Here's the next chapter. If you haven't read chapter one yet, you can find it here. If you have any thoughts then please share them, constructive criticism is always great!
The clock’s ticking. Outside the wind is roaring. On the opposite side of the bed, Alison is snoring. Matt can’t sleep.
He sits up and switches on his bedside lamp, unsure what to do other than shoot Alison to shut her up. Not an option. He wanders over to the window and peers through the curtains, looking out onto the city.
Their flat is at the very top of this building, with a beautiful balcony garden; nestled in between skyscrapers. He can see so many of the famous New York landmarks, thrilling to him at the age of twenty but meaningless now. He remembers the days when he dreamed of meeting some wonderful girl at the top of the Empire State Building. Pfft. When he took Alison up there, the day they came back from their honeymoon, all she cared about was having her photo taken. Being there with Matt was irrelevant, despite how hard he tried to make it romantic.
Still, he wonders if he was the reason for the marriage going nowhere. He’s not sure what he did wrong, but she blames it on him so often that he’s almost convinced.
He picks up the lyrics he’d been writing, the words blurring on the page in the dim light. So full of sadness, too close to the harsh reality of his empty life. Does he even want to sing those to the world? Sometimes that’s the only way he can escape from it, though.
People still think he’s content. On their last anniversary, his Facebook was flooded with messages telling him how cute he and Alison are together, how lucky he is to have a woman like her, how amazing it is that they’re still happy. Is that really what they see? Well, of course it is. They’ve perfected the portrayal of that to the public. Often he wants to bang all their heads together and scream at them that they’re wrong, they’re so hideously wrong. They don’t know how many times he’s gazed at the pills in the cupboard as if they’re his saviour. Do they know how it tears him apart sometimes, just when someone grabs him in the shop when all he wants is to buy his beer, and they beg him for a photograph? They don’t know anything. But he’s not allowed to complain. He’s famous. That’s what he gets.
He picks up his pen. Two more lines and the song will be finished. He knows what they are now.
But I’d trade the lights and my money, baby,
If it wasn’t too late for someone to save me.
One more month of dire promotion before the new album is released. Three more until he goes on tour again. He’s looking forward to that. The travel is harsh, and by the end all the nights blur into one and all he wants is to go home, collapse in his own bed. Seeing new places lost its charm a few tours ago. Whether his liver will still be in working order after a year on the road is a different story, but never mind. Touring, playing his music is what he endures the fame for. He still loves his fans, even if he gets exasperated with them sometimes. It’s not long, he shouldn’t kill himself or anything when it’s so close.
Already, though, his mind is jumping to when the tour is over, when there’ll be nothing left to look forward to. What then? He desperately writes and writes with his aching hand, hoping that maybe he’ll have enough songs to go straight back into the studio.
He’s given up on Azura or whatever her name was. It’s been a month, he’s not going to see her again.
Or so he thought.
He still wanders into that Duane Reade store every now and then, although he’s stopped bothering to look at the assistants. There’s nobody here, today, though; and when he shouts “hey, is anybody home?” the girl who peers around one of the shelves, looking bored and annoyed, is Azura. She rolls her eyes and trudges over to the checkout.
She doesn’t even hear him. He picks up a bag of Doritos – hell, he doesn’t even remember what he actually wanted, he doesn’t care anymore – and pointedly places it down in front of her, fixing his eyes on her pretty face.
“Where were you?”
She frowns bewilderedly, locking eyes with him for the first time.
“That week. The week I first came in here, looking for aspirin. Where were you?”
“Erm… when was that? I think I was in Rochester. Why?”
“I… don’t know, I… sorry. I don’t know. Just ignore me.”
She shrugs. “Alright. Here’s your change.”
He holds the one dollar bill tightly in his hand, wracking his brain for a reason to stay here. He can’t think of one. She looks at him expectantly, not ignoring him for the first time, even though he told her to. How can she stand there, so calm and composed, when he’s screaming inside? Doesn’t she realise? Eventually he decides he has to leave and trips over his own foot. Oh, God. What the hell is he doing, acting like an infatuated teenager? He ought to go back and say something, like the fully grown man that he is. He doesn’t, though. He hangs around outside for a while, still clinging onto the one dollar bill that she touched; then he goes back home, carefully placing it on his bedside table. There’s some Polish magazine interviewing him later, and when he gets home from that, Alison has taken the one dollar bill. He feels like killing her. Ugh. Instead he just yells at her when she gets home. For once she doesn’t sneer and snap some bitchy comeback at him. She just frowns, baffled as to why her husband is so worked up over a one dollar bill. It’s a Tuesday so she switches the TV on, puts her headphones in and says they can have sex if he wants, as long as he shuts up. He shouts that he doesn’t want to and storms out of the flat. God, what has he just done? He’s not going to get any for another week now.
Some vague remain of his ruined sense tells him that alcohol is not the answer. Instead he drives to his parents’ house, to spend the night there. He needs to calm down. The writhing streets of Manhattan are not the place to do that.
He stops the car on their drive as a light flickers on in the hallway. Everything is quiet and he stares at the wheel, frowning.
Did he really just storm out of his flat, refuse sex and drive out here over a one dollar bill? Jesus Christ.
He gets up early the next morning, sneaking out of the door before anybody sees him. His parents were out and he ended up walking in on Elisa and her boyfriend… hell, he didn’t even know she had a boyfriend. Has he drifted so far apart from them that updating him isn’t relevant anymore? Well, right now he’s just glad that he’s leaving.
“Fucking idiot.” he mutters to himself as he starts his car up. “All because of a fucking one dollar bill.”
At least Bobby wasn’t there. That could have been a disaster.
Alison isn’t anywhere to be found. That’s probably a good thing. He goes out again as soon as it gets dark; just in case she’s decided she wants to argue it out with him.
He doesn’t go to a bar, this time. Or at least not immediately. Hiding behind a scarf and sunglasses, he hangs around the Duane Reade store, trying to find a reason to talk to Azura. She’s there, he’s checked. He was convinced that this disguise was perfect… but his peroxide-blond hair is unmissable. It’s not long before a group of excitable fans in t-shirts appear out of nowhere.
“Oh my God, it’s really you!”
“This is the best day of my life! Oh my God! Look, look, look – we’re all your biggest fans. I can’t believe this!”
“This isn’t happening to me!”
Biting back a sigh of exasperation, he just pulls off his scarf and smiles a forced smile, listening to them babble about how excited and lucky they are. Eventually they stop and all pile into a photo, before realising that they haven’t got anybody to take it. One of them groans and grabs the next person to walk out of the store, begging them to take the camera.
“What? What the hell is this?”
English accent. Oh, God, it’s her! It’s actually Azura. Shit, how pissed off is she going to be about this?! He peers over one of the girls’ shoulder, trying to look apologetic.
“Don’t worry about it…”
She’s already taken the camera, looking irritated but actually a little sympathetic towards him. Once they’ve got the photo and an autograph each, they seem to lose interest and scurry off without even saying thanks. He looks at Azura, feeling mortified.
“Uh… sorry. I had no idea. I didn’t tell them to do that.”
She shrugs. “Whatever. I kind of feel sorry for you. You don’t get any privacy.”
“…No. I guess not.”
Could he have said anything less interesting? He’s forgotten how to talk to a girl. Especially one who couldn’t care less that he’s a rock star. She’s already turned to leave.
Another bumbling burble. She doesn’t even hear, this time, but one of the other assistants from the store catches up with her. For a moment they stop and he catches their conversation. They’re going to some club tonight. He’s never heard of it… but that’s what taxis are for.
He tries to gather a few of his friends so it looks less like he’s following her, but when he tells them where they’re going they just laugh.
“Are you serious? You’ll get mobbed in there.”
“Don’t tell me this is about that girl.” Blake groans, rolling his eyes. “You’re mad, Matt. Told ya that a month ago.”
“Shut up,” Matt snaps. “Just be a friend and come with me. I don’t see how it can be any worse than our usual hangouts.”
“Well, don’t blame me when you’re all over the papers tomorrow.”
It’s only when they actually get there that he sees what they mean. It’s full of people clad in the kind of clothes he sees when he looks out into his own crowds. The second song they hear in there is his.
“Bad idea.” Blake tuts, shaking his head. “Let’s get out before it’s too late.”
“No. Not till I’ve found her.”
“You’ve gone nuts, man.”
Matt ignores him, eyes scanning the room. He’s even out of place in here because of his age. They all look so young, barely old enough to drink. If Blake was right he’ll never hear the last of it…
He narrowly avoids a wide-eyed fan making a beeline for him, by ducking behind a kissing couple near the bar. Has she gone? Yes, she’s back on the dancefloor now. It’s not that he doesn’t want to please his fans… but if one finds him, the whole club will probably want his autograph. He’s not up for that.
Sighing, he buys a drink and sits down at the bar. Blake rolls his eyes and sits next to him.
“Did you shave this morning? Because you look like a hobo.”
“Fuck off, Blake.”
The rest of their group have disappeared… Blake thinks they’re in the bathroom. Why the hell are they in the bathroom? Pfft. This is a disaster.
The kissing couple they hid behind stumble away. Great, now he’s on display to everyone. At least only half of the lights work so the bar area is reasonably dark.
He entertains himself by staring at a girl in a pink dress, admiring her legs. They’re perfect, not fat but not thin either. Maybe he’ll go and talk to her.
She turns to speak to one of her friends and he suddenly realises who it is. She is here! He’s finally found Azura. Oh, and it’s her with the perfect legs… time to make an asshole of himself.
Frowning, she glances over her shoulder. Her pretty eyes widen in disbelief. One of her friends squeals, but a firm glare from Azura stops her doing anything else. Eventually she wanders over to him, looking embarrassed, baffled and a little worried. She looks even more beautiful in her bright pink party dress, an exotic flower in the dull room.
“Erm… this doesn’t seem like… somewhere you’d hang out.”
He shrugs, summoning all of his courage and firmly locking eyes with her.
“Will you dance with me?”
“Please? That’s why I’m here.”
She’s hesitant, but he keeps his dark eyes steadily fixed on her. One of his friends, finally back from the bathroom or wherever they went, sniggers.
“Does she know who he is?”
“Yes, I’m aware who he is.”
She brushes off the snide comment with unfazed dignity, one hand on her hip and expression dry. Is she going to walk away? Matt grabs her arm, scowling at his friends. Why did they have to reappear now?
“Ignore them, they’re dicks. I just wanna dance with you.”
Eventually, without a word she takes his hand and he leads her onto the dancefloor. A few people are whispering, clearly aware who he is; but he doesn’t care. He just stares at her. She doesn’t really seem to know where to look, but she still dances with such grace.
He knows he’s pushing his luck when he still hangs onto her for a second song, and her face says that politely. Still, she doesn’t try to get away, so he decides to push his luck as far as it’ll go. He gazes at her pretty face and smiles. When was the last time he was this happy? He’d give anything to take her home tonight… and that wish has – mostly – nothing to do with sex.
Am I crazy? I don’t think I care.
He knows it’s time for him to leave when the second song ends. She isn’t annoyed with him, though.
“I’ll see you again.” he says. “I hope.”
“I’m sure you will.”
“Thank you. You made me very happy.”
She just smiles, waves goodbye and disappears back into the crowd. He doesn’t even bother to find Blake and the others. He just leaves. When a fan begs him for a photo, he smiles a completely genuine smile and says of course. They both grin into the camera and the young man goes home happy.
Matt can even remain happy when he’s thrown out of the bedroom onto the couch tonight.
I have something to feel for. I have something to chase. I’m in love again… I think I have a reason to live for the first time since my wedding day.