Chapter 5

Tree in the sky

Alex sat quietly at the dining table set for three at Nick and Kim’s. The couples’ spacious apartment in the Village put Alex’s shoe-box living space to shame. The décor was sleek and modern. Everything had its place, including their pet goldfish Bubble, who’s bowl resembled a studio loft on the upper west side.

Nick was sat restlessly to the left of her, busying himself with his phone and answering emails. Kim had yet to seat herself, she was too busy scurrying around her sparkling clean kitchen gathering napkins and utensils for dinner.

Thankfully, Nick looked up from his phone long enough to notice the bustle of his girlfriend. “Will we be eating anytime tonight Kim?”

“Hello! I’m getting it ready.”

“Getting what ready? We ordered Chinese.”

“And what do you plan on eating the Chinese food off of…Or with?” She came out of the kitchen flailing forks and spoons.

“We have these,” Nick held up a pair of chopsticks from the restaurant they’d ordered from. “We also have to-go boxes, what more do we need?”

Kim set down a place setting in front of Nick and Alex, then plopped down in the chair across from Alex and laid out a set of her own. “Well excuse me if I happen to enjoy eating like a human being, we don’t all come equipped with the sophistication of a bridge troll.”

Nick rolled his eyes and began to dig into each container of food with vigor.

Alex timidly reached over and picked up a container of pot stickers and set a few on her plate, “Oh how I’ve missed family dinner. It’s just like I’m back at home.”

Nick looked up from his now very full plate and smirked at Alex, “You too?”

Kim frowned at her friend and her boyfriend, “Could we please refrain from talking about our collectively screwed up childhoods, please? You’re going to make me lose my appetite.”

Alex giggled, “But that’s what we always talk about.”

Nick quickly chimed in, “Yeah Kim, if you’re not yapping away about your dad’s gambling habit I’m whining about my pill-popping mother. . . And then there’s Alex’s family…”

“Nick!” Kim looked to Alex and apologized, “My boyfriend has a problem with tact.”

Alex slouched back in her chair and crossed her arms protectively over herself. “Oh it’s fine, really Kim, we all know when it comes to dysfunction my family is the winner among us.”

Nick blushed with embarrassment at his insensitive comment, “I’m sorry Al, I just mean that ya know, we all have that in common.”

“I know, it’s not a problem. I like having you guys to talk to about that kind of stuff.”

Kim let out a long drone of a sigh and quickly changed the subject. “Anyway, Alex how did your meeting with Channing go?”

“Pretty good actually, she might have gotten me a part in this new film.”

“That’s great,” Nick applauded. “When’s the premiere?”

“Calm down bub, she hasn’t even auditioned yet, right Al?” Kim had firmly planted both hands on her hips and was staring back at Alex, waiting for a rational reply.

Alex swallowed loudly and rubbed the palm of her hand against the top side of her thigh. “Well yeah, I mean nothing is set in stone.”

Nick looked back and forth between his girlfriend and Alex mid-chew, “Way to kill a dream, Kimmy.”

Kim gaped at Nick and dropped her fork which clattered loudly on her dinner plate. She looked as if she were about to really let him have it when suddenly a strange look came across her face. Her hands flew to her stomach and then changed course to meet and cover her mouth. “Excuse me,” she

mumbled from behind her fingers, and scurried towards the hall bathroom.

Alex was on her way to wearing a hole into the thigh of her pant leg.

Nick starred in the direction of the bathroom for a brief moment, then turned back to Alex, “My girlfriend keeps getting weirder and weirder.” After his declaration, he picked up his fork and continued joyously eating.

“Yep.” Alex laughed quietly to herself. “She’s a real loon,” she rolled her eyes and picked up her own fork. Just as she was about to take a bite out of her pot sticker, a faint gurgling moan rolled through the house.

Nick looked up from his plate with a very concerned look on his face, “Maybe I should check on her.” He started to get up from his chair.

Alex panicked and shot up from her seat at the table. “No, you eat, I’ll make sure she’s okay.”

“Are you sure,” he asked, mid get-up.

“Of course! What if it’s a…Lady problem?”

Nick sat back down, now fully convinced eating was his better option. “You’re right, I’d just be lost in that area.”

“Right,” Alex scurried over to the bathroom door and gently knocked twice. “Kim, it’s me.”

After a short while the door clicked open for Alex to let herself in. Before she did, she looked back towards the dinning room to make sure Nick was still in a food-thoughts-only zone. He clearly was, so she swiftly opened the door to rush in, and closed it behind her.

The sight before her was nothing new. Kim was mostly curled up on her fluffy, green bath mat, with one arm outstretched reaching for the toilet. The reasoning for this particular behavior was a drastic change.

“That pesky fetus giving you grief?” Alex kept her voice down to a hushed tone and handed her friend the box of tissues that sat atop her vanity sink.

“You know it,” Kim attempted a small smile and gratefully reached for the box.

Alex ran some cold water and passed a washcloth through the stream a few times. “So I’m guessing your boyfriend still has no clue,” she said as she wrung out the damp cloth and bent over to place it on the back of Kim’s neck.

“You guessed right. I have no idea what to do,” she whispered.

Alex sat down, cross legged next to her friend and patted her knee. “At least you won’t have to worry about him figuring it out before you decide what to do. I love Nicky and all, but he’s living in the city of oblivion.”

Kim Chuckled and shrugged her shoulders, “He’s just distracted with food at the moment.”

“I’d say ‘distracted’ is a severe understatement. He’s out there practically having a love affair with a spring roll.”

“Hmm, I know. I was thinking of cooking him a stake before I tell him what’s up.”

“That could work…If you could cook that is.” Alex smirked

Kim groaned and carefully peeled herself off the floor. “We better get back out there, I’m not sure how long the food will hold him.”

“By the look of him, from when I came in here, probably at least a week.”

Kim swayed from one foot to the other as she came to a full, upright position. Alex’s hand sprung from her side to help steady her friend’s balance.

“It’s okay, I’m okay.” Kim protested, but she still took her friend’s hand in hers for extra support.

“Let’s get back in there. God forbid Nick runs out of food on his own plate, he might start skimming from ours…And I wanted to at least taste the shrimp and asparagus.”

Kim laughed and grabbed the door handle, “We’d better hurry then.”

Back at the dining table, the girls found their dinner companion dumping more food onto his now cleared plate.

As Nick acknowledged their presence approaching, he looked up at them with a sheepish grin and replaced the food container from which he was filling his plate with copious amounts of lo mien.

“Hey babe, are you feeling alright?”

“Yeah,” Kim replied quietly as she sat next to him.

Nick gave her an understanding shrug and reached over to give her hand a loving squeeze. “Lady problems, huh?”

Alex sat back down as well and couldn’t resist teasing her friend. “Actually, we think it might have been some kind of food poisoning,” She said with a completely straight face.

Nick looked from Alex to the plate of food in front of him, “EW! You mean this food?”

“Probably.” But Alex could no longer resist cracking a smirk.

Nick took in a deep sigh of relief, “Oh thank God!”

Alex suddenly looked back at her friends like her hand had been caught in the fortune cookie jar, “What?”

Kim giggled softly and patted Nick’s hand, “You, my friend, are a terrible liar.”

Alex’s hand fluttered to her heart in mock indignation, “I am not.”

Nick had only taken a short brake from stuffing his face, and now he was right back at it. Both women paused for a moment to stare at him with pure amusement shining in their eyes.

“Are too.” Kim interjected, tearing her eyes off the spectacle that was her boyfriend. “You can barely hold a straight face with a little white lie.”

Alex frowned, “Well that was just a silly fib, nothing serious. Maybe I’m just so good with mammoth sized lies, that I simply can’t be bothered with tiny fibs.”

“So, you’re really a man?” Nick perked up.

Both women squeaked out a simultaneous, “WHAT?”

Nick smiled broadly, “It’s the biggest lie I could think of.”

Alex looked from Nick to Kim, “Please tell your boyfriend to stop calling me a man.”

Kim lifted her butter knife towards him in a menacing manner, “Stop calling our friend a man, or I’ll have to cut you.”

“With the butter knife?”

“Please remember that I’m having a lady’s week, Nickolas if I have to, I’ll saw something off.”

Alex almost spit out a gulp of lemon water she had just taken, when her friends began to bicker. “You guys are into some weird shit.”

“You know it,” Nick said with a wink.

All three of them erupted into a fit of giggles, Alex waved her hands, “I don’t want to know anymore.”

Nick’s plate was once again cleaned after a few minutes of mindless banter.

“So how’s the play going Nick?” Alex asked

“Pretty good. The lead actress is a real bitch though. She’s been almost fifteen minutes late for the past three nights.”

“I know how that goes, Devon thinks he’s the second coming of O’Toole most days.” Alex shifted in her seat.

Nick laughed. “Channing is definitely on a roll this week though. I’m waiting for her to call me back about this audition she got me this morning.”

“How do you think you did?”

“Honestly? I feel like I nailed it…And it seemed like they liked me.”

“Well, that’s half the battle. At least none of the producers feel asleep during your audition.”

“Oh, Alex that was one time, and you know he had to have suffered from some kind of narcolepsy or something,” Kim scoffed.

“He didn’t have narcolepsy, Kim. He was just very old and very sleepy.” Alex began to rub her palm against her thigh again. She turned to Nick and gave him a reassuring smile, “I’m sure they loved you.”

“I hope so.”

The house phone rang, breaking the momentary silence that had fallen over the room.

“That’s funny, Channing never calls the house line.” Nick said as he got up from his place at the

table and headed to the kitchen to pick it up.

“Maybe I should tell him now,” Kim whispered over to Alex.

“Now, while I’m here?” She asked back in a squeak of a whisper, panic glittering in her eyes.

“He’s in a good mood right now, and I’m sure that’s Channing on the phone telling him he’s got the part.”

Alex sighed and searched through all the reasons why her friend was crazy. Luckily, she picked the most rational and ran with it.

“Kim, you know how Nick is about me getting in between the two of you…I want to stay neutral on this one.”

“Are you saying you’d agree with him if he freaked out on me?” Kim hissed.

Alex adamantly shook her head. “No, I’m just saying, this is between the two of you. The last thing you need is for me to look like the third party weighing in on your relationship.”

Kim sat back in her chair, quietly fuming and mulling things over in her head, while Alex stared back at her bewildered. Nick could be heard from the other room, talking animatedly about a subject neither of the girls had caught the tail end of.

Alex was sat stock still, waiting for something to happen. She hoped, before Kim could muster up the nerve to tell her boyfriend her fertile news, he’d be off the phone and her courage would deflate.

Kim suddenly let out a heavy burst of air, she had been holding in for what seemed like eons. “Oh, fine. I won’t tell him while you’re here.”

Alex looked down at her hands that she had kept clenched in her lap, “Thank you.”

“I am going to tell him though, and you better be there for me when I do.” Kim’s eyes began to red rim and watered slightly.

Alex switched her seat for Nick’s and patted Kim’s shoulder reassuringly. “Of course I’ll be there…I mean really, where else would I be?”

The two stared at each other for a moment, and simultaneously started to laugh in each others faces.

“When did my life become such a soap opera?” Kim said as she brushed away some tears that had escaped.

“You have been injecting the ‘Queen’ into drama lately.”

Alex returned to her original seat just as Nick came back into the dining room with the cordless in his hand. He stopped dead in his tracks when he noticed his girlfriend’s puffy red face and tear streaked cheeks.

“What happened?” He asked in an alarmed tone.

“Lady problems,” Both women spoke out in unison.

“You chicks worry me.” Nick shook his head and took his vacated seat once again.

“Yep, we’re crazy.” Kim said

Alex turned her attention to Nick. “So, what did Channing say? Did you get the part?”

Nick frowned, “Well it wasn’t Chan, so I’m not sure yet.” His frown quickly morphed into a smile. “It was Jeff.”

“Oh, how is he?” Kim seemed vaguely interested.

“He’s doing good. He’s leading the security team at that new club downtown.” Nick looked over at Alex and smirked. “You remember Jeff, don’t you Al?”

Alex rolled her eyes and sighed. “Yes, I remember him.”

“I honestly have no idea why my lunk of a life partner ever set you up with that meat head.” Kim chimed in.

“What’s wrong with Jeff? He makes a good living, he’s in the city, and you share the same gym.”

“He also has bad manners, smells like a meatball sub, and stares at me from a far at the gym we share.” Alex countered.

“I think you might be too picky Alex. You can’t have it all, you know.”

“Oh, please! Alex, don’t listen to him. He has no idea what he’s talking about. You deserve way better.”

Alex smiled apologetically at Nick. “Sorry dude, but I’d at least like to get through a dinner without my date belching out his words. . . I’m just that kind of girl.”

Before Nick could get his mouth open to retort, Kim interjected. “Any way, what did Jeff have to say?”

“Well, what I was going to tell you two snoots before I was so rudely interrupted…”

“To be fair, you were kind of asking for it.” Alex shot in.

“Can I talk?” Nick huffed.

“Sorry, go ahead.”

Before he proceeded, he turned to his girlfriend to be sure she had nothing to add. Kim held up her hands in quiet surrendered and gestured that he had the floor.

“Jeff invited us to a concert at that club tomorrow night. He said he can get us backstage passes.”

“That was surprisingly nice of him. Who’s playing?” Kim asked

Nick went on to list off several band names as both women stared back at him with confused looks on their faces.

Alex raised her hand and waited to be picked on. When Nick gave her the go-ahead, she asked in a small voice, “I’m sorry, but who are these people?”

Nick looked back at her like she had two heads. “Rock bands from overseas woman! Jeez. . . Uncultured much?”

Chapter 4

William’s angered bellows and the harsh patter of rain filled room 275. Not a day went by in London without gray skies and buckets of rain. As Will argued over the phone he passed by his balcony window that overlooked Donington Park. Very little could be seen on such a dark night besides the watery twinkle of city lights.

“That’s not the point, Elise! I don’t understand why you’re mad at me anyway,  you’re the one who cheated!”

Will screamed down his new red cell phone as he kicked a throw pillow away from his path. In doing so he also entangled his ankle around some strewn about bed sheets. The room was an utter mess. Most of the bedding was occupying the floor in a fluffy, tangled maze. Chinese food cartons and empty fortune cookie wrappers were scattered among any available surface, and the mattress had some how shifted out of alignment with the box spring.

“I don’t care if you didn’t know what you were doing at the time, that’s part of the problem!” Will boldly gesticulated with his right hand and threw off his already shaky balance. His ankle caught on the sheet maze, and he went sprawling down on the mattress.

“Are-You-Even-Listening!” squeaked the phone.

Will picked his cell back up and slouched down on the box spring. “Yes, unfortunately, I and many of the dogs in Donington are all ears.” He picked up a warm beer off his nightstand and chugged it. His stomach gurgled in pain from the unholy mixture of whiskey, cold vodka, and temped beer.

The room itself was dark and gloomy. The only light source came from a bedside lamp that was slightly off kilter. As Will sardonically listened to his ex rattle off reasons why they should stay together his hand brushed up against a small scrap of paper. As he brought it up close to his face he realized it was a fortune. It read ‘A certain someone enjoys your presence.’

“More of a statement really.”

A resounding “What!” squealed out of the phone.

“Yes, I’m listening!” Will huffed as he tossed the fortune to the ground, “Well I’m sorry if I can’t help losing interest in a one side conversation! I don’t understand what you want. Are you mad at me, or do you want to get back together? Or are you just too coked out of your mind at the moment to…”

A soft knock on the door through a chink in his train of thought. “Hold on,” he barked as he carelessly tossed his flip phone on the bed and made his way to the door.

As he peered through the peep hole, Dahlia yelled from the other side.

“Open the door asshole!”

“I don’t need any towels, thanks.” Will called back.

“Open the door, I’m not in the mood.”

Reluctantly, he reached for the handle but he was too late. It turned in his hand and suddenly his touring manager appeared in front of him.

“Dahlia, please do come in,” his comment heavily dipped in sarcasm.

A flourish of tall blonde brushed by him, “Don’t mind if I do.”

“Why did you even bother knocking if you intended on letting yourself in?”

Dahlia shrugged nonchalantly, “Common courtesy?”

He looked back at her with disdain as she took in the rather messy surroundings. Her pert nose crinkled in disgust, “What the hell have you been doing in here?”

“Hydrating.” Will smirked as he gestured towards a collection of empty beer bottles on his dresser.

She snorted, utterly annoyed, stepped closer to him and inhaled deeply,“You stink.”

“I do not,” he fired back appalled.

“Yes you do, you smell like a bag of ass…And Chinese food.”

“Well thank you for that graphic description. If the police ever switch from dogs to people for drug sniffers, you’ll have my recommendation.”

“I’d be so thankful,” she snarked as she stepped over to the nightstand and opened the tiny drawer. She reached in and lifted out a small packet of pills.

“See, you’re a natural,” Will mused.

“Nice,” she said over her shoulder as she headed towards the bathroom with the packet still in hand.

“The maids are going to have a fit when they see this shit hole.”

“Should I write them a letter of apology?” Will asked, surprisingly humbled.

“And say what exactly?” Dahlia sniffed as she dumped the tiny bag’s contents into the toilet and flushed them down. She then proceeded to go around the hotel room gathering empties and pouring them down the bathroom sink drain.

William shrugged sheepishly, “I’m good with words, I’m sure I could come up with something.” He self contentiously rubbed the back of his neck and picked up the nearest empty liquor bottle, attempting to help clean up.

A shrill “HELLO!” broke the uncomfortable silence.

“I think you’re being paged,” Dahlia said as she looked from the bed to the phone, and back to William.

Without giving it a second thought, Will walked over to the bed and yelled, “I’ll have to call you back,” in the general area of where the phone lay. He then flipped the phone shut and plopped himself on the bed.

“So how is Queen Elise? Bat shit crazy as ever?”

“How could you tell?” Will sighed

“Well, I could hear her chewing at the inner lining of her mouth from the hall, and that’s never a good sign.”

“If you don’t like her so much, why the hell do you keep giving her my new numbers?”

“Don’t look at me rock-star, I’ve only given her your number once. . . And that was about five phones ago.”

“Wonderful!” Will huffed and threw his hands up, “It was probably one of the roadies.”

“Oh please, none of the technicians have your phone number, you know that.”

Bottles clattered against each other as Dahlia tossed them into a large black garbage bag that she had produced from her oversized handbag.

“Could you please stop mucking about, I can barely think straight with all that racket going on.”

“You can barely think straight because you’re nursing a hangover with vodka, beer, and what ever I just flushed down the toilet.” Dahlia shot back without halting her actions one bit.

“Which, by the way, will be expensive to replace. I had a hell of a time getting it too,” he said sullenly.

“If you could keep the pouting over drugs down, that would be great.”

“Well, how else would you like me to cope with my current situation?”

Once the room was passably tidy Dahlia sat herself down on the bed across from William, with the big black garbage bag still clutched in her hand. “You could try what normal people do, though by your stumped expression I guess I’ll have to spell it out for you…”

Dahlia looked back at him with a hopeful expression, but to no avail, he had not a clue of what she was going on about.

With a deep sigh, she started, “They’re called feelings, you see…”

“Oh those, Dahlia if I had wanted to deal with those I wouldn’t have used all these.” He reached over and jangled the garbage bag to prove his point.

“You can’t numb yourself to whats happening around you forever,” she quietly countered.

The singer’s tone quickly turned from matter-of-fact to deeply embarrassed. “I know,” he flushed “I don’t want to go on like this; disappointing the band, and the label, being a mess. . . I want to get my shit together. There’s just no time right now. I’m not finished being miserable.”

Anger filled Dahlia’s eyes and her nostrils flared. “Well, you better get finished soon. I’m not going to ride this sinking ship forever, and neither are the guys. This isn’t just about you anymore. Some of us have families.”

“I know,” he professed emphatically. His face a mask of red now.

After Dahlia was sure at least some of what she’d said had broken through the liquor haze, she gently patted his knee and stood. “When you’re ready we’ll get you some help,” she said simply, then moved to leave him.

William sat with his head in his hands and mumbled, “I’m sorry if I screwed things up with those label blokes.”

Dahlia halted in her tracks and turned to face the crumpled man on the bed. “Don’t worry about it, I smoothed things over and Fisk was able to answer some questions for them.

“How did our ever brain-dead base player do?”

“You shouldn’t call him brain-dead, he’s just hard of hearing. You would be too if your job was to    slap the sound out of things.”

“Yes… Well, deafness aside, he’s still not exactly the sharpest tack, and he plays the base for crying out loud! How was he?”

Dahlia flashed him an unamused look. “Pretty well actually. You don’t give him enough credit.”

“I’m glad then. At least last night wasn’t a total disaster for everyone.”

“Me too. Okay then, I’m going to get the others ready and check up on the techs. We’re leaving in two hours so be packed and somewhat alive. . . If you can manage.”

“Will do,” his simple answer was laden with sarcasm.

“Good. I’ll ring thirty minutes before you’ll need to meet us in the lobby,” with one last flip of her flawless blonde hair she was out the door.

After Dahlia’s quick departure, Will decided on a walk through the city to clear his head. The rain had subsided, leaving massive puddles behind. A thin layer or eery fog hung low on the streets, and the lights softly glittered in newly formed ponds of rain. As he walked he passed by a hole in the wall restaurant. Only a few tables could be seen through the store-front window. Most of the chairs had been turned up on table tops to rest until morning. One table was still occupied by a fairly young couple.

It angered Will to see such happy people out and about while he was so miserable. As they sickeningly gazed into each others eyes and leaned in for a gag-worthy kiss, Will had to turn away. As if what he was about to witness was completely gruesome and unbearable.

Thankfully he had left his cell phone back at the hotel. He knew Elise would soon realize he had brushed her off yet again, and she wasn’t nearly finished with her nagging tirade. Some how Will’s calming, head-clearing, walk had led him straight to the corner liquor store.

He waited, shakily in line with two bottles of cheap vodka in each hand and a large can of Guinness wedged under an arm.  After he’d made his purchases he walked a bit quicker back to the hotel. The air, now filled with moisture, made the reek of alcohol emanate from his body. The smell shot straight up his nostrils and lingered there all the way back.

As he passed hastily through the hotel lobby, trying to draw as little attention to himself as possible, he caught a glimpse of Torgny. Luckily his friend seemed to be distracted by some girl. This gave Will the perfect opportunity to make a B-line for the bank of elevators just across the way. He scattered towards a circular ottoman that enclosed a large plant in the middle of it and rested there for a moment. He made his body tall like the plant, as not to be seen, and only when he was absolutely positive his friend hadn’t noticed him he made a run for the elevator bank.

Once Will was back in the privacy of his room he hurriedly went to the task at hand. He grabbed his well warn leather jacket off the back of the chair it had been planted on for two days and picked his flask out of the inner pocket. He popped the seal of one of the vodka bottles and held the flask and bottle up to a free standing lamp that stood over his jackets chair. When he was sure he was lined up correctly, Will stared to pour.

A good amount of vodka spilled to the floor because of his tremor laden hands. Once the flask was full, Will downed what was left in the bottle like it was water. He went to the bathroom to chuck the empty into the bin, then grabbed his suitcase that sat in the adjacent closet.

As he headed towards the bed to pack up, the door key clicked open and Torgny came walking right on through the room.

“You getting packed up?” His friend asked all business like.

“Nope, I’m playing a round of chess, couldn’t you tell?” Will dug into his back pocket for a cigarette. He struggled to get it lit, his hands violently shook.

Finally, with a heavy sigh, Torg walked over to his friend and took the lighter from Will to lite it for him.

“Thanks,” Will shuddered as he took a deep drag in.

Torgny nodded wordlessly, popped the beer Will had just brought in with him, and began to drink.

A bit slothfully, Will slung clothes into his opened suitcase that he had placed on his bed when his friend made his entrance.

“Who was that chick you were talking to downstairs?”

Torgny blushed a bit at his friend’s blunt question, “Oh nobody, probably just another bird trying to make her way to you.”

“You sshhouldn’t be sloo hard on ya-self mate.” The affects of downing most of his reserve vodka was beginning to emerge through Will’s speech.

“I’m sure she was here to see you,” Torg lamented while starring carefully down at his hands.

“Aaand’t how’d ya know that? Sshe was talking to you, not me.”

“I know, but she wasn’t talking about me.”

Will’s eyebrows shot up as if to say, ‘Go on.’

Torgny sighed and continued, “She asked a lot of questions about the band and touring. Just small talk really.”

“Well, thhat’s a start.” Will blinked rapidly, in an earnest effort to keep the room from spinning beneath him and stop his double vision. It was hard giving love advice to one Torgny Backlund, let alone an entire clan of them. “Did you get her number?”

“Yeah.” He revealed simply and took another sip of beer.

“Then call her you twat.” Will slightly giggled and hiccuped at the same time, practically choking out his last word.

Torg smiled, “Maybe. I heard you talked to the black widow.”

Will sighed and laid down on the floor, flat on his back with sorrow clouding his eyes.

“How’s she doing?” He asked tentatively.

“Bat-shit crazy as ever. . . And higher than a kite.” Will paused a moment with a thoughtful expression on his face, then lifted his head up off the floor to stare at his friend perched on the edge of his bed. “You didn’t give her my new number, did you?”

“How could I?” I don’t even have it yet.”

“Oh,” Will pointed above his head towards the nightstand where his new phone lay. Torg retrieved it and produced his own phone from his back pocket.

“I have no idea how sshe keepths getting tthese numberths.”

“She’s some kind of ninja I suppose,” Torgny mused as he quickly typed the new number into his own phone and replaced Will’s on the nightstand. “You’re not thinking of getting back together, are you?”

“No! She cheated, it’s over.”

“Yeah I’ve heard that before, but she’s got her crazy-bitch-claws hooked in you deep my friend.” Taking pity on his now fully inebriated friend, Torg got up from the bed and began to pack Will’s remaining belongings.

“I’ll be fine this time I think,” Will mumbled from his place on the floor.

“Oh yes, you’re doing mighty fine teetering on the edge of the curb, about to plunge head first into the gutter.”

“I’m coping!” He fired back, trying and failing to shoot up with indignation from his planked position. He barely managed to squabble onto his side.

“Your coping seems a lot like drinking,” said Torgny in a matter-of-fact way.

Will rolled to the side of the bottom of his bed and gingerly propped himself up by leaning on it and squirming up the side. When he was in a some-what comfortable position he rubbed at his temples, seemingly trying to remember something. “I seem to have already had this conversation today, so please hold all other comments on the subject until tomorrow.”

“Fair enough, I reckon Dahl read you the riot act already.” He chuckled as he finished up his pack job, inconspicuously leaving out the still unopened bottle of vodka. He sneakily laid it down on the other side of the bed and tried to push it underneath the low box spring with his foot.

“Did I miss anything?”

“That bottle you just kicked under the bed.”

Torg winced, caught red footed. “You have the ears of a bat,” he said as he picked up the bottle and placed it in Will’s suitcase.

“My ears are just very keen to the sound of liquid sloshing around a glass bottle.”

Torgny sighed, zipped up the case and set it on it’s side. Will’s phone buzzed to life where it sat on the nightstand. When Will didn’t move to answer after the third buzz, Torg reached over and flipped it open. “Hello. . .” Once recognition of who it was crossed his face he mouthed, “It’s Dahlia.”

“Oh, what a surprise.”

“…Okay…I’ll have him down soon, I just finished getting him packed…Okay Dahl! I get it.” Torg flipped the phone closed and handed it to Will.

“She’s in a rather bristly mood today.”

“How could you tell the difference? She’ always on edge when we’re on tour.”

“Yes, but usually she saves her special attitude for you,” Torgny said as he crossed his arms over his chest in a petulant manner.

Will laughed at his friends’ childish response. “Well, maybe you’re the one who pissed her off for a change.”

Torg paused a second to think then shook his head, “That’s very unlikely. I think her annoyance with you is beginning to bleed out to the rest of us now.”

Will scowled, “Are we going or what?”

“As soon as you pull your ass up mate.”

Rather sluggishly, but as fast as he could manage, William drug his parts into a standing position. “Lead the way,” he said as he made to grab the top handle of his bag and missed by a foot.

“I’ll get that for you,” Torg said as he placed the case on the ground and extended the pull handle to roll it across the floor.

“I can do it,” Will protested.

“Are you sure?”

“It’s got wheels!”

“And again I ask, are you sure about this?”

“Jesus, Torgny I’m and alcoholic, not a dunce.”

Torg smiled and headed for the door, “First step is admittance.”

Will’s lips turned up into a grin, “Maybe you could be my sponsor.”

“I’m not so sure about that,” he said as he wagged the can of Guinness in Will’s face.










Chapter 3

Chapter III

Alex sat patiently in the lobby of her agent’s office waiting for Channing’s assistant to call her back. She was freezing to death. It made sense to turn the thermostat down during the summer but not to forty degrees! She knew Channing’s office would only be colder and she regretted not bringing a sweater to her meeting. It would seem odd to remember to bring extra warm clothing when the temperature outside was 104 degrees.

She tried not to think about how cold she was and quickly turned her attention to one of the magazines sitting on an in-table to the left of her. Alex leafed through it, completely uninterested in anything smattered across the pages. On about the twelfth page turn Channing’s assistant looked up from her computer and graced Alex with a rather obnoxious glance. She decided to stick with one page and stare at it blankly.

The office phone rang, thankfully breaking the silence. “Channing Frost’s office, this is Debbie

how may I assist your call?”

After Debbie’s salutations, Alex tuned her out almost immediately. Finally focusing on a page, she read about one of the many hot young starlets that were going down the wrong path. Yet directors were still tripping over themselves trying to sign her to their next big film.

“I just don’t understand Hollywood,” She mumbled to herself.

“What was that Miss Martucci?” Apparently, Channing’s secretary had the ears of a bat.

“Oh, nothing, I was just…talking to myself,” Alex replied completely deflated of self-esteem.

She looked back at her like Alex had miraculously grown another head, “ Oh…okay, well Channing is ready for you, you can go on in.”

“Great thanks.” Alex moved rigidly from her now warm leather chair and hastily snatched up the

magazine she had been reading.

Walking into her agent’s office sent shivers down her spine. She quickly plopped herself down in front of Channing’s glass-topped desk in a similarly comfy leather chair. This one, unfortunately, hadn’t just had a butt to warm it for twenty minutes. It felt more like sitting on a melted bag of ice. Alex vigorously rubbed her arms.

“If it was any colder in here there would be a blizzard warning!”

Channing looked up at her with wide charcoal lined eyes. Her soft alabaster cheeks turned up in a smile.

“What are you talking about?! I’m sweating like a whore in church.”

Alex giggled at that. It always made her laugh when her 56-year-old agent, that looked like the sweetest blonde-headed grandma ever seen, said something semi-dirty.

“Chan, I think you’re entering the change of life.”

“What! Are you crazy? I’m too young to be all dried up!”

“Alright, I’m just saying you might want to invest in some estrogen.”

“Anyway, that’s quite enough witless banter about my estrogen levels, I-”

“Yeah… I don’t want to talk about that anymore. I’m much more interested in this.”

Alex held up the rag magazine she had pilfered from the lobby, opened to the page that she had been skimming. Her interest piqued, Channing whisked the mag out of Alex’s hand and read the title of the piece out loud.

“Hillary Scott Snags Multi-Picture Deal Despite Recent Rocky Past.” She squawked and looked back to her client with a puzzled look.

“You’re interested in substance abuse? Do you want to play a crack head next?”

Alex blanched and sighed, “No, I don’t want to play a crack head next! I do, however, want to know why this particular cracked out bitch has a multi-picture deal with one of the best directors in

Hollywood. And I’m doing an off-Broadway play every night that is slowly killing a part of my soul.”

“Alex the only reason they want this drugged out diva is because she’s infamous now. She’s a hot ticket at the moment.”

“So all I have to do to become an actress with credibility is fall drunkenly out of a car without my underwear on?”

“Well yeah, that and doing a couple of lines off the Sunset strip curb wouldn’t hurt.”

Alex smirked at Chan’s blunt sarcasm.

“Do you really want to go back to Holly-Hell Alex?”

She thought about that for a minute. Going back to a place that had recently spit her out did not seem incredibly appealing.

“No…But I want something better than what I’m doing now. I hate this play. It depresses me even more than my already abysmal life.”

Channing paused at that and tried to collect her thoughts for a moment. Alex could tell she wasn’t going to like whatever it was she was about to lay on her.

“What are you thinking about in there?” She finally asked, pointing towards Channing’s head.

“Well, I was just wondering…How your personal life is going? Are you stressed out over anything in particular?”

“Only the normal stuff; friends, family, lack of love life.”

“Well shit Alex, is there any balance in your life at all?”

Alex looked around the room nervously and shuddered a sigh.

“I’m sure it’s not as bad as I make it out to be, you know I’m big on the worrying.”

Even though it was below zero in the office Alex’s temperature was heating up intensely. To the point where she was almost sweating.

“Alex I know it’s a sore subject but, how are your parents doing?”

She shifted back and forth in her squishy leather chair uncomfortably.

“They’re doing okay I guess. I’m still helping them out here and there…When I can, but other than that I think they’re fine.”

“And your friends? How have they been contributing to your stress?”

“I thought this was a business meeting, not a head shrinking session!”

Channing blanched at her outburst.

“It’s not. You’re not just a client of mine you know, I’d like to consider you as my friend. I care about what goes on in your life.”

Alex offered her an apologetic smile.

“My friends are fine, they’re just a bit unstable at the moment. Most of them are on the other side of the country anyway.”

“Well, Kim is here.”

Alex set her mouth in a grim straight line at that.

“That would cover the unstable portion.”

“Really? What’s going on there?”

“It’s nothing. She’s just going through something potentially life changing at the moment and I’m not really supposed to talk about it. But the thing is, for some reason even though she created the problem if I had done the same thing she would have judged the hell out of me.”

“I’m not sure I follow what you mean exactly.”

“Well…” Alex paused and sighed. She tried to put a smile on her face but it seemed like it pained her to stretch and skew her mouth muscles into something not so miserable.

“I know I’m not perfect but I haven’t done half the crazy shit she’s done, and I just know when this current problem blows over and I do one thing she doesn’t agree with you can bet your ass she’ll let me know about it.”

“It sounds like Kim has a major passive-aggressive issue.”

“Whatever it is it’s getting annoying. I just don’t get it. She comes to me with all of her wacky

problems, expecting me not to judge her on them, because I never would. In turn, she judges me for the most minuscule things.”

Alex threw her hands up in exasperation.

“It makes no sense!”

“Well I agree with that, friends shouldn’t judge each other. That’s just a good way to become enemies. And by you continuously not saying anything it’s just going to get worse. Then one day she’ll say something that will trigger you and you’ll blow up and rain down a shit storm upon her head.”

“…Yeah, that really wouldn’t be good.” Alex stared back at her dumbfounded.

“For someone that has witnessed the explosion of you before I would have to agree. Why can’t you talk to her about it ?”

“I want to, I just have no idea how! How do you tell your friend to stop being such a bitch? Things would just be so awkward after that, and I don’t want to rock the boat…Hell, besides you she’s the only friend I have on this island of misfits.”

Channing’s face softened as she sat back in her office chair and picked up her handheld mini fan.

“I understand that Alex, but what do you think is going to happen? She can’t break-up with you for crying out loud!”

“No, but she can refuse to ever see me again.”

“If she judges you and you find it annoying why would you want her hanging around anyway?”

“Because no one else seems to want to hang around, do they?!”

Channing could tell she had hit a nerve, as Alex sat out of breath with her head in her hands trying to compose herself. After a moment, from behind her fingers, she moaned, “Can we please separate business issues from personal tragedies?”

“Sure,” Channing replied meekly before getting up and grabbing a bottle of water out of her sleek black mini fridge. She didn’t hesitate as she came around to the other side of her desk and sat next to Alex, handing her the bottle and gently patting her shoulder.

“I do have some good news.”

“Really?” a glimmer of hope shown through in her voice as she peeked out from behind her hair that had fallen to curtain her face.

“There’s a casting going on in LA right now and one of the producers is interested in seeing you.”

“Do you mean ‘seeing me’ as in just me? Or as in me and all the other brown eyed brunettes that act and waitress in LA?”

“I mean just you crazy lady!”

“Oh…Well then, that sounds good.”

Alex seemed to have brightened up a bit at the prospect of a new gig, but Channing could still sense a hint of sadness behind her eyes. Unfortunately, the undercurrent of despair seemed to flow freely in Alex’s life these days. At times it seemed as if at any moment she could burst into tears. The moment anyone noticed, she sucked in her emotions and shut down.

“I knew I could put a smile back on that face.”

“So what’s next? Do I need to fly out soon?” Will I need time off from the play? Cause I have no problem with that.”

“Okay calm down,” Channing laughed.

“You’ll fly out in two weeks, I’ll book the flight of course. I’ll need you to pick out a hotel to stay at, and the playhouse will be dark during your trip so we won’t have to worry about that.”

“Finally some good news.” Alex let out a deep sigh of relief.

“In the meantime, why don’t you get out and try to enjoy yourself for a change?”

She looked back at Channing perplexed.

“I enjoy myself plenty.”

“Really? Cause you seem to be wound tighter than a steel drum.” She snorted back.

“You can’t progress as an actress and learn to become someone else if you hardly interact with other human beings. Stop being such a hermit and have some fun. You can only be a twenty something for so


“Really? Because I seem to remember celebrating your forty-ninth birthday three years in a row.”

“That’s enough out of you, I was born on a leap year…Get off my back.”

“Okay fine, I’ll let that one go. Are we done with business today? Because I must get back to my shoe box apartment and my shitty life.”

After she left Channing’s office Alex took a cab to Spark’s on West Broadway. Just because she was a hermit didn’t mean she was heartless. She wanted to check up on Kim. Usually, when her best friend was going through a crisis she threw herself into her work and tried to put her troubles on the back burner. This major hiccup in her life would be no exception.

When Alex entered the trendy cafe she immediately spotted her friend sitting at a corner table, furiously working through her lunch break. So entranced she was by whatever was flashing across her laptop screen, she didn’t even notice when Alex plopped herself down in the chair across from her.

“How many ginger spiced teas have you had?”

Finally, Kim looked up, startled and wide-eyed.


Alex giggled and gestured towards the stack of used paper cups that all had strings and tea tags still attached to them.

“Oh, well…Just these…And maybe one or two from this morning. You know, just to get the day going.”

“Right,” Alex responded uneasily.

Kim sprang up to attention, “Hey! Don’t judge me okay, I’ve got a lot I’m dealing with at the moment.”

“Calm down you loon! Nobody’s judging here, you’re just so hopped up on ginger root you can barely focus.”

Kim let out a deep sigh and sagged back into her uncomfortable wooden chair.

“I know, I’m sorry. I’m just paranoid and I still haven’t made a decision on what to do about my…Maternal Dilemma.”

“So I’m guessing you haven’t talked to Nick about it yet. Oh, by the way, I think ‘maternal dilemma’ is putting it just a skosh lightly.”

“No, I can barely look him in the eye right now. Every time we’re around each other I make some kind of lame excuse and rush off to work, or the drug store, or anything that will take his attention off me for long periods of time.”

“Well the way I see it, you have three possible scenarios to explore. You could not tell him at all and just you know, have it taken care of…”

Kim visibly cringed.

“… Or you could tell him about it and decide together how to handle the situation.”

“So far all of these options suck,” Kim whined.

“Well, then there’s option three.”

“Which would be what exactly?”

“You could tell Nick that you’re pregnant and just let him believe it’s his baby…In which case, there’s a special place in hell waiting for you.”

Kim nervously chewed on her perfectly manicured thumbnail.

“Which would you choose?

“I don’t know that I can honestly answer that question since I repel men and subsequently would never be in this particular predicament.

“Oh well, that’s just ridiculous! You don’t repel men. If anything your beauty is just majorly intimidating.”

Alex laughed hard. “You’re right I don’t repel men, I just seem to find the ones with so many self-involved issues they can barely see straight. And then I fix them, and then they leave. I’m more like

some kind of emotional car wash really.”

Kim chuckled, “Well that’s what you get when you insist on dating the pretty ones.”

“I don’t insist, they just seem to find me. I’m a beacon for the damaged and vain!”

“Better that than a beacon of fertility,” Kim frowned.

At that moment the sun peaked out from behind a puffy cloud and glared severely through the coffee shop window. Alex quickly threw up her hand to block the glare from her steady gaze on Kim.

“How can you stand hot tea? Besides the fact that it’s the middle of summer, it also happens to be the most miserable part of the day.”

“I don’t give a fuck! I’m trying to find my happy place right now Alex, and in my happy place there’s a lot of tea, okay!?”

Alex sighed, “ Okay jeez!…Your happy place wouldn’t happen to be Sri Lanka…?”

She shut her mouth quickly as Kim pinned her with her own severe glare.

Alex woke up with her heart pounding in her ears with a blaring thump. Her bedside clock read ‘2:43 am. Carefully and trembling she threw back her covers and padded unsteadily to her small kitchen. By the time she retched open the refrigerator door she’d realized how labored her breathing had become. As she reached in for a bottle of water flashes of the dream that had disrupted her slumber ran through her brain.

Chapter 2



Screams of hysteria could be heard all throughout the venue as the last notes of the set drowned into the sea of hundreds of screaming girls. William had stumbled off the stage a third of the way through the last song of the night, too drunk and short of breath to finish out the gig. Fortunately, his absence improved the bands’ sound tenfold. It was becoming way too difficult to keep up with and understand the slurred gurgling of their heavily inebriated lead singer.  Yet the girls still lost their shit each and every time William opened his mouth to rasp out his melancholic love songs.

That’s why they loved him so much. Will was a damaged goods drunkard that smoked like a chimney, but he wrote and sung about love like he was a modern day Shakespeare. His verbal imagery put most song writers to shame and made the most mainstream artist sound like the mindless prattle of a three-year-old.

Of course, his looks didn’t hurt his case; piercing green eyes, pouty sensual lips that curled the sexiest snarl on just the right notes, high cheek bones, long brown hair, and a sickly skinny form marred with many tattoos. He was the ultimate fangirl fantasy. .If self-inflicted health habits weren’t included in the package.

Will slammed open the door of the green room so hard the door knob left a small dent in the wall. He walked across the room and fell into a black leather couch in the corner. Every night, for about ten minutes, Will had this time to himself while his band mates finished the outro. Each night he would blindly find his way to the green room at every venue and drink until someone picked him up and schlepped him back to the tour bus or the hotel.

From the couch, he surveyed the brightly lit room with glassy blood-shot eyes. To the right of him was a long table with bottles upon bottles of beer, red wine, and hard liquor. There were also small bottles of mixers and a few rows of empty glasses, but refills only got in the way of Will’s determination to continuously drink himself into a delusional stupor.

Now all he had to do was get to the table, or crawl as he did on occasion. It was easier said than done. The room was not only spinning but vibrating as well. The vibration was most likely attributed to the weed/hash combo he had smoked on the bus two hours before hand. Today would have to be a crawl day.

Will gingerly reached his left hand outward towards the ground, trying to find the carpet with his eyes closed. He ended up with his head between his knees for about three minutes while he took a mid-crawl snooze. His body twitched in discomfort and jerked him awake. Remembering the mission, he slowly somersaulted his gangly scarecrow body off the couch and maneuvered himself into downward dog position.

“It’s a good thing nobody’s here to see this,” He gurgled.

Carefully, he crawled with the speed of a snail towards the table that held anything and everything amazing he could possibly think of. The many bottles and glasses shimmered and glowed enticingly under the glorious fluorescent lighting. William had stopped to stare off to the side of the room where the door was, hoping and praying he still had enough time to get to the table and back to the couch before his bandmates finished out the set and walked back to the green room.

The thought of anyone catching him in such a pathetic position lit a fire under his ass. He made it to the table, sat back on his hunches, picked out a dark whiskey, and began to embark one his voyage back to couch island. It’s a sad day when a six-foot-two man has to climb onto a couch, but the motor skills it required to stand and sit had escaped him for the time being.

Finally seated, mostly slouched, he broke the plastic seal on the brand new bottle of whiskey with nibble fingers. No matter how lost in the sauce he was, his body always seemed to go into auto pilot when opening an alcoholic beverage. Though he was panting from very minor exertion, he still felt the need to light up a cigarette so that he may fully enjoy his inebriated state. Once lit, he let it dangle precariously from his lips for a moment before removing it from his mouth, tilting his head back, and chugging about a fourth of the fiery liquid.

“And life is good once again”

Suddenly, a buzzing, tingling sensation ran through his body. It pulsated . . . And also rang?

“Oh, tith’s the phhhone.” He fumbled with the bottle to reach into his front pocket and pull out his cell, adding a dash of whiskey and a sprinkling of ash to his shirt. He held the vibrating phone close to his face in order to read the caller I.D.

“Elise. Clearly, this isn’t the best time to talk!” He growled through a moment of absolute clarity. He then whipped the phone at the wall across from him so hard; half of it lodged itself into the wall. The other half burst into a dozen tiny shards of black metal and glass.

“I don’t want to talk to you,” He murmured softly.

For a moment, there was nothing but silence. William sat completely still staring slack-jawed at the little remains of his cell phone. The amber brown liquid in his bottle was stagnant, and even the fluorescents had seemed to cease their incessant hum.  For the first time in months Will felt calm almost centered. A heavy burden seemed to have been lifted for that moment, and he was calm for the first time in a very long while.

Just then, the green room door swung open and a parade of after party goers flooded into the room. Will remained on his couch unfazed by the sudden and unwanted change in vibe and took another long swing from the bottle. Some group of girls with V.I.P lanterns strung around their necks had B-lined it to the couch and plopped themselves very closely to him. One girl’s hand had miraculously found its way into his lap. He followed the view of her hand up to her arm, and then to her face.

She had lots of dark charcoal colored makeup heavily drawn around her eyes. Her lips were the color of dried blood and she seemed to have the entire rainbow spectrum splattered in her hair. She was yammering loudly over the crowd at him about some mindless dribble.

“Oh my God! You guy seriously rocked it tonight! Your lyrics are so powerful, nobody writes like you.” She went on and on impressively never taking a breath.

Will carefully picked up her hand at the wrist from his lap with his thumb and pointer finger, and placed it on her knee.

“I believe tthis belongs to you missh.”

She had finally shut her trap long enough to look disgustedly from her hand on her knee and back towards him.

“Yeah, so anyway, whatever.” She said in a huff, stood abruptly and wondered over to her next victim.

When Will turned his head back towards the spot on the couch that rainbow bright had vacated, his manager Melissa had taken her place. Apparently, even with the cover of all these people mucking about, she had still found some of the tiny pieces of his now deceased phone. She was holding them up to his face, staring back at him with an obnoxiously questioning look.

“I’m gonna need a new phhhone.”

She looked at him with comical disappointment.

“This time . . . Silveeer. Not black.”

Clutching her hands around the metal shards, she dropped her arm out of his line of blurry vision.

“How many of these do you plan on going through on this tour? Ball park figure?”

Will hated when she used her American terms with him.

“If you’d stop giving her my number . . .”

“Numbers,” She interrupted.

“My numburths,” He countered, spittle flying from his mouth every which way.

“Well if you would actually answer the phone the damn thing to see what exactly she wants,”

“I don’t care what that evil bitch wants, she can fucking jump off a cliffff for all I care!”

Luckily, the room was too loud and crowded for anyone to really hear their conversation. Most of it drifted into the crowd and was lost, but a couple of people around their area had heard what Will had said. They turned their backs on them with disturbed looks on their faces.

“Could you possibly keep your voice down?” She whispered furiously into his ear.

“I’m sorry; I don’t even want to be here. I want to go back to the bus.” He whispered back.

Out of the corner of his eye, he could see his bass player Torgny making his way over to him.

“Well you can’t go back just yet; people from the label are here. And besides, we’re not even leaving Bristol tonight; we’re staying at the Du Vin.”

“Well take me there then.”

“I can’t, the label!”

“I don’t care about the bloody label!”

Thankfully, Torgny interrupted their whisper tangent by shoeing away a girl seated to the right of Will and throwing his ass down on the semi-soft couch cushion.

“How ya doing’?” Torg asked in Wills direction.

Will held up his bottle and replied, “Fabulous,” Completely deadpanned.

“I can see that.” He said without hiding his disappointment.

Will noticed the sad decent of his friend’s face and it actually sobered him up a bit. He quickly tried to change the subject.

“How do you think the gig went tonight?”

“Good, really good, well after you stumbled your drunk ass off the stage that is.

A stab of pain shot through Will’s temples at his friend’s mention of his failure. His conversation diversion had led him directly to an oncoming crash.

“I’m sorry.” He apologized pathetically. “I’ll drink less during the set next time.”

Torg’s nostrils flared and the copper colored skin under his light brown beard flushed red.

“That’s what you said last night, and the week before that!”

Nervously, Melissa reached over and patted Torg on the knee, “Calm down dude.”

People around the threesome had started to shuffle away with extremely uncomfortable looks on their faces.

“We can talk about this later at the hotel,” She whispered harshly.

From across the room, Melissa had spotted two men in expensive suits talking to each other while surveying the room. One was completely bald and stout. He wore a black suit, a crisp white shirt, and a striped gray tie. The other was tall and slender with salt and pepper hair. His suit was a deep blue color, he wore a black shirt underneath with no tie. They were most definitely from the label, and she was pretty positive they had both heard Torg’s outburst.

Torgny was calm now, but Will was just getting his second wind.

“We can talk about this right fucking now!”

He bellowed this as his long legs shot him up into a half standing, half slowly falling position. Blood rushed every which way inside of his body, except for his head. He deftly planted his hand directly on top of his manager’s head to stabilize himself.

By now the whole room was looking uncomfortable and nervous. Some people were checking for the exit and some were just blatantly fleeing the scene. William was teetering from one foot to the other, which was practically breaking Melissa’s neck as she was still acting as the main support system. Now that Torg had seen the men from the label he wasn’t interested in continuing their screaming match. He stood and carefully removed Will’s hand from Melissa’s head. Gingerly, he picked out the strands of hair that had tangled between his fingers and slung Will’s arm around his shoulder to keep him steady. All Will could do was stare off to the side blankly.

“I’m going to bring him up to the room and then I’ll be back down.”

Melissa shook her head in compliance and pulled out a key card from her back pocket.

“Here, make sure there isn’t anything in the room that will cause more trouble.” She said as she placed the fob in his outreach hand.

“Bitch!” Will huffed under his breath.

Torg spun on his heel, quickly schlepping William through the parted party goers that had now gone completely silent. He left the room as speedily as possible while connected to another human being that was a hundred and forty pounds of dead weight.

Chapter 1



The sniffles of the audience resounded throughout the theater, signaling she had them in the palm of her hand. She cried right along with them until finishing the scene and walked off stage right. A new scene began as Alex was pulled into a darkened corner behind a sheet by a female stagehand.  Lisa, or Lauren, began to undress her and reached for a new costume. “You’re doing so great Miss Martucci.”

“Thanks.” Alex was wiping at her still dripping eyes and trying to calm herself down.

The stagehand placed a small bottle of eye drops in her hand and began to button her blouse.

“Can I ask you a question?”

Alex turned to her, almost void of any semblance of emotion. “Sure, of course.”

The stagehand looked up at her straight on, as if she was trying to muster up the courage and nerve. Her bottom lip quivered a bit. Alex shifted the weight on her feet back and forth uncomfortably.

“You’re a pretty established actress now…Why did you decide to go back to stage acting?”

Alex stared back at her numbly, trying to come up with a quick answer that would please the girl and get her to shut up at the same time. She most definitely couldn’t tell her the truth. “Well, I love being on stage. I feel more connected to the audience. It’s much more fulfilling than acting for cameras and grips.”

Alex mentally patted herself on the back. It did sound much better than the truth, my career is taking a dive and all my agent could get me was this shitty off-Broadway play just didn’t have the same deep, introspective actress tone to it.  In fact, it just made her sound bitter.

The young girl seemed to accept that as an answer and moved on to reapplying her makeup. “That totally makes sense, I mean it’s great when you really get something out of your work right?”

Alex was horrified by her overly bubbly response. How a person could be in such a good mood in New York of all places boggled her mind. This cream puff of a girl clearly belonged on a beach somewhere wearing shorty shorts and turning an unnatural shade of processed food orange number 8, not asking personal questions about her career.

Alex went into defense mood. “I’m sorry I didn’t get your name…”

The puff ball looked up at her obliviously to apply some lip gloss to her lips.

“I’m Lisa.”

Her memory of meeting the girl came back quickly with the name.

“Oh, that’s right. Sorry, my mind is elsewhere.”

Lisa seemed unfazed. “No problem.”

Alex remembered when her director Mark had pointed out Lisa during rehearsals and had told her she was his niece. She was almost nineteen. Alex was suddenly surprised at how much younger she had thought the girl was than herself when Alex was only twenty-four.  It had become hard to keep simple things straight from time to time. So much had happened since she had moved from LA to New York. She was a pretty well-established actress now, with a lot on her plate.

Her parents were a big part of the weight. Most of the money she was making these days ended up being sent back home; no matter how badly she was hurting. Alex knew her parents needed the money. They just weren’t able to make it on their own. Alex looked up when she noticed the puff ball was yapping at her again.

“Look up towards the light so I can reapply your eyes.”

Without saying anything, Alex tilted her face towards a small black desk lamp that had been mounted on to a beam above a small mirror that was barely large enough to see your own eyes in. Lisa pushed back her carefully groomed brown bangs and re-lined her eyes in heavy charcoal. It was important for everyone in the house to see her expressions without having to strain, so she was heavily made up and caked on.

Alex listened carefully for her cue to rejoin the cast on stage. It was coming soon but puff and fluff hadn’t yet wiped off her base makeup and redone her blush. She was getting antsy now. She couldn’t be late on. It would throw off the whole play and confuse the audience to no end. Not to mention it would be the epitome of unprofessionalism.

Out of the corner of her eye, Alex spotted a makeup cloth. Her hands began to itch to grab it and clean off her face. The feeling of dried tear streaks down her cheeks and neck was a blunt reminder of how messy she looked. As her arm twitched to swipe the cloth, the sparkle queen finally reached for it and began to clean her off. This would have been fine if her entrance wasn’t now only three beats away! And the girl was rushing as fast as a sloth on heroin.

This is ridiculous, Alex thought. “Here, I’ll help you.” She grabbed a blush brush, dipped it in some blush with the thickness of face paint, and began to blindly rub it into her cheeks.

“Oh, are you sure? I could…” but before Lisa could finish her thought Alex threw down the brush, turned on her heel, and scuttled towards the stage leaving the speck of glitter in a high state of confusion.

Alex didn’t feel that bad, she figured Lisa was in that state quite often. Her leading man was about to cue her on stage. She sucked in her breath sharply and released it, trying to get rid of the butterflies in her belly. She found herself feeling so nervous almost every time she entered a scene. She wasn’t as comfortable with the stage as she was on the sound stage. Her belly butterflies were beginning to feel more like pterodactyls flapping about, trying to break free of her constricting digestive system. She would just have to use her fear in the scene. And try not to pass out under the flaming hot lights.

Alex sucked in another deep breath and jerked herself into the scene and onto the stage. She stepped into the spotlight once again. Soft Rose and Bastard Amber warmed her body instantly. The heat was a welcome change from the chilly wings backstage. She settled into the scene nicely and found a rhythm with her acting partner Devon. He was a polite man/boy with the appearance of an overgrown Kewpie doll. His shock of blond hair even came to a point at the top of his perfectly oval head. His cheeks were rosy, his eyes were blue, and sometimes Alex couldn’t get the image of him in a diaper out of her noggin.

Paraphilic infantilism aside, Devon really wasn’t Alex’s type. But he was the bee’s knees for her scatterbrained character. Luckily this was the breakup scene where Devon’s character Alec left Alex’s character Joan for a cute red headed paleontologist named Amy. Unfortunately for Alex, this scene brought out the absolute worst parts of Joan.

“I don’t understand what I did…Just tell me and I’ll fix it!” Alex sobbed out her lines up stage right, carefully watching her back the whole time. Needless to say, stupid Joan was so unstable. Alex hated reliving the golden age of seventeen every night via Joan; the mousy bookworm with low self-esteem and a poor body image. Not that she thought uber highly of herself, but she certainly was not a Joan.

Devon was yelling down stage left towards her now. He hadn’t forgotten his lines but he was jumbling them up a bit to the point where Alex wasn’t sure when or where to come in at. She was frustrated and worried it would show on her overly expressive face. Luckily the audience didn’t notice and must have chalked up her confusion as part of Joan’s inner turmoil.

“Don’t try to understand, just let me go and get on with your life! Can’t you see how you’re dragging me down?” On the end side of the word, ‘down’ Devon’s voice cracked. He was going with the quite sensitive approach tonight. Which was completely absurd since the entire point of this particular scene was that Alec was a self-absorbed bag of sleaze that oozed a level of confidence that was impossible to achieve.  Over time these subtle changes during a live scene had become an annoyance to Alex. She didn’t know how to plan out her reactions correctly ahead of time if Devon tried to keep things “exciting” every night.

Alex countered Devon’s left field acting by throwing herself down on her knees and crying boisterously and intentionally comedic. Bringing a comical element into Devon’s dramatic ‘abandonment scene’ threw him off his game and flustered him more than ever. The audience’s tone had switched and many were laughing. Devon haughtily made his exit with his last line, obviously annoyed with Alex, not Joan.

“I’m leaving now,” he blurted and left her on stage.

Her sobs began to ebb away. This was the part where unstable Joan began to pack her things, ripping clothes off hangers and throwing them haphazardly into a large red suitcase strategically placed under the set bed. Now she would have to crush the audience’s good mood and depress them all over again. It was the consequence to embarrassing Devon and going for a laugh in a dramatic play.

She packed her fake clothes into her fake suitcase while furiously wiping at her eyes and giving a monolog about how she had been so stupid to fall in love with such a loser like Alec. Sometime during this process, Alex’s brain had left the building and she was no longer acting. She was merely going through the motions and saying the right lines to be finished with her scene. It baffled her that she had been so nervous not fifteen minutes ago to step out on stage, and now she was completely subdued. It was as if someone had switched off the faucet marked ‘passion.’ What little she had left spiraling down the drain quickly.

The house was silent. Alex picked up a fake framed photograph beside her fake bed. The picture was of her and Devon posing as their couples’ counterparts. She paused, frame in hand, and took in the room, now in shambles. As tears continuously streamed down her face, Alex hurled the photo through a dummy window. It shattered the fake glass made of confection sugar. The audience gasped and out of the corner of her eye, Alex saw a few people backstage jump, including puff ‘n’ fluff.

Finally, she picked up her suitcase and walked up stage left towards the set bedroom door. As she grabbed the door handle, Alex took in the room one last time. It was important to pause at this point to show the audience all the damage Joan would be letting go of. In a film, a bad film, but a film non-the-less this might be the part where a slow motion montage flash-back ran of Joan and Alec’s failed relationship.

They would be seen strolling through the park hand in hand, cut to them having some deep conversation on their couch late at night. Them eating out at a fancy restaurant, Alec feeding Joan a spoonful of some chocolate fudge dessert. But on the stage, the boring same old stage, that only saw the same sad tacky story played out over and over every night; all that happened was a long drawn out pause…And maybe a deep sigh for good measure. Tonight felt like a deep sigh kind of crowd.

She pulled the door open slowly looking straight ahead. The house had seen enough raw emotion for one night. Alex stepped through the doorframe and closed it behind her as the set went dark.


     Later that night Alex returned to her spacious studio apartment in the West 70s. A spacious studio apartment in New York City usually only meant you had to walk three steps from the bed to the bathroom. And you couldn’t fry an egg in your kitchen while soaking in the bathtub. Upon entering her real apartment she flipped on the living room lights and plopped down heavily on the couch. She threw her hand to the side, groped for the answering machine atop the in-table, and pressed play. BEEP BEEP, “first message…Hi, Alex how was the show tonight?” For some reason, her agent, Channing liked to pepper her voicemail with social niceties that couldn’t possibly be answered. “Hey listen I really need you to come to the office tomorrow, it’s important. Call me ASAP!”

Superficial dread swept over her immediately. Though she liked Channing as a friend she hated having client/agent meetings. It always felt so technical and cold and confused the lines of their already rocky friendship. “Next message…Hey girl! It’s me, I miss you, we haven’t seen each other in forever! Text me.”

“I just saw you last week!” Alex yipped back at the machine; she was beginning to believe Nick’s complaints of Kim’s clingy disposition within their relationship. It didn’t help that Alex was becoming such a hermitized loner. Lately, any time she was out with Kim and Nick she couldn’t wait to run home and shut herself in and away from the rest of the world.

“Next message…Hi, sweetheart.” Crap. This was the beginning of a bank-breaking message that came along with generous portions of aggravation and debt. “I hate to ask but I was wondering if you could send just a bit more money so I can buy some groceries? Again I hate to ask but your sister needed some new shoes and I had to use the money you sent before to cover that and I…Message erased.” Alex didn’t need to know the amount, and she probably wouldn’t until her bank statement came at the end of the month. Opening an account with her mother’s name on it was possibly the worst financial decision she had ever made.

If her father ever found out that her mom had access to that account he’d probably flip his lid, and hers for that matter. Fortunately for her mom, Tom Martucci liked to keep his head buried deep in the sand.

Now fully depressed, Alex slouched off the couch and walked to her bedroom area and turned on her laptop that was still sitting on her night stand from the day before. Whenever she started up her computer it, for some reason, reminded her of her parent’s first computer. Her new one was faster than any she’d ever seen and it had never given her any grief. Her parent’s, on the other hand, had to be coaxed to slowly wheeze back to life, and it was barely strong enough to handle the internet. The printer on that dinosaur was also a huge embarrassment, seeing as the thing believed it was some kind of printer/type writer hybrid.

Alex began to lose herself in an old black and white film she had saved on her computer while relaxing on her bed. The dark hues of noir? began to lull her to sleep. Inside she was still just barely awake, dancing on the razor’s edge of consciousness. Her outside was a different story; her jaw had gone slack and a bit of moisture was trying to escape her mouth. Just as her lips twitched in response there was a loud quick banging at her front door.

She shot up frightened and disoriented; wiping the back of her hand across her mouth she cursed her bad sleeping habits. “Stupid drool!” The banging continued.

“Alex!” a voice on the other side called. It was Kim.

She turned to her bedside digital clock that told her it was almost three o’clock in the morning, and her eyes almost fell out of her face. “Alex!”

Alex hopped off her bed and padded quickly to the front door, throwing it open without pause and already yelling at her best friend “SOMEONE BETTER BE DEA…” But at first glance, the look on Kim’s face said that someone might very well be dead.

Her friend was standing in the hall with her short brown hair matted to the sides of her face with tears in her brown almond eyes. Her lips were quivering and she was leaning on the door frame for some support. Alex was wondering when the other shoe would drop with Nick. “Get in here!” She rushed Kim into her apartment and sat her down on the couch. She spent the next ten minutes making tea, getting Kim tissues, pouring tea, and swaddling her friend in a large black sweater.

“Now that you’re calm can you please tell me why the hell you’re screaming bloody murder outside my door at this ungodly hour?”

Kim took a deep breath and held it in until she almost turned blue,

“Breath, Kim.”

She let it out in a hapless sigh. “Thanks…Promise not to judge me?”

Alex patted Kim’s folded hands. “Aw honey, I already know you’re crazy.”

A small smile broke on Kim’s face, Alex let out a tiny giggle. “I think I might have accidently got myself knocked up,” she told Alex while staring blindly at her own folded hands.

Now it was Alex’s turn to take a deep breath. “Please tell me it’s Nick’s.” She was grappling for a shred of hope.

Kim’s face scrunched up and she looked completely away. “Well…”

“Oh what the shit Kim! I can’t even handle this right now! We agreed no personal disasters before eleven a.m.…You are in serious breach of a verbal contract.”

Alex sprang to her feet and began to pace back and forth in front of Kim, who sat sullen on the couch very red in the face. This was not how her quiet night alone was supposed to be. For one, you needed to be alone and that had all gone to pot thirty minutes ago. She stopped mid pace and turned to Kim. “So who else could it be?” Alex realized her stance was very motherly and scolding, she dropped her arms out of the firm fold they had been in and sat back down beside her best friend.

Kim spoke very carefully, as if to keep from incriminating herself as a hoe bag. Even if she was a big bag of hoes, Alex would still love her the same. She had always been there for her. “Do you remember my ex boyfriend Jackson?”

The name rang a bell somewhere in her brain. “Kind of I guess.” Alex urged her to continue. “Have you seen him lately?”

“Well I met with him for coffee about three months ago, just before I moved in with Nick. I don’t know why I had this urge to see him after all this time had gone by but I did and then we…”

Alex filled in the blanks. “Accidently ran back to his place and had sex?”

Kim let out another big puff of air “Basically.”

     “And let me guess. You didn’t use protection because accidental sex doesn’t really count right?”

     Though she said this in a joking nonjudgmental way, Kim was still tortuously embarrassed. She bobbed her head up and down and blurted out, “It was off the books sex,” before she crumbled all over again. Alex could tell this was going to be a long night that would carry into the early morning.