A Discovery, A Suspicion, and Memories

“Hey, isn’t that Aria? “

Vermo nudged Daron with an elbow, and the latter looked up from his mobile and turned to where his friend pointed. His eyes went wide in shock. “Punyeta,” he hissed.

Aria, that woman who disappeared almost six months ago, the woman who suddenly cut herself out of his life, was definitely right across him. She was wearing a black gothic-inspired dress, complete with a lace corset and heavy eye makeup, but it was her alright. The way the length of her hair fell around her shoulders, albeit now slightly permed in style; her manner of standing – slightly straight, with a lean towards one side; a slight tilt of her head as she looked somewhere else – it was all Aria.

Anger boiled up inside him like a flash of molten lava almost breaking through the surface. He remembered when she went on one of her bouts of Facebook deactivation; he thought it was just another pout.  He’d been too busy with work to notice; besides, he thought that she’d be back in no time, posting her short fiction pieces and sharing strange science news. But when two, three…FOUR weeks passed with only silence from her and her Facebook account still deactivated, he worried. 

He worried more when he could not reach her. Texts did not get a reply. Calls went unanswered. He could not even catch her at work or at her home; she was either gone by the time he arrived there or she was somewhere else. It was a frustrating cat-and-mouse run around. A few days of this and worry turned to anger. How dare was she acting this way? Who did she think she was? He decided to give it up; if she didn’t want to be bothered, then so be it. However, even as he decided that, there was pain in his chest. It was like being abandoned all over once more. 

But here she was again, just a few paces in front of him. He would have stood up, marched over, grabbed her wrist and dragged her away to a quiet place to talk, to demand an explanation from her. He couldn’t. There were four other men surrounding her. They wore clothing similar in style to hers, and two of them held guitars. They waited as the stage was completing its setup for the gig tonight. “Wow,” quipped Vermo, “metal heads.”

Daron glanced at his friend. “Why?”

“Dude, would you play pop music with those outfits?” Vermo retorted. He then chuckled. “This’ll be interesting. I wonder how they got the owner to agree for them to play here?”

Daron returned to his contemplation of Aria, looked back at her. It would make sense, he mused, as he knew her to be an avid metal fan. He tried to get her to sing a pop song in another language before, to her amusing display of consternation. From one of the last times they’ve met, he made her agree that she was supposed to sing it to him after a couple of months. By the time the “deadline” came about, though, well…she was already gone. 

As he looked at her, he felt disconcerted. She was still staring at somewhere else, not minding anyone around her. Not even her band mates. She was quiet and still, almost unmoving. 

“Thank you for waiting!” the bar owner’s voice boomed from the speakers. Daron turned to see a middle-aged, swarthy man in a dark-colored polo and black denim jeans. “Welcome to another round of Free Notes, where we feature a variety of music groups each night! Tonight folks, we’re in for a rare treat.” As he spoke, Aria and the other men moved onto the stage and went to their positions. 

“Music has always been a subjective thing; it’s either you like a song or not. Most of us wouldn’t listen much to metal as it’s considered ‘noise’. However, this next band will assure you that you’ll be head banging like never before, even if you’ve never done such a thing in your life. Ladies and gents! Friends, I bring you —

“The Nobodies!”

There was scattered applause as the band members moved to their places. Aria went to the middle of the stage, the lead vocalist position. Daron stared in surprise. He’d known that she was capable of singing, but he didn’t think that she’d actually front a band, and a metal one at that. He didn’t realize that he now leaned forward and placed his elbows on the table. 

However, she did not speak, even with the mike already near her face. Her head was slightly bowed and she remained standing still as the man at her right spoke into his mike. “Hi folks,” he said in a low voice. “Like Trieste said, we’re The Nobodies. I hope you enjoy our performance.” He nodded to the other man at Aria’s other side, and this man reached out and smoothed Aria’s hair. The drummer struck his sticks thrice, and the first song played in a high, heavy guitar riff. The drummer followed it up with a steady beat on the cymbals and bass drum.

All the while, Aria remained motionless. A few notes before the first verse started, though, she finally lifted her head. Her face was expressionless, but there was a hardness in her eyes that Daron did not see before in all the months he’d known her. 

Then, she started singing.

It was as though a huge gust of wind in the form of a giant fist went in and punched him in the gut. Her voice had power, weighty and unwavering. He thought her in the soprano range before, but this song made her voice lower, and you could hear every syllable, every nuance of feeling. The way she stood would make any model jealous; she owned the room the moment she opened her mouth. She gestured with her arms as she sang like a leader on a podium delivering an impassioned speech. She was like a dancer with the way she moved; her body movements told a story of war and pain, of power and guiltlessness. 

When the song finished, everyone was clapping and cheering. Vermo gave a loud whistle with his fingers. “Go Aria!” he cried. 

If Daron wasn’t so set on staring at the stage, he would have missed it. The man at Aria’s right look startled from Vermo’s cry – a look of alarm. He leaned back slightly to gesture at the other man across him with a nod of his head. The other man frowned and made a quick, snappy shake of his head. Daron’s brows furrowed at that exchange, curious to what that meant. Meanwhile, Aria stilled once more in the same pose she had before singing. She did not even acknowledge the audience’s cheers in any way.

“Thank you!” the man who spoke earlier exclaimed. He then introduced himself and the rest of the band. So he was Mark, while the other man across him was Colin. Sloane was the drummer, while Damien was on bass guitar. “And the only rose in the thorn bush,” Mark said as he pointed to the vocalist, “our lovely Aria!” 

The audience cheered again, clearly enamoured with the singer. It was then that she raised her head. Her expression was still impassive when she pinched her skirt at both sides and curtsied. The cheers became louder, but Daron frowned. It was so minute that he felt that only he saw it – there was a moment that when she bowed to the audience, it was not smooth. Her movements were jerky, almost mechanical. 

“You want more?” Mark cried out, to which the audience roared in the positive. “You’ll get more!” He replied with a quick punch to the air.

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