I’ve always found it fun, the push and pull of the early attraction part of a romantic relationship…
Well, I guess it is if you’re writing it and not so much if you’re one of the people who happens to be a part of the up and down process of getting together.
I think that’s why I enjoy second-chance romances so much. There are so many ‘easy’ reasons to keep the parties apart.
Not that this particular romance is a second-chance romance (well not yet, anyway!) So, how many more ways can we find to keep our intrepid couple apart?
Enjoy the chapter and—DON’T FORGET TO VOTE!
Love Toni xx
I watched Ruby walk off down the street until I could no longer see the bright red of her hair in the swim of the crowd.
I didn’t do brush offs well, it brought up all the old hurts from my past.
You’re not living in the back-blocks of New Zealand any more, I reminded myself. I’d come an awful long way since the days of travelling back and forth over the Takaka Hill to try and make an unworkable relationship work.
The hurt from my past was another one of the many reasons that I’d tried to avoid getting attached to a woman, aside from Calvin’s insistence that we shouldn’t be seen to be dating anyone. Except for Marty, the golden boy who’d managed to get himself hooked up with the lead singer from one of the most up-and-coming bands in recent times.
Well, as far as I was concerned—I had to take the same stance that Liam had taken—what was good enough for Marty was good enough for me.
Truth, Liam and Alannah weren’t shouting their relationship from the roof-tops, but that seemed to be working okay for them. Then I thought about Liam’s brush with the reporter earlier today and the fans that hounded him after each gig. Alannah must be some kind of saint to put up with that behaviour.
Not getting what I wanted had never done me any good and nothing that had happened this afternoon changed that idea for me.
Ruby had been thrown firmly into my orbit and I wasn’t about to let her drift away—not without some kind of attempt to find her again.
I thrust my fists into my jeans and headed for the nearest taxi stand.
Thankfully, we had a night off tonight, so I didn’t have to worry about making sure that I was back at the house in time for heading out to one of the various clubs we were still regularly playing.
Regular, local gigs were about to come to an abrupt end.
Calvin had secured a tour for the band.
If I was going to try again with Ruby, then I didn’t have a hell of a lot of time to make sure that I found her.
On the way back to the house on the hill, I scrolled through my phone and checked magazine articles for Ruby’s handle.
If I could find her online social, then I figured I’d have a better chance of connecting.
“It returns,” Liam took his eyes off the big screen on one wall of the lounge where he and Alannah appeared to be engaged in some kind of fantasy shooter video game that they’d begun playing in their down time.
Dylan and Marty were sat on the other side of the room, Dylan with a guitar on his knee and Marty with a large ring bound pad. The two of them were doing what they loved, writing new material.
With an up-and-coming tour and the pressure on to create a new album, they had their work cut out for them producing songs that Calvin thought were up to standard for taking into the studio.
For myself, I was glad I didn’t have that kind of additional pressure on me, but those two seemed to thrive on it all.
Liam paused the game and pulled the headphones off his head, “Well, how’d it go?”
“Fuck off,” I didn’t need any kind of shit from the rest of the band right now.
“That well, huh?” Alannah too had pulled her headphone set from her head and turned her attention to me.
“How’s the latest song coming along?” I shot the question in the direction of Marty and Dylan who had both stopped what they were doing in anticipation of any kind of shit-stirring that might be going down. Dylan had even put down his prized Martin guitar and sat with his arms folded, waiting for the show to unfold.
I wasn’t used to being the centre of this kind of attention and I didn’t much like it.
The rest of the band were likely happy to be getting their own back and weren’t going to let me off the hook too easy.
“Spill, you know you’re going to have too.” Marty had the kind of smug look on his face that suggested that the heat might be coming of him now that the band had someone else to focus their intense attentions on.
“She’s not into me,” I shrugged hoping that would be the end of it.
“I’m calling bullshit on that,” Liam said. “I saw the way she was looking at you during the interview. You fucked it up.”
“Maybe Calvin got to her,” Alannah said, as she played with the headphones now hanging from the back of her neck.
“Who did I get too?” Calvin rolled into the room, “I hear my name being spoken in vain.”
“The photographer from this morning’s shoot,” Marty said, “Jesse’s got the hots for her, but she’s given him the brush off.”
“Probably a good thing, with the no girlfriend rule,” Calvin said as he acknowledged Alannah with a wink.
She gave him the finger and put her headphones back on, urging Liam to do the same. Liam held his finger up, maybe an indication that he wanted a few more minutes to stir the shit with me. Then they had one of those moments that couples who are together have, private and silent communication that only the two of them understood.
The simple action reminded me again of how far I actually was from ever having that kind of relationship with anyone.
It made me even more determined to chase the connection that I knew Ruby and I had shared this morning.
I tried to put all thoughts of Jesse Davis out of my mind as I made my way back to the tiny apartment that I called home.
Not for much longer if I have my way. The thought flitted through my head as I spotted an email from Ian Wrigley.
My finger hovered over the button on my mouse. Part of me wanted to open the email and the other part of me registered that there was a one in three chance that I’d secure this much-coveted position.
Taking a deep breath, I opened the email and began to read the contents.
Thanks so much for your time yesterday.
As explained, I was down to deciding between three candidates for the position of working with me on my assignments.
After our frank discussions yesterday, I’m pleased to let you know that I’d like to offer you the position.
The first assignment is due to begin in under a week’s time, so if you’re happy to take up the position, please contact me by return and we can work out where we go from here.
I’m looking forward to a mutually productive relationship going forward.
A cascade of emotion ran through me.
From elation to terror.
I’d done it.
Secured a coveted position with a senior journalist who actually had some world-wide credibility. I’d backed myself and eventually come out on top.
I’d be leaving this town and the insubstantial floss that was the Hollywood ethos behind me. If I lived with someone I’d have given them a hug, as it was, I had to make do with pulling one of the thick cushions that adorned my sofa bed to my chest.
I began to compose an email back to Ian, trying with difficulty, not to gush, but I wanted him to know how much this opportunity meant to me.
I thought about the first assignment that I’d be going on. With the history of Ian’s work I wondered whether it would be some kind of investigative piece in one of the global warming hot spots, or whether we’d be following up an investigation of one of the many persecuted persons, he’d been following.
My entire body tingled.
He’d need to let me know where we were going. There would be visits to the clinic to get vaccinations if we were off to some of the outposts that he’d been visiting.
The idea of exploring entirely new to me cultures and countries filled me with a sense of excitement and trepidation.
This is what I’d been working toward for so many years.
No more red carpets.
No more artfully draped musicians in front of painted brickwork.
The man’s name invaded my mind.
I still had to work on the photographs that I’d taken today and get them to the magazine.
Knowing that this time next week I’d be on my way to some exotic location made the work that I loved feel like walking through treacle this afternoon.
I worked my way meticulously through the file of shots that I’d taken today.
Making sure that the shots I forwarded to the magazine were up to my fastidious standard seemed more difficult than usual.
My eye kept moving toward the blond bass player.
Something about the man had captured my interest and even the overwhelming excitement of my new position couldn’t settle the flutter of emotion that ran through me every time I looked at Jesse. I spent far too long on making sure that he looked perfect. I even found myself cutting him out of a shot of the band. Something I never did.
I wanted to believe that the excitement that coursed through me was due to securing my dream job and knowing that I’d be moving away from this town, but something about the way Jesse looked at me from the computer screen made me believe that it might not just be the excitement of a new assignment that brought me such acute joy today.
The only thing that I might be sad about leaving behind in this town was Jesse Davis.
Disturbing, to say the least.
I’d managed to extract myself from the shit-fest that the band had thrown upon me and now I needed to figure out how I could get hold of Ruby.
All my on-line investigations had turned up nothing. I had a couple of social platforms I could message on, but I hated that thought.
I needed some sort of grand gesture and I had just the idea, but I needed Liam’s help. I found him in the guest house with Alannah, the two of them engaging in turning greens into some kind of liquid concoction.
“Mate, I need your help,” I pulled out one of the bar stools on the other side of the long stone bench top and settled myself in.
“Smoothie?” Liam held the contents of the blender aloft as he reached for a third tumbler from the cupboard.
“Water will be fine.”
“There’re beets and avocado in there too,” Alannah offered helpfully. Since when had our favourite Irish barmaid turned into a Californian raw food goddess?
“I’ll stick with the water, thanks.” They could keep their liquid grass as far as I was concerned.
“What’s up?” Liam asked as he downed half his tumbler of greens and then topped it up again from the blender.
“He wants help to find his girl,” Alannah said with a wink.
“I know that,” Liam said to Alannah, “but I want to hear it from him.”
“Fuck you.” He might be my best friend in the world, but he could be a complete arsehole as well. “Are you going to help or should I just fuck off right now?”
“Don’t take that attitude, Princess,” Liam said, his face alight with amusement. “I’m all yours, how can I help.”
“You won’t like it,” I fired the comment in Alannah’s direction.
“As long as he doesn’t have to screw her, I’m okay with it,” Alannah said. “Anything for the band, as Calvin likes to remind me.”
I could have kissed Alannah, but then Liam would have punched me out. “I know why you like her,” I said to Liam, “she’s such a cool chick.”
“In the room,” Alannah said, pointing fingers back at herself, “don’t need to talk about me as if I’m not here.”
“What’s the deal?” Liam asked.
“I can’t find her on the internet, so I want to go to the magazine to talk to the reporter.”
“What you need me for?”
“Because she’s not going to tell me anything. But you, my son, the way she looked at you. You take her out for a drink and you’d be able to extract the information.”
“And what’s in it for me?” Liam crossed his arms over his broad chest.
“The knowledge that you’ve helped a mate out.”
Liam looked at Alannah.
“I don’t have to play on stage with him every night.”
“Aw, fuck.” Liam downed the rest of his juice. “Where’s this fucking reporter’s office? I have a feeling that I could regret this decision.”
I turned in Alannah’s direction and silently mouthed the words, “Thank you.”
“Don’t thank me,” she said. “Just make sure he doesn’t get into any kind of shit on your account.”
* * *
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