Chapter 7: Assumptions

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

Reads: 40

CHAPTER SEVEN - ASSUMPTIONS

Eyes on Fire - Blue Foundation

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LnRe8Q5r6rE

 

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I woke up with a pen still in hand and blue ink smeared down my arm. To my relief, I only felt slightly hungover this morning. Vomiting seemed off the table.

The sun was shining through the white lace curtains, adding to my sense of accomplishment for writing last night. My footsteps were light as I went to the restroom and turned on the sink. I noticed in the mirror that I had ink smudges on my face too. Backward words on my cheek and forehead. I scrubbed it off roughly, leaving my skin angry red.

My stomach growled profanely at me for not feeding it properly the past two days. My appetite was still small, due to stress I supposed.

Begrudgingly, I picked up the bedside phone and ordered room service. Some toast and eggs wouldn’t hurt to try.

As I waited, I read and reread my song lyrics over and over. I scratched out things I decided were too revealing. Things I wasn’t sure I could bear to say out loud yet.

Once I’d gotten the food, I ate a piece of toast easily and washed it down with a glass of water.

Then I cut into a piece of over-medium egg. I used to like it that way, but not now. Not the way the yolk pooled out onto the plate. The way it bled.

It disturbed me. It brought back one of my most repressed memories. It leaked into my brain like the yolk leaking onto my plate:

The thundering pain in my back and abdomen. The blood that ran down my legs, crimson and quick. The dark pool spreading beneath me. The nauseating roll in my stomach. The scream that clawed its way up my throat. The lack of sound when it emerged.

I gulped and put down my utensils.

Better go see what the guys are up to.

 

 

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The DO NOT DISTURB sign was on the door handle but I knocked anyway. I had my plate in hand, just in case someone wanted to finish it.

“Come in,” I heard Landon say.

Gingerly, I opened the door to see he was by himself in one of the beds. He was laying on top of the covers, in just a t-shirt and boxers. He didn’t look up from his phone. It was weird, I hadn’t seen him take his phone out once since I met him.

“Where is everybody?” I asked, shutting the door behind me. I stepped over some clothes and empty beer bottles.

“Getting something to eat. I decided to stay behind.” He tap-tap-tapped on his phone. “I don’t feel so great.”

I couldn’t help but think.

He was probably just talking to Meadow.

“I’m sorry,” I said, taking a seat in the chair next to his bed. “So you probably don’t want these eggs and toast then.”

He eyed the plate warily, “Mm, maybe I should take a few bites.”

I handed it to him along with my fork. “I should’ve washed the fork.”

He shook his head and shoveled the egg into his mouth. “I don’t care about your cooties.”

“You should. What if I had some sort of disease? You shouldn’t just assume I don’t,” I teased.

He rolled his eyes, and pointed at the yolk on the plate. “You don’t like over-medium eggs?”

“I used to.”

“Weird answer,” he said.

“Yeah, well, I guess I’m just weird then,” I replied with a shrug.

He smiled, warm and wide. “Yeah, me too.”

“Talking to Meadow?”

He sighed and placed the plate on the bedside table. “Yeah. All night. I can’t describe how I’m feeling right now. Like she’s my muse or something.” His tone was tongue-in-cheek but I could see the fire behind his eyes. Crackling blue flames behind slightly opaque screens.

I rolled my eyes, trying to keep it light. “Are you sure it’s not just because you were toasted last night?”

He scoffed and shook his head. “A connection is a connection, you know? Like with us.”

 He was so casual, so matter-of-fact about it, that it took me a moment to process that he meant me and him. I was so flabbergasted that I couldn’t say a word.

“You can’t say you don’t feel that connection, that synched energy between us,” he said, motioning. “Just because we were drunk the first time we talked.”

I knew what he meant, of course. Even now, I didn’t fully understand it.

It was almost magnetic. True polar opposites but also, deep down, the same. And now I knew, he felt it too. Could something be this way, this intense, and also be platonic? Did I want it to be?

I didn’t question it until I saw him talking to Meadow last night.

I had to look down, because I was afraid of what he might see in my face. I began drawing invisible shapes into my jeans with my fingernail. “Yeah. That’s true.”

The air in the room suddenly felt thick, heavy with some sort of implication. I was uncomfortable so I changed the subject. 

“I wrote a song last night,” I started, taking the folded up paper out of my pocket. “For the first time in almost a year. It’s really rough, but…”

“Well, c’mon let’s see it,” he pressed, hand out, playful attitude returned.

What are you doing? It sucks right now. It needs a lot of work. You don’t want him to see this.

I gripped the paper protectively, second guessing this whole thing. “It needs a lot of work. It’s like a first draft. And it’s a bit dark. Darker than my usual stuff.”

“Dark’s my middle name.” He beckoned with his hand.

“Landon Dark Stone?” I joked.

“Actually, it’s Bernard,” he grumbled, dropping his hand. “And I hate it.”

“I like it actually,” I said honestly.

“Riley,” Landon crossed his arms with faux disapproval. “I believe you’re stalling.”

I sighed, defeated, as I handed him the paper. “Don’t judge me.”

He laughed, unfolding it.

His eyes scanned the page quickly, sometimes his lips moved without sound. I watched his smile slowly dissolve and my breath caught in my throat. He seemed to read more slowly, almost too slowly, and I became impatient.

Finally he said, “It’s actually fuckin’ beautiful, Riley. Especially this part here. About the blackness consuming you.”

My heart soared. “You like it? Or are you just being nice?”

“Would I lie to you? I really, really like it.” He cleared his throat dramatically and began to sing the lyrics in his low tenor. His singing voice had a slight rasp, and today it was extra distorted from his hangover, but still strong. It vibrated right through his chest, resonating like after the strike of a tuning fork. It bounced off the thin walls of the hotel room, and I thought that any of our hotel neighbors would be lucky to hear it. His voice captured the emotional vulnerability I was hoping to convey. It was simply haunting to hear my words aloud and in his voice.

I waited until he finished the chorus to bring in my mezzo-soprano. As I eased in, syncing my voice behind his, he smiled. Our voices were so different from each other’s, his could be intimidating in comparison to my birdlike croon. Surprisingly, we meshed well. It edged on eerie.

As we finished, we locked eyes. Landon had the same awe-struck expression that I must have had. He mouthed “wow.”

I nodded in agreement, rubbing the goosebumps on my arms. 

“I think…. I need a cigarette now,” he muttered, looking around.

I laughed. “Maybe sometime we could collab.”

“I agree.” He sat up in the bed, stretched his long arms and legs. “I’m gonna hit the shower. Thanks for checking in.”

“You’re welcome. Just wanted to make sure….” I noticed his shirt rode up when he stretched, exposing the line of dark golden hair from his navel to underneath his shorts. I quickly looked away, too quickly, my eyes unconsciously snapping to the track marks on his right arm. “...you were okay.”

He paused, dropping his arms, and realization washed over his face. For a split second, his eyes widened with hurt, and then, to my surprise, he laughed.

It was loud and harsh. Completely out of character for him. “Heyyyyy, what are you looking at?”

I stiffened. “I didn’t mean...”

He reached over and turned on the bedside lamp. Then he thrust his arm under the circle of light. “These are old. From times where I was too fucked up and not using my right hand and I got a little sloppy. See? Scars.”

I looked closely. The pink marks on the crook of his arm were puckered with scar tissue. I couldn’t tell when I’d first seen them in the dark that first night. 

I was wrong and I was an ass.

“It’s alright. You’re curious,” he assured me, but his eyes and face were not as open as before. Merely polite. He got up and headed to the bathroom. “Why don’t you go see what everyone else is up to, alright?”

I got up stiffly, still shocked by how quickly everything changed. 

The bathroom door shut and I heard the shower turn on.

Dejected and full of guilt, I quietly left the room. 

 

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It had been two weeks since then. A very awkward two weeks. It was October now. We had done four more concerts, and as time went on, the more I began to feel like myself again.

I still had fun with the guys, but I missed me and Landon’s one-on-ones. It wasn’t as if he wasn’t talking to me, he just didn’t seem to trust me anymore. He seemed to regret things he’d told me and didn’t go further than the light conversation the five of us had. And he absolutely made sure we were never alone.

I felt terrible. I kept turning that last conversation over in my mind, wishing I had said and done differently. It was as if I thought enough about it, maybe I could change it. Silly.

Mimi gave me her phone number after the party. She was touring with Nico’s band and said she was desperate for “girl talk”. We talked almost every day, and I was surprised at how much I liked her. Sure, she was brash, but incredibly supportive for someone I’d just met. She rarely talked about herself, and that was hard for me to get used to. She always asked how I was doing, and never accepted my go-to answer of “fine”. She seemed to know things that I never had to say, though there was still a lot to cover. I still wasn’t sure if I could tell her. I wasn’t even sure I could say certain things aloud yet.

I felt almost as if I was betraying Lucy, but she was acting strange. She used to blow up my phone, but lately she said nothing or gave short responses. I just figured she was busy.

I was sitting in the lounge on the tour bus with the guys, as per usual. They were watching tv, eating, drinking, and smoking, as per usual. And Landon was talking to Meadow on the phone, as per usual.

“I can’t wait to see you either,” I heard him say from the other side of the bus. His tone was different when he spoke to her. It oozed, like she was literally making him melt.

Owen glanced at me and made a retching noise.

I giggled, and grabbed my phone out of my pocket when I felt it buzz. It was Mimi:


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I sighed and slid my phone back in my pocket. She was right. I couldn’t go on this way. I couldn’t leave things the way they were. If it had been anyone else, it would’ve been easy. I didn’t form attachments easily, but when I did, it was hard to break. And I hated to think it, but Landon was a great distraction from Ryan.

The last two weeks had been rough, thoughts of Ryan were starting to creep back in. The dreams came back too. Some nights, it was memories of us on the beach, memories of us kissing, and others, well…

 Last night’s dream was the first time he’d punched me in the head and how I had ringing in my ears for about a week afterward. It was because I bought the wrong cat food for his cat, Whiskers.

specifically said grain-free! What is wrong with you?”

I swallowed and my ears began to ring, like I had summoned the feeling from the thought alone. I tried to pay attention to what the guys were watching, it was some comedy skit, but the ruminating didn’t stop. It kept leaking in. Like the egg yolk.

Landon came back, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and collapsed on the couch beside Brent.

I waited a few minutes, mustering the strength and figuring out exactly what I was going to say. I watched the boys chattering and noticed Miles had changed his nose ring to a stud. To myself, I wondered if he ever forgot it was there and how painful it would be to wipe your nose and scrape the inside.

Owen had maybe a few too many. His coal-black eyes kept fluttering open and closed, again and again. Or maybe he was just bored.

We were getting a bit stir-crazy and we still had a month to go. There wasn’t much to do. We’d run out of introductory conversation, we knew each other now. Brent was 27, he’d forgotten about Cici already, he was born in Washington like Landon. They met at a bar one night, completely trashed. Brent had just been kicked out by his girlfriend and Landon offered him somewhere to live. Brent played guitar, Landon could sing and the rest was history.

Brent knew Miles and Owen already. They had been friends since high school, wanted to form a band and were on the search for a singer. They were both 25. Miles played the bass and Owen played the drums. All four of them loved Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, and Pearl Jam. It was a match made in post-grunge Heaven.

“Landon?” I started. “Can I talk to you?”

“Sure,” he said almost immediately, not looking away from the tv.

“Alone?” I asked.

There was a pregnant pause, and the boys exchanged quick, curious glances before going back to what they were doing.

Landon turned to me, eyebrows slightly raised. “S-sure….”

I gestured for him to follow me to the other lounge. He did, his face and body language reserved. I’d noticed he started wearing long sleeves again, or just kept his jacket on. I felt another sharp stab of guilt. We took a seat across from each other, he was stiff in his chair, seemingly wary of what I was going to say.

“Listen,” I murmured, keeping my voice low as to not embarrass him. “I am so, so sorry.”

My breath quivered and everything I had rehearsed seemed to come out all at the same time. “I didn’t mean—it’s just—I care about…” I looked up at him then. I don’t know what he saw on my face but it seemed to say everything I couldn’t.

His remote expression softened, the muscles around his round eyes relaxing. “Hey, it’s alright. I mean, what are you gonna think?”

“I shouldn’t have assumed.” I shook my head, even more guilt-stricken that he seemed to be letting me off easy. “I was stupid and you have every right to be mad at me.”

He sighed and sat back. “Look, I was never mad at you. I just didn’t want you to think my bad habits are me. I had my demons. Still do. I guess I just didn’t want you to think of me like, Landon, the lying junkie.”

“I never thought of you that way,” I assured and I meant it. Frankly, I was so concerned, I couldn’t hold myself back. As far as I knew, heroin addicts rarely stopped. They just died. “I was just worried about you.”

With one corner of his mouth, he smiled. “You don’t have to worry about me, alright? I’m much better than I used to be.”

“Why are you forgiving me so easily? Why are you so nice to me?” I asked. I couldn’t help myself. I didn’t understand it.

He tilted his head to the side, his eyes tender. “What needs forgiving? And of course I’m nice to you, you’re my friend.”

I smiled and looked down at my hands, suddenly bashful.

We’re friends.

Truly, I was happy with that. Just to have a reason to be around him was enough for me. I still couldn’t understand completely why I felt the need to be around him. Sure, he was attractive, but it wasn’t just his looks I was attracted to. If I was going by shallow standards, objectively, Brent or Miles were better looking. It was not that simple. He had a light in him, despite some of the dark things he did.

“Let’s head back. Shall we?” He asked and we headed back to the lounge.

 

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We arrived in Austin, Texas to perform again. I wasn’t really feeling it today. I didn’t have the energy, mentally or physically. Then again, I felt I needed it to get my mind off things. Lucy was right about that. Again, I thought about her and worried about her. I sent her another text, asking if she was okay.

Owen and Brent were asleep on the long couch across from me. Their heads were almost touching, their hair was like two long rivers of mahogany and ash. Miles was playing with Landon’s DS. He looked frustrated. Over and over I kept hearing a blip, blip, blip, and then a crashing sound. And each time it happened, Miles cussed.

Landon was antsy for some reason. He kept glancing out the window, over and over. He was all perked up, like a dog waiting for his owner to get back from work. When he wasn’t looking out the window, he was bouncing his knee. It made me feel nervous too, so I looked out the window. It calmed me, watching the green and yellow cedar elms zoom by.

Finally, we stopped at a hotel near the Center where we were having the concert. It was drizzling out, but not enough to need an umbrella. It was like a fine mist.

At the entrance, I saw a woman sitting on a bench. She had on a long, floral sundress and a straw sun hat with a small brown bow on the side. Though she was still a bit far away, I immediately knew who it was.

How far did she travel to meet him here?

Suddenly she looked up, and smiled so beautifully it almost hurt. She seemed to glide over to us while she held the top of her hat as a shield from the rain. She was like a walking photo shoot.

As soon as we stopped the bus, Landon bounded off and to her. They didn’t embrace, but she reached up and stroked his cheek. His chin scruff.

Meadow was tall. Statuesque. He wouldn’t have to bend far to kiss her. Not like he would with me, who was at least a foot shorter.

Why are you thinking about him kissing you?

Annoyed with myself, I packed up my toiletries, and zipped up my bag to bring into the hotel. I woke the boys up and let them know we’d arrived.

My phone began vibrating like crazy in my pocket, so I took it out as I trudged down the bus steps. I was surprised to see it was Lucy calling. I hitched my bag up on my shoulder, and answered immediately.

“Lucy? What’s up? Are you okay?!” I exclaimed as I followed the others to the employee entrance of the hotel. I saw Rick come up behind me. It never startled me anymore. He was like a shadow. Always there.

The rain lightly sprayed my face and clung to my eyelashes as I waited for Lucy’s response. All I could hear was what sounded like sniffling. I checked my phone’s connection and it was impeccable.

“Lucy?” I asked again. In front of me, Landon and Meadow were holding hands and chattering excitedly.

“Hey, Riley,” Lucy finally replied. Her voice sounded different. Thick. It took me a moment to realize that she was crying. My stomach dropped. Something was very wrong.

We headed down the employee hallway. From an open janitorial closet, I could smell bleach. It stung my nose.

A young housekeeper, in her mid-twenties, stood nearby. Her mouth hung open when she saw us.

Lucy sniffled again. “Riley, I need to talk to you. Something’s happened.”

 


Submitted: March 29, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Megan Mackenzie. All rights reserved.

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