Today was such a nostalgic day. Not an anniversary, or not one she could remember; but the weather, the sight of the streets she passed sitting on the bus on her way to work… It was late autumn, just like that time. The music in her headphones switched to that song. That one, that irrationally made her wonder, if she was the reason of a downfall.
A tap on her shoulder made her jump in her seat. She looked up to see a girl with long curly brown hair and sunglasses on. She spoke to her, but she couldn’t hear it so she paused the music, taking off the headphones.
‘I’m sorry, what did you say?’
‘Were you listening to Black Lips?’ The look on the girl’s face was a mixture of hope and excitement.
‘Yeah, was it that loud? Sorry, I’ll down the volume.’
‘No, I… Not many people know and listen to that music nowdays.’
‘Well, I guess so. Did you know them?’
‘I went to as many concerts of theirs as I could and well, I was kinda friends with the members.’ The girl tried to hold back a proud smile but failing, she let it show.
‘What’s your name?’
‘Erica.’ The brunette raised an eyebrow, and after thinking hard for a minute, the other answered.
‘Yeah, I remember you.’
‘You do? Who are you?’
‘I’m called Billie.’
‘Holy shit! They said you slept with the whole band!’
‘I remember that rumor going around about me.’
‘Is it true?’
‘I don’t kiss and tell. Who was your favorite?’
‘Fave member of the band.’
‘Ah, it was Drew.’
’The worst of ’em all.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘He hated me.’
‘So you didn’t sleep with him?’
‘Does it matter now?’
‘I’m departing now, it was nice to chat. You should move on, if you’re interested in my opinion. And no, I didn’t.’
The doors of the bus opened, Billie got off, leaving Erica behind whose lips were still slightly parted.
I should take my own advice, Billie thought. It’s been almost eight years now, for fuck’s sake. Times change, the girl’s changed, and probably everyone from that time has changed as well.
Now she gets it. Only a few days ago the ex-drummer, Spike, of that band, Black Lips sent her an invite online to a reunion concert; she kind of ignored it, luckily she was too busy to pay proper attention, but this morning, the meeting with Erica reminded her of that invitation.
Billie continued her way to her workplace, now on foot, lighting a cigarette for the few minutes’ walk. She’s working as a personal assistant for a professor now. Back then she was just a student, having knowledge of nothing. Billie shook her head cursing mentally for comparing her younger self to the current one. She tries to get rid of these uncomfortable thoughts but the coincidences of that song playing and meeting Erica don’t let her.
When she arrives to the huge building she stops, places her cigarette butt in the trash can and with an audible sigh she enters. The hall porter nods to her and she waves back, heading to the elevator. In her office she drops to the chair, turns on her computer and notes that she’s only 30 minutes late. Not like anyone cares. She’s been entrusted with various jobs from writing contracts and doing research through keeping contact with students and teachers to running errands. The unspoken policy from her boss towards her is that as long as the job is done, she’s free to handle her time and methods. Not many assistants have this freedom, but Billie does her job exceptionally well, so it’s rare she hears any complaints.
Today is a busy one, they’re expecting guests at the department so Billie has to arrange the welcoming. She’s been keeping contact with them for months now, so only the final things to do are left; she’s supposed to reach their students and send them to shopping, but on such a short notice, it’s impossible. It’s not the first and presumably not the last time her boss forgets very important things, but that’s why she’s there, to solve these problems and help him. Though her salary doesn’t really reflect all the things she has to do… Anyway, she got her shopping list, now it’s time to get over with some other works before she heads out.
It’s already past 2pm when she’s first able to take a break. Her stomach growls painfully and Billie decides to grab some food on her way to the store. Leaving the building, she passes the cafeteria and halts; if it’s food, she’ll just have a sandwich from here that she can eat while going. Not the healthiest choice, but convenient. Munching on a piece of cheese she picked from the sandwich, she’s already on the street, dictating quite the tempo to a nearby store a few streets away. It may have not been the best decision to only wear a hoodie today, given it is barely above zero Celsius. Nevermind, as long as she’s moving, it’s bearable. Reaching the corner of the huge square she has to cross, she can see the ever lively downtown being busy as usual, people of various ages and genders running around, always in a hurry. Billie smiles at the sight; even though she doesn’t like people in general, she likes how rapid life is as she likes to busy herself constantly as well.
Doing the actual shopping took a while, because she wanted a bill and the cashier wasn’t qualified to give her one. After almost ten minutes a senior employee appeared and did the job in a few minutes. As Billie left the store still packing away the tea, coffee cream, water and sugar, she suddenly feels being watched. It was only for a split second, but it made her stop and look around. She notices nothing out of ordinary so she shakes it off but when she crosses the road, a strangely familiar man stands there, seemingly waiting for her. When she reaches the other side, the man smiles at her and calls her name.
‘Wow, so it really is you! I can’t believe it.’ He looks truly surprised, scanning Billie up and down, processing her image.
‘Nick?’ Billie’s blood goes cold, her eyes growing wide.
‘Yeah, it’s been a while… How many years since we last met?’
‘Umm, about eight…’ Billie guesses.
‘Right. Oh well it’s a tiny bit awkward like this.’ The guy hits a point and Billie looks to the side. ‘What are you doing here?’
‘Working. I’m on an errand.’
‘So you got a job.’ He half asks, half states.
‘How… how have you been?’ Nick visibly tries to collect himself; it clearly is as shocking to meet the girl as for her.
‘Good. Well, I’ve changed a lot, so…’
‘I bet. You look different, too.’
The girl grew out her at the time short black hair and her features must have matured as well. Awkward silence follows. Billie’s mind goes blank; she never expected to meet any of them after all those years, after the departure they had. If you can call stopping talking a departure.
‘And how is Spike?’ He asks finally.
‘You don’t talk to him?’
‘Not ever since then.’
‘He’s a father of two now and more insane than ever.’
‘What the… Seriously?’
‘So you talk to him.’
‘Maybe twice or three times a year. One of which is around Christmas.’
‘But I thought you and him…’
‘He’s always had girlfriends, right?’
‘But you stayed beside him for years while those girlfriends came and went. I thought you were in love with him.’
‘No. He wasn’t the one I was in love with.’
‘It was you.’
‘Yep. Huh it’s strange after so many years. Talking about stuff from that time.’
‘Wait, you said…’
‘It’s very nostalgic.’ She cuts in. ‘All the stuff from the past.’
‘All from the past.’
‘No, you can’t just lay the fact that Spike is a dad and that you loved me and then brush them off.’ The guy seems upset but she grins.
‘Of course I can. There’s really nothing to talk about, is there?’
‘Well, now I have tons of questions.’
-Too bad you stopped talking to me eight years ago.
‘That wasn’t…! That was just the circumstances.’
‘Yeah, bullshit. I know back then I was as stable emotionally as a pair of scissors, and even now I compete with a hamster, but it was you and the others who acted immature.’
‘Eight years late.’
‘Can’t we talk now?’
‘I’m still working and am late, so I really have to go now.’
‘Then another time? I’m meeting someone now anyway, so…’ He looks around nervously. Billie raises an eyebrow to which the guy explains. ‘I’m meeting Drew.’
‘Oh, the ever so normal one. And you’re still afraid if he sees you with me…’
‘Billie, I’m sorry.’
‘Fine. It was nice to see ya!’ She turns but Nick grabs her arm.
‘Give me your number.’
‘Why would I?’
‘Don’t you also want some answers? Aren’t you curious?’
‘I figured out most of the things.’
‘But not all.’ To that Billie falls silent.
‘Fine.’ She dictates her phone number and Nick promises to call her.
They part for now and the girl hurries back to work, lighting another cigarette with shaky hands. When she finally gets back to her office, Billie locks the door behind herself and digs into work. She doesn’t want to think, not about the present, not about the past.
Pouring instant coffee into hot water she picks up a spoon and goes back to her seat. She stares at the monitor’s screen, massaging her temple. She only noticed but it’s already dark. Sure, it’s only late afternoon but the days are getting shorter and shorter, forcing her to go to sleep in darkness and wake up in darkness.
She’s supposed to finish a competition paper, but she can’t concentrate, her mind is full of the past. Not good, she thinks, and to avoid a mental breakdown, she decides to wrap it up for the day.
On her way home, the bright lights of the city are too familiar, they make her realize that even though many things had changed, other things stayed the same; like the streets and places she used to go. It’s the same bus she’s using now; though she moved away from her parents and now lives on her own, it only means a few more stops before she reaches her home. This is the same bus line she used when she first met them.
I’ve prepared for this interview for weeks. It’s going to be all right. Nick seemed like a nice and helpful guy when we exchanged messages. He’ll help, if it’s needed.
Billie is trying to convince herself, but she’s so nervous, her head throbs with pain. She’s studying media and communication, and her homework is to make interviews. With anyone, really, on any topic she can come up with, and as many of it as she can do. Since there’s this band she came to like recently, she decided to try her luck at asking for an interview with them, and it worked: now she’s on her way to the meeting they set up with the singer, Nick.
She wears a black t-shirt with a cartoon character on it, and black and white striped pants. Her dictaphone is in her bag, all she has to do is to get herself together from the mental wreck she feels like being.
She gets off of the bus and is about to cross the street when she sees three guys mostly in black standing across from her. She recognizes Nick and heads to them. The other two people is a shorter guy, barely taller than Billie with a buzzcut, muddy green eyes and an unsettling mad aura, and another guy, a cute one with emo-ish black hair and brown eyes, avoiding eye contact. The first to greet the girl is Nick, a very tall boy with cheek-long brown wavy hair and light brown eyes. His smile makes Billie’s heart skip a beat and she forgets to give him her hand at first to shake hands.
‘Hey! You must be Billie, right?’
‘Yes, hey, it’s nice to finally meet you.’
‘It’s my pleasure. These two is Spike and Amal.’ He gestures to the shorter than the other boy. ‘And we’re still waiting for two more, Drew and Alain.’
‘That’s fine, thank you for coming.’
‘Of course! There’s this Turkish restaurant just around the corner, we can sit in there and do the interview.’
Moments later the other two arrive, talking with each other. Drew is a bigger guy with about ear-long brown, almost black hair and shallow blue eyes; Alain wears glasses and he’s almost bald, only on the back of his head he has long hair in dreadlocks, his eyes cold brown.
They both introduce themselves to Billie, but it seems like Alain is not too interested in the whole interview-thing; on the other hand, Drew always keeps an eye on the girl who talks with Nick, as their small group advances to the restaurant.
As the interview goes on, most of the questions are answered by Nick, since he’s writing the majority of the songs, he knows the most about them. At one point he and Billie get into an argument about a song’s theme, how it was intended to sound encouraging yet the girl finds it quite depressing. They’re staring into each other’s eyes intensely, when Drew clears his throat and points at the dictaphone.
‘It clicked and I think it’s stopped.’
‘Oh!’ Billie has to collect herself for a moment and it’s true, the gadget needs a battery change. - Thank you and I’m sorry.
She quickly does what’s needed and the interview goes on. But all Billie can think of is that beautiful warm brown that captured her gaze and holds onto it.
The rest of the week is in a haze, and Billie comes to the conclusion that without help, she won’t be able to get out of this mud of nostalgia. She reaches out to a friend of hers, Kieran, who’d been her boyfriend for a few months, before they realized that they’re better friends than lovers. It was many years ago, and she’s grateful things turned out the way they did, because whenever she needs someone she can trust, she knows who to turn to. They arrange a sleepover for the weekend and Billie starts to clean up the whole apartment before Kieran arrives.