The idea for this story came from a Queensryche song of the same name. I wanted to play with a current storyline and the flashbacks in a different way than usual.
She saw her past, her age, her pain as she stared into the mirror. Hazel eyes flickered, not able to keep visual contact with her reflection. A leather vest hung from her shoulders, dusky auburn hair brushing the collar. Frowning gave her handsome face a stern, regal countenance.
Behind her reflection was a small dressing room. A leather jacket hung on the back of her chair. A nearby table held the badges of fame – bottle of expensive water, half-eaten pastrami on rye, small variety of candy bars. Her due as a Superstar.
A muscle in her neck jumped at the sudden knocking.
Inhaling deeply, concentration broken, her brow smoothed, the thin web of wrinkles nearly disappearing. With the natural growl that was her voice, she called, “Yeah?”
Silence. She quirked an eyebrow, debating. Answer the door? Or let the poor, scared groupie shiver in trepidation awhile in the hall? Casting a rueful look at her reflection, she forced herself from her chair. Maybe ten, fifteen years ago, but not today. Definitely not today.
Bracing herself against the expected onslaught, she strode to the door. Her face schooled to pleasantness, she opened it. “Yeah?” The expression drained from her face, leaving behind an almost resigned dread. “Rachel…?”
“Hey, Vick,” the woman in the hall said with a bashful grin.
“What are you…?” The redhead stuck her head out of the dressing room, taking a swift glance around. Unsure of what she was looking for and seeing nothing out of the ordinary, she again focused on the smaller woman before her. “What are you doing here?”
Brushing a lock of ebony hair behind one ear, Rachel gave a little shrug. “I heard you were coming through town. Thought I’d see how you were doing…” There was an awkward silence. “Mind if I come in?”
Startled into displaying some manners, Vick stepped away from the door. “Sure. Come on.” After an indecisive moment, the musician stepped back into the hallway, grabbing a passing roadie. “Get me some coffee in here.”
The burly fellow glanced past the redhead and nodded with a grin before turning back the way he’d come.
Glaring sourly at his back, the woman turned her attention to her guest. Her face lost its exasperation, replacing it with gentle anxiety as her eyes caressed the slim form. She fought the urge to flee, long past the age of running from her perceived problems, and stepped gallantly into the room.
Upon hearing the door close, Rachel turned to face the musician. Her smile was an honest one, though her eyes reflected the pained expression of her hostess. “You look tired.”
Vick blinked at her. “Yeah. Guess I am.” She chewed her lower lip, hands digging into her pockets for something to do. “It’s been a long tour.”
The brunette nodded.
There was another pause, difficult in texture.
“So!” Vick nearly exploded. “Have a seat!” She leapt forward to remove her guitar from the small sofa on one wall, gesturing for her guest to settle down as she leaned the instrument in a corner.
Another knock at the door gave further reprieve to the musician. She scrambled to answer it, her hazel eyes begging forgiveness at the interruption. A few words and moments later, she returned with two mugs. “You still drink it black, right?”
Smiling, Rachel nodded, accepting her cup. “Yes. Thanks.”
After yet another silence, the pair sipping at their coffee, Vick finally spoke up. “How have you been doing?”
“Pretty good. Just got back from a trip to India.”
Polite interest. “India…? Wow.”
Rachel shrugged. “Studying the basis of their religion.”
“It must have been fascinating.” Something in the tone caused the smaller woman’s eyes to narrow and Vick felt a shiver of dread. “No, really! I mean it!”
Shaking her head, the brunette decided to let her irritation drop. “Thanks.”
The redhead sighed inaudibly at the potential crisis averted, immediately feeling a twinge of anger for being worried. Unable to help herself, Vick said, “I’ve just been doing the same ol’, same ol’… You know… ‘Swinging, slinging and singing.’ Isn’t that what you used to call it?”
Any developing camaraderie evaporated. Rachel froze, the grip on her mug turning white knuckled. After a moment, she appeared to collect herself, though her jaw muscles indicated the grinding of her teeth. With smooth elegance, she set her cup down and rose to her feet. “I don’t know what I’m doing here.”
Old anger picking up steam, Vick stood as well, towering over the diminutive woman. “Neither do I, Rach… What are you doing here? What did you expect to accomplish, huh?” She turned and stomped away, trying to control the frustrated tears that threatened her. “It’s been nine goddamned years!”
“So fuckin’ go! Quit teasing me! Get it over with!” Liquid sound of drinking.
“Oooo, big surprise there, Rach… If you’d have a round or two, you might lighten up.”
“That’s all you think about anymore! The booze, the drugs, the groupies! What’s happened to you? Where did Vickie go?”
Scornful snort. “She be dead, girlie. Only Vick the Superstar is here.”
Crash of furniture. Slight snoring.
“I love Vickie. Not Vick.”
Opening dark eyes, the memory faded, leaving behind festering heartache. The smaller woman looked at her former partner, recognizing the pained stance from the stiff back that met her gaze. “I just wanted to… I wanted to see how you’re doing, that’s all.” Rachel sighed. “That’s why I’m here.”
“Now you’ve seen,” Vick growled, refusing to turn around, to release the hurt that surrounded her.
Making another conscious choice, Rachel settled back onto the couch. “I’ve got all your CDs.”
Despite her emotional turmoil, the redhead snorted in wry humor. Looking over her shoulder, her face twitched with slight bewilderment. “What are you? My biggest fan or something?”
“Or something,” the brunette allowed, smiling softly. Patting the couch beside her, her eyebrow quirked in invitation. “C’mon, Superstar. Sit and talk with an old… friend.”
Reluctance and eagerness warred with each other as the lanky woman turned. Her anger dissolved as it always did when faced with that frank gaze and she found herself drawn back to her seat.
Still nervous, Rachel picked up her cup, fiddling with it. “I read that article in Rolling Stone last year.”
Swallowing, the redhead looked away uncomfortably. “Yeah?” she asked, her voice full of feigned disinterest. “What’d ya think?” Silence met her question and Vick’s eyes returned to her guest’s. Her heart thudded at the gentle acceptance she found there.
“I think you’ve been through hell,” the brunette said softly. “And you’ve survived it admirably.”
“What do you mean you can’t come with me to New York? This is the first time the band’s been the star attraction! You can’t miss that!”
“I told you, Vickie… I’ve got that seminar to attend. I’m teaching it, for chrissakes! I can’t just drop it at the last minute!”
“Fuck the seminar! Nobody’s gonna give a damn about the sociological and anthropological differences between Afghanistan and Irish bedbugs, anyway!”
Cool anger. “That’s not what it’s about and you know it.”
“Whatever.” Muffled scorn. Sound of a lighter.
“I wish you wouldn’t smoke that shit in the house.”
“Well, baby, Vick the Superstar pays the bills here. I’ll toke where I damned well please.”
“How long has it been?”
Vick mentally shook herself, focusing on her guest and the conversation. “Uh…” Hazel eyes grew distant as she calculated. “Four years, three months and eighteen days.”
“Wow,” Rachel responded, dark eyes rounding in respect. “That’s great!” The smaller woman’s smile was that of a proud parent.
Embarrassed, uncomfortable, the redhead flushed, looking away. “Thanks,” she mumbled. Warmth developed on her knee, bringing her attention back to the woman beside her.
“I mean that, Vickie. It can’t be easy to do.” Rachel’s skin flushed as she realized what she’d done and she pulled her hand back, glancing about the dressing room to cover her discomfiture.
Watching the other woman’s consternation, the musician’s heart fluttered in kindred emotion. “It’s not. The first year was the worst.”
Sympathetic pain and heartache showing on Rachel’s face, she turned her eyes back to the redhead. After a long pause, she finally whispered, “I’m sorry you had to go through it.”
Shrugging, Vick pushed to the edge of the couch, turning a shoulder to her guest. Leaning elbows on knees, she stared at her fidgeting fingers. “Yeah. I’m sorry you had to be witness to the beginning.”
“I don’t know how much of a witness I was…”
“C’mon! It’s great!”
“I dunno, Rach… The thought of putting something up my nose like that…”
“It’s easy, Superstar… Watch.” Sound of deep inhalations. “Oh, man…” Sniffling. “It burns a little, but it goes away fast. Here… Your turn.”
“Sure I’m sure! My prof says this is the best that money can buy in these parts.” Pause. “At the very least, give it a go so you can say you did. You know the old adage – don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it.”
Sigh. “Alright. Gimme the straw.”
With a gentle snort, Vick glanced over her shoulder. “It’s not like I needed much encouragement after the first couple of times, Rach.”
Chagrined, a grin played at the brunette’s mouth. “Well, it didn’t help with me pushing it on you in the beginning.”
The redhead shrugged and returned her gaze to her hands. “If it wasn’t you, it would have been somebody else. One thing I figured out is that I’ve got an ‘addictive personality’…”
“Sounds eerie… Is it contagious?”
For the first time since the visit began, Vick chuckled. “Addictive… Contagious… It’s all the same,” she answered flippantly.
Laughter was a release and the strained tension between them eased.
“It’s good to hear your laugh. I’ve missed it.”
The pleasant atmosphere wicked away, vague wariness in its place. An uncomfortable hush resumed for a few moments and the women busied themselves with fidgeting and looking everywhere but at each other.
As the door to their past was now open a crack, the musician felt a tremor in her heart as she swallowed. “I’ve… uh… I’ve read some of your stuff, too,” she finally mumbled.
Glancing over her shoulder, she met dumbfounded dark eyes.
Equal parts smug and irritated, Vick shrugged one shoulder. “Yeah. I’m not an idiot, Rach, I just play one on TV.”
A blush tinted the dark skin. “That’s not what I… That came out wrong.” Searching for wards, she finally said, “I just… didn’t think you were interested in that sort of thing.”
Vick shrugged again, irritation fading. “Yeah, well…” looking down at her restless hands. “I realize that I was less than supportive when you got out of college. But,” and she waved vaguely, “I’ve still wondered how you were doing, ya know?”
“I know,” was the soft response, spoken with a world of experience.
The redhead risked a glance, eyes becoming snared by the mixture of wistful pain she saw reflected.
Rachel broke visual contact first, inhaling deeply as she looked away from the intensity. A small smile played on her lips as she shyly asked, “Which piece did you read?”
Eager for the return to the subject, Vick allowed a small smile herself. “That last article in ‘Anthropology Today.’
Surprised, the dark woman’s eyebrows raised. “Wow! That was just a couple of months ago!”
“Well, I’ve got to take what I can get,” the redhead said, smile widening. “Anthropologists aren’t as popular as aging rock stars. It’s harder to locate that much written material on your favorites.”
Smacking the broad shoulder with the tips of her fingers, Rachel snorted. “You’re not an aging rock star… I hear your stuff on the popular stations all the time.”
“And the classical stations,” the musician smirked, raising an eyebrow. Relaxing into the camaraderie, she leaned back on the couch.
“Someday we’re gonna be so big…”
“I don’t doubt it, Superstar.” Gentle, teasing. “And twenty years from now we’ll listen to you on the classic radio stations.”
Distracted. “Yeah.” Soft moan. “Mmm… That feels nice…”
Whisper. “Just relax, baby.”
Rachel turned sideways on the couch, right ankle behind left knee and arm extended along the back. Her eyes grazed over the taller woman. “I heard this last one’s going to go platinum…?”
“Probably within the next coupla months.” Warming to her subject, Vick ran long fingers through her hair. “The last two weren’t that great…”
“I liked them…”
Sending a grateful grin to the woman beside her, the musician said, “Thanks.”
Returning to her topic, the redhead said, “Anyway, we got some great reviews on the last two, but they didn’t sell that well.” She stretched long legs out in front of her. “Our new guitarist is more metal than progressive… gave us a harder sound this time around. Guess that’s what the fans wanted.”
“Far cry from your glam rock days, huh?”
Rueful grin. “Yeah. Just a bit.
Silence of a different sort filled the room. It was finally broken by Rachel’s chuckle.
“I remember that silly hairdo of yours…” She laughed at the groan from the other woman. Using her hands to illustrate, she continued, “Slicked back on the sides, pompadour in front…”
“Don’t remind me,” Vick growled in mock anger, rolling hazel eyes.
The smaller woman giggled. “What were you going for with that look, anyway?”
Echoing the laughter, Vick quirked a smug eyebrow. “Dunno. But I beat Flock of Seagulls to it.”
They shared the humor allowing it to weave a connection between them. Past transgressions and their aftermath dwindling in the light of happier times.
“Remember that dive you used to play in?”
“Yeah. The Bistro,” Vick said with a pseudo-French accent.
“Hey, Vick! You guys are sounding great tonight!”
“Thanks!” Pleased tones. “Wanna get a drink?’
“Sure.” Standard barroom noises.
“Two beers.” Pause. “I didn’t expect to see you tonight. Don’t you have a test or something?”
“Term paper.” Murmured thanks, liquid sound of drinking. “Got it done this afternoon so I thought I’d drop by and see ya.”
“Mmm…” Seductive rumbling. “And I’m glad to see you.”
Embarrassed chuckle. Sounds of kissing.
“No! You look cute when you blush… I like it.” Another kiss, longer, intense. Husky voice. “Whaddya doing later tonight?”
Breathless, hopeful. “Going home with you…?”
Low laughter. “I like the way you think, sexy!”
“We had a lot of great times there.” Dark eyes distant with nostalgia, gentle smile at the memories.
“Yeah,” Vick agreed softly, matching the expression. After a moment, she focused on the other woman. “I’m surprised you made it through your first year… You were at the bar more than school.”
Rachel met the gaze with fondness. “What I wanted was there.” After a pause, her smile broadened. “You look cute when you blush, too.” The hand at the back of the couch reached out, brushing auburn temples.
“Yeah? Well, don’t tell anybody – you’ll ruin my Superstar reputation,” the taller woman grumbled amiably. She found it easy to relax into the strange / familiar touch. With a sigh, she let her head fall back, closing hazel eyes.
“Your reputation will be safe with me,” Rachel whispered, eyes filled with tenderness.
Several moments passed, the only sound their soft, even breathing. Outside in the hall was the continued noise of roadies breaking down the stage set, tramping past the door to the waiting trucks outside.
Safe in the darkness behind closed lids, Vick finally spoke, her natural growl soft and low. “I saw you tonight.” When the fingers pulled away from her hair, she opened her eyes, turning her head to look at the brunette. “In the audience. You were front row center on the balcony.”
Dark eyes reflected startlement, anxiety, searching the redhead’s face for clues. Seeing only calm acceptance, Rachel said, “Oops…?”
Vick grinned. “Yeah. ‘Oops.'”
Brow crinkling for just a moment, the brunette asked, “Is that why you…?”
“…Sang your song?” the musician finished. “Yeah. The guys thought I was crazy. We haven’t played that one in a long time.”
“Tell them they did a wonderful job,” Rachel murmured past the lump in her throat.
“I will.” Vick inhaled deeply, sitting up from her slouch, half turning towards her guest. “Do you remember how we met?”
“Hi there, beautiful!”
Giggling. “Thank you.”
“Only call it as I see it, girl.”
“Well, anyway, I just wanted you to know that I love your sound!”
“Can I buy you a drink?”
Pause. “Well, actually, our set is over. We were just heading out…”
Disappointment. “Oh. Damn…”
“But thanks again for the compliment…?” Slight question.
“Oh! Sorry! My name’s Rachel.”
Relief. “Rachel! Got it. I’m Vickie… uh… Vick.”
“Vick. Cool! Maybe I’ll see ya around sometime?” Hopeful tones.
Another pause. “Look, Rach, we were just going to get a bite to eat… Wanna join us?”
“Sure. There’s a diner near here that serves breakfast twenty-four hours a day.”
Happy laughter. “I’d love to! Thanks!”
“Yeah,” an older and wiser Rachel responded. “I remember. Best night of my life.”
Vick intently studied the woman’s face. “Best one, huh? Even with all the shit that piled up after?”
Nodding, the brunette grinned. “Yep. Best one. Always will be.”
A slow smile crept over the musician’s face. “Mine, too.”
There came a knock at the door. After a brief moment, Vick broke the tableau and rose to answer it, a faint grin on her face.
Rachel scanned the small room, the other woman’s voice washing over her as a conversation took place in the hall. After a few moments, the redhead returned, eyes tinged with regret.
“Well, that’s it. We’re outta here.”
Nodding in resignation, the smaller woman stood, straightening her shirt. “Where to now?”
“Boston. We’ve got two shows there this weekend.”
An awkward pause as the two tried to figure out the proper farewells. Neither looked at the other, neither wanting to be the first to say good-bye.
A thump on the door startled them, Rachel nearly jumping at the unexpectedness. Steeling herself, she raised her chin and stepped forward. “Well, break a leg in Boston, okay? And maybe I’ll see ya around sometime?”
After a long silence, Vick’s face creased into a mischievous smile. “Look, Rach, we were just going to get a bite to eat before leaving town… Wanna join us?”
Hearing the echo of their past, the diminutive woman smiled, moving closer until she had to crane her neck to keep Vick in view. “The diner?” she breathed.
“Yeah. Breakfast twenty-four hours a day.” They stared into each other’s eyes. “We’ve got a lot of catching up to do.”
With a gentle nod, Rachel took the offered hand, allowing herself to be led from the small dressing room.
Heading for their future.