Above the Stars and the Gods
He sat on the catwalk high up in the theatre, above the highest tier of seating, the ‘Gods’, above the maze of scaffolding and gantries that held the multitude of lights that were his job to attend to. Of course he shouldn’t be working up here by himself with regulations as they were but his co-worker, Al, was a lazy character and was forever ‘just popping out for five minutes’ which normally turned into at least an hour and sometimes lasted until the performance began. He didn’t mind, he liked the solitude and generally had the initial checks all done in half the time. His legs dangled over the edge, a hundred and twenty foot drop below to the seats of the auditorium and his safety harness lay uselessly unsecured on the metal walkway beside him.
Looking down through the criss-cross patterns of the lighting rigs and past the huge noise dampeners to the stage below he could see the dancers going through their paces circling around the ‘Star’ like some echo of the solar system albeit written in a microscopic scale. She had seemed quite genuine when she had first come on the scene five years ago but now she played the Prima Donna just like all the other performers who graced the boards below. He pulled the battered pack of cigarettes from one of the many pockets in his cargo shorts and shivered a little as he felt a trickle of sweat run down his spine. He glanced at the huge Air Conditioning units that hung from the black painted ceiling on thin rods idling at minimum. A pair of ear phones circled his neck waiting for the main performance when the volume of sound even above the noise dampeners would be deafening, literally. Pulling out a disposable lighter he lit up his cigarette safe in the knowledge that the smoke detector above him was covered.
He continued to watch the intricate patterns the dancers and stars wove around the multi-levelled stage against the back drop of a large graffiti scrawled curtain. He always wondered how each and every one of them could keep track of their positions and speed with relevance to all the other bodies on stage. He supposed the music and a lot of practice helped.
A tiny echo of a shout or scream managed to reach his ears past the dampeners and he looked down once again. One of the dancers lay sprawled at the feet of the ‘Diva’ who was busily shouting at the prostrated figure. A few seconds later and the Star stormed from the stage. He wondered how many times in the few years since he had worked at the venue had he watched almost identical scenes of posturing. He tried to remember her first breakthrough song but it eluded his thoughts. It had been soft and haunting but now she had been swallowed by the PR machine it all seemed hard and sexual. Like so many before her she had believed those within the record industry and who was he to say they weren’t right, sex sold vinyl or silicon discs now. He grinned to himself as he realised he didn’t honestly know what CD’s were made off.
He finished his cigarette and pulled an empty carton from another pocket and placed the stubbed out end inside it. The rest of the dance troupe were milling about the stage, a couple of suits were issuing instructions and he imagined those ‘second-rate’ performers (at least in the eyes of the record companies shareholders) muttering beneath their breath. The tell-tale ‘clink’ of a lamp dying sounded from his left and he looked across at the continually strobing lights searching for the one that remained dark. It was almost a minute before he located it and made his way to the store against the wall and selected a replacement. ****
Out on the scaffolding bars that held the spot lights he hooked his leg through the ladder-rack of the lighting rig; his safety harness still useless hooked onto his shoulder so it was out of the way and unplugged the offending arc light before twisting it upwards and removing the barn shutters and glass cover to get at the ‘blown’ lamp. It was still fairly warm as he pulled it from the socket and dropped it into the net hanging from his left hip. Putting a clean glove on his right hand he slipped the fresh lamp from the identical net on his right hip slipping it easily into place. Another two minutes and the spot was operational once again as he twisted around carefully on the rig to begin moving back towards the relative safety of the walkway.
A shadow moved and he looks across the twenty feet of empty air. It was too small to be Al and he figured his partner was probably snoozing somewhere else within the building. Maybe he should attach his harness to the overhead sliding hook before moving forward in case it is some H & S official. He looks up to see the hook still over beside the walkway out of his reach and at the same time realises he would be told-off or even cited for being up here on his own anyway. “Ho-hum!” he mutters and begins to move hand over foot back towards the figure.
He’s almost ten feet away when he realises it’s a female dressed in the skimpy outfit of one of the performers. As he climbs back on to the gantry he hears a gasp of surprise from her followed by “Who the fuck?”
“Actually, more like ‘who the fuck’ are you? You’re so not meant to be up here!” he looks across at the slim form as a nearby strobe flicks on and off in quick succession and realises it isn’t a performer. It’s ‘The’ performer. “Oh... sorry but you really shouldn’t be up here, Miss!”
She stares at him, fury barely concealed behind her features as he struggles not to look up and down her minimally clad figure. He knows that whole panels of the outfit are simply skin coloured material but in the dim light it looks like she is only wearing four skimpy strips of purple satin. One of her hands is clasped firmly to the hand rail while the other holds the heeled pumps she had been wearing on stage. The grid work of the floor had obviously been troublesome. A silent curse fills his head as he realises Al must have left the door unsecured when he left. “Who the fuck
do you think you are, telling me
where I can and cannot go?” she seethed.
He had to almost bite his tongue before he answered, “I’m sorry Miss, it’s just that it isn’t safe up here...”
She looks about her slightly nervously and equally frustrated that what she was being told was at least partially true. “Well I wouldn’t be here if I could get out again!”
He nodded trying for a sympathetic smile and also still fighting the urge to cast his gaze down her slim form. “Right you are... the door can be troublesome.” He lied. He made to move past her and she gave the smallest of flinches before she stepped back against one of the rails. Carefully he walked by her making sure not to inadvertently brush against her and made his way towards the exit. He had gone half a dozen steps when he sensed there wasn’t any vibration of footsteps echoing through the metal gantry behind him and turned. She remained standing where she had been and was looking down at the stage far below. He watched as she said something or maybe just mouthed the words. He walked back three paces, “Pardon Miss?”
“I said it’s so quiet up here...” her voice trailed off and for the first time he let his eyes wander down her frame. Her legs, although thin, looked strong with the muscle definition of a dancer and a small callous blemished the side of her left small toe. Her stomach was washboard flat with only the slight definition of the Abs’ beneath and her chest, rather larger than seemed appropriate for her build, rose slowly up and down as she breathed. Her fingers still gripped the rail behind her, the pumps now hanging from her fingers, but fairly relaxed. Her brunette hair was tied severely back in a work-like fashion and he noted that except for a small amount of eye shadow her face was devoid of make-up.
“It is” he said simply in reply. She looked at him, for the first time taking in his features before returning her gaze back to the people below. His eyes followed her to see the rest of her troupe idly sitting about the stage while a couple of suited men seemed to be talking animatedly into their phones. “I think they’ve spotted you’re missing.”
A smile crept onto her face, “I think you’re right.” she moved lithely forward to rest her forearms on the rail in front. As she did one of her pumps slipped from her finger and dropped towards the metal meshwork of the gantry. He stooped quickly and grabbed it before it bounced over the edge. The smile remained on her face, “Quick reflexes!”
“They need to be or else I imagine you might be the first to complain if I dropped a lamp down onto the stage or the audience!” he placed the pump safely on the floor of the gantry and leant on the rail beside the Star.
“I guess I might...” she looked questioningly.
“Lou... pleased to meet you... Mysteria!”
“Pleased to meet you, Lou... Mysteria...or Hysteria” she raised her eyebrow acknowledging the slightly cruel nickname given to her behind her back, “are just my stage names... The names Mandy!” she held out her hand and shook Lou’s firmly.
“Pleased to meet you Mandy” he replied and went back to studying the rising panic of her entourage below.
“They do seem to be getting into a ‘tizzy’, don’t they?” he could hear the smile in her voice easily, “I guess if they didn’t insist on these pornographic outfits I might have room for a cell phone!”
“You mean to say there aren’t any pockets in that outfit?”
“Like you hadn’t noticed?” he resisted the urge to see if she was still smiling.
“I might have... glanced at some point... it’s not really suitable attire for up here, though during the concert the less clothing the better... it gets incredibly hot and sweaty up here!”
“You and me both... gets pretty hot and sweaty down there...” she sat down carefully on the catwalk dropping her legs over the side, lithely she bent one foot up onto her knee and began massaging her foot. “It used to be so much simpler... you sang a song, okay not in a place like this, as often as not a dump and all you had to do was avoid the manager’s grubby fingers when he gave you the cash...”
Lou sat down beside her leaning his forehead against the rail, “Surely with your popularity and not to say sales...” he left the question hanging.
“You’d think so wouldn’t you... just seems more people telling you what to do and calling it advice...”
He watched her work her thumbs hard into the callous on her foot, “I must admit I did quite like your first single, if I’m honest...” he stopped mid-sentence realising that the ‘meal-ticket’ probably wouldn’t care for his opinion.
“Go on” she said her eyes still smiling as she watched the frenetic activity increase below, “...you liked ‘Funk me!’ but?”
He looked at her, “I thought your first single was...” he racked his mind for the name, “...something about time...”
She paused mid-massage and looked up at Lou, “’Time to Breathe’?”
“Yes that was it, ‘Time to Breathe’. I really liked that one.
Her smile changed from the mischievous one she had looking downwards to something more genuine, “Someone’s been illegally downloading or watched some pirate on YouTube before the company pulled it!”
“Oops... guilty as charged” he offered.
“I’ll let you off with probation. It was never released as a single... the ‘man’ wouldn’t even let it be on the first album... ‘not the image we are looking for’ I think was the term.” The smile saddened, “damn but they got their hooks into me quickly...”
“Well, for my money I would have bought it” Lou offered.
“What about the rest?” she said turning her attention back to the stage.
Lou shook his head and answered “Not my taste... too... unsubtle...”
“Manufactured?” offered Mandy. She left soon afterwards and although there was no chance that he could hear the unamplified voices from the stage he would almost swear he heard a collective sigh of relief when she returned. ****
During that evening’s concert he kept her in the spotlight perfectly and watched as between numbers she looked up into the darkness. Rehearsal the next day went much smoother and when (he assumed) the same dancer missed her footing during the same complex dance routine Mandy didn’t lose her temper. In fact, she glanced upwards and then helped her up and went through the steps once again with her. He was sat on the edge of the walkway looking down as the suited ‘company’ men began to look nervous as their Star didn’t conform to their standards. ****
There had been a small click as the access door closed and a few moments later Mandy sat down beside him, slim legs draped over the side. “Do you think she has got it now?” asked Lou.
“I hope so... she’s odd... doesn’t lose it during the evening... never missed a beat throughout the tour, but when it comes to rehearsal...”
Lou sat silent for a minute contemplating a response and also aware that the ‘Star’ had returned and sat so close to him. “It might be that she feels there’s more attention on her... from you... might be a crush?”
The ‘Star’ rested her arms on the middle rail of the gantry railing and rested her chin on her forearms. “Don’t say that... I always felt bad about the ‘Hissy’ fit afterwards... now?”
“Time will tell. Can I say something?”
“Sounds ominous... I take it that it’s going to be something I could get you sacked for?”
Lou gulped loudly, “Probably!”
“Please do” whispered Mandy.
“You could try the carrot instead of the stick?” he glanced at her profile.
For a few moments she stayed silent and kept her focus on the stage below. “I’d swear that was how I used to be...” her voice trailed off and Lou was sure he could see her eyes watering.
They sat side by side in silence for twenty minutes, both of them resting their arms on the rail watching as the record company executives became more frantic and begin accusing the dance troupe of hiding the star. As far as Lou and Mandy could tell the troupe simply shrugged and then grinned behind the ‘toadies’. ****
The next day Lou couldn’t help but smile when one of the ’toadies’ struggled to carry two crates onto the stage as the rehearsal drew to a close. He could almost see steam coming out of his ears as Mandy ripped open the crates and began to pass out drinks to the ensemble making a point not to give any of the ‘company’ men a bottle. The young woman who had fallen on each of the previous rehearsals hadn’t slipped up once. He watched as Mandy glanced upwards and was about to move towards the door to leave it open for her when he saw her suddenly surrounded by the unwanted section of her entourage.
Mandy was ushered into the wings and after a half hour Lou gave up hoping she would appear.
It was almost fifty minutes when Al stepped through the access door to tell him he had to report to the office down in the basement. Shit
thought Lou to himself as he slipped past his co-worker. ****
He stood in Mandy’s dressing room as she almost screamed at him. His back was to the closed door as she ranted and raved about how he was incapable of keeping just one spotlight on her during the show. He couldn’t believe the absolute ‘sea-change’ in the performer. Just as he was sure he was about to lose his job her voice dropped to a whisper, “What do ya think? Could I have been a movie star?”
“Wh...?” he stuttered before he realised that the berating had been for the benefit of those stood outside.
Mandy giggled, “Shit, Lou? Couldn’t you tell I was just pretending?”
Lou shook his head dumbfounded. “You can
act!” he stated simply.
Her eyes lit up with the mischievous grin he had glimpsed before, “You’re going to be so easy to wind up!” He grinned back at her, the comment was the first that she had made that hinted about the future and although he had groaned with Al when the Star and her entourage had arrived at the venue he had now come to like the petite young woman. “Anyway, we haven’t got much time; can you slip out to the small coffee shop just around the corner in St. Martins Lane in about an hour?”
“Sure... can you?”
She stepped up close to him and gave him a conspiratorial wink, “I have a cunning plan!” for a moment she hesitated and then gave him a quick peck on the cheek which actually made him blush harder than when he thought she was telling him off. She reached beside him and pulled open the door and almost instantly reverted to her previous alter-ego, “Do your damned job right and you might keep it!” she bellowed and turned away as one of the company men, a particularly wimpy figure, ushered him out with a look of absolute disdain on his face. It took all of Lou’s self control not to knock him out there and then. ****
He sat in the coffee shop looking out onto St. Martins Lane watching the commuters rushing home and the tourists ambling by. Sipping on his black coffee he wondered if some scientist somewhere had ever done a flow analysis of such an urban scene. He worked a few figures through his head from the Mathematics Degree he had picked up at university and had never used. Once he would have been able to do the rough calculations in his head but the spiders had got in and those once much used synapses seemed to be clogged with cobwebs. He took a small serviette from the metal basket sat in the centre of the table and was rifling through his many pockets looking for a pen or pencil when a ‘Parka’ sat down across the table from him with their hood still up.
“I’m sorry but I’m waiting for someone...” he said politely as the person opposite pulled down the hood to reveal bright orange hair, “If you don’t mind?”
“Oh but I do... Lou” she giggled, “’Do-Lou’ sounds like the beginning of Be-Bop song...”
He grinned as he picked out her elfin features beneath the wig and he figured that the Star could definitely do with adding a few pounds, “Master of disguise now as well as acting? If only you could hold a tune?” he grinned.
“A real Mata Hari, me!” she paused for a moment and grabbed the serviette from Lou, “You got a pen?” Lou continued searching his pockets till he found the stub of a pencil and Mandy began to scribble a couple of lines.
“What would you like?” the voice of the waitress sounded from beside them.
Mandy looked up and Lou saw that she was about to recite some dietary based order before her attention turned to the glass fronted counter at the side of the shop. “You know... I’ll have a bacon sandwich please and a cappuccino, please.”
“Just another black coffee for me, thank you!” added Lou. The waitress studied Mandy for a couple of moments who simply looked back up at her smiling before she turned away.
Her attention came back to Lou, “Well, I’m skiving from school so I may as well rebel completely!”
“Today you’ll take St. Martins Lane, tomorrow you’ll take Winchester!” Lou grinned.
“A Cohen fan, I’m quite fond of him as well. So, not only are you YouTubing me but you’re Googling me as well!”
“You make it sound so sordid!” Lou frowned.
“Well between Photoshop and the Paparazzi my Gynaecologist doesn’t need me to visit!” Mandy smiled sadly.
“A lot to be said for anonymity... so you’re disguise fooled you’re ‘watchers’?”
“Well with the help from Miss Clumsy-” Mandy caught the momentary look on Lou’s face, “You don’t have to be like that... Clarissa now calls me Miss Grumpy and we call all my ‘watchers’ Mr Bland. We’re slowly working our way through the entire cast and crew, though to be honest most of the male dancers tend to fall into the Mr Happy
category or words to that effect!” she said with a grin. “I might as well be a born-again virgin for all the interest they show me!” Mandy unzipped the Parka and revealed a plain blue cotton dress beneath, “Clarissa is in my dressing room enjoying my afternoon siesta and was kind enough to lend me her clothes when I called her in to ‘berate’ her!” Mandy tilted her head, “Odd really Mr Bland seems so much happier when I’m acting like a spoilt child... really hated it when I got him to bring the crates of drink on stage... though he might be more upset later... he’s got no idea why I want a patchwork quilt!”
“A patchwork quilt?” Lou asked raising his eyebrow.
She grinned broadly, “Don’t you like surprises Lou?”
Lou’s mind was racing, “...err... usually!”
Mandy blushed, “Oh my... that does sound a little forward...” a small giggle slipped from her mouth as the waitress returned with our order and again stared at the incognito star who happily smiled back. “Sorry... to disappoint it’s for the performance and I’ll need your help... any good at improv’?”
“As long as it isn’t mime you want me to do!” Lou laughed, “If it’s to do with lighting I can hold my own.” He kept the fact that he was just a little disappointed secret.
“No not mime, don’t worry” replied Mandy.
It had been a long time since Mandy had enjoyed a pleasant afternoon just chatting and even longer since she had enjoyed a bacon sandwich with lots of Tomato sauce. Lou enjoyed Mandy as much as he didn’t care for Mysteria; he increasingly found it hard to remember that they were one and the same. She looked up at the clock on the wall and decided it was time she returned to the theatre. Lou felt a pang of sadness as he realised that Saturday, just three days away, would be the final date in London of Mysteria’s ‘Situation Normal All Funked Up’ tour. The entire cast and the Star would be moving on. ****
Lou sat on the small seat attached to the main spotlight used to highlight Mandy far below. He still didn’t particularly care for the music but he did watch her with a fascination and during some of the more risqué numbers when she cavorted with her dance troupe he did wish that it was just the two of them somewhere more private. They were about two thirds of the way through the set when she stopped still between songs. He watched fascinated and knew that the ‘surprise’ was coming. Even from his high perch he could see a Mr Bland twitching at the side of the stage just behind the curtain. He saw one of the dancers disappear briefly off stage on the opposite side to Mr Bland and was sure that it was Clarissa who reappeared after a moment carrying the large patchwork quilt which she handed to Mysteria.
All of a sudden Lou saw Mysteria disappear and Mandy emerge as she wrapped the quilt around her and sat down in the middle of the stage with the dance troupe sitting down around her as if they were waiting to be told a story. He clicked on his microphone that connected him to Al behind the main lighting control desk, “Cut all the lights Al, just leave me with the spot!”
“What? That’s not in the schedule!” grunted Al.
“No it isn’t and neither is what is going on down below...pay attention for fucks sake!”
Al did as he was told even if officially he was Lou’s boss and Mandy was left in an ocean of darkness as the only source of light sat like a large halo around her. Lou kept the Lux level at about 70% of what the spot could do and narrowed the white light so it only played around the quilt. Mandy looked up and smiled. The light reflected off the quilt like a small dim rainbow, the shadows of the seated dancers just discernable.
She closed her eyes and whispered “Ella is my hero.”Softly she began to sing without music. “There's a saying old
Says that love is blind -
Still we're often told,
"Seek and ye shalI find."
So I'm going to seek”
It took Lou two lines to remember the song. He had hoped it would be ‘Time to Breathe’ but he was more than happy with the Gershwin classic. Slowly he added a light blue filter to the spot light; it lost most of the rainbow effect but matched the tone of Mandy’s voice. “A certain lad I've had in mind.
Haven't found him yet;
He's the big affair
I cannot forget.
Only man I ever
Think of with regret.
I'd like to add his initials to my monogram.”
Lou’s eyes were misting up and he was sure that plenty of others in the audience were as well. He was sure that it wasn’t necessary for Mandy’s voice to be amplified and at least the sound engineer had kept it to a minimum as the entire audience seemed to be holding their collective breath. “Tell me, where is the shepherd for this lost
There's a somebody I'm longing to see
I hope that he
Turns out to be
Someone who'll watch over me.”
She hit the note perfectly and her voice rang out through the theatre. Some of the dancers had edged forward and Lou broadened the beam. A couple lay at Mandy’s feet and some hugged their knees to their chests like small children even with their skimpy outfits. “I'm a little lamb who's lost in the wood.
I know I could
Always be good
To one who'll watch over me.
Although he may not be the man some
Girls think of as handsome
To my heart he carries the key.
Won't you telI him please to put on some
Follow my lead -
Oh! How I need
Someone to watch over me.
Someone to watch over me.”
Mandy lowered her head and wrapped her arms about it. The theatre was totally silent for at least twenty seconds. Lou lifted his hands and began to clap. Al had started to bring the lights back up and a couple of people below looked up before also beginning to applaud. Within ten seconds the entire audience were on their feet clapping furiously. Slowly Mandy rose and Clarissa came forward and removed the quilt from her shoulders. Lou pulled the normally unused small set of binoculars from one of his pockets and looked down at the Star. Genuine tears were running down her face as she glanced up and mouthed ‘Thank You’.
He imagined that the audience near to the front and possibly the troupe thought she may have been thanking God but he whispered back, “No thank you.”
He couldn’t help but grin as he saw two of the tall athletic dancers standing either side of Mandy in floods of tears. Once the applause had died down Mandy thanked them all and said “I hope you don’t mind... I could do with a minute or so...” she smiled broadly, “so I can put Mysteria back on, if that’s okay?”
The audience nodded and a mixture of voices saying ‘certainly’, you’re welcome’ and ‘please do’s came back. ****
The rest of the set carried on as normal though Lou did note an increase in the number of Mr Blands on both sides of the stage. He also listened closer to Mysteria’s singing and if she missed a word or sang a ‘bum’ note he never caught it and all the time with her spinning and gyrating all over the stage. Three encores were called for and she willingly gave them and left to a long standing ovation. She was quickly shepherded by the Blands.
Lou took his time and shut down all the systems as Al made his usual early getaway. Grabbing his coat from the staff changing room he headed towards the exit. The Star had been rushed away and the crowds had dissipated. Stepping into the evening the streets they were still busy with cinema goers and sightseers and a quite considerable number of drunks. He lit up a cigarette after coaxing the disposable to give a brief flame and was just about to head for the bus when he saw a figure to one side shuffling from foot to foot dressed in a Parka.
“Mandy?” he asked.
The figure turned, “No, I’m Clarissa...” she looked Lou up and down and continued, “You have to be Mr Pockets!”
Lou grinned despite his disappointment, “I guess I am Miss Clumsy.”
Miss Clumsy blushed and stepped forwards handing Lou a small card, she was about to turn away when she stopped and looked up into Lou’s eyes. “Thank you.”
“What for?” replied Lou.
“Turning Mysteria back into Mandy,” she said simply. She walked away quickly before Lou could say she was welcome. ****
Lou sat on his bed, legs outstretched, back at his flat, an opened can of beer beside him on a small table untouched and an unlit joint sitting ready in the clean ashtray. He stared at the small card in his hand with a phone number and the simple message ‘Call me, M’ written upon it. It was almost midnight and he wondered if it was too late. The way the Mr Blands had been acting he’d be surprised if Mandy would manage to get away from them again.
He dialed the number.
It rang twice before it was answered with a cautious “Hello?”
Lou felt his heart thud against his chest. “Hi...err...Mandy? It’s Lou.”
The voice softened, “Hi Lou, thanks for calling.”
“I was worried that it might be too late...”
“No, not at all... I only just managed to kick out that grovelling little shit, Barry!” her West Country accent came through towards the end of the sentence.
“One of your interchangeable Mr Blands?” he asked.
“Yes... give me strength... ‘We know music and we know your fans, blah, blah, blah’” she intoned with an annoying nasal twang.
“Master of disguise, acting, singing and mimicry now,” Lou joked, “are there no end to your talents, Miss Grumpy?”
Mandy laughed loudly down the phone, “Thank you Mr Pockets, I needed that.”
“By the way that was beautiful, Ella would have been proud”
“Thank you... though I can’t see getting the quilt on stage again, Clarissa was right about that...”
“Do you really need the quilt?” Lou asked.
“Not sure it works with an outfit that is barely legal on a nudist beach...” Mandy said sadly.
“I see what you mean...” answered Lou.
They talked for over ninety minutes and only stopped when Lou’s phone began to beep menacingly that it was about to die if it didn’t get some charge. “Sweet dreams Miss Grumpy”
“You too, Mr Pockets,” answered a quietly yawning Mandy.
Lou sat there smiling to himself and looked at the still untouched nightly ritual on the small table. He reached down and lifted the lead to charge his phone and rolled over and dreamt of a girl wrapped in a patchwork quilt. ****
Mandy lay on her back on the sumptuous bed staring up at the ornate ceiling of the Dorchester Hotel and thought about staring up at a plain ceiling with Lou lying beside her. She giggled as she thought he might be a budding Leonardo and might have painted a large Sistine Chapel image across it. Another yawn coursed its way up to her mouth and she set the alarm on her phone before pulling of the fluffy towelling robe. She looked down at the image of Mr Grumpy on her T-shirt which she had sent for the previous day. She had thoroughly enjoyed rebuking whichever Bland it was that she had asked for a Miss Grumpy T-shirt. She pulled it off over her head and slipped beneath the covers of the bed naked.
She felt asleep her fingers lightly stroking the moist slit of her pussy. She dreamt of Lou high up on his lofty perch reaching down and lifting her up into the sky. ****
The Blands came with re-enforcements the next day and apart from a brief phone conversation in the afternoon the two of them got no closer that the drop from the gantry to the stage. Lou managed to catch up with Clarissa, “Miss Clumsy?”
She turned lithely as only dancers can do and replied, “Yes Mr Pockets?”
“I got an idea...” the tall blond haired dancer beside Clarissa turned as well. Lou looked at him slightly distrustfully.
“Mr Pockets, this is Mr Horse... Mr Horse, Mr Pockets” offered Clarissa, “He’s one of the good guys.” Lou couldn’t help himself but glanced at the tall man’s crotch who smiled as he looked back up. The tight leggings he was wearing left nothing to the imagination and he was well named. “Eyes off, Mr Pockets, he’s mine!”
Lou blushed and then laughed, “Okay... so...”
The gig went well and any seats that had been vacant on the previous nights were now all occupied. For all the Blands knowledge of the Industry it had seemed that Mysteria’s impromptu performance of Ella Fitzgerald’s classic had spread like wildfire through Facebook and Twitter and the remaining empty seats had been filled before Lou had called Mandy the night before. There was an expectation in the audience and as the evening progressed it seemed to heighten. Lou caught Mandy looking up at him a few times, the binoculars now attached by a tether at his hip as he sat controlling the spotlight, and all the time the Blands seemed set on not allowing a repeat of the previous night.
The main set had gone off without a hitch and Mysteria had done her usual first encore and was called back for a second. Everyone knew what they wanted to hear but Lou understood that the song deserved the right setting. Someone in the audience shouted out “Give us Ella!” as he finished her second encore somewhat sadly as far as Lou could sense and began to make her way back to the wings when once again the lights dimmed and Lou fixed her with the blue spotlight. She turned and smiled up towards him but shrugged. Lou broadened the spotlight and encouraged her forward towards the centre of the stage. She followed and the crowd went silent. The Blands were the only people muttering in the entire building and Mandy glanced scornfully to each of the wings as their voices were heard. “You know” she said softly, “sometimes you just can’t get the staff!” She grinned as she saw numerous dancers suddenly becoming clumsy and deaf and getting in the way of the Blands.
She was almost centre stage when a bright yellow square lit up on the floor, she paused and smiled as the trapdoor dropped away and a small platform rose up in its place bearing a large quilt. It wasn’t the same one as before, that one was locked away somewhere, but it glowed brighter in the blue light as she stepped towards it. Miss Clumsy and Mr Horse stepped into the circle of light and wrapped it around Mysteria almost as if they were performing a ballet to reveal Mandy once again.
Lou would swear that she was even better than the night before. As she had progressed the Blands had given up and the dancers had moved back onto the stage. They were also joined by some of the stage hands and even a couple of the huge security men who would probably get into trouble with the Blands sat down in a loose circle around her. When her last note died away the applause were tremendous. Mandy stood wrapped in the quilt and for the first time even though she was singing someone else’s song felt that the crowd cheered solely for her and not the music machine.
The music machine had something to say as she exited stage left. Barry was fuming, his face was puce red and she almost smiled as she imagined steam coming out of his ears and then she did smile and Barry faltered. “I’ll say this once, if I choose to sing Ella or any song I care to I will... the record company may back me but when it comes right down to it I will
quit and then you’re beloved record company will not have the benefit of any more of my songs or my tours and when asked why I will squarely level the blame at you!” she paused just long enough for him to open his mouth and began again. “You know what Barry, you do your level best to try and stop a quilt getting on to that stage for my final encore and we-” she glanced about her at the dance troupe and even the two of Barry’s security men, she gave them a brief nod, “-will still get it onto the stage. And no-one and I mean no-one gets it in the ear from you in any way, shape or form!” Even though Barry towered over the petite singer, a good head taller, his physical size was failing to dominate, once again he tried to interrupt and Mandy cut him off, “I know this isn’t about my image, it’s about control and I’ve stopped being your whore and now your mine! You got all that? Are we done?” His mouth lowered for speech and Mandy said “Good!” with absolute finality and strode past him to cheers from all but the Blands. ****
Lou got the details later, first from an incredibly excited Mr Horse who Lou reckoned might be more interested in him than Clarissa and then from Mandy on the phone. Lou wondered why they didn’t meet in person as she had now ‘laid down the law’ but didn’t ask. Mandy told him anyway, “It’s like this Lou, I know Barry and he hasn’t given up yet and I don’t want him getting his claws into you... he’ll twist things, he’s a spiteful little shit (Lou smiled as her original accent surfaced once again) and he’ll want to get back at me even if it’s at a remove.”
“Don’t worry about it... I did wonder but one thing I do not envy you is you’re ‘under the microscope’ life,” he admitted.
“It does suck at times... not sure getting swept up in this Fame thing was what I really wanted even back then when I was starting out and didn’t realise the...” she struggled for the right word.
“The loneliness?” offered Lou.
Mandy twisted on her bed and pulled her knees up to her chest as her eyes misted up. She was determined not to cry, it would seem like Barry the Bland winning after all. Lou felt the quiet murmur from Mandy down through the phone and felt guilty at providing the word Mandy wanted. “Would you like me to sing to you... the pain will
He heard her giggle and he ached to be with her. How the fuck did I fall so hard so fast?
he wondered to himself. Eventually as it was approaching midnight they once again offered each other sweet dreams.
Lou moved to the window of his flat that looked out over a busy street to the shops on the ground floor and lit up the previous nights joint. It was a little stale and bitter from drying out for twenty-four hours. Beneath his breath he recited Mockingbird to himself. He later dreamt of the two of them walking down a crowded street where no one recognised his girl. He woke up in the morning the echo of the dream still held in his head and wondered if she saw him as her boy. ****
Mandy almost danced into the en-suite and had a hot shower. She could feel that her pussy was wet and wanted to touch herself but she didn’t, she wanted Lou to touch her. Later wrapped in the warm cocoon of the duvet she dreamt of Lou standing centre stage in an opera singing loudly and badly and slapping Barry repeatedly around the cheeks. She awoke with a broad grin on her face and chuckled through the first hour of the day and found her first meeting with Barry to be unusually entertaining. Which of course winded Barry up all the more so she got double the benefit, “What a great way to start the day!” she said as she left the room although she could think of a better way. ****
Barry finished his conference call smiling to himself. Thank God for social networking sites
he thought to himself. It made gauging public response and sales demographics so much easier. Of course the ‘argument’ between Mysteria and himself had gone global almost before it ended and everyone knew about the challenge she had made. His bosses were happy with all the publicity and the boost to record and tour sales and accepted his judgement that it was time for him to be replaced as her ‘facilitator’. He would see out the last two dates in London and move on to the next budding star the scouts had found.
He poured a fresh glass of mineral water and wondered if he would be able to stop the Star getting her quilt. He’d added extra security to stop the Star getting her quilt enjoying the game and hoped she and the crew would manage to outwit him (even though if she failed he had a quilt on standby just in case). He noted that he was a little sad that he wouldn’t be ‘looking after’ her anymore as she had gone up in his estimation so much in the past two days. He sighed as he knew that wasn’t how the game worked. ****
Again they only managed the briefest of conversations during the day and with the added security he didn’t even manage to talk Miss Clumsy or Mr Horse or any of the troupe though he did notice a couple of conspiratorial looks from some of the other members in his direction as he climbed the scaffolding at the side of the stage to replace ‘blown’ lamps. He guessed they were aware of his and the Star’s new friendship. He chewed on his lip regretting not asking her earlier if they were more than friends. Odd to feel so happy and so scared at the same time. ****
Once again he sat up in small seat guiding the main spotlight and once again the final encore arrived. The crowd quietened to an expectant hush as all but Lou’s light dimmed. He lifted the binoculars to his eyes and watched as for a few moments the Star and dancers looked about themselves and Barry the Bland folded his arms with a sense of victory. Miss Clumsy and Mr Horse once again moved with a purpose and climbed to the back of the stage as the look on Barry’s face faltered. Lou watched him closely as the two reached up behind the large graffiti covered curtain and lifted down another quilt. As they brought it down to a smiling Mysteria two members of the audience had stepped up to the ‘Bouncers’ pit and had also tossed a second quilt onto the foot of the stage.
Barry’s hands dropped to his side and for a brief moment Lou could swear he saw a smile on his face. Both quilts were wrapped around the Star and Mandy appeared once again. “Thank you... thank you all...” she smiled. She turned to Clarissa and covered her mic. The dancer walked down towards the pit and brought the two fans up to sit on the stage in front of Mandy. Both had smiles that threatened to split their faces open. Lou watched Clarissa sit down between Mr Horse’s outstretched legs and fold herself into his embrace.
Once again Ella’s song enchanted the audience and Lou sitting high above. ****
It was almost one o’clock in the morning and Lou and Mandy had been talking for well over an hour already. Both of them were naked in their own beds wondering how it would feel to be wrapped in the other’s arms. Both unaware of the other’s state of undress and level of arousal. Lou’s cock throbbed almost painfully beneath his cotton sheets and it took more self-control than he was aware he had not to take himself in his hand. A similar affliction affected Mandy; she could feel juices slowly issuing from her wet slit and her hard nipples infuriatingly sensitive against the soft underside of her duvet.
Lou had been silent for a few seconds when Mandy asked “What is it, Lou?”
Still he remained quiet but she could hear his laboured breathing. Eventually he responded, “I... I want to ask you a question...”
Mandy’s nipples scratched even harder against the duvet as she too breathed deeply, “One of those questions... that can be good... or terrible Lou?”
“Yes...” he breathed, “Something like... fear of hope, I guess.”
Mandy grinned as for a moment the songwriter within her repeated the phrase in her head, “Fear of hope... would it help if I told you the answer is ‘yes’?”
Lou rolled onto his front, his forehead resting on the pillow and his hardness pressed into the mattress. “Yes,” he breathed once again, “Mandy... are you... are you my girlfriend?”
Mandy felt her body pulse as Lou whispered the final word, a fresh flow of juices streamed from her quim. “Yes...” she moaned, “...if you’re my boyfriend...”
Lou’s cock twitched hard beneath him and he knew the slightest touch would cause him to erupt as he answered “...yes... Mandy...I am.”
That night after once more they had wished sweet dreams the two of them had given in to their desires and had both brought themselves to orgasm with their bedclothes kicked to the floor. Mandy had lain on her back with her hips thrust high into the air as her fingers had slid easily into her pussy and her thumb barely touched her clit to be rewarded by a body shaking climax.
Lou’s orgasm had been no less intense and quick as he had pumped his cock just three times before his white seed had shot out almost to his neck and had covered his chest and stomach. Both woke later, slightly chilled and managed to drag their bedclothes up over themselves. ****
Mandy dreamt about soaring through the heavens holding on to Lou’s outstretched fingers as Lou imagined sitting atop of a mountain with his girl wrapped in a multi-coloured quilt. ****
If they thought security had been tight on the night before it was nothing as compared to the final night. The entire theatre was searched. Lou as usual was high above when there was a hard knock on the access door and a huge security man appeared. Almost without a word he went to step onto the gantry when Lou placed a hand on his chest. “Hold on a minute there, friend!”
The small monster of a human being looked down at Lou’s hand, “I got orders to search up here!”
Lou removed his hand, “I’m sure you have but you can’t come out onto the gantry without a harness!” the man looked about and noted the long drop to the auditorium below, Lou twisted his head and shouted across the void “Hey, Frank... we got another harness for this...” he looked back at the security man, “For this fella’, here?”
A small wiry eighteen year old ran across from the other side of the ceiling space, his harness rattling on the track above him and the gantry bouncing beneath his feet. They had suspected that a search would be made and Al’s size had meant that even the monster before Lou could have used his harness so Frank, Al’s nephew, had happily come along to take Al’s place. Lou noted the beefy security man grow pale. “Sure thing Lou...” Frank veered off to a small locker and returned with a bright yellow harness. Lou did his best not to grin as the small giant tried vainly to get into the harness. He was simply too large for the webbing partly because of his size and partly because Lou had glued a couple of the buckles so the straps wouldn’t lengthen.
After a couple of minutes the man gave up. He stared out across the scaffolding and gantries and then fixed Lou and Frank with a hard stare, “I guess you ain’t got nothing up here!” he quickly turned, dropping the useless harness to the floor and stormed off down the spiralled access stairs.
“Shit, Lou! I wouldn’t want to bump into him in a well lit stadium!”
“You’re not wrong there, Frank!” replied Lou with a beaming smile.
Throughout the entire concert the audience seemed to be simply waiting for the final encore. Lou looked across at young Frank sitting controlling the main spotlight and back at Al in the control booth. His headset beeped and he heard Al’s voice in his earphone, “When was the last time you did this sort of shit, Lou?”
“Been a while Al... longer than I care to remember...”
“Is she worth it?” asked Al in the most serious tone Lou could ever remember him using.
Lou looked down at Mysteria as she approached the final bars of her penultimate song. “Yeah, Al... she’s worth it!”
There were no applause at the end of the song, the audience simply stood there waiting in anticipation. No fans moved forward with smuggled quilts as Barry had used standard security searches to check any with bags or oddly bulky clothing and had insisted that such items be put into the Cloak room that was manned by his own staff that night. The Star stood centre stage and looked to her troupe who sadly shrugged their shoulders.
“Well... I guess that’s it...” said Mysteria into her mic. A huge sigh came from the audience as they looked about themselves hoping that one dedicated fan had got through. She looked across to stage left and saw Barry standing there with a neutral expression on his face. As she turned back to face the audience she didn’t see Barry slip his phone from his pocket and search for a number. “What we... I really need is a little help...” Barry paused just before he pressed the send button. “Maybe a little help from above...?” she looked upwards as did her entire troupe followed by the audience and then Barry.
“Oh shit!” whispered Lou as he stepped off the gantry.
The crowd stared upwards and for a few moments stared into the darkness. A few amongst the audience actually had their hands clasped together in prayer and gasped loudly as a figure descended out of the gloom. Lou was breathing hard as he gripped the brake tightly on the rappel line to control his speed. Vaguely he hoped there were no Health and Safety officials in the audience as a stunt like this passing over members of the public would definitely lose him his job. Al had been spot on with the line and the tension motor and Lou came to a halt less than three feet above the stage and six feet in front of Mysteria. He released the brake and dropped softly onto the stage. “Candy gram for Mr Mongo?” he offered so only Mysteria could hear.
She grinned broadly, “Why thank you, Mr Pockets!”
Lou unhooked the harness and pulled the rucksack from his back and unfolded the very first quilt that had been given to the Star which he had stolen first thing in the morning from Barry’s office.
Barry looked on, recognising the quilt and smiling. “Shit!” he muttered causing his sub-ordinates standing by his side to flinch.
Lou wrapped the quilt around the Star and his girlfriend appeared. She reached up and placed her palm on his cheek, Lou smiled back and then Mandy kissed him fully on the lips for the first time. A few gasps permeated from the audience and a few sighs from her troupe as the kiss lingered. When their lips separated they both smiled warmly at each other ignoring the fact they were on the middle of a stage.
“Do you do requests?” asked Lou.
Mandy nodded and took Lou’s hand to sit him on the step behind her before sitting between his legs and sinking into his arms.
She looked about her troupe who moved in closer and bowed her head. “The first time we met I saw you standing by the wall Your feet shuffling, Arms and legs, awkward and tall I said ‘how are you’ You said ‘how are you’ right back Trying to look cool Trying to impress this girl We talked and we talked About things we didn’t know Giggled, smiled and laughed Chilled by the cold winter’s snow You saw me shiver Though I didn’t want to go Offered me your jacket And wrapped it all about me Give me the time to breathe I need some time to breathe Give me time to breathe A chance for me to breathe Those nights my dreams were haunted by you The next time we met We weren’t alone My boyfriend in tow A fool with a heart of stone You made me laugh Without no fear My heart ached When you were so near Your whispered jokes And conspiring smile No longer clumsy But a boy with style He didn’t like it He pulled me away You said sorry it’s all my fault You said sorry for the fool that day Give me the time to breathe I need some time to breathe Give me time to breathe A chance for me to breathe The haunted dreams returned of me and you The last time we met All was anew We sat a bar Strangers to the rest of the crowd Our drinks remained untouched As we talked about and around Both too scared to surrender To what our hearts had found Eyes lost within each other The moment when our fingers touched Hearts pounding, the world turning A time we’ll ne’er forget Fingers slowly entwine Heads tilt to one side Distance closing And a kiss forever Don’t give me the time to breath I don’t need the time to breathe Don’t’ give me time to breathe No chance for me to breathe... I only want to be haunted by you... ****
“It’s a bit disappointing.”
“Pardon?” answered Lou a little worried.
Mandy grinned and squeezed her pussy gripping Lou’s softening cock inside her. “Not that!” she looked up at the ceiling of Lou’s flat, “You’re ceiling... I had wondered what it looked like...”
“Really?” asked Lou somewhat bemused.
“I assume you’ve never stayed in the Dorchester?”
Lou pondered his answer with a grin on his face, “Can’t say that I have!” he pulled her even closer and tilted his head so his cheek rested against hers and looked up at the slightly cracked ceiling above them. “Though... with certain nefarious substances those cracks can become anything you like!”
“Nefarious substances?” asked Mandy.
“A little Weed... one of my vices”
“About you’re vices...” Mandy rhythmically squeezed her pussy.
Lou rolled her on top of him and dragged his fingers up her back, “You don’t believe in moderation, then?”
“Hey, I’m a Pop Star!” she reached back with her hand and scratched just beneath Lou’s sac.
Lou groaned, “And a Diva...mmmm... must always be... pampered...”
Mandy grinned down at her ‘boyfriend’, “You’d better believe it!” she leaned down and nipped his nipple between her teeth. **** Ten Years Later... ****
Lou stood outside Ronny Scott’s and looked at the Billboard. ‘Amanda Christie, Two Nights Only!’ he read aloud. He looked at her picture and thought it was a much better one than the publicity shots of her when she was ‘Mysteria’. Of course she wasn’t as provocatively dressed either but he thought she looked all the more sexy for the understated black evening dress. He stepped in through the door into the darkened interior. ****
He sat at the bar of to one side and watched her entire set barely touching the drink he had ordered. Of course a small venue like Scott’s held a much smaller audience and when the crowd stayed completely silent during her slower, softer numbers it wasn’t as impressive as those first few times he saw her. Still her voice had remained as good as it had ever been down through the years. He smiled at her sitting on a stool on the empty stage, a simple acoustic guitar leaning against the small table with a bottle of water upon it. She’d put on a lot of weight since the present promotional picture had been taken but she still looked beautiful in his eyes.
“She’s quite superb,” said a voice from beside him. He turned to see a man on the stool beside him, maybe sixty years of age and almost bald. “Much better than when she was as Mystique,” he stated.
“I got to agree with you... but then again I’m slightly biased,” answered Lou.
“Aren’t we all” he replied cryptically and walked away. Lou scratched his chin for a moment watching the suited man walk away with a cane in his hand before returning his attention to Mandy. ****
“Where have you been for the last ten years?” asked the Star as she stepped in front of Lou.
Lou twisted in his seat and looked at the singer. “Well...” he pondered and glanced down at the large abdomen before him, “...generally looking after your children!” he spread his knees and his wife stepped forwards between them as he wrapped his hands around her waist and kissed her softly on the mouth.
Her hand went to his cheek, “If you will keep getting me pregnant what else do you expect. How are the boys?”
“Evil!” Lou joked, “As usual! And missing their mom.”
“You think they’ll keep till morning?”
“Why?” replied Lou suspiciously.
“Well... I might have a room booked at the Dorchester... and...?”
“What Diva wants...?”
“Diva gets... hopefully?” asked Mandy with her cutest smile, “Not as if you can get me pregnant at the moment!”
“Nope!” replied Lou grinning. ****
Barry looked across the room watching Mandy and Lou cuddling and talking by the bar. “Now you’re a Star!” he said simply and walked out of the club leaning heavily on his cane. The End.
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