“Do you think we should leave soon?” Veera asked. The toe of her sneaker tapped against the bar stool’s foot rest. “I want to be near the front.”
“Babe, it’s 4:30,” Krystal laughed. She’d pulled up a seat on the other side of the bar, elbows on the counter as she scrolled through her phone. “And anyway, you know I’m stuck here ‘til six.”
Veera took a quick glance around the room.
“But no one’s here.”
“I know, right?” Krystal chirped. “I’m getting paid to hang out with you. What’s better than that?”
“It is nice,” Veera admitted, a smile tugging at her lips as she continued to type away on her laptop. Just about finished now. She was so engrossed in her work that she barely noticed the glass sliding across the counter to meet her.
“Here,” Krystal said.
“Oh,” Veera said. “Thank you.”
It was only when the ginger ale touched her throat that she realized how parched she actually was. Somehow, Krystal could always sense these things.
“What, no tip?” Krystal asked, putting on an exaggerated frown. She leaned her head over the bar, expectant.
Veera could only comply. She rose from her seat and planted a quick kiss on Krystal’s cheek before burying herself back in her laptop, red-faced. Finally, after a few more minutes, it was done. She swiveled the laptop around to face her girlfriend.
“What do you think?”
She couldn’t help but grin at the sight of Krystal’s eyes lighting up. She’d been working tirelessly over the past few days, updating the site to match the new album’s aesthetic. It seemed to have paid off.
“Oh my god, it’s so… I mean, wow! The band’s gonna lose their minds.”
“They won’t see it,” Veera said, though she couldn’t help but smile at the thought of it.
“Oh, hey,” Krystal said. Her body straightened, eyes focused on some point behind Veera. “Speaking of…”
Veera turned. Time slowed as she spotted her walking in their direction. Sarah Manning. The band’s lead guitarist, and the second most beautiful thing she had ever seen.
“Hitto,” Veera muttered under her breath. She turned back to the bar, shrinking into her seat. She wasn’t prepared for this. She might have come here specifically knowing the band was staying in this hotel, but she wasn’t prepared for this.
“Oi, Krystal,” Sarah said.
“Hey you,” Krystal replied, like it was the easiest thing in the world. She slid a drink over the counter. Veera hadn’t even seen her pour it. “Bourbon rocks.”
“Cheers,” Sarah said with an impressed smirk.
In spite of Veera’s best efforts, it was then that Sarah noticed her.
“Hey,” she said. “Veera, right?”
Veera nearly fell out of her seat, but managed to hold herself together. Just barely.
“Y-yes,” she said. “You remember me.”
“Course I remember you!” She gave Veera’s shoulder a playful shove. “The website.”
Veera nodded. She felt like she’d never stop smiling.
“Oh my god,” Krystal interjected. “You have to see the new design.”
Before Veera could protest, Sarah’s eyes were already on the screen.
“Shit,” she said. “It’s like the new album, yeah? Bloody brilliant.”
“Th-thank you,” Veera stammered. She felt dizzy.
“Oh yeah,” Sarah said. “Meant to thank you for that review.”
Veera had written a thorough and glowing review of the latest album that had gotten some amount of attention on the internet, even outside of the hardcore fanbase. It ended with an impassioned plea to old fans disillusioned after the band’s previous, more experimental effort.
And Sarah Manning had apparently read it. Sure, okay. Veera had pretty much accepted that she was dreaming right now, and she was just going along as far as this ride would take her.
“We’re sellin’ out shows like we never have,” Sarah said. “Think people listened to you.”
“They listened to the music,” Veera offered, finally managing to find her voice. “If you ask me, Madhouse was just before its time. People will go back to it after listening to Muzzle and realize the genius of that album. The, um, guitar especially is… unbelievable.”
Sarah flashed a grin, all teeth.
“She’s a charmer, ey?” she said to Krystal. “You’re a lucky girl.”
“Mhm, very lucky,” Krystal hummed. “Oh, but you know, so are you.”
She paused, leaning in closer to Sarah and lowering her voice to a whisper.
“You’re on her list.”
“List?” Veera asked. Her eyes flitted between the two of them, confused.
“Yeah?” Sarah replied. There was something new in her eyes when she looked at Veera now, something Veera couldn’t quite put a name to. Whatever it was, it made her face feel hot.
“Shit,” Sarah suddenly muttered. “Sorry, they wanted me at the venue a half hour ago.”
She brought the glass to her lips, slamming the whole thing down in one gulp. When she reached into her pocket, Krystal threw a hand up to stop her.
“On the house.”
“Ah, cheers,” she said. “Maybe I’ll uh, see you two after the show?”
“Maybe you will,” Krystal said with a sly smile.
“Oh, um, okay,” was all Veera could manage.
Sarah offered the two a parting smile and what looked like a wink, though that must have been Veera’s imagination, and then she was gone.
“I don’t know what just happened,” Veera admitted, staring into the empty space where Sarah Manning had stood.
“Oh, babe,” Krystal said, sighing contentedly. “You’ll thank me later.”
With that, Krystal turned and made her way to the group of approaching customers at the other end of the bar, leaving Veera alone with her laptop. After a quick look behind her, she dragged the cursor over to the photo section and clicked on Sarah’s name.