He sat cross-legged on the bed next to her, his back curved like a capital "C. His face was drawn in concentration, eyes closed, mouth slightly slack and crooked—it was very close to the face he wore when he fucked her, she'd been right about that. Did your daddy beat the hell out of you, babe? Did he give you that scar on your back?
He grinned in answer, a hard, sharp one; one that mocked. Who it mocked, him or her, she didn't know. She asked him again, the question she asked when she'd called him to her and he came, months ago. He licked his bottom lip, chewed it a little.
I don't know. He was trying to tell her the truth; she hadn't expected it. He was the only person she'd ever said that to who acted like he knew what she was talking about. She was thinking about the cowboy angel as she laid her hands flat across the hard ridges of his ribs, and felt them breathe, and put her mouth on his neck, and tasted salt. In the end, the cowboy angel brought your death; he took you to the gates of Eden.
She stared at him often, storing up every detail that made her heart swell, until one day, he caught her staring at him where he stood on an empty stage with his guitar, fiddling with the mic. She was startled to see contempt surface on his face. She stood very still, resting her elbow on the edge of the stage, and watched his face like she would a growing storm. He twisted a peg on his guitar viciously.
She winced, expecting the string to break.
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That's all you give me. Parts, she thought, but didn't say. It wouldn't be worth it. She averted her eyes, followed his glare down to her hands. She turned the deck over; she hadn't realized she was holding it. The edges were fuzzy with love and wear; this was her first and only deck. She examined the top card, a stylized black and white and gray Lady holding two vessels, one of water, the other of wine.
She turned from him, not wanting him to see her unexpected grin, or the tears that came with it. Pour water into wine and they are one, sure, she thought. It makes them both undrinkable, though, the wine diluted and the water tainted.
Already the small lounge of the club was filled with the denseness of his anger and frustration, as flammable as gas fumes. She stuck the deck into her bag, threw the strap over her shoulder. She needed to get her brain straight; her own strong emotions would influence any reading she gave that night, would give everything she saw a melancholy cast. She walked over to the bar and asked for Jack and Coke. Despite problems with the sound in the beginning, the show was decent, and Nick closed his set with "Ladies Love Outlaws," opening his eyes once to grin an apology at Roxanne after singing the first verse.
She raised her glass to him solemnly, then smiled. Three in the morning saw them staggering drunk in the parking lot with the members of the headlining band; they were all laughing, smoking, unwilling to call it a night.
You'll be playing arenas one day, mark my words. Roxanne pulled out her cards. She'd hoped that, drunk as he was—and he was reeling, his eyes weasel-red—he'd let his guard down. You can read mine," the drummer said.
He reminded her vaguely of Adrian because of his long dark hair. He sat down cross-legged right on the asphalt. Roxanne hunkered down in front of him, her skirt billowing and settling around her.
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She snatched it out of the air and winked at him, offered him the deck. She laid his chosen cards out in a Celtic Cross between them, and as the reading grew, so did her disquiet. She'd never seen such a dark spread; with every card it got worse. She kept her face impassive, or at least she hoped she did, and couched her warnings in calm phrases and stock platitudes.
Her drunkenness may have caused her to say too much, though, because the drummer started looking narrow and watchful, his eyes dark and serious. She gathered the cards back up slowly, looked up at Nick while she did it. He was looking at the drummer with fear and dread on his face, then his eyes flickered, and met Roxanne's; his face went cold, impassive, the fear wiped away so completely it might have never been there at all. The laughter had gone out of the night, and the band members watched her with expressions bordering on hostility.
She put the deck into her bag and stood, licked her lips and shrugged. People don't want the truth, that was the paradox of fortune-telling. People don't want the truth, even though they ask for it. Roxanne put her fingertips to her lips, kissed them, and waved the kiss toward the four silent men. Nick took her hand when she offered it, and they turned to walk toward the motorcycle where it waited under several oaks at the edge of the lot.
His fingers were cold. As they walked, she said, "You read the cards as well as I do. He lifted her, put her on the bike seat sideways, pulled her thighs up around his hips; he put his hands on her hips, and the small of her back, her breasts, up under her shirt. He bit her ear. And she unbuttoned his jeans, and he lifted her skirt, and they stayed there drunk under the trees for a long time.
He was in a bar, maybe Rolling Thunder Tavern, maybe someplace else. His band got around. She could hear them tuning up in the background. There was a long silence, in which Roxanne could almost hear many things being said; a desperate voice in the void between his phone and this one in the motel room, garbled and fizzed. She closed her eyes, she didn't want to hear all those things he wanted to say, anyway. She hoped he wouldn't choke. It's cool; I'm having fun. I'm not gonna worry about it right now. She thought it more likely that he was starting to cry, or was afraid he would, but she let it go, and said good-bye, and did not say that she missed him.
She always grew still when he talked; he so seldom told her things he'd done in the past, or how he felt. So much she didn't know about his brain and what went on there. She relied on her sixth sense, on touching him, on listening to the tone of his voice change. I was watching you. He tugged the button on her jeans while he talked; he unzipped them, not looking at her face. She wondered why he was telling her now.
She started to wonder who called out to whom. She started to wonder which of them walked around with Death in the palm of their hand. No, he'd answered. Are you mine? She felt a little dizzy. But all she said was, "Yeah? You looked.
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They slid down her hips and thighs to her knees. He pulled them, then her underwear, completely off and flung them both across the room. The underwear landed on the corner of a picture frame and she laughed. Like it killed you to talk to me? He often pinched harder than she necessarily liked.