"In olden days, a glimpse of stocking
Was looked on as something shocking.
But now, God knows,
Good authors too who once knew better words
Now only use four-letter words
If driving fast cars you like,
If low bars you like,
If old hymns you like,
If bare limbs you like,
If Mae West you like,
Or me undressed you like,
Why, nobody will oppose.
When ev'ry night the set that's smart is in-
Truding in nudist parties in
~ 'Anything Goes' by Cole Porter (1934)
If anyone had told Vejita what events were about to take place, a sound laugh is what they would receive. But then some things are simply written in the stars...
His brow furrowed in quiet contemplation. He turned this way and that, cradling his body in a fetal position. Suddenly, he gave a rough sigh and sat up. His head bumped the low-lying ceiling. He glared up at it and grit his teeth. Rubbing the tender spot on his head, he swung his feet off the cot. He walked bent over to avoid another collision. The voice only drifted from below in a low murmur, but that racket was keeping him from some much needed sleep. He scowled and stood up straight as the ceiling arched up at the staircase landing.
He adjusted the low slacks around his trim waist. The time in the army had been good to him; turning a scrawny little farm boy into a man... what was soon forgotten: pleasant memories; other things burned into the mind... are harder to erase.
He didn't bother throwing on a shirt as he leisurely made his way down the stairs. He squinted as the bright light from the bulb hit his eyes. A large figure sat huddled at the table under the store front window.
"Bejeezus, Goku, what are you still doing up, cat?" he growled, scratching the back of his mussed bush of hair. The figure at the table suddenly split in two. Vejita, reaching for a glass above the bar, did a double-take and blinked. "Goku?"
The tall, slightly built man quickly scraped his chair back from the table, grinning sheepishly. "Uh..." His eyes darted around nervously and he wound his large hands around the back of his head. Vejita smirked.
"What? Cat got your tongue?" he asked as he poured himself a glass from the caraff of orange juice. There was a slight cough and the other figure shifted from its place by the window, moving into the light of the small chandelier. She smiled coyly and wiped the edges of her mouth with her gloved hand.
"No, I did actually." Vejita about let the glass slip from his fingers. A petite young woman sat perkily on the chair, legs crossed along her thighs. She had luminous golden curls falling gently down the side of her face, cut short just at her chin. The apples of her cheeks were smeered with rouge, pink like the flesh of a peach. With small, plush lips, she gave a sweet smile.
"Why, Goku darling, you didn't tell me you had such handsome friends!" Vejita blushed and nervously drained his glass of juice, setting it back on the bar. It was then he noticed his state of undressed.
"Err... I-uh..." he stuttered. She laughed lightly, like the tinkling of bells. Goku grinned and pulled his jacket off the back of the chair and threw it to his friend. Vejita shrugged into the large tweed jacket, the rough texture itching his skin.
"Vejita, this is my uh...friend, Violet. Violet, this is Vejita. He rents the apartment up top," Goku said, still grinning at Vejita's embarassment. Violet pursed her cherry lips and flashed a pouty smile. She held out a dainty hand for his.
"It's a pleasure, I'm sure," she purred. Vejita nodded, swallowing the lump in his throat. He took her hand shakily.
"Yeah. It's nice to meet you too, Violet." Violet squealed something girly and vicious. She clasped her hands together.
"Oooh, ain't he a peach? A real sheik, Goku. Where have you been hiding him?"
"Aww, Vejita? He's been around," Kakarotto replied, rubbing the back of his head sheepishly. Violet leaned over, looping her arm through his.
"That so?" She turned her flashing green eyes from the doting Goku to the newcomer. "Well we must take him to The Blue Note. We'll have such a whoopee time!" she giggled, cuddling closer to Goku. "What do you say, baby?"
"I dunno, Vy," Goku began. She playfully punched his arm.
"You're just playing a flat tire). He's just sour 'cause he's a regular heeler," she said, winking at Vejita.
"What, Goku, you got two left feet?" Vejita commented, smirking. Goku shifted uncomfortably, unable to shake Violet's grip on his arm.
"Nah... I just can't get the beat down, that's all." Violet gave a tiny laugh.
"Well, we'll just have to fix that, right, Vejita?" she said looking straight at him.
"Right," he said with a definitive nod, looking at Goku with a twinkle in his eye.
"Tomorrow night," she said decisively. "We'll hit The Blue Note. We'll have a copacetic time, the three of us!" Goku nodded unsurely.
"Well, I suppose I can. But I got Church in the morning," Vejita said. Violet looked at him with wide eyes.
"A regular straight fella, ain't you?" she replied in awe. "Well," she began with an amused smile, "after pledging your soul to the Lord, we'll just have to turn you loose and get completely ossified." Vejita grinned.
"Will do, Violet." She released Goku's arms, clasping her hands in her lap.
"C'mon, Vejita, let's teach Goku a thing or two about dancin'. I bet you're a regular Oliver Twist." Vejita blushed and stood up as Violet did so, moving to turn on the radio. First static, then the clear tinkling of a piano note, floated from the old radio. She tapped her high-heeled pumps on the wooden floor. "I like that," she said with a slow smile. She spun around and held her arms out in front of her. "C'mon, cat, show me how it's done!" Vejita smirked and stepped forward.
It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing!
Violet pushed her golden curls behind her ears. "Sing it to me, Ella!" *
Do wop Do wop Do wop Do wop Do wop Do wop!
Vejita took her hands in his and proceeded to step back and forth, left to right, crossing his forward foot behind the opposite ankle every other time. *
It don't mean a thing, all you gotta do is sing!
Do wop Do wop Do wop Do wop Do wop Do wop!
Then he spun her around, spinning her back again to rest with her back to his chest. They did a few steps in this position before he spun her out out again. Goku perked up in his seat.
"Hey, Vejita! You're pretty swell!" Vejita smirked and Violet looked over her shoulder at her man.
"You watching, baby? This one's for you," she giggled as she twirled herself around Vejita and he steadied her with his arms; her flapper skirt spun around her like the petals of a flower.
It makes no diff'rence if it's sweet or hot! Just give that rhythm ev'rything you got!
What good is melody, what good is music, if it ain't possessin' something sweet?
It ain't the melody, it ain't the music
There's something else that makes the tune complete.
It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing...
Goku sat back in his chair and howled with laughter as Violet squealed; Vejita wrapped his arms around her waist and spun her in the air and he circled the main diner floor. He collapsed soon, dizzy, with Violet lying right next to him. Goku, laughing so hard, stumbled over to dump himself on the floor right above them. Violet caught her breath.
"Well, I really must be going, fellas," she said while collecting herself and rising to her feet. "G'night!" she said with a wink.
"Don't you mean 'Good morning,' " countered Vejita, motioning toward the front window. She looked out and gasped. The sun had just begun its ascent into the sky and was just peeking over the horizon, painting the sky a brilliant gold.
"How---oh! It's lovely!" Both Vejita and Goku nodded in agreement.
"That it is,"Vejita murmured. 'Life just can't get better than this,' he told himself. But Fate would make him bite his tongue.
"Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned."
"How long has it been, child, since your last confession?"
"Too long... and much has happened. I am surely tarnished in our Lordís eyes." The priest clucked his tongue, rearranging his rosary beads around his fragile hands.
"Now you know, our Lord and Savior has nothing but love and mercy to bestow upon His children, no matter their shortcomings."
"I have known you a long time, little lamb, what ever it is you have done you have my pardon. Now, be gone with you, time is short on this earthly plane and I have more souls to save," he chuckled drily. The woman behind the blinded screen drew in her breath sharply. A pale hand grasped at the wooden frame of the screen.
"No, Father, you donít understand. Last week, IĖI murdered a man."
Bulma Briefs stepped out of the booth, smoothing the creases in her dress. With a lacey kerchief, she dabbed lightly at her eyes, nodding to a few other patrons who had just entered the church. She forced a smile on her lips. She walked along the back row of pews to the center aisle while pulling the white satin glove off her right hand. She dipped the tips of her fingers into the porcelain bowl set on the pedestal. Quickly kneeling to the floor, she made the sign of the cross. Rising slowly from her knees, she walked down the aisle with head bowed. She slipped into a row, clutching her hands in her lap.
"Forgive me, My Lord, for I have sinned greatly. May Your Will be merciful upon my soul..." she whispered. Blinking rapidly, Bulma tried to force back her tears. "Darn it," she muttered as she fumbled in her purse for her kerchief. "Where did I put that..."
"Is someone sitting here?" a man asked. Bulma shook her head causing a bobby pin to spring loose and a lock of her golden blue hair tumbled in front of her face. She growled.
"How insufferable!" The person sat down next to her and chuckled deeply.
"Life?" he asked.
"Life indeed!" she declared, sniffing loudly. Suddenly, a large white handkerchief was produced before her eyes. She quickly grabbed it. "Thank you," she said, raising her eyes to the stranger. A young man, no older than she, stared back at herĖwith eyes of everlasting night. "Thank you," she repeated. A tear secretly escaped her eye to run a course down her cheek. He brushed it away with a careless smile.
"Youíre very welcome," the stranger replied. Bulma pulled her face back, blushing, and dabbed at her eyes with the kerchief. "Does he make you that happy?" the man asked.
"Who?" Bulma asked, disconcerted. He saw the look of puzzlement on her face and motioned towards the alter.
"God. Does he make you that happy that you cry?" he asked. Bulmaís face softened.
"I wish that it were just that." She sighed.
"Again, life," the man said, sighing himself. Bulma cracked a smile and laughed. "So then, why are you here? This ainít exactly the berries." Bulma nodded lowly, turning her face to the larger-than-life embodiment of their Lord... their Savior. The one who had died for all mankindís sins.
"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us for our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." The man nodded in turn.
"John 1:9. He forgives you, you know?" he said, turning to face her. Bulma shook her head.
"What I have done... I canít look at myself ever again." He lifted her face so she was staring straight at him.
"I could look at you for the rest of my days." Bulma tried to turn her head away but he held fast to her chin. "John also says, "For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. And that means," he said more fervently, lowering his head, "that I shall look at you forever." Bulma blinked and her eyelashes brushed against the rough texture of his skin. Her chest rattled with fear and tremored with each breath she took.
"T-that's just a line. I may... seem gullible. But I ain't a dumb Dora," she said hotly, pulling away.
"Is everything all right, Bulma?" She whirled around in her seat. Her eyes darted anxiously around. Several patrons in their pews had turned to view the disturbance. Bulma nodded briskly to the matronly woman standing at the foot of the row.
"Yes, Sister Mary Catherine. Everything is fine. In fact, I think I am ready to leave now," she said curtly, standing up, upsetting the pew. She tripped over the man's feet, stumbling into the center aisle. Almost falling, she grabbed Sister Mary Catherine's habit. The Sister held Bulma as she straightened herself up. She searched the ground for her clutch purse. Looking up, the man held it out in front of him, staring at her with sorrow-filled eyes. She avoided meeting his gaze as she snatched her purse, begged pardon from the Sister and strutted out of the Church.
Vejita sighed heavily and slouched back in the pew. "Women," he muttered darkly. The Sister Mary Catherine smiled benignly down on him.
"And what is our crime, young man?" Vejita instantly sat up in his seat. His cheeks flushed with embarassment.
"I uh... Well, I-maybe I'm just no good at giving compliments. I shouldn't have said those things anyway." The Sister smiled warmly and motioned for him to move along the pew to allow her room to sit. The Sister, wide in girth, made the pew squeak as her weight settled on the polished old wood.
"Maybe she isn't good at taking compliments. Women of these days are not well versed in that area, I've noticed."
"That so?" Vejita asked as he watched the older woman fan her flushed face.
"I have found the general manner of things in this day to be quite disturbing."
"I think so too, Sister."
"You seem to be a well-bred young man. Where are you from? Certainly not from around here."
"Iowa," he said, looking down to examine his shoes.
"Ah... a real gentleman. And what will you tell our lovely Bulma when next you meet?" she asked with wide eyes.
"I don't know if I'll ever see her again. The city is a big place," he said quietly.
"Not if two hearts are meant to find each other. Once a great man told me, 'it matters not if someone looks within or without themselves. It does not matter where they or how, at all. It only matters that they are opening their heart to love.' " Vejita gave her a sideglance, scowling.
"I don't know if I feel THAT much for her."
"But you feel something, don't you?"
"What does God say about love?" Vejita asked, raising his head to take in the majesty of the walls of stained glass murals.
"People think that in a House of God, His word is more divine than life itself." She paused, sliding her tongue over her lips. "All I have are the words of an aged woman who has seen life pass her by."
"That's good enough for me," Vejita said, the corner of his mouth turning up in a boyish smile.
"That's it?" he asked, turning his head to look at the Sister. Damp rays of daylight fell from the stained glass window, echoing through the air speckled with dust. Then, the Sister did not look so old, so worn and weathered by time. Her wrinkles melted into the sunlight. The crows feet and laughlines disappeared into smooth porcelain skin. Her gray-green eyes twinkled, laughing with a happy spirit, framed by wild wisps of faded ginger red hair, retreating into the prudish habit (nun's uniform). Her face melded into youth, becoming the girl she had once been when she had made her vows. Sister Mary Catherine smiled benevolently. Vejita felt the warmth of her love. 'Does God love like that?'
"True devotion is the love flowing from a pure heart, unpolluted by selfish motives, earthly desires." She shifted to face the alter with its towering cherry wood crucifixion. "I have the Lord's work to do now, son. Be gone with you."
Vejita trotted through the large church entrance, glancing around with no signs of the young woman with the magnificent sapphire blue eyes, and lustrous hair of ocean azure that hung freely around her shoulders. 'Like a halo to an angel...' Vejita shook his head. He would probably never see her again anyway. He shoved his hands into his pockets. Starting off on 7th Street, he ambled on towards Main where he would hop the trolley to the Harbor. Goku would no doubt be cramming his jowl full of food. Vejita scowled, but a slight smile tugged at his lips. He tried to keep his mind on other things: the work schedule for the week down at the Harbor; his rent was coming up at Radditz's place; the night of fun ahead of him with his friends... but try as he might, he couldn't get past them... those damn eyes, those damn bewitching eyes... of blue like the clearest summer day.
"And where have you been, Bulma?" She froze just past the threshold, turning around slowly.
"Hello, Corsetia." Bulma stood her ground, defiant, only an armslength away from the other woman: her golden fawn curls piled high on the crown of her head, with her hard, hazel eyes, and prominent lines of her face, an attestment to her Italian heritage.
"Your father's been calling for you again, Bulma," the woman said coolly.
"I'll go to him then," she said quietly, inclining her head in parting.
"Now's not the time to go cavorting around the town like some drugstore cowgirl... not caring an inch about her family." Bulma's muscles twitched and she pursed her lips into a tight line.
"I was out at the Church. Praying for..." The blonde woman folded her arms across her chest.
"What's done is done, Bulma. Selfish is the person who wallows in self-pity and despair." Bulma swallowed the knot in her throat and nodded. "Now, go see your father, girl." Bulma turned once more to leave the foyer. "Supper will be on the table in a few hours. I'll send it up."
"Bulma, it's been five years. When are you going to start calling me Mother?"
Bulma adusted her clutch purse underneath her arm, staring up the narrow expanse of stairs. She made nary a sound as she ascended the old wooden staircase with its elaborately carved bannister and elegant runner carpeting. Her breath came in shallow gasps as she kept going forward-- half from fear, half from avoiding the scent in the air-- the scent of death.
Bulma looked up from her feet timidly. Yamucha stood, stoic, at the foot of the stairs, nodding to her.
"He was asking for you, Miss Briefs." Bulma gave him a tight-lipped smile.
"Thank you, Yamucha." He placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder. "You'll let me know...when Mr. King comes?" she said, staring stonily in front of her.
"Of course, Miss Briefs." She passed by him into the main hallway. The wall sconces were dimmed, and little light glowed in the corridors. There was no one around; she expected it to be so. 'So typical...' Bulma's face dropped in sorrow. She brushed her knuckles lightly on the last door down the hallway. The door eased open with the slight pressure. Bulma followed the intricate pattern and weave of the oriental rug as it stretched before her, placing one foot before the other. Her knees bumped the bed. The covers shifted slightly but her head remained bowed--trained on the exquisite quilted duvet cover. She traced the elegant stitching his one finger.
"Not even gonna look at your old man?" Bulma slowly raised her eyes to head of the bed. A shadowy figure lay shrouded by the dense canopy. "It's too dark in here," he coughed. "Open the drapes," he ordered. Bulma walked submissively over to the large picture window and drew the drapes, tying them back with cords. "Where have you been?" He shifted to his side. "I was calling for you." Bulma walked along the side of the bed to the head. She sat down softly on the comforter.
"I know, papa," she murmured.
"Did she bring in the mail? I'm expecting--" Bulma pressed a finger gently to his lips.
"You never do shut your trap, do you?" The man sighed and sunk back into the bed. She brushed her fingers lightly over his slightly lucid skin, yellow and gray in the light, devoid of life. His once sharp blue eyes had sunk further into his skull., pupils pulsating like the faint beating of his heart. She ran a hand through his faded lavender mop of hair, clumped and damp with sweat.
"I don't look that bad, girl," he grumbled.
"Did you call Dr. Lawrence this morning? Like I asked you?" The older man clenched the covers in his fist.
"I don't want to be bothered."
"But you don't mind me, do you, old man?" she said, a smile tugging at her lips.
"It's not that bad," he rasped. "I'll be up and about by tomorrow."
"Who are you kidding?"
"Just lay down with me. That's all the comfort I need." Bulma slid easily over the duvet cover, stretching to lay side by side with her father. He sighed, running a shaky hand through her hair. "Reminds me of old times," he whispered. Bulma gave a satisfied sigh and snuggled further into his hold.
Bulma awoke feeling cold--the window, the curtains blew wildly and she got up from the bed to close them. She looked behind her at her father sleeping peacefully, his chest barely moving in restful sumber. Her eyes narrowed. She slowly walked forward across the stretch of carpet. His skin was tinged purple, shadows darkening beneath his eyes and his lips open, breathless. Bulma rushed forward, collapsing over his body---nothing.
"No... NO!" She shook him violently. When he did not stir, she flung herself from the bed, haphazardly losing her high heels. She wrenched the door open, crying out into the hall, "Someone! Someone please call a doctor! Help!" Bulma broke down in sobs, collapsing to the floor, she hugged her legs to her chest. "Someone, anyone, please help..."
* * * * *
*Ella Fitzgerald was a very popular jazz singer from the twenties up until the late thirties.
* The dancing that Vejita does is actually swing dancing moves. I know, I tried to learn how to swing dance... keyword: tried.