Libby opened the door and stood aside, allowing Lasse to peek into the same room he had slept in last night. Eerie energy in here, he thought. She left him in the doorway and walked to the front door, fluffed her short blonde bob in the mirror and sprayed a cheap, sweet perfume. Mini-Pink, she called it. She slid her shoes on, opened the front door and walked out. Lasse heard the door shut with a faint click. The stairs creaked with every step she took. She had said something about bartending tonight for her brother.
Lasse sat down on the bed with his back to the front door, his steel-string guitar on his lap, and strummed random chords. It was great that Libby came and rescued him. He hardly knew her. She said she was a collector. She had an extra room he could use, if he didn’t mind all the stuff. What a bit of luck after this insane day.
All he wanted to do was play the guitar. He wanted to play with a band and play his own music. He wanted to own the goddamn rights to his work! Was that too much to ask for?
He pulled a cigarette out of his backpack and lit it. She had given him an ashtray and asked him politely to be careful with his ashes in this old wooden house. She was afraid of fire. She said she didn’t mind if the volunteer firemen came, she liked firemen the best, but they should come when the house wasn’t burning, even though they looked sexy in their suits.
He’d call his band Vertical Barbituate. He drew twice on the cigarette and stomped it in the ashtray. He set the steel-string aside and slid his Strat out of its bag and played chords from his first new song. What was he going to call it? The Venom Club. No, he’d call the whole CD that. This song was The Initiation.
He plugged into the tiny amp and played the second song. He could only play them in their proper order, like the chapters in a book. That was it! He was telling a story. And no one would force him tell the chapters out of turn, no producer or recording engineer.
He played the two chords and the bridge of the second song he called You’re Alive. He ran through the third song, Step Up to the Challenge, a basic three-chord blues progression with smoky lyrics. Liquid Delirium was a spacey-psychedelic drama that needed tightening up, so he only played the chords once through and moved on.
The fifth song would not let him alone. Wolf-Lover. Slow, distorted, grinding guitar, with a deep, round bass, the lyrics winding in and out of consciousness. So cool. This song haunted him the whole night last night, in this room. With her. Psycho woman.
He wanted to play this song over and over. Even coming out of his tiny amp, the chord changes dripped sex and satisfaction. He shivered as he played. Then he stopped. The hairs stood up on the back of his neck. Someone was watching him.
“Keep playing,” Libby said. “You’re very good.”
He set his Strat up against the dark, old-fashioned bedside table. He heard the door close. He felt her hands on his shoulders. Her fingers rubbed his neck.
“You need to relax,” Libby said.
What the hell was he doing? Every decision he made today dug his grave deeper and he would not be able to claw his way out. He had spent the night here last night and his girlfriend threw him out this morning. Then he walked out on his recording session. He pissed his agent off. She said those words, ‘breach of contract.’ He didn’t know what that meant! He should have read the damn contract.
Libby’s lips kissed the back of his neck. He smelled her cheap perfume, felt the tips of her bobbed hair touch his shoulders. Her breath smelled sweet, cola mixed with whiskey. He put a hand on hers, wanted to pull it off of his shoulder, but he caught himself pulling her towards him. His mouth was on her mouth. Did she kiss good? Liquid Delerium, Wolf-Lover. Then a new song began in his head, high-pitched, low bass, pre-programmed insanity, abandoned reason.
What is it made you fall for love?
To free you from a lonely bind?
Abandon love for nothing else
If just a reprieve in the night
He kissed you, told you
It was all right
When would the suffering end?
The turn of a lock, the twist of a fate
A touch, a smile and pain all the while
He had to write it down. The melody droned in his ears and he was torn: kiss her or set her aside and write this down? He pulled his lips away from hers. Her pupils were wide, a cat hunting in the dark. She stood. He rummaged in his backpack, found crumpled sales slip and scribbled the words out before they eluded him. The turn of a lock.
Libby mumbled something and he agreed. He grabbed his guitar and played the chords. The melody pulsed through his fingers and out of the amp as if machine-generated. Libby stood still in the doorway and mumbled on. He agreed again. She should leave him alone! He stopped playing and noted the words. A touch, a smile, pain…while…
“Lasse, are you sure?”
“Yes!” he said.
She pulled the door shut with a faint click. In silence, Lasse underlined the last word of his perfect song. He heard another click of the door. His pulse raced. His face flushed. The turn of a lock.