I’m so pleased that you want to take the story the same way that I want to take it this week. A few of you weren’t in agreement with the rest of us—but that always seems to happen whenever we vote around decisions for the heroine!
Here’s hoping that even if you didn’t agree with the way the story’s going this week—you still enjoy the content.
Enjoy the chapter and—DON’T FORGET TO VOTE!
Love Toni xx
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The man may well have been hung over, but Jesse knew me too bloody well.
He’d left me with the nagging idea of trying to entice Alannah over here to LA. How would she react to that kind of invitation, considering that she ran away before we had a chance to decompress from our last liaison in New Zealand?
I’d not broached the night in question at all since we’d commence pretty much daily correspondence by email.
But she has contacted you and asked for help, came the logical thought to my mind.
Surely that meant something, didn’t it?
I’d long ago given up trying to work out what went on in women’s minds.
Burned early on by the wrath of a teenage girlfriend, treated as an outcast by all of her friends, I’d decided that women were something that I could do without.
I’d watched my Mum pine for the love of a man who, when he hadn’t abandoned her in favour of his work—had eventually abandoned her by returning to England.
She’d been distraught and couldn’t imagine why he’d left us both.
I’d always assumed that it must have been something I’d done—that’s what Mum’s sisters had always told me, anyway.
It seemed easier to believe them.
Mum never married, or looked at another man after he left.
She threw herself into her school students and me.
Leaving home and leaving Mum was one of the hardest things I’d ever done in my life, but I didn’t fit there.
Did I fit anywhere?
Behind the drums maybe, but that was it.
Wanting Alannah seemed safe.
Safe because she belonged to someone else—I could admire her, be her friend—but I never had to get close enough that she could hurt me.
Now, everything had changed.
But was I prepared to risk being burned again?
While Alannah stayed on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, I could continue to keep her at arms length.
That’s why she ran away.
The thought hit me with about the same force I used on my kick drum.
She feels the same way.
Logic told me that a woman who felt the same attraction—but was as scared of it too—wouldn’t be up for coming over to LA.
But since when had I ever run my life on logic?
Things were going from bad to insufferable.
I began to realise as I turned up at the cafe for my third shift since the accusations of my stealing had been tabled in front of the rest of the crew that there was little likelihood of improvement.
I had a feeling that as the weather cooled outside, the temperature inside wasn’t going to get any better.
The struggle through that third shift and the venomous stares coming from Veronica were almost my undoing. For the first time ever in my life that I could remember, all I wanted to do was get out of my place of employment.
That wasn’t the way I wanted to work, or to live my life, but I knew deep down that if I wanted to continue living in New York, I had to stick this out to its natural conclusion. The idea of going to the cafe tomorrow made me want to vomit and that was a completely new experience.
What would Mam say, I wondered?
She’d probably tell me that I was made of sterner stuff. “We breed ‘em strong in County Wicklow,” I could hear her saying.
I knew I was a better woman than Veronica, but the idea of having to face her and the rest of the crew again tomorrow threw a dark cloud over my normally sunny disposition.
Even the view tonight over the Hudson River didn’t lift the heavy feeling that sat with me on the long train ride home. Usually the expanse of water lifted my spirits, but late this afternoon, with low cloud hugging the Hudson, I couldn’t find it in myself to experience any kind of joy or optimism for where I found myself this minute.
My phone buzzed in my jacket pocket.
I pulled it out.
An email from Liam.
My mood buoyed by the sight of his name on the screen, I opened the email.
I’ve been thinking about the shit situation you’re in.
I’ve also been thinking about how much I miss you.
Having you round scares the living shit out of me—but not having you around scares me even more.
Why don’t you come to LA?
I want you here.
We’ve got unfinished business and I want to finish it.
Let me know.
An overwhelming feeling that I couldn’t immediately describe washed over me.
Hope, mixed with anticipation and fear.
He’d given me the perfect opportunity to step away from the non-life I’d created for myself in New York.
The question I had to ask myself was whether or not I was game to take him up on his offer?
The grand night had arrived.
Opening for Ace Revolution was upon us.
I sat in the darkest corner I could find backstage. Separate and away from the rest of the band and from Ace. The guys in the band were great. I knew we’d all work well together and that had little to do with Marty who had cloistered himself away in Pet’s dressing room.
That was probably a good thing.
The idea of watching the two of them behave in their peculiar besotted way didn’t do a lot for me.
I’d been acutely aware that Alannah’s name was absent from my inbox. She’d not responded to me since I’d sent her the email three days ago asking her if she wanted to come to LA.
My pride wouldn’t allow me to send another email.
If my attempt to bring her over here had burned her off—well so be it.
But it hurt.
The absence of her written chatter in my life.
I didn’t realise how much I’d become accustomed to hearing from her until all communication came to a grinding halt.
I had no-one to blame but myself.
Well, I’d like to blame this monumental cock-up on Jesse, but he hadn’t held a gun to my head and forced me to write the email…he’d just illuminated a thought in my head that I’d been trying to ignore for years.
“How’s it?” Jesse sat himself beside me in the darkest reaches of the rooms that the band had been allocated backstage.
“It’s good,” I lied.
“Really?” He cocked his head to one side, a single blond eyebrow raised.
“We got a job to do, we need to concentrate on it. Okay?”
Jesse held up his hands, palms facing me and leaned back into the large sofa that had almost swallowed him when he sat down.
“I get it,” he said taking a swig out of his blue drink bottle. “But whatever you got going on you don’t need to keep punishing yourself like this.”
“What d’ya mean?”
“Holed up in the dark over here sitting on a travel trunk like you’re some kind of martyr.” He added with an evil grin, “I could arrange for a bed of nails to be sent in if that would help whatever you’ve got going on.”
“I asked Alannah to come to LA and I’ve not heard from her since. Think I burned her off.”
Jesse waved his hand. “Nah. Anyone can see that you’re both made for each other. She’ll turn up.”
His words kindled some kind of hope that I’d been too scared to even consider.
“You think?” I didn’t mean to speak the words aloud.
“Give her time.”
I didn’t know how much time I should give her or whether Jesse was just consoling me because we were due on stage in the next half an hour.
“Anyway,” I said changing the subject, “we got a gig to kill in the next half hour. Who’s going to pull Marty out of Pet’s changing room?”
Jesse laughed. “Not you, that’s for sure. I’ll go get Dylan onto it.”
I watched Jesse saunter over to where Dylan lay on another large sofa. Headphones on and eyes closed, I knew he was shitting himself, but I’d spent enough time in the rehearsal room with him to know that we had this, as long as we all kept our heads.
I had to get mine back behind my kit and out of my inbox.
Dylan jumped when Jesse gave his prostrate form a shove. I watched the two of them converse, Dylan pull a disgusted face and then stand up and head out towards Pet’s dressing room.
Jesse gave me a thumbs up from across the room.
We’d become a tight-knit bunch over the last few weeks and tonight was another small step towards the fame and popularity that we all hungered to achieve.
I wasn’t going to let these lads down and I knew they weren’t going to let me down either. I picked up my drink bottle and headed towards where Jesse sat.
Time for me to be a part of the band, instead of apart from the band.
Against my better judgment, I found myself in the back of the club where Ace Revolution were to play. Unlike most of the large, LA crowd, I wasn’t here to see Ace, I’d taken a cross-country train trip to see their opening support act, Yellow Lady.
In particular, I was here to see one drummer: Liam Herewini.
I’d sat on that train, travelling from one side of this broad continent to another and wondered what the hell I was thinking.
Then I saw him.
Bathed in blue and golden lights.
The bulk of his body sitting behind the shield of his drums and something inside of me moved.
I hadn’t realised how much I’d missed the man until I saw him sitting up there on the stage.
It was easy to lose myself in the mesmerising melodies and lyrics of the songs. Songs that I knew, but they’d been polished since I’d heard them last.
Like the men on stage, the songs shone.
It wasn’t long before I found myself, almost by accident, gravitating to the front of the audience.
A cluster of new, hard-core Yellow Lady fans were the only thing that stood between me and the men on the stage.
I hung around Jesse’s side of the stage, clothed in the shadows of the large sound system that boomed Dylan’s voice and the rest of the band’s tight backing out into the cavernous club behind me.
A sudden rearrangement of the house lighting and I found myself standing in a circle of yellow light.
Jesse saw me first, a broad grin appearing on his face.
I watched as he turned his back to me.
Then Liam’s eyes danced in my direction.
Just as they caught my own in his intense gaze, the lighting changed and I was plunged back into darkness.
Liam had the look of someone about him who had just seen a ghost.
I could leave right this minute and he might believe that to be the case.
But I wasn’t going anywhere.
* * *
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