I held my breath, one, two, three, and gently pressed the false eyelash to my lid, felt the adhesive cling to the sensitive skin, and…
A sneeze gathered. My face twitched. The lash slid to the inside, decorating my nose with spider legs.
“Storm coming,” my back-up singers said in unison.
My insides trembled from the warning. I couldn’t hope to battle or control a big storm from the basement dressing room of a small Las Vegas nightclub.
Brittney and Joycelyn knew that those words were as much a curse as a warning. We shared this dressing room as we shared everything, from hairbrushes to clothes to sensitivity to weather changes.
The girls were really my nieces but raised with me as if we were triplets.
The one thing we hadn’t shared was our reaction to the recent plague vaccine. They’d breezed through the procedure last month while I still had a red welt on my upper left arm.
The vaccine didn’t like my siren blood any more than the plague did, but I couldn’t perform in public without proof of vaccine. As we stepped onto the stage a black light would flash across us and the light sensitive dye in the injections would flare briefly as proof to the audience.
“Another storm, Celia?” Brittney wailed. “So soon?”
“That’s three times already this winter.” Joycelyn sighed deeply, heaving her ample bosom high above the constrictions of her red spangled bodice. The men in our audience fully appreciated the moments when she needed a deeper breath. Sometimes they were rewarded. Mostly not. In Las Vegas, few cared. But they loved the anticipation.
“It’s winter. Even Las Vegas suffers from rain and wind upon occasion,” I replied, ripping the false lashes free of my nose and reapplying a few drops of glue. I needed to show my sisters calm in the face of a storm, like I always did, not the quivering mass of gelatin that my belly had become.
This storm was something more than the usual clash of air masses over the desert in late February.
“It’s called a monsoon,” Joycelyn grumbled. She shivered too, like she had caught some of my own anxiety.
“I thought we’d moved to the desert so we’d be as far from the sea as possible.” Brittney looked longingly to her blue lace woolen shawl on the rack with her street clothes.
Lately wind and rain, born of our great-grandmother, the StormMother, the goddess Tiamat of old, (we called her Mummy because the generations got confused and tangled) threw temper tantrums, that flooded the streets too often.
Call it climate change if you must. We three, born of a siren, knew better.
During a storm, water calls to water even more than usual.
Lake Mead, hundreds of thousands of gallons of water trapped behind a flimsy dam, lay to east of the city. I could feel its longing to join the storm.
The itch at the tip of my nose crept upward. I held my breath to avert another sneeze. Gradually the itch dissipated. Another deep breath and I was free of the storm portent.
A distant grumble rolled across the horizon. If lightning accompanied it, I couldn’t see or feel it in this windowless basement dressing room.
“Do we need to alert management to gear up for a power outage?” Brittney asked. “That one three weeks ago was a doozy.” She stood before her own lighted mirror and added a tiny dusting of glitter powder to her cleavage.
I checked my own chest above the sparkling white gown and the artful airbrushing that gave a visual suggestion that my own boobs were bigger than they were.
“Never hurts to be prepared,” I murmured.
“Two minutes, girls,” Gus the stage manager called. “Places.”
I took a swig of water and gargled lightly. My backup singers did the same. We each warbled our favorite warm-up vocalizations. Thirty seconds later we marched out of the dressing room, down the dimly lit cement corridor, up a set of stairs with a metal tube railing that near froze my fingers. The inefficient air conditioning was aimed incorrectly, again, to chill the railing but not the stairwell.
As I turned at the landing to climb the last half story, I felt like I walked into a wall of water. Not the soft, warm welcome of a tropical sea. No, this was the cold, unrelenting push against humidity from a different location, a different coastline, and different climate.
My nose twitched again, so aggressively I was glad I wasn’t looking into a mirror. My sisters would have crossed themselves and quit this gig, if they saw my nose pull a Samantha witch wiggle. We were all a generation, or more, removed from sea magic. Still I had the greater talent for it than the girls.
That coming storm was a big one and I was pretty sure it was going to hit directly overhead.
Time to pull out all the stops. We stood in a line, arms around each other’s waists, me in the middle, a unified trio, promising amazing harmonies.
“Plan B,” I whispered.