Author's Note: There's several ways to deal with cheating and just as many dealing with revenge or reconciliation ... this is just one guy's way of handling it.
My deepest thanks to findingmyvoice for her quick editing. Any grammar or spelling mistakes ... ah hell you know who to blame since I can't spell worth a shytt.
Fame is a vapor, popularity an accident, and riches take wings. Only one thing endures and that is character. - Horace Greeley
Winter 2014 - Brownwood
The young woman sat in her rental car and stared with disgust at the apartment complex. The Spire Apartments were obviously low rent and their location on Southtown Road ensured their rough reputation. She was somewhat surprised he was living here but only somewhat. She knew her ex-husband could afford to live elsewhere but he'd always preferred the 'streets' to the 'wannabe ivory towers' as he'd always used to put it. His third story, corner apartment would allow him to look out over the culture that inspired most of his music.
Belle LeDonn got out of the car and immediately pulled her black leather jacket tightly around her lithe body trying to brace herself against the cold December night. Her long raven hair whipped in the wind, accentuating her trademark look, a combination gothic gypsy. Although not beautiful, she was considered pretty by most and radiated an intense sexuality. Had it been daytime, she easily might've been recognized but at night, she blended into the darkness.
Damn I miss LA. This winter shit is for the birds. She mumbled to herself. Of course if things work out, I'll have to get used to it. Well, at least for a little while.
She looked up at the apartments again and shook her head. Mo had told her Ronnie was living there. Of course she could've been lying. She and Mo hadn't parted on the best of terms and the things that happened after the band split had driven them even farther apart.
But that's just the way it is in this business. Every band breaks up and most marriages don't make it.
Midnight Belle had been the dream of her ex-husband, Ron Beck. He'd created and managed it while they were still at State University. With her lead vocals, Vince Miller on lead guitar, Ronnie on bass, and Kyle Grumman on drums, they'd made a name for themselves locally. The band rose to regional fame when they added Mo, Monique Young, to the background vocals.
That was when things began to go bad. There'd never been a question the main draw of the band had been Belle and Vince. Her looks and soulful voice combined with Vince's mesmerizing riffs and guitar play had separated them from other bands. Ronnie's songs had highlighted those strengths. But when a record company from LA called, they only wanted her and Vince. The breakup left everyone hurt and angry.
For her and Ronnie it was worse. They'd been married less than two years when the band split and for the first time their dreams weren't entwined. He'd wanted them to try and continue on without Vince. He felt he could write songs that would show off her and Mo's voices. Her husband believed one day they'd get another shot at the fame and fortune but it would be together. Belle wasn't as sure.
She knew if she hadn't taken the chance, she'd have resented it for the rest of her life. She also knew if she took that opportunity it would jeopardize her marriage. It was a decision that broke her heart.
Music had always been at the center of their lives. They'd been dating when Ronnie formed the band. He'd built it to showcase her talents. It had been their dream to chase the rock-n-roll life, to live and love together on the road. Now the chance for it to come true was there ... but only for one of them. The other would have to wait for his chance to come.
But that's what love is right? Sacrificing for each other?
Her eyes closed as she grimaced.
But then what had I sacrificed? She asked herself again knowing she didn't like the answer.
Choices had been made, concessions discussed. The record label had promised Ronnie he'd still be a part of the band's management and even act as co-road manager when they went on tour. In the end, the three of them had gone to LA.
It didn't take long to realize the record company had lied to them, well at least to Ronnie. He had no input in the band from the very beginning. As soon as they'd stepped into the studio, he'd been unofficially informed he was there as a courtesy to Belle and Vince. Too say he was angry would've been an understatement. It took his wife begging him to 'let it go for now' to keep him from making a scene.
Several months later, Midnight Belle had cut their first record. Belle, Vince, and their new band mates found themselves as the opening act for Nickelback and Lady Gaga on two of the shorter legs of those tours. In between, they were headlining their own mini regional tour. Ronnie discovered another unpleasant surprise once they went on the road. Instead of being a road manager he was regulated to being just a glorified roadie.
Within a month it was obvious he wasn't going to last the entire tour. The timing couldn't have been worse. Their marriage was in trouble and the band had hit a rough patch as well. Two of the singles off the record had cracked the Top 40 but had stalled. Too make matters worse, the song that was doing the best was the only one of Ronnie's that the record company had grudgingly used.
Things had been tense both personally and professionally and Belle always felt like she was walking on eggshells. Ronnie was hurting and angry and she was pouring everything she had into the band. Belle remembered the fights as the pressure began pulling them apart.
When the Nickelback leg of the tour was done, Ronnie told her he was headed back to the City. She was ashamed to remember the great relief she'd felt with his decision.
They both knew their marriage was in danger, being on the road exposes people to multiple temptations. She could tell Ronnie was worried despite her heartfelt promises.
And he had every right to be didn't he?
Belle thought back to Christmas two years ago. Midnight Belle had been on the Florida leg of their mini tour and neither she nor Ronnie realized the high and low those two weeks before Christmas held for them. Ronnie had surprised her in Orlando by showing up backstage after her concert.
Winter 2012 – Orlando, FL
"Oh god baby, I missed you!" Belle panted in his ear as they fell into their hotel room. She'd flown into his arms backstage and they almost hadn't made it back to the hotel before losing what few clothes they still had on.
Her body had felt like it was melting from the heat of her husband's touch and his kisses. They'd been apart for almost two months and the release of their pent up passion had Belle feeling euphoric. His long moustache tickled as he devoured her neck and throat.
They quickly discarded any remaining clothes and she sprung on him, wrapping herself around him. He chuckled wickedly as he pried her off and tossed her onto the bed. She laid there splayed out before him totally exposed.
She grinned as she watched him stare at her with desire. His gaze slowly worked down her body, devouring her with his eyes. When he began to gently kiss her legs she responded, out of her need for him.
"No baby, no," Belle gasped. "It's been too long, I need you NOW!"
He tried to meet her demand by giving her everything he had, his heart, soul, and body. It had been more than enough. The room had been filled with her low guttural moaning and his groans of pleasure all night long. Her high pitched keening that signaled her impending orgasm had also removed any doubt from any guests in the surrounding hotel rooms of what was happening in Room 411. They'd spent the rest of that night trying desperately to make up for two lost months.
The next morning a very happy but sore Belle found herself on the band's travel bus headed for their next show. Ronnie had headed back to Brownwood. As she watched the road from her window, she sighed as she thought of the love she'd just left behind. There were things they needed to talk about after the tour. Hard things.
But we can make this work, she told herself. We can survive this.
She'd actually believed their marriage could survive then. That night in Orlando had been so badly needed. It'd been like a lighthouse in her dark and chaotic world, a reminder of what was waiting for her at home. However, it only took a week for that hope to shatter.
Ronnie had tried to surprise her again the next weekend in Jacksonville. She'd definitely been surprised ... so was he. When he went backstage he found her in the dressing room sitting on Vince's lap. Her deep guttural moans that had muffled the sounds of the door opening left no doubt she'd impaled herself on him.
When Ronnie slammed the door, they sat frozen, motionless, and stared in shock at the intruder. The look of pain and betrayal on her husband's face would always be burned into Belle's memory.
Even though neither man was much of a fighter, she was sure Ronnie would've tried to kill Vince that night if the two security guys hadn't rushed to the scene. By the time they got there, they must have fought hard not to laugh. At 6'2 and 210 pounds, Vince was a good four inches taller and 50 pounds heavier than Ronnie. He was a decent looking man with his trademark long blonde hair. When security got there, they found Ronnie had Vince by the hair and was wildly throwing punches. Vince in turn was semi naked but had Ronnie by his ponytail trying to hold him at bay. She'd been standing there, naked from the waist down, screaming at the two of them to stop. With all the long hair and hair pulling it must've looked like a "Bad Girls" catfight.
Would've been a damn funny sight, Belle groaned remembering, if it hadn't been my marriage that was going down the toilet.
Security had finally restrained Ronnie and thrown him out. It'd been the last time she'd seen him. She'd tried to call him in the days that followed but he would never take her call. Not surprisingly, the divorce papers arrived the next week.
Belle finally talked to him after she'd been served. She'd said all the things cheaters usually say but Ronnie wasn't having any of it. Again, it wasn't a surprise, all her pleading and crying fell on deaf ears. Every reason or excuse she used had sounded so shallow and petty to her that she couldn't imagine how pathetic they sounded to Ronnie. He'd also found out the time he'd caught her and Vince hadn't been their first time.
His colorful use of the phrases "cheating whore" and "back-stabbing bitch" left little doubt her marriage was over. She knew she'd effectively killed it.
After that she'd never seen nor spoken to Ronnie again. He wouldn't meet with her face to face and she was still on tour anyway. She'd hired a divorce attorney the record label had recommended and from then on the lawyers had handled it.
Besides the deep sorrow she'd felt with the death of her marriage, there was also a guilty sense of relief. She wasn't in love with Vince. It'd been more a 'friends with benefits' type of thing. The wild sex after a show was an incredible turn on and had been a great way to unwind. During the two months of the mini tour before Jacksonville, they'd been together several times though each time she'd struggled with the guilt.
She'd known what she was doing with Vince Miller had been wrong. But knowing and doing something about it had been two entirely different things.
Vince was the poster child for reclusive, moody, artistic musicians. He came off as snobbish to most but he'd let Belle into his inner circle back when the band was first starting out and that trust had led to more than just friendship. He and Ronnie had constantly battled during the band's early years. They'd argued over the music, over the band and even over the closeness of his friendship with her. However the competition between the two had pushed both men to hone their talents and made the band even better.
And yes, we were still only friends back then, she defended herself.
She knew that didn't excuse her for betraying her husband's trust and love later on though. But after she'd been served most of the guilt was gone. Unfortunately so was Ronnie's love and support. Belle hadn't realized just how much she'd relied on that. It'd been one of her few anchors when she felt like she was being tossed around by the industry.
A few weeks after they'd been exposed, Midnight Belle came under attack. A smear campaign had begun over the internet. First were the rumors and accusations she'd abandoned her husband and a non-existent, infant child. Next a sex tape showing her and Ronnie with a very young looking girl had lit the gossip bulletin boards and porn sites on fire. The accusations the girl was under-age made the incident go viral.
She knew Ronnie had somehow leaked the video just like she knew the girl had been eighteen. Of course his "no comment" responses when asked by the press didn't help the situation. The media had a field day with the story at her expense.
Not two weeks later, Vince had his "accident." He was coming out of a Memphis blues bar when he was mugged by three guys. Besides robbing him, they'd slammed his hand in a car door multiple times and shaved half his head as a souvenir. The thing that sealed any doubt it was a personal attack was the fact one of the attackers had warned Vince not to keep sleeping with married women.
Ronnie, of course, was the prime suspect but he had an airtight alibi and the assailants were never caught so no connection could ever be proven. It was the same with Mo and Kyle. After it was exposed that Vince had had several other married lovers, the police stopped looking hard at her ex-husband.
A couple weeks later there were rumors a bald-headed Vince had cancer and wouldn't be able to finish the tour. In the entertainment industry any publicity can be good publicity, but the kind Midnight Belle was receiving ended up hurting them. The industry rags all said it was a publicity stunt by a no-name band trying to steal the controversial spotlight from Lady Gaga. Even though it wasn't true, truth rarely matters in that industry, the Lady Gaga people were getting uncomfortable. It was having an even larger effect on the record company.
Midnight Belle had finished the tour a few months later, still under a cloud. Belle's divorce was finalized and Vince had rejoined the tour for that last month. The record label had made it clear though ... Midnight Belle had lost its buzz. The band went back into the studio later that year as stated in their contract and made a second record but without the label's strong backing it barely broke even. The tour was cancelled shortly after it began, Midnight Belle was dead.
Belle and Vince's paths occasionally crossed over that next year, but they never shared a bed again. It seemed the mugger's threat back in Memphis had left an impression on Vince. He ended up becoming a studio musician while Belle joined and quit a few bands during that time. She still held onto her dreams even though she never found the magic that Midnight Belle had once had.
A year after her divorce, Belle found herself surrounded by people who only wanted to use her or sleep with her ... or both. She'd spent the next six months examining her life and wondering how it went so wrong. In the end, she knew what the difference was ... it was Ronnie.
Swallowing her pride she decided to contact him and see if anything was left of their love. First though, she needed to find out what her ex had been up to over the past two years.
She ended up calling Mo. She knew Ronnie had used the record label's money and the money from their divorce to start up a studio there in Brownwood and Mo was now working for him. She'd also learned he was managing several college and local bands both in Brownwood and the City.
The call had gone pretty much as she'd expected ... poorly.
"Damn girl," Mo laughed in disbelief. "You sure got some big brass balls! Do you know what you did to him? He almost fell apart when he found you fucking Goldilocks in Jacksonville."
Belle could almost see the smirk Mo had on her beautiful, brown face framed by all that long black curly hair. She was three inches taller and at least 40 pounds heavier than Belle's 5'3, 115 pound frame. While Mo wasn't fat she was definitely curvy with most of the extra weight being carried in her large breasts or in her larger butt. Monique Young could certainly be described as having junk in the trunk.
"Yeah, I have a pretty good idea," Belle replied holding her ground. "He told me exactly what he thought of me when I finally got to talk with him. I know I hurt him ... I hurt him bad. But Mo, you know what life on the road is, how lonely it can get."
"Girl, shovel that shit somewhere else," Mo laughed. Her silky smooth voice reminded Belle just how well their voices had once blended.
"I know," Belle sighed, "it's just an excuse."
"Just like this call is," Mo snorted. "Listen Belle, I figure you're calling to find out what home boy has been up to since you dumped his ass."
"I didn't dump him Mo."
"Well fucking another guy was one hell of a Christmas present for your husband wasn't it?" she spat.
"No, no it was a stupid mistake."
"Mistake? Oh hell I hope you don't try and tell him that when you finally talk to him. Damn girl, a mistake is wearing too slutty of a dress to a wedding or replying to one of those damn spam emails and getting on a hundred other lists. What you did wasn't a mistake, you chose to do that!'
"Yes ... you're right. It was my choices that led to that. But we all make bad decisions, Mo. Someone shouldn't be punished for the rest of her life for a few stupid choices."
"Depends on the choices, I guess."
"Well the choices I made back then had been made a million times before. I chose to chase a dream over my relationship. I chose to live a lifestyle everyone knew was hazardous to most marriages. Finally, I made the stupid choice to seek comfort in the arms of someone other than my husband. The music industry is full of those kinds of choices every day. What I did wasn't very original just very selfish and stupid."
"So would we be having this talk if you'd reached your dream?"
Belle paused and then sighed.
"Actually Mo, we probably would. Oh, it might've been years from now and we'd be in our forties having this talk instead of in our late twenties. Of course the fact Ronnie helped tear those dreams down made me face my past decisions now instead of in fifteen years."
"Actually sugar, I'm 31, just a few years ahead of you and the rest of the old band. But as for the band's failure all being blamed on Ronnie, I don't buy that."
"Mo, now who's bullshitting whom? We both know Ronnie was behind a lot of what happened."
"You think?" she laughed. "Hell girl we both know he was! Just like we both know they'll never be able to tie it to him. What'd you think he'd do, just die and go away? Or did you expect him to become one of your groupies and wait for you to throw him some ass?
"It took Kyle and me weeks to help get him back on his feet after Jacksonville. He was so broken and then the anger and bitterness took over. The new Ronnie was a bitter asshole, so I'm sure he had something to do with your sex video being leaked and Vince's accident. But girl, there are lots of piranha out there in this business. As soon as there was blood in the water, they were looking for something to devour. I don't know how those other rumors started but I bet they made someone a quick buck."
Both women were silent for a few seconds.
"It took months before the old Ronnie began to show any signs of being still there. When he finally started turning it around he poured himself back into his music."
"I heard his studio is doing pretty well."
"Better than just pretty well," Mo exclaimed. "We've only been working at it a year-and-a-half and it's already starting to take off."
"What's it called again?"
"Tuna Fish Music," Mo giggled.
Belle almost choked remembering how Ronnie loved to play with double meanings.
"You've got to be kidding."
"Nope," Mo said laughing. "Officially the name came from REO Speedwagon's album, You Can Tune A Piano, But You Can't Tuna Fish. You know that boy's love of the 70's!
"But you should've seen the first company logos Ronnie proposed. They were positively pornographic!"
Belle chuckled to herself as she imagined some the ideas Ronnie had probably come up with. It was too easy and with his sense of humor it would've been fun.
"Just to let you know," Mo continued, "Kyle is here in Brownwood too. He teaches up at the high school and helps with the school band. I manage the studio and work with a few of the acts Ronnie manages. I also do a couple sets a few times a month with Ronnie and Kyle at a blues bar just down the street from the studio. It's called the Blue Note.
"It won't lead to fame and fortune since it's the blues but I still love it. Plus Ronnie used his emotions during your divorce to write some damn good blues songs. He also used some of that anger to collaborate with a young rapper and her husband out of the City. Turns out Ronnie's managing them now and co-writing some of their stuff.