“Graham,” I called and trotted after him. He wasn’t much over six feet tall but he covered a lot of ground with his long, tattooed legs that were poking out of his black workman shorts.
He didn’t stop and neither did I. I reached out for his shoulder just as he was about to go in the bathroom.
“What?” he snarled, whipping around to face me with hate-filled eyes. I never liked being this close to him. His skin was tight and pale, almost waxy. He was considered handsome and dark by some girls, but all I could see was a black cloud billowing deep behind those dark eyes, always watching, always spiteful. An upside down crucifix hung from his necklace, swinging along his tattooed collarbone. Always playing the part. Wasn’t he?
I swallowed hard and took a few steps back. “I just wanted to ask you a few questions.”
“Can it wait till I’m done pissing?” he snarled.
I nodded, a bit scared. I didn’t know what I’d been thinking, ambushing him just before he went into the washroom.
He shook his head, cursing me I was sure, or damning me. He went toward the door, his hand out to push it open.
“I just wanted to know about your psycho groupies,” my lips said before I even had a chance to think. Talk about poking the bear.
I clamped my mouth shut but wasn’t prepared for what happened next. In a whirl of black and limbs, Graham spun around and grabbed me, his nails digging into my arms. The next thing I knew I was being slammed against the wall and he was holding me against it. His body was strong from years of wielding drumsticks and I didn’t have a fighting chance to get loose.
“What the fuck is that any of your business?” he growled, his face mere inches from mine. His breath smelled rotten. His eyes flashed from within, going from a dark brown to a burning red, like it was being lit from the inside. I held my breath in fright.
“You don’t even know why you’re here,” he uttered slowly in a raspy, wet voice and brought his face even closer. The back of my head where it hit the wall began to throb and my arms ached from where his grip cut into the muscle. “But I do. You better forget about this story and go home. You aren’t going to save him. You’re not going to save any of them.”
“Let me go,” I said, squirming. His eyes began to go from a lit red to all black, and his pupils began to widen until his eyes were one deep hole from corner to corner.
“What the fuck are you?” I cried out, feeling horror spreading through my lungs and heart, seizing me, paralyzing me.
“A debt collector,” he snarled through a mouth that began to widen to a gummy, shark-like grin, his skin cracking along the edges, blood dripping down toward pointed teeth.
Around the corner we heard the door to the bathroom open, and I took that opportunity of distraction to push Graham back enough to knee him straight into the balls.
When I was nineteen, I was attacked on campus by some potential rapist or mugger. I fought him off the best I could, but it wasn’t until I kicked him right in the junk that he fell to the ground in pain and I was able to run off and call the police. I was counting on that reaction.
Graham did not fall to the ground. He didn’t even register any feeling except surprise. And amusement, because the demonic fucker just smiled even more. I was living a nightmare.
“What the fuck?” Sage’s voice boomed down the dark hall and in seconds he was shoving Graham off of me. Before Graham had a chance to react, Sage punched him right in the face. Graham’s normal, nasty face. Whatever thing I thought I’d seen was gone and now Graham was on the ground, clutching his nose that was dripping blood on the linoleum.
Sage turned to me, holding my arms..
“Dawn, what happened? Did he hurt you?” he asked frantically. A vein pulsed on his tense throat.
I shook my head no, then yes, then no, and feeling a torrent of tears building up inside me, I shrugged Sage’s hands off and ran down the hallway, leaving him behind to yell after me then say to Graham, “You fuck, what did you do to her?”
I pushed my way past the crowd in the lounge, getting a few looks of concern and sympathy. I looked like nothing more than a girl who was tripping or crying over a rock star’s rejection, and in seconds I burst through the back doors, past security and all the way into the parking lot. The bus was the last place I wanted to be, so I booked it past the main security gate, my vision blurry with tears, and ran out into the open road, where a few late concertgoers were trying to find parking on the grassy curbside.
I ran blindly for a few meters and then collapsed underneath a cherry tree. I was lucky the venue was a bit out of the city and I didn’t have to face too many curious passers-by. I leaned back against the tree and let it all out, everything that had been cooped up in my heart for the last week. The fears, the shame, the feelings of inadequacy, the confusion. The feeling that I was in way over my head, alone on the road with no one I could really trust. Everyone seemed to have an agenda, and I was the only one open and honest about mine. I was scared, scared to the bone. I was scared about failing. I was scared of the unknown. And I was scared I was slowly losing my mind. There was another two weeks left of the tour. How on earth was I going to survive? When was I going to throw in the towel?
I cried, ugly and bawling, for who knows how long. I didn’t come up with any answers. I just missed my dad, my brother, and Mel more than anything in the world and felt an ache spread in my stomach.
“Hey,” I heard a voice say in the darkness and the sound of flip-flops that followed.
I looked up and wiped my eyes,. Sage stood above me for a looming second before he crouched down to my level. He looked me over with quiet concern, then took his hand and stroked my hair softly. “I’ve been looking for you.”
I closed my eyes and leaned back against the tree. I felt him sit down and lean against the tree beside me. It would have been a funny sight for a concertgoer, the guitarist of the opening band sitting on the side of the road with his trademark open black shirt and flip-flops.
“Do you want to talk about it?” he asked.
I shook my head.
“Can I talk about it?”
I shrugged, too tired now to care.
“Graham...,” he started. He paused, trying to find the words. I opened my eyes and turned my head to look at him. He was plucking grass out of the ground and tossing it at the road.
“Graham wasn’t always like this,” he continued. “When we first started out…he was an answer to…he was a really good drummer and we needed a good drummer. I think…I know, actually…that the moment I got on guitar and the moment we got Graham on drums was the moment Hybrid really began. There was no stopping us. And…I felt in debt to Graham. He was always an oddball. Rough around the edges, didn’t have too many redeeming qualities to be honest. But he worked well with us as a whole. He kept to himself and when it came time to do his job, he did it well. He was never one to get hooked on drugs. He was never late to rehearsal. He was as steady as a drummer should be. He certainly was no Bonzo.”
He paused and gathered his thoughts. The headlamps of a passing car lit us up with garish light for one second before plunging us into obscurity again.
“He was interested in the occult since high school. None of us took him seriously. Then as Black Sabbath and Alice Cooper got more popular, he started to indulge in it more. He wanted to make it his thing. He believes it…”
“Do you believe it?” I whispered.
He furrowed his dark brows. “I don’t know what I believe anymore. If there’s black magic and white magic, this is one big gray area.”
“Is he human?” I asked.
Sage snorted loudly and shot me a bewildered look. I suppose that sort of question deserved it. “Is he human? What…of course he’s human, Dawn. He’s someone I wouldn’t mind punching in the face again, but he’s human. He’s a human being. Why? What happened between you guys?”
I sighed, feeling a little bit stupid. Part of me wanted to believe that I saw his face contort into that of a demonic hellbeast, and part wanted to blame it on paranoia, stress, and sleep deprivation. “He…got all angry and like threw me against the wall and got all up in my face. I just asked him about the groupies. I may have called them psychos.”
“That doesn’t matter,” Sage said angrily. “They are fucking psychos. And the only reason they never leave is because he keeps inviting them around. Do you know how many times during the last tour I discovered he had given them All Access Passes?”
“They’re after you too, you know,” I told him.
His eyes hardened like steel. “Believe me, I know.”
He looked off at the auditorium as the reverberation from Grand Funk filled the air, his jaw wiggling back and forth. A light breeze came along and softly tossed up his black curls.
“What do you want me to do?” he said, his voice flat and emotionless.
“What do you mean?”
“He has no right to put his hands on you like that. No right to talk to you like that. If you want him off this tour, just give me the word and I’ll do it. Believe me, I’ll do it. It would be my pleasure.”
His offer caught me off-guard. He would kick a lifelong member of the band off the tour…if I asked? He’d do that for me?
I watched him carefully, trying to see why he’d do it. “You’d have no drummer.”
“We can always get another drummer,” he said with a dry laugh. “We’re one of the more popular bands on the road right now. We could probably even get someone big to fill his shoes.”
I should have said yes. I should have asked Sage to get rid of Graham. But there was that nagging doubt in the back of my mind that I was just a girl and I was overreacting. If Sage kicked Graham off the tour for someone like me, well that would indeed go down in history. I couldn’t ask for that weight on my shoulders.
“Don’t kick him off,” I told him.
He didn’t look happy at that prospect. “Are you sure?”
“Yes, just…make sure he stays away from me. You can bet I won’t be doing his interview anymore.”
“So you’re staying?” he asked, sounding surprised.
“I’m not going anywhere.”
“Dawn…” he warned.
“Sage,” I retorted. “I don’t run away. Remember? You said things have a way of finding you anyway.”
He watched me for a few moments and his closeness brought about the smell of pipe tobacco that he kept rolled up in his shirt pocket, the tobacco I never saw him smoke. He exhaled, a sigh of acceptance.
“That may be right. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it.” His expression grew serious and he leaned a few inches closer to me. In the dark, beside me on the grass, he was more brooding, more manly, more mysterious than ever before. Another breeze wafted over us, smelling like foliage and heat, and tousled his hair ever so lightly. Once again my body became electric with nerves, and my lips tingled at the idea of being kissed. It was hard not to think about that when his face was so close, his lips so full, his eyes sexual and somber all at once. I loathed myself for feeling this way.
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