-The lost Wenches
It's a bunch of grapes, you know? The girls were invested in heavily, by parents and educators and societies and governments, all in the hope that someday they might get picked before they rotted on the vine.
Still, they became musicians.
I was assigned by my newspaper to interview the girls, on three separate occasions: once, early in their career when critical mass was still building and the first triple-platinum album was still just a melody in the head of the lead guitarist; a second time, when they had bought the mansions and thrown the most lavish parties of the post-crash planet; a third and final time with the lead guitarist when the tragedy occured.
I never saw them again after that. I didn't care to. Such a loss.
Now, looking back on their career, I can notice the changes, when they stopped living spontaneously and when they started believing their own press. They used to go into the night without any illumination, they used to make it up as they went along.
Janice Axworthy complained that the best time of her life was when she, Mayfair, Agatha and Michele had just played the local jukejoint. Making it up as they went along.
Janice missed Mayfair, she had always suspected that she wouldn't be able to take the attention, talented but shy turned out to be a toxic combination for a musician. She felt grateful they'd had a solid ten years of music but regretted that their time together would ultimately be so short. I have no idea why she called me, why she called me after so many years and why, as her choice of location for her exegesis, Janice chose an obscure cafe in an obscure city in central India named Victory, I simply woke one afternoon to a knock at the door and a FedEx courier gave me an envelope with tickets, booking confirmations, instructions, and a letter from Janice explaining enough to slake my curiosity but not enough to satisfy it.
It turned out that everything she'd written was a pack of lies. But by the time I realized that I didn't care.
The following week, I was on a plane to India.
After several transfers, I landed at a local airstrip near Victory City, a car and driver were waiting to whisk me to the cafe. It was called, with little imagination I might add, the Victory Cafe. Narrow and modern and cold. Janice had arrived ahead of me Even after all these years I recognized her, the backwards brushed hair, the wind in her eyes, the sly smile.
"Bunny Jones, I knew you'd darken my door again someday."
"Hello Janice, it's good to see you too," She liked to speak in classic movie lines, I remembered how much I'd missed that affectation, although we'd never spent much time together and I could not really call myself her friend, she had profoundly affected me with her spark and crackle; our rapport had fallen into old grooves left by others, I don't know, I guess we recognized each other somehow.
I was cautious to put much stock in it though, Janice was a monstrously charismatic person and it was highly probable she had this effect on everyone she met: made you feel interesting and smart and funny when outside her presence you were certain that you were pedantic and dull and humourless.
"So why are we meeting here?"
"She's back, Beuford, Mayfair." I fought back an irrational anger, she'd used my actual name, she wanted me to know this was serious. I pushed the anger down.
10 years ago, Mayfair Lulady, lead guitarist and songwriter of The Lost Wenches, had chosen my apartment as her point of exit. Our interview had gone smoothly, then she had excused herself to the bathroom and quietly choked herself to death with a bathroom towel. It had derailed me in every conceivable way. I hoped Janice got on with her foolishness because I was suddenly, fiercely, near the end of my patience.
She reached across the narrow tabletop and took my hand.
"Listen, she said." I waited for her to speak.
Then I heard music, guitar music, music played improvisationally, brightly, a signature style I hadn't heard in years.
I turned around, a ten year old girl with an odd birthmark on her throat was playing Lost Wenches tunes but not as they'd been recorded, these were better, mature compositions of a lifetime musician. Her look was serious but I couldn't see her clearly.
I was crying.