Alexis was cold. She was walking in the streets of New Orleans, dressed in a black leather trench and wearing a pair of dark glasses. She was heading for Hotel St. Louis, where the others were waiting for her. She took a look at her watch - 22:45. Why the hack had she gone out on this cold?
But she wasn't afraid... She cared for nothing, by now.
She took out a cigarette and lighted it. Hashish. She had bought about a dozen from a dealer on Royal Street. If Jorje would find out about it...
She finished the cigarette right before entering the hotel. She entered St. Louis' pompous hallway and went up to her room without taking a look at those around her. They had hired the best suite; they could afford it. The hallway was empty, and yet Alexis had the impression of someone following her every step. But it was only the effect of the drugs.
Their instruments were installed in the sumptuous dining room. The concert was settled for the next day, she suddenly remembered. Well, so what? Finally, she could change her mind, cancel it... But no, she would never do that. The fans would be disappointed. Jorje, the band's manager, would scream at her. And Michael would be upset.
God, Michael, where was Michael? The apartment seemed empty. Where had they all disappeared?
"Michael?" she screamed. "Julien? Hey, guys, where the Hell are you hiding? You should know I don't like being made fun of!"
No answer. Maybe they had gone out to dinner. Or at the movies. What difference did it make?
She took a shower; she had felt the need to feel hot water on her skin. When she got out of the shower, she looked in the mirror. A tall young woman, with brown eyes and dark, red and silver-streaked wet hair, looked back at her. Her head turned, so she leaned against the wall with one hand. She let herself slip and sat on the cold floor, resting her back on the faience. She saw colored spots before her eyes. The drugs; she had to finally quit, damn it!
She stood up and entered the bedroom. She threw on a pair of black jeans and a T-shirt with the band's logo. She smiled, remembering the day she had received that T-shirt. Their first concert. How happy had she been back then, when the whole hall had shouted their name again and again. After the concert, there had been a terrible drinking bout at Julien's place. And it was then when Michael had given her the black T-shirt, with the band's logo on the front and her name, typed in Gothic characters, on the back: Alexis DeWilde.
She went into the dining room again, threw herself on the huge couch, and took the black guitar leaning against the small glass table in her hand. She began playing... It was a new track, she wanted to play it for the first time during the next concert. A sad, breathtaking melody. A song about loneliness...
She burst into tears. She put down the guitar, and started crying. She didn't even notice her four mates and the band's manager, Jorje Palmas, coming in.
"Dammit!" the older man swore, gripping her shoulders. "Are you on drugs again? Where have you been? We've been seeking you desperately! I swear that, were it not in everybody's interest, I'd..."
"You'd what?" Alexis screamed, tearing away from his grip. She lifted herself and slapped him. "You'd fire me? That's what you'd do, you pig! Isn't it enough that you get 15% of our income? Get out of my face!"
Jorje shook his head, then he turned his back and made for the door.
"I'll be in my room if you need me," he said, slamming the door after him.
"This time you blew it, Alexis," the brown-haired Julien said, his violet eyes shining. "When he found out you had left without telling him, he got so mad he punched Mark. Luckily it's nothing serious."
"Fuck him!" she said. "I'm sorry, Mark," she added, turning towards the black bass player. "I should have told you where I was going."
"No problem, boss! And besides, I got even; I put salt instead of sugar in his coffee, and when he finds out what the appetizer was..."
All four of them burst into laughter. Alexis could only join them. "What the Hell have you ordered this time?"
"Oysters," said Brice, the drummer.
"Oysters?" Alexis snorted. "Didn't he like throw up for 3 hours after eating seafood when we toured China? How come he didn't realize what they were?"
"Oh, well, in this case he'll leave us alone. Should we rehearse now? I don't feel very well..."
"No problem, me and Brice wanted to go at the movies tonight anyways," said Mark, his tone foretelling the cinema wasn't at all their true destination.
"Alright, but be careful!" said Julien. "We don't want any extra 'tickets' a couple of months from now, that's all."
Alexis smiled, and took a look at Michael. He had been silent ever since he came in, and one could clearly see on his face something was not right.
"Michael, can I speak with you for a moment?" she asked him. He nodded and headed for the bedroom they both shared, in not-quite-so-honorable conditions.
"Oh, leave him alone, he's been like that for the whole evening," Mark said, covering his brownish curls with a gangster-like hat and putting on his black raincoat. "He said nothing all night long. I think he's facing some problems we're not aware of..."
"Besides, even I couldn't find out what it is," Brice added, placing a blond wig over his short gaudy green-dyed hair. "We're out of here. If Senor Palmas asks were we are..."
"The brothel next block," said Alexis, pouring herself a glass of Bourbon. The two laughed, and then left. Alexis went on the balcony and saw them get into a cab. 'These two'll become impotent if they don't quiet down', she told herself.
"I thought you'd quitted," she heard Julien's voice telling her. She turned around to see him holding the hashish cigarettes in his hand. "You promised me you'd quit," he added, a little concerned.
"Throw them away. I don't want them anymore, anyways. I'll go see how Michael's doing."
Julien agreed, then he placed himself in front of the keyboard, and started rehearsing one of their songs. Alexis watched him carefully before going into the bedroom.
The young Frenchman was gorgeous in the dim light that came through the terrace window. Well build yet graceful, his dark wavy hair falling free over his shoulders, his intoxicating violet eyes focused on the keys. Alexis had known him since high school. He had just moved to LA from Lyon, and knew nobody there. He had worn a pair of worn jeans and a light blue short-sleeved shirt the day she met him. Everybody had made fun of his accent; she alone had found it charming. He was the most beautiful boy she had ever seen. That is, until she had met Michael...
She took her eyes off him and went into the bedroom. Michael was standing in front of the window, his back to her, his straight blond hair falling almost down to his waist. Michael was more slender than Julien, and yet equally seductive. He also had a divine voice, but he had categorically refused to sing on stage. He was reserved enough, and it had taken Alexis enough time to discover the talent hidden behind his mask.
She approached and circled his waist; she put her head on his shoulder. He allowed his body to rest against hers.
"Bad news?" she asked.
"He won't come..." he replied in a trembling voice. "He'll never forgive me for what I've done. He hates me."
"He'll come, I know he will. He's your brother, Michael. You haven't seen each other in 10 years. I'm sure he's missing you too." She heard him sobbing. "Honestly, sometimes you're really stepping on my shoes. If he promised me, he'll come!" she told him, kissing his cheek. "And if you start crying again, I'll get angry!"
He turned to face her. There was sadness in his emerald eyes, those eyes she had first noted in a club, watching her insistently while she had been dancing with Julien, and then at the table – "Excuse me, miss, could I have the pleasure of this dance?"
Ah, what a threesome they had been that evening. Julien and she had broken up a few months earlier, but their friendship was stronger than it had been before. That evening, they had founded the rock band called "Devil's Disciples". Mark and Brice had joined later, they were friends of Michael's. And, had the record label not offered them Jorje for a manager, everything would have been perfect.
There was no longer any music coming from the dining room. Julien was probably in his room now, finishing the boring book he had bought from the airport the night before.
She smiled. Then she looked Michael in the eyes. So beautiful, and yet so sad. She touched her lips to his. He was startled.
"Alex..." he said, reproachfully.
"Shh... Don't worry," she whispered, placing her forefinger on his cold lips. "I know. But let me at least hold you in my arms..."
For the first time that evening, Michael smiled. Alexis pulled him toward the bed, pulled his T-shirt over his head. Embracing, they fell on the soft mattress. Michael leaned his head on her shoulder, and she caressed his hair, murmuring: "He will come..."
The next day, there was a big fuss. Jorje refused to come out of his room, evincing great stomach-aches. Called at Mark's request, the doctor pronounced himself clearly: food poisoning. Brice had a good laugh, and the others couldn't hold back either.
During the concert that evening, Alexis noted a blond man resembling Michael in the front line. During the break, it was confirmed that he was indeed his brother. Very happy, Michael agreed to sing a duet with Alexis. The audience was delirious.
After the concert, Alexis and Julien stayed behind. While they were leaving, they found Michael talking to his brother. When the two parted, they were both crying.
"You told him, didn't you?" Alexis asked him, far away from the eyes of the world, in their hotel room.
"Yes," the blond man murmured, his eyes red with tears. "You were right. He has forgiven me. He told me that even before he found out." He smiled.
"Oh, my beloved..." Alexis sighed. "Why does it have to be you?"
"Because I deserve it. And because I'm in love. And love is pain."
A few months later, the papers announced the death of Michael Dragon, the guitar player of the famous rock band "Devil's Disciples". He had crushed on the stage, at the end of the last show of their tour. The next day, a press release announced his death following an advanced state of leukemia no one had apparently known anything about. The band was about to launch their new album, in his memory. All the songs were already recorded.
Alexis, crouched at the feet of an armchair, refused to make any comment on her relationship with the talented musician.
Julien, from the darkest corner of the room, whispered, "You knew, didn't you?"
"And why didn't you tell me anything?"