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No Time Like the Present

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Sara drew a deep breath as she entered the studio where Heaven rented a practice room.  This was going to be the last time she would be able to smell this particular mixture of sweat, dedication and magic.  She was going to miss it so much.  

Sara paused before opening the door to the room they called theirs.  She could hear faintly through the door another one of Soh’s and Rolan’s arguments, probably over who the best looker was--Miss July or Miss August, knowing them.  There was also the faint sound of Kunihiko’s guitar as he attempted to ignore their arguments once again.  She didn’t need to be in the room to picture the scene.  It was one she’d seen a thousand times over the past year.  

She tried to shake out her nerves that were stopping her from opening that door.  Today. It had to be today, she knew as she finally gathered up the courage to open the door in front of her.  She couldn’t put it off any longer.

Kunihiko frowned as he watched Soh and their producer argue over whose skin magazine it was while they waited for Sara to show up.  It wasn’t like Sara to be late for a rehearsal.  She was usually the first one there, waiting impatiently for the rest of the band to show up, but she’d been acting oddly for the last month or so.  Even going so far as to actually skip a practice session, which was unheard of for her.  She loved being able to sing with the complete freedom offered by a practice studio too much to skip out on any chance to sing here.  

A loud noise interrupted his thoughts making Kunihiko turn and glare at the arguing idiots on the other side of the room.  Was that skin rag really more fascinating than their missing member?  Didn’t they realize that she was the only thing keeping him in this band?  Really, whenever he got the urge to quit, which was practically every practice the way those two idiots never quit arguing about something perverted, all he had to do was listen to Sara sing and his frustration at still being stuck singing at small, smelly clubs when he could be working for one of his family’s companies would shrink away in shame.  Nothing could compare to her voice.  It washed away all worries and left you floating into the sky on her voice.  Kunihiko stopped fooling around with their new song and sighed, where was she?

Soh looked up from his fight with Rolan, distracted by the huge sigh from the other side of the room and the sudden stopping of the background noise.  

“What stupid thing was the brat sighing about now?” Soh grumbled internally.  Kunihiko didn’t have anything to be depressed about.  He’d just finished college and was in a band that was going places!  They’d only been together for a year and yet they already had a pretty decent size loyal following that showed up to all their concerts.  None of the previous bands Soh had been in had come close to having that many fans, even after being on the scene for a lot longer, and he’d been quite a few bands in one way or another.  If Rolan hadn’t introduced him to Sara, he’d still be the lead singer and guitarist for Velvet Night.  That had not been a fun break up, those guys were his friends. But once he’d heard Sara sing--well, he’d known he’d do whatever it took to be on stage with that voice.  Sara’s voice was going to take over the world and he wanted to be there on the journey.  They were going to take a bit more time, Soh knew.  He could feel it in his gut, but right now he had to focus on getting his magazine, Big Busted Girls, back from Rolan, who’d grabbed it while he’d been distracted.  

“That’s my magazine, Rolan.  Stop dirtying it up with your old hands!  I’m the one who paid for it, it belongs to me, not you.”  Soh had just decided to risk tearing it by just grabbing it from Rolan’s hands when the door opened and Sara entered the room.

“Sorry I’m late guys, I hope I haven’t delayed practice long.  You guys ready to start?” Soh heard Sara ask as she set down her stuff, but he didn’t pay too much attention he had more important stuff to worry about.  Soh lunged for the magazine, trying one more time before practice started to get his magazine back, when a skinny arm reached out and dragged him away from the fight and to their guitars.  

Turning around, Soh yelled, “You better not damage my magazine, you perverted old geezer. If you look at it you’ll have a heart attack and I won’t help you.”

Rolan glanced down again at the magazine in his hand.  Hah, like something this vanilla could do that.  What did Soh take him for, a sheltered virgin? Still, Soh was coming along nicely and Soh’s and Kunihiko’s voices provided a nice support to Sara’s.  Just listening to them practice was good, but when they got up on staged and performed?  It was like magic happened as Sara’s voice carried you into another world, while you were supported on the journey by the boys’ voices.  

They needed more practice though, especially as they were performing Thursday at the Pit.  That was going to be one tough audience, almost as tough as him.  That favor he’d cashed to drag the Pit’s owner to their last concert had been worth it.  At least two big labels, he heard it rumored, were going to be sending scouts to Thursday’s performance also.  He’d rebuffed at least four really bad offers and Rolan expected that pretty soon Heaven would be getting a real offer from a good label and then, well the world!  To think that he’d discovered Sara singing in the park only a year ago and now she stood on the practice stage about to go big.  It would be interesting to see how they’d handle the big time, but right now it was time to work.

“Sara, your C was flat!” Rolan yelled, interrupting their song.  “Soh, too strong.  Are you trying to get revenge for losing the magazine by torturing my ears?  You’re supposed to be supporting Sara, not poorly attempting to compete with her voice.  And Kunihiko, your guitar work was too slow in that third section.  Start at the beginning of that verse and redo it.  Remember it’s not about how loud you’re singing, but about moving the audience.”

“Yes, Rolan,” Sara chorused with her band mates as they started the verse again.  

This, Sara thought, was why they stuck with their perverted manager/producer.  He might make inappropriate comments all the time and take the occasional liberty with all of them, but he knew his stuff and they were all much better singers then they had been when they started.  She was going to miss her band mates and their stupid habits almost as much as the music after today, but she had to quit now while her mind was made up.  Just rip that band-aid right off.  Otherwise she knew she’d keep finding excuses not to quit.  Like the performance on Thursday, and where would that leave the baby to be and his daddy?  She wouldn’t be able to travel the way she would need to as the lead singer of Heaven and take care of her family properly.  Amai-san was horrible about remembering to eat without her there.  He’d never be able to take care of the baby and finish the robot he dreamed of building at the same time.  

She at least would still be able to sing while taking care of the baby and Amai-san, even if it wasn’t the same as being in the band.  Knowing that didn’t really make it easier, but Sara would take what she could get.  In fact Sara thought as she held the last note to the song, it has to be done now.

“Soh, Kunihiko, Rolan, I’m quitting the band.”

5 years later

Soh sat holding the coffee Sara had bought him.  He was finally going to find out why Sara had quit Heaven.  She’d fled so quickly after her shocking announcement that none of them had had time to question her about her decision, and afterwards she never answered any of the messages or letters they sent her.    He watched Sara grip her cup, her fingers pale and shaking before she started speaking.  

“I was pregnant when I quit the band and I didn’t see how I could be both a mother and the lead singer of Heaven.  If I hadn’t quit like that, I wouldn’t have been able to and then where would Rin have been?  His mom, gone all the time and his dad, so absent minded.  He’d have starved, I couldn’t do that to him do you understand?” Sara asked desperately.

“Yeah,” Soh gruffly replied.  He didn’t like it, but he could see the dilemma she had faced.  Even if he didn’t really understand, it couldn’t be that hard could it to raise a kid and have stayed in Heaven, right?  “Why’d you contact me now?  I mean, yeah, I’m in the city recording Velvet Night’s new album, but I’m in the city every couple of months.”

Sara stared into her coffee some more, looking like she was trying to think of the right words.  “I’ve missed the band, the singing, the crowds, everything.  I sing to Rin as much as I can, but as much as I love it, it’s not the same.  When I saw online that you were going to be in town today, I thought it was a sign.”  Here she paused and Soh watched her take a deep breath before starting again.  “I wanted to see if you’d be interested in putting Heaven back together.”

Soh closed his eyes, feeling like he’d been punched in the gut.  That right there was his most hidden dream, but it was too late for it.  Opening his eyes back up, he grabbed Sara’s hand from where it had been fidgeting with her coffee cup and looked her in the eye.  “Sara, bringing Heaven back together is impossible, I’m sorry.  Kunihiko’s gone to work for one of his father’s companies and doesn’t play or even sing anymore, and I can’t leave my band again.”

“Oh,” she said softly as she drew her hand back.  “I’m sorry I’ve wasted your time, Soh.  It was good to see you again,” she added as Soh watched her get up and gather her purse.

“Sara,” Soh called, grabbing her attention as she headed for the exit.  “Just because Heaven can’t get back together doesn’t mean you don’t have options.  What do you know about America?”