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[personal profile] modillian
Part 1
Back to the Masterpost


The first thing Lindsey saw at Dirty Nell’s was Alicia’s ass swaying back and forth at the bar.

The second thing Lindsey saw was Jamia next to her.

And Lindsey’d thought that it couldn’t get any more confusing. No point in ignoring them either, Jamia had no idea about her problems.

She sighed and walked up to the bar. “Hey.” Jamia jerked back and blinked.

“Well hell. Howdy.” She nudged at Alicia without taking her eyes off Lindsey. “You didn’t say you’d invited Lindsey too.”

Alicia looked coolly at her. “I didn’t. Hi Lindsey.”

“I come here. Alicia comes here too sometimes.”

“Damn. I should have figured you’d have good taste like Alicia. She’s been telling me to come since the music is usually good.”

“Yeah, sometimes. You just missed The Dunes. They’re off on tour now.”

Jamia suddenly grinned wide. “You like The Dunes too? Well SHIT.” Lindsey waved hi to Nate (who was happily eyeing Jamia’s cleavage, the perv) and got swept up talking about musical performance.

“It’s not that I don’t like all the frills. It’s just not necessary. Easier to have the basics just starting out. Like, you know, no costumes or pyrotechnics or whatever.”

“But it’s all about differentiation, man. Uniforms work well that like. Make your mark, make your name in the industry.”

“What, like band uniforms? Now I’m having flashbacks to school uniforms in a bad way,” and Jamia laughed. They were both more than a little tanked at this point. Alicia had settled into the bar with Sarah and Jessica and was chitchatting next to Jamia’s other elbow. They hadn’t talked to each other.

Sarah got into the conversation then. Jamia disagreed about releasing certain promo photos for bands, “False advertising doesn’t work either. What, you go to the show expecting punk and get poprock band without a pit? Fastest way to not build a following, man.”

“How d’you know so much about all that?” Lindsey slurred.

“Bout what?” Sarah blinked and leaned hard on her elbows, wobbling on bar. Woah nelly, what a bunch of drunks they were. Lindsey didn’t feel too bad about it though.

Lindsey waved vaguely, “Photos? Promo stuff? It’s a hobby?”

“No no, man, I’m a photographer, professional extra-ordinaire,” Sarah drawled and nudged Alicia. Alicia nudged back and went back to talking to Jessica about how much the current band sucked less than the Hellbaits. “I work with Alicia sometimes. And we some kickass street teaming. Got to keep on keeping on her ,man.”

“Really? Alicia?” Lindsey blinked. She’d never thought of Alicia having connections for as many shows she seemed to be going to. Lindsey just stuck to the same couple bars around her area, though. She remembered suddenly how many times Alicia seemed to move slowly at work and seem groggy, and okay, someone else was definitely more of a partier than Lindsey. It didn’t rule out all of the clumsiness at work though, that was pure Alicia-skill.

“Yeah, we actually gotta split soon to get to the band at Florence Street. It’s pretty heavy on the hair-band crowd though, I don’t even know,” Sarah said and prodded Sarah.

Alicia plucked at her sleeve. “Yeah, that’s right. Jamia, you wanna come?”

The corners of her mouth turned up. “Nah, I’m cool. I’ll sit with her, Lindsey.” Her mouth fell. ”Oh, unless, you’re going too. I mean. That’d be fine too.”

“I’m staying.” They hadn’t finished their pitcher yet, and Alicia was still giving Lindsey a big chill.

The other girls left. Alicia, picking her way through the bar with only moderate stumbling, lead and was held around the neck by Sarah.

Jamia was eyeing the pitcher mindfully. “You gonna a help a friend out, Lindsey?”
Lindsey took the pitcher with both hands and poured it out equally between them. “You bet I am.”

***

Lindsey didn’t know what to make of it. The next two times Lindsey caught Alicia at the same bar, she had Jamia along with her. Was she afraid of Lindsey jumping her and mauling her? Because that would be sucky on her part, since Lindsey definitely wasn’t the aggressor last time. They were acting the same around each other at work, and Alicia wasn’t getting away with anything more than usual. Jamia wasn’t acting particularly differently at work either, except maybe seeming a little hungover. (Jamia offered Lindsey aspirin at eight the mornings after they’d seen each other. Lindsey took her up on it every time, since she’d forgotten to restock her medicine cabinet with anything other than Tweety bird bandaids, witch hazel, and gauze. Those were important sometimes for after-moshpit mornings.)

Gearing up for the max-out amount of work leading up to that goddamned quarterly deadline, Charlie was breathing over her shoulder more than usual. “And we need borders that pop, Lindsey, that POP. And something catchy. Eye-catching! Can’t be missed! Exciting! So let’s try neon this time, okay?”

Lindsey took a smoke break after that one. Neon was just a specific wrong visited on the human race that should be handled carefully, not all willy-nilly. She dutifully changed the colors but kept the originals as backup for when Charlie squawked about the new color and switched it back to the normal color scheme.

Lindsey needed an extra smoke break after that incident. She went to her usual spot and saw Jamia already there. She stopped short and held back a little, behind a fake potted plant-tree thing of a species probably not found in nature.

Jamia was looking lost in thought. She ran her hands through her short, blunt-cut hair a few times, looked less frazzled and more upset. That was pretty worrisome in and of itself. Jamia bit her lip, stubbed out her cig, then lit a second and sat with her feet turned in, looking at the soles and looking kind of cold.

That night at the band’s show (whiny, very whiny teenagers with two guitarists and a bassoon), Jamia tottered off to the bathroom and Sarah was explaining how wrong acoustic hair metal was to Nate while Alicia stirred a straw round and round in her cup.

“So…Jamia.” Alicia briefly looked sideways at her. “What’s her story?”

“Hm?”

“You’ve been going to gigs with her.”

Alicia answered after a long pause. “I’ve been bringing her for a while, yeah. It’s good to check out what the locals are up to, to compare.” Lindsey chewed that over.

“To compare to what?”

Alicia smiled enigmatically. “To see who’s good enough for me.”

Lindsey must have lost track of something. “What?”

Alicia cocked her head to the side and wrinkled her nose a little. “Oh man, Jamia and I talk all the time.” She considered that for a moment. “But I kind of live in her office, so. Still, she hasn’t told you anything?” Lindsey shook her head. “You need to talk to her about it. So, I play. Guitar mostly, a little bass. I’m just waiting to see if anyone’s got a band good enough for me to join.” Alicia rocked back on her heels and Lindsey stared for a minute.

Eventually she got her voice back. “Holy shit. That’s fucking awesome.”

“It would be better if I could fucking get a band together, though,” Alicia said, somewhere between wistful and bitter. She shook her head. “But yeah, Jamia comes with. She likes some music too. Her taste isn’t too awful, and it gets her out of her head.”
And then, yes. Back to finding out more about Jamia. “So, um. Is she like…okay?”
Alicia shrugged. “A little quieter, lately. You know.”

“What do you mean, you know?” Alicia didn’t say anything. “Has something happened?”

Alicia clunked her drink down, the sound rang and Alicia cringed. “Not. Maybe you don’t know.” She chewed on her lip. “Jamia’s been a little down, lately. She’s been quieter than she used to be. Since, you know, since last year. So, yeah. I’ve been bringing her to gigs. Cheer her up, maybe.”

“…that’s been working?”

“Some, maybe. It’s maybe hard to tell. Better to be with people than left alone, yeah?” Alicia said and thunked her drink again, watching the straw spin around.
Lindsey was a little offended. “I don’t know about that. Sometimes people just need to be left alone, get over it, recover, whatever.”

Alicia didn’t change her tone, but it seemed a little frigid anyways. “And sometimes people need to get prodded and taken out of their heads to get better.” Sarah laughed and flailed wildly, knocked over someone else’s pitcher. The dude complained and they all jumped up. Lindsey wiped her arms down and shoved a handful of napkins to Alicia, helped her mop up the bottom of her shirt. The dude was flailing back at Sarah about the pitcher, so Lindsey and Jessica coughed up some bills to pay for it.

“Dude, let’s split, jeez,” Sarah grumped, and Jessica nodded. Alicia looked to the bathrooms, and Jamia looked to be nowhere near them.

“I’ll um, yeah,” Lindsey mumbled and jerked her thumb in the right direction. In the bathroom she caught Jamia rubbing absently at her arm and staring into her reflection.
“Hey, Alicia and them are gonna go.”

Jamia jerked and looked up, met her eyes in the mirror. Very faintly, “Oh, okay. I’ll come.” Lindsey stood back and gestured ineffectually, like a floppy-armed fish or something.

Jamia sounded surprised.“You’re not coming with?”

“Nah. Gonna keep it a short night.”

“Oh, sure. Busy days these days, right.”

“Not just that,” Lindsey offered. “It’s always busy at work.”

“Yeah, they keep you hopping.” Lindsey rolled sideways on her feet while Jamia suddenly went akimbo, stance spread. “You’re still good with it, right? I can’t move the deadline back any further, but. I mean. You’re still good with the pace?” She didn’t add the affirmation this time, which, yeah, that’s telling.

Lindsey shrugged. “It’s work. It’s…there.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean.” Lindsey gave her the stinkeye at that, because seriously, management? Jamia chuckled. “No, really. I really do.” Jamia looked off into space for a second before shaking herself. “I think the important part is keeping your immune system up. Drink lots of OJ and take your vitamins.”

“And drinking lots of alcohol to kill the bad bacteria.”

“Or that, yeah. Definitely include that part. Found that out the hard way too.” Jamia smiled a little, enough to look heartbreaking, and stepped out the door. Lindsey looked back, a little wide-eyed. She had a feeling she’d missed something.

***

She decided to switch tactics. “So, um, you talk to Jamia a lot, yeah?” Lindsey asked Amanda. Amanda had kicked back her chair, sat with her feet on the desk and typed a mile a minute with the keyboard in her lap as she nodded. She had on her business-drag outfit again today, with tightly curled hair like in a forties noir-films paired with thin, widely arched black brows and serious chocolate-brown lipstick, but the pant legs were hiked up enough to show off black and white striped tights. That was pretty cool, Lindsey had to admit. And strangely hot. But Lindsey was about to get her period and chalked up the past couple days of strange thoughts to hormonal imbalances anyways.

“Jamia is a cool lady. No idea how she wound up manager though.”

“Well, she’s pretty competent. And she gets things done.”

“Yeah, but managing? Bleurg, how boring. I couldn’t stand it.”

“Jamia seems to like it alright.”

“Sure she does. Hey, does this waistcoat make me look fat? I’ve been trying to decide.” Amanda leaned back and stretched to show off the design better. The shoulders were boxy but it had deliciously large and round buttons patterned around the waist to mimic a belt.

“Nah, it’s good. Classy. Although, um.” Amanda waited, eyebrows arched in excitement even more exaggeratedly today. “Well, it’s pretty over the top. Not that you don’t pull it off! It’s just, well, I could say you kinda look like you’re in drag. Maybe.”
Amanda just grinned. “Excellent! I’ll have to try it with a hat next time, right?”

“Uh, sure.” Lindsey leaned on the cubicle wall absentmindedly then almost fell when the wall tilted precariously and she righted herself too quickly. “Um, but I wanted to ask, is there something going on with Jamia?”

Amanda put a finger to her mouth. “Well, she’s said she’s been eating a lot of cookies lately. I don’t think she’s gained weight though. She looks perfectly proportioned to me.” Amanda smacked her lip suggestively and fluttered her eyelashes at Lindsey.
Lindsey waved that away. “No, I mean, has she seemed alright lately? Like, is she, I don’t know, more depressed than usual?” Amanda stopped waggling her eyebrows and put both feet on the ground.

“Oh, you didn’t know?”

“Know what?”

“Ah yes.” Amanda turned back to her work, set the keyboard on the desk. “The infamous breakdown.”

“What?!”

“Well, Jamia’s not calling it a breakdown of course. She’s-“ Amanda hopped up, pushed Lindsey gently to one side and peered both ways out of her cubicle door. “All clear. Okay, so yeah, she’s not calling it a breakdown, but you know, what else could it have been? Except maybe a strong bout of depression, maybe it was that. That's a reasonable assumption”

“What? Why?” Lindsey felt her heart thud in jerks, sharp and hurtful in her chest.

“You know.”

Frantically,” No, no, why does everybody keep saying that? What do I know?!”

“You know. When Jamia took those couple weeks off from work in August.”

“August?”

“Yeah, of course.” Amanda kept typing.

“What does August have to do with anything? She’s got vacation time like anyone else.”
Amanda peered at her in mild astonishment. “But that’s why it’s suspicious! That’s the quarterly month! Why would any self-respecting manager take off two weeks right before the quarterly reports were due? That’s the busiest time of the year. Besides you know, the other months when the quarterly is due.” Amanda be-bopped her head back and forth. “She talked about it a little with me. She called it ”temporary exhaustion”. But you know, depressive episode is another word for it.”

“Well, who doesn’t break down a bit at the quarterly?”

“Not me!”

“Well okay, not you, but you’re not a manager.”

“But no, I mean, it was serious. Jamia’s still not over it, in my opinion,” Amanda whispered. “Something to take seriously. I give her cookies to make her feel better sometimes!”

“But that was months ago. Has she seemed a little sadder, like, lately?”

“No sadder than usual. But then again, she’s been kinda down for a while.”

Lindsey laughed. “No, she hasn’t! She’s joked with me a lot.”

“Really? She hasn’t joked a lot with me. She just kinda listens.” Amanda had her head cocked, eyes on the screen. The background was a violinist frozen in mid-jump, and she had a three tiny ponies velcroed on the top of her monitor, and okay, it was Amanda. Maybe Lindsey would have to try someone else.

She asked Bob next. He shrugged and said he hadn’t noticed anything different, then thanked Lindsey.

“For what?” She mostly just came to Bob to pump him for information, and she felt a guilty.

“You’ve been wonderful with Amanda, really, I can’t believe it.” Bob said, voice a little awed.

Lindsey shook her head. “Amanda is just...Amanda. You listen to her for a while and she kind of makes sense. Sometimes.”

“No, really. I’ve gotten so much done now that she’s fixated on you instead of me. I really appreciate you distracting her,” Bob said, still thankful, and Lindsey felt her expression sour. Bob backpedaled and waved his hands a bit, wafting his stack of writing a little to the side.

“She’s not so bad,” Lindsey replied slowly. “She kind of makes her own sense. Really. Did you ever go over to her apartment?”

“And you survived?” Bob’s eyes were wide again.

“No, really! Her place is really nice. No severed heads at all.”

“Well, I’m not dating her, so she probably wouldn’t put away the prize trophies for me,” Bob continued, and Lindsey laughed because really, she couldn’t imagine the sort of person Amanda dated. Probably another crazed, spacey musician. She went off her to own cubicle before Charlie could accost her about time schedules and approaching deadlines.

She wound up being the one springing on Charlie. The man looked up from his work blearily, his desk covered with manila folders. “I have a question. About Jamia.” He looked at her squinty-eyed, a little like Amanda’s old porcelain doll. “Has she been depressed lately?”

Charlie looked at her like she was ready to start nailing up severed heads of her own on the wall. He cleared his throat. “Jamia is a professional who maximizes her capacity of running her office to meticulous and excellent extent. She’s a good manager, wouldn’t you say?”

Well, yes. “Well, yes. So she’s depressed about it?”

Charlie looked at her and said quite delicately, “We don't discuss details about our personal life.” He thought for a moment. “But she did take off two weeks last August, right before the quarterly. That was unusual.”

“So she’s depressed.”

Charlie looked bewildered. “Not as far as I know. Why, is she taking another break?” he said, becoming frantic. “Because I’ve still got the formal contracts for her to notarize, and I need to set a meeting with the board accountant, and she’s the only one who ever seems to reach him. Is she taking off two weeks again? Because really, that was just too long last time.” Charlie was sifting through the folders and Lindsey shook her head.

“No no, nothing like that. Just, uh. Amanda mentioned something. Does Jamia like…cookies?” she asked, because it couldn’t hurt. Charlie shot a concerned look at her. “Okay, um, nevermind, forget I mentioned anything.” And she left.

“Just let me know ahead of time if she’s taking vacation again, okay? That was very upsetting last time, just too much,” Charlie called out the door, and Lindsey went to check if there was some kind of e-cookie delivery service open after five o’clock.

***

Lindsey tried to catch Alicia after work again, but she was nowhere to be found. On the weekend she brought frozen lasagna and her sketchbook to Amanda’s place, and they put up the rest of the drapes before kicking off their shoes and making patterns with their feet in the dust coming off the sheets thrown over the mystery piles that were disturbed with all the throwing drapes and the ladder around.

“When was the last time you cleaned?” Lindsey asked, dawdling over a sketch. Amanda had turned around the TV and was flipping through the dials until she got The Simpsons coming in less grainily. It was still piled up with books though, some Harlequins with badly creased spines cluttering the top as a faded hardcover of The Yearling propped up the remote.

“I clean every couple months I’ll have you know.” Lindsey snorted. “Hey, you try cleaning up this big old room. Everything gets dusty sooner or later though. Lindsey biffed up the top of one sheet covering what looked like a round table with chairs around it. She sneezed in the resulting dust cloud.

“Sure, let’s try this one! You’ll see what I mean.” Amanda took up the edges of the cloth over the table and jerked it up quickly, the fabric rising quickly then falling slowly in a billow to the floor. Amanda’d tilted the top of it to the window-side, so most of the result dust had floated to the direction of out the window. It was a good attempt, at least.

The table was wooden and darkly varnish and cluttered with even more stuff: another porcelain doll only dressed in black this time with a brown bob of hair, a shallow box of picture frames, a deeper box of painting frames, several varieties of whistles, buttons of various sizes, a kaleidoscope, yellowing blank paper, and an inkwell filled with pens.

“Oh, I’d forgotten about the pens! I’d wondered where I’d put them.”Amanda held one critically, testing it. Lindsey sat in one of the chairs and picked up the kaleidoscope, panning it across the room, watching the colors change. They didn’t change all that much, actually, since all the windows were open and the evening light filled the room. It was pretty uniformly spacious and glowing brightly.

On Sunday they ate the rest of the lasagna and Amanda had fun whacking apart vegetables for a ratatouille recipe Lindsey found while looking for e-cookie delivery service. She said, “It’s like that vegetable thing you already like,” and Amanda said “Ooooh!” and got out her giant chopping knife. Lindsey remembered the threat of mounted severed heads and laughed –there was no way she could off someone without the neighbors hearing from the street downstairs with windows that big. She’d have to remember to tell that to Bob.

“Does Jamia LIKE cookies?” she asked after she’d moved around the couches in the front of the room to a more suitable arrangement. She’d needed more room to sketch on Amanda’s low-lying coffee table and kept turned to find an armrest pressing in her ear. She’d been trying to sketch something, maybe, Jamia would like, but nothing was coming out except some elongated monkeys riding tiny elephants and she realized she had no idea what Jamia’s preferences were anyways. That was probably why it wasn’t working, actually. She’d have to find out.

“What?” Amanda yelled; she was on the opposite side of the room playing piano. Lindsey stood up and yelled it again.

“Yes, she said she likes chewy ones better than crunchy ones.I stopped giving her biscotti after that,” Amanda yelled back, and then started to play “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and sing along with it. Lindsey laughed; Amanda ran through a repertoire of children’s rhymes ending with “Miss Mary Mack”. Her voice was surprisingly deep and throaty, full of emotion even through a children’s song.

“You sing!” Lindsey said, delighted. “I didn’t know you could sing.” Amanda smiled cheekily and banged out a long, song with a sweet, spiraling crescendo next. It piddled out and the last chords rang in the air all through the room. Lindsey realized she been flopped on the couch and leaning with chin in hand the entire time.
“The people on the street could probably hear all that too,” she pointed out. The windows were all thrown open again; Lindsey had insisted this time, claiming better light for the drawing that didn’t really happen, and helped Amanda push aside the swelling drapes and winch open the complaining hinges. Amanda had left the shutters open since yesterday.

“No one’s ever on the street,” Amanda replied, and went into scales. Lindsey threw her sketchbook aside and walked over, sat at the kitchen table instead. “How’s your aunt?”

“She’s the same. She’s been the same for a while now.” Amanda kept up the pace and kept talking. “You know, she was the one who wanted me to practice all this,” she jerked her chin, encompassing the instruments. A while later, “And she sang too. She had such a beautiful voice.”

“She doesn’t remember.”

“She doesn’t remember any of it. None of it.” Amanda sighed and stopped, rocking uneasily on the bench. “It’s not easy.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Yeah. Thank you.” Amanda continued on, “But! One life to live, remember? Even if I don’t remember it,” she laughed despondently, “someone else should, right? Someone should remember the good stuff in my life.” She wavered on the bench and practiced a little longer. Lindsey felt a little like an interloper and a lot more like a confidant. She went behind Amanda and put a hand on her shoulder. After a while, “Huh. I always thought it’d be cool to read music.”

“You don’t?”

Lindsey spread her hands open. “I’m an artist. I read color, not music.”

Amanda smirked. “Well hell, that’s no excuse. Sit down, and I’ll show you.”

They didn’t get very far, but Amanda promised they’d try to find her books on learning how to read music that were somewhere in her apartment. Lindsey couldn’t think of a reason to turn down the offer.
***
Lindsey barely considered herself a better cook than Amanda. At lunch she went to bakery a few blocks down the street that had good rye bread all the time and bought soft sugar cookies with a thick layer of frosting and sprinkles to work on Monday. It was Monday, a Monday present. People brought doughnuts all the time to work every day of the week, so cookies couldn’t be considered that much out of the ordinary.

Alicia was stuck shifting from foot to foot as she made her normal run at the copier. On Mondays the copy run could take more than an hour. Alicia’d complained about it before with a dull flick of her wrist between shots. Lindsey had remembered that movement while she’d been blearily bent over the toilet bowl the morning after. Lindsey tucked herself back around the corner from where she was doing her lookout and grabbed the box out of her cubicle and headed to Jamia’s office.

She had to wait, actually. Jamia wasn’t there. She tapped her foot and threw the box over one hip and watched the clock. Jamia came in ten minutes later, the usual expectant and determined expression on her face. She cocked an eye at Lindsey and her box. Lindsey kept her mouth shut and tapped the door. Jamia whistled through her nose at her and Lindsey snorted.

“I’ve got something for you,” she said, and presented the box once they were inside. She set the box down on Jamia’s desk on top of the phonebook-sized company policy review, and opened the top.

Jamia looked surprised, and then a bit stiff. “Oh okay. Thank you”

“Amanda said you liked them?” Lindsey offered. She’d kick Amanda in the shins if she were wrong.

“Oh yes, I do.” Jamia stayed stiff and still a little longer, plucking apart the frosting, eating that first before biting into the cookie. They were good cookies, sweet and soft and practically melting into sugar and butter in the mouth. Lindsey had made sure.

Jamia’s expression softened gradually as she closed her eyes over the mouthful. She looked a little solemn, melancholy when she looked up at Lindsey. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” A little longer pause. “You need something else?”

“No, this is plenty. You’ve done more than enough.”

“Okay. “ Lindsey didn’t move. “You sure?”

Jamia started to straighten up in preparation of an affirmation, then her shoulders caved forward suddenly like the tendons were cut. She SAGGED. “I. Yes. I’m sure.”

Jamia said, looking sad and aggrieved enough that Lindsey immediately knew not to believe her.

“Alright, okay,”she said softly, soothingly, and said, “Well, if you’re gonna be at Dirty Nell’s tonight, so am I. You know where to find me ‘til then.” And she left the office slowly. Slowly made the way to her chair, slowly sat down. “Well shit,” she said to herself. In the next cubicle over, Cindy hmphed.

***

Lindsey didn’t see Jamia that night, but the week was young and tons of bars and clubs had packed lineups coming up. A music festival was coming into town like an extremely foul-mouthed circus, and Lindsey didn’t intend to miss much of that shit. She didn’t remember too much of last year’s festival except for the constant taste of lime and tequila, blue sequins, and lots of dark stains on her clothes and ripping out the sole of her favorite pair of sneakers from all the rocking out, but she figured that was only a sign of a festival well fucking done. Spring festivals were the shit.

In any case Lindsey couldn’t linger on Jamia’s peculiar behavior too much, since Lindsey was busy throwing together her ad work. The final build-up to the quarterly report was reaching skyscraper-jumping heights once again. Lindsey thought maybe, depressingly, she was getting accustomed to the routine of panic even if she was never going to be comfortable with it. She could recognize the symptoms at least. Bob was looking perpetually wide-eyed and grim around the mouth, even staring down the coffeemaker five minutes before turning it on. Charlie, normally exquisitely humping the company to climax whenever he talked to staff crossing by his office, could be caught wandering the halls muttering expletives and wringing his hands. Cindy was making more growly and indignant noises than ever, and Jamia could feel herself flailing a bit more widely since she was so stiff in the joints and limbs from staying hunched over her computer unconsciously tensed. Even Alicia seemed to be reacting to the anxiety, which manifested as her deigning to talk to other people in the office and crossing her arms stiffly, mouth turned down in strain as she wobbled by with carts of various messy fullness.

Not that she was talking to Lindsey, of course. But she was meeting Lindsey’s eyes, looking surprised at herself as she did so. One time they even bumped elbows in a corridor and Alicia looked at her for a full thirty seconds before murmuring an apology and moving on.

Maybe they were moving past the weirdness of them not-coming-together. Whatever. Lindsey could take rejection. It just took a little while to get over.

Amanda was as carefree as ever. After giving Jamia the cookies, she met Amanda for lunch the next day. “I wasn’t sure it would work. But she kind of. Well, she kind of…”
“Yeah, she kind of crumples up like that. It’s the stress, I told you,” Amanda finished. They were camped out in Amanda’s cubicle, sharing bagels with chives and cream cheese that someone had set out instead of doughnuts today. Amanda held up her half-eaten crescent like an offering. “Food and music, man. Food and music bring people together.”

“I don’t know about that,” Lindsey said, thinking about Jamia’s softened face and the people she’d kicked in various mosh pits.

“Well, they bring people together and pull ‘em apart too. It’s all about the power,” Amanda munched. Lindsey made a face. “No really, shut up! What do you do at parties, eh? You bring food and music and people come together. And then because they’re PEOPLE, they either come together really well or blow apart and punch each other in the face.”

“So it’s people, really, not the music.”

“I don’t know, man. Music is food for the soul too.” Then Lindsey tossed napkins at her in disgust.

“Chicken Soup For The Soul is a book, not music, and it blew harder than a goddamned hurricane, shut up,” Lindsey said lightly.

Amanda wiggled on her chair and it wobbled precariously. “Eh, I still think I’m right.”

“So I should keep bringing her cookies?”

“Mmm. Maybe you should wait for her to bring something to you instead,” Amanda said and batted around a stress ball on her desk.

Lindsey didn’t have anything to say to that. She changed the subject. “Were you serious before? You’re seriously telling me you don’t have something giving you an aneurysm, say, right about now.” Amanda looked at her in alarm. Lindsey sighed and gestured to the office. “I mean, the quarterly is in two week. TWO WEEKS. It’s kind of serious and kind of freaking everyone the fuck out. You’re telling me you tech writers don’t have a project to cram in?”

“Oh no, sure we do!” Lindsey waited expectantly. “Oh no, I’m just not bothered about it.” Amanda kept tossing the ball around.

Lindsey crossed her arms.

“Why do you keep looking at me like that?”

“You’re telling me you don’t have some last-minute thing to lose your mind about?”
“No, miss snooty-pants. I keep on top of my work. I finished the last couple manual edits last week and I’m just polishing it today.”

“Bob’s freaking out!”

“Yeah, and Bob also can’t concentrate long enough past his hangovers to get his work done every week. I do. Most of the time. I’m not behind on anything.”

Lindsey was flabbergasted was several levels. “Okay, you’re, okay –but Bob’s never hung over! He’s very professional.”

“Sure he’s professional! He also said something about me being too loud to sit next to the mornings after band practice.”

“Band practice?!”

“Oh dude, dude, Bob is all about hitting it heavy and hard.” Amanda leaned in conspiratorially. “I heard from Bill in public relations that he can down a bottle of tequila and not even feel it in the morning, but I can tell you, that is a load of bull since he was always moaning about how loud I was when I sharpened my pencils or whatever. Hangovers of doom, I tell you. But I hear he’s a pretty good drummer too, so you can’t make fun of him too much. Drummers are hardworking people.” Amanda nodded emphatically and kept tossing the ball around, almost upsetting the tub of chive cream cheese in the process.

Lindsey didn’t know whether to believe her or not. On the one hand, Amanda hadn’t lied to her before about the cookies. On the other hand, Amanda seemed to like leaving out pertinent information, like whether or not she actually needed an extra hand with hanging drapes when her Supe was happy to help with things like ladders and nails and things. Also, Amanda was still a little loopier than most people Lindsey’d known, and Lindsey had gone to ART SCHOOL for fuck’s sake. Lindsey decided she’d had enough to think over for one day.

So after work she went to dance it out instead. Some crazy funk-psychedelic band with a woman sporting colorful George Clinton-esque dreads and a husky, gravelly voice jammed it out and Lindsey fucking DANCED. She was halfway through the set and fucking parched but too revved up to leave the crowd when she felt someone’s hand on the small of her back. Lindsey jumped away and was ready to smack whatever fucking prick was touching her when Jamia’s big brown eye met hers.

Lindsey fucking grinned. “Oh, hey!” she yelled, and Jamia grinned, and they grabbed hands and danced together, more like jumped around to the beat. Jamia seemed to be laughing a lot and Lindsey twirled, happier than she’d been even with the fucking awesome-crazy music, excited and getting more fucking parched by the minute. She didn’t care.

The band eventually segued into a slow and tantalizing rhythm, the singer murmuring and cradling the head of the mike stand half-cocked on her thigh. The crowd started to writhe. Lindsey mashed into Jamia’s side and their shoulders bumped together tightly. Lindsey’s breath huffed out, and she looked around a little bewildered because uh, no, that was a little too sexy to dance with her sort-of boss-person. Lindsey turned to see Jamia wiping sweat off her face with her hands and she could hear her laughing a little breathlessly. Lindsey snaked a hand under Jamia’s elbow and jerked her head towards the bar. Jamia nodded and followed Lindsey’s lead.

She bought Jamia a beer and a water bottle for herself. “What are you DOING here?” Lindsey said and started toweling the sweat off her own face with her shirt. The shirt was black and old and soft, didn’t even scratch her lips tousling it over her face. She eyed Jamia over her shirt and therefore caught on when Jamia looked back into the dancing crowd.

“Alicia brought me. She said there’s like, a festival going on? And who can pass up funnel cakes and pony rides? Not me.” Lindsey laughed.

“Not quite that kind of festival.”

“Okay yeah, so who can pass up cheap beer and good music?”

“The beer’s always cheap.” The music, maybe, varied in quality would be the best way to put it.

Jamia snorted. “Making it easy for me, aren’t you? No, okay, but I didn’t know there was a festival in the city every year. Alicia told me about it, so I figured why not.”
Of course Jamia would come with Alicia. Why wouldn’t she? Lindsey felt unreasonable that it stung a little, and it stung a little more when she saw Alicia dancing with Sarah, arm wrapped around Sarah’s shoulder and the other around Sarah’s hips. Of course.

“You know the band?” Jamia asked.

“Oh no, not at all. Whipcordian Dystopia is on tomorrow though. They’re excellent, you should definitely see them.” Lindsey turned back to something she could warm up to.
“Oh yeah?”

“Fuck yeah! Listening to them play is like smashing your face in a pie of awesome, they’re incredible, think like nu metal and feather boas.” Jamia cracked up. “No really! They put on a fucking awesome show. Not as good as The Dunes I’d say, but they’re something.” They talked about the bands coming up and Lindsey tipped forward and back on the barstool in excitement, watching Jamia’s face light up.

“You done the music scene before?”

Jamia shrugged. “Mmm, I like management better than doing the whole band thing. I was, uh. I was with this record company before, Eyeball Record?” Jamia rolled her eyes at Lindsey’s expression. “Yeah, and now I’m with Megacorp, whatever, shut up.”

“No really, what the fuck Jamia?” Jamia had the good sense to look embarrassed.

“Eh, I was just a flunkie, and they didn’t have any openings for management. I had to move somewhere else. You can’t just stand still forever, you know?” and yeah, fuck yeah, Lindsey knew that fucking well. She’d had a few breakthroughs in sketching at Amanda’s apartment lately, and had developed a couple somethings that might be worthy of real paintings soon. Standing still left you fucking falling behind and hanging in the fucking wind ready for the next noose to come on by and trap you. Lindsey offered her bottle to toast with “To moving forward!” and Jamia clinked with her bottle, mouth fighting a grin. They nodded along to the beat until the tempo picked up. Ms. George Clinton crooned, and Alicia swung by again with Jessica, bouncing to the beat

“Wanna dance?” Lindsey asked Jamia. Jamia was watching Alicia slide by as well.

“Sure,” Jamia replied and jumped up, straightened out her own messy old t-shirt and brushed bottle-wet hands on her jeans, before holding out a hand mockingly. Lindsey took it with her nose stuck in the air and made some teased-hair dude next to them laugh, then got led to the floor to smash the beat right out.

***

Amanda looked put out when she declined the dinner invitation. “But it’s mushrooms! Mushrooms are delicious and nutritious. Who’s going to eat mushrooms with me, Bob and Mr. Meyers?”

“Maybe you could ask your Supe too.”

“No way, he’s too chummy with Mr. Meyers. They’d just end up reminiscing about LSD and Jimmy Page and getting my books all out of order.”

“Are they in order?”

“I have a system! I know where everything is.”

“I’ll take your word on that. Sorry, the festival is amazing. Come with, it’s The Brewers tonight.”

Amanda made a long, sad face and sighed when Lindsey just crossed her arms. “NO, no concert tonight, they sound godawful.”

“I have no idea what they sound like, I’ve never heard of them before.”

“Oh trust me, they’re bad. Bring your ear plugs.”

Lindsey swung by Jamia’s office to see her sternly cutting down some waifish higher-up and smirked, heaved a sigh in her cubicle before pulling up the roster of Thing I Need To Change before the quarterly in a couple weeks.

***

Lindsey wore a wife beater to show off her sleeve and lace-up stompy boots for good measure. The Brewers were supposed to whip up some pretty bad crowds, and she wasn’t familiar with the bar they’re playing at.

She arrived at the bar, and it wasn’t a bar. It was some hilarious 80s-style club with fucking LASER LIGHTS and non-ironic disco balls. And there’re a couple DJs spinning trance music instead. “What, motherfuck,” she swore and saw the sign posted inside.
“They’re in fucking jail? The festival’s barely started and bands are already in jail?” Jamia complained to Lindsey when she spotted her in the crowd and waved her over.

“I don’t know what you’re complaining about -they’re so hardcore they don’t even need to play music anymore. Just show up drunk and disorderly and get thrown in jail. It’s the musical lifestyle,” Lindsey snarked and threw back her shot. The world was getting fuzzy and the laser lights actually looked kinda fun this side of tipsy. Jamia clinked glasses with her and propped herself back on her elbows, facing the crowd. Lots of dancers, lots of people staying despite the lack of a band. Some kid razed out in a mohawk was dirty dancing with a blond all decked out in pink pleather; it was pretty funny. Lindsey turned to nudge Jamia’s shoulder and got an eyeful of cleavage instead.

Oh boy. Jamia was leaning WAY back on her elbows right now. The generous curve of her breasts was VERY inviting; Jamia slouched drunkenly to make a funny face at Lindsey and lace her fingers together under her breasts, and that looked even nicer.
Lindsey gulped and took another shot. She kept glancing back though.

Alicia was making her making her way towards them with a disgruntled expression. Jamia started to giggle uncontrollably. Alicia sighed and pushed in between them to signal to the bartender. She stole a chair and sat between the two of them, the hem of her black dress hiked up almost indecently on her thighs as she tried to catch up to their drinking.

“Sarah couldn’t make it?”

“Sarah turned back as soon as she saw the poster. Motherfuck. This is so lame.”
“Don’t be disappointed. Make a night of it. The night of disenchantment and booze, take one,” Jamia slurred a little.

“Take one million more like it,” Alicia sighed and chugged, some beer spilling on her chin and off her neck before she cleaned herself up with her fingers and delicately licked them.

Lindsey looked up from Alicia’s neck to see amused eyes and realized she was staring way, way too late. She hurriedly took a swig from her glass to hide her face, because Alicia and she had come to a kind of moderate if not peaceful standstill on the issue, and she wasn’t going to disturb it.

It was a losing battle. After ten more minutes Jamia was grinning even more tipsily at the world, eyes roving the crowd with a mellow sloe eye. The v-neck of her shirt practically hanging off one shoulder and showing off a lacy bra strap and what was probably a little tan line, difficult to say in the club. Lindsey tried to surreptitiously stare at her neck instead and thought she probably looked more like a hungry, non-secret vampire. It didn’t help too much, since the cut of Jamia’s bobbed hair curled just under her chin and Jamia kept brushing the ends away when they stuck sweaty to her skin, probably itchy or sticky. Lindsey was a little transfixed.

It was a little better than staring fixedly at Alicia’s legs, which Lindsey could see practically ALL OF even in the dark of the club. The skirt was practically bunched around her waist from all of Alicia’s twisting in the chair. Occasionally she’d forget to keep her legs mostly closed and she’d lean over a little too much and flash Lindsey a glimpse the seam of her black panties.

Lindsey was getting a little light-headed, and she crossed her legs, clenched them reflexively. It was ridiculous. Lindsey seriously needed to get laid and stop getting all worked up over her coworkers. That was just…well, it didn’t bode well for anyone. Even if said coworkers were hot as fuck and getting messy-drunk right in front of her. Especially if they were messy-drunk and licking dropped alcohol off their necks right in front of her.

Lindsey felt fingers land on her own over her shot glass, and looked up into Jamia’s blearily-smiling face. “Lemme get the next round,” was all she said, but she was looking at Lindsey with amusement before crossing her arms under her boobs and leaning over the bar. It got the bartender’s attention real quick. Jamia kept a straight face. Alicia snorted and exchanged a look with Lindsey. Lindsey licked her lips.

“Wanna dance?” Jamia slurred, and no, actually, that would probably not be a smart thing to do when she couldn’t stop staring at Jamia’s tits. She grabbed Lindsey’s hand and led her to a freer area to bend and twist. Lindsey felt like a moron.

“This isn’t my usual kind of dancing,” she shouted in Jamia’s direction.

Jamia twirled and giggled. “Me neither!” She sashayed, and Lindsey laughed. It was good, maybe, to see her looser and lighter than that scary sadness she’d seen in the office. Then Jamia got a grip on Lindsey’s hips to steer their dancing and Lindsey felt the staticky beer buzz abate some in order to zero in on feeling all the places they touched. Lindsey felt her cheeks heat up, and there was a similar flush spreading up from Jamia’s chest up to the apple of Jamia’s cheeks. Jamia just kept grinning, and Lindsey couldn’t tell from what. Her palms were sweating nervously as she mirrored Jamia and put a hand on her hip and arm.

Unfortunately, they got swamped into a crush of people pretty quickly.

Being crowded up against the smash of people was uncomfortable, and for shits and giggles, some idiot snapped Lindsey’s bra strap. She bared her teeth at the girl with big hair who’d done it and felt another arm around her waist pulling her one way.

“What the fuck,” she spat, but the arm kept firmly pulling her out of the press of the crowd until Lindsey saw Jamia was attached to it. Oh. She pulled Lindsey back near the wall by an exit sign. Jamia was a bit shorter than her, so Lindsey felt it when she didn’t let go but pulled herself up on her tiptoes and wound both arms over Lindsey’s waist, clasped her hands on Lindsey’s back, lips against Lindsey’s ear, “You alright?”

“Yeah,” Lindsey gasped a little right at Jamia’s ear, because okay, she was being held very tightly and could smell Jamia’s shampoo and feel Jamia breathe, feel their chests pressed against each other tightly, feel the spread of Jamia’s fingers touching her firmly, decisively. Lindsey gulped a little more and really, really didn’t want to pull away. So she didn’t. She held on.

Jamia slowly relaxed her grip and turned sideways in her hold, one arm kept on Lindsey’s back and the other on her hip, thumb brushing the skin right above her belt. Alicia had apparently followed them. She kicked her way out of the crowd as well, sneered derisively. “These fucking people, seriously.”

“It’s the band. People showed up for one thing and got another. Crowds are tetchy and can get riled up in the wrong atmosphere pretty quickly,” said Jamia. Lindsey didn’t –couldn’t- ignore the feeling of being held, but felt surprised all the same. “Yeah.”
“Well yeah, I WAS working at Eyeball for a while, I know a thing or two,” Jamia rolled her eyes. She didn’t let go when Alicia closed in, glanced at both of them evenly, nodded to the exit.

Jamia turned them both around and grabbed the back of their shirts, pushing them forward. Lindsey could FEEL Alicia’s smirk. “Am I getting herded?”

“Yes,” came back garbled in the back of Lindsey’s shirt. “Move it or lose it, bitches,” was completely deadpanned, and Lindsey LOST it and laughed and laughed. The entire night was a hilarious disaster. Alicia kept her smirk on firmly when Jamia continued to herd them right up to her car again. “I don’t remember signing up to get managed out of work too.”

“Deal with it homegirl. Fess up, you like it just fine.” Alicia kept smirking, and Lindsey didn’t say anything at all, because yeah, fuck yeah.

Alicia stretched and her arm brushed Lindsey’s in the backseat. “I’m just saying, I better not be getting charged, especially when my drunko manager steers us into a lamppost.”

“I’m completely fine. I know exactly what I’ve been doing all night.”

“Sure you have,” Lindsey rolled her eyes, and her heart thumped double time at the implication.

“Of course I have.” Jamia eyed them in the mirror. She dropped Lindsey off first again. “Your place is closer than Alicia’s, no worries. See you tomorrow?” Jamia sounded hopeful. Alicia was picking at her fingernails, not looking at either of them.
“Sure,” Lindsey said lightly, and Alicia’s head snapped up, looked drolly between the two of them. Lindsey kept her expression fixed and nodded at them before buzzing herself into her building. She didn’t watch Jamia drive away this time.

***

Amanda was absent on work the next day. Despite herself, Lindsey was concerned. She’d found a nice friend in the token office crazy girl and gotten fond of her. She spun by Jamia’s office to ask Amanda’s whereabouts, since after pulling out her cell phone Lindsey realized she’d never actually gotten Amanda’s number.

Jamia had her head in her hand pouring over her computer screen. She laughed when Lindsey offered to run down to the drugstore for aspirin. “I’ve taken all the legal drugs I can hold right now,” she joked and blinked under the lights. Her office was only half-lit, no wonder why. Alicia was off on the other side of the room (the darker side) and similarly bent over her work station. She groaned in Lindsey’s direction and didn’t even bother to raise her head in greeting. It’d been a good night last night , definitely. “Yeah, Amanda called in sick today. She sounded pretty congested.”

“Aw damn. I should check on her if it’s like that.”

“That’s not the only thing congested about her,” Alicia muttered on the other side of the room. Lindsey threw a balled-up piece of paper at her.

“Amanda’s pretty alright, actually.”

“Yeah, pretty much,” Jamia agreed, and Lindsey turned sharply to her. Jamia tried to grin but didn’t quite manage it under the hangover-squints. Of course. “She told you about her music?” Lindsey asked.

“Music? No. We talk about other things.”

“The environmental depredation of the earth, certain death of humans from ozone depletion, the normal stuff.” Alicia countered blandly.

“You sit in on Amanda’s talks?”

“Sometimes. I leave the talks a lot too.”

Jamia waved away the objection. “No, Amanda’s pretty alright, you’re right.” She said to Lindsey. “She said you hang out sometimes?”

“Yeah, you been to her place before? It’s pretty amazing.”

“Nah, she hasn’t asked,” Jamia said coolly, leaning back in her rolly chair (It did not squeak.) “You wanna call out of tonight? A Bangles cover band doesn’t lose precedence to a lot of stuff, but sick friends are a special one.” Lindsey made a face. “We’ll see. She might just kick me out anyways if she feels that badly.”
“You should bring her cookies,” Jamia suggested. Lindsey stopped short. “Well, they always make me feel better,” she explained. Alicia kept busy and kept her head down through the exchange and looked at Lindsey with an unreadable expression when she
left.

Amanda actually did kick her out. First, though, she lead Lindsey to the couches where she’d been reading Proust and The Leviathan and had balled-up tissues and cups of cold tea everywhere, a honey bear sitting stickily on a coaster on the coffee table. She took the plain animal crackers Lindsey had brought her and dunked them in a cold cup of tea. “Delicious!” Amanda’s said, voice full of grossness. She coughed a bit and took another cookie, dunking it in a separate mug of tea. “Honey bears make me feel better,” Amanda confided in a whisper, clasping Lindsey’s hand and petting it absently, eyes bleary in a substantially NOT drunken way.

“Alright,”Lindsey said. “Uh, do you need anything else?”

“No no, I’ve already got enough zinc and vitamin C in me to kill a horse. Get the fuck out of here. I’m not fit for human consumption,” Amanda replied, and Lindsey didn’t correct her since she looked droopy and sort of pathetic in her fuzzy bathrobe.

Lindsey took pity and made her a fresh pot of tea before leaving Amanda crouched over it, breathing in the hot steam and listening to her lungs rattle.

Lindsey grabbed a piece of mostly blank paper left on the kitchen table and wrote her number on it before sticking it on Amanda’s fridge with a magnet. “This is my number in case you need to call me and tell me you’ve keeled over and can’t get up.”

“I just vant to be alooone,” Amanda quoted, then croaked. “Eh, I’ll just call Mr. Meyers if that happens. He’ll help me up and then talk me to death,”and Lindsey rolled her eyes. “But that’s a terrible way to go! Call me and I’ll make fun of Proust until you die.”

“I am taking offence to that. I will argue the merits of Proust with you when I’m not dying,” Amanda said.

Lindsey couldn’t say anything to that absurdity. Instead she said, “Give me your number so I can drunk dial you later.” Amanda did.

***

Lindsey felt a little nervous this time around, but she wasn’t too sure why. It’s not like she had anything to worry about, going out with some coworkers to a band at a bar. Going out to a bar with her very HOT coworkers, it was nothing. Not a thing. No one was interested anyways.

“And that is why The Dunes suck,” Alicia said, then sucked on her thumb until she got all the juice off of it. It was lime and tequila tonight for all of them, a classic, camped out at tables far away from the bar this time. Lindsey’s flagged down Nate, who’d rolled his eyes and then rolled them a whole bottle of “Some tequila brand that’s kinda shitty” and a bowl of lime slices. Lindsey already knew she was reacting a little too slowly about an hour into the concert. The band was loud but unimpressive, something to do with electric guitars and an electric violin. The crowd was lethargic and they’d decided the drinking portion of the evening should begin two songs into the set. Lindsey was watching Alicia become increasingly heavy-lidded, vision drifting slowly over the crowd and slowly over the bottle and slowly over the two of then, and at the same time feeling Jamia slung low on her elbows over the bar, one linked with Lindsey’s elbow, full of tequila herself, and slowly sinking more and more into Lindsey’s side so she was a little belated with her comeback. The bar smelled like dust and dirt and sweat, and now full of alcohol and Jamia’s sophisticated perfume, totally at odds with the Misfits t-shirt she was wearing.

“I dunno, the vocals might need some work, but the lyrics are solid.”

“Their guitars are always THRASHED. That’s just not gonna fly on a bigger tour than they’re on.”

“Aw, give ‘em a break! They’re not that big. And that’s still one one helluva show to put on, rile the crowds up.”

Jamia snorted and leaned into Lindsey’s arm. “And they’re not gonna get any bigger than that if they don’t fix their gear or their playing.” Lindsey felt a pout coming on. “But you’re right, they put on a good show, and that counts for a lot. Can sell out a venue like that.”

“Is that your professional opinion, Ms. Manager?” Alicia smirked. Jamia nodded primly. Lindsey smiled and dug a lighter out of her pocket, lit a cigarette.“Then I’m outvoted I guess, two to one.” Jamia patted Alicia’s hand consolingly, then hung on. Alicia held their hands clasped together for a long while, running her thumb over and over Jamia’s knuckles. Lindsey felt her relax more and more into Lindsey’s arm, her shoulder. Lindsey’s head felt bumpy and fumbly, rolling over and over, unable to hold onto any one idea before roiling to the next. More alcohol sounded like a good idea.
Jamia was pretty well slumped over when Lindsey put out her cig. Alicia chased a rind around the bottom of the bowl “Another glass of limes?”

“Sure, that’d be good,” Alicia breathed out slowly. Lindsey tried to get up but Jamia had turned into an octopus.

“Hello, what?” Jamia said when Lindsey made to sit up.

“I’m getting more limes.”

“Oh, excellent idea,” Jamia said, but didn’t let her go. Lindsey bent down and brushed her lips over Jamia’s ear. She could smell shampoo and even more of Jamia’s perfume in her hair despite the smoke. “I’m getting up, you wanna lemme go?”

Jamia turned in Lindsey’s arms and butted her face into Lindsey’s neck. “No, not particularly,” she replied, suddenly deep-voiced and cracking herself up.

“Ah, so you’re a funny drunk,” Lindsey blurred and heaved herself up, clutching Jamia around the waist and catching Alicia’s eye. Alicia waved her glass and took another shot. Lindsey felt like she half-stumbled, half do-see-do’ed Jamia across the floor before getting Nate’s attention again. He swung them a new bowl, and Lindsey rested it on Jamia’s hip on the trip back.

“There we go, now wasn’t that nice,” Jamia said, again in some goofy low voice.
“Not as nice as it could have been,” Alicia said, copying the super-low voice. Lindsey giggled. “What are you doing?”

Jamia giggled and mashed her face into Lindsey’s arm, again in the silly low voice. “I don’t know, what am I doing?”

“Beer bad,” Lindsey put in.

“It’s the wrong week to stop drinking,” Alicia drawled deep-voiced.

“It’s the wrong week to stop smoking.”

“It’s the wrong week to stop huffing glue.”

“It’s the wrong week to stop smoking crack,” Jamia fake-voiced back. Lindsey’s chest kicked in abortive laughs. “Okay you guys, if you want to rehash Airplane jokes, I’m not gonna encourage you. I don’t agree with that kind of behavior.”

“Oh yeah?” Alicia said.

“Hell yeah,” Lindsey affirmed.

“What else are you gonna dis-,” Jamia hiccoughed, “-agree with then?”

Jamia was sliding down too far now, so Lindsey hitched her up more on her hip. “Not too much else.”

Alicia’s eyes gleamed in amusement in the dull light. Lindsey couldn’t take it. She shoved her chin down to nudge the top of Jamia’s head. Jamia’s mouth was there instead, and Jamia pushed up to kiss her. Lindsey froze.

Jamia didn’t freeze. She kissed Lindsey’s bottom lip and Lindsey opened her mouth to say something (anything), and got another kiss instead. Her head was still in a slurry and didn’t process more than WARM and SOFT and the hard buttons of Jamia’s jean jacked pressed into her front. Lindsey inhaled through her nose, and there was a loud smacking sound when they parted. Jamia’s eyes were open and Lindsey’s blinked stupidly. Jamia pressed forward again for more, and this was probably a bad idea.
The kiss didn’t go very deep at first, because Lindsey could actually feel how slowly and clumsily she was responding from the drunkenness. Jamia seemed a little better off, holding Lindsey’s jaw between her hands and determined for something. “Huh?” Lindsey asked when they broke off for air. She could feel Jamia’s breath on her chin.

“It’s alright, come on,” Jamia coaxed, and licked the front of Lindsey teeth.

Lindsey giggled and caught a lip between her teeth. Jamia whined a little while Lindsey said, “This is stupid,” much more lightly than she felt.

“Sure, that’s alright too,” Jamia said, and got her tongue in Lindsey’s mouth. It was sloppy; Lindsey felt spinny and couldn’t concentrate, kept grinning, and that was probably why there was spit on her chin and maybe her nose before Jamia grumbled and pulled back. Lindsey grinned into Jamia’s frustrated face. She stopped grinning and gasped when Jamia tugged her around on the chair at sat on Lindsey’s lap, put her hands back around her jaw, in her hair, and KISSED her. Her spine tingled and her whole body warmed up.

“Oh!” Lindsey broke away to breathe into Jamia’s neck before tilting her head back and letting herself be kissed some more. Sometimes it was just really nice to be held down and taken for a ride.

When they emerged, Lindsey’s lips felt numb and her arms had made their way around Jamia’s waist, holding her up. Jamia breathed and giggled a little before scooting back to her chair. “Thanks,” Jamia said, and Lindsey grinned at her and then felt her heart rate skyrocket when she saw Alicia staring at them. Lindsey had completely forgotten about her.

Which was obviously a bad move. Alicia just kept staring. Jamia was wiping her mouth with the back of her hand and going in for another shot while Alicia stared at Lindsey, then tore her eyes away to Jamia. Alicia’s mouth was open, and her cheeks flushed from the drink or the heat, breathing maybe a little quicker than usual, but her eyes were still heavy-lidded and dark.

If she didn’t know better, she’d say Alicia looked excited.

Lindsey called a cab that night.

Obviously, she couldn’t tell Amanda. That would just be too weird. Besides, Amanda would probably just give her tips on giving out cookies to initiate threesomes or something if she mentioned the Thing between her and Alicia, as it would obviously come out. She kept her head clear and her nose clean at work the next day. Amanda still wasn’t in, enthusiasm doused from the cold.

But Alicia was in. She boldly framed Lindsey in clear public sight at the microwave and stood with her hands on her hips. Lindsey clutched weakly at her Cup o’ Noodles. Bob was chewing morosely at a Tastycake along with a couple other guys at the kitchenette table. Lindsey fell back a little at the counter. “Hi?” she said, and her voice cracked.

“Hi,” Alicia repeated, voice low again, like when she was playing around last night, but it wasn’t funny this time. It wasn’t funny at all, it was stern. “You coming with us again tonight?”

Lindsey looked for a cue as to what to say. Did Alicia want her to excuse herself from the gig, so she wouldn’t mack on her date again? Did she want an apology? Bob crunched on some lettuce which reminded Lindsey that this was a little public for a grovely apology about making out with someone else’s date. Did Alicia want to set a time and place to ceremonially fight for Jamia’s honor? The styrofoam in her hands squeaked.

Alicia looked stern and implacable and not at all hung over. She snapped the gum in her mouth impatiently over her red, red lips and dark-lined eyes. “Because you should come again,” Alicia said, and it took Lindsey a minute to figure out what she meant.

“Um?”

“You should come again.” Lindsey slipped between agitated and annoyed and threw her mind out of the gutter. “Okay,” Lindsey agreed.

Bob snapped open a soda can and she could hear the carbon dioxide fizzing at her hip, only a few paces away. Alicia loomed large and twisted up her mouth. “Good,” she said, and turned on her heel to exit.

“You’re making friends in the office? That’s kinda sweet, but don’t get so chummy that you let her take your job. That’s what happened to Brent in Accounting.” Bob cocked an eyebrow at them, looked at Lindsey, then slurped down his soda and left.

***

Lindsey did not go to the concert with Jamia and Alicia. Lindsey freaked the fuck out. She stayed late and took the bus home and fell straight into bed while concentrating on not thinking of anything at all.

The following week Alicia gave her sideways looks that change to sourness and then to a nothing-at-all kind of exasperation. “Just don’t forget the quarter deadline,” Alicia said flatly in passing, and Lindsey huddled away. Jamia remained perky if a little awkward. Lindsey didn’t remember Jamia offering her coffee and laughing quite so loudly before, though. Lindsey figured Alicia didn’t tell her about the missed date.

On Wednesday Lindsey got lemon cookies and stacked them on Jamia’s desk hurriedly between the time Alicia clocked out for lunch and Jamia clocked back in.

“And that is why I’m never drumming with a college band ever again. I’m too old for that flighty shit, man,” Bob said exasperatedly, waving his cigarette around. Lindsey snorted and put out her cigarette on the bench. Bob, Lindsey had learned, didn’t like to talk about work, but would open right up when she insulted The Clash.

“Why were you hanging around with a bunch of young kids like that anyway?”

“The kids got good energy. You need a lot of enthusiasm to keep a band alive. Keep it solid.”

“You need an older band for stamina though,” she smirked.

“Don’t even get started with the jokes. I’ve heard them all,” Bob responded mournfully. He started to sip his coffee when Alicia popped around the corner. Alicia rounded the corner, coming out for her break, but not yet close enough to the smoker’s area to see them. Lindsey coughed a little, gathering her things to together under Bob’s watchful eye. He had a thoughtful look on his face when she waved goodbye.

Alicia didn’t even look at her when they passed by each other on the sidewalk.

She spent more time hyperventilating into her couch cushions and drawing bad scenes where girls kissing other people’s girlfriends get ripped to pieces. There’s a lot of blood. In her living room Lindsey crumpled up some of the scribbles and contemplated dropping them out the window onto pedestrians’ heads. However, even pedestrians maybe didn’t deserve shitty bloody drawings, so Lindsey shoved them into the garbage chute instead. In desperation, she broke out her paints instead.

“You look like you just swallowed a spoonful of turpentine. I think. Is that turpentine I’m smelling?” Amanda asked over lunch the day after. Lindsey swore and dug out some ancient wetnaps she’d tucked inside her purse. “Not that it’s an entirely bad smell,” Amanda reconsidered.

“I was painting yesterday. It kind of didn’t work. I got a little crazy. You don’t want to know.”

Amanda hummed. “Come over today instead.” Lindsey made a face. “No really! I’ll read The Little Prince to you and do the voices and everything.” Lindsey laughed, because what? “Reading in voices always calms me down,” Amanda continued and shrugged nonchalantly.

“Well, if you’re offering.”

“Well, I am.”

And so they did. “Fuck you, I make amazing grilled cheese sandwiches,” Lindsey said after the cheese oozed onto the hot pan and splattered onto her hand. She sucked her palm and turned the sandwich over, relishing the noisy sizzles.

“One sees clearly only with the heart. Anything essential is invisible to the eyes,” Amanda intoned, holding the book at arm’s length, sitting primly on top of the kitchen table next to her black-clothed porcelain doll and the stack of scribbled music notes. She looked down her nose and blinked owlishly at Lindsey. “Are you looking with your heart, young lady?”

“Not at the moment, no. Lemme turn off the stove first.”

“Hearts don’t stop looking just because the heat is on!”

“Alright, have it your way. Your sandwich will get pretty burned that way.”

“Eh, spice is the variety of life. Or burning is.”

Lindsey laughed.

***

“My aunt’s doing okay. Not getting any better though,” Amanda said while hugging a pillow. Lindsey propped The Little Prince on her belly and sat up on her elbows. Amanda looked off into the space between bookshelves. “She doesn’t talk about singing anymore.”

Lindsey waited her out, a little pensive. She joined Amanda on the couch and patted her knee awkwardly. “I’m sorry,” she said and was surprised at how low and shocked her voice sounded. Amanda nodded and stayed still, solemn.

After a while, listening to the wind rush outside the darkening windows and rumble forebodingly through the interior halls, Lindsey turned on a lamp. She cleared her throat. She picked up The Little Prince and read, “’What makes the desert beautiful, said the little prince, ‘is that is hides a well somewhere…’”

The next thing Lindsey knew was that her neck was killing her. She grumbled and groaned and stretched out. And kicked a foot into something hard. Weirdly, her bed didn’t usually have hard things in it.

Lindsey opened her eyes.

“Oh. Fuck me backwards.”

“Blargernargle,” said Amanda, who then rolled and fell off the couch. Lindsey couldn’t even laugh; her neck was too painful. Lindsey cringed. “I am getting too old for this.”
“What?” Amanda sat up. “Ow, my KNEES,” she whined, and Lindsey laughed and got up to search for her purse and pack of cigarettes.

“Not inside!” Amanda reiterated, so Lindsey propped open a window and breathed in the first whiff of satisfying smoke and fresh, morning air.

Lindsey choked at the same time Amanda said, “Oh! You stayed!”as she popped over the back of the couch, and grinned like a gargoyle.

Lindsey sputtered and grabbed for her bag. “No worries, we’ve got like an hour until work. You want a shower?” Amanda asked and stretched.

“I don’t have any clothes, Amanda!”

“Eh, yours look fine to me. They’re only like a day old. That’s not bad at all. I’ve got this cute pinstriped pantsuit you could borrow if you want,” Amanda continued. Lindsey clapped a hand to face, and then frantically brushed the cigarette ash from the back of her wrist.

Lindsey stole Amanda’s cereal and fingercombed her hair and grumbled about finding her shoes while Amanda got dressed in fresh clothes and came out of her bedroom hopping on one leg and grumbling about charley horses. They really didn’t have much time until they headed to board the bus. Lindsey stayed grumpily terse, because wow, irresponsibly drinking the night away was one thing, but accidentally sleeping over on Amanda’s couch while reading was another altogether. It was possible Lindsey was going soft and old and boring on top of going creatively mute. It was depressing.
Amanda just looked blearily around in the morning light and rubbed at the sleep creases on her cheek.

Jamia and Alicia caught them coming into the break room, just on time, fortunately. There was still plenty of coffee left, and Lindsey gratefully slurped at it, heading off the caffeine-addict headache before it throbbed into full-force. Alicia kept a blank face while Jamia smiled at them. “Coming in together? Did your transfer bus start early?” she asked Amanda.

“Nah, Lindsey just slept over last night,” Amanda said around her coffee cup, and Lindsey groaned and rubbed the small of her back, because couches? Not so great all the time. Jamia’s eyebrows shot up to her hairline. Then Amanda frowned looking at her cup. “Oh man, is this styrofoam? We really have to stop using these cups, Jamia. Who’s in charge of ordering supplies? I’ll have a talk with them. This is totally irresponsible. What kind of message are we sending?” Amanda looked imploringly to Jamia, who was visibly composing herself. Strange. Lindsey didn’t think environmental hazards were so disturbing at eight in the morning. Maybe later in the day when she snuck around online to look at recycled art exhibitions it’d have more of an impact on her brain.

Then Cindy came in for coffee. She got all sniffy when Lindsey kept yawning and Amanda was rubbing her un-made-up eyes, and then Cindy made a stiff about-face. Some people were just not meant for morning conversation, after all.

Alicia remained tight-lipped and narrow-eyed. Jamia looked surprised. They both also decided to look really, really amazing today as well while Lindsey is tromping around in a day-old white button-up with a black tie and slacks. Lindsey decided the day was fucked anyways and rolled up her sleeves to poke around the ink on her arm. Getting that tattoo in college was one of the best decisions of her life and she never regretted it, unlike some other decisions. Such as unsettling her boss who was now running around the office in no-nonsense shoes and cute hair pinned up with a bow that looked like a minnow (a minnow!) and smearing blue ink over her hands from where a print cartridge had decided to burst. From Amanda’s little hidden nook, Lindsey surreptitiously watched Jamia slowly and meticulously wipe herself down with a handkerchief. Jamia then looked both ways before slipping a compact out of her pocket, checking out her brows and fluffing her hair, making her perfume and the smell of the ink waft in her direction.

Lindsey was fucked, very severely fucked. It was a terrible state of affairs to get turned on by the smell of acetone.

She complained about this indirectly to Amanda.

“Are you saying our boss is hot?”

“Uh.” Lindsey nervously drummed her pen on the table, suddenly unsure of why she was talking about this with Amanda.

“Well, of course she’s hot, hello.”

“Oh. Well, yeah. I just don’t expect…” Lindsey trailed off, hesitant to spill the story to Amanda. It was all just so ridiculous, like a bad teen movie. She half-expected Morgan Freeman to show up as her mentor and advise her to choose the road less traveled. And really, she was a little too old for that now, and her own mosey down the road less traveled still put her right back into Megacorp, so. She rubbed her throat and coughed.

And then Lindsey’s great surprise, Amanda laughed and laughed. Then she pointed. “You just think she’s got great boobs!”

Lindsey froze. “Uh, I wouldn’t. Oh, fuck it. That’s not the whole story.”

Amanda just cackled more. “Well if you’re into that, you should see my rack!” And suddenly Amanda unbuttoned her suit jacket to show off her singlet with the black lacy bits of her bra visible over the top. Amanda cupped herself and wiggled exaggeratedly in her chair with a cheeky smile on her face.

And, well. Apparently Amanda did have some time to fix herself up this morning after all, Lindsey considered blankly. She couldn’t think of anything not stupid to say.
Finally Lindsey sighed and said, “Yes, you have a great rack too Amanda” and rolled her eyes. She got her work done for the day, eventually. She wasn’t too terribly far behind at any rate, but -but she only let herself really think about it when she’s back in her cubicle cleaning things up at the end of the day. Hanging out with Amanda, with her brassy, brash sense of humor. Well, okay. Amanda was an alright person to hang around with, even if she can’t cook and has the most uncomfortable couch on the world to sleep on.

***

The day of the deadlines for the quarterly was insane; Amanda had an orange peel and flowers in her hair to commemorate it. Bob had a thousand-yard stare that even Amanda’s coiffure didn’t break and Charlie was running around maniacally checking Lindsey work. She was, oh, a bit strained.

She flew through the last-minute check-ups and processing, and jittered. One of her wrists hurt from where she’d slammed a filing cabinet too hard and a tendon or something had twisted. Usually when she wanted to calm down she drew, but that was out, since she was as blocked from her muse as she’d ever been.

***

The night after the deadlines made them all completely strung out. The tension was high, and they all felt like crashing once six rolled around (Some people literally crashed. Bob slumped over face-first over his keyboard and wasn’t moving so Lindsey poked him tentatively and Bob groaned something about finally knowing what The Matrix is, so Lindsey figured he was fine.

Lindsey totally wanted to just get drunk, go see The Dunes (finally back in town after their tour), stare at Susie Dune’s fishnets, and forget everything. But that doesn’t happen.

“No, it is party time,” Amanda said, and kept repeating it, blocking Lindsey’s exit from her cubicle. Amanda tugged on a piece of Lindsey hair, and Lindsey playfully batted her away.

“Woman, I just slept with you the other night! I’d say you’ve got your quota of Lindsey filled for the week.” Next door, Cindy tutted loudly. Amanda just giggled.
Amanda stepped out of the way when Charlie stopped to talk to Lindsey. Charlie leaned on the door and was very earnest about encouraging Lindsey. “I mean, I’m sure you did your best, of course you did. You fixed the perspective on that ream of goldenrod ads, right? Yes, we’ll just see how it comes out in the wash.” He patted her on the shoulder. “We should go out to celebrate! I’m having a get-together with some nice neighbors at a barbeque, and you’re more than welcome to come Lindsey. I could introduce you to my neighbor, he’s a real estate developer who’s always looking for new art to sell to his customers as a business.”

In a brief horror of out-of-body experience, Lindsey got a vision of creating dreary mass-market art for the next five years. “You’re very generous, Charlie, thank you, but I’ve already made plans to go out with Amanda. Sorry, I’ll catch you next time.”
Charlie beamed benevolence and said, “Oh yeah, sure, have a nice date!” Lindsey chuckled and didn’t correct him.

Lindsey decided to take Amanda with to the concert. She seems like she’d really appreciate them. Amanda beamed. “I’ve heard them before, you know.”

“Really? No, I didn’t know.”

“Damn, I would’ve brought a change of clothes if I knew I was going to a bar.”

“Come over to my place. It’s close, you can change into something there.” Amanda be-bopped back to her desk to find her purse, and Lindsey leaned back on her desk in consideration.

After they bounce to Lindsey’s place, they run into fucking Jamia and Alicia at the same gig, of course. They appear to have just started drinking.

“I still don’t like this band,” Alicia said, and saluted them with a beer, pointing her thumb at Jamia to lay the blame. She looked like she’d been rubbing her eye-makeup off during the day’s stressful encounters, and of course, it was totally ridiculous, but Lindsey found that even hotter than ever. Lindsey got distracted from staring (there was no point in arguing, it was definitely staring this time) when Jamia sighed noisily and slurped out the bottom of her drink.

Amanda was off and running already. “That’s fantastic!” she shouted at the crowd, and a dude bought her a drink for her enthusiasm.

“Oh my gosh, no one’s done for me since nineteen eighty-six!” Amanda said excitedly, and the guy backs off with upraised hands after that. Amanda smiles wickedly at Jamia and

Surprisingly, after Amanda had a couple drinks and she started talking about her old gigs and what she missed about them, man, the singularity of mind, the companionship, the sense of community. Jamia and Alicia look at each other in recognition and then nod along. Amanda captured Jamia into another incomprehensible conversation and rested on Jamia’s shoulder while Jamia combs through her hair fondly, and Lindsey well. She let herself divide her attention between The Dunes being amazing on stage and staring at them out of the corner of her eyes.

Amanda suddenly sat upright and seemed to be considering something. She looked from one to another. She tipped back the rest of her drink and rolled it around her mouth with determination. It was actually hilarious and Lindsey wondered what grand revelation Amanda was coming up with. She finally put her chin in her hands and said something. “Fuck, you guys. Why aren’t y’all fucking like a band of hyenas?

Lindsey laughed nervously. And then,“Wait, a band of hyenas, what?” Jamia was blinking rapidly and Alicia had suddenly snapped to put all her attention on Amanda.

“It’s all in the body language. Shit, I thought you all had gotten over that and were having mega-sex five nights a week.” Amanda continued.

“Um, why would you say that?”

“Because it’s elementary, my dear.” The words were light, but her tone was not, and then she actually seemed concerned.

“Well, do you want to?”

Alicia seemed to be biting her lip and Jamia looked like she’d bitten her tongue.

“Well, of course, but some people aren’t getting with the program,” Alicia said acidly, and Lindsey actually jumped in her seat. And then, because she was dense, the realization came into her head very, very slowly.

“I’m actually scared of what the results would be,” Jamia said. Amanda plopped her head back on Jamia’s shoulder.

“But wouldn’t it be a shame not to try?” Lindsey locked eyes with the Alicia, then Jamia, and then Amanda, who looked as mischievous and cat-got-the-cream as could be.

“You should try my place. I’ve got an awesome amount of space, Lindsey agrees with me about that.”

“I need more drinks for this,” Lindsey said, and Amanda said, “Here, here!” and they eventually, slowly, all got out of the bar together. Jamia lead the way to her car, and Amanda pointed them in the right direction.

***

In the morning, Lindsey woke up on the floor and naked except for her underwear, a comforter covering her breasts and a hand making circles on her calf.

“Hellooooo,” Amanda drawled, and Lindsey groaned and stretched. Her knee popped and Amanda crinkled up her nose. “That’s such a gross sound.”

Lindsey stretched out her toes, groaning again to wake up, and replied throatily, “Your mom.”

Someone behind Amanda snorted. Lindsey turned her head to see someone’s arm curl around Amanda’s middle and flipped her over. Alicia got on top of Amanda and they started to kiss. And kiss. Amanda grabbed her ass. Lindsey snorted and then didn’t find it funny at all when Alicia started rocking on Amanda’s thigh and moaned.

Lindsey’s belly twinged. She rubbed her palms on her hips and sighed, wiggling, but that warm twinge was slowly working its way into a flush all over her body that wasn’t stopping. Amanda grumbled and bucked Alicia off, and they situated themselves into the loveseat instead. Lindsey leaned up on her elbows to keep watching.

“Do you have maple syrup?” Jamia asked interestedly from the couch. Alicia was licking into Amanda’s mouth, making her eyes flutter, so Amanda didn’t answer right away. Lindsey was warm all over and getting warmer, verging into hot if she kept watching them some more. Jamia made a grumbling noise as she got up, the kind Lindsey found herself making more and more as she got older, and wow, that was a thought, getting older and watching out for her knees. She could deal with groaning as her knees creaked if it meant getting up with a tangle of girls in the morning.

Lindsey heard clattering near and over her head. She leaned back into the couch and watched Alicia and Amanda make out some more, thought about playing with her clit and making Alicia come over to her next. Alicia kneaded Amanda’s tits with both hands and Amanda leaned back onto the base of the loveseat with a little noise, opened her legs up and welcomed Alicia in. Their lips smacked together harder and Lindsey seriously considered taking off her panties again, even though the floor was drafty.

She smelled browning butter, all of a sudden, and her stomach growled and distracted her almost completely. She got up from the floor and walked a couple paces to the kitchen.

Jamia was pouring the melted butter out of a pan into a bowl. “Here,” she said, “you can take over the eggs.”

“What?” Eggs were not sexy.

“I’m starving. I’m always fucking hungry after an all-nighter, I don’t know about you, but I am.” Lindsey grinned and watched her measure Bisquick into a mixing bowl.

“Are you good at cooking? Because Amanda and me, not so much.” Jamia waved her over to the stove and grinned smugly, powder on her cheek. “I’m a fucking amazing cook, Ms. Ballato. You should be grateful.”

“Then I’m fucking impressed, Ms. Nestor. I’ll show you later.” Lindsey fetched the egg carton. Amanda’s voice suddenly broke through when she starting crying out in higher and higher registers; she was going to come. They were hidden by the loveseat back, but Lindsey smiled to hear them moaning out their orgasms before breakfast. Her life was much more fucking awesome than when she’d woken up yesterday morning.

Amanda and Alicia crawled out from the sitting room when Jamia was halfway done with the pancakes. They sat on the kitchen table and made out until Alicia rustled yesterday’s newspaper on the table. “Oh man, the horse races!” Amanda broke away to inspect the winnings noisily, lots of hummings and oh no’s and goddamnit, that’s not fair. Alicia huffed and turned away licking her lips before spying Jamia, eyes moving lower. Jamia’s boobs had been shifting a little as she re-whipped the deflating pancake batter; Lindsey had been sitting back on the counter and eyeing her too. She’d finished with the scrambled eggs some minutes ago and hadn’t moved from the spot.

Lindsey caught Alicia’s eye and quirked an eyebrow. Alicia nodded in agreement.
Jamia protested when Lindsey rubbed her belly though. “No oral on the counter until I’m done with the flour, okay? You can have sex there while we’re eating breakfast though.” Alicia pouted, and Jamia laughed before elbowing Lindsey gently in the side and turning back to the stove. “Dishes, now, please.” Lindsey got them, grabbing Jamia’s ass in the process. Jamia grumbled playfully and drizzled more batter into
a pan.

Lindsey and Amanda cleared off the table and set out the dishes. Amanda dug in even more than Lindsey.

“Do you not eat?” Alicia asked, amused, chasing eggs around her plate.

“Sort of. Most of the time! I eat a lot of sandwiches.” Jamia rubbed her hands over her face in amazement. She ate her pancakes more neatly than anyone and didn’t even get syrup on her nose like Lindsey did most of the time.

“I appreciate a good meal,” Lindsey waggled her fork in Jamia’s direction, “And more with a good cook.”

“You’re a cook?” Amanda blinked. “Oh. I didn’t know. I would have tried to bake you cookies instead of just buying them.”

Jamia waved away the suggestion. “That’s alright! Lindsey already told me about your oven problems.” Amanda sighed dramatically and laid back in her chair, crossing her arms under her boobs to make them pop up over her bra. Jamia laughed and copied her, and even in just her shirt the effect work a little better on her. When Lindsey glanced at Alicia, she was already licking her hands clean of syrup.

They turned Jamia around when she tried to do dishes. “What, they’re easier to do when they’re still warm. Alicia,” she drew the name out on a long sigh and got poked in the nose for her efforts. Lindsey wrapped her arms around Jamia’s waist and helped her to sit on the counter. “I thought I said something about appreciation?” Jamia snickered a little and put her hands on top of Lindsey’s.

“Spread your legs,” Alicia said, and nudged at Jamia’s thighs.

“This is like something out of a bad porno,” Jamia said, a little breathlessly, but she didn’t resist and didn’t let go of Lindsey’s hands.

“That’s alright, you just take it easy, okay? This is going to be awesome,” Lindsey whispered right back, and moved a hand up to Jamia’s hair, tilting her head back and starting on her neck.

“Definitely awesome. I haven’t ever christened my kitchen before!” Amanda called cheerfully from the table, looking up happily and opening up the paper enough so only the top of her tousled hair was visible.

Lindsey kissed and licked Jamia’s neck and jaw for a while, massaging her scalp and pulling a little. Jamia was making little whimpering noises and trying to keep still, but that couldn’t last for too long; Lindsey lazily opened one eye to see Alicia had pushed Jamia’s shirt up, alternately sucking on Jamia’s nipples and rolling them between her fingers. Lindsey worked her hands loose and got them under the shirt enough to pull it off. She got better access to the back of Jamia’s neck, and she used it.

Jamia squeaked suddenly and shivered. “Yeah, did you want something, baby?” Alicia asked, but Jamia shook her head.

“Is she telling the truth?” Lindsey murmured.

“I don’t think so,” Alicia said, and Jamia squeaked again. Lindsey couldn’t quite see, but she guessed, and brought both hands around and up to cup Jamia’s breasts. Jamia let out a “huhhnnnnrgh” sound and started breathing harder, but the angle wasn’t quite right.

“Oh fuck this,” Lindsey muttered and climbed on the counter behind Jamia, got her hands positioned right and squeezed gently. Jamia threw her head back, mouth open on a moan, and Lindsey leaned up enough to kiss her.

Jamia moaned, and started really rolling her hips then. Lindsey peeked down to see Alicia had pushed Jamia’s panties to one side and was just going for it with her mouth, holding Jamia’s clenching thighs open with her hands. Lindsey kept Jamia busy and sucked on her tongue until Jamia broke away to breathe. “Mmmm, don’t don’t, I can’t…” Lindsey looked down and swallowed a little.

Alicia looked up, mouth shiny. “Can’t what?” She kept Jamia occupied with her thumb. Jamia whimpered and almost squirmed off the counter. “That’s what I thought.” Alicia bent down again. Lindsey switched off Jamia’s breasts and anchored her hips instead. Jamia kicked her heels against the counter in protest.

“Wait, wait,” trailed off into a series of breathy hiccoughs, faster and faster. Lindsey pinched her hips and saw Alicia move her tongue faster. Jamia groaned and jerked her hips forward before falling back onto Lindsey’s hold. After a minute she murmured and rubbed a hand over herself, brought the wetness up to rub her own nipples.
“Jesus Christ,” Lindsey swore and got off the counter. She’d already made a fucking wet spot where she’d been sitting on her leg; there was only so much a woman could take. Alicia was licking her lips and rubbing her face with her hands, and Lindsey pinned her against the opposite counter and they rubbed against each other until they got off. Lindsey took her time on Alicia’s mouth, swallowing in her moans and pinning Alicia’s wrists to the counter, feeling Alicia rock against her thigh and shivering in oversensitive aftershocks. They stood there for a minute, Lindsey watching Alicia’s red mouth and the slowed heaving of her chest, her tattoo, and felt something warm and soft and heavy in her chest. She also felt hot and sticky all over.

“Dibs on the shower,” she broke away, and Alicia swatted her on the ass.

“Fine by me,” said Jamia, still rubbing lazily between her own legs and lying flat on the counter. Amanda saluted her from behind the newspaper, legs crossed on the table and painted toes wiggling.

Much much better, Lindsey thought, grabbing a random towel from the blankets spilling out of the boudoir. Much better than before.

***

It only dawned on Lindsey later that morning after looking up movie times in the paper while Jamia was checking the stock market on Amanda’s laptop. Alicia was dozing in the sun throwing itself through the open window onto the paneled floor, a messy pillow under her head while Amanda watched and smirked to herself.

“Wait a minute. How long have we been dating?”

Amanda grinned another lascivious, shark grin. “Well, since I asked you over the first time. You were so stubborn.” She raised her voice for the others. “I had to bribe her over with interior design.” Lindsey swore, and Amanda sat on Lindsey’s lap to hug her bodily, arms around Lindsey’s shoulders and legs around her waist, Lindsey gusting out breath as Amanda squeezed hard. Jamia laughed at them, totally amused, light and clear as a bell. Alicia snorted and stirred. “See, I told you, you were taken.”

“I’d say everyone’s well taken here,” Jamia cracked, and Amanda jostled more, giggling on Lindsey’s lap before turning around and sliding down to rest her head on Lindsey’s thigh, sprawled out with legs outstretched.

***

“But really, what do you have against The Dunes?” Lindsey asked Amanda. During a coffee break next week, and she was slowly edging her hand over to Amanda’s. Their pinkies touched.

“They’re just not quite what I’m looking for. They’re punk, but they’ve got all this potential to be more. More outspoken, more activist.” Lindsey’s jaw dropped. “Probably more synthesizers too.”

“Okay, first, fuck off, I love The Dunes. Second, synths are not necessary for any band in the world. And what do you mean, they should have songs about –about recycling and burning bras?”

“Not bad for a start,” Amanda said.

“You’re not serious,” Lindsey laughed.

“You should see my writing notebook. Seriously,” Amanda said. Then Jamia walked into the office straightening her shirt and rubbing at her neck.

“I’ve got cover-up if you need it,” Amanda joked, and Jamia’s entire face broke into a wide, sunny grin.

“I might need it, yeah,” she said, and Alicia stumbled through the office doors a few minutes later, her hair even messier than usual. Lindsey bit her lip and clasped Amanda’s hand.

***

“Yeah, Amanda showed me her stuff one time. I’m not gonna lie, I was pretty fucking impressed.”

Jamia was lying belly-down on the floor of Lindsey’s apartment and spooning up ice cream from a carton. Lindsey came back from her bedroom, tripped over her coffee table before kicking it even closer to the wall, and spread down another comforter.

“I mean, I’ve heard her, YOU’VE heard her, she’s excellent. I’m not even really sure why she’s at Megacorp.”

“Problems on the workfront? Amanda not doing her job?” Lindsey teased, and knocked their shoulders together. Jamia pushed back.

“No, of course, not, unlike some people,” and Lindsey rolled her eyes and felt a little bubble of happiness. No way was she getting fired from sleeping with the boss. She could even keep her sweet corner office.

“But still, she’s a fabulous musician, what is she doing here?”

“We have to do what we have to do,” Lindsey said, thinking of Amanda’s eyes, her sometimes sad smile, her stories about her aunt. “What about you? What are you doing here, Miss Former Eyeball Talent Scout?”

Jamia sighed. “That’s different.” Lindsey shrugged. She caught some ice cream melting on the carton’s rim with her finger and licked it up. Jamia leaned forward, a gleam in her eye, and got a spoonful of ice cream, held it out to her. Lindsey leaned in and opened her mouth, and Jamia fed it to her, hair falling over her eyes, the apple of her cheek. Lindsey sat forward and just enjoyed the sight of her, soft and firm and fully present, and Jamia stared back. Then Jamia stuck her cold toes on Lindsey’s calves.

“Ah, fuck me!” Lindsey swore and pulled her legs up under her.

“Well, if you insist,” and Jamia pressed her hands on Lindsey’s shoulders and kissed her, tasting cold and sweet. They rolled on the floor and made out for a while in between giggling. Lindsey was on her back, legs around Jamia’s hips when she heard the front door creak open and shut, the clip-clap of heels on tile in the kitchen, paper rustling. Lindsey tipped her head back to see Alicia upside-down.

“Maybe we’ll have the take-out later?” Alicia drawled.

“Maybe,” Jamia said, then exhaled much breathier when Lindsey slouched and drew up one leg.

“You know it’s kind of rude to get a head start.”

“We can make it up to you. Do we need to talk about sex protocol?” Jamia kept her voice calm, but the skin was trembling and hot beneath Lindsey’s fingers.

“About the rules of foursomes?” Alicia paused. “Actually, maybe. Yes.” She glanced at Lindsey, shrugging off her coat.

“Fine by me,” Lindsey agreed. “Amanda won’t mind missing out for a night. Probably.” Jamia snorted skeptically. “Well, as long as she get lots of attention later. She can be an attention-hog.”

“Not the only one,” Jamia teased, before going in for long, slow kisses. Alicia butted her way in between, and Lindsey laughed, watching them kiss, feeling Alicia long cold fingers trace patterns on her neck.

***

Lindsey was helping Alicia. She was a lookout and trying to seem innocent while Alicia nonchalantly photocopied flyers for the next week’s bands coming to town at Alicia’s hangout.

“Jamia already knows you’ve been doing this, so why do you need a lookout again?” Lindsey asked. She jumped a little then smiled when Charlie walked past.

“The other department managers DON’T already know, and I’d prefer to keep it that way,” Alicia murmured. Her tongue stuck out a tiny bit between her lips as she concentrated on formatting the flyer sizes, and Lindsey got distracted.

“So you’re on a street team?”

“Not really. Grew out of it. Still do favors for my man at the club though, stay up to date. Gotta keep it fresh and keep looking.”

“Looking for what?

“Looking for what’s fresh, new, what’s real. Some bands have got that spark, you know?” Alicia said under her breathe, like a secret, and yes, Lindsey knew it exactly. “Gotta keep an eye out for it, to find the right band.”

Lindsey hadn’t heard her talk about music like that before, like it was a special thing just for her. “You been in a band before?”

“Yeah, a few. I play guitar, you know. And bass. Acoustic, electric, whatever.” Lindsey felt her eyebrows shoot up. Alicia looked a little disgruntled and pinched the bridge of her nose. “No, Lindsey, I’m not only a groupie with too much time on her hands, thanks a lot.”

“No! It’s just that. You make it sound like it’s art.” Alicia scowled. “No. It’s. You sound like me. When my art is good, really good, it pulses, it shines, it’s alive.” Lindsey stopped short, a little breathless and feeling like she was stepping over a void. “You make the music sound alive.”

Alicia didn’t even stop to ponder that. The copier clunked and spat out the last of the flyers in a stack. Alicia cradled them in her arms and held them close to her chest. “Of course it is,” she said, and strode off to her office.

“I didn’t mean to hurt her feelings,” Lindsey said to Amanda later, waiting for the bus. “I just got startled, I guess.” Amanda kept looking at her thoughtfully. “I haven’t talked about art in a while. I guess I felt kind of weird and exposed, and like, all emotional about right now,” she finally conceded. Lindsey’s throat clenched convulsively, thinking about her poor dead-weight pens and paper at home, laid aside in boxes like corpses.

Amanda chewed on that for a while. After they got off at Amanda’s stop, she spoke up. “Maybe Alicia hasn’t talked about art in a while either.”

Lindsey decided she couldn’t think about that at the moment and laid it aside for later.

***

As it turned out, “later” became “right fucking now.”

“Oh my god, why do The Brewers suck hard? Jesus, it’s like they’re pulling a monkey through a trombone by its balls,” Jamia complained and stomped out of Dirty Nell’s. Lindsey stomped too, but she accidentally kicked dirt on a punk’s shoes. He flipped her off, Lindsey glared, and Alicia told him to go suck on a lemon until he pissed sunshine.

“Holy shit. Sweet!” Amanda approved and held out her fist. Alicia bumped fists half-heartedly.

“Shit, I’M a better band than them and I’m not even one,” Alicia said and yawned while Jamia shook out two cigarettes from her pack and handed them over for Lindsey to light.

“Damn straight. You can sing better than them too,” Amanda added. Alicia snorted.

“Okay, maybe you’re not a better singer. But I definitely am. I warned Lindsey about them, remember?”

“Yeah, I remember. Nothing from The Brewers and no German death metal, gotcha.”

“I’m just saying, the aesthetic can be interesting,” Alicia protested.

“What, you’re saying that band doesn’t sound like they’re torturing a monkey with a brass instrument?”

“Oh no, I mean German death metal can be interesting.”

Amanda considered it. “Okay, truce.” She held out her fist again and Alicia punched her lightly in the arm instead.

“You definitely sing better than them, Amanda. And you too Alicia.”

“You haven’t even heard me play.”

“Well, we’ll need to fix that soon, too.”

***

“So, you ever thought about it?” Jamia came to Lindsey, very business-like and professional the next morning over coffee. It would have been even more professional if it wasn’t six in the morning and they weren’t elbow-to-elbow on Amanda’s kitchen counter and still sporting bedhead. Lindsey had a crick in her neck from sleeping on the couch, but company had been more than comfortable (Jamia didn’t kick, unlike some other girls she currently slept with.)

“Eh? What, no, I’ve never considered milk instead of sugar in my coffee, gross.” She edged the milk jug further away from her mug and shuddered.

“No, about a band.”

“I’ve never played an instrument.”

“We’ll see about that.”

In the evening, after a rather astonishingly long argument between Alicia and Amanda on the car ride to Amanda’s place, all the way up the elevator, and in between everyone using the bathroom, Jamia finally lost her cool.

“Well. Why can’t we? Why shouldn’t we?” Jamia demanded, face red and gearing up for a full-on bluster. “We know the people, we know the music, we know our shit, and we can definitely put the work into it. Why the fuck shouldn’t we start a band?”

“I can’t even begin to say all the shit that could go wrong,” Alicia repeated once more.

“Why not? Shit, stuff goes wrong all the time, that’s not a reason not to try at all. Why shouldn’t we get to make our mark like this?”

The question hung in the air. Lindsey could think of a dozen reasons why it’d be a bad idea. She didn’t know what she was doing, what direction she was going in. She’d never done something like that before. She might get distracted and lose her job. She might go on an egotistical tailspin and quit her job over a band, which almost seemed as heinous an idea as working at an art store again would be. The band could fall apart. Their relationship -thing- whatever it was, could fall apart.

She stared at the notebook in her lap, full of color and the sketches –the sketches weren’t as bad as they’d been. They could –possibly- be improving. She looked up. She looked at Amanda, huddled around a lapful of music notes. She looked at Jamia wrinkling her forehead in thought, questioning and hands spread over kitchen table. She looked at Alicia, dark in contemplation and still holding onto one knee. She saw all of them.

“I want to do it,” Lindsey said, watching her hands on her drawings. “I want to do this band.”

Alicia snorted. “Fuck yes, of course I want it too. It’s just. It’s a band. If we want to do it right, then a lot of work, you guys.”

“Well, duh. We can do that,” Jamia said. “But can you write the music? Can you do it?”
“If you bring it, then I can bring it,” Alicia said challengingly. She shook her hair up and sat up straight. “Amanda?”

Amanda was chewing on her thumb, expression dark. She spat out the digit and held up her fist. “Fuck it. First a band, then world domination!” They all crowed close for a first bump that turned into hand-holding, just breathing it all in. Lindsey stuck her nose in the crook of Alicia’s neck and breathed in all the possibilities.

***

They decided to keep it in Amanda’s place at first. Alicia, not so surprisingly, had a few instruments at her place that she brought over. She was maybe still dubious about Alicia teaching her how to play bass.

Lindsey was totally surprised the first time she heard Alicia go from plucking away at her guitar through carrying a chorus all the way through. Alicia rocked a bit on the balls of her feet when she played, nimble fingers plucking, and clenched her teeth in a steely grin.

“Holy shit. I didn’t know you could play like that.” Lindsey was gaping and staring down at her own tabs in astonishment.

Alicia tossed her bangs out of her eyes. “Well, why wouldn’t I be able to play like that?” Lindsey remembered all the awkward bumps and crashes Alicia’d had at the office and carefully decided not to mention them. Obvious there was some kind of musician ninja magic going on.

Amanda rifled through Alicia’s music notebooks and hummed appreciatively. “I can work with this. This is totally workable.”

Lindsey’s own tabs didn’t seem complicated at first, but that was just at first.
Lindsey sucked. “I really suck at this,” she said. Then she swore and shook her hand out when her finger got trapped under a string again.

“Yeah, you really do,” Alicia said, patting down her own jet-black and icy-cool guitar. “But most bands suck at first.”

“Wow, that’s fantastic, thanks for the encouragement.”

“It’s not all bad. We’ll suck together, and then we’ll be awesome together.”

“If you say so.”

“Play it again, Sam!” Amanda yelled, and Alicia began the chorus she’d written that sounded as if Betty Paige and Bugs Bunny had gotten down on the dance floor together. Then Amanda yelled something about tempo changes and Lindsey bit her lip and concentrated

***


“We don’t have a drummer!”

“Do we need a drummer?”

“Maybe?”

“Yes we do!” Jamia yelled, and threw her hands in the air.

“It can’t be that hard to find a drummer, can it?” Lindsey asked. “It was just banging around for a while, right?”

Alicia and Jamia turned to stare at her. Alicia turned back to Jamia. “Okay, Lindsey is not allowed to find our drummer.”

“Definitely not.”

“Let’s ask Bob,” Amanda piped up, and uncoiling from around her cello where she’d been polishing it. “He’s good, I’ve heard.”

Jamia snorted. “Bob will not be interested in our band. I think he was with some prog rock band before.”

“Well, maybe that’s why he left, not enough piano in it for him.”

Jamia ignored her. “Can you put out a few feelers with the people you know?” Alicia nodded and picked up her phone, starting to text.

“We can just ask Bob! Lindsey knows him, she can ask,” Amanda insisted.

Jamia clapped a hand to her forehead. “Okay, Alicia will ask Bob too. Lindsey, you are not allowed to talk to Bob about drumming.”

“Why not?

“Dude, get your bass in line before you start insulting people about drumming, okay?” Alicia scoffed.

Lindsey eyed her bass suspiciously. Well. They might be right about the music. “Okay, but I’m officially designing the band art.”

“Definitely,” Amanda and Jamia chimed in a chorus. They grinned at each other. “We need posters,” Jamia continued. “And merch eventually.”

“Let’s not plan too far ahead,” Alicia muttered, still texting furiously.

“Hey, if I’m gonna do this, I’m gonna go in all the way. We all should, too,” Jamia said. Alicia shook her head ruefully.

After a few minutes of piddling around the couches, and kissing Amanda over the back of the loveseat, Alicia broke in pointedly, “I don’t hear anyone practicing,” and Lindsey sighed dramatically and fell back. Amanda nodded in agreement.

“I thought the band wouldn’t come before all of us?” Lindsey complained.

Alicia held her hand out. “It won’t. But the band won’t get any better if all we do is fuck. Hand me your phone, I’m putting my contacts in yours too.” Lindsey did.

Then she bent over and picked up her bass.

***

The next day was a breezy, beautiful Friday. Lindsey kept absent-mindedly daydreaming about and accidentally sitting back in her chair, which was still broken and the hinges squealed horribly every time she put pressure on them, jolting her out of her reverie. She’d just slipped back into deciding whether or not the logo should include the classic flaming eyeball emblem when Bob marched into her cubicle and crossed his arms.

“…yes?”

“What’s going on?” Bob said.

Lindsey remembered her orders, though. Jamia had reminded her again during a mid-morning makeout session in the bathroom.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Amanda gave me coffee and asked if I liked cabaret-rock music and lesbians. And then left. And now Alicia’s giving me scary looks.”

“Well. It sounds like you’re, ah, you’ve got your hands full?”

Bob glared.

“Huh. Well, don’t tell Jamia I said anything, but we started a band.”

“You and Alicia?”

“No, Me, Alicia, Jamia, Amanda. It’s gonna rock this town apart.” Bob snorted. “Oh, you think that now. We need a drummer.”

“Amanda’s a spazz and maybe an axe murderer. I can’t be in a band like that! Too stressful,” and Bob was joking but he still looked a little wary around the eyes. He looked over his shoulder reflexively.

“Well…you should listen to Alicia when she talks to you. Listen to what she says.” Bob looked grim. “But if it’s too much for you we can always grab someone else.”

“I know this dude, Patrick, he’s a dog-walker, he likes doing weekend bands. I’ll tell Alicia about him.” He left before Lindsey could say anything else. She wasn’t sure what she would’ve said. She just wasn’t too sure if “weekend band” was an accurate description.

She had to let it go, though. Alicia said she was good at handling music people, and Jamia was definitely good with people in general, and Lindsey…well, Lindsey was good at drawing. She was also good at thinking up crazy ideas and kissing her girlfriends and making cheese sandwiches, and maybe one day she’d be good at bass.

She ditched the flaming eyeball idea in favor of bloody unicorns for the rest of the afternoon.

Bob didn’t seem impressed when he turned up at their practice space on Sunday. And by practice space, that meant Amanda’s studio. Lindsey was supposedly good at handling Bob (“He likes you!” “That’s just because I don’t talk to the plastic ponies on my desk.” “Yeah I don’t know what that’s all about.” “It’s probably just a Bob-quirk, don’t worry.”) At any rate Lindsey met him outside the building, and lit up a fresh cigarette to make him more amenable, maybe.

“Hard to find parking?” she asked mid-smoke.

“Yeah, hard to park without tripping over a dead body in this place,” Bob said blowing out a white stream.

Lindsey couldn’t resist the opening. “It’s worth it, the rental rate’s’ve gone way down since Amanda moved in,” and Bob groaned.

“Yeah? Come join our band, Bob. It’ll be hella cool.”

Bob looked perturbed. “But? Aren’t you guys all…?”

In the end Bob agreed to be their drummer once he sees them practice a couple times in Amanda’s apartment (he’s surprised there aren’t more severed heads decorating the place.) He seemed surprised at himself even.

“You’re serious. You’re really serious about this.” Bob looked solemn.

Jamia crossed her arms. “Yes, we really are.”

“Well, fuck. Fuck." He rubbed over his chin, and Lindsey could hear the raspy stubbly. “Play that line again?” he asked, and Alicia did, kicked back on the floor with the amp turned way down. Bob drummed his knuckles against the counter in time, and Amanda abruptly got up to rifle through her music notes, and showed Bob a sheet of something. Bob stuck his jaw forward a little, attention roving between the paper and Alicia picking through the melody, and Lindsey sat back on her heels so she could see how their decision unfolded.

***

Bob found them a practice space. He knew a guy who knew a guy, but still warned them, “Whatever you do, don’t say anything about the cobra painted on the wall, okay?” The place was soundproofed, and there was plenty of room for a drumset and Alicia wiggling around with her guitar while Amanda thrashed away on a keyboard. The sound they were coming up with was an interesting mix: Amanda was still pushing for cabaret punk rock, and even Bob wasn’t opposed to that, but he had a heart of classic rock, and surprisingly jazz, and the rest of them hailed the variegated alter of punk.

Songwriting wasn’t going to get boring anytime soon. Amanda and Alicia usually made up for writing spats by making out up against the nearest wall, which Bob wrinkled his nose at.

“Ugh,” he groaned after another session in the basement and Alicia had stuck her hand up Amanda’s shirt.

“What do you mean? You don’t want to hear anything about the orgies?” Lindsey teased, and Bob covered his eyes.

“Sucks to be you,” Jamia said, typing something up on her ever-present laptop. Amanda giggled and snapped Alicia’s bra.

“Oh god, I didn’t need to see that!” Bob groaned and turned away from them.

“Too bad, suckah!” Amanda crowed.

“Why is my band a bunch of crazy lesbians?”

“Don’t be jealous! Once we’re touring, I’m sure they’re be plenty of guyfans all riled up afterward and not able to catch one of us so they’ll gladly take care of you.”

“I’m straight,” Bob said.

“Oho, you say that now.” Bob marched back to his kit to collect his drumsticks.

“Oh man, I love this band already,” Lindsey sighed.

Alicia and her friend Sarah kept introducing them to people Lindsey felt she should know already. Alicia placed a certain emphasis on their names she couldn’t quite place, but seemed to vibe with them pretty well. Lindsey had no idea she was so well-connected. (“Why wouldn’t I be?” Alicia replied, and ripped through another awesome chorus, and okay, maybe Lindsey had a lot more to learn about the business.) Jamia just grinned like a shark at her old acquaintances from Eyeball Records they kept running into now that there were whispers of Alicia and band running under the conversations.

Stuck in the grimy basement on a bar stool, beads of sweat on her face. She picked idly toed the hard case for her bass and picked up her notebook instead. She liked bringing that with her during practice, now. It helped jumpstart the creative juices, or they crossed over for drawing, but her stuff didn’t totally suck lately. It wasn’t the best stuff either, but at least the terrifying ache of drought had left her head. There were downsides, though. Lindsey rubbed her painful fingertips together. Growing calluses was a painful process. “You didn’t say this would hurt,” she said to Jamia.

Jamia was sorting receipts from their last trip to the music store. “I said it would take a whole lot of work. It’s also hard, sometimes sucks, often dirty, and mostly boring when it isn’t fun as hell. There, that’s my official statement as a band manager.”

Lindsey dangled one foot and cradled the pages in her lap. A couple of lines had smeared from the transferred sweat, but mostly, mostly it was looking good.

“Are we practicing more for tonight? Or can we head it off for the night and eat something?” Alicia said.

“And sex!” Amanda chimed in.

“And sex. Hmm. Maybe we need to schedule that in too,” Jamia said quietly and mostly to herself. Lindsey couldn’t hold it in any longer and cracked up.

“For the love of god,” Bob swore and raised his hands.

“That’s not a bad plan,” Lindsey said, and picked up her bass, nodding them to the stairs.

“We make good plans,” Amanda said happily, and swung around her hips packing away the keyboard for the night. When they were outside, heading for Jamia’s car with all their stuff, Amanda caught her hand and squeezed before falling back, falling in step with Alicia, Jamia leading the way.

The sunlight was backing them up, falling on the pile of their instruments in the back of the car, falling on the pile of them grouped in the car. And yeah, Lindsey could agree with that. Eventually, they all found a way to make good plans.



THE END

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