So it was unanimous (except for the small percentage of you who just couldn’t decide) you wanted Dylan to play the gig.
Your wish (as always) is my command.
Enjoy this week’s instalment.
Thanks so much for voting. I can’t wait to see where you take things next week.
Love Toni x
“Right. Okay. Fine. I get it.” I couldn’t stay on the phone any longer to Dylan. I cut him off and hit the end button on my screen.
“What’s up?” Ella asked as she continued to pick at the peeling pink nail polish on her fingernails.
“Dylan’s cancelled on Friday.” I sounded calm, but I felt anything but calm.
In fact, I couldn’t decide how I felt. Something inside of me wouldn’t believe that Dylan had the nerve to cancel taking me to the movies on Friday night.
“What did he say?” Angela asked. She’d stopped scrolling on her phone, always eager for the next tidbit of gossip.
“Some convoluted excuse about a gig coming up at the Irish pub.” I knew I sounded bitter. I didn’t want to care, but there was something about Dylan. We’d been friends for years. I knew him almost as well as I knew my own family. But when I saw him up on stage at my birthday.
I’d seen him playing before.
But the way everyone around me reacted to him—it made me look at him with a new perception. There was something about the way that he held his guitar.
The sound of his voice when he sang.
How had I not noticed these things before?
“Who the fuck does he think he is, anyway?” I said to no-one in particular. I sat in the changing room of the surf club, Ella to the left of me and Angela to the right. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to hit something or burst into tears.
I wasn’t used to being stood up.
No-one had ever said no to me before.
It hurt and the more I thought about Dylan’s rejection, the more I realised I wasn’t sure how to handle the strange feelings that coursed around inside of me.
“He’s a dick,” Ella agreed as her hand stroked my back in soothing circles.
“You deserve better than him,” Angela said. “Scott Bailey’s been asking you out for ages. You should go out with him on Friday night. Go to the pub. That’ll show that dork, Dylan.”
The idea had its appeal. But Scott Bailey was a bit of a dick. He might be the captain of the rowing team, but that still didn’t excuse the way he behaved most of the time.
“There’s no way I’m going anywhere near Scott Bailey.” I saw the way he treated Dylan and his mates when Dylan was at school. I might be pissed with Dylan King, but I still wasn’t going anywhere near Scott Bailey.
“I know,” Angela said. She stood up and began to pace the floor of the changing room. “The three of us should go to the bar on Friday night. We’ll show Dylan that we don’t need anyone except each other to have a good time.”
I took a good look at Angela as she paced the interior of the changing room. Lean and tall were the two words that came to mind when I looked at her. She reminded me of a willow tree—all arms and legs and long, brown hair. We’d been acquaintances for a while, but we’d really struck up a friendship when her and Ella joined the surf club five years ago.
Hence the reason that we’d all known Dylan. A love of the water and the beach meant that we all spent long summers between the surf and the sand.
I wondered whether that would change now that Dylan had left school.
It was a ballsy thing to do and another reason that I had great respect for him. I couldn’t imagine going against the wishes of my parents. Like most parents in the neighbourhood, they were middle-class powerhouses and not to be crossed.
“What did you have in mind?” Ella asked her interest definitely piqued at the idea of heading to the pub on Friday night. Ella was always up for anything that resembled a party. There had been more than one night when Angela and I had near carried her away from a function where she’d drunk just a bit too much. Ella might come across as the shy, silent one out of the three of us, but look out when she had a couple of beers on board.
Angela shrugged. “Just the usual, but with a dash of extra glamour.”
“Why not,” I agreed. “We don’t need men to have a good time.” Besides, I liked the idea of seeing Dylan on stage again. The more I thought about it, the more I thought that this could work to my advantage. All I had to do was play things carefully.
“Our first gig as a duo,” Marty said as he plugged the microphone cord into the pub’s PA. “I still can’t believe that there’s only the two of us and we’ve got our own sound guy.”
“It’s the start of the big time for us,” I replied. I could feel it in my gut. This was the break that I knew we needed. “If this takes off, we won’t need to be a duo for long,” I said as I busied myself making sure that my effects pedals were right where I needed them.
Marty and I had spent the last few days putting down some electronic drum tracks and backings and I was running those off a tablet. It would give the acoustic sets some extra oomph and I knew we needed that if we were going to get some more gigs on the pub circuit. It was either that or find a shit hot drummer and bassist and we were a long way from there right now.
“Hey guys, you all set for tonight?” Ken, the bar manager arrived in front of the tiny stage. He looked about ten years older than us, with a shock of bleached white hair running down one side of his tightly cropped head, it gave the impression of him being completely bald on one side.
“Yeah, we’re good man,” I said as I stepped over my effects board. One more step and I’d be on the postage-sized dance floor.
“Order whatever you want from the bar tonight,” he said, “it’s all on the house for the band.”
“Cool.” I didn’t think I’d be drinking much. This gig was too important. Alcohol and me had an unstable relationship. Once I started, I found it hard to stop—so best give it a miss until after the gig.
“The lights are here,” Ken pulled back a portion of the black curtain that hung around the square of the stage and flicked three switches. The area I stood in was immediately flooded with colourful spots and swirls.
“You can get Matt, the sound guy, to move them if they’re in your eyes,” Ken said. “I’ll be behind the bar if you need me and the boss will be in later with your cash.”
I watched as Ken headed across the small dance floor which was now also speckled with assorted colourful lights.
“Jesus,” Marty said as he sidled up to me, “it’s a step up from the surf club.”
“We do this right and the only way for the two of us is up. We need to give it our all tonight,” I said to Marty. “We’ve got to be professional from the start.”
“Sure,” he said. “How’s the open tab on the bar?”
I turned on him. Grabbed him by the shoulders, made sure he was looking me in the eyes. I saw a look of shock register on Marty’s face.
“That’s what I’m talking about,” I said. I needed Marty to understand on a cellular level how important this gig was to him and to me and to our future. “We’ve got to be professional. No pissing it up until after the gig. No mucking around. This is going to be our future. I need to know that you’re on board with me on this. If we can get this right,” I said, “you can forget about going back to school. We’re going to go places.”
We were one song out from the end of our final set.
The night had been a complete success.
The pub patrons loved us.
What’s more, the entire time we played, Destiny and her entourage spent every minute up front, dancing and having a fantastic night.
I could feel my shirt sticking to my back. The intense, close heat on the stage was being reflected back to us from the mass of writhing bodies out the front.
A couple of times during the night, Ken had given us the thumbs up from the bar.
The entire pub was rocking and I felt as if I was standing on the top of the world. To me, nothing could compete with the feeling that pulsed through me when I connected with my music. Having others connect was an added bonus.
“Have you seen the way Destiny’s looking at you?” Marty asked as we prepped for our last song of the night.
“Yeah,” there’s no way I could have missed the come on that she was giving me from down on the dance floor.
“This is our last song for the night,” I said into the microphone. “I want to dedicate it to Destiny.”
There were whoops from the dance floor, whistles and deafening applause.
Marty gave me a wink.
Destiny looked up at me, her eyes wide with surprise. Then, a slow smile spread across her gorgeous face. She blew me a kiss.
The pulsing tone of the intro of The Spencer Davis Group’s Gimme some Lovin’ rolled out through the PA. As I sang the lyrics, my eyes couldn’t help but remain glued to Destiny’s.
Everything was getting hot and I felt on fire.
The last strains of the song came to a close.
I’d given it my all.
I was both exhausted and elated.
The crowd stood in front of us—Destiny its cheerleader—stamping, screaming and clapping.
Ken arrived with two bottles of beer and pushed one into my hand and the other into Marty's.
“Great sets, guys,” he said.
“What about it?” Ken yelled to the crowd. “Give it up for these two. You want to see them back again?”
More stomping and whistles of approval.
Chants of more from the floor.
Ken whispered, “Leave ‘em wanting more,” as he encouraged us to leave the stage. “The boss is really happy with how things have gone,” Ken said. “He wants you back and clearly,” Ken waved his arm in the direction of the crowd who continued to bay for more, “so do these guys.”
The only face I focussed on in the crowd, was the smiling face of Destiny. For some reason, seeing the flush of excitement and joy that she wore pleased me far more than I’d expected.
I stood at one of the tall leaners that circled the dance floor. Angela had gone to the bar to get us a glass of wine each. I didn’t need a drink. I was drunk on the atmosphere and the exhilarating feelings that I’d experienced watching Dylan on stage.
“I didn’t expect him to dedicate a song to me,” I said to Ella.
“I know. It’s too fucking cool,” she said as she leaned her chin on her hand. “I wish someone would dedicate a song to me.”
“Marty’s pretty hot,” I said. “Maybe we should try to get you hooked up with him.
Before Ella could reply, Angela arrived back. “Drinks girls,” she said as she climbed up on the tall stool beside me.
We touched the glasses together.
“Ladies, you’re looking especially stunning tonight.” The familiar and unwelcome sound of Scott Bailey’s voice cut through the buzz of the bar crowd. “I bumped into Ange at the bar and decided to come and say, hello.”
Uninvited, Scott pulled up a bar stool and sat himself down at the tall table.
I couldn’t help but notice the contrast between the clean-cut look of Scott, with his slicked back blonde hair and the out-of-control grunge rocker look of Dylan.
I knew which one appealed to me and it wasn’t the captain of the rowing team that’s for sure.
Scott wore an Eastlake rowing shirt with the familiar crest from the college embroidered on the crisp linen. He may well have been a big man back on campus, but here, in what would be considered almost a dive bar, he and his team-mates, a few of whom had wandered across to the table to join us, all looked somewhat out of place.
“Hi Scott,” I said, trying hard to avoid eye contact and keep my eyes on Dylan who was now back on stage with Marty.
“I see the loser, scum-bucket on stage was trying to win you over tonight,” Scott said as he took a swig of his beer.
“What a joke,” I heard one of Scott’s team mates say.
Another couple made equally derogatory comments that I didn’t quite pick up.
“Can’t hack it academically,” Scott continued on, “so he’s out playing in dives like this one.”
“If it’s such a dive,” I said as I stood up, “what are you guys doing here?”
I wasn’t about to hang around and listen to Scott and his ape-like mates start a beat up on Dylan and Marty.
I had better things to do with my time.
“Come on, girls,” I said to Ella and Angela. “We promised Dylan and Marty a drink and I think it’s time we caught up with them.”
Things had gone well.
I had a thousand dollars in cash in my back pocket—I’d split it with Marty when we got home—and the promise of another gig in two weeks.
“Hey mate,” Marty said as he stood beside me coiling electrical cords and dropping them in a plastic cube, “I forgot to mention. The folks are fine with you staying at our place for as long as you like.”
Another worry off my mind. Now I didn’t have to flat hunt.
“That’s cool,” I replied as I tucked the last of my effects pedals into their case.
“Yeah, Mum said you can chuck her a few dollars to cover your hot water and power and she’ll be happy.”
“Sweet. I’ll talk to her tomorrow.” Marty’s mum was a cool chick.
“Great gig, guys.” Destiny and the girls arrived at the front of the stage.
“Thanks,” I said as I dropped the last cable in the box and then slipped down and sat on the edge of the stage. Destiny sat down next to me and, with infinite care, placed her glass of wine on the stage next to her.
Marty’s parents had loaned us his mum’s car for the night. The Toyota station wagon sat out the back of the pub. It was time for us to haul the gear out and make tracks.
“You guys up for a drink?” Destiny asked. I didn’t miss the appealing tone of her voice either.
Marty looked at his watch. “We should get going.”
He’d had a beer, but stopped at one.
Now I’d had one, I wanted another.
“We need to get the gear back,” Marty said.
The short, black dress that Destiny wore had slid up her legs when she sat down. My eyes were drawn to the lace pattern tights that she wore.
I could feel the radiating heat of her body, even through the thick denim of my jeans.
Her hand slipped to my thigh and she began to draw lazy circles that left trails in the denim.
Now I couldn’t stand up even if I’d wanted to—not until the excitement of having her so close subsided.
“Thanks for dedicating the last song to me,” she whispered, her lips so close to my cheek that I could feel the brush of her words on my face. “You should let me show you how grateful I am.”
I was grateful that the lights on the stage had been turned down, so no-one could see the burn of heat that I felt on my face.
Destiny sure as hell did things to me that she’d never done before.
“We’ve got to get the gear back to Marty’s,” I stuttered. Then I realised how pathetic that sounded.
“How about me and the girls pick up a bottle of wine and meet you back there?”
* * *
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