I’ve been writing, writing, writing on a new book the last few months — Darkstone. I’ll give you an update next week on progress and hurdles. This week, however, I wanted to introduce one of my two main characters with a bit of an excerpt.
Without further ado, here’s Naomi Kostopoulos!
Darkstone, Chapter Eleven
“What?” Naomi yelled. She barely heard her own voice. It was a wonder Rebecca understood her.
Rebecca bellowed into her ear. “Let’s get a couple of drinks and head to the stage.”
The stage. Peachy. Naomi nodded. Rebecca tugged her hand, forging her way forward. Naomi followed in her wake, buffeted on both sides by the crush of people dancing to the canned music playing over the monstrous speakers at the other end of the club. Watching Rebecca dive into the boiling mass of humanity at the bar, she shook her head. She studied the efficiency amid the chaos as multiple bartenders miraculously registered the drinks shouted at them, dashing back and forth behind the bar and producing said alcohol with a minimum of error. With an anthropological focus on religion, she passed the time considering the sociological implications of a faith-based music club.
The crowd parted, and Rebecca emerged unscathed, carrying two beer bottles in each hand. She handed a pair to Naomi. “Here. This should keep us lubricated for now. Come on!” She took Naomi’s wrist, and off they went back through the mob as she aimed in the direction of the stage.
Naomi held the beers close against her chest to avoid dropping them, feeling very much like the last person in a game of “crack the whip.” This was a mistake. Rebecca had regaled her about the band, saying that tonight was their last gig before moving on to bigger and better things. If the crowd was any indication, the band had already progressed beyond this club’s ability to comfortably accommodate the fans. Despite her knowledge of Rebecca’s musical interest, Naomi had envisioned a small jazz club, tiny little tables with lit candles and a haze of cigarette smoke overhead — not this bedlam. She coughed. There was smoke alright but not cigarettes, nothing legal at any rate. Rebecca finally came to a halt, pulling Naomi to stand beside her. “When you said ‘let’s go to the stage,’ you meant it!”
Rebecca grinned, cinnamon brown skin glowing in the low lights at the edge of the platform. “Best seat in the house!” She held up a beer bottle, tapping it against one of Naomi’s. “Perfect timing, too! The opening band just finished as we walked in.”
Peering at the activity onstage, Naomi watched two grungy looking men hustling back and forth as they lay cables or adjusted an overlarge drum kit. She stared, realizing that the drums sat on a wheeled platform that they rolled into place. How efficient! Two more men came from backstage with four guitars. They placed them in various stands around the stage, and one played a few chords to check the tuning. Naomi found the activity fascinating. She didn’t have a lot of experience with live bands, so she gaped at everything. The lights dimmed dramatically, and she frowned, wishing she could see what else the crew was doing.
The crowd had begun chanting. “Darkstone. Darkstone. Darkstone. Darkstone.”
Glancing at Rebecca she saw her friend doing the same, laughing. Naomi smiled.
A piano began to play, a simple string of notes that repeated over and over. The audience cheered in apparent recognition before becoming hushed in anticipation. Naomi studied the darkness of the stage. She hadn’t seen a piano brought in, but then she could have missed it if they’d wheeled it in, too. A snare drum began an upbeat tempo, indicating the percussionist had snuck into his drum kit.
Lights illuminated the fore stage, revealing three men strolling in from the wings. The crowd cheered again as the men retrieved their instruments, strapping guitars over their shoulders. A black man with dreadlocks to his waist began playing bass counterpoint to the piano, his sunglasses reflecting stage lights back at the people. The other two, an Asian man wearing a black shirt unbuttoned to the waist and the second bearing the dark attractiveness of a Middle Eastern background, added their instruments to the harmony.
The people around Naomi jumped with the beat. She felt the bass drum in her sternum, the vibration of hundreds of feet stomping. Despite not knowing the song, she sensed the the audience’s high spirits, felt their unrestrained joy permeate through her. For the first time she realized the appeal of cramming into a claustrophobic club with a mob of total strangers to listen to a band. Before she could mentally grasp the revelation with her analytical mind, the lights came up to reveal the pianist and drummer.
The crowd screamed approval as the pianist stood, her action so violent that the stool crashed backward. She scooped up a microphone and strutted toward her audience, confident arrogance in every step as she grinned at them. “Yuh nuh ready, Long Beach?” A roar answered her and she shared a grin with the bass player. “Let’s get this dance started!”
As the singer belted out the first of her lyrics, Naomi stood rooted, frozen as everyone around her moved to the music. She recognized that accent, that voice, though she hadn’t heard it in a dozen years or more, not since she’d left Nathan and the monastery. My god, what are the chances? Of all the places to meet her ethereal friend, the last would be a rock concert on the western coast of the United States. Completely enamored, she didn’t even mind the unfamiliar music — the occasionally harsh guitar strains, the heavy drums, the moments when the singer’s voice faded into rap or screams. Naomi knew she was staring, but couldn’t help herself.
She’d expected her friend to be of Jamaican descent. Of course, with her accent it seemed logical, and now Naomi castigated herself for falling into the trap of equating language with race. The singer was light-skinned with long black hair flowing straight about shoulders. Bangs covered expressive eyebrows which in turn protected eyes the color of sea-green. She wore tight leather pants and a long-sleeve white shirt that repelled the overhead lights, causing her to glow as she moved about the stage.
For the briefest of moments their eyes met. Naomi gasped at the contact. It seemed that light flashed behind those gorgeous greens, a flare revealing the soul behind them. The singer blinked as time stood still for a split second. Then her gaze moved on as the show continued. It is her! Does she remember me? Rebecca jostled her and she turned away from the puzzle.
Faint concern blanketed Rebecca’s face. “You okay?” she mouthed.
Naomi’s mind returned to the present, a rush of sound and motion as she once again registered her surroundings and circumstances. She smiled reassurance. “I’m fine!”
Rebecca studied her. Naomi wondered if she’d turned pale. Finding whatever she searched for, Rebecca nodded and smiled back. She waved at the band. “Aren’t they great?”
Looking back as the singer capered across the stage, Naomi nodded. “Yes, she is!” she yelled back, not realizing her roommate couldn’t hear a word. It didn’t matter, this was no time for conversation. I have to meet her. She focused on the singer’s voice, letting it wash over her as it once had so many years ago, the sound of it counteracting the homesickness that had rooted in her heart when she’d left Inanna’s complex. Her mind began taking apart the problem of getting back stage when the night was finished.
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In a few weeks, I’ll post another excerpt (from Joram Darkstone’s point of view, of course!)
Today’s the last day for the Lichii Ba’Cho Book Package Giveaway! You have until midnight Pacific Standard Time TONIGHT to get you entry in! Click the link and comment on the giveaway page!
Until then, happy reading!