To an outsider looking in, it would have been obvious that in this unique, mixed sexed environment, with hardly anyone to control them, that they would naturally begin to sort themselves in to some kind of hierarchal order. However there were already two very strong leaders indeed. Tension was inevitable. Therefore, in this bohemian and creative environment, a situation began to develop.
Slowly, so subtly at ﬁrst, frustration and isolation began to envelop Maria. Like a goldfish in a tank, she stared wide-eyed at passing buildings lit up in the night. She felt lonely, and agitated. It was not the way she’d imagined it to be.
She sat by a small table, watching the world go by. Her ears rang from the noise of the show earlier. Her throat ached terribly. Sipping her warm brandy helped. She always felt deeply reflective after performing, constantly analysing herself and how she could improve.
Aron abruptly interrupted her thoughts by plonking himself in front of her. They were in his trailer tonight and, apart from Maria, he was the only one still awake. Indeed, she had never seen him sleep. The others were draped about snoozing, wrapped in warm woollen blankets. He took a large mouthful from a beer bottle and lit a cigarette. Blowing smoke towards her, the dim light cast shadows across his face and he looked tired. He was. Their knees almost touched and Maria moved one seat over to avoid contact. After a difficult silence, her eyes eventually rested upon his.
“What time is it?” she asked indifferently. Silence in his presence was like none she’d ever experienced. It was uneasy, threatening almost.
He blew out another cloud of smoke and replied just as blandly. “Dunno, about four I think.”
His accent still made her want to giggle, it didn’t seem real. His was the strongest out of all the boys. It was sharp, with husky undertones. It sounded false but she knew, of course, it wasn’t. The two again sat in silence.
Aron suddenly smirked as a thought struck him. The more she looked at his face, the odder she thought his appearance. It was almost as if he were too handsome, and too sculpted. She couldn’t decide if he was sexy, quirky, or sometimes, even ugly.
He leaned in and whispered to her. “If you’re not tired we should make-out to pass the time.”
She ﬂushed, embarrassed. He didn’t speak very much at all, but when he did, it always seemed to be something crude. Or a complaint. She never knew how to react to either. The others talked about anything, everything, but Aron seemed to be permanently on the prowl. She wondered if he really was that basic and if so, how had he got where he was? He remained a puzzle to her, an enigma. She had read all his lyrics, they were thought provoking and intelligent. She observed the way he was when being ﬁlmed for television. She saw the characters he played to get the most he could from those around him. This in itself made him rare and skilled.
She smiled back innocently. “Whatever do you mean?” she asked.
Aron replied matter of factly. “Well I’m feeling a little stressed,” he explained. He raised his eyebrows suggestively and added, “You know what I mean?” He held his hand out to her in offering. “Go on Maria, just one kiss. The others are sleeping so they’ll never know.”
She scowled across at him. She decided to be blunt and tell him what she was thinking. “You know, you really are a disappointment to me,” she said quietly.
He leaned back and chewed his bottom lip. “Why?”
“Well, I thought you’d be more…well, nicer I suppose…” she trailed off. She was annoyed she couldn’t think of a better word. She wasn’t sure how to describe what she’d thought he was going to be. A mentor maybe? A friend?
He stumped out his cigarette and sniggered to himself. “I can be very nice Maria. Very nice indeed. You mightn’t think I’m disappointing if you let me go to ﬁrst base.”
Her eyes fell down. He unsettled her, his gaze made her feel vulnerable, exposed.
“You see!” she said, “That’s what I mean. I thought you’d have other things to say. I thought you could, well, teach me things I suppose.”
By his ﬂirtatious smirk, she could tell he was about to say something crude. She had led him to the proverbial water. And so far in her experience, he would lap furiously.
He opened his mouth to speak but she held her hand up to stop him. “I mean things about music.”
He looked at her blankly for a few moments before breaking into a large crooked smile. “Oh. That again,” he said, playing along. “You mean you want me to give you some advice. Help you along, so to speak.”
She glared at him, hating his sarcastic tone.
“Well,” he continued, “there are rules you know. Three in fact. Rules that only we should know, and we must keep them amongst ones like us.”
She eyed him suspiciously. “Go on then,” she asked cautiously. “What are they?”
He leaned in further, as if what he was about to say was top secret and sought after information. “I can’t tell you. You’re not one of ‘us’ yet.”
She smacked his arm. “Oh, fuck off I’m not!” she said, her voice becoming more playful.
“Okay,” he said. His eyes became serious. He motioned to her with his ﬁnger that she should lean in towards him, so he could whisper. It was the closest they had ever been, and Maria could see that he hadn’t shaved. He smelt of cigarettes.
“So,” he grinned, his eyes dazzling with mischief. “The Three Golden Rules of Rock n’ Roll.” She grinned back at him, his face was so deliciously naughty it was hard not to.
He cleared his throat and began. “Rule number one. Always say that the place you are playing is the craziest and wildest you’ve ever seen.”
Maria clapped her hand to her mouth to hold in the laughter as, he had done this, very theatrically, in each and every show so far.
“The reason you must do this,” he continued, “is simple. The people in the audience want to feel special. They want to feel that they are different. As if the boring drab town from which they can’t escape is the coolest, wildest place on earth and, guess what, it’s all down to the crazy people who are here at the concert tonight! The totally bad-ass mother-fuckers who rock-out down the front. The ones who bleed with us. The ones who truly understand and feel our pain. They are just as crazy as us, and we must confirm it to them. Therefore, in saying this, you’re giving them some kind of affirmation that they are just as special as they’ve always suspected. This also applies when in different countries. For example, as you are in America, remind us Yanks just how snobbish you Brits really are, and that you’d much rather be here than in the UK drinking tea. If you do this, they will buy your record.”
He paused to light another cigarette. “Okay, rule number two. Always claim that you were an outcast in high-school, or, make out like you always felt different and special as a youngster. That no one really understood you. And that’s why you turned to music.”
She stopped smiling. “But that’s actually how I did feel. Didn’t you?”
He nodded sharply in agreement. “Sure I did. But don’t we all? However, if you make it known that you felt that way, you become living breathing proof that you can achieve your dreams. That it can be done. People universally will relate to this. And because they do, they will buy your record.”
She folded her arms defensively as he seemed to be getting closer. It made her nervous. “And the third rule?” she asked.
“My personal favourite,” he said with an obscene grin. “Never, ever, under any circumstances, confirm your sexuality. Start a few rumours about it if you can. In fact, try to latch on to another female celebrity to provoke questions about your relationship. You’ve already begun talk because of you and Jude. That’s good, keep it up.” he smiled.
She moved back even further. “But why should I do that? Why would people care?”
She knew, of course, but she wanted to see what his view of it was.
He chuckled. “Because then you appeal to all. Some sad, overweight closet dyke will suddenly realise that it’s okay to be that way, and, she will buy your record. Plus you will also have all the spotty teenage boys jerking off over you, because they think that you fuck women. They’ll imagine that scenario. And because of that, they will buy your record.”
He leaned back, proud of his knowledge. “It all about clever marketing Maria,” he added.
She shook her head, his twisted logic rattling round within it. “But you’ve confirmed your sexuality,” she said, embarrassed she was discussing such a subject with him.
“No I haven’t,” he ginned, enjoying her obvious discomfort. “Not publicly,” he added.
“But everyone knows you’re bisexual. I even saw you with a man,” she said.
Aron smiled a sideways, teasing smile. “So? What exactly was it that you thought you saw?” he asked.
Maria’s cheeks ﬂushed, she couldn’t give an answer. In truth, she had only seen him bite a man, and that wasn’t really enough to confirm anything.
“See?” he said. “That’s exactly the point I’m making. You don’t truly know. Most people don’t ever see what you saw, and still, you don’t know. Yet the thought intrigues you. Doesn’t it? You want to know don’t you? Would I rather fuck a guy? Or would I rather fuck you?” She jumped at his bluntness. “The fact is, if you buy my record, you may just ﬁnd out. And that’s what it’s all about,” he concluded triumphantly.
Maria snarled up a lip in disgust. “Well I think if you are bisexual then that’s just selfish.” She paused for a moment, thinking for an explanation as to why, but couldn’t, as she knew what she’d just said was ridiculous. Instead, she challenged the longevities, and realism of such a lifestyle. “You’ve got to choose eventually,” she said ﬁrmly.
Aron pulled a hand through his hair. “Why? It hasn’t been a problem so far.”
“Ha!” Maria laughed, “You’ve just confirmed it to me. That means I won’t have to buy your record, as if I care,” she added quickly.
His smile faded, hating that she’d tripped him up. “Anyway,” she continued, ignoring his cross face, “it will be a problem eventually. I think that bisexuality truly doesn’t exist. Either you’re gay or you’re not.”
She took another mouthful of brandy, and thought of something else. “Also, the fact that you do both suggests very strongly that you’re gay. If you were straight, you wouldn’t create the opportunity to sleep with men. So there.”
Aron snarled slightly, revealing sharp teeth. “How wrong you are! You’re telling me you never thought about it?” He thought her absurd and naïve. “Why does there have to be any problem? How about I just ﬁnd men just as beautiful as girls sometimes? And it just so happens I meet, and get to know more boys than girls? Look around at what you’ve seen so far on the road. There’s hardly the opportunity to get to know girls is there? They just come and go with each place. And they scream in my face wherever I meet them. Or cry.”
There was no arrogance at all at that comment, and for a second, she understood. How did he get to talk to girls when most only reacted hysterically in his presence?
Aron continued, “There are ten guys to each girl you meet.” He raised an eyebrow. “So you’re in luck as you get to take your pick. As for us, it’s like being in jail. We have to make do with each other sometimes.”
Maria grinned at his warped reasoning and replied provocatively, “Aron, I think you’re homosexual. I think that all this talk about pretending to be bisexual is just to cover up the truth. So there.”
“Stop saying ‘so there’!” Aron snapped, “You know nothing about me.”
Maria felt she was winning. “Yes I do,” she smirked at his irritated face. “You may have a very unique job, but I’ve met one hundred of you. You’re not special Aron. So there.”
He stumped out his cigarette angrily, and Maria leaned back, feeling triumphant.
“It’s nothing to be ashamed of,” she added bitchily.
He moved so he now sat opposite. She wore shorts, and the bare skin of her knees itched against the rough fabric of his trousers.
“I’m not ashamed of anything I do. Anything. It seems to me that it’s you that’s hiding. All those pictures of you and Jude.” He waved a hand down towards where she slept, curled up in a peaceful dozing ball. He leaned back towards Maria, his face nasty. “They don’t exactly show the real you, do they?”
She moved her knees back from his. “What do you mean?” she asked.
“Well,” he continued, “your pictures are very suggestive, surely you know that. So if you believe in just being one way, you shouldn’t have had those taken. Unless you’re a lesbian of course.” A wide, wet smile crossed his lips.
Damn. Maria realised she’d contradicted herself, so she had to get out as she didn’t have an argument.
“I’m not telling you what I am as it’s none of your business, and now I’m going to sleep,” she said, wanting to end the dispute that she knew she was losing.
She stood up, and moved away from the table.
“Does that mean you don’t want to make out?” he asked after her tauntingly.
Maria didn’t answer; in fact, she provoked him further by curling up in front of Jude. Pulling the blanket over them both, Jude sleepily wrapped her arm around her waist. It was cold, and another human body for warmth was just what she’d needed. Maria closed her eyes and swallowed hard. The rest of the boys were exactly as she’d imagined. Wild, colourful and free thinking. But Aron Moretti was a bitter disappointment. She expected to be awestruck, yet she felt bitterly disheartened. He made her nervous and had the air of someone who may pounce viciously at any moment. What a lost chance, she thought, to pick someone’s brain that other people idolised and looked up to, someone who had lasted, had talent beyond most before him, and all he seemed to want in life was to joke, shout, complain and tease.
Aron remained seated. He looked across at the two sleeping females. They looked soft, like kittens. He stared at them until the sun started to rise, and the scenery outside became more rocky, like a desert. The girls rocked together with the movement of the vehicle. Maria’s hair fanned out behind her, mixing with Jude’s, creating twisted vines of red and ashen. Her eyelids ﬂickered as if dreaming. He wondered what about. He wished he could communicate with them like the others. Wished he had something to say that would hold their interest. He stared down at Maria, the vivid green of his eyes reflecting his envy towards her. She had them all. She laughed and they laughed with her. She was jovial and dazzling, like a ray of silver light. She was warm, genuine, and in contrast he felt detached and unfriendly. He hated this persona as he knew he was more but, for some reason, could not be with the females. They affected him, made him behave differently. He hated to admit it but he was intimidated. Maybe she could help him? Perhaps if he touched her, she would pass onto him some of her glow?
Without thinking, he climbed down onto the thin aisle way. Silently, he crawled towards the alcove where the two kittens dozed. He paused in front of them, knelt, and placed his hands on his knees. Long moments passed. Their chests moved up and down together, breathing gently in unison. His eyes travelled along the length of the warm bodies huddled together, starting with small girlish toes. Maria’s were waving gently, as if she were dancing. He reached out, slowly, slowly, his heart thudding. Any second either of them may open their eyes, catch him, and scream, for was it normal for him to behave this way? He leaned down, and smelt Maria’s hair. It smelt of violets and lemon. He couldn’t stop himself. Leaning down further, he gently, so gently, lifted the sheet from her. He sighed lightly at the sight of her breasts moving up and down. Forbidden fruits. She wore a black vest, but her glorious curves were clearly visible. His eyes travelled back to her tiny waist and Jude’s hand, clinging on tightly for warmth. A few inches lower, and she would have been touching Maria ‘there.’
He felt a twinge. He adjusted himself, then reached out again. Cautiously, so softly, he touched were Maria would never have let him, had she been awake. Tenderly he ran the back of his ﬁngers along one large, heavy breast. He bit back a groan when he realised that they were real, a rarity in his world. She moaned quietly, moved weakly and he froze, paused, waiting for her to show him she was still asleep. He closed his eyes, and placed his other hand between his legs.
A sharp male whisper made his heart leap violently. “What the fuck are you doing man?!”
He turned his head sharply and saw Will, stood in only shorts. He glared down at him, horrified. Aron ﬂushed pink and pulled both hands away silently. He’d been caught.
Without saying a word he grabbed Will by the wrist and plonked him back down where he had been sitting with Maria earlier. Will flushed white.
Still whispering, he spoke. “You, you were…well whatever you were doing you can’t do that!” He shook his head incredulously. “These girls trust us and you pull a stunt like that! What the fuck is wrong with you?”
Aron smiled. “They don’t trust me. I never implied they should. Bitches.”
He was not afraid of Will, and was confident he wouldn’t tell. He was more embarrassed than afraid. Embarrassed that someone may think that he’d have to wait for a girl to be asleep before she’d let him, whatever, which certainly wasn’t the case.
His voice was more a hiss than a whisper. “What’s the matter Will? Is it that it wasn’t you? Huh?”
He looked away from Aron’s glinting, scheming eyes. “No!” he spat, a little too loudly.
Aron lifted his hands for quiet. The two men paused and checked that the others were still asleep.
Aron lightened his tone. He reached out, and pulled hair away from Will’s face. “Don’t be mad at me. I only wanted a little look that’s all.” He pouted his lips in a way that said he was sorry; in a way he knew would melt even the hardest of hearts. “Where’s the harm in that? I wasn’t going to do anything. Really.”
Will felt disturbed. There was always a suggestion in the air with Aron, a suggestion of maybe.
Aron cocked his eyebrow. “Anyways, I thought you liked to watch me,” he paused for effect, then added, “‘cause you know I like to watch you.”
Will reeled with emotion. He knew what he’d seen was wrong, but he couldn’t stay angry at him for long. Something about him made him seem capable of anything, even lying. Even keeping the darkest and most sordid of secrets. He twiddled his thumbs. “Well, don’t do it again, okay? If either of them had woke, they’d have screamed their heads off.”
Aron winked at him. “Don’t be so sure,” he replied.
He yawned, Will needed something more. “Mind if I lay my head on you?” he asked, “I’m cold.”
Will nodded mutely. Aron moved, and placed his head onto Will’s lap. He breathed deeply, yawned again, and positioned his hand on his thigh in exactly the right place, knowing it would make him think. Will closed his eyes, and gently reached down to Aron’s head. Lightly brushing his hair, he twisted the black softness around and through his ﬁngers.
Aron sighed and licked his lips. “That’s comforting,” he breathed. “I love it.”
As they sat, Will let his head fall to the side. He stared intently down at his friend. His hair, his skin, everything about him seemed carved. Sculpted into something gothic and beautiful, like a dark macabre doll of no distinguishable sex. A thrilling merge of male and female, containing the best and most alluring characteristics of the two. Aron curled up into a foetal position, oblivious as to how intensely he was being admired. He indulged in the feeling of having his hair and scalp teased, a sensation he adored. His eyes wandered about sleepily.
Abruptly, they met with Maria’s. As she stared silently up at him a slow, thoughtful smile spread across her lips and in the ﬁrst few seconds of eye contact, he felt fear. His blood turned to ice, as he heard the soundless, secret message she sent across to him. She had been awake.