A child sitting under the piano, in the boom of the tingling strings
The bar was a far cry from the smoky and dingy basement clubs in Manchester. There the drunken revelers could barely hear a word that was yelled into second rate microphones, and the poor acoustics swirled bass and rhythm guitars together in a mess of chords that only rarely found harmony.
That had been in the days before their first single had hit the radio. Before Charlie had experienced the euphoria that came from thousands of fans screaming their names and singing their lyrics back at them. Before he’d experienced the euphoria that it seemed only the drugs could give him, when the singing voices of those fans became quiet.
He hadn’t meant to stay in Los Angeles after visiting Liam. He was supposed to get on the connecting flight to Heathrow, sit through the seemingly endless monotony of the Piccadilly and Victoria lines to Euston, and then try not to still be asleep when the train pulled into Manchester Piccadilly. Back to his one bedroom flat with the crying baby that he could hear through the paper-thin walls from next door.
Instead, Flight 815 had been late into LA, Charlie missed his connection, and Oceanic’s response was to put him up in a hotel for the night while they tried to slot him on to the equivalent flight the next day. Charlie hadn’t seen LA before, and as the sun dipped over the ocean he’d walked along the beach feeling a strange sense of contentment that he hadn’t felt in months. And if it was fate that led him to walk past the bar with the sign in the window looking for pianists, then he wondered if his flight being late had given him that fresh start he’d hoped Liam could give him.
He’d been here for two months now. The first few nights had been on a trial basis, but the bar’s owners had looked past his faded rock star image and given him a chance, and he’d settled into it with relish. His sets ranged from rock classics, classical pieces he’d learnt as a child, and the tunes he’d started to pen recently in a bid to rekindle the fame. He’d lose himself, it would be just him and the piano, the clinks of glassware and hushed conversations fading away into the background. It was those moments when he found the peace that he’d sought in the Heroin. He guessed it helped that he didn’t know the dealers in LA, but it helped more that he had something to focus on. It had been a month since his stash had run out, a week since he realized he didn’t need it anymore, and a day since he felt like he’d found his place.
Tonight though when he walked into the bar, his customary greeting stopped short as he realized there was someone else sat at his piano. A simple haunting tune filled the room, and Charlie could easily recognize it as a melody borne from tragedy, simple, yet filled with the emotion of someone who’d lived the tale the notes told. Charlie’s gaze swept over the pianist. Expensive suit with enough creases to indicate a long stressful day, and long agile fingers Charlie could be envious of that seemed to walk the ivory with ease. There was a glass filled with amber liquid sat on the polished wood on top of the piano, the condensation on the sides suggesting the ice had long since melted.
When he glanced back at the barman, Jerry shrugged. “Came in an hour ago and asked if he could play, figured it wouldn’t hurt.”
Charlie walked around the bar and grabbed a bottle of beer from the fridge before making his way over to the piano. He stood behind the stool, waiting for the song to finish and the man to place those agile hands in his lap.
“After my job, mate?”
The dark head spun round, startled, and Charlie could have sworn there was something familiar in those dark eyes.
“Um, no, sorry. Just borrowing it for a while,” he said, before standing and collecting his drink. Charlie watched as he swept the ring of water that had collected under the glass from the surface of the polished wood with the heel of his hand. His fingers lingering a touch before his hand fell away.
“No problem,” Charlie responded. “It’s a good place to escape to,” he added quietly.
Charlie caught the surprised expression before his gaze turned away to the floor. “Thanks for letting me borrow it.”
“Any time, provided it’s not when I’m not trying to earn my keep of course.” He smiled and held out his hand. “Charlie.”
He hesitated a moment before a warm hand gripped his briefly. “Jack. And thanks; I may take you up on that.”
Charlie’s hand tingled from the contact, the taste of ocean air and the smell of grasses drifted over his senses as he breathed in. It was gone as quickly as it came, but still Charlie couldn’t shake the strange sense of irony he felt when he opened his set with Good Vibrations.