M.V. PET RSON’S 10th SP RIT AL SCIENCE ONFERENCE
A young girl, waist too thin for her curvy frame and a dress sense that suggested this wasn’t the only job she held down in Las Vegas, was pressing white plastic lettering onto a black pin conference board.
Voluptuous Vampirella, as her more intimate friends knew her, shook the box and tutted. “I’m missing letters!” She scrabbled inside the box. “I’m missing an R, a C, an I, another C, and I’m missing a U.”
“Missing you too, baby,” boomed a distorted voice over the conference tannoy.
“Go screw yourself,” she hollered back.
“Be seeing you on stage tonight, darling,” the speaker breathed, lasciviously.
“It’s double the price for you, sleazy old bastard,” she mumbled and stomped off leaving the sign unfinished.
Elvis Presley sang Suspicious Minds as the cheap wedding rings were passed between the happy couple.
The chapel organ reached a crescendo and rocked on a groove as The King of Rock and Roll acknowledged the absent crowd.
“Thank you very mush,” said Elvis. “Now kiss her like you mean it.”
They meant it.
“I now pronounce you, the man, an’ the beautiful bride.” Elvis signalled for the cassette tape to play and he blared out a chorus of Glory, Glory, Hallelujah.
The young newlyweds thought about laying their bodies down.
A palm tree rustled in the dry desert heat. Las Vegas was 104 degrees Fahrenheit and rising.
It was a glorious day for a glorious wedding; frozen lime margaritas for breakfast, running hand in hand down The Strip in open-necked shirts and short skirts, trying for luck at The Flamingo, a cheeky fuck in a stalled elevator at the Dunes, and then as the sun went down over the Nevada Desert, the happy couple had accosted two tourists of unknown origin to witness a blessing by the sweatiest ever King of Rock and Roll.
Everyone was wasted and the champagne flowed.
“That’s it. You’re married!” sang Elvis, excitedly. “Let’s get Chinese food!”
The King signalled for a drum roll. It came right on cue.
The happy couple collapsed into giggles.
“Now, a word of matrimonial advice from yours truly. You two have an incredible life, an’ you man; you look after your incredible wife. And when you two beautiful people have beautiful babies, just remember that Elvis Aaron Presley said, think with your heart and that “Elvis” is a wonderful start. You catch my drift?”
“Thank you, Elvis Aaron Presley,” said Sarah. She kissed him on a sweaty cheek.
“If it’s a girl then you can call her Priscilla.” Elvis blushed behind his star-spangled sunglasses.
The honeymoon suite at The El Rancho Hotel & Casino wasn’t quite the luxurious penthouse that the two had imagined.
It had a balcony that overlooked the car park, a television set powered by loose change − twenty cents for twenty minutes − and a bathtub that not only needed a clean, but also a plug.
The bed, however, was huge, soft, and all that was on the couple’s mind.
The sound of the chapel organ still whirled in their ears.
Sarah was lying on her front, grinning through the warmth of a post-sex heat haze.
Mike traced a finger down her slender, naked body and then carefully placed his glass of frozen lime margarita on her arse.
“That’s bloody freezing!” she shrieked, pushing him off the bed.
He necked the rest of his drink and hurled it across the hotel suite. It smashed into the wall and they laughed with reckless irresponsibility.
“Another margarita, Mrs… Hey, what are we going to call ourselves?”
She rolled over and kissed him deeply. “Hmm,” she replied, sleepily. “I got it, Mr and Mrs Vegas.”
He lit up a joint, took a toke, and handed her the rest.
“No, wait,” she said, excitedly. “Mr and Mrs − Doctor Vegas.” She laughed. “That doesn’t sound right. I’m a bit drunk.”
He smiled. “It’s perfect. Dr Vegas it is.”
“Thank you spiritual science, whatever you are.” She reached for the room service menu. “Club sandwiches?”
“I like to think that it was the universe that brought us together,” he mumbled and pulled a toke on the joint.
She kissed him on the cheek as a reward. “Club sandwiches and red wine,” she hummed, contentedly. “A wedding feast.”
He rolled over and picked up the phone to dial room service.
She threw herself on him before he could place the order.
Mike wrapped a towel around his waist just in time to answer the door. They sat on the bed, naked, eating fries and sandwiches, swooning in the thrill of elopement.
“I have lost all concept of time,” he said as he pulled the curtain to reveal Las Vegas in a comatose slumber.
A pink neon Vacancy sign anticipated the sunrise.
“It’s not even dawn.”
“What happens at dawn?” she asked with mock suspense.
“I turn into Michael Jackson and dance the Thriller.”
“Hah! Maybe I turn into Olivia Newton-John?”
“I’d like that.”
“I bet you would,” she pushed him away.
He threw back a pillow.
She caught it and hurled it in his face.
“Easy now, Olivia.”
“Don’t tell me to get physical or I’ll divorce you on the spot,” she laughed.
“I wouldn’t dare,” he said, reaching for the fries.
They were silent until Sarah opened up the conversation that they had both been avoiding.
“It’s going to be ok, isn’t it?” she asked, eating a French fry to keep it casual.
He poured himself another large glass of wine and breathed out. “Honestly?”
“We’re married now, so you have to tell me the truth.”
“We should have cancelled the tour. We should have found someone else.”
“I was thinking about papa, not her.”
“Your dad knows what he’s doing. He’s been through all of this before.”
“I suppose you’re right.” Sarah took a drink.
He immediately topped up her glass without asking. “Have you noticed how much she’s changed since New York?” he asked.
“Let’s agree to never call her that.”
“That’s her name.”
“That’s definitely not her name.” He laughed and stared out of the window at the rising glow of the sunrise. “She’s getting worse. It’s like she doesn’t quite come back, you know, after each trip?”
Sarah used the soft pillow to cover her body and listened. She knew that he was anxious, but they had been so busy preparing for the conference that they hadn’t discussed it.
The avoidance tactics had been a little too successful.
When the weekend had finally arrived, the stress found itself an unexpected release and exploded into a fit of passion the moment work was complete.
She hadn’t expected to be sitting, naked in the lotus position, eating club sandwiches in a cheap hotel room at four in the morning after a shot-gun wedding.
Then again, she hadn’t expected to meet Mike.
“She can handle herself,” she said.
“I don’t like the way they’re pushing her.”
“They?” Sarah sat upright. “Is this because of the new guy?”
Mike put down his wine glass and sat on the edge of the bed.
The intimacy was over.
“Don’t you think it’s strange that we get this far with the project and then he turns up? Your father takes him in, just like that?”
“He’s here because he’s an expert, and he has money.”
“I know we need the funding, I get that, but there are limits, Sarah. He’s convincing your father to accelerate the program much faster than we should. It’s exploitation.”
“She’s hardly being kept against her will, Michael.”
“Sounds like something your papa would say.”
“Isn’t that what people want? Why we’re here in Vegas, for a show?” She took a bite of the club sandwich and spoke with her mouth full. “Tadashi? He’s just enthusiastic.”
“Why are you defending him all of a sudden?”
She re-positioned herself on the bed. “Are we about to have our first argument?”
Mike laughed and pretended to look at an invisible watch on his wrist. “We managed, what, three hours?”
“Well, it was good while it lasted, Doctor Vegas,” she said.
“It was the best, Mrs Vegas,” he replied, catching the smile in her eyes.
She touched his arm and they pushed the tray of food to the floor.