June's eldest child, a short story (to be continued...)

That same old thought came to kiss my ear but I stood grounded, looking at my old black sneakers. They're an entertaining sight as they are falling apart at every seam, taped in grey. It was definitely a more entertaining view than staring at the same old faces: Jack's, Michael's, and Emma's. Always the three faces. Almost like a curse we have cast on ourselves. This quartet of doom so have you, this old story stemming right back from the blank age of seventeen. We have changed the venues and we have changed our music genre, but I am almost certain I am the only one who has bothered to change myself.

"I reckon we should head there," Jack pressed on, and the two others dragged on their cigarettes, almost identically, and Emma had a face of obvious discord. Neither of us were interested in prolonging the night, because if we did it would have been at Jack's expense, in a way: he leads the pack and does much of the talking. I could never blame him or hate him because he has taken us to great heights: if it hadn't been for him we wouldn't have gone to America; we wouldn't have met the great Rhodes boys, who have mixed about every single decent song we have managed to pit out. I respect Jack, and he knows this, but he has ridden off his success a trifle too much, as tonight (and basically every night before that) had come to show.

Freeman walked down the steps to meet the cold cool breeze that cocooned us. I was distracted favourably by my shoes, quietly contemplating the mass murder of half this town's musicians, when he tapped me on the shoulder.

"Hello, hello."
"Me myself."
"How are you, Frank Zappa?"

I am not Frank Zappa, by any means, but I told him how I was. Which was, in the very dishonest line that we often quote, fine. Just perfect, in fact. I was resolute in this bare conviction, because I have always been fine, since my epiphany in grade twelve. I am confident in my goods. I plate a goddamn good dish to people, when I'm inclined, and surrounding vigilantes know that. In all honesty, as false modesty is a drag, I consider myself somewhat artistically gifted: I could easily turn away and make a hatchback sale of my music equipment and my full-time life, and take up another one; preferably to do with drawing, or literature, if I wanted to. I'm good at those things. But I have worked myself to a point in which my certain song writing skills have been robbed of me; or rather, misappropriated. I'm signed. We are signed, rather. We are signed with Freeman's sister, the largest idea ovulater of music curiosity. But anyway, this is the reason why I made small chat, as Freeman worked on rolling some tobacco. I felt as though, for a half second, I ought to find out where the big chats were at, rather than these teeny ones; where I could find my second halves, and my third halves, even. I just thought confusedly to myself, finally: what the hell am I doing here still?

"Have you been happy with the band's direction lately?"
"Pardon me?"
"Are you happy with the band's direction, Mick?"
"I... What?" this was unusual of me, and him mostly. It had caught me so unbelievably unprepared; I didn't know where to start. Of course I wasn't fucking happy. But no one really cared about this shit, on a daily basis. We were all burnt out, exhausted emotionally. I think, this is what the constant co-living did. What happened behind closed doors: the Old Room, yes. If only it had been a place exclusive and sacred for our rehearsals, but it wasn't. That it wasn't. It was Jack's playground, rather: a place he worked his lyrics, his lays and his oftentimes abusive verbalistics.

"I'm sorry man. I don't mean to pry. You just don't seem like yourself lately." Nearly in cue with the end of this, Jack was leaning against the wall perpendicular to us, surrounded by grown men with grown tastes, his delighted ego ricocheting off the asphalt. He turned his half-shut eyes straight to Freeman, gave off an occupied grin, and half-shouted his name. Freeman looked at me as though I was the last standing martyr of a probably (and very likely) lost cause, like a sole modern-day Jesus, and then glanced over at the remaining two band members, before steering himself full-force towards Jack, the magnet item. I laughed all over my own insides; it was a scene to be had. Emma and Michael were suddenly busy with fans. I scooped a casual entry into this occurrence and prompted someone for a cigarette, something I shouldn't have, because delighted faces smiled all over me, and all of a sudden I had three cigarettes, and still only one mouth, and Carly, a good friend of ours, began a line of talk after a quiet little laugh.

"Tender is the night. Is anyone doing something worthy?"
"Highly unlikely," I replied with a voice that sounded croony, unpleasant, but that entertained the affable group. There were seven of us, quite quickly: Emma, myself, Michael, Carly and Carly's acquaintances, two good-looking girls, one with short choppy blonde bangs and the other a black-clad, red-lipped, demure little lady. I had seen them all over and around before, particularly the first. She was high-priority material in some venues. She was standing here; she had to be. The other two in the group - as priorities are listed first - were dudes. One was Poppy, Emma's oftentimes wingman, and the other was Bernie, whom we knew through whoever else I forgot to mention. The cobwebs go high up and extensively; it would be a waste of time to try and explain relations, as we are all caught in this sticky slime anyway. But Bernie I kind of enjoyed, because he was loud and dry like Carly - and because once during a gig he'd told Jack he was a wanker, to his face, to which I replied with a drum roll.

"Jack is wanting to drag the lot to the Old Room," I continued after a drag, in which the girls' expressions lit up quietly, but Emma corrected me quickly, "Around the vicinity of the Room..."

"Yeah, right, around the vicinity..." I continued and dug out from my repertoire of expressions some sharp knife-like eyes right at her, raising my eyebrows, "but I'd rather not. What's your name again?"

The girl in black looked at me amidst initial confusion from every part. I particularly don't pay much attention to anyone but my own kind; let alone girls. Girls in black, even! Blank cardboard boxes with pretty dentist smiles. And I know in pretty much straight instance that the ones that roam around musicians usually roam around for far too long past the expiry date. But she was pretty in an unconventional way, plus something else, and I felt like stirring a little joy into this set. Most of all, I felt like stirring and shifting the invisible positions and ladders. The group was suddenly rich with warmth, and people started talking amongst themselves. I smiled at her. "Yeah, I'm Mick. What's your name?"

"I'm Olivia. Hi."

She didn't justify herself; no "I'm friends with the suches" - no, instead she just seemed to beam with some confident flattery. Her friend, the blonde one, racked up a little story about how they had barely been able to get in, and the difficulty of being so thin amongst a pack of sweaty guys in the audience of our set, but I was dismissive as a spoilt Madame's dog, and initiated a quiet line with Michael about the location of his friend, who was meant to bring us drugs. Bernie and Poppy joined in the secrecy. A short few minutes later, we were all lightning something up in the corner of the street. Me, the designated first-dragger, by default.

Deliberately, I slid along next to Olivia. It was nice to have something new to look at. A fresh painted face. She was soothing my overall bile a little. (The smoke helped, too.) All of a sudden I was chatty. And the Old Room being discussed openly and plainly. I heard myself flaunting and talking about my personal success. This was kind of a thing of the old days, and even Carly seemed to take this in with remote shock from where I was standing. The group was calibrated to a new level again, like a fireplace outstanding. I was laughing with Emma and she and Michael had that spark in their eyes. Oh yes, I forgot. The important detail: Emma and Michael have been platonically dating since the band formed. There have been several nuances to this, and as far as knowledge goes they have never been open or sincere to anyone about it, since other factors like Jack and myself get in the way; but mainly Jack, possessive as the years have made him of Emma. It's possibly a little more complicated than I permit myself to explain, because I have witnessed something I shouldn't have, and I care not to discuss because it makes me sick to think about it, and reminds me why I have felt like this for some time. But either way, here we were unprepared: Olivia, some new thing, a potent drag of pot, or several; a good blend of Carly, Bernie and Poppy at their prime entertaining, and me (I suspect this was the main shapeshifter), causing some fun-fed tumult or whatever. I was engrossed to such degree I saw none of what surrounded us anymore, but apparently (as Emma was to tell me later, with quiet notice) Freeman was staring at the whole nine yards incredulously, from a distance. I wonder if he felt shocked, or a trifle hurt. But Emma said that the sidewalk could hardly accommodate at this point, and that the group was much more extensive than the seven of us, and that I had been the one to make the move, hail cabs, call out for people, and apparently spin Olivia around in a public stunt of affection in front of a camera or two. Ridiculous, really. I don't believe her one bit; I've never seen these photos, gratefully. Whatever the go is, my next proper recollection is less jolly: the backseat of a cab. Inside it: Olivia, myself, Freeman in the front seat, and Jack - right against me.

I was roaring with the stimulus of a cocktail of things Carly had taken out of her purse at the last secret minute. We were all going to the Old Room. Our room: our space. My things. A place I refused to bring guests; a decision that was 95 per cent of the times overridden by either Jack or one of his. But I stupidly, embalmed in the moment, seemed not to care. Instead I was staring at Olivia every now and again as we chatted and doing my best impression of a rockstar. But Jack, letting go of Freeman's talks at intervals, was determined to tick me off.

TO BE CONTINUED...              

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