I throw my gym bag across the living room and slam the front door.
“Whoa!” I hear an exclamation.
I look forward. “What are you doing here?” I bite out.
“I live here,” Cole, my bandmate and roommate, states.
“Doesn’t seem like it lately,” I mumble.
“Aw, you jealous, brother?”
“Fuck off. Not in the mood for your bullshit.”
Cole takes a long, hard look at me and tilts his head. “What happened?” Gone is his mocking tone.
“Suit yourself. I’m leaving for Bri’s.”
“See ya.” Wouldn’t wanna be ya. But I would want to be him. I thought I was on my way to having what he’s found with Bri. What Cash and Olivia have. Hell, I’ll even take Ryder and Jen’s inappropriateness if it meant I had someone by my side. My friends all found their person, and I lost the woman I thought could be mine.
Maybe it’s a good thing. With the tour having ended, it’s probably for the best that I’m single again. Again. Was I ever not single? Not sure what I had could count as a relationship, except for me it was. I was fooled.
A man should have the balls to claim the woman he wants. Unless his balls were clipped and given to a cat to play with. And for what?
I sigh and stand by the glass doors leading to the patio. Staring at nothing in particular, my vision blurs until I’m watching a play by play of the last few months. I run my hand over my face and bearded jaw. I should shave. She loved my beard, and I need to erase her completely so I can be on top of my game to work on new music. No way am I going to be like Cash or Cole when their hearts were broken. Nah, I did enough talking to them about getting their shit together to fall down that same trap.
I move away from the living room and into the kitchen for a cold one. It’s quiet in here. I got used to being crammed into a small space for months. Now I’m alone. Even though Cole has been spending more time with Bri outside of here, I had Christie to keep me company. Now I’ve got no one because all my friends have girlfriends and wives and I’m stuck at home with a pity party for one. It’s not like I can go to Riot. That will only frustrate me more, seeing her there, probably flirting with other men as she serves them drinks.
I chug the beer and grab my guitar, playing the tunes of our newer songs. Music always takes me away. Although, at the moment, I hate the fact that I’m famous. I hate that I have the band’s name tied to me.
What a bitch.
Fresh beer and guitar in hand, I get ready for a long fucking night.
I shift around, wondering who the fuck is in my room. When the whispers become louder, I groan and peel my eyes open. What the…
I turn my head and realize I’m in the living room.
“What the fuck?” I croak and clear my throat.
“You woke him up.”
I sit up and look to the left to see Bri and Cole in the kitchen. I scrub my face and look at the empty beer bottles on the coffee table. My guitar lies on the floor.
“What time is it?” I look around for my phone.
“It’s early, Jason. Go back to sleep, we’ll leave in a few,” Bri says and looks at Cole with a stern expression. I chuckle.
“It’s okay. I guess I fell asleep on the couch.”
“With a graveyard of beer bottles,” Cole juts his chin toward the coffee table. “Fuck, sorry, babe.” He looks at Bri, who smiles sadly, and hugs her to him.
I pick up the bottles and drop them in the trash. Cole whispers something to Bri and jogs up the stairs.
“What’s going on?” Bri leans against the counter and eyes me.
“Nothin.’” I shrug, demonstrating as much nonchalance as I can. I laugh as Bri squints her eyes and looks at me. “Really, I’m okay.”
“I don’t believe you. How’s Christie?” I know she’s testing me, but I groan regardless. “Oh man, Jason. Did you guys break up?”
“It’s no big deal.”
“Clearly, it is.”
“Nah, we were only dating for a few months. Nothing serious,” I wave my hand.
“It may have been a few months, but I know you really liked her. She seemed like a nice woman.”
I laugh dryly. She did seem that way, until she proved otherwise. “It just didn’t work out,” I tell Bri.
“If you need to talk, you know we’re all here for you. Hell, you were there for me when that black hole was sucking me away.”
I hug Bri and thank her. She’s stronger than anyone I know, to overcome the loss she did and trust life enough to find love again.
“I’m glad you’re good. What are you guys up to today?”
“We’re going to Pinewood Social for brunch and then some games. Do you want to come?” Her eyes light up, trying to lighten my mood.
“I’m good. Should stay home and clean up this mess and shit.”
“Are you sure? We won’t have to talk about… you know.” She nods her head.
“I’m positive. Thanks, though. I appreciate it. And listen, if you could—”
Bri places her hand on my arm. “Your secret’s safe with me.”
“Thanks.” I blow out a gust of air.
“They’re going to figure it out soon, though.”
“I know, but I want a few days to process it all,” I explain.
She nods, smiling.
As soon as Cole comes back down, they leave me. Instead of staying inside the house with the same silence that led to me to drink too much and fall asleep on the couch, I get dressed and go out for a run. I need to clear my head. We’ve been back from tour a couple weeks, and I wish we were back on the road. I know the guys are happy to be back with their women, but having returned to the reality that waited for me sucks.
Anyone who hears my thoughts would think I’m a pussy, but I’ve always liked being in a relationship. Before Christie, it had been a while since I’d been in a serious relationship, with the band picking up momentum and stuff. After we became well known, it was difficult finding a woman who cared about me and not Rebel Desire or their connection to us. I thought Christie was that woman. I could see it being long term, and then she ruined everything.
No more thinking about her. I focus on my neighborhood as I jog up and down streets, sweat covering my body. A few teenagers hang outside, but overall it’s quiet. Cole and I chose this place because of the tranquility and gated community. He’ll probably move in with Bri soon, though. I won’t be surprised when he drops that news. Since the new year started they’ve been spending more and more time together. Now that they’ve survived their first tour, it will be a matter of time. I’m happy for him, but more so for Bri. Although, that leaves me as the seventh wheel when we’re all together.
I hook on my headphones, turn on the music on my phone, and pick up my pace, clearing my mind for a while.
I slow my pace as the final beats of my playlist end and take in my surroundings. I ran way further than my usual route. Thankful for my phone, I check my location and find a diner half a mile away. In desperate need of water after a night of one too many beers and pushing my lungs to their limit, I find the diner and walk in, lowering my cap over my eyes to draw little attention to my identity.
The smell of stale coffee and greasy food fills me as I take a seat at the counter. This isn’t like my usual eating spots, but I gladly take the cup of water the waitress places in front of me and pick up the sticky menu.
“Let me know when you’re ready,” she says as she leaves to take another order.
I read through each item, undecided about what to eat.
“I recommend the pancakes,” the waitress returns. “Joyce makes them herself, and I don’t know what she puts in the mix, but they’re the best I’ve ever had.”
“Joyce?” I look up at the waitress. I see the initial surprise in her wide eyes, but she doesn’t give me away.
“Oh.” I glance back down and put the menu flat on the counter. “I’ll take an order of pancakes.”
She nods and walks away to put my order in. I resist the urge to swivel on the stool as I wait for my food. Mostly truck drivers are here, probably getting in a quick bite before heading back out on the road. The red vinyl squeaks as they shift on their seats, and the once white tiles are permanently gray. I’m starting to regret the decision to eat here. Hopefully they keep the kitchen cleaner than they do the front area.
How far did I run? I’ve never seen a place as uncared for as this in my neighborhood. Must’ve taken two left turns and ended up on a different side of town.
“Can I get you anything else to drink while you wait?” the waitress, Cassidy Rae, according to her name tag, asks. I look behind her and see fresh-squeezed orange juice.
“You got it.” She returns as fast as she turned away and places the cup next to my water glass. No mention of my name or the band, she just quietly drops it and goes back to work.
I watch her talk to an older woman and nod once before going into the kitchen.
Cassidy Rae. I like that name.
A few minutes later, the buttery smell of pancakes hits me and one of our songs is ringing through the speakers. Cassidy Rae hums to the song as she sets the coffee maker to brew. She’s pretty, in a simplistic way. Her hair is back in a bun and her eyes a stunning green. No layers of makeup and bright lips adorning her face, unlike the fans we get at our meet and greets. I finally straighten my back and lift my head instead of hiding behind the bill of my cap.
“You like the song?” I ask her with a smirk.
“Huh? Oh, yeah.” Her cheeks turn pink.
“Thanks for the recommendation, the pancakes were great.” I drop a fifty on the counter and smile. “Keep the change, Cassidy Rae.”
She mumbles a thanks, turning a darker shade of pink, as I stand and stretch. I take one last glance before I leave and see her gasp when she notices the big tip I left her. Grateful eyes meet mine, and I smile. Not sure what her deal is, but a job like this can’t pay much. If I can pay it forward, why not?