So you broke the “in agreement streak” that we’ve been running with!
The outcome of the voting won’t be known until Alannah and Liam meet again—hopefully by then you’ll remember which option you voted for :-)
Enjoy this week’s chapter and—DON’T FORGET TO VOTE!
Love Toni xx
I’d made a concerted effort to stay out of the bar and out of the garden as much as possible for the last few days. I missed my tranquil time in front of the big blue buddha, but I missed Alannah more.
When I wasn’t in the studio working with the boys on putting down the tracks for the album, or pounding the waterfront running, I tucked myself away in our suite of rooms upstairs in the hotel.
Truth be told, we were putting so much into this album that there wasn’t a lot else left once I’d run the balance of my energy out on the streets.
I lay on the couch, debating whether to pick up the video controller and spend the last few minutes before sleep hit losing myself in another online battle. I decided in the end that was easier to just lie here and watch Marty and Dylan battle it out in some mythical forest.
Alannah was still on my mind.
Dylan’s online avatar had the same piercing bright green eyes and I couldn’t help but remember the way that Alannah’s had roamed my body, consumed me, ravenously and greedily. In return I knew that my own eyes had raked her body, taking in every inch of that which I’d hoped to devour that same evening.
“Best laid plans,” I muttered under my breath.
“What?” Marty asked, cocking his head to one side and then leaning away again as he desperately pushed the tiny joystick in front of him with his thumb and pounded on the button on the front of the controller in an effort to destroy whatever mythical creature pursued him and Dylan.
“Fuck!” Dylan screamed, “concentrate will ya’ they’re coming at us from all directions.”
“I’m out of here,” I announced peeling myself up off the leather couch, just as Jesse walked into the room.
“You checked out the chick who’s replaced Alannah?” he announced.
“What?” I spun around and faced him. He had a couple of beers in his hand and passed one to me. I’d been on my way to bed, but all of a sudden that didn’t seem like such a great idea. “Where’s Alannah?”
“Gone,” Jesse said as he took a swig of his beer.
“What do you mean, gone?” A cold ball had settled in my stomach and it had nothing to do with the cool ale that I’d almost consumed in a couple of swallows.
Jesse shrugged. “Calvin said she’d given notice and split. But you should check out her replacement.” Jesse let out a high-pitched whistle and then promptly took up my position on the couch and picked up a game controller.
“What do you mean split?” I felt as if I was trying to get information out of an informant who was determined not to tell me anything.
“Gone. Vanished. No longer with us.” Jesse began to call up his avatar so he could join the game.
“Where?” I tried not to sound pitiful, but the word came out like a whine.
Jesse looked up at me. “You okay?”
“Fine,” I gritted out. “But where’s, Alannah?”
He shrugged. “No idea. You’ll have to ask Calvin.”
I excused myself on the pretence that I’d go downstairs and get more beers. Really, all I wanted was to find Calvin and work out where Alannah had gone.
On the way down in the lift, I pulled up her number on my cellphone.
“This number is no longer available,” the canned mechanical voice of some robot spat back in my ear.
What the fuck was going on?
I mean, I’d been avoiding her for a few days, but I didn’t think what had gone down between the two of us was enough to send her god-only-knew-where.
“You seen Calvin?” I asked the unfamiliar blonde haired woman behind the counter.
“Who’s asking?” she replied.
“Don’t worry about it, I’ll find him.”
Who the hell did she think she was, I thought as I headed back out towards Calvin’s office. If he wasn’t in there, then he’d be up in his apartment, but knowing Calvin, he’d still be behind his desk at this time of night.
I banged on the door, my inclination to push it open, but I had the utmost respect for Calvin and I had no idea who might be in there with him.
“Yo!” The call came back through the door.
The man who’d given me so many breaks in my life sat alone behind his large desk.
“What can I do for you, Liam?” The warm smile that came with the question went some way to soothe my dancing nerves.
“She said she had some trouble with her family and needed to get home,” Calvin replied.
“When’s she coming back?”
Calvin shook his head. “No idea, son. She emailed her resignation with her apologies and said she was getting on the first plane home.”
I tried to breathe, but my chest seemed too tight. I felt as if I’d run all the way back to the hotel from the waterfront and yet I’d barely moved.
“Okay, thanks.” I turned to walk out of the office.
“I know how much she means to you, son. I’m sorry. Whatever happened.”
I turned back around and looked at Calvin sat behind his desk, fingers steepled.
He’d been around for what seemed like forever.
“Thanks,” I knew it was all I needed to say.
“You should know that the record company are creaming themselves over the first mix of these songs that have gone up to them. Keep your eye on the prize, okay?”
“Go tell Debbie, the new barmaid that you’re to take a hip flask of whatever you want back upstairs.”
“It’s not necessary,” I said, “I hate running with a hangover.”
“Get it anyways. Tell the rest of the band the good news from the record company. The four of you can celebrate.”
“Okay,” I shrugged.
“One more thing,” Calvin said as I began to turn back towards the door. “Don’t let her get to you. You’ve got a huge future with this band, son and I don’t want you to blow it.”
“There’s no chance of that,” I said as I walked through the door and closed it behind me.
“Calvin sent it,” I said as I returned to the lounge upstairs and put a hip flask of bourbon down on the table. “Apparently the studio love the demo mixes and we should celebrate.”
“Fuck, that’s a relief,” Marty said as Jesse went looking for the shot glasses that were buried somewhere in the kitchen cupboard.
Jesse picked up the bourbon and snapped off the cap, crunched it up in his hand and threw the disfigured cap over his shoulder.
“Here’s to fucking us!” he eventually said after he’d poured four shots.
To us indeed.
We’d damn near completed the recording of our first album. It might have been a collection of songs that Dylan and Marty had written over a few years—but they were ours and they were originals. In my own humble opinion, at least two of them had commercial legs and that was no doubt why we’d been picked up by the overseas company.
I had a lot to thank Calvin for—not the least that he hadn’t put me out on the street after the Steve incident.
I could tell by the look on his face tonight that he knew what I was going through.
That’s why he’d sent me upstairs with some anaesthetic.
I didn’t want to numb myself—let’s face it—that hadn’t gotten Steve anywhere except locked up in a hospital that he’d probably never get out of.
I would grieve.
I would hurt.
But, I’d get through.
I’d get through because I had these three idiots by my side.
We were a band.
A fucking solid band at that and we were headed places.
The world was a small place and we were going to be a big name.
Alannah would come back into my life.
I knew it.
I’d seen it in the way she looked at me.
The fear drove her away—but I knew she wouldn’t be able to stay away for long.
She may have run away thinking that would keep her safe from musicians—but I knew Alannah and I knew what music meant to her.
She’d be back.
And I’d be waiting.
* * *
We stood in the queue at US Immigration at LAX and all I could think about was the wooden races that I’d seen the sheep standing in at home waiting to be shorn.
Although I’d been looking forward to the warmth of a New Zealand summer, it didn’t worry me too much that we were approaching an LA winter.
From all accounts, we were going to see little difference in temperature from the two countries, anyway.
Having made our way through finger-printing and photography at immigration and trying not to be too intimidated by the immigration officers packing a pistol on their hips, I was eager to meet the sunny warmth of the City of Angels.
Calvin had endured the twelve hour flight packed into an economy seat beside the rest of the band and fell upon his own chair when it arrived in the oversized baggage area like a man starved of water.
Mayham ensued the second we got out of the front doors of the terminal.
“There should be a van on order for us,” Calvin said as he pulled out his phone and began dialing in the number he’d been given.
As it happened, we were immediately split up.
“There’s a cab for Marty and Dylan,” Calvin said his phone glued to his ear, “and they’re sending a van for me, you and Jesse and the luggage.”
“You’re not letting the boys go it alone in LA, surely?” I eyeballed Calvin. “I think me and Jess should take the cab and Marty and Dylan can go with you.”
The corner of Calvin’s mouth turned up, “You’re probably right.”
I knew I was right.
Dylan and Marty were stood, mouths agape, watching the non-stop stream of people and vehicles outside the terminal.
The noise, the heat and the jet lag were all taking their toll.
“Boys,” Calvin caught their attention, “over here. You’re with me.”
Jesse and I climbed into the air-conditioned interior of the yellow cab and waited to be transported to our new lives in LA.
We drove smooth concrete roads—the polar opposite of the dark tar seal we were used to at home—up into the hills and past perfectly manicured footpaths. Large Phoenix and California palms reminded me how out of place they looked in amongst the tar seal roads and weatherboard homes in New Zealand’s residential streets. Here, they seemed perfectly suited to the rich canopy of the mountain flora.
I caught a glimpse of the odd Spanish bungalow’s roof as we made our way to the accommodation that the record company had arranged for us.
“You ever think we’d get here?” Jesse asked as we pulled in the driveway of the split-level stucco Californian bungalow.
I wasn’t about to admit that I’d had my moments—not even to Jesse.
“I always kept the faith,” I replied as I eyed up the swimming pool and the pool house beyond. These gardens were out of this world, the only thing missing was the big blue buddha and Alannah.
* * *
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