It was a late, dark friday night and, somehow, Adam, Paul and Jace had found themselves carried in a wave of students to Roadkill, a bar not fat from the campus that was known for playing rock music. The speakers were loud but, thankfully, the table they were sat around was not so noisy that they couldn't hear each other.
The bar was an unusual one. There were pictures on the walls, and square and rectangular shapes that seemed to descend from the ceiling. The tables were small and rectangular. Their bases sat on the thin, black carpet, while their surfaces reflected the many colours of the lights above. The chairs around the tables were likely the oddest part of the place. They looked as though they had been ripped straight out of cars and planted there for them. Still, they were oddly comfortable, so nobody had ever complained about them. They were just an extra feature that drew interest to this place. The lights played down over them, bathing them all in many different hues.
It had been quite light when they had arrived. As such, several glasses had now gathered on the small table between them. Having been unfortunate enough to forget his ID, Adam was the only one of the three who was drinking coke. It had been quite a disappointment; Adam was in quite the drinking mood. So far, Veronica had not answered any of his calls. She had refused to see him or even speak to him since the union performance. A little depressed, Adam had come here in the hope of some advice. However, so far neither Jace nor Paul had bothered to broach the subject, leaving Adam to do it himself.
"Bass," he began nervously, aiming the query at his classmate, "how do you get the woman you love?"
Upon completion of this question, Jace began to laugh, quite blatantly, at Paul. This was followed by Paul, who broke into laughter in response. Failing to see the hilarity, Adam folded his arms and ignored them both. This turn of events had genuinely upset him, as, to him at least, this was a serious problem.
Jace was the first to calm himself. "This guy has no idea how to get what he wants. He never has and he never will. It's a talent of his," he announced brazenly. This stunned Adam a little, but Paul did not seem insulted.
"You should be thankful, Jace," Paul replied across the table to Jace. "At least I know what I want nowadays."
Though their body language seemed to tell of angered disagreement, their tones were relaxed and flippant. Adam scoured his brain for something to add, but as usual, Jace beat him to it.
"You've always known one thing you want, haven't you? How long's it been now? Ten years? Twelve? In all this time I'm yet to see you make a move in pursuit at all. You've still not done anything about it though. Tell me, where is Ally today?"
"You like Ally?" Adam asked in surprise. Paul looked back at him with an elusive smile.
"Honestly, you didn't already know?" the bassist inquired in answer. "I've been told it's pretty obvious. She's gorgeous, she's pretty, she's stunning. She's a dream really isn't she? All you have to do is look at her to know that. I don't know what it is. Maybe it's the hair, or the eyes, or her thighs. Or her penchant for skirts. I don't know, it could be anything. I'm amazed you didn't know. So far, it looks to me as though everybody knows already, except Ally, and you I guess. At least I hope she doesn't know."
His face showed the concern that hit him then. Paul directed his next question to Jace in a nervous tone. "Does she know?"
"Doesn't have a clue, mate," Jace's voice betrayed his amusement as he spoke directly to Paul's fears. As strong and unshakeable as Paul typically was, any mention of Ally made him so very nervous. Looking at it now, Adam was himself surprised that he had not figured it out himself, but this was a brand new idea to him.
"I think she's worked out you want to sleep with her," Jace continued, drawing Adam's attention away from his own musings, "but I'm sure that would come as no surprise. You haven't really been subtle have you?"
"Well, she has nice bits," Paul answered with a mischievous smile.
Not having much to add to the conversation, Adam was left feeling somewhat excluded. This new information had come as quite a shock, and he was desperate to ask questions, but he seemed incapable of thinking of any. He was actually a little ashamed of himself for never having noticed. Memories played through his mind where, now he knew, it just seemed so terribly obvious. It made perfect sense to him now.
Having spent a lot of time around Paul in the last few months, Adam had seen a lot of Ally also. He had come to this university mostly alone, and, for his first year, he hadn't really connected with many people. Paul was the exception. They had sat beside each other in the first music lecture, and, over time, they had developed a very close relationship. Earlier today, for example, they had spent their lecture making jokes to the people in front of them about the people who were in front of them.
Despite the extra time the two men spent every week scribbling down tabs on note paper in university, Ally had become just as close a friend at the same pace. She was typically a constant companion to them. Regardless of having her own friends, clubs and preferences, she always seemed to be available. When he had asked her about this, her reasoning had been very simple. She loved the music they played, so she wanted to be there to hear it.
Adam could see what might have attracted Paul. Ally was a different sort of female. Her presence added an extra element of enjoyment to any situation. She was elegant, fun-loving and never seemed to disagree with their plans. Still, in Adam's mind at least, Ally could not be compared with Veronica. As many arguments as she caused, comparing another woman to his beloved would be unfair; no woman even came close to Veronica's beauty and intelligence.
Direct as an arrow, his mind had brought him back to his lost female. Though, at this point, he couldn't really count her as his. If this was love, Adam wanted no part of it. To long for something he could not have was nothing new; he was hardly a wealthy person, so he was used to it. However, to want it so badly was a horrible experience.
"Who's playing tonight?" Paul asked of Jace. This brought Adam back into a conversation that had moved on without him. He was not being addressed, but, for fear of exclusion, he followed the conversation anyway.
"Bloody Breakdown," Jace answered easily. This was a familiar band for the members of Disbelief. They had been another of the bands that had played at the union. They were a metal band, and, though they were not particularly popular, Bloody Breakdown were certainly more popular than Disbelief. In fact, Disbelief were the new boys on the circuit, having just started touring not long ago. They didn't even have another gig lined up yet. Paul had been talking about it already. His phone calls and e-mails had been fruitless. Everywhere was either fully booked or not interested right now.
"Did you hear about Redchip?" Jace continued. He had paused only to take a drink from his glass. Upon receiving negative signals from his friends, the drummer carried on, as he had hoped would happen. "They broke up, quite dramatically as well. While they were doing the last few tracks on their first album it just all went to hell. The drummer and the singer have kept the name and the songs. They're looking for a new bassist and guitarist now to take over. They're desperate to do it quick or the album will go down the toilet. Their label won't keep them signed if they can't tour."
"No chance then," Paul stated in exasperation. "They'll get nowhere without Rick Ash. Besides, I don't think there are many people who could pick up after that. The singer hates everybody doesn't he? Didn't he try and get you to replace the drummer they had?"
"Yeah," Jace said, laughing to himself. "I decided not to tell the newbie that when I saw him last. He's still with them now. It's just him and the singer, so he can't be that bad if the other two have been kicked out but he's still in."
"But that's good though, isn't it?" Adam interjected nervously. "It's less competition for us. I hope some more of the big bands around here break down, we might get a clean run to the top."
"Redchip gave us our first gig," Paul supplied. "They couldn't perform at the bar they were booked at because they had a better offer. One of the major clubs wanted them to lead a pack downtown. Thanks to the good relationship our dear Jace has with their singer, or had should I say, we were recommended in their place. They probably thought we'd screw up horribly and keep the place desperate for them, but it worked out didn't it? It was a nice push in the right direction. It didn't push us far, but it did push us."
"It's still good though," Adam attempted again. It seemed as though his point had been ignored, which was not a very nice thing for his friends to do. "Redchip were big. If they've broken up then there's a spot open behind Objective Insanity. We're pretty good. We have Ed. It might take a lot of time, and I'll have to practise a lot, but I think we could get there. What do you guys think?"
"One thing at a time, kid," Jace pointed out, quelling much of the enthusiasm Adam had been building. "Rick Ash or not, if they can find decent replacements, Redchip could still be major competition. Plus, what's going to happen to Rick Ash now? We could end up with an extra band stood in our way, with a guitarist so brilliant that he makes Ed look worthless."
"They could also be major assistance though, on both sides," Paul sent back at him. "We're at the bottom rung of the ladder, we can't pretend otherwise, but there are ways we could give ourselves a boost every now and then. We just have to play the game right."
"I get so sick of playing the bloody game," came Jace's next point of debate. He sighed before he continued, showing his annoyance and his exhaustion as he did so. "Do you have any idea how many bands I've been in? I've hit a lot of drums in my time. Every band I've been in has wanted to play this game of yours. Every time I've come a little closer, but only the tiniest of bits. This is it for me. If Disbelief doesn't work out, I'm done playing the game. I'll get a job or something."
"Hey now, let's not do anything drastic here," Paul answered with a wide smile. "You're a student man. Live like one."
There was a pause when, entirely be coincidence, everybody happened to be drinking at once. Then, one by one, they surrendered to the curiosity that they had been burdened with since they came into the bar.
As they had entered Roadkill, they had passed the stage to come to their seats, where Bloody Breakdown had been busy setting up to perform. They had received the usual cursory greetings: waves, small smiles and nods. The relationship between the many different bands of the area had always been quite relaxed and carefree. There was no thought of threat at least. Seeing another band at a gig was actually quite reassuring, or at least that was how Adam had always found it. Unfortunately, there were usually exceptions. The most successful band of the area, Objective Insanity, were known for caring not at all for less successful musicians.
Noticing the members of Disbelief watching them set up, two members of Bloody Breakdown signalled Paul over. With a confused look at his two friends, Paul left his seat and his drink and wandered over to see what they were after. Left alone with Jace, Adam continued to examine the band. He noticed something as he did that did not fill him with confidence.
"Why aren't they set up yet?" he asked of nobody in particular. "And what's the point of all those drums? They should have started already," he added, checking his watch.
"That's probably why they're after Bass," Jace replied in his deep tone. "He'll distract the audience; what there is of it."
They watched Paul as he communicated with the performing band. Their conversations were short and rushed, mostly whispers and suspicious glances, but quickly, they could see Paul directed to work on the PA system. As usual, Paul worked fast, but he worked efficiently as well. Other than one member working with their guitar, the entirety of the band were all trying to set up the catastrophe that was the drums.
It dawned on Adam, quite suddenly, that he had no idea what he and Jace could talk about, especially without Paul to add to the conversation. After all, Adam and Jace barely knew each other. Paul had always been the link between them, and also the link between them and Ed, who was absent today. Nobody was particularly alike. In truth, if not for Paul, Adam likely wouldn't even associate with people like Jace. They just seemed so different that Adam could not imagine ending up in their current situation without Paul helping them along the way.
He became more and more nervous as each second passed in silence. Every few moments, Adam glanced in Jace's direction, but the drummer's eyes were clearly focused on the stage. He didn't even seem to notice Adam glancing in his direction - he was just pointedly looking elsewhere.
Thankfully, before long, a rush of noise swept over the bar. The PA system and one guitar were set up and ready, while the colossal amount of drums were causing no end of trouble. The noise that Adam had heard was evidently the guitarist completing his arrangement on his amplifier. Paul was stood at the microphone. He winked at Adam's inquiring look, then began to speak to the people of the bar.
"Ladies and gentlemen, my name is Paul. Bloody Breakdown are due to start, but I'm afraid they're not quite ready yet, so you'll have to make do with me. I'm from another band called Disbelief, and they've asked me to sing one of their songs for you, to give them a little extra time to organise their drums. If you like it, we'll be opening for them in a fortnight at Fuse."
"There's your reason," Jace said quietly to Adam. "A song for a gig is a pretty good deal. They must be running out of options."
"Well if they're having trouble setting up their gear I can see why," Adam responded, glad to finally have something to say that would break the nervous silence. "That's a good deal though. How did they end up with a gig at Fuse? That's a major place for a small band like them...or us really."
The question went unanswered, as the Bloody Breakdown guitarist began to play an everyday powerchord progression. Paul's vocals did not seem to suit the song, but Adam had never been the biggest fan of their original work. Their style was nothing remarkable, or different really. The song was dreadfully short and simple, but, regardless of this, it was obviously what the band needed. Halfway through the song, the drums kicked in, leaving Paul to step off the stage, allowing the real singer of the band to step in.
Quite suddenly the song changed. The singer made no effort to address the crowd, or even to announce his own band. Instead it swiftly became a heavy, violent piece, with a singer who, instead of singing, began to scream the lyrics as a deep, gutteral groan. It came through the microphone so loudly that the seperate words were barely recognisable. They all became one word; stuck together like one continual sound. As Paul took a seat and began to explain himself to his friends, Adam couldn't help considering how glad he was that Paul was theirs and theirs alone.