Rock Bottom

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Rock Bottom Page 4

by Josephine Traynor

  She made me promise that I wouldn’t get involved in drugs. And I’ve lived up to that promise. She died three years ago back home in Australia just as we were hitting the big time. My biggest regret was not being able to be by her side as she left this world. The charter jet just couldn’t make it in time. I didn’t give myself time to grieve, just threw myself into my work and channeled it all into my writing. I’m proud to say that was our platinum record. She always said she was proud of me, and it stings even more that now I really have no one. Shutting the water off, I can hear my phone ringing. My feet lose traction on the wet tiles as I try to run to the phone, I’m sending a silent prayer that it’s Sean ringing to say it’s a big misunderstanding.

  I sigh when I see David’s name display. “David.”

  “Good. I was two seconds away from sending someone around to check on you.”

  “Shower, what’s going on?” I walk back to the bathroom and snatch a towel off the rack and start drying my hair.

  “This is more of a welfare check, haven’t heard anything, but you have a roof over your head, you can borrow the car in the garage, and you’re set. What did you get up to last night?”

  David didn’t even sound like he’d taken a breath. “Not much, quiet night at home.”

  “Well, it is your home for however long it needs to be. A courier will be out today with a laptop, get yourself set up with an email and start sending me some of your songs. Look. He never uttered a word that he wasn’t happy or was in trouble to me, so I’m just as in the dark about this as you are, so, you have to make good with the situation you are in. This is something that has happened to you, don’t let him and his behaviour define you.”

  I let out a sharp laugh. “Yeah, well, what rumour are we up to now? I’m still the jilted lover? Getting my Zen on? Rehab?”

  David’s silence unnerves me. “You haven’t seen the news have you?”

  “Fuck me! One hundred thousand pounds for the first interview with me? Twenty thousand for the first photo! You’re kidding, right? This is a fucking witch hunt!” Trying to control my voice, I’m both angry and puzzled by the circus. “David? You gotta bring this shit under control. Maybe we should issue some kind of statement?”

  “I know, and I am. You know I’m not going to leave you in the lurch, and I’m doing the best I can, but you have to remember our contract.”

  I turn the bringer of bad tidings off so I can focus on the bomb that David’s going to drop.

  “Contract? Which part specifically.” I swallow hard.

  I can tell that he’s struggling with the news as he lets out a heavy sigh. “The part that says should you two ever split, the band is over and so is our working relationship.”


  “I’m not leaving you completely, I thought that was obvious. I just …” He lets out another deep breath. “My bosses are up my arse and saying that you are not the priority as you are no longer our client.” Client. Nice and clinical. I tug hard on my hair. “But look. They can’t tell me who I can have stay in my house. They can’t tell me who I can and can’t be friends with. I’ve got you covered that way. Reece? Reece? Are you there?”

  “Yeah,” my voice comes out as a croak. “I’m here.” So, I have no management. No agent. No money. No career. I’m as good as a nobody. Sean’s rejection was the catalyst for all of this. The broken record of my last few days starts to replay. Ten years we were in this together. Ten years of working towards my dream. Ten years of doing the hard yards, playing in dives of places to build our name. Ten years of sleepless nights. All amounting to pretty much nothing.

  “Hold off on coming out of hiding. Just give it a little time. If this is what they are prepared to pay now, imagine what the pot will be up to in a month’s time?” A month! My ears start to pound as my blood pressure spikes. I can’t live like this for a month. My hand thrusts into my pocket in search of the bloody phantom pick. It’s gone! Stop looking for it. “I’m working double time to get a solo contract your way, Reece. I have to go through the proper channels and make sure everything is legal. We need something new, something that is just you. I’m working hard, but until then, I can only do what I can do to protect you. Text me if you need anything, I gotta go.” I think he’s disconnected when he suddenly says in a low voice. “I was your manager and your friend. I’d like to think we are still friends. I’m going to help you Reece, but my suggestion, just stay off the grid.”

  Friend. He’s about the only thing I have in this world.

  Texts alone have been my only means of human contact. ‘Where are the bins?’ ‘What’s the box of contraband shit in the fridge?’ ‘What’s there to do in this place?’ ‘Any news? I feel like I’m under house arrest.’ I’m trying not to be a pain in his arse as I’m no longer his client, but if I’m going to be here, I need to know these things.

  David was diligent in pointing out what was needed. ‘Garage, but put them beside the house when you fill them,' ‘bicarb to keep the smells out,' ‘read, explore, get inspired’ and ‘no.'

  That one stung the most. Sean and I had arguments, but never like this. We’d call each other a few unsavoury names but never just take off. True to his word, a courier delivered a laptop and tablet to the front door, and I spent most of the day getting them set up. As directed, I set up an email account and sent him a quick one to show him that I could do it. Just as I was closing the laptop, it pinged with his reply. “Check the bag. Enjoy.”

  I didn’t even give the bag a second thought when the courier placed it just inside the front door and handed me the electronics. I jog along the hallway and scoop up the bag. Running shoes, socks, and an outfit. No note as nothing needs to be explained. My choice of workout is to go for a run. I head back to the laptop and send a thank you. The tags are ripped off the clothes, and I eventually decided against going for a run, my mind is on other things. Food being one of them.

  Grabbing my phone, I head back to the little supermarket. Bananas and sandwiches are off the list, and I can’t think about them without my stomach recoiling to protect itself. It’s not the sandwiches fault. Little Miss Slutty scotch is to blame. So enticing going down, like all women, but then she revolted. Couldn’t get out of my body fast enough. I’m used to fucking five-star, Michelin star, the best. Not burnt to buggery bread. Yeah, the other half of that loaf followed the trail blazed by the first half. Frustrated and hungover does not make for a chilled outlook. My fingers took a close call with the knife but damned if I can get a grip on the toaster. I ended up eating one slightly singed piece of bread when all the fucks I could give, ran out.

  This time, I lift my backpack over my shoulders. You don’t see surgeons cutting their hands on plastic bags, my hands are my income. I pull my hoodie up, and over my head, before I step outside, the last thing I need is to be found out and have the world camped on my doorstep. I have no survival skills, and I’m the first to admit it. Yes, I heard that David told me about the car in the garage, but I’m used to be being ferried everywhere I need to go, why bother to learn to drive and get a licence? Yeah, I have vintage cars, to look at – not to drive. MC Hammer had racehorses – I don’t remember seeing him riding any. The cars were my splurge, my little token of ‘I’ve made it.' A treat. A fucking huge treat worth a bucket load of money that I could use right now and not have sitting in a garage being polished by my employee. Employees. I’m sure they’ve all been let go. I didn’t even have time to talk to them. When the police and taxation department came in, they said I wasn’t to approach them because they thought I might be trying to coerce them into giving a false statement about my involvement with Sean. I had no involvement. It’s because of him that I’m walking and collecting my groceries like a commoner. As much as I want to hate him, the lack of licence is on me. Gah. That’s a bitter pill to swallow. I tell myself that walking’s not so bad. It’s my only option when I don’t have a clue about how to drive. That’s another thing for the list of things I can’t do.

; Everything has been done for us. Food, clothes, hell, I’m sure if I needed an arse wiper, I’d be able to get one. It’s only now that I realise just how much has been done for me. Twenty-seven years old and incapable of doing things that a teenager would be able to do. All this spare time is giving me time to think, and I’m not thinking good thoughts. I’ve been trying to recall any hint that things were starting to go pear-shaped. Taking note of all the things I should be able to do, but don’t or can’t.

  The more I think, the more agitated I become. The more agitated I become, the more I want to just run and hide. I can see the benefit of being in this two-bit town. The only person putting expectations on me is me, and right now, all I’m focusing on is one foot in front of the other and getting some food, so I don’t starve.

  That I can do.

  Chapter Five


  Ever have one of those days where you wake up and have that sensation that ‘today’s going to be different’? I’ve been awake for exactly fourteen hours, and that sense of impending doom hasn’t left me all day. Just an unnerving, unsettling, twinge type feeling that something is going to happen and my life is not going to be the same. The brewing feeling. That sick anticipation that seems to be my emotion for several months when my life was being flushed down the toilet. I was half-tempted to stay in bed and avoid the day, but that doesn’t get the bills paid. I have been cautious all day. Taking tentative steps. Being extra courteous and even ringing my brother for a social call just to touch base. So far, the day ran smoothly despite my watching everything like a hawk and waiting for something to happen. My shift here at the market is almost done, and I’m looking forward to going home and clearing my senses of this feeling.

  I’m counting down the seconds in my head 'til closing time. Night shift at the market has its perks. The numbers dwindle most nights so I can actually get some studying done, but tonight I’ve been readjusting my budget which is leaking more than the holes in my shoes. Glancing down at my shoes that have served me well for the past year. They have seen better days, like most of the things I own, but it’s what the budget affords. The colour has faded, the laces are frayed, and the threads are just holding together over the big toe on my right foot. Hmm, better put shoes on the list to budget in and maybe I’m just paranoid about today. This is the first night in weeks that I don’t have a shift at the pub, and I don’t have a paper due at the university. A rare night off, maybe that’s it. Simply not having my day and night packed with things to do. Not that I’m doing anything exciting, but it’s nice to just be able to get home at a decent hour. With one hand on the sign, I’m watching the wall clock and counting it down in my head. Three, two, one. I flip the CLOSED sign over and flick the locks. Hanging my apron on the hook for the morning staff, I pull my hair tie from my hair before gathering it into a fresh ponytail when a shadow from the next aisle catches my eye.

  “Hello?” I call. There hasn’t been anyone come in since the businessman buying milk and nappies. I round the corner slowly and see him standing there. Holy shit. It’s him. I might avoid mainstream media, but this guy’s face is everywhere. Every station, every channel, every presenter is talking about one man. It’s Reece Ashton. And with admitting his name, that sick feeling ratchets up to nine. The most famous man on the planet is only a few feet away from me. And if it’s not the media talking about him, it’s people talking about him, all coming up with their own conspiracy theories. I’m not one to keep up to date on who’s who in the music or celebrity world, but with the media going nuts over him, it’s hard to avoid. That’s so him. I step back behind the end of the aisle and take cover. Peeking around to get another uninterrupted look, I take in his tall, lean frame, his head bowed in serious contemplation. His blond hair looks effortlessly tousled and pointing in all directions from under his hoodie. Even under the harsh glare of the fluorescent light, which no one looks good under, he looks ready for a photo shoot. Grungy sexy.

  Doppelganger be damned, it has to be him. It’s horrible to be the centre of the media’s attention, and I’m surprised they haven’t put his mug on the milk cartons to try and track him down. I’m sure it’s him. The one on the cover of all the rag mags. He’s clearly not in Fiji on a meditation retreat. Maybe the other rumours are true. His partner / band member / lover did break up with him, and now he’s gone underground to rebuild his shattered heart. What the hell is he doing in Portmouthe? My feet stay rooted to the ground as a wash of panic starts to prickle the hair on my head, and my scalp pulls tight. Something within me stops myself from calling out to him again. It’s fear. If the media are looking for him, they could possibly find me, and I have worked too hard to leave that life behind for some rockstar to go and blow up my new life. I look to the front of the shop and see the streets are their usual state of bareness. Not a soul, not a car. I tell myself that I’m safe. For now. My hands move to cover my racing heart. I hate this feeling. This nervous, anxious, stupid feeling that seemed to rule my life for months. I’ve worked too hard to go backwards now. I take a few deep breaths before leaning forward to take another look. I could just usher him out, tell him we are closed, but something stops me from doing that. As much as his stance is intimidating, something about him is off.

  I stare at him for just a few seconds more. Man, he’s tall. I would only come up to his chest if I stood alongside him. The jumper might hide him a little, but the scruff on his chin gives the truth away. That jawline would make many a woman and man weak at the knees. He hasn’t even noticed me standing there, and I feel awkward for gawking, but I couldn’t help when my eyes take in all his glory. He’s a good-looking guy. His biceps have his shirt stretched and his hands. Oh God, those hands. Strong looking hands. He was quoted in an interview that he plays the guitar like it’s foreplay with a woman. The tins of peas he’s got a firm grip on are lucky tins. He must be hitting his rock bottom if he’s living around here. There is a huge difference between his slumming and my slumming though. I’m not sure how long he’s been standing there, and I watch his head rock back and forth between the labels. He looks lost. I can’t help but wonder if that’s what I looked like when the world’s media was hating on me. Did I look lost? Scared? Despite my wanting to toss him out and get his star status the hell away from me, something stops me. I remember what it was like to be so lost and alone in the world and how my brother seemed to be my only companion. Maybe this is my way to pay it forward? I know all too well what it’s like to have to hide from the world.

  “Those peas are a good choice.” I use a calm and steady voice not to frighten him. His head snaps up, and he moves a few short steps back while glancing over my shoulder. I couldn’t help but smile as I looked into those piercing green eyes. Any doubt was now nullified. I heard on the radio that he was half-Aussie, half-English, all I need is for him to speak to confirm my suspicions outright as my words ring in my head. Those peas are a good choice. I want the world to swallow me up. Here I am, a mere metre away from music royalty and my statement to him is about peas. “Anything I can help you with? How you doing there?” Nice and cool, that’s the way to play it.

  He turns his attention back to his hands and rolls the tins to read the label. “I know end food.” Okay, so we are talking in some kind of riddle, but God damn his voice is sexy. Gravelly, husky, heavenly Aussie accent mixed with some of the subtle sharp English tones. It’s him. When the world’s saturated with a band’s songs, it’s hard to avoid learning the chorus, and as much as the celebrity glow does nothing for me, I can definitely see the appeal.

  “End food?”

  “Yeah, end food. I know what I like when it’s made, but I don’t know how to make it.”

  Oh, so now we are getting somewhere. “Ingredients. So what do you like to eat? I can help you with the rest.”

  My breath hitches as he moves forward while shaking his head. The movement makes his hoodie drops back, and I get my first uninterrupted glimpse of him. Fuck me he’s hot. Put a boundary around it,
Madelyn. Ain’t no such thing as a Cinderella story for a girl like you. “Restaurant food I guess.” He’s not narrowing it down by any stretch, and I take another step forward, the soles of my shoes squeak on the flooring while I slide my hands into the pockets of my jeans when I think of how to help solve this quicker.

  “Yeah? Like that?” I reach into my back pocket and pull out my phone to pass to him. I notice that he watches my movements cautiously and takes the small step back that makes him look like he’s ready to run as I open the screen on my phone. I make a point of showing him what I’m doing and that I’m not going to snap a quick shot. His reactions make me feel sorry for him. He looks like a scared cat, and I hold it out for him to take. “Here, have a look through here and tell me what grabs your eye.” Those strong hands of his brush against mine as he gently takes the phone. His eyes light up at all the choices Pinterest has to offer. I feel like I’m in the middle of a weird social experiment. How does hardcore rocker live amongst the commoners? I can’t help but feel like I’m being Punked or set up for Candid Camera.

  The gentleness of the way he hands me the tins takes me by surprise. I normally avoid anything celebrity related, but being that I’m studying media to become a journalist / producer, even pop culture makes its way into the news media. Everything I’ve ever heard of him has been to the contrary of what I’ve seen tonight. Gruff, rude, arrogant, demanding and well, pretty much an arsehole. His eyes are still wide with genuine wonder as he slowly scrolls his way through. “What’s this?”


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