As soon as I was in my car I made a call to the first person on my mind.
“Yes. I got the flowers.” I sighed at the sound of Cortney’s gleeful voice, “They’re beautiful, but you do realize that the other ladies are totally jealous right?”
“Hey, Uhm” My voice quivered, “How late are you working?”
“Jason?” Her voice lowered a bit, “Are you okay?”
“Something just happened in the studio.” I huffed, trying to shake it off, “I’d feel better if we could hang tonight.”
The line was silent for a moment... So silent that I thought she might have hung up on me.
“Cortney?” I asked.
“Sorry, I was checking the schedule,” She sounded so determined when she some again, “We’re more than staffed today and I’m due for a personal day, do you want to meet somewhere?”
“How about that bookstore?” I asked.
“It’s a date.” I could hear the smile in her voice and it made me smile through the brewing tears.
One week later...
It was early on Saturday morning and the band was on studio lockdown, again, since we’d skipped out last week.
It was insane, the lengths that we were put through because of Asher and his bullshit.
Henry, our manager, wanted to make sure that we were good with this album before Asher inevitably got arrested again.
I say it like that, because we all knew it would happen. Just give it a couple weeks and he’d go overboard. He always did.
“Dude, you’ve been quiet all week. What’s up?” Chris asked.
We were on our dinner break. Everyone was seated in the hall. Everyone but Asher.
We were eating some really shitty pizza. We didn’t even like pizza, but they were all that delivered at two in the morning.
“You know that chick I gave a lift home last week?” I swallowed a huge chunk, just to get the shit down.
“The hot blonde?” He took a swig of his bottled water and put the lid back on, before tossing it down next to him.
“Yeah,” I smiled, leaning on the wall. I smiled every time I thought of her. She was something else.
“You like her.” Chris was genuinely surprised.
“I think I do.” I watched all the guys for a reaction.
I got smiles and awkwardness, instead of the usual cheer, which surprised me, since we were all on the no-relationship train with Asher’s issues being the factor.
“So, you drove her home and were a gentleman, now she probably zoned your ass.” Gabe laughed.
“Hey!” I threw a bottled water at him as I chuckled. “I took her to dinner and brought her home, one thing led to another and I’ve seen her every day since. She’s a classy chick, not a groupie.”
“Every day?” Nick questioned.
“Every day.” I rolled my eyes at him, “And I’m not talking Netflix and chill, I’m taking for hours at the bookstore, the movies and actually talking.”
“Shit, dude,” Chris cringed, shaking his head, “You got it bad.”
“Yeah,” I confessed, “I think she genuinely digs me. I mean, she had absolutely no idea who we were, so it has to be me and not the fame and shit.”
“Maybe she got a load of what we made on the last album,” Gabe chuckled.
“Oh, fuck.” Nick shook his head now too, chuckling with Gabe, “Don’t tell me she’s a gold digger...”
“Shut the fuck up!” I snapped at the guys, “I like this girl a lot. I don’t know. In a way, she reminds me of... someone.” I told them, my voice quieter now, not to be overheard.
“The first time I saw her she didn’t have any makeup on and she just looked dead tired, but she was still beautiful as hell, smiling and laughing at my stupidity. Then, after spending time with her, she just seems to have one of those hearts. She seems really tender and caring.”
“And those big eyes that take in everything and accept it as it is,” Gabe gave a nod of understanding, “I saw it in the elevator.”
“Except your girl’s got brown eyes, not gray,” Nick said, with a reminiscent smile, “She’s got balls like her though. Your girl was in an elevator with 5 guys, 4 of us were still hopped up from that fight, and she didn’t even break a sweat.”
“I miss her.” Chris sighed, leaning his head back against the wall and closing his eyes. “It’s supposed to get easier but it doesn’t, does it? It’s been eight years now and I still look for her at our concerts.”
“She’s not dead.” Nick shook his head and his hair fell into his face, “She can’t be. She just can’t.”
“Nah, I think she’s still out there, bro,” Gabe patted him on the shoulder, “She’s gotta’ be.”
“She was my baby sister, blood or not,” I told them all, holding my tears for the millionth time, “We have to face it though, she never would have let Asher get away with any of this shit. If she knew what was going on... The drugs, the fights, the chicks... If she knew the shit he was doing, she...”
I broke. I couldn’t say anything else about the subject. I needed to chill. I needed to move the talk in another direction or I’d start bawling.
Even after eight years there was this ghost hanging over us. We all felt her absence in different ways. We all hurt and we all mourned her loss, even though we had no idea whether to mourn or carry on.
There was silence for the longest time, then I broke it.
“You know... It’s just... When I look at Cortney, I feel like I could open up and talk to her. I want to, I just don’t know how to talk about it with people who didn’t see it. But her being near me makes me feel better. I don’t know... She’s the chick I can chill with when shit gets real and it helps me feel better.”
“Wow, Dude.” Chris still looked at the ground between his legs, eyes wide. “She’s your Bree.”
Out of nowhere, a bottle of water came flying down the hall and smacked into the wall near Chris’s head.
“What the fuck, Bro?!” Chris snapped up, as he looked past me, “Seriously?!”
“Don’t fucking talk about her!” Asher rushed up, shouting, “The bitch bailed on us before we hit it big and it’s her own damn fault! She’s nothing to us now! Nothing!”
“She’s obviously nothing to you anymore!” Chris shouted back, pointedly, “What do you fucking care?!”
We all braced ourselves. This shit wouldn’t end well, it never did. We couldn’t even bring up Bree within earshot of Asher, let alone mention her name, and now Chris was going head to head with his twin.
“You’d shit on her fucking grave, if you could find it!” Chris continued, “We all miss her and you just want to piss away her memory!”
“You fucking shit!” Asher pounced, punching Chris in the face.
Chris stood up, swinging back before I knew it, they were rolling around on the floor throwing punches and yelling at each other. That made two fights in two weeks, between the two of them. Something needed to give before this shit tore us apart.
“Fuck you!” Chris was on top of Asher, grabbing his shirt and yelling, “What fucking drugs are you on, Ash?! Huh?! What are you taking?!”
“You fucking bitch! I’ll kill you!” Ash rolled them over, throwing more punches.
“You need to fucking face it!” Chris yelled, “The drugs won’t bring her back!”
That revved Asher up even more. He slammed Chris’s head into the floor, then stood and began to kick the fuck out of him, as he shouted.
“Feel big now, you little fucker?! Huh?! Stop talking shit! Don’t open your fucking mouth! Especially if you can’t back it up, pussy!”
“Okay tuff guy, back the fuck off the kid.” I stood and pulled Asher back.
“Fucker deserved it!” Asher yelled, wiping blood from his lip.
It made me think of what Cortney had said the first time we met.
Asher was a bitch fighter.
Once I released him, he spoke to the other guys, who were now standing around watching the latest in the Asher saga.
Asher was dead calm when he spoke again, which wasn’t good.
“No more fucking talk about Bree,” he didn’t face us, he wouldn’t after this, “from anyone.”
We all knew what this meant, what he was doing. We were used to this now. He was shutting down. Closing his emotions to the outside, going insane on the inside.
Everyone in this hallway knew that this wasn’t how things were meant to be between band members. This wasn’t how we’d planned our lives when we got to this point, especially Asher.
“It’s been done and over with for years now,” he spoke in a low monotone, “She left. She’s off doing shit on her own. She’s not dead, so stop talking like she’s some fucking angel of our past. The bitch fucking left us. We’re in this band now. Not her.”
He began to walk away, not looking up at a single one of us.
“Take him to the ER. I felt one of his ribs break when I kicked him. I’ll deal with Henry’s shit.” He turned the corner and was gone.