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Love Toni xx
I hated it when Liam was right.
In fact, I hated it when Liam had me pinned down on a subject. Ever since the day I’d first met him, he had the ability to look straight through me.
He was doing it now.
The length of his body, casually laid across one of the semi-circular bar seats.
One knee bent, the other leg stretched out so far that it meant I had to step over the log-like shape of his jeans to get back to the bar.
I brought the bottle of scotch and put it on the table.
“You sure you want to have this discussion?” I asked as I watched Liam lean forward and reach out for the bottle and pour himself another shot of whiskey.
“What discussion’s that?” he asked as he tipped his head to one side.
“Don’t piss me about, Liam Herewini. If you want to play truth or dare that’s fine. But the dares are off the table.”
I watched him take a sip of the amber liquid.
Liam had never been afraid to let me know how he felt.
The whole time that I’d been with Steve, I’d been aware of Liam’s attraction to me.
I’d been flattered.
But never tempted to stray outside of the relationship I had with Steve. Why should I be? That wasn’t something that you did when you were the lead singer’s girlfriend.
And to give Liam his due, he’d respected the relationship I had with Steve and never overstepped the boundaries—but I’d still always known how he felt about me.
Things had gotten complicated as Steve’s descent into the pit of addiction began to impact on all of our lives.
“Cold?” Liam asked.
I shook my head, “No. Just remembering.”
“Do you want to share with the group?” Liam asked as he picked up his glass and began to swirl the whiskey around the inside of the tumbler.
Why not? Maybe sharing some of this with Liam would eventually clear the air between us.
“Steve put us all through so much shit,” I said.
“He did,” Liam agreed, “but we wouldn’t have had to go through any of it if it wasn’t for that bastard sound guy, Jeff feeding him smack.”
“I don’t think you can blame it all on Jeff,” I replied. “Steve was well on his way before Jeff arrived on the scene.”
I shrugged. I wasn’t about to get into an argument with Liam about when or where Steve’s addiction had started, all that mattered was that it took hold and destroyed him and the band.
I stared into the last of the whiskey in my glass.
The silence hovered over the two of us, a comfortable cloud that somehow seemed to dissipate the electric rage that Liam still carried around Jeff and his perceived misdemeanours.
That was the thing I’d learned about Liam, mainly from watching him sit in the garden for long periods with the blue buddha—silence seemed to soothe him almost as much as sitting behind the drums soothed him.
A strange dichotomy of a man.
He intrigued me more than I wanted to admit.
I downed the last of the whiskey in my glass.
The sensible part of my brain—the part that constantly warned me about the dangers of having anything to do with any more musicians—made the feeble suggestion that I put my glass in the steriliser and call it a night.
Imagine my surprise when I found myself pouring another shot of scotch into that same glass.
Part of me obviously had other ideas.
Ideas involving the brooding man sat opposite me.
“What did you see in him?”
Liam’s question startled me and I looked up into the chocolate brown of his unblinking eyes.
I took a sip of the whiskey and then another while I thought about the best way to answer his question.
Liam still hadn’t blinked and his eyes had not left mine.
“Probably the same things that you saw in him.”
Liam’s smirk broke the intense spell he had over me and it made me laugh.
“Really?” he asked, the sound of his voice rolling through my body, doing things that I didn’t want it to do.
I felt the corners of my mouth curl up into a grin. “Maybe not.” I could also feel the heat of the blush that I knew crawled over my skin.
“Steve’s a brilliant vocalist and an outstanding songwriter,” I said. “Aren’t they the things that you saw in him?”
Now I knew I was flirting with the long-limbed drummer.
I’d not consciously allowed myself to go here before.
We were in unchartered territory and I felt the swell of excitement as it began to build inside my body. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d felt like this.
Kind of giddy.
It wasn’t the whiskey.
I came from good Irish stock. I’d been drinking whiskey for almost as long as I could remember.
This was something entirely different.
And I liked it.
She was flirting with me.
This woman who’d stone-walled me for the last three years was flirting with me.
What had changed?
Offering to talk about Steve?
Did I really want to go back there?
I still couldn’t think about that night without the terror of almost losing him hitting me in the gut like a red-hot spear.
Steve was the nearest thing I’d ever had to a brother.
I loved Jesse—but not in the same way that I’d loved Steve.
I couldn’t love the shell of a man that I’d visited in the psychiatric lock-up. The shaking shell of a man who’d sat in front of me with the vacant stare wasn’t the vibrant, electric man I’d toured New Zealand and Australia with.
The pale caricature that had stared back at me and spoken in mono-syllabic sentences wasn’t the Steve that I knew and loved.
That Steve was gone.
I’d never forgive Jeff for doing that to him.
“That brilliant musician is lost to us now,” I gritted out as I took another swig of the whiskey and then poured myself another shot. I held the bottle so tight I wouldn’t have been surprised if it had shattered in my hand.
“Easy, Tiger,” Alannah said as she watched my shaking hand put the bottle back on the table. “That stuff’s almost as bad.”
“Nothing like it,” I snapped. “If that’s the case, then you’re a pusher as well.” Even as I spat the words out I couldn’t ever believe that Alannah could push anything on anyone—she wasn’t that kind of girl.
“Maybe,” she mused as she stared at the bottle that I’d put down on the table. “But Calvin and the law are pretty strict about who and what I can serve. You don’t see any drunks around here.”
I wasn’t going to get into this argument.
We were skating around the truth, anyway.
Hadn’t I brought Steve up in the first place because I wanted to get closer to Alannah?
What kind of sick creep did that make me?
“He’d have died if you hadn’t found him,” Alannah whispered.
Her eyes were glassy with unshed tears.
Did I tell her that I thought maybe he’d be better off dead than in the vegetative state he was in when I saw him last?
Another glance at her.
“I didn’t do anything more than anyone else who loved him would have done,” I tried to shrug off the memory of finding him hanging from the ceiling.
For weeks, every time I closed my eyes all I saw was him.
I could have lost myself in booze or drugs, but instead I lost myself down by the waterfront. I ran until I didn’t think I could run anymore.
When I wasn’t running, I sat behind the drums.
The beat gave me comfort.
Calvin could easily have thrown us out.
Mike, our keyboard player left.
He couldn’t hack it anymore.
But Jesse stayed.
And look where we were now?
On our way to LA with Dylan and Marty. Would that have happened with Steve and Mike? I guess I’d never know.
“But you were there and you found him,” Alannah said as she looked up at me. “You know, I always thought that me and Steve would be together. Forever.”
Something inside of me ached.
For Alannah and for Steve.
“I know he could be a prick sometimes, but that was him.” Alannah sighed. “You know, I saw those young girls who came in before you went on tour. The ones who were with Dylan and Marty.”
“Yeah,” I said, “they caught up with us in Wellington. Gave the boys the flick, probably a good thing. Considering.”
Alannah smiled. “They listened to me. I’m glad. I wish someone had told me what I told them. How much it hurts loving a man who’s on the road. It’s a nightmare.”
I wanted to reassure her. “Steve was never unfaithful. You know that, right?”
Now a tear trickled down Alannah’s pale face.
“No,” she whispered. “He always told me he didn’t,” she shrugged, “but I guess a part of me never knew whether to believe him or not.”
“He loved you,” I said, “with all his heart. The only thing he loved more was the band and the music.”
“And the drugs,” she added. I could hear the bitterness in her voice.
“They took him, he didn’t love them, he needed them. That was all.”
How many times had I seen him hanging out?
How many times did I wonder what I could have done so that the outcome had been different?
Would intervention have worked?
We tried more than once to tell him—to show him what his using was doing to him and the band—but he wouldn’t, or he couldn’t stop.
“You really believe that? I mean I know he couldn’t stop at the end…” Her voice trailed off. Her eyes drifted to the corner of the bar where Steve liked to stand when we were in town and he was intent of chatting to her when she was serving behind the bar.
I nodded. “Yeah. That’s why I’ll never forgive that retard who got him hooked.”
“Well, he’s long gone. There’s that at least to be thankful for,” Alannah said as she came back from whatever place in the past she’d been visiting.
“Do you still go visit him?” I needed to know.
Alannah looked at me, eyes wide. She took a deep breath and straightened her back.
“No.” She said the word with no apology or emotion. “You?”
I shook my head. “No.”
Her shoulders slumped. “You have guilt too?”
“We shouldn’t, should we? I mean, I tell myself that I need to put that part of my life behind me and, like, he doesn’t even seem to recognise me when I go. It’s like he’s lost somewhere inside of his own head and I can’t find him anymore.” The words fell out of Alannah’s mouth in a rush.
When she’d stopped speaking, she went to pour herself another shot of whiskey.
“I think you’ve had enough,” I said as I caught my hand over hers on the bottle.
Alannah’s eyes flew up to meet mine.
I felt it again.
The connection between the two of us.
But was it real?
Or was it our mutual love for Steve that kept us tied to one another?
* * *
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