Hard Landing Ch. 01

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*** This series was awarded Best Lesbian Story, as well as Most Literary/Genre Transcending Story in the 2019 Reader’s Choice Awards. Thank you to all who voted. ***

This is a slow building romance story. There is no sex in the first few chapters, so feel free to move on if you are looking for something different. I promise, you won’t hurt my feelings.

Also, should it interest you, there is a link to a Spotify playlist for the songs referenced in this story that can be found on my author page under the contact tab. Please enjoy and leave a comment if you care to, or follow my playlist on Spotify.

~~ Arlington, Virginia ~~

JILL

“I still can’t believe you talked them into letting me come, this is going to be so much fun!” I said to Sara. I was having a hard time not skipping with excitement as we came up out of the Metro.

Sara Johns had been my best friend since we had been randomly assigned to be dorm-mates our freshmen year at George Mason. After graduation we’d both found jobs in the Washington D.C. area. Sara was living in Northern Virginia, while I had a tiny condo in the Adams Morgan neighborhood in D.C.

“It wasn’t hard. Steve’s actually pretty excited about it,” she said. “You’ve been coming to the shows for a while and I think everybody will be happy to have an extra pair of hands to help out. Plus, you did the new website for him. He’s happy people can actually, you know, buy stuff from it now.”

I gave a scornful sniff. “Whoever did the first version had no idea what they were doing.”

She looked over at me. “That was Steve.”

“Oh, well, I won’t give my opinion on the quality of the previous code to Steve then.”

“Good idea!” she laughed.

The Rotors were a local cover band that had been playing around Northern Virginia a couple of times a month for almost a decade. I’d started going to shows when Sara and Steve Collins, their band’s lead singer-slash-guitar player, had started dating a year ago. Everyone in the band had day jobs but they played for fun and some extra cash. Each summer, the members would take two weeks off and go on a tour together down the east coast, booking as many shows as possible in beach communities from New Jersey to the Outer Banks.

The first Rotors show I attended, I went to provide moral support for Sara who had just started dating Steve, but I had quickly become a regular. The Rotors’ playlists were totally my jam, mostly 90’s, and aughts music, with a little 80’s thrown in. Pop and alt-rock songs that were made for jumping up and down, dancing and working off the stress of the work week.

I was going to tag along with them on their beach tour this summer, helping Sara run their merchandise booth during the shows. I was looking forward to actually having some time to get to know the band members away from the stage. Tonight, was the traditional summer tour kick-off show in the bar they called their home base.

“Not that I don’t appreciate getting a free trip out of this, but I really hope we’re not stuck at the merch table all show, every show. I’m looking forward to dancing on the beach. That and I definitely plan on picking up a someone or two,” I said.

“First of all, I don’t think we’ll be stuck at the table all or even most of the time,” Sara said. “They have enough regular fans on the beach tour to get some volunteers in each town. We’re just there to keep an eye on the volunteers to make sure they don’t dance away from the table and leave the cash box sitting alone.”

“Den mother to the flaky band groupies, check.”

Sara stopped walking for a moment and I paused with her. “But, Jill, I don’t think you should go hog wild on this trip,” she continued, “I know you keep saying you’re ‘over’ Laura, but she really did a number on you. And you’re not a one-night-stand kind of girl.”

I started walking again. Laura, my most recent flame had left me for an ex-girlfriend of hers four months ago. She had announced the change in our relationship status to me when we were out at our local lesbian bar with a group of friends.

Sara had been there for the emotional wreckage the next few months. I had withdrawn from our friends and holed up in my condo. Since I worked almost entirely remotely doing web site design, this had meant more isolation that had been healthy for me. I had gotten on a first name basis with all the Door Dash delivery people in my neighborhood. I felt I was ready to be over it, though. I was definitely done being anti-social.

“Thanks Sara. It means a lot to me know you’re thinking about me like that, but I’m ready to move on. I am not looking for a relationship right now after that last mess, so maybe I’ll just be a one-night-stand-kind of girl for a couple of weeks…well, maybe not an all-night-stand, but I sure as hell plan to find someone for snogging. Maybe I’ll go with a Rory this time instead of a Rose.”

“How many times do I have to tell you, you aren’t British, you dork! casino oyna I don’t care how many Doctor Who seasons you’ve binged.” Sara grinned at me. “You know, whenever I’m single I am jealous of how you can jump back and forth between men and women. Doubles your dating pool.”

I laughed. Sara was the first person I came out as bisexual to in college, and it had been such a nothing-burger for her it had made me think I should have come out years sooner. She was also there for me after I had told my parents later that year and introduced one of my first girlfriends to them. That had not been a nothing-burger. It had been the biggest-burger.

We turned the corner to find a line of a couple of hundred people waiting to get into the bar. “Wow!” I said, “What’s going on? How are we going to get in?”

Sara grabbed my hand in excitement “Oh, I didn’t tell you! Joe in town and is going on the beach tour! Word got out and every local fan is going to be here for the kick off show! Don’t worry, Steve put us on the list, so we should be able to get in the side door.” She pulled me past the line and the main entrance towards a side door where security let us in. Dating one of the band members has its benefits it seemed.

“Who’s Joe?” I yelled over the noise of the crowd.

“Joe was their lead guitarist when they started the band back in college,” she yelled back. “We’re really in for a treat. I’ve only seen Joe play once, but their energy level is through the roof when he’s playing! We’re going to dance our asses off tonight!”

I looked down at my sandals and said “Good thing I didn’t wear heels then,” I joked. I rarely wore heels, I was too tall already. I was wearing one of my favorite dancing outfits, a simple yellow sleeveless dress that had just enough swirl to show a little thigh when I danced and flat, black leather sandals strapped around my ankles. I was not the best dancer. I mainly just enjoyed jumping up and down and singing along with the band, but it was definitely a more fun workout than my usual swimming laps.

We got through the bar into the outdoor concert space. Red and yellow lights lit up the stage, illuminating Larry’s drum kit and the two mic stands for Steve and Suzanne. The Rotor’s logo was painted on the bass drum skin, a red three bladed propeller with black motion lines forming a circle around it. There was a new spot with an empty guitar stand and a bunch of effects pedals laid out off to the right side of the stage, but no microphone.

We’d made it inside just in time. The band was climbing the steps up onto the stage and I groaned. It was going to be a pain to make our way up near the front through this crowd. Steve and Suzanne stepped up to their microphones, Steve with his black Les Paul at the ready, Suzanne behind him with her red sunburst Fender bass, while Larry jumped behind his drum kit. Another shorter guitarist, Joe I presumed, had walked out behind Steve with a black Fender Telecaster slung over his shoulder.

“Evening, Arlington!” Steve yelled into his microphone, “Ready for Friday night?” he asked to a cheering crowd. “Alright, let’s go!” He turned and nodded to Larry, who started pounding out an intro on his drums, then Joe launched into the opening licks of Santana’s Smooth and the crowd reacted, cheering and dancing, while Sara and I continued to work our way through the crowd towards the stage.

“Man, it’s a hot one, like seven inches from the mid-day sun,” Steve sang into the mic.

“Whoa!” I yelled. Jill grinned at me.

“I told you!” she stopped to yell in my ear, and then kept moving through the crowd towards the stage. The Rotors were a great cover band, and Steve was a great singer and really good rhythm guitarist, but he rarely attempted serious solos. I had never heard them do a Santana song. Probably because Steve wouldn’t do a song if he couldn’t do it justice, and Santana was all about the guitar. Joe was doing just fine though. No one would mistake Joe for Carlos, but he had his own spin on the licks, weaving them around Steve and Suzanne’s vocals.

You got the kind of lovin’ that can be so smooth,

Give me your heart; make it real or else forget about it!

Joe jumped into another solo. And then, as we moved around a cluster of taller guys who had been shielding my view of the stage I noticed something else. I had been mishearing Jill over the crowd. She hadn’t been saying “Joe” and “he.” It was “Jo” and “she.”

“Whoa,” I breathed again. She was maybe a little under five and a half feet tall, wearing jeans faded almost to white with a hole over the right knee and had on a pair of pink Chuck Taylor high tops, one of which was at the ready on her effects pedals. She had on a dark, tight sleeveless t-shirt and a plain white baseball cap pulled down over her eyes with the Rotor’s logo about the size of a silver dollar on the upper left corner of it. I had the same hat. In fact, it was in my bag back at Sara and Steve’s house.

The stage lights threw shadows from the bill slot oyna of her cap over her eyes, but I already felt drawn to this woman. She was a maybe a year or two older than me, thirty or so I guessed. She was built solidly, like a competitive swimmer or a cross-fit junkie. Her bare arms were muscled and she had broad shoulders and her hair was cut short on the sides and back. With the hat on, she could have a crew cut for all I could tell.

She was totally into the music, body moving with the beat, feet and fingers working in coordination on her pedals and the neck of her guitar. Unlike the rest of the band, she rarely seemed to look out at the audience, focusing instead on her instrument hanging around her on a simple black leather strap.

She occasionally looked over at Steve and Suzanne or back at Larry to pick up or give the non-verbal cues that only musicians totally familiar with each other seem to send and receive. She leaned back for emphasis during one big guitar riff, and that’s when I finally noticed her t-shirt. The design was unmistakable. Dark red on the top half, dark blue on the bottom, with double gold stripes separating the two halves and meeting at a gold eight-pointed star in the middle of her chest.

Holy… she’s got a body like that, she plays guitar like this and wearing a Captain Marvel shirt. A nerd wrapped up in that package? I thought to myself. It got even better from there. After the last riff to wrap up Smooth, Jo’s pick hand fell away from her guitar and I saw a PRIDE flag sticker on her Telecaster that had been hidden under her forearm while she had been playing and I literally gasped. I was going to be in close proximity to her for the next two weeks. I took a deep breath. I needed to get a hold of myself, I could not be the newbie tag-along, drooling over this woman who has a history going back maybe 10 years or more with the rest of the band. It seemed like that would be just the shittiest thing I could do with this group I wanted to make my friends.

Jo looked over and yelled something over the applause from the crowd to Larry, who nodded, then started a new riff on his drums. Jo jumped in on Larry’s beat with the opening chords for the Spin Doctor’s Two Princes.

I leaned over and spoke into Sara’s ear “What’s the deal? Jo calls the shots when she’s here?”

She was grinning and shaking her whole body. “That’s how it is when she plays with them,” she yelled back, “she won’t let them write out a set list ahead of the show. She just reads the crowd’s mood, calls out the next song and they have to be ready to jump in! If a song starts off with guitar sometimes she doesn’t even give them a head’s up, she just starts playing. Steve says it’s the reason they have so much more energy when she’s on stage, she keeps them on their toes. They have a couple hundred songs they can all play together.”

As the band rolled into song after song, I found myself bouncing back and forth in front of Jo, mirroring her movements as she swayed with the rhythm. I noticed that while she didn’t have a mic in front of her, I could see her mouthing the words of every song to herself as she played.

Towards the end of their first set she called out to Larry and Suzanne and they went into I’m Only Happy When It Rains, by Garbage. Suzanna took over the vocals from Steve, her long brown braid swinging back and forth behind her back as she thumped her bass, her voice doing a credible take on Shirley Manson. Watching Jo hammer away at the chords while singing the words to herself, I saw what I thought might be a shadow of pain on her face. Like maybe the words were hitting close to home for her.

You know I love it when the news is bad.

Why it feels so good to feel so sad?

I’m only happy when it rains.

Pour your misery down, pour your misery down on me…

I frowned and slowed down. They’d be taking a break soon. I leaned over to Sara and yelled, “Do you know what Jo likes to drink? She looks like she could use something cold!” It was a hot evening and everyone was sweating, but Jo’s arms and face were gleaming with perspiration in the stage lights.

Sara looked at me. “Corona with two limes is her go-to when she’s playing. You’re not getting any ideas are you J?”

“No! No, I’m just thirsty myself, and she’s the only one I don’t know. I want to make a good impression before we’re on the bus for two weeks.”

Sara eyed me a moment longer than nodded. “Why don’t you get a bucket? You’ll make everyone happy with that. Bring them to the side stage at the break and we’ll get you introduced.”

“Okay!” I hurried off to the bar. I managed to beat the rush and made my way back to the stage with a bucket of Corona bottles, limes sticking out of the necks plus a plastic cup full of extra lime slices sitting in the ice. Steve was crooning Mr. Jones by Counting Crows as I made my way back through the crowd.

I met Sara at the side of the stage just as Steve announced they’d be taking a twenty-minute break. The canlı casino siteleri house system started playing background music as the band filed off to the left and the crowd started moving towards the two bars on either side in the back of the outdoor space. I set the bucket down on the corner of the stage.

“You guys! Great set, my feet are going to be sore tomorrow!” I high-fived Suzanne as she came down the stairs. Suzanne was about my height and curvy with dark skin. She’d been Suzanne Alvarez until she and Larry had finally concluded an epic, years-long dance of on-again-off-again and had married recently.

Steve fist-bumped me and then leaned over to kiss Sara “Hey babe! You ready to hit the road?” Steve was an inch less than six feet and tanned, with sun bleached blonde hair.

“Totally,” Sara said, “Both our bags are packed and ready to go at our place. Jill brought her bag over before we headed to the Metro. I figure everyone will want to shower after the show.”

Larry jumped down from the stage, skipping the steps altogether, landed cat-like next to me and playfully bopped the top of my head with his fist. Larry Lawrence was black, and towered over everyone else. He was at least 6’4″, skinny as all get-out, with a shaved head. The first time we’d been introduced, I’d gaped at him and said “Larry Lawrence? Really, your real name is Lawrence Lawrence?” to which he answered with great humor and fake solemn dignity, “My parents are big believers in character building.”

“S’up Jill?” he asked. “You ready to carry all my drums for me?”

“Only the little ones,” I replied with a laugh.

Jo came down the steps. Steve turned and fist-bumped her, then turned to me “Jill, this is my sister Jo Collins. I know you guys haven’t met. Jo, this is Jill Doran. She’s going to be helping Sara as our merch monkeys and assistant roadies on the trip.”

The family resemblance was obvious. They both had the same eyes, tanned skin, rounded faces and the same crooked grins. There was no better way to describe her except ‘apple cheeked’. She was irresistibly cute just like her brother. I was easily four or five inches taller than she was. Jo looked me up at me then held out her hand “Nice to meet you Doran. Cool hair.” I blushed as we shook hands.

“Jill is famous for having the craziest hair in any crowd,” Sara laughed. My straight hair was down to about the middle of my back and was currently a shocking electric blue, fading the last six inches into platinum blonde at the tips.

“Thanks. My sister is a wizard stylist with dye jobs and does it for me. I got it done fresh this week for the trip,” I said.

“With that hair you should be up on stage, you look like a rock star,” Jo said.

I was glad we were in the shadows off the wings of the stage, since I was sure my face was now bright red. Since I was wearing just a simple dress and sandals, I guessed I really owed my sister for the assist.

“Um, thanks,” I said, “Here, you look like you could use this.” I handed her a bottle from the bucket of beers. She nodded her thanks, grabbed an extra lime, pushed it down into the neck then pressed her thumb over the opening and turned the bottle upside down, floating the limes up into her beer. “Nice trick,” I said as she grinned. She had deep dimples when she smiled. Wow. She turned the bottle back over and with a well-practiced move, slowly let the gas escape from the neck with her thumb so she didn’t get sprayed with foam.

Steve kissed Sara again then said, “I’m going to go pow-wow with Jack about the lights. Back in a minute.” Jack Vance was the Rotor’s sound and light guy and only regular roadie. Sara grabbed Steve’s hand and followed him towards the back of the crowd. Suzanne and Larry excused themselves and went backstage. They had been married for a little over four months and still snuck off to make out when the opportunity presented itself. It was cute. Sara had been Steve’s plus-one to the wedding and I had been pretty jealous of her for that. I had heard it had been quite the party.

“I like your shirt,” I said to Jo, pointing at the star on her chest. “Wonder Woman?”

She had opened her mouth to respond, then froze in place at my last remark, a pained expression on her face as her eyes focused somewhere a couple hundred feet in the distance.

“I’m just messing with you,” I grinned. “Diana Prince would frown very severely at me for that joke. Carol Corps for life.”

She snapped her mouth shut into her lopsided grin and her eyes tracked back to my face re-evaluating me. “Oh, I think you and I are going to have fun on this trip.”

I laughed. “I hope so! Too bad we’re headed out after the show tonight, I could have gotten my sister to give you the rock star treatment too.” I flicked a lock of my hair off my shoulder.

She pulled her hat off and the top part of her head was covered with a mop of delicious, blonde hair that would probably have fallen over one side of her face if it hadn’t been plastered with sweat. She ran her hand through it and slicked it back smooth. “Thanks. I’ve wanted to do a Megan Rapinoe since the world cup, but I only have three weeks until I go back to work. Not long enough to grow it out and I don’t want to dye it twice.”

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