Containing a Halloween party in which we witness Diana simultaneously defending her freedom and attempting to maintain the indisputable advantages of a gifted lover.


Diana was in Seattle for Halloween, wearing black leggings, a black cape and broomsticks in her ears. As she crossed the University of Washington campus with Adrian, shortening her galloping gait to match his slow, graceful stride, she laughed out loud. It had just rained, and the evidence was everywhere on the paths through the quads, the campus littered with dead umbrellas. Such carnage is a frequent sight after a storm in Seattle, but Diana had never seen anything like it.

"The mortality rate of umbrellas during a storm here is pretty high," Adrian said. "The average life is about six months -- from May to October."

"And this is October," Diana added.

"Exactly." Inside out corpses were scattered across the lawn, their spokes splayed in all directions, and the garbage cans were full to overflowing with the remains of what had once been protection from the elements. Obviously rather flimsy.

They maneuvered through the reminders of the storm in the direction of the Hub, where Adrian's band had a gig for Halloween. Diana should have been so lucky; a gig might have kept Crimes of the Heart alive a little longer. And now here she was without any musical fulfillment whatsoever, only the vicarious enjoyment of Adrian's. Diana was not a fan of vicarious pleasures.

Adrian discreetly took Diana's hand and she just as discreetly gave his a sympathetic squeeze before she let it go again. Either she had outgrown her need for such demonstrations or she was suffering from a lack of conviction--probably the latter. When she was younger and guys she went out with insisted they weren't emotionally involved, Diana had hated it, and now here she was, doing it herself. But when a woman did it, it was different, that was Diana's self-indulgent theory at least, and she certainly felt no urge to take another lover; in the Age of AIDS it would be foolish to take unnecessary risks. Besides, Adrian's talents in that respect were exceptional. And Diana had a weakness for beautiful men, a term which could well be applied to Adrian, with his long wavy brown hair, full lips and heavy-lidded, heavy-lashed bedroom blue eyes. Most important, he was slim and muscular, perfectly proportioned. They were practically the same height and the same weight, but there was no narcissism involved; the distribution was definitely different.

Despite her satisfaction and sexual loyalty, however, Diana still didn't want Adrian's band--or anyone else for that matter-- to witness anything approaching romance. She'd been coming up to visit Adrian at irregular intervals since they'd both played the Country Fair in Eugene that summer, but she didn't want to be branded an appendage. There were many women who would have been happy to be his appendage; Adrian Neumann was not only a beautiful man, he was a local rock star, the regular gigs providing him with high visibility and a large number of groupies. Lots of women fell for the apparent invitation in that slow gaze and deliberate smile. He didn't look like a wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am type of guy, and Diana was in a position to know that in this case appearances definitely were not deceiving.

Adrian put his arm around her and pulled her close as they entered the building. Since there would have been no way to rid herself of the casual embrace without ducking inelegantly, Diana endured the arm but refused to reciprocate the traditional couple march, hugging her cape around her with both arms instead. Diana was frequently inelegant, but not deliberately so.

"Ever consider moving up to Seattle, Diana?" Adrian asked, caressing her shoulder with gentle pressure. "There are a lot more opportunities for musicians, you know."

"Come on, Adrian. I'm not a musician," Diana protested.

"You could be," Adrian assured her.

"I doubt it."

"A voice like yours doesn't come along every day."

"But it's not trained."

"So why didn't you study music instead of journalism?"

"Adrian, I have other interests besides music, you know," Diana replied, shrugging impatiently. "I like to write, and I even like my job."

"I still think it's a waste," Adrian insisted.

"I hate it when someone acts like they know what's good for me better than I do," she said sharply. Diana knew numerous professional musicians, through her work and through her music, Adrian himself was a professional, pitching in with several other bands besides Random Chaos, but it wasn't exactly a secure lifestyle. The other members of Random Chaos had jobs on the side in music stores, some among instruments, some among records. It was a living, but none of them were as well off as Diana was. She liked her job, she liked being in the middle of the Portland scene, however unimportant the Portland scene might be. She was a big fish in a small pond--Seattle was a big pond.

When they arrived at the hub of the Hub where the other musicians were waiting, Adrian still couldn't let well enough alone. "I was just telling Diana she should come up to Seattle and get more serious about her music, but she just won't listen," he said, folding his arms across his chest and shaking out his long hair.

Diana sat down on the stage next to Guy, the guitar player, and rid herself of the arm without offence--she hoped. She was irritated. Love may not be blind, but it certainly promotes tolerance. If Diana had been in love with Adrian, what seemed like nagging would suddenly be transformed into tender concern and proof of affection. Lovers display an irritating tendency to seek signs of love's continued survival, and if these are not forthcoming, to make them up, a behavioral pattern which is generally referred to as clutching at straws. Not being in love, however, Diana was in no need of straws. She could dispense with distortion. She was not particularly concerned about what Adrian thought or said because she was not afraid of losing him, and this gave her the emotional stability of true freedom.

"I don't know what would be better for you," Guy said to Diana, "but it sure would be better for Seattle if you'd come up here." Unlike Adrian, Guy wore his shoulder-length blond hair, already thinning, in a small pony-tail at the back of his head. Adrian rarely confined his glorious mane that way.

"In Seattle there are chances to go national," Max the mixer said.

"Exactly!" Adrian agreed.

Diana pouted deliberately. "Everyone's against me, I see."

"Against you? No way, woman," Guy said, putting a friendly arm around her shoulders. This arm didn't burden her as heavily: there was no meaning weighing it down.

"The Wilson sisters made it big here," Adrian pointed out.

"And now they're expatriates," Diana replied.

"Come on, admit it, Adrian," Guy said. "You just want her around to warm your bed more often." He took a nibble at Diana's neck which she warded off playfully, laughing and getting rid of his arm in the process.

Adrian grinned. "That too, of course. I never pretended to be completely selfless." The look he gave Diana sent her thoughts flying ahead, but his next words demolished the points he had made with the look in his eyes. "Diana keeps insisting she doesn't have enough training to be a serious musician."

"Not many of us do, Di," Guy said. "Besides, didn't you take music in high school from that horny little director who always won all the awards? His students make up an awful lot of the professional musicians between northern California and Canada. That must mean something."

"He told me I should sing opera," Diana said.

"All I ever had were garage bands," Robert, the bass player, confessed. "They just managed to get progressively better until we started getting gigs."

"Yeah, but you've got to admit you were pretty single-minded about it," Diana said. "I'm thinking about starting a garage band myself," she added to change the subject, a wry look on her face.

"A garage band?"

"Why back to the garage?" Dick asked. Dick was a huge man, nicknamed The Animal for the way he let into his drums.

"I'm getting sick of being dictated to," Diana explained.

"Who would dare?" Guy asked.

Diana gave him the dirty look he expected. "Where else can I do my own thing better than in my own garage?"

"How about your own practice room?" Max suggested.

"The practice room was Reilly's."

"Then get your own," Guy said.

"Rents in Portland are getting way out of sight."

"What do you think they are in Seattle?" Robert asked.

"They disappeared long ago," Guy said. "I haven't seen one in years." Diana poked him in the ribs with her elbow. "Ow. Uncalled for," Guy protested.

"So do you want to do a number with us tonight, Di?" Adrian asked. That would get him back into her good graces. He wouldn't have asked, though, if he hadn't thought it would be a success. Adrian was in love and very much in need of straws, but he wouldn't ruin a gig even for her.

"I'd love to," Diana said. "Do you really think we could get something ready in time?"

"Well, it's not as if your songs are completely new to us," Guy said, nudging her shoulder. "And remember, you're dealing with semi-professionals here."

"Professionals," Adrian corrected him.

"Then let's get started!" Diana said, jumping up, the black cape swirling out behind her.

"What is this get-up anyway?" Guy asked.

"I'm a witch."

"Do you need a cape for that?"

Diana put her hands on her hips.

"No," Adrian said before she could answer.

"This is mutiny," Diana protested.

"Not possible," Adrian said, hopping up on stage and going over to his keyboards. "This is one show you're not running." Guy let out a long, low whistle while Adrian played a couple of random chords on his DX7. Diana remained standing with her hands on her hips as the other musicians took their places. "Well?" Adrian asked. "Are you going to play a song for us or not?"

Diana clambered up on stage and joined Adrian at his instrument. He ran one long-fingered hand down her arm and kissed her temple before turning the keyboards over to her. "I think I'll go join Max."

"Okay."

Adrian hopped off the stage and sauntered over to the mixer. He didn't want to stand around behind Diana and make her nervous. She definitely was not the best keyboardist in the world; she had never mastered the instrument. Diana never mastered anything--she was ultimately sloppy. But at least her mistakes didn't throw her off; probably the only members of an audience who noticed her slip-ups were musicians themselves. And once that voice came over, critical faculties usually shut off anyway. Soft and husky, her hoarse vibrato packed a power that grabbed the attention and lulled into contentment, conjuring up visions of Alaskan dogs. It was a vocal paradox, grating the ear gently but insistently, one moment soft and teasing, the next harsh and uncompromising. It was the combination, the feeling behind the combination, that did Adrian in. Either voice alone wouldn't have had the same effect, but the combination absolutely blew him away.

Diana's voice wasn't to everyone's taste, but as far as Adrian was concerned, anyone who didn't like it had none. It was a voice to melt hearts and raise goose bumps. It was the voice that had drawn him the first time he had seen her. Crimes of the Heart had preceded Random Chaos on the main stage at the Country Fair, and while Diana and her musicians were packing up their equipment and Adrian's band was bringing theirs on stage, he had persuaded her to check out the rest of the Fair with him when his band was done. They had laughed at the antics of a flower- power clown with Rita's Burritos dribbling down their fingers, and Adrian had told her, "You're a woman to fall in love with." A brief look of shock had passed over Diana's features, and then she had laughed even louder than before.

Adrian caught himself smiling in anticipation as he watched her, waiting for the first low note. Sometimes Adrian wanted nothing more than the chance to hear that voice every day--live; not even a studio quality recording would do. He wanted to free it from the sloppy musicians adulterating it, including Diana herself, wanted to lend his own talent to its expression. He wondered how long her voice would maintain its fascination for him if he heard it day in and day out, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, working with it and coaching it, whether Diana was feeling like a million dollars or feeling like shit, but he doubted he would tire of it too quickly. Diana had gotten into his heart and his head and his hair--and one thing had to be said for Adrian, he had a lot of hair to get into. It took a lot of woman to do it, five foot ten worth of woman, even if the woman in question resembled a tomboy much of the time. Diana might not see herself as a beauty, but Adrian did. Certainly not in a traditional way; that got boring after a while anyway. Diana was not boring.

When she started to sing, her voice slithered into his ear and shimmied up and down his spine, lingering at the sensitive spots like a gifted hand, teasing him gently until he shifted uneasily and tried to banish all inappropriate associations from his mind--like the way her voice sounded when he was playing her and not his keyboards. The male physique can be a definite disadvantage at times. Women can even indulge in explicit fantasies in public without becoming conspicuous. Wet underwear may be a giveaway, but it's not visible the way a protrusion in the pants is.

The banishing business wasn't working, so Adrian pulled up a chair, sat down quickly and crossed his legs.

Seems to me love's just imagination,
A work of constant creation.
You have to feed the spark to make a fire.

That was precisely Adrian's problem; his imagination was caught, completely tied up in the long, lean artificial redhead on stage, belting out her bitter ballads. His imagination was creating constantly too, dreaming up successful scenes in which she gave up her bitterness and started feeding the spark herself. Talented as he was, Adrian had easily been able to get a spark going, but the timber wasn't quite right. He was fighting against the dampening effect of the past, and showing admirable patience about it, patience that came of illogical conviction. That was the thing Adrian couldn't figure out. Where did the conviction come from if Diana didn't share it?

So why is life now tinted with these colors,
the fantasy of a love that's over
now you're gone.

Adrian laughed shortly as he listened to the refrain again. Her imagination was still caught up in that Geoff-guy. Adrian was waiting, that was the humiliating fact of the matter. The risk he was taking was that he might just be a rest stop for her, a layover between destinations where she could take care of her physical needs before she went on. Sometimes Adrian suspected she was happy with the situation as it was, that some deep-seated need for freedom had concocted the whole mess, and she'd been left bruised and battered but on her own, exactly where she wanted to be.

How could he show her he didn't want her freedom?



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