Mae was growing tired of being told what to do. Especially since apparently she was still being kept in the dark. They were treating her like a child, and at eighteen she felt she was old enough now to be treated as an adult. She didn’t like being patted on the head and told to ‘just stay here’ while the grown ups went and did stuff.
She was still trying to work her way through the idea that everything and everyone in her life was a lie. The biggest blow was her mother. Intellectually, she could understand that perhaps the whole thing had been for her protection, and that it may even have been an act of love. But, emotionally, she was hurt. Her whole life, her mother was the one constant that she relied on to always be there, and to always tell her the truth.
Then there was the other stuff, the part about being a princess, and if she understood it right possibly a queen. She was still struggling to get her head around that. In her mind, princesses wore long flowing gowns and tiaras, drove pretty P.O.N.I.E.S. and were waited on hand and foot by a team of servants. Since her Papa died there were times when it had been a choice between keeping the lights on and having dinner that night. She looked down at her hands, they were calloused from all the time spent sewing. Not that she had ever minded, she had always been happy growing up. But, now she knew that she could have had a different life altogether. She wasn’t sure what any of it meant.
She wasn’t sure how long her mother had been gone, but it felt like hours. Looking out the window, the sky was dusk. She was getting hungry. She was bored too. The TV, it turned out was broken. She had been pacing up and down the room, with nothing to do but think. She decided to explore. She picked up the keys and put them in her pocket. Then she left the room.
Walking up and down each floor, the most remarkable thing about the place, was how unremarkable it was. Each floor had the same faded wallpaper, and the same worn out carpet. Even the pictures on the walls were exactly the same. In fact, if she didn’t know better, and if the ache in her legs from going down all those stairs didn’t remind her, she would have sworn there was only one floor.
When she reached the ground floor, she heard sound coming from the office behind the check-in desk. It was loud, and thumping through the walls. She felt inexplicably drawn towards it. The louder it became the more she wanted to be closer to it. The sound penetrated into her chest, making her heart singing. She had never heard anything like it. Standing at the door to the office she could see a shimmering mauve light coming from inside. It was emanating in waves, only faint but it was there. A feeling of peace and contentment wrapped around her like a hug.
She opened the door. The sound became melodic. The colours in the air intensified, and were swirling around, becoming almost a solid mass. She had never experienced anything like it. Inside the office, the girl from the front desk was sitting with her back to the door, in a swivel chair, with one foot on the desk, and the other on the floor. She was painting her toenails a bright, fluorescent orange. She was nodding her head to the music.
“What is that?”
The girl jumped, sending the chair toppling over, and sending her crashing to the floor.
“Ow! What the…Fuck… give a girl some like warning would ya!” She got up, brushing dust and other debris off. No permanent damage appeared to have been done.
“Like, what are you like doing back here anyway? Like did your Mum send you like down here or something?”
“No, I…um, Mama went out and, um I was bored, and I heard your music.”
The girl looked toward the stereo, which had changed songs.
“Oh that. Like yeah, not bad are they? The Albino Pythons. One of my favourite bands. I’m going to see them tonight.”
“I never heard anything like it. It’s so wonderful.”
The girl stared at Mae like she was an alien.
“You like never heard that before? It’s like only the most like played song like anywhere. Honestly, I’m like a bit sick of it.”
“Oh well. Umm, my mama and I, we came here from the country. Murpodompous.”
“Murpo..what? Never heard of it.” She had returned to the important task of painting her toenails orange.
Mae decided that she needed to see this band. A voice in her head whispered that her mother didn’t want her to go out. But, the part of her that was still annoyed with her mother shouted it down. She was a big girl. No one would tell her what to do.
“Could I, er… could I come with you?”
The girl looked at her. One eyebrow raised.
The feeling of relief that came over Mae surprised her. The possibility that this girl she had never met might say no had been a genuine concern to her.
“Oh, thank you. By the way, my name’s Mae.” She stuck out her hand.
The girl shook it. Her bangles clinking together causing a new wave of energy to pass through Mae.
“Amity.” She smiled at Mae with a bemused grin. She then looked Mae up and down.
She took in her plain, light blue denim skirt, that came down past her knees, and the tan coloured, ribbed turtle neck jumper. Then she looked back down at Mae’s sensible brown boots.
She shook her head.
“Damn. There’s like no way I’m letting you out like that.” She tilted her head to one side, thinking.
“Hmm… lets see what we can do.” She looked around the office. She then picked up a pair of scissors and started cutting Mae’s skirt.
“Hey! What are you doing?”
“Relax. I’m just like making it better.” She continued cutting. By the time she was done, the skirt came halfway down her thighs. Stray white cotton threads hung down at random intervals.
“Now like the boots are actually kind of like okay. But the jumper, eww!”
She went across to a filing cabinet. She opened the top draw and took out a number of assorted t-shirts. They were mostly black and red, and in varying degrees of being in need of ironing. She looked through them, occasionally smelling one or two of them. Finally, she seemed to settle on one. A red t-shirt with a black crow on the front. She handed it to Mae.
“Here like put this on.” Mae did as she was asked. Amity was skinnier than Mae, so the shirt was a little tight, but it fit well enough, emphasising her figure.
“Wow! Girl, like not bad. Now come over here and I’ll put some make-up on.”
Not long after the two girls were lined up outside a pub called, The Local Tavern. The board outside proclaimed that the Albino Pythons would be playing but that first the regular house band the Everyday Minstrels would be doing their usual set. The energy coming from the place was making Mae giddy. At one point she almost lost her balance.
“Watch it! Like you haven’t even like had a drink yet. “
“What is this place?”
“I know! Like what a dive. Worse yet, it’s like a franchise. I swear there’s like a Local Tavern in every town. But, like if we wanna see the like Pythons…”
“Who are the Everyday Minstrels?”
“Oh them. They’re like ok I guess. But it’s almost like it’s compulsory that every like Local Tavern has a band called the something or other Minstrels. They are always there, and only ever play songs that are like so old even my like granny knows the words.”
Once they were inside, Amity dragged Mae toward the back bar. The pub was dark inside, with dark, wooden beams and wooden floors. Giant beer barrels were lined up behind the bar, with taps attached to each of them. Standing behind the bar were two of the most enormous men Mae had ever seen. They were so tall, they had to bend forward to stop from bumping their blonde heads on the ceiling. Their arms were the size of tree trunks and their chests were so wide she wondered how they fit through doors without turning sideways. They were also identical. As she and Amity walked past the bar, the men stopped pulling pints long enough to wave and call out ‘Hello’. Amity waved back and kept going.
“You know them?”
“Hmm, oh yeah. Like I’m kind of in here all the time.”
When they got to the back bar, Amity installed them into a booth at one end. At the other end, people wearing all kinds of strange outfits were standing at a microphone, singing. They were following the words of the song on a small TV screen. The current group were singing loudly and not terribly tunefully, the effect caused Mae to feel nauseous.
She pointed at the group of singers. “Why are they doing that?”
Amity looked, “Yuk! Urgh, like I hate karaoke. Like it would be okay if anyone of them could actually sing.”
“Oh, like I guess they don’t have that at like, Murpo-whatsit either.”
“Murpodompous. And no.”
“It’s just like drunk losers getting up and like torturing everyone as they like destroy otherwise perfectly like reasonable songs.”
“So, anyone can do it?”
“Anybody, like can. Whether they like should. That’s a different story.”
Mae stood up. She knew why she had needed to come here so badly.
“I want a turn.”
“Really? Well, like I guess. You just like go over to that guy over there and he’ll set you up.”
She went over to the guy the Amity had pointed to, she picked a song. The only one on the list she had ever heard before. Once the current group were finished she took her place on the stage. A bright spotlight shone in her eyes, and she could no longer see anyone out in the crowd. She could hear them though. A couple of wolf whistles and men calling out “Nice Tits came from the crowd. She would have been embarrassed except her focus was entirely on the microphone. The music started, she started rocking to the introduction, waiting for the opening lyrics to appear. She opened her mouth, and began to sing.
Then the power went out.