Welcome to the Bigtime, Cutie

Randi and the Maestro: Book Two, Chapter Three

Enjoy this preview of Welcome to the Bigtime, Cutie, Randi and the Maestro: Book Two, Chapter Three!

He Looks Exactly Like Scarington!

It was early Saturday evening when Billy Coombes pulled his Kawasaki 250 into the Dugan city limits; hot and windblown from his ride down from Tulsa. The motorcycle was all he could afford to drive since his father, his ex-father now, took away his Camaro and stopped supporting him. He cruised through town until he saw the Biggie Burger sign and decided to pull in for a quick supper.

Learning that Dr. Gregory Coombes was not his real father was devastating. Apparently, Billy’s mom was caught screwing his biological father in her own bedroom. It had been going on for years. He would’ve kicked her out too. Billy felt so betrayed; like he could never trust her again.

His life had been built on a lie. And when the truth came out, his life basically ended. Dr. Coombes kicked both Billy and his mother out of their suburban Oklahoma City home as though they were vagrants. He stopped taking Billy’s calls. He was punishing the son he’d proudly raised for the sins of the boy’s mother; things Billy could not possibly have known or prevented.

Billy Coombes felt betrayed by both his parents; and that’s why he was in Dugan in the first place. He was searching for his biological father, Bill Harrington.

He parked his motorcycle, combed his short, brown hair, wiped the dirt from his sunburnt face and arms and moseyed his tall, wide frame inside the small, indoor part of the restaurant. There were several people inside at small tables enjoying the air conditioning as they ate. As he approached the counter to place his order, heads turned, and everyone seemed to become transfixed by his presence. Eyes were wide, and jaws were dropped.

Small town people, Billy mused to himself.

A girl in a tight, red polo shirt and matching cap walked up to the register behind the counter; Sarah, according to the nametag pinned above her left boob. She looked up at Billy and stumbled backwards slightly at the sight of him.

“Sorry,” she said with a shake of her head, as though snapping out of a daydream. “You look just like…someone.”

Billy remembered, in the final fights between his parents, something about him looking exactly like the guy his mom was porking. Could Sarah know his father? Who he was, and where he lived?

“Who?” he asked. His deep voice filled the small diner, over the sounds of sizzling beef and clanking dishes in the kitchen beyond. “Bill Harrington?”

The room became instantly silent. Tension in the air was thicker than the smell of grease. The racket emanating from the kitchen seemed to cease. Two young customers suddenly sat straighter in their seats and tidied their tables. Why would the very mention of his biological father’s name cause such a reaction?

“He looks exactly like Scarington!” someone whispered to their dining partner.

Sarah in the tight polo shirt gulped and placed her hands on the counter beside the register to steady herself. “Can I take your order, sir?” she asked in her rehearsed manner, visibly shaken and losing color from her face. It was clear she had no intention of answering Billy’s question.

Seeing how strange everyone was acting and how uncomfortable Sarah was becoming, Billy decided not to question her any further. With his piqued curiosity in check, he ordered and sat at the one available table. By the time his burger was ready, the others had quietly left the restaurant. People usually found Billy to be attractive and debonair, so it was odd for him to clear a room in such a way.

He ate, found his father’s address in the directory attached to the payphone outside, and then hopped on his Kawasaki and headed over to Pioneer Motel for a good night’s sleep. He wanted to be well rested and confident before randomly showing up at Bill Harrington’s house to introduce himself as his son.

Jennifer stepped out onto the front porch to greet the day with her coffee lightly steaming into the warm, late-morning air. It was the first Sunday at that house she didn’t have to get up at the crack of dawn and get ready for church. By that late in the morning, she’d have been into the second of three services either singing in the choir, playing piano or performing special music as a soloist. In recent years, she had become an integral part of Calvary Baptist Church’s music ministry. Each and every Sunday she performed three services; at 9:30, 11:00, and an evening service at six. It was a daylong event. Between services, she would work in whatever capacity they needed, usually in the kitchen, but sometimes doing yardwork at the church or at the preacher’s house.

There were many things Jennifer missed about her former life, but being a slave to that church every Sunday was not one of them. The only thing she ever really liked about church was the organ. It was awesome! It had three levels of keyboards, foot pedals, tons of knobs and big pipes hidden behind and beneath the stage and pulpit. It took two people five minutes just to turn it on and required a day’s worth of maintenance twice a year, but it sounded amazing. During church choir rehearsals, just for kicks, Jennifer used to play the intro to J.S. Bach’s Tocatta and Fugue in D minor on it. It pissed the preacher off to no end, and even earned her a whipping once.

Everything in her life had changed so quickly and drastically. Being back home, in the place of her upbringing as far back as she could remember, she was feeling a strange dissonance. She felt both peaceful and uneasy. Secure, yet scared. She took a seat in a lawn chair on the porch, like her Mama did most mornings before passing away, sipped her coffee and continued trying to process the last five months of her life.

And as if she hadn’t enough to worry about, another issue was surfacing; Scotty.

Jennifer loved Scotty very much, but only as a friend and fellow musician. She knew he had a thing for her. She’d known that for a long time. She tried not to encourage him in that way. But, as she was now aware, most guys require very little if any encouragement.

Since arriving back in Dugan, Scotty’s demeanor had changed. His laid-back, up-for-anything attitude was giving way to a rigidity that she’d never seen in him before. He was becoming more possessive of her. Stoic and demanding. He was downright put out when she offered him only the sofa or her old bed upstairs to sleep. Last night, when she told him goodnight, he answered, it’d be a great night if you come to bed with me. He patted the sofa as though summoning a pet poodle. She could see his erection swelling from beneath the blanket. When she refused him, he rolled his disappointed eyes, turned over and said with a sigh, well, then wake me up when breakfast is ready, will ya.

And that’s why it was going on noon, and still no breakfast. As far as Jennifer was concerned at that moment, Scotty could jerk off and make his own damn breakfast.

On the other hand, Jennifer’s many doses of reality over the past five months all led to the same conclusion; no matter how skilled and gifted a musician, she was still just a girl. An object. A pet. A toy. A servant. At a house party in Dallas, one of Dark Artemis’s first performances before an audience, people barely noticed when she played Van Halen’s Eruption note for note. But afterwards when she joined the festivities wearing a pink tube top and cut-offs, she became quite popular all of a sudden. It made all the years of practicing the guitar seem pointless. People would rather see her shake her tits and wiggle her ass, then go fix supper. Even Scotty, her good friend and musical kindred spirit, now seemed only interested in her body and domestic skills. Maybe it was time to consider giving in to the inevitable, being a good girl and giving Scotty what he wanted.

The thought of it was repugnant to say the least, but what if it was the only way? People didn’t take Jennifer seriously as a musician, but they did Scotty. He was tall, he looked like a rock star and when he talked, people listened to him. Perhaps, with careful and subtle womanly manipulation, she could steer and ride him to musical stardom. After all, there were no women in rock music who got famous on their own. The only all-girl rock group she’d ever heard of, The Runaways, came and went as quickly as their innocence. And they were still produced and managed by men. If she had any hopes of real success, Jennifer was starting to surmise, she would have to achieve it on the coattails of a man. She supposed Scotty Andrews was as good a man as any.

She sipped the last of her coffee, took a deep breath, then quietly went back in the house to start breakfast.

Maple or strawberry?” Jennifer asked Scotty, standing at the pantry displaying a bottle of pancake syrup in each hand with a cheesy smile like a Price is Right model.

“No blueberry, huh?” he said with a hint of disappointment in his voice. He yawned, still rubbing the sleep from his eyes.

“Sorry.” She set both bottles on the table in front of him, then sat and fixed herself a plate. “So, later on after breakfast, we could play some more records and maybe write a new song. What do ya say?”

“Maybe,” he answered indifferently, unenthused. “I got a lot to do today.”

“Sure. Maybe tomorrow.” She dropped it and they continued eating.

A minute or two later, there was a light tap on the front door. It was so faint, Jennifer initially ignored it. But when she heard it again, she got up to look. Through the living room window, she could see a greyish motorcycle parked in the driveway beside her car. She peeked through the screen door and saw a tall man standing on the porch with his back turned, facing the driveway. Concerned, she quickly went back to the kitchen and got Scotty.

“Who the hell is it?” he asked, annoyed, wiping strawberry syrup from his lips with his fingers as he walked into the living room.

“I don’t know!” she whispered.

Scotty opened the door. “Can I help you?” he asked the man.

The stranger turned to face them. Scotty and Jennifer were astonished.

“Hi,” the man said shyly. “Um, pardon the intrusion. I’m looking for Bill Harrington. Does he live here?”

Jennifer stumbled backwards and fell into the sofa as Scotty kept the man at bay on the porch. The guy looked exactly like her dead Daddy. She looked at Scotty, but he only glared back and shrugged his shoulders.

“My name’s William Coombes, but everyone calls me Billy,” he continued. “Um, so, Bill Harrington. Does he still live here?”

Scotty looked over at Jennifer. She got up and walked cautiously towards the door. When she got close enough to see the man’s face through the screen, it couldn’t have been more apparent that he was Bill Harrington’s son. Her half-brother.

Jennifer opened the door and invited him in. “Please,” she insisted, gesturing him inside, “we have a lot to talk about.”

They watched in awe as Billy stepped in and took a seat on the sofa. Everything about him was a carbon copy facsimile of Bill Harrington; his eyes, face, tall frame and broad shoulders, voice timbre, the way he moved and his mannerisms. It was unnerving and oddly comforting at the same time.

“Would you like a soda or something?” Jennifer asked him.

He accepted, so she went back to the kitchen to pour a glass of cola for him. She was flooded with emotions, but holding it together well. The very sight of Billy Coombes made her shudder with fear initially, but then her feelings became more sorrowful. She was going to have to tell this guy, this stranger, that his beloved biological daddy, whom he’d probably never known, was in fact dead.

Jennifer reentered the living room where both Billy and Scotty were sitting silently opposite one another on the sofa. It always amazed her how two guys could sit in a room together and never utter a single word to each other. She could feel a tension between them. “I hope you like Pepsi,” she said, breaking the awkward silence, handing the glass to Billy.

“It’s my favorite, thank you,” he said before taking a drink.

“So, you’re Bill Harrington’s…son?” Jennifer asked. He nodded and Jennifer’s heart broke for him. “Well, I guess that makes me your half-sister. I’m Jennifer Harrington.”

“Wow, I have a sister!” Billy said cheerfully.

Jennifer glanced over at Scotty, who had nothing but a blank stare on his face, then back to Billy. She took his hand and said as kindly as she could, “Your dad, our dad, he’s dead. He died about five months ago.”

A somberness came over his face. “What happened?”

“He killed my mom and then blew his brains out.” It had become so easy to say in the last five months, she didn’t hesitate or think to water it down for him. “He was mean, Billy. Mean, angry and violent. He whipped me and my mom so many times, I couldn’t begin to count. He was a terrible man. An evil son of a bitch. Be thankful you never knew him.”

Billy’s eyes grew wide. “Wow, I’m sorry. My mom told me he was a real gentleman.”

“Your mom obviously knew a side of him that we didn’t,” Jennifer said. She stood and walked over to a shelf on the far side of the living room and took down the family photo album. “In case you want to see us as the world saw us…” She handed the album to Billy, then turned and hastily exited the room.

“Thank you,” he said as she disappeared down the hallway.

Jennifer quickly stepped into the bathroom, locked the door and cried; overwhelmed with emotion.

Billy sat alone in the living room thumbing through the Harrington family album with a wide smile on his face and tears forming in his eyes. Seeing photos of his biological father as a young man was like looking into a mirror. It always felt like something was missing in his life. Even as a young child, there was an inexplicable void. Seeing those snapshots and family portraits filled some of the emptiness in his soul and he felt an inner peace. He envisioned himself in the photos, sitting alongside his daddy, his baby sister and his new momma who hadn’t lied to him his entire life. The family that should have been his. He didn’t see the abusive monster Jennifer had described their father to be a moment ago. But considering the phony façade of his own upbringing, neither could he doubt it.

Jennifer stepped out of the bathroom, face washed and composed. She heard a racket in the kitchen and stepped in to find Scotty back at the dining table devouring his pancakes that were swimming in strawberry syrup. “Did you offer Billy some?”

He shook his head and mumbled through a mouthful of food, “He’s too busy beating off to your baby pictures.”

Jennifer sighed in disgust, turned and went out to the living room. Billy was still on the sofa looking at the album. He was trying desperately to hide it, but she could tell he’d been crying too. She sat beside him and spoke softly. “I know it’s like lunchtime, but I have pancakes and bacon in the kitchen. Can I fix you a plate?”

Billy shook his head. “Are you okay?” he asked her. Her eyes were as teary as his.

Jennifer nodded with a smile. She felt a connection to him. With her parents gone and very few friends left in the world, how could she not feel a kinship towards him? He was family; actual flesh and blood. He looked so much like her father, it was creepy. But she could read his feelings, which she never could with Daddy unless he was in a fit of rage. It was more than that. She could feel Billy’s emotions. She took his hand and they both started crying. Then she leaned over and hugged him, feeling the warmth and love that only the embrace of family can bring.

“In a way,” Billy said between sniffles, “we’re both orphans, aren’t we?” He set the photo album on the coffee table and composed himself. Then he took a sip of his Pepsi, set the glass on the table, stood and took a key from his jeans pocket. “Thanks for the pop and showing me the pictures. Again, I’m really sorry about your folks. It was a pleasure to meet you.”

Jennifer dried her eyes with the collar of her t-shirt, stood and took his hand. “Where are you going? You can’t leave already. You just got here. We just met.”

“I’m only passing through, I can’t stay,” he said, noticing Scotty standing in the hall just outside the room with his arms crossed. “I don’t want to trouble you and your…husband?”

Jennifer burst into laughter. “My husband? No, no, he’s not my husband or boyfriend or anything. He’s just a friend.” She took his hands and gazed up into his eyes. “Please, stay. You can spend the night and sleep in my old bedroom upstairs. We don’t have much, but we got food, pot, TV and a box of killer LPs.”

“Jennifer!” Scotty snapped from the hallway. “Come here!” His tone was condemning and authoritative.

She looked over her shoulder at Scotty and sighed. “I’ll be right back,” she told Billy, releasing his hands. She followed Scotty into the kitchen. “Don’t you dare leave!”

“What are you doing?” Scotty barked, turning Jennifer towards him and squeezing her upper arms tightly as a parent might with a misbehaving child. “You don’t know this guy! He could be the Son of Sam for all we know, and you’re inviting him to stay in our house? Are you stupid? Are we running a goddamn flophouse, or what!?”

“Our house?” Jennifer retorted, yanking herself free from his grip. She paced around to the other side of the kitchen table, which was still a mess from breakfast, then turned and faced him. “Let’s get something straight. This is my house, not our house, and that’s my brother out there. He can stay as long as he damn well pleases. And yeah, by the way, I am running a flophouse. It became a ‘goddamn flophouse’ when I let you crash here. I don’t know what you think is happening between us, dude, but we’re not a couple. You’re not my father, my boyfriend or my husband, so don’t stand there all high and mighty and tell me what to do in my own house!”

“Wow, someone needs a Midol, doesn’t she!”

Jennifer lost it, ran and hammered her fists into his chest. “If you’re gonna be a dick, then get the hell out of my house!” She tried to anger her tears away, but it wasn’t working.

Scotty took hold of Jennifer’s wrists and restrained them at her side, then looked down and shouted into her face, “I don’t need this shit!” He released her and shoved her aside with his forearm. “You can call me at my uncle’s when you come to your senses. Otherwise, find yourself another drummer, bitch!” He turned and stomped down the hallway towards the front door.

“Scotty, wait!” Jennifer begged, knowing she’d crossed a line. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it. Please, don’t go!” Tears were flowing down her cheeks.

Scotty said nothing, stopped and scooped up his box of vinyl and walked out the front door, kicking the screen door open with his foot. Jennifer followed him out to the porch and watched as he put the LPs into the hatchback. She put her hand up to her mouth and cried as the Pinto pulled out of the driveway, turned onto Route 7 and drove away.

Billy peeked out the door and saw Jennifer was upset, so he stepped out onto the porch and approached her. “I’m sorry,” he said softly. Fresh fingernail trenches were visible on both her upper arms and wrists.

She rushed into his arms and sobbed. “Everyone is leaving me!”

“I won’t,” he told her as comfortingly as he could, embracing her tightly. Her tears caused his eyes to water again too, but he held her, and before long they were both calmer. It was like they could share their emotions and almost communicate with each other telepathically. They felt familiar with one another; as if they’d grown up together and knew each other all their lives.

“Thank you for coming,” she whispered between sniffles. “I’m so glad you’re here.”

“Me too.”

Jennifer walked into the living room with a steaming hot pizza in one hand and a glass of soda in the other. She set the pizza on the coffee table and handed the glass to Billy. He hadn’t eaten a bite since last night’s Biggie Cheeseburger and tots, and the smell of that pizza had his tummy revved-up and ready to go. He would’ve been perfectly happy to eat the leftovers from breakfast, but Jennifer said she preferred pizza over pancakes anyway.

He was becoming quite enamored with his new half-sister. She was smart, funny, cute as a bug, and her kind, gentle soul shined brightly in everything she did. He could understand why Scotty was jealous. Any guy would be.

Billy didn’t see her that way, though. His affections were purely innocent. Even if Jennifer hadn’t been his little sister, he wasn’t into girls. He never was.

With his tall, masculine physique and deep voice, nobody ever suspected Billy Coombes was gay, and he never admitted it to anyone, other than a few onetime flings in college. As he’d been told since he was a little boy, being gay was too big a no-no. Not only would he sacrifice his own eternal salvation, but he’d bring God’s wrath down upon everyone. No one’s perverted sexual desires are worth starting Armageddon. Religious nonsense aside, people would laugh at him, gossip, beat him up or kill him for it. Life in the closet had to be easier, he figured, so that’s where he was.

Billy didn’t know what to expect when he showed up at the Harrington house. It took him months just to make the decision and build up the courage to do it. His mother didn’t give any details beyond Bill Harrington’s name and hometown. He had little to go on, but he figured if the guy was still piledriving his mom as recently as five months ago, then he’s probably around somewhere doing just fine. In any case, he had to know, and now he knew.

He was sad he never got to know his real daddy, although Jennifer said he should be thankful for it. Maybe he could have intervened and protected her. At the very least, it would have given the son of a bitch someone else other than sweet Jennifer to unleash his violence upon. He couldn’t imagine raising a hand to her, let alone whipping her like a dog. It was unconscionable.

“Did you get enough to eat?” Jennifer asked, breaking Billy away from his deep thoughts. “I could put another pizza in the oven.”

“No, thank you,” he answered with a closed-mouth burp. “It was delicious!”

“Yeah, frozen pizzas rock.”

“So, what’s the deal with you and…the troglodyte?”

Jennifer laughed. “You mean Scotty? He’s harmless. Me and my girlfriend were trying to start this heavy metal band, and he’s the drummer.”

“Heavy metal band?” He became intrigued.

She nodded, then got up from the sofa and walked over to the stereo console where she popped in a cassette tape. She pushed play and turned up the volume. When the music started, he recognized it right away; Beth by KISS.

“Aw, I love this song,” he said with a smile. He listened closely, and when the vocal came in, his eyes got huge. “You?” he asked of the vocalist.

“That’s Randi, my girlfriend,” she answered. “I’m on the piano and she’s singing.”

“So, when you say girlfriend, do you mean girl friend, or girlfriend?

“We’re a couple, I guess.”

He smiled with a sense of relief. If she was openly gay, perhaps one day he could be too.

“Wow, you guys are awesome!” he finally said. He wasn’t blowing sunshine up her skirt. It was the best version of Beth he’d ever heard. Better than the original.

Billy imagined many things when he came to Dugan, but he never once thought he’d find a super-talented half-sister who was in a rock band with a demo out and a for-real girlfriend. It was amazing!

“Wait ’til you hear the next demo,” she said proudly.

When Breaking the Law started to play, he couldn’t believe his ears. Jennifer said she played all the guitar and bass parts. He’d never heard anything like it. It was high-energy, high-quality heavy metal music with a girl singing. He started thinking of ways to promote them.

In college, before his former daddy pulled his support from under him, Billy was taking pre-law courses with emphasis on sports and entertainment law. He was hoping to manage and represent pro athletes, but he also studied the music industry; publishing, copyrights, performance rights, royalties, record contracts, manufacturing, merchandising, promotions and sales, etc. Based on what he heard on that demo tape, Jennifer and her band should have no problem securing a record deal, with the right representation.

“How come nobody’s signed you guys yet?” he asked her.

“Because we’re a joke,” she answered with a self-deprecating exhale. “You should’ve seen us onstage the other night down in Texas. We bombed. We suck.”

“But, you guys sound incredible.” He gestured towards the stereo still playing Breaking the Law.

Jennifer became somber, with her eyes affixed to the floor below. She spoke softly, barely loud enough to be heard over the music. “Anyone can sound good on a demo, where you can keep backing up the tape ’til you get it perfect. I wish life was like that. Wouldn’t it be great if we could back up our lives and redo everything ’til we got it right?” Then she snapped out of it, reached beneath the coffee table and grabbed a bent-up Pepsi can that had been mutilated into a makeshift pipe, along with a lighter and a small baggie of buds. “Dost thou partaketh of the holy sacrament, mine brethren?” she asked him with a mischievous grin.

Billy laughed. “I’ve never heard it put quite that way, but yes ma’am, I do.”

She put a bud on the can and handed it to Billy. When he put it to his lips and flicked the lighter, Jennifer burst into a fit of girly giggles that was as adorable as it was funny.

“What?” he asked her, trying to hold the can steady amidst the hysterics.

“Sorry, bro. You look like Daddy lighting up, and it just cracked me up for some reason. Like, what if he used to secretly smoke pot using a can?” She broke into another fit of laughter, rolling to her side and slipping off the sofa.

“Remember, young lady,” he said in a deep, stern voice, imitating what he imagined Principal Bill Harrington sounded like, “never do drugs.” Then he lit up and toked it.

Jennifer was laughing so hard, she started coughing. “Stop, I’m gonna pee my pants!”

Billy coughed his hit back into the can, peppering himself with ash and burning bud and adding more fuel to their laughter. He put the can on the table and took a drink from his glass of soda. They were both in stitches.

After managing to get a little pot smoked, Jennifer grabbed her Hummingbird and they spent the rest of the day singing songs, talking, laughing, and getting to know one another. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d had so much fun. She’d forgotten about Scotty, Randi, Dark Artemis, and all her problems, if only for half a day. It was wonderful.

When it was time to hit the sack, she took Billy upstairs to her old bedroom. “The bathroom is across the hall. There’s a shower and towels and everything. If you get hungry, help yourself to whatever’s in the kitchen. Just make yourself at home, okay?”

“Thank you, Sis,” he said.

She smiled, reached up and hugged him. “No, thank you.”

Thanks for reading.
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