They Called Him Jireh

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  1. September 1, 1956

    Every once in a while, Mark couldn't help but tack a sultry cadenza on the end of a number. For some tunes, it "just felt right," and as far as he could tell, people seemed to like it. That wasn't to say he or the band in general—Timmy Stern and the Backbeats, they were called—received much more than a lukewarm smattering of applause as he let the last note trail off. He was used to that, of course. Playing on a bandstand for a party or other event was nothing like playing in a concert. People who played in concerts got respect. Even the other artists here at this fair, the ones performing square pop tunes or country-styled classics on proper stages, were probably slated to take home a fatter hunk of dough than Mark and his colleagues. They were the food court background music. There was no glory in that.

    Timmy had just lowered his trumpet and stepped up to the microphone, donning his usual practiced smile. "Arright, folks, we're gonna take a little ten-minute break hereabouts, so don't no one leave, y'hear?" There were a few chuckles from the members of the crowd that were paying any amount of attention, and as he turned back towards the band, the mood changed wordlessly from music mode to break mode. Everyone in the combo fell back and either tweaked their instruments or set them down for a minute to stretch. Mark slipped his neck strap over his head and set the tenor saxophone down on its stand with care. He was of no mind to let any harm come to the instrument his family had saved up so much money for. A real Selmer, it was, and it played like butter.

    A hand clapped down on his shoulder before he stood up, more caring than forceful. "You hangin' in there, son?"

    "Yeah. What, you think I'm apt to quit? Too long a day for me?"

    "No, no," Timmy assured him. "Just...look, we can take longer than ten minutes. Five sets is a long time. Go get yourself somethin' to eat, walk around a bit, see the sights. A growin' boy's got to eat and rest. We'll take the flak."

    Mark chuckled in defeat as he stood up and looked his senior in the eye, his face grateful. "I appreciate it. But y'all need to get well fed too, y'hear? I couldn't live it down if y'all were givin' me special treatment."

    Timmy's smile twinkled. "Aw, now, I'd say our star tenor boy deserves it."

    Mark ducked away, secretly glad blushes were never very apparent on his skin tone, but he couldn't shoo away his pleased smile, at least not yet. "I'll try to be quick," he said, and then he was gone.

    His walk was brisk, as he didn't want to dawdle on the sights. The fair passed him by in a sort of haze. The folk here were enjoying themselves, eating, socializing, watching the entertainment from their safe distance as the audience. That wasn't Mark's world. He was a stray member of the entertainment now, sticking out like a sore thumb. The best he could hope to do was slip carefully through the common folk's realm and slip back out as unobtrusively as he could. He found a booth selling corn dogs for a pretty reasonable price after a minute, and though he spoke up clearly to give his order, he broke eye contact with the vendor right afterwards and kept his head down as he waited for the food. He couldn't tell if the vendor had been giving him the stink-eye or if he'd only imagined it.
    #1 FiliaFlammae, Oct 1, 2014
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2014
  2. "Twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, seven-"

    The three chanting girls broke into cheers and gales of laughter as Patricia's pink bubble burst and covered her nose, chin, and cheeks in a gooey mess. Slowly, she peeled the sticky stuff off and stuck her tongue out at Agnes, the tallest girl of the group by at least a head, as soon as it was free to do so.

    "Sixteen and a half, I beat you fair and square!" Patricia shouted in triumph, wadding up the pink gum and stuffing it back into her mouth. "Supper's on you tonight." Agnes' bottom lip protruded in a mock pout, but she easily complied with the demand and fished out a couple of dollars from her purse to split amongst the other girls. It was inevitable that sooner or later her record of 15 seconds would be broken and she'd have to start forking out the money until someone could pass Trish's new record and make her pay. No one quite remembered when nor how nor why they started the tradition of bubble-blowing to determine who covered meal expenses at an event, but it was a riot.

    Cash in hand, the four aspiring actresses linked their elbows to form a wall of estrogen as they departed from the Story-Time Stage in high spirits. And why shouldn't they be? Tonight was essentially their opening night at the county fair and nothing had gone wrong, not even with Rapunzel's ladder of yarn hair. Well, there had been that mix-up of lines during Snow White, but Agnes had ad-libbed along beautifully with Heather's mistake. Heather then claimed hunger as the culprit and their director sent them off for a supper break.

    Patricia's arm jerked back as Susan came to a sudden halt in front of the corn dog stand. Her exclamation of surprise died on her lips as she saw what-- or who, rather-- stopped Susan short in her tracks. Four pairs of curious eyes fell on the bowed head of taboo territory.

    "A chocolate milkshake for the gal brave enough to peck him on the cheek," Susan dared with a wicked smile.

    "Sue, that's too bold," Agnes protested.

    "Make chicken noises at him, then!" Heather amended.

    "That's too rude," said Trish. She gave the young guy a once-over. "Besides, he's probably hearing every word we say."

    "And your point is...?" Susan unlinked herself from the chain and waved her dinner money in front of Patricia's nose. "Come on, it's just a little bit of fun for a milkshake! Who's going to bite?" When no one bit, Susan propped her hands on her hips and scowled. "Y'all are just a bunch of chickens tonight, that's what you are! Fine, forget the kiss. Make a pass at him."

    Trish licked her lips. Now that one she was bold enough to tackle. "Make it a large shake and you've got yourself a deal."

    Heather squealed in delight. Agnes' jaw dropped in shock. Susan gloated. "Deal."

    Head held high and cheeks flaming, Patricia marched up to the young man and cleared her throat. "If you pay for the movie, I'll buy the popcorn."
  3. Mark would have dismissed the comment he overheard about a chocolate milkshake as part of the myriad mutterings of the crowd around him, but at the mention of chicken noises several seconds later, his mind couldn't help but make the connection between the two "him"s and wonder if he was being talked about. There seemed to be a group of girls nearby discussing how to mess with a boy, and though he did not look in their direction, he had a nasty feeling that boy was himself. He could feel himself begin to simmer quietly in place. "Besides, he's probably hearing every word we say," one of them said next. Yes. Yes, I am. He stiffened slightly as he waited for the girls to fall quiet and move on. They would tire of him eventually. Unfortunately, that apparently wouldn't be before at least one of them decided to approach him. He braced himself for the quip.

    "If you pay for the movie, I'll buy the popcorn."

    Eh, not as bad as he'd expected, but still irritating. His corn dog was ready, so he received it from the vendor before turning around and meeting the eyes of whichever girl had spoken to him. Her cheeks flushed brightly on her pale skin, but he supposed aside from that and the anything-but-serious smile on her face, she might have been cute. His own expression was entirely unamused. Is that my lot in life? he wondered. I'm a walking source of entertainment, whether I want to be or not.

    He stared the girl down for another second before he decided on his response. "Sorry, but I'm a little strapped for cash. What do you say we switch those?" He took a bite from the corn dog as he waited for her answer, his hard eyes never leaving her. He was admittedly curious how she'd respond to that.
  4. Patricia hadn't expected him to actually take her up on her offer. To be honest, she had no idea what she expected him to say or do, but that was certainly not it. Apparently, the girls hadn't seen it coming either. Susan was laughing in a caught-in-the-act-but-I-can't-help-it kind of laugh. Trish winced as another one of Heather's high-pitched shriek of delight assailed her from behind. And Agnes? The preacher's daughter was probably too flabbergasted to say anything, still recovering from the shock that Trish was talking with one of the "accursed race."

    Well, all this analyzing wasn't helping her one lick in figuring out how to respond to the cheeky guy. She needed a comeback right quick before she looked even more stupid standing there fidgeting with her skirt. The blonde blurted the first thing that popped into her head. "You've got plenty of time to save up. It's not like your kind'll be allowed out of the back rows anytime soon." Did she really just say that? Patricia blinked once and then whirled on her heel, lengthening her stride to get herself away from the black boy as soon as possible.

    "Come on, let's go get me my milkshake," she prompted as she slipped her arms through Susan and Agnes' elbows to pull them away; the latter girl's jaw practically dragging along the ground.
  5. It looked like Blondie hadn't expected a comeback. Mark silently took pleasure in this small triumph, inconsequential though it was. But her own response in turn came out rushed and blunt...and before Mark could help it, he felt himself bristle in offense. For a comment with just that combination of words to fall out of a person's mouth, particularly so casually, rubbed him in all the wrong ways. The girl turned away, clearly meaning to remove herself from the conversation before he could reply again. But oh no, he wouldn't have that. Not when he was angry. Corn dog now forgotten, he furrowed his brow and raised his voice before really thinking about what he was doing.

    "Are you so sure about that?" Mark called. "I'm sure you've heard of what's been happening in Alabama. Or am I wrong in assuming educated white folk like you read the newspaper?"

    It took a moment for him to remember what crowd he was in the middle of. And he'd just hollered something like that. Over the course of the next several seconds, his features slowly melted from anger into shame. His eyes darted around in worry. You're supposed to keep your head down! he scolded himself. You've gone and done the opposite!
  6. Between Trish's mad escape from the scene and the background noise of carnival vendors shouting to tout their wares, the boy's words were easily drowned out. At least that is what she told herself and made her companions believe as she dragged them along. If only she could make herself believe that, too. Her cheeks told a different story, the burn brighter and fiercer.

    "I'm sure you've heard of what's been happening in Alabama. Or am I wrong in assuming educated white folk like you read the newspaper?" he'd said. Oh how she loathed to admit he was wrong, very wrong! Patricia couldn't even remember the last time she'd held an opened newspaper to a story other than one about herself. That's what dads were for. For the first time, she found that philosophy embarrassing. If a black boy could read the news, she darn well should be reading it, too!

    "What's happening in Alabama?" Heather whispered on the other side of Agnes. The tall girl waited a beat for Trish to respond before finally answering the question herself. "The coloreds have been boycottin' the bus system because one of their ladies got arrested for sittin' in a white folk's seat or something like that. It's even gone to court."

    A sombre mood settled over the girls as they approached the hamburger stand. Trish declined the chocolate milkshake.
  7. Mark looked at his feet and ate quickly as he hurried back to the food court bandstand. He didn't want to meet any of the eyes he could feel on him. He didn't even want to confirm if those perceived stares were real or imaginary. He just wanted to pretend that little outburst of his hadn't happened. He did not want to be an enemy of anyone. He just wanted to disappear, to not attract attention.

    Well, the wrong kind of attention, he mentally corrected himself. There was a certain kind of attention that he couldn't help but bask in when he received it, and that was the glow he felt when he performed, when he was an integral part of a band, a unit working together to create aural art for others' enjoyment. If he had his way, that would be the only kind of attention he'd ever get from white folk, and only when he wanted it. He wanted to be known as making a positive contribution to the world around him.

    He had finished his corn dog and discarded the stick by the time he got back to the bandstand. Their pianist Jules was the only one loitering at the stage at the moment, sitting backwards on his bench as he hunched over a garnished hot dog, but he straightened up and eyed Mark in surprise when the latter stepped onto the stage. "Back already?" he asked as soon as his mouth wasn't full.

    "Yeah," Mark sighed. "I mean, given the choice between hanging around while completely failing to blend in and just getting back to playing faster, I'll pick playing any day."

    Jules responded with something along the lines of a hesitant "I guess I can respect that," but Mark didn't really hear it. He had turned away already and now took several moments to roll his tongue around in his mouth, trying as discreetly as he could to make sure no food was stuck in his teeth before he had to blow into a mouthpiece again. He berated himself for not thinking to get any drinking water while he was up and about, but he really didn't want to wade back into the crowd right now, so he just did what he could with his saliva and waited for the other band members to come back from their break. His eyes roved idly over the crowd after a little while. There were many people here by virtue of it being the food court. He wondered if Blondie and her comrades were here eating dinner too. Ah, if they were, he hoped to avoid meeting their gaze.

    Eventually everyone was present once more. Timmy twiddled the valves on his trumpet and played a few harmonic runs. Their bassist Rocky double-checked his tuning. The drummer George adjusted his seat. But before they began, Timmy got that twinkle in his eye again and looked to Mark, now with his horn strapped around his neck and ready. "Hey, Mark. How's 'Tenor Madness' coming?"

    Mark was surprised to be questioned about that right now. It was common knowledge between the five of them that Mark had been practicing the title track of Sonny Rollins' latest album, along with some casual accompaniment from Jules on the occasion he caught Mark running the head during gaps in rehearsal, but he hadn't had any plans on performing it anytime soon. "I mean, the head's easy enough, but do you guys know the progression?"

    "Eh, we'll fake it," Timmy waved off with a smile. "It's just a modified blues."

    "Yeah, 'modified,' there's the r-"

    "Jules knows it, George can do his thing, and Rocky'll figure it out as he goes, yeah?"

    Rocky merely rolled his eyes. It was a very Timmy thing to say, and everyone knew it. After a round of light laughter, the group's eyes returned to Mark, and he found himself smiling shyly. "Well, if you're up for it. It'd be fun."

    Timmy's smile turned to a grin. That was a confirmation. He shot George a glance and then quietly counted them off. They began.

    At once, Mark felt more at ease. He was surrounded by sounds that made him feel at home. He allowed the music to permeate him, and when it came time for him to take the lead, he savored every note. The melody spilled from his horn seemingly effortlessly after all the practice he'd put into it, and when it came time to improvise, his imagination flowed through his fingers as if of its own accord. He glowed with enjoyment and just a hint of pride at being the centerpiece of this number. He would never have had the nerve to brag about his skills, but he was in a band of older men for a reason, and he knew it. This was the kind of attention he didn't mind receiving at all: bringing music into the world.
  8. Due to the unscheduled stop at the corn dog booth, the girls only had enough time to order their supper and scarf it down on the way back to the stage. Mr. Springer was very particular about their breaks, especially when he was getting paid per performance like they were here. In no time, Trish donned Rapzunel's costume and was scrambling into the cardboard tower on stage. It was good, she was good, she was not put out one lick.

    But everything went horribly wrong. Her mind was too caught up in guilt over her exchange with that boy. She missed her cues, her entrances, and butchered her actions. Rather than pulling her head out from her conscience and into the show, it only flustered her more. When Agnes-- all dressed up in Prince Charming's puffed pants, velvet doublet, and feathered hat-- strode over to climb Rapunzel's hair, Trish forgot to hold onto the yarn ladder and it ripped from the tower, sending Agnes crashing onto the stage. The audience roared with laughter as the curtain closed to hide the actors.

    "Patricia! What is wrong with you tonight?" Mr. Springer bellowed, his round face redder than a beet and eyeballs bulging out of his head. "You have to pay attention, you have to be alert. Agnes could have twisted an ankle, or worse!" He stalked up to the stage, his arms waving over his head as he glared up at her in her tower. "Talk to me, Rapunzel! What happened?"

    'Rapunzel' looked down at her hands, embarrassed and ashamed that her conscience was bothering her this much over a few words to a stranger. She said nothing, not sure what to say. The truth? It wouldn't justify her carelessness.

    "Trish got herself some boy trouble," Heather hinted in a sing-song voice from behind the backdrop curtain. Patricia could have strangled the girl for that, her cheeks glowing a brilliant red for the third time that night to match Mr. Springer's face. But luckily for Heather, that admission actually worked in her favour.

    "Boy trouble?" Mr. Springer's brow rose in understanding. He may be old, but he still remembered the drama of teenage love and wasn't quick to dismiss it like other adults were. After all, drama was his middle name. "Is it something you can fix in the span of a show?"

    Rapunzel bit her lip. Was it? If she could find that boy. If he was still nearby. If she could figure out what to say. Something, anything to clear her conscience. But if she was going to find him and apologize, she needed to leave now. She at least needed to try. "I think so, Mr. Springer."

    "Then hop to it! Heather, go put on Rapunzel's wig."

    Detaching herself from the long braid of hair, Patricia gathered her skirts around herself and climbed backwards down the step ladder inside the 'tower.' She didn't even stop to remove her poofy skirt nor leather bodice, but dashed from the stage with her skirts in hand. The girl ignored the looks she got as she slipped through the throngs of people toward the food stand. If she was lucky, the boy would still be there, but as she drew nearer to the corn dog stand not one black boy his size did she spy.

    Slowly turning on her heel, Patricia anxiously scanned the crowd for his face. She hadn't seen it too clearly, but she was certain she could recognize it if she ever saw him again. Despite popular opinion, not all of them looked alike. Trish continued wandering the area around the food stands, hoping against hope she'd see him lurking around somewhere. The catchy tune of a jazz group had her absentmindedly snapping her fingers and humming along. Sonny Rollins, wasn't it? She'd just gotten her hands on his album not too long ago. They were good. Maybe the boy was in the audience.

    Trish made her way nearer the stage and swept her gaze over the small crowd. She was about to give up when her grey eyes fell on the members on the stage. There on the saxophone, nailing it beautifully, was her boy. Her jaw dropped before she could hinge it up, eyes glued to his fingers running effortlessly up and down his sax. He was amazing. Not wanting to distract him, doubting he'd actually see her, Trish backed up to the side of the stage opposite him and waited for a break between pieces. Maybe, just maybe, she could squeeze in an apology. She crossed her fingers.
    #8 Lady Alainn, Oct 16, 2014
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2014
  9. Mark could tell he was beaming when they hit the end of the tune. They didn't get much more applause than usual for the number, but that was okay. He cringed a little bit when Timmy broke out with an "Our very own Mark Cordial, everybody! Give this boy a hand!", but he tolerated it, donning a bashful smile and bowing in gratitude to the crowd. He skimmed them with his eyes once more, daring to hope there was a good number of people in the audience who had liked it. Yes, there were smiles and clapping hands, a whistle somewhere, a blonde chick on the sidelines in a Renaissance fair costume...

    He promptly executed a textbook double take. That was Blondie, loitering at the edge of the other side of the stage, and what on God's green earth was she wearing? His gut twisted into a knot. He hadn't wanted to cross paths with her ever again if he could help it, and yet here she was, and if her closeness to the stage while she wore something so ridiculous meant anything, it was that she had come here with purpose. She wanted to talk to him. He slipped behind Timmy and circumnavigated George's kit, mumbling a couple of apologies as he did. "What are you doing here?" he hissed at Blondie as he lowered himself into a crouch at the edge of the stage. Aware of the awkwardness of his position on stage, he half-turned in place and said in a low voice to Timmy, "You guys start one up without me," before turning back to the girl with a hard gaze.
  10. It didn't take long for Trish's apprehension to wash over her and slide off her skin as the music begged her body to surrender to it. She couldn't help herself-- the beat was catchy, the musicians were decent, and most of all, jazz was her soulmate. Big band swing, muddy Mississippi blues, or Harlem jazz, the flavour didn't matter one lick to her. And for some reason, though it'd been bred into her very core, neither did skin colour. She craved it all.

    Toes tapping-- threatening to break out in a few steps-- and fingers snapping, Trish found herself swaying and bobbing along to the rhythm of the tenor sax. If only she could play like that! A vague reminder of her shameful altercation with the musician played in the back of her head. Gosh, if only she could take it back. If she could just take it all back and start here, now. Who needed the movies when there was music like that to be heard.

    All too soon the band geared down towards the closing notes of the song. When the main person singled out the boy on saxophone, she applauded loudly, but not wildly enough to draw attention to herself. Mark. His name was Mark Cordial. She'd remember to keep an eye out on records for that name in the near future. Not that he was likely to go anywhere more than hopping from fair to fair with his band, but if he did so happen to make it big somewhere she didn't want to miss out. And then suddenly, they were making eye contact. He was coming her way!

    Trish froze, the hard look in his eye causing every single word and look to come crashing back on her head. She was painfully aware of the spectacle they were likely causing, though there weren't too many people crowding around the stage. But all the same, if the one wrong person spotted her here, in this garb, chatting with the band boy on stage in a familiar looking way... her reputation'd be shot to pieces. Especially if Heather got a hold of a second-hand account. The school newspaper would flaunt the scandal from flagpole to bathroom stall.

    Swallowing nervously, Patricia nodded her head in a direction away from the stage and curious eyes. "Can we talk privately? Please? " she implored, almost clasping her hands in front of her chest in entreaty. "It'll only take a moment, I swear."
  11. If Mark was any good at reading people, Blondie's nervous demeanor, in such stark contrast to how up front she'd been at the corn dog stand, meant that her attitude had done an about-face at some point during the time they'd been apart. This wasn't the irritating girl he'd butted heads with, but a sweet one that looked for all the world like she regretted what she'd said and wanted to apologize. His face softened. Had he been misjudging her? He wouldn't have been surprised; they'd only interacted for half a minute, tops, and that was not a sufficient window by which to glean someone's personality by any means. She could very easily have been goaded into it by the other three girls she'd been hanging out with, presumably her friends. He certainly knew how easy it was to pick up a different personality when around one's friends as opposed to being alone.

    He was surprised by this change of heart, but he quickly felt guilty for being so surprised. Had he so little faith in her kind? Did he really not trust her just because she happened to be a little melanin-deficient? He forced that uncomfortable thought out of his head and gave her a small nod. "Sure." He'd listen to what she had to say. She seemed trustworthy. He'd have preferred to deposit his saxophone safely on its stand, but said stand was on the other side of the stage, and unwilling to clamber over half the band again and make even worse of a scene while they were in the middle of a new number—apparently the band had just leapt into "Honeysuckle Rose"—, he unhooked the saxophone from its neckstrap and took a calculated risk to ever-so-carefully lay it on its side on top of the discarded fabric cover that Rocky normally used when transporting his bass. He mentally promised that this would only be for a moment. He slipped off the side of the stage, ready to either fall into step behind her or take the lead and look for some place a little more private. He looked around the immediate vicinity, eyes narrowing as they sought some sort of removed corner or alley. Unfortunately fairs tended to be rather crowded, but surely there had to be something...
  12. Patricia flashed the sax player a grateful look before taking a few hesitant steps away from the stage. She'd been half afraid he'd blow her off. Wouldn't that have been embarrassing? It'd been hard enough coming here in the first place, admitting to her friends that she had a guilty conscience over "innocent" fun. As soon as she got back, the ribbing would start. It was inevitable. How much more would she be mocked if the guy hadn't even let her apologize? Agnes would stand up for her to the others, but that didn't count for much. She took "turn the other cheek" way too seriously sometimes. And unlike Agnes, Trish knew one wrong move, one wrong word, one failure to please Susan was all it took to fall from her posse and into the eternal shame game.

    She had to make this quick and as discreet-like as possible. Scanning for a spot not too far out of the crowd to make the rendezvous look suspicious, but far enough away to keep their words free of eavesdroppers, Trish hiked up her skirts and headed for a vacant spot behind one of the food stands. She stood there playing with her skirt for a moment, catching her bottom lip between her teeth and averting her gaze. Now that she had him here, willing to listen to her so she could make a clean breast of things, Trish realized she hadn't a clue what to say. Where to even begin. And those dark eyes were waiting on her. 'Start at the beginning, you goose,' Agnes would say. Right, the beginning. She sucked in a deep breath and before long her words were tumbling over each other in a mass exodus.

    "About earlier, it was a dare. A dare for a milkshake. But I didn't think... well, you're bl... I mean... It wasn't supposed to... You weren't... I didn't mean... Gosh, this is awkward." Trish huffed and looked the young man straight in the eye. She was supposed to be apologizing! Not giving him her whole life's story. "I'm sorry, Mark," she finally stated. "It was in bad taste and I'm sorry."

    Then looking down at her hands, she continued to work the skirt with her fingers. "I didn't... I didn't get the shake," she added, as if the fact that she couldn't go through with getting one at his expense was supposed to be some kind of peace offering.
  13. Blondie suddenly began to walk. Presuming that meant she'd found a good place for them to chat, Mark fell into step behind her, and after a minute they came to a stop in a tucked-away space behind one of the stands. She turned to face him, but it took several awkward seconds of silence, in which Mark slowly became all too aware of an embarrassed heat in his cheeks at being alone with a girl, before she finally spoke up. And good heavens, did she ramble. Words spilled out, stopped, started again, stopped... At last she managed to pull the brakes on her flustered tirade, meet his gaze, and announce outright that she was sorry. It certainly seemed genuine. Something inside him twitched in surprise when he heard his name, only realizing a moment later that she had most likely picked it up from Timmy's introduction of him.

    Mark wasn't a person who liked making a fuss. The whole ordeal of Blondie's frantic apology made him feel self-conscious for having been part of the cause of all this, and when she dropped her gaze and muttered something pathetic about giving up her chocolate shake, he balked and put his hands up. That was too much. "No, no! It's fine! I mean...I should say I'm sorry too. For blowing up like that." He lowered his hands, though one of them started fiddling absentmindedly with his neckstrap. "It was...unlike me. Yelling at each other never helped anything, y'know? No point in being enemies. You seem alright." He paused for breath, and then after a second, he sighed, released the neckstrap, and extended his hand. His face was soft and honest, in a sort of resigned way. "Water under the bridge, yeah? Truce?"
  14. Trish stared at his extended hand, grey eyes wide in shock. Just talking to him had seemed so forbidden, and now she had the option of touching him? He seemed so genuine and so relaxed about it, like it wasn't a big deal. She blinked. Why was it a big deal, anyway? The girl had never thought to question it before. Of course, she'd never bothered to go out of her way to make contact with the tabooed either. Things just were the way they were. Because adults said so. But why did they say so? For no other reason than personal preferences and deep-seated disdain born from tradition and a long history of tension. No one had ever actually given her a valid reason.

    Oh, both religion and science had sought to prove white superiority over the darker-skinned races. She'd seen the evolution of man drawings with the black man coming in between the ape and the white man. The "missing link" so to speak. Not fully developed. But then why didn't they act more ape like? That was a point, though small, that emerged in her head now. There was also that whole argument about them being the cursed descendants of Ham and not worthy of equality because they were cursed with the burden of slavery. But weren't they all cursed descendents of Adam, cursed with the burden of sin? A cursed person was a cursed person, no matter what kind of curse it was in her opinion.

    And here she was making a dissertation about such a simple situation. What could it hurt to shake hands with the man? His openness and willingness to smooth things over intrigued her, as well as his reactions to her apology. He seemed just as embarrassed about the whole ordeal as she did. As if they'd both been instigators in this cruel joke. And that, along with his musicianship skills, bumped him up a few notches in her estimation. She could touch a dog without feeling squeamish, couldn't she? And wasn't Mark, even if he wasn't quite equal to her, at least more significant than a hound?

    Yes, yes he was.

    Offering him a faint smile, Patricia boldly slipped her hand into his. "Truce," she agreed. "You seem all right, too. I mean, no one who can play a tenor like that can be all bad. Sonny Rollins, right? You happen to know 'Silk 'N' Satin' by any chance?"
  15. She hesitated, and it caused Mark to think twice about his proffered hand. A handshake had seemed like the appropriate gesture, and he'd made it without thought of the implications. Had it been inappropriate? He didn't think so, but...

    Yet the moment passed. She took his hand with a smile, and as she shook it, he was pleasantly surprised to hear her praise his playing...and if that was a surprise, hearing her drop the name of Sonny Rollins and request a tune was a downright shock. She liked jazz! And she named a tune that only faintly rang a bell in his head, at that! Now embarrassed that he didn't know a jazz tune that a white girl knew, he released her hand and broke her gaze. "'Silk 'N' Satin'..." he muttered to himself. One foot began to tap impatiently as he struggled to recall the tune. "Hang on, I know of his earlier albums, right?" He met her eyes again. "When he was in that quintet. Is that the one that's a ballad, that's all, 'Ba ba ba, ba-ba-da-ba-da, ba ba ba, ba-ba-da-ba-da...?" He sang what snatch of the melody he could remember, one finger moving up and down along with the pitch. "Is that it? If it is, that's a pretty one, but I can't say I know the melody nearly well enough to play it. Sorry." He chuckled shyly, the hand he'd been gesturing out the tune with now slipping behind his head. "Didn't know you were into jazz. I'm getting shown up here!"

    Well, now. So Blondie was a Sonny Rollins fan. That was about the last thing Mark would've expected, but he certainly thought it a good thing. She'd just gone up a few levels in respectability in his mind.
  16. Patricia nodded eagerly as he sang a snippet of the melody, impressed at the fact that he could pick it out of head so easily and even more so when he admitted to not knowing it that well. "Yes, that's it!" Excitement crept into her voice, brightened her eyes and turned the corners of her lips up as she unveiled her passion. "Jazz and I are like this," she admitted, holding up a hand and crossing her middle finger over her index finger. "I like music I can dance to, cry to, sing to, shout to, and jazz has it all, you know? But my absolute favourite is swing, like the big band music in the 20's and 30's. I love me my Benny Goodman!"

    "Didn't know you were into jazz," he said. "I'm getting shown up here!"

    "How could you, we just met!" Trish giggled in return. Then her voice dropped into an almost mumble as she glanced back down at her hands tugging at her skirts. "Besides, it's only fair I show you up. You showed me up earlier with that newspaper comment."

    Trish cleared her throat as the awkwardness of their situation came into the foreground of her mind again. Mr. Springer had only given her one show to miss and she'd probably used up most of that time. But the funny thing was, she didn't want an excuse to hurry off. She'd much rather hang around and listen to the band play. Get lost in the bewitchment of Mark's fingers on his sax. Maybe Mr. Springer would forgive her if she baled, assuming it was a "kiss and make up" kind of boy trouble? 'Dressed in this, though...' Trish laughed in spite of herself. She really had to get back even if it was just to change out of her costume.

    Raising her eyes to Mark's again, she held her skirts out in a mock curtsey and gave him a comical grin. "There's a prince out there needing a Rapunzel to save. I better be getting back." She turned to go, paused, and added a bit more softly, "Thanks, Mark, for listening. Maybe I'll see you around?"
    #16 Lady Alainn, Oct 28, 2014
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2014
  17. Something about a "newspaper comment." Mark faltered, remembering what she was referring to. "Ah...sorry about that..." he said, looking away again. "Didn't mean to put you down..." Or had he? He'd been pretty angry. But he couldn't remember if he'd been mad at her as an individual or mad at her group. Ah, but if he had meant to personally insult her societal awareness, he now felt guilty for it.

    They met each other's gaze again. She smiled, he presumed to chase the awkward mood away, and made a curtsy. She said something about a prince and a Rapunzel--Oh, so that's why she's wearing that, she's performing! he thought--and turned to leave. "Yeah, I should go too," he muttered, aware once again of the saxophone-less music in the background. But she hesitated before she left, and in a soft voice, she thanked him for his time and his ear. He felt something inside him lighten. "Oh, of course!" he answered, in a lower voice to match her, but he smiled. "No worries. See you around." He began to turn away, but he flinched and turned back. "Ah, wait! I didn't catch your name." If she knew to call him Mark, he wanted to know her moniker in return. If they ever did see each other around, he didn't want to call her "Blondie" to her face.
  18. Whether she heard his last request or not didn't matter as Patricia had already scurried away, skirts bunched up and held high to keep them from dragging along the hard-packed thoroughfare. Mr. Springer had been kind enough to let her run off, it wouldn't do to return his costume all dusty and dirty from her jaunt through the fairgrounds. In seconds she melted into the crowd, Renaissance costume and all.

    Trish made it back to the stage mid set-change and was soon out of her gown and into her normal clothes. Agnes was lucky in that respect, only having one major costume change to worry about-- her transformation into the Beast. The tall girl played all the male roles, her height and deeper voice perfect for giving off the manly elegance of male royalty, and Agnes just ate it up, reveling in the rebellious act of cross-dressing. Chuckling to herself, Trish shook her head. Her best friend was such a preacher's kid.

    Getting her cardboard cut-out dwarves ready for their appearance in Snow White, Trish let her mind wander back to Mark and his band. What other kinds of instruments did he play? Was the band from around here? Did Mark play anywhere where she could go see him? It was hard not to admit that the guy intrigued her and a good part of it had to do with the rush of adrenaline that came every time she thought about their handshake. She'd be lying if she said she didn't want to bump into him again.

    "Did you two kiss and make up?"

    Trish looked up in displeasure as Susan slipped behind the curtain to sit on the edge of the back of the stage in front of her, a subtle gloat on the other girl's flawless face as she made a kissy face. Susan was just waiting for Patricia to make a wrong move, had been ever since Mr. Springer promoted Trish to the role of a princess instead of the popular priss, and Susan taunted her mercilessly in private moments like this when there was little threat of being observed.

    The blonde kept her voice easy, light, as she responded casually, "I think we got to a place of understanding." She paused to fix a stocking cap on her middle dwarf.

    "You're so touchy, Trish," Susan laughed. "You know their kind don't work like we do. He probably didn't even understand what you were so flustered about."

    Trish bit the inside of her cheek to keep her comments to herself. Mark had been affected by her words, he had fully understood the situation, and while he hadn't acted like it was that big a deal it was only because she'd made such a big deal about it.

    "You still owe me a milkshake, Sue," she replied calmly. "I'll come collecting your change after the last show."

    Rapunzel, Snow White, Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty. Rapunzel, Snow White, Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty. The rotation through the Princess Package continued on and on throughout the remainder of the evening-- twelve minutes of story, six minutes in-between for costume and scene changes. Break time in-between packages. Trish slipped away during one break to catch a song or two by Mark's band, making sure to keep to the back of the audience to blend in so none of the other girls would catch her. Once or twice she thought the sax-player had made eye-contact with her and she gave him a brief smile. Then she was gone again, prancing about the stage and reciting lines until her throat grew hoarse.

    Admittedly, even though she got to play Rapunzel and flaunt it in front of Susan, Sleeping Beauty was Trish's all-time favourite skit. There was something thrilling about being allowed to act purely evil and Trish enjoyed every minute of prancing about on stage in the sleek, black dress. It was a great note to end on and Trish poured all of herself into this last performance of the evening.

    "On the eve of her sixteenth birthday, she will prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and DIE! Aaaaaa-hahahahahahaaaaaa!" Patricia flung her black cape tightly around her body, tossing her head back as the high-pitched cackle erupted from her throat. Ah! The freedom of this role! She preened as she caught a gasp from a particularly wide-eyed child in the audience. Oh, she was definitely in her element.
  19. Nope. No name. Mark scowled and snapped his fingers in irritation that he'd lost her in the crowd before she'd heard him. Oh well. It's not like we'll ever actually see each other again... That was the thought that clung to the inside of his mind like cobwebs as he walked back to the stage. It bothered him to realize that this thought made him feel dull, almost gloomy. Why did he care? He reasoned that it was true that their chances of running into each other again weren't stellar. Their meeting had been a freak occurrence from the start. And now she was gone from his life. No more Blondie. Or Rapunzel, or whatever. And for some reason he just couldn't put his finger on, that notion really bothered him. Sure, their conversation had mostly just been an awkward double apology, and by any reasoning he should have been glad it was over. But there had been something else there. Some kind of connection, something that made their interaction unusual, something special. An understanding. A common interest. A thrilling, rebellious notion that despite the rift between her world and his world, given time, they just might have been friends.

    He played more or less on point for the rest of the night, but his solos felt uninspired. The music would demand his attention for the duration of a song, and then as soon as it ended, his thoughts would go cloudy again. Once or twice he thought he saw her in the crowd, but...who was he to get his hopes up? It was probably some other blonde girl who looked similar to her, and he was just desperate to have it be her. He furrowed his brow and quelled that hope. No, he was not desperate. How foolish of him to think that. How foolish of him to think some random white girl had done this to his brain.

    At long last, their scheduled time was up. Mark found himself thoroughly engrossed in the activity of disassembling, cleaning, and storing his saxophone in its case. As much as he liked to play, that didn't stop playing for several hours straight from making his lips feel worn out. He was ready for a good night's sleep.

    "Y'all right, Mark?"

    He looked to the voice. It was Jules who had addressed him. Mark hurried to put a smile back on his face, but he could tell it was weak. "Yeah, I'm fine. Just tired."

    "Doesn't have anything to do with that girl, huh?"

    Mark felt himself flinch before he could stop it. And of course Jules would have picked up on that movement and pause. After a second, Mark sighed and swung his head back to his case. "It was that obvious?" He closed the case and clicked its latches shut.

    "Not that I mean to pry, just lookin' out for ya."

    His hands came to rest on top of the case, and within seconds, he felt his thoughts wind up like a spring. His lips tightened against each other, as did his fingers on the edge of the case. He wasn't going to let this go. "Hey, Jules?" He turned again and moved the case aside. "Would it be okay if I nip away for a minute before we go? There's something I should...uh, something I'd like to do." He crossed one set of fingers behind his back. He felt bad enough making his ride home wait on him, but this was going to drive him nuts if he didn't address it, and it never hurt to ask, right?

    Jules took a few seconds to tap his sheet music into a clean stack before he answered. "How long of a minute are we talking?"

    "I...I don't know, I'll try to be quick. Like, five minutes tops? Maybe?"

    Jules chuckled. "Nah, I'm just givin' you a hard time. Go ahead. I'll be here."

    Mark's face lit up in a grateful smile. He practically leaped off the stage, and after shuffling backwards for a few seconds so he could mouth a silent but emphatic "Thank you so much!" to the pianist, he turned and set off at a jog.

    Unfortunately, he didn't know where he was going. All he had to go off of was that Blondie was here as an actress and had come to him in medieval dress. That was a clue, yes, but if only he knew which acts were staged where! He had minimal knowledge of the program at this fair. Maybe if he tried to remember which direction she'd approached him from when they'd run into each other at the corn dog stand... But no, she'd already been behind him before he'd turned, hadn't she? That told him nothing. But he thought a bit harder. He stopped walking for a moment and began to trace his fingers in front of him in the air, drawing paths on a map in his head. If her friends had only been passing by, then whichever direction they left in would be the opposite of the direction they'd come from. If they'd come from that way... He couldn't know their trajectory for sure, but he at least knew the general direction. He looked up, now eyeing the location in the distance where he knew the corn dog stand had been, and traced his route in the air from there. That way. Excellent. He began to walk again, a new vigor in his step.

    He glanced at each venue he passed, hoping to recognize a stage upon which people dressed in medieval wear might traipse around. That didn't seem like it would be too hard of a thing to find, now did it? That up there looked promising. He came closer, but before he was even close enough to make out anyone's faces on stage, there came a loud, wicked cackle from one of them, a woman in a sleek black dress and cape. The realization that it was Blondie hit him like a sack of concrete. The way she carried herself up there was nothing like how she'd come across to him earlier in the day. The laughing girl on stage was a villain through and through. A smile twitched across his face. It was easy (at least for him) to see that she was enjoying herself. She was immersed in her role, an alternate self designed to entertain. Ah, he knew that exhilarating feeling. He knew it well.

    He hung back at the edge of the dwindling crowd and watched. He kept his eyes mostly on her, but if he didn't catch her eye while she performed, he would be terribly fussed about that. He'd approach when she finished. A little voice in his head nagged him about making Jules wait, but he shushed it. He couldn't interrupt a performance like this. It wouldn't just be rude, it would be blasphemous. He was no man to ruin Blondie's fun.
  20. "Trish, your boyfriend is out there."

    Patricia groaned and rolled her eyes at Susan, though the girl couldn't see it with her head poking around the side of the stage. The black dress slid easily off of Trish's hips as she reached for the old hag's blouse and patched skirt to change into. Why did the girl feel the need to pick on her tonight of all nights? Because she was having an off day, that's why. Nothing was going to get her mind off of this last performance, though, not even Susan's irritating taunting. She had one last appearance and there was no way Princess was going to throw her off her game. Patricia refused to make a fool of herself twice in one evening. Thrice in one evening, she amended. But at least one of those didn't happen on stage.

    "Not falling for that this time, Sue," she retorted aloud, her fingers making quick work of the buttons on the blouse as she maneuvered over to the makeup box. A touch of gray on the skin, a line or two for wrinkles... "I know Dean's out of town."

    "Not Dean, you moron. Chicken guy. You really must have left him hanging!" Susan chortled. "What, did you actually kiss him or something?" A flustered Trish dropped her brush and whirled to face the girl, but Susan was already dashing out on stage. Mark here? In the audience?! No way. No way... What did the guy want? Stooping down to retrieve the makeup brush from the ground, Trish picked it up only to have her trembling fingers drop it again. Her heart was beating way too fast, and her cheeks were hot. Again. What was wrong with her?

    "But try as the Queen might, she could not shelter her beautiful daughter from the witch's curse. On the evening of her sixteenth birthday, the princess wandered the castle..."

    Shoot! Her cue. Leaving the brush, Trish scrambled up the wobbly stairs to the stage and took a deep breath. She was wicked. The evil witch in disguise, lulling the unsuspecting Princess Susan into a deadly trap. Now that made her grin. If only she really could cast a spell and have Susan sleep forever. And encase her in barbed wire to keep princes away....

    A quiet "ahem" yanked Trish from her daydream and onto the stage. Mr. Springer was glaring at her with a death threat and pointing to the spinning wheel when she passed through the curtain. You are Maleficent. Though her shoulders sagged in an attempt to look aged, her entire demeanor still reeked of the foul witch in the cold eye and cruel grin upon her lips. Patricia took up her position behind the spinning wheel and went through the motions of winding wool around it, risking a glance towards the audience. Unfortunately, dark skin really didn't stand out at night. Now, she had to focus, she couldn't let the fact that Mark might be out there make her nervous. She'd done this a hundred, nay, a thousand times before!

    "Oh my! I have never seen anything like this before! What is it you are doing, old woman?" 'Princess Aurora' asked.

    "I'm spinning wool, child," 'Maleficent' sneered.

    "Is it terribly hard?"

    "Why don't you try it yourself, dearie?" Trish held out the skein of wool and waved it temptingly, her eyes glinting with more than just craftiness on the part of Maleficent. It honestly wasn't very hard to work up any kind of negative emotion around Susan when she was allowed to.

    "Should I?" Susan turned to the small crowd in question. "Should I try it?"

    "Nooooo!" followed by some wise-guys shouting "Yes!" erupted from the audience. On cue, Trish sprang up from her seat and stormed angrily to the edge of the stage, her expression livid.

    "She must touch it, she must!" Trish screeched, frantically looking for the familiar face as her eyes skimmed the audience. "Who are you to foil my plans, the plans of Maleficent the Magnificent?" There, she locked eyes with someone on the edge of the crowd. That had to be him. But how to let him know she knew he was there? By singling him out, of course. Thrusting her finger in his direction she cried out, "What has been decreed will come to pass and you cannot stand against me!"

    This was completely idiotic, revealing her true identity and still convincing the princess to prick her finger. Then again, children's dramas were never very thought through when they tried to incorporate them into the performance. Trish finished out her performance with a few jeers and cackles at the fallen princess before hooking her arm around the prop and dragging it off stage with her as good fairy Heather took center stage.

    Once back stage, Patricia deposited the wheel in the trailer and wiggled out of her costume. She really should start packing up, but her curiosity was killing her. Had that been Mark? She tugged her shirt over her undershirt and hopped into her skirt one legging'ed leg at a time. Why did she feel the need to see him again? Heck, why did she even want to see him again? They'd embarrassed each other. She'd apologized. They never had to cross paths again.

    But he was such a mystery and Trish never could stand leaving one unsolved. Especially one in forbidden territory.

    Plucking a tissue from the box on the makeup table, she wiped at her face while exiting from the stage area, smudging the makeup across her forehead even as most of it rubbed off. Just what was she planning on doing? It wasn't like Susan or Heather or even Agnes wouldn't see her approach Mark, if it really was him. She couldn't risk that. Trish crept around the audience and hid behind the neighbouring booth, still in view of the audience but sheltered from the ever-seeing eyes of her friends.

    Mark wouldn't be looking for her, would he? And if he was, why? She clenched the tissue in her fist and leaned out a little bit farther.
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