Little Girl Blue

October 3, 1970 -- Los Angeles

She wandered the streets, alone and lonely. A hoarse chuckle tickled her throat. Seemed like she'd spent her whole life...all twenty-seven years of it...mostly alone and lonely.

Only on stage did they truly open their arms to hold her close, showering her with the love she so desperately craved. It was a sexually-induced passion, a raw lust which radiated from both men and women, but that was fine by her. She'd never had any problem in admitting she liked it both ways. Only trouble was, when the show was over, they went home leaving her to her own devices...frustrated, drained and usually alone.

She poured out her heart, stripped her soul down to its bare skeleton and gave them everything she had to give. They snatched greedily at every emotion, using it for their own purposes but providing precious little in return. Still, she wouldn't have changed it for the world. For a while, it quenched the thirst and satiated the gnawing hunger.

Stumbling blindly...that last drink had done a number, even on her normally high tolerance for alcohol...she thought about Seth's proposal. She had accepted, of course, wallowing in a state of different and unexpected euphoria. She should be planning the wedding, composing her list of guests...and wondering whose nose she would rub in the wake of her glory with an invitation.

She took a mental inventory. The high school kids who had shunned her...the boy she had prayed would ask her to the Senior Prom, though he never did...and members of the student body at the University of Texas who had voted her "Ugliest Man on Campus."

She should be happy. She was determined to be happy. First, though, she would have to tell Seth the truth. The truth about New York...and about Jim.

It had been one of the biggest thrills of her life to meet him...and she'd sampled a few of the best that money had to buy. He'd responded to her adoration by pulling her hair and making her cry. In tears, she'd fled the party but he'd followed. Sticking his head into the car and yelling obscenities. Rolling up the window, she'd pinned him in the door and crowned him with a whiskey bottle. She still wasn't quite sure how they'd ended up in the back seat, sweating, groaning and rutting like pigs.

"Hey there, mamma," whispered a voice which interrupted her Southern Comfort reverie and brought her painfully back to the present.

She squinted at the bag of white powder dangling from between his thumb and forefinger. "Takes away the hurt, little mamma...makes everything all better."

She dug deep into the pocket of her jeans and hesitated as her hand curled around the roll of bills. Clean for almost five months now, the needle marks were gradually fading from her arms, and then there was the baby growing inside...dependent upon her choices...to consider.

"Maybe some other night, man," she told him, waving him away with her feather boa as she staggered across the street and into the Landmark Hotel.


New Years Eve, 1989 -- The Lakefront Arena, New Orleans

Pearl was nervous. She ran her fingers through her long, dark hair and inspected her appearance in the small mirror. The skin was smooth and flawless. Luckily, she had managed to escape the ravages of acne which had scarred the still pitted face of her mother.

Standing in the wings, she looked out over the audience. She'd never played to such a huge gathering before, having cut her teeth on the juke joints and smoke-filled roadhouses not far from the Sabine River. Like mother, like daughter. She only hoped she could live up to their expectations.

The roar was deafening as she hit the stage. Pearl searched for the beloved face she knew would be in the front row and waved her hands, signalling for silence.

"I'd like to sing this first number for someone very near and dear to my heart." She motioned for her mother to stand. Recognition was immediate. The frizzled mane was as unmanageable as ever, although now heavily peppered with grey, and the early years of constant booze and drugs had taken a hefty toll. But a "blues mama" was supposed to look the part and there was no mistaking the sardonic smile, the flamboyant dress, or the colorful plumes decorating the unruly hair.

Savoring once again the exhilaration of an electric atmosphere, she embraced the ear-splitting applause with open arms, blew a kiss, and then settled down comfortably in her seat. Later, she would appreciate the legacy of Jim's influence in Pearl's rendition of Light My Fire, but for now, she could see a little something of herself in the lovely girl whose presence dominated the stadium. This had always been one of her personal favorites.

"Busted flat in Baton Rouge..."

The Louisiana crowd went wild.

Janis Joplin

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