I guess it could be said that I might have known how you would vote last week—but there’s always that moment of suspense, when I eventually go and check.
The story ends up going in a slightly different direction than I’d anticipated, but then that’s part of the wonder and charm of the experience that we’re having together.
Enjoy this week’s chapter and—DON’T FORGET TO VOTE!
Love Toni xx
Los Angeles and The Strip was somewhere that kids who grew up in the back-blocks of New Zealand could only ever have dreamed about.
Dylan and Marty may have been the new kids on the block, so to speak, but the old kids like me and Jesse who’d been around the Australian band circuit a couple of times were still totally in awe of the larger-than-life aspects and attitudes to life in LA.
Calvin putting me in charge was tantamount to expecting the rabbit to keep the lettuce patch in order.
I didn’t want to let the rest of the band know, but I was in as much awe over where we found ourselves as any one of them.
I had the distinct feeling of deja vu even though I had never set foot on the sidewalk in this part of the world before.
Too many hours sat in front of computer videos and watching too much American TV.
The surreal feeling didn’t leave me when we stopped inside of the exclusive club where Ace Revolution were playing. The fact we had to be ID’d at the door by the large, gorilla-like security team didn’t do anything to make the situation feel any more real.
I’d be lying, though, if I didn’t admit (even to myself) that there was something special about being plucked from a long line of people waiting to get in, given individual treatment and then ushered inside like the invited guests that we obviously were.
Once inside, the old feelings of being somewhere that I shouldn’t be resurfaced.
I hadn’t felt them for a while.
I’d made the stage and my spot behind the drums my safe space, but out here, in amongst the bright and up-and-coming stars of the LA scene, I couldn’t help but drag my murky southern past behind me.
Dylan and Marty on the other hand, two white middle-class young men from the North Shore of Auckland were having no such issues.
Just watching the way that they held themselves in the Club. They had an aura of belonging here. These were their kind of people.
Up and coming.
My guess, the majority of the men and women in this room had, to date, lived a charmed life.
Life for me had been anything less than charmed. It had only started to take on something that resembled appropriate since Calvin had taken me under his wing.
Now it appeared to me, Calvin expected some kind of return on his investment. Whether that was behind a set of drums, or keeping an eye on the rest of the band, the debt would be repaid one way or another.
It struck me as strange, the idea that I had to keep a couple of kids out of trouble, when said couple of kids were more comfortable in this world of glamour and grace than I’d ever be.
Those two wouldn’t know trouble if it bit them on the arse.
Jesse on the other hand. He’d seen a few rough patches in his life—nowhere near as rough as my own—but he hadn’t been born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth that Marty and Dylan had.
Like me, Jesse was a survivor and a scrapper—but unlike me, Jesse hadn’t seen things that couldn’t be unseen.
Marty handed me a beer. “Apparently on the band,” he said, “you can thank me later.”
“You’ll thank me,” I replied, “by making sure you don’t imbibe enough of your lady’s hospitality that I have to get the gorillas on the front door to escort you out of here.”
“I’m not the guy you have to worry about,” Marty assured me. “Your mate,” he hooked his glass in the direction of Jesse, “has already hit the top shelf. Doesn’t think he wants to take it easy tonight.”
“Leave it with me,” I replied.
“I’ll have to,” Marty said, flashing me a VIP ticket that he promptly hung around his neck. “I’m off backstage.”
“Fucking behave,” I growled.
Marty just flicked me the finger and headed for the stage door.
I joined Jesse and Dylan in a small booth that they’d seconded not too far from the main bar area.
The elevated and curved, purple leather enclave had a perfect view of the stage beyond the dance floor.
“Pretty sweet,” I said, “how d’you get this.”
Dylan picked his drink up off a reserved sign. “Seem’s Marty’s lady wants to make sure that we have a good view of the show.”
“Shit, she’s pulling out all the stops for him, isn’t she?” I asked neither of them in particular.
Jesse finished the last of his drink and held the empty glass up above his head. A waitress appeared out of nowhere. She had the look about her of most of the young women that I’d seen so far in LA.
Aspiring actress, songstress or wannabe somebody.
The town was filled with people chasing the dream and, I guess, we weren’t any different, except that Calvin had somehow managed to secure us a deal that I still didn’t believe was going to happen.
“Same again?” the waitress asked.
“Yup,” Jesse replied.
I leaned into Jesse, “You need to take it easy.”
“You’re babysitting the kids,” he replied, “not me.”
“I just don’t want any trouble, okay?”
Jesse eyeballed me. “You’ll get none from me.” I’d seen that look in his eye before and it didn’t bode well for the night to come.
I hadn’t felt this intimidated since the day Dylan and I stood on the front doorstep of The Globe waiting to meet Calvin for the first time.
My hand instinctively went looking for the comfort of the single gold earring that I wore.
Twisting the warm metal in my ear eased the anxiety that now coursed through my veins. No amount of alcohol could soothe the mounting sense of tension that filled my body. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to know that arriving drunk backstage to meet with Pet and the band wouldn’t be the best way to begin a professional relationship—or any kind of relationship for that matter.
I almost laughed at the idea.
A passing “hello” after the house party and a few direct messages since could hardly be called a relationship. But I guess it was an increasing interest of some sort, or I wouldn’t find myself standing here with security waiting to be escorted to Pet’s dressing room.
“This way,” my large host indicated as I was ushered through the small labyrinth of back rooms and endless alleyways that made up the back of the club.
I had a sense that thousands of musicians before me had walked these somewhat tatty off-white washed hallways, but that couldn’t kill the mounting thrill of actually being here.
My guide knocked on a door with the number “1” painted on the front of it.
“Come in,” the unfamiliar, but strangely familiar voice replied.
“You heard the lady,” my guide said as he waited with infinite patience for me to open the door.
It was when my hand slipped on the metal door handle itself that I realised how actually nervous I felt.
Did he notice?
Did it matter?
I ignored my mounting nerves and pushed open the surprisingly heavy door.
The room inside looked nothing like the stark hallway that I stood in.
“Hey, you made it. Come in.” The warmth of the words, uttered in the inimitable drawl that I’d come to associate with most American accents, were as inviting as the room itself.
In the unabashed way that most of the Americans that I’d met so far had about them and before I had a chance to move from the spot that I found myself rooted to, Pet thew her arms around me and kissed me enthusiastically on each cheek.
“Oh look,” she laughed, throwing her head back and revealing a set of perfect, white teeth, “I’ve gotten lipstick all over you. Come here.”
She grabbed me by the hand and pulled me towards a makeup mirror on one wall of the brightly furnished room and sat me down in front of an array of makeup that wouldn’t have been out of place at the makeup counter in the local department store at home.
“We’ll get that right off,” she said as she busied herself dipping a wipe into a large tub of white cream.
The touch of the cool cream on my cheek was almost enough to drag me out of the stupor that I’d somehow slipped into on the way down here.
“There, that’s better,” Pet said once she was happy that she’d removed the last of the colour and cream from both of my cheeks.
My senses no longer reeling, having been replaced with a strange rush of warmth at the careful attention from Pet, I now had a chance to take stock of where I sat.
The room was nothing like the backstage spaces that I’d experienced so far in my short, musical career. I felt as if I’d stepped through the wardrobe and landed in Narnia.
I couldn’t have told you what was behind the walls, because every single one of them appeared to have a heavy, black curtain hung in front of it, giving the room a warm, cavernous feel, not unlike the club front that I’d just stepped out from. The room was littered with assorted, brightly coloured cushions, bean bags and couches—one made of red velvet and set in the shape of a pair of cupped hands.
“You hungry?” Pet asked as she swung the chair that I sat in toward a small fridge and accompanying array of mixed platters of fruit, nuts and extravagant looking salads. “I’m whole food, plant based, so I hope you can cope without dead things.”
I couldn’t have eaten anything if I’d wanted to. My stomach had been doing somersaults since I stepped from the front of the club.
“No, I’m not hungry. Thanks.” Then I added, “But there’s no issue with the food.”
“Good,” she replied. “All the crew’s plant based. You’ll soon get the hang of it.”
The hang of what? I wondered.
“The rest of your band out front?” she asked.
I nodded. “Yeah,” it was then that I realised that Pet Anders, the great Pet Anders might just be as nervous about meeting me as I was about meeting her.
The idea seemed insane.
But something about it made me relax.
I took a moment to turn the chair around and look at her. Really look at her.
She wore a thin shift of a dress that looked almost like a satin night dress, except it somehow managed to hug the peaks and valleys of her breasts. It was bright yellow, with tiny pink flamingoes dotted all around. I decided that she must like flamingoes because she had one tattooed down the side of her arm. On anyone else it would have looked crass, but on Pet is spoke of nothing but cool.
“So you’re from New Zealand,” she said as she walked over to the red cupped hand couch and sat down. She tucked one of her long legs up under her, the other still touching the deep blue rug that ran almost the length and breadth of the room. “What’s it like?”
I shrugged. “Not too dissimilar to here, only we have more clouds.”
She laughed and then patted the space on the couch beside her. “Come sit. We’ve got an hour before I have to get ready for the show.”
I liked the sound of Pet’s laugh, but I liked the invitation to sit beside her even more.
“How long you been doing this?” I asked as I sat down beside her, eager to know more about Pet than the tabloids or the internet sources I’d scoured could tell me.
“Playing the club scene or playing?”
“Both,” I replied.
Pet tipped her head to one side as if she were watching some kind of private movie in her own head. The long tails of her hair that she wore in a high ponytail lay taunting me on the back of the red couch.
I had a surprisingly overwhelming desire to touch her hair.
Instead, I found the familiar metal of my earring and began to turn it at a slow, even pace.
“I’ve been performing for as long as I can remember,” she said. “It’s all I know. Mom and Dad auditioned me for TV and I’ve been doing it ever since.” She began to twist her hair between her long fingers, and it was then that I noticed the word, “Vegan” tattooed on the inside of her wrist.
“That new?” I asked pointing at the tattoo as I took a swig of the beer in my hand.
She tipped her head the other way and then a bright smile spread across her face.
“I do believe that you’ve been stalking me online, Marty Campbell.”
The heat of a blush began to crawl its way up my face.
For the first time in a long time, I didn’t have anything that might resemble an answer for the amazing out-of-my-league woman that sat in front of me.
How the hell did I get here?
* * *
What did you think? Let me know in the comment section below.
Never want to miss an episode? Sign up here and I'll send a short alert direct to your inbox.
In the meantime, you need to VOTE!
Click on THIS LINK and have your say on the direction the story should take.
Thank you so much for reading. Feel free to invite your friends to read along too--the more the merrier.
See you next week and have fun voting!
Click here for CHAPTER 33