He walked down the street towards the bus station, his long brown hair blowing by the sides of his face in the chilly Idaho air. Pulling his frayed and tattered, army jacket up around his face to the block the chilled breeze he couldn’t help but run over the events to the past twenty for hours, his body running on the fumes of his rage, but lagging on the heart break he didn’t want to admit. He pulled his sagging backpack up tighter on his shoulder, and tried not to think about how sore his arm had gotten from carrying the only thing he had left in the world, his vintage Gibson Les Paul. It used to be the second love of his life, but as he thought about who used to be his first…well he probably should just be moving on.
The events of the day kept entering his mind, though he would give anything to erase them completely from his thoughts. It began the same, heading to school, not for his education of course, but it was one of the few places he got to see her, Kristy Gebbonheart. Despite her parents objections the two had been seeing each other for nearly a year now, with each day that past he had been falling more in love with that girl. She wasn’t like the others he typically dated, all leather, corsets, and tats, with her naturally, long and straight blonde hair, and light blue eyes; that and the fact that she believed a skirt should consist of much more than a belt and fishnets. Kristy didn’t come to his shows because she “had a thing for front men,” she came because unlike the rest of the people in this po-dunk town, she believed in him. His friends thought he was dating her, because he liked doing a “good Christian girl,” as they had mockingly referred to her as. They had no idea it was so much more than that. He had been talking to his guys, the members of his want to-be famous band, about their latest songs for their gig on Friday, when he saw her beautiful face get out of her mothers car.
“Hey, I’ll see you guys later,” was all he needed to say, they knew good and well that when Kristy stepped out into his line of vision that was all that mattered, in the world to him. He walked over to the car and could hear her mother’s shrill voice griping to her about maintaining her 4.0, as he watched her leaning down to the open window of the beamer, no doubt forcing a smile, when he knew inside she was cringing.
“No respectable college settles for a 3.5 GPA Kristine. 3.5 is for those who settle for being average, and I REFUSE, to let you be average.” Her mother said.
James had heard it all before, mostly at night when Kristy pretended to be talking to one of her friends from orchestra, or other high ranked intellectual classes. Little did her mother know, her daughter was simply making plans to sneak out to see him perform. He smiled as he saw her mothers face sneer at him when she caught of glimpse of him as he stepped behind her daughter.
“Good morning Mrs. Gebbonheart. Isn’t it such a fine day?” how he loved being an ass. He could not help but enjoy her cringing as he placed his arm around Kristy’s waist.
She glared back at him. “Then Kristine, there are those,” she sneered down her nose in his direction. “That are below average.” With that she said her goodbyes and drove away.
Kristy turned towards him with a dark look on her face.
“Do you two always have to go through that?” she crossed her arms in front of her and began to tap her foot. “I am serious. It has to be the most childish thing, that I have ever witnessed.” Her baggy sweat shirt slid off her shoulder as she grabbed her book bag from the ground. James delicately touched her bare shoulder.
“I’m sorry babe.” He smiled. “Next time I swear, I’ll be good. And one of these days, I must have your parents over for tea.” He said with the utmost sarcasm in his serious looking face.
She couldn’t help but laugh back at him. He loved making her smile.
“She’s right you know, if I’m ever going to get out of this town, college is the only way.” Kristy responded softly.
“That or become my number one groupie when the band catches a break, and gets a record deal.” James placed his arm over her shoulder and grabbed her bag and books to carry for her.
“Well you better get that deal soon, buddy-boy,” she said while pointed her finger at his chest, “Because after graduation, I’m gone.” She stared at him seriously for a second, then smiled, her eyes lighting up. He hated the thought of her leaving for college and forgetting all about him. Deep in the pit of his heart though he could feel that was the actually ended of their love story, and it was coming at him like freight train.
“You’ll see. After this next gig, we’ll be good as, platinum.” He replied to her comment.
“You better be,” she smiled, “because I’d hate to be in love with a starving artist.” She leaned up and kissed him, “I’ve never been one for thin boys.”
James smiled down at her.
“It’s you and me babe. Always and forever.” He leaned down and whispered into her neck.
“Always and forever.” She repeated, just as though it was fact. Plain and simple.
He walked her to class, and began his day, sleeping through first and second period, spending lunch with Kristy at the burger joint down the street, then spending the rest of his classes balancing, zoning off into his spaced like state, and writing new lyrics and rifts for the band. After planning Kristy’s latest escape plans to his show, and kissing her goodbye at the end of the day, he headed home. Delving back into hell at the end of each day had become his routine. Oh well he’d just head home, and crash in his bed for a few hours before sneaking out to the Deadmen’s concert that night. At least, those were his plans.
His father had met him at the door to house. Judging by his clenched fists and reddened face, the old man was pissed. So what else was new, he thought.
“Your boss called. Said you got fired.” His father spoke through gritted teeth. “He said you missed five days of work in a row, and the days you did actually show up, your lazy as was late.” He crossed his arms. “Is this true?”
“Well Big Jim,” he always called his father ‘Big Jim’ when he figured the man was already pissed, he might as well have some fun with it, “I myself, have always seen Mr. Hollingsworth, as a rather upstanding citizen, and the fact you are insinuating the man to be a liar, I find to be rather offensive.”
He witnessed the vein on the right side of his father’s head begin to protrude and throb. Yeah, he had done it, that was for sure.
“I am so sick of your bullshit!” His father began to yell, “You will never learn will you! I’ve given you EVERYTHING! You are nothing more than an ungrateful piece of shit!” His father had probably been the most upset that James had ever seen him, but what he had said next James had never expected.
“Your mother would be disgusted in you.” His father sneered at him as he spoke. The words would be ringing in his ears for the rest of his life. James didn’t know if it was the rage that made him complete his next action, or the sheer amount he really did miss his mother, but with all his might he clenched his fist and swung. The blood trickling from his father’s lip was what James had needed to see to make him believe in the action he had just taken.
“Get…Your…Ass…Out…Of…Here…Now,” his father said as he wiped the blood from his lip.
James did not know if it was rage and anger that had driven him, or more of a state of shock, but he raced past his father and into his room. He could tell the old man was on the verge of a complete break down of control, and remembering the beatings he had gotten as kid, James knew his father was not a man to mess with when his control had depleted. Quickly he grabbed as much clothing that would fit into his back pack, and his Gibson, then he went to his dresser and grabbed two pictures that had helped to keep him sane; a picture of Kristy, her hair blowing in the wind, clad in the bikini she had bought and hidden from her parents, and smiling directly at the camera. He knew it wasn’t the camera she was smiling at however; the camera had just captured the look she had on her face, every time she looked at him. The second picture was the last image he had of his mother. It was at the two of them at a car show; a year later she had died, cancer was a real bitch. He gently placed the images in his wallet. James paused only for a moment as he mentally said goodbye to the room that had been his solitude for the past eighteen years of his life, but before he left the room he gathered up the rolled up stack of cash he had been hiding under his bed for the past year. He had been planning on using the cash to get his band a van to travel the U.S. in, but those plans were in the shitter now. He had saved up over two grand, saving every penny he had gotten from each job he had started, but never finished, and every gig that had been paying ones. Grabbing his bag and guitar he headed out of his metal band, poster covered bedroom, and towards the front door.
His father came out of the kitchen to greet him, a bottle of hard booze in one hand, and his other hand icing his lip. He took a long and strong swig of the amber colored liquid, obviously this being the only thing keeping him from being homicidal.
“When you walk out that door, never in your life, come back here.”
James looked at the man, this time not as his father, but as a man, who was just as stubborn and resentful as he was. He adjusted his bag, put a tighter grip on the handle of his guitar case, and walked out of the door, for what he figured would be for good.
* * *
After leaving the home of his childhood James sat on a park bench staring at the playground he had spent so much time on as a kid. In his memory were happier times; times with his mother, and on occasion when he was not working, his father had even joined them. He would never admit to himself how much the memory had hurt him. Soon he knew he would have to head on his way, in his heart having only one plan in mind, L.A. The music scene in Los Angeles was where it was at; anyone who was anyone got their start there. He didn’t have the money to bring his whole band there, but he did have enough to take one person with him, with her he would be taking the world. First he had to make a quick stop at the gravestone of his mother, he cleaned the grass and moss that had started to grow around her stone, and said his goodbyes. James did not know if he would make it back to this place, but he couldn’t dwell on it. He stood up from the gray stone, firmly grabbed his backpack and guitar case, and headed over to Kristy’s.
By the time he had made it to the upscale neighborhood, where Kristy’s house resided, it had become dark, the sun moving down and hiding for the night. He had hoped like hell non of her WASP neighbors would peek out their windows, no doubt they would think they’d see some “punk kid” getting ready to rob their pristine homes. Up ahead was her house, he could see the living room light on and her parents sitting quietly inside, her mother reading and drinking her martini, and her father glued to the football game on TV. Sneaking around to the side of her house he had seen that Kristy’s bedroom light was on, it’s glow leading him towards it. He had to be as quiet as possible as he walked towards the glass. He had peeked inside and saw his girl there, head phones on, dancing around her room, probably while her parents assumed she was quietly studying for an up and coming exam. Laying his bag and case on the ground he quietly slid open the window and then hoisted himself up inside her room like he had done so many times before. As she had danced around the room, oblivious to his presence, he stood for a moment and watched her for a moment. She had jumped when he finally placed his hands around her waist. He grabbed her wrist before she could get a taste of her reflex action. His girl had a mean right hook.
“Oh my God!” She exclaimed, quickly trying to calm herself down, “You scared the hell out of me!”
He couldn’t help but laugh, automatically receiving a shove to his shoulder.
“What are you doing here?” She started to smile, but her eyes quickly looked towards her door and she had ran and quickly locked it.
“I’m here to pick you up.” He tried to smile as positively as he could muster.
“What? The show isn’t until Friday.”
“Forget about the show. We’re leaving this town.” He had watched as her face began to question him. He brought the wad of cash out of his pocket. “I’ve got enough money here for two bus tickets to L.A. Babe. Then there is enough left over for maybe even a down payment on an apartment or something. I can break into the music business and we’ll be set. So pack a bag and lets get going.” His voice had peeked with excitement, and he had rushed over to her closet like a fool to get her packed.
“James what are you doing?” She said calmly.
“I’m helping you pack,” he paused, “Grab me a bag will ya?”
“We don’t have time for me to stop, the bus leaves at midnight.”
“James,” she paused, “I’m not going.”
“What?” he stopped abruptly.
“I can’t go.” She looked down towards her feet.
“What the hell do you mean ‘you can’t go’?”
“I’m not going. I’ve got school, and college applications. Everything for my future starts here.”
“I thought your future was with me.” James had said.
“It is, but I can’t just jump up and run to L.A. with you.” She walked over and placed her hand on his chest, “What prompted this? Why do you want to leave so suddenly?”
“I got kicked out of my place.” He said, using all of his strength not to sound like it bothered him.
“Oh my god,” she stared shocked into his eyes, “What happened?”
“It doesn’t matter,” James snapped, “Just come on, pack your bag, and lets get going.”
“Maybe you could go back and apologize or talk with your dad, get back into your house.” She had tried to bargain with him.
“No, I am not going back there.” He looked into her eyes, “I’m going to Los Angeles. Just come with me. Please.”
“I can’t.” She folded her arms at her waist, keeping her face still as tears began to well.
“Kris, Babe, I thought you believed in me? I can take care of you. We can build our lives together.” He had reached for her hands at that point, but she just stepped back.
“No James.” Her eyes began to fill with tears, “I can’t go with you.”
“I thought you believed in me?” He had questioned.
“I do,” She stared down at her feet, “But…”
“No buts. Either you do or you don’t.” He tilted her chin towards him and stared into her eyes. “So are you coming with? Or is this goodbye.”
The fact that she had no reply had given him his answer, and as he searched her face for some sign of protest of his leaving, he could not find any.
“Fine then.” His hurt he covered with anger, “I prove you wrong. I’ll prove everyone wrong.” He said through gritted teeth. James heard her sniffle, but forced himself to turn away from her. It was a lost cause. What he thought he had would be nothing more than a memory. He gave her one last look and headed out her window, like he had done many times before, but this time he would be leaving for good.
So now here he was kicking random stones on the sidewalk as he walked to the bus stop, his mind filling more with the memories of the day and his thoughts carrying him away. Without even realizing it he had wound up at the bus stop, the large silver and blue greyhound waiting to take him away.
“Hey kid! You on or off?” A large dark skinned woman said, snapping him out of his thoughts.
“What?” He questioned, briefly stunned into a state of confusion by her comment.
“I said are you ON or OFF?” She placed a hand on her hip and leaned forward toward the steering wheel. “I am NOT going to wait all night.”
“Oh yeah sorry. I’m on.” He stepped up onto the first metal steps of the bus, and looked back just one last time at the town that had rejected him. “I am most definitely on.” He stated and gripping the world in its black case, he took his seat and stared straight ahead. There was nowhere to look now but forward. His vow was ringing in his hears.
I’ll prove them wrong, he thought, I’ll prove everyone wrong. He was going to make something of himself, even if it killed him.