There was a request by a member of the beta team that we include a copy of this song with the chapter, as it will be used toward the end. I am happily doing so, but you have to imagine the differences in the voices. I'm not going to spoil it, but you'll know when to push 'play'. ;)
While riding the crowded subway to Sebast’s, Kala couldn’t stop chuckling at her parents. She’d wanted to leave before the Pink Princess of Doom got there, knowing that her keyed-up state would just make the situation worse, but her father had kept to the usual house rules in spite of it being New Years. “Sweetheart, you know you have to wait until your mother gets home,” Clark had admonished while he set out the catered platters around the kitchen island, making Kala roll her eyes with extravagant petulance. “You also know need you need both of our approval before you head out for something like this. We’ve had this discussion.”
Yeah, endlessly. Couldn’t you just make an exception just this once? she’d thought at the time, but had finally come out with, “Fine, but if Mom’s not here in half an hour, I’m gonna call her.” She crossed her arms and pouted, leaning forward against countertop with a sulky expression. But all that got her was a chuckle and a smile as her father continued to set up for the party.
“Be patient; you know you can be when you want to. I promise, Kala, you’ll get to Sebast’s in time.”
“Yeah, I just don’t want to have to run in these shoes,” Kala groused, pursing her lips. “Or smear my eyeliner with sheer wind speed. At least you don’t worry about stuff like looking like a typhoon hit when you made an entrance. The last thing I wanna deal with tonight is badger-eye issues.”
“You look lovely now and you’ll look lovely for your audience,” Clark had said, stopping to lean onto the counter in front of her and look her in the eye, and she could tell he meant it. “Now stop worrying. You’ll just make yourself sick.”
She had taken a deep breath in and let it out in a sigh. As always, she could count on her father to see past the surface to the bigger problem. She couldn’t help the grateful smile that rose to her lips. “Thanks, Daddy,” Kala had replied then, preening under the praise just a bit. Then they’d both heard the elevator doors open at their floor, and both recognized Lois’ heartbeat at the same moment. Oh, thank you, God. It’s about time, Mom. Kala had at first been glad just because it meant she could escape before Giselle got there, and then Lois had walked into the apartment.
Kala’s eyebrows had shot up and she knew without looking that Dad’s had, too; obviously there had been a reason for Mom’s lateness. A glance made it clear she had gone to the salon, had her hair styled and nails done and a glow that hinted at a facial in there somewhere. She was also carrying a garment bag from Saks, a hint of crimson gleaming promisingly from the bottom. “Wow, Mom, wasn’t expecting that this early,” Kala had said, sincerely impressed.
There had been a moment for silence and she hadn’t been surprised to see the poleaxed look on her father’s face. The teenager had been surprised at how pleased she had been. It had been a little while since she’d seen Dad that blown away and she couldn’t help but be happy for Mom. It was all she had not to laugh out loud when she had recognized the way the tone of his voice lowered. “Lois, you look gorgeous.”
In spite of the amusement, watching it happen was a totally different thing. That they were getting along was beyond awesome, but that didn’t mean she had to subject herself to the visual that went with it. “Okay, imminent gross-out,” she’d groaned, wincing as she pulled away from the bar to snatch up her purse. “Mom, you look great. I’m leaving you and Dad to suck face in peace, okay? Remember there will be party guests eventually.”
That had gotten a laugh from both parents, and with hugs from them and a final reminder about curfew, Kala had gratefully escaped. She couldn’t resist listening behind her as she left, though, and had snickered to hear Mom laugh in startled surprise as it was all too clear Dad was kissing her. And then Lois’ voice, trying to sound stern but too full of delighted laughter to succeed. “No. No, absolutely not. If you keep on you’ll ruin your appetite for dessert. Not to mention the hair.”
“There’s very little that can ruin my appetite for this,” came the reply, and Kala refocused her hearing with a groan. At least that had lifted some of her worries; she knew things had been tense on and off lately, but any time Mom and Dad were pawing each other in the living room, life was good. As long as neither she or Jason were there to be witnesses.
Now all she had to worry about was meeting Sebast and going to Fuel … where she might actually sing. Kala had seen the sign-up sheet for singers, and it was pretty long, but a lot of those names were crossed out. The guy running register the night she’d filled out the form had looked impressed when he saw what school she went to. All things considered, Kala thought she had a serious chance.
If she could just control the butterflies in her stomach…
Party guests were arriving, and Lois had wrapped herself up in the proceedings as tightly as she could, determined to be very much the gracious hostess. With a glass of wine already mellowing her nerves and all of the earlier tumult under lock and key in the back of her mind, the evening seemed well on its way to completely transcending the near-disaster of the afternoon. Everyone had complimented the new dress, and the holiday news was all good so far. Tobie had gone and bought a Benelli Legacy Sport shotgun for Maggie, who was overjoyed and eager to plan a trip to the gun range for their next girls’ night out. Cat had taken Richard’s advice and deep-sixed Andrew the Presumptuous after the twins’ party, only to hook up with a new boyfriend at the WGBS Christmas party. Ian was seven years younger than Cat, her usual average, but he seemed like a decent guy to the rest of the girls and that was really all that mattered.
Giselle arrived fifteen minutes late, but her mother, Justine Davenport, walked up to the apartment with her to apologize; they’d been stuck in traffic. Lois made small talk idly with her for a few minutes, while Jason managed to steal his girlfriend away out of sight of parents for a kiss. “You’re sure you wouldn’t like to stay for the party?” Lois offered politely, knowing it would be refused.
“Oh, I couldn’t put you to the trouble,” Justine said, her tone just as cool as Lois’. It was one of Lois’ peculiarities that she simply didn’t get along with most women. She considered herself very lucky to have the friends she did, since in her experience other women tended to treat her as a rival, and Lois could not let a challenge pass unanswered. Her close friends had all either chosen to allow Lois the upper hand in most things, as Lana and Cat had, or had entered into sometimes-fierce competition with her while somehow managing not to be mean-spirited about it, like Tobie and Loueen.
Justine Davenport was never going to be a close friend. She was self-possessed and well-mannered, but like her daughter, she kept her real thoughts and feelings well hidden. Lois didn’t trust anyone who displayed no passion for anything, and she was grateful when the woman left. As a much younger woman, Lois would’ve felt guilty for feeling grateful, but not these days. Ever since her children had grown into teenagers, Lois no longer felt the need to apologize for who she was.
Besides, these days Lois could just turn and look at her guests, and their reactions would reaffirm her own feelings about Justine. Clark didn’t particularly like Mrs. Davenport, either, but he gave her the benefit of the doubt; she and her husband had lived abroad for many years, and her aloof attitude may simply have been the quirk of another culture. Cat had just tilted her nose up in the air once Justine left, which made Tobie snicker.
Warm contentment settled over Lois like a blanket … or more correctly, like Clark’s arm around her shoulders. “Love you,” he murmured against her hair, and she leaned back against him with a broad smile.
“Sorry we’re late,” Richard’s voice called from the front door. Jason had apparently noticed his parents drifting off into romance-land again, and had put himself on door watch.
Tobie groaned, “Aw, hell, I thought you didn’t invite him for once.”
That got the entire assembled group laughing while the Whites made their way across the room, both looking well-rested and happier than Lois could remember seeing them in a while. And that was saying something where Lana and Richard were concerned. With a smirk, she tipped her head back to roll her eyes up at her husband. “That has to be a record for her. Only I’ve ever mocked him the minute he’s stepped in the door before. I’ll let her have her turn at tormenting him this time, that’s how good a friend I am.” Beaming down at her, Kal-El joined her in the chuckle.
“You’d miss me, Raines,” Richard teased, making his way toward Lois and Clark.
“I’ve never had a chance to miss you, White, you won’t go the hell away,” Tobie shot back as Richard pulled Lois out of Clark’s arms for a hug of his own.
Maggie and Lana sighed and rolled their eyes at the same moment, catching sight of each other and breaking into good-natured laughter. Despite the separation of the family for the holidays, everything was back to the status quo. “The traffic is absolutely insane,” Lana said, explaining their absence.
“And somebody didn’t want to risk his precious new convertible?” Cat asked, grinning at Richard. At his double-take, she added with a grin, “Oh yeah, we heard about it.”
“We even heard you’ve already got the back seat properly broken in.” It was Tobie teasing. Without a beat, Richard glared down at Lois, who took a step back out of his arms automatically.
“I will have you know that I did not say that,” she protested, crossing her arms and arching the Lane brow at him. “All I said was that you took it for a two-hour test drive and only put fifteen miles on it. And on top of that, you just spent most a week driving back here. C’mon. The proof is right there. Don’t start.”
Lana sighed extravagantly, palm to her forehead as she shook her head slightly. Lois had to bite her lip to hide her smile. You’d think she’d know better by now. After a decade with these guys, nothing should surprise or embarrass her by now. Then again, I wouldn’t want her any other way. One of us should still be capable of blushing. “Thank you, Tobie, for making us both feel welcome on our first day back home.”
“Anytime,” Tobie replied, grinning. And one of us should never be ashamed of anything we do, Lois added to herself wryly, unable to disguise her snicker.
As always, Richard couldn’t resist fanning the flames, smirking at Tobie as he came forward to face the Star editor while Lana took her turn hugging Clark. “For the record, Raines, we didn’t bring the convertible. We took a cab, since there will be champagne. Plus, that means I don’t have to try and find a parking space.”
“Aw, that’s so mature and responsible of you,” Tobie said. “Just try not to get hammered, okay? I already had your naked chest leap out of a Vogue magazine at me; I’m not prepared to see you drunk-dancing shirtless on the table with a lampshade on your head.”
“I should never have talked about my college years around you,” he sighed, making everyone laugh. “And I understand, really. Of everyone here, you’re the least prepared to handle my incredible charisma.”
Tobie made a rude noise and conceded defeat for the moment; there was no beating Richard’s ego, and they all knew it. In the meantime, Lana was now exclaiming over Lois’ new dress. “And I’m stealing that neckline,” she mused, hugging Lois. The designer stepped back, scowling a little. She pinched the fabric at Lois’ side, drawing it tight, and the reporter automatically flinched away, but not quickly enough. “You’ve lost a pound or two since Christmas,” Lana scolded.
Oh God, here we go. Why does she have to be so damn perceptive? Or know me so well? The last thing I want her to know is the truth; she’d never understand in a million years. “I’ve been running a big story,” Lois protested, trying not to look guilty. These days lying to Lana, or even omitting the truth for her own good, didn’t sit well with Lois. It would be the same as lying to Lucy.
And Lana was continuing with her observations. “And living off coffee, no doubt. I don’t care how much sugar and cream Starbucks’ puts in it, Lois, coffee is a beverage, not a food group.” Her shrewd gaze fell on Clark, raising her auburn brows.
“Lana, I haven’t been starving her,” he said defensively, hands raised palms out. “You wouldn’t give me that look if you’d seen how many pizzas we bought last night – and how few slices were left this morning. Between the two of us and the kids…”
“You know she frets off the calories,” Lana returned, and Lois began to pout angrily at being talked about like a little kid. Seeing that expression, the redhead backed off a bit, smiling with affectionate exasperation. “It’s all right, Lois,” Lana soothed. “I’m sure you’ll recover quickly. We have some things we need to talk about, anyway, but not until tomorrow.”
We need to talk… Those words were powerful enough that Lois suddenly felt like her stomach had fallen down the building’s elevator shaft, her grand mood evaporating. She tried to swallow with a suddenly dry throat, trying with all of her being to keep her expression neutral, wondering how much Lana knew. Clark, meanwhile, asked dubiously, “What kind of things?” Lois could feel the tension rising off him, and wondered what he was worried about.
Richard chose that moment to sling his arm around Lois’ neck, preventing Lana from explaining by saying with an exaggerated leer, “Why, making that old OT4 rumor a reality, of course. Just how much champagne do you have stocked up, anyway?” He waggled his eyebrows at Lois with a satyr’s grin.
Lois couldn’t help it; one look at Lana’s shocked expression and Clark’s dismayed one, and she burst out laughing with sheer relief. Soon all four of them were chuckling, Richard patting Lois on the back to make sure she could catch her breath. “Gotcha,” he finally said, the mischievous light in his eyes burning bright as ever.
“You are impossible,” Lois laughed, elbowing him in the side affectionately.
“And you love me for it,” Richard replied. “You all love me for it.”
“No, Richard, we love you in spite of it,” Clark informed him, and that got all of them laughing again. Lois very quickly managed to forget that Lana had ever mentioned needing to talk at all.
Kala’s nervousness hadn’t gotten any better; in fact, it had actually gotten a thousand times worse when she’d arrived at Sebast’s house. She’d no more than knocked when her best friend answered the door with a wild-eyed expression, wearing a t-shirt and jeans and not even made up yet. “Damn, I forgot all about that,” he’d groaned with real feeling, pained apology all over his face. “Kala, I’m so sorry. I can’t go. Abuelita fell; we’re not sure how it happened, but she hurt herself. Mis padres went with her to the hospital, but I have to stay here and watch Michael.” His younger brother, Michael, had come to the door just behind him, and was looking up at Kala with a woeful expression.
That took her by utter surprise. “Oh my God, Sebast, is she gonna be okay?” Kala had asked, pulling him to her for a hug. A selfish part of her couldn’t believe that this was happening; why did it have to be tonight, when she needed him the most? Shaking it off, she hugged him a bit tighter to make up for the thought.
He’d returned the gesture, squeezing her tighter and holding her a little longer than usual, and replied that she should be fine once they figured out what happened and fixed it. Sebast was clearly distracted; Kala knew how close he was with his grandmother, but also knew she could provide little comfort. She had been here herself not so very long ago. Whenever something happened in the Velez family, they all drew together, and despite how strong the bond was between her and Sebast, Kala was still considered something of an outsider.
She’d made herself leave shortly afterward; her emotions all jumbled up, she’d assured Sebast that she’d keep his grandmother in her prayers and that she understood his backing out. But that had left her with a very clear problem: what to do next?
Probably the safest option was to go home. But that meant missing the Foxes, blowing her chance to sing, and then having to spend a disappointing evening in the company of Princess Barbie. She could go to the club alone … everyone else had plans tonight, since it was New Year’s Eve, and she probably couldn’t get anyone to come with her at this late notice. But doing that meant facing the possibility of singing without even one guaranteed fan in the crowd. Not to mention, she had told her father she was going with Sebast; going alone was sort of breaking the rules.
But not going meant she was a chicken, so Kala had gone, comforting herself with the knowledge that she’d ruin everyone’s good time if she came home with her own spoiled. Hopefully her father would understand; even better, he never had to know. And now, here she was at Fuel, signing her name on a printout to say she was here and ready to sing if they needed her – plus some legalese about how she wasn’t performing for pay, et cetera. Her hand shook a little as she signed, but she turned the wobble into a flourish.
The guy running register tonight was Brandon, who looked and dressed so deceptively clean-cut, but Kala had seen the tattoos on his arms when he handed her the sign-up sheet and she decided to trust that he wasn’t exactly normal, either. “So what are my chances?” she asked.
“The girl we originally planned on is puking her guts up right now,” Brandon told her. “The guy we were gonna use as backup never showed. So you might want to pick some songs. And take some Dramamine, if you’re nervous.” With that, he handed her a binder with a printed-out list of songs organized by band name and title.
Kala took it, forcing her hands not to shake any more than they already were. Oh God, I’m actually gonna do this. I’m gonna sing in front of all these people. Holy freaking crap. In spite of her jitters, her voice came out smooth and steady when she asked, “How many songs do I get?”
“Three, usually,” Brandon said. “You probably won’t get more than that, but have a fourth in mind just in case. The Flying Foxes are pretty good about being ready on time, but they like their crowd warmed up a little.”
Kala nodded and browsed the song list, trying to ignore the fluttery feeling in her chest. Show them what you can do, she told herself, trying to remember everything they’d talked about in class. Treat this like an audition, and show your range. Pick different genres, pick at least one song originally sung by a guy. Pick something and sing it different than the original artist did – make it yours when you sing it, put your own spin on it.
Oh, and don’t throw up. She chuckled a little under her breath at that, flipping through the pages quickly. Fuel was starting to fill up, and Brandon had to serve customers, but he found time to hand Kala a bottle of water. She started sipping it, humming under her breath to warm up her vocal chords. “Okay, here they are,” she said with an edgy little sigh, quickly writing them down on her sign-up sheet when Brandon passed it back to her.
Brandon read upside down, and scoffed a little at her first choice. “Are you serious?” he asked.
Kala looked up at him and arched one eyebrow. “Okay, I know it’s a pop song all over the radio, but look at me. Do you really think I’m gonna sing it all sugar-candy sweet? Hell no. I’m gonna rock it like it should be.”
He looked her over, and chuckled. “You have a point. What’re the other two?”
Kala handed him the sheet again, and he grinned wider. “Within Temptation, See Who I Am, and Nickelback, Figured You Out. If you were going for a theme, you should’ve picked Rock Star.”
“Too cheesy,” Kala was quick to respond, getting enough attitude back to smirk at him. “A wannabe rock singer singing about wanting to be a rock star? Nah.”
The fact that he laughed at that helped settle her a bit more. “Looks like an interesting set. I like it,” Brandon said with a considering look, and Kala knew she’d chosen well. “What’ll you do for an encore if you have time?”
“Evanescence,” she replied instantly. “Anything off The Open Door; I know them all. I know most of Fallen and Origin too.”
“Somehow I’m not surprised,” Brandon said with a snort. “You’ve got about an hour; go on back, get warmed up. If the other girl suddenly gets her guts together, we’ll give her two songs and give you two, but I don’t think she’s cut out for it. This is the second time she’s tried to sing and wound up hiding in the bathroom.”
Kala laughed, but she knew exactly how the other girl felt. When she was younger, she’d often worked herself into a state of nervous nausea, and not just over worrisome things. Once before a trip to Disney, she’d gotten so excited that she threw up – and then tried to clean up the mess herself, so her parents wouldn’t think she was too sick to travel and leave her home. That had not been pleasant for Kala or Lois.
At least these days she knew enough not to eat before a performance. Taking a deep breath, Kala slipped behind the counter and went into the stockroom, where she would spend the next hour trying to keep herself from fainting. I’d better call someone for moral support. Sebast’s busy … maybe Elise? Definitely Elise. She had her phone out and dialing as soon as the thought occurred to her, not even noticing how her palms had begun to sweat.
Clark was enjoying the evening, surrounded by friends and family, and utterly unable to keep his eyes – or his hands – off his wife. Lois’ sultry chuckle every time he touched her kept him keyed up, eager for midnight to arrive and the party to be over shortly thereafter. While they’d never had problems with a lack of desire in their relationship, things had cooled down over the last several months. Some of it was poor timing; Clark would be out late with the League, and come home to find Lois asleep. Other times the tension in the house, with the kids and work and everything else, conspired to rob them both of motivation.
But ever since Clark had walked into the office to see Lois and Eastlake laughing, it was as if he’d been drowsing and someone slapped him awake, showing him once again whom he had married. His wife, who woke up beside him with rumpled hair and an obscene craving for coffee, was Lois Lane. Lois Lane-Kent, now. She was not just any woman; she was an icon, a legend, the woman Superman fell in love with, and one of the finest reporters on the planet, so far as Clark was concerned.
He’d needed that wake-up call. Clark realized he’d been taking Lois for granted, and he had vowed to make amends. The reminder of just who she was, and how much she meant to him, had gone to heart, and put a new spark in their love life. Since coming home from the Christmas trip, it was almost like they were newlyweds again. And right now, with Lois in that red dress, her confidence at an all-time high, and that old fire gleaming in her eyes, Clark would’ve been perfectly content to sneak away from the party with her. If only they weren’t the hosts…
Clark could almost thank Erik Eastlake for this, but he knew the younger man was trying to seduce his wife. So what if the marriage had been a little shaky over the last year? They were still married, and Clark had vowed forever in his heart. He’d sworn that their first night in the Fortress, so long ago, and though he’d made the mistake of leaving her, in his heart he had never forsaken her. A few squabbles didn’t give anyone the right to try and come between them, even if Lois hadn’t turned Eastlake down flat the way she’d always brushed off her admirers before.
But Clark wouldn’t let himself think too much on that. He didn’t think it had gone beyond flirtation; he would have known, somehow, if there had been even a kiss. Lois’ body language had been telegraphing secrecy and a little guilt, but not as much guilt as he would’ve expected if she’d acted upon the temptation. So Clark kept giving her reasons not to, reminding her that what she had at home was far better than some investor looking to bed a legendary reporter. Clark knew her in a way Eastlake never could, loved her for whom she was, not for her reputation. Even the earrings he’d tucked into her Christmas stocking were a reminder of that; the stones were fire opals that gleamed with the kind of multi-hued brilliance he thought Lois’ soul would possess, if souls were somehow visible.
Thinking again of how close he might have been to losing Lois, Clark gently inserted himself into her conversation with Cat and Ian, and just as deftly led Lois away. One end of the terrace was in perpetual shadow, and they’d never gotten around to installing a light. “And what do you want?” Lois asked tauntingly, looking up at him with a wicked smile.
Clark’s keen hearing caught Richard muttering, “Oh thank God, he just dragged her off somewhere. Maybe we don’t have as much to worry about…”
He pulled his attention away with a chuckle. “We were spotted leaving,” he murmured, bending to kiss Lois. “Darn it.”
“Doesn’t answer my question,” she whispered against his lips.
That soft, rich, knowing laugh, the one he knew perfectly well would echo along her every nerve, and Clark pulled Lois close. For a moment, all too short a moment, he lost himself in her, in kissing her and rediscovering the taste of her lips, the feel of her body pressed to him, the texture of her hair beneath his hands. “Does this answer it?” he asked huskily, and kissed her again.
“Mmm,” Lois purred. “Maybe.” She laced her arms around his neck, arching her body against him suggestively, and Clark let everything else go. Richard and Lana would cover their absence, and even if the others guessed, the worst that would happen would be some good-natured teasing. He could live with that, if it gave him this perfect moment.
Clark was so focused on Lois that he didn’t notice the telepathic signal until it actually started to give him a headache. He pulled away from Lois, wincing a little at J’onn’s broadcast voice. “Clark, come in, Clark. Your help is required. There is a major meltdown in progress at the Nastroma nuclear power plant.” A pause, and then, uncharacteristic worry in the Martian’s tone, “Clark, hurry.”
On my way, he thought at J’onn. Lois was staring at him, and her eyes went wide when Clark swore softly. “I have to go,” he said, and it was that tone.
The illusion of Lois’ confidence crumbled, leaving a stricken woman with haunted eyes staring up at him. “What? Now? Kal-El, no! Not tonight!”
“I have to,” he told her, taking a step back. The uniform was hidden in the back of the closet; he’d told the JLA he needed to spend the holidays with his family, and they had agreed to call him in only direst circumstances. Which this was – very few members of the League were immune to nuclear radiation.
“No, you can’t,” Lois pleaded, and he was shocked to see tears in her eyes. “Please, Kal-El, no, please don’t…”
Clark touched her face, knowing he shouldn’t leave – whatever was going on with Lois was much worse than he could have imagined, bad enough that she had gone to extreme lengths to hide it. But it came down to this: Lois’ emotional pain, or an unknown number of lives. It didn’t matter to him that those lives weren’t American; his dedication was to this planet, to the whole human race.
“Lois, I can’t stay,” he said, and his heart broke a little to say it to her. I’ll find a way to make it up to her tomorrow, he thought, and turned to go.
Only he heard her strangled little cry, almost a child’s helpless denial, but he steeled himself against it. Tomorrow. Tonight, if I get in early enough. She has to understand, this needs to be dealt with now. A part of him that some of his marital problems were due to that little voice telling him it could wait until tomorrow, but when tomorrow came there was always something else that had to be dealt with right then.
He couldn’t afford to think about it, and ruthlessly turned his mind away from his family, toward his mission. Clark brushed past Richard on the way into the house, almost running, and once the bedroom door closed behind him he turned on the super-speed. Less than a second after he’d come in, Clark was gone, and Superman was flying east at something slightly less than the speed of light.
This was the biggest mistake of my life, Kala thought, her stomach in an uproar as she walked out on the stage. The microphone sat out front mocking her, and the crowd looked bored. She wasn’t the main attraction; she was just the hopeless amateur singing karaoke until the real band came on. Her hands were shaking, her vision was blurred, and the lyrics of her first song had completely evaporated from her mind. I can’t do this. No way. I’m gonna run screaming from the stage. I need to pick another career, like accounting – I don’t have the guts to be a rock star.
The terror of stage-fright seemed to be flowing down, making her mouth dry, making her heart race, and making her knees weak. But something, somewhere, deep inside, roared up in rebellion. Who are you to say I don’t have the guts? I’ll show you guts, damn you. I’ll rock this place like it’s never been rocked before.
That stiffened her spine. Kala tossed her hair back and walked forward, a cloak of calmness seeming to descend on her. Her heart was still racing, but at least she was back in control – and her lyrics hadn’t vanished. She adjusted the mike and nodded to Brandon, who had come back to run the karaoke machine.
As the first strains of the song began to play, Kala saw a few people in the crowd roll their eyes and turn away. Well, it was a popular song by a popular singer, and this was an alternative kind of crowd. No matter – she’d show them. She’d get their attention and hold it, show them how even a fluffy song like this could be.
When she began to sing, her voice rolled out warm and smooth as honey, but with a much darker streak than the original song had contained. “There’s only two types of people in the world,” Kala sang. “The ones that entertain, and the ones that observe. Well baby, I’m a put-on-a-show kinda girl – don’t like the back seat, gotta be first.”
She had been learning the skills needed to perform solo: how to move, how to use the whole stage, how to convince everyone in the audience that she was looking at them and singing to them. Hanging with the theater kids helped a lot; Kala had even had a small role in a couple of plays, and she’d been developing stage presence. As she slid easily into the chorus, Kala pulled the mike off the stand and brought it with her, her hazel eyes seeming to pierce the crowd.
They were paying attention. The original song hadn’t seemed like anything a Goth girl would sing, but Kala was putting more challenge into it, making it into something far more daring than it had been. The people who had dismissed her were now looking up interestedly, and a few folks had moved closer to the stage.
In fact … there was one familiar face in the crowd after all. Nick Powell was standing just in front of the stage now, staring up at her, his expression amazed. Kala grinned fiercely and let herself get lost in the music, all but a tiny part that looked directly into Nick’s eyes and sang, “There’s only two types of guys out there – ones that can hang with me, and ones that are scared. So baby, I hope that you came prepared…”
She strode to the very edge of the stage and glared down at him, letting him look straight up the impossible length of her leg, knowing he and every other guy in the place wanted her right then, and flying high on that knowledge. She finished the line with a husky growl, “I run a tight ship, so beware.”
Flipping the microphone cord, Kala launched into the second chorus, her voice growing stronger as she stalked away from Nick. She played to the audience, exhilarated by the realization that Nick’s eyes were tracking her every move. Perfect, Kala thought, and let that last piece of herself disappear into the music. She couldn’t remember ever feeling this happy, this confident, this powerful…
Author’s Note: 1) Thanks to my coworker, Mike, for the language assistance. Whenever Sebast speaks Spanish, you can credit Mike if it’s right, and blame us if we mistranslate. 2) There is no Nastroma nuclear plant. It just felt weird to use a real one, almost like we were jinxing it. Given the high degree of synchronicity between this story and our real live, we weren’t taking any chances.