We walked in silence around the back of the building, each with our own thoughts. I expected to take the bike, but Trix continued around a bend into a bricked-in space between two buildings. This hidey-hole housed an old volvo hatchback so tightly that the doors couldn’t possibly open more than halfway. Trix clicked an alarm off by remote, which surprised me – a built-in alarm seemed incongruent with this car’s vintage. It hardly appeared worth stealing, the sage-green paint kind of raw, the fenders marked up – a bit of an old beater, really. Only the darkly-tinted windows looked new. I opened my door carefully just enough to squeeze myself in. For once, I was glad to be small.
Magically, I found myself in a different car. Inside, this vehicle had been lovingly updated – modern leather seats cushioned my lower back, gleaming metal shone from digital controls for the built-in GPS and kick-ass stereo. The car felt like luxury.
“Welcome to Bash’s car. My wedding present to him.”
“I know my man. We’re lucky he’s lending it to us – thanks to you. He doesn’t normally trust my driving.”
I failed to stop myself from asking what I wanted to know.
“Trix, how do you afford all of this?”
She glanced sideways at me, then threw her arm over the back of my seat to squeal us backwards into a spin-skid that pointed our nose at the exit. We came within an inch of smashing into the opposite brick wall, and Trix smiled at my expression. Pulling into traffic, she answered me as though our lives had never been at risk.
“Money? Until two years ago, it was always just around, you know? What you see are remnants, left over from before money got more…specific about how it’s gotta get used. Bash deserves this car.” Defensive. Protective.
“What changed two years ago?”
She slid her eyes to check me out, then back to front. She grinned, a short laugh rippling her breath, swift breeze over water.
“Why don’t you tell me what you’ve gleaned already?”
“I don’t know…I know you live at Timeless, you and Bash are married…you take in street kids, and…um…you’re an amazing musician…”
“So not much, then. I’m a little disappointed. I thought you’d have milked some of the gossip out by now. Maybe you’re not as committed as I thought. Maybe you’re not really interested.”
“You’re just changing the subject!”
“Can’t pull one over on you, hmm, Mouse?” She chuckled.
“I love a good story,” I told her honestly.
“Okay. Perhaps you know that I grew up at Timeless? No? The apartment where I live now was my family home when I was small. The Drachev Academy of Acrobatic Arts was downstairs – ah, do you like that name? Not ostentatious at all, hmm? Nothing like naming a band after yourself, for instance.” She owned her pride.
“The buildings belong to my uncles, they rented one to us and the other as a rooming house…of sorts. It’s getting to be prime property now, but back then it was outskirts. It was hard living out here, rough, wrong side of the tracks. We didn’t get many students, so we started teaching boys whose parents weren’t around for them, from the community. Boys who weren’t in school anyway, so they needed something productive to do. Mama put them in commercials, bit parts in movies, some stunt doubling to help earn their keep. She had a pretty good network with the lower-end casting houses. And then, Dmitri.” She stroked his name into existence with her voice and tongue and lips – a beloved name. I couldn’t wait to hear more. Trix glanced over to ensure her dramatic flare had its effect, and laughed at my hungry expression. I wanted to feed her storyteller.
“Tell me more, tell me more!” I begged for fun.
She settled back.
“I never get to tell my own stories anymore, and here I have a ten minute drive with a curious sort of creature. What a treat!”
“Oh,yes!” I clapped my hands together, letting my little girl out for a few seconds to enjoy the prospect of story time. Her eye-crinkle told me she appreciated my enthusiasm.
“I thought so! So, do you remember Demitry Love?” She purposely over-emphasized a North American accent on the name, which felt only dimly familiar.
“That’s kind of familiar, but not really.”
“Not surprising – he was a brief teen heartthrob in the 90’s, a few minutes before your time I think. He came to us as Dmitri Lvov.” She pronounced the slavic sounds as native tongue. “Dmitri was an orphan. His father had been killed through bad connections. His mother died in jail. He was a hard case, and already fourteen. Too old. Too messed up. He’d run away from foster care, and the priest asked Papa to take him, to keep him in the community. Dmitri had this air about him…this way of shooting off prickles that kept everyone ten feet off. Not Papa, though. He’d been a hard case himself – that is another story for another day.”
I glowed at the prospect of more stories, stories that extended beyond Trix herself into her history, the history that created her. My enquiring mind wanted to know. She went on.
“I was a hot-shot then, not even ten you know, but I couldn’t remember when I wasn’t the best in the school at pretty much everything. Papa asked me to show Dmitri the ropes – that was a pun, there, did you catch it?” I laughed appreciatively.
“With Dmitri, meeting him that very first time was like knowing him forever. We had chemistry. Not quite sexual – I was very young – but what existed between us was tangible, different, apparent to everyone. We understood each other. I thought he’d come just for me, you know? He was beautiful, and when he really looked at me…I felt seen.
He was a natural, of course. All those years he’d been perfecting his own personalized martial art. When he was six, he attended a few free classes at the community centre. This provided the basis. Sometimes he would cop free lessons from studios around town to incorporate new moves from whatever he remembered. He practiced for hours each day – as you can imagine, he thought little of school attendance. He was quite formidable, practicing his hodge-podge martial art. Dramatic and lovely to watch, like a dancer. So he was already supple, fast, strong. He was ready to learn anything that could make him feel more like a super hero. That’s what he wanted most – to be a super hero. Dmitri.” She smiled again.
“Once Mama saw what he could do, she got lawyers, an agent. Even before we trained him in the arts. That’s Mama. Always the pragmatist. And when that teen idol hit, he hit big. Left me in the dust. I never forgave him for it.”
She got quiet for a minute. I didn’t mind. I closed my eyes and filled in the blanks – a young boy, practicing in secret with deadly determination, hiding his developing super powers from a world he didn’t trust. A boy no one wanted, suddenly transported to acrobat school, suddenly a natural, his gifts becoming obvious, his dreams within grasp. And a little girl, his safe place, his teacher and still, just a little girl after all. That little girl’s face the moment she realized, and her face the moment she accepted the truth of it. Her face right now. I opened my eyes as Trix shook her head.
“Mama was never one to miss an opportunity. As Dmitri’s manager, she clawed up to the right social circles. It wasn’t even two years before she raised enough money for a wing at the Performing Arts School, the Drachav Body Arts Facility. We’d already been uptown a year when they broke ground.
There have been others with talent, which of course attracts quality in a virtuous circle – by the time Dmitri burned out, Drachev was known for movement-based talent all over the globe. Mama circled the right circles for money and reputation, and my Mama – she has a way about her. Once she’d stepped up in the world, it was clear where she belonged.” Trix sighed affectionately.
“We expanded into specialized stunt-work, celebrity coaching, a mixed martial arts video and infomercial, but of course we’ve also maintained a pure program to ensure the tradition and dignity of our signature acrobatics, handed down from generation to generation.” She pronounced the last line in perfect radio voice. “In any case, graduating Drachev helps a resume, and there are many who owe their jobs to Mama’s nose and her flow of talent. My parents and the American Dream. We’re not as rich as rich people, but we pass. For years I never worried about money.”
“And then, Timeless. This big idea. Reviving our purpose, so to speak. Perhaps reliving my childhood, I do realize it. My uncles still own the buildings, and while they are businessmen, there are advantages to that. My college fund seemed like enough to cover us, at the beginning. It got us a certain distance, enough to…attract interest. ”
Stopping at a stop sign, Trix faced me with piercing eyes.
“That’s not the question to ask, Mouse. Don’t worry your pretty little head. I’ve got it covered.” She turned back to driving. “We do what we need to. We circle the circles. We gather and disperse. We keep things going. Just…leave it at that.”
She seemed irritable and I realized I wasn’t even that interested anymore. I was pushing into this space just to keep my mind off Jamie, the betrayal that still felt so fresh I hardly believed it had happened. I pulled out my phone and tried again to connect to the Timeless website, but I couldn’t even get a search to run. Maybe I needed to reset?
Trix turned on the radio. Random rock filled the car.
“You’re pretty intent on that phone,” she observed coldly.
I realized I hadn’t even thanked her for the story. Or commented on it at all – of course she was annoyed. But now that memory had invaded, I couldn’t get my mind on anything else.
“I’m sorry, Trix. I loved your story. It’s just, there was another story on the website this morning. About me.”
“There’s talk about all of us, every day.” She waved her hand, waving it away like a fly. “That’s how those kids earn their keep. It’s just noise, it’s part of the hype.”
“Not this story.” I saw her hear my masked-over pain. Damn. She glanced at me, then pulled over to the side.
“Okay, Mouse. Spill.”
I started to cry. I felt like such a fool, crying when I hadn’t even said anything. She was going to think I was a whiny princess. She was going to regret bringing me along. All of this only made me cry harder.
“I’m sorry,” I blubbered.
Trix didn’t try to console me, nor did she seem impatient. She waited. I found I couldn’t cry in the face of that – as suddenly as it had started, my fit subsided. I wiped my eyes on my sleeve, and Trix passed me a tissue for my nose.
“There was a story about…the night I got my scar. It’s a…private story. I haven’t even managed to read what it says, I just saw a tweet advertising it like…some juicy morsel. I don’t want that up there. It’s too much.”
Trix’s nose twitched and scrinched in tight like a rabbit. She puffed her cheeks out with her breath.
“Down it comes. Call Static,” she commanded. I realized she was talking to the car, not me. I heard the tinny, undefined echo of the ring, then a muffled voice from the headset on her ear. She didn’t bother with traditional greetings.
“Take down the Mouse scar story.”
Her eyes narrowed and widened. She looked at me in surprise as the other speaker continued. She looked away.
“I don’t care. Down. Now. And send it to me, I want to read it.” A question, then “Just do it. Now.”
Trix pulled back into traffic.
“It’s coming down. Static will send me the story so you can read it. Okay? I won’t ask you to promise not to get upset, but I will ask you to please try to look at this in context. No one is trying to hurt you, here. This thing, it’s a tornado, and you’re sitting beside me, right in the swirl. There’s some risk to that. I should have done a better job preparing you. I’m sorry. But hey, life’s an adventure, little sister.”
“I’m not complaining about it all. Just this one thing.”
“Yes, until the next thing. Look, we’ve all got stuff we wish we could keep private, but nothing’s a secret in the end. Information wants to be free, and stories love to fly. We can take it down but we can’t stopper up the world. If you’ve got stuff, it’ll be out there one way or the other. Might as well get it over with now. Live out loud, baby!”
“Easy for you to say.”
I thought about how much more attention she got every day and realized she was right – what was out there was always out there, waiting to bite when we weren’t looking. Might as well shine a proactive light in the corners.
“It’s not just the story,” I tried to explain, “because, I only told one person, so…”
“Now, hold on. We’ve got the whole place wired, you know. You tell one, you tell all. No secrets at Timeless. You can’t go blaming one person.” Suddenly, Trix turned up the radio.
“Listen! They’re talking about us!”
The voice on the radio continued, “…tickets for this Friday night’s Trix and Traces Extravaganza at Timeless. We have only 10 more sets tickets between now and then – you don’t want to miss it! Be caller 5.”
Trix grinned, mischievous.
“Let’s have some fun! Call Spanner,” she instructed the car.
“Hey, Spanner, my ears were burning!…Yeah, let’s do it….Okay.”
As the song ended, the DJ cut in, excited.
“Speak of the devil…” he began, when Trix echoed beside me and from the speakers at the same moment, “And she suddenly appears!” Trix turned off the radio and put her phone on speaker.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we have Trix Drachov on the line from the local super-group Trix and Traces, playing this Friday at Timeless downtown. Trix, what brings you to my humble show?”
“We heard you talking Friday night, which is going to be MINDBLOWING!” They laughed again. “I just want to make sure everyone knows you should totally come even if you don’t win tickets- we’re gonna blast the music for a full outdoor party, my friends! Fill the streets!”
“Well…” Spanner sounded uncertain, “…okay then! I guess they’ll have to, since tickets are so scarce!”
“What do you mean? There’s a batch of tickets opening every day from now till the doors open.” Trix’s voice teased the audience with this information.
“Yeah, it’s just totally random whether you can buy them before they’re gone,” Spanner complained.
“Ah, well, good thing we gave you a few then! You can dole them out to the most deserving. Who’s coming?”
“We have Leela on the line – Leela, say hello to Trix!”
“Leela! Will you be dancing in the back or surfing on the crowd?”
“I’ll dive right off your stage, Trix!”
“Well, ALL-right Leela! See you Friday!” Trix made a huge kissing sound.
“Trix, we’re going to break for news in a minute, can you stay with us after the break?”
“Sorry, Spanner, no can do. I’m taking Mouse to practice some secret acrobatics for the show.”
“Not the Mouse of YouTube fame? She’s there with you now?”
“Say hello, Mouse.” I shook my head and she rolled her eyes, impatient, and motioned with her hand. I leaned towards the dash as though that would make me more audible
“Well, Mouse, what do you think of all the attention?”
“What attention?” I asked. Spanner laughed. Trix pushed me back to my chair.
“Nothing phases Ms. Mouse. She’s got an iron heart in that tiny frame and she’s tough as nails.”
“Will we see her doing some acrobatics in the show on Friday, then?” asked Spanner.
“Ah, you never know what you might see. Enjoy!” Trix hung up. She didn’t turn the radio back on.
“See, that was fun,” she told me firmly as we pulled up to the Drachev Body Arts Facility.