Belinda, my manager, handed me an ice-cold bottle and I chugged it down. Ninety minutes of singing and shaking what I’ve got under those lights and I was completely drained. I’ve never had a drug or another experience that comes close to capturing what I feel on stage. It’s like a different life up there. It’s transformative. I’m not Charlotte, a woman fighting a losing battle against aging; I’m the rock-star, a conduit for the energy the fans shower upon me.

I return everything they give me and add in every ounce of who I am. When I’m out there I feel alive and finally at home, like the rest of my life was spent sleepwalking but on stage, I was awake and doing what I was born to do.

The wave of that near euphoria carried me over to the meet-and-greet. For many of the fans that got a pass, it was a lifetime experience. I did my best to honor that. Yeah, I did this day in and day out, but this would be their only opportunity to meet me, someone who’d they’d been supporting for decades. They deserved my best and I gave it to them.

Belinda made sure that passes were color-coded. Contest winners were the casual fans. Nothing wrong with that, but they got a minute or two and a picture. The once-in-a-lifetime fans got more of my time and Belinda made sure she had a box behind the table with merch. I made an effort with all of them, but if I clicked with someone, I signed a shirt or a hat or recorded their outgoing message on their cell phone. They usually know someone who knows someone or they pay crazy prices to get a pass from a contest winner.

I was planting a kiss on the cheek of one of them for a photo when I spotted Billy and Joanne. I gave them a wave and a wink from across the room. They’d hung back and were eating from the small buffet as they let the first-timers enjoy their moment. They were from the third group, my favorite.

I’d been performing for over thirty years and Mike had started my fan club more than a quarter-century ago. Every show in every town had at least one person I’d met many, many times over the years. They were more friends than fans and they’d often bring baked goods and photos of their kids. I’d known some of them for almost half my life.

When Belinda escorted everyone else out, Billy and Joanne came over. I hugged each of them.

With narrowed eyes, I looked at their empty hands. “Okay, c’mon, where is it?”

They laughed and Billy walked over and grabbed a cooler from under a table. If there is one thing that my die-hards wanted to do, it was to share a part of who they were with me. That usually came in the form of food. People were invariably proud of at least one place in their town that had a unique dish or they made me something from an old family recipe.

My eyes widened in anticipation. “There it is!”

Joanne opened the cooler and pulled out the cioppino she’d made and the sourdough bread from Boudin Bakery on Fisherman’s Wharf. Taking the lid off the seafood stew I nearly swooned as the aroma hit me.

We sat and talked for almost an hour as they caught me up on their lives. They were two of only five people who knew I frequented my fan forum as AlohaGirl34. It was a private forum with zealous admins. You had to be the most die-hard of fans to even know it existed. We kept up with each other’s lives and shared tragedies and triumphs.

I was insanely lucky. My career had exceeded any reasonable expectations. As much as I griped, Belinda was competent and kept things rolling and my fans were the sweetest, most loyal in the business.

Within an hour of their heading home, I’d showered and was in my room backstage with the professor as he looked over his notes and then up to me.

“So, what about the billboard with the eyeglasses? Was that just filler or did it mean anything?”

I liked the way he spoke to me, as if we were just having a conversation. He was cute, too. I’d always had a thing for the preppy, brainy types. If he wasn’t twenty years younger than me and we weren’t moving on to another city in two days, I’d consider jumping his bones. At 52 I was past that one-night fling stage. The way he pushed his long hair back and looked at me with those grey eyes had me rethinking that policy.

Smiling, I put down my notes. “I don’t think Fitzgerald ever had anything that was just filler. The glasses represented society looking down their nose at the decadence of the twenties. Like a Greek chorus, it’s the moral voice of the people.”

He smiled back and those dimples killed me. I was sure he was a hit with all the coeds he taught. “And you disagree with their moralizing?”

“I do. They’re only condemning the lifestyles because they can’t participate.”

“Interesting, Charlotte. Let’s go a bit deeper. What if it’s not just some prigs looking down on the social elite? What if eyeglasses represent logic and sobriety and post-war sensibilities while the Roaring Twenties and the opulent Long Island gold coast represents heat and passion? What if it’s a Dionysian and Apollonian duality?”


There was a firm knocking on my door. Sighing, I rolled my eyes. I’d never gone to college; I was too busy being a rock star. After thirty-six years in the business, I had enough clout and money to indulge myself. I’d gone through pretty much every vice possible and was almost terminally bored. I’d decided that I’d get the education that I’d missed, but do it my way. My rider had a stipulation that a professor be brought in for two hours after every concert. The venue would be notified of the field of expertise three weeks in advance.

I called out. “Go away!”

Turning to Professor Hottie, I apologized. “Sorry. It’s the fiftieth show of the tour and the crew’s having a party. I got some food trucks to come in and everyone’s having a good time. They probably want me to make a speech or something. We’re here tomorrow too, so we don’t have to break down right away. Apollo and Dionysus. You think–”

There was more knocking.

This was ridiculous. “I’ll be out in a bit. Give me thirty minutes!”

The voice was muffled as Belinda spoke through the door. “Charlotte, it’s some cops.”

She sounded nervous. I yearned for the days when it was Mike handling things and making cops nervous about me instead of Belinda jumping at her own shadow.

I smiled again at the professor and put down my tea. “This is embarrassing. Give me two minutes.”

In sweats, slippers, and an oversized hoodie, I was sure that I wasn’t what any cops were expecting. I looked more like some eccentric aunt than a rock legend. Pulling open my door I saw four uniformed cops, a woman whose look screamed ‘government bureaucrat’ and my for-now manager.

“What can I do for you?”

The woman spoke. “This sounds silly, but I need to see some ID.”

“Listen, the crew is just pent-up and a little stir crazy. Did something happen in town? I’ll cover any costs and absolutely have them shut things down.”

“Ms. Kahale, it’s nothing like that. I really do need to see some ID.”

“Yeah, two minutes.” I went back into my room and grabbed my purse. “Driver’s license good?”


After I showed it to her, she asked if she could step inside. Lamenting the loss of great literature and amazing dimples, I waved her in.

“Ms. Kahale, I’m very sorry to have to tell you that your brother Brian and his wife were in a car accident three days ago. They didn’t make it. Your nephew wasn’t in the vehicle, but their will left no provisions for his custody.”

I couldn’t process what she was saying. “What?”

“I’m terribly sorry. The young man is fine, but I’m with CPS and there are no other relatives. Since you were within driving distance, I thought I would come in person.”

She wasn’t making any sense. Brian couldn’t be dead. “No… He… Brian’s just a kid. He…” I smiled. Why did I smile? “This has to be a mistake. He’s the baby. You’re wrong. This is all a big mistake.”

He wasn’t a kid. My mind knew that, but in my heart, he was always the baby of the family. Brian had to be at least forty by now, but he was fine. He had to be. My little brother was all I had left. Belinda must have said something that I missed because the professor, the woman, and the cops left the room as she held me.

I clung to her and my desperate hope that this was some sick nightmare.

We sat together for hours and I told her all my stories. Brian had been the baby of the family and the only one of us that was normal. My oldest brother had been in the military and then worked private security for celebrities. Mike served with him in the army before helping me start my career. Our sister had owned a little restaurant that catered to surfers but made money by being noted for its authentic Hawaiian food in travel guides. The tourists had no idea that she’d paid off the writers. Our other brother had been a cop who had worked vice.

They’d all passed, leaving me and Brian, our parents “oops” baby. He’d been an accountant. A freaking accountant. How could I have outlived them all? Brian had been four when I started my career and I treated him like a toy instead of a human being. I’d pop in and out of his life with presents and a hug and otherwise ignore him. My own flesh and blood, and I’d ignored him.

We were nearly two bottles of wine and endless tears in when Belinda turned to me.

“Didn’t the woman say something about a nephew and custody?”

I was just so damned tired. There was an urge to lie down and pull the covers over my head and pretend that none of this was real, but it was. My parents were gone. My siblings were gone. Somewhere out there was a nephew who’d lost his parents.

“Yeah. Get Mike on the phone.”

“You sure? I can–”

“No, you can’t. Get Mike.”

“Okay.” There was a hint of resentment in her voice.

Mike hadn’t been my manager in decades and Belinda clearly thought that if I was turning to someone to get shit done, it should be her. He’d been my first manager and had taken me from playing high schools in Hawaii to selling out stadiums across the world. Mike had retired ages ago and she thought he was a dinosaur. She didn’t realize that some dinosaurs had really big teeth.

I needed someone with more bite than bark, and besides, Mike was the closest thing I had left to a brother.

Belinda stepped out of my room and was back in five minutes with some food and hot chocolate.

“He’s waiting for your call.”

I patted my pockets and looked around the room. Belinda shook her head. “Here.” She tossed me my phone, which had been on the stand next to the bathroom.

“Thanks.” She stood there. “Can you give me a few minutes?”

“Yeah, of course.” The door closed behind her with a resounding thud.

Mike picked up on the first ring.

“Hey, Jollo, don’t do that shit again, okay?”

When Mike had come to Hawaii from the army to stay with my older brother he called me Charlo. Brian pronounced it Jollo and it stuck. It had bothered me for a while but now I wouldn’t change it for the world.


“Seriously, Belinda does good by you. Don’t have her doing that bullshit ‘Are you available for a phone call from Ms. Kahale’ shit. Just pick up the phone and call.”


He was quiet for a moment, probably hearing the despair in my voice. “Jollo, what’s wrong?”

“Brian, he… God, Mike. He was in an accident. He’s gone.”

There was a sudden intake of breath. “When?”

“I think they said three days ago.”

“His wife? The kid?”

“The kid’s fine, I think. He wasn’t in the car. Brian and Samantha didn’t make it.”

“Okay, let me get started. Where are you now? I’ll reach out about arrangements for Brian and get you a flight to Cali.”

“I’m here. In Frisco.”

“He was in Davis, right? Did you see him?”

“No… Mike, he was what, seventy miles away? Eighty? I was planning on calling him tomorrow, but I probably would have blown that off and convinced myself that he’d be too busy and I’d catch him next time. What the hell sort of sister am I?”

“Don’t be thinking like that. Hang out with the crew tonight. Make Belinda stay with you until you fall asleep. Have her call me. Cancel your next few shows. I’m gonna hop on a plane and see what I can find out.”

“No, Mike, you don’t have to–”

“Don’t give me that shit, Jollo. I knew Brian for thirty-five years. I’ll be on the first flight.”



“Love you.”

“I love you too, kid. Try to get some sleep.”


Belinda had wanted to book me in the Ritz-Carlton, but I preferred staying in my touring bus with my things around me and in my bed. I woke twice and forced myself back to sleep so I wouldn’t have to deal with reality. My bladder finally forced me up. Belinda had my coffee and two slices of cinnamon raisin toast.

Taking my breakfast back to bed, I pulled out my laptop and logged in to the forum. I had three private messages waiting. I answered them and scanned the subforums. The members shared most of their lives with each other. We took up collections to send baby stuff to new mothers. There were fantasy baseball and football leagues just for members. One member had a grandson who was in prison and had a little prayer group going on. We were like an extended distant family.

I typed and erased what I had three times before trying again. This time I kept it simple.

I found out that my brother and sister-in-law died last night. Sorry. They died before that. I think three days ago. I found out last night. I’d appreciate any prayers or good thoughts. He was a good man and a dad. I may be offline for a while.

Sighing, I closed the laptop. It was odd to think that I felt better, but I did. At least marginally. They knew me only as AlohaGirl34, and I preferred that. I was just another member of the community. After showering and changing, I found Belinda near the front of the bus.

“What’s going on?”

She pushed her glasses up higher on her nose. “I canceled tonight’s show and told the venue manager that we might have to cancel tomorrow.”

“How did he take it?”

“Well. Your reputation stands you in good stead.”

Who the hell uses phrases like ‘good stead’? “Yeah, okay.”

I was known for not missing shows, ever. I’d broken my leg once and played that night on a stool.

“Reach out to everyone from the Fan Club that had tickets through our site and send my apologies. Figure something out for them. Maybe closeouts from our concert tees. What else?”

She raised an eyebrow. “He’s here.”


“Yes, Mike.”

I felt a little better just knowing he was around. Opening the door, I headed down the three steps and saw him standing about ten feet away. He was holding a birch beer in one hand and had his phone glued to his ear with the other. As always, he looked like a haole extra from Hawaii 5-0 with sandals, khaki shorts, and a red floral-print shirt that was ugly as hell and twice as loud.

“Hey, Mike. Glad you’re here. Where’s your better half?”

He hung up before answering. “Wrapping stuff up at home. She’s flying in tonight. You okay?”

“No. I’m not okay. I’m pretty far from okay.”

He nodded, walked over, and pulled me into a hug. “I’m sorry, Jollo. It sucks. He was a good kid. I pulled some stuff together. You ready to get going?”


Turning around, I headed back onto the bus, but Belinda met me and handed me an overnight bag. After grunting a thanks, I headed back out. Mike and I were on I-80 talking about anything but Brian. After we ran out of things to talk about, I finally asked him what he’d set up.

“Found Brian’s church on his Facebook page and reached out to his pastor. Viewing tonight, funeral tomorrow. I upgraded everything. Coffins, plots, got food coming in for a reception at the church. Hired some musicians. Some Town Cars to take us to and from. Found a travel agent who reserved thirty seats on Alaskan Airlines and made a few calls. Friends are coming in from Kahului. All the seats are taken. They’ll be here by 4:45.”

I stared at him for a minute. “What are you, a fucking machine?”

He shrugged. “I get things done. Speaking of that, so does Belinda. You need to cut her some slack.”

“She’s fine.”

“She’s better than fine. That woman’s been working for you forever, and she does a damned good job.”

“She’s…” not you. I couldn’t verbalize that last part. There was never anything romantic between the two of us, but I idolized Mike when I was younger and probably still did.

He shrugged. “Yeah, just, I don’t know. Buy her something nice or give her a raise once in a while. You’re not the easiest person to get along with.”

After a while, I looked around. “Where are we going? Hotel?”

“Yeah, why?”

I sighed. “Mike, I’ve never even been to his house.”

“You wanna?”

“No, absolutely not. How have I never been to my brother’s house? Whenever we saw each other, it was at a hotel I was staying at on tour.”

“You don’t have a normal life. Whaddya want me to say? I know he loved you. Don’t think he didn’t, not for a minute. What you need to be doing is figuring out what you’re going to do about Daniel.”

I nodded while staring out my window. Daniel. My nephew. My flesh and blood.


We sat at a diner across the street from the funeral home. I’d have to make an appearance sooner or later, but I was dreading seeing old acquaintances from Hawaii. It didn’t make any sense, but somewhere deep inside of me I was sure that they would know I was a fraud. I was still just Charlotte, the little kid that would run around chasing my brothers and singing into my hairbrush that doubled as a microphone.

Gold records, platinum records, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, sold-out concerts were all nothing. They’d see right through me and realize that I’d been playing a role for the past four decades and was still pretending to be someone else so I could drown out my mother’s voice telling me that I was worthless and how she regretted my being born.

Most of all, I couldn’t muster the strength to walk across the street and explain to my nephew who I was and why I’d been a stranger to my own brother.

Mike checked his watch. “It’s about that time.”

“Yeah, I’m just going to order some more fries.”

“Jollo, you have a plate of fries in front of you.”

“They’re cold.”

“The next plate’ll get cold, too. C’mon. I’ll be right next to you. Things get dicey, I’ll tell everyone we have to get to the airport to pick up Haliaka.”

Letting out a breath, I nodded. “Thanks.”

“Not a problem.”

“I mean… for everything.”

“Yeah, I’m glad I can be here. For both of you. He was family, you know? You too.”

“Okay. I guess I’m ready. What do I owe you for the plane tickets and the service?”

“Get out of here with that shit. I just told you he was my brother.”

I was going to argue until I saw the look in his eyes. Fuck it. He probably had more money than I did. I’d reach out and get some friends to use his studio, but they had no problems getting the biggest acts in the country recording there. He worked with a few rehab centers. Maybe I’d make a donation.

“Hey, that kid you had working for you, the one with the stick-figure animations, he’s a good kid, right?”

“Gus? Yeah. Definitely.”

If Mike liked the kid maybe that was a way to pay him back. “Could he use some more business?”

He paused for a second. “Yeah, he definitely can.”

“Alright. I need, I don’t know, ten more of the animations. Tell him I’ll pay top dollar. A few for crew members, a few for friends.”

“Want one for Daniel?”

I thought about what he was suggesting. An animation of my brother’s life, Samantha and Daniel playing supporting roles. Not able to speak, I shook my head. I wasn’t ready for that.

We slid out of the booth and Mike left a twenty for the waitress. I paid for our meal at the register and flipped up the hood on my sweat-jacket as we exited. This wasn’t a concert, it was a visiting before a funeral and I was an embarrassment. I just wanted to fade into the background and not be the fifty-three-year-old woman with blue hair that everyone stares at.