Read American Goth Online

Authors: J. D. Glass

Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Thrillers, #Contemporary, #General, #Gothic, #Lesbians, #Goth Culture (Subculture), #Lesbian, #Love Stories

American Goth (10 page)

BOOK: American Goth
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“Nah.” I smiled. “I don’t know anyone yet.”

His blond and rather curly mohawked hair fell in soft curves over to one side and his eyes, dark and vibrant, were also honest and warm.

“Well, ya know me now, and I sing, play guitar,” he said and he held out his hand. “I’m not in a band at the mo’, but I’ve got an eye out, you know?” he told me as we shook.

“Well, I’ve finally got myself a Fender Precision,” I said, “it’s what you saw me with last night.”

“How long you been playing bass for?” he asked, curiosity sharpening his question.

“Well, if you count the time at the store plus last night,” I joked, and glanced at my watch, “about twenty-four hours—but I’ve been playing guitar for about ten years or so.”

A surprised expression crossed his face. “Hey, then you’re gonna be good at it. So many of the better bassists played guitar first.”

“You think?” I asked, genuinely intrigued.

“Oh sure,” he said airily, “you’ve got all that melody and theory down. You know, there’s a couple of all right studios around. Find us a good drummer, and maybe we can rent a few hours, make a little noise sometime, see what we can do?”

“Sounds good,” I nodded, warming to the idea. It not only sounded like fun, but I’d never been in a band before and then I could honestly tell Uncle Cort and Elizabeth that I was, in fact, making friends. “Where do you go to find studios around here, anyway?”

As Kenny and I chatted and debated the merits of different guitars, I felt the approach of a familiar energy: our waiter from last night.

“This fellow talking your ear off ’bout his eternal band search?”

I turned to find the same sandy brown hair, now slicked back except for the forelock that fell over bright eyes, and a delicate mouth smiling at me while Kenny laughed. “Ah, Graham, just chatting before you steal yet another bassist for your outfit. He,” and Kenny jerked his thumb in Graham’s direction, “is a ska-band man, and quite the Rude Boy about town.”

I raised my eyebrow at him as I reached for his hand. “Ann,” I told him as his palm met mine. That sense of recognition swelled, and I thought perhaps he felt it too from the way he examined my face. “What’s ska?” I asked with a grin.

Kenny laughed as he pulled another pint and Graham goggled as if he’d been told that yes, this really was a gag and it was all being filmed for television.

“Not know what ska is?” he spluttered. “And you’re a musician? God—
where
have you been? Kenny and I’ll have to take you ’round to some of the shows, then.” He smiled, perhaps a bit too charmingly for me, and I raised an eyebrow as I looked him over, his black sweater and its turquoise and white diamond blocks, the thin black tie over a narrow-collared shirt, his perfectly creased black pants over thick-soled creepers. I don’t know why I thought I knew him, I’d never met him before my first visit to the pub, and certainly never seen anyone that dressed like he did, except, perhaps, in old movies.

“Not that you look like the kind of girl that can be taken, I mean, uh—”

“Graham can’t speak to anyone about anything before he’s had breakfast, right?” Kenny saved him by handing him his mug.

“Why don’t you tell me a bit more about it, then?” I asked as Graham buried his face in the foam.

“Sure, sure,” he agreed after a hasty swallow. “Kenny, queue something up, hey?” he asked, pointing to the receiver that sat on a shelf on the wall behind the bar.

Kenny laughed as he moved to comply. “We’ll start it easy, then, shall we?” he asked over his shoulder as he flipped and selected through a pile of discs and tapes.

I’d been thoroughly introduced to some of “the best of what’s around, I tell you, not that new, Victorian, dark wave stuff,” as Graham put it by the time Hannah stepped in to join us.

There was certainly a lot of strong musicianship involved in ska, I mused as I listened to the interplay between the bass and the drum, and the speeding trumpet and horn melodies that danced in my ears. So far, ska sounded quite a bit like super-fast reggae with amazing horn sections arranged not as accompaniment, but as main melody instruments.

I kept listening to the music as a friendly argument ensued between Hannah and Graham about music and genre, the value of the message and whether or not it was diluted by the medium, and by the time I realized that I’d better get back to the shop so I wouldn’t miss dinner, we’d all agreed to meet there Sunday morning, then go together to the studio Hannah preferred, see if we could have a bit of fun.

“Well, consider me filler, because you know I’m looking to build a ska band, but we’ll give it a shot,” Graham said, and just like that, we were set.

*

With our first rehearsal set for Sunday morning and a second set for the following Tuesday afternoon, I practiced obsessively between lectures and training sessions. My shoulders, with the help of the weights I no longer noticed, had grown immune not only to the weight of the sword, but also to the weight of the bass, and as the calluses on my fingers thickened then smoothed from fretwork, so did the ones on the pads of my hand from the workouts Uncle Cort put me through, first with a practice weapon made of rattan and wrapped in duct tape to give it sufficient heft, and then with live, naked steel.

Somehow I managed to help Elizabeth and Uncle Cort ready one of the two spare rooms for Fran’s visit. We chose the one near mine because it received more daylight.

I hadn’t seen her since our graduation, and when she emerged from the gate at Heathrow the very first thing I noticed as I moved through the press to greet her was her eyes. They were overlarge and overbright in a face that had thinned since early June, and she’d let her hair, the wavy honey and wheat mane, grow longer. Grief had changed her, I thought as we embraced, the fierce wrap of competitors, the close touch of friends, and if for a few moments I was startled by the familiarity and the strength of the arms around me, the surprise disappeared when I happily returned the hug.

“You made it!” I said finally over the din as we parted slightly to examine each other.

Fran smiled, the beautiful smile that I knew so well, the one that had caught my eye and heart so long ago and, I knew without a doubt, quite a few others as well.

“One piece, no less,” she agreed.

Once we released each other, I reintroduced her to Uncle Cort whom she’d met before graduation, and to Elizabeth, which was slightly awkward since she was neither relative nor friend but a bit of each. I finally decided on “close family friend,” which worked well enough. I took Fran’s hand in mine as we struggled through the crowd to find her luggage at the proper carousel.

It was non-stop chat on the ride back and through lunch. Cort and Elizabeth shooed us out to wander around a bit so Fran could get her bearings, which was funny to me, since I still needed a map. We wandered over to Wardour Street, the London version of Chinatown, and got a neat kick out of hearing the mix of languages and accents, so different from the heavy Staten Island voicing, the Italian lilt, or the occasional Irish accent we’d grown up with. And despite all the familiar enticing smells, it was very different than Chinatown in New York, because it was so sparkling clean.

After, we walked ’round and about back to Soho Green in the middle of Soho Square before calling it a night—even though Fran wanted to go to the famous Ronnie Scott’s jazz club.

I laughed and promised we’d go the next day, or maybe the one after—she’d only
just
arrived—and I laughed again when she yawned during her protest.

“You’ll be here a few months—we’ll get there, I promise.”

After she’d settled her things in her room and we had dinner, we wound up talking about everything and nothing all night in my room. I admit to asking more questions than necessary, just to hear her voice, her accent. I was amazed at how much I missed an American tone. And while we avoided touching on anything that might bring up the real reason why either one of us had changed in the ways we had, we spoke until the sun came up before we finally got some sleep.

*

“Now you’ve an official excuse to go play tourist for a few days,” Uncle Cort said the next morning over breakfast, and both he and Elizabeth made suggestions.

“You must visit Parliament to observe the House of Commons and the House of Lords,” he insisted. “Especially if you’re certain you want to live here,” he told me privately.

The tickets he gave us a few days later took us past the line that waited by Saint Stephen’s entrance and directly into the House of Lords. Already disillusioned about politics from the other side of the pond, I grew quickly overwarm and overtired, but I blamed that purely on the lack of real rest and the bit of overload I still carried from the work only a few nights before. I wondered briefly if my uncle was trying to get me to change my mind about staying in England.

Once there, however, when Lord Halsbury tabled a measure he called “an act to refrain local authorities from promoting homosexuality,” I was completely awake. The measure seemed to mean that the portrayal of homosexuality—in schools, in media, in anything, in
any
way—as something other than abnormal would be a crime. The ensuing discussion went beyond infuriating and when I stood because I’d had enough and was leaving, Fran understood and left with me.

Fury made her eyes snap, once again overbright and full, and her lashes glinted at me with the spark of tears. “Why is it that if I do this,” she asked as she took my hand in hers, “or this,” and she kissed my lips softly, a kiss I gently returned, “I’m suddenly less…less human than anyone else?”

I rubbed my thumb lightly over her hand as we walked past the gate and out onto the main sidewalk, back toward the Underground station. “You’re not,” I said quietly, “you’re absolutely not.”

Fran stopped and faced me. “Do you know how many laws they have to in fact
break
, then
rewrite
, simply to justify their discrimination?” she asked and we continued walking, anger riding her voice, an anger I could feel too, not only for myself but
from
her directly, a wave of emotion that washed through and over her, a rose blush that suffused her surrounding energy field, coupled with the clear light that backfed through me, shocking me, as it turned into a definite arousal. It was a pierce of physical longing that made my abs contract and my breath catch.

Alarmed, I hastily dropped her hand, but not before I caught the answering flare in her eyes and I dropped my gaze to the cement.

“We should…we should hurry,” I mumbled, “I think Elizabeth and my uncle want to have dinner with us tonight.”

I was hyperaware of my body, of hers, of how it had felt to touch her, to hold her, to feel the press of her against me and her lips on mine, and while there was no way of knowing short of asking, I suspected she might have had similar thoughts; we couldn’t really look at each other, and the uncomfortable silence between us grew, became something thick and heavy as we walked to the station. The discomfort didn’t ease until the press of commuters jammed us next to each other and I took her hand again to lead her out through the press of the crowd when we reached our stop.

The silence continued through dinner, nothing hostile, but very, very, self-conscious, and when I glanced up at Fran from across the table, caught her eyes with mine, I could see her cheeks had reddened. That could have been from the sudden chill that had descended as we’d walked the few blocks from the station back to the shop and the apartment, or possibly the soup—it was on the hot side.

Elizabeth occasionally cast her gaze over at me or at Fran as we both studied our plates and finally saved us from the nearly suffocating silence.

“What did you think of Parliament?” she asked.

“It’s amazing about the whole heredity thing,” Fran answered animatedly. “One of the Lords asked to table some measure that…”

I was greatly relieved at the lively discussion they got into; it dissipated the tension instantly, and they barely seemed to notice when Cort raised his eyebrows and lifted his chin at me to ask if I was ready for our training session and we excused ourselves from the table.

*

It was hours later—or at least it felt that way—when I finally made it to my bed. I was exhausted in ways I hadn’t felt in quite some time, a combination of tired mind and awakened body. Cort had monitored me briefly before calling it a night and he’d reminded me to continue to monitor for overload, to prevent crisis.

I’d done as he asked, trying not to think, not to
feel
anything, to bear in mind only that I was a tool in the hand of the Lords of Light, as Cort referred to them, just as the sword was a tool in my hand. I focused on my heart rate, on my breath, drawing my awareness inward, concentrating on different areas of my body, tensing and relaxing the muscles as I worked my way up from feet to head, checking the energy flows as I encountered them, trying to ensure they were free and clear, to keep my head the same way. Finally I was done and ready to sleep when a knock sounded. I sighed as I decided that trying to sleep was a wasted effort, and I flipped my nightstand light on before I padded to the door on bare feet that hardly felt the cold wood beneath them.

“Yes?” I asked as I opened it, only to find Fran blinking at me in the darkened hallway.

She bit her lip and shuffled a moment, then asked, “Can I talk with you?”

BOOK: American Goth
6.99Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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