The bar was one of the cheapest ones in the Spaceport--I don't even remember its name. She never did, either. I was in a bad mood because so far it looked like I was deadheading it back to Swan Lake, and I had to leave tomorrow no matter what. So when they announced the singer, I didn't pay attention. It was only when I heard her angel-clear tones that I looked up.

The cliche is always that she's the most beautiful woman you've ever seen. Well, that wasn't true in this case--she had a face that wasn't easily complemented by makeup, and someone had tried to overcome the fact by overdoing it. I couldn't believe, at first, the voice I heard coming from such a garishly painted face. I sat enthralled, not even noticing when someone stole the other half of my drink.

It wasn't the first time this had happened to me. I'm infamous for falling head over heels over a pretty face, or body, or whatever. But this was the first time a voice had sold me this way. My first conscious thought, ten minutes later, was that all my buddies would think I was losing my touch if they saw me with her. I had already taken it for granted that she would be with me.

When the show was over, I asked those nearby, none of whom I know, who the singer had been. None of them knew, and one of them made a crass joke about it. I didn't even think of plowing his lights out, which is probably where the rumours started.

I eventually asked the bartender, who referred me to the manager, a burly fellow who introduced himself as Ryk. "Jed," I said, shaking his hand. "So who's that singer you got here?"

Ryk grinned. "Some chick, came in off the street a few days ago wanting to sing here. She wouldn't give any name besides Cherry, which is how we introduce her."

Cherry wasn't a name that suited her at all. Her hair was short and black, her lipstick had been black as well--in fact, there hadn't been a sign of red in her appearance anywhere. The obvious thought occurred to me, but I couldn't see how she could possibly be a virgin. Not if my assessment of Ryk was accurate. Mind you, it was possible that he hadn't been attracted to her in the first place.

The band swung into a faster number, and her angelic voice turned into a sultrier one. The spell was broken, at least temporarily. I talked to Ryk a little bit more, on the off chance that he might know of someone sending cargo to Swan Lake or anywhere en route, but no luck. So I went on to the next bar, where I ran into Lyman and got roaring drunk. I dead-headed it back the next day and forgot Cherry entirely.

Several months later I was on Toliman, on a regular high-tech contract run to Huron. Things were looking up, and to show it I was in the more upscale dives, like the Quilted Giraffe. I'd left most of my previous acquaintances behind, and hadn't made too many new ones yet on my new route. But I never claimed to be an exclusively social drinker in any case.

I was listening to the music, even if I wasn't in a position to see the band or the singer. The voice sounded vaguely familiar, but I'd been in this place a lot and was probably getting to know the regular acts. So I was totally unprepared when the slow number started and Cherry's angelic voice filled the air.

I remember her now, of course--who could forget a voice like that?

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The Den of Ubiquity/ Aaron V. Humphrey /