"I don't like this." Per's voice drifted over me as he surveyed the scene.
We were in the middle of a queue waiting to get into one of the hottest clubs in Bridgeport. The crowd was restless, shuffling and squirming as they waited eagerly for the doors to open. I smiled as I took in the colourful array of clothes that surrounded us. The night was cool but the edge had gone from the air and I could feel that spring was just around the corner. There were other things around the corner as well but I tried not to dwell on them. I could feel Per's impatience beside me as he heaved a sigh at my deliberate avoidance of his statement. I smiled, he was always so restless, so eager to be doing something.
"Don't like what brother dear?" I asked as innocently as I could. "This!" Gesticulating wildly he took in the whole scene before us. "You said we were coming to see the Hot Tamales. You seem to have neglected to mention that they were opening for the Tangfastics!" He scowled at me and I widened my smile in response. "I'm really not sure how I missed that." The more he glowered the harder it was for me not to break out in gales of laughter. The line started stuttering forward distracting Per and saving me from giving myself away. Muttering to himself about my ditziness he let it drop and ushered me forward with the crowd. Sometimes it really pays to perpetuate the blue haired stereotype.
The opening act had already started by the time we got inside. The music thumped and pounded getting my hips swaying involuntarily as I pushed us closer to the stage.
I had never heard the Hot Tamales before and I made a mental note to check out their album. After all I didn't plan on spending much time listening to then tonight. I moved along to the music keeping up with everyone around me but I was distracted, trying to find the best time to slip away. Sure enough it wasn't too ling before a couple girls had zeroed in on Per.
"I'm gonna grab us some drinks." I shouted over the music. "Great!" He yelled back never taking his eyes off his latest groupies. Smiling at my brilliance I slipped through the crowd. Now he was close enough to help but not so close as to get in the way. I blessed my tiny size as I got to the edge of the dance floor. If this was the mood for the opening act it was going to be manic when the Tangfastics hit the stage. There was no way I was going to wait for that though, I needed to get this done before it went wild. Slithering my way along the wall I made my way to the backstage door.
This time I had no problem using my connections and my 'charms'. I flirted shamelessly with the bouncer until he let me through with a knowing smile on his face. Luckily the hallway was very short and there was do doubt about which door I was looking for. I hurried along know I only had ten, maybe fifteen, minutes until Per got annoyed with his dance buddies and started wondering where I was.
As I got closer I slowed nearly to a stop. The loud screaming and thumping that I had thought was part of the music banging out the door was in fact from a fight. Unable to resist taking a closer look I peaked in the oh so inviting crack.
"What in the hell is this?" Ice, there was no mistaking the lead singer of the Tangfastics, was yelling at a small vanilla looking berry. "You're fruit sir," she whimpered cowering in the face of his anger. "My fruit!?! My FRUIT?!? What in Berry's name do you call this?" He shoved the bowl under her nose and pointed at it violently.
"Pinapple." "And this?" "Mango." "And THIS?" "Honeydew melon." She was nearly in tears at this point and the word was more a sob than anything else. "MELON! How stupid can you be?"
He flung the bowl aside with such force that it crashed and shattered on the floor. "Get out." The fire in his voice had cooled and he was completely impassive as he pointed at the door. In near hysterics she made her way towards me and I searched vainly for a place to hide.
I needn't have bothered. She was so far gone in her own misery that I doubted she would have noticed a troupe of dancing elephants. Dismissing her from my mind I turned my attention to the task at hand.
He sat slumped in front of a dressing table as I made my way into the room. I hesitated when I saw him there. He seemed somehow vulnerable and I couldn't quite reconcile that with the version of him I had just seen. "I don't know how you got back here but we don't allow fan girls backstage before the show." His voice was flat, lacking all emotion, as if I wasn't worth the effort it took to speak the words. "Oh I'm not a fan." I quipped lightly. As soon as the words were out of my mouth I regretted them. Smooth, Mint. Under ways to impress a rock star telling him you are not a fan definitely doesn't make the list.
It may not have been the best way to win his heart but it certainly got his attention. He half turned and as his eye locked on mine I could have sworn, for just an instant, something flashed in their cold depths. "Oh, it's you." He stood to greet me a half smile twitching at the corner of his lips. My mind went blank.
Although I was still terrified of him after witnessing the ferocity of his temper I could focus on nothing but his face. The line of his jaw, the fullness of his perfect lips and the rasp of stubble on his chin that belied his true hair colour. "So? What do you want?" I shook myself trying to get a grip but I didn't know how to answer that question. Now that I was standing here with him I had no clue why I came. The idea of bursting out with accusations about Flax seemed preposterous. "You're Ice….." Was all I managed before trailing off.
"Obviously." He enunciated each syllable slowly drawing them out and I froze at the chill that was now flowing off him. I scrambled searching for some legitimate reason that I might be here. Gaping like a blowfish I began to form the words but I wasn't quick enough. He moved away from me eyes already glazing over with disinterest. "Do you want to have coffee?" I blurted out in a desperate attempt to salvage something of this meeting. He glanced over his shoulder looking me up and down in a frank evaluation of my appearance. "I'll be in the Valley tomorrow. My hotel, 11 O'clock." With that he sat down and it was very clear that this interview was over.
I stepped into the hallway my heart beating so fast I feared it would leap out of my chest. What was I going to do now? I still didn't have the faintest idea what I would say to him tomorrow. Slowly and with the help of some very deep breaths I calmed down enough to go back into the club without Per noticing anything wrong. I was only about halfway down the hall before I heard something that caught my attention.
It was Ice's plain little assistant. She was huddled behind a plant trying with all her strength to pull herself together and failing miserably. Glasses askew, make-up running she looked a mess. Now there was a real damsel in distress if I ever saw one.
And like lighting it struck me. It didn't occur to me to wonder how he knew I lived in Sunset Valley until much, much later. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I watched from behind the week old newspaper I was pretending to read as Mint left the hotel with Ice. Sure enough, as she predicted, Ice's assistant wasn't far behind. My heart instantly went out to the girl as I saw her trudge past head and shoulders bowed. Even with just a glance I could tell she was exhausted, run down and over worked. When they had gone far enough I hurriedly got to my feet. Mint and I had a good idea where they would be headed, there weren't that many places in town to get coffee after all, but we had heard about the unpredictability of Ice and I didn't want to loose them.
Luck was with us this time and I slowed as the approached the cafe and found seats at one of the outdoor tables. So far so good, it was all going according to plan. Now were was that girl.
I found her near a corner of the cafe, close enough to see Ice but concealed from him by a row of bushes. It was time to make my move. Straightening up to my full height I made my way over to her. "Hey Lacey! How are things?" I said tapping her on the arm.
It was as it I had prodded her with an taser she jumped so high. Turning to face me I watched as she shoved something back into her pocket. Poor girl, probably wasn't allowed to text on the job. "I'm sorry I think you've mistaken me for someone else." Her voice was quiet, timid even and she wouldn't meet my eye as she spoke.
"I'm so sorry!" I paused now was the part of the plan that wasn't exactly clear. All Mint had said was, go rescue her and find out as much as you can about Ice. Thinking that was the end of our encounter the girl began to move away from me and I decided the only thing I could do was be myself. "Well actually I'm not sorry." That brought her up short but wasn't enough to get her to turn back to me. "I mean Lacey is a great girl but I actually think I'd prefer to spend time getting to know you." When she still didn't face me I shoved out my hand. "I'm Per, Per Parfait."
She looked at me for a long moment before offering me her own hand. Her skin was soft and warm as her delicate hand was engulfed in mine. "Nilla Wafer." She still wouldn't look at me and I had an urge to pull here close and tilt her head to mine to look into those kind eyes. Reluctantly I let go of her hand and softened my own tone to match hers. "So what brings you to Sunset Valley?" "Work." she gestured at the pair sitting outside.
It was a good excuse to make sure Mint was safe over there so I snuck a quick peak before responding. "Oh then I am sorry!" "Why?" "Well that you work for Ice. From everything I hear he's one rotten apple!" "Well you shouldn't believe everything you hear!" She snapped.
I was instantly taken aback. From what Mint told me of his behaviour to her yesterday I hardly expected her to defend him. "I'm sorry I didn't mean to offend you. I know I shouldn't repeat gossip but a friend of mine who I trust didn't have much nice to say about him." Friend was a bit of a stretch but considering the circumstances it would do. She snorted as if she could tell I had stretched the truth a bit. "And who is this friend?" "Well it's a couple of friends actually." I figured I mint as well go for broke at this point. "Flax and Maize Treacle."
Her face pinched up as if there was a bitter taste in her mouth. "Well they would say that wouldn't they." As if to stop me from defending them she continued on barely pausing for breath. "Ice and the Treacles have been going at it for as long as I remember and let me tell you those Treacle brothers are pieces of work." "What do you mean?" I may have been a while but that didn't sound right.
She leaned in closer to me and I caught the scent of jasmine as her hair brushed my face. "Well you know that big tour the Milky Ways are about to go on? It was supposed to be the Tangfastics. Flax had Ice's car stolen so Ice never made the meeting the finalise the details. Flax waltzed in there to 'save the day' and was offered the tour for his trouble." Sensing the response she was after I gasp, "No!" She bit her lip, nervous for some reason. "Yeah Ice went absolutely mental, said Flax crossed the line. I've never seen him so mad. He calmed down quickly but I worry about what he's going to do to get even. This isn't the first time something like this has happened and each time gets more vicious than the last."
She raised her head then and for the first time I met her gaze. Her eyes were beautiful even hidden as they were behind those oversized glasses and I involuntarily took a step closer to her. It was her turn to gasp now. "I have to go! I shouldn't have said anything. Forget what I told you, forget everything." She brushed past me and hurried away.
I stared after her as she raced to catch up with the retreating figure of Ice bemused and beguiled by her lingering scent. I wasn't sure if I'd learned anything useful with all that but I knew Mint would be dying to hear everything. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I found myself back in the hospital but this time I was on the right side of the door. I sat watching over the sleeping body of Flax running through everything Per had told me.
Flax never seemed the type that would be cruel and vicious just to get ahead in life, he just wasn't like that. It may have been awhile, but I was sure I knew him still. He was out of the coma now and sleeping off the medication, when he came around I would just have to ask him about it.
I stroked his forehead remembering the hair that used to fall into his eyes and how I would brush it away in an attempt to gaze into them. It had been lifetime ago and as I dug into his past for the secrets that lay there I only hoped that my own would stay hidden.