at least. Hands and faces surrounded the theater, grotesque masks surrounded the two. Amidst the cheers, a distant drum grew louder. Carnival music spiraled into the picture, bringing the surreal mist of past circuses to mind.
Volunteers now wore costumes that ranged from frogs to playing cards, each brightly colored character filed into the arena amongst the guests. Oversized menus lumbered into the room dragging behind them wagons of huge folded cardboard list of the entrees. Scrambling around, the creatures delivered these to the guests.
The cover art was April's own design, a swirl of Lewis Carroll's vision which portrayed many of the guests in their costumes, whose identities had surprisingly been kept secret. Even as they dined, no one gave away their names, only introducing themselves as the character they portrayed. April was the only person who knew everyone involved. Her skin prickled with excitement as she looked from person to person, knowing who was hiding behind each facade.
"So, who is that?" Chance would ask, pointing to first this one then that one. April would smile, mysteriously, never answering his queries.
Soon all the menus were given out. TV cameras zoomed in to reveal the mysterious choices of treats, and confusion murmured throughout the room. On the huge screen, April laughed as it scrolled down. She knew what it said but no one around her had a clue. The Dormouse, who no one knew, quickly opened wrote down the series of numbers into the blank spaces, slammed closed the menu and gave it to the nearest card, a volunteer named Steve.
Chance looked at the menu, which read:
1. Bug's Delight 1st ___________
2. Boston's Finest ___________
3. Face Eraser ___________
4. Devil's Tool ___________
5. Colorado Cooler ___________
6. Big Dipper 2nd ___________
7. Little Dipper ___________
8. Road Crosser ___________
9. Angel's Treat ___________
10. Grapes of Wrath ___________
11. Walrus' Munchies 3rd ___________
12. Jack's Goodies ___________
13. Forever Fields ___________
14. Big Bessie's Butt ___________
15. Sea Sand ___________
16. Sneeze Stuff 4th ___________
17. Big Bessie's Boob ___________
18. Stoney Sidewalk ___________
19. Porky's Witch ___________
20. Newton's Snack 5th ___________
21. Caterpillar Cap ___________
22. Let Us Lunch ___________
April waited for his reaction, wondering whether or no to help him. She searched his face for the answer, but he just scanned the menu, saying nothing. Chance read each entry before turning to her,
"So, what am I supposed to do?"
"Well, put a number in each space . . . and see what happens."
He looked her in the eye, making her heart flutter. She offered,
"I know the best way to order . . ."
"I'll bet you do!"
Chance picked a huge purple crayon from the bright yellow basket of edible crocuses, and as he started to fill in the blanks, he looked up at her. He pointed to the first blank, then to number eleven. She nodded with a shrug. The White Rabbit wrote 11 in the first blank.
The next few blanks weren't so easy. April knew that if Chance ordered 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 together, he'd be sorry. For the first course he would end up with the #11 - oysters on the half-shell served with fried oysters, which would be fine but if she let him continue, she knew he would end up with a napkin, a fork, a glass of water and two different size spoons.
Even after her suggestion of spreading them out, he still managed to order quite a bad mixture of items. She just shrugged,
She was glad he didn't want her help. That was the idea.
In Majestic City Jail, papers were being shuffled but no one would let Tara make her call. Standard procedure is what they called it. She paced the cell, furious that right now her man and that whore were together!
And these country fucks won't even let me have my phone call.
She paced and pleaded, pushing her tits out a little farther as she whined and batted her eyes. It usually worked.
"Hello? I've got money. Can I post bail or bond or whatever? Please! Hello?"
This was not the place to be herself. She had to try hard to keep her cool. This wasn't her town . . . was it? It was April's.
"Did you know that you and Buddha have the birthday?"
Chance found it odd, Where did that come from? He was flattered but that same old disturbing feeling came back. Here was this person right next to him, an obsessed fan who had stalked him for almost half her life. Why did he suddenly feel like running? It wasn't too hard to figure out . . .
April sensed something ill at ease, and rather then worry about it, she reached over, took his hand and smiled. She looked ridiculous in her costume, and it made him laugh nervously. He never did like mice. Or rats.
Uh, oh! He's getting a look that I don't like. What am I going to do?
April was right thinking that he was thinking about Tara. She was never far from April's thoughts anyway; it would only be fair to assume that he thought of his girlfriend at least some.
"You know one day Tara brought this bag into the office, and she was kind of acting strange about it so I asked her what was in it. She said, 'None of your fucking business!' "
Chance looked at her with a smile because it sounded just like Tara.
"So, anyway, as the day went on, she kept looking in it and wherever she went, she carried it with her. It started making the volunteers nervous, and so I had to ask her again, 'What is in your bag?' She told me, 'None of your fucking business!' Later that night, she was riding around with some of us in the van, when she went into the store, we opened the bag!"
April went back to drawing on the tablecloth with a giant red crayon. Chance waited for more but she just kept doodling. Finally he asked,
"So . . . what was in the bag?"
"None of your fucking business!"
He bellowed a side-splitting roar, realizing that he walked into that one. This girl isn't so bad, after all. In his mind he began to strip off her Dormouse costume, remembering how it felt to kiss her, He wanted more.
April hoped her joke wouldn't upset him. After all, for Tara, this wouldn't be such a trivial matter. In fact, it might have long range consequences that right now weren't evident, but
To Hell with Tara! She would ruin this if she could! It's my party and I can have you arrested if I want to. But what is he thinking? He must think I'm nuts . . . and I wouldn't blame him. But I know me, and most of the time I don't fuck people over. That's more than I can say about her.
Still holding her hand, Chance lifted it to his lips. A gentle kiss reminded him of her smell, which brought back the rush of sensuality that she gave him. He had been with prettier but then again, all he could see of her right then was mask. "Why are you the Dormouse?"
"Because I like to sleep a lot. No, I just like to sleep when everyone else is awake. Kind of like a vampire . . . "
. . . I suck! was what April didn't say.
"So, are you going to keep me up late tonight?"
He said 'up!' huh, huh, huh, huh . . .
"Chance, I'll keep you as up as you want to be kept!"
He raised an eyebrow.
The food arrived a few minutes later, at least for some. Chance wound up with strawberries #13, the oysters #11, baked beans #2, a plate of steamed carrots garnished with tiny peeled raw ones, still with the greenery attached #1, and a napkin, which he would need since he was trying to eat the beans by using a toothpick that came with the oysters. Chance picked up one of the uncooked carrots, doing his best Groucho Marx impression.
Little flags stuck out of each plate, naming each item, as were all the utensils and drinks. People were trying to remember what they ordered for the other courses, but only a few could see the impending disaster. Twelve minutes later the voice returned, drowning out the music which was being piped in through the speakers. The video cut to the Mad Hatter who said,
The cast of volunteers came rushing trying to hurry each guest out of their chairs, telling them to step back and prepare for Round 2. Once every guest was away from the table, April held her breath hoping this next portion of the event would go right. Thin cables with clips on the end descended from above, which the cards and creatures hooked to the edges of each table cloth. A moment later, all the tables were empty. The tablecloths were whisked away, raised to the catwalks overhead to be dealt with by the creatures from above.
Guests attempting to keep any of their first course items, were challenged by the servers who wrestled it out of their hands and went screaming to tell everyone else. The embarrassment was met with laughter. It was a mad dash to get all the guests seated again. The second course was as strange as expected
Each new course had them move one seat to the right, and every new tablecloth was a different color, the first was white, then came red and yellow, blue and green.
But by now, some of the characters were beginning to share their items, and for those without napkins, the tablecloth became useful. Silliness spread like fire, as each watched another struggle to eat. Small food fights erupted. The audience watched closely, trying to figure out who was who. The speculations had begun. Now Chance was better prepared for what was to follow, except this time he was delivered a fork, angel food cake #9, a glass of wine #10, a goblet of mountain spring water #5, and tarts #12. The sugar rush gave him a buzz.
By the third course, he was getting full even though the portions were overly small. April knew how much food would fill up a stomach, and with so many elements, she thought it best to serve extremely small portions. Chance discovered why. His third plate showed up with three slices of steak (rare, medium and well done) #14, but since he insisted upon it, Chance wound up with both spoons. With that round, he also received a jug of milk.
"The Big Dipper and the Little Dipper have to go together, just like Big Bessie's boobs and butt," he had told her. She just smiled and let him write it down. "This is like taking a test in school where you have no idea what they are talking about but the exam is multiple guess. There are no wrong answers!"
April agreed, "There's only wrong questions!"
Chance replied, "Change your view on life to what life means to me then grade me accordingly!"
The character who dressed as Alice came to the screen, acting out a scene where she pretends that she's being served up as a snack. The Mad Hatter was sitting next to Alice and when the camera pulled back, The White Rabbit and The Dormouse, seated on his other side, were kissing. Busted! The press took notice.
Chance had to move his nose to get in close, but he managed to feel giddy enough to kiss the rat next to him. This was turning out to be pretty fun after all. He was reaching out to stroke her breast when the lights of the video crew fell over them. They jumped apart. He blushed under his mask,
"Uh oh, what will people think?"
"What will my girlfriend think?"
Tara gave up on the officers, instead asking for a blanket. Napping always passed the time.
Time flies even when you're not having fun!
"Did you know today is Houdini's birthday?"
April smiled, "Oh yeah? We invited him but he hasn't shown up yet!"
Tara watched the man and the woman as they met on the porch, kissing hello. Inside her, the demon raged. She licked her lips, trying to catch the scent, but the breeze came from behind her. In the brush at the edge of the clearing, she waited for the sign.
Chance's fourth course was a ham sandwich #19, a salad #22, rocky road ice cream #18, and half of a green apple cut sideways to reveal the star inside #20. He had trouble eating the salad and ice cream without utensils, but tried valiantly to finish before the next course. The fifth one came with a stuffed mushroom #21, salt #15, and pepper #16. He was full.
April was the only person who had no trouble. The Mad Hatter himself sat through the last course with a napkin, a fork and the glass of wine. Upon his signal the balloons were released. Some were dropped from the ceiling, while others floated up from under the sheets that held them down. Somewhere in the middle, they met.
After this, the voice returned, "The Mad Hatter would like to thank you for coming to the Tea Party, and wants to invite you back tomorrow for the Charity Ball. And for now, let's dance!"
Music boomed, swirling to the light show that ensued. The characters who wished to remain, began to pair up and boogie. But for April and Chance, there were other things on their minds. They sneaked out immediately.
Backstage, they went straight to April's trailer, because it was closer than his box seat. There, she changed into a long black lace dress, with antique flowers printed underneath. When she returned from bathroom, all signs of the Dormouse were gone. He still dressed as White Rabbit.
"Do you want to hang out or go?"
Chance scratched bunny head as he thought about it.
"Where are my clothes?"
"Then I want to go home!"
Flight #2112 touched down in Houston where a car awaited the traveler. Soon the two were heading toward Majestic. The minion in the back wore a wicked smirk. I'm coming to get you . . . run! Wake it up.
In the back of the limousine, Chance and April watched the faces of the crowd through tinted windows. He remembered this from the first tour.
"This is a first for me!"
April moved toward him as she spoke. On her knees, sideways in the seat, she began to remove his costume one piece at a time, starting with the whiskers. Gently tugging them away, she leaned in and brushed his cheek lightly with her lips. He felt her warm breath first on his face, then down his neck. The hair on his arms bristled.
By the time we get home, I wonder if I can undress him completely!
She stopped short, almost afraid of fulfilling the fantasy. What if it wasn't so perfect after all? After tomorrow, he would go and she would stay.
Oh, but he tastes so good!
Her tongue found his. And both of their eyes were wide open.
When the road got rough, April knew they were getting closer to home. Dark country nights were the calmest. The driver passed April's trailer, heading instead for the house in back. Cool air flooded the car when the driver opened the door for them.
"Hey, there's no need for any more of that tonight, you're off! You did great, Randy. Thanks a lot!"
From the way that April hugged the driver, Chance could see that they were friends. He watched April take the keys to the car and open the trunk herself. Inside were his bags. And Tara's.
"Come on in and have a beer!"
"No, thanks. I've got a date so I gotta run!"
Chance watched Randy leave in another car. April started hauling all the bags in herself.
"Here, let me give you a hand."
"I guess you know which is which and whose is whose," April deduced, as she was heading out the door. "Wait a minute . . ."
She forwarded her call to his phone, and switched on the answering machine. Pressing the record button, she created a new outgoing message.
"I'm a little busy, so leave a message . . ."
As an afterthought, April pulled back a cloth cover exposing the sound system she borrowed for tonight. She turned it on for him, directed him to the CD collection, and with a soft, quick kiss, she left him.
At her place, she showered faster than she ever had, dressed in silk, grabbed her bag already packed with her mysterious potions and pages. Candles and perfumes were her magic. Fresh make-up made her feel the power. What she saw in the mirror was her own reflection. It glowed.
Meanwhile, Chance chose Stoned Cold Believer, a song by one of his friends in the industry. He always like the guy. Maybe I should give him a call about April's idea. He always liked Floyd.
It surprised him to realize that he was even considering her idea. The more he thought about it, the better it developed. He hadn't ever worked with a girl, not like that anyway. Maybe there would be something to it.
He showered and changed into sweatpants. His wet hair left drops of water in his bare shoulders. In the refrigerator, he found a wide assortment of food and drink. Opting for a beer, he returned to the living room where he located the light switches. Playing around with them, he picked a low level mood which allowed him to see outside when he opened the curtains. From the sofa, he could see her house.
He saw her shadowed figure walking out of her door, toward his. It was about a hundred yards away, so he hoped it was her.
She felt eyes upon her, when she noticed his outline in the window. The spirit of the moment made her memorize the feeling, the taste of this experience. Her nostrils enjoyed the fresh air. Overhead, just a sliver of the moon slit the dark sky. This had to last forever.
Once she reached his place, he opened the door for her, helping her with the bag she brought. She thanked him before turning back around to go outside. He followed.
"I need to get this tarp over the car before someone sees it. I should have done this earlier, but I don't think anyone else is out here yet. I've had some media here back at the beginning, and I kind of forgot that they might show up."
April had it completed before he could even lend a hand. She turned him around to walk back inside, traveling so closely behind him that she kissed his bare back. Her warm hand slid gently across his rib cage to his stomach. Once they cleared the door, she spun around to lock the door behind them. Then she closed the curtains.
Dim head lights crept through town, roaming the streets searching for the hall. No longer were the stadium lights on. Only the crew remained to clean and set up for the next day. A few stragglers partied in the parking lot had no idea where April was . . . or who.
A rough map sketched onto a wrinkled piece of paper appeared in the hand of the newcomer. He didn't wait for further instructions.
Once April slowed down, Chance was able to embrace her. She had stopped him a few times, first pouring the wine, then lighting the candles and incense, and such, but finally he reached out for her and she glided into his arms. He could tell she was nervous.
Chance pulled her closer, brushing her hair back to lick her neck. He could taste the honey dust powder she wore. He licked his lips.
I remember . . .
For the first time in her life, she didn't want to hold back. She let all her best moves return to her life. No longer would she make herself be so 'nice.' She gave to him all her heart, and now she would give him all of her love. Her desires were many. She remembered what a man liked . . . and for one night, he was her man.
Just as she felt his mouth slide down her neck, tracing the cleavage which disappeared behind the lavender silk of her negligee, the telephone rang. His hands ran up her side until they cupped her breasts, fingers tugging at the thin straps over her shoulders.
There is no way I'm getting that.
"Aren't you going to get the phone?" Chance asked but without releasing his grip on her. He slid one side off her shoulder. Then his fingers found her nipple. Then his mouth.
She sucked in when the explosions of light burst across her closed eyes. Her heart pounded in her ears. April heard herself whisper, "Yes . . ."
The answering machine kicked on after the second ring, but after the beep, there was nothing but a click. No reply. The phone rang again, with the same results.
"I guess somebody has a hang up . . ." he replied.
"Oh, I get hang up calls all the time!"
Oh, shit! Should I tell her? His eyes flashed open as his mouth stopped licking her skin.
April looked down at him, trying to decide whether to talk or fuck. When she saw his face, she made her choice. She'd ask him!
"Do you want to talk or make love?"
Even if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice . . .
She laughed at him, "Whatever you want . . ."
Chance raised one eyebrow, with interest. It never was one of Tara's fortes. He pulled her over to the sofa, sitting down with her next to him. They both felt awkward, like two teenagers on a date, and in a way they were. The first date is usually the toughest. But this one . . .
Their movements were stiffer than they expected, clumsily trying to find each others pace, like dancing. But it led to some deeper sensations taking place. As April regained her confidence, the more she controlled the tempo, the smoother the progress. She repositioned herself on her knees, as she had done so earlier in the car, but this time there was no costume to interfere. This was her chance of a lifetime.
Silently pulling away from the trailer, Ghost could see his little package on the doorstep from out of the car's rear window. He was well down the road when it went off.
The blast wasn't very large but the sound of it jolted the two apart. They looked into each other's eyes, neither wanting to hesitate, but feeling obliged, they stood up and went to the window.
The night sky was lit from the glowing orange flame that glowed from the far corner of April's trailer. Chance started to head toward the door.
"Stop! Don't go there!"
Instead she reached for her cell phone, and called Bob. A moment later, April pointed out the window to the fire truck that appeared on the horizon, its red lights flashing. Within minutes, squad cars led the media to the scene. All the while, she and Chance peeked from around closed curtains.
"Aren't you going to go see how your house is?"
She closed the curtain, replying only, "Everything I want is here . . ."
She returned to her lover, blocking out the flashes of red and blue that beat with the music. Turning up the stereo, they could muffle out the sirens as well.
"Don't worry about anything, Chance! Bob is taking care of everything. He's the head of the Fire Department and a dear friend. We're cool! He will stay all night, that's what he said."
"Are you sure everything is cool?"
"Whatever it is, it can wait . . ."
Free as a bird just like a feather in the wind. It is illusions . . .
April didn't worry about all her treasures which were jeopardized, or the clothes she might no longer have. She thought about asking him for his autograph however, just in case hers had been lost to the fire,
to start my collection over . . .
But rather than speak, she stroked his body tugging at the top of his pants. The elastic band gave easily, allowing her to run her fingers along the top while brushing his skin. His stomach tightened.
He tried to push her backward, onto couch but she resisted.
"I have something to give you first . . ."
April didn't pull away this time like he expected, but instead, she kissed him on the lips. He tried to pull her in again, and once more she released his grip. Her tongue dipped slightly between his lips before she dropped to his chest. Her cheeks felt the downy fur of his chest, course but soft. When her tongue found his nipple, her hand found the other and gently, she persuaded them erect.
"Stand up, Chance."
Her words were music to her ears, intoxicating yet bigger than life. This moment stopped time, and Chance. He rose up long enough for her to pull off his sweats. When he sat back down, she saw his lust for the first time.
He worried a little about what she thought about his personal parts, but from the way she acted, it didn't seem to matter. She refrained from talking dirty to him, half afraid that it might turn him off.
Her tongue traced over the ridges of his belly, first down one thigh, then up and over to travel down the other. She played all around, but never touched his cock. It grew even larger. With a flick of her tongue, she tasted him. Her mouth sent shivers down his legs. One gentle hand grasped it, then the other.
April lost herself as she concentrated on the moment, vaguely remembering how many time she pictured this moment. Her mouth watered, which she slid both palms through and down farther on his shaft. Her hands alternately gripped and released, rhythmically, as she let her tongue discover him.
Oh, my, my . . . she's, uh . . . so . . . she's so . . .
His blood pumped warmly in his veins, as the world around him faded into the gray haze of indifference to it. He tried not to orgasm, but she brought him right to edge right away. He felt her slow down, which was good because he couldn't speak to her. Her mouth pulled away, making him feel the cold air as a shock, but her hand replaced it. Now her tongue went down, wandering through the fur.
He felt himself become more aware for a moment, until she noticed it in his vibration. Once she knew he was back, she picked up where she left off. Now her mouth was hot. He melted slowly back into bliss as he sensed her hands, her fingers, her tongue. She did things that no woman had ever done to him before. Her timing was flawless. She brought him back up then again slowed him down. She wouldn't let him finish and it was making him crazy.
April was aware of her power over this situation and she sensed that she was making it too painful on him . . . too hard!
She let her hands grip slightly harder at times, now working them opposite of each other, which resulted in Chance's groan of pleasure. The sound penetrated her, taking her to the dream state while she sucked hungrily until she felt what was coming.
"Oh, my God! April . . ."
His eyes rolled back as he was propelled over the top of the roller coaster and the real ride began. He forced himself to open his eyes and look at his #2 fan. Her hair spilled wildly over his whole body, which her rubbed into his skin. He thought, "This is a Kodak moment!"
April relished every bit of the moment, eyes turned up to watch his face as she drained him of the poison. She loved his taste, his smell, his eyes. Never in her life had she wanted someone so much. And here he was . . .
She kept her face buried in his lap until every tremble quaked through him, wanting him to keep this moment forever. When she finally sat back up, she spoke,
"Can we talk?"
He laughed, "Yeah, for a few minutes anyway! Until Mr. Happy comes back. Then you are in trouble!"
"Yeah . . . so what did you want to talk about?"
"Want to smoke a joint?"
He smiled, "Thought you'd never ask!"
When she got up to get it, he stopped her. Instead he pointed to one of the bags piled on the floor.
"Hand me that one . . ."
She brought it back over, sitting next to him on the couch. He fumbled through the pockets until he produced a perfectly rolled joint from a silver cigarette case.
She took it, put it to her nose and smiled.
"You're right . . . we'll save mine for later!"
He lit it off the yellow candle, which he knew was her color. He hoped she picked up on it. From the look in her eye, she did. When she took it from him, it wasn't lit all the way around, so she leaned forward to get the light from the red one.
"Back at you . . ." erased any doubt he had.
They smoked in silence at first, listening to the music. Then he had to ask,
"So what did you want to tell me?"
"Tell you about what?"
"You know. Why am I here?"
"Because you're here . . . roll the bones," popped out, but when she had a chance to think, she realized that she didn't have an answer. All the crap that ran through her head flashed quickly by, but all she could say was, "I don't know."
He was disappointed with her answer.
"No, there's more to it than that! You and I have been through this for too long for you to give me an answer like, 'I don't know.' What is the deal?"
She stood up, offering him a drink. He argued that she was being too elusive suddenly, but shell shocked, April could only get the bottle of tequila. She poured two shots and brought them back with lime slices and salt. The bottle was tucked under her arm.
That's when he realized that she was still dressed.
She put her finger to her lips to silence him, while handing him one of the shot glasses to him. He held it still, watching her pick up the other. She held it out in a silent toast, before shooting it back. She gasped, following it with lime.
Chance didn't move, "I don't want a shot. I want an answer . . ."
She took the shot from him, nodded again and slammed it, too. Still without a word she filled both glasses again, and put his back in his hand. Hers sat on the tray.
After she could speak, April opened her mouth, pausing as if what she had to say was earth-shattering, monumental. She took a deep breath.
"Damn good tequila. You should have some!"
Under her breath, she muttered, "You're going to need it."
He took her advice, shooting his and hers back to back. He could tell she was at a loss of words, yet under the surface, the mysteries exploded behind her eyes. She had so much to say. But April knew it had to be right before she ever said a word. Tomorrow . . .
"Chance, I do have so much to tell you but it can't be said all at once. Do you understand? First off, we need to know each other a little better before I feel I can say what must be said. Secondly, when the time is right, you won't have to ask. It'll become apparent."
"If that's all you have to say, then I guess all I have to say is . . . okay, whatever."
She expected to see him pull away, but instead he moved closer. He tugged at her sheer veil, hinting that it should be removed.
"I'm in charge now!"
. . . and the one that comes after you is greater still.
April had to keep herself quiet, too much talk might ruin us. He made her undress, watching her from a slight distance. Once she was nude, his eye explored her curves. She fidgeted uneasily.
"Where's the bed in this place? Don't say a word, just lead the way."
She obediently turned, glancing back to make sure he was behind her. When she opened a door, she flipped on the light. Inside was a huge four poster bed draped with a sheer canopy, wrapped with vines and flowers. April had created this masterpiece just for this occasion, and she felt relieved that it hadn't all been wasted time. She waited for his next command.
"Nice work. Did you do all this?"
"Nice . . . Get on the bed. Don't move!'
When Chance returned from the living room with the tray, and the rest of the smoke, he smiled. She looked luscious in the glow of the candles she lit in his absence. His free hand caught the light. Her shadow towered overhead from the tiny flames behind her. As his eyes became accustomed to the darkness, he scanned the four posts around her with an idea.
"Where is a rope?"
Her womb contracted, as her hormones surged through her veins. She pointed to her mouth.
"You can say it."
"A rope for what?"
He motioned to the post nearest him. Her heart raced. She pointed to her mouth again. He nodded.
"I have a treasure chest of goodies for you, . . . sir. In the closet . . ."
The closet . . .
He backed up to the door, never taking his eyes off of her until he swung the door open wide. Inside was the chest. He smiled at her.
"Come get this . . ."
She jumped off the bed heading toward the closet.
"On your hands and knees!"
She complied willingly. When she crawled into the closet, he told her to pull the trunk out with her teeth.
" . . . if you can . . ."
I can do anything you want, Chance. I believe . . .
She paused in the middle of the floor when he told her. She pointed to her mouth. He shook his head,
"No more talking! Show me what you have for me . . ."
She began to lick her index finger, performing imitation fellatio on herself.
"That's good! But it's not what I meant and you know it!"
Her wet finger slipped out and pointed at the trunk. He nodded.
It wasn't locked so she opened its latches easily, anticipating what she knew to be inside. When she lifted the lid, Chance saw that inside she had toys and trinkets that would take all night to experience. The first item he grabbed was the riding crop.
"And what am I supposed to do with this?"
She smiled coyly, feeling her face blush. He slapped it on the floor, then on his hand. Then he tried his leg.
"Hmmm, . . . turn around!"
The girl spun around, sitting on her knees facing away from him. He lightly spanked her ass with the whip. She flinched slightly,
"Okay, what else?"
She reached into the trunk and removed an envelope. He took it, flipped it over a couple of times, and tried to put it in his pocket. He didn't have any pockets. He set it back in the trunk unopened.
"Look, I said we are beyond words now! You had your chance to say what you had to say and you blew it instead. Figuratively speaking . . . So, now we do things my way! Do you have a problem with that?"
She shook her head no.
"Okay. What else?"
April saw a pair of handcuffs, and almost didn't reach for them but when she handed them to Chance he smiled.
"You are getting warmer."
And she was. The next item she offered him were the satin cords. He took these trying to decide the best way to tie them, when he notice the wrist bands still in the trunk. He picked up one, tossed it on the floor in front of her.
"Put them all on!"
He watched fascinated as she tried to put them on with some difficulty. He finally helped her with her wrists, as she had no problem with the ankle ones. Now Chance dug freely though the container, removing all the things she put there. All of the items were new, still in the boxes. He hadn't this much stuff at one time since he was in a porn shop.
"I guess you know how to use this stuff?"
She didn't answer . . .
April shrugged. He pointed with the whip at the chain with clips on either end.
"Where does something like that go?"
She touched her left nipple. He bent over, sucked one until it stood up, then did the same a second time on the right.
"Show me . . ."
The woman winced as she fitted them.
"Does it hurt?"
"Is it bad?"
She shook her head to say no.
"Get up on the bed."
He foraged through the rest of it until he came to the blindfold and gag. Her eyes grew wider as if she wasn't expecting him to want these. He wouldn't have ever suggested it this quick but since she brought it up . . .
"Don't act like you don't know these were here. Come here!"
April moved to the edge of the bed, rattling the chain between her breasts. He put the blindfold over her eyes, tightly.
She nodded, adjusting it slightly. He had never used a gag before and wondered if she had.
"Have you ever been gagged?"
No . . .
"Do you have anything you need to say before I put this on you?"
She swallowed hard, carefully weighing each word.
"Chance, is it okay if I love you?"
He popped the ball into her mouth as he thought about her question. Strapping it behind her head, he looked at her, and her new twisted form. She appeared more grotesque now than she had as the rat. But this costume excited him . . .
Chance had no problem tying her to the bed. After he was sure that she wasn't going anywhere, he went to the kitchen to get a beer, and turn up the stereo. He peeked out the window. The lights still flashed but no one ever came toward this house.
Do they know? Do they not know?
He lit a cigarette and paused before going back to her. She on the other hand tried to hear what he was doing.
I sure hope he isn't leaving!
"So, April, would you like to make love first or talk? How about another shot? Oh, I forgot . . . cat's got your tongue."
He loosened the ties from the bed knobs, letting her sit up from the spread eagle position he had put her in. Chance poured her another shot, put it in her sightless hand. Undoing the gag, she stretched her jaw. He handed her a lime wedge. He spilled the salt onto his tongue to give her with a kiss. She shot the drink, sucked the lime, and handed the glass back with the wedge in it. He set it aside.
He couldn't take off her blindfold.
I can't look into her eyes . . .
Instead, he turned her over onto her stomach. Again, he bound her securely. Her skin glowed in the candlelight. From the trunk, he retrieve the tasty oils and the vibrator and batteries.
"Some assembly required, huh?"
She could hear him play with the motor, revving it a few times before he set it aside.
Where are you going now?
When he came back to the bedroom, she heard the CD he put on. This time he turned it way up.
The voice on the stereo came in a whisper. She tried to place the song but it wasn't one she had in her collection. He sat on the edge of the bed, stroking the back of her leg with the cool tip of the vibrator.
"Remember April, so long ago, the spring was in your eyes?
You were just a little girl, spreading letters, sending lies . . .
Something you said went straight to my head and I don't think I ever forget.
The day that we never met . . .
I tried to tell you not to go away,
but every time you called me, I had somewhere else to play.
You tried to warn me about the demons in my past,
I tried to downplay the history of the cast.
What were you going to say about the Eastern gate?
I may not be the last in line, so what if I'm late?
You've got to tell me the secrets of your soul . . .
Show me your doorway so I can see your goal.
Momentary magic was just another phase . . .
I'll be content with a better life spent living out the final days.
I tried to tell you, but I haven't said a word . . .
If you believe it, you'll see that it's absurd.
The magic of the moment is fleeting just the same,
so when it all is over, will you give up this nasty little game?
The music continued to play, and as it faded away, Chance sang a verse that wasn't on the CD. She listened carefully.
". . . so when will you tell the truth? This isn't your own scheme!
I know you always tried to tell me that it is just a dream .
But who can you talk to if you never say a word?
Did you think I wouldn't listen? You're all I ever heard!"
Her heart raced, but she couldn't speak. After the song faded, she heard him turn the vibrator on. It sounded just like the beginning of the nest song. He pressed it into her flesh, sliding it slowly over her legs and back, actually using the item as directed for the first time. His other hand massaged her inner thigh.
She took a deep breath.
The music grew more intense, filling her mind which focused on his hands. He prodded the recesses of her private parts, testing her reaction. Finally she couldn't hold back any longer and a moan escaped from deep within. He smiled.
"I didn't put any lyrics to this one . . . just like you told me once."
She felt the vibrating tip probe her closer than before. Flooding sensation pulsed inside, causing her to succumb to the waves of pleasure. His hands were skilled.
"You used to dwell on my back door, now it's my turn . . ."
He spilled the cool scented oil over her back, tasting it on her skin.
"Are you a virgin?"
The tip touched her ass, and her back arched. She couldn't say a word. He let the toy slide gently where it wanted to go. His slow pace made her want to scream for more, but gagged and bound, she waited.
The third song wasn't one he was ready to play yet for her, so he disappeared into the living room to change it and check the window once more. All was calm, as he noticed by the live footage going out over the airwaves from local coverage. No one was rushing around now.
When he heard the fourth song's intro, it jarred him back to the task at hand. Back on the bed next to his hostage, he contemplated taking her in that position, but he didn't want to hurt her. It would wait. He teased her body instead, knowing that every moment he lingered, the more she would enjoy the final wave.
This song was short, another first.
All it said:
Be careful what you wish for when you wish upon a star . . .
You might not be expecting what you are hoping for.
All you wishes can't come true . . . at least that's what I'm told,
so no matter what your visions say, nothing is foretold.
Chance loosened the ropes again, starting with her feet, only letting her turn over so he could re-tie the cords. This time, she was face up. Her removed the clamps from her nipples, noting how red they were, thinking,
I bet that hurts.
He sucked the soreness out of them. She moaned. Chance next removed the gag, letting her mouth readjust, before he kissed her. His tongue strolled directly to her sweet, wet cunt. He watched her face contort with desire. She looked beautiful when she came the first time. His fingers worked her flesh into passion. This is power . . .
She wanted him inside of her but forced herself to remain silent. He was in charge now. Tugging against the restraints, April remembered how helpless she was and the feeling made her orgasm again.
It's been so long, Chance. So long . . .
When he finally couldn't keep himself away from her, he lowered his strong body over her, aware that this was the first time their naked bodies ever touched. She arched into him, silently begging for him. He stopped.
Sliding aside, her reached for her wrists. Quickly, he released her hands and feet from the straps. Then he tugged the blindfold from her eyes. She wondered if he was through but before she could say a word, he looked directly into April's eyes.
"I want to watch your face, your eyes, and see what you really feel for me! You think you love me, huh? I want to see it . . ."
His legs forced hers apart once again as he mounted her trembling body. The look in Chance's eyes overwhelmed her, and emanating from him, she witnessed white radiance. A blue halo surrounded the light, with flashes of colors which danced before her very eyes. She couldn't even see his face any longer. All she beheld was Spirit. His Spirit.
When he entered her, she screamed uncontrollably words that he didn't understand, which she repeated until they fell together to make sense.
"Om, oh my, oh go . . . om . . . oh my God, Chance! I'm cumming!!!"
His eyes opened to watch her face. He didn't see a light, instead for a moment, her face faded into the shadows. Wide-eyed, the man watched her features obscure into the faces of women he had never seen before . . . but who were so familiar. Blinking, he saw her face once more.
When she finished riding wave after wave of ecstasy, her attention returned. He almost feared what he would see in her eyes, but he didn't look away this time. "Can I come inside of you?"
She didn't answer, knowing that he shouldn't . . . he had to . . . but no. Just as she tried to form the right answer, she felt peace flow though her soul. Her tongue remained silent. Her body screamed Yes!
He couldn't stop, and her waves spread though him until he knew what she felt. It felt right . . . for once . . . His desire for her spilled from him into the supple body of his young admirer.
This isn't happening . . .
Both thought at the same moment. Each waited for the dream to end, expecting to find themselves far away from this place, alone and hungry. But the room didn't fade. Around them swirled the glow that only April believed she could see.
"What is that?" Chance inquired, ready for anything by now.
"I don't know . . . but it's been here a lot lately."
It concentrated into a vivid orb, but only for a moment. Then it expanded to swallow them both, welcoming them into its ghostly embrace. When April yawned deeply, she didn't cover her mouth, like she was supposed to, and she felt the pressure in her throat as something slid down unimpeded. Choking slightly, she realized how exhausted she was and the strange sensation faded away. It sank into the pit of her stomach.
The man went back into the living room to get a couple of smokes and put on song #3. When he returned, she smiled at him sleepily, thanking him for the cigarette, which she only puffed at a few times before she was overcome with somnolence. She handed him back the lit ember of tobacco, which she tried to tell him was one of his herbs, but she could say no more than his name, which she whispered inaudibly as she drifted away.
"Sweet dreams. baby . . ."
He was slightly disappointed that she fell asleep so soon, but he didn't wake her. Once he realized that she was gone, he talked to her aloud,
"Okay, you can talk now. What was it you wanted to tell me? You never want to snuggle after sex . . . Are you through?"
He laughed aloud as her peaceful face made no response.
"Oh, yeah, by the way . . . I love you, too!"
She smiled, opening one eye, "Yeah, I bet you say that to all the girls!"
"Well, not all of them . . ."
April slipped away again, with an even bigger smile. He didn't say anything more. Instead he started song #3 over again, hoping that she would hear what he said, but assuming that she was really asleep this time. Her steady breathing changed, becoming deeper, more rhythmic.
In the other room, he re-lit the doobie and checked out the window. The lights were no longer flashing, but it was still busy with people milling about her yard. It was odd how she could sleep with that going on but maybe she had a point. He didn't want to see anyone, so why should she?
But that's her home . . .
The song began with the sound of a train pulling out of the station, which he had recorded himself and was so proud of. This whole CD was his first attempt at engineering his own music, so he felt it was rough around the edges.
And she is sleeping right through it.
"Hey April! Listen to this, if you are in there . . ."
He watched her from the doorway, knowing that she was oblivious to him and the song he played to the empty room around him. It was hard to keep from waking her up, making her look once more into his eyes. He tried to see a disembodied spirit like she claimed she could see at times . . . but there was nothing in the room. He felt unwatched for the first time in a long time.
Maybe she really is watching me!
Chance looked once more in the corners of the room, and all around, just to be sure. Nothing caught his attention except what #3 would have told her if she hadn't gone away.
The Next Step
by Chance Lee
For you know who!
Speak to me when I say "hello!'
Tell me what you want me to know . . .
(What do you know?)
Do you even know?
We met so long ago . . .
and faraway . . .
The next step is not necessarily so!
But here you are, you little witch,
I'm caught within your spell.
Do you have the keys to Heaven?
Or are you the keeper of the gates of Hell?
Where do I know you from?
I seem to recall your face
but where . . .
Where are you now?
I heard you ask. Never lifting up your mask.
Never telling of your task . . .
and yet you want to tell me how . . .
You know . . . or so you say . . .
You say you know what is good for me . . . so what more can I say?
Well, what have you got to say to me?
I bet you don't even know?
The next step isn't necessarily so . . .
He left her a note telling her to play #3 if she woke before him. As an after thought, he added a post script asking her not to leave him alone.
Both slept without dreaming, which was unusual.
When she finally stirred the next day, April expected to be alone, all of the day's events fading away with the awakening. Her heart deflated at the thought until she heard him sigh in his sleep. The smile returned to her sleepy face.
Rolling over, she touched him lightly, as if expecting him to be a mirage. When he didn't ebb away, she said another prayer of silent thanks, which seemed to happen more and more these days. His cool skin felt like velvet beneath her hand.
Don't you dare wake him up!
She had to leave the room to keep from falling into the temptation. Coffee called, and after she made a pot, April spied the note left on the coffee table. She picked it up but glanced out the window before she read it. A crowd still appeared concerned with her fire. April turned on the radio.
I wonder how bad it is?
It was odd that she wasn't concerned. Natasha was safe at Mom's and there wasn't one thing in there that she would have traded for what she had in here. She found the pair of binoculars in her bag and attempted to view the damage. The only thing she could see from this angle was the faces of the people in the yard. "I'll bet if you turn on the telly, you'll see what is happening"'
April practically jumped out of her skin.
"Oh! Good morning, Chance! Did I wake you?"
"Yeah, but that's okay."
He pulled back the curtain, to catch a glimpse of the mess.
"Aren't you worried about your house?"
"Well . . . yeah, of course. But when the dragon is chasing you, a little fire is to be expected, right?"
April tried to play it down but the look in his eye told her that she had said the wrong thing. Just then a song came on the air, which caught her attention but not his:
. . . Down in a hole, losing my soul . . . I'd like to fly
but my wings have so been denied . . .
April wanted to wake up gently, and that little topic wouldn't exactly make light conversation.
. . . they don't understand who I was supposed to be . . .
(Alice in Chains said)
"Honey, can't we just have a few minutes before we talk?"
"Okay, get a rope!"
She remember that night before with a smile. Eventually, she would have to tell him something but what? How could she even begin?
Quickly, she brushed her teeth, and when she started the shower, she almost changed her mind. His smell was on her still, intoxicating, and she hated to wash it off. Maybe, she could make love to him again . . . after the shower.
"Wash your back?"
Behind her, Chance stood in the doorway, nude and wonderful. She dropped her robe. They kissed. Water drops ran off them as they continued to make love. The morning sun streamed through the windows when they fell back into bed. April wrapped her legs around him, wanting to hold him inside forever.
The radio played in the other room, a local band King's X::
. . . the Mystery said 'Come and see!' - the World around me!
April tightened her grip on him as he plunged into her even deeper.
. . . I can't resist. I couldn't see how this could be an accident . . .
. . . I want to see more . . .
The lovers spun over, putting her on the top. All she could see was him. How could she explain anything? She was just a girl. And he was something else!
The phone started ringing just as soon as she switched it on, not sure she was ready to listen to the answering machine messages that came in overnight. Neither was ready to break the spell. The morning had to last just a little longer. April kept waiting to wake up, expecting to find herself alone in her bedroom, but the world around her never faded into the blue. She kept anticipating, pinching herself. Her feet touched the floor, but maybe that too could happen in a dream.
"My head is spinning."
They sat across from each other at the breakfast table, each nursing a cup of coffee. He placed his hand on hers.
"Yeah, I'm just a little nervous . . ."
She shrugged, assuming he would know why.
"Did you really do all this for me?"
April felt her cheeks get warm, and with a wicked little smile and a nod, she put herself back in place. This was her world!
I can't sit here and dread the dream. I have got to get my shit together or I will be lost! Jesus, Chance, you look so good sitting there across the table from me. Where have you been?
"Hey, Chance, guess what? I feel much better now! I just have one question? That's a lie! I have a million of them but just one for now. Is this a dream?"
April laughed as she went to get ready for the day. She returned some calls, being careful to use the cellular phone. The radio was too loud but she liked the song and wouldn't turn it down. Metallic made her say to herself, Fuck 'em!
. . . I wish I may, I wish I might have this wish I wish tonight,
I want that star! I want it now! I want it all
and I don't care how!
Careful what you wish! Careful what you say!
Careful what you wish you may regret it
Careful what you wish you just might get it!
It was definitely battlefield music, which she hoped Chance liked since she cranked it up in between calls. He seemed more concerned with the idea of going through Tara's bag. Although he hadn't touched them, it made him wonder what was in them. Maybe more letters. Maybe drugs.
"I don't know why I can't open these things, especially after what she did."
"Do what thou wilt . . ."
"Hey, baby, I'd like to give you a card reading sometime, if you'd like one, that is."
Chance saw her face drain of all its color.
"I don't know. I just feel strange."
What she wanted to tell him was that after today, after the concert Charity Ball, he wouldn't be here maybe. Where do we go from here? Are you going to leave me again? How can I tell you about the dragon? Or the east. What about Tara? I know she won't be going away that easy.
"What about Tara?" Chance asked, noticing that April was looking weak again.
"Tara? How am I going to tell her?"
April looked at him sideways, "Tell her what?"
"You know. . . about us. Do you think she knows?"
"She's in jail, no bail . . . yeah, I think she knows!"
"Maybe she's not! Somebody had to set that fire."
"Hang on . . ." A quick call proved that she was still incarcerated.
"You know you're going to have to let her out sometime!"
"Look, I know! Do you want to call them and tell them to let her go?"
Chance said nothing.
"I'm sorry . . . I'm just having a bad moment . . . it's just too much . . . oh, God . . . I can't even talk or think or anything. Give me a minute!"
He got dressed silently. April started feeling him slip away, making her feel desperate for no reason. This is my world!
"Okay, I'm better . . . Sorry about that! I just a panic attack and just the idea of how mad Tara is going to be at us . . . what's she like anyway? Is she dangerous? I mean, I don't really even know her . . . but she told me some really bad shit that happened to her as a kid . . ."
"That story? Her parents made a movie once and for some reason, she thinks it actually happened to her . . . she hasn't told me anything but other people have told me stuff. Who knows?"
"Look, I know she's your friend so if you want we can go right now and get her out. I've got it all set up any way that you want to play it."
He pulled over to the couch, making her sit next to him very close with his right arm around her shoulders. The closeness felt good, making them both calmer as they began to talk for the first time.
She reminded him of the video, which she had brought home.
"It's on the counter over there, and if it is used, she will be charged for what they confiscated in the bust. Or, we can let her go now! Or, we can detain her until tomorrow and release her without any charges. That was my choice, but whatever you want."
The cell phone rang, which meant good news for April, he could see. He watched her move around the room as she talked, as she packed their costumes into two huge bags. She set them by the door, where his and Tara's cases still sat.
"What do you want to do with your stuff, Chance?"
He loved it when she spoke his name, "I don't know?"
April didn't want to ask when or where or anything that might not have the answer she wanted to hear. Chance, just stay another day. This is my day today.
He shrugged, "I guess leave them here."
"Great! The truck will be here any minute."
As they pulled away in the back of the truck, they tried to imagine the damage, but were blind to it from the truck's walls. Neither spoke as images of the reporters and officials were conjured in their minds. April twitched an involuntary shrug, that she hoped hadn't shown. He looked at her, trying to feel what she felt. She was cooler than he would have been.
"Why didn't we take the limo?"
"Because I don't want to be seen. If that whatever hadn't happened to the trailer, I wouldn't have whoever in my yard looking for me."
"I guess they are looking for you . . ."
"Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you! Well, they say . . . what they tell me . . . So, what I understand is that someone put a pipe bomb on my porch."
"Pipe bomb . . . I know, that's way fucked up . . . but that's what happens when people know who you are. I mean, there are some fucked up people . . ."
Chance rubbed his temples, not really sure he was enjoying this anymore. Maybe he should page that driver. Or maybe not . . . Maybe everyone was just a little fucked up. His eyes looked up at her. Maybe . . .
"Don't look at me like that!"
He looked away.
"No, seriously . . . I'm not the one you have to worry about. I know you don't know me, hell for all you know . . ." she stopped short, not wanting to put any more bad ideas into the air. "Do you know how to say 'fuck you' in LA?"
"Trust me, huh?"
"If you notice, I never say that . . . all I know is that I put together this event and so far I have had the best time in my life . . . ever . . . and I have had some really good times! I don't want you to get spooked and run but if you want to go, we'll go back and get your stuff. You can be on the next flight out . . ."
She waited for his response, as they bounced around in the back of the truck as it made a turn. After a moment, she switched on the radio,
"Bob, stop the truck, please."
Chance felt the truck slow down, pulling into a driveway it sounded like. He felt claustrophobic suddenly. April opened the back door and the sun light greeted his eyes. She hopped out, meeting Bob who was already around back. She put on her shades, scanning the parking lot.
"How far are we from there? Steve . . . are you there?"
The voice on the radio came back, "Where are you?"
"We are around the corner, here, Bob, talk to him please . . ."
April climbed back into the truck where Chance sat speechless. She sat on the floor of the truck in between his legs. She hugged him briefly, then looked up at his face hoping to recapture that magic. This wasn't going well.
"Lee, honey, I know this isn't working out for you, I guess. When the limo gets here, why don't you let him take you wherever you want to go, if you want to get your stuff, and hers . . . you can go alone, or I can send someone or you can have this truck. If you want me to go, or not . . . whatever . . ."
He still sat motionless, looking up and out of the truck, seeing some distant image in the back of his mind.
"Yeah, I gotta go . . ."
The blow left April devastated, but she tried not to let it show. That's rock & roll! . . . my world! Fucking leave, then . . . Oh, God, don't leave . . .
"Okay . . . just tell me what I can do to help you. Look, I'm sorry if I've hurt you, or your girlfriend, but you know I didn't have anything to do with that thing at my house, and I'm sorry for whatever happens between you and her . . . look, here's the key to that house. I'm going to take your, uh . . . your costume to the place and . . . uh, well, I don't know. I'll figure something out . . ."
He had forgotten all about the Charity Ball. But it didn't change how he wanted to run. The girl before him was close to tears but she tried to brush it off, and wasn't going to have much luck keeping them back for long. She seemed so small, and foreign to him. It was as if the night before was just a dream, and here in the daylight, she was just another groupie.
"Well, . . . Chance, I have a show to put on . . . the car is here . . ."
"No, you take the car . . . you have a show to put on . . . in style! I'll take the truck back to your house, or my house or whatever, and . . . I don't know. I just need some time to think."
"Sure . . . well, at least, I had . . . I mean, thanks for coming . . .uh . . ."
He smiled at her, the night before came to mind. Chance almost reached out for her but she turned and jumped out of the truck. She opened the car door, reached for the costumes which were just far enough out of her grasp that she had to motion for help from him. He stood up, carrying them with him as he stepped to the pavement. Putting them in the back seat made him think about the car at the house.
"Hey, since I'm going back to the house, what about that car out there?"
"Here's the keys if you want to use it."
"Yeah, okay . . ." he mumbled. He fidgeted, watching as she dug them out her purse, and as she put them in his hand, they touched. She felt a chill.
"Hey, Chance, one more thing . . ."
A kiss . . .
"Well, then, um . . . can I ask for one more thing?"
Her heart fluttered, "Sure!"
"Can I borrow your sunglasses?"
April took them from her face, handing them to him as she got in the car. The driver shut her door, and off they went.
Chance watched the roads carefully, trying to memorize where he was. All the roads looked the same, fields and cows, no road signs on many of the streets. Maybe he would page that driver after all.
The sunglasses disguised him from the prying eyes.
"Would you look at that?!"
The driver had already seen it, but for Chance it was his first glimpse of the damage. The gaping hole where the front porch once stood was charred, with pieces of metal that hung down like teeth in a skeleton's mouth. It was obvious that if she had been home, she would have been dead.
"If you hadn't shown up, she probably would been home last night, you know? You're a hero!"
"Huh? . . . yeah . . ."
Chance didn't recognize where he was until he saw the throng of media, that swarmed the road ahead. The truck turned to the left, way before they reached the edge of the thong. Bumping over the rough surface of the unpaved driveway, a White Zombie song came to his mind.
. . . yeah, I am the one. King of the world and the Devil's son . . .
. . . run baby run baby run away run baby run
escape LA . . .
April took out the wine which she had specially ordered for this ride into the city. The car was fully stocked, and empty. Her bottom lip quivered, as she gripped the bottle white-knuckled trying to hold back. She acted like it was baseball bat, pretending she was Keith Moon. But instead of pulling a Pink, she opened the bottle and blew off the glass, instead sucking it greedily from the bottle.
She started to make a phone call, but put the phone back down. By the time she got to the show, she was feeling very Pink . . . and blue.
The security around the show tripled. She noticed the men in black and tried to cap the wine, but not before she chugged a bit more.
I have a feeling that I'm going to need it.
Backstage, she ran into the sheriff and a few other men in sunglasses.
Chance asked the driver to wait, because he wasn't sure what he was going to do. From his wallet, he tipped him $100 just to get him to watch TV for a while, which wasn't any better since all the major networks were covering the story. Live remotes in the yard . . . great!
Shit, even I never had that many in my yard at one time . . . Girl, you sure know how to get attention! But what the hell are you up to?
He walked from room to room, pacing as he thought. Then he saw the trunk. Inside of it was the letter that she has wanted him to read. He opened it.
It was a card reading::
If you are reading this then I guess we have become friends.
I can't even imagine! So, here is a card reading that I did for you the other night. If you are reading this, then lean over here and give me a kiss . . .
Chance looked around at the empty room, and at the guy watching TV.
So, here it is as the cards fell. Maybe one of these days I can give you a card reading face to face. What are you doing right now?
Anyway, I used my Alice in Wonderland deck:
#1 - Current position -
The Tower - This card depicts two events. The first is Alice grabbing at air and the Rabbit falling into the cucumberframe (a small greenhouse) as a result. The second event is Bill falling after Alice has kicked him out of the chimney. Both creatures are extremely ruffled by the unexpected turn of events. The White Rabbit thought that Alice was Mary Ann, his maid, and therefore felt he could order her about. Alice got her revenge when she grew to mammoth proportions, and the Rabbit was forced to change his position in the world after giant Alice made a shambles of his house.
Divinatory meanings: Rapid change. Failure of events to go as expected. Beliefs don't live up to their promises. Anything unforeseen, with a negative implication. Good friends turned bad. Loss of money, security or love. Setbacks, disasters, insanity, disruption. The end of grace.
#2 - What crosses the present position (what holds you back or pulls you forward - it crosses you) -
The Queen of Peppermills (the Queen of Clubs - usually a Leo, Aries, or Sagittarius - The Red Queen, "Off with their Heads!")
D. meaning: An honest and homey woman, able to cure ills of the mind. A dark woman who is very secretive. Sincere and charming. Capable of love and affection.
Reverse meaning: Jealous and overly emotional. Unstable and fickle liar of a mean stripe. Opposition. (the Red Queen is on her head, go ask Alice . . .)
#3 - Goal or Destiny - The best that can be accomplished. 10 of Flamingos (10 of Spades) Reversed * - A Victory won at excessive cost. A moment of Power.
#4 - Distant past - Influences which existed in the past and upon which the present events are based. -
9 of Flamingos (9 of Spades) Reversed * - Suspicion of a close friend. Imprisonment and intrigue. Gossip, shame and timidity. A reasonable fear.
#5 - Recent past - The most recent sphere of influence or events that has just passed or is just passing.
Knight of Hats (Jack of Hearts) Reversed * - (First off, right side up it means this - A message. Arrival. Moving up or forward. Requests or challenges. Attraction for a place or person. A gift, opportunity or invitation. A proposition. but this card came upside down just like the White Knight of the Book)
Reversed meaning: Artifice. Fraud. The bearing of false news.
#6 - What's next - (self-explanatory) -
IV The Emperor Reversed * - (Aries) The Cheshire Cat is not really a cat, but can appear as one through his strange powers of teleportation. He is pictured sitting in a tree, grinning. Contrary, to general belief, he is brown and black, not orange. Originally seen in the house of the Duchess, he pops up now and then to give Alice advice. His is the wisdom, the floating conscience, in Wonderland. It is assumed that Alice is not the only person to benefit from his insight.
(The meaning right side up is - The Emperor is higher than the kings, more worldly wise and confident, a symbol of stability and leadership, as well as of a male family member. Logic above emotion. A giver of aid and comfort. Sometimes, an overly dominant person) but this is reversed.
Reversed: A benevolent man, but immature and ineffective. Given to petty emotional outbursts, and extremely retentive of gains. Confusing to those who don't know him.
#7 - The Questioner's (you) present position or attitude - VIII Strength Reversed * - (this major arcana card is a Leo) The Lion and the Unicorn are engaged in mock combat. The Lion wears glasses. The unicorn appears to be winning, but the animals are actually equally matched. They each must do what must be done for the sake of their own prestige.
(right side up it is - Control of a situation. Bravery, unwavering attention to a quest, elan, ability to overcome temptation, physical strength. Mind over matter; matter over mind. A herculean effort for a personal end or for the sake of the world at large. But this was reversed * )
Reversed: Inability due to weakness of body or soul. Sickness. Drive for empirical knowledge at the expense of others. Indifference to others' thoughts and feelings.
#8 - Environmental factors - Your influence on other people and their influence on you.
Four of Peppermills Reversed * - (right side up - The best of home and hearth. The warding off of evils. Romance or unexpected happiness. Prosperity, peace and tranquility. The achievement of a dream that leads to wealth and/or happiness. Country life. A rest after a struggle, but this on is upside down, too) Reversed: A false sense of security. Uneasiness, even in the face of full security. Never sure of what one has. Ruthlessly holding onto possessions. Happiness diluted by subconscious inhibitions.
#9 - Inner emotions - hopes, desires and anxieties -
Knight of Flamingos (Jack of Spades) - Rushing without fear into the unknown. Bloodlust. This card magnifies other cards dealing with death. With cards of wisdom, indicates foolishness. War, opposition, heroism.
#10 - Final result - Culmination of all influences -
Two of Hats (two of hearts) - The relations between males and females. Discord, with unity and happiness to follow. Cooperation. Marriage or engagement. A mutual understanding of divergent opinions. New friend or relationship.
#11 - Due to - (you know I always do that extra card) - Queen of Oysters (a Taurus, Virgo or Capricorn) - well, she is the Queen of Diamonds, what else can you say about her?
So, I guess this reading may or may not be right. We'll have to see, huh?
Chance Lee shook his head with a look of disbelief. He sat staring at the pages in his hands, wondering how she could have seen this coming and yet . . . It crossed his mind that perhaps she created all of this intentionally, but then he remembered the trailer.
Tara is a Leo.
He jumped up when he thought of her, looking at her luggage. Grabbing the first bag, he emptied its contents onto the bedspread. Tara's clothes, a wild of assortment of lingerie, tumbled out. He poked through the pile, when he noticed a tiny silk purse. If he hadn't been looking, he would have never seen it. Inside, he pulled out a picture of a girl that seemed familiar, but he couldn't quite place her face.
Then he unearthed the necklace.
At first, April tried to avoid the questions being fired at her from the men who invaded her trailer.
"Look, I'm not trying to avoid your questions," she replied unconvincingly. "It's a busy day and I've got a lot on my mind."
"So, you haven't had any threats? No unusual people?"
The man who spoke was young, clean cut federal agent who stood rigidly before her in a military stance, never removing his shades. The others with him moved through the trailer, searching at will.
"Look around, dude! There are thousands of unusual people here."
The door opened, as another agent entered, "Sir, we have word from the President. He heard about the trouble and has declined to participate in today's events."
April should have been disappointed but she really didn't care anymore. Then she remembered him. What if he was in danger? She spilled her guts about everything. April told them about Tara, where she was and why. She told them about the house, which she called as they watched her dial first her phone number, which was still being forwarded but since there was no telephone at her house, or a house for that matter, she dialed her hiding place.
Chance didn't answer the phone, but turned the volume up just enough where he could hear.
"Chance! Chance, pick up the phone . . . it's me, April. Hello? Chance?"
A moment later, she hung up. Then she tried to reach him over the radio, which he heard faintly from the other room. Swinging the door wide, he blurted,
"I'm not here!!"
"Yeah . . . this is Bob."
Chance danced around, motioning that Bob should tell her that he was gone.
In the limo . . . I'm gone in the limo.
Bob wasn't the kind of man to let a little freaky musician make him do anything. He took his finger off the button, long enough to listen to her, and to give Chance a look. The old biker was not likely to budge. Chance gave him another hundred dollar bill.
"Nope . . . the boy's gone."
"Oh, shit! Bob, I've got to find him . . . "
The driver watched as Chance shoveled clothes into the bags, grabbed the luggage, tossing it onto the ground next to the covered car. He wore the sunglasses and a baseball cap, ducking behind the cloaked car. He had trouble getting the door open, and finally took the cover off the near side of the vehicle, hoping to obscure himself from the press. Then he saw a helicopter appear in the sky and begin to circle.
Chance jumped backward onto the house, leaving the car door open, the luggage on the ground. He remembered what it felt like to be watched. He still hated the feeling. Except on stage . . .
"No, April, I don't know where your little friend is going . . . What do you want with a pussy like him, anyway? You need a real man! Like me!"
Chance stopped, turning to look at Bob who still sat back on the couch, rubbing his scruffy beard. He was too big to argue with on that point. Chance faked a smile, which faded to a sneer.
"Bob, honey, if you hear anything, please let me know!!"
"Yeah . . . okay . . . so what do you say, you know, about you and me? You ain't got no one, do you? I got two hundred dollars in my pocket, why don't we get together later?"
"Uh, Bob, . . . You know I've got a date . . . well, I had a date anyway! Besides, I've got a bunch of suits standing right here and if I'm not mistaken, they may be looking for you, too! So, why don't you take the rest of the day off . . . take your wife out for a change."
"I'll take you both out! It'll be like old times!"
Chance raised an eyebrow, waiting for the static response.
"Bob! We've never had any old times!"
"We'll make some . . ."
After Bob ended, Chance had to say something, but what? 'Thanks' didn't really seem appropriate, but forced to speak, he muttered,
"Well, at least you didn't rat me out . . . Pussy, huh?"
"Yeah . . . pussy!"
He looked out the window again, wondering how he was going to get the bags into the car, and,
"How am I going to get the car out of here?"
Bob, stood up and stretched, clicking the television off with the remote.
"Well, son, that's your problem!"
"Hey, how much for the truck?"
"You want to buy my truck?"
Chance looked out the window, trying to locate the helicopter.
"No, I guess not but can I rent it? Or pay you to drive me?"
"No! You are on your own now, in fact as soon as you go, I'm calling her back and telling her how much of a pussy you really are!"
Chance coughed, looking at the guy, "What . . ."
"You just better get on out of town."
"You don't get it, do you?"
Chance went to the fridge to get a beer, not offering one to the asshole driver in the other room. His mind raced with all his options, but once he pulled that tarp off that car, the world would know.
"Look, Bob, thanks for your help and everything . . . but I think I'm going to hang out a bit and get my head together . . . you can go ahead and go."
Bob jingled the truck keys.
"No, son, I'm afraid not!"
April paced as she pulled out the costumes, trying to hang them unsuccessfully in a closet. She continued to tell them men what was going on, when a voice on one of the men's radios came back.
"She's right, we just talked to Majestic PD and they have the subject in possession. Tara . . ."
"Mater . . ."
"Yeah, that's her . . . "
"They say they are going to release her into our custody . . . Over."
The woman stared astonished at the men in her office. In an instant, all of her efforts were destroyed. All bets were off.
"What I'm saying, kid, is that you ain't hanging out here!"
"This is my house!"
April begged for them to keep Tara away from the Charity Ball, but no one would disclose anything. She regretted ever saying a word.
This world was no longer hers.
Chance walked upright out into the sunlight, not caring who saw him now. He finished putting the bags in the car, and yanked the tarp off the car. He didn't feel anger, even muttered a thanks before he drove away. The white stretch limo crept over the bumpy road just quick enough to stir up some dust, but it went unnoticed . . . or so he thought.
The Dragon saw him ride quietly away from the house, sent with him the fear of a lifetime of betrayal, fear of everyone. It was his only weapon, at the moment. All he could do to affect the super star, the scared young musician running for his life, was plant the seed. Chance couldn't see the whole picture yet, and if the serpent had its way, he never would. It shimmered into the back seat of the car.
"What the hell is that?"
When Chance looked in the rear view mirror he saw its eyes, but over his shoulder, it was gone. He rubbed his eyes, checking the rear view mirror again. Hello, again, son . . .
Chance slammed on the breaks, sending up a cloud of dust. He jumped out of the car in the middle of the deserted street, backing away from the automobile. He looked around to see if anyone was nearby, or coming. No one. The gravel crunched under his boots, fanned as he kicked chunks of it aimlessly. He looked up at the big, big sky.
"God? I don't know what you have in mind . . . or in my car, but think, maybe, you could, you know . . . help me straighten this stuff out."
He walked first one way past the car, then the other. When he looked up again, he saw a rainbow over the horizon that he hadn't noticed earlier. Staring at it for a moment, he muttered under his breath,
"Yeah . . . promises, promises . . ."
At the concert hall, people were meandering about - some costumed, others dressed in three-piece. No one was having much fun. Televisions were tuned to the news, which attracted groups of people to the monitors to watch the live broadcasts. April finally went over to one group where everyone split apart to let her in to see the screen. She didn't recognize her trailer, at first.
"Wow! That's pretty bad, huh?"
The crew didn't know what to say, how to comfort her. No one spoke. She stood there ashamed of the way her heart ached. It wasn't for the house, either.
Chance opened the back door of the car, jumping back, ready for the demon of all horror movies to jump out. Nothing. Feeling foolish for feeling foolish, he got back into the car. . . . things that go bump in the day.
He put the still running car into gear, checking the mirror one more time.
I'm still here, Chance . . .
Back out of the car, the man retreated once again. This time he opened the car, yelling,
"Come on! I'm not afraid of you!"
But it wasn't true. Fear was the Dragon's tool, and he wielded it like a sword.
Don't lie to me, Chance! Get in the car . . .
After she had seen enough, April went back to her trailer. The men had gone their own way, leaving her exhausted from the interrogation. So many questions, so few answers. They didn't seem to understand her priorities, so when she seemed unconcerned with the details of the blast, they chalked it up to either shock, or something suspicious.
They just don't get it . . . I wish I never started any of this.
She felt stupid, all this and she didn't even care. Anyone else would have been ecstatic being backstage at The Charity Ball. It was her baby, and she didn't even want to attend it.
The costumes had fallen to the floor. April picked them both up, taking them to the couch. She put them sitting up side by side on the couch, and stepped back. Leaning forward, she put the hands together. Then she opened the little pocket of the Rabbit disguise, removing the puzzle piece. Then she opened the one on her attire, retrieving hers. She held one in each hand.
Flipping them over, again and again, she searched for answers.
Absently, she put the two together, where they fit precisely.
Chance finally got in the car, tired of playing this game. When he looked in the back seat, nothing. In the mirror, he saw the Dragon. He rode they entire way with it over his shoulder. In the mirror.
A knock on the door scared the hell out of April. She jumped up, scrambling around as if she was busted. She shoved the two pieces into her front pocket, and as she went the door, she noticed the costumes. Impulsively, she heaped them together, so that they were no longer holding hands.
It didn't make much sense for Tara, when she was woken up the next day and released with no charges pending. No phone call was ever placed, nor were any pictures or paperwork done. The men to whom she was handed over seemed tight-lipped but vaguely familiar.
She was surprised when they took her past the Majestic Colosseum, but didn't turn in to the parking lot. She watched as the crowds of concert-goers were getting out of their cars, wandering toward the theater.
"What are we going to do with her, Gabriel?"
April opened the door flustered, flushed, and there stood The Mad Hatter himself. Only he wasn't in costume. She had forgotten to talk to him the day before, which would have been risky. She had already tempted fate by sitting her self next to him, but with Chance on the other side, she had managed to keep preoccupied. Putting the White Queen on his other side, kept Chance's attention, as well.
The man walked into her trailer, without being invited. She looked outside to see who noticed him. No one seemed to care.
"Jeez, dude! Think you could have made it any more obvious?"
He was already sitting on the couch, checking out the costumes with some interest. She locked the door behind him and offered him a drink.
"By the way, I guess you know I'm April!"
"No need for introductions now . . . I think we're past that, aren't we?"
Chance drove around in circles trying to find his way back to Majestic. Or the airport, or whatever. Maybe a bar. He spotted a building with some cars around it. When he pulled in he realized that the limo stood out in the company of the pick up trucks. He didn't care any more. The eyes in the mirror were too much for him to take any longer, sober anyway.
When he walked into Big T's, suddenly he found himself surrounded by a roomful of Bobs. He nodded, as they tried to place his face. He ordered two shots, and asked for a telephone.
"It's in the john . . ."
Two shots later he found himself in the bathroom, face to face with mirror. His reflection was out of focus. He found the card with the other driver's number on it, but hesitated putting it back in his wallet. In the phone book, he looked up the number of the arena but couldn't find it either since the page had been ripped out of the book. He decided to call information. Picking up the phone, he started to press the buttons but there was no dial tone.
Frustrated he hung the phone up, and started to leave the bathroom but came face to face with a poster on the back of the door.
The Mad Hatter
Tea Party and Charity Ball
March 24 & 25
Chance looked at the picture of the Mad Hatter, and Alice, but the White Rabbit seemed to catch his eye the most. He had to look a little harder for the Dormouse. It didn't seem to be there. Then he saw it, asleep in the pocket of the White Rabbit. It figures . . .
Then he noticed the map. So he pulled it off the wall. He folded it gently and stashed it in his pocket. When he walked out, he asked the bartender,
"Which way to Majestic?"
"You're in Majestic."
"No, I mean which way to town?"
"Depends on where you're going."
Chance gave up. Outside he tried to gauge east, west, by the sun but since it was lunchtime, he had to figure something else out.
The map . . .
He started to get in the car, but he remembered his passenger and thought twice.
Unfolding the poster on the hood of the car, Chance noticed the building behind him, Big T's. From there he was able to find the concert hall. Then he noticed the tiny airplane. He now had the directions to the airport.
"So, where are you taking me, fellows? "
The men sat on either side of Tara, ordering double Scotches for her, drinking sodas themselves.
The airport bar was crowded this time of day. People were looking at Tara suspiciously, for the more she drank, the louder she became.
"We're taking you back to Los Angeles."
April straightened the costumes nervously, sitting on the edge of the couch. She felt so tiny compared to him, as all those old insecurities returned. Her thoughts turned to Chance, and she almost burst into tears.
"So, where is he?"
She had to tell him she didn't know.
Chance slowed the limo slightly as he passed in front of the auditorium complex, where he saw balloons and bubbles, crowds in costume. Each face seemed twisted, trying to peer into the back of the car. When he looked up into the rear view mirror he had forgotten that he had yanked it down and now it sat in the seat next to him. Just for kicks he picked it up, checking the back seat one more time.
I'm right behind you . . . Chance!
Still the back seat was empty.
April watched the man as he stood up to leave.
"Well, good luck. It's your turn now! Just between us, he's your answer."
"If you say so . . ."
She walked him to the door, "Hey, if, uh . . . something changes, we'll be in touch, right?"
"Yeah, sure . . ."
At the terminal, Chance chose the long term parking lot, and managed to drive it in without wrecking the huge vehicle. He tried to get a cart, wrestling it away from the rest. He loaded all the bags onto it, locking the door with the key ring. He figured he'd mail them back. Right now it was just time to go.
It was his lot to run. Why not?
. . . run, rabbit, run . . . dig a hole, forget the sun,
when at last the work is done . . .
don't sit down it's time to dig another one.
Inside, the cool sterile hallways led to the open area, where travelers of all shapes and sizes strode in directions unknown. He started to head toward the ticket counter, but froze in his tracks when he heard her voice. Poking his head around the corner, he saw Tara.
Beautiful, stunning Tara . . . alone in a booth at the airport lounge. When he approached her, he watched her lean over to look at something,
"Is it that time already?"
She looked up at Chance, squarely in the eye,
"Oh good, you brought my bags."
He stared in disbelief as she stood up, came over to him and gave him wink. She slipped him a twenty dollar bill, and said,
"Okay, I'm ready."
She brushed past him, leaving him paralyzed in amazement. Fascinated, he followed her to the ticket booth, where she showed the attendant her ticket, and checked her bags. Winking good-bye to Chance, she moved toward the security check point.
She breezed through, only having her purse to x-ray.
Chance got left behind, as they scanned each bag. He watched her continue ahead of him, chatting endlessly. Once cleared, he practically ran to catch up. She stopped at Gate #6. The woman at the door to the terminal checked her boarding pass. He was panting when he called out,
She turned around to see who called her name.
"Uh . . . Hi? Thanks for helping me with my bags. I have to go now, bye!"
As she turned away, he could hear her voice echo as she walked down the path,
" . . . what's the deal with him? I did tip him, didn't I? So, what are you guys going to do when you get there? I've got a great little pad at the beach . . . but we'll have to be careful not to let my boyfriend catch us."
April walked around backstage, still in her street clothes. Her eyes were wet with tears that she fought to keep back. She still laughed and chatted but she couldn't keep them from watering. It must have been her house, they deduced.
Chance stood in shock, staring open mouthed at the empty tunnel.
"Sir, may I help you?" the woman at the doorway queried.
"Sir, may we help you with your luggage?" Chance spun around, beholding two men in suits and sunglasses behind him.
The woman asked again, "May I help you, sir?"
Chance looked back and forth between her and the two men, trying to decide who to answer first.
"Sir? Are you with the passenger that just boarded?"
"Uh, no . . . I mean yes. No!"
He looked again at the two men, one of whom looked at his watch,
"It is Time, Chance . . . "
The woman at the door shook her head with a laugh as she watched Chance walk away, talking to himself just like the last passenger on the flight to LA. People are strange . . .
It was getting close to show time, so April went back to her trailer to get dressed. She put the two puzzles pieces, still connected, into the tiny pocket of her attire. The other costume, she took to the security room, leaving it hanging in front of the closet door on a hook.
With one glance backward, she sighed.
Que` sera` sera`. The show must go on.
He sensed that the men were taking him back to the show, though they never said a word. They led (knew) the way to the limo, with him in tow pulling the cart behind him. Opening his own door, he checked to make sure the seats were empty before he got in. The two men rode in front. Riding in the back of the car was much more to his liking.
Too bad I'm alone . . . thank God I'm alone!
He rode in silence the entire way, expecting the serpent to manifest itself. When the limo pulled into the parking lot, it was rushed with a throng of paparazzi. Slowly, it pulled into the gates behind the wall of security, where it came to a halt. A volunteer, armed with a radio, opened the rear right-hand door, helping Chance out. Snapping his fingers, the young man called for the valet to help him with his luggage. A moment later, he was on his way to the security room. As he walked away, the volunteer slapped the car door,
"Okay, move it . . . Let's get this out of here!"
When the car didn't move, he became agitated. Knocking on the passenger door, he began, "Hey, buddy, let's get this . . ." but he stopped short when he saw no one in the front seat. Looking around, he saw no one to claim the car. Shrugging, he went around to the other side, noticed the keys in the ignition, still running. He got in, whistling to another volunteer to take over. As he pulled away, he noticed the mirror in the seat, and the empty place where it should have gone. When he put it up where it came from, he could see the back seat of the car. It was empty.
By the time April was face to face with the press, she had a belly full of wine, and some relief through resignation. She still had the night before to remember, . . . or to forget. Either way, she had won.
"Hello, my friends of the universal remote department, I bid thee good tidings to this - the first annual (and the last maybe) of the Mad Hatter's Charity Ball. For those of you who haven't heard, we've had some changes in the line-up. Due to circumstances that you are all aware of, we've had word from the President that he will not attend today's event, but has decided to party with us via satellite, so let's get this Ball rolling."
She ran past the cameramen and into the arena itself. They streamed in behind her, waiting for what she said next:
"Yeah, it is time . . . "
The crowd roared, realizing that the creature at the microphone was talking to them. Tiny flames from the disposable lighters in the hands of the fans lit the dark auditorium as all the lights on the stadium went out.
From the back of the hall, a girl stood alone high above the crowd holding up a microscopic speck of light that came from the lantern in her hand. Her tiny voice called out,
"Little bunny, where are you? Little bunny? Oh, oh! . . . oh no!"
The audience gasped as they watched her arms flail, sending her tumbling off of the catwalk. She flew toward the stage, twisting and turning, until she crashed onto the stage itself, which sent up a cloud of dust. A moment later, she stood up brushing herself off.
"I wonder where I am!"
As the story began to play itself out on stage, April disappeared into the shadows. She had to find a radio, to tell everyone the new that the White Rabbit really was late. It didn't matter yet, because Alice had to perform. That set lasted for twenty-two minutes.
April still had time . . . tick, tock.
Chance took his time in his dressing room. He waited for her to come, but she was nowhere to be seen. Checking the pocket in his vest, the White Rabbit found no puzzle piece. He went through his luggage until he found his invitation. From it, he withdrew the piece.
She was the first in line to put her piece of the puzzle into position. As she turned to the camera, she waited for the red light to come on. When it did, her mousy face appeared over every monitor and TV set at that moment.
"I am the Dormouse, your humble gatekeeper. It is by me that you enter this doorway to the Mad Hatter's Lair. I have the first piece of the puzzle, and here it is."
April pulled out both pieces, quickly palming his before anyone saw it. She held it up over her head.
"And I put it in its place . . . It is time to introduce your friend and mine, the Mad Hatter himself."
April went away, letting the Mad Hatter greet the guests. She noticed on the split screen that she was still being watched as she put the first piece of the puzzle in its place.
Each consecutive guest followed suit as the night progressed. Most of whom were on the floor of the auditorium watching the events unfold before them. They wandered back at will. Only the performers were interviewed. As each act came to the stage, their identities were revealed.
April watched and waited but no sign of Chance ever came. She finally decided to check in his dressing room. Trying to get through the crowd was much more difficult than it had been the day before, especially since the blast. She couldn't have asked for a better advertisement.
. . . but my home!!
She reminded herself to not think about it until later, but sure enough, one TV she passed was still Live at the Scene. Holding her hand up to block the view, she walked quickly by the image.
. . . and the earth shall be destroyed with fire.
At first she went to the door and stopped there, not wanting to enter. She looked around, then knocked. Nobody answered. A moment later, she opened the door with her master key, and went inside.
The costume was missing.
Chance felt better in the facade today, because it made him anonymous in the spotlight. He was not himself today. Not quite ready to be in the limelight, he chose to wander through the halls backstage, half looking for April - past, present or future. No one was there at all.
Now April got on the radio, cutting in on the conversation between unseen players who were now running the show. She felt kind of bad interrupting the dialogue, but when it didn't ebb, she chimed in,
"Hey, it's me Mother Hubbard. Has anyone seen the White Rabbit today? Or the stray dog?"
She waited for a response, but there was no reply. Again, she called out, "Is there anybody out there?"
A one voice came back, "No one has seen him, I guess. Or her. Anyone?"
"Okay, thanks! Keep me posted!"
The jabber on the airwaves returned.
Chance went all through the corridors until he came out the back door which led to April's trailer. If she hadn't exited his at that moment, she would have seen him on the screens. Instead, she bolted out of the door, trying to find him.
If security hadn't been distracted by the semi-nude woman on monitor #2, they could have told April what she wanted to hear.
If Chance had waited a moment longer, he would have seen her in the doorway of her trailer, but he turned the corner toward the main hall, just as she walked out the back door.
April retrieved her binoculars, hoping to spot the elusive hare. She went out to the stage area, hoping to scan the first twenty rows of guests just in case he was mingling there. If she would have looked up, she would have seen him on the monitors, putting his piece in place without a word to the press.
By now, several acts had taken place and the later it got, the more concerned she became. She barely noticed the President on TV, apologizing while still dressed in his Lizard costume.
He spoke somberly about the tragedy of terrorism, but she failed to listen. All she could think was . . . I am the Lizard King! I can do anything.
Soon, she would have to face it. Chance wasn't going to show. She decided that she was going to have to improvise. Maybe, she could get someone else to fill his shoes, but who? No one else would do.
Maybe if I tell them that the rabbit died, no . . . that won't do! I could put some ears on Bob . . . no! Maybe I can tell them he's running really, REALLY LATE!
Nothing seemed like the right answer, so she resigned herself to fate. What will be, will be and that's life. Her cloud of dread lifted a little as she gave up trying to fulfill destiny.
Screw it! I'm just going to put the final piece of the puzzle in myself. The first and the last . . . why not? When it all comes down to it, it's always been up to me anyway. I'll just have to tell them the truth. It never was up to anyone else. She ranted endlessly in her mind all the excuses and explanations she could conjure and when she finally found the right one, she smiled.
I'll blame it on the weather. Whether he shows, or whether he doesn't, I did this to fulfill my own little void, and that's the final piece to the puzzle. I promised you a surprise . . . well, Surprise!! He ain't coming!
She was already putting the second piece in place by the time she realized that no pieces were missing from the puzzle.
Then she heard the voice,
"Ladies and Gentlemen, the White Rabbit!!":
The crowd screamed as the March Hare bounded out on stage, ready to entertain the masses. April stared at the monitor as the hulking white character made it to the microphone.
Who . . . what the . . .?
"Thanks a lot for the warm reception! It's great to see everyone today. Are you ready for me yet?"
The congregation wailed.
"I'd like to start out with a song that I wrote for this occasion, but first I'm going to need your help. Instead of clapping, I want everyone to rub their palms together. Let me hear you."
The multitude of hands brushing together made the room dwell with the sound of the surf, distant waves crashing on faraway shores. A moment later, the White Rabbit removed his gloves and picked up his acoustic guitar.
"My first song I got the idea a few years ago but I actually only wrote it a few minutes ago, so it isn't in the program. Take five, guys!"
The band sat back to watch him solo in the narrow beam of light that descended upon him. April watched in disbelief.
Still dressed in his White Rabbit costume, Chance sang his newest song:
Where have you been? My friend . . . Where have you been?
Trouble with our friendship is you and I aren't friends.
We've never had a good time, walking around the bends
of life's amazing journey.
. . . so, where have you been all of my life?
People come and go . . . so quickly around here.
When I look around me, my friends all disappear.
I am left with the memories
of good old days that came to an end
on life's amazing journey.
. . . where have you been?
April wiped away a tear, thinking about the surprise she had in store for him, now wondering if it was such a good idea. Who was he talking to anyway? She walked out of the darkness, onto the floor where she blended into the crowd of guests. Faces blurred, as she moved toward the stage, through the horde, being jostled side to side as she made her way.
April looked up again.
"For my next song, I'd like to introduce the band . . ."
It was evident from her blank stare, she didn't hear a word he said.
It's been so long since I've watched you perform. Are you still as lonely as you said you were back when we met? What were you saying, anyway? Did I get it mixed up? What am I . . . supposed to say to you anyway? I don't even remember . . .
Chance went on to sing several of his favorite songs, the crowd dancing in the aisles. April turned around to see the house. It rocked!
Then she heard what she came to hear . . .
"This next song, I would like to send out to someone here . . . you know who you are!"
And thus began, Momentary Magic.
During the song, April stared transfixed at the man on the stage. Her skin bristled as she felt the rush of spirit surge through her veins. This moment would last a lifetime.
"Here, girl, where are your manners?"
Behind her, a voice reminded her. When she turned to see who was there, she saw the red rose. And the old woman . . . Her gloved hand took the bloom slowly. She nodded her thanks to the rose lady.
"Go on, girl . . . your man is waiting."
When April looked down the gnarled finger that pointed past her, she saw Chance as he had been back when . . .
"Thank you, 'mam!"
But the woman was gone. The rose was still in April's hand.
Go on, girl . . .
The crowd separated just enough for April to float directly to the edge of the stage, stopping only when the wooden barrier prevented her from going any farther. Her arms rested on the barricade. Speechless, she relived the moment over and over again. Time stopped.
. . . when will it all come to an end . . . momentary magic.
"Thanks for coming!" Chance shouted to the fans, and left the stage.
April stood there, holding the rose, realizing that she had missed her opportunity to give him the flower. Her stomach lurched. Now she tried to make it through the audience, which seemed to hold her back. Snaking her way toward backstage, she became frantic.
What if he leaves? Hurry, hurry!
She ran into security, trying to get them to radio for him. But because the guards worked for the arena, not her, they didn't recognize her. She almost got thrown out, and might have if she hadn't taken off running through the backstage door.
"Excuse me! Excuse me!" she kept having to say as people stepped out in front of her.
I'm never going to find him, am I?
Then she remembered her trailer and his dressing room. Maybe he would be one of those places. She went by the hospitality room and the press room on her way out, but he wasn't in either area. Her trailer was empty, so was his. Then she went to his chamber.
"Hey, girl, what are you doing? Looking for me?"
"Well, uh . . . yeah. What are you doing?"
"Looking for you!" He motioned to the television sets on the walls.
April moved nervously, looking at him only briefly before her eyes looked down at her feet. She noticed the rose in her hand.
"Oh, I brought this for you . . ."
He took it, looking carefully at it before his sniffed its scent. His silence was overwhelming. April stood fidgeting with her costume in the mirror. When she looked at him, she saw the dragon standing behind him. She never said a word.
"I've got something for you, too."
The first thing he produced was a yellow rose. Then he gave her the moon necklace and the picture.
"Oh, my God! That's May!"
April told him about her sister, how it had been her idea to go to that first show, and how she was missing in LA.
"How did Tara get this? I gave it to May the last time I saw her!"
. . . the last time . . .
Finally, Chance put his finger up to her lips.
"Can we talk later?"
"Kiss . . ."
Her eyes closed as their lips met. His stayed wide open as he tried to figure out what he was doing.
This can't be right . . . it feels so . . . but it can't . . .it can't feel this good.
He closed his eyes, promising that he would think about it later. Not now.
"We have to go!" April managed to piece together in between sweet kisses. It was the hardest thing she ever had to say in her life.
"To the show."
"Yeah, we mustn't keep them waiting."
As they walked toward the hall they could hear what was being said,
"We have time for one encore performance, and we're going to leave it up to you guys. Who do you want to see come back . . . right now, right here, on this stage? It's time to make your choice."
April hugged him quickly before running out onto the stage herself and grabbing the microphone from the Mad Hatter. She skipped in exaggerated circles around the stage, whispering Chance into the microphone.
"Chance . . . Chance . . . Chance . . ."
She gained a little volume each time, plus the audience chimed into the chant. Soon they stomped their feet, rattling the entire stadium, scaring the hell out of April. She been on stage before but this was something else!
When the Rabbit appeared, the masses went wild rushing the stage. He hadn't seen a crowd like that in years. He yelled into April's ear,
"See what you started?"
"Sorry . . ."
"No, it's okay . . . you kinda get used to it after twelve years."
Chance started to speak to the crowd but a voice boomed overhead in the speakers.
The White Rabbit looked up and around, trying to pinpoint the utterance. He lifted the microphone to his face, as a hush fell over the crowd.
He recognized the voice, so familiar, and yet . . .
"Yes? It's me - Chance!"
The crowd went wild as the Mad Hatter strode center stage, alongside of the White Rabbit and the Dormouse. He carried an oversized envelope to Chance.
"Chance, I have a special delivery for you . . . and if you'll excuse us, we'll be right back."
The two walked off the stage together, leaving the Dormouse alone in the spotlight.
Oh, shit! What do I do now?
"Good, we're alone now. I thought they would never leave! Is everyone ready for a game of naked Twister? I hope you remembered to bring your own oil . . . speaking of oil. Anyone here besides me with a petro-chemical dependency?"
April tried to remember any of her routine, not having been very funny since she returned to Texas. Her mind swarmed with punch lines, but her tongue had to perform. She remembered chunks of monologue by rote, which was good since she blacked out. Ten minutes later, when the Mad Hatter and White Rabbit emerged from the darkness, the crowd reacted, snapping April out of her spell.
Chance put his arm around April, speaking into the mic which she clipped to the stand. The Mad Hatter stood behind them slightly.
"I have a message . . . and I guess I can share it with you. My friend here, the Mad Hatter, has given me news from afar. My dad wants to meet with me. I guess I'm not such an apostate as I once was. I am . . . I am just glad that I have my friends here with me tonight. After this, I guess I'm off to the Vatican, to see the Wizard."
He put his other arm around the Mad Hatter, bringing him up to the microphone.
"I'd like to introduce to you, your friend and mine, the Mad Hatter - my oldest and dearest friend, Greg Appell!"
Chance embraced his friend, "I've missed you, mate!"
April felt warm, the glowing of the lights in her eyes became luminous like a new day dawning. Maybe the new age was upon us. The past and the present and the bridge between them. Maybe, all prodigal children could go home again. It gave her hope for the future, hers and everyone seeking the better way.
"And I'd like to introduce to you once again . . . the Dormouse, also known as April Leigh . . . who made all this possible."
On the monitors, the camera zoomed in to frame the puzzle, which was so cryptic that no one was positive what it meant. The Internet would be flooded the next day with a thousand theories. One for every piece of the big picture. When the puzzle was flipped over by a half a dozen helpful hands, April cringed, embarrassed. She felt like running away.
"Hey, girl, that's us!"
The audience gasped, as a murmur of questions floated throughout. There on the other side, a portrayal of her perfect world, he and she together surrounded by the world of illusions. Reporter's pencils were flying across lined pages of tonight's top story. April wanted to back away, frightened of what she might have created here. From the darkness before her, the light caressed her face. She took a deep breath.
"Did you draw that?" He asked as he kissed her, not waiting for an answer.
April fell back into the darkness of a lover's grip, sinking into the whole of the moment. She was in the arms of heaven. If he let go, she would have been lost. If he didn't, maybe they could all be saved. She took another deep breath.
This is the life . . .
After the show, April was surrounded by the media firing questions at her from every direction. She was speechless for a change.
The White Rabbit saved her from the invasion,
"The answer to all of your questions is Yes. More on that later . . . "
Chance led April away from the scene, managing to wrangle Greg away from another group. There were plenty of other people to distract the correspondents. Right now, they needed to talk, maybe have a drink and a smoke . . . a couple of valium. Something to take the edge off. As if this private conversation would make them relax.
No one spoke as they walked through the halls toward Chance's room. It wasn't until they closed the door behind them that Greg spoke up, trying to ease the mood.
"So, Chance, I guess you won't be needing your own personal postal carrier any longer, huh?"
"How could you do it to me again?"
"Hey, I didn't . . . well, okay, I did do it again, in a way . . . but I thought, uh, . . . we thought that you would want some closure. When I got the word, I believed that maybe I could make it up to you for what happened." Greg tried to apologize, and explain, "You can't deny who you are?"
"Who am I?"
"Well, what I mean, you know what you are!"
"What am I?"
Neither said another word.
April handed out the first round of beers, aware of the silent tension.
"So, I guess I've acted pretty foolish all these years. I don't blame you guys for making fun of me."
The two guys turned, first looking at her, then at each other, and then back at her again. They burst out in laughter, both falling out of their chair. How could they tell her about her nickname 'Tasia,' (as in Fan-tasia!) without making it sound derogatory? They couldn't, and the more they tried to form a response, the more their eyes met, leaving them weak with hysterics.
"I always wanted to be a comedian but I was afraid people like you would laugh at me!"
She tried to act disgusted at being left out of their private joke but she was just too happy to have them here, that she gave it up quickly.
"I guess you two have met?" Greg asked.
Chance looked at her, memories flashing by, "Yeah, we met."
"So, what do we do now?" Greg stood up. "I'm starving . . ."
"We'll catch up to you in a bit."
After, he left, the other two sat in silence, drinking and thinking. They could here the raucous of voices outside as the television show wrapped up.
"Do you want to go out there? Your fifteen minutes await you!"
"Not really . . . there's time for that another time."
"So, April, are you a good witch or a bad witch?"
"Which witch do you want me to be?"
"I bet you are so good, you holler out your own name!"
"Yeah, Chance, I'm a legend in my own mind."
He took her chin in his hand, turning her face toward him so he could read her eyes, see what her face would betray when he asked her what he really needed to know, "You aren't going to hurt me, are you?"
"Why would I hurt you?"
He weighed his words carefully, "I don't know . . . for the notoriety?"
"If I can do all this without you, then I don't need that kind of publicity to get my fifteen minutes, do I?" She shook her head, "Have I ever done anything to you yet? . . . Bad, I mean?"
"Well, . . . no, but you scare the hell out of me!"
"I always have . . ."
Chance looked at her, "Yeah . . ."
"You judge a tree by the fruit it bears, Chance!" She leaned over, whispering in his ear, "You are going to go much farther."
"I hope so."
How could she finish the sentence? The words stuck in her throat. What she wanted to say but couldn't find her voice was . . . farther than your father. She left it unsaid. Maybe he would understand . . . probably not.
Chance rubbed her leg, "So, what are we supposed to do now?"
"Well, I don't know . . . maybe nothing . . ."
At the wrap party, Chance was greeted with many congratulations from sympathetic people who tried to understand how he felt. His smile, his eyes said little. Except to April, his eyes spoke volumes.
When they finally got a break from the barrage, the two met up with Greg, who asked, "So, how are things going?"
"She's got an idea that I think might be interesting, even profitable."
He went on to paraphrase her proposal. Greg pondered it momentarily, drifting into the realm of creativity where his thoughts bloomed into the concept. He had seen the first half of the movie/album. A second half?
"It might just work!"
After everyone said good-bye, back stage became vacant, as it was when it started. Lights were blinking out everywhere as the crew tore down the equipment. The echo of slamming doors and folding chairs floated through empty corridors. Now April had to remember, when she heard someone yell,
"Okay, people! You don't have to go home . . . you just have to go!"
"Oh, that's right . . ." Chance whispered.
"Home is where the heart is . . . I'm homeless . . ."
"Come on, we'll figure something out . . ."
That night, they checked into a hotel under assumed names, even though the clerk obviously knew who they were. The pimply faced young man smiled too big, and was overly helpful. He knew better than to 'recognize' them, but it didn't keep him from bragging to his friends the next day.
When Chance and April were alone again, neither knew what to say. Her thoughts turned to May, his to Tara. They knew that trouble brewed on the horizon, but no one said a word.
The news of the event was on every channel, and already wondering who was on the list for next year.
"You did say that it was the first annual Mad Hatter Tea Party and Charity Ball, didn't you?"
"Oh, . . . I meant to say the first and last annual Mad Hatter Tea Party and Charity Ball. Uh oh, call my PR department."
Chance laughed, "I'll have my people call your people."
"I don't have any people . . ."
"Get some people and have them call my people . . . we'll do lunch."
Lunch . . .
That night, the dreams returned, a swirling vision of home and hearth, heaven and earth. The wolves, pawns and demons of power, corruption and completion. The flames of spirit reached sky-ward, and the stars cascading to the material plane, amplified the sound of Truth, the Way and the Light. The exchange of light and dark, yin and yang, day and night. The puzzle was complete for once, but when the morning light came, its image faded. A new day sunrise called the faithful to rise and shine once again.
In the morning, two new friends started the rest of their lives, unsure but unafraid. Who knew why the future would bring? Who could claim to know? If not faith then what? Fate?
Spiritual father, natural father, Father Time . . .
"The father of a fool hath no joy. - Proverbs xvii. 21."
Necessity or chance, Approach not me;
and what I will is fate.
"So, Chance, I guess maybe we should talk sometime. What do you think? As difficult as it is, you have to come to terms with your . . . uh, your family."
"I guess I could go and complain about my family, but it probably wouldn't do any good, would it?"
"What do you mean?" April questioned.
"I researched my family tree. Wouldn't you know? Root rot!"
After second night together, they were at peace with each other. Eventually they left the privacy of the April's motel room and ventured to the trailer where April had to face the loss. She wasn't devastated, just a little sad.
. . . and there is time to build again.
Her parents brought Natasha out to the house while Chance and April were there. April told them about May, and that maybe she could find her. Bring May back. She introduced Chance to them, as much as she could, while trying to ignore the suspicious look on her mother's face.
They exchanged pleasantries, trying to maintain an air of dignity as total strangers were thrust into each other's worlds.
Natasha looked up at Chance with all the wide-eyed innocence of a child, asking, "Who are you?"
"I'm Chance, and you are?"
"Are you daddy?"
The adults laughed nervously, as April tried to silence the child. But she continued to piece words together, "Daddy!"
Natasha threw her arms up at April, "Mommy!"
Then she pointed to April's belly, "Baby!"
Mom looked up at April with growing concern in her eyes, "April, are you pregnant again?"
God sat in front of His television...
"This Earth channel sucks!"