Chapter Thirteen: Intrigue And Arguments

Despite Nat’s concerns, the launch of our second single, ‘Running Wild/Hathor’s Lament’ went off without a hitch.  Fergus even gave us a launch party for it, at The Gates…

  I arrived at about six p.m, having come straight from work, to find him hanging the One Way Or Another banner at the back of the stage with the aid of one of the bar staff.  I watched as the pair of them signalled to each other, stumbled and tripped over the sheet-banner’s edges, which trailed across the stage, and eventually succeeded in aligning both sides.  The sheet itself was fluorescent pink, the writing fluorescent green.

  In between unloading drums, guitars, and amps, I paused to observe the transformation of the normally dank, dark and cold Gates into something altogether more vivid, colourful, warm, welcoming and trashy.  Dew, also on the bill to perform, were to D.J, along with Liberty Belle, our quiet photographer friend who Katy had discovered could mix electro, industrial, E.B.M, punk and goth in a highly slick manner.  A One Way Or Another stall was being set up next to the turntables, which would later dispense catalogues, 7”’s, C.D’s and t-shirts with cheerful exuberance.

  By the time we had returned from our tea of chips, pizza, and stewed tea, Angel and the Razorblades, the third band on the bill, were just finishing their soundcheck.  As we got our first drinks of the evening they retired to the dressing room and emerged a few minutes later, fake fur trimmed parkas having been slung over their stage clothes.  The lurid fabric of the dresses, and fishnet tights, clashed with the everyday practicality of the coats as two pairs of stilettos and two pairs of trainers clattered up the stairs, only to return once their owners had filled up on fast food and, if they could pass for eighteen, cheap booze.

  The doors opened at half eight, and a cheering mixture of friends, relatives, and fans began to trickle down the stairs, through the doors, and into the room.

  I talked to Violet for a while about The Girls From Mars, newly returned from London A&R land.  Apparently Hardpop, the London indie, are the label they like best at the moment.  “They sent us this twenty five year old A&R woman in a Supervixon t-shirt, with a P.V.C mini skirt, fishnets, and knee high kitten heeled boots.  She was like a vision from ‘Rock’n’Roll Babes From Outer Space.’”  She enthused.

  In the darkness, Fliss nudged her, “You can’t sign to them because their A&R woman has nice legs.”

  “Oh, it wasn’t that,” said Violet, defensively, “but you wouldn’t believe how far off the mark a lot of these other record companies have been: They think we’re a bunch of actresses, models and escort girls being svengalied by Jasper, or they think we’re a lesbian heavy metal band.”  She sighed, “They can’t get their heads around the fact that we’re girls, and we play our own instruments and write our own songs, more than competently in both cases, and that we’re serious about doing this, and that we want a long career, not a one track wonder moment on some indie laydeez CD compilation.”  She paused for breath, then added, bitterly, “It’s like riot grrrl never happened.”

  The Razorblades took to the stage and began to plug in their guitars.  Yan, their guitarist, works at the Heaton’s Fryery with Fliss, and she knows Kylie, Rosa, and Kit quite well through him.  I watched as she took Violet by the hand and led her through the crowd, past a contingent of hardened first generation punks with sceptical expressions, past the Hello Kitty contingent, past the school and college kids, right to the front.  As the band tuned up, I saw Violet slip her arms around Fliss’ waist, and watched as Fliss leant back into her arms.

  Nat and Fergus both seemed to be avoiding me, I’m not entirely sure why, but I suspect it’s got something to do with Fergus and his financial situation.  I did phone Fergus, incidentally, a few nights ago, but I just got his ansaphone.  I left a message, but he never called me back.  I suppose Nat is mad at me for not speaking to him and that Fergus is still mad at me for rejecting him.  What a mess.

  I did eventually manage to corner him for a brief period tonight, but I never mentioned our kiss: I wasn’t lying when I told Fliss that I wouldn’t do anything about being in love with him.  True to my word to Nat, I instead tried to ask him about the label.  Not that it came to anything.

  “When you become a feeder label for some anonymous corporation,” he slurred bitterly into his pint glass, “when all your bands are tempted by money…” he spat the word, “instead of integrity.”

  Liberty was playing Cervo Boyz as I made my inevitably loud reply, “We haven’t been!”

  “You will be,” he muttered, darkly, as he downed his pint in fast, long gulps.  He was about to lean over the bar from the vantage point of his stool, and order another drink, but I stopped him.  “What?” his bitter mutter was fast becoming an angry slur, “afraid I can’t pay for it?”

  “You shouldn’t be drinking,” I was worried for him, “not when you feel like this…”

  “What do you know about it?” he muttered as he pulled himself to his feet.  He swayed as he continued his tirade, “Un-ilike you, I have non problem holding my drink…” I watched as he stumbled off in the direction of the cigarette machine.

  Later, from the opposite side of the room, I was able to observe a curious series of exchanges between him and Nat.  Over the ear splitting strains of the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s, it was impossible to hear what they were screaming at each other, but I saw her gesture both to me and to herself, and her face was a mask of anger.  He appeared to be less angry, probably because he was the less sober.  He took her by the shoulders once her tirade was complete, but still angry; she shook him off her, and left.

  I followed her out onto the cold, wet street, but by the time I had reached her, she was in a taxi and on her way home.  As the car drove past me I saw her on the back seat, her head was tilted back, and she was crying.

  Violet, Fliss and I were drinking hot chocolate with marshmallows and cream later, back at home, when Fliss happened to mention the argument that we had both observed between Nat and Fergus, “Did you notice it?” she asked us both.

  I gazed into the froth of my hot chocolate, “No,” I lied, “I didn’t see anything.”

  “Nor me,” said Violet, and I noticed, but chose not to remark on, the speed with which she changed the subject.

  Fliss took the mugs through to the kitchen, and in the minute in which she was out of the room, Violet turned to me, and said, very quietly, “You shouldn’t blame Nat for what happened.”

  I was about to ask her what she meant when Fliss returned.  She and Violet retired to her room, and I was left feeling puzzled, puzzled and vaguely uneasy.

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