Chapter 2: A Little Bitter

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 17

CHAPTER TWO - A LITTLE BITTER
 

Fell on Black Days - Soundgarden

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M1vBPvektSE

 

Chaos.

Absolute chaos.

Rick, my bodyguard, held me close to him as we made our way past the deafening mass of paparazzi. I couldn't see through the bright camera flashes, blinding me like strobe lights.

“How are you dealing with the breakup, Riley?”

“Was there someone else?”

“Do you feel any remorse for cheating?”

I stumbled, whirling my head around in the direction of the question, “I didn't—”

Rick clamped a hand over my mouth, turning my head slightly into his armpit as he pushed his way through the crowd. I had a fleeting thought that maybe it was time for him to switch deodorants.

I knew I wasn't supposed to answer, but all of this talk of infidelity on my part was hard to ignore. Especially since Ryan was the one that left me for someone else.

Rick hefted me into the backseat of the SUV and got me the hell out of there.

“You alright, sweetheart?” he asked me in his baritone voice after a few minutes.

“Yeah.” My voice was a whisper.

I hastily swiped at my eyes when they began to burn. Then I realized I probably wiped off the makeup I patted around the area to cover up the bruise.

“Shit,” I muttered.

Well, if Lucy fell for my stupid excuse, hopefully everyone else would too. It wasn't as prominent now, anyway. Barely noticeable....kind of.

I picked up my purse from where it was sitting at my feet and dug through it for my foundation. I didn't use it often, and lo and behold, it wasn't in there.

Instead, I put on a pair of sunglasses. It was a dumb plan. I would have to take them off eventually.

“Don't let them get to you, Riley,” Rick said from the front seat. “You never did before.”

It was hard enough having paparazzi zoom in on your every fall, every bad fashion choice, and expose you to the public for it like it really mattered, but now they were labeling me the bad guy?

It only supported everything Ryan had said to me. That I was at fault. That I was the reason.

“Thanks, Rick. I won't,” I said as steadily as I could.

I picked at a rip in the kneecap of my jeans with anxiety.

Ugh, I should've taken that Valium Lucy gave me.

I wasn't too sure about this anymore. When I decided I was doing this a week ago, I hadn't put too much thought into it. And now that it was actually today, I was beyond nervous.

I had kept myself secluded from people other than Ryan for what seemed like forever. Especially men.

And I was going to be around four of them. For two months. In an enclosed space.

What if they don't like me?

I shook my head at myself and stared out the tinted window of the SUV. I sounded like I was a kid going to middle school. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

I guessed it was because I was worried about feeling threatened by them. With Landon, I couldn't quite tell if he was threatening. On stage, he was brooding and intense in every aspect of himself. In the fire of his voice, the rigidity of his body. There was a visible darkness emanating from him.

He will probably think I'm a loser. I couldn't be cool if I tried.

I was being pessimistic. I had always been that way, but it had been much worse lately. Since it seemed it was everybody's mission to tear me down, it was getting harder to think of myself in a good way.

My own thoughts were starting to annoy me so I took my IPOD out of my pocket and popped the headphones in my ear. The music I listened to wasn't exactly calming, but it helped vent my emotions. The singers lamented and screamed for me so I didn't have to.

It was about six hours to Elverta....at least I had time to think.

 

When I was 18, I went along with my dad to Elk Cove beach for a movie scene. It was cold and windy, but the sun was out, so the actors were supposed to act like it was summertime.

I was sitting under one of the large tents they pitched in the sand because of the risk of rain. My dad was standing under another one with the crew members to protect his equipment.

I watched the scene play out while shivering my butt off, but I didn't complain. I had it much better than the actors. The main actor, Ryan Cameron, was shirtless and maintained his composure throughout the entire scene. There really were no visible signs he was cold. Not a shiver nor a chatter of his flawless teeth.

I shuddered and lifted my thermos of coffee to my lips. The coffee was nastily cold. I had been so engrossed in the movie scene that I let my best source of heat go.

When I lowered my thermos, Ryan Cameron was standing in front of me. It was a little strange seeing him so close.

“Hi,” he said, grinning his signature grin. His raven hair was messy from the wind.

“Hi,” I replied. “Do you need something?” I scanned the area for his agent.

His smile fell a little, along with some confidence. “Uh, no. I'm not in this next scene and I was wondering if you wanted someone to talk to.”

I just blinked at him because that was probably the last thing I expected him to say.

He laughed a little uncomfortably and ran a hand through his hair. “It's just you're always kind of sitting in the back...”

“Well, I'm not an actor or a crew member, so I stay out of the way,” I said, shrugging.

I felt I was coming across as unfriendly.

“But that's nice of you,” I added quickly. “You don't have to if you don't want to.”

“But I want to,” he assured and plopped down in the sand beside me.

He smelled like saltwater and I felt a yearning to go to the beach with my family. My whole family. I thought of memories my family should have that didn't exist. Me, buried to my neck in sand. My brother, Tommy, riding waves. My parents sprawled out on a beach towel, watching us and laughing.

I lowered my eyes to my quilt when he pulled half of it onto his lap. “Why?”

He shrugged his shoulders and smiled at me. He had a few freckles beneath the thick makeup.

“You seem interesting.”

My eyebrows furrowed. “But all I do is sit here. How am I interesting?”

And this is why I've never had a boyfriend.

He grinned. “I have a way of knowing.”

I rolled my eyes.

“Why are you hitting on me?” I asked him, my eyes narrowing warily. There was no way this guy would be hitting on me. Our leagues were lightyears apart.

He laughed. “Damn, you’re direct. What do you mean 'why?' Why do you think?”

I just stared at him. This was so unlike him.

“I'm not what people read in magazines,” he said as if he read my mind.

Then he reached forward and brushed my hair away from my eyes. “Why don't you go on a date with me sometime so you can get to know me? Decide for yourself if I'm a good guy?”

 

I opened my eyes when I felt someone pull a headphone from my ear. Rick stood nearby, patiently holding the car door open.

“Sorry, you couldn't hear me,” he said.

“What?” I asked groggily, rubbing my sore eyes. My ears were ringing from the loud music.

“We're here, Riley,” Rick told me.

The car stopped? I'm there already?!

Dread was a heavy pit in my stomach.

“Really?” I whined.

“Really,” he nodded and held out a beefy hand. “C'mon.”

I inhaled a trembling breath and reached over myself to unbuckle my seat belt. Then I took his hand and he helped me from the SUV.

It was warm out, late summer, but I was wearing a sweatshirt and clutching at it like I was freezing.

Parked not too far away was a gargantuan, silver tour bus.

I'm going to be living here for two months. With complete strangers.

The closer we got to the sleeper tour bus, the more my shyness got the better of me. Eventually, I threw my hood over my hair to help myself feel more secure.

You're being pathetic.

I wanted to choke that nagging little voice in the back of my head by the time I got to the steps of the tour bus.

The driver, a 50-something, long-haired man with a cigarette wagging from his lips said, “Welcome aboard, my lady. I'm Hurricane.” The steering wheel he sat behind was huge and there were a bunch of tiny buttons surrounding it. I vaguely wondered what their purposes were and if he had ever pushed the wrong one. I thought of an EJECT button like you see in the cartoons.

I smiled. “Hi, Hurricane.”

Rick said, “See you at the venue.” and handed me my bags. He gave my shoulder a consolatory pat before turning and leaving.

Well, here goes.

I grabbed onto the metal rail and pulled myself up on the stairs. The bus was spacious. As spacious as a tour bus could be, that is.

The lounge was in the front, obviously, with leather upholstery throughout. There were two brown leather couches, one on each side of the bus. Behind the wall where the driver was sitting was a mounted plasma screen above a DVD player and a stereo. The TV wasn't on, but the radio was on an alternative station.

Further back was a tiny section reserved for kitchen paraphernalia, fully stocked with a microwave, coffee maker and a sink. There were wine glasses set on a rack, which I got the feeling weren't going to be used too often. Underneath was a counter and a fridge. There was a little booth with a table for people to eat, too.

From there, I could see the bunk section of the bus. There were eight olive colored bunks stacked on top of each other two by two. One for each of us, including the driver and two extra ones.

If I strained my eyes to see even further back, I could see another lounge with yet another leather couch, except it wrapped around the entire section.

“What's up, Unabomber?” A man with brown hair and chiseled features asked from one of the couches in the front lounge. He was sitting with two other attractive men, one with brown hair a few shades darker and a nose ring, and one with platinum blonde hair that looked like he belonged in some sort of shampoo commercial. All of the guys had the kind of hair that I'd always envied, ripped clothing, and tattoos. They were all stretched out, perfectly comfortable, with beers in their hands.

On the other couch was Landon, his legs pushed up to his chest. His hair was much shorter than the others, I'd noticed, the length above his ears, and in a causal dissary of gold. He was wearing a pair of faded jeans and a plain white t-shirt. He had on a pair of sunglasses, which was strange. Perhaps he forgot to take them off.

His brow was furrowed and his lips were taut with concentration as he clicked away at a video game.

It was strange seeing him so up close.....and playing a Nintendo Switch.

“What's up with the garb?” The guy who made the Unabomber joke asked me.

I shrugged and smiled, taking my hood off. “Just cold.”

“It's September,” the guy with the nose ring said, laughing.

“I-I know,” I murmured awkwardly, shrugging.

“We're just teasing,” Platinum comforted, smiling warmly at me. “I'll introduce everybody. I'm Brent—”

He gestured to nose ring guy “—Miles,” then Unabomber guy, “—Owen.”

Then he pointed to Landon. “Landon.”

“Hi, guys,” I said to everyone. “I'm Riley.”

“Want help with your bags?”

It took me a moment to realize it was Landon talking to me, as his speaking voice was much different from his singing voice. It held none of that eeriness. Just soft and quiet. Soothing, even.

I turned my head towards him. “Oh, uh, sure.”

He tossed his DS aside, got up from the couch, and took my bags from my hand. He smelled like leather and candy.

With him standing beside me, I realized he was even taller than I thought. I had to tip my head back a little just to look at his face.

After a moment, I realized what that candy smell was from. He had a mint knocking around against his teeth. Maybe he was trying to kick the cigarette habit.

I followed him to the bunk section and he plopped my bags down on one of the lower bunks.

“Well, here is your new, luxurious boudoir for the next two months ma'am,” Landon said, gesturing to the cot.

“I wanted the top one, actually,” I said, smiling. I was hoping that if I were on the top bunk, I wouldn't feel the movement of the tour bus as much. I had a difficult time sleeping and motion sickness wouldn't help.

He raised an eyebrow. “Can you get up there?”

I nodded. “Yeah, I'll manage.”

“Alright,” he said skeptically, pursing his lips. He grabbed my bags again and placed them on the top bunk.

“Thanks,” I said sincerely. “Just wondering, who's across from me?”

“Me.”

Of course.

“Oh,” I said, tugging uneasily at one of my sweatshirt sleeves.

He laughed. “Or you know, I'll understand if you want me to move your bags back to the bottom one.”

I shook my head with reassurance. “No, it's fine. That wasn't a disappointed 'oh.'”

It was a nervous one.

“Cool,” he said with a friendly smile and strolled back into the lounge.

After a moment, I sighed and raised my arms over my head to unzip my bag. I was able to reach the bunk, but I probably wouldn't be able to pull myself up there. That night, I would have to get a chair or something. I probably should have thought that through, but I was nervous and not able to think much at all.

I grabbed my phone and checked my messages:

One from my mom.

Eight from Lucy.

, I thought. I didn't want to worry her more than she already was. She was always pretty intuitive about how I was feeling, even when she wasn't with me.

“Everyone set?” I heard Hurricane call from the front and everyone mumbled various assents in scattered unison.

“We're off! We'll be at Ace of Spades in about 25 hours.”

God, 25 hours.

I sighed with dread and slid open the door to the bathroom.

It was tiny—as expected—but sufficient. All of the bathroom necessities were squashed together. The shower was about five tiles with a removable shower head and that was it. Above the toilet was a handwritten note on tour bus bathroom etiquette and rules about flushing.

Wrinkling my nose, I dialed my mom and held my phone up to my ear.

She picked up right after the first ring.

“Riley? Riley?”

Hearing her tiny, tinkling voice was like music. I could almost see her plump lips forming the words. Her mouth was always perfect for lipstick.

“Hi, mom,” I said, my voice cracking.

She sighed with relief. “I've been so worried about you. Why haven't you called me?”

“I've had a lot going on,” I replied.

“So I've heard. Lucy told me about the tour,” she said in a disapproving voice. “Why is it that she told me and not you?”

“She's a better daughter to you than I am.”

She chided, “Riley....”

I laughed. “Just a little sarcasm.”

She paused for a moment and I lifted myself to sit on the sink counter.

“How's Tommy?”

Ah, my wonderful, sometimes asshole-ish older brother. He was more like my best friend and we didn't fight much. I got jealous of him quite a bit, though.

“Still in Chicago with Hannah. They're having a baby girl.”

I smiled. “When's the due date?”

“Valentine's Day. Isn't that sweet?”

“Yeah. I can't wait,” I said honestly.

“Who are you on tour with?”

“This sort of metal band. Like sludge metal.”

“Oh...” I could tell I lost her with the music jargon.

“How have you been, mom?”

She sighed. “Good, very busy following your father around. We've been in Hawaii...I don't want to talk about me, though. I want to talk about you...”

Here we go.

“....you sound really stressed. I think you should start meditating. It really helps, Riley. I'm living proof.”

I thought of my mom reciting her mantras and I really couldn't picture myself doing that. As soon as I tried to relax was when I was most stressed. I didn't have a serene bone in my body.

I thought some of the practices were cool. Like burning incense. I wouldn't trust myself to do that, though.

“I'm fine, mom. I promise.”

Vaguely, I wondered if anyone could hear me or was waiting for the bathroom, but I didn't want to cut my mom off, especially when she was so worried about me.

“Don't you want to talk to me about anything?”

“Like what?” I asked, playing dumb.

“You know....you and Ryan.” She whispered his name like it was a dirty word. Well, it might as well have been.

“There's not much to tell, mom,” I said, a lump rising in my throat. “He left me for some girl named Kim and took everything he owned back. And he owned everything.”Residual anger coursed through my veins.

Ryan blew through a good portion of my funds with his coke, hooker, and gambling addictions. I could’ve fought him in court, but I couldn’t bear to see him again. The thought left me gutted inside.

Still, as far as money went, I was fine. I would manage by myself.

She gasped. “Riley, I had no idea it was that serious. You’re living with Lucy?”

“It’s just until I get an apartment. She has a really nice place. She has tons of room for me. She has enough room for like fifty people, actually. Her boyfriend is nice.”

She didn't seem convinced. “Baby blue, do you want to be with your dad and me?”

“No, it's alright. I want to stay in one place.” Ironic that I was saying that while on a tour bus.

“Are you sure? I feel awful. I just... I can't believe he would do that...”

There's a lot of things you couldn't believe he would do. A lot of things I couldn't believe he would do to me.....

“Well, he did,” I replied dryly.

“What an asshole,” she spat, and I smirked to myself.

“Please,” she continued, “Just call me if you need me. Any day, any time. I feel horrible that I can't be around you when you're hurting.”

“I'm not hurting,” I replied curtly. “I'm perfectly fine. You don't have to worry about me, mom. Just focus on the movie.”

“Will you at least promise to call me if you need me, then?”

“I promise.”

She sighed. “I love you. So much. A lot of people do.”

I've heard those words a lot. So much so that I felt absolutely nothing whenever I heard it.

Lately, I was starting to wonder if there was anyone who actually meant it when they said that to me. Other than my mother.

Then again, how could you not love something that was a piece of you once, no matter how fucked up they turned out to be? It was a mother's lifelong duty.

When fans shouted “I love you!” to me when I was on stage, I knew they couldn't actually love me, but it still made me happy. Then.

Now, I was seeing how the words had truly lost their meaning. Much like the phrase “fuck you.”

Overused. Meaningless. Empty.

They told me they loved me once, and so did he.

He said it countless times. As if it atoned for punching me just moments before.

He might as well have said, “fuck you.”


Submitted: March 29, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Megan Mackenzie. All rights reserved.

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