Chapter 11- A Sight for Sore Eyes
While she reads over the bands on the competition webpage, Ally listens as her e-mail inbox continues to click.
She finally takes in a deep breath to open her inbox. To her surprise, she sees the receipt for Aiden’s e-mail sitting there.
“He read it!” She squeals, checking the status in her outbox.
Her eyes remain locked on the inbox as she waits to see if he replies immediately. After about ten minutes, she loses hope and signs off.
“Well, he read it, so that’s a start.” She stretches out on her bed, returning to her radio jams. With a pillow, she shut her eyes tight, “You’ll get your chance, Ally, just be patient. You will make him talk to you one day.”
It takes a few weeks for Ally to regain her confidence. Ally transforms herself. She’s gone back to curling her hair along with blocking it with the same blond streaks she had when Aiden was her main central focus.
She’s started jogging every morning before and after classes to get toned. Add in time at the tanning bed and skimpy outfits. She’s done everything possible to make sure Aiden can’t take his eyes off her.
Over on the desk, she has a 5x7 copy of Aiden’s picture hanging in his living room. She stares at that picture, which gives her hope every day as she prays.
“God, I know you gave us free will, but I need your help with this one. I know I royally messed up, but please give me the strength to push forward and make my mistakes right once again. You brought me someone special, and I let him go through my poisonous desires. I will do anything possible to prove my worth, but I need you behind me to push me through the fog and darkness ahead of me to do so. Keep everyone I love safe and be mindful of those who need you too-amen.”
Each time she prays, she reaches out, touching the photo for hope. She ignores her e-mail since she received the receipt from Aiden. Afraid of rejection, she’s busted her ass to ensure that since the emotional connection has dwindled, the attraction won’t die.
Impatiently, Ally wakes early the day of the performance. She waits for Addie inside her best friend’s parent’s home.
“Ready to hear some wannabe musicians?” Addie’s dad asks when he hands over Ally’s pass backstage.
“I have a friend with his band entered this year. I can’t wait to see them play.”
Addie’s father scoffs a bit in his rocking chair as they both wait for her to arrive. When she pulls up along the curb, she’s decked out in all black. Looking up to Ally, she’s blown away by the way she’s altered her body.
“Wow, looks good sexy momma, damn.” Ally begins to blush a bit.
“I had to make sure I was pretty enough, you know. I’ve jogged two miles every day for weeks.”
“It shows, tanned and put your hair back the way it was before. I like it a lot.” Addie compliments, walking up to her.
After Addie gives her dad a hug, she stands there waiting for her ticket.
“What? You come back home and think I have something for you?” He teases in his chair.
“Uh-huh, yes, I do, daddy.” She extends her hands out like a spoiled brat.
“Well, if you insist, here you go, have fun at the show and don’t do anything stupid. The last thing I need is to bail you out of jail.” He jokes, causing the girls to giggle.
He waves them off as they climb into the Tiburon and speed away.
“Damnest thing ever, both of my girls all grown up. Still, I can see the secrets in their eyes. Anxious to meet a boy, I guess somethings will never change.”
He resumes rocking gently in his chair as the birds chirp in the clear spring sky.
Twenty minutes later, they pull up to the gates that states ‘Performers Staff and Equipment Personnel Only’. They hold up their passes so the guards can push open the gate to find a parking spot.
“Oh, I’m excited, this is my first time backstage.” Ally admits tapping her toes on the floorboard.
As they pull in slowly, her hands begin to shake when she notices the CRX not far from them.
“They’re here already!” Addie shouts as the house bands warm-up backstage.
“Yeah, let’s not search for them just yet. I wanna get a good view of the stage.” Ally yells out with her hands over her ears.
“Here, put these in your ears. It’ll help, trust me.” Addie reaches into her pocket for a couple of soft foam earplugs.
Ally snatches them from Addie’s hand and squeezes them into her ears.
“Better?” Addie calls out.
The girls head towards the stage and flash their badges to the security guards to gain access to the edge of the stage.
The girls see that the high school football stadium is quickly filled with hundreds of people to see the competition at full force.
“Holy hell, that’s a ton of people,” Addie admits with a chance to scoot away from the view of the crowd.
“Damn right it is…” They heard a voice call out behind them.
“Aiden!” Addie shouts, rushing to hug him.
“Glad to see you here.” He informs her after he swipes her bangs away from her eyes.
“Hey you, how ya been?” He asks, looking Ally up and down.
“I’ve been better. How are you doing?”
He smirks when his eyes meet hers. He motions to come over and extends his arms. They don’t waste time hugging each other.
“I’m sorry,” she muffles into his shirt.
“Water under the bridge Allyssa.” She finds it weird that he uses her full name.
“Look, I’d rather keep you as a close friend than not have you at all. I did a lot of drinking and thinking since the last time I saw you. Do I want to be with you? Yes. We’re not meant to be anything other than friends. I love you with all my might still, but we have no trust between us.”
Unwilling to let him go until he changes his mind. Ally battles to urge to breakdown. She wants more, but when an unfamiliar voice cracks the air around them, she pulls back.
“Hey, there you are. I swear I turn my back for an instant, and there you all hugged up on another chick.” Cindy teases.
“Cindy, this is Addie and Allyssa, two good friends of mine, sweetie.”
Clutched on his arm with purpose, Cindy quickly looks over to the two ladies then turns her attention to Aiden, kissing him quickly.
“They need you back for wardrobe, Hun so chop-chop.”
Aiden takes his cue and darts away, leaving the three of them together.
“Bitch, back off! I know who you are. You ain’t getting him back. He’s hot, loaded, and mine got that!”
Ally begins to take a step forward with a new fire in her eyes.
“No, no, she’s not worth it, Ally. Chill hot stuff; you’ll get your chance to beat her ass, just not here.”
Addie grabs her to keep a catfight from breaking out. Ally is ready to pounce, feeling the heat of battle. She understands how Aiden felt when he saw her with someone else.
“That little skank! She’s only with him for his money!” Ally yells, trying to fight away from Addie’s grip.
“Chill before you get thrown out. She ain’t going to last long, and we know that.” Ally quits and watches Cindy prance away, taunting Ally the further she dances away.
“I’m gonna beat a bitch’s ass!” Ally threatens, ready to strike.
Back towards the changing room, Aiden walks inside to see the guys sweating.
“Hey, relax guys, when we get out there, just imagine we’re back in the garage doing our thing.”
Eddie looks up at him, “Easy for you to say, you’ve been performing for crowds since middle school, bro.”
He laughs for a moment. Aiden changes from his polo shirt and into a plain white t-shirt.
“We got this trust me,” Aiden says calmly.
Once he’s finished, there’s a knock at the door, “Disgrace thru Grace?” The producer asks, popping his head into the room.
“That’s us…” Rey answers.
“You’re up at noon, be ready ten minutes in advance. Good luck and love the name, by the way!” The producer disappears just as quickly as he appeared.
“Alright, fellas, ninety minutes to showtime. Remember, we open with Hidden Sorrow, and then we close with Eyes of Despair.” Aiden reminds them.
“We know…Now let us relax…” Dakota pleads, tapping his fingers on the bench.
“Oh, Allyssa and Addie are here. They met Cindy.”
A collective gasp soars throughout the room.
“Do what!” Eddie lets out, shaking his head.
“And you left her with them?” Dakota yells, ready to run out of the room.
“She’s fine. Allyssa isn’t going to do anything to her, so chillax, boys. What y’all say we scope out the competition.”
After hearing that idea, the boys stand up before one final order from Aiden.
“Meet up at the left corner of the stage when we’re called. I wanna win this damn thing, hands in!”
Together they place their hands out.
“Hooah on three…one, two, three!” Rey calls out.
A collective “HOOAH” echoes from the changing room. Moments later, they scour the other bands and listen to what they must compete against to win.
Backstage the boys slowly gather at the left-hand corner of the stage when the stage director calls them.
“Disgrace thru Grace, get ready to take your set. The keyboard will be placed out there as soon the final band member leaves the stage.”
The butterflies settle deeper as they realize this is it. The real deal is about to go down. Looking back at the band members, Aiden gets a glimpse of Ally waving.
He waves in return and watches as she blows him a kiss for good luck, “Thank you,” he mouths as they’re pushed out to the stage by the stage director.
“GO, GO, GO, and good luck!”
The crowd slightly pops, seeing them out on stage while they’re introduced over the PA system.
“Ladies and gentlemen, let’s give a big round of applause for their first time here. Let’s give it up to Disgrace thru Grace!” The crowd pops a little louder as the fellas take their spot. Aiden waits for the keyboard to be hooked up.
“Thank you, Charleston, we are Disgrace thru Grace. This is the first song we wrote called Hidden Sorrow.” Aiden announces and places his hands on the keyboard.
After he counts down, he peaks over to see Ally smiling from the edge of the stage.
“One, two, one, two, three, four…” Eddie smacks his drumsticks together as he puts down the opening beats, followed by the guitar and bass lines.
“Why don’t you answer me? You know it’ll only kill me to leave you here feeling empty, forgotten about the past hoping the pain doesn’t last, hidden sorrow of borrowed time sets in as the end feels like it begins…”
By the edge of the stage, Ally is joined by an unwelcomed guest.
“Give it up, ho, he’s moved on from your ass. He’s mine, so deal with it or get lost, tramp.” Cindy’s shoved on her ass.
That’s when Ally sets the record straight.
“Shut the fuck up, you two-faced money-grubbing slut. Aiden might be with you right now, but his heart is mine. It always has been and always will be mine. I can have him any day I want, and if you can’t handle that, I got some advice. Get the over it!”
Ally takes her attitude and walks away before she beats Aiden’s girlfriend. Cindy’s heart pounds like a war drum. She was caught off guard at how savage Ally talked to her.
Once their nerves settle halfway through Hidden Sorrow, they have the crowd pumped up.
Cindy strokes her long almond brown hair and witnesses the crowd going crazy in an uproar over the second and final song. She waits on Aiden and the others to come off stage.
“Wow, they’re eating it up!” She exclaims, seeing dollar signs in her future, “Good pay, second part-time job playing on weekends, nice house, yeah I’m about to move up in the world.”
One thing Cindy forgot was Ally arrived with a friend. Addie overhears Cindy’s comments. Rather than confront her about it all, she slides away silently and waits for her time to pounce. Addie isn’t fond of Cindy ever since she’s gotten to know Aiden a bit more. She waits patiently for the guys to walk off stage, soaked in sweat after a standing ovation.
Dakota’s the last one off stage. He takes his time to wave to the crowd and soaks up the attention.
“That was a trip y’all!” Eddie expresses, planting his hands on his head and takes in all the excitement.
“And to think you and Dakota used to mock me for playing the piano. See how it can pay off, guys.”
They both nod as Rey stands silently behind the others, proud to play in a jam-packed high school football stadium.
“There’s no way we don’t place,” Aiden admits listening to hype-man talking to the crowd about how much they enjoyed the three-song set.
Skipping over to Aiden, Cindy’s cozied up to him, “That was excellent. I loved it! Can we go now?”
All Aiden can do is scoff at her request. He glances down with a heart filled laugh.
“Not a bloody chance in hell. There are a few more bands left. We can wait and find out how we did.”
She huffs and walks away, annoyed, “Fine. I’ll call Heather and have her pick me up. I am bored, and I don’t wanna be here any longer than I need to be.”
Aiden looks at her and yells, “bye,” as she stomps away.
“God, she’s a pain in my ass.” He groans, rolling his eyes.
Able to take the chance to congratulate them on a gig, well-played Addie sneaks up on all four of them, scaring them.
“Hey!” She screams as they all turn around white as a ghost.
“You bitch!” Dakota teases her, giving a slight nudge on the shoulder.
“Hey Aiden, got a minute?”
“Yeah, guys, give us a moment alone, please.”
They walk away to escape to their makeshift change room to get back into their street clothes.
“That was a rush, wasn’t it?” Eddie begins the conversation taking off his shirt tossing it onto the bench.
“Hell yeah, son, I can’t wait for our next big gig. I’m still pumped!” Dakota admits beating his hand against his chest.
“Calm down, King Kong, you’ll get your chance. We’re going to get places. It just takes time. If we don’t make it here, then we can try out for an opening act for Ohio Rock Festival in Columbus.” Rey explains nearly being there once before with a previous band.
“What’s that?” Eddie wonders out loud, looking at Rey.
“The best underground bands battle it out for spots to open up for major names. Record label producers will be there to evaluate talent. If we can get an invite there, then we could have it made. I’m talking fame and fortune with the right look and sound.” Rey notices the look in their eyes and knows he has them hooked on the idea.
“I say we practice like crazy and get to that point. Even if we do state fair tours, it’s something right, and that’s better than nothing at all.” Dakota says with excitement heightening his voice.
“Hey, where’s our boy? He still can’t be talking to Addie, can he?” Dakota questions the other two as he lays along the bench.
“I guess so, remember Ally is here somewhere too, so it wouldn’t shock me if they made up,” Rey replies, worried about his best friend.
There’s a knock at the door, and thinking it might be Aiden, Eddie rushes over to the door to discover it’s the stage director.
“You boys get ready. There are four more bands to go on. Then we’ll bring every band back out for one last round of applause to help the judges decide a clear winner. It’s a nail bitter this year. Good luck!”
“Wow, seriously, it’s that close of a fight. We might stand a chance after all!” Eddie shouts, feeling the butterflies return in the pit of his stomach.
“Hell yeah, son, we got this!” Dakota yells, clutching his stomach again with a sensation to throw up.
About the time their nerves calm down, Aiden enters the area.
“Well, he lives, gentlemen!” Rey jokes as Eddie and Dakota clap with a smirk on their faces.
“Talk about cutting it close man, I mean, they’re about to bring us back on stage for one final chance to win over the crowd. We’re in the running to win it.” Dakota explains, getting up to head for the door.
Aiden follows his friends out the door. He strolls up to the stage curtain behind them as they listen to the announcement.
“Ladies and gentlemen, since you’ve been such an amazing crowd, we can’t thank you enough for making this a fun-filled fantastic day of music. Since the judges are having difficulty picking just one band to send to the West Virginia State Fair, we need your assistance just one more time. One by one, we’re going to bring out all these bands and get one final push to get the ‘W.’”
One by one, each band is given precisely sixty seconds to make the crowd give a final push. When they call for Disgrace thru Grace, the crowd goes wild.
“Wow, ladies and gentlemen, that is what we are talking about. Please give it up for our newest band to the competition. That’s going to be a tough act to follow with that response.”
All four young men are at the edge of the stage, waving their arms to the crowd behind them more than before.
“Alright, fellas, I hate to do this, but your time is up. Please take your place off to the side to give these other bands a chance. Ladies and gentlemen, give them one last round of applause!”
They head over to their designated spot to await the results from the judges.
Once the final band is given their chance to win over the crowd, Aiden and his friends believe that they have this in the bag through the crowd response. After the crowd comes to a calm roar, the judges talk it over. They place the final vote into a yellow envelope and hand it to the stage director.
“Thank you, judges, you had a difficult job today. Glad it wasn’t me having to pick a winner this year.”
The crowd reacts to the joke.
“Alright, our top four bands of the day…Whew, ladies and gentlemen, this was something, wasn’t it?” They boo over the stall tactic as he pretends to struggle with the envelope.
“My bad, everyone, just a little stage humor.”
Pulling out a sheet of paper, he looks over at every band before reading the results, “And in fourth place…River Rats of Morgantown…” The crowd pops, pleased with that result.
“Now for the top three and this ladies and gents was a difficult decision since third, second, and first are separated by a point apiece in each place. So, our third-place winners, from Parkersburg, The Government Facts…” The crowd pops as the band time approaches to bow.
“So now our top two bands, I am surprised they made it this far and lost by a mere point. I give you our runner-up, Disgrace thru Grace!”
The crowd begins to boo and give the judges thumbs down, with objects thrown at them.
“Now, let’s relax and chill everyone. They called it right down the middle, and your winners from Bluefield, The Brew City Boxers!” The man on stage announces.
Both bands shake hands in good sportsmanship as they try to settle down the crowd showing no hard feelings.
Backstage, the four band members are frustrated.
“Damn, I thought we had it,” Aiden admits kicking his foot in the air.
“So did we, by the way, the crowd cheered. Although this gives us a decent chance to make it to Ohio Rock Fest next year.” Rey explains after he shoves his hands in his pockets.
“Yeah, good job, let’s call it a day. I’ll meet up with all of you at the house.” Dakota explains, his head low.
Aiden walks back with them to the changing room. He picks up his shirt and vanishes before the others can turn around. While he strolls to his car, he’s cut off by Ally.
“Can we talk?” Nodding his head yes, Aiden sends a text to Addie.
I have her with me. I’ll drop Ally off at her house when we’re finished. Thanks for showing up.
Together Aiden and Ally walk away without either one saying anything until they’re stuck inside the CRX.
“I’m hungry. Can we go eat and talk, please?” Ally requests looking out the windshield.
“Yeah, I have nothing but time.”
“What about your new girlfriend? She’s going to notice you’re missing, ain’t she?”
“She’s about three seconds from being gone for good. She ain’t you, even if she does resemble you in a way.”
Ally reaches over and slaps Aiden with all her might.
“That slut has nothing on me. Don’t you ever, and I mean, EVER, compare me to someone else.”
Aiden sits there in shock for a minute.
“Fine, just don’t ever go cheat on anyone else you say you love, and we’ll call it even,” Aiden says.
“This was a mistake, goodbye you son of a bitch!” Ally yells in his face.
Ally storms from the car. She marches to the Tiburon and sits on the hood, taking out her phone.
“Yeah, what I thought.”
Beyond frustrated, Aiden puts the key into the ignition and fires up his car. He shifts back to reverse, pulling away and doesn’t look back at Ally. Aiden makes his way back to Dakota’s to work on their next gig.