Rock Bottom

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Rock Bottom Page 6

by Josephine Traynor

  My eyes snap to his with a shit-eating grin spread across his face. He did that on purpose to try and unsettle me. All his little tricks, comments, and space invading have not been missed on me. When a man is so full of himself as the man before me, I really do find it a turn-off. “No mac and cheese for you and you’d need to put back all those lollies.” Walking past him and heading for the register, I try giving him a subtle hint that we are done for tonight. Well, I certainly am.

  If he thinks for one second that I’m going to be an easy lay, he has another thing coming. Flash me a pretty smile and turn me to liquid? I’m a bit more evolved than that. I’ve had the pretty boys tell me everything I’ve ever wanted to hear and they have fucked me over. I won’t fall for that again. A shudder runs through me as I recall the lowest point of my past. From looking at me, you’d think I’d have no idea what Reece is going through. Unfortunately, I know it all too intimately. It’s only because he acts so helpless that I don’t turn my back on him, but instead, keep him at arm’s length. I know what it’s like to have the life you are leading to be put up for public scrutiny. To have to hide away from the hounds of the world’s media who are out for your blood. My heart starts to race, and my hands are shaking. Get it together, Madelyn I coax myself. I focus on my breathing and set my mind to the task at hand. Groceries. If he knows who I am, he’s not announcing it.

  For all I know, this could be some sick game to try and bring me back into the world of celebrity. That world holds no appeal to me at all.

  Never did, never will.

  Chapter Eight


  “So, where’s your car?” she asks as she bags the last items and I assess just how much I have to carry home. There’s no way I can manage all this. The supply of teeth rotting, head rushing goodness has filled the backpack alone.

  Lowering my head for just a moment before answering. “I don’t have one.” Lifting my head, I shrug my shoulders. “Maybe you can call me a taxi? It’s not far, but I can’t carry all this by hand.”

  I stare at her while she lets out a little bark of laughter. “We don’t have taxis out here, city slicker. Help me load it into the trolley and I’ll give you a lift home,” she says with a smile. Her smile fades when I don’t return it. The offer makes me uneasy. Normally, there’s no way I’d knock back an offer from a cute girl, but I can’t quite put my finger on what it is. “It’s just a lift. I can drop you off at the corner if you feel more comfortable. My car is just out there.” She points to the street, and all I can see is a bomb of a thing, and as I’m considering taking her up on the offer, I’m hoping she’s pointing around the corner.

  Grabbing the last bag and putting it in the trolley. “I could just push this home.”

  She nods her head. “You could. It’s an option, but they make an awful racket and the last time someone did that, Ol’ man Clementine rang the police saying hoodlums were on the loose. Caused all sorts of embarrassment … and attention.”

  She’s good. She’s avoided every single question that could identify who I am and hasn’t asked me directly. I don’t know why but that both settles and unnerves me at the same time. I can spot a user a mile away. I can also spot a manipulator, for some reason, I don’t get either of those vibes from this girl. I look out to the street and pray again that it’s not the car before looking at the bags before me. She’s made it clear that this is the town that will hide my identity, so I go with the whim and accept.

  “Fine. I trust your food selections, I trust that you will keep some kind of check-out chick customer confidentiality.”

  She nods her head while handing me another bag. “Absolutely. No one else needs to know.” She lowers her voice. “I’ll keep your secret safe.”

  And I genuinely believe she will.

  I give her a few minutes to deal with the till and I can’t help but reach into my backpack and pull out a Crunchie. Honeycomb with milk chocolate on the outside. The crunch and crumble just before the honeycomb melts over my tongue has me moaning. My sound of gluttonous appreciation could not have been timed any worse as it so happened, she was making her way to the back of the shop and as the sound escaped my throat and she stopped suddenly. I move to take another bite as she glances over her shoulder and we make eye contact. My teeth bite into the Crunchie while we hold our stares. Another involuntary groan emanates, and I nearly miss the flash of disappointment on her face as she realises the noise is from the chocolate, not from her fine arse viewing. Those jeans might be scruffy at the ends, but they are working wonders to show off her well-kept form. It hits me that I’m actually getting a little turned on by something that is covered up. Normally all I see is skin, skin and more skin. This makes me wonder what’s under there. Just like the wrapper of the next chocolate. I know what’s under there, but this just builds my anticipation. I stop staring into those deep eyes as she turns and continues her way to the back. Finishing the bar with another two bites, the wrapper is throwing back in my bag. Wiping my fingers on my jeans, I instantly regret it. These jeans have been worn for too many days. No wonder she was suggesting deodorant. Looking down at myself, a wave of guilt rises through me. I’ve been looking at this woman before me and judging her when I’m clearly looking the worse of the two. I turn myself and wait with my trolley near the door as I chastise myself for being judgemental and think about how this feeling is foreign to me. This girl has been kind to me for no other reason, she clearly knows who I am, but is doing everything other than blurting it out. She’s keeping my secret for a reason. I’m not sure why, I guess time will tell.

  God damn I want another chocolate.

  “It’s this one here.” I point as she pulls her car into the space. I’m actually relieved that I can now pick out the house. One thing that’s finally going right. “I really appreciate the ride.”

  “Do you need a hand getting it inside or you have it under control?”

  To be honest, I don’t want to be rude. I’ve taken a chance on letting her know where I live, let alone invite her inside. That would be the ultimate end. ‘Fangirl finds missing rockstar and bludgeons him to death’. Normally I would be all ‘hey yeah, come inside so I can come inside you’ but the moment is gone. I can’t have that mindset of having a conquest in every city. The point is, I’m here and will have to face her again, and I don’t want to run the risk of a jilted one-night stand giving me up for more money than I have in the bank account.

  “Thanks, I got it,” I say as I reach for the handle to open the door.

  “Okay then, well, if you need any more help, you know where to find me. I work there every Tuesday, Thursday, Friday nights.”

  My head turns to look at her. “What day is it today?”

  From the soft glow of the street light, I can see she’s giving me a small smile. “It’s Friday.”

  Holy fuck. For a few hours there, I’d completely forgotten what tonight was meant to be. Tonight was to be opening night, and now I’m stuck here playing Suzie Homemaker. The thought just depresses me even more. Staring at her for a few seconds before exiting the car and closing her door when the word I was looking for before hits me. It’s shame. I grab all the bags, loading them all along my arm. Stuff making two trips. I can do this. I reach up with bags swinging in all directions to get to the front door before dropping the ones in my right hand to the ground. I don’t even look back at the car as I open the door and lug the bags inside. I fear if I see my surroundings for what they are, it will break me. My head hangs low as I kick the door shut. I haven’t cried in years, not since my mum died, but tonight, tonight I’m fighting to hold them in.

  The depressing veil that is my life is falling over me again, and I don’t want to get caught in its clutches. I can’t let myself stay in that headspace. I scoop up the bags again, and I swear as they hit the wall while I make my way to the kitchen. The backpack slips awkwardly off my back and down my arms as I pull the fridge door and use it to prop it open. I cringe at some of the bags make a heavy c
lunking sounds of glass settling on the tiles. “Shit. Don’t break.” My mind races with a thousand thoughts, and I have to decide if I’m talking to the jars or to myself. I feel like I’m hanging on by a thread, and if one more thing goes wrong, I’m going to snap and cry like a baby. “Get it together, Reece.” Tonight should have been about making my mark on the world. Showing all those people that I had the goods. Packed arenas. Ten shows in the one city before moving on to the next. My band was going to make history. Now I’m going to be listed in the history books as the epic tour that never happened. My unpacking is becoming more and more aggressive. My fists are clenched, my teeth are grinding, and I’ve misplaced my pick so I can’t do anything I normally do to calm myself. Things are being thrown in haphazardly as my anger moves from simmer to boil.

  I yank open the backpack to reveal my bag of treats as I pull it out of the way to allow the fridge door to close. I reach in and dig my hand deep. My hand curls around the treats and I just take what’s coming to me. I just want to be numb. I drop my arse down on the stool and rip open the first packet. Mars bar. Chocolate covered nougat and peanuts. I take a bite so big, I can barely close my mouth. The sugar hits me in an instant as I reach over to grab my notepad. I’d started a list of things to discuss with Sean when I get my hands on him.

  Number one – punch him in the nose.

  Number two – repeat number one 'til the feeling of satisfaction takes over my body and mind.

  The reason I write those on the list is because I honestly don’t know how I’m going to behave. I don’t know what I’m going to do when I do get my chance to be face to face with him. My mind races faster with more and more unlikely possibilities of what I would do with him, I manage to rein it in after a shallow grave makes it to the list. Ever since the police knocked on my dressing room door three days ago, I’ve been playing the same track of hate and nothing’s going to change it until I get some answers. My fingers fumble into the pile of wrappers looking for the next piece to put in my mouth while I keep writing, and I come up empty. I look down at the scattered plastic that’s now scattered on the bench. I don’t even remember eating them. I’ve only ever been this mindless once before. That was the dark time after my mother’s death, and I started to question my purpose in life. That’s when I decided I wanted to make the band the biggest success it could be. The world was my oyster. The term world domination was certainly on my list. I’ve been forced to do a complete one-eighty because I’m back here again, assessing, reassessing and questioning my next move. I’ve logged into every social media account I own. I even answered Baxter Colson’s question as to where we are. “I know where I am. Do you know where Sean is?” is my response. Nice and vague answer for the smart arse. Let’s see if that brings anyone out of the woodwork. My phone is beeping with David telling me to lay low within the minute of me posting. He also asks me how I was going with some new material.

  The hard part is, I have no idea how to be a solo artist. I have no idea how to even start being on my own. The truth is the songs that David’s pushing for are in their rawest form. I’m not even happy with them so why would I hand them over. I do have some standards and the idea of handing something over just for the sake of it, doesn’t bode well with me. Sean was my brother from another mother, he was my business partner, he was the yin to my yang and most of all, he was my confidante. No one knows me like he knows me. I hate this. I hate sitting here, thinking about things that I might never get the answers to. I’m honestly bewildered, and I feel stunned when I think of how this has all gone down. The urge to eat has long gone. All I want to do is have a shower and crawl into bed.

  So that’s what I do.

  Chapter Nine


  I want to give a quick wave goodbye as he hauls his bags up to the door, but he doesn’t even turn around. I don’t know why I’m surprised by his behaviour, but I am. Celebrities. I brush my hair out of my eyes with a shake of my head as I pull away from the kerb. My grip loosens on the steering wheel as my car starts to make the same rumbling noise it made a few weeks back. I glance to the engine light and note the temperature is sitting a little higher.

  “Great,” I say. I only just finished paying off the last lot of repairs and now this. If public transport was even available in this town, then I would get rid of this rust bucket. I’m thankful that she’s got me to my street and she conks out three houses away from my place. “Fuck it.” I push the door open and work to get the car to coast to a better parked position. I’ll have to get the mechanic to look at it again for me and just hope it doesn’t break down like it did last time. I was caught between Portmouthe and Dareton when it just gave up. This means more shifts at the store if they are available, but where to fit them into my schedule? I know Clementine will give them to me, he’s been saying he wants to work less, but I guess I have no choice if I want to have a car. The mechanic told me it was going to become an issue, I was just hoping for later rather than now. My brother has offered me his car, I just hate the thought of leaving him without transport while I go to the next town over for the day for my studies.

  Just as I’m getting out of the car, that’s when the heavens decide to open up and bring down a sprinkling of rain. I lean in and reach behind my seat for my bag, and I feel it snag as I try to bring it over the seat. The raindrops feel heavier on my back as I give a gentle tug. Within seconds of starting, the light sprinkling has turned into missile drops and the rain is now pelting down as I turn to try and stop the bag from ripping, I hear the tearing sound, and my books tumble to the road. “Great!” My voice echoes into the dark night, and I crouch quickly to pick them up. The raindrops few and far between, they are coming down like sniper bullets and a few sting my head and my hand as I grab for my books and clutch them close to my chest to try and avoid any further water damage.

  The car door shuts with a slam and I run for the front door of my studio apartment. I set my textbooks and handbag down on the table as I kick the door shut. I wipe the last of the rain that’s dripping off my nose and push my hair behind my shoulders as I reach to empty my pants pockets. Things usually happen in threes in my life. First the car, then the broken bag and it’s not long 'til I find out what number three is. I must have flicked that switch five times, each flick becoming more violent. The last hit on the switch is with my palm, and it stings. I paid the bill. I stand in my hallway, shivering and cursing the electricity company. The rain sounds like it’s really pelting down while I strip off my wet clothes and continue to curse at the world. My wet feet pad on the floorboards as I set off for the bathroom to grab my towel and rub it over my textbooks to ensure they are not going to be too badly damaged. No way in hell do I have the funds to buy another set. My body starts to shake with shivers as I bring the towel around me to both dry and warm me. I scoop up my wet clothes and throw them on the bathroom floor and pull on my pyjamas. I return to the textbooks and give them a feel to check for dryness before snatching up my phone. After a ten-minute wait time, I’m finally speaking to an operator.

  “We apologise again, Ms Arnett, I can see you’ve paid the bill, as it was a day late and there have been repeats of this behaviour, the power won’t be restored until tomorrow morning.”

  Great. Study by candlelight. I’ve had numerous conversations with the power company over the months, so I’m used to this. “I honestly thought I had a day to go, not a day behind but thank you for your help.”

  As pissed as I was, it was my fault, and I bounce on yet another rock bottom. As it was instilled in me from a young age to have manners and my experiences in life have taught me to know when it’s circumstance and when it’s not that person’s fault. They’re just doing a job. It’s not like this hasn’t happened to me before. Thank God I have a gas stove. I can boil the water for my noodles while I pull out the candles. I don’t even need the light of my phone. To say this is the first time my electricity has been cut off, would be a lie. I’ve had many a candlelight night due to my stub
born streak of being fiercely independent.

  Considering I grew up in a mansion with servants and someone on hand to do just about any job I could think up, people from my old life wouldn’t believe that I’m really me. I laugh to myself about my situation. Three pairs of jeans in my small wardrobe and none of them designer. Two pairs of shoes. The horror. Who would have thought? Daughter of world-renowned journalist Walter Westrington existing week to week, no power and eating a Cup O’ Noodles for her one well-rounded meal for the day. It’s moments like this that test my resolve. It doesn’t matter. I could be living in my car up on blocks, and I still wouldn’t want to be part of his world. So fake. I know that makes me sound judgey, it’s just the truth. All the people I grew up with up with are exactly that. They are people I grew up with. They are not friends. They are all products of celebrities, and they think that’s their claim to fame. They haven’t done anything themselves, and they are happy with that.

  My mother separated from my father when I was seven. We saw him when he wasn’t on assignment, which was next to never because he was always on assignment. Even during the holidays, he chose to be at work when it came to his new family. The perks of being the daughter of someone who is classed as one of the best journalists – there are none really. Everything associated with him came at a price. Wanting to spend time with him, no, he had other children vying for his time also. I got to go to the best schools where I was bullied so badly that I would cry on the phone and beg my mother to bring me home. Getting a card in the mail wishing me a Merry Christmas as opposed to seeing him face to face or God forbid, over the phone. Yeah. I learned hard and fast not to have expectations of my father, and therefore, that flowed on to others in my life. The only reason I cried when we left my dad’s house was because of those people inside. They were like my family. My mother was still very hands-on with us, we would cook, we had chores, even though my father told us repeatedly that we didn’t have to do them, but he wasn’t around much so it was mum’s ruling.


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