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Vampyrs Anonymous Chapter Two Rewrite
James showed his ID to the bouncer at the door and took a glance around the bar. It was well lit and the atmosphere vibrant but comfortable. The walls were painted in earthy green tones with brown support beams that gave the pub an Old World, somewhat Celtic feel. Small round tables covered in red and green table cloths were carefully arranged so that servers and patrons had plenty of room to walk around. There were two pool tables on the far side of the room and a Mrs. Pacman arcade game against the wall beside the restrooms. From where he stood he could see a bartender taking soda orders. Behind him was a large mirror and shelves holding several variously colored bottles of liqueur. Martini glasses dangled upside down from a contraption in the ceiling and they shook with the vibrations of the music and the crowd.
“Can you look right at me, please?” The bouncer asked.
James did as he asked as the bouncer compared the photo to his face. It was a recent picture and the ID was a legitimate Massachusetts license. The bouncer handed it back to him and placed a stamp on the back of his hand. James thought the stamp was a little unnecessary since alcohol wasn't being served but he kept his mouth shut and made his way into the bar.
It was the first time he'd ever been inside Eve's Garden but it always seemed to be packed on weekends and now was no exception. The crowd was made up of teenagers, some alone or with friends, couples in their early to mid-twenties and the occasional forty year-old sat here or there. The bouncer did a fair enough job keeping the bad elements out but even so the adults seemed resentful that so many young people were allowed in here. The lack of alcohol probably didn't help matters.
Most of the crowd were gathered near the stage. The band was half-way into another song and the singer was putting all of her energy into the performance. Wearing a light gray hooded sweatjacket over an auburn tank top and tight blue jeans, she spun around on the heal of her boots and danced up and down the tiny stage. James was amazed as she took such a small space and made the most of every single inch. There was nothing fake or imitated about her performance as she belted out the lyrics, ensnaring James and captivating the audience with her sincerity and passion. She was backed up by a guitarist and a drummer who were clearly as passionate as he was.
“Looking in from the outside, shaking my head/I get this feeling I'm going to regret saying what I must to say to him tonight-” She threw her head back as she dragged out the lyric tossing back a head of fiery red hair that would have gotten her burned at the stake had she been born in Odhran's time.
James went to the bar and ordered a soda. While the bartender filled a glass with ice James noticed the large white board with the words TEENAGED ANGST written in large blue letters. He had to fight the urge to snort. There was nothing wrong with the band or the lyrics but their name was too generic. Oh well, he figured. The Whohad a bunch of different names in their day.
He thanked the bartender and brought his soda to an empty table. The ambiance and the noise were irritating and he didn't like being surrounded by so many people in such a small area. Ordinarily he would have left but something about this girl's voice kept him planted. And James wasn't so entranced that he didn't notice most of the other guys who were also fixated by her while the girls just danced and seemed to be having a good time. One girl seemed ready to either leave her date or clock him-possibly both.
James looked back at the stage as a slow song started. Only the guitarist was needed apparently and the drummer leaned back and just watched. As the girl's voice took a softer note James made out the soft curves of her cheeks, glistening from sweat and rosy from the rush of her performance. Though she was far from overweight her body suggested that she was a girl who appreciated two or three really good meals a day. She beautiful in a very real way and she told people through her singing.
She made eye contact with him! Dammit! James averted his eyes quickly, feeling like a teenager who just got caught staring at her chest. Suddenly uncomfortable and feeling geeky he wanted to get up and go right now. If he ran there'd still be time to grab the train to Boston. But he just sat there staring at his drink. He felt another set of eyes watching him accompanied by a whiff that made him very uncomfortable.
He risked a cautionary glance upward and found the source of discomfort: The drummer. He was black with a bald head and a chiseled face that sported a sly grin. He locked with eyes with James and gave him a look that said he knew who the big cat was in town and that he would gladly make a scratching post out of the person who stepped over the line.
Just. Get. Out. Logic stamped it's foot for emphasis but James couldn't hear it over the crowd's applause.
“Woo! Man, you guys have been great, but we really need to take a breather. So hang out, drink some soda, play some pool, eat some peanuts and we'll be back in about fifteen.”
She jumped down off the stage as the crowd dispersed. The bartender handed her a towel and a glass of water.
“You guys are awesome,” he said. “Anytime you need a gig you just give us a call.”
“Thanks Ben,” she said, gently dabbing her face with the towel. “I'll let the guys know you said so.”
“Let them also know their drinks are on the house.”
James pretended not to notice her as he drifted towards his table, towel over her shoulder and the glass of water in hand. If she was just here to give him a hard time for staring he could save face and apologize before leaving. But somehow it felt rude to just bolt without at least knowing what she wanted.
She's human, James, Logic piped up. You can leave now and in a century it won't matter if you hurt her feelings because she'll be dead.
“Hi.” James looked up and saw her standing just in front of him. So much for not noticing.
“H-hello,” he said, nervously.
“Are you new around here?” The standard question, it seemed.
James shook his head.
“I live just a few miles down the road. I've just never been in here before.”
“Mind if I join you?”
James hesitated. She smelled pleasantly single and he wondered if her drummer was just being protective or if he felt he was in a relationship with her. Even now he could smell the strange combination of human skin and animal hair and he knew he was being watched. Every instinct in his body told him to get out of here before he got in over his head but instead he smiled and gestured to the empty chair.
“Please,” he said.
Just how hard did you hit your head? Logic asked, throwing in the towel.
“I'm Felicity.” Felicity held out her hand.
James took it gently and was surprised by her grip. Her callused hand was the sign of a girl who clearly didn't rely on her singing to put those meals on the table.
“Nice to meet you, James,” Felicity seemed amused by his nervousness. “Don't worry, I don't bite.”
James laughed at the irony.
“Sorry,” he said, gesturing to the stage. “How long have you guys been playing?”
“We've been together for a couple of months now. Eddie's my guitarist and we both grew up around here and Balki just moved in to the apartment building next to mine.”
James followed her gaze to one of the pool tables where Eddie and Balki were well into a game. Eddie's clothes were torn and faded and they seemed to hang from his wiry frame like the ones the homeless man wore. His hair was a mess but clean and James wondered if this was a part of some manufactured image or if he was genuinely that bad off Balki, on the other hand, had a day job. His clothes were clean and in good repair.
Neither of the boys took their eyes off Felicity for long. Eddie was as human as Felicity and probably just as unaware that their drummer, who was leaning in to line up his shot, could change from human to animal in the blink of an eye.
“Eddy and I grew up on Everland Terrace,” Felicity explained. “It hasn't been easy but we managed to keep our heads on straight.”
“I know what that's like.” James didn't know why he cared but he has to ask, “Is he your...boyfriend?”
Felicity giggled and shook her head. James felt a little embarrassed until he realized she wasn't laughing at him.
“More like my brother,” she said. “Don't let them intimidate you. Balki and Eddie are like my family and around here friends are hard to find. That's part of the reason we formed our band, so we could show the other kids in this neighborhood that there is hope.”
James felt a swell of warmth. These days it seemed most people started bands to make money and get laid. Felicity actually had a mission with her band.
“I had a band once,” James said, stirring the ice around with his straw. “It was just me and a couple of guys and we'd get together after school and jam out.”
“That's how a lot of bands get started.”
“Yeah, but we had it all wrong. We wanted to make millions of dollars, have groupies, the tour bus and the whole nine yards. Some mission statement, huh?”
Felicity laughed again. James was liking the sound of her laugh as much as her singing voice.
“I think it's cool to know what you want,” she said, sincerely. “What kind of music did you play?”
“Mostly metal,” James said. “I was a big KISS fan so that's what I wanted my band to be.”
“Really?” Felicity's eyes widened. “Oh my god, my dad had every one of their albums. I spent my childhood listening to them and every other hair band out there.”
“How did he feel when Gene Simmons got his own reality show?”
Felicity's smile flickered. It was brief but it was long enough to let James know he had struck a chord.
“He doesn't watch much TV these days. Or if he does he can't really share his opinion.”
“I'm sorry,” James said, afraid he might have struck a nerve. “I didn't mean to upset you.”
“It's okay,” she said. “You didn't upset me, I just...well you don't want to know my whole life story.”
James could understand that. There were parts of his life he couldn't really share with her either. In fact the last ten minutes had been the longest conversation he had with a human being in over eighty years. Still, there was something in her tone. Something that said she really wanted to be able to tell someone her story but that she wasn't going to do it unless someone asked her.
“You probably wouldn't want to hear mine either,” he said, honestly.
“I'll tell you mine if you tell me yours.” Felicity responded in a joking tone.
James laughed. It was a tempting offer but it would have to wait. He knew that much was smart at least. Give it some time before you tell someone your life story, just to make sure you really want to share it with them. And he wasn't telling her anything when he the knew that the werebeast could and probably would hear his every word, even over the noise of the other patrons.
“Maybe over coffee,” he said. “Just not here.”
“Well I have to get back on stage, anyhow. Gotta try to make those millions.” She reached into the pocket of her jeans as she stood and pulled out a business card. “This is an old business card. I haven't had a chance to make new ones yet but my cell phone number is on the back. If you want to go for coffee or just jam out, give me a call.”
“Thanks,” James tucked the card in his pocket and stood up. “And hey, good luck with the groupies and the tour bus.”
Felicity laughed again. James watched her make her way back to the stage and smiled, until a strong arm and the stench of cat hair flooded his senses grabbed his shoulder.
“Are you a morning person?” Balki asked, softly. He spoke clear English but he had an accent that sounded Indian.
“No. And I'm not much of a cat person either,” James responded, keeping his voice low also. He had to fight his body's natural response to threats. “So get off me before I start breaking laws.”
“I'm not much of a morning person either,” Balki continued as if the threat didn't bother him. “But if you harm Felicity I'll have to get up pretty early and find your lair before the sunrises. Then we are going to go jogging.”
Balki grabbed his hand and forced him to shake it when Felicity looked over to them. She smiled and waved. Balki smiled back and James forced himself to do the same when what he wanted to do was make a new rug.
“I don't want to hurt her,” he said, through clenched teeth. “Now let me go.”
Balki stepped away from James and fixed him with that same sly grin from earlier. James waved to Felicity and left with as much composure as possible. He made his way out to the train tracks and ran down the line as far as he could to get away from human ears before he let out a scream of rage.