A.N. Alright...I hope you all won't kill me for having song lyrics in here. I begged the site moderators and they said I could have real life song lyrics on the condition that I didn't write out the whole song (which I wasn't planning to do anyways) and if I gave the artists credit in a disclaimer in my author's note. So...I'll say that the song "There You'll Be" sung by Faith Hill does not belong to me, nor does "Accidentally in Love" by Counting Crows (in the next chapter). Oh...and I also do not own "A Little Priest" from the musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim or "A Whole New World" from Aladdin, the Disney movie. If any of my readers are offended by all these lyrics, I'm very sorry. It is only for this chapter(and only a very little bit in the next) and I will make sure not to let the lyrics be the main focus. I want my OWN descriptive words and dialogue to be what you all read. But...for those of you who REALLY love music lyrics and for some odd reason might be disappointed that I haven't written them all out (the site moderators also said I couldn't copy and paste the lyrics from a site...which, again, I wasn't planning to do anyways). You can look up the song title and lyrics on Google and I'm positive you'll find it. Also...I would like to say that the line describing Ploiteryne's as a kaleidoscope from Hell does not belong to me. It belongs to Sweet Little Nightmares. I'm sorry...but I just HAD to steal it! It was absolutely perfecto! Happy reading!
"We'll serve anyone,
And to anyone...
The couple onstage ended their act with a devilish pose, back to back. The woman, who had so many body piercings that she could probably set off a metal detector from miles away, hit an unnecessary high note that made the audience cringe. Yet, once they took their bows, the two were met with a thunderous applause.
"Bravo!" Mindy shouted happily, whistling and clapping with approval.
"Freaks," Josef grumbled.
Josef, Mindy, Beth, and Mick were all sitting in the backstage area. It was incredibly shadowy and almost spooky back there as a substantial contrast to the glitzy, bright stage and the rest of the restaurant which resembled something you might see if you peered into a kaleidoscope from Hell. The only thing that made it possible for mortal eyes to see was a little string of white Christmas lights, carelessly strewn over a stack of cardboard boxes.
"What did you just say, Kostan?" Mindy gave him a hard glare, digging her nails into the peeling paint of the trunk she was sitting on. Every fiber in her body was fighting against the childish urge to give Josef a good hard pinch. This proved to be difficult since she was sitting right next to him...just within "pinching distance".
"Look at them," Josef peered through the curtain, pointing to the rather...eccentric couple. The two were still taking their bows. "They're freaks. Honestly, the woman is a walking jewelry store and her evening dress has skulls on it. The man has a one-foot tall, baby aspirin orange Mohawk and enough tattoos to..."
"They did an excellent number," Mindy hissed through her tightly gritted teeth.
"What? "A Little Priest" from Sweeney Todd?" Josef snorted. "Which proves my point even better. They're complete freaks. Anyone who likes something about a barber killing people and cooking them into pies...turned into a musical, might I add...must be clinically insane."
"I. Like. It." Mindy growled as she felt her blood boil beneath her skin.
"Case closed," Josef smirked, watching the two depart the stage and sit back down at their table.
"And now..." the MC sauntered onto the stage, studying the card in his hand.
"Ready, Beth?" Mick tapped Beth on the shoulder and she stood up rapidly from the fold-out chair.
"Y-Yeah," Beth adjusted the microphone that was clipped onto her dress and she stepped up on the platform, alongside Mick, preparing to go onstage.
"Now we have..." the MC nervously wiped his brow. Poor guy. It was probably his first night on the job. "W-We have Mick St. John and Beth Turner singing "There You'll Be". Er...enjoy." the MC dashed offstage as both Beth and Mick hesitantly stepped onstage, disappearing from Mindy's view.
"I hope they don't ruin this," Josef whispered, peering through the slit in the curtain to see how his friend was faring in the spotlight. The vampire shifted uncomfortably as his rear rubbed against the head of a nail. It was a rather crudely built trunk, apparently.
"How do they look?" Mindy asked quietly as the melodic, soft overture of Mick and Beth's song began to play.
"Mick looks imperturbable as usual," Josef commented. "Beth's pretty stiff, though...a little shaky..." Josef then grunted with disapproval. "He just took her hand, now and he's giving her that pathetically sweet smile of his..." he stopped again, probably just to add an extra coat of sarcasm to his tone. "Oh, and isn't that lovely? Beth has stars in her eyes..."
"That's enough," Mindy spat, though her voice didn't come out quite as nasty as she had wanted it to be since a large lump in her throat was restricting her sound. Mindy didn't have to observe Beth and Mick to lucidly see in her head what they looked like. She knew that they probably stood onstage, bashful, timid, but oh-so in love. They were so perfect that it made her head spin. Perfect. Just like Raymond.
"Raymond," Mindy mouthed weakly to herself as the music swelled and filled her head with thoughts of the man she loved. No, he wasn't perfect in the classic sense. He was a mite overprotective, he had incredibly big feet, he always would accidentally leave his keys at her house...the man was a smorgasbord of flaws and vices. But...he was perfect to Mindy. Completely flawless. In fact, his flaws are what made him perfect in the first place...
"When I think back on these times..." Mick began singing in his usual mellifluous voice, yet when his words were put to music, there somehow seemed to be some element of magic from the way it became ten times more calming and beautiful than it had ever been before.
"And the dreams we left behind," Beth joined in with him. Her voice was crystal clear as it typically was when the woman did her news reports, but when she began to sing, her tone became rich and sweet, going along impeccably with Mick's gently powerful notes.
"I'll be glad that I was blessed to get..." Mick and Beth's voices meshed together into a dulcet melody as Mick sang the harmony.
"To have you in my life," Beth finished by herself.
Mindy tried to drown out the sound of their singing by cupping her hands over her ears and breathing heavily. She couldn't bear to listen to them. The song forced her to reminisce and have twirling flashbacks in her brain all having to do with Raymond. This was something that she couldn't emotionally bear at the present moment. She had too much to do, too much to worry about, and not enough time to wallow in her pain. It was something she always told her patients not to do, so why was she doing it? Sure, it was fine, even necessary to have a good cry. But to relentlessly dwell on your sorrows was quite an unhealthy inclination that is, in Mindy's profession opinion, only present in ones who are not sound of mind.
"What are you doing?" a sardonically silky voice ruptured the little protective bubble Mindy had enclosed herself in with its callous, knife-like sharpness.
"Nothing that concerns you!" Mindy hissed venomously. There was so much frostiness in Mindy's manner that she could've made the Sahara Desert shiver.
Josef sniffed. "Well, excuse me, I was just putting out a simple inquiry. If you didn't want to answer it you could've just..."
"Is it possible for you to have even a smattering of sensitivity?!" Mindy growled under her breath. "Even a little bit? Or should I excuse you since you're probably the most tactless, thick-skinned, unfeeling...bully...in the history of the world?!"
Josef tensed a bit at her commentary, but bit the bullet. He was used to it. He hardly went a night without having a scathing remark about his supposed hardheartedness reach his ears. And he really only had himself to blame since he did tend to give off that impression.
"It's just like hearing the same track played over and over again on an old record," Josef replied after a moment's silence. "I'm immune to that particular slur at present and I have been for longer than I can remember..."
"I'll keep a part of you with me," Beth's voice rang out as she immaculately hit a higher note.
"And everywhere I am, there you'll be," Mick and Beth sang in unison.
Mindy felt her eyes grow heavy and she turned away brusquely, not even daring to actually shed a single tear in his presence.
But with Josef's vampire sense of smell, he was able to pick up the salty tang of her imminent tears. Though, being Josef, he really could care less,
"What are you sniffling about over there?" Josef chuckled dryly. "Did you and Beth watch Dark Victory before we picked you up?"
"I have...allergies, you prick," Mindy irately batted her eyelids in hope of keeping the tears away.
"To what?" he tested her.
"Dust," she lied coolly as her throat began to tighten painfully, making her words come out as squeaks.
"There's hardly any dust back here," Josef observed casually. "In fact, it seems like they dust this place out pretty..."
"Drop it, Kostan!" Mindy snapped, though she soon realized that she had spoken far too loud. "Shit," she cursed under her breath, praying that she hadn't been heard over Beth and Mick's number.
"Inside voices, Midge" Josef smirked, putting a finger over his lips as if preparing himself to shush her.
"Would you quit it?" Mindy's teeth were grinding together with so much force that it was a wonder that they weren't shattering to bits.
"Don't play dumb," Mindy nails dug deeply into her palm as she balled her fists tightly. "Stop. Provoking. Me."
"It's too much fun, darling," Josef's eyes flashed, penetrating the darkness of the backstage area with their hazel gleam. "You're too easy."
"It's like a hobby, isn't it?" Mindy gulped back searing tears. "Tormenting people weaker than you."
"So you admit you're weaker?" Josef was mildly surprised, yet he still continued to amuse himself by prodding at her emotionally tender spots. She was too easy.
"Just...die..." Mindy rasped as a tear rolled down her cheek. She didn't bother to wipe it away as a sign to herself that she had submitted to defeat.
"Way ahead of you," Josef chortled lightly under his breath from the irony of her words.
"What did you say?"
"Nothing. Nothing at all."
"You know..." Mindy bit her lip in anger as another tear fell. "I..." Mindy stopped herself once she realized what she was doing. She was about to confess to that cruel mistake of nature, Josef Kostan.
"What?" Josef hid behind a disinterested façade.
"Why do you want to know, you heartless bastard?!" Mindy's voice cracked with fury.
The word heartless sent a slight pang to his chilled, seemingly steeled-over heart. The sound of his dear Sarah's mellifluous, sweet laughter filled his head and he closed his eyes tightly, trying to force away the echoing resonance of her voice. Though, of course the vampire knew it was in vain. The vibrant, painful memories of his only love never left him and they probably never would until he was consumed by a raging fire or coated in silver. Maybe even as he burned in Hell he would never cease to hear her silently screaming inside the lifeless shell of her body.
"In my dreams I've always seen you soar above the sky," Mick's voice cut through the poisonous silence between the two.
"In my heart there'll always be a place for you..." Beth sang passionately. Mindy and Josef could tell without even looking at her that the blonde reporter had a wide smile on her face.
"For all my life," their voices intertwined into another exquisite harmony.
"My heart's hard," Josef laughed gently as if laughing at himself. "And it's cold..." Josef intuitively put his hand on the right side of his chest. No heartbeat. He was dead. Yet, he knew it was there. It had to be there. He fell in love with Sarah when he was a vampire so it had to be there. It was simply...dormant. "But...it's there." Josef then scowled to himself, annoyed at the amount of emotion that had leaked into his tone. He despised it when real-life situations began to resemble scenes from a cheesy Lifetime movie.
"Just..." Mindy brushed back her hair. She felt that the curls were already coming loose and getting frizzy. Another reason why she almost always wore her hair up. "I'm not rational right now. Don't listen to me."
"Was that an apology?" Josef inquired almost nicely since the cynicism was slowly ebbing away from his tone. So slow that neither Josef nor Mindy acknowledged it.
"Simply a...factual statement," Mindy sighed. "A habit." Being a debt counselor, it was her job to be rational and when she occasionally would become irrational, she was accustomed to informing people in those times that she was indeed feeling irrational and might say things she didn't mean. "No...I wasn't apologizing."
"Oh well," Josef shrugged. "I didn't really have my hopes up anyway."
"Al-wa-a-a-ays!" Beth belted out the climaxing note with vehement clarity and volume.
"I could never hit that," Mindy said when the song became slightly softer; trying not to appear that she was moved by the lyrics. She was.
"I don't expect you too," Josef cleared his throat when he realized this had come out too tenderly. He attempted to cover it up. "Our song doesn't go that high."
Mindy buried her face in her hands and moaned. The damn tears were coming again.
"What did I do now?" Josef asked, exasperated.
"I can't do this," Mindy let her hands fall to her lap and she straightened up.
"Can't do what?" Josef looked down at his nails. Damn. How the hell did his pinky nail get dirt under it so quickly? Stupid, filthy restaurant.
"The performance, you dolt," Mindy stood, holding her head up high as she tried to keep the tears away. She wasn't in a good enough emotional state to go up onstage, with Josef, sing, dance, and make a fool of herself while doing so.
"There you'll be..." Beth and Mick's number was over and they were received with an earsplitting applause complete with whoops, whistles, and shouts of "Encore!" Josef and Mindy's song would be up after the next act.
"Fine," Josef yawned. "If you want to throw away a chance of finding the guy that'll make you his dinner, go ahead. I don't care."
"Well..." Mindy pursed her newly-chapped lips together as she permitted a surge of tears to spill from her burning eyes. She even let the runny, watery fluid that was steadily seeping from her nostrils begin to mingle with her tears as she kept her hands at her sides, not bothering to wipe her face.
"Now we have Kimberly and Graham Boyle performing "A Whole New World" from the Disney move, Aladdin." The stuttering, feeble voice of the MC cut Mindy off and cued the music.
"Well what?" Josef stood as well when he realized she had no intention of finishing where she had left off.
"That makes two of us," was her hoarse reply.
"Excuse me?" Josef's right eyebrow nearly hit his hairline.
"You said..." Mindy clenched her fists so tightly that her knuckles popped. "...that you didn't care. And That makes two of us."
"You're honestly telling me that you don't care whether you live or die?" the vampire questioned, crossing his arms.
"I can show you the world..." the man called Graham began his off-key routine. "Shining..."
"Yes," Mindy's voice was only a meager chirrup of what it was earlier. She didn't care if she was confiding her irrational feelings to him. She just didn't care anymore. "I...don't care if I die..." Josef remained quiet. "No...I...want to die."
There was another silence between the two...well...as silent as it could get when there was a loud performance going on.
"Well that's stupid," Josef stated flatly, breaking their speechlessness.
"Excuse me?" Mindy turned around, forgetting that she probably looked horrible.
"Life's short," Josef shrugged. "And there's nothing there at the other end...in my opinion. So you need to enjoy it while it lasts. It's stupid to throw it away when you've got a whole plethora of things ahead of you in life." Josef smiled a bit to himself, having one of those moments when he was genuinely glad to be immortal. Mortality sucked. He even began to pity Mindy slightly for having to be mortal.
Mindy longed to have a nasty comeback. She wanted to say something snarky so badly that her head practically exploded. But, in actuality, she realized that she had nothing bad to say. Josef was right. Throwing life away was idiotic since there wasn't anything waiting in a so-called afterlife.
"I'm sorry," she looked directly at Josef, not needing to tilt her head upwards like other women did since she had height on her side. "I'm just being...cowardly. Not to mention irrational."
"I'll say," Josef smirked a bit, hiding his utter bewilderment at what she had just done. He couldn't believe that Mindy Porter had just apologized.
"Is that Kostan-language for "apology accepted"?" Mindy grinned weakly, wiping at her eyes.
"You look horrible," Josef remarked as the shock of the situation ebbed away. "Here," Josef reached into his coat pocket and pulled out an expensive-looking silk handkerchief with the initials "J.K" sewn in the corner with red thread. "Take it and make yourself look presentable."
"Gee, thanks," Mindy rolled her eyes, but took the handkerchief and began wiping away the streaks of mascara and the rather unbecoming mucus under her nose. As she placed the silken fabric underneath her nose, she caught a whiff a familiar, musky, but lemony scent. Millesime Imperial. Her dear grandfather's cologne. She deeply inhaled the aroma of it and clutched the handkerchief tightly as if she were a young child with her blanket. The smell soothed her and made her troubled brain enter into a sweet, serene euphoria.
Mindy jumped slightly when she was yanked out of her tranquil ecstasy by none other than Josef who was holding something black in his hand.
"What is that?" Mindy asked after stealing another sniff from the handkerchief.
"Microphone," Josef replied calmly pointing to the microphone attached to the collar of his suit. When had he gotten that on?
"I can put it on," Mindy took it from him and clipped the small device onto the neckline of her dress.
"The "on" button's there," Josef pointed to a little red button on the left side of the microphone before walking back over to the trunk and handing Mindy the black, sequined clutch bag.
"I don't need the purse, thanks," she said with a curt nod, hoping the hoarseness of her voice was going away slightly.
"No," he thrust the bag into her hand. "You do." the vampire stood up straighter and brushed his hair back with his hand. "Reapply your makeup and check wipe off any mascara marks on your face. You missed a few."
Mindy opened her mouth to argue, but decided to just scowl and did what he told her to do. She knew she looked awful and wasn't fit to be seen on a stage in a fancy restaurant.
"And Porter?" Josef cut in as Mindy began applying extra powder. "You can keep the handkerchief. I doubt if I can get mascara stains out."
"Just when I thought you were being nice." Mindy sighed, looking at herself in the small pocket mirror as she put on a little blush.
"Let me share this whole new world with you..."
"They're almost done," Josef whispered, sitting next to Mindy who was trying to put on eye-makeup with one hand and lipstick on with another. "Here's the plan..."
"I'm listening." Mindy made a face at herself in the mirror before closing the mirror and shoveling all the cosmetic equipment into the bag.
"Follow my lead."
Mindy waited for him to say more and when he didn't, her eyes narrowed in annoyance,
"That's it?" she hissed. "To "follow your lead"?!"
"Trust me," Josef pulled her up by the arm and lead her over to the platform. "I've been dancing for...a long time. I'll know better than you."
"So you just assume that you're..."
"Can we just be civil for a few minutes, Porter?" Josef cut her off. "We need to do the best we can do out there and if we're both seething at each other, we're not going to accomplish anything." Josef was startled that these words even came out of his mouth. He had never seen himself as much of a diplomat. More like...an assassin. But as he always told the ladies, he was a man full of surprises.
"Fine," Mindy huffed a bit to herself. "Only a few minutes, I guess...Josef." Mindy grimaced a bit as she called him by his first name. "But promise not to...well...be too much of a..." the woman sighed in annoyance. "Just don't be you."
"You're feeling better, I presume?" Josef commented. "I mean, your insults are becoming much clearer and less illogical than they were before. And I'll say..." the vampire's eyes were dancing with amusement. "You were nicer when you were upset...after the delirious invective concerning my insensitivity, of course."
"Mmm-hmm," was all she could conjure up when she realized the couple onstage were nearing the end of their song. Her heart was racing wildly as she thought of how much was at stake. If Mick and Beth didn't win and if she and Josef blew it onstage, they wouldn't find out if Ploiteryne was the guy or not. This was a life-death situation. Not just a dumb performance.
"What's wrong?" Josef attempted for the first time that night to keep the tone of annoyance from his voice.
"Nervous," was Mindy's brusque response as she clutched the handkerchief tighter in her hand and lifted it up to smell it again. As she inhaled the scent deeply, she felt the tenseness in her muscles begin to unwind and her heart slowed to a regular pace. Her sharp, ragged breaths even began to steady themselves. Her dear grandfather had been quite skilled in the art of relaxing her. Even when she was little, it was always her grandfather who could calm her down after her nightmares...never her parents.
"Er..." Josef was, putting it mildly, very perturbed by her actions. "Are you...smelling my handkerchief to calm yourself down?"
Mindy stopped mid-sniff and immediately felt a scorching blush creep over her face. "Um..."
"For you and me..." the couple onstage held out the last note in a dreadful, screeching harmony, but they were still met with a tentative applause.
"Put it back in your purse," Josef snatched the handkerchief away from her and quickly stuffed it in her evening bag. He then hurried back up to the platform.
"Ahem," the poor MC came back onstage, knees slamming fretfully together. "W-We now have...Emma...Austen and...Josef Kostan singing "Accidentally In Love". Th-Thank you."
Emma Austen had been the alias Mindy made up for herself. Mick thought it was best that she not use her real name for obvious reasons and Emma Austen had been the first thing she thought off. Mindy was rather infamous for thinking up spontaneous names and ideas...if you remember the whole "grape skittle" incident...
"Port-Mindy!" Josef grabbed her hand and pulled her along. "Time to go."
Without thinking, Mindy gripped onto his hand tighter as they stepped into the intense, dazzling lights.
"Ready?" Josef whispered to her.
"Ready," Mindy gulped as her trembling finger pressed the red "on" button on her microphone.