Steve bent over his bass and scribbled something on a sheet of paper. He played a few notes, then scribbled a little more. "Is that new?" Steve jumped. Beth stood in the doorway, watching him. "Sorry," she said. "I didn't mean to scare you."
"It's okay," Steve said. "Did I wake you?"
Beth shook her head. "Had another bad dream," she said. "But I'd rather not talk about it. What are you working on?"
Steve frowned. He worried a lot about his wife's persistent nightmares, but decided against pressing her for details. The dreams she had told him about were enough to make him shudder at the memory, and they weren't even his nightmares. He'd since learned to listen to her when she said she didn't want to talk. "It's a new song," he replied. "Wanna hear what I've got so far?"
"Of course!" Beth came into the music room and sat on the floor beside his chair. "Let's hear it."
Steve smiled and started to play the bass riff he'd been working on. He hummed a couple of bars along with it, then started to sing. "Workin' in the city. This town's got no pity. Boss man owns a heart of stone. I'm on the line. It's overtime. I tell you it's a crime!" Steve saw that Beth was grinning and moving along with the music and he smiled. Always a good sign. He finished as much as he had written. "What do you think?"
"It's great!" Beth said. "What is that, a flashback to your table waiting days?"
"Yes it is, as a matter of fact. However did you guess?" Beth giggled and Steve was glad that she seemed to be all right, despite her nightmare. At least she wasn't thinking about it at the moment. "I might try to have it ready for the album."
"Sure, why not?"
"Because you guys are almost done," Beth said. "Neal's gonna throw a fit if you try to bring in a new song this late."
Steve grinned. "I know."
As always after one of her nightmares, Beth was treated to a major shopping spree. After the fifth time it happened, she gave up telling Steve he didn't have to by her the whole world every time she had a bad dream. It was like arguing with a tennis shoe. Now she just enjoyed herself and let him pamper her as much as he wanted. She played the good little star's wife while they were out, smiling pleasantly at the fans who happened to notice them. She listened while they gushed, stammered, giggled and (occasionally) spoke calmly and coherently about how much they loved Steve. Every once in a while, she shook the hand of a fan who happened to tear his or her eyes away from Steve long enough to notice her.
After a few hours of shopping and signing autographs, they decided to head home. When they got to the car, Beth heard a shout. She jumped and turned to see who it was.
A young man of about 20 was standing a few yards away, clutching a large shopping bag in a white-knuckled grip and gaping at them - or rather, at Steve. "Oh my GOD, it's him," he said. Beth sighed. Here we go again. She pasted on her public smile and they waited for the young man to gather his courage. In a second, he was striding swiftly toward them. A small, pretty blonde woman followed behind him, trotting to keep up.
The young man stopped within a few feet of them. He was an inch or two taller than Steve, with long, auburn hair that was so perfectly curled it had to have been a perm. He had a pleasant face - large nose, small almond-shaped brown eyes and a dimpled chin. At the moment, he was gazing at Steve with the shining eyes, flushed cheeks and dazed smile that Beth had come to call the "I'm-your-biggest-fan" look. "Oh, my God," the man said again. "You're Steve Perry."
"Yes, I am," Steve said, grinning.
The young man gave a giddy chuckle. "I can't believe it," he said. "I... I'm s-so glad to meet you! I mean, I can't believe this! I never thought I would ever be this lucky. I mean, I'm just walking to my car and there you are and oh my God I can't believe this is happening!" The young man paused for a moment, staring at Steve with wide eyes, as if he wanted to drink in every detail. "Wow," the young man said at last. "Um... I - I just want to say that I love your work and I love Journey and I love your voice and I think it's the best voice ever in the history of voices and oh my God I can't believe you're standing right here in front of me this has to be the luckiestdayofmylife!" He took a moment to catch his breath. The man was so excited he was actually shaking.
Beth gripped Steve's hand, mildly alarmed by the man's passion. Steve didn't seem to find it disturbing. He just gave her hand a reassuring squeeze, smiled at the fan and said, "Thank you very much. I really appreciate it."
"You're welcome," the man said, grinning widely. "You really are great, you know. It's my mission in life to be just like you. I mean, not like... I... I don't mean that in a scary way or anything," he said hastily. "It's - it's not like I'm obsessed or crazy or anything."
"I understand," Steve said. "How would you like an autograph?" Beth thought the man would faint right then and there.
"Would you? Oh my God, thank you so much! That would be SO great!"
"Sure thing. Do you have anything you'd like me to sign?" The fan nodded vigorously. He reached into the shopping bag and pulled out a brand new vinyl edition of "Departure." Steve's eyes widened. "Wow. I didn't even know they put our stuff on vinyl."
"It's a special edition," the man said, handing it to Steve with trembling hands. "I've been searching all over for it. They only made a few thousand copies. I finally found one today."
"Well, this is your lucky day, isn't it? Got a pen?" The young man searched his pockets. He pulled out keys, several pieces of paper and a wallet, but no pen. Looking worried, he searched even more frantically. In his haste, he dropped everything he'd been holding. With an embarrassed grin at Steve, he bent down to pick up his things. Beth, Steve and the blonde girl bent down to help him. The man's wallet had fallen near Beth so she picked it up. It fell open when she lifted it off the ground, and a whole string of picture holders flopped out. There were at least fifteen of them, with pictures on both sides. Beth gasped. They were all pictures of Steve.
Steve looked over to see what had startled her and his eyes widened. Suddenly, the fan snatched his wallet from Beth's hand and hastily folded up his pictures. "Th-they're... it's... I'm - I'm a c-c-collector," he stammered, looking from Beth to Steve with a mortified expression on his face.
"Relax, kid," Steve said, handing him his keys. "You don't have to be embarrassed."
"You... you mean you're not freaked out?"
Steve shook his head and the man looked intensely relieved. Beth could tell that Steve wasn't being completely honest. She caught the shocked look on his face when he'd seen all those pictures, but apparently he'd decided not to make a big deal out of it. Beth tried to do the same. She was extremely unnerved, but she firmly told herself that she was just overreacting. "I guess you didn't find a pen though, huh?" Steve asked. The young man shook his head, looking depressed. "Never fear. Beth?"
Beth pulled out the ten pens she carried in her purse for just such emergencies. "Thank you, Mrs. Perry!" the man exclaimed, as if Beth had just saved him from certain death.
"No problem," she said.
"Okay, who am I making this out to?" Steve asked.
"Steve." Steve raised an eyebrow. "My name's Steve, too," the man said. "Steve Augeri." Beth could see that the curly-headed Steve was extremely pleased by the fact that he shared a name with his idol. So pleased, in fact, that Beth wondered if he hadn't named himself after her husband.
"Okay," Steve said with a grin. On the back of the album, near his picture, he wrote "Dear Steve, Don't stop believin'! Love, Steve Perry." He handed the record back to its owner, who stared at it in disbelief.
"Thank you, Mr. Perry! Thank you so much!"
"You're welcome," he said. "And please. Call me Steve."
The younger Steve smiled broadly. "Thanks, Steve."
"Well, it was really nice meeting you," Steve said, holding out his hand.
"Nice meeting you, too," the young man said. He shook Steve's hand almost reverently. Then he reluctantly let go, looking very much as if he didn't want the meeting to end.
Steve looked at the girl next to his namesake. "Nice to meet you, too..." Steve trailed off, waiting for someone to supply a name.
"Sorry!" the fan said. "This is my girlfriend, Donna."
"Nice to meet you, Donna," Steve said.
Donna smiled and shook Steve's hand. "Pleasure," she said softly.
Steve turned and opened the car door for Beth, indicating that the meeting was indeed over. Beth got in and watched the couple walk away. The young man trailed behind his girlfriend, looking back at the car with a wistful expression. "That was strange," Beth said when Steve got into the car.
Steve shrugged. "He wasn't so bad."
"Steve, he had like thirty-five pictures of you in his wallet!"
"Fans have carried pictures of me before," he said.
"Yeah, female fans."
"Maybe he's gay," Steve suggested.
"Steve! He has a girlfriend!"
"You know that doesn't mean anything, honey," Steve said. "Some gay people are married for years and have kids and everything before they figure out that they're gay."
Beth sighed. "That's true. But come on, Steve. All those pictures? And no pictures of anyone else? You've got to admit that's pretty creepy."
"All right, I'll admit it," Steve said. "I was a little freaked out. But I don't want you worrying about it. You worry too much as it is. He's just a young kid with a harmless fetish. Besides, we'll probably never see the guy again anyway."
"I guess you're right," Beth said, starting to feel a little better.
"Good. Now stop worrying."