Last of the Independents
Chapter 1: The First Concert
Come...As you are...as you were...as I want you to be.
In 1994, the post-grunge era was still recovering from Cobain, but Sasha didn’t care as she sat at her computer, slaving away at her thesis. Music was just mindless noise for her on a good day and mindless maddening noise on the worst. She much preferred classical, or even classic rock to what was coming out of her radio. Her sister Bree, on the other hand, was another story- and that reminded Sasha that she had to get all of this entered before five so she could go pick up Bree and take her to the stupid concert she wanted to go to. “22 years old and I’m still babysitting... for an eighteen-year-old!” she lamented out loud, but it fit with everything she’d ever known. Her parents drove her and her younger sisters Bree and Daria past what they thought were reasonable goals, but that drive had put Sasha into Northwestern and on the honor roll every semester but one as she went for her degree in journalism, and gotten her into grad school with credits already under her belt, and kept her from relying on her good looks to get by in the world.
It had taken a lot for her parents to push her that far, and with Bree she knew it was twenty-five times as tough, and that was after they’d accepted that she was only going to get into Illinois. At least Daria was a little more focused than Bree, but seeing Bree try to pull on the leash would be interesting. “Still. Christie Reed. Do I ever wanna know what she is? Knowing Bree, she’s probably some wanna be looker with a more wannabe voice and tight pants. I hope she at least has some good-looking dancers,” Sasha thought out loud with a sigh as she finished her work and headed to her parents’ house to pick up Bree.
The only saving grace was that Bree was about as thrilled at Sasha going with her as Sasha was. “Oh, it’s you. Like I can’t find my way to the United Center from here,” Bree said with a pout. A lavender t-shirt hugged her figure tightly, the silhouetted figure on the front in a black gown and feather boa echoing Bree’s well-proportioned body, and her black jeans sparkled with glitter.
Sasha didn’t remember Bree being into dark angst, but it if it was that year’s model, Bree was into it. “United Center? For someone I’ve never heard of? Dang,” she said with a low whistle.
Bree looked at her sister with a strained smile. “If I said Foo Fighters you’d duck and look for flying pies, and if I said Barenaked Ladies, you’d ask me if I turned lesbian. You haven’t heard of anybody. It’s been sold out for months, just so you know. I just have my... connections.”
“How much did the scalpers hose dad for?” Sasha asked with a sigh.
“One-fifty,” Bree said, turning to the doorway with her best “thanks, daddy!” face.
“That’s not so bad... face was about fifty, right?”
“One-fifty each! Young lady, you better enjoy yourself! It’s upper deck, but the lower levels were five hundred each,” their father interjected.
“We will! Besides, you wanted to shell out the money for Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong over here,” Bree said with a snort.
“Okay, I’ve listened to enough radio to know what that means!” Sasha said, chasing Bree into her car as she got in and sped off the brave the traffic to downtown.
“Seriously, sis, once you here her, you’ll love her. She’s an awesome piano player, and I know how much you like that British guy who named himself after a port-a-potty,” Bree said, and she sang a few lyrics as examples.
“Ironic enough, but she better sound a lot better than you!” Sasha said with a smile.
“MUCH better,” Bree reassured her.
They parked and headed into the cavernous building. Bree was at home in the sea of t-shirts and other memorabilia, her head turning from picture to picture. Sasha saw the obsession on people’s faces as she looked around. It was easy to tell the first timers from the veterans from those there just to be there. Some looked like they had completed their pilgrimage to Mecca, some were like Bree and couldn’t contain themselves at hearing their idol live, and some were like Sasha and were politely scratching their heads at the whole thing. “Need some grub?” Sasha asked.
“Nah, I’m good. Oh my God, Sasha, I’m gonna actually see her! I’m gonna see her!” Bree squealed, staring at the posters and the other staring fans.
Sasha bit her tongue and reminded herself that she got the same way when working on a big paper. “It’s a half hour before the opening act, so I guess we have some time.”
“Oh. Maybe I should get a Diet Coke or something?” Bree asked, still distracted.
“I guess that New Kids on the Block concert dad took you to when you were twelve got past you,” Sasha said with a smirk.
Bree look at her as if she had grown an extra head. “It’s Christy Reed! How can you even compare them to her? That’s blasphemy!”
“And I thought dad’s tales about mom and Elvis were myth. Little did I know...” Sasha teased as she got into line and got enough food for both of them, just in case Bree’s stomach reminded her brain that it was there too.
“C’mon, Sasha! Done with that food yet? By the time we get up there, the show’s gonna be over!” Bree whined, fidgeting as she looked up towards their section before spotting two women in Christy Reed shirts, knee length leather skirts, and black pantyhose, with large plastic cards on lanyards around their necks.
“Tickets, please,” the one on the right said. “Way up there? What’s a girl like you doing with this kid who can only afford to take you to the top of Mount Nosebleed?” she asked Sasha in mock frustration.
Sasha did a double take, almost dropping her fries. “Excuse me? That’s my sister! And it’s all we could get, it was so full. And you don’t look like a United Center—”
“You don’t even know that Christy is so anti-establishment that she employs her own ushers and security? What have you been doing in that dorm room, anyway?” Bree asked with wide eyes and an annoyed noise in the back of her throat. “My dad made her take me. I could go by myself, but nooooo,” she confided to the usher.
The usher smiled, flashing a dimple. “Ahhh. I know what you mean. Well, sister, you’ll like Christy. She’s the last of the independents. No Hollywood pop trash here, not even Seattle caffeinated fake angst. Just straight up music from the heart and soul,” she went on. Neither Sahsa nor Bree noticed the other usher measuring Sasha from behind and nodding to the first. “Well, sucks that you got so high up. Not even Jordan coming back could stop tickets from selling out so quickly. How about we make it up to you with a couple of backstage meet and greet passes for after the show? On Christy,” she said with another smile and another dimple, passing over two sets of credentials.
Bree reached over to grab them, but Sasha seized her wrist. “Hold on, sis. We really appreciate the offer, but we’re out in the suburbs, and we have to get back, and it’ll be pretty late, and—”
“Sasha, oh my God, will you please shut up before you ruin my life forever?” Bree interrupted, breaking loose of Sasha’s hold and snatching the credentials out of the usher’s hands. The other usher paused, but shrugged at the realization that they were a package and put their names on the list.
“All right, but we leave Cinderella style, on the stroke of midnight, no matter what, no matter if they’re done or not,” Sasha admonished. Bree rolled her eyes and started climbing the stairs, forcing Sasha to run with the tray.
The show went on, and Sasha could admit when Bree was right. Christy Reed was a top notch performer, with an angel’s voice and the most incredible piano work that Sasha had ever heard. She could feel herself get caught up with the rest of the wild crowd more and more with every passing number. By the fifth song, she turned to Bree to tell her to forget about midnight, and Bree’s mile-wide grin never broke. By the encore, Sasha was singing along with everyone else (or at least doing a good job pretending, given that she didn’t know any of the words).
“That was fucking AWESOME!” Bree exclaimed as the crowd let out.
“And we aren’t done yet!” Sasha said with a squeal.
Bree smirked. “Aren’t you glad daddy made you come along now? You’re the best sister ever!” she replied as Sasha went over to the usher with their passes.
“Hello again, Miss- you’re Sasha, right? Bree’s your sister? Not the other way around? Told you you’d love Christy as soon as you heard her,” the usher said with a grin that would come across as sinister if the girls hadn’t been caught up in the excitement of meeting the great Christy Reed. “Now, if you’ll follow us...” the usher continued, as she and her partner led the pair to the elevator, where about ten other fans from that area of the arena were waiting, trembling with the same excitement that had Bree’s hands shaking and Sasha’s face sore from smiling.
The ushers chorused, “Have fun down there!” and herded them into the elevator to the ground floor. When the doors opened at the next level, there were three more ushers. One was a girl in the same uniform as the ones upstairs, one was a dark-haired man in a muscle shirt who looked like he could end anyone with a flick of his wrist just for fun, and the third was an old man in a United Center uniform that looked out of place.
“Union insists on pops over here down in the locker area,” the female usher said, noticing Sasha’s perplexed look.
“I remember Sinatra and Elvis, and my old boss did the Beatles at Shea, and never have I seen kids get so crazy about an artist. If she was Greek, I’d think there’d be something wrong about that. She’s not that pretty, after all!” the old man protested. Sasha shook awake, just a little bit, as memories of myths drifted through her head, but she still followed the crowd into the visitors’ locker room; if nothing else, she had to keep Bree out of trouble. A small stage was set up in the middle, and to Sasha’s surprise, Christy’s piano was on it, looking like it was waiting for its mistress to arrive.
“An extra set? She really is the hardest working woman in music!” Bree said with a massive grin. The others nodded or murmured in agreement.
The room filled up, every one of the hundred or so chairs crammed tightly together occupied by a fan. After a breathless moment, Christy walked in. She was close to five-five in her heels, wearing a long black gown that covered most of her with elegance and style. Her blonde curls cascaded past her shoulders, perfect despite the hours she had spent on stage. Sasha could understand why the old security guard would find her nothing to write home about.
When she spoke, her voice was higher and more clearly Southern than it had been when she was singing. “Hey, y’all, hope y’all had a good time at the show. Did security give you too much trouble? If they did, you just tell me, and I’ll take care of it. I have pictures of about half of them,” she said. Everyone laughed, and the elderly security guard blushed as he scurried out of the room. Christy settled down on the piano bench and went on, “Now, how about something no one has ever heard before? A little unreleased material for y’all. Getting ready for the new album. It should be out in time for the Olympics, which should confuse the hell out of my preacher parents back in Macon.” There was more laughter.
Minister’s daughter explains the angel’s voice, Sasha thought dreamily.
“Y’all ready? Here we go.” Christy cracked her knuckles and got her voice in order, then belted out her new material. It was like nothing Sasha had ever heard before, even at the concert that had just ended. Christy’s range was inhuman, and she handled pickups and dropoffs in speed and pitch that were amazing. Sasha started drifting along with the booms and crashes of the new tune, washing over her in waves of pleasure and excitement. The rush she got from the music was enough to make her burn with feverish desire, and her last conscious awareness was that she was losing touch with reality. But the notes were so perfect and the range was beyond greatness, so how could she resist falling into it? She felt her head bobbing along to the rhythm- until the rhythm stopped, only continued by the robotic applause of the audience, none of them seeing anything but Christy, hearing nothing but Christy, waiting for Christy.
“And that was the first track! Now, don’t be afraid to let go at this next piece,” Christy said with a smile as she looked over her drooling, blankly staring audience. Just as she had planned- after all, she had perfected that song to shock their systems into this state. She paused to take stock of her victims; about thirty of them were keepers, while the rest could go home and do nothing more than spread her legend and suck in more fans. She turned the pages of her red leather music book and selected the right dosage for this crowd. With a final sip of her water, she readied herself. Then, with a flourish of her keyboard, she turned right towards the audience and began her most powerful song. The crowd swayed to its powerful subtext, then ignited in complete bliss as the lyrics got more sexual. About halfway through, she saw pants and skirts falling to the ground, and she gave them a quick breath of air with an ethereal piano bridge before hitting her highest note followed by her deepest and most primal. Moans of need that could not yet be fulfilled provided backup to the final verse, everyone gasping in complete lust as she finished and left them blank and empty.
“That’s how you close a show, folks! Glad to have ‘all here. Now line up, and I’ll get you your autographs and you can go on from there,” she said with a smile. On cue, three men who could be mistaken for real life monsters with their muscled physiques handed Christy her water and her shawl and led her to the desk sitting at the far end of the locker room. She sat down with her black quill pen and several stacks of papers, putting on her glasses and tossing her hair back. With the shawl over her shoulders and her glasses in place, she looked more like a secretary in her thirties than a pop sensation who had just sung a hundred people into her total command for as long as she wanted them. Two of the men stood in front of the desk and kept the line orderly, one by one taking the ID off each of her catches.
The line moved fast, and soon Sasha could vaguely hear one of the boys talking to the guards, hearing the words through a fog like cotton in her ears. “Name?” the guard asked.
“Height, weight, age, and address?”
“Five-eight, 171, 19, 124 West Smith, Joliet,” the fan droned out, seeming unconcerned that he’d just given his personal information to a stranger.
“Local! Send him over!” Christy piped up, and just like that, his pants were back on, he had an autographed photo, and left with a memory that would last a lifetime and be told to anyone who dared come near him.
The girl in front of Sasha was a petite princess with breasts that didn’t fit the rest of her small body. Sasha could barely hear the same interview happen, but a tiny piece of her brain heard the two men ask more penetrating questions. “Education? Occupation? Status?” they barked out.
Dyed black hair flicked back and forth as the girl tried to think of the answers. “High school grad, work in a movie theater, completely single,” she answered dreamily.
“Dancer!” Christy shouted. With a devilish smile, she added, “Let me measure those...” In seconds, the girl was topless. Christy cupped the girl’s breasts, weighing them carefully before giving her approval and allowing the girl to be led to the showers. She was completely naked, but no one could muster up the will to notice or think there was anything unusual about it.
Sasha’s turn came up. A small part of her stirred again, but this just got Christy’s song stuck in her head, and she went limp, having to drag herself over to security. The questions came at her, and with the three faces of Christy staring at her, she had no choice but to answer them honestly. “Sasha Sanderson, five-seven, 138, 22, Walker Hall 4329, graduate wing, Northwestern University, Evanston, graduate student in media relations and journalism, full time student, no boyfriend.”
“Grad student, boys, all right... family relations?”
“My younger sister Bree is right behind me, I have another younger sister Daria, and—”
“That will still do,” Christy interrupted. “I need all the PR help I can get. Come over here.” Sasha stumbled forward, jeans still around her ankles, the last stray thoughts of what are you doing?! erased from her head as she got closer to Christy. “GPA?”
“Graduated 4.2 from Northwestern, stayed there for my grad work, working on my thesis on PR replacing advertising as the medium of choice in a growing digital age,” Sasha replied instantly, the memory of her thesis sparking thoughts back to life behind her glassy eyes. Christy watched her struggling towards wakefulness and smiled; she had a genius by the brain, and she meant to make use of her as best as she could.
“Sign here,” Christy ordered as she pulled out a contract. Of course Sasha could do nothing but sign it. “Good, now undress and walk to the shower.”
Sasha stepped out of her shoes, unbuttoned her blouse, and left it behind as she stepped out of her jeans. From the corner of her eye she could see Bree being interviewed and handed Sasha’s contract with a note. Without even fully grasping the command, Sasha picked up her jeans, grabbed her car keys, and tossed them to her sister. Bree immediately went giddy, put her jeans back on, and skipped out the door, not even caring that she’d left her sister in Christy’s clutches.
Sasha didn’t care either. The more she tried to think about the situation she was in, the louder the song in her head got and the deeper under she went. She walked to the shower and took a position next to the dancer, both of them looking forward blankly, waiting for the next command. A man who could try out for the Bears came in and stood next to Sasha. When Christy’s last catch entered the shower, the water came on, and everyone reacted to their aroused bodies being tickled by the warm water. Soon Sasha could not resist either the hulking man or the big breasted beauty, and she descended into a primal threesome. The tiny part of her that liked to know what was going on noted that the song stuck in her head was the second track, but it was soon drowned out by her screams as she came in time to the music.
After that, she felt hands on her again, but she couldn’t bring herself to care. She was being cleaned up and dried off by one of the ushers, and that felt nice. As she dried out, she woke up slightly, but as soon as she began to look around for Bree, a pair of headphones covered her ears. The first unreleased song started anew, and by now Sasha was looking forward to it and tuned out everything as it played and her eyes slammed shut to better appreciate it.