Still not proofing work, sorry for the flubber.
OutBound – Part III
After I talked to Shelly, my lawyer, two days later, I went to LAX – on her advice – and returned to Moorea, and to Jennifer – my Jennie. I returned after three more intense encounters with Terry, who I now knew I could not, and would not ever be able to resist. Fact of life. My big flaw. She was bourbon to an alcoholic. It wasn’t incest, because it wasn’t, yet it was worse. She was a violation of every known law of nature. I watched men stare at her when she entered a room – and I understood. But I could not understand why she had chosen me. And let me be clear right here: I did not want to understand. I wanted to get as far away from her as I could, and stay there. I did not want to see her again, because I knew I’d want her again. Because I knew I would not be able to resist her again. I would not, because I could not. I could not – because I loved so much it would kill me if I denied her.
And yet when I fell into Jennifer’s arms it was the most comforting wave of emotion I’d felt in months, a homecoming so overpowering it left me breathless. She wanted me – bad – she said, and we crawled up on the forward berth – and I couldn’t get it up. I’d been drained by Terry and didn’t have anything left, and Jennie put it down to jet-lag. I’d be better tomorrow, she said, but I wasn’t. I was overcome – with all consuming guilt. I’d violated a sacred trust and I wondered, could an agnostic wandering Jew go to a Catholic church and pretend to be gentile long enough to make it through the confessional? Could I say a dozen ‘Hail Mary’s’ with a straight face – and not have a vengeful God send me straight to Hell?
Then I was worrying about Tracy, my daughter. And so I still couldn’t get it up.
We’ll get over it, Jennie said, but now I wasn’t so sure. When I closed my eyes at night I saw Terry on that bed, her legs on my shoulders, her stockinged legs resting beside my face as I plowed her fertile valleys. I could feel her all encasing warmth, my searing orgasms, the smoothness of her cool skin on my face when I dove between her thighs. So…if I couldn’t have her now I was simply going to obsess about her? She was going to take over my life – in absentia?
“Why don’t we head south, for New Zealand,” Jennie said a few days later.
“What? I thought they…”
“A replacement from France arrives Friday.”
“You ready to move on?”
“I think so. We can come back here if Mom and Dad come next summer, maybe for a week or two, but I’ve been thinking about Auckland. Maybe go to school for a semester?”
“Okay. Let’s go over to Papeete and get the bottom painted, pick up a few spares. We can go from there.”
“Okay. When can we leave?”
“I don’t know? Tomorrow too soon?”
“No. The sooner the better,” she said, and I knew then. Knew she feel Terry in this place. Terry all over me.
We set sail at sun-up; it was only a short hop, really. Just 15 miles, nothing like the 2600 miles jump to New Zealand’s North Island, and we got there late morning, got Troubadour checked in at the yard and went out to find a hotel. We got a room in one of the old places along the waterfront, hard by the Parc Bougainville, and when we got to our room it was a little difficult to feel where Paris ended and Tahiti began. I called the yard, told them where we were, and they told me it would be two days at least before they could start on Troubadour. No problem, I said as I looked at Jennie.
She wanted to go out, by herself she said, and she took off, said she’d be back in a couple of hours. I showered, stood under the water for what felt like days, called room service and had them bring me some lunch. I looked at my watch, called the Beverly Hills Hotel then hung up the phone and called Shelly, my lawyer.
“We have a hearing on the 23rd,” she told me.
“Yeah. You’ll need to be here. Oh, the house is vacant now. Want me to get it cleaned up so you can stay there?”
“Yeah, might as well.”
“What about Terry? Move her in?”
“We’ll see. Maybe after I leave.”
“I think she likes the hotel. I’ll check with her and see what she wants to do.”
“Oh. Well, have her call me if she needs the key.”
“Yeah. Well, I’ll try to get in on the 21st or so,” I said, and I gave her my number at the hotel then rang off. And made the call to the hotel again, asked for her bungalow.
“Terry, it’s me.”
“Goodness. Missing me already?”
“I’ve got to return on the 21st for a hearing, and Shelly told me the house is vacant now. You want to move in for now?”
“Are you planning to stay there when you come up?”
“Do you want to be alone?”
I took a deep breath. “No,” I said.
“Then you won’t be.”
“If Jennie decides to come let me know.”
“I love you.”
“I love you too.”
And there it was. The first time she’d ever said that to me. The first time I’d ever said anything like that, to her. No hesitation. No duplicity. It’s what I felt, and I knew it was wrong. And how could I love Jennie at the same time?
I called Air France, made my reservation to fly back to LA, and was just wrapping up the call when Jennie came back to the room. She saw me on the phone and frowned, and when I told about the hearing she nodded her head.
“Maybe I should go back to Wisconsin for a while,” she sighed. “Could you get me on the same flight?”
I called Air France again, made the reservation. One way, open return – for now – I told the agent, and Jennie walked over to the window and looked down at the waterfront.
“I like this city,” she sighed when I hung up the phone.
I joined her, stood beside her and we looked out to Moorea across the channel.
“How long will you need to be in LA?”
“I’m figuring on a week.”
“Anything I need to know?”
“No. Not really.”
“What did you find out there?”
“Oh, just some girl stuff.”
“Yeah. I’ll show you later. You hungry?”
“I ordered some stuff from room service.”
“Guy stuff. Real food.”
She laughed. “I didn’t know they make hamburgers out here? Snails, yes, but hamburgers?”
Knock on the door, waiter rolled in a cart and after I tipped him he split. Two onion soups, escargot, broiled sea bass and huge prawns – for two.
“Perfect timing,” she added.
“I like to think I take care of you, kid.”
“You do, you know.”
“Because I love you,” I said.
“I know – I love you too. Maybe even more than you know.”
We ate in silence, then she went and took a shower. I heard her taking stuff out of her shopping bags, and she was taking her time getting dressed, then:
“Could you pull the drapes, turn out the lights?”
She came out a minute later – dressed to the nines. Lingerie, heels, everything in white, and she walked over to me.
“Do you like me like this?”
I nodded my head.
“Does she…” she began, but she stopped herself, looked down at me. “Show me,” she said as she lay on the bed.
“You really are lovely,” I said after my second orgasm.
We didn’t leave the room for five days. We held hands across the Pacific, we cried when she left to fly on to Milwaukee. I drove to the house on Foothill Road and Terry was there waiting for me. Dressed in blacks and grays, the sexiest woman in the world – all mine. No questions asked. I had not the slightest problem getting up. I had not the least hesitation in my voice when I told her that I loved her. Because I did.
I was between her thighs again, my face against her warmth, then I felt her shuddering, clutching my head with fierce fingers, and as she came down I moved up and entered her. I didn’t last long; I never did when she had her legs up on my shoulders, when I felt her heels on the side of my face. When I came down I looked at her, my perfect lover, and I started to cry.
She looked up at me and smiled.
“Don’t worry about all this, Aaron,” she said as she pulled me down. She kissed me, held me close. “I’ll just be here for you when you need me,” she whispered. “I don’t want anything more. Just to know that you still love me is all I’ll ever need. Okay. You don’t have to choose. I’ll just be here for you, always. Whenever you need me.”
And I was growing inside of her warmth again, all movement involuntary now. Holding her face to mine we kissed as I fell into the movement again, and I pulled back a little, looked into her eyes as I came again. What had simply been sex before grew into something fierce and eternal in the next few minutes, yet I was more confused than ever. What could come of this, I wondered, but infinite heartbreak.
She came with me to the hearing.
I think because Shelly knew the judge was a big fan. Jennifer’s father was there, of course, and he seemed to read the expression on the judge’s face, knew he’d lost, and in the end I won temporary guardianship pending a final review once Jenn was out of the woods and able to stand on her own two feet. It was decided that I’d pick Tracy up in two months, and that I’d return to LA to pick her up after I arrived in New Zealand.
When we left Jenn’s father looked at me like I was the anti-Christ. He did, I think, because we only called on witness, one of Jennifer’s psychiatrists. She all but blamed Jennifer’s condition on her father, and pointed to him, called his behavior monstrous. The judge noted that her father perjured himself when he declared in court he’d made a good faith effort to notify me, and that he was lucky he wasn’t going to jail.
Terry, for her part, batted goo-goo eyes at the good judge, which I think made his day. Then we all went down to Newport so I could meet my daughter. It was a supervised visit at his lawyer’s office, and I couldn’t tell who she looked like. Not me, not Jenn, not either of her parents, then Terry spoke up: “She looks just like your mother, Aaron.”
And I cried. I held my daughter and cried.
Barely a year old, she held her little hand out and touched my face, my tears, and I didn’t want to let go of her. But I did, of course, then Terry and I drove back to the house on Foothill Road.
“You’d better call Jennie,” she said.
“Don’t you need to call the studio?”
“Nope. I’m not expected til the day after tomorrow, five in the morning. I’m going to go take a shower,” she said, smiling.
I called Jennie.
“Well, it looks like we’re going to be parents,” I said.
“It’s temporary, but she’s ours.”
“Oh-dear-God. I can’t believe it!”
“Until Jenn is out on her own, anyway. Just like you said. When we get to Auckland, we can come up and get her.”
“Are you happy?” she asked.
“Yes, I am. For us all, and maybe for Tracy most of all. How’re your parents?”
“Same as ever. When do you want to return?”
“I, uh, well, do you want me to come back with you?”
“Yes, of course.”
“Are you sure?”
“Jennie? What’s this about?”
“If you want me, tell me when to be at the airport,” she said, and then she hung up the phone.
I went and sat in Pop’s chair, thought about Tracy and what my mother might have looked like as a child, then I heard Terry in the bedroom and I knew she was waiting for me. I walked in and looked at her on the bed, all her lingerie and shoes a light gray, and she looked like pure sexuality unleashed. I showered, found her on the bed rubbing herself and she was wet when I got to her.
The whole dressing up thing mystified me for a while, then I began to look at it as wrapping oneself up as a present. But no, I found I liked all that stuff to remain on, so I began to see it as patterning. Like as kids, people of my generation were programmed to see lingerie and heels and think sex, so seeing it now was like programming a response. And when I saw Terry dressed like this I was almost overcome with instant lust; when I slipped inside I did so with her legs, often her shoes, on my face. Feeling these things kicked off images in my mind, propelled my response, and as I entered her, as her slippery warmth enveloped me I could smell the leather of her shoes, feel her silky nylons on my cheeks, and everything was like this surreal feedback loop. She didn’t have to tell me what these thing meant, she knew what they did to me. I assumed she knew what they did to all men, but I didn’t really care by then. I was inside her and the feeling was like magic. I’d slide in quickly then pull back slowly, fast–slow over and over, then I’d pull out and just run myself over her clit then enter her again. Then she pushed me over and mounted my face, ground her clit onto my tongue until the tremors began, then her release was overwhelming. I flipped her over and entered her again, driving into her I came…then it was flow down for a while until I was ready to go again. I could usually go for two, and with a break for dinner, take her a third time in one day, and she seemed to want as much as I could give her.
And I wondered if that’s what she meant. When she said she’d always be there for me. Was she programming me to need her? Making me accept her as a main part o f my life? If so, it was working. And well.
Then she surprised me again.
“We’re getting to close, Aaron. I’m not sure I can keep doing this and not have you with me all the time. I’m addicted to you now, can’t think of anything else. I want you so much when I’m away from you it’s beginning to affect my work, and I don’t know what to do anymore…”
“Terry? Can I ask you something?”
“Oh, Aaron…anything, anytime…”
“What do you want? I mean, deep down, what would make you happiest?”
She rolled and looked at me. “In the end, I’d like you to love me no matter what, but I think I’d like you to marry Jennie, try to make a home for that little girl, the three of you. I’d like you to come see me every now and then, remind me how much we mean to each other. Maybe you and I could get married, but the cost would be enormous, wouldn’t it? But we could keep things just the way they are now and no one would be the wiser. I’d just go on loving you and, I assume, you’d go on loving me too. When you need me, I’d be there. Always. No questions asked. Just…always.”
“Okay. I accept you on those terms. Forever. I can’t not love you. And I can’t stop needing you. I can’t, Terry. I mean that. I don’t know if you’ve tried to make me need you the way I do, or whether time conspired to do this to us, but I’d rather die that know I’d never be with you again…”
She folded herself into me then, held me so tight for so long I thought we’d fuse, but a while later I felt that stirring and so did she. She went down on me, brought me back to life again and she straddled me for what felt like hours, reaching down, rubbing herself as she rocked back and forth until she’d come again and again, then she slipped down between my legs and finished me with her mouth. I picked her after and carried her to the shower and we bathed one another, then dressed and went out to dinner.
When we came back after I called Air France, then called Jennie. “Be at the airport at 10:30 tomorrow morning. American to LAX, change to Air France.”
“I love you.”
“I love you.”
The reality is more difficult, of course. Loving two women. I mean really, really loving them. Caring for each as you would one. Terry drove me out to LAX the next afternoon and she told me not to say goodbye. “Never, ever, do I want to hear those words from you,” she told me. “All I want to hear from you is that you want me, that you need me. You never have to tell me that you love me because I know you do, with all my heart I know you do.”
I nodded, looked her in the eye. “And you love me?”
“With all my heart. And I’ll always be here for you. Nothing will ever change that.”
I kissed her once, gently, then got out of the car and walked into the terminal. I watched Jennie’s plane land and met her at the gate, then we walked over to International Departures, waited to board the jet for Papeete. I held her hand all the way through the terminal, and she said not one word to me until we were seated, waiting for the flight to be called.
“You feel alright about what happened.”
“Yes. I think everything’s going to work out well enough.”
“You and me? You think we’re going to work out?”
“I do. Yes.”
“I think she’s where she wants to be now, doing what she wants, anyway.”
“I see,” she said.
Troubadour was in the water, ready to load fresh provisions onboard when we got back to the yard, and we spent a day getting things loaded. We got a hundred pounds of ice in the box, then settled in for the night, had some wine and watched the sun set, then we were out light a light. The weather forecast looked grim when we checked the next morning, so we went back to the hotel to sit it out, and Jennie pulled out her lingerie our second night there – and I plowed her fields, and after that everything got back to normal, or close to it, anyway.
She talked more, we kidded around and went shopping. I bought her a ring, one to wear on her left hand, and she said it didn’t mean anything unless I did too, so she picked out a plain band and slipped it on my finger. That really seemed to calm her down and after that we slipped into our old groove. And you see, the thing is I’d taken Terry at her word. I stopped worrying about it, her, and let it slip into the background – and I focused on Jennie, making her happy.
We took off two day later and in the aftermath of the storm we had solid wind all the way to Auckland, an all too brief 16 day voyage, but with unsettled seas all the way it wasn’t exactly easy, or pleasant.
The plan was to haul the boat for winter, replace some rigging and all the sails (yes, they wear out too, and fast in the tropics), so we’d rent a house while Jennie worked on upping her nursing qualifications. I decided to take that class on diesel mechanics then, too, and we planned to start after our upcoming trip to pick up Tracy in LA. So, first things first, I called Shelly, asked if everything was still a ‘Go,’ and it was. I got tickets for the two of us headed north, and three coming back. I let Terry know the situation and she told me she was off to Morocco during that time for a shoot, and she told me she was sorry she’d miss me. Okay. Sure. I made a shopping list for boat supplies and we took off on the anointed day.
It’s a long flight, and the Air New Zealand DC-8 stopped in Papeete for fuel – which felt kind of silly. The long haul was next, and after we rolled into the house – well past midnight – we dropped into the sack and slept for days. Well, it felt like days. After we ran errands, boat stuff for the most part, we crashed again so we could wake up early to meet Shelly down in Newport the next morning.
I half expected Jenn to be there, but no. Her father was a no-show, too. He sent Tracy with a sheriff’s deputy, I think to upset her more than any other reason, but it was a vintage choice for that asshole. Tracy got to the lawyer’s office, upset, and we spent a while calming her down before heading back to the house. We took her swimming that afternoon, took her Disneyland the next day, then for a really long airplane ride the day after that.
And never a word from Mommy.
New Zealand was very quiet and most civilized in the 70s, and an ideal place to raise kids. Jennie decided to get full nursing certification there after spending a month there; she opted to go for full citizenship a few months later. I opted to remain a US citizen, yet the fact that I had some money and that Jennie and I were married gave her the opening she needed. I decided to get Tracy in the queue for citizenship too, just in case, and so she started school there two years later. Well, kindergarten, but you know what I mean, and by that point Jennie considered herself Tracy’s Mum.
In order to maintain US citizenship I had to return home periodically, roughly twice a year, and of course Terry always happened to be there. On my first trip home I upgraded to recording studio in the basement and started working on my next album and, as Jennie’s sister Niki had a helluva a voice I asked her to come down and work on a few songs. I moved into the pool house for the duration of her stay and Terry behaved herself, and after three months hard work I sent the masters over to MCA and sure enough, they liked ‘em. Serendipity released in ’76 and happily it went gold by summer’s end, and the title song included Niki’s voice – and almost overnight she became a minor sensation. She’d penned several songs and we arranged them, I played keyboards on all of them and had some friends help with the other instruments and MCA loved her album. It went platinum in a month and all of a sudden she was not only famous, she was rich as snot. She took off for Wisconsin after the masters went to Burbank, leaving me alone with Terry for the first time in six weeks. We tore into each other and only came up for air after a week, when my scheduled flight came up.
And still, no Jenn.
Jennie and Tracy met me at the airport – in Papeete – as it was time for Warren and Michelle’s annual visit to Moorea. Tracy and Michelle went on walks looking at flowers while Jennie and her father worked at the clinic, and soon enough Tracy was working at an easel, painting flowers.
I spent my days working on my biggest canvas yet, an eight foot tall by twenty four foot wide panorama of, you guessed it, a misty mountain in the fog. Framed by windblown trees and a rolling surf, however. Then I got word MCA wanted me in LA for a concert in the Amphitheater, so I called Shelly – in the middle of the night my time – to get the lo-down.
“A bunch of people want to do an Electric Karma tribute concert, Aaron. They want you there, and they want Niki to take Deni’s place. She’s asked me to represent her, by the way. It would the big time for her.”
“What? A concert at the Amphitheater?”
“No…haven’t you heard? They’re talking the Coliseum. A hundred and twenty thousand people. Some big names have signed on already.”
“What would Niki take home?”
“Maybe a half million, maybe a little more.”
I whistled. “Okay. When?”
“Does that mean you’ll do it?”
“October. You have three months to get ready.”
“What’s my take?”
She told me and I whistled again.
“Aaron, you can’t turn this down. It’s the chance of a lifetime for Niki, and it’ll keep you in the spotlight for a whole new generation of listeners…you’ll be set for life. Tracy will be set for life.”
“Okay, tell ‘em I’m in. You take point for now, start setting up rehearsals, probably late August, early September. See if MCA is interested in cutting an album of the concert, and ask Dean if he’ll do the stage. You do good and you can have twenty percent of my cut, on both the concert and the album, including my residuals. Got that?”
She was silent for a minute. “You mean it?”
“Shelly, my life would be shit without you. Make this work, get Niki on the fast track. Yeah, I mean it.”
“Aaron…I don’t know what to say.”
“Well Shelly? This is the best way I can thank you for everything you’ve done. But, thank you.”
“Yeah,” she said, and I could hear her voice crack a little. “Could I ask you a personal question?”
“What’s going on with you and Terry? Is there anything that could blowback on you?”
“If it happens, am I authorized to do damage control?”
“Absolutely. Write that into our contract.”
“Anything in the wind?”
“No, nothing. Just a gut feeling.”
“Well, if something crops up, make it go away.”
“Will do. Should I call, leave messages at that clinic?”
“For now. I’ll see about getting some kind of phone at the house.”
When I turned around Jennie was coming out of the OR, her dad right behind, and they were both dripping in sweat. She saw me on the phone and frowned as she came over, and Warren came up too.
“What’s up?” she asked. “You look jazzed.”
“You better sit down, both of you.”
They sat; Warren looked concerned. I told them about the concert, and about the vocals I was trying to get Niki. “I’d mean a half million in the bank, on top of what she’s made on the album, but it would put her in the spotlight. She’ll be big. Bigger than big, would be my guess. She took my advice, signed with Shelly, my lawyer.”
Warren’s hands were shaking. “My girl…will make more in one night than I do in ten years?”
“You’re doing all this for her – why?”
I looked at him, then at Jennie. “You’re my family, all I’ve got left in this life. Niki is too. I’m doing what I can for my family. Simple as that.”
I looked at Jennie. “Rehearsals in LA, end of August, concert is on Halloween, in the LA Coliseum. I think we should all be there. All of us.”
“Okay,” she said, looking me in the eye, “we will be.” I could tell me hands were shaking too, and she looked at them, then up at me. “You okay?”
“Yeah, I don’t know. Hyped, I guess.”
“Why don’t you go up to LA now. Get started. I can see it in your eyes…that’s what you want to do.”
I nodded my head. “I know. I want to be here with you guys, though.”
“So stay, head up with Mom and Dad.”
“Yeah. We’ll see. I need to finish my painting, spend some time with Tracy. Maybe a little with my wife, too.”
She came to me and we hugged, and Warren stepped outside, lit up a Camel and coughed. Then we kissed.
“You should know,” she whispered. “I’m pregnant.”
I blinked, then my eyes went wide. “Holy smokes!” I managed to say – before she kissed me.
Different people bring out different things in me.
I thought about that all the way up to LA. When I was with Jennie I painted. I painted because I became interested in the visible world, the visual world. When I was with Terry I fell into my music. I could think music because she had been a part of my life since my teens, when music became important to me. When I was around Jennie the music almost stopped. When I was even thinking about Terry music poured in from every direction, but when I was around her music grew like a tidal wave.
I’d written all of Electric Karma’s music, Deni the lyrics, so that music would always be a part of me; when I put together the first solo album all that vibe slipped away. There was nothing about Karma I wanted to incorporate. Then. Not now. Now, sitting on that 747 all I could think about was Deni and the music we made together. And flying home to Terry was opening the floodgates. By the time we landed I had written three new Karma songs. With Niki on vocals, no one would be able to tell this wasn’t Electric Karma – so why not cut a new Karma album? Get some of our old buds from San Francisco to cover guitar and bass and the sound would be as authentic as it had been eight years ago…
Warren and Michelle regarded me as some kind of sorcerer all during that flight, but when I told them what I was thinking they kind of sat back and watched – in awe, I think. I asked them to have Niki call me as soon as they got home, then we said our goodbyes. I found the baggage claim had been moved – again – and it took me a while to find my bag – then Terry – but she was where she said she’d be. She drove straight home and ran for the shower, and I ran down to the studio and put my notes on my keyboard, then ran back up and joined her.
“Do you have anything going on the next three weeks?” I asked.
“You may not leave my side, not at all.”
“You’re on fire, aren’t you? I haven’t seen you like this in years.”
“I finally put two and two together, Terry. I can’t write good music unless you’re by my side. They stuff I’ve churned out when you’re not near me is garbage. Ever since Lucy-Goosey, when you’re with me it all comes together. You are the music in my life, my love. Without you I’m a hollow shell.”
She looked at me as if I’d slugged her in the gut, then she came to me, put her arms around me and I felt her crying on my chest – then I lifted her face to mine and we kissed.
“You called me…my love? Do you realize…?”
I nodded my head. “Of course I do, because I feel that now, as surely as I ever have. You are so much a part of me it’s insane. It’s surreal. I can’t even think music without you…”
“Aaron? Are you okay?”
“No, Terry, I am not okay. I am on fire. I am on fire because you have set me on fire. You’ve set me on fire ever since I’ve been interested in writing music. I doubt that I’d ever written anything if it wasn’t for you. Do you know the first piece of music I ever wrote was named after you. A little piano concerto. For you.”
“I didn’t know…”
“I think I always wanted to impress you, to be worthy of you.”
“Worthy – of me?”
“Yes, you. The most beautiful woman in the world.”
“Aaron…you can stop now.”
“No…I can’t. I’ve got at least ten songs to write, and you’ll need to stay right by my side. All the time. Understand?”
I picked her up and carried her out of the shower, then I dried her off, every inch of her.
“What color would you like me to wear for you tonight?” she asked.
She smiled. “I hoped you’d say that.”
“I know. You have for a long time, haven’t you?”
She smiled, nodded and left the bathroom. “Give me a minute, would you?”
I went to the kitchen, fixed a Perrier and looked out the window at lemon trees blossoming, and I could even smell them inside that moment, then I walked back to the bedroom. The lights were off, only a few candles blazed on a corner table, but Terry was there. Shiny black latex – everywhere. The highest heels I’d ever seen. A riding crop.
“Come here,” she commanded, then: “On your knees. Crawl to me. Crawl to me and lick my shoes!”
Yes. That was an interesting evening.
I spent the next morning on a song I called Lemon Tree, the afternoon’s effort would be titled Shining Need. Terry stood behind me almost the entire morning looking at my scribbled notations, and when noon came ‘round she pulled me to the floor and sat on my face for an hour, pulling me with her fingernails until I came – in her mouth – but I couldn’t get the night before out of my music. When I played it through for her she blushed, then I told her to shower and put on the latex again. “And Terry? You must be meaner tonight. You must take us where we’ve never been before.”
And she did. I was stunned at her ferocity, and how easily it came to her. Her need was shining now, shining right through me on a place I’d never been.
We went out to the swimming pool after, and I left the lights off. We slipped into the water and I pulled her close, pulled her onto me and I held her closer still as I entered her. We rocked in the water until I felt myself tensing then releasing inside her, still swaying gently, holding her lips to mine until she began to tremble her way through her own release – and the water was black now, faint stars danced on the surface – and I wondered who was out there watching and waiting, circling, ready to come in for the kill…
The next morning? Starlight Blood, a heavy brooding place that scared us both when I played through the final draft. “We have to go someplace lighter now,” she said after lunch, “or I may end up killing us both.”
“I’m not ready for death, but when I am, I want to die in your arms. Promise me you’ll do that for me.”
“Death won’t be able to hold us apart. You know that, don’t you?”
She nodded her head.
Those two lines formed the core of the next track, Fate and Promise.
We made love in the pool that night until we could hardly move, then I carried her to the shower and massaged her back to life, and I pulled her so close to me in bed I dreamt of the way her hair smelled.
Which became Sin Scintilla in our next morning.
She reminded me she hadn’t had anything to eat – but me – for two days, so we drove down to the beach, to Gladstones, and we ate Shee Crab soup and broiled shrimp on rice pilaf, then we walked on the beach for an hour, her music beating into me as the sand pushed between our toes.
Which became Seashell, an unfolding story about eternal love
And on and on it went. Every breath she took led me deeper into her music.
Until the last track.
Deni. A ballad about Deni, and why she mattered. We were a broken soul, your music made us whole… My other love. Broken, fluttering and doomed. I broke apart and came undone when I finished those lyrics, and Terry helped me up, led me to our bed and when she lay me down I pulled her on top of my face and ate her until she wept too, then we slept.
I called Jerry and Carlos and Buddy – and Niki – and asked them to come by the house next Monday morning.
“We’re going to cut Electric Karma’s last album,” I told them.
“Far out,” Jerry said.
I could feel the changes Niki was going through, I’d seen it all so many times before. Sudden fame, almost immeasurable wealth had turned her from petite and unassuming to bigger than life almost overnight. She had that force now, the force money confers on the otherwise meek. She was a year older than I and that, in her mind, justified this new assertiveness – until Shelly pulled her aside and set her straight.
“Aaron’s done this for you,” Shelly told her. “All of this. Don’t forget that. Don’t forget to dance with the one who brung ya.”
She mellowed out, tried to accept that Deni was still bigger than she was. That Deni was one of the strongest voices of the 60s, and that the 60s still defined rock ‘n roll. People helped her understand what she was being given – a seat at the table – if she had the grace and the sense to sit quietly and listen for a while, to learn.
She was a midwestern gal, full of common sense, and it took her a couple of days but she settled down, watched and listened to Carlos and Jerry, two of the biggest of the San Francisco bigs, as they wrestled with my music. We settled into the new-old vibe again, the collaborative nature of making music. I played a passage and they interpreted what I wrote. The last thing I could do was object to someone hijacking ‘my’ music – that’s not the process. We took my framework and turned it into our version of Karma in 1968. I led Niki into that wilderness, let her phrases blend in the music, and we listened to her when she started making suggestions, because that too is the vibe. We’d take her thoughts and blend them into the whole – because that IS the vibe – and at the end of the first day I was already looking at Niki like she was part of Deni. Even Jerry, who was still devoted to Deni and what she meant to the scene, started to feel that Deni thing when Niki started singing, and at one point he looked at me and nodded his head slowly, like ‘yeah, I get it now, why you chose her.’
We came together as Electric Karma for two weeks, then we carried the tapes down to MCA and let the folks have a listen. Everyone was blown away, there were some tears, and as I’d hoped they talked about weaving this new material into the old when we played the Coliseum, and this jazzed me pretty good as I already knew this would be my last hurrah. Jerry and Carlos had their own things going, and Niki? Hell, who knew where she’d go after this, but it would be big. Me? I planned to do some serious sailing when Tracy got big enough to walk Troubadour’s decks. We were going to see the world together, and learn together.
It was September by then, time to get down to choosing the numbers we’d play, then playing them over and over until we had them in memory, and all the while I kept the recorders going, laying down tapes of our sessions.
And yeah, Terry was there. Low-key and in the background, and I had to explain to Nik what Terry meant to me – in such a way that the deeper nature of our relationship didn’t overpower her – but Niki said she got it, that she understood, and that she wouldn’t fuck it up for Jennie. I started to love Niki after that. When she came into the room I looked at her and smiled inside, and there were times – like when I fell into the old Deni vibe – that she’d come to me and talk. About what Deni really meant to me, the whole love heroin thing.
“I feel that with you,” she said. “This thing inside the old music. The tension, almost like this carnal undertone played out between her words and your music. When I sing Deni I want to reach out and hold you, then I want to fuck your brains out.”
“That’s what it was like, man,” Jerry said, coming over and sitting with us. “We’d sit around listening to her and it was like, man, I got to get inside this chick’s head, see where this power’s coming from. Then one day I knew. She didn’t simply project love, she was mainlining lust and when you watched the way she sang you wanted that lust too. You felt like you needed to take her because that’s what she wanted you to do. Now…imagine that happening in a room at the Fillmore…with hundreds of dudes getting amped up on that vibe. She was fucking with fire, I mean literally fucking fire onstage, daring people to fall into her vibe.”
It’s what happens when you fall inside music. When you make it, not listen to it. The notes start playing through your synapses and as you mold the music into your being it comes into your life like a knife. The Feel Flows through you, if you dig Brian Wilson – white hot glistening. When you’re playing you become this other thing: you, and the music in you takes over. When you come down after, down in soft blue drifting, you snap out of it and realize you’ve been someplace else. A special someplace only music takes you. You’re different. Changed.
And I watched Deni coming to life again inside Niki when she sang Deni’s words, because Deni was truly inside her now, taking Niki to that place she used to go. I watched Niki over my keyboards, watched the change come down on her, the way her body swayed, then I’d look at Terry and feel this divine thing settle inside me, the same beast I felt when I created Lucy. Terry was the constant, the universal fuck that lived inside this place, this craving penetration that rolled through me. Feel Flows, baby. Brian got it right that time. Shadowy flows.
We went out to the Amphitheater and did a run through concert to an ‘invitation only’ crowd of maybe 1500 people. No nerves, no bad vibes, and we played for two hours straight then just sat on the edge of the stage and watched everyone go nuts. This was Niki’s first taste of that electric adoration, this wall of love that rises up from the other side of the lights and breaks over you, and she started laughing, then crying, and she leaned into me.
“Way to go, babe,” I whispered in her ear.
I knew it then. I knew she loved me now. She was Deni, she was love heroin all wrapped up inside that something new, that something she didn’t quite understand yet. She was becoming music, this creature of the otherworld. She could understand what drew me to Terry now, what made Terry an imperative, and she wanted inside that part of me now.
She put her arms around me and I sighed, could feel Deni there beside me again, the spring she gave me once.
I hopped down and walked out into the surging crowd, felt the light breaking over me.
I felt immortal, if only for a moment.
I got a couple of bungalows at the BH, put Warren and Michelle in one, their daughters in the other, and Jennie and Tracy came to the house with me and Terry – and Niki.
Jennie was astonished at the change that had come over her big sister, the way she walked barefoot around the house in undies and a t-shirt. The way she draped herself over me when we were down in the studio, when the music came. Jennie couldn’t relate – but Tracy did. I started playing notes and chords with her on my lap, and I could see it taking hold deep inside this child’s mind. She’d be sitting there with her eyes open one moment, then she’d be swaying with eyes closed in a heartbeat, inside the music with me. Jennie watched that going down first in Niki, then inside Tracy, and I think she felt like she’d been on the outside for a long time – and never had a clue what was going on inside, until now.
And Jennie could feel the whole Terry thing now. Terry kept her distance but I insisted she stay with sight of me now at all times. Jennie was starting to freak out but Niki hit her like a missile, took her aside and laid it out for her.
“Terry is his muse, she always will be so don’t fuck with the vibe. You fuck it up and you’ll lose him. Simple as that.”
The thing with Jennie? She knew me, she knew my love for her was real, deeper than deep, but now she was learning my love for her existed in the world outside music, outside that springtime Deni created for me. The place Terry kept me rooted to. There were two of me, and she had one of them, but only one. She’d hated Terry before but after living with us that week she came upon the terms of her surrender. Accept what is or move on. If I lost Terry I’d lose me. I think she sensed that if she left I’d move on, but if I lost Terry I’d be wandering the ruins, lost inside a broken, melting Dali landscape.
You love a musician at your own risk. Feel Flows different here, white hot glistening.
I talked to Terry about Warren and his tongue-tied infatuation and she looked at me.
“What do you want me to do?”
“Shake up his world a little. Michelle’s taking him for granted – she needs, I think, a little jealousy in her life.”
Poor man. When Terry McKay turns on the sex appeal it’s devastating. I told Jennie what was going to go down and to take her mom out shopping – Terry could tell her where to pick up some appropriate lingerie. Surely someone into quantum mechanics could come to terms with simple attraction? Cause and effect? What’s been down a while still needs to come up? Sunrise, sunsets – ya know?
We set up at the coliseum the day before, ran through a few numbers for the media and we began figuring out a real 60s-type happening was blowin’ in the wind, that the event was SRO now with a hundred and thirty thousand tickets sold.
And we announced the new album at the press conference, that copies would be going on sale the day after the concert, but that a special edition would be available at the concert. Karma Kubed, with Niki Clemens handling vocals. Yes, we’ll be playing a few of the new songs at the concert. Yeah, the vibe is right on, it’s felt like we’re channeling Deni…very cool stuff.
We made the news, anyway.
I woke up the day of the concert feeling like pure electricity. I couldn’t keep still, went downstairs and sat in the dark listening to The Beach Boys, trying to focus on their vibe, their quicksilver moons.
I felt her then.
Tracy, my little girl. She stumbled through the dark and found her way to my lap, crawled up and cuddled in beside me, within me, and I held her close, let her inside for a while as I drifted in Brian’s music.
Jennie came down a little later, told me she was going over to the hotel, spend some time with her parents and that she’d see me at the Coliseum.
“I love you,” she whispered.
“I love you too, babe. Seeya there.”
She left me with Terry, who’d found this outrageous jade colored lingerie down on Hollywood Boulevard. Oh…did we make some outrageous music that afternoon…and she promised to sit front row center so I’d be able to focus on her during the show.
I’d had Shelly send tickets down to Jenn and her family in Newport, and while I doubted they’d show I had my hopes. Their seats would put them next to Tracy and Jennie and my family, right behind Terry and Shelly.
I was in another place by the time we met up with Carlos and Jerry. Niki and Buddy were too, but Niki was freaking out. “A hundred and thirty seven thousand people?! This is fuckin’ nuts…” she cried as she circled like a cornered animal. “I can’t fuckin’ do this…I’m scared out of my mind…”
I could see all the classic signs, so I sat down with her, gave her the talk.
“You’re night going to be able to see anything but lights,” I said. “You can’t tell if there are fifty people out there, or fifty million. You’ll hear them, yeah, but just close your eyes, let the music in, let it take you there. Give it five minutes and you’re home free, but if it gets to you just come over to, sing to me, sing into my eyes. I’m here for you, okay?”
I held her close, then Warren came inside the tent backstage and took over. A British group, 10cc, were warming up the crowd, and their I’m Not In Love was bringing down the house, then the lights went up and they left the stage.
A stagehand came in, announced “ten minutes!”
Carlos was in the zone, Jerry was standing in a corner, his eyes closed as he played through the toughest riffs in his mind’s eye. Warren left and Niki came over, melted into me, and I could feel her trembling through my own ragged heartbeat.
So I leaned into her and kissed her. Not a brotherly kiss, if you know what I mean. A curl your toes kiss, and she responded in kind, looked at me after like I’d just lit a fuse inside her guts – and she slipped into the zone after that and never once looked back. I’d just become her muse, for better or worse, but that’s the way these things go.
I walked out first and the roar was literally deafening. I felt it through the stage as I walked within the spotlight, as I walked up to my keyboards, then Carlos and Jerry came out and the crowd turned into sustained thunder. When Buddy and Niki came out I had to slip on my headphones, then I looked down at Terry, looked at her jade dress and jade stockings and I smiled, then I looked at Tracy and Jennie and blew them a kiss, ignoring the empty seats where Jenn ought to be. The I raised my fist – and stepped into the light.
The next morning’s papers said we were flawless, and I don’t know, maybe we were. What I’ll carry with me was Deni, the song, the music. The way Niki came to me then, singing my life, singing her way into my soul. I looked at Jennie and Terry, saw their tears, then I saw almost everyone was crying, even a few of the cops standing by the stage. Whatever it was, that song took us back to 1968 and made us reexamine our lives in the shattered light of her death. I played an extended interval, took the music ever downward, fluttering down to deepest octaves as Deni’s jet might have, as Deni might have while she watched her death unfolding, and Niki came up from behind, put her arms around me while I played, and I felt her leaning against me, crying, and when she stepped back into the light everyone saw what had happened to her and I felt this huge outpouring of love, pure love, the love only music conveys as it washed over her shores.
The rest was, literally, all a blur. One long blur of memory. One of Deni’s first anthems, Tiger’s Eye, pulled me in so deeply…I was in the purple paisley house adrift in a sea of patchouli again, watching her watch my hands as I played the first version of the entry. How she changed the phrasing of her words to reinforce my rolling chords, and I watched Niki watching my hands, forcing rhythm changes of her own – and it was like the three of us were out there, together, creating something new out of the past.
And I’d look from Jennie to Terry, my two touchstones, each representing polar extremes so far apart it was funny, each so intimately tied to my soul it was unnerving. Terry in her stockings, Jennie with my daughter, already showing as our first composition took form in her womb. Then I was in a limo headed for an after-concert bash at The Bistro, Jerry and Carlos still in the zone as the Lincoln fought through traffic – Niki leaning into me, biting my neck, almost purring with Deni’s lust now coursing through her veins. Drinks and dinner, family and friends, big-wigs from the studio – along with their wives and kids, teenaged girls who tell me they want to suck something and I’m like really? Get a life, and get away from me, you might be contagious.
The Fillmore was real. You could smell us up there onstage because we were in a room smaller than a basketball court. The Coliseum wasn’t real, it was spectacle. We weren’t musicians, we were being pawned off as demigods while venues like the Fillmore were disappearing into commercial oblivion. Politics in music was being reordered to fit into the marketplace, so political messaging was on it’s way out at the big studios, which only meant emerging groups would flock to small, local studios and politics in music would become regional, local, and maybe that wasn’t such a bad thing. But what would happen if ‘main street’ music became a commercial avenue?
That’s what I watched taking form that night. San Francisco nights giving way to LA glitz. What had been real was going to be trivialized, and I knew I had to get away from it or I’d die a slow, meaningless death.
Jennie and Tracy came by, took one look at the scene and disappeared. Niki remained glued to me, started holding my hand, then wrapping her arms in mine, becoming more possessive by the minute – Terry and Shelly looked on with wry smiles, while Carlos shook his head. Warren finally rescued me, took her back to the hotel and I left with Terry a few minutes later, but we drove out to Malibu and I parked down by the beach, carried her out to the sand and set her down gently while I laid out a blanket. I ate my way into her for hours, until her trembling became too much, then she finished me off and we lay there, listening to the surf while my world returned.
She’d watched me at The Bistro, she knew the score. If she was my muse, if she made the music real, what happened when I turned away from music?
“Are we over?” she asked.
“We’ll never be over, Terry. We’ll never stop making music.”
“What comes next?”
“Tracy. The next part of the symphony is all her.”
“What about me?”
“You know, Terry, sometimes I can go a few months without you, but I start to fall apart if we’re apart much longer than that. We’ll work around that.”
“What about Jennie?”
“I won’t sacrifice you for her. She either accepts what is, or…”
“No. That’s not right, Aaron. You can’t push that on her.”
“And I can’t live without you. Simple as that.”
“No, it’s not that simple. Tracy has Jennie now, they’ve bonded.”
“I won’t give you up, Terry. And don’t make me do that, either.”
“Reading my mind?”
“Look, all I know is we’ll end up together, you and I, at the end. But between now and then? I won’t live without you in my life.”
“You know, in a couple of years I’ll be getting ‘old lady’ parts, if I get any at all, and all my leading men will have white hair. It happens to all of us, I guess.”
“And won’t I have white hair too.”
“And I’ll still love you, won’t I?”
“I’ll always love you. I’ll always need you. And I’ll always want you.”
“Unless I get fat.”
“Don’t get fat.”
“Oh, alright,” she sighed. “God, you’re so high maintenance!”
“And you’re the most beautiful woman in the world. You’ve got to take care of that.”
“What about Niki? You started something last night, you know?”
“I did, on purpose. She had to grow beyond herself last night, see the next part of her career. I helped that along. And I’ll have to help her the next few steps along the road, get her up and on her own two feet. Then she’ll be okay.”
“What if she falls in love with you?”
“She already has,” I sighed.
“Complicated, isn’t it? I have a theory, though. Those deep mid-west roots will kick in, she’ll run home and get married to an old beau soon, settle down and have some kids.”
“You think? I don’t know, not after tonight.”
“How much you wanna bet?”
“I win, you have to eat me for five hours.”
“And if I win?”
“You have to eat me for five hours.”
“I’ll take that bet.”
“And do you know what I want you to do now?”
“Sun’s coming up in an hour.”
“Then you better get to work…”
So, a few weeks later Tracy and I are on Troubadour, in the marina on St Mary’s Bay, Auckland, and I’m letting her walk along the deck – roped up in a safety harness, mind you – getting her used to the whole boat thing, and Niki is sitting in the cockpit, watching us. Watching me, really, ‘cause she’s got it bad. It wasn’t a week after I got back she flew in, and it wasn’t two hours after she got to our house that Jennie wasn’t annoyed. So…I told Jennie to just chill out, that I’d take care of it. And I did.
I took Niki sailing, again.
She’d been of a mind that sailing was for her, so I just took her out for a nice four day sail, out to the Cape Reinga lighthouse and back. We talked music, we talked babies. We talked about Jennie and Tracy, Jennie and the new baby. About what it meant to be a parent. She wanted kids, too, she told me.
“Have a father in mind?” I asked.
“Oh? And what about Jennie?”
“Nothing. She doesn’t have to know. We fuck until I’m pregnant, then I leave.”
“I’m not all that into guys, Aaron, but I want a baby. And you’ve got the music genes I want.”
“So? What, no love? Just sex, babies and bye-bye?”
“Oh, I love you, Aaron. Maybe not as much as Terry, but I love you.”
“And what about me? If I’m the father, what happens to the kid? Does he know who I am?”
“Yup. And Aaron, that’s kids. Not kid. As in plural, not singular.”
“And what’s that do to Jennie?”
“Well, for one thing, all these kids will be related – to you. We’ll all be, in a way, your wives, and they’ll be brothers and sisters, not cousins.”
“You do know I’m not a Mormon? And that this whole conversation is getting weird?”
“Yeah? So? This is what I came down here for.”
“To get pregnant. For me to get you pregnant?”
“You know, I’ve never had sex with someone I didn’t love.”
“So? Fall in love with me again.”
“Yeah, when we did Deni the first time I could feel you falling in love with me. It was real then, it’ll be real tomorrow. And I’ll have your kid, so you’ll love me all that much more.”
“You’ve got this figured out, don’t you?”
“And this is what you want?”
“And you love me?”
“More than you’ll ever know.”
“You know why. Everything you’ve done for me. Before you, the only thing a guy ever gave me was a Dilly Bar at a Dairy Queen. You gave me a life, and so much more. You’re my husband, whether you want to be, or not. And I’m all you’ve got left of Deni.”
She wasn’t a colossal fuck, but then again, neither was Jennie. Neither got anywhere near Terry on the Lust-o-meter, but Niki could hold her own and I enjoyed being inside her, the feeling of reproductive urges being met, and satisfied. By the time we made it back to St Mary’s I’d pumped about two quarts into her motor, and if that didn’t do the job I didn’t know what would.
She bought a little place in town, a three bedroom house, and when Jennie seemed put out by that I told her she didn’t need to worry; as far as I could tell Niki wasn’t into guys…
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“She told me she’d not into guys, okay?”
“You mean she’s a…?”
“Hey, I didn’t go there…”
Which seemed to put an end to that – for the time being, anyway.
And so, there we were, down on Troubadour. Tracy walking the deck and me holding on for dear life, with Niki in the cockpit staring at my ass – or so she said – and when we came back to sit and the shade for a while Niki leaned over and said something along the lines of “I’m late.”
“Oh? How long?”
I shrugged. “That doesn’t mean a thing.”
“I know, but I feel it.”
“That means something.”
She grinned. “I know, Papa.”
A week later, she knew. She returned to the States, began planning for a life in New Zealand. I began dreaming of a life away from women, then remembered I had a little girl who needed a father, and another who’d join us in four months. Yes, we knew now we had another girl coming and all of a sudden it looked like the very idea of sailing away was about to be buried under a pile of soiled diapers.
Then Shelly called. Thank God.
MCA wanted to know if…
“I’ll be on the next flight up.”
And I sat on a DC-10 thinking about diapers. Cause and effect, ya know. You use it often enough and odds are you’re going to make babies. Trouble is, I know knew, I didn’t want a bunch of babies. I wanted to be on Troubadour. I didn’t want responsibility. I didn’t want to take care of any lives beyond my own, and possibly Terry. And Terry was this self-contained fuck machine whose only interest seemed to be getting me off then disappearing into the woodwork. She was, I realized, every man’s ideal playmate, and she was mine. When I wanted her. If not, just get on a plane and fly away. Come back in a few months when I needed to get laid without any head trips.
But that’s not how it works, Bucko.
You fuck someone you love, you have kids you love and you get them going down the road to finding love. You don’t find a girl and make her your pretend wife. You don’t fuck a girl and leave her in a funny farm, take her kid and then sail away, leaving all these kids with the pretend wife. Now the pretend wife’s big sister was carrying my baby too. No strings attached – “Just get me pregnant!” – and she’ll take care of the rest.
But what was Berkeley really all about?
Wasn’t it ‘Freedom!’
Free speech. Free love. Open marriages. Like hummingbirds flying from flower to flower, dipping our wicks into each new golden honey pot, depositing our seed and moving on, flying to the next flower, falling in love for a half hour then flying out the window. Who knows what I left behind?
MCA wanted me to produce Niki’s first real album.
Niki had flown straight to LA, flown to see Shelly, flown to get me to come back to LA. Flown to set her own trap. Trap the hummingbird, cage him, stop him from flying away again. I saw myself flying over the Pacific, my wings growing tired as I flew from flower to flower, then flying into a house, Niki slamming the windows shut behind me, trapping me. Then diapers everywhere. Little white surrender flags covered in shit, and out the window, in the distance, a boat, sailing away. I’m hovering on the wrong side of the glass, trying to find a way back out to Freedom, but Freedom was the trap, wasn’t it?
No, I had freedom and it trapped me.
Is freedom supposed to work like that?
What is Freedom? Why was Freedom a trap?
Someone was pushing on me and I woke up, saw downtown LA out the window, looked up and saw a stewardess telling me to get my seatback up and I shook the dream away – but it didn’t want to leave just yet. Like a bad aftertaste this dream was lingering, telling me to wake up before it was too late.
I looked out the window, saw the ground reaching up for me, saw Century City off in the distance. Home. I was home again. Terry would be home. Terry, with her silk legs opening to receive my seed, then flying from window to window, trying to see my way back to Freedom.
This fragment © 2017 | adrian leverkühn | adrianleverkuhnwrites.com