If you’ve been following my blog, you know that back in April I began a flash fiction rock music novel, Come As You Are, for Camp Nanowrimo. I’ve been editing some of the originally written pieces from that and sharing them here, which is why this is much longer than my usual offering for daily prompt, but it fits as my heroine, Lucy, decides to change her natural look. (I Won’t Back Down started the day at 1100 words, but is now a lean 740 (maybe too lean?).) If you take on the effort of reading this, know that I appreciate it and hope you enjoy.
I Won’t Back Down
The event strikes you as chaotic yet organized. Around 50 bands perform, to be weeded out like a musical king-of-the-hill. You lose a round, you go home. The prize money is good, but the fact that the two top bands will open for Nick and Whitewash is the real prize.
You walk around, observing the other bands. They cover the gamut of age and race. Most are guys. Some girls. You see immediately the difference between those girls and your natural look.
“Can anything be done with me?” you ask your sister, Alissa.
She frowns. “Are you getting stage fright?”
Deke turns around. “You getting cold feet?”
“No. The girls in the bands all look sexy.” You look from your Chuck Taylors to your ripped jeans to your flannel shirt. “I look like I’m homeless.”
Deke laughs, puts his arm around your shoulders, and glances at Alissa. “Our girl is growing up.”
You shrug him off. “Seriously. What if my look matters?”
Ramon nods. “If Alissa could make her sexy, it could be a win for us.”
Alissa bites her lip. “We’ve got forty minutes, right?”
We all nod.
“Let’s do this.”
Alissa tosses you a bag. “Put this on.”
Inside are a denim miniskirt and a neon orange and shocking pink cropped top, all tight—maybe not tight, but compared to the clothes you normally wear, they feel like a corset. When you emerge, Alissa hands you ankle boots. She pulls the elastic band from your hair and dyes some auburn strands blonde with temporary dye. Your eyes she outlines in teal and then brushes dark blue shadow on your lids.
Ramon whistles softly.
“You’re a girl, Lucy.”
You punch his arm. “But I can’t breathe. Who wears clothes this tight?”
Their eyes wander over you.
“Quit looking at me like I’m a steak.”
That’s when you see him. Eddie Rodgers. His hair is long. His eyes linger over you. Your breath catches. Alissa notices and glances at Eddie, then smiles and waves. You think she’s a much better person than you. She knows how to behave socially. You act like a deer in the headlights—always.
Alissa drags you toward him. “Eddie, hey! Why are you here?”
“I’m in a band,” he says, his gaze on you.
“How have you been?” you ask.
“Good. Music’s going good.”
You feel awkward, unsettled.
“I’d better get back.”
“Good luck, Lucy.” His voice sounds gravelly.
You quell this urge to hug him as you turn away toward your bandmates. Deke looks over your shoulder.
“What’s he doing here?” Deke asks.
“His band’s here.”
“Crap. I heard them at Shiners. Rodgers has a set of pipes.”
“But we’ve got a sexed up Lucy who plays a damn righteous lead guitar,” Ramon says.
You’ve never suffered from stage fright. You think it’s because you mostly close your eyes and dissolve into the music. You are performing two songs. One original, which you wrote, and one cover, Nirvana’s “Come As You Are.”
As Deke and you harmonize on the chorus, your gaze finds Eddie. He stands to the side, his arms folded over his chest, his expression unreadable. The song is about him, but you think he couldn’t know that. As your pick slides over the strings, the song ends and you immediately pluck the familiar notes to “Come As You Are.” You sing with Deke providing harmony. Your version is slower than the original, your voice sweet like an ephemeral dream. The audience reacts, less contained than usual. Deke joins in, your voices meld, harmonize. The audience roars.
Your eyes widen as you look at Deke. When you finish, the audience explodes.
Offstage, you hug each other. Now you must bide your time listening to the other bands and hoping. Eddie leans against the wall, hands buried in his jeans pockets. Deke and Ramon slap him on the back as they pass.
“You sounded fantastic, Lucy.”
“Thanks,” you say, shyly.
“You look great. Different.”
You grin suddenly and he smiles. Something in you surges and you kiss his lips before scurrying away. You don’t look back. You couldn’t.
You’re in the audience when Eddie’s band plays. Like you, they perform an original and a cover, Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down.” Eddie nails it. When he sings, “hey, baby, there ain’t no easy way out,” you feel like you are melting. He sounds like a rock star—and a winner.
originally written 4/2016; edited 6/15/2016
(c) Sascha Darlington