“Ayame! Ayame!” The roar of the crowd swelled louder as the band started to play. Their excitement rolled over the figure, standing behind a black curtain at the back of the stage and she smiled. She knew by ear when they were at the peak of excitement. She stepped on a pedal that sent two streams of green smoke shooting out of vents center stage.
Eyes bright as her smile, Ayame Sunrise leapt through the haze. It seemed she was letting the fans scream off their anticipation as she paused in the light. In truth she was waiting a beat to be on with the band before starting her first song of the night. Few could have heard her first notes, even full voice. To the pop star it meant her audience was all in, as she always hoped for.
“Off to a solid start Amara.” Ayame Sunrise’ manager Jane smiled at her as she flopped on the green room lounge chair. It had taken two years to get the lady to use her real first name off stage, an effort Amara was happy she made every time he spoke.
“Good crowd tonight.” Amara smiled back between sips of water.
She might have said more when her phone screen lit the table underneath it. Amara glanced up before reaching for it, knowing her manager would disapprove. Jane was turned away, giving her the rest of the 3 minute break she had. So with a private smirk Amara plucked the phone from the table and checked.
She instantly regretted doing so. It was her ex, sending a picture of himself enjoying the intimate company of not one, but three models. He had even angled it to display the model height that went with the girls’ model builds as a bonus jab of the knife.
Amara grimaced, deleting the picture before carefully replacing the phone as much as she wanted to throw it. She reminded herself she knew he would get over her faster than vice versa. Indeed, that had been part of the problem when they were together. He had warned her at the start, but she ended up wasting a year seeing it. Is the fact I stayed with him longer than the previous three better, or worse?
Amara cursed under her breath. Jane lifted an eyebrow her direction. No way the picture was anything but deliberate. He knew she was performing, taking her mid-show break right as he sent it. It was aimed not just to hurt, but to hurt her performance. Cursing softly again, Amara stood up and mentally dusted herself off. I will not give him the satisfaction. The first half of her show had been perfect. The crowd was great, the band was responsive. It would hardly be work to just keep it up.
“On to the after-party Sunrise?”
The question was phrased as a statement, so a few of the band members showed momentary surprise when Amara shook her head.
“Not tonight. I saw a nice bar about half a mile down the street that looks much more inviting tonight.”
“That old place?” Jane clucked her tongue. I don’t even know it’s name, Amara thought with a sigh, but of course Jane does. Could probably para-phrase the top three reviews for it online.
“It looked cozy.”
“If you’re wanting a quiet drink, there are good ones just as close in the other direction. The Starlight is one of my favorites in town.”
Jane’s recommendation, combined with the fact that ‘the other direction’ meant this Starlight was farther uptown, cemented Amara’s original decision. He reeks of uptown, and the last thing I want is any thing else to remind me. It was the same reason she didn’t want to go to the after party tonight, when normally she jumped at the chance.
“No thanks, Jane. Anybody else interested, I’ll see you at the back door in 8.”
20 minutes later, Amara emptied her first drink in one go and flopped back with a satisfied sigh. The few people actively looking for her in the bar stuck out. They looked like they’d been at a rave. Normally so would I. Fans or paparazzi, they hadn’t found her yet. Nor were they likely to. Amara hated jeans, and hoodies. It sucked she had to wear them just to get a quiet drink after a show, but it worked like a charm. Probably wouldn’t if I did it often. But tonight isn’t usual. That only reminded her was she was here instead, which was what she meant to avoid.
Ick. She stuck out her tongue, shaking her head like she was trying to get rid of a bad taste in her mouth. More like in my brain. Amara sagged once more into the bench.
“The Starlight has better drinks.”
Amara briefly popped an eye open to fix it on the speaker
“Not the drink. I bet you know why here and not there Jane.”
Jane’s answer was a soft sigh, and a rustle of cloth as she shifted. Amara opened both eyes to look. Jane had sat down on the edge of the booth bench, leaving Amara’s view unobstructed all the way across to the bar where it lit on a young man facing her.
He wasn’t looking, his attention on the drink in his hands. Looked like a plain lemonade at least from a distance. He had the white shirt and tie combo of an office job, tie only loosened enough to open the button at the collar. Clean shaven, she guessed in his twenties, mop of not-entirely kempt light hair.
“Mar, what are you staring at?”
She had been staring. Intently enough to know he was wedding band free, yet not looking at any of the ladies present.
“Desk jockey at the bar,” Amara gestured with her head as she turned to face Jane fully, “who is he?”
“You picked the quiet spot.” Jane gave the guy a brief glance and shrugged, “I have no idea.”
“Please tell me you aren’t planning to walk over there and introduce yourself.” Jane’s voice was barely restrained horror.
Amara rolled her eyes. At the same time, she drew her left arm out of the hoodie pocket under the table, grateful she left her glove off when she changed.
“No, Jane. I’ll be good.”
There was a fern a few feet down the bar from where the guy sat. A little concentration and gestures beneath the table got the fern to free some spores. Amara kept her focus until confirming a few had landed on his shirt before relaxing once more onto the bench, reaching up with her right hand to grab the refill Jane ensured would be there.
“Oh yes. Spying on him is so much better.”
“Very soft probing. Not like I can stalk his social media without a name, and you just told me I couldn’t go ask.”
“Amara,” Jane had the exasperation that only a mother explaining something to a child for the thousandth time could, “had you asked, I would have gotten his name for you. Probably whether he’s available too.”
“Well, he’s still-“
Jane snorted loud enough the couple in the next booth craned their necks briefly before turning away.
“Not now I won’t. You get to be a creepy stalker all on your own. But Mar,” her tone softened, “are you sure you aren’t just being desperate to replace-“
Amara’s response was to noisily finish her second glass. She set the glass down quietly, but a gesture under the table made sure the wood surface reverberated to rattle Jane as well as the bodyguard at the edge of the booth on her other side. Jane rolled her eyes before deliberately focusing on her own beverage.
Leaving Amara with two empty glasses, and unless she wanted to risk a scene, no way to order a third. Well your fault for giving me nothing else to do Jane. Amara turned her attention back to the guy at the bar. Aside from checking his phone a couple times, he didn’t look at much but his own drink. He was obviously a bit down, but at the same time Amara encouraged herself that he wasn’t wallowing in, nor trying to drown it.
Well, we’ll just say what you’re like handsome. The fern spores she planted on him, planted, heh, would only tell her his location. Or rather, that of his shirt. But a home address should be enough to work backwards to a name. From there, she ought to be able to get an idea what he was like. Considerably more if he keeps any plants in his apartment of course. Have to wait and see.
Before that, she should probably work on not staring so hard that he noticed too. Jane was still ignoring her though, so rather than the fresh glass she wanted, Amara pulled her phone from her purse. Guess I’ll try that new farm game I found yesterday.