Chapter 1: "I'm sorry."
“Do you remember how we met?”
He leaned down, brushing a lock of hair from my eyes. I could see the almost strained expression in his own as he met my weary gaze.
“How we met. Do you remember?”
My throat felt clogged as I stared into his deep stare, but, I nodded a little in response.
I remembered very well how we had met. It had been in some bar in upper city Brisbane. I’d been very tipsy, which was highly unusual for me. My friend, Carly, had tried to get me to loosen up a bit after we’d seen his band in concert. And, Pierre had walked into the same bar. Somehow or other, I’d collided into him. I think he’d been standing at the bar, ordering himself a drink and I’d literally collapsed on a stool next to him.
I didn’t really think I looked like an interesting prospect at the time. I was definitely not anyone’s idea of a good time; or at least that was my belief.
I peeked up at him, and whispered, “You were such a gentleman. I made such a fool of myself, though. Even though, I promised I wouldn’t act like a creepy teenie...”
He chuckled low, that deep rumble that always sent tingles all through my body. I lowered my gaze to the hand that was resting lightly against my stomach. He was moving it in slow, gentle circles, his touch making me crave him all over again.
Biting my lip, I sighed, looking up at him once more. He tilted his head to the side a serious expression in his eyes.
“You know I love you, right?”
I trembled, nodding my head more. “I know, but...”
His jaw tightened a pained cast to his features. He blinked several times, smearing his free hand over his face.
“I hate ‘buts’.” His voice was hoarse, tensed.
“I’m sorry, Pierre. I really am.” Placing both my hands over his, I stilled his motions. He grimaced, but didn’t interrupt me. “It’s just that, I need to get on with my life. I...I’ve realised that I practically put all my plans on hold when I met you.” I paused, peering up into his face; it was shuttered, impassive, giving nothing away.
I went on. “I mean, sure...I finished my science degree and, it’s been amazing...being with you...just...beautiful.” Squeezing at his hand, I took a deep breath. “I...I can’t ignore what I want to do with my life, though...”
Pierre’s head lowered; his face had darkened a considerable amount. I knew he wasn’t happy with what I was telling him. But, I was hoping he wouldn’t take it too hard. He made no move to say anything, giving me space to go on. I stared up at him, blinking, waiting for a heartbeat before continuing.
“Three years is a long time, for me at least. And, I know I’m only twenty-three. But, uh...” Halting, my voice shaking a little, I dropped my eyes, unable to finish the sentence.
Pierre sighed. “But, you have hopes and dreams too, eh?”
I was glad he knew me so well. It made this just a little easier to do. Lifting my head, I smiled at him, a mere twist of the lips.
“Exactly, and I’ve put them on hold long enough.”
His brow furrowed in thought, his mouth flattening in a hard line.
Stroking my hand along his arm, I waited for him to let me know how he felt about this. While I did, I looked around the room we were sitting in. It was a large, yet simple living space. The only grand, expensive, pieces in the room were an ornate black chandelier and a large grand piano. Everything else was basic, yet homey. Furniture and decor that wouldn’t have looked out of place in any home. Pierre wouldn’t have it any other way; he was all about making a home out of a house.
Pierre cleared his throat, drawing my attention from the room. I glanced at him.
“So.” He hesitated; his voice was all gravel. “We’re over. Is that what you’re telling me?”
I stared down at my hands. “You make it sound like a bad thing.”
Pierre snorted. “Think about it, Marlz. We’ve been together three years, and you’ve never, never hinted that you were thinking this way.” The tone of his voice was confused, as if he didn’t quite understand my reasoning. I wondered why he thought that, though. I was sure I had at least mentioned wanting to go back to university at least once before.
Shaking my head, I said, “I’m sure I have. But, I guess maybe I was too subtle about it.”
Pierre frowned, eyes narrowing on my face. He wasn’t pleased by my statement.
“I’m a guy. You need to be more explicit.”
I laughed, rolling my eyes. “Don’t be so insulting. You’re smarter than that, Pierre.”
He took hold of my chin, turning it up so he could look in my eyes.
“It’s true though.”
“No, it’s not.” I pulled my face back. “I hate those stereotypes, for real.” Slapping his arm, I shook my head at him again. Pierre groaned, though I had hardly even tapped his arm. He pretended that I’d really wounded him, clutching at his forearm.
“That hurt, babe...”
I sat up, pushing his arm away from my body. “Don’t be such a wuss.”
He pouted at me, bottom lip sticking out.
“No,” I said, covering my eyes. “Please don’t do that. It doesn’t make this any easier.” He knew I couldn’t ignore the pout. I heard him sigh heavily.
“Fuck, Marly. You’re gonna leave me. You’d think you’d at least try to lessen the blow.”
The tone in his voice made me feel like the worst person in the world. I looked down at the floor, feeling the weight of his pain, as well as my own, bearing down between us. I had known this wasn’t going to be easy. But, I obviously hadn’t figured out how much it would hurt. I guess I’d just been too naive.
Hunching my shoulders, I spoke in earnest to my lap. “I won’t ever forget you. But...uh...I need to do this.”
Pierre asked, in a gruff voice, “What about me? What about what I need?” There was frustration there. I lifted my eyes. He glared at me. “What if I need you here, right now?”
I shook my head. Pierre had never needed me. I didn’t think falling in love with someone fulfilled a need. A want perhaps, but never a need.
“You have your friends. The band. You’ll be heading off on tour soon, for God alone knows how long...”
The band had toured on and off for the past year since their self-titled album was released in February. However, there had been large stints of time where they hadn’t, giving me time to finish my Science course, between legs. It was going to become more full-on, though, and I thought it would be best to leave before they did. Before they embarked on their massive world tour.
Pierre wrapped an arm around my waist, tensing it a little. “That doesn’t mean you have to leave. Can’t you study via correspondence?” He was grasping at straws now, a hopeless note giving him an edge. “’Cause that’s what you want to do, right? Study?”
I shook my head again; it felt as if that was all I’d been doing for the past hour.
“Pierre, I want to be a teacher. I can’t do that off campus. Not if I’m jetsetting with you.”
He closed his eyes, pinching at the bridge of his nose; his breaths were ragged as he was evidently attempting to come to terms with everything. I stayed quiet, observing the many emotions that passed across his face. Pain, confusion, sorrow and anger warred over his features, making his brow crease and his lips tighten in a slash.
After what felt like forever, he opened his eyes. Glowering at me, he asked, “Why can’t you go to school here? There are plenty of places you could study to be a teacher at.”
He was right, there was, but I needed to be with my family if I was studying. They could support me financially. I told Pierre as much; his face hardened.
“What are you saying? That I can’t do that for you?”
“Pierre, no. I can’t expect you to do that. It wouldn’t be fair on you.” He opened his mouth to protest, but I stopped him. Pressing fingertips to his lips, I shook my head even more. “Don’t argue. I’ve made up my mind. I’m going to move back in with my parents. They’ll be able to help me out while I do my course.”
Pierre gave a slow nod. “Where did you say they lived?”
“Perth now. They moved two years ago, remember?”
He smirked, nuzzling into my hair. “Didn’t we cancel a gig there?”
I rolled my eyes, even though he couldn’t see. “Yeah, in October, and my younger brother was totally pissed off.”
Pierre grunted into my hair. “What was his name again?”
“Oh. Yeah, he has the same name as...David.”
Giggling, I leaned into him more. “Funny that.”
He smiled, but I noticed that it didn’t quite reach his eyes. Sighing, I rested my cheek against his chest, just wanting to hear his heartbeat, wanting to be as close as I possibly could. I was trying to be strong, and having him close helped; but, I knew if I fell apart, Pierre would probably be able to use it as leverage and convince me to stay. And I knew I would not be able to resist him.
Pierre stroked my hair, playing with the ends while resting his chin on the top of my head. Enveloping me in his arms, he held me close. We remained like that for awhile, until he broke the silence again, murmuring a hesitant question.
“So, when are you leaving?”
I swallowed hard. This was going to be difficult; I was already choking up and I knew I was dangerously close to tears. But, I couldn’t not answer him. Wiping the back of my hand over my face, I took several moments to compose myself. Pierre waited, more patient than I’d ever given him credit for.
Finally, I dredged up the courage to answer. “I...asked Pat to come in a couple of hours. My flight’s booked for tonight.”
I peeked up at Pierre, and my heart ached as I saw the colour literally bleed out of his face. His eyes darkened so they appeared to be black, bottomless pits. Hurt radiated from their depths, practically blasting out at me in a rush of heat. I turned my head away, unable to bear the pain in his eyes.
“Dammit, two fucking hours?” Pierre snapped. He shifted me abruptly off his lap; I landed on the sofa with a slight bounce, blinking hard at him. He stood and began to pace in front of me.
He was mad. I could tell by the set of his shoulders and the way his brows drew tight over his eyes. He glared at the floor, standing with his back to me. The muscles in the broad expanse were taut. Normally, I would have considered going over and offering him a back massage, but right now, I didn’t think anything would help.
When he was like this, brooding, angry, it scared me a little. It wasn’t that he’d ever done anything in anger to be ashamed of, except jump to the wrong conclusion a few times. But, we’d both gotten upset and had stewed for days. They’d been easily sorted in the end, though. This time was different. I was leaving him and it was going to hurt like a bitch. I needed to find some way to ease his pain.
He looked over his shoulder at me. “Yeah?” His expression was guarded, revealing nothing.
I rubbed my hands against my jeans before saying, “I’m sorry. I had to book it as soon as possible, because I had a feeling you wouldn’t take this well.”
Pierre growled, “What do you mean? I’m doing fine.”
I scoffed, “Yeah, right.”
His eyes took on a steely glint, and he squared his shoulders, jaw jutting out at me. “I am. It wouldn’t worry me if you walked out the door right this very second.” He stared hard at me, gaze not wavering an inch. I knew that he was lying, though. It was killing him; I could see that right deep in his eyes. But, I said nothing to disabuse him of the notion.
He cleared his throat, roughly. “I s’pose you’re all packed?”
“Yes. Just a couple of bags. All the big stuff, I already sent ahead of time.” Yes, I’d known for awhile I was going to return to Australia. I just hadn’t been game to tell Pierre.
He nodded, averting his gaze to the floor again. Sitting, I observed him quietly, taking in his appearance, stamping his image onto my mind. I was afraid that I would slowly forget what he looked like. Granted when the band started touring again there would be plenty of pictures turning up on the main fan sites online, but it wouldn’t be the same. Having him in the same room as me was much more personal, and worth remembering.
Pierre had grown his hair out, the deep brown waves not quite framing his face. It made him look younger, softer. He was wearing a long-sleeved black tee-shirt with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows. The ink on his left arm was on display and I gazed at it for a long moment. The image began to blur, and I realised tears were prickling at the corners of my eyes. Bending my head down, I wiped at them, trying to brush them away.
I heard feet shuffling toward me, and then felt his large, warm hands, gripping my knees in a firm yet gentle hold.
I peeked at him; Pierre looked back at me. Sniffling, I just stared at him for a second; then I threw my arms around his neck, burying my face in his hair. The tears that had been threatening began pouring from my eyes, down my face. He pulled me into his arms, the two of us ending on the floor. I cuddled into his body as close as I could, strangled sobs rising from my throat.
He rubbed his palm in slow, sweeping motions at the small of my back, while murmuring sweet nothings in my ear.
“I’m sorry,” I repeated, over and over. I wished I could be stronger over my decision, but I still loved him so much that what I was doing caused an ache so profound that I felt my heart may spontaneously combust. But, I had to do this...
Pierre rocked me as I cried into his chest, still whispering, his own voice grating, filled with pain. After my sobs began to subside, I sat back and just looked at him. He sighed, meeting my eyes.
“Well...” We spoke at the same time.
Pierre gave a sour laugh. “You first.”
I placed my right hand against his cheek; he ended up leaning into my touch. Stroking my fingers against the stubble, I said, “I’m going to miss you...”
Pierre blinked rapidly. “You could call me, sometime.”
“No.” I had to veto that. “I don’t think that’s a good idea. I...need this to be a clean break.” That might not seem to make much sense. After all, I could imagine the objections one could make to that. Why did I need to even break up with him, right? We could do the whole long distance thing. But, I just felt it would be easier this way.
His jaw clenched, but he just nodded, even though I saw irritation flash in his eyes. “Fine.” He rocked back on his heels then stood, looking down on me. “When’s Pat getting here?”
I cast my eyes to the clock above the piano. “An hour.”
Pierre shoved his hands into his pockets, shifting on his feet. “Right.”
An awkward silence filled the room. Like the proverbial pink elephant. I could tell he had nothing more to say; or that he had no idea what else to say. His eyes were darting around the room, obviously avoiding meeting mine. I closed my eyes, breathing hard.
Pierre spoke, then, without looking at me. “I’m gonna go for a drive.”
I looked at him. He made a face. “I won’t be back before you go. So...um, have a safe trip.” He paused as if he was trying to think of more words, but then he shook himself, turned on his heel and walked out.
I sat frozen for a moment, hearing his footsteps going toward the front door. Pushing to my feet, I rushed out after him.
He was at the key rack, grabbing the ones for his car. He swivelled his gaze back toward me.
Biting at my bottom lip, and rubbing my arms in a nervous gesture, I blurted out, “Won’t you stay and wait with me?”
Pierre exhaled in a harsh breath. “I can’t. I can’t be with you, right now. Just...uh...stay safe.”
He gave me a brief look, then, after tucking his keys in his pocket, walked out the door. Out of my life. But how fitting was that? Because that was exactly what I was doing to him
Chapter 2: "Thank God for Fridays."
You know what I don’t like? Sitting around, twiddling my thumbs and having to wait for work to come to me. I know I should be proactive, but when work doesn’t exist it’s a little difficult to be all gung ho over it. My parents have been complaining, but come on, you have to blame the government, don’t you? And, the media. All the hype last year about not having enough teachers has turned into just as much hype about not enough students. I wish they’d make up their minds.
Luckily, I’ve managed to secure a casual position at the Association of Science Teachers. Not ideal, but at least I don’t have to scab off my parents for fuel money. And I can pay for my own car insurance. Whoop-dee-do. That’s all small potatoes, though.
I can’t believe I’m writing this down; I’m such a boring person. Then again, I guess no one is going to be sticking their noses’ into my journal, are they? I mean, the ramblings of an average Australian woman who doesn’t have a spectacular life aren’t going to interest anyone in particular. Of course, in my opinion, it’s been a pretty speccy life, so far. But, doesn’t everyone think that about their own lives, no matter how ordinary they are?
Okay, so I’m not being entirely honest am I? But, my life is ordinary now. Let’s just forget about that three year period where I was not living at home in a normal suburban bungalow. I mean, not that it was bad...just...well, I’ve compartmentalised that part of my life to be treasured in my own private moments, too private even for this journal.
Anyway. After graduating last year, I was hoping that I’d get a job, quick smart. It didn’t happen, though. Which just sucks. But, that’s life for you. Well, at least it would be, except that ever since coming home, I’ve become more serious about my life. Or, to be more exact, my spiritual life. Which naturally translates to me going to church regularly.
I’ve found this great church in the city that’s just the right fit with where I’m at, right now. I’m not new to this. I was raised in the belief, but I wasn’t really serious about it. It’s kind of ironic my science degree was the catalyst that made me start thinking on it more. That was a few years ago, though. It just sort of came back to me in the last year. I guess that makes me a weird Christian.
Not that any of that matters to anyone, but me. Anywho, I have to stop here. The phone just rang. It was Mercy School asking to see if I can come in and do some relief. High maintenance teenaged kids, here I come...
The traffic was unbelievable heading down Reid Highway. It was as if it were conspiring to make me late to school. It reminded me of one time when I had been in the van with the guys on the way to a show in Laval. The city wasn’t normally known for major jams, not like here in Perth. But, that one time it had been insane. Not until after we had arrived at the venue did we find out that there had been a massive prang right on the main highway.
The guys, being the generous young men they were, had cruised through the gig, and then spent the rest of the night trying to get details on the incident. Then they promised donations to the victims of the crash. I guess that whole road safety thing they had going on with their video for ‘Untitled’ was still having lasting effects.
I looked over my shoulder, just as an impatient tradey swerved around me, hollering abuse at my closed window. I fought the urge to roll my eyes. It wouldn’t make any difference to the way I felt, and the tradey wouldn’t even see it. Though, he used to say it made him lose some of the weight from his shoulders. But, then, he was a singer in a band...he had been a little cocky with it.
I slid through the school gates that thought being brushed aside by those of the approaching day. Nodding my head to several students as I parked, I then made my way to the relief office. Mr Browne, the co-ordinator, was already at his desk, dangling my keys and class files.
“Morning, Marly.” He smiled a warm expression that I was always grateful to see every time I came in. He reminded me of my grandpa, actually. An older man, with a lot of wisdom sparkling out of very clear brown eyes, he had that sort of trustworthy air that you knew you could count on all the time.
“Morning.” I leaned against the edge of the desk, smiling back at him. “Who am I today?”
He grinned. “You’re Mark today. He’s in all day, but he had a heap of marking to do. Oh, and he has to write some submission for that NOVA contest.” He held the files out to me. I took them, flipping through them to see which classes were there.
“For his band, right?” I asked as I counted the classes. There were five today, and one yard duty.
“Yes.” Mr Browne nodded, handing me the key. “Anyway, he said if you need anything you can ask him. He’s in the staffroom, now. Or he’ll be in the Year Eight or Science office during the day.”
“Great.” I hung the lanyard around my neck, the key dangling. “Well, have a good day.”
Mr Browne smiled more. “You too.”
I left the office and made my way to the staffroom.
I was about to reach for the door when I heard a student coming up next to me. Glancing to my side, I recognised one of the Grade Ten girls. Sian, I think her name was. She was one of the more outgoing of the students in one of the Science classes I subbed. She was always trying to get me to tell her my life story, and made me feel like a teenager again, myself.
I smiled at her. “Morning, Sian?”
She smiled, acting as if she were shocked. “You remembered my name.”
I pretended to look offended. “I’ve been doing relief here for how long now?”
“Almost one term, miss,” Sian gave a bright grin, bouncing a little on the balls of her shoes. She was clutching a pile of folders to her breasts. “Anyway, guess what?”
“What?” I moved aside as the door opened and some teachers came out. I nodded to them while keeping one ear on the student.
“Mr Ross told us you were coming in to take our Science lesson, today.”
Mr Ross, Mark, the teacher I was being today. Trust him to tell his Year Ten class I was taking them. He knew I liked that class the best.
Nodding, I smirked. “Yes, I am.” I glanced at my files. “I think I have you guys last today.”
Sian kept smiling at me. I had to a laugh a little. She grinned, a bit more, and then bounced off with a chirpy ‘See you later, Miss’. Shaking my head, I headed into the staffroom.
* * * * *
I looked up from my schedule to see Mark standing there, smiling down at me. He’s not what you’d call classically handsome. For a start, he’s a red head with quite pale skin. But, his eyes were the most stunning part of his anatomy. His irises were the most unusual shade of hazel, with little flecks of green and brown. They’re what attracted me to him the first time I met him. That and his infectious grin.
“Hey, how’re you?” I sat back, slipping the paper into my file.
Mark took the seat opposite mine; resting his elbows against the table we were seated at. He took several moments before he answered, seeming to choose his words carefully. “My band’s playing tonight at Irish Flynn’s in Yokine. You know the place?”
I nodded slowly; I went there a lot with my girlfriends. “Yes, it’s just down from K’s place.”
“Yeah, anyway, was wondering if you wanted to come down and watch. It’s Friday...” He lifted his eyebrows at me. As if that would be enough to convince me.
I retorted, “Thank God for Friday’s, eh?”
Mark chuckled, absently playing with the cuffs of his shirtsleeves. He was endearing like that. Always fiddling with his clothing. He always looked good too. Even though he was wearing what he called his ‘school uniform’. I wanted to adjust his tie, though. It was slightly skewiff. I had to tear my eyes away before he thought I was staring at him; refocussing my gaze on the notes in front of me, I heaved a sigh.
He looked at me. “So, what about it? Going to come along?”
Nodding, I gathered my things together just as the bell rang. “Of course. I’ll be there. Was kind of wondering what I was going to do tonight.” Because, I rarely did anything on Friday nights. It was usually the one night I reserved for myself, a book and steaming mug of tea my usual companions.
But, hey...I was doing this for myself right? Or maybe I was doing it for Mark. What did it matter? Knowing Mark’s band, it would be a very good night. And I deserved to treat myself every now and again.
Mark smiled gratefully, waving at me as I made the return trip to the door and out into the mass of students that were rushing to get to their first class of the day.
* * * * *
Irish Flynn’s was packed. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the pub so busy before. Then, again, I don’t usually come here on a Friday night.
Usually they have some form of live entertainment and tonight the place was buzzing with expectation. I believe they haven’t had a band of the likes which Mark’s is. I’m not quite sure how you would categorise his band. I asked some of the students in his classes, earlier in the day. I think some of them were surprised that I was even interested in ‘Mr Ross’s’ band. Not that they really knew anything of my music tastes. Except for Sian who figured out that I was a Simple Plan fan, thanks to an unobtrusive sticker on my diary.
Anyway, it’s not easy to categorise Mark’s band, and the students told me this much. One girl even went so far to accuse me of pigeon-holing the band and said I was crazy if I thought that was important. I didn’t argue with the girl, after all I’d had plenty of experience with a band who didn’t like to be put in a box.
Also, with a name like Fools Rush In, it didn’t add any easy pointers to what they could be. An Elvis Presley tribute band for all anyone could discern from just seeing the band name. But, Mark would instantly disabuse anyone of that notion. He’s not a huge Elvis fan. Neither am I, to be honest. I wasn’t really ever much for the crooning style. Though, I admit that the many covers that I’d heard were pleasing enough to the ear, especially if sung by my favourite singers.
Not that I had many favourite singers. I think I could count them on one hand. Mark was one of them, as well as several well known Australian vocalists, including Kav Temperley of Eskimo Joe and John Farnham...of no band at all. Then there was him. But, I didn’t think of him too often for fear of allowing a set of emotions I didn’t want to give into, to run their gamut.
“Hey, you’re Mark’s mystery girl?”
I glanced back over my shoulder, searching out the owner of the voice that had just spoken to me. A young woman with bright green eyes – they had to be contacts – stood to the right of the table I had secured. Bianca. The band’s new guitarist. I turned, smiling at her.
“I’m not anyone’s girl, let alone Mark’s mystery one,” I said with a soft laugh.
She tilted her head to the side, causing her shoulder-length hair to brush against her shoulders. “Mind if I join you? The guys are busy sound-checking.”
“Shouldn’t you be up there with them?” I asked in return.
Bianca pretended to look miffed. “They call themselves professionals, but they take forever. I was done in less than five minutes.” There was obvious affection in her tone, which was evidence enough for me that she really cared for the other guys in the band.
I smirked. “Well, pull up a chair, then.”
She did as I invited, propping her elbows against the table. “So, you know Mark from school?”
Smiling at the way she instantly returned to her interrogatory mode, I answered, “Yeah. I do relief at the school he teaches at.” I shrugged. “There’s no permanent teaching work going around. And at any rate, I haven’t been out of uni that long.”
Bianca nodded, rocking absently on her chair. “Mark said you were smart.” She giggled, “What’re you doing at a gig likethis?”
I felt a flush of heat bloom on my cheeks and ducked my head down. Gripping my handbag, which was still on my lap, I felt suddenly self-conscious. There was a pause for a moment, and then she laughed the tone warm.
“Aww, geeze...there I go...embarrassing you. I’m sorry. Mark said to go easy on you.”
I blinked, looking up at her. “Whatever for?” That surprised me. I wondered why he would suggest such a thing.
Bianca’s lips, they were painted a pale pink, curved up as she regarded me with a knowing look. “He said you were probably not used to this kind of scene.”
I found myself resisting the urge to roll my eyes for the second time that day. Mark had no idea at all, did he? But that was my doing. I hadn’t told him about my past. At least not the part about having been with the lead singer of Simple Plan for three years. I just hadn’t felt compelled to mention that to anyone, apart from those who were closest to me. And, even though he was quite close in a collegiate kind of way, it was still more of a professional relationship than a personal one.
“It’s cool.” I shot a reassuring smile her way. “I guess I’ll get used to it.”
Bianca grinned so hard, I thought her cheeks might crack. “Oh, goody. Does that mean you’ll come again?”
I couldn’t help but smile back at her. “Hmmm, I’ll see how well you guys play first.”
She laughed some more. “There I go again, shooting myself in the foot. Of course you have to see if you actually like us.”
I already did like the band. Mark had played me some of their music one lunch time at school. It was different to what I was used to listening to, but at the same time it was something fresh and new to my ears, and that was enough for me to become a tentative fan.
Leaning against the table, I said, “I’m sure you don’t have to worry about that.”
Bianca cocked her head at me, but then we both heard Mark calling out her name.
“You’d better go.”
“Shite I better go.” We both spoke at the same time. Then we both laughed. Bianca grinned as she sprang to her feet. “Let me know what you think after.”
“Will do. If I’m still here,” I said, jokingly.
She pointed a finger at me. “I’ll tell on you to Mark, if you’re not.”
Settling back on my seat, I waved her off toward the stage. I wasn’t too sure whether she were joking or not, but I knew she didn’t really need to be anxious about whether I’d do a runner, or not. I had nothing better to do with my time.
Bianca kept pointing at me as she waltzed away from my table. I just smiled in response, crossing my legs at the knees.
She joined the guys on the stage and leaned over to Mark to say something in his ear. I grinned and waved when she made him look where I was sitting. When his eyes met mine, he flashed a thumbs up my way then slung his bass over his shoulders as he prepared to greet the crowd. With that infectious grin, and his ‘take me away from this life’ voice, I knew that a lot of people would probably fall for the band tonight.
I knew for a fact that I’d probably be one of those people. But, who cared really? In all honesty, I was up for a change. And maybe that would bode well for my future.
Chapter 3: "I don't want to hear."
Los Angeles, CA
“So. You’re telling me you scheduled a fucking promo tour to Australia without asking me how I felt about it? You knowwhat’s doing down there.”
Pierre was fuming. Absolutely furious. He’d arrived at Chuck’s LA flat not half an hour ago, and the first thing his friend had said to him just as he was settling in for a drinking session was that the band was headed to Australia at the end of the month. Normally the announcement for some shows, or whatever, wouldn’t have even registered on Pierre’s radar other than the ‘oh cool’ type. However, this was much too close to home and he wasn’t pleased about it.
Chuck, who was leaning over his laptop, going over what looked like about a million emails, just shook his head and murmured, “I know, man. But management says we need to do this.”
Pierre grunted, going over to the bar. “What the fuck for?”
His friend looked over at him. “Promotion. Sales were down on the last album.”
“Yeah. So? I’m sure that’s the case in other countries.” Pierre grabbed a beer, cracking the lid, but not drinking from it. Instead he braced his elbows against the top of the bar and glared at Chuck.
When the drummer didn’t respond to his statement, Pierre added, roughly, “Why Australia, man...? I don’t want to go there.”
Chuck tilted his head toward the singer. If he hadn’t known Pierre so well he would’ve brushed the question aside as an unimportant one. But he heard the pain that was buried deep beneath the nonchalance. He made no mention of it, though. Pierre was not one for airing his emotions. And Chuck was not going to be the one to dredge them out.
Instead, he said, “Because it makes sense. Last time we went all out and did Brazil. And, apparently Australia is a little low on big music acts in the winter months, so... it’ll be cool.”
Pierre gave Chuck a weird look. “I’m gonna chalk that comment up to the fact that you’re clearly insane.”
His friend just sniffed, closing his laptop and looking at him. Pierre raised his eyebrows back at him. Then he took a long pull at the bottle.
Chuck rolled his eyes. “What’re you doing here, anyway?”
Pierre paused, mid swig, and looked hard at his friend.
Chuck sighed, folding his arms and shaking his head. “You don’t need to be here.”
There was a heavy pause after Chuck’s statement. He was right. There was no real reason for Pierre being there. It wasn’t like they had any songs to write, they were practically finished that part of the process. The band just had to book some time in the studio, and that was all Pierre was really worried about. But now, here was his best friend telling him he had made extra plans. Still, Chuck was right.
A little miffed, Pierre said, scathingly, “So? You gonna kick me out?”
Chuck stood, joining him at the bar. He didn’t answer straight away. Instead, going around the other side of the bench, he sorted through the empty bottles that were filling up the surface. They clinked together as he moved them to one side. Then, bracing his palms against the cleared space, he looked at his friend. Pierre raised his eyebrows, a challenge in his gaze.
“No,” Chuck finally stated. “You can stay. I know how it is.”
“Oh, do you?” That edge was still in his voice. But, at the same time a hint of gratitude was there as well. Pierre and Chuck had been friends for too long to prevaricate. Explanation wasn’t ever really necessary.
Chuck just nodded, crossing his arms over his chest. Pierre groaned, walking back over to flop down on the couch. Tilting the bottle in his hand, he gazed down into the golden liquid, swirling it gently. His thoughts followed the same pattern of flow, spinning in a slow, steady motion, not really solidifying into anything coherent. He just stared into his beer, not moving, just attempting to relax.
Meanwhile, Chuck observed his friend in silence, wondering, not for the first time, what was going through his mind. Ever since she had left to go home to Australia, Pierre had changed. On the public side of things, he was still the same charming, personable lead singer, but on the private side...well it wasn’t really worth even thinking about how he’d become.
He drank more, for one, and he was extremely short with everyone, all the time. In fact, today was the first time he’d really spoken at any length to Chuck. Usually, he resorted to mere grunts and gestures.
It was aggravating at the best of times, but it could get downright unpleasant if Pierre had been getting plastered the night before. It was sheer luck that prevented the singer from completely bottoming out on them. It was either that or maybe just the fact he still had some sense.
“Pierre.” Chuck finally broke the quiet, unable to handle the singer’s brooding anymore than he already had.
Pierre forced his gaze from the beer he hadn’t drunk from since his first swig. “Yeah?”
“I’m sorry,” Chuck said, simply.
Pierre blinked then hefted his shoulders, shaking his head. “It’s no big fucking deal. We’ll go to Australia. Have a ball. Come back and go into the studio.”
There was no enthusiasm in his voice, but that was to be expected. Nothing really excited him anymore. At least not as much as it used to. It wasn’t as if he’d become majorly depressed. Not to the point where people were suggesting he needed to see someone about it. He just moped about. And went on with doing the things he needed to do. Chuck wasn’t going to start worrying too much unless Pierre started to go into some deep decline. Until, or if, that ever eventuated then he would speak up. But for now, he wouldn’t let his friend’s attitude get to him.
“Yes. About that,” Chuck said, rubbing at the back of his neck. Pierre lifted an eyebrow, prompting the drummer with a sharp look. “I’ve been trying to book time in the studio for when we get back, and it’s looking pretty tight.”
Pierre shifted his body so he was facing his friend directly. Propping his bottle against his left knee, and bouncing his foot absently, he frowned.
“Tight as in?”
“As in there’s only a small window of opportunity for us.”
“Meaning we won’t get as much time as we did for the last one.” Chuck sighed. “At least that’s the way it looks if we stick with the studio we usually use.”
His statement was met with silence from Pierre, which was filled with a whole lot of ‘so what?’ The expression on the singer’s face spoke volumes.
Chuck began rubbing at his left leg as he tried to qualify what he had just said.
But, Pierre got there first. “There’s always other studios.” His tone was scathing. “You can find another one. You’re good with shit like that.”
“That sounds more like an insult than a compliment.” Chuck grimaced.
Pierre snorted. “I wasn’t complimenting you.”
“Well, there you go,” the drummer muttered, while looking anywhere but at his friend.
An uncomfortable silence settled between them, broken by nothing except their quiet breaths and the occasional slosh of the beer in Pierre’s bottle.
After awhile, Pierre got up and wandered into the next room where Chuck had his drum kit and a keyboard set up. Chuck frowned, tilting his head back to peer into the room.
Pierre set his bottle on top of the keyboard and, switching it on, began to play. He ran his fingers up and down the keys, lips pressing together in concentration. Random notes became a tentative melody as he considered each key he touched. Playing light runs he began to hum under his breath as the tune wandered from the lower register and into the mid-range.
Chuck appeared in the doorway, leaning against the doorframe. Pierre noticed him from the corner of his eye, but made no comment. He continued to play, mouth thinning into a hard line.
His friend sighed, shaking his head. “How long’re you gonna keep this up?”
Pierre rolled his eyes, but didn’t bother to answer. Instead, he intensified his performance, bringing his fingers down harder against the keys. Attacking each note, he was basically attempting to drown out the disapproving presence of his best friend. His visits to Chuck always seemed to end the same way. They’d have some banal argument about the band and then Pierre would escape to the keyboard and immerse himself in his music.
“Pierre, you can’t stay here...” Chuck started, but the phone rang, and the singer gave an inward groan of relief as the other man ducked out to answer it.
Pierre was about to start playing again when he heard Chuck mention a name, which caught his ear. Softening his touch on the keys, he listened into his friend’s side of the phone conversation, wondering who it was on the other end of the line.
“Carls, it’s great to hear from you...no it’s been almost four years. I know, too damn long.” Chuck’s voice paused for a moment, the only sound several ‘mhms’. Then he went on. “No, he hasn’t. No. What? For real? Good on her. So? She’s still with her parents?” Another pause. “That’s good; she needs the support, right? Have you seen her in awhile...what? Wow, congratulations. I bet you make a great mom...so, no travelling for you, then? Right...”
Pierre’s jaw tightened, and something deep within stirred, making his stomach clench. And his heart to ache. An uncomfortable sensation sank to the pit of his stomach as he tasted bile in the back of his mouth. He shut his eyes and returned his focus to the keyboard, forcing his mind to shut out the rest of the conversation going on in the other room.
Chuck’s voice droned on in the background for awhile; Pierre started to play a series of scales, blocking out the surrounding sounds.
Several moments later, Chuck re-entered the room, a small smile on his lips.
“Hey, guess who that was?”
Pierre looked up at him, not pausing in his playing, but allowing his eyes to narrow. “Do I look like I give a shit?”
Chuck didn’t seem fazed by his terse response. “It was Carly. You know? We met her when we were in Brisbane, 2005.”
“Yeah,” Pierre retorted, “like I’m going to remember someone we met five years ago, Charles.” Grabbing his beer he took another swig, savouring the bitter aftertaste as it slid down his throat.
Chuck sighed. “Well, considering her name rhymes with-”
“Do not say her fucking name,” Pierre interrupted, his voice rough, his expression darkening. The drummer held up his hands in a placating gesture. Pierre just glared at him then shook his head angrily, looking back down at the keys, trailing a thumb over them.
“You don’t talk about her...just...” Pierre gritted his teeth and practically breathed the words out. “I don’t want to hear her name.”
“Alright,” Chuck said. “I get it.” He leaned in the doorway again, observing his friend in silence.
The singer went back to his playing, shrugging him off.
After a short time, Chuck left him alone, knowing that in the end the best option was to give him some space. Getting on Pierre’s nerves was never a good plan. Especially when he’d had a few drinks. He knew that when Pierre was ready he’d drag himself away from the keyboard and mooch around for another drink. Until then Chuck would keep out of his hair; he had things he needed to take care of at any rate.
Before a tour there was so much to sort out that he hardly had time to think straight. Having to deal with Pierre’s moods was not part of his official agenda. Of course, he didn’t really mind, after all that was what friends were for. Anyway, if he couldn’t support Pierre, who would?
Out of the guys he was the only one who was able to tolerate Pierre’s mood swings at any length. Even David who himself was a little mad at times couldn’t handle him.
Though, to be honest, Chuck wouldn’t change that fact for the world. He and Pierre had been friends too long for that to ever be an issue. Still it was, admittedly, a tad stressful. He would prefer that his friend wasn’t living the situation he was.
Chuck wished that he could make things better for Pierre, inject a bit of joy back into his life. Short of that, he at least wanted to make things easier for the singer. Give him something else to think about than the fact that he was living alone.
Hopefully, once all the plans were in place and the band got together to start rehearsing for the tour Pierre would come out of his funk, at least temporarily. Even if it were just so they could manage to get along while they were touring. And perhaps getting back into the music and performing would help Pierre take his mind off her.
Chuck could only hope that would be the case.
Chapter 4: "No fear."
It was too early on a Saturday morning for me to even exist. But, Mark practically begged me to come with the band to NOVA. They were going to be doing an interview on the breakfast show. I didn’t really know why he wanted me there with them. Bianca said something about having extra support; I asked her ‘why me?’ She just looked at me as if she thought I should know the answer to that apparently stupid question.
My excuse was that I was still half asleep, and considering how late I stayed up the previous night, you could hardly blame me for acting naive about Mark’s request. My brain was always mush if I hadn’t had enough sleep. Especially on a weekend. Which was a little odd since I was usually fine about getting up on Sunday mornings.
Anyway, I fronted at the radio station, just to humour him. The band deserved some local support, at any rate.
Did I mention Bianca’s a morning person? I turned my head to see the band’s guitarist heading my way. She looked like she’d had about fifteen cups of coffee; her eyes were bright and she was grinning so hard I thought I’d never see another smile the same way again.
“Hey, Bianca, ready for the interview?” I asked.
She giggled in response, shaking her head. “To be honest I’m so nervous I think I’ll puke before I even get in the studio.”
I knew how that could be. I hated presenting myself to the public, or in front of groups of people. Crazy, I know, considering my choice of profession. And, you’d probably think the same for musicians who had anxiety issues. But, a lot of good musicians got into the business because they wanted to make music, and not necessarily to draw crowds. For some that was a bonus, and for others the biggest nightmare.
I know for Pierre he had big trouble fronting the band when they first started. Apparently he had been painfully shy of the crowds and used to perform the whole short gigs they did with his back to the audience. You’d never realise that now, seeing him perform live, the kids under his complete control, eating out of the palm of his hand. But, I guess he matured in that regard.
“I’m sure you’ll be fine, the guys at NOVA are pretty sweet, and it’s not like the listeners will be able to see you.”
“True that,” Bianca flopped down next to me on the sofa I had managed to commandeer. She glanced around. “You seen the others yet?”
“Nope. But I got the impression they’d be here already. Maybe they’re hiding from us.”
Bianca laughed, shaking her head. “Maybe they are. Oh well, we’ve got a few minutes before we need to go on, anyway.”
I smiled faintly. She tilted her head at me. “You’re not awake yet are you?”
I laughed. “You’re observant.”
She shrugged. “I’m a morning person. But, I can tell someone who isn’t.” She patted me on the shoulder. “Really, thanks for coming. The guys will appreciate it.”
I mock grumbled, “They’d better. I forfeited my sleep-in for this.”
“Oh, they sure do. Especially Mark.” Bianca grinned some more at me.
Blinking at her statement, I shook my head. “Right.”
She waggled her eyebrows at me. I rolled my eyes then craned my head toward the entrance just as the doors swung open and the guys finally walked in. The three of them came in bearing steaming cups of coffee. I giggled to myself.
Bianca glanced at me and stage-whispered, “They’re not morning people.”
“Oi,” Mark laughed, “Mornings are overrated.” He stopped in front of us and smiled softly at me.
“I’d have to agree with you, there,” I said, blushing a little at his look. His eyes commanded my attention, and I really didn’t notice anything else. Bianca cleared her throat, drawing my gaze away from his. I noticed him glancing in her direction as well.
Bianca’s lips twitched as she said, “That may be, but we really need this exposure, so you’ll just have to deal.” The seriousness of her tone reminded me of the way Chuck used to get with the guys in Simple Plan. He was always thinking of how the band could be promoted to the different industries. The brains trust was he. In some ways she was similar to him in that regard.
I shook my head to once again clear my thoughts, now was not the time to be reminiscing on things that I didn’t really want to think about. Particularly anything to do with him. Luckily, Mark was talking again, drawing my focus away from my mind.
“Yeah, it’s all good, really. Did you get the questions?”
Bianca nodded at Mark’s question. “Yep. Here.” She handed a sheet of paper over to him. “It’s just the stock standard, how’d we start and all that stuff. Nothing too curly. Though we all know what they can be like on the Breakfast show.”
I snorted. “They’re all high on caffeine.”
“Speaking of,” Mark started as he grabbed a cup of coffee from the tray he was holding and held it out to me, “figured you’d need one too.” Smiling, I took the cup he offered and sipped from it slowly.
He nodded just as the show producer called for them to go in. “See you after?”
I leaned back against my seat and nodded back, smiling softly.
* * * * *
While I waited I flipped through one of the magazines that was on the coffee table in front of me. It was some music magazine and it had several good articles in it. Even one on Fools Rush In… My hand started to shake slightly when I turned the page and found myself staring at a full page photo of that band… I blinked, eyes glossing over the words printed across it.
SIMPLE PLAN, BACK WITH A SIMPLE PLAN…
I stared at the photo. Part of me was screaming to turn the page. To stop looking. But, I couldn’t do it. Pierre. Was right there. Looking as dashing as always. Totally unfair… I slapped the magazine shut and closed my eyes tight.
I almost jumped out of my skin at Bianca’s voice. Peeking out from one eye I met her concerned gaze.
I nodded. “Yeah, just catching up on some sleep…” I think that convinced her because she grinned and grabbed my hand, pulling me up out of my seat.
“Come on. We’re done, the guys are waiting for us at the van.”
I allowed her to tug me out of the NOVA studios relieved at the distraction.
"What should we do now?" Mark asked as Bianca and I joined them.
Bianca grinned. "It's too early for lunch..."
"We didn't eat, though," Mark pointed out.
Laughing, I shook my head. “I know a place where we can get all day breakfast.”
* * * * *
“So, get this,” Andy held up a finger his eyebrows waggling at us as he spoke, “We’ve been booked to be opening act for a big name international band.”
We were sat around a table at Aroma Café, eating decent sized all-day breakfasts. Bianca had her fork close to her mouth, tomato just hanging of it. Ben was buttering his toast. Mark was halfway through a piece of bacon, but started coughing at his friend’s statement.
“What?” Bianca’s eyes were even brighter than before. I just sat, blinking at Andy. He grinned through a mouthful of poached egg.
“Management sent me an email.” He held up his phone. “Simple Plan."
The fact that I managed not to react was surprising; I just blinked several times and said, "That's really cool."
Mark chuckled, nudging me. "Isn't that your favourite band?"
I nodded. "Yeah..."
Bianca grinning, said, "Don't go all fangirl on us, hey."
I smiled a little, downing my coffee. "No fear." I'd long gone past the fangirl stage. They didn't really appreciate it anyway, especially from someone who knew them so well. Though, sometimes I pretended to do it to get on Pierre's nerves...
"Marly's way too mature for that, Bianca," Mark said, defending me. I lifted my shoulders at that, glancing at my watch.
"I wouldn't know about mature. But, they're just a band, nothing special."
Andy laughed. "Right, and that's why every student you teach knows they're your favourite band."
"Only Sian, Andy." I shook my head. "I do like other music."
Mark chuckled. "Obviously." He looked down at his phone. "Oh, by the way, did you see The Eagles are coming to Perth to play one show."
I nodded absently as my mind wandered back to Andy's announcement; Simple Plan were going to take these guys on tour. That was pretty amazing for them. Mark and the rest, that is. I knew Simple Plan were pretty great...
"So, you going?"
Bianca smiled at me and said, "The Eagles."
Oh, right. "Yes, I got tickets to take dad."
"We could all meet up,” Ben said, his suggestion meeting with a chorus of affirmation.
"We could," I said. "But, plenty of time to talk about that."
Andy finished his coffee, agreeing with me. "Yeah, December's a while off, And we have this tour first."
I hid my sigh in my coffee, smiling around it whilst pushing my anxieties away.
No point in worrying, right?
Chapter 5: "I'm sad."
Los Angeles, CA
Pierre sat with Chuck's itinerary in his hands. He dragged his fingers through his hair as he tried to sort through the emotions that were fighting for his attention. The whole thing was getting worse as his friend handed him the information for the tour. The only good thing, really, was the support band. Fools Rush In had a refreshing sound; he had several of their tracks on his iPod on repeat of late.
Though all that paled in comparison with the fact that this trip was even happening. Luckily for him, Chuck wasn’t pushing the point too much. He was currently on the other side of Pierre’s apartment absently straightening the photo frames that hung in a line along the wall. Pierre lifted his gaze, watching him.
“Wish you wouldn’t do that, Charles,” he said, gaze belligerent. Chuck glanced back at his friend and just shrugged before turning to look at him directly.
“The guys want to meet up this afternoon.”
Pierre grimaced. “And, do what?”
Chuck shook his head. “We need to rehearse the songs.”
Pierre sighed, leaning back on the couch, but not before tossing the pages of the itinerary on the low coffee table in front of him. Just the thought of putting voice to the music they’d written made Pierre sick to the stomach. It was too close, too real and he didn’t really think he was ready for it. And, at any rate…
“Tabernac, I’ve an appointment this afternoon.”
Chuck raised his eyebrows. Pierre shook his head, not wanting to elaborate. Sometimes, though, the other male didn’t know when to let up.
“Can’t you change it?”
Pierre snorted and said, “No. This is my regular. I won’t get to see her again before we leave.”
Chuck lifted an eyebrow. “Her?”
Pierre frowned. “Dr Farrar. She’s my…counsellor.”
“You’re seeing a shrink?”
The singer grunted and looked away. Thankfully Chuck didn’t push any further and just let out a sigh.
“You could come after?” He walked over to sit opposite his friend. “You need to be there for a bit, at least.”
Pierre lifted his shoulder in a noncommittal gesture. Chuck sighed, standing again.
“Well, come, if you can. I’ll see myself out.”
The singer lifted his hand then dropped it again, fixing his gaze on the itinerary again. Chuck sighed again and walked out the door.
* * * * *
“You for fucking real? Pierre’s seeing a shrink?” David’s eyes were wide open the lashes that framed them seeming to stand out from the shock of Chuck’s explanation for Pierre’s non-appearance.
The drummer nodded as he sat behind his kit, testing the nuts on one of the hats. “Yeah, so he may or may not show up later.”
David stood just looking at his friend. The disbelief in his expression was a bit much for Chuck to handle, though.
“David, seriously. He needs it.”
David rolled his eyes, muttering. “That’s an understatement.”
Chuck stopped what he was doing and glared at the bassist. “You know what, I know you can’t stand his shit right now, but he’s still our friend.” He continued glaring at the younger male until David turned away to get his bass.
Jeff and Seb arrived at that moment, saving Chuck from having to say anything more.
“Hey, dude!” Seb grinned, lightly slapping a hand against David’s shoulder. The two youngest members of the band side-hugged, smiling at each other. “When did you get here?”
David pushed a hand through his hair and said, “Couple of hours ago. Flight was delayed, otherwise I would’ve been here even earlier.”
Chuck laughed and said, “Good thing you didn’t. I wouldn’t have been here.”
“LAX is awful as always,” Jeff commented as he started unpacking his acoustic. Then he said, looking at the drummer, “Where were you?”
“He may or may not be here, ‘cos he’s seeing a shrink,” David added with a smirk.
Chuck said, voice sharp, “David, don’t.” The bassist grumbled but didn’t elaborate. Neither Jeff nor Seb appeared surprised though. The younger of the two just shrugged and the other smiled a little.
“Hope it helps,” Jeff said as he sat on a stool while tuning his instrument. Chuck couldn’t have agreed more.
* * * * *
Pink roses. Not the usual affair in a doctor’s office. But, Lachelle Farrar wasn’t your average doctor. Pierre decided that the very first time he saw her. The long flowing, flowery dresses she wore and the head band with the daisy stuck in the top, very sixties flower child, really. Though she was actually younger than him. Yeah, a shrink that was younger than him. But, she was a professional. So, age was of no issue.
The pink roses though…
“Do you like them?” Lachelle’s soft voice refocussed him and he smiled tightly at her.
“Yes. They were given me by another of my clients.” She reached out a slender hand to stroke at a petal. Pierre observed the motion then met her gaze, brow furrowing.
Lachelle leaned back on her chair, smiling at him in a genial manner. “So, you want to talk about her?”
Pierre closed his eyes. “No.” Which wasn’t entirely true, but he didn’t want to just spill his guts. It was Lachelle’s job to draw him out, after all.
She didn’t take the bait, though. At least not directly.
“When do you go to Australia?”
Pierre slid one eyelid open, eye dark. “This weekend.”
“How long for?” Lachelle’s questions were usually designed to get him talking, but for now she was just going for the facts. Pierre opened his other eye, sitting up.
“Two weeks. Long for a promo tour, but it’s a big country.”
Lachelle jotted down a couple of notes. The pad on her lap had seen better days, the wire spiral sticking out at the ends. Pierre’s gaze flickered down to her scrawl and then he looked at her face again.
“There’s no way I’d bump into her. We’re not even going to Perth.”
Lachelle met his eyes. “That’s where she lives?”
Pierre snorted and said, “You know that.”
She didn’t react to the aggressive tone in his voice, just wrote another little note.
Pierre glowered at her, standing and shoving his hands in his pockets. Her gaze shifted to him and something flickered in their depths. But, she just smiled, inclining her head toward the stretch of carpet in front of the large double-glazed window, overlooking the busy street outside. Pierre took the invitation for what it was and started to pace along its length.
“Do you think you can describe your feelings right now, Pierre?”
Pierre’s jaw tightened. This was the hardest part of the session. Always. Past sessions he clammed up and Lachelle would have to end it there because she had other clients…
“Even if it’s just one word.”
And, that was the best way to handle him…
“Sad.” It was the first word that came and it suddenly dawned on him that he had never, up until now, admitted that feeling, not even to himself. He stopped pacing and looked at Lachelle again. “I’m sad.” He frowned. “Maybe even depressed. Though, I’m obviously not qualified to make that kinda diagnosis.”
Lachelle’s soft laugh didn’t make him angry for some reason as she said, “You’re qualified to know yourself, though.”
Pierre shook his head. “You’d think so. But, all I know is that I’m a mess. And, I fucking miss her.”
Lachelle regarded him with a level expression. “What’s her name?”
Pierre blinked as the corners of his mouth turned down. “Don’t you know?”
She shook her head, a gentle gesture. “In the whole time I’ve seen you, you have not once mentioned her by name. It may help.”
Pierre turned his gaze back out on the street, a faraway look coming to his eyes. “I…” He shook his head almost in anger at himself. “She…”
“Pierre?” Lachelle’s tone was gentle. He exhaled on a harsh breath.
“Marly. Her name’s Marly.”
Chapter 6: “Sounds like a plan.”
Or dairy maybe? I’m eating Easter eggs, because, hey it’s that time of the year. Anyway, this week is going so darn slow. But, I’m perfectly fine with that. Because, guess what’s happening this weekend. Well, technically next week? I don’t have any relief work and Mark practically twisted my arm to join them as part of their Merch crew. Which would be fine…but the band they’re supporting. Big sighs, right?
I’m partially dreading it, but at the same time I am excited. It’s going to be a great experience for Mark and the others. I’m so happy for them. Just hope I don’t get hurt in the process…
It’s a little annoying. The feelings inside me. I thought I was past all that. But, then again, perhaps the decision I made was somewhat idiotic. I’ve had messages from some of Pierre’s friends – they’re my friends too – asking me if I’ve got my head out of my behind and am ready to go crawling back to him. Which really isn’t helpful. They mean well, even if they’re a bit crass with it.
It’s been just under two years since I walked out on him. And I’m content.
“School holidays over Easter and ANZAC Day? Best thing, ever,” Mark said as we were walking to the staff parking. I lifted an eyebrow above my glasses.
“Um, sorry to burst your bubble, Mark, but only Easter is in the holidays.”
Mark looked at me; I smiled and said, “It goes by the Lunar calendar, remember.” He rolled his eyes at me, grinning.
“You know everything, don’t you?”
I just smiled some more and unlocked my car, waving to him. “See you Sunday, okay?”
Sunday would be the first and only day of rehearsals for the band before Simple Plan arrived later that night. Not a lot of time, really, but Mark and Bianca were relishing the chance to just even be in this. They always treated soundchecks as mini-rehearsals, along with random jam sessions while travelling or just hanging around. They were organic when it came to that sort of thing, and I enjoyed sitting in and listening to them. It was as refreshing as when I was singing at church on a Sunday morning.
Speaking of Bianca, we were catching up for coffee today and I was really looking forward to it. Not only because I didn’t have many girlfriend’s in the music scene, but just because it was hard not to. Bianca was an effervescent soul. It was difficult not to enjoy being around with her. She had an inner joy that shone from her, and in the short time knowing her I knew she was the kind of person I wanted to be around. Especially, considering what was about to happen.
Which brought me to a certain conundrum. I wanted to confide in someone about my history with Simple Plan, and specifically with Pierre. I’d debated in my heart who that should be, and I came to a tentative decision. If it came up in conversation, then I would say something to Bianca. No harm, no foul, right?
Traffic was awful, pulling out of the school. Double demerits were in effect since the day before. Most of the Independent schools had already finished for the holidays. The Catholic schools were a day later. It took me twenty minutes to get down the stretch of road that usually only took five during term time to the shops on the corner of the main road.
Popping an Easter egg in my mouth – Red Tulip, if you want to know – I peeked out of the windscreen as I turned into the car park. The explosion of chocolate in my mouth was one of my favourite things. Chocolate was a good boost as far as I was concerned. Everything in moderation, of course. Just like the amount of frustration I always felt when trying to find a spot for my car. Sometimes I wondered how other people even acquired their licences. A Kellogg’s cereal box, perhaps?
Finally managing to park, I got out and headed for the coffee shop, looking out for Bianca’s sunny smile.
And, there she was, striking a comical pose outside of the Dome. She was very hard to miss what with the long pink streak of colour through her dark hair. A new do, obviously.
“Hey, that for the tour?” I said, joining her at the doorway. Bianca just grinned, latching onto my arm and tugging me inside to sit near the counter.
“Isn’t it exciting?” She was gushing and her excitement was infectious. I let her sit me down and organise the ordering of hot beverages. I just needed to sit and relax. She had enough energy for the both of us. Bouncing on the balls of her feet she almost seemed to dance over to the counter.
Leaning back, I observed her, wondering at where it came from. I mean, I knew the feeling. Used to know it very well…
“Here you go,” Bianca said with a flourish as she set my Cappuccino-to-go in front of me. I smiled in gratitude, taking it and sipping carefully from the cup. She sat opposite me, clutching her own cup close to her chest, still grinning away.
“Nervous?” I said with a smile over the top of my coffee. Bianca shifted on her seat and nodded.
“A lot. But, excited too. I mean…a proper tour. Supporting an international band. Like…I’d never even envisioned it.” She shook her head almost in disbelief. “It’s crazy, Marly. Like, seriously crazy.”
“Have to agree. Isn’t it odd that it’s over Easter, though?” I set my half-drained cup on the table, adjusting the napkin next to it, an absent gesture.
Bianca rocked on her seat. “We’ll travel over Easter, I think, so they’re won’t actually be a gig on Easter.”
I nodded again, even as I tried to think of some way to bring up Simple Plan…
“You’ve seen them live haven’t you?” And she gave me the opening I needed.
“Yeah, once. Back in ’05. Brisbane,” I said, keeping my answer short. Bianca swirled her cup gently, nodding.
“Did you meet them, or anything?”
I sat up a little straighter, thinking, this was it. This was where I said what I wanted to say…
“Yeah. But, not at the gig itself. My friend, Carly, and I bumped into the frontman, Pierre, at a bar after the show.”
Bianca’s lips made a small ‘oh’ then she tilted her head at me. “What was he like?”
I looked away toward the window, and said, without meeting her eyes, “Sweet. Charming. Down-to-earth.” Rough, hard to read… I paused to gauge her response. Bianca didn’t seem to pick up on what I was really trying to say, though. And, maybe that was okay for now. I didn’t have to tell her about that yet.
“I’ve heard that about him. And the same with the rest of the band.”
I nodded in silent agreement, thinking about them for the first time, really, in a long while. Chuck was always so approachable. He had so much time for the fans. I remembered when I first met him, it was several days after meeting Pierre. Chuck was warm and welcoming and had none of the hard edges that Pierre did.
Then there was Jeff. He was a consummate professional. Always practising his craft, and taking care in everything he did. Sebastien, Seb, was the same. A little less mature as the youngest in the band, but I loved his sense of humour and his love of life. Oh, and he was a cat person, like me.
Last but not least, David. Crazy David. Life of the party…
“I heard David is gay.”
I blinked as Bianca’s statement brought me out of my reverie. “Hmm?”
“The bassist. He’s gay?”
“Not that I know of.” Which was the truth. David was just, David. His sexuality wasn’t something I really thought about. It was a non-issue. I mean, sure, he wore women’s clothing and he was effeminate in some ways… But, he enjoyed women. Though, who really knew? It wouldn’t make any difference to me.
“Right. Well, not that it matters,” Bianca said with another one of her flashy smiles. I smiled in return as I drained my coffee. She fiddled with her own cup then looked at me. “Anyway, Mark says I gotta explain your role while we’re on tour.”
Nodding, I settled back with my coffee, preparing to take everything in.
* * * * *
“So, you have to call their Merch guy, I’ve got his number here.” We were in my car now, heading for my place and Bianca was still talking about the Merch. I glanced at her from the corner of my eyes.
Bianca checked her phone contacts. “Patrick Langlois.”
I nodded, not reacting to his name as I concentrated on the road. “When?”
“Before we meet up on Sunday.”
I squeezed the steering wheel then nodded some more. “Sure. Text me his number.” Though that wasn’t really necessary, since his number was the one I’d kept in my own contact list…just in case. But, it wasn’t like Bianca knew that.
Bianca’s thumb flew over the screen of her phone and I felt my phone buzz in my pocket. “There you go. So, what’s the plan for tonight?”
I smiled, relaxing at the chance to change the subject. “Have a couple of movies I want to watch.”
“Oh, a girls’ movie night. Got popcorn?” Bianca said. I rolled my eyes.
“Need to go to the shops and get some.”
Bianca lifted an eyebrow. “Shops are closed by now, though.” Typical for Perth, really.
I shook my head.
“I’ll cook my spag bol, then.”
Bianca grinned and said, “Sounds like a plan.”
I lifted an eyebrow slightly at her choice of words, but made no comment. After all, it isn’t as if she actually followed through with the obvious pun…
And I knew I was grateful for that. Right?
Chapter 7: "Your enthusiasm is inspiring."
Pierre grunted as he tugged his bag from the back of the taxi. Pat was coming around the other side, phone tucked against his ear as he spoke in low tones. Pierre lifted his eyebrows at his long-time friend.
An expression he couldn’t decipher flickered in Pat’s eyes as he said, “Fools Rush In’s merch co-ordinator.”
“Oh? Right.” Pierre’s eyebrows drew together as his friend headed into the airport terminal. He sensed that something was a little off with his friend’s response, but didn’t feel like probing into it. Sighing, he followed in time to see that he and Pat were the last to arrive.
David was hanging over his shoulder, talking away at top speed an excited grin lighting up his features. The expression just made Pierre want to turn around and walk back the way he came. But, before he had the chance to think further than that the bassist caught sight of him and started yelling his name.
“Pierre! It’s Pierre! He’s alive!”
Pierre rolled his eyes as he approached. “No one could stay dead with you yelling like that.”
David grinned at him, evidently not picking up on his sour mood as he said, “Nothing beats travelling, eh?” He clapped a hand to Pierre’s shoulder. Pierre stiffened, but managed not to baulk.
“Yeah…whatever.” He turned his head to the others who were all looking at him as if he would explode at any moment. “Let’s get this over with.”
“Your enthusiasm is inspiring,” Chuck said, his tone acid. Pierre just shrugged and headed toward the check-in counters.
* * * * *
The clunk of the wheels as they drew up into the body of the plane set Pierre’s nerves on edge. Not that he wasn’t already feeling antsy. Since checking in, then heading through security – with David making nonsensical statements the whole way through ‘what if I had a giraffe with me?’ – A sense of foreboding clouded his mind making it hard for him to relax.
He was sitting next to Jeff, thankfully. The guy was a saint when it came to travelling. He didn’t talk needlessly, nor laugh at the most inopportune moments. Sure, he was good for a random conversation if you wanted it, but if you just wanted silence, that was on offer too. And, that was exactly what Pierre needed right now.
Earbuds pressed tight into his ears blocking out any social noise, Fools Rush In’s EP blasting away, he was all set for the flight ahead.
“Jeff, I need to swap seats for a sec.”
Pierre opened one eye at the shifting of bodies switching places and was treated to Pat’s deep frown. That wasn’t normal. Not at this time in a flight. Pulling out one earbud he lifted an eyebrow to show he was at least willing to listen.
Pat tugged at some of his hair before letting out a huff. “I need you to promise me something, Pierre.”
Pierre snorted as he said, “This should be good.”
Pat sighed. “Pierre.”
“Fine. I promise.”
Pat scowled. “You don’t even know what it is I want you to promise me.”
Pierre set his jaw, shaking his head; then he said, “I’ll try not to be an asshole. That good enough for you?”
His friend stared at him myriad emotions flickering across his face before he settled on just frowning some more. Pierre kept his eyes fixed on him until Pat had to look away.
“It’ll have to do,” he said before getting up to head back to his seat. Pierre gave a soft grunt before replacing the earbud and turning the music up.
* * * * *
“Woo! Hello, Perth!”
David did a running jump almost landing on top of Chuck who was trying to rearrange his passport and wallet. Pierre groaned, shaking his head as he caught a glimpse of the fans who were filling the arrival concourse. Faces laughing and grinning at the bassist’s antics were the norm wherever they went. Pierre was too tired from the long flight to appreciate it for once, though. Not that he’d appreciated it for a long time if he was going to be honest.
He was willing to go through the motions, grateful for Pat who hovered close by him, ensuring he didn’t ignore the fans and making comments that were designed to draw him out. But, his mind was elsewhere, his eyes skittering across the crowd. If someone asked him later what he remembered…well, it was all one big blur.
“Pierre?” Pat was tugging his sleeve. Pierre, blinking, allowed his friend to steer him outside to the van waiting for them. He climbed in without noticing anything around him; on auto-pilot his mind shut down, pulling his focus inward. He wasn’t ready for any of this. Hadn’t been ready when she left him. Sure as Hell wasn’t prepared now. Of course, he couldn’t let his friends’ down. Or the fans. It wouldn’t be easy. But, it wasn’t as if he’d cross paths with her. Perth was a big enough city, right?
It wasn’t until David started exclaiming loudly at the things outside the van – “Look, at that pink limo!” – that Pierre came back to the present.
“Huh?” he said, as his friend started poking him in the side. “What’re you talking about?”
David pointed out the window where a large pink Hummer was idling on the kerb. Pierre blinked at it, feeling numb. Then shook his head.
“Quit poking me,” he said, though there was no conviction in his voice. David held his hands up in surrender. Pierre didn’t notice as he turned away again.
David’s huff reached his ears, but he just stared out the window, expression blank as he tuned everything out. Pat’s soft murmur of reassurance was the only thing he picked up as the van continued on its way.
Chapter 8: “What are you doing here?”
“Look at these shirts, Marly!” Bianca said, at the top of her lungs. I wriggled the tip of my finger in my ear, making a face at her. She laughed, and said, “I wasn’t that loud.”
Smiling, I said, “Sure…my ears are bleeding.”
We were packing the merch for the tour. They’d arrived earlier that morning and Bianca and I offered to load them up. It was actually my job, but Bianca was too antsy to just sit around while the band waited to meet with Simple Plan’s management. Mark shot through a message to tell me that they were in the country. More specifically they were on the way to the Hilton.
I was nervous, which was no surprise, especially since I was still to tell anyone about my history with the band. There was no real chance to, either. We hit the ground running, coffees in hand, lists going everywhere. The only thing I could tell you with any certainty was that I now knew what it felt like to be Patrick Langlois. If only by a margin.
Bianca, at that moment, said, “Got a text. They’re here.” She grabbed my arm tugging me away from the boxes of shirts. “Come on. Let’s go meet them.”
I allowed her to lead me out of the hall the guys had booked for rehearsal and everything else, and followed her to the foyer. Her excitement was palpable, I could hardly understand what she was saying as she gushed about meeting the band and what she thought they’d be like…though we’d already talked about that the day before. I couldn’t keep up, instead focusing on not being sick, or falling over.
As we entered the foyer, I spotted them straight away. They were standing with their backs to us, talking to Mark, Ben and Andy. Except Pat, who was facing us; and he saw us first. I watched as he said something to Chuck – I recognised the drummer from behind, the way he was standing – then came toward Bianca and me. I was frozen, even though I was telling my feet to move, but all my emotions suddenly overwhelmed me as I stood there.
Pat stopped in front of us, and at that same instant I couldn’t handle it anymore. Turning on the spot I bolted back into the hall. I heard Pat behind me, telling Bianca he’d come after me, and her anxious voice saying something about him not knowing me. I knew he could be persuasive, though and next I heard as I kept going were his firm steps following me.
Before reaching the elevator, I felt him come up right behind me, and then…
I stopped, without turning, my breathing ragged. He turned me, his hand gentle on my arm, his expression filled with a warmth that I remembered. Blinking up at him, I could feel tears forming in my eyes.
“Pat…” My voice wobbled on his name.
He gripped my shoulders lightly. “Hey, too soon?”
It was a relief that he understood why I’d bolted. Nodding, I let him pull me into a hug.
He rocked me then murmured softly, “I’m here for you, okay?”
I nodded, peeking up at him. “Thanks…it’s just a bit much…first day, and all.” His lips twisted in a wry smile.
“Yeah. I figured.” He stepped back, leaning against the wall. I stood for a moment, steeling myself.
We remained there for a while until I felt that I was ready. At least, as ready as I could be, considering.
“You don’t need to meet them, yet. I can call and tell them we went to talk Merch.” Pat’s voice was soft. I shot a grateful look his way, but shook my head.
“Bianca will ask questions.”
His lips twisted in a smirk, as he said, “Yeah, maybe. But, I don’t want you stressing yourself.”
Patting his arm, I smiled. “Thanks, Pat…but I’m a big girl.” He lifted an eyebrow at me.
“I’d say more like, average-sized.”
I laughed, whacking him on his shoulder. “You’re so bad.”
Pat’s smile was infectious, causing warmth to spread through me.
We headed back, Pat not speaking which was a relief for me. Processing the situation wasn’t easy, and holding myself together was tough. Bianca turned as we approached, her smile still as bright as ever.
“Hey, let me introduce you.”
I took my bottom lip between my teeth as the guys shifted their gaze in my direction.
“Marly?” Chuck said, before Bianca could speak, his eyebrows lifting as I felt heat rise to my face.
Clearing my throat, I nodded as I said, “Hi, Chuck. Long time.”
Bianca’s look of confusion would’ve been endearing if I’d had the wherewithal to notice but my focus was on the guys and trying to remain calm. Which wasn’t too hard as long as I was looking at Chuck. His smile was soft as he stepped forward to greet me; he pulled me into his arms, squeezing gently. I breathed in hard, blinking.
“What are you doing here?” Chuck’s voice in my ear was all it took to put me over the edge.
No words came as I just started sobbing. His arms tightened around me before releasing me and he took a step back, tilting his head. I wiped at my eyes, blinking at him.
Chuck shook his head. “It’s been a while.”
“You didn’t answer Chuck’s question.” David. Grinning, though the surprise in his eyes was evident. I turned to look at him, trying to smile, but failing.
“I live here, David.”
“Well, we knew that, babe…but…why are you here, here?”
I rubbed my cheek, keeping my eyes locked on his face, though I could feel Bianca staring at me…and his gaze.
“I’m friends with the band. Obviously.” I glanced at Bianca who was now frowning at me and mouthing ‘what the Hell, Marlz?’ I shook my head at her. Then looked back at David. “Bianca convinced me to come help out with Merch.”
David blinked several times then before I could say anything further, enveloped me in his arms, squeezing hard.
I lost it then. Completely. I found myself on the floor with David wrapped around me, doing his best to console me. I probably looked the worst I possibly could, snot streaming from my nose, eyes stinging from tears. What a mess.
And, Pierre stood there with an expression I couldn’t fathom throughout the whole episode.
Chapter 9: "Merch whore."
Pierre stood quite still not sure what he was seeing. He knew what he was looking at. Whom he was seeing. But, he didn’t know if he wanted to believe it.
Chuck looked over at him, mouthing, “You okay, Pierre?”
Shaking his head, Pierre took a step back and turned to leave.
“Wait…” Her voice. He halted, but didn’t turn.
“Yeah?” The hitch of her breath almost made him change his mind, but he kept his gaze fixed ahead. He knew if he looked at her he'd lose control of his emotions, and he couldn't risk that; not now.
The tremor in her voice when she spoke, though. “You…look good.”
He ground his teeth together before answering in a low voice, “Thanks…” He shifted his gaze in her direction, deciding it couldn't hurt. Marly was looking anywhere but at him, her eyes slewing sideways to avoid his. He sighed, shaking his head and looking to his friends. “I'll see you in a few. Gotta go find Seb.”
The other chick who was with Marly said, loudly then, “Oh, that's right. I forgot about him. Thought you were all meeting us here.”
Pierre looked at her, frowning. “You're in the band?”
“Yeah, I'm Bianca.” The girl looked over to the other members of Fools Rush In, who throughout the whole exchange had remained silent. Surprised looks on their faces, not understanding.
Pierre nodded, trying a smile on for size as he looked at the four of them. “Well, I'll go get him. You should finish discussing the schedule with Chuck.” He turned and left without looking back and before anyone else could draw him.
* * * * *
Pierre found Sebastien in the business hub attempting to hook his laptop up to the hotel’s network.
“Hey?” he said in a low voice so as to not draw attention to either of them. Seb glanced up lips twitching a little when he recognised the singer.
Pierre shook his head, but decided against holding back. “She’s here.” He licked his lips then tried again. “Marly. She’s here.” The words didn’t seem real to him, but there they were, hanging in the air.
Seb blinked then pushed away from the desk, whistling through his teeth. “Dude. That’s not cool.” The fact that his friend understood how he was feeling made Pierre feel a little more at ease about the whole thing. He leaned against the wall, folding his arms over his chest as he watched his friend.
“What’s she doing here?” Seb asked. Pierre shook his head again.
“She’s with the support band.”
Seb met his eyes, surprise in his own. “What?”
“The merch whore,” Pierre scoffed, a bitter edge to his words. That was what they always used to call Patrick; the words rankled on Pierre’s lips, but it suited as far as he was concerned.
Seb furrowed his brow. “Well, you don’t have to have anything to do with her, right?”
Pierre heaved a sigh, dragging a hand through his hair before answering. “I promised Pat I wouldn’t be an asshole.” He looked down then back at the younger man to see his reaction.
Seb lifted his shoulders. “Be polite. Talk to her if she talks to you. Don’t need to do any more than that.”
It made sense. More sense than he could come up with at that moment, so Pierre nodded to his friend and then pushed away from the wall.
“Thanks, Seb. See you at rehearsal?”
Seb lifted his hand. “See ya, Pierre.”
Pierre turned to go then paused, looking back at the guitarist. “You ever have to deal with this shit?”
Seb blinked, looking back at him. “In high school, maybe.” He sucked at his bottom lip. “Not now, though. I’ve got it pretty good,” he said in a gentle tone. The singer gave a wry smile, thinking of Seb’s fiancée who was back in Montreal.
“Yeah…you do. Hold onto her, eh.”
Seb nodded then murmured, “You’ll be right, dude.”
Pierre lifted his shoulders and let out a non-committal grunt before turning to leave.
Chapter 10: "Three sizes too big."
School holidays. Something safe to write about. As a relief teacher holidays are my time to refresh myself. To take a breather. I guess it helps me to recalibrate. These holidays are going to be quite a bit different and will encroach into term time, so, I won't be available to relieve any classes. I'm still not sure how I feel about it all. It seems so sudden… Simple Plan, here, in Perth. Fools Rush In, supporting them on their national tour. I still can't get my head around it.
Pierre. I don't have words.
The others, it's great to see them…
What am I going to tell Bianca and Mark and the rest of the guys? How do you tell them about a past that is hard for me to even think about?
“How come you never told us you knew them personally?” Bianca’s question was innocent enough, but I wasn’t ready to answer it. I shook my head as I tried to focus on what I was doing: sealing up the boxes of shirts that we’d left earlier.
I looked over at her. “Yeah?”
I sighed, setting the tape down on top of the last box. “Didn’t think it was necessary.”
Bianca’s eyebrows raised, not for the first time. “We’re gonna be touring with them for a month around Australia, I think that makes it kind of necessary.”
I shook my head, thinking that it was a good thing I hadn't mentioned anything about Pierre and I just yet. “Why? It's not that big a deal.”
Blanca laughed. “A big international band? Come on, Marly. They're your favourite band. Everyone knows that.” She leaned in closer to me. “But, you’re friends with them?”
I waved a hand at her, dismissing her question.
“I haven't spoken to any of them for over a year.” Which wasn't entirely a lie. Pat called me once a month just to touch base.
Bianca scrawled a number on the box I’d sealed and said, “How’d you meet them? Really? I mean, I know you already told me you bumped into Pierre at a bar…” She paused. “That wasn’t the whole truth, was it?”
I guess it was time to be honest…somewhat, and I knew I could give some kind of answer. “After their Brisbane show in 2005.” I smiled a little. “Pierre and Pat were drinking in the bar that I happened to walk into after the gig.” Leaning back, and surveying the boxes, I added, “I had to go up to the bar right next to them to get a drink. Pat thought he'd introduce himself to me…” I gave a little laugh.
Bianca screwed up her face. “And I guess he introduced Pierre to you?”
I lifted my shoulders as I picked up the tape again. Patrick never actually got a word in that night. It was all Pierre. It had always been Pierre. Pat only showed up later. But, I wasn't about to tell Bianca that. And I hoped she wouldn't press me any more on the matter.
“Hey guys!” And right on cue, Mark appeared, clutching his bass, saving me from any further explanation. Though Bianca shot a look my way that suggested she wasn't done questioning me just yet.
I smiled at Mark. “How'd things go with SP?”
Mark unslung his bass, setting it on top of a box before he said, “Really well. They have some radio appearances today, but they want us to take them out for dinner tonight.” He grinned at me. “Nice excuse to dress up.”
I rolled my eyes. “I don't do dressed up. You know that.” Not since leaving Pierre that is… I pushed that thought away as Mark just lifted an eyebrow at me.
“Do it for me?”
I blinked at him; Bianca saved me. “Leave her alone, Mark.” She smiled at me, patting my shoulder. “You'd look good in a paper bag.”
I snorted at her statement. “Bet you say that to all your friends.”
Mark said, chuckling, “No, just you, Hun.”
I blinked at the endearment, but didn't try to analyse it, it couldn't possibly mean anything, could it?
“Marly?” Bianca tugged at my sleeve, bringing me back. I laughed a little to mask my embarrassment.
“Sorry, you were saying?”
“We're going to take the guys to Nobu, at the Crown.”
“Is that the awesome Japanese restaurant Andy was telling us about?” Bianca asked, which I was grateful for as I couldn't really form any more words at that moment.
Mark nodded as he leaned over one of the boxes of shirts, squinting at the writing. “Yeah…what sizes are these?”
I shook my head and answered, “Three sizes too big for you.”
Bianca giggled, and Mark rolled his eyes my way. “Uh huh…”
Lifting my shoulders, I patted the box next to me. “These would fit better.” I felt a little more normal now I was talking merchandise. I didn't want to look too closely at what I was feeling, especially as I was still shaken up over seeing Pierre.
There. I said it. Pierre was the main reason my mind wasn't ready to entertain thoughts about Mark. Because, as I've mentioned earlier, I am attracted to him. I haven't mentioned this to anyone, let alone admitted it to myself. Though, maybe Bianca sees something I don't. Anyway, this tour wasn't the time for me to even attempt to figure it all out…was it? It wasn't like I needed a guy to fulfil my life. To complete me. Sure, it would be nice to share my life with someone. But, now was not the time.
“Marlz, let’s go.” Bianca interrupted my thoughts once more, and I smiled her way, glad for the distraction. Mark had already left, and Bianca was gathering her things.
“Where’re we going?”
Bianca giggled. “Gotta go check all my gear. Help me?”
I nodded, and followed her out.
Chapter 11: "Long distance is a thing."
Pierre scowled at Chuck. “You know what I don't get?”
“Why the fuck did she need to break up with me? I still don't get it.”
Pierre and Chuck were in their shared hotel room, having returned from doing radio interviews. The rest of the band had opted to staying out in town, shopping and sightseeing, but Pierre couldn't be bothered, and Chuck felt that he needed to keep an eye on the singer. Not that he was going to say that out loud.
Part of him felt that his friend needed the space to think about what this whole tour was going to bring, especially since his ex was part of the crew. Though, Chuck wasn't expecting this particular conversation.
“She needed her parents’ support to get her through school,” he said, wanting to diffuse the conversation before it escalated.
“She didn't have to end our relationship,” Pierre said, almost whining. “Long distance is a thing.”
“She didn't need the distraction,” Chuck replied, in a low voice.
Pierre’s voice rose as he said, “Oh, so I'm a distraction? How the fuck does that make any sense?”
“I'm not saying it was a rational choice on her part, Pierre.”
“So, why then?” Pierre sat up a little causing the bed, which he was reclining on, to creak in protest at the movement.
Chuck glanced at him from over the top of his glasses. “You know you should ask her that.”
“I'm not asking her shit, Charles.”
“Fine.” Chuck looked back at his laptop where he was checking the band’s schedule for the umpteenth time that evening. “Just don't be an asshole.”
“Why would you need to tell me that?”
“We’re going out to dinner with them tonight. Did you forget?”
Pierre shook his head. “No. Where’re we going?”
“Nobu. At the casino.”
“Ah. Raw fish. My favourite…”
“Could do without the sarcasm, Pierre.”
Pierre let out a snort. “Yes, dad.”
Chuck cast him a sour look, before shutting his laptop. Pierre returned the look with just as much disdain.
Chuck sighed, dusting off his pants as he rose from his seat. “Get your shit together, Bouvier.”
Pierre muttered under his breath as he grabbed his phone and stalked out of the room.
* * * * *
Pierre paused in the corridor outside the room, exhaling in a sharp rush. He closed his eyes, the darkness at the back of his eyelids not enough to close out his thoughts. He let out a grunt, banging his fist against his leg as he leaned back against the wall. Opening his eyes, he lifted his phone, staring at it but not really taking it in until he remembered that Ms Farrar told him to call her if things got too much…
Maybe… No. He couldn’t just cold call her like that. He’d never done it before. He just kept to his regular appointments. But this…this tour…
“Fuck,” Pierre groaned, scrolling through the contacts on his phone and hitting send on Lachelle’s number.
She answered after two rings. “Pierre?”
Squeezing his eyes shut tight so the colour behind his eyes was almost green, he gritted out through clenched teeth, “Yeah. I’m fucked…”
Lachelle, not sounding fazed by his tone at all, said, “What’s going on?”
Pierre scoffed, “You know exactly who I’m talking about.”
Lachelle sighed. “Yes. Marly. How exactly?”
Pierre’s fingers tightened on his phone as he gathered his thoughts. Part of his mind not wanting to co-operate, but knowing that Lachelle couldn’t help him unless he actually said the words.
“She’s with the support act.”
“She’s in the band?”
“No. She’s Pat…merch.” Pierre rubbed at his nose; his breath harsh; his throat tight. “Found out this morning. We’re going out to dinner with the other band and the crew tonight. She’ll…be there.”
Lachelle didn’t respond for a moment, then said, “Why didn’t you call me sooner, Pierre?”
“Didn’t want to bother you…time differences.” A lame excuse, Pierre knew, but he was grasping at anything at the moment.
“Pierre, you know I’ll speak with you whenever you need.”
“You thought you could handle it?” There was no judgement in her voice, which was what Pierre needed.
“Yeah…” Pierre muttered low. “I can handle it…” The uncertainty in his voice was clear. The lie was obvious.
Lachelle said, gently, “Talk to me.”
“I…man…I still love her, Lachelle.” Admitting those words aloud was hard. But, something in Pierre’s mind clicked when he said them. That was why all this sucked so much. His love for Marly had never dwindled. However, he just hadn’t wanted to look too closely at what he was feeling. It hurt too much.
Lachelle said, changing the direction of the conversation a little, “You’re not going to be alone with her, right?”
“Right. It’s dinner with both bands and crew.”
“That’s good. So, you don’t need to have too much to do with her?”
Pierre shook his head. “No…I don’t. But, I promised…” He trailed off at the end, not wanting to continue.
“Not to be an ass? Yeah, I know men and their promises…” There was a pause where Lachelle must’ve realised what she said; Pierre just blinked.
“Sorry. That was unprofessional.”
“No.” Pierre laughed. “You’re right. But, I am going to try.” It was all he could do, right?
“Don’t try, Pierre. Do.” Lachelle’s tone was firm, final.
“Right.” Pierre exhaled. “Thanks, Chelle…Lachelle. Thanks.”
They exchanged some more pleasantries. Then he hit end on his phone and looked up in time to see David wandering up the hall skateboard held close to his chest.
“Hey? Y ‘kay, Pierre?”
Pierre’s lips twitched, but he didn’t respond as he slid his phone back into his pocket. He didn’t feel like airing his shit to the bassist. It was nobody’s business how he was feeling as far as he was concerned. As long as he did his job.
David wasn’t fazed by his non-responsiveness, though. “Talking to your shrink?”
Pierre’s brow furrowed, but then he just sighed, nodding. “Yeah. I’m struggling here.” He dragged his fingers through his hair, then huffed aloud. He hadn’t meant to admit that. But, it wasn’t as if it was news he was seeing somebody. “She…”
David cut him off, tone gentle. “Don’t explain yourself, Pierre.” He smiled, a wry expression. “I might be pissed at you, but you’re still my friend.”
Pierre looked at him. “You’re still mad at me? I didn’t do anything.”
David snorted. “You always act like she did the worst thing in the world, when all she did was make a decision that she thought was right at the time.”
Pierre’s eyes narrowed on his friend, but he didn’t argue with him because he knew there was no way he could defend his own views of the situation. Not really. Even he had to admit that David was right about how he was acting. Though he did feel justified.
“I didn’t have to like it.”
David rolled his eyes. “No. Of course not.” He halted in the hallway, placing his board on the floor and stepping on to it. “You just need to learn to deal with it better.”
Pierre grunted, tapping his phone. “That’s what Ms Farrar is for.”
“Uhuh…” His friend just smiled as he pushed away down the corridor.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Pierre yelled after him.
David laughed and shot back over his shoulder, “Nothing at all, Pierre. You coming?”
Pierre waved a hand at him, following him at a slower pace as his mind roiled.
He didn’t know if he was ready to be in the same room as Marly, not for any length of time. It was difficult enough knowing that she was on the tour with them for the weeks to follow. However, it wasn’t an option for him to not show. As much as he didn’t like it, he was considered the face of the band, inasmuch that he was the lead singer. Of course, the others did their bit with interviews and appearances, but it wasn’t like he could disappear for the whole tour. He was just going to have to suck it up, and manage his emotions.
And, just as Seb and Lachelle said, he didn’t have to interact with her much. Just be polite. Cordial. He could do that.
Chapter 12: "We should be."
Pierre is really, really good at fooling the public that he’s happy. That everything is fine in his life and he’s content and enjoying the moments with the band. But, tonight…everyone, and I mean everyone, got to see the real face of Pierre Charles Bouvier.
I knew the truth about us had to come about sooner, rather than later. You know, it being better to clear the air before we embarked on a big tour together. Chuck always used to say that when Pierre and I were still together, by the way. And it did make things easier. Always, no matter the issue. But, this…the way Pierre went about it. Crap…I don’t even want to put words to page. All I can say is that, the shrink he’s seeing (David told me about her)? I hope someone makes him get a hold of her so he can deal with his anger.
I’m still shaking. I can’t even think straight, not really.
It started out okay, to begin with. I was sitting with Bianca and Mark, opposite David who was getting on with both of them like a house on fire. Andy and Ben were engaged in an intense discussion with Seb and Pat about the current state of the music industry. Chuck was busy on his phone, probably checking schedules…workaholic. And Jeff was chatting up one of the waitresses.
And then Pierre arrived, late. No apologies. The only spare seat was next to David, opposite Mark. That was probably the biggest accidental mistake that happened that night. If he’d been at the other end of the table it might not have been such a big issue. The thing was Mark was sitting next to me at this point, having switched with Bianca – her idea. And he was quite close to me.
It all went downhill from there…
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“Hey, Pierre. Took your time.” David was the first to greet the singer. I could see tension on his face. I couldn’t imagine what was going on in Pierre’s mind, though.
Pierre answered in a low tone, “I was talking to Ms Farrar.”
I frowned. “You’re seeing someone?”
Pierre looked at me, expression guarded. “A shrink. Have…had relationship troubles.” He gripped the back of the chair, the tendons tightening beneath the skin of his hands.
“Oh…that’s no good.” I said, staying as neutral as I could, though his honesty was a shock. “Hope Ms Farrar is helping you through it.”
Pierre’s eyes narrowed. “Sure, act like you don’t know what I’m talking about.”
I blinked, a little surprised by his statement. Not because what he said wasn’t true, but by the fact that he even voiced it; it seemed to come out of nowhere. “Excuse me?”
“You heard me.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Pierre’s voice rose when he spoke next. “Bullshit. That’s bullshit, and you know it.”
“What the hell, dude?” Mark, who had remained silent next to me until this point, blinked at Pierre, sitting back in his chair. Pierre didn’t even bother looking his way, just continued to glare at me.
David snagged the singer’s sleeve. “Pierre, sit down…you’re causing a scene…” Pierre shot him a hard look in response.
“Marly, what is he talking about?” Bianca said, leaning over the table toward me. “Is he saying what I think he’s saying?”
Pierre scoffed, “Yeah…I am. She was my girlfriend.”
I levelled a cold look at him. “I have a name, Pierre.”
“Seriously?” Bianca muttered. “With that attitude, I can’t imagine why she’d want to be…”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” Pierre snapped, glowering beneath his brows at her.
Bianca just sighed, rolling her eyes. I could tell she didn’t want to be drawn into an argument, and I didn’t blame her. I didn’t want this conversation to happen…not here. This was escalating in a way I hadn’t anticipated, and I wasn’t sure how to handle it.
Chuck spoke up from the other end of the table, aware that other patrons in the restaurant were glancing our way. “Pierre. Sit. Down.”
“Stay out of this, Charles,” Pierre bit out, voice harsh.
Everyone else at our table were all now paying attention to us, having stopped their conversations. None of them intervening, though.
I trembled, feeling a sudden anger rise up inside me. “Pierre. Pierre. Look at me.”
“What?” His gaze swung back to me.
“Why are you doing this? What have I done to you?” Yeah, I know. Stupid question of the day…but part of me needed to hear his explanation.
Pierre’s eyebrows raised. “You left me.”
“Damn it, Pierre…I had to finish school.”
“Yeah, you had to fly across to the other side of the country and do that?”
“I explained why.”
Pierre laughed, mirthless. “Sure you did. And you met someone else, hey?” He jerked his chin at Mark.
“What?” I shook my head. “No. Mark is my colleague. And a friend. That’s all.”
“Not for want of trying, though…” Mark said half under his breath. Well, that’s what I think he said…
Pierre sneered, lip curling, “He’s obviously into you.”
“Why is that any of your business? We’re not together anymore, Pierre.” His animosity was frustrating, and I was ready to just end it with that statement.
“We should be,” Pierre said. Getting in the final word.
I opened my mouth then shut it again, staring at him, incredulous. Then I shook my head hard. “I can’t do this, Pierre. I’m not having this conversation with you.” I looked over at the others, standing. “Sorry guys…I gotta go.” I pushed my seat back, grabbing my purse. “I…I’ll see you back at the room.” This last I said to Bianca before making for the entrance of the restaurant.
No one stopped me, which was a relief. I needed to get outside, catch my breath, and figure out what I was going to do about all this.
I paused just outside of the restaurant, glancing back through the window. The crew and both bands appeared at a loss. I could just see Pierre, finally seated with his head down, and Chuck evidently berating him. I turned away and forced myself to walk away, heading aimlessly down the street as I started to think.
I couldn’t fathom what had just happened. All I knew was if this was going to become a problem…then maybe going on this tour was a bad idea. A very bad idea. But, how to break that to Mark and Bianca…
* * * * *
I looked up from my journal, setting my pen down. Bianca stood in the doorway of our room, brow furrowed, her usually happy expression replaced by confusion.
“Hey…didn’t hear you get back.”
Bianca shook her head as she entered the room and flopped onto her bed. “Why didn’t you tell us?”
“About Pierre and I?” I didn’t really need to ask the question, it was obvious what she was referring to. However, I needed to ask the question, for myself. If only to make it easier to explain my decision.
Bianca’s lips tightened. “Yeah. I mean…he was your boyfriend.”
“Yes. He was.” I rolled my neck and leaned back on my chair. “And evidently, he hasn’t gotten over the fact that I broke it off with him.”
I rubbed at my face. “I needed to come home whilst I finished my studies.”
“And, you couldn’t do the long distance thing?”
“I thought it was best this way.” I sighed. “Isn’t that reasonable?”
Bianca tilted her head to the side, studying me for a moment. “Do you think it was reasonable?”
I bit my lip then nodded. “Yes. It is reasonable. He’s just…” Pausing, I thought about the fact that Pierre said he was seeing a shrink. “I didn’t think it’d be so hard on him. I mean…he was busy planning a new album, recording and then planning a tour…” I trailed off thinking that the tour was the one we were all on right now. Or at least, the one we were about to embark on.
“Speaking of,” Bianca started, voice faltering a little, before she forged on. “Mark and I get the impression you might bail on us.”
I blinked at her. “You’re perceptive.”
“You shouldn’t. I need a girl buddy. And we still need our merch sorted. Also, all this testosterone around me isn’t healthy.” A slight smirk curled at the corner of her mouth.
I couldn’t help smile a little in return. “I don’t know…”
Bianca actually got off the bed and onto her knees, clasping her hands in front of her. “Please…I neeeeed you, Marlz…”
I laughed, shaking my head. “Seriously, Bianca…” Exhaling, I smiled more. “Alright…alright. But, I need to speak to Pat about how it’s going to work.” I swivelled on the chair, frowning a little. “I’m not dealing with Pierre…”
Bianca stood up again. “Okay, you do that and I’ll let Mark know you’re still with us.” Her smile lit up her eyes and I couldn’t help but feel that everything would be okay. That I’d made the right decision.
Only time would tell.
Chapter 13: “Why does it matter?”
Pierre stood in the elevator, heading up to his room. Chuck and Patrick were with him. The three men weren’t looking at each other; Chuck was on his phone, checking the schedule for the next day; Patrick was leaning against the wall. But, it didn’t take long for someone to decide something needed to be said about the disaster which was the crew and band dinner.
“So much for you being civil, Bouvier. What the fuck happened?” Pat mumbled, only just loud enough for the other two to hear.
Chuck said, with a snort, “He just won the asshole award, what do you think happened?” He glanced sideways at the singer, who was staring hard at the wall in front of him.
“Will you just leave it alone?” Pierre said, tightly. “We already went over this in the restaurant.” Too many times to count. Chuck gave him a good dressing down whilst the rest of the crew and band stood watching on in awkward silence. The members of Fools Rush In left them to it earlier…but they hadn’t left until the restaurant staff had to edge them out the door.
“No. You just had to go be a dick to her. Why?” Chuck lowered his phone so he could focus on his friend.
“Why the fuck do you think, Charles?” Pierre retorted, refusing to meet his look of accusation. He didn’t want to be drawn into an argument. Chuck obviously didn’t feel the same way about it, though.
“Oh, I don’t know. Because you can’t handle rejection?”
Pierre raised his eyebrows. “Are you asking me that?” Not that his friend was wrong.
“Are you?” Chuck made a point of putting his phone away and turning his full attention to the singer.
Pierre sighed, shaking his head. “Why does it matter?” It mattered a lot but he wasn’t going to admit it. Not out loud.
Patrick huffed then, re-joining the conversation. “Because we’re about to go on tour, and she is going to be there as well. And, you need to be nice.”
“She could just stay out of my way.”
Pat laughed, a harsh sound holding no mirth. “I bet she’d be happy to.” He rolled his eyes toward Chuck. “I wish I could.”
“Tell me about it,” Chuck said.
The elevator stopped and the doors slid open. Pierre glowered at his two friends before stepping out.
“Right, side with her, why don’t you.” He stalked off before Chuck or Pat could respond to his bitter statement.
They shook their heads as they followed him out, though he’d disappeared from view by the time they actually set foot in the corridor.
“You know what,” Pat said, halting outside his room, “If Pierre wants to act this way toward Marly, that’s his prerogative. But, I’m not going to let it upset her.”
Chuck nodded and clapped a hand to his shoulder. “You’ll keep an eye on her at Merch?”
“Yeah, that’s the plan. See you in the morning, buddy.”
Chuck nodded as he continued to his room, his thoughts quick to turn to the days ahead.
* * * * *
Pierre heaved a sigh as the door to his room clicked shut. He stood for a moment before pulling his phone from his back pocket, and before he thought too much on it he dialled Lachelle’s number.
“Please, just listen.” Pierre spoke before she could get another word in. He told her everything, voice low and tight, his breath heavy. From the confrontation in the restaurant to Patrick and Chuck’s admonishment in the elevator.
There was several beats of silence after he finished.
“So, Pierre. What are you going to do?”
Pierre scowled. “Do?”
“Yes, you need a strategy. I hate to say this, but you’re friends are right. You do need to work out what you’re going to do on the tour. She is going to be there whether you like it, or not. So, strategy Pierre.”
Pierre hated the fact that what Lachelle said made sense. That she was right. That his friends were right. He didn’t want to admit it. However, he knew that the tour would be a miserable chore if he didn’t. He couldn’t let his personal issues bleed out on stage and to the fans.
“I don’t know, Lachelle. That’s why I called you.”
The psych’s soft sigh on the other end of the line told Pierre a lot more than words could. It was up to him, wasn’t it?
“Look, I can’t avoid her, not really. Can I?”
Lachelle said, “It would just be prolonging the issue. You should probably talk to her at some point. And try to not get emotional.”
Pierre sat on the edge of the bed, resting his elbows on his knees. “Not sure if I can do that. Not after tonight’s episode.”
“I’m not saying do it tomorrow. Sometime during the tour would work.”
Pierre dragged fingers through his hair. “Okay...but for now, try to be polite?”
“Keep it strictly business,” Lachelle said. “You said she’s doing Merch for the support?”
“Oui.” He paused, sucking his bottom lip hard. “They’re friends as well, though.”
Lachelle gave a little snort. “Judging by what you’ve told me, she’s also very close with your band and crew too.”
Pierre clenched his jaw. “Oui, she is. That’s what makes this so damned hard.”
Lachelle sighed again. “Pierre, you know what you need to do. You’re an adult. You can do this.”
“Pierre. Call me if it becomes too much. But, please try to get through this first week of tour before calling me.”
Pierre nodded, shoulders slumping, even though he knew she couldn’t see him. “Alright, thanks.” He hung up and flopped back on the bed, staring up at the ceiling. The light globe blinked at him.
He didn’t sleep.