Well, so I guess I’ll be getting out the boxing gloves and dusting them off for a fight!
There was a definite swing in this week’s voting—I should probably be getting used to that by now—but it never ceases to surprise me.
Hang onto your eReader because the story’s about to take another interesting little detour.
I know you love those little detours!
Enjoy this week’s chapter and—DON’T FORGET TO VOTE!
Love Toni xx
I’d have been hiding under some kind of rock if I hadn’t noticed how well Yellow Lady were doing on their tour. My social media feeds were full of photographs of the band with adoring fans.
As they moved from town to town, the numbers of photographs seemed to increase exponentially.
On a couple of occasions I was sorely tempted to unfollow the band—but something stopped me.
Today, I sat staring at my phone.
A photograph of Dylan filled the screen.
Something inside of me fluttered.
No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t forget the way the touch of his hands on my skin made me feel.
I kept trying to remind myself that he was my first—and my only—and I was going to feel this way. But it still felt like more than that. No matter how hard I tried to move the memories of him to the back of my mind, they refused to go.
I had little relief from the clawing memories of his body against mine.
The ecstasy of his touch.
The tenderness of his kiss.
I thought that sending him on the road—telling him to forget me—that would be the end if it all. I hadn’t expected this lingering feeling of what?
The thought terrified me.
In the short time that Yellow Lady had been on the road they’d done exactly what the woman in the bar had told me they would do. They’d established themselves as a band.
Their popularity grew with each gig.
The evidence stared me in the face.
The day that I saw a picture of Dylan with a woman hanging off his body—her lips pressed hard against his cheek—I didn’t know what to feel.
I dismissed the anger as something I shouldn’t feel.
Hadn’t I told him to go?
Hadn’t I made it clear that a relationship with me while he was on the road wasn’t going to work?
Then why did I have this gnawing feeling inside of me?
And why wasn’t it going away?
It appeared that I didn’t have to worry about the prospect of taking Kat out on a date—and for that I felt a great deal of relief.
As a band, we took every available opportunity to play cards in earnest now that the tour was in full swing.
We’d been on the road for nearly two weeks playing one or two gigs a day.
Calvin had organised for us to play lunchtime concerts in some high schools in the provinces.
I found it an unnerving experience, playing to a bunch of kids in school uniform.
They didn’t seem to care.
I had to admit, that after the lunchtime school gigs, the night gigs really went off.
We played to full house after full house.
Our social media following had exploded.
When I wasn’t on stage, or lugging gear in and out of the van, I was standing in front of stage doors taking selfies with a procession of people whose names I never had a chance of remembering.
It had truly gotten to the point where I didn’t have a clue what town we were playing in any more.
The only consistent thing about being on the road, was the five of us playing cards at every opportunity and the music.
The more we played, the tighter the band became.
We’d taken to communicating with each other on stage in a special kind of sign language that only the four of us knew.
I felt some days as if I’d gone through some kind of portal and landed in an alternate reality. But it was my reality and one that I wouldn’t swap with anyone for anything.
The longer I lived what I knew to be my dream life—the more convinced I became that no matter what happened, music was what I wanted to do.
In the odd private moment that Marty and I had together, we tossed around some new song ideas.
Calvin had made it clear that things were going well.
That once we were back off the road, he wanted us in the studio.
So we needed some more material.
It was a welcome distraction from the competitive card playing school that we’d become involved in.
Jesse and Liam seemed to be fighting it out to be the first to five hundred.
I wasn’t sure if that was because Marty and I had lost a little interest in the challenge, or because Liam and Jesse just seemed to be getting on better with Kat the longer she was on the road with us.
She made me feel kind of less than.
It probably wasn’t her fault—but in any event it was something that I didn’t like.
Occasionally, when I had a spare moment, I thought about Destiny.
I’d even thought about texting her.
But then I thought better of it.
I’d seen the photographs that were circulating on social media. I wondered whether Calvin was carefully curating a following of young women—or whether it was simply something organic that was happening.
“Have you seen this?”
I leaned over to Liam who sat beside me in the van.
We were on the road to god-only knew where I’d given up trying to keep track earlier in the week. I could see a large mountain, so that at least put us in the Taranaki area. Logic said that we would go down one side of the North Island and then work our way back up the other.
We’d passed the odd great looking surf beach.
I wondered what Calvin would think about Marty and I strapping our surf boards to the top of the van—but then when would we have the time to surf, on the crazy schedule he had us working?
“Seen what?” Liam pulled off his headphones and stared at the face of my phone.
“Our following, I’m sure it’s trebled overnight.”
“Probably has,” Liam replied.
“Has Calvin had a hand in this?” I asked as I scrolled through what looked like an endless parade of young women hanging off the arm of one of the boys in the band.
“Doubt it,” Liam said in the off-hand way he had with me when I was asking him stupid questions. “When something starts to take off, there’s no stopping it.” He punched me in the top of the arm. A friendly kind of tap—one that told me our relationship had developed into one of mutual respect—despite my lack of on the road experience.
“So this is just going to keep growing?” It seemed like a silly question now that the words were out of my mouth.
“Yup,” Liam said, “and isn’t that what we want? Especially if we’re going into the studio when we get back to Auckland. Calvin’s building momentum for the release of our first album. Then he’ll have us back on the road. Rinse and repeat.”
Liam started to put his headphones back on, but he stopped and then looked me in the eye. “Be grateful that it’s going so well,” he said, “it’s what we all want. Not everyone gets this lucky.”
Not everyone works this fucking hard, I thought. I guess we were making our own luck and I wanted it to continue.
We’d just finished dragging the last of the gear from the backstage area of our latest gig.
“Fucking get on with it Stan,” Liam barked from beside the van.
“What’s the freakin’ hurry,” Stan moaned to me as I handed him another drum case and he continued to jigsaw the gear into the back of the van.
“Those two are amped for playing cards,” I explained tipping my head in the direction of Liam and Jesse who appeared to be hopping from foot to foot as if they stood on a hot plate.
Sam looked at me with a half-century of experience on the road. “I suggest you throw those cards out,” he said, “if they’re that anxious to play, no good can come of it.”
It was clear that tonight, one way or another, Jesse or Liam were going to make it to five hundred—there was no way around it.
No-one else came close to their top scores.
One or two hands and she’d all be over.
Kat continued to flirt equally with all of us. I couldn’t say that she was anything but an equal opportunity sound guy. Being the recipient of her feminine charms usually made me feel good—probably in the same way that I enjoyed the attention of the fans and the selfies—but I still missed Destiny.
I missed the deep connection that I’d had with her and the shared experiences we’d had at home. Although I was making new shared experiences with the band—they were still too new.
The only part of my old life that I missed was Destiny and the girls—but they were gone.
In what seemed like no time at all, the five of us were seated around another formica motel table. I put a beer in front of each of us and picked up my hand of cards.
Kat was the first to call, ‘uno’ and it wasn’t until we were on our fourth beer that things took a dramatic turn.
“You’re a fucking cheat!” Jesse screamed at Liam from across the table.
I thought about what Stan had said to me and wondered if I should just pick up the cards and throw them in the rubbish. The look on Liam’s face made me pause.
“I never cheat,” Liam replied as he put down another card and said, “uno.”
“You put two cards down out of order,” Jesse said making a lunge for the discard pile.
Liam’s hand fell down over the cards. “I don’t cheat,” he said. “Marty, you seen any cheating going on?”
I watched with interest as Marty took a slow swig of his beer, swallowed and then took his time to answer. Marty looked from Jesse to Liam, giving them both the weight of his attention in equal measure. Then he said, “Don’t involve me in this.”
“Kat?” Liam looked at her for what? She was the prize for this stupid game that we’d all embarked on. Or maybe Liam was being clever. Whatever Kat’s answer—she’d be giving an indication of her preferred winner.
Kat shook her head in the negative. “I don’t see anything out of order.”
She’d taken to plaiting her hair in the last few days. The plaits didn’t swing from the sides of her head in the way that her hair did when she wore it in pigtails. Instead, her hair lay in stark contrast on each side of her neck, against the white of her skin.
Tonight Kat wore a scoop t-shirt that revealed a hint of the gothic-looking writing tattooed across her chest. When she wore slightly revealing clothing like this I, no doubt like the rest of the band, couldn’t help but have the urge to pull the material away to see what lay hidden beneath.
Kat had indicated her preference.
Jesse exploded with a roar from the other side of the table.
He launched himself across the surface and made a lunge for Liam.
Bottles and cards flew in all directions.
General mayhem ensued.
Before I could gather my thoughts, Liam and Jesse were rolling around the motel floor in amongst the scattered bottles and cards.
“For fuck’s sake,” Kat screamed, “grow up. I’d have expected this kind of shit from Marty and Dylan, but not you two.”
And with that last sentence ringing in our ears, she up and left us to it.
Silence filled the room.
Jesse and Liam ceased their wrestling on the floor, sat up and stared at each other.
I looked at Marty, “Was that some kind of back-handed compliment?”
He shrugged, “Fucked if I know.”
Liam pulled his knees up to his chest and then laughed. “She’s played the four of us pretty fucking well.”
He stood up and then offered his hand to Jesse.
Jesse took it and allowed himself to be hauled to his feet. “You gonna take her out then?”
“Not if it means you and I are going to end up rolling round on the floor trying to kill each other,” Liam said. “No woman’s worth pissing off the best bass player I’ve played with in years.”
Liam began to pick up the cards off the floor.
“What are you going to do with them now?” Marty asked.
“The rubbish bin’s under the sink,” I offered.
“Fuck the rubbish,” Liam said. “First one to five hundred and this time Kat’s not playing.”
“Look, they’re going to be in Wellington playing at The Brideshead on Saturday night. Wouldn’t it be a great idea to surprise them?” I was struggling to convince the girls that a weekend away in Wellington was something that we should do.
“Wellington?” Ella looked at me as if I’d just suggested that we swim to Australia.
“Wouldn’t you like to catch up with Marty?” If I couldn’t at least get Ella on board, then I didn’t have a hope in getting to Wellington.
“I’m not going anywhere near those freaks again,” Angela said with a shiver. “That jerk who gave me that pill should be locked up.”
“You didn’t have to take it,” I snapped, we’d been through that night so many times. Frustration bubbled through me. I couldn’t imagine what had made Ange take something from someone she didn’t know. Maybe it was best that she stay home.
“Come on,” I said to Ella trying not to sound desperate, even though that was how I felt. “We can skip our afternoon classes and take the overnighter on Friday. We’ll be in Wellington on Saturday morning and we can surprise the guys on Saturday night.”
Ella eyed me with suspicion. “Have you even been in contact with Dylan since they left?”
I squirmed on my bed.
Ella continued to eyeball me from the beanbag on the other side of the room.
“What does that have to do with anything?” I tried to brush off the uncomfortable question.
“You have seen the screeds of girls that have been hanging off them since they’ve been on the road,” Ella continued to grill me from the other side of the bedroom.
I decided to turn the question back on her. “Have you been in touch with Marty?”
“I haven’t got the hots for Marty the way you have for Dylan.”
It was impossible trying to hide anything from my best friends.
“Okay, I’ll admit it,” I said as I pulled a pillow from my bed up against me and hugged it to my chest. “I miss them. Maybe I made a mistake.” I shrugged. “So who wants to come with me to Wellington?”
“Count me out of this insane adventure,” Angela said.
I looked at Ella.
“Oh for fuck’s sake,” Ella sighed, “all right. I’ll come with you. It’s a mad idea but a night on the train could be fun.”
I could have hugged her, but instead I hugged the pillow tighter.
“Are we going to let them know we’re coming?” Ella asked.
“Nah,” I said. “Let’s surprise them. We can text them when we get to Wellington.”
“I hope it’s the right kind of surprise,” Angela said, a note of caution in her voice.
So did I.
“It will be,” I said. I wasn’t sure who I was trying to convince, Angela or me.
What I hadn’t told anyone and the other reason that I couldn’t get Dylan out of my mind was that my period was late.
I still wondered what the odds were that I could have gotten pregnant the first time I had sex.
* * *
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