Carol heard her before seeing her. She heard a woman sing, voice full of longing.
It was a warm Saturday night. She and her best friend Abby were walking by the waterfront, enjoying the light breeze from the sea. It was late, but the waterfront was busy. People leaving restaurants and cafes, preparing for a night out in some high end night club, shouting and talking drunkenly.
Abby was smoking, Carol had quitted a while ago. They talked about nothing and then about everything, giggling, as old friends who had long time to catch up. They sat on bench, neither of them wanting to go home yet.
”Carol, listen. I think I’m happy. I have Alexandra and you in my life. I have evenings like this.” Abby motioned to their surroundings. ”I like this. ”
”Oh yes” Carol answered and a took a deep breath. She closed her eyes and leaned against the backrest of the bench. ”After everything, I think my life is finally beginning to be actually nice. I enjoy it too. ”
”And you deserve that.” Both sat in silence, enjoying the moment of carefree happiness.
After a while Abby cleared her throat. ”There is no lady you would like to introduce into your life?”
”Tell me Abigail, when you think I would have time to date?”
”I don’t know. I think that is something you make time for if you really want that.”
”Um, I guess you are right. But after Harge, I worked so hard to live on my own, to be happy in silence and alone in my apartment. I’m not sure if I can give up that control. To fall in love.”
After a moment of silence, Carol continued. ”It’s different. To lure some sweet girl, take her to my apartment, make her feel desired and fuck her. Make her breakfast in the morning and send her away. I don’t give up anything, but I get everything.”
”Everything, really?” A hint of mocking was evident in Abby’s voice.
”Yes, I mean it. Really. What else would I need?”
Abby didn’t answer. They continued to sit in silence. Someone was playing guitar somewhere. Carol new she had heard that song, but couldn’t place it. The song was gentle but strong, Carol felt like someone had enveloped her in warm arms. Singing voice was full, deep and mysterious. Beautifull, nonetheless. She wondered who would come there to sing like that.
Carol stood up abruptly. Abby looked surprised. ”Feeling like going home already?”
”No, not actually. I thought we could walk a little, find out who is that angel singing? Would you join me? ”
For Therese it was a Saturday like every else. She had slept in. Friday had been a long night. She had gone to see her friends’ gig. They had some new songs and hoped for breakthrough to the music world. Future felt promising and so the celebratory mood didn’t leave them until early hours of the morning. However, she wasn’t hungover. She never was, because she never drank.
She spent morning doing chores that had piled up. She did laundry, washed dishes and cleaned up her tiny studio apartment. After having something for lunch, she pulled up her favorite skinny jeans and dark green flannel shirt, applied simple but dark make up and mussed her hair with some wax.
”Rock star, indeed” she thought. Someone somewhere had said that, referring to her style. ”I wish.” Therese grabbed her guitar and hat and went out.
Therese had given up the thought of a career in music long time ago. She loved music, every aspect of it. But making music for living was something different. For doing that, you needed a persona, to have trust in yourself. To be someone special, and Therese wasn’t.
Not believing in herself, she had packed her dreams in a box and thrown them into the ocean. Dreaming wasn’t for her. She was an orphan and had to take care of herself, to make a stable living. So, after graduating from high school, she had said goodbye to her friends from music school and enrolled to a college to become an accountant. Her friends studied music, had their bands and waited for their success, loaning money and fighting for gigs. Therese tried to act oblivious to this drama; she was on her path every step closer to a boring job but steady income.
For most of the time, Therese felt happy for her choice. She had her job which gave her enough time to do what she wanted in her free time. And that was music. She didn’t feel like being famous was something she desired. But there were those sleepless nights when she questioned every decision, when her friends were drunk calling her for from parties telling her about their success, when Therese laid alone in her bed in her apartment just counting hours for the moment she would have to leave for her dull work.
Today was different. Sun was shining and life felt good. She walked to the park, around the zoo and some tall old trees. She sat on the grass, enjoyed the sun on her skin and played few of her favourite tunes and some of her own songs. She read a book one of her friends had given her.
When it was getting dark she stopped by her favourite place for burrito and continued to the waterfront. The sun was setting and colouring the sky. Lights from the restaurants and boats by the waterfront reflected off the water. Therese found her spot on a small opening and started to play.
Playing was easy. Therese let her mind wander, fingers moved on the strings, lyrics came up somewhere deep from her memory. She had started to come by the waterfront to play in college, to collect few dollars from tourists and others passing by. That time, she had needed that income. However, now when she had a job, it had become a habit she was just too sentimental to give up. It felt good to be around people, to see people laughing and talking, to have something to do.
Therese got lost in music and her thoughts. Her fingers kept gently strumming and the sound coupled with her singing voice. She closed her eyes and let her mind become totally engrossed in the lyrics.
But I'm a creep
I'm a weirdo
She felt some had stopped to listen, someone threw her few coins. Therese nodded smiling, not paying attention to her surroundings.
Therese opened her eyes and glanced at the people that had stopped around her. There were all kind of people, most of them were wearing something that Therese could straight away tell they were tourists. But that was okay, after these years playing here Therese had learned that tourists were the most generous crowd.
What the hell am I doing here?
I don't belong here
Behind the group of tourists Therese saw someone who definitely wasn’t one. A woman, maybe in her mid-thirties. She wore a well-cut light brown suit looking like she just stepped out of some fancy office making business for millions. Her blonde hair was weaving in the slight breeze that came from the ocean. Fuck, she is gorgeous, Therese thought, Is she staring at me?
She was. They locked eyes over the crowd and somehow Therese felt she couldn’t look anywhere else.
Therese snapped back to reality when she realized she had missed the chord. She tore her eyes from the woman and tried to mask her mistake and focus on the song the she was playing. Fortunately, this was one on those she could play in her sleep.
Whatever makes you happy
Whatever you want
You're so fucking special
I wish I was special
But I'm a creep
I'm a weirdo
What the hell am I doing here?
I don't belong here
I don't belong here
The crowd started applauding right after she managed to play the last chord. Therese felt flustered and embarrassed, her cheeks red. Her tried to smile and nod to people that came to give her small bills, still avoiding looking to the direction she had seen the blonde. She decided it was time to pack up and reached for her guitar case she had left behind her.
“I think you are fucking special.” Low female voice said behind Therese. Her shoulders jumped a little at the unpredicted sound. How someone got so close to her? She turned around. It was the blonde, standing only few feet behind her, so close Therese could smell her intoxicating perfume.
Therese was dumbfounded. She stared at the blonde. “What?”
“I said I think you are special. Fucking special, as you said. Not a weirdo.”
Therese’s mind was on override. Her thoughts were like carts in that amusement park attraction, going on full speed but then crashing to each other without any actual progress. After a moment that felt like eternity, she caught the reference to the song she had been playing. Therese chucked and tried to brush the compliment aside.
The blonde wasn’t contented. “I mean it. Your singing sent shivers over my back. And I know what I am saying, believe me.” She stared at Therese and Therese felt like she was undressed there at the spot by the gaze of this woman. She felt her cheeks got even hotter. She adverted her eyes to the ground and tried to busy herself.
“Are you leaving? That’s a pity. I came to ask for a song. Would you play something for me? Something older, to surprise me, something you would like to play?” The blonde looked for an eye contact and then winked, holding a $50 note between her fingers.
Therese nodded, unable to speak. She knew she her cheeks couldn’t get any redder and embarrassment had found a new form in heat between her thighs. In that moment she was sure that she would do everything for this woman and to get her praise. Therese tried to collect her thoughts.
The blonde smiled softly, clearly happy with reaction from the younger woman. “Would you do that for me, darling?
Therese suddenly got back her ability to speak. “Yes, I think I know a perfect song, just let me check the lyrics.” She had got back her boldness too, and knew a perfect song for the situation. She grabbed her phone to do the search. “And I don’t want your money.”
“Thank you, darling, you are a good girl. But take the money, I insist.” She sent Therese her gaze Therese couldn’t resist and pressed the note to Therese’s palm. “I borrowed it from my friend for you.” She winked again and turned to leave.
Therese watched as the woman walked away in swift movement to the spot she saw her the first time. The blonde was greeted by another woman that must have been the “friend” the blonde was referencing. The friend laughed at something the blonde said and tapped her arm. Everything about her screamed “gay” to Therese. She turned back to her task the blonde goddess had given her.
From the first tone that left her guitar, Therese felt an intense gaze on her. This time the blonde wouldn’t win, she decided and stared boldly back.
You don't own me
I'm not just one of your many toys
You don't own me
Don't say I can't go out with - boys
The blonde changed from foot to foot and crossed her arms. Accepting the challenge Therese had thrown at her. Therese kept singing.
I'm young and I love to be young
I'm free and I love to be free
To live my life the way I want
To say and do whatever I please
Therese sang under the intensive, challenging gaze. And although the lyrics said the opposite, she knew she would do anything that women would ask her. She raised her chin an kept the eye contact intact.
The song ended but still Therese couldn’t see anyone else. The blonde looked for something in her handbag and bantered with her friend, apparently borrowing a pen. She wrote something on a piece of paper, folded it delicately and looked at Therese. Then she put the piece of paper between two planks of a nearby bench and walked away with her friend, laughing at something she had just said.