My feet find their way to the cool hardwood floor and a long, lingering chill slithers up my spine. “We’re not in Kansas anymore,” I snort. My guitar looks back at me, peeking out from her guitar case. She was taunting me. Begging to be touched. For me to pluck away at her precious strings. Tessa knows I’m weak against her siren’s call. I pick her up by her slender neck and tip-toe past the threshold. I didn’t know if my new roomy was sleeping or at work, since we never wen t over any real details. I drove around the city for a while before I actually found the house. Even when I did find it, it took some convincing to believe I had the right house. It was a two-story modern home with large square windows that had no curtains or blinds, probably because none fit. The stairs led up to the porch which was more like a platform with a table and chairs set up for a game of chess. Then there was another circular glass table off to the side with an orchid sitting on top. Stone pillars held up the lighted shelter for the porch and ran up the side of the house like a chimney. I pulled in the long drive, parking outside the garage, in awe.
Even after spending a night there, I couldn’t believe it was real.
I slid my feet across the floor to keep from making noise as I inched my way into the living room. There was a gray shagged rug that laid sprawled out in front of the long, white, wrap-around couch with black throw pillows. There was no television. Just a low black top coffee table with silver legs and one of those modern bookcases with white and black square compartmental shelving. I made my way past the couch over to the wall-sized window where two lounge chairs were placed facing out at the Hudson. I dropped myself into one of the chairs, finding it one of the most comfortable things I’ve ever sat in. I pulled Tessa close to me and began to play.
The song from yesterday was still pumping through my veins, begging for some sort of release. Once I put my fingers on the stings, it was like I was possessed by the lyrics and the song was playing me. We dance around the fire. Forget about her, forget about her. Love me until you’re tired, and you forget about her, forget about her. Cause when you dance around the fire, you’re goanna get burned. Then I seamlessly transitioned into the first verse. Your eyes glow like the embers raining from the sky. You look at me with hunger, like a hunter on the rise. I was not the innocent bunny-rabbit I pretended to be. You and I were both pray to the cat and mouse chase, weren’t we? I fell back into the chorus. I was surprised by the acoustics of the room as my song was carried out of me, bouncing off the walls like an echo and being carried back to me. I was afraid of being too loud, but I couldn’t stop. Memories of Caspen whirled around me like a tornado.
The first time we kissed. That longing in his golden eyes. The passion erupting between us. Catching flames. No matter how hard we tried, we could never stay away.
The song was burning in my bones as the next verse came pouring out of me. Your touch melts away the snow (forget about her, forget about her). I can love you until your hurt is gone (forget about her, forget about her). Let the head of our breath fog up the window. The desire in our hearts could destroy this whole damn world! My fingers glided over the strings like the song was already imprinted into my muscle memory and all I had to do was open my mouth and let it all out. I struck down hard on the strings. They yielded, providing a powerful, beautiful, pained sound which reflected my own feelings. Feelings I didn’t even realize I had. It was so overwhelming… Third degrees… I felt like I couldn’t… Can’t breathe… You destroy everything in your wake. No, you’re not the only one to blame.
I didn’t even feel like I was singing anymore. I felt like I was screaming, or sobbing, or begging, or d) all of the above.
The last note rang in my ears long after it faded. I turned off the recorder app on my phone. The words fell like ashes burning, burring themselves in my skin. I felt like a piece of ash myself as I sat in silence, vaguely aware of the tears trickling down my face.
A clap roared over the silence. I turned to see Lila who sat at the end of the couch in royal purple, silk pajamas, a steaming mug in her hands, staring at me with wide eyes. “That was… Wow!”
I felt my cheeks heat up. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to wake you. I sort of just got carried away…”
“Tell me about it.” She stood up and stretched her long, thin arms over her head, reaching for the ceiling. “Want something to eat?” She asked with a yawn.
“Sure.” I waited for her to turn away before covering my hand with the sleeve of my shirt and whipping my face. It was the same shirt I wore yesterday. The same shirt I left in. Basically the equivalent of wearing the same clothes for three days. I need a shower.
I followed Lila through the dinning room and into the kitchen. She busied herself in front of the black electric stove, pulling various pans from random drawers inside the counters. I sat a stool, which reminded me of an old barber chair, behind the curved, white marble top counter. It wasn’t until she laid a plate of fried eggs and buttered whole wheat toast before me that she asked, “So what’s the story with that song?”
“It’s about the married man I was having an affair with. The reason I said no to that kid who asked me out, and the reason I’m here.”
Lila, who was leaning over the counter opposite of me, next to the sink, stopped mid chew. “Wow.” She gulped down her toast. “That’s intense.”
I shrugged in response, focusing on the red rim of my plate to avoid eye-contact.
“Well you’re really good. Like, really.”
I looked up, but the intensity of her gaze was too much. I blushed and looked back down.
“I’m serious! I know a guy who owns this bar right on 2nd Avenue. I bet he’d give you a gig.”
Suddenly the food lost all flavor as nerves tore through my gut. “I don’t know.” I didn’t perform in front of people. Lila caught me by mistake, and Caspen… Caspen was different. The only one I was ever comfortable enough around. I even made him a CD for his birthday.
“It’d be paid.” She wiggled her eyebrows.
“Well… I guess it’d be good exposure…” I reasoned.
“Definitely! Before you know it you’ll be a famous singer!”
“I want to be a songwriter.”
Her smile was contagious.
“I see that,” She teased. “I’m calling him.” She winked and skipped down the hall, pulling her phone from the waistband of her pajama pants where the elastic had held it against her hip bone. She disappeared and returned before I had a change to think a single thought, or talk myself out of it.
“So I spoke to my guy,” she announced exasperated from the quick conversation. “And he said they could use a regular artist in their venue and wants you to come in for an audition.” She began to squeal.
I didn’t know whether to jump up and down with her or hurl into the sink. “What time?”
“Well he said he’s there now working on the books, so you could go in around twelve.”
Twelve. That would give me enough time to calm the storm in my gut… “What time is it now?”
She looked down at her phone. “Ten.”
… Or not. I was definitely going to vomit. I didn’t have time to vomit. I had to shower and find suitable clothes to wear and what if I couldn’t remember the lyrics to the song? If I wasn’t so crunched for time I probably would have had a panic attack, but even those would have to be scheduled.
“I’ve got to get ready.” I jumped up and started for my bedroom. Halfway there I put the brakes on and ran back to the kitchen. “Thanks for the interview, the room, breakfast, and everything.”
She had taken my place at the counter, eating what I left behind. “Don’t mention it,” She winked. “Now, go get ready, you don’t want to be late.” She joshed.
I nodded, stampeding down the hall. I tore through my suitcase, throwing clothes all over the room, wishing I had taken more time to pick out a quality wardrobe to take with me on my runaway. I settled on a pair of dark gray jeggings and my maroon, plaid blouse. I took my toiletries and headed for the shower. I stepped into the square, standing shower with two clear glass doors. The two parts that tile, were painted like a waterfall cascading down a few jutted rock ledges. It reminded me of Cohoes Falls back at home. Outside the shower was a wall of green vines and other green leaved plants were scattered over the counters. I turned the knobs of the shower, feeling doubtful when I realized there was no showerhead. Water started raining down on my from above and I yelped. Both in surprise and because the water was too cold.
I had to admit, the rainforest atmosphere of the shower put me at ease… Slightly.
After I washed off the grime of three-days, I threw on my clothes, taking a second to look in the full-body mirror that was the back of the bathroom door. My dirty blond hair curled around my oval face. My gray eyes looked back at me, almost colorless. With my guitar case over my shoulder, and my black knee-high boots added to the ensemble, I looked like a country girl. Not the image I was going for. Whatever, it’s too late to change. I took a deep breath before heading out of the room.
Lila was waiting for me, leaning against the wall across from the bathroom; a peach yogurt in her hand and a spoon hanging from her mouth like a lollipop. She looked me up and down with a smirk. “You look really cute. My Guy will think so too.”
I shifted uncomfortably. “So, where is this place exactly?”
She handed me a little slip, which appeared to be the wrapper from her yogurt, she had written the address on. I swallowed. This was really happening.
She walked me to the door and waved as I descended the stairs. “Good luck!”
Even though I left an impressive thirty minutes early, I was still about thirty minutes late. I didn’t factor in New York City traffic. Stupid. Trying to ignore the fluttery feeling in my chest that kept insisting I flea, I walked to the front door of Guy’s. What a weird name.
The door was locked. No doorbell. Should I knock? I was still debating on what to do when the door opened revealing Lila’s “guy”. A tall, dark haired, dark eyed, chiseled facial features kind of guy. He smiled, a lopsided, charming smile. “I’m Guy. You must be Lila’s new project, Evie.”
Guy. It all made sense. I almost fell over from my own ignorance. And not that cute faint into the guy’s arms and he catches you sort of way. I teetered backwards on my heels, almost falling off the sidewalk and into the street where I surely would have gotten run over by a city driver. Probably a taxi.
Catching myself, I focused on the dimple in his chin. “Yup, that’s me.”
He laughed, a deep hearty laugh. “Come on in and show me what you’ve got.”
I stepped in to a rustic style bar. The ceiling was zig-zagged wood paneled and the walls were brick. He stood at the bar and gestured towards the small wooden platform I assumed was the stage. “Lila called me raving about how talented you are. But she never mentioned how cute.”
I tripped stepping up onto the stage, laughing nervously. I never handled flirting very well.
I got situated on a stool in front of a mic, well aware of his eyes on me.
“So let’s hear this song Lila was going on about.”
I wondered how much Lila could have said in the two seconds she was on the phone.
The medium pick suddenly felt heavy between my thumb and index finger. “C’mon Tessa, don’t fail me now.”
I tried to hide my surprise when the song washed over me like a dream. I was only partially aware I was singing as I drowned in memories of Caspen.
We were in my room one lazy June day. He came over to mow my lawn and I made French toast and Tazo black iced tea, as if playing house. He didn’t stay long. He never stayed long. We retired to my bedroom and I pulled out my guitar, playing him a song I wrote when I first learned to play; Confusion. I never realized how fitting it was until that moment. He looked at me with his glowing amber eyes, so honestly, so innocently. “You’re amazing, Evie.” Then he pressed his full lips into mine before I could protest. My guitar found her way to the floor as he continued kissing me passionately, finding his way on top of me.
Then we were walking next to Mohawk River on an early Sunday morning when the stars were still blazing overhead. He stopped walking. I looked back at him and his smile beamed like a ray of sun. Time slowed as his mouth began to move. I felt like I was in a silent movie as I watched him say, “I love you.” He looked so proud of himself. It was a shame I didn’t say it back.
The last memory to overcome me wasn’t a memory at all. Not really, anyway. It was the scenario where I told him I loved him too and we smiled awkwardly at each other thinking life would be just peachy. But it ended in screaming and rivers of tears. “I can’t leave her, Evie. I have to think about my kids.” What about you, Caspen? Are you happy with her? “Of course not. I want to be with you, but…”But what? “I can’t…”
It ended in flames.
“We dance around the fire. Why can’t you forget about her? Forget about her. We dance around the fire. Please forget about her. Just forget about her. Cause when you dance around the fire, you’re going to get burned.”
The song was over. I’d never see Caspen again. I felt hollow.
“Wow,” Guy breathed. “Lila was right, you’ve got talent.” He eyed me in a similar manner as Lila, like they’re trying to crack me open. Maybe I was just a “project”.
He leaned against the bar, his arms and legs crossed. His acid wash jeans pulled around his… I think he knew where because he began to smile shamelessly. He moved from the bar, his arms still folded over his chest and his feet spread apart. His black eyes dared me.
I looked down at the rounded tips of my boots, struggling for a way to break through the awkwardness.
His chuckling echoed through the empty venue. “You really are adorable.” Ugh. His expression went serious. “When you sing, you’ve got…” he paused, struggling for the right word. “Soul.”
“So tell me a little about that song…” He paused not knowing what to call it.
“Dance Around the Fire.”
“Yes. When did you write this song?”
“Well, I came up with the chorus yesterday on my drive here, then I wrote the rest this morning.”
He nodded, taking mental notes. “Got anything else?”
“What do you want to hear?” I was being genuine, but after I asked I realized it came out sounding like a smart retort.
He didn’t seem to mind. “Whatever you want.”
I let my guitar guide me once again as I strummed the chords for I Don’t Want to be a Sinner. I wrote that song around the time I met Mathew. I guess I always knew how he felt about me, which made me feel guilty. Guilty about my relationship with Caspen and guilty that I had to keep it a secret from Mathew, ultimately leading him on. “I didn’t mean to make a mess of things. I guess neither did you. But you and I are both sinners, and we just do as sinners do. We lust, we lie, we cheat, that’s life. We’ve loved, we’ve lost, now it’s time to say goodbye…”
This time when I finished, he was quiet. So I was quiet. I could hear the second hand of a clock tick-ticking away somewhere. “Where do you get your inspiration from?” He asked at last.
“The obvious places, I guess.” Damnit, another snide comment. “I mean, relationships, life… Cassie Jenson is a big inspiration of mine. She definitely influences a lot of my music.”
He nodded, probably jotting my response down in his mental notepad. “Do you have anything more upbeat?”
I resisted answering, not really. I hadn’t thought of it until then, but most of my songs were melancholy. By avoiding heartbreak, I avoided most of the good parts of love that came with it. I truly was pathetic.
“I have one,” I answered finally. It was a song I put on Caspen’s CD. I started plucking at the strings so they produced a light, bouncy melody. “Your presence lingers. I can feel the tips of your fingers on my naked skin. Your eyes burn like fire. But your love is the cool kind of sin. You take me higher. Passion and desire. I wish I could fix you… Na na na na…”
“I wish I could fix you,” he repeated. “You don’t write many happy songs, do you?”
“I guess I’m just damaged goods,” I replied.
“Darling, we all are.”
We shared a comfortably honest moment as we made eye-contact I didn’t feel the need to break away from.
He was the one who looked away first, turning his back to me and he faced the bar. “You can start tonight.”
A little note. Lyrics mentioned in this chapter can be found on my blog authormercedes.wordpress.com or by the links below:
I Don't Want to be a Sinner: https://authormercedes.wordpress.com/2013/11/23/i-dont-want-to-be-a-sinner/
Passion and Desire: https://authormercedes.wordpress.com/2013/11/24/passion-and-desire/