*** Part 5 ***
It's 3 o'clock Sunday morning, and Ritchie left Adree's house after a few hours of playing. They had to play quiet, but it felt good. They share similar tastes in music. Ritchie rubs his eyes, he's tired. The streetlights are getting fuzzy. He parks his car at his parent's house, then walks to a corner store for some water. He doesn't want to go home. After he leaves the store, he goes to a bus stop and sits on the ground. There's a small group of people here, and it's odd, but he pays no mind. The night air is keeping him awake.
A girl sitting on the ground nearby says to him, "Are you OK?" She has an accent that he can't quite identify.
"I'm fine, just tired, and dehydrated. I don't know why I'm out here. Where are you going?"
"I've just arrived from the airport with my brother and his friend. You?"
"Just roaming with nothing to do, after a night of playing."
"What you mean, the playing?"
"Oh, music. Playing music."
"Oh cool. I plays the music too! I play guitar, what do you play?" She said, looking at him with wide, attentive eyes.
"Guitar too, and I sing. Do you sing?"
"Eh, some of the time. Do you lives around here?"
"I do yeah, just down the street actually. I walked here. Where are you from?"
"We comes to visit from Sweden." She points at her brother and his friend. When she speaks, 'the' is 'ze', and 'Sweden' is 'Sveden'. She has a light, energetic voice.
"Oh that's cool. How long are you going to be here?"
"Just for the month, we came today."
"Yeah you said. Your people here play music?"
"No," she smiles, "they don't know about the metals."
Ritchie almost chokes on his water. "You play metal?" He says, surprised.
"Yah, what you play?"
"I play metal too. Maybe we should get together sometime while your here."
"Sounds goods to me! What abouts later today?"
"Yah, is Sunday."
"Oh... Sorry, just tired. Ugh, didn't realize how late it is."
The people begin to stand, the bus is stopping for them. "You gonna call me tomorrow?" Ritchie asks, squinting from the harsh light of the bus.
"Was your phone number?"
"Let me uh," he reaches in his pockets, "I don't have a pen or anything."
She has a pen, and pulls his arm, scribbling quickly as everyone is on the bus. "What's your name?" She yells as she's on the steps onto the bus.
The bus's brakes release loudly, and it drives away. Ritchie walks back home, eyes mostly closed. Sneaking back into the house, he collapses on his bed, making his chest wretch with pain. The pain wakes him up a bit, but he shifts and falls deep into sleep.
Ritchie sits up in bed, and everything feels odd. The house is strangely quiet. He listens, for anything, and there is no sound. Not even from outside. His phone rings, so he answers.
"Hello?" He says, still feeling strange.
"Meet me outside."
It was a voice he recognised, the nurse's. Standing, he realizes that she must be real if she's called him. Down the stairs and outside, he's met with still silence and a moonless night. There are no lights on in any of the houses, and there's no traffic to be heard, even the buildings in downtown are dark. Looking around, he sees no one, and walks toward the street. He stops, standing on the curb.
There's a loud whisper, "Over here!" The nurse is standing next to his car. She steps toward him, meeting him in the middle of the road.
"Making new friends, you have changed, haven't you?" She says, putting a hand on her hip.
"Changed? Haven't I always been the same? Just now, I'm showing it?"
"Oh Ritchie, you seem so simple at times. Why can't you just realize the facts?" Seeing her face for the first time, she looks younger than he thought. Around his age, most likely.
"Who are you?" Ritchie asks, a nervous twitch in his speech.
She sighs, "You've much to learn, my friend. Now go back to bed. I just wanted to let you know of your progress."
Ritchie backs away, a cold sweat rising from within. Could she just let him go that simply? He wants to shake her, to make her tell him the truth, but he's too scared. Her stare becomes more ominous and possessive, making Ritchie back all the way to the front door. He makes his way back to his room, paranoid. Getting into bed, he rests his head on the pillow, still with a view of the room. Several minutes pass and all seems calm. Ritchie decides to give it a rest. Just as he decides to turn over and go to sleep, the nurse bursts into his room. Ritchie jumps, letting out a yell. He gets out of bed. She hands him a knife.
"Do it! Do it for real this time! You coward!"
Ritchie backs to the wall, and slides down, emotion gripping him. "But why? Haven't I made progress? Isn't that what you said?"
The nurse stands over him. Her face is shadowed. She puts a hand on his head. He cries, looking at the knife in his hand. He moves it away from him, pointing it at his stomach, knowing what he must do.
"Good." She says, making him feel cold.
Ritchie wakes up on his bed where he lay from when he came home last night. The sunrise is beginning to come through the window. He gets up, feeling lukewarm from sleeping without a blanket. His head is heavy. He goes downstairs and gets a bottle of water. Going out through the back door, he sits outside. The cool, foggy, morning air chills him, waking him up. Opening the bottle, he notices the number written on his arm. Realizing that it wasn't a dream, he regrets not getting her name. Exhaustion can do weird things to your mind. He takes a moment to remember last night. Playing at Adree's house, parking his car at his parent's house, walking to the store... He thought it was a dream after he parked the car.
Back up to his room, he gets his phone and dials the number.
"Hello?" Said a familiar girls voice.
"Hi, it's Ritchie, I..."
"Ah yes, I glad you call. I've nothings to do today, so we gets together?"
"Yeah. Um, let me talk to my band and set up a time."
"Okay! Talks to you later, Ritchie."
"Okay, see you." He likes her enthusiasm. Though he doesn't know exactly what to expect from her musically, he has no doubt that it will be good.
He immediately calls Ron, who is free all afternoon. They arrange to meet at 1:00. Ritchie goes to the kitchen and makes a bowl of cereal. His parents go to their community meetings on the weekends. They go to all the governmental debates and things like that, they like to feel involved with their community.
After he's ready to leave he gathers his gear, he brings his bigger amp, but also the practice one. It takes some effort to lug it down the stairs, but not too much, as it is still a combo amp. He gets another guitar too, for the girl. When he has everything he needs put into the car, he locks the door to the house and leaves. As he's driving, he feels as if he's forgotten something. He goes though a virtual checklist in his mind, but he has all those things. Imagining the three of them playing together, he smiles. Then he realizes why he felt like something was missing. It wasn't something, it was someone. "Oh yes, bass!" He says to himself. He hesitates to call Adree, she isn't formally in the band. But when they played last night, he saw that she had real potential. He showed her some techniques and explained how chords are formed. She was really interested, he could tell she loved playing music. He calls her.
"Hello" Adree says in a oddly cheerful voice.
"Hey, how are you?"
"Good, I enjoyed my music lesson last night."
"Oh so that was your plan? To get a free lesson?" Ritchie says laughing.
"No, but if it were, it would've worked."
"I guess. Oh, so I called to see if you want to play again today."
"I'm free today, when?"
"About 1:00, I'm on my way there now. We're playing at Ron's house, so you want me to come get you?"
"Yeah, I'll be ready."
Ritchie calls the other girl too, and arranges to get her on his way to Ron's house also. He picks up Adree first, helping her fit her equipment into his car. Then they drive to the hotel.
Adree looks around curiously. She asks, "Your friend Ron lives near here?"
"Oh no, he lives in a subdivision a few blocks from here. I'm just getting someone who I met last night, so they can play too."
Parking the car, he gets out and walks into the hotel lobby. She's there waiting for him.
"Hello." She says, moving toward him.
"Hi, you ready to go?"
"Yah, I don't have any of the guitars or anything."
"I brought extra." He says, waving a hand for her to follow.
The three get to Ron's house. He's set up his drums in the living room. It's a large room. The house has two floors, but the living room is just open the entire height. A great practice area. They all get set up, guitars, bass, PA. After a few minutes of playing around, they form a strong rhythm. Then Ritchie breaks of in an improved solo, and falls out of key. He stops, and continues with the rhythm. Soon, it's dark outside, and they are all quite hungry and tired. They pack their equipment back into Ritchie's car, and go back inside, sitting around the kitchen table. Carrying things around and playing for so long has really worn on Ritchie's chest. As he sits down, he can't help but let out a sigh of pain, putting a hand on the wound.
"Are you OK?" Asks the Swedish girl.
"Oh I'm fine, just a bit tired. That's all."
She seems skeptical. Ron sets drinks onto the table. "So, I don't think you've introduced yourselves." He says, talking to both Adree and the other girl.
"I'm Ron, good to meet you both."
Adree gets a phone call, and leaves the room. Ritchie, Ron, and Valgrd sit at the table, discussing how they play together. After a few minutes, Adree returns, looking stressed.
"What's wrong?" Ritchie asks. Adree sits down, resting head head in her hands.
"It's Lianna, she wanted to play at some open mic tonight. She's mad that I went and played with other people. She seems to think that Satirical was a serious thing."
"Oh, well was it?"
"Was it what?"
"Was it a serious thing?"
"No, we've only played at 3 open mics. Nothing like a lifetime commitment. She's acting as if I've betrayed her."
Valgrd and Ron exchange a look, shaking their heads at what Adree said. "I don't know if I want to preform with her anymore, it wasn't much fun anyway. She always chose what to play, always some acoustic love song." Adree laments.
"Hmm" the rest hum in unison.
Adree raises her head, "I'll go play this time. Ritchie, could you take me there?"
"Sure." He turns to Ron and Valgrd, "I'll be right back."
In the car as they drive, Ritchie says to Adree, "I haven't said anything about this to Ron, but I think the general consensus is that your kind of in the band now. If you want to be, I don't know if you want to stick with your project with Lianna."
She scoffs, "Project. I wouldn't call it that, it wasn't anything serious. Are you serious about asking me to join you and Ron?"
"Absolutely. Ron seems to like you, and you can keep up. You have this cute little obsession with playing heavy, I like that."
"Thanks, so it's official then?"
"Is there a name for our group?"
"What about Valgrd? Will she be in it?"
"Eh, she's here on holiday. She can play with us for now, but I don't know for how long."
"Pity, she's cool. Here's the place, I can handle my gear. Thanks for the ride."
"No problem. Have a good time."
Adree rolls her eyes, "We'll see."
Thanks to all who've been reading "Last Hour"! Just so you know, I'm in a band myself, Censory 7. Check us out at Facebook, like the page to support small artists! We should have a music video out soon. If you have a link to share of your own band, put it in the comments.