Her eyes flashed in the darkness.
There was huge energy in the place tonight.
I felt her watching me, judging me, driving me on. But with the energy came a sullen and dangerous undercurrent. Spilled drinks might mean spilled blood and a clumsy push might be met with a glassed face. But God, I felt on fire!
By the final set of the evening, the walls ran with sweat and the people surged like a rowdy, restless storm tide against the stage. I stepped up a pace or two, towards the front, oblivious to hands grasping at my ankles. I sang with new ferocity, feeding on their emotion. My harp licks were sharp and breathless, prodding and driving the crowd ever higher as my voice soared across the songs.
Davie moved in close and prodded me with his bass, eyes searching for what had got into me. I short armed him back and he slid on the beer slick floor, almost losing the beat along with his footing.
In the pause before the final number I basked in the warm swell of raucous noise.
Instead of the familiar strains of my only minor radio hit, I stamped and clapped a quick, high tempo intro and launched into an edgy, rock version of an old folk song that I hadn’t done on stage for years, beckoning the band to follow me.
As they fell in with the frantic, unfamiliar rhythm, I saw her drift to the front, right below me, staring up at me. The footlights’ glare framed her glowing eyes and wild grin in a red henna halo, writhing snakes biting at her face as she bounced and swung her head to the beat, one hand on the air. I goaded the crowd now, conducting them in repeated, ever louder chants of the chorus, before finally dropping my hand to end the song like flicking a master switch. The sudden silence stunned them and they stopped for a second before erupting in a final, frenzied, feral roar.
I jumped the footlights, grabbed her hand and fished her from the swirling maelstrom, hauling her up, weightless, to stand triumphant beside me. She grabbed me by the neck, wrenching me around to face her and I felt her tongue probing for the roots of my songs. Tiny mirrored images of me danced, reflected in her jade green eyes, and I clung to her, like a drowning sailor to a spar. I reeled back when flashing lights from lack of air dappled my vision. Still clutching my hand, she dragged me urgently from the stage and toward the street.
The clammy heat of the gig steamed from our clothes and hair as we ran, headlong, towards the sodium oases scattered among the buildings by the few, still working street lights.
She pulled me on, hair flicking at my face as I tried to match her wanton energy. At last she stopped near the shadowed doorway of a boarded up brownstone and I doubled over as the midnight chill stole my breath away, and my ears rang with the unamplified silence.
A china white finger under my chin forced my head up and I stood with it, still gasping, marvelling at her pale, shining composure.
“Did you feel it?” she asked. “Did you feel the power?”
“Yeah, it was a good gig, sure...”
“Good? It was your best – ever...” She stepped back, regarding me, her face a porcelain mask. “...and you can have that, and more. You can have great.”
Another backward step into the doorway left only her beckoning hand in the light. She hooked a finger in a slow, hypnotic rhythm. I peered for her in the gloom.
Her voice slipped sinuously into my ears and tugged at my soul.
“Do you want it? You know what you need to do. Come and get it...”
I paused, but then, my treacherous foot moved towards her.
Her eyes flashed in the darkness.
And she laughed.