She was dressed in black from head to toe; only her red hair and green eyes colored her shadowy appearance. Her boots stomped on the wood floor as her voice resounded through her microphone. This was her favorite concert of the year, the December concert on her home stage at O’Dayley’s pub.
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Perhaps her biggest fan was the man standing along the back wall of the pub, admiring her from a distance. She had seen him at this concert for the past five years, but she didn’t know who he was. He knew that she was Alizia Connor, lyrical queen of Missile Thunderstorm, the hottest metal band from the Irish Channel.
His concentration on her was undivided; she had to fight her instincts to not focus on him. She was singing a duet with her boyfriend, after all.
“What was up with you, Alizia?” Colin demanded once they had disappeared behind the dressing room door.
“What do you mean? We performed as well as we always do.”
“You mean to tell me that the guy leaning against the back wall means nothing to you? I saw you staring at him.”
“Chill out, Colin. That same guy has leaned against the back wall at the last five Christmas concerts at O’Dayley’s.”
“And nothing! He’s just easy to pick out now that he’s attended for so long.”
“All right, whatever. Just as long as there’s no monkey business going on behind my back.”
Alizia turned around and shot Colin a fierce eye-to-eye glare. “You better thank God that I’m faithful. Now, if you don’t mind, I’m leaving so that I can go see my mom before she goes to bed.”
Just like his during-concert modus operandi, he leaned against the side wall of O’Dayley’s after the concert and waited for her to exit through the back door so that he could ask her to autograph his guitar. He’d chickened out for the past five years, but he promised himself that he would succeed this year.
The voice startled him. He looked up and saw Alizia standing before him. It was too late to chicken out now.
“You like Missile Thunderstorm. I’ve seen you at our O’Dayley’s concert for the past five years.”
“You…you noticed me?”
“Faithful attendees aren’t hard to pick out. Are you from around here?”
“Irish Channel, just like you.”
“Best Irish folks outside of Ireland, huh?”
“You bet. Uh, could you autograph my guitar?”
Alizia whipped a Sharpie marker out of her back pocket. “Well, since we’ve seen each other so much already, I think it’s high time that I know your name.”
“I’m Kent. Kent Knight.”
“Kent Knight. Well, if I’m gonna autograph your guitar, you have to promise me something.”
“Anything!...I mean, what?”
“You have to play something for me on your guitar. Right here, right now.”
“It’s a deal.”
Noticing but choosing not to comment on Kent’s uncharacteristically eagerness to accept her terms, Alizia signed his acoustic guitar and slipped a small card into the hole behind the strings.
“So what are you gonna play for me?”
“How about ‘Girl’s Not Grey’ by AFI? I know the words too.”
“I love that song!”
So Kent began strumming his guitar to the beat of the song, and Alizia danced.
When he finished playing the song, Kent said without thinking, “I don’t know who serenaded who there.”
Alizia winked back at him. “I’ll let you be the judge of that one.” Then, before he knew it, she disappeared behind her car door. Kent shook the card out of his guitar. It was an advertisement for a Missile Thunderstorm concert at the Café du Monde the following Saturday.
“Well, that’s interesting. You know who he is now. But how is Colin doing?” inquired Mom.
“Colin’s just Colin. We had a little fight tonight after the concert.”
“I got a little distracted when I saw Kent leaning against the wall for the sixth year in a row, and now Colin thinks I have a thing for him.”
“I think you do.”
“Mom, seriously, I don’t domino rally through guys.”
“But are you going to cheat on Colin since this Kent guy was nicer to you tonight than Colin was?”
“I’ve always been faithful.”
Kent almost didn’t recognize the green Jag that stopped behind him, but one look through the windshield and he knew that it was her.
“Kent, what are you doing walking around here this late at night?” Alizia called through her passenger window.
“I’m just walking home. I’ll be fine.”
“You’re in New Orleans, and it’s after midnight. Get in my car.”
“It’s not that far. You don’t have to drive me there.”
“Just get in my car, if for nothing else but your feet.”
Kent opened the door and leaned his guitar against the glove box before climbing into the black leather seat. The curved elegance of Alizia-ahem, the Jag-overwhelmed Kent. He’d ridden in a Jag before, but this wasn’t any Jag. This was Alizia Connor’s emerald-green Jag, and Kent was just an ordinary fan riding in it.
“Where am I supposed to go?” she asked him.
“Turn right after three more streets.”
“Okay. So what did you think of the concert?”
“Considering that I got to see more of a concert than anyone else, I have to admit that it’s the best concert I’ve seen in years.”
“Then I guess I don’t have to ask you what your favorite part was.” She winked at him. “You did a great job of playing an electric song on your acoustic guitar.”
“Thanks.” Kent looked out the window, hoping that would hide his blushing. He had just received a magnanimous compliment from a famous rock star.
She turned right after the third street. “Where do I go from here?”
Her question suddenly woke him from his complimented-by-a-rock-star stupor. “Huh?”
“I just turned right. Now where do I go?”
“It’s the fourth house on the right.”
She pulled into the driveway of a replica of an Irish cottage. “Your family must be very Irish.”
“My dad was from Kilkenny.”
“Yeah. He was born and raised there. But he died a few years ago.”
“What about your mom?”
“She left when I was a toddler. So it’s just me living here.”
“If you don’t mind me asking, do you ever get lonely?”
“Yeah. A lot. That’s one reason why I started going to concerts.”
“Then I should expect to see you at the Café du Monde next Saturday.”
Kent opened the door and picked up his guitar as he climbed out of the black leather seat. “Thanks for the ride home.”
“No, thank you for serenading me with one of my favorite songs.”
Alizia woke up the next morning to a phone call. “Thanks for waking me from the dead.”
“Hold on, Alizia,” insisted Colin. “I have some big news.”
“What’s big news at six o’clock in the morning?”
“We got signed to play at the big Christmas Eve concert at the Superdome!”
“Really? That’s awesome! Now I’m going back to sleep so that I don’t build up fatigue before the big night.” She hung the phone up without waiting for a response from Colin.
It couldn’t have been more than five minutes afterward that someone knocked on her door. It was Colin, of course.
“Colin, I told you that I was going back to sleep. What don’t you understand about that?”
“What I don’t understand is you not wanting to celebrate landing the biggest show New Orleans can stage for us.”
Colin leaned in and began kissing Alizia. She reciprocated, figuring that if she couldn’t please her body with sleep, she could let Colin wear himself out pleasing her.
“Could I interest you in an order of beignets?” the waitress asked Kent.
“Not yet. I’ll wait until after the concert for dessert.”
Kent had arrived at the Café du Monde early enough for dinner before the concert. In no more than half an hour, Decatur Street would be rocking to the songs of Missile Thunderstorm and graced by the presence of Alizia Connor. The stage was already wired and ready for the microphone, the speakers, and the guitars to be plugged into the wall.
“That’s really unnecessary, Colin. I can walk just fine on my own.” Colin had a strong grip on Alizia’s wrist as he led her to the back of the restaurant. Alizia appeared to be taller than Colin when she wore her black leather knee-high boots. Kent took her in, a vision in black leather and amethyst jewelry. He was very careful, however, to watch where Colin was looking so that he wouldn’t catch him appreciating his girlfriend.
Before Colin could lead her out of the main dining hall, Alizia sneaked a wink and a smile at Kent. He hoped that she couldn’t see his heart melting despite the frigid air coming in through the front door of the Café du Monde.
After making the French Quarter quake for two consecutive hours, Missile Thunderstorm surrendered the stage to the cleanup crew and disappeared back into the employee lounge. The fans cleared out of the restaurant save for a few who decided to take advantage of the Café du Monde’s twenty-four hour business. Kent was among them.
“Will you be all right here by yourself?” Colin asked Alizia as he put his leather jacket on and slung his guitar case over his shoulder.
“You know I’ll be just fine. I’ve lived in New Orleans longer than you have,” she replied dismissively.
“Okay, then I’m off to meet my brother at O’Dayley’s.”
As soon as Colin disappeared behind the back exit door, Alizia made her way to the main dining hall.
“One order of beignets to my table,” she called to the waitress standing idly behind the register.
Alizia then took her seat at Kent’s table. “Can you still hear me?”
“Fortunately, yes. But I bet the whole French Quarter heard the concert.”
“Did you notice the line of people standing by the front entrance?” she asked him.
“No. I was too busy focusing on you.” He winked and smiled at her just as she had before the concert.
Alizia wished that she could forget about her boyfriend just for a moment and give into her growing desire to make a move on Kent. Like she’d told Colin before, he better be thankful for his faithful girlfriend.
“One order of beignets served.” The waitress placed a heaping plate of powdered sugar-dusted beignets with rum sauce on the table.
“I guess you beat me to the punch. I was going to order beignets for us, too,” said Kent.
Alizia bit into the first beignet. “Good choice. Nobody makes beignets like the Café du Monde does.”
The powdered sugar stuck to Alizia’s wine-colored lips like the first winter snow on the Colorado slopes. In an attempt to divert his crazy emotion-charged attention from the sight, he offered the neutral remark, “It’s been forever since I’ve eaten these beignets.”
“Tell me how long your idea of forever is.”
Her expertly-worded response stirred his heart up dangerously even though he knew what she really meant. He hardly managed to choke out, “Since I was in high school.”
“That’s way too long to miss the Café du Monde, you know.”
“I used to come here for my birthday with my grandma-that is, until she had to move to California so that my grandpa could go to a state-of-the-art nursing home.”
“Your family seems to stray pretty far from New Orleans.”
“I guess there’s a lot of interesting places out there that won’t flood with the breach of a levee.”
“Katrina scared a lot of people away from New Orleans-just not me.”
Alizia called for the waitress to bring the check. “Before I forget to ask, did you know that Missile Thunderstorm is performing at the Superdome on Christmas Eve?”
“No. Really? That’s a big show. I’ve seen it only on TV.”
“Would you come see it live this year?”
“The tickets are too expensive, even for the nosebleed section.”
Alizia reached into her black and gold Saints purse and took out her matching wallet. She handed him an envelope with the Superdome’s return address printed on the front.
When he opened the envelope, Kent was speechless.
“This Christmas, you don’t have to buy your own gift.”
“Thank you so much, Alizia!” This Christmas, Kent was going to sit in the front row for the Christmas Eve concert at the Superdome.
“Don’t forget to bring your guitar.”
Hoping to go home and crash for the night, Alizia climbed the stairs to her apartment only to find Colin standing at her door. “Is it important?” Alizia demanded.
“Hell, yes it is important! Don’t act like you don’t know why I’m here.”
“I really don’t know why you’re here. What’s the problem?”
“My girlfriend is the problem! I saw you getting all chummy with back-wall guy. Do you care to explain yourself?”
“No, I don’t. You know I’m a faithful girlfriend. Why are you getting so bent out of shape over me talking to a fan?”
“Because he’s more than a fan to you. He’s the reason you’ve acted so distant from me lately.”
“Stop obsessing over it. You know you’ve been annoying lately.”
Colin’s pale green eyes flared red with anger. “Annoying? At least I haven’t been cheating on you!”
“Well, maybe you deserve to be cheated on!” Alizia screamed straight back into Colin’s face.
Enraged more than ever before, Colin took a swing at Alizia and knocked her to the ground. “Then maybe that’s what you deserve for monkeying around!”
Alizia looked up and glared back at Colin, flashing the bleeding cut he had slashed into her face. “You can leave now, or I can have you dragged out of here in handcuffs.”
Alizia watched Colin stomp down the stairs and drive off in his black Cadillac before she, too, drove the other way in her emerald-green Jag.
Kent was just about to fall asleep when he heard the knock on his front door. He didn’t have visitors very often, and certainly not this late at night. Either it was the neighborhood kids being obnoxious, or it was important. Not wanting to take the chance of ignoring the latter, he answered the door.
“I’m really sorry about this,” Alizia apologized. “I just didn’t know where else to go.”
Kent took her hand and led her inside. “Don’t apologize. It looks like someone owes you an apology.”
“It’s too late for an apology.”
“Who did this to you-or, more importantly, why?”
“Colin. Because of his own faulty assumptions.”
“Come on and sit on my sofa. I’ll get the first-aid kit.”
Alizia stretched out on the plush green sofa and for once let someone else-Kent-take care of her.
“So Colin thinks that you cheated on him with me?”
“I guess so. He’s so stupid.”
“Did he pick up on me flirting with you?”
“I don’t know, and it wouldn’t matter if he did. He knows I’m a faithful girlfriend. Now I wish I really did cheat on his sorry behind.”
“You’d make a bigger statement by dumping his sorry behind.”
Alizia unzipped her boots and kicked them off. “I have an idea for how I’m going to do it.”
“He’ll be sorry he did this to you. And you’re going to be all right, no matter how you kick Colin out of your life. I promise,” Kent assured her.
The characteristic mist in the New Orleans air sparkled frozen in the uncharacteristically below-freezing temperatures on Christmas Eve. An enthusiastic throng of music lovers nonetheless lined up at the entrance of the Superdome, tickets in gloved hands.
When Kent made it to the entrance, the security guard stopped him. “You’re not supposed to bring instruments to the seats.”
Kent opened his guitar case and showed the security guard Alizia’s autograph. “Approved by Alizia Connor herself,” he proclaimed.
The security guard nodded and pointed to the front row entrance. Missile Thunderstorm was already plugging in their instruments when Kent took his seat. He didn’t look up at Alizia in her long black dress, though, because Colin was on the stage with her.
At nine o’clock sharp, the overhead lights dimmed, and the spotlight shone on Missile Thunderstorm. The concert director welcomed everyone to the show before letting Colin and Alizia take the stage.
“Alizia, do you want to perform our duet first?” Colin half-asked to her and the crowd.
“Actually, I was thinking about doing a solo first,” Alizia replied.
“Okay then…” But as Colin began to take the microphone, Alizia launched a swift kick to the middle of his back, knocking him off the platform down to the stadium floor. The crowd gasped in shock and horror.
“That was for hitting me last week,” Alizia declared for all to hear. “And merry Christmas, you, Colin, are now a one-man act on someone else’s stage!”
“But who’s going to sing now? Did you think about that first?” Colin demanded to know.
“I did, actually.” Alizia climbed down the stairs at the side of the stage and paced down the front row of seats until she spotted Missile Thunderstorm’s surprised new vocalist and brought him to the stage.
“Kent, I think you know what song to play.”
Kent looked at Alizia and smiled at her. “I know exactly what song you’re thinking of.”
And so Kent began strumming his guitar to the beat of “Girl’s Not Grey”, and Alizia danced-all while the crowd cheered for both of them.
After their turn on stage was over, Alizia and Kent retreated to the dressing room backstage. “Do you really, truly, honestly want me to be part of Missile Thunderstorm?” he asked her.
“Yes, I do. You’re what Missile Thunderstorm has been missing for so long.”
“And you, Alizia, are what I have been missing for so long. Before you convinced me to sing for you behind O’Dayley’s pub, I wouldn’t have guessed in a million years that I’d have the chance to be up close and personal with you. So believe me when I say that you are everything I imagined you’d be and more, and that I really, truly, and honestly want you to always be my girl.”
“I believe you.”
“Merry Christmas, Alizia.” Then he kissed her ever so lovingly. This Christmas, Alizia wouldn’t have to buy her own gift.
"Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not."-Jeremiah 33:3, King James Version
"Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path."-Psalm 119:105, New Living Translation
The present and future are not about who you were in the past-rather, they are about who you are and who you will become.
"Writing is truly glorious in that an author can put on paper the words that fear denies the voice to speak."-from my short story, "Set Free"
"...What you feel is what you are;
What you are is beautiful..."
-from "Slide" by the Goo Goo Dolls
Life surprises you! And I'm talking about the good stuff, because a bad surprise is not a surprise at all, it is just shock and horror. All of these good surprises, they are rewards, and the things that happen to remind you that you matter and that you should make yourself faithful so that you can be deserving of all of life's good surprises. Every wonderful surprise in life is a chance to flourish, so grab life by the horns-but don't ride, steer instead: life's horns are life's joystick. You can handle it, because your life's horns are made especially for you. If you don't give up, all of this will hold true and life will continue to surprise you.
Aubri, a. k. a. "Leopard Lady"