The Devil's Reprise
I was staring at an empty bottle of rum—someone had left three-fourths of it in the dressing room—when Jacob rapped at the door.
“We need to talk,” he said. It was the voice he used when I was in shit and he had to be the manager of the year and change my diapers.
“Go away,” I said. Then I thought better of it. “Actually, can you bring Tricky in here?”
There was a pause. “Tricky gave me something to give to you. I don’t know what it is. It’s wrapped up in tinfoil.”
Bingo. I got up and opened the door, smiling lazily. Jacob leered at me.
“Such a trollop,” he said before he quickly shoved me back inside the room and squeezed in through the door, slamming it shut behind him so hard the walls shook.
I raised my brows, suddenly uneasy. “What the hell is wrong with you? Where’s the tinfoil?” I asked, noticing his hands were empty.
He marched right over to me and grabbed me by the shirt collar then spun me around until the back of my head hit the wall. “Fuck, Jacob,” I grimaced as the room spun.
“Fuck you,” he grunted. “Fuck you for being you.” He shoved into me once more, his face as red as his hair and sweat beading at his temples, before removing his hands and walking to the opposite side of the room, his fists closing and unclosing at his sides.
I watched him pace back and forth like a caged animal. I was sobering up fast, unsure of what he was going to say or what he was going to do next. So I shut my mouth, smoothed out the collar of my shirt, and waited.
Jacob stopped in the middle of the room, gaudy checkered-suit-back to me, and stared at a framed picture on the wall, one of the Nice waterfront.
“Did you know I lived in France a really long time ago?” he asked, voice dry but pleasant. Calm. It was unsettling.
“No,” I said slowly. “You speak shit French for someone who did, though.”
“My French is perfect, you wanker. I just choose not to speak it. I worked in a manor, just north of here, outside the town of Grasse. I was the butler to a wealthy family who owned one of the perfumeries. They grew a lot of lavender. Had a lot of money. They also had a young daughter, Yvette, who was beautiful, smart…they wanted her to marry rich, marry well.”
This was starting to sound like a Jane Austen novel. “Uh, when was this?”
“Last century,” he said matter-of-factly.
I blinked. “Right. But Max said that you don’t remember all your lives.”
He still didn’t turn around to face me but clasped his hands behind his back. “He was oversimplifying. He’s not been around as long as I have. You often do, just not all of them and not all of it. But you remember the important ones. I remembered this job because I failed.” He paused, his head turning slightly so I could see his profile. “I failed Yvette because I thought I was all she needed. I was her guide at the time, you see. She was being plagued by visions, visits from the other realm. Slowly, carefully, I revealed who I was and how I could help her. I taught her how to use the Thin Veil, how to communicate, and sometimes, how to help the dead who were lost. But in those visits to the Veil, and every time she opened herself up to another realm, there were spirits—and worse, demons—that would come over. They tormented her. They made her feel insane. And I was all she had.”
He sighed and looked to the ground. “Except there was a boy. Her friend. He was lowly, to her family anyway, and worked on the farm picking the flowers for pressing. Jacques. But they were close—she loved him, even though she had to hide it from her family, and he loved her. Still, she never confided in him what she’d been going through. I told her not to. I thought I was protecting her, that Jacques wouldn’t understand, that he wouldn’t be there for her at any rate. I was her Jacob. It was my job to help her through—no one else’s.”
He slowly turned around to face me, and I saw a vulnerability in his hardened, pockmarked face that I hadn’t seen before. “She killed herself one morning. Drowned herself like Ophelia in the creek outside the property. She told me she was going to do it, too, I just didn’t realize how serious she was. She said she was sick of being alone through this. Even though I was there with her, I wasn’t like her. I wasn’t mortal. And most of all, she did not love me. She loved Jacques. And she slowly went mad without him there to shield her from it. The ghosts, the madness, this impossible life she’d been living. Had I just told her to confide in him, to involve him, maybe she wouldn’t have died. Maybe just knowing that she wasn’t suffering alone would have been enough to save her. Her ghost haunted me for a very long time…decades, even, through many lives. Just reminding me of the time I failed.”
Walking over to me, he reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a flask. He unscrewed the cap and took a long swig before handing it to me. I took it gingerly, afraid to partake. He nodded at it. “It’s one-hundred-year-old scotch,” he said. “Have some.”
I did. Nothing tasted smoother.
He took it back from me and took another shot, wiping his mouth with the edge of his sleeve. “Sage, I don’t want to fail with Dawn. I don’t want her to think she’s alone in this.”
“She has Max…and you. And she has me.”
“No,” he said with a sad shake of his head. “She doesn’t have you. You’re somewhere else, as you always are. You’re trying to take the easy way out again, trying to escape. You did it when you were in Hybrid. You did it in Hybrid A.D. And you’re doing it now. Whenever life throws you a curveball, you run and you hide and—though you may be standing here right now, though you were standing on that bloody stage playing your music that at that moment meant nothing to you—you’re numb to living.”
I didn’t want to hear this. “Curveball? That’s a pretty nice way of putting it. Putting out a shitty album or spilling coffee on your dress shirt, that’s a curveball. I have fucking demons after me, after my bandmates, after my girlfriend!” I tugged at my hair in frustration, turning away from him, feeling the anger rising out of my chest. “My mother was raped and murdered when I was fourteen. That’s not a fucking curveball. That destroyed me. That destroyed my whole life.”
“Sage,” he said delicately. Oh, how I wanted to punch him in the face. “In the grand scheme of things, they are all curveballs. It doesn’t matter what happens to make you want to derail, it’s how you handle it. It’s how you don’t derail. Right now, this is unacceptable. Right now, this is not about you. You and your rock star bullshit ego. This is about Dawn. She needs you now. She saved your life once, remember? You didn’t love her. Now you can and you can use that love to save her.” He took a step toward me, breath like whiskey, and handed me the flask again while his eyes bore into my soul. “I know the thought of losing her is painful. I know you think this is helpless, that you can’t do anything. I know you’re afraid. Well, boy, I’m afraid, too. The joys of being mortal. But you have to be there for her. She needs you. This is how you’ll save her—just by showing up and giving her your all. Don’t let her go through this alone. She deserves better than that.”
I slowly swallowed down the alcohol, enjoying the burn. “I thought I wasn’t supposed to be around her,” I said quietly. “I thought Max was trying to keep her from me.”
“Well, the fact that you were high and drunk off your blooming tree for the day didn’t help you, did it? But that’s also Max. This, right now, is coming from me, and believe me, I know more about this sort of thing than he does. Who does he think he is, anyway, with that hair? Ginger Elvis?”
I smirked at that and handed the flask back to Jacob. “So what do you suggest I do?”
“Go be with her,” he said, sticking it back in his pocket. “Listen to her. Talk to her. Make sure she knows she is not alone. Make her your one-man show.”
I smiled and patted him on the shoulder. “Where is she?”
“She should still be with Max, probably in the venue lobby. He wanted to take pictures of the audience afterward, and Dawn said she’d try and interview them, though I don’t know how far she’d get. Now her French is terrible.”
I left Jacob backstage and pushed my way past a group of fans who had gathered at the entrance. I tried to ignore their waving pens and album covers, their squeals of joy when they saw me, their hands grabbing my arms, my waist, my legs. They wanted me, all of them, every part of me, but the exchange between us was over. The only person who could have me, all of me, was standing in the distance under the glow of a chandelier, her wild red hair a frame for her warm eyes and guarded smile.
“Dawn,” I called out, stepping out of the mob of people and walking freely over to her.
She stopped scribbling in her notepad and looked up in shock. The young man she was interviewing, a lanky shit with hair down to his ass, looked in shock, too. Max stood off to the side, not saying anything, not yet.
“Sage,” she said. “I thought you were…”
Fucked up, passed out, on the town. She was thinking any of those things. I had to show her the truth.
“I’m right here,” I said. I reached out for her arm and pulled her toward me. She looked up with wide, curious eyes, beholding me as if I could break her in two. I cupped her face in my hands and kissed her softly on the lips. I heard her pen and notepad fall to the ground beside us.
When I pulled away, I rubbed my thumb over her lips, feeling her smile underneath it.
“What was that for?” she asked, her eyes darting over my shoulder now. The chatter of the fans had grown, and I was sure they were going nuts with what I’d just done. Did Sage Knightly just kiss that woman? Who is she?
She was Dawn Emerson, and she was mine.
“It’s for everything,” I said gently. My eyes flicked to Max as I bent down to pick up her pen and notebook. “Do I have permission to take Ms. Emerson out for a walk on the beach?”
He grimaced and unfolded his arms, his lips pursed. “I don’t know…”
And we three knew it was dangerous. But damned if I wouldn’t be there for her like she deserved, especially after Jacob put me in my place. I wouldn’t let her feel alone.
“Can I come, too?” the young fan said in broken English.
I smiled at him and reached into my pocket. I brought out a guitar pick and placed it in his hands. “No, but here’s a souvenir. Thanks for coming out, man.”
I held on to Dawn’s hand and led her out into the night, past more fans. I signed a few autographs until I let them know I had a date. With my girlfriend.
Dawn looked up at me wide-eyed as we walked down the street toward the waterfront. “Girlfriend?” she asked.
I raised my brow at her. “Too presumptuous of me?”
She shook her head. “No, I…thank you.”
“For coming to get me.”
I sucked in my breath. “I’m sorry I wasn’t really…with it today. It’s been rough. And I mean, it’s been rough for you. I’m just not…handling it well. And I should be.”