Like Lein Blake, Perion Thorn was unhappy, and she believed she had good reason to be. Her band had been in L.A. two years and still played the same one horse club they’d been in since arriving. The only reason they played the same club was because Blaine’s cousin was part owner and a part-time bouncer. He didn’t have the heart to fire them and they couldn’t pay a club to hire them.
To make ends meet, they had to obtain outside jobs. Randi, Syndi, and Debi had gotten jobs as waitresses. Perion had wanted a job as a waitress like them, and she had experience, but Blaine persuaded her to take a job as an exotic dancer at a local strip club.
“Peri, you’ve got the body and the beauty. You could make a shitload of money dancing," Blaine had told her.
He had said dancing; he failed to mention she’d have to take off her clothes while she danced.
Blaine, as usual, had pooh-poohed her fears. “You take your clothes off for me, don’t you? Just pretend they’re me,” he’d said.
Her first performance had been a horror for her. She had never taken her clothes off in front of anyone other than Blaine. She recalled being so terrified that she had vomited five or six times. She had begged Blaine to take her home. Instead of complying, he produced a tiny vile of white powder. Perion was naïve, but she knew drugs when she saw them. She also knew Blaine had partaken of the white powder on more than one occasion since their arrival in California.
“Snort this,” he had said. “You’ll feel so much better when you do.”
Desperate, Perion did as Blaine instructed. The fine white powder burned as it traveled up her nostrils. The feeling was so intense that her eyes began watering, nearly spoiling her make up. However, Blaine had been correct. The dope made her feel much better, and she was able to audition and land a job. As it turned out, she had begun to rely quite a bit on the magical white powder known as cocaine, and ended up snorting a few lines before each strip joint performance.
The powder had its side effects. Not only did it lessen Perion’s inhibitions, it also made her psychotic. If she became angered at Blaine or one of the customers, she’d fly into a rage and wield knives or an occasional broken bottle. Her relationship with the band also deteriorated. Her breaking point came one evening after an argument with Blaine. She had nearly gutted him with a kitchen knife. The girls, Blaine, and Perion decided it was time to slow down and try to regroup. Both Perion and Blaine dropped the cocaine use cold turkey. Perion slipped a couple of times, but she eventually kicked it.
After giving up cocaine, her blinding panic returned when she had to work at the strip joint. However, she learned a new coping mechanism. She simply blanked out the leering faces and performed. She made a killing in tips that night and had done so every night since. At first, without the cocaine, she had hated stripping with an extreme fervor. But after some time, she came to accept it. After all, she had been trained in dance, and didn’t consider herself that bad. She was shy on stage, but her shyness had gained a fan base among the club’s clientele.
The only thing that had come out well was that she had not gotten pregnant. It should have made her angry, because it had more or less influenced her decision to leave home. But it hadn’t. She had grinned and bore the good bad news and handled her life according to the cards fate had dealt her. In other words, she felt she had received exactly what the big plan for her dictated. She had to admit she was very disappointed. She wanted more for the band and for herself. Worse still, Blaine constantly pushed her to get married. She didn’t want to be married so young, not until her band saw some of its much deserved success.
Perion couldn’t help but think about her mother from time to time. She was afraid to contact her, afraid of being shunned. If Marilinn turned away from her, it would be more devastating than anything her mother could physically carry out. She’d rather not see her again than to risk chastisement. Besides that, Perion didn’t want to admit to her mother that she had to strip to make ends meet. The top of Marilinn’s head would blow off and hit the roof, and she’d likely be very ashamed. Marilinn had raised her better than that. So, she’d probably never visit her mother again. It made her feel like a big steaming pile of dog shit.
A knock on the bedroom door made Perion turn from the mirror/vanity table where she sat. “Yeah,” she called, not really wanting to talk to anybody at all. But considering Debi, Randi, and Syndi lived in the apartment she and Blaine shared, talking when not feeling like it was sometimes unavoidable.
“Peri, it’s me,” Debi called.
She sighed. “Okay, come in, the door is unlocked.”
Debi opened the door and entered the room. Perion, still feeling blue, turned back around to face the mirror. “You know, you’re gonna be late,” Debi told her.
Perion stuck her tongue out at the mirror, and shrugged her shoulders. She knew very well what time it was, but she didn’t give a ripe fuck. In fact, she didn’t think she’d make it in that night. The depressed funk she was in had done something to her self-esteem. Frighteningly enough, she was almost at the point where she didn’t even want to sing.
“Peri, is something wrong?”
Perion smiled bitterly in the mirror at her own reflection. There was no beauty in her face then, none at all, but there was plenty of self-loathing. A monster’s reflection was seen there, and that monster was FAILURE. “I’m just thinking about the past, that’s all. I’m not goin’ in. I have female problems tonight.”
“Why don’t you just quit the club, Perion, just quit. This job was all Blaine’s idea anyway. If he wants to make a lot of money, let him go somewhere and strip.”
Perion began to giggle deliciously at the thought. “Who’d want to see a six foot three skin and bones man show his lanky body, naked, of all things? Not the clientele at The Rose Bush. I’ll quit as soon as I’m able. Besides, it’s not just that anymore. This whole scene is really depressing me. I mean, night after night singing for the same faces. Damn it, Debs, I thought we came to L.A. to promote our band, not to promote my bare ass on stage.”
“I think Blaine is holding us back sometimes, you know? I know you love him and everything, but he’s not doing a very good job. Maybe we should hunt us up another manager.”
Again, Perion laughed, but there was no humor in it. It was cynical and cold, totally unlike her. She must have had one hell of a day. “And what do you think we could offer a new manager,” she asked. “Surely not a cut of our action, since it’s been quite slim lately. Just go tell Blaine I’m not dancing or singing tonight, all right?”
“Um, okay, but I’ll bet he won’t like it.”
Not long after Debi left the room, Blaine stormed in. As he beheld his girl, he ran a hand through his unruly hair. “What do you mean you’re not dancing or singing? What’s going on? You know we need the money.”
Perion turned on Blaine, suddenly furious with him. “Isn’t there room for sickness in your schedule, hon? Do you work when you’re sick? I think not. I’m not going to do shit, not tonight, maybe not ever,” she screamed, fully ensconced in her tantrum.
“Peri,” he said calmly, “I know you hate it here, but if you’ll just hold on-”
She interrupted him. “We’ll do something big. That line’s getting old, baby, as old as my grandma’s wig.”
He, himself, became angry. “How would you like to be out on the fuckin’ streets, sleepin’ in the damned gutter? How’d you like that, hon,” he mocked.
“It would be a hell of a lot better than sleeping with you,” she yelled. “I’m tired of playing the same audience every night, of wondering if tonight’s the night I get beaten up or raped, of getting dumped by you when the next thing comes along. I want to go home, Blaine, we’re not doing anything here.”
“And what do you think you’ll be going home to? Nothing. You’ll end up working in that greasy spoon cafe for the rest of your life while you’re raising ten or fifteen brats sired by different men. Is that what you want to go home to? Is that what you want to do for the rest of your life?”
Perion was only twenty-years-old, but his speech suddenly made her feel forty. “No, you know it’s not, you fucking know. I’m just tired, that’s all, tired of everything.”
Always the whiner, he thought meanly. He shook it off, approached her, and kneeled down in front of her. “Please, hold on a little longer. I can make it happen; you know I can. I got you this far. If you hadn’t been with me, you’d have never gotten to L.A. at all. But now we’re here, and it can happen, only if you hold on.”
“You can talk such shit sometimes, can’t you,” she said, smiling genuinely, but just a little.
He smiled. “Yeah, I can. Now come on, you’re going to be late.”