Weekends In New England

by Linda Alexander

 

 

PROLOGUE

 

Is it the music that makes the man, or is it the man that makes the music?

 

 

“I'm looking for the woman,

The woman who sees.

I'm looking for the woman,

The woman who sees

What I really am

And what I could really mean

. . .To her.”

 

 

Peter couldn't force the song from his mind. He didn't like it—he hated it—and Hannah had been singing it all afternoon. Now the words rang over and over inside his head, jeering at him, hitting grotesque levels of noise. Making fun of him, that's what those words were doing.

Was he slowly losing his mind?

Hannah, sitting to Peter's left, her eyes searching every corner of the stage, was twiddling. He called it twiddling, anyway, when she drummed her fingers like that on the nearest surface. This time it was her armrest, the one they shared.

“She would be, all worlds to me. . . .” The words of that damn song wouldn't leave him alone. He studied his wife, feeling his face contort. Why the hell did I come to this concert? She doesn't care if I'm here. I'm only the chauffeur, that's my job. Denny Lorenzo, Denny Lorenzo, that's who's on her mind right now.

They were amidst a crowd kept waiting twenty‑five minutes beyond scheduled show time to see the Denny Lorenzo perform. Flickers of matches, foot stomping, whistling, chants of “WE WANT DENNY. WE WANT DENNY.” filled Peter's ears until, with a growl Hannah seemed not to notice, he pushed himself up to the edge of his seat, all the while biting his lower lip in rapid nibbles. He wanted to stop, but it was useless. Inside and out, his anger was always like this lately. Especially when it came to Hannah. He wanted to control it. He really did. He tried.

Maybe he should just leave. He could come back for her. If he didn't watch her watch that idiot on stage, he might be able to cool off.

The idea became a solid decision and he took hold of the armrests, ready to stand. Right then, as if in ridicule, the clamor of the crowd careened to a screech, the house lights dimmed and a voice, seeming to float out of the just‑painted night sky, finally announced the arrival of Denny Lorenzo.

The crowd went berserk.

Lorenzo's steps were slow as he walked onto the stage of the spread‑out, open‑air arena. Peter was sure the man calculated every footfall.  He watched the singer's face draw into itself. Lorenzo touched his fingertips to his forehead and his fans' answering din was deafening.

Peter could feel jealousy warming his ears as women, all kinds of women, from teenagers in minute leather skirts to their sixty-ish, pleated‑skirt counterparts, screamed for their man.

Denny Lorenzo. Stuff that erotic dreams were made of.

Shit.

Lorenzo's name in fancy, bright white lights appeared right above him, coming out of the rafters of the stage. He looked up, exhaled a smile as if embarrassed, and laughed between words. “I got to have this thing with me,” he pointed at the huge, twinkling letters, “or I forget who I am.”

Peter snorted. Everyone else applauded, with suggestive cat‑calls heard throughout. Grinning, sagging‑breasted women hugged other grinning, sagging breasted women. Barely pubescent females who just had to touch the closest piece of flesh able to grow facial hair grabbed the nearest man, any man, whether she knew him or not.

“Sorry I'm late. Really.” Denny's soft‑but‑heavy Brooklyn accent sounded strained. Peter was sure it was part of the act. “I woke up with laryngitis,” Lorenzo continued. “I couldn't talk, let alone sing. What to do? But it seems luck's with me.”

His gaze roamed from one corner of the crowd to the other, his lips split in a grin. Standing with feet spread wide, weight favoring his right side, and arms behind his back, he sang, “Do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, do,” and took a bow. “I'll pass, won't I?”

His vulnerable approach set free the animal in every woman Peter could see. They swooned, screamed more, salivated, and sweated.

Peter felt like vomiting.

“I think I'll start light and s‑l‑o‑w‑l‑y ease into the tearjerkers. Okay?”

It seemed like five minutes before the applause began to die down.

“But let me say this first. None of you are leaving any time soon!”

“We'll stay all night.” A female voice, coming from right behind Peter's bristling ears, carried to the stage. He turned, arched an eyebrow, and coughed in the woman's face.

“Wait a minute,” Denny responded in the direction of the voice. “I might be dedicated, but I ain't that dedicated!” He laughed, seeming to enjoy himself, hitched his pants up a little below crotch level, and sat at his piano. “If you wanna sing along, go right ahead.” His voice rose and fell, rose and fell, and Peter was sure all that cajoling and teasing could make even a hooker blush. When the song ended, the overpowering nameplate was raised from sight.

Lorenzo didn't move. His fingers still rested on the ivories. He bit his top lip and his eyes seemed to fight between arrogance and a crinkling smile. A collective female roar answered. A laugh escaped him. Then a generous shake of his head. “So, you liked that, did you? Think we ought to get heavy now? How 'bout ‘Will I Get Lucky Tonight?'”

“Just ask, Denny. PLEASE.

Peter faced the same woman again and flatly told her to shut up. She stared back with narrowed eyes and a profane insult on her lips, and Peter admitted to himself that he was in the minority. Others hung onto Lorenzo's every word, committing each movement to memory. Peter even saw acceptance in most of the men nearby. He made a disgusted sound; he still wanted out but couldn't yet force himself to fight the feverish crowd.

“Darlin,’ please,” Denny's protest to the woman in the crowd, sounding without conviction, broke through Peter's thoughts, “you'll make me blush!”

Lorenzo bolted from his seat, yanking the microphone from its stand. His voice, at first a whisper, began building and building…until nervous energy emanated from every angle of the stage as he danced from one end to the other. Clad in a solid black satin shirt and black satin pants, with black leather strips up the inseams, and no accessories but an intricate gold Star of David around his neck, his rocking hips screamed that which his words only dared to hint.

A few moans were heard to the left of the stage. One woman, center and halfway back, stood and yelled, “Denny, Oh Denny!”

“Hannah,” Peter leaned over and shook her arm. “I'm leaving.”

“What?” Her big green eyes blinked without comprehension, then went back to the stage. “What'd you say?”

“I'm leaving. I've had enough.” He indicated the stage with a jerk of his head. “That asshole’s a bad joke.”

“Peter!” Hannah focused on him and frowned. “He's just having fun.” She turned her head from both Peter and the stage. “Why don't men ever see him like he really is?” She sighed. “Leave if you want, but. . .” she hesitated, “I don't want to go.” She dared to look him in the eye.

“Okay, stay.” Peter frowned. “I'll take a long walk, a nap, masturbate, whatever–until Lorenzo's finished. But I can't watch this crap.” His narrowed eyes flew to the stage and then back at his wife.

“Don’t be angry. I'm sorry—”

“You will be sorry,” he mumbled as he stood, pushing past Hannah and a few others, then into the aisle. He reached the walkway and turned to look back, finding Hannah's gaze riveted forward as she sang and clapped her hands. She didn't waste much time worrying about what I'd do, did she? he thought with a grunt.

Taking small steps backwards, Peter, despite himself, watched the performance unfold. On the last beat of the song, Lorenzo made a sweeping bow and inhaled deeply. A heavy, ragged breath escaped before his shoulders dropped. The long, bony fingers of his free hand rummaged through his mass of hair. The hand still holding the microphone—was it actually shaking? Peter wondered—dabbed at his perspiring forehead.

“I got to sit down,” he announced. A stagehand carried out a hip‑tall stool with three legs. “Thanks, George.” Lorenzo dropped his head as soon as he sat and Peter, slowly moving away yet stopping now and then, admitted that the man was much more than a singer—he was a consummate actor.

Peter stared as Lorenzo's head came back up. The singer's sleepy‑looking eyes seemed to desperately want something from all these people. He started singing, just barely, and the eerie words strained upwards to the edges of the dark sky. Notes rode on the eerie hush, and his voice caressed each one, each syllable.

Gasps from every angle eventually announced the ballad's defeated end. Lorenzo slipped off the stool and walked to the rear of the stage, stopping in front of his musicians. He kept a rigid back towards the audience.

Peter berated himself when his own anticipation held, along with the agitated, almost shocked lack of response around him. The tenseness thickened with each silent minute. People seemed afraid to breath.

Lorenzo's pivot towards the crowd was sudden, but his steps back to the edge of the stage were slow, almost pain‑filled, Peter thought. The singer stood straight, still, seemingly without emotion. His eyes stared ahead.

The audience's aching, intense quiet, containable no longer, trickled, then bubbled with relieved laughter, and finally overflowed in a passionate outburst. All packaged in a wild standing ovation.

Peter shook his head, clearing it. It's sickening, he decided, really sickening. He self‑consciously glanced around. Some had tear-filled eyes. Others lit a match, or a lighter, or held a flashlight, and had their arms up high with the illumination. All were shamelessly honoring a man for what he saw as no more than a classy circus act.

An emotional gigolo. A male whore.

Peter's disgust intensified when Lorenzo appeared genuinely affectionate towards the crowd.

“Sorry 'bout that,” Lorenzo’s voice deepened as he seemed to speak directly to each individual audience member. The back of his hand swiped away stray moisture. “I'm like a bad comedian.” A chuckle. “I'm kidding? No, I mean it. Can't help it. My own songs choke me up.” He took a swallow of fresh air and smiled with a hint of self‑deprecation.

“So,” he cleared his throat, “what do you say we get on with it, Boston?” And on with it he went.

Though he no longer saw her from his spot at the top of the arena, Peter knew his wife went right along with Denny Lorenzo. She probably even forgot that she was married, he thought, clenching and unclenching his solid, sturdy fingers.

If that bastard wasn't out of Hannah's reach—out of her league, Peter amended with a sudden burst of rough laughter—the tight rein he had so far held on his temper might've found its teeth‑clenching way out of its cage. And everyone in that arena, especially Lorenzo, would've cringed.

His hair and eyes were severe, naturally black. And he knew, as he passed through the exit on his way into the shadowless parking lot, that his smile was unnatural, black like his mood. Dark man against darkened surroundings.

I like the comparison, he congratulated himself. For the first time that night, Peter was satisfied. With himself, and his life.

But as usual, he knew it wouldn't last long, so he savored his anger for as long as he could.

==========================================

Note from Viveca: A Spunky, luxurious read ... like a good long drive in the country with that special someone and a wicker picnic basket with all the right stuff ... it's a Sunday afternoon and I am exactly where I am meant to be ...

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