The next day, Eve left for work at 1:30 pm. Pilar had assured her that it was not a problem for her to stay with J.T. till she got home. When she got to the hospital, she was greeted by a lot of excitement. Thankful that Grace was there, she pulled her aside.

“What is all the fuss about?”

“Oh, you haven’t heard?” Grace asked.

“Well no, I am not up to date on Harmony events as of yet,” Eve said.

“Every year the town hall holds a talent contest. Anyone can go up and do what they do best. What’s really great is the hospital is giving away a free pair of tickets. Since the event is a fundraiser, you have to pay to get in,” Grace explained. “I hope that I win. I want to go, so bad.” Grace danced as if she needed to pee.

“Well, good luck then.” Eve wrinkled her brow at Grace’s odd behavior and then turned to go.

“Wait, don’t you want to see if you’ve won?”

“I didn’t enter,” Eve said.

“It doesn’t matter. We are all here on staff, so we all get a chance to win.”

“Oh,” Eve said, not really worried, since she never won anything.

Finally, after a few moments, the chief of staff waved a couple of tickets. “The winner this year is…Eve Johnson, the newest member of our staff.”

Shocked, Eve stared at the tickets that were placed in her hand, not sure what to do with them. One thing she was certain, she wasn’t planning on using them.

“Right on!” Grace shrieked. “I can’t believe this. You are sooooo lucky.”

“You want them?” Eve asked.

“But they are for you,” Grace said, suddenly acting almost normal.

“Yes, but I have to work till 10:00 p.m., so I can’t go anyway,” Eve explained.

“Oh, yes you can.” The chief of staff smiled at her. “Because you are new here, I am going to let you take the time off and go to the concert. I won’t take no for an answer.” He smiled, trying to persuade her to go.

“Yes, go, Eve. You will not regret it,” Grace gushed. “And I can even go with you if you like,” she added hopefully.

“Well, since it starts at 7:30, my sitter will still be with my son. And if you are sure that I can go during my shift, well then, I guess I’ll go.” She shrugged her shoulders and smiled. “And yes, Grace, you may come with me. I will, after all, need someone who knows the place, because I sure don’t.” She laughed as Grace jumped for joy.

At 7:15, Grace showed up at the hospital ready to go to the show. Eve took off her lab coat and looked in the mirror. Her black slacks went well with her maroon blouse. She smoothed her collar and put on her winter parka. She loved the feel of the soft fur around her neck as she zipped it up tight. “Ready?” she asked as Grace entered the room.

“Yep, I am all revved up!” Grace clapped excitedly.

“Why are you so excited about a talent show? I mean, how great can it be?” Eve wondered.

“Oh, but this isn’t just any show. Tonight is special,” Grace said, trying to act mysterious.

“How so?” Eve asked.

“Well, I am not exactly sure, but there is supposed to be a new talent on tonight. No one has ever heard or seen what he can do. I am so excited. Ohhh, I hope he’s cute.” She licked her lips lustfully.

“You’re sure it’s a ‘he’?” Eve asked, feeling like a total putz for not sharing Grace’s enthusiasm over this, this ‘Talent Show’???

“I am not sure, but that is the word.” Grace flipped her scarf over her shoulder and held the door open for Eve.

As they walked to the parking lot, Eve rubbed her head. She had a feeling she was going to need a lot of aspirin before this evening was over. “How far is this place from here?”

“Not far, in fact, we can walk.” Grace pointed in the direction of the town hall. “It is just a block from here.”

“Sounds good to me.” Eve smiled, happy to get the fresh air.

As they walked to the show, it started to snow - light fluffy flakes, the kind that, when resting in your hair, took a moment and then melted away. The evening was truly beautiful! Well, at least she was enjoying this part of the evening, Eve thought, as she walked beside an ever so chipper Grace.

When they got to the town hall, the music was loud, and the place almost packed full. Eve wondered if this is what small towns were like - talent shows instead of concerts.

Handing their tickets to the young man at the door, Grace leaned over and planted a big noisy kiss on his cheek. “Hello, Miguel.”

He smiled sheepishly and said, “Hi, Grace. Who is your new friend?”

“This is Eve. Eve, Miguel.”

“Hi, nice to meet you.” She shook his hand and smiled.

“Well, you have great seats tonight - front row, center.” He pointed up the crowded aisle.

“Thanks, Miguel.” Grace stuck out her hand to be stamped and then took Eve’s hand and pulled her through the crowd to the beer table. “You want a beer?” she yelled above the music.

“Sure.” Eve nodded and took the plastic cup that Grace handed her. “I am surprised that they sell beer here. I mean, the boy at the door seemed so young!” Eve shouted back.

“He is, but this is a small town. Everybody knows everybody, so you can’t pretend you’re legal here. It has never been a problem!” Grace yelled as she grabbed two cups for herself.

Eve raised her eyebrows at the beers in Grace’s hands; community service didn’t appear to slow her down.

“I wonder who the special talent is.” Grace leaned closer so Eve could hear her above the music.

Eve shrugged, not caring one way or another. She was simply doing the time, and having a beer to ease her pain.

They got to their seats and sat down, but Grace yanked her back onto her feet when the MC came on stage.

“Ladies and germs…” he joked, and the men all protested good-naturedly. “We have a very special treat for you today…one of Harmony’s very best! Enjoy!!” He would say no more as he ran off the stage and gave someone in the shadows thumbs up.

Eve and Grace sipped on their beers and stared at the stage. Eve had to admit, this was intriguing. Everything was dark except a single spotlight in the middle of the stage.

Then the music started, Jamaican rhythm, wonderful to dance to. The singer started his song….

One day I looked up and there you were,
Like a simple question, looking for an answer,

“Ooooo mysterious, and my, what a sexy voice,” Grace commented as she and Eve started to move to the rhythm of the music.

Now I am a whale,
Listening to some midnight call,
Swimming blindly to throw myself upon your shore,
What if I don’t find you when I have landed,
Would you leave me here to die, on the shore stranded,
I think I know why the dog howls at the moon.
I think I know why the dog howls at the moon.

“I would howl too if you serenaded me baby,” Grace crooned.

Eve laughed. Grace was clearing enjoying herself. Eve returned her attention to the singer, who had not yet stepped into the light. Moving to the music, she strained to see if he could be spotted, but he remained in the shadows.

“I wonder why he won’t come into the light!” Eve yelled.

“I don’t care, as long as he keeps on singing!” Grace yelled back. “Sing it, baby!”

I sing dela…dela,
Minangya dela
When I’m with you,
Dela, some dela
Mamma, Some dela,
I burn for you.

Eve danced to the song, loving the rhythm, feeling it move her soul. She didn’t care anymore about the singer; this song was the best. As the song picked up its beat and burst into a joyous handclapping chorus, he stepped out of the shadows.

Eve saw him instantly! Overcome with shock, she dropped her beer on Grace’s shoes. Julian Crane moved into the spotlight, directly in front of her. He was dressed in black jeans and a soft cream shirt that had the first button undone.

“Oh my, would you look at that hunk of tomato soup cake!” Grace shouted as she kicked up her heels, unaware that her feet were soaked in beer. “What I wouldn’t give to take that home tonight for a taste test!” She let out a shrill whistle and started to whoop it up.

Ignoring Grace altogether, Eve stood frozen, completely paralyzed. In her wildest dreams, she never expected this. He smiled at her, his eyes twinkling as he sang…

I’ve been waiting for you all my life,
Hoping for a miracle,
I’ve been waiting day and night, day and night,
I’ve been waiting for you all my life,
Waiting for redemption,
I’ve been waiting day and night I burn for you.

Tears filled her eyes as she listened to him sing - his voice, oh so sultry; the words, striking her in the heart; her eyes never leaving his. She was pulled into a magical realm, a place where only the two of them existed.

Like a lover under a spell, she watched as he descended the staircase directly in front of her. Finally, after what seemed like eternity, he stood before her. His eyes were filled with love as he reached out and took her hand in his as he continued to sing…

The blind bird sings,
Inside the cage that is my heart,
The image of your face comes to me,
When I am alone in the dark,
If I could give a shape to this ache that I have for you,
If I could find the voice that says the words that capture you.

Her heart pounded in her chest as she gazed into his shining eyes. She could hardly believe it. Eve blinked, thinking that maybe her eyes deceived her. But those beautiful twinkling eyes and those words just took her breath away. It was so seductive, so enchanting, and so utterly romantic, that Eve could not help but smile. Only Julian could pull off something so outrageous.

In the background, the band continued to chant.

I think I know, I think I know, I think I know, I think I know…

Julian drew her near him and pulled her with him up onto the stage. Grace, dancing like a wild woman, grabbed Eve’s hand, determined not to be left behind.

For moral support, Eve held Grace’s hand tightly, much to Julian’s annoyance.

‘Who was this oddball? Surely she couldn’t be a friend of Eve’ class whatsoever.’ And with that thought, he firmly removed her grip from Eve’s hand and gave her a slight shove back down the stairs, where security returned a tipsy Grace to her seat.

Smiling mischievously, he continued singing…

I think I know why the dog howls at the moon;
I think I know why the dog howls at the moon,

I sing dela…dela
Minangya, dela when I’m with you,
Dela, some dela, mamma
Some dela, I burn for you.

Julian moved to the rhythm of the song, circling Eve like a hungry cat on the prowl. Then he grabbed her hand once more, held it up high and twirled her gracefully around as he broke into the chorus.

I’ve been waiting for you all my life
Hoping for a miracle,
I’ve been waiting day and night, day and night,
I’ve been waiting for you all my life,
Waiting for redemption,
I’ve been waiting day and night, I burn for you.

As the musicians continued to croon the song, Julian pulled a reluctant Eve close and kissed her. The crowd went wild, cheering and whistling, whooping and crying.

“Hello, Eve,” he whispered. Eve shivered as his lips seductively kissed her ear.

“How incredibly romantic,” one lady said to her friend as she wiped tears from her eyes. “I hope she says ‘yes’!” she cried optimistically.

When the song ended, they stood for a moment and stared at each other. Then he let go of her hand and backed away. Eve stared numbly after him. When the band broke into a new song, Eve jerked back to reality and quickly returned to her seat, feeling like she was in a dream and would wake up at any moment. It had to be, things like this didn’t happen in real life.

Julian ran off the stage and grabbed his coat from his chauffeur. “Let’s go!”

“Where are we going?” He puffed after Julian.

“If I know Eve, she is on the run. And I am going to catch her.” He laughed wickedly

“Hey, Eve, what was that all about?” Grace bellowed a little too loudly when Eve returned to her seat.

Annoyed, Eve lied. “I have no idea. Just a lucky shot, being in the front row and everything.”

“Lucky? He looked like he wanted to make love to you right on the spot. And that song… Oh my goodness, what a singer.” Grace took another swig of beer.

“You have had enough, Grace.” Eve grabbed her beer and threw it on the floor. “We are getting out of here.” She took Grace’s hand and pulled her to the exit.

Finally, after what seemed like forever, they managed to fight their way to the lobby.

Pulling her parka close around her ears, Grace sniffed the air. “Lordy, we smell like a couple of boozing skanks tonight. Pheww!” She belched and then accidentally farted. “Oops!” She giggled.

“Grace, you reek of beer because I spilled mine on you. And you have obviously had way too much yourself.” Eve wrinkled her nose in displeasure.

“Don’t get preachy, Eve. I…hick, I am just having fun.” Grace belched. “Besides, I’m not ready to go home. That was only the first guy.”

“Well, I am not staying another minute, Grace. You can stay if you want to, but I am leaving.” That said, Eve ran to the door.

A blast of snowflakes flew into her face as Eve opened the door and rushed out. She shrieked as a hand snaked out, grabbed her arm, and pulled her sideways.

Her boots gave way under the slippery snow as she landed on her back, with her ‘would be’ assailant on top of her, in a cloud of powdered snow. The weight of his body was crushing her as Eve stared into the laughing eyes of Julian Crane.

“I had every intention of sweeping you off your feet, my love - just not quite like this.” He laughed and then leaned down and kissed her astonished lips.