I hope that you're as excited as I am about meeting Dylan. We're going to have some real fun with this story--I can feel it in my bones (and a few other places... *cough*) but we'll leave that for later *wink*.
Seriously, I've been wanting to write a rock band from the ground up (so to speak) and I couldn't wish to have a better friend along for the ride than you, my dearest reader.
Enjoy chapter 1 and don't forget to vote. What happens to Dylan and his bandmates is dependant upon you!
Lots of Love,
This weekly serial is now available as complete books
Book 1: Dylan & Destiny - Breakout
Book 2: Liam & Alannah - Breakthrough
Book 3: Jesse & Ruby - Breakdown
I couldn’t wait to get the hell out of this shit-hole.
For the past five years of my life, I’d walked the corridors of this college and tried to keep out of the way of the rugby jocks, the rowing teams and anyone else who thought that my interest in music made me some kind of wimp to be picked on at will. My only sanctuary had been the music wing—where I’d hung out with the other misfits and weirdos as we’d been named by the majority of the college population.
I didn’t give a shit what anyone thought about me—all I cared about was the second-hand Les Paul that took pride of place in my bedroom at home and how I could make that baby sing.
As far as I was concerned, I’d learned nothing of any practical use at this school. I’d also been removed from fifty percent of the population.
Mum and Dad thought that an all boys school would be good for me. Keep me focussed. Get my mind away from the idiotic notion that I was going to be some kind of rock-n-roll star.
Well, today was my eighteenth birthday.
From today, they had no say in what I did with my life.
I was walking out of this god-damn hell-hole and making my own way in the world. But first, I had someone that I had to say goodbye to—the one person who’d make this fucked-up period of my life bearable.
“Mr Zee,” I lifted my chin in greeting as I walked into the small, familiar office that housed the head of the music department.
“Dylan. What can I do for you today?” Mr Zeglen’s hair bounded atop his head as he spoke. From the first moment that I’d met him as a terrified, gangly Year 9 music student, it had reminded me of dark, springy wool. The small gold rimmed glasses that he wore gave him a cool, John Lennon look. If it wasn’t for the fact that I’d make myself even more of a target for the sports jocks than I already was, I’d have been happy to wear a pair of the national health granny glasses myself.
But years spent navigating the halls of Eastlake College had made me pretty street-wise and I’d learned lessons about self-preservation that I knew I’d carry with me for the rest of my life.
“I’ve come to say goodbye,” I said as I offered my hand across the cluttered desk of my favourite teacher and mentor.
“Goodbye?” Mr Zee’s voice held nothing more than a measure of curiosity.
“Yeah.” I shook my head in the affirmative. “Today’s my birthday. My parents said I could do what the hell I wanted when I turned eighteen, so I’m leaving.”
Mr Zee picked up a single drumstick that sat on top of some papers that he was marking. He began to twirl the white piece of wood in his hand. “You’re not even going to see out the end of the term? I had high hopes for you at prize giving.” I knew I aced the music theory. It was the only thing that held any interest for me here. “I even thought you might like to bring that Les Paul of yours down and perform for the school.”
“Nah. I’m sorry. Not going to happen.” As much as I was happy to take any opportunity to play, I’d made the mistake a year or so ago of performing with the school band. All it did was make life even more unbearable for a couple of weeks until Scott Bailey and his cronies found some other poor sucker to torment.
“So you’re not even going to see out the balance of the year with us?”
Mr Zee put down the drumstick. The sound of his chair scraping across the linoleum floor as he stood up made me jump. I hadn’t picked me as being nervous about saying goodbye, but there was something final about the way he held his hand out to me.
“You know you can call on me, any time, for anything,” he said.
I took his offered hand and allowed the man that had been my mentor to shake mine. Then he surprised me as he pulled me into a bear hug.
Hugs weren’t something that we ordinarily partook in at Eastlake. But I didn’t give a shit. There were a lot of things that I’d not involved myself in while I’d been at Eastlake—but the lump in my throat told me that I was going to at least miss one person from the college.
When he eventually let me go, Mr Zee took a step back, looked me up and down as if he were inspecting me for the first time, or looking for a reason to put me on detention because there was something out of order with my uniform—then he smiled.
“You’re going to go places, Mr King and remember what I said. I’m here for you. Any time. For anything.”
I had an idea of the kind of places that I wanted to go, but first I had to go home and break the news to my parents that their plans weren’t my plans.
We’d lived in Fitzroy Street, just down the road from Eastdale College and within walking distance of the local beach for as long as I could remember. The same house, the same street, the same neighbours. I was from what you’d call a nice middle class family.
I expect Mum and Dad thought that if they could get me to stay in school until I turned eighteen, that somehow, I’d see some kind of light and decide that I’d co-operate with their plan to have their eldest son become a lawyer.
The only time I enjoyed words was when I was fitting them in around a rhythm track.
My best mate, Marty Campbell on the other hand could string a sentence together in a nano-second. He’d recently been supplying me with what seemed to be a never-ending stream of lyrical masterpieces. My inbox pinged on an almost daily basis with his latest crop of words. I couldn’t write the rhythm tracks fast enough.
Marty and I had been mortal enemies when his family first moved in to the pale blue weatherboard house five doors down from ours. We’d gotten off on the wrong foot over some long-forgotten misunderstanding that only 6-year-olds could fathom. We fought at primary school—but the scuffles had only lasted a couple of weeks. It wasn’t long before a firm friendship had been built between the two of us. As we grew up, it became apparent that we had a mutual love of music and surfing.
Marty and I had become inseparable. He felt more like a brother to me than my own brother—and that was saying something, considering that Sean was only ten months younger than me.
“How d’you think they’re going to take it?” Marty asked as we walked down to the local beach. We looked like twins, with our wetsuits turned down at our waists and a surfboard under our arm. We could have walked this path with our eyes closed. We’d still have made it safely to the sand at the end of the street, we’d strolled this track together so many times over the last twelve years.
The late afternoon sun shone off the water. I shielded my eyes to get a better idea of the number of other surfers we’d be competing with for a space on the edge of the reef. An onshore northerly had been replaced by an offshore southerly, smoothing the surf into a 1.2 metre rideable wave.
Sure enough, as far as the eye could see, the water was filled with the bobbing bodies of fellow surf maggots, all waiting for the bigger sets to roll in.
“Jesus, shouldn’t some of these shits still be in school,” I moaned to Marty as we dumped our towels on the dark, volcanic rocks that edged the high-tide line and prevented the invasive couch grass from making its home in the golden sand of the beach.
“You think they might all have quit today?” Marty joked as he pulled his wetsuit hood up over his ears to protect them from the inevitable surfers ear that we were all likely to succumb to in later life.
Too many hours sat in solitude on boards in blustery conditions—but we were tough—neither of us would ever admit to the other that we were cold, or tired, or needed to eat. I’d almost crawled home some days, exhausted, starving and freezing, but I’d be damned if I’d get out of the water before my friend.
Marty and I sat out here on the water for hours. Besides my music, it was the only other thing that kept me sane. There was no way to describe the feeling of connectedness and serenity that surfing provided me. Marty had come close to describing my experience in the lyrics of some of his songs. Those were songs that I wanted to be playing to a full stadium one day.
It was the sole reason I was leaving school.
I was determined to make something of myself. Become an international rock legend and no-one was going to stand in my way.
Not even my parents.
It was almost dark by the time I got home.
My stomach grumbled.
I was too tense to eat.
I loved my parents and the idea of letting them down cut through me. But I couldn’t see any other way of making them see how serious I was about having a career in music.
I’d worked for hours down at the local supermarket stacking shelves so that I had some extra money to pay for my Les Paul and guitar lessons. After school, during holidays and late at nights I slaved away in the yellow shed for the minimum hourly wage—all for the love of my music.
Mum and Dad insisted that if I left my education behind, before I got a decent degree, it was where I’d end up for the rest of my life. They didn’t take into account my determination and dedication when I played.
How could they?
Dad was a dentist with a respectable dental practice in town and Mum worked reception for our local doctor.
The idea that their son would leave school before he got a degree was more than abhorrent to them, it was an anomaly that they couldn’t get their heads around.
Being the eldest, I had my own bedroom away from the rest of the house. It was a small room that sat off the back of the detached garage at the bottom of the garden.
Even though it was uninsulated—which meant it was as hot as hell in summer and as cold as Antarctica in winter—it gave me some independence. It also had the added attraction of allowing me to have the guys around for band practice without any of us being harassed.
We kept the volume bearable and when we needed to practice on amps and mikes for a gig, Mr Zee let us into the soundproof rooms at the school.
I stripped out of my wetsuit and threw a towel around my waist. After I’d hosed off the suit and my board, I headed into the house and straight for the bathroom.
“Is that you, Dylan?” Mum’s voice drifted down the long hallway from the kitchen at the other end of the house.
“Yes, Mum. Just having a shower,” I called back as I pulled the shower door open and turned on the water. If I had it too hot, I’d scald myself after spending so much time out in the cool of the ocean. September marked the beginning of New Zealand’s spring, but the water hadn’t warmed up much from its winter temperatures yet.
“Dinner won’t be long,” Mum called down the hall, just as Sean arrived at the bathroom door.
My brother could easily have been mistaken for my twin, except for the fact that I wore my hair a little shorter than him. Sean spent more time in the Dean’s office having the length of his hair checked against the collar of his shirt than I cared to think about.
“Mum’s baked a cake for your birthday,” he said as I tried to close the bathroom door on him. “You know you’re going to kill them with your news tonight, right?”
I glared at my brother. “You haven’t said anything?”
“And spoil your thunder?” he said with what looked like an evil glint in his eye. “Never.”
“Get out of here,” I said as I closed the door proper and stepped into the shower to wash the sticky salt of the ocean from my skin.
By the time I made it back to the house after getting dressed, the entire family were sitting at the dinner table waiting for me.
Presents and a large birthday cake sat on the sideboard.
I didn’t even need to cut into the cake to know that Mum had made a banana cake with mint icing—my favourite. A number 1 and a number 8 candle sat side-by-side on the top.
I sat down at the table and had trouble swallowing. A lump seemed to have lodged itself in my throat.
It was a tradition in our house that the birthday person got to choose dinner. I never had to tell Mum what I wanted for dinner—it had been the same meal ever since I’d been allowed to choose. Chicken drumsticks. I didn’t care whether they came with vegetables or salad as long as the drumsticks were coated in soy sauce and honey—nothing else mattered.
Tonight, as I watched my Mum serve my birthday dinner, I had a feeling that nothing was ever going to be the same.
“How was your day, son?” Dad asked. He was a good man, my Dad. When I looked at him tucking into one of Mum’s soy drumsticks, I couldn’t help but notice that he’d aged.
His once black hair had more grey in it than I remembered. When had he aged and how hadn’t I noticed the lines that creased his forehead?
Mum busied herself making sure that the three men in her life were fed before she even put any food on her plate.
Had I taken this woman for granted for all these years? She smiled at Dad as she continued to place salad greens on his plate—she’d been trying to get him to eat more salad, but he kept insisting that it was bloody rabbit food.
He’d put on a lot of weight as he’d aged. He breathed a bit too hard sometimes when he walked back from the garage to the house. He worried me. I shouldn’t be worried about my father—but I loved and respected the man. He loved my mother. It was apparent every day. All I had to do was watch the warm way he looked at her, or the way he tenderly ran his fingers across her arm.
One day I wanted a relationship like the one I observed my parents experiencing every day.
“I’ve had a good day, Dad,” I eventually replied between mouthfuls of Mum’s aromatic chicken.
“What did you get up to?”
I saw Sean giving me the side-eye, but I ignored him.
There was no other way, or time, to tell them.
“I quit school today.”
The statement was met with silence. I couldn’t even hear the scraping of utensils on plates anymore.
Mum started coughing.
“She’s choking!” Dad yelled.
All hell broke loose in the dining room.
Dad stood up.
In his haste, he knocked his chair to the ground.
The crash made Sean jump.
Dad was around behind Mum, thumping her on the back so hard that I thought he was going to break her.
Mum’s eyes bulged.
I was going to be responsible for the death of my own mother.
“Ring 111,” Dad hollered to no-one in particular.
I sprang to my feet and headed for the phone, just as Mum made an awful retching noise and a lump of chicken landed on the table in front of her.
She dropped her napkin on top of it and made an awful gasping noise as she began to pull air into her lungs.
“Are you okay?” Dad squatted at her side. I hovered in the doorway of the dining room. Did he still want me to call for an ambulance?
“I’m okay,” Mum said. She picked up another napkin, wiped her mouth and then pulled the napkin into a tight fist in her hand. I watched her shoulders rise and fall as her breathing began to settle. Dad stroked her arm in the gentle way I’d seen him stroke it so many times.
“Honestly,” Mum said to Dad, “I’m okay. I took a breath in when I should have swallowed. I’ll be fine.”
“Have a drink,” Dad said as he passed a glass of wine to Mum.
They allowed themselves one small glass of wine each night with dinner. I’d never seen them drink at any other times.
Dad finally stood up and then looked at me. “You nearly killed your mother. What kind of stupid news is that?”
My back stiffened.
“You said I could leave school when I was eighteen.” I hoped I sounded more convincing than I felt. It took all my willpower to prevent my knees from knocking together.
Mum looked at me, her face a picture of what? Disappointment?
“We didn’t ever think that you’d leave,” she eventually said. “What about law school?”
“Law school’s your idea, Mum,” I said in the most gentle voice I could muster.
“How do you think you’re going to live?” Dad asked. He picked up his chair and sat back down in front of his dinner. Before I answered him, he cast another glance in my Mum’s direction. “You sure you’re okay, Lynne? I can take you to the emergency doctor.”
“I’m fine, Gerard, stop fussing.” She waved her hand at him in a dismissive fashion, but she didn’t pick up her knife and fork again.
Dad looked at me, clearly waiting for me to answer his question.
“I’m going to gig. Get my music going. Marty’s…”
Dad held up his hand. The colour that had rushed to his face told me that I shouldn’t even bother trying to finish my sentence. I’d seen that look before.
No matter what I had to say, Dad had already made up his mind. My sentencing was about to begin.
“You’re not living off us while you follow this dream of yours,” Dad said. I didn’t like the tone of voice he used when he said the word, ‘dream’ which meant I was probably going to like the rest of his sentence even less. “If you think you can make a go of it in the real world with your music, then you best pack your things and get out there.”
I looked at Mum.
“That’s a bit harsh, Gerard,” she said.
“You’re throwing me out on the street?” I tried hard not to wail.
“Can I have his room?” Sean asked.
Dad never got mad at Mum, but the way he looked at her said he meant business. Her bottom lip quivered and she stared down at her hands. She wasn’t coming to my defence on this one.
“You think you’re old enough to leave school,” Dad said, “well then you’re old enough to get out there and support yourself and you can start tonight.”
“It’s his birthday,” Mum said. “There’s banana cake.”
Dad remained unmoved.
“All he has to do is go back to school tomorrow and we can forget about all this,” he said as he took a bite out of a chicken leg.
Maybe they’d had one of those parent-to-parent discussions—the kind adults have when they know that one of them is opposed to what the other is doing, but they stand side-by-side, united as one for the benefit of their poor offspring.
“That’s not going to happen,” I said. “I better get packing if I’m going to find somewhere to stay tonight.”
I left the dining room and headed out into the garden. The cool spring air hit me as if someone had thrown a bucket of water into my face.
The enormity of the choice that I’d made hit home.
Where the fuck was I going to go?
* * *
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