This took place after this but before this. I'm skipping all over the place, my apologies. It details the space between my big plans for reuniting with Lochlan properly and the darkness that swallowed us whole for a second time. Some things we can't get back, we have simply accepted this and forgiven each other anyway. I've grown up a lot. And weirdly I don't look back on it with sadness or anything for that matter. It happened. It was sort of a punctuation mark to that entire part of my life and now on to the next. We took a long break from each other after this. I started a family and a blog. And now here we are. The break is over, the past is history, the future was told (but no one believed her anyway) and it will take me the rest of my life to catch you up.
The music is loud and the club is dark when we are let in through the staff door. We are led through a small crowd. It's still early, the place is just beginning to fill up. As we walk I see different rooms with different stages. Burlesque dancers on one. Contortionists on another. We walk endlessly and I don't know how we'll find our way out when the evening is over. The room at the end opens up into a wraparound bar and several stages that reach out into the room, small semi-circles several feet off the ground. Everything is painted black and everything else is glass or silver. A curtain hangs in front of each stage. They are transparent but black. Okay. Okay.
Lochlan points to the ceiling. Listen, Bridget. I stop and pay attention. It's Echoes. Pink Floyd. Okay, focus on the music. My heartbeat slows and we're left backstage to get ready.
Loch is relieved. We're not the main event. I nod. I knew we wouldn't be, somehow. We're out of our league. We're children playing an adult game.
He takes the first half of the payment, all five one-hundred dollar bills and tucks them into the band of my bra. Then he kisses the top of my head, whispers showtime and the lights go out.
By the end of the night the entire place is jam-packed. Lochlan languidly rolls me in flames and licks them out. We don't actually go any further than that. We simulate a lot of things but we do it with such tension and chemistry that the crowd seems to like it more. They're holding their breath. The music pounds through me as Lochlan leans me back over his arm again, my hair brushing the floor before he pulls me up and I take the flame from him. His arms are strong but his eyes are unfocused and mildly apprehensive. He's not able to have much control, this is far too distracting and we're hanging on by a thread in reality, having giving up our plans to do the big tricks. The curtain precludes the big tricks even as we welcome the barrier it creates between us and them.
But the crowd doesn't care. The crowd just wants him to touch me. He looks handsome and evil and I look small and innocent. Every time he comes close the whole room pitches forward, tipping the balance and I wobble, afraid I'm going to slide into a darkness that never ends. His grip on me is the only thing I feel besides the fear and so I focus on that, just like I did when the world was bright and smiling and we got to be acrobats and it was oh so brief I blinked and the lights never came back on.
When we are packing up his tools at the end of the party the manager comes backstage. It isn't the man with the cane, it's a big young man, covered with tattoos. He looks like a caricature of a biker from a comic book. He hands Loch the rest of the money, five more big bills and asks if we will be a standing act. That we're good, people really liked it. Lochlan nods and pulls his ear twice which tells me to follow his lead so I smile wide and thank the man for the opportunity.
You, little lady, are amazing. He tells me and I grin stupidly but want to cry.
Loch shakes his hand and mumbles something about a taxi and off we go as fast as we can find the exit through a rabbit-warren of smokey rooms and lingering staff. I somehow don't expect us to make it out alive but then we do. Loch hails a cab and we jump in. The driver makes us pay up front. I don't blame him, we are covered in sweat, with matching smudged eyeliner and strange outfits. We go back to the rented room. Loch is keyed and manic, ecstatic. He shakes me and tells me how incredibly hot we were and we didn't even have to do what they thought we were going to do. I think they thought we were already there at one point. Even better. We can make so much cash this way, self-respect untouched. I'm so proud of you. He holds me at arms length. You are amazing. They couldn't take their eyes off you.
I just stand there, stupefied. I don't want to go back to that place. I don't want to watch them watch us and think we're doing things we aren't. That's sacred and precious. They don't get to see that. Why would they want to see that?
I break away from him and go and be sick all over the sink in the bathroom. He comes in and swears and then pulls my hair back. It's okay to be scared. Remember?
I remember those words because he said them at the bottom of the ladder too. That was the circus I wanted. Not this one.
You'll have to get someone else. I can't do this.
There is no one else. I can't just get a replacement. It's us. There's something about us. Besides, I couldn't do that with someone else.
It's not for sale. You sell us out for a thousand bucks? What's wrong with you?
We came here to make money. I found a way to double it!
The net profit isn't enough, Loch. Shut it down.
Net profit-what? This isn't costing us anything.
Think again! You may have something to prove but I don't!
And you're the only way that's going to happen.
Then I'm sorry but I can't help you. I can't do that in front of them.
Then don't do it for them. Do it for me. Do it so I can go back home with my bank account full of gold and I can shut Caleb up forever and punish him for what he did to you.
You're using me to ruin Caleb?
No! Jesus, no. I just want to be on even ground with him and his bullshit and the above-board shows pay nothing.
But the only way you can pull it off is through me?
Bridget. You're missing the point. With you by my side I OWN this town. They're going to remember me. I can get better gear with this money and have more time to hone my routines and apply to bigger shows and get back above ground and stay there once I'm established. We won't have to do it for long, just until I can get ahead of things. Okay? Come on baby. It's just like old times.
It isn't like anything else we've done. I don't like it Loch.
Tough. I did things your way but this is where the real money is, Peanut. Time to grow up. He grabs his jacket and leaves, slamming the door behind him but then locking it too. That part hurt the most, that he made sure the damn door was locked. By the time he came home I was packed, had shoved my bag under the bed so that he wouldn't see it and was pretending to be asleep. He crawled into bed, wrapped himself around me and fell asleep, thinking he'd convinced me somehow, in his absence.
He had not.