The Devil's Reprise
The lights came on, and I was blown away by the immediate rush of the song—the vocals, bass, drums, and guitars all coming in at the same time. It was a Hybrid song, “Wet Lips,” always a crowd pleaser, and it brought an explosion of applause from the audience. I’d later look back on that moment when I was writing my review of the show and think that the word “explosion” didn’t quite cut it. It was so much more than that—a visit from a dead loved one, only with Sage at the vocals instead of Robbie Oliver.
I wondered how hard it was for Sage to play something he’d only played with his old bandmates. His face was grave as he sang, his voice low and haunting, and the song had a down-tuned, muddy tone that it hadn’t had before, rising up to a wave of sound that washed over you and sunk into your bones. I was crying again; I couldn’t help it—music, his music, could move me like no other.
When the song was over, the lights went on and the crowd cheered and hollered and demanded more. But from the spent way Sage slinked off the stage, there was nothing more left in him to give. He’d just put his battered heart on a platter, and we all gobbled it up. We couldn’t be sated with anything he could give us; we always wanted more and always would want more, that needy relationship between the consumer and the artist.
He’d given me two mind-blowing orgasms just hours earlier, and I still needed more.
While the rest of the band went off to the side, followed by the rest of the journalists plus Jacob, who was scurrying to get ahead of Sage, I wasn’t sure what to do with myself.
“Should we go back to the hotel?” Max asked. “I think he might be awhile.”
I probably should have, but I wanted to stay and wrap up the exhilaration of the opening night. I shook my head and gave Max my most pleading look. “Will you stay with me?”
“Why, so you can have company until he’s free and then fuck off with him?”
“Yeah,” I admitted. “I always feel awkward when I’m backstage alone with no band or crew with me.”
“You’re a journalist,” he pointed out.
“I know, but…” Sometimes I got afraid, but I wasn’t about to admit it to him.
As if he could pick up on that last thought, he nodded, knowing there were more than a few things to be afraid of out there. The image of Alva in the crowd haunted me. I wanted to chalk it up to my mind playing tricks on me—considering what was happening, that was the most obvious explanation. But since what was happening wasn’t exactly normal, either, you never knew, and I really didn’t want to underestimate anything.
“Let’s go see if we can get in on the action,” Max said. We followed the crowd into the hallway backstage. We didn’t get very far. At the end of the sea of people was Sage, taller than all the reporters, practically being assaulted by a dozen microphones. I knew Sage hated this part of being a musician, having to deal with people like me, the press, but I still felt a surge of pride for him, that he was getting this now all on his own.
Jacob was at the forefront, trying to dictate which reporter got to ask what question, but the French were unruly and ignored him for the most part. At least they stood back enough to give Sage a little breathing room and listened when Jacob threatened them if they ever asked a question regarding what happened to Hybrid.
And beside Jacob was Angeline. Her lips were done up in the darkest red, and she was wearing a black leather miniskirt that matched Sage’s vest perfectly, some sheer white top with a black bra underneath, and platform shoes that put her closer to his height. Not exactly the professional image I assumed a promoter would have—she looked like a rock tramp. Her focus was all on him, and she smiled her dazzling smile to the reporters every now and then, as if the questions were meant for her.
Maybe it was because I’d just slept with Sage, but just the sight of her, just the fact that she was closer to him at this moment than I was, was making my blood boil.
“I’ve gotta take some photos of this; this is far-out,” Max eventually said. I looked up at him and noticed he was giving Angeline the stinkeye, too, or maybe that was just my imagination. He walked over to the wall, taking out his camera and trying to get in the whole scene of Sage at the height of his fame.
Sage himself noticed Max first and then noticed me. His eyes lit up, and he smiled and looked like was trying to make his way over my way. But Jacob gave me a quick glance and kept Sage in place, gesturing to the reporters who were trying even harder now to get him to answer their questions. Jacob then nudged Angeline and whispered into her ear. She turned her head toward me, looking me up and down and then nodded.
She detached herself from Sage’s side and sashayed down the hall toward me, a pert little smile on her face and eyes that were made to be patronizing.
“Dawn,” she said (again, the way she said it sounded like “dun”), “Jacob says for you to head back to the hotel.”
“Well, how long is Sage going to be?”
She looked back at the reporters who were now asking questions about his next album.
“He will be here for some time,” she said, smiling back at me. “He is very popular, as you can see.”
I could see that. This was one of those moments where, even though it was my job to be asking the questions along with the rest of them, it also wasn’t. I was in a weird limbo state between being a journalist and being more than a journalist.
“Sage!” a woman reporter yelled, making Angeline and I look over in curiosity. “I am with an American news service here, and the people in my office want to know if you have a girlfriend.”
I expected Jacob to butt in and say it was none of their business, next question please, but he merely looked at Sage for his answer, as everyone else was doing. I hadn’t realized I’d been holding my breath.
Sage didn’t even look my way. He just shook his head and said, “No, I’m single.”
I felt like disappearing.
Angeline looked back to me, her smile now smug. She knew. And she was enjoying this, enjoying watching my ego get pummeled. I tried to put on a brave face, but I knew she could see right through it.
She leaned in and I caught her smell—heavy perfume, like cheap vanilla pudding I ate too much of as a kid. “If it makes you feel better, this is much better for his image here, no? He will be more popular if it looks like he is unattached. Fucking, as we both know, is allowed, bien sûr.”
I sucked in my breath and tried to keep my temper reined in. I was seconds from losing it, tired of this roller coaster of highs and lows all because of him. I didn’t give a fuck what looked better for Sage; the fact was I had meant something to him, I had to have, and even if we were officially together instead of this weird starting-over, in-between stage, he’d still probably lie about it to the press.
I caught Jacob staring at me, willing me with those sharp eyes of his to be understanding, to stay calm. Now I knew why he asked Angeline to make me leave. The more I hovered around this zone, this part of Sage’s job, the more complicated things became for everyone.
“Don’t worry,” I managed to say, my eyes holding hard on Jacob’s. “I’m leaving.”
I turned on my heel and stormed off down the hall. Within seconds I heard Max running up behind me.
“Wait,” he said as he caught up. “You changed your mind?”
“You heard the question,” I muttered as I kicked open the back door leading to the alley. It was raining now, and there were only a few smatterings of die-hard fans under umbrellas, waiting for a glimpse of Sage. They looked disappointed as hell to see me. I knew how they felt.
I hurried through the puddles in the alley, cursing myself and everything else. Max had tucked his camera in his pack just in time, and he lifted his leather jacket high above our heads to shield us from the rain.
“What question?” he finally asked as we got to the street and started looking for a cab.
I eyed him dryly. “The answer to if he had a girlfriend. That he said, no, he was single.”
Max cocked his head to the side, considering it, as water droplets rolled off the tip of his jacket. “Well, I mean you aren’t…he isn’t…”
I narrowed my eyes, lashes clumpy from the rain.
He shrugged. “Sorry, little lamb, but I’m with Sage on this one. Sometimes a rock star’s gotta say what a rock star’s gotta say. You should know that better than anyone.”
I sighed, knowing that Max was probably right, but it didn’t mean I had to like it. I just hated that it happened so soon after we slept together, after I fell in love with him onstage all over again. And I really hated that Angeline had to witness it. Ugh. Fucking, as we both know, is allowed. Why the hell didn’t I punch her for that one?
Because the Metro closest to us wasn’t running anymore, we ended up walking around in the rain for a half hour before we finally got a cab. By the time I got to my room, my clothes were soaking wet and my spirits were equally damp. Everything about the night had been absolutely amazing until the very end. Once we were back at the hotel, I fell asleep trying to erase it from my mind.
I woke up to my phone ringing. It took me a few moments to once again realize where I was. The room was dark, and the rain was pounding hard on the window. I was covered in blankets, but my teeth were chattering, my hair still damp from earlier.
I slowly rolled over and reached for the phone. Calls in the middle of the night were never a good thing, but maybe with the time difference it was Mel or my dad. I only got to speak to him briefly the other morning.
I pulled the covers around me tighter and snatched up the receiver.
“Hello?” I asked, my voice hoarse from singing at the concert earlier.
Static crackled in my ear. It definitely sounded long distance.
“Hello?” I repeated. “Mel?”
My entire body was immediately blanketed in in goosebumps, my heart seeming to beat through sludge. This couldn’t be who it sounded like because if it was, then it was really long distance.
I swallowed, the sound loud in my head. “This is Dawn,” I whispered, my voice quivering.
It had to be a wrong number, it had to be a wrong number.
“Dawn, sweetie, I’m so glad it’s you,” she said.
The voice of my mother.
My mother, who committed suicide when I was sixteen.
My mother, who I discovered dead in the bathroom with bleeding wrists and empty eyes.
“Sweetie,” she went on, her voice suddenly sounding so clear that it was nearly impossible to tell myself that I was dreaming. But I had to be dreaming, I had to be dreaming. “Dawn, you don’t know how good it is to talk to you, to finally talk to you. Oh, honey, I’ve missed you so much.”
The terror was so great that I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t move. I could only hold that phone to my ear, powerless against the fucking horror that was coming through the line. It sounded like my mother, but oh God, it couldn’t be.
My mother was dead. I saw her die. She was dead.
“Who are you?” I found myself croaking out.