Come on down, Chapter 42!
We’re marching on the conclusion of Liam and Alannah’s backstory. It’s always a time when I feel like I want to dig in deeper.
There is, of course, absolutely nothing wrong with leaving us all wanting more...
Enjoy the chapter and—DON’T FORGET TO VOTE!
Love Toni xx
It did me good to be working with the band. It meant I didn’t have to think about the lies that Alannah had been telling me.
Are they really lies or just omissions?
Wasn’t an omission of a fact tantamount to a lie?
Questions hurtled through my head like miniature missiles, puncturing the promise of a future with Alannah.
I couldn’t imagine why she wouldn’t tell me that she was living in New York. All this time I’d pictured her in my head working in Ireland and she’d been just across the other side of the damn continent.
It may as well have been Ireland for the distance, a rational voice in my head countered.
But I didn’t want to be rational right now.
I was angry, or was I hurt? Fuck it, I was likely both. I wanted to go for another run. Burn off the new and raw emotion of it all. I needed time to process—to get my head together before I did something stupid and impulsive.
I learned a long time ago not to do anything rash and in anger.
That’s how I ended up alone and estranged from my family.
Acting out some fucking counsellor had called it.
Well, all I knew was that it fucked relationships with people who you really loved and I wasn’t about to go there again.
“You with us, or somewhere else?” Dylan’s voice cut through the commotion of my thoughts.
“What?” I asked. Had they been talking to me and I’d missed it? I needed to concentrate.
“He’s making plans for tonight in the guest house,” Jesse needled.
“Get fucked!” I yelled from behind the safe confines of my drum kit. I gave Jesse the finger, just for good measure. If anyone knew what I was going through right now, it should be Jesse. I didn’t need him leading the shit-stirring charge.
“You want to count us in on the next song, or you going to spend the rest of the session fantasising about what you’re going to do to Alannah tonight?” Marty could shut the fuck up too. I wasn’t even going to countenance that question with any kind of reaction.
I held my sticks above my head and counted us into the next song.
Concentrating on the songs.
Keeping the beat straight.
Making sure that the band played in time.
That was my job.
The rest of it was complete bullshit.
But if it was complete bullshit why did I feel as if I’d just run 10 kilometres with a sack of stones on my back?
I caught snatches of the lyrics of the song that Dylan sang.
We’d played this so many times, the drum beats and fills came almost automatically. When I got in the groove of the music, drumming did that for me, it was as if my body ran on automatic. I didn’t want to listen to the thoughts in my head, but somehow, the drumming happened, and I still had a space in my head for the outside world to creep in.
The beats played themselves and I found myself adrift in the lyrics that Dylan sang.
Words easily written about the way I felt about Alannah.
We play love songs, of course they apply to you and Alannah. The sensible voice in my head tried to remind me.
I didn’t want to be sensible.
I wanted to wallow.
Swim in the hurt.
Float on a sea of self-pity.
But I knew I couldn’t hide behind my drums forever. I would have to go back and talk to Alannah about what the hell had really been going on.
I wasn’t looking forward to that, but I’d learned a few things since the altercation with my family and one of those things was that pain couldn’t be avoided, it had to be walked through.
I’d find my way to the fire that was Alannah and one way or another, we’d work this out.
For now, I had the solace of my drums and the band.
I honed my concentration, determined to work the fear and frustration out on my kit. I couldn’t run, so I’d do the next best thing, allow the boys in my band, the drums and the music to work their healing magic.
The one constant in my life.
The music was really all that mattered in the end.
Everything else would come and go.
But why did it terrify me to think that Alannah could go?
Once Calvin and the boys left me in the kitchen, it dawned on me that I found myself for the first time in forever with time on my hands and nothing constructive to do.
I’d started to tidy up the kitchen, but the housekeeper, a young woman from a local franchise, arrived and shooed me out of the way.
I should have gone and found Calvin and talked to him about some kind of work to keep me occupied, but I still had a bad taste in my mouth from our latest conversation.
Resigned to sitting around with the uncomfortable thoughts circulating in my head, I found my way back to the guest house and decided that I may as well take the opportunity to go and sit around the pool.
Why not be a tourist while I was in California?
A sit turned into a swimming session, the comfortable heat of the water going some way to relieve the anxious feelings that plagued me.
Feelings that I knew were of my own making.
What had driven me to allow Liam to think that I’d gone to Ireland?
The only thing I could pin it down too was my overwhelming fear.
Fear of destroying my friendship with him.
He’d always been my rock.
The one person that I’d leaned on and I knew I could rely on to keep me from falling into a well of self-pity.
In the early afternoon, I spied housekeeping wandering by with bags of the supplies that I’d ordered for the guest house.
I didn’t particularly want to front Liam and the band in the house kitchen again, so at least with some supplies in hand I could hide out in the guest house until I worked out where things lay with Liam.
In the whole time that I’d known him, I couldn’t remember if I’d ever seen him holding a grudge. Rightly he should have been totally pissed off with Steve, but he’d been nothing but a tower of strength for Steve and for me throughout.
Anyway, I wasn’t going to chase him.
I knew Liam well enough to leave him alone and wait for him to come to me.
How long that would take, was anyone’s guess.
The perpetual background hum of the boys’ rehearsals came to an abrupt halt. The sound replaced by the soft rustle of the trees in the Californian breeze.
Band rehearsals had become such a part of the soundtrack of my life, I found it somewhat disturbing when they ceased.
When was their next gig I couldn’t help wondering?
Would I even be there?
The thought made my stomach churn.
Why wouldn’t I be there?
If Liam and I couldn’t sort this small hurdle out, then there was little chance of us having any kind of future together.
I picked up my towel and headed back up to the guest house. If they decided that they were going to spend the afternoon around the pool, then I certainly didn’t want to be here, not at least until me and Liam had cleared the air.
My intuition to move turned out to be right. It wasn’t long before the boys began to appear around the pool. I watched them through the large wall of glass of the guest house as they began to occupy the space that I’d left.
Liam, however, hadn’t joined them.
His lack of presence at the pool disturbed me more than it should. I told myself I was being pathetic worrying about him, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d done irreparable damage to our friendship by lying to him.
After careful thought this morning, I’d decided that I had been lying. There were many occasions during our correspondence when I could have disclosed where I was, but I’d concealed the truth from him and now I was paying the price for that concealment.
I was busying myself putting away the bags of supplies in the generous kitchen when I was aware that I was being watched.
I turned around and Liam stood in the doorway. He pretty much filled the expansive space.
“Hi,” I said, overwhelmed by a sudden feeling of shyness that I’d never experienced around him before. “I thought you’d be having lunch with the band.”
“I needed to talk to you.” I couldn’t tell by the tone of his voice whether or not he was pissed off with me. Liam walked over to the couch that sat in the middle of the room and sat down. The way he held his body gave me no clues as to his mood.
“You want something to eat or to drink? I haven’t got much-“ he cut me off.
“Quit with the pleasantries. Why didn’t you tell me you were in New York?”
Time to come clean.
I still wasn’t sure whether I was coming clean with me or with Liam, but I guess we both deserved the truth.
“I was scared.”
There, I’d said it. I leaned my back on the hard surface of the kitchen bench top. The cool of the stone pressed into my back, holding me secure as I faced the truth around my feelings for Liam.
He tipped his head to one side as if my words didn’t make any sense and he was trying to comprehend what I said.
“Of wrecking everything between us.” How could he not see that we were on the cusp of destroying everything that we’d had in the past? Now the flood gates had been opened. One way or another I was going to have to deal with this.
I’d always been able to be straight with Liam and now more than ever I needed to hang onto the secure feeling that I’d had around him.
“Is that why you ran away?” He lowered his tone. “You ran away because we want each other?” He sounded genuinely surprised.
He couldn’t see it. He didn’t feel the fear that I experienced.
I shrugged. “Something like that.” Hearing the words. Having Liam vocalise what had only been going through my head terrified me all over again.
“So you hurt me by lying about where you were?”
I crossed the room and sat down on the chair opposite him.
“I didn’t mean to hurt you.” The words sounded pathetic and weak.
“But you did.” I heard the pain in the three small words that he said. “And now it makes me wonder what else you haven’t told me?”
My gut churned.
“After you left me in the bar in the hotel, I went home. I was terrified. Terrified of losing you.”
“So you got on a plane and let me believe that you’d gone to Ireland. That’s fucking smart.” Now he was angry, he rearranged the way he was sitting on the couch. Curled his large frame into himself. His jaw set straight. Eyes boring into me.
“I know it doesn’t make any sense,” I struggled to find the words. Wiped my sweat soaked hands on the thin cotton of my wrap-around skirt. I didn’t like being on the spot and I certainly didn’t like making Liam angry.
I tried to remind myself that he was hurt and he had a right to be angry, but it didn’t help.
He stood up.
Was the conversation over?
“You can’t leave,” I squeaked, “you haven’t given me a chance to explain myself.”
Liam looked at me as if I’d grown two heads.
“What makes you think I’m leaving?”
“Y-you stood up,” I stammered.
He came over, took my hand, made me stand up and then lead me back to the couch he’d been sitting on. I sat down next to him, aware that my entire body was trembling.
Liam took my hand in his and said, “I’m angry with you, Alannah,” the tone of his voice measured, “but just because I’m angry with you doesn’t mean that I’m going to walk out on you.”
The declaration of intent didn’t give me any reassurance—yet I was the one who’d run away. Did I expect Liam to do exactly the same thing just because things had gotten a little difficult between us?
“We’ve always been truthful with each other,” Liam carried on, “I don’t think you understand how much you hurt me, running away and then hiding from me.”
“I’m sorry,” I said, “it wasn’t about you,” and that was the truth.
Liam pulled me to him. The heat and the bulk of his hard body settled the trembling of my own.
Ever so gently, he tipped my head back and his lips found my own.
I lost myself in the reassuring heat of his kiss.
Maybe things were going to be okay, a reassuring voice in my head said.
When our lips parted, Liam cradled the back of my neck in his hands and ran his thumb across my cheekbone.
“There’s something else that I need to know,” he said, “and I’m relying on you to tell me the truth.”
My stomach lurched.
* * *
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