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Jet Star gazed across the room into the eyes of the most beautiful woman in what was left of the world. Her name was Christa.
In the six years that had passed since he’d seen her, the memory of her radiance had slowly faded, like a favorite song with all but a few notes long-forgotten. But now that he’d found her again (or she’d found him) the melody written in her easy, elegant smile was coming back to him. The velvety evening sunlight streaming through the window backlit Christa perfectly, and her understated splendor made the back bedroom of the old diner look even more dingy by comparison.
She deserved better than this dusty floor and peeling paint, and Jet started to tell her so, only to have her interrupt with, “No, it’s fine. Anywhere I’m with you is totally fine.”
Still, he was glad he’d washed the sheets for this particular occasion.
Jet Star turned and locked the door-privacy was difficult to come by when you shared everything with a large group of people in a small space, so this was a much-needed precaution-and turned back to see that Christa had taken her hair down. It reflected the light, with little spots of amber here and there among the dusky brown, draping lithely over her shoulders and looking smoother than the polished neck of his guitar.
He took a step toward her, and she crossed the space between them, letting his fingers drift through her hair. It was glossy, warm, and comfortably inviting, like her eyes, which reminded him of-
Jet broke off mid-metaphor as Christa leaned her neck against his, pressing their pulses together so they synchronized and thrummed as one in common time. He closed his eyes and relaxed into the rhythm of their heartbeats and her breath washing whole notes over him.
“I missed you,” Jet Star whispered, knowing that words could not (and shouldn’t try to) bear the misery of waiting, hoping, and grieving and all the sorrow he’d been through without her.
“I’m glad you’re okay,” She said, and he knew that her reply was likewise inadequate at capturing the feelings of relief and boundless happiness that were now resonating through them both.
Christa started to trace her hands across his shoulders and along his arms, and Jet Star wondered why he’d bothered to wear his leather jacket. He couldn’t really feel her through the fabric (only a vague, muted outline of her palms) but every so often she’d graze over a spot with tiny holes in it from wear, her fingertips playing barely tangible harmonics that made his skin tingle.
When she reached his hands, she gave them a quick squeeze before pressing the tips of their noses together in a single, mellow note that seemed to ring deep into his stomach with contentment. Jet responded by brushing his fretting hand across Christa’s cheek and down her neck, his slow ghost slide coming to a quavering end on her collarbone, his fingers resting on her sky-soft blouse. He held the note for a beat or two before shifting his head to one side so he could kiss her.
Their lips melded into perfect octaves, and Jet couldn’t resist slipping in a fifth. They sustained the power chord as he picked unpitched percussive notes along her jawline and she buried her hands in his hair and strung random riffs across the back of his head.
Jet Star pulled away for a brief rest, and Christa used the opportunity to pickscrape her nail around the collar of his jacket before unzipping it. Then she settled her hands on his chest, a contact still unfortunately muffled by his shirt, and he stroked another power chord into her lips. She answered in kind and they lost themselves in a long augmented fifth that left Jet shaky with expectancy.
He started to strip off the layers of clothes that were separating him from Christa’s touch, his excitement growing to the point where he quivered like an E minor seven chord. Jet discovered that this feeling was completely (okay, mostly) unrelated to the fact that Christa was also undressing. The more of his outfit he took off, the less he felt like Jet Star. It was liberating.
There went his boots and socks, along with the almost compulsive need he’d developed to morally justify his every action. He worked his way out of his jeans and boxers as well as his unnecessary reliance on others. He pulled off his trademark jacket, and with it the idealized image of himself as one of the saviors of what remained of humanity-he hadn’t realized the amount of pressure he was putting himself under until he got rid of it. Finally he shed his T-shirt, and the guilt and sorrow he carried came off too, to be left on the floor, stepped over and done with.
Naked and vulnerable though he was now, he felt free and more open to the sort of joy he had only experienced in snatches since the drastic turns his life had taken. In that spirit of nostalgia he once more thought of himself as Ray.
His thought progression ended just in time for Christa, also stripped-down and stunningly pretty, to wrap her arms around him, enfolding him in a full major chord that reverberated all the way down to his toes.
As they swept each other up in power chords, Ray delighted in the small things he loved about being close to Christa: how his fingers fit perfectly between the frets of her ribcage; the tenderness with which she played octaves over his shoulder blades; the subtle sensation of her breath on his face, pleasant and cool as a night breeze, during string changes (and he wondered how he had ever breathed properly when he wasn’t sharing the air with her); the way their bodies, like a barre chord, fully pressed together so he could touch every one of her strings. He tremolo picked happiness on the inside of her cheek in a sweet little lick that embodied his lead guitar skills and spread his elation to Christa, who echoed it back to him with some quick fretwork that made both their hearts beat a bit faster.
She caressed a casual scale across his thigh and he idly hummed the accompanying open string tones while he coursed a walkdown over her spine, finishing with a simple riff above her tailbone. Ray then commenced a gentle run of fifths, beginning on Christa’s lips and gliding down her neck, but slowed awkwardly as the difference in their heights prevented further chord changes.
She grasped his intention along with his hand and led him to the bedside, where she laid back to allow him better leverage. He closed his eyes so he could play by ear and, laying the root note of the riff right above her heart, shredded an improvised chorus variation in the same key as the scale she’d been strumming into his leg. The technical side of him wondered whether he had accurately estimated the spacing between the frets; the rest was focused on the fact that Christa clearly didn’t care about the tonal correctness of the part as she was too busy enjoying it.
Ray ended with a legato slide, lifting off before he reached her navel, and glanced up to see what she thought. The exhilarated smile she gave him made him tremble again as he grinned in return. He would gladly play a hundred somewhat awkward improvised chorus variations just to make her smile like that.
They drank each other in, savoring the moment for a few measures (and it occurred to Ray that the joy he had regained was not from loss of his alter ego, but from Christa’s love; he could carry a far greater burden than his jacket with her support), and then by unspoken consent launched into another round of power chords and augmented fifths, rocking together in bliss.
At the conclusion of this, the satisfaction that he found in their harmonies faded away, dissolved into dreamy haze. The abruptly tantalizing nature of the notes only served to highlight the building need inside him, an increasing tension that told him they had reached the pre-solo.
Christa could feel it too, and so when Ray asked if she was ready, she answered with her hands before her mouth, her fingers flowing down his sides and coming to a momentary rest on the perfect frets just beneath his hip bones; she suspended the chord there while she whispered, her voice tightly palm-muted from mutual need, “Of course.”
Ray took a deep breath, tasting the last notes of the pre-solo-sharp and sweet with anticipation-and when he couldn’t stand the tension any longer, met Christa’s beautiful eyes again as he started to solo.
His first wholetone bend imbued him with a rush of sensation as suddenly and cleanly as though a mid pedal had clicked into place somewhere under his diaphragm. He noticed every bead of sweat tracing cool contrails along his back, each little tickle from the wisps of hair scudding across his cheeks, the pleasingly crisp sheets gliding across the backs of his legs…
Yet he couldn’t give these things much attention, caught up as he was in the irresistible rhythm the two of them were creating. Christa added some shiny touches as well: as Ray went in for a wide vibrato (the fluid sort that filled them both with sunshine-warmth and coaxed complementary sounds of appreciation out of their mouths and into their skin), she entrenched her fingertips in his sides in a way that would’ve been a bit painful otherwise, but now stretched the feeling of the vibrato for another marvelous few seconds. And when he released it, as he eventually had to, she kept the tempo up by tapping flighty hammer-ons and pull-offs down his stomach and up his thighs.
During a half-beat’s pause, Ray’s fretting hand alighted on her throat, swiftly running down her breastbone before he arced into another bend, making Christa hug him closer still as she rubbed their flushed faces together and sighed ecstasy into his ear. He followed up with blazing-fast trills to express the quickening pace of his heart.
She picked up his lead, retracing his trills around his hips and continuing in a ceaseless dappling of notes that smoothly ascended his sides and his ribcage and onto his shoulders, holding the last, lowest tone tremulously on the base of his neck. While he was recovering from the absolute brilliance of all that, she hooked her legs over his knees to form a solid anchor point. He included an almost superfluous semitone bend, mostly to keep time while he waited for whatever she was about to do as she flicked her nails inward; he trusted that it would be really-
His brain and his breath shuddered simultaneously as she ripped an agonizingly thrilling pickscrape into his spine-Christa’s touch traversed his vertebrae like lightning-in its wake he could feel electricity crackling across his skin-every nerve there cranked up to eleven-he was sensitive enough that when she reached his lower back and shifted her hands to their positions on his hips, that extra three inches of her fingers tracing his flesh nearly overwhelmed him with exquisite craving.
(He knew, of course, that simply being with Christa after all those years was glorious…this was beyond fantastic…but at the same time, he was desperately ready…he-was-so-close…)
The rising tension piercing them-making his jaw clench and her legs tauten-didn’t lessen when he braced his hands against the pillow and knotted his fingers in the cloudy cushion of the pillowcase; as he pivoted into yet another bend, it intensified to such a pitch that he was sure he would snap. Christa supported him, guided him to the best angle, and met and matched him gasp for gasp and note for note in an achingly perfect unison bend.
They released and immediately arced into a higher-tone bend, then a third, each acutely amazing movement shooting euphoria through their veins. He said her name, caressed the syllables lovingly, and when she murmured his in return, her voice swelled with so much love and acceptance it made his heart melt. And all the while, their unison bends reached higher and higher…
They eased the last unison bend up to perfect pitch, and the tension was amplified in harmony, growing nearly unbearable…then it suddenly vanished, taking with it every fragment of stress he’d held for those monotonous six years. Replacing that was instant fierce delight, suffusing through Ray like rainbows. Christa was also uplifted; he saw the bliss shining from her eyes, felt the welcoming heat of her embrace, heard pure joy in her breath, and let himself be carried still farther until they were flying through the stratosphere…These seconds, endlessly unifying and freeing, filled him with so much happiness that the rest of the world would’ve had to explode into fire to rival its awesomeness. And he would certainly withstand that if it happened, because right then he could withstand anything; he was bulletproof.
Finally, the solo ended, and Ray released the note, rolling off Christa to lay alongside her, both of them panting in the still night air. The heavy, tired silence spreading over them gave him a chance to admire how her sweat-shiny hair intertwined seamlessly with his, and to sink into the serenity rippling inside him.
After a while, Christa grinned and said, “So…I take it you’re really glad to see me,” with an attempt at a coy smile.
The two of them burst out laughing, not just at her joke but at the truth of her words and the comfortable relief of one another’s presence, and the last echoes of the solo rang in their giggles. “Yes, I am,” He answered at last, beaming.
He encircled her in his arms and strummed a few quiet octaves across her neck while she doodled a sleepy arpeggio on his chest; he summed up the peaceful, lighthearted moment with a simple “I love you.”
She naturally replied, “I love you too,” and they kissed, playing one more power chord to finish their song.
Ray or Jet Star, or whatever his name was, felt totally content as he and Christa cuddled, and he drifted to sleep filled with love for himself, her, and the beautiful music they made together.