She took a deep breath of sea air. She loved the ocean, the waves, the sand, the heat, and the salt. She closed her eyes and dug her toes in the hot sand. It was a beautiful day. She should be happy. The sun was drying the seawater off her skin and even though it was coming to the end of summer the days were still long and hot.
It should be perfect, but the fissure in her heart was persistent in its reminders as to why it wasn’t. She rubbed her chest, for the thousandth time in vain. It never helped. It still amazed her how one man and one week, seven days, could change everything. She grimaced. His name was taboo and thinking about him only brought her pain. But she still did it, breaking that rule too frequently.
“You alright, babe?” the man next to her asked.
“Do I look alright?” she pushed a laugh onto her lips as she turned to him, one hand on her hip.
“No,” his eyes went downwards over her bikini-clad body, “You look hot.”
“I am hot and thirsty,” she laughed, “Shall we go for a drink?”
“Hell, yeah,” he picked up the towels and bag and followed her as she headed to the car.
She was relieved to be able to turn away before he saw the first tear escape. She wasn’t usually this emotional but today was special. It had been six months since that day. She didn’t mark the time, and yet she remembered the anniversary without fail. She scrunched her eyes together as she squinted avoiding the sun, and in a vain attempt to squash the tears.
It shouldn’t hurt. It was only a week-long fling, six whole months ago. And he’d lied to her, cheated on her and then insulted her. There should be no reason why she wasn’t already over him. And yet.
She remembered those first few weeks after that day. She’d hidden, not from him especially, but from the world. She’d gone to Ian’s place. He might have been the man who’d fired her, but he was still her ‘uncle’ Ian, her father’s best friend and the closest thing she had to a relative. He’d taken her in without question, and he and his wife had nursed her back from the abyss. She’d been a mess when she arrived and had fallen further apart when her period had arrived. She knew she wasn’t pregnant, but somehow this was a reminder that the dream was over.
After that, she’d been forced to take action. She couldn’t stay crawled up in a ball in Ian’s guest room. She had to piece her life back together. With Ian’s ‘rough-love’ and ‘frigging-encouragement’, she’d made the decision to live and had pushed herself to make plans for that possibility.
She’d returned to the flat and promptly packed it up into one small box, posting anything she found of Belinda’s to Jay’s address. She didn’t bother to ring to let her know. She’d work it out. She wasn’t ready to talk with anyone yet.
Communication was the next thing on her list. On the train back to Trenton, she’d turned her phone off, isolating herself. His calls and messages were flooding her inbox, and she didn’t want the temptation. The battery had gone flat, sometime during the next two weeks, and she’d not bothered charging it. There were only two people in this world who’d be ringing her, and she didn’t want to hear from either of them. Speaking to Belinda would be just as painful as speaking to him.
But that wasn’t feasible going forward. So, she’d charged the phone, and brought a new phone number, taking to her old SIM-card with a blow torch. It was strangely satisfying watching the thing explode in a ball of flame with a nasty burnt plastic smell. It made her feel like she could be in control again.
The first call she’d made on the new number had been to Reed MacArthur. He’d been happy to hear from her, and luckily the vacancy was still open. She’d taken her box, handed the flat keys back to the landlord, and fronted up for work with a forced smile on her face and twenty dollars in her bank account.
Reed had fast become her superhero. He’d been understanding and welcoming when she had nothing and nowhere else to go, and he’d given her purpose again. They’d provided her somewhere to live while training, an encouraging workspace, and job satisfaction. All of which her battered confidence soaked up and rebuilt itself on. And she loved the job. He’d given her a life raft in the form of a luxury liner, and he’d asked for nothing extra in return.
The first tour she went on was a short three weeks, with a Korean pop group called PLZ. There were seven young boys, each with their own trailer, and their shows contained a lot of visual effects and props, which meant that she had plenty of vehicles to keep her busy. With such a large entourage she was worried, but she soon found her feet. Her shyness evaporated as she became one of the team. It was the perfect therapy for her.
Reed sent her straight back out when that tour finished. She suspected that she’d been sent on a short one as a trial, to make sure she could hack it and wasn’t going to be lured back to the man who’d dumped her. Reed knew about her situation. She’d been honest with him.
He’d also seen the tabloids. There were plenty of pictures. The press was loving the fact that Drey Anders and Kay Dee were back together, and there was much speculation about the return of Drink, Drank, Drowning’s comeback tour. After seeing the first article, she’d refused to look at the media.
She’d toured with the Slick Green Zucchinis for the next three months. And it was on that tour that she’d had her first post-breakup affair. Ivan was his name. However, she’d wept through their one and only sexual encounter, and that had been it for him. She’d felt terrible about it, but she couldn’t help the tears. It wasn’t that the sex was bad, he just wasn’t the man she wanted to be with. Afterwards, she’d accepted his ‘this-is-over’ speech with relief.
Her relationship with Nick had lasted longer. He’d been lovely, so gentle and attentive. But it wasn’t anything more than a short-term arrangement. Once it had run its course, they’d mutually ended it without any regrets, and she finished her contract with the tour. She’d kissed him goodbye, and they’d parted friends as he had gone with the band to the recording studio. Even now, they still shared the odd text, and it was nice to be able to call him when she needed to hear a friendly voice.
The current tour, she was working on, was with the band Urban Dysfunction. They were a heavy metal group who loved to party. She loved the energy of the concerts and their relaxed attitude. She’d also come to enjoy the company of the heavily tattooed man who was following her up the beach. His appetite for sex had been enough to keep her occupied over the last month.
“Hey babe, how about we get those drinks to go?” his finger slipped into her bikini bottom pulling outwards and letting it snap back into place, “I’m thirsty too, but not for anything this shop sells.”
“Not tonight Chad,” she smiled, “Remember, I told you that I need the day off today.”
“Yeah, but does that mean all day? 24 hours?” his eyes were on her breasts, not her face, “Come on babe, I’m chafing here.”
“Poor baby,” she rolled her eyes at him as he indicated to his erection in his swimming shorts before he wrapped his towel around the inked skin on his waist to hide it, “Sorry, but you’re going to have to fly solo. I’m sitting today out.”
Anniversary days were no-sex days. It had become a rule after Ivan. Sobbing during sex wasn’t a good idea for anyone. Which meant one day, once a month, became her ‘off’ day. Chad knew that, but that didn’t stop him from wanting her.
She’d gone to the beach with him today because it had been a lovely day and she wanted to have one last swim before they left Miami. Normally she’d stay closeted up in her trailer, but she knew that she couldn’t continue like this. She’d half expected that today would be the end of it. Six months was enough. She really should be over him. But that clearly wasn’t the case.
She left Chad in his trailer, looking sorry for himself, and had gone back to work. After finishing the vehicle inspections, she had scheduled to complete, and once she was happy the trucks were in tip-top condition, she peeled her shirt off. She’d left her bikini on and pulled on a t-shirt and shorts, it was too hot for overalls, and she had wet work to do. The sea air meant that she was washing the vehicles frequently. Today she had the three main trucks to soap up and rinse off.
They’d been in Miami for three nights. It was last show tonight, and the roadies would be working all night deconstructing the stage, packing everything up and loading it all onto her trucks so that the drivers could be on the road tomorrow morning at 3am, heading to their next venue. She needed to do this now so that the trucks were primed and ready.
She tied her hair up in a messy ponytail, it had grown and was now shoulder length, as she flicked the kinks out of the hose. It was much more fun doing this in the heat of the end of summer, rather than in the cold of early autumn. She sprayed the cabs, filled her buckets and soaped up the sponges. Climbing the short ladder for extra height, she set to work on the first vehicle.
She’d finished the first truck and was rubbing the suds over the second when she heard the vehicles arrive. She didn’t care enough to turn to look, as the column of trucks parked near where she was working. People were always coming and going. These guys would probably be the next artists due to play here. She’d moved their touring vehicles to give them space to park up when she’d heard that they were arriving early.
She ignored the ruckus as it wasn’t her job to act as crowd control. They’d have their own tour staff to do that. Her job was to get this task finished before the warmth of the sun vanished. After that, she was planning on taking a bottle of whisky to her trailer to toast the fact she’d survived six whole months.
Drinking was something else she’d mastered during this time. And she’d become good enough at it to go shot-to-shot with Chad. Tonight though, she wouldn’t drink more than one shot, she was working all night, and on anniversary days she never managed more than one before the tears came.
“Woah, nice welcoming,” someone exclaimed from behind her, “You missed a spot, over here, right here.”
She was used to the roadies and their innuendos, teasing and colourful language, so she just raised a finger and kept on working.
“Careful, little lady,” the smooth voice was different from the first and sounded vaguely familiar. “Does this activity comply with health and safety regulations? I think you need someone to hold the ladder.”
She turned as she pushed the strap on the bikini top back onto her shoulder, the sponge dripping in the other hand. In front of her, four tall men were approaching. The tallest was a giant with his long dark hair tied up in a low ponytail. His hands were moving in fast gestures that had the others laughing. The man who’d just spoken had shaggy blonde hair and was wearing surf apparel and a pair of wrap-around sunglasses. His cheeky smile was unmistakable. Next to him was a smirking Latino man who had his chest puffed out and his gaze focused on her. The final man was at the back. He was looking at his feet not at her. As she watched, he lifted his eyes to briefly glance at her and then he turned away to squint into the distance. It was that man who had her reaching back to grip the slippery body of the truck in an effort not to fall off the ladder.
“Josh,” a tall woman ran towards them, her figure showing her pregnancy, “Don’t forget the sunscreen.”
“You are so whipped,” the Latino man sniggered to the tall man who gestured back with the same finger that Jen had used.
“Excuse me,” the man she recognised as Sam said to her, “Where’s the best surfing beach around here?”
“Please,” Mark scoffed, “Is that the best you can do? Step aside and watch a master at work.”
She glanced at them, confused as to why they were speaking to her as she tried to work out how to get away before they released who she was.
“Shut up Mark,” Belinda put her hands on her hips which accentuated her belly, “Put it back in your pants, nobody wants to see that.”
“Now who’s whipped?” Jay’s rough voice coughed a laugh.
“Hi,” Belinda turned to her, “Ignore them. We’re looking for somewhere good to eat. Can you recommend anywhere? With big portion sizes if possible, pregnancy makes you hungry.”
All eyes turned to her. She was on a ladder, but still, she was barely a foot taller than them. She’d never been taller than them before, and that alone was confusing her. She opened her mouth and closed it again. Not even Belinda had recognised her.
“She’s been rendered speechless in my presence,” Mark lifted an eyebrow as she fumbled, “It’s alright, bikini girl, I’m fluent in sign language, and all other forms of non-verbal communication.”
“Oh please,” Belinda turned on him, “That’s just gross, do women honestly find that attractive? I’m concerned for you Mark.”
“Sorry,” Sam cringed as Belinda swatted Mark, “We’ve been on the road for a couple of hours, and some of us get cranky without constant feeding. Is there somewhere close?”
“There’s the Rusty Cantina,” she pointed in the direction of the restaurant, her finger shaking.
Drew’s eyes came up to look at her again. She forced herself to look away as she felt herself blush. She could do this. They didn’t recognise her.
“Thanks,” Belinda smiled, “You look familiar, have we met?”
“I’d be happy to get familiar with you,” Mark smirked, “You can wash my truck after that one.”
“That’s it,” Bee pushed him in the direction they needed to go, “I can’t believe you just said that!”
“I was talking about our vehicles, not my bad-boy,” Mark exclaimed.
“Again, I’m sorry,” Sam cringed, “You’re welcome to join us if you want?”
“Working,” she muttered as she glanced in Drew’s direction, but he’d already turned and was walking towards the street where the restaurant was located.
They were leaving. Their backs were all facing her, as she slumped against the wet vehicle, sliding her back down the paintwork. She slowly edged one foot down to the next rung on the ladder. The trucks would have to wait. She needed to disappear and fast before the sobbing started.
She shut her eyes as she cringed. Chad was walking towards her, his tattoo chest bare and his pants were riding low on his chiselled body. She froze out in anticipation of disaster.
“I know you’ve got this whole ‘pity-party’ planned for tonight,” Chad was heading for the group that was between him and her cringing body, “But there’s going to be a kick-ass party tonight at Stevie’s trailer, it’s going to be epic!”
“Party?” Mark turned, “Hey, aren’t you Chad Agar.”
“Yeah, that’s me,” Chad laughed like it was funny, then his eyes widened, “Shit-me-sideways, is that you Drey? Drey Anders of 3D?”
“It’s Drew now,” he shook Jen’s latest lover’s hand, “It’s been a long time Chad.”
Jen grimaced, this was bad. Unexpected, uncomfortable and a disaster of epic proportions. Nothing about this was good. She felt herself shrink down as she watched her past and present collided.
“Well, that’s it. Baby-doll, put your ‘misery-fest’ off for another night,” he laughed, “I know it’s ‘that-day’ but we’ve got some drinking to do!”
“Pity-party? Misery-fest?” Sam looked at Chad then at Jen who was trying to edge her way down off the ladder, “That doesn’t sound like fun. Nothing serious, I hope?”
“Yeah, it’s no fun at all. Some dickhead broke her heart six months ago today,” Chad had such a big mouth, “She’s got plans to burn his effigy or whatnot tonight. His loss, is all I can say.”
“Six months ago, today?” Drew spun around to stare at her.
“Yeah, but don’t worry, I’ve been giving her some intensive healing, Chad-style,” her current lover smirked, “Am I right, Jen?”
“Jen?” the whole group spun its attention to her
She closed her eyes as she wished she could crawl under the truck.