“Erik is on fire tonight, Rea!” Kayley screamed over the whine of the guitar and lyrics my boyfriend was slicing through the air in the dingy bar he had a gig at. We watched him sing on stage to a half-empty room, trying to ignore the fact that after a year of having a band, he still didn’t acquire a big following.
“Yeah, I just wish there were more people here to see him.” Taking in the shabby little bar, I noticed most of the audience paying attention to the music. The women danced seductively in front of him, and although he watched and played along with them, he still took time to pause and wink at me every once in a while showing them he was still all mine.
The couple of gigs they got a month didn’t pay well enough to support him. He had to work the rest of his nights in a laundromat and live in a tiny one-bedroom apartment with two other guys from the band, even though most of the time he crashed in my apartment. He said it felt like a mansion compared to the filth he lived in on a daily basis.
It was never my intention to date a musician. My roommate Kayley and I went to this ultra-cool new night club a couple of months ago after they opened up in the college town where we went to school. Although there was a wait to get in all I had to do was mention my brother, the Brandt Roberts, lead singer of Social Offender, and we were treated like royalty. Erik was just another patron, a friend of the bartender, and he hit on me. Being so sweet and so hot, it only took until the second date to make me fall head over heels in love with him. It wasn’t even until then that I knew he sang for the band Twenty Deaths. The group heralded as part grunge and part heavy metal band was just starting out, playing bars, and getting gigs when they could.
Musicians can be finicky and rough around the edges. Especially when trying to make a name for themselves. I remembered the stories my brother would tell me about when he first got to California even though he only gave me the highlights. Both the struggle and the downfalls of fame were hard to overcome so my first reaction was to run away from Erik, but he turned out to be amazingly sweet and catered to my every whim. Girls fawned all over him but his interests only lied in me, going as far as buying me small gifts when he could. When I would pay for our date, he would tell me it bothered him explaining that when he finally made it big he would treat me to indulgences all over the world. He was the ultimate gentleman, well at least outside of the bedroom. In between the sheets, he knew how to satisfy me, and it was always a plus.
“What did he say when you told him you were leaving for the summer?” Kayley bounced and jiggled to the beat of the song, garnering the attention of the guys closest to us at the bar.
“Actually, he understood fully. He said he would come and visit me as much as he could afford.” My voice strained over the whaling guitar riffs and beat of the drums.
“Really? He doesn’t mind that you will be gone all summer?”
I shrugged, “He doesn’t really have a choice. I told him that my brother needed me, and he agreed.” It surprised me a little considering the relationship was so new. Not many boyfriends would be fine with their girlfriend going on a tour bus across the country without them for a whole summer.
“But you don’t even like kids.” I sighed and wondered why I gave in to my brother too.
“Yeah, I know. I don’t like kids but when my brother begged me, I caved. It isn’t like I have a job waiting for me yet.” Graduation was only a week away and I had yet to find a job I even wanted to apply for.
“But why babysit? I could think of a million things more fun than changing diapers and having toddlers throw up on you. We could go and see your brother at the resort. Maybe lay out at the pool. Didn’t you say he is revamping it into some fancy spa?”
Two years my senior, my other brother Dean had gone against our father’s wishes getting a permanent job at the ski lodge he worked at during winter breaks during college years ago. Not that my dad came out and told him, but I knew he wished Dean would partner with him in his industrial construction business. Since Brandt found his fame in the music industry and Dean was invested in the ski lodge, it left only me to take it over and although it wouldn’t be my first choice, I also knew I couldn’t disappoint my father.
My college degree was in business and I could easily help my dad out, but I didn’t have the desire to work in industrial construction. Although the construction business wasn’t for me I had yet to figure out which career path called my name. The only reason I went with a business degree in the first place was that it looked good on a resume and I had yet to find a life focus.
Not only did the construction field not interest me in the least, neither did staying in New Hampshire where my parents lived. I had been out on my own in a Pennsylvania college for the past four years and the idea of returning home to live under their thumb again turned my stomach. Besides, I wanted to see the world. Live a little. Experience life. Find myself. Not be tied down to pricing out concrete by the yard.
“Dean is still trying to get the spa off the ground. He just took over management responsibilities and the owners are hesitant to sell him the lodge outright due to his age. I know he will make the ski lodge successful, but I am sure he doesn’t want his little sister around for the whole summer sponging off him. Besides, I don’t get to spend a lot of time with my older brother, and he needs me.”
Brandt called me last week begging me to go on tour with him and his wife, Chelsea. Their twins, a boy and a girl, were not quite a year and they found out she was pregnant again. Evidently, three kids this close together was unplanned and the extreme morning sickness made it so she couldn’t keep up with the kids. Chelsea was particular about how the kids were raised and wouldn’t even think of letting my brother hire a nanny. Brandt worried about her constantly, to the point he insisted she go on tour with him until the end of the summer, so he could help. Luckily his tour ended in September so he could be there for his family by the time the next one arrived.
Another reason I couldn’t turn him down was the fact our relationship had been strained since he left for California. He already found success in the music industry and seemingly separated himself from us until Chelsea came into his life. Brandt was my adopted brother, and although I never looked at him as anything less than my real brother, he had issues with the abandonment he felt from his birth mother making him shy away from the family for a while. When he finally let us back in. it was all I could do to make sure I kept part of his life. I loved him dearly and would do whatever it took to stay part of his life. When we were little, I would always follow him around mooning over him. So to have him back into my life meant the world to me, even if I had to look after the thing most precious to him, his children.
The thought scared me. Children scared me. They were unpredictable. They pooped and vomited and couldn’t tell you what was wrong. They cried when they were tired, they cried when they were overtired, they cried when they were hungry, and the worst of it — they cried for no reason. I honestly could never see myself as a mother and loathed going out and playing the perfect aunt. But when Brandt turned to me for help, the first time ever, well wild horses couldn’t keep me away. I just needed to remember it would only be one summer. Just one.
“What does it matter to you? You get to relax on the beaches of Aruba for the next couple of weeks anyway.”
“Yeah, that’s pretty cool. My parents went all out with my graduation present. I guess they were just happy I graduated since it was touch and go there for a while.” I laughed. Kayley’s grade suffered as a result of party nights and skipping days at school. Where I still could pull off a decent grade, she struggled to keep her head above water. “At least you should be able to party at night, right?”
My brother’s band had its fourth album out with three hits still in circulation on the airwaves. They sold out all their concerts and just got off another European tour to hit the summer festivals. Even with all of that, my brother chose to step away from the partying he did when he first set out with the band years ago to settle down with the love of his life and his children. I loved seeing him so happy.
“Brandt doesn’t party anymore and even the other guys are slowing down. The roadies still have fun, but they aren’t all that glamorous to hang out with. No, I think I will be mainly bored but at least I get to chum with my brother and see the countryside.”
Erik’s song came to a crescendo of driving riffs and pounding drumbeats as he finished it with his powerful voice. The crowd cheered and the lights dimmed slightly. “Thank you!” Shaking his shaggy brown sweat-soaked hair sent several stray droplets into the crowd below. The heat of the lights and the energy to move the crowd to their feet took a toll on him especially with the recent cover tune they played to get the crowd rowdy. It was a ploy to get them fired up before they did some of their original hits as being a cover band hardly got you noticed or signed by an agent.
“You guys are great. We’ve got more in store for you so grab a drink and the nearest girl. We’ll be rocking this place after a short ten-minute break.” Halfway through their set they always took a break to change out the backdrop to signal a change to the band’s songs. It was some marketing gimmick created by Joe, the drummer.
“Hey, you want another drink? My glass seems to have a hole in it.” Kayley held up her empty drink glass and shook it in front of me making me smile. It was an inside joke with us to indicate a fun and interesting night would be had.
“Yeah, I’ll see if Erik will give us a ride home so we can drink and celebrate our last week of college life.” Erik was always great about driving us back to the apartment when we had too much to drink. It had more to do with what we did alone in my bedroom as he knew drinking brought down my inhibitions.
Kayley left to head to the bar with the majority of other people and I grabbed my keys to bring in the back by Erik and the band while their one roadie, Joe’s little brother, swapped out the background on the stage. Since it was the third time the band performed at this bar, I knew my way to the back room where they hung out avoiding the crowd until they had a chance to rehydrate. Making my way to the back room, I noticed the door slightly ajar at the end of the hallway. Unable to see where I walked with the dim lighting, I got to the door at the far end when the heel of my shoe encountered something sticky. Resting my hand on the doorjamb I turned my heel over to see a wad of chewed-up gum. Great, it had to be the night I decided to wear my $700.00 ChiaraMoretti heels.
Wondering how I could sneak into the bathroom to try to clean them without making more of a mess, I overheard Joe talking. ”Fuck! Did you see it out there? There are barely enough people to cover our fee. If this keeps up, we’ll be losing this gig too.”
“Joe calm down. By the end of the summer, all our troubles will be over. I can guarantee it.” Erik’s voice sounded so certain. I loved how optimistic he could be.
“And what makes you so sure? You got a fucking genie in your pocket?” Joe could learn some confidence from Erik.
A low chuckle from Erik followed, “Better than that. I have a princess in my pocket. One whose brother can get us a record deal and on the road to fame. Then the lead singer of Twenty Deaths will get all the pussy he could ever want instead of having to suck her needy cunt.”
My breath held tight in my chest as I lowered my foot no longer concerned about the status of my shoe. With my heart pounding in my chest, I listened for more. “Yeah, well, filling her cunt is one thing, but what makes you think her brothers gonna help us out?”
“Because she is gaga for me and I do everything his whiny little princess of a sister wants. What more can a boyfriend do? I give in to her every wish and even go to great lengths to make sure she is satisfied in bed. She worships me and will talk her brother into giving us our big break. Why else would I date her when I have a multitude of chicks throwing themselves at me?”
Tears stung my eyes as I leaned against the wall in disbelief. Erik dated me for my connections into the business? I couldn’t believe I fell for him thinking he was the perfect guy? He used me to get to my brother. Why didn’t I see through the façade?
Engrossed in my thoughts, I didn’t notice them walking my way. When the door opened to Erik and his look of surprise an immediate queasiness settled in my stomach. ”Rea, baby what are you doing out here?” The concern in his voice was geared more to whether or not I overheard his conversation.
Steeling myself even though I could feel the bile in the back of my throat, I fought the tears in my eyes as my pain surfaced. “Just listening to you explain how you are using me to bang chicks and get a record deal.”
Hazel eyes darkened momentarily before lightening to a more jovial look while a small smile played across his lips, “Whatever you heard, you took it out of context baby.” Not willing to wait and hear his excuses, I turned on my good heel and left him behind. The hell if I was going to let him twist this around to make me look like the idiot.
Making my way past the people loitering in the hallway I heard him coming up behind me as I walked as fast as humanly possible to the bar to get Kayley. He shouted my name and as I closed in on where Kayley stood, he grabbed for my wrist.
"Rea. Listen, baby. It isn’t what you think.” The crowd hushed around us as I fought to get out of his grasp.
“Let me go you asshole.” His grip tightened and two of the guys at the bar stood a little closer to me as Kayley came over to my other side.
Erik looked at the onlookers, especially the two brawny men, and dropped my arm. “Just let me explain.”
I shook my head, fighting to hold in the rage so I didn’t make a spectacle. I didn’t want him to see how he had affected me. “I don’t want to hear it. Fuck off.”
Although I knew he was an egomaniac I could easily see the women swooning around him earlier coming in to claim him now he was free. As loud as I could, I turned to them giving my permission to wreck their lives. “He is all yours, girls.”
Grabbing Kayley’s arm, we left and made our way to the car knowing I would never be duped again.