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Authors: Kelli Jae Baeli

As You Were

BOOK: As You Were
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As You Were
Kelli Jae Baeli
Kelli Jae Baeli (2009)

Tru, a performing singer-songwriter, and Brittany, a photographer, shared a beautiful home on Red Mountain in Colorado, enjoyed horseback riding in the snow-laden hills, and romantic nights in front of the fireplace. But when an average day ends in a tragic accident, Tru must embark upon a quest to regain the life she once had with her lover, while sinister outsiders take advantage of the precarious situation. 

Yearning, revelations, and lurking danger pull at the threads of a once-idyllic life.

As You Were is a romantic story driven by mystery and suspense.

As You Were

 

1

BLUE SPRUCE SHOULDERED CLUMPS OF UNSULLIED SNOW along the icy driveway leading to the secluded brick and cedar house atop Castle Mountain.

The dream faded, as the dreamer began the process of lifting heavy lids. Eyes focusing, she saw the blond woman standing over her in an apron blotted with myriad colors, liberated from the twisted tubes onto her palette. She reached out with the camel hair brush and dotted her lover’s nose with Cadmium red.

“I had this weird dream.” Tru wiped at the paint on her nose.

“You forgot to tell me good morning.” Brittany handed her lover a rag as colorful as her apron.

“Good morning, Baby...” She wiped the paint off.

“A dream woke me up early, too.”

Handing her back the rag, she asked, “What was it about?”

“It was unpleasant...
tell me yours.”

“...I was headlining Lilith Fair and you were working on this gigantic back drop of a rose.”

“A rose, huh? How original of me.”

“No, well...
it looked like a rose on first glance, but really, it was a vulva with a giant pink—”

“Oh, Lord.”

“Seriously, every time a performer would take the stage, the giant vulva would light up and pulsate. The crowd was really into it, but it was subliminal, ya know? And the singers would keep turning away from the audience to see the display. What do you think that means?”

“I think it means you mixed your liquors too much last night.”

“Ya think?” Tru Morgan pushed her fingers through sleep-afflicted short black hair and climbed out of bed, heading for the bathroom. “Gotta tee-tee.”

“Don’t stay in there too long,” Brittany called. “I have to tee-tee, too.“ A minute later, Tru heard Brittany at the door, speaking as if into a walkie-talkie. “Tee-Tee One, this is Tee-Tee Two. What’s your ETD?”

Tru laughed, flushed the toilet, and opened the door, wrapping her arms around Brittany with a sleepy giggle. “Weirdo.”

Brittany slipped past her into the bathroom.

They led a bucolic life; preferred by Brittany, and necessary for Tru. Touring and being in the public eye made her want solitude even more. Tru had recorded two independent CD’s with the help of her manager, Macy, and an attentive gay audience. A contradictory creature, she loved being on stage, with a crowd of people happily attentive, applauding, and singing along to her music, yet she also craved the stillness the buffering snow provided on Castle Mountain.

Brittany enjoyed taking pictures of errant wildlife on their land, and had managed to eke out a good living from the sale of them to nature magazines, galleries and sometimes wealthy debutantes who wanted to pretend they were the outdoorsy type. She also worked part time at a photography studio and as a freelance photographer for regional newspapers.

When Tru was not performing or touring, their days were filled with artistic endeavor, horseback rides in the wooded hills behind the house, and evenings of gourmet coffee and movies. It was enough.

“Hey, Macy.” Tru approached the table and leaned over to hug her manager.

“Hey, Honey.” She fingered a thick strand of brown hair behind one ear, as she studied the calendar in front of her again. “Have a seat.”

They were in the corner of the club, farthest away from the blaring reverb of the stage speakers. The music would only get louder as late afternoon turned to evening.

Tru smiled at Macy’s brother, sitting across from her. “I didn’t expect to see you, Travis.” Tru took a seat near Macy and glanced at the calendar.

“I’ve been on vacation, too.” He admired how her 501’s hugged the curves, wishing the black T-shirt was something lacey. But he knew Tru wasn’t the lacey type. And he wished her black hair was longer like Brittany’s, instead of shoulder-length.

“I heard. Did you learn your lesson?”

“The charges were bogus. I was framed.”

“Right. They had to cut loose the pot-heads so they would have room for the real criminals.”

“You joke, but that’s for real.” He took a drink of beer and swished it in his mouth, as if rinsing something out. “I certainly want them to have room for the Highwayman.”

“Shit, Travis, they’re not going to catch him. He’s too slick,” Macy responded, without looking up.

Tru’s eyes slid back and forth between them. “The Highwayman?”

Travis squeaked, “Don’t you watch the news anymore, girl?”

“Well, not local news. I usually watch CNN.”

“Well it’s going to end up on CNN, I’m sure.” Macy put a hand on her arm. “There’s this guy who follows women on the highway, and then he lures them out of their cars and chases them down and kills them.”

“God.”

“They’ve dubbed him the Highwayman.”

“Why does he chase them?”

“The psychologists they interviewed about it believe he gets off on it.” Travis offered. “Like he thinks he’s some kind of predator.”

Tru shook her head. “Can we talk about something else?”

Travis licked his lips and grinned. “My sister tells me you’re about to stage a comeback.”

She wiped at an errant ring of moisture atop the laminated table, wiping it on the thigh of her jeans. “Something like that. Though comebacks indicate previous stardom. I never got that far.”

“Well, you were a star to all the lesbians. Let me congratulate you with a margarita?”

“Sure.” Mildly suspicious of the gesture, Tru watched him get up and go to the bar. Travis wasn’t typically generous with his money unless he wanted something.

Macy, however, could be counted on for pragmatism. “Okay, girl. After we get the band up to speed on the new sets, you need to gig here, and then I’m already working on a few out of town gigs.” She picked up her electronic cigarette from the table, took a long draw of banana flavored vapor, and thumbed through her Day-Timer. “Christmas is just around the corner, and I know you’ll want some time at home. But right after that, you’ll do a show here.”

Tru pulled out her own eCig, and drew on it, happy that she had added a side-business in distribution for this new technology that not only helped people quit tobacco, but provided a safe form of oral fixation. That was her addiction now. To eCigs. But she felt good about it, or she wouldn’t have taken on a distributorship, and started selling to everyone she knew, and many she didn’t. Selling in person and from a website, she had customers in almost every state. It was a bittersweet endeavor, since she had the electronic cigarette idea many years ago, but didn’t have the money for a patent and a prototype. So some guy in China thought of it as well, a few years ago, and now he was the one getting rich instead of her. She tried to tell herself it just wasn’t her path and that the music was what she was supposed to be doing.

Tru watched the patrons step up and down the stairs of the mezzanine entrance to the show-bar,
Lost & Found
. Their table, no bigger than a garbage can lid, served its purpose by giving them a place to put drinks and elbows. “Did you talk to Nathan?”

“Yeah, he’s checking his calendar and he’ll let me know. He was all about it.”

“I was afraid I was old news already.”

“It’s your own fault. You’ve been obsessing on Brittany lately.”

“We needed a break.”

“Well, I hope you got that out of your system for a while. We need to get serious. The momentum you built is going to be in the toilet.”

Two years earlier, Macy Palmer had approached Tru after a coffeehouse gig, handing her a business card for Macy Management, her newly begun musical artist management company, and snared Tru as her first client. Tru spent a few hours talking to the woman over drinks, and decided she liked her. She gave it a trial run to see what evolved.

Macy proved effective as a booking agent and personal manager. Tru found herself with gigs every week, as they began to make important connections in the music community.

Now, Macy added items to a list in her To Be Done in December section, and sipped her White Russian, sucked her eCig. “I was serious about focusing more on getting you into the mainstream. We can’t continue to depend on the gay audience. You need to start gigging in the mainstream venues. I’m working on a nation-wide schedule.”

Travis returned with the margarita, and saw Tru make a face. “Oh, Brit’s gonna love that.”

He watched Tru take a long, swift drink. “Trouble in paradise?” he asked.

She knew that ‘paradise’ was something that only happened in the first few months of a relationship—before reality kicked in. But they had adjusted to reality just fine. “Not really. I think Brit isn’t too keen on the idea of me being on the road again.”

Travis sang, “
On the road again, just can’t wait to get on the road again
...”

“Don’t quit your day job, Travis,” Macy snorted.

He held his glass up like a trophy, and made a mock speech. “I’d like to thank the Academy, and my dear sister, Macy, for her encouragement and support...”

“Reality check, Travis.”

“I’m firmly entrenched, Sis, don’t worry.”

She didn’t seem convinced. “Anyway...Tru, if you could drop in on Nathan for a few minutes, I’m sure that would go a long way.”

“I’ll do that before I leave.”

They spent the next half-hour discussing details, to include the excitement from the band that they would no longer play exclusively in gay venues. She would be offering them full-time positions as Tru’s backup band. She closed the calendar and stuck it in her attaché case. “I gotta go. I’ll call you later.” She downed the rest of her drink and squeezed Tru’s shoulder on the way out.

“Bye, Sis,” Travis called.

She tossed a bit of exasperated sisterly acknowledgement over her shoulder and waved.

Travis turned his attention back to Tru. “Wanna talk about it?” He peeled at the corner of the label on his beer and waited, knowing he would have to be careful not to say too much.

“You wouldn’t understand,” she said simply, licking salt from the rim of her glass and chasing it with a swallow.

“I might. Is it something beyond repair?” Travis unfastened the top button of his shirt and smoothed the back of his hair.

“Probably not. Only your average petty jealousy.”

“She’s jealous, or you’re jealous?”

“Both of us, I guess.” Tru pulled her eCig from her pocket again, took a pull on the mouthpiece and apple-flavored vapor surrounded her head, as she took another long drink, and did not stop Travis when he motioned to the waitress for another margarita. “She’s jealous of my fans, and I’m jealous of hers.”

Travis chuckled. “I know about your fans, but who are hers?”

“Any red-blooded American male who sees her, it seems.”

“Ah,” he said knowingly, taking a small sip of his drink.

The tequila loosened her tongue. “Every time a guy walks past her, his eyes get bigger and he has to do a double take. I keep expecting some guy to throw his jacket down over the puddles in front of her.”

“Maybe you ought to be flattered, I mean she is with you.”

She nodded. “I am flattered, but it gets old. I get this odd sort of pleasure when she wakes up with a blemish on her face.”

“It’s perfectly natural for a beautiful woman to give a man a boner.”

She peered up at him curiously. “Do all men think with their dicks?”

Travis shifted in his seat and chuckled. “I don’t think ...I’m qualified to speak for all men. But I can understand why they respond that way to her.”

The lime-green liquid among the ice cubes in her glass reminded her of antifreeze. But that thought was merely mental subterfuge. “I know you’re one of them, Travis.”

He cleared his throat and repositioned his chair. “Well, I don’t know if I ‘think with my dick,’ as you so colorfully put it, but I’d be a liar if I denied that Brittany was drop-dead gorgeous.” When Tru shot a few visual daggers at him, he raised his hands innocently. “But I know she belongs to you.”

“If you knew her very well, you’d know that she belongs to no one. That’s what attracted me to her in the first place—her aloofness.” Tru finished the margarita in time to begin the new one the waitress brought.

“But not that she’s hot?”

She agitated the drink with her straw. “Well, sure. Okay. I’m human, too.” Tru could get on stage and perform to the adulation of a crowd, but when it came to Brit, she found herself wary of the ogling when they were in public. Who would be the next fool to drool? When would there be another incoming testosterone missile, with a lusty smile and a rehearsed opening line? Most of the time, the idiots didn’t even acknowledge Tru’s presence. In fairness, Tru had to admit that Brittany was altogether gracious toward her would-be suitors, adroitly turning them down in such a way that they walked away feeling more blessed by an audience with her, than saddled with a rejection. Being mad at Brit seemed a difficult task, ultimately. Even though the repeated amorous-deflection situations were very much like sandpaper in Tru’s brain.

The room had grown darker with sunset, and the dim candlelight of the corner mezzanine would be calming if not for the dance music filling the room. Tru became rudely aware that she did not want chaos, but calm.

BOOK: As You Were
10.53Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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