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Chapter 32. - Remembrance


*5 weeks ago*

“I fucking love this song!” Jesse yelled from the backseat of my newest Mercedes G-Wagon while punching his brother’s arm until he turned it up louder.

“I have no idea how he can listen to this girly shit,” Ash complained, his face set it its usual hard expression. “I swear, I’m going to call that drummer kid from our opening band. See if he’s open to taking this gig.”

“You wish you could get rid of me!” Jesse spoke up, and my eyes met his in the mirror briefly as he winked at me. “But I’m a part of the band’s contract, hence, irreplaceable.”

“The contract does have a death clause. It would be a real shame if-“ Ash paused, and turned his head just enough for his brother to see his expression. “-something were to happen to you.”

Brian groaned. “Enough of this shit. This is exactly why I never hang out with you guys anymore.”

“You’re saying your wife is more fun than us?!” Jesse shot back.

But before our bassist could reply, Ash spoke up again. “Speaking of Nikki. Why the fuck isn’t she the one going to this bullshit?! I thought this was her job.”

“She’s already met with this chick,” Brian explained. “They’re basically hired, but since we don’t have a lot of time until the release party, we have to do our fair share. And if this inconveniences you, perhaps you shouldn’t fuck the hired help, Asher.”

Ash grinned. “Trust me, if you could see what that girl did with her ass, you’d know that it was worth it.”

I frowned, feeling just as annoyed as my best friend about having to get involved in the planning process. For us, anything that didn’t involve the actual music was like pulling a teeth. All these press events, meeting with fans, planning a party… Summed up everything we hated about the business.

But unfortunately, this is what we all signed up for when we sold our souls to the label. In exchange for world fame and more cash than we knew what to do with, we had to put on a face every now and again.

“Let’s just make this quick, shall we?” I said, trying to ease the obvious tension in the car.

“All we gotta do is meet with this planner chick, check out the venue, and we’re free. Apparently, she already has ideas about what she wants to do.”

We agreed. “Besides, I saw a few pictures of this venue, and it looked very promising,” Brian added, and I could sense that the group really hoped it would be. The sooner we found the place, the less time we had to spend doing this girly shit, hence the less time we’d get gawked at. Because if there was one thing all these planners had in common, it was that they were fans.

And we hated nothing more than working with groupies.

We pulled up in front of this giant venue, with a generous outside parking lot. If this were the place we’d choose, the whole parking area would convert into a high-class valet, or perhaps a limousine park. There were very few of the rich and famous who enjoyed driving as much as I did.

But there was nothing like a beautiful car and an open road, as far as I was concerned.

The four of us exited the vehicle, chatting casually about the last few songs we wanted to include in the new album. Of course, the label would have the final say in the selection, but it felt nice to discuss our opinions like they mattered.

We stepped into the building, and a swiveled up, old looking woman ran up to greet us. Or rather, to discipline us. “This is a fine establishment, gentlemen. Do you have an appointment to be here?”

I exchanged a grin with Ash. She had no clue who we were. I was just about to open my mouth to mess with the old hag when Brian spoke up, professional as always. “We’re meeting with Arielle Mikhailov.”

The woman blinked. “Oh. Excuse me.” She mumbled very quickly and hurried away.

“Do you think it was the tattoos or Ash’s murderous expression that made her think we were some punks?” I teased, barely moving away fast enough as Ash’s fist connected with the air where I was just standing.

“Definitely his face.” Jesse agreed, then started walking down the hallways toward what we assumed would be the ballroom area. He whistled as he glanced up, admiring the beautifully done tall ceilings. “Wow! This place is fucking insane!”

We agreed, but it was Brian who spoke up next. “I know. Exactly what we were hoping for.” He turned back and said something about the number of people we could fit in to even the hallway, and the list we were supposed to look over and approve for guests, but my mind was elsewhere.

I was imagining the acoustic of the place. A sick old building like this had that certain echo to it that you couldn’t recreate in the studio. With the right speakers and settings, this entire venue could be rocking along, or echoing the slow, heartbreaking riffs of a ballad. “It’s epic.” I nodded, my mind going over the song selection once more as we arrived into the main room.

I pictured where the stage could be, which guitars I would bring to really maximize the effect of the few songs we would get to play live. The high ceilings were really not doing us any favors with the faster songs, but I’ve had just the perfect solution for that. And the incredible look of the building would be worth it. “This baroque thing really does it.”

“Renaissance.” A small voice said to the side of me, and for the first time, I noticed the two women standing there, quietly observing our reactions.

I glanced at the cute little chick who corrected me, wearing jean overalls. And where those… I had to narrow my eyes to make sure. Yup. Fucking pain spots. She either had no idea who she was meeting today, or she truly couldn’t care less. Perhaps, she was a part of the construction crew?

“And you?” I questioned her, my words coming out much harsher than I intended. It just wasn’t every day that we had girls looking like that parading around us. Most women would wear their best outfits and would have a face full of makeup before they came around.

Just like the other woman in heels, who was looking like she stepped straight out of a Vogue business casual edition.

My eyes moved back to the shorter girl, now chewing on her plump bottom lip. Cat’s got your tongue now, little girl? I grinned at her, enjoying the way her cheeks heated up while the other one introduced her. “She’s the genius behind the beautiful decorations at my event.”

So not construction. But I wasn’t very far off.

Jesse cooed something in response, pretending like he knew what the hell this girl did. But I could tell that he just found her attractive. And he wasn’t exactly wrong. There was something familiar and homey about those dark brown eyes.

The other girl went off, stating all her credentials, and selling her as if we didn’t sign the contract already. They were already hired, wasn’t that what Brian said?!

“The event, by the way, is their new album release party.” The girl explained to the smaller one, who was still staring at me as if I stepped straight out of a horror movie and came to life in front of her. Judging by the words of the planner – because no doubt, that’s who she was – the little artist one had no idea who she would be meeting. Which very well explained her shocked expression.

“This is Brian Flynn, Ash and Jesse Wolfhart, and Lukas LaBelle.” She pointed each of us out. Was this chick from another planet?! How could she not know who we were?! The older woman out in the lobby?! Sure. We probably weren’t her shot of whiskey.

But there was no way this little thing hasn’t blasted one of our songs during a painting session before.

Or perhaps, she was one of those strange once who had to listen to trance while she did her art. “It’s nice to meet you.” She said finally, speaking for the first time since she corrected me about the style of the building.

“Wait, you don’t know who we are?” Jesse spoke up, thankfully expressing what we were all probably thinking. Unless this chick has been living under a fucking rock, she should’ve recognized at least one of us. It wasn’t like we didn’t have our faces plastered on the cover of every magazine on the newsstand. We were harder to ignore than the plague!

She smiled politely, and I could tell that she was about to apologize for her lack of musical education when Brian stepped in to smooth over the situation. “Not everyone on this planet worships the ground you walk on, asshole.”

I grinned, enjoying the shock and heartbreak written all over Jesse’s face. “Maybe not the music…” He tried again. “But you have seen my face somewhere, haven’t you, sweetheart?” He asked hopefully, moving his face from side to side to show her both of his profiles. Then, when he didn’t get the desired response, he reached down to grab her hand, and planted a kiss on it, like the little lovesick fool he was quickly shaping up to be.

Sure, the chick was cute. But I had a feeling she was just toying with him. “Of course, sweetie.” She said, in this false sugary voice that confirmed my suspicion. She knew just who the hell we were. And she was enjoying the shit out of teasing Jesse.

I couldn’t hear the next few words out of his mouth, but I could only imagine how thick he was laying it on, missing the fact that the chick was just playing him. I rolled my eyes. I’ve had enough of this shit. She clearly had no intention of sleeping with him, and we’ve had a long day ahead of us.

I grabbed onto our drummer’s shoulder and pulled him back. “We’re here to work – stop trying to scare her off.” The very last thing I wanted to do was go through this again with yet another planner because someone from the band did the hired help.

Besides, this girl wasn’t his type. She was mine.

Ash and I were backstage before a concert, playing pool before I brought the chick up again. “Did she look familiar to you?” I asked, feeling like a fucking moron as soon as the words left my mouth.

“Who?” Ash shot back, looking at me with his black, judgmental eyes, confirming my previous feelings.

I sighed. “The chick who’s going to do the decorations.” And when his face still looked blank, I added. “The one in the overalls.”

“Oh!” A slow grin spread across his face. “I liked that she talked back to you and my stupid brother.” Then, he frowned. “Why do you think she looks familiar? You banged her before?”

Fuck me. He was going to think I lost my damn mind. I should’ve talked to Brian about it – he would probably understand. “Just forget it.”

Ash set the cue stick down before turning to me, which let me know he was about to say something serious. “I’m going to sound like a fucking pussy for even bringing this shit up, but are you talking about the coffee chick again?”

I hated myself at that moment. Ash was my best friend. He has been there for me through thick and thin, but somehow, when it came to feelings, he was the very last person I would ever imagine conversing with. And yet, here we were.

“Yes. I think that actually might be her.”

Ash let out this pained groan. “Man, you thought that about like ten other girls before. And were you right?”

I took a deep breath. “Nope.”

He stepped closer and slapped my back. As far as Ash went, this was as much comfort as he was ever going to offer. “Listen, man. Any chick that has ever met us before we blew has already turned up and played her cards. Aren’t you fucking tired of these girls coming out of the woodwork?”

I knew exactly who he was talking about. The few fans who knew about her called her the band-hopper. My first and only girlfriend – although, I never really called her that out loud. That lasted until one night when I had to stay at the studio later, and she found solace tied up to Ash’s workout bench. I found out because there were other people in the gym as well.

After her, I kept girls at bay, and Ash was never the boyfriend type to begin with.

“Look, if this girl really knew you, she would’ve already said so.” He continued, making a valid point – the fucker. “This girl barely recognized us. There’s no way she’s the one who dumped her drink all over you.”

I agreed. He made perfect sense. And yet…

“But if you want to bang her, I’d say go for it. She was eyeing you up too.”

London. I knew exactly what her name was. But I got just a little kick out of watching her squirm when I called her the wrong city. And there was something incredibly satisfying about ruffling her feathers.

I just got back from the club, where her friend basically dragged her off to save her from the big bad wolf – which was actually not a bad idea. I was so under her spell, it was a miracle that I didn’t have a go at her right in the middle of the crowded dance floor.

Her blonde friend probably did both of us a favor by removing the temptation. “Why the fuck are you frowning at your phone?!” Ash said as a greeting and hopped down on the couch next to me.

He had a key to my house – but he really didn’t need it. His own was next door, and our backyards connected. Besides, I’ve seen him pick a lock quicker than I could’ve opened it with a key. Thus, he tended to show up at my place, uninvited and unashamed.

“Jesus, man! Are you stalking this chick on Instagram?!” Before I could react, he yanked my phone out of my hand and did his own little research through London’s personal page. “Damn. Her friend is a fucking knockout.” Ash said, opening a picture of London with the tall blonde chick who was at the party last night, and a short, red-headed one I haven’t met before.

“She’s a model,” I informed him, snatching my phone back.

“What?” Ash frowned.

“Blondie. She’s in some runways or something. I don’t know, I wasn’t really paying attention. Besides, I’m pretty sure Jesse already made a move on her.”

“Oh, erh… Sure. Cool.” He said awkwardly and leaned back on the couch. “So, is she your coffee girl or not?”

I nodded. “That she is. I’m sure now.”

“So what did she say when you told her?” Ash asked, whistling.

I shrugged. “I didn’t. It’s actually kind of fun messing with her. She fucking blushes from head to toe every time I go near her. It’s refreshing, you know?”

“A blushing girl?!” Ash laughed. “All you have to do is spank her hard enough, and they all turn beautifully red.”

I shook my head. “I’m done talking to you about this shit.”

He chuckled. “Want to play some Xbox instead?”

“Always.” And just like that, we settled into a comfortable routine.

Up until he asked. “Are you going to message her?”

I grinned. “Fuck yes I will!”

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