PROLOGUE The Victorian mansion seemed draped in an eerie silence, whispers and rustles of fabric as people moved about

with as little noise as possible. The door of one particular room remained closed, allowing only one person on a frequent basis - Dr. Trevor White. Dr. White had salt and pepper hair and scholarly glasses and thick, generous lips that smiled easily. But now his lips were grim and tight, shaking just a bit. The figure in the bed lay surrounded by blankets, the long hair spread around him on the pillow like brown silk. His eyes stared at the ceiling, the once brilliant blue glassy and dull. Trevor White came into the room and sat down next to him, taking his hand. The man in the bed looked at him and smiled - a pale reflection of the dazzling, innocent smile that had entranced and seduced the entire world. Adrian Bain, world famous rock star and legend. of 44. Dying of cancer at the age

And his childhood friend, Trevor White, gone to the same school as Adrian, shy and lonely as he was, an outsider in every way - intelligent, kind, isolated in his own world of books and hobbies - their lives taking such different directions, even though they seemed to be twins in so many ways, cut from the same cloth of painful experience. Impulsively, Trevor raised Adrian s hand to his lips and kissed it. he let him go and whispered, I ll be back to see you. Then

They had made a vow, once, when they were little, never to let anything keep them apart. And so, here they were, again, for the last time. Trevor rushed out of the room, wiping away tears from beneath his glasses. He looked up as he closed the door and saw Adrian s two children. He cleared his throat. How is he, Trevor? The young woman of 18, named Bethany Rose , had a voice soft and yet deep, her lovely hazel eyes calm. It broke Trevor s heart to look at them and remember.

He s doing the same. Not - not very well at all. Would you like to see him? He included Adrian s son in his gaze, and grasped a hand from each of them in his own. Evan was a tall, bearish, broad-shouldered young man 15 years of age - brown haired, careless and blunt at times - yet with a warm heart. Evan looked down and nodded his head. Come in then. He ll want to see you. I ll leave you with your father.

This is so hard, Trevor! Bethany Rose cried out, and she seemed to collapse at the knees, as she leaned against the doctor. He rushed to support her and he stroked her hair. She still refused to cry - whether from fatigue or self-control, Trevor could not tell. He thought this was a bad sign. Evan s face became flushed and he turned away. Trevor knew this was the children s styles of coping from way back when. Bethany Rose would become too controlled and withdrawn and Evan would turn away, avoiding as much as possible. Are you alright? he asked.

The girl nodded and turned to her brother. Let s go see Dad, Evan He looked directly at his sister for the first time that evening, and they both walked into their father s room. This was the first time they had been alone with their father for almost a year.

Effie strode into the mansion with her customary fanfare, her floor length fur coat draped around her shoulders, dark thick hair cascading in waves. Her face was exquisitely made up, with her usual heavy yet perfectly applied cosmetics, as though she were ready for a night on the town. She was the only person there making noise and talking in a loud tone. The housekeeper and other staff members walked by, glaring at her with obvious contempt . They knew all about the ex-Mrs. Bain. They had dealt with her during many years of employment. Now she was back - acting as she always did - as though she still owned the place and all in it. A beautiful black woman came over. It was Tania, Adrian s personal assistant. He had been rumored to have been in love with her. She wore a tight fitting pink suit, her body curvy and yet muscular, her hair cropped close to her head and dyed a platinum blonde. Effie faced her and glared at her, taking her in from head to toe. Tania stared only into Effie s eyes. Would you please keep it down? Adrian is very sick she whispered harshly.

Yes I know. Effie frowned as though annoyed by the stupidity of Tania s remarks. He has cancer, he s dying, yes, gee, I am aware of this, Tania Effie s nasal Brooklyn accent never ceased to aggravate Tania, a refined Southern woman, who had transformed herself with a sexy, cutting edge style to fit in with Adrian s entourage. Tania glared at her. keep your voice down? Well then, would you please respect that fact and

Effie took off her fur coat and tossed it on a nearby chair. staff rushed to retrieve it, giving Tania a helpless glance.

One of the

Why are you here, Effie? across her chest. Effie stepped forward.

To see your children?

Tania folded her arms

Are they here?

The expression in her eyes and the tone in her voice took Tania aback this was not like Effie. They re in with Adrian now. Effie turned her face a little and bit her lip. Then she raised her hand and waved it in the air. Oh, let them see him, I ll give them some time, I ll just wait here You re here to see Adrian? Tania s eyes widened but her voice was calm.

Why yes, Tania. Effie stared at her with indignation. I shared a life with this man, remember? Now how many years was it? Was it 15? Or did it just seem that long? She gave a harsh laugh and shrugged as though she could care less. Tania opened her mouth to answer, wanting to say, it felt just as long for Adrian, believe me, but something stopped her. Remembrances of what Adrian had once told her about Effie - describing her in clear loving wistful details - earlier times filling her head now - a young dark haired girl, bubbly and fun, hanging on Adrian s every word and hanging on his arm, bringing a smile to his face as they soared through days and nights of endless excitement - Effie mugging in her expressive, dramatic style , gesturing, talking and moving like a whirlwind. God, she must have been beautiful! And still was. Not a beauty in the physical sense of the word, there had been other more attractive woman, and many of them, it seemed, hanging around, trying to get close to Adrian, to be a part of his life, his energy, his unearthly appeal. But Effie's own unique energy - it lit up her face and everything around her. But this energy had enacted a terrible price. Like too many injections of a powerful adrenaline, a never ending supply, it would end up destroying them both. Tania saw her now standing before her, and she smiled. Why don t you go in with the children?

Effie shot her a cautious glance, her bold brown eyes sparking. kidding? The way my kids feel about me? Are you serious, Tania?

Was she

Tania said softly, So give it a try. you together. The way you should be.

Just go in. Sit with them. Especially now

All of

Effie kept staring at Tania, her sharp brown eyes slowly giving up their fire. She looked away. Maybe. I ll see. She peeked around the corner. Hey, do you have anything to drink? She looked back at Tania and smiled for the first time that evening. Nothing hard, you know. Just - something to take my nerves away. Tania tilted her head to one side, as though assessing a crooked painting on the wall. I ll see what we have. She smiled too. I ll be back with your drink As Tania walked away, she took a deep breath. That went well, she thought with a grin. She hesitated as she reached for the bottle of brandy in the dining room cabinet. Should I be giving her this? Then she shrugged and filled a tiny glass with the amber liquid. little won t hurt. Right, Tania. Famous last words. drink of courage. I guess a

She turned and went to give Effie her

Adrian dreamed of his mother. Only it wasn t like a dream. It felt real - like the strange sensation you had when you were feverish, when things happened around you, but it all felt somehow wrong. She was in a hospital bed, giving birth to him. A beautiful fragile blonde, all of 18 years old, with amazing green eyes. Jennifer Grace. That was his mum s name. But she liked to simply be called Grace because she told people it reminded her of Heaven and the grace of God which always watched over her.

Was that true?

Did the grace of God watch over you?

She lay in the agonies of childbirth. He could see her, in his dream. He could hear her screams, and see the sweat on her face as she struggled to free him from her body and bring him into this world. Adrian shook his head in his sleep. He didn t like this dream.

He heard the baby s cry as it came out of his mother s body. The baby. That was me. He stopped shaking his head. He lay still, motionless, as his mind spun images that he had only been told, in vague, impatient stories. The baby was being passed around, from hands to hands, from nurse to nurse. Something was wrong. Something was always wrong, and always would be so. His mother sat up in the bed, and she stretched out her hands. A beautiful huge male angel stood glowing at the end of the bed where she lay. How many times she had told Adrian when he was a child, had actually insisted, with her whole heart, her body as well as her voice shaking, that an angel had made love with her and had given her Adrian as a special gift from God. Adrian s eyes had been so wide and full of naÔve wonder. He had wanted to believe his mother, he trusted her with his life. But she talked way too fast sometimes, and she didn t always make sense. Sometimes she would get confused, very hard to keep this from him. suspected in her darkest moments, question everything she loved and and even change the story, but she tried She never wanted Adrian to know what she the visions and voices that made her believed in so much.

Then she would go away, be taken away for a long time, and he would be left with his aging grandparents, who saw the child in an entirely different way. Adrian kept dreaming, and the angel swept his mother up in his arms and took her away. He felt himself crying in his sleep, but he couldn t move to brush the tears away. There was another story. Another figure, there, in the room. His mother had left him in the place where she had given birth, and now even the doctor and nurses had gone.

This figure was huge as well, like the angel, but dark and horrible in a fascinating way. A man, but not a man. An angel, but not an angel. They left me alone with this! They left me all alone.

Adrian tried to change the direction of his dream, he knew how to do that, or so he thought. But the dark figure wouldn t leave. not an angel. He was picking up the baby. A man, but not a man. An angel, but

Adrian broke into a sweat as he lay dreaming.

Then his grandparents came in, just in time. They walked in, proud and stern, as always. His grandfather stewing with rage, his grandmother refusing to show any real emotion at all. They took him away. He was safe.

What had his grandfather told him? A terrible secret. A terrible story. He had taken out the Bible once and forced Adrian to get on his knees and read with him. He had stared into the beautiful blue eyes of his daughter s only child she would ever have. And he had proceeded to tell him the truth. Jennifer Grace had not been blessed by God, or even protected by God. No, rather, she was possessed by the devil for her sins. That was why she had been in that awful place, surrounded by evil and screaming, and now this was her punishment. Adrian. Adrian was the product of this evil. She may have looked like an angel, child, but she had the devil inside her all along. That is why all of this happened. That is why you are here. Later, much later, when Adrian became famous and had enough money, he looked into his past. He had then found out the truth. It was not the devil behind his creation, but something just as sinister. His real father had been an attendant at the mental institution where his mother stayed since she was a teenager. He had been a young man with dirty brown hair and bad skin, who always smelled of cigarette smoke and chewed gum constantly. An unfriendly young child, the

man, not very well liked by the others at the hospital. much and kept to himself.

He never talked

But he had seen Jennifer Grace one day, and she had become his obsession. The only beautiful thing in that ugly cursed place he worked. He raped her one night, when she was heavily medicated and half-asleep. By the time Grace s pregnancy was discovered, she was too far along to abort.

She was a child herself, who liked to tell him fairy tale stories about princesses and magic. Adrian loved fantasy and he would retreat into his own mind, sometimes all day long, in this world that he and his mother had created together. This would sustain him until her infrequent returns. He was a beautiful child, like his mother, with amazing blue eyes.

Adrian woke up then, and looked around his room as though he had just returned from a strange journey. Slowly, he remembered where he was, and what was happening to him. closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He

His children had left, after an awkward time together. Nobody saying much. Adrian unable to talk due to his illness, his children unable to talk due to a pain of their own that he could do nothing to cure. He loved them so much, it hurt. Did they feel the same for him? There was hurt in their eyes, but was it because of love? Would they miss him? Or did they feel he already ceased to exist a long time ago? It was nobody s fault. He couldn t even blame Effie, although right now he would have loved to.

He even found himself missing his grandparents. As terrible as they were, they were the only substantial elements of his life he had ever known. They were solid. As solid as a chair or a table. You knew it was there, and it never let you down. It always would be the same. So it was with them. Adrian had never made peace with them. He had forgiven them. way. But he had never made peace in his heart. They had long since died, after he became famous. to make a name for himself. That was his

Shortly after he began

He didn t go back to the town where he was raised. He didn t attend their funerals. He just wanted to forget. But the one thing Adrian had never counted on was the fact that you never really forgot anything. You just learned to push it away so that you could make room for something else. And that something else could very often prove to be even worse in its own way. There were many different ways to die. Many different ways to kill yourself. Many killers of the soul, if not the body. Adrian found this out a little too late.

At 15 years of age, the only music Adrian had ever heard growing up until now were scratchy gospel hymns and opera music from old albums that his grandfather would crank up on their ancient record machine. Adrian had his first "show" at the ripe old age of 20, just him and his beat up acoustic guitar, in a bare glaring spotlight on a simple stage, in small club owned and run by a former schoolmate and friend of Adrian's best friend, Trevor White. Adrian sat on the stool, coughed a few times, looked up at the light. He winced, because he thought it seemed to burn right through him. He looked out at the crowd, who were barely visible through the haze and smoke. He smiled and started to say hello, as he leaned close to the microphone to be heard. His voice cracked and he remembered thinking he sounded a bit like a frog croaking He began to giggle and he saw some people begin to shift uncomfortably,

looking at each other and shaking their heads, arms folded across their chests He strummed the guitar a bit, and then said, "this is a song i wrote - my first song, actually - in my room at home one night. Uh, it - it is called "The Loneliest Child in the World" -i hope you like it" He coughed again and closed his eyes. It was then that Adrian knew. He just knew. That he would soar higher than anyone now. Because he found himself in the place that only he could reach. And it was within that space, within that freedom, he would have whatever he needed in this world Then, the song was over. Adrian opened his eyes. block in his ears, like a deafening hiss. The silence felt like a

The first face his eyes saw was the face of a dark haired pale young woman, tears streaming down her cheeks, her wide expressive red mouth in a grimace of emotion Then she violently stood, nearly knocking her chair over, hooting, hollering, clapping with her hands high above her head, and glaring at those around her, as though daring them to do the same. The other did stand as well, reluctantly, then with more enthusiasm, cheering, whistling, clapping, and nodding with approval. ' Adrian stood, too, almost stumbling, then waved to the crowd, as the dark haired young girl rushed to the corner of the stage, and loudly whispered to a departing Adrian, "Meet me at the back exit. The name's Effie"

Adrian went back to collect his coat and guitar case. There Owen, friend and owner, came over and slapped Adrian on the back, shaking his hand at the same time. "Well done, Mr Bain, very well done. The crowd seemed to love your little composition, don't you think?" "Oh yes, definitely." "Do you have more?" "From some time ago, yes, and i can also write more if you'd like" "Lets see if there is a future demand for your music, Adrian. I will be in

touch. If the response is favorable, and there is a desire to see more of you and your music, i will let you know when you can return. Do you agree?" Adrian went to retrieve his coat and case, putting his coat on hastily and placing his guitar in the case with care, latching it and carrying it with him. He remembered. Effie! He felt breathless as he rushed to the back door, thinking she would be waiting. No. He opened the door and then he saw her.Standing under the streetlight, hugging herself to keep warm from the cold night air, stomping her feet. She sang to herself as she did this, he swore it was the very song he had performed that night. Effie whirled around suddenly "Adrian, is it you? Superstar!"

She sang out the last word, and did a little dance as she ran over to him the way a child would "Superstar, how the hell are you doing?" Adrian grinned, but his eyebrows had their frowning mode as they would whenever he was puzzled or taken aback. "Oh, really - you think so?" She grabbed his arm and hooked hers with his. "Are you serious? You had me crying like a baby - and believe me, honey, i do not shed tears easily at all, not at all. I believe neither in wasting tears nor wasting time." "Come on, you deserve a drink or a late dinner - do you drink at all? you hungry?" Adrian shook his head. "No to both" Are

"Oh." Effie stopped and stared at him. "Would you like to come back to my place - for some - coffee?" She peered at him and grinned, raising her eyebrows in encouragement. Adrian laughed and brightened. "Oh definitely. I love coffee!"

"Great! Then coffee it shall be! My car is parked right down this here street, mister. i never walk anywhere, even though i live so goddamn close

it's a sin.

Where's yours, by the by? Did you drive here?"

"No, i don't drive. I walked." "Oh." Again she stopped and gave a wicked smile. "You live close by then too. How lovely. How - how convenient." Adrian looked at the ground and smiled and nodded. "Oh yes, indeed, our little neighborhood has just become more interesting, i would say" Adrian raised his head and looked straight into the big brown sparkling eyes that always seemed ready to laugh. "Alright then, let's bring on the coffee, ma'am" "You got it, sir, let's go" They were inseparable from that moment on.

Inseparable yet worlds apart. Soon to discover. Too soon for Adrian. Who knew he had found the only person who could ever reach his hidden world. Adrians would not, could not, make love. He would cuddle, he would hug, kiss, he desired closeness. Yet he could not go further That first night, they had lain together on the big oversized red velvet couch, loud and warm like Effie herself. He had asked her to hold him like his mother used to. This request surprised Adrian more than anyone. He remembered being so tired. The coffee, strangely enough, had wound him up and then released all his tension and energy, so that he became as weak as a kitten, all talked out, all energy spent Then his guard was down. Effie held him close and nuzzled him. They fell asleep together.

His grandparents had no more hold over him now. He was of age and beyond that. He was free.

He dreamed of his grandfather leaning over him, yelling, red faced, making Adrian account for every moment he had been gone. "Where were you? ignorant child" We were worried sick over your absence. You evil,

Adrian woke in a panic and glanced around. He glanced finally at the sleeping Effie Would she be able to take him as he was? Really was? close to her heart? Would she understand him? Take him and hold him

Effie woke now, searching his eyes and she smiled a gentle smile. "You're safe here with me, kid. Don't you worry. dreams away" I'll always chase the bad

Adrian nodded and knew he would cry. He would never have or give more than this. He knew. Nothing further was needed. Would she understand? The days flew by like Effie's hair as she strode through the time with him. They filled the days with talk, laughter, hugging, kissing, good food, coffee, of course. One day, Effie stopped hugging him and stared at Adrian long and hard. She sat on the couch and patted the spot next to her, inviting him to sit. "Adrian, baby, lets talk. Please" Adrian held his breath. Here it comes She put a hand on his knee. "Am I - am i repulsive to you? I mean, are you gay? Impotent? Afraid?

This was Effie's style - asking question after question, not waiting for one answer. "What, Adrian? What is it?" She looked away "Cos I mean- this - this is bothering me so much. It just hurts. No, actually, you know what?" She looked sharply at him. "It is

killing me, Adrian" She gasped at those last words and put a hand to her chest. Adrian turned on the couch to face her directly. "No, No, its none of that. No." He hugged her and she reached for a kleenex on the coffee table at the same time, with one arm, blowing her nose loudly "I love you, Effie. You are beautiful to me. star, you bring me so much happiness" You are like my goddess, my

She laughed. "But like, were you abused or something by your old farty grandparents?" Adrian had told her about his upbringing. Now they both laughed. "No, that isn't it Not that, no way. " Adrian's voice trailed off and he stared into the distance, he remembered something he had heard once from his mother as she ranted in her sick rage one day. He could not remember completely. He shrugged. "No, that isn't it."

"Oh. Cos i was so worried." She turned away, stood and paced the room. See, cos this is just great. a promising relationship as - what? Friends? I knew early on, that we were already close, so close." She turned and strode over to Adrian, sitting down and putting her face close to his, touching his face with her fingers. Then she pulled back. "So where do we go from here? Is this it?" She stood and paced again, Adrian watched her like a caged animal, throwing her hands up. "Effie" "No. Stop." She held up her hand, her back still turned. She reached for a pack of cigarettes, lit one and puffed on it with ferocity.

"Just go. Please. Adrian went quietly to the door. "Let me just think on this for a while, okay? Use the brains God gave me, He gave me plenty, i believe" She snickered "I'll be using my intellect to help me deal with my heart. Ironic, isn't it?" "Let me know what you decide, okay?" "Sure." He closed the door softly behind him. A few days went by. Just a few. Then the phone call came and a nervous, apprehensive, close to despairing Adrian answered. He heard the gasp that always preceded Effie's statements "I'm yours, okay? Your way, this will go your way. Adrian, you win. You got it" Adrian felt like letting out a holler. didn't lose you. " "You never ever will" Adrian hung up and for the first time in his life he danced around a room in pure joy. Adrian's career soared as the months went by, with Effie's help, she pushed, she cajoled, she contacted people, she got Adrian into the best and newest clubs. She was after all the rich daughter of even richer Jewish American success story, Also, she had British blood in her and British connections from her London born and bred mother No sex, no pushing.

Instead he whispered, "Im so glad i

She made appointments, she set up schedules, she designed outfits and created themes for upcoming shows. She watched tapes of Adrians performances and the performances of others to critique and suggest changes, ideas from the styles of others.

Adrian's star had ascended. It was then that they began to fall apart.

Adrian applied makeup in his dressing room. Almost show time. He winced and put a hand to his stomach . Nerves again. Cramps. Diarrhea. this always happened to him before a show. He found he could not eat one bite, or drink anything. He applied eyeliner to his famous blue eyes. Ice blue. Blue the color of the sky, only clearer, almost translucent. People would be mesmerized by those eyes, seduced even, unable to look away, yet others would find themselves unable to stare for too long. Now for the blush. Sweeping it delicately across the fine angular planes of his face. One of the most recognizable and photographed faces of his generation He thought of his mother again. Grace. Jennifer Grace.

He put down his makeup brush and stared into the mirror. He looked once again in the mirror and quickly made the sign of the cross a reflex gesture that was more like a good luck charm or a blessing he granted himself than a religious statement. Adrian had long since stopped believing in God the way others did. In his world, there was no room for a deity that judged and expected. In his world, anything could happen and anything was allowed, no matter how outrageous. Adrian sometimes detested this, but often he would let himself succumb and sink into the morass of hedonism and careless, numbing pleasures, or at least watch those around him doing this. . It felt like the mental and emotional equivalent of a water bed - bouncing around for a while, undulating gently, then falling into a sleep. He gave himself one last look in the mirror - makeup flawless. Hair perfect. Outfit, exceptional. He had lost even more weight. No excess fat at all. He was glad. Ready to go, Adrian. Wish me luck.

He blew himself an exaggerated kiss, winked rakishly and cocked his head to one side. Giving himself the thumbs up, he literally ran out of the dressing room,

pumping up his adrenaline for the stage.

Tania came into Adrian's life soon after - an exotic refined elegant black woman from the South, who grew up with genteel manners, a soft voice, and a love for the intellect and learning. Her appearance would contradict much if not all of this, as she struggled to fit into the career she had chosen - to look the part in this world she did not really like but knew she had to conquer to succeed. She became Adrian's personal assistant Immediately Effie disliked, even hated her, and although Tania would never speak of this, she felt a burning in her chest and stomach whenever Effie was near. Why do we need her, Adrian? Why, tell me? was all Adrian would her, incessant complaining. Don't I do everything for you, haven't I made everything better, Jesus, I took care of every single detail of your life since the beginning, and I did it perfectly. Pefectly. Often she would accompany some of these words and phrases with throwing of objects across the room, or slamming her hand down on something, or crying. Adrian would not budge. He needed somebody different now, with a different style, many people complained of Effie's manner, her brashness, her New York accent, her verbosity. Tania's gentle intelligence was a welcomed contrast to all the passion and drama.

The first time Effie met Trevor - after a huge successful sold out show at Madison Square Garden - her eyes blazed with intense fire and then a shadow passed over them and the fire slowly died out as she glanced quickly at Adrian. He grabbed Trevor's hand and then Effie's and held them together with his own warmly grasping theirs. Then he kissed Trevor lightly on the cheek. Effie's mouth quivered in anticipation of his kiss, but instead she felt the brush of his lips on her face. She gave a little pout as though insulted by this, then a small smile. Effie could never tell the difference between her pretending and her real feelings, the line was so thin and easily blurred. She brightened as she turned to Trevor. "So this is Mr. White" "Trevor, please" "Yes, of course - Trevor, darling " She bowed a little with her head, and Adrian frowned. Since he had achieved this success, he noticed that Effie

had become pretentious. Even though Adrian had often bemoaned Effie's abrasive loud manners he did miss some of her enthusiasm and natural ways. He wondered if in a sense this was partly his doing, because of his own unspoken need for the gentleness and stability that his wife lacked. Effie had gone this way a long time before Tania ever showed up on the scene combining good old American New York brashness with the snobbish manners of the nouveau riche. A double whammy which alienated many. He considered himself fortunate that Effie did still maintain her precious energy and creativity. At least there was that. "I understand you're on your way to becoming a doctor?" "Yes. Still studying at University" "An internist?" "Yes" "Oh, how delightful!" She clapped her hands like a little child but Adrian sensed no innocence or spontaneity in this gesture. Adrian whispered, "Shall we go down the street to a nice little deli for some coffee and cheesecake? They have the best desserts there" Trevor grinned. "Hell, yes!"

Effie tilted her head and stroked Adrian's hair. "This one barely eats before or after a show, he cant tolerate any food at all. I'm surprised he even remembers this place, huh, Adrian? Or what cheesecake actually tastes like?" Adrian took a few steps back away from her. "True" He looked over at Trevor with an embarrassed smile and a shrug. "I cant eat when Im performing and i got used to eating very little in general as time goes by. But hey, we have you here - " he gestured at Trevor - "and this place is a landmark, it's a special occasion for us, what do you say? Shall we try it??" "Absolutely" Trevor nodded and looked at Effie. She smiled, and waved her hand at Adrian. She whispered loudly, "This one is having an affair, Trevor - it's with somebody named Joe - as in cuppa?"

Trevor laughed loudly. "Ah, yes, I believe i am having a love affair with the very same Joe. Especially now" Adrian and Trevor reminisced about the old days when they were teenagers. "Trevor was such a nerd like me, "Adrian shook his head between bites of cheesecake and sips of coffee. "He loved reading about UFOs, watching cheesy old sci-fi movies, he loved gadgets and putting things together, we used to listen to our music every chance we got, remember, Trevor?" "The louder the better." "And absolutely NONE of it has influenced me or my music!" Adrian laughed loudly. "Inspired me, moved me, excited me, but no - nothing like me at all" Effie looked at Trevor thoughtfully. "Trevor, did you ever meet Adrian's grandparents?" Trevor looked down at his cup. "Uh, no, i had heard about them, i knew who they were, but we never really met. "What about Adrian's mother? Did you ever get to meet her? The past

Adrian leaned forward. "Effie, what is it with these questions? is the past. It's gone."

She leaned forward too. "Yes, dear, but i would like to know. I still would like to know who you were, your family, your childhood - its you. A part of you" "It WAS a part of me. Its dead now. This is the only time that truly matters" "Baby, I so disagree with that" Trevor leaned forward too "We had so much fun together, didn't we, though, Adrian? In our own quiet nerdy way." He grinned "We had to be the two weirdest, loneliest rejects in the entire school." Adrian shook his head "Trevor was like a brother to me, we were both only children. Just like my brother, even my twin, I'd say" Trevor grabbed his hand and squeezed it. Never very affectionate with others, Trevor and Adrian always managed to show quiet affection towards each other in their own way.

"Well - " Adrian suddenly took his hand away, blushed,and said, "Would you like to come back to our place - see what we did with the joint?" he uttered this last remark in his best 1930s movie star tough guy voice then laughed at his attempt. "Yes, i would love to!" "Once I had enough money, i bought the entire building. Gave everyone the option of staying, just taking up temporary residence somewhere else as we renovated, then brought them all back. Except "Adrian held up his hand 'For the entire top floor, where my flat was. That is all mine. My penthouse" - he frowned - "God, I hate that word." "Why?" Trevor asked. Adrian shrugged. "A rich person's word."

"Well - " Trevor grinned "are you or are you not a rich man now?" "i always feel the same inside. Nothing there really ever changes." Adrian paid the bill for everybody and left a huge tip, which Effie was still fussing over even as they got to their home.

Adrian pushed open the heavy mahogany and gold door, with a flourish, amid lots of giggling and whispering. Trevor took a deep breath as he stood on the threshold. Cream colored walls, bright chandeliers, mirrors it seemed on every wall reflecting back the light in an unbelievable glow, bay windows and the lights of the city like stars below them. All of the furniture he could see dark and expensive as the door had been, a deep shade of brown. As Trevor stepped in even further, he saw this in other rooms - a combination of pale cream and dark rich wood, with chandeliers lighting up every corner. Trevor knew that Adrian always hated the dark. He turned to his friend and smiled, looking briefly at Effie Well, well Effie had strode in before them, tossed her fur on the sofa, as was her

usual custom and headed straight for the bar near the bay window. whirled around and extended her arms first before getting a drink "Voila! Our palace - you like?" Trevor nodded "Very impressive"

She

Adrian grinned. It took tons of work. Effie was amazing, unbelievable, i mean, genius with the decorating, the details, color schemes, the workers - " "Yes, sweetie -i worked them like dogs - like fucking dogs - you have to." She flourished her drink in the air as she spoke and then drank it down quickly, turned around and smiled. "I threatened, I cajoled, I bribed. Cracked the whip right over those muscle bound men, i swear" - she giggled - " honey, i know what to do. Remember, it's in my DNA - my daddy - how the hell do you think he managed to have all that he has? One of the best businessmen in New York, in America, if not the world. He didn't get all that by being nice" Effie shrugged, placed her drink on the huge coffee table in front of the sofa, and threw herself down with a dramatic sigh. "Anybody want a drink - go help yourselves, dears, it's all free. Well, sort of - " she gave a quick little laugh and then put her head back. Trevor poured himself a drink and then Adrian gave him a tour of all their rooms. Effie had put some music on their stereo, complete with the biggest home speakers in the world, of that Adrian had no doubt. As the songs filled the air - not his songs, of course - she began to sing to herself, off key. Adrian frowned, as he showed Trevor all his precious knick-knacks, photos, memories. It did bother him a bit that she didn't listen to his music at home. He supposed she had heard it enough, but still - to Adrian it remained a bad sign. He wasn't sure why. Not quite a rejection, after all they had been through together, but almost like a statement of some kind she was making, a message she was trying to send. You are not enough. You are not enough. You will never be enough Why did he keep hearing that?

Of course he always knew. But then again so did she. As they came back full circle to the brocade Victorian style sofa, Effie

frowned

Oh for Chrissake, Adrian, have a drink. Loosen up What is wrong with you? You have

She stood abruptly and grabbed his arm. company here, cant you see? Her eyes were glassy and bloodshot

Trevor interrupted gently. Oh believe me, this particular company is more like an old familiar friend. I'm fine with this. Besides, " he pointed to his empty glass "I make up for any abstinence here You want a refill? Effie asked eagerly

Maybe later, Effie. Thanks Trevor looked at Adrian. He is so polite. Effie murmured and nodded to herself as she went to the bar. Effie. Adrian said loudly

She waved him off. He turned to his friend. Trevor, would you stay? You are welcome to stay here for as long as you'd like, a day or two, or even longer. Theres plenty of room, i have robes, pajamas, whatever you need. No, i cant. Why not? Is there a place you have to be? I'm on vacation right now, so not really, no Then please. Adrian looked at him. Please stay.

Trevor adjusted his glasses and sighed. He took Adrian's hand. Alright, my friend. I would be happy to stay. Show me around the city tomorrow, how does that sound?" Great. Without Effie, maybe. He frowned and shook his head. up on old times. Sure. Well, Adrian sighed, I'm off to bed, Im really exhausted. Watch Tv, listen We can catch

to music, we have all kinds of albums, cable TV, help yourself. There are ten different kinds of snacks in the kitchen, you know where it is, and all kinds of leftovers and refreshments. Trevor nodded Thanks, I'll be fine. Good night then Good night Effie turned and watched Adrian leave. She said nothing.

Throughout the night Adrian heard laughter, tinkling of glasses and ice cubes, gentle talking and murmuring, music playing. He liked this. He kept his door open a bit because even as a child he loved to see the light from outside and hear voices, the TV playing, it soothed him. His Dreams came, strange, tangled, frightening at times. Always. Always like this. The angel, his mother, his grandparents. He was lost at one point, he couldn't find anyone. He awoke to a feeling of his bed sinking. He was sinking too. He tried to awaken fully. He felt someone kissing him, touching him, laughing and whispering. Two people. Two now. He knew one was his wife Effie, and one was his friend Trevor. He didn't seem to care. He gave himself up to the warmth, to the sweetness, to the gentle caressing and strange indifference of this moment. Like nothing mattered Just give everything up. Let everything go. And he did.

Effie told him the news a few months later. She was pregnant with their first child.

The child was a girl - Bethany Rose, they named her - a pretty sweet name for a pretty sweet baby - she was born while Adrian was once again on tour. A second child would be born a few years later - a boy this time - Evan, they named him, a strong masculine name. By that time Adrian knew. He could not have children. He had himself tested and knew. But he had always known deep inside that these children

were not his. They could not be his. Despite that one night when Trevor was with them, and another night when he had taken too many pills to help him sleep and could not remember exactly what took place. Only that on this particular night people were there. A party of some kind. One of Effie's special parties. People coming in and out of his room, Adrian half awake at times despite all the pills, and feeling feverish. Trevor was at that party too, he thought.

Yet he did love these babies.

He cherished them.

He wanted things to be different for them than they were for him.

He would treat them better than he himself had been treated.

Adrian woke from another feverish sleep - images coming to his mind people he had never seen before, beckoning, some smiling benevolently, others pointing and laughing. Sweat covered his skin and his bed sheets. He was shaking. Why couldn't

Why did people have to suffer so terribly before they died? they just go peacefully?

His fear never left, his sheer panic and refusal to face what was happening to him. He did not believe in Heaven, did not want to believe in Hell. ll that remained, all that filled him, was emptiness and darkness. With this strange light at the edges, a fragile hope. Not nearly enough. He remembered now. The children, taken to his recording studio late at night, too late for them to still be awake. Escorted by an angry Effie. Refusing to take care of them herself, refusing to stay home and give up her bar hopping and her different partners. Adrian knew. He always knew. Trevor was no longer enough. No one was.

It had been her night to watch the children, to be with them, as the nanny was away. But she didn't care. When she drank, nothing mattered. Her

personality became even less inhibited, wilder and nastier The children stared wide eyed as she instructed them to stay with Daddy now, she had places to go. She cursed when Bethany questioned this. Adrian winced at the memory. "Because i'm your goddamn mother, that's why! i am your mother - the one who gave you life, who carried you for 9 fucking months and it almost killed me." Her face was so close to theirs, and they looked as though they would cry but they didn't. Her voice remained harsh and almost guttural. So i can do whatever the hell i want now. Now stay with Daddy. Be good." She stood straight. Mommy's got things to do. The fright and pain on their faces and the rage in Adrian's heart never left. It became permanent. He remembered and this time he smiled. The children enjoyed their stay despite the beginning of their visit. Evan even helped out, on the console, creating effects for the songs and vocals Adrian was recording. Bethany sang background and even by herself, for a special recording that Adrian saved for her They had long since given up the building and penthouse, still kept the property, but moved themselves to a mansion far away from the city Later, when Effie returned to the mansion and the children had been sent to a separate area of their huge home, one of her eyes was black and blue, her lipstick was smeared all over her face, and her breath smelled of liquor and cigarettes. Their fighting was horrible that night. So much agony, so many accusations. They tore themselves and each other apart with words, with pain, with anger that had no beginning and no end.

Adrian would always end up the loser, crying and giving up. come from Effie. He would never confront her again. He no longer cared.

No tears would

"Let her do what she wants, Adrian" a friend had told him. "She is too far gone, you did the best you could. She wont help herself, she wont go into rehab, she wont stop her lifestyle - just make sure the kids are safe. That's all." Just protect the children. Keep them safe. Safe. Effie shooting up. Effie snorting.

Effie throwing things in a rage, Effie overdosing once again, Effie hitting Adrian too many times, and threatening poor Tania. When she threatened to hurt the kids, one day, that was it. her out of their lives and his forever. Or so he thought. Adrian winced. Off to boarding school for you two. So I could have a life of my own, go on tour, get away. Escape. Endless tours, endless parties, vacations with friends. Men, women, even teenagers He couldn't even remember them all. But at least he knew that the children were with people he could trust. Older women, kind and sane, with families of their own - most of his staff consisted of these kinds of women - and of course, Tania. Younger, prettier, sexier and single - yet just as reliable and wise. It took him so long to realize that what he felt for Tania was love. Real true lasting love. They would never speak of it, or even show it. Except through their eyes, their expressions, their gentle gestures of thoughtfulness and generosity. Adrian threw

He would not see Effie again for years. On and off, briefly, rarely. He did not miss the woman she had become, only the woman that she had been The saddest part - he would not be close to his children again. Not since that night in the studio. They too would seem to leave his life in a different way. Slowly, carefully, not dramatically as she did. Adrian returned from his reverie to look around the room. One ring of his bell and a nurse would come softly to check on him and see what he needed. But the loneliness could be felt here - all around - despite the people who were in this mansion now to care for him. The devastating sense of being totally alone with this.

What is your secret, Adrian? Secret? he asked the reporter, with an amused puzzled smile.

You know what I mean - you look so young, you never seem to age - and you must admit you are a mysterious person. Not much is known about you. Adrian shrugged. There is not much worth knowing, I guess. And he fixed the reporter with his ethereal blue eyes, staring into his face with such intensity the room seemed to take a breath. The secret may be just that - there is nothing. Nothing at all. Just an illusion. He broke his gaze and stared in the distance. Like a magic trick. He looked down and smiled. Besides, i never grew up. Those of us who never grow up inside sometimes look like children, because we feel and act like them. Do you understand? And he glanced at the reporter and the others there as well, not intensely but sadly, slowly including them in his vision The reported sat back and nodded hesitantly. You are most welcome Adrian rose to go Any more questions? No, i think that will be all for now, his manager spoke into the mike, I think i do. Thanks

taking Adrian by the arm and escorting him quickly outside. Adrian had already begun to feel sick, dizzy, tired, nauseous. The cancer had started its slow brutal journey through his body. He did not know yet. Soon he would find out.

Decisions he had to make now. His will. His instructions. Notes and videos for his children, for Tania, for Trevor. For the staff What should he tell them? He would be honest and open with Trevor, not with the children. That would be up to Trevor Trevor would know whether to reveal or conceal. He would want what was best for them, not himself. "And miles to go before I sleep. And miles to go before i sleep" The lines from this poem kept coming into his head, and he smiled as he began to write.

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