Friday, June 27, 2415 | Sunset Valley, Valverde
Maybe this was her unlucky dress. Kass swallowed the bad taste in her mouth as she watched Davis and Beau move the piano around for the third time. Tonight, Jamie was indecisive. First, she didn’t want to be on the left side of the stage because of a peculiar draft. Then she complained about a strange lighting from the right side of the stage because of the shadow of the mountains. Then she returned to the left side because it made the most sense to be on Davis’ good side.
Kass puffed an aggravated blast of air up her face, blowing a stray piece of hair from her eyes. She slid down in her seat at the table to her right, stage left because Jamie wanted Kass to hear all the good notes from the keys. Musicians! She wore the same dress she wore the last night she sat in on a Twilight Trio gig, the same night the earthquake happened, the same night she found out her father wasn’t really her dad, and the same night her childhood home was destroyed. Ayesha convinced her to make her own luck and give the dress another try, but she was beginning to think it was a bad idea to have Carina sew the fabric back together.
“I’m gonna go…” she stood up and thumbed over her shoulder.
“You can’t leave!” Jamie exclaimed dramatically and threw out her hands. “I need a woman’s opinion,” she approached. “Do you think my new frames compliment my eyes or will they distract too much from my playing?” she glanced up at the sky and held out a palm. “Oh gawd! It’s raining. I felt a raindrop. Guys, we’ll have to lug this all back inside. I will not have us get electrocuted.”
Davis groaned. Beau slumped against the edge of the keyboard. Women! Kass thought dramatically and squirmed uncomfortably as she took a step or two back.
“Your glasses look great!” Kass offered two thumbs-up, and sighed as she walked away. “I’ll be back. Restroom break…”
Davis looked up from adjusting his microphone and nodded her exit. She wished he would do more. They were still doing an awkward dance around the issues that surfaced during their day on the beach. They were still dating, but the tension ballooned. She thrust the door open and stepped into the tiled bathroom, wishing she could scream, but it wouldn’t do her any good, except sound all fun as it echoed against the walls.
She was still trying to process her mother’s engagement announcement and the fact that her mamma and Clark were buying a house together. Clark still hadn’t found out anything about her real father. Gage had been busy for the last two days so she hadn’t been able to discuss her situation with him. He was in Starlight Shores looking at a college for Scarlett for a few days. Howard’s test results came back and he wanted to share with her, but she hadn’t been brave enough to call him yet. She had tried to follow Detective Hunter to learn more about his movements, but he had given her the slip and she had to come up with some crazy wild excuse to his partner, Detective Goddard as to why she was hanging around the police station. He mostly laughed and agreed to let her off the hook, if she’d have coffee with him, but when she asked about his connections to the Alto family, he grew cagey and said he needed to finish some work, but he wasn’t taking no for an answer on that coffee. She grimaced. Hank Goddard wasn’t that much older than Davis so she really couldn’t use his age as an excuse, and he wasn’t bad to look at, but she wasn’t really into redheads.
Dampening a paper towel, she mopped her face. She was almost tempted to wash off her lip gloss. While he invited Kass to spend time with him, she felt neglected while Davis spent most of the evening taking orders from Jamie. Why do I even try if he’s studying all night and playing hot gigs with Blonde Beauty? She could almost see the green glint in her eyes. Jamie. Davis had mentioned her a few times before, but now that Kass saw the woman in the flesh, she couldn’t help but feel threatened. How can I compete with a Barbie doll? A toilet flushed behind her, and she jumped. Better get back out there. As she turned, her eyes met with the woman emerging from the stall.
Kass gasped. She frowned as the woman opened her mouth to speak and changed her mind. Her hair had returned to its former bleached blonde hanging round her shoulders. She wore a magenta sundress with a flair at the knee, and long white gloves, an unusual choice. Then again, Ayesha had been wearing leather gloves in summer. Madison’s appeared more dressy.
“Oh my gawd! I thought you were… oh… I am…” she sucked air through her teeth and placed a fist against her forehead, wincing as she glanced in the mirror. “Am I crazy?”
When she turned, Madison still stood before her.
“Where have you been? What happened? Are you okay? How did you…”Kass trailed off, reaching for Madison’s arm, her fingers phasing through transparent matter.
“Kass,” Madison said, her voice hollow and tinny.
Kass’ eyes bugged as she backed into the sink, gripping the edge of the porcelain basin. Madison appeared to be solid, and yet Kass’ hand sliced right through her forearm. Now aware, she noticed Madison did appear to have an otherworldly glow.
“Are… are… are…” she stammered, feeling like an idiot. Pressing her foot into the floor, she mustered courage and spoke again.”You’re not really here, are you?” she managed.
“No, I’m not,” Madison replied.
“Are you… a… a… ghost?” Kass assumed, feeling strange even as she spoke the words.
It wasn’t entirely impossible, but it certainly wasn’t very plausible. She had heard stories… ghost stories… about people who were stuck in the ‘in-between.’ Shells of their former selves. Lost in time and space. Wandering the celestial sands of time above terrestrial plains. She recalled her physics teacher who believed static on the radio belonged to the stars trying to communicate to earthlings. She knew of aliens, other beings out there in the universe, fighting battles like giants in the skies, their ruins of war crashing to the planet. She remembered Ayesha relaying spooky stories around a campfire at summer camp with exaggerated gestures and maniacal faces. It was an odd sensation to feel wind crawling over one’s skin and time standing still all at once. Kass blinked rapidly.
“Don’t fight it,” Madison warned, laying a warm hand against Kass’ back. “I’m here to help you.”
At least it feels warm… Kass wondered what bizarre thing she swallowed. Did Granny Jade finally go off her rocker, putting hallucinogenic additives in the hazelnut creamers?
“Fight… what?” Kass pressed her fingers to her forehead, a headache forming behind her eyes.
“The illusion,” Madison said. “What you see is a phantom… but I’m not a figment of your imagination. My soul is still tethered to this world.”
“What? Souls? Tethered? Huh?” Kass narrowed her eyes. “Are you… real?”
“Of course, I am,” Madison shook her head, her hair moving at an unnaturally slow speed. “But I am in your mind and your mind is projecting what I want you to see.”
“I’m…” Kass dug her nails into the space between the tiles in the wall as she moved even further from the strange sight. “…so confused…” she barely whispered.
“I don’t have long,” Madison replied, glancing over her shoulder.
“And phantoms can use the restroom?” Kass inquired, bewildered.
Madison smirked. “I had to get your attention somehow.”
“Uh… whoa! Wow! I mean… uh… I…” Kass babbled, and then suddenly gained a grip on her thoughts to ask a stream of questions. “Maddy, you’re a telepath? A ghost? A figment of my imagination? What are you? Where are you? Are you okay? Did you die? Did someone…” she bit out the words. “…kill you?”
“I can’t tell you that,” Madison replied.
“What about… the baby… in this state…” Kass pointed to her friend’s stomach. “I’m… whoa!” she dropped her head. “This is crazy. I didn’t eat lunch. I should’ve eaten lunch…” she breathed heavily and gripped her knees.
“My baby will live if… you help me…” Madison said.
“What does… that… even… mean?” Kass gasped, blinking as her eyes began to hurt and water.
“Speak to the law…” Madison’s image began to flicker.
“The law? Call the police?” Kass asked, her face scrunching.
Madison shook her head.
“…the law…a lawyer? Speak to a lawyer?” Kass tried, her voice raising an octave.
She still had that appointment with Butterworth, Honeywell, and Pan later this week, but by then, it might be too late. The only other attorney she knew was…
“Jennifer? Gage’s mom?” Kass repeated.
“Do you remember when we were in choir together?” Madison inquired. “And we were in the alto section, but you didn’t want to be, but the teacher made you stick with it for the semester.”
“Yeah,” Kass frowned, puzzled as to why Madison would recall that particular memory.
“Don’t stick with the altos and stay away from that which is not sea.”
“Huh? That which is not sea?” Kass rubbed her cheeks, trying to decipher the meaning of Madison’s words. “Don’t stick with altos?”
“Theee al-tos,” were the words Madison seemed to say as she shook her arms and phased through the bathroom door.
“Wait!” Kass walked forward and slammed into the solid door. “Ouch!” she cried. “Why stay away from theee… altos?”
She held her nose, her eyes smarting from the pain. Not theee altos? The Altos? Three Altos? her mind began to piece together meaning. She blinked a few times. As she pushed open the bathroom door, Kass nearly collided with another woman. Holly Alto.
Author Notes: Thanks for reading. Moving right along with the mystery and the fantastical. Hope you’re enjoying.