Dancing With The Devil ch. 39

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Nov 10, 2010
Dancing out in space
Here's another slice of pure fiction! Enjoy!
The song Marieke sings in this chapter is one I wrote, by accident actually. The lyrics just popped in my head. Forgive me for being such a crappy lyricist! :D I wanted her to sing Country Feedback by R.E.M. but it seemed doubtful they would have that on the machine.

Sunlight leaks through the blinds into my room. I pull the covers over my head.
As I walk downstairs, fully dressed, the first crewmen who spot me call “Happy birthday, Marieke!” I smile blandly and hope they don’t suggest a date. I’m barely into my first sip of orange juice before a tap on my shoulder startles me away.
“Happy birthday, Marieke.” Jack holds out a package. I accept it and rip the wrapping off. Beneath it lies box, which when opened reveals an obviously homemade pin with the words “BEST BASSIST ON TOUR” printed on the surface.
“:Thank you Jack,” I tell him, sticking it on, and reach out for an embrace. Jack laughs while shrugging me away. “But,” I continue, “I believe you’ve mistaken me for Adam.”
“Can Adam run through the entire Zoo TV set in half an hour and not get bored?” Jack asks dryly. “Face it, Marieke, what the pin says is true. Even Stuart isn’t patient enough to do that. Now tell me…” He holds out an imaginary microphone in the form of a fist to my lips. “How do you feel about turning thirty?”
“I feel younger than Bono,” I say, staring at Jack’s knuckles. “But I suppose that’s because I am.” At least there’s comfort in the fact that I’m one step closer to the man I love- Suddenly pain rips along my insides. Okay, let’s try to get that name from my mind…
Jack, however, is unaware of my reaction. “How do you think Bono feels about your age?”
“I don’t think he’s aware that today’s my birthday.”
“How do you feel that this interview is being broadcast live, and Bono can hear you?”
“Oh, really? On what network, the imaginary one?”
“No, no! The Zoo TV network, of course.” Jack drops his hand-microphone. “How would you feel if I told you Bono’s having a surprise party for you?”
I raise my eyebrow. “Then it wouldn’t be a surprise anymore.”
We stare at each other levelly until Jack suddenly cringes in embarrassment. “Oh no, now I’ve done it…”
“There is a party?” I ask skeptically.
“No. No party. What makes you think there’d be a party?” Jack is studying his cuff link.
This is all too comical for me. “Cut it out, Jack, I know you’re lying. You’ve just spoiled a surprise, haven’t you?” I don’t say my thoughts- Bono’s surprise- for fear of Jack correcting me. After last night, I don’t even want to think of Bono.
“I guess I can’t keep secrets anymore, I’m sorry,” Jack sighs. “Promise you’ll pretend not to know about it, okay?” He doesn’t need to tell me. I’m very mixed about parties. On one level, I feel flattered that the crew would hold a birthday party especially for me- I’m no one special. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m the most beautiful woman on tour, or maybe it’s that I have the easiest job… but at least they thought of me. Jack for sure has a kind heart.
On another level, however, I can’t stand being the center of attention. Every night I get worried about my speech not being received well, and when I danced onstage in Morleigh’s place the fear was high. The only times I haven’t been frightened in front of a crowd have been when I’ve danced with the Devil. And it was only MacPhisto’s arms that got me through it.
And besides, no one would want to throw a party for me in my state today. I give Jack a goodbye wave and slink off to lie in bed for the rest of the day.
Bono awakens to his wife’s stirring beneath his arm. He shrugs it off and she snuggles up next to him. Bono stares down at Ali, his heart throbbing, and presses her lips firmly into her hair.
I can’t believe it.
Bono glances dazedly around the room.
I made it home last night.
He remembers the huge party, and rubs the top of his head. Ali blinks her startling eyes. “Morning, Bono.”
“Good morning, Ali,” he states, voice uncertain, breathing heavy. “I love you,” Bono tacks on, suddenly overcome. He fastens his lips to hers again.
Ali speaks first after that interlude. “That was some party, huh?”
Bono laughs. “Welcome to my world.”
They lie in silence, and Bono revels in the fact that she is there next to him instead of off to get the girls out of bed, or, even worse, out the door on an errand.
“Larry’s pretty happy, isn’t he?” Bono reflects, thinking about the news the drummer had given at the party.
Ali nods. “I’m so proud of him and Ann. It must have taken a lot of courage for Larry to propose after all these years.”
“Ha. Just cause they’re engaged now, doesn’t mean they’ll stay engaged. Wonder how long this is going to last!”
Ali sits up in bed, staring sharply at Bono. “That’s not very considerate of you. Think about it from Ann’s perspective. All these years, she’s been in love with Larry. All she’s ever wanted to do is marry him. She was always ready to say yes. And if it makes Ann happy, then Larry’s bound to carry through with it.”
Bono is surprised. He hasn’t thought that Ali would retaliate harshly. “But what about Larry?” he asks. “Lar never thought of marriage as a high proposition. It must have taken guts for him to do it- or someone convinced him that marriage is that important.” Bono wonders what could have persuaded his stony friend so quickly.
“Hmmm.” Ali considers this. “I think he’s finally realized what value it has, and how marriage can impact one’s life. Taken him ten years to figure it out, too. Thank goodness!” She sighs. Bono is not convinced. But before he can pursue the question further, Ali speaks the words Bono does not- absolutely does NOT- want to hear. “Time to get the girls up.”
“Must you?” Bono sighs, kissing Ali again. She nods mischievously. “Come on, Bono, we’ve been asleep for hours. Time to begin the day.”
“One more kiss?” Bono pleads. She laughs and indulges him. “Now, let me get dressed!” Ali insists when Bono won’t let her pull away.
All alone, Bono rolls over on his side and thinks hard, back to the time of the party. He isn’t sure how many drinks he’s had, but a vague memory lurks beneath the surface of his brain-
“Hey!” Through the haze of alcohol and the steady stream of guests, Bono gives Jack a smile as he comes to socialize for a brief moment. “Bono! How you doin’ tonight?”
“Doing very well, thank you,” Bono answers, peering at his hands. “Do you want to sit down, Jack?”
“Yeah, thanks.” Jack sits down, leaning back in the chair. His eyes are glistening with drink. “So, Bono, I’ve had this proposition for you since the beginning of the night. Want to hear it?”
Bono observes how Jack’s faux Sottish accent has disappeared completely under the influence of other Irishmen. “Sure, mate, what’ve you got on your mind?”
Jack laughs, a bit too raucously. “Y’know, Marieke’s having a birthday tomorrow, and I thought, well, I thought we could all get together and have a party, ya know?”
To Bono’s drunken mind this sounds like the most splendidly thought out plan ever. “Of course! Let’s throw Marieke a surprise party. She deserves it, after all that writing she’s been doing!” He laughs. “Saves my ass every night, to have a script with me.”
“Where d’you want to hold it?” Jack asks, throwing his arm around Bono.
“Hold it? Whaddya mean, hold it?”
“Where’s the party gonna take place, mate?”
“Oh.” Bono thinks. “Ali, is the house free tomorrow?”
“We aren’t going anywhere,” is Ali’s response.
“Yay!” Bono turns back to Jack. “That’s brill. We’re going to throw Marieke a party at our house!”
Jack claps Bono on the back, standing up. “See you then! But I’m telling ya, don’t leak a word of this to her?”
Bono laughs. “Why should I?”
Ugh. Ugh, ugh, ugh.. All Bono wanted today was to spend some alone time with his family. Now he has to plan a surprise birthday party for Marieke as well. Bono has thought that the crew would go home as soon as the tour leg was over. It looks like that pesky Marieke will stay a while longer. Bono unconsciously hums a lost tune under his breath. He tries to rid his thoughts of Marieke. Once she’s in his mind, he can’t get her out. She’s like a pesky little gnat, leeching her way into his brain. Even the onstage wanting for her hasn’t been like this before.
Bono heaves himself up from the bed and opens a drawer, trying to locate some clean clothes. He can hear Ali in the other room awakening their daughters. Bono’s heart beats strongly for her, and he longs to hold his wife in his arms again. After coming home to her last night, he can’t seem to be apart from her for more than a few moments.
The same cannot be said for Marieke. Bono licks his lips, pulling on a shirt. He sees her face in his mind, but it comes with no feeling. She’s just… Marieke, and come to think of it, a really odd person at that. Bono flashes back to yesterday, when his shoulder was hurt. He’s beginning to suspect there might be something more behind her actions, something more to her crush on MacPhisto. Could it go further and extend to Bono?
A small burble of laughter breaks Bono from his thoughts. Ali has peered around the door frame back into their room and found it funny that Bono has no pants on. “Get dressed, love!” she declares, shifting Eve to the side so she can hug Bono with her other arm. “We’ve got a very uneventful day ahead.”
Uneventful… Bono burns as he pulls on some pants, wondering if Ali will forgive him for what he’s about to tell her.
My body feels heavy as a rock today. I only have enough energy to pull the sheets over me as I lie in bed, head spinning. My numbed mind can only think a few words- “Why?” “Love,” “Tired.”
Finally my mind sorts out enough words to make a complete sentence and, eventually, a complete thought. I don’t know why I feel this way. It’s probably a mixture of coming down off the tour high and the snubbing Bono gave me last night… plus I’m still in shock about Larry’s news. Guilt weighs in my chest- I assume I was part of the decision for him to marry Ann in the first place.
This leads to my mind falling back on one thing. He doesn’t love me… He doesn’t love me… he doesn’t love me… I’ve tried to push the truth away from myself as best I can. Even after the night in London, that ugly moment of truth, I still ignored Ali’s existence. It’s one thing to see them together- it’s another to see them at their house, looking for all the world like a couple who has everything they could possibly want. I’m not included in their wishlist.
And if I once thought I could possibly have a life with Larry if Bono rejected me- well, what happened in London is buried far beneath the surface of our conflicted hearts. Larry is engaged to his girlfriend, not caring for me anymore.
My heart has been broken so hard, and I don’t think I can get up today. It’s enough to have to concentrate on breathing in and out without actually functioning as a human.
I am finally dimly aroused by a knocking on my door. I force my iron head to turn and stare at the clock. It takes me several seconds before the number registers. It’s about lunchtime.
The knocks become more defined, and I hear a man’s voice calling. “Marieke, are you in there?”
His voice is familiar. It’s a smooth Irish accent that fills my whole body with vigor and life. BONO! Restored, I leap out of bed and crank the door open.
“You want to go to lunch?” Jack asks me.
My knees suddenly buckle, and I sway, nearly crashing to the floor before Jack catches hold of me. He hovers over me, worried. “Marieke, what’s wrong?”
I shake my head, unsure if I can speak. Exhaustion washes over me again, and I curl up on the rug.
“Hey now.” Jack brushes back my hair. “You’ve been crying? Take it easy, Marieke. What’s happened?”
I gingerly pat my face, feeling indeed the stain of treacherous tears there. “He doesn’t love me.” The words come out dully, a bland, monotonous flavor.
Jack helps support my head as I sit up and stand up once more. “Come on. Let’s get some food in you.” He takes me out into the hall, down to the lobby, and outside in the bright Dublin air.
I don’t realize what’s going on until we’re in a restaurant, and Jack is ordering drinks for both of us. I stop him before he finishes the order and tell the waitress I want water, nothing alcoholic.
Facing Jack, I ask, “What’s going on?”
“You needed food,” Jack tells me. “Marieke, you’re in a pretty bad shape. No offense, but you look awful.”
I nod, breathing heavily. “I thought you were Bono when you called for me in my room.”
“Is that so?” Jack steeples his fingers and peers at me through unfathomable brown eyes.
I nod. “Please… let’s not talk about him.”
Jack stares out the window.
I fully begin to explore the restaurant with my eyes- and notice it’s not a restaurant that Jack has taken me too, it’s a pub. To my amazement and slight horror, a karaoke machine stands in one corner, turned on but all alone.
My sigh as I spy it attracts Jack, who looks back at me- “Is something wrong?”
“I wish I was back home, in Rotterdam,” I say. “The past days have been so stressful… I can’t wait to go home and relieve it all.” Although with a broken Lina at home, I doubt my time will be anything remotely close to relieving.
“I know what you mean. Whenever I’m away from my home, I get pretty homesick.” I don’t want to correct Jack and tell him what I’m facing is not homesickness- it’s a longing for something simpler.
The waitress sets out drinks down and waits for us to order a meal. I pick the first choice on the menu and stare again at the karaoke machine. When the waitress collects our menus, I ask her, “When is karaoke night?”
The waitress glances over at the machine. “Oh, it was supposed to be last night, but we had no guests due to the U2 concert-“ she gives a little laugh- “ and we rescheduled it for tonight.”
For the first time today, a spark goes off in my head. When the waitress leaves I tap Jack’s arm and tell him, “Want to go to karaoeke night?”
“What about your ‘surprise’ party?”
“Screw the surprise party.” I don’t want to see Bono anyway. “It’s my birthday, and I say we’re doing karaoke tonight.”
Jack shrugs. “Suit yourself. You’re just not going to see me singing anything up there.”
“I bet we could work something out,” I say.
“Only if I get drunk.” Jack laughs.
We fall silent again. I am comfortable in Jack’s presence, but something is missing. Finally I decide to ignore the pain that flares up in me as I speak and say, “Neither of them love me.”
Jack waits, peering inquisitively at me.
I exhale. “I thought I could count on Larry, but- that news last night really shook me up. And without Bono’s love, I- I’m all alone. Fuck. I have no one to turn to!”
“Let me guess- you didn’t really talk it out with Larry,” Jack says.
I shake my head. “He was the first one. I can’t feel absolutely nothing for the first one.”
“I know how you feel,” says Jack. “Mariek, you’re not alone. Don’t forget me, okay? Just because I don’t love you, doesn’t mean you can’t turn to me. Why else would we be here?”
I place my hand over his. “God, I’m sorry… I can’t fathom why you still put up with me.”
“Who else is going to?” Jack asks.
We wait on the waitress, and when she returns I am surprised to see a small cupcake with one candle stuck in it on my plate as well. The waitress whips out a lighter and, with a flourish, lights the candle. Her voice raises, and Jack joins in as I stare, mortified. “Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you. Happy birthday, dear Marieke, happy birthday to you!”
“Thanks,” I mutter to Jack after blowing out the candle.
“You should thank me! That’s a free dessert right there!”
Bono is playing with Jordan and Eve when the doorbell rings. Seeing as Ali has gone out, he gets up to answer it. To his surprise he finds Jack outside the door, nervously running his hands through his brown hair.
“Hello?” Jack asks uncertainly.
“Jack Stuart? What are you doing here?”
“Um… I have news on Marieke’s birthday party. Can I come in?”
Bono opens the door wide, and Jack deposits himself on Bono’s couch. “Hi there, little one,” he greets Jordan. “What’s your name?”
“Jordan. Jordan Hewson,” she says proudly, revealing her white teeth. “And this is my sister Eve.” She points to the smaller girl on the couch.
“That’s nice. I’m Jack Stuart,” Jack says, holding out his palm.
“Shake hands with Jack, Jordan,” Bono says as he closes the door. Jordan looks confused. Jack takes her hand, squeezes it, and draws back.
“So, what is this about Marieke’s birthday party?” Marieke’s birthday party! Bono doesn’t want to hear those three words ever again.
“Good, you remember! Well…” Jack pats a place on the sofa, and Jordan climbs onto it before Bono can make a move. “She wants to celebrate her birthday at the karaoke night in one of the pubs.”
“Can’t you tell her to change her mind?” Bono asks, at the same time suddenly relieved that he may not have to host Marieke’s party after all.
Jack shakes his head. “She’s the birthday girl. She does what she wants.”
“Who’s a birthday girl?” Jordan asks.
Jack answers her question before Bono can. “A friend of your father’s, Marieke, is having a birthday party today. But we’re trying to surprise her, so we can’t talk in public about this.”
“Oh.” Jordan considers that. “Why do you want to surprise her?”
“Because parties are more fun when the birthday girl knows nothing about it,” Bono answers smoothly, to prevent Jack from speaking.
“Then why didn’t you surprise me?” Jordan asks, peering out at Bono with innocent blue eyes. Bono has no answer. He suddenly flashes back to the day he had turned thirty-three, the day Jordan had also turned five. He had been partying all day and night, and only stopped to think of his little girl at home for a brief moment when he gave her a telephone call.
Of course, that was also the night he had contacted Marieke through MacPhisto…
“Your daddy had to be on tour,” Jack answers, startling Bono back into the real world. “But he would have surely thrown you a surprise party if he’d had time.”
“Oh.” Jordan sticks her thumb in her mouth. “Will you surprise me next time?”
“I’ll try,” Bono tells his daughter, and then flows into the original subject- “What are you suggesting we do, Jack?”
“Oh, I just came here to tell you that the party at your place is off,” Jack responds, playfully tousling Jordan’s hair. She giggles, all thoughts of surprise parties flying from her mind. “But if you want, you can come down to the pub and surprise her there.”
Bono freezes. His mind runs through all ways of saying no. It all boils down to one thing, though- Marieke is having a birthday party, and she’ll probably be disappointed if Bono is a no-show. Even if the huge relief of having the party at his house is taken off his back, he still has to turn up to wish her a good one.
“Yeh, sure, that’ll be great,” Bono tells Jack, rushing the words. He wants to get the whole affair over with as soon as possible.
“Fabulous.” Jack is glowing. “Thanks, Bono. She’ll be so surprised.” He looks down at Jordan. “Well, I’d better be going now. Thank you for taking the time to talk with me.”
“Bye-bye,” Jordan chirps as Jack stands up.
“See you,” Bono tells Jack as he opens the door- and comes face-to-face with Ali.
She’s carrying bags from her shopping endeavor and looks confused. “Hello?” she greets Jack, her eyebrows mushing together.
“Oh, I was just leaving,” he tells Ali. “I’m one of the Zoo TV crew- we had a matter to discuss- bye.” With that Jack is out the door.
Ali stands, hands on hips. “Bono, what was that about?”
“Oh-“ Bono is suddenly embarrassed. “Em, well, someone on the crew-“
“Daddy’s friend is having a birthday surprise party!” Jordan pipes up.
Ali, looking even more bewildered, walks in and shuts the door while Bono is both grateful and angered by Jordan’s intrusion. Shouldn’t it be time for a nap?
“Who’s having a birthday party?”
“Marieke,” Jordan blurts, mispronouncing the name, while Bono says, “Someone on the crew. We’re going to a pub tonight and surprising her.”
Ali sets her bags down. “Marieke- she’s the one who writes the speeches, isn’t she?”
“You got that right.” Bono wonders if he should ask permission to go out tonight. “Do you want to come?”
“No.” Ali settles herself onto the couch. “Bono, this is strictly Zoo TV affair. You know how I feel about that.”
Of course Bono knows how Ali feels about the Zoo TV Tour. She’s made no secret of it- what happens on tour, stays on tour. Bono feels that she would rather there be two Bonos- one who stays at home with her and the girls, and one who goes on tour and has a great time. Having to make do with what she has, Ali tends to think of her time without Bono as a dream, and with Bono off-tour as having finally woken up. She gets irritated when the two worlds mix.
“All right. I’ll see you later tonight then.”
“As long as you come back,” Ali murmurs.
Bono figures now is the time to do some shopping of his own. Now, what would Marieke like to have more than anything in the world?
Upon entering the pub at six with Jack on hand, I’m shocked to find that sitting in a corner is none other than Bono, Larry, Adam, Edge, and a few other Zoo crew members, including Morleigh, Bill, and- surprise surprise!- Eric. Adam’s brought Naomi along, but thankfully I don’t spy either Ann or Ali. I don’t think I’d be able to control myself around them. I’m not even sure what to say to this.
“Jack… this was supposed to be a you and me thing!”
“What can I say?” Jack shrugs. I feel Eric would be a much better prospect to hang around. Speaking of which- why the hell is he even here?!
I take one step forward, and find myself locked in Bono’s blue gaze. He gives me a nervous sort of smile, and slips his dark shades back up his nose. “Surprise!”
Now, this one word nearly brings me to tears. The whole group begins singing Happy Birthday for me, and I cling to Jack’s arm for my sanity.
“You guys,” I manage to say when the song ends, “I didn’t want any attention.”
Jack leads me over to the table, setting me in a seat right next to Bono. Very funny.
“I don’t deserve this,” I tell him. “What have I ever done for U2 that others didn’t?”
“You wrote those kick-ass speeches, Marieke,” Bono tells me, gentle in voice. “You and MacPhisto go hand in hand.”
I look down at the table, intimidated and overwhelmed by those hidden eyes. “You wouldn’t do this for, say, Jack,” I murmur.
“Who says I wouldn’t?” Bono leans in and pecks my cheek. “Hey now, ease up. It’s your birthday! How old are you today?”
I appreciate Bono’s humor, though his kiss makes me want to scream, and answer teasingly, “That’s never a good question to ask a lady.”
“Too late,” Larry speaks up. “It says on the cake.”
“Good lord! There’s a cake?!”
Everyone chuckles.
“So, Marieke, what do you want to do first?” Jack asks me, catching my attention from his seat. “Karaoke? Cake? Dinner- well, of course we have to have cake after dinner,” he corrects himself. “Presents? Come on, what sounds appealing to you?”
The last word piques my interest. “Presents?”
“Okay then!” Jack leans back in his chair, relaxed. “Hit her up!” I am suddenly swamped with packages tossed into my lap. Eric doesn’t move, while Bono hurls one tiny box-shaped item at me- jewelry?
“Thank you,” I sigh, staring down at my bounty. “Guys, this is too much!”
“Go on! Open one!” Adam urges me. I laugh, rolling my eyes, and rip the paper off of his present first.
“Hey, thanks!” I show my new bass strings and signed pick to the assemblage of crewmen. “Just what I needed to start my professional career!”
“I notice it compliments your buttons quite well,” Adam points out, smirking.
I point to Jack. “It was his gift!”
I unwrap a few more presents, thanking each person warmly. A few, like Larry and Eric, haven’t bought me anything. Bill says that as a gift, he’ll interview me for the book- “don’t know why I haven’t done it yet.” I save Edge and Bono’s presents for last.
“Here goes.” The square package yields a lovely pair of certain pants. “No way!” I gasp, lifting the bedazzled jeans out for all to see. “These are awesome!”
“You’re welcome,” Edge smiles. “I remember your interest in them when you first joined the tour.”
“And now for Bono’s…” I set jeans aside, unable to wait to try them on, and peel the paper away from the small box. “Jewelry?” I voice my previous guess aloud.
“You’re partly right,” says the giver of the gift. I open the box itself and lift out a tiny charm, perfect for dangling off my silver bracelet. The charm is shaped like an M. “For MacPhisto?”
“No, for Marieke, silly.” Bono squeezes my arm, and I try not to look away from him.
“If I knew you better I’d guess you’d give me an A for Angel of Holland.”
“What would you give me- a P for Paul or a B for Bono?” He has no point there. Bono is always going to be Bono to me.
I thank everyone again, and Jack runs to get a bag to put all the wrapping paper in. We settle down and order dinner. The same waitress who served Jack and I this afternoon comes around, looking shocked when she realizes I was one of the Zoo crew. We give her our demands and she hurries off.
Some of our group have gone to the karaoke machine and taken over, driving away the other noisy guests. I notice that no one so far has sung U2. That all changes when Jack takes the microphone. He thumbs through the selections the pub offers, and sings a surprisingly beautiful version of I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For. I know he really hasn’t found what he’s looking for, and tell him seriously when the applause dies down that he should start a music career. Jack shakes his head.
“It’s one thing to work for music makers- it’s another to be one yourself.” With that Jack flips through the selection again- “No U2!” some disgruntled guests shout. “I just went to the concert yesterday!”- and ends his short stint as a singer by walking back frustratingly to the table- “They didn’t have Numb.”
Bono is watching us with one eye, and hears Jack’s remark with the ear that Edge isn’t talking into. “Numb karaoke… there should really be a version of that,” he notes. I stand up and move to answer the karaoke machine’s tempting call. When viewing the selections of songs it has to offer, I sadly decide that none of the U2 songs really look like something I’d like to sing and not embarrass myself with. To my disappointment, it doesn’t have Fast Car on the machine either. I finally pick a song I’ve heard once or twice on the radio and gear up to sing that instead. At least it’s kind of in my range.
“Do you know why your heart’s worth breaking? Do you know why your life’s worth leaving?” I turn towards the dinner group and belt out these lines with surprising gusto. “I’ll tell you that, I didn’t know to leave your heart in the dirt… and set it out for foxes to claw at and lie bleeding.” Yes. Yes, you did that to me, Bono. You left my heart in the dirt when you went to Ali, forgetting I even existed.
“You’re torn between the doubt and lust and scales tip from my favor…I had to untangle you before you put out my fever.” No. No, that is no excuse for the heartbreak you caused me, Bono. You weren’t in love anyway. I shake my head as I sing the next line, causing my curly hair to fall into my face. “You think you’re sad, but none of that, it’s not worth crying ‘bout. A week from me and then you’ll see the life you always had.” Maybe… well, maybe that’s true. I could be over-dramaticizing things like I sometimes do. But my resolve hardens on the next line. “Do you know why your heart’s worth breaking? Do you know why your life’s worth leaving? Don’t tough it out, we’ll catch you in the end.”
The music speeds on without me, and I put down the microphone to the sound of applause. “That’s all I know,” I mutter, sitting down again.
“That sounded real,” Bono observes. “Like you’d really had your heart broken.” I hold myself back from slapping him across the face. Of course I’ve had my heart broken. You wrought it on me.
The other crew members partake in karaoke. To the groans of the diners, they all choose to sing U2. Larry, Adam, Edge, and Bono decide to go up as a group and sing, but they can’t choose which song.
“Bono, I’ve heard you do a great U2 karaoke,” Adam tells him.
“Hell, I do a great karaoke period!” Bono cries, taking up the mic. “If you want to sing some U2, Adam, go for it.”
Adam wrestles the microphone from Bono and requests Sunday Bloody Sunday. After the first few lines, it’s not only the diners that are groaning. “Adam, you sing awfully,” Larry says, not afraid of being blunt. “Marieke did better than that.”
“Is that a compliment to me?” I call. “Or an insult to Adam?”
“Great, now there’s two things she can do better than me,” Adam grumbles. Edge takes the microphone from him.
“And the battle’s just begun… there’s many lost but tell me, who has won?” Edge’s singing voice isn’t that bad. It’s soft and very similar to Bono’s, but definitely a welcome change from Adam. “The trench is dug within our hearts, and mothers, children, brothers, sisters torn apart!”
“Sunday, bloody Sunday!” Bono, Adam, and Larry sing together into Edge’s mic. Edge laughs, and they turn away, abandoning the words on the screen. I clap politely when that group effort is over.
“Now Bono, let’s have a go at that!” Adam shouts, shoving the microphone in his face. Bono takes it kindly and turns his back to look at the selective songs. “Hmm…”
Soft jazzy instrumentals drift across the pub. “Oh great, he’s chosen Sinatra,” Larry laughs. Bono fondly rolls his eyes, knowing that Larry knows who the song is really by.
“Well it’s a marvelous night for a moondance, with the stars up above in your eyes… a fantabulous night to make romance ‘neath the cover of October skies.” Bono croons out the lyrics of Van Morrison’s hit, not knowing how handsome he sounds. I sit up straighter in my chair, taking notice. Jack’s hand, resting on my arm, restrains me from jumping up and singing along. A great Irish musician singing a song by another great Irish musician- how fitting!
“And all the night’s magic seems to whisper and hush… and all the soft moonlight seems to shine on your blush… Can IIII just have one-a more moondance-a with yoooooou, my love?” Bono whines, eyes falling closed. He couldn’t be begging any harder than if he was on his knees.
“Don’t mind if I do,” I murmur, making a move to rise.
“Marieke-!” Jack hisses.
“Can IIII just make some more romance with yoooou?” Bono growls. “My love!” Typical of his singing style, Bono’s voice turns into a shout on the last word, and his eyes snap open, catching me with his intense stare. He sings the rest of it looking straight at me- I can feel his eyes burn through the sunglasses over his face. As the song draws to a close, Bono heads over to the table. I silently plead that he’s not coming over to me, and close my eyes.
“Can I-“ Someone’s breath is tickling my neck. I open my eyes and find Bono inches away from me, shadeless and breathing hard. “Just have…” He slides his hand over my leg and takes hold of my own hand. “One more…” He’s leaning in. I can’t move. Please, please, please. My breath is slowing.
“Moondance with you?” Bono suddenly presses his lips to my forehead, sighing as he does so. The sound is audible in the microphone.
Bono pulls back and grins. “Myyyyyy love,” he finishes, using his god-given falsetto. I touch my face, feeling weary. Everyone starts up with “Ooooh!”
“Was that a birthday kiss?” I ask Bono.
“Yes. You needed one!” With that Bono dances off to put his microphone up. I slump against the table If anyone looked at me it would be obvious. I love Bono and I’m not afraid of showing it. But no one decides to look at me.
“I’m… going to the bathroom,” I tell Jack, and stand up. Jack murmurs something neutral, looking blissed out, and I stroll up to the bar and ask where the restrooms are. I get directed down a hall, and enter the door marked WOMEN.
Inside I have to just stare at myself in the mirror and think. Was there any reason out there for Bono to kiss me? Last night he would barely glance my way. Does this one gesture mean the tides are turning in my favor, or is it just Bono being a flirt?
Once I exit the restroom, it is by far no small surprise to find Eric outside the door, just standing against the wall. His green eyes flick onto me, and I see no pain, no anger, just… certainty in his expression.
“Hi,” Eric says quietly
I can’t take it anymore, and approach him. “Eric. What do you want?”
“I wanted to say…” Eric takes a breath. “I’m sorry, Marieke. For… well, for being such a douche, first off.” He sighs. “That night in London… I’m so, so sorry about that. I didn’t mean to let my emotions get out of hand. And the day after- I had no right to hold a grudge against you. You broke my heart, but it’s mended now. I just wanted you to know that… I’ll try not to be such a jerk from now on. And- and if you want me, I’ll still say yes, but I know you don’t want to see me ever again, which is fine too. I can live with that.”
Well. Whatever next? First Bono shows signs of loving me, and then Eric apologizes for his actions all during the tour? If I walk back out will I see Larry and Jack making out or something?
I lift my eyes back to Eric, who is looking content. “Well… well, Eric, I’m dumbfounded. I don’t know what to say…”
“Thank you?” he offers.
I throw my arms around him. “Yes. Thank you.”
But though the action appears warm, inwardly I’m still furious at him. Does Eric even know what he did to me that night- that the kiss caused a chain reaction that led to Larry deflowering me? Those are memories that I’ll never be able to lose, actions that I can’t erase. The more I think about it, the angrier I become.
Eric pulls away. “I guess you can say this is my birthday present to you.” He chuckles softly, once.
“I…” Suddenly my lips are on his, kissing him furiously, letting all my anger leak out onto his body, anger that he can no doubt feel in the curve of my spine and the intensity of my tongue. I turn Eric around so his back is facing the opening of the hall and bite down on his lip, causing him to moan through my mouth and run his tongue over the hurt spot. I start to slide, dragging him to the ground, and Eric presses himself to me and kisses me as if he’s never going to kiss me again- which, I suppose, he isn’t going to do. A figure blots out the light of the opening, and I freeze, letting Eric pull me down to the ground. A second later, I shoot up and race to the figure, latching onto his leather jacket while Eric stands too and brushes himself off.
“Bono-“ I cry. Bono wraps one arm around me. “What is it, Marieke?”
I step away from Bono and point one trembling finger at Eric. “THAT MAN-“ Thankfully my voice doesn’t shiver as well. “THAT MAN tried to kiss me just now. Just now! He wanted me to lose my virginity!”
“WHAT?!” Eric is utterly stupefied. “I never did that! You tried kissing me!”
“LIAR!” I shout, dropping my hand. “Oh God-“ It’s not too hard to bring the angry and exhausted tears to my eyes. “That’s a complete lie! You assaulted me!”
“Hush.” Bono sounds exasperated. “Stop crying, Marieke. Eric, you come outside with me.”
“What?” Eric splutters again. “I did nothing!”
“Don’t you try to cover it up!” I choke. “You dirty little-“
“Marieke, that’s quite enough,” Bono says. “Come on, Eric.” Eric shoots me a glare that I counter with a scornful head turn. That does it- I absolutely hate Eric.
Returning to the light of the pub, my dinner group is subdued to see the birthday girl with tears streaming down her cheeks. I hope no one will decide to sing It’s My Party at the karaoke machine, and go over to the window. Jack follows me, staying back a ways. Outside, I can see Bono and Eric arguing. Eric is yelling, gesturing wildly, while Bono stands back, his arms crossed in front of Eric. Only once do I see him come alive- towards the very end of their apparent conversation, when he suddenly opens his mouth and starts spewing out words, words that I can’t hear but seem to be striking Eric hard, for he doesn’t retort, but instead lets his shoulders slump and his head droop. Bono turns and stalks back into the pub, heading over to me.
“Marieke.” His voice is tired, and he smoothes back his black hair. “Marieke, did you kiss Eric first?”
“NO,” I answer, vile in my voice. “NO. I hate him. Bono, he tried to have sex with me.”
“Alright, that’s enough,” Bono sighs. He removes his shades. “I knew Eric had a crush on you, I just didn’t think it would come to this. I’m sorry you had to experience this, Marieke. Eric is getting ready to leave the tour.”
My heart falls to my stomach. “He is?”
“Yes,” Bono murmurs, confused. I turn around, still shaking. “I have to- say goodbye,” I whisper, and leave the protection of Jack and Bono and open the door to go outside.
Eric is standing out under the streetlight, looking about as awful as I feel. When he sees me, his head snaps up, tears glistening on his face. “And what are you doing here?” he snarls, directing all his fury at me.
“Eric…” I hold out my hand. “I didn’t know I would get you fired. Can we leave on better terms?”
Eric shrinks back, and spits out the words. “Marieke, ruining my love life wasn’t enough for you. You had to go and ruin the rest of my life too. I can’t go back to America… I can’t do this anymore.” He drags both hands down his face, shuddering. “Great God, Marieke, you’ve broken me. I can’t DO this anymore!” He spins around and kicks the streetlight post.
“Goodbye,” I say, unable to hear myself.
“Good riddance!” Eric turns back to me and pelts away. He’s out of my sight in seconds.
Back inside the pub, Jack is pushed away as I seek only one man’s arms. He’s a bit startled when I turn up, but I don’t care and press myself against him, fresh tears running down my face. Bono holds me in a loose embrace as I push my face into his shoulder, and establishes a gentle rocking motion to calm me down. “I love you,” I whisper in Dutch, several times. Jack gives me a warning look. The whole pub seems to be staring at our table. Finally Bono lets go of me and, stroking my hair, tells me that enough is enough. “Do you want to go back to the hotel?”
I think. Surely Eric will be there. “No, let’s have some cake,” I say, attempting a smile. The table seems to sigh collectively. Bono signals the waitress, and she brings out a chocolate iced chocolate cake, with the words HAPPY 30 YEARS MARIEKE written in red gel.
“My handiwork,” Jack beams.
I thank everyone again as they sing Happy Birthday, and before blowing out the candles I wish the only thing that I can wish at this moment. I wish Bono would fall in love with me. They’ve told me about “mixed signals” from men in the past, but this is really pushing it.
The party ends at the stroke of midnight, and I wait for everyone to disperse before leaving myself. Jack says he wants to stay behind and help the staff clean up, though he doesn’t work there. I stroll along under the streetlights, bathed in their glow. Let’s go to the overground…
A man is walking in front of me, his build and swagger unmistakable. My heart beats. A few hours before this party I didn’t want to see Bono’s face ever again, but tonight’s behavior has given me new hope. I pray he hasn’t been leading me on, and catch up to Bono’s stride.
“Hey,” I say, breaking the silence, a car horn punctuating my words. “What’s up?”
“Hey, Angel. I’m just getting home.” Bono breathes deeper, the street lights reflecting off his sunglasses. I lie in wait, ready to spring.
Before he can turn a corner and split off from me, I say, “You didn’t give me a proper birthday kiss.”
Bono stops in his tracks. “What?”
I can’t see his eyes. There’s no way to tell if the glassy stare of a drunk man is in them, or if he’s sober and in control. The voice is no indicator. I plow ahead, “You kissed my forehead in the pub-“ I try to make my voice sound as coy and cheeky as possible. “Could you give me one right here?” I point to my lips.
Bono stares, and finally gives in- “What the hell, it’s your birthday.” He leans into me, pressing his lips to my own. The contact brings a wave of tingles across my body. Our first touch in Bologna can’t compare now. I wait for him to pull back. It should end now, though I don’t want it to.
But something is off. Bono leaves his mouth against mine, not even moving his lips, just covering my breathing passage with them. I can’t think. Should I do something- remind Bono that this is supposed to be an innocent kiss, or just indulge in the touch? Finally I make up my mind to let it last, and kiss him back gently, my arms winding around his back.
And Bono breaks away from me, staggering back, his shades falling to give me a sense of the eyes behind, which are wide with shock. His mouth hangs open, but he jerks it shut immediately and sticks his hands in his pockets. “Em. That was… Sorry, Marieke.”
Sorry? He shouldn’t be apologizing- I was the one who asked for it, after all. My breath is coming back to me in slow pants. “That’s… that’s okay,” I breath. “I-“ Bono is still backing away. I wave my hand. “I should go now.”
When I get back to the hotel I find no sign of Eric. That kissing ploy really worked- Bono didn’t want anyone laying a hand on me. Except himself… Is that still too much to hope for?
Before getting home, Bono stops on the sidewalk and covers his face with his hands. Had he really just kissed Marieke? What was he thinking? What was she thinking? Oh, holy hell. Marieke, I want you tonight.
For once, I do not feel bad for Marieke. She was sort of a villain in this chapter. I actually felt bad for Eric - go figure. And for the first time, I din't want Bono to act on his feelings. maybe because I've done a very good job of wrecking the Ali/Bono marriage on my own. :lol:
For once, I do not feel bad for Marieke. She was sort of a villain in this chapter. I actually felt bad for Eric - go figure. And for the first time, I din't want Bono to act on his feelings. maybe because I've done a very good job of wrecking the Ali/Bono marriage on my own. :lol:
You are a tough nut to crack. But I understand about Marieke being the villain in this chapter. I expected at least someone to feel bad for Eric (originally it was supposed to be everyone that felt bad for him, but after some people mentioned he was creepy I started playing up that part of his personality more).

I can too leave off there, Katie, because that's all that happened that night. Everything, said right there. I can't picture Bono turning around and chasing after Marieke when he so close to home.

Tara, a new reader? Thanks! I'm working on more.
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