Chapter 06

Colin was supposed to meet the rest of the band the following day for a rehearsal before the Monday show, but when he came, there was just Mark in the studio.

“Hi there,” he smiled at the newcomer, “how was the interview?”

“Hi. It went fine, thanks,” Colin confessed. “The first question she asked me was ‘how does a werewolf get to start a band?'”

“What?”

“You heard me. She said she could feel it.”

“What did you tell her?”

“Nothing. She got me totally by surprise, I wasn’t able to pretend I didn’t know what she was talking about.”

“So we’re doomed.”

Colin shook his head. “She’s one of us.”

“She’s what?”

“A not-totally-human creature. She wouldn’t say which one, but told me she’d been to this pub before.”

“Let’s go find out, then,” Mark suggested. “If she really is one of us, then a) someone must remember her, and b) she can’t afford to betray us to anyone.”

“She could. She has no need of hiding from the humans, she’s closer to them than the rest of us,” Colin filled Mark in as he followed him downstairs.

“So we’re doomed?” the drummer repeated.

“No,” Colin shook his head. “She wouldn’t do it.”

“How do you know?”

“She promised not to. And I believe her.”

“If she does, we’ll kill both of you,” Mark told him.

“Looking forward to that,” Colin nodded.

They found Becca downstairs in what was called the guardroom – a place reserved for witches, who took care of the safety of the pub.

“Yes, I remember a girl of that name,” she told them. “Came some time last July. We thought she was underage, but it turned out she was twenty-two already. Lived in Colinton, as far as I can remember.”

“Did she tell you what she was?” asked Colin.

“No, she wouldn’t. We knew she was a not-totally-human creature, ’cause you couldn’t enter the pub unless you are, but we never figured out what she was, and she kept silent about it. She’s not a witch, though, if that helps; we’d have known if she was.”

“There you go,” Colin turned to Mark victoriously.

“What do you mean?”

“Becca, did you know she worked for a magazine?” asked Colin instead of a reply.

“I believe she mentioned it,” Becca nodded.

“And you weren’t afraid she might give us all away?”

“Why would she do that?”

“See?” Colin turned to Mark again. “She won’t betray us.”

“She was a nice kid,” said Becca. “You could see innocence radiating from her.”

“Innocence…” Colin whispered. Was the witch right? Yes, in a way it was exactly the case. But there was also something dark about Ash, as if she sometimes took pleasure from the emotional torture she was capable of, she was ready to take advantage of her gift if need be. On the other hand, what else can you do with a gift like that, apart from going mad?

“You don’t believe me?” Becca asked suspiciously.

“She’s honest. But not innocent.”

“So she’s not old and ugly, right?” Mark jumped in; he’d come to the conclusion that there was nothing else to discuss.

“Ashley? No, she’s quite pretty,” laughed Becca.

“Is she, Colin?” Mark turned to the singer, expecting a confirmation.

“She’s different. Not like other British girls,” Colin shrugged. He didn’t exactly feel like telling Mark how he felt about Ash. It was bad enough that she knew herself.

Ash was questionably lucky to get to the front row at the Monday concert. That way, of course, Colin could slip her the backstage pass during the show, but her ears were not too happy about the loudness of the music.

Feeling slightly relieved, half-deaf and a bit worried when the concert was over, she headed for the backstage area. But there was no problem with getting there once she showed the pass to the security guards.

“Excuse me,” she heard suddenly behind her, as she was making her way to the room she was directed to. She turned round to see Mark. “I’m sorry, but you seem like you’ve lost your way,” he went on.

Ashley smiled. “No, not at all. I’m just… a bit uncomfortable with my current social status. I’ve never been a VIP anywhere.”

“I’m afraid I don’t quite understand you.”

“Colin wanted to talk to me.”

“So you’re Ash Seymour, right?” Mark’s face brightened up.

She nodded.

“Wow, such an honour to meet you,” said the drummer. “I’m Mark, by the way.”

Ashley shook hands with him, but her face looked disapproving. “Thanks for the kind words, Mark, but I don’t believe I quite deserve them.”

“You do. You write the best interviews ever.”

“I’m flattered to have a fan like you, Mark. But it’s simply not possible.”

“If you say so,” Mark shrugged. “Anyway, Colin’s there,” he pointed at a door, “only I don’t know if he’ll be able to finish the interview with you, he’s…”

“Tired?”

“Well, yeah. A lot.”

“I’ll see what I can do,” Ash smiled. “It was nice to meet you, Mark.”

“Nice to meet you too,” he smiled back.

Ash continued to the blue door on the left and knocked at it.

“Come in,” Colin’s voice invited her inside. She did, and found him sitting on a sofa. He looked weary.

“Your voice was deafening,” she told him reproachfully. “If you didn’t show off so much, you’d feel much better now.”

He looked up at her. “You think?”

“No you’d feel guilty,” she smiled. “I met Mark, by the way. He told me you probably won’t be able to finish the interview with me today.”

“That depends on how many questions you’ll have, and how difficult to answer they’ll be.”

“Just a few. I’ve got them written down, so maybe if you feel it’s better for you to write down the answers rather than having them recorded…?”

“Yeah, actually, that will be much better,” he agreed and she gave him a sheet of paper. While he was reading the questions, she sat down beside him, and patiently waited till he had them all answered.

“Here,” he handed the sheet back to her and she folded it into he handbag.

“Thanks.”

“Ash…?”

“Hm?”

“Can you help me?”

“How?”

“Just don’t kill me when I do what I’m about to do,” he asked her, and lay down on the sofa, with his head on her lap. Quite automatically, she gently ran her hand down his face. He closed his eyes for a few seconds, then opened them and directed their intense stare in hers.

“I want to talk… Like we did at St. James,” he said. “I’d never done anything like it, I’d never thought eyes could talk… But they can…”

“I’d never done that, either,” she whispered. “It’s not always possible.”

Another stream of words died out, as their eyes demanded to be given their share of talking. They were given five minutes, and then Colin fell fast asleep. Ash waited a few more minutes, after which she carefully got up, gently laid Colin’s head on the sofa and kissed him on the forehead.

“Sweet dreams,” she smiled, and quietly left the room.

Colin was woken up ten minutes later by Harry, who came to tell him he should go back to the club and offer the fans some autographs and photos.

“Where is she?” Colin asked, a bit perplexed.

“Where’s who?”

“Ash.”

“She was here?” Harry did not want to believe his ears.

“Yeah, she needed to ask a few more questions. How could she just go?” Colin wondered.

“Why not, for Christ’s sake? You fell asleep!” Harry reminded him.

Colin ignored him. He got up and simply left the room, leaving Harry to choose whether to follow him or not. For a brief moment, he felt an urge to get on the next bus to Colinton, but then his sense of duty won, and he headed towards the hall where fans were waiting for their star.

Ash got home beforehalf past eleven, and forced herself to re-write the new part of the interview into her laptop. Then, however, she prepared for bed, wanting to get a properly clear head before starting the final adjustments. Just as she was brushing her wet hair, she heard her mobile phone alerting her to an incoming call. She grabbed the mobile from her bedside table and received it.

“Hi! They didn’t give you much time to sleep, did they?” she asked the caller.

“No, I had to see the fans anyway. You could at least say goodbye, you know.”

“I did. But you were asleep,” she smiled.

“I miss you,” Colin confessed. “I feel like we haven’t said everything we wanted to tell each other yet.”

“No. No, we haven’t,” Ash agreed.

“Can we do something about it?”

“We can meet again.”

“When?”

“Well, I have to work on the interview tomorrow… Then I’ll need you to authorise it, so maybe we could meet somewhere on Wednesday, you could read it, and then we’ll add any potential changes to it together…?” she suggested.

“Well, then. Have you ever been to Silverknowes?”

“You mean you want to show me where you live, once I’ve shown you my house?”

“Exactly.”

“Ok,” she nodded.

“Great. Can we meet atquarter past fourat the bus stop inSt. Andrew Square, then?”

“Fine.”

“Will you… will you be able to stay… for a few hours…?” he asked hesitantly.

“I suppose I will.”

“Great. Good night, then, and see you on Wednesday.”

“See you. Night.”

“Colin, what’s she done to you?” asked Mark, who by accident heard most of the phone conversation the SMPDM singer had just had.

“Who?” Colin was still not prepared to talk about this matter.

“Ashley Seymour. It was her you were talking to just now, wasn’t it?”

“And?”

“You said you missed her.”

“Well I do.”

“Not wasting your time, are you?”

“Shut up,” Colin brushed him off.

It was not as easy to silence the other members of SMPDM at the rehearsal the following Monday. They were all waiting in the studio, a fresh copy of the Prog Society in Alan’s hands, ready to take revenge on their singer for the interview he had authorised. They had already dealt with Mark, leaving him dangerously close to tears.

“Colin Ferguson, do you have an explanation for this?” Alan bellowed and threw the magazine at the singer. He seemed furious.

“I suppose it’s a new issue of the Prog Society…?” Colin tried.

“Take this seriously, will you?” Harry snapped.

“Sure. I just don’t know what exactly has made you so angry,” Colin shrugged. “It looked fine to me.”

“How could you authorise something like that? Don’t you realise what danger you put us all in?”

“Danger? What’re you talking about?”

“The subsocieties. What will you tell people when they start demanding to know which subsocieties we’re part of?”

Colin had never heard Alan speak so many words, but felt sorry he found out about his perfect capability of verbal communication this way. He now understood what was troubling his fellows so much, and was not going to let the inquisition go on much further.

“I’d tell them it doesn’t matter, because we’re not here to represent the interest of one or two groups of people, but all of them. It wouldn’t do for the humans to accept vampires, or werewolves for that matter, just because their beloved SMPDM happen to be those creatures. We need to change their way of thinking, have them open their minds. Then we can tell them what we are, because nobody will judge us. Nobody will judge anyone. Besides, we want to win a fight. Tell me how we can do that if  people don’t even know we’re fighting for something?”

“Stop that idealistic nonsense! People had thousands of years to get rid of the prejudice, and still haven’t managed that. What makes you think we can do it in a couple of years?”

“Yeah, but it’s not so long since vampires started the policy of stealing blood from hospitals instead of sucking it out of living people.”

“I’m not talking about vampires. I’m talking about the principle you mentioned earlier. It’s human nature to be prejudiced. It’s not just about us, it’s about all that’s not mainstream. We can never win this fight.”

“Then why do we have this band, anyway?” asked Colin quietly.

“We started it to give something to the not-totally-human world. You persuaded us to go public with it. So we did, and this is how you pay us back. If you can’t even stand an interview without being manipulated to say things that can endanger the whole of our world, and on top of that having a crush on the interviewer, I’m afraid we’ll have to ask you to choose between the band and her.”

Colin stared at Alan in disbelief. The wolf in him was alarmingly waking up.

“Mark, what did you tell them?” he asked the drummer.

“Leave him out of this, we’ve already had a word with him,” Harry told him.

“I just want to know what he told you about Ash and me.”

“He didn’t tell us anything,” said Jim. “He didn’t have to.”

“Yeah, Colin, now that you’re a public figure, you should watch what you’re doing,” Harry advised him. “We were browsing a tabloid site, just out of curiosity, and we found this article in the ‘spy on your stars’ section. ‘I saw Colin Ferguson last week with a beautiful blond girl. They were holding each other, as if they were romantically involved.’ End of citation.”

“She was crying!” Colin protested. “You have no right to tell me who I can be friends with. Jesus, were you not the ones tempting me to sleep with the fans ‘to get some experience’? And suddenly you should mind that I’ve found myself a friend?”

“There’s a difference between fans and journalists.”

“Ash is not a journalist. And she’s a not-totally-human creature as well, in case Mark hasn’t told you. How difficult do you think it is to find a journalist if there’s a sensation to tell? All those girls you had in your beds would gladly go and do that! Ash wouldn’t.”

“Yeah, we saw that,” Jim remarked.

There was a momentary silence.

“Oh God, you did mean all the things you’ve just said to me, didn’t you?” said Colin then, looking around at the other band members. They did not have to answer; he could tell by their expressions that they did. Except Mark, but he was not in a state to support him.

“Fine!” he shouted at them and left the room, slamming the door behind him.

He remembered what Becca had said about the means of getting to Colinton from the pub, and so he jumped on number eighteen. He did not feel like going home, suspecting his bandmates might want to visit him to either try to persuade him they were right, or to apologise. And seeing them was the least thing he wished at that moment.

“Romantically involved,” he muttered, as he sat down. “Who was that damn spy, Jane Austen?”

He rang the doorbell at Ashley’s house at abouthalf past five, but no one answered. “Oh, great,” he thought, “and now she’s not at home when I don’t have anywhere else to go. A perfect day, ain’t it?”

He sat down on the stairs and leaned against the door. After a minute or so he remembered he had her phone number, though, so he searched his bag for his mobile phone to find it later in his pocket.

“Is there any chance of you coming home today?” he asked Ash when she received his call.

“As a matter of fact, I’m on my way. But I won’t be there beforequarter to seven.”

“That’s ok. I’ll wait,” Colin decided.

“You’re not waiting in front of my house, are you?”

“I am.”

“Why didn’t you call before you went there? I could’ve told you I wasn’t there.”

“I couldn’t. Look, I’ll tell you everything when you come, ok?”

“Ok,” she gave up.

Colin ended the call and dropped his the phone back in his pocket. When he lifted his head again, he saw Meowza watching him warily from a three-metre distance.

“Ah, not running away this time, are you?” he smiled. “Come on, I won’t hurt you…”

The cat sat on the lawn for another while, but then got up and slowly made his way to Colin, jumped onto his knees and made himself comfortable on the werewolf’s lap.

“Now, that’s better,” said Colin softly, careful not to scare Meowza away again. But Meowza stayed with him for the rest of the time they were waiting for Ash to come back. Colin did not notice her until she walked through the gate and closed it after herself, but then he smiled at her:

“See? I’ve made a new friend,” he looked down at the purring animal.

“Great,” she nodded. “Now, what’s the matter?”

Colin went serious again. “I think I left the band,” he said, making her totally speechless. She recovered relatively quickly, though.

“Get up,” she ordered him, and as he obeyed her, she touched his hand. It was cold. She unlocked the door, entered the house, and stepped aside to make way for them.

“Come in, both of you.”

They did.

This time Ash led Colin to the living room, made him sit down on the sofa and threw a warm blanket at him.

“Thanks,” he rewarded her with a grateful look. “Have I ever told you this house is absolutely stylish?”

She laughed. “Thank you. But do tell me what’s wrong.”

Colin sighed. She sat down beside him and put her hand on his. He summoned up his strength and told her everything he had heard from the rest of SMPDM earlier that afternoon.

“But I’m not giving you up, Ash,” he almost whispered as a conclusion. “No one can ask me to do that.”

“No, of course not,” she shook her head. “Listen, Colin, I’m afraid I have to go somewhere now. I hate to say this, but I should be back in three hours. You can stay here if you like, and wait for me.”

“Can’t you take me with you?”

“No, I can’t. But don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine. And you will be, too, trust me. I’m really sorry, but it’s something I have to do,” she apologised. “Oh yes, and there’s something I want to give you,” she added, and left the room for a while. When she came back, she put a key on the table in front of him. He looked at her in surprise.

“That’s a key to this house. So that you don’t have to wait outside should anything like this happen again,” she explained.

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