by Melissa ‘Missy’ Frye
Copyright 2012 Melissa Frye
Cover photo by John Nyberg
Waves of people stretched before the immense stage like a raging sea. The setting sun’s orange glow competed with harsh spotlights to illuminate the singer. Each song became absorbed by the crowd then expelled in the form of sound and motion, the audience and musicians performing as one. Greta gazed at her niece who swayed to the song’s rhythm and sang with conviction, completely engrossed in the performance.
Nyx had recently graduated from high school and promptly headed to London to escort her expatriate aunt home. Although Greta’s co-workers and friends adopted her as an honorary Londoner, she was American. Twenty-three years in a foreign country hadn’t changed that.
Her job at a publicity firm limited her ability to visit the States. Her sister’s offspring grew up and she’d missed the milestones of their lives. That was about to change. Her company transferred her to a satellite office in the United States and tonight marked her final night in the U.K.
The music faded and she focused on the singer. He wore a black tank top, tattoos covered the majority of his exposed skin. His dark hair was cut short and his arms appeared muscular. In her opinion, nothing to fuss over. Charisma must count for something.
“This is it!” Nyx yelled over the resuming music. “He picks a girl out of the audience when he sings this one.”
Greta could tell Nyx wanted to share the spotlight with the rocker and saw no reason her niece shouldn’t be serenaded. The contrast of her black hair and pale blue eyes made the young woman noticeable in any crowd and they stood in the coveted area a few feet from the stage. Her job as a publicist had its benefits.
Long forgotten emotions stung Greta as she recalled the freedom of youth, the possibilities of life’s offerings. She understood the desire to be noticed. At one time, she too longed for attention. Not by a pop star, but by someone no less out of reach.
At Nyx’s age, Greta had stepped onto the University of Glasgow campus and within a few hours had developed a crush on Lachlan. His charm, handsome form, and the fact he came from an affluent Scottish family, made him one of the most eligible men in Scotland. She had harbored no illusions of such a person noticing her. His first dinner invitation had stunned her. A year later, a marriage proposal had sent her spiraling into delirium.
“Oh my God! Oh my God!”
Alarmed by her niece’s tone, Greta frantically scanned the crowd for the cause. Their surroundings appeared unchanged from moments before. An ocean of bodies surrounded the stage. Large screens on each side magnified the performer. She jerked her head and froze. The blue eyes she ordinarily viewed only in mirrors and photographs gaped from the screen.
“He wants you, Aunt Greta! Go! Go!”
Unsure of what to do, she hazily followed the burly security officer sent to clear her path. Her heart thudded frantically and her feet seemed mired in heavy mud, each step more difficult than the last. Solid ground fell away, strong arms lifted her to the stage. The singer drew her into his arms and his body guided hers in a slow motion while he sang. The song came to her in a strange sort-of stereo, a soft version close to her as a louder one surrounded them.
He allowed a fraction of space to come between them and peered directly into her eyes. He focused his whole being on her. She felt special, treasured. Each word became more faint until his lips touched hers and they ceased. She responded to his effort to deepen the kiss and no longer wondered why the girls went crazy for him.
During their short time together, he treated her with reverence, an experience altogether new for Greta. He had revived a passion that she believed had died long ago. A rushed transition from stage to ground left her dizzy. Nyx tugged her hands and squealed. “Holy shit! You got to kiss Robbie Williams!”
Greta rolled onto her side and pulled the sheet over her face in an effort to block out the ringing. When that failed, she yanked the pillow from under her head and held it over her ear while sticking her finger in the other. After the concert and a round of pub hopping, she poured herself into bed around three a.m. The telephone began its incessant intrusions at daybreak. Despite the low ring volume, and her decision to let the machine answer, she slept sporadically at best.
Nyx strolled into her room with her cell-phone pressed to her ear. Her free hand waved as she spoke. Greta dropped the pillow to listen. “It was so awesome, mom! He picked her out of thousands of women and she got to kiss…”
Greta replaced the barriers, unwilling to revisit her time on stage with the songster or the kiss. Her focus should remain on packing her life and transitioning to the States. But the urge to examine the yearning last night’s events awoke prodded her consciousness. Kisses were no longer a common occurrence for her. Not since well before her divorce had she experienced one with such heat.
Lachlan. Another matter she wanted to avoid. Memories of him were wrapped in her deficiencies. She didn’t pretend ignorance of her ex-husband’s motivations. He’d hoped to frustrate his parents by dating someone with a blue-collar background and stood shocked when they, and his grandmother, approved of her. After twelve years of marriage, three miscarriages and no heir to the family holdings, the novelty of her American heritage wore off.
Nyx pulled the pillow from her aunt’s face. “Mom wants to talk to you.”
Greta pushed herself into an upright position, brushed her long hair from her face and took the phone. Moya and she shared a bond greater than sisters. They were best friends, too. A mere year separated them in age but she delighted in reminding her sister who crossed the major age thresholds first. “Hey. What’s up?”
“What’s up? What kind of example are you setting for my daughter?” Moya asked.
“Example?” Innocence settled over Greta like a wisp of translucent material. “I’m a thirty-something, dignified professional. I would never lead your daughter astray.”
Moya abandoned her normal tinkling laugh and guffawed. Greta acknowledged her sister’s disbelief with a laugh of her own.
“I thought he’d pick Nyx. I was ready to push her on stage,” Greta said.
Nyx inhaled sharply. “You’d do that for me?”
Greta sobered. Her time for youthful escapades had come and gone. She regretted that her niece hadn’t gotten her wish. “Oh, honey, given a choice I’d have traded places with you in an instant.”
“How can you say that? He’s so hot,” Nyx said.
“I can’t believe she’s not jealous,” Moya said. “Did you sleep with a knife under your pillow in case she attacked during the night?”
“No. The legal drinking age is eighteen here. I plied her with liquor until she didn’t care anymore.”
Greta held the phone away from her ear and winked at her niece. As Moya’s voice increased in volume their smiles expanded. She finally took pity on her sister. “Relax, Sis. You know I’m joking.”
“Of course I know, lamebrain. I’m just doing my motherly duty.”
The sisters spoke for a few more minutes and Greta promised to call before they boarded the plane. She handed the receiver to her niece who said a quick goodbye and disconnected.
“Who else called this morning?” Nyx asked. “The phone rang off the wall.”
“I don’t know.” Greta ambled to the kitchen and pressed the play button on the answering machine, one of the few items not packed.
The voice of her friend Kady gushed from the small speaker. “You’re brilliant! I want to hear every detail before you leave, so call me.”
A short silence separated Kady’s feminine tones from the smooth timbre of Beck, a co-worker. “Greta, why didn’t you tell me you’re so outgoing? Let’s go get a drink before you leave.”
Greta’s confusion increased as messages from friends and co-workers played, all congratulating her and asking for details. Nyx burst into a flurry of motion and ran from the room only to reappear within seconds, morning newspaper in hand.
She spread the paper over the small kitchen table and flipped pages. A picture of Greta with Robbie Williams stared at them from page three. Greta’s eyes were closed and she clung to the singer whose face nestled the crook of her neck. She remembered he had called her lovely.
“Wow! You look beautiful,” Nyx said.
Greta snorted. She shouldn’t have allowed herself to be lured on stage. Any number of women would have been better suited to such a display, including her niece. “I look ridiculous.”
Nyx sputtered. The doorbell rang and Greta raised her eyebrows. “Saved by the bell.”
The pair walked to the foyer. Greta peeked through the peephole and groaned at Lachlan’s domineering presence. She took a deep breath, unlocked the door and pulled it open. His easy smile and the accompanying lines around his mouth and eyes once thrilled her, now they left her cold.
He stepped across the threshold and kissed Greta on the cheek before he focused on the younger woman. “Impossible. You look like my niece but you can’t be. You’re all grown up.”
Nyx smiled. “Hi, Uncle Lachlan.”
He winked then turned his attention to Greta. “Aren’t you going to offer me some tea?”
Greta sighed and waved her arm toward the kitchen. She closed the door as Lachlan and Nyx walked to the other room. Her shoulders sagged and she resisted the urge to bang her head against the wood, sighing instead. Straightening her spine, she followed.
Nyx grabbed the kettle. “You two sit. I’ll make the tea.”
Lachlan extended his hand to Greta. A small gift-bag dangled from his fingers.
“What’s this?” She took the bag.
He folded his long frame into the feminine dining chair and winked. “Mum wanted you to have your birthday gift before you left.”
“I wasn’t expecting her to get me anything.” She pushed the newspaper to the table’s edge and placed the gift-bag in its spot. Tissue paper peeked over the edges. Greta tugged it to reveal a jewel case. She hesitated to touch it.
“She adores you,” he said. “She and Gran are hoping you’ll come back to me.”
“Your new woman not to their liking?” Greta raised her eyebrows.
Lachlan cleared his throat. “They don’t know about her… yet.”
She retrieved the case and slowly opened the lid. Her chin dropped and her eyes rounded. A Padparadscha Sapphire necklace lay nestled inside. The gem’s rarity made it far from simple, but it wasn’t a bold jewel. Her former mother-in-law inherited the unusual piece as a family heirloom.
“I can’t accept this.” She looked at Lachlan. “She’ll want to give it to a granddaughter someday.”
“That’s between you and Mum.” He dismissed her with a wave of his hand and focused on the discarded newspaper. A smirk crossed his face.
“Looks like you had fun last night,” he said pointing at the picture. “You impressed Gran.”
“Isn’t it brilliant!” Nyx said, each word punctuated by motion. “He chose her from thousands of women.”
“Aren’t you embarrassed by her behavior?” His expression mixed incredulity with indulgence.
“Why would I be embarrassed?” Nyx asked.
“Because your aunt is acting like a girl half her age. Someone closer to his age should have joined him on stage.” He said.
“Uh, actually, Aunt Greta is close to his age. He’s just a few years younger than her.”
He shook his head and turned to his ex-wife. “I never imagined you would become so desperate for a man. What did you do to get his attention? Flash your tits?”
Nyx sucked in her breath. Greta’s anger flared. The insufferable man didn’t care whom he hurt in his quest to belittle his ex-wife and validate his decision to leave her.
“It’s time for you to go,” Greta said. “I’ll return the necklace before I go home.”
“I’m not trying to hurt you,” he replied. “But I do believe you should display a touch more decorum during your public outings.”
She gestured for him to stand with her left hand while she pointed toward the front door with her right. “The last thing that hurt me was you telling me you’d find another woman to give you an heir. I don’t bruise so easily anymore.”
He grabbed her hand and cocooned it between his own. His voice softened. “You know how important it is for me to produce an heir.”
“You can’t be serious!” She jerked from his grip and rubbed her palm against her thigh. “The only person pressuring you for a biological heir, is you. Your mother started researching adoption options for us!”
“Shhh,” Lachlan said as he reached for her face. She jerked away and walked to the front door. Lachlan and Nyx followed.
“Get out!” Greta flung open the door.
Lachlan appeared to obey her command but stopped over the threshold. “I didn’t come here to fight.”
“Really?” Greta asked.
He looked at Nyx. “I’m sorry you had to see this,” he said.
Greta snorted. “That’s one thing I believe. It won’t due for the rest of the world to see what a colossal ass you are.” She pushed him over the threshold. “Oh, and don’t fool yourself into thinking your family doesn’t know about your girlfriend. They knew before I did.”
She slammed the door and turned the lock. “A touch more decorum, my ass.”