Velvet Concord

“So, are you going to tell him?” Jade says, poking me in the side. The touch is light and warm, and a zing of something leaps in my core. It’s electric. Everything she does is.

“That’s the plan,” I say and grasp her hand, trapping our fingers together - her black nails and bronze skin, contrasting neatly with mine. Her short black hair flutters in the cool autumn breeze, the wind ruffling her purple streaks, shades of violet and plum, in honor of the occasion. The people around us don’t notice, but I do. I notice everything about her.

It distracts me from the task at hand. I pull my jacket tighter and run my thumb on the back of her knuckles. I’m glad she’s with me.

“How do you think he’s going to take it?” She asks. It’s an old conversation, hashed and rehashed every day since I won the tickets. I had been to his concerts before, but this was the first time I’d be face to face with a rock legend.

“Good, I hope.” A tightness runs through my chest as we wait in the crowd. The energy’s high - giddy. The guy next to us is decked out, his jacket’s killer, vintage - all leather from the Crucible Tour. His face is half-painted the Velvet Concord logo, bright purple V and black slash of C. His arms full of posters, CDs, and a couple of vinyl records, just waiting to get signed.

I stare at the face on the poster, bright blue eyes, edged in black eyeliner stare from the paper, scorching in their intensity. Even on paper he smolders.

I’ve had his posters in my room as long as I can remember. My mother swore she played his records on repeat while I was in the womb, the harsh metal a lullaby when I couldn’t sleep. According to her, Velvet Concord was my very reason for being.

I tuck my hair back behind my ears, but it falls forward like a frizzy brown curtain, easy to hide behind.

Don’t panic. Don’t panic.

But I do panic. I would give my left tit for a brown paper bag to breath into.

Jade’s hand in mine is the only thing keeping me steady. For some odd reason, she thought I was cool and hyperventilating and passing out in a fan line might mess with that just a little.

I breathe in through my nose and out of my mouth. Just like the grief counselor told me.

This all seemed like a good idea at home, from the safety of my bedroom and in the recesses of my diary. Now that the day was here, I didn’t know if I was ready.

Soon, it’s my turn. We’re in front and a hulking guy in black checks my pass. He eyes me, staring me down before jerking his thumb back.

Jade squeezes my hand and steps back. I only won one VIP pass and she’ll wait for me, ready for the rundown of our meeting. I am escorted inside the meeting by the first hulk’s bigger brother and he draws me up to a couch.

VC merch is everywhere, the walls awash with black and purple. I focus on not tripping, my heart galloping like the horses in their Water Run Dry music video - wild and free and like it was headed right over a cliff.

Suddenly he’s in front of me, Thomas “Bear” Bryant, his trademark grin on his face. His once thick hair is the same color as mine, though tamed with much better products. His eyes are even bluer up close, brighter than prairie skyline.

“Hey love! Glad to meet ya!” He envelopes me in a hug. My head meets his chest and I fit right beneath his arm. His hug is warm, like clothes straight out of the dryer. He smells spicy with a hint of cinnamon reminding me of Christmas. His hug feels like home.

“Let’s get a picture,” he says, waving a hand. A photographer appears from thin air.

My heart is still leaping in my chest. I didn’t even have to say anything. He just knew.

My hope swells.

Bear wraps an arm around my shoulder and my soul feels full. The photographer clicks and clicks and after fiddling with the computer, he comes and hands me the picture. It’s still warm.

Side by side, I see it.

Undeniable proof.

Bear grins, and with a small wave, he turns back to the door and the next fan. The guard ushers me to a back entrance.

“But wait-“ I stop, frozen in place, like I had gone swimming in Lake Oneata in the middle of winter. He thinks I’m just a fan.

“Bear wait!” He glances back at me, a puzzled smile on his face.

“Do you know Sarah Jane Miller?” I say in a rush.

“Who?” He frowns.

“Sarah Jane Miller. Blonde, my height, from Oklahoma.”

His blue eyes narrow, like a coating of frost in a winter’s sky. “There are a lot of blondes from Oklahoma.”

I swallow. This was not going well. The picture in my hand shook. “She followed your Crucible tour. Y’all met in Tulsa. She was my mom.”

“Ok?” His smile is gone and he stands stiffly. The air in the room is heavy - stagnant.

His people in the room glance at each other nervously.

“And that makes you my dad.”

“What’d you say?” His words comes out in a rumble. He looks like the bear he’s named after.

I step back, uncomfortable. “You’re my dad.”

His face hardens, flat and white as the Arctic. “I don’t know what she told you, but I’ve got all the kids I need. I don’t need some hustler with a made up story.” He jerks his thumb at his bodyguards. His face settles into a harsh sneer, like I’m something the cat threw up. “Get out of here before they throw you out.”

If I could have died I would have. From his expression, he certainly wouldn’t mind if I did. I could have been swallowed in a fiery inferno the way heat flames up my face.

I stumble out of the room and back out into the crowd. Hot tears burn my eyes, blurring faces, swirls of color that rush past me as I search for her.

Jade is waiting for me - beaming, her lopsided grin proud. Her face falls the instant she sees me.

“Kit!” She runs to me, her soft arms wrapping around my shoulders. I sag into her, collapsing. I don’t even make sound at first, I simply shake, dry heaves at first, wrenched from my core.

She drags me around the corner and puts her jean jacket on my shoulders. The gesture and the wild honey scent of her just makes it worse as the tears come. It feels like I’m being pulled in two. As the pain sets in and Jade comforts me, one clear thought sears my brain.

If Sarah Jane Miller wasn’t already dead, I would have killed her myself.

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