Last Hour. Part 9

Ever more the tension grows. But who controls the future?

Ultimate Guitar

Another foreign town, another strange room in a cheap hotel. The cheapest they could find. These places are going to get expensive after too much longer. Greta hasn't spoken to Ritchie since the day they looked for him. She thinks her strange experience was somehow connected to him, and she wants to find out how. Every time she and Ritchie make eye contact, he seems to know that something is wrong. He also seems to know better than to address the matter. All is silent as they sit in the small nicotine-stained room that's their home for today. Ritchie is sitting against the headboard of the bed, his attention focused on a small notebook. Ron sits in the chair, fidgeting back and forth, staring at Ritchie, seemingly in deep thought. Greta is in the shower, and Valgärd sits in the windowsill, partly looking outside, and partly watching Ron stare at Ritchie. Greta comes out of the bathroom, mostly dressed, and stops to look around. "You people are pathetic" she says, shaking her head. "Are you not one of us?" Valgärd quickly replies, staring at Greta with a stoic expression. Greta scoffs, and goes about getting dressed, otherwise ignoring Valgärd's comment. Ron stands, and stretches his arms above his head. "So," he says, as if trying to break some kind of tension, "where are we going to eat? I want to get out of here and have some fun." "Well I'm going out to a nice relaxing dinner" Greta snaps, and opens the door to leave. "Are you coming with me?" Ron looks to Ritchie and Valgärd. Ritchie hasn't given any attention to anything that's happened, and Valgärd looks back outside. With a sigh, Ron walks toward the door, and leaves with Greta. Neither Ritchie nor Valgärd move, or say anything, for what feels like an eternity. She wants so much to ask him about the morning of their last show, but that inquiry would be pointless. Ritchie inhales sharply as he leaps up off of the bed. Valgärd jumps as she was much startled by Ritchie's sudden burst of energy. "Let's get out of here" he says, taking her wrist and pulling her toward the door. "Wait!" Valgärd yells, pulling her arm away, making him stop. "Where are we going?" "Out of here, and I'd love your company." Valgärd is apprehensive, "Is this is whats you did the night before our last show?" "No, this isn't the same. I just need to clear my mind. We've not had a really restful moment for days." Ritchie reaches out to her, "I think you and I have the same feeling in us. I'm sure you can feel it too. I can't explain it, you're special to me Valgärd." Stepping forward, tears well up in her eyes as she embraces him. "You are special to me too. I'd also like your company." Ritchie slides his hands up her back, and slowly begins to kiss her. They share it, tugging slightly at each other. Then, each having a newfound companion, they step out into the night. *** Ron sits stiffly in his chair. The restaurant is quite cold, as is Greta's demeanour. She says rigidly, "I'm sorry I was a bit harsh back at the hotel, I just had to get out for a while." Ron looks her in the eyes, "Get out, Greta, or get away?" Greta gives a faux-chuckle, "Away from what?" "The band, the rest of us. Why did you decide that I should come here with you then?" Greta's eyebrows furrow slightly, "You're my boyfriend, why wouldn't I want you here?" "So you did just want to get away from the band?" "No," she puts her hands on the table, "okay maybe, yeah." Ron purses his lips, "Well then," he stands, "I'll go elsewhere while you have your evening of 'peace'." With that, he walks out of the restaurant, not even pausing to look back. *** Waiting. Watching. Silently beckoning. *** The night is damp. Ron walks without a destination. Going back to the hotel and going to sleep for the night seems like a good option, but he's too hungry. "I wish I stayed at the hotel," he thinks, "Ritchie and Valgärd have probably left to eat something by now. I didn't want to make Greta feel left out though, especially since she was so irritated." Ron wanders into a grocery store on his way back to the hotel, which luckily wasn't too far to walk. Aimlessly, he slinks from aisle to aisle, searching for anything of particular interest. To an extent, he regrets having walked out on Greta earlier. "But," he reasons to himself, "she did basically tell me that she's tired of being around me." It's troubling to be on negative terms with someone, but Ron figures that tonight's event should fade soon. It just doesn't seem like Greta would act like she has today. It's just not "her," to be snippy and act so cold. After about a half-hour of wandering, Ron begins to wonder why he even came in here. He feels dry, and that supermarket background music keeps droning on. Ron sits in a lonely grocery aisle, where he stays until the store closes. Leaving, he buys a soda on his way out. The neighborhood is quiet. Walking slowly, the sound of his footsteps ricochet off the small houses that line the narrow street. It seems that people end the day early here, only a few houses have lights on inside. It must've rained while he was in the supermarket. The ground is wet, and the moon reflects off the asphalt. The light from the puddles create white blotches. Ron stares into them, searching the still water to see the moon's surface. The ground becomes more lighted, as a car approaches him from behind. It stops, and a loud honk of the horn startles Ron. He moves to the side of the road, the car moves forward, and the people inside stare at him as they pass. But Ron isn't looking back at them. He sees a figure standing in the dark beside the house across the street. It looks so out of place, and he or she seems to be looking back. Curiosity moves Ron to cross the street. But as soon as he starts walking, the figure runs behind the house. Nonetheless, Ron continues to advance. What he doesn't now notice is a cyclist on their night ride. Ron steps onto the sidewalk in front of the quickly approaching bicycle. "Hey you!" the cyclist yells out before swerving wildly so as to not collide with Ron. Only just missing him, the rider yells, "What are you? Drunk?" Ron isn't phased. He doesn't even give the rider the dignity of a glance. His mind is focused purely on this person he has seen. Though he's eager to put his curiosity to rest, he decides that it's better to mind his own business. So, reluctantly, he turns and continues on his way down the road. At the end of the block, he pauses. There's really nothing to do at this time of night, so he decides to go back to the hotel. As he walks the few short blocks back to the room, various scenarios and reasons why Greta could be irritated plague his mind. He is unable to divert his thoughts from the subject even as he slips quietly into the hotel room, trying not to wake anyone. Without bothering to change clothes, he gropes in the darkness and finds the way to bed. Laying down, he immediately notices the absence of another person. "Hey Ritchie," he whispers into the darkness, "sorry to wake you, but where's Greta?" No response. With a sigh, Ron slides down into the bed, lying on his back. The thoughts and scenarios get worse. Again, he faces the other bed and whispers, quite loudly this time, "Hey, where is Greta? Do you know?" No response. Turning once again to face the ceiling, he thinks, "Okay, maybe they just can't hear me. Or maybe Greta is angry and they're all sleeping on that bed." He shakes his head at the last thought, quietly laughing at it's absurdity. Nonetheless, he feels really compelled to find out what's going on here, so he sits up a third time. "Ritchie, Valgärd, why is Greta not here?" He asks, talking loudly. No response. *** It was one of those nights. Ron woke up feeling as if only a short time has passed, but it was really morning. The sunlight is beginning to shine into the room, onto the bed. Rubbing his eyes, he realises that he's alone. "So that's why I never got an answer last night" he grumbles. It's nearly noon, and these not a sign of anyone else. He's mostly worried about Greta. Though he's still irritated with her, it's unsettling to not know where she spent last night. Ritchie and Valgärd can do whatever they want, no doubt they're fine, though Ron still worries. The phone rings, he answers. "Hello" "Hey, could you bring my bass for me?" "Um, yes, where are you?" "Okay, thanks, see you later!" Greta's voice cuts off on the last word as she hangs up the phone. "Uh!" Ron grunts as he forcibly places the hotel's phone back onto it's place. A few minutes later, he's leaves, taking Greta's bass with him. Getting to the parking lot, he realises that there isn't a car for him to take, but then sees that Greta brought it back last night. As he leaves, he notices that Ritchie's car isn't in the lot. *** Ritchie and Valgärd wait behind the stage, even though they don't go on for another hour. They sit in the grass, holding hands, staring at the ground in a daze. If you can stare at nothing hard enough, time can seem to stop. Meditate on nothing and the world gets quieter. Ritchie looks up, noticing the ever present commotion. Valgärd is sitting with her legs crossed slightly rocking back and forth. Today, his serious, calculated, post-Failure personality is showing more than it has for the past few weeks. The weather is really warming up today, but Valgärd wears her usual long sleeves. Having already had his own suspicions, Ritchie opens his mouth to ask her why she always wears long sleeves. But he doesn't want to break her daydream, and he sees Ron and Greta in the distance. Either they're having a very enthusiastic debate, or they're arguing. "I've never seen them argue before" Ritchie thinks, trying to recall some instance, but his memory has nothing to show. They are too far away to clearly see their facial expressions. Though he does see Ron give Greta her bass and throw his hands into the air. Greta raises a hand, either in gesture or with the intention of slapping Ron. Hesitating, she turns and briskly walks away. Ron turns and slinks toward them. "Where's Greta?" Ritchie asks him when he gets near. Ron shakes his head, "I have no idea where she's going" he says, not knowing that Ritchie saw their recent exchange. Ritchie decides to ignore what he saw. "She isn't here?" He innocently asks. Shrugging his shoulders, Ron hesitates, then replies, "It's safe to say that we're no longer 'in a relationship'." Ritchie looks down at Valgärd, who's now been listening to the conversation. They exchange a knowing glace. Among the three of them, it seems to be understood that if Greta has left Ron, she's left the band as well. Just to be sure, Valgärd thinks aloud, "I wonder if she'll come back for today's set." "I doubt it," Ron says, "she seemed pretty through with 'this lifestyle', as she called it." "What does that even mean?" Ritchie inquires. "She didn't say. I guess playing music, or just distaste for me. What do you think?" Both Ritchie and Valgärd leave the question floating. Neither of them can really know, Ron was the closest to Greta. Ron plops down onto the ground beside them, and they sit in silence for a while. Even though there's a concert happening on the other side of the stage, it feels like silence. The people rushing around them don't stop to notice the three, seemingly sitting in relative peace. Greta doesn't return, and they go on without her. While playing their set, Ritchie feels like she's missing. Not Greta, but the bass, Adree. Greta wasn't "the bassist," she was there in Adree's place, at least in Ritchie's mind. The crowd seems to like the music, even without a band member. As they leave the stage, Ritchie pats Ron on the back. Ron turns and looks at him for a moment, and Ritchie nods, as if to say, "Thank you for staying with us." Seeing them, Valgärd voices her appreciation for Ron. He still feels as if he should've gone after her. "She's worth going after," he thinks, "but worth leaving the band?" The band retires to their dingy hotel room, Ron is emotionally torn, and tomorrow they leave for the next show. *** "Oh, how easily they crumble!" Ever watching. Ever moving.

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