The wailing cries of the baby were slowly driving her insane. She had fed him no more than an hour ago so it couldn't possibly be that he was hungry again. He was just like her husband, she grudgingly thought, always wanting something more of her and yet, never giving back. She knew it was an awful thought but she was weary and the entire situation was getting to her. At least, she mused, her baby will grow up and become a better man someday, or so she hoped.
The new mother got up from the couch, moving slowly in the direction of the cradle. Gazing down, she cringed at the sight of the beet red, screaming babe. "Okay, okay, what is it now?" Sherri asked, without expecting an actual answer. That, she chuckled to herself, would have been a tad disconcerting. She was so tired that she could barely keep her eyes open. Little Jake had been crying for what seemed like hours, until she eventually just got used to the sound. She wasn't overly concerned since he did that most of the time, and most of the time, it was just attention that he wanted.
Giving in to the little one's demands, she picked him up into her arms and started rocking him from side to side, humming softly. Finally, Jake started to calm down, slowly going from crimson red to light pink, until he reached the color of a normal, healthy-looking baby. He became the very image of an angel; the transformation was astounding, even to the mother who was quite familiar with the act. Sherri released a deep sigh of relief as she carefully sat down on the couch, baby tucked safely in her arms.
Suddenly, the phone shrilled. Jumping off of the couch as though it were on fire, she nearly dropped little Jake on the floor. Hurriedly, she moved to pick it up before it would completely startle Jake awake. "What?! And it better be good!" She barked into the handset.
Luckily and surprisingly, Jake was fast asl**p. "Figures," Sherri mumbled to herself.
"Hey Sher. Quick, turn the TV on to MTV," said Jackie, Sherri's best friend since high school.
"What the hell Jackie? I just managed to put little Jake to sl**p. You're lucky he didn't wake up or I'd have throttled you through the phone," whispered Sherri harshly.
Sherri could almost see the stupid smirk that always appeared on her friend's face, especially when Sherri had threatened her with bodily harm. "Yeah, yeah. Just turn on the damn TV."
Sherri grunted but picked up the remote control. Quickly pressing the mute button and switching through the channels, she found the desired one. Little Jake was having a really bad day. His mother, for the second time in less than an hour, was about to drop him flat on the floor. Sherri stood looking at the TV screen, mouth agape, eyes so wide, they looked ready to pop out of her head.
"Sher? Sher!" Jackie screamed into the phone.
Sherri finally found her voice, though it was cracked with surprise, tension, and a long-hidden pain. "Yeah...I'm here."
"Are you watching? Isn't that that girl, from high school, the one you used to hang out with?"
Sherri swallowed thickly and nodded, completely forgetting the fact she was still on the phone.
"Sher! What the hell is wrong with you?"
"I...I'm sorry. I'm here. I was just shocked..."
Jackie snorted, "well hell, yeah, me too. I just turned on the TV and suddenly I see her gyrating in a freaking video clip. She's really good. And hot! Man, I don't remember her looking like that in high school."
Sherri clenched her teeth, images of the past flooding her mind.
Alejandra Gutierez was the new k** in school. She was tall, lanky, with long black hair and a pair of chocolate brown eyes that could melt your heart. She was extremely smart and had been given the opportunity to study at the Jenkins' private school for girls. Her parents were poor with barely enough money to pay for food, much less for their daughter's "insignificant" education. But once the scholarship was given, there was no doubt about her going. Alejandra kept to herself; embarrassed of her height, of her intelligence, and much as she was ashamed to admit it even to herself, she was a tad embarrassed by her background. The school was filled with intelligent, rich k**s that lived in the posh surrounding area. None of them made an effort to get to know her, and no efforts to leave her safety zone were made on her part.
Sherri was the only one who tried to overstep the invisible boundary. She had been watching the gangly girl since her first day, and something about her had intrigued her. During lunchtime, when Alejandra was sitting at a table all by herself, as per usual, Sherri approached her and asked to have a seat. Alejandra raised a suspicious eyebrow but nodded.
Sherri smiled and sat down. "I'm Sherri," she introduced with a smile.
Alejandra gazed at her for a long moment but finally took her hand in a firm shake, saying in a smooth alto voice, "I'm Alejandra." She had the slightest bit of accent.
"That's a beautiful name."
Alejandra smiled shyly and thanked the cute blonde. When lunch was over, Alejandra noticed that she towered over Sherri by a good 5 inches. Sherri seemed like her exact opposite. Her hair was light blonde, long and curly, her eyes, a beautiful shade of blue that lit her entire face. On that day, Alejandra decided that she liked Sherri. Unbeknownst to her, Sherri decided the very same thing.
However, the rest of the school seemed to completely disagree. As long as Alejandra sat quietly by herself and minded her own business, no one had any trouble with her. The moment Sherri started hanging around her, derogatory comments started flying her way. At first, Alejandra let them express themselves, she kept her cool and ignored everybody. But when the comments directed her way started to affect her friend as well, her temper got the better of her. At one point, the other girls decided that comments about Alejandra's background weren't enough, and assumptions about hers and Sherri's relationship started gathering momentum. Sherri hated herself for doing so, but when Jackie and her other friends started taunting her about her "obvious crush" on Alejandra, she abruptly stopped seeing her. She knew she had hurt her friend, no longer answering her calls, or hanging around with her, without any explanation. But, she feared such comments would reach her parents' ears and that, she surmised, would have been much harder to handle.
Alejandra was hurt in the beginning, but when she realized she had no reason to feel that way, she pushed her feelings aside and simply kept going to school as though nothing had changed. She kept herself busy with school work and her music, constantly day dreaming about what her future might hold. Deep down, she knew that she was destined to make it big. She was destined to perform in front of thousands of screaming fans. Her guitar burned under her fingers when she played and the microphone melted when her silky voice rang through it. Every Saturday night she would sing her heart out at one of the local bars. Even though she was u******e, the owner fell in love with her voice and talent, probably more so with her stunning looks, and let her play there. By the time she was through with high school, she had gained quite a fan base.
She hadn't exchanged another word with Sherri till they graduated, and after graduation both girls went their separate ways.
"She was beautiful in high school as well," Sherri whispered into the phone. The image on her screen was seared into her head. Alejandra had become one of the most gorgeous women she had ever seen. She never did get over her guilt from that period in her life. To this day, she regretted treating her friend that way, leaving her in solitude because of some big-mouthed idiots that couldn't keep to their own problems. She was speaking with one such idiot at that moment.
"Whatever. What do you say we go to one of her concerts? I just read that she's coming to town." Jackie was never the brightest in the bunch, but she was mostly harmless, so Sherri stuck with her.
"What?! Are you crazy? I'm not going to see her in concert," replied an incredulous Sherri.
"Why the hell not? Take a day off, you deserve it. Get a babysitter or get that husband of yours to stay with Jake for once in his life, and let's go out. Like old times."
"Jackie, I can't. You know how Adam is about me going out alone, especially to some concert, and if you forgot, we didn't really leave off on the best of terms with Alejandra."
"First of all, tell that prick he can bite you, and second, if I recall correctly, you stopped seeing her, I was never friends with her to begin with."
Sherri gritted her teeth in anger, "You're going senile in your old age, I see. Apparently, you've conveniently forgotten the little reason why I stopped being friends with her."
Jackie scratched her head in thought. "Apparently."
"Ugh! You jerk. You and those stupid other girls started talking about us, that we were more than friends, that Al was a dyke. Remember? I was so scared my folks would hear those comments that I ran so fast I'm surprised I didn't leave a dust trail in my wake."
"Oh, right! Now I remember. Hey, guess what, she has a girlfriend now. A famous one to boot." Jackie chuckled, as though finding the entire conversation extremely hilarious.
Sherri flopped tiredly on the couch. Her heart, for some reason, constricted in her chest. Jake sensed his mother's agitation and started squirming in her arms. Shushing him softly, he went back to sl**p. "She has a girlfriend? How do you know?"
"While we've been reminiscing, I've looked her up on the internet. She has A LOT of fans. This info is on one of her websites. So I guess we weren't all that far off back then. You should thank us, as I see it."
Sherri snorted in disbelief, "Yeah, thanks a lot. She was a good friend and a sweet person, and you guys were such shits. I can't believe I did that to her and yet I'm still friends with you."
Jackie frowned, "Hey! I think that was an insult."
Sherri chuckled and changed the subject, "Just forget it, okay? I'm glad she's done well for herself and now, I just want to go on with my own fab life in peace and quiet, k?"
Jackie sighed, "Fine, I'll leave you alone. For now. When is that asshole husband of yours coming home?"
Sherri knew she should have said something to her friend about the way she spoke of her husband, but then she knew Jackie was right, and couldn't possibly bring herself to correct her. "Adam will be here Thursday. He's on another business trip."
Jackie snorted, "Yeah, business trip. Into whose panties this time?"
"Jackie, come on, please. I'm going to put Jake down, I'll talk to you later, okay?"
"Alright, Sher. Bye sweetie."
Sherri hung up the phone and went to put Jake in his cradle. She was tired, her stomach was churning and she felt worse than she had felt in a very long time. Somehow, seeing Alejandra's face again, even though it was through a TV screen, made all of her bad memories and old feelings resurface. She had truly cared for the girl back in high school. They had spent a lot of time together, talking, watching movies, listening to music; just hanging out. Sherri remembered how much fun they used to have. They were good times. But most fondly, she remembered the times when Alejandra would bring out her guitar and sing to her. Her voice always held the slightest tinge of melancholy. It was so beautiful, so smooth, so soothing. She closed her eyes tightly for a moment and she could almost hear the straining notes of a song that probably came to be a huge hit.
They usually hung around the lake, right on the outskirts of town. Alejandra never offered to bring Sherri to her home and after taking Alejandra to her own house once, she swore to never repeat that mistake again. Her parents were very upset with her afterwards, telling her if she wanted to take on a charity case, she should do it at the c***dren's hospital, and not in their home. Sherri resented her parents for many years, but her snobbish upbringing was deeply instilled within her and even she couldn't completely shake those thoughts away.
Sherri was snapped from her musings by the sound of the phone ringing. Again, jumping from the couch, she snapped the phone from its charger and answered sharply, "What?"
"Sherri?" Adam's voice boomed through the line.
Sherri snapped herself from her daze and involuntarily tensed. "Oh hi Adam, sorry, I thought you were someone else."
"Who could possibly be calling my house while I'm gone?" He asked, irritation clearly marking his tone.
Sherri ground her teeth in anger, "No one, it's not as though I have friends."
Adam snorted, "Oh stop. You have too many as it is. Anyhow, my point in calling was to let you know that I would be gone until next Sunday instead of this Thursday. Something came up at work."
Sherri pursed her lips in a mixture of both irritation and relief. "Alright. I guess I'll see you then."
"Yes, good. Don't do anything stupid," and with those seemingly distracted words, he hung up.
"You are a prick," Sherri said, looking at the phone in her hand.
Getting an idea, she picked up the phone again and called her friend's familiar number. Jackie picked up on the second ring.
"Jack, what did you say about tickets?"
Jackie was delighted to hear the change in Sherri's tone and got right to business. She logged onto the internet and bought two tickets for Alejandra's upcoming weekend concert. The weekend couldn't get there fast enough.
The women kept busy with their own lives; each had her own obligation, which they took care of, either in the name of their own families, or in the name of their absent husbands. But finally, the weekend arrived.
The doorbell rang loudly through the large house. Sherri was just trying to decide on which shoes to wear when she heard it. Hopping on one shoed foot, she managed to get the door without falling flat on her face.
"Hey. Good, you can help pick out my shoes and accessories."
Jackie chuckled and followed her friend into the bedroom. "I think that one you have on looks good."
Sherri bit her lip and asked skeptically, "Yeah? How about those black ones?" pointing towards a shiny, black pair of pumps.
"Why do you even ask? I know you'll eventually just go with whatever you want."
Sherri shrugged and went on to put the other pair of shoes. "How's my hair?"
Jackie sighed, "You look gorgeous. Now can you stop fussing so we could go?"
"Ugh, you're no help. Besides, the babysitter isn't here yet."
Jackie flopped down on the bed. "Fine. Why are you fussing, by the way?" A curious eyebrow made itself up her brow.
Sherri stopped for a moment and gazed at her, "Well, it's been a while since I've been out and I'd like to dress up for the occasion. Is that alright with you, Ms. Callahan?"
Jackie smiled and nodded, "Yep."
It was no more than an hour before they finally made it out the door. Little Jake had been kissed goodnight, the babysitter was given her instructions, and they were rolling toward their destination. The crowd outside the stadium was huge. The lights were bright and blinding, making it difficult to see. Jackie grabbed Sherri by the hand and pulled her to the entrance. Stamped tickets in hand, they made their way inside. The stadium was already half full, and by the looks of the gathering crowd outside, it wouldn't be long till the stadium burst with the ruckus of fans. As quickly as their shoes would allow, they made their way to their seats. Sherri was surprised to see that Jackie had managed to get front seats in such a short notice.
"How did you get these seats?" Sherri tried her best not to scream, but the noise was already deafening.
"Money talks, babe," Jackie grinned and winked at her. "Oh, and I have a surprise for you."
Sherri narrowed her eyes in suspicion, "What?"
"You'll see. Just sit back, relax, and enjoy the concert."
Sherri wanted to repeat her question, but the lights suddenly dimmed and the crowd went nuts. The first few notes were played by a distant guitar and they made Sherri shiver. It sounded so familiar and yet, so different. A single spotlight suddenly flared on the stage, dead center, and a dark figure stepped from behind a curtain, slowly making its way onto the front of the stage. Her head was lowered over the microphone, her long black hair covering her face. Then suddenly, her voice rang through the stadium. It was that same smooth, silky voice Sherri remembered singing to her. So long ago. And then the hair was thrown back and her facial features were revealed. They seemed to be chiseled in stone, such perfect angles, proportion. Her body, to die for.
Sherri gaped at her quietly, not noticing that her friend was studying her intently. When the song came to a slow, dramatic end, the audience went wild yet again. The songs continued, flowing one into the other, creating a perfect harmony. By the end of the show, even Sherri was drenched in sweat. The air was scorching, thousands of bodies undulating to the music, breathing in and out, going wild alongside the singer on stage. Sherri was in a daze, the foggy atmosphere clouding her brain. Jackie had to shake her arm for her to snap out of it.
"Come on, time for your surprise." Jackie took her hand and guided her around the people still crowding the floor, to somewhere behind the stage.
"Where are we going?"
Jackie simply smiled and kept quiet, until they got backstage.
A large bodyguard with his arms crossed over his bulky chest stopped them at the entrance. "Passes?"
Jackie flashed two cards at the bodyguard and he magically moved out of the way. Sherri frowned but allowed herself to be pulled along. "How did you...?" Her sentence was left hanging when a sweaty Alejandra intercepted them.
Both Jackie and Sherri stood looking at her, mute as fish. Alejandra's eyebrow rose sharply, her lips curling in a small, almost satisfied smirk. "May I help you ladies?" She licked her lips. Suddenly, she was grabbed from behind, turned around and kissed straight on the lips by a very amorous blonde woman. Alejandra turned around and pulled her girlfriend closer. "Hey baby. Did you like the show?"
"You were scorching hot, stud! God, you made me so wet..." She pretended to whisper in her ear, but her words rang loud and clear in the ears of the two watching women.
Alejandra chuckled and reverted her attention to the women, "Hello? Anybody there?" She asked jokingly, waving a hand in front of their faces.
Jackie snapped out of her shock first and said, "Yeah, sorry. Hi. Umm, you were awesome. You know, we knew each other back in high school," she blurted rapidly.
Alejandra's smiled twisted crookedly, her eyes growing somewhat colder. "Oh? Interesting. Should I remember you then?"
Jackie turned pink with embarrassment and slight anger. "No, no, I don't see why you should."
Alejandra continued to smirk as her gaze shifted to Sherri. "And you? Do I know you from high school as well?" Her eyes slowly raked over the blonde's body.
Sherri swallowed and simply answered, "No." Her eyes remained glued to Alejandra's dark ones. At her answer, she saw something change in the singer's eyes, but before she had the chance to analyze it further, Alejandra turned on her heel and started toward her dressing room.
"You two are welcome to come to the after party if you wish. Ask my bodyguard for directions," she threw over her shoulder.
Sherri was ready to leave, a fist curling in the pit of her stomach. Jackie placed a warm hand on her forearm, preventing her from leaving. "Are you okay?"