King Brothers - Chapter 9
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Not to worry—even though a ton of you left it until the weekend to vote—the trend that began earlier in the week continued. That’s always good for me, it means that the ruminating (there’s that word again!) that I’ve been doing over the week can still apply to the direction that the story will take.
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Love Toni xx
This is what I’d been working towards for as long as I could remember.
I licked my dry lips.
Sound check had never been so important to me in my entire life.
“You look like you might need this,” Liam said as he threw a green drink bottle in my direction.
“What’s up?” I asked as I caught the full bottle. It looked like a carbon copy of the orange water bottle that Liam always had at his side. I also noted that he had a yellow and a blue one with him as well.
He threw the yellow one at Marty and the blue one at Jesse.
“Call it a little pre-gig gift from me,” Liam replied with a simple nod of his head in the direction of each of the members of the band.
“Here’s to Yellow Lady’s first gig,” I said as I took a welcome swig from the water bottle that Liam had given me and held it aloft.
Calvin had been struggling with a name for the band and decided yesterday that we should take the name of our first original song.
“Yellow Lady,” Liam said as he touched his drink bottle to mine. Jesse and Marty joined the toast.
I’d expected Liam to object to the name for the band, but he acquiesced to Calvin’s experience and preference.
“Nice touch,” I said to Liam.
He shrugged, almost as if he were embarrassed, but for what?
“Just wanted to get things off on the right foot with you guys,” he said. Then he looked me straight in the eye. “I know you want this as much as I want it. If we stick together, no-one can get in our way and fuck this up for us.” Liam said the words with such conviction and emotion that I was certain that the black pupils of his eyes expanded and obliterated the familiar chocolate brown of his eyes.
“Don’t get fucking ahead of yourselves,” Calvin said as he wheeled himself into the middle of the scene. “You’ve a lot of fucking hills to climb before you get to the top.” He had an unnatural way of appearing out of nowhere. The more time I spent around him, the more he reminded me of the Cheshire Cat out of Alice in Wonderland.
There were a few days this week when I wondered if I hadn’t actually fallen down some kind of rabbit hole. My life had changed so radically in the last seven days. I’d gone from playing my first gig in a local pub, to having my own band and opening for one of the most popular bands in Auckland.
No wonder my lips were dry and on occasion—if I thought too much about what I was doing—my hands began to shake.
“Let’s run through the opening number,” Calvin said, “so Jeff can get a handle on the sound and then I want you to play Yellow Lady.”
I still wasn’t one hundred percent sure that we’d even get to play the song, with it being an encore, but Calvin seemed determined that it would debut tonight, one way or another.
We’d just finished playing the last bars of Yellow Lady when I caught sight of Destiny and the girls standing in the outer bar.
They were hovering around the doorway.
I didn’t have time for this shit—not right now.
Not that I didn’t care about Destiny, but there was too much to be worrying about. Too much at stake.
“Right, you guys are done.” Calvin said. “I want you back here, ready to step on stage in an hour. Any issues?”
A chorus of, “No,” came from the four of us.
“Right,” Calvin said as he sat in front of the band. “I know I’ve told you this before, but there’s no harm in a reminder.” Steely eyes took a moment to stare each of us down individually. Calvin may have been sitting in a chair, but the way he looked at me tonight made me think of a six foot four rugby coach giving the team a pep-talk before the game.
I didn’t even see the chair anymore when I spoke to Calvin. The man had a presence about him that filled the room.
“When you work for me,” Calvin stabbed his finger in the air at each of us, “you’re working for a professional and I expect you to be a professional. From the way you present yourself on stage, to the way that you present yourself off stage. Do you get my drift?”
More murmurings from the four of us.
“That means no piss, no broads and no drugs before you get up there. Got it?”
Four heads nodded in agreement.
“You can indulge yourselves after the gig, but don’t take it too far. I don’t ever want to hear about any of you in the press, unless it’s a release that I’ve orchestrated.”
“Good. We understand each other,” Calvin said. “I wouldn’t employ a pissed plumber and I don’t employ drunk musicians.”
“We get it,” Liam said. “Keep it clean ’til after we’ve played.”
“Exactly,” Calvin said.
“Get yourselves upstairs. Chill and I’ll see you back here in an hour.”
An hour and we’d be back on stage.
I looked at the instruments sitting there.
The lights shining on them.
This was it.
This was my dream and nothing was going to stand in my way.
I didn’t need to look behind me to know that Calvin had spun around in his chair and was watching us walk past the bar full of people.
Destiny caught my eye.
“Hi,” she said as I walked past.
“Hey,” I said. I stopped for a moment, but I could feel the all-seeing eyes of Calvin boring into my back.
Marty hesitated beside me. “We need to get upstairs,” he said, as he completely looked past Ella, his eyes fixed on the back of Liam and Jesse who were heading through the door marked “Private” and on towards the lift and our living quarters above.
“It’s great you could come,” I said. “We can catch up after the show, okay?”
I didn’t give her a chance to answer the question. I needed to get in the lift with the guys. We were a band, this was our first public gig and I needed to be with my band mates.
I watched Dylan walk towards the door marked, “Private” and then disappear through it.
Was it only last week that he couldn’t wait to get his hands on me?
How could things have changed so much in such a short time?
“You sure you want to stay?” Ella asked me. “Marty didn’t even look at me. What the fuck’s going on with them?”
“Who the fuck knows. They’re just a couple of guys from Milford, I mean, who the fuck do they think they are?”
“If you really want to know,” an unfamiliar woman’s voice said, “they’re going to the top.”
I looked across the bar and straight into the face of a blonde barmaid.
“I’m sorry?” I said. I was tempted to ask her who the fuck she was and why I should bother listening to her opinion, but I decided that she had a kind face and I was taken by her funky accent.
“Don’t be upset that they ignored you,” the barmaid said. “They’re under strict orders from their boss. No mucking about until after the show. So if you leave now, you won’t see them. But if you stay, I’m sure they’ll catch up with you, like they said they would.”
“Thanks,” I said. “I’m Destiny.”
“Alannah,” the blonde said. “You Dylan’s girl?”
What was it to her, I wondered?
“Yeah.” Was I Dylan’s girl? Maybe now might be a good time to get out. From where I was standing, it looked as if I could be staring down the barrel of nothing but heartbreak if I allowed myself to feel any more for this man.
Clearly, he was wed to the music and the band and this idea that he had that he could be a rock star.
The strange thing was that somehow he’d managed to convince other people that he could make it too.
I was the last person on the earth who could have believed a week ago that Dylan King would be opening for Rise-N-Shine.
Rise were one of the top bands in Australasia.
How the hell had Dylan gotten this gig, anyway?
“He seems like a nice guy,” Alannah said cutting into my thoughts. “Let’s hope that the business doesn’t beat that out of him.”
Did this woman know something that I didn’t?
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Well,” she said. “Calvin, the owner here broke Rise-N-Shine a couple of years ago and, in my humble opinion, your man’s band will eclipse Rise in no time at all. If you’re going to stick with your man, then I’d ready myself for a long distance relationship. He’s going to be working his arse off on the road for the next few years.”
She was telling me what I’d already begun to suspect.
This relationship with Dylan King was on a fast road to nowhere.
Was it worth staying here tonight? Or should we just cut out losses and get the fuck out of here?
Then I took another look at this lady.
She couldn’t be that much older than me.
How did she know these things?
Maybe she had the hots for Dylan and she wanted me out of the way.
What had been happening in this bar all week?
Dylan King was on the cusp of terminally pissing me off.
I didn’t trust myself to make a sensible decision anymore.
“What d’you think girls?” I asked Ella and Angela. “Shall we stay, or shall we get the fuck out of here?”
“We may as well stay for the gig now that we’re here,” Angela said.
Of course she’d say that. She didn’t have any skin in this game.
I looked at Ella.
“Come on,” I said to her, “How d’you feel about Marty ignoring you?”
“He’s got a lot on his mind,” Ella said coming to the man’s defence. “He’s gotta be pretty nervous about this.”
“So you want to stay?”
She nodded. “Yeah. I’d like to see the bands.”
I sighed. “Whatever.”
If I was on my own I’d have walked out of the bar, but I wasn’t on my own.
I could still walk out.
But something about what Alannah said made me stay.
Dylan was a nice guy.
But what happened when nice guy’s went on the road?
We walked past the girls again on our way back to the stage.
I tried not to look at them, but I couldn’t keep my eyes off Destiny.
She looked fucking stunning.
She wore a bright yellow mini-dress, with white knee-high boots. Under any other circumstances, I’d have been thinking about stroking the length of skin that was exposed between the hem of her dress and the top of her boots—but tonight, I needed to keep my head on stage.
My hands were sweating and I could hear the thud of my heart-beat in my ears.
“Break a leg or something,” Destiny said as I walked past her.
I caught her eye and smiled. “Thanks,” I mouthed as I followed Liam and Jesse to the stage.
The room was packed.
It felt as if half of Auckland was here.
I knew that they couldn’t be—but The Globe had this fantastic way of making a small crowd feel extra-large. Whether it was the old-fashioned feel of the pub, or the fact that everyone had to stand, I couldn’t be sure.
All I knew was that we needed to make sure that we played the best fucking set that we could play.
As soon as I got up on stage—the nerves vanished.
With Liam behind me, Jesse to my left and my old mate Marty to my right I was suddenly back in the rehearsal room.
The crowd disappeared as we were bathed in light.
“Okay?” I said to Jesse and Marty. Each gave me the thumbs up.
I turned to Liam and gave him a nod.
It had only been a week, but we were already in touch with each other.
The click of Liam’s sticks sounded as he counted us in.
We hit the bars of the first song.
We were on our way.
Time sped up.
One song followed another—the same way it had in the rehearsal room.
We made a couple of cock-ups, but no-one seemed the wiser.
By the time we were playing the last song of the set, I’d actually begun to enjoy myself.
“Thank you and goodnight.”
The words were out of my mouth and we began to leave the stage.
The room erupted.
The chant of, “More! More! More!”
Calvin was right.
He took the stage.
Held up his hands.
Quieted the crowd.
“Let me reintroduce you to Yellow Lady,” he said above the roar. “You’re witness to the birth of a new music sensation tonight and here’s their debut single.”
Calvin turned his chair to leave the stage, accompanied by the sounds of whistles and clapping from the assembled mob.
“Go get ‘em, guys,” Calvin said with a wink as he wheeled himself back down the ramp from the stage.
I grabbed the microphone from the stand. Nerves by now had well given way to adrenaline and the tiny beginnings of euphoria.
“This is a little song that my mate Marty here wrote,” I said.
The roar of the crowd hit me like a wave.
“It’s called, Yellow Lady.”
By the time we left the stage, the crowd were still yelling.
“Great debut, boys,” Calvin said as he gathered the four of us in an alcove to one side of the stage. “Leave ‘em calling for more. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us,” Calvin said. “I want you to get yourselves a drink and stay and watch Rise-N-Shine. They were where you are a couple of years ago. You can learn a lot from watching them.”
Liam slapped me on the back.
“Thanks,” I replied. “You and Jesse are so tight on the back line.”
“That’s because we’ve got great material produced by you and Marty.”
It occurred to me as we walked back towards the bar that the four of us had come a long way since our first meeting a week ago.
* * *
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