Lein arrived at Bitter Wynter’s rehearsal early, hoping to find the band there and ready to perform. He had some good news for them as well. When he got there, only Randi, Syndi, and Debi were present. He didn’t want to tell them his news until they were all together.
“Where’s Perion,” Lein asked the girls.
It seemed as if no one wanted to offer the information. After a small hesitant pause, Randi ‘The Loud Mouth’ Parker said, “Still at home.”
“At home? Why? Is she ill?”
Randi bit her lip and shook her head. “Uh, no, she’s not sick or anything. She and Blaine kinda overslept. I think they were, like, celebrating their engagement last night.”
The word ‘engagement’ buzzed in his head like an industrial strength drill. Perion and Blaine were engaged. He couldn’t let the girls know how dead he felt inside. He had to hide it, fight it, and kill it swiftly. “O-okay,” he stuttered, “that’s fine. I’ll just tell you now. You can tell her when she gets here. I have a gig lined up, and I intend to set up more before you play ′Thunder. The first club is not as big, of course, but it’s a good club. It’s happening tonight and tomorrow night.”
They were chattering about the gig when Perion and Blaine sauntered in thirty minutes after Randi broke the news to Lein.
“What’s up,” Perion asked, approaching the girls.
Lein couldn’t help but notice the ring on her left-hand ring finger. It could have been a snake by the way he looked at it, but he couldn’t take his eyes off it for a long time. After tearing his eyes away from the ring, he found his voice and said, “You’re playing a gig I’ve secured, and some others I intend to work on before you play ′Thunder.”
Perion looked into his eyes and could hear her little voice screaming he knows, he knows!
Before she could say anything about the news, Blaine spoke first. “What do you mean? Why should they play at other clubs when they’ve got Heavy Metal Thunder waiting for them?”
“Oh, I don’t know,” he began sarcastically, “maybe for exposure and publicity, the normal reasons why bands need to get gigs.” His words came out harsher than he had intended, but it was the way he felt. It was as if someone had stepped in and stolen his girl, although the girl in question was far from being his.
“Who cares anyway,” Perion said, “gigs are gigs. At least we’re getting them now. Before, no one would touch us. I’m ready to play them all.”
Blaine looked down at Perion, mentally puckering his ass kissing lips. “Yeah, you’re right. Well, Blake, I guess you’re legit after all,” he told Lein, then he walked away from them and sat on a bar stool in the corner of the room.
Lein wanted to say so much more to Blaine, but he wouldn’t let his jealousy get the better of him. The band had to play. He looked at Perion and couldn’t help but think he’s using you, he doesn’t really love you, can’t you see that?
After rehearsal, Debi approached Lein. “I’m sorry you had to hear about her engagement like that,” she said.
He shrugged, trying to show how unaffected he was, but it was no good. She knew what he thought, everybody knew, except for the person who counted. “Don’t worry about it.”
“Well, if it’s all the same to you, I think she’s making a big mistake.”
Lein, surprised to hear that, asked, “Then why don’t you tell her?”
Debi smiled a little. “Blaine’s a player, he always has been. He could weasel his way back from beating her up or something. He has a lot of control over her. Besides, she wouldn’t listen to us. We’ve all tried. He can always find a way to mask his true motives for doing what he does. Like, it was his idea that she dance, you know, because he told her she was good at it. What he really had an interest in was the money she made doing it.”
“But he seems so interested in her career,” he spat, amazed.
Again, Debi smiled. “Yeah, he does, doesn’t he? Well, I think he’s only interested in how he’ll look attached to a star. I think he only got back with her because he knows we’re gonna do something at Heavy Metal Thunder, you know?”
Lein knew all right. It was like he had thought. Blaine Marion was using Perion, for her fame, future earnings, for everything. It’s not my problem, he thought. But he didn’t actually want to accept that. He wanted to let her know these things, but what would it look like? It would look like a very jealous man trying to hone in on an ongoing relationship so he could...so he could what? Take her to bed, like Britta, like the others in his life? Would it make any sense for her to get away from an abusive relationship just to get into a sex affair? Wouldn’t that be just as abusive? Yet, it wasn’t necessarily sex he wanted, and deep down inside, he knew it but didn’t want to accept it. Lein was afraid to admit he wanted more from this girl than her body. Perion was a simple, human female like Britta, like all the other girlfriends he’d had since childhood. But then again, none of his other girlfriends had ever kept him awake at night thinking stormy, turmoil-drenched thoughts.
Lein looked at Debi. “You should try telling her again,” was all he could say.
“Maybe you should,” she told him, leaving him where he stood.
The next day, Perion was soaking her stressed body in the bathtub. A million things whirled in her mind. She was nervous about playing in front of a club crowd that was not the ’Lane’s regulars. All the ’if’questions assaulted her. What ‘if’ they failed? What ‘if’ no one showed up? What ‘if’ no one showed up and they failed and David Cochran fired them? What would the band do then? They’d end up back at the ’Lane again, and she would never get the chance to quit stripping.
The bathroom door opened and Blaine stuck his head in. “God Peri, if you don’t get out now, you’re gonna be all wrinkled up.”
She sighed a little. “I’m scared shitless, Blaine. I’m worried about everything.”
He came into the bathroom and sat down on the side of the tub. “You shouldn’t be, you’re gonna knock ’em dead, kid, like you always do.”
“But what if we don’t?” She asked, nearly groaning.
“You shouldn’t be thinking like that, you know? You’re not going to suck or anything. You never do. Stop worrying about it.”
“That’s so easy for you to say.”
He laughed. “Oh baby. You’re too crazy.”