Roots and Melodies by Louise Tardif
“It’s where I was born and raised and I’m not leaving it. Besides, I’ve just moved in.” Josh Yvan said ending the argument.
Him and Curt, his manager, had spent over half an hour quarreling in Josh’s cramped flat. Josh had just released his new album and he finally felt as though the well deserved fame he had been working so hard for was being achieved. His new single had topped the charts of the UK for 4 consecutive weeks and the album itself, was lingering between 3rd and 4th place. But despite the fresh fame and wealth Josh had no desire to move to a bigger, more comfortable house.
“You haven’t even seen the houses! Don’t you want a...” Curt said as he used his hands to try and demonstrate unsaid words.
“A what?” Josh sighed, not really following the conversation anymore as his eyes idly roamed around to look at his guitar lying on the kitchen counter.
“You know, a bigger house? A better environment?” Curt stopped when he saw Josh’s look.
“I already told you, you can’t just abandon your roots like that.” he said, his voice clear and sharp in the quiet kitchen.
Curt sighed, broke the eye contact, and looked down at the linoleum flood. Then, Josh reached for his guitar and started strumming new chords, unheard by Curt’s ears. They were both annoyed, and when this happened he just left Josh alone until the anger would condense back to normal. Curt took another look around the messy apartment before heading for the front door.
Josh continued to silently strum the guitar and started singing the words he had been repeating to himself over the past week. He had already written most of the songs for the next album, and the next one. Although original material became harder to write, he felt less pressure from several years ago when he still depended on any kind of money he could profit from his musical talents, whether that be busking in the streets or performing minuscule and ignored gigs in bars; anything to sustain himself just a little bit longer. But done was he with the endless nights of shows and couch surfing at whoever’s wouldn’t mind after the gigs. He was booked for a sold out tour and nothing could stop him now. Although he had been raised to be modest, he wasn’t scared to humbly remind everyone how fast he had sold out the most known venues in the States.
The agitation in his voice resonated through the song, and he kept missing the complicated and intricate pattern of beats he had set for himself. Irritated he abruptly stopped and put the guitar down by its neck back on the kitchen counter. He headed towards the front door, grabbed a grey hoodie and pulled it on. He picked up his new iPhone and briefly checked it before grabbing his keys and walking out into the corridor, making sure the door was well closed as a reflex. He took the stairs. A tang of vomit mixed with an unpleasant strong odor of urine filtered through Josh’s nostrils but he ignored the stench. It didn’t bother him; He was used to it.
He skipped the last two steps and went through the small door of the building. Once onto the street, he carelessly glanced around and crossed the road -there were never many cars around the council estate- pulled his hood up to cover his prominent hair and stuffed his hands into his pockets.
Josh didn’t know where he was going and that didn’t bother him either. He liked it.
Clea sang the chorus one last time, reaching the highest notes, her voice raw as Chris the guitarist riffed the last chords and they felt the crowd going crazy. Clea was amazed at how much sound a packed club could make, despite having done numerous shows before. Each show was unique. Chris was adding a solo to the song, madly riffing his electric guitar in a disorganised chaos. This often happened at the end of a highly successful gig, the alcohol not helping. Clea couldn’t worry about him now. As Chris fell to his knees still fervently riffing the guitar, Clea finished the song. The crowd of young teenagers screamed as the climax of the song came to an end and Dan, the drummer, crazily thudded the drums one last time, the chaotic mess vibrating deep through everyone’s bones and hearts. The lights flashed onto the crowd, blinding hundreds and creating the aspect of a long-drawn out headbanging from the mass of pumping hands and heads. The mosh pit in front wasn’t as rapturous and brutal as usual but Chris was laughing and wanted to do a last jump into the crowd. Clea saw this and discreetly grabbed the back of his sweaty shirt, pulling him back, conscious that in his state he was bound to injure someone or himself. The band thanked everyone and Clea threw some guitar picks into the crowd as they retreated backstage. The crowd was craving for the sight of them again and continued screaming despite the loud lack of music. They headed backstage as the club music resumed and the cheering started to die down.
Chris was mad.
“Why the fucking hell did you stop me? Can’t I have my fun?” He screamed at Clea, his breath intoxicating. She wanted to scream back but already had for nearly an hour and her throat was raw. Besides, it was useless to fight against Chris. Charlie put his arm around Chris’ shoulder.
“Come on man leave it. You were great. We all were.” Chris just nodded, still apparently furious. Clea was edging away from him but Charlie came around and put his arm around her so they were all walking a line and Clea was stuck right next to Chris. They went into their dressing rooms collapsing on the stained sofas. The band, Bleeding Roses, consisted of 4 members: Clea, the lead vocalist, Chris the guitarist who occasionally did back vocals, Charlie the bassist, and Dan the drummer. They all leaned back on the sofas exchanging cold beers and bottles of unknown spirits. Clea got hold of a thick glass bottle and downed its remains, thirsty from screaming and singing her life down a microphone for so long. Her throat was on fire and she identified it as Vodka but decided that she didn’t really care when there was a knock at the door. She got up; This was her cue to leave. She opened the door to the club manager and owner who smiled wryly, happy he had made money out of them. He nodded and stood back to reveal a bunch of young girls. ‘Lucky’ groupies who were willingly heading into the arms of the band members. It didn’t bother Clea, she was used to it. It came with fame.
She went down the corridor and pushed a heavy exit door into the club. The lights were flashing as she headed into the mass of sweaty bodies. Clea fought through the forest trying to find a way out -not an easy task. Her skin frisked other skins, both damp, and felt involuntary hands and bodies crushing into each other. She pushed through with only one incentive in mind: Get away from Chris. She finally reached the open doors clogged with people and pushed through. She staggered dangerously down the narrow stairs, the heat leaving her body with every step until she finally reached the open entrance. It was still bright outside, creating a contrast with the artificial night she had just emerged from. She walked into the street and the sudden cold heavy sheets of rain showered her. She was already soaked to the bones, but this was cold rain, not hot sweat. She managed a squeal and covered her hair running back inside. Still covering her hair she looked around the small entrance. There was no bouncer, this was a small underground club, her favourite type. Even though the bigger, well known clubs had better, more frivolous drinks, she preferred the atmosphere of smaller underground ones.
Her attention was brought to an acoustic Fender lying against the wall. She looked around for it’s owner but the entrance and stairs were desolate so she shrugged, grabbed it by its neck and put it over her head. She didn’t care who’s it was, they shouldn’t have left it there unattended.
She headed out, looking straight ahead when she was suddenly hit hard in the side. She fell into a puddle as she dropped the guitar and heard a loud crunch.
“Oh my god, I am so sorry!” She heard a male voice say.
“Here, let me help you...” He said as she tried standing up unsuccessfully. She tried protesting and swiping his hand away but he pulled her up. She shook his arm away.
“I don’t need your help...” She mumbled as she looked down and saw what had cracked. The guitar was splattered into a million pieces and a foot stood amidst of it.
“I’m really really sorry about the guitar...” Said the worried voice. She finally looked at the man and was taken aback for a moment. He was young, around his twenties, not much older than her. His eyebrows were furrowed and his lips were twisted in a worried expression. His hood was up but Clea could make out strands of messy red hair poking out, giving him the appearance of a youngish boy though he seemed to be around the same age as her.
“Oh no, it’s ok-” She started but he cut her off.
“No, no it’s not. Look I’ll buy you a new one.” He said sincerely.
“No but really, it’s not even mi-”
“Here, let’s not stand in the rain,” He said softly as he held her arm and gently pulled her into the club entrance sheltered from the rain, this decision being kind and therefore unfamiliar to her. “Listen I’ll get it by tomorrow... Where can I drop it off?” He asked as his hand trailed slowly off her shoulder to reach out of his phone. Clea stared at his leaving hand, feeling as though the action of pulling her in away from the rain had been more for her more than for him. Then her attention was brought to a sleek and new-looking expensive gadget.
“Um... Let me just give you my number.” She said her hand reaching into the pocket of her black jeans. She pulled out a cheap phone, its screen cracked. T
hey exchanged phone numbers before he looked back up at her.
“We could meet tomorrow around the block. There’s a small park there.” He said giving her a small grin and flashing her a set of perfect teeth. She nodded, looking at his mouth unintentionally. She knew she had to snap out of it.
“Yeah ok, that would be great... But I really don’t need you to buy a new one-”
“No it’s ok, I insist. I know how terrible it to is to have your guitar broken by someone...” he said looking at her again. Clea looked back fascinated by his stormy blue, but clouded with grey, eyes but her phone pulled her back to reality with a shrill –as she liked to describe it- shit ringtone.
“Sorry...” She muttered as she put her phone to her ear. It was Chris.
“Clea, where are you? We’ve been looking for you all over the club!” He shouted over the music.
“Chris don’t worry I went for a walk... I’ll be back shortly.” She answered looking back at the man who was looking away into the rain, not wanting to look like he was listening to the conversation. Despite the noise she could hear Chris sighing over the phone.
“Clea who are you with?”
“Chris, I’m not with anyone.”
“Chris we’ll talk about this later.”
“Fine. But hurry up.” She heard a slight trace of jealousness in his voice. Contrary to Clea, Chris did mind when Clea was with someone else. She hung up and sighed putting her phone away.
“Sorry, I’ve got to go... By the way I’m Clea.” She said, a small smile hitching itself up.
“Josh.” He smiled.
Josh was relieved she hadn’t recognized him. It wasn’t that he was sick of people stopping him in street asking for autographs and pictures, but it kept reminding him he wouldn’t have a normal life for a while. A long while. As Josh walked home he smiled to himself. He felt bad about breaking this girl’s- Clea’s- guitar. But if he hadn’t, he wouldn’t have met her.
Clea was relieved that he hadn’t recognized her... Although, to be honest, she doubted Josh had ever heard her music before, let alone anything about her. However when you were a relatively known rock star it wasn’t hard to get recognized. She wasn’t as eccentric or as controversial as other people from the scene she toured with or heard about. Her hair had remained its natural coal colour and the most controversial outfit she had ever worn was a plastic orange bikini on stage during a summer festival.
“Clea for the last time... Who were you with?” Chris asked irritated as the band walked into the hotel room. She sighed and walked past him. Dan and Charlie slowly retreated into another room, both knowing perfectly well the drama that would be re-enacted once again.
“I already told you Chris, I went for a walk. I needed to breathe.” Clea said taking off her leather jacket and throwing it onto a chair. She looked back at him and could see the clear skepticism etched into his face, deep lines creasing around his darkening eyes.
“Don’t lie to me I know fucking well you were messing around with David again!” Clea rolled her eyes, but Chris continued. “He was waiting for you wasn’t he? Wasn’t he?!" He screamed violently at her, a prominent vein throbbing out of his forehead, his shortly trimmed hair emphasising the outline of his strong twitching jaw. Clea shook her head in disbelief.
“I cant believe you’re so... So...” She looked for the right words but they were too wounding. “I wasn’t with anyone!” she finally settled with. “Listen Chris, I don’t mind when you go off with girls after every show, so you don’t have a right to say anything!” she said walking away from him but he grabbed her wrist, turning her around so she faced him.
“That’s different! I know you hold an emotional attachement with David!”
“I wasn’t with David!” she struggled.
“I have a right to know with who. You. Were.” he emphasised in between clenched teeth, his face so close to hers she could smell the alcohol and the stench of cigarette reeking from his nose and mouth. She finally shook his grasp away and felt herself seethe.
“You have no right! It’s my personal life and you can’t stop me doing what I want!” she screamed back at him. They looked at each other for some moments and before Clea could register anything else he raised his hand and slapped her face. The immediate flash of shock followed by a painful sting in her cheek raised Clea’s hand moments later to her cheek, her cold hand cooling down the raw burn. He took a step closer to her before Charlie interrupted his next move, Dan following him.
Clea took the opportunity of Chris being distracted to quickly walk away from him, grab her leather jacket and slam the door behind her.
“Everything ok mate?” Charlie asked Chris who had just watched Clea slip away from his grip, completely powerless to stop her. He passed his hand on his face, trying to wipe away the strong sensation of the bitter jealousy that had just meshed with his mind and thoughts.
“Yeah. Just the usual... You know how she is, she’s so... Uncontrollable. I know she was with David.”
“You’ve gotta give her a break Chris. She’s allowed to see who she wants.” Charlie said reaching into the mini bar for two cold beers. He threw one to Dan who caught it before collapsing onto the white designer sofas a limp cigarette hanging from his mouth.
“Yeah man, she doesn’t stop you from hooking up with those girls...” he added as he cracked opened his beer.
“Give her a break.” Charlie concluded, closing the discussion. Dan lifted his heavy studded black boots onto the coffee table and turned on the plasma. Chris furiously ignored both of them, arms crossed.
Dan was quickly flicking through the channels before stopping on a popular music one. One of his favourite hobbies included making fun of the ‘crap people call popular music’. However this often annoyed, and offended, Charlie who used to be part of the popular musical scene before joining Bleeding Roses.
But this time Dan didn’t start commenting on the ‘shitty music video’ or how ‘she was totally dressed like a slut’ as it was a recap of a summer festival and everyone in the room was taken aback and by the good quality and emotionally powerful song being performed by a youngish boy with ginger hair in front of a chock-full arena, jumping around and singing with only an acoustic guitar. Apparently he was a big of a deal judging on the size of the stage and the number of screaming fans in the crowd but both band members could sense an obvious lack of extravagant equipment for the evident magnitude of the show. They couldn’t spot any back dancers or singers and there was no ridiculous décor. It was just him in a sweat drenched cheap shirt and his guitar in the center of an enormous stage, guitar in hand and singing his soul down the microphone. The two band members didn’t doubt every second of this was generating a few hundred thousand of pounds.
He was in the midst of fervently riffing his guitar, bent over and completely lost in the crescendo of chaos he was creating, the large screens behind him flashing blindly and alternating between reds and oranges. As soon as he started hitting the side of his guitar the crowd composed of young females starting screaming again and Charlie knew from his past experience that this was probably due to the fact that every hit of his guitar created powerful vibrations which went through each of them. He had started singing again and the crowd followed every instruction of what to sing back, hanging onto his every word and order. They were even singing every single fast word of his singing/rapping despite it being impossibly fast. He was so out of breath that the last word of his memorable repetitive chorus kept being unsaid as he took ragged breaths, determined to finish the song and bring everyone over the climatic cliff of the song. Overall, even Dan wouldn’t have minded watching the show live and that was saying something considering he usually detested any other concert other than rock ones.
“Who is that?” Chris asked as he turned around from his sulking, his attention not spared from the strong influence he had started feeling going through him. He had started involuntarily nodding his head along to the steady beat and was surprised by what he saw when he looked at the television. Dan shrugged and Charlie was completely entranced by the song to even reply. None knew who this was and they were all itching to learn his name, Chris most of all, envious of the palpable talent overflowing.
He finally finished with a beautiful note of voice and final flourish of his guitar and Dan could swear most of the girls in the crowd were crying and many had screamed so much they had no more voice.
As the screen changed to an aerial shot of the stage they could make out two small white words that had faded onto the bottom of the screen.