*** Part 2 ***
Adree didn't expect to make a big change by telling Ritchie she liked him. But never did she expect such a reaction! "Maybe it's just too early, or, what if it was too late?" Ritchie seemed to her like such a shyish reserved individual before, she thinks that maybe if she had opened up to him earlier, maybe he'd be more lively and not have gotten that far down. "Oh come on Adree," she thinks, "your just fantasizing." She looks at the clock on her phone, 12:37. She has her band practise this afternoon, that'll clear her head.
Adree hasn't been playing bass for long, but she's picked it up quite nicely. A friend from work had it for sale, so she bought it. She played a bit of flute as a little kid. Never really seriously learned how to play an instrument, but thought it would be fun, so she bought it, and hasn't been able to keep her mind off of playing bass. At work, she'll bring her bass and play at lunch, or spend the time watching videos about playing bass. Her musical taste has changed since playing. She's into heavier stuff, gone are her days of techno and auto-tuned pop. She's gone a little crazy, but a good crazy. Like obsessing, but on something that's good to obsess about. Then she met Lianna in the music store, she played guitar, wanna play a little together, ect. They've been playing together for a few weeks. They call themselves Satirical. Adree is just in it to have fun and to better her playing.
She goes downtown on the way to Lianna's to get some coffee. Well, more like to scope it out. Her and Lianna are going to come here later this evening for the Friday open mic night. "'Dreamy Steam', cool name for a cafe" she thinks. She gets a large espresso, and sits next to the window at a small table. The little stage is in the back corner of the cafe. There's house PA. Everyone can get a good view of it, and there's a door to a little room off to the side. This will be her first gig, and she's excited, but inside. She takes a sip of the espresso, and looks out the window. Ritchie is outside parking. She watches him as he comes into Dreamy Steam also. He doesn't notice her. She keeps watching him, he seems agitated, like there's something he's worrying about. He's reading the open mic night poster while he waits for his coffee. He gets his cup of goodness and then sees Adree sitting by the window. He walks over.
"Hey," he says, "can I sit with you?"
Ritchie sits down at the small, two seat, table. Sitting here with her, he almost regrets saying what he said earlier on the phone.
"Look, I'm sorry if I seemed a bit pushy earlier," he hesitates, then continues, "but it's just, I don't know. After we talked, I keep thinking, 'Why did I push her away like that?' It's like, I feel like a new man now. Screw the old Ritchie."
"I can see what you mean, but it's okay, after what you did, you probably need some time to get yourself settled inside again. I probably shouldn't have brought it up so soon."
"So we're friends?"
She smiles, making her light brown eyes shine, "Yes, friends." She has a slightly sympathetic air about her now, she's being genuinely nice.
Ritchie arrives at Ron's house, a stereotypical two story subdivision house. "I wonder how punk-usual I look." He thinks, "How many other musicians have practiced in a house like this? We look like just some losers getting together to 'play'." His next movement in his plan is getting Ron on board with his new plan. As he walks to the door, he wonders if Ron too will have the mock-warm disposition toward him. He knocks, Ron answers, no one else is home. They say nothing, Ritchie quietly walks to Ron's room and sets up his equipment. They practice in Ron's room so they don't have to move the drum set. Ron is a good drummer, he plays heavy. He can drum along to almost any My Dying Bride or Pantera song. He and Ritchie play perfectly together, perfectly synced. When they play, there's an unspoken aggression to they're style. Ron sits at the drums, awkwardly scraping the drumsticks together. Ritchie quick-tunes and checks his volume. "Forget Like Free" he says, spitting out the song name at Ron, who counts them in.
They play through 5 songs without talking, Ritchie just calling the names like some drill sergeant might. Ritchie could feel it, his newfound clarity. Ron could sense the difference in Ritchie's singing too, he sang with power and purpose, never hesitant, even without a mic. They finish "Gone To Follow", and Ritchie turns his amp off, puts the Warlock in a chair, and goes to the kitchen for a drink. He waits for Ron to follow, then sits at the kitchen table, Ron doing the same. Ron sighs, "We're on fire today" he says, breaking the silence.
"We're going to be more often," says Ritchie, not averting his forward stare.
"Ron," Ritchie says, turning in his chair and putting his hands on the wood table, "we're good musicians, I want to get a full band together. We need a full band, and we need to make a record. I'm in this 100%, I could be dead right now, but I'm not, and now it's time to stop wasting time. I always have been and always will be a musician. But you know as well as I do that we need to move forward with our music, the time is now."
Ron sat with an open mouth, "Is he reading my mind?" he thought.
"I'm going full-force into the music, you with me?" asks Ritchie.
Ron stands, sets his drink on the table, and says "Yes". Ritchie gets up, and the two shake hands. They're a real band now.
Ritchie spent the afternoon at Ron's house, they decided to not name themselves until they had more members. So the hunt began, looking for a bassist and guitarist who can play in heart-melting acoustic but also metal styles. Ritchie wrote the music, he had no idea as to what style he plays. He and Ron learned "World Pretending" by Paradise Lost that afternoon, but here he was signing his name on the open mic night list. He never knew Dreamy Steam ever got so crowded, now he understands that "Help Wanted" sign on the door. After he puts his name down, he sees the manager and asks about the position. He'll have an interview tomorrow at noon.
Ritchie gets water, he doesn't like coffee before singing. He sits alone at a corner table, with his guitar and little amp. No one is on yet, the sun is just going down outside, giving a haze to the aged windows of this place. He didn't tell Ron that he planned on playing here, this scene is new to him. There are paintings by local artists all over the walls, for sale. He likes this local art look, it's sophisticated, not folkish. Artistic, not hobby craft. The love for art could be seen in this place, felt in the atmosphere and chatter. He sat, soaking in this new culture. He gets some paper from his gig bag, and writes some lyrics about Dreamy Steam, then got his guitar and hummed them over some major chords. A very energetic song. "Very coffee shop," he thought, "I guess it's kinda stupid, but fun to play." Agh, he knows he'll probably never use it, maybe just for fun.
He stops his deep thoughts by noticing how Dreamy Steam is really getting packed. The sun has just gone down, and it seems as if it were some signal for the crowd to march forth and drink coffee. He got here pretty early, he had never been to one of these before and wanted to scope it out before he played. To his chagrin, he was third down on the mic list, and it seems that no one here arrives late. The place is crowded by the time the first name is called, some plaid-shirted guy plays a light country type song. Ritchie refuses to pay attention. He notices the little stage lights and effects, this isn't at all what he expected from a coffee shop. This is like a real venue. The first guy finishes and the crowd claps weakly. "Gosh," thinks Ritchie, "tough crowd, or maybe it's just not their style." Well it wasn't, because the next guy covered "I'm Yours" by Jason Mraz with a kind of raspy voice, and the people loved it.
"Ritchie White," calls the barista, the manager, with a skinny goatee and black framed glasses.
Ritchie gets his Warlock and little amp, pushes through the crowd, and steps onto the stage. He feels like he doesn't belong, there's a few people looking at him as if they've never seen an electric guitar before. Even some of the workers pause to look at him, setting up his amp, standing in front of the mic, and how he just tells them the song name and plays. He plays "Dead Inside", minor chorded and light, but with sad lyrics. The audience sways with the music, then he realizes that they're moving with him. These people are really listening and Ritchie feels an emotional connection with them. He no longer feels nervous or out of place. This is a good place to play too, can't get all crazy and hurt his wound, though it still stings a little on deep breaths.
He finishes the song and gets some light applause, kind of weak, but they look depressed from his music. He sees Adree and Lianna standing off to his right. Adree smiles at him, "I didn't know you played!" she lips at him. He shrugs, and somehow feeling spontaneous, announces...
"This next song I want to dedicate to my friend Adree. We had a chance meeting here today, and if it wasn't for that conversation, I don't know if I would be here right now. I wrote this song while I sat over in the corner when I got here tonight, it's called 'Dreamy Steam'."
He goes into the song about how he came to notice the coffee shop culture by chance. The chorus is catchy, and by the end, everyone is bobbing their heads and singing along. He ends and gets spirited applause. He gets his gear, takes it outside, and puts it in his car. He calls a guy he knows who plays bass, but it turns out that he's already occupied with his band. Ritchie goes back inside, now he can have the coffee.
Ritchie is on the stage of Dreamy Steam. The stage lights are on and burning hot, beyond the edge of the stage is opaque darkness. He stands on the empty stage, beginning to sweat. He hears the front door chime open in the darkness, but he can't see anything but the stage. Then he hears the voice, the voice that he feared the night before. It seemed to come from all around, but yet it was like a whisper. He knew who it was, and that unexplained fear once again took hold of him.
"I know how you were Ritchie," she spoke slowly, softly, "As a painting, a masterpiece of image and emotion. There it hang. No one would, no one could, understand what it really was. A fake. A decoy. A front. He didn't appear to be who he was. He was painted over, the equivalent of a painting painted over. Put on display, out for all to see. For it to be proven that he was just like all the other paintings. Happy and bright and valuable. He didn't belong in a gallery, he belonged buried so no one could discover the reality, the trueness of his dark image. How happy now, he found some one who understood, she didn't need the front. She didn't squirm when the facade was gone. It's seems..."
The voice silenced when he began to run, he wanted to run out of there, to be anywhere but there. He runs and jumps of the stage edge to where the door should be, then drops, face to the floor. He realizes that he was asleep on Ron's sofa as he climbs back up from the floor, his heart racing, his neck painfully tight. This cold grey room makes him feel like he's being watched. He hides under the blanket, and is soon asleep.
He wakes up early the next morning, with a biting headache. The sun is just beginning to rise. He begins to think of last night. "What did she mean?", he thought. "Who doesn't squirm?" He knew he was the painting, but wonders about this 'she', he doesn't know who understands. Adree is the only person since the failure to seem to want to be his friend, Ron doesn't seem to acknowledge the incident. "Could she be talking about Adree? Oh what am I doing, these are just weird dreams." He avoids pondering on it, but he knows they don't feel like dreams. It feels real, very real. And this entity in his mind, she seems to tell him things he doesn't know, to suggest things he'd yet to imagine.
He gets off the couch, the cool damp stale morning air shocking his skin as he walks to the kitchen. His chest itches a little, the bandages are losing their adhesion. It's OK, air will get to it and heal the surface. He knows there'll be a scar, and not a shallow one. As he pours a cup of coffee, he fantasises in his mind, "A deep scar, like the unseen ones on my mind." It's an obscure connection, but it seemed fitting. He's felt overcome by creativity these past few days. He's always been a skeptic, but he doesn't want to think that his new sense of purpose will ever end, if it will. The prospect of this enriched life ending was a vexing thought, but always present. He wants to use this creativity and romantic way of thinking before it might all end. "God I hope it won't end," he whispers under his breath as he gets into the shower. He begins to recount last night in his mind. Funny thing about it though, when you preform, you can't really relive it in your mind, only small parts. He remembers setting up, how Adree seemed so enthusiastic when she saw him on stage. He remembers his announcement, a bit out of character. But really, has he ever had a set character?
He looks at himself in the mirror, the same body he's always had. He looks at the stitches on his chest, the first good look he's had. It looks so small now, but he knows it goes deep. He managed to not puncture anything vital, but lost enough blood to pass out. He can't remember how long he lay there bleeding that night. Adree found him just in time. Just in time to save his life. What if she never wanted to dance with him?
He gets dressed in the bathroom, he always has clothes at Ron's house. Many a night he's spent here, sitting at a dark window, writing. "How apt, that my songs have been written in a dark room," he thought. He needs a job, his parents quit his last job for him while he was in the hospital. He didn't like it anyway. He likes Dreamy Steam. He likes the creative atmosphere, though it's new to him. He's been more open minded since the Failure, before he would've never wanted to perform at a coffee shop.
He sat in a park, on a bench. The painkiller he took before his interview was wearing away. He'll begin his work at Dreamy Steam on Monday morning. He felt no need to mention the Failure, or to speak at all of the recent incident. Now he sips his coffee in the park, the drink warming his insides on this cool day. He looks at the sky and takes a deep breath, closing his eyes. Then, he starts, and rises. He begins to walk. He left his car parked at Dreamy Steam. He leaves the park, and walks by some apartments. Pure curiosity brings him to step into the office to know the price. "It's too perfect," he thought, "close to downtown, and Dreamy Steam." He got a pamphlet from the empty office, and left, the door chiming behind him. He walks and reads. When he moves, his things will fit in his and Ron's cars. It might only require one trip.